Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby Dave Saxton » Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:08 pm

aurora wrote:Dave-Surely the bearing of 280 to 295 is a WNW course????


aurora


Right. To the north west from the south east, or approaching from the south east.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby aurora » Fri Jul 17, 2015 4:57 pm

Yes-I get it now -it was the terminology that got me foxed -Burnett approached from a S East position on a NW course. Sorry about that Dave. One thing I cannot understand- is how the German destroyers got so completely adrift in this action-I appreciate the weather would probably exacerbate their plight.. :x

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby Dave Saxton » Fri Jul 17, 2015 6:39 pm

One thing I cannot understand- is how the German destroyers got so completely adrift in this action-I appreciate the weather would probably exacerbate their plight.. :x


When Bey reached the point where he expected the convoy to be at 0700 it was not there. So reasoning that the storm had slowed the convoy down (it had actually been re-directed farther north by Fraser) Bey deployed his squadron in a search formation with the destroyers fanned out and the Scharnhorst following 10 miles behind (which was beyond visual range most of the time). They were going on a south west course, back tracking down the last known course of the convoy, toward its last known position.

However the Scharnhorst didn't continue to follow the destroyers, but turned off toward the north on its own without informing the destroyers of this development. Two destroyers tried to follow after the Scharnhorst (Z33 and Z38) because by the operational orders they were to escort Scharnhorst should the force divide. They could not catch up to the Scharnhorst and lost contact with the battleship. Z33 operated independently for remainder of the operation. Z38 returned to the other destroyers in the search formation.

The 4th Z's commander, KzS Rolf Johannnessen, continued onward toward the south west because he did not receive any change of orders from Bey. Thus the destroyers were going toward the south west while Scharnhorst was going north.

When Z38 approached while returning to the remaining destroyers, it was detected by Z29's radar (apparently Johannnessen or Z38, now operating semi independently, no longer felt bound to the radar silence orders) and Johannnessen reported to Bey that he had a radar contact to the north. This seemed to fit Bey's picture of the situation of the convoy actually being to the North at that time. When it was found to only be Z38 it was realized that this was not the convoy.

Meanwhile Z33 and Scharnhorst began to communicate via voice link, and it was determined on Scharnhorst that the destroyers were north of Scharnhorst attempting to join it (Z33 was, but only Z33) in the minutes leading up to Belfast firing star shell. (it is possible, although I consider it not likely, that Scharnhorst had the British cruisers on radar and that Bey thought they were his own destroyers as they passed to north of the Scharnhorst about 0925 )

After the first skirmish Bey finally ordered Johannessen to work back toward the north east. There was an error in the message as to which exact square on the grid map the convoy was in, so the destroyers passed about 15 miles south of the convoy not finding it.

At about 1300 Bey sent Johannessen an additional message ordering him to return to base independently.
Last edited by Dave Saxton on Fri Jul 17, 2015 6:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby aurora » Fri Jul 17, 2015 6:50 pm

Sounds like" another fine mess"Dave and shades of Hood and her destroyers in the Denmark Strait. Bey's judgement seemed to be way off on the day.My thanks for the fine analytical reply-I only wish I had purchased a better book on this battle-any suggestions welcomed. :clap: :clap: :clap:

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Last edited by aurora on Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby Dave Saxton » Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:07 pm

F Otto Busch's book :The Drama of the Scharnhorst is the best overall account in my opinion. There is a ~1990 English translation. Norwegian Alf Jacobsen's Scharnhorst is also recommended. Also from the British side there is the official RN Battle Summary Number 24, and Admiral Fraser's dispatch to a newspaper in 47 or 48. Both are essential reading.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby aurora » Fri Jul 17, 2015 7:27 pm

Thank you Dave for all your assistance and your book suggestions which I shall research is much appreciated.We live and learn. :clap: :clap:

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby northcape » Sat Jul 18, 2015 4:18 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:F Otto Busch's book :The Drama of the Scharnhorst is the best overall account in my opinion. There is a ~1990 English translation. Norwegian Alf Jacobsen's Scharnhorst is also recommended. Also from the British side there is the official RN Battle Summary Number 24, and Admiral Fraser's dispatch to a newspaper in 47 or 48. Both are essential reading.


I agree that Jacobsen's "Scharnhorst" is the most well researched and unbiased account of the action. I like Busch's book very much as well (read it in both German and English), and it has the advantage of being published not too long after - many first-hand accounts of survivors are in this book, which later books only copied and pasted (with the unavoidable loss or slight change of information content...). However, also many things are presented wrongly (again, unavoidable due to the information available at that time): e.g. the decisive hit of DoY (or boiler breakdown) is described as a torpedo hit, while we now know this occured during a time when no torpedoes were fired at Scharnhorst. Also, it later turned out that the dropping of the wrath from DoY when going back to UK (described in Busch's book) can not be confirmed from the log of DoY. Nevertheless, I still find the amount of correct information collected by Busch at that time quite remarkable and the book is written very vividly.

On Youtube, from time to time one can find two similar documentations from the 70ies (one 2 hour long, the other being a condensed 1h version?), and I think this documentation was made by Ludovic Kennedy.

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby aurora » Sat Jul 18, 2015 4:51 pm

Thank you for your interest northcape-I have matters in hand to purchase Busch's account; but could not find a sufficiently "cheaply priced" Jacobsen's account-using AbeBooks The account I bought was a 2009 Pen and Sword publication of Angus Konstam's account- which I thought was sound; but alas too many small errors-as you will have seen.Again my sincere thanks for your interest.

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby Dave Saxton » Sat Jul 18, 2015 8:33 pm

northcape wrote:
Dave Saxton wrote: e.g. the decisive hit of DoY (or boiler breakdown) is described as a torpedo hit, while we now know this occured during a time when no torpedoes were fired at Scharnhorst. ..


Also when no shells were fired at Scharnhorst either. :wink:

I think you find that they all probably contain errors. Jacobsen for example, doesn't appear to understand the radar aspects very well at all. He is just repeating wrong information for the most part. Also from a technical point of view concerning gunnery, shells and armour, firecontrol, and so forth it is rather lacking. A truly satisfactory account is yet to be written in my opinion. But it is a difficult task considering there is so much we can only speculate about.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby northcape » Sat Jul 18, 2015 9:58 pm

Yes Jacobsen is not an expert in technical aspects (he also does not pretend to be). But I still think he provides a very good summary on the tactical side of the operation, e.g. what information was provided to whom (or not), and at what time, and so on. E.g. I did not find it in any other book, that Schniewind already speculated that the particular course of the convoy (too far north for bombers, but close enough to be discovered by reconnaissance planes) could be a trap. He is also not definite about the shell hit vs. boiler breakdown.

Side not, I got my Jacobsen book for 3 euros or so via Amazon...

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby aurora » Sun Jul 19, 2015 8:29 am

I too was astonished to find how little Amazon were asking for Jacobsen's book-in some instances -1p
However I will be happy to secure Busch's work-purchase in hand-although boookseller said she could not find it at the time of ordering; and it was the only one AbeBooks had.
The Battle of North Cape was intiriguing;as many of the moves were reactions and so mistakes were made.

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby slaterat » Sat Jul 25, 2015 7:30 pm

I've got The drama of the Scharnhorst by Fritz Busch, The Death of the Scharnhorst by John Winton and The battle of Northcape by Angus Konstam. I found Busch's book to be an interesting account from the German perspective but also to be so biased to the point that it seriously detracts from the book. Claiming that the Scharnhorst took 14 or 15 torpedo hits doesn't help much for creditability either. Winton's book published in the 80s is a much accurate and researched book that provides a good bibliography. Overall I like Konstam's book the best. He compares and contrasts the commanders, the ships and their respective situations very well and in a very unbiased manner. He also provides a good blow by blow description of the battle and the consequences of the outcome. Unfortunately Konstam doesn't provide a bibliography.

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby Dave Saxton » Sat Jul 25, 2015 8:50 pm

slaterat wrote:I've got The drama of the Scharnhorst by Fritz Busch, The Death of the Scharnhorst by John Winton and The battle of Northcape by Angus Konstam. I found Busch's book to be an interesting account from the German perspective but also to be so biased to the point that it seriously detracts from the book. Claiming that the Scharnhorst took 14 or 15 torpedo hits doesn't help much for creditability either. Winton's book published in the 80s is a much accurate and researched book that provides a good bibliography. Overall I like Konstam's book the best. He compares and contrasts the commanders, the ships and their respective situations very well and in a very unbiased manner. He also provides a good blow by blow description of the battle and the consequences of the outcome. Unfortunately Konstam doesn't provide a bibliography.

Slaterat

Busch's account is based on the reports of the survivors (and also the destroyer crews), and it was done during the years right after the war. He basically passes on their descriptions of the events as they recalled them with out much filtering and sorting out. The inconsistencies are typical of eye witness reports.* It is mainly the insights of these survivors that I find interesting, rather than the narrative created by Busch in order to bind it together.

One of the things Jacobsen points out, is the British botched the interrogations of the survivors. Busch's account is therefore most valuable.

* Most agree that it was 11 torpedoes, but to a survivor 14-15, or 11, 10, or 9 can get muddled. To humans under combat stress, time often becomes compressed and the order of events can get jumbled as well.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby slaterat » Sat Jul 25, 2015 9:12 pm

Busch's account is based on the reports of the survivors (and also the destroyer crews), and it was done during the years right after the war. He basically passes on their descriptions of the events as they recalled them with out much filtering and sorting out. The inconsistencies are typical of eye witness reports.* It is mainly the insights of these survivors that I find interesting, rather than the narrative created by Busch in order to bind it together.


I think that is an accurate summation. Winton also covers the improper interrogation of the survivors by the RN on board the Duke of York.

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Re: Death of the Scharnhorst in ww2

Postby dunmunro » Sat Jul 25, 2015 9:34 pm

I think that the best account is A.J. Watts' The loss of the Scharnhorst.


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