to Tommy: about the fire control rooms AND damage control rooms, which were all at least doubled and all under the armored deck together with the propulsion systems.
This means that the "vitals" above the armored deck only consisted of cables leading from the brigdes (navigation) and the cables from the 3 directors towards the fire control rooms. The cables probably ran through the 2 armored pipes leading from the 3 director posts towards the main armor deck. If this is all true the protection system of the Bismarck is almost perfect, except then for the height of the main armor belt, which extended to short beneath the water surface.
As you all state yourselves could the rudders not be placed more apart, since the hull aft was to shallow.
to Karl Heidenreich:
IOWA had there a more broad hull and 4 propellors and therefore the 2 rudders were more placed apart than on the other battleship classes.
IOWA would probably have fared better under the same harsh situations of the Bismarck: having a greater range, speed, better arrangement of the rudders, thicker armor deck, better under water protection, better and more stable raders which could be used for accurate shooting, better and stronger AA and stronger armored main turrets. IOWA would probably have succeed in escaping her persuers, but like Bismarck also be unable to ward of all Swordfish attacks. And when confronted by R & KGV the IOWA was able to knock at least Rodney completely out, since you all have pointed out that the AON armor and short belt left may vitals (bridge) AND all directors, like Bismarck, open for destruction.
Last but not least: Bismarck fared bad in her last engagement. She was mortally hit very early in the battle which knocked out her main director (on top of the combat-tower) AND silenced miraciously both forward heavy gun towers!!! How exactly is stil the question. This early bad-luck coupled with a doomed and exhausted crew, pessimistic admiral, her own erratic course and slow speed: all explain why after the first 15 minutes the defense of the Bismarck collapsed so quick.
If Bismarck had a stable course and high speed she could have placed destructive early hits on Rodney like she did on Hood, perhaps destroying the un protected command bridge or knocking out a big turret. The course of the battle then could be totally different.........
Conclusions: Bismarck was a very big modern battleship with a beautiful sharp design, large and strong armament, sophisticated equipment, large novice crew, 2 captains.... an armor scheme which protected as much as possible with a compromising formula: 2 thin armor decks meant risks on distances > 20.000 yards. Steep diving shells under the belt too.
If under heavy fire the superstructure would suffer but not her vital direction centers nor her machinery. The 3 main directors on top of the ship could never be protected for destructive hits.... and when the ship was targeted by 70 (2 x 10 + 9 + 8 + 8) heavy shells per minute at least 5-7 (10%) would hit after the thirst 10-12 minutes of practise shooting.
If you compute the probability that the 3 rangefinders are hit under this barrage you will find out that they are hit after 15, 20 and 25 minutes of fire. So all were hit at 8.47 + 25 minutes = 9. 02 (top), 9.07 (on conning tower) and 9.12 (aft). This is exactly what happened.
To Yamashiro, Yamato or Musashi. The latter were strafed, bombed and torpedoed. On Bismarck about 1000 of her crew died (4 main turrets, all secondary turrets, AA positions, Conning-tower, 3 director stations, damage control parties, 4 hits through belt in mess, canteen.
On Musashi and Yamato there were hundreds of casualties because of the air attacks but not 1000 death. The deaths came when Yamato blew up and Musashi slowly sank by the bow in the deepest Sea on Earth.
Yamashiro was mortally torpedoed by MTB's and destroyers before reaching the US Battleships. Fuso with her Samurai like (and very high) Pagoda mast steemd in the very mouth of destruction. Both old battleships were lost in a short time span to overwhelming damage and heavy loss of life, but not a protracted ordeal like the tough and very well armored and thoroughly subdivided modern Bismarck had to sustain: from 8.47 to 10. 35: almost 2 hours of intense fire and destruction.
If looking to all the articles about the Bismarck, the surveys in and round the wreck the Bismarck is less weak (or badly armored) than I first thought. Richelieu, the King George V class and the Littorio's would not have done better in every circumstance of the Bismarck if equiped with the same novice crew and 2 captians on one ship. Nor would have done the 2 Nelsons or the 2 Washingtons.
Slightly better chances would have the South Dakota's and the Yamatos'and defenitely better chances would have the Iowa's. There designs showed less weaknesses and they also had better fire controls and a better armament.
To give the ranking:
Best and strongest battleships were the Iowa's and Yamato's; followed
by the South Dakota's, Bismarck's, Richelieu and the Washingtons
Third come the KGVs, Littorios and Nelsons
Fourth then the Scharnhorst's, Dunkerque's and Alaska's.
When Bismarck sailed on her maiden trip in 1941 she belonged (looking to this ranking) together with the Richelieu to the 2 strongest and best battleships then afloat.