Hi Dave Saxton, Bgile and JdT
In response to my initial scenario, you alerted me to problems with 30 knot speed and 25,000 yard effective radar range so I did some research. Tovey states his belief that Bismarck was faster in his After Action Report. If Tovey and Holland have this belief before Denmark Straits, they would regard shadowing as too risky. I was also surprised that the maximum effective radar range then known to be was 25,000 yards and learned that this was the first operational use of radar in history. It would not be prudent for them to rely on it. They key element in my original scenario is that shadowing for 24 hours had to be a sound alternative based on what Tovey and Holland knew at the time. So in a later post I said that my alternative would not work for these reasons.
Yesterday I decided to resurrect it using the obscure historical fact about the Bismark misidentification of Holland's capital ships as heavy cruisers to address the radar and speed issues over the longer 24 hour period. The new scenario relies on the mistaken identity to affect Lutjen's actions in ways that make speed and radar matter less and shortens the time period before he makes a mistake based on that error. However, it has new problems because it requires superhuman efforts from Holland between 5:37 and 5:49. In those 12 minutes he has to realize the German mistake of identity and its implications, and then make a new plan in light of them and implement it.
The last three steps might be doable, but the first is very problematic. How can Holland become aware of the thinking on the German ships about identity? I'm not saying it's impossible; there might be something to suggest it in German movements when they did not try to avoid capital ships as would be expected of a commerce raider or kept Prinz Eugen
in the line.
I don't think the German radar and passive sonar provide any advantage in my scenario because Lutjens always knows he is being followed anyway. He can see without those gadgets. However, the Radio Interception Team is a problem. Holland is the local commander and would have a tough time keeping his communications consistent with those from a heavy cruiser while at the same time coordinating the shadowing.
In my first alternative Tovey and Holland had to be in agreement from the start. You are correct in noting that the new scenario requires Holland to make a spur of the moment deviation from the Plan. Such a deviation may have been within the scope of his authority, but if it didn't work and he lost track of Bismarck
after foregoing a chance to engage her he'd still be canned for imprudence even if its not insubordination.
You raised a good point about how long it would take the Germans to correct the identity. It could be 30 minutes depending on events. However its interesting that the fine German optics couldn't prevent it at long distance so maybe there's a way to stay close enough to follow without getting close enough to be identified. Both sides confused heavy cruisers and battleships and then later on mistook Modoc
in their turn. For some reason identification seems more difficult than expected.
You noted the cultural aspect dictating action. I like the way this alternative drags in British Naval Tradition. Here's a couple of my rants on the subject earlier
on the thread:
I agree that Bismarck
is overrated on toughness. She seems to be very vulnerable to hits that slow or stop her, reduce her fighting power, or cripple her operating efficiency. However, her compartments and citadel made her very tough to sink. A floating ship that can't go, steer, fight or communicate is useless. These qualities were especially undesirable for a ship that had to function all alone in a hostile ocean lined with unfriendly coastline and owned by the World's Best Navy. It seems she was designed to neither sink nor come home and that more mileage would have revealed that she was as cantankerous as Prinz Eugen proved to be.
This is one of the reasons wht I raised shadowing instead. You can sit back and wait until a few key parts of her engines, steering, guns and electronics start to break. You can speed up the degradation by sticking a few shells a day into her. Attack her after she has been weakened, destroy her useful functions, and don't worry about sinking the remaining hulk. In short, she was a BMW because both need lots of good mechanics.
I think Hood
was even worse. I base this on the fact that she blew up exactly like all the admirals and experts said she would and just like the three British battle cruisers at Jutland. It is hard to say that Bismarck's fatal hit was just lucky under these circumstances. Most people who knew Hood
said that it was highly likely that this exact same hit would happen. There's no luck involved when the obvious happens.