Unluckiest Warship

General naval discussions that don't fit within any specific time period or cover several issues.
VeenenbergR
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Re: Unluckiest Warship

Post by VeenenbergR » Wed May 13, 2009 5:29 pm

To Iwd,

The British set their trap by sound strategy and Scharnhorst just run into it because the days early (un/lucky) hit of Norfolk destroyed her (only) forward looking radar, which, when intact, could have warned the Scharnhorst when she later approached the trap. So far I judge the hit of Norfolk un/lucky in respect to the events which later developed when Scharnhorst ran into the trap. From 16.00 till 18.00 hour a running battle followed between a lone Scharnhorst and a dozen Britisch warships at a distance of 10.000 yards. Scharnhorst was hit several times on her forward main armament (statistically quite probable) silencing 1/3 of her main armanent (Bruno was repeatedly back in action afterwards). The Scharnhorst WAS however able to escape the cordon because of her superior speed and that despite her faulty boilers. When distance was lenghtened from 10.0000 to 28.000 yards she was hit critically in her boiler room (exhaust), slowing her down and leaving her at the mercy of the destroyers which were then able to hit her ELEVEN times with torpedo's. It was not DoY which sank her but those torpedo's. DoY was able to slow her down and silence her armament, so that the destroyers could finish her off. Good teamwork of the British and sound planning, but if there had be no hit at that long distance of 28.000 yards at 18.00 the Scharnhorst would certainly has esacped!!!! So I still judge this low probability hit as the (un)lucky circumstance in the Battle of the North Cape. :ok:

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Re: Unluckiest Warship

Post by JtD » Wed May 13, 2009 5:34 pm

The key to the loss of Scharnhorst is the separation from her destroyer force, upon which she should have returned to port.

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Re: Unluckiest Warship

Post by lwd » Wed May 13, 2009 5:56 pm

You have to be careful with statistics. Say Duke of York only fired two complete slavos. If the P(hit) for a single round is 3% then a hit is not all that unlikely. Indeed for 20 shots the P(all miss) ~54%. So roughly 50:50. Again many hits can slow a ship it doesn't take one to the boilers. Indeed even a near miss can slow a ship.

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Re: Unluckiest Warship

Post by VeenenbergR » Wed May 13, 2009 6:58 pm

Iwd,

Did you also have studied the many gun battles in the Mediterranean between the British and Italian Fleets? Battle of Punta Stilo? Battle of Cape Spartivento? 1st and 2nd battle of Sirte? Battle of Cape Matapan. There is a You-tube movie of the Sirte battles on this site. Quite impressive.

How was the shooting of the Littorio's, that of the Cesare's /Duilio's, Zara's, Trento's and Garibaldi's? They make no impression on me. No way to compare them with say a Bismarck!!!

The British fielded some old battleships (WS, Va,QE, Ba; Res, Ra, RS). Renown. Some heavy cruisers: Berwick, a lot of light cruisers, anti-aircraft cruisers and dozens of destroyers). All supported by the magnificent aircraft carriers: Ark Royal, Eagle, Victorious, Illustrious aso). How did they perform?

What role played LUCK in those battles?

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RF
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Re: Unluckiest Warship

Post by RF » Thu May 14, 2009 8:21 am

JtD wrote:The key to the loss of Scharnhorst is the separation from her destroyer force, upon which she should have returned to port.
I suspect that if Bey had kept his destroyers with him and pressed on then Johanesson and his five destroyers would have been lost with the Scharnhorst.
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Re: Unluckiest Warship

Post by lwd » Thu May 14, 2009 1:55 pm

VeenenbergR wrote:Did you also have studied the many gun battles in the Mediterranean between the British and Italian Fleets?
Not in detail. I do know that if you count splinter damage as a hit then one of their ships is in the running for second longest hit.
How was the shooting of the Littorio's, that of the Cesare's /Duilio's, Zara's, Trento's and Garibaldi's? ...
There are numerous referances to the Littorio's haveing excessive dispersion. I've read of a few acounts of them shooting very tight groups in trials on the otherhand. It has been speculated that there were some problems in the manufacture of thier ammo that created these high dispersions. I don't know the details or whether it was a round to round, batch to batch, or manufacture to manufacture problem. Or even if that was the true source of the problem. Certainly the high velocity of the Italian guns would have made such quality control problems even more severe. I'm not at all familiar with how well their cruisers shot or whether they had similar problems.

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Re: Unluckiest Warship

Post by JtD » Thu May 14, 2009 5:39 pm

RF wrote:
JtD wrote:The key to the loss of Scharnhorst is the separation from her destroyer force, upon which she should have returned to port.
I suspect that if Bey had kept his destroyers with him and pressed on then Johanesson and his five destroyers would have been lost with the Scharnhorst.
Of course, if Scharnhorst and the destroyers had taken on a vastly superior force, then it is likely the German force is lost. OTOH, the radar of the destroyers would have prevented DoY of getting into effective range undetected.

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Re: Unluckiest Warship

Post by VeenenbergR » Fri May 15, 2009 11:32 am

Yes! Right. If the destroyers had accompanied Scharnhorst then:

- the Scharnhorst had not been alone in the early battles with the heavy cruiser en 2 light cruisers.
The 5 large destroyers could have prevented that early hurting damage on the forward rangefinder.
Prerequisite: the 5 German destroyers were used as aggresively as the British used their destroyers.
May be, when used well, one or more of the cruisers could have been damamaged by torpedo's, preventing their
use and joining in a later sea-battle.
- The radar of the destroyers would have warned Scharnhorst for the trap with the DoY.
- The Scharnhorst could have used all her guns for non stop firing at targets using the guns of the destroyers to shoot
starshells.
- Scharnhorst was ready for the battle and could have opened fire at long range possibly damaging the DoY with early
hits.
- With 5 destroyers the German morale would haven been better.

In my opion the combined force of Scharnhorst and 5 destroyers would have given Scharnhorst far better circumstances to fight each sea battle at more even odds with the British forces, preventing damage to the Scharnhorst and increasing damage to the British ships.

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Post by Terje Langoy » Fri May 15, 2009 8:44 pm

I must reply to the post I read about the Gneisenau as this, in my opinion, is very exaggerated.
rtwpsom2 wrote:With a boiler/turbine system more powerful than any ship in the German navy, she was still slower than Scharnhorst.
About a knot slower and way more reliable...
rtwpsom2 wrote: Here bow was so poorly designed that it nearly broke off on her shakedown cruise.


Where does this statement come from?
rtwpsom2 wrote:In 1940 a torpedo from the submarine HMS Clyde put a hole in her bow and actually knocked the bow off center, causing it to be torn down and re-built again.


One torpedo out of a salvo of four... and it barely found the target. According to Whitley, Captain Ingram had actually over-estimated his target's speed, taking his aim ahead of the ship and so the other torpedoes passed harmless in front of her bow. Unlucky yes but also lucky. Unlike the Scharnhorst that lost 36 men when she was torpedoed 12 days before, Gneisenau didn't suffer a single casualty. During her retun back to Germany after temporary repairs, she was once more attempted torpedoed and only due to the mishap of her unfortunant escort, the Luchs (as I mentioned in my post) did she avoid being torpedoed. Not exactly what I would call unlucky.

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Re: Unluckiest Warship

Post by VeenenbergR » Sun May 17, 2009 10:07 am

Must also add the next statement:

Which ship was more lucky: Scharnhorst or the Gneisenau???

If seen by the crew the Gneisenau had to be the preferred as Scharnhorst went down with almost 2000 men on a ship with a main armament which was underpowered. Like Hood the mission of the Scharnhorst was almost suicidal.
Both ships had no chance when they met superior forces. For the Hood the suffering was short, the Scharnhorst death struggle was long and bitter.

To be on that ship was going down in a steel sarge!!! Nothing heroic about that. Dying must be not so nice in those dark, cold and lone circumstances on a battered ship. It was Scharnhorst which had the more unreliable power plant. So being on her when this would have broke down, was nu desirable circumstance.

At least together they survived all attacks, when separated they died away each, with Scharnhorst a unlucky and terrible ending........

Both ships were frequently hit by shells, torpedo's and bombs in the war. Each time losses were high and those ship did NOT offer any protection. Only during operation Berlin and Cerberus the ships performed well and crew losses were low, the last operation was well planned and the Luftwaffe (finally) did what was necccessary.

To return to the Bismarck which had a similar fate as Scharnhorst, she at least was no underpowered ship and here power plant was sound.

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RF
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Re:

Post by RF » Mon May 18, 2009 7:42 am

Terje Langoy wrote:
rtwpsom2 wrote: Here bow was so poorly designed that it nearly broke off on her shakedown cruise.


Where does this statement come from?
Refer to Richard Garrett's book ''Scharnhorst and Gneisenau'' concerning the shakedown cruise in the North Atlantic. The bow had to be completely reconstructed.
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RF
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Re: Unluckiest Warship

Post by RF » Mon May 18, 2009 7:55 am

VeenenbergR wrote:Yes! Right. If the destroyers had accompanied Scharnhorst then:

- the Scharnhorst had not been alone in the early battles with the heavy cruiser en 2 light cruisers.
The 5 large destroyers could have prevented that early hurting damage on the forward rangefinder.
Prerequisite: the 5 German destroyers were used as aggresively as the British used their destroyers.
May be, when used well, one or more of the cruisers could have been damamaged by torpedo's, preventing their
use and joining in a later sea-battle.
- The radar of the destroyers would have warned Scharnhorst for the trap with the DoY.
- The Scharnhorst could have used all her guns for non stop firing at targets using the guns of the destroyers to shoot
starshells.
- Scharnhorst was ready for the battle and could have opened fire at long range possibly damaging the DoY with early
hits.
- With 5 destroyers the German morale would haven been better.

In my opion the combined force of Scharnhorst and 5 destroyers would have given Scharnhorst far better circumstances to fight each sea battle at more even odds with the British forces, preventing damage to the Scharnhorst and increasing damage to the British ships.
I think the conclusions you draw are entirely reasonable with a more aggressive use of all five German destroyers. However two salient points do remain: firstly the Germans are outgunned by the British, and secondly and this is the key point for me, the Allied cruisers/destroyers were and would still be used at least as aggressively as the destroyers led by Johannesson. What is likely to happen in my view is that the German destroyers would be engaged by the British. If this becomes a general melee in which the German destroyers become drawn apart, it is less likely their radar would pick up the approach of DOY, and if they did it would be more difficult to report it to Bey in Scharnhorst. In that scenario Scharnhorst is again surprised by the arrival of DOY, but would have a better chance of escape by using its superior speed to outrun DOY, and sacrificing the German destroyers to prevent the Allied destroyers going after Scharnhorst. However my money would still be on Scharnhorst being caught and sunk, end result being the entire Germanforce sunk.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: Unluckiest Warship

Post by RF » Mon May 18, 2009 8:05 am

VeenenbergR wrote: Which ship was more lucky: Scharnhorst or the Gneisenau???

If seen by the crew the Gneisenau had to be the preferred as Scharnhorst went down with almost 2000 men on a ship with a main armament which was underpowered. Like Hood the mission of the Scharnhorst was almost suicidal.
Both ships had no chance when they met superior forces. For the Hood the suffering was short, the Scharnhorst death struggle was long and bitter.
To answer your question directly, my vote would be Gneisenau.

However I don't think the final missions of either Hood or Scharnhorst were suicidal. Scharnhorst and its destroyers had the firepower to overwhelm its target convoy. It was the separate British covering force that upset matters for the Germans - and the discovery of that force by the Luftwaffe flying boat should have led to Bey being recalled. But for political reasons the KM leadership did no recall, they were desparate for a victory to impress the Fuhrer, who had wanted to scrap almost the entire German surface fleet.....
And Hood, in conjunction with POW, had a two to one superiority over Bismarck. But Hood fired on the wrong ship (no chance of upsetting Bismarck's fire) and succomed to a hit that really was bad luck or Sod's Law.....
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Post by Terje Langoy » Mon May 18, 2009 4:04 pm

RF wrote:
Terje Langoy wrote:
rtwpsom2 wrote: Here bow was so poorly designed that it nearly broke off on her shakedown cruise.


Where does this statement come from?
Refer to Richard Garrett's book ''Scharnhorst and Gneisenau'' concerning the shakedown cruise in the North Atlantic. The bow had to be completely reconstructed.
I've had a look in my copy of the Elusive Sisters and I think he must have got it wrong. First of all he writes that her shakedown cruise in the North and Central Atlantic took place early in 1939. I would not call June-July early. Secondly he writes that upon her return from this cruise she had her bow rebuilt from straight stem to Clipper. The reconstruction occured long before she embarked on the Atlantic cruise, it took place in the winter of 1938. Before the bow reconstruction Gneisenau had not been operating in the Atlantic at all. She did have a two week cruise (her Jungfernfahrt, June-July 1938) which took her up along the coast of Western Norway, then due west past the Shetlands and further around the Orkneys before she returned to the North Sea through the Pentland Firth. But she did not have the bow rebuilt upon return from this cruise, as evidenced by two major events that took place after that cruise. (Hitlers visit 22 July and Admiral Horthys visit 22 August) The bow was straight during these occasions.

I don't recall Wolfgang Kähler mentioning any serious bow defects prior to oubreak of war, the only event I can think of is the failed first attempt at operation Berlin, (December 1940 - January 1941) where Gneisenau suffered structural damage in her bow compartments. This was however, as I interpreted it, due to flaws in the repair work done by the shipyard after the torpedo incident with HMS Clyde, 20 June 1940. G&D addresses the cause closer in their book Battleships (Axis and Neutral.)

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Re: Unluckiest Warship

Post by rtwpsom2 » Mon May 18, 2009 4:52 pm

In this one I bow to Terje, he is proving to be more of a historian than myself. I cannot find the exact reference that led me to believe that it was on the shakedown. I might have been thinking about her first sortie when both ships were damaged due to rough seas, but I think now that her bow must have been repaired, not rebuilt. I don't think it changes the fact that her bow was just something the rest of the ship rejected like a transplanted kidney. :D :D :D

And as for the torpedo from Clyde, I think that if she had been lucky, all four would have missed. Call me a pessimist, but I don't think less bad luck can be called good luck.

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