The Battle of Stromvaer

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Terje Langoy
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The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby Terje Langoy » Mon Aug 17, 2009 4:35 pm

According to Richard Garrett's book The Elusive Sisters the two hits recorded aboard the Galloper has produced some questions on my behalf. For the sake of historical accuracy does anyone care to shed some light on this..?

First hit is characterized as "a shell cut through the British ship's foremast" and so I'm bound to wonder how they could establish size (283-mm or 150-mm?) or nature (HE or AP?) of that shell. Second hit is characterized as "an armour-piercing projectile passed through the after part of the ship without exploding" and though entry and exit holes reveal size how could they establish the nature of that shell, this being an AP-projectile?

It seems to be accepted by a lot of authors that Gneisenau scored both hits and that these were both from 283-mm. According to Whitley Gneisenau fired HE while Scharnhorst, according to the same author, fired AP. So forth, if Garrett is right then Scharnhorst should be credited with at least one hit.

According to Wolfgang Kähler, the three hits recorded aboard the Gneisenau were not all 380-mm projectiles either; only the foretop hit. The hit registered on turret Anton was from a 114-mm projectile. The third hit struck close to the port aft 105-mm Flak gun, causing only light damage, and was also the work of a a 114-mm projectile.

As you can probably see me very confused right now

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby RF » Mon Aug 17, 2009 5:50 pm

Are these points taken from the time of impact without later evaluation by the parties involved? If so there is bound to be some confusion.
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Postby Terje Langoy » Mon Aug 17, 2009 6:20 pm

As far as time of impact can be assessed, I'm fairly sure the time frame for the larger portion of hits recorded must be within 0505 until 0520 hours. The aft hit recorded aboard the Galloper has to be an early one as she must have been on a parallel course. As for the hit on the mast, if the mast and dented funnel mantle are related then this suggest a hit during the later phase of the duel, the run, sometime after 0520. The hit on the Anton turret aboard the Gneisenau must have occured before the arc was wooded by Lütjens course alteration. It is documented in Gneisenau's KTB that the foretop was struck at 0516 but as far as the last hit goes I can only speculate.

I'm not trying to figure out when these impacts occurred but rather how they could determine calibre and type from the hits aboard the Renown. The hit aft aboard the Renown made some solid holes, making it easy to arrive at a size. However how would they know it was made by a AP-projectile and not a HE? A HE-projectile may also have sufficient momentum and velocity to penetrate like the projectile in question here did or..? Its the same with the mast hit. If the dented funnel mantle is related to the mast it might give a clue as to what size might have caused it but yet again how determine type of shell?

The reason as to why I want to determine type of projectile is that the sisters fired different types. It seems to be accepted that Gneisenau scored both hits but if Garrett states an armour-piercing projectile struck the Renown then that projectile could not originate from Gneisenau's guns

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby Bgile » Mon Aug 17, 2009 6:46 pm

Well, obviously a properly functioning HE projectile would have exploded and not passed through the ship.

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Postby Terje Langoy » Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:27 pm

That would be the ideal but unfortunately it confirms so very little. The hit could be HE, it could be AP. If one had the exact time of impact and angle of penetration then perhaps one could, based on the ships relative locations, make a good call but I have neither of those available either.

I wrote previously that Wolfgang Kähler claimed that two of the hits suffered aboard the Gneisenau were 114-mm projectiles. He was the secondary gunnery officer abaord at that time and should know this better than most. He is what I'd call a primary source. However, I just learned from David Brown's Naval Operations of the Campaign in Norway that the Renown had engaged Gneisenau with her 380-mm guns and simultaneously the Scharnhorst with her 114-mm guns. So how come the secondaries landed aboard the Gneisenau?

I swear this is just getting more and more confusing the more I dig...

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby Bgile » Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:40 pm

Because the 114mm hits were from a destroyer?

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Postby Terje Langoy » Mon Aug 17, 2009 7:44 pm

Now I'm really confused...

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby RF » Tue Aug 18, 2009 1:16 pm

I must confess that I am also getting confused as I am finding this dialogue a little hard to folllow.
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Postby Terje Langoy » Tue Aug 18, 2009 4:03 pm

RF wrote:I must confess that I am also getting confused as I am finding this dialogue a little hard to folllow.


Ok, let me try to clear my intent with this thread.

I'm trying to form an accurate picture of the engagement and thus have available the logs of Admiral Lütjens and Whitworth as well as extracts from the S&G KTB's. Additionally I also have Kähler, Smith, Garrett, Brown and Whitley at my disposal. As for the drawing of a battle map I'd like to think the material I hold should be sufficient and so forth I just have one bug remaining, namely the two hits registered aboard the Galloper.

I previously mentioned that I regard Kähler a primary source thus he, as well as the KTB entries, should be able to offer a creditable perception of Gneisenau's experiences. I further read in Brown's book that though the secondary armament of the Renown was brought into action it could "hardly have been effective" but that being said, the Renown still was closer in range to the Gneisenau than any of the destroyers. It may be possible but still unlikely that the two 114-mm hits should originate from anywhere but from the British battlecruiser.

Peter Smith's account seems to focus mainly on the experience of the battle as told by various crew members. It holds very little spesific information about the Renown and the battle, which is my heading here. The ships war diary would be of great value.

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby Bgile » Tue Aug 18, 2009 5:22 pm

I think it's normal for investigative teams to assume that if a shell leaves calibre size holes, then it is AP simply because HE fuses are pretty reliable and wouldn't have passed through the ship. There is no proof one way or another, but it's a common assumption.

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby paulcadogan » Thu Aug 20, 2009 4:02 pm

This is all very interesting! Thanks Terje!

I've always wondered how come Gneisenau's overall damage was not greater, but now it makes sense. Curious though that a 4.5-inch shell hit put an 11-inch turret out of action - I guess it was the location and the resulting flooding in those massive seas.

IIRC, it's been said that Scharnhorst's gunnery was not accurate during the engagement due to a FC problem? Might this be why the hits Renown received were arbitrarily attributed to Gneisenau?

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby Dave Saxton » Fri Aug 21, 2009 5:57 pm

The Scharnhorst's radar set was knocked out by shock after its first few salvoes. This was the FC problem. The Gneisenau's radar set remained in action until the 15" shell passed through the foretop severing electrical power supply to the optics and also the radar set above.
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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Postby Terje Langoy » Fri Aug 21, 2009 10:49 pm

As far as my study has progressed so far I’ve come up with a reasonable idea as to how the duel could have played out. Inconclusive as it was, and appalling the weather, it still had moments of decent gunnery. I hold as current opinion that the active phase of the duel, the period of which both adversaries ever obtained a good fire solution, must have occurred within the time frame between 0513 hours until 0519 hours. Six minutes of effective combat..!

Undoubtedly the decisive hit was made at 0516 hours, as Renown landed the 380 mm projectile at Gneisenau’s foretop. It is also within reason to state this as the only hit of significance, resulting in a temporary yet crucial loss of fire control. I’m also tempted to believe the 114 mm hits were landed at about the same time. Both 114 mm projectiles were landed at port side and so forth, taking Gneisenau’s further course of action into consideration, hereunder Lütjens’ order at 0519 hours, occurrence of any such hit seem less plausible by the minute. Lütjens had ordered a sharp turn 60° starboard onto new course 030° and this would rapidly brought Gneisenau’s port side on a parallel course, Renown bearing dead astern. As S&G withdrew the Galloper continued to pursue at Gneisenau’s starboard quarters, making those hits further unlikely, if not impossible.

Regarding the 114 mm hit at the flap cover of Anton turret left ear I’m fairly sure the hit by itself was relatively harmless. In his book author Peter Smith set the time of impact for this projectile to have occurred at 0534 hours. This can however not be stated with absolute certainty. A log entry confirm that the crew men of turret Anton reported serious flooding entering via the damaged turret ear and thus may have nourished the idea that a projectile could have landed here at that exact time. Unfortunately at 0534 hours the Galloper was, as previously stated, pursuing the German ships bearing astern, range steadily opening, thus the projectile must have been able to fly over Gneisenau’s superstructure and tower before making a miraculous turn ahead of turret Anton before it could, with stunning accuracy, guide its way to the turret ear.

It is my belief that turret Anton must have been hit sometime between 0515 hours and 0519 hours. The theory..? First of all note that the duel was fought in a sea state 5-6. Also note that S&G to begin with steamed across the seas, to relieve the ship and crew of the terrible pitching. Renown closed up from the south thus forward batteries of the German ships had the fortune of being trained to port, away from the oncoming seas, once the duel was initiated at 0505 hours. At 0508 hours fleet (Lütjens) ordered his ships to steer 350°. Only minutes later, at 0511 hours, Gneisenau opened fire but her log also note an entry of the commander Harald Netzbandt making a request to fleet that course be altered back to port to avoid the arcs of his forward batteries to become wooded. I do regard probability of a direct 114 mm hit unlikely during the first minutes of the duel, taking into account Gneisenau’s course alterations at 0508 hours and 0511 hours.

Opportunity arise with Lütjens’ order at 0513 hours, go 20° to port back onto course 330° thus opening the arcs of Gneisenau’s forward batteries and also, by doing so, expose them to the probability of a 114 mm hit. It can also be taken with some certainty that turret Anton would be trained as far to port as allowed. Granting Gneisenau time to complete her turn I dare draw the conclusion that at the same time the foretop was hit it is also possible that turret Anton received a hit. Lütjens’ order at 0519 hours, go to starboard 60° onto course 030°, would have Gneisenau turning into the oncoming seas thus shipping even more water over her forecastle. This would not only wood the arcs, it would place solid superstructure between Renown and turret Anton. From there on it would be a pure matter of time, with Gneisenau turning hard-a-starboard and turret Anton trained hard-a-port and all it would take was for the crew to train the turret back thus exposing the defect turret ear directly to the oncoming seas and escalate the potential damage to the max with severe flooding, as could have been the case at 0534 hours. But duly note that turret Anton aboard Scharnhorst also suffered malfunction from severe flooding, as reported in her log at 0625 hours. It may so forth have been merely a matter of time before turret Anton aboard Gneisenau inevitably would suffer malfunction, even without the hit, once sea water gained access to the turret electrical equipment.

Regarding the hits aboard Renown I find it remarkable that a mast leg could actually be pierced by a 283 mm projectile. In his book author Peter Smith quote a crew member stating that the projectile ‘went clean through our foremast’ and that ‘the piece containing the hole made by the shell’ was cut off and placed at a museum. It is also stated this hit occurred during early German fire. I’ve desperately sought to find a connection between the severed mast and the dented fore funnel as this would make more sense to me; a 283 mm projectile strafed the mast leg and ricocheted off the fore funnel. Such a trajectory could suggest the projectile came in sharp over the starboard bow of Renown making Gneisenau a plausible candidate to me. Unfortunately a ‘pierced mast leg’ or ‘dented funnel mantle’ does, as isolated events, tell me absolutely nothing.

As for the through-and-through hit landed aft aboard the Galloper it is hard to make any definite opinion of it. Undoubtedly it was a German projectile but who fired it? Steve mentioned that HE projectiles usually are pretty reliable thus it ought to have detonated. That said it remain possible this was a ‘dud’ and that the contact pistol failed to ignite the charge. Or that the delay timer of the one base fused HE fired by Gneisenau failed to activate. It is also very much possible that an armour piercing projectile simply cut straight through. It’s anything but conclusive at all; just a choice between an a) unconfirmed type hit or b) assumed armour piercing projectile. The latter choice would divide the score or at least bring discredit to the common perception that Gneisenau scored both hits.

Löwisch’ gunnery report after the battle is a compiled piece of serious frustration and would undeniably support the notion that Scharnhorst’ batteries were pretty much hampered by all sorts of failures and breakdowns during the duel. She still got off a considerable amount of shells, four times the amount of Gneisenau, and despite my poor mathematics skills I am however positive that more shells fired translates as hit probability increased. Radar was but one tool of many to acquire target data and even with that service lost Scharnhorst’s optical fire directors should be more than capable of gaining data to ascertain range, speed etc. for as long as they had visual reading of the target thus the loss of radar may indicate decreased accuracy but not conclusive. I still consider Scharnhorst a valid candidate to the aft 283 mm hit.

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby tommy303 » Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:28 am

Hit on tripod mast:

11" shell fired from about 18,000 yds. and from bearing about Green 90.

Struck and perforated main leg of foremast (tripod). The position of the hit was practically central on the mast, and about 36 ft. above No. 1 platform. The entry hole was about 14” horizontally and 21” vertically, and the exit hole about 14” horizontally and 36” vertically. The shell had just grazed the angle bar stiffener at the fore side, and slightly turned and distorted that at the after side of the mast.

The shell cut a number of electric leads on the mast and put out of action all fighting lights and anemometer cables. The impact also carried away all aerials and D/F coil.

There was no direct evidence as to whether shell burst when clear of ship – it was reported that it did by some observers – but there was no evidence of splinters from this shell.

There were a few splinter marks (presumably from structure) on the after end of signal deck.

Effect of Fighting Efficiency – Very small except for some hampering of external communications and lack of wind velocity, etc. in transmitting station.


Hit Aft:

11” shell fired from about 18,000 yds. and from bearing about Green 90.

Struck and perforated ship’s side starboard (20 lbs.) with centre about 39” above Main Deck, and about 12” aft of Station 309 (i.e. just aft of A.P). The damage in side plating was an irregular hole 22” horizontally and 25” vertically. At about the centre of the hole was a double rivetted edge seam of the side plating. The shell passed on into the Midshipmen’s Bathroom, struck and perforated a bath, and then struck and perforated the Longitudinal divisional bulkhead, starboard (10 lbs.). The centre of this perforation was about 18” above the Main Deck, and about 21” forward of 309 Station. The damage consisted of a circular hole about 12” diameter. In addition to the shell hole, this bulkhead was struck by a number of splinters from ship’s side plating, etc. There were 7 large holes, a few small ones, and several heavy strikes.

All the baths and wash-basins in the midshipmen’s bathroom were smashed, as also was a side scuttle frame situated just above the entry hole.

Having passed through the divisional bulkhead the shell perforated a wooden cupboard on the inboard side of it, then a midshpmen’s chest, and struck and perforated the Main Deck (12 lbs. M.S.). The damage to Main Deck consisted of a torn scoop about 62” long, and with a maximum opening of about 14”. The port end of the scoop was on 308 Station, and the starboard end about 15” aft of 308 station, and about 62” from the divisional bulkhead.

In the Main Deck compartment 300-310½ a certain amount of damage was caused to fittings, ventilation trunking and ship’s side lining port, by structural splinters. Although there were several heavy strikes on the ship’s side plating, there were no throughs.

The shell passed through the Main Deck, cut the beam under at Station 308, and a fore and aft girder at the starboard end of the scoop, and then passed out of the ship’ side, port (20 lbs.). The centre of the exit hole was about 2” below the Main Deck, and about mid-way between Stations 307 and 308. The exit hole was irregular, about 24” horizontally and about 20” vertically. It contained a shell plating butt strap.

In addition to the shell exit hole the ship side, port, was perforated by 4 in No. structure splinters in the frame space 308-309. The largest was an irregular hole formed by a split and torn bulge about 18” diameter and situated about 3 ft. below the Main Deck.

There were also several heavy strikes on the side plating, and also on pillars, beams, etc. in the Lower Deck store room 300-310½.

It is not known, and there is no evidence to show whether the shell exploded after passing through the ship. It had met with relatively little obstruction, and the length of its path through the ship was about 26 ft.

The direct effect of this hit was the flooding of Lower Deck compartment 300-310½, and the sever washing down of corresponding main Deck Compartment.


see: http://www.hmshood.org.uk/reference/off ... htm#renown

I think it would be probable that if the shell were a nose fuzed dud, there would have been some evidence of it breaking up instead of exiting intact.

Regarding the action, Renown identified Gneisenau as the Scharnhorst in her post action report and identified the Scharnhorst as the Admiral Hipper. As a result, hits attributed to Scharnhorst by the British may have come from Gneisenau instead. According to the report, Renown fired about 800 4.5-in mostly at what was believed to be Scharnhorst and only shifted to Hipper (really Scharnhorst) as she crossed astern of Gneisenau to lay a smoke screen. This would place the 4,5-inch hits on Gneisenau as coming from Renown.

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Re: The Battle of Stromvaer

Postby tommy303 » Sat Aug 22, 2009 12:44 am

What do German sources say the Gneisenau was firing--nose or base fuzed HE. If the latter, then it would mimic an AP hit that did not explode as base fuzed HE was a semi armour piercing shell. It would also explain the British post action report as stating there was no evidence of splinters from near misses as occurred in the fight against the Graf Spee (in which the GS made extensive use of nose fuzed shells until she ran out).

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