The Bismarck surrender option

Discussions about the history of the ship, technical details, etc.

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Alberto Virtuani
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The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Oct 23, 2019 5:21 pm

Hello everybody,

as the "moderator" has correctly pointed out that the discussion about a possible Lutjens decision to surrender the Bismarck is not the topic of the thread where it was initially opened (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8725&start=45#p84886) and has (much less correctly, I must say) decided to delete all the useful, constructive and collaborative subsequent posts in the thread (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8725&start=60#p84942 and following), I open this new thread to discuss about surrendering when faced to a desperate situation.


Wadinga wrote: "I personally would agree Langsdorff's approach, even if misinformed, was superior for an officer responsible for his mens' lives to Lutjens' Gotterdammerung "
I wouldn't. I don't agree at all with this judgement from a military viewpoint.

To save the lifes of his crew, H.Langsdorff sacrificed a very valuable and scarce asset of his Navy, still able to fight, of which he had been given the command and the responsibility. In addition, even disregarding the "misinformation", he scuttled his ship in shallow waters, allowing inspections to the wreck...
Even if the British battlecruiser had actually arrived, he had the duty to try to escape at night, or, at least, to fight up to his best, scuttling his ship only when no further damage could be inflicted to the enemy anymore.
His suicide was a spectacular (but somehow polemic, see the chosen imperial flag...) gesture, saving his personal honour (I bow to his personal sacrifice of course), but, as a fighting officer, he had committed the worst possible errors.
As a consequence, Raeder's order (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8725&start=60#p84904) gave to all German officers a clear indication of the behaviour required to a German commander under similar situations.



G.Lutjens, on the contrary, did his duty up to the end, as he could have never surrendered a battleship still able to fire her guns and to potentially damage the enemy (as she was actually close to do, during the night against Vian's destroyers and on May 27 against Tovey's battleships and heavy cruisers) .
Only after all the guns were silenced, he could have evaluated the option to surrender the Bismarck to save his remaining crew, scuttling the ship (going against Raeder's order anyway, and sinking himself with the Bismarck I guess...), but, at that point in time, he was probably already dead and could not take such a difficult decision: actually, his message to the Fuhrer (albeit inspired by Raeder's order above), just says he would have "fought up to the last shell", not that he would have "won or sunk with a waving flag", therefore we will never know what he would have decided, had he been still in command after Bismarck fired her last shell.... Just my 2 cents opinion of course...
Lutjens was subsequently criticised for having been too pessimistic (it can be the case with his crude messages to Berlin and to the crew), however he was still a military man doing his duty and aware of his position up to the end, when he answered the salute of the Baron in the morning of May 27 (while Lindemann did not answer, wearing an open safety jacket just before the battle...) .




Speaking of sacrifice and heroism, I guess E.C.Kennedy went to meet the same "Gotterdammerung" that seems so difficult to be understood from a military viewpoint.
He actually condemned the Rawalpindi's crew against the "twins", saying clearly to his men on the bridge: "We’ll fight them both, they’ll sink us, and that will be that. Good-bye", after the Germans had requested the surrender of the auxiliary cruiser. Please note that the "potential" damage the Rawalpindi could have possibly inflicted to the "twins" was reasonably much, much smaller that the damage that the Graf Spee could still have inflicted to any British force (battlecruiser included) at River Plate or Bismarck could still have inflicted to Tovey's ships on May 27....

Did Kennedy sacrificed 238 of his men out of 276 ? Undoubtedly yes.

Did he accomplish his duty from a military viewpoint ? Simply yes.

Was Kennedy's sacrifice the result of a "more simplistic definition of "heroic""behaviour, as someone has polemically stated (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8725&start=45#p84886) ? Opinions are welcome....



Bye, Alberto
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Bill Jurens » Wed Oct 23, 2019 5:41 pm

This topic is a legitimate one for discussion, but one likely prone to rather argumentative and offensive commentary. I would caution all participants to attempt to maintain a reasonable and respectful tone in further submissions. If this gets out-of-hand, and if cautions are ignored, the thread will be locked. As always, members posting particularly offensive or aggressive commentary in disrespectful tone risk being banned.

Let's try to keep it professional!

Bill Jurens (as moderator)

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by wadinga » Wed Oct 23, 2019 5:47 pm

Fellow Contributors<

It's a shame I didn't save my post about the pointlessness of Captain Kennedy's expenditure of his crews' lives compared with that of Captain Fegan's last fight, but then my posts are not so frequently deleted, so I feel no need to take such precautions.

This particular thread topic was done to death a long, long time ago.

R.I.P

All the best

wadinga
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Oct 23, 2019 6:10 pm

Hello everybody,

the discussion was brought out here (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8725&start=45#p84884) and Mr.Wadinga expressed his opinion about the "Lutjens' Gotterdammerung" and about a "simplistic definition of heroic"...here (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8725&start=45#p84886).

Apparently the discussion is still quite interesting, as other members have expressed immediately their opinion in a polite way, giving a different view than Mr.Wadinga's one. A pity the discussion was deleted (here I agree with Mr.Wadinga)...



My personal admiration goes to Captain E.Fegen who sacrificed his life and his crew to save the convoy, however the same Victoria Cross (fully deserved for Fegen) had to be attributed to Barker and to Glasfurd who damaged the Scharnhorst with their destroyers and also to Kennedy who decided to fight to the end in the hope some other British ship could locate the twins in the meantime (as it happened and the twins were forced to retreat).



Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Wed Oct 23, 2019 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Oct 23, 2019 6:37 pm

Hello everybody,

from this thread viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8725&start=75#p84960 (but being off-topic there):
Wadinga wrote: "The Articles of warres (as originally spelt) of 1637 are irrelevant to discussion of Kriegsmarine ships in the twentieth century."
No, sorry, they are extremely relevant for the British ships, as we are discussing British examples too.
They are the military rules in force in the Royal Navy from 1866 (Naval Discipline Act 1866 https://www.pdavis.nl/NDA1866.htm) till 1957 when the a Naval Discipline Act (changing the Articles of War) was published.
They dictate under which conditions the surrender is not a crime to be punished (download/file.php?id=3595).


For the Germans, I'm sure something similar existed for the Kriegsmarine (our German friends can possibly provide it), but Raeder orders to all the German Commanding officers are sufficiently clear and relevant for all German ships "in twentieth century", at least after Langsdorff "error" viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8725&start=60#p84904....



Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by pgollin » Thu Oct 24, 2019 10:40 am

Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Wed Oct 23, 2019 6:37 pm
Wadinga wrote: "The Articles of warres (as originally spelt) of 1637 are irrelevant to discussion of Kriegsmarine ships in the twentieth century."
No, sorry, they are extremely relevant for the British ships, as we are discussing British examples too.
They are the military rules in force in the Royal Navy from 1866 (Naval Discipline Act 1866 https://www.pdavis.nl/NDA1866.htm) till 1957 when the a Naval Discipline Act (changing the Articles of War) was published.
They dictate under which conditions the surrender is not a crime to be punished (download/file.php?id=3595). ................

No ! (as you have been told many times)

This is like saying that everyone should be judged and tried in accordance with the sixth commandment "Thou shalt not kill", whereas they are judged and tried in accordance with the relevant laws - in the naval case The (relevant) Kings Regulations.

Your continued misunderstanding of this issue is seemingly deliberate.

.

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by wadinga » Thu Oct 24, 2019 12:38 pm

Fellow Contributors,

PGollin is of course correct that King's Regulations had superseded archaic instructions in the Royal Navy long before the 20th century dawned. What rules prevailed in the Kriegsmarine is anybody's guess but their predecessors had surrendered their entire High Seas Fleet into their enemies' hands in the First World War, the biggest naval surrender of all time, surpassing by far that of the Russians in 1905 or the Italians in 1943, so they had plenty of experience.

The Draconian threats fossilised in the ancient Articles of Warres were not even acted upon in 1795 when HMS Berwick under Captain Littlejohn, already toiling along under jury rig, was assailed by a much stronger French force.

From Wikipedia: Action of 8 March 1795:
Just as the frigate started to fall back however a bar shot from Alceste skimmed Berwick's deck and struck Littlejohn in the head, instantly decapitating him.[11] The surviving officers, seeing their captain fall and the rest of the French pursuit squadron closing on their crippled ship, held a brief council where the decision was taken to surrender rather than be destroyed. As Vestale arrive and opened fire, Lieutenant Nesbit Palmer, the senior surviving officer, struck the colours

Apart from Littlejohn Berwick had suffered minimal casualties, only four men wounded. This had been attributed to a French desire not to damage the ship too severely and thus only targeting the jury rigging during most of the engagement
The crew were removed from Berwick and shared amongst the other ships of the pursuit squadron, forbidden to take any baggage with them except the clothes they wore; British historian William James says that they were "shamefully treated".[11] The officers were later exchanged and honourably acquitted at the subsequent court-martial into the loss of the ship.
Despite minor damage and minimal casualties Their Lordships did not have anybody hung drawn and quartered over the surrender of the Berwick and the vessel was absorbed into the French Fleet and was subsequently recaptured at Trafalgar. The Articles of Warres were clearly a charming anachronism kept merely for old times' sake even at the dawn of the nineteenth century.

What punishments the Nazi regime might have meted out in 1941 for a surrender subsequently judged premature by the ignorant and uninformed in Berlin are unknown. Langsdorff's contempt for them is exhibited in his choice of shroud. The executions perpetrated by the SS kangaroo courts later in the war on Wehrmacht personnel who had served their country faithfully are well known.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Oct 24, 2019 1:09 pm

Hello everybody,
pgollin wrote: "No ! (as you have been told many times)....Your continued misunderstanding of this issue is seemingly deliberate."
An extremely polite and professional post, as usual....

Of course, pgollin is wrong because (as he has been told several times) the Kings Regulations (art.26 ,1913 version) say :

King_Reg_Article26.jpg
King_Reg_Article26.jpg (27.47 KiB) Viewed 412 times

and in no version of the King's Regs there is a mention to "Misconduct in presence of the enemy", because this topic is fully covered by the Naval Discipline Act in force (containing the Articles of War, 1860 art.2 download/file.php?id=3595).

Using his kind words, I would say that his continued misunderstanding of the issue is seemingly deliberate....


Bye, Alberto
Last edited by Alberto Virtuani on Thu Oct 24, 2019 1:33 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Oct 24, 2019 1:21 pm

Hello everybody,
Wadinga wrote: "PGollin is of course correct that King's Regulations had superseded archaic instructions in the Royal Navy long before the 20th century dawned"
No, he is wrong. The Naval Discipline Act 1866 was in force from 1866 till 1957 and the King's Regs do not cover the "Misconduct in presence of the enemy" in any of their sections (see above to "refresh" memory).

"The Draconian threats fossilised in the ancient Articles of Warres were not even acted upon in 1795"
Of course they weren't: the Articles of warres were superceeded in 1866 by the version included in the Naval Discipline Act and were in force since 1957.....

"What rules prevailed in the Kriegsmarine.....or the Italians in 1943.....so they had plenty of experience. "
Italians surrendered the fleet in Malta following (confused and contradictory) orders received through their command chain and ultimately from the Italian Government as part of the armistice clause (as well as Germans in WWI), not under the menace of British guns....
I see that, lacking arguments, we are back to a kind of anti-nationalistic commentary (forbidden by the forum rules, btw)


I would be surprised to see that any Navy Disciplinary Rule can applaud the surrender of a ship still able to defend herself.... For sure the Royal Navy did not (in 1600 as well as today).


Bye, Alberto
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by wadinga » Thu Oct 24, 2019 2:23 pm

Fellow Contributors,
For sure the Royal Navy did not
For sure the Royal Navy did. You have a prime example: HMS Berwick. And many others.Why did her officers not suffer death - because the nonsensical archaic wording of the Articles were interpreted intelligently by Their Lordships.
not under the menace of British guns

“Be pleased to inform their Lordships that the Italian battle fleet now lies at anchor under the guns of the fortress of Malta.” Sent by Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham
This a fact,

any commentary "anti-nationalistic" or otherwise
following (confused and contradictory) orders received through their command chain and ultimately from the Italian Government
is provided solely by Mr Virtuani wishing to put his own spin on things.

The German High Seas Fleet surrendered to Sir David Beatty under the menace of British and American guns, on November 21st 1918. Whether Gunter Lutjens' ship was one which was surrendered (and where exactly he was) is an interesting research project. For factual analysis not interpretation informed by intuition.

All the best

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Oct 24, 2019 3:34 pm

Hello everybody,

as demonstrated here (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8742&p=84971#p84968), for the Royal Navy, the Naval Discipline Act (Article of War n.2) in force in 1941 imposes the defense of the ship and forbid the surrender when such a defense is possible.
Any "exception" to this surrender rule is obviously considered case by case by the (more or less automatic) Court Martial and may imply an acquittal.....



In case Mr.Wadinga wants to state that the Italian fleet surrendered because it was under the menace of the British guns (possibly trying the occupation of Malta and not obeying to Rome's orders following the armistice.....) , please open a dedicated thread, instead of trying to divert the discussion here. Thanks



Re. Germans, we have the clear raeder directive that closes any discussion about the pretended Lutjens' Gotterdammerung (viewtopic.php?f=1&t=8725&start=60#p84904), thanks to Herr Nilsson.



Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Bill Jurens » Thu Oct 24, 2019 5:47 pm

*******
[As moderator]

Insofar as this represents a potentially fairly volatile topic, I would ask that contributors exercise extraordinary restraint in replying to others.

I will make one final request that the insertion of small snippets of text be avoided where possible. In the most recent instance we have roughly sixty words of text, which represents for most people, less than two minutes of keyboard work. I am sure that it took longer than this to prepare and annotate the snippet provided. I have so far represented this as a request. It can be made a rule.

As an aside, I will be undertaking some mechanical upgrades etc. until about the 2nd of November, and during that period my ability to directly control the forum may be, at times, somewhat diminished. I will continue to monitor the forum on an ad-hoc period during this interim. I would hope that there is no need to lock threads or ban members on a pre-emptive basis during this period, and will be making some firmer judgments in that regard later today. In any case, I can assure participants that misbehavior during this period -- should it occur and not be corrected in 'real time' -- will be dealt with retroactively as appropriate.


*****

******
As 'just a guy':

I would tend to concur with the view that the strict quotation and reading of regulations -- while perhaps interesting in a legal and academic sense -- is often of relatively little relevance in day-to-day operations. What the law defines itself as capable of doing, and what the law really does are often two very different things. Even the snippet provided includes the phrase "...and in the forms established from time to time under the authority of said Act...", which I would think was inserted in order to allow common-sense to over-rule legal mechanics. We all probably break hundreds of laws every day that no one enforces, and few have ever even heard of.

Those who might have risen to the point of commanding a large warship in wartime would almost always carry with them consistently demonstrated superiority in judgement, leadership, and courage in the face of adversity. In that regard, I am reminded of a line from Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny", where when cowardice on the part of a commanding officer is implied, the defense states that "The entire case of the defense rests on the assumption that no man who rises to command of a United States naval ship can possibly be a coward. And that therefore, if he commits questionable acts under fire the explanation must lie elsewhere."

I suggest that this aphorism might be fairly applied internationally, and that except in truly egregious cases, cowardice may be deemed improbable, and that explanations, etc., '...must lie elsewhere.'


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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Thu Oct 24, 2019 6:15 pm

Hello everybody,

just as a constructive comment and a justification from my side, the last attachement referred to (download/file.php?id=3596) had been already proposed in this forum with its source some time ago (I haven't found where....) and I therefore proposed it again.
I agree I could have typed it, but, not been a native speaking, I could have involuntarily introduced errors, therefore the decision to post it directly as written in the source (https://archive.org/details/kingsregula ... la/page/n6).
I guess in the past everybody was very happy when they could see unpublished or anyway interesting documents here (even part of them is better than nothing...).



Bill Jurens (as guy) wrote: "....What the law defines itself as capable of doing, and what the law really does are often two very different things..."
I do agree with this. I always said that even Troubridge, found guilty by his BofI, was not found guilty by his CM....
However, the law is the law, and none should voluntarily commit a crime (or a sin), "hoping" in the magnanimity of the Court (or in God's forgiveness)....

and: "....I suggest that this aphorism might be fairly applied internationally, and that except in truly egregious cases, cowardice may be deemed improbable"
Here I disagree. To say that no Captain can be a coward , would be like saying that no rich economist can loose all his money when trading at the stock exchange.
Nobody can be proven brave without being subject to a "trial by fire" (I hope the translation from Italian is correct....).
No training, exercise, exam, expertise, judgement of superiors, moral courage, etc. can be a proof of physical bravery in front of the enemy fire.

Anyway, here nobody is speaking about cowardice. In the case of Langsdorff, I have just pointed out his errors from a military viewpoint, never for a second I thought he was a coward, as well as Lutjens and Kennedy.
In Langsdorff's case a CM (run under British rules, of course....) could have charged him of dereliction of the art.2 par. 3 (download/file.php?id=3595) for "negligence" (as it happened to Capt. Drew of HMS Manchester, who was condemned by the CM but suffered "only" an "other Punishment" as per the "arcaic" Articles of War).


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by pgollin » Fri Oct 25, 2019 1:35 pm

Alberto Virtuani wrote:
Thu Oct 24, 2019 1:09 pm

...... the Kings Regulations (art.26 ,1913 version) say :


The 1913 version was NOT the one in force in 1941 [editorial commentary deleted WJJ] .

.

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Re: The Bismarck surrender option

Post by wadinga » Fri Oct 25, 2019 5:33 pm

Fellow Contributors,

I do hope this playful attempt to inject some levity will not be obliterated or considered misbehaviour.

For those suffering from overwhelming tension over whether the Articles of Warres were modified or even applicable in 1941 WRT King's Regulations or the Naval Discipline Act and cannot wait for page after page of restatement here there is a simple solution.

Download the boxset and bingewatch over the weekend! About page 140 onwards of the Court Martial thread consists of continual, repetitive reposting of bits of the 1866 revision despite constant evidence-backed explanation that nobody applied it strictly even in 1866 and certainly not in 1941 .
found guilty by his BofI, was not found guilty by his CM
Enjoy again the heart-warming (but obvious) revelation, that no-one can be found "guilty" by a Board of Inquiry, but only that information gathered by it and made available to a Senior Authority, may cause them to consider an impartial Court Martial is required to determine innocence or guilt.

Spoiler Alert! Evidence is shown that the British Parliament enjoyed leaving the archaic language in place solely for nostalgic reasons, and because everybody knew it was obsolete and replaced by NDA and KR. Gasp at the realisation that WSC "forgot" he was personally opposed to Troubridge's Court Martial in World War One, thinking it unjustified, before carrying-on about it (very, very briefly) in World War Two.

Or if legalistic jargonese doesn't float your boat, don't bother.

The case of HMS Berwick has been specifically chosen because it is directly applicable to the Bismarck case.

Only one crewman is dead, and very few have injuries, but the ship is faced with overwhelming odds and is unmanageable. Otherwise she is nominally battleworthy although incapable of effective defence through inability to manoeuvre tactically and beyond succour from allies. So had Lutjens surrendered, as HMS Berwick's officers did, he would likewise have been honourably acquitted by a bewigged and frock coated 1794 Royal Navy Court Martial, dating from a period when flogging at the grating and hanging from the yardarm were common practice, and long before the slightly-more-lenient 1866 version of the Articles of Warres was even considered.

Unfortunately, Lutjens would not be judged by a sympathetic Royal Navy Court Martial of 1794, and could not rely on their technical understanding and leniency. In May 1941, thus before Adolf attacked Stalin, he might have worried that if the Nazis successfully invaded Britain he might be dragged out of a comfortable POW camp and put up against the wall. Compare with Robert Vaughn's character in the excellent movie "The Bridge at Remagen" who acted to save German lives and paid the ultimate price.

Spooky coincidence.....Bismarck and Berwick begin and end with same letters and have the same number of vowels.

I sincerely wish the Moderator every success with his mechanical upgrade, presumably from T-800 to T-1000 status.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

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