HMS Canopus at Port Stanley

From the birth of the Dreadnought to the period immediately after the end of World War I.
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marcelo_malara
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Re: HMS Canopus at Port Stanley

Post by marcelo_malara » Wed Jul 21, 2021 5:23 pm

Hi Wadinga. Your post seems correct, because the port proper is as far to the W of the entrance as your deduced position is to the E of it, so for the intention of commanding the entrance both position would be the same, with the E position having the advantage of more range to the sea. The scale on the right of the posted chart are minutes of latitude, which equals to nautic miles, so your position would be not many miles away from the town but just two.

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Re: HMS Canopus at Port Stanley

Post by Byron Angel » Wed Jul 21, 2021 6:58 pm

paul.mercer wrote:
Wed Jul 21, 2021 8:18 am
Gentlemen,
Just a thought, if Canopus had been able to raise enough steam get out, how would she have fared against the German squadron?
I doubt that CANOPUS would have succeeded in getting into action at all. Apart from raising steam, it would have been necessary to pump out the compartments of her double-bottom which had been filled to settle her down on the bottom. Beyond that, according to Captain Grant's account, her best speed at the time was 12-13kts sustained and 14-15 kts in short bursts. With von Spee's ships fleeing at 20-22 kts, she never would have been able to get into range before the day's business had been concluded by INVINCIBLE and INFLEXIBLE.

If CANOPUS, by some circumstance, had managed to get into action, her 12-inch main battery spoke pretty much the same language as those of the battle-cruisers, just much more slowly; her 6-inch secondary battery would certainly have been lethal to any light cruisers she might be so fortunate as to overtake.

Byron

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wadinga
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Re: HMS Canopus at Port Stanley

Post by wadinga » Wed Jul 21, 2021 8:10 pm

Hello Marcelo and Byron,

Two drawings (one by noted naval artist Wyllie) on the Canopus wikipedia page shows Canopus firing to port suggesting she was moored with ship's head roughly south. Note the secure multiple anchor chains and topmasts sent down to minimise her profile.

Another artist's impression exists on the web but shows topmasts raised with battle ensigns at both and firing to starboard over land, apparently under way. I think this is more like guesswork.

Naval history net gives us her log for 8th Dec 1914
Port Stanley
Lat -51.69, Long -57.85
04.30am: Patrol boat returned.
06.20am: Naval yard party left.
07.30am: Unknown warships sighted to Southward.
08.30am: Action. Cruisers verified as German squadron.
09.19am: Opened fire fore & Aft 12” turrets on “Gneisenau & Nürnberg”.
09.30am: Ceased fire. Enemy retreated.
10.00am: Fleet put to sea.
10.00am: Ammunition expended 12” Pointed common & full charges 5 in number.
Noon: Water distilled 19 tons, water expended 15 tons, water remaining 102 tons, fuel expended for all purposes 31 tons, fuel remaining 1179.8 tons.
01.10pm: Dockyard party returned.
02.30pm: Hands at Action stations.
05.30pm: 2 seamen, 1 stoker & 1 Marine joined from hospital.
06.30pm: W/T. signal “Scharnhorst & Gneisenau” sunk.
08.30pm: Patrol boat left.
09.30pm: Night defence stations.
It seems no one had owned up to practice ammunition being fired. :cool:

All the best

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

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Re: HMS Canopus at Port Stanley

Post by marcelo_malara » Wed Jul 21, 2021 9:00 pm

So, they were not two full broadsides?

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wadinga
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Re: HMS Canopus at Port Stanley

Post by wadinga » Thu Jul 22, 2021 4:03 pm

Hi Marcelo,

Maybe they fired 7 shots with one failure and decided not to account for the mix-up in inventory between Common Pointed and practice shells. This is just the day log and the "practice ammo" story probably emerged later. Much later, since someone might be in "hot water" over it. Richard Hough's The Great War at Sea mentions the story in connection with papers left by Captain R F Phillimore, commander of HMS Inflexible, which picked up Gneisenau survivors, including Commander Pochhammer, who was given excellent hospitality in his captor's ship, including wining and dining with the ship's officers. He may be the source of the story of a non-exploding hit on the funnel, and only when it was followed up would the practice ammunition deception come to light.

There is an account by a midshipman from HMS Carnarvon of the considerable efforts made and risks taken to pick up these German survivors. The ship's whaler was smashed against the side and rescuers and potentially rescued alike were thrown into the freezing sea. Luckily most were recovered.

You could try contacting Canopus' Gunnery Officer Lieutenant-Commander Philip Hordern. if you are really troubled by this discrepancy, he could probably resolve it, but you will need an Ouija board since he has been dead since 1950.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: HMS Canopus at Port Stanley

Post by Byron Angel » Thu Jul 22, 2021 7:28 pm

Hi Marcelo,
Of the sources I have read regarding Canopus, most mention two 2-shot salvoes (I am assuming turret salvoes) for 4 rounds in toto; one or two sources mention five rounds discharged, but fail to elaborate as to details.

B

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Re: HMS Canopus at Port Stanley

Post by Byron Angel » Thu Jul 22, 2021 8:31 pm

Interesting sidelight to "Canopus" - I was always under the impression that the preparations for Canopus to defend Port Stanley sprang from the mind of Captain Grant. But it seems that he was carrying out explicit Admiralty orders. Following signal text excerpted from relevant Naval Staff Monograph-

From Admiralty
November 9th
Sent 3:10 a.m.

To I.O., Monte Video,

Following orders to “Canopus” and “Glasgow” : –
Canopus” to remain in Stanley Harbour. Moor your ship so that the guns command the entrance. Extemporise mines outside the entrance. Be prepared for bombardment from outside the harbor; send down your topmasts. Stimulate the Governor to organize all local forces and make determined defence. Arrange observation stations on shore to enable you to direct fire upon ships outside. Land guns or use boats’ torpedoes to sink blocking ship before she reaches the narrows. No objection to your grounding ship to obtain a good berth. Send “Glasgow” on to River Plate should she be able to get sufficient start of enemy to avoid capture. If not, moor her inside “Canopus”. Repair your defects and await orders.


The rabbit hole is always deeper than you think.

Byron

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Re: HMS Canopus at Port Stanley

Post by wadinga » Fri Jul 23, 2021 12:49 am

Hello Byron,

This signal is exactly as recalled by Grant in his memoir I linked to earlier on. Admiralty orders but surely not Admiralty language.

"Stimulate the Governor". "Make determined defence" "Extemporise mines" These are the ringing phrases of the man who "mobilised the English Language" against its enemies. The indelible watermark of First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Spencer Churchill, not what an aide might suggest to First Sea Lord Jacky Fisher. "We cannot envisage" and "even if it means towing KG V" are him inserting his words (even the daftest) into Pound's instructions in the Bismarck Chase a quarter of a century later, and here, he and Fisher, having bullied the unfortunate Cradock to oblivion with his inferior force, seek to make amends by micromanaging from afar the very limited defence remaining for the Falklands. Grant complains he is expected to send daily reports to London despite many thousands of miles distance and the vagaries of 1914 telecommunications.

However, having instructed Grant to laager the wagons, not shoot till he sees the whites of their eyes and to tell the womenfolk they should choose death before dishonour, one cannot fault them in their next move, sending the cavalry to the rescue, post-haste! Unfortunately Sturdee is so unflappable and measured and unhurried, it needs Luce of the Glasgow to get him to "get a move on" and he only just arrives in time. Even then there is a scare for WSC when it appears from initial reports Von Spee has caught Sturdee coaling. But Canopus' hit puts the wind up the enemy, as do a few glimpsed masts and funnels, and hunters are instantly transformed into prey.

Much as I admire the "Great Monster" for his overall leadership of the country in WW II, it often seems when one goes down the rabbit hole, in search of the pesky varmint, the rabbit turns out to have a cigar and a brandy, rather than a pocket watch and white gloves.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: HMS Canopus at Port Stanley

Post by marcelo_malara » Fri Jul 23, 2021 2:35 am

Very good data guys, thanks! Remains the question of how the gun´s fire was controlled, I presumed that a future position of the target was selected, the time of arrival of the target to that position computed, and at that time of arrival less the time of flight of the shells the guns were fired. It is remarkably to have hit the ship, no doubt that the projectile ricocheting in the water contributed to this, I imagine that the projectile must have flown quiet low creating a danger zone greater than same descending projectile would.

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Re: HMS Canopus at Port Stanley

Post by Byron Angel » Sat Jul 24, 2021 1:21 am

marcelo_malara wrote:
Fri Jul 23, 2021 2:35 am
Very good data guys, thanks! Remains the question of how the gun´s fire was controlled, I presumed that a future position of the target was selected, the time of arrival of the target to that position computed, and at that time of arrival less the time of flight of the shells the guns were fired. It is remarkably to have hit the ship, no doubt that the projectile ricocheting in the water contributed to this, I imagine that the projectile must have flown quiet low creating a danger zone greater than same descending projectile would.
Hi Marcelo,
My understanding is that, although the guns of Canopus could fire over the intervening spit of land with application of a slight elevation, the intervening terrain was nevertheless too high for the gunlayers in the turrets (no director control) to themselves see their targets. Fire control, such as it was, was therefore the responsibility of the spotting station established atop nearby Sapper Hill and in contact with Canopus by telephone.

I have NO idea at what range Canopus really opened fire; various sources cite ranges of 11,000 yds, 11,500 yds, 14,500 yds, even 15,000 meters (impossible IMO). I have opted to work with 11,000 yds and the assumption that the guns were not worn out.

The following ballistic data comes from His Majesty's Ballistic Tables 1918 -

12-in 35 calibre B.L. Mk VIII
Projectile: Common Piercing, Mk IV (2crh)
Initial velocity = 2350 f/s
Elevation = 9deg 20min
Range - 11,000 yds
Angle of Descent = 14deg 28min
Time of Flight = 20.38 sec
Remaining Velocity = 1217 f/s

Danger Space for 30ft target = 35yds
50pct Zone @ 11,000 yds = Length 66.2yds / Breadth 6.7yds / Height 48.6ft


The spotting station on Sapper Hill presumably had tracked the approach of Gneisenau and Nurnberg while they closed toward Port Stanley, converted their estimate range and range rate, target speed and target inclination to values relevant to the position of Canopus, and then transmitted those values to gunnery control aboard Canopus. I'm assuming that target bearing was converted on the basis of some mutually accessible reference azimuth like true (or perhaps magnetic) North or South. The gunners would add a deflection estimate and compute projected gun range on view of estimate target speed and inclination ..... and then opened fire at a selected estimated range. Given the fairly tight "50pct zone", my "back of the napkin" guess is that the range would have to have been correct to within +/- 35 yards to have a 50/50 chance of hitting with one round. It is no surprise to me that there were no hits (leaving aside the miraculous ricochet which is said to have dinged Gneisenau's funnel.

FWIW.

B

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