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Striking the Colors

Discussion in 'World war II at Sea' started by Carronade, Mar 25, 2020.

  1. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The Bismarck thread got me thinking about this. The combination of Bismarck's own damage and the strength of the British forces converging on her left her with no realistic chance of surviving her last battle, which her admiral, captain, and crew must have known however reluctant they were to acknowledge it.

    In the days of sail, it would have been acceptable for a ship in this situation to surrender, perhaps when the opposing capital ships closed to gun range and fired a few shots. Captains and crews were rarely punished as long as they had made a reasonable effort to fight or escape. No one was expected to fight to the death without hope.

    This was true even though a damaged ship would often be taken into service by the victor. Although there were differences between countries' ships, the basics were the same; offices and sailors could operate a foreign ship as well as one of their own. Captured ships often had distinguished careers under their new owners; some ships changed hands multiple times.

    ironically by WWII it was less feasible to make use of a captured warship. There were cases of destroyers and smaller being captured in port and put to use, but an odd battleship with completely different weapons, systems, machinery, and other characteristics would be of minimal value to a navy, other than as a trophy.

    In Bismarck's case, with the ship unmaneuverable, the seas heavy, and the danger of Luftwaffe or U-boat attack, the British would not even attempt to salvage her, just take off the crew, snap a few photos for propaganda, and finish her off with torpedos just as they did historically.
     
  2. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ..it would be a very, very, very [ etc ] great propaganda victory to have captured it
    ..plus a huge advantage and coup evaluating and maybe copying their weapons control systems
    ..more sailors captured = more intelligence --more reliable
    couldn't they have used it for scrap? reuse of items/etc?..
    Ship scrap recycling: money from a boat that's out of commission
    bold mine
    USS Oklahoma (BB-37) - Wikipedia
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2020
  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    It was not acceptable for a captain in Hitler's navy to surrender a ship. The Captain of the Graf Spee killed himself after scuttling his ship and saving his crew. It was not in the traditions of the Royal Navy to give up a ship even in hopeless conditions. Google HMS Rawalpindi, Jervis Bay, Acasta, Ardent, and HMAS Yarra.

    Occasionally ships were taken at sea. HMS Graph started as U570 and surrendered to a Lockheed Hudson aircraft.
     
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  4. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The long-standing tradition was that ships would surrender, hopefully after putting up a good fight. Or if a small ship was chased and caught by a significantly more powerful one, it could surrender honorably without fighting at all. The insistence on fighting to the bitter end was a 20th-century innovation.
     
  5. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    just like he wasn't happy with land forces surrendering...?
     
  6. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ....wasn't that generally true with land forces also? the Fort Necessity Battle comes to mind...Fort William Henry Battle surrender terms [ but the Natives didn't like those terms ] ..I thought I've read of surrenders after sieges/etc where the losing force were allowed to not only live, but were not taken as POWs......most of my readings are from The French and Indian War
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Langsdorff of the Graf Spee is an interesting example. He didn't surrender, but he found a way to save his crew without fighting a hopeless battle.

    The crew were interned, but a few managed to get back to Germany. One fellow was rewarded for his devotion to the Fatherland by being assigned to their newest battleship, the Bismarck...…..
     
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  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Very true. Sometimes garrisons were granted the "honors of war", allowed to march out with all their weapons and baggage, flags flying, and go back to their own territory. Sometimes they would be paroled, agree not to fight for a time period like a year, or until exchanged. A different era.....

    Getting back to ships, one of my favorite examples is the French frigate Minerve, which became HMS San Fiorenzo, and captured during her long career three other French frigates and various smaller ships. I doubt HMS Bismarck would have accomplished quite so much ;)

    Minerve was renamed - for the place where she had been captured - because the Royal Navy already had a Minerva; otherwise it was common for captured ships to retain their names, e.g. HMS Foudroyant, Temeraire, Pomone, President. In many cases the "captured" names were reused for later ships.
     
  9. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    In 1943 In Stalingrad Paulus was awarded the RK. Hitler after his surrender got mad. It was for sucide he did not do.
    I do not believe the Germans would have surrendered but Bismarck could have made much better moves.
     
  10. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ....generally speaking, a lot of units surrendered if they knew it was hopeless--they were human...humans want to survive .......the Japanese were different ....
    ...now I'm not too knowledgeable about the OstFront though ....
     
  11. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ....also, what would've happened if they [ any battle ] didn't strike their colors?? not only horrible injuries, but drowning/drowning while injured??!! burning? etc? I don't think we can even imagine cannon balls ripping through wood and flesh ....wood splinters propelled into various body areas....etc ...
    no thanks for me
     
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  12. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    You've put your finger on a key point. It was difficult and time-consuming to sink a ship with the weapons of the time, so if one refused to surrender, the other side would just go on pounding them, inflicting casualties.

    In the 20th century, weapons like shells or torpedo's could destroy a ship, and situations like Bismarck where surrender might seem like an option were rare. Surrender had been the common outcome of a battle in the 1800s but was alien to the modern way of thinking.
     
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  13. James Stewart

    James Stewart Active Member

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    The striking of the colours was from a different era by 1939 the option to surrender one's ship or command in the old tradition had really gone.
    Captures did happen, U-570 has been given by way of example (Sheldrake) when the U Boat surfaced ( there would appear to have been some negligence on her Captains part) right under a Hudson, the boat then making no effort to defend herself before surrendering to an aircraft which apart from machine guns had nothing to attack her with having dropped her charges.
    The Royal Navy lost HMS Seal when she surrendered to an Arado-196 having sustained damage from a mine, her captain and 1st officer were tried by GCM when they were returned from captivity. ( Both were acquited).
    The scuttling of the cruiser HMS Manchester in 1942 having been seriously damaged by Italian MTB's was scuttled by her Captain having had her wounded and unrequired crew taken off by a Destroyer.
    Unknown to her Commander (Captain Drew) she still had limited ability to steam and her ( some of her armament could still be used), he was focused on her not falling into enemy hands and decided to scuttle, he was court-martialed as it was deemed that the ship could have been made a friendly port.
    The RN in WW2 was loath to see any ship surrendered no matter how damaged or no matter what disadvantage they found themselves really "not in the traditions of the service", the Kriegsmarine likewise.
    Whilst the decision was left in Langsdorff hands internment he knew was not an option and he was faced with a battle which he could not win ( he was under the impression that Harwood had been reinforced by heavy ships) his munitions were very depleted and the estuary gave him no sea room and there would be every chance that his ship might be boarded in defeat so he decided to destroy her.
    U-110 (Lemp) was another unintended capture, he had thought his boat was sinking and he got his crew off only to find his crew in the water and his U Boat not sinking.
    Both navies expected that a ship would go down colours flying.
    U-99 Kretschmer - in a sinking state Kretschmer asked "my ship is sinking please rescue my crew", this was what happened.
    U-625 damaged and sinking by the stern signalled her attacker (U/422 RCAF) which circled just out of gun range - the German crew did not man her guns but flashed to the Sunderland " Fine Bombish". When the U boat sank ( as happened rather quickly) the Canadians radioed their position and asked ships to rescue the German sailors and they threw life jackets to them. A search was made by aircraft from Castle Archdale the next day but no trace of the Germans was found, they perished that same night as a storm moved through that sea area.
    Bismarck, like Scharhorst's crews, did as was expected of them, just as in similar circumstance ( as has been quoted) the AMC's Jervis Bay, Rawalpindi, Glowworm, Ascats and Ardent did.
     
  14. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    ...from my readings it was very time consuming just to get in range/form a line/engage/etc in the time of sail ....
    ...I thought from my readings at some of the Canal battles, some of those ships got pounded ''fast'''..especially the DDs.....even the Big Ones .....just 1 2000lb shell is going to wreck the crap out of upperworks
     
  15. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    I struck my colors to HMS Boss Lady when she surprised me off Isle of Skye.
     
  16. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    SINFUL
     

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