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Bismarck

Discussion in 'Germany at Sea!' started by Ricardo War44, Feb 4, 2008.

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  1. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I think I read the same book by Baron von Mullenheim-Rechberg. According to him, the ship was sunk by the crew, not by the RN. The RN had used a huge number of ammunition and torpedoes, and yet the ship was not sinking. Due to German sub fear and low fuel the RN was deciding to leave the area, as Bismarck was practically destroyed, on the deck nothing was left in any working shape but shot to pieces. Well, this is one side of the story. But it seems the torpedos could not sink the Bismarck with the hull made of "special" thick steel?? I know there are several views of what happened and how the Bismarck sunk but I think the Baron said they sunk the ship themselves in the end. Also with the first Allied shots the fire command post was destroyed so the Bismarck was not capable to direct its shooting. Also one or two gun turrets were hit as well, as far as I remember.
     
  2. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    It's called "Salvo Chasing.", steering where the enemy's last salvo landed - The idea being that the enemy would correct his fall of shot, and that by turning towards the last salvo, his next salvo should miss you. Of course, this worked best at extended ranges, when shells had long flight times.

    However, on the Bismarck, it was different. With the rudder damage, the Bismarck's course was constantly changing, forcing the Bismarck to maneuver with her engines alone(by varying propeller RPMs. Continuously changing course is called "constant helming," while this is good for throwing off a submarine torpedo shot, it does put a little crimp in gunfire accuracy.

    IIRC, to an extent - AA guns would be a different matter though.

    Sorry, but no. Bismarck achieved early straddles in the night destroyer attack, and later the next morning achieved early straddles on Rodney.

    The Bismarck opened fire at 0850, straddling Rodney with the second salvo. However, at 0902, the Bismarck's main battery director is hit and disabled, so fire control is shifted to the aft director. The aft control fired three or four salvoes before, at 0913, it too was put out of action. forcing the remaining guns to fire in local control.

    23 minutes into the action, and the Bismarck has lost all main battery fire control...This is the only reason for the Bismarck's poor gunnery that day.

    Two turrets were disabled at 0902, along with her main battery control. But the German's initially could only fire 4 guns of 8 anyway, while the Rodney could fire all 9, and the KGV 6 of 10.
     
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  3. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Sauce for the Goose...The Germans certainly did not blow up a perfectly good battleship. The Bismarck was sinking slowly, but there was a distinct chance, the British could have captured her, kept pumps going, and towed her to safety. Germany could not take that chance.

    As little as 4 and as many as 11. 4 hits would not sink the Bismarck, especially if they were not all on the same side.

    Given that the Bismarck's belt armor did not perform that well against British AP shells, I just don't think Bis was hit by that many torpedoes.

    The Germans could not wait the hours it would take Bis to sink, so the decided to hurry it up. The Germans made a butch of the job, so the Dorsetshire had to hurry up the Germans hurry up.

    Just downright silly...I'm not going to wait for you to kill me, so I'm gonna commit suicide...Logic fail.
     
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  4. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Liike said, so many different stories of how the Bismarck went down. After Hood it was practically a must to get Bismarck, and without Luthjens' long radio message they could have escaped the R'N.
     
  5. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Active Member

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    Well, I didn't say that exhaustion was the only cause, but it was likely a contributing factor. In those 23 minutes the Bismarck didn't achieve a single hit, it seems a significantly worse performance compared to the Denmark Strait. Stereoscopic rangefinders were tiring for the operators, who had to use their binocular vision. Compounded to preexisting tiredness and stress from the dire situation it seems reasonable that performance was affected to a certain extent.
     
  6. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I think that RN was also lucky that the U-boat back up did not get there in time. Bismarck would be lost anyway but what about the RN and the subs. 1-2 hrs more and I recall they would have been in the area to attack.
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Zigzagging made it harder for the enemy to hit but also detracted from one's own accuracy, so it was often used by the smaller or weaker ship.

    Since you mention Jutland, there was an interesting incident with the German battle cruiser von der Tann. Her gunnery early on was quite accurate, blowing up HMS Indefatigable in the first few minutes, so I would guess she was steering a steady course. Later two of her four turrets were knocked out, and the other two were disabled by mechanical problems for a time. Her captain wanted to stay in line rather than let the British concentrate on the other German ships, so he started zigzagging until some of his own guns were back in action.

    Bismarck - own ship's course and speed were input to the fire control computer, but that was an analog mechanical/electrical device, high tech for the time but primitive by our standards, so there was always a bit of lag. As mentioned earlier, Bismarck was not deliberately zigzagging, just couldn't steer a straight course due to the rudder damage and the sea state.
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2021
  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Scuttling one's own ship is the clearest possible acknowledgement of defeat, comparable to striking the colors in sailing-ship days.

    Fun fact, in my Navy days, maybe still today, there was a signal in the code book for "Scuttle/destroy your own ship or unit indicated".
     
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  9. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Still there as of 2016 in NATO...TA48.
     
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  10. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Active Member

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  11. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Active Member

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    I reckon that if one side forces the other to scuttle in combat, then the first side should be credited with the sinking. Scuttling is a tangible admission of defeat.
     
  12. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Active Member

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    I reckon you are right. The scuttling theory seems to have gained a lot of acceptance, however it's still not clear if the ship was already in sinking conditions when it went down. I also wonder why the Germans didn't wait a bit more before activating the charges, to give more time to the crew to abandon ship. I guess it was total chaos on the Bismarck, and the comm system didn't work. It's sad thinking to all those sailors drowning in the cold sea.

    In any case the question of the scuttling is quite moot, because the ship was a total wreck. The armor system of the Bismarck was optimized for short distance engagements, which the Germans reckoned more likely in North Atlantic conditions. The central citadel, containing the ship vitals, was virtually invulnerable, except from plunging fire at very long distance with very heavy shells (I guess the American 406/45 would have been the biggest threat). This guaranteed a reserve buoyancy, and that probably explains why it was so hard to sink. At a certain point, with almost all the hull submerged, probably British fire was only rearranging the wreckage on the upper portion of the ship.
     
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  13. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Active Member

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    Agreed on all points. I'm agnostic on the debate about scuttling vs sunk in the case of Bismarck -- though I lean towards scuttling given the survivor interviews I've watched and so on -- but in either event a ship is rendered hors de combat, and so to me it comes down to counting angels on a pinhead. I also think it's possible that the ship was going to sink anyway, and her crew pulled the plugs for reasons of their own. In other words, not an either/or thing, and both sides could be right in their own ways.

    The Bismarck was most certainly a robust ship. I have read that the armor layout was based on a WWI design, which one escapes my tenuous memory right now, and was therefore "obsolete" by the then-current standards of all-or-nothing. But it sure as Hell stood up to a shelling the likes of which no other battleship has seen, in terms of the number of heavy-caliber hits.

    Mind you I'm no expert and am amenable to any corrections; I'm here to learn and not to argue.
     
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  14. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    What I read By a Bismarck survivor the whole deck was destroyed but the hull armor did not give in. So the RN was forced to leave due to U-boat danger and running out of fuel. But that is just one view about the final battle.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2021
  15. Riter

    Riter Well-Known Member

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    Bismarck was an enlargened and improved WW 1 Baden.

    I also read that the crew scuttled her.
     
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  16. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Active Member

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    I think it was SOP in many navies to scuttle or torpedo their own ships when they were considered a total loss. I don't know if this was done to avoid the wreck falling in enemy hands and be studied or displayed as a trophy, or if it was just a kind of naval "code" of behavior. The Japanese opened the Kingston valves on the Kirishima and torpedoed some of their carriers at Midway. The Americans tried to sink the Hornet at Santa Cruz with torpedoes but failed (probably due to their defective torpedoes), so they abandoned it. The Japanese failed to tow the wreck and finally sunk it with their own torpedoes.

    The Bismarck was very well protected. About 40% of its displacement was armor, the highest ratio in any battleship. However their protection system had weaknesses, as it's reported in Okun analysis. In particular (according to him) the belt was vulnerable to its own guns at greater ranges than its contemporaries. The analysis of the wreck shows that the hull was pierced eight times, above the waterline, but many shells from the KGV failed to penetrate the belt: Exploring the wreck of the Bismarck - and it is in remarkable condition
    This seems a very good performance from a 320 mm belt, but I don't know at what distance those rounds were fired, and maybe it reflects the weakness of the 14" British guns. In any case, the combination of belt and "turtledeck" made the central citadel virtually impenetrable to short range fire at low angles (that is close to the normal).

    I think one of the major weaknesses was the protection of the main artillery. 360 mm armor for the vertical front turret plate was not very high compared to foreign constructions, and the inclined sloped plates connecting the vertical surfaces to the flat roof was only 180 mm. According to Okun this was a big weakness. Since the Germans reserved so much displacement to armor, I think they should have used heavier plates on the turrets. But since before WWI The Germans thought that the main requirement for a ship was to stay afloat, and in that they were certainly successful. Many observers say Bismarck armor was obsolete, but I think its armor scheme was a conscious choice. Certainly the Germans did know about the "all-or-nothing" system. And, contrary to what many say, they were not inexperienced in naval constructions after WWI, after all they built the Deutschland class. And because of the Washington Treaty the other navies didn't build battleships until the 30s (apart for the Nelsons).

    It's a pity Richard (Rich90) doesn't seem very interested in naval topics, it would be good to hear his opinion:)
     
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  17. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Active Member

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    The Rodney was within 4000 yds or so, and KGV stood off further to get more plunge to its shots.
     
  18. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Bismarck's robustness mainly made her difficult to finish off once she was hopelessly crippled. She was made unmaneuverable by the hit from Prince of Wales forward and the torpedo aft. Up to then the only damage in the "vitals" was the loss of one of six boiler rooms and a few adjacent compartments. In her final battle she was quickly crippled by the loss of gunnery control and interior communications, shortly followed by the main battery turrets themselves.

    I would agree that the 180mm plating on the angled turret front surface was a serious weakness. It might be all right at short ranges, with incoming shells on a nearly horizontal trajectory, but the angling actually helped plunging shot strike the plate more directly. Turret fronts would generally be facing towards one's principal opponent whereas belt, bulkheads etc. might not be - half the belt armor by definition is on the disengaged side - so strong protection there is justified.

    As you might guess from my username, I have a fondness for the age of sail, when a hopelessly beaten ship like Bismarck could surrender with no disgrace.
     
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  19. Brutal Truth

    Brutal Truth Active Member

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    I didn't know she had lost a boiler room. Was it due to concussion damage by PoW shells or torpedo hits? I'm not aware of any shot penetrating the engine room before the final engagement (or during it).

    Looking at the turret design, I'd think that at normal engagement ranges shells trajectory would be angled enough to go through those plates quite easily. According to Okun they should have been increased to 9" at least.

    I have a fondness for the Dreadnought age, actually more for the WWI than the WWII period. Btw, do you know any good PC game for naval combat in the Age of Sail? No free multiplayer game I mean, they seem to rule the warship/tank game world today, but I cannot bring myself to like them.
     
  20. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    Some of both. The midships hit from PofW flooded a generator room adjacent to the forward port boiler room. The high speed maneuvering to avoid the torpedo attack from Victorious on May 24 strained bulkheads and caused the boiler room to flood. This reduced Bismarck's speed a couple of knots but was not really serious.
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2021

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