Admiral Phillips finest hour

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Fatboy Coxy
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Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 28 Dec 2010 22:20

We all know what happened to Force Z (HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse) on 10th Dec 1941, but things could have gone very differently. Up until late evening of the 9th December, the weather in the South China Seas had been poor, with low cloud cover and frequent rainstorms, part of the monsoon season for that region.

At 14.15 on the 9th December the most easterly IJN submarine, I-65, of a screen sighted Force Z on course 340, speed 14 knots, and the Japanese acted accordingly. The IJN 7th Cruiser Squadron, of four 8 inch heavy cruisers, screening the Japanese invasion convoys, had been on a course likely to intercept, was ordered to turn North East and join Admiral Kondo with the battleships Kongo and Haruna, heavy cruisers Atago and Takao, and destroyer screen.

What if......the weather remained bad, rough seas making submarine sightings less likely, and the rainstorms hampering air observation, as it had for the British tracking the Japanese convoys on the 6th and 7th of December. The Japanese still know Force Z is at sea, and likely to try to intercept the invasion fleet, they just don’t know where. At around 5pm, 9th December, first contact with Force Z is made, when the British screening destroyers, sight the Japanese screen .

7th Cruiser Sqn is Kumano (Flag of Rear Adm Kurita), Mikuma, Mogami and Suzuya , all Mogami class heavy cruisers, 13,500 tons, with 5 twin turrets of 8 inch guns, giving a range of 32,000 yards, and a speed of 35 knots. Its screen was light cruiser Sedai and DesDiv 19, Ayanami, Isonami, Shikinami and Uranami.

Force Z is HMS Prince of Wales, (Flag of Adm Phillips) King George V class battleship, 43,700 tons, with 2 quadruple and 1 twin turrets of 14 inch guns, giving a range of 38,000 yds, and a speed of 29 knots. HMS Repulse, Renown class battlecruiser, 35,000 tons, 3 twin turrets of 15 inch guns, giving a range of 32,500 yds, and a speed of 31 knots. Their screen is the destroyers HMS Electra , Express, Tenedos and HMAS Vampire.

The Japanese should very quickly realise this is Force Z, while the British will be unsure if this is just heavy cruisers, or part of the main force with the two battleships. I guess the Japanese will try to keep a distance, and shadow, awaiting the arrival of Admiral Kondo, while Admiral Phillips will need to quickly lose them, or engage and sink them. This could have been Admiral Phillips finest hour...

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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by James A Pratt III » 29 Dec 2010 00:03

While both the RN and IJN were good at night combat. The RN had radar and the IJN had much better torpedos. Add to this the POW had a green crew that had not been given the time to fully ork up and there were problems with the ships 14inch guns malfunctioning. However, in a gun duel the RN is going to give the IJN a pounding and if the POW and repulse can keep there distance and avoid the IJN torpedos it could have been a great RN victory unless the Kongo and haruna show up which could have turn the battle around somewhat. Then come daylight IJN aircraft would have intervened and the POW and Repulse would have probably been sunk but at least they would have done some major damage to the IJN. This is one senario that naval wargamers need to play.

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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by phylo_roadking » 29 Dec 2010 00:19

The Japanese should very quickly realise this is Force Z, while the British will be unsure if this is just heavy cruisers, or part of the main force with the two battleships. I guess the Japanese will try to keep a distance, and shadow, awaiting the arrival of Admiral Kondo, while Admiral Phillips will need to quickly lose them, or engage and sink them.
However, in a gun duel the RN is going to give the IJN a pounding and if the POW and repulse can keep there distance and avoid the IJN torpedos it could have been a great RN victory unless the Kongo and haruna show up which could have turn the battle around somewhat. Then come daylight IJN aircraft would have intervened and the POW and Repulse would have probably been sunk but at least they would have done some major damage to the IJN
Thing is - they weren't there to deal the IJN a telling blow....they were there to wreak havoc with the transports :wink: IF the japanese merely shadows them until the battleships arrive - Phillips gets to carry out his mission. The lighter IJN force has to engage Force Z and keep them engaged until the battleships arrive.

As for having a green crew - soon they'd be veterans... :)
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POW had a green crew

Post by Dave Bender » 29 Dec 2010 03:08

I don't think so. HMS POW had over 8 months to work up by December 1941.
HMS POW
19 Jan 1941. Commissioned.
31 Mar 1941. Completed.

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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by Terry Duncan » 29 Dec 2010 04:58

there were problems with the ships 14inch guns malfunctioning.
Not really, but its a nice myth left over from PoW's action in the Bismarck chase, and KGV's at the end of it. A lot of the problems were unfamiliar crews, the mountings were different in many ways - even the twin - to the majority in the RN at the time. They were far from perfect, but you see this idea put forward each time the ships are mentioned. At North Cape DoY achieved an output better than almost all the US battleships at Surigao Strait, where one was in an arctic gale and very high seas, the other was very calm, yet all US ships reported and are always credited with good performance (for firing, not hitting). They could certainly function well enough to dispose of a Kongo class ship.
unless the Kongo and haruna show up which could have turn the battle around somewhat.
They can achieve very little against Pow's armour, and their own is only slightly better than the 1906 Invincible class. PoW may have trouble hitting them due to needing practice still, but she is in little danger of being sunk by shellfire.
Then come daylight IJN aircraft would have intervened and the POW and Repulse would have probably been sunk but at least they would have done some major damage to the IJN.
Its hard to see how they could escape if they were found at sea. At best they might get back to Singapore badly damaged.
I don't think so. HMS POW had over 8 months to work up by December 1941.
Perhaps you should read about the ship more then? There was the Bismarck chase, where she was not even finished, then the trip with Churchill, and of course the dockyard time for repairs. The crew at Denmark Straits was not even all the same one that went east, as some ratings were transferred when she went in for repairs. She never had the chance to run trials, work up, or even get much gunnery practice. The Admiralty were correct in saying she should never have been sent on such a mission on those grounds alone.

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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by Baltasar » 29 Dec 2010 09:52

If Force Z had not been sunk by the Japanese aircraft, how would that have affected the war? Apparently, after this incident, all navies saw the need to protect their ships from planes and upgraded their AA armament substantially, suddenly realising the threat these planes posed. The attack on Pearl Harbor was not seen as exemplary as the ships sunk there had been sitting ducks and neither of the belligerents had had major naval - air engagements up to this point.

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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by mescal » 29 Dec 2010 13:16

Interesting scenario.


There are two tactical options for Kurita : to fight or wait for Kondo.
Phillips has three options : fight, close with the convoy, retire.

If Kurita declines the immediate fight, his ships are fast enough to prevent a British pursuit. In a similar way, if Force Z chooses movement (close convoy or retire) over fire (fight), he can either keep up with them, shadow or attack at a time of his chosing.
A very important point for his decision are the relative positions of Kondo and the convoy, i.e. can Kondo join before the British contact the convoy should they choose to attempt this move ? If Kondo can rejoin in time, I would say that Kurita will wait for him.
If not, he will have to defend the convoy by himself - which is the scenario I'll try to investigate here.

On the British side, I do not see Phillips retiring at the first sight of the enemy. He will thus either attempt to fight or keep on his initial mission. But even if he attempt to fight, Kurita still can disengage.
Thus Force Z will most probably continue with the initial mission, with perhaps attempt to engage the enemy CA if able.

Given the timing of the encounter (5 pm), there remains at least 2 to 3 hours of daylight (sunset for Singapore 09Dec = 7 pm, twilight 8.15pm).
During daylight, the Repulse and PoW's guns would be able to keep the cruisers at arm's length, and perhaps get one hit or two - each of which would most probably at least mission-kill the cruiser at the receiving end.
Thus the best move for the Japanese force is to order the convoy away, and shadow Force Z from a safe distance thanks to higher speed until nighttime.
Then the four CAs and DDs close for a night action.

Phillips has a radar which could give him an edge by night, but Kurita cannot base his reasoning on this fact since he does not know its capabilities (if he even knows of a radar on PoW). So for all pratical purpose, the British radar is irrelavant to Japanese decision-making process.

OTOH CruDiv7 & DesDiv have 9*4+12*2 = 60 torpedo tubes, 48 of which can be fired on a broadside - and which (for the DDs) can be reloaded. I see the Japanese plan revolving on these weapons more than on their guns.
Moreover, since the capabilities of the Long Lance were secret, the evasive movements of Force Z would probably be inappropriate.
Another point to make is that the 4 british destroyers were no match for the 4 Fubukis : Tenedos had very limited capabilites, Vampire was little better. Only the two E class could fight without being hopelessely outclassed, and they were still inferior to Fubukis.
These technical disadvantage could perhaps be partially offset by the radar, which could enable a better formation/disposition for Force Z. On a related note, with only 4 DDs to search by night, the Japanese formation may miss Force Z - all the more if Phillips wants to refuse night battle and use his radar to avoid the japanese scouts.
But I think he would give battle - RN was well trained for night action, and the IJN had yet to prove its nighttime fighting skills.

So in my opinion, the most plausible scenario is a night battle, with the Japanese launching torpedoes from a relative long distance.
Let's assume they can manage a salvo of 40 out of the 48 theoretically possible (accounting for technical problems, or one DD out of position). The IJN expected 15% hits, but in practice were less successfull: this link gives a 6.7% success ratio. But we can note a sharp decline in effectiveness over the war (except Java Sea, but this was at very long range). So I would assume a 10-12% hit ratio.
Which gives us 4 or five hits. Assuming they were fired with a deep setting, all those would hit Repulse & PoW.
Now the distribution of hits counts : I think PoW could survive one or two hits, or perhaps even 3 (depending on the areas hit), while Repulse was far less resilient.
In the best case, PoW is severly damaged by 3 torps & Repulse seriously damaged by one (total 4 hits).
In the worst case, Repulse may be sunk by two hits, and PoW severely damaged by 3.
Anyway, none will be able to carry its mission and will probably be dispatched by aircraft the next day - unless the Japanese DD reloads and come back to finish the cripples.

Meanwhile, the british ships must have had an idea of the localisation of the enemy cruisers, and even if their radar were not adequate for fire control use, it could indicate where to fire starshells.
So I think hits would be scored by the RN heavies on at least one cruiser and perhaps two, with the secondaries engaging destroyers.
Note that if the BBs hits the IJN CAs before they release their torpedoes, there are 6 less fishes in the water, and perhaps one less hit.

Anyway, it's difficult to give a proper assessement of what would happen.
But by the logic explained above (admittedly, it's short of a true wargame), I expect a night fight won by the Japanese, with two heavies crippled (or one damaged and one sunk) on the Force Z for the price of one or two CAs seriously damaged of perhaps sunk.

If the Haruna and Kongo are added to the Japanese side in a night fight, I think that they will draw fire from the Repulse & PoW, which would enable a quite easier torpedo attack by the CAs & DDs - but the cost will probably be at least one of the Kongos, the armour of which was not up to the task of keeping 15" and 14" shells at night battle ranges.
Actually, the best asset Kondo could bring was the destroyers of his screen, increasing the search assets and the number of torpedo tubes.
Olivier

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Terry Duncan
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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by Terry Duncan » 29 Dec 2010 15:39

Apparently, after this incident, all navies saw the need to protect their ships from planes and upgraded their AA armament substantially, suddenly realising the threat these planes posed.
Baltasar,

Midway would have convinced them of the need for more guns if nothing else had happened. Oddly the need for more guns had been predicted and even accepted by many long before this point, though the willingness to find the money for the guns had been a problem - see the fiasco of the British battleships etc only getting part of the 2pdr armament designed for them for years between 1928 and 1939.

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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by LWD » 29 Dec 2010 16:26

The LL was specifically designed to take out battleships in a night action. For this and the other reasons stated I would expect the Japanese to seek a night engagement.

However I don't exect it to be as successful as the poster above. For one thing there were significant problems with the LL torpedos early in the war. Indeed a significant number launched during the Java Sea battles apparently detonated shortly after launch. The rough weather assumed in this scenario would tend to exerbate this.

Note also that the torpedos and on the cruisers the associated oxygen plants are a significant hazard to the ships carrying them as long as they are on board. If the British ellect to engage with HE early hits could quite readily lead to the catastrophic destruction of any ships hit. Furthermore long range torpedo launches tended to have very low P(H). The spreads tended to be pretty wide at long ranges and the effects of errors had a lot of time to multiply. http://www.navweaps.com/index_lundgren/ ... lcanal.pdf
Seems to indicate well over 40 torpedos launched in the battleship action of Guadalcanal with no hits on the US battleships and at ranges much closer than would be likely for this action.
Furthermore POW shot pretty well at Denmark Straits and indeed may have straddled Bismarck when she reengaged at over 30,000 yards and this at night in bad weather. I belive Renown also had a pretty good reputation for accuracy as well. All in all I don't think things look good for the Japanese cruiser force. If the weather remains bad the RN could be in line for a signficant victory.

Here's a link that looks at the effectiveness of LL torpdos:
http://www.navweaps.com/index_tech/tech-067.htm
This document is also worth examining:
fireonthewaters.tripod.com/DOCTRINE%20ARTICLE.pdf
Certainly the early battles, especially when you take into account the conditiions likely in this encounter, don't seem to point to the likelyhood of a Japanese victory.

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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by Baltasar » 29 Dec 2010 16:49

Terry Duncan wrote:
Apparently, after this incident, all navies saw the need to protect their ships from planes and upgraded their AA armament substantially, suddenly realising the threat these planes posed.
Baltasar,

Midway would have convinced them of the need for more guns if nothing else had happened. Oddly the need for more guns had been predicted and even accepted by many long before this point, though the willingness to find the money for the guns had been a problem - see the fiasco of the British battleships etc only getting part of the 2pdr armament designed for them for years between 1928 and 1939.
Quite interesting. Would this also affect the Japanese AA armament? Of all people they should know how dangerous planes could be against ships. Would this result in more US losses, possibly even a Japanese win at Midway?

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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by Tim Smith » 29 Dec 2010 17:23

What will Force Z's tactics be when encountering Kurita's 7th Cruiser squadron?

1. Burst through them in order to keep driving for the Japanese troop convoy? (= Adm. Phillips Not Afraid of Japanese torpedo attack)

2. Turn away from Kurita's ships in order to use POW's and Repulse's battleship guns at long range against them for as long as possible, and hindering Japanese attempts to get into position for a torpedo attack? (= Adm. Phillips Afraid of Japanese torpedo attack)

Option 2 is the best option tactically against Kurita's cruisers and destroyers, and offers the best chance of preventing serious damage to POW and Repulse. But it means sailing for at least 2 hours at full speed AWAY from the Japanese troop convoy, the interception of which is Admiral Phillips' primary mission objective, and will definitely allow Kondo's two battleships to get between Force Z and the convoy even if Force Z doubles back after driving Kurita off. Also by sheering away then doubling back, all at full speed, Force Z will have to burn more fuel before reaching the troop convoy.

What would Admiral Phillips do?

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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by LWD » 29 Dec 2010 18:48

He could also steer a orthoganal course with his BBs while his screen tried to intercept and torpedo the advancing Japanese DDs (and possibly cruisers). This would slow him down some but give him a pretty good chance of taking out the Japanese ships as well. It would however use up most if not all his DDs torpedo armament and likely lead to at least some of his DDs not being in shape for action vs the troop convoy or other Japanese forces.

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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by Tim Smith » 29 Dec 2010 21:10

LWD wrote:He could also steer a orthoganal course with his BBs while his screen tried to intercept and torpedo the advancing Japanese DDs (and possibly cruisers). This would slow him down some but give him a pretty good chance of taking out the Japanese ships as well. It would however use up most if not all his DDs torpedo armament and likely lead to at least some of his DDs not being in shape for action vs the troop convoy or other Japanese forces.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that Kurita's screen pretty much owns Phillips' screen since Kurita has a light cruiser and Phillips doesn't. The Japanese light cruiser will simply blow the British destroyers out of the water one by one (with the help of the Japanese DD's.) Blowing up DD's is what light cruisers are for. Not to mention that the four Japanese heavy cruisers can get in on the action too (might as well shoot at the British DD's since they can barely scratch the paintwork of the British battleships with their puny 8" guns...)

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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by LWD » 29 Dec 2010 21:23

Japanese light cuisers are not particularly impressive. Looks like it was Sendai with the DDs at the time. Here is a page on her:
http://www.combinedfleet.com/ships/sendai
Note her main armament consists of 7 5.5" guns
Consider also that Phillips screen will probably be planning on using their tropedoes vs Kurita's screen while the Japanese will want to hold at least some back for use against the British battleships.

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Re: Admiral Phillips finest hour

Post by Baltasar » 29 Dec 2010 22:21

HMS Electra and HMS Express each had 4 x 4,7"/45 guns (~120mm), HMS Tenedos and HMAS Vampire had 3 x 4" (101,6mm) guns each. The Japanese light cruiser had 7 x 5,5" (~140mm) and her four destroyers each had 6 x 127mm/50 guns.

This means the Japanese would have slightly bigger guns, almost twice as many of them and at least the cruiser would be able to outrange the destroyers.

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