Seelöwe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

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Knouterer
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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by Knouterer » 08 Jun 2014 11:28

According to British military manuals, a .303 round could penetrate 3/4 inch (19 mm) of "steel plate, ordinary mild or wrought iron." And that's normal ball, not AP, of which RAF fighters generally carried a liberal portion in their ammo mix, if I'm not mistaken. In addition, in the case of strafing aircraft, you'd have to add the speed of the aircraft to the muzzle velocity, say another 300 ft/sec or so. But that's a very minor point.

I have no exact data, but the sides of the barges - which were normally steel and not wood - were in any case not nearly that thick. Modern regulations for the construction of Rhine barges contain very complicated formulas that are over my head, but do stipulate very clearly that minimum thickness of the hull at any point must be 3 mm. So maximum thickness would be two or at most three times that - more would seem pointless.

Contrary to what Fred suggests, only a few barges (18 type AS for the assault detachments/Vorausabteilungen) were fitted with double walls and concrete protection.

MG fire would likely not sink barges outright, but might still do a lot of damage. For instance, if a barge contained a wagon or field gun drawn by horses - as was often the case - and those horses were killed or wounded, unloading would be a problem.

According to the German plans, barges should carry as "Beipackung" about 15 tons of supplies, on average, in addition to whatever was on the vehicles on board. As this included ammo and fuel, MG fire might well have caused a disastrous explosion.

In 1941, during operation "Channel Stop" the RAF for a time systematically attacked all German coastal convoys they could find. These convoys were normally protected by Vorpostenboote, armed trawlers and whalers (which I would suppose were at least as strongly built as river barges). The usual MO was to send in Hurricanes first to mow down the AA gunners, followed by Blenheim bombers attacking art masttop level.
These attacks were not entirely successful and cost the RAF dearly, but what is relevant to this discussion is that those Hurricanes certainly had no problem putting lots and lots of .303 holes in the hulls and superstructures of those Vorpostenboote - to the point that the German sailors joked among themselves that "Vp-Boote" stood for "Vielfach perforierte Boote". No translation needed I think.
Anyway, the whole discussion seems a bit academic; if there had been any RAF fighters on the scene they would have been much better employed attacking the LW bombers.
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phylo_roadking
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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by phylo_roadking » 08 Jun 2014 22:15

I have no exact data, but the sides of the barges - which were normally steel and not wood - were in any case not nearly that thick. Modern regulations for the construction of Rhine barges contain very complicated formulas that are over my head, but do stipulate very clearly that minimum thickness of the hull at any point must be 3 mm. So maximum thickness would be two or at most three times that - more would seem pointless.
Looking at Schenk, river barges seem to have relied for a great deal of their strength on their hull plating - with their frame work at a minimum; hence them not only having to strengthened longitudinally by iron rails in concrete...laterally they required extra stiffeners triangulating frame rails every few sets of frame members. But once this was done, they turned out to be stronger and more stable than expected.
MG fire would likely not sink barges outright, but might still do a lot of damage. For instance, if a barge contained a wagon or field gun drawn by horses - as was often the case - and those horses were killed or wounded, unloading would be a problem.
Note Schenk's comment that horses were kept to a minimum in the First Wave, and that it was MT-heavy.
As this included ammo and fuel, MG fire might well have caused a disastrous explosion.
By the time it actually got through the hull plates - .303 rounds would have lost a great deal of their velocity and penetrating power. Plus it's quite hard to do that without tracer or incendiary rounds...
These convoys were normally protected by Vorpostenboote, armed trawlers and whalers (which I would suppose were at least as strongly built as river barges). The usual MO was to send in Hurricanes first to mow down the AA gunners, followed by Blenheim bombers attacking art masttop level.
These attacks were not entirely successful and cost the RAF dearly, but what is relevant to this discussion is that those Hurricanes certainly had no problem putting lots and lots of .303 holes in the hulls and superstructures of those Vorpostenboote - to the point that the German sailors joked among themselves that "Vp-Boote" stood for "Vielfach perforierte Boote". No translation needed I think.
Well, just as in the UK the majority of German trawlers and drifters would have been wooden-hulled; the UK had intentionally had steel-hulled ocean-going trawlers constructed before the war, but not many - only a couple of dozen....though a lot more were built in U.S. and Canadian yards during the war. And you'd need to cheack on a per-boat basis how many whalers may have had steel or iron hulls...but wooden superstructures.

Don't worry - ALL the same issues also affected the Royal Naval Patrol Service's wooden and steel trawlers and drifters; See Trawlwers Go To War by Paul Lund and Harry Ludlam. What's interesting about the above is that German sailors must have survived to joke about the "Vielfach Perforierte Boote"...
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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by LWD » 09 Jun 2014 13:57

phylo_roadking wrote: ...Note Schenk's comment that horses were kept to a minimum in the First Wave, and that it was MT-heavy.
Assulming MT = motor transport, my impression was that it was also rather light in the first wave. If anything was heavy it was combat infantry.
As this included ammo and fuel, MG fire might well have caused a disastrous explosion.
By the time it actually got through the hull plates - .303 rounds would have lost a great deal of their velocity and penetrating power. Plus it's quite hard to do that without tracer or incendiary rounds...
I would think that most of the bullet impacts due to strfing would not be at least initially on the hull. When attacking from above the deck area would seem to have the greatest presented area whether or not bullets would still penetrate the hull after hitting the deck and/or the cargo is an open question. In any case letting a bit of extra water in isn't likely to improve the handling characteristics of the barges and/or the order in the formations. On the otherhand I wouldn't exect that the RAF would spend a lot of time strafing barges unless they had gained at least temporary air superiority over the invasion fleet which doesn't seem likely to me.

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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by phylo_roadking » 09 Jun 2014 14:31

...Note Schenk's comment that horses were kept to a minimum in the First Wave, and that it was MT-heavy.
Assulming MT = motor transport, my impression was that it was also rather light in the first wave. If anything was heavy it was combat infantry.
Don't forget the "first wave" was further divided into two - the main body and the "advanced detachments" - which were indeed heavily-armed infamtry in the WWI stormtrooper sense. By "First Wave" above I was referring to the whole tranche of ships/barges etc.to appear off the coast on the morning of S-Day.
I would think that most of the bullet impacts due to strfing would not be at least initially on the hull. When attacking from above the deck area would seem to have the greatest presented area whether or not bullets would still penetrate the hull after hitting the deck and/or the cargo is an open question.
Well, if you think about it...if a fighter strafes an open-decked barge, the part of the vessel MOST likely to be hit by .303 rifle-calibre MG rounds....is the poured concrete "deck" laid in the bilges 8O Followed by the wheelhouses and the limited supestructures....which were "armoured" with thick timbers etc., for approaching the shore under fire.
In any case letting a bit of extra water in isn't likely to improve the handling characteristics of the barges and/or the order in the formations.
The handling charateristics of the bqrges weren't as bad as anticipated once they were altered; they proved capable of surviving sea state 4-5, and were a lot more stable courtesy of the extra lateral and longitudinal rigidity.
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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by Graeme Sydney » 09 Jun 2014 14:40

Fighters strafing barges to destroy the invasion fleet is a fairly moot point I would have thought. The fighters first role would be to give air superiority so the navy, destroyers in particularly, could do the damage. Any strafing would have been secondary and opportunistic.

Even so I would expect them to be very effective. The strafing would be coming in at angles of around 45degrees which would make crew and personal very vulnerable to death and wounding. With or without orders to the contrary I would expect evasive actions from the crews. I understand the barges had such minimal seaworthiness that even sharp maneuvers could lead to swampings.

Of course all of this is pretty moot but does highlight the importance of the BofB - no air superiority no invasion.

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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by phylo_roadking » 09 Jun 2014 15:03

I understand the barges had such minimal seaworthiness that even sharp maneuvers could lead to swampings.
No, and no; see the comments above, and Peter Schenk. The barges were a lot more seaworthy after the alterations than most people state, with much higher freeboards when loaded than commonly stated.
Even so I would expect them to be very effective. The strafing would be coming in at angles of around 45degrees which would make crew and personal very vulnerable to death and wounding.
That would be a VERY steep angle for fighters attempting to fire on a quite small target like the deckwell of a barge; slower-moving, close air support aircraft - Stukas, Hs 123s etc. - could do it at that angle against "long" targets like a trench line, a convoy on a road - or a roadful of refugees - but ideally the angle would be shallower for strafing than for divebombing of course. Any aircraft is going to be passing over or along a target like a single barge in a second or two, but it's going to be faster for a fighter than a CAS aircraft.

But there's also the recovery aspect; to strafe at that sort of angle a faster aircraft like a fighter would have to start firing at altitude and break out of the dive earlier. The ideal strafing angle for a high speed fighter would have had to be a lot more shallow or the pilot is going for a swim if he doesn't break off...

EDIT: - there's also the issue of the amount of ammunition RAF fighters carried - typically quite a few seconds' less firing time for Spitfires and Hurricanes than the Bf109.
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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by LWD » 09 Jun 2014 15:43

The USN definition of dive bombing was that the angle should be 60 degrees or more. See:
http://www.eugeneleeslover.com/USNAVY/CHAPTER-23-E.html
The IJN on the other hand apparently considered 50 degrees or more to be dive bombing. See:
http://pwencycl.kgbudge.com/D/i/Dive_Bombers.htm
Wiki sets it at 45 degrees at:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dive_bomber

I would think strafing would normally be at 30 degrees or less some times considerably less. But as seems to be the consensus the fighters probably have more important things to do.

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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by phylo_roadking » 09 Jun 2014 20:33

I would think strafing would normally be at 30 degrees or less some times considerably less. But as seems to be the consensus the fighters probably have more important things to do.
A few years ago now Andy H posted up a pic of a letter dated the 27th of September 1940, and in the name of Hugh Dowding as AOC Fighter Command. The list of priorities for RAF fighters was...

1/ Dive bombers operating against naval forces;

2/ Tank carrying aircraft;

3/ Troop carrying aircraft;

4/ Bombers;

5/ Fighters;

....but the body of the letter notes that this is at variance with an earlier letter and set of priorities circulated on the 30th of July 1940...which I don't have, although I saw it a long time ago now. As you can see - invasion shipping does not appear on the list at all - yet German fighters are on the list - right at the bottom. During the ongoing BoB at this time, RAF pilots were told to ignore fighters wherever possible and go for the bombers, so this would hint that "fighters" was indeed the bottom limit of Fighter Command's priority list! 8O

It's also interesting in that it refers to troop carrying aircraft....and also TANK carrying aircraft...which might refer to SIGINT referring to the Messerschmitt Me 232 which was under development - and thus copperfastening something that we already know from other sources, that the British were getting a lot of their SIGINT on Sealion from LUFTWAFFE decrypts :wink:

(Given the British paranoia...mania...in the summer of 1940 regarding parachutists and attack from the air as described in Fleming and others, the thought of the Me 232 must have made them break out in hives! :lol: )
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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by Graeme Sydney » 10 Jun 2014 12:41

phylo_roadking wrote:
No, and no; see the comments above, and Peter Schenk. The barges were a lot more seaworthy after the alterations than most people state, with much higher freeboards when loaded than commonly stated.
It being a while since I've read about Sealion but my understanding was it was not just the freeboard but also the barges were flat bottomed, suitable for rivers and canals but very unstable in anything rougher then a millpond.

The other issue was speed - excruciatingly slow. I can't remember the proportion but the majority were towed by tugs if I remember correctly.

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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by LWD » 10 Jun 2014 16:21

From what I recall the barge trains were in groups of 3. I don't remember if a tug counted as one or not. I also believe that one in three of the barges was to be powered but don't hold me to that. I've seen nothing to indicate just what the speed of the barges was. Certainly it would have been under 9 knots and likely under 6. Perhaps as low as 2 or 3 knots.

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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by Aber » 10 Jun 2014 17:21

There are also of course a few RAF fighters with 4x 20mm cannon.

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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by phylo_roadking » 10 Jun 2014 22:26

It being a while since I've read about Sealion but my understanding was it was not just the freeboard but also the barges were flat bottomed, suitable for rivers and canals but very unstable in anything rougher then a millpond.
...except - remember the extra ballasting with the iron rails and concrete ;) One of the reasons they turned out to be more stable than expected.
The other issue was speed - excruciatingly slow
I've seen nothing to indicate just what the speed of the barges was. Certainly it would have been under 9 knots and likely under 6. Perhaps as low as 2 or 3 knots.
I would have thought that in the case of air attack by MG....it was the converging speed between a high-performance fighter and its target that was a factor in how few seconds' actually firing on the target the pilot would have...? One or two knots' on the part of the target was hardly going to change that equation.
There are also of course a few RAF fighters with 4x 20mm cannon.
Only a very few cannon-armed Spitfires in No. 189 Sqn at Fowlmere - and although they did prove to have great accuracy and better range - they ALSO proved in early months to be unreliable; the feed mechanism jammed, and so did the ejector! But worst of all for strafing was the experimental cannon-armed Spitfires only carried six seconds' of ammunition! 8O
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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by sitalkes » 11 Jun 2014 02:23

Graeme Sydney wrote: It being a while since I've read about Sealion but my understanding was it was not just the freeboard but also the barges were flat bottomed, suitable for rivers and canals but very unstable in anything rougher then a millpond.

The other issue was speed - excruciatingly slow. I can't remember the proportion but the majority were towed by tugs if I remember correctly.

Have you watched the Youtube videos?

The videos are as follows:

http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=ubm4UuGJYyg – the Dutch barge Spica goes through Dutch canals and across the Channel to Portsmouth

65ft barge towed through heavy seas off Dover http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kg_QweiLy0
“50 ton of ballest would have helped the cavitation and steadyed her”

Dutch barge Anna at sea on a trip from Ely to Wisbeach in the Wash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Q6M1z6kS-U

Spits Barge crossing the Channel from Belgium to Leigh on the Thames http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5X8FXTji5-g

And http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGlgvpM-SUU

“Motoring across the channel in our Belgian spits barge 'Madorcha', september 2007, at this point just going over the sandbanks leaving Nieuwpoort Belgium, next anchorage; Liegh small ships, on the Thames. The crossing took us 15 hours, and then another 5 hours to Barking.

Our Belgian spits is standard guage at 38m x 5.05m, with a 6-71 series detroit diesel/gray marine engine, we averaged 40l of diesel an hour on the sea at full throttle, compared to 20-25l p/h on the inland canals, thats pushing 65 tonnes of ship with 55 tonnes of ballast (125 tonnes gross), only just enough to avoid cavitation with the larger swells.

From Bocholt in Limburg, Belgium to Barking London, we used 1,500l of diesel!.. maybe time to consider a more efficient propulsion system, but the detroit makes a lovely growling scream, with massive torque for 165hp engine.

Proof it's possible to cross with safe precautions, to all the Belgians and Dutch who thought we'd never make it!”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj0GSuSUAJc and http://www.flickr.com/photos/simoncoggi ... 768054705/ Sailing the Dutch barge Cosmos across the Channel

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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by Jabberwocky » 11 Jun 2014 07:28

Aber wrote:There are also of course a few RAF fighters with 4x 20mm cannon.
Not in 1940, and it wasn't until late-ish 1941 that Hispano-armed fighters, such as the Spitfire Mk Vb or the Hurricane IIc, would make up anything more than a bare fraction of the RAF's fighter strength.

There were some Spitfires and Hurricanes trialled with 20 mm Oerlikon cannon in 1940, but these were generally unsuccessful (although a Hurricane may have scored a Do-17 kill with its cannon, as well as damaged some BF-110s).

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Re: Seelowe: Lets discuss:- German barges, sunk by fighters?

Post by Aber » 13 Jun 2014 21:24

Westland Whirlwind?

I did mean a few...

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