Seelöwe: British Defensive Measures - Naval and Air Ops

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phylo_roadking
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Post by phylo_roadking » 27 Jul 2007 18:25

Andy, if you can, get a look at "Trawlers go to war" Paul Lund and Harry Ludlam, 1971. At any one time, up to a quarter of the auxiliary trawlers were usually out of service for repairs - in their case this meant boilers being scraped. They coked up VERY easily and this reduced their already pitiful speeds by 25-30% OR - if not actually under repair, then enroute to and from the smaller ports and harbours used by the RN Patrol Service for this job.

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Post by RichTO90 » 27 Jul 2007 19:28

Walter_Warlimont wrote:Not only is that interesting Intel, it is also very important to find out now.
Why?

The Nore Command, although significant, did not encompass all of the British coastal commands. Bases included in the Nore included those of the Thames estuary, Felixstowe, Sheerness, Harwich, Lowestoft and the minor ports in between. So basically from the north coast of Kent to the east coast of Suffolk.

It did not include the forces assigned to:

The Admiral Commanding, Dover
Portsmouth Command
Plymouth Command

All of whom would be directly engaged. From the information that is available it appears that the small vessels available in those commands would be at least the same as those assigned to The Nore, if not more. So possibly 600-800 small vessels serviceable, versus possibly 200 or so German?

Further, you appear to be falling into the assumption frequently implied, that such serviceability requirements for some reason would only effect the Royal Navy, but not the Kriegsmarine, which is a curious attitude to say the least.

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Post by phylo_roadking » 27 Jul 2007 22:26

Rich - if you manage to source a copy of that, you'll find that servicable and "servicable" are two completely different terms when it comes to the armed auxuliaries. Apart from gross mechanical faults, many were undercrewed, very old and VERY fragile; some survived hours of constant air attack in the Norway campaign - others frequently took only one shell or a mine not even on the hull but caught in their sweeps at a distance to shake them apart. Many just vanished with all hands. Many just didn't handle well without a hold full of ice, they had to run in ballast. Don't forget the vast majority were armed *wooden* trawlers, at best in 1940 steel-hulled boats in the Patrol Service numbered I THINK only three to four dozen all told - home-built vessels commandeered or in cinstruction when war broke out, plus a number bought from Portugal. The US later built many, and experienced Patrol Service crews were sent across to shake them down and bring them back to the UK or whatever station - but this disn't start until 1942. Of those that got decent deck guns - these being trawlers they needed a HUGE amount of bracing before guns could be mounted, often complete forecastles built of of railway sleepers - which made them even worse to handle at sea. Have you ever noticed in old film of auxiliary trawlers carrying out normal duties - regular sweeping for mines in estuaries and harbours and rivermouths etc., how LOW in the water they seem for empty trawlers??? That's the ballasting!

So IF you had to match an armed trawler that would easily (and did often!) disintegrate with one explosive shell, against a double-skinned steel-hulled flat-bottomed barge - my money is on the barge.....the Patrol Service armed trawlers would have to do considerable damage; the barges only had to get there and beach.

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Post by johnbryan » 27 Jul 2007 22:31

RichTO90 wrote:
Walter_Warlimont wrote:Not only is that interesting Intel, it is also very important to find out now.
Why?

The Nore Command, although significant, did not encompass all of the British coastal commands. Bases included in the Nore included those of the Thames estuary, Felixstowe, Sheerness, Harwich, Lowestoft and the minor ports in between. So basically from the north coast of Kent to the east coast of Suffolk.

It did not include the forces assigned to:

The Admiral Commanding, Dover
Portsmouth Command
Plymouth Command

All of whom would be directly engaged. From the information that is available it appears that the small vessels available in those commands would be at least the same as those assigned to The Nore, if not more. So possibly 600-800 small vessels serviceable, versus possibly 200 or so German?

Further, you appear to be falling into the assumption frequently implied, that such serviceability requirements for some reason would only effect the Royal Navy, but not the Kriegsmarine, which is a curious attitude to say the least.

This also doesn't take into account the effect that a German Invasion Attempt would have had on RN Light Forces of other Coastal Commands of the UK. It's a sure bet that as soon as the invasion attempt was made and its beach heads identified, then other vessels from other Coastal Commands would be quickly sent to the area to aid their embattled comrades. On the other side of the coin, the Germans would be unable to replace damaged and sunken shipping because it simply didn't exist.

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Post by phylo_roadking » 28 Jul 2007 02:51

It's a sure bet that as soon as the invasion attempt was made and its beach heads identified, then other vessels from other Coastal Commands would be quickly sent to the area to aid their embattled comrades.
Not rushed. What vessels were sent would depend on a number of factors -

1/ how long The Admiralty saw the battle at sea lasting. Slow vessels like older armed trawlers etc. that wouldn't arrive when the battle was in progress wouldn't be sent.They'd be caught at sea without air protection if the Germans won the crossings. Better they continue on their other duties

2/ Sending "every" ship would of necessity halt those vessels activities; dozens of armed auxiliaries were employed two or three times a day sweeping estuaries, harbours etc. for air-dropped mines....and I'd assume this nighttime dropping of mines would continue if not INCREASE dramatically to deny the RN oiling and repair facilities all along the coast. They performed ASW functions in shallow coastal waters - the invasion would be necessarily a time of greatly increased U-Boat activity all around the UK coastline. Many provided AA defences for otherwise unescorted coastal freight traffic. AND dozens patrolled the Northern and Western Approaches daily, and the North Sea towards Norway - we often forget the gaps that the Patrol Service and small ships filled that would otherwise have HAD to have been filled by Fleet units.

Stopping all those duties would have left them undone, and left Britain's ports and sea lanes VERY vulnerable at a time when Britain would have been praying for every shipload of American munitions and arms to arrive safely.

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Post by RichTO90 » 28 Jul 2007 05:18

phylo_roadking wrote:So IF you had to match an armed trawler that would easily (and did often!) disintegrate with one explosive shell, against a double-skinned steel-hulled flat-bottomed barge - my money is on the barge.....the Patrol Service armed trawlers would have to do considerable damage; the barges only had to get there and beach.
Er, I think you missed the point? Or the whole series of points raised over a few dozen pages in a half-dozen or so related threads?

First, please give a few examples of those armed trawlers that "easily (and did often!) disintegrate with one explosive shell"? Since it was "easy" and "often" you must have at least dozens of such events as examples? And why do you think that your assertion that "some survived hours of constant air attack in the Norway campaign" is a bad thing? For one thing, how many didn't survive hours of air attack? For another, how many did survive? How do you judge? Did some survive minutes and other hours?

Second, exactly which "double-skinned steel-hulled flat-bottomed barges" would you be referring to? Peniche? Kempenaar? They were keelboats, not really "flat-bottomed". Nor were they "double-hulled" that I have found, such an extravagent construction would be unusual - to say the least - in such vessels at the time. Steel-hulled? Sure, some of them. Big deal. Powerplant and age? Probably similar to those found in the armed trawlers, both British and German, there are peniche and kempenaar sailing the rivers, canals, and coasts of Europe today that were operating prior to the Seelöwe planning.

Third, it was not my point that the Patrol Service was required to engage barges. The name - Patrol Service - should clue you in to that. Could they engage the similar vessels that made up the bulk of the escorts for the German 'fleet"? Could they "patrol' the Channel and provide early warning of a German landing attempt?

Fourth, are you under the delusion that the comparable German vessels were somehow different? That they had zero "gross mechanical faults"? Were not "undercrewed"? Really, how was that given the relative size of the RN and the KM, why did the KM reduce the commission of Schleisen? Could it be because they needed the crewmen? Or were all the German vessels "steel-hulled boats"? Prewar the Germans, just like the British, identified vessels for possible conversion as auxiliaries. In a few cases at the beginning of the war they were vessels that had been intentionally designed with such a conversion in mind, but otherwise they were aging, civilian vessels, hastily converted to war vessels and were often equipped with aging steam engines, were wooden-hulled, and armed with whatever Great War Hochseeflotte/Royal Navy castoff weapon was available, The notion that one was superior than the other by virtue of being "German" is as silly as the notion that one was superior to the other by virtue of being "Royal Navy."

Fifth, it seems to escape you that a three or four to one or better advantage in terms of light auxiliaries tends to trump any minor disparaties in age, engines, and armament.

Sixth, the even greater disparity in actual naval vessels is an even better trump.

Seventh, please give me a definition of "serviceable" and "serviceable" that differs one from the other? I find:

1. Capable of or being of service; useful.
2. Wearing well; durable: serviceable cloth.
3. Capable of being used, worn, cleaned, repaired, etc., easily.
4, Ready for service; usable: serviceable equipment.
5. Able to give long service; durable: a heavy, serviceable fabric.
6. Ready for service or able to give long service; "serviceable equipment"; "heavy serviceable fabrics" [ant: unserviceable]
7. Capable of being put to good use; "a serviceable kitchen gadget"
8. Intended or able to serve a purpose without elaboration; "serviceable low-heeled shoes"

Exactly how does the Patrol Service definition differ?

BTW, the statement that "the barges only had to get there and beach" is quite possibly the reductio ad absurdum of this whole series of threads. Thanks for that, it gave me a nice late-night chuckle. :roll:

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Post by Andy H » 28 Jul 2007 14:07

One cannot deny that the RN and vessels had there problems & difficulties around the proposed invasion dates (Sept'40), BUT because we have this level of detail about the RN, it is held against. WHERE as such detail about the KM and its proposed invasion force-other than potential numbers-is almost non existent.

I have Lunds book (somewhere), but it is a general figure and does not give specifics regarding certain commands or certain dates. Maybe those ships requiring repair where sent to repair ports/yards etc, but a replacement from a less active command was sent as a replacement. I don't know but I would say that the odds of say keeping those commands facing the invasion at a higher level of rediness, was higher than those not.

Regards

Andy H

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Post by LWD » 28 Jul 2007 22:17

phylo_roadking wrote:I... - obviously no matter what the level of protection provided by Fighter Command to GET them there, piloting a 90 knot Moth into a combat zone was a one-way flight.
Not at all obvious. Indeed similar aircraft did quite well in WWI. One would just have to be careful how they are employed.

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Post by phylo_roadking » 29 Jul 2007 03:15

Okay - for most of WWI fighter and two-seat observer/bomber aircraft of similar wood-and-canvas construction and engine power to the Tiger Moth "enjoyed" a top speed often less than one hundred mph. Though this improved considerably by the end of the war....it did not in any way approached the 300mph+ top speeds of various nations' modern fighter aircraft in the summer of 1940. HOW Fighter Command's monoplane performance fighters were to actually slow down enough to accompany the Moths has never been explained, or speed up again when attacked....given that one of the identifiable faults in the BoB of the Messerschmitt Bf110 was its slow acceleration from the speed of German bombers they escorted to match RAF fighters when attacked, even though their tops speeds were roughly equivalent. "Careful how they were employed" would be a little difficult to achieve when the "Banquet" targets areas - the invasion beaches - would be right in the midle of the ongoing air supremacy battle between the Figfhter Command's performance fighters and the Luftwaffe's BF109s. Tiger Moths had no other weapons at all except the bombs they were to be loaded with, nor could they be fitted with any in their basic design. They had no armourplate, and were not fitted with selfsealing tanks. They had no pilot survivability aids that current fighters in the sky around them had, nor even the top speed to get away. Compared to this, they would be attacking forces on the ground with the German Army's then-current percentage of automatic weapons turned against them, and supported from the ships of the invasion fleet - which were NOT to be unarmed but equiped with as much light AA as available. The WWI battlefield was a very different place for lowflying aircraft than WWII; look for example at losses from AA fire in the raids on the Meuse and Albert Canal bridges in the spring of 1940, and remember these were "state of the art" medium and light bombers, not Tiger Moths. (Noone really knew the Fairey Battle was a turkey until it started getting shot down like one)

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Post by phylo_roadking » 29 Jul 2007 03:26

Andy, unfortunately Lund's book isn't indexed, but I do remember that for boiler cleaning - which they needed so regularly because in escort and patrol duties they were constantly run at top speed (for them) - they were rota'd so that vessels not only had time in port - but also to get to and from, as the harbours used for this weren't RN yards but fishing ports where pre-war this would be done on an as-and-when basis.

Rich, I suggest you obtain a copy of the book; though small its one of the VERY few given wholly over to the Patrol Service, and though an anecdotal history is actually very comprehensive, covering all areas of the Patrol Service' operations, including the Mediterranean and East Africa. Your points One, Three, Four, Five and Six will be answered there - and anecdotal evidencve throughout the book will answer point Seven, I'm sure you'll find.

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Post by LWD » 29 Jul 2007 12:46

phylo_roadking wrote:.... HOW Fighter Command's monoplane performance fighters were to actually slow down enough to accompany the Moths has never been explained, or speed up again when attacked....
Close escort was an ineffective technique. If the Banquet craft arrive near the invasion fleet at the same time the RAF fighters are contesting the area with the LW then the LW fighters will for the most part be too busy to do much about them. They could also launch night attacks vs the barges.
... , they would be attacking forces on the ground with the German Army's then-current percentage of automatic weapons turned against them, and supported from the ships of the invasion fleet - which were NOT to be unarmed but equiped with as much light AA as available. The WWI battlefield was a very different place for lowflying aircraft than WWII; look for example at...
There might indeed be a lot of light AA especially on the invasion fleet but there would also likely be pretty significant ammo limits especially after the first day. Remember the British naval units off Crete essentially ran out of AA ammo after two days. The German forces at sea would be facing a number of surface and aerial engagements far in excess of what the RN faced. I suspect their ammo load outs would in most cases be significantly less in most cases.

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Post by Andreas » 29 Jul 2007 13:53

A good comparison would be British/US artillery OP planes, which AIUI normally used their slow speed maneuver capabilities to escape fighters on the rare occasions when they were bothered by them.

All the best

Andreas

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Post by RichTO90 » 29 Jul 2007 18:49

phylo_roadking wrote:Rich, I suggest you obtain a copy of the book; though small its one of the VERY few given wholly over to the Patrol Service, and though an anecdotal history is actually very comprehensive, covering all areas of the Patrol Service' operations, including the Mediterranean and East Africa.
One of the "VERY" few" I supose since very is capitolized you must mean the most diminutive sense of "few", so you think it is one of three? And yet as simple search brings up:

Fane, Robert - We Clear the Way - Hurricane Books - 1942
Fane, Robert - Ships May Proceed - Hurricane Books - 1943
'First Lieutenant' - The Terriers of the Fleet - The Fighting Trawlers - Hutchinson - 1943
HMSO - His Majesty's Minesweepers - HMSO - 1943
Monsarrat, Nicholas - East Coast Corvette - Cassell - 1943
Monsarrat, Nicholas - Corvette Command - Cassell - 1944
Hampshire, A. Cecil - Lilliput Fleet - Kimber - 1957
McKee, Alexander - Coal-Scuttle Brigade - Souvenir Press - 1957
Brookes, Ewart - Glory Passed them By - Jarrolds - 1958
Ogden, Graeme - My Sea Lady - Hutchinson - 1963
Lund, Paul and Ludlam, Harry - Trawlers go to War - Foulsham - 1971
Hardy, Hilbert - Minesweepers Victory - Keydex - 1976
Lund, Paul and Ludlam, Harry - Out Sweeps - Foulsham - 1978
McAra, Charles - Mainly in Minesweepers - Leach - 1991
Melvin, Michael - Minesweeper - The Role of the Motor Minesweeper in WW2 - Square One - 1992
Brown, Jimmy - Harry Tate's Navy - Privately published - 1994
Featherbe, F. C. (compiler) - Churchill's Pirates - North Kent Books - 1994
Featherbe, F. C. (compiler) - More Tales from Churchill's Pirates - North Kent Books - 1996

Or better yet, go here:

http://www.rnps.lowestoft.org.uk/rnpsbooks.htm

Note they class Lund's tittle as one of nine "Seriously researched studies of aspects of the Royal Naval Patrol Service" although they caveat this with "by the 'category' rules this ought to be [More general accounts of Royal Naval Patrol Service including personal accounts] but the content provides such compehensive picture of RNPS it is placed in" the other category. So it is a in depth collection of anecdotes.

Your points One, Three, Four, Five and Six will be answered there - and anecdotal evidencve throughout the book will answer point Seven, I'm sure you'll find.
I doubt that a collection of anecdotes and personal narratives, no matter how complete, covers the subjects my questions relate to. J.P. Foynes "Battle of the East Coast" probably does, since it relates directly to these subjects, but I haven't been able to track down a copy?

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Post by RichTO90 » 29 Jul 2007 19:10

phylo_roadking wrote:
Your points One, Three, Four, Five and Six will be answered there - and anecdotal evidencve throughout the book will answer point Seven, I'm sure you'll find.
BTW, with regard to Point 1, of 571 converted trawlers used as minesweepers by the RN, 94 were lost:

Aircraft - 33
Mines - 33
S-Boote - 7
U-Boot - 3
Sabotage - 1
Unknown - 2
Accident - 15

Of the 41 purpose-built trawlers available prior to 30 September 1940, 5 were lost to mines, 2 to S-Boote, 1 to U-Boote, and 1 to gunfire (Scharnhorst).

I haven't looked at the 200-odd ASW trawlers, but I would be surprised if the results were very different.

Frankly, I have little doubt that a hit by a mine, torpedo, or virtually any size bomb would sink either the requistioned or purpose-built trawlers. Which of course applies to the German trawlers as well.

BTW, 13 trawlers were lost off Norway, all to aircraft, and another 3 to aircraft related to the evacuation from France, plus 3 to mines, and 2 to S-Boote. So I would expect that over the course of 50-odd days the same would occur in the case of Seelöwe? Oh, wait, that's right, the Germans don't have 50-odd days. :roll:

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Post by phylo_roadking » 29 Jul 2007 20:50

A good comparison would be British/US artillery OP planes, which AIUI normally used their slow speed maneuver capabilities to escape fighters on the rare occasions when they were bothered by them.
Andreas, Moths don't have a slow speed manouvering capability - just slow speed. British Austers and the various Amercian types all relied on leading edge slats, very light weight large wing surfaces etc to enhance their lift and reduce their stall speed so they could "linger" in station almost but not quite as well as a Storch. This also made them STOL aircraft which was their main virtue, they could operate from fields and grass strips very close to the front line. Moths didn't they were very simple-construction biplanes brought into service, converted from the civilian Gipsy Moth, to replace the Avro 504 that was still in service in several locations by the start of WWII. Although good formation slow acrobatic places, they weren't noted for their manouverability, more their stability and predictability in the hands of a student. You don't give a trainee pilot a manouverable plane, because he ties himself in knots and doesn't get to be the legendary "old, bold pilot".

LWD - how were these aircraft to FIND targets at night? Have you ever seen a Tiger Moth? I've flown in both seats of a civilian Gipsy and there are exactly five dials in front of you. I'm afraid you can't just fly down a coastline...what if its a moonless or cloudy night?....and look for ships? Who's ships ARE they??? You can't tell. You can't just say - the ones firing back at you...because it doesn't work like that, there were a very large number of aircraft brought down in all theatres by "friendly fire" in broad daylight in WWII, let alone nighttime. What targets indicators do you look for at night...because in the time its taken to fly to your target area....ships move.

As for close-in escorting not working - what other sort do you do with aircraft that have a third your top speed? You're constantly going to be flying a box around them like a glorified CAP...and sod's law says the enemy finds them on you outward leg! And in a dogfight there is no such thing as "room below" the combat area, if you read any accounts of BoB dogfights; an aerial combat zone stretches from your maximum height to the level above ground you can safely pull out of a dive in. Dogfights start high but end up at ground level because diving is most frequently the only way to gain speed enough fast enough to throw off a pursuer. You don't climb in a propellor dogfight unless you know you can outfly (in speed terms) your enemy - because gravity slows you down, after all. NO manouver you do can ever be at the cost of speed that once scrubbed off has to be got back again.

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