How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

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vladalex
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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by vladalex » 27 Jun 2018 04:54

From the point of view of naval operation in WWII in Atlantic, or naval blocade of Allied ships with supply for UK, this two ships
represent nothing ; Bismarck and Tirpitz - two Steel Monsters without strategic and operative results.
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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Thoddy » 27 Jun 2018 09:03

Bismarck was made for ...
short to medium ranges in average North Sea ... (visibility conditions)
The North sea was not the envirionment the ship was primaryly made for. The North Sea did not require an max displacement in excess of 50 ktons therof ~7500 tons of fuel.
North Sea visibility conditions did not require a main weapon that has about 36 km range.
North Sea visibility conditions did not require firecontrol capabilities in exceess of the range of the main weapon.
Why Funkmess(RADAR) was integral part of firecontrol Equipment - importance of Funkmess for firecontrol purposes was proved by comparative shootings from "Admiral Graf Spee" and "Admiral Scheer" in summer 1939 at night.


The ship was made to fight modern 35 kton battleships in the Atlantic. There is no document of the Kriegsmarine, wich suggests, the North Sea beeing "THE FIELD of use". Quite unlike british documents. There was such a explicit statment in the context of development of KGV class. They(Allies) could install a blockade ring protected by smaller naval vessels and aircraft in "confined waters" relatively near to own bases. Allied naval forces had no need in a offensive action to reach their primary goal - keep german naval forces and trade inside their blockade ring. Confined Waters increase the danger of the aerial threat and torpedo carrying small vessels.

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Against its own main weapons the immunity Zone of Bismarck was 20 - 30 km, based on nominal armor thicknesses(400 mm side and 130 mm horizontal) and nominal weapon effect. Not considering the effects of the belt-slope-triangle and the effects of the "horizontal Spaced Array" wich both increased protection for vital parts of the ship against certain attacks considerably.

The Germans had done a lot of engineering and full size ballistic tests to protect the vitals against catastrophic effects of ballistic attack (direct pentetrating hits). At any useful range.

Tirpitz carried out long range full battery shootings in the Baltic Sea and scored nine hits during a short training exercise against the moving target ship Hessen at 25 km. With the words of the SKL "the ballistics capabilites of the main weapons were excellent and exceeded our expectations".

BUT.

At any battle distance, wich requires more than 30 seconds flighttime, the distance became the biggest challenge to deal with as the target has "ample of time" to maneuver out of the (firecontrol computer calculated)MPI.

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renowned already as a great fuel hog at speed
any large ship at speed is a fuel hog.

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From the point of view of naval operation in WWII in Atlantic, or naval blocade of Allied ships with supply for UK, this two ships
represent nothing ; Bismarck and Tirpitz - two Steel Monsters without strategic and operative results.
big dangerous ships bind adequate ressorces at the opposing side.

In the case of Bismarck the Royal Navy call in about sixty war ships to face the threat, the hunt almost completely exposed their atlantic shipping and also requires mediteranean ships - nevertheless ultimately successful.

Wich caused the germans to reconsider the offensive use of surface ships against general naval and air superiority of the enemy.

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Bismarck was supposedly still in good fighting condition,
Bismarck had a list of about 10 degrees to start with.
Bismarck had a forced course dictaded by whether conditions and fixed steering, wich kept the ship further and further away from its original destination.
In the early approach phase Bismarck could only bring four guns into battle

Numerical superior british forces approached on a opposite course reducing battle distance as fast as possible for decisive results, they could maneuver freely to avoid fire from Bismarck. They could use all guns at will. Additionally there were torpedobombers ready for use.

Despite all odds Bismarck was the first to straddle Rodney. Shortly after this Bismarck received direct hits wich obviously reduced forward firecontrol capabilities and weapons.
"Meine Herren, es kann ein siebenjähriger, es kann ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden – und wehe dem, der zuerst die Lunte in das Pulverfaß schleudert!"

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Felix C » 27 Jun 2018 13:38

Then when the after director went operational and was near a good solution a shell carried it away. So I recall from the book by a surviving gunnery officer. Afterwards it was local control with poor results.

There were rumors that the 5.9" shells hit one of the British BBs. Based on reports by a USN officer onboard as an observer. I think his report was dismissed as blast damage by the British heavy guns not incoming German fire.

I think an important question is at the range and angle at which the shells struck if Bismarck's forward turrets were well designed to resist main battleship shellfire. I am presuming no navy then had external fire control structures to resist a battleship shell hit.
Last edited by Felix C on 27 Jun 2018 14:34, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Nautilus » 27 Jun 2018 14:21

External fire control structures can't be armored to resist a battleship shell hit. They are too small, too high in the ship. Designers rely on their small size to make them very hard to hit. This is also why fire control is redundant, one rangefinder per turret, so the ship can still aim and fire even if the main directors are blown away.

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Felix C » 27 Jun 2018 14:33

One per turret? Bismarck had one on the foretop and another astern? Correct?

I recall from reading the Gunnery Officer's book that he heard the Chief Gunnery Officer report the forward unit was out of service and to switch to aft. At about the same time one of the forward main battery turrets went out of service. Leaving the two rear turrets under FC. Then as ranging was securing a good solution a shell carried away that rear FC turret. Of all the improbabilities to occur.

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Takao
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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Takao » 27 Jun 2018 20:02

He's talking about the rangefinders in the turrets, so that they can fire in "local" control, if the primary and secondary fire control directors are knocked out.

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Felix C » 27 Jun 2018 20:05

Understood. I thought the reference from Nautilus was another piece forward not sure what the function was. Maybe the radar unit and a supplement to the optical forward/main rangefinder.

Did you hear about the USN officer alleging damaging I think to Rodney from Bismarck's 5.9"s?

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Takao » 28 Jun 2018 19:16

Felix C wrote:Understood. I thought the reference from Nautilus was another piece forward not sure what the function was. Maybe the radar unit and a supplement to the optical forward/main rangefinder.

Did you hear about the USN officer alleging damaging I think to Rodney from Bismarck's 5.9"s?
I've heard of it...but have never seen any photographic evidence. Considering, she went to Boston Navy Yard for overhaul, certainly one of her crew or those at BNY would have taken a photo or two for posterity. I am inclined to believe that it was a shell splinter 6-inches in length that is the root cause of this.

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Thoddy » 29 Jun 2018 14:48

A comment

Turret B had all facilities to maintain central firecontrol additionally to main-, forward and afterward firecontrol facility.

For battles at night there was also a nightfight-firecontrolfacility.(Nachtleitstand)

The ship had 2 independend plottingrooms for main artillery and secondaries with three C38 firecontrolcomputers each under the main armor deck.

Redundancy doesnt help against direct hits in rapid succession.
"Meine Herren, es kann ein siebenjähriger, es kann ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden – und wehe dem, der zuerst die Lunte in das Pulverfaß schleudert!"

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Felix C » 29 Jun 2018 17:02

British shooting very good then to disable the forward FC apparatus and Turret B
Timeline below from a dedicated Bismarck forum. Presumably accurate.
0847. British open fire.
0849. Turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" open fire at Rodney.
0902. Bismarck is hit for the first time. Foretop command post disabled.
0908. Forward command post disabled. Turrets "Anton" and "Bruno" out of action.
0913. After command post disabled. Turrets "Cäsar" and "Dora" proceed to local fire.
0921. Turret "Dora" out of action.
0927. Turret "Anton" or "Bruno" fires one last salvo.
0931. Turret "Cäsar" fires the last salvo and is put out of action. Main battery silenced.

In my view in 9 minutes Bismarck was unable to fire properly. Local control not being as efficient as a main controller.

Compare with
The action with POW/Hood lasted 6 minutes for Hood from Bismarck's first salvo to Hood exploding. Then in 7 minutes Bismarck scored four hits on POW.

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Nautilus » 29 Jun 2018 23:59

Terry Duncan wrote:
Nautilus wrote:In reality, one of the best paper battleship in active service in 1941 got pounded to death by one of the worst on paper (HMS Rodney).
Rodney is one of the worst battleships? Between the wars she was one of the two most powerful battleships in the world, and faster than any other than Nagato and Mutsu, though at the time they were thought to be of similar speed anyhow. She looks unusual, and somewhat too many efforts to save weight were made (remember she was approx 1,500 tons underweight, the only treaty battleship to have the distinction of coming in under tonnage!), but nothing that could catch her would have wanted to do so until 1942.
There is more in a warship than the sum of its parts - "heaviest BB guns" or "slo... acceptable speed".

Judging by contemporary testimonies from the safety of a personal computer, HMS Rodney had been a flawed construction from the start:

- poor hull integrity, leaked and flooded easily;
- poor manoeuvrability - this had been compensated by thorough crew training, navigating officers learned over time how to drive the ship most effectively;
- ridiculously small and underpowered machinery for a BB;
- poor placement of X turret, as in Myoko and Takao class cruisers (there had been a complete design with all 3 turrets superfiring each other as in Atlanta-class cruisers, and it got dropped due to the need to cut down the weight of barbettes);
- poorly protected superstructure, with X turret too close and liable to blast damage.

On paper, they may say a comparison to Bismarck was ridiculous, and yet Rodney won.

As I've said before, when dealing with strategy, the ship which wins is not "the best", but "the best used given the circumstances". Had Admiral Lütjens blown up HMS Prince of Wales (as it was possible and the Führer himself pointed out) people would ask with wonder about that day, as a stereotypical WWII character said a few years back. Yet Lütjens didn't - and by not doing it, he started a chain of events which led to the loss of his ship and his life.

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Terry Duncan » 30 Jun 2018 11:25

Nautilus wrote:There is more in a warship than the sum of its parts - "heaviest BB guns" or "slo... acceptable speed".

Judging by contemporary testimonies from the safety of a personal computer, HMS Rodney had been a flawed construction from the start:

- poor hull integrity, leaked and flooded easily;
I am not at all sure where this info comes from, I have never seen any evidence to suggest poor hull integrity or that the class leaked, and the only flooding I am aware of is where Nelson struck a magnetic mine forward of the torpedo defence system, but behaved perfectly acceptably given what had happened, leaks in these circumstances being inevitable.
Nautilus wrote:- poor manoeuvrability - this had been compensated by thorough crew training, navigating officers learned over time how to drive the ship most effectively;
This is a myth. The class were hard to go astern certainly, but that is not how naval battles are fought and was only an issue in port where tugs were available anyhow, and in higher winds at low speeds, this too being only a problem in harbour. One of the first people to captain either of the ships in the 1920's stated (as quoted in R A Burt's British Battleships 1919-1945);

"In the early stages of the ship's first commission, there was a general misconception that the Nelson class were unhandy and difficult to manoeuvre. Both my predecessor and myself, however, very soon discovered that this opinion was entirely fallacious! In calm weather, the ship's manoeuvring capabilities are in no way inferior, and in many ways superior to those of Queen Elizabeth or Revenge."

Curiously the 'better than' qualities are never mentioned, only the claims of being difficult.
Nautilus wrote:- ridiculously small and underpowered machinery for a BB;
This is an absurd criticism! The class had 45,000 SHP compared to the 26,500 SHP of the Revenge class and 75,000 SHP of the Queen Elizabeth class, giving speeds of 23.5kts, 21kts, and 24kts respectively. Given that at the time of their construction no foreign battleship was known to be capable of 24kts, the Nagato's true speed only becoming known far later, speed was always going to be the quality sacrificed for firepower and protection once a speed advantage was in place. They were designed to allow them to act as a fleet with the Queen Elizabeth's, and they had a sufficient power plant to achieve that. Would it have been nice to fit the intended G3 power plant? Yes, but it would have also been nice to build the G3's themselves, but under the treaty limitations this wasnt possible.
Nautilus wrote:- poor placement of X turret, as in Myoko and Takao class cruisers (there had been a complete design with all 3 turrets superfiring each other as in Atlanta-class cruisers, and it got dropped due to the need to cut down the weight of barbettes);
There were certainly US and Russian designs with X turret superfiring over B and A, but I am not aware of any British study that went beyond calculating the weights as it increases displacement greatly (as does raising X over B turret carried at the same level as A, though not by as much), increases the topweight of the ship and makes it less able to add equipment to the ship over time. The Atlantas only had turrets with splinter plating, a far cry from what is required for a main armament turret on a battleship, and even then they were rather top heavy just as the Dido class were. X turret is hardly poorly placed, it allows the optimum placement of armour whilst keeping the hull length to a minimum, and all turrets could fire full broadsides off the forward quarters. Placing X turret aft would also result in a much heavier ship, or a far less protected one, if the treaty was to be complied with.
Nautilus wrote:- poorly protected superstructure, with X turret too close and liable to blast damage.
The superstructure is always poorly protected, you cannot protect it heavily as the topweight is prohibitive and tends to make a ship liable to capsize as the Japanese found out between the wars. Armoured conning towers weighed several hundred tons and during WWI had seen them almost unused as the views from them were restricted. The heaviest conning tower was fitted to Hood, 960 tons iirc, that flew off the ship with Admiral Holland and the rest of the command not in it for the same reason. The Nelsons did retain an armoured conning tower sadly, but the 'Queen Anne's Mansions' could never have had protection greater than on the following KGV's, where a small bridge protection of 4.5" was in place and the rest of the structure similarly armoured to the Nelsons. The advantage of such minimal armour is that it is not sufficient to set off the fuses on battleship shells, allowing them to pass through relatively harmlessly. The blast damage you refer to was that the windows were blown out, making the platforms inside cold but still sheltered to a degree, and concussing some of the bridge crew, that is usually reported about the ships. This is true, but only happened when the turrets were turned aft and at high elevation, something easily avoided.

There was extensive blast damage to light fittings in the bow during the Bismarck action, and some of the deck planking was lifted up, but nothing of any military importance. This was the result of using lighter wood for the decking, and aluminium rather than copper piping, both to save weight. Again, it would have been easy to exceed the treaty limits, and rather sad the design turned out a thousand or so tons under weight, but they were the first constructed to an artificial limit and the only ships built under the treaties not to 'cheat' in some way, either to meet the limits or by just ignoring them.
Nautilus wrote:On paper, they may say a comparison to Bismarck was ridiculous, and yet Rodney won.
The comparison is ridiculous, Rodney would be out and out favourite if Bismarck decided to stick around and fight to a conclusion. I would suggest maybe a 65%-70% chance of Rodney winning, it that case, probably about as good as any comparison between contemporary ships will reasonably go.
Nautilus wrote:As I've said before, when dealing with strategy, the ship which wins is not "the best", but "the best used given the circumstances". Had Admiral Lütjens blown up HMS Prince of Wales (as it was possible and the Führer himself pointed out) people would ask with wonder about that day, as a stereotypical WWII character said a few years back. Yet Lütjens didn't - and by not doing it, he started a chain of events which led to the loss of his ship and his life.
I think 'blowing up' Prince of Wales or otherwise sinking her was possibly beyond the capabilities of Lutjens ships. There were two British cruisers also present, as well as the destroyers close on hand, so trying to break off contact was the safest option. Given Lutjens thought he was facing the KGV rather than a brand new ship still not having completed its working up trials (sadly she never was allowed to) he had no way of knowing the Prince of Wales was suffering a lot ot teething troubles, and several hits had done no significant visible damage to her.

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by genstab » 02 Jul 2018 00:09

Another thing the guy said after the "too pretty by half" concerning the Iowa class battleships is they only sailed the calm blue waters of the Pacific. Apparently he never heard about the two great typhoons, one of which sank three destroyers.

There were only two battleship vs battleship encounters in the Pacific war. The first, at Guadalcanal, resulted in USS Washington blowing the guts out of Kirishima, and the second, in the sub-battle off Cape Engano, where six WW1 battleships, most raised and reconditioned after being sunk at Pearl Harbor, crossed the enemy's T and sank two old Japanese battleships- also WW1 vintage but rebuilt.

Best,
Bill

PS- I've stood on the bridge wing of USS New Jersey and seen the life-size photo of Admiral Halsey standing in the same place in the last part of the war. It's spooky.

Best,
Bill

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Paul Lakowski » 02 Jul 2018 04:00

genstab wrote:Another thing the guy said after the "too pretty by half" concerning the Iowa class battleships is they only sailed the calm blue waters of the Pacific. Apparently he never heard about the two great typhoons, one of which sank three destroyers.

There were only two battleship vs battleship encounters in the Pacific war. The first, at Guadalcanal, resulted in USS Washington blowing the guts out of Kirishima, and the second, in the sub-battle off Cape Engano, where six WW1 battleships, most raised and reconditioned after being sunk at Pearl Harbor, crossed the enemy's T and sank two old Japanese battleships- also WW1 vintage but rebuilt.

Best,
Bill

PS- I've stood on the bridge wing of USS New Jersey and seen the life-size photo of Admiral Halsey standing in the same place in the last part of the war. It's spooky.

Best,
Bill

Most pacific WW-II surface actions were in or around islands and island chains and as such this is mostly shallow seas. If you study wave science you may notice that heavy seas rarely ever form over shallow seas

http://www.oceanweather.com/data/

study this site over months and seasons.

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Re: How Good Actually Was the Bismarck?

Post by Plain Old Dave » 04 Jul 2018 17:03

Interesting note: USS IOWA served in both Atlantic and Pacific during WW2 and spent most of the 1980s deploying in the Atlantic including a Northlant gun shoot in 1987. NEW JERSEY was homeported out of Norfolk in the 80s IIRC as well.

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