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

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

Post by Andy H » 06 Mar 2007 00:05

The aim of these Lets Discuss threads is to get a concise picture of the varying individual facets relating to the proposed German invasion of Britain-Op. Seelöwe and the preparation both sides undertook to achieve there relative goals.

These threads are born out of the very successful & large What If thread, the Battle of Britain: - http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?t=20620 This thread contains some excellent information provided by members from all quarters. I’m hoping that these Lets Discuss threads enable us to draw the individual topic posts together into an easily accessible one stop shop if you like, of knowledge.

Not all the topics were going to discuss are Black & White and many have entrenched views. But let’s try and keep an open mind, be civil, present the facts/information and even constructive opinions you have, and lets try and reach a conclusion on these variances.

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Andy H

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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » 06 Mar 2007 00:07

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

It has been proposed by some members that the German barges intended as one of the prime movers of men & material from occupied Europe would or could be sunk by RAF fighters.

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Andy H

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T. A. Gardner
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Post by T. A. Gardner » 06 Mar 2007 05:09

I suppose it is possible. The big question is; can a .303 round puncture the hull of a barge? If so, can sufficent holes below or near the waterline be made to actually sink the barge? Now, obviously, if the British were using 20mm cannon (the Whirlwind) or .50 machineguns (not yet mounted on fighters) the question is moot. These weapons do possess the capacity to sink a barge as show by the destruction of many Daihatsu type landing barges in the Pacific.
I would think, just from ancedotial evidence, that the .303 would likely not be sufficent to easily sink a landing barge. Of course, strafing an open barge would create casualties and likely panic among the passengers (see the one German attempted practice landing off LeHarve where one barge capsized due to the passengers panicking and shifting their weight to one side of the craft ). I doubt that the .303 round will travel any useful distance under water (rifle bullets tend to break up on impacting the water....courtesy of the show Mythbusters where they tried this on a target just a few feet below the water in a pool with .30-06 and similar rounds) making underwater hits very unlikely.
So, fighters sinking barges? Probably not. Fighters making a mess of them and their passengers? Doable.

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Andy H
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Post by Andy H » 06 Mar 2007 05:24

Hi

I would agree with what you said and BTW I too saw that Mythbusters programme.

Given the huge number of barges being used its hard to come across a common type/make that would lets us denounce this idea as completely wrong. By definition most barges were solidly built and even if mostly wood, they were usually thick enough without any modifications (additional plating etc) to stop a .303., certainly on the hull. Also a Spitfire/Hurricane I think only has about 13secs worth of ammo in with which to sink a barge.

I feel the greater prospect would be either via the fighter aiming for the covered or not covered hold tops of the barges. Maybe a lucky hit on some flamables or ammo may cause a chain reaction or panic in the hold. Also a hit upon the helm or upper superstructure could cause some issues.

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Post by Moltke d. J. » 06 Mar 2007 07:17

Hi,

I also think that fighters wouldn't have made such an impact on the landing fleet. Apart from the dubious value of .303 on even wooden hulls, I suppose the RAF fighters would have been busy enough dealing with the Luftwaffe. AFAIK the major concern was the Royal Navy.

Moltke d. J.

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Post by LWD » 06 Mar 2007 14:34

I did see a post on another forum which indicated of the barges the Germans collected to prep for Sea Lion 30% were written off as unuseable. The implication here is that you would see a wide range of state of repair of the others. I'm also far from convinced that the wood was thick enough to hold up to .303 bullets. As an example I remmber sighting in my rifle one time with the target attched to a tree about 8" in diameter. When I finished my cousing started to sight in his rifle when the tree fell over. An examination showed that 2 rounds had been sufficient to fell the tree. My best guess is that British fighters could sink barges especially those that were not in the best of shape prior to the strafing. However I don't think sinking would have been the primary objective. If they got the chance (ie no German planes in the area to worry about) I suspect they would have been better off making single runs at a number of barges. Now the damage this imposed might lead to some sinkngs or founderings where other facters come into play (such as the troops moving to one side of the barge due to the strafing run, or if the barge was already leaking/shipping water, or weaking of key areas which might fail somewhat later due to fatigue due to flexing especially sense the concrete additions would change the characteristics of how the barges react to waves and such. Grounding the barges is also likely to put a stress on them that they weren't really designed for.

In summary: I believe direct sinkings possible but unlikely. However the damage due to strafing would likely result along with other causes in the barges either being lost or written off.

Could any of the British fighers carry bombs at this point in the war?
On the Myth Busters epesode what type of bullets did they use? Hinting rounds or military (AP or at least solid core)?

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Post by Tim Smith » 06 Mar 2007 16:13

I tend to agree - strafing isn't really about sinking barges as it is about killing and wounding their occupants. Even a one second burst from eight .303 Brownings can kill an awful lot of soldiers crammed tightly together in a barge.

Ever watch 'Enemy At The Gates'? When the Soviet river boat full of soldiers got strafed by a Stuka? Well, I know that was only a movie, but consider, a Stuka only has two forward firing machine guns. A Hurricane has eight. That means four times as many bullets, and four times as many casualties. Not pleasant at all for the poor unhappy seasick infantryman.....

Also, to stop people getting the wrong impression in this thread, I feel I must point out that the RAF had several hundred light bombers to use against an invasion fleet in 1940. Fairey Battles, Blenheims, etc. They don't have to use Hurricanes and Spitfires for attack duties (other than ad-hoc strafing runs when they are on their way back to base.)

Naturally, Battles and Blenheims are very vulnerable to Bf 109's - but if the limited number of servicable Bf 109's are just too busy elsewhere hunting down the remaining RAF fighters and escorting German bomber formations (a likely scenario in practice), who's going to shoot down the Battles and Blenheims then? A few Bf 110 gruppen perhaps.....

(Also, I'm not even mentioning the Hampden, Whitley and Wellington squadrons here - yet they are also available.)

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Post by LWD » 06 Mar 2007 16:52

Even if you allow only a half second burst that's about 80 rounds on the barge. Then the question is what does the barge do? Do you try to get the wounded medical care? Does the barge (and for that matter other nearby vessels) try to maneuver to avoid this or addtional strrafings? What's the impact of this on fleet organization and speed. Especially if you have a tow chain of tug, powered barge, unpowered barge as has been suggested.

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Post by T. A. Gardner » 06 Mar 2007 19:17

The barge, in most cases, cannot do anything. Most of them are unpowered and being towed in groups of 6 to 8 by a tug. The self powered ones might try to maneuver but this is likely a worthless gesture given their speed of about 5 knots. The real dangers here are if the tug tries to maneuver or, if the barge slips its tow. The later is a real possibility as it happens more than occasionally and particularly in cases where the towed vessel is not normally designed to be towed in open ocean. If a barge slips its tow there is very little likelyhood of it regaining it. The tug cannot stop its tow with another 5 plus barges strung out behind it. If it did and the lines went slack (a virtual certainty) then the possiblity of collisions between barges occurs.
A barge that has slipped tow would also represent a navigation hazard as it is now adrift in the middle of the invasion fleet. As it would have no breakdown lights or ability to hoist day shapes showing it as adrift there would be no warning to other vessels except by sighting it.
Back to sinking one: I doubt very much that 80 or 160 or 320 .303 rounds almost all of which, if not all, struck and did damage above the waterline would represent a serious threat to the boyancy or stability of a barge. On the other hand, if even some of these rounds made holes that began to let in some water there is a real threat over say an hour or so of sufficent flooding to begin to allow a serious instability to set in due to free surface effect. That is, say a foot or so of water in the bottom of the barge that does not represent a threat to its flotation but does have sufficent mass when it sloshes from side to side to cause the barge to roll enough to either capsize or flood over the gunwales.
Of course, a fighter might concentrate on shooting up the tug. If it were damaged or the crew incapacitated then the barges in tow are left adrift and become virtually worthless as part of the invasion fleet. The individual barges probably would have to slip tow and possibly try to tie off in pairs or try to float clear of each other to prevent collisions.
As anyone can see, the whole problem of using unpowered barges in this situation is very hazardous to begin with. With enemy opposition it is going to only increase in danger.

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Post by fredleander » 06 Mar 2007 19:20

LWD wrote:Even if you allow only a half second burst that's about 80 rounds on the barge. Then the question is what does the barge do? Do you try to get the wounded medical care? Does the barge (and for that matter other nearby vessels) try to maneuver to avoid this or addtional strrafings? What's the impact of this on fleet organization and speed. Especially if you have a tow chain of tug, powered barge, unpowered barge as has been suggested.
In my opinion the massive convoy tows would be much more dangerous to attacking fighters, than the other way around. They were strutting with all kinds AA armaments. It would be bad economy - and totally out of the Dowding spirit - to use the fighters for this purpose......... 8-)

BTW, have you guys seen original takes of aircraft attacking surface vessels with machine guns.....?.....yes, most of the projectiles go into the drink.

Finally, would you believe that the Germans perhaps had foreseen this problem? And done something about it. Other than just mounting heaps of machine guns and automatic cannons on their vessels....... :idea:

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Post by LWD » 06 Mar 2007 19:53

Given that:
Quoteing from:

Hardly well armed I think I've posted this before but from:
http://www.feldgrau.net/phpBB2.....aa141c7da2

Most barges had a light flak gun mounted amid ship , although hundreds mounted either 3" howitzers or Pak guns. While useless at hitting ships [3 near misses on 100 test shots @ 600-1000m range],....
It doesn't seam likely that they will be hitting many airplanes. Indeed thre attmepts to shoot down strafing fighters my actually do more damage to the fleet than the fighers would.

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Post by fredleander » 06 Mar 2007 20:02

LWD wrote:Given that:
Quoteing from:

Hardly well armed I think I've posted this before but from:
http://www.feldgrau.net/phpBB2.....aa141c7da2

Most barges had a light flak gun mounted amid ship , although hundreds mounted either 3" howitzers or Pak guns. While useless at hitting ships [3 near misses on 100 test shots @ 600-1000m range],....
It doesn't seam likely that they will be hitting many airplanes. Indeed thre attmepts to shoot down strafing fighters my actually do more damage to the fleet than the fighers would.
So the 37 and 20 mm automatic cannons didn't count for anything....?.....Tell that to the RAF guys in France...... :) ......not to mention the dozens of MG 34's of the fixed installations and on board infantry...... :P

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Barge interiors.....

Post by fredleander » 06 Mar 2007 20:59

Barge interior. Inner metal walls........ :) ......which should protect the personell.
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Ostkatze
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Date of Infamy

Post by Ostkatze » 06 Mar 2007 21:12

In an attempt to find where the thought of FC attacking the barges originated, I trolled through the beginnings of our 60-odd pages on Seelowe. On page 14 I found the following:-

" Another thing, the German barges didn't look very solid. I think they even could be machine-gunned by British fighter pilots having a field day. "

I'm loath to use emoticons, but...

The date of the post was Dec 7th, 2004.

The author of the post was leandros.

:roll:

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Re: Date of Infamy

Post by fredleander » 06 Mar 2007 21:37

Ostkatze wrote:In an attempt to find where the thought of FC attacking the barges originated, I trolled through the beginnings of our 60-odd pages on Seelowe. On page 14 I found the following:-

" Another thing, the German barges didn't look very solid. I think they even could be machine-gunned by British fighter pilots having a field day. "

I'm loath to use emoticons, but...

The date of the post was Dec 7th, 2004.

The author of the post was leandros.

:roll:
A little out of context - was it not......?....... :)

How about a posting on the subject.....?....... :)

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