Seelowe: Lets discuss:- Armaments on Barges & Tugs etc

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Andy H
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Seelowe: Lets discuss:- Armaments on Barges & Tugs etc

Post by Andy H » 08 Mar 2007 07:24

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. Seelowe 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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Post by Andy H » 08 Mar 2007 07:34

Seelowe: Lets discuss: Armamenst on German Barges & Tugs etc

Whilst discussing the possibility of barges being sunk by fighters strafing them, some posters have mentioned the influence of German AA defences on these barges being a factor. Hence this thread.

I don't want to get into the AA defences of established naval vessels such as DD's etc in this thread but just those Auxillary vessels towing the barges, pushing the barges, or the barges themselves.

Though a picture paints a thousand words, I would like to get some actually figures concerning AA assets on these vessels. The impression is easily passed off that every vessel was armed to the teeth. On those that were armed, what was there AA ammunition load?.

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Andy H

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Post by Gaijinaho » 10 Mar 2007 07:02

The armament onboard is good stuff, even the MG's can be effective for low flying aricraft. The problem for the Germans (and I see no way around this) is that they are soldiers, trained to shoot from land. Shooting at a target at sea is much, much more difficult. Not only is your target moving, but YOU and your gun also are, in tow or three directions at once. This isn't an ability that can be picked up quickly. I took part in a MG shoot shipboard several years ago, where we had some Marines with us. These guys were pros, expert marksmen. But out there it was a whole new ball game, and they didn't do so well. Not knocking them, just stating a fact that it takes practice to learn to fire effectively in a marine environment. Ashore you fire a longer burst, and are normally firing using a tripod with a T+E mech. Your target there may be moving ashore, but at sea your ship is moving, the other ship is moving (forward, up down and sideways, both of you, all at once) or if an aircraft it's coming in very fast. Unless the barges have Kriegsmarine gunners, I don't give the barges much chance of hitting alot.
For the pilots, though, the barges are slow, fat targets. Bad, bad juju for the troops aboard.
Later, Gaijinaho

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Post by T. A. Gardner » 10 Mar 2007 16:25

To date we've seen various armament combinations on the German barges, tugs, and other vessels making up the Seelöwe invasion fleet. On the barges one could expect possibly a 2 or 3.7 cm AA gun and possibly a field artillery piece lashed down on deck. Both weapons would be army models. The photo Leandros posted earlier of such a barge shows that the field piece would be virtually worthless as a defense weapon, having a limited field of fire forward. It obviously is mounted to allow some degree of fire support during the landing.
The 2 or 3.7cm would be useful as an AA gun. Its accuracy would not be appreciably worse than that of a purpose mounted naval weapon of the same size. The crew would also obviously know how to fire on aircraft effectively. They might have limited fields of fire forward (the artillery piece is there) and aft (any cabin or if the aircraft engines are mounted) against low flying aircraft too.
As for machineguns used by the passengers, these would have little more than moral value as defensive weapons against aircraft. First, it is now being pointed out that the holds on most of the barges were covered. This means the passengers have limited or no ability to see what is going on, not being out on deck. But, if we assume some of them come on deck to use machineguns they would be firing from extemporized positions. Further, they will lack AA sights and training in air defensive fire.
Also given that both the barge and target aircraft are moving introduces a paralax error making leading the target much harder. This will effect all of the AA defenses. Even the 3.7cm crew will not be familiar with this problem as it does not occur on land where their gun is stationary.
The other problem is ammunition. How much is carried and what is the intended use? For the machineguns this will be very problematic. The only figure I have for a comparable weapon is for 1st US Army from D-Day to VE day using .50 AA guns (ie the quad .50 mount). Here gunners used 21,897 rounds per kill for 129 claimed . Obviously, the number of rounds expended for the much less capable German 7.92mm machineguns will be even higher. If liberal usage of passenger machineguns is made there quite likely will be a machinegun ammunition shortage if the invasion does manage to land.
The same problems apply to any weapons on tugs or other vessels as these would be similar in capacity.
So, one can see that it is possible that the invasion fleet could put up some degree of air defense. Much of it would, like early WW 2 naval air defense in general, would be a deterent rather than casualty causing. Against determined aircrews the defenders are definitely at a disadvantage here. Their slow moving ships and barges make much better targets than the aircraft do to the defenders guns.

Against surface vessels, the weapons proposed to date as being on the German barges etc., are next to worthless. They are just too small and too inaccurate in this role to be of much defensive value. For example, a British destroyer firing time fuzed 4.7" HE low over a barge train would rather quickly cut down the exposed crews of these guns. Splinters from such rounds were a very real threat. Note how quickly every navy adopted splinter armor and such things as splinter mattesses on their ships. The barges, and possibly the tugs, have an additional problem. An actual hits are going to be magnified in effect by wooden construction where it exists. Unlike steel which will produce some secondary splinters, wood produces alot, including some very large, secondary splinters. Against vehicles and equipment these are not a big threat. But, against personnel they are often deadly. One need look no further than air burst artillery used on troops in forests in land warfare to see this. One or two large caliber naval rounds would be more than sufficent to turn a barge into a shamble.

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Post by LWD » 10 Mar 2007 23:38

One of the things I've been wondering about that has a bearing on this topic is what was still planed and what was actually accomplished? While the Germans may have had very detailed plans on up grading the barges how many were actually upgraded when Sea Lion was canceled? Since it wasn't canceled until nearly (or depending on what you mean by canceled after) the proposed date (late September). What state were the barges actually in as far as concrete reinforcing, armaments, and for some the added steel.

As far as AA mounts on the barges go. While the mounts may be nearly as effective as those on smaller combatants the crews would probably have little training or experience firing from a barge that is not only moving forward but up, down, and sideways due to wave action. Given the concentration of ships in the area one also wonders how much damage the AA fire would inflict on German vessels in the area.

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Post by T. A. Gardner » 11 Mar 2007 05:38

A good question. Arming just 200 out of 2000 (in round figures) barges with a 10.5cm howitzer and a 2cm or 3.7cm AA gun would require the assets of 6 divisions. Arming all 2000 simply is not possible. It would have required stripping virtually the entire German army of such weapons to provide them. I severly doubt this is likely.

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Post by LWD » 12 Mar 2007 13:38

Well one source stated that about 30% of the barges found were unsuitable for the crossing. So we're down to about 1400. Even without the weapons that's a lot of concrete , steel and labor if you are going to upgrade them all in what a couple of months?

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Post by Gooner1 » 21 Mar 2007 15:02

As I understand it, most of the planned armaments to be added to the barges were captured Polish, Belgian and French guns, either the 47mm A/Tk or the 75mm field piece.

Which begs the question that if the German Army was only prepared to use captured pieces to arm these barges, who and what is going to persuade the Luftwaffe to hand over hundreds of their Flak guns, which were not exactly in surplus, to vessels that even Dr. Pangloss would be uncertain of making more than one trip.

Of course the likelihood is these ersatz naval weapons on their improvised and jury-rigged mountings with their undertrained crews will prove far more dangerous to the Germans themselves than they would to the opposition.

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Post by T. A. Gardner » 22 Mar 2007 05:00

Partially related to this and of interest is just what the towing arrangements for the barges were. Yes, tugs were to be used. The question is how many barges would be towed by a tug and in what towing formation? A single string or multiples? This would have a big impact on what sort of target they made, their vulnerability to loss of tow, their fields of fire, and that sort of thing.

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Post by LWD » 25 Mar 2007 18:48

One post (I think on this forum) suggested the chain would be a tug, then a powered barge, then an unpowered one. Not sure what the source was of this. It would mean 600+ tugs. But that's rather off topic for this thread.

If they were planning on using captured field pieces for the barges what would the ammos supply have looked like? The logistics of resupply would have made an even greater night mare.

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Post by JonS » 25 Mar 2007 22:42

LWD wrote:If they were planning on using captured field pieces for the barges what would the ammos supply have looked like? The logistics of resupply would have made an even greater night mare.
That depends - if they were only intended to be used as expendable fire supprt during the assault landing phase, then that logistic difficulty is only experienced in the home ports before the landings - ie at a time when it is manageable. That's a reasonable use of captured equipment, IMO.

OTOH, if the pieces are expected to provide fire support during the assualt landing and then be offloaded and provide intimate fire support as the troops advanced inland then the logistics would be a nightmare.

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Post by LWD » 26 Mar 2007 00:46

Well if they are not going to use them once they've shot their basic load up isn't that transporting a lot of mass and equipment just to let it rust on the British shore?

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Post by JonS » 26 Mar 2007 01:00

Not if they bring them back to France ;)

*shrug* I dunno really, but as I said, I think it depends on their intended use; Fire-support during landings only = ok use. Fire support + use on far shore = boondoggle. Also, the Brits and the US took an awful lot of kit to help the landings that just ended up rusting on the Normandy shore, so while leaving the foreign guns to rust on British beaches might be wasteful, if it helps and it doesn't compromise some other requirement then why not?

Bear in mind that arching over it all I think that trying to mount an amphib invasion across the English Channel in barges in September with a navy smaller than Argentina's in 1982 and without air superiority is just farcical. And mounting a few guns on the front of a few barges doesn't change that a whit.

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