Tovey's decision

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paul.mercer
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Tovey's decision

Post by paul.mercer » Mon Oct 18, 2010 8:07 pm

Gentlemen,
I am currently reading Ian Ballantayne's new book 'Killing the Bismarck', and having read most of the other available publications I am a bit puzzled as to what actually happened when it became clear that Bismarck & PE were about to break out.
From what I understand, Admiral Tovey was on KGV at Scarpa along with Hood & PoW, when the news came of the intended break out why did he send PoW whom Captain Leach had accepted into the fleet but had reservations about the efficiency of her guns and still had workmen aboad and Hood whom he must have known was, for all her prestige still basically an unmodified Battlecruiser. He must also have known the fate of other British Battlecruisers when they encountered Battleships at Jutland, and to send the out against the most powerful Battleship and probably the most powerful Cruiser of their time seems to me awfully bad judgement.
My question is this, having known the above facts why on earth did he send PoW instead of Hood and his own KGv which at least was 'worked up' even though her guns were slightly suspect? Better still, why did he not send all of them out to make sure of the job?

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by dunmunro » Mon Oct 18, 2010 9:13 pm

Tovey had 4 fast capital ships: Hood, PoW, KGV and Repulse. Repulse was a last minute reinforcement. Tovey did not know where Lutjens intended to breakout and thus had to disperse his forces to cover the various possible routes. If Tovey had know for certain where Lutjens was heading then he would have concentrated his entire force to met the KM ships.

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by paul.mercer » Tue Oct 19, 2010 7:29 pm

Thanks for your reply.
Repusle was even weaker than Hood so I don't supose Tovey would have let her get near Bismarck unless there were other captal ships already engaged. It still poses the question as to why he sent a unprepared ship like PoW instead of KGv.
My other question is this, during the battle PoW hit Bismarck in the bow with a shell that did not explode, puncturing her forward fuel tank, what would the effect been had that shell exploded in the tank?

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by lwd » Tue Oct 19, 2010 7:41 pm

The ships were paired based on where they were I believe. KGV and Rodney were obviously the stronger pair. Before the Denmark straits engagement I suspect Repulse would have been sent in as well without too much second guessing.

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by behblc » Tue Oct 19, 2010 8:04 pm

Tovey knew that it was highly likely that Bismarck and her consort would not sit long in Norwegian waters and that a quick breakout was extremely likely , taking all his ships to sea would be like placing all his eggs in one basket - as has been pointed out what way might they come having two ships at sea at least gave the chance of bringing an early contact if they were picked up by the cruisers.
Holding back some of his resources was not unreasonable , either way he was going to be forced to take risks.

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by Olaf » Wed Oct 20, 2010 1:28 pm

paul.mercer wrote:My other question is this, during the battle PoW hit Bismarck in the bow with a shell that did not explode, puncturing her forward fuel tank, what would the effect been had that shell exploded in the tank?
One small correction here; there was no fuel tank damaged. Both the entrance and exit hole of that shell were above the waterline. No fuel tanks there ... :wink:

Happy discussing ~ Olaf!
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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by RNfanDan » Thu Oct 21, 2010 3:32 am

If I read the original poster's question correctly, it seems he was asking specifically why PoW was with Hood. If this is correct, then I may be able offer a slightly different take on this, based on opinions I've expressed elsewhere.

Tovey had a total of just four capital ships at his disposal, to guard three possible routes by which Lütjens could enter the Atlantic. The most distant of these, relative to Scapa Flow, was the Denmark Strait. Tovey's two most powerful and seasoned ships were Hood and his own flagship, King George V. Prince of Wales, although well-equipped and potentially powerful, was barely fit for combat duty at the time (due to her very green crew and still being plagued with numerous builders' bugs).

Placing his own flagship so far from his base of operations would have put Tovey at a disadvantage in terms of access to intelligence and communications (problems which manifested themselves later in the chase); he therefore was unlikely to send King George V out to the Strait. Hood was the only real option at the time, so ordering Holland there was almost a given.

To accompany Hood, Prince of Wales was the most logical choice. Tovey, only too aware of Hood's
vulnerabilities (as was Holland), wanted to front as much firepower against the Germans as possible. Repulse, although fast and very well-crewed, was somewhat limited offensively in having only six heavy guns, and was even less protected defensively, than Hood.

In summary then, Tovey could not afford to take his entire force to sea together; he could pair Repulse with neither Prince of Wales nor with Hood; and could not place himself in KGV too far from Scapa, under the circumstances.

FWIW,

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by José M. Rico » Thu Oct 21, 2010 5:24 am

Very well put RNfanDan.
The Repulse was not even in Scapa Flow. She sailed from the Clyde and did not join Tovey's group until the morning of 23 May.

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by paul.mercer » Mon Oct 25, 2010 6:38 pm

Olaf wrote:
paul.mercer wrote:My other question is this, during the battle PoW hit Bismarck in the bow with a shell that did not explode, puncturing her forward fuel tank, what would the effect been had that shell exploded in the tank?
One small correction here; there was no fuel tank damaged. Both the entrance and exit hole of that shell were above the waterline. No fuel tanks there ... :wink:

Happy discussing ~ Olaf!
Thanks for your replies, what still puzzles me is that she was apparently leaving a trail of oil, so where did this come from?
Also, in Ballantynes book he refers to a 15" unexploded shell embedded deep in the region of PoW's keel, as it was not far from a magazine he says that some thought that it might have been enough to cause another disaster if it had gone off - any thoughts or ideas on this?

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by lwd » Mon Oct 25, 2010 6:56 pm

I believe there were oil tanks below the shell hit and it wasn't much above the waterline. Furthermore the shell exploded so I wouldn't be surprised if there were some leakage especially as the shell prevented access to the oil below. (This is from memory of other reading other threads here so corrections may be forethcoming).

As for the hit on POW, again from other threads here. It apparently took an underwater trajectory for some length. If the fuse had been initiated upon impact with the water it would have detonated before reaching POW. As it was the shell proably hit base first which would suggest that the timed delayed base fuse would no longer have been fucntional (although it might have detonated on impact with the ships side). So a high order detonation after it reached its stopping place would have been extremely unlikely.

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by dunmunro » Mon Oct 25, 2010 7:14 pm

Additionally, the 15" UW hit on PoW was nowhere near a magazine.

PoW's hit forward on Bismarck cut off access to fuel oil in forward tanks, while the hit amidships did cause leakage from oil tanks there.

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by tommy303 » Mon Oct 25, 2010 8:35 pm

As for the hit on POW, again from other threads here. It apparently took an underwater trajectory for some length. If the fuse had been initiated upon impact with the water it would have detonated before reaching POW. As it was the shell proably hit base first which would suggest that the timed delayed base fuse would no longer have been fucntional (although it might have detonated on impact with the ships side). So a high order detonation after it reached its stopping place would have been extremely unlikely.
Examination of the fuze, following the removal of the shell whilst PoW was drydocked, showed the fuze had initiated. The primary detonator had fired and the flash had initiated the delay train. At some point, however, the delay train extinguished itself and failed to burn through to the detonating composition. The reasons for this are unclear, and it is possible that the delay train was improperly or poorly packed so there was a gap in it, or it might have been contaminated by machine oil left over from the machining of the fuze. Had the fuze functioned properly from start to finish, detonation would most like have occurred before reaching the ship's side, as LWD points out.

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by paul.mercer » Wed Oct 27, 2010 7:23 pm

Gentlemen,
Many thanks for all your replies.
I suppose this next question ought to be under 'hypothetical situations' it may have been posed to you before but I could not find it, so please forgive my ignorance.
In your expert opinions, what would the outcome have been if Tovey had taken KGV & Hood and had let KGV take the lead in the opening stage of the battle so Bismarck targeted her first?

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by Bgile » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:33 pm

paul.mercer wrote:Gentlemen,
Many thanks for all your replies.
I suppose this next question ought to be under 'hypothetical situations' it may have been posed to you before but I could not find it, so please forgive my ignorance.
In your expert opinions, what would the outcome have been if Tovey had taken KGV & Hood and had let KGV take the lead in the opening stage of the battle so Bismarck targeted her first?
Obviously KGV was less vulnerable than Hood, but I don't think there is any guarantee the Germans wouldn't have targeted Hood in your scenario. I believe they thought they were dealing with Hood and KGV and they targeted Hood.

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Re: Tovey's decision

Post by dunmunro » Thu Oct 28, 2010 2:15 am

paul.mercer wrote:Gentlemen,
Many thanks for all your replies.
I suppose this next question ought to be under 'hypothetical situations' it may have been posed to you before but I could not find it, so please forgive my ignorance.
In your expert opinions, what would the outcome have been if Tovey had taken KGV & Hood and had let KGV take the lead in the opening stage of the battle so Bismarck targeted her first?
KGV was fully worked up and would have had a higher volume of fire with greater accuracy. I suspect that in the scenario you propose that Bismarck would have been forced to engage KGV and that KGV and Hood would have crippled Bismarck in DS and then sank her.

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