Bismarck refuels and does repairs

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Saltheart
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Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by Saltheart » Wed May 02, 2012 11:48 pm

Imagine if after the RN lost contact with Bismarck Lutjens chose not to head for St Nazaire anymore. Instead (and without making any long radio message) he heads in search of a support vessel. He wants to refuel, reammunition and do repairs. Then he'll decide again on whether to make for port or carry on the mission. Once he's alongside a replenishment vessel and under cover of night he can lift the whole bow out of the water to completely plug the holes in it and try to reopen the lines to his fuel tanks. He can plug the hole in the boiler room and pump out the flood water and the counter flood water on the other side too. With his ship restored to a 29 knot capacity and resupplied he might well carry on the mission and look to link up with Prinz Eugen again.
Maybe he'd head south to bombard Gibraltar.

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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by Djoser » Thu May 03, 2012 12:11 pm

I like the scenario--but the odds of them being able to lift the entire bow of the Bismarck out of the water in the middle of the North Atlantic, especially when the entire British fleet was chasing him down, hell bent on vengeance at any price, are extremely unlikely even with the best equipped repair vessel right alongside.

However, I am willing to bet that they could have made extensive enough repairs to make the ship almost fully effective again. And that could have made sinking the Bismarck a much more difficult proposition.

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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by Saltheart » Fri May 04, 2012 3:33 am

Djoser wrote:I like the scenario--but the odds of them being able to lift the entire bow of the Bismarck out of the water in the middle of the North Atlantic, especially when the entire British fleet was chasing him down, hell bent on vengeance at any price, are extremely unlikely even with the best equipped repair vessel right alongside.

However, I am willing to bet that they could have made extensive enough repairs to make the ship almost fully effective again. And that could have made sinking the Bismarck a much more difficult proposition.
Thing is if they head out westward instead of heading for France the search area widens enormously. If the whole British fleet is trying to cover the approaches to the French ports they're going to be thin in the westward direction. It would also take awhile for them to decide the Bismarck has changed direction and search out westward into that huge expanse. If the Bismarck gets next to one of those specialised supply ships it could get a huge amount of work done. They can flood the stern which lifts the bow and enables them to fix those two holes and restore the fuel lines.

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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by yellowtail3 » Fri May 18, 2012 2:50 am

That would have been a lucky outcome. If they fixed the ship - including flooded boiler/generator compartments? - and got all fuel tanks plumbed and topped off with fuel... she's have had a few more options. There's still the tricky problem of getting back to France without getting scuppered by the Royal Navy.
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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by RF » Fri May 18, 2012 5:18 pm

Saltheart wrote:Imagine if after the RN lost contact with Bismarck Lutjens chose not to head for St Nazaire anymore. Instead (and without making any long radio message) he heads in search of a support vessel. He wants to refuel, reammunition and do repairs. Then he'll decide again on whether to make for port or carry on the mission.
Really this is what Lutjens should have done - the Germans knew that the RN didn't have an extensive fleet supply train and after a few days the RN bttleships have to return to port.

Lutjens should have rendezvued with a supply ship and simply stopped engines for a few days - to rest the crew and wait for the passage of time to force British ships back to port.
As Djoser says full repair of Bismarck is unlikely, but I think sufficient could be done so Rheinubung can continue.

British search capability would be in the hands of cruisers and the risk is that one of them will find the Germans. But Bismarck has the firepower to sink cruisers and one of my criticisms of Lutjens is his reluctance to attack stalking cruisers.
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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by Saltheart » Fri May 18, 2012 8:55 pm

RF wrote:
Saltheart wrote:Imagine if after the RN lost contact with Bismarck Lutjens chose not to head for St Nazaire anymore. Instead (and without making any long radio message) he heads in search of a support vessel. He wants to refuel, reammunition and do repairs. Then he'll decide again on whether to make for port or carry on the mission.
Really this is what Lutjens should have done - the Germans knew that the RN didn't have an extensive fleet supply train and after a few days the RN bttleships have to return to port.

Lutjens should have rendezvued with a supply ship and simply stopped engines for a few days - to rest the crew and wait for the passage of time to force British ships back to port.
As Djoser says full repair of Bismarck is unlikely, but I think sufficient could be done so Rheinubung can continue.

British search capability would be in the hands of cruisers and the risk is that one of them will find the Germans. But Bismarck has the firepower to sink cruisers and one of my criticisms of Lutjens is his reluctance to attack stalking cruisers.
Waiting for the British ships to break for port was also what I was thinking. But mainly it's just that it's harder for them to find you if you head west into the expanse. Then yes you sit idle and repair. If you're spotted then you fight. Lutjens could only think of running for home but using the vastness of the Atlantic was safety he just didn't seem to think about.

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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by RF » Mon May 21, 2012 6:08 pm

Also for the British its the case of the ever widening circle of location the longer contact is lost - the least likely area of that circle to be searched is bang in the middle.
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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by adrian6045 » Thu May 24, 2012 12:58 pm

I think its unrealistic to expect Lutjens to do repairs at sea.
Consider how precious the ship in his hands was, he couldnt be sure of british dispositions, there was a danger of submarines, he also couldnt be sure of the extent of the bow damage, and did he have the logistical capacity to do these repairs at sea, i doubt it very much. But what really seals it is the sea itself, the atlantic is terribly rough, completely unfeasable.
To leave the ship dead in the water for days, unthinkable, and dont forget if bismarck heads west the americans may assist in searching.

His mistake was to beak radio silence.

Alternativess, Bismarck could have reversed to brest - entirely feasable,
possibility of blowing the rudder off and using the shafts to stear, longer time in dock for repairs.

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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by RF » Fri May 25, 2012 5:46 pm

adrian6045 wrote: Alternativess, Bismarck could have reversed to brest - entirely feasable,
possibility of blowing the rudder off and using the shafts to stear, longer time in dock for repairs.
These matters have been debated to exhaustion in other threads over the years. The conclusions or at least the consensus of opinion reached is that none of these alternatives could have been done, for the reason you mention - the Atlantic was too rough in the region of Biscay.

With respect to hiding in the central Atlantic - that was more feasible, as demonstrated by Krancke in Admiral Scheer, who rendezvoued with up to five other merchant supply ships and raiders, hove to for days with Allied seamen prisoners excercising on decks and no doubt wondering just what the Royal Navy was doing. Hove to I might add in days of pure flat calm.
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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by lwd » Thu Jun 21, 2012 7:33 pm

But didn't Lutgens think that he hadn't managed to break contact? If he had realized that he had then a number of possibilities open up for Bismarck.

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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by RF » Fri Jun 22, 2012 4:56 pm

Lutjens apparently did think that - but a cooler clearer mind would have assembled enough evidence to realise that contact had been lost, from the lack of proximity of shadowing ships no longer there. The fact that Group West told Lutjens in response to his radio signal that the British had lost contact demonstrates that the shore based radio interception and intelligence officers had picked up on it whereas Lutjens and his staff hadn't. Really the question has to be: Why not?
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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by Jagdboot » Sat Sep 08, 2012 1:40 am

That plan would never materialise. Bismarck would probably be tracked again by reconnaissance aircrafts, as earlier. She could disappear for a while and hide from the British, but eventually the battle cruisers and King George and the Rodney would catch up with the Bismarck and force her to respond on fire. Let's not forget That the Bismarck was already crippled by the scoring hit from the Prince of Wales that allowed several thousand tons of fuel pour out into the open sea. Repairs had to be done in Brest. Even if King George and Rodney wouldn't have enough fuel to pursue the Bismarck to France, the Lancasters would probably bomb it to bits, before the repairs could even be completed.

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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by Djoser » Sat Sep 08, 2012 1:34 pm

Jagdboot wrote:That plan would never materialise. Bismarck would probably be tracked again by reconnaissance aircrafts, as earlier. She could disappear for a while and hide from the British, but eventually the battle cruisers and King George and the Rodney would catch up with the Bismarck and force her to respond on fire. Let's not forget That the Bismarck was already crippled by the scoring hit from the Prince of Wales that allowed several thousand tons of fuel pour out into the open sea. Repairs had to be done in Brest. Even if King George and Rodney wouldn't have enough fuel to pursue the Bismarck to France, the Lancasters would probably bomb it to bits, before the repairs could even be completed.

Jagdboot
Rodney and KGV had fuel supply limitations as well.

Lancasters were certainly not the planes to try and 'bomb it to bits'. Much more likely they would have killed a lot of fish within a few hundred yards of Bismarck, if even that close. The four engine bombers did not do well against surface ships out on the open seas, especially at this early stage of the war.

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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by Jagdboot » Sun Sep 09, 2012 9:36 pm

Rodney and KGV had fuel supply limitations as well.
Lancasters were certainly not the planes to try and 'bomb it to bits'. Much more likely they would have killed a lot of fish within a few hundred yards of Bismarck, if even that close. The four engine bombers did not do well against surface ships out on the open seas, especially at this early stage of the war.
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Lancasters were perfectly designed to bomb larger targets. Remember the damage they inflicted on the Tirpit?. It can be done. The Bismarck is already sitting tight in a dock for repairs in Brest without any option for escape. A squadron of these beauties will take it out and kill a lot of fish in the process. Job well done, and the bombardiers can home to have kippers for breakfast. :whistle:

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Re: Bismarck refuels and does repairs

Post by Djoser » Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:51 am

Ah OK I thought we were still discussing the Bismarck repairing the damage and remaining at sea.

Theoretically speaking, the Lancasters might have had a chance to damage Bismarck in Brest if he was stationary, yes--unlike they would have trying to bomb Bismarck more or less fully operational and at sea pulling evasive maneuvers, etc..

The problem with this idea being that the Lancasters weren't in service during May '41. Not until early '42, actually... :whistle:

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