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Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 1:36 am
by Vic Dale
Studying signals between Bismarck and Group West regarding enemy shadowing and the intention to take the ship to France, I am beginning to form a slightly different opinion of Lutjen's intentions.

At 2056 on the evening of the 24th, Lutjens signallled group West as follows; "Impossible to shake off enemy owing to radar. Proceediing directly to Brest owing to fuel situation."

Bismarck was definitely not short of fuel at this time. After steaming from Gotenhafen and breaking out into the Atlantic, she still had 4,800 tons remaining, more than half her normal full load. It is thought possible that the ship had been carrying additional tonnage in the trimming voids fore and aft, making it possible that she started out with more than 9,000 tons. Further research may eventually reveal the truth about this.

4,800 tons is enough to steam at 28 knots for 96 hours, or to cover 2880 nm. Bismarck suffered damage during the battle with Hood and afterwards she was seen to be losing oil. Study of the ship's drawings however revealed that the loss was not likely to be more than 500 tons, if that and any oil isolated in the bow was later recovered, as could be expected. Had Lutjens chosen to head directly to France after shaking off the cruisers in the early hours of the 25th, the distance covered between sinking Hood and her arrival will have been 1625 nautical miles. This would leave a full 1255 tons of fuel spare, more than enough to cover that lost during the battle.

If Bismarck was not short of fuel, then the only meaning we can attach to Lutjens' signal is that with the enemy following in his wake, he would never be able to bunker, so he would have to break off the operation and make for France. Complete repairs would also be possible in a French dockyard. The altered situation in the Atlantic would mean that lengthy operations there would no longer be possible and that ships would in future be limited to sorties governed by their individual endurance.

At 0401 on the morning of the 25th Lutjens sent a detailed message to Group West outlining the action with Hood and shadowing operations against Bismarck. He made particular reference to enemy radar, which interfered to a considerable extent with operations in the Atlantic. He stated that it was impossible to shake off the shadowers and therefore he would not be able to refuel, unless he managed to shake off the enemy using superior speed. Since Wake Walker's cruisers were both capable of matching Bismarck's speed, it is likely that he thought that battering his way through the worst weather at top speed would eventually leave the enemy astern, as the more lightly constructed cruisers would suffer structural damage from pounding at high speed in a heavy sea.

Between 0306 and 0406 on the 25th, Lutjens managed to shake off his shadowers, something he had not thought possible earlier. Now the ship was alone and perhaps during the morning he concluded that he would be able to remain at sea and refuel. Preparations were being made to alter Bismarck's profile to resemble an American Battleship by the use of a dummy stack. This could only be of use if the ship was to remain at sea and would be intended for the eyes of passing neutral merchantmen, who would no doubt report the sighting. This ruse would not work with aircraft as experience with Luftwaffe observers showed they could not tell a battleship from a poorly made decoy. At altitude an extra stack would go unnoticed.

Group West signaled Lutjens at 0846 that morning, that the enemy had ceased sending sighting reports, so this would confirm to the Fleet Commander that a new situation now prevailed. Lutjens remained silent, though Group West continued to signal him with information as to the assets detailed to assist his arrival in France. At 2344 that evening Group signaled that they assumed he would still be making for France as outlined earlier.

Bismarck remained silent until at 1145 on the morning of the 26th she signaled, " Enemy Shadowing aircraft. Land plane."

In Bismarck Lutjens would know he had been spotted, but this was limited to aircraft and as yet there was no clear indication of shadowing surface ships. Warships could shadow under all weather conditions, aircraft could not, so the game was not up by a long shot, even though the presence of an aircraft carrier was indicated.

Not until 1800 did a surface ship in the form of Sheffield appear and she continued to shadow, by visual only. She did not have the new 284 set which had dogged Bismarck through the Denmark Strait and until contact was broken, so the worry about the new radar was not present at this time. The 284 set of Suffolk was identified in Bismarck and was not present now, so contact could more easily be broken during the night.

At 1903 that evening Lutjens signaled Group West, "Fuel situation Urgent. When can I count on replenishment." Very clearly, Bismarck would not be able to refuel under the gaze of enemy aircraft, so it seems obvious, if the signal was a genuine request for oil, that at that hour Lutjens still thought he could lose the enemy during the night, make for a prepositioned oiler and bunker before deciding whether to continue the operation or make for France. At any rate, if he managed to oil, it would be better to wait a few days and then move toward France. It seems in hindsight that this signal was simply advising Group West that the fuel situation could become urgent.

At Group West this seemingly urgent demand for oil caused some confusion, as it was thought that Bismarck was heading directly to France. They were not aware that Bismarck was short of fuel. In fact, had she been short, tonnage-lost figures would have been transmitted. Commodore Ruge sailed an oiler just in case it could be used, though how it could be used is far from clear.

The life and death of the Bismarck has been documented in detail many times and it is all too easy to fall into the trap of seeing that train of events mapped out as if written in stone, yet at the time the operation was being fought to a conclusion, a great many options presented themselves to the German Fleet Commander from time to time and it was his response to each of them which kept Tovey guessing. Even after the disastrous hit in the rudder compartment, Lutjens was seeking ways to gather his forces so as to make Tovey's job as difficult as possible. He was searching for the U-Boat patrol lines, which might intervene and take out one or possibly two major enemy assets, even though Bismarck would probably be lost. Some, not least the survivors of Bismarck, have interpreted this as fatalism. It was far from that. To the last, Lutjens was on the offensive. Steaming at just 3 knots during the final battle when the ship was capable of 12 knots, was a way of acting as decoy so his U-Boats might get into position for attack.

In the event it all came to nothing as do many well laid plans, but that should stop no one from recognising the possible underlying intentions.

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Thu Jun 27, 2013 9:10 am
by Vic Dale
Further information has just become available to me, which confirms beyond doubt that I have been right about Bismarck's fuel and it's effects on Lutjens' intentions.

The British Intelligence Book Interrogation Of Bismarck's Survivors, available to view here;, shows on page 45 just how much fuel capacity Bismarck actually had at the time of the operation. It is quite clear that the 1000 ton fuel reserves in the Bow, which the Baron mentions, were additional to the 8,200 tons she normally carried at full load. At the time of sailing she had 8200 tons, plus 1750 in the bow and stern trim tanks, making a total of more than 10,000 tons.

With the holes in the bow patched, and the flooding amidships on the port side contained, Lutjens' options were again open for continuing the operation, by the afternoon of the 25th. His request for oil on the evening of the 26th which completely threw Group West, may well have been an expression of ability to continue the operation and even meet up with PG, once the heat had died down. Tovey's forces had been largely evaded and soon his ships would be scattered to various ports to oil. Fockewulf Condors would be able to spot the ships as they made their appointed oiling stations and if they could possibly get the identification correct, Lutjens would have been able to evade them further.

The dummy stack and the intention of disguising Bismarck as a US battleship tends to suggest the western convoy routes as the most likely field of operations and these would be farthest away from British oiling bases, unless the US was going to openly break the rules of neutrality and supply the British ships. That the dummy stack was not deployed, indicates that it had been prepared for intended use some time later. Bismarck had settled to a leisurely 20 knots and with so much fuel in reserve it is clear that the ship's command was happy that the heat had died down. If the operation was to continue, success would depend on how the enemy disposed of his convoys. If it was to be abandoned the ship could slip into a French port unnoticed, as PG did a few days later. Had there been any urgency about getting to France, Bismarck would have been making her maximum of 28 knots.

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Sat Jul 06, 2013 12:58 am
by Vic Dale
Over the past few days, I have been reflecting on what might have been going on in Bismarck after Wake-Walker lost contact.

When Bismarck was damaged and it was clear to Lutjens that he could not shake off the enemy due to long range radar, it was clear that he would have to make for a French port and have the repairs carried out there. With the enemy constantly dogging him he would not be able to oil, so it would have been the most logical step to separate PG and make for France.

Lutjens was convinced that he could not shake off the enemy, but during the night of the 24th-25th, he managed just that. Until that time, the ship was temporarily repaired using collision mats (futhering sails). The next day however, with the enemy now gone the situation was so greatly altered that more permanent repairs could be contemplated. He knew by day break, that he was now out of range of the 35km radar, because visibility was very good. Frankly if he could not see the enemy ships, they could not see him, with or without radar.

We know that one steel plate was being fashioned by one of the survivors who apparently made it too small. Such a setback would not be the end of the matter as with a welded hull, any amount of patches can be welded in place, to seal the hull. Once the hull was sealed the ship would be able to make her best speed and would be fully battle worthy once more. Even the flooded boiler room could be flashed up again, once the electrical services had been restored to working order. That boiler will have been shut down long before the water reached the furnace. Had it reached the hot furnace it would have exploded killing everyone there. It sounds as thought the bilges were getting quite full though.

The enemy's hunting forces were badly stretched and all the while, the Luftwaffe's Kondor 200s and long range seaplanes were gradually building an intelligence picture of the Atlantic for Lutjens. He would be able to pick his spot to idle, or cruise whilst the enemy was still chasing about and using the last of his fuel reserves.

At 1030 on the morning of the 26th, Bismarck was heading toward Northern Spain, when a Catalina from Coastal Command spotted her, Lutjens quickly altered course direct for Brest and opened fire on the shadowing plane. This clearly identified the flagship and also gave away her course and thereby his intentions. However, this might not be the whole story. It appears rather obvious for a Fleet Commander who was used to shaking off the enemy and misleading him as to his intentions.

If Bismarck was visibly heading to France it is likely that his true intentions lay in the opposite direction. Possibly he was heading to France to bring the shadowing aircraft within range of Luftwaffe fighters. ME 110s would have been the right choice, with their long range and firepower, against the Swordfish and the Beauforts which could attack with torpedoes.

Weather conditions were making St Nazaire impossible for Bismarck to get into, plus the fact that anti torpedo protection would not be in place. Brest was the only feasible objective and Gneisenau had take a torpedo there, Scharnhorst had also been bombed. Brest seems to have been too near to the British air bases, for safety. Lutjens knew that his ships would be safest at sea. In that light, it has to be questioned whether it would be wise to go into Brest.

At 1015 that morning, before Bismarck was located by the Catalina, Group West had signaled that owing to weather conditions in the Biscay air operations were compromised and that only limited air cover could be provided. Weighing all this up, Lutjens may well have decided very quickly not to go in. Heading directly for Brest, if he had ruled it out, would be the best way of masking his true intentions.

The request for oil seems to settle it that Lutjens would remain in the Atlantic and either continue the operation, or make for St Nazaire when more favourable conditions prevailed, in the event that permanent repairs had not been possible at sea.

We might ask why Lutjens did not inform Group West if he had changed his mind and here it should be remembered that his command was subordinate to Group West and those above. Very possibly he was allowing the logic of the situation to gradually dawn on Group West rather than have a fight with them. The worst thing would be to get himself ordered into Brest. If the preparations at Brest continued as if Bismarck were entering shortly, it would be as well to let enemy recce planes see those preparations.

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 4:09 pm
by Vic Dale
Recent study of the British Post Interrogation report derived from the interrogation of Bismarck's survivors, has revealed that the entry hole in the bow was plugged and the exit hole had a steel plate welded over it from the inside, by a diver working in the flooded compartment. This will have been a permanent repair and would have restored the ship to full operational efficiency. The only reason for Bismarck's reduced top speed was the possibility of structural damage occurring due to the weight of water in the bow.

With this repair work completed and the ship restored to full operational efficiency Lutjens could, within reason, begin to formulated new plans for continuing the operation. His options were not fully open because although he had shaken off his close shadowers, the Home Fleet was still pursuing him to the south east. Any large deviation from this heading would shorten the distance between him and Tovey. He would have to try and out run him, or draw him over a U-Boat patrol.

At the time the British Air patrols relocated Bismarck she was headed directly for Lisbon in southern Portugal and not, as had been thought, Ferrol in northern Spain. This heading was a full 50 degrees from a heading which would take Bismarck to Brest. From this it is clear that repairs in France were not on the Fleet Commander's mind at that time. 15 hours steaming on this heading would have placed Bismarck equidistant between Brest and the Azores, where a tanker was waiting. Since there was no friendly port available to him on this heading, Lutjens was no longer thinking about repairs.

Her heading was taking Bismarck further and further from the safety of France and if followed to it's conclusion would have run her close to Gibraltar, so at some time she would have had to break away and the Azores seems the most likely place to oil, in preparation for moving out into the north Atlantic.

Almost immediately the ship was spotted on the 26th, she altered course directly toward the U-Boat patrol line and toward the port of Ferrol, but at about 1600 Lutjens altered a further 10 degrees to port heading the ship toward Bilbao. This would take her as far as possible into the Biscay, if Lutjens was intending to draw the Home Fleet in there. Had Tovey gone in after her he would have come under heavy attack by the Luftwaffe and with little chance of the RAF being able to intervene, plus he would face concentrations of U-Boats. Such a venture would be suicide.

As we can see, not only were Lutjen's options wide open, as far as evading the Home Fleet and continuing the operation goes, his headings do not under any circumstances suggest shortage of fuel and desperation to get to France.

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 4:20 pm
by Herr Nilsson
What tanker? Any name?

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Fri Jul 12, 2013 5:47 pm
by Vic Dale
Esso Hamburg was stationed in CD36 and would be about half a day's steaming from the Azores. The tanker Breme was said to be enroute to DF 96. Other tankers designated as scouts were also operating in the vicinity. So it's hard to say who Bismarck could oil from.

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 7:46 am
by Herr Nilsson
Vic Dale wrote: At the time the British Air patrols relocated Bismarck she was headed directly for Lisbon in southern Portugal and not, as had been thought, Ferrol in northern Spain. This heading was a full 50 degrees from a heading which would take Bismarck to Brest. From this it is clear that repairs in France were not on the Fleet Commander's mind at that time. 15 hours steaming on this heading would have placed Bismarck equidistant between Brest and the Azores, where a tanker was waiting.
Once again, which tanker was waiting?

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 1:07 pm
by wadinga

One of the most important skills for the Grifter or confidence trickster is misdirection of the Mark, that is the person who is to be tricked. A typical method is the Shill, where a person apparently un-associated with the trickster gives an opinion or a corroborating piece of information to assist in misdirecting the Mark. In Vic’s piece above, the Shill is his summary of the information in the document he references. His summary is completely different to the actual information, but the bluff is that the Mark will not be bothered to go and verify it for themselves and accept Vic’s summary. This is what it actually says, and contradicts Vic completely. :lol:

In the course of a conversation Kapitänleutnant von Müllenheim-Rechberg mentioned that in order to sail from Gotenhafen during the night, "Bismarck" had been unable entirely complete with fuel. He stated that they sailed with only 6,000 tons instead of approximately 8,000 tons, and that they were in fact 2,000 tons short of full stowage.
A prisoner, who had charge of the oil-fuel storage pumps confirmed that the ship had sailed short of fuel, but estimated this shortage as 3,000 tons and stated that the ship sailed with 9,000 tons, being 3,000 tons short of her full capacity of 12,000 tons.
Calculations made at the admiralty from an official sketch book, published by Blohm & Voss, the builders, and obtained from one prisoner, estimated the maximum fuel stowage as 8,500 tons, including 1,750 tons which could be stowed in reserve bunkers.
It seems, therefore, reasonable to assume that the ship sailed with 6,000 tons and had a total capacity of about 8,500 tons.
The prisoner, mentioned in paragraph two, pointed out that the apparently large capacity was due to the ship having been designed for a very large action radius, He gave fuel consumption as follows:
18 kts. (economical speed) 200 tons/day
24 kts. 500 tons/day
26 kts. 700 tons/day
31 kts. 900 tons/day

If these figures can be accepted, it may be deduced that from the time of sailing from Gotenhafen at 0200/19th May, until the morning of 27th May, when sunk, she used possibly 4,500 tons.
It was further stated that, owing to damage received during action with "Hood," fuel bunkers in Sections XIV and XV sustained entry of water, and likewise fuel in Section XX-XXII could not be used owing to the inaccessibility of the suction valves through flooding; thus about 1,000 tons, so it was stated became unavailable.
Accordingly, if she sailed with 6,000 tons, it seems probable that, on the morning of 27th May, her available fuel was down to about 500 tons and barely sufficient to take her to a French port.
This shortage of fuel in "Bismarck" is confirmed by statements of prisoners who referred to signals made on 26th May to "Gruppe West," urgently requesting fuel (Brennstoff Ergänzung dringend) and to which a reply was made that the "Ermeland" had already sailed.

Vic has picked up on the guesstimate of the oil storage pump guy and forgotten all the rest because it contradicts his new fantasy.
All the best


Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:15 pm
by Vic Dale
After breaking contact with Wake-Walker, given Bismarck's position and heading at 0700 on the 25th, it seems that Lutjens intention was to establish a track at 90 degrees variance to that of PG. I believe this was steamed at her then best speed, so as to put distance between her and Wake-Walker and if the Cruisers were still following Bismarck, draw them well away from the German cruiser. This would explain why no work was done on the holes in the bow until the afternoon. With sufficient distance between Wake Walker and himself, Lutjens could permit the ship to slow or heavy too and make her repairs. Once repairs had been successfully carried out by welding plates over the holes and the bow, the ship could again make her top speed.

With Bismarck now restored to her previous fighting efficiency, Lutjens options were once again open and at some subsequent time he will have altered to 150 degrees, putting the ship on a heading toward French North Africa, namely the port of Safi. I do not believe he intended entering Safi, but that heading would bring him as far south as possible without compromising PG's position to the west of him. If Tovey was still trying to catch Bismarck, he would have a very long haul indeed and the range of options open to Bismarck would keep him guessing all the while.

I believe Tovey may have guessed at what Lutjens intended as i have tried to lay out above, because her adpoted the same course of 150 degrees, though further out to the west. This position would force Lutjens to stay away from the western Atlantic and might even force him into the Biscay.

If oil had been a major concern in Bismarck, Lutjens found a damn funny way of expressing that concern in steering so far to the south and effectively way from the Biscay.

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Tue Jul 16, 2013 7:37 am
by alecsandros
Vic Dale wrote: If oil had been a major concern in Bismarck, Lutjens found a damn funny way of expressing that concern in steering so far to the south and effectively way from the Biscay.
... Photos of Bismarck on the 19th of May show the ship with a freeboard amidships of > 5m, corresponding to a load of < 50.000 tons.

Thus there was probably around 6000 tons of fuel on board the ship.

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Tue Jul 16, 2013 8:33 am
by Vic Dale
It is almost impossible to make an accurate assessment of a vessel's loading from photos. There were a number of shots taken during Bismarck's time in Grimstadt Fiord and she can be seen to be trimmed by the stern, on the level fore and aft and with what appears to be a list to port in another. They were painting out the camouflage at the time and the engineers may have been applying various trims in order to facilitate painting, the false bow waves below water.

I think it would be impossible to measure to within one foot of free board accurately on any of these photos and that foot could account for nearly 1500 tons of fuel.

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Tue Jul 16, 2013 8:42 am
by alecsandros
It is not a perfect method,
Yet the +3000 tons of fuel you propose would require a 0.65meters extra draft, and a freeboard of perhaps 4.3-4.5m amidships, which would be easily noticeable.

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:30 am
by Herr Nilsson
Wer weiß wofür es gut ist.....?


Group West did a rough estimation on May 24th:
Calculation.jpg (21.04 KiB) Viewed 3153 times

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Tue Jul 16, 2013 6:40 pm
by Vic Dale
7700 tons useable fuel from 8250 tons is near to what we agreed some while back. In fact it seems that Bismarck sailed with about 8500 tons in total, if we add the 10% which is considered to be unusable. If as has been suggested, the ship sailed 2000 tons short of total capacity it seems she could carry 10500 tons. An alternative statement said she was 3000 tons short, so that would bring her close to the 12000 tons maximum which the man who had charge of the pumps said she could carry, when interrogated by British Military Intelligence Officers.

Using what we have been given; If 5100 tons remained at midnight on the 23rd-24th, a further 800 tons will have been burned by 1800 on the 25th when the two ships separated, leaving 4300 tons. Having calculated the volume of the side bunkers affected by the hit on the port side amidships, no more than 200 tons would have been lost if all of the fuel in those bunkers had gone over the side, which I doubt. This leaves 4100 tons which is enough for steaming at 28 knots for 90 hours, or nearly four days.

Group West reasoned that Bismarck's ETA at St Nazaire after a high speed dash across the Atlantic, would be late evening on the 26th. From 1800 on the 24th to, say, midnight on the 26th is 54 hours, at 28 knots the ship would burn 2430 tons, leaving 1670 tons, on reaching St Nazaire. My estimate said she would have 1625 tons remaining in her bunkers after reaching a port, so I was only about 50 tons out.

From these figures it is clear that Bismarck had fuel enough and more for anything the Fleet Commander decided, when in the middle of the Atlantic. It is heartening for a mathematician of my limited capabilities to learn that my calculations more or less match those made by the experts at Group West.

My thanks to those who have provided additional details. Let's hope we see more as the discussion continues.

Additional information; Studying the ship's drawings it appears that the port side bunker in compartment XIV, held diesel fuel, so that loss would not affect the ship's endurance. The shell fragments ripped into the tops of the double bottom bunkers in that compartment, but it seems did not open them to the sea. So probably much less FFO was lost than has been thought hither too.

Re: Lutjens' Intentions

Posted: Tue Jul 16, 2013 7:34 pm
by RNfanDan
Vic Dale wrote:Group West reasoned that Bismarck's ETA at St Nazaire after a high speed dash across the Atlantic, would be late evening on the 26th.
So Group West, themselves knew the battleship was headed, not for an Azores rendezvous with an as-yet-to-be-named-waiting-tanker, but for St. Nazaire? By what intelligence and/or evidence did they deduce this?