Hood Gunnery on May 24

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Alberto Virtuani
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Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Fri Jul 03, 2015 9:24 pm

In another thread (Prinz Eugen towing Bismarck),
Alecsandros wrote: "A salvo plot for HMS Hood's fall of shot would be most interesting..."
Hi Alec, I fully agree with you.

There are at least three big uncertain things (mysteries ?) around Hood gunnery on May 24, keeping in mind that HMS Hood was perhaps an old ship but she was very well trained :

1) Witnesses contradictions about the total number of Hood salvos (in an 8 minutes fight, Hood should have been able to fire far more than 10 semi-salvos, some witnesses speak about 4 to 5 only. Up to 6:00, PoW fired 14 semi-salvos, having open fire only at 5:53.....). :?

2) Witnesses contradictions about Hood aft turrets firing or not (Hood aft turrets were theoretically never blind even on the initial 300° course, albeit at their very limit, just PoW Y turret was unable to bear on course 300°). :think:

3) The statement of the PoW gunnery report (in general very detailed and precise in terms of timings) that says "Hood out of action" just few seconds after 5:55. :shock:

Especially the last point has always been a nonsense for me. It refers to a battle time when BS and PG first salvos were still in the air (if not even resting in their gun barrels...). In any case, it is not stated: "Hood on fire", or "Hood hit", but simply "Hood out of action", that for me can only mean that HMS Hood was not firing anymore before German shells started hitting her.....

Bye,
Alberto
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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by paulcadogan » Sat Jul 04, 2015 5:44 am

Hi Alberto, Alecsandros and all,

Been a while Alberto!

Of course the only wintesses who could tell us about Hood's fall of shot were either on Prinz Eugen herself or perished in Hood's destruction. The info from PG's KTB tells us very little - Jasper reporting what he was told - since he observed "nothing of the enemy's counter-measures".

It would be great if Antonio (or anyone else who has it) could post the description by Fritz Otto Busch, which right now I only recall from memory after years and so can easily be mistaken. It is not available in the KBismarck.com archive.

According to Grenfell a German official document from 1942 stated "shots from the heavy artillery were observed on all sides in the immediate vicinity of the ship".

Bercusson & Herwig (yes I know their overall account is a terrible mess!) specifically describe the fall of 4 salvos - but they don't give a specific reference though they have Paul Schmalenbach's "Kreuzer Prinz Eugen - unter 3 flaggen" (1978) listed in their sources (anybody have this?). (In the KTB, he estimates Hood fired 10 salvos but said nothing about where they fell.)

B&H say the first salvo fell 100 - 330 yards ahead, 55 yards to port of her course, the second 100 - 160 yards ahead to port, then the third 55 yards ahead, dousing the forecastle with seawater. They quote another as falling "squarely in her wake". They do not include the one in the NH photo.

Still this indicates Hood was out for line with her first salvo, corrected to establish line - got it with her over (photo) which I suspect was the semi-salvo paired to the one that fell close to PG's bow, putting her decks awash, making it her 4th. Thereafter everything was in the wake (according to Jasper's "hearsay" statement).

If you time things out - the loss of line from the over to the salvos in the wake seems to coincide with the 0555+ 20 degree turn to port. We know that Hood's Dreyer fire control table had significant issues with changes in rate of change of range - i.e. a course change, altering the rate of closure would throw off her gunnery calculations - especially those fired while turning. Plus, we have all hell breaking loose as Bismarck & Prinz Eugen opened fire on her, scoring damaging hits quickly and she never recovered.......

In terms of salvo timing - Hood and PoW were firing GIC, each in her own time sector to avoid confusing fall of shot. PoW's salvo plot suggests salvo pairs - 2 salvos about 15 seconds apart (left and right guns) followed by a gap in which Hood should have fired her pair. If they both had been firing at the same target, this should have resulted in a steady rain of shells every 15 seconds - not very pleasant for the ship on the receiving end once both were on target. (Coulda, woulda, shoulda again......)

BTW - how's the summer heat in Italy? I hear parts of Europe have been hotter than Jamaica!! And we are HOT, drought stricken and inundated by Sahara dust right now!

Paul
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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sat Jul 04, 2015 7:14 am

@Paul Cadogan,
hi Paul, yes very hot in Milan too but the worse is still to come (for the time being the peak of heat was touching Spain, France and UK, now moving Est, 40°C are forecasted for Monday here....).

Thanks for the info about the salvos that witnesses describe. However, even accepting the fact that the 20° turn (not an hard nor important turn indeed.....) was able to mess up the Dreyer table of HMS Hood, this would explain Hood loosing a couple salvos not more, however the PoW gunnery report just say "Hood out of action" and never after it says "Hood back in action"....... :think:

Also the fact that the aft turrets were not firing since the beginning looks strange as I don't think in such circumstances Holland was much worried about possible damages to AA guns or to his apartment in the rear superstructure of the ship....

Bye, Alberto
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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Sat Jul 04, 2015 8:21 am

Hello everybody,

@ Paul Cadogan,

you were probably looking for those pages :
Busch_page_39.jpg
Busch_page_39.jpg (118.47 KiB) Viewed 5062 times
Busch_page_40.jpg
Busch_page_40.jpg (108.97 KiB) Viewed 5062 times
Busch_page_42.jpg
Busch_page_42.jpg (113.83 KiB) Viewed 5062 times
Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Sat Jul 04, 2015 8:30 am

Hello everybody,

@ Alberto,

very good argument you are opening my friend ... :wink:

A lot of importance must be given to the statement at 05.56 on the PoW gunnery map : " HOOD OUT OF ACTION ! "

Which is point 3 on your list.

http://www.hmshood.org.uk/reference/off ... encIVa.gif
234509encIVa.gif
(71.96 KiB) Not downloaded yet
Regarding your list point Nr. 1 do not forget Capt J.C. Leach first radio message to the Admiralty on May 24th at 08.00, ... so only 2 hours after the event ... :wink:

Here it is and he only wrote 3 to 4 Hood salvoes being fired ... :think:
PoW_radio_msg_May_24_0800.jpg
PoW_radio_msg_May_24_0800.jpg (151.2 KiB) Viewed 5060 times
On my article 10 years ago I went with the average 10 salvoes being fired by Hood during the battle, ... but I think it is time to look at those data ... a bit deeper ... if possible.

http://hmshood.com/history/denmarkstrai ... trait2.htm

Opinions and help is more than welcome as usual ... :wink:

Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Sat Jul 04, 2015 11:44 am

Hello everybody,

some more information from HMS Prince of Wales eye witnesses.

Capt Leach :
Hood_firing_Leach.jpg
Hood_firing_Leach.jpg (211.63 KiB) Viewed 5046 times
Ltnt Cdr Rowell :
Hood_firing_Rowell.jpg
Hood_firing_Rowell.jpg (153.53 KiB) Viewed 5046 times
Ltnt Cdr Hunter_Terry :
Hood_firing_Hunter-Terry.jpg
Hood_firing_Hunter-Terry.jpg (141.93 KiB) Viewed 5046 times
It seems proven that Hood after turrets fired after the A-Arcs have been further opened for Hood from course 300° to course 280°, ... as well as it seems the X and Y turrets fired just before the explosion, ... so, ... we can assess that being occurred around 05.59 ... :think:

If we consider that Hood, ... as we can read above, ... opened fire with A and B turrets at 05.52 and 30 seconds ... having fired only 3 to 4 salvoes as reported by Capt J.C. Leach on his May 24th message seems a lot under estimated to me ... :think:

Bye Antonio :D
In order to honor a soldier, we have to tell the truth about what happened over there. The whole, hard, cold truth. And until we do that, we dishonor her and every soldier who died, who gave their life for their country. ( Courage Under Fire )

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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by alecsandros » Sat Jul 04, 2015 12:12 pm

Hello Antonio, Alberto, Paul,
It's hot also here in Romania, but we had several heavy rains and today a thunderstorm over Bucharest, and it helps chill down the air :)

I don't know much about HMS Hood's artillery on May 24th. I do know however of several practice shoots she conducted between 1937 and 1939, and of her shooting at Mers-el-Kebyr, against French battleships Bretagne and Dunkerque.

During practice tests, HMS Hood obtained very good results, with her main battery outputing 2 salvos/minute or more (at closer ranges), and with very well grouped salvos. Her crew was very well drilled , and obtained good practice results even in relatively poor visibility conditions (1939 IIRC).

In 1940, at Mers-el-Kebyr , Hood opened accurate fire against French battleships in the harbor. Concentrated fire from Hood and Valiant hit Bretagne, which blew up immediately. Hood then focused on Dunkerque, firing from ~ 16km on her, and hitting with 3 semi-salvos.
One of the semi-salvos planted 2 x 15" shells inside Dunkerque, which was heavily damaged, with machinery destroyed, one hald of a main turret destroyed, heavy flooding, and resting her keel to the bottom of the harbor.

This all happened in the space of ~ 20 minutes, under fire from enemy coastal batteries, and (sporadically) from enemy battleship guns. [https://worldwar2navies.wordpress.com/2 ... july-1940/]

This is the only war battle that I know of, aside from the battle for Denmark Strait, in which HMS Hood fired on enemy ships. Her results were very good...

--------

My speculation about the course of events on May 24th, between 5:52 and 6:00, would be the following:
- Hood opened fire, wrongly, on the leading ship, believing it to be the Bismarck, at 5:52.
- Prince of Wales opened fire, correctly, on the second ship, at 5:53.
- As Prince of Wales first salvo fell long over Bismarck, Adm. Holland spotted it and took a closer look on the second ship.
Some details of Bismarck, and possibly a better view at 5:53/5:54 helped Holland understand that he made a mistake, and Prince of Wales is firing correctly.
Thus, at 5:54, as Prince of Wales second salvo was in the air, Holland ordered a change of targets, and a slight (20*) turn to further open his aft turrets.
- At around 5:55, Hood started firing on Bismarck.
- However, the German battleship was accelerating and rapidly reducing range between her and the heavy cruiser (Bismarck 30.5kts vs Prinz Eugen 27kts at the time). We have several eye wittneesses accoutns depicting Bismarck approaching at "freigthening speed".
It is probable that Luetjens moved in to take the lead, for several reasons. One was to protect Prinz Eugen. Another was to confuse enemy gunnery...

- As Bismarck was accelerating and catching up with Prinz Eugen, the distance between them was reduced.

- So, MAYBE, Hood was firing on the Bismarck, and her shots were falling to far ahead of the battleship...

- Several explanations (all speculative unfortunately) on the reduced effectiveness of Hood's gunnery that day would be: crew at full alert for to long before the battle (since 2:00 IIRC); men possibly exhausted or severely tired. Confusion caused by teh change of targets (from PRinz Eugen to Bismarck). Confusion caused by enemy - rear ship accelerating, and possibly doing slight course alterations (5* or so) , instead of moving in a straight line. Slight gunnery problems caused by own ship making slight turns. Problems caused by sea-spray obstructing vision for at least some of the rangefinders on board (allthough this cannot be said about the foretop rangefinder, which was also the most powerfull of them all...)
- Otehr , unknown to me, troubles which happened then and tehre on the Hood [elevator breakdowns ? main shells loading issues ? vibration issues caused by excessive speed ?]

Nonetheless, the Hood was a remarkable ship; to bad she went down as she did...

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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by paulcadogan » Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:42 pm

Hi guys!

Just a quick acknowledgement since have to get going to go to work...

@ Antonio

Thanks so much ! I enjoyed reading that! Busch certainly can paint a picture with words - even in translation. The caution would be his possible use of "dramatic license" to exaggerate.. First up, he had Hood firing her 5.5-inch secondaries (top of the first page) - obviously ghostly guns, as they no longer existed aboard her! Her 4-inch were way out of range and did not fire a shot - Bob Tilburn would have known about that....

Then he gives the impression of the Prinz steaming through forests of towering splashes. From 2-gun salvos?

@Alecsandros

Bruce Taylor certainly did not give Hood much of a gunnery rating - repeatedly throughout his book. At Mers-el-Kebir she was very effective, but against targets confined in harbour... not a high speed action with advsere wind and spray conditions and changes in rate. I'll find the quote about that later...

@ all

I suspect "Hood out of action" was an erroneous label either "correctly" placed to indicate when she was struck and set on fire or "incorrectly" placed to indicate when she blew up. I don't think we need put much weight on it.

Well, lets all broil together in the heat!! Hopefully you guys have AC at home and at work....I don't! :oops:
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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Jul 04, 2015 2:40 pm

Hood was equipped with an early model Type 284 gunnery radar. Indeed Holland had expressed concerns that POW's Type 284 would interfere with the Hood's 284, so he planned to employ the Hood's 284 to range the enemy. Hood's initial salvos were surely radar ranged.

Was the Hood's gunnery interrupted by the failure or destruction of the Type 284? The KGV's 284 was knocked out by the shock of its own gunfire on the 27th. Also we have accounts of the Hood's foretop taking an early hit which may have taken out the ranging radar, interrupting fire.

Another factor may have been the ordered change of target coming through and then obtaining a new set of radar and optical targeting data on the right hand target.
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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by A Raven » Sat Jul 04, 2015 2:46 pm

Could somebody please enlighten me as to what is a, 'semi salvo'. Of the thousands of official Admiralty documents that I have read, I can find NO mention of this phrase.
Please supply an official RN reference if possible.
Thank you.

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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by paulcadogan » Sat Jul 04, 2015 11:59 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:Hood was equipped with an early model Type 284 gunnery radar. Indeed Holland had expressed concerns that POW's Type 284 would interfere with the Hood's 284, so he planned to employ the Hood's 284 to range the enemy. Hood's initial salvos were surely radar ranged.
I absolutely concur. Also on the effects of the spotting top hit etc. We know Capt. Kerr tried to contact the spotting top after the hit and got no response (Ted Briggs).

With regards to gunnery under the conditions of sea and spray in the DS, one of Hood's captains - Francis Pridham, tested her in the Med in 1938 - running her at 28 knots into a head sea under gale conditions (somewhat worse that the DS actually) for a practice shoot. As it turned out the target could only be seen from the spotting top director. (From Bruce Taylor's book) In May 1941, that director was without an optical range finder, but carried the 284 radar apparatus.

So, it is quite probable that after the spotting top hit, a change of target may have been nigh impossible. Gunnery personnel were probably hard pressed to see Prinz Eugen or Bismarck, much less spot fall of shot. No wonder her guns drifted off target.

It is also possible that fire was held by the aft turrets in order for their RF's to get ranges since they - at least X-turret's should have been less affected by spray.
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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by dunmunro » Sun Jul 05, 2015 1:56 am

I stated in an earlier thread that, IMHO, "Hood out of action" refers to the failure of Hood to transmit FC data over the FC radio link. Possibly it means that the Hood stopped transmitting on the FC radio frequency.

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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by paulcadogan » Sun Jul 05, 2015 4:21 am

dunmunro wrote:I stated in an earlier thread that, IMHO, "Hood out of action" refers to the failure of Hood to transmit FC data over the FC radio link. Possibly it means that the Hood stopped transmitting on the FC radio frequency.
Hi Duncan,

But McMullen indicated in his letter to Kennedy, that no range information was passed between the two ships at all.
Hood and Prince of Wales fired in their own time sectors, each controlling their own gunfire.

This procedure, although independent, laid down that gun ranges be interchanged between ships before opening fire, but we received no gun ranges from Hood and I was unable to pass any to her, so I expect that she suffered the same trouble, being also a "wet" ship, with her main optical range finders being low down on the back of the turrets.
So no FC data was being transmitted to begin with....
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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Sun Jul 05, 2015 8:58 am

@all:
I think that the hit on the spotting top (not 100% confirmed and unidentified in terms of caliber) can be a very good explanation for a loss of precision in Hood gunnery on May 24. However, I remember (I can be wrong of course) that witnesses tend to put this possible hit after the first hit from PG on the deck (5:57) and just before the explosion.

Therefore it does explain neither the "Hood out of action" at 5:56 (too early for any hit on board) nor the silence of her aft turrets in the beginning of the engagement (while they were already free to bear with a small margin of 4° even on course 300°). :?:


In addition to Hood fire precision on May 24, I would like to propose you here my own speculation about Adm Holland target decision for Hood: what if Holland decided to deliberately fire with Hood against PG instead of Bismarck ?
I know it's not in line with engaging rules and previous orders, but, after discovering that PG was in front of BS and having assigned BS to PoW (please don't forget that his order to PoW to switch target came BEFORE the opening of fire), he could have decided to prevent PG to escape into Atlantic, directing Hood fire against the cruiser to stop or slow her and only after that concentrating both his battleships firepower against BS.

PG was the fastest ship at DS and a very dangerous merchant raider in herself, the British cruisers were behind Hood and PG could have tried to escape alone if Lutjens decided to order so.
Holland mission was to stop BS but also to prevent any merchant raider to reach Atlantic, therefore, if I was in Holland's position, I would have considered this approach, expecting the battle could be long enough to allow a delay in engaging the main enemy, the Bismarck.
In this case a mistake from Holland side, for sure, but only with hindsight.....

Bye, Alberto
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Re: Hood Gunnery on May 24

Post by paulcadogan » Sun Jul 05, 2015 1:31 pm

alecsandros wrote:My speculation about the course of events on May 24th, between 5:52 and 6:00, would be the following:

- At around 5:55, Hood started firing on Bismarck.
- However, the German battleship was accelerating and rapidly reducing range between her and the heavy cruiser (Bismarck 30.5kts vs Prinz Eugen 27kts at the time). We have several eye wittneesses accoutns depicting Bismarck approaching at "freigthening speed".
It is probable that Luetjens moved in to take the lead, for several reasons. One was to protect Prinz Eugen. Another was to confuse enemy gunnery...

- As Bismarck was accelerating and catching up with Prinz Eugen, the distance between them was reduced.

- So, MAYBE, Hood was firing on the Bismarck, and her shots were falling to far ahead of the battleship...
For some reason I did not see this part of your post yesterday...

But think about it....if Bismarck was 3000 yards astern of PG when Hood opened fire and it was realized they were under attack by capital ships, how long would it take her to accelerate to 30 knots? That takes significant time for a big ship. Even if she was at 30 knots at 0552, a closing rate of 3 knots is painfully slow, about 100 yards gain per minute - certainly not a frightening speed! Unless it is true that PG was in fact maneuvering to avoid being hit, allowing the big ship to close a little faster.

If Lutjens wanted to protect PG quickly, he could have ordered he to turn away as German operational protocol dictated.

Also, recall that Skipwith, PoW's main spotter, saw no splashes in Bismarck's vicinity other than those of his own ship, and Schmalenbach said Hood fired at PG for the entire time - even specifically noting the orientation of her main guns (not sure how accurate that might be at that distance!).
Alberto Virtuani wrote:In addition to Hood fire precision on May 24, I would like to propose you here my own speculation about Adm Holland target decision for Hood: what if Holland decided to deliberately fire with Hood against PG instead of Bismarck ?
Alberto, I have considered this as well, but another reason is possible. Recalling the horizon profiles posted by Tommy303 (IIRC) for different ranges, plus the challenges faced by the spotters and range finders aboard Hood (spotting top vibrating and wind swept) there may have been still uncertainty aboard Hood as to which ship was which. So...Holland decided at the last minute to divide the ships' fire at least until the target ID's became clear. So at 0552 he orders PoW to shift target right, while keeping Hood on the left target.

Once the Germans opened fire it became abundantly clear (plus the range was coming down fast) and as Ted Briggs described, the info came from the spotting top: "We're firing at the wrong ship". Note - the word used is "firing" - so that must have been after the opening of fire - so after the signal was sent to PoW. Thereupon Holland orders Hood to shift target to the right.

We know that PG scored the boat deck hit with her second salvo - so within about a minute of opening fire. Ted Briggs said it was the next salvo that went through the spotting top causing bits/bodies to fall from it. This is most likely attributable to Bismarck's third salvo to which the British attributed the boat deck hit (or the "base salvo" of the 400 m bracket ordered by Schneider which the Baron described as "straddling"). So this happened very quickly after the boat deck hit.

We know too from Ted Briggs, that Capt. Kerr tried to contact the spotting top and failed. So, 284 radar gone, possibly the chief GO either dead or his communications cut off. The 30 ft optical RF on the conning tower forward of the bridge was being showered by spray - which we know from Pridham's test in 1938 blinded it to its target.

So...my speculation is that either the shift of target order never reached Hood's gunnery personnel, and if it did, those that took over control once the spotting top was taken out were almost firing blind....

But that's all we can do.....speculate!
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