What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Discussions about the history of the ship, technical details, etc.

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Dave Saxton
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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:10 pm

Hi Rf,

It is easy to assume that the failure at Barents Sea was due primarily to defiencies of German radar given the conditions. A close examination reveals that the failure was mainly due to tactical rather than technical considerations. Indeed a case can be made that the German radar performed better on the technical level than did the British radar that day. Of course defiencies in radar IFF played a major role, but the German IFF was still better than the British IFF. One thing Barents Sea points to, and I think this is relevant to this disscussion, is that radar's relative technical capabilities and limitations do not neccessarily dictate victory or defeat.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by RF » Wed Apr 01, 2009 1:19 pm

I don't disagree with you at all, I was just saying that overall the efforts put into radar by the KM gave them little actual return.
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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by Dave Saxton » Wed Apr 01, 2009 2:10 pm

That is certainly true in the period post Bismarck, but the potential was there.

In the early war period their radar efforts paid dividends. Indeed the big ship anti-shipping offensive of 1940 through March 1941would have been mostly ineffective without it. There's a good chance that S&G would have been surrounded and destroyed by British and French battle groups in Nov 1939 without the skilful use of radar.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by Vic Dale » Thu Apr 02, 2009 6:24 pm

In clear conditions, the lookouts of Bismarck would have been able to see smoke trails at distance as Wake-Walker chased about after them. Even GHG would function at far greater range than radar. So any visible or audible sign that Wake-Walker was close enough to have Bismarck under surveillance without any sign of the ships, could place the enemy no nearer than 30 to 35 miles. In that event, any thought that Bismarck was held by British Radar, would have caused an alarm so great that radio silence would have been broken to transmit that piece of intelligence.

There is no mention of a working range of more than 17.5 miles for the newly detected radar and at that range in the clear conditions that morning the ships would be in view. As no ships were in view at that time, there can be no consideration of enemy radar holding the ship at that time - in Bismarck or elswhere.

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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by Dave Saxton » Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:46 pm

Hi Vic,

Luetjens mentioned that the estimated range was "at least 35km". This would mean that ranges of 40km, 45km or perhaps more may have been considered possible. Although mast tops and upper works could be seen at those distances in unlimited visibility, the effective visibility can often be considerably less than that at sea- even in relatively clear weather.

The range that a detector or reciever can register radar pulses is consderably more than the range that the associated radar can register echo pulses. The signal strength of an echo is no more than a very small fraction that of a transmitted pulse. As a rule of thumb the range of a radar is at best considered to be no more than 2/3 the distance that it can be detected by a detector. But the distance that meters wave length radar can give away its presence can indeed be very great. Although the range of Type 279, ship to ship, was generally less than 20km it's pulses could be detected over a great distance. For example when they were testing a prototype Type 279, the Rodney was picking up the pulses on it's radio comminications gear when it was still at least 70 miles away. In the right conditions, the distances that meters wave length radar pulses can be detected, can actually be hundreds of miles.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by Vic Dale » Fri Apr 03, 2009 3:36 pm

To Dave.

I don't doubt what you are saying in relation to being able to pick up enemy radar.

If Lutjens had been fooled into thinking that British radar had a capablity of 40-45km or even more he would have transmitted that information to Group West at the double. No such signals were sent and considering that he had from 1030 on the morning of the 26th until the ship went down and said nothing, it is clear that a range beyond that which he had described was not considered.

In Brinkmann's War Diary it seems that even he knew that radar can announce a ship's presence long before it reveals any targets.

Mention of radar is made only in relation to Wake-Walker's shadowing ships prior to contact being lost. The many other ships around Bismarck and within the ranges for detection you describe are not included or cited as carrying radar. Yet they did have radar and I believe Sheffield carried both 279 and 281. She was shadowing Bismarck from early evening on the 26th and there are no reports of the enemy shadowing Bismarck by radar. This could be for 2 reasons, A. visibility extended far beyond the range of radar making it's use a waste of valves, or B. detection of radar in Bismarck was not a routine function aboard the ship - the ship may not have carried a dedicated detection apparatus and was probably not monitoring.

Either way, British radar would not have been playing any part at 0700 on the 25th due to the good visibility which would enable Wake-Walker's lookouts to spot Bismarck at ranges far beyond radar range. The sets would have been either switched off or turned to standby, because their use was obviated by long-range visbility.

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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by IronDuke » Sun Apr 04, 2010 2:29 am

Had HMS Hood not blown up, while nothing is certain in a sea fight, I think I would have backed Hood, Prince of Wales, two Heavy Cruisers and six Destroyers to defeat Bismarck and one Heavy Cruiser...
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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by RF » Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:54 pm

Logically, yes Ted. But note that the problem for the RN was a lack of concentrated fire, with Hood's gunnery impaired, the POW's gunnery even more impaired, while the cruisers and destroyers were beyond their ranges of action. Unless and until Bismarck is slowed, or its gunnery impaired, I think the advantage remains with the Germans.
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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by alecsandros » Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:42 am

The Germans got the range of the Hood and started rapid fire. Both PE and BS were firing at maximum rof.
For that range, I think BS could put 2.5 salvos in the air/minute. That is 20 x 800kg shells/minute. Assuming very bad firing from BS at least 2-3 shells/minute would still Hood. In 5 minutes, 10-15 shells would be on her. Given the amount of armor protection Hood carried, I doubt it would have been battle worthy after that.

BUT 5 minutes is a long time for PoW to score some more against BS. I'd say it would also hit at least 3-4 times the German flagship. I doubt, however, that this would cause significant damage, or slow it down more. From the historical evidence available, I doubt the British 356mm L45 gun could have made a serious impression against Bismarck's armor scheme.

So, all in all, I'd say the Hood would still float, with much fewer casualties; PoW would take some shelling and retreat, while BS would pretty much do the same things he did in the real historical battles.

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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by RF » Thu Apr 08, 2010 7:24 am

alecsandros, the other key point for consideration is that whatever the rate of fire of Hood, it had opened fire on the wrong ship, and had the problems of shifting fire with turrets in local control after Bismarck's fourth salvo.
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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by Gary » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:30 am

POW had landed some hits and if Hood hadnt blown up then Captain Leach would have continued to pound away no matter how disfucntional his main guns were.
He would never withdraw with Hood still around unless Holland ordered him to do so but that is something I cant see Holland doing.
It wouldnt have taken Hood too long to begin to land salvos, and when Lutjens has 2 seperate ships beginning to hit Bismarck he's going to want to order a German withdrawal
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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by RF » Thu Apr 08, 2010 8:44 am

Two points Gary.

One, could Lutjens withdraw? He couldn't turn to starboard far enough as the icefield would get in the way. That is why Lutjens initially hesitated before opening fire - he was caught between the British ships and the Greenland icefield, his instinct would have been to avoid action and turn away at high speed, only when he realised he couldn't turn did he order return fire.

Two, with Hood's gunnery degraded and Hood taking further hits, how effective is Hood in targetting Bismarck?
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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by alecsandros » Thu Apr 08, 2010 12:07 pm

RF wrote:alecsandros, the other key point for consideration is that whatever the rate of fire of Hood, it had opened fire on the wrong ship, and had the problems of shifting fire with turrets in local control after Bismarck's fourth salvo.
And why do you think I haven't taken it into consideration?
HIstorically, Hood received at least 2 shells before the final - exterminating - one. The ship was already in trouble, with a big fire aft and the upper works severely hit. With BS rapid firing, it won't take more than 2 minutes to land 4-5 other heavy shells on the Hood. I doubt Hood's gunners could get an accurate range estimate on Bismarck by then.

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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by Bgile » Thu Apr 08, 2010 3:48 pm

You guys are assuming that Hood's main FC position is destroyed and that she still opens fire on the wrong target, I take it.

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Re: What if Hood hadn't blown up?

Post by RF » Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:20 pm

Not quite. There is evidence the main gunnery control was degraded in the seconds before Hood blew up; it is inferred from this that the turrets may then have had to fire under local control. The full extent of the degrading is unknown, as is of whether A and B turrets actually completed transfer of fire on to Bismarck from Prinz Eugen; it has been speculated earlier in this thread that Hood would have actually split fire between the two German ships.
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