Hillcrest wrote:Ah Ha! Bekkers' writing in Wadingas' post makes the point I have been wondering about throughout this thread, "What would be the proper action?" Marschall spots the RN Force, has to assume they've seen him...Okay, it's a Carrier and escort, he had to have thought there were planes (CAP) in the air at least, and would be certain that a full deckload must be launched at him at any minute. To my thinking, there is only one proper response, try to get them before they get you.
If that was the way it happened, Marschall would have been right to attack for his own safety, but that isn't
how it happened. He deliberately went after Glorious and Ark Royal, having failed to get at the evacuation convoys. That is the basis of criticsim of his actions. That is what Raeder had him for, plus the fact that having received Luftwaffe reports that Narvik appeared to have been evacuated, he decided to leave it at that, leaving his Chief in the dark and having to continue to rely on Luftwaffe reports alone.
Intelligence regarding an enemy's actions can fall into two categories; one gives warning about a possible threat so that counter measures can be adopted and the other gives advanced warning about what a task force might expect to see as it approached it's objective. The Luftwaffe reports indicated that Narvik MAY have been evacuated. It was Marschall's job to see if this was the case and report back. He did not need to send the battleships into the fiords for this, he could have sent in a destroyer or conducted aerial recconnaisance of his own. His ship's dedicated pilots and more importantly, observers who would have been trained in aerial recognition to the point they could report accurately on a tactical situation, where an ordinary Luftwaffe pilot, ignorant of the navy's needs might not. In abscence of complete faith in his pilots and observers, he should have sent a vessel with tactical experts in to see for themselves.
Marschall is hailed as a hero, because he took a bold decsion to go after the carriers, if he was given a fait acompli by spotting the Glorious when well within her striking capabilities, he would have earned no greater regard than Lutjens at the Battle of Denmark Strait, though we could still expect the anti-Lutjens-brigade to praise the one and denigrate the other.
To justify what Marschall did requires a monstrous rewrite of history. He knew where Glorious and Ark Royal were and he deliberately went after them. Full marks for fighting spirit, but minus several hundred for lack of foresight. As Raeder said, he was lucky not to get sunk, and Scharnhorst very nearly was.