Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

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

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BuckBradley
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Re: Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

Post by BuckBradley » Thu Oct 03, 2019 4:19 am

Thanks for posting this Jose.

You guys are definitely right about the technology--it's evolving, but is still a long way from being able to beat you at chess.......

Byron Angel
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Re: Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

Post by Byron Angel » Thu Oct 03, 2019 2:49 pm

Hi Sean,
I am no authority upon Admiralty/RN signal protocols and conventions, so throw out this query from a well-entrenched position of ignorance.

Does this "destination Brest" signal display any unusual features (format, transmission method, distribution list, sender ID, priority status, timing, etc) that set it apart from the general message traffic?

Given that the signal ran counter to the prevailing operational assessment, it suggests that its source perhaps lay outside the existing mission command and control group but within the overall Admiralty bureaucratic framework and possessing a keenly up to date awareness of the details of the ongoing operation.

FWIW.

B

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wadinga
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Re: Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

Post by wadinga » Fri Oct 04, 2019 12:55 am

Fellow Contributors,

To answer Byron's query, I don't think facsimiles of all the original messages exist. Reading Somerville's notes on the action in his collated papers , he saw nothing unusual about the mention of Brest. He says he was sent instructions at 04:00/25 that he should send his destroyers back to Gibraltar as Force H would be required for extended operations and they would run short of fuel later. He detached then at 09:00/25 with instructions to transmit position, course and speed of Force H to the Admiralty when 150 miles clear, thus avoiding D/F on Somerville's flagship. Also to request results of recent reconnaissance re Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in Brest.

This does not quite agree with:
0840B/25 From S.O. Force H. to Admty.
My Position, course and speed at 0730B/25. Position 40.43 - 15.50, 310º, 22 knots. ARK ROYAL and SHEFFIELD in company. Destroyer (s) detached.
and
0901B/25 From S.O. Force H. to C. in C. Plymouth.
Please keep me fully informed Brest R/C.
He says he altered course after receiving the 11:00 Brest message to 360T.

I am confused about the phrase
prevailing operational assessment
as from the record it appears everybody from Pound down had a strong opinion France was more likely, but then maybe they were less certain at the time . :wink: The instruction for Brest gives Pound as originator. Somerville had originally been instructed to sail the previous day as potential replacement escort for Convoy WS8B. Re-tasking as hunters may have required Pound's personal sanction.

Unfortunately Somerville makes no mention either in his Report of Proceedings or his diary/letter to wife of receiving either the Admiralty D/F information or Tovey's erroneous conclusion on Bismarck's likely position. His assessment and positioning was eventually successful in that his Swordfish were able to take over from the Catalina which eventually sighted Bismarck.

Is is important that we still do not seem to have any details of the actual message text to Tovey giving the D/F bearings.

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

Byron Angel
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Re: Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

Post by Byron Angel » Fri Oct 04, 2019 2:13 am

Sean,
What's your opinion of the possibility that the message in question may have originated with Adm Pound's friend at Checquers?

B

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Re: Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

Post by wadinga » Fri Oct 04, 2019 9:58 am

Fellow Contributors,

Following Byron's question, IMHO - zero.

Force H was so far south there was no possibility of interfering in a northerly return to Germany. The only Bismarck options Somerville could cover were an extended raiding mission fuelled by oilers in mid-Atlantic or a return for repairs in France or maybe friendly Spain. (Did they have a drydock big enough?). "Assumption" is a neutral word giving no clue Pound had strong evidence from D/F that France was very likely. Pound had already said there was a "fair inference"
0855B/25 From 1st S.L. to C. in C. Home Fleet
During the period from shortly after the time of the T.B. attack until 0258B/25 BISMARCK made a series of signals some very long, and a fair inference is that owing to damage received enemy has recast his plan.
the raiding mission was curtailed due to damage and Bismarck was heading for a port.

Amidst all the uncommitted, uninformative weasel words about assumptions, Powers' message is the only one we even have which reveals to the fleet at sea there was D/F of Bismarck's transmissions, since the actual bearings message is unrecorded in the sources we have. Tovey's erroneous message does not say the D/F result was from shore-based D/F and may have given the impression some short range input came from his own ships.

Flag Officer submarines is repeated the already ludicrously out-of-date 09:19 situation report at 12:02 (6 hours out-of-date) but evidently has better unrecorded information as he sends
1244B/25 From F.O.S. [Flag Officer Submarines]
BISMARCK and HIPPER class cruisers may arrive Brest A.M./27.
B. Submarines take up following patrol positions proceeding with despatch when practicable.
to deploy six submarines as a trap based on Brest as a destination.

Apparently no-one realises Tovey's derived position and hence orders to his fleet contradicts the evidence-based belief held, and acted on at the Admiralty.

The message which is completely incomprehensible is
1428B/25 From C.N.S. to RODNEY
My 1158B/25. Comply with C. in C. Home Fleet 1047/25 acting on the assumption that enemy is proceeding to Norway via passage between Scotland and Iceland
C.N.S doesn't exist but the reference to MY 11:58 means it is Phillips contradicting the prevailing view at the Admiralty and his own instructions of two and a half hours previously. No wonder he tries to cover his cock-up by diminishing Darymple-Hamilton's contributions later, when the gongs are being handed out. If there was ever evidence of a powerful, maverick and uninformed influence making itself felt, this is it. It shows that by 14:28 someone had at last realised where Tovey was heading based on a different conclusion and decided to back this instead of the France conclusion. Then they changed their mind again, still without questioning Tovey.

Chaos and confusion, at HQ and in Tovey's flagship, the real-world secret of the Bismarck Chase.

All the best

wadinga
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wadinga
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Re: Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

Post by wadinga » Tue Oct 22, 2019 1:46 pm

Fellow Contributors,

Captain Jack Broome RN wrote some excellent books including "Make A Signal". He had access to the Naval Signal log collection and quotes some signals relevant to the Bismarck Chase which could be added to the current Collated Diary.
00:10/25 From Norfolk to Prince of Wales
One enemy battleship in sight bearing 211T. Open fire.
00:20/25 From Prince of Wales to Norfolk
I am not sure that was Bismarck.
01:06 From Suffolk
Consider enemy speed under 20 knots.
05:52/25 From Norfolk (ie Wake-Walker) to C-in-C
Request air search at dawn. Enemy's speed has not exceeded 22 knots for some time.
A few minutes later at 06:00 Tovey orders Curteis in charge of Victorious, as well as his cruiser command, to initiate this air and surface search. Tovey breaks radio silence to transmit:
0600B/25 From C. in C. Home Fleet to F.O. 2nd Cruiser Squadron
Organize air and surface search N.W. of last reported position.
as is already recorded in the Collated Diary.

Maybe it has lost some text somewhere but North and West of what reported position? Suffolk's last reported position for Bismarck was
0213B/25 From SUFFOLK
Surface craft detected by R/DF bearing 195º, distance 11 miles, my position 56º 49' N., 36º 8' W.
Added
0225B/25 From SUFFOLK
My 0213B. Enemy course 160º, speed 20 knots.
So Tovey's terse little message assumes Curteis has intercepted this four-hour old position information, (as the Germans did), that Bismarck has made a radical change of course to the north and west (incorrect) and is probably aiming for a possible refuelling point/hidey hole off Greenland somewhere (she isn't).

One can only assume the message was kept as short as possible to minimise the chance of D/F but conveys precious little useful information. If Tovey intercepted Suffolk's later messages he should have considered that even Ellis had considered that a cut across the shadowers' sterns was a possibility and that Ellis and |W-W were investigating the westerly options.

All the best

wadinga
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Oct 23, 2019 7:22 am

Hello everybody,
00:10/25 From Norfolk to Prince of Wales
One enemy battleship in sight bearing 211T. Open fire.

00:20/25 From Prince of Wales to Norfolk
I am not sure that was Bismarck.

US Coast Guard Modoc men (and Rear-Adm Wake-Walker too...) were both quite lucky that night....

No surprise that these messages were not recorded in the Admiralty War Diary...


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

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Re: Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

Post by wadinga » Wed Oct 23, 2019 11:36 am

Fellow Contributors,

Inter-ship tactical communications are unlikely to be recorded in the Admiralty War Diary. There is nothing surprising about that.

Please, enough with the "Cover-Up Assertions" already! We are having a serious factual conversation here about ensuring all relevant communications are included in Mr Rico's listing.

All the best

wadinga
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Oct 23, 2019 11:44 am

Hello everybody,
Wadinga wrote: "Inter-ship tactical communications are unlikely to be recorded in the Admiralty War Diary. "
Sorry, wrong. Plenty of them are recorded, e.g.

inter-ship_24-05-1941.jpg
inter-ship_24-05-1941.jpg (7.52 KiB) Viewed 611 times

The factual discussion cannot ignore that several important messages are not recorded (or were subsequently espunged...) from the Admiralty War Diary, and the reasons why.



Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

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Re: Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

Post by wadinga » Wed Oct 23, 2019 12:59 pm

Fellow Contributors,
We are having a serious factual conversation here about ensuring all relevant communications are included in Mr Rico's listing.
This is useful historical research designed to enhance the value of this website for serious researchers.

Not for those interfering in this effort by making up fantasies about why some messages were left out.

All the best

wadinga
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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

Post by Alberto Virtuani » Wed Oct 23, 2019 1:15 pm

Hello everybody,

usually History analyses facts and the resons why facts happened. In this case, the umpteenth absence of an important message from the Admiralty War Diary (all of them not fully in line with the "official" sugar-coated version of the operation sold after it)

Is what Mr.Wadinga proposes just a "raw data collection" ? If this is the case, he is right.


Bye, Alberto
"It takes three years to build a ship; it takes three centuries to build a tradition" (Adm.A.B.Cunningham)

"There's always a danger running in the enemy at close range" (Adm.W.F.Wake-Walker)

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Re: Admiralty War Diary, 22-28 May 1941

Post by Bill Jurens » Wed Oct 23, 2019 4:29 pm

I would suggest that at this point it would be most productive to simply restrict our efforts and discussions to simple data collection. First, let's simply try to assemble the best possible data base.

Analysis of 'whys and wherefores' -- along with associated editorial commentary -- can(and should) wait until we have all of the relevant data.

Bill Jurens

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