Tirpitz and Bismarck

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George Gerolimatos
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Tirpitz and Bismarck

Post by George Gerolimatos » Tue Feb 28, 2006 8:40 pm

Hello all,
There have been frequent discussions on the relative merits of including the incompletely-worked up and equipped Tirpitz with Bismarck during operation Rheinubung. Raeder's decision not to include her in the sortie is often contrasted with Britain's decision to use the PoW, which was similarly "un-ready" as Tirpitz was.

My question is different. Suppose Tirpitz and Bismarck did sortie together, but after Tirpitz and Bismarck had worked up together in the Baltic during the spring and summer of 1941. Suppose Raeder planned for an Atlantic operation for the two ships (and maybe Scharnhorst and Gneisenau?) for September 1941. What then?

Of course, as a speculative scenario, there are many imponderables, but I'd like anyone's input. To get things started, I think the advantage for the Germans in this situation would be the extended and thorough training for Bismarck and Tirpitz (Cf. the original shortening of gunnery trials which Lindemann complained about): the two could really iron out kinks in their weapon systems, compare results and or personnel. In short, a quite homogenous squadron could be worked up in the (relatively) secure waters of the Baltic.

In Mullenheim-Rechberg's memoir he has the complete operation orders for Exercise Rhine, and in those orders passing reference is made to the fact that most of sea operations in the summer of 1941 would be determined by Operation Barbarossa. The relevant directives are in Seekriegsleitung I op 262/41 Chefs. of March 6, 1941. Does anyone have access to this document? I ask this, of course, as the main factor affecting sea-going operations in the late summer/early fall of 1941 would be the war in Russia. Obviously, Hitler was always more concerned with the Russian Front than the war at sea. He might have been distracted so much that he would not have met with Raeder to discuss/approve any joint Bismarck/Tirpitz operation. Or would he have simply allowed Raeder a more free hand to cast his plans? Again, I welcome any input. Of course, as we know, Tirpitz was the center of a "Baltic Fleet" that was positioned to intercept a Russian fleet fleeing from Leningrad, which never happened. Perhaps before moving to the Atlantic the two BBs could have made a show of force, at the same time benefitting from training under battle conditions?

The other great unknown is the British reaction. Of course, the downside to putting off an BB operation until the fall of 1941 is that it would have given the British a chance to bomb or otherwise damage the ships. If anyone could suggest what the British situation might have been at this time (taking into consideration the Mediterranean situation), I would appreciate it.

Finally, though the United States did not enter the war until December 1941, it is known that Raeder felt a sense of urgency (which the Fleet Commander, Lutjens, did not feel) in getting Bismarck out to sea sooner rather than later.

What I'm basically asking is, what would be a likely scenario if the BS and TP sortied together in September 1941, assuming all the other historical events of the time more or less unfolded as they actually did (e.g., Hood is still roaming about, the Japanese don't plan to attack Pearl Harbor earlier to strain Anglo-American naval resources to the utmost, etc.)? Thanks again.
George G.

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Antonio Bonomi
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What if ??

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Tue Mar 07, 2006 1:41 pm

Ciao George and all,

normally I do not like to respond to what if, but in this case I like to spend some addittional words on your questions.

Before your analysis :

1) What if on 1940 the Italian's were going to protect just a bit better the ships on Taranto harbour and not allow them to be torpedoed with huge power lost on November 1940.
The Swordfish showed how they were powerful to damage battleships.

2) What if the German were going to share with the Italian the radar FuMo and FuMB technology they had already developed allowing the Italians to fight on better conditions against the Britsh on the Mediterranean sea all the way thru the war.
Additional developments could have been jointly done after too, like using it for artillery and night firing ( just like been done by the Allied).
This was going to make Royal Navy using much more power to fight in the area and took over ship sfrom other war scenarios.

3) What if both Kriegsmarine and Regia Marina were going to use at least some aircraft by themselves ( light carriers ) instead of leveraging on a never working cooperation with Luftwaffe and Regia Aereonautica.
Just like Japanese, British and Americans did by creating their own Navy Air Forces.

Now with a very different ( and not impossible ) scenario you can try to think on September 1941 Bismarck and Tirpitz escorted by Admiral Hipper and Prinz Eugen plus a light carrier ( Seydlitz ?? ) moving into the Atlantic Ocean, while Scharnhorst and Gneisenau leaving Brest as well.
The Swordfish were going to have many more difficulties here.

On the Mediterranean Sea a well coordinated operation by Regia Marina with all ships fully radar equipped so not so inferior to the British on the night, plus been well air covered with a light carrier as well under Navy command.

Surely much more troubles for Royal Navy.

When the US Navy was going to join into the fight, than I think no chances anyway, but surely a big couple of naval battles like Midway.

Surely a more honorable end for Kriegsmarine and Regia Marina battleships :(

Just some thoughts, ... my opinion.

Ciao Antonio :D

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miro777
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Post by miro777 » Tue Mar 07, 2006 3:38 pm

hey antonio
i am back hehe
well
for your szenario, i think it's rather unrealistic for that the germans never actually wanted to or did not see the importance of aircrafts at sea, so they enver actually put the focus on rebuilding the Sydlitz, whihc is a pity.
therfore i think this thing could not have happened anyways...
i also doubt that the germans would ever shared their equipment with the italians.
no offence but from my readings and my little background, i always got the feeling that the germans did not really trust the italians, or at least saw them on the same level, if u know wat i mean
(again no offence)

back to the luftwaffe, KM problem.
it's been a real pity that that never worked out.
when i read a book about the deutschland (luetzow), she had to do several journeys from Norway back to Gotenhafen or danzig.
The aircover was ALWAYS needed, but never there
if it was there, there was no coordination.
ship shot at plane, etc.
planes did not see enemy planes, while noticed
no direct contact, etc.

back to questions earlier that if the Tirpitz would have changed anything.
it would have or maybe not
the british would have send a bigger task force to intercept her at iceland, and that battle would have been decisive then...

adios
miro
Die See ruft....

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Antonio Bonomi
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Naval scenarios

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Wed Mar 08, 2006 10:19 am

Ciao Miro and all,

unfortunately I have to agree with almost all your evaluations.

Those were some of the reasons why miserable failures with a loss of so many lives happened.

Many young soldiers fighting with no hope and a poor military organization, poor coordination and strategy, poor supply and logistic, sometimes looking at same side soldiers with much better stuffs and even what they discarded was better that what you still have to fight with.

It was a lot frustrating by reading fair writers that lived those events.

As Adm Reader wrote, they could only show how to die with dignity, and for the Italians on many situations was even more clear.

Ciao Antonio :D

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Matthias
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Re: Naval scenarios

Post by Matthias » Wed Mar 08, 2006 11:11 am

Antonio Bonomi wrote: and for the Italians on many situations was even more clear.
:( :( :(

The most amazing thing regarding Italians High Command is that no one, apart rare examples as Admiral Romeo Bernotti, had the honesty to recognize the responsability of the highers level of the supreme command, the so called Supermarina, not only in the preparation of the war, so in the uninterest towards new technologies as radars and ASDIC apparatus and in the development of an indipendent Air Force, but also in the direction of the war operations, as happened for example during the mission on the oriental Mediterranean Sea culminated with the Matapan disaster the night of march 28th 1941 and the mission of the light cruisers Da Giussano e Da Barbiano sunk by the Force K during an attempt to force the english blockade and bring fuel supply to Regia Aeronautica in Tripoli.Their decks were blocked by oil tanks... :stubborn:

After the war, no one of the Admirals which composed the higher commanding level of our fleet and were responsible of many hominous defeats and human losses had been put in trial for their responability.They all discharged their guilts to the Germans, to Mussolini and to Regia Aeronautica... :negative:
"Wir kämpfen bis zur letzten Granate."

Günther Lütjens

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miro777
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Post by miro777 » Wed Mar 08, 2006 3:00 pm

hey
if we are already talking about the Italian Navy...
can someone give me a brief intro of what they did in WWII?

i only heard about the Roma being sunk by a german aircraft, Taranto raid and the that battle where the Warspite sank 3 heavy cruisers or so...
but nothing exact..
so if u please?

thanx

adios
miro
Die See ruft....

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foeth
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Post by foeth » Wed Mar 08, 2006 5:06 pm

The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1940-1943
Jack Greene, Alessandro Massignani

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José M. Rico
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Post by José M. Rico » Wed Mar 08, 2006 5:19 pm

Very interesting thread, but why don't we go back and discuss the original subject raised by George Gerolimatos? :D Suppose Tirpitz and Bismarck did sortie together, but after Tirpitz and Bismarck had worked up together in the Baltic during the spring and summer of 1941. :think:

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Karl Heidenreich
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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Wed Mar 08, 2006 6:49 pm

Weeks ago I was thinking about more or less the same scenario.
The thing is that both BBs must go to sea with their heavy cruiser partners: Prinz Eugen and Hipper.
My scenario here goes as follows:
1. Tirpitz and Hipper went from Gotthenhafen to Wilmeshaven via Kiel leaving Bismarck and PE alone for this part of the journey.
2. Bismarck and PE sailed as planned on their route to Norway (with complete fuel provision both of them). They are spotted at the Belt by whoever (swedish, norwegian, etc.). The sighters report a BB and a Heavy Cruiser en route to Norway.
3. Unseen and undetected the Tirpitz and Hipper made a nightime "dash" from Wilmeshaven to the Norwegian Sea. The allies are now aware of Bismarck and PE but not of Tirpitz and Hipper.
4. Bismarck and PE leave Norway and are trailed closely by Tirpitz and Hipper.
5. Suffolk and Norfolk sighted Bismarck and PE and, believing those are the only two German vessels, track them in the fog. Tirpitz and Hipper followed closely, waiting.
6. At Denmarck Straits the British send the same Squadron to intercept Bismarck. The Hood is blown but, this time, Lütjens follows PoW with the PE in fast and close pursuit and achieve sinking her. Norfolk and Suffolk attemp to distract the Germans but, to their doom, Tirpitz emerges from nothing and blows Norfolk while Hipper engages Suffolk, winning time. That morning the Germans sunk four British vessels instead of one.
7. Bismarck is badly hit at the bow. She returns, alone, to Norway via Denmarck Straits, unseen. There is no one to trail her this time.
8. Lütjens transfer flag to Tirpitz and with the PE and Hipper sail south. With no British cruisers trailing them they dissapear for a week.
9. They began the prowling convoys that, at the end, bring them against KGV, Repulse and Rodney.
10. Hipper and Repulse are sunk. Prinz Eugen and Rodney result seriously damaged. Tirpitz and KGV are slightly damaged. Both parties return to their bases.
11. Winston Churchill cries for help to the US and FDR loan him two American BBs and a Aircraft Carrier. Admiral Halsey protests and is fired only to be recalled when the Japanese attack Pearl.
What do you think? :?:

George Gerolimatos
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an interesting proposal

Post by George Gerolimatos » Wed Mar 08, 2006 8:58 pm

Hello,
Thanks for furthering an interesting discussion. I won't directly answer your question just now, but there is an important thing to consider: by the fall of 1941 the British had captured an Enigma machine and were beginning to crack the code. From that point on, the British had greater and greater access to German naval plans. So much so that by December 1943 Scharnhorst was practically sent on a suicide mission. BS, TP, and other vessels would have had an even more challenging task when trying to break out into the Atlantic undetected.
George G

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immediate reaction

Post by George Gerolimatos » Wed Mar 08, 2006 9:04 pm

Well I'll make another post:
The idea of two task groups is very interesting, especially with the opportunity for the Germans to surprise the Brits, with TWO powerful BBs when the British were expecting just one. However, though the idea of Tirpitz appearing out of the gloom in the Denmark Straight and blowing everything out of the water before her is probably fanciful (though attractive). British radar was superior to German; furthermore, the German forces could have rendezvoused with excessive radio traffic, possibly compromising their position. Indeed, in Operation Berlin, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau were discouraged from trying to join up with Hipper in the Atlantic for preceisly this reason.
George

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Karl Heidenreich
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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Wed Mar 08, 2006 10:13 pm

Hi George,
Very interesting scenario indeed!
You said :
by the fall of 1941 the British had captured an Enigma machine and were beginning to crack the code
When I imagined my scenario I was thinking in a late June, early July 1941 raid. That´s because the Tirpitz MUST be available. If a later date was introduced then we can assume that Schanhorst and Gneisenau are also available for a "pinzer" moment from the French ports. If so, even the inclusion of Force H would be minimized because a Third German Squadron would be at sea. If the British really HAD problems with Bismarck alone, Tirpitz + 2 Heavy Cruisers from the North heading South South East and 2 Battlecruisers heading West would be a nightmare beyond the Admiralty´s worst ones.

Then you continue:
British radar was superior to German; furthermore, the German forces could have rendezvoused with excessive radio traffic, possibly compromising their position.
The Norfolk would have had concentrated her narrow radar beam on the Bismarck and PE. Not a very sofisticated tool in 1941 (it has to be directional) so that Tirpitz and Hipper can shadow the pursuing British cruisers without being detected.
The radio traffic is another issue. Obviously Lütjens order (he being at the Bismarck) HAS to be: RADIO SILENCE until firing begun. Lütjens cannot have foreseen anything after the firing started so the surprise would fall upon Hood, PoW and the 2 cruisers. I don´t find so difficult that Tirpitz get out of the gloom an hour or so after Denmarck Straits started. But, after that, as you can see, when Tirpitz + 2 Heavy Cruisers finally engaged KGV, Rodney and Repulse (probably the British are escorted by at least one aircraft carrier and several cruisers and destroyers as it was their custom) there is no German Wiping British but an almost draw (Repulse being sunk because it was the lesser of the British vessels), Rodney being damaged because her armour design weakness and the most modern and capable KGV being slightly damaged. The Germans got hurted too: Hipper sunk and PE heavily damaged. That plus a Denmarck Strait´s Bismarck also damaged. It´s all an assumption anyway: a lot of "ifs" one after the other.
Because this is an hypothetical scenario I believe all these thing could have happened.

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miro777
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Post by miro777 » Mon Mar 13, 2006 5:42 pm

hey

that is just an AMAZINg scenario!!!!!!!!!!!!!
i love it.
if the germans wouldn't have fought for the wrong cause, i would have really loved it if it'd happen like that.
i find it VERY possible that the Tirptitz could have surprised the two cruisers in the Denmarck straight.
How on earth would the cruisers think that there are German Capital ships behind them
they would have been totlaly taken by the thought of following the Bismarck. Even if theyd see the Tirptiz on the radar, i guess they would probably think they are RN's ships.
then the denmarck szenario with 4 RN vessels sunk would be very possible.
Actually u shouls have told Raeder that. It's a real good plan.!
At least on task force should come through undeteceted and then help the otehr one...
VERY GOOD (sounds like the SChliefen plan to me )
one thing, which u should work on is the second battle.
you are saying that the Tirpitz, Ad. Hipper and PE would go out of a nval battle with Repulse, Rodney AND KGV????
i strongly doubt that.
Althought the Tirpitz was amazing, i doubt that she could outgun those guns from the Rodney and the otehrs with just the supposrt of two cruisers.
well and u have also forgotten the FAA task groups with the HMS Victorious and the HMS Ark Royal.
Other Battleships like the Royal Soverign and others like that (HMS Renown) could have been ordered HOME to defen England.

well with all that i think that plan was better than the actual Rheinuebung, but still the consequences would have been enormeous.

adios
miro
Die See ruft....

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Karl Heidenreich
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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Wed Mar 15, 2006 4:20 pm

Well, I have to admit it´s a difficult scenario but not an impossible one. If you think about Bismarck and PE fighting one BB and a super BC the odds were more or less about the same.
Let´s see. At the beggining a confident Tirpitz targets the Repulse and, like the Hood or the other BCs at Jutland this old BC blows sky high. The KGV is attacked by Hipper and PE while Tirpitz engages Rodney. The KGV accomplishes the sinking of the Hipper and targeted PE. Tirpitz, like the Bismarck before her, knock outs the Rodney´s bridge and director towers and turns to help the desperate PE that now is heavily damaged. Both sides had bleed a lot and they broke contact after hour and a half.
It seems all right, isn`t it? :wink:

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miro777
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Post by miro777 » Wed Mar 15, 2006 5:38 pm

hey
yes it is quite a realistical scenario,
but WHY would the Tirpitz engage the Repulse???? insteda of the Rodney?
i would say that the TP takes on rodnety, while the two cruisers take on Repulse and KGV aids one of the other.
repulse blows up, KGV rushes to attack the cruisers, while rodney and TP take on each other. Then KGV sinks Hipper and so on...
only a small change though...

adios
miro
Die See ruft....

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