Graf Spee v Cumberland

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paul.mercer
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Graf Spee v Cumberland

Post by paul.mercer » Tue Oct 25, 2011 7:51 pm

Gentlemen,
From what I have read it seems that prior to the River Plate battle Graf Spee and HMS Cumberland narrowly missed one another, in fact I believe Graf Spee actually spotted her and turned away before she was recognised.
Whilst the damage Graf Spee inflicted on Exeter is well known it would appear that some of Exeters 8" caused considerable damage in return. As Cumberland had 8 x 8" compared with Exeter 6 x 8" I presume the all up weight of shell between Graf Spee and Cumberland would be roughly equal. While I personally think Graf Spee would probably have won, would Cumberland have been able to inflict serious if not mortal damage in return?

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Re: Graf Spee v Cumberland

Post by Keith Enge » Wed Oct 26, 2011 1:56 am

My database rates AGS as more than 50% more powerful than Cumberland; the County class were useful ships but combat wasn't really their forte. Actually, the weight of shell per minute favors AGS by a large margin. Cumberland had more guns and a slightly larger rate of fire but AGS's shells were almost three times as heavy. Therefore, the pounds per minute favored AGS by ~14,000 to ~8,000. AGS would therefore probably win the battle quite easily but that depends on your definition of "win". A surface raider far from home can't risk damage that would cripple her enough that she couldn't reach port for repairs before other enemy ships could converge. It is entirely possible that Cumberland could inflict enough damage to prevent AGS from returning to Germany. If AGS had to retreat for repairs to a neutral port such as Montevideo, she would have been trapped, just like she was after River Plate.

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Re: Graf Spee v Cumberland

Post by alecsandros » Wed Oct 26, 2011 6:48 am

Hi Keith,
Another factor would be precision of fire control. Graf Spee had a more advanced fire control system at the time (1940), and that could have a big impact in the battle. Also, if Cumberland would be alone, it would be much easier for GS to concentrate on her. In the historical engagement, Ajax and Achilles fought valiantly, and helped Exeter to escape sinking.

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Re: Graf Spee v Cumberland

Post by Keith Enge » Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:37 pm

Alecsandros,

Actually, German fire control had an uneven record during the early war years. The Kriegsmarine was concerned because some of their surface raiders had needed to use an inordinate number of shells to sink merchant ship victims; these merchant ships should have been easy, basically defenseless targets. This was a big problem since reammoing at sea was a lengthy process and dangerously exposed both warship and supply ship to detection while in an extremely vulnerable state.

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Re: Graf Spee v Cumberland

Post by alecsandros » Thu Oct 27, 2011 5:34 am

During the battle of River Plate, Graf Spee achieved a large proportion of straddles and several hits, from ranges > 12km. Most people would call it a very good shooting... And because Cumberland was larger than Exeter, I would expect a larger number of 28cm hits on the British cruiser.

PS: IIRC, Graf Spee had a different radar set and than Lutzow and Scheer.

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Re: Graf Spee v Cumberland

Post by lwd » Thu Oct 27, 2011 2:28 pm

If you look at: http://www.bobhenneman.info/bhbrp.htm it has a fairly detailed account of the battle. She got 3 hits in her initial 8 salvoes which is indeed pretty good shooting. Her secondaries didn't do as well but it's the 11" guns that are going to do the most damage especially at longer ranges. Cumberland is indeed bigger so can be expected to collect more hits but are her critical areas bigger? If her engineering spaces for instance are about the same size then it's going to take just about as many hits to take them out. As she has 4 turrets she is more likely to get a turret hit but it's going to take more turret hits to take them all out. That is of course if she doesn't take a catastrphic hit.

I would expect the GS to win this one but if she doesn't get lucky early it's likely to be a pyrric victory.

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Re: Graf Spee v Cumberland

Post by alecsandros » Thu Oct 27, 2011 2:50 pm

lwd wrote: Cumberland is indeed bigger so can be expected to collect more hits but are her critical areas bigger?
I think the volume of the 20cm magazines was bigger in Cumberland than in Exeter. Also, any hit can potentialy cause severe flooding.
I would expect the GS to win this one but if she doesn't get lucky early it's likely to be a pyrric victory.
It's possible, but most of the advantages are Graf Spee's.

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Re: Graf Spee v Cumberland

Post by lwd » Thu Oct 27, 2011 7:02 pm

alecsandros wrote:
lwd wrote: Cumberland is indeed bigger so can be expected to collect more hits but are her critical areas bigger?
I think the volume of the 20cm magazines was bigger in Cumberland than in Exeter. Also, any hit can potentialy cause severe flooding.
Indeed there's likely to be one more magazine. At the likely engagement ranges a magazine hit doesn't appear all that likely to me however. Likewise flooding require either an under water hit or a through and through with the exit hole underwater. How severe the flooding is also going to be dependent on how well subdivided Cumberland is and of course the aspect angle of the hit.
I would expect the GS to win this one but if she doesn't get lucky early it's likely to be a pyrrhic victory.
It's possible, but most of the advantages are Graf Spee's.
I disagree. Indeed a pyrrhic is IMO the most likely outcome. Spee does indeed have most of the advantages when it comes to a one on one engagement. However as others have pointed out a raider can't afford serious damage especially thousands of miles from a friendly port. A battle vs Cumberland can easily result in an outcome similar to that vs the historical 3 cruisers although there's a better chance that Cumberland will actually be sunk.

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Re: Graf Spee v Cumberland

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Oct 28, 2011 2:49 am

During the battle of River Plate, Graf Spee achieved a large proportion of straddles and several hits, from ranges > 12km. Most people would call it a very good shooting...
One of the optical directors which was being used became damaged by shell splinters, but this was unknown until during stock taking following the action. It was feeding erronous target bearing data into the central fire control for much of the battle. Also at some point a shell passed right through the foretop main firecontrol station wrecking it and cutting off the electrical cabling to the radar set above. It would be interesting to see when this occurred chronolgically and when AGS's intially exceptional shooting dropped of. I believe the splinter damaged optical director was being used to direct mainly the middle artillery against the two smaller cruisers. Paul Ascher who went down with the Bismarck as a member of Luetjen's staff was the AGS's gunnery officer at Rio de Platte. He once told Baron von Mullenheim that his shooting was constantly interrupted by orders to change targets. I think this need to change targets constantly was probably due to the relative ineffectivenesss of the middle artillery, due to the unknown damage to the director.

I recently saw a vidoetaped interview with Capt Woodward (sp?) and he described the AGSs shooting as "frightenly good" and very accurate, expecially early, but also the occasional "keep your distance salvoes" after the battle and after dark.
PS: IIRC, Graf Spee had a different radar set and than Lutzow and Scheer.
AGS's radar set was installed in Jan 1938 or Dec 1937. The principle difference was that it operated on 60cm wave length instead of 80cm wave length and so required a smaller antenna. Luetzow received its first set while in Spanish waters during the Spanish Civil War and it was also a 60cm set. The interesting thing about these early installations is that they probably had Peilenverfaren A/N lobe switching and this would have given them a blind fire capability if such a situation had occured. These early radar sets were effective to 27,500 yards. By the time of Scheer's cruise in 40-41 it would been equipped with a 80cm radar set that was at least two generations more advanced than these very early models.
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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RF
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Re: Graf Spee v Cumberland

Post by RF » Fri Oct 28, 2011 7:54 am

paul.mercer wrote:Gentlemen,
From what I have read it seems that prior to the River Plate battle Graf Spee and HMS Cumberland narrowly missed one another, in fact I believe Graf Spee actually spotted her and turned away before she was recognised.
Rasenack records that Cumberland was sighted by the Graf Spees' Arado spotter plane at a range of about fifty miles from AGS and on a converging course. On receiving the information Langsdorf took avoiding action. The two ships didn't sight each other. Cumberland failed to notice the Arado.

There are previous threads on this subject from some years ago though there was little response. Had the two ships simply blundered into each other then it would seem that AGS would have the advantage of longer reach. The question would be of whether AGS comes under effective fire from Cumberland before Cumberland is hit. Unlike the River Plate battle AGS is able to concentrate on the one target and I think is the likely winner. Another issue is of how battle ready the Cumberland would be in mid September 1939. The presence of AGS in the Atlantic was unknown at that time to the RN - the near miss happened prior to the sinking of Clement, the AGS's first merchant ship victim. Cumberland could be taken completely by surprise and blown out of the water by an alert AGS.

I would mention that there is one other scenario where the two ships nearly met. The 8th December 1939 was the 25th anniversary of the battle of the Falklands from which AGS was largely named after. Langsdorf did consider a raid on Stanley for that date, but Rasenack says that SKL had advised against a strike on that date. SKL were right - Harwood had assigned Cumberland to be in Stanley on full alert around that date, indeed that was why Cumberland was in the Falklands when the River Plate battle started.
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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