Bismarck Battleship - Is it a wrong choice for Kriegsmarine to send it to Atlantic in May 1941

Will you take the risk and send Bismarck to Atlantic in May 1941?


  • Total voters
    21

redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,782
Stockport Cheshire UK
#41
Now, if Bismarck's raid had gone exactly the same except for the lucky torpedo hit so that Bismarck was still able to steer and she made it into Brest
The torpedo hit wasn't that lucky, the Bismarck was just one of three major German warships crippled by a single British torpedo hit on the stern in ww2.
The Lutzow in 1940 and Prinz Eugen in 1942 were the two other ships, they survived because they were close to home and had a strong escort.
 
Last edited:
Dec 2014
428
Wales
#42
more than 300 holes caused by shrapnel but the plane was still not down??
As Redcoat says the structure of the plane was very strong, being an all metal frame covered with fabric. This meant that unless something vital was hit (engine, pilot etc) Shrapnel and bullets would tend to simply pass straight through without doing much damage. This made them extremely durable against AA fire. This similar combination earned the Wellington with it's geodetic air-frame a reputation for exceptional survivability. Unfortunately their slow speed meant they were far too vulnerable to faster enemy fighters, which led to their withdrawal as a front-line torpedo bomber, but this was not relevant to operations in the Atlantic where the allies had complete air superiority, which is why Swordfish continued to be used throughout the war to excellent effect.

It's interesting to note that although many people call the hit on Bismark 'lucky' the simple fact is, as has already been mentioned, most naval aircraft of WW2 would simply not have been able to take off of a carrier in order to carry out the attack due to the gale raging at the time - the attack was made in the teeth of a 40 knot gale that was pushing the planes sideways at nearly half their forward speed, which didn't help the German gunners.

The Fairey Swordfish Torpedo Bomber

Only the stability of the Swordfish allowed it to make such an attack in the first place, and three hits were scored in spite of this. The design weakness on the stern and inability to steer by differential shaft rotations resulted in the lack of steering.

So less luck, and more a fiercely pressed attack in one of the few aircraft capable of committing to such an attack.
 
Jan 2019
15
Kent, England
#43
Entire fleet firing on a drone towing around for 2 hours without any hit landing on it!
Note that the British ships were using 'Innocuous' shells that were designed to produce a puff of smoke (to make assessment of the fire easier,) but no shrapnel (to avoid shooting-down the drone). The whole idea was to avoid damaging the target, as drones were expensive!
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,279
Dispargum
#44
The torpedo hit wasn't that lucky, the Bismarck was just one of three major German warships crippled by a single British torpedo hit on the stern in ww2.
The Lutzow in 1940 and Prinz Eugen in 1942 were the two other ships, they survived because they were close to home and had a strong escort.
... It's interesting to note that although many people call the hit on Bismark 'lucky'...

The design weakness on the stern and inability to steer by differential shaft rotations resulted in the lack of steering...
If you look beyond the German Navy you can find many more examples of warships being disabled by torpedo hits to the screws and/ or rudder. This isn't because it was easy to hit the screws or rudder nor because torpedos were deliberately aimed at the stern - they weren't. Torpedoes are aimed to hit amidship. The movement of the target ship caused torpedoes to often hit the bow or stern or more often to miss completely. Another way to describe the critical hit on Bismarck is to say that it almost missed. Had Bismarck been going just a little bit faster (or if the torpedo had been launched a few seconds later) the torpedo would have passed harmlessly astern.

As a percentage of total torpedoes fired in the war, hits to the screws or rudder were relatively rare. The screw/ rudder area is a small portion of a moving target. But torpedo hits to the screws and rudder, when they occured, were extremely catastrophic, as Bismarck learned the hard way. Torpedo hits to the screws and rudder are therefore over-represented in the historical accounts. Torpedo hits amidship hit only several inches of steel, not any key systems like the rudder. These torpedoes usually poked a hole in the ship but any flooding was usually controlled by the ship's interior compartmentalization. Torpedoes that missed or that inflicted only minimal damage get little mention in the history books. Don't be fooled by the prominence of lucky torpedo hits in the histories. More than one ship was hit by a torpedo in the screws or rudder, but this still probably accounts for less than one percent of all torpedoes fired in the war. To hit a ship in the rudder with a torpedo was a rare and lucky event.
 
Likes: Edratman

redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,782
Stockport Cheshire UK
#45
To hit a ship in the rudder with a torpedo was a rare and lucky event.
The torpedo that crippled the Bismarck did not hit a rudder, it hit the stern near the rudders. It was the damage to the stern including the steering mechanism above the rudders (she had two rudders) that crippled the ship.

There is a theory that because the stern was relatively unarmored, while the steering mechanism area was heavily armoured, the torpedo hit caused a whiplash effect on the unarmoured stern which the armoured box the steering mechanism was in couldn’t flex with, increasing the amount of damage to the stern, jamming the rudder.
 
Last edited:
Mar 2019
1,614
Kansas
#47
There is a theory that because the stern was relatively unarmored, while the steering mechanism area was heavily armoured, the torpedo hit caused a whiplash effect on the unarmoured stern which the armoured box the steering mechanism was in couldn’t flex with, increasing the amount of damage to the stern, jamming the rudder.
Flexing was always a problem for battleships. it was common for them to do a lot damage to themselves when they were in battle
 
Likes: BuckBradley
Apr 2014
204
Liverpool, England
#48
"The Bismarck cost the equivalent of some 50 cargo ships."

Does this include cargoes, which could be worth more than the ship?

It is only fair to add that British newspapers attributed the loss of the Hood to "a lucky hit."
 
Feb 2019
345
California
#49
the swordfishs were pathetic junk and yet they did the crippling blow ,
due to the their crew using optimistic aggression rather than reason
this was the real lesson of the battle ,

in the last and greatest engagement of ship versus ship ,
the ultimate gunnery display during the apex of naval firepower was the mere epilogue to the supremacy of air power
The Swordfish was definitely obsolescent (not "obsolete") but "pathetic junk" is surely a bit harsh for the plane that sunk the Bismark* and executed the Taranto raid?

*Yes I know it was a group effort, but the Swordfish got in the single most telling blow.
 
Mar 2019
1,614
Kansas
#50
The Swordfish was definitely obsolescent (not "obsolete") but "pathetic junk" is surely a bit harsh for the plane that sunk the Bismark* and executed the Taranto raid?

*Yes I know it was a group effort, but the Swordfish got in the single most telling blow.
And 14 U Boats

But hey it is not the dog in the fight. It is the fight in the dog. Just ask Sherman tank operators in Europe