Operation Rheinübung launches in April 1941

Medium case: Bismarck goes to port in France with damage from such a convoy battle. British launch a major bombing effort, keeping Bismarck non operational indefinitely, but diverting bombers from hitting Germany.
FWIW IOTL the RAF dispatched 3,599 aircraft sorties to Brest while The Twins were "in residence" of which 2,692 attacked and 53 were lost. 4,118 tons of bombs were unloaded over the town, docks and ships.

Source: Page 169 of German Capital Ships of World War Two by M. J. Whitley.
 
Might Gneisenau have missed being torpedoed and sortied to meet Bismarck and Prinz Eugen?
The paragraph after the one I quoted in Post 12 said.
As originally conceived, the sortie envisaged one battle group sailing from Germany, centred around Bismarck, while a second group consisting of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau would sail from Brest in order to obtain maximum disruptive effect and success against the convoy routes. However, Scharnhorst developed defects and was not expected to be operational for some months. Nevertheless, the plans were modified to include only Gneisenau from Brest. She would later join up with the Bismarck group, possibly after a sweep between the Cape Verde islands and the Azores. Hardly was the ink dry on these orders [written on 2nd April 1941] than Gneisenau was seriously damaged by a torpedo (see Chapter 16). Now only Bismarck and Prinz Eugen remained in the operation despite renewed pleas from the commanding officer of Tirpitz.
Having read the account of the raid of 6th April in Whitley (Page 163) I'll take back what I wrote in Post 20 and say that ITTL Gneisenau destroyed the sole Beaufort that was able to get in an attack before it could launch its torpedo instead of afterwards. However, the bombs that hit the ship on the night of 10th/11th April IOTL would have to miss the ship ITTL as well.

However, Hood, King George V, Repulse and Renown were taking turns to blockade Brest in April 1941 so she might not get very far.
 
The S+G raid did for sure. I though Bismarck was to engage British Battleships???? (I could be remembering wrong though)
The problem German ships have is one of Geography

Bismarck proved difficult to sink but easy to degrade and as the British already knew it did not take much damage to drastically degrade a warship

A couple of 15" green boy hits and she is off to Brest - where German ships were continuously attacked.

So she might unlike the twins take on an R class but its a Royal Navy battleship - it will be shooting back with a worked up crew!
 

tigercat

Kicked
Training levels are often ignored especially when I see people singing praises of Bismarck on Facebook.

Some one asked why Hessen survived the war if she was a target ship ignoring how Target ships worked but it does underline fact that Germans didn't have as many opportunities for gunnery training as the RN
 
Probably good news for HMS Hood, even a minor time shift probably means Bismarck doesn't get the 'golden BB' assuming Hood did encounter her.
If the ship deployments during April 1941 on Naval History Net are correct Hood (followed by King George V) is the most likely ship to intercept Bismarck and Prinz Eugen in the Denmark Strait ITTL. They're the operational capital ships in the vicinity of Scapa Flow in the second half of April 1941.

Renown and Repulse are taking turns travelling between Gibraltar and Brest. IMHO Prince of Wales and Victorious are not sufficiently worked up to be used.
 
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The movements of Furious, Prince of Wales and Victorious in April 1941 are in Post 2 of this thread.

These are the movements for Malaya, Ramillies, Resolution, Revenge and Royal Sovereign in April 1941 from Naval History Net.

Malaya in April 1941
  • 6th - Arrived at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and taken in hand for repair. She was the first RN vessel to be repaired/refitted in the USA in World War 2.
  • She didn't return to the UK until August 1941.
Ramillies in April 1941
  • 3rd - At 1245 hours 360 miles south of St Johns in company with the French submarine SURCOUF, she joined AMC WOLFE escorting convoy HX118.
  • 9th - Early in the day she detached from HX118 and drew ahead and at 0600 hours in position 53,30N 37,19W joined AMC SALOPIAN escorting convoy SC27.
  • At 1400 hours she detached from SC27 and rejoined HX118 as HX118 was overtaking SC37.
  • 10th - At 0530 hours in position 58,10N 33,57W RAMILLIES and SURCOUF detached from HX118. RAMILLIES returned to St Johns.
  • 30th - At 0730 hours she joined AMC DERBYSHIRE escorting convoy HX123.
Resolution in April 1941
  • 5th - Sailed from the Clyde in company with destroyer LEGION, Polish destroyers ORP GARLAND and PIORUN and French destroyer FS LEOPARD escorting a troop convoy to Iceland.
  • 9th - Arrived at Hvalfjord.
  • 10th - Sailed from Hvalfjord for Halifax in company with AMC DERBYSHIRE escorted by destroyers ACTIVE and ECHO.
  • 16th - Arrived at Halifax.
  • 17th - Sailed from Halifax for Philadelphia.
  • 20th - Arrived at US naval dockyard Philadelphia.
  • (The first 4 ex US Coastguard Cutters, BANFF, CULVER, FISHGUARD and HARTLAND were handed over to the RN on 30/4/41 and Captain A.F.E. Pallister DSO RN the CO of MALAYA, under repair at Brooklyn Navy Yard, accepted the cutters on behalf of the RN. Some of the crews for the cutters were drawn from RESOLUTION, MALAYA and ILLUSTRIOUS )
Revenge in April 1941
  • 1st – REVENGE and the MV GEORGIC arrived at Halifax.
  • (At Halifax General Wladyslaw Sikorski disembarked and proceeded to Ottawa for talks with the Canadian Government. He then went to Washington where he had talks with President Roosevelt)
  • 6th - Convoys HX 119A and HX 119B sailed from Halifax.
  • 7th – REVENGE sailed from Halifax.
  • 8th – REVENGE joined the combined convoy HX 119 at sea and with AMC AURANIA was the ocean escort for the convoy.
  • 11th – REVENGE detached from HX 119 and returned to Halifax.
  • 13th – Arrived back at Halifax.
  • 18th – Sailed from Halifax to join convoy HX 121 (HX 121 had sailed from Halifax on 16/4/41)
  • 19th – Joined AMC CALIFORNIA as ocean escort of convoy HX 121.
  • 23rd – REVENGE detached from HX 121 and returned to Halifax.
  • 26th – Arrived back at Halifax.
Royal Sovereign in April 1941
  • 5th – ROYAL SOVEREIGN arrived back at Halifax.
  • 11th – At 1030 hours ROYAL SOVEREIGN sailed from Halifax to RV with convoy HX 120. Convoy HX 120 had sailed from Halifax on 10/4/41. [convoy HX 120 transported the first priority equipment supplied under lease-lend agreements]
  • 12th – At 1200 hours in position 42-44N, 56-16W, ROYAL SOVEREIGN and the AMC LACONIA RVed with convoy HX 120.
  • 13th – At 1200 hours in approximate position 43-30N, 51W, ROYAL SOVEREIGN joined the escort of convoy SC 28. Convoy SC 28 had sailed from Halifax on 9/4/41 and at the time was very close to convoy HX 120.
  • 19th – At 1500 hours the two convoy HX 120 and SC 28 which had been close now commenced to form one convoy with the HX 120 section ahead.
  • 20th – At 2000 hours in position 55-44N, 36-37W, ROYAL SOVEREIGN detached from the combined convoy and returned to Halifax.
  • 25th - ROYAL SOVEREIGN arrived back at Halifax.
  • 30th - ROYAL SOVEREIGN sailed from Halifax to join convoy HX 124 that had sailed earlier in the day from Halifax.
Of the remaining capital ships and aircraft carriers.
  • Barham, Valiant and Warspite were with the Mediterranean Fleet.
  • Eagle was initially with the Mediterranean Fleet, but moved onto the Red Sea and then the Indian Ocean.
  • Hermes was in the Persian Gulf in April 1941.
 

Sargon

Donor
Monthly Donor
Might have a worse result for Bismarck if KGV and Hood intercept her. Most probably not going to have a golden shot this time, and KGV is more worked up than POW was, so perhaps more hits are landed by the British. Maybe Prinz Eugen even gets hit this time around.

However, anything can happen. She could slip past, get out and make it back.


Sargon
 

thaddeus

Donor
Having thought about it more... The Germans might want Bismarck to be spotted by the Swedes ITTL. That's to draw off the ships blockading Brest to enable Gneisenau to break out.
along those lines, I've always wondered about the Tirpitz being sent out as well, not into the Atlantic but to confuse the issue? or is it too dangerous?
 
along those lines, I've always wondered about the Tirpitz being sent out as well, not into the Atlantic but to confuse the issue? or is it too dangerous?
Raeder wouldn't let Tirpitz take part in the sortie IOTL because she wasn't sufficiently worked up. She had less time to work up for the TTL sortie. 5 weeks less.

Therefore, not a chance. Even if the plan is that Tirpitz only goes as far as Iceland before returning to Germany.
 
Might have a worse result for Bismarck if KGV and Hood intercept her. Most probably not going to have a golden shot this time, and KGV is more worked up than POW was, so perhaps more hits are landed by the British. Maybe Prinz Eugen even gets hit this time around.

However, anything can happen. She could slip past, get out and make it back.

Sargon
Highly plausible if the German ships are spotted in time for the two ships to be combined and sent to guard the Denmark Strait.

OTOH IOTL the British high command wasn't sure that the ships would go through the Denmark Strait. Hood and Prince of Wales were sent to guard the Denmark Strait while King George V, Renown and Victorious covered between Iceland and the Faeroe Islands.

However, ITTL it's 5 weeks earlier. Renown's somewhere between Brest & Gibraltar and I think Prince of Wales & Victorious won't be used. Tovey might think that he can't take the risk of concentrating Hood and King George V in the Denmark Strait.

In that case it's Holland with Hood and the destroyer escort. My guess is that he'll concentrate the forces he has. That is he won't detach the destroyers and cooperate with Norfolk and Suffolk which were the cruisers patrolling the Denmark Strait in April 1941 too.
 

thaddeus

Donor
The Germans never really did figure out what to do with their heavies. Sending a pair of 50,000 ton, $79M dollar (at the German official rate of $2.49 = 1 RM at time of construction) battleships out to attack convoys has got to be one of the dumbest strategic visions of the last couple centuries even before considering that the enemy can concentrate three or four hunter-killer SAG that can out gun them.

As more or less worthless as true warships the Deutschland (too slow to be a cruiser, too weakly armed to be a capital ship) class panzerschiffs may have been, they were at least ideally designed as surface raiders (and all five ships in the class cost as much as a single Bismarck class). They were fast enough to get away from any of the RN battleships before the KGV class and well armed enough that a pair of them could outfight a convoy screen unless a capital ship was assigned. You don't want to lose them by any stretch of the imagination but trading one for a half dozen cargo ships and probably two or three frigates or destroyers or the merchant ships and an enemy cruiser (in a two ship attack) can be seen as a worst case, with convoys scattered a la PQ 17 across the North Atlantic and easy picking from U-boats and Condors being the best case.

Still, Tirpitz was, hands down, the best investment the Wehrmacht made in the entire war. Tied down a quarter of the Royal Navy heavies for the better part of the war simply by sitting at anchor in Norway.

once the invasion of the USSR had been decided on, cannot understand, no matter how valuable the convoy was, sending the Bismarck on a raiding mission? the possibility of "Arctic Convoys" was known to them, shouldn't they have wanted the Bismarck and Tirpitz as a kind of checkmate on that?

not sure the proper successor to the panzefschiffe? something that could have operated in tandem with the u-boats, and have some seaplane handling capacity?
 

CalBear

Moderator
Donor
Monthly Donor
Considering how thing ended for Graff Spee it is worth considering if the entire panzerschiff concept was viable. The idea was that it could outfight enemy cruisers but an undergunned/underweight pair of 6" cruisers and a VASTLY undergunned/underweight 8" cruiser managed to do all that was necessary, damage her badly enough to make the chances of ever returning home minimal.. That was despite the ship being close to 50% over "official" weight (14,700 tons standard vs. 10,000 tons standard on paper).

A much better design, assuming a heavy surface raider was seen as useful (I rather fall into the "how fast can we break these things up and reuse the steel for U-Boats" school of thought) would have been something similar to the Japanese Tone class, except with more bunkerage. Fast as a thief (35+ knots), 4x2 20.3 cm guns, MASSIVE torpedo armament if faced with a strong opponent (4x3 610mm tubes for Long Lances and a full set of reloads) with a designed complement of six seaplanes. If that design is used as a raider it is going to be a serious unlucky (or incompetent) captain that is going to be run to ground.
 

tigercat

Kicked
I wonder if that was part of why Graf Zeppelin was designed with such a heavy gun armament

So she could be a commerce raider

The Allies have one less carrier available with no Victorious so really need Ark Royal to carry out a successful strike

If the changes butterflies away the abortive attack on HMS Sheffield then they don't necessarily swap the magnetic torpedo pistols for contact ones
 
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Considering how thing ended for Graff Spee it is worth considering if the entire panzerschiff concept was viable. The idea was that it could outfight enemy cruisers but an undergunned/underweight pair of 6" cruisers and a VASTLY undergunned/underweight 8" cruiser managed to do all that was necessary, damage her badly enough to make the chances of ever returning home minimal.. That was despite the ship being close to 50% over "official" weight (14,700 tons standard vs. 10,000 tons standard on paper).

A much better design, assuming a heavy surface raider was seen as useful (I rather fall into the "how fast can we break these things up and reuse the steel for U-Boats" school of thought) would have been something similar to the Japanese Tone class, except with more bunkerage. Fast as a thief (35+ knots), 4x2 20.3 cm guns, MASSIVE torpedo armament if faced with a strong opponent (4x3 610mm tubes for Long Lances and a full set of reloads) with a designed complement of six seaplanes. If that design is used as a raider it is going to be a serious unlucky (or incompetent) captain that is going to be run to ground.
What about the Gneisenau? Wasn't it an acceptable compromise?
Personally, I think the Hipper class was a waste of ressources, same for the light cruisers and to a degree, the huge twins. I would have focused on more Deutchlands thens Gneisenaus plus 1936 Destroyers (and rebuilt 1934 ones). Less models, easier logistics, utlimately more ships.
After all, before Reader, the Reichsmarine was focusing on developping a Raiding strategy for decades (pun not intented). Reader practically screwed it all up, leaving the Kriegsmarine with no real strategy or doctrine.

PS: the Japanese Tone-class had the advantage of having true DP 127mm guns. The Germans were only really planning to have these for the 1944 Destroyers. Surely it saves weight for the Deutchlands and Gneisenaus but can the Germans have them for 1938/1939?
 
Might have a worse result for Bismarck if KGV and Hood intercept her. Most probably not going to have a golden shot this time, and KGV is more worked up than POW was, so perhaps more hits are landed by the British. Maybe Prinz Eugen even gets hit this time around.
I've looked further into this.

These are the dates from Bismarck and Prinz Eugen leaving Gotenhafen to the Battle of the Denmark Strait IOTL and the dates if they left Gotenhafen 35 days earlier.

Operatona Rhineland to the Battle of the Denmark Strait.png

NB I know that it's unlikely that it would be exactly like that due to the longer days and different weather (for two things there will be others) but it's the best I can do and does give us a rough guide.

These are Hood's OTL movements between 6th and 21st April 1941 IOTL.
  • 6th - At 0815 hours arrived at Scapa Flow escorted by destroyers ELECTRA, ESCAPADE, and TARTAR.
    • (At 0900/6/4/41 the CinC HF in KING GEORGE V divided the area off Brest into 4 sectors A to D each 15º between bearings 213º and 273º, mean distance from Brest 560 miles.
    • At 1535/6/4/41 the Admiralty signalled “Consider battlecruisers will probably leave Brest tonight”. This was because the GNEISENAU had moved out of dry dock into the inner harbour; which was in fact due to a 250lb UXB in the dock.)
    • At 1946 hours sailed from Scapa Flow escorted by destroyers ZULU, MAORI and ARROW and sailed for position 50N, 20W in sector C off Brest.
    • (At 0602/7/4/41 GNEISENAU was hit in the stern, and put out of action for 7 months, by a torpedo dropped by Bristol Beaufort OA-X of 22 Squadron RAF flown by F.O. Kenneth Campbell, who was posthumously awarded the VC. However, this was not known to the Admiralty for some time)
  • 8th - At 0800 hours arrived at position 54N, 15-30W to commence patrol.
  • 8th - At 1200 hours in position 50N, 21W RVed with cruiser KENYA.
  • 10th - Destroyers ARROW and COSSACK detached to refuel at Londonderry.
  • 11th - At 0800 hours the refuelled destroyers ARROW and COSSACK from Londonderry rejoined. Following which destroyers MAORI and ZULU detached to refuel at Londonderry
  • 13th - The refuelled destroyers MAORI and ZULU from Londonderry rejoined.
  • 15th - At 0630 hours arrived back at Scapa Flow escorted by destroyers COSSACK, ZULU, and MAORI. ARROW, who was unable to maintain the speed and had been detached, arrived at Scapa Flow later.
  • 18th - At 1645 hours sailed from Scapa Flow in company with cruiser KENYA and destroyers COSSACK, MAORI and ZULU for the Biscay patrol to relieve KING GEORGE V.
  • 19th - At 0120 hours following Admiralty order the HOOD force were diverted to Hvalfjord. (This deployment was to counter any attempt by the German battleship BISMARCK to break out into the Atlantic. Following a report of a German force passing through the Skagerrak)
  • 21st - At 1000 hours arrived at Hvalfjord in company with COSSACK, INGLEFIELD, MAORI and ZULU.
These are King George V's movements between 13th and 22nd April 1941 IOTL.
  • 13th - At 0107 hours KING GEORGE V, light cruiser NIGERIA, and destroyers MASHONA, ELECTRA and ESCAPADE departed Scapa Flow for position 46-30N, 18-10W to mount patrol off the Bay of Biscay. At 1800 hours position 57-48N, 9-35W.
  • 14th - At 0515 hours unidentified aircraft sighted passing from port to starboard. At 0611 hours sighted a large group of unidentified aircraft passing from starboard to port. At 0618 sighted destroyers HMCS SAGUENAY and RESTIGOUCHE bearing 110¼. At 1039 hours radar reported single aircraft bearing 282¼, 14 miles. At 1130 hours position 54-44N, 12-39W.
  • 15th - At 0800 hours position 50-30N, 19-14W, course 227¼, speed 19 knots. At 1045 hours destroyers MASHONA, ELECTRA and ESCAPADE were detached to refuel at Londonderry.
  • 16th - At 0900 hours position 46-28N, 18-01W, course 220¼, speed 18 knots. At 0925 hours speed reduced to 17 knots due to heavy weather. At 1900 hours position 46-56N, 18-40W, and course 090¼.
  • 17th - At 0800 hours position 44-05N, 17-07W and course 320¼.
  • 18th - At 0800 hours position 44-37N, 17-48W, course 270¼, speed 18 knots.
    • (Late on the 18/4/41 the Admiralty received a report that German battleship BISMARCK, two cruisers, cruiser Leipzig class and three destroyers passed the Skaw early morning of 18/4/41 steering north west. This report was false, as at the time the BISMARCK was in the Baltic)
  • 19th - At 0001 hours position 45-31N, 17-21W and speed 21 knots. At 0150 hours altered course to 000¼ and increased speed to 20 knots to return to Scapa. At 0900 hours position 46-39N, 18-12W.
  • 20th - At 0900 hours position 49-46N, 20-53W, course 060¼, speed 17 knots. KING GEORGE V and NIGERIA was joined by destroyers ESCAPADE, ELECTRA and MASHONA from Londonderry. At 1342 hours position 49-24N, 20-49W, course 043¼, speed 17½ knots.
  • 21st - At 0350 hours received a report from CinC Western Approaches 0303/21; 'One Catalina aircraft missing. Following received at 0210/21 from Sunderland aircraft, begins: Distress flares seen in position 53-42N, 13-24W. No further news, searching, ends'. (This was Catalina AH 532 of 210 Squadron that was on an Atlantic Patrol from Loch Erne, N.I.) At 0628 hours altered course to 051¼ to search for missing Catalina. At 0900 hours altered course to 090¼. 0914 hours received Admiralty message 0909/21; 'Blue air raid message'. At 1213 hours KING GEORGE V opened fire with her 5.25in at aircraft identified as German.
  • 22nd - At 0700 hours position 58-37N, 7-37W, course 085¼, speed 17½ knots. At 1552 hours KING GEORGE V, light cruiser NIGERIA and destroyers ESCAPADE, ELECTRA and MASHONA arrived at Scapa.
The source for both is Naval History Net.

I think it's quite likely that a Swedish warship would have sighted the German warships on 15th April, reasonable to expect a British reconnaissance aircraft to spot them in Grimstadfjord on 16th April and for Norfolk or Suffolk to spot them on 18th April. (I wrote in an earlier post that the two cruisers patrolled the Denmark Strait in April 1941 IOTL.)

Hood was at Scapa Flow on 15th April having arrived at 0630 the same day. My guess is that she'd be refuelled and ordered to sail for Hvalfjord PDQ. IOTL it took 2 days to sail from Scapa Flow to the Denmark Strait (22nd to 24th May 1941) so it looks like there's enough time for her to be in position on 19th April ITTL.

King George V was blockading The Twins in Brest on 18th April, she set course for Scapa Flow early the next day and was back at Scapa Flow on 22nd April, which was 4 days later. Those were her movements IOTL following the false alarm of 18th April 1941.

King George V was also blockading the Twins in Brest on 15th April. So it looks as if the ships were sighted by the Swedes on that day ITTL she could be at Scapa Flow on 19th April but there isn't time to get her to the Denmark Strait by that date.

I used this website to see what the positions in Naval History Net were on a map.

If my research and estimates are correct Hood would be fighting Bismarck and Prinz Eugen on 19th April 1941 without the support of King George V.
 
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tigercat

Kicked
The British wouldn't have known initially about Gneiseau's torpedo damage


The pilot who successfully carried out the attack was awarded the VC but the British only found out the details from the Resistance

The Germans buried Campbell and his three crew mates, Sergeants J. P. Scott DFM RCAF (navigator),[5] R. W. Hillman (wireless operator) and W. C. Mulliss (air gunner), with full military honours. His valour was only recognised when the French Resistance managed to pass along news of his brave deeds to Britain.[3]

I suppose they would have seen her move back into dry dock

Plus they wouldn't have known about the Scharnhorst boiler issues

But they would have had to leave something to cover Brest
 
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Coulsdon Eagle

Monthly Donor
The British wouldn't have known initially about Gneiseau's torpedo damage


The pilot who successfully carried out the attack was awarded the VC but the British only found out the details from the Resistance

The Germans buried Campbell and his three crew mates, Sergeants J. P. Scott DFM RCAF (navigator),[5] R. W. Hillman (wireless operator) and W. C. Mulliss (air gunner), with full military honours. His valour was only recognised when the French Resistance managed to pass along news of his brave deeds to Britain.[3]

I suppose they would have seen her move back into dry dock

But they would have had to leave something to cover Brest
Always wondered why only the pilot (& only officer) was awarded the VC. Unless the rest of the crew were screaming at him not to do it & throw away their lives (which would never be known) I assume that all of them agreed tacitly or not to make the attack run with little room to recover.
 
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