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Second of the Scharnhorst class, Gneisenau was an unlucky ship, meeting her demise as an active combat ship due to an unlucky bomb hit in February 1942, after the Channel Dash. However, perusing her Wikipedia page, this comes up:


After arriving in Brest, Gneisenau was the subject of repeated British air raids. The first attack took place on the night of 30–31 March, and a second occurred on 4–5 April. During this second raid, a 227 kg (500 lb) armor-piercing (AP) bomb narrowly missed the ship. As a result of the attacks, the ship was moved out of the dry dock and moved to the harbor.[28] On 6 April, Gneisenau was attacked by British torpedo bombers, which managed to score a single hit.[29] The Bristol Beaufort that struck the ship was piloted by Flying Officer Kenneth Campbell.[30] The torpedo struck Gneisenau in the vicinity of the rear main battery turret. Some 3,050 t (3,000 long tons) of water flooded the ship and caused a 2 degree list to starboard. The flooding also disabled several components of the ship's propulsion system. The explosion caused significant destruction to the side plating as well as the starboard and centerline propeller shafts. The concussive shock also caused widespread damage to the ship's electronic components. A salvage tug came alongside to assist in the pumping effort. Following the attack, Gneisenau returned to the drydock for repairs.[31]

Three days later, on the night of 9–10 April, several British bombers dropped around 25 t (25 long tons) of 227 kg AP bombs on the ship, four of which hit. All four hit the starboard side of the forward superstructure. Two of the bombs exploded on the main armor deck while the other two failed to detonate. The attack killed 72 initially and wounded 90, of whom 16 later died of their injuries. The bombs slightly damaged the main armor deck and caused some structural damage on the starboard side. It was decided to make alterations to the ship while she was drydocked for repairs; these included the installation of fourteen additional 2 cm anti-aircraft guns and six 53.3 cm torpedo tubes amidships. The aircraft hangar was rearranged, and the catapult that had been mounted on top of it was removed. The length of repairs and modifications precluded participation in Operation Rheinübung, the sortie by the new battleship Bismarck in May 1941. The British continued to attack the ship in drydock, though no further damage was done.[32] On 6 February 1942, a bomb fell close to Gneisenau, but caused no damage.
[33]

What if the bold bits don't happen? Note that the RAF Brest raids were notoriously difficult and innacurate and so I do not think it unlikely that Gneisenau dodges damage in April. After all, Scharnhorst, which was also in Brest during the same period for engine repairs, suffered no damage at all in these raids and only was damaged in July when she went to conduct speed trials in La Pallice.

I suppose that, while Gneisenau is in harbor, the Kriegsmarine will still modify her along the lines in red above. This should still allow her to participate in - you guessed it - Operation Rheinübung in May. As it was Raeder wanted her to participate so this is in line with OTL Kriegsmarine planning.

What next?
 
As an adddendum, Gneisenau was the shortest-ranged of the Kriegsmarine's battleships, with a range of 6200 nautical miles at 19 knots according to Wikipedia. This is even less than that of an Admiral Hipper-class heavy cruiser. How do you think this will impact logistics? For example, where would the ideal rendezvous with Lütjens' battle group be?
 
GluckStein was just a target for the heavier British naval guns , it will serve no purpose in any fleet engagement
I know that. However, she will be sortieing from Brest as an independent raider, NOT as part of Lütjens' force. This will disrupt the Royal Navy's plans; for example, Force H may not be sent to chase down Bismarck.

Also, bear in mind that if Gneisenau effects a successful rendezvous, her extra AA might just be enough to see off Ark Royal's Swordfish.
 
Perhaps - but which convoys are in the Atlantic at the time? For example, would Revenge and Ramillies be detached from their convoys to hunt Bismarck as IOTL? And what of Force H?
Its a Triage thing

All British BBs can fight off the Twins (as they are armed with 11" guns) - however all of the Jutland Vets would struggle (read be out matched) verses Bismarck with its 15" guns

So focus on Bismarck
 
Perhaps - but which convoys are in the Atlantic at the time? For example, would Revenge and Ramillies be detached from their convoys to hunt Bismarck as IOTL? And what of Force H?
Winston Special 8B UK to Alexandria. The largest military convoy of the war to date.

Including HMS Argus operating as a Ferry with a full deck park carrying something like 35 planes to fly overland across Africa from Free town to the middle east.

A Veteran of HMS Exeter has said that there was a ful armoured division aboard. I have seen other references to over 100 tanks being in the holds of the ships and a good number of infantry so it may be replacements rather than a full armoured division.

It left Britain with Repulse and Victorious of the Home Fleet before they were called away. Was supposed to link up with Renown and Ark Royal for a period but Force H was diverted to the general hunt for Bismarck.

I've seen two reports from crew members aboard HMS Exeter (maybe two reports from 1 crew member) that the crew of all ships on the convoy believe that Bismarck was coming for them specifically. There's no evidence of this but rumours during wartime.
 
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If Gneisenau isn't damaged Raeder might decide to postpone Rheinübung until Scharnhorst was ready in July or August 1941 with the bonus that Tirpitz would be ready too. The disadvantages of waiting were that Prince of Wales and Victorious would be fully worked up, more ships and aircraft would have radar and there would be more Caltalinas in Coastal Command.
 
If Gneisenau isn't damaged Raeder might decide to postpone Rheinübung until Scharnhorst was ready in July or August 1941 with the bonus that Tirpitz would be ready too. The disadvantages of waiting were that Prince of Wales and Victorious would be fully worked up, more ships and aircraft would have radar and there would be more Caltalinas in Coastal Command.
I doubt this would happen. Raeder knows Barbarossa is going to happen in June, after which Kriegsmarine fuel will be severely curtailed. It's now or never for the operation.

Hell, if Gneisenau doesn't get damaged in April, Rheinübung might even be brought forwards. See:


The Naval High Command (Oberkommando der Marine or OKM), commanded by Admiral Erich Raeder, intended to continue the practice of using heavy ships as surface raiders against Allied merchant traffic in the Atlantic Ocean. The two Scharnhorst-class battleships were based in Brest, France, at the time, having just completed Operation Berlin, a major raid into the Atlantic. Bismarck's sister ship Tirpitz rapidly approached completion. Bismarck and Tirpitz were to sortie from the Baltic and rendezvous with the two Scharnhorst-class ships in the Atlantic; the operation was initially scheduled for around 25 April 1941, when a new moon period would make conditions more favourable.

If Gneisenau is still ready to sortie, and as Prinz Eugen is fully worked up by this point as well, Raeder might just send them out - in which case we cancel out PoW and Victorious. OTOH, Prinz Eugen might still hit the mine on 23 April and delay the sortie.
 
Winston Special 8B UK to Alexandria. The largest military convoy of the war to date.

Including HMS Argus operating as a Ferry with a full deck park carrying something like 35 planes to fly overland across Africa from Free town to the middle east.

A Veteran of HMS Exeter has said that there was a ful armoured division aboard. I have seen other references to over 100 tanks being in the holds of the ships and a good number of infantry so it may be replacements rather than a full armoured division.

It left Britain with Repulse and Victorious of the Home Fleet before they were called away. Was supposed to link up with Renown and Ark Royal for a period but Force H was diverted to the general hunt for Bismarck.

I've seen two reports from crew members aboard HMS Exeter (maybe two reports from 1 crew member) that the crew of all ships on the convoy believe that Bismarck was coming for them specifically. There's no evidence of this but rumours during wartime.
The period of interest being 18 to 27 May, the escort for WS 8B is as follows: https://www.naval-history.net/xAH-WSConvoys04-1941A.htm

CA:
HMS Exeter (York-class, 6 x 8", 6 x 21" TT))
CL:
HMS Cairo (C-class, AA conversion, 8 x 4", no TT)
DD:
HMS Cossack (Tribal-class, 6 x 4.7", 2 x 4", 4 x 21" TT)
HMS Eridge (Hunt-class, 6 x 4", no TT)
HMS Maori (Tribal-class, 6 x 4.7", 2 x 4", 4 x 21" TT)
HMCS Ottawa (C-class, 4 x 4.7", 4 x 21" TT)
ORP Piorun (N-class, 6 x 4.7", 5 x 21" TT)
HMS Sikh (Tribal-class, 6 x 4.7", 2 x 4", 4 x 21" TT)
HMCS Restigouche (C-class, 4 x 4.7", 4 x 21" TT)
HMS Zulu (Tribal-class, 6 x 4.7", 2 x 4", 4 x 21" TT)

Thus, even without support from the Home Fleet or from Force H, I still think this force would have been enough to scare off Gneisenau, due to the EIGHT damned destroyers, four of which are very dangerous Tribals and one of which is the crazy Piorun.
 
Thus, even without support from the Home Fleet or from Force H, I still think this force would have been enough to scare off Gneisenau, due to the EIGHT damned destroyers, four of which are very dangerous Tribals and one of which is the crazy Piorun.
5 of those destroyers left the convoy historically. I guess we assume that Gneisenau being loose prevents them from being dispatched.
 
If Gneisenau isn't damaged Raeder might decide to postpone Rheinübung until Scharnhorst was ready in July or August 1941 with the bonus that Tirpitz would be ready too. The disadvantages of waiting were that Prince of Wales and Victorious would be fully worked up, more ships and aircraft would have radar and there would be more Caltalinas in Coastal Command.
I don't think Tirpitz was ready for battle much before early 1942 (she conducted a 3 day patrol around the Aaland islands between 23-26th Sept 41 in case of Russian Adventurism in the Baltic but afterwards returned to training)

In commission much earlier in 1941 yes but despite the 'send me in coach' quote from her captain she spent months working up and training her crew and it wold have been folly to have sent her into battle.

This obviously might have gone quicker had her sister ship and her crew been on hand to share their operation experience etc but OTL she was not 'ready for combat ops' until 10th Jan 1942 when she deployed to Norway

But every week they delay the British get stronger - HMS Duke of York commissions in late 41 as well (and with Bismarck still afloat POW might not get sent East?) - and leave it too long and the Worlds other largest fleet is fully in the game

Allied airpower is getting stronger and the weather and daylight hours improves for the next 4 months or so (from May 1941)

Delay only helps the Allies IMO
 
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