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Operation Rheinübung ("Rhine Exercise")

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  • Operation Rheinübung ("Rhine Exercise")

    The original plan was to send a powerful battle group comprising the newly commissioned battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz accompanied by the heavy battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau into the Atlantic to attack supply convoys bound for England.The operation however began to fall apart almost from the outset as Scharnhorst was forced to undergo major machinery repairs and Gneisenau was seriously damaged by RAF torpedo and bomber strikes. The Tirpitz was then scratched from the operation as she had not yet completed her sea trials. As a result the German force was greatly reduced to Bismarck and the newly commissioned cruiser Prinz Eugen.

    My question is What if the Germans were capable of launching their original operation, would they have succeded in destroying the British convoy system?.

    Taken from:

    http://www.greatmilitarybattles.com/..._bismarck.html
    Last edited by ITALICA ONE; 08 Sep 12, 20:17.

  • #2
    Small correction, the Prinz at 16000 BRT was any thing but a light cruiser. It was equal in tonnage with the USN's Baltimore Class. Nothing light about it. Additionaly the Prinz was the older of the two ships, Bismark/Prinz Eugen.
    Last edited by Half Pint John; 08 Sep 12, 17:40.
    "Ask not what your country can do for you"

    Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

    you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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    • #3
      Better coordination with the U-boats might have helped them, twice RN units were spotted by Uboats with no torpedoes.

      One Wolfpack in the right place could have made for a hell of an ambush.

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      • #4
        Prinz Eugen

        Originally posted by Half Pint John View Post
        Small correction, the Prinz at 16000 BRT was any thing but a light cruiser. It was equal in tonnage with the USN's Baltimore Class. Nothing light about it. Additionaly the Prinz was the older of the two ships, Bismark/Prinz Eugen.
        So the Prinz was older, do you know her comision date?, i had never heard of her until the Bismarck operation.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by ITALICA ONE View Post
          So the Prinz was older, do you know her comision date?, i had never heard of her until the Bismarck operation.
          Laid down in 1936 and launched in 1938. Bismarck launched in 1939, but both commissioned in 1940.
          Eagles may fly; but weasels aren't sucked into jet engines!

          "I'm not expendable; I'm not stupid and I'm not going." - Kerr Avon, Blake's 7

          What didn't kill us; didn't make us smarter.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Exorcist View Post
            Better coordination with the U-boats might have helped them...
            Command and control systems, at least German ones, were not up to this task at the time. As demonstrated at the Battle of the North Cape, where U-boats in the area were ordered not to attack any surface warship in the area of the battle for fear of a 'friendly fire' incident.
            Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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            • #7
              Since you can't hide a fleet that size the Germans would have found empty seas as far the convoys go. They would have been directed south or otherwise out of the way. British patrol craft and CVs scout and track the fleet until the RN concentrates for the surface battle (supported by a/c attacks from the CV). Expensive to beat but the Germans do not have the numbers and the 11" guns on the Sch. and Gneis. are not up to dueling with British 14", 15" and 16" heavies (as events later in the Arctic would show).
              The Purist

              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                Since you can't hide a fleet that size the Germans would have found empty seas as far the convoys go. They would have been directed south or otherwise out of the way. British patrol craft and CVs scout and track the fleet until the RN concentrates for the surface battle (supported by a/c attacks from the CV). Expensive to beat but the Germans do not have the numbers and the 11" guns on the Sch. and Gneis. are not up to dueling with British 14", 15" and 16" heavies (as events later in the Arctic would show).
                If Bismarck alone did that much damage and tied up so much of the RN resources, with even just the Tirpitz in support, the Germans may have given the British a crushing defeat.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by ITALICA ONE View Post
                  The original plan was to send a powerful battle group comprising the newly commissioned battleships Bismarck and Tirpitz accompanied by the heavy battle cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau into the Atlantic to attack supply convoys bound for England.The operation however began to fall apart almost from the outset as Scharnhorst was forced to undergo major machinery repairs and Gneisenau was seriously damaged by RAF torpedo and bomber strikes. The Tirpitz was then scratched from the operation as she had not yet completed her sea trials. As a result the German force was greatly reduced to Bismarck and the newly commissioned cruiser Prinz Eugen.

                  My question is What if the Germans were capable of launching their original operation, would they have succeded in destroying the British convoy system?.

                  Taken from:

                  http://www.greatmilitarybattles.com/..._bismarck.html
                  Temporary disruption, perhaps, but destruction, no. The British convoy system was far too complex, with far too many routes of ingress and egress for a single German naval task force to have destroyed them all, even with the aid of U-Boat wolfpacks.. Even with the worst case scenerio of a British convoy's destruction, that radioed information would have been enough to to vector in Royal Navy warships from all points of the compass to deal with the marauding German warships.
                  "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                  • #10
                    I have to agree. At best they could have killed one convoy. Hardly a good exchange for their whole navy.
                    Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedy. -- Ernest Benn

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
                      Temporary disruption, perhaps, but destruction, no. The British convoy system was far too complex, with far too many routes of ingress and egress for a single German naval task force to have destroyed them all, even with the aid of U-Boat wolfpacks.. Even with the worst case scenerio of a British convoy's destruction, that radioed information would have been enough to to vector in Royal Navy warships from all points of the compass to deal with the marauding German warships.
                      Nobody seems to think the German task force would have stood a chance or even give the Royal Navy much of a problem, when Bismark alone sank the Hood and then crippled the Prince of Wales. I do believe however that in the end the RN would have been victorious, but I think the British would have come out of a pitched battle suffering severe losses.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ITALICA ONE View Post
                        Nobody seems to think the German task force would have stood a chance or even give the Royal Navy much of a problem, when Bismark alone sank the Hood and then crippled the Prince of Wales. I do believe however that in the end the RN would have been victorious, but I think the British would have come out of a pitched battle suffering severe losses.
                        The Hood was a Battle cruiser fighting a Battleship it was fighting above its weight class. When the RN put together ships designed to fight Battleships the Bismarck came out on the short end.
                        Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedy. -- Ernest Benn

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Tsar View Post
                          The Hood was a Battle cruiser fighting a Battleship it was fighting above its weight class. When the RN put together ships designed to fight Battleships the Bismarck came out on the short end.
                          Rather quickly as well. While Bismarck took time to sink she was disarmed in relatively short order. In a general fleet action against two BBs with two BCs and CA, the British would not stop to sink but they would cripple, then polish off the fleet once the guns are out of action. The British might lose one or two heavies (Hood was a lucky hit after all) and have some others banged up but the weight of firepower is with the British as are the CVs.
                          The Purist

                          Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by ITALICA ONE View Post
                            Nobody seems to think the German task force would have stood a chance or even give the Royal Navy much of a problem, when Bismark alone sank the Hood and then crippled the Prince of Wales. I do believe however that in the end the RN would have been victorious, but I think the British would have come out of a pitched battle suffering severe losses.
                            Bismarck wasn't alone. That fatal hit on Hood is often credited to KMS Prinz Eugen (of course, a heavy cruiser). And Bismarck was crippled herself - more than POW - because she had to return from her mission after her action at the battle of Denmark Strait. As of Bismarck's firing accuracy: she was unable to score any hit at a RN battleship during her last battle.

                            PS. Tell me please English language experts, how is it correct to say - "hit on" or "hit at"?
                            "Keep Calm. Use Less X's"

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                            • #15
                              dmfm01, it would be "on", when appropriate:

                              BISMARCK hit HOOD.
                              BISMARCK achieved a hit on HOOD. (Isn't English wonderful? )

                              As for the original question, the disruption of convoy services would be temporary. If for no other reason than simple necessity. Despite some severe losses on the Murmansk route, the convoys were still sent.

                              As for the fleet engagement that this operation initiates; if the Royal Navy doesn't win it outright*, the German task force will have some damaged shps. After that, the rest of the group becomes escorts for the wounded and the force makes its' way to Brest or back to Norway. The RN slaps a blockade in place and we end up with the survivors acting as a 'fleet in being'. History repeats itself (more or less).

                              *A "win" for the RN would be the same as historical, a 1:1 loss ratio is acceptable. Just as BISMARCK for HOOD. The RN has a deeper pool of capital ships afloat and building than the Kriegsmarine.
                              Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study logistics.

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