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Jutland What If

 
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tone
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PostPosted: Tue May 09, 2006 5:51 pm    Post subject: Jutland What If Reply with quote

I have a copy of the Jutland Despatches and it is hard to read this scattershot document without being again and again struck by the notion that an awful lot of RN vessels collided with large, unidentified wreckage during the course of the battle.

There are so many such incidents that it arouses the imagination of what might have happened had these collisions caused serious leakage in multiple compartments.

To illustrate: the Titanic sank after sustaining a total hull violation estimated to be less than 12 square feet -- that's less than a standard doorway in your home. What if whatever sunken vessel or floating wreckage that seemed to be the obstruction in just a single serial collision (at 8:40 PM) had likewise caused tearing along the length of the hulls of the vessels passing overhead?

The answer (potentially!) ... horrific consequences! Every single RN battlecruiser in rapid succession struck a vessel at 8:40 PM (plus HMS Shannon). Consider the odds of this happening, and as it in fact did happen, consider for a moment the next possibilty enabled by this occurrence -- the loss of the majority or even the totality of the British battlecruiser force!

I have a notion that the object struck in this event was HMS Queen Mary (or, less likely, HMS Indefatigable), but I can only say that it was some vessel sunk during the run to the south or in the associated actions, as this position loosely corresponds with the position of the RN battlecruisers at 8:40 PM as they completed the clockwise loop formed by the run to the north and their merging with the Grand Fleet as they enveloped the High Seas Fleet.

Here are the incredibly numerous events I tied into my (only mostly complete) reading of the Despatches:

Code:

Executive summary:

6.50 Revenge struck
7.47 Benbow felt a shock

----- these seem as though they might be the same obstruction being 
hit twice
8.0 Inconstant struck
8.0 Cordelia struck

----- these I judged to be all at the same time and possibly indicate 
a line of ships passing over the same single wreck (though I am 
unsure of Shannon's disposition)
8.37 Tiger struck
8.40 Lion struck
8.40 Princess Royal struck
8.40 Inflexible struck
8.40 Shannon struck
8.41 New Zealand struck
8.44 Indomitable struck

-----
11.15 Active struck
11.30 Colossus struck
4.0a  Malaya struck


And now, with more detail....

time, page(s) of Despatches, paraphrased event

6.50p 84 Revenge has officers and men in 4 separate locations feel a shock as if the ship had struck something. Curiously, this was "a few minutes after" Marlborough being torpedoed (right ahead). A "large patch of oil, with an upheaval in the middle, with portions of wreckage coming to the surface" was spotted. The officer seeing this presumed that the Revenge had rammed a submarine that had torpedoed Marlborough. (I suppose it possible this was Revenge seeing oil and wreckage expelled from Marlborough)

7.47p 128 Benbow reports "A trembling shock felt in TS"

8.0p 174 Inconstant reports that they struck or were struck by something

8.0p 174 Cordelia reports same. Submerged wreckage presumed

8.37p 157 Tiger jots "Felt a very heavy shock and had no doubt that the ship had been torpedoed. Enquiries gave no result, so I concluded that the ship must have struck something under water."

8.40p 145 Lion reports "a heavy bump was felt on the starboard side. This appeared to me like a heavy hit on the waterline but this was not the cause. It is possible Lion may have run over a sunken ship, and divers are examining her bottom. Shortly afterwards, Indomitable hauled out of line and reported that she had been torpedoed, which she subsequently negatived, which seems to imply that she had the same experience as Lion." I am not sure whether Indomitable was right astern Lion. I'll opine that the timing here (a reported 3 minutes after Tiger's encounter) is at odds with the fact that I presume Lion was ahead of Tiger and Tiger's reported time of destruction of Queen Mary is 3 minutes AFTER that recorded by Lion. This discrepancy, if both ships hit the same object, may be attributable to accuracy of book keeping.

8.40p 149,152,153 Princess Royal reported "Ship gave two very distinct shudders, which were at first thought to be a torpedo. This was afterwards ascertained to be incorrect." Her captain's report calls this "a very heavy shock" and guesses at running over a submarine or a sunken ship. Divers find minor damage to propellor blades.

8.40p 170,171 Inflexible's captain reports "a violent shock was felt underneath the ship and a large swirl of oil was observed about 100 yards on the starboard beam: this violent shock was presumably caused by the ship coming into collision with some wreckage." Later, he surmises that this "must have caused an indentation in the outer skin" but does not indicate whether any diving had yet occurred.

8.40p 281,284 Shannon struck some object which bumped along under the bottom. This was reported in foretop, TS and main top, as well as in many other areas of the ship. Suggestions of a submarine having been rammed and distinct reports of a grating sound against hull.

8.41p 161 New Zealand "appeared to strike something under water, but no damage. Observed what appeared to be a burst of air under water about 50 yards on starboard beam."

8.44p 166 Capt Kennedy of Indomitable writes "At 8.44 pm, Indomitable received so severe a shock that I was knocked off the compass platform. I thought that the ship had been mined or hit by a torpedo, but no damage has so far been discovered. I assume that we either hit some wreckage or a submarine."

11.15p 301 Active reports struck something, no leaking. Divers later discover 15 feet of bilge keel has been peeled back and is dangling.

11.30p 81,83 Colossus passed over something. Officers in 3 locations described it, as something scraped by. Divers found no damage to hull, but significant nicking of the propellors.

4.0 AM 223 Malaya officers in two places reported striking something on starboard side, followed by scraping along bottom. Inspection after the fact suggested a submarine owing to the depth of the scarring.

Discussion?

tone
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Adrian Dobb



Joined: 13 Nov 2005
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Location: Devon, UK

PostPosted: Sun May 14, 2006 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting post Tony. I haven't seen a copy of the despatches you refer to but I have seen such references as these quoted in various secondary sources, though not in such quantity as you list here.

My thoughts are that considering the large number of ships operating at high speeds in such close proximity to each other, it would seem likely that if there was a lot of submerged wreckage posing a real danger to navigation, then there would have been a number of ships actually suffering significant damage. It looks as if only the LC Active actually did so. There probably was a lot of less hazardous debris around, perhaps some of it floating or semi-submerged and I wonder if at 20 plus knots this would account for most of the bumps and scrapes?

I imagine another possibility is submerged explosions occuring in the wrecks. Given the shallow depth of the North sea nearby ships might well feel shocks and such like. This is just conjecture on my part.

In the midst of action it is also probably difficult to tell such incidents apart from the ongoing action, and timings are also likely to be unreliable. For such reasons I wouldn't like to go through all the reports and try to assign possible causes to them based on proximity to wrecks etc, or rule out enemy action in periods when ships were not under fire etc.

Still maybe as you suggest Beatty and Jellicoe got lucky after all!

Adrian
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tone
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PostPosted: Sun May 14, 2006 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adrian Dobb wrote:
Interesting post Tony. I haven't seen a copy of the despatches you refer to but I have seen such references as these quoted in various secondary sources, though not in such quantity as you list here.


This is why I think it is worth discussing. I never had an idea and never saw it mentioned just how many ships collided with not just flotsam but seemingly nearly intact sunken vessels during the course of the extended battle. Most particularly, I would voice the suspicion that every single battlecruiser still afloat is colliding with the inverted stern of HMS Queen Mary (or Indefatigable less probably) at 8.40 pm. That's a guess, but my reasoning is this:

a. divers found Queen Mary's bows blown off and her hull nearly capsized
b. QM is now fully 45 meters submerged at her highest point
c. the battlecruisers would have looped around to approximately the position at which Queen Mary had exploded
d. No one reported seeing the vessel struck

Take together, this makes me think the Queen Mary could have had her truncated bow stuck in the bottom with her air-filled stern still buoyantly reaching upward to the waves, with a capsized orientation acting to preserve her ability to retain air for the 3 hours or so since her explosion. A total guess, yes, and a bit colorful, but perhaps more likely than other possibilities unless one chooses to dismiss the 50 meter depth of this general area and the fact that no one observed any significant floating structures in the area of the impacts.

Quote:

My thoughts are that considering the large number of ships operating at high speeds in such close proximity to each other, it would seem likely that if there was a lot of submerged wreckage posing a real danger to navigation, then there would have been a number of ships actually suffering significant damage. It looks as if only the LC Active actually did so. There probably was a lot of less hazardous debris around, perhaps some of it floating or semi-submerged and I wonder if at 20 plus knots this would account for most of the bumps and scrapes?


Possibly, but how profound an impact would (say) a mast or cables make that an officer would be bodily knocked off his feet at the compass platform? But the impact did seem greatly different at different places (reports of having "surely been torpedoed" versus a nicked prop?!?!?).

Quote:

I imagine another possibility is submerged explosions occuring in the wrecks. Given the shallow depth of the North sea nearby ships might well feel shocks and such like. This is just conjecture on my part.


This was my first guess until I catalogued these. The reports of scraping are too numerous in most of the accounts to permit this to hold much water.

Quote:

Still maybe as you suggest Beatty and Jellicoe got lucky after all!


Well, I'd say they more accurately might have avoided being unlucky. The loop described by the tracks over the course of the battle was gigantic, and even a submerged capital ship is comparatively small. What are the odds every surviving battlecruiser would strike it? Very small, but I believe it quite possible that it happened -- even perhaps probable that it did.

tone
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Harley



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PostPosted: Sun May 14, 2006 11:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What would be useful is seeing the reports after each affected ship had been in dry dock after the battle. If something was struck which could cause the shocks, then any marks of sorts would have been left and subsequently noted, and no doubt subject to explaining.

Your theory certainly sounds plausible Tone. It certainly accounts for the severity of the shocks and the timing. One possibility is always of studying the hull of Queen Mary and looking for tell tale signs of collision, although no doubt the ravages of the sea will have obscured any by now.

Lord only knows what Active, Colossus and Malaya struck.

If only we had a simulator to re-enact the course of the battleline...
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jwduquette1



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PostPosted: Sun May 14, 2006 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not sure what there is to disscuss, aside from I think your findings are a facinating bit of reading. It would be interesting to have a situational map showing where each of the bangs, bumps, and/or collisions occured in order to get a feel for collision location relative to locations of the various vessels sunk during the action. (I assume there are no whales in the north sea -- sorry was thinking out loud about the story related in "Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors").
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Harley



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PostPosted: Mon May 15, 2006 1:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There are a large number of whales in the North Sea, including quite a few Sperm Whales which bear an uncanny resemblance to a 30ft barge. I know for a fact that a Grey Whale, which is roughly the same size as a Sperm Whale, across the bow can bring a Gearing class destroyer to a stop (and incidentally paint the superstructure red).

Of course, it depends on what time of year whales migrate and which species would be prevalent in the North Sea 90 years ago this month.

Sorry, flogging a very dead horse here. I think Tone's theory can stand as the victor here!
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Adrian Dobb



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PostPosted: Sun May 21, 2006 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You got me looking at plans of the battle and paying closer attention to the timings involved.

I see what Tone is saying that quite plausibly the battlecruisers may have passed over or near the QM wreck site. I still find it rather lucky that if the ships did strike or glance the buoyant hull of of their lost sister that more damage or evidence of it wasn't done. I agree the Shannon seems to have had much the same incident, the 2nd CS seems to have been following behind the BC's though possibly on a different course. I note as well the timing is soon after the last exchanges of fire between the BCF and the German pre-dreadnoughts. So everyone was still on edge and probably straining their eyes westward into the murk.

If the timings are to be relied on its seems to me the other reports most likely relate to different wreckage? All upturned hulls? Unlikely I would have thought. What damage and or noise might an upturned ships boat or such like (even teak decking) cause to propellers? I don't know, but I think that at least some of these incidents may be explained by such debris combined with keyed up crews. Though I accept the proximity of the BCF reports in time and space suggest a single object.

As Harley has said though what is really curious are the later incidents. On all those three later incident ships there is actual evidence of damage, particularly on Active. Again if timings are accurate these seem to me to have occurred too far south to be anything related to the battle! Or have I missed something? On balance the damage incurred more likely occurred further north but I would also expect Active's report to be accurate as 15' of dangling bilge keel should (IMO) have affected her handling.

Its an intriguing puzzle.
Perhaps it was the humpbacks :-)
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tone
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I just thought I would bump this post, as Harley reminded me of it recently.

I did a little more digging about Shannon being in line astern (with the rest of the merged cruiser squadrons now under Minotaur's lead as a composite 2nd CS) behind the combined BCF at this hour. Indeed, they were astern of the BCF, but I cannot see any reason why this came to be in the signal logs.

One possibility is that one of the "night after action" cruising dispositions for the GF (L.S. 9) has the CSes behind the BCF as part of a steaming (not battle) disposition, but there is seemingly no direction given to the cruisers to do this.

I wonder if some graphical analysis of track charts could further illustrate (subject to the very real caveats sensible folk assign this method) just what vessel might have been struck, if indeed that's what it was.

tone
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