Gneisenau and Scharnhorst in the Mediterranean?

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by Lucky13, Mar 20, 2014.

  1. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Messages:
    36,731
    Likes Received:
    1,064
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Nightshift picker
    Location:
    A Swede living in Glasgow, Scotland
    Home Page:
    What would have happened had Gneisenau and Scharnhorst sailed into the Mediterranean and joined the Italian Fleet in early '41?
     
  2. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    Messages:
    24,093
    Likes Received:
    657
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Korporate Kontrolleur
    Location:
    South Carolina
    I think if you add the Graf Zepplin it would have been a very potent force.
     
  3. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2008
    Messages:
    15,223
    Likes Received:
    2,050
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Public Safety Automotive Technician
    Location:
    Redding, California
    Home Page:
    Comiso started a great discussion about the Germans assaulting Gibraltar and there were some great scenarios tossed out there including the DKM Capitol ships moving into the Med...

    Just to make it interesting, I even tossed in the "what if" of Imperial Japanese Naval assets joining up.

    Anyway, it was a good thread:
    http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/ww2-general/german-gibraltar-20392.html
     
  4. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2009
    Messages:
    2,344
    Likes Received:
    409
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Motor Mechanic
    Location:
    Lancashire
    I think the 9.2" batteries on Gibraltar would have had some fun target practice as they passed. The Strait is only 14 miles wide iirc which is not much more than point blank range for a 9.2". Even at full speed the Twins are going to be in range for up to an hour and I believe Gib had radar by then and would know they were coming. Dont think the radar could do gun control but it certainly could give some ranges. Even at night there were starshell guns that would nicely illuminate the target. A 380 pound 9.2" AP round wont sink the Twins unless there is a miracle shot but expect the superstructures to resemble a scrapyard by the time they are past the danger zone.
     
  5. Wavelength

    Wavelength Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2010
    Messages:
    97
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    8
    They would certainly make the run at night under cover of smoke. The British only had a handfull of prototype 50cm radar sets at that time and these were on the first KGV class battleships.
     
  6. davebender

    davebender Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2009
    Messages:
    6,418
    Likes Received:
    64
    Trophy Points:
    48
    Location:
    Michigan, USA
    Control of Central Mediterranean was determined by air superiority or lack thereof. Battleships were simply targets for land based bombers.

    Aegean might be an exception to the rule as Germany had air superiority in that region right up to 1944. Presence of two German dreadnoughts operating under that air umbrella might have forestalled Fall 1943 British invasion attempt before it got started.
     
  7. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2008
    Messages:
    15,223
    Likes Received:
    2,050
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Public Safety Automotive Technician
    Location:
    Redding, California
    Home Page:
    If they were to make a successful pass under Gibraltar's guns, a concerted air attack to keep their heads down would help (perhaps a mix of medium bombers and Stukas). Possible direct hits on the emplacements would probably do little damage to the guns themselves, but the bombs would raise alot of direct dust/smoke as well as do damage to lesser reinforced positions.
     
  8. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Messages:
    420
    Likes Received:
    30
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Occupation:
    lorry driver
    Location:
    Stockport
    And just where would these bombers fly from ?????
     
  9. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Messages:
    420
    Likes Received:
    30
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Occupation:
    lorry driver
    Location:
    Stockport
    What would have been the point of taking an uncompleted carrier ?????
     
  10. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    Messages:
    24,093
    Likes Received:
    657
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Korporate Kontrolleur
    Location:
    South Carolina
    Bombers from Italy made it several times, since we are doing a what-if it could not be a stretch for the carrier to have been finished.
     
  11. redcoat

    redcoat Active Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Messages:
    420
    Likes Received:
    30
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Occupation:
    lorry driver
    Location:
    Stockport
    With very small bomb loads, and there was no way Stuka's would have the range.
    Yes it would be. The German's had never built or operated a carrier before, it would have taken a considerable time for it to become operational even after it had been completed
     
  12. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    Messages:
    24,093
    Likes Received:
    657
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Korporate Kontrolleur
    Location:
    South Carolina
    Actually the air crew was for the most part already trained.
     
  13. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,695
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    getting through would have been a sheer lucky dip. Difficult to see it being successful if the British had a carrier and some search aircraft available. Its hard to see this developing much more differently than Bismarks efforts. If we assume it might follow the BCs run into the Atlantic, so this deserves some investigation

    The two ships aborted the operation in December 1940, but finally sailed from Kiel on 22 January 1941. They were spotted en route through the Great Belt and the British Admiralty was informed. Admiral Sir John Tovey sailed with a strong force (three battleships, eight cruisers and 11 destroyers), hoping to intercept the German ships in the Iceland—Faroe Islands Passage. Instead, Lütjens took his flotilla through the Denmark Strait into the Atlantic, where they were positioned to intercept convoys between Canada and Britain.

    Convoy HX-106 was intercepted, but the attack was aborted when the escorting battleship HMS Ramillies was spotted. Lütjens had orders to avoid action with enemy capital ships. Fortunately for the Germans, the British failed to make an accurate identification.

    After refuelling, the German ships missed convoy HX-111, but happened upon an empty convoy returning to the U.S. Over 12 hours, five ships were sunk but the attack was reported. The squadron moved south to the Azores to intercept the convoy route between West Africa and Britain.

    A convoy was sighted but, once again, was not attacked due to the presence of the old battleship HMS Malaya. Instead, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau shadowed it, acting to guide in U-boat attacks.

    The two ships moved back to the western Atlantic, sinking a solitary freighter en route. Two unescorted convoys were attacked and 16 ships were sunk or captured. One of these ships—Chilean Reefer—caused problems. It made smoke, radioed an accurate position and actually returned Gneisenau's fire with its small deck gun. Lütjens was uncertain of the freighter's capabilities, withdrew and destroyed it from a safe distance. During this action, HMS Rodney appeared, possibly in response to the radio calls. The German ships bluffed their way to safety while Rodney picked up survivors.

    The German ships were ordered back to Brest. They met air and sea escorts on 21 March and docked the next day.


    Now assuming that instead of being ordered to Brest, they were instead ordered to try and break into the Med, what sort of forces might they be ranged against

    At this time Force H was generally built around the single carrier Ark Royal, though others were available from time to time. There were generally one or two Battlecruisers (reducing to one after loss of the Hood), and 3 to 4 of the slow battleships. There was either one or two squadrons of LR search aircraft either Sunderlands or Wellingtons I think. There usually about 6-8 cruisers and at least 12 DDs and a whole gaggle of supplort warships. Dover this was not, so there was a high state of readiness and a long approach for the Germans. It is very

    Even if we assume no SIGINT intell, it is very difficult to conceive that the two BCs could approach undetected. If they could not approach undeteted, they risk a full retalitory strike by the RN, including airstrikes from the Ark Royal, which we know were a very capable air gp, and quite capable of hitting the BCs even at night or in poor weather, as the strikes on Bismark attest to. If the BCs are first hit by the 40 or so strike aircraft of the Ark Royal, then engaged by the cruisers and BCS, and then finally by the 3 or four ships of the slow division, I dont give themn much hope of evading or defeating the British.

    In a word its a suicide mission.

    Beyond that the approaches to Gibraltor on both sides were mined, whilst i was possible for U-bats to pass through, surface warships is a different matter. And of course finally we have the shore batteries that will need to be engaged at short range by the German ships. This is Oscarborg allover again.
     
  14. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
    Staff Member Moderator

    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2007
    Messages:
    23,059
    Likes Received:
    994
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Animal Control Officer
    Location:
    Southern New Jersey
    Early '41 would have Bismark and Prinz Eugen breaking out into the Atlantic so I don't know why they would even try the Med. If anything, head out into the Atlantic to meet up with Bis and PE and maybe with Hipper become the greatest commerce raiding flotilla ever assembled!

    Just my 2 cents. :)
     
  15. Lucky13

    Lucky13 Forum Mascot

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Messages:
    36,731
    Likes Received:
    1,064
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Nightshift picker
    Location:
    A Swede living in Glasgow, Scotland
    Home Page:
    Here we use Pence and Pounds mate! :tongue: :lol:
     
    • Like Like x 1
  16. tomo pauk

    tomo pauk Creator of Interesting Threads

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2008
    Messages:
    8,007
    Likes Received:
    442
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Attempt to run the gauntlet vs. Gibraltar would be a suicide mission. Even if the gamble paid off, the twins would be fair game for air power and submarines. And RN wouldn't hessitate for an old fashioned slugging match, in case Germans are interested.
    Interestingly enough, the twins are still referred some time as battlecruisers :)
     
  17. fastmongrel

    fastmongrel Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2009
    Messages:
    2,344
    Likes Received:
    409
    Trophy Points:
    83
    Gender:
    Male
    Occupation:
    Motor Mechanic
    Location:
    Lancashire
    Breakneck Battery Gibraltar 1942

    9.2_inch_gun_on_Gibraltar_1942_IWM_GM_278.jpg
     
  18. Milosh

    Milosh Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2009
    Messages:
    1,919
    Likes Received:
    96
    Trophy Points:
    48
    I will throw in the Channel Dash which was successful. There was mighty big guns at Dover.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  19. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 6, 2008
    Messages:
    10,695
    Likes Received:
    676
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Urban Design/Strategic Studies Tutor
    Location:
    Orange NSW
    Thats true, but in the channel the Germans had an opportunity to keep certain areas of the sea passage open and free of mines. They basically knew what parts of the channel they could navigate in.

    Off Gibraltar, it was a declared mine zone with only specific and narrow pathways remaining open only to (friendly) military traffic. The straits were closed to mercantile, neutral and enemy shipping.

    This makes it much harder for enemy warships to negotiate the straits quickly, as they did in the channel dash. Not impossible, as Spain was awash with Axis spies and covert agents, but difficult.

    There are basically two other ways these minefields might be tackled. First and most obvious, is simply to ignore them and pray to get lucky. Might work, might not. Would depend on luck, mine density current strength (cannot really lay mines where the current is too strong, and cannot lay mines in really deep water, if you dont want them drifting....however during the war mine techniques were developed considerably, such that a mine barrage was eventually laid in the deep water between the Faeroes Icelnad....and was nearly useless too i might add. OTOH, in the Pacific, American minelaying in the Formosan straits and in the channels near Balikpapaan were deadly to Japanese shipping).

    The other way is to send in minesweepers and clear a path, which takes time, a lot of time, or, as a rather desperate expedient, send in light ships, that you dont care if you lose, and follow the path they blaze with your valuable ships. This was basically what the Germans did in the channel dash, trouble was, they broke off this close escort stuff too early and either one, or both the Battlecruisers eventually hit mines, off the coast of Holland I believe. The channel dash was not all the beer and skittles it was made out to be post war.

    The other thing is that in the channel, the Search system broke down completely. It didnt in the Atlantic, when Bismark broke out. Once there was a German heavy unit, the British search systems swung into action. There were some anxious moments with bismarck, but eventually she was run down. In the Gib scenario, the German ships have a long run in, in increasingly constricted waters. Chnaces of remaining undetected are basically zero.
     
  20. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2009
    Messages:
    24,093
    Likes Received:
    657
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Occupation:
    Korporate Kontrolleur
    Location:
    South Carolina
    #20 vikingBerserker, Mar 21, 2014
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2014
    Could subs have cleared them? I know a few made it through there.
     
Loading...

Share This Page