The story

21 May 1941

21 May 1941


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21 May 1941

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Greece

Germans capture Maleme Airfield allowing them to fly in reinforcements

The Royal Navy attacks and destroys a German troop convoy attempting to reinforce Crete by sea

War at Sea

German U-boat sinks an American transport ship



Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by paulcadogan » Mon Apr 28, 2008 12:15 am

Thanks for the replies Thomas, Antonio & Olaf.

I've seen all the diagrams of the colour schemes for both B & PE, but the fact is the photographic evidence at specific time periods must carry more weight.

There is no doubt that in the Norway photo the turret tops are much lighter (in B&W) than the rest of the ship - the same pattern on ALL four. This is also evident in the photo taken after the DS battle:

The light colour can even be seen here on the aft 5.9-inch turret.

None of the diagrams of the two ships labelled as representing the DS appearance shows the turret tops as a colour that would appear in B&W as seen in the photographs. I think some re-consideration is due here.

If it is determined that it was definitely not yellow, then It would be more likely very light grey, as I said before like Scharnhorst.

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Olaf » Mon Apr 28, 2008 1:19 am

I think, it's a case of 'weighing the evidence'.

But, what evidence?
I fully agree that photos of the actual ship should do the job very well. but again, b/w photos are not really the best choice for trying to pin down a colour.

Pro yellow (while approaching France).
1. Survivor testimony - Mr Maus
2. Wireless message from British Admiralty to Rodney (who told the Admiralty. The message - if I recall correctly - was received or sent on May 27, 09:20am

the morning after the fatal torpedo hit. didn't the Admiralty know this little unimportant fact?)
3. British eyewitnesses (can't remember from which ship. )
"Common practice" for operating within Luftwaffe range of the Atlantic theatre (?)

Con Yellow.
1. Survivor testimony (Müllenheim-Rechberg and another one I can't remember. )
2. "Common practice" (see above) NOT before "Unternemen Barbarossa" (June 1941)
3. Mr. Maus apparently stated that the 15cm turrets were painted yellow but the paint was washed away by waves and spray. This leads nicely to the question, how on earth, with the ship rolling etc. in those waves, could someone be able to paint the higher located main turret tops? Must have been a dangerous job. Did they have the chance to attach safety lines ON TOP of the turrets? I know the Tirpitz photos, where they are painting the turret tops at sea, but this sea is very calm.
4. If I remember correctly, Mr. Maus seem to have been all over the place. I can't remember where I read it, but he was in place when they tried to investigate the rudder damage from inside, he was the one who painted turret tops yellow, he was the one, who saw Lindemann for the last time. you know, what I'm getting at? Of course, I have no evidence for this, it could have been just in my memory from reading those discussion over and over again.

Ok, back to the photos:
First of all, I ever thought, we are talking about the horizontal surfaces only and not the sloped sides.
The lighter shade on the sloped sides of the turrets could be the result of the lighting conditions - even if the sky is overcast. Light grey instead of yellow? No. The superstructure, painted in Hellgrau 50>RAL 7001 was in fact very light. A colour lighter than that would have been RAL 9016 (Aluminiumbronze for the funnel cap) - or white. Many b/w photos show the Hellgrau 50 as a very light colour, when exposed to direct sunlight, it even could appear white!

Maybe this is not all from the pros & cons, but it's a starting point.
Again, back to the question of the yellow turret tops during the whole time in Norway:
Leaving the Baltic for Norway with either red or dark grey tops, painting them yellow for that short stay in Norway, then repainting them for leaving the Norway Luftwaffe range

all of that seems to me . work for the birds. in lack of a better impression.

The crewmen painting and repainting again and again were for sure not very happy with this, eh?

I still like the idea of coloured canvas for (planned) short stays in the Luftwaffe range. (which doesn't really answer the question what they did on BS approaching Brest. )

I know, I know. so many times 'if', 'when' and 'could'.

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Tue Apr 29, 2008 7:13 am

in my personal opinion I consider the YELLOW ( RAL 1003 ) top turrets approaching France on the Bismarck a question closed time ago, when we found the HMS Rodney war diary radio message received from Adm Tovey the morning of May 27th, 1941.
Maybe some details can be added ( secondary turrets ? ), but the question seems to me well resolved, both the flat and the sloped surfaces were painted yellow on main turrets during the last battle.

Now the real question is about the movements between Gdynia ( Gotenhafen ) and Bergen, and than out of Bergen after the re-painting and while still under the Luftwaffe range. than after having sailed out of the German air coverage range.

For the Prinz Eugen I have found already enough informations to release the drawings I made and everybody can see the way it was painted.

For the Bismarck, logic would dictate that being an Operation involving the 2 ships plus the 3 destroyers ( Z23, Z10 Hans Lody and Z 16 Friedrich Eckoldt ) . it must have been the same. as obvious. but I am still working on evidences and findings, . but do not get surprised if in the future news will arise .

As I did with Tirpitz infos, with Scharnhorst ( nobody beleived the dark grey was not the last camo when I started researching it, now everybody knows the last camo of Scharnhorst ) and some other ships camouflages and air recognition markings. also here an historical research must be conducted. before saying the last word.

Those ships will always surprise you. when good photos and new evidences properly researched and well analyzed will tell us the story.

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by paulcadogan » Tue Apr 29, 2008 1:43 pm

That's one of the great traits of Antonio - always an open mind to consider new ideas and interpretations based on evidence and logic!

Here's a consideration regarding re-painting at sea between May 21 and 27.

Between May 21 in Bergen and entry to the DS, B & PE were generally steaming in rough, thick weather - not conducive to external paint work. In the DS, the risk of encountering British ships increased greatly - and they did - not a good time to have sailors climbing on turrets painting. After the DS - with British ships in pursuit, the same would apply. After shaking off the S, N & PoW, things might have been more "peaceful" for such activity, but not really - they could never know when a ship might be sighted or air attack develop. Again not a good idea to have sailors painting turrets - although, granted, some efforts were made to erect a dummy stack, so painting could have been attempted.

One idea could be a colour reversal - what if the turrets were yellow all along (as might have been based on the above photos) and in approaching France - having to pass close to Britain in range of British land-based aircraft, the attempt was really to paint out the yellow to make it harder for them to identify Bismarck as German? This then failed for the reasons given - rough seas etc. The result would be yellow turret tops at the last battle as well. Just a thought!

The only people who saw Bismarck up close between DS and the final battle would have been Victorious' pilots and to a lesser extent, observers in the USCGC Modoc. I wonder if any of them recorded their recollections in this regard.

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Olaf » Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:01 pm

On the other hand, the BS war diary which can be downloaded here indicates on page 122, which I guess comes from the PG and was just borrowed for this diary. ).

"Alarm ended. Afterwards, by order of the Fleet, the aircraft identification markings on the turrets and the national emblems [swastikas] on the forecastle and quarter [poop] deck to be painted over."

This entry is from the 22. May 1941.

The problem now is. is ths really written in the actually PG war diary?
If so, the turrets were during the entire Norway stay yellow.

Interesting, that all sources say that the swastikas were painted over in the fjords. and not a day later, May 22, while at sea.

Just more food for thought

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:36 pm

many thanks Paul. you are too nice with me.

Well found Olaf. that is just a confirmation of what I was saying and I am happy you found it, ..I never looked into that yet so this one is for you my friend

So now we know that at 13.07 of 22 May 1941 Admiral Lutjens ( Fleet means order from him on PG KTB ) ordered both ships to paint over the air recognition markings ( and I can tell you it was Yellow RAL 1003 ).

Now it is very easy to realize they were there all the way thru from Gotenhafen till out of Luftwaffe range, on May 22nd at 13.07, it is proved by Film, photos and now also from the Prinz Eugen KTB. for the Prinz Eugen is 100% sure .. for the Bismarck, . we just need the right photos and film sequence maybe to reach the 100 %, .. let's hope in the close future.

In fact photos and film shows Prinz Eugen in Grimstad Fjord with canvas on top of the swastika banners. and theh turrets painted the way I showed you on my drawings with Abram Joslin. the banner being painted over only on high seas. later on when the anchor chains were blocked. and now we can say it was after 13.07 of May 22nd, 1941.

Too easy to imagine the same for Bismarck. we just miss the image evidences now. the order for her as well we already have on PG KTB . signed by the Flottenchef Admiral Lutjens.

Very funny to say that the orders to resolve this '' YELLOW '' mistery, .. were both given by 2 Admirals. Lutjens and Tovey. and it was by making analysis on the photos of Adm Lutjens on board Prinz Eugen at Gotenhafen for the review that I found out about Prinz Eugen having YELLOW tops. very funny.

. but I am almost sure Bismarck will surprise us. as usual. I know those ships. be ready to be surprised .

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Olaf » Tue Apr 29, 2008 10:26 pm

Eeeehhh. so no red or dark grey when leaving Gotenhafen? BALTIC?

I still have to figure out when they did what.
What - either for PG or BS - was the colour on departing Gotenhafen? Red or dark grey, covered with canvas? Why covered when still in the Baltic?
What - either for PG or BS - was the colour on transit to Norway? (Let's say, after entering the North Sea. )
What - either for PG or BS - was the colour during the stay in Norway? Turret tops repainted during the stay?
What - either for PG or BS - was the colour on departing Norway? According to the war diary: Something. Presumably yellow. Overpainted on May 22.

If there are no colour photos, I guess it is nearly impossible to make a distinction between dark grey and red. Yellow could it only be, when the colour does NOT appear dark in b/w photos, right?

This doesn't really make the waiting time easier. HA!

BTW, in a previous post, I mentioned Aluminiumbronze RAL 9016. of course, it should be Aluminiumbronze 16 RAL 9006. confusing numbers. (there is no way to edit a message in this forum?)

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by paulcadogan » Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:32 am

I've been looking for more photographic evidence and found this one taken from the air allegedly taken while Bismarck was on her way to Grimstadtfiord.

As you can see, the horizontal part of the turret roof is DARK - dark grey or red as Olaf said?
Were the sloped surfaces yellow or was this painted on later over the whole top? The puzzle deepens.

This other photo taken after the DS battle shows the sloped surfaces looking a little lighter than the vertical, but with much less of a contrast than in the broadside shot. The top of the aft 5.9 STILL looks very light while the mid and forward look the same as the rest of the superstructure. Could the paint-over on the 22nd have been incomplete or partially washed off by heavy seas and/or rain before the paint could dry?

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by paulcadogan » Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:36 am

In this last one, the sloped face of Turret Bruno looks very light compared to to slope of the bridge immediately behind and the rest of the superstructure which should have been better illuminated:

Or am I pushing my imagination?

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Herr Nilsson » Wed Apr 30, 2008 10:05 am

sorry, I'm not convinced. Please read the Schmalenbach letter.
Page 3 II. a).

"Thank God we blow up and sink more easily." (unknown officer from HMS Norfolk)

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by paulcadogan » Wed Apr 30, 2008 12:52 pm

Thanks for that great link Herr Nilsson. But I think it had added to the confusion!

With all due respect to Paul Schmalenbach, his statement that Bismarck retained the dark grey at the bow and stern and the false stern wave is not borne out in the many photos of Bismarck in the DS. Her hull appears almost uniform with a very slight hint of the painted over stripes, with only the false bow wave remaining. The very first photo of this thread shows this as does this one:

His statement that PE's hull was painted over is supported by this shot of her coming into Brest. The weathering of 10 days at sea has washed off the paint at her bow to show the earlier dark grey below:

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Herr Nilsson » Wed Apr 30, 2008 2:11 pm

in case of Bismarck his memory is obviously wrong, but what about the yellow turret tops? He says "no" and we can't ignore this, I think.
By the way, there are three additional letters, which are very, very interesting regarding the yellow-turret-top-issue:

"Thank God we blow up and sink more easily." (unknown officer from HMS Norfolk)

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Olaf » Wed Apr 30, 2008 2:45 pm

I’m attaching a few photos showing PG during Rheinübung. I hope I got the sequence in the correct order.

These three were taken at Gotenhafen, in the larger versions you can clearly see a LIGHT cover on a LIGHT underground - and you can see the 'straps' holding the canvas in place much clearer. We believe, it is a light grey cover on a yellow surface. A red surface would possibly appear darker:

This one seems to have been taken when entering the Norwegian waters. They are doing something on the f’c’sle and the top of the turret appears much lighter than the other Hellgrau 50 horizontal surfaces in this picture: It contradicts to the PG war diary where it says that the order to paint them over came on May 22. But, in the distance you still can see the Norwegian coastline… a tricky one…maybe, in this sequence, it should come at a later stage…

On this one, the f’c’sle insignia is still visible.

This one shows the process of painting over the splinter pattern on turret “A”…
Note the “shine” of the sloped surface. Freshly painted?
What are the guys doing on top of the turret?

This one shows the Prinz underway…
Note the guys on turrets “B”, “C” and “D”…

My favourite:
Over-painting seems to be completed. Maybe shortly taken after the previous one, not the slightly elevated gun barrels of turret “B”… horizontal surface now in “Dunkelgrau 2”…

And, finally, the arrival at Brest…
Please not the slightly ‘curved’ upper edge of the fwd sloped surface. A shadow? Maybe caused by a bit of wind blowing under a canvas which is covering the yellow or dark grey? In other photos, this ‘edge’ appears dead straight…


Ok, now I would be very delighted to hear your opinions.

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by paulcadogan » Wed Apr 30, 2008 7:32 pm

Great stuff Herr Nilsson & Olaf.

In the letter by Mr. Jung he states that the yellow turret colour was authorized in June 1941 for Barbarrosa, but this contradicts the line drawings that show Blucher having yellow turret tops during the invasion of Norway in 1940:

The picture posted by Olaf showing the glistening paint on PE's turret might have bearing on the photos that suggest a lighter colour for these surfaces on Bismarck. The paint may have been wet in the picture, but if it was dry it may have retained some level of gloss making it more reflective than the rest of the ship. If the same grey paint was used on both ships - and it seems that yellow was not used at all according to the eyewitnesses in the links - we have an explanation for the effects in the pictures.

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Wed Apr 30, 2008 9:18 pm

Ciao Olaf, Marc, Paul and all,

I am very happy about so many competent and fair persons are joining this discussion, surely we will have a very productive discussion and analysis knowing well all of you guys, I hope many others will join as I am sure the argument is interesting for the majority of us.

This said lets go into the analysis.

I will provide you my view and personal opinion and we can compare.

I have a lot of respect for the survivor opinions, but I do know that many times their memories is not precise enough, as I had dozens of examples personally.

I read those letters many times, but I am not convinced about them.
Evidences show things differently, unfortunately for them and their memories , and many other witnesses say other things too, so I have to trust first the real evidences I can find on photos and films, and correlate backwards.

Lets take Prinz Eugen top turrets colous evolution.

I think you all would agree that on the photos attached at Gotenhafen on May 18th, 1941 the canvas covering the top flat surfaces is covering a very light colour and it is not Light Grey, as it would not make any common sense.
You can tell me the colour, it cannot be Red, it cannot be Dark Grey like the sloped parts.

Than the ship arrived into Bergen sailing all the way thru with that turret camo scheme, sloped parts on Dark Grey, the top flat main turret surfaces on a light camo colour for air identification, previously covered into the harbour with the canvas, and according to me it was Yellow.
Of course the ship had the swastika banners painted on bow and stern.

The Prinz Eugen arrrived into Bergen Fjords, and already at Grimstad Fjord they started re-painting off the Baltic camo scheme, but on the main turrets they only painted over the sloped parts with light grey, the top flat surface was left as it was, so still Yellow.
The photo above posted by Olaf were you can also see Bismarck into the Grimstad fjord do show a very light colour still on top of the main turrets, on the other photo the Prinz Eugen sailors are only painting the sloped parts of the main turrets, nobody is painting the flat top surface.
The swastika banners were covered with canvas, and it is proved with photos and films.

The Prinz Eugen sailed out with Bismarck, they removed the canvas covers from the swastika's and the ship was ready again to sail under the Luftwaffe air coverage with yellow top's.

At 13.07 on May 22nd, 1941 the order came from Admiral Lutjens to paint off the air recognition marking.

The job was done and both the swastika banners and the top flat surfaces of the main turrets were painted off ( with a dark grey ) while at sea, the bow anchor chains were blocked with a smaller chain going into the rings of the main chains as you can see on the photo attached by Olaf were you can see the Prinz Eugen forecaste from the top.

Now if you can tell me why they painted the flat top surface of the turrets with a much darker colour to remove an air identification colour at sea if it was not there, I can try to follow you, . but it will be very hard to explain it unless over there as I am saying the colour was light and not a light grey and it was a colour used for the air recognition that started from Gotenhafen protected with canvas as proved with the initial Prinz Eugen photos at Gotenhafen.

When Prinz Eugen entered Brest first thing they did was to cover the top of the turrets flat surfaces with a canvas they had. from Gotenhafen. guess which colour they had under it.

Can you tell me now which colour it can be ? To me there is only one answer. and it is Yellow . just like the one previously used by Adm Lutjens for Op. Berlin on January 1941 with Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. doing exactly the same thing. Germany, Norway coast and than breacking into the Atlantic ocean, . succesfully .

Yellow was also used on Op. Weserubung as Paul showed with my drawing of Blucher .

But at this point on May 1941. the KM ships had already used 3 top turrets colour options : Yellow, Red ( also on Weserubung as demonstrated on colour photos of SH and Gu ) and Dark Grey for Op. Juno on June 1940.

After having hopefully reached a common agreement on Prinz Eugen top turrets colours evolution. we can move to Bismarck. that started Op. Rheinubung with that top turret camo scheme showed by Paul on the above attached photo. and as of today everybody thinks it was Dark Grey, . but we need to know more. much more.


Remembering Bismarck: The Epic Story of the German Battleship

Over nine tense days in the year 1941, a dramatic battle crippled life and swallowed the majestic Battleship Bismarck. The German Battleship was named after Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck. In July 1936, it was laid down in a shipyard in Hamburg and was launched almost after three years in April 1939. Put into service for less than a year, Bismarck plays an important role in maritime history. The design was finalised by Hitler’s Navy after they rose from the ruins of the First World War. The biggest Battleship Bismarck was set to fight the Second World War, and its main aim was to take control over the open waters.

Bismarck Battleship was almost the length of three football grounds put together and had as much as seven decks above the waterline and seven below it. The biggest battleship in the maritime history, Bismarck could reach up to 30 knots and had on board almost 2,200 men who stayed undetected by allied troops. Sailing in the North Atlantic, Bismarck Battleship’s main aim was to attack the British supply fleet that operates on the high seas.

On May 21 st 1941 Bismarck Ship moved towards the scheduled harbour southwest of Bergen, Norway and was repainted Gray so as to camouflage it in the high waters. It was the same day that Sweden detected two German warships among the fishing boats. Soon, the British army sent spitfire from Scotland and hence the movement of Bismarck Ship was detected by the army. Came May 23 rd and the day can be recalled as the clash of the Titans with Bismarck being spotted by heavy British cruisers in North Atlantic. It was 5:54 am of the next morning that Bismarck witness shots from a distance of 13 miles by cruisers HMS Hood and Prince of Wales. In no time, the German masterpiece made way to the ocean bed for one of the British battleships. The other one chose to flee away from the clutches of the majestic battleship of the German army.

The battle, for now, was won for Bismarck but difficulties arose as the firing created holes in the warship and as a result, thousands of tons of water seeped into the deck and in addition, the radar-detection gear of Bismarck was knocked down bringing down its speed to 29 knots. It was time again for some repair work so as to avoid Bismarck sinking. An air force plan yet again detected the battleship and the chase was on. The ship now, reduced to 20 knots so as to save fuel. On the dreaded night of the 26 th May, struck a squadron of Swordfish Torpedo from the British air carrier. The ship now lost control on many devices and moved towards a wrong direction. The next day at 10:39 am, Bismarck sinking was witnessed after many battleships fired at it.

The Bismarck Wreck had just 115 survivors out of the thousands that fought along with it. The short yet brave attempt by the German masterpiece was something that created ripples within the British army in no time. Bismarck in itself was an epic and will be the greatest part of the maritime history of all times.

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Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Olaf » Thu May 01, 2008 2:45 am

If there is really such a thing like "KM-logic", then it should be easy to draw a line from PG to BS.

Anyway. thanks for your input and photos. sometimes, it is easier to 'visualise' such things as photos put into context (although my sequence is faulty) can make it more understandable and in fact, can make it easier to digest your illustrations.

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Thu May 01, 2008 11:07 am

I have sent you something you can use and post here in, no problems and thanks for doing that . as I have no link currently to do that easily . appreciate .

I think that the survivor memories point raised by Marc is explained and we all agree that although memories are as important as we all know, when there are different versions about it and often saying opposite things than only evidences can try to solve the enigma.

The letters attached say something that photos and war diaries show and explain very differently, and between the2 things, I trust the photos and the written officially reported evidences when available and clearly showing the reality as it was 65 years after.

Than of course we must follow the logic of the events. as obvious. nothing was done without a valid reason for that, especially at sea while sailing.

But now in this Prinz Eugen air recognition colours evolutiion path, .. everything seems to match quite well. as Paul said. the '' puzzle '' seems to be well done now.

So, now you can go back and take a look at my posted Prinz Eugen drawings showing this a year ago, when I first directed Abram Joslin on making the drawings of this ship.

Last year I did this research with Abram, to make the drawings. between the 2 of us. this year thanking Olaf curiosity for his model we shared and showed the whole story for everybody benefit, supported by photo and even finding some more evidences ( liek the canvas in Brest photos thanking you Olaf ) of this reality already well know. at least by me and Abram .

About '' KM logic '' ..the answer is YES. there was a logic. military logic that you know well. but on those ships you must trust me. when you think you got it by that. that is the situation when those ships will always surprise you and things went differently. this is what I find so attractive about them. so mysterious.

. Bismarck in this case is a clear example. so research. deep research . and research more. patiently. accepting to fail. and hoping to find new evidences.

..that is what drove me to make all my published works. and by the way. Marc was right about a correction e told me time ago on Nh 69730 at Denmark Strait, .. on a particular Bismarck course. compared to Prinz Eugen. one day you will all know more about it, .. Marc knows .. and I take this occasion to tell him . you were right Marc !

.. now I know the truth and one day I will show it to you .. but this is a different story. we will take it aside. on her own dedicated post. you can post your drawing in there Marc if you like it, .. as it is correct . she was more 180 than 220 . on NH 69730 .

. when you do a work. even if it is well done. there is always a way after to make it better and more precise when you find new material. and this is the case.

.. now back on Prinz Eugen top colours. and after. maybe we can play with what we have of Bismarck material, ..and using what we have and what we know now of Prinz Eugen as a good starting base, .. having some more fun. with same logic approach. this is history research. lot of fun.

Are we all ok with Prinz Eugen colours now ??

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Thu May 01, 2008 3:09 pm

just to make your confirmation about the Prinz Eugen a little bit easier, .. you can read also here in the Bismarck reconstructed KTB translated thanking Ulrich . some entries that should help you all .

Open the adobe acrobat reader file of BS-KTB at point 2.4.7 here in :

. just open it from the .zip file . or print it and read the following statements :

Date : May 18th, 1941 at time 10.00 Admiral Lutjens discussion point about Op. Rheinubung, at point Nr 7.

'' Camouflage paint pattern remains until further orders follow. For the possibility prolonged presence in Norway ( Trondheim ) keep colourful camouflage paint job ''.

Date : May 21st, 1941 at time 11.15

'' From Fleet ( Adm Lujens = Flottenchef ) : During the standing in and lying in the KorsFjord paint over the entire camouflage with outboard ( Hull ) grey ''.

Date : May 22nd, 1941 at 13.07

'' Alarm ended. Afterwards, by orders of Fleet ( Adm Lutjens ) the aircaft identification markings on the turrets ( ) and the national emblems ( swastikas ) on the forecastle ( bow ) and quarter ( quarterdeck = stern ) are to be painted over ''.

This message is the same as on Prinz Eugen Kriegstagebuch ( PG-KTB ) obviously as Bismarck KTB was re-constructed afterwards, . and now the photo evidences are finding written confirmations on the KTB's.

Very important to notice that the Fleet commander ordered both ships to paint over the air identification markings on either the top turrets and on the deck ( swastika banners ).

Now a more direct question could have been asked to Schmalenbach and the Baron with this photos and the KTB printed at hand . but on the answer herself wriitten by the Baron he himslef always refer to his memories, . as far as he remembers, or other remembers. and back we are to the need of evidences now . .

. and please double check that on the Schmalenbach responses .
. we already have the proof of evidence of at least 2 wrong anwers out of his memories as well, . so, .
. as Bismarck did have the main turrets painted on Dark Grey on May 1941 as showed by colour photos and films. so .
. 1 ( I ) point B is a wrong answer by Schmalenbach, . Bismarck had that colours on her .
. and he does not even recall the swastikas on 1941 on Prinz Eugen.
. as at 2( II ) point B you can read about the swastika banners being there and on canvas only from 1943 onwards

. this is why I mainly rely on the evidences I can find now.

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Olaf » Fri May 02, 2008 12:20 am

PG seems to be done now and I agree, why should BS be any different?

thanks for the additional photos but one of them is already in my previous post, one is showing a similar scene like the one which shows every paint job to be done (I called it the "searchlight photo". ) and the third one shows again the swatiska on the f'c'sle and the BS in the distance still wearing the Baltic camouflage. The dark stern and the false stern wake are more than evident. and I simply don't know how to add this to the sequence of photos. I still cannot find the "Edit" button here.

Should I really post them? They don't add much to the discussion and I believe, PG is done now.

Canvas on arrival at Brest. darn! You knew already? And I thought I discovered something new. (such as going fossil hunting and you think it's a T-Rex but all you find is a chicken's bone. )

Antonio Bonomi wrote: So, now you can go back and take a look at my posted Prinz Eugen drawings showing this a year ago, when I first directed Abram Joslin on making the drawings of this ship.

I'm fine with it. at least for Rheinübung.

But I can't resist. to add a bit of confusion.
The Jung/Abendroth/Kelling book states that there was indeed RAL 1003 used as "Persenningfarbe". for those who are not familiar with German. guess what a "Persenning" is.

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by tommy303 » Fri May 02, 2008 12:56 am

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by paulcadogan » Fri May 02, 2008 2:59 am

Well my PE needs some work to bring her to her DS appearance, but my Bismarck needs very little modification, although.

PE didn't have 5.9's. how do you think Bismarck's appeared in the DS? I have mine with dark grey tops but the pictures suggest a light colour.

As for Olaf's "guesstion" I will not attempt.

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Olaf » Fri May 02, 2008 11:50 am

Persenningfarbe:
Persenning = (canvas) cover
Farbe = paint

= Paint for painting canvas

The yellow (RAL 1003) is mentioned several times in the paint regulations and the list of available paints. The yellow was used for life rafts, for some inner surfaces inside the ship and for canvas covers (for which they also had grey (RAL 7012) and brown (RAL 8011). I have no prove that they painted the covers for the turret tops but I think they used it for painting dodgers and life rafts (which, to make things worse, were also grey sometimes. ).

BTW. tarpauling as well, sorry, saw this too late.

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Herr Nilsson » Fri May 02, 2008 1:18 pm

I see no reason for scratching light grey from the list. Even the purpose of the canvas covering is not clear (at least to me). Maybe there is another possible reason for that. I don't know.

Regarding the eye witness accounts:
I agree. A lot of them are wrong, but a lot of them are right. On the other hand I believe, that a not very often used colour like yellow is much more memorable than the frequently used different shades of grey, but that's just my personal opinion. What makes me really wonder is that we have absolutely no first or at least second hand account of another colour than a grey during the first part of "Rheinübung".
Personally I think it's very problematic to extrapolate any colour from black and white picture.

Regarding the BS and PG KTB's:
I see no reason why a "Fliegersichtzeichen" has to be yellow (or red or blue or any other "colorfull" colour).

Regarding the yellow turret tops at the end of "Rheinübung":
The eye-witness account of Matrosengefreiter Maus: See above. But this time, he is the only survivor who has this memory.
Is the HMS Rodney war diary entry confimed? The last status I know is that we have just an second hand account of someone who read it. AFAIK the entry says also that the turret tops and the !gun shields! were painted yellow. What about the gun shields of Prinz Eugen at Brest? Are they yellow too? And if not, why? If I remember correctly there is no wreck picture with yellow gun shields, isn't it?

Antonio, don't get me wrong, but I'm not convinced.

"Thank God we blow up and sink more easily." (unknown officer from HMS Norfolk)

Re: Bismarck off Norwegian coast 21 May 1941

Post by Antonio Bonomi » Fri May 02, 2008 4:06 pm

NO, you discovered the canvas on Prinz Eugen into Brest arrival photos, .. it is your achievement,…. not mine, …. YES, I was sure about the yellow paint on the top turrets, …. but you found that additional evidence.
It is yours ……

You will tell me later about the PG other camo of 1940. no problems…. I am open and ready to change if needed, .. and happy to do it in case of new and more precise infos …

Got the canvas tarpaulin with yellow or light grey colour, .. that is ok, .. but I can guarantee you 100 % that under those canvas there was always a colour for air recognition purpose established for each operation, and it was not the standard ship light grey for sure, so you can think about which colour those could have been.

at Denmark Strait Bismarck surely had the dark grey top turrets either main and secondary. you can refer my model here :

But before, from Gdynia to Bergen and out of Bergen before the painting OFF of the air recognition markings. this is all to be demonstrated yet,… with lot of work still to be done, and by the proper persons using correct infos.

About after Denmark Strait, for the final battle than the yellow on May 27th, as I said is almost proved now.

I agree with you about the survivors, many are very reliable, but some are not in words and writings, as I have demonstrated above.

YES, we have no witness accounts, but we have the photos of Prinz Eugen, and maybe one day the ones of Bismarck, when reliable infos will hopefully arise, properly researched and analyzed. so lets hope.

Meanwhile we can analyze Prinz Eugen and establish the Op. Rheinubung top turrets used colour, that to me was yellow.
Exactly like Op. Berlin, involving Scharnhorst and Gneisenau on January 1941 under the command of Adm Lutjens and only 4 months earlier than this one doing basically the same mission but with 2 different warships, and Op. Weserubung ( April 1940 ).

For the moment just establish that surely a "Fliegersichtzeichen" ( top turrets air recognition colour marking ) was there during Op. Rheinubung as reported is a very great achievement.

Now we know with good approssimation the Prinz Eugen one, .. and it was yellow. as it cannot be light grey for obvious reasons, … dark grey and red are out of discussion in this case, ….. because the dark grey was on Prinz Eugen on the full top turrets on May 16th, 1941 ( and I can prove it with a photo from F.O. Busch book of 1943 ), .. and it was over painted with a lighter colour covered with canvas ( visible on photos and it cannot be a light grey ) on the 17 or 18 of May, 1941 for Adm Lutjens readiness review.
It cannot be Red since it is too light on B/W photos, …..so only the yellow is left, ….unless somebody else do have different opinions about which colour that could have been.

So trusting Maus and HMS Rodney war diary, .. we can assess the yellow. as the colour used for Op. Rheinubung,….. so this was the colour used on Prinz Eugen on Gdynia as well,. ..the same colour Adm Lutjens used for SH and GU 4 months earlier to do the same mission basically. succesfully. we know sailors are superstitious .

Talking about this last point, we have :

Maus reported account that is very precise and explains also why the secondary 150 mm turrets were not done, as it is proven on the wreck as well.
But because of this his account is even more reliable, because it is very precise and provide lots of details, including the colour to be used : the yellow.

Do not underestimate the fact that Maus was a guy supposed to do the job, this is important.
I have met a Tirpitz survivor of A-Anton turret doing same job, and while nobody else from the Tirpitz survivors remembers anything about the Tirpitz top turrets colous. I had a nice dinner with this man last year. and he told me everything I dreamed about for years in full details, .. because he did the painting job.
His infos were right as without the photos I have seen in private collections ( some in colours ) he was able to tell me the colours and why and were they have been painted all the way thru.
So, now I know that a survivor doing the painting job at sea is really a reliable source, as it is not an easy job and your hands are fully coloured at the end, like your uniform.

Add on top of this HMS Rodney war diary, based on Official British Admiralty inputs, probably from the Swordfish on Adm Tovey request ( he thank them on the London Gazette after in writings for this air recognition job so well done ) due to the HMS Sheffield incident on the area on that moment that required a SURE identification of Bismarck for the action going on, so do not underestimate this military detail, it was not a ‘’gossip ‘’, it was a military information during an action to be engaged against the enemy, with real ship and sailors life involved, ..and it is recorded into official military documents ( we should search into Norfolk, KG V, Dorsetshire etc etc radio received message logbooks as well for additional confirmations, and every remaining doubt will fly away ).
Anybody can do this in UK ??

I still have to find the magazine among the hundreds I have were I have read about the HMs Dorsetshire sailor reporting the Bismarck capsizing showing the yellow tops on main turrets.

Now, 3 different sources saying the same thing,…. German and British, . and some officially, .. during a naval action going on,…. is more than a suspect,…. to me is something real,… and matches with Prinz Eugen top turrets colous, .. as showed even if on B/W photos.

You know like I do that those top turrets colour infos were GEHEIM ( Secret – Confidential ) informations and were NOT recorded into the ship Kriegstagebuch – KTB ( I confirm about the Tirpitz and some other ships ), but it is a real fact proved by many colour photos and reported accounts.

If you want to be air recognized you do not use the ship base light/medium grey colours to do it. and we know which colours the KM selected, .. the Yellow ( Op. Weserubung1, Berlin2, Rheinubung etc etc ) the Red (Op. Weserubung2, Berlin1, etc etc ) the Light Blue ( Op. Cerberus ) and the Dark Grey ( Op. Juno ).

When you want to remove or paint them OFF. than you use either the light grey making the turret freshly new painted, or the hull medium grey to cover up, as stated on the Prinz Eugen Kriegstagebuch ( this removes the light and medium grey from the selected air recognition identification colours for Luftwaffe of course, as obvious ).

I have just finished my researches on KM Light Cruisers and destroyers, . and it was the same for them as well .

It is not a problem if somebody is NOT yet convinced, everybody must keep is own opinion.
I just share mine, and accept the discussion, respectful of everybody else opinion.

Olaf asked me about Prinz Eugen. and I am glad he is convinced today of what I have researched and found.

When we will have more clear evidences on Bismarck, I am sure there will still be somebody not trusting what will become evident, but I will be more than happy as usual if the majority of the readers and warship lovers will agree with me, the others can just keep their opinions and it is ok.

By the way. did you got the Nh 69730 info written above ? You were right. 180. not 220.


Following are summaries of the 14 escape attempts:

#1. April 27, 1936 - While working his job burning trash at the incinerator, Joe Bowers began climbing up and over the chain link fence at the island's edge. After refusing orders to climb back down, Bowers was shot by a correctional officer stationed in the West road guard tower, then fell about 50-100 feet to the shore below. He died from his injuries.

#2. December 16, 1937 - While working in the mat shop in the model industries building, Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe had, over a period of time, filed their way through the flat iron bars on a window. After climbing through the window, they made their way down to the water's edge and disappeared into San Francisco Bay. This attempt occurred during a bad storm and the Bay's currents were especially fast and strong - most people believe Roe and Cole were swept out to sea. Officially, they are listed missing and presumed dead.

#3. May 23, 1938 - While at work in the woodworking shop in the model industries building, Thomas Limerick, Jimmy Lucas, and Rufus Franklin attacked unarmed correctional officer Royal Cline with a hammer (Cline died from his injuries). The three then climbed to the roof in an attempt to disarm the correctional officer in the roof tower. The officer, Harold Stites, shot Limerick and Franklin. Limerick died from his injuries. Lucas and Franklin received life sentences for Cline's murder.

#4. January 13, 1939 - Arthur "Doc" Barker, Dale Stamphill, William Martin, Henry Young, and Rufus McCain escaped from the isolation unit in the cellhouse by sawing through the flat iron cell bars and bending tool-proof bars on a window. They then made their way down to the water's edge. Correctional officers found the men at the shoreline on the west side of the island. Martin, Young, and McCain surrendered, while Barker and Stamphill were shot when they refused to surrender. Barker died from his injuries.

Theodore Cole

#5. May 21, 1941 - Joe Cretzer, Sam Shockley, Arnold Kyle, and Lloyd Barkdoll took several correctional officers hostage while working in the industries area. The officers, including Paul Madigan (who later became Alcatraz's third warden), were able to convince the four that they could not escape and they surrendered.

#6. September 15, 1941 - While on garbage detail, John Bayless attempted to escape. He gave up shortly after entering the cold water of San Francisco Bay. Later, while appearing in Federal court in San Francisco, Bayless tried, again unsuccessfully, to escape from the courtroom.

#7. April 14, 1943 - James Boarman, Harold Brest, Floyd Hamilton, and Fred Hunter took two officers hostage while at work in the industries area. The four climbed out a window and made their way down to the water's edge. One of the hostages was able to alert other officers to the escape and shots were fired at Boarman, Brest, and Hamilton, who were swimming away from the island. Hunter and Brest were both apprehended. Boarman was hit by gunfire and sank below the water before officers were able to reach him his body was never recovered. Hamilton was initially presumed drowned. However, after hiding out for 2 days in a small shoreline cave, Hamilton made his way back up to the industries area, where he was discovered by correctional officers.

#8. August 7, 1943 - Huron "Ted" Walters disappeared from the prison laundry building. He was caught at the shoreline, before he could even attempt to enter San Francisco Bay.


The Mexia Weekly Herald (Mexia, Tex.), Vol. 43, No. 21, Ed. 1 Friday, May 30, 1941

Weekly newspaper from Mexia, Texas that includes local, state, and national news along with advertising.

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Located in northeastern Limestone County, the Library has served the people of Mexia since 1949. The Mexia Public Library first came to fruition in 1903. In its current state, the Library provides access to resources and Mexia's history as a center for the oil and gas industries during the early 20th century.


Battle of Crete: It Began with Germany’s Airborne Invasion—Operation Mercury

In the fall of 1940, Adolf Hitler was certain that Josef Stalin was preparing to attack him. Word of the Soviet dictator’s paranoid purges of his military’s high command in the late 1930s had been reassuring news to the German Führer in Berlin. But when news reached Hitler in 1940 that the Soviets were busily training an entire new officer corps, the Führer began to worry again and ordered his generals to draw up plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union. His timetable was thrown off, however, by a series of unexpected developments in the south.

Chagrined over his own lack of conquests while Hitler’s forces were overrunning most of Western Europe, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini invaded Greece on October 28, 1940. Undertaken at the wrong time of year, the offensive quickly bogged down in the autumn rains, and when the Greeks counterattacked on November 5, they drove il Duce‘s forces back to their starting point on the Albanian frontier.

British forces were fighting alongside the Greeks, and Hitler was forced to intervene lest his enemies establish a foothold on his southern flank. German armies surged into and subdued the Balkans, saving Mussolini and securing the south — most of it. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill then sent units of the Royal Navy into the eastern portion of the Mediterranean in anticipation of a German invasion of Crete, the largest of the Greek isles, off the southeastern coast of the Greek mainland.

It was a foregone conclusion that the Germans would target the big island next. Britain’s presence there gave the Allies an invaluable base for their air and sea fleets to threaten supplies and reinforcements destined for Axis forces in North Africa. Royal Air Force bombers based on Crete could also reach the vital Romanian oil fields, which fueled the German war machine, and Crete might even provide a staging area for an Allied invasion of Southern Europe.

For the Germans, time was of the essence. Operations in Greece and Crete had to be concluded successfully before the invasion of the Soviet Union could be undertaken with prospects for a speedy victory before winter. The elite airborne forces commanded by General Kurt Student were placed on alert on May 1, 1941. They would have only 20 days to prepare for the assault on this distant, unfamiliar island. Operation Mercury, as it was called, was set in motion.

Because the campaign had to be carried out in great haste, there was little time for preparation on any level. A total of 500 Junkers Ju-52/3m transport planes would be required to convey the airborne troops into battle. The planes had been severely overworked during the recent attacks on Yugoslavia and Greece, however, and their airframes and engines were in need of major servicing. On May 1, the entire fleet flew north to dozens of aircraft maintenance facilities scattered throughout Germany, Austria and Bohemia-Moravia. By May 15, 493 overhauled, rewelded and otherwise repaired Ju-52s were back in Greece. The next problem to be dealt with was locating appropriate staging areas for the airborne armada.

The handful of Greek airfields with paved runaways were already occupied by the German VIII Air Corps’ bomber units. The transports would have to make do with dusty fields and dirt roads. When Colonel Rudiger von Heyking surveyed the runways for his 150 Ju-52s, he reported to his superiors: ‘They are nothing but deserts! Heavy-laden aircraft will sink up to their ankles.’

Heyking’s dismay was warranted. His airfield outside Topolia had been plowed up by its previous commander in an attempt ‘to make it more level.’ The result was that takeoffs and landings raised dense clouds of dust that rose to 3,000 feet and made it impossible for formations to follow each other at intervals of less than 17 minutes. It was a problem that plagued the Germans throughout the developing theater. Transport groups at Dadion, Megara, Corinth and Tanagra were forced to use fields made of shifting, unstable sand.

The Germans also suffered from a severe fuel shortage. The three flights by 493 Junkers to deliver the paratroopers to Crete would require an estimated 650,000 gallons of gasoline. As of May 17, no fuel had arrived. On April 26, British infantry had captured the bridge over the Corinth canal, through which the Germans’ fuel-carrying tanker had to pass en route from Italy. The British blew up the bridge, which fell into the canal and effectively blocked it. By May 17, Kriegsmarine divers had managed to clear the debris sufficiently to permit the tanker to pass, and the next day she docked at the Greek port of Piraeus, where the precious fuel was pumped into 45-gallon barrels and loaded onto trucks for transport to the airfields.

Because of the delayed tanker, the invasion had been postponed from May 15 to the 18th, and finally to May 20. By midnight of May 19-20, some transport squadrons were still waiting for their fuel, and when it finally arrived, time was so short that paratroopers had to help unload the drums, roll them to the planes and then assist as the tanks were slowly filled by hand-cranked pumps. To compensate for the hard night’s work, the soldiers were issued amphetamines to keep them awake through the long days ahead.

The airborne assault commenced at dawn, with fleets of Ju-52s roaring over the Cretan coast, disgorging clouds of tired paratroopers while additional soldiers arrived via glider. The initial airdrops were made by a force of 3,000 men under the command of Maj. Gen. Eugen Meindl near Maleme and Canea on Crete’s northwest coast. These were followed on the afternoon of the 20th by 2,600 soldiers at Heraklion and 1,500 at Rethymnon.

Student’s forces suffered such ghastly casualties that massive reinforcements became necessary to stave off outright defeat. Opposition to the invasion was much stiffer than had been anticipated. More than 40,000 troops, including Greek soldiers evacuated from the mainland and British Commonwealth forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Bernard Freyberg, a New Zealander, fought ferociously.

The primitive conditions and murderous anti-aircraft fire over Crete claimed so many of the crucial Ju-52s during the first two days of the attack that the German high command doubted further airdrops were advisable.

Apart from the heavy losses of Luftwaffe transports, there was the problem of delivering sorely needed artillery, ammunition, tanks and other heavy equipment, all of which were too heavy to be carried by aircraft. The solution was to dispatch a convoy of commandeered Greek fishing and merchant vessels carrying 2,331 soldiers of the 100th Mountain Regiment’s 3rd Battalion, fully armed and equipped, on the evening of May 20. The Germans tried to convince their Italian allies to launch a major naval sortie to the west to draw the Royal Navy away from the convoy, but Mussolini’s admiralty expressed little interest in such a risky ploy. Instead, the Germans hoped to deceive their enemy with false radio signals and make for Crete under cover of darkness.

The problem with that plan was that Luftwaffe air superiority was meaningless at night, and if the Royal Navy was able to locate the sea train, nothing could prevent a massacre. Sure enough, the heavily laden and elderly vessels were slowed by contrary winds and were still far short of their destination at dawn, when Luftwaffe reconnaissance warned them of approaching British warships. The motley fleet reversed direction and returned to its starting point, the coastal island of Menlos.

Six hours later the Germans tried again, hoping that the enemy would not expect another attempt so soon. But by starting so late in the day they forfeited any chance of reaching Crete before dark. Elements of the British Mediterranean Fleet had been patrolling off the north coast of Crete in anticipation of such a move. Just before midnight three cruisers and four destroyers of Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham’s command tore into the virtually unprotected German convoy.

A survivor of the attack later wrote: ‘To us the searchlights appear like fingers of death. Sharply cut against the darkness they grope here and there over the water. For a moment they touch our mast tips in brilliant light, then wander on. Are we too small to be seen?’ Apparently not, for as the terrified German looked up he saw a destroyer churn out of the blackness. ‘The thing is right in front of us,’ he continued. ‘A dark shadow high as a church tower. The searchlights flash out again, drenching our tiny vessel in light as bright as day. `Everybody overboard!’ As we leap into the water the first salvoes crash into us like a tempest, sending showers of wood and debris about our ears.’

For 2 1/2 hours it was a turkey shoot. Then the warships broke off and retired, leaving the shattered remains of the flotilla dead in the water to drift northward toward Greece. Cunningham estimated that 4,000 Germans had been killed. In fact, just over 800 had died, and at dawn Axis forces mounted a massive rescue effort. A second convoy, carrying the 2nd Battalion of the 85th Mountain Regiment, was sighted that same morning but escaped back to the mainland with a British flotilla hard on its rudders.

Developments along the entire eastern seacoast would soon turn the tide in the bloody battle for Crete. For several days Luftwaffe combat squadrons had been massing at newly captured airfields on islands in the Aegean Sea, at the Peloponnesian cities of Argos, Mycenae and Molae, and to the north in central Greece. The British lost the destroyer Juno to German aircraft on May 21, and on May 22 reconnaissance patrols pinpointed the locations of British naval units throughout the battle zone.

Cunningham was aware of his vulnerability to air attack and had accordingly refrained from drawing too near the combat areas. However, the Luftwaffe bomber units had been so preoccupied with supporting their beleaguered paratroops that they had so far virtually ignored the British fleet. Perhaps this lack of attention deceived the admiral into overconfidence.

On the night of May 21-22, Cunningham sent 14 of his cruisers and destroyers to positions off the island’s north coast to continue the blockade. It was these vessels that the German reconnaissance flights noticed. Soon after first light, hundreds of German bombers and fighters roared into the sky.

The first to lift off were the Junkers Ju-87B dive bombers of Stukageschwader 2, commanded by Lt. Col. Oskar Dinort. Twenty-five miles north of Crete they found targets — two cruisers and two destroyers. Screaming down from 12,000 feet, the Stukas ignored blistering anti-aircraft fire and unloaded on their marks. Under full steam and rudder, the ships zigzagged desperately as heavy bombs exploded so close that their decks were doused with seawater from the blasts.

The light cruisers Gloucester and Fiji were slightly damaged, while destroyers Greyhound and Griffin emerged unscathed. After 90 minutes of virtually fruitless attack, the Stukas returned to their airfields for rearming and refueling while the quartet of British vessels fled to rendezvous with the main fleet 30 miles off Crete’s west coast.

To the east the British were still pursuing the second troop flotilla when they were assaulted by twin-engine Junkers Ju-88 dive bombers. The Allies were already learning to fear these versatile planes, which combined speed, diving ability, bombload and accuracy to a devastating extent. In this attack, however, the initial wall of flak thrown up by the targets apparently so unnerved the German assailants that only two ships, the cruisers Naiad and Carlisle, were moderately damaged before the flotilla scattered and made good its escape to the west.

Cunningham was dismayed by this maneuver. He was convinced his vessels stood a better chance if they closed with the troopships and destroyed them at close quarters while the pilots, who he thought would be fearful of killing their own men, buzzed helplessly overhead. Also, he considered destruction of this reinforcement-carrying convoy worth any price. But by the time his order of ‘Stick to it!’ arrived from Alexandria, his task force had already retired.

By that time 19 British warships had gathered, led by the battleships Valiant and Warspite. They could throw up a withering screen of fire, but much of their ammunition had been expended in the previous day’s action. Furthermore, the commander of the VIII Air Corps, General Wolfram von Richthofen, had at his disposal a massive array of aerial firepower. May 22, 1941, would demonstrate how vulnerable even a powerful naval task force can be when an opponent has complete control of the sky.

At 12:30 p.m., flights of Messerschmitt Me-109s and Dornier Do-17s joined the Stukas chasing the westward-steaming British ships as they linked up with the rest of the fleet. Warspite immediately suffered a direct hit. Seeing her distress, the Me-109s pounced on her, spraying her with machine-gun fire that killed many sailors and knocked out her 4- and 6-inch starboard batteries.

At this point the planes of the refueled and rearmed Stukageschwader 2 arrived. Seeing the vast aerial armada descending upon them, the British turned and fled southwest in a desperate bid to get out of range. In essence they were abandoning their comrades on Crete and conceding defeat. The Germans, however, had no intention of allowing them to escape unmolested.

A couple of hours earlier, Greyhound had been dispatched alone to destroy a caique full of soldiers that had been spotted off Antikythera. The solitary destroyer was caught and quickly sunk by two Stuka bombs. Two other destroyers, Kandahar and Kingston, were ordered by Rear Adm. Edward King to return and pick up survivors while Gloucester and Fiji were to provide anti-aircraft cover. The admiral was unaware that the cruisers were almost out of ammunition, and by the time he was informed of that and radioed for them to return, it was too late.

Gloucester was mortally hit almost instantly. Ablaze along her entire length, she meandered aimlessly until 4 p.m., when she was sunk by an internal explosion. This time King gritted his teeth and left the surviving crew to what he assumed was certain death in the sea. Over the next 24 hours, however, German floatplanes picked up more than 500 British seamen.

Meanwhile, Fiji and her destroyers set course for Alexandria. At 5:45 p.m. she was spotted by a lone Me-109 that was carrying a 550-pound bomb. Although at his extreme range limit, the pilot never wavered in his attack, planting his bomb alongside the ship and buckling her plates. The resultant flooding seriously reduced Fiji‘s speed and caused a severe list. Furthermore, the German pilot radioed his victim’s whereabouts, and when a bomber appeared 30 minutes later, there was little the cruiser could do to defend herself. The plane dropped three 110-pound bombs on the forward boiler room, and at nightfall Fiji turned turtle and sank.

Also at dusk five modern destroyers arrived from Malta and took up position off Crete’s north coast. Two of them, Kelly and Kashmir, shelled German positions at Maleme and torched a couple of troopships, but at dawn they were attacked by a swarm of 24 Stukas and quickly sent to the bottom. Destroyer Kipling rescued 279 survivors, including Kelly‘s captain, Lord Louis Mountbatten. At 7 a.m. on May 23, what was left of the British Mediterranean Fleet limped back to Alexandria.

The previous night a delighted Richthofen had written in his diary: ‘The British take hit after hit ships burn and sink. Others turn aside to help and are caught by bombs, too. Some limp along with a list, others with a trail of oil, to get out of this hell. Flight units that have flown the whole day, bombed, reloaded with time for naught else, at evening begin to let out triumphant shouts of joy. Results cannot yet be assessed, but I have the solid feeling of a grand and decisive success: Six cruisers and three destroyers are definitely sunk, others so damaged they will sink in the night. We have finally demonstrated that, if weather permits flying, a fleet cannot operate within range of the Luftwaffe.’ Richthofen hurriedly radioed Berlin to send immediate seaborne reinforcements to Crete. However, the high command was still shaken by the mauling of the first troop convoy and could not believe that the Royal Navy had been swept from the arena.

Although the toll on the British was less than Richthofen thought (only two destroyers had actually been sunk at the time of his diary entry), it was still considerable. Three other warships were damaged to the point of uselessness, and more than 1,000 men had been lost. Still, the exultant Luftwaffe general could not prevail on his distant, overly cautious superiors to launch another fleet of troop-carrying boats. Help would continue to arrive with maddening slowness via the depleted squadrons of cargo planes.

If the upper echelons of the Wehrmacht were unconvinced of their own success, the British certainly were not. By retiring to Alexandria, Cunningham was disobeying direct orders from London to retain control of the sea lanes north of Crete at all costs. The rueful admiral could see that control of the sea had passed from surface forces to air power and that his superiors’ notion of war at sea was outmoded. He radioed the chiefs of staff that his losses were too great to justify trying to prevent further attacks on Crete, adding that his men and the vessels they sailed were nearing exhaustion.

‘The operations of the last four days have been nothing short of a test of strength between the Mediterranean Fleet and the German Air Force,’ Cunningham reported on May 23. ‘I am afraid that, in the coastal area, we have to admit defeat and accept the fact that losses are too great to justify us in trying to prevent seaborne attacks on Crete. This is a melancholy conclusion, but it must be faced.’

There would be no landings of seaborne Germans, however, and the battered Ju-52s resolutely continued to land with their human cargo. The 100th Mountain Regiment, some of the men still wet from the previous day’s abortive cruise, was gradually brought up to strength with airlifted new arrivals. The tough, well-equipped veterans began to prevail in this confused campaign so marred by crucial blunders on both sides. The Allies, bereft of air support due to a lack of aircraft carriers or suitable airfields in range of the combat zone, were gradually pushed to the coastal areas of the island’s eastern end, where they awaited evacuation by what remained of the demoralized British fleet.

As late as May 27, Churchill telegraphed General Sir Archibald Wavell, commander in chief of Middle East forces, ‘Victory in Crete essential at this turning-point in the war.’ The same day Wavell despondently replied, ‘Fear we must recognise that Crete is no longer tenable….’

The British evacuation would have been a suicidal venture if Hitler had not already begun withdrawing his air units in preparation for the invasion of the Soviet Union. At Heraklion, however, destroyer Imperial‘s rudder became hopelessly jammed, compelling the British to transfer her crew and troops to destroyer Hotspur, and then scuttle her. A handful of remaining Stukas came across the rescue force on May 29, damaging cruisers Ajax and Orion and several destroyers, sinking the destroyer Hereward, and killing another 800 men.

Although the Luftwaffe‘s neutralization of the Royal Navy’s Mediterranean Fleet made it possible for Germany to conquer Crete, it would be a hollow victory, so costly that Hitler swore off any further large-scale paratroop operations. He did not bother turning his expensive acquisition into a Nazi bastion to dominate the eastern Mediterranean and possibly secure victory in North Africa. Crete proved little more than a cemetery for thousands of wasted German lives — a sacrifice General Julius Ringel, commander of the 5th Mountain Division, said ‘would not have been too great had it meant a beginning, not an end.’

The Royal Navy lost a total of nine ships and 2,000 sailors during the campaign for Crete. On land, 1,700 Allied soldiers were killed and 12,000 captured. A total of 4,000 German soldiers were killed, and 220 of the nearly 500 transport aircraft involved were lost. After the invasion of Crete, Hitler told Student that the day of the paratrooper was over. The German armed forces would never again launch a large-scale airborne assault. The Allies, however, proved Hitler incorrect when they used airborne troops effectively against him during the D-Day operations three years later.

This article was written by Kelly Bell and originally appeared in the May 1999 issue of World War II.

For more great articles be sure to pick up your copy of World War II.


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"I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil."

General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944

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Today in Literary History – May 24, 1941 – Bob Dylan is born

Bob Dylan, singer, songwriter, musician and winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature, was born in Duluth, Minnesota on May 24, 1941, as Robert Zimmerman. I have been listening to, enjoying, admiring, obsessing over and being confounded by Dylan for half a century.

When I was nine years old, in 1966, our family got its first stereo console, in those days a big piece of furniture the size of a dining room sideboard. It came with a few free records. One of them was Too Much Tequila (which I couldn’t pronounce) by the Tijuana (which I also couldn’t pronounce) Brass. Another was a Columbia Records compilation that included Dylan’s goofy number All I Really Want To Do. I was immediately captivated and haven’t looked back since!

There’s nothing else I can say about him in 300 words. Happy birthday, Bob!


Article content

In headline telegraph-ese, our editors called it a “soldier revue.” But the article that appeared in the Montreal Gazette on May 22, 1941, was much more effusive about the latest version of the Tin Hat Revue, which was to close the 11th season of the Montreal Repertory Theatre company.

“A brightly costumed chorus, a judicious mixture of sweet and swing music, snappy military comedy (and) novelty numbers” were on offer, we reported in a preview of an upcoming production at the Windsor Hotel. The show was based on a revue of songs, skits and dancing mounted to entertain Canada’s armed forces after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.


Watch the video: Начало войны Катастрофа 1941 год. Ставка 1 серия (June 2022).


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