Cruiser "Prinz Eugen" torpedo related matters regarding the naval engagement on 24 May 1941.
(Translated from the original German by Ulrich H. Rudofsky)
Naval Group Command North
Command Post, 7 July 1941
To the High Command of the Kriegsmarine – Office of Naval Operations (SKL)
Attached, the position of the Commander of Cruisers (B.d.K.) regarding the War Diary (KTB) of the Cruiser "Prinz Eugen" from 18.5 to 1.6. 1941 is presented.
It is noted:
At page 1 – 1.) 3rd sentence.
At page 2 – 4.)
- The conclusion is too far-fetched, and appears to have been drawn in retrospect. At Group, this certainty was not at hand in similar form.
- Regarding the judgment of the situation, there were further options:
- c. the choice of a rapid break-through south of Iceland,
- d. evasion to the North [Arctic] Ocean for a waiting period with the inherent danger of being found and engaged.
- a. "Prinz Eugen" presumed to engage first of all heavy cruisers not battleships.
- b. The engagement of "Prinz Eugen's" artillery in this battle was in any case correct. "Prinz Eugen" achieved strikes and incendiary effects. This could have been very important. She forced the opponent to divide his fire. This could have been a decisive action.
- One cannot think only according to rule and must take chances in the exposure to danger. Dangers here do not always refer to incurring losses or annihilation.
- Of primary effect was the deployment of "Prinz Eugen's" torpedoes. This failed, and it was a serious [bad] shortcoming!
At page 5 – 8.)
The criticism of the assumption by the 1st Artillery Officer [Korvettenkapitän Jasper] is not warranted, namely, that at very far distances of the opponent, particularly at sharp angles, the identity of a ship's type, even with the most accurate knowledge, cannot be demanded with absolute certainty.
R e i m a n n
Kapitänleutnant and 1st Torpedo Officer [I.T.O.]
On board, 10 July 1941
Secret Command Matter!
In reference to the Commander of Cruisers [B.d.K.] Gdkos 37 command matter of 16 June 1941 I am reporting the following:
The readiness of the torpedo launch fire control system during the night of [23-] 24 May was: "switch to combat readiness, foreward station, both sides", each with one group of tubes (foreward on the portside and aft on the starboard side were combat ready), i.e., the equipment was hooked up with both (TZA) torpedo targeting devices on the bridge, both spread angle computers, both "Zentags" [Zentrales Abfeuergerät = Central firing trigger that provides the bearing and sequential fire control], including the steering boxes, and all were ready for immediate launching of a three-torpedo spread set with estimated values. This switching was maintained during the battle; however, the alarm of the arming coupler was activated for determining the firing values and both aft sets of tubes were changed to a six-torpedo spread.
I did not change the switch to "normal setting" that is, "switch to idle", since the shooting training section taught us that, in a surprise situation, it takes too long to turn on the "combat ready setting" (estimated setting): thus, the estimated values are preset and the shot can be dropped. I had intended to have target acquisition determine the opponent's bearing coordinates and have the TZA use these to set the as estimated values, since it appeared to me, that they had settled down and had become more steady. This method was practiced during the shooting part of the training and it has been successful in the past.
Therefore, this was applied during the battle. The target acquisition bearing coordinates were Vg [speed of opponent] = 27–29 knots and in the first minute the position was reported as green 80–100º. Simultaneously it was reported: " Reaching range 'no' 100". These values cannot be set on the TZA [torpedo targeting device]. Thirdly, the angle of intersection would have become to acute.
Soon after the start of the battle, I received the order from the commander [Kapitän zur See Brinkmann]: "Torpedo arms: permission to fire as soon as in reaching range". Therefore, I considered all other responses, except the actual firing report, as superfluous.
The turning toward us by the opponent was first observed by the observation tower and shortly thereafter also verified by the bearing taker in the computing station. I ordered a lay angle 60, then 40, and had the tubes made ready, and then turned to the reaching range rotary calculator in the TZA, since the computing station now reported a "reaching range of +/- 0". During this important blink of the eye, I believed that I could not trust solely the data from the computing station and the person entering it in the TZA, but rather, I calculated the reaching range myself on the rotary drum of the TZA. Suddenly, the aligner at the TZA reports: "Opponent turns away". With a sight through the optics, I verified the very small silhouette of the opponent. The computing station overheard the report of the aligner and countered "No, opponent is turning toward us". The observations of the telescope were rechecked and the turning-away was verified with certainty.
Afterwards, it was determined that the range finders had measured a range decrease, instead of a range increase, which had produced the impression at the bearing instrument of a further turning toward us. This error became evident in the sketch of the artillery fire report, which caused the range finders confusion, that the opponent was turning toward us instead of turning away.
A change in setting of the estimated values into the red position was not possible, since the distance increased rapidly until the end of the battle.
In conclusion, it is evident:
Although the opponent was within the reaching distance for almost 2 minutes, the spread was not dropped, since the opponent was, at that time, moving along the limit of the reaching range, and I wanted to be certain that the spread would fall at least in a reaching range of "yes 5". The preparatory orders were issued, the tubes had their safeties off and followed their covering angle of fire. The fire control installation had done the required job.
Despite the switching that delivers the parallel values of the entire rangefinder system to the artillery and the torpedo weapons, this battle demonstrates that a sharp separation between the artillery and torpedo range finding instruments must exist. Since in a running battle, the aft portion of the ship is generally more in line with the opponent than the foreward portion, the case of differences in targeting of artillery and torpedoes on the same side will often occur. The time for intersecting the "Hood" was in this case a lost effort, since the distance was "reaching range no". Therefore, it was finally determined aboard "Prinz Eugen" that the 3-meter night rangefinder should only be set for torpedoes even in daytime, since assigning rangefinders to the torpedo weapons during an ongoing battle causes difficulties.
Kapitänleutnant and 1st Torpedo Officer [I.T.O.]
The correctness of this transcript is certified:
On board, 17 July 1941
Leutnant zur See
and and adjutant
Command Cruiser "Prinz Eugen"
Log no. g.Kdos 591.
On board, 17 July 1941
To the Commander of Cruisers [B.d.K.] (4x = quadruplicate copies)
Subject: War Diary "Prinz Eugen" of 18.5. to 1.6.1941.1. "Prinz Eugen" Gkdos 400 of 2.6.1941.
2. Commander of Cruisers [B.d.K] Gkdos 37 C-in-C matter of 16.6.1941.
According to above transaction 2. are presented as attachments:
1. A battle sketch from which the position of the cruiser with clock time, battle distance, torpedo reaching distance and angle of position of the opponent are apparent, and
2. A report of the 1st Torpedo Officer of "Prinz Eugen" about the launching options during the battle.
To this I have to report the following:
Immediately after the heavy artillery's permission to fire was given, the 1st Torpedo Officer [Kapitänleutnant Reimann] received the order: "Torpedo weapons, permission to fire, as soon as reach distance is achieved." This order did undoubtedly exist at the start of the battle, and the point in time could only be estimated as soon as the approaching enemy ships closed in for battle.
At the time when the "Prince of Wales" turned hard towards the German formation – between 0501 and 0502 hours – I estimated that an opportunity for a torpedo launch had arrived. I renewed my order to the 1st Torpedo Officer: "Permission to launch torpedoes as soon as in reaching range". As to the question "What is the reaching range?" I received the following report, after a considerable time lapse: "Range +/-".
Thereupon, I ordered once again: "Permission to fire", because I thought it to be self-evident that a straddle would achieve a hit. The 1st Torpedo Officer explains in his report the reasons why a straddle could not be achieved despite coming within range during this time.
The intention of the 1st Torpedo Officer was to be on the safe side in that at least "yes 5" should be reached and, therefore, he missed the only opportunity for a straddle. It certainly could not have predicted that the opponent would turn away so soon thereafter.
It is certainly possible that "Prince of Wales" could have decided to weather the running battle, since she could have possibly observed her heavy hits on "Bismarck". However, with the breaking away of "Prince of Wales' " increasing distance, the fan [spread] theoretically could probably not have reached the enemy. The errors of observation by optical range finding measurements and in the various reports of turning to or breaking away by the "Prince of Wales" are also pointed out in the artillery report of "Prinz Eugen" B. Nr. G 2243 of 12.7.1941 (only sent to the Commander of Cruisers).
There, as with the torpedo weapon's false observations resulted in erroneous actions.
The necessary lessons have been learned. The torpedo weapon must receive its own rangefinder instruments. A comparison with the artillery measurements may always be possible, when the target is the same.
My report in the War Diary, that the torpedo fire control of the cruiser takes too much time until an all-clear report, I should have to clarify. This, I would have corrected immediately, if I had been given sufficient time after arrival in port, to discuss the details once more with the weapon's commanders, and only then I would have closed the War Diary and departed for the oral presentation.
The installation could have fired, if the range distance of +/- 0 spread had fallen. The experience gained from this is, that the firing experience in conjunction with the torpedo testing which the ship was able to conduct before the operation [Rheinübung] was insufficient to have the personnel measure up to all conceivable situations despite their naturally high enthusiasm.
Commander of Cruisers [B.d.K.]
Log no. g.Kdos. 656 A1.
11 August 1941
Secret Command Matter!
To:the Fleet Command (3 x [triplicate]),
Report sent to [FYO]:
Command of cruiser "Prinz Eugen",
Subject: War Diary [KTB] "Prinz Eugen" from 18.5 to 1.6.41.
Transaction: "Prinz Eugen" g.kdos. 591 of 17.7.41 (attached as addendum).
Attached is presented in triplicate a report by the "Prinz Eugen" regarding the torpedo deployment of the ship in the fight against "Hood" and "Prince of Wales" near Greenland on 24.5.41. Office of Naval Operations [SKL] has not yet received a copy of the document.
The documents presented here, regarding this transaction, were previously requested by me, since the War Diary of the "Prinz Eugen" for the time interval in question, gave no clear picture regarding the possibilities of torpedo deployment.
Based on the Records for the Torpedo Weapon presented now, "Prince of Wales" was within the reach of torpedoes for a brief time. This point in time had to be used unquestionably for the launching of torpedoes, even if there was a danger that the opponent would, due to unpredictable maneuvers, move out of range during the running time of the torpedoes.
During the critical situation, when "Bismarck" was hit, "Prinz Eugen" had to utilize every opportunity for a success-promising deployment of its weapons. This possibility occurred, when the opponent got within the +-0 range, and even more advantageously, when the range appeared to have improved steadily. The torpedo officer [T.O.] missed this window of opportunity, because he did not trust the range determination limits of his personnel, and because he wished to gain his own observation of the real conditions.
This was at a point in time that depended on rapid action disregarding better results that were coming in from two independent and separate, but confirming, stations. Thus, the Torpedo Officer lost valuable time. The opinion to wait for the range of "yes 5", to be certain, was not justified in this critical phase of the battle; this is particularly true, since this ship could only be deployed as a torpedo platform in the first place.
Even his distrust in the accuracy of his equipment, which the Torpedo Officer later mentioned orally, does not justify his decision. A launch had to be made under any circumstance, especially because the commander twice had given the command: "Torpedoes, permission to fire as soon as target comes within reaching range".
This determination remains a fact, even if the torpedoes were fired at this point in time had missed their target, because the opponent turned away, and a follow-up evaluation by the artillery based on more accurate data, had concluded that the opponent was totally out of reach at all times.
These incidents prove again the importance of thorough weapons training, since such a well-proven weapon may have failed, because of the inadequacy of the man in charge of the torpedoes. Battle readiness of the ship, despite all efforts of the commander, was naturally not at its peak after the briefly available time for training. I had expressed this before the departure. The view that a cruise in the Atlantic is the best school for training is not justified, when it is done in the middle of a territory controlled by the enemy.
It is too late and too complicated to ascertain the existence of problems while engaging in battle.
The failure in the deployment of torpedoes, in the first instance, can be ascribed only to the fact that the Torpedo Officer believed that he could not rely on the work of his insufficiently trained personnel and his equipment.
The torpedo weaponry of the recently commissioned ship, disregarding the shake-down time, was restricted to just 2 torpedo firing days for individual training.
The commanders are strictly instructed by me, to deliver their battle-reports to me, only when they have attained sufficient their self-confidence that they may be able to master their explanations of quite difficult situations.
From: Fleet Command,
log no. Gkdos. 2566
On board, 18 August 1941
To the Naval Group West, Torpedo Inspection Section,
Subject: War Diary [KTB] "Prinz Eugen" from 18.5. to 1.6.41.
Transaction: "Prinz Eugen" Gkdos. 591 of 17.7.41
The Fleet Command fully agrees with the position of the Commander of Cruisers [B.d.K.].
In the engagement of the battle group "Bismarck/Prinz Eugen" with two English battleships, the heavy cruiser was required to deploy his torpedo weapons at the first opportunity, even when the certainty of a hit at the range was not yet certain. The opponent maintained his advancing course very well, until he finally turned away. The commander of "Prinz Eugen" [Kapitän zur See Brinkmann] clearly understood the tactical position and gave the command to launch torpedoes on two occasions.
That the torpedo officer [Kapitänleutnant Reimann] did not carry out his orders, is based on the fact that he lacked sufficient training in the tactical applications of the weapon, and this resulted in uncertainty in his judgment of the situation and the execution of fire control.
It must be mentioned that the torpedo officer's tactical and firing training with a two-day shooting course (day and night and day distance firing) could not have been sufficient. Even the smooth collaborations between the commander and the torpedo officer in such a short time, could not be achieved.
This occurrence proves that before our ships are sent into deployment, they must receive sufficient combat training in all areas and that the appropriated time was insufficient.
Addendum for the torpedo inspection section [T.I.]:
The torpedo inspection section is kindly requested to evaluate the present combat experiences for future teaching of courses.
Signed: By order.....not legible
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