HMS Warspite V Bismarck : Who Wins?

Warspite shelling German positions at Catania, July 1943

HMS Warspite V Bismarck : Who Wins? All logic would point to Bismarck. Warspite was a wonderful battleship with an outstanding record over two world wars, but the ‘tale of the tape’, as boxing commentators say, is overwhelmingly in favor of the German ship had they met on a one to one basis.

Bismarck; brand new and fully worked up; Warspite recently reconstructed, and highly efficient, but 25 years old. Bismarck 42,500 tons officially (probably more in reality); Warspite 30,600 tons. Bismarck 29 knots; Warspite 23.5 knots. Bismarck heavier and more extensive armor protection; broader beam /length ratio and thus superior subdivision and damage control ability.

When built in 1914, Warspite and her sisters were the best battleships in the world and remained so for some time.

October 1914

After reconstruction in 1938 she was still a formidable proposition, but could not possibly be equated with a new ship 40% larger than herself and much faster.

The only equality was in armament – both carrying 8-15 inch guns in twin turrets.
 Bismarck Bruno turret

The old Mk.1 15 inch guns carried by Warspite, were probably the best battleship guns ever produced, and once their elevation had been increased to 30 degrees during her reconstruction, she matched Bismarck in hitting power.

In 1941, Bismarck was the most powerful battleship afloat, and would not be matched until the Iowas, Yamatos and Vanguard came into service – although a fully worked up Richelieu, KGV and a South Dakota would have given her something to think about if they could catch her.


Warspite
 bombarding defensive positions off Normandy, 6 June 1944

 Moreover, if you want to look at a real IF, consider what would have been the result if Lutyens had pursued PoW after the sinking of Hood, and sunk her as well. – and that would have been something of an ‘If’- and immediately afterwards curtailed the raid on the basis of damage incurred in the initial action in the Denmark Strait. ‘If’ Bismarck had managed to sink PoW in addition to Hood, Lutyens could have immediately returned to Germany with his damaged ship, where it could be repaired, and subsequently sortie with Tirpitz, which had been Raeder’s initial intention.

The fact that Tirpitz had not completed her work up trial was the reason the Prinz Eugen was substituted for the operation. Let us assume, if we are keen on ‘Ifs’ what might have resulted if Bismarck had pursued and sunk PoW and then immediately returned to Germany having won the greatest victory ever achieved by a German naval force. By the time Bismarck had been repaired, Tirpitz would have completed her work up, and Raeder’s original plan could be properly launched.

Prince of Wales arrives at Singapore, 4 December 1941
On the British side there would have been little available to meet the threat.

There were only three ships available that had the speed to engage the German ships and two of them were old battlecruisers that would have been cannon fodder. Until the Duke of York was completed and operational, Germany, for a brief period, would have had the two most powerful battleships in the world on the loose had the Ifs had become actuals.

Of course if the Royal Air Force was able to intercede, everything we have discussed is moot.

HMS Warspite V Bismarck : Who Wins? Written by Anonymous

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