Saturday, 4 January 2014
To be lying in bed at 5am worrying about the fuel consumption of the Tirpitz, with your wife beside you reading 'Marx for Beginners' and wondering if you should try again (to get to sleep) is one of those quirks of middle age. Stuff bothers you, and in this case it was Jeremy Clarkson's otherwise excellent TV film about allied convoy PQ17, which Tirpitz destroyed without firing a single shot and being nowhere near around 4th July 1942.
Clarkson seemed to suggest it was Navy commander Pound's fault that he felt compelled to remove the escort and scatter the arctic convoy leaving it to the mercy of the U Boats and Luftwaffe because he didn't believe the view of Denning that Tirpitz wasn't around. However surely your spies can tell you if Hitler's biggest bath toy is still at anchor or not, or surely you can send over a Mosquito and take a peek if not?
An early morning Google search revealed another angle; that Tirpitz had set sail in flotilla with the intention of attacking the convoy, but that some of her accompanying vessels had 'hit rocks' and the mission was cancelled. The idea of the German navy exclaiming 'Rocks!... VOT!!? or for that matter 'VOT!!!....rocks!!!' may be endearing but hardly reasonable so I went back, puzzled to bed.
So after a bit of tossing and turning: perhaps it was a stunt. Perhaps all the Tirpitz had to do to put the whole of the allied Navy in a spin was to look as if she was making for the arctic. The Tirpitz was fast and big (the biggest of the German fleet) and Clarkson relished the fact that she could speed along at up to 30mph. But, she was a gas guzzler of epic proportions, and gas was at a premium. So perhaps the German command just pulled a fast one, and Tirpitz became the only wonder weapon that actually worked, and that Pound simply had to balance the risk, and in doing so he decided to cut his losses.
This of course left hundreds of merchant seamen to die horrible deaths and the real scandal was they didn't, until very recently, even get a medal for it.