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...the "Kongo" effect....

 
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
Posts: 75
Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 8:56 am    Post subject: ...the "Kongo" effect.... Reply with quote

I think this is interesting as a situation where a private contractor, building for a foreign power, produced a warship design which, arguably (I'll get to that), bumped ahead the design of British battlecruisers.

The reference is to the Japanese battlecruiser "Kongo," the first of a four-ship class. The Japanese found themselves behind the design curve with regard to the cruiser type in general when "Invincible" came out and determined to catch up at a stroke with this class. Part of this plan was to have the class designed by, and the first vessel built by, experts. At the end of 1910 when Japan ordered "Kongo" the firm of Vickers certainly qualified as such; I would say the most efficient, well-run, ruthless-when-necessary, armaments firm running, with an all-star board of directors and a master salesman, Basil Zaharoff. Indeed, Vickers had come up behind Armstrongs in the early 1900s and by the end of the decade had overtaken them, as great a firm as Armstrongs was.

So Vickers wins this order, and the designer will be their chief naval architect, the great Sir George Owens-Thurston, who is already working on "Princess Royal," which Vickers was building to Admiralty specifications as part of the "Lion" class. But here Owens-Thurston can design a battlecruiser without a spec-sheet. The 13.5-inch guns become 14s, the beam increases from 89ft to 101ft, all main armament is placed fore and aft; no midships turrets. Secondary armament goes from 4" to 6".

Now, "apparently," the Admiralty spotted this and was offended; a superior battlecruiser being built for a foreign power, and too late to redesign the "Lions." What the Board did, however, was to separate "Tiger" from this class and create a new class with it; the 13.5 armament remained, but the secondary was raised to 6" and the turret arrangement of "Kongo" was copied.

I use the words "arguably" and "apparently" because this lineage for "Tiger" is disputed; another view says that "Tiger's" improvements were passed on from the "Iron Duke" battleship class then coming out (anyone wish to dive into this?).

Finally, an interesting sidenote about the circumstances of Vickers winning the "Kongo" contract. It is a matter of fact, which came out at the
Nye Committee's investigation of private armaments firms in 1934 that Japanese Admiral Fujii was bribed by Sir James McKechnie of the Vickers production team (not Zaharoff on this one!) to smooth the way, not at all
unusual in this business, or any armaments business, but showing, in spite of the excellence of the Vickers product, what the salesmen had to do to insure success.

bargami
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Harley



Joined: 23 Oct 2005
Posts: 131
Location: Great Britain

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm slightly peeved. I have John Robert's two part discussion on the design and construction of "Tiger" in which he says that she wasn't that much better than the other Big Cats, then in his "Battlecruisers" book he states she was far and away the best of the battlecruisers. I've been busy with dreadnoughts so haven't really looked at the later BCs in too much detail, so at some point I'm going to have to go back and see why he changed his mind in 20 years.

Off the top of my head though, "Queen Mary" was redesigned somewhat - it may not sound much but it must have involved a lot of calculation. A foot extra on the beam, 500 tons more displacement and 5,000 more shp.

On the issue of Sir George, he with the bewildering number of names, he was given the Order of the Rising Sun and was also a Confidential Advisor to Zaharoff to boot!

Harley
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
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Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Sun Mar 23, 2008 3:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Re. Owens-Thurston I agree; one sees "George Owens" in some places, who became George Thurston, etc. Seems lie "Kongo," by way of Japan, was a step along the way of the battlecruiser morphing into the fast battleship, such as the "Queen Elizabeths" (not as fast as a battlecruiser-proper but fast enough), and "Tiger" seemed to represent a phasing out of the battlecruiser; the sense of urgency on these left the Admiralty with Fisher. But Fisher would "never" accept it! As soon as he returned in 1914 he had those last two "Revenge" class battleships restarted as battlecruisers.

I am a fan of the Vickers operation in this era, and J.D. Scott's "Vickers: A History," though an old book now, is still a great resource. One point he brings out there, regarding Vickers vs. Armstrongs, was the tremendous effect of a strong governing board, such as Vickers had starting with the Vickers brothers themselves, compared to the weak board at Armstrongs after the founder passed. A great example Scott provides is the successful campaign by Vickers to rope Armstrongs into taking a share of Beardmore, in which Vickers had a half-interest and which was mired in debt. Albert Vickers used all his persuasive powers on the Armstrong board; critics said "how can this help Armstrongs, to take on a big piece of a stronger company's debt and make it our debt?" But they did.

Diversifying into paper mills in Newfoundland didn't help either.

bargami
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tone
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2008 11:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think the Kongos enjoyed any meaningful advantage in their turret disposition to the Lions. There would have been a generous "don't fire this-a-way" arc for that 3rd turret on the Kongos, I would think.

I think it was a rare ship in which any end-on fire would be permitted for at least 15 degrees each side of the centerline due to concern for the decks (this assertion is blithely offered with any encumbering facts!). British B turrets in forward superimposed ships of the era had a 30 degree (to each side) area where fire was not permitted to avoid blasting the sighting hoods of the turret below. Tiger's tiny innovation in this area was that her A turret (only) had sighting ports in its face, and not its roof.

tone
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
Posts: 75
Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2008 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tone, I hadn't thought about that. So I suppose the theoretical possibility of two-turret end-on fire doesn't necessarily translate into the reality, for the reasons you state. In discussing the "Kongo" turret layout I see the word "balance" and the term "well-balanced" used alot, so maybe this was another consideration.

I'd like to see some information (and I'm going to seek) on Owens-Thurston's design priorities with "Kongo." Also interesting would be the opinions of Sir Philip Watts about these developments, as he was the Admiralty's DNC in these years.

bargami
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
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Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Mon Mar 31, 2008 1:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Having spoken of my admiration for the Vickers operation in the Dreadnought years, and their formidable capacity for winning foreign orders, I think it's illuminating to note one warship competition which Vickers lost, and why. This is the 1912 contest to build the Greek battlecruiser "Salamis." This warship was to be Greece's answer to the oncoming Turkish battleship "Reshadieh," an order which Vickers had won in 1910, and firstly a word needs to be said about that.
Now in Constantinople Vickers were peculiarly well positioned to win, although all the usual suspects were competing for the contract. Zaharoff, their principle salesman, had grown up in the city and knew the ways of the Turks; others on the Vickers board were old Constantinople hands: Sir Frank Barker, of a banking family long established in the city; Sir Vincent Caillard, Vickers' financial director, formerly head of the Ottoman Public Debt.
Unlike the "Kongo" contract, Owens-Thurston was not offering a novel design here; "Reshadieh" would be essentially a copy of a "King George V"
class battleship, with the secondary armament raised to 6 inch.
Added to Vickers team-depth in Turkey, the Turks believed that, in all things-naval, British was best; Britain's naval mission was dominant. And,
decisively, the Turks (in common with their Greek enemies) were financially strapped and Vickers spoon-fed them the money to buy the ship: in-house financing: "here's the money; you pay us back."

By the way, Britain's naval mission in both countries said "flotilla defence is all that you need." In both cases the response they got was "we want dreadnoughts." And they might have added: " if you believe that flotilla defence is adequate then 'you' adopt it, and sell us your dreadnoughts."

Anyway, what happened in Greece? Vickers should have had advantages in Athens as they had in Constantinople. Zaharoff was a Greek who had a lifelong passion for advancing the interests of that country. Owens-Thurston was running the Vickers bid on the spot. Zaharoff was there but apparently didn't stay; left for Monte Carlo, maybe suspecting even he couldn't win this one. As in Istanbul, the "Salamis" contest was an international free-for-all with all major contractors present. .
In the end, the contract went to AG Vulcan, esteemed shipbuilders out of Stettin and Hamburg, the main armament to come from Bethlehem Steel, essentially the staple 14-inch gun of the U.S. Navy. Why?

Unlike the Turks, the Greeks were not convinced that British naval product was always best. They had bought four destroyers from Yarrows (who specialized in small warships) and thought the quality was poor. Vulcan, on the other hand, had supplied quality destroyers quickly and cheaply (remember cheaply). In fact, there was Greek resentment about the British naval mission in general; the Turkish mission headed by active-duty officers whereas Athens got men off the retired list.

And then there are the personal factors, which cannot be ignored. Crown Prince Constantine, soon to be king, is married to the kaiser's sister. Prime Minister Venizelos doesn't stand well with them and needs to change that. The kaiser takes his summer vacations in Corfu and invites Venizelos down with the suggestion of a decoration. Well, when the prime minister returned he guaranteed the German minister that Vulcan would get the order!

However, he does mention that the government needs a "low" price, meaning virtually at-cost. Indeed, "price," at the end, was the dominant factor in Vickers loss. Now the Second Reich is, in some ways, already a socialist state; government subsidy is available for Vulcan so they are able to accomodate the Greeks. Whitehall's support was limited to diplomatic pressure; no such thing as subsidy. Vickers was simply too pricey.

And on this low-price theme, one must mention Bethlehem Steel, supplying the main armament, and that means Charles Schwab, a genuine operator. Now Bethlehem Steel under Schwab followed the path of Vickers and bought Fore River Shipbuilding to build their own complete warships. At this point they're the primary supplier of the 14-inch gun for the American "standards." Now Schwab is just the man the Greeks are looking for; he offered these guns at fire-sale pricing, "ridiculous" it was called, to capture the order. Like Vulcan, Schwab delivered early and cheap. And when Fisher needed a pack of H-class submarines in 1914,
he went to a "just get it done" man he understood, Charles Schwab.
Schwab lost all his money in the Depression but he famously said "if we're going to go bust, let's go bust big!" He also lived large; indeed Zaharoff might easily have run into him in Monte Carlo.

Well there it is for what it's worth. "Salamis" was never completed and,
ironically, Schwab's 14-inch guns, finished on-schedule, were coming across the Atlantic when war broke out, were confiscated as contraband, and were installed on British monitors.

bargami
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Jim Broshot



Joined: 10 Feb 2008
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Location: St. James, Missouri, USA

PostPosted: Tue Apr 01, 2008 1:12 am    Post subject: Schwab's 14-inch guns Reply with quote

Well there it is for what it's worth. "Salamis" was never completed and,
ironically, Schwab's 14-inch guns, finished on-schedule, were coming across the Atlantic when war broke out, were confiscated as contraband, and were installed on British monitors.


Actually, according to Ian Buxton's Big Gun Monitors, Schwab sold the guns to the Admiralty under a contract signed 10 November 1914 - eight 14inch guns, four twin mountings, turret shield armor and two sets of 8-inch barbette armor and 500 rounds of ammunition per gun. They were delivered February 1915.

They were installed on the first class of monitors which were to be named (in honor of the origin of the monitor and the armament) M.1 Admiral Farragut, M.2 General Grant, M.3 Robert E. Lee and M.4 Stonewall Jackson; after protests by the American government, they were renamed Abercrombie, Havelock, Lord Raglan, and Roberts, respectively.
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 01, 2008 6:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for clarifying that. Re. the names I understand that the Wilson administration feared that those names, out there for all to see, would compromise American neutrality! It was a nice gesture on Britain's part (and perhaps intended to draw us a little closer at that).

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Harley



Joined: 23 Oct 2005
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 01, 2008 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have a digital clipping from the NY Times somewhere from 1912, I think it was, showing the absolute uproar in the US armaments companies because the British firm of Hadfields was going to utterly undercut them all on a USN shell contract. The upshot being the US Navy from then on only bought American shells.

I wonder whether the RN actually had permission to reproduce the 14-inch guns from Bethlehem Steel, as the Royal Gun Factory made one copy if I recall then deemed it an inferior gun. From "Big Gun Monitors" one doesn't really get the impression that Schwab sold a stellar product (or rather that Churchill and Fisher bought one, sorry).

Harley
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
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Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Tue Apr 01, 2008 6:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harley, regarding the Bethlehem Steel 14-inch guns all that I have seen confirms what you say. This was a built-up gun with outer tubes not well-connected, famously given to droop when cold, but apparently improved as it warmed up. Having said that, it was a well-established first-tier-navy
main armament which Greece could acquire cheaply, due to Schwab's business model.

And a little addendum to this story. The "Salamis," coming out of the contract competition in the summer of 1912, was only supposed to be of 16,500 tons
displacement. Compare that to what the Turks were getting (picture "H.M.S.
Erin"). Shortly afterwards, in the wake of the First Balkan War where Greece conquered all of the Aegean islands from Turkey and which the Ottomans loudly declared their intention to take back, AG Vulcan and the Greek Admiralty went back to the drawing board. They determined (with British-naval-mission-support) to up the displacement of "Salamis" to 19,500 tons. Venizelos complained about the expense; he's still being cheap. The admirals and Vulcan ignored him.

bargami
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
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Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2008 9:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Still on this "Salamis" matter (I started this thread in Japan and now I'm in the Aegean; oh well), I started comparing technicals on "Salamis" and "Reshadieh" and imagining how an actual encounter between these two dreadnoughts would have played out. I wonder whether the Greeks might have paid a price for their frugality.

As I mentioned above, one outcome of the First Balkan War was the Greek conquest of Turkey's Aegean islands, those not already conquered by Italy earlier, the Dodecanese. In fact, in the on-going attempt to negotiate the islands issue between Greece and Turkey, Italy suggested that Greece offer to give "some" of them back (they weren't offering to give any of the Dodecanese back).Diplomatic gall!

In the first half of 1914, before Sarajevo and the World War engulfed Europe, the war everyone expected was between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean, and this would have been very much a naval war.

Now this is a hypothetical, so I'm imagining a completed "Salamis" facing "Reshadieh," steaming out of the Dardanelles heading an armada, as was believed to be the Ottoman intention. So how would this encounter go?

Remember this: the Greeks had an eye towards cost all through the "Salamis" process;" Turkey "didn't' with "Reshadieh." Coming up with the money was an issue for the Turks; Vickers took care of that for them.
However, they requested a warship equivalent to the current standard of a major fleet, which they got (maybe even a little better).

So what do the statistics tell us ( and the experts out there can fill in my blanks)? "Salamis" is a smaller ship by about 8000 tons: 19,500 vs. 27,500. Re. armor protection, "Salamis" has from 4-10" of belt armor; "Reshadieh" 6-12"; turret/barbette protection comparable at 10".

One advantage "Salamis" has, by virtue of its relative lightness, is two or three knots of speed, 23 vs. 21 (but would that be enough to matter?).

Now, and critically, the main armament; here I think Greece would be in trouble. "Reshadieh" had the British 13.5"/45 Mark VI (special edition for this vessel). "Salamis," would have the U.S. 14"/45 in one of it's many editions (not sure which). So the Greeks have a half-inch diameter advantage. But "Salamis" also has two fewer guns; eight vs. ten, and, as far as I can determine, they would both be firing 1400 lb. shells. Therefore in weight-of-broadside "Salamis" loses. Maximum range is roughly 23,000 yards for each, achieved at 20 degrees elevation for "Reshadieh;" 15 degrees for "Salamis." I see no other statistic where the American gun and mounting enjoys an advantage.

As far as I can see, the only possible advantage "Salamis" would enjoy would be that speed, but I think they'd have been better off to have just "made" it a battlecruiser (as it is sometimes called) and gotten up to 24-25 knots. I'm not sure two knots would be decisive.

Now this is a hypothetical, so I'm leaving out other important factors, such as the ability of the crews to handle the technology, the impact of other vessels on the scene, etc. But what I see is that Greeks may have been penny-wise-and-pound-foolish in their choices, whereas the Turks were wise in theirs.

bargami
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