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Dreadnought Battlecruiser Doctrine
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jwduquette1



Joined: 20 Dec 2005
Posts: 90

PostPosted: Fri Mar 24, 2006 9:51 am    Post subject: Dreadnought Battlecruiser Doctrine Reply with quote

Can someone explain to me RN dreadnought battlecrusier doctrine? Moreover, what was their intended role, or roles within the Royal Navy.

Was there a difference between the High Sea's Fleet battlecruiser doctrine and RN battlecruiser doctrine?

Thanks for any responses.

Best Regards
JD
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Horsa



Joined: 09 Dec 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 27, 2006 6:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The battlecruiser concept was to deliver a ship with the ultimate hitting power of a battleship and the speed of a cruiser

It was meant to hunt down and destroy all ship classes except the battleship which it would be able to evade with its superior speed. Its ideal use was against enemy cruisers as happened at the battle of the Falklands where they anihilated Von Spee's squadron.

Unfortunately it was also employed in a pseudo battleship role where it came badly unstuck against the heavily armoured battleships.

This classic miss-match was still being employed when the Hood was sent to deal with the Bismarck.

The Germans had a similar doctrine for their battlecruisers except they designed ships with much greater ability to rsesist damage and stay afloat even when badly hit .

The fast battleships designed from the Queen Elizabeths onwards effectively made the battlecruiser concept obsolete.
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jwduquette1



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PostPosted: Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Horsa.

So in essence Falklands was the classic application of Battlecruiser Doctrine. On the other hand -- Dogger Bank -- would we see this as a misapplication of doctrine -- or in keeping with doctrine? Same again with Jutland?
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Horsa



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 5:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In the North Sea the battlecruisers were used by both sides as "naval cavalry" - either as a powerful fast strike force ( as the Germans did in their raids on the English East coast and the British at Heligoland Bight) or as part of the scouting forces in front of the battlefleets ( as did both nations ) . The theory was that they could escape any battleships by virtue of their speed . In practice this role became a bit muddied because at Jutland both sides allowed them to get embroiled with the better armoured battleships. Perhaps worse, they got embroiled (fatally) against each other ( particularly the British) . Likewise Dogger Bank became a BC v BC encounter . I don't think the battlecruiser was supposed to get engaged with other BCs because they had the hitting power of a BB but insufficient armour to deal with that level of enemy firepower. I think this is where the doctrine came unstuck .

So in answer to your question I would say that at Dogger Bank it was a half missapplication of doctrine and at Jutland a complete missapplication.
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Adrian Dobb



Joined: 13 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 31, 2006 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah! Battlecruisers - those fine but flawed beasts.

It may be worth exploring the origins of the concept a little further.

The Dreadnought was not the ship Fisher really wanted to build, rather it was the Invincible. His working name was something like Untouchable or Unapproachable. The idea was more than for just a cruiser destroyer, (though at the turn of the century there was a perceived need for such ships) it was tied in to the all big gun concept. Essentially an all big gun ship with superior speed could in theory hit at long range the battlehips of the day, while her speed allowed her to stay at that range. and out of trouble. So little need for heavy armour which mitigated against speed and hence Fisher's Unapproachable name idea.

All very well but the long range fire control needed to be there which (in 1905) it wasn't, and what was to stop older enemy ships being fitted with such fire control gear when it was available. In fact what was to stop any opponent building similar ships? Fisher seems to have disregarded the effect of technology transfer in his thinking, or was assuming the RN would always be one step ahead. My understanding is that for perhaps these very reasons wiser councils prevailed and it was the Dreadnought which was built first. But Fisher was not to be dissuaded and I think the orders for all three Invincibles were placed before anymore dreadnoughts had been ordered and before Dreadnought herself had even been trialed. It was then necessary to justify the construction of this new additional type of radically different warship when the Dreadnought herself proved such a success, and it became clear that Invincible's would likely, not be able to fight any foreign dreadnoughts that might be built because of the types weak armour. This is where the idea of the battlecruiser as a destroyer of enemy cruisers resurfaced.

Why then continue to build the type? Firstly because other nations might, as Germany did, but also I think it was through recognition of the operational opportunities that a fast force of heavy ships conferred. Battlecruisers were flexible in there potential usage. To use WWI examples they could hunt down enemy cruisers and overwhelm them, they could be used aggressively in the Heligoland Bight and they could respond to enemy battlecruiser forces bombarding British east coast towns. Dreadnoughts could not do these things as they did not have the speed.

As for how the British Battlecruisers actually performed in combat is a seperate issue. Clearly there was some degree of design failure particularly with the Invincibles, but there are other points to consider.
Use of a type of propellant that could become dangerously unstable if kept beyond its shelf life, and the issue of Beatty - his handling of the BCF and its gunnery training, which left much to be desired. Lastly I wonder how many Grand Fleet dreadnoughts might also have been lost had they also been exposed to as much enemy shell fire as the Battlecruisers were. Only the fast 5th BS were, and it seems Warspite was lucky not to suffer catastrophe from the fire that swept through her 6" battery.

So in summary, perhaps the Invicible's should never have been built. But they were and so the type was developed. Quite rightly they were used as capital ships, which they always were. Like their German counter parts, their speed gave them an operational flexibilty that meant they fought a harder war than did most of the dreadnoughts - and suffered accordingly. In a number of ways outside the design concept they were disadvantaged in action. Ultimately they helped bring into being the fast battleship.

Speed and power is a seductive mixture.

Adrian
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jwduquette1



Joined: 20 Dec 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2006 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Adrian. I'm sitting here sipping on my morning cup of coffee. Your post was a rather enjoyable read. I can see I came to the right spot to ask these questions. Regarding your post – how much better would you rate Dreadnought Gunnery of the Grand Fleet with that of Beatty’s Battle Cruiser squadrons. From the perspective of hit probability – Were the dreadnoughts chances of scoring hits considerably higher?

I wonder if you and Horsa would -- when the opportunity presents itself with your schedules -- mind contrasting RN BC design with High Seas Fleet BC design. I have often seen commentary to the effect that German designs were superior to British. This is perhaps far too simplistic, and often seems motivated solely upon the catastrophic explosions at Jutland. But for the grace of god, it is likely Seydlitz might have suffered the same fate at Dogger Bank. So I suppose my question is one of comparing RN & HSF BCs to one another as a function of contrasting doctrine and strategic considerations, combined with potential tactical situations either set of BCs might be thrust into. Should the Royal Navy have been building Seydlitzs and Lutzows rather than Lions and Tigers?

Best Regards
JD
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tone
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2006 10:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:

Why then continue to build the type?


The first thing that springs to mind in this: the unthinkable penalty to Fisher of having his stridently voiced prerogative deemed foolish.

Secondly, however, if bears some thought that the BCs were the only units really to see action for the RN except at Jutland. They were better capable than any other ship to react to coastal raiders, and better able to rethink and decline action (as when the run to the south became the run to the north) when things proved clearly to their disadvantage. While no one would ever have listed this (in these words) as the reason to choose a BC, it is half-encoded in the virtue of "being able to choose the range" (in this case, perhaps, "over the horizon").

tone
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rubberboot



Joined: 06 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2006 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You really can't include HMS Tiger as an average British Battle Cruiser. She was based on the IJN Kongo Class, and vastly superior to previous BC classes the British fielded. Probably better than HMS Hood and definitely better than HMS "Refit" and "Repair" (Repulse and Renown). At Jutland, Tiger took 21 heavy hits, while Lion Class HMS Queen Mary, which took less hits, was destroyed after a hit to a turret caused a cordite fire. Tiger did have a thinner belt of armour than the German BC Derfflinger by 3 inches.

Glenn
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Harley



Joined: 23 Oct 2005
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 10:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing which strikes me is that the German and British battlecruiser fleets were roughly equal - both sides vessels having their respective strengths and weaknesses, with the RN probably having an edge simply by having more ships.

Armament wise the 11" and 12" guns of the German battlecruisers were roughly equal to the 12" and 13.5" guns of the British battlecruiser fleet. Both navies' vessels were vulnerable to each other, let alone from full-blown Dreadnoughts.

As pointed out, before the advent of the fast-battleship the battlecruiser was the only means of power projection, proving its worth at the Battle of the Falklands and to a lesser extent elsewhere.

Steaming the three battlecruiser squadrons into battle at Jutland, even against other battlecruisers, was not the best way for the RN to project power. If the battlecruiser's role was to draw out the enemy fleet, then it surely suceeded on May 31st, but at a heavy cost.

I'm generalising here, but the British could only rely on superior utilisation and superior numbers of battlecruisers against well-built German vessels. At Jutland that superiority was blunted somewhat.

My bad if this is a flawed view.
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Adrian Dobb



Joined: 13 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Battlecruisers are such an excellent source for discussion, especially British ones!

In response to JD's post.

BCF v Grand fleet gunnery. People like Brooks Gordon and Campbell comment on this. I'm not able to quantify the difference but its worth remembering it was the supposed reason why 3BCS was with the Grand Fleet and 5BS with Beatty. The dreadnoughts didn't get much chance to shine but in my opinion is they would have done much better in pure gunnery terms had the opportunity arose. I agree with Brooks that the BCF's poor initial gunnery effectively gave Hipper fire superiority and that must have contributed at least to Indefatigable's loss.

In the German designs the balance was tilted a little more to protection over speed. I don't know how they arrived at this, perhaps it was simply a logical response, but it does seem to have produced a better balanced design. I have read of them described as fast battleships. However it is worth bearing in mind that German crews did not normally live aboard their ships in port, and in terms of protection the designs took full advantage of this. The ships were fine for the North Sea but they were High Seas in name only. With hindsight I'd like to have seen a knot or two shaved off the top speed of the RN ships and weight savings devoted to armour. Sounds easy, but as DK Brown points out messing with design parameters is not straight forward.

I'm tending to the opinion that though weak armour and design was a factor in the British losses the decisive culprit was the cordite. British BC's were not the only ships to explode. A number of others in the FWW were lost in port eg Vanguard, Bulwark, Leonardo da Vinci along with others. The common cause is now usually attributed to the cordite used. Some ships especially Japanese were similary lost in WWII. Mutsu in port, and one of the Fuso's at Leyte Gulf (admitedly under a deluge of shell and torpedo fire). Plus others including lighter ships if you look for them. With one exception, that I can think of, this did not happen to German or US ships and I think its notable these navies were using a different nitro cellulose variant rather than the cordite everyone else used. When bad things happened, as to Seydlitz at Dogger and I think one of the Koenigs at Jutland, the propellant burnt but not explosively. There is more to this than the generalisations here but thats my thinking. Oh the exception is Arizona at pearl - 500lb bomb hit?

Though with a 25% loss rate due to internal explosion under enemy shell fire in two wars (including the light battlecruisers 4 out of 16 built) its easy to see why the RN battlecruisers have something of a bad name.

As to Tone's remark on Fisher's determination to build the BCs -

absolutely!
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tone
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 4:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I believe the Arizona succumbed to a 800kg bomb hit from a flight of Kaga's Kates.

tone
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rubberboot



Joined: 06 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 11:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As for the Arizona, she was hit by 2 2000lb bombs, or 8 of them, depending on which source you read, and a torpedo. Doesn't really matter, the outcome was the same. At Dogger Bank, Seydlitz was nearly destroyed after taking a hit aft, that burned out turrets C and D. If not for a fast reacting crewman, who opened a valve that flooded the magazine, the ship would have been lost to the same explosion as the 3 BC's at Jutland. Because the Germans had it happen, and the ship survived, they were able to conduct an investigation and changed their flash tight doors and ammo/cordite handling procedures. The British could have learned from the same errors only after Jutland, due to HMS Lion losing turret No. 3.

Glenn
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rubberboot



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 11:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

didn't the Americans have a mishap involving cordite handling in th 90's on the Iowa or New Jersey? Burned out a turret. Something like a piece of cordite bag was still burning in the breach and lit off the bags as they were rammed into the gun.

Glenn
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 11:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was the Iowa in 1989 -- turret 2 had powder charges for its center gun ignite and kill 47 sailors.

http://www.combie.net/webharbor/museum/bb61-2.html

There was quite a controversy after the fact as the USN seemed to scapegoat a sailor for the accident, concocting a suspiciously rich tale of a suicidal act on his part.

tone
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Harley



Joined: 23 Oct 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 2:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The accident certainly didn't help the prospect of the Iowas remaining in service, even before the Cold War ended. A few years back NBC made a move about the "whitewashing" with James Caan and Robert Sean Leonard. Apparently it's a good representation of what happened without too much schlock.
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