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"Furious" or "Spurious?"
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bargami



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

PostPosted: Sat Jan 26, 2008 4:17 pm    Post subject: "Furious" or "Spurious?" Reply with quote

The reference here is to "H.M.S. Furious," one of the three "large light cruisers" Lord Fisher had built during the War to serve as part of his Baltic scheme, along with the unofficial name given to it by its critics within the fleet (also called "Curious"). Fortunately the building of these vessels coincided with the first demand for aircraft carriers, so that all of them after conversion served a useful life. The question is, as originally designed, were these vessels a sound concept?

With their shallow draft and large guns (two 18" ones in "Furious"), the idea seems to have been that they would serve as off-shore monitors to shell the Pomeranian coast. I would think that, given their paper-thin armoring, a meeting with any portion of the HSF, which would have been highly likely, would have been dangerous. And speed (30-plus knots)?: speed to run away (possibly necessary) or speed to rush the Danish guns, while hopefully not running upon a Danish mine.

Regarding the practicality of both this warship type, and the Baltic scheme for which it was intended, I am skeptical. I see Fisher, in his stubbornness, pushing his original battle-cruiser concept to an extreme.
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Adrian Dobb



Joined: 13 Nov 2005
Posts: 41
Location: Devon, UK

PostPosted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Bagami

I think you are right to be skeptical. A few years ago I read a short article in something like Warship or another journal and possibly written by Andrew Lambert (ah I should note these things down!) which gives a different and I'd say more credible reasoning behind the design.

Essentially the Baltic scheme was a smokescreen to procure funds for the ships which it seems otherwise would have been denied. Perhaps quite rightly!

Their real purpose was to fulfil a highly specialised fleet role which Fisher perceived as necessary. Light cruisers were of course the eyes of the fleet but in heavy weather, that did not trouble his cherished battlecruisers, he reasoned that the LC would not be able to maintain speed and thus carry out their role. But if you have large fast battlecruiser sized scouts they will still be able scout ahead of the BCs. It also followed that it was logical to put heavy guns on these ships as they had the size to carry them and if you made them the biggest longest ranged guns available they can also carry out harrassing fire from outside the range of the enemies fleet whilst also scouting.

Well at least that seems to have been the theory and for me it makes much more sense of these odd ships than does the Baltic scheme.
It means they are excessively specialist but makes sense of their size and armament.

Given the way the RN conceived of the carrier's purpose (at least until the Pacific war), if the above idea is correct it also curiously means their conversion to carriers didn't really change their role!

I'll have a think and a surf to see if I can find more info on the article.

Adrian
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Harley



Joined: 23 Oct 2005
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Location: Great Britain

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In June 07 Lambert gave a talk to the World Ship Society Annual Naval Meeting at Bristol (I was there!) in which he sounded very positive about various aspects of the Baltic Plan. I'm very tempted to try and get a transcript of the hour long presentation.

Harley
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bargami



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

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 12:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello Adrian.

Very interesting response and I'll bet you're right re. Professor Lambert;
I know that he defends Fisher's corner (I'm not "quite" as willing to do so, although he has a much better position than I from which to defend!). I do suspect that, regarding the Baltic plan, Fisher was entranced by the concept but preferred it to be always in the "planning" stage, afar off.
He may have got a little worried when someone such as Churchill came along who was ready to take it seriously.

I think that once the War was going, though he might be loathe to admit it, Fisher became conservative in the mould of his handpicked C-in-C Jellicoe. Maintain the distant blockade; that will win the war at the end of the day. And Jellicoe, of course, wanted nothing to do with the Baltic plan,
or Borkhum, or any of these.

And what would be the prospects of rushing an invasion fleet through the Belts and the Sound? The Danes had their portion mined shut, and I would think they would be obliged to open up on a fleet coming down the Kattegat with their shore batteries. To do otherwise would invite a German invasion. There is the bottleneck of the Swedish Sound (which Britain had quietly lobbied to have dredged before the War); I don't know what defenses the Swedes had. Still, I'd say this preview D-Day would be mightily hazardous. And can you imagine the Russians ever being ready to play their allotted role in this?

Re. winning the money I agree; a Fisher subterfuge. He'd never get it if they were called battelships/cruisers. Sneaked it by the politicians.
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bargami



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

PostPosted: Mon Jan 28, 2008 8:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harley I would love to see that transcript. Professor Lambert has written extensively about the naval history of the Baltic, and I believe him to be a foursquare defender of the Fisher legacy.

Regarding Sweden, by the way, I see that it mined its half of the Sound only in 1916. I mentioned earlier the effort of the Foreign Office to quietly lobby the Swedes to dredge their half of the Sound, i.e. without alerting the Germans. Now this is interesting. Apparently Whitehall nursed the illusion that the Swedes were pro-English, and would be ready to cooperate. The reality (and I get some of this from the memoirs of Sir Rennell Rodd, British
minister at Stockholm before the War), was more complicated. Rightly or wrongly, many Swedes viewed Britain as pro-Norwegian! Britain engineered the selection of a Danish prince to be king of Norway, whose wife was the daughter of Edward VII. In a nutshell: "you are pro-Norwegian; we hate the Russians, and our protector is Germany; why would we help you?" There were liberal Swedes and all of this evolved during the War, but the governing factor for Sweden before the War was Russia.

That's not especially naval but consider this. In the matter of coastal battleships, Sweden built their own (and excellent ones too). Norway ordered theirs from Armstrong's.
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Harley



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

PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2008 4:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing stood out about Lambert's talk which certainly confirms your view of Lambert with regards to Fisher; he called Churchill an "idiot". I wish other historians of note could be so blunt and honest.

Harley
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
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Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Tue Jan 29, 2008 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

On the subject of Churchill as First Lord, many unfortunate consequences. I wonder how Haldane would have done, who wanted the job but was elbowed out by Churchill. One of Asquith's numerous bad calls.

Churchill had a nice thumbnail character sketch of him you may know: "supine, sodden and supreme." Accurate, I think.

Mind you, Haldane coming from the War Office was committed to the Continental strategy, which would not go over well with many at the Admiralty. Neither would the idea that "he's coming to forcefeed us an Army staff." Unlike Churchill, I doubt that Haldane would have catered to any traditional navy opinions or views.
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
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Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Thu Jan 31, 2008 10:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two things. Firstly my Churchillism above speaks of Asquith, of course, not Haldane, as I didn't make sufficiently clear. Though I'll bet Haldane might have wished to be "supreme," I'm sure he would have disputed the first two references.

Secondly, re. "Furious" I think it's interesting that the designers apparently suspected that the light frame of the vessel might not be able to handle the recoil of the 18" guns, so that they installed them in mountings with rings allowing for substitution of 15" ones. Of course only one of the 18" guns was actually installed, the aft one, and when it was test-fired a month after commissioning, the suspicions of the designers were justified.

I do accept the theory that the "large light cruiser" may have been a Fisher concept for a new class with a unique role, and not just about the Baltic. However, "Furious" and her sisters still seem like taking Fisher's basic ideal - big guns, light, fast- out of proportion, "Furious" being the prime example. I like the 18" guns, but maybe better uses for them, such as the N-3 battleships projected.
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Adrian Dobb



Joined: 13 Nov 2005
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Location: Devon, UK

PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I tried posting last night but something failed on me and I lost what I had written - so second attempt.

I have been trying to track down the article I mentioned but so far without success. I said it was probably Andrew Lambert but it may have been Nicholas Lambert.

I did notice that Brown in 'Grand fleet p97' doesn't mention the Baltic but attributes the trio to Fisher sidestepping the government which wouldn't approve more battlecruisers and selling them as 'large light light cruisers'. May be a variation of the same story?

I heard Andrew Lambert give a talk about the navy in the FWW in 2006 where he covered the Baltic and the blockade (Danish bacon and all that). The Baltic project was clearly a serious proposal at one point but I certainly wouldn't put it past Fisher to use such a proposition to his own ends (perhaps perceiving it had a short shelf life?)

The interesting side of the 18" guns for Furious is that they bought the RN and the contractors experience of such super large guns and those for the N3 would most likely have been improved versions. But what Furious would do with them I don't know. It would seem to be a 'Mein Gott, was ist das' factor as one kicks up the sea somewhere half a mile beyond the HSF.

Adrian
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
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Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Fri Feb 01, 2008 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the Germans took the concept of a Baltic incursion very seriously indeed, and were at pains , through their diplomats and attaches, to alert the Scandanavian states to this and recommend defensive measures and where to take them, with the threat lying behind: :"if you don't take care of this, we'll have to!"

The Germans expected early offensive, aggressive action from the Admiralty and the Grand Fleet, and were thrown off balance when that didn't happen. Apparently they were prepared for Britain to descend upon all kinds of places, from Esbjerg to Marstrand to Bergen.

And apparently the rough outlines of the Baltic scheme were known to the Foreign Office, as they're quietly approaching the Swedes about dredging, for the commercial advantages, mind you.

Seems like the Germans expected Britain's naval war to be run by Fisher and Churchill, or at least that mindset. But there were other views, from the politicians, and Fisher's own views, I think, were complicated.

Re. the effect of those 18" guns, that "is" a quality of Fisher I like: let's do
something to knock their socks off! Why not?
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bargami



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

PostPosted: Mon Feb 04, 2008 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Adrian, I've seen a paper by Andrew Lambert where he argues that Fisher utilized the Baltic scheme for various purposes, including compelling the Germans to expend resources defending against it, and that therefore it served a useful function in his eyes whether or not he actually intended to pursue it. You mentioned another, namely to win funding for his warships. So regarding the two Lamberts your first memory may have been correct.

Interestingly, he also suggests here that Fisher may have been more serious about a major operation in the Kattegat and above, outside the Baltic, to interfere with the transit of iron ore from Sweden to Germany, a more realistic operation. Fascinating stuff.

Harley I think we and A. Lambert are in agreement re. Churchill, but who would have been better? Might have to set up a subject on that one...I'll bet there would be some interesting views here.
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Harley



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

PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Some comments;

Re the 18-inch and 15-inch mountings, it was I believe merely a matter of convenience that the mountings were the same size, considering literally dozens of 15 turrets had been constructed.

As for experience with regards the 18-inch gun the three in existence were swiftly relegated to coast bombardment purposes on the British 12-inch gunned monitors, leading me to suspect that the Navy wasn't too serious about such a large gun in 1916-1918, other than to prove it was possible.

With the N3 battleships, orders for trial 18-inch/45 cal guns were placed with Elswick Ordnance Company, Vickers and the Royal Gun Factory between 22 December, 1920 and 20 January, 1921. Nearly a five year gap between development of the first 18-inch gun and the later plan, which in development terms could have yielded phenomenal results.

If memory serves, Lambert in his talk stated that in 1914-1916 the defences of the Germans in Pomerania and Schlweswig was appallingly scant, so it might have actually had a chance of sorts had a large offensive been mounted (something to sling the Kitchener Armies into in 1915 before the blooding of 1916).

Harley
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bargami



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

PostPosted: Wed Feb 06, 2008 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Regarding the Pomeranian coast I think of Fisher's reference to the "mower's scythe," so he apparently foresaw this opportunity. Seeing the plan as a genuine opportunity my concern would be whether the Russians would be able to play their allotted role. Contemplation of their own amphibious ventures (such as several schemes to descend upon the Bosphorus) always fell flat; logistics, organization and resources just couldn't come together. Cut off some policy options for them.

Incidentally, as you've got me thinking about "Winston," I'm going to post a "what if" concerning him to see what opinions there are.

bargami
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Adrian Dobb



Joined: 13 Nov 2005
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Location: Devon, UK

PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I never did find the reference I refered to earlier in this topic but I did find this on google books regarding the the 2006 Osprey book British Battlecruisers by Lawrence Burr.

If the link doesn't work try searching for it on google books or 'origins of light battlecruisers' in google and then preview the book. Pages 11 and 12 are the relevant ones.

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Wk42aLPqEJ0C

If nothing else it proves to me I didn't just dream the article.
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rubberboot



Joined: 06 Nov 2005
Posts: 32
Location: Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Fri May 16, 2008 11:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How odd.... I just flipped through this book today at a book store in Toronto.

Glenn
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