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An extra credit question...

 
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bargami



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

PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 4:08 pm    Post subject: An extra credit question... Reply with quote

How can you have a dreadnought if you don't even have a navy? Which brings me to this puzzler. Which European state, possessing a respectable coastline, possessed no navy during the timeframe of this site? And should they have had one?(I can think of one or two justifications).

Now I want to narrow the question a bit by cutting the time portal off at 1917, because 1918-1920 you have several newly-independant maritime states. I'm focusing this on pre-War Europe. That said, there might be two or three answers.

bargami
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tone
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Joined: 29 Oct 2004
Posts: 478
Location: Boston

PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 9:09 pm    Post subject: Re: An extra credit question... Reply with quote

bargami wrote:
How can you have a dreadnought if you don't even have a navy?


You can be a guitarist.

Quote:
Which brings me to this puzzler. Which European state, possessing a respectable coastline, possessed no navy during the timeframe of this site? And should they have had one?(I can think of one or two justifications).

Now I want to narrow the question a bit by cutting the time portal off at 1917, because 1918-1920 you have several newly-independant maritime states. I'm focusing this on pre-War Europe. That said, there might be two or three answers.


Without consulting Conway's or similar, I'll make an ignorant guess: Portugal? I suppose I don't know if this could be Norway, Denmark or Belgium, however.

tone
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bargami



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

PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I had to laugh when I saw your link. Now what if this site was devoted to discussing "those" dreadnoughts? That would be truly esoteric!

Regarding your answers, the correct one is among them. As I set up this question there were two alternate answers I expected. If one was being clever, one might say Monaco, although "respectable coastline" would rule that out. Another I thought of was Montenegro, one of the smallest states
(some might call in that day an operetta state) with a small Adriatic coastline. However, it actually had a navy, poor as the country was. Finally, there was newly-independent (1912) Albania, with a long Adriatic coastline and certainly no navy yet; country was in a state of chaos from the start.

The answer is Belgium, who had had a navy until the 1860s but then dissolved it in favor of what was called a "State" navy, one without warships. They only reinstated a navy of sorts in 1917, and even then it was a personnel navy manning armed merchantmen and Allied warships.

Now should they have had one? The Netherlands, next door, had a fleet and was in1912 embarking on a nine-ship dreadnought program! However, Holland had an empire in the East Indies to defend, whereas the Belgians' empire was in the heart of Africa. That said, I would say the reasons for a Belgian fleet can best summarized in one word: Antwerp.

The basic outline of the Schlieffen plan was no secret, including the fact that Belgium was right in the path of the wheel. As that wheel went through, Antwerp would be on its flank and would have to be taken. Interestingly, had the Belgians had a navy they could not have based it at
Antwerp. The Congress of Vienna Final Act had forbidden Antwerp to be made a naval arsenal, due to the use the French, and especially Napoleon, had made of it from 1792-1815. However, given the German threat, what the Belgians had done was to build up the city's landward defenses until it was a virtual fortress.


The German expectation was that the Entente powers would replenish Antwerp by sea, entering the Scheldt, these entrances being Dutch territorial waters. Around this time the Dutch were debating a scheme to build up their fortifications at those Scheldt entrances. Coincidence? Some in Whitehall thought not and suspected that the Germans had put them up to it, i.e. "you are expecting to stay out of the path of our plan (and that was indeed the final German intention); however, if you don't act to close the Antwerp approaches we will have to invade to close them ourselves." The Dutch denied this, but the timing was suspect.

However, suppose the Dutch had completed this scheme and were prepared to defend the Scheldt entrances like the Dardanelles. Well, if the Belgians had possessed a battle fleet of some kind at least they could have taken on those Dutch forts and attempted to keep the way to Antwerp open.

Ask the time of day, history of the watch.

bargami
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MarkD



Joined: 25 Sep 2006
Posts: 63

PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bargami wrote:
I had to laugh when I saw your link. Now what if this site was devoted to discussing "those" dreadnoughts? That would be truly esoteric!


I'm a musician myself and almost everyone I know can tell you a dreadnought is a type of acoustic guitar.

The funny part is that I doubt many of them know what the HMS Dreadnought was!

MD
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
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Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

True. Esoteric depends on the audience. I'm a music fancier (without possessing "the gift," regrettably) and I remember being interested in the history of the saxophone, and it's role in the orchestra. Not esoteric to musicians, and especially saxophonists!

That link broadened my horizons a bit.

bargami
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Harley



Joined: 23 Oct 2005
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2008 2:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I imagine the only use a Belgian Navy would have had in 1914 provided it had even been on station (and not cruising off the Western Coast of Africa) would have been to assist in the inevitable evacuation of Antwerp.

Really the Belgians did the best thing they could - nothing. Fortifying Antwerp to the extent where it could be made a viable naval base would be amazingly expensive let alone against Treaty Obligations. Even if Antwerp didn't fall, the Germans would probably still have made their dash to the sea and gained the major ports there, negating any advantage Antwerp could possibly have had.

It would be very interesting to see what use the Germans did make of Antwerp during the war, what with the blockade going on and the Dover Patrol and Harwich Force harassing German naval forces on the Belgian Coast.

Harley
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
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Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2008 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In defending their right to fortify Flushing and the Scheldt entrances generally, the Dutch tried to maintain that the Belgian fortification of Antwerp violated international law and that therefore they were justified in responding to the Belgian move (as if "these two" might come to blows), a possibly- deliberate misreading of the Vienna Act.

Even given Dutch evasiveness and Anglo-French suspicion of their motives, the Foreign Office chose not to press the issue, judging, perhaps wisely, that to deny the Dutch right to defend their neutrality in whatever way they chose might actually drive them into German arms or invite an invasion. Besides, The Dutch might never realize the project and, critically, keeping Holland neutral was adjudged more valuable than insuring that Antwerp was easily approachable. Besides, in the event the Allies wished to come in with warships...no one was really sure what the Dutch would do!

Now had a Belgian fleet, or Allied fleets, bombarded the Dutch to get in
there probably would have followed a Dutch declaration of war or a German invasion, so even had such a fleet existed this action might have been a non-starter.

Both Holland and Denmark were beneficiaries of the belief on both sides that their neutrality was of more benefit than an easy conquest, which would invite a counter invasion which would have to be resisted. Now
the "majority" strategic opinion thought this, not everyone. Churchill, for instance, had plans for invading both Holland and Denmark and forcing their adherance to the Allies: "they'll thank us when we win the war," in essence, although cooler diplomatic heads always prevailed on these plans. On the other side, Wolfgang Wegener, he of the famous critiques of German naval strategy, thought that Germany would benefit more by controlling the Baltic "door" than relying upon Denmark to do it; more options and flexibility. Against the grain, he felt that allowing Danish neutrality was a nuisance.

Of on a tangent a bit, I know. And because Harley might appreciate, when Churchill broached his Holland-invasion ideas to Fisher, who got into a way of distorting them to make plans and planner look foolish, Fisher suggested going into Holland with 750,000 men! More than Napoleon went into Russia with. That would put the Dutch in their place!

bargami
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bargami



Joined: 11 Dec 2007
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Location: Richmond, Virginia

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just as an exercise, taking off of "should Belgium have had a navy?"...what composition of fleet should it have had? I've given some thought to this, and others might have other ideas. This is doing, in one's own mind, the same analyses the Dutch next-door did in developing their 1912 program.

And let's say that program is the spur for the Belgians to respond. A hypothetical Belgian program must mirror the Dutch to some extent, a neighboring power who has refused alliance feelers and could be hostile in a future war. The Dutch scheme called for 9 dreadnoughts (5 East Indies/4 home), 6 torpedo cruisers, 8 destroyers, 8 torpedo boats, 8 submarines, 2 minelayers. The prospective dreadnoughts, which probably would have come from Blohm- and -Voss or Germania, would be of 24,605 displacement, with 8 14" guns and 16 5.9" secondary.

The majority of this force would be for Indonesia to deal with the Japanese (the real spur for the program), so I would say the Belgians wouldn't require these numbers of each type. That said, Belgium has the Belgian Congo and the Congo River delta to watch potentially; France and Portugal are not-always-amicable colonial neighbors there. Based upon the Dutch program as a model, I might say 5 dreadnoughts, sixes on the smaller vessels, but mirror the 8 on the submarines, plus 2 or 3 minelayers. The five battleships allows a 3/2 home/Africa deployment,
a 4/1 if tensions are high, or if necessary pull them all back.

The purposes of this fleet would be: firstly, to keep the entry to Antwerp open in wartime; secondly to protect the Belgian, or Allied, flank from the coast; thirdly to police the Congo River delta as needed. Also, this fleet would augment Allied naval strength in the event of the War that happened.

Where would it be based? Even putting aside treaty restrictions regarding Antwerp I don't think you would want Antwerp or Ghent, as both depend upon the Westerschelde, controlled by the Dutch, to get out. Rather I think the main bases would have to be the very ones the Germans used, Ostend/Zeebrugge connecting by canal with Bruges. In the Congo facilities might be prepared just inside the Congo River, at Boma or Matadi.

Now, as Harley says above, in the event of war the Germans would probably reach the coast just as they did, so this fleet would need to be prepared to decamp quickly. Hopefully it might be accomodated at Scapa Flow, Invergordon or even one of the Irish Treaty ports. From that point, again, this fleet would add to the combined Allied naval force and could be used to harrass the Germans in various ways. "They" might have even carried out the Zeebrugge raid. Appropriate.

Finally, where would the warships come from? In line with nationalist thinking in most countries that launched these programs (including Holland) the ideal would be to utilize Belgian yards. However, 50 years without building such vessels would make that unlikely. The two major Belgian shipyards, Cockerill and Boelwerf, had been building steamers to ferry passengers and mail between Dover and Ostend, as well as merchant vessels. This kind of work would have meant a major retooling.

Presumeably, if they had good attache intelligence coming from the Hague (or any other form), the Belgians would know what the Dutch were getting; the basic specs re. the battleships. The Dutch were already dealing with the German firms so I don't believe the Belgians would go there. I see two reasonable alternatives. One would be to go to the numerous British yards, Vickers, Armstrongs, John Brown, etc., with the aim of buying essentially an "Iron Duke" class dreadnought, a rough balance for the Dutch spec. Alternatively (and maybe at a better price)
emulate Argentina and go to Fore River or New York Shipbuilding, here the aim being essentially a "New York" or "Nevada" class warship.

I'd say they would'nt want to economize with small coastal battleships because, in my scenario, they're going to have fewer and a hostile or German-controlled Holland might pull all of theirs back home.

A bit of whimsy with my scenario, including playing fast-and-loose with pre-War Belgian money. However, consider this. Holland, which had much more cause to expect to evade hostilities than did Belgium, projected a large portion of the 1912 program for "home" waters. Many politicians there didn't like spending the money either, and many were opposed. I grant that the bulk of Belgian defense spending had to be aimed at the army and the forts (which, ironically, failed; they either missed the intelligence about howitzers or ignored it). But, unlike the Dutch, the Belgians knew they were in for it if war happened. Might have been money well-spent.

bargami
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