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Usefulness of Pre-Dreadnoughts?
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Harley



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

PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2005 12:08 pm    Post subject: Usefulness of Pre-Dreadnoughts? Reply with quote

Seeing as the average British Pre-Dreadnought (Post 1890) had Four 12" (40 Calibre I'm presuming) guns, at least Ten 6" guns, Four 18" Torpedo Tubes and a host of smaller weapons, and therefore by main armament alone would have outgunned any cruiser, pocket battleship or destroyer.

Is it wishful thinking on my part to think that with minor refurbishing, possibly converting to oil-firing turbines (although an average speed of 23 knots seems quite respectable to me) the 29 Pre-Dreadnoughts which survived the Great War would have made excellent convoy protection vessels in the Second World War? The threat of the German surface fleet weighed so very heavily on the Royal Navy in WW2; and if it had been possible to bring these out of retirement rather than accept the poisoned chalice of the 50 Lend-Lease Destroyers in 1941, I'd have been inclined to accept the former. The again, I am still learning...
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tone
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2005 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Harley. I'm a little curious why the lend-lease destroyers seemed like a poisoned chalice to you.

I *think* the pre-dreadnoughts had all been scrapped long before 1930 rolled around, though a few might have been hulked. I think the latter state would also make them infeasible for use though you do raise a very good point.

I'd look at it this way, however. They were famously vulnerable to torpedo attack, and costly in manpower and fuel. At the same time, the number of ships Germany could put out raiding with significant gun power was quite limited, and their sorties could be countered by avoidant action and attempts at aerial interception.

I wonder how pre-dreadnoughts fitted with improved fire control would have been able to do against a pocket battleship. I have trouble imagining that they'd performn well against the Gneisenau and Scharnhorst, but I'm really not an expert!

tone
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Ade
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 05, 2005 12:41 pm    Post subject: Pre-dreadnoughts and LL DDs Reply with quote

Most of the battleships designed prior to the dreadnought were long past their best both in design and upkeep by 1914. Though commissioned on mobilisation many were laid up to release valuable manpower and guns etc for other more useful purposes. Those used at Gallipolli were considered expendable, at least until the political impact of their loss became clear! If any ships could have been mothballed it surely would have been some of the dreadnoughts, but in the post war climate they too were surplus to requirements. Having said this the idea of building a new battlefleet of small 12-16,000 ton ships armed with 4 or perhaps 6 12" or 13.5 guns was proposed in the 1930's by Capt Ackworth and the historian Richmond(one time capt of Dreadnought). Such ships would have been cheap, numerous and therefore more expendable. Whether such ships could have successfully fought larger opponents is debatable.
Brown 'Nelson to Vanguard' covers some of this.

As to the lend lease DD I agree they were a poisioned chalice. The US gained valuable bases and a precedent for future transactions and we were off loaded a quantity of scrap iron in poor condition. Even Churchill reveals his disappointment regarding them in a memo published in Vol2 of his memoirs of WWII.
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2005 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think another drawback would have been the antiquated engine machinery. Up until Dreadnought, triple expansion reciprocating engines ruled the waves. They were lucky, during trials, to get 18-19 knots. Factor in 40 years time between their commissioning and WWII, and even with upgrades (expensive) and numerious overhauls, your still stuck with a coal burner doing 16-18 knots tops. They would even have gone slower had torpedo bulges been fitted. Also, due to the british empire being so far flung around the globe, british ships of the era didn't have the compartmentation that other navies had. This had a negative effect on damage control. HMS Audacious was brand new, struck a mine, and sank. Water tight in 1914 really meant hopefully we will make it back to port before we're swimming. It was pretty embarrasing for the navy to lose such a new ship that way. I could just imagine what the pre-dreadnoughts were like. As for standing up against a commerse raider like Graf Spee, my money would be on the raider. Maybe with Radar assisted fire control, and 2-3 on 1, the fossiles might win, although the pocket battleship could out run them easily. As for the lend/lease destroyers, U-boats would have eaten the predeadnoughts; with the destroyers, at least they could have a chance at killing the subs or swarmed the commerse raider. Unfortunately, there is always fine print to every deal that gets made.

As it was, the 50 destroyers were probably part of the naval reduction treaties, left to rot at the dock, while the predreadnoughts and dreadnoughts were scrapped. Sadest pictures I've found were ones of HMS Rodney, Nelson, and I think HMS King George V being scrapped. Very gloomy. You would have thought that the brits would have kept one for a museum piece.

Glenn
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Harley



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2005 6:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I suppose it's a rather grey area anyway, due to the fact that the Washington Naval treaty would never have allowed Britain to maintain and upgrade a fleet of 30 pre-dreadnoughts - had such a fleet been kept around, and upgraded during the depression when thousands of shipbuilders were out of a job; given quick-firing, high angle 12" guns, oil-fired turbines and new fire-control equipment, such a fleet would have been formidable in itself. Which is why, no doubt they were totally phased out with the Treaty regulations. It was bad enough that twenty dreadnoughts and super-dreadnoughts had to go, without losing a back-up reserve of very heavy cruisers (what else can you call a 4x12" ship?).
As far as I can tell, the average post 1890 pre-dreadnought could make at least 20 knots cruising, which is a fairly respectable speed.
I have to agree with you, Glenn, that it would probably have taken more than one pre-dreadnought to sink a raider such as the Graf Spee, but then again it would have been a better idea to send souped-up pre-dreadnoughts against her than a gaggle of cruisers. Then there's the fact that German warships were so horrendously well-built that you could kill everyone on board and the damn thing would still float, eg Bismark and Scharnhorst. British ship-builders, whilst always quite innovative, seem to have had a problem designing ships which wouldn't go to the bottom so easily. Shame.
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rubberboot



Joined: 06 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2005 9:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

20 knots would have been top speed....they would have run out of coal after probably 1000nm at that speed, or broke down. I'd hate to be a coal stoker!!! Average cruising speed (for range) was around 10knots. Best speed I could find for a British predreadnought was the Duncan and Triumph classes at 19kts. Even the Lord Nelson class was slower than that, at 18kts, and this class was completed after dreadnought. HMS Canopus (Sent to assist in chasing Von Spee's squadron near the Falkland Islands) could only manage 13-15knts tops. Not that it makes alot of difference, when the average top speed of a dreadnought was 21kts, till the Queen Elizabeth class. I realize that if they were modified, as you described, would have made them formidable, but I think the power required and the torpedo protection that would have to been fitted would have made it impossible to increase the top speed. although, 25 - 30 predreadnoughts off the normandy coast in 1944 would have been awe inspiring. Up to 120 12in guns pounding the crap out of nazi emplacements.

As for Graf Spee, she eliminated the 8in gun cruiser chasing her after 8 rounds had found there target, knocking out all the turrets and damaging the steering gear forcing her to pull out of the action. I didn't realize that Graf Spee's armour was so thin (4in belt). In theory, if the predreadnoughts were able to hit her...they may have gotten lucky.

Have you seen the documentary on bismark's wreak? It explores whether the torpedoes or the crew actually sank the ship. It's quite good. Graf Spee was scuttled because the Captain thought that HMS Renown was in the area. That would have been a good fight. Both had thin armour, same amount of heavy guns and while Renown had 15in guns, the german gunnery was probably more accurate.

Glenn
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 2:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'd like to think that a fleet of pre-dreadnoughts, brought upto a relatively expendable standard of efficiency and effectiveness, would have been both formidable and expendable. They'd have been useful on the Arctic Convoys in say a squadron of six ships - apart from "Operation Cerberus" the Kriegsmarine never fielded more than two vessels at once. Of course, the German warships would have been far more modern and more deadly, but as with cruisers against a pocket-battleship, although maybe one pre-dreadnought would have been knocked out and others heavily damaged, it is doubtful whether a German battleship such as Sharnhorst or Tirpitz, sailing alone, would have been able to take out a squadron of predreadnoughts and accompanying destroyers (the bane of the battleship). And the Royal Navy therefore would have been able to keep the 2nd and 3rd generation battleships in reserve, should an unforeseen disaster occur.
And if you've got so many of the damn things around, installing expensive torpedo protection would probably have been a waste - most cruisers didn't have such protection, and a pre-dreadnought was only marginally larger than a cruiser. Speed would have been a bit better as a result. I'll have to have a look at the ratio of torpedoings on cruisers and above anyway - see if i spot a pattern.
Purely hypothetical, naturally, so don't think too ill of me for grabbing at air.
I do remember the speculation about the scuttling of the Bismark, which, if true, isn't exactly the most stirring end to Germany's pride and joy. "Most battleships scuttled in history" award.
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Harley



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

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2005 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hmm, hadn't noticed I was logged out above.
May I ask, Ade, where you got the information concerning Ackworth and Richmond. I'd be very interested to read their proposals.
Should tone's naval simulator end up as the ultimate in combat naval simulation, it would be interesting to put up a modified version of Weird Guy's Iowa Class pre-dreadnought (times 2-4) versus a battlecruiser such as the Queen Mary (simulating a German commerce raider).
In the end, my line of reasoning on this thread is that the pre-dreadnoughts, due to speed limitations (no amount of improvements would have ever got them over thirty knots) would have made a useful addition to the Convoy protection forces in waters known to be prowled by large Enemy warships. They may have even, due to their numbers and heavy guns, been of use in the opening stages of the Naval War in the Far East - the Battle of the Java Sea (if I remember correctly) being fought by Cruisers and destroyers.
Alas, they had all been scrapped bar the odd one or two which ended up in as a sea wall or a reef. And gut tells me the Royal navy had neither the doctrine nor the standards (in the post-WW1 slashing of the Fleet) to make them truly effective in combat.
Harley
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Ade D
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2005 10:38 am    Post subject: Ackworth etc Reply with quote

Hi Harley
have a look for D.K Brown 'Nelson to Vanguard' page 35. Chatham publishing (2000), it may have been re-issued by Caxton now. The book is subtitled Warship design and development 1923-1945 but it only covers the Royal Navy. Brown was a naval architect so he knows his stuff, its really worth having a look at this if you want to know the in's and out's of British naval design. If Tony hasn't done so already I'd also recommend 'The Grand Fleet' by the same author which covers 1906 - 1922 and also 'Warrior to Dreadnought'.

What Brown says is

'During 1937-8 Capt. B Ackworth advocated small battleships with coal or dual firing. One such ship claimed to mount six 13.5" guns on 11,980 tons with a speed of 17kts. ... Politicians including the PM were attracted by the claims for a cheaper fleet and the DNC [Director of Naval Contruction] had to waste a great deal of time rebutting these claims.'

His foot note sources B Ackworth, 'Britain in Danger' (London 1937)

If Brown's last comment sounds a little scathing I would think its because he would seriously doubt the ability of any designer to squeese those parameters into such a small hull and give it adequate up to date protection. Its only fair to the crew to try stop them exploding like Invincible. However if I had to choose between these and pre-dreadnoughts I would opt for new construction, for all kinds of technical and maintenance reasons. Otherwise its a little like trying to race a Model T Ford against a modern sports car.

H W Richmond was I believe the Dreadnoughts first captain but he left the Navy and turned his hand to naval history. He also came to criticise the dreadnoughts as too vulnerable to mines and torpedoes, and also because of the escalating size and cost. I think he was writing against new battleship contruction in the early thirties in naval journals and newspaper articles. Sorry I haven't got ay specific reference for you.

Ade
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rubberboot



Joined: 06 Nov 2005
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 12, 2005 10:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great.....more books I have to look at getting. Guess christmas is coming.

Glenn
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USS ALASKA



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PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 3:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harley wrote:
I have to agree with you, Glenn, that it would probably have taken more than one pre-dreadnought to sink a raider such as the Graf Spee, but then again it would have been a better idea to send souped-up pre-dreadnoughts against her than a gaggle of cruisers.


The one problem with that is if the Graf Spee doesn’t want to give battle to those pre-dreds, she can withdraw. She can’t outrun that gaggle of cruisers. The Deutschlands may have looked fearsome on paper – much like the MiG-25 before we got hold of one – but her serious flaw was her speed. The old saw about being able to out-run what you can’t out-gun (other than 3 British and 4 Japanese vessels) and being able to out-gun what you can’t out-run sounds nice but is tactically unsound. Point being that ANY ship that has greater speed can shadow you while screaming for the Calvary on ever frequency available. Pre-Dreds can do close in convoy escort but can’t really actively hunt Graf Spee. I just think the gaggle of cruisers is more useful than the re-worked pre-dreds for this sort or work.
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HMSWarapite



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PostPosted: Thu May 01, 2008 4:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rubberboot wrote:
Graf Spee was scuttled because the Captain thought that HMS Renown was in the area. That would have been a good fight. Both had thin armour, same amount of heavy guns and while Renown had 15in guns, the german gunnery was probably more accurate.

Glenn


Very slow on the uptake, but I could not let this pass. This has to be a joke right? Renown's belt wasn't up to modern (or even WW1) battleship standards but was rather better then 3"! And why would Renown's gunnery be worse than GS? I have always rated Renown (and Repulse) as one of the few ships in the world in 1939 that would be instant death for pocket battleships (can keep up, and easily powerful enough to sink it. The others are Hood, the French Strasbourgs and ...? That is pretty much it!
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USS ALASKA



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PostPosted: Thu May 01, 2008 11:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

HMSWarapite wrote:

Very slow on the uptake, but I could not let this pass. This has to be a joke right? Renown's belt wasn't up to modern (or even WW1) battleship standards but was rather better then 3"! And why would Renown's gunnery be worse than GS? I have always rated Renown (and Repulse) as one of the few ships in the world in 1939 that would be instant death for pocket battleships (can keep up, and easily powerful enough to sink it. The others are Hood, the French Strasbourgs and ...? That is pretty much it!


Have to agree with this. Renown came up against 2 of Graf Spee’s bigger, badder sisters armed with improved versions of Graf Spee’s guns and ran them off with S & G getting the worst of it. Now granted, S & G had orders to avoid battle with main units of the Allies but didn’t GS also have those same orders? The big difference here is that GS couldn’t run away like S & G could. By the time of the Battle of the River Plate, GS best speed was down to about 25 knots. Renown can give or refuse battle as she pleases with GS able to do nothing about it. And given the weather and conditions of Renown’s fight with S & G, her main battery gunnery was quite good. Please reference this report: http://www.hmshood.org.uk/reference/official/adm267/adm267-111.htm
Bottom line is that if GS has the misfortune to meet up with either Renown or Repulse – she is doomed.
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Harley



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PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2008 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gee, this brings back memories. I should point out that when I started this thread two years ago I knew pretty much jack about naval warships - except the little bits and pieces you'd be expected to pick-up. Now I fancy I know rather a lot more, which makes me cringe at what I wrote above.

I haven't read too much about River Plate and Graff Spee, but I do have the immortal film. Is it true that Langsdorff mistook Ajax, Achilles and Exeter for destroyers and closed accordingly until it was too late to withdraw?

Harley
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USS ALASKA



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PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2008 2:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not a problem sir! For a very good down and dirty, please see http://www.bobhenneman.info/bhbrp.htm. As for the “…until it was too late to withdraw…”, because of the speed differential, I think it was all over as soon as Graf Spee was spotted regardless of which direction she headed.
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