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Usefulness of Pre-Dreadnoughts?
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HMSWarapite



Joined: 27 Apr 2008
Posts: 6
Location: Bristol UK

PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2008 2:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is quite normal for ships to get the scale wrong at high range initially: mistaking CLs for DD or (from the air) CLs for BB, tankers for carriers etc. I agree that this was not a big deal. GS was spotted at dawn by faster ships; there was going to be an action that day.

The interesting thing is the 'ease' with which the RN harried GS into Montevideo. A combination of lack of confidence from Langsdorf, complete assurity from Harwood (based on 200 years of tradition), and the tactical situation. The PBs were not very "cost effective" ships and the main armament arrangement was a hinderance. I have always thought that they should have had 6 or 8 8" guns and better armour (i.e. been a balenced ship: more like a large heavy cruiser). The 11" is neither use nor ornament: too large for merchant raiding and they should never fight anything for which an 11" is required! (I know I said there were only a handful of ships that could be sure to beat her one on one, but she was never going to meet anybody one on one! The RN traditionally did not subscribe to the Marquis of Queensbury:wink:). The triples mean that she can only ever engage 2 targets. The secondaries (5.9") should have compensated but control seems to have been a problem for some reason. There was a famous war game pre war that said a PB was in trouble against 3 cruisers...

In the event Harwood did not have to push things too hard, but if it looked like GS would escape he had the option of trying something really brave: he only had to land one hit (like the shell forward on Bismark), and GS was not getting home.
_________________
The British had long pursued the goal of 'any-elevation' loading but, having in due course achieved it, found it in practice to be wanting.
"The Big Gun Battleship main armament 1860-1945" by Peter Hodges

Name is a typo before you ask - I meant Warspite!
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bargami



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

PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 12:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As the subject here is the usefulness of pre-dreadnoughts, this might be the place to mention perhaps the most famous relevant hypothetical, namely the usefulness (or not) of H.M.S. Canopus at Coronel, had Cradock chosen to wait up for her.

Cradock wanted the armoured cruiser H.M.S. Defence to augment his force, having foremost in his mind the "seek out and destroy" order from the Admiralty, which he felt required the 22-23 knot speed which Defence possessed and Canopus did not, although the latter had the 4 12" guns vs. 4 9.2" carried by Defence. I guess it is fairly established now that Cradock's intelligence on Canopus, namely that she was capable of no more than 13 knots, was faulty. However, even at her ideal 18 knots Canopus would have slowed him down.

Also well-established is the culpability, in Cradock's demise at Coronel, of another badly-worded telegram from the Admiralty (and certainly Churchills hand was in this as with the Goeben telegram), in this case letting pass without comment Cradock's stated intention to proceed without Canopus.

Now what if Cradock's force "had" included Canopus when facing Von Spee? Famous question. Would she have made a difference?
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Harley



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

PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 5:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hypotheticals are fun but evil :P. However, to judge this one I would need to know;

*Projected path of von Spee's squadron, without contact by Cradock or being shadowed by him.
*Projected meteorological reports for the region.
*Relative position of "Canopus", and other particulars on Canopus as to crew, equipment &c.

The British were in the worst possible position at Coronel, if memory serves and certainly weren't served by heavy seas. Waiting for Canopus might have saved them from having to fight in poor conditions, but then there is the question of whether contact could have been remade with the German squadron, or contact kept without provoking an instant battle.

I'm sure I have the answers to some of these questions lurking on my Hard Drive or in my library somewhere...

Harley
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bargami



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

PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really feel like a basic mistake was made by Churchill, Battenberg, et al in the reinforcements sent out, both "Canopus" and "Defence." I don't believe that either, in company with Cradock's existing force, would have changed the result, and possibly not the two together. Having "Defence," as Cradock preferred, would have kept him up to speed but still undergunned vs. "Scharnhorst" and "Gneisenau." Cradock's flagship has only 2 9.2" guns, and "Monmouth" only 6" main armament.

Had "Canopus" been present, although being able to bring 4 12" guns to bear, these guns haven't the range of a dreadnought or battlecruiser twelve; von Spee can still remain out of range or skate around the slower ship.

In my view, knowing the composition of von Spee's squadron, the Admiralty should have done, in essence, what it "did" after the tragedy had happened: send "at least" one, preferably two (as Admiralty did after Coronel) modern battlecruisers and make the "search and destroy" certain. If the issue was that important (and Churchill and co. seemed to feel that it was) better not to play games by sending older vessels with "issues," or ones whose reinforcement simply wouldn't have been enough.

I realize that there's an argument that, had von Spee known that Canopus was in company, and maybe not knowing of her handicaps, he might have steered clear of Cradock's force. Maybe.

bargami
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mikemike



Joined: 02 Sep 2008
Posts: 5
Location: Germany

PostPosted: Tue Sep 02, 2008 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

HMSWarapite wrote:

The PBs were not very "cost effective" ships and the main armament arrangement was a hinderance. I have always thought that they should have had 6 or 8 8" guns and better armour (i.e. been a balenced ship: more like a large heavy cruiser). The 11" is neither use nor ornament: too large for merchant raiding and they should never fight anything for which an 11" is required!



I think you make the same mistake many people make when criticizing the Pocket Battleship design, that is, you disregard that these ships were the bastard children of the Versailles Treaty. In VT terms, these ships were "Battleships". The displacement was limited to 10.000 tons and, while gun caliber wasn't explicitly stated, the Allies probably wouldn't have accepted any other caliber than 11in, 280 mm. Quite certainly, the French would never have allowed something approaching a conventional heavy cruiser. The VT was designed to deprive Germany of anything faintly resembling an adequate self-defense capability, and the limitations imposed on the Navy were intended to prevent the construction of ships comparable to anything the allies were building at the time. This worked admirably. The Pocket Battleships would have had to be the backbone, the battle line of the German Navy as soon as the bottoms had rotted out of the ancient pre-dreadnoughts. This forced a compromise design that had to be inadequate in some respects. The stated mission of trade disruption was probably just putting a brave face on the mess and getting political and budget approval for the ships.
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Harley



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

PostPosted: Mon Sep 15, 2008 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quite why the German Navy was even allowed to build new ships at all was "daft". Their two pre-dreadnoughts were quite capable of whatever the de-clawed German republic would ever have to do, i.e. nothing!

It's an unfashionable view to hold but in light of the saying, "give them an inch and they'll take a mile", the Germans post WWI shouldn't have even been given an inch (or 2.5cm).

Simon
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tone
Site Admin


Joined: 29 Oct 2004
Posts: 479
Location: Boston

PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Was there no value to be obtained by keeping the much more numerous British capital ships from having their choice of where to spend their time? I think the need to keep a multiple of the German count on hand to oppose a sortie was a costly mandate for the British command.

However, one could readily argue that this could have been done with fewer than 2 Bismarcks, 2 Scharnhorsts, 3 Lutzows, etc

tone
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mikemike



Joined: 02 Sep 2008
Posts: 5
Location: Germany

PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2008 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tone wrote:
Was there no value to be obtained by keeping the much more numerous British capital ships from having their choice of where to spend their time? I think the need to keep a multiple of the German count on hand to oppose a sortie was a costly mandate for the British command.

However, one could readily argue that this could have been done with fewer than 2 Bismarcks, 2 Scharnhorsts, 3 Lutzows, etc

tone


In the 1920s, the major threat to Germany was definitely coming from France, especially France working in conjunction with Poland ( there was a French-Polish agreement covering this situation that would have seen a French Navy squadron entering the Baltic to support the Poles) which would have made East Prussia exceedingly vulnerable, and most of the German Baltic coast only slightly less so. Remember that the Versailles Treaty specified that all German coast defence installations on the Baltic coast had to be dismantled and that detailed, current sea charts of the Baltic areas near the German coast had to be provided to the Allied states in order to "ensure free access to the Baltic to ships of all nations". Following the events of the immediate post-war years in the area, the Polish threat was taken very seriously. However, nobody expected a war against Britain - even Hitler started to regard Britain as a future enemy only in 1937, and didn't expect that war to start before 1947, which explains the unpreparedness of the Kriegsmarine for such a war in 1939. If Germany had planned from 1934 on to fight against Britain in the next few years, the Kriegsmarine would certainly have built a far larger submarine fleet, and the Bismarcks, the carriers, and the later heavy cruisers might never have been laid down.
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mikemike



Joined: 02 Sep 2008
Posts: 5
Location: Germany

PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2008 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Harley wrote:
Quite why the German Navy was even allowed to build new ships at all was "daft". Their two pre-dreadnoughts were quite capable of whatever the de-clawed German republic would ever have to do, i.e. nothing!

It's an unfashionable view to hold but in light of the saying, "give them an inch and they'll take a mile", the Germans post WWI shouldn't have even been given an inch (or 2.5cm).

Simon


Before 1918, the Germany that had to be de-clawed existed mainly in the realm of British propaganda (the famous warmongering "hun" that is apparently sorely missed nowadays by certain US and UK elements for use as cannon fodder). The Weimar Republic very earnestly tried to establish a stable, peaceful democracy but was impeded in that effort by the Versailles Treaty and its consequences. In those times, a country had to have armed forces to police its borders and protect itself from civil uprisings and foreign incursions. If Germany hadn't been allowed the Reichswehr, the Allies would have been obliged by the Hague Convention to provide that service which the USA wouldn't have wanted to do, the UK couldn't have afforded, and the French would have used to take over parts of the German territory (they tried hard anyway in the Saar and the Rhineland; if they had succeeded in doing so that would have weakened the British position and might have eventually led to a British-French war; the RAF certainly made plans for such a war in the 1920s). As it was, the Reichswehr was little more than a token force with the navy being in a particularly bad position; all the ships that were left were old and run-down, with little military value, many needed extensive repairs to be at least seaworthy. Germany had to be allowed to build replacement ships to maintain a minimum self-defence capability. Remember that at the time the Versailles Treaty was negotiated, Allied and White Russian forces were still fighting the Soviets, particularly in the Baltic, the existence of a minimum German navy might have been intended in part to keep the Soviets from infiltrating Central Europe by way of the Baltic.

Had the Versailles Treaty been less like the wet dream of the Jingoes and more like a conventional peace treaty, the reactionary elements in German politics would have been deprived of many of their most effective arguments and there wouldn't have been widespread consensus to ignore or subvert its provisions. The Great Depression and all its social and political consequences might even have been prevented or ameliorated if the Allies hadn't been eager to have Germany pay off their war debts as quickly as possible and therefore obliged Germany to make crippling reparation payments.

There are certain risks inherent in obtaining your knowledge of recent history from the Daily Express or the History Channel.

P.S. Germany was allowed eight pre-dreadnoughts, six of them in active service at any time, but didn't have enough manpower to crew that many ships. In addition, many of the ships had been reduced to minesweeper tenders or accommodation hulks during the war and needed substantive refits to return to active duty. Schlesien and Schleswig-Holstein, the ones that remained at the end, were just the ones refitted last and thus in best condition; the longer-serving ships had been taken out of service when the Panzerschiffe were commissioned and were scrapped, used for trials or turned into target ships.
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bargami



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

PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Something else to consider in regard to Germany's naval rebuilding between the wars: through the efforts of Tirpitz, the Kaiser, the Navy League and others over twenty-some years, a genuine German naval tradition had been established. That was quite an achievement in an empire where the combat icon was the army, and its essential embodiment in the great Prussian military tradition. Add to this that most Germans felt variously dissatisfied with how the War was settled, and that they were unjustly kept down. Also, there would be the usual and understandable arguments that the great shipyards, government and private, needed the work to keep their designers, technicians, builders, up to speed.

Along with that tradition goes the trauma of the fleet surrender and the scuttling. I'm sure there was some degree of "we'll be back" mentality among many German naval officers and simply enthusiasts. The Versailles treaty, whether intentionally or not, made a small allowance for that and the Germans took it. Of course closing the door in Versailles might have been simpler because, once the rebuild-within-these-limits marker is set, there is a temptation to fudge or flout those limits, as Allied powers did re. the interwar naval treaties.

In sum, I believe that naval tradition, new as it was compared with that of Britain, was very real by 1918, and was one factor, added to the general discontent, which predicted a German naval comeback.

bargami
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Harley



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

PostPosted: Sun Sep 28, 2008 12:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Up to the armistice there were still a million Germans in the East on occupation duties as well as fighting the Russians. They all didn't just jump back into Germany after 11 November 1918.

While attempting to stabilise the new German state president Ebert was not above stirring the hearts and minds of Germans with fiery rhetoric - yelling at German troops returning home that they had not been beaten, and that germany would rise again - very good for a socialist. There were enough "Jingoes" and opportunists still kicking around in Germany.

And if you'll blame France, many citizens of whom could still remember 1870-1871, for wanting revenge in the form of land and money, then you're not very human.

Harley
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