Jump to content


Remembered Today:

Photo

Planned German Battle Cruiser raids on convoys


92 replies to this topic

#1 centurion

centurion

    General

  • Old Sweats
  • 22,453 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Marches
  • Interests:Military history, science fiction

Posted 04 December 2010 - 10:26 AM

I've just come across a report that the Allies were aware of a threat of convoy attacks by German battle cruisers in 1918 Certainly three American battleships (including USS Utah) were stationed in Bantry Bay to deal with the threat. How real was the danger?

#2 simonharley

simonharley

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 546 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Cumbria
  • Interests:British Admirals, 1889-1919. Royal Navy, 1854-1919.

Posted 04 December 2010 - 11:07 AM

Looks like very belated preparation for a worst-case scenario. As early as December, 1917 the Admiralty asked the U.S.N. to provide 4 pre-dreadnoughts, in addition to two British armoured cruisers, to escort troop convoys against the threat of "possible enemy surface raiders". The Chief of Naval Operations offered two U.S. armoured cruisers to work with the British at Halifax. It wasn't until August, 1918 that the U.S.N. sent Battleship Division Six to Berehaven, under American operational command.

Considering the lack of information on planned German sorties in for example, Philbin's biography of Hipper, and Herwig's book on the German Navy, one might be forgiven for supposing that the memos drawn up by the Plans Division of the British Naval Staff in mid-1918, detailing possible German battle cruiser movements in the Atlantic, is the most attention the idea received on either side.

Simon

#3 Darren Brown.

Darren Brown.

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 602 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 03:02 AM

Well i thought the Germans did consider this plan, the Commander of Von der Tann Max Hahn proposed the idea, Hipper sent it up the tree, but there were issues around where to coal, range and so forth that led the powers to be to conclude the U-Boats were a better & more efficient. The main threat to the battlecruisers would have come from mines & the underrated British submarine service, and if damaged by these means they would be vulnerable to overwhelming numbers of the Allies. The Germans had always been concerned about losing too many ships that would throw the balance of the Baltic from their control. Had France fallen as in WW2 then this concept would have been far more attractive.

Where range was not a concern the German were taking on convoys between Scotland & Norway with surface ships, mine laying cruisers sank 8 from 12 in October 1917, Torpedoboats did a whole convoy on the 12th of December 1917, and in April 1918 the German Battlecruisers did go out to take on a convoy of which Scheer had hoped was escorted by US Battleships, but they had bad intell and found themselves between convoys. The aim of whittling down dreadnought numbers with the inexperienced Americans was an secondary aim of the Scheer. Philbin's biography of Hipper, and Herwig's book on the German Navy, not the best of books.

#4 simonharley

simonharley

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 546 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Cumbria
  • Interests:British Admirals, 1889-1919. Royal Navy, 1854-1919.

Posted 05 December 2010 - 09:15 AM

Darren, the attacks on North Sea convoys are somewhat irrelevant. And I'm assuming that since Hahn was superseded in command of "Von der Tann" in 1916, then his suggestion to Hipper pre-dates his going to "Bayern" (if that's a false assumption, my apologies). I'd have thought that to be relevant suggestions as to the efficacy of battle cruiser raids to be relevant would have to have been made in 1917-1918.

I won't disagree with you about Philbin and Herwig, especially the former - quite how he got given a Ph.D. for his life of Hipper I don't know.

As to coaling, supplies &c., the Plans Division worked on the assumption that the Germans sent out a "Derfflinger" without provision for resupplying (but including the possibility it might capture an oiler), and worked out what its best range might be, having broken out through the English Channel.

Here's a chart from a Plans Division memorandum on the subject from 5 August, 1918, in ADM 137/2710 (struggled to get the size down, hence the poor quality).

Attached File  Battle Cruiser Chart.gif   97.17KB   1 downloads

Simon

#5 gaelgoir

gaelgoir

    Second Lieutenant

  • Old Sweats
  • 103 posts

Posted 05 December 2010 - 03:58 PM

There are photos of the American battleships in bantry in the Library of congress. http://www.navsource...ives/01/36a.htm

#6 TeeCeeCee

TeeCeeCee

    Captain

  • Old Sweats
  • 265 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 05 December 2010 - 05:31 PM

How where battleships, especially old pre-dreadnoughts, supposed to tackle the 'fleet-footed' battlecruisers? It'd be like a lumbering gaint trying to swat away the mosquios buzzing around his ears. i.e. it was pure luck to actually hit them but it was deadly once he did make contact!

Did they consider the prospect unlikely?

#7 centurion

centurion

    General

  • Old Sweats
  • 22,453 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Marches
  • Interests:Military history, science fiction

Posted 05 December 2010 - 05:51 PM

How where battleships, especially old pre-dreadnoughts, supposed to tackle the 'fleet-footed' battlecruisers? It'd be like a lumbering gaint trying to swat away the mosquios buzzing around his ears. i.e. it was pure luck to actually hit them but it was deadly once he did make contact!

Did they consider the prospect unlikely?

Well tell that to the ghosts of HMS Hoods crew. With virtually unarmoured decks battlecruisers were vulnerable and they weren't that much faster as to dodge 10 or 15 inch shells. The battlecruiser was designed to prey on cruisers.

#8 TeeCeeCee

TeeCeeCee

    Captain

  • Old Sweats
  • 265 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 06 December 2010 - 05:35 AM

Well tell that to the ghosts of HMS Hoods crew. With virtually unarmoured decks battlecruisers were vulnerable and they weren't that much faster as to dodge 10 or 15 inch shells. The battlecruiser was designed to prey on cruisers.


Bit of a difference between a 19knt pre-dreadnought and the WW2 Bismark... both in spead and fire control.

The only course of action to defeat a battlecruiser is another battlecruiser... or if they could be spared, the fast battleship (Queen Elizabeths)

If it was a serious threat, they'd have detached a modern battlecruiser or 2 as had been done previously.They probably used the pre-dreadnoughts as they were un-employed and it was useful to have something there... in-case

#9 Siege Gunner

Siege Gunner

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 7,452 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London SW19

Posted 06 December 2010 - 10:17 AM

How were battleships, especially old pre-dreadnoughts, supposed to tackle the 'fleet-footed' battlecruisers?

The answer to that, in the context of escorting convoys, is surely that the battlecruiser raiders would have to come to the convoy, so the pre-dreadnoughts' speed disadvantage would not matter.

#10 Darren Brown.

Darren Brown.

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 602 posts

Posted 06 December 2010 - 01:52 PM

The only course of action to defeat a battlecruiser is another battlecruiser... or if they could be spared, the fast battleship (Queen Elizabeths)

Jellicoe bemoaned the Queens as they were to slow to catch the German battlecruisers, and also the R's, he said it was a shame they did not build more Tigers instead, his words. So, the wonder Queens were not the answer. Hood when finished may have been capable, but a risk as she was old pre Jutland designing and part of the reason her sisters were not continued which was thankful, and as we have seen the wonder ships of Renown & Repulse were deemed unfit for battle and liable to explode with one hit. Simply put, the Germans out engineered the RN in this field and there was no real answer, just a hope a sub or mine could reduce their speed, (like Bismarck years later). Interesting when one gets the original documents from the German archives prior to WW1, translate them, and see what they say about the prime purpose was of these ships. May explain why they were not used for the purpose brought up in this thread. Hope this was relevant.

#11 DulcetTone

DulcetTone

    Second Lieutenant

  • Members3
  • 81 posts

Posted 06 December 2010 - 07:02 PM

The answer to that, in the context of escorting convoys, is surely that the battlecruiser raiders would have to come to the convoy, so the pre-dreadnoughts' speed disadvantage would not matter.


This is the advantage of a defender whose utility elsewhere is negligible.

tone

#12 MikB

MikB

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 1,781 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Redditch
  • Interests:Military/Naval history, Engineering history, old telescopes, ballistics.

Posted 07 December 2010 - 11:53 AM

This is the advantage of a defender whose utility elsewhere is negligible.

tone


The whole idea looks like the 'Cruiser Warfare' theory which developed in WW1 and was still present in the WW2 German Navy, and which the Bismarck episode demonstrated to be unworkable.

And pre-Dreadnoughts escorting convoys would have caused attackers to turn away exactly as the veteran battleships did later in WW2 - if it's to remain effective, the attacker can't afford action damage when the enemy fleet is strong and will concentrate with lethal results as soon as the attacker's mobility is compromised.

Regards,
MikB

#13 TeeCeeCee

TeeCeeCee

    Captain

  • Old Sweats
  • 265 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 07 December 2010 - 12:48 PM

The answer to that, in the context of escorting convoys, is surely that the battlecruiser raiders would have to come to the convoy, so the pre-dreadnoughts' speed disadvantage would not matter.


Well a fast ship won't slow to the convoy course and peed and sail parallel... it'll use the speed to dodge a bit.

A pre-dreadnought Versus a battlecruiser? Wouldn't it be a question on the ability of the fire control and gunnery of the former?

#14 centurion

centurion

    General

  • Old Sweats
  • 22,453 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Marches
  • Interests:Military history, science fiction

Posted 07 December 2010 - 12:54 PM

The whole idea looks like the 'Cruiser Warfare' theory which developed in WW1 and was still present in the WW2 German Navy, and which the Bismarck episode demonstrated to be unworkable.

And pre-Dreadnoughts escorting convoys would have caused attackers to turn away exactly as the veteran battleships did later in WW2 - if it's to remain effective, the attacker can't afford action damage when the enemy fleet is strong and will concentrate with lethal results as soon as the attacker's mobility is compromised.

Regards,
MikB

Not a new situation. in 1803 a convoy of East Indiamen approached by a French fleet formed line of battle and forced the French to sheer off. The French ships, heading for Martinique did not dare risk the loss of irreplaceable masts or spars when there was a British fleet out there somewhere looking for them.

There was a scheme in WW1 to convert some pre Dreadnoughts to convoy escort by removing much secondary armament and using the weight in guns and ammunition saved to up armour them.

#15 TeeCeeCee

TeeCeeCee

    Captain

  • Old Sweats
  • 265 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 07 December 2010 - 01:29 PM

The only course of action to defeat a battlecruiser is another battlecruiser... or if they could be spared, the fast battleship (Queen Elizabeths)

Jellicoe bemoaned the Queens as they were to slow to catch the German battlecruisers, and also the R's, he said it was a shame they did not build more Tigers instead, his words. So, the wonder Queens were not the answer. Hood when finished may have been capable, but a risk as she was old pre Jutland designing and part of the reason her sisters were not continued which was thankful, and as we have seen the wonder ships of Renown & Repulse were deemed unfit for battle and liable to explode with one hit. Simply put, the Germans out engineered the RN in this field and there was no real answer, just a hope a sub or mine could reduce their speed, (like Bismarck years later). Interesting when one gets the original documents from the German archives prior to WW1, translate them, and see what they say about the prime purpose was of these ships. May explain why they were not used for the purpose brought up in this thread. Hope this was relevant.


Yes, I know the QEs are a touch slow but they would be very much a 2nd option.... in fact, they may outclass a german BC as they won't suffer fatal or dis-abling battle damage... but they still have (I'd hope) state of the art fire-control and those 15inch shells. It's a ton of metal hitting your ship. There's some serious kinetic wallop behind one of those! :-)

The restof the ships you name, hood, repulse, etc, are BCs! :-)

Re: "Germany out engineering Britain"

Well they had a different somewhat narrower set of requirements, didn't they? They were designed solely for the north sea and north atlantic operations. Our ships needed to be capable of sailing all seas which entailed more spacious crew compartments and the more apparent longer range (requiring more bunker space).

They had a more diverse role due to the Empire.

I very much want to read the Cambell book about the damage at jutland. By explaining the damge inflicted, you get to understand how the ships where put together.

#16 TeeCeeCee

TeeCeeCee

    Captain

  • Old Sweats
  • 265 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 07 December 2010 - 01:35 PM

The whole idea looks like the 'Cruiser Warfare' theory which developed in WW1 and was still present in the WW2 German Navy, and which the Bismarck episode demonstrated to be unworkable.

And pre-Dreadnoughts escorting convoys would have caused attackers to turn away exactly as the veteran battleships did later in WW2 - if it's to remain effective, the attacker can't afford action damage when the enemy fleet is strong and will concentrate with lethal results as soon as the attacker's mobility is compromised.

Regards,
MikB


Yes, how many examples has history seen of a lame ship being picked off later when time permits! It's positively Darwinian!!! :)

I did say at the start of this "it was pure luck to actually hit them but it was deadly once he did make contact!"

#17 Siege Gunner

Siege Gunner

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 7,452 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London SW19

Posted 07 December 2010 - 02:36 PM

A pre-dreadnought Versus a battlecruiser? Wouldn't it be a question on the ability of the fire control and gunnery of the former?

Pre-dreadnoughts tended to hang on to long-serving gunners with experience of the peculiarities of 9.2" and 12" guns, and as they were often used in a guard-ship or bombardment role, their gunnery might be expected to be good. In the likely circumstances of an open ocean encounter with a battlecruiser, I should have thought that the armouring of at least later pre-dreadnoughts would have been adequate for the purpose.

Pre-dreadnoughts, would, however, be tempting targets for U-boats, which would presumably have worked in concert with the surface-raiding battlecruisers.

#18 MikB

MikB

    Brigadier-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 1,781 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Redditch
  • Interests:Military/Naval history, Engineering history, old telescopes, ballistics.

Posted 07 December 2010 - 02:47 PM

Superior speed may allow a ship to decline an engagement, but won't materially reduce its risk of damage once in. HMS Warspite hit RM Giulio Cesare, a ship then substantially faster than herself, at record-setting range in WW2.

As Siege Gunner and TeeCee say, fire control would be the critical factor. I'm not aware that any pre-Dreads were ever given director systems or any of the later enhancements - anybody know different?

Regards,
MikB

#19 Siege Gunner

Siege Gunner

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 7,452 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London SW19

Posted 07 December 2010 - 03:07 PM

What else would be in the package, though? Does the battlecruiser work alone, or does it come with an armoured cruiser and a swarm of destroyers? Likewise for the pre-dreadnought.

#20 centurion

centurion

    General

  • Old Sweats
  • 22,453 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:The Marches
  • Interests:Military history, science fiction

Posted 07 December 2010 - 03:15 PM

In my latest posting on balloons I mention that the US Battleships assigned for anti battlecruiser work were fitted with balloons for fire direction over the horizon. An up armoured pre dreadnought (see my post on this thread) so equipped might stand a good chance of a hit.

Submarines and fast surface ships do not work together because of (amongst other things) speed disparities (the ill fated K class was a disastrous attempt to produce a sub that could work with the surface fleet).

#21 Darren Brown.

Darren Brown.

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 602 posts

Posted 07 December 2010 - 10:21 PM

Re: "Germany out engineering Britain"

The damage 5 German BC's at Jutland caused, what can you say? The Q's coped a towelling as well, lucky not to lose a couple with one going around in circles and one with secondary armament magazine fires. It is a giggle to read the Wikipedia site on the Queens, Warspite having 15 hits, mmmmmmm, i guess that is what they wanted us to believe. But that is Wikipedia, just peoples opinions at times, look at the great one on HMS E22, no survivors hey.

Out engineering can be learning from mistakes such as Dogger Bank and re-engineering, and the results of this were at Jutland. Both sides chose different paths with the outcome of Dogger Bank. Behind the backslapping over the sinking of odd ball Blucher and the lucky early shots on Seydlitz, from that point the Germans outgunned the British who set about finding ways to increase rate of fire with disastrous consequences, the RN learnt nothing. Of course I did not see the magazines on the battered German BC’s blow up. One can only imagine the results if the roles were reversed, 10 German Batlecruisers against 5 British, or for that matter equal numbers. Sherman’s tanks verses Tiger tanks.

It was not the diverse theatres of operation, more the thinking behind the use of these ships, and many of the British Battlecruisers were designed to hunt down and destroy cruisers, of which they were totally successful. The German ships were designed to scout for the fleet, draw the British in, then fall into place with the battleships and slug it out, and this was such an important role in their tactics that is the reason why they would not be risked in raiding convoys. They were basically fast battleships, and even when ships such as Tiger were built and became an even match, the underwater protection on the German ships was better. When built Renown, Repulse, Glorious, Courageous, the British were taking their concept one way, the Germans the other, and the building of these ships left a gaping hole in combating new German battlecruisers.

Would these German battlecruisers go out in the Atlantic? It was never going to happen as why would you risk these valuable assets, if they lost them it would be a major blow.

#22 Siege Gunner

Siege Gunner

    Lieut-General

  • Old Sweats
  • 7,452 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London SW19

Posted 08 December 2010 - 01:28 AM

An up armoured pre dreadnought (see my post on this thread) so equipped might stand a good chance of a hit.

Submarines and fast surface ships do not work together because of (amongst other things) speed disparities (the ill fated K class was a disastrous attempt to produce a sub that could work with the surface fleet).

Not sure why you are so strong on the idea of up-armouring, Centurion. Pre-dreadnoughts were already fairly prodigiously armoured, and also bristling with secondary armament in places that Dreadnoughts were not. They were obviously outclassed by a modern German battlecruiser in a war of manoeuvre, but in a 'here I stand' encounter, they would have presented a formidable adversary, capable of absorbing heavy punishment and always likely to land deadly if not fatal hits. They would probably lose in the end, but it's unlikely that a solitary German battlecruiser would emerge unscathed from the encounter, and would then be vulnerable to torpedo attacks from accompanying destroyers.

As for collaboration between U-boats and surface raiders, it may not have been a practical proposition if both approached from afar, but if the U-boat was already in the area, they would surely have been able to work together.

#23 victory

victory

    Second Lieutenant

  • Members3
  • 83 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Interests:Grand Fleet. Jellicoe. Beatty. Madden. Submarines.

Posted 08 December 2010 - 08:39 AM

I am surprised nobody has refered to reality in this case. You do have Slava and König as a practical example.

#24 victory

victory

    Second Lieutenant

  • Members3
  • 83 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Interests:Grand Fleet. Jellicoe. Beatty. Madden. Submarines.

Posted 08 December 2010 - 10:20 AM

TeeCee, same old misconceptions keep recurring don't they.

"Well they had a different somewhat narrower set of requirements, didn't they? They were designed solely for the north sea and north atlantic operations. Our ships needed to be capable of sailing all seas which entailed more spacious crew compartments and the more apparent longer range (requiring more bunker space)."

The facts, German ships had more space per crewman. Lützow range 5600nm at 14 knots, Tiger 5200nm at 12 knots. Took longer to travel lesser range. Hindenburg 6100nm at 14 knots.

You need to say something like Germany didn't have the bases Britain did, or something like that, not a series of of incorrect assumptions.

#25 simonharley

simonharley

    Lieut-Colonel

  • Old Sweats
  • 546 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Cumbria
  • Interests:British Admirals, 1889-1919. Royal Navy, 1854-1919.

Posted 08 December 2010 - 11:13 AM

Victory, where is your figure for "Tiger's" cruising range taken from? Technically, "Tiger could go further (3270nm) than "Lutzow" (3100nm) at 24.25 knots, and that was with a large amount of coal and oil left.

Simon