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German High Seas Fleet, Worth The Investment?


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#41 Ken Estes

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Posted 24 April 2015 - 1054 AM

One can also consider the politics of the new German Empire, first pointed to by Eckhart Kehr in his classic Battleship Building and Party Politics in Germany, 1894-1901.


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#42 Markus Becker

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Posted 25 April 2015 - 0711 AM

 

 

Hindenburg was 26,500 tons, 8 x 12” guns, about 27kt with battleship scale armor and 4,900 tons of fuel including 1,200 tons oil capacity, allowing for underway at-sea refueling.  At 12kt Stuart says she was good for 6,400nm, or 1.3 miles per ton.  At 24kt, maybe .33 miles per ton, or a ‘sprint’ range on oil of 400nm or a ‘cruise’ range on oil of 1,500nm.  The oil capacity is crucial because this is the at-sea refueling capacity.

 

Instead of 8 x 12” guns for Hindenburg, make it 6 x 15” guns instead – that’s a net increase in firepower on roughly the same weight.  Increase the range capacity to 12,000nm with speed  at maybe 26kt and the armor weight as is.  Triple the oil capacity from 1,200 to 3,600 tons and double the coal capacity from 3,700 to 7,400 tons, so that the ‘sprint’ range on oil is over 1,000nm – this allows a BC to ‘break out’ using only oil.

 

To build Derfflinger like that, you’re probably looking at a 36,000 ton ship, but with the combat power of a 26,000 ton ship.  To do it for the Mackesen Class, maybe 40,000 tons instead of 30,000 tons, and for the Super Mackensens, maybe 50,000 tons instead of 40,000.  Well, that’s tough – if Germany wanted a free lunch it should have been where Spain is instead, right?

 

If merchant raiding is the mission such ships are massive overkill.

 

You need something that can run down and overpower a merchant ship, nothing more. Since most merchants had a top speed in the single digits a steamer that can make a bit more than 10 knots and is armed with two or three 10.5cm guns would suffice. Such a ship would also be cheap and inconspicuous. So inconspicuous that even a boarding party might not notice there are on an AMC(SMS Seealder).

 

Since Germany had a number of colonies in Africa and the Pacific I’d build mail packets. Ships with a high cruise speed and a long range. They’d hit enemy shipping in one area and by the time the enemy realizes ships are going missing, the raider is already in a different area.

 

And last but not least, I’d not build in any way against Great Britain. Like Marek said, geography puts Germany at a decisive disadvantage in a naval war with Britain.


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#43 RETAC21

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Posted 25 April 2015 - 0808 AM

Unless you plan on invading Britain first and then deal with France!


Edited by RETAC21, 25 April 2015 - 0808 AM.

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#44 Markus Becker

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Posted 25 April 2015 - 0814 AM

Unless you plan on invading Britain first and then deal with France!

 

Why would you plan to invade a not unfriendly neutral? By 1900 the Reich's enemies were France and Russia. Both were landpowers, particularly Russia.


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#45 glenn239

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Posted 25 April 2015 - 0933 AM

Ken Estes - Tirpitz mentioned in his memoirs that the one opportunity for success was in 1914, to use the HSF to interrupt the LC of the BEF and engage a portion of the GF, or both.

 

 

 

Aside from the once-in-the war “Waiting for Warrender” fishing expeditions, tip and run infantry landings on the east coast might have tied down a larger slice of the British army and created opportunities for naval battles – especially in 1914, but tailing off from there.  More importantly, in August 1914 the German army had the once-only opportunity to take Amiens and secure its right flank on the Channel roughly around Le Crotoy.  AFAIK, Moltke wasn’t even aware of the importance of Amiens to the navy for war in the Channel.  That oversight was Tirpitz’s fault.


Edited by glenn239, 25 April 2015 - 0933 AM.

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#46 glenn239

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Posted 25 April 2015 - 0941 AM

Markus Becker - Why would you plan to invade a not unfriendly neutral?

 

 

 

RETAC21 was joking.  But to engage your  planning assumption head on, how could the German navy assume British neutrality was even possible when the German army is telling them that the first thing they are going to do is invade Belgium? 


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#47 Markus Becker

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Posted 25 April 2015 - 0947 AM

 

RETAC21 was joking.  But to engage your  planning assumption head on, how could the German navy assume British neutrality was even possible when the German army is telling them that the first thing they are going to do is invade Belgium? 

 

 

A very good question. Did the German Navy know the invasion of Belgium was part of the German war plans?


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#48 glenn239

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Posted 25 April 2015 - 1047 AM

Markus Becker - If merchant raiding is the mission such ships are massive overkill.

 

 

 

Strategy arises from first principles.  Germany’s first principle was that she was a land power, attaining victory by defeating all the enemy armies of a continental coalition.  This is unchanging whether Britain were neutral or belligerent, just harder to do in the latter case.  

 

 

Obviously, British neutrality would be the more desirable planning assumption.   The big question is whether it was the more realistic planning assumption, given Britain’s natural distrust of the continental frontrunner and the German army’s intention to violate the neutrality of Belgium before the war even gets its pants on.  A small or non-existent fleet might help with pre-war Anglo-German tensions, but don’t forget that when Sir Edward Grey was selling belligerency on 3 August 1914, his arguments were first that the crushing of France would be intolerable, second that the treaty with Belgium demanded honor, and third that the cost of entering the war hardly exceeded the cost of staying out.  None of these suggest that Germany’s fleet characteristics held much weight in the matter, (and the third argument even implies that an appeasement strategy may backfire by making the British more contemptuous of the potential consequences).

 

 

You need something that can run down and overpower a merchant ship, nothing more. Since most merchants had a top speed in the single digits a steamer that can make a bit more than 10 knots and is armed with two or three 10.5cm guns would suffice.

 

 

 

Let’s move from strategy to operations assuming that the invasion of Belgium made a war with Great Britain inevitable.  You suggest that, say, a 16kt raider with two or three 10.5cm guns would be sufficient for German strategy.  The Atlantic Oceans are over 80 million square miles, of which let’s say maybe 20 million square miles is most important for war operations.  The Entente Powers might have maybe 150 warships – light and armored cruisers, old battleships, battle cruisers available – one ship per 130,000 square miles.  Let’s say each ship can search 2,000 square miles per day on average, (accounting for port calls) so about on average once every two months the small, slow German raider is going to encounter something faster than 16kt and with something bigger than popguns.

 

 

Now, onto the Mackensens.  The Entente still have their 150 warships available for patrol, but now all of these are dead meat if they encounter a Mackensen.  The British will have built their own Mackensens, maybe in double the numbers.  Since there are eight German BC’s, these are patrolling in groups of 6-8.  Now, to cover the 20 million square miles, the Entente have just two fleets, not the 150 ships they had against the popgun raider.  These can search abeam – but not too far abeam - so can cover, let’s say, 10,000 square miles a day on average, (still  half their time in port).  Randomly, an encounter between opposing BC fleets once every 66 months.

 

 

The proposed BC fleet is not ‘overkill’.  It transforms the navies of the Entente into targets to be hunted down  - just as Fisher envisioned - and the ships the British would build that can hunt them will be so few and the theatre so huge they might never even meet during the entire war.  It radically alters the tactical situation, from the Germans skulking around the edges to kicking the door down and kicking ass.  Naval war is also about psychological domination, about whose the hunter and whose the prey, and you can’t get there with some crappy 16kt ship armed with peashooters and a life expectancy of two months

 

 

Since Germany had a number of colonies in Africa and the Pacific I’d build mail packets. Ships with a high cruise speed and a long range. They’d hit enemy shipping in one area and by the time the enemy realizes ships are going missing, the raider is already in a different area

 

.

 

 

Having high speed certainly transforms the equation – most Entente ships were good for less than 23kt, making a ship like Karlsruhe relatively safe from most encounters.  But naval war had a political edge to it too, and Karlsruhe wasn’t it.  Hannibal didn’t influence the Latin cities, (ie, the Americas) by hiding in Gaul – he had to go right into their front yard and kick some Roman ass just outside the portcullis.  That got some attention. 


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#49 Markus Becker

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Posted 25 April 2015 - 1220 PM

Even if the navy knows about Belgium a naval arms race with Britain still makes on sense. Actually even less than before. Germany will still loose it and the army needs the resources much more badly because the army needs to win the war before Britain has built a large army herself and before the effects of the blockade start to harm the German economy.
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#50 Ken Estes

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Posted 25 April 2015 - 1409 PM

Given how poorly Germany's conventional warships performed as commerce raiders in 1940-42, I'd hold out much less for the same vintage 1914.

 

Even the full-fledged Plan Z force of 1939 was loaded with doubtful presumptions: that the RN would not have built up even faster, that carriers would contribute so little to Atlantic ops, that the supply ships would be safe, and so forth. Radar and LR maritime recce were of course totally absent on the German side, real or planned.


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#51 Adam_S

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Posted 25 April 2015 - 1637 PM

 

Now, onto the Mackensens.  The Entente still have their 150 warships available for patrol, but now all of these are dead meat if they encounter a Mackensen.  The British will have built their own Mackensens, maybe in double the numbers.  Since there are eight German BC’s, these are patrolling in groups of 6-8.  Now, to cover the 20 million square miles, the Entente have just two fleets, not the 150 ships they had against the popgun raider.  These can search abeam – but not too far abeam - so can cover, let’s say, 10,000 square miles a day on average, (still  half their time in port).  Randomly, an encounter between opposing BC fleets once every 66 months.

 

This assumes of course that the Entente doesn't use its 150 or so lighter warships to just shadow our Mackensen and call in something much bigger and nastier on the radio.

 

Even if the Mackensen sinks the cruiser, as long the victim gets off a sighting report then that narrows down the search area considerably.


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#52 Markus Becker

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Posted 25 April 2015 - 1657 PM

Glenn, if Germany builds a smaller fleet so will Britain. And if a warship meets an AMC the warship will see a merchant ship like the new they have been seeing every day. Even a boarding party might not realize the true nature of the ship they inspect.

And in WW2 German 16 knot AMC were quite successful in spite of more merchants having radios.
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#53 glenn239

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Posted 27 April 2015 - 1327 PM

Markus Becker Even if the navy knows about Belgium a naval arms race with Britain still makes no sense. Actually even less than before.   Germany will still lose it and the army needs the resources much more badly because the army needs to win the war before Britain has built a large army herself and before the effects of the blockade start to harm the German economy.

 

 

 

Each ship Germany laid down might be matched as many as four times – once by France, once by Russia, twice by Britain.  The “optimal” threshold for German shipbuilding, in terms of the knock-on impact to the relative sizes of the armies, are just enough ships that the French and Russians each match them one for one, and the British spend enough on their navy that they don’t have funds left over for inordinate army increases.   

 

Even if the navy knows about Belgium a naval arms race with Britain still makes no sense.

 

 

 

Navies are built to fight the expected enemy, to achieve some purpose in the service of a war strategy.  Having a naval race with Great Britain based on tactical premises which favored the RN, as Tirpitz chose to do, made no sense, (his strategy was essentially a bluff with the strategic rationale collapsing the moment the bluff was actually called).   But not building a navy designed for a war scenario inclusive of Great Britain - when invading Belgium makes that exact scenario probable -  that makes no sense either.

 

Glenn, if Germany builds a smaller fleet so will Britain.

 

 

 

I'd suppose Britain would have kept to the Two Power Standard without the challenge of the Naval Laws.

 

And if a warship meets an AMC the warship will see a merchant ship like the new they have been seeing every day. Even a boarding party might not realize the true nature of the ship they inspect.

 

 

 

I’d envision capital ships as serving a different mission than AMC’s – sea control and neutral influence vs. pure commerce raiding.  But still, even with different missions, the programs should complement each other at the operational level.  The merchant raiders force the Entente warships to disperse, where the BC’s can better find and sink them, while the threat of BC’s compel the Entente to concentrate into a fewer larger squadrons, that are not as effective at hunting AMC’s. 


Edited by glenn239, 27 April 2015 - 1337 PM.

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#54 glenn239

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Posted 27 April 2015 - 1442 PM

Adam_S This assumes of course that the Entente doesn't use its 150 or so lighter warships to just shadow our Mackensen and call in something much bigger and nastier on the radio.

 

 

 

Most of the available Entente warships couldn’t perform the mission.  A CL might shadow, but it would be dangerous without radar.  If the CL is a bit faster it could safely tail a BC in good visibility to nightfall.  A CL could not safely shadow two BC’s.


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#55 Miner

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Posted 28 April 2015 - 0139 AM

dangerous without radar.

 

Getting into alternative history but why no radar in WWI especially for Germany where it was invented in 1904? 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Hülsmeyer#The_Telemobiloscope

 

Just the thing for N Sea fog


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#56 EchoFiveMike

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Posted 28 April 2015 - 0140 AM

Germany could have built a coastal raiding force of their BC's, ideally with heavier guns by sacrificing fuel bunkerage, which they didn't need, because no overseas possessions(commerce) possible to defend. Also more subs and mine layers, in an attempt to pull off a more successful Dogger bank type action, as well as attrit the GF via mines and subs, as with Audacious and the Dardanelles.  Politically, such raids could not be ignored and could have diverted artillery and other resources from the Western Front.  The Germans did try this with raids like Yarmouth and Scarborough, but if they would have had 4+ more BC's, how would things have been?  Let Beatty over commit too far from the GF and sink them, ideally.

 

Leave high seas commerce raiding to AMC's and cruisers.  S/F.....Ken M     


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#57 glenn239

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Posted 28 April 2015 - 1001 AM

The German navy couldn’t defend its trade or it wouldn’t defend its trade?   Here,

 

http://www.forum-mar...p?topic=11311.0

 

It says that in the Americans, Spain and Europe there was 2 million tons of German shipping that sat it out the war except for 50 ships sent from neutral ports for warship support.   So, build a BC fleet capable of operations in the Atlantics and then use it to eliminate the Royal Navy AMC squadrons blockading the Americas ports.  Roll up the blockade line between Scotland and Greenland on regular occsassion as well.  Aim to maybe double total war imports from the historical –  the enhancement of German land power would be worth the loss of every ship in the German fleet to accomplish.

 

Nitrates stats -

 

http://encyclopedia....article/nitrate

 

https://www.uvm.edu/...trechtpaper.pdf

 

The second paper says that Germany apparently seized of 400,000 tons of nitrates in Antwerp at the start of the war – an incredible figure, (for all those books lecturing Germany against the invasion of Belgium, that’s a war-losing amount of nitrate for Germany to give up, right there).  Germany might have imported - maybe - 150,000 tons during the war on neutral hulls.  It manufactured 571,000 tons, (11,000 tons average monthly production).  Germany’s share of Chilean nitrates before the war was 32%, with a production of about 480,000 tons on average.  If it could hold it’s 32% share and get it to Germany, that would be another 12,000 tons per month. 

 

I think the best strategy was to build a fleet capable of seizing sea control, then use that fleet to break the Entente blockade at the time and place of Germany’s choosing.  Use commerce warfare to enhance the neutral strategy by rewarding good neutral behavior (leave their ships alone, even going to enemy ports) and punishing bad neutral behavior (sink their ships on sight).


Edited by glenn239, 28 April 2015 - 1002 AM.

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#58 alejandro_

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Posted 28 April 2015 - 1810 PM

The second paper says that Germany apparently seized of 400,000 tons of nitrates in Antwerp at the start of the war – an incredible figure, (for all those books lecturing Germany against the invasion of Belgium, that’s a war-losing amount of nitrate for Germany to give up, right there).

 

Yes, but without the UK in the war I cannot see how the French/Russian Navy could enforce the blockade.


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#59 wendist

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Posted 29 April 2015 - 0238 AM

But if the Germans do not invade Belgium then Belgium will probably declare itself neutral in the conflict between Germany and France/Britain. Then the Germans can just buy the nitrate stored in Antwerp, as long as the Belgians are willing to sell of course. Not much the Royal Navy can do about that, short of shelling Antwerp harbour.


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#60 DougRichards

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Posted 29 April 2015 - 0357 AM

Should German prior to 1914 have followed the concepts of the early post WW2 Soviet Union?

 

Lots of raiding cruisers, with a number of battlecruisers to help them break through NATO's blockading cruiser forces?  Also battlecruisers to prevent British cruisers from raiding in the Baltic.

 

Sure, the Soviets did not actually build the battlecruisers      (Stalingrad class       http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stalingrad-class_battlecruiser ) after all, the nature of seapower had changed in 40 years to one dominated by aircraft, but in 1914 the plan may have worked.

 

And they did lay down a substantial number of the commerce raiding cruisers (Sverdlov class).


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