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German High Seas Fleet, Worth The Investment?


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Heavily armed and heavily armored, very fast and with a long range?

 

The mind boggles given the technical complications. The ships of the German Navy had highly inefficient direct drive turbines for starters. I'd cut DN construction in half: two Helgolands, two Nasssus, two Kaisers, two Königs and not a single BC.

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There was some speculation in an online article (I forget where) that the Battlecruisers were, potentially, the most useful of the lot. Germany had the ability to put one of the BCs into an commerce raiding role in the atlantic.

 

One word: Range!

 

Without geared turbines and oil fired boilers the ship would not have had the required endurance. One or two high speed sprints and the coal bunkers are empty.

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The ships of the German Navy had highly inefficient direct drive turbines for starters. I'd cut DN construction in half: two Helgolands, two Nasssus, two Kaisers, two Königs and not a single BC.

 

 

I was thinking something like –

 

VDT (1905)

 

Moltke (1906)

 

Seydlitz (1907)

 

Derfflinger (1908)

 

Derfflinger (1909)

 

4x Mackensen (1910, 11, 12, 13)

 

4x Super Mackensen (1914, 15,16,17)

 

Assuming an Anglo-German treaty limit of 8 ship in service, then the older ships eventually get sold to foreign customers. Germany would have a fleet that can protect the hell out the Baltic, but also could undertake oceanic missions as well.

Edited by glenn239
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My point is that in wartime steaming at the most economical speed is usually impossible and steaming at higher speeds consumes a disproportionate amount of fuel.

 

I'd still put merchant raiding high on the agenda of an alternate German Navy. With French shipping being the prey of small cruisers and armed merchant ships.

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If you are going for a smaller fleet, avoiding the antagonising of the British Empire is a good thing. Then neutral bases are not a problem. Further, the RN can help breaking any blockade the French put up if they can be convinced the French are Bad. But that runs in the inability of the Kaiser in keeping in good relation with anyone.

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I'd argue that it was worth the cost, the problem was that it never was used so... fully committed against the RN as was, for example, the Imperial Army. Jutland made the HSF pointless, how different would it have been if something decisive (in a daily, strategic way) would have happened at Jutland.

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Jutland was a defeat for the Germans at the outset. The HSF was not intended or desired to confront the entire GF at sea, prepared, as was the case. Tirpitz and the fleet commanders clearly knew this.

 

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. But of course, this was ignored in the rush to the modified Schlieffen Plan operations of the army. T thought that the opportunity came in the immediate aftermath of the Scarborough Raid, where Adm Ingenohl was at sea with the entire HSF [85 ships, but had not told the Kaiser of such intentions] backing up Hipper, and only Beatty and a single squadron of the most modern BB's were sent to sea, under VAdm Warrender. Had the HSF continued past Dogger Bank, Beatty was understrength with only four battlecruisers [3 sent to S American waters] and Warrender had 6 BBs. Hipper had his 4+Bluecher and Ingenohl had 22 battleships.

 

The Kaiser was upset at the lost opportunity to engage under such favorable conditions, but did not modify his restrictions that had led Ingenohl to withdraw upon Hipper's return.

 

At Scapa, Jellicoe protested that Warrender's force was adequate to defeat Hipper, but not if the HSF was at sea. He did not know then that it was because only the signal of Hipper's departure had been received and decoded. J resolved to use the entire GF in the future for such operations and moved Beatty's command to Rosyth to better counter further raids by Hipper.

 

The potential loss of ten of the best capital ships of the RN, reversing the odds in the No. Sea, was thus in the offing but never again. The chance never again occurred. That's a very narrow premise to build the German fleet.

Edited by Ken Estes
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Also, those two years between the start and Jutland, gave the British time to aquaint themselves with screwed torpedoes, and their actual effects in actual war, something that affected the actions at Jutland.

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It's worth remembering that the Grand Fleet didn't really do what the Germans expected it to do. RN fleets had always carried out close blockade of an enemy coast and this would have the HSF an excellent opportunity to whittle down RN numbers by action between capital ships as well as by mines, submarine torpedoes etc.

 

Sadly for the HSF, the RN wasn't stupid, hence distant blockade instead.

Edited by Adam_S
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Markus My point is that in wartime steaming at the most economical speed is usually impossible and steaming at higher speeds consumes a disproportionate amount of fuel.

 

 

 

The idea is that navies have to build the ships they need and can’t make excuses about how things should be easier. Tirpitz decided he needed a navy whose strategic function Ken Estes just summarized with, “that's a very narrow premise to build the German fleet.”

 

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 the six classes of battleship from Deutchland to Baden are not built, and nor are Scharnhorst Class, Seydlitz, Blucher, or Hindenburg, that’s 675,000 tons of warships not built. It’ll cost maybe an extra 20,000 additional tons to build a pair of Derfflinger BC’s for 12,000nm range, maybe another 160,000 tons for the Mackensens at 40,000 tons each, and maybe 200,000 tons for the Super Mackensens. Plus maybe another 20,000 tons cost to expand the Kiel Canal even further for the SM’s. That’s 420,000 tons, or a net savings of 255,000 tons, the savings which can be spent on a nice class of 8,000 ton ocean going 6” cruisers with scads of endurance and speed, a duo or trio of 35,000 ton 24kt underway replenishment ships with 6” guns and maybe 22,000 tons fuel capacity, more submarines and seaplanes, E-boats, and a strategic oil reserve for the fleet.

 

Edited by glenn239
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Stuart Im sure there are flaws, but as far as theory goes, its not a bad one.

 

 

There’s a discussion elsewhere to the effect that fleet in being is a useless strategy that has never worked. Say what one will about commerce raiding, it’s not fleet in being. (Breaking out is harder than breaking in, but for breaking out at least the supply ships can be pre-positioned in the Norwegian Sea and North Atlantic).

 

It’s not often discussed, but I think the Germans played a poor hand in The Hague conventions that set the international law for neutrality, in war on land and war at sea. I don’t know enough about the negotiations to say they were outfoxed or not, just that the end product doesn’t look like the best case scenario for the German navy.

Edited by glenn239
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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 the six classes of battleship from Deutchland to Baden are not built, and nor are Scharnhorst Class, Seydlitz, Blucher, or Hindenburg, that’s 675,000 tons of warships not built. It’ll cost maybe an extra 20,000 additional tons to build a pair of Derfflinger BC’s for 12,000nm range, maybe another 160,000 tons for the Mackensens at 40,000 tons each, and maybe 200,000 tons for the Super Mackensens. Plus maybe another 20,000 tons cost to expand the Kiel Canal even further for the SM’s. That’s 420,000 tons, or a net savings of 255,000 tons, the savings which can be spent on a nice class of 8,000 ton ocean going 6” cruisers with scads of endurance and speed, a duo or trio of 35,000 ton 24kt underway replenishment ships with 6” guns and maybe 22,000 tons fuel capacity, more submarines and seaplanes, E-boats, and a strategic oil reserve for the fleet.

 

That all makes sense, but the question is what does the RN do in response? Do we get a load of proto-Hoods or more Tigers instead of some of the BB's built for the Grand Fleet historically? If so, that makes the job of German heavy raiders a bit tougher.

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That all makes sense, but the question is what does the RN do in response?

 

 

The RN would build similar ships in twice the numbers, I’d guess. And since the RN doesn’t have to waste 25% of displacement (or whatever) for additional range, their Lions would be bringing the same combat power to the party on 26,000 tons as a Derfflinger would be on 36,000 tons. Big ocean though.

 

Another option might be based on the Blucher. She already was a decent raider (6,600nm cruise). Add another 5,000 tons displacement for additional range, and instead of 12 x 8.3” in six turrets, make it 6 x 11” in three turrets. Eight of these would be a flexible fleet for under 200,000 tons, albeit, which could not stand up to a BC one on one.

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This is just pointless exercise in resource wasting. The KM was bottled up in case of war against Britain due to geography - few raiders breaking through would not change much, they would just take longer to be hunted down (by superior Allied forces). Coal/oil is not all and Allies would have big leverage with the neutral countries - even bigger, possibly, if the raider's actions threatened the neutral countrie's trade.

 

Really the only way how to keep empire and have useful navy would be alliance with Britain and navy for Baltic and flag showing. War with Britain means loss of oversea communications anyway and even without battleships to match RN invasion/bombardment is unlikely as long as Germany maintains good enough North Sea coastal defences.

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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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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
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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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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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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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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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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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