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  • More German raiders

    Just nine second-hand German freighters through stealth and cunning sank 142 Allied ships (1 million tons), disrupting schedules and tying down many warships sorely needed elsewhere.

    WI there had been just 5-10 more raiders, so that instead of being a major nuisance, they actually had become a strategic threat?

    During the critical years 1940-42, could more raiders by causing more losses and even more dislocation actually have turned the course of the war?

    Last edited by Mifletz; 11 Jun 14, 08:15.

  • #2
    And that is not mentioning the part the Atlantis played in retrieving secret documents [overlooked being destroyed] from one of its victims that very much helped the Japanese formulate the strategy to take Malaya and Singapore

    More Q-ship type raiders at that time would have certainly given the Allies a bit more of a headache, but I think it would likely have been a case of diminishing returns for the Germans.

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    • #3
      Part of the Admiralty’s problem in hunting the German Auxiliary Cruisers down was that only the ENIGMA key that they used in home waters had been broken by Bletchley Park. This was both a Godsend and a curse. This restricted any ULTRA intelligence-based attacks against them when they were attempting to leave or return to Germany. If the RN was too successful at hunting them down in this manner the Kriegsmarine might suspect their codes, so the info had to be used sparingly. If the Auxiliary Cruisers had proved to be more than just a nuisance, or if available RN resources were insufficient to counter their threat, then the use of ULTRA info. would’ve had to have been reassessed. Neither occurred; Komet was sunk in the English Channel in egress from Germany in Oct. 42 when ULTRA revealed her position and it was decided to attack. Likewise Coronel was attacked, damaged and forced to return in Feb. 43, while she was attempting to break out into the Atlantic. By then, it was realized by the Germans that the U-boats gave more return for the money invested and the Auxiliary Cruisers were no more, Coronel was the last. The “disruption in shipping” which occurred due to them was deemed acceptable by the Royal Navy. Also the Japanese built 2, and the Italians 3 but these were even less successful than the Germans.

      Likewise with the blockade runners; from April 1941 to June 1942, 12 out of 16 Axis merchant vessels sailing from the Far East to Europe made it through, as did all 6 which returned. However because of ULTRA, and later by the breaking of the ENIGMA key used by the runners, of 15 ships which sailed from the Far East between August 1942 and May 1943, 7 were sunk and 4 turned back. It got worse. By Dec 1943/Jan. 1944 only 6,890 tons out of 33,095 tons which sailed from the Far East actually were unloaded in France. The blockade runners were discontinued.
      "I am Groot"
      - Groot

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      • #4
        They also sank HMAS SYDNEY albeit by surprise.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Roddoss72 View Post
          They also sank HMAS SYDNEY albeit by surprise.
          Yes, it has been pretty much shown that the captain of the Sydney did not charter the best tactical speed, course and ranges for his ship. I think some lessons would have been learned for future light cruiser actions. The 8in. cruisers of course could lay off out of range and give the raiders a clobbering.

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          • #6
            The raiders were a nuisance but they were no threat to the major convoys, so while they would have increased losses and restricted single ship sailings away from the major convoys routes they would not have have a greater impact on the outcome of the war.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Mifletz View Post
              Just nine second-hand German freighters through stealth and cunning sank 142 Allied ships (1 million tons), disrupting schedules and tying down many warships sorely needed elsewhere.

              WI there had been just 5-10 more raiders, so that instead of being a major nuisance, they actually had become a strategic threat?
              They can't be a strategic threat. They hunted lone merchant men, and steered clear of convoys. Yes, more of them would have pushed the Allies towards more convoying - which was a direction they were heading anyway. Yes, convoying was less efficient than each cargo ship on his own as long as there's nobody out there sinking cargo ships. Once you factor that in, the inefficiency of convoying is offset by the inefficiency of losing lone ships, so you opt for convoying and you really aren't that much worse off.

              The corollary of the above is that more and more sinkings of lone ships make convoying more and more attractive and less and less inefficient.
              Michele

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              • #8
                Damm. I cant find my copy of 'Brute Force'. There are a couple of tables in that which have a direct bearing on this thread. Specifically the tables that show the percentages of cargo embarcked for the Uk that was sunk, and for the average tonnage of ships sunk per sortie by yearly quarter. There is also some data on ship displacement built vs sunk. Memory tells me there was a crisis in 1941 (one of several) & a additional one million tons sunk that year, or in 1940 may have been significant. Perhaps I can find that data elsewhere.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Mifletz View Post
                  WI there had been just 5-10 more raiders, so that instead of being a major nuisance, they actually had become a strategic threat?
                  The thing that allowed these raiders to succeed was their rarity.
                  Think about it; 2 or 3 in a huge ocean are very difficult to track and locate. Bump that up to half a dozen and you just halved the survivability of the whole force, in terms of reducing the places that individual ships can hide out.

                  Also; those raiders added up to about 90,000 tons themselves, and few made it back to Germany (one notably was still in civilian service into the 1970s) so yes- you have over a ten to one ratio in tonnage lost. Considering how under-employed Germany's ships were, that's pretty damn good.
                  Until you inevitably run into the law of diminishing returns.
                  (oh, and those ships used were some of the newest and fastest cargo ships in Germany, they were not 2nd-had rejects by any stretch)

                  Time was against the Germans even here. This was the last hurrah of the Commerce raider. Radar, long-range aircraft and radios that worked well at short to medium ranges were in the process of ending the days when a ship could hide in the oceans anywhere near the shipping lanes.
                  And, a raider needs to be near those shipping lanes to do its job.

                  The biggest service those ships did was forcing convoys outside the range of the U-Boats. Once longer-ranged Submarines entered service in good numbers, they were obsolete.
                  "Why is the Rum gone?"

                  -Captain Jack

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
                    ...

                    Time was against the Germans even here. This was the last hurrah of the Commerce raider. Radar, long-range aircraft and radios that worked well at short to medium ranges were in the process of ending the days when a ship could hide in the oceans anywhere near the shipping lanes.
                    And, a raider needs to be near those shipping lanes to do its job....
                    Indeed. If the raiders are to have any significantly larger effect it must be in place by latter 1941. The additional ships must be deployed from 1939 & early 1940, and do their damage be for 1941 runs out. Otherwise all the technology refered to above, and other factors make them obsolete.

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                    • #11
                      Merchant raiding is still just a Guerre de course. It is a spoiler not a winner at sea.

                      Convoy PQ 17 shows what can happen when the other side has real sea power. It hunts down and sinks the convoy in detail.
                      That is what the Germans needed and were never going to get.

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                      • #12
                        PQ 16 & 17 are one example. The model that intrigues me the most is the battle over the convoy to Malta of Op. Pedestal, and its covering force. The Axis committed no capitol ships, but the combination of aircraft and torpedo boats, both submarine and surface, gave the Brits more than a little trouble.

                        Raiders may seldom be decisive in them selves, but they are a valuable or even necessary supplement to other operations.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by T. A. Gardner View Post
                          Merchant raiding is still just a Guerre de course. It is a spoiler not a winner at sea.

                          Convoy PQ 17 shows what can happen when the other side has real sea power. It hunts down and sinks the convoy in detail.
                          That is what the Germans needed and were never going to get.
                          Au contraire,the very essence and the origins of every countries navy is to protect its own maritime commerce.
                          Centuries of organisation had gone past before a stable workable commercial shipping system evolved,it didn't take much of a spanner in the works to upset it.
                          Jerry provided that spanner.

                          Mercantile commerce is very definitely a winner and the intrusion of it was most definitely not just a spoiler.

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                          • #14
                            Well to answer TAG's comment about the inability of raiders, more specifically Q ships, to take out the entire convoy, what about the Deutschlands?

                            Realistically they were possibly the most successful class of German surface ship in the war. And there were only three of them. They also represented the only time where the Germans managed to actually outthink the Brits in ship design to any degree. The Deutschlands were more individually potent than their British contemporaries, which were the York class, or the previous County class.

                            If you look at the River Plate as an example, you see a fairly costly victory for the Brits. The cost could have been higher, but the German commander opted to run and later scuttle rather than fight to the death. Had he known that escape was impossible, and decided to go out with a flourish, he could have inflicted a lot more damage. And that was against 3 British cruisers, operating in concert.

                            The problem with this oddball ship type is that it's fast enough to outrun battleships of the RN, there simply aren't many BCs in the RN anymore, and it would take a squadron of cruisers to guarantee its destruction without huge risk.

                            It just seems logical to me that this class would have been the ideal surface raider in 39-41. And that until airpower could be fielded to counter it in substantial numbers you'd have to be putting battleships escorting convoys lest the cruisers get pounced on by 1-3 of these ships and wiped out, along with the convoy itself. Thus a cruiser would force the Brits to expend battleship grade money and equipment to counter them. Hell...they shouldn't have built the Bismarck or Tirpitz and arguably the Scharnhorsts. They'd have been better off with another 6-9 Deutschlands....a dozen of these ships would have actually been something that could concern the Admiralty, and start stretching the Brits early-war stable of cruisers and battlecruisers to the breaking point.
                            Tacitos, Satrap of Kyrene

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by TacCovert4 View Post
                              Well to answer TAG's comment about the inability of raiders, more specifically Q ships, to take out the entire convoy, what about the Deutschlands?

                              Realistically they were possibly the most successful class of German surface ship in the war. And there were only three of them. They also represented the only time where the Germans managed to actually outthink the Brits in ship design to any degree. The Deutschlands were more individually potent than their British contemporaries, which were the York class, or the previous County class.

                              If you look at the River Plate as an example, you see a fairly costly victory for the Brits. The cost could have been higher, but the German commander opted to run and later scuttle rather than fight to the death. Had he known that escape was impossible, and decided to go out with a flourish, he could have inflicted a lot more damage. And that was against 3 British cruisers, operating in concert.

                              The problem with this oddball ship type is that it's fast enough to outrun battleships of the RN, there simply aren't many BCs in the RN anymore, and it would take a squadron of cruisers to guarantee its destruction without huge risk.

                              It just seems logical to me that this class would have been the ideal surface raider in 39-41. And that until airpower could be fielded to counter it in substantial numbers you'd have to be putting battleships escorting convoys lest the cruisers get pounced on by 1-3 of these ships and wiped out, along with the convoy itself. Thus a cruiser would force the Brits to expend battleship grade money and equipment to counter them. Hell...they shouldn't have built the Bismarck or Tirpitz and arguably the Scharnhorsts. They'd have been better off with another 6-9 Deutschlands....a dozen of these ships would have actually been something that could concern the Admiralty, and start stretching the Brits early-war stable of cruisers and battlecruisers to the breaking point.

                              Given the usual response by the British to an attack on an Atlantic convoy (assuming it did not have a battleship escort) by any German warship, which was to scatter, then it is improbable that any such convoy could be 'taken out' by such a vessel, whether it be a panzershiff or a converted commerce raider. Scheer had her chance against HX84 (the Jervis Bay convoy), which consisted of 37 ships. Scheer failed utterly; 33 ships escaped.

                              The 'Deutchlands' were not built to 'outthink the Brits. in ship design.' They were the brainchild of Admiral Zenker, head of the German Navy between 1924 & 1928 (i.e., in the days of the Weimar Republic), at a time when German military thinking anticipated that any future war would be against France or Russia. They were, indeed, intended to operate against trade routes, but French ones in the Eastern Atlantic, not the world wide British ones. All three pre-dated the Hitler regime.

                              When Langsdorff broke off the action, his ammunition state was bordering on the desperate. Upon arrival in Montevideo, his Chief Gunnery Artificer, Commander Rasenack, reported that 11 inch ammunition was down to 170 rounds of AP and 16 rounds only of HE, which was more effective against lightly armed cruisers. ( He is quoted in 'The Price of Disobedience' by Professor Eric Grove.) A sortie in these circumstances would almost certainly have left Graf Spee out of ammunition, pursued by three faster cruisers, and awaiting the arrival on the scene of Renown & Ark Royal.

                              Actually, the best form of surface raider the Germans could have deployed was the one they actually utilised, the converted merchantman. Such a vessel could confuse any approaching allied warship by seeming to be an allied or neutral freighter, as appears to have been the case with HMAS Sydney, and, unlike a normal warship, could perhaps lull a potential target into failing to transmit a raider report by seeming to be an innocent merchantman.

                              By contrast, a 'Deutchland' was a very distinctive design, and would be immediately recognisable for what it was. Once detected, except in the very early days of the war, it could expect to be hunted down, and as the River Plate & the Bismarck actions both demonstrated, a lone raider once damaged has minimal prospects of survival.

                              In any case, as others have already pointed out, the lone raider in WW2 was something of an anachronism, and was only really of relevance in distant waters in the early months of the war.

                              Finally, of course, Hitler would regularly tell Raeder that he could not sleep when heavy German ships were at sea, and one of his first acts at the start of the war was to rename 'Deutchland' as 'Lutzow.' He does not, however, appear to have had the same qualms about merchant raiders.


                              With several Panzerships at sea at once, his insomnia would have been greatly increased!

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