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  • Doveton Sturdee
    replied
    Originally posted by TacCovert4 View Post
    Well, I can't help Hitlers proclivities when it comes to sleeping habits and warships. Maybe he would have been less nervy had there been more of those warships at sea at any given time, thereby making them less of an individually valuable commodity.

    As far as a damaged lone raider, I'd note that a Q ship, once revealed and damaged, is equally or more likely to be destroyed. By virtue of it having far less combat power or resistance to damage than an actual warship, and its stealth now having been defeated. Not to mention that they're incapable of escaping pursuit under any circumstances. A 28kt cruiser is at least capable of effecting an escape if conditions permit.

    If we look at the history of the other German heavies, Bismarck and Tirpitz were a waste of resources, and IMHO would have been better spent into 4-6 cruiser-types for commerce raiding (since Bismarck's mission was actually commerce raiding as well, a waste for a battleship). S & G similarly, though they actually did have some success.

    The real point about having 10+ Deutschlands in service in 40-41 wouldn't have necessarily been the damage they'd inflict, but the huge expenditure of resources to hunt them. Think of all the hunting groups out for Graf Spee. Now imagine 5-6 raiding parties of 2 Panzerschiff each. The hunting groups would have to be individually strengthened, as 2 CLs and 1 CA wouldn't be nearly enough to even defend themselves if the wolves turned on them. There were 16 cruisers (heavy and light), 4 carriers, 2 battleships, and a battlecruiser involved in that hunt. A HUGE expenditure of fuel and resources. With 5 such groups worldwide at the start of the war with Britain, it's reasonable that the better part of the RN would be wearing out engines worldwide hunting them down. Convoys would have to have a battleship, battlecruiser, or more than 2 cruisers, reasonably more than 2 heavy cruisers escorting them.

    With 2 Panzerschiffe per raiding party, you'd double your losses when the convoy scattered. Maybe slightly more than double since that'd be two planes able to transmit information back and forth about locations of cargo ships, reasonably squaring the area that you could hunt in during the limited time before the scattered ships are too far apart to hunt for effectively. In any case, breaking up a convoy, sinking 8-14 of the ships in it, and driving off or sinking (more likely the latter if the Brits hold to form) the escort (until battleships or numbers of CAs were put escorting at great expense) would be something the Admiralty couldn't stomach.

    In short, they wouldn't win Germany the war. But they'd make the Brits expend a lot more resources to win theirs. And the hidden benefit would be to the Italians and Japanese. With the British fleet worldwide hunting Panzerschiffe, there would have been fewer ships in the med to escort convoys, and to go after the Italian Navy. With more Panzerschiffe at sea Hitler might have pushed Mussolini to employ his fleet more aggressively, citing that the Germans were doing all the heavy lifting. So it's possible that you get unintended consequences, like the Malta convoys being hit harder, no Taranto as the Illustrious could be in the Atlantic instead, or fewer British ships in the PTO.
    The point is that a lone raider must be considered expendable, and in such circumstances a converted merchantman is much to be preferred to a regular warship. Firstly, the merchantman has a better opportunity of avoiding detection, as it is not immediately recognizable for what it is, as a 'Deutchland' would be. Secondly, the cost of producing such a vessel is tiny when compared to the cost of building a 'Deutchland.' The hulls are already available, and, given Anglo-French naval superiority, they would otherwise simply be trapped in port. All that is needed are a few WW1 era 5.9 inch guns. Thirdly, an expensively trained naval crew is not needed. Other than a few specialists, the crew can be drawn from the German mercantile marine. As once the raider is engaged it is not likely to survive for long, then in coldly practical terms the loss of a merchant ship and crew with a few obsolete guns is much to be preferred to the loss of a major warship. Even Graf Spee, with her 26 knots, heavy armour, and big guns, failed to escape the Hunting Group which she encountered.

    On the subject of Hunting Groups, there were actually eight assembled. Three were pairs of eight inch cruisers, one a carrier & two eight inch cruisers, one a battlecruiser, an aircraft carrier & 3 six inch cruisers, two were a battlecruiser and aircraft carrier each, and the last two eight inch & two 6 inch cruisers. This last was the group which actually encountered Graf Spee, at a time when one of the eight inch cruisers (the more powerful one) was away from the group undergoing a short self-refit. Given the desperate vulnerability of the lone raider (or even, as you suggest) pair of raiders, I suspect that any German commander in the circumstances would have made strenuous efforts to avoid action. In point of fact, whilst the Anglo-French did indeed deploy a large number of heavy warships to hunt down the raider (in fact, the allies thought that there were two raiders at large) to be blunt about it this (the maintenance of allied sea supremacy) was what the vessels had been built for in the first place.

    Finally, the arguments against the nine or ten 'Deutchlands' are essentially the same as those against suggestions elsewhere that Germany should have concentrated on building a much larger pre-war submarine force. Firstly, the British would, similarly, have adjusted their pre-war construction to meet the changed circumstances, and secondly, both arguments pre-suppose that Hitler, in the lead up to WW2, regarded Britain as his main enemy, when this was clearly not the case.

    Incidentally, Tirpitz did make a useful contribution to the Axis cause. She was a classic example of the fleet in being, preventing numerous allied heavy ships from being deployed more usefully elsewhere.

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  • The Exorcist
    replied
    The French answer to the Deustchlands were the Strassbourg class, which by coming along later were superior in all respects.
    More of one means more of the other.

    One solution was demi-carriers like the Ise Class. The heavy cruiser Seydlitz was getting this treatment, and on paper it looked pretty good.
    But, somewhere along the way, someone in Germany was so underwhelmed with the whole idea that it was sold to the Soviets while incomplete ... who also ended up doing nothing with it.

    Leave a comment:


  • Michele
    replied
    Originally posted by TacCovert4 View Post
    With 5 such groups worldwide at the start of the war
    That's a sort of Achilles' heel, I think. The main problem with the German naval war was not in ship design or availability, it was in geography. The auxiliary cruisers could and did get out of the bottle unnoticed, mostly making use of their key advantage, camouflage, and one going to the length of using the Soviet icebreakers' assistance to get around North of Siberia, even.

    The Deutschland-class heavy cruisers would have found it pretty hard to get out of the bottle. We all remember the occasions in which the German surface raiders made it out of it, especially out of the GIUK gap - but we seldom remember how many times they set forth, only to be spotted prematurely, and turned tail to the safety of their ports. Add another 10 such surface raiders, built, of course, over several years before the war, and the Royal Navy would take measures; not just of the sort that you mention (more warships, which is indeed costly), but also more watchdogs at the bottleneck. It's also possible that Coastal Command's clamor for more and longer-legged aircraft would be heeded.

    Now, of course, several years before the war means before the London Naval Agreement. What would the British attitude be in 1935-36, if they knew the Germans already had in their yards some 8 Deutschlands?

    The alternative to breaking out of the bottleneck obviously is the one you mention above - having a dozen long-ranged German warships already stationed all over the world before the beginning of the war. Would that be practically feasible?

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  • TacCovert4
    replied
    Well, I can't help Hitlers proclivities when it comes to sleeping habits and warships. Maybe he would have been less nervy had there been more of those warships at sea at any given time, thereby making them less of an individually valuable commodity.

    As far as a damaged lone raider, I'd note that a Q ship, once revealed and damaged, is equally or more likely to be destroyed. By virtue of it having far less combat power or resistance to damage than an actual warship, and its stealth now having been defeated. Not to mention that they're incapable of escaping pursuit under any circumstances. A 28kt cruiser is at least capable of effecting an escape if conditions permit.

    If we look at the history of the other German heavies, Bismarck and Tirpitz were a waste of resources, and IMHO would have been better spent into 4-6 cruiser-types for commerce raiding (since Bismarck's mission was actually commerce raiding as well, a waste for a battleship). S & G similarly, though they actually did have some success.

    The real point about having 10+ Deutschlands in service in 40-41 wouldn't have necessarily been the damage they'd inflict, but the huge expenditure of resources to hunt them. Think of all the hunting groups out for Graf Spee. Now imagine 5-6 raiding parties of 2 Panzerschiff each. The hunting groups would have to be individually strengthened, as 2 CLs and 1 CA wouldn't be nearly enough to even defend themselves if the wolves turned on them. There were 16 cruisers (heavy and light), 4 carriers, 2 battleships, and a battlecruiser involved in that hunt. A HUGE expenditure of fuel and resources. With 5 such groups worldwide at the start of the war with Britain, it's reasonable that the better part of the RN would be wearing out engines worldwide hunting them down. Convoys would have to have a battleship, battlecruiser, or more than 2 cruisers, reasonably more than 2 heavy cruisers escorting them.

    With 2 Panzerschiffe per raiding party, you'd double your losses when the convoy scattered. Maybe slightly more than double since that'd be two planes able to transmit information back and forth about locations of cargo ships, reasonably squaring the area that you could hunt in during the limited time before the scattered ships are too far apart to hunt for effectively. In any case, breaking up a convoy, sinking 8-14 of the ships in it, and driving off or sinking (more likely the latter if the Brits hold to form) the escort (until battleships or numbers of CAs were put escorting at great expense) would be something the Admiralty couldn't stomach.

    In short, they wouldn't win Germany the war. But they'd make the Brits expend a lot more resources to win theirs. And the hidden benefit would be to the Italians and Japanese. With the British fleet worldwide hunting Panzerschiffe, there would have been fewer ships in the med to escort convoys, and to go after the Italian Navy. With more Panzerschiffe at sea Hitler might have pushed Mussolini to employ his fleet more aggressively, citing that the Germans were doing all the heavy lifting. So it's possible that you get unintended consequences, like the Malta convoys being hit harder, no Taranto as the Illustrious could be in the Atlantic instead, or fewer British ships in the PTO.

    Leave a comment:


  • Doveton Sturdee
    replied
    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!

    Leave a comment:


  • TacCovert4
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • flash
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Carl Schwamberg
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • T. A. Gardner
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Carl Schwamberg
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • The Exorcist
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Carl Schwamberg
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Michele
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • redcoat
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Wooden Wonder
    replied
    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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