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  • RN uses safe ammunition handling procedures at Jutland

    The navy lost three battlecrusers at Jutland. Indefatigable, Queen Mary and Invincible. All were sank by fire from German battlecrusers. Their destruction was due to magazine explosions, assumed to be due to unsafe ammunition handling procedures such as leaving magazine doors open to improve the rate of fire.

    But what if safe procedures had been in place with doors only opened when needed, no ammunition stored outside magazines etc.

    British battlecrusers were not as glass jawed as is often made out, for example Tiger sustained 18 heavy hits at Jutland and was still combat operational. At the Falklands both Invincible and Inflexible sustained hits from Spees armoured cruisers without any significant damage.

    In a documentary I have just watched on Jutland one of the commentators stated that with safe ammunition handling it is unlikely that there would have been any British battle cruiser losses at Jutland.

    So on this assumption, without the early loss of Indefatigable and Queen Mary it is likely that German BC loses would have been higher. They lost one with another having to be grounded to avoid sinking. How many more would have been sank or essentially mission kills?
    Also how did the early British BC losses effect the battle overall and what is Beatty likely to have done if he hadn't had these early setbacks?
    "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

  • #2
    Originally posted by Surrey View Post
    The navy lost three battlecrusers at Jutland. Indefatigable, Queen Mary and Invincible. All were sank by fire from German battlecrusers. Their destruction was due to magazine explosions, assumed to be due to unsafe ammunition handling procedures such as leaving magazine doors open to improve the rate of fire.

    But what if safe procedures had been in place with doors only opened when needed, no ammunition stored outside magazines etc.

    British battlecrusers were not as glass jawed as is often made out, for example Tiger sustained 18 heavy hits at Jutland and was still combat operational. At the Falklands both Invincible and Inflexible sustained hits from Spees armoured cruisers without any significant damage.

    In a documentary I have just watched on Jutland one of the commentators stated that with safe ammunition handling it is unlikely that there would have been any British battle cruiser losses at Jutland.

    So on this assumption, without the early loss of Indefatigable and Queen Mary it is likely that German BC loses would have been higher. They lost one with another having to be grounded to avoid sinking. How many more would have been sank or essentially mission kills?
    Also how did the early British BC losses effect the battle overall and what is Beatty likely to have done if he hadn't had these early setbacks?
    No real difference in the OTL I believe.

    While Germany did inflict major losses on the British, the British still effectively won and remained happy to blockade Germany, rather than assault from the sea.
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    • #3
      Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
      No real difference in the OTL I believe.

      While Germany did inflict major losses on the British, the British still effectively won and remained happy to blockade Germany, rather than assault from the sea.
      One thought. Without the early loss of two BCs Beatty could have been even more reckless than he was in real life. Ending up with all the battle cruisers being lost when he tries to take on the German fleet without support.
      "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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      • #4
        It isn't that simple. RN safety precautions at the time were inadequate. Ammunition hoists didn't have adequate flash protection systems. The armor on the ships was completely inadequate to stop heavy shells from penetrating turrets or hulls and even magazines themselves.
        The RN in design put powder magazines on top of the shell rooms making them more vulnerable.
        The German arrangements in this respect weren't much better than the British ones but the Germans used a brass casing holding one of (generally) two charges meaning that there was simply a lot less powder exposed in their loading system than the British one.

        I also don't think that the RN's older battlecruisers at Jutland would have been that much better off had the powder handling arrangements were sufficient. The ships themselves were poorly armored and very vulnerable to the 11 and 12" shells the Germans were hitting them with.

        It was an entirely different story for Invincible and Inflexible versus a couple of 8.2" armed armored cruisers.
        Look at the pounding British armored cruisers took at Jutland.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Surrey View Post
          One thought. Without the early loss of two BCs Beatty could have been even more reckless than he was in real life. Ending up with all the battle cruisers being lost when he tries to take on the German fleet without support.
          If that actually happened, it would not have surprised me, although Germany would still have been blockaded.

          If the original British plan had worked, and the German High Seas Fleet was beyond crippled, then an invasion may have been suggested perhaps? Perhaps not, as the debacle that was Gallipoli was very recent.
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          • #6
            Nick is right.

            The Germans won a tactical victory and suffered a strategic defeat at Jutland.

            As noted, the main flaw in the ships was not handling procedure, but design.

            And I do not see a captain, in the heat of a major action, putting procedure ahead of RoF.

            In the heat of battle procedures often go by the wayside, sometimes granting victory, other times defeat.
            Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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            • #7
              One thing is certain:- the impression that Jutland was a German victory-strategic or tactical- was less likely to have received traction.

              It's a strange "victory" where the supposed victors were the side who fled for home ,leaving the defeated in possession of the field ( so to speak).
              Last edited by BELGRAVE; 21 May 16, 17:55.
              "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
              Samuel Johnson.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by BELGRAVE View Post
                One thing is certain:- the impression that Jutland was a German victory-strategic or tactical- was less likely to have received traction.

                It's a strange "victory" where the supposed victors were the side who fled for home ,leaving the defeated in possession of the field ( so to speak).
                Holding a patch of ocean is pointless.

                And the British certainly saw it as at least a tactical defeat; RN ships were booed when they returned to port. The days immediately after the battle no one knew that the Germans were going to remain in port for good.
                Any man can hold his place when the bands play and women throw flowers; it is when the enemy presses close and metal shears through the ranks that one can acertain which are soldiers, and which are not.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                  Holding a patch of ocean is pointless.

                  And the British certainly saw it as at least a tactical defeat; RN ships were booed when they returned to port. The days immediately after the battle no one knew that the Germans were going to remain in port for good.
                  Not pointless when the particular patch of ocean is immediately outside Wilhelmshaven.

                  They were booed when they returned because the mob were expecting another Trafalgar- clear cut and obvious to all. The results of Jutland were rather more subtle.
                  "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                  Samuel Johnson.

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                  • #10
                    I watched that programme last night. Seems that both Jellicoe and Beatty were not the best choices as commanders. Jellicoe was perhaps a tad over cautious, and Beatty seemed to think that taking battlecruisers into action was much the same as chasing foxes.

                    Beatty's allowing of 'constantly' open ammo hoists in order to achieve a greater rate of fire, when the enemy were firing back pretty accurate salvoes of heavy shells; was an 'accident' waiting to happen.

                    I noticed that US maritime historian commented that if Beatty had had his ships observe the normal operational precautions when operating the ammo hoists, that in his estimation none of the British battlecruisers would have been sunk. Damaged, yes, but sunk, no.

                    Beatty also didn't let Jellicoe know about the position of the following German fleet until he and it had closed with Jellicoe's main fleet. Kind of cut down on Jellicoe's time for preparing and positioning his ships.

                    The battlecruiser engagement ranged over an area almost the size of Yorkshire, according to those assessing the wreck dives and other investigations.

                    Should have been a RN victory even bigger than Trafalgar, but decidedly wasn't.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
                      Nick is right.

                      The Germans won a tactical victory and suffered a strategic defeat at Jutland.

                      As noted, the main flaw in the ships was not handling procedure, but design.

                      And I do not see a captain, in the heat of a major action, putting procedure ahead of RoF.

                      In the heat of battle procedures often go by the wayside, sometimes granting victory, other times defeat.
                      For the period design was relatively sound - Tiger took 18 11 and 12 " hits and still had all main turrets operational and could make full speed. This is despite a hole being blown in the top of one of the turrets.



                      For interest below is Tiger's gunnery officer's report.

                      http://www.dreadnoughtproject.org/tf...tle_of_Jutland

                      He comments that as the battle progressed the German fire slackened markedly, presumably due to damage. Without the loss of the two battle cruisers at the beginning, more German ships would have quickly become mission kills.
                      Last edited by Surrey; 22 May 16, 06:29.
                      "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
                        If that actually happened, it would not have surprised me, although Germany would still have been blockaded.

                        If the original British plan had worked, and the German High Seas Fleet was beyond crippled, then an invasion may have been suggested perhaps? Perhaps not, as the debacle that was Gallipoli was very recent.
                        i don't see fewer BC losses changing the overall result - Scheer would have probably still escaped due to Beatty's poor communications.

                        However the Germans may have lost their battle cruiser squadron.

                        If the original plan had worked, with the High Seas fleet being anhilated, then can't see that much overall difference to war. After Jutland the hsf couldn't do much to stop gf operations anyway. The threat was submarines and mines which would still be there.
                        It would free up RN warships to operate elsewhere, for example allow BCs to be released to hunt down raiders, but there weren't many of them left by that time anyway.
                        Have another go at Gallipolli maybe, this time with modern battleships rather than pre dreadnoughts?
                        There wasn't that much navy wise after Jutland that could be done that the RN wasn't doing anyway.
                        Last edited by Surrey; 22 May 16, 06:45.
                        "To be free is better than to be unfree - always."

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Wooden Wonder View Post
                          Beatty's allowing of 'constantly' open ammo hoists in order to achieve a greater rate of fire, when the enemy were firing back pretty accurate salvoes of heavy shells; was an 'accident' waiting to happen.
                          The other half of the problem is that the British battlecruisers had generally poor marksmanship themselves. So, although they were firing quickly, it wasn't that accurately.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Surrey View Post
                            The navy lost three battlecrusers at Jutland. Indefatigable, Queen Mary and Invincible. All were sank by fire from German battlecrusers. Their destruction was due to magazine explosions, assumed to be due to unsafe ammunition handling procedures such as leaving magazine doors open to improve the rate of fire.

                            But what if safe procedures had been in place with doors only opened when needed, no ammunition stored outside magazines etc.

                            British battlecrusers were not as glass jawed as is often made out, for example Tiger sustained 18 heavy hits at Jutland and was still combat operational. At the Falklands both Invincible and Inflexible sustained hits from Spees armoured cruisers without any significant damage.

                            In a documentary I have just watched on Jutland one of the commentators stated that with safe ammunition handling it is unlikely that there would have been any British battle cruiser losses at Jutland.

                            So on this assumption, without the early loss of Indefatigable and Queen Mary it is likely that German BC loses would have been higher. They lost one with another having to be grounded to avoid sinking. How many more would have been sank or essentially mission kills?
                            Also how did the early British BC losses effect the battle overall and what is Beatty likely to have done if he hadn't had these early setbacks?
                            I also saw the documentary yesterday and found it extremely disappointing. There were, despite the claims, no new insights at all into the battle. Investigating the various wrecks and explaining what led to their sinking might be of general interest, but surely the programme should have concentrated more on the decisions made by the fleet commanders.

                            Furthermore, the programme completely failed to draw our attention to the almost criminal way in which David Beatty mis-handled what should have been a crucial asset available to him, Hugh Evan-Thomas' superb 5th Battle Squadron of four fast 'Queen Elizabeths.' Not only did Beatty fail to ensure that operational orders were received by Evan-Thomas, but as he began his run north he actually ordered BS5 to turn in succession, thus exposing the last in the line to a concentration of German gunfire for significantly longer than was necessary.

                            Personally, I fear that Norman Friedman (for whose judgements I usually have the greatest respect) may have been a trifle over optimistic in suggesting that all three battlecruisers might have survived had proper handling procedures been followed. The more modern Queen Mary might have survived, but I believe that Invincible & Indefatigable were both desperately vulnerable. The fact that such handing procedures were not followed, by the way, was a result of Beatty's conviction that rate of fire was more important than accuracy of fire, with the result that the gunnery performance of the RN battlecruisers was poor on the day.

                            Whilst there might be some mileage in the suggestion that Jellicoe was too cautious, I believe that in the circumstances of May 1916 the term 'prudent' might be more appropriate. Should the High Seas Fleet have been badly mauled, then in reality the effect on the German war effort (other than producing, no doubt, a violent tantrum from Kaiser Bill!) would have been small, whereas serious losses to the Grand Fleet might well have had major repercussions.

                            Jellicoe, despite being poorly served by his subordinate commanders, and in particular the commanders of his scouting forces, other than Goodenough, successfully managed to deploy his columns into line (Equal Speed Charlie London) in order to cross Scheer's T, and only the latter's Battle Turn Away (carried out twice) saved the High Seas Fleet from catastrophe. For his part, Jellicoe has been criticised for turning away from the massed German Torpedo attack, but given my comments above his actions can be justified in that the preservation of his fleet was, rightly, of prime importance. If I recall correctly, less that 48 hours after the battle, Jellicoe could inform the Admiralty that all except two of the Grand Fleet's battleships were ready for sea, whilst it was some considerable time before Scheer could make a similar statement.

                            The subsequent abuse levelled at British ships when they returned to port was, of course, unjustified, but can to some extent be attributed to the failure of the Admiralty to put the RN's viewpoint across to the general public as swiftly as should have been the case. Remember also that the British press, then as now, is often dominated by idiots. Early in the war, when the High Seas Fleet's battlecruisers made raids on British East Coast port in the hope that a detached portion of the Grand Fleet could be isolated, brought to battle, and destroyed, this same press was actually calling for RN heavy ships to be based at various East Coast ports to protect them!

                            Finally, as I conclude my rant, everyone who has studied Jutland in any sort of detail knows quite well that Beatty spent much of the rest of his life doctoring the evidence to enhance his reputation and conceal his manifold shortcomings. When he said to his Flag Captain, Chatfield, that 'There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today,' one wonders if, even for a moment, Chatfield might have thought 'Well, there's certainly something wrong with our bloody admiral!'

                            As a last, possibly calculated, insult, when the High Seas Fleet followed HMS Cardiff into Rosyth to surrender, Beatty chose not to invite Jellicoe to witness the event.

                            In short, Jellicoe was no Nelson, but, given the changes in military technology since Trafalgar, I doubt that, in 1916, Nelson would have been Nelson either!

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Surrey View Post
                              i don't see fewer BC losses changing the overall result - Scheer would have probably still escaped due to Beatty's poor communications.

                              However the Germans may have lost their battle cruiser squadron.

                              If the original plan had worked, with the High Seas fleet being anhilated, then can't see that much overall difference to war. After Jutland the hsf couldn't do much to stop gf operations anyway. The threat was submarines and mines which would still be there.
                              It would free up RN warships to operate elsewhere, for example allow BCs to be released to hunt down raiders, but there weren't many of them left by that time anyway.
                              Have another go at Gallipolli maybe, this time with modern battleships rather than pre dreadnoughts?
                              There wasn't that much navy wise after Jutland that could be done that the RN wasn't doing anyway.
                              I read somewhere that Beatty's Flag Officer, Ralph Seymour, was responsible for the poor communications which hampered the effective handling of the British Battle cruisers: and not only at Jutland.
                              "I dogmatise and am contradicted, and in this conflict of opinions and sentiments I find delight".
                              Samuel Johnson.

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