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High Seas Fleet Achieves Naval Parity In WW1

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  • High Seas Fleet Achieves Naval Parity In WW1

    I've been reading Robert K. Massie's "Castles Of Steel" about the Great War at sea and the objective of the German Navy was to achieve parity in regards of capital ships with the British Navy. There was a point where the Germans could've achieved this during the Scarborough Raid. Both sides have the battlecruiser squadrons at sea and near each other. Both are roughly the same strength, however there is also a British battleship squadron also steaming towards the area. Unbeknownst to the British the entire German High Seas Fleet is at sea and heading towards them. In real history, Ingenhol, the German admiral commanding, returns to base without firing a shot and the battlecruiser squadrons somehow miss each other. The Germans missed a golden chance to achieve parity. Massie writes that if this battle had taken place, the Germans would've gotten, with a victory, an evening up of capital ship strength.

    Let's say that Ingenhol is more daring and commits his fleet to battle. The British battlecruisers and a whole division of battleships(4) are either sunk or damaged so badly that they take months to repair and are out of the war for at least 8 to 12 months. The Germans suffer far less damage and are able to repair their ships during a 2-month time period. So now we have the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet, for 4 months anyway, at even strength. What happens now? Do the Germans force a major confrontation or do they breakout and start wreaking havoc on British merchant shipping? Would this one disastrous battle hurt Britain's ability to stay in the war? Or would the Kaiser still be unwilling to risk his navy in an all-out battle to settle the issue once and for all? And if the Germans do come out would Jellicoe, the Grand Fleet commander, give battle? He was always asking for more ships, so would he fight on even terms?

    I think in an even encounter that the German High Seas Fleet would win. Their ships had demonstrated time and again an ability to take far more punishment than their British counterparts. Their gunnery was also usually better.

    What do you guys think? Or is this too small an incident to affect the outcome of the war?
    Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

  • #2
    I'm not sure they would achieve anything by it. The big guns may have counted for a lot but the RN possessed an absolute superiority in cruisers, destroyers and smaller and their commanders were talented as well as aggressive. The British may have adopted a different blockading strategy and/or adopted a similar tactic to the one used by the Germans to lure out part of the High Seas Fleet and destroy it in detail. Ultimately the British would still have more options and given the shipbuilding capacity of British yards the Germans would have to maintain a very aggressive (and risky) strategy just to sustain their position.
    Signing out.

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    • #3
      Certainly would require a lot of big if's. Any parity would be temporary given Britain's building program. If the if's are going the German way, What if the British signals had been coherent and well constructed ?

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      • #4
        Would the RN be able to mount an effective blockade of Germany? I wonder if the High Seas Fleet would be able to assist the U-Boats in attacking British shipping.
        If the art of war were nothing but the art of avoiding risks,glory would become the prey of mediocre minds. Napoleon

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Legate View Post
          Would the RN be able to mount an effective blockade of Germany? I wonder if the High Seas Fleet would be able to assist the U-Boats in attacking British shipping.
          The High Seas Fleet was not designed for operations outside of the North Sea. They didn't have the range, the logistical backup or even the onboard facilities to mount a naval campaign against British commerce. German warships had many more watertight compartments than their British equivalents - this made them more difficult to sink (seen the pictures of SMS Seydlitz after Jutland?) but made life onboard for more than a few days intolerable. Royal Navy ships were intended for much longer tours of duty and offered greater comforts for their crews.
          Signing out.

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          • #6
            Given the high level of German gunnery and the advances they had made on sighting /ranging technology I would expect Germany to do well out of this engagement, especially as Full Monty notes the unbeleivable hammering their ships could take and still float. (excellent photograph in the Massie book on this).

            Their aim seem to have been to fight and fight but despite the idea of acheiving parity, I could never see what their end game was. They could never hope to achieve the level of dominance to actually impact the war's outcome by, for example closing the Channel to allied shipping and they were never bullt to be convoy raiders as has been noted.

            Of course Jellicoe was said to be the man who could "lose the war in an afternoon" but it hard to see a defeat so complete as to justify that statement.
            What would Occam say?

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            • #7
              That statement would be perfectly accurate if the High Seas fleet had been able to inflict a major defeat on the British Grand Fleet in a number of engagements against numerically inferior sections. That was what the Germans hoped to do. Wishful thinking really.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by peteratwar View Post
                That statement would be perfectly accurate if the High Seas fleet had been able to inflict a major defeat on the British Grand Fleet in a number of engagements against numerically inferior sections. That was what the Germans hoped to do. Wishful thinking really.
                Reminds me of a business book I have on my shelf: "Hope is not a strategy" which seems to have been the German navy approach. It feels as though it centred around "we have this big navy now so lets go and have a pop at the British" with little clear understand of a realistic war aim.

                Towards the end of the war they actually tried to mount what was virtualy a suicide attack on the RN for the sake of German naval honour but thankfully many logically minded Jerry crewmen jumped ship preventing it.
                What would Occam say?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by billscottmorri View Post
                  Reminds me of a business book I have on my shelf: "Hope is not a strategy" which seems to have been the German navy approach. It feels as though it centred around "we have this big navy now so lets go and have a pop at the British" with little clear understand of a realistic war aim.
                  I see it as a prestige project intended to act as a message to the British - 'We can do this too' kind of thing. It certainly wasn't a serious attempt to match the RN and, as such, meant that when faced with the reality that they were going to have to mount a challenge them there was no real plan.

                  Towards the end of the war they actually tried to mount what was virtualy a suicide attack on the RN for the sake of German naval honour but thankfully many logically minded Jerry crewmen jumped ship preventing it.
                  They tried it twice in 1918. On the first occasion SMS Moltke (I think) broke down in the North Sea and the fleet was forced to return to port. The second occasion provoked the mutiny you refer to. Had the battle-fleet not spent so many months in port with the sailors twiddling their thumbs in barracks it might not have had a mutiny on its hands. By 1918 it was too late.
                  Signing out.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by R. Evans View Post
                    I've been reading Robert K. Massie's "Castles Of Steel" about the Great War at sea and the objective of the German Navy was to achieve parity in regards of capital ships with the British Navy. There was a point where the Germans could've achieved this during the Scarborough Raid. Both sides have the battlecruiser squadrons at sea and near each other. Both are roughly the same strength, however there is also a British battleship squadron also steaming towards the area. Unbeknownst to the British the entire German High Seas Fleet is at sea and heading towards them. In real history, Ingenhol, the German admiral commanding, returns to base without firing a shot and the battlecruiser squadrons somehow miss each other. The Germans missed a golden chance to achieve parity. Massie writes that if this battle had taken place, the Germans would've gotten, with a victory, an evening up of capital ship strength.

                    Let's say that Ingenhol is more daring and commits his fleet to battle. The British battlecruisers and a whole division of battleships(4) are either sunk or damaged so badly that they take months to repair and are out of the war for at least 8 to 12 months. The Germans suffer far less damage and are able to repair their ships during a 2-month time period. So now we have the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet, for 4 months anyway, at even strength. What happens now? Do the Germans force a major confrontation or do they breakout and start wreaking havoc on British merchant shipping? Would this one disastrous battle hurt Britain's ability to stay in the war? Or would the Kaiser still be unwilling to risk his navy in an all-out battle to settle the issue once and for all? And if the Germans do come out would Jellicoe, the Grand Fleet commander, give battle? He was always asking for more ships, so would he fight on even terms?

                    I think in an even encounter that the German High Seas Fleet would win. Their ships had demonstrated time and again an ability to take far more punishment than their British counterparts. Their gunnery was also usually better.

                    What do you guys think? Or is this too small an incident to affect the outcome of the war?
                    More importantly, "Castles of Steel" also mentions how the RN had broken the German Naval Codes, which might explain why the British Grand Fleet was always conveniently in the same vicinity as the German High Seas Fleet, whenever they attempted to sortie in a body. This could also explain why British Battleships were always successful in evading the U-Boat ambushes laid by the Germans in preparation for Jutland and other engagements.
                    "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
                      More importantly, "Castles of Steel" also mentions how the RN had broken the German Naval Codes, which might explain why the British Grand Fleet was always conveniently in the same vicinity as the German High Seas Fleet, whenever they attempted to sortie in a body. This could also explain why British Battleships were always successful in evading the U-Boat ambushes laid by the Germans in preparation for Jutland and other engagements.
                      Good point, John. The work of Room 40 was very important. You'd think that when the Germans found that out after the war, that they would be more careful the next time around, but no, they had their codes broken again and refused to believe it.
                      Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by R. Evans View Post
                        Good point, John. The work of Room 40 was very important. You'd think that when the Germans found that out after the war, that they would be more careful the next time around, but no, they had their codes broken again and refused to believe it.
                        True, but by that time, the silly buggers thought that ENIGMA would the be-all, end-all code. The Poles and British soon proved them wrong.
                        "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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