Scharnhorst and Gneisenau with 15 inch guns

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Christian W.
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Scharnhorst and Gneisenau with 15 inch guns

Post by Christian W. » 31 Aug 2005 12:56

What if German battleships Gneisenau and Scharnhorst had carried main armament of 15 inch guns when WWII started?

Gneisenau and Scharnhorst would have been formidable opponents, faster than any British battleship and quite heavily armed and armoured. No doubt they could could have caused a lot more trouble than they did historically with their 11 inch guns.

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Tim Smith
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Post by Tim Smith » 31 Aug 2005 13:25

The extra weight (4,000 tons) of the heavier gun turrets (even if the armour thickness of the turrets and barbettes isn't thickened from the 11" version) would slow S&G by at least 2 knots IMO. So they'd be no faster than Bismarck, and maybe a knot slower.

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Re: Scharnhorst and Gneisenau with 15 inch guns

Post by Tiornu » 31 Aug 2005 13:32

The Scharnhorsts were designed to carry 28cm guns. The 38cm battery was a later suggestion that would have required extensive chages to the barbettes and bow structure. The added weight would probably have reduced their seakeeping below even their usual low standards.
I personally don't consider this stronger main battery (at 75% the strength of a full-sized battleship's main battery) sufficient to make the Scharnhorsts heavily armed. But then, they weren't well armored either. I don't regard the Scharnhorsts as a very good design, as you may have guessed.
Offhand, I can't think of any instance in which the heavier guns would have helped the Scharnhorsts.

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Post by Lkefct » 31 Aug 2005 16:30

Considering the most productive use they would have towards the total german war effort is commerce raiding, maybe switching down to 8" would be better. Germany's few capital ships are never going to be enough to take on England directly. But if they improve their speed and endurace, they have achance to avoid combat and live to fight on. England was really only in danager from the commerce raiding by the German Navy. Direct invasion is too ify, and the luftwaffe can't occupy England, so commerce raiding is the only way to force England's surrender. I am always a little shocked that the Navy was not better equiped for that role.

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Tim Smith
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Post by Tim Smith » 31 Aug 2005 17:50

At least with 6 x 15" guns (same as Repulse and Renown battlecruisers) S & G would be better able to take on a old Revenge or Texas class dreadnaught used for convoy escort in the Atlantic. Assuming they were given the operational freedom to do so.

The fact that S & G would only have 6 main guns is less of a drawback if they only operate together, since that is 12 x 15" guns with both of them in action.

Operating together, with 15" guns, S & G could have overwhelmed and destroyed any single WW1 dreadnaught on convoy escort duty. In fact, I'd go so far to say that S & G together probably could have defeated any single British battleship or battlecruiser, with a bit of luck.

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Post by Roddoss72 » 01 Sep 2005 03:06

I would like to say that if the Kriegsmarine had been given approval to uppgun the Scharnhorst and the Gniesenau they would end up sitting in thier respective drydocks for the duration of the war, as initial work would have started but due to resources i.e steel and the like would be diverted to either tank or U-Boat production, and they would be white elephants, if in this senario, as Hitler forbade any engagement of his capital ship, thus like the Tirpitz they would eventually be forced into a campaign of hiding, and the FAA (Fleet Air Arm) of the RN would have found them and done away from them.

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Post by Von Schadewald » 02 Sep 2005 01:39

Scharnhorst was originally intended have accompanied Bismarck, instead of PE.

Almost certainly sinking POW as well, if intact the two would even have been something of a match against Rodney, KGV and cruisers.

It's the Swordfish that are the bane. Although downing several British aircraft during Cerberus, without Bofors or M42s, the fire control and rof of Scharnhorst's SK C/30s and Flakvierlings just aren't up to the job.

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Post by Tony Williams » 02 Sep 2005 05:28

Tim Smith wrote:Operating together, with 15" guns, S & G could have overwhelmed and destroyed any single WW1 dreadnaught on convoy escort duty. In fact, I'd go so far to say that S & G together probably could have defeated any single British battleship or battlecruiser, with a bit of luck.
Maybe, but that wasn't their brief. They were out there specifically for commerce raiding to try to cut the British lines of supply, and generally tried to avoid the RN warships because even if they had won the battle, they probably would have sustained some significant damage which could have required a return to port and may have compromised their survival. That is exactly what happened to both Graf Spee and Bismarck.

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Tim Smith
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Post by Tim Smith » 02 Sep 2005 09:33

If S & G retreat without engaging and leave a large British convoy unmolested because the convoy is protected by an old WW1 dreadnaught, then that is equivalent to S & G losing a battle, in my book. The whole reason S & G are out there is to attack British commerce, as you said yourself - and that implies defeating any escort ships as well.

You don't build two expensive, heavily armed and armoured fast battleships like S & G just for them to wander the Atlantic looking for single, unescorted merchant ships they can sink without any risk to themselves. Converted merchant raiders (auxiliary cruisers) can do that job, and many times more cost-effectively than a capital warship can.

Battleships, even commerce raiding ones, are intended for FIGHTING. In this case, fighting through convoy escorts.

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Post by Andy H » 02 Sep 2005 12:15

Tim Smith wrote:If S & G retreat without engaging and leave a large British convoy unmolested because the convoy is protected by an old WW1 dreadnaught, then that is equivalent to S & G losing a battle, in my book. The whole reason S & G are out there is to attack British commerce, as you said yourself - and that implies defeating any escort ships as well.

You don't build two expensive, heavily armed and armoured fast battleships like S & G just for them to wander the Atlantic looking for single, unescorted merchant ships they can sink without any risk to themselves. Converted merchant raiders (auxiliary cruisers) can do that job, and many times more cost-effectively than a capital warship can.

Battleships, even commerce raiding ones, are intended for FIGHTING. In this case, fighting through convoy escorts.
Yes but they could still attack convoys defended by lesser escorts than BB's.

Also with the advent of escort carriers there abilities to achieve there goals would become harder

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Post by Tiornu » 02 Sep 2005 14:47

"Battleships, even commerce raiding ones, are intended for FIGHTING."
Exactly. This is why you would never want to send your battleships on this sort of mission. They are designed to slug it out with enemy battleships, and that's the last thing you want them to do.

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Post by Roddoss72 » 03 Sep 2005 00:47

Tim Smith wrote:If S & G retreat without engaging and leave a large British convoy unmolested because the convoy is protected by an old WW1 dreadnaught, then that is equivalent to S & G losing a battle, in my book. The whole reason S & G are out there is to attack British commerce, as you said yourself - and that implies defeating any escort ships as well.

You don't build two expensive, heavily armed and armoured fast battleships like S & G just for them to wander the Atlantic looking for single, unescorted merchant ships they can sink without any risk to themselves. Converted merchant raiders (auxiliary cruisers) can do that job, and many times more cost-effectively than a capital warship can.

Battleships, even commerce raiding ones, are intended for FIGHTING. In this case, fighting through convoy escorts.
Then explain the Tirpitz, she was ordered to Norway on the 16th January 1942, where she remained for the rest of the war, and the only offensive action she participated in was shore bombardment on Spitzbergen on the 16th September 1943 with the Scharnhorst, other than that she never put to sea again in an offensive role, the Tirpitz the became a surrogate German sponsored floating target for the RAF and the FAA, Germany built these dangerous ships but did not know how to engaged them, in no small part due to Hitlers insistance that capital ships were never to be deployed when the RN had Aircraft Carriers in the area.

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Tim Smith
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Post by Tim Smith » 05 Sep 2005 00:19

Andy H wrote:
Yes but they could still attack convoys defended by lesser escorts than BB's.

Also with the advent of escort carriers there abilities to achieve there goals would become harder

Regards

Andy H
True, but if you see a convoy escorted by a WW1 dreadnaught, you know that it's a VERY important convoy, possibly even a troop convoy. And destroying it will seriously hamper the enemy's war effort and possibly even alter the course of the war by delaying a major enemy operation.

With that in mind, NOT to attack it is a crime.

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Post by Von Schadewald » 05 Sep 2005 02:13

Without digressing, if the KGVs had had the two extra rifles as originally intended, would it have significantly increased their fighting abilities? Does having 12 14" rifles against 8 15" really help?

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Post by GRAN CAPITAN » 05 Sep 2005 09:59

IMO S & G were not up to the task because of their 280mm guns. If we ranked them as battlecruisers, we realize that they were in fact much weaker than Repulse or Kongo (both designed 20 years earlier). Among the contemporary vessels, and despite its odd layout, the French Dunkerke was also better a ship.

Had the German navy chosen 380mm guns from the start, I think that S & G would have become very fine ships, capable to take on any old and new battle cruiser and even on some old WWI vintage battleship.

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