Causes and effects of U Boat war

Discussions on all (non-biographical) aspects of the submarine forces of the Kriegsmarine.
ljadw
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by ljadw » 28 Feb 2011 18:43

As always the problems with the WI things,are that they starting from imaginary and unlikely situations
1) there would be no war in the east ? Howcan one be sure?
2) Germany could built countless UBoats ? How ?
3) Germany would get the necessary materials from the SU ? And how could Germany pay them?
4)Germany would get the resources from occupied Europe ? And these would be ...? Negligible is the correct word 8-)
Etc,etc,

Clio13
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Clio13 » 01 Mar 2011 07:08

Mescal wrote: 'there was no submarine threat against UK until late in the 30s'.

Well all I can add is that if I was an influential political voice in the inter war years and knew that my country had nearly been brought to its knees by submarine warfare a couple of decades before, I would make mightly sure I had the means to meet that submarine threat in the future, no matter what direction that threat emanated from. I would not complacently bask in the reflected glory of having emerged triumphant in the War to End All Wars. My priority would be to safeguard Britain and the transatlantic route (in the absolute knowledge that it had proven vulnerable in the last show). My means would be intelligence, convoy ASDIC sets (that really worked) mines and oh, destroyers, destroyers and more destroyers.

Here is something in support of your view. As early as 1935 Britain took steps to resurrect the convoy system under Admiral Manisty. Admiralty did however reinstate a destroyer building programme on the scale suggested by WW1 experience, presumaby because the greater threat was thought to be from German surface raiders. I like to think that I would have predicted that the Germans would start building U-boats again to once again threaten Britain's Atlantic Achilles Heel.

Call me a dreamer if you like.
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Andy H
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Andy H » 01 Mar 2011 12:25

Hi Clio

You wrote:
I have reason to believe that 'big ship' advocates tended to worm more easily into positions of responsibility within the Inter-War Admiralty and tended to be both more vociferous/influential and be afforded newspaper columns to advance their views. There was a perception that destroyer and submarine branches languished as the Cinderella’s of the Thirties RN
Well as with most navies of their time, the senior members of the various navies were advocates, through experience, of the ‘big ship’ navy. That normally meant BB’s, CA’s and A/C’s. I would disagree that the DD’s & SS’s were considered Cinderella’s but just lower down the priority food chain for a whole host of reasons.
Well all I can add is that if I was an influential political voice in the inter war years and knew that my country had nearly been brought to its knees by submarine warfare a couple of decades before, I would make mightily sure I had the means to meet that submarine threat in the future, no matter what direction that threat emanated from. I would not complacently bask in the reflected glory of having emerged triumphant in the War to End All Wars. My priority would be to safeguard Britain and the transatlantic route (in the absolute knowledge that it had proven vulnerable in the last show). My means would be intelligence, convoy ASDIC sets (that really worked) mines and oh, destroyers, destroyers and more destroyers.
Here is something in support of your view. As early as 1935 Britain took steps to resurrect the convoy system under Admiral Manisty. Admiralty did however reinstate a destroyer building programme on the scale suggested by WW1 experience, presumably because the greater threat was thought to be from German surface raiders. I like to think that I would have predicted that the Germans would start building U-boats again to once again threaten Britain's Atlantic Achilles Heel.
As I have indicated earlier and Mescal more recently, the submarine threat especially in European/Atlantic waters was deemed minimal. Firstly the major threat, that of Germany, had no U-Boats and wasn’t likely to have any in the foreseeable future. Also it was hoped that the submarine would be outlawed at the 1930 London Naval Treaty.

Though I understand your focus solely on the U-Boat threat, I think it’s a rather narrow focus that doesn’t fully take account of the whole naval picture. The RN’s fleet was ageing and it was hamstrung by various naval treaties & limitations, swinging budget constraints and a whole empire to support.
Now they could have built DD’s galore but at what cost! The capital ships of the RN were old and need of extensive refits at best or new classes being built. These were desperately needed as those navies of our potential enemies were building newer better ones. There potential as commerce raiders wouldn’t be countered by hosts of DD’s. Equally the production of cruisers was vital for the sustainability of the Empire and protection of those trade routes. The RN at the outbreak of war was woefully stretched in cruiser strength.

From 1936 the Admiralty/RN also predicted war by 1940 or 1942, and it did what it could to negate the host of poor decisions and constraints prior to this that it had laboured under. The RN entered WW2 with some 15 Battleships/Battlecruisers (of which only 4 were suited to modern conditions), 7 Aircraft Carriers, and 64 cruisers.

Given your build build DD’s and DE’s argument, what would you sacrifice within the main surface fleet assets? I’m not asking so I can point fingers but to understand the implications of your decision.

Regards

Andy H

Clio13
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Clio13 » 01 Mar 2011 14:40

The capital ships of the RN were old and need of extensive refits at best or new classes being built. These were desperately needed as those navies of our potential enemies were building newer better ones.


Did Britain really need so many capital ships ? I mean they proved such a decisive factor in WWI didn't they ?
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Jon G. » 01 Mar 2011 15:25

Clio13 wrote:... As early as 1935 Britain took steps to resurrect the convoy system under Admiral Manisty. Admiralty did however reinstate a destroyer building programme on the scale suggested by WW1 experience, presumaby because the greater threat was thought to be from German surface raiders...
As Andy writes, the 1930 London Naval Treaty, and also the 1922 Washington Treaty both aimed to basically outlaw unrestricted submarine warfare. A naïve view, perhaps, to think that prospective future enemies would abide by treaties which clearly favoured Britain, but there you are, and well into the 30s it was actually thought that Hitler could be bargained with.

Regardless, the inter-war Admiralty recommeded convoying as the most effective method for the protection of trade as early as 1921, even if it was recognised that convoying involved a loss of overall carrying capacity thought to be in the 12 to 20 per cent range.

In the mid-twenties, when to convoy and when not to was clarified according to three 'risk levels' from lowest to highest they were

I: Only difference from peacetime is that merchant vessels must obtain Admiralty permit before they leave port.
II: Ships will be routed evasively.
III: Ships under 15 knots speed will be convoyed.

Not all that different from what actually happened many years later!

Notably, the Air Ministry was against convoying because it was thought that convoys would make concentrated targets for attacking aircraft, but - unlike in WW1 - the Admiralty wasn't oppposed to convoying on principle, they just didn't consider unrestriced submarine warfare very likely to happen in a future war.

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mescal
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by mescal » 01 Mar 2011 16:37

Clio13 wrote: Well all I can add is that if I was an influential political voice in the inter war years and knew that my country had nearly been brought to its knees by submarine warfare a couple of decades before, I would make mightly sure I had the means to meet that submarine threat in the future, no matter what direction that threat emanated from.
Having the means to safeguard against any theoretically possible opponent is the best position in which to be.
However, the different demands have to be weighed against the economic constraints.
And in such circumstances of budgetary restrictions, you'll have a hard time convincing any parliament to increase spendings to defend against a non-existant threat.
Clio13 wrote: My means would be intelligence, convoy ASDIC sets (that really worked) mines and oh, destroyers, destroyers and more destroyers.
Well, as I said previously, not only destroyers counted as ASW ships - sloops and later corvettes and frigates were also extremely useful.
Regarding the destroyer situation, the number available was limited given the commitments, but the situation was not immediately awful.
There were a lot of WW1 leftovers (S and V&W classes).
And during the 30's, the RN ordered one flotilla (of 9 ships in general) each year, and took preliminary measures to improve the old ships (WAIR and Long Range conversions) even though too few were completed before the war

Another budgetary problem is that not only the building of the ships is costly, but there are also very significant costs incurred to keep the ships active (maintenance, crew pay ...).
This explains why many destroyers were scrapped of disposed of during the 30's (Valhalla, Valkyrie, Vectis, Venturous, Violent; Shakespeare, Spenser; Bruce and a host of S-class).
This seems bad policy, but numbers are not everything. IIRC, Brown states that those old ships (he refers to S-class) would have been a liability during WW2.

IMHO, there were more problems (which could have been solved for less) in the Coastal Command than in the escorts buildup.
Clio13 wrote: Did Britain really need so many capital ships ? I mean they proved such a decisive factor in WWI didn't they ?
As long as other navies had battleships, the RN could not escape to have its own battle fleet.
Moreover, their value is not as small as one could consider as seen from today. The usefulness is not only evaluated through the number of ships they sank or the number of shells they fired, but also through the impact they had on enemy moves.
Why do you think Tirpitz never attempted a breakthrough ? Why Scharnhordt and Gneisenau did not sortie from Lorient to the Atlantic but towards Germany ?
And in the Med, there seems to be a correlation between the lack of battleships and high losses for the UK (admittedly, it's more an opinion than a data-grounded deduction as I still have to dig said data)

Perhaps a case can be made for scrapping the Rs (and I do not really like the idea), but the RN could not contemplate not keeping all other BBs.

Clio13 wrote: Call me a dreamer if you like.
No.
You make interesting points - even though I disagree with some of them, I think we can gentlemanly discuss before starting accusations, nitpickings and strawmen ;-)
Olivier

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Andy H
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Andy H » 02 Mar 2011 01:49

Clio13 wrote:The capital ships of the RN were old and need of extensive refits at best or new classes being built. These were desperately needed as those navies of our potential enemies were building newer better ones.


Did Britain really need so many capital ships ? I mean they proved such a decisive factor in WWI didn't they ?
Hi Clio13

Well you tell me.

Japan had 10 BB's at the start of WW2 and 2 building
Germany had 5 and 2 building
Italy had 4 and 3 building

= 19 and 7 respectively for the RN's potential enemies, whilst the RN had 15 and 5 respectively. Also the 5 Royal Sovereign class were due to be retired as the new KGV BB's came into service.

Britain expected to send some 9 BB's to form its Far East fleet in war came solely against Japan, leaving in Home Waters and the Med 5 BB's (more than likely the outdated Royal Sovereigns) and 1 Battlecruiser. Not much there to deter German surface raiders if they entered the war after the event or Italian domination of the Med.

Regards

Andy H

Clio13
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Clio13 » 02 Mar 2011 19:04

I must assert that Britain was appallingly deficient in submarines during the years 1939-41 which is why the 'L' and 'H' classes (designated training submarines) were brought back into the North Sea campaign. Only in 1941 when the later 'S', 'U' and 'T' class boats came into service could British submarines mount an effective campaign. In my view a scandalous state of affairs.

As for the First War vintage destroyers which puffed up and down the convoy routes, the ADM 199/ 26-42 records together with shipyard returns, tell their own eloquent tale of wheezing inadequacy.

I think the KGVs could have been retained and the Lion class built instead of cancelled. I would have scrapped the remaining battleships/battle cruisers. Resources could have been ploughed into smaller, more flexible units.

But then again I am perhaps unduly influenced by old dad who served on a destroyer, HMS Virago, actions: Denmark Strait (Scharnhorst sinking) a bag of PQ/QP convoys and the Haguro sinking. His view is simple:

There are only two kinds of vessel in this world: Submarines and victims.

I would add destroyers and carriers to his list but otherwise I share his sentiment.
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mescal
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by mescal » 02 Mar 2011 22:24

Clio13 wrote: the ADM 199/ 26-42 records together with shipyard returns, tell their own eloquent tale of wheezing inadequacy.
Could you elaborate ? I would be interested by information from such primary source.
My opinions on the matter are derived mainly from what I found in Brown's Atlantic Escorts
Despite their age, the V&Ws seem to have been little worse than later destroyers.[p21]
He cites their poor habitability and limited endurance as their main shortcoming.
Regarding the Long Range conversions, he states
Major conversions of elderly tubs are rarely worthwile but the Long Range Escorts seem to be an exception[p22]
Clio13 wrote: Denmark Strait (Scharnhorst sinking)
You may want to replace "Denmark Strait" by "North Cape" ;-)
Olivier

Clio13
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Clio13 » 03 Mar 2011 07:02

Ok its North cape, thanks

My (specific) sources are housed at Kew and are coded ADM/199/26-42, ADM, 199/62, ADM 199/212, ADM 199/62, ADM 199/585

I could have added the records of Walker Naval Yard (Tyne) and Swan Hunters Yard (Tyne) where many elderly escorts spent the Second World War. The records are in the Tyne Wear Archive.
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hagen
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by hagen » 06 Mar 2011 22:08

RichTO90 wrote:In any case, the German experience with attempting to expand their U-Boat building capacity is real world again and not a what if. Why in the world would you think that a "what if the Germans built shadow U-Boat factories" is more realistic an analysis that looking at what actually happened when they did attempt to expand that capacity? And, yes, of course the number of U-Boats built increased, but not uniformly or predictably as yards, money, and resources allocated to them did.
I am suggesting that more resources would produce more output, linear relationship or not. Part of what happened was more U-boats; more aircraft too but that is a different topic and failing. How many more seems to be a moot point.

Somehow I cannot find comfort in the idea that contemporary planners got it all wrong to be concerned about German capabilities and that it was never really a close run thing. The Germans simply had not a chance. :roll:
RichTO90 wrote:BTW, yes, I agree that a large part of the German problem was simple strategic myopia, but that doesn't mean that they neccessarily had better solutions they could have picked.
Ideal solutions are not always available but you have to do what you can. The Romans has no navy until they found they simply HAD too. The expansion in U-boats made hard demands on finding adequate crews and, above all, captains and officers. To win the Germans needed to find them but patience was never a virtue that Hitler had.

ljadw
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by ljadw » 06 Mar 2011 22:22

About patience :time was running against the Germans .Thus,Hitler was in a(IMHO justified) hurry .

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Andy H
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Andy H » 07 Mar 2011 00:22

Clio wrote:
I must assert that Britain was appallingly deficient in submarines during the years 1939-41 which is why the 'L' and 'H' classes (designated training submarines) were brought back into the North Sea campaign. Only in 1941 when the later 'S', 'U' and 'T' class boats came into service could British submarines mount an effective campaign. In my view a scandalous state of affairs.
Hi Clio

Well again most people would agree with your basic premise but they would also recognise why it was so, and that this scenario didn't evolve in a vacumm.

Building submarines required specific skills and as such only some 4 yards in the UK undertook the work. Thus any building prog was hindered by the factor to start with. The aformentioned 1930 Naval Treaty also limited the RN submarine total. Britain was allocated 52,700tons of submarines and none over 13yrs old, but already at that time the RN had some 53boats @ 43,331tons and a further 19boats @ 26,110 tons building. This came to 72boats @ 69,441, thus the RN had to lose 17boats of 17,040 leaving it with 55boats, of which 7 were still over age. New construction would have to be at a rate of 4new boats a year just to maintain an under-age fleet. All of this has to be viewed against the very severe budget limitations imposed on the Admiralty and the hope that submarines would have been outlawed within the treaty.

Regards

Andy H

Source: Mainly from HT Lentons British Empire Warships

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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by RichTO90 » 07 Mar 2011 03:54

hagen wrote:I am suggesting that more resources would produce more output, linear relationship or not. Part of what happened was more U-boats; more aircraft too but that is a different topic and failing. How many more seems to be a moot point.
Oh dear, you still aren't quite getting it. When do these "more resources" get allocated? How do they get paid for in the pre-1 September 1939 German economy that was already running full blast? Who are the skilled dockyard workers that will build them? Why do they decide to do so?

All of that is anything BUT MOOT! :lol: :roll:

BTW, what is aircraft are a "different topic and failing" supposed to mean?
Somehow I cannot find comfort in the idea that contemporary planners got it all wrong to be concerned about German capabilities and that it was never really a close run thing. The Germans simply had not a chance.
Who is supposedly trying to comfort you and why? Just curious really, since otherwise i cannot make heads or tails of what you are trying to say.
RichTO90 wrote:Ideal solutions are not always available but you have to do what you can. The Romans has no navy until they found they simply HAD too. The expansion in U-boats made hard demands on finding adequate crews and, above all, captains and officers. To win the Germans needed to find them but patience was never a virtue that Hitler had.
Er, uh, yeah...so do you think maybe perhaps what the Germans did do might represent what they could do rather than the "ideal solution"? And that, just maybe perhaps, the "ideal solution" was never practical for all the myriads of reasons that have been pointed out - ad nauseum - that you apparently wish to ignore in the interest of finding a Roman solution to the German problem? :lol:

So all the Germans needed to do to win was have some patience so they could find the captains and officers they needed? Seriously? :roll:

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Richard Anderson
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Re: Causes and effects of U Boat war

Post by Clio13 » 08 Mar 2011 20:17

In reality I fully accept the economic and political barriers to building up a strong submarine force in the inter war years and I would agree that playing 'what if' is really just speculative fun.
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