German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

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Thoddy
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Re: German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

Postby Thoddy » 10 Aug 2017 08:10

Sadly they could have been far more effective if the German high command had the slightest idea of how to use them and accept the risk of their loss in such an operation.


I do not agree to this opinion.
As per 1938 it became visible that a german fleet was faced with a considerable superiority of their likely opponents in every single class of ships.
Germany had a longer way to access trade shipping than their opponents (requires more fuel)

For the british side an actively attack on the contained german ships is not necessary.

It is likely that every german attempt for an attack is detected at an early stage.

Encounters with enemy capital ships ar more likely to happen in considerable distance from own bases-even slight damage may cause a total loss.

Enemy capital ships are likely to be screened by a considerable amount of torpedocarrying vessels and aircraft . Wheras such protection is almost impossible for the Germans from range considerations and lack of carriers.


This fear has been expressed in a memorandum report even before the war began.

Loss of Admiral Graf Spee and Bismarck are strong confirmation for this fear. Against Bismarck the Royal Navy deployed almost sixty ships and several long range aircraft(without US Coast guard and "fishing vessels" used for reconnaissance).

As the war progressed, the chances for the german side for succesful Actions shrunk, because of a growing air superiority in reconaissance and air attack capabilities.

The german side had no counter, as the ressources required for overcoming allied superiorty at sea had to be used in the main theaters of war. So they put only the absolute minimum of own forces needed to bind allied forces in a remote area.
"Meine Herren, es kann ein siebenjähriger, es kann ein dreißigjähriger Krieg werden – und wehe dem, der zuerst die Lunte in das Pulverfaß schleudert!"

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Polar bear
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Re: German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

Postby Polar bear » 10 Aug 2017 16:19

hi,

Thoddy wrote:
Sadly they could have been far more effective if the German high command had the slightest idea of how to use them and accept the risk of their loss in such an operation.

I do not agree to this opinion.

Neither do I, I concur with Thoddy.
The Seekriegsleitung DID, in fact, risk the ships' loss in every sortie, e.g. rather early, in November 1939, in the operation that led to the sinking of RAWALPINDI (have a look at the operations chart and the twins' rather narrow escape)

Thoddy wrote:Germany had a longer way to access trade shipping than their opponents (requires more fuel)
It is likely that every german attempt for an attack is detected at an early stage.

.. and the ships had to "run a gauntlet" of submarines and torpedo aircraft, with a rather high probability of being hit like GNEISENAU in June, 1940, LÜTZOW in June, 1941, and PRINZ EUGEN in February, 1942

Thoddy wrote:Enemy capital ships are likely to be screened by a considerable amount of torpedocarrying vessels and aircraft .

just have a look at SCHARNHORST being torpedoed by ACASTA during Operation "Juno" (sinking of GLORIOUS)

greetings, the pb
Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War
(John Milton, the poet, in a letter to the Lord General Cromwell, May 1652)

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Terry Duncan
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Re: German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

Postby Terry Duncan » 10 Aug 2017 21:43

Thoddy wrote:
Sadly they could have been far more effective if the German high command had the slightest idea of how to use them and accept the risk of their loss in such an operation.


I do not agree to this opinion.
As per 1938 it became visible that a german fleet was faced with a considerable superiority of their likely opponents in every single class of ships.
Germany had a longer way to access trade shipping than their opponents (requires more fuel)

For the british side an actively attack on the contained german ships is not necessary.

It is likely that every german attempt for an attack is detected at an early stage.

Encounters with enemy capital ships ar more likely to happen in considerable distance from own bases-even slight damage may cause a total loss.

Enemy capital ships are likely to be screened by a considerable amount of torpedocarrying vessels and aircraft . Wheras such protection is almost impossible for the Germans from range considerations and lack of carriers.


This fear has been expressed in a memorandum report even before the war began.

Loss of Admiral Graf Spee and Bismarck are strong confirmation for this fear. Against Bismarck the Royal Navy deployed almost sixty ships and several long range aircraft(without US Coast guard and "fishing vessels" used for reconnaissance).

As the war progressed, the chances for the german side for succesful Actions shrunk, because of a growing air superiority in reconaissance and air attack capabilities.

The german side had no counter, as the ressources required for overcoming allied superiorty at sea had to be used in the main theaters of war. So they put only the absolute minimum of own forces needed to bind allied forces in a remote area.


Curiously, I agree with your points pretty much entirely. I would dispute that it was only in 1938 that it became obvious that any German fleet would face a rather overwhelmingly superior fleet, as there was only ever really the RN to consider because the French navy was almost entirely focused on the Italian naval threat. From the moment Germany decided to build a second large fleet the RN was the critical opponent, and any strategy really had to take this into account. This means every ship built should be built with this in mind, including its potential loss or suitability for being deployed as a fleet in being, especially given the geographical constraints such a war would impose, such as the location of the British Isles and the worldwide naval bases enjoyed by the RN.

In turn, this means that any ship that was able to be risked in 1938/39 should have been just as able in 1943. The initial uses of Scharnhorst and Gneisenau proved the ships were capable of being successful, especially when deployed together. Deploying Bismarck on its own was almost certainly one of the more dubious ideas, waiting for Tirpitz or even sending her along as she was would have been far better options despite the risks the last option entailed. Could such risks be taken repeatedly? No. The odds were always against the Germans here, but that should have been obvious from the start, losses were always going to happen with active deployments.

The 'fleet in being' option entailed few risks, and with regards to the men, spared them from the inevitable losses that go with active deployments, but in this case the Bismarck sortie makes very little sense, it was too great a risk and she could have tied down a large number of ships just by the threat of a sortie rather like Tirpitz and PQ17.

A fleet was built, it then either had to be risked or kept safe, a mix of the two strategies had to also consider the risks they entailed. A deployment where ships were sent out but told not to take risks if enemy heavy units were involved was hamstringing the force and led to Scharnhorst and Gneisenau turning away even from Renown. Even facing a cruiser escorted convoy involved the risk of a large number of ships being deployed against them afterwards, and the risks of loss this entailed too. I suppose my point is that all of this was obvious before a single ship was laid down, no amount of professionalism on behalf of the Kriegsmarine was going to alter the odds or make losses to the small force it was possible to build any easier to accept.

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Pips
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Re: German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

Postby Pips » 11 Aug 2017 00:17

Cogent points expressed by all parties.

Which begs the question........ why go to the expense (money, critical resources, industry and manpower) of building the (Capital) fleet in the first place, given that it was always going to end up in a face off against the British? And that it would always be inferior to the Royal Navy, with no bases available to it once upon the high seas?

Were not the lessons of the High Seas Fleet not studied? Was not the effectiveness (and limitations) of the U-Boat campaign in 1917 not obvious? Even if Plan Z had been fulfilled, the Kriegsmarine would never have equalled the Royal Navy; as had the High Seas Fleet construction effort failed pre 1914.

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Re: German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

Postby Paul Lakowski » 12 Aug 2017 18:34

Raeder did seem to learn some lessons - but clearly not enough. His vision was to pair up disparate operations in-order to leverage advantages in each direction. Simply put he envisaged combining the Admiral Scheer Battle Cruiser raid of 1918 with Admiral Graff Spee's 1914 cruiser squadron raid in the Falklands - on diesel ships. But Hitler intervened and demanded KM be nothing more than coastal defence force. Best Admiral Raeder could do was to maximise these six builds into heavier and heavier warships, which he achieved by convincing Hitler they were anti French warships.

However Hitler's greatest contribution was to convince the Wehrmacht that they still had another 10 years of building before major war was expected. So Raeder went about prewar investing 1/3 million tons in support warship. He ordered some aircraft carriers , 1/2 dozen warship tankers and a fleet of Zestroyer & Torpedoboot plus a fleet of Mineboot and dozens of U-Boats.

Trouble is that most prewar KM thinking concluded that Donitz 300 U-Boat fleet was the best way forward and any surface ships built HAD to support this U-Boat fleet. If they had followed NAVAL PLAN 1928, by war time they would have had 15 Pocket Battle Kreuzers plus dozens of GTB and dozens of minesweepers plus a growing fleet of U-Boats [ either 230 TYPE II U-Boat or 87 type VII U-Boat].

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Re: German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

Postby Nautilus » 16 Aug 2017 15:10

Pips wrote:Cogent points expressed by all parties.

Which begs the question........ why go to the expense (money, critical resources, industry and manpower) of building the (Capital) fleet in the first place, given that it was always going to end up in a face off against the British? And that it would always be inferior to the Royal Navy, with no bases available to it once upon the high seas?

Were not the lessons of the High Seas Fleet not studied? Was not the effectiveness (and limitations) of the U-Boat campaign in 1917 not obvious? Even if Plan Z had been fulfilled, the Kriegsmarine would never have equalled the Royal Navy; as had the High Seas Fleet construction effort failed pre 1914.


As George Friedman used to say, the geopolitical constraint will always be against the German Navy, due to an immutable fact of geography: the Baltic Sea is bottlenecked. To equal the Royal Navy, a fleet needed not only vessels, but naval bases on the French coast. Specifically French, not Dutch or Northern German, since the North Sea is also bottlenecked.

Which meant, if the lessons of the High Seas Fleet were to be fully understood, to know in 1934 that France was supposed to fall in 1940. Which no German general expected either. The French campaign had ended so quickly and decisively due to luck and due to the exploitation of the enemy's vulnerabilities by General von Manstein. Who in 1934 was only a Colonel, had no authority to speak to the Government and served under Generals convinced they had to plan for a defensive against France, not an offensive. Everything had changed by 1940 - the war got into a situation impossible and unthinkable 2 years before. A singularity. By definition, a singularity is something you can't plan for.

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Re: German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

Postby Paul Lakowski » 16 Aug 2017 20:16

Perhaps but no naval action in WW-I had any real impact on French war effort in WW-I. The key to defeating the French was always going to be focused on the land operations, and any naval action of secondary concerns. All due respects to Friedman ,but all KM thinking of the mid 1930s assumed the real threat was British not French and did assume WW-I front line would be the minimum start point for any war against RN.

Most KM anti French rhetoric on naval matters was for Hitler's benefit, since even a 'anti French fleet' was better than no fleet at all, which is what Hitler initially demanded.

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Re: German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

Postby Nautilus » 17 Aug 2017 01:29

Remember the proverb on the Whale and the Elephant? There was no logical way the Royal Navy could directly harm the German Reich either!

The damned geopolitical constraint dictated you couldn't fight a land power unless you have a land power of your own. Which Britain scrounged together in both Wars by stretching her economy and technology to the limit. Defeated Germany of 1919, torn by internal conflict, crisis and street fighting, was still above the British Isles of 1919 in finances, technology, human development. Leave alone Germany of 1938 compared to British Isles in 1938, as a certain Orwell described them.

But while Britain was no land power, neither had the German Reich a way to use a fully grown sea power. Unless it used some dark magic to teleport a German naval base outside the confined waters of the Baltic.

The proposal to use battleships and/or battlecruisers as raiders as of 1938 is just as sane as flying a private jet every day to your work place: immense costs in building, maintenance, crew training and supplies, for an easy mission which U-Boats or small heavily armed cruisers do much better.

This is why 2 Scharnhorsts and 2 Bismarcks as it happened is wasteful - you either assemble 4 excellent giant battleships into a squadron with full expectation to bull through an enemy twice in numbers, or you don't. You either build the maximum number of standardized Panzerschiffe and grind the enemy's supplies and trade routes until he bleeds, or you don't. Sending battleships to commerce raiding one or two at the time is just an invitation for the enemy to hunt them down piecemeal. Which is exactly what happened in real life, to nobody's surprise save for the high command in Berlin.

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Re: German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

Postby Paul Lakowski » 17 Aug 2017 06:22

Exactly it was terribly wasteful , but this was the best Admiral Raeder could muster against Hitler's blatant opposition to ANY KM fleet.

In 1932 NAVAL PLAN 1928 was finally agreed upon , which authorised the construction of

one aircraft carrier
6 Panzerschiffe
6 Kreuzers
more than couple dozens of GTB
more than a Dozen U-Boats

This fleet of warships was to be added to the existing Reichmarine fleet composed of 3 POCKET BB plus 6 light cruisers and dozen GTB 1923/1924 and couple dozen smaller TB-1906/1911 plus and more than 50 Mboot 1916 minesweepers.

Hitler prevented most of naval plan 1928 building plan, because he believed it would upset his plans for neutralising the British Empire. Raeder was able to salvage as much as was doable under the guise of anti French fleet, so 6 panzer ships morphed into "The Twins" , "Bismarck, Tirpitz plus Battleships H & J". The 6 Kreuzers became the "Hipper class ,but only 2/3 of these ships were ever completed.

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Re: German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

Postby Nautilus » 18 Aug 2017 00:22

Paul Lakowski wrote:Hitler prevented most of naval plan 1928 building plan, because he believed it would upset his plans for neutralising the British Empire.


There's a thing with grand strategy. Which Westerners know tacitly, Soviet Generals had formalised and put on paper. (While British Admirals say it poetically: "it takes 3 years to build a ship, but 300 years to build a tradition" :) ) The fact that grand strategy, simple in words, permeates every field of a country's life, involves everyone, as they know it or not. Once set in place, is set in stone, you can't change it in just months or years.

Example: the strategy of the Bewegungskrieg as designed by German Generals in the 1920s shaped everything, down to the approximate number of bolts and bearings a war machine had. Wait, what?... indeed, dear Watson: the fact that some Generals (who were no longer active in 1940, or were even dead) had dictated 20 years before the next war will be fought on a strategy of movement and quality against quantity insured that most war machines had complex suspension systems, with hundreds of hand-assembled sets of ring seals and roller bearings for each vehicle. Designed for speed and manoeuvrability. Which is fine and even admirable for military geeks and armchair generals. Until things have moved to the Eastern Front, campaigns are no longer short and decisive, you need 10 times as many vehicles to cover a giant expanse of land and you can't make them. The factories, industrial machinery, worker training, engineering, transport systems, military logistics had been designed for a different way to produce a different machine, running on a different type of terrain, and they can't be changed overnight. While the other bastards are getting closer.

So Tirpitz's strategy failed 20 years before, while Admirals designed a new strategy comprising commerce raiding, with vessels built within the constraints of a treaty. Cheat as much as you can, you're still within the constraints, proven by the mere fact you had to cheat.

Over this strategy comes Hitler's decision - to repeat the mistakes of the past with bigger and better vessels, while changing a grand strategy overnight. From these one gets hybrid ships within a hybrid navy with neither fully developed U-Boat arm, nor a strong enough capital ship fleet. A mutt of a navy. Which, given the National Socialists' horror of everything hybridized, is pretty much ironic.

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Re: German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

Postby Paul Lakowski » 18 Aug 2017 03:40

Nautilus wrote:
Paul Lakowski wrote:Hitler prevented most of naval plan 1928 building plan, because he believed it would upset his plans for neutralising the British Empire.


There's a thing with grand strategy. Which Westerners know tacitly, Soviet Generals had formalised and put on paper. (While British Admirals say it poetically: "it takes 3 years to build a ship, but 300 years to build a tradition" :) ) The fact that grand strategy, simple in words, permeates every field of a country's life, involves everyone, as they know it or not. Once set in place, is set in stone, you can't change it in just months or years.
.


Don't think this adds up.Clearly the limitations of military power need better respect,

It may take 300 years to build a tradition and 3 years to build a ship, but it only takes one torpedo or lucky shell hit to destroy such a warship. That didn't exist in the 19th century but through the 20th century it evaporated naval power, even the largest warship can be crippled by the smallest warship of the smallest navy. Today you don't even need a warship to do that.

Wehrmacht mobile warfare had its limitations , fighting over western Russia was never envisaged in German mobile warfare thinking. It was Hitler mad racial notions that drove the land war. It was Hitler belief a long war was not needed, since Germanys enemies would not hang together, they could be defeated sequentially. Without Hitler there would be no Barbarossa.

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Re: German battlecruisers and the Scharnhorst class

Postby thaddeus_c » 25 Aug 2017 13:54

Nautilus wrote:But while Britain was no land power, neither had the German Reich a way to use a fully grown sea power. Unless it used some dark magic to teleport a German naval base outside the confined waters of the Baltic.


clearly with hindsight u-boats should have been seen as their primary force, but they had hindsight as well ... of WWI. but they do not want to alarm or provoke the British, so they could have "set the table" and built out all the supporting force?

the putative tonnage limit was 20,000 tonnes and my view was all that was needed. build 5 Admiral Hipper-class ships with 6 x 11" guns and the high speed steam engines for home waters (they could hold out that last 3 were going to have quad 8" guns if need be)

probably could have finished 20 - 24 mixed propulsion ships approx. 5,000 - 7,500 tonnes capable of Atlantic operations instead of their OTL destroyers.

recycled the (approx.) two dozen WWI coal powered ships into AA escorts for coastal duties along with an equal number of G-class escorts (approx. twice size of M-class)

still leaves issue of being confined in Baltic and North Sea, not solved by invasion of Norway. my view they needed to operate from Greenland, the access to Pacific gained thru pact with Soviets could not be planned anticipated. that does not mean they need to occupy whole of Greenland but rather have pre-planned floating bases and mobile bases on land.


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