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Sventex

Pre-Dread Battleship vs WWII Cruiser

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I'm trying to assess the capabilities of the Pre-Dread Battleships during WWII.  Despite their old design, were they capable of defeating more modern ships, or were they hopelessly obsolete?  Did the Pre-Dreads have the modern optics to outrange a modern cruiser?  Did they have the armor to withstand modern 8" shells?  In World of Warships the answer isn't even in doubt, but what about the real world?  

To focus the debate, I'll have the Deutschland-class battleship Schleswig-Holstein stand in for the Pre-Dreadnought Battleship, famous for firing the opening shots of WWII.

Armament in 1939:

(2 × 2 – 28 cm SK L/40 guns)

0447-hours-schleswig-holstein-opened-fir

For the WW2, I'll have the heavy cruiser HMS Exeter act as a stand in.  She famously fought against the Graf Spee at the River Plate.  She lost all her guns against the Graf Spee's 11" guns, but she survived the battle.

Armament:    
3 × twin 8 in (203 mm) guns

Photo06caExeter1NP.jpg

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If we assume original FCS for each ship then it might be more in favor of the CA, but if their FCS is for the same year - ie, 1939, then I'd be more inclined to say the PBB...

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One on one, I'd say the battleship has the advantage.  The reasons for this are:

As Schesweig-Holstein was in 1939 the 4 11" can fire the modern shell (same one used on Scharnhorst etc.), and with 30 degree elevation can shoot to as far as any 8" gun.  The 15cm secondary battery is still relatively numerous and can shoot to about 18,000 meters so it can definitely engage a cruiser most of the time along with the main battery.

This puts 6 8" guns up against 4 11" plus about half a dozen 15cm guns.  While the 8" will fire at about double the rate of the 11" and about the same as the 15cm, the preponderance of fire lies with the battleship on sheer weight of numbers of guns firing.

The battleship also has much more armor, even as old as it is.  The deck armor is somewhat thin, but then so is the deck armor on the cruiser.  The turrets and barbettes on the battleship are impenetrable being 9 to 11" of armor.  The battleship's belt is 9" while the secondary battery has about 4" of protection with 1" shields.  The deck is about 1.5" thick and covers most of the ship.  The belt is complete and covers the entire length of the ship, thinning at the bow and stern.  The steering gear is well protected against gunfire.  This is against a 3" belt on the cruiser (5" in way of the magazines), a 1.5" deck, and 1" of turret and barbette armor.

In this match up, many of the cruiser's hits would not penetrate the armor and damage to critical systems would be reduced while almost any hit by the battleship's main or secondary armament would devastate the area of the cruiser hit.  Waterline hits would be a flooding issue for the cruiser while the battleship would likely sluff them off or have limited flooding from one at most.

The cruiser would have a slight advantage in fire control, but I don't think it'd be overwhelming.  Both ships would have to move into about 15,000 yards or less to really engage in any case.

So, the likelihood is that both will score hits, but the ones the battleship scores will take out critical systems, be it propulsion plant or armament, and in short order leave the cruiser crippled.  In return, most of the hits the cruiser would score would do minimal damage to the battleship.  Much of it would be superficial even if it were extensive.  It simply wouldn't reduce fighting efficiency the way hits on the cruiser would.

The cruiser's speed would only be useful for running away.  The battleship could plod along and simply make course changes to bring her battery to bear as needed.

About the only thing the cruiser could hope to do to win would be to somehow close to torpedo range and score one or more hits with those on the battleship.  That would cripple it.  Of course, the likelihood of that succeeding is slim to none.  The battleship would pulverize the cruiser long before it could close to effective torpedo range (about 5,000 yards or less).

 

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42 minutes ago, Murotsu said:

One on one, I'd say the battleship has the advantage.  The reasons for this are:

As Schesweig-Holstein was in 1939 the 4 11" can fire the modern shell (same one used on Scharnhorst etc.), and with 30 degree elevation can shoot to as far as any 8" gun.  The 15cm secondary battery is still relatively numerous and can shoot to about 18,000 meters so it can definitely engage a cruiser most of the time along with the main battery.

This puts 6 8" guns up against 4 11" plus about half a dozen 15cm guns.  While the 8" will fire at about double the rate of the 11" and about the same as the 15cm, the preponderance of fire lies with the battleship on sheer weight of numbers of guns firing.

The battleship also has much more armor, even as old as it is.  The deck armor is somewhat thin, but then so is the deck armor on the cruiser.  The turrets and barbettes on the battleship are impenetrable being 9 to 11" of armor.  The battleship's belt is 9" while the secondary battery has about 4" of protection with 1" shields.  The deck is about 1.5" thick and covers most of the ship.  The belt is complete and covers the entire length of the ship, thinning at the bow and stern.  The steering gear is well protected against gunfire.  This is against a 3" belt on the cruiser (5" in way of the magazines), a 1.5" deck, and 1" of turret and barbette armor.

In this match up, many of the cruiser's hits would not penetrate the armor and damage to critical systems would be reduced while almost any hit by the battleship's main or secondary armament would devastate the area of the cruiser hit.  Waterline hits would be a flooding issue for the cruiser while the battleship would likely sluff them off or have limited flooding from one at most.

The cruiser would have a slight advantage in fire control, but I don't think it'd be overwhelming.  Both ships would have to move into about 15,000 yards or less to really engage in any case.

So, the likelihood is that both will score hits, but the ones the battleship scores will take out critical systems, be it propulsion plant or armament, and in short order leave the cruiser crippled.  In return, most of the hits the cruiser would score would do minimal damage to the battleship.  Much of it would be superficial even if it were extensive.  It simply wouldn't reduce fighting efficiency the way hits on the cruiser would.

The cruiser's speed would only be useful for running away.  The battleship could plod along and simply make course changes to bring her battery to bear as needed.

About the only thing the cruiser could hope to do to win would be to somehow close to torpedo range and score one or more hits with those on the battleship.  That would cripple it.  Of course, the likelihood of that succeeding is slim to none.  The battleship would pulverize the cruiser long before it could close to effective torpedo range (about 5,000 yards or less).

 

Got to agree with this. Steel plate be it older or not is still steel plate. Torps on the other hand would sway the decision, remember port arthur? Mines were responsible for the loss of several pre dreadnoughts.

Edited by monpetitloup
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1 hour ago, slayer6 said:

If we assume original FCS for each ship then it might be more in favor of the CA, but if their FCS is for the same year - ie, 1939, then I'd be more inclined to say the PBB...

S-H received both a refit in 1926 and in 1944. I know for certain that the second one improved her fire control, and gave her new rangefinders and even some radar devices.

The first one, going by the pictures I have at hand, at least added new optical rangefinders. I would not be surprised to see a touch being added to the FCS.

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2 hours ago, SireneRacker said:

S-H received both a refit in 1926 and in 1944. I know for certain that the second one improved her fire control, and gave her new rangefinders and even some radar devices.

A pre-Dread with circa 1944 radar and FCS? Oh wow, I know what the next tier 2 premium I want to see is!

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Though I am inclined to give Schleswig-Holstein the advantage in the above mentioned engagement simply because she would have Exeter outgunned, I also feel the need to mention that Schleswig-Holstein suffers from the same major flaw that plagued a lot (but not all) Pre-Jutland battleship designs, namely that she had abysmal horizontal protection. 40mm of deck armor needless to say does not offer adequate protection against 203mm AP shells. (This isn't a jab at German warship design, given that the major breakthroughs in naval design occurred with HMS Dreadnought and at the battle of Jutland. Schleswig-Holsteins design Predates both.)

So: Schleswig-Holstein clearly holds the advantage, but her weak horizontal protection offers Exeter a better fighting chance than one might think at first glance. If only ever so slight.

 

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If the Cruiser remains at range, keeps up its speed and maneuvering, the cruiser would have the advantage over the Pre-Dreadnought. It is much faster and can move into fire range and out, dictating where it wants to fight.

 

If they are fighting at the ranges of lets say Savo Island, Pre-Dreadnought hands down. Modern cruisers were not really designed for the kind of brawling they did there.

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According to Sigfried Breyer in Battleships and Battlecruisers 1905 to 1970 the Deutschland class has the following for armor:

The main belt is 240 mm (9.5").

There is a lower strake below the waterline that is 170 mm (6.7")

The upper belt, that extends from the main belt to the main deck is 170mm

The armored deck is a turtleback with 67mm slopes (2.6") and 40mm (1.57")

There is a partial upper armored deck on the outboard portions of the main deck that is 35mm (1.4").  This provides overhead protection to the secondary battery casemates.

The armored deck has slopes forward and aft that act like partial transverse bulkheads 97mm (3.9")

The turrets are 280mm on the face, 120mm sides, with 50mm roofs.

The conning tower is 300mm

The citadel around it is 80mm

There is an armored strake at the waterline that goes from the citadel to the bow and stern 100 mm

The armored deck covers the entire length of the ship

The secondary battery casemates are 150 to 170mm

The armor is Krupp cemented.

The coal bunkers were designed to act as torpedo protection and there is a weak torpedo bulkhead forming the inner face of these.

The way the decks and side armor are designed, I'd say the cruiser would have to be pretty lucky to get a deck penetration from plunging fire.  The shell would have to go over the side armor, land behind that 35mm upper partial armor deck, then plunge through 2 or 3 decks before penetrating the main armor deck.  I think that would take a stroke of sheer luck to have happen.

Given early WW 2 RN fire controls, I'd say the cruiser would have to come into about 15,000 or less yards to get hits at a rate that would make any difference.  The German ship could use the 11" and do about as well as the cruiser beyond that.  The battleship having some edge at long range being a more stable firing platform.  If the cruiser maintained high speed and maneuvered at longer range, the probability of hits would be significantly reduced.  So, while this offers some protection against the battleship's fire, it is offset by the reduction in own ship's effectiveness.

Edited by Murotsu

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On 9/24/2018 at 10:40 PM, Murotsu said:

As Schesweig-Holstein was in 1939 the 4 11" can fire the modern shell (same one used on Scharnhorst etc.), and with 30 degree elevation can shoot to as far as any 8" gun.  The 15cm secondary battery is still relatively numerous and can shoot to about 18,000 meters so it can definitely engage a cruiser most of the time along with the main battery.

This was very much abnormal for pre-dreads though. Schesweig-Holstein in 1939 is not a good example of a predreadnought battleship. Most of them have significantly less gun elevation and use considerably worse projectiles and powder throughout their careers. Even WW1-era battlecruisers (or battleships) like Derfflinger, unreconstructed, would be outranged by the average 8" cruiser of 1940. (Indeed, Derfflinger and her sisters' maximum range is 10k yards shorter than that of most USN heavy cruisers and actually about the same range they would normally consider comfortable combat range.)

To be honest this entire setup has been framed very badly to produce an outcome that could be extrapolated to the general; Exeter is among the weakest 8" cruiser designs and strongest possible predread has been chosen.

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2 hours ago, NGTM_1R said:

This was very much abnormal for pre-dreads though. Schesweig-Holstein in 1939 is not a good example of a predreadnought battleship. Most of them have significantly less gun elevation and use considerably worse projectiles and powder throughout their careers. Even WW1-era battlecruisers (or battleships) like Derfflinger, unreconstructed, would be outranged by the average 8" cruiser of 1940. (Indeed, Derfflinger and her sisters' maximum range is 10k yards shorter than that of most USN heavy cruisers and actually about the same range they would normally consider comfortable combat range.)

To be honest this entire setup has been framed very badly to produce an outcome that could be extrapolated to the general; Exeter is among the weakest 8" cruiser designs and strongest possible predread has been chosen.

Well would a stronger cruiser like Mogami be able to win against Schleswig-Holstein in 1939?

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3 hours ago, NGTM_1R said:

This was very much abnormal for pre-dreads though. Schesweig-Holstein in 1939 is not a good example of a predreadnought battleship. Most of them have significantly less gun elevation and use considerably worse projectiles and powder throughout their careers. Even WW1-era battlecruisers (or battleships) like Derfflinger, unreconstructed, would be outranged by the average 8" cruiser of 1940. (Indeed, Derfflinger and her sisters' maximum range is 10k yards shorter than that of most USN heavy cruisers and actually about the same range they would normally consider comfortable combat range.)

To be honest this entire setup has been framed very badly to produce an outcome that could be extrapolated to the general; Exeter is among the weakest 8" cruiser designs and strongest possible predread has been chosen.

You would still have much the same problem if the ship were in WW 1 condition.  Yes, the cruiser would do better, but it would hardly be a one-sided fight.  The cruiser would still have to come under 20,000 yards, and probably within 15,000, to really get more than a few random hits.  The armor issue is still present.  That hasn't changed.

The Schesweig-Holsein's secondary battery in WW 1 is 17 cm guns with a 30 degree elevation.  Using WW 1 ammunition they could shoot to about 19,000 yards and do represent a plunging fire threat.  The 28 cm guns, even in WW 1 could elevate, likewise, to 30 degrees on these ships and fire to about 20,000 yards.  WW 2 vintage ammunition increased their range to about 28,000.

But, since 20,000 represents the practical horizon for all intents for optical fire control, you need to be under that range to fire without radar.

So, the German battleship even in WW 1 condition has a significant gunnery advantage when it hits.  Either gun will pretty much guarantee a penetration of almost any cruiser's armor where the 8" return fire is unlikely to get a penetration be it against the side armor (much thicker than the round will penetrate) or the deck (sufficiently arranged that almost any hit will fail to penetrate the main armor deck except over a small area because of the second layer of armor over the secondary battery).

This in reverse is something akin to the problem the German Pacific squadron faced in WW 1 off the Falkland Islands.  Canopus, an old battleship was in harbor there.  The Scharnhorst and Gneisenau simply lacked the shell power to take the old ship on and would have been facing a similar problem to the one presented here.

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Also looking into things a bit more, apparently by the time Schleswig-Holstein had all that snazzy modern fire-control and range-finding equipment her casemate guns had been completely removed and replaced with a battery of flak 88s.  Kind of disappointing, but woe and betide any Langley that ran across her.

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16 hours ago, Landsraad said:

Also looking into things a bit more, apparently by the time Schleswig-Holstein had all that snazzy modern fire-control and range-finding equipment her casemate guns had been completely removed and replaced with a battery of flak 88s.  Kind of disappointing, but woe and betide any Langley that ran across her.

As the photos above show, Schleswig-Holstein in 1939 retained her 15cm guns and had fire controls modernized.  It wouldn't be until about mid 1943 that the antiaircraft battery is greatly enhanced and the secondary guns removed.  At that point the ship was being used intermittently as a training vessel and retained in service mainly because she ran on coal rather than oil.

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On 10/11/2018 at 4:20 PM, Murotsu said:

The cruiser would still have to come under 20,000 yards, and probably within 15,000, to really get more than a few random hits.  The armor issue is still present.  That hasn't changed.

The problem with this viewpoint is that it in no way matches actual combat experience in WW2 surface actions. The inability to penetrate the armor is not actually a hindrance to rendering the ship combat ineffective, as demonstrated by what happened to Hiei, South Dakota, Bismarck, and others. Once it has fires on deck and no working fire-control then the game is over and the opposing cruiser can close in and pound on the target as it pleases. It's also wrong to count the casemate guns in this situation as they have little in the way of fire-control or stabilization compared to the primary armament and are intended for very-close-range engagements, under ten thousand yards despite their theoretical maximum ranges. Engaging at 20k yards or even 15k yards with them isn't going to produce a noticeable number of hits compared to the main battery. And a WW1 predread design is going to be an easier target than a WW2 heavy cruiser at 20k yards; it's slower and does not maneuver as well.

On 10/11/2018 at 3:32 PM, Sventex said:

Well would a stronger cruiser like Mogami be able to win against Schleswig-Holstein in 1939?

Possibly? Schleswig-Holstein's output on its main battery is very low due to the fact it only has four guns, lower even than the Deutschlands, and the Deutschlands were known to find themselves in situations where they had to run away from 6" gun cruisers that had established fire superiority; Sheffield did it alone and Ajax and Achilles managed it together. I would give it slightly better than even odds against a York, a County-class ship, or a Furutaka/Aoba, but 50/50 against a Pensacola or Myoko and less than a half chance of winning a battle against a Takao/Mogami or any US heavy cruiser class from New Orleans to Des Moines. Its chances of winning drop precipitously if it has to fight them at night where ranges are shorter, rapid fire counts more, and Japanese types can employ their torpedoes effectively.

Note this is about who has to disengage (or try to) more than about who gets sunk. In almost all cases the initiative on whether to fight the battle further lies with the cruiser.

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3 hours ago, NGTM_1R said:

The problem with this viewpoint is that it in no way matches actual combat experience in WW2 surface actions. The inability to penetrate the armor is not actually a hindrance to rendering the ship combat ineffective, as demonstrated by what happened to Hiei, South Dakota, Bismarck, and others. Once it has fires on deck and no working fire-control then the game is over and the opposing cruiser can close in and pound on the target as it pleases. It's also wrong to count the casemate guns in this situation as they have little in the way of fire-control or stabilization compared to the primary armament and are intended for very-close-range engagements, under ten thousand yards despite their theoretical maximum ranges. Engaging at 20k yards or even 15k yards with them isn't going to produce a noticeable number of hits compared to the main battery. And a WW1 predread design is going to be an easier target than a WW2 heavy cruiser at 20k yards; it's slower and does not maneuver as well.

Actually, it tracks well with WW 2 surface actions.  The Hiei was subject to her pounding by cruisers and destroyers at relatively short range.  Even then, they didn't take out much of the command and control systems on the ship even as the tattered the topsides and started fires.  In return, the Hiei devastated the light AA cruiser Atlanta in just a few salvos, rendering her combat ineffective.  The cruiser San Francisco survived better by virtue of being so close (about 2,000 yards or less), that all of her damage was to the superstructure.  Even so, she too was quickly rendered hors de combat.  Hiei's fires were a problem that grew mainly because of the poor quality of Japanese damage control.  Even so, the damage was insufficient to prevent her leaving the battle space and making way for hours before air attacks in daylight finished her off.

With S. Dakota it's even more clear that 5" to 8" shells just don't do a lot to battleships.  S. Dakota was hit something like 20 to 30 times but almost all of the damage was really superficial.  The small fires started were rapidly brought under control and the ship was never in danger of being wrecked or crippled.

Bismarck was finished off by two battleships.  The cruisers and destroyers just added insult to injury.  But, it was the 14 and 16" guns of KGV and Rodney that did all the serious damage and ended that fight.  Again, the Bismarck didn't burn out but rather was simply demolished by heavy shell fire.

The Scharnhorst at North Cape, likewise, was able to easily fend off RN cruisers and destroyers until the Duke of York showed up and blew her out of the water.  Only then could the destroyers race in and deliver a finishing blow of torpedoes.

At the same time, you look at:

Exeter.  This cruiser took 3 11" hits and was pretty much finished.  Those took out the forward two 8" turrets, the torpedo tubes, and the float plane and catapult along with some minor flooding and machinery damage.

The aforementioned Atlanta.

The cruiser Norfolk at North Cape was heavily damaged by just 2 11" hits that took out a turret and most of the fire controls.

At Matapan, British battleships made short work of Italian 8" cruisers.

There are plenty of other examples too.

 

Quote

 

Possibly? Schleswig-Holstein's output on its main battery is very low due to the fact it only has four guns, lower even than the Deutschlands, and the Deutschlands were known to find themselves in situations where they had to run away from 6" gun cruisers that had established fire superiority; Sheffield did it alone and Ajax and Achilles managed it together. I would give it slightly better than even odds against a York, a County-class ship, or a Furutaka/Aoba, but 50/50 against a Pensacola or Myoko and less than a half chance of winning a battle against a Takao/Mogami or any US heavy cruiser class from New Orleans to Des Moines. Its chances of winning drop precipitously if it has to fight them at night where ranges are shorter, rapid fire counts more, and Japanese types can employ their torpedoes effectively.

Note this is about who has to disengage (or try to) more than about who gets sunk. In almost all cases the initiative on whether to fight the battle further lies with the cruiser.

 

The reason the panzerschiffe ran from enemy warships was they were operating singularly as commerce raiders.  Even light or moderate damage could have rendered them ineffective given that they had no means to repair such damage.

I'd say that any single cruiser trying to take on an old battleship, like the Schleswig-Holstein,  is in for rough handling from a historical perspective.  The cruiser simply can't do enough damage to make up for even just a few return hits from the battleship's main battery.  Any of those cruisers taking as little as 3 or 4 well placed 11" hits would find their fighting power seriously diminished while their own fire would be relatively ineffective.  Those old battleships are better protected than a panzerschiffe that has cruiser-like armor.

In the end, much of this would come down to who hit who early on.  If the battleship gets even one or two serious hits, or several 6" hits early on it's going to be a downhill match for the cruiser.  The cruiser might get lucky and hit some critical system like the spotting top or such, but even then it won't really reduce the fighting power that much.   Pumping a half dozen 8" shells into the battleship simply will not have anywhere near the effect the battleship's fire has when it hits. 

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Exeter has an almost 14 knot advantage in terms of speed, she has the ability to dictate the pace of the battle and when and where to engage.

There is no doubt that Schleswig-Holstein's main battery pose a significant threat to a ship such a Exeter if it manages to land some hits, and I have to emphasise if part. Even with modernised fire control the Schleswig-Holstein is seriously going to struggle to hit a far more agile cruiser, i doubt her turrets hold many records for turret traverse either which just compounds the issue further. The secondary battery are largely irrelevant and the idea of using those guns to hit a cruiser at even moderate engagement distances is doubtful.

While an engagement like this is unlikely to be one sided it will depend on conditions of the battle, and with her speed this is something Exeter can dictate, if the conditions are optimal the cruiser can use either SAPC or HE shells to inflict damage to Schleswig-Holstein and her crew to render the ship combat ineffective, a lucky torpedo hit is also likely prove to be fatal. The idea of the coal store being designed as some form of torpedo protection is laughable as coal dust is highly volatile and explosive. 

If Schleswig-Holstein was to gain the upperhand Exeter need only use her speed to disengage.

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It would depend on the pairing and timing to a certain degree - Exeter is one of the weaker Heavy Cruisers and Schleswig-Holstein one of the better, and better upgraded pre-Dreadnoughts ever built.

Range

If you put Exeter up against say a British ship with the 12in/40 Mk. IX guns then the range/rangefinders issue becomes quite intense:

The sources below disagree as to the maximum ranges and muzzle velocities of these guns. I have chosen to use those values given in "British Naval Guns 1880-1945 No 4" by John Campbell.It should be mentioned that these maximum ranges were of little use at the time these ships were built. Fire control systems and rangefinders capable of accurately firing at ranges over 10,000 yards (9,140 m) were nonexistent. - http://www.navweaps.com/Weapons/WNBR_12-40_mk9.php

Given that any modern Heavy Cruiser could look to reliably hit at 12-14,000 yards or so that makes the Pre-Dreadnought a dead-duck in that case.

This is not necessarily just confined to that generation of Pre-Dreadnoughts. The British 12in/45 Mk. X used on the Dreadnought and also Lord Nelson Class Pre-Dreadnoughts had a maximum elevation of 13.5' as built, and with the original 2crh shell a range of just 16,450 yards, space for a CA to hit semi-reliably from further out. With the 4crh shell range becomes a non issue.

As for the CA hitting back it's also notable that Exeter scored her only two hits early and at considerable range - opening at 18,700 yards. At the Java Sea hits on cruisers over 20,000 yards away were recorded - although in that long range engagement the Japanese managed 0.4% hits - 1,271 shots for 5 hits, Exeter 0 hits and Houston unclear but only a handful. The Japanese cruisers probably had about 1,200-1,260 rounds on board, so they shot away more than half their likely allotment.

For a Myoko class, staying at extreme range and shooting away the entire magazine may well be pretty unproductive.

There are some long-range cruiser hits documented here:

Damage

As Murotsu covered, Graf Spee was able to neutralize Exeter as a warship with just a handful of hits, and Norfolk was damaged as well by a few rounds from Scharnhorst. The British heavy cruisers are at the softer end of the type however - in particular with just 25mm of turret armor, thin armor over machinery, boxes around magazines. The Graf Spee preferentially fired her nose-fused HE as it was likely to cut up a softer ship, when she fired AP at Achilles and Ajax she largely overpenetrated them for moderate damage.

There are two alternatives - a more solidly armored cruiser, such as a US New Orleans with moderately thick turret armor would probably avoid the serious shrapnel damage. On the downside, a more solidly armored cruiser might serve as a better target for AP rounds, and no matter what the cruiser armor or age of 11-12in shells they should hurt if they connect.

Graf Spee also gives us a small lesson in the effect of cruiser shellfire on a moderately well armored ship, Exeter scoring 2 hits. However of those two hits neither did critical damage, one burst on the upper armored belt and inflicted minor damage, the other overpenetrated the Admiral's Bridge.

The lighter 6in shells of Ajax and Achilles did succeed in knocking out the big foretop rangefinder, a 15cm secondary gun and interrupting ammunition supply to others while causing 6 non-dangerous leaks.

Norfolk similarly managed to destroy the forward radar and gun director atop the forward command tower on Bismarck with an 8in shell hit, then repeated a similar hit to the radar of Scharnhorst a couple of years later.

Conclusion - 8in shellfire is unlikely to be immediately lethal, but degrading superstructure fittings is entirely probable.

 

 

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On 10/14/2018 at 10:25 PM, Murotsu said:

With S. Dakota it's even more clear that 5" to 8" shells just don't do a lot to battleships.  S. Dakota was hit something like 20 to 30 times but almost all of the damage was really superficial.  The small fires started were rapidly brought under control and the ship was never in danger of being wrecked or crippled.

South Dakota was combat ineffective by 5"-to-8" fire. Her fire control couldn't talk to her guns and a loss of electrical power is a major casualty with numerous secondary effects. The actual action report on the battle makes the specific point that heavy cruiser fire was able to render South Dakota ineffective. The most important damage done to Atlanta was actually done by San Francisco; Hiei had no part of it and was entirely ineffective against Atlanta, with her effectiveness against San Francisco being due entirely to the short range allowing accurate point-blank fire from her turret optics rather than her (unable to communicate with the guns) director. Flat-trajectory superstructure hits happen at much longer ranges than 2000 yards; this is back to damage done to Bismarck. We could also go on to point out Yamashiro's fate too; the majority of shell hits she likely took were cruiser calibers.

The characterization of the action in the Battle of the Barents Sea is entirely wrong;  the German force was not operating as a solo merchant raider group but a pair of heavy cruisers with destroyer escort seeking to attack and destroy a convoy in conventional battle. They were in turn ambushed in the polar night by Sheffield who managed to damage Admiral Hipper and force Hipper to call for help from the destroyers and Lutzow, which got one of the destroyers killed and Lutzow forced to disengage by accurate and voluminous 6" gunfire.

And the most important point you are overlooking is that we have been discussing battleships being rendered ineffective by cruiser gunfire/gunfire that did not pierce their armor...and these were much larger, much heavier ships, where a shellhit is less likely to land upon something important. Schleswig-Holstein is 14218 tons full-load, 22.2m beam, 127.6m long. By comparison, a Myoko-class cruiser is 14980 tons full load, 204m long, and 17m beam. Even a York-class ship is 10350 tons full load, 160m long, and 17m beam.

South Dakota is 207.26m long, with a 32.97m beam, and a full load weight of 45233 tons. Almost double the length, half again as wide, three times the displacement and more. A lot more real estate for shells to fall into without hitting something critical immediately or for fires to be contained in without being on top of something. Raw size has a big effect on the risk to critical systems for hits, and Schleswig-Holstein is not a big ship. Her risks are much higher.

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I'll just address the S. Dakota's electrical problems here.  This was entirely self inflicted.  I've actually experienced the same sort of issue on several ships while in the US Navy.  The clearest parallel was on the USS Enterprise with the CWIS mount aft on the port side.  There was a ground fault in the system and it was traced to that mount.  We (my shop being EE 30, electrical distribution) locked and tagged out the mount.  The operators a day later switched to the emergency power when they found the mount wouldn't work on normal and reinserted the fault.  We then tagged the alternate out (nobody thought to do that the first time around... an oversight) and informed the operators that they had to fix the ground fault to get power back.

On the S. Dakota, the #3 5" Mk 38 director had a ground fault just as the ship entered battle.  The electricians did the same thing, they locked the breaker out to eliminate the fault.  The director crew switched to emergency power, reinserting the fault and causing a cascade failure of one of the ship's load centers resulting in a loss of power to most of the superstructure of the ship.

That, in turn, caused a mass confusion among the fire control and command systems of the ship as the electricians scrambled to correct the problem.  (As an aside, when I was on the 'prize we-- my shop and coworkers-- were recommending that an electrician be assigned to load center 410 on the island to prevent a similar problem even though we didn't know about the S. Dak as an example).  This took time as the electricians had to move through a condition Zed ship, opening then dogging each watertight hatch as they went.  That slowed the recovery down dramatically.

The damage S. Dakota took didn't diminish the ship's fighting capacity hardly at all.  Yes, the radar systems were taken out, but none of the optical systems or fire control computers were effected other than #3 Mk 38 mount.

EMC(SW)

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1 hour ago, Murotsu said:

I'll just address the S. Dakota's electrical problems here. 

Similarly, when HMS Cornwall engaged a German raider she suffered the embarrassment of fuse issues in the circuit controlling her gun traverse leaving her unable to fire. Cornwall got back into operation 7 minutes later and destroyed the raider, Pinguin. Damage sustained from flooding did short out a ring main causing her to lose a dynamo later on.

In a night action such as South Dakota's being out of the fight for even a short time is crippling. In a more 'normal' longer ranged engagement the ability of a ship to self-repair relatively quickly for similar issues seems pretty strong.

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I would say "it depends".

For a pre-dreadnought to be able to kill something it must first catch or corner the target.  WWII cruisers would have a very large speed advantage (19 knots to 32 knots in the S-H vs Exeter matchup).  The pre-dreadnought cannot dictate the terms of the engagement and the cruiser is free to keep out of range and radio for reinforcements.

In  a knife-fight scenario (the pre-dreadnought gets the drop on the cruiser somehow or the cruiser decides to get in real close) the pre-dreadnought could conceivably kill the cruiser in just a few salvos.

Then there is the matter of what other matchups could happen.  Exeter is really a very sad heavy cruiser in many respects.  The S-H is one of the better pre-dreadnoughts out there.  When one considers the low elevation of the main guns on most pre-dreadnoughts, they would fair poorly against WWII era cruisers.

In the right conditions, with one of the better pre-dreadnoughts the pre-dreadnought could take out a cruiser.  However, in the right conditions a cruiser could also take out many of the pre-dreadnoughts that were once in service as well.

The fun thing about Naval warfare is that obsolescence does not always mean useless or hopelessly outclassed.  A shell striking a ship is a shell striking a ship, regardless of the age of the design of the gun, shell and ship.  It then becomes a matter of force applied.  If the force is great enough, the armor will be damaged or breached.  If the force is not great enough, the armor will protect the vessel.

For a slightly wild example, here is a set of pictures of a piece of armor that was fired at with a 15" Dahlgren smoothbore muzzle loading cannon (a US Civil War era weapon).

attachment.php?s=64846e4cfdb229142bddd45

attachment.php?s=64846e4cfdb229142bddd45

attachment.php?s=64846e4cfdb229142bddd45

attachment.php?s=64846e4cfdb229142bddd45

Now, that does not mean to imply that an old muzzle loading cannon would be effective against a WWII era vessel.  But again, in the right situation one could do some serious damage...so if the Germans parked a cruiser beside Fort Sumter and some really crazy malcontents had the knowledge of how to do so, they could put lots of holes in that cruiser. (Note, I know that the Dahlgren XV's were not mounted at Fort Sumter, but it is used to a hypothetical where an obsolete weapon could be used, but I don't have access to any information about the performance of Columbiad guns against armor plate.)

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2 hours ago, MM2ss said:

I would say "it depends".

For a pre-dreadnought to be able to kill something it must first catch or corner the target.  WWII cruisers would have a very large speed advantage (19 knots to 32 knots in the S-H vs Exeter matchup).  The pre-dreadnought cannot dictate the terms of the engagement and the cruiser is free to keep out of range and radio for reinforcements.

In  a knife-fight scenario (the pre-dreadnought gets the drop on the cruiser somehow or the cruiser decides to get in real close) the pre-dreadnought could conceivably kill the cruiser in just a few salvos.

Then there is the matter of what other matchups could happen.  Exeter is really a very sad heavy cruiser in many respects.  The S-H is one of the better pre-dreadnoughts out there.  When one considers the low elevation of the main guns on most pre-dreadnoughts, they would fair poorly against WWII era cruisers.

In the right conditions, with one of the better pre-dreadnoughts the pre-dreadnought could take out a cruiser.  However, in the right conditions a cruiser could also take out many of the pre-dreadnoughts that were once in service as well.

The fun thing about Naval warfare is that obsolescence does not always mean useless or hopelessly outclassed.  A shell striking a ship is a shell striking a ship, regardless of the age of the design of the gun, shell and ship.  It then becomes a matter of force applied.  If the force is great enough, the armor will be damaged or breached.  If the force is not great enough, the armor will protect the vessel.

For a slightly wild example, here is a set of pictures of a piece of armor that was fired at with a 15" Dahlgren smoothbore muzzle loading cannon (a US Civil War era weapon).

attachment.php?s=64846e4cfdb229142bddd45

attachment.php?s=64846e4cfdb229142bddd45

attachment.php?s=64846e4cfdb229142bddd45

attachment.php?s=64846e4cfdb229142bddd45

Now, that does not mean to imply that an old muzzle loading cannon would be effective against a WWII era vessel.  But again, in the right situation one could do some serious damage...so if the Germans parked a cruiser beside Fort Sumter and some really crazy malcontents had the knowledge of how to do so, they could put lots of holes in that cruiser. (Note, I know that the Dahlgren XV's were not mounted at Fort Sumter, but it is used to a hypothetical where an obsolete weapon could be used, but I don't have access to any information about the performance of Columbiad guns against armor plate.)

Well, one of the reasons I started this thread was because pre-dreadnought Battleships go basically unmentioned in WWII history, all talk was of the threat of the Bismarcks and the Scharnhorsts.  Because of that, I wasn't really sure how dangerous the 2 forgotten Deutschland-class battleships that Germany still had at their disposal.

The origin of the question comes from a thread that I cannot remember, where the topic of the RN losing Jutland came up.  Even if the RN lost Jutland, the USN entered WWI with 33 Battleships, 23 of which were pre-dreadnoughts.  The person I was debating had said that a reactivated first-gen USN pre-dread Battleship would have been ineffective against even German Cruisers trying to break through a blockade of Germany.  So that got me wondering about the combat capabilities of the pre-dreadnoughts, even by WWII.  Were these ships still a threat?  Or nearly total obsolescence?  We all know the Mikasa wouldn't last in a tier 6 battle against any cruiser in this game, but in real life the scenario was a total unknown to me.  The Misaka gets outranged by cruisers in her own tier, and I have no idea if that was an actual reflection of reality.

I mean, when you think about it, a Battleship gun is a Battleship gun right?  Even with half the number of a prime Battleship, these ships should logically be very dangerous, but since documentaries don't talk about them in WWII, I thought it would be an interesting question to ask on these forums.  Perhaps only 4 guns meant these ships couldn't land the hits fast enough?  I wasn't sure.

Edited by Sventex

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The difference is that not all battleship guns are created equal.

Many pre-dreadnoughts use guns with lower calibers and less elevation than latter battleships even when the diameter of the shell was the same size.  I will use Royal Navy 12" weapons as an example.

12"/25 Mark II: Colossus, Conqueror and Collingwood classes.  12.5 degree max elevation, range 9,400 yards.

12"/25 Mark III, IV, V: Colossus, Conqueror and Collingwood classes.  13 degree max elevation, range 9,400 yards.

12"/35 Mark VIII: Majestic and Canopus classes.  13.5 degree max elevation, range 14,860 yards.

12"/40 Mark IX: Formidible, Duncan, London and Edward VII classes.  Various mountings, elevations were: 13.5, 20 and 30 degrees.  Ranges were 15,000. 21,000 and 26,500 yards.

12"/45 Mark X: Dreadnought and several other classes.  13.5 degrees, 18,850 yards.

12"/50 Mark XI: St. Vincet, Neptune and Colossus classes.  ~13 degrees, 20,000 yards.

12"/45 Mark XIII: Agincourt.  16 degrees, 20,400 yards or 13.5 degrees and 18,850 yards (sources are not certain about the maximum elevation it seems).

As you can see, a 12" gun is a 12" gun, but they are not all equal...to really throw a wrench into the works I will now ad an American 12" gun...

12"/50 Mark 8, Alaska class...  45 degrees elevation, 38,500 yards range...

Now the Alaska was a "Large Cruiser" (There are two ways to fulfill the 'battlecruiser' mission, make a weekened battleship that trades armor for speed or make a really big cruiser that didn't have that much armor to start with).  I'd say the Alaska wipes out any pre-dreadnought it wants to.  On the other hand a Cleveland is not going to bother a pre-dreadnought too much by itself.

Could pre-dreadnoughts be effective?  Yes, in the right situations.  They cannot force an engagement however and most cruisers would just keep range with their greater speed and call for reinforcements.  A pre-dreadnought would be better used as fire support than anything else really.  It would slow the fleet down or be left behind.  It lacked the range to stand off and pound a cruiser or enemy battleship of WWII vintage.  It lacked the armor scheme and active defenses to protect itself in a WWII environment as well.  But shelling a coastline or something like that?  It would be plenty good enough.  In the unlikely event it did end up having to fight enemy surface units, it would be at a huge disadvantage (generally fewer guns, generally slower rate of fire, generally lower max elevations and thus shorter range, generally less damage potential due to lighter shells at lower velocities with smaller bursting charges).  But it could do "OK" in some scenarios.  The Schleswig-Holstein and her sisters were some of the best pre-dreadnoughts designed in my opinion.  But they were pulled from the front line in WWI after Jutland for a reason...  They became second tier vessels and that would be the best they could hope for without being completely rebuilt.  For most pre-dreadnoughts, those lacking substantial main battery elevation capability, a WWII era 8" gun cruiser could kill them off while staying out of range. (20,000 yards for a 12" gun vs 30,000+ yards for an 8" gun of the WWII period)

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As I like to put it, speed is mostly for running away.  Once you decide to fight, speed makes little on no difference.  I can't find any WW 1 or 2 actions where speed made a difference offensively.  There are numerous cases of faster ships using their speed to break contact and run from battle.  So, for the original scenario given-- the Schleswig-Holstein versus an 8" cruiser-- the cruiser is really hit.  A few extra knots of speed does nothing once it closes to under 20,000 yards.

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