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Battlecruiser_Yavuz

Keeping the Scapa Flow Fleet into World War II - A Historical What-If Question

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Hello!  I thought this was an interesting question to pose to the community.

As you guys know, the scuttling of the German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow was a great event in the waning hours of the First World War that eliminated a lot of warships.  These ranged from little destroyers to grand battleships.

For historical conjecture (I doubt this would've happened in real life), let's say that the Germans was allowed to maintain the ships that were heading to Scapa Flow in a disarmed state.  Let's also say that the Nazi Party rises like it did in our timeline, but their new Kriegsmarine is bolstered by all of this old German equipment.

If you were a German admiral looking at this fleet, what would you do with the ships?  Would you scrap them all to make room for more advanced designs or would you upgrade them to help bolster the surface fleet?  Also, how would keeping this fleet have affected German naval development during the Second World War?

Here is a link to all the ships that were sunk at Scapa Flow during the scuttling: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scuttling_of_the_German_fleet_in_Scapa_Flow#In_captivity

Thanks!

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Baden, Bayern and Hindenberg are the only ones worth reconstructing, (if German dockyard facilities can handle all three reconstructions and new construction at the same time). All three would need to be fitted with newer, higher-powered engines and boilers, their horizontal armor, internal compartmentation and torpedo protection revised, their main armament upgraded and brand new secondaries and AAA fitted (aka à la Queen Elizabeth and Renown complete reconstructions for the RN).

The upgraded Bayern in the game gives you an idea, but not a whole one. Bayern and Baden reconfigured for 26 knots and Hindenberg for 31.5 knots to match RN, MN and RM ships. Main gun range increase of 10% is essential. No real need game-wise for more.

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I would guess the steel would be used for newer ships. But more likely used for more tanks. 

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25 minutes ago, Battlecruiser_Yavuz said:

For historical conjecture (I doubt this would've happened in real life), let's say that the Germans was allowed to maintain the ships that were heading to Scapa Flow in a disarmed state.  Let's also say that the Nazi Party rises like it did in our timeline, but their new Kriegsmarine is bolstered by all of this old German equipment.

If you were a German admiral looking at this fleet, what would you do with the ships?  Would you scrap them all to make room for more advanced designs or would you upgrade them to help bolster the surface fleet?  Also, how would keeping this fleet have affected German naval development during the Second World War?

 

3 minutes ago, GrandAdmiral_2016 said:

Baden, Bayern and Hindenberg are the only ones worth reconstructing, (if German dockyard facilities can handle all three reconstructions and new construction at the same time). All three would need to be fitted with newer, higher-powered engines and boilers, their horizontal armor, internal compartmentation and torpedo protection revised, their main armament upgraded and brand new secondaries and AAA fitted (aka à la Queen Elizabeth and Renown complete reconstructions for the RN).

The upgraded Bayern in the game gives you an idea, but not a whole one. Bayern and Baden reconfigured for 26 knots and Hindenberg for 31.5 knots to match RN, MN and RM ships. Main gun range increase of 10% is essential. No real need game-wise for more.

^ This.

By the end of WW1, most of the pre to mid war Dreadnoughts were essentially obsolete on both sides.

 

Also I question on if those German ships would have survived until the rise of the Nazi party.

Those German ships, while 'disarmed', constitute a fleet in being. The British would want a fleet to counter that. Many of the British ships were, as stated, obsolete and had seen hard service in the war, and required replacement. That requires new builds and money, something the British empire lacked at the end of WW1. The replacements would likely cause another arms race, which was one of the factors that had led up to WW1. The Washington and London treaties essentially killed off new BBs for at least 10+ years and set up limits on the numbers, size and armament. While the Germans were not part of the actual treaty, in your 'fantasy' world, since they still had a 'fleet', they would likely be a party to the treaty. While in no position to build new ships, they might be required to eliminate some of their fleet.

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An interesting question. I don't doubt the vast majority would be scrapped.

Of the British Grand Fleet for instance, which by the end of WWI had a force of about 36 dreadnought battleships and 11 battlecruisers, found itself at the outbreak of WWII with 3 battlecruisers, 10 battleships of WWI vintage (5 QE's and 5 R's), 2 inter-war battleships (Nelson and Rodney) and that's about it. Down to 15 ships from about 45. In the order of battle though Furious, Glorious and Courageous were converted to aircraft carriers.

The reasons for this were both economic, and by treaty. In the aftermath of WWI Versailles imposed some very tight constraints on German naval power. In the scenario where things are more forgiven and some/all of the fleet is returned then I'd expect Germany to instead be bound by the Washington Naval Treaty.

The WNT limited the UK and USA to 525,000t of capital ships each, Japan to 315,000t while Italy and France were both allowed 175,000t. I can't see Germany doing much better than France or Italy if I'm honest. France and Italy were also allowed 60,000t of aircraft carriers. That's a very open question.

175,000t would limit Germany to (selecting the most modern ships inc. those incomplete) the 4 Bayern's, Hindenburg and Mackensen. While more Mackensens and Ersatz Yorck's were on order, they'd barely started in the case of Ersatz Yorck, and the British might squeal.

Just 6 ships. Everything else goes, with the possible exception of 'demilitarized training ships' such as Iron Duke for the UK and Hiei for Japan, Hiei had a lot of boilers, armor and a turret removed. Come 1936 the Japanese restored Hiei, which might let the Germans sneak a 7th ship in. I don't know if they would exercise the carrier option at all.

 

The Washington Naval Treaty also imposed limits on when you could scrap and replace the ships - basically after 20 years from the date of completion. To abide by the treaty the scrap-dates would be 1936 for Bayern, 1937 for Baden and Hindenburg, and with the other three ships all completed post-war probably in the early 1940's.

In the tense environment leading up to WWII taking the opportunity and spending the money to scrap and replace seems unlikely, new construction may come online and I'd expect the Germans would apply similar rebuilds to their 6 retained veterans as the UK did to the Queen Elizabeth class and Japan did with the Kongo class, though some of the R's were pretty poorly modernized.

Come the outbreak of WWII the fleet would have an approximation of a battleline. With 6 or 7 available German hulls, I would probably bide my time. The battlecruisers might be risked on commerce raiding but I'd likely be cautious. It's not clear if the Bismarck and Scharnhorst class would be built, if they were plus those 6 ships I'd expect a British response. If Britain with 15 battleship hulls is forced to deal with 6 or 7 Germans plus 4 Italian rebuilds with other ships coming on line they may not enjoy the large force advantage. On the other hand they might lay down more KGV types earlier, and accelerate the Lion class.

 

Edited by mofton
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I have no idea which is causing others to now wonder why in the hell I posted here if I have no idea. :Smile_veryhappy:

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If the Germans still had their Imperial Battleships, it's feasible to consider that the Kriegsmarine would devote far more resources in preserving their fleet-in-being by building far more support and screen ships over U-Boats.  This could ironically leave Germany in a worse position in the Battle of the Atlantic.  Part of the sunk cost fallacy.  Those ships would have been the most expensive part of the fleet, even if their value did not match it anymore.

 

Would the Royal Navy maintain a larger navy in response?  That is difficult to consider because the UK ended up bankrupt at the end of WWII, so how much larger a military they could support historically becomes questionable.  However, the shift in the balance of power could prompt FDR to provide more naval assets and sooner.  I seem to remember that when the threat of French Battleships falling into German hands almost prompted the US's entry into entering the war because of such a potential massive shift in naval power, which is why Hitler didn't immediately just have the French Battleships handed over by the Armistice.  The size of the German fleet could have an effect on the mind of the former US Secretary of the Navy.

Edited by Sventex
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27 minutes ago, Sventex said:

Would the Royal Navy maintain a larger navy in response?  That is difficult to consider because the UK ended up bankrupt at the end of WWII, so how much larger a military they could support historically becomes questionable.  However, the shift in the balance of power could prompt FDR to provide more naval assets and sooner.  I seem to remember that when the threat of French Battleships falling into German hands almost prompted the US's entry into entering the war because of such a potential massive shift in naval power, which is why Hitler didn't immediately just have the French Battleships handed over by the Armistice.  The size of the German fleet could have an effect on the mind of the former US Secretary of the Navy.

The UK was bankrupt at the end of the Great War and was living on American credit even then. And the US Senate, controlled by the Republicans to whom internationalism was anathema, insisted that Britain pay back every dollar owed, with interest. The British could barely afford to keep and build what they had in 1939, even with the Treaty restrictions. The net result was almost a complete loss of industrial base needed to build and maintain a large fleet to counter anything like were are discussing. Sterile dicussion, this. The British acceptance of parity with the USN in Washington in 1921 is a direct admission that the USN was now the major player as Britain was broke. Only US internal politics and isolationism prevented the USN from renewing its own fleet, even after the Treaty downsizing took place. Otherwise replacement construction for the Arkansas, New York, and Nevada classes would have started in 1929, at the twenty-year limit...water under the bridge, folks...

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