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WirFahrenGegenEngeland

The Deutschland was the biggest (artillery ship)game-changer since HMS Dreadnought and she doesn't get half the credit she deserves

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HMS Dreadnought is a near household name in today's society because of the way she revolutionized naval warfare by quite literally making every single battleship in the world obsolete overnight. This isn't disputed and Dreadnought deserves every bit of recognition she gets for it.

Image result for hms dreadnought

 

However, when the Deutschland was completed in 1933 she also caused just as much of a stir in the naval world, and while Dreadnought could and would be countered by other dreadnoughts an entirely brand new class of warship had to come into play to effectively counter the Deutschland! And yet, Deutschland is not nearly as well-known as the HMS Dreadnought, and it's a crying shame!

 

Deutschland

 

The short and sweet of it goes like this:

     The Treaty of Versailles put extreme limitations on the German military, including the navy. Under this treaty, Germany was not allowed to expand its fleet and could only build new ships to replace old ships. Further, any new battleship built could not exceed a displacement of 10,000 tons. The idea behind this thinking was that Germany would only be able to build either a well-protected monitor or a coastal battleship, in other words, nothing that couldn't be easily countered by any real battleship. However, no limitations were put on speed, protection, or main battery and herein lay the loophole that would ultimately come back to bite the Allies in the butt. Essentially, they had just given Germany permission to build a ship which no one else could...

    The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922, which was signed by all the world's leading naval powers except Germany (which at the time was no longer a leading naval power anyway and which had already signed a treaty limiting what their own navy could build) dictated that any new cruisers built by any of the signatories should not exceed 10,000 tons in displacement and should not employ a main battery gun-size of greater  than 8-inches. Therefore, when Germany built the Deutschland, which ultimately amounted to what was essentially a heavy cruiser armed with 11-inch guns, it shocked an unnerved the world. Here the Germans, without breaking any rules (although, secretly, the Deutschland did end up weighing slightly more than 10,000 tons) had built a warship which, with its 6 x 11" guns, could outgun any ship which could hope to catch it (e.g. another cruiser) and, with a top speed of almost 29 knots, could outrun any existing ship which could hope to outgun it (e.g. a battleship).

     The only ships in the world that, on paper anyway, were capable of catching and outgunning the Deutschland were Great Britains 3 remaining operational battlecruiser. However, in reality, even these would have struggled to catch the Deutschland's either as their steam powerplants ensured that the deisel powered Deutschlands would be able to initially out-accelerate them and ultimately force a long, slow pursuit. Further, at this time German radar capabilities were superior to their English counterparts which meant that a Deutschland was more likely to detect a British battlecruiser(s) first and avoid a confrontation altogether.

     In either event, the rest of the world was indeed rendered helpless in the face of this new ship. The United States Navy, outraged, declared that the Washington Naval Treaty effectively stripped the country of its right to self-defense if it should ever have to fight the Deutschlands or any other ships like them. Immediately, the reaction of the world's navies was to design 'super cruisers' of their own in violation of the WNT as they understood that no 10,000t cruiser of their own armed only with 8" guns would be a match for the Deutschland. However, at this time no one wanted to be the one to outright break the Treaty and so none of these designs ever made it off paper (with the possible exception of the Alaska class which had its roots in the early 30s during the 'Deutschland debacle')

     Ultimately, it was France who was the first to build a counter to the Deutschland and they did so by tapping into their allotted battleship tonnage to build the world's first Fast Battleship (that was designed from the get-go as such, anyway). Everything about the Dunkerque had been fine-tuned to be the perfect antidote to the Deutschland. The guns were more than powerful enough to defeat Deutschlands armor, her own armor was just thick enough to defeat Deutschland's own guns, and she was just fast enough to be able to catch the Deutschlands. Germany and Italy would respond to Dunkerque with fast battleships of their own in the Scharnhorst and Littoro classes, respectively. France would respond to Littorio, first with Strasbourg, and finally with the Richelieu class. Germany would respond to the Richelieu class with the Bismarck class. Great Britain, never one to be outdone on the naval front, built fast battleships of her own in the King George V class and later the Vanguard.

 

     And that, friends, is the legacy of the Deutschland class. A design which so shocked the world that it led to a (mostly) new class of warship being built in response. Every western fast battleship ever built as such, with the possible exception of the American fast battleships, can blame its existence, or in the very least, its roots, on the Deutschland. The American fast battleships are the possible exception as they more or less inherited their speed as a counter to Japan's Kongo class. Still, before the Deutschlands, there were no (designed as such, built as such) fast battleships, there really wasn't a need for a fast battleship, and there wouldn't be an excuse to build a fast battleship until the rebuilds of the Kongos and the old Italian dreadnoughts were finished.

 

I rest my case. The Deutschland was arguably just as revolutionary as the HMS Dreadnought, or in the very least caused just as much of a stir as the Dreadnought did.

Perhaps the main reason the Deutschland is not remembered in the same way as the Dreadnought is that its legacy was the advent/rebirth of the fast battleship, and the fast battleships were, in turn, very quickly made obsolete themselves when the Aircraft Carrier finally proved itself during WWII. The Dreadnought type, on the other hand, would remain the head of any navy for just over 2 decades and therefore, the Dreadnought's legacy enjoyed a nice long time in the spotlight.

 

Image result for deutschland lutzow

Image result for lutzow 1945

 

Thank you for your time!

 

 

Edited by WirFahrenGegenEngeland
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Makes you wonder just how powerful the Kriegsmarine could've been. Given less interservice rivalry and more resources and the KMS would have been monsters :Smile_ohmy:

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6 minutes ago, Cheeezzy said:

Makes you wonder just how powerful the Kriegsmarine could've been. Given less interservice rivalry and more resources and the KMS would have been monsters :Smile_ohmy:

Not much more than they did, Germany didn't have the fuel to support the Kriegsmarine having a large fleet.

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23 minutes ago, SgtBeltfed said:

Not much more than they did, Germany didn't have the fuel to support the Kriegsmarine having a large fleet.

Oh yeah, definitely. Wasn't that why most of the fleet was stuck in ports?

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38 minutes ago, Cheeezzy said:

Makes you wonder just how powerful the Kriegsmarine could've been. Given less interservice rivalry and more resources and the KMS would have been monsters :Smile_ohmy:

 

I think its more that the Germans were able to exploit an obvious loophole in the treaties that they wouldn't have been able to repeat unchecked. The Deutschlands were a one-hit-wonder. Once the allies adjusted to them theres little else the Germans would have been able to do to shake up the naval scene once again.

 

One is forced to wonder if the Deutschlands had been built a few years later if they'd have had a bigger impact during the war. Instead, the world had 7 years to react to them. Though, after Germany was brought into the WNT in 1935 one has to wonder if the Germans would have even built the Deutschlands at all.

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13 minutes ago, Cheeezzy said:

Oh yeah, definitely. Wasn't that why most of the fleet was stuck in ports?

 

The fleet was actually pretty active in the early years of the war when they were expecting a quick end to the war. But yes, after mid-1942 the Germans were really limited by fuel, partially because they had been so liberal with it in the early years. Tirpitz, for example, had to pick and chose which convoys she would sortie for because once she did sortie, she would have to miss the next several convoys while waiting to receive enough fuel to attempt another raid.

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52 minutes ago, Cheeezzy said:

Makes you wonder just how powerful the Kriegsmarine could've been. Given less interservice rivalry and more resources and the KMS would have been monsters :Smile_ohmy:

No matter how powerful the Kreigsmarine could theoretically end up, they'd never beat the Royal Navy in 1v1. The Kreigsmarine would not have existed in a vacuum. If Germany visibly concentrated on building High Seas Fleet 2: Electric Boogaloo, Britain would respond. And Britain had more dockyards, so could easily outbuild Germany in a pinch, and modernise older ships faster. Plus the UK actually had the oil needed to run their fleet.

 

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45 minutes ago, Cheeezzy said:

Oh yeah, definitely. Wasn't that why most of the fleet was stuck in ports?

That and Allied air power. Near the end of the war, the U-Boat pens were essentially just oversized bunkers for Germans looking to avoid getting bombed long enough to surrender to the Americans so they wouldn't end up in the tender mercies of the Russians.

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26 minutes ago, WirFahrenGegenEngeland said:

 

I think its more that the Germans were able to exploit an obvious loophole in the treaties that they wouldn't have been able to repeat unchecked. The Deutschlands were a one-hit-wonder. Once the allies adjusted to them theres little else the Germans would have been able to do to shake up the naval scene once again.

 

One is forced to wonder if the Deutschlands had been built a few years later if they'd have had a bigger impact during the war. Instead, the world had 7 years to react to them. Though, after Germany was brought into the WNT in 1935 one has to wonder if the Germans would have even built the Deutschlands at all.

True, and she did find herself full of competition rather quickly due to a kneejerk reaction that spiraled out of control. Still , for the time, she was a really good ship.

 

23 minutes ago, WirFahrenGegenEngeland said:

 

The fleet was actually pretty active in the early years of the war when they were expecting a quick end to the war. But yes, after mid-1942 the Germans were really limited by fuel, partially because they had been so liberal with it in the early years. Tirpitz, for example, had to pick and chose which convoys she would sortie for because once she did sortie, she would have to miss the next several convoys while waiting to receive enough fuel to attempt another raid.

Yeah, early on they were really active, but war priorities shifted and the KMS essentially became port queens...well maybe not for a few Uboats

 

4 minutes ago, Super_Dreadnought said:

No matter how powerful the Kreigsmarine could theoretically end up, they'd never beat the Royal Navy in 1v1. The Kreigsmarine would not have existed in a vacuum. If Germany visibly concentrated on building High Seas Fleet 2: Electric Boogaloo, Britain would respond. And Britain had more dockyards, so could easily outbuild Germany in a pinch, and modernise older ships faster. Plus the UK actually had the oil needed to run their fleet.

 

Oh yeah, the RN was historically really well known for their ships, even with the German's really good armor, the RN had enough ships to overwhelm them (See Bismarck) and not to mention practically any German port was in range of the RAF.

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25 minutes ago, WirFahrenGegenEngeland said:

 

The fleet was actually pretty active in the early years of the war when they were expecting a quick end to the war. But yes, after mid-1942 the Germans were really limited by fuel, partially because they had been so liberal with it in the early years. Tirpitz, for example, had to pick and chose which convoys she would sortie for because once she did sortie, she would have to miss the next several convoys while waiting to receive enough fuel to attempt another raid.

And even then, the constant aerial attacks the British sent against the Tirpitz made sure that she couldn't leave the relative safety of her fjord without getting bombed to kingdom come.

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1 minute ago, 1Sherman said:

That and Allied air power. Near the end of the war, the U-Boat pens were essentially just oversized bunkers for Germans looking to avoid getting bombed long enough to surrender to the Americans and before the Russians could show up.

Pretty much, practically all German soldiers wanted to surrender to the western allies instead of the Soviets

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4 minutes ago, Super_Dreadnought said:

No matter how powerful the Kreigsmarine could theoretically end up, they'd never beat the Royal Navy in 1v1. The Kreigsmarine would not have existed in a vacuum. If Germany visibly concentrated on building High Seas Fleet 2: Electric Boogaloo, Britain would respond. And Britain had more dockyards, so could easily outbuild Germany in a pinch, and modernise older ships faster. Plus the UK actually had the oil needed to run their fleet.

 

That's very true, the Germans were more or less stuck playing this game of "How much can I build before anyone notices it?" The risk being England and France notice and arm themselves with better equipment, and at that point even France alone would have halted the German advance.

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The Royal Navy had Renown, Repulse and Hood.

Those three ships could outgun, out run, or out armor the "pocket battleships."

And they were a decade older.

The German ships were far from perfect commerce raiders. Sure they could run from most ships that could out gun it, but once convoys were in place she could be easily overwhelmed. German ships could not use the all or nothing armor schemes that other navies used, because they needed to protect everything. These ships would operate far from any repair bases.

Because everything was armored, the armor was really not thick enough to be usefull in any real fight.

Edited by Prothall
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1 hour ago, 1Sherman said:

And even then, the constant aerial attacks the British sent against the Tirpitz made sure that she couldn't leave the relative safety of her fjord without getting bombed to kingdom come.

 

Eh, I have to disagree here, mate. English airpower proved incapable of doing anything to Tirpitz when she did sortie. The main reason for Tirpitz's relative inactivity pre-X-craft attack was due to fuel shortages and not because they feared being bombed at sea. The big advantage to being in Norway is that there aren't really any Allied airbases close enough to launch a full-blown bombing raid on short notice and still hope to find the Tirpitz at sea, on top of this, by the time the Allies had enough carriers in the area to be a big deterrent Tirpitz had already suffered the X-craft attack. Her inactivity post-X-craft attack was a combination of lack of fuel and the fact that Tirpitz, while repaired back to operational status, was just that... operational, but she was not repaired to full health as doing so would have required a drydock. For example, after the X-craft attack, Tirpitz was limited to a top speed of 23 knots as the Germans feared that any faster speed would have shaken her apart. The reality is that Tirpitz ceased being a threat to allied convoys after the X-craft attack as she would never sortie against another convoy again. The only real threat Tirpitz posed after the X-craft attack was as a deterrent to an Allied amphibious invasion of Norway (Hitler was apparently convinced that this was a thing that was going to happen).

Edited by WirFahrenGegenEngeland

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5 minutes ago, Prothall said:

The Royal Navy had Renown, Repulse and Hood.

Those three ships could outgun, out run, or out armor the "pocket battleships."

And they were a decade older.

 

Continue reading the OP, please. I cover that in the next paragraph. 

Edited by WirFahrenGegenEngeland

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5 minutes ago, WirFahrenGegenEngeland said:

 

Continue reading the OP, please, I cover that in the next paragraph. 

They were a poor man's battleship. Not strong enough to really exert dominance other than in fringe theaters of war. They had range, range and range. Their guns were good against most of what they expected to face on those fringes. They were an okay design for their purpose, but the days of surface ships roaming the sea lanes were about to die with airplane to spot them and radar for the targets to avoid them.

Considering their length of service usefulness was really quite short, I would stop short of celebrating them as a world beater design.

Edited by Prothall
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24 minutes ago, CoastalFort said:

That's very true, the Germans were more or less stuck playing this game of "How much can I build before anyone notices it?" The risk being England and France notice and arm themselves with better equipment, and at that point even France alone would have halted the German advance.

 

Britain no doubt would have been able to stay ahead of Germany. But France was barely able to secure the funds for the navy they were able to build before the war and both the general public and the government in France were disinterested with the navy in general. It's unlikely, outside of a declaration of war, that the French would have been able to keep up with a German naval building campaign purely due to lack of funding. 

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19 minutes ago, Prothall said:

They were a poor man's battleship. Not strong enough to really exert dominance other than in fringe theaters of war. They had range, range and range. Their guns were good against most of what they expected to face on those fringes. They were an okay design for their purpose, but the days of surface ships roaming the sea lanes were about to die with airplane to spot them and radar for the targets to avoid them.

Considering their length of service usefulness was really quite short, I would stop short of celebrating them as a world beater design.

 

You are judging them based off of what the naval scene looked like during the war. Hindsight is 20-20, but nobody can tell the future. In 1933, the Deutschlands were world-beaters, if they weren't, then the rest of the world wouldn't have freaked out over them as much as they did.

 

Saying the Deutschland was a 'meh' design because she had been bested by the outbreak of war is like saying the Dreadnought was a 'meh' design because she too had been bested by the outbreak of war.

 

Once again, I cover aircraft carriers in my final paragraph in the OP.

Edited by WirFahrenGegenEngeland

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1 hour ago, Cheeezzy said:

Makes you wonder just how powerful the Kriegsmarine could've been. Given less interservice rivalry and more resources and the KMS would have been monsters :Smile_ohmy:

The problem was that a good portion of the higher-ups never managed to adopt more modern ways of thinking. You can observe this on numerous accounts, but just to visualize on two:

 

Armor schemes

The Kriegsmarine when forced to save tonnage would resort to armor schemes that would be far more weight efficient than the trademark thin belt + turtleback. However, as they were able to allocate more tonnage to protection they would instantly fall back to the turtlebacks and god knows what else. Wonderful example is a comparison between the Königsberg class

7E2D5485-C312-400C-973D-5F9235536B64.thumb.png.e1142e989da884e57a0b5d6fa972ace6.png

and the "successor", Leipzig

88A34FD0-FA9A-42A5-9744-612DC80C300F.png.1be1c2295ba941215285652495f1f179.png

and lastly the "final" evolution of German CLs, the M-class

02300760-1989-454D-BA28-4EC040F56F81.gif.92fe2b9ed7343118c88b565ce9b75180.gif

Note which of the three prevents any sort of freak shots where you would bypass the main belt and hit the following layer at a normalized angle...

Especially the M-class is sad, since she could‘ve easily featured a 90 or even 100mm belt (important threshold, since you can then effectively cement it) with at least 30mm of main deck armor without a noticable change in tonnage, perhaps even a reduction.

 

Propulsion

There was an incredibly negative stance towards the usage of Diesel machinery. They were forced to use it on the Deutschlands given the requirements they asked for, but then went full stick up the behind about vibrations (a thing that can happen with any propulsion working on a shaft, in any navy, on ships of any size) that the concept of full Diesel propulsion was dropped instantly in favor of a steam propulsion that went to pressures beyond imagination. A system that proved very much that it was no better than Diesel propulsion, but when they realized that (which was well into WW2, and don‘t think that they were nearly as butthurt about that as about the vibrations on the D-Lands) the train was long gone. The only way for the ships to actually function would be to ignore official regulations and lower the pressure. Just hope that your captain agrees, because if the OKM or anyone heard of such things you‘d be in trouble. Thinking for yourself was not desirable.

What adds insult to injury was that MAN was not as shortsighted and internally continued work on Diesels without any funding. The prototypes they built and tested were showing results that would have permitted a whole new level of ships (up to 15k hp out of a single engine, compare that to the 7.1k hp engines on Deutschland). But the Kriegsmarine preferred machinery that was heavier and less safe to use while eating up more fuel, something the Germans totally had to spare.

Even funnier when you consider that one Chief Engineer once wrote a detailed piece on why the current steam machinery did not work and what would be needed to get the dramatic issue of auxilliary machinery under control. First time they ignored the piece, and gave him a formal warning when he sent it to some other officers for consideration. The second paper they went uber-butthurt on when he sent it to the dockyard (which was very much legal to do when someone made a breakthrough that would benefit the Navy), claimed he broke their trust and arrested him for several days. Still took them at least one more year to actually look at what they were upset about.

 

Further examples can be found in turret design and radar.

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There was lots of grousing about the Deutschland's but there was no race to toss the treaties which meant no race to build bigger more heavily armored cruisers even if only armed with 8"  or maybe 9/10" guns. Without that race the Deutschland didn't change cruisers at all as only France developed a ship to counter them using some of their treaty battleship tonnage to make the early 1930's equivalent to the battlecruiser in one of the first fast battleships. They were an excellent design for commerce raiding because of their diesel engines which gave them extreme range but what no one realized in the early 1930's was that two developments would completely change naval warfare were coming up, radar and the aircraft carrier. Ironically the country with the most carriers at the beginning of WWII did not see that looking at them as support ships for the fleet. Also ironically by attacking Pearl Harbor and putting the battleships out of action they forced the US to turn the battleship first carrier supports the battleship point of view on its head and even when they still had a carrier advantage the Japanese kept looking for that one big gun battle.

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51 minutes ago, Prothall said:

 

Because everything was armored, the armor was really not thick enough to be usefull in any real fight.

 

The Battle of the River Platte proves this statement false as, despite being hit by 18 x 6" shells and 2 x 8" shells, Graf Spee's combat effectiveness had not been majorly affected and enemy shells were observed by Langdorf to "bounce off the side armor like Turnips". Her damaged fuel lines affected her ability to get home, yes, but they did not affect her ability to fight. In either event, Spee's assailants were certainly worse for wear and the whole ordeal served to prove just how ineffective standard cruisers were against the Deutschland class.

 

Again, by the time WWII started her 100mm belt had been bested by other cruisers, but in 1933 the Deutschland's armor was better than any existing heavy cruiser's armor.

When judging any ship design, one HAS to consider the naval scene at the time the ship was built AND what the ship was designed to do and judge it accordingly. For example, you cant say that the Scharnhorst class was a bad design because an Iowa class battleship would have blown it out of the water... because the Iowa class didn't exist when the Scharnhorst was built and even if it had, Scharnhorst was designed to counter France's Dunkerque, which it did quite effectively, so it still couldn't be called bad because it accomplished what the design was meant to do. You can only call a design bad when it does not live up to the naval standards of the time and/or does not accomplish what it was designed to do... like the Richelieu, for example.

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There is a bit of a misconception that people couldn't build a counter Deutschland, during the 'battleship holiday' that's correct as no capital ships were allowed. When that ended there was nothing to stop people launching ships >10,000t and armed with >8in guns, they just counted against capital ship rather than cruiser tonnage limits. Ultimately the French went with the Dunkerque's as a hybrid response - useful against a Deutschland and useful against the Italian Mediterranean fleet.

Were the Deutschland class a clever application of the treaty and other restraints? Sure. Did they combine some excellent factors to make them potentially 'more than the sum of their parts' - yes, the combination of 11in guns on a cruiser for greater range and striking power, diesel propulsion for a phenomenal 17,000nm range and reasonable armor gave them a set of attributes difficult to counter and useful in isolation.

Are they that revolutionary though?

I'd argue not. I think they're just 'armored cruisers redux' in a world where most of the armored cruiser gamekeepers (i.e. Battlecruisers) retired after WWI and a particular set of treaty circumstances left them less challenged than they'd otherwise be. 

If you look at a WWI armored cruiser it's:

  • Generally armed with bigger-than-cruiser guns (Brits 9.2in, Germans 8.2in, French 7.6in, US 10in) though smaller than battleships (most nations were using 11-12in in WWI) - which fits the 11in armament of a Deutschland in 1931
  • Generally faster than battleships at about 23-25kt, though slower than contemporary light cruisers - which fits the 28kt Deutschland's rather well - still faster than the 21-25kt battleships of the world, but slower than ~32kt cruisers of the 1930's
  • Generally fairly heavily armored with ~150mm belts - now the Deutschland's in absolute terms don't meet that, but in 1930 an 80-100mm belt plus internal armor, 150mm turret faces is a lot of armor when there are ships like the Kent class (25mm belt), belt-less Duquesne's,
  • A major threat to commerce, the British were near bankrupted maintaining enough armored cruisers to deal with France+Russia and the costs were high, armored cruisers tended to have good range, and the Deutschland's were great there
  • A major threat to lighter cruisers (see Blucher's stand at Dogger Bank and general avoidance) - seems borne out at River Plate
  • Very vulnerable to battlecruisers - arguably the Deutschland's best theoretical opponents were the 3 British battlecruisers, the Japanese Kongo class and the Dunkerque's built by France (those were very 'battlecruiser like' if not battlecruisers specifically) while in WWI the losses of Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Blucher and a share of HMS Defence illustrate vulnerability to the battlecruiser

In short, at least in my view the parallels between a Deutschland and a good-old armored cruiser are pretty strong. A theoretical modernized and long range Blucher doing 28kt would be most of what a Deutschland was.

 

For all their positives, the Deustschland class were not without shortcomings. I believe the commander of a Kriegsmarine task force comprised of entirely faster ships, and a Deutschland was asked what he'd do if he encountered a superior British force and the basic answer was 'tough luck to the Deutschland'.

Although well armored relative to contemporary late-20's cruisers it's very difficult to armor a ship against 8in shell which they'd expect to encounter, the reason for 152mm appearing as a typical belt thickness on say the Surrey design and then Wichita, Baltimore and Des Moines is that 6-7in was considered the minimum armor to really give a ship any kind of immunity zone against 8in shells. If you look at the German 8in for instance it can go through 100mm at about 20,000m, which is the upper end for ever hitting anything anyway. The Japanese 8in has 120mm pen at 18,000m, the US 8in of Pensacola claimed 127mm pen at 17,830m.

In short although 11in guns were a big plus in range, shell splash size for corrections, hitting power if they did hit ultimately the Deutschland's and everyone else up until about Wichita in the 'heavy cruiser' game are eggshells armed with hammers, and a bigger hammer may not be as good an advantage as you'd like, though having a shell proof against 6in guns is pretty handy. I'd be potentially more worried as the British against a Myoko class in 1939 than a Deutschland.

 

I think it's quite the stretch to say that all the fast battleships originated from the Deutschlands. The logic that Deutschland-Dunkerque-All the fast BB is pretty tortuous, though I do see the connection and the Franco-Italian-German arms race that resulted in part from the Deutschland's and their counters, might almost say that the Dunkerque's as the first as-planned fast battleships were the real revolution. Pretty much as soon as anyone could build a new battleship in the late 1930's they went with a fairly fast one: the British and Japanese had relatively little skin in that game but still went with about 28kt ships while the common connection for US battleship speed as you note is inter-operability with carriers. There were still also the odd battlecruisers floating about against which speed would be useful. Cruisers of WWII were generally faster than those of WWI. Speed was on the rise.

Quite a lot happened aside from the Deutschland's between the Nelson's being lain down in December 1922, and the next Treaty battleships in December 1932 with the British not laying down a ship until 1937.

Dreadnought obsoleted half the navies of the world overnight, spawned a race between nations and come the end of WWI a clash by nearly 70 dreadnoughts was entirely possible. I don't think the Deutschland's were obsoleted by carriers, at least no more than any other ship certainly after 1939 and the loss of Spee in particular they just didn't have the numbers to make much of a difference. A lack of supply ships didn't help, low speed didn't help but even as late as December 1942 the Lutzow was in action with a convoy north of Norway, just not very successfully - and without any aircraft carrier involvement.

 

TLDR - They're just armored cruisers come again in the late 1920's.

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44 minutes ago, mofton said:

There is a bit of a misconception that people couldn't build a counter Deutschland, during the 'battleship holiday' that's correct as no capital ships were allowed. When that ended there was nothing to stop people launching ships >10,000t and armed with >8in guns, they just counted against capital ship rather than cruiser tonnage limits. Ultimately the French went with the Dunkerque's as a hybrid response - useful against a Deutschland and useful against the Italian Mediterranean fleet.

Were the Deutschland class a clever application of the treaty and other restraints? Sure. Did they combine some excellent factors to make them potentially 'more than the sum of their parts' - yes, the combination of 11in guns on a cruiser for greater range and striking power, diesel propulsion for a phenomenal 17,000nm range and reasonable armor gave them a set of attributes difficult to counter and useful in isolation.

Are they that revolutionary though?

I'd argue not. I think they're just 'armored cruisers redux' in a world where most of the armored cruiser gamekeepers (i.e. Battlecruisers) retired after WWI and a particular set of treaty circumstances left them less challenged than they'd otherwise be. 

If you look at a WWI armored cruiser it's:

  • Generally armed with bigger-than-cruiser guns (Brits 9.2in, Germans 8.2in, French 7.6in, US 10in) though smaller than battleships (most nations were using 11-12in in WWI) - which fits the 11in armament of a Deutschland in 1931
  • Generally faster than battleships at about 23-25kt, though slower than contemporary light cruisers - which fits the 28kt Deutschland's rather well - still faster than the 21-25kt battleships of the world, but slower than ~32kt cruisers of the 1930's
  • Generally fairly heavily armored with ~150mm belts - now the Deutschland's in absolute terms don't meet that, but in 1930 an 80-100mm belt plus internal armor, 150mm turret faces is a lot of armor when there are ships like the Kent class (25mm belt), belt-less Duquesne's,
  • A major threat to commerce, the British were near bankrupted maintaining enough armored cruisers to deal with France+Russia and the costs were high, armored cruisers tended to have good range, and the Deutschland's were great there
  • A major threat to lighter cruisers (see Blucher's stand at Dogger Bank and general avoidance) - seems borne out at River Plate
  • Very vulnerable to battlecruisers - arguably the Deutschland's best theoretical opponents were the 3 British battlecruisers, the Japanese Kongo class and the Dunkerque's built by France (those were very 'battlecruiser like' if not battlecruisers specifically) while in WWI the losses of Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Blucher and a share of HMS Defence illustrate vulnerability to the battlecruiser

In short, at least in my view the parallels between a Deutschland and a good-old armored cruiser are pretty strong. A theoretical modernized and long range Blucher doing 28kt would be most of what a Deutschland was.

 

For all their positives, the Deustschland class were not without shortcomings. I believe the commander of a Kriegsmarine task force comprised of entirely faster ships, and a Deutschland was asked what he'd do if he encountered a superior British force and the basic answer was 'tough luck to the Deutschland'.

Although well armored relative to contemporary late-20's cruisers it's very difficult to armor a ship against 8in shell which they'd expect to encounter, the reason for 152mm appearing as a typical belt thickness on say the Surrey design and then Wichita, Baltimore and Des Moines is that 6-7in was considered the minimum armor to really give a ship any kind of immunity zone against 8in shells. If you look at the German 8in for instance it can go through 100mm at about 20,000m, which is the upper end for ever hitting anything anyway. The Japanese 8in has 120mm pen at 18,000m, the US 8in of Pensacola claimed 127mm pen at 17,830m.

In short although 11in guns were a big plus in range, shell splash size for corrections, hitting power if they did hit ultimately the Deutschland's and everyone else up until about Wichita in the 'heavy cruiser' game are eggshells armed with hammers, and a bigger hammer may not be as good an advantage as you'd like, though having a shell proof against 6in guns is pretty handy. I'd be potentially more worried as the British against a Myoko class in 1939 than a Deutschland.

 

I think it's quite the stretch to say that all the fast battleships originated from the Deutschlands. The logic that Deutschland-Dunkerque-All the fast BB is pretty tortuous, though I do see the connection and the Franco-Italian-German arms race that resulted in part from the Deutschland's and their counters, might almost say that the Dunkerque's as the first as-planned fast battleships were the real revolution. Pretty much as soon as anyone could build a new battleship in the late 1930's they went with a fairly fast one: the British and Japanese had relatively little skin in that game but still went with about 28kt ships while the common connection for US battleship speed as you note is inter-operability with carriers. There were still also the odd battlecruisers floating about against which speed would be useful. Cruisers of WWII were generally faster than those of WWI. Speed was on the rise.

Quite a lot happened aside from the Deutschland's between the Nelson's being lain down in December 1922, and the next Treaty battleships in December 1932 with the British not laying down a ship until 1937.

Dreadnought obsoleted half the navies of the world overnight, spawned a race between nations and come the end of WWI a clash by nearly 70 dreadnoughts was entirely possible. I don't think the Deutschland's were obsoleted by carriers, at least no more than any other ship certainly after 1939 and the loss of Spee in particular they just didn't have the numbers to make much of a difference. A lack of supply ships didn't help, low speed didn't help but even as late as December 1942 the Lutzow was in action with a convoy north of Norway, just not very successfully - and without any aircraft carrier involvement.

 

TLDR - They're just armored cruisers come again in the late 1920's.

 

A great response!

 

I think I understand what you're saying.

Essentially, you are arguing that the Deutschlands only caused the stir that they did because they...

1: Cleverly manipulated the ToV to produce a ship that was not the coastal battleship or monitor that everyone was expecting to come from the treaty but essentially a modern reincarnation of the Armored Cruiser of the previous conflict, and did so without breaking the treaty itself

2: Were built at a time when the rest of the relevant naval powers had their hands tied behind their back, so to speak because they were not legally able to build a capital ship or cruiser (armored, heavy, light, or otherwise) to effectively and immediately counter them.

The latter point, especially, leading to the feeling that the WNT robbed them of their right to self-defense when faced with the Deutschlands and ships like them because they could not immediately, effectively, and legally build something to counter them.

And that the advent of the fast battleship would have been inevitable with or without the Deutschlands but that history just so happened to play out that they were the spark that ultimately lit the fire. (This, I actually agree with. Even without the Deutschlands, the Italians would have still modernized their old dreadnoughts and the Japanese would have still beefed-up the Kongos and certainly we could expect them to be countered with as-designed fast battleships as well.)

 

My question to you then is this: If the war had broken out before the end of the battleship holiday would you have then considered the Deutschlands, modern glorified armored cruisers though they were, to be revolutionary because they still would have been a relevant, unsolved threat? Meaning that the only reason they were not revolutionary is that by the time the conflict began they had already been effectively countered and then some?

 

Finally, going back to the point that you made that even if the Deutschlands were the spark that lit the fast battleship fire, that the fast battleship was an inevitable evolution of the battleship that would have happened with or without the Deutschlands. 

I would counter with this: The Dreadnought was the spark that lit the dreadnought fire, but the Dreadnought was also an inevitable evolution of what we now call the pre and semi-dreadnoughts and would have happened with or without the Dreadnought herself. After all, both the United States and Italy had already designed dreadnought-type battleships by the time the dreadnought was built.

If the above is true, then why is the Dreadnought is revolutionary and the Deutschland not? Simply because the Dreadnought sparked a naval arms race of other dreadnoughts and was obsoleted by them by the outbreak of war while the Deutschlands sparked a naval arms race of a completely new kind of warship (in other words, not a naval arms race of modern armored cruisers) and was obsoleted by them by the outbreak of war?

Sorry if that was confusing. Are you picking up what I'm laying down?

 

As a very minor side note: I don't know that It's fair to call the Deutschlands slow speed by WWII standards a shortcoming as it certainly wasn't an issue when the ships were built. Just like how you said that their armor, though nothing special by WWII standards, was completely adequate in comparison to other cruisers at the time of their completion. In other words, you can't blame a ship for not still being up to snuff in every way almost 10 years in the future.

 

Edited by WirFahrenGegenEngeland

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2 hours ago, mofton said:

For all their positives, the Deustschland class were not without shortcomings. I believe the commander of a Kriegsmarine task force comprised of entirely faster ships, and a Deutschland was asked what he'd do if he encountered a superior British force and the basic answer was 'tough luck to the Deutschland'.

Later Deutschland, thanks for coming!

Image result for thrown under the bus gif

 

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The Myoukous have a 102mm belt, compared to Deutschlands 80mm, though I cannot speak for the layers behind the armoured belt. 

Had they been built the Surreys would perhaps have been the closest analogue to the Deutschlands, being similarly slow (for a cruiser), but investing the saved tonnage in armour rather than her main battery. 

Ultimately, I'm not sure that I could say that the Deutschlands were quite so revolutionary as Dreadnought, and one could debate that Hawkins is revolutionary too, for spurring the evolution of Heavy Cruisers, or perhaps the first light cruiser on the same grounds. Of course, that doesn't mean that they aren't noteworthy, just not quite at the very pinnacle. 

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