Books on British Battlecruisers?

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Byron Angel
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Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by Byron Angel » Mon Jan 04, 2021 9:39 pm

Sean,
I have all the references you have mentioned. Contact Professor Seligmann (he lists his Brunel email on-line); ask if he would be kind enough to email you a PDF of his afore-mentioned essay.

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Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by wadinga » Wed Jan 06, 2021 2:59 pm

Hi Byron,

I may wait before bothering Mr Seligmann, since you have kindly supplied his source, as I suspected, Admiral Sir Richard Bacon in his biography of his friend, mentor and promoter. Thanks for supplying the relevant material, I do appreciate it.

This is especially valuable since none of the other worthies listed make reference to this opinion at all, except David Brown who effectively dismisses it with the throwaway, "Bacon is sometimes unreliable". Fisher's Mercurial nature meant an ever-flowing fountain of ideas, some good, some bad, and a willingness to express varying opinions, sometimes diametrically opposed to those he had previously taken, and adopted for the purposes of the moment. Maybe, on one occasion, he was worried about armed four flyers and hurting over the cost of subsidies paid to Cunard/ White Star for their potential use of liners as AMCs and Bacon gave this undue prominence.

To the list of those who considered the first priority of the new Invincibles was to be superior to and destroy existing armoured cruisers must be added John Roberts. In Battlecruisers Chatham Publishing 1997 he devotes a whole chapter to the origins of the British Battlecruiser, noting that they were not officially called that until 1911, and in a summary list of their roles, chasing armed merchantmen comes in fourth out of four. Like others he details the evolution of the design through 9.2" and 10" guns and turbine power to be superior to other armoured cruisers building, like the US Tennessee, Japanese Tsukuba etc. The 12" armament was finally specified to allow the worrying of enemy battleships in the van or the rear at a Board meeting in December 1904.

Roberts says, p18:
Whatever the reasons, the decision to adopt the 12"gun for the armoured cruiser was was critical- it was this, and this alone, that produced the distinct and separate warship type that was to eventually to be classified as the battlecruiser.
In Roberts' summary the roles of providing a heavy scouting force, support of battlefleet and pursuit of flying enemy all come in ahead of chasing potential AMCs.

As we have established, the four flyers merely had reciprocating engines, much the same as British cruisers, with the same shortcomings in reliability. Specially prepared for a crack at the Blue Riband, and to accept damage and wear in such an attempt, a one-off high average speed might be achieved in an Atlantic crossing. Risky behaviour was considered justified for this accolade, cf Titanic and the Ice Warnings.

Come on you lurkers, you must have some opinions!

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by Byron Angel » Wed Jan 06, 2021 5:35 pm

Sean,
While it is true that both the German liners and their erstwhile pursuers were powered by reciprocating engines, Seligmann goes on explain the factors that made the liners decisively superior in terms of overall practical sea speed -

“The relative excess of speed of the German vessels
compared to Royal Navy cruisers was in some cases a small one expressed
numerically, but in reality was greater than it looked for two reasons. First,
the size of the German liners meant that they could maintain a high speed
even in poor weather, as their high freeboards allowed them to cut through
the kind of rough seaways that would slow, if not actually batter, the smaller
British cruisers. Second, the armoured decks of British cruisers limited the
space available for the rise and fall of the pistons that powered their reciprocating
engines, forcing them to develop their motive power through rapid
movement rather than length of movement. Whilst this worked, it also
produced considerable wear and tear. Thus, whilst they could reach high
speeds, it was well known that they could not maintain them for any length
of time without significant risk of mechanical breakdown. By contrast, having
no armoured decks about which to worry, liners avoided such mechanical
difficulties. As proved on their Blue Riband winning voyages, they could
maintain high speeds over extended periods.”


The Blue Riband Transatlantic voyage records show that by 1900 the early German liners were capably of making the 3,000 mile Atlantic crossings in approximately 130 hours (overall sustained speed - 23 kts). By 1909, the much larger British liners, Mauretania for example, were making the crossings at 26 kts. It clearly must have been a problem of growing concern by 1905.

Devils and details .....


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Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by Byron Angel » Wed Jan 06, 2021 5:46 pm

These record runs were achieved on normal passages. The Blue Riband record speeds mentioned were not very far off at all from typical passage times, just the best to date.

Go here for a good resource -
https://www.tradeshouselibrary.org/uplo ... ~_1947.pdf


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Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by wadinga » Fri Jan 08, 2021 11:12 am

Hi Byron,

Speaking of Beelzebub and his location amongst the details, I unaccountably overlooked the most pithy and direct dismissal of the "AMC assertion" in Roberts' book. In the headpiece to his "Origins" chapter he actually quotes the Bacon assertion but continues beyond "fight any cruiser afloat" with the next sentence:
The word "fight" with Fisher meant to "crush". With him there was no question of designing a cruiser to be equal in strength or speed to that of the enemy; for then the result of an action might be uncertain.
My take is that it is clear, not equal to enemy armoured cruisers but so superior as to be able to crush them. Troubridge certainly did not think several armoured cruisers were equal to one Goeben.

Roberts then quotes Vice Admiral K G B Dewar, writing ten years after Bacon's biography was published which includes:
The statement that it [the battlecruiser] was required to hunt down German liners is absurd. Trade has never been protected by hunting down raiders in the great ocean spaces, but if it were, the task could be performed more effectively by smaller cruisers costing less than half the price of a battlecruiser.


Dewar is clearly a proponent of protecting trade by convoy, and forcing the raider to come and do battle with escorts, instead of a lot of fruitless searching.

Interestingly Dewar also says the battlecruiser "filled no real or strategical need" but Roberts refutes both Bacons' AMC assertion and Dewar's equally "absurd" observation in the Origins chapter and indeed the rest of the book which follows.

I have found out a little more about the lacklustre performance of those "Flyers" which did actually become raiders, but were handicapped by their unsuitability for the role and will start a separate thread. Does Seligmann go into any detail about what these "paper tigers" actually did ? I was expecting that he would have something more to pin his controversial theory on than just Fisher's acolyte's biography. Secret Admiralty Board memos eventually released under the 30 year rule etc etc.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by Byron Angel » Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:39 pm

Sean,
Matthew has been kind enough to provide open access to his article. You may D/L it here -
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10 ... 15.1034576

B

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Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by Byron Angel » Fri Jan 08, 2021 6:26 pm

wadinga wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 11:12 am
Hi Byron,
Speaking of Beelzebub and his location amongst the details, I unaccountably overlooked the most pithy and direct dismissal of the "AMC assertion" in Roberts' book. In the headpiece to his "Origins" chapter he actually quotes the Bacon assertion but continues beyond "fight any cruiser afloat" with the next sentence:
The word "fight" with Fisher meant to "crush". With him there was no question of designing a cruiser to be equal in strength or speed to that of the enemy; for then the result of an action might be uncertain.
My take is that it is clear, not equal to enemy armoured cruisers but so superior as to be able to crush them. Troubridge certainly did not think several armoured cruisers were equal to one Goeben.


>>>>> The passage from Roberts you cite, which refers to "crushing", is directly derived from Bacon's a/m biography of Fisher [Vol 1, p.255]. The complete passage, which I had snipped for the sake of brevity, reads as follows -

"She [Invincible] was designed in order to meet a want that had long been felt but never supplied [see Seligmann's essay on the full background of this issue], namely a ship fast enough to hunt down any armed merchant ship afloat, and at the same time to be able to fight any cruiser afloat. The word "fight" with Fisher meant "to crush". With him there was no question of designing a cruiser equal in strength or speed to that of the enemy; ..."



- - -


Roberts then quotes Vice Admiral K G B Dewar, writing ten years after Bacon's biography was published which includes:
The statement that it [the battlecruiser] was required to hunt down German liners is absurd. Trade has never been protected by hunting down raiders in the great ocean spaces, but if it were, the task could be performed more effectively by smaller cruisers costing less than half the price of a battlecruiser.

Dewar is clearly a proponent of protecting trade by convoy, and forcing the raider to come and do battle with escorts, instead of a lot of fruitless searching. Interestingly Dewar also says the battlecruiser "filled no real or strategical need" but Roberts refutes both Bacons' AMC assertion and Dewar's equally "absurd" observation in the Origins chapter and indeed the rest of the book which follows.



>>>>> If you are referring to John Roberts and his book "British Battlecruisers 1905-1920", see page19 where he denominates the intended operational roles of the battlecruiser design - "(d) Trade Protection. To hunt down and destroy enemy surface raiding cruisers and armed merchantmen. Speed was essential for this function ..."

Marder wrote several decades after Dewar. See "From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow", Vol 1 p.44 -
"The raison d'etre of the battle cruiser was threefold: to have armoured ships (1) to act as super-scouting cruisers, ships fast and powerful enough to push home a reconnasissance in the face of an enemy's big armoured cruisers; (2) fast enough to hunt down and destroy the fasted armed merchant raiders, especially the 23-knot German transatlantic liners, which were known to be carrying guns for commerce destruction in war; (3) to act as a fast wing reinforcing the van or rear of a battle fleet in a general action. The genesis of the type was sound, as the existing armoured cruisers could not fulfill any of these tasks.

Julian Corbett wrote a decade before Bacon. See "History of the Great War, Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence: Naval Operations", Vol 1, p.157 -
"Scarcely anywhere, indeed, had the expected happened. The great opportunity for an organized attack on our trade by means of armed merchant cruisers had passed by unused; ...".

Corbett also wrote at length in the same volume re Britain's own large armed merchant cruiser program.



- - -


I have found out a little more about the lacklustre performance of those "Flyers" which did actually become raiders, but were handicapped by their unsuitability for the role and will start a separate thread. Does Seligmann go into any detail about what these "paper tigers" actually did ? I was expecting that he would have something more to pin his controversial theory on than just Fisher's acolyte's biography. Secret Admiralty Board memos eventually released under the 30 year rule etc etc.

>>>>> Framing this issue from an ex post facto point of view is a faulty approach. The real issue is the degree to which the armed merchant cruiser threat was being viewed in 1900-1905. Bacon, Corbett and Marder all assert that it was seen as a major issue. I have provided the web address to obtain a copy of Seligmann's essay in my previous post. Read it. Check his references and citations. Draw your own conclusions.


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Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by wadinga » Sat Jan 09, 2021 6:51 pm

Hello Byron,

I very much appreciate any influence you may have had in making Mr Seligmann's (Matthew's) paper available. It is a fascinating read and it is interesting to see that the controversy about the origin of the battlecruiser concept is only a fraction of a much bigger dispute between him and Jon Sumida and NAM Campbell. I expect these worthies will continue to wrangle.

The John Roberts book I have is the earlier, pre revision version simply entitled "Battlecruisers", from your note it would appear that chasing the four Flyers is fourth, not first priority in both listings. It is the case that the jacket "blurb" latches on to hunting commerce raiders as a role and ignores the others. I guess it sounds "sexier".

Chasing liners has made number two in Marder's hit parade but a couple of paragraphs later on he details how the RN would use these superior armoured cruisers as Togo did at Tsushima, where their speed advantage allowed paralysing concentration on certain parts of the enemy line of battle. The emphasis is all on battlefleet action not detachment on worldwide commerce protection.

On "ex post facto points of view" I need to absorb more of Mr Seligmann's paper to see what he has discovered about what was worrying who in the 1900-05 period. It will need to be pretty convincing to show that fear of these few liners spawned the battlecruiser. The German Naval Laws specified expansion of their overseas fleet with quite a few more cruisers, as well as building up their home forces.

I don't think what the liners actually achieved compared what somebody imagined they might do is irrelevant. Somebody else may have imagined they would be as ineffectual as they actually were. Surely Mr Seligmann uses "ex post facto POV" in lauding Kronprinz Wilhelm's career whilst overlooking that 11 steamers (and 4 sailing ships) in 8 whole months is a pretty poor effort.

Corbett, as you mention surely only says an attack on British commerce by surface ships was to be expected- no mention of "uncatchable liners", so nothing new there. As we know the effective Hilfscruisers were slowish, unassuming merchantmen economic with coal. Most German warships which could have helped strangle British Trade, sat out the war in German harbours instead of breaking out onto the High Seas after which their fleet was named. Those warships which started from overseas colonies were all hunted down and eliminated. British AMCs were required in large numbers to stop and search neutrals for contraband and British command of the sea meant their extravagant use of coal stocks was not a problem. They were not having to live off what could be smuggled out of neutral ports or stolen from victims.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by Byron Angel » Sun Jan 10, 2021 10:23 pm

Wadinga wrote -
I very much appreciate any influence you may have had in making Mr Seligmann's (Matthew's) paper available. It is a fascinating read and it is interesting to see that the controversy about the origin of the battlecruiser concept is only a fraction of a much bigger dispute between him and Jon Sumida and NAM Campbell. I expect these worthies will continue to wrangle.
The John Roberts book I have is the earlier, pre revision version simply entitled "Battlecruisers", from your note it would appear that chasing the four Flyers is fourth, not first priority in both listings. It is the case that the jacket "blurb" latches on to hunting commerce raiders as a role and ignores the others. I guess it sounds "sexier".

>>>>> The various sources cited make reference to two, three and four different underlying reasons behind the genesis of the battle-cruiser and seem to list those that have chosen in different orders of priority. My best guess is that these differences reflect the opinions of the authors rather than the original architects. My money is on Bacon for the most correct account; he was a participant from the beginning in the “Fish Pond” deliberations that spawned the battlecruiser concept.


Chasing liners has made number two in Marder's hit parade but a couple of paragraphs later on he details how the RN would use these superior armoured cruisers as Togo did at Tsushima, where their speed advantage allowed paralysing concentration on certain parts of the enemy line of battle. The emphasis is all on battlefleet action not detachment on worldwide commerce protection.

>>>>> I have never seen the matter as an “either/or” process. A problem or closely related set of problems was presumably identified and a very expensive and high-tech tool designed to respond. It would have been a natural inclination to explore what other useful purposes this expensive tool might be put to. Enter Togo and his great success at Tsushima using heavily armed fast cruisers as an adjunct to his main battleline. The idea of a squadron of battlecruiser acting as a powerful advance reconnaissance arm of the battlefleet was simply too obvious to miss. The battlefleet related connections attracted by far the most attention and some of original underlying motivation to pursue the project in the first place have been forgotten or ignored.


On "ex post facto points of view" I need to absorb more of Mr Seligmann's paper to see what he has discovered about what was worrying who in the 1900-05 period. It will need to be pretty convincing to show that fear of these few liners spawned the battlecruiser. The German Naval Laws specified expansion of their overseas fleet with quite a few more cruisers, as well as building up their home forces.

>>>>> I do not claim that the high speed merchant liner was the sole and immediate object of everyone’s attention. After the retirement/disposal of the vast fleet of obsolete colonial cruisers by 1905, the security of global imperial trade went to the head of the list as a matter of vital strategic importance. Part of addressing that issue was the realization that the RN lacked a tool that could deal with these new fast liners, since the rapid advances in naval technology had rendered existing armored cruisers inadequate to the task.


I don't think what the liners actually achieved compared what somebody imagined they might do is irrelevant. Somebody else may have imagined they would be as ineffectual as they actually were. Surely Mr Seligmann uses "ex post facto POV" in lauding Kronprinz Wilhelm's career whilst overlooking that 11 steamers (and 4 sailing ships) in 8 whole months is a pretty poor effort.

>>>>> Sean, you’re choosing to read what you want to read in the passage and ignoring highly important associated issues. The ship you refer to was at sea for eight months, with a ship reported lost every two weeks
The mere reporting of such a raider in the vicinity would produce complete panic and disorder among the shipping community; shipping schedules would be up-ended; ports would fill up due to ship-owners fearful of sending their ships to sea and port congestion would soon paralyze orderly trade; perishable cargoes would go bad; warehouse space would quickly disappear; marine insurance rates would quickly escalate. I worked for a number of years in the shipping business, trust me on this; the maritime trade is a complex and delicate organism.



Corbett, as you mention surely only says an attack on British commerce by surface ships was to be expected- no mention of "uncatchable liners", so nothing new there.
As we know the effective Hilfscruisers were slowish, unassuming merchantmen economic with coal. Most German warships which could have helped strangle British Trade, sat out the war in German harbours instead of breaking out onto the High Seas after which their fleet was named. Those warships which started from overseas colonies were all hunted down and eliminated. British AMCs were required in large numbers to stop and search neutrals for contraband and British command of the sea meant their extravagant use of coal stocks was not a problem. They were not having to live off what could be smuggled out of neutral ports or stolen from victims.

>>>>> Untrue. You are conflating terms. Corbett’s exact words, per "History of the Great War, Based on Official Documents by Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence: Naval Operations", Vol 1, p.157 -
"Scarcely anywhere, indeed, had the expected happened. The great opportunity for an organized attack on our trade by means of armed merchant cruisers had passed by unused; ...".
A high-speed armed passenger liner qualifies in every respect as an armed merchant cruiser. At the outbreak of the war there were 21 assorted German merchant ships berthed in the port of New York alone. No ships were available to deal with the problem; even Fisher was fearful of the threat, pointing out that even HMS Glasgow would be unable to keep touch with any of the big German ships in heavy seas.


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Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by wadinga » Thu Jan 14, 2021 2:31 pm

Hi Byron,

Your last post has spurred me to some fascinating reading on the generation of the Battlecruiser concept and has lead to a rather lengthy post for which I apologise. Sources mainly David K Brown Warrior to Dreadnought and Roberts' Battlecruiser.
My money is on Bacon for the most correct account; he was a participant from the beginning in the “Fish Pond” deliberations that spawned the battlecruiser concept.
This is Bacon writing over 20 years after the events, and with the hindsight and the grim memories of the losses at Jutland and the bizarre extremes of the Renowns and the large light cruisers clouding an acolytes’s biography of his guiding light. Maybe he might have considered it kinder to Fisher’s memory to suggest his battlecruisers (“eggshells armed with hammers” ) were never intended to face battleship guns and give pre-eminence to this anti-liner role? For a more contemporary view we move to Fisher himself. In 1902, shortly after the Germans, determined to create a world spanning empire of their own, have announced a massive naval expansion including the establishment of strong overseas squadrons based around large cruisers, Fisher conceived his dream vessel, HMS Perfection. The German Naval Law would override future concerns over funding etc and commit succeeding German governments to heavy expenditure over the next 20 years in creating a huge fleet. As a stopgap, a small number of high speed liners being built would be strengthened to retrospectively fit armament, with a view to “high seas” commerce raiding, and since Britain owned nearly half the world merchant fleet there could only be one target.

In 1900 Germany began to flex her international naval muscles, the armoured cruiser Furst Bismarck, considerably more powerful than previous German cruisers, lead 24 vessels and 15,000 soldiers as the German Empire’s contribution to the International force against the Boxer Rebellion, reinforcing the German foothold at Tsingtao. Further German naval Laws in successive years increased the commitment for all classes of warships outstripping Russian or French expansion.

Fisher, in his position as Admiral, Mediterranean Fleet, working with Gard the Malta dockyard chief, imagined his HMS Perfection in early 1902. This included four 9.2” guns, twelve 7.5” 35,000 IHP for 25 knots from reciprocating engines and a 6” belt. It is questionable whether this would have been achievable without the displacement, and therefore cost, ballooning. The indicated power is nearly a third more than any British armoured cruiser received. The armament and armour was vastly over-specified if the target had been AMCs. Even at this earliest point in the evolution, Fisher’s concept is clearly a superior armoured cruiser capable of overpowering lesser vessels of the same class.

By 1903 Fisher was C-in-C Portsmouth having done a spell as 2nd Sea Lord, and by 1904, he was First Sea Lord in committee designing HMS Unapproachable, a super cruiser concept as superior in her class as HMS Untakeable, the battleship (Dreadnought) equivalent, would be to her predecessors. The new concept was sixteen 9.2” guns, 40,000 IHP for 25 knots, but again with reciprocating engines. This is a superior armoured cruiser further enhanced from “Perfection” to beat the yet-to-be laid down Scharnhorsts, which will in time be Von Spee’s squadron in Tsingtao.
However, as Unapproachables turned into Indomitables in early 1905, the all big-gun armament turned into 12”, the same as the battleship, and the weight savings from turbine power made the speed feasible. These new armoured cruisers, later renamed battlecruisers, would have their details kept secret, and the Scharnhorsts and the next German armoured cruiser design, Blucher, would be utterly outclassed, since they are only incremental improvements on their predecessor.

Seligmann quotes Fisher from December 1905 suggesting the Invincibles could “mop up” fast liners, and therefore he would need more Invincibles, but the specification is already laid down and detailed design underway. This is merely an additional task the new ships can perform, and like any regular Navy man he wanted more of these “super armoured cruisers” from the Exchequer, rather than waste any more money on cheap and cheerful “ertsatz” warships provided by Cunard or White Star. Jellicoe, of course, apparently echoes the point, although Seligmann does not provide a quote.

Misinformation went in all directions though. Quoted in Roberts, Fisher wrote to First Lord of the Admiralty McKenna in March 1909, “We have to work hard in the next two years to build 8 “Nonpareils” to meet [German] cruisers E, F, G & H. Cruiser “E”, the Blucher has eight 11” guns and a speed of 25 knots, you need 28 to catch her.”

Fisher was still concerned with German warships, as he always had been, not liners, even if his information was incorrect in detail, -or was it, he was never one to let inconvenient truths get in the way of achieving his goals. :cool:

Therefore I still think Seligmann's controversial opinion on battlecruiser primary function is not borne out by the evidence. He virtually ignores the real looming menace of the German naval expansion with large numbers of cruisers, so clear to the British Government, and obsesses unduly about these particular liners. There are interesting matters to consider about who started it and when this process of arming liners began.......

All the best

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Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by Byron Angel » Fri Jan 15, 2021 1:28 am

>>>>> Please note -
“Battlecruiser Invincible: The History of the First Battlecruiser, 1909-1916”, V E Tarrant (page 15).
“British Battleships of World War One”, R A Burt (page 39).
If I have counted correctly, Tarrant and Burt now make six sources referring specifically to the threat to imperial commerce posed by armed high-speed liners as a guiding light in the design and development of the Invincible class battlecruiser.

That having been said, kindly note that I have never suggested that the threat of armed high speed liners operating as commerce raiders was the sole issue inspiring development of the battlecruiser; what I have posited is that no existing ships of the RN possessed the necessary combination of speed, machinery reliability, fuel capacity and sea-keeping to run them down ….. until the introduction of the Invincible class battlecruiser ….. and that this was viewed as a threat to trade at the time by no less an entity than the Naval Intelligence Division. Six reliable references cite this threat being mentioned as an important factor, including Bacon, who was a member of the Battlecruiser Design Committee. Your ruminations about why Bacon’s remarks may not have represented the true state of affairs behind the development of the Invincible design, I regret to say, strike me as highly speculative and short of any factual basis.

Here is Fisher’s comment, issued as First Sea Lord on 2 December 1905, before any of the Invincibles had even been laid down. The final drawings for the selected design were completed in June 1905, at which point the construction contract was put out to tender and awarded to Armstrong. Inflexible’s keel (the first) was laid down in Dec 1905; Invincible in April 1906 -

“Originally the two great Cunard ships now completing were subsidised by the Government with the object of enabling the armed merchant ships of this country to be a match for the Great German vessels which were then the fastest on the sea. But such vessels when armed will only be equal to the German vessels, and in war equality only would not suffice—as Nelson said, “You ought to be 100 per cent stronger than the enemy if you can!” If two ships of that type met, the result of the fight would be a “toss up,” and the British Navy must not be placed in such a position . . . . Therefore foreign vessels of that description must be sought out and dealt with by fast big armoured cruisers of the Invincible class, when there can be no doubt of the result. A cruiser like the Invincible would “mop” up such vessels one after the other with the greatest ease, and therefore, if necessary, more Invincibles must be built for that purpose.”

Fisher could offer no existing warship in the RN capable of performing such a task to satisfaction and, by my interpretation of his remarks clearly implied that the navy should prioritize construction of as many Invincibles as necessaryto get the job done quickly.

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Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by wadinga » Sat Jan 16, 2021 3:19 pm

Hello Byron,

Apologies for another long post

There may be a slight confusion:
That having been said, kindly note that I have never suggested that the threat of armed high speed liners operating as commerce raiders was the sole issue inspiring development of the battlecruiser;
I don't believe I have ever suggested this, and your very well-informed observation that various authors have listed several roles for the battlecruiser in different orders of significance is one we can agree on. You may recall I myself mentioned Tarrant on Jan 1st as the only modern source which gave this role prominence over others. However, the point at contention was your statement:
The Invincibles were conceived for the explicit purpose of running down and eradicating high speed armed merchant cruisers from the imperial sea lanes.
This echoes Professor (I apologize for omitting his honorific previously) Seligmann's assertion apparently made in his book The Royal Navy and the German Threat that the origin of the battlecruiser concept was to counter these armed liners, and that other functions came along later. Challenged over this by very knowledgeable naval writers, Sumida, Lambert etc. his paper which you kindly lead me to, defended this argument at length, re-iterating this assertion that the pre-eminent purpose of these hugely expensive and powerful new class of British warships was primarily to counter armed liners and rejecting these other counter-arguments. Encapsulated thus :
Before discussing their particular objections to this explanation of the origins of the battle cruiser, it is worth considering why their broader analytical outlook might pre-dispose them to reject it come what may.
This seems to be along the lines that, as revisionist writers they wanted to downplay the perceived German threat to British mercantile trade in the first decade of the 20th century in favour of a French or Russian threat, which by virtue of treaty with the former and diminution of the latter in a war with the Japanese, had ceased to exist. As a "post-Revisionist" writer the only German threat Seligmann identifies are these fast liners, therefore battlecruisers were invented to counter them. This is "justified" by some tenuous statements suggesting existing British cruisers would be no threat, despite theoretically reaching speeds very similar to these merchant ships, with speculative observations about the ability of different kinds of reciprocating machinery to maintain such speeds for any length of time, or whether the 30ft forward freeboard of the warship would allow for seakeeping comparable to that of a liner. The vagaries of visibility, bottom fouling, coal quality and a myriad other factors are ignored with an unwarranted assumption that such an armed liner could always escape before the first salvo or two incapacitated her and turned her opulent furnishings into an inferno.

Most outrageously he hides the paltry successes of the fast liners in a total tonnage including the vastly more successful but less glamorous steamships Moewe, Thor, etc which operated later in the war and without the ability for high speed. Despite lauding the ability of one fast liner to evade the British for months, without mentioning her tonnage score was lower than that of the sailing ship raider Seeadler, he suggests it was not what they actually achieved that mattered, but what the Admiralty worried they might have achieved. The NID documents identifying their possible potential as raiders is interesting but hardly enough to initiate the battlecruiser building programme, especially it is unclear how anyone knew the modifications for easy arming had been built in. I don’t expect the installation was advertised and the only reference I have found to definite evidence was the observations of ship repairers in Southampton after Kaiser Wilhelm II docked after colliding with SS Inchmore on 14th June 1914.

There is also the unwarranted assumption that arming liners was some kind of new development by the Germans which required a high technology response, which was mysteriously delayed until 1906. With nearly 50% of the world mercantile trade carried in British ships and the success of the Unionist forces in blockading the Confederacy by an international Guerre de Course, Britain had realised protecting her vast trade , all around the world was perhaps beyond even the expanded RN. In 1877, Director of Naval Construction Nathaniel Barnaby, had outlined how British merchant ships could be armed for their own protection, raiding and other auxiliary roles. D K Brown Warrior to Dreadnought p87 details this and goes on to mention how in 1878, Lord Ismay, (father of Bruce “That lifeboat’s mine I’m too important to drown” Ismay of the Titanic), and head of the White Star Line offered his ships, in return for that subsidy, for partial conversion and subsequent military use. By 1887 agreement was made for three Cunard and two White Star ships to have installations for armament made. By 1901 contracts for 25 such installations had been made. So the British armed liner concept predated the German one. As Deputy Head Royal Corps of Naval Constructors. D K Brown’s opinion that the large fast Transatlantic liners were very poorly suited to ocean patrolling due to excessive coal consumption and general vulnerability is significant.

Does the return to the traditional view that the new battlecruisers were actually designed to make the German (and Japanese and American) "Pre-Invincible" cruisers obsolete, make me a Pre-revisionist ? :D

All the best

wadinga
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today!"

AdmiralSemmes
Junior Member
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Joined: Sun Jan 27, 2019 2:26 am

Re: Books on British Battlecruisers?

Post by AdmiralSemmes » Sun Jan 17, 2021 5:37 pm

I'm about 100 pages into Gordon's The Rules of the Game, and I can't say I've found anything in particular that struck me as odd. Most of his conclusions seemed reasonable enough, at least to this amateur.

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