German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

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Byron Angel

German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by Byron Angel » Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:28 pm

I discovered this curious comment in CB01303 - Final Report of the President, Projectile Committee, 1917:

quote ..........

A consideration of the hits received by our ships in the battle of Jutland shows that in several cases the German shells were descending at appreciably greater angles than would be expected from a study of the German range tables for full charges.

A statement is made in N.I.D. Pamphlet, dated June 1914 (not numbered), that each 30.5 c.m. turret is provided with range drums for full and reduced service charges in addition to drums for full and reduced practice charges. This statement led the Committee to suppose that a possible explanation of the hits referred to above was that some of the German ships armed with 30.5 c.m. guns were using reduced service charges.

This, if true, would also tend to account for the otherwise unexplained reports that German salvoes have a very small spread.

The Committee have been unable to either verify or disprove this hypothesis.

.......... unquote


Interesting. Comments? Thoughts? Any inputs from our German contingent would be welcome.


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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by RF » Mon Jul 19, 2010 5:08 pm

I'm not completely clear on this; if the charge is reduced presumably the speed and penetration power of the shell is reduced; but the steeper angle would compensate for armour penetration?
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Byron Angel

Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by Byron Angel » Wed Jul 21, 2010 10:41 am

RF wrote:I'm not completely clear on this; if the charge is reduced presumably the speed and penetration power of the shell is reduced; but the steeper angle would compensate for armour penetration?
..... A reduced charge would, of course, reduce velocity, which in turn would require greater elevation to achieve any given range, which would produce a steeper angle of fall, which would tend to improve attack of horizontal armor (assuming that the sacrifice of MV was not so great as to offset the advantageous effect of the steeper angle of fall).

I'm not convinced the Germans actually undertook this tactic at Jutland, but one never knows.

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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by RF » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:40 am

Would any substantial advantage be gained by the Germans at Jutland if they had?
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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by Bgile » Wed Jul 21, 2010 2:32 pm

It would also reduce their probability of hitting at all. Muzzle velocity was an important component of armor penetration and hitting space. I really doubt it would even be considered.

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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by tommy303 » Wed Jul 21, 2010 6:42 pm

..... A reduced charge would, of course, reduce velocity, which in turn would require greater elevation to achieve any given range, which would produce a steeper angle of fall, which would tend to improve attack of horizontal armor (assuming that the sacrifice of MV was not so great as to offset the advantageous effect of the steeper angle of fall).
While this is true, one must remember the Germans were disadvantaged by not having enough elevation for their guns to return fire early on, so any reduction in MV by reducing the charges would have been a hinderance as at much of the battle ranges during Jutland, they might not have had sufficient elevation to utilize the tactic even if it occurred to them. In certain types of battle practice, shore bombardment, and gunnery shoots, reduced charges were used to reduce barrel wear, but for actual battle, only full charges would have been used as the Germans were much more concerned with slamming a shell through vertical armour than attempting to penetrate the protective plating of the decks. It is possible the British may have misinterpreted the angles of fall of German shells which scored hits, or the timing and hence range estimates of the hits might have been in error.

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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by Djoser » Mon Aug 30, 2010 12:56 am

I have read that some German naval planners believed their 11" guns were the equivalent of British 12", and their 12" the equivalent of the British 13.5" (though that would seem to be pushing it a bit). The only way they could justify this belief, other than the generally excellent quality of the Krupp naval rifles, would be by utilizing maximum muzzle velocity, I would think.

Though as has been said above, who knows? Maybe a couple gunnery officers decided to try it after the range closed a bit.

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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by Bgile » Mon Aug 30, 2010 1:48 am

Djoser wrote:I have read that some German naval planners believed their 11" guns were the equivalent of British 12", and their 12" the equivalent of the British 13.5" (though that would seem to be pushing it a bit). The only way they could justify this belief, other than the generally excellent quality of the Krupp naval rifles, would be by utilizing maximum muzzle velocity, I would think.

Though as has been said above, who knows? Maybe a couple gunnery officers decided to try it after the range closed a bit.
You don't just "try it". It isn't that simple. The Germans used brass cartrige cases. What are you going to do, open them up and pour some of the powder out on the deck in the middle of the battle?

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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by Djoser » Sat Sep 04, 2010 1:34 pm

Actually, I believe the 12" guns dispensed with brass cartridges. So they could have tried it with those ships. As I said, I doubt they did.

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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by tommy303 » Tue Sep 14, 2010 5:12 pm

The 12-inch used a brass cased main charge and a silk wrapped fore charge. Reduced charges would have been the brass cased main charge only as the case was needed to seal the breech. I rather doubt though that it was done in combat situations, for reasons already stated.

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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by delcyros » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:13 pm

My first post here, so please excuse my poor writing.

I ran across the topic and found it quite interesting. In fact, I believe I may make a minor contribution to the problems solution.
There are two possible explenations from the german point of view to the british report mentioned above.

The first can be found by anecdotics from turret officers aboard WESTFALEN, who mentions that during the night engagement, some of the british DD´s were approaching below the max. depression his turret would allow. He then makes a description of how he used the ships roll moment to fire off a round at an otherwise impossible angle downwards on a DD at it´s portside.
But I don´t believe this explenation is the one required here because it only explains damage sustained by destroyers in the night action.

For the second idea worth checking I suggest to use informations derived from:

Gröner, Erich: Alle deutschen Kriegsschiffe von 1815- 1936. Unter Benutzung amtlicher Quellen; mit 350 Schiffsskizzen (München 1937).

Note that E. Gröner is proud to base his book on primary sources, only. Some of which have disappeared since due to fires at Kiel destroying the former kaiserl. Marinearchiv in the end of ww2, so his early account is a very important, a valuable source. Make sure You use the revised edition from 1939! It gives some interesting informations regarding the max. range of german 12in armed ships. Page 36 notes that max. range of the 12in turrets from HELGOLAND was 162hm at 13.5 deg elevation while f.e. the max. range of the DERFFLINGER class was 180hm at 13.5 deg elevation.
Note the difference: 18hm (or ca. 2000 yard) at exactly the same 13.5 deg elevation (also confimred by von Hase, the GO of DERFFLINGER in a different account)!

This difference can be traced down to even modern sources. Navweaps online lists a max. range of 162hm at 13.5 deg while Campbell in naval weapons of world war one gives 180hm. Ever wondered about this? So what is the reason for this difference?

This is where Koop and Schmolke helps out:

Koop, Gerhard; Schmolke, Klaus-Peter: Linienschiffe: von der Nassau- zur König-Klasse (Bonn 1999)

The reason for the lower max. range of the Dreadnoughts is explained here by the weaker mounting of the turret design and the gun craddle, thus the 12in HELGOLANDS and KAISERS (except PRINZREGENT LUITPOLDT, which already received the increased elevation gear and stiffened mountings) couldn´t use the same charges as could do the BC´s. This resulted in lower muzzle velocity, corresponding lower range and a steeper angle of fall at this range.
All of these issues were adressed when the ships also received their increased elevation gear after Jutland.

Unfortunately, I cannot comment on how this was practicised but either they dismissed off the fore charge bag (thus the brass cartridge was the main and only charge) or they used special brass cartridges with lower powder content. Anyway this difference is systematic and related to different turret designs and was not something like an "option" the gunnery officer could make use when he think it fit´s best the tactical environment.

Judging from the battle distances in the run-to-the-north, some work on the mounting was done before the battle (probably- but this is a speculation on my part, in response to the need for increased range due to experiences from Doggerbank). Evidently the ships of the KÖNIG class and SMS KAISER + SMS PRINZREGENT LUITPOLDT weren´t affected by the mounting issue (or else You cannot explain why they opened fire and hit targets beyond their respsective firing range as none of the firings was done at distances closer than 18,000 yard in this part of the battle).

Hope this helps,
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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by tommy303 » Tue Feb 08, 2011 5:33 pm

Unfortunately, I cannot comment on how this was practicised but either they dismissed off the fore charge bag (thus the brass cartridge was the main and only charge) or they used special brass cartridges with lower powder content. Anyway this difference is systematic and related to different turret designs and was not something like an "option" the gunnery officer could make use when he think it fit´s best the tactical environment.
As you say, it was a matter of what mountings could take what amount of recoil stress. The Prinz Regent Luitpold, Koenigs, and 12-in 50-gunned battle cruisers could use the new, more powerful charges issued, but the other Kaisers, and older 12-in 50 mountings could not. Cartridges were normally marked specific for the ship to which they were to be issued, to avoid mistakes. It was merely a matter of the older mountings retaining the cartridges as designed, while the newer ones received the more powerful loading--a magnum as it were to use an American expression. Most likely, the brass case charge remained the same, while the fore charge was the one adjusted up for the later ships and eventually for the earlier 12-50 mountings once strengthened sufficiently.

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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by tone » Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:20 pm

Pardon the very late response, but I like fire control threads.

Changing to reduced charges (or back) would have required the gunsights to be altered in the heat of battle. How the Germans might do this, I am not sure, but for the Brits, it would be that all the gunlayers (since the Germans used individual laying) would have to switch their range dials. It is generally the sort of thing you'd try to avoid in battle, as someone may not have the right range dial in place when the gun has to fire.

Also, what would be the desired good from the effort? The shell fall from reduced charges might be more threatening at portions of the range envelope, but the time of flight would increase which is never a good thing for hitting.

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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by Brandenburg » Tue Jun 09, 2015 9:53 pm

Please forgive another late response to this thread.

I have read that during the run to the south Captain Zenker commanding the battlecruiser Von der Tann ordered some of his port compartments flooded in order to increase the elevation of his main guns. While not changing the ballistics this did achieve a steeper angle of delivery.

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Re: German use of reduced charges at Jutland?

Post by delcyros » Wed Dec 30, 2015 3:14 pm

I found confirmation of the use of differential charges (full and reduced charges) during my look through the war diaries of LÜTZOW 1916.
gr. Gef. Ladung -große Gefechtsladung (large service charge)
kl. Gef. Ladung -kleine Gefechtsladung (small service charge)

"Gefecht" means combat, this are not training charges but combat charges.

took a while but apparently it was done, indeed.

delc
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