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Jutland recurrent themes
Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 6:18 pm
Jutland was the greatest dreadnought clash. As a matter of fact it was, most probable, the only one into which the original planners and designers of the Grand Fleet and the High Seas Fleet were thinking in the first place. Before it there were only minor encounters and after it the same history. At WWII the battleship scenario was contaminated (
) by aircraft and aircraft carriers (I´m not making a negative coment on aircraft carriers, it´s only a specific sentence to explain my reasoning). Even at the Bismarck history aircraft became important and decisive protagonists.
So, if Jutland is what it is: the greatest dreadnought battle of them all I believe we can have an analysis at four levels:
1. The technology level
2. The intelligence level
3. The tactical level and
At the technologic level it seems that, after all, the German ships presented, by the outcome of the battle, a better design and building than the British. I agree that all the bright ideas were British: battleships and battlecruisers were their´s, but the Germans managed to had better protected ships. We cannot deny the fact that the Germans are highly disciplined and that their industrial view is one of perfectionism. We can tell the same about their capability to build and use their guns.
But there it ends. The intelligence level of the conflict, one that brings military victory too often, was on the British side. What happened at Jutland was, almost, a Xerox copy of what happened at Midway: radio interception, interpretation and decision making. There the British obtained strategic advantage while achieving tactical superiority by knowing what their enemies do not.
At the tactical level the British were, at their senior commads, superior to the Germans in the sense that Jellicoe outmanouver Scheer two times in one afternoon. This, I think, do not aplied to the junior tactical doctrine because the Germans´ orders were better interpreted by the ships´ captains than the British ones. On the other hand we have the famous 180 degrees retreat manouver that the Germans executed so beatifully both times when Jellicoe cross their "T" and was almost in position to sink Scheer.
And the outcome. The Germans sunk more (and more valuable) ships. That even Beatty would agree. After all it was him who turned to a captain after the blowing of Indefatigable and said: "It seems something is wrong with our bloody ships today..." But the tactical and strategical achievements were British because they outmanouvered Scheer on the battlefield and sent him back to port where he never came out again. Great Britain mantain the mastery of the seas and of the comercial aproaches. the Germans were incapable to block the British Islands.
One thing can be said and that is that Jellicoe was unable to achieve a Trafalgar-like victory because he didn´t was agressive enough, and the High Seas Fleet scored a good goal with their night training, which allowed them to escape.
It´s not a draw, it´s a British victory, but not an awesome victory.
Re: Jutland recurrent themes
Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 6:27 pm
Karl Heidenreich wrote:I agree that all the bright ideas were British: battleships and battlecruisers were their´s,
I don't: the monocaliber battleship was born in Italy from the ideas of Vittorio Cuniberti, who published his ideas on the Jane's in 1903 I believe.His ideas were made reality by Fisher, but in fact he was the first to think to a "dreadnought" ship.
Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 8:59 pm
I agree with both.
The winner of a battle is he who achieves his goals. The German´s goal was to destroy a significant part of the British fleet. In this they failed.
The British´s was to maintain the blockade, which they succeded.
This notwithstanding the looses, which were undenibly far heavier to them.
Posted: Wed Jan 18, 2006 9:23 pm
One can say that the German Brandenburg class with four 28cm 40 cal and 2 28cm 35cal guns in three centre line turrets anticipated the all big gun battleships prior to Cuniberti's writings, as this class was laid down in 1890. Curious though, that the idea was never carried on in subsequent classes of German predreadnoughts.
Posted: Wed Feb 01, 2006 11:57 pm
In the first chapters of Campbell´s "Jutland" he is very explicit stating that the German Battlecruisers were technologically superior to those of the Royal Navy.
He also points that if the Germans had fought the RN at the very beggining of WWI they would surely be outnumbered, but they would be so superior in qualitative terms in their favor (Germans) that they would have had a chance of victory.
Obvious that when Jutland happened the British had a bigger numerical advantage but still the German Battlecruisers were superior. The final result of this reality was the pounding that the British Battlecruisers received and didn´t stand, in contrast of the German battered but not destroyed units.
Posted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 12:42 am
That's a very simplistic view to take, Karl. it leaves out such factors as the leadership, the state of training and gunnery, and the handling practices carried out in the different ships. For a start Beatty didn't allow his ships to open fire immediately they had the range, allowing the HSF to get within range free of charge. The British battlecruisers were notoriously bad with their gunnery and, apparently, made up for this by firing as fast as possible, which neccessitated unsafe practices with cordite. Also the British battlecruisers regularly got confused about which ship to fire at, allowing German ships target practice on British ones.
So, were the German Battlecruisers better? I guess we'll never know. Maybe you'd like to offer up some reasons for your conclusions, other than the fact that more of them blew up?
Posted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 12:47 am
Ah, I neglected to mention the shocking state of British AP shell, which had a propensity to burst on impact, or not at all. I have seen it written that if British shell had performed like the German shell did there would have been a lot more German ships lost. If you read about the ridiculously lax methods of quality control used by the Admiralty it will come as no surprise that there were so many duds.
Posted: Thu Feb 02, 2006 4:34 pm
iankw wrote: So, were the German Battlecruisers better? I guess we'll never know. Maybe you'd like to offer up some reasons for your conclusions, other than the fact that more of them blew up?
Those aren´t my conclusion but of Campbell´s. As a matter of fact he start his First Chapter refering to these issues. But you are answering yourself: the British seemed to be with a lot of technical problems when WWI started and afterwards. At the very beggining of this topic I referred to the premise that British command had a better tactical performance over the Germans, but the technological level was very poor in comparison.
Something very bad happened with the British Battlecruisers on May 31, 1916. A lot of sailors died because of the factors involved. There are recurrent themes over this: the cordite factor, seems to many, the primordial issue; on the other hand there was a lack of security at the turrets because they (the crew) leave the hatches and bulkheads open to the magazines so they can increase their rate of fire. They need to increase it in order to compensate with the German most accurate artillery fire. If we grant that German artillery was better than that of the British then we have to ask ourselves: why? Were the British gun crews inefficient or was it a problem with their fire directors? I have not reach Campbell´s conclusion for all these factors. In this case I cannot refer to them now and, also , because I´m still looking for Robert´s Battlecruisers that may have some answers in this respect.
But if cordite, bulkheads, fire direction, rate of fire, signals, etc. were giving problems, all at once, in Beatty´s Battlecruisers then we can say that Squadron was, ship by ship, not an equal to Hipper´s.
Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 5:15 pm
But it is my understanding that the Germans did in fact sortie a few times after Jutland--notwithstanding the fact that it wasn't often and achieved no result.
One has to wonder what would have happened if the desperate order to sail forth regardless of consequences at the end of the war had been carried out...
Rather the mutiny ensued. Most probably it would have been a slaughter, but one would like to think they might have given a good account of themselves first.,
Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 9:46 pm
In fact they came out three more times after Jutland, but for no great result.
Karl, the thing I have problems with is this:
"The final result of this reality was the pounding that the British Battlecruisers received and didn´t stand, in contrast of the German battered but not destroyed units."
Now having said all that in your first post, much of which I agree with, you seem finally to have come down to the "but they lost more ships" argument with the quote above. THAT is what I was replying to. Making the point that it wasn't quite that simple. Also, don't forget that two of the British BCs were lost in the run to the south, before the BBs were engaged. It's debatable whether Beatty's tactics were better, since he managed to get the 5th BS out of the action for a good long time. During the BC duel the Germans outfought the British, imo quite easily, in part because of the late openfire of the Brits, the poor gunnery and the confusion over targets. All of this, coupled with the poor quality shell doesn't, imo, allow us to draw any conclusions about the better protection of the German ships, because they weren't really tested. Theoretically the Brits were equal because their larger calibre guns should have been able to penetrate the thicker armour of the German BCs, in the same way that the lighter German projectiles should have been able to penetrate the thinner armour of the British BCs.
I think we are, essentially saying the same thing in slightly different ways.
Posted: Fri Feb 03, 2006 11:50 pm
I believe Hipper said something to the effect that his own losses were not worse only due to the poor quality of the the British shells.
Posted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 11:24 am
I don't know, I'd say Seydlitz and Derfflinger were pretty thoroughly tested, even considering possible poor British shell quality. Just look at some of those battle damage photos.
The one british battlecruiser that came close was the Tiger, isn't this so? I forget the number of major calibre hits, but wasn't it 15-16? I remember reading a British account of the damage sustained (which seemed possibly biased--"turret temporarily knocked out', or whatever, being a typical comment making light of possibly serious problems). That sounds like a bit of a beating.
Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 3:47 pm
iankw wrote :
and Djoser wrote
Theoretically the Brits were equal because their larger calibre guns should have been able to penetrate the thicker armour of the German BCs, in the same way that the lighter German projectiles should have been able to penetrate the thinner armour of the British BCs.
I don't know, I'd say Seydlitz and Derfflinger were pretty thoroughly tested, even considering possible poor British shell quality.
I think that we are not arguing about a great many things, only about the BCs protection, because in the other aspects more or less we agree.
I sustained my position about the problems with the British BCs and here is the reason: It´s not a new history anyway; the British had rush in lot of ocassions to create new devices even when the current technology avaivable wasn´t developed enough to support it: they have some train wrecks over their metal bridges in the late XIX century because their material and building methods were not the ideal ones for their otherwise magnificent achivements. On the other hand we have Titanic. Some factors that helped Titanic sink were of technological origin: brittle metal subject to freezing temperatures, the bulkeads not going up to "E" deck (or was "C"?
), the small rudder (well, that´s an idea supported by James Cameron and so forth subject to any kind of controversy). Anyway, the British had a tendency to build things above the (ot their)current technology and, in some cases, some problems arouse.
When a weapons race began a lot of the devices built may be part of this idiosincracy, because if you don´t built it you may lose before the fighting starts. That´s what I believe handicaped the British BCs not only at Jutland but over WWI.
P.S. As matter of fact the German BCs almost made a suicide attack against the main British Battle Line to let Scheer escape.
Best regards to all.
Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2006 4:29 pm
Karl, I don´t agree with your view. In fact the Admiralty was often pointed out as too much conservative. There are many examples, from the keeping of muzzle loading guns till mid 1870´s (I believe) to the late adoption of HE in their shells in place of black powder.
Posted: Tue Feb 07, 2006 2:28 pm
But Dj, weren't Derfflinger and Seydlitz hit mainly by BB shells? I thought we were discussing only BCs. There is no doubt in my mind that any BC would come off badly against BBs, especially in WW1, because of the lightness of the armour (relatively).
However, my point is that whereas the British BCs were tested by the German BCs, and were found wanting, this COULD be mainly down to the factors mentioned, rather than an inherent design weakness. On the other hand we can't really judge the German BCs vs British BCs because they weren't really tested, again because of the factors mentioned previously. So, we might, for instance have seen three German BCs succumb to British shell if 1) Beatty had allowed them to open fire as soon as possible, or 2) British BC gunnery was up to German standards (or GF standard), or 3) British BC fire distribution had been correct, or 4) British cordite handling practice was safer, or 5) British shell had performed as well as German shell. Any one of the above might have had a dramatic effect on the battle, which would allow us to judge the quality of German BCs as opposed to British. What would our conclusion be if three German BCs had been sunk by British BCs? Would we then say that the British decision to trade armour for firepower was right?