The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

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The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by Djoser » Sun Nov 21, 2010 3:33 pm

Obviously the idea didn't take hold, and the Dreadnought was an entirely different level of warship.

But I have always wondered no one ever seems to bring up the six 11" guns of the Brandenburg class, when discussing the origin of the idea that the Dreadnought embodied so much more effectively.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Brand ... ey%27s.png

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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by RF » Wed Nov 24, 2010 7:31 pm

Still not a really powerful weight of shot - its easy to see why Dreadnought would simply get the ''bragging rights'' over this design.
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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by tommy303 » Wed Nov 24, 2010 7:51 pm

If I recall the midship turret had shorter guns to allow the turret to clear the superstructures when being rotated to either side. While of the same bore as the fore and aft turret guns, the shorter calibre length would give different ballistics.

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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by RF » Thu Nov 25, 2010 8:24 am

If there is different ballistics this would presumably mean a separate FC - indeed did this ship actually have a central FC?
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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by Djoser » Fri Nov 26, 2010 9:05 am

Right, at first I mentioned the shorter caliber in the OP, but didn't think it made a big difference due to the lack of centralized fire control in all ships of that period. So I deleted that part.

And though the weight of shot was not close to Dreadnought's, it was still 6 big guns firing a total of 3,174 pounds (529 per shell), as compared to the 2,020 pound broadside of the Pommerns (530 per shell)--a 50% increase in hitting power, 10 years earlier. You'd think that would have been considered a more important precedent.

Obviously the British were not impressed, lol:

'The British Royal Navy derisively referred to the ships as the "whalers." '

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brandenbur ... battleship


But in the Wilkpedia article there is also an explanation for the dropping of the 6 gun main armament:

"...the midships turret caused prohibitive blast damage to the surrounding superstructure when fired, which led to the idea being abandoned."

Still, I think more credit should be given for this innovative arrangement. To read may histories of the dreadnought and pre-dreadnought battleships, you'd think no one ever even thought of using more than 4 big guns, at all, before the Dreadnought and the South Carolina (wasn't there another one being built by some other power? I am not at home so don't have my normal references).

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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by Djoser » Fri Nov 26, 2010 10:57 am

Sorry, that should be 2,120 pound broadside for the Pommern. Still, damned close to a 50% increase, ten years earlier, for the Brandenburg.

Obviously the other major powers, with the heavier 12" guns, threw an amount of weight which would render this presumed design advantage of the Brandenburgs to a less significant level. For instance the 12" wire wound guns of the Majestic class had a broadside of 3,400 pounds with only 4 guns. But then the German battleships and battlecruisers always threw a lot less weight than their contemporaries, well into WWI. And the Pommerns threw so much less weight, but were still considered capital ships. They still represent the continuing development and improvement of the fledgling German capital ship design program.

I'm just thinking if I'd been the Kaiser, I'd have been tempted to build a much longer and wider Brandenburg, obviously with room for full caliber turret rotation, with some better sort of arrangement to protect the decks from damage when firing (though obviously this was also still a problem in later dreadnoughts of a couple different navies). And then maybe I've have had a nice little proto-dreadnought.

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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by RF » Fri Nov 26, 2010 7:06 pm

Indeed - I wonder if it would have been around for Jutland in 1916......
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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by Djoser » Sat Nov 27, 2010 4:58 pm

Wow, that is so funny! I was starting to post 'Oh no, even the hypothetical 'next phase' 6 gun battleships would have been obsolete at Jutland, they wouldn't be there.'

Then I of course realized that the 'next phase' battleships were there--Pommern et al!

I suspect if the Kaiser and Tirpitz had built a much improved 6 main gun battleship, the British would have come out with a Dreadnought a little sooner. Like Gloire and Warrior? Maybe without the turbines though?

As the dreadnought race provoked WWI (though of course there were other causes it was a biggie!), maybe it would have started a couple years earlier? That's getting a little farther out there, though.

Still, the alternative history scenarios are fascinating. And so often only a little change here or there, and they would have transpired easily.

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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by delcyros » Mon Feb 28, 2011 8:02 pm

By the time of the BRANDENBURG-class, Germany was a newcomer to the small splendid battleship designing nations. As a relatively young nation with naval ambitions it was clear that something unusual would appear from the design boards.
For a number of reasons the BRANDENBURGs are innovative but the armament certainly is not a big factor in those considerations as outlined below.

[+]1895 there was no armour piercing shell aviable to defeat face hardened armour in an intact condition, provided with a filler insensible enough to survive heavy impact shock and a fuze reliable enough to allow in depth penetration before exploding. Technology level in this time included nose hardened APshot or-shell (the latter with black powder filler).
[+]1895 there was no centralised firecontroll aviable, no continous aim, no telescopic sights, no rangetaking at all, except MK I eyeball. This precludes very long range encounters. All period encounters until the russo-japanese war were point blanc range engagements from the gunnery perspective. Gunlayers were obligated to aim in the roll to either hit the upper works or the waterline and fired on gun-range, not target-range.
[+] In the 1890´s Compound and Nickel steel armour gave way to the very first face hardened armour, either Harvey or KC, which was able to reliably shatter all period shells (soft capped APC didn´t appeared before 1902 and capped, delay action APC weren´t introduced before 1912). This casts even holing of armour in severe doubt.

These two limitations and the adotpion of face hardened armour drastically reduce the tactical usefulness of major calibre guns in this period at normal figting range. Their exploitation was furtherly hindered by smokey burning propellent, which made necessary to clean the barrels between firings in intervals and in doing so hindered firing rate of all guns. Major calibre guns were housed in Coles/Ericcson turrets or open mounts with very few true turrets existing at the time of the BRANDENBURG.
On the other hand, this timeframe saw the introduction of Quick firing Batteries, smaller calibres 6in down to 3in, able to achieve very high firing rates. Instead of the one shot in two minutes these guns could fire twice a minute and later with smokeless powder and better handling practices these firing times furthely reduced to one shot in 40 sec. for major calibre guns and 4-6 rounds per minute for 6in QF. It also saw the introduction of high capacity shells in most navies, which lagged a penetration ability but on the other hand were able to wreck any unarmoured structures around.

Thus, in this timeframe, the BRANDENBURG may seem to represent a forward looking battleship design, but one not really fitting the periods greatest threads.
This danger was not major calibre fire but rapid fire of medium batteries with HE-shell, degrading the ship´s superstructure, causing a large toll of deaths and injured aboard. It was firing practice to close the range as much as feasable (1,500 to 3,000 yard, rarely more), continue on parallel courses and fire HE shells until the targeted ship is disabled, abandoned, set ablazed with fires out of controll or driven ashore. Then with a few well aimed AP-shots on the waterline with major calibre AP additional flooding was caused on one side of the ship to hasten it´s sinking. This combat doctrine can be traced down in the sino-japanese naval battles, the hispano-american naval battles and even the russo-japanese ones, even though the latter also saw the attempt to create some long range actions.

SMS BRANDENBURG and SMS WÖRTH both had relatively thick compound armour at the waterline but no armour as citadell protection, thus these ships were very sensible to HE fire even from the smallest calibres. They may have had face hardened armour on the turrets of the Gruson type similar to the armour employed in german land fortres turrets. While the latter two ships of this class were the first ships to have Krupp cementated armour for the belt and barbette, still no upper side belt was provided for them. The main guns were housed in innovative turrets but required end-on-loading (all-round loading was still in the future for all navies) and had a relatively long firing cycle. I don´t think the difference in calibre length has anything to do with different ballistics for period engagements and spotting or salvo rules were simply non-existent in this period.
The Majestics on the other hand had a thinner main belt, but equally made with face hardened armour (HARVEY), which would be suitable to defeat period AP shells from ca. 3000 yard figthing range and additionally they had a 6in upper side belt which would be effective in stopping smaller calibre HE destroying the upper hull. They didn´t had true turrets but fielded a useful medium battery firing HE-shell, which the BRANDENBURG lacked.

The RMA learned from this experience and the succeeding KASIER FRIEDRICH III class was basically the opposite of the BRANDENBURG. After analysing period naval actions, QF fire was considered of utmost priority. The KAISER class fielded 18 (!) 5.91in QF guns firing a proper HE shell and even the main guns were modified to adopt the QF-principle (the largest guns to use QF principles at this time).

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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by Tiornu » Tue Mar 01, 2011 4:46 pm

Woohoo! Let's hear it for Worth!

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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by Gerard Heimann » Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:31 pm

Sorry, the missing umlaut makes all the difference!

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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by Tiornu » Tue Mar 01, 2011 8:46 pm

I think my surname is German rather than English, and there may even have been a "von" in there. Any umlauts drowned on the way across the Atlantic.

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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by lwd » Wed Mar 02, 2011 2:21 pm

delcyros wrote:... This danger was not major calibre fire but rapid fire of medium batteries with HE-shell, degrading the ship´s superstructure, causing a large toll of deaths and injured aboard. It was firing practice to close the range as much as feasable (1,500 to 3,000 yard, rarely more), continue on parallel courses and fire HE shells until the targeted ship is disabled, abandoned, set ablazed with fires out of controll or driven ashore. Then with a few well aimed AP-shots on the waterline with major calibre AP additional flooding was caused on one side of the ship to hasten it´s sinking. This combat doctrine can be traced down in the sino-japanese naval battles, the hispano-american naval battles and even the russo-japanese ones, even though the latter also saw the attempt to create some long range actions. ...
It is interesting that one solution to that would appear to lie in something like an updated version of the late ACW dual turreted monitors. Almost no superstructure, only 4 guns but large arcs of fire for all 4, and big ones at that. Miantonomoh for instance carried 4 15" Dahlgrens. The latter Puritan 4 12" rifles.

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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by delcyros » Fri Mar 11, 2011 3:32 pm

Given the significance of the advent of properly HE filled high capacity shells fired from QF batteries at the turn of the 19th and 20th century I cannot see how the progressive path of the BRANDEBURG-class could have been followed further with slow firing major calibre BL guns and a tiny battery of 4.1in QF. In this, the class is supposed to represent a dead-end development.

I can see an alternative design of the KAISER-class, however. Given the emphasize put on QF batteries and the experiments conducted with Weiss high explosives in the mid 90´s of the 19th century at Meppen- both had influence on the decision how to arm this ship, I can see a different developmental path for the KAISER FRIEDRICH III class:
I will assume that all guns are adopted as historical, this means 15cmL40 and 24cmL40 QF guns are aviable. Six of the eighteen (!) 15cm QF guns have been installed in balanced turrets with all-round loading on the main deck level as had all main gun turrets (fwd. turret raised and superfiring the fwd. 15cm batteries, the first case of a centerline turret superfiring other guns to my knowledge -basically the opposite to the USS KEARSAGE buildt & commissioned a year later where the secondary guns were superfiring the main gun turret) except for the first two ships of this class, which featured an older turret design C/97 forcing to end-on loading, only.
I can imagine that four additional 24cm QF in single casemattes (GNEISENAU / SCHARNHORST) or even in single turrets could have been placed on the main deck level, replacing the existing six 15cm QF single turret broadside positions. This gives an identic 6 gun broadside to the former BRANDENBURG-class, thus continuing the original idea and an enhanced 12 gun 15cm QF battery. All guns are quick firing with a relatively high rate of fire (2-3 rpm for the 24cm and 4-5 rpm for the 15cm) and would have adressed the blast problems experienced at cross deck firing.

From an evolutional point of view such a class would sooner or later progress into a true Dreadnought type but for good reasons, TIRPITZ wanted something different.

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Re: The REAL first 'all big gun' battleship

Post by Djoser » Sat Apr 23, 2011 12:36 pm

lwd wrote: It is interesting that one solution to that would appear to lie in something like an updated version of the late ACW dual turreted monitors. Almost no superstructure, only 4 guns but large arcs of fire for all 4, and big ones at that. Miantonomoh for instance carried 4 15" Dahlgrens. The latter Puritan 4 12" rifles.
Interesting indeed. I would love to have seen the Miantonomoh in action--as long as it wasn't shooting at me!

Oh and great posts Delcyros. That's a lot of information packed in there, even if it shoots down my theory to a large extent--other than the fact that there was at least a precedent of a more than 4 big gun battleship, that never seems to get mentioned. And some good speculation too.

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