Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

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VoidSamukai
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Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby VoidSamukai » Wed Apr 13, 2016 6:51 am

This topic has been discussed on many naval forums I've seen, or at least mentioned, so I wanted to get your opinions on the matter.

The battlecruiser was a type of ship created by the British Admiral Jacky Fisher. He was the same guy that gave us HMS Dreadnought, which would define the modern battleship for years to come. This was born from lessons from the Battle of Tsushima, where long range gunnery was seen more important than short range fights, where the distance was determine by the speed of the battleships. This meant that in order to create the ideal battleship, lots of big guns and good speed were needed. Hence, the Dreadnought was born.

At the same time, in order to succeed the armoured cruisers, the battlecruiser was developed. The British Invincible class were the typical type; battleship size and firepower, coup with cruiser armour and speed. This rendered the armoured cruiser concept quite out of date, as the battlecruisers could catch up to them and easily sink them, and soon after other countries followed. Japan had the famous Kongo class built in Britain, America and France had cruiser killing ships which are mostly recognised as battlecruisers and Germany matched British battlecruisers. Or at least, tried to. It is worth noting that at the time, the official classification of the German Battlecruisers was actually "Large cruiser", though they are recognised these days are battlecruisers, just with different concepts in mind.

The Battle of Jutland was where people begin to question the concept of the battlecruiser and whether or not it is valid, due to the lost of 3 British battlecruisers and 1 German one, albeit the latter due to massive damage. But it is the British ships that raised eyebrows. These 3 ships all blew up in massive explosion after taking only minor damage. I dismissed the Battle of the Denmark Strait and Krishima v Washington, as the age difference between the two ships makes them not really relevant.

So, considering all the ships and the battles they participate, do you guys think that the Battlecruisers in general, from all nations, were flawed, either in concept or design?

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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby Byron Angel » Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:05 pm

The battle-cruiser concept was outstanding for its original primary role of securing the imperial sea trade lanes. Case in point: the Falkland Islands.

In the secondary role as a fast support to the battle-line, the battle-cruisers of the British fleet were betrayed by bad ammunition handling practices and dangerously unstable propellant. The British battle-cruisers lost at Jutland all succumbed to catastrophic ammunition explosions; to my mind, this fact should focus the mind more upon the propellant issue than upon the physical design of the ships. D K Brown once wrote that, had the British battle-cruisers not all blown up and simply returned to port battered and bruised, no one would ever have criticized their design. I tend to agree.

The German battle-cruisers (they were there as well!) performed superbly at Jutland.

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Alberto Virtuani
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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby Alberto Virtuani » Wed Apr 13, 2016 3:54 pm

@Byron Angel
Hi Byron, I fully agree with your analysis. :ok:

@VoidSamukai :
Hi, I would just add to Byron post that the German battlecruisers performed very well at Jutland also because they incorporated lessons from Dogger Bank battle, where, for the same bad ammunition handling practices, Seydlitz failed to blow up thanks to a quick magazines flooding and possibly to a propellant superior stability. After that, Germans modified their ammunition handling practices, as the British did after Jutland.

Bye, Alberto
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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby Paul L » Wed Apr 13, 2016 7:55 pm

Yeah I would echo the above comments. Read Friedman's book on 'Netcentric Warfare' Its clear that was the main justification for the Battle-cruisers design and was quite innovative concept.. Every thing evolved around the problem of how to protect imperial trade lines from enemy raiders and while the Germans did threaten this at first ; the HSF mostly retreated into the North Sea Area of battle. So the BC had to be re-tasked to fleet action. During the cruiser raids of 1914-16 the allies had to deploy up to a dozen cruisers or AMC to hunt for each German raider....not a bad trade off.

The development of the long range cruiser in the late 20s on seemed to have solved the problem until the RM upped the stakes with the PBS concept in the late 1920s....at which point the BC returned to their main task of ocean control.
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VoidSamukai
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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby VoidSamukai » Thu Apr 14, 2016 2:18 am

Thank you all for your opinions.

I myself do not see the battlecruiser as a flawed ship. It was how the "british" used their battlecruisers that has led to the matter. British BCs were not meant to engage big gun warships, so when they were exposed to heavy gun fire, they got beat. Not helped by their dangerous use of ammunitions, which only made the matters worst.

German BCs however were made to engage big gun warships, so they had much success. Only the Lutzow sank, and that was being scuttled after taken massive damage. Ships like the Seyditz and Defllinger took massive punishment, and both survived.

In short, the battlecruiser was not flawed IMO. It was how they were used and operated that meant they were vulnerable.

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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby Dave Saxton » Thu Apr 14, 2016 1:18 pm

The theory that the British BCs blew up because of faulty ammunition handling is not universally accepted. Other theories are still inadequate armour and/or weak turret protection, including inadequate flash protection within the turrets and barbets. I don't have an opinion.

It has been suggested by some that sloppy ammunition handling was also the the root cause of the Hood's loss in WW2.
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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby Steve-M » Thu Apr 14, 2016 8:22 pm

VoidSamukai wrote:So, considering all the ships and the battles they participate, do you guys think that the Battlecruisers in general, from all nations, were flawed, either in concept or design?


I'd say the German BCs were pretty much ideal in terms of their balance of speed, firepower, and protection for their time. As such, I'd have to vote no on the whole concept being bunk. OTOH, expecting ships with a 6" belt, 7" turrets/barbettes, and negligible deck armor to fight in the line of battle versus enemy BCs and BBs is very flawed. Even then, there's some luck involved or an X-factor like cordite instability/poor ammo handling/whatever. Look at the beating armored cruisers like Blucher, Scharnhorst, and Gneisenau took before succumbing to BC fire.

VoidSamukai wrote:I dismissed the Battle of the Denmark Strait and Krishima v Washington, as the age difference between the two ships makes them not really relevant.


For Kirishima vs Washington, you can also consider how many ships were designed to withstand the updated US 16"/L45 at close range. It's a pretty short list...

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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby Byron Angel » Thu Apr 14, 2016 9:53 pm

I have commented upon this before at great length, but it is my belief that the fundamental root cause of the losses of Indefatigable, Queen Mary, Invincible, Defence and Minotaur at Jutland was dangerously unstable cordite, with minor assistance rendered by poor ammunition stowage and handling practices.

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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby Dave Saxton » Thu Apr 14, 2016 10:13 pm

One question I have: is why those three? Was the ammunition and the handling fundamentally different from the other British capital ships at the time?
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby Byron Angel » Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:29 am

Dave Saxton wrote:One question I have: is why those three? Was the ammunition and the handling fundamentally different from the other British capital ships at the time?



..... I do not believe that there was any difference in the nature of the cordite aboard the various ships. Nor do I believe that there was any fundamental difference in ammunition handling that would likely have made a difference. "Lion" was, to the best of our knowledge, the sole ship in the BCF to have adopted more careful ammunition handling methods (see Grant, "Through the Hawsepipe"). Yet she was only saved by the 18 minute delay in the ignition of the eight exposed charges in the hoists, which allowed Q turret magazines to be flooded. Later analysis concluded that the magazine doors, even when closed, were not sufficiently sturdy to withstand such a deflagration as occurred, nor were the cases in which the propellant was stored themselves flash-proof.

This leads to the assessment that the ships lost were simply victims of lethally unfortunate hit locations ..... basically luck of the draw.

Strictly my opinion, of course.

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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby VoidSamukai » Fri Apr 15, 2016 3:50 am

Byron Angel wrote:
Dave Saxton wrote:One question I have: is why those three? Was the ammunition and the handling fundamentally different from the other British capital ships at the time?



..... I do not believe that there was any difference in the nature of the cordite aboard the various ships. Nor do I believe that there was any fundamental difference in ammunition handling that would likely have made a difference. "Lion" was, to the best of our knowledge, the sole ship in the BCF to have adopted more careful ammunition handling methods (see Grant, "Through the Hawsepipe"). Yet she was only saved by the 18 minute delay in the ignition of the eight exposed charges in the hoists, which allowed Q turret magazines to be flooded. Later analysis concluded that the magazine doors, even when closed, were not sufficiently sturdy to withstand such a deflagration as occurred, nor were the cases in which the propellant was stored themselves flash-proof.

This leads to the assessment that the ships lost were simply victims of lethally unfortunate hit locations ..... basically luck of the draw.

Strictly my opinion, of course.

B


Maybe it could also be attributed to the better armouring of the turrets on the British super dreadnoughts, which would make a penetrating hit less likely.

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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby paul.mercer » Fri Apr 15, 2016 9:56 am

Gentlemen,
Surely the battlecruiser was designed with fairly light armour, powerful armament and high speed in order to catch and destroy enemy cruisers, not take on heavily armed and armoured battleships in a stand up fight or in a line of battle - as happened at Jutland and of course with Hood. I realise that the Jutland battle has many theories as to what happened, but it does seem that Beattie was taking a hiding until the main battle fleet came up and was saved mainly by the power of the QE's. To conclude, BC's were fine for what they were designed for, but badly used by the RN in some tragic cases and with a few exceptions never really fulfilled their designed role.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but perhaps the RN would have been better advised to build three fast 15" battleships (28 -30 knots) instead of Hood, Renown and Repulse.

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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby Byron Angel » Fri Apr 15, 2016 1:44 pm

VoidSamukai wrote:Maybe it could also be attributed to the better armouring of the turrets on the British super dreadnoughts, which would make a penetrating hit less likely.


Logically speaking, heavier armor would probably have reduced the likelihood of such a catastrophic hit as was suffered by the British BCs. But it is hard to say to what degree, as the British dreadnought battle-line was hardly hit during the battle. On the other hand, at the battle range that prevailed, the German 30.5cm/L50 should theoretically not have been able to achieve an intact penetration of Queen Mary's heavy armor; yet she too was lost.

One telling observation made in a British post-Jutland report was very telling to me. It pointed out that German armored warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Blucher, and Lutzow were all literally riddled by major caliber overmatching gun hits, yet no magazine explosion was suffered by any of them; Seydlitz had six tons of propellant burn in her two aft turrets at Dogger Bank without suffering a magazine explosion and was again very badly shot up at Jutland.

B

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VoidSamukai
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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby VoidSamukai » Fri Apr 15, 2016 1:57 pm

paul.mercer wrote:Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but perhaps the RN would have been better advised to build three fast 15" battleships (28 -30 knots) instead of Hood, Renown and Repulse.


Well, technology wasn't up to the job. There wasn't much then that could've produced a BB with 28 knots and good armour, as well as good firepower. A possible attempt might be a 28kt Hood with thicker deck armour and 13inch belt, though Im not too sure if that was possible.

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Re: Battlecruisers: Flawed or not?

Postby VoidSamukai » Fri Apr 15, 2016 2:02 pm

Byron Angel wrote:One telling observation made in a British post-Jutland report was very telling to me. It pointed out that German armored warships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, Blucher, and Lutzow were all literally riddled by major caliber overmatching gun hits, yet no magazine explosion was suffered by any of them; Seydlitz had six tons of propellant burn in her two aft turrets at Dogger Bank without suffering a magazine explosion and was again very badly shot up at Jutland.

B


Well, Seydlitz would've suffered the same fate as the British BCs at Jutland, had the magazines not been flooded quickly. Luckily for the Germans, they learnt their lessons on handling explosives and corrected their errors quickly. Something that took the British 3 BCs and a few Armoured cruisers to do the same.

It does seem that German ships were quite tough. The armoured cruisers, despite being outgunned and outmatched, managed to take a massive beating before going down. Seydlitz and Derflinger were both shot up badly at Jutland, yet both lived to tell the tale. The only German BC lost during the war was Lutzow, and that was being scuttled after taking massive damage. Gotta give it to the Germans when it comes to making tough ships.


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