hammy wrote:In their original guise , Furious , Courageous + Glorious were optimised to provide heavy naval support to an allied army landing on the shoal shores of Prussia , in the Baltic , and to be faster and stronger than any German oponent they might meet there ( Light cruisers) .
I dont see how the suggestion that the ships had major failings stands up , in the context of their intended role.
How exactly were the trio "optimized" for the Baltic operation? To my knowledge there was never a detailed plan - merely a vague concept in Fisher's mind. Although he sincerly believed in the plan, I would argue including the Trio in it would have been largely Fisher hyperbole, an afterthought to grease more Battlecruiser construction through a cabinet that had suspended all capital ship construction. "No, they're not capital ships... they're support ships for my 'war winning plan.' >_>" I would be extremely doubtful if Cabinet had given him the choice between the 3 freaks and another pair of Renowns that even he would have chosen the former.
What role were the trio designed to accomplish that couldn't have been done better
by the equivalent effort spent on more conventional ships?
If Bombardment was important than why the high speed at the expense of protection/cheapness? You could build several Monitor style ships which would have been better fire support ships - even shallower draft, better torpedo protection, smaller crew, cheaper that would be better suited to the work - as indeed they proved themselves along the Belgian coast. Would the Dardanelles have gone appreciably better had "Large Light Cruisers" had been present? Why weren't C&G used against flanders rather than sitting out the war at Scapa? Even the projected R-Class conversions for Churchill's "Catherine" had substantial protection built into them for the role.
Their shallow draught is often cited as being a "baltic plan" feature but the design history of the Hood, begun soon after makes it clear that a shallower draught was a desirable feature in all ships for damage control purposes.
The 15inch Main armament removed from C + G was fitted later into Vanguard .
As this was essentially the same weapon system fitted to the Queen Elizabeth and the R class , one presumes it must have worked quite as well .
No one is saying it didn't... in battleships... when you're firing at other battleships... and you have enough that you can fire large salvoes to improve your odds of hitting at *reasonable* combat ranges.
If fighting light ships is your goal then why do you only carry 4 weapons that take 30 seconds each to reload? What advantages does that bring versus either a proper Battlecruiser or cruiser armed with say 7.5" or 9.2" weapons? You're not going to be hitting maneuvering cruisers or DDs at range and your vast hull is an easy target once they get in close.
As a parallel - The German 5.9" for example was an excellent weapon... for big ships... when mounted on Destroyers it performed less well than the lighter guns it replaced.
While the 4 inch triple secondary gun mountings were considered to be cramped for the crews to operate fully efficiently , they cant have been hopeless , as
A ) they would have been tested before being put onto a ship in the first place , and
B ) they were still fitted to the premium unit Repulse as late as 1942 when she was lost off Malaya .
That they were better than nothing does not mean they weren't failures.
a) because no ship has ever gone to sea with substandard armament
b) Repulse was hardly a premium unit in 1942 and given the shortages that plagued the RN many ships had to "make do" with armament that was less than ideal.
c) Hood was equiped with 5.5" and the G3s with 6" weapons because the 4" had long been seen as too light to deal with an enemy DD attack at the necessary range. The only thing the 4" had going for it was rate of fire - however the failure of the triple mounting was 2 single mounts could have achieved a higher rate of fire with fewer crew.
All three ships operated as carriers with the same original propulsion plants , and I know of no major problems with what were entirely conventional power plants.
The powerplants were indeed the most satisfactory element of the design, as I mentioned - however 'convential' needs to be qualified - if you consider them as "light cruisers" they merely repeated tried and true cruiser machinery with small tube boilers and geared turbines. If you consider them as "capital ships" they were innovative in being the first such British ships to be so fitted and thus serve as an indirect step between Renown's Machinery and the more advanced plant later fitted to Hood. Compared to Renown with 42 boilers for 112k shp they required only 18 for their 90k.
That the British Army , bogged down in head to head operations against the German Army in France , could spare no resources for a substantial seaborne descent onto the shores of Pomerania was not the fault of the ships , nor was the rapid development of efficient aircraft so that by 1918 the thing was impossible to do.
If the ships had been built pre-war you couldn't hold the designers accountable for unforseen circumstances.
However they were laid down in 1915...
22 September, 1914 - HMS Aboukir, Hogue, and Cressy sunk by U9
27 October 1914 - HMS Audacious sunk by a mine.
March 18 - Bouvet, Ocean, Irresistable sunk, Inflexible, Suffren, Gaulois damaged by a line of 20 mines.
The Baltic Plan was already impossible to do in 1914, (unless the Germans just lie down and do nothing) it just wasn't as evident. British strategic thinking was stuck in the Napoleonic wars, where in the days of sail you could move an army faster by sea than you could overland and support it on a shoe string. But by 1915, in northern Europe, it should have been evident that the days of half assed amphibious operations were long gone. In 1944 it took thousands of ships to move and support an army merely accross the channel, after months spent dstroying the french transportation network to isolate Normandy from reinforcement. To attempt to do the same in the Baltic in 1916, in the heart of the German empire, in the face of mines, torpedoes, submarines, the HSF, and especially the German railroads pooring reserves in, and keep it supported accross the North Sea - the "Baltic Plan," with or without the LLCs would likely have quickly degenerated into a disaster that would have made Gallipoli or Anzio look successful in comparisson.