Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

From the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Second World War.
Paul L
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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by Paul L » Wed Dec 30, 2015 9:50 pm

Steve-M wrote:
Paul L wrote:I see the roles of the Atlanta and Dido/Belladonna classes as being long range ocean escorts/scouts for fast carrier battle groups in heavy sea. Historically this was the role of the Destroyers but they were sooo short range/speed and didn't have the sea keeping to keep station with bigger warships in heavy seas.
Practically speaking, probably the best / best use of cruisers, at least as the war carried on and air power became the preeminent threat. Not quite as cool as hunting down raiders ala River Plate, but minor detail.

Yes one of the original roles for cruisers was 'commerce protection' essentially from German raiders but from the UK POV this was best achieved by amassing 1/2 dozen cruisers along the GIUK gap to limit these raiders ability to break out. These force would have to be backed up by BB/CV/BC groups all requiring CA escorts if they planned to also hunt down the KM BBs.

When France was occupied that strategy was some what compromised , but the RAF took up the slack to suppress the Brest Squadron until Hitler ordered them back to Norway , when the cruiser picket along the GIUK gap took over that role for the rest of the war.

However from the time the Condors attacked convoys in 1940 , the Admiralty saw the increasing role of these lighter cruisers as AAA cover for convoys - clearly fore told in the prewar conversion of the older RN C Class light cruisers to CLAA....followed by the prewar designs of the Dido class of CLAA. At about the same time all RN prewar cruisers got their AAA overhauled with the pompoms & twin high angled 4" AAA.

I guess with the end of the air/surface threat in the Atlantic plus a shift east; newer roles for these costly cruisers were demanded.
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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by VoidSamukai » Sun Jan 03, 2016 1:30 am

How good would you rate the Deustchland class among the worlds cruisers, consdering age, role, statistics ect. Would you rate them; good, average or down right Courageous class BC bad XD

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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by Paul L » Sun Jan 03, 2016 7:53 am

VoidSamukai wrote:How good would you rate the Deustchland class among the worlds cruisers, consdering age, role, statistics ect. Would you rate them; good, average or down right Courageous class BC bad XD
Well its always difficult to compare things out of context. I'm assuming you meant the 'pocket battleships' and not the turn-of-the-century, pre-dreadnaughts [both "Deutschland" class].

In any case the PBS [Pocket battle ships] were excellent surface raiders as designed in 1920s . However from the start there must have been doubts, since the top speed was only 26knots @ max displacement & 28 knots @ Standard displacement. This was good enough for most battleships , but the bulk of the WW-I allied cruisers could manage 29 knots -with short range. These diesels could be forced to 105% that could in theory increase speed by 1/2 knot, but they also had vibration problems that may have prevented this?

More importantly allied battle cruisers of the day could easily outrun the PBS raiders and certainly the RN heavy cruisers of the late 20s/early 30s [Kent class etc], must have given the KM food for thought, since the PBS could not escape these cruisers either. Worse the armor of the PBS was designed against 6" shell fire but 8" guns of the heavy cruisers could pierce the belt & torpedo bulkhead at something like 14-16,000 yards. The only advantage the PBS could have in a fight would be the fearsome damage the 11" shells could do to any cruiser of the day. This was evident in the battle of the River Plate in 1939.

Exeter was smashed & crippled plus the Ajax damaged in the firefight, but unless all three RN cruisers were crippled, Langsdorff could not hope to escape in AGS, which could only manage 24 knots due to fouled hull [at sea too long]. Here lay the problem. Langsdorff could have threatened to sinking the Exeter as bait to draw the other two cruisers into a clash and then limped away afterwards damaged him self... but Langsdorff was not aggressive enough to risk this and that doomed the boat.

The KM had a doctrine that warships have to be able to run away from what they can’t defeat....but that only can work if the commander is aggressive enough. So in short the low speed of the "Deutschland" class doomed them from being great cruisers, but the KM would have been much better served had they focused on building a large number of faster and faster PBS designs instead of the prewar building plan. According to G. Koop, there was a post war German engineering paper written by ex KM naval construction engineers. In that paper they concluded the resources /ship yards/labor & funding that went into the building of the 5x Hipper cruisers + 2 x Scharnhorst BC & 2 Bismarck’s ; could have instead completed 21 PBC by wartime. Crunching the numbers myself it appears it’s possible to do this prewar, with some help from the other services..[ all big gun construction is for navy first until war begins].
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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by VoidSamukai » Sun Jan 03, 2016 10:35 am

Indeed, speed in the Deustchland class was lacking in modern terms (Applies to both classes when you think about it, but comparing pre dreads with dreadnoughts...unfair to say the least, for her type the Destch pre dread was okay). The proposed D class and P class were much faster versions, which could've made them quite good for commerce raiding. But in the sad end, the D class was canceled. -sigh-

On the plus side, they got the Scharnhorst class instead of D class :D

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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by Paul L » Sun Jan 03, 2016 9:32 pm

Hitler crippled the KM by micromanaging it to failure. From the start he demanded it be no more than a coastal defense fleet that was able to dominate the Baltic Sea plus a limited ability to interdict the North Sea & Norwegian Seas. When he took over power that's all the KM was able to do. There had been a naval plan in place [1928-1932] to rebuild the fleet with an aircraft carrier plus 6 more improved PBS and 6 more improved cruisers, plus 16 U boats & several dozen GTB which would be in violation of the ToV. All these warships were to be completed in late 1930s with another wave started then . In the early 1930s no one was thinking of war for German for another 15 years or more.

Needless to say Hitler crushed this plan and sent them back to the drawing board. He had a fantasy that he could convince the British to stay out of European affairs and let him get on with his racial war....and he was not going to let some ‘Tirpitz type’ Admiral ruin this plan. In time Raeder was able to convince Hitler that a modest surface fleet could be valuable to a U-boat war and Hitler himself in dealing with the French etc. Hitler agreed to this and the naval plan 1932 were slowly modified to anti French specs.

However in 1936 Hitler demanded to know how far the various rearmament programs were going and the reply was that it could be the late 1940s before it could be completed. Hitler bulked at this and imposed his " 4 year Plan" to ready Germany for his so called 'lighting war'.

Actually the Wehrmacht already had plans for such a 'lighting war' but they were to be based on a 'total war economy', which is something Hitler refuse to accept. Hitler's plan would have all the Baltic and Balkan countries welded together into his empire by the end of that decade [1930s]. But in order to do so he forced new building plans on the Wehrmacht. So both the KM & LW had their budgets slashed and instead use this money and resources to expand the Heer further than originally planned plus ‘crash build’ the needed bases & barracks plus the ‘West Wall’ etc. LW foresaw this problem and adapted their plans to meet Hitler's new demands.

Raeder and the KM clearly did not see the danger and their precious warship building plan was fouled up with increasing delays of 1-2 years due to delays in steel & armor shipments [all going to the WEST WALL]. So when the war began their core battle fleet was not built & neither was its support fleet. From that point on the unfinished surface fleet was sacrificed in an ongoing pattern that was predictable.

Anything was better than the fleet the KM started the war with. Had Hitler not interfered from the start- the Naval Plan 1932 should have been completed by war time and the U-boat war would have been much better served with such a fleet, compared to what historically was built for them.
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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by VoidSamukai » Mon Jan 04, 2016 3:29 am

If only Hitler was a compatent leader in Naval Warfare. The Batle of the Atlantic would've been different. But no, he didn't pay too much attention and his fleets gets mauled up by the end of the war.

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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by Paul L » Mon Jan 04, 2016 4:41 am

VoidSamukai wrote:If only Hitler was a compatent leader in Naval Warfare. The Batle of the Atlantic would've been different. But no, he didn't pay too much attention and his fleets gets mauled up by the end of the war.

Yes ,It is of note that the KM poor status in WW-II was a direct result of their ties to the mutiny that ended WW-I. Had that played out differently -things might have been better for the KM in WW-II.

It is also of note that -when faced with real war- Stalin stepped back and left the strategic decisions & fighting to his Generals. This is also why it was critical that American & British leaders were navy men....they knew the value of sea power & airpower.
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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by VoidSamukai » Mon Jan 04, 2016 12:59 pm

Imagine if we replaced German, a force that didn't know much about modern naval warfare, with a navy that did know a lot about modern naval warfare, like oh I don't know Japan? Assuming for some reason no one gave two figs about land wars and this was totally naval orientated, would the war in the Atlantic be any different?

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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by RF » Mon Jan 04, 2016 1:51 pm

If the leadership didn't care about land wars then WW2 would never have started.

The Japanese leadership did certainly give a fig about land warfare, it was the IJA that started the war in the Far East, with the IJN reluctantly following suit in a supportive role. Don't forget that two thirds of the IJA spent the whole of WW2 fighting in China and not in the Pacific theatre.

The main danger of a Yamamoto being in charge of the KM is that there would be a pre-war naval rivalry with Britain and probably with the US as well. The Z Plan would emphasise aircraft carriers as well as huge battleships and I would expect seizure of Norway as being the starting point of a war. I would also expect that the Kaisers' plan for invading eastern England to be attempted ahead of any move on France; there would be no war in the east of Europe until Britain and France were defeated, with non-aggression pacts with both Poland and the USSR.

With respect to cruisers I would expect emphasis on panzersciffe rather than the Hippers, with light cruisers and destroyers being constructed for long range Atlantic operations.

In terms of timescale this would greatly favour Japan, because the KM with cruiser and carrier forces, even starting from 1933, would not be ready until 1942.
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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by Paul L » Tue Jan 05, 2016 1:59 am

RF wrote:If the leadership didn't care about land wars then WW2 would never have started.


With respect to cruisers I would expect emphasis on panzersciffe rather than the Hippers, with light cruisers and destroyers being constructed for long range Atlantic operations.

In terms of timescale this would greatly favour Japan, because the KM with cruiser and carrier forces, even starting from 1933, would not be ready until 1942.

well that may not be the case...war was coming to Europe one way or another. Wehrmacht planned for war in mid 1940s, but Hitler was un willing to wait that long. Tweak that and war would have started much later.

YES the KM focused on improved PBS designs originally but every one had there say.
[1]Donitz demanded 300 U-Boats, while Furbringer argued it wouldn't work without integrated LW support.
[2] Heye endorsed a dozen surface raiders of an improved design.
[3] Grand Admiral Raeder insisted on a core battle fleet of fast Battleships to exploit the thinning effect of overseas surface raiders [ the allies had to redirect 9-10 cruiser warships overseas for each surface raider deployed in WW-I ].
[4] Admiral Carls insisted that any deployment of KM surface ships & U-boat's , would be best served, through an integrated carrier battle group with battle cruisers + cruisers & flotilla's of Destroyers to combined attack with wolf packs on allied convoys.

You could say that the notorious "Z Plan" was the first real attempt to formalise all of this in to some kind of comprehensive strategy.
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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by RF » Tue Jan 05, 2016 9:47 am

Paul L wrote:
You could say that the notorious "Z Plan" was the first real attempt to formalise all of this in to some kind of comprehensive strategy.
To an extent yes, but it lacked joined up strategic thinking and harked back to Tirpitz's visions of the High Seas Fleet.

The essential point that is missed is that any rapid German naval build up would provoke a response from Britain, France and USA. Germany's geographical position in northern Europe makes it easy for its fleet to be bottled up. This was the strategic problem Germany landed itself with in 1914, which neither Schlieffen, the Kaiser or the naval leadership forsaw.

The 1934 naval agreement with Britain presented an opportunity that Tirpitz never had - British agreement for Germany to build a substantial fleet of new ships without RN reaction. Had a watered down version of the Z Plan been started in 1935 then by say 1942 Germany would be in a much better position to start and win a war against the west - but at the same time would need to be in alliance with both the USSR and Japan, to avoid war in the east and to avoid being blockaded.

That would be the only way really for the Axis to win against Britain and the USA.
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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by pgollin » Tue Jan 05, 2016 11:32 am

.

The German navy suffered from its position as much in WW2 as in WW1. As noted any major expansion would have been matched by the UK - even if that would have had a major effect on the re-armament of the Army and RAF. Any German task force still have to get through the GIUK gaps and battles in the high Atlantic/low Arctic Oceans will disadvantage naval aviation and especially in winter the short daylight hours will mean night time surface actions will be favoured.

The German concentration on U-Boats was a successful strategy, especially because of the unexpected use of the French Atlantic bases. Any German surface force trying to work out of those bases would still face the same problems as occurred in real life.

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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by Paul L » Sat Jan 09, 2016 8:43 am

under the 1936 treaty Germany could build a fleet 35% of commonwealth forces.

Commonwealth fleet had 6 CV = KM could build 2 CV.... THE BUILT NONE.
Commonwealth fleet had 15 BB/BC = KM could built 5 but they built 4 BB
Commonwealth fleet had 15 CA = KM could built 5 but they built 3 CA
Commonwealth fleet had 66 CL = KM could built 22 but they built 6 CL
Commonwealth fleet had 186 DD = KM could built 62 but they built 28 DD

So out of the 96 warships they could build under the treaty -they only built ....41/288 barely 14% , not even 1/2 of the allowable builds.

So by there own treaty , the commonwealth forces could do nothing in response to any KM surface fleet build up.
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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by RF » Tue Jan 12, 2016 9:22 am

Paul L wrote:
So by there own treaty , the commonwealth forces could do nothing in response to any KM surface fleet build up.
This is pre Z Plan.

The German's mistake was not in having a watered down Z Plan starting 1935 which would have allowed construction up to the agreed limits. Such a fleet could have been ready by 1942 if Hitler had delayed starting his war till then.
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Re: Best cruisers of WWII and the best use of cruisers

Post by Steve-M » Thu Jan 14, 2016 6:51 pm

VoidSamukai wrote:How good would you rate the Deustchland class among the worlds cruisers, consdering age, role, statistics ect. Would you rate them; good, average or down right Courageous class BC bad XD
They were interesting ships, but in retrospect they weren't what Germany needed to prosecute a successful raiding campaign. With the benefit of hindsight, I'd opine that a vessel akin to the Japanese Aoba class would have been a better bet, i.e. powerful enough to brush aside escorting destroyers, and fast enough to evade British cruiser groups and battlecruisers that were fast enough to bring the Deutchlands to battle and eliminate them. Such ships would also have had the benefit of not raising the ire of the Allied powers the way that the panzerschiffe did.

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