Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby Dave Saxton » Thu Feb 11, 2016 5:03 pm

Gopher wrote:1/ Twins Armour belt was designed to keep out 330 mm shells


The belt and the scarp was the same as on Bismarck. The Bismarck's IZ was against the German 15" gun out to 30,000 meters.

2/ I have just read the combat reports of every single engagement the twins fought in versus warships and mechanical breakdown of one system or another is a theme, machinery even when not in action being sensitive


This is the case with any WW2 warship.

3/ According to experts the secondary fire control was poor, Ardent and Acasta were able to loose something like 6 torpedo salvos and achieve a hit hardly a convincing performance which leads me to believe the first hit was an outlier


These "experts" are not very expert if they claim a separate system for the medium artillery.


4/ Yes 15 inch shell could do the twins great harm


Of course, especially to the lightly protected sensors and soft portions of the ship as on any warship. However, the vitals of a Scharnhorst were must less vulnerable to 15" fire than any other battle cruiser listed in this thread.

5/ Well the Royal Navy spent more of its time in harms way until the Allies could bring overwhelming force to bear against the IJN then they took that crown. The RN suffered more hits and with the biggest ordinance, ships were also hit carrying out evacuations or loaded with ammunition running supplies. Sometimes they burnt for days due to damage and in the number of ships sunk the percentage that suffered explosions destroyers and up was less than the USN or KM. I researched every single loss plus ships that were heavily damaged, and your welcome to do the same and attempt to prove me wrong. So pertaining to the Hood due to the massive damage the RN suffered and did not blow up there was either something fundamentally wrong with the design or the hit was a fluke as in RN warships magazine explosions despite huge damage were rare and some that suffered them even survived.. I lean toward fundamental problem. My two theories are the HA magazine blew up in one of the Counties (just like Blutcher) so something is dodgy there or after the the Bismarck chase the first thing they did to Renown was stick bigger and better magazine valves on her. I think a cordite fire perhaps had too big a build up of pressure and the collateral evidence is Renown.


Wow that must have taken some time to research every single ship lost in WW2. Of course, all destroyers and cruisers are comparatively fragile compared to capital ships. You do know that the Germans used much less volatile propellant and placed most of it in metal cartridges?


The bomb in question caused heated materiel to be sucked into ammunition handling rooms below the armoured deck and set off the equilvalent of a cordite flash which gutted the ship. The magazine was promptly flooded which saved the ship from totally blowing up , without looking up the precise details that is what I believe happened



Are you referring to the Gniesenau bomb hit at Kiel?

According to G&D the bomb did not penetrate the armoured deck system but splinters entered through a open ventilation shaft. Whitley reports that it was fuel fumes entering through a the ventilation shaft. It was a spreading fire. Yes, your correct, the ship did not blow up.
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: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby VoidSamukai » Sun Feb 14, 2016 12:56 am

I've always thought that the Scharnhorst class was both in responce to the Dunkurque class and a further developement of the Pocket battleship designs, like the D class (not Deustchland class) Can someone help me?

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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby Dave Saxton » Sun Feb 14, 2016 3:37 am

They were in response to the Dunkerques, but this does not mean they were designed to with stand up only to the Dunkerque's 13" gun. They wanted them to over match Dunkerque.

Technically they had little in common to the panzerschiffs except gun caliber. Compared to the panzerschiffs they had completely different propulsion systems, and armouring schemes.*


Indeed the armouring scheme of Scharnhorst was very much like that of Bismarck and Tirpitz. The belt is the same thickness. The scarps were 105mm (120mm on Tirpitz). The armoured decks were remarkably the same (50mm upper over 80mm to 95mm panzer deck- 100mm on TP). The principle difference between the two classes armouring schemes is only the upper belt. Bismarck and Tirpitz had 145mm KCnA, while Scharnhorst only had 40mm homogenous. This 40mm is not even enough to insure de-capping of large caliber projectiles unless they strike at a rather oblique angle (however this 40mm will certainly fuse incoming projectiles). However despite this flaw, they were designed to stand up to 15" + guns.

So why did they have armour protection against 15" guns? And this relates to Alex's previous comment in this thread that the Scharnhorst was "over protected and under gunned." They planned from the very start to replace the 9x11" guns with 6x15" guns.( Berenbrock's 1982 revised edition, based on archives captured by the Admiralty). Because the war started when it did, this could not be done.

* There were some technology carried over from the panzerschiffs, such as modern firecontrol developments, extensive electric welding, and more advanced metallurgy (St-52, KCnA, WHnA WWnA....).
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: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby Steve Crandell » Sun Feb 14, 2016 6:16 am

If they planned 6x15" from the beginning, why did the forward part of Gneisenau have to be modified so extensively?

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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby Dave Saxton » Sun Feb 14, 2016 4:13 pm

Steve Crandell wrote:If they planned 6x15" from the beginning, why did the forward part of Gneisenau have to be modified so extensively?


I think much of that came from experience they had yet to gain at the beginning. Also revision of the design was probably something they knew would be necessary and could actually be accomplished fairly easily when the time came. The historical record uncovered by Berenbrock clearly indicates that they always planned to up gun.
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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby alecsandros » Mon Feb 15, 2016 2:20 pm

Gopher wrote:1/ Twins Armour belt was designed to keep out 330 mm shells

Actualy protection was sufficient against 380-410mm shells.
2/ I have just read the combat reports of every single engagement the twins fought in versus warships and mechanical breakdown of one system or another is a theme, machinery even when not in action being sensitive

Gneisenau functioned well...
3/ According to experts the secondary fire control was poor, Ardent and Acasta were able to loose something like 6 torpedo salvos and achieve a hit hardly a convincing performance which leads me to believe the first hit was an outlier

Ammo consumption was around 1300 rounds (S+G, 150+105mm), ranges 8 - 18.5km, estimates between 8 to 16 hits between 8 and 14km. Secondary artillery for all WW2 battleships at such ranges was usualy ineffective.
4/ Yes 15 inch shell could do the twins great harm

... Such a shell could do great harm to any contemporary batteslhip.
Last edited by alecsandros on Mon Feb 15, 2016 2:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby alecsandros » Mon Feb 15, 2016 2:24 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:So why did they have armour protection against 15" guns? And this relates to Alex's previous comment in this thread that the Scharnhorst was "over protected and under gunned." They planned from the very start to replace the 9x11" guns with 6x15" guns.( Berenbrock's 1982 revised edition, based on archives captured by the Admiralty). Because the war started when it did, this could not be done.


... By the time the ships were comissioned, in 1939, it must have been pretty obvious they were undergunned. It is a similar situation with Bismarck, which went through successive stages of "guns" - from 330mm to 350mm, to the final 380mm, which was considered to small by the Fuehrer - but by then it was to late to modify the ship.

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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby RF » Mon Feb 15, 2016 6:01 pm

Also up to the point war was declared these ships were intended to be stopgaps until the H classe battleships came on stream.

Given the Yamato had 18 inch guns I can imagine that the Fuhrer would have insisted on bigger guns than i6 inch, especially as one of these vessels was due to be named in deference to him....

Scharnhorst was only undergunned in the context of opposing battleships. As a commerce raider Scharnhorst should have been ideal to massacre convoys escorted only by cruisers and destroyers....
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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby VoidSamukai » Mon Feb 15, 2016 9:15 pm

I never knew that the twins were able to resist 16inch guns. Well, the good ones anyway: British 16inch shells weren't the best so maybe they could resist those XD

No one knew much about the Yamato, not even the Japanese commanders that commanded her. Not even late war the US didnt know everything about Yamato. So I doubt that the Germans would've try to build bigger based on Yamato. Then again, when you have a crazy leader like Hitler, you wont need too much more to get bigger guns.

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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby alecsandros » Tue Feb 16, 2016 6:40 am

VoidSamukai wrote:I never knew that the twins were able to resist 16inch guns. Well, the good ones anyway: British 16inch shells weren't the best so maybe they could resist those XD

... Yes, there were parts of their armor system which could resist 410mm gunfire (such as the main belt+scarp).

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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby slaterat » Mon Feb 22, 2016 6:25 am

It doesn't really matter what the twins were designed to protect against when there is real world evidence. We know that the first hit from the DoY 14" guns made at least a partial penetration into the magazine of Anton turret. Royal Navy witnesses suggest a penetration of the turret or perhaps barbette. Either way the magazine was flooded in time to save the ship and Anton turret had no survivors and never fired again. A shell from the DoY third salvo struck the aft superstructure starting it on fire. The third shell hit struck amidships. The fourth hit forward of the bridge and temporarily knocked out Bruno turret. These hits were all by 17:05. The next hit, at 17:15, knocked out a 5.9 magazine and passed through the entire ship exiting through the main belt on the waterline. These hits were all at a rather short range of11,950 to 12,500 yds. The last hit was scored at 18:20 at more than 18,000 yards. Angus Konstram in his book "The Battle of North Cape" suggests that this may very well have been a rare double hit with one shell hitting just forward of the bridge and another causing damage in boiler room number one. Emergency repairs cross connecting steam pipes allowed for a speed of 22 knots but the RN destroyers were able to catch up and launch torpedoes scoring at least 4 hits and sealing the Scharnhors's fate. The double hit theory also provides some explanation of why the Scharnhorst's survivor's thought they had been torpedoed at that time.

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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby slaterat » Mon Feb 22, 2016 6:31 am

So in summary there is evidence of three penetrations of the Scharnhorst "s armour by 14 inch shells . 1. Anton turret/barbette, 2.penetration of the main belt at the waterline, and 3. the boiler room hit.

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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby slaterat » Mon Feb 22, 2016 6:40 am

I think the main weakness of the Scharnhorsts protection is the thin 40 mm upper belt which wasn't enough to de cap incoming heavy shells leaving the main armoured deck exposed, very much unlike the Bismarck. I also think it may have directly lead to the loss of the ship regarding the hit, damage to the boiler room.

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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby alecsandros » Mon Feb 22, 2016 6:42 am

slaterat wrote:So in summary there is evidence of three penetrations of the Scharnhorst "s armour by 14 inch shells . 1. Anton turret/barbette, 2.penetration of the main belt at the waterline, and 3. the boiler room hit.

... there is no evidence for either of those "penetrations" that you mention.

BUT, at 11km, I would expect penetration of any contemporary battleship armor, by British 356/L45 gun, with very few exceptions.

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Re: Best Battlecruiser WW1 and WW2

Postby Dave Saxton » Mon Feb 22, 2016 4:07 pm

slaterat wrote:It doesn't really matter what the twins were designed to protect against when there is real world evidence. We know that the first hit from the DoY 14" guns made at least a partial penetration into the magazine of Anton turret. Royal Navy witnesses suggest a penetration of the turret or perhaps barbette. Either way the magazine was flooded in time to save the ship and Anton turret had no survivors and never fired again. A shell from the DoY third salvo struck the aft superstructure starting it on fire. The third shell hit struck amidships. The fourth hit forward of the bridge and temporarily knocked out Bruno turret. These hits were all by 17:05. The next hit, at 17:15, knocked out a 5.9 magazine and passed through the entire ship exiting through the main belt on the waterline. These hits were all at a rather short range of11,950 to 12,500 yds. The last hit was scored at 18:20 at more than 18,000 yards. Angus Konstram in his book "The Battle of North Cape" suggests that this may very well have been a rare double hit with one shell hitting just forward of the bridge and another causing damage in boiler room number one. Emergency repairs cross connecting steam pipes allowed for a speed of 22 knots but the RN destroyers were able to catch up and launch torpedoes scoring at least 4 hits and sealing the Scharnhors's fate. The double hit theory also provides some explanation of why the Scharnhorst's survivor's thought they had been torpedoed at that time.


That is a lot more detail than can be found in any of the primary documents or survivor accounts.........

I think the main weakness of the Scharnhorsts protection is the thin 40 mm upper belt which wasn't enough to de cap incoming heavy shells leaving the main armoured deck exposed, very much unlike the Bismarck. I also think it may have directly lead to the loss of the ship regarding the hit, damage to the boiler room.


I agree with the first part. Indeed the inability to always de-cap incoming rounds by the thin upper belt likely played a role in possible barbet damage to Anton's barbet. With Bismarck, any incoming rounds would be de-capped in case of such a hit and would shatter when impacting the barbet armour.

Such a case is very likely a similar case with South Dakota at Guadalcanal. The incoming IJN 14" round was de-capped when first striking the upper deck armour at a very acute angle and then shattered against the barbet, denting it. The turret operations were knocked out with a resulting power outage nonetheless.

As Alex commented, even the most heavy practical single plate of armour should be penetrated at 11,000 meters battle range, especially a direct hit to Anton.

I also think it may have directly lead to the loss of the ship regarding the hit, damage to the boiler room.


Somebody else commented in this thread that ideas that the loss of speed was not caused by a boiler room penetration was a Oliver Stone JFK like conspiracy theory. It is actually the other way around. Boiler room penetration theories require real "magic bullet" theories. A British 14" shell passing through the upper belt at 22,000 yards would only travel about 13 meters before it exploded. It could not reach the panzer deck unless it was a dud. If it was a dud, or not, its deck penetration was only 75mm striking with full velocity and no yaw. Not likely. That leaves the boiler hump penetration theory, or the far more plausible, and with historical precedent, mechanical breakdown option.
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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