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Sigma_Orionis
2005-Feb-14, 03:54 PM
Hi, I have a couple of questions regarding Naval Warfare Strategy, since our resident Military Strategy Expert is Stuart, I would like to ask the following (please keep in mind that all I now about the subject comes from playing games like Warcraft/Age of Empires, so I suppose my knowledge in the area is close to NIL):

IIRC (I saw it on a program on the History Channel) 18th Century Naval Warfare was carried on ships that eventually were called "Ships of the Line" because basically both sides formed parallel lines and slugged it out with their cannons.

In the battle of Trafalgar, Nelson's tactic was to have all his ships in two lines perpendicular to center/back of the French/Spanish Battle Line. Since the enemy ships could not rotate their cannons their cannons, all they could do was pound the first two ships in Nelson's Fleet and he managed to break the enemy battle line (and got himself killed in the process :) however in the end the English Fleet won the Battle)

On a book called "Military Blunders II" I read about the battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904/5 where Admiral Togo used exactly the opposite tactic, he lined up his ships perpendicular to the Russian Fleet so all his ships could train their guns on closest ships of the attacking fleet since now cannons could rotate (100 years of change in technology DO make a difference :) ) so he basically could deal with the Russian Ships one-ship-at-the-time and literally sank all the Russian Battleships with virtually no loses.

My questions are:

The book claims that Togo's tactic was called "crossing the T" and that it was the dream of generations of Naval strategists (at least 3 generations I guess :) ) however what was the Russian Admiral Rozhestvensky thinking?, in the book they are rather vague about it, was he thinking he could do the "Nelson Tactic"? or he simply could not move fast enough to position his ships better? Admiral Rozhestvensky was no fool, he managed to lead his fleet through a journey that span at least three quarters of the world (from North-Eastern Russia, through the Atlantic and then the Pacific all the way to Port Arthur) and while of course these are skills that are not exactly what a Naval Strategist needs it makes me wonder what he was thinking.

I have read in other books that the Russian Military was rather reluctant to change in their strategies (somewhere I read that on World War I they barely had guns since the Russian Military chiefs believed sabres would be enough in dealing with the enemy) so I have wondered if Rozhestvensky was one of these (from what I have read, Admiral Makarov was not and had he survived long enough in the Russo-Japanese war some people think the outcome would have been a lot different)

Eta C
2005-Feb-14, 04:37 PM
Well, I'm not Stuart, but I do know a bit about naval history.

Ships of the 16 to early 19th century had their guns primarily mounted sideways (hence broadside). That was also the strongest point of the hull, where the ship was best able to resist damage. The bow and stern were very weak, with only a couple of guns able to reply and little structural strength. In ship vs ship actions, the ne plus ultra was to get a "raking" shot where you blasted your entire broadside directly along the length of your opponent. A couple of those at close range, and you were done for.

So from the point of view of maximizing defense and offense lining the ships up and blasting away made sense. Also sailing ships were not very maneuverable, so the line made tactical control easier. However, it also led to very indecisive battles with no clear winner. One way to beat an opponent decisively was to break his line by passing your ships through it. This isolated the back half of the opponent's fleet since the front half would have to beat back against the wind to get into action. The problem is that as you approach his line you open your own ships up to raking shots. Once you pass through his line, though, you get your own raking shots in.

Nelson at Trafalgar was betting on a couple of things. First, the French and Spanish were't terribly great shots and couldn't reload very quickly. With the short range of the guns of the period, his own ship's speed, and the low reloading rate of his opponent Nelson figured that they'd get off two to three broadsides before he penetrated their line and the damage his own ships took would be acceptable Once the battle became a melee, the British would have the advantage. Also, he broke the French/Spanish line in two places, Collingwood leading the other British line. This spread out the French/Spanish fire, making it even less effective.

Now when we get steam ships a couple of things happen. First, your guns have longer ranges, so you can get in more shots if you cross the T. The same advantages of having more guns available to fire broadside than your opponent does over the bow still applies. But the additional range is the main thing. You can get it a lot more shots over a longer range. By the time your opponent gets within range of cutting your line he'd be shredded. Also, you can maneuver more easily and counter his ability to pass through. Nelson's Trafalgar tactics would be suicide in this case. He would, however, probably have come up with something else appropriate had he lived in that time.

At Tsushima geography also came into play. The Russians were trying to pass through the strait to get to their besieged base at Port Arthur. They really had nowhere to go but forward. The blunder was less in the tactic than in choosing the most obvious place to enter the Sea of Japan. Some historians think the La Perouse strait at the northern edge would have been better. There They could have stopped at Vladivostok before moving on to Port Arthur. As it worked out, they simply bulled their way north through Tsushima. All the Japanese had to do was line up across the strait and let the Russians come on. A similar thing happened in WWII at Surigao Strait where the Americans pulled a similar stunt against the Japanese.

Where there was room to maneuver, the T-crossing becomes less useful as the opponent can simply turn away. This is what the Germans did twice at Jutland after the British deployed across their T.

Bawheid
2005-Feb-14, 04:48 PM
And don't forget quality or command and control.

Both the RN and the Japanese navy were much better trained than their opponents and would probably have beaten them in any circumstances. It is easier to look at the tactics as these are simpler to understand than to try and quantify intangibles. For example many of the French and Spanish crew were soldiers conscripted into the navy who had little idea of sailing.

Secondly, both the French and Russians were unable to carry out complex manouvres so were stuck with the pre-arranged plan despite changed circumstances.

Beware books on military blunders, they are written by people with 20/20 hindsight who often have little idea what they are talking about and are not above using anecdotes and secondary or even tertiary sources.

For the record: I too am not Stuart. :D

CTM VT 2K
2005-Feb-14, 05:47 PM
In Naval Warfare, there are two general principles: Doubling up on a target, and screening. Let me explain.

Lets say I have a Battle Fleet, ala Nelson at Trafalgar, the Japanese at Tsushima, the Germans at Jutland (or Skagerrak to the Germans) etc. My fleet consists of Battleships or Ships of the Line, and ligher escorts. In the age of Sail, the Ships of the Line were the heavys, and stood in the line of battle. The Escorts (Corvettes, Sloops, and Frigates) were fast runners that relayed signals from the ships in the line, and harried the enemy fleet. In more modern ages, the Battleships were the heavys, to stand in the line of battle. The Escorts (Destroyers, Cruisers, Torpedo Boats) were the fast runners to scout, relay signals, and harry the enemy fleet. The Enemy has a similar arrangment.

What I want to do with my fleet, is to cross my opponent's T. In the age of sail, this allows me to do the devistating raking fire down the decks of the enemy ship. In the modern era as well in the age of sail, it also allows me to double up fire on the lead ship. If I find myself getting my own T crossed, what I want to do is send my escorts out between my own line and the enemy - giving my enemy more targets to shoot at, and forcing them to deal with them while I reposition my main battle line to either withdraw or re-engage at a time of my choosing.

In the Battle of Jutland (Skagerrak) the German High Seas Fleet met the British Grand Fleet . Scouting out in front of both fleets were Scouting Forces built around each nation's notion of Battlecruisers. These forces tangled with each other prior to the main fleets meeting each other. When the main fleets did meet, the Grand Fleet had successfully crossed the German T, allowing devistating fire upon the lead ships of the German Line. While the German line curled away from the British Line, the Germans sent their scouts out to attack the British with torpedoes. This forced the British to turn to evade that attack, allowing the German fleet to escape. That's textbook. When the Germans turned right back around and tried again, Admiral Scheer thew out the book (Some argue, himself included years later, that he did it to keep the British off balance to allow him to escape).

In the Battle of Surigaro Straight (an ancillary battle of the greater Battle of Leyte Gulf), a battle line of American Standard Battleships (World War I era ships, not the fancy new North Carolina, South Dakota, and Iowa Class battleships that were elsewhere chasing down Japanese Carriers) were on a Shore Bombardment mission when word came of a Japanese Battle Line trying to slip up the Surigaro Straight to ambush the invasion fleet in the Gulf. The American Battleships lined up across the straight, with the Cruisers a bit further down the straight, and Destroyers, Submarines, and Torpedo boats even further down. As the Japanese ships came up the straight, the Torpedo Boats and Submarines launched torps against the Japanese line, causing damage. The Destroyers also launched against the Japanese, and countered the Japanese escorts. The Cruisers and Battleships just opened up on the Japanese line, making short work of what was left of it. The U.S. Destroyers then mopped up the straglers. Why the Japanese came straight on, I'm not sure.

Every more detailed strategy, in the end, revolves around these two concepts. How do I concentrate my fire and divide the enemy's fire?

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Feb-14, 06:04 PM
Thanks for the info guys! :)

crateris2
2005-Feb-14, 06:10 PM
One thing to rememer is that the Russian fleet at Tsushima Strait was composed of broken-down, second rate battleships and pre-dreadnought designs. This and the fact that the Russian sailors and leadership were not up to the standards of the Japanese helped seal their fate.

BTW, my dad was in the Battle off Samar, occuring the day after the Surigao Strait battle. It's a part of history that you don't hear a lot about, but it is one of the greatest David Vs. Goliath fights in history.

C2.

Stuart
2005-Feb-14, 06:39 PM
First of all, an apology to everybody; I haven't been around much lately since its budget season and I'm swamped. I'm sorry if I've missed anything addressed to me or forgotten anything.


IIRC (I saw it on a program on the History Channel) 18th Century Naval Warfare was carried on ships that eventually were called "Ships of the Line" because basically both sides formed parallel lines and slugged it out with their cannons.

That's more or less correct. The term "ships of the line" meant a ship powerful enough to stand in the line of battle without getting blasted to matchwood with the first salvo. They carried their heavy guns on the broadside and opposed fleets would exchange broadsides until one or the other decided enough was enough. Such battles were rarely decisive.

The line of battle was introduced by the British in the 17th century. Prior to that, ships mounted their heaviest guns in the bows and would fight by approaching their target, firing the bow guns then turning away to reload. The traditional shape of the galleon (with its high stern and low bow) comes from mounting those heavy guns up front Now, when a line -of-battle is faced by fleet that used the older tactic, the front-gunned ships got blown apart. Its a very common example; a navy comes up witha war-winning tactic, everybody copies it and the trick doesn't win wars any more.


In the battle of Trafalgar, Nelson's tactic was to have all his ships in two lines perpendicular to center/back of the French/Spanish Battle Line. Since the enemy ships could not rotate their cannons their cannons, all they could do was pound the first two ships in Nelson's Fleet and he managed to break the enemy battle line (and got himself killed in the process :) however in the end the English Fleet won the Battle)

That's a bit less correct. Nelson based his plans on his understanding that the quality of British gunnery far exceeded that of the French and Spanish in terms of accuracy and rate of fire. He was gambling that in the long run up to the Franco-Spanish fleet, their poor gunnery would mean that his ships would suffer little damage. Then, when his ships went between those of the enemy, he could fire his full broadsides, point-blank into the enemy. Typically, that first broadside was double-charged (twice the normal load of powder) and double-shotted (a cannon ball and a load of grapeshot). That put a major strain on the guns but the result on the receiving end was dreadful beyond imagination. Ships were'nt subdivided in those days so there was nothing to stop the storp of ball, grapeshot and wood splinters (if splinter is the right term for a piece of wood six feet long, a foot wide and razor-edged) sweeping the whole length of the deck.

There was another point here. In those days, ships couldn't steer where they wanted; wind direction and one's position relative to the wind was critical. Once the enemy line was broken, the British ships could concentrate on the sections of the line they had isolated while those in the wrong position relative to the wind couldn't come about to help those that had been trapped. So, the enemy fleet could be destroyed piecemeal. This wasn't invented by Nelson by the way; Rodney used the same tactics at the Battle of the Saintes.


The book claims that Togo's tactic was called "crossing the T" and that it was the dream of generations of Naval strategists (at least 3 generations I guess :) ) however what was the Russian Admiral Rozhestvensky thinking?, in the book they are rather vague about it, was he thinking he could do the "Nelson Tactic"? or he simply could not move fast enough to position his ships better? Admiral Rozhestvensky was no fool, he managed to lead his fleet through a journey that span at least three quarters of the world (from North-Eastern Russia, through the Atlantic and then the Pacific all the way to Port Arthur) and while of course these are skills that are not exactly what a Naval Strategist needs it makes me wonder what he was thinking.

The two (piercing the Line and Crossing the T" are a bit different.). In the former, all the guns of the fleet are concentrated on each enemy ship in turn. Ranges are much greater so the duration of time under fire increases. Also, by Tsuishima, there were destroyers with torpedoes that can make closing to such ranges difficult and very costly. At Jutland, Jellicoe managed to cross the German T twice in the same battle; the Germans only escaped by a skillful manoeuver, a great amount of good luck and some very costly diversions. At Tsuishima Rozzie wasn't a fool, but he was gruesomely outclassed - his ships had been in tropical waters for several weeks and had weed two or three meters long growing from their hulls. As a result, his ships were way down in speed - probably five or six knots below rated. That made his time under fire even greater. All in all, he was in a bad place with almost no way out.


I have read in other books that the Russian Military was rather reluctant to change in their strategies (somewhere I read that on World War I they barely had guns since the Russian Military chiefs believed sabres would be enough in dealing with the enemy) so I have wondered if Rozhestvensky was one of these (from what I have read, Admiral Makarov was not and had he survived long enough in the Russo-Japanese war some people think the outcome would have been a lot different)

I wouldn't be quite so hard on the Russians; they understood rifles all right, but they had a huge army and poor industry. In some ways, they were way ahead of the game - they designed the world's first real assault rifle in 1917 and their armor and artillery were always excellent. It was just their industry was and is inadequate to support their armed forces

Stuart
2005-Feb-14, 06:42 PM
BTW, my dad was in the Battle off Samar, occuring the day after the Surigao Strait battle. It's a part of history that you don't hear a lot about, but it is one of the greatest David Vs. Goliath fights in history.

Amen to that. Three destroyers and one destroyer escort took on what amounted to the whole Japanese Navy in order to buy time for the rest of the fleet. Johnson, Heerman, Hoel and Samuel B Roberts. Names that should be honored as long as navies exist.

crateris2
2005-Feb-14, 08:35 PM
BTW, my dad was in the Battle off Samar, occuring the day after the Surigao Strait battle. It's a part of history that you don't hear a lot about, but it is one of the greatest David Vs. Goliath fights in history.

Amen to that. Three destroyers and one destroyer escort took on what amounted to the whole Japanese Navy in order to buy time for the rest of the fleet. Johnson, Heerman, Hoel and Samuel B Roberts. Names that should be honored as long as navies exist.

It's nice to know that battles like this have not faded into history. While Stalingrad, El Alamein, and others grab the spotlight, the Battle off Samar, Surigao Strait, and other component of the Battle of Leyte Gulf surely matter in the course of WWII history.

There is a book, "Battles That Changed The Course Of History" (or something like that). In it are the Battle of Leyte Gulf and The Battle for Okinawa. My dad was at both of those aboard the USS Fanshaw BAY (CVE 70).

C2.

captain swoop
2005-Feb-15, 11:21 AM
BTW, my dad was in the Battle off Samar, occuring the day after the Surigao Strait battle. It's a part of history that you don't hear a lot about, but it is one of the greatest David Vs. Goliath fights in history.

Amen to that. Three destroyers and one destroyer escort took on what amounted to the whole Japanese Navy in order to buy time for the rest of the fleet. Johnson, Heerman, Hoel and Samuel B Roberts. Names that should be honored as long as navies exist.

Destroyers often played a decisive part in fleet actions in WW2. In the Med the italians escaped a few times by laying down smoke and sending Destroyers through on a torpedo run forcing the RN to hold back. HMS Glowworm held ofthe Admiral Hipper by sacrificing itself in a ramming attack and Scharnhorst was held by Destroyer attack at North Cape allowing the British battleships to close up.

captain swoop
2005-Feb-15, 11:32 AM
What must be remembered about the sailing navy is the battle was controlled by the force that was to windward as the ships and their guns were very much alike. If you had the 'weather gauge' you could keep the enemy downwind and dictate the pace of things. Steam power changed this, now the wind offered no advantage to either side and gunnery became the dominating factor.

I don't underestimate the part that the quality of the crews play. At Trafalgar the RN was on a roll, it was used to winning, it was at sea and well drilled whereas the Spanish and French fleets very rarely ventured out and a lot of their crews were very green.

At Tsushima as well the Russian crews morale was very low, they had just sailed half way around the world and their training and health wasn't the best. At Jutland although the Germans escaped from the Home Fleet they never ventured out of port again and were effectively a broken force.

Doe, John
2005-Feb-16, 04:58 AM
<snip>
I don't underestimate the part that the quality of the crews play. At Trafalgar the RN was on a roll, it was used to winning, it was at sea and well drilled whereas the Spanish and French fleets very rarely ventured out and a lot of their crews were very green.
<snip>


Not to mention the fact that the Spanish Grand Armada had been mauled by a North Atlantic Shipkiller Storm while sailing up to England.

Bawheid
2005-Feb-16, 10:26 AM
<snip>
I don't underestimate the part that the quality of the crews play. At Trafalgar the RN was on a roll, it was used to winning, it was at sea and well drilled whereas the Spanish and French fleets very rarely ventured out and a lot of their crews were very green.
<snip>


Not to mention the fact that the Spanish Grand Armada had been mauled by a North Atlantic Shipkiller Storm while sailing up to England.

It wasn't mentioned as the Spanish Armada was 1588, Trafalgar 1805. :D

frogesque
2005-Feb-16, 11:06 AM
I don't know if this is true or not but I did read somewhere that Nelson and his crews were not only very skilled gunners who drilled reload and fire rates to perfection but could also pitch a cannon ball to effectively skip on top of the water, thereby not only increasing the range but dealing a devastating blow near or below the waterline. A ship hit in such a manner would then start to list and its cannon would be useless. As I said this may be nonsense but that was the gist of it.

Nelson's reputation also went before him and he was rightly feared by any enemy.

captain swoop
2005-Feb-16, 12:00 PM
Most ships were sunk by fire and exploding powder magazines, remember these ships were made from wood coated with tar. Skipping cannon balls off the water may have happened but I don't think it was a major or deliberate tactic. More important was silencing the enemy broadside quickly with ball and bringing down the sails and rigging with chainshot, this disabled them allowing you to get alongside and give them a proper pounding as well as get boarding parties across to capture the enemy as a prize.

captain swoop
2005-Feb-16, 12:03 PM
<snip>
I don't underestimate the part that the quality of the crews play. At Trafalgar the RN was on a roll, it was used to winning, it was at sea and well drilled whereas the Spanish and French fleets very rarely ventured out and a lot of their crews were very green.
<snip>


Not to mention the fact that the Spanish Grand Armada had been mauled by a North Atlantic Shipkiller Storm while sailing up to England.

It wasn't mentioned as the Spanish Armada was 1588, Trafalgar 1805. :D

And the main storm hit them after they passed up channel and around the top of Scotland. There were in fact several Armada attempts before the famous one and a couple more were attempted later but all came to nothing.

Stuart
2005-Feb-16, 02:21 PM
I don't know if this is true or not but I did read somewhere that Nelson and his crews were not only very skilled gunners who drilled reload and fire rates to perfection but could also pitch a cannon ball to effectively skip on top of the water, thereby not only increasing the range but dealing a devastating blow near or below the waterline. A ship hit in such a manner would then start to list and its cannon would be useless. As I said this may be nonsense but that was the gist of it. Nelson's reputation also went before him and he was rightly feared by any enemy.

It wasn't just gunnery training although that was a big part of it. Before the Napoleonic Wars, the British had made two innovations to their ship's armament. One was the invention of the Carronade, a large-bore (often 64-pounder), short-barrelled cannon that fired using a low charge. This had two roles; one was that the heavy, low-velocity shell had great smashing effect so it would do a lot of hull damage quickly. The other was that, when loaded with grape or canister, it would be the mother of all shotguns. If an enemy was rpeparing to board, their crew would be gathered on deck. A couple of blasts from the carronades would sweep them clean, leaving the enemy ship effectively without a crew. Carronades made boarding extremely hazardous and are the reason why it went out of fashion.

The other change was a subtle one. The British fitted their cannons with gun-locks (not the ones favored by gun-snatchers today, these were firing mechanisms - basically enlarged flintlocks). Previously, guns had been fired by a linstock, a piece of smouldering rag on stick. This was obviously pretty unsafe but it also made controlled firing very difficult,. the British gunlock-equipped cannon could be aimed and fired much more easily.

There were a lot of other technology innovations as well. For example, the British had completely redesigned their tackle for handling sails so they could set and change sail more quickly and using fewer men than the French (the Spanish were a different case; the British believed the Spanish were almost as good sailors and gunners as the British were and their ships were almost as well-designed. The French were a long way behind aon all counts, more on that later). The changes in tackle meant that the British could manoeuver better and more easily but also could put more ships to sea for the same sized group of skilled seamen. British anchors had been redesigned and were more effective at holding the ship. They could also be used to move the ship.

Lets kill a myth shall we? (Big grin here) You'll keep reading how fernch warship designers were so much better than the British etc etc etc. Not true, they weren't. French designers spent all their time trying for the highest possible speed in the early part of the ship's life. So, they built their ships long, shallow and light. That made them fast out of the dockyard but their service life was very short. Also, French designers believed that a hull that worked (ie one where the parts moved against eachother at sea) would be faster than one that was rigid. Their sail patterns were designed for use in favorable winds and in relatively light seas. As we have seen, they couldn't change them as quickly as the British.

The effect of all this was that a new-built French ship was fast under the right conditions and when new. The price paid was a ship that was fragile, did not behave well and adverse conditions, aged quickly and was expensive to maintain. A British ship was slower but could maintain its speed under a much wider range of conditions, it was much more durable, was easier to maintain and protected its crew better. It is interesting to look at Admiralty records and compare the maintenance costs of British-built ships and French prizes.

Both sides knew the truth about their ships and acted accordingly. The British knew the French hulls were fragile and heavy broadsides would break them up so they went for the hull (and by implication the crew). the French knew they would lose a slugging match and so they went for the masts and sails, hoping to disable the British ship and allow the French to board (preferably over an arc not covered by carronades). We can see the effects in terms of casualties. In one case of a British 64 that took on a French 80 (a weight-of-broadside advantage 2:1 in favor of the French), the French ship struck its colors after taking almost 600 dead out of a crew of 900. British casualties were 32 dead.

Another by-the-way. British ships were much healthier than anybody elses. In fact, deaths from disease in the Royal Navy were actually lower than those typical ashore - even allowing for the occasional mass outbreak, usually yellow fever. There were several reasons for that. One was that the British had a fetish about keeping the ships clean - they scrubbed down every day with vinegar and water. Clothes were changed and washed as regularly. The reason was that it was believed disease was caused by bad smells so if the ship smelled good, she'd be healthy. Right idea, wrong reason of course but it worked. Another was that the Admiralty provided mostly good fresh food for its crews (sometime sit went wrong on long cruises far from home). The Admiralty was, in fact, the largest individual purchaser of foodstuffs in the UK and had rigorous quality standards. In addition, seamen were encouraged to spend their own money on additional food for their messes. Admiralty records show that the private purchases by seamen using their accrued wages were

Livestock (mostly lambs and goats)
Fruit
Vegetables
Alcohol (mostly wine, rum and brandy)
Immoral women.

in that order (!)

The final reason why British ships were healthy was that in action they threw their dead over the side. The French buried them in the ballast sand at the bottom of the ship.

This health issue played into gunnery again; basically the British crews were healthy and well-fed. French crews were sick, starving and diseased.

captain swoop
2005-Feb-16, 03:40 PM
When it came to comisisoning extra ships and building replacements the RN would use unseasoned timber to get the hulls in the water quickly knowing that the hull life would bonly be about 5 or 6 years before the bottoms would start to rot out. This was seen as acceptable in time of war. Industrialisation played a part as well, the French lagged behind in basic industries like Ironfounding which allowed the casting of bigger and stronger guns, and machine tools. In fact the worlds first mass production factory was owned by the Royal Dockyards and it produced wooden blocks by machine. At Chatham Dockyard is the first modern fully mechanised ropeworks, it was steam powered even at the time of Trafalgar rather than cranked by hand this allowed a 'Walk' over a quarter of a mile long and the laying of better quality ropes at a much faster rate. In fact the works are still there and producing rope as part of the 'Royal Dockyard' museum. It also contains the Slip that was used to build the Victory it was in use up until the 1950s to build submarines.

Where Corronades scored was in their trajectory, they could put 'plunging' fire into a ships deck and didn't have to punch through the side.

As far as the quality of the French ships and crews a lot of it was down to Napoleon, he was the product of European warfare which saw sea battles a secondary to the main theatre of war. Hitler and his Generals had the same fault.
Britain always had the advantage that our first line was the Navy and it got priority so there was no way that any other country was going to be allowed to outbuild. Later in the 19th and into the 20th century there was a policy of having the RN equal in size to the two largest foreign powers. France tried to get round this by technical innovation not realising that all the RN had to do was copy the innovation and carry on building. For example, French Ironclads were countered with the Warrior, the first proper Iron hulled, armoured ship that rendered wooden ships obsolete. France couldn't hope to outbuild Britain because they just didn't have the industrial base but I am getting away from Trafalgar now.

Stuart
2005-Feb-16, 04:23 PM
When it came to comisisoning extra ships and building replacements the RN would use unseasoned timber to get the hulls in the water quickly knowing that the hull life would bonly be about 5 or 6 years before the bottoms would start to rot out. This was seen as acceptable in time of war.

As far as I know, ships of the line were always built with seasoned timber; unseasoned timber was used for smaller frigatesm sloops and trade protection craft that were war-only. One big edge the Royal Navy did have was that it had a large reserve of seasoned timber to draw on. The French had tried to establish a similar reserve but it was destroyed during the fighting at Toulon


Industrialisation played a part as well, the French lagged behind in basic industries like Ironfounding which allowed the casting of bigger and stronger guns, and machine tools. In fact the worlds first mass production factory was owned by the Royal Dockyards and it produced wooden blocks by machine. At Chatham Dockyard is the first modern fully mechanised ropeworks, it was steam powered even at the time of Trafalgar rather than cranked by hand this allowed a 'Walk' over a quarter of a mile long and the laying of better quality ropes at a much faster rate. In fact the works are still there and producing rope as part of the 'Royal Dockyard' museum.

Anybody visiting the U.K., that's well worth a visit. Sad little story. One of the ropemakers found his wife was being unfaithful so he killed her and her boyfriend. He was sentenced to be hanged of course but, as a long-standing worker with an exemplary record, he was allowed the privilege of weaving his own rope.


Where Corronades scored was in their trajectory, they could put 'plunging' fire into a ships deck and didn't have to punch through the side.

I hadn't heard that, The version I heard was that the impact of the large, slow shell crushed the wood and sprung joints over a wide area.

Eta C
2005-Feb-16, 05:23 PM
BTW, my dad was in the Battle off Samar, occuring the day after the Surigao Strait battle. It's a part of history that you don't hear a lot about, but it is one of the greatest David Vs. Goliath fights in history.

Amen to that. Three destroyers and one destroyer escort took on what amounted to the whole Japanese Navy in order to buy time for the rest of the fleet. Johnson, Heerman, Hoel and Samuel B Roberts. Names that should be honored as long as navies exist.

There's a recent book on this called Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0553802577/qid=1108574418/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/002-2427737-6441631?v=glance&s=books). It follows the destroyers and destroyer escorts of Taffy 3 from their construction, early battles, and their stand off Samar. I have a copy, and it's a good read.

captain swoop
2005-Feb-17, 10:58 AM
As far as I know, ships of the line were always built with seasoned timber; unseasoned timber was used for smaller frigatesm sloops and trade protection craft that were war-only. One big edge the Royal Navy did have was that it had a large reserve of seasoned timber to draw on. The French had tried to establish a similar reserve but it was destroyed during the fighting at Toulon


I know from records that at the time of the 1812 war an there was a shortage of ships to cover the French in the Caribbean and the Americans along the Eastern Seaboard, Home fleet ships had to be diverted across the Atlantic and there was a rush construction of 'short comission' hulls from unseasoned timber.


Anybody visiting the U.K., that's well worth a visit. Sad little story. One of the ropemakers found his wife was being unfaithful so he killed her and her boyfriend. He was sentenced to be hanged of course but, as a long-standing worker with an exemplary record, he was allowed the privilege of weaving his own rope.


I lived in Greenwich for years and we used to go down to the Rochester and Chatham quite a bit, more and more has opened over the years in the Dockyards. Those Ropeworks are all in their 18th and early 18th Century building and are still producing rope commercialy although not for the Navy anymore.
What I find most impressive are the 'Sheds' covering the slips and drydocks, the one over the oldest slip is 18thC and looks like a huge ships hull inverted on the top of massive wooden pillars. Those next to it are obviously victorian with their cast iron structure like a big Railway Terminus overall roof.

I was involved with the HMS Cavalier trust for a while. Throughout the summer they have special days when the members of the trust dress up in WW2 naval uniform and show members of the public around. (For those who don't know Cavalier is the last surviving WW2 Fleet Destroyer.)
Since I was there last I understand they have rebuilt the old woodworking machine shops and foundry have been restored.

Localy we have a Napoleonic Frigate HMS Trincomalee as a floating museum at Hartlepool Historic Queyside. It was used as a floating Sailing school for years at Portsmouth and has been restored by the ame people that rebuilt HMS Warrior for display at Portsmout alongside HMS Victory.

Edit of Quotes

frogesque
2005-Feb-17, 11:43 AM
Captain Swoop, Stuart

Well, shiver me timbers!!!

Thanks for all the detail and fascinating insight into those naval battles.

captain swoop
2005-Feb-17, 01:26 PM
One of the advantages to living in Greenwich was the proximity to the National Maritime Museum. And the old Royal Observatory of course :)

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Feb-22, 04:48 PM
Sorry I haven't been around, Work has been quite frantic lately round here.

Thanks for the info Stuart, Eta C, Bawheid and CTM VT 2K it cleared up the point completely

The book that I was reading and made me make the question is called 'Military Blunders II' and was written by a Major in the US Army, while his descriptions on anything to do with Infantry or Special Forces seemed quite solid, it wasn't the same with anything to do with Naval Warfare, particularly Tsushima, he did try to make a point that Military Blunders usually don't happen because the people in charge were dumb or evil, or in some sort of conspirancy, but again I found his explanation of the Tsushima battle to be too skimpy to be understood by a layman (or at least by me :) ).

CTM VT 2K
2005-Feb-22, 05:29 PM
I ought to come clean on some of this myself: I'm a military historian on the side (I make my money elsewhere), and one of my favorite areas of interest is that of Naval Warfare from Hampton Rhodes to Tokyo Bay (The rise and fall of Armored Warships). I even have a 6'-2" long (1:144 scale) model of the USS Missouri. It is interesting to see how the same concepts used during the Dreadnought era of naval warfare were largely the same as the Infantry concepts of a generation before, and the Tank Warfare conepts of a generation or two after.

Something you ought to look into is the so-called N-Squared law of combat and numbers.

A big problem many writers run into is they try to either see Naval Warfare as another type of Land Warfare or vice versa. I'm a bit of an odd duck, coming from a strong Army family background but spending much of my personal time studying Navy history, so I have a split perspective.

(Other specific areas of interest to me are the Roman Legions and the Cold War - the latter from having been in Germany to witness the end of it first hand)

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Feb-22, 06:05 PM
A big problem many writers run into is they try to either see Naval Warfare as another type of Land Warfare or vice versa. I'm a bit of an odd duck, coming from a strong Army family background but spending much of my personal time studying Navy history, so I have a split perspective.

You just reminded me of something else I have read about: the Battle of Sluys in 1340, where the English Fleet again massacred the French, from what I read, the French Admiral set up his fleet as if it was a Land battle because of his lack of understanding on what Naval Warfare was about (apparently he had little experience in Sea Warfare)

Western History and Military Hardware are things that usually arise my interest. Like I said before, my knowledge (or lack of :) )of tactics comes from playing RTS Games in a PC, but that doesn't stop me from liking it :)

[Editted for syntax]

CTM VT 2K
2005-Feb-22, 10:12 PM
Some aspects of RTS games translate - at least on land. Chokepoints are still chokepoints. None of them seem to get even close to the true complexities of the supply train. You know the old saying "Amatures talk tactics, professionals talk Logistics." It's well known because it is true. No RTS I've seen even makes a serious attempt at modeling Logistics - even though Logistics are what most battles are fought over. Remember, the Battle of the Atlantic was about the supply lines to the UK. The Guadalcanal campaign was about the supply lines to Austrailia (it started as essentially a minor skirmish in the war, and wound up being where the US bled the Imperial Japanese war machine). Today in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is against the Supply Convoys that the major fighting is done. Problem is, most people don't want to play a Real Time Logistics game.

captain swoop
2005-Feb-23, 11:34 AM
France, Germany (under Hitler and the old German Imperial Navy all suffered from the 'Generals' view of naval warfare. It comes I suppose from the strategic concerns being land borders. Japan, Britain and the USA didn't worry about land borders, their main concerns were naval, Japan and Britain by virtue of being Islands and the USA because of it's huge coastline facing 2 oceans. Italy tried in the Med but they just 'Bottled' it, like Germany they were worried about losing ships and avoided contact.

CTM VT 2K
2005-Feb-23, 03:01 PM
The problem with a "Risk Fleet" is that it only works as a threat.

Once the Dreadnaught Era began, Germany had a chance to compete with the UK in a naval arms race. The concept was that while Germany could not out-build the Royal Navy, they could create a fleet that would cause great risk to the RN - i.e. the RN could be knocked down several pegs in an all-out battle with the German High Seas Fleet, making them prey to OTHER powers. This was a valid threat, but once war was declared, it evaporated as a usefull tool - though it took time for people to realize this. As a means of power projection the HSF was an excellet tool. As a means of waging war, it was a waste of resources.

Similarly in WWII, the famed Bismarck and Tirpitz, along with lesser known Battleships and Pocket Battleships who were intended as Commerce Raiders, functioned largely as a "Fleet in Being" to tie down RN assets that could be better used elsewhere (Such as in the Med or in the Pacific). Never could a Germany at War build a fleet to rival the RN of the day.

In WWI, had Germany NOT had the HSF (not likely, as Willhelm was rather fond of "his" ships and how they measured up to his Grandmother's ships of the RN - remember family relationships and rivalries), the UK would not have been as threatened by Germany, and might not have gone to war with Germany, or not as soon - allowing Paris to fall, and 1914 ending like 1871 or 1939*.

In WWII, had Hitler either focused on finishing off the UK, or made peace with the UK before attacking the USSR (AND not idiotically declared war on the US) he could have consolodated and been able to take out the other in due time. Hitler instead decided to take on the world all at once - and brought Central Europe to utter devistation in the process, leaving scars that are still painfully visible to this day.

A couple of points and tidbits: in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the German Navy and the Kaiser were enamoured with the American Naval author Arther Mahan's book "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History." Which, written from an American Perspective (this is important) laid out a convincing case that naval power was more important than land power. For the US/UK this was (at the time) correct. Germany was always a land power.

There is another author (whose name escapes me at the moment) who argued the opposite side: If a land power on the EURASIA landmass were powerful enough, they could conquer the entire landmass - regardless of what any naval powers did. Once of a sufficent size, and having consolodated winnings and holdings, that land power - now with most of the world's population and industrial capacity - could become the dominant sea power almost overnight. He goes on to argue that both World Wars, and the Cold War, were actually about creating/preventing just such a power. For anyone who's played Risk or Axis and Allies, you understand the important point value in holding Europe and Asia. If you have both, the game is almost decided, it's almost a matter of time. If you have Africa too, it's over.

Strategically, Naval Power is projection and controlling the Lines of Communication/Supply. In that setting, the Generals can understand it. Tactically, it is not the same animal - and the Generals should leave it to the Admirals.

*inital stages only - France DID fall to the Germans, but ultimately won on the coattails of the US/UK

captain swoop
2005-Feb-23, 03:38 PM
The problem with a "Risk Fleet" is that it only works as a threat.

Once the Dreadnaught Era began, Germany had a chance to compete with the UK in a naval arms race. The concept was that while Germany could not out-build the Royal Navy, they could create a fleet that would cause great risk to the RN - i.e. the RN could be knocked down several pegs in an all-out battle with the German High Seas Fleet, making them prey to OTHER powers. This was a valid threat, but once war was declared, it evaporated as a usefull tool - though it took time for people to realize this. As a means of power projection the HSF was an excellet tool. As a means of waging war, it was a waste of resources.

It was always British policy to have a fleet equal in size to the next two largest fleets.



Similarly in WWII, the famed Bismarck and Tirpitz, along with lesser known Battleships and Pocket Battleships who were intended as Commerce Raiders, functioned largely as a "Fleet in Being" to tie down RN assets that could be better used elsewhere (Such as in the Med or in the Pacific). Never could a Germany at War build a fleet to rival the RN of the day.

they only tied down the Home Fleet whos job it was to blockade the German fleet anyway. It was the U boat campaign that was the threat and Airpower caused far more problems in the Med than the German fleet ever did.



In WWII, had Hitler either focused on finishing off the UK, or made peace with the UK before attacking the USSR (AND not idiotically declared war on the US) he could have consolodated and been able to take out the other in due time. Hitler instead decided to take on the world all at once - and brought Central Europe to utter devistation in the process, leaving scars that are still painfully visible to this day.

Hitler had no intention of finishing off the UK, He wanted a settlement. Operation Sealion (the invasion) wasn't practical, it was planned as a half hearted, extended river crossing. They had no specialist landing craft or tank landing and no surface escort. It wouldn't have got across the channel. When it got to the south coast there was no way of unloading any armour other than on improvised ramps from the front of barges, plus there was no possibility of supporting gunfire from warships. Look at what was needed for Overlord and look at Dieppe where the lesson was learned.

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Feb-23, 04:24 PM
You know the old saying "Amatures talk tactics, professionals talk Logistics." It's well known because it is true. No RTS I've seen even makes a serious attempt at modeling Logistics - even though Logistics are what most battles are fought over.

That saying is so right it ought to be a law of physics :)

Quite true, I know of no RTS that models Logistics realistically (I don't know if it's because it's either too hard or because it would bore the gamer or maybe both)



Similarly in WWII, the famed Bismarck and Tirpitz, along with lesser known Battleships and Pocket Battleships who were intended as Commerce Raiders, functioned largely as a "Fleet in Being" to tie down RN assets that could be better used elsewhere (Such as in the Med or in the Pacific). Never could a Germany at War build a fleet to rival the RN of the day.

One of the lesser known Pocket Battleships would be the Graf von Spee? I have pictures of it sinking near Buenos Aires, that were given to my father by one of the crewmembers who later on was one of his instructors in the Argentinan Navy. In any case IIRC one of the terms of the Treaty of Versailles was that Germany could not build large Warships, hence they came up with ships like the Graf von Spee as a way to circumvent the Treaty (in any case to build a fleet that would equal the RN or the US Navy it would take quite a lot of time and resources I guess)



they only tied down the Home Fleet whos job it was to blockade the German fleet anyway. It was the U boat campaign that was the threat....


That would be "Operation Drumbeat" would it not?



Hitler had no intention of finishing off the UK, He wanted a settlement. Operation Sealion (the invasion) wasn't practical, it was planned as a half hearted, extended river crossing. They had no specialist landing craft or tank landing and no surface escort. It wouldn't have got across the channel. When it got to the south coast there was no way of unloading any armour other than on improvised ramps from the front of barges, plus there was no possibility of supporting gunfire from warships. Look at what was needed for Overlord and look at Dieppe where the lesson was learned.


Definetly Overlord and Dieppe showed how hard is to stage a sea invasion, but Operation SeaLion as unpractical as you mentioned, never got a chance to be seriously considered after Germany lost the Battle of Britain right? All the material I have read on Hitler's intentions about England seems to point out that he wanted a settlement.

CTM VT 2K
2005-Feb-23, 05:14 PM
Hitler had no intention of finishing off the UK, He wanted a settlement. Operation Sealion (the invasion) wasn't practical, it was planned as a half hearted, extended river crossing. They had no specialist landing craft or tank landing and no surface escort. It wouldn't have got across the channel. When it got to the south coast there was no way of unloading any armour other than on improvised ramps from the front of barges, plus there was no possibility of supporting gunfire from warships. Look at what was needed for Overlord and look at Dieppe where the lesson was learned.

I agree, Hitler had no intention, but strategeically his choices were to:

a) Continue the war with the UK while attacking the USSR, leaving the UK as an unsinkable bastion right off the Atlantic Coast of his Fortress Europa - a Theater sized Assembly Area (Assembly Areas are where all the beans, bodys, and bullets come together to form an acutual combat unit ready to engage the enemy. Usually an AA is Division or Corps sized, with subbordinate units having their own AA's within the greater AA*)

b) Finish the War with the UK before attacking the USSR - invade and remove the that thorn from the side of his Europe, then being able to free forces from the west and concentrate on the USSR without fear of invasion and harrasment from across the channel.

c) Make Peace with the UK before attacking the USSR, most likely both sides would see it as a temporary thing, each buying time.

From a strategic standpoint, B is the most sound, finish one war before starting the next, only fight on one front at a time. The problem is that the ability to stage that cross-channel invasion was extremely fierce - it took years and a massive buildup of supplies to pull it off, and his Generals knew that it was not practical at that time, so C is probably the best option, buy time to expand the capacity for a cross-channel invasion - maybe without attacking the USSR until much later anyway.

Either way, Hitler's megalomania was too strong, and he didn't care what the realities were (and to some extent his inner circle was afraid to tell him the realities). Had he simply turned to his Generals and said "win my wars" and taken rational advice, things might have been very different. Of course, if Hitler had been a rational man, he probably wouldn't have launched the war in the first place, making ALL of this a bit moot.

*Notes on Unit Sizes: A Theater is the highest echelon of a military command structure, answerable directly to the (at that time) Secretary of War and the President or the UK equivalent. Today, the MACOMs (MAjor COMmands - Theater level commands) answer to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In Europe the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR) was General Eisenhower. In the Pacific it was Admiral Nimitz. Under SACEUR were all the military forces of the US, UK, Free French, Free Poles etc. Yes, that means that the Naval forces of the US and the UK essentially answered to a US Army General (At that level it never really is that clear cut, politics creep in any way they can).
The Army Component of the Theater consists of Army Groups. The First US Army Group (FUSAG) was the US Army element that made the D-Day landings. Below an Army Group are Armies. Patton commanded the 3rd Army in its famous drive to Bastogne. An Army consists of Corps. V Corps is one of the most famous US Corps, making the D-Day landings, being one of the primary Corps in Germany during the Cold War, and making the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Corps consist of Divisions such as the 1st Infantry Division or the 82nd Airborne Division. Divisions consisted (at that time, during Vietnam the US Army reworked the structure below divisions, and is now reworking it again) of 4 Regiments, each Regiment consisted of 3 Battalions (such as the 2nd Battalion 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment), each Battalion consisted of 3 Companies (Able, Baker, etc.), each Company consisted of 3 Platoons, each Platoon consisted of 3 squads, each squad consisted of two fire teams, each fire team consisted of 3-5 soldiers.

captain swoop
2005-Feb-24, 11:05 AM
Definetly Overlord and Dieppe showed how hard is to stage a sea invasion, but Operation SeaLion as unpractical as you mentioned, never got a chance to be seriously considered after Germany lost the Battle of Britain right? All the material I have read on Hitler's intentions about England seems to point out that he wanted a settlement.

Also the RAF bombed the invasion barges as they assembed in the French and Belgian ports. Even if the Germnans had been more succesful against the RAF the Royal Navy would have thrown everything against the invasion, I don't think the Germans could have protected their slow moving barges and cargo ships long enough to get them across the channel. Don't forget the RAF actualy increased their number of available fighters throughout the BOB and only a proportion of them were ever in the front line at any time, there was never a danger that they would be destroyed.

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Feb-24, 03:31 PM
Also the RAF bombed the invasion barges as they assembed in the French and Belgian ports. Even if the Germnans had been more succesful against the RAF the Royal Navy would have thrown everything against the invasion, I don't think the Germans could have protected their slow moving barges and cargo ships long enough to get them across the channel. Don't forget the RAF actualy increased their number of available fighters throughout the BOB and only a proportion of them were ever in the front line at any time, there was never a danger that they would be destroyed.

What I have read seems disagree somewhat: The Commanding Officer of Fighter Command (Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Downing) did use such a tactic but out of desperation, particularly before Goering started bombing London. The airfields south of it were being royally pounded by the Luftwaffe (it seems his problem was getting enough pilots, he had planes to spare, but the info I have read says that at this point Downing figured they could take just about a week more of bombing before Fighter Command had to retire from those airfields), had Goering (who apparently was not exactly a great strategist but also out of pleasing Hitler's demmands because Berlin had just been bombed) not changed targets and continued bombing these airfields instead of London itself the BOB might have been lost by England.

From what I have read Downing received a lot of criticism for defending his airfields more than London from the bombing.

captain swoop
2005-Feb-24, 03:48 PM
I can't agree, I don't think they would have lost the BOB, they may have had to abandon some fields in the South East but the northern Wings weren't in action much at all, there were still plenty of pilots to rotate out. Not attacking the Radar stations was the big mistake.
Just before the war the Germans sent an Airship up the North Sea full of detection equipment and scientists. They were looking for British radar. Unfortunately they expected something around 1.5 to 5 metre band with rotating arrays which is what they were experimenting with. They did in fact detect the 'Chain Home' stations but as it was operating at 50hz the same as the mains AC they thought it was interference. Also the Chain Home was on the 12 meter band using Phased Arrays on 200ft high masts not rotating aerials.
When the war started there were some attacks on coastal stations butthe holes were plugged by mobile units and as they didn't realise they were attacking Radar stations they didn't bother any more.

Check out this site (http://www.radarpages.co.uk/) for everything you will ever need to know about British Air Defence radar.

Interceptions could have still been made from airfields further west and north and any attempt to cross the channel could have been intercepted.
Dowding didn't put all his eggs in one basket. Later in the war he was criticised for not flying 'Big Wings' against the German attacks but that would have played into the Germans hands.
Also remember the Germans couldn't replace their losses, production fell behind whereas British production increased. Pilots shot down over Britain were lost to them and damaged aircraft usualy ended up ditching. RAF pilots could be shot down and flying again later the same day.

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Feb-24, 04:22 PM
I can't agree, I don't think they would have lost the BOB, they may have had to abandon some fields in the South East but the northern Wings weren't in action much at all, there were still plenty of pilots to rotate out. Not attacking the Radar stations was the big mistake.

Hmmm interesting, what I have read seems to point out that Downing was desperately short of pilots, particularly before the bombing of London began.



Just before the war the Germans sent an Airship up the North Sea full of detection equipment and scientists. They were looking for British radar. Unfortunately they expected something around 1.5 to 5 metre band with rotating arrays which is what they were experimenting with. They did in fact detect the 'Chain Home' stations but as it was operating at 50hz the same as the mains AC they thought it was interference. Also the Chain Home was on the 12 meter band using Phased Arrays on 200ft high masts not rotating aerials.
When the war started there were some attacks on coastal stations butthe holes were plugged by mobile units and as they didn't realise they were attacking Radar stations they didn't bother any more.

Check out this site (http://www.radarpages.co.uk/) for everything you will ever need to know about British Air Defence radar.


Yes, I know that the British were not only way ahead of the Germans in Radar Technology (After all one of, if not the foremost pioneer of Radar Detection was Sir Robert Watson-Watt) and yes it seems the germans never had a systematic campaign against British radar installations



Interceptions could have still been made from airfields further west and north and any attempt to cross the channel could have been intercepted.
Dowding didn't put all his eggs in one basket. Later in the war he was criticised for not flying 'Big Wings' against the German attacks but that would have played into the Germans hands.
Also remember the Germans couldn't replace their losses, production fell behind whereas British production increased. Pilots shot down over Britain were lost to them and damaged aircraft usualy ended up ditching. RAF pilots could be shot down and flying again later the same day.

Quite true, it was a lot harder for the Luftwaffe to replace their losses than it was for the RAF, however I remember reading about pilots having to do up to four patrols a day and also of pilots literally taken from their hospital beds to their cockpits.

I read this all in the book I mentioned earlier "Military Blunders II"

Ahhh the joys of history :)

PD: As for the "Big Wings" are you referring to British Ace Douglas Bader's proposal?

tbm
2005-Feb-24, 06:03 PM
Hi all.

Few realize how close the U-boat campaign came to bringing Britain to it's knees in 1942. A good reference and good read on the subject is "The Atlantic Campaign" (van der Vat, 1988).

Regards, tbm

Eta C
2005-Feb-24, 06:53 PM
There are opposing views to this conventional wisdom. One fairly recent one worth checking out is Clay Blair's encyclopedic, two volume work "Hitler's U-Boat War." He performed a virtually patrol by patrol, convoy by convoy reconstruction of the entire war, monitoring sinkings by U-Boats and sinkings of U-Boats against new construction. His conclusion,


The U-boat peril in WW II was and has been vastly overblown: Threat inflation on a classically grand scale. The Germans were not supermen, the U-boats and torpedos were not technical marvels, but rather inferior craft and weapons unsuited for the Battle of the Atlantic... The main contribution the U-boat force made in the war was to present a terror weapon, a sort of "threat in being," which forced the Allies to convoy, delaying the arrival of goods and supplies, and to deploy extensive anti-submarine counterforces. The myths notwithstanding, only a tiny percentage of Allied merchant ships actually fell victim to U-boats. Ninety-nine percent of all Allied merchant ships in the transatlantic convoys reached assigned destinations.

The figures he presents back this up. Between September 42 and May 45 the Allies sailed 953 convoys composed of 43,526 merchant ships across the North Atlantic. 272 were sunk. The worst year of this period was 1943 when 299 convoys of 12,754 ships lost 158 ships.

Now these figures don't include sinkings of ships sailing independently along the US sea board nor those sunk on south Atlantic or Mediterranean convoys. But they are the ships that sailed in the vital "lifeline" between the US and England. While the U-boats were more than a nuisance, the figures would seem to suggest that their overall impact has been overstated.

captain swoop
2005-Feb-25, 11:17 AM
I don't have them to hand but I can look up the figures. Before the introduction of the Libery Ships and US participation in the war, tonnage sunk was outstripping tonnage built by quite a margin.
It was the introduction of the Liberty Ship building program, Escort Carriers, Centimetric Radar (that the Germans didn't even detect) and specialised AS Frigates with forward firing AS weapons like 'Hedgehog'

British shipyards couldn't keep up with the number of merchantmen being sunk as they were occuied with building and repairing warships.

At one point national food reserves were down to less than 3 months supply and even tighter rationing was considered.

I will check my refs later.

Eta C
2005-Feb-25, 01:37 PM
In Volume 1 (page 425, plate 10) of his book Blair gives similar figures for the principal Atlantic convoys (again, this leaves out other convoys and ships sailing alone). Out of about 900 Atlantic convoys between September 39 and December 41 only 19 lost more than six ships. Of the 12,000 ships that sailed in those convoys, only 291 were sunk. His comment (page 426 of V1)
What emerges from this analysis is that, contrary to the general perception at the close of 1941, German U-boats were nowhere close to isolating and strangling Great Britain. Although occasionally successful, group or "wolf pack" tactics were on the whole a failure...For all the reasons laid out above, the rate of U-boat non-performance (no sinkings per patrol) had reached ominously high levels in all areas, so much so that it is clear that U-boats had lost any prospect of crushing Great Britain, let alone defeating the formidable new enemy, the United States.

Among the reasons Blair refers to are convoying, code-breaking, HF direction finding, and an increase in the rate of production of new shipping.

Now there was a reduction in imports to England in 42. Plate 14 (page 699) of volume 1 compares the tonnage imported in the first eight months of 41 to the same period in 42. There is a drop from 28 million tons to 23 million. He comments that this did lead to real shortages of food and fuel in England. However he attributes it less to sinkings than to changes in convoy schedules due to a lack of escorts, the shifting of tankers to slower, southern routes, and the diversion of shipping to the Russian route. Certainly the presence of the U-boats forced some of these measures on the Allies, but, despite the shortages they caused, the Allies came through.

captain swoop
2005-Feb-25, 01:53 PM
Number of sailings isn't as important as tonnage, the cumulative effect of losing ships faster than they are built would have been very serious. I don't think there was any doubt about the long term outcome esp after the USA joined the war but for a while in late 1940 and into 1941 it was pretty bleak. When the capacity of the US shipyards was available the new tonnage was greater than that sunk by the U-boats and they had effectively lost even if the new AS weapons and tactics hadn't started to take their toll. I think the final killer for the U-boats was the Centimetric radar sets fitted to the Wellingtons and Liberators on AS patrol across the bay of Biscay. They forced the U-boats to run submerged straight out of dock and could even pick up a periscope or Snorkel tube from miles away.

CTM VT 2K
2005-Feb-25, 04:43 PM
And, at the end of the day, we are again talking about the numbers of supply - logistics. =D>

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Mar-17, 04:32 PM
And, at the end of the day, we are again talking about the numbers of supply - logistics. =D>

Give me an "L"!
Give me an "O"!
Give me a "G"!
Give me an "I"!
Give me an "S"!
Give me a "T"!
Give me a "C"!
Give me an "S"!

What does it spell?

LOGISTICS!
LOGISTICS!
LOGISTICS!

RA! RA! RA! :D

PS: Darned proportional fonts don't let me line up the text!!! #-o

Nicolas
2005-Mar-17, 04:36 PM
You missed an "I"

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Mar-17, 04:42 PM
You missed an "I"



Whoooops! :oops:

CTM VT 2K
2005-Mar-17, 05:44 PM
To hear me talk, you'd think my job was in Logistics. It isn't. I'm an analyst and an Engineer. I just understand that Logistics is what drives it all. Your troops can't live long without food. You can't get the food to them without shipping it (Trucks, Trains, Planes, and Ships). In the case of both world wars, you couldn't grow enough food without fertilizers, which had to be shipped. You can't ship food without fuel. You can't protect the fuel without munitions (bullets, bombs, missiles, etc.). You can't build the munitions without certain chemicals which have to be shipped, and you can't get the munitions to where they are needed without shipping them. Bodys, Beans, and Bullets. If I want to impact your war effort, I want to cut off your engergy/fuel supplies most of all, because that will cut off everything else. In pre-industrial days, Sieges were about starving people out - no food, no medicine, and it's only a matter of time before they surrender or die.

If I repeated anything I said earlier, oh well. It bears repeating.

Jpax2003
2005-Mar-17, 10:03 PM
You missed an "I"

He also forgot a "C" and a "K"

LogicSticks (TM) It combines logic and a stick. If they don't understand one way, they'll understand it another way. It's the perfect thing to whip mules and motor-pools into action. :D

Sigma_Orionis
2005-Mar-17, 11:25 PM
You missed an "I"

He also forgot a "C" and a "K"

LogicSticks (TM) It combines logic and a stick. If they don't understand one way, they'll understand it another way. It's the perfect thing to whip mules and motor-pools into action. :D

Do you remember Teddy Roosevelt's saying "Talk Softly and Carry a Big Stick"? well about 99.999% of the people that know me personally agree that I forgot the part about 'talking softly' :lol: