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Was Bismarck a bad investment?

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by CaptainBill03, Jun 8, 2005.

  1. CaptainBill03

    CaptainBill03 New Member

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    Hind sight is that building battleships for use as surface raiders was a very bad investment. They were always going to be out numbered; the British could afford the one to one trades (Hood for Bismarck). and would throw everything available at them to every time they sortied. Additionally any battle damage, even as limited as three hits from Prince of Wales could ultimately prove fatal. The limited number of available U-boats came close to finishing the British, so more might have been decisive. Note that the British respond to German “heavy ships” was building battleships and that this resulted in fewer anti-sub vessels and anti-surface raider cruisers. Instead of building battleships I propose the following as a much better investment. Note that I am including the “pocket battleships” since the British tended to over react and think of them as “heavy ships”.
    The as built German heavies were two battleships, two battle cruisers and three pocket battleships, or a total of seven.
    The battleship’s heavy guns have a long lead time so let’s start with them. Take Bismarck and Tirpitz’s sixteen 15 inch guns, eight turrets, and replace Scharnhorst and Gneisenau’s six turrets. This will make the two fast battle cruisers a major threat that the British have to respond to. This would make available four 15 inch guns, in two turrets, and eighteen 11 inch guns, in six turrets. Note that Deutschland, Admiral Graf Spee, and Admiral Scheer have eighteen 11 inch guns, in 6 turrets.
    Now take the 100,000 tons of steel used in the two battleships (50,900 tons each). Build four “Super Pocket Battleships” at 15,000 each. The Graf Spee’s are 12,000 tons each, with two engines giving 27 knot, so the additional 3000 tons can be used for one more engine and improving armor. Arm three “Super Pocket Battleships” with two each 11 inch gun turrets and one with two 15 inch gun turrets. Take 40,000 tons steel and build twenty U-boats.
    You now have two battle cruisers, three pocket battleships and four “Super Pocket Battleships” or a total of nine, and twenty more U-boats. Could this be enough difference to win the war for Germany?
     
  2. Notmi

    Notmi New Member

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    Hello Captain.

    Did you mean that Germans rearm twins with those 15" turrets? That requires a rather large rebuild.

    And by the way, with 40000 tons of steel you get almost 40 long range IX-boats or 50 VII-boats.

    And lets see what GB can put against modified twins and PB's and super PB's: Like we know from history, it took only 3 treaty cruisers to deal with PB. And only one of those treaty cruisers was heavy cruiser. I believe that even super-PB of 15000 tons can be taken care by 4-5 treaty cruisers. And if not, then use one of those battlecruisers which would make mincemeat out of super-PB just about any day.
    And twins: Historically, 11" gunned twins ran when they met Renown (or was it Repulse, cant remember).
    I believe GB would build only 2-3 KGV's if German doesn't build Bismarck and Tirpitz. And those are more than a match to upgunned Scharnhorst.

    On the other hand, those subs might be a problem. Sure GB would divert more money, manpower and effort to building escorts. Will it be enough?

    You have to remember that having 40 subs more doesn't mean you have 40 subs more out there hunting at any given time.

    I think it might get even closer than it historically was but GB would prevail.

    And by the way, historically when germans tried to build "super pocket battleships", they ended up with Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
     
  3. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    Why should Germany build any warships at all?
     
  4. Notmi

    Notmi New Member

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    Oh, now after having a good night sleep, I found that there is something wrong with you steel tons. Its true that both Bismarck and Tirpitz displaced around 50000 tons but that is their full load displacement, including crew, stores, fuel, feedwater etc. So, there is only around 40000 tons of steel / ship.
    On the other hand, PB -displacement was much closer to real amount of steel used on them.
    Therefore, after building 4 super-PB's you have around 20000 tons of steel left for subs.
     
  5. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

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    I agree if you mean surface warships - they were all a poor investment, except for the S-Boote. Their emphasis should have been on developing more advanced (like the Type XXI) submarines and producing them in enough numbers to make a difference. As proposed in 'The Foresight War' :cool:

    Tony Williams: Military gun and ammunition website and discussion forum
     
  6. Ebar

    Ebar New Member

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    Remember that in the thirties warships, particularly those capable of blue water operations remained powerful symbols of statehood.

    The concept of the big surface raider was heading for obsolescence by 1939. During WW1 raiders always problems with where their next fuel top up was coming from but detection systems were still limited to the Mk1 eyeball and most merchant ships didn't have radio. By WW2 you have radar air search and radio equipped merchant ships that will scream to high heaven the moment they see you.

    Personally I think the German surface ships up to the Scharhorst class but excluding the pocket battleships were worth having. They did pin down a lot of British capital ships that could have been doing something more useful. True the Bismarck’s added to this but I don't think they added enough to justify the expense.
     
  7. lynn1212

    lynn1212 New Member

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    fleet in being

    germany's fleet was a risk fleet. it was never supposed to be equal to the RN but only able to inflect enough damage to weaken the RN to the point where another fleet could take it. since the only fleet apt to do so was at the other side of the world the risk fleet idea was sort of weakened. just as in WWI the germans also planned for battle in the north sea and just like WWI the RN followed a plan of distant blockade and kept her heavy units out of it.
    the use of bismarck as a raider was something that was not in the plans when she was built. it was a result of her having nothing else to do. i firmly believe that by 1940 the era of the surface raider was over and yes germany would have been better served by another 40 u-boats. to those who say germany's BBs kept the RN's tied up i say what else was the RN going to do with them anyway. true they might have sunk the italian navy a little sooner but other than that all they could have done was to go play with the IJN.
    if the plan had been followed and war put off until 45 or later when the whole fleet would have been built then having heavy ships would have been useful and may made sense. but since hitler got into a hurry they were a waste.
     
  8. Simonr1978

    Simonr1978 New Member

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    The Regia Marina and the French fleet individually or especially combined could have been a serious threat to the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, hence Taranto and Oran.

    if the plan had been followed and war put off until 45 or later when the whole fleet would have been built then having heavy ships would have been useful and may made sense. but since hitler got into a hurry they were a waste.

    Precisely. By 1945 the German Fleet would have been able to take on the Royal Navy on equal terms but Germany could not afford to put off war till then.

    i say what else was the RN going to do with them anyway. true they might have sunk the italian navy a little sooner but other than that all they could have done was to go play with the IJN.

    Not sure what you mean here. Arguably going by that logic all the USN really did throughout the war was "Play" with the IJN (Ignoring sideshows like ferry runs to Malta and Torch) thanks to "Germany First", the RNs presence in quantity would have been a boost to that effort, instead it was regarded as a secondary theatre whilst the main efforts were diverted to containing the German warships and maintaining the convoy links with Britain and the Soviet Union.
     
  9. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

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    The British would never tolerate the German fleet being 'on equal terms'. Any sign that the German Navy was expanding to that extent would have caused an immediate reaction in the UK, which had the shipyard capacity to ensure they could stay ahead of any German building programme.

    For the British, command of the seas around the UK was an essential matter of survival.

    Tony Williams: Military gun and ammunition website and discussion forum
     
  10. lynn1212

    lynn1212 New Member

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    playing

    having the RN go to war with the IJN would have done nothing to damage germany. germany and japan were not really allies in the sense that they fought together with common planning and joint operations. they had common foes but that was about it for all purposes.
    germany was a land power and needed a fleet of heavy ships about as much as custer needed more indians. hence it was a waste and the resources could have been better used elsewhere. even then given germany's habit of wasting time and money of things like the maus, amerkia bombers, and other wonderful weird stuff it would ahve been wasted anyway.

    if i have to explain my use of play i give up. lighten up a bit and think about it. have you ever known any combat vets? ask them.
     
  11. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    But tying down our surface fleet means tying down the escort vessels for the Battleships, which means less criusers & destroyers available for escorting the merchant convoys. Plus I'm pretty sure that the guys in North Africa would have liked more naval assets to both cut the last few German/Italian convoys, and to bombard the Afrika Corps & Italians from offshore.
     
  12. Simonr1978

    Simonr1978 New Member

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    Very true, what I meant of course was the German efforts compared to the existing Royal Navy assuming no or little RN expansion. That was of course was unlikely to go unnoticed or unchallenged.
     
  13. Notmi

    Notmi New Member

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    And RN was already building to outmatch Bismarck and Tirpitz. If German had built more large capital ships, RN would likely finished Lions to match them.
     
  14. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    "Why should Germany build any warships at all?"
    I asked this question, not to imply any message, but to gauge the degree of hindsight being used in this topic.
    Literally: why should Germany build any warships at all?
    If we answer this after first considering all that we now know of WWII history, we can identify the historical value of the ships the Germans did build. Bismarck was, in this context, an utter failure and waste of resources--a very bad investment. The work and material that went into her went on to accomplish little: she cost the enemy one old battleship, a destroyer, a couple aircraft, and about 2000 men. But this all entailed the expense of a new battleship, half a dozen tankers, 2300 men killed, and hundreds more captured.
    If we view things instead from a contemporary perspective, then we may come up with a different conclusion. At the time when the Bismarck project first got underway, the forces that sank Bismarck were not a consideration at all. I think we can ask ourselves two very interesting questions. Should the Germans have known better than to build this ship? Having built it, what gainful employment might they have found for her?
     
  15. Tony Williams

    Tony Williams Member

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    At the time, I think that the big ships were built for reasons of national prestige rather than with any specific use in mind. Germany was still recovering from the psychological trauma of losing WW1 and being forced to sign the crippling Versailles treaty. Hitler began to restore their sense of national pride, and building warships as powerful as anyone else's was a part of that.

    Tony Williams: Military gun and ammunition website and discussion forum
     
  16. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    A battleship for battleship's sake--that can't possibly turn out well, can it?
     
  17. PMN1

    PMN1 recruit

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    I sense a plug for a certain book coming on....

    :smok: :D
     
  18. PMN1

    PMN1 recruit

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    There was a series of postings on the WarshipProjects board (now sadly gone (permanently this time it appears)) detailing the 'tentative RN pre-war building programme' which if correct would suggest otherwise.
     
  19. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    The Germans were fully aware that they could not achieve parity with the RN. They had already witnessed the disastrous effects of engaging the British in a naval race in the First World War.
     
  20. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    Hmm... imagine the state of funding for the RAF & army if the RN had had to expand to beat the Germans. IMO, it would mean no Supermarine Spitfire for a start (they had trouble enough getting it through as it was).
     

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