Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

What if Australia got the Battlecruiser HMAS Australia between the Wars?

Discussion in 'Alternate History' started by von_noobie, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2007
    Messages:
    1,079
    Likes Received:
    73
    Back when the British proposed the construction of 'Fleet Units' by her Dominions (Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand) Australia and New Zealand both funded a battle cruiser each (Australia keeping hers, New Zealand vessel funded for use by British) at a cost of 1.8 million pounds each. While this was going ahead the RN came up with the Lion class Battle cruiser which it's self cost 2.1 million pounds which some in the RN suggested to be offered to the Australians and New Zealanders over the Indefatigable class battle cruisers as it was a superior vessel.. How ever this was rejected to refrain from 'offending' either government yet at the time both Australia and New Zealand had budgeted 2 million pounds.. With New Zealand even considering funding a 2nd vessel.

    What if the RN had proposed the Lion class.. And Australia had gone for it... And at the same time after the Washington Naval treaty Australia was allowed to keep the vessel...

    Seeing how the Australian economy started to improve.. Allowing for spending again to update the various forces.. Especially the navy what might have been the out come with a Lion class HMAS Australia...

    It wasn't beyond Australia to field a single Capital ship from the mid 30's.. Would it have made much difference in WWII??
     
    ProsEvotvof and Kendusimmus like this.
  2. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    2,401
    Likes Received:
    402
    Just ran across this. Historically of course the Washington conference included Australian and other Empire fleets with the British, which is why the real HMAS Australia had to be ceremonially scuttled. But for this discussion we'll assume that the Aussies are allowed to keep a capital ship of their own. She'd be a bit of an odd duck, after 1930 the only ship carrying the 13.5" gun. More importantly, to serve into WWII she would need extensive modernization as was done with Repulse or Renown, especially the installation of deck armor (she'd also need to be converted from coal to oil fuel). The Lion design presents a problem due to the midships turret; repurposing of midships space was critical for 1930s-era improvements like aircraft hangars, cross-deck catapults, and DP secondary armament. The most complete modernizations included replacement of boilers and machinery and rearrangement of the engineering spaces; there would be considerably less flexibility with a turret, barbette, and magazine between the forward and aft groups of boilers. One option would be to take the turret out, as was done in the Italian Cavour and Duilio classes, but that would leave Australia with just six 13.5". All told our speculation would go more smoothly if the Australian ship could be Tiger or a hypothetical sister. Tiger was similar to the Japanese Kongo class, whose modernizations were among the most effective of the interwar period.

    In wartime, Australian ships operated mainly with the RN. The first HMAS Australia spent most of WWI with the Grand Fleet, and her 8" gun successor was in the Atlantic in 1940, including the Dakar operation. An additional battle cruiser would have been useful against the German raiders early in the war. By late 1941 ships like the historical Australia and Sydney were being sent home in anticipation of hostilities with the Japanese, and of course Churchill and the Admiralty specifically wanted fast capital ships for Force Z; we can only hope our hypothetical Australia would have missed that debacle.
     
  3. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2008
    Messages:
    3,223
    Likes Received:
    451
    An additional battlecruiser would help hunting the pocket battleships thoughI don't give her much of a chance against the twins in normal weather, a BC could certainly make a difference to ABDA but I believe the Japanese could spare a pair of Kongo to reinforce the southern drive so she would be outmatched. Adding a third capital ship to Force Z is unlikely to change the outcome as is an additional fast ship to Sommerville's force during the Indian Ocean raid.,
     
  4. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

    Joined:
    May 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,074
    Likes Received:
    1,050
    This echos the 'What-if the Dutch got part of the High seas Fleet' debate of a few months back. The same basic elements are in play. An expensive ship to operate and modernize, Outdated armament with poor arrangement for a modern war involving aircraft. Probably usefull long term for either Convoy protection or Shore Bombardment only.
     
  5. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2007
    Messages:
    1,079
    Likes Received:
    73
    Id agree with you belasar, Had the Aussies got there hands on a couple RN carriers then maybe they could have fielded a limited offensive capability that was less reliant on the USN but other then that it would have served more of a use around Papua bombing Japanese coastal bases while within air cover of RAAF/USAAF,

    On the plus side this thread didnt turn out as bad as the other one :dance4:
     
  6. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    7,985
    Likes Received:
    1,703
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    Taking a middle turret out of HMAS Australia really wasn't an option since the two amidships turrets were on the forward port wing, and the after starboard wing. Removing either turret will reduce the number of main gun tubes available on either side. The benefit of the Italian battleships was that their turrets were all on the centerline, so removing the middlep turret had a overall negligible effect.

    Still, given only one battlecruiser, there would not be much of a deterrent for the Japanese, since they had far more battleships. Keeping the Australia/Tiger would have only been a matter of prestige - that was both costly to maintain and man. It would be unlikely that she would have remained into the mid-30's given the rise of the heavy and light cruisers. The manpower would have been put to better use, and those modern ships would have been much less expensive to maintain.
     
  7. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    2,401
    Likes Received:
    402
    All the Australias may have gotten a bit confusing; the hypothesis was the RAN acquiring a Lion class ship.
     
  8. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,945
    Likes Received:
    758
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    If we assume the HMAS Australia was kept in service and the Australians wanted it capable of being a useful ship come WW 2 the following would have to happen:

    Removal of the torpedo net system
    Bulging, and serious rearrangement of the armor
    New boilers
    Conversion from coal to oil fuel
    New engines with higher pressures, say going from 115 psi to 300 psi
    Removal and replacement of the secondary armament with something effective in 1940 as opposed to 1913.
    Addition of antiaircraft armament
    A totally new fire control system
    New deck armor and removal of all coal scuttles.
    Removal of the 18" torpedo tubes
    Modification of the main armament to allow for 30 degrees minimum elevation versus the original 15 degrees


    Assuming she was allowed under the WNT to remain in Australian service the ship would have essentially required a complete rebuild. By 1940 she would have had been the equivalent of a heavy cruiser in terms of speed and armor even if she had a heavier 12" gun main armament.

    I think Australia's money could have been better spent on building an 8" heavy cruiser like they did historically.
     
  9. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    2,401
    Likes Received:
    402
    von noobie's hypothesis was "a Lion class HMS Australia", but that would need the same modifications. At best she might be comparable to the Kongo class, but the midships turret would be an added complication. Overall a bit less practical than preserving and modernizing HMS Tiger as was recently discussed. And, as with Tiger, retaining an additional capital ship under the treaty system would require compensation, either retiring something like an R class or allowing the other treaty powers to keep an extra ship.
     
  10. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Messages:
    12,312
    Likes Received:
    1,230
    Location:
    Michigan
    Well if it was considered Australia's rather than Britain's it might not require retiring another vessel. There were quite a few countries at the time that had one or two or three capital ships and weren't part of the treaty. It would I guess how independent others thought Australia was and whether or not it was looked at as a way for Britain to finesse the limits. One old BC though shouldn't be a deal breaker.
     
  11. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    2,401
    Likes Received:
    402
    Australia and other British dominions participated in the Washington Conference; here's a link to the treaty text, which starts by specifying the contracting parties:

    http://www.ibiblio.org/pha/pre-war/1922/nav_lim.html

    AFAIK neither Britain nor Australia ever questioned Australian ships being counted in the British totals. Australian 8" and 6" gun cruisers were included in the London Treaty which established quotas for those types. Also, every reference I've seen to the disposal of HMAS Australia attributes it to the treaty. I doubt the Aussies particularly minded disposing of what was by then an obsolescent ship, although they gave her a ceremonial sendoff.
     
  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Messages:
    12,312
    Likes Received:
    1,230
    Location:
    Michigan
    I assumed it would have to be one of the points of departure or perhaps the point of departure where i.e. the ships of at least some members of the Commonwealth not being considered as part of the RN. In that case I could see the British giving Australia the ship although I'm not sure Australia could afford to keep her in service much less update her at that point.
     
  13. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,945
    Likes Received:
    758
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    If Australia kept a battlecruiser of some sort in service post WNT, rebuilding it would have required it be done in Britain or the US. Australia at the time didn't have the facilities to do such an extensive rebuild and lacked the industry to produce things like propulsion turbines and boilers that would have been necessary. Even producing the amount of armor required for upgrading would have been a serious challenge, if not impossible, locally.
    Same goes for modifying the turrets for greater elevation. Vickers would have been the logical choice for that given they manufactured the turrets and guns. A 10 degree increase would have been the minimum necessary and possibly all that could be managed in a refit.
     
  14. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2010
    Messages:
    2,401
    Likes Received:
    402
    Happened to look back at this. I had not realized that Australia and New Zealand were laid down (and completed) after Lion and Princess Royal. Presumably when the Dominions started shopping for battle cruisers, the Indefatigable was the current design, so perhaps it took them longer than usual to negotiate contracts and place orders. They may not have been considered as high a priority as the Lions and other ships.
     
  15. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2008
    Messages:
    594
    Likes Received:
    31
    VN,

    In the mid 1930s, Australia was BROKE! Repayment of her foreign debt was in serious doubt, and Jack Lang would agree I am sure.
     
  16. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2007
    Messages:
    1,079
    Likes Received:
    73
    I wouldnt say Australia was broke, We have never actually been broke in the sense of foreign debt exceeding our GDP. Through out the 30's our economy improved with manufacturing growing (which would come to help out in WWII), foreign debt decreasing and the jobless rate descreasing at rates exceeding that of the US with out us having to go on a spending spree.

    From a peak foreign debt to GDP in 1931-32 of 93.7% it continued to fall year after year to 1939-40 of 56.7%, In fact it actually fell every year until 1956-58 when for two consecutive financial years it remained at 9.1%.

    So we actually did have quite a bit of wriggle room.
     
  17. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2010
    Messages:
    5,985
    Likes Received:
    899
    Werent we (and most other countries) just coming out of the depression?
     
  18. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2007
    Messages:
    1,079
    Likes Received:
    73
    We were, However we were coming out of it faster then many others.

    Where Australia lost about 10% of its GDP the US lost 30%, Peak unemployment for both was 32% and 25% respectively, by WWII unemployment had fallen to 11% and 17.2% respectively. While Australian debt continued to fall US debt sea sawed between 1933 and 1941 around the 40% mark before rising sharply to 116% in 1945 (Understandable why this occured).
     
  19. Terry D

    Terry D Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 27, 2015
    Messages:
    569
    Likes Received:
    238
    Location:
    Huerta, California
    I happen to think that Australia's defense dollars would have been much better spent in other ways than trying to rebuild and maintain an obsolescent capital ship. The army in the 1930s (really the militia, which was 95% of it) was painfully short of everything. There were almost no tanks (handful of Mk VI lights), only a few mobile medium guns (60 pdr), no mobile heavy guns at all, not enough motor vehicles. Defense industry was pretty thin, with little ability to produce much beyond small arms and I think some artillery ammo. There was not enough money for proper training and all units were under strength. The RAAF was no better off, and of course the Singapore base could have used Australian money too. Money devoted to an old battle cruiser would have been money taken from forces and installations that were already short of it. If Australia was going to invest in a capital ship at all then an aircraft carrier would have been far more useful than an old battlecruiser (though I admit that would not have been obvious prior to Pearl Harbor and Taranto).
     
  20. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

    Joined:
    Aug 5, 2003
    Messages:
    5,945
    Likes Received:
    758
    Location:
    Phoenix Arizona
    That is true. If Australia could have been kept out of the WNT limits then the RN transferring one of the Furious class aircraft carriers to them would have made sense. Even if equipped with crappy FAA type aircraft like the Sea Gladiator and Swordfish, such a ship could have been easily re-equipped in early 1940 with US types, even obsolescent ones like the Vindicator and Buffalo.
    Such a carrier would have been a very valuable addition to the ABDA force in 1941-42. It could have been used as escort to Force Z and might have kept those two battleships from being sunk. It would have had far more value than the a couple of County class 8" cruisers had. Add a few decent destroyers and a couple of light cruisers and the Australians would have started the war with a powerful task group of naval forces.
     

Share This Page