The fact that with this Plan Z he tried to create a "balance of power" with the RN. This though was not accomblished because the war started too early for Raeder.
Did Reader think that the RN would allow the Germans to achieve parity in the first place?
Hm – I think it is a bit of a misconception to think that Raeder ever wanted to achieve parity with the RN.
He might have gone down the wrong road and he might have thrown his lot in with the wrong kind of government but he was not an idiot. The Germans were aware of the building capacities of the empire. (I think they had no clue as to what the Americans were able to do but that only hit them later.)
The Z Plan asked for a balanced fleet able to challenge (!) the RN. That does in no way mean parity! Raeders strategy build on the fact that the Empire had commitments far larger than it's fleet could sustain under massive pressure. He was hoping that the fleet of the Z Plan could provide just that pressure.
A very (!) enlightening read on Erich Readers naval thinking is Kenneth P. Hansons wonderful article:
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m ... _n15979337
(page 12 onwards as to how the Z Plan would have worked)
After the war Raeder was a frail old man and he (just) managed two volumes of justification-literature.
Doenitz still had an army of writers ready to fight for his glory. It is not surprising that the last Fuehrer came up with several ways to win the war in retrospect; one of that his somewhat famous 300 U-Boats.
(May be someone should write us naval enthusiasts a film along these '300'; the last stand with the last few U-Boots in a circle and hundreds of Fido torpedos coming in, the sky darkening under rockets and depth charges ...
If we look a little more closely at these famed and feared 300 U-Boats one wonders how much they could have done.
Could it have worked?
No! Hitler would never have wanted it in the first place. He wanted Lebensraum in the east, restoration of superiority on the Continent (i.e. war with France) and then … a long way down the line … he wanted to inherit the spoils of the collapsing Empire.
The Empire relied on growth (or external pressure) and approaching mid 20th century it ran out of steam. Its economy was frail and everyone with eyes to see knew that there would be a more or less sudden and violent break up right round the next cornerstone of history. Hitler wanted Germany to be the next successive superpower. He did not necessarily want war with Britain. He wanted to wait and gather.
Had one of his Admirals come and suggest in 1936 or 1937 to build a fleet so obviously only (!) useful short term against the Royal Navy, he would have kicked him out of the door with epaulettes flying. War with Britain might have to come in 1945 but better even never. Arming so obviously to trigger war with Britain would have been an absolute No.
Now – had Hitler allowed it – could it have worked?
Not really! The British knew very well what the German Navy was building and what they were planning to build. This somewhat funny 300 U-Boats quote always assumes that the boats suddenly fall from heaven. Well – they would have not, would they?
Cut a single King George from the building list and build escorts instead. If that seems not enough cut two and build even more escorts. It is not that even with the war as it went HMS Anson and HMS Howe were that desperately needed. Take away Bismarck and Tirpitz and the Royal Navy has leeway galore to pile up U-Boat killers to fill whole harbour basins.
Would that have worked in turn?
Yes – I think so!
Looking out for fine literature is sometimes like waiting for the bus: you stand for ages and then come two in a row. In this case:
"Britain's Anti-Submarine Capability 1919 – 1939" by George Franklin in 2003
"The Royal Navy and Anti-Submarine Warfare 1917 – 1949" by Malcolm Llewellyn-Jones early in 2006.
Both agree that the Royal Navy was (relatively) ill prepared for the defense against packs of U-Boats acting as torpedo boats on the surface. But that was more down to shortage of escorts than to missing concepts. Caught below the surface or driven below the surface the chances were much more even and the German losses even in the early years of the war are quite impressive. And Doenitz quite happily acknowledged that fact. His tactics all the way until finally using the Dutch Schnorchel concept relied on the expendability of his U-Boats.
Had he had more, he would have lost more. Had there not been any pressure on the Royal Navy in Europe to strengthen the battlefleet and had there been so obvious signs of Germany arming against Britain the percentage of escort per boat might have even been higher than it was as in real life.
U-Boats instead of Bismarck and Tirpitz?
The war at sea would have been very different. The German chances of winning it … still around zero.
As for the Z Plan – it would be in fact quite interesting to speculate how far Raeders ideas would have worked. As dougieo quite rightly writes the response would have been impressive. For the Royal Navy one can look at a strategy paper dating April 1937 where the 'new standard' is described (Sorry – I do not have the ADM file number right here). In 1945 that envisages a Royal Navy with 20 battleships and 15 fleet carriers as a backbone, some 100 cruiser (around 40 heavy and 60 light), 22 destroyer flotillas, … quite an armada!
German parity with that – no way! The Z Plan is half that size.
So there was more to the Z Plan than just numbers. It included a finely designed concept as to what to do with the ships. There was no second Jutland planned be the Germans.
If you think of Mers el Kebir the idea in some German circles to let the Entente Cordiale come to breaking point was not that far flung. I think the British determination to fight it out all the way to the end, is at best loosely linked to the Germen French war.
The Germans completely underestimated the British will to fight for relatively abstract values like self determination of nations, balance of powers and human rights. (Not that the British government took much notice of this lofty concept if they disliked the nation in question but in principle they were some few steps further on the ladder of civilization than the Germans at that time.) If you look at early war diary entries from various German sources you often find puzzlement as to why the Brits went to war for Poland. And Britain stayed in the war even when France opted out. (One might argue that Britain later happily sold Poland for 30 pieces of silver to the next best dictator that came around but by then the war had become something more personal to Britain.)
But I think the German assumption that the war against France could be a separate affair from a war against Britain was not that far off the mark.