Battlecruiser definition?

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Karl Heidenreich
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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Wed Jan 18, 2006 9:39 pm

I´m sure the cordite was ONE of the factors that produced the fatal explosions aboard the British BCs at Jutland. But why the enemy´s projectile got there is what I´m wondering. I heard his two theories:
1. The one that was more widely accepted is that the German projectiles hit the BCs turrets and exploded inside them. Because the British didn´t have a efficient bulkhead or hatch system the fire went thru the link between the turret and the the magazine below decks. There the cordite ignited and the vessels were lost.
2. The other one is that the cause wasn´t at the turrets at all but that the horizontal armour was poor enough to allow the German´s projectiles get below decks and ignite at the magazines.
In both cases the cordite is the main element that make, at the end, the BCs blow. But now I´m wondering about theory number two. If there aren´t proof of that them it was ever theory number one the right one.

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Post by marcelo_malara » Thu Jan 19, 2006 12:16 am

I strongly recomend you to read Campbell´s Jutland. You will have all the answers there. As posted previously, Campbell describes how the Germans propellant charges were put on fire too, without exploding, and how others British dreadnoughts were close to explode for the same reason. He says too that the German loading system was far less compartimentated than the British.
What called my attention while reading the book, is that in no case was horizontal armour pierced in surviving ships, inspite of they being rather thinner by WWII standards. So we can conclude for the evicence, that the explosions in British BC were in fact due to cordite.

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Matthias
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Post by Matthias » Thu Jan 19, 2006 8:43 am

Well, HMS Lion received a 280 hit on her central turret from Von Der Tann too, correct me if I mistake, and the cordite was put on fire.A larger explosion was avoided by flooding the magazines, so it's highly probable that Queen Mary was lost in the same way.
But I am not that sure about Indefatigable and Invincible.Remember that german shells were higly penetrating, anyway more efficient than british ones.
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Post by marcelo_malara » Thu Jan 19, 2006 12:34 pm

In fact the shell was from Lutzow and was not APC but SAP (German equivalent to CPC). As described by Campbell, the shell pierced the roof and burst inside, killing the gun house crew. Before falling dead, one of them sent the loading cage with the only cordite charge present to the working chamber, and the magazine was ordered flooded. When eventually the fire reached the working chamber, the charges present there exploded, but most of the explosion pressure was vented thru the holed roof. This combined with the fact that the magazines were already flooded, saved the ship.

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Post by Matthias » Thu Jan 19, 2006 3:21 pm

marcelo_malara wrote:In fact the shell was from Lutzow and was not APC but SAP (German equivalent to CPC).
;) I don't remember it, thanks.
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Re: Battlecruiser definition?

Post by MVictorP » Thu Jan 19, 2006 3:44 pm

Karl Heidenreich wrote:
So, first things first. What´s a battlecruiser?
Basically, I would say that it is a battleship which trades armor (most often) for machinery.

That being said, I think there were two distinct kind of battlecruisers:

a) Tha "Anglosaxon" battlecruiser, long thinclads with high speed and battleship-like main gunnery and weight, and

b) The "Continental" battlecruiser, wich is utlimatly a grade B battleship, lighter and faster.

I would also say that one of the biggest event in the story of the battlecruiser was naval aviation. With planes, the tasks of scouting (a WWI battlecruiser job) was taken on by the carrier, which is often in the Anglosaxon case a further development of the battlecruiser itself.

As for the continental type, its concept held water well enough to make of them some of the busiest ships in WWII (I include in these the Scharnhorsts, Dunkerques, Dorias and Kongo, as well as the Alaskas). Two assignements made them invaluable; Carrier escort and raiding runs.

With retrospect, this kind of battlecruiser, coupled with naval aviation and other naval development, would be the only battleships with a future in more modern forces.
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Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Jan 21, 2006 4:26 am

I like how the anglo saxon and continental catagories work very nicely for the WW I era, but I can't really see extending these catagories into WWII eras and beyond. The USA and Britain (and the Germans) largely superceded the large BC concept with the fast battleship concept by WWII.

One problem lies with the Alaska's and the Dunkerque. These classes fit niether into the large anglo saxon BC catagory, or into the continental catagory, leaving only the Scharnhorst as a WWII era continental BC type.


A third catagory needs to be created to classify the Dunkerque's and the Alaska's, in my opinion. These ships were basically heavy cruiser killers; Essentially Super Cruisers. The Dunkerque was designed and built to do one mission: Hunt down and kill German panzerschiffs. The KM eventually classified the panzerschiffs as heavy cruisers. The Dunkerque was really only best suited for that primary mission. It's armour was not up to the task of providing protection against anything more powerful than 11-inch guns. Once the Germans increased the velocity of their 28cm guns in the Scharnhorst class, maybe not 11-inch.

The Alaska's armour was not really as heavy as the Dunkerque. It was equal, over and aside the magzines only. It was not in the same catagory as the Scharnhorst IMO. In other missions, such as carrier escort, they were not ideal. The much smaller Baltimores could do the carrier escort AA mission just as good, and the even smaller Atlanta class was actually designed for AA. An Alaska could not defend carrier task groups from the modernized Kongo's in an old fashioned gun fight. These ships may have been deadly vs regular IJN heavies though. I don't think that USN ever thought very highly of the Alaska's. They came into to service in 45 and got decomissioned by 47. No thought was ever given to bringing them back on line, even for shore bombardment duties. Of course gun range is paramont in that mission.

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Post by MVictorP » Sat Jan 21, 2006 3:52 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:I like how the anglo saxon and continental catagories work very nicely for the WW I era, but I can't really see extending these catagories into WWII eras and beyond. The USA and Britain (and the Germans) largely superceded the large BC concept with the fast battleship concept by WWII.
True. Like I advanced, carriers literally took the place of the AS battlecruiser between WWs, exept for Hood and Rep/Ren, who were refitted AS battlecruisers.
One problem lies with the Alaska's and the Dunkerque. These classes fit niether into the large anglo saxon BC catagory, or into the continental catagory, leaving only the Scharnhorst as a WWII era continental BC type.

A third catagory needs to be created to classify the Dunkerque's and the Alaska's, in my opinion. These ships were basically heavy cruiser killers; Essentially Super Cruisers.
Well, "continental" battlecruisers already were "super cruisers" as their German designation "Grosse Kreuzer" implies ("battlecruiser" being esentially an AS denomination).

Two cases catch my interest in WWII; The Kongos and the Dorias.

The Kongos started off as pure Anglosaxon battlecruisers, to be reffited as "light/fast battleships". For the Dorias, it was the other way around; at first battleships, their obsolescence and the resulting refit they receive made them "light battleships" too, even though their speed was at par with the more modern battleships -no great speed advantage here.

The Scharhorsts are a little bit more complex; with 4000 tons more and same machinery, 2 knots slower because of loads and a few 15" rifles (almost mounted on Gneisenau after Channel Dash), they would be bona fides modern battleships. They really are a somewhat improvised crossbreed, starting out as beefed-up panzerschiffs, to finish off as ships that could survive an encounter with the Dunkerques (or so it was hoped).

But I will agree that these denominations became more and more etheral as technologies progressed.
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Post by Dave Saxton » Sat Jan 21, 2006 8:47 pm

Hi MVP,

I agree with many of your classification revisions.

Gneisenau never did get the planned 15-inch/52 guns. This didn't stop the KM from referring to the twins as Schlachtshiffs. They always referred to S&G as battleships. Sometimes it's tempered as small battleships, but battleships nonetheless. Indeed the amount of armour applied was of a different level than Dunkerque or Alaska, or Refit and Repair. The side armour protection consisted of a scarp triangle of 350mm KC belt armour, and IIRC 95mm Wh slopes at an acute angle. The horizontal armour totaled 150mm Wh. The Sharnhorsts had their flaws, many of which were corrected in Bismarck and Tirpitz, but the only thing keeping their type classification ambigious was the caliber of the main battery, and perhaps their speed. The British task group that destroyed her, clocked Scharnhorst at 32 knots into a force 10 gale and rather high seas.

A interesting side note: Many Norwegian documents refer to Tirpitz as a "schlachtkruezer."

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Post by marcelo_malara » Sun Jan 22, 2006 12:25 am

I agree with Dave.
It seems that the building navy can clasiffy a capital ship as battlecruiser or battleship, that´s one thing (what I will term official clasiffication).
The other is what we are discussing here: is this ship a battlecruiser or battleship, notwithstanding the official clasification?
As posted previously, before the end of WWI it was clear: the battlecruiser has the same calibre main armament, less protection, more speed (we can take a 20% advantage in this).
In the mid 30´s the new generation of capital ships appeard. And suddenly the technology to power a battleship at previously unheard of speeds was available.
So we have that all capital ships launched after 1935 had a speed of near 30 knots. And here is where the old classification collapses: none of them had a 20% speed advantage to say she is a battlecruisers in the old terms.
What we have are specific cases to discuss, and we can classify them as:

Ships with less than previously standard main armament:
-Dunquerque (13"), Scharnhorst (11")

-Ships with less than contemporary standard main armament:
-Alaska (12"), KGV (14")

Ships with less than standard protection:
-Dunquerque (9.5" main belt), Alaska (9")

Finally we have ships built in WWI or previouly as battlecruisers that were officially reclassified as battleships (Kongo). But as this ships were not improved in the armour thickness, I think they should remained classified as battlecruisers, like Hood.

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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Mon Jan 23, 2006 8:19 pm

I agree with Marcelo´s view because it is very schematic. The first way to classify these vessels is using the official designation. After that we can simply extract those warships that doesn´t fit in any "conventional" classification. But, as a matter of fact, we have to divide all the classifications in two chronological groups: those belonging to WWI, and those that were built for or during WWII.
In this case, and to speak the same language, we have to define, as in a dictionary or encyclopedia:
1. What´s a battleship (dreadnought) pre WWI?
2. What´s a battlecruiser pre WWI? . In which case I suggest the use of the simple basis I subscribe last week.
3. What´s a battleship pre and during WWII?
4. What´s a battlecruiser pre and during WWII?
5. What are all those other ships: Schanhorst, Gniesenau, Alaska, Kongos, etc?
6. Where can one put the Admiral Spee and Scheer? The official KM classification can put them as whatever they want but they were not more than a oversized 10,000 ton heavy raider (not a cruiser in the strict sense of the term)

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Post by marcelo_malara » Tue Jan 24, 2006 12:32 am

Ok, I will give my idea:

-battleship (dreadnought) pre WWI: warship whose primary mission is to fight other warships, descendant of the ship-of-the-line, and which carries an armour to withstand aproximately a shot from his own armament. Dreadnought are those which carry a uniform main battery.

-battlecruiser pre WWI: warship which has the same calibre main armament, less protection and is faster than the battleship. Primary mission to fight armoured cruisers and commerce raiders.

-battleship pre and during WWII: same as pre WWI plus carrier protection as mission.

-battlecruiser pre and during WWII: ships built before and during WWI as battlecruisers, and still in use in WWII.

-special cases: I propose the term light battleships for those special cases defined in my previous posting. "Light" meaning "lighter armament" as well as "lighter armour".

-pocket "battleships": a particular warship built for commerce raiding and with an armament powerfull enough to fight against a heavy cruiser escort.

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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Tue Jan 24, 2006 3:20 pm

Now we´re talking! :clap:
That make clear a lot of things.

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Post by MVictorP » Thu Jan 26, 2006 5:55 am

First, I would specify a post-1945 view, as the definition of things change with time.

- Battleships; Ships that floats the heaviest possible weaponnery and armor. Classic ships of the line, subdivided by classifications of their time; Pre-Dreadnoughts, WT battleships, "outlaws" and in betweens.

- Battlecruisers; Battleships that sacrifices armor for higher speeds, fo about the same weight. Cruiser hunters and scouts to the main battleline, and with time, carrier escorts, or even carriers themselves. Invincible, Renown, Hood, Lexington.

- Super cruiser (Grosse Kreuzer); Lighter battleship, that trades both weaponnery and armor to achieve higher speeds. Same jobs as battlecruisers but with a smaller, balanced design. Derflinger, Dunkerque, Alaska.

- Armored cruisers (Panzerschiff); Cruiserlike battleship, or an overblown cruiser that sacrifices speed for armement. A one-class designation.

Class designation problems occur when older ships gets reffited, starting off with one designation and ending up in another. Kongos were battlecruisers, Dorias were battleships, both ended up as supercruiser, intentionally or not. Hood almost became a modern battleship.
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Post by Karl Heidenreich » Thu Jan 26, 2006 4:20 pm

Victor´s classification doesn´t conflict with the previous one. The only thing I feel mising is one classification that I don´t believe is an "outlaw" or a supercruiser: the Fast Battleship.
As a matter of fact the Iowa class is often considered a Fast Battleship. In this case we can define it the following way:
Fast Battleship: a Batteship with the same characteristics of their contemporary homologues (armament and armour) but with a greater power plant so it can travel at higher speeds, adding the Battlecruiser´s advantage to hers. The Iowas (and the never built Montanas) were such vessels. So the Iowas were the only real Fast Battleships built.
If this is the case then, by definition, the Iowas are the most modern and capable of all the Battleships. :negative:
But (I believe this is now a completely different item :think: ), I remember a discusion in 2003, in this very forum, in which a lot of arguments were brought against the Iowas. As long as I can remember there were stability issues because of their hull´s shape (Iowas`), that the armoured citadel bring them vulnerable for hits against it´s hull and decks, and there were also some arguments againt the propeller and rudder arragements.
Being this arguments true then the Fast Battleship, not by definition but for the practical issue, is not the almighty and superpowerfull vessel we believed.
The main problem is that the Iowas were never checked in combat. Nominally it´s 16" main guns were superior to Bismarck´s 15"... but only nominal. I doubt Schneider or the Baron would miss a hit on such a big ship.
The real question here is: in a clash between the Fast Battleship Missouri against the SuperBattleship Yamato who would have prevailed? Because from this duel the superior of all built ships would have to emerge.

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