German Words

From the Washington Naval Treaty to the end of the Second World War.
Tiornu
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German Words

Post by Tiornu » Tue Jun 20, 2006 10:45 am

Is there any significance in the change of words used for German battleship designs, Linienschiff in WWI and Schlachtschiff in WWII?

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Ulrich Rudofsky
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Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Tue Jun 20, 2006 1:02 pm

Good question. The SMS BADEN was called a Linienschiff, Grosslinienschiff and Grosskampfschiff -- ship of the line, large ship of the line or large warship or capital ship etc. Linienschiff is an antiquated word for battleship; now it is used for liner or oceanliner like in "Linienschiff BREMEN". Although we now call the SMS BADEN a Schlachtschiff/battleship, in 1914-18 the 30+ capital ships of North Sea squadrons were called Linienschiffe. The German kaiserliche Marine curiously preferred that word for the large warships, although the word "Schlachtschiff" and the English word "battleship" were in their vocabulary at that time (e.g., Taschenbuch der Kriegsflotten 1914, B. Weyer).

The change in designation may have occured due the post-war treaties. But it should be noted that in 1905 "Linienschiff" (ship-of-the-line) was a specific type of ship for a specific type ot tactical plan of broadside delivery by heavy artillery: first by 33 - 34 cm artillery and then by 30.5 - 28 cm double mounts in turrets (Kriegsschiffbau, H. Evers, p. 30, 1943).

By the 30's a Linienschiff (liner, navire de ligne, nave de linea) had become a passenger liner in maritime law and navy lingo.
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Post by Tiornu » Tue Jun 20, 2006 11:38 pm

So you think "Linienschiff" simply obsolesced out of its naval context? I wonder if "grosser Kreuzer" went the same route, or if the "Schlachtkruezer" label on OPQ indicates the KM saw her as a different species.

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Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Wed Jun 21, 2006 12:25 am

I am not sure, but navies still redefine the designations for their ships to this day. Look at the DDG Arleigh Burkes. They are pretty close to a cruiser of past times. I don't know what a careful study would show, but the ship designations are concepts of their time. A Grosser Kreuzer of WW1 vintage may not reflect the same concept as a CA, and a Kleiner Kreuzer is not a CL. I guess what I am trying to say is that ships and their designation evolve over time, and translating them in ones own or a foreign language takes a bit of thinking and knowhow which I lack......
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Post by Tiornu » Wed Jun 21, 2006 12:50 am

You're right. That's exactly why I'm looking into this subject. I'd like to know what insights we can find by peering at these designations. I once heard that the USN distinguishes between destroyers and cruisers nowadays mostly because certain officer ranks imply cruiser commands. When the Tennessee class armored cruisers were being designed, a warning went out in the design bureau--make sure you say "cruiser" when referring to these ships in public rather than "battleship" as we say in private because Congress gave us money for "cruisers." Sometimes genuine tactical thought goes into these ratings, but sometimes not. I wonder if the folks who called the Alaskas "large cruisers" had the German precedent in mind.

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Post by tommy303 » Wed Jun 21, 2006 6:25 pm

I would hazard a guess that Germany was adopting the standard definitions of the various international naval treaties starting with the Washington conference and applying them in German.

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Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Wed Jun 21, 2006 9:32 pm

The Washington and London treaties certainly did contribute to changes in ship nomenclature as did other international shipping agreements. But it is very curious that the meaning of "Linienschiff" went from ship-of-the-line to oceanliner in such a very short time in German, Spanish, Italian, French etc.

Tiornu has a made a very good point, too. I know that high ranking USN officers wrestled with DDG and cruiser-Arleigh Burke class vs. Ticonderoga class. Building dozens of destroyers rather than cruisers probably was a politically-correct maneuver. And the redesign of the latter-day Arleigh Burkes to Flight IIA does get them possibly closer to a cruiser type. So the suggestion that the navies define their ship type designations as they please is not too far fetched.
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Post by Tiornu » Wed Jun 21, 2006 9:50 pm

Actually, my understanding (and perhaps Ulrich can speak to this) is that the Germans were starting to move to a common heading over battleships and battlecruisers during WWI, the Grosserkampfschiff. Or perhaps more precisely, they were moving to hybridize the two types and build nothing but this new "Einheitsschiff" under the Grosserkampfschiff heading. This would have blended perfectly with the Washington Treaty's "capital ship"; the treaties did not distinguish between BB and BC.
Off the top of my head, I'd say the clearest use of treaty language in German classification is shown in the panzerschiff--clear use and cagey, as everyone knew what a panzerschiff was, and it sure wasn't a commerce-raider.
I'd also guess that schwere for the Hipper class cruisers was a direct lift from the London Treaty. That in itself is an interesting topic as I think "heavy crusier" was invented specifically for the London Conference(or for the Geneva Conference, which flopped without ever getting an agreement).
Ulrich, if this seems promising and worthwhile to you, I can send you a pdf of a portion of the Forstmeier text that covers the Grosserkampfschiff period. (I think it does. I don't know what it says.)

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Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Wed Jun 21, 2006 10:06 pm

Send it. "Einheitsschiff" is another tough one for me. It has several meanings "uniform ship design" or "ships belonging to a unit"......it depends on the context.
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Post by Tiornu » Wed Jun 21, 2006 11:13 pm

To me, the word harks back to the "universal ship" often referenced with regard to the gestation of the armored cruiser in the late 19th Century. The French Admiral Fournier saw the armored cruiser as a ship that "does everything well." We often forget that the armored cruiser was a very multi-purpose type which could attack or defend commercial traffic, scout for the fleet, or take a place in the battle line.
I'll make the pdf tonight. I won't be getting much sleep anyway as I am currently host to several dozen chiggers.

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Post by tommy303 » Thu Jun 22, 2006 12:28 am

Tiornu, I think you might have a point about the all-purpose classification. In many military applications einheits has that meaning. Within the capital ship category Einheitsschiff would tend to mean a capital ship that could serve as both line of battleship as well as battle cruiser equally well--i.e., a logical combination of the two as was started with the QE class fast battleships.

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Post by Tiornu » Thu Jun 22, 2006 6:32 am

The QE class was very disturbing to the Germans. First, the appearance of 15in guns disappointed the planners who had hoped Bayern would be first to introduce the caliber. Second, the obvious blend of speed and BB traits made for a ship that German battlecruisers could not counter until 1918. Under the German naval laws, 1918 was "Eternity," the point when the navy would no longer have to explain its construction or build new ships on a one-for-one replacement basis. I believe this is where the "universal ship" fits in, as all battleships and battlecruisers could be replaced by fast battleships (or armored battlecruisers, or hybrid BB/BCs, whatever you want to call them). The British had beaten the Tirpitz system to the punch.

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Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Thu Jun 22, 2006 11:52 am

Tim Mulligan translates "Einheitsschiff" as "unified battleship" that combines advantages of speed, armament and armor...... I don't know how to access the "Muse", but the article is referenced as:

Mulligan, Timothy "Ship-of-the-Line or Atlantic Raider? Battleship Bismarck Between Design Limitations and Naval Strategy"
The Journal of Military History - Volume 69, Number 4, October 2005, pp. 1013-1044
Society for Military History

http://muse.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/access.cgi? ... lligan.pdf
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Post by Ulrich Rudofsky » Sat Jun 24, 2006 12:44 pm

"Einheitsschiff": I think this word actually does have a modern translation as in "Einheitsboot" and "Einheitsklasse": One-Design boat or One-Design class. These are, for example, boats like the Star, Finn, Yingling, 470 classes used in the Olympic sailing competetions; each boat in a class must have the same hull, weight, and sail measurements. Thus: "one-design warship" :lol: However, an "Einheitskreuzer" is not what you think it might be: a one-design warship. It is the name of a 1939 designed one-design 30 square meter cruising-racing sailboat class. :lol:
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