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Author Topic: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought  (Read 6921 times)

dodes

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Re: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought
« Reply #25 on: December 26, 2013, 01:06:40 pm »

 Sorry mate but it was a lowly naval commander who put forward the idea of a purpose central control position after the Dreadnought and her sister ships where built, because up to then most ships fought their guns for ranging locally. Naval officers where more interested in making their ships pretty anf gunnery was very low on their priorities, because of the soot from the gunfire and the paint on the barrels also became damaged, one captain even went so far to make and fit canvass tubes to his gun barrels to try to reduce the soot. But even with the cental control the accuracy was very low, with an average of under 5% at Jutland and in WW2 it only slightly improved. The early Iron clads were very poor, at the bombardment of Alexandria only about 16 rounds actually hit the target of several hundred rounds fired. But as I said earlier when the Chief Controller was told to retro fit gunnery control platforms to the early dreadnoughts, he was upset as he thought them unnecessary and would spoil the look of his design , so they went onto the aft (mizzen) mast, not the mainmast as in latter ships which had them fitted as they were built.
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dodes

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Re: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought
« Reply #26 on: December 26, 2013, 01:33:29 pm »

Yes the RN had the dotter system up to 1905, but that worked on two complicated range finders one at each end of the ship feeding ifo on ranges to the gunnery officer and the guns and it had inherent accuracy problems, but crucilliary there was no central range and control system where was one rangefinder and all guns controlled from one position.. This was fitted retro  to all the earl dreadnoughts and to the mainmast on newer ones as they where built. The idea was put forward by a commander who was then a captain of a cruiser and was greatly interested in gunnery which was unusual for the time as senior officers where more interested in overall look and seamanship ability of their ships and crews. But then the gunnery of the RN was always poor in both world wars and before.
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Geoff

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Re: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought
« Reply #27 on: December 27, 2013, 08:09:41 am »

I would disagree again. There is something of an urban myth about the Victorian ships being all spit and polish and dumping practice ammunition over the side to avoid dirty paintwork. I'm sure this did happen in some far off squadrons but not the main battlefleet where tactics and control were taken very seriously indeed. We need to reflect that ship ranges were very short and action was thought of in 2,000 yards range.
 
The bombardment of Alexandria was a case in point. It was known to be very difficult to hit specific shore targets at several miles range from a moving base. Sufficient damage was done. Many of the early iron clads were designed to get real close hence armour up to 24" thick and pound away in the same old way.
 
One question often overlooked when criticising the Victorian navy is, "Who was the potential enemy?" There was none, so ships were designed to attack enemy naval bases hence some of the odd designs with massive turrents forwards and very heavy armour.
 
The Dreadnought idea came about as ships had to fight at longer ranges and that meant more uniform guns to hit the target at increasing ranges. This was not widly known by the public as the RN did not want to advertise their stratedgy to the world. The difficulty was to co-ordinate all the guns and to design and produce the directors and range finders that were both costly and very complex mechanisms to design and build.
 
Scott was already developing the director control well before Dreadnought but technical difficulties had to be overcome first before a practical solution could be achieved. Fisher was massivley influential and the benefits of long range gunnery readily appreciated. The problem was no one knew how to do this and/or the best system to use hence the relativley long development period.
 
There is a very good book on Dreadnought Gunnery and the Battle of Jutland which makes for interesting reading and clearly demonstrates the navy had been working on the problem for a decade or so before ww1.
 
Tuishima was a case in point a significant battle fought by obselete ships as by then the Dreadnought train was in motion.
 
Again there are many urban myths about the RN but on the eve of WW1 it was the most technically advanced navy in the world by a big margin. By 1918 it's battle worthyness and gunnery was significanly better than any other nation by a decade. When the US ships joined the Grand fleet in 1918 they were shocked at the efficiency of the RN gunnery and tactics particularly the ability to concentrate fire with severay ships at the same time. This is all evidenced by the turret markings and range clocks visible on the Dreadnoughts which were widly copied by other navies.
 
With the introduction of new shells and proper cordite control (lax in the battlecrusiers) a later Jutland would probably have been another Trafalger albeit at huge cost in human life and the Germans new it!
 
 
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raflaunches

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Re: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought
« Reply #28 on: December 27, 2013, 09:57:22 am »

Hi Dodes


Sorry mate to also to disagree, but I'll add my tuppence worth in too.
You can't really say that British gunnery in WW2 was poor either considering we were one of the first nations to use gunnery radar on ships, battles such as Matapan and Cambrai would not have been fought at all.
Even the O class destroyers that fought in the Battle of the Barants Sea proved to be excellent gunners defeating the 7 German destroyers (2 destroyed, 2 put out of action, remainder chased away), 1 Hipper class cruiser was torpedoed and the pocket battleship was forced to turn away. Not a bad outcome considering that the British destroyers were only armed with 4 single 4.7in gun mounts compared to the 5.9in fitted to the German destroyers.
I got talking to a naval radar gunnery operator and he said that the radar set were brilliant at getting the ranges and tracking your shells... But you could track the shells coming back at you! :o


And I have to say but the Victorians did practice with live fire shells, my model of my Majestic class battleship had blast plates fitted over the teak decks to protect them from the soot and blast damage of the 12in guns when they were carrying out gunnery exercises. Not to say that the Victorian Navy weren't clean freaks, the term cleanliness is next to godliness, is very apt for the era, and as Geoff said there were some captains and admirals who went too far with this ethos but they were the few but they seem to mentioned a lot more than the ones who didn't push this ethos.
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Pondweed

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Re: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought
« Reply #29 on: December 27, 2013, 10:41:01 am »

I would disagree again. There is something of an urban myth about the Victorian ships being all spit and polish and dumping practice ammunition over the side to avoid dirty paintwork. I'm sure this did happen in some far off squadrons but not the main battlefleet where tactics and control were taken very seriously indeed. We need to reflect that ship ranges were very short and action was thought of in 2,000 yards range.
 

With the introduction of new shells and proper cordite control (lax in the battlecrusiers) a later Jutland would probably have been another Trafalger albeit at huge cost in human life and the Germans new it!


a, I recall reading the way for a Victorian commander to get promotion as for a clean & tidy ship and gunnery was the antithesis of this. Who debunked this?  :}


b, Ah, another urban myth.  ok2 It was SOP in the Grand Fleet to have one magazine door always open during battle. The doorway to the cordite was always open during battle and I believe events in Lion at 4:30 when she turned and one un-cased (or split) quarter charge ignited and set off all those in 'flash-tight' waiting positins all the way to the magazine door. This events shows you didn't need to pack the passage with charges to explode the magazine, a single quarter charge was enough to ignite all and get the flame into the magazine.

Lions door was closed and the ship saved but in other ships that exploded the SOP in them (and indeed the whole fleet) should & would have had that door open.

The Grand Fleet battleships have preserved their reputations regards cordite handling simply because they didn't see battle until the evening of Jutland where they gave it out and recieved little incoming.

Attached link includes several departments heads at the Admiralty kick the ball between themselves while seeking the cause/avoiding the blame:
http://www.dreadnoughtproject.org/tfs/index.php/A_Direct_Train_of_Cordite


p.s I meantioned in an above post that the 13.5in ships recieved a 12ft rangefinder, I meant 15ft. Mea culpa
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John W E

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Re: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought
« Reply #30 on: December 27, 2013, 11:09:47 am »

hi all, may I add my twopenneth in//
 
about the British Gunnery and its accuracy during WWII - 2 battles
 
sinking of the Bismark and the Graf Spee - how many ships did it take to sink the Bismark, and how many shells were fired at her?
 
and actually how many shells hit the ship?
 
and the big "?" was it sunk or was it skuttled????
 
 
and the next one
 
The Graf Spee - 3 cruisers against one ship - and the amount of shells fired
 
Exeter just about ran out of shells, so had Ajax and how much damage was actually done to the Graf Spee - not a lot
 
and look at what Graf Spee did to Exeter and Ajax it badly damaged the Exeter and if it had wanted too - it could have sunk her.  So, personally I dont think the British Gunnery at sea was up to much, nor was its range finding.
 
It doesnt matter what we talk about and how we say it, the proof is there in history - personally I think we were rubbish.
 
The only time we succeeded with radar was the battle on the Russian convoy run and I cannot remember the name cos of too much Christmas Cheer - where the British actually sunk a ship using radar as a gunnery assistance.
 
aye
 
rant owa
 
John
 
Merry festivities one and all.... :-)
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Colin Bishop

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Re: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought
« Reply #31 on: December 27, 2013, 12:16:27 pm »

Hi John,

The Bismarck was sunk by torpedoes but wrecked by Rodney and KGV first. However KGV was still experiencing trouble with her gun mountings (as did Prince of Wales earlier) so Rodney did most of the damage. The didn't have any problems in hitting Bismarck, in fact she pretty much knocked her out inside half an hour but Rodney was on her way to the USA for a much needed refit and had previously landed all her high explosive ammunition and only had armour piercing left. These did a great job in punching holes in Bismarck and putting her main armament out of action but did not carry a large bursting charge and did not penetrate Bismarck's magazines. As the range was so close the shells were hitting Bismarck horizontally and going straight through her. Had the range ben greater then plunging shots might have penetrated her deck armour but by then Bismarck was just a wreck anyway and torpedoes were a more efficient way of sinking her.

As far as the River Plate was concerned, the shells fired by Ajax & Achilles weighed 100lb and could not penetrate Graf Spee's armour although they did a lot of damage to the superstructure. Graf Spee was also supposed to be proof against Exeter's 250lb 8 inch shells but at least one penetrated doing a lot of damage. Graf Spee concentrated on Exeter and did enormous damage with her 850lb 11 inch shells before Exeter could get the range. Exeter didn't run out of shells, she ran out of guns! The two light cruisers fired off most of their outfit of 6 inch ammunition but so did the Graf Spee use up most of hers - she didn't actually score many hits herself but she didn't really need to as just one hit was sufficient to put two turrets out of action on Ajax.

All the statistics are readily available and this book gives a graphic description of the Bismarck's final battle:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Killing-Bismarck-Destroying-Pride-Hitlers/dp/1844159833

Colin
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John W E

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Re: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought
« Reply #32 on: December 27, 2013, 12:47:41 pm »

Hi Colin
Of the 190- plus 8 in shells fired by Exeter, three hit the Graf Spee . the first passsd through the upper part of the bridge without causing any real damage;the second pierced the armour plate of AA gun and went through two decks before exploding.the third shell penetrated the 140mm armoured belt .3 out of 190 not to bad of a ratio of shells fired and hits
 http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2199&dat=19391215&id=mltfAAAAIBAJ&sjid=wloNAAAAIBAJ&pg=5616,3415866
aye
john
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Colin Bishop

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Re: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought
« Reply #33 on: December 27, 2013, 01:21:40 pm »

It was the second shell that did the damage as it put the Graf Spee's fuel treatment plant out of action.

German ships had superior optics and rangefinders and this tended to give them an initial advantage in finding the range and the opportunity to strike a decisive blow before their opponents could zero in on them. The second hit on Exeter less than 10 minutes into the action killed or wounded almost everyone on the bridge. I don't know if the director was put out of action at that point, quite likely it was, but later on Y turret was firing in local control so it is hardly surprising that no further hits were scored.

According to Geoffrey Bennett's account Graff Spee scored 10 hits altogether, 8 on Exteter and two on the light cruisers and suffered 17 hits herself of which three were from Exeter.

It is interesting to look at the effects of gunfire at Jutland. Ships on both sides absorbed an incredible amount of punishment and even the British battlecruisers did well as long as they didn't receive a hit which exploited the vulnerability of their ammunition handling arrangements.

Colin
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Geoff

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Re: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought
« Reply #34 on: December 27, 2013, 01:47:51 pm »

Okay, lets be a little more focused here and look at some facts:
 
Naval gunfire was enormously difficult and with all nations the averegae number of hits was in the region of 5% so 95% wasted, well not quite as near misses hurled large splinters into the ships which caused flooding, damage and killed the crew.
 
At Jutland the total number of hits between the two navies was very similar but the light was a significant factor. When the light was good for us our hitting rate went up and the same for the germans. See Campbell for full details.
 
The german battlecrusiers were possibly better than ours but this is really due to the three magazine explosions otherwise the results would have been judged differently. It is very true the german battlecrusiers outfought the british with a greater number of hits but the light was in their favour. Also the appalling handling of the cordite charges in the battlecrusiers really caused the losses, magazine doors open and charges stockpilled in the turrets etc. I have not been aware of a similar practice in the battle fleet. The two were quite different and the culture within also very different.
 
Lets look at the gunnery, the QE class were hitting the germans at 19,000 yards with regularity, not too bad at all!
 
Invincible, who interestingly enough had been on a gunnery course with the Grand Fleet, inflicted the fatal damage on Lutzow which eventually sank her.
 
Iron Duke hit a number of battleships, Koenig in particular between 7-10 times in as many minutes and one shell casues a 6" magazine to burn but was only put out by flooding following the shell hole otherwise it is likely Koenig would have blown up.
 
Scapa Flow had the facilities for long range gunnery whereas Rosyth did not. Tactically the Germand split the fleet in two and deprived the battlecrusiers of practice due to their raids on the east coast towns.
 
After Dogger Bank where the British felt the German rate of fire was higher the battlecrusiers bypassed the safety features to increase their own rate with disasterous results.
 
In WW2 warspite hit an Italian battleship at about 26,000 yards, not bad gunnery at all. Duke of York in a stormy arctic night with radar smashed Sharnhorst, again not bad gunnery. Rodney with Bismark put Bismark out of action quite early, again not bad gunnery!
 
We are all rather too keen to criticise our own ships as information is readily available and not recognise the failings on the other side, of which there were many. German ships of WW1 tended to flood badly forwards, Italian ships from WW2 had poor dispersion with their gunnery, the americans had bad vibration problems at speed for North Carolian and suceeding classes.
 
Lets look at protection. In WW1 all capital ships were light on deck protection - protective plating (note not deck armour which was first introduced in Rodney). The German main belts were thicker but they had to keep out heavier shells. There were few hits on main belts so it was a difference that made no real difference. The heavier German turret armour was also penetrated but there was not a disasterous cordite fire that spread to the magazines.
 
It is really very difficult to be too precise as conditions vary on the day but to suggest the RN gunnery was not up to scratch in WW1 or 2 is really not a proper reflection of the facts. Enjoy!
 
G
 
 
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Pondweed

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Re: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought
« Reply #35 on: December 27, 2013, 02:58:59 pm »



The german battlecrusiers were possibly better than ours but this is really due to the three magazine explosions otherwise the results would have been judged differently. It is very true the german battlecrusiers outfought the british with a greater number of hits but the light was in their favour. Also the appalling handling of the cordite charges in the battlecrusiers really caused the losses, magazine doors open and charges stockpilled in the turrets etc. I have not been aware of a similar practice in the battle fleet. The two were quite different and the culture within also very different.
 


In the above linked to page there is the following transaction. The following in italics is the topic that gets discussed below:

"While not wishing to minimise in any way the seriousness of the events of 31st May, I am convinced that the blowing up of our ships in that action was caused not so much by the greater inflammability of our propellant as by the system of supply which we unfortunately practised i.e. magazine doors open, lids off powder cases, all cages and waiting positions loaded; thus should a shell burst in working chamber or trunk, as I have no doubt occurred at least in on case "Invincible", there was every possibility of the flash being carried direct to the magazine."


Beatty felt this put the blame at the door to his officers and crew and thus at him. He replied:

"Sir,

With reference to Admiralty Letter S.01146/16, dated 4th November, 1916, I would submit that as regards Their Lordships' conclusion, stated in Paragraph 3, there is no evidence that, in the ships lost, the "precautions essential to the safety of cordite charges" (so far as the Admiralty at that time had defined them) were neglected, neither is there any proof of irregularities in the then prescribed drill for cordite supply."



In forwarding Beatty's letter, his superior, Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, Admiral Sir John R. Jellicoe added his own observations on 24 November:
 "Forwarded.  I entirely concur with the Vice-Admiral Commanding, Battle-Cruiser Fleet, that there is no evidence that, in the ships lost, the precautions essential to the safety of cordite charges, as we knew them, were neglected.

The drill and custom then in force was to keep all cages and waiting positions loaded and the magazine doors open, and all the evidence seems to show that if a turret was pierced by a shell which exploded inside it, the magazine was almost certain to blow up.  I therefore ask that their Lordships may reconsider the conclusion stated in paragraph 3 of their letter S.01146/16 of 4 November, 1916."



However, we in this age KNOW there WERE shortcuts in the ammuntion supply with Lids being taken off cordite cases and the case then stored outside the magazine in the BCs except Lion. Lion was different. Her gunner had taken the magazine crews aside and drilled them to be as fast as neccessary without breaking good safety practice. He also told them to close the magazine door when not in use.

Lion was also different in that other than the inital quarter charge (or full charge*) that ignited, all the remainder where in official 'flash-tight' waiting positions. Lion didn't have loose, un-cased or de-lidded charges.

Events in Lion show that once 'cordite' caught fire, the heat/gas/flame from it could defeat the flash-tight precautions in the waiting positions & hoists and could take flame as far as the magazine door. It can now easily be imagined what happened in the other BCs that exploded if they had charges outside the flash-tight positions. Lions cordite supply was strict and she was almost lost so is it a surprise the other BCs were?

The other half of the problem being the cordite in use by the RN, it was volatile. German ships lost turrets to cordite fire, we lost whole ships. If then germans had use RN cordite and we used theirs, the outcomes would similarily be switched with we losing turrets and their losing ships.
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dodes

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Re: UK's Last Pre-Dreadnought
« Reply #36 on: December 29, 2013, 08:05:24 pm »

Hi Pondweed, you are correct, recent survey dives on the wrecks at Dogger Bank and recent investigations into naval papers, prove that the Admirals asked to increase the ammo capacity of vessels by 50/100%, easily done with shells but crucially not Cordite. It is known that cordite was stowed in barbets and flash shields in some Battle Cruisers were locked open to allow stow of cordite. The then theory was not accuracy but rapid rate of fire to affect the enemies' actions. According to research in Ospreys publishing, at Jutland the hit rate of the British Fleet was 4.92% and the Germans 5.2%.
In the WW2 KGV fired about 300 rounds for about 24 hits and Tovey was so annoyed he said to her gunnery officer "I can do more damage throwing my mug of Kye at her than you can", also I know of a British destroyer in the far east, towards the end of the war when the Pacific Islands were blockaded to starve out the Japs , expended 337 4.7" shells to hit a dug out canoe. I did a shoot with the last Exeter, we towed a target in the English Channel for 6 hours and she could not get a shell in site, that's why airplanes and missiles have taken over from guns because they can hit the target with more efficiency. Plus reference the Dreadnought Control platforms , I read a very good research paper on the subject.   
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