Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Germany’s dreadnoughts

Germany’s first dreadnought-type battleships were the Nassau class (Nassau, Westfalen, Rheinland, and Posen, completed in 1910). These warships represented no great advance over Dreadnought, but the German Navy did enjoy certain areas of distinct superiority over its RN rival that would persist through World War I. All four Nassaus fought at Jutland. The following Helgoland class (Helgoland, Ostfriesland, Thuringen, and Oldenburg, completed 1911–1912) were improved Nassaus and also fought at Jutland, as did the succeeding Kaisers (Kaiser, Friederich der Grosse, Kaiserin, Koenig Albert, and Prinzregent Luitpold, completed 1912–1913). These German battleships pioneered super-firing guns and were the first with turbine drives (only one German firm could manufacture large turbines, and von Tirpitz at first reserved its products for his cruisers). Oddly and uniquely, their super-firing turrets were mounted aft only (leading to some British jokes about the Germans taking pains to cover themselves in retreat). They and the succeeding Koenig class (Koenig, Grosser Kurfurst, Markgraf, and Kronprinz) also fought at Jutland. The latter class was completed in 1914 and was the last to carry wing turrets, whose arc of fire was constricted by the warship’s superstructure to something like 50 percent of possible sweep.

The last class of German battleships to fight during World War I were the Bayerns (Bayern and Baden, completed in 1916; two sisters were uncompleted by war’s end). These were the first German battleships to mount 15-inch guns, and they each carried three oil-burning boilers. The remaining 11 boilers were still coal-fired, although oil could be sprayed over the coal to aid combustion. Although neither completed unit was finished in time for Jutland, Baden did have an adventurous career: It set out on 18–19 August 1916 against British coastal targets but was nearly cut off by the Grand Fleet; it sortied in the North Sea two months later, then bombarded Russian shore targets in the Baltic Gulf of Riga in the month of the Russian Revolution (October 1917); and it participated in the fruitless High Seas Fleet sweep toward the Norwegian coast in April 1918. Beached by British crews at the Scapa Flow seppuku, Baden was carefully examined by RN constructors. Its construction was found to be in no significant way superior to contemporary RN battleships. (Baden was expended as a target ship in 1921.)

No comments:

Post a Comment