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HMS Duke of York for 8 US 8" Cruisers?

Discussion in 'Ships & Shipborne Weaponry' started by Marmat, Dec 2, 2011.

  1. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    North Carolina was launched 13 June 1940 and was very close to commissioning (09 April 41) when the scheme apparently was first mentioned on 13 Feb 1941. Washington had been launched on 01 June 1940 and was similarly close to commissioning (15 May 1941), so at the time of the scheme was being mentioned the US had a good idea of when it's fast BB's would be coming online. It's also interesting that the Washington's first service was as part of the British Home Fleet (26 March 1942) even though the US was now at War with Japan and the threat, of the Kongos, was real not hypothetical, as it would have been in Feb. '41. That would make me doubt that the US would want the British BB as a counter to Kogo's.

    The Duke of York launched shortly prior to (28 Feb 1940) the time of the North Carolinas but wouldn't commission until November 1941, six months after the last North Carolina, the Washington, commissioned. I am sure that if such things were looked at, the approximate time the ship would be ready for service would be known. The South Dakota, the lead ship in the follow-on US BB class launched on 7 June 1941 and commissioned on 20 Mar '42, at the same time Washington was sent off to the Home Fleet. So the US apparently felt 2 fast BB's met it's immediate needs even though they were now actually at war with Japan and had lost 8 battleships, USS Arizona (BB-39), USS California (BB-44), USS Maryland (BB-46), USS Nevada (BB-36), USS Oklahoma (BB-37), USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), USS Tennessee (BB-43) and USS West Virginia (BB-48) either sunk and/or damaged.

    Massachussetts launched 23 September 41, Indiana launched 21 November 41, Alabama launched on 16 Feb. 42. So by the time the US would have had use of the Duke of York they would have had 5 fast BB's in the water, 2 of them commissioned. If the trade was based upon US needs real or perceived, I fail to see a good case made for it. The need of the UK for additional 8" cruisers to guard it's far flung merchant fleet is more obvious. In December 1941 over 70% of the US populace still opposed active participation in the European war. Even after Pearl Harbor was attacked and Roosevelt prepared to declare war on Japan, he was unsure of what political support he would have for involving the US in war in Europe. A speech asking for a Declaration of War against Japan and Germany was actually prepared but he decided against using it, because he was unsure if it would pass and asked for a DOW against Japan alone. This and other factors make me lean towards a hypothesis along the lines of what Carronade proposed and the scheme was a way to get Britain the help she needed without Roosevelt taking a political hit.
     
  2. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    I've also seen the Counties referred to as "liners" but have not seen any attribution to an individual or situation. I think it's in Worth's Fleets of WWII for one; looking at the ships and their high freeboard it seems almost inevitable.

    York and Exeter were better protected and were considered better balanced ships overall; they could almost be considered prototypes for the Leander and later classes. It's not surprising that ABC asked for them specifically, and of course had York assigned to his command.

    6" cruisers were well suited for service with the battle fleet, but since the Italians had no distant waters for 8" ships to patrol, theirs took part in fleet engagements, and the British had to deal with them. The pattern still held, though, for example at Matapan there were two light cruisers attached to Vittorio Veneto and two separate divisions of three heavies, each also with 4-6 destroyers. The generally good weather/visibility of the Mediterranean sometimes allowed the Italians to outrange British 6" cruisers.
     
  3. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    My source is the 1972 Italian book on the Duilio classe by Franco Bargoni and Franco Gay, AFAIK the authors had full access to the ufficio Storico records so it's unlikely they made such a big mistake.

    They report Duilio finished the post Taranto repairs training in November 1941 and she provided escort to a convoy to Tripoli the same month, in December she was part of the close escort of another convoy while Doria , Littorio and Cesare were part of the far escort, (first Sirte or M41). Adm Bergamini raised his flag (2nd squadra navale) on Duilio on 12 Jan 1942, the M43 on 3/6 Jannuary was a repeat of M41 by the same ships (but without any surface actions) that was the last significant operational sortie of Doria. Duilio took part in the T18 (22/25 Jannuary 1942 )and K7 (21/24 February) convoys. On 14 February she sortied with a strong force against an attempt to resupply Malta, but as no British battleships were at sea she turned back leaving the rest to continue. There was no combat as the British aborted the attempt.
    In the second half of 1942 no major operations were attempted by any Italian BBs for lack of fuel. There are no reports of damages to either "D" in 1942 or 1943. The two D were operational as 5th "squadra navale" at Taranto (adm da Zara) at the date of the armistice while Cesare was relegated the reserve/training duties.
     
  4. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Now a question, why did it take so long to fit out and commission Duke of York?
     
  5. Marmat

    Marmat Member

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    There's more to it, the North Carolinas had serious problems that go beyond the space here.

    Suffice to say they were unconventional, of new technology, they had in fact been completed BEFORE the dates usually given, but they were proving to be mechanical nightmares. Conventional Medium temp & pressure plants originally stipulated, were good for 27 knots, but these ships needed to go faster, as explained earlier. High temp & pressure steam plants had just gone into US Destroyers, controversially they were put into the NC's, and they caused horrendous vibrations, to the point that even fire control was affected at slow speeds. The SoDaks had some of these same problems, plus more of their own. Washington never did lose all of her vibration problems. The USN very much NEEDED the Iowas.

    In brief, in early 1941, there was a catastrophe very much in the process of happening, but DoY was tried and true in terms of power plant, had proven speed, the growing pains had been or would be worked out on her 2 older siblings.
     
  6. Marmat

    Marmat Member

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    ... work was stopped on DoY, Howe & Anson for a time, the Lions were scrapped altogether, British yards were required prioritize to build what was needed i.e. to build escorts, destroyers and cruisers, depending on the period. BB's just weren't of the same priority.
     
  7. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    Thank you for the answer Marmat. I appreciate it. I'd give you a salute but I've hit my limit for today. I hope my thanks suffice.
     
  8. Marmat

    Marmat Member

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    ... actually, that was off the top of my head, I have more info.

    When building the KGVs began, it was hoped that the 1st at least would be available in 1939, then that changed to 1 in 1940, the rest in 1941, but that didn't happen.

    Early program delays included intangibles like capital investment for equipment and skilled help, which manifested themselves as bottlenecks in areas like armour production, AA guns, heavy guns for a time, then gun mountings and fire control (in 1939 fire control gear production only met 35% the need for Battleships & Cruisers).

    Consider armour production as a case study; in 1918 British industry was capable of producing 60,000 tons of armour plate per year, Post-Washington Treaty that fell to 3,500 tons/year, enough until 1931. The Admiralty had to invest to add another 18,000 tons/year in 1931, which wasn't enough for the 1935 program, by 1939 some 42,000 tons/year in capacity would be required. Britain ended up ordering 12,500 tons from Czechoslovakia, of which 10,000 tons were delivered before the war. Eventually it was determined that available capacity could be worked up to 62,000 tons/year over the course of the war.

    If you stretch this out across the per item building board, toss in a Churchill building moratorium, a bottleneck in repairing ships of all types, and it's easy to see how the KGVs showed up with increasing delay between ships as they went along.
     
  9. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Duke of York only started sea trials in September 1941, and some work was still being completed. Is there any basis for assuming that she could steam across the Atlantic several months earlier? As noted there were problems in British shipyards, and a number of RN ships were repaired or overhauled in American yards even while we were legally neutral, but is transferring the ship and fitting her with weapons and systems she was not designed for likely to get her finished sooner? She was still in workup when she transported Churchill to the US in December, continued workups around Bermuda after dropping him off, and her first operational deployment was not until February 1942; is this going to go any faster with an American crew?
     
  10. Marmat

    Marmat Member

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    ... maybe not with a US crew, but perhaps in a US Yard, with US equipment, as I believe you're suggesting here. Who's to say, maybe the Feb. 1941 timing was close to being perfect, the US may have preferred a ship with the steam plant installed, a few other OEM options for a comfortable trip across the Atlantic, but a ship they could customize? You know, then chop the roof a bit, add A/C, a set of Cragars with Mickey Thompsons, seat covers, fuzzy dice, maybe a custom horn etc..? Completion early 1942 would be just about right anyway.
     
  11. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    A ship might be ready to steam well before armament and other equipment were installed, like Jean Bart, although that was a move of desperation, and they took her no further than they absolutely had to.

    Sister Richelieu provides an example of a foreign ship fitted out in a American yard with a substantial share of American equipment; this was a combination of repair and upgrade and took a little over eight months, Jan 30-Oct 10, 1943. She had been close to complete when she left France in 1940 but had been damaged in the British attack on Dakar. #2 turret (whatever the French call it) had to be repaired, including three replacement guns from Jean Bart. Secondary and heavy AA armaments remained unchanged, but she received 40mm and 20mm guns and radar. Underwater damage also had to be repaired.
     
  12. Marmat

    Marmat Member

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    ... incidentally, Richelieu, or rather countering her, was another factor that should have been considered by those making tables and counting knots up above. She very well could be an Axis vessel, in a most strategic position, at the time in question - Jean Bart, not so much.

    Also, HMS Delhi rec'd extensive refitting in the US in 1941, which included a US 5" DP battery.
     
  13. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    I would think that the Duke of York's yard time would be heavily dependent on the terms of the deal - is the US just going to complete the DoY and then turn her back over to the British, or will the US take complete possession of the DoY for their own use? If the latter, I would think, at a minimum, the 5.25s would have to go, being replaced with 5"/38s, as well as, all tertiary armament and electronics. For that matter, would American 14-inch shells be compatible with the British 14-inch guns, or would they need to be reworked also?


    Given that the USS North Carolina did not run builder's trials until May 19-20, 1941, and that this deal was likely initiated in February/March, 1941, any problems associated with the USS North Carolina would not have been known at the time.

    Also, don't forget that the USS Iowa had similar problems to the USS North Carolina and USS South Dakota classes. The USS Iowa would undergo experimental propeller combinations in an effort to dampen the vibrations from April-July, 1943.

    Not to digress, but, for those interested in the propulsion problems of the "fast battleships", these are some interesting reads:
    http://dome.mit.edu/handle/1721.3/48159
    http://dome.mit.edu/handle/1721.3/48161
    http://dome.mit.edu/handle/1721.3/48148
     
  14. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I doubt that they would be compatible but on the otherhand the US produced 15" shells for the Richeleu so it wouldn't seem unreasonable that they could have produced 14" rounds to British spec. Now whether they would have tried to design a "super heavy" round for her is another question. Not sure how much longer of rounds she could have handled in any case.
     
  15. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The proposed? deal appears to have been a swap, and I agree it would be desirable to change the secondary and AA armaments, of course that involves redoing magazines, hoists, etc. and the HACS would have to be replaced by Mark 37 directors and the associate gunfire control system, which I expect would be more complicated than just plopping one in place of the other.....

    The British 14" Mark II shells weighed 1590 (AP) compared to 1400 or 1500 for USN 14", don't know about the rest of the dimensions, but my guess would be they were not interchangeable. Again you'd also have to change the ballistics in the gunfire control system to use different shells, I suspect it would be easier to stick to the designed weapons and live with the logistical complications.
     
  16. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    The one thing that doesn't make sense to me is is why did they want 8" cruisers for commerce protection. Against an AMC a small 6" cruiser would be enough, the 6 x 6" Arethusa class were specifically designed as the smallest ship that could succesfully deal with a German armed merchant raider, though IIRC they never met one. The USN would probably be glad to swap the Omaha class for a modern BB, those ships stood a much better chance against an AMC than a British C, D or E class light cruiser.
    If facing a Hipper, a pocket battleship or one of the big Japanese ships the thin skinned early treaty cruisers would have been in big trouble, a Southampton would probably do better, but there were few to spare from Med and Home Fleet duties, IIRC the RN tried to use cruiser squadrons to deal with individual German raiders.
    One mistery is why HMS London, that after her refit was apparently equivalent to a second generation cruiser, was never considered for use in the Med while the smaller Exeter and York were, was the conversion a failure?.
     
  17. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Interesting but I didn't see anything to indicate the vibrations caused any fire control problems. Excessive wear for various propulsion components was mentioned though although largely discounted if I'm reading the reports correctly. That is of course once the initial problems were corrected.
     
  18. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Thanks, for the quick answers. I didn't think the shells would be compatible, but I didn't want to assume that fact.

    OTOH, 8-9 months is probably about right, look what the US did to the USS Tennessee in about that amount of time(end of August, 1942-beginning of May, 1943).
     
  19. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    Norman Friedman mentions this in his "U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History" , as well as the aforementioned vibration problems on pages 274-275. The after range-finder required external bracing, as well as, bracing for the turbine and gear casings.
     
  20. Takao

    Takao Ace

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    No mystery, the extensive modification of the HMS London was a failure. The excessive weight increase was even greater than the British had expected, and her operations in the Atlantic showed how over-stressed her lightly-constructed hull was. So the HMS London went back to the shipyard during October, 1941 - January, 1942. Upon completion of this strengthening refit, she was sent to the Arctic. Her service there only served to uncover more problems with the ship's structure, and yet again, she went back to the yard for more work during December, 1942 - May, 1943. Upon completion of this refit, she went to the British Eastern Fleet.
     

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