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The Navies

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by corpcasselbury, May 29, 2004.

  1. liang

    liang New Member

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    You have to admit that the Italians built some beautiful ships, although their firepower and armor protecting were inferior to other contemporary navies at the time. It didn't help they were going up against an experienced and well-led Royal Navy that was deep in tradition and pride.
     
  2. corpcasselbury

    corpcasselbury New Member

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    The Italian ships had adequate gunpower, comparable to that of the RN. But you're right about the lack of armor protection. And the Italians definitely lacked competent leadership as well as experience and a tradition of winning.
     
  3. Mutant Poodle

    Mutant Poodle New Member

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    Success breeds confidence!
     
  4. Ebar

    Ebar New Member

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    It maybe hard to remember now but this was the Royal Navy they were taking on. A fleet that had been winning battles before most navies had even been thought of. In 1940 was there anyone who wouldn't feel at least a tiny flutter of concern at the thought of taking on the mighty RN.
     
  5. corpcasselbury

    corpcasselbury New Member

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    A good point. It helped the British that the Italians evidently did not know just how overstretched they actually were at the beginning of the war.
     
  6. GP

    GP New Member

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    Size isn't everthing but what yo do with it, Look at the Germans in 1939.
     
  7. corpcasselbury

    corpcasselbury New Member

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    Absolutely. Proper use of the resources at hand makes a big difference.
     
  8. corpcasselbury

    corpcasselbury New Member

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    How does the French Navy compare with those of the other combatants?
     
  9. Ebar

    Ebar New Member

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    Pre fall of France I think it was roughly at the same level as the Italians. They have some first generation Dreadnoughts with various levels of modernisation. Due the presures of the WW1 I don't think they had any second generation Dreadnoughts (contempories of the British Queen Elizabeth Class battleships) The third generation French capital ships were coming into service and appear to at least have been reasonable.

    The French did possess an aircraft carrier but it was perhaps the worst of the generation of carriers that were converted from battleships and battlecruisers.

    Between the wars they got into a cruiser building race with the Italians. Result was fast but frail vessels. The rest of their fleet I haven't heard much about so I assume it was at least ok.

    Conclusion

    The French navy was a B list fleet. Not strickly speaking a match for the big three (Brit, US, Jap) but still big enough to be worthy of respect. Hense the reason the British destroyed a big chunk of it rather than risk it falling into enemy hands.
     
  10. corpcasselbury

    corpcasselbury New Member

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    Yes, a task that was distasteful but necessary. One does wonder why the French admirals didn't all just either join the British or go to a neutral port (like in the USA).
     
  11. liang

    liang New Member

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    Contrary to popular belief, the French actually had a descent navy at the onset of WWII. It possessed some of the most modern battlecruisers and battleships in the world.

    Battlecruisers: Dunkerque class (Dunkerque 1937, Strasbourg 1938)
    35,5000 tons, 30 knots, 13 inch gun x 8, range 32,800 yards
    Armor: 9.5 inch belt, 5.5 inch deck, 13.2 inch turret

    On paper at least, the French battlecruisers has similar speed and armor protection as the German Scharnhorst class (Scharnhorst and Gneisenau)but carried bigger guns with longer range. Although the the British "Hood" had bigger guns, its armor was inferior to the Dunkereque, the older Repulse and Renown were definitely no match for the Dunkerques.

    Battleships: Richelieu class (Richelieu, Jean Bart, Clemenceau)
    Again, when they were completed in 1939, they were argurably the most modern and fastest battleships of its time.
    47,6000 tons, 15 inch x 8, 32 knots
    Armor: 13.6 inch belt, 6.7 inch deck, 16.9 inch turret

    On paper, they were similar to the new King George V class (14 inch x 10, 28.5 knots) and Bismarch class (15 inch x 8, 30 knots) in terms of firepower and armor protection, they were also faster than both of these contempories.

    Imagine the havocs these ships would have created if they fell into German hands.
     
  12. Notmi

    Notmi New Member

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    liang, actually only one ship from Richeliau -class was commissioned when Germany launched attack to France -40. Other ship (Jean Bart) was also launched but only 77% ready. Clemenceau wasn't even launched back then. But yes, Richeliau -class wasn't inferior to any of its contemporary battleships. There is something that French navy lacked -39 and that was decent aircraft carriers. All they had was Bearn.
     
  13. Tiornu

    Tiornu Member

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    I decline to get into a lengthy discussion of the subject, but don't settle into a comfortable idea that the British attack on the French was somehow "unfortunate but necessary" on any military level. While it did help the British as a publicity stunt--Shoot the Hostage!--militarily speaking, it was not only unnecessary but foolish. I have no problem with anyone disagreeing on this, and I have no intention of trying to convince anyone. Fact is, the British reaction developed in part from the fact that someone made a woopsie while translating French documents.
    Neither JB nor Richelieu was complete at the time of the surrender. Dunkerque and Strasbourg were superb designs, but the French battle line was otherwise truly sad. The old ships never had deck armor added to them, and their shells continued to carry soft caps that were obsolete in 1918.
     
  14. Ebar

    Ebar New Member

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    Accepted you don't want to get into a squabble on this so I'll try to keep this brief and keep the hair pulling and name calling to a minimum :wink:.

    I would agree with totally that there was a strong element of playing to the crowd when the British destroyed the French fleet. Very much a "We intend to win and this is how hardcore we're prepared to be."

    Whether it was avoidable I'm not so sure of. Both sides were effectively facing a 'choice between a rock and a hard place' situation.

    After the fall of France the only place where Britain still possessed a clear advantage was its navy. Had Germany gained control of the French navy that advantage would have largely been wiped away. Facing that situation it would be impossible for Britain to accept guarentees that the fleet would never be used against them.

    As to the arguement that the French Admiral should have taken the options to be interned somewhere or join the British but well he didn't have orders. This may seem like a cop-out but really its an important point. The split second a military unit starts deciding which orders it will obey than that country is a military dictatorship. The French government had come to terms with Germany. The Admiral of the French fleet was not authorised to hand over his ships thus his hands were tied. Whether the fleet should have been handed over was a discision for the civil government not an individual commander.

    If anyone has any additional info on this area I would be interested in hearing it.

    So much for the brief reply.
     
  15. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    But then that would make DeGaulle & the Free French into a military dictatorship...

    I do agree with your point Ebar, I was just wondering where that whole section of the French army fitted. Obviously it was welcomed by the Allies, and was very useful. I am not gonna belittle the Free French!

    P.S: Liberation of Paris was 60 years ago this week - some pictures here:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_pictures/3584212.stm
     
  16. Ebar

    Ebar New Member

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    I wouldn't belittle them either. With the Free French it was possible for individual men to make their own decision but an entire fleet is a different ball game. Whether DeGaulle was right is basically a history-is-wrote-by-the-winner situation.
     
  17. corpcasselbury

    corpcasselbury New Member

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    I have always felt sorry for Admiral Somerville, who got tapped to attack the French ships at Mers-el-Kabir. He didn't like it one bit, but his orders were clear and ironclad: if the French fleet won't come out and either join us or go into internment, destroy it. And no one heeded his protests. Very sad for him.
     
  18. Ricky

    Ricky New Member

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    At least he protested.
     
  19. corpcasselbury

    corpcasselbury New Member

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    Yes, he did. And he suffered for it, because Churchill never forgave him for protesting.
     
  20. liang

    liang New Member

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    There is no right or wrong answers, but in a crisis situaion where the existance of your country is being threatened, I considered the Royal Navy's attack justified.
     

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