Alternate warships of nations

The IJN managed to create a twin 5.5" LA that weighed 49 tons, the RN's 4" HA Twin weighed 16 tons. The lightest version of the Mark I 5.25" DP was 77.5 tons, and had extra weight added once in service (With RP, the one on Vanguard, it went up to 95 tons). The Mark II was in the 84-96 ton range. Realistically you could install a twin 5.5" LA and two 4" HA twin mounts for each 5.25" mount, and still probably save weight.
Dual purpose mounts often seem to come across as a false economy when you take a careful look at them. Its one of those things that seems like a good idea, but may not actually be so. The RN's DP mount that actually worked the 4.5/45 Marks I-IV ranged between a twin mount of 37 to 49 tons. For a carrier, and this is a hindsight thing, an anti-surface capability is an optional luxury. For the same weight British carriers could have had 2 or 3 times the number of 4" mounts, if an Aircraft Carrier has to depend on its own integral armament to fend off a surface attack then something has gone horribly wrong and its not going to matter anyway.
It is not necessarily an advantage for lighter vessels either, Anthony Williams makes a convincing argument that RN Destroyers of WW2 would have been better off using an all 4" HA/LA armament as well http://www.quarryhs.co.uk/MCGWW2.html in that it would of produced a higher rate and volume of fire.
As the Royal Navy already had a 5.5" gun in service, and it knows that a practical twin mount can be built from the IJN's example, considerable time and money can be saved in not developing the 5.25" gun and mountings.
(And probably the proliferation of other designs as well)
Weight wise you need to add the full ship impact, such as crew, deck size & length, fire control directors, magazines and shell handling areas..... three mounts means far more of each of the above even a twin 5.5" and a twin 4" will cost more weight once you add them in, especially as the Twin 4" HA RN gun is hand worked open shield type with out the shell handing and hoists included in the 16t.....
Good points, but as jsb points out looking at pure tonnage is all well and good, but tonnage doesn't' necessarily mean space.
Deck space has to be taken into account.
In the early war I' put the 4.5s over the 5.25s in almost any take. Arguably with the fact they worked throughout the war better than the 5.25s gives them the advantage.
However by late war the bigger, larger caliber weapons having the improved fire control and the kinks removed became excellent weapons.
Still, look at Scylla. "The Toothless Terror"
You'd stuck your cheap bog standard 4" HA twin mounts and rigged it with a full fire control system made for a truly terrifying AA ship.
 
That would work well, though by the 1930's fully synthetic oil technology would supersede coal tar oil and slurry (or earlier depending on how fast the Bergius process was developed). Even for countries with naval superiority like the UK or Germany in some TLs, it's a good idea to develop substitutes for strategic materials (like oil), because if an opponent doesn't make the mistakes Germany did with their submarine campaign, then it's likely the merchant fleet supplying those materials will get sunk regardless of naval power. So for the WWI-era coal tar oil or coal slurry would be a decent substitute.
There is no one size fits all. I tried to plug a strategic gap and gain advantages of oil for a nation that must plan for doing without. The shorter ranged North and Baltic Sea focused KM could lean on coal steam right through without suffering too badly opposite RN oil fired ships. Not ideal but a solution.

Wider butterflies are a major industrial nation holding itself less dependent upon petroleum. Fast forward and a modern Germany even with efficient cars and such demands upwards of 3 or 4 million barrels of crude per day. That hits the foreign exchange and draws gold or dollars or sterling, it saddles them with a critical import subjust to interruption. The butterflies here might be interesting moving forward.

Ultimately Germany may face the reality that it is dependent upon foreign oil. That pushes diplomacy and relations, it might drive us towards or away from war. Oil is the defining element of the 20th century.
 
There is no one size fits all. I tried to plug a strategic gap and gain advantages of oil for a nation that must plan for doing without. The shorter ranged North and Baltic Sea focused KM could lean on coal steam right through without suffering too badly opposite RN oil fired ships. Not ideal but a solution.

Wider butterflies are a major industrial nation holding itself less dependent upon petroleum. Fast forward and a modern Germany even with efficient cars and such demands upwards of 3 or 4 million barrels of crude per day. That hits the foreign exchange and draws gold or dollars or sterling, it saddles them with a critical import subjust to interruption. The butterflies here might be interesting moving forward.

Ultimately Germany may face the reality that it is dependent upon foreign oil. That pushes diplomacy and relations, it might drive us towards or away from war. Oil is the defining element of the 20th century.
From what I've been watching from you tubers like TIK. It did drive Germany towards war with the Soviet Union and apparently there's a quote by one of the Soviet marshals that Germany must be made to waste as much fuel as possible
 
Deck space has to be taken into account.
Deck space for a WWII warship has to have a vertical clearance as well as a horizontal clearance and workspace component.



Source: the Blueprints.com



Source: Pinterest

Notice the sky arcs interference.



Source: the Blueprints.



Source: Hyperwar

Notice how deckspace and fouling issues were resolved as a result of lessons learned or "presumed learned" from one battleship class to the next?

Not always successful I might add.
 
Imperial Chinese Navy, Great Qing State, 1900

OOC: this post explores how a Qing Navy would look like in a TL when she got sufficient funding, backed by political will to reform. Sorry no new design was proposed yet.

ITTL, Empress Dowager Cixi could not stage a coup in 1861, as the reform-minded Yixin (Prince of Gong) became the regent, resulting in a more fruitful Self-Strengthening Movement. Emperor Qixiang (OTL Emperor Tongzhi) lived longer. The Qixiang Reforms (琪祥變法) might not be as successful as the Meiji Restoration, due to economic and political constrains, but effectively, it was the Late-Qing Reforms of (1901-1911) being preponed for forty years.

The navy got a much more generous funding as compared to OTL. Still, much of the money went to the Qing Army, limiting its options.

In late 1880s, Emperor Qixiang ordered several provincial fleet of the Beiyang, Nanyang and Fujian fleets to be reorganized into a unified Imperial Navy, subdivide into an Imperial River Fleet and an Imperial Ocean-Cruising Fleet. A new naval base was set up in Taiwan.

Great Qing State, Ocean-Cruising Fleet (大清國巡洋艦隊), as of the 39th Year of the Qixiang Reign (1900).

First-Grade Battleships:


ICNS Zhaoyuan (昭遠) Royal-Sovereign Class Pre-dreadnaught Battleship, launched in 1892, at Portsmouth, UK. Tonnage: 14380 t. Speed: 17.5Knots. Main Armament: 2 x twin 13.5 in guns. Cost: £930,000 or 2,790,000 Taels. Took part in the Battle of Yellow Sea (1894) and Battle of Yokohama (1895) as flag ship.


ICNS Guiyuan (歸遠) Royal-Sovereign Class Pre-dreadnaught Battleship, launched in 1893, at Chatham , UK. Tonnage: 14380 t. Speed: 17.5Knots. Main Armament: 2 x twin 13.5 in guns. Cost: £950,000 or 2,850,000 Taels.Delayed delivery by the British and missed the Sino-Japanese War of 1894. She took part in a naval stand-off with Russia near Lüshun in 1899.

ICNS Fuyuan (服遠) Kaiser Friedrich III-class pre-dreadnaught Battleship, launched in 1898, at Hamburg, German Empire. Tonnage: 12,000 t. speed: 17.5 knots. Main Armament: 4 x 24 cm 40 cal guns. Cost: 21,000,000 marks, or 3,000,000 taels. Purchased from Germany shortly after the Sino-Japanese War of 1895.

ICNS Anyuan (安遠) Majestic-Class pre-dreadnaught Battleship, launched in 1898, at Blackwall, UK. Tonnage:15,000, Speed: 18 Knots. Main Armament: 2 x twin 12 inch (305 mm) guns. Cost: £965,000, or 2,895,000 Taels. Hong Rengan, the surrendered Taipings rebel whom Emperor Qixiang named Custom Commissioner, actively campaigned for a Sino-British thaw in relationship after the Sino-Japanese war. Ship procurement from the British resumed.


ICNS Huayuan (化遠) Majestic-Class pre-dreadnaught Battleship, launched in 1899, at Clydebank, UK. Tonnage:15,000, Speed: 18 Knots. Main Armament: 2 x twin 12 inch (305 mm) guns. Cost: £965,000, or 2,895,000 Taels.

Second-Grade Battleships:


ICNS Dingyuan (定遠) ironclad battleship, launched in 1881, at Vulcan, German Empire. modernized in 1893. Tonnage: 8,000. Main armament: 4 x 28 cm MRK L/40 guns, with 30 quick firing guns of various calibers.
0B533612-B71F-4742-AD41-DB66D39C6725.jpeg

This, but refitted with sufficient QF guns.

ICNS Zhenyuan (鎮遠) ironclad battleship, launched in 1882, at Vulcan. modernized in 1893. Tonnage: 8,000. Main armament: 4 x 28 cm MRK L/40 guns, with 30 quick firing guns of various calibers.

ICNS Lueyuan (略遠) ironclad battleship, formerly Chilean ironclad Capitan Prat, launched in 1890, at Le Seyne, France. Tonnage: 6901t. Speed: 18.3 Knots. Main Armament: 4 × 9.4 in (240 mm) guns. Bought from Chile in 1894, she sustained heavy fire from the Japanese first flying squadron, but managed to survive.

Cruisers:

ICNS Xiuyuan (修遠) protected cruiser, formerly Chilean cruiser Blanco Encalada, launched in 1893, at Armstrong Whitworth, UK, Tonnage: 4568 t. Speed: 22.8 Knots. Main Armament: 2 x EOC 8 inch (203mm) 40 caliber. Bought from Chile in 1894, she was badly damaged by her sister ship Yoshino, but lasted until Guangyuan came to her rescue.

ICNS Guangyuan (光遠) protected cruiser, formerly Chilean cruiser Esmeralda, launched in 1883, at Armstrong Whitworth, UK, Tonnage: 2950 t. Main Armament: 2 x Breechloading 10 inch guns. Bought from Chile in 1894 with Quick-firing guns added, she became the hero ship during the battle of Yalu River when she sunk the Japanese cruiser Yoshino.

TBC ... ...
 
Last edited:
I really wish to do a Qing reform TL in which the Chinese Navy developed uninterrupted from 1870s to 2010s, with a list of ships in 1880, 1895, 1900, 1913, 1922, 1939, 1944, 1961, 1990 and 2019.
 
I'm guessing China's still a long way off from.being able to build its own battleships. Still, interesting to see how things turn out. Is there a link to he TL as a whole?
 
Imperial Chinese Navy, Great Qing State, 1900

OOC: this post explores how a Qing Navy would look like in a TL when she got sufficient funding, backed by political will to reform. Sorry no new design was proposed yet.

ITTL, Empress Dowager Cixi could not stage a coup in 1861, as the reform-minded Yixin (Prince of Gong) became the regent, resulting in a more fruitful Self-Strengthening Movement. Emperor Qixiang (OTL Emperor Tongzhi) lived longer. The Qixiang Reforms (琪祥變法) might not be as successful as the Meiji Restoration, due to economic and political constrains, but effectively, it was the Late-Qing Reforms of (1901-1911) being preponed for forty years.

The navy got a much more generous funding as compared to OTL. Still, much of the money went to the Qing Army, limiting its options.

In late 1880s, Emperor Qixiang ordered several provincial fleet of the Beiyang, Nanyang and Fujian fleets to be reorganized into a unified Imperial Navy, subdivide into an Imperial River Fleet and an Imperial Ocean-Cruising Fleet. A new naval base was set up in Taiwan.

Great Qing State, Ocean-Cruising Fleet (大清國巡洋艦隊), as of the 39th Year of the Qixiang Reign (1900).

First-Grade Battleships:


ICNS Zhaoyuan (昭遠) Royal-Sovereign Class Pre-dreadnaught Battleship, launched in 1892, at Portsmouth, UK. Tonnage: 14380 t. Speed: 17.5Knots. Main Armament: 2 x twin 13.5 in guns. Cost: £930,000 or 2,790,000 Taels. Took part in the Battle of Yellow Sea (1894) and Battle of Yokohama (1895) as flag ship.


ICNS Guiyuan (歸遠) Royal-Sovereign Class Pre-dreadnaught Battleship, launched in 1893, at Chatham , UK. Tonnage: 14380 t. Speed: 17.5Knots. Main Armament: 2 x twin 13.5 in guns. Cost: £950,000 or 2,850,000 Taels.Delayed delivery by the British and missed the Sino-Japanese War of 1894. She took part in a naval stand-off with Russia near Lüshun in 1899.

ICNS Fuyuan (服遠) Kaiser Friedrich III-class pre-dreadnaught Battleship, launched in 1898, at Hamburg, German Empire. Tonnage: 12,000 t. speed: 17.5 knots. Main Armament: 4 x 24 cm 40 cal guns. Cost: 21,000,000 marks, or 3,000,000 taels. Purchased from Germany shortly after the Sino-Japanese War of 1895.

ICNS Anyuan (安遠) Majestic-Class pre-dreadnaught Battleship, launched in 1898, at Blackwall, UK. Tonnage:15,000, Speed: 18 Knots. Main Armament: 2 x twin 12 inch (305 mm) guns. Cost: £965,000, or 2,895,000 Taels. Hong Rengan, the surrendered Taipings rebel whom Emperor Qixiang named Custom Commissioner, actively campaigned for a Sino-British thaw in relationship after the Sino-Japanese war. Ship procurement from the British resumed.


ICNS Huayuan (化遠) Majestic-Class pre-dreadnaught Battleship, launched in 1899, at Clydebank, UK. Tonnage:15,000, Speed: 18 Knots. Main Armament: 2 x twin 12 inch (305 mm) guns. Cost: £965,000, or 2,895,000 Taels.

Second-Grade Battleships:


ICNS Dingyuan (定遠) ironclad battleship, launched in 1881, at Vulcan, German Empire. modernized in 1893. Tonnage: 8,000. Main armament: 4 x 28 cm MRK L/40 guns, with 30 quick firing guns of various calibers.
View attachment 509062
This, but refitted with sufficient QF guns.

ICNS Zhenyuan (鎮遠) ironclad battleship, launched in 1882, at Vulcan. modernized in 1893. Tonnage: 8,000. Main armament: 4 x 28 cm MRK L/40 guns, with 30 quick firing guns of various calibers.

ICNS Lueyuan (略遠) ironclad battleship, formerly Chilean ironclad Capitan Prat, launched in 1890, at Le Seyne, France. Tonnage: 6901t. Speed: 18.3 Knots. Main Armament: 4 × 9.4 in (240 mm) guns. Bought from Chile in 1894, she sustained heavy fire from the Japanese first flying squadron, but managed to survive.

Cruisers:

ICNS Xiuyuan (修遠) protected cruiser, formerly Chilean cruiser Blanco Encalada, launched in 1893, at Armstrong Whitworth, UK, Tonnage: 4568 t. Speed: 22.8 Knots. Main Armament: 2 x EOC 8 inch (203mm) 40 caliber. Bought from Chile in 1894, she was badly damaged by her sister ship Yoshino, but lasted until Guangyuan came to her rescue.

ICNS Guangyuan (光遠) protected cruiser, formerly Chilean cruiser Esmeralda, launched in 1883, at Armstrong Whitworth, UK, Tonnage: 2950 t. Main Armament: 2 x Breechloading 10 inch guns. Bought from Chile in 1894 with Quick-firing guns added, she became the hero ship during the battle of Yalu River when she sunk the Japanese cruiser Yoshino.

TBC ... ...
Odd you should mention the Ding Yuans. I have an ATL where they will show up at William Cramp and Sons to be modernized.

William Cramp and Sons



Not exactly Chinese, either. It flaps the meatball flag.
 
Last edited:
I'm guessing China's still a long way off from.being able to build its own battleships.
OTL China could only build small cruisers by the mid-1890s, in Jiangnan or Foochow. The first ships exceeding 10,000 tons were built as late as 1918(related, perhaps, to the boom created in Asia by the First World War) , and this couldn’t immediately translate into an ability to build warships.

ITTL, in the first few decades, the Qing Court might have to purchase sub-par warships and civilian ships for a few decades, just so that a domestic ship-building industry could take off. But still, a wiser Qing China would focus on its Army first, as suggested by Charles Chinese Gordon IOTL.

There might be a boom when Europe got in War, and the shipyards finally turned profitable, then we could talk about a domestic warship.

Still, interesting to see how things turn out. Is there a link to he TL as a whole?
Not yet.

I’m not sure whether I want to go on with this PoD. I always wanted a TL with the PoD at Ming-Qing transition, as an earlier PoD might lead to far reaching changes.

But then, a PoD at 1861 is more manageable, and far more realistic. It would offer lessons as TTL reformist Qing would have to tackle with the same challenges facing OTL Qing, republican, nationalist and communist governments.
 
Last edited:
Good idea. Would it be an even better idea to buy from the Americans ITTL? When did they catch up with the major Europeans manufacturers?
The 1890s was when the US had fully caught up to European shipbuilders in large part due to the fact that Congress was finally giving the USN some money to buy decent numbers of new ships.
 
Good idea. Would it be an even better idea to buy from the Americans ITTL? When did they catch up with the major Europeans manufacturers?
If the Russo-Japanese War is any guide, from a material point of view... She was the BEST of the Russian battleships. The Americans had met at least French technological naval parity by 1895.

The best of the Russian cruisers of the era... was also built by Cramp and Sons.

About the RTL Chinese imperial navy. They deserve far better than history has treated them. And I will put in a plug for Captain Philo Norton McGiffin.

I would say that if the Chinese had trained under Americans and used American built equipment assuming they started in 1885, they would have done "marginally" better in 1894. The Chinese Qing government had a decent admiral in Ding Ruachang, BUT the corruption of the Beijing court and the Dowager Empress, hampered the intensely patriotic Beiyang Fleet. There is nothing wrong with that patriotism or the basic training of the Chinese sailors at the Battle of the Yalu. Some of the GUTLESS and incompetent political appointee Dowager Empress favorites who commanded "prestige" captaincies in the Beiyang fleet, turned coward and ran, taking their ships with them and deserting their posts in battle. The Japanese admiral, Yukesuke, seizing his momentary advantage, mishandled his line, while his subordinate, Itoh, with the fast squadron crushed the Chinese right wing of Ruachang's line. Bad advice from a cashiered RN lieutenant commander and a Prussian landlubber caused Ruachang (Prussian Army Major Constantin von Hanneken, Qing government appointed adviser to Admiral Ding Ruachang and W. F. Tyler, the British incompetent.) caused Ruachang to adopt the beam advance instead of the line of battle; and of course, the American Philo Norton McGiffin, who is the one westerner, the Chinese still recognize with favor, is the one who rallies the Beiyang Fleet around his frankly heroic stand in the Jingyuan (appointed as co-commander) a ship where he is flash burned by a shell explosion and BOILED over half his body surface area and rendered blind so he has to use a Chinese gunner's mate as his eyes and voice. He takes sole command of the battleship, when the Jingyuan captain is rendered useless by the same shell explosion that burns him, and gets them, the Chinese fleet, out of what should have been a battle of annihilation by co-opting command from Ruachang, next ship over, and using both battleships to fight a retreating rear guard action that in conjunction with a botched late Chinese torpedo boat attack almost retrieves the disaster into more of a draw. The shot up IJN claims victory then because the equally battered Chinese retreated under orders; not because of any push the Japanese gave them. It was a melee and a mess.

I think McGiffin might be a "minor" spiritual father to the MODERN People's Liberation Army Navy. The Chinese made a movie about Yalu that features him prominently for Mao's sake! He is the archetypal western instructor at the Chinese Naval Academy in the late 1880s and early 1890s in that film who keeps spouting MAHAN at his Chinese students. As a matter of record, Alfred Thayer Mahan and Philo Norton McGiffin never met each other as peers (McGiffin became a Chinese ADMIRAL after Yalu), and I doubt McGiffin ever was taught by the great American strategist. So, McGiffin went to China as a contract instructor (1885 as an ENSIGN) with US Civil War Union Navy lessons learned. Somehow he used his US Naval Academy training, crossed a language barrier, a cultural barrier and the blatant irredentist western racism of the age and made one hello of a favorable impression on the Chinese. John Paul Jones is actually far too much to assert, but David Dixon Porter for the Chinese? Yeah, that is about right.
 
Not to mention the fact the US was leading the way in armor development in the 1890s with its invention of Harvey steel, the only thing the US would later really be behind in the as compared to Germany and the U.K. during the 1900s and 1910s was in the field of propulsion more precisely reduction gearing, but the USN would fix this problem by WW2 and have ton for ton the most powerful and efficient propulsion systems of any navy in the world. And more even importantly the US of this time period(and in general, with the notable exception of the Kidd class)tended to not forcefully "purchase" the vessels that other nations ordered from its yards.
 
Last edited:
if the Chinese had trained under Americans and used American built equipment
The Beiyang Fleet had a decent British supervisor named William M. Lang, who was forced to leave for political reasons. Perhaps it would be better off if we have an American naval playing Lang’s role, as the Chinese were not as suspicious of the American intentions as the British.

We might need an officer more senior than McGriffin.

P.s. David Dixon Porter sounds good to me. The US post civil war had many good officers to offer.
 
Last edited:
The Beiyang Fleet had a decent British supervisor named William M. Lang, who was forced to leave for political reasons. Perhaps it would be better off if we have an American naval playing Lang’s role, as the Chinese were not as suspicious of the American intentions as the British.

We might need a more senior officer than McGriffin.
I know very little about CAPT William Metcalfe Lang as to his RN career, so whether he was decent in that service is not known to me. I can tell you, it was probably more to escape the international blame for the disaster of the Chinese naval side of the Sino-Japanese War for which he publicly could be conveniently blamed and which on paper he had a great deal of responsibility than any other reason why he left imperial China in 1895. So in that sense, he did have "political reasons" to leave China.

Now if his "advice" was what caused the disaster? Probably not; since it was never followed in any case.

I will tell you, that he did NOT do the job for which he was hired; which was to ensure that Chinese material was up to specification. Could he have done anything about it? Not really, so I have no reason to suggest an American would have improved matters because it would make no difference at all what the hired foreign expert recommended to the dowager empress who controlled the Chinese government finances and diverted naval funds to satisfy her own debauched desires. But if I were to suggest one American for a Qing government that was not corrupt?... RADM Samuel Rhoads Franklin, USN.

David Dixon Porter died in 1891.
 
Last edited:
My thoughts:
- 13.5" and 12" Battleships.
- 10" and 8" Cruisers.

Would the Chinese not standardize amunition? Get the Germans to install 13.5" guns or the UK 12" etc?
That is not in the way of how things worked in the late 19th century or now.

Nations that could build high technology weapon systems in the 1890s would not standardize on an international standard for ordnance. The Germans, Austrians and the French were metric system constructors for example. The British, the Russians, the Italians and the Americans used the British imperial system; and that mainly because of the measurement system of the host origin technology bases. For the British imperial system users it was the British measurement system that the manufacturers adopted. For the metric users, it was the French measurement system and manufacturing logics.

Even there, one gets confusion because the nations that BOUGHT from the building nations had political swings between "French" and "English" based tech suppliers. The classic example is Japan in East Asia. The Japanese began by buying "French" technology base and even hired French experts to advise them because Japan was a poor nation and needed to get the most bang for her buck in a big hurry to avoid being gobbled up by the European imperialist interlopers. The French looked good in theory and they were a bit cheaper than the very expensive British. Thus in the late 1870s and 1880s the Japanese bought mostly French type naval expertise, supplies, ships and armaments.

Then the Japanese tried to use the French system in war and learned quickly that it did not work. The French also soured the Japanese customer by meddling in internal Japanese politics (Edo Republic rebellion) and delivered shoddy construction that sank in peacetime operations. When Emile Bertin's follies, like the Matsushima class cruisers failed in the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese turned to the British as their new suppliers.

The Chinese in the 1880s were even more politically fouled up than the Meiji Japanese. It turns out that the Qing Chinese bought warships from the Germans (battleships), the British (cruisers) and the French (torpedo boats). They also fought these suppliers (French 1880s, British 1830s off and on until 1900, Germans 1890s) at the same time.

If we take Russia, as another example, those poor people, under Tsar Nicky the Second, built some of their own navy in their own yards, bought some second rate British hulls, bought French hulls, and even bought (as I mentioned above) American hulls. The Russians armed their polyglot supplied fleet with "mostly" French naval artillery and used engines from anybody and everybody. It will get them killed at Tsushima because they did not know how to use what they had, for it was such a puzzle-box of systems to them that they could not even standardize artillery training.

Guess who was like the Russians? Spain. More on them in a moment, since we have the British and French, next.

Now let us look at why, even the British and French are navally screwed up. British ordnance as late as 1890 was a mix of classes of two battleship main calibers types (true for France, too, and for the same reasons) between "black powder 13.5 inch guns" and "white powder 12 inch guns". The advent of smokeless powder in naval artillery was a FRENCH technological surprise that allowed a smaller bore diameter gun to throw a heavy shell faster and in a flatter trajectory than the black powder based naval artillery of other navies (1885-1890). The British were a little slow to catch up, so to mitigate French 30.5cm/L35 guns, the British went to 34.3cm/L30 (13.5 inch diameter.) guns to keep kinetic parity. By 1890-1895 the British had their own naval smokeless powders and we see them return to 30.6cm bore diameter guns. Three generations of battleship for the French and the British... bores of ~12 inch, 12.6 inch and 12 inch for the French *(1870s, 1880s, and 1890s) and 12 inch, 13.5 inch and 12 inch for the British decades by decades until they finally go 13.5 inch all out just before WWI.

The Americans? Weeellll… they look at what Europe offers and say; "We want NONE of that nonsense and confusion, thank you. We'll develop our own versions of what you guys have and we'll standardize. Their first generation naval systems use modified Ericsson rocker steam engines and BROWN powder guns which are sort of intermediate between black and white powder. They standardize calibers to 1.5, 2 and 1/4, 3 and 1/4, 5, 6, 8, 10, and 13 inch bore diameters and while they seriously lag behind in propellants and engine tech, their shipwrights are shrewd masters of the shipbuilding art who learn incredibly fast. First generation American battleships are totally screwed up because they have NEVER built seagoing steel battleships before and they goof up their reserve buoyancy calculations. Their Indianas ride DEEP putting the armor belts awash at the waterline. BUT everyone, even the British (HMS Camperdown and HMS Victoria are unmanageable maneuver disasters as George Tryon will discover in 1893.) screw up that way first or second try at it, some worse than others (British and Russians are slow learners.) and but everyone figures it out hopefully. (USS Iowa is American second generation, and the Indianas undergo urgent post Spanish American War rebuilds and modernizations as lessons learned are backfitted.).

The Americans do get a taste of what it is like to buy foreign before they go all native (USS Maine is a British design, home built in American yards, but still a British design and, KABOOM! Coal bunkers were discovered to be dust aerosol bombs. American battleships suddenly grow automatic fire sprinkler systems, fire alarms and fire mains. American crews are suddenly required to henceforth check manually the fuel bunkers for dust and heat conditions. Not until a century later do we discover they knew about the coal bunkers dangers before Maine blew up.) and they do not like it one bit. The Americans buy a couple of British built Elswick type cruisers to keep them out of Spanish hands in 1897-1898 and try them out, too, and they HATE those ships. Accommodations were unfit for human beings, ammunition stowage arrangements were awful and the artillery provided with those cruisers was unsafe and substandard to American operational requirements. The Americans rebuilt those cruisers and they were still dissatisfied with them.

Guess what the Spanish had on hand to face the Americans? British designed or French designed and some Spanish built (Still French and British designed mostly and licensed built artillery equipped) ships. JUNK. The Spanish even had examples of Italian built English style knockoffs. The Spanish ships sure had beautiful French engine plants that were a decade ahead of anything the Americans could build, but... they did not know their ships, their doctrine was a mishmash of French and British practices and their government was every bit as corrupt as the Qing, so the equipment was not learned, maintained or fixed. The Spanish ships also burned nicely when hit with American war-shots. Spanish ordnance shot bounced off American plate. Historians debate why, but from what I can find in the records, the Spanish regime sent their ships to sea, still with their peacetime training loadouts. (That is inert practice ammunition... slugs.), and not shell rated for war use. They did not buy, store or TRAIN with war rounds as the Americans did. The Americans were severely ammunition short always, but not ammunition ineffective.

Now imagine the Russians being, as incredibly bad as Spain at sea, but they face a polyglot Japanese fleet built around a homogenous core of BRITISH yard built warships, post 1895, with all the bugs worked out by the Japanese themselves in their inimical nativist fashion? BOOM. Superior training and money poured into fixing everything in their own yards the Japanese find wrong with their European built warships serves Togo well.

No matter that the Russians standardized on French naval artillery in the late 1880s. They come into the Russo Japanese war with so many calibers and generations of differing ships, it is a miracle the Russians could even station keep in cruising formation and shoot as well as they did.

The Japanese knew their available material better, were better sailors and they had adapted best British maintenance and training practices to their own BRUTAL highly disciplined Japanese naval traditions. Winning for them is easy, even with their own foreign built polyglot navy. In the Sino-Japanese war, the IJN was not so smoothly polished, trained or familiar with their gear and they had not used their combat experience to work all the foreign built mistakes in their fleet out. By 1906 they have the skillsets and the knowhow.

In 1898 the Americans go into battle with a deeply flawed native all American built fleet, against an on paper, technologically superior Spanish Armada and they tear it apart.

I kid you not that the Spaniards had a ten year tech lead and it availed them nothing. Human factors (See what I say about the American bought Elswicks earlier?) and American doctrine make all the difference despite the flawed American tech.

Lessons learned from the above dozen examples? It is best, navally, if it is your flawed tech, your excellent if mistaken training and your own doctrine. If you rely on someone else for any of it, you are headed for complete utter disaster.

This is the lessons the Chinese also learned the HARD way and they are trying to apply them.

Standardized weaponry in 1890 is not going to solve the essential Qing Chinese failures at sea. It has to start by getting regime change and reform in the human factors as it happened in the United States (Cleveland Administrations) before Teddy Roosevelt gets his navy.
 
Last edited:
That would work well, though by the 1930's fully synthetic oil technology would supersede coal tar oil and slurry (or earlier depending on how fast the Bergius process was developed). Even for countries with naval superiority like the UK or Germany in some TLs, it's a good idea to develop substitutes for strategic materials (like oil), because if an opponent doesn't make the mistakes Germany did with their submarine campaign, then it's likely the merchant fleet supplying those materials will get sunk regardless of naval power. So for the WWI-era coal tar oil or coal slurry would be a decent substitute.
This was apparently examined and it was thought that the dangers of relying on a small number of large coal to oil plants that were vulnerable to air attack was greater than relying on the existing infrastructure with numerous tankers and port facilities.

https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/theses/the-royal-navys-fuel-supplies-18981939--the-transition-from-coal-to-oil(72eb7a45-6a50-4168-b0c1-9ee77a7f2103).html

https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/files/2932258/408161.pdf

Pages 244 to 258 (Back to coal chapter) talks about the various plans, also about colloidal fuel.
 
Not to mention the fact the US was leading the way in armor development in the 1890s with its invention of Harvey steel, the only thing the US would later really be behind in the as compared to Germany and the U.K. during the 1900s and 1910s was in the field of propulsion more precisely reduction gearing, but the USN would fix this problem by WW2 and have ton for ton the most powerful and efficient propulsion systems of any navy in the world.
But reduction gearing was only possible after 1912, so up until then that wasn't a factor (they had a less developed turbine industry before that, though).

Nations that could build high technology weapon systems in the 1890s would not standardize on an international standard for ordnance. The Germans, Austrians and the French were metric system constructors for example. The British, the Russians, the Italians and the Americans used the British imperial system; and that mainly because of the measurement system of the host origin technology bases. For the British imperial system users it was the British measurement system that the manufacturers adopted. For the metric users, it was the French measurement system and manufacturing logics.
That's false; manufacturers, for shells at least, used whichever system was desired. The 1886 La Spezia armor trial was explicitly done with a BL 16.25" gun (made by Armstrong) with a Krupp shell (page 13), probably to get the most powerful gun/projectile combination possible as a benchmark to prove that the armor was completely immune to any existing gun. Manufacturers would happily make shells for whatever gun a customer used as long as they got paid. I suspect they'd make whatever gun calibers were desired too; there are plenty of cases in WWI of captured French 75's and other guns being rebored for German calibers, so manufacturers could probably do that from the factory with naval guns too.

This was apparently examined and it was thought that the dangers of relying on a small number of large coal to oil plants that were vulnerable to air attack was greater than relying on the existing infrastructure with numerous tankers and port facilities.

https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/theses/the-royal-navys-fuel-supplies-18981939--the-transition-from-coal-to-oil(72eb7a45-6a50-4168-b0c1-9ee77a7f2103).html

https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/files/2932258/408161.pdf

Pages 244 to 258 (Back to coal chapter) talks about the various plans, also about colloidal fuel.
That's one way to look at it (it's a perfectly valid view). My view on air attack was that even if done well at least it could be countered by air superiority (and if that didn't work there are much bigger problems as a lot of other factories would also be destroyed regardless of oil infrastructure), but that if an opponent was completely competent then there wouldn't be much that could stop a submarine offensive.
 
Top