I have re-written my 'plot' and have a general idea of what I am doing now. My thanks to all those that gave me new ideas after my origional idea was proved un-workable. I will start my new TL on March 20th 1918 when the HSF sails. This is an incomplete background written to explain a few things, including the plan. It starts in January 1918. --------------------------------------------------------------- Background - Background changes to the German Navy [SIZE=-1]Non-Historical changes the the High Seas Fleet after The Battle of Jutland[/SIZE] I wish to thank the members of the Board for their comments and suggestions with relation to the background of this history changing sortie of the German High Seas Fleet in March 1918. The thread can be found here, but please post comments in this thread as I am changing the 'plot' so to speak! https://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=139453 [SIZE=-1]NOTE: Changing the history of the HSF may be viewed as cheating by some, but historically in 1918, while the HSF may have been able to put to sea, most of its best personnel had been transferred to the submarine and small craft branches of the fleet. These changes are based around that and aim to produce a smaller fleet made up of the more advanced ships available.[/SIZE] January 1918 In January 1918, Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff, the head of the Kaiserliche Admiralstab (German Imperial Admiralty) was informed in a meeting with General Paul von Hindenburg, the head of the German Oberste Heeresleitung or OHL (Supreme Army Command), that the Army was planning to conduct an assault in March against the Allies in the hope of capturing the three channel ports at the Eastern end of the English Channel. (The Lys Offensive) The three channel ports were Dunkirk, Calais & Boulogne and General Hindenburg asked Admiral Holtzendorff for any assistance that the navy could give in support of the offensive. Admiral Holtzendorff ordered Admirals Reinhard Scheer and Franz von Hipper to report to him at the Admiralstab and together they discussed the options before them. They were all in agreement that the Unrestricted Submarine Warfare (USW) campaign should continue, as it seemed the most practical way of pushing England out of the war, and stopping American supplies and reinforcements from reaching the Allied front line. Admirals Scheer and Hipper returned to the fleet to consider options for the fleet in relations for a sortie and to draw up several outline proposals before returning to the Admiralstab on February 1st 1918 for discussions on the proposals with Admiral Holtzendorff. February 1st 1918 Admirals Scheer and Hipper reported to the Admiralstab as ordered on 1st February with their proposals. They were as follows: a) The HSF does nothing in support of the Lys Offensive. This would keep the fleet intact, but may decrease moral among the navy and army. b) The HSF conducts limited sorties with small, fast craft. Destroyers (DD) and Light Cruisers (CA) that can sail at 25+ Knots. They will conduct operations into the English Channel to harass Allied shipping. This is a moderate risk operation due the presence of the HMS Dreadnought and the HMS Dominion and multiple smaller units. If the Channel Fleet could catch the Light German forces deployed, then the German forces would be destroyed by superior firepower. c) The same as above but including several Battle Cruisers (BC). The two surviving Derfflinger class (SMS Derfflinger & SMS Hindenburg) and the SMS Seydlitz. All of these ships were rated at 26.5 Knots and so constituted a fast attack force. Their 12" and 11.2" guns were also comparable to the guns of HMS Dreadnought and HMS Dominion (Both 12" main batteries), and with a 5 knot advantage over HMS Dreadnought and 8 knot advantage over HMS Dominion, they could take the initiative in any battle. This option was risky as while they could defeat the Channel Fleet, if they were slowed down due to battle damage then they would be annihilated should a squadron of the Grand Fleet intercept them. As this squadron was made up of Battle Cruisers, it would be under the command of Admiral Hipper. d) The same as above, but with the HSF covering the Eastern End of the English Channel should the Battle Cruiser Squadron of the GF appear. This would give the HSF the opportunity to destroy a squadron of the GF, before the main portion of the GF arrived. The main fleet would be under the command of Admiral Scheer if this option was selected. Option 'd' was the most attractive to Admiral Holtzendorff as it gave the opportunity to destroy the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron of the GF, and sink four modern British Battle Cruisers for minimum risk. There were problems with this plan however. Should the HSF sortie, then the GF would be aware of it through Radio Direction Finding (RDF), and the GF would sortie in an attempt to destroy the HSF. Precautions would therefore have to be taken to ensure that the HSF attacked the Channel Squadron by surprise, thus allowing the HSF to make port again before the GF could intercept. Also, due to the ongoing transfer of personnel to the submarine and small craft arms of the fleet, several ships had reduced crews. Something would have to be done about this as well. All three Admirals decided that option 'd' was to be chosen, provided that the risks to the fleet could be minimised, and the British kept unaware until the fleet attacked the English Channel. Admirals Scheer and Hipper were therefore told to develop a rough plan for option 'd' and return in a week with his proposal for submission to Admiral Holtzendorff. If he approved then the plan would be submitted to the Kaiser for final approval. February 7th 1918 The meeting on February 7th went ahead with several Admiralstab planners in attendance with Admiral Holtzendorff, and Admirals Hipper and Scheer, along with several senior HSF Squadron Commanders. During discussions with his Squadron commanders, Admirals Scheer and Hipper had produced the following plan: The whole HSF sortie on March 20th 1918, scheduled to arrive in the English Channel at 09:00 hours on March 21st, after the Army attack had begun so as not to give away the element of surprise. The fleet would sail under complete radio silence until the naval attack began, and was to be controlled by flag and light signals prior to this. It was also recommended that since the GF successfully intercepted the HSF at Jutland in 1916, then German codes may be broken. Although codes had been changed in 1917 all orders in relation to the sortie were be given by written orders, flag and light signals. The radio was not to be used to communicate any orders in relation to the sortie so as not to warn the Allies through increased radio traffic. Codes were not to be changed again, as it may warn the Allies that something was planned. After the sortie, new codes were to be introduced. Zeppelin and seaplane patrols over the North sea were to continue and report Allied shipping as usual, but the number of patrols were to gradually increase so as not to alarm the Allies. It was also suggested that the HSF be re-organised into more condensed squadrons. Older ships were to be retired from the fleet. By doing this, it was hoped that all ships that sortied would have a full compliment, and high moral as the core ability of the fleet was to be maintained. The overall plan was to sortie the fleet under a complete radio blackout. Light forces first to sweep for Allied submarines, followed by the Channel Squadron. These would form up and head West for their destination at 15 knots. The main HSF would follow two hours behind them. The fleet would sail over the horizon and out of sight of land. At 05:00 hours on the 21st March, the Channel Squadron under Admiral Hipper would increase speed and head for the channel. Their orders were to destroy the Channel Fleet, shell Dunkirk, Calais & Boulogne on the French coast along with Dover and Folkestone on the English coast, sinking ships in the harbours and destroying facilities. At 13:00 hours the fleet was to retire towards the HSF and CA were to lay mines outside the entrances of the French ports and in the approach channels. They were not to worry if the Allies saw this as sweeping efforts would stop the use of the Eastern Channel ports for supply ships. CAs that could sail at 27+ knots and could carry either 120+ mines would be choses. Once the mines were laid, they were to return to the HSF. The Channel squadron was to rejoin the HSF and then they would all sail back to German ports at 20 knots, to be back in harbour before the GF could intercept. If the Battle Cruiser Squadron (or any other portion of the GF) intercepted them, then it would be destroyed by superior numbers, and the HSF would retire at maximum speed afterwards should this occur. Admiral Scheer also recommended that new minefields be laid by submarine along the most probable lines of approach that the GF would take to intercept the HSF, and that submarines are placed outside GF harbours and along these lines of approach to attack the GF and report its position to him. Admiral Holtzendorff approved the Admiral's general plan and asked them to draw up a list of ships that were to be retired for his approval, and the reasons for retiring them. They were also to draw up lists of ships to be used as part of the main HSF fleet, the Channel Squadron and the mine-laying squadron. They was then to return to the Admiralstab as soon as possible to discuss this with Admiral Holtzendorff. As he had given his approval to further develop the plan, Admiral Holtzendorff contacted the Kaiser's staff and requested a meeting for the following morning. The next day, at 10:00am sharp he entered the presence of Kaiser Wilhelm II and explained that General Hindenburg had requested the HSF's assistance in the March Offensive against the Allied Channel Ports. Admiral Holtzendorff explained the proposed plan to the Kaiser, and told him that he had given Admirals Scheer and Hipper his approval to proceed with detailed plans for the operation, and that they had been ordered to report back as soon as detailed plans and ship lists had been made. Kaiser Wilhelm II said that while he would wish for his navy to do everything possible to assist the Army in it's offensive, he would not approve an outline plan. When Admirals Scheer and Hipper had drawn up their detailed plans and ship lists, then all three of them were to report to him and explain the plan to him. At that time, he would decide whether to risk his navy or not on the sortie against the English Channel. --------------------------------------------------------------- Please note: The operation now occurs in March 1918, the HSF will retire all older (slower, under armed) ships. Only 25+ knot ships will ender the channel and all the CAs that go in will be brimming with mines to lay. BCs & DDs will attack the Channel Fleet, leaving the CAs intact with their explosive loads! Most importantly, the HSF is expecting to return to port! I am not saying that the GF will not catch them, but the plan is to get home again before they are intercepted by the bulk of the GF, hence the sortie is not viewed by the sailors as a death ride. --------------------------------------------------------------- Questions: 1/ I am still looking for a firm date of the departure for HMS Dreadnought from the channel fleet, and therefore it's dissolution. If I can't find a date, then HMS Dreadnought will sail with escort that morning. So will HMS Dominion. Upon hearing of the attack, they will turn round to attack the HSF and both get sunk, but will do damage/take DDs with them. 2/ I have tried to think up reasonable options that Admiral Hipper may come up with for a sortie. Nothing, light forces, small but strong force, full fleet. If anybody has any other options for the HSF (Not subs as they mostly continue the merchant war) then please suggest them. 3/ As far as the BCs slated for the Channel go, I selected the 3 most modern that the HSF had. I may add a few more/change to BBs, but I want to keep the Channel Squadron at a 25+ knots, and the Bayern Class BBs were maxed at 22 Knots, and the rest of the HSF BBs were similar speeds. 4/ Is 75 miles off land too far? THe horizon is approximatly 25 so I would think it is a safe distance for not being seen. 5/ Does anybody know which English ports supplied Calais, Dunkirk & Boulogne? 6/ For the mine-laying CAs, I chose all HSF CA Classes over 25 knots. I will write a list for those that go in to mine the French ports. I know several of the ships were lost by that time in the war. Those are the Classes available for use, nothing more. 6/ I have tried to paste together a reasonably planned, well thought out sortie, but if anybody can see an obvious fault with it then please say! --------------------------------------------------------------- I have checked spelling and grammer, but if you notice anything feel free to tell me. Comments welcomed as always, but let's not revisit the old ones again please. Oh BTW can a mod lock my old thread please? I can't figure out how to do it. It's https://www.alternatehistory.com/discussion/showthread.php?t=139453 Thanks!