Operation Rheinübung launches in April 1941

tigercat

Kicked
Always wondered why only the pilot (& only officer) was awarded the VC. Unless the rest of the crew were screaming at him not to do it & throw away their lives (which would never be known) I assume that all of them agreed tacitly or not to make the attack run with little room to recover.


I was thinking exactly that - probably a hangover from the British class system unfortunately
 
The British wouldn't have known initially about Gneiseau's torpedo damage.

The pilot who successfully carried out the attack was awarded the VC but the British only found out the details from the Resistance

The Germans buried Campbell and his three crew mates, Sergeants J. P. Scott DFM RCAF (navigator),[5] R. W. Hillman (wireless operator) and W. C. Mulliss (air gunner), with full military honours. His valour was only recognised when the French Resistance managed to pass along news of his brave deeds to Britain.[3]

I suppose they would have seen her move back into dry dock.

But they would have had to leave something to cover Brest.
Naval History Net says that the British didn't know about Gneisenau's torpedo damage for some time. They might not have known about damage that she received in the air raid 10th/11th April by 15th April either. But I don't know if they did or didn't.

I've already written that King George V was blockading Brest on 15th April 1941. I think you're suggesting that she'd have to remain off Brest instead of sail for Scapa Flow to reinforce Hood.

However, according to her entry on Naval History Net Repulse in transit to the Bay of Biscay on 15th April and "At 1800 hours arrived in patrol position."

These are the relevant entries from Naval History Net for Repulse.
  • 14th - The destroyers refuelled from RENOWN. During the day RENOWN and ARK ROYAL carried out 4.5in practise at a splash target towed by one of the destroyers. At 1630 hours Somerville handed over command of the blockading force to Admiral Tovey. Force H then covered the minelayer ABDIEL while she laid 300 mines in the approaches to Brest. Following which Force H set course for Gibraltar.
  • 16th – At 1245 hours Force H arrived back at Gibraltar.
So it looks like Force H could have been ordered to turn back on 15th April to relieve King George V.

And part of the OP is that the Beaufort that torpedoed Gneisenau was shot down before the torpedo could be launched not afterwards and comes out in support of Bismarck. There's a good chance that she'd be sunk by the blockading force.
 
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Sargon

Donor
Monthly Donor
I've looked further into this.

These are the dates from Bismarck and Prinz Eugen leaving Gotenhafen to the Battle of the Denmark Strait IOTL and the dates if they left Gotenhafen 35 days earlier.


NB I know that it's unlikely that it would be exactly like that due to the longer days and different weather (for two things there will be others) but it's the best I can do and does give us a rough guide.

These are Hood's OTL movements between 6th and 21st April 1941 IOTL.
  • 6th - At 0815 hours arrived at Scapa Flow escorted by destroyers ELECTRA, ESCAPADE, and TARTAR.
    • (At 0900/6/4/41 the CinC HF in KING GEORGE V divided the area off Brest into 4 sectors A to D each 15º between bearings 213º and 273º, mean distance from Brest 560 miles.
    • At 1535/6/4/41 the Admiralty signalled “Consider battlecruisers will probably leave Brest tonight”. This was because the GNEISENAU had moved out of dry dock into the inner harbour; which was in fact due to a 250lb UXB in the dock.)
    • At 1946 hours sailed from Scapa Flow escorted by destroyers ZULU, MAORI and ARROW and sailed for position 50N, 20W in sector C off Brest.
    • (At 0602/7/4/41 GNEISENAU was hit in the stern, and put out of action for 7 months, by a torpedo dropped by Bristol Beaufort OA-X of 22 Squadron RAF flown by F.O. Kenneth Campbell, who was posthumously awarded the VC. However, this was not known to the Admiralty for some time)
  • 8th - At 0800 hours arrived at position 54N, 15-30W to commence patrol.
  • 8th - At 1200 hours in position 50N, 21W RVed with cruiser KENYA.
  • 10th - Destroyers ARROW and COSSACK detached to refuel at Londonderry.
  • 11th - At 0800 hours the refuelled destroyers ARROW and COSSACK from Londonderry rejoined. Following which destroyers MAORI and ZULU detached to refuel at Londonderry
  • 13th - The refuelled destroyers MAORI and ZULU from Londonderry rejoined.
  • 15th - At 0630 hours arrived back at Scapa Flow escorted by destroyers COSSACK, ZULU, and MAORI. ARROW, who was unable to maintain the speed and had been detached, arrived at Scapa Flow later.
  • 18th - At 1645 hours sailed from Scapa Flow in company with cruiser KENYA and destroyers COSSACK, MAORI and ZULU for the Biscay patrol to relieve KING GEORGE V.
  • 19th - At 0120 hours following Admiralty order the HOOD force were diverted to Hvalfjord. (This deployment was to counter any attempt by the German battleship BISMARCK to break out into the Atlantic. Following a report of a German force passing through the Skagerrak)
  • 21st - At 1000 hours arrived at Hvalfjord in company with COSSACK, INGLEFIELD, MAORI and ZULU.
These are King George V's movements between 13th and 22nd April 1941 IOTL.
  • 13th - At 0107 hours KING GEORGE V, light cruiser NIGERIA, and destroyers MASHONA, ELECTRA and ESCAPADE departed Scapa Flow for position 46-30N, 18-10W to mount patrol off the Bay of Biscay. At 1800 hours position 57-48N, 9-35W.
  • 14th - At 0515 hours unidentified aircraft sighted passing from port to starboard. At 0611 hours sighted a large group of unidentified aircraft passing from starboard to port. At 0618 sighted destroyers HMCS SAGUENAY and RESTIGOUCHE bearing 110¼. At 1039 hours radar reported single aircraft bearing 282¼, 14 miles. At 1130 hours position 54-44N, 12-39W.
  • 15th - At 0800 hours position 50-30N, 19-14W, course 227¼, speed 19 knots. At 1045 hours destroyers MASHONA, ELECTRA and ESCAPADE were detached to refuel at Londonderry.
  • 16th - At 0900 hours position 46-28N, 18-01W, course 220¼, speed 18 knots. At 0925 hours speed reduced to 17 knots due to heavy weather. At 1900 hours position 46-56N, 18-40W, and course 090¼.
  • 17th - At 0800 hours position 44-05N, 17-07W and course 320¼.
  • 18th - At 0800 hours position 44-37N, 17-48W, course 270¼, speed 18 knots.
    • (Late on the 18/4/41 the Admiralty received a report that German battleship BISMARCK, two cruisers, cruiser Leipzig class and three destroyers passed the Skaw early morning of 18/4/41 steering north west. This report was false, as at the time the BISMARCK was in the Baltic)
  • 19th - At 0001 hours position 45-31N, 17-21W and speed 21 knots. At 0150 hours altered course to 000¼ and increased speed to 20 knots to return to Scapa. At 0900 hours position 46-39N, 18-12W.
  • 20th - At 0900 hours position 49-46N, 20-53W, course 060¼, speed 17 knots. KING GEORGE V and NIGERIA was joined by destroyers ESCAPADE, ELECTRA and MASHONA from Londonderry. At 1342 hours position 49-24N, 20-49W, course 043¼, speed 17½ knots.
  • 21st - At 0350 hours received a report from CinC Western Approaches 0303/21; 'One Catalina aircraft missing. Following received at 0210/21 from Sunderland aircraft, begins: Distress flares seen in position 53-42N, 13-24W. No further news, searching, ends'. (This was Catalina AH 532 of 210 Squadron that was on an Atlantic Patrol from Loch Erne, N.I.) At 0628 hours altered course to 051¼ to search for missing Catalina. At 0900 hours altered course to 090¼. 0914 hours received Admiralty message 0909/21; 'Blue air raid message'. At 1213 hours KING GEORGE V opened fire with her 5.25in at aircraft identified as German.
  • 22nd - At 0700 hours position 58-37N, 7-37W, course 085¼, speed 17½ knots. At 1552 hours KING GEORGE V, light cruiser NIGERIA and destroyers ESCAPADE, ELECTRA and MASHONA arrived at Scapa.
The source for both is Naval History Net.

I think it's quite likely that a Swedish warship would have sighted the German warships on 15th April, reasonable to expect a British reconnaissance aircraft to spot them in Grimstadfjord on 16th April and for Norfolk or Suffolk to spot them on 18th April. (I wrote in an earlier post that the two cruisers patrolled the Denmark Strait in April 1941 IOTL.)

Hood was at Scapa Flow on 15th April having arrived at 0630 the same day. My guess is that she'd be refuelled and ordered to sail for Hvalfjord PDQ. IOTL it took 2 days to sail from Scapa Flow to the Denmark Strait (22nd to 24th May 1941) so it looks like there's enough time for her to be in position on 19th April ITTL.

King George V was blockading The Twins in Brest on 18th April, she set course for Scapa Flow early the next day and was back at Scapa Flow on 22nd April, which was 4 days later. Those were her movements IOTL following the false alarm of 18th April 1941.

King George V was also blockading the Twins in Brest on 15th April. So it looks as if the ships were sighted by the Swedes on that day ITTL she could be at Scapa Flow on 19th April but there isn't time to get her to the Denmark Strait by that date.

I used this website to see what the positions in Naval History Net were on a map.

If my research and estimates are correct Hood would be fighting Bismarck and Prinz Eugen on 19th April 1941 without the support of King George V.

That's an impressive amount of research you have done there. In fact througout the thread you've made a good effort to do a lot. It has not gone unnoticed. Thanks for that.

So it seems Hood would be on her own in this scenario. There might be the possibility of accompanying destroyers, but they may not be able to keep station as in OTL.

This is not an optimal situation as unless she splits her fire (which is unwise given what she's facing) she is going to have an unengaged target free to launch salvoes at her. On the other hand the chances of a repeat magazine explosion aren't that high.

Unless she can score a quick couple of damaging hits either on Bismarck or Prinz Eugen to knock one of them up a bit, she's probably going to be in trouble. The Germans would probably rather not encounter her, but will fight if necessary and much depends on what hits they achieve early on as well. I would imagine she would probably suffer moderate to severe damage in such an encounter, and may even be sunk. However, she could stand a reasonable chance of mission-killing Bismarck and sinking Prinz Eugen. More possibly, both German ships survive, perhaps Prinz Eugen undamaged (again), and Hood only withdraws under cover of smoke after her commander feels he's done enough damage on Bismarck to count.

If Hood has destroyers present, then that evens things up rather more, with Bismarck and Prinz Eugen perhaps looking trouble in the face. And/or if we can wangle a cruiser or two then that's even better and the chances of a bad day for the German force rises.

Other factors such as weather and sea state will affect things as well.

I guess it's too much to hope for a reverse Hood where it is Bismarck which suffers a magazine explosion. ;)


Sargon
 
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FWIW my initial thoughts were that the TTL version of Operation Rheinübung would be Operation Berlin on steroids.

Bismarck and Prinz Eugen would break into the North Atlantic via the Denmark Strait because they'd not be detected or the Home Fleet wouldn't have any forces that were close enough to intercept them. Gneisenau (not damaged on 6th and 10th/11th April 1941 ITTL) would come out in support and eventually rendezvous with Bismarck. After about 60 days at sea they'd arrive at Brest or try to return to Germany via the Denmark Strait or Faeroe - Iceland passage.

However, I now think that ITTL it's just as likely that Holland with Hood supported by Norfolk, Suffolk and his destroyers would intercept and sink Bismarck and Prinz Eugen in the Denmark Strait while Repulse and Renown sink Gneisenau when she attempts to break into the North Atlantic from Brest.

It depends upon whether Bismarck and Prinz Eugen can break into the North Atlantic undetected and if they are detected where the British "chess pieces" were when the German ships were detected.

Edit

I started writing this post before @Sargon uploaded Post 43 and I might have altered what I wrote about how Hood's encounter with Bismarck might have turned out if I'd read said post first.
 
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Considering how thing ended for Graff Spee it is worth considering if the entire panzerschiff concept was viable. The idea was that it could outfight enemy cruisers but an undergunned/underweight pair of 6" cruisers and a VASTLY undergunned/underweight 8" cruiser managed to do all that was necessary, damage her badly enough to make the chances of ever returning home minimal.. That was despite the ship being close to 50% over "official" weight (14,700 tons standard vs. 10,000 tons standard on paper).

A much better design, assuming a heavy surface raider was seen as useful (I rather fall into the "how fast can we break these things up and reuse the steel for U-Boats" school of thought) would have been something similar to the Japanese Tone class, except with more bunkerage. Fast as a thief (35+ knots), 4x2 20.3 cm guns, MASSIVE torpedo armament if faced with a strong opponent (4x3 610mm tubes for Long Lances and a full set of reloads) with a designed complement of six seaplanes. If that design is used as a raider it is going to be a serious unlucky (or incompetent) captain that is going to be run to ground.
Something more like a Hipper - capable of outrunning anything it cannot outfight?

8" guns, 3 aircraft, 12 tubes.

Speed of 32 knots and 6,800 nms at 20 knots

The Panzerschiff were political in giving the KM greater international status - while they were ridiculed among some circles they and potential ships like them did cause concern.

The French in response built the Dunkirk's and the USA built....well I fear even mentioning that class here.....
 
Worst case: Bismarck sunk.
That's too optimistic. (For the Germans). They'd loose Prinz Eugen and Gneisenau too.

If we say that the engine defects that Scharnhorst developed in the OTL Operation Berlin weren't developed ITTL she goes down with Gneisenau.

Timing is everything, but if the "chess pieces" are in the wrong places (for the Germans) Bismarck and Prinz Eugen are sunk by Holland with Hood, Norfolk, Suffolk and destroyers. While Somerville and Tovey sink The Twins with King George V, Repulse and Renown assisted by Ark Royal and the cruisers and destroyers of Force H and the Home Fleet that were on patrol off Brest at the time.

There could be another three busts in Trafalgar Square (i.e. of Holland, Tovey and Somerville) alongside those of Beatty, Cunningham and Jellicoe.
 
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In the OTL Denmark Strait battle, I always wondered what if Prinz Eugen did a “Taffy 3” attack on PoW and escorts the evening after Hood exploded. Her captain decides that saving Bismarck (and an admiral) is his duty. So instead of detaching at 6pm and escaping as OTL (per Lutjens order), she turns back to the PoW and cruisers at high speed and attacks. I believe Prinz Eugen’s radar was still operational. Guns firing, torpedoes, the works. Might this buy Bismarck the time to escape? (as long as Lutjens stays off the damn radio!)

ric350
 

tigercat

Kicked
Thank you Nomisyrruc for your insight and research

Interesting point about HMS Abdiel - mines as well as the blockading force for the Twins to dodge

This is a second Norway for the Germans with them losing a big chunk of their navy
 
Best case: Bismarck and PE with surprise and a little more dark in April break out undetected, find and attack a convoy, maybe escorted by a QE class battleship, Bismarck engages the British battleship, PE goes after scattering merchants. Bismarck sinks the escorting battleship, PE runs down 20 or so merchants. Bismarck suffers little enough damage she is able to stay out on the high seas refuelled by a lurking German tanker, maybe gets a chance at another convoy, before returning home to Germany successfully.

(With long term ill effects that the British change their convoy system to escort with 2 Battleships or do something to lower the number of ships reaching England, or reduce Battleships in the Mediterranean or Pacific or some such thing.).

Medium case: Bismarck goes to port in France with damage from such a convoy battle. British launch a major bombing effort, keeping Bismarck non operational indefinitely, but diverting bombers from hitting Germany.
My version of best case is roughly a combination of your best and medium cases.

I know that this involves some wishful thinking and hand waving, but please remember that this is the best case, not the most likely case.
  • Bismarck and Prinz Eugen (I keep typing Tirpitz instead - is that a Freudian slip?) leave Gotenhafen on the night of 13th/14th April 1941.
  • Instead of their OTL route to the North Sea they transit the Kiel Canal because past experience tells the Germans that its very likely that a Swedish warship would sight then and that the Swedes will pass the information onto the British. There aren't any chance "spottings" of the ships by Bomber Command, regular PR sorties or Danish fishing vessels.
  • They arrive on Grimstadfjord 16th April and depart on 17th April. There's no sighting by a British reconnaissance aircraft because the British still think that the ships are still in the Baltic so no aircraft are sent to have a look.
  • Shorter days/faulty radar/pure bad luck prevents Norfolk or Suffolk spotting the German ships in the Denmark Strait or they take the Faeroes - Iceland passage for a change and by good luck aren't sighted by the Northern Patrol or Coastal Command.
  • The false sighting of 18th April 1941 still happens, but the Admiralty doesn't know where the German ships are for certain until they attack their first HX convoy.
  • Bismarck doesn't close on the escorting R class battleship and kill it. Instead it uses the greater range of its 15" guns and its superior speed to keep the British capital ship occupied and minimise the risk of "mission killing" damage to itself while Prinz Eugen engages the convoy.
  • This is the signal for Gneisenau (not damaged ITTL) to break out of Brest. She avoids the British blockade and (as planned before she was damaged IOTL) makes a sweep between the Cape Verde Islands and the Azores before joining up with the Bismarck group.
  • Bismarck, Gneisenau and Prinz Eugen arrive at Brest in mid-June 1941. That is after about 60 days at sea which was the duration of Operation Berlin. (Somehow Prinz Eugen doesn't have the machinery trouble that caused her sortie to be cut short IOTL.) During that time the three ships sink or capture more merchant shipping than The Twins did in Operation Berlin but I'm not going to make a guess on how much more.
  • Then the RAF drops an even greater tonnage of bombs on Brest between then and February 1942 than it did ITTL. None of the three ships that were there in OTL suffer any additional damage that prevents them from taking part in Operation Cerberus. Similarly, none of the bombs that missed Prinz Eugen and The Twins IOTL hit Bismarck ITTL or if they do they don't stop her from taking part in Operation Cerberus.
  • Operation Cerberus is even more successful than OTL because the ships are in slightly different positions which means that none of them hit mines in the North Sea.
  • All 4 ships are successfully transferred from Germany to Norway in Operation Sportslast.
I repeat that I know that this involves some wishful thinking and hand waving, but please remember that this is the best case, not the most likely case.

I think it's just as likely that it goes horribly wrong (for the Germans) and all three ships are sunk.
 
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Medium case: Bismarck goes to port in France with damage from such a convoy battle. British launch a major bombing effort, keeping Bismarck non operational indefinitely, but diverting bombers from hitting Germany.
IMHO there isn't a medium case. It's either an outstanding success along the lines of Post 50 or the total failure of Post 46.
 

CalBear

Moderator
Donor
Monthly Donor
I wonder if that was part of why Graf Zeppelin was designed with such a heavy gun armament

So she could be a commerce raider

The Allies have one less carrier available with no Victorious so really need Ark Royal to carry out a successful strike

If the changes butterflies away the abortive attack on HMS Sheffield then they don't necessarily swap the magnetic torpedo pistols for contact ones
That is exactly why.

The bloody fools thought that an UNESCORTED AIRCRAFT CARRIER would make a simply lovey commerce raider.

Let's not take into consideration how much fuel she'd burn simply getting enough wind over the deck to launch any aircraft, or how much fuel even a modest size air wing would use, or how vulnerable she, a national asset, would be in bad weather or at night when she couldn't operate her aircraft.

What about the Gneisenau? Wasn't it an acceptable compromise?
Personally, I think the Hipper class was a waste of ressources, same for the light cruisers and to a degree, the huge twins. I would have focused on more Deutchlands thens Gneisenaus plus 1936 Destroyers (and rebuilt 1934 ones). Less models, easier logistics, utlimately more ships.
After all, before Reader, the Reichsmarine was focusing on developping a Raiding strategy for decades (pun not intented). Reader practically screwed it all up, leaving the Kriegsmarine with no real strategy or doctrine.

PS: the Japanese Tone-class had the advantage of having true DP 127mm guns. The Germans were only really planning to have these for the 1944 Destroyers. Surely it saves weight for the Deutchlands and Gneisenaus but can the Germans have them for 1938/1939?
I would argue that the Twins were also a poor match for a commerce raider. While less expensive overall than the Bismarck Class (although less than it initially appears once inflation is accounted for) the Sharnhorst class were actually 35% MORE expensive when considered on "price per ton" with Scharnhorst coming in at ~4,500 RM/ton with Bismarck at ~3850 RM/ton. The cost of the Twins is in their "temporary" 28.3 cm build, refit to the eventual 38 cm build would have put them OVER the cost of at least Tirpitz and very possibly Bismarck.

The KM heavy cruisers were surprisingly, even shocking, pricey, with Printz Eugen (at 108M RM) costing 2/3 of either of the Twins. As a comparison the U.S. Baltimore class were less than half the cost of a South Dakota class BB.

The Reich's shipbuilding effort was possibly even MORE screwed up than their Panzer production.

Always wondered why only the pilot (& only officer) was awarded the VC. Unless the rest of the crew were screaming at him not to do it & throw away their lives (which would never be known) I assume that all of them agreed tacitly or not to make the attack run with little room to recover.
That is pretty much always the way it works. The pilot is ultimately the one who makes the run, although I personally believe that the rest of the crew should get a serious decoration as well. Using the U.S. system, since I'm more familiar with it, if the pilot gets The Medal, so should the co-pilot if there is one, and any other crew should get at least a Bronze Star with "V" device, probably a Silver Star.
 
I'm not sure there was a clear idea of how to use GZ. Certainly ideas would have varied during design and construction as the naval situation changed.

But I'm fairly confident that the heavy armament and fast speed was an explicit recognition of the dangers of operating in the North Sea at night or in bad weather, when a hostile cruiser or destroyer could suddenly appeared a few thousand yards away. It's the same logic that gives carriers armoured hangar sides or 8" guns, and it's reasonable based on the technology and naval situation when designed.
 

thaddeus

Donor
once the invasion of the USSR had been decided on, cannot understand, no matter how valuable the convoy was, sending the Bismarck on a raiding mission? the possibility of "Arctic Convoys" was known to them, shouldn't they have wanted the Bismarck and Tirpitz as a kind of checkmate on that?

not sure the proper successor to the panzefschiffe? something that could have operated in tandem with the u-boats, and have some seaplane handling capacity?

Considering how thing ended for Graff Spee it is worth considering if the entire panzerschiff concept was viable.

A much better design, assuming a heavy surface raider was seen as useful (I rather fall into the "how fast can we break these things up and reuse the steel for U-Boats" school of thought) would have been something similar to the Japanese Tone class, except with more bunkerage. Fast as a thief (35+ knots), 4x2 20.3 cm guns, MASSIVE torpedo armament if faced with a strong opponent (4x3 610mm tubes for Long Lances and a full set of reloads) with a designed complement of six seaplanes. If that design is used as a raider it is going to be a serious unlucky (or incompetent) captain that is going to be run to ground.

What about the Gneisenau? Wasn't it an acceptable compromise?
Personally, I think the Hipper class was a waste of ressources, same for the light cruisers and to a degree, the huge twins. I would have focused on more Deutchlands thens Gneisenaus plus 1936 Destroyers (and rebuilt 1934 ones). Less models, easier logistics, utlimately more ships.
After all, before Reader, the Reichsmarine was focusing on developping a Raiding strategy for decades (pun not intented). Reader practically screwed it all up, leaving the Kriegsmarine with no real strategy or doctrine.

PS: the Japanese Tone-class had the advantage of having true DP 127mm guns. The Germans were only really planning to have these for the 1944 Destroyers. Surely it saves weight for the Deutchlands and Gneisenaus but can the Germans have them for 1938/1939?

I would argue that the Twins were also a poor match for a commerce raider. While less expensive overall than the Bismarck Class (although less than it initially appears once inflation is accounted for) the Sharnhorst class were actually 35% MORE expensive when considered on "price per ton" with Scharnhorst coming in at ~4,500 RM/ton with Bismarck at ~3850 RM/ton. The cost of the Twins is in their "temporary" 28.3 cm build, refit to the eventual 38 cm build would have put them OVER the cost of at least Tirpitz and very possibly Bismarck.

The KM heavy cruisers were surprisingly, even shocking, pricey, with Printz Eugen (at 108M RM) costing 2/3 of either of the Twins. As a comparison the U.S. Baltimore class were less than half the cost of a South Dakota class BB.

The Reich's shipbuilding effort was possibly even MORE screwed up than their Panzer production.

IDK how you avoid the Hipper and Scharnhorst classes? (and guess you could include the GZ carrier) their Plan Z returned to diesel power, so almost the whole of the WWII fleet can be considered an interim step?

possibly the carrier project could mirror the Italian conversion of an ocean liner? (the SS Columbus was available)

the existing Pz ships had a known rebuild, replace the 150mm & 105mm guns with 128mm ones, with some changes to the hull it was projected to increase their speed. just build more of those ships with 8" guns to utilize their heavy cruiser allowance instead of the Hipper-class? (so the original 3 + 5 more with 8" guns)

at the top of the heap just build another pair of Twins with the 15" guns? certainly they could arrive faster than the Bismarck-class?
 
IDK how you avoid the Hipper and Scharnhorst classes? (and guess you could include the GZ carrier) their Plan Z returned to diesel power, so almost the whole of the WWII fleet can be considered an interim step?

possibly the carrier project could mirror the Italian conversion of an ocean liner? (the SS Columbus was available)

the existing Pz ships had a known rebuild, replace the 150mm & 105mm guns with 128mm ones, with some changes to the hull it was projected to increase their speed. just build more of those ships with 8" guns to utilize their heavy cruiser allowance instead of the Hipper-class? (so the original 3 + 5 more with 8" guns)

at the top of the heap just build another pair of Twins with the 15" guns? certainly they could arrive faster than the Bismarck-class?
Being in the mindset of the then designers and decision makers - The problem with building another pair of 15" Twins over the Bismarck's is that everyone else who is in the game is Building 35000 ton Modern Fast BBs with 14" guns with an escalation clause to 15" and possibly much larger vessels with 16" guns with armour designed to be proof against them (whatever that means in practical terms).

So simply building such a pair of vessel's will leave Germany weaker (ship for ship) than her 'peers' at least in the minds of those making the decision

I've often argued that Britain would have been better off building a bunch of KGV Renown's - that is a 30 knot 35000 ton BB using the Mk1'N' twin 15" turrets recycled from older ships giving them the same firepower as the refitted HMS Renown with much reduced crewing costs over a KGV with a similair armour scheme to a KGV and costing far less allowing for a greater number of Hulls allowing the replacement of the older Revenge and QE BBs.

What I call an Austere Modern treaty BB

I would have been laughed out of the room and then probably locked up for a head case had I suggested that in the early 30s.
 
IDK how you avoid the Hipper and Scharnhorst classes? (and guess you could include the GZ carrier) their Plan Z returned to diesel power, so almost the whole of the WWII fleet can be considered an interim step?

Remember up until Plan Z, the Germans are building against France. Hippers to match Algerie and Suffrens, Scharnhorsts against Dunquerques and Bismarcks opposite Richelieus. It's only once war with the UK enters the equation that KM building program is exposed as woefully inadequate.

possibly the carrier project could mirror the Italian conversion of an ocean liner? (the SS Columbus was available)

the existing Pz ships had a known rebuild, replace the 150mm & 105mm guns with 128mm ones, with some changes to the hull it was projected to increase their speed. just build more of those ships with 8" guns to utilize their heavy cruiser allowance instead of the Hipper-class? (so the original 3 + 5 more with 8" guns)

at the top of the heap just build another pair of Twins with the 15" guns? certainly they could arrive faster than the Bismarck-class?

The French (not to mention the RN, largest navy in the world) were always going to have more destroyers than the Germans, and the German destroyers and light cruisers were unsuited to oceanic operations (Emden aside). Dedicated anti-ship secondaries and heavy Anti-Air batteries are not an ideal solution, but in my opinion they are an admission there will be no or little escort in likely engagements by capital ships, and heavy stopping power was required. And also that there will always be a possibility of being engaged by both enemy light force and air power simultaneously, however unlikely.

My thoughts,
 
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I'm not sure there was a clear idea of how to use GZ. Certainly ideas would have varied during design and construction as the naval situation changed.

But I'm fairly confident that the heavy armament and fast speed was an explicit recognition of the dangers of operating in the North Sea at night or in bad weather, when a hostile cruiser or destroyer could suddenly appeared a few thousand yards away. It's the same logic that gives carriers armoured hangar sides or 8" guns, and it's reasonable based on the technology and naval situation when designed.

Its often forgotten the early USN carriers Saratoga & Lexington sported 8" guns for near two decades. The Sara did not have hers removed until after being torpedoed in January 1942.

For bonus points name the carrier & battle of the only known action were a carrier did fire its guns on a enemy warship. Hint: the target was a cruiser.
 
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