Possibility of converting C class cruisers into escort CVS.

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Count of Crisco, Feb 11, 2019.

  1. Count of Crisco Pithy remark here.

    Jun 25, 2015
    Earth third rock from the sun .
    The twenty eight ships of the C class served as the most numerous British light cruiser formed the basis of the British cruiser force for most of world war one and beyond. However by the 1930s these ships were considered outdated and some of the class was retired by the RN while others were converted into heavy AA platforms and used in the coming world war to decent effect.

    My question is this, what if, short on Carriers, the British decided to convert a few of these small ships into light escort carriers. Say they design these ships just before the war, and once the need for aircover over the Atlantic convoys becomes apparent the ships are converted as quickly as possible. And that they enter service in late 40 and 41. Being used to escort various convoys and thus freeing up the RNs fleet carriers for other operations.

    My question though is not regarding what the effects of having these ships would be for the RN. But rather I would like to know both the feasibility of such a conversion as well as the potential capabilities of such a ship. Specifically how many aircraft such a conversion could likely carry, how capable and large these planes would be. And how badly the speed, seaworthyness and handling of the ships post conversion would be affected.

    The C class was small, only a little over 130 metres if I remember correctly. Quite a bit smaller than other escort carriers of the period, the Casablanca class for instance was over a dozen metres longer, and a fair bit wider. The class was also much smaller than the Independence class light carriers of the USN, a similar conversion from a light cruiser class.

    I would guess the airgroup carried would be very small as a result. Likely around two dozen planes. And the vehicles carried would likely be rather small as well due to cramped space. But I am hardly an expert on carriers, or naval development so any ideas or input is welcome.
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  2. Gunnarnz Well-Known Member

    Jan 15, 2011
    A small air group could still be useful. Literally anything that could stay over a submerged U-boat and vector escorts to it - say, a Tiger Moth with a radio operator in the back seat - would drastically alter the effectiveness of submarine attacks. A handful of Sea Hurricanes, possibly even Sea Gladiators, would be enough to make Condors think carefully about how closely they could shadow a convoy.
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  3. sdgottsch Well-Known Member

    Aug 25, 2017
    The Long Island Class CVE had a deck length of 123 meters so 130 isn't too small...especially if you are using RN bi-plane's.

    The issue is the tonnage difference. The C-Class was about 5,000 tons and the US CVE's were at least 10,000 tons and if you look at the IJN carrier conversions they were either merchant/liners or heavy cruiser (Ibuki for example).
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2019
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  4. SwampTiger Well-Known Member

    Aug 14, 2016
    You are inviting major stability issues with this conversion. These are tiny cruisers compared to later designs. The IJN Hosho is the closest comparison and is much larger. It had stability and strength issues. Its air complement was about a dozen aircraft.
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  5. Alanith Well-Known Member

    Oct 16, 2013
    The C-class is so small that the work to make it a viable and useful escort carrier would be more expensive then a new build.
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  6. Aelita In ur means of production...

    Nov 10, 2008
    Earth, to my misfortune
    The Long Island is about 80 percent wider at the waterline. Deck length alone doesn't make a viable CVE; flight-deck superstructure is quite heavy, and a certain amount of beam is necessary for both stability as well as flight-deck operations.
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  7. SwampTiger Well-Known Member

    Aug 14, 2016
    I think the Emerald class is the smallest possible conversion, and it is marginal. You would need bulges added for stability.

    The Japanese conversions included several seaplane and submarine tenders smaller than the Independence class, but larger than Hosho.
  8. Riain Well-Known Member

    Feb 17, 2007
    I think the Hawkins class would be the best candidate for a cruiser into light carrier conversion. IOTL money was spent on regunning several with single 6" turrets, that effort could have been used on a carrier conversion instead. I think the C class are too small, the AA conversions are a good step for them and if done in sufficient numbers could have avoided the Dido class.
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  9. SwampTiger Well-Known Member

    Aug 14, 2016
  10. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

    Dec 14, 2012
    Better to rethink the Armed part or the Armed Merchant Cruiser. Aircraft decks instead of guns. Prewar consideration of conversion of merchant hulls into these CVE or CVL types. The this into supplying Coastal Command with adequate aircraft in 1939, including a group of VLR aircraft, & the Battle of the Atlantic is a less demanding affair for Britain. Fewer losses, fewer convoys, fewer shipping crisis, more attention or other matters...
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  11. naraic Well-Known Member

    May 14, 2014
    Hawkins class to light carrier is doable.

    If an old cruiser to escort carrier carrier is wanted its something of a different question.
  12. CalBear Your Ursus arctos californicus Moderator Moderator Donor

    Oct 4, 2005
    What is the available reserve boyancy and topside weight limit?

    No idea what the answer is to either question, but those are the two numbers that decide if you keep the ships' keel pointed down.
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  13. Jellico Well-Known Member

    Dec 14, 2017
    The Empire had a cruiser shortage in 1920 let alone 1939. While the Cs were short ranged fleet cruisers in the Arethusa mould they were modern all big gun turbine ships in a navy of VTE Counties and Towns. They are too valuable as cruiser hulls to convert. The Empire was only decommissioning them because of tonnage limitations.

    Hawkins or maybe Es are a better option, if only because of their size. But even they gave valuable service in secondary and tertiary theaters patrolling sea lanes. Remember cruisers are persistent in a way aircraft aren't.
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  14. Driftless Geezer

    Sep 16, 2011
    Out in the Driftless Area
    If not as CVE's, could some of those ships have served in an APD role?
  15. SwampTiger Well-Known Member

    Aug 14, 2016
    Convert them to reefers between the wars, then revert to APD/APC in 1939/40.
  16. Cryhavoc101 Well-Known Member

    Jun 27, 2014
    1123 6536 5321
    The Hawkins at 10,000 tons are the only real option here - I think 10,000 ton conversion is the lower limit and Casablancas aside 10,000 ton is pretty much it for a purpose built CVE/CVL

    One of my darlings which is often murdered which I might one day write

    Another option is to partially remove armament and turn some of the earlier Crusiers into 'Sealane control Cruisers' with a Catapult, crane and seaplane hangar for 2-4 aircraft (such as a Swordfish Amphib)

    And to be fair to those Casablanca class they could manage large aircraft as well if using a deck park!


    Yes I was trying to be funny
  17. Driftless Geezer

    Sep 16, 2011
    Out in the Driftless Area
    That's a fair chunk of weight topside. 8 PBY's at roughly 21k lbs & 18 F4f's at 5k per, plus whatever the biplane goes. I'm impressed
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  18. SsgtC Ready to Call it a Day

    May 14, 2017
    Plus what's struck down below in the hanger...
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  19. Jellico Well-Known Member

    Dec 14, 2017
    I wonder if they would be flyable if you rolled them off the side. Recovery would be difficult...
  20. Zheng He Well-Known Member

    Aug 3, 2013
    A number of the C class ships were converted to AA cruisers, overall that is probably a more useful role for them.

    WRT the Hawkins class cruisers, as someone else pointed out, the older cruisers (and battleships) of the RN and for that matter the USN provided yeoman's service around the world in lesser theaters of the war. Their contributions while not high profile are not easily dismissed.
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