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Thread: The Grey Ships - a British Battleship AAR

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    The Grey Ships - a British Battleship AAR

    The Grey Ships – A British Battleship AAR

    For over 500 years, Britain's safety had depended on her fleet, repelling Spanish, Dutch, French and German attackers alike. For 130 years that fleet had been the world's greatest naval force. For a century since Trafalgar the Royal Navy’s supremacy had deterred naval war, and British ships had seized the sea for Crown and Empire.

    When in 1923 HMS Hood embarked on a tour of the possessions her forbears had won for the Empire, she travelled the length and breadth of the world, and was greeted by almost a million well-wishers from all the Empire’s races. The ship accumulated a menagerie including Arabian horses, Indian leopards, colourful birds of paradise, koalas and kangaroos, from its many ports of call.

    The Hood was an example of the ship that had dominated naval combat for 50 years: the great, grey, ship of steel, mounting the most powerful firearms known to mankind – the battleship.

    The Navy in the early 20th Century

    The only major engagement of the Battleship era had been a resounding victory for the Royal Navy. At the Battle of Jutland , the German battlefleet had been forced to turn tail to port, conceding the seas to Britain and her allies.

    As a result of the First World War, the German fleet was largely scuttled, and naval construction limited by a plethora of international treaties. With its main rival defeated, British naval construction paused for fifteen years.

    The Royal Navy at the beginning of 1936 possessed fifteen battleships. Six were veterans of Jutland, and only two, the Nelson class dated from after the First War.

    These fifteen ships were required to defend the Empire against all comers. The Italians had signalled their expansive intent with the invasion of Abyssinia. The Japanese announced their departure from the Naval Treaties to engage in a programme of naval expansion – a clear message that Japan was intent on aggrandisement. And the new political power in Germany was unlikely to treat her navy of two obsolete battleships as enough. The French and American fleets were ill-maintained and out of date, and Britain could not depend on her ‘fair-weather friends’ for help in the storm of naval rivalry that gathered on the horizon.

  2. #2
    Author's Notes:

    This is an AAR focused, as you might guess, on the British navy. I'm playing it through Doomsday, Normal/Normal, but will only report on things that impact on ships or shipbuilding.

    The style I'm aiming for is the slightly breathless, somewhat biased but basically knowledgeable tone of the many middle-brow histories of aspects of WWII that are a staple of the Military History sections of British public libraries. So you can expect a fair amount of detail about gun calibres and nautical miles, but also to see entire theatres of warfare summed up in a less than respectful sentence.

    More later today - hope you enjoy!

  3. #3
    Norway über alles kenneththegreat's Avatar

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    Contra-Vice-Double Colonel Alexus's Avatar
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    Me too!

  5. #5
    moi aussi.

  6. #6
    Non sufficit orbis Lord E's Avatar
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    Very nice start, I am looking forward to this story
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  7. #7

    The Opening Moves

    The Opening Moves

    In early 1936 the Admiralty placed orders for four modern battleships, and two aircraft carriers.

    While this breached the London Naval Treaty, Admiralty intelligence suggested that Italy and Japan (both also signatories to the Treaty) were engaged in aggressive naval rearmament, and that Germany intended to embark on its own. The six new capital ships were nonetheless intended, when completed, to replace the six older ships of the Revenge class



    Naval architects had already produced plans for a class of battleships with 9x15” main armament, but for ‘political’ reasons the armament was changed to an array of 10x14” guns. Each ship would carry a massive 14,000 tons of armour. The four battleships were provisionally named King George V, Prince of Wales, Duke of York and Anson – the ships that would become the King George V class.

    While the King George V class were designed with Atlantic combat in mind, the British Empire had global responsibilities. Britain depended on dominance of the Mediterranean and of trade routes to India and the Antipodes. To supply a battlefleet required a secure base with stores and defences. The War Office embarked on a discreet programme of expansion and updating of its overseas harbours.

    Particularly important was the introduction of RADAR and anti-air defence to far-flung bases. The nation might be gripped by fear of destruction from the air, but the Fleet at least could be protected from bombardment.



    The expansion of the battlefleet was also accompanied by orders for more modern cruiser and destroyer designs. The minor ships played a vital role in escorting convoys, scouting, and protecting the battlefleet against torpedo attacks. Yet, like the battleships, the bulk of these vessels had been constructed during World War I. In particular, the C-class cruisers, with an armament of just 5x6” guns, were little match for German ships like the KMS Koln, with nine such guns, plentiful torpedos and almost twice the displacement.


  8. #8

    Controlling the Seas

    Controlling the Seas - British naval plans

    British naval theory had for many years been influenced by the idea of ‘sea control’. The crucial factor in the affairs of nations was control of the oceans, as proved by the American theorist A. T. Mahan.

    And the British thinker Julian Corbett was just as influential. With control of the seas, the trade that was vital to Empire could continue; units of soldiers and marines could be moved to the points of conflict where they were needed; invasion could be fought off on the one hand and threatened on the other; and by preventing the enemy from doing the same, strategic superiority could be achieved.

    To ensure this superiority, a decisive battle was required, in which the bulk of the enemy’s forces were destroyed and the remainder demoralized. Jutland, Trafalgar, or the Battle of Tsushima had each led to the turning point or termination of a major conflict.

    To this end, the Royal Navy was concentrated in two fleets, each of which hoped to gain significant superiority over the opposition it expected to face. The Home Fleet, based at Scapa Flow, controlled the North Atlantic and the North Sea. And the Mediterranean Fleet, based at Alexandria, controlled the Mediterranean. In the event of war with Japan, the Med’s ships would sail to Colombo or onwards to Singapore.



    Those ships – generally cruisers and destroyers - which were not required in the battlefleet were despatched to reconnoitre, patrol, escort and to disrupt the enemy's own convoys.

  9. #9
    Fat Cat Public Servant Sir Humphrey's Avatar
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    Looking good. Though I am no particular fan of the King George V class. Shame about the 14", when the 15" were so reliable.
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  10. #10

    The new forces

    To this picture were being added two new forces.

    Aircraft had first been used in naval warfare in the First World War, and the Royal Navy had built the world’s first dedicated aircraft carrier, HMS Hermes .

    The carrier offered several opportunities: the ability to patrol by air a large area of water without dispersing the fleet, and the chance to launch a torpedo attack at a range of a hundred miles rather than at point-blank.

    However, the carrier was the natural ally of the cruiser, not of the battleship.

    The weakness of the carrier was that it was unable to carry the massive armour of a battleship and hence would be vulnerable to shellfire. In the face of determined attack by enemy battleships or cruisers, it would be forced to retreat while its aircraft recovered.

    By 1937 each of the Home Fleet and the Med Fleet had its own Aviation Squadron, planned to sail independently of the Battle Squadron and to be used for reconnaissance and raiding.

    The second new threat was the submarine. There was some fear that a silent, underwater attack might render life impossible for merchant ships. However, the RN was confident. In the event of war, no time would be lost forming convoys, and the convoys would be escorted by destroyers or corvettes equipped with the latest depth charges – enough to make any U-boat captain quail.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Sir Humphrey
    Looking good. Though I am no particular fan of the King George V class. Shame about the 14", when the 15" were so reliable.
    Glad people like it ;-) I'm currently away from my HOI2 PC but have some screenies to post when I get back...

    And yes, the 15" would have been better, but it's not size that matters, it's what you do with it ... and what you do with it is 'engage the enemy more closely'

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    Are things heading towards the Lions, the Vanguards and the Improved Hoods?
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  13. #13
    Compulsive CommentatAAR stnylan's Avatar
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    Good start
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    Lt. General therev's Avatar

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    Tankyou TheLand!

    I am already a dedicated fan! Keep the updates rolling! Am looking forward to more of the same.

  15. #15
    great start! i wonder what unlucky ship will be the first victim..(the name not country)
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    i was waiting for somebody to do this. i just love navy

  17. #17

    On the eve of war

    On the eve of war

    As political crisis gathered through 1938 and 1939, the Royal Navy lay unperturbed at anchor, confident in its firepower and training, and in the Summer of 1939 was at its greatest strength.

    King George V and Prince of Wales entered commission in late 1937. Their two sister ships, initially planned to enter service in mid-1939, were delayed as rearmament on land and in the air took scarce steel away from the shipyards- a problem shared by the two additional fleet carriers ordered after the delivery of the Ark Royal and Illustrious.

    Just as importantly as the two battleships, ten Town-class light cruisers and up to 40 up-to-date destroyers of the Tribal class and Battle class were completed.

    The disposition of the fleet remained essentially similar. A strong Home Fleet, supported by a Home Air Squadron, remained at Scapa Flow.

    The Mediterranean Fleet at Alexandria was strengthened by the detachment of Nelson and Rodney.

    Two smaller battle squadrons were created, one at Gibraltar (Repulse and Renown plus cruisers) and one at Colombo (with the battleships Warspite and Malaya at its core.) These groups were tasked with tracking down any enemy capital ship raiders - 'pocket battleships' - that might slip through the net, and destroying them with true battleship firepower.

    The Admiralty calculated that. taking age into account, it had 2:1 superiority over the Germans in the North Sea, with two brand-new ships and four veterans against their two new battleships. The 2:! ratio was repeated in the Mediterranean, with eight British ships against the expected four Italian battleships of varying age and quality. Odds that it was hoped would be more than enough.

  18. #18
    Old Person GeneralHannibal's Avatar
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    Good start, I can't wait for you to unleash your navy on the Italians and Germans.
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  19. #19
    Compulsive CommentatAAR stnylan's Avatar
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    Let's hope their maths stand up. At least they will be able to isolate the two fleets thanks to Suez and Gibralter.
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  20. #20
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    An AAR with a naval focus; I'm onboard!
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