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Thread: Hypothetical Scenario

  1. #1

    Default Hypothetical Scenario

    At the start of WW1, the British were denying the German High Seas Fleet passage to the Atlantic by blocking the Channel with mines and destroyers, and the entrance to the Atlantic (between Scotland and Norway) with the Grand Fleet. The British could not conduct a close blockade becasue the German ports were too well protected, and the logistics for such a blockade would have been nightmarish.

    What this means is that the High Seas Fleet had access to the North Sea, but nowhere else.

    The scenario I want to get opinions is: what would have happened if the High Seas Fleet (or at least their fast warships) had sallied out during the crossing of the BEF, and either delayed or destroyed part of the BEF as it crossed? Would it have made much of a difference in the war?

    I am asking this as my knowledge of the First World War is rather sketchy at best in many areas, and I've just started a book (Castles of Steel by Robert K. Massie) in order to rectify the situation. However, this is just about the naval aspects of the war, and ignores the ground campaigns. So, what would have happened if the BEF was delayed (or stopped) in crossing the Channel?
    Last edited by Grey_Fox; 06-26-2005 at 00:32.

  2. #2
    Evil Sadist Member discovery1's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    Not a lot I think. They only held the German advance up a few hours didn't they?


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  3. #3

    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    I don't know how the BEF could have been late. The Belgians halted the Schlieffen Plan by 3 days, leading to it's downfall in my opinion.

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    Clan Clan InsaneApache's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    The BEF staged a fighting retreat from Mons. So intense and accurate was the rifle fire from the professional soldiers the Germans thought that they were facing machine gun fire.

    Also the BEF held up the German army over a canal for several crucial hours allowing the French to slip away from the noose that was slowly closing on them.

    So, if the High Seas Fleet had managed to intercept the troops then there would have been a marked difference. Perhaps even an end to the war.
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    Senior Member Senior Member English assassin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    I'm not sure they could have done it. The channel is a fair way from German ports, which were under watch by cruisers, so the fleet would have been likely to be detected sailing. On the other hand depending on where you cross the channel is only 30-50 miles wide, which is to say even a slow ship would be no more than five hours steaming from port (ignoring the effect of tides, which are something else in the channel). The chance of a substantial fleet getting into the channel before troop ships could be alerted and make port would be slim.

    On the other hand it would have been a incredibly risky operation. The RN had major destroyer forces at Portsmouth and Dover, and Plymouth is not that far away, any action in the channel would be dangerous for heavy warships (its surprisingly shallow and has shifting sand banks that demand up to date local knowledge, and the tides are fierce) and if it didn't get there before the Germans entered the channel the Home Fleet would have been waiting at the mouth to make sure no one got home.

    Had the Germans lost the fleet then the German coast would have been vulnerable to landings, so it was probably wisest not to try.
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    Humanist Senior Member Franconicus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    You know there was this Scagerak (?) battle, were German and British home fleets met. Their was no real winner. British lost more ships, I guess, but Germans just could not repalce their losses.

    Anyway, a battle between the two big fleets would have lasted hours or even days. The Royal Navy would have been able to keep the Germans away from the transport ships. So even if the Germans had won the effect on the land forces would have been minor.

  7. #7
    Member Member Petrus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    If the german high sea fleet had chosen to engage the transports of the british expeditionary force in the manche, it would have ment a long trip for them wich would have make them detected by the british and an engagement directly facing the british naval bases.

    Following the example of jutland, this would very probably have ended in a few ours fight and the complete sinking of the german fleet due to beeing heavily outnumbered and placed in a very unfavourable position.

    So it would have at most delayed the arrival of the BEF for a few days.

    During the battle of the frontiers, the role of the BEF was relatively marginal so this delay would probably have meant a bit nastier situation without much consequences.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Senior Member English assassin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    You are thinking of Jutland. There was a winner, in as much as the German fleet broke off the action and made for its home ports and the Grand Fleet remained in the North sea, but it is right that more British than German ships were lost.

    It was at Jutland that Vice-Admiral Beattie, commander of the battlecruiser squadron being used to lure the German fleet within range of Jellicoes battleships, came out with a definitive example of what it means to be cool under fire. Having watched two of his battlecruisers in quick succession blow up entirely, he is said to have commented "There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships this afternoon" before ordering his squadron closer into the Germans.

    Now that's what I call an Admiral.
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  9. #9
    Ming the Merciless is my idol Senior Member Watchman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    Wonder if it was the same design oversight that decades later killed the Hood, you know, unarmored deck through which plunging fire smashes easily and reaches the ship's toasty innards like ammo stores and fuel bunkers...?

    That aside, the Germans seem to have been rather wary of the RN and likely for good reasons too, and in any case their role was always more of "brown water" (ie. coastal defense) rather than "blue water" (ie. high seas) domination anyway.

    And to boot let's remember here that at the time the Schlieffen plan was proving a little overambitious nobody had the slightest idea of what the war was going to be like. Pretty much everyone was certain it'd be short and decisive and save perhaps for the Belgians and other little guys getting caught underfoot nobody was too worried - heck, the French had their own equivalent to "the Schlieffen" going on further south... Even in the odd case a German naval attack against the BEF shipping would have been doable or succesful, it is a whole another thing if anyone would have thought it necessary to take the risk. After all, didn't old man Schlieffen's big idea basically treat the Brits as something to be tied up on the side around the BeNeLux while the army pursued the really important strategic goal, that of knocking France, "Britain's first and strongest bastion", out of the equation ASAP ?

    Contrafactual "what ifs" are a nice enough distraction and food for thought, but I for one would require the participants to be assumed to be operating under the information and ideas they had at the time and not those the luxury of hindsight gives us...
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    Voluntary Suspension Voluntary Suspension Philippus Flavius Homovallumus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    IF the BEF had been stopped dead and sunk, regardless of the logistics it might have meant the British basically had no army to send. So maybe they would have decided to leave the whole thing alone and make peace witht the Germans. In that case, without Britain, Canada, Australia and the rest of the Empire the war would have been a lot shorter and the Germans probably would have won. A short war against France would probably have allowed a shorter war against Russia.

    That might have preserved the Tsars. The British Empire would have been untouched and the Americans would probably have remained isolationist. So one answer ts that everything would be totally different and there would be a lot more royalty around. No WWII, no Cold War and no EU. So we'd still be living in basically the 19th Century.

    Since it wasn't workable from a German point of view its less of a "what if" and more a lot of different "what ifs."
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  11. #11

    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    First off, the British Cruisers were for the most part stationed between Scotland and Norway. German destroyers were faster than their British counterparts, so they could have gone out, sunk a bunch of transports and gotten back before the British reacted.

    Beatty's cruisers had inferior armour to their German counterparts, and the German guns were mostly heavier in calibre. The shells penetrated, and the cruisers went up in flames.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Senior Member English assassin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    Wonder if it was the same design oversight that decades later killed the Hood, you know, unarmored deck through which plunging fire smashes easily and reaches the ship's toasty innards like ammo stores and fuel bunkers...?
    Indeed, Hood was built as a battlecruiser, not a battleship. She was laid down in 1915 and so embodied the design flaws not revealed until 1916. (IIRC it wasn't so much the light deck armour, as she was uparmoured in the 20s, as mistakes in design allowing an explosion in a turret to flash back all the way to the magazines)

    German destroyers were faster than their British counterparts, so they could have gone out, sunk a bunch of transports and gotten back before the British reacted.
    Its about 60 miles along the channel from Dover to Southampton. Even if the Dover flotilla were fast asleep as the Germans entered the channel they would have been easily intercepted on the way back out. And Dover could always have telegraphed Portsmouth to make sure the Portsmouth flotilla were waiting.... Even Yarmouth is not that far away if you look on the charts

    I don't think it could possibly have been done but it would have been a fantastic battle, if you can apply that word to any battle that is.
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    Caged for your safety Member RabidGibbon's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    "During the days of the heaviest transportation - August 15, 16 and 17 - Heligoland Blight was closely blockaded by british submarines and destroyers, supported by the Grand Fleet in the central north sea."
    Robert K Massie, Castles of Steel P79

    Sounds like the German fleet would never have made it to the transports.

    On the tendency of British battlecruisers to blow up, has any one else ever heard that Beatty ordered the flash doors from the turrets to the magazines removed (To allow for faster firing) and this was why they went up in smoke? If that is the case then the thing wrong with the bloody ships was the admiral .

    I seem to recall hearing it on a TV program. During the battle of Dogger Bank British battlecruisers took a pounding and noticeably failed to blow up, but still I suppose its impossible to be certain exactly how any ship that blew up blew up.

    @ Grey Fox, british battlecruisers had less armour, but their guns were almost invariably heavier, both sides went for a different approach in their fast capital ships. British light armour, big guns - German heavy armour, lighter guns.
    Last edited by RabidGibbon; 06-30-2005 at 02:51.

  14. #14
    The Black Senior Member Papewaio's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    In Jutland the British Battlecruisers had their ammo store doors continously opened (not shutting them after removing a charge) and laid out the gunpowder charges end to end, so one penetrating hit and it went all the way back to the armoury.

    The British had the ability to intercept and decode the German fleet commands.

    At Jutland which it was supposed to be a surprise German move to draw off a small portion of the British fleet and attack them. The British knew it several days before hand and even had their fleets leaving port before the Germans left there own. The British then sent out a Gambit fleet of battle cruisers so that the Germans would think that their tactics where successful. The Battle crusiers were the bait and hook to the Grand Fleet's reel.
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    Alienated Senior Member Member Red Harvest's Avatar
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    Default Re: Hypothetical Scenario

    Quote Originally Posted by Papewaio
    In Jutland the British Battlecruisers had their ammo store doors continously opened (not shutting them after removing a charge) and laid out the gunpowder charges end to end, so one penetrating hit and it went all the way back to the armoury.
    That's the explanation I've heard as well, poor handling protocol for the ammo and powder.
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