Compromised ships for the Interim Navy
The three units of the Deustchland class (Deustchland, Admiral Scheer, Admiral Graf Spee), incorrectly called “panzerschiff”, from which allies despised their protection were not battleships but rather small battle cruisers.
Compromises indeed were made in the face of the limitations of the Treaty of Versailles: 10 000 tonnes (tonnage of a heavy cruiser). In order to remain within this limit while possibly having any military value as battleships, they were the first products of the tactical conceptions of Erich Raeder, a champion of commerce raiding warfare. Thus these ships were designed to attack trade and facing all kind of escorting vessels in two ways: Fight the weak (cruisers), with a superior fire power, range, and equal protection, or flee the strong (true battleships) thanks a cruiser’s speed, 30 knots instead of 20-25.
The Deutschland did not take yet into account a largely paper-borne generation of rapid battleships still blocked by Washington’s moratory. They would eventually make this class vulnerable. These interwar limitations were perfectly demonstrated during the events of the Graf Spee and the Battle of the Rio de la Plata in 1939, soon throwing a veil of suspicion over the concept of these ships and surface raiders as a whole in the eyes of Hitler.
KMS Admiral Scheer before the war
Designed to deliver a privateer’s war to merchant traffic, these vessels had large holds to receive the captured crews, and were to receive the assistance of a supply ship. For the Graf Spee, it was the famous Altmark. The Graf Spee commander, Hans Langsdorff, played at the start of the cat and mouse war with the French and British allied fleets, successfully attacking the trade (he sank 50,000 tons of ships) Southern hemisphere (see the story about it).
The Deustchland, for its part, sank 7,000 tons and the Scheer 137,223 tons. After the misfortune of the Graf Spee, Hitler ordered that the Deustchland be renamed in Lützow, for an obvious question of national prestige in case of similar fate… The Admiral Scheer and the Lützow participated in the attack of the convoys of the North Atlantic from their Norwegian fjords. They were eventually wiped out by the “Tall Boy” bombs of the RAF lancaster in 1945, and also came out of the Tirpitz.
- Note: This is essentially a translation of a former work, this post will be completed later
KMS Graf Spee before the war
Rear triple 280mm turret of the Lützow
KMS Deutschland in 1939, with the early superstructure design
Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.
KMS Deutschland specifications
|Dimensions||155.10 x14.30 x6.60 m|
|Propulsion||3 screws, 3 diesels 9-cyl MAN, 54 000 hp|
|Speed||28 knots (42 km/h; 20 mph)|
|Armament||6(2×3)x 280 mm, 8x 150 mm, 6(2×3)x 105 mm AA, 16(8×2)x 37mm AA, 6(2×3) TT 533 mm|
|Armor||Belt: 76 mm (), Deck: 38 mm (), Turrets 140mm, Conning tower: 152 mm ()|
KMS Graf Spee in 1939, with its superstructures-only green camouflage
KMS Lützow en 1944 (former Deutschland) with the standard straight pattern, shades of gray and blue of the Northern Sea.