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Author Topic: Kaiser Wilhelm II's Homunculus (and torpedo battleships generally)  (Read 407 times)

Offline Avimimus

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"Next in the starry procession came the officers, at their head the Generals and Admirals, all with the watchword: Obedience. The Emperor devises an ideal battleship, impregnably iron-clad, rapid, and armed with torpedo-tubes, which would take the place of the torpedo-boats.... The construction of this was attempted. We proceeded in conformity with orders received, and when it was clear that no useful result could possibly be obtained, this production came to be called the Homunculus."

Some kind of torpedo battleship? An oversized torpedo ram cruiser?

Do any more details survive?

Offline Avimimus

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Re: Kaiser Wilhelm II's Homunculus (and torpedo battleships generally)
« Reply #1 on: April 15, 2019, 08:20:31 am »
Speaking of the topic Battlecruiser "Q" of 1939 design was to have 12 submerged torpedo tubes... I'm wondering about the rationale? Obviously they aren't needed to make up for poor armour penetrating capabilities of guns (as had been he case in 1895) and seem antithetical to proper deployment of a battlecruiser...

Offline TomS

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Re: Kaiser Wilhelm II's Homunculus (and torpedo battleships generally)
« Reply #2 on: April 15, 2019, 09:04:36 am »
What's the source for that quote? And what timeframe are we talking about here?

Offline Jemiba

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Re: Kaiser Wilhelm II's Homunculus (and torpedo battleships generally)
« Reply #3 on: April 15, 2019, 09:32:36 am »
In the book "Kiel, die Deutschen und die See" by Jürgen Elvert, Jürgen Jensen and Michael Salewski,
the "Homunculus" is just described (very short only) as a very fast and heavily armoured battleship, "proposed"
by the Emperor in the 1890s. Back then, battles were still expected to be fought at close distances, so torpedoes
seemed a plausible weapon against other battleships.

The case of the Schlachtkreuzer O-Q was different I think, apart from the armament only containing 6 torpedo
tubes, all above the water line and probably in turnable mounts, according to Erich Groener. Those ships would have
had the same task, as those of the Deutschland class "pocket battleships", commerce raiding. And for that purpose,
even the Tirpitz got two turnable 4-tube mounts near the catapult. Torpedoes were regarded as a quicker way to
sink crippled merchant ships out of a convoy.
It takes a long time, before all mistakes are made ...

Offline Avimimus

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Re: Kaiser Wilhelm II's Homunculus (and torpedo battleships generally)
« Reply #4 on: April 15, 2019, 03:31:41 pm »
What's the source for that quote? And what timeframe are we talking about here?

Source: 'Kaiser Wilhelm II' by Emil Ludwig (1926).

The claim for a 12 tube 'Q' design is from "Battleships: Axis and Neutral Battleships in World War II"  by Garzke & Dulin (1985).

Offline lastdingo

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Re: Kaiser Wilhelm II's Homunculus (and torpedo battleships generally)
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2019, 04:53:17 pm »
Early torpedoes had terrible range and speed, so the practical utility cannot have been about much more than night battles.

There's little reason to believe that the emperor or even only top brass would have fully understood the torpedoes' limitations before the Great War:
https://defense-and-freedom.blogspot.com/2013/04/about-unguided-torpedoes.html

Even dedicated torpedo boats had pitifully small quantities of ready-to-shoot torpedoes, and no reload torpedoes in that era.
The navies seemed to think that torpedoes were either only good for scaring away or that torpedoes had a very high probability of hit if launched close enough.
High seas torpedo boats hardly ever came close enough to their targets despite the technical shortcomings of their targets' secondary and tertiary artillery.

Offline Avimimus

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True... night attacks against ships at anchor... or point blank firing by two battleships which had just rammed each other (or used as an alternative to ramming).

Although, for nuance it is worth noting that HMS Polyphemius carried 5 ready to fire torpedoes (and 14 torpedoes in all), and French and Russian submarines of the next decade had large numbers of ready to fire torpedoes due to the use of external Drzewiecki drop collars (e.g. the Bars class in 1914 could have salvoed twelve torpedoes)! So move from single torpedo tube boats or spar torpedo boats with a couple of locomotive torpedoes in drop collars to considerably more powerful salvoes was underway.