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A Royal Navy for the Far East 1942 Onwards

Hood

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To make a change from the usual what-ifs I wondered what the impact would be to the Royal Navy if the Far Eastern War had broken out as historically in December 1941, but there had been no European War?

For this scenario you can assume whatever reason for Germany not going on the rampage in 1939 and not tying up with Japan, the why is not really important here (Hitler choked to death on a carrot or whatever), but I base my fleet assumptions t that Germany’s fleet by 1941 is roughly historical with the Bismarcks and at least 1 Graf Zeppelin completed and at least 2 if not 4 of the H-Klasse building, not exactly Z-Plan levels of craziness but something between modest and ambitious. Same can be assumed for Italy and France etc. in completing their pre-war plans.

So what would be built from the 1942 Programme onwards to fight a Pacific War against Japan?

This is the situation in December 1941 (ignoring any war losses already incurred off Malaya):

Capital Ships

5 QE-class: Queen Elizabeth, Valiant and Warspite rebuilt 1934-40; Malaya and Barham less extensively refitted

3 (2) R-class: not much done any of these ships since 1939; Royal Oak of the best standard, Royal Sovereign in 1939-40 received new bulges and 30° elevation for her 15in turrets. Resolution and Ramillies paid off by 1942 in reserve to free manpower for KGVs

2 Renown-class: Renown completed reconstruction in 1939; Repulse began her reconstruction in 1941 and not due to complete until early 1943

1 Hood-class: began her reconstruction in 1940 with revised deck armour, new 4.5in secondaries and catapult and hangars, due for completion in late 1942 and delayed due to structural complications

2 Nelson-class: Nelson began reconstruction in 1940 with additional armour forward and at base of belt and new 5.25in secondaries, catapult and hangars aft, due for completion in mid-1942; Rodney began her reconstruction in 1941 and won’t complete until 1943

3 + 2 KGV-class: KGV, PoW and DoY completed (latter 2 still working up); Anson and Howe will complete during 1942.

0 + 4 Lion-class: Lion and Temeraire were launched during 1941 and will complete in 1943; Conqueror and Thunderer laid down in 1941 and will complete in 1944.

0 + 1 (5?) Vanguard-class: approved early 1941 and laid down in October, to complete in 1944-45. Discussions ongoing as to ordering another 4 ships using turrets from the R’s as they decommission.

Aircraft Carriers

1 Argus-class: still extant as a training platform

1 Hermes-class: refitted in 1940-41 with new AA armament of 2x2 4in DP mounts and 2x8 pom-poms, still working up post-refit.

1 Eagle-class: on China Station at outbreak of war, no recent refits

3 Courageous/Furious-class: not yet retired but planned to do so once Implacables complete, no recent refits

1 Ark Royal-class: no recent refits, maybe 2x4 or 2x8 extra pom-poms at most

4 Illustrious-class: all completed by 1940

0 + 3 Implacable-class: Indefatigable and Implacable will complete in late 1942, Irresistible ordered under 1940 Programme with slight modifications and only just laid down, scheduled to complete in 1945 [note this ship was briefly ordered OTL but soon swapped for first Audacious-class, in the absence of war experience its seems likely the bigger Audacious would not be ordered in 1940 but welcome to hear arguments for it]

1 Unicorn-class: completed just before outbreak of war in November 1941

Cruisers

5 Ceres-class: only Coventry, Curlew and Curacoa have AA cruiser refits of these only latter has twin 4in mounts

5 Carlisle-class: all have received AA cruiser refits by end of 1941

8 D-class: still extant overseas, some on China station at outbreak of war, no AA conversions begun but plans have been made for 4x2 4.5in UD mounts and 1x4 pom-pom.

1 (2) Hawkins-class: Effingham has 9x1 6in guns, but Hawkins and Frobisher did not receive them and in reserve

2 E-class: no recent refits

11 County-class: London completed reconstruction in early 1941, Shropshire begun conversion during 1941 and will not complete until 1943. [The structural effects of the London’s additional weight will be less drastically proved in the absence of war service, would more reconstructions be worth it?]

2 York/Exeter-classes: no recent refits

9 Leander/Arethusa-classes: no recent refits

8 Southampton-class: all completed by 1939

2 Edinburgh-class: completed 1939

10 Dido-class: the last just completed before the outbreak of war [note in this scenario the 6 1939 War Programme ships were never ordered]

11 Fiji-class: last 3 completing within next six months

0 + 3 Minotaur-class: 3 ships under 1941 Programme for completion in 1943-44

6 Abdiel-class: Apollo and Ariadne under 1941 Programme just laid down for completion in 1943

Destroyers

All older classes as OTL.

16 J & K-class: completed in 1940

16 L & M-class: most by completed in 1941, 3 to complete within 6 months

[What would of happened next? The ‘Intermediate Design’ which became the O & P-class was ordered under the 1939 War Programme, the N-class of repeat J’s was ordered OTL due to dissatisfaction with the larger L. In this scenario there is no 1940-41 Stuka experience but the DP gun solution would still have been sought. I think it likely that to keep numbers of modern destroyers up that the N’s would have been ordered under the 1940 Programme and at least 1 if not 2 flotillas of ‘Intermediates’ (O&P) in the 1940 or 1941 Programmes. None would be ready until 1942 at the earliest. The main effect on the lack of wartime experience would be to push the Battle design further back, probably until 1943 at least until the Japanese war experience filters back and enables construction of suitable BD mounts and guns to begin, let alone the ships.

23 Hunt-class: 23 Group 1 completed during 1941, under 1940 programme 30 more ordered with torpedoes (OTL Group 3) and 2 became Thornycroft design, all under construction to complete in 1942-43

Submarines

12 Odin/Parthian-classes, 4 Rainbow, 3 Thames, 4 Swordfish: as OTL

6 + 3 Porpoise/Grampus-classes: the 3 1939 Programme repeat Grampus will complete in early 1942

8 Shark-class: without any war in 1939 the Shark design has not been revised as the S-class

15 + 24 T-class: building since 1936 with 8 each in 1940, 1941 and 1942 Programmes under construction

15 U-class: all completed by late 1941

Thoughts? What would you see as the likely choices or outcomes with the ships at hand and what might be developed to follow them.
 
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Dilandu

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2 Nelson-class: Nelson began reconstruction in 1940 with additional armour forward and at base of belt and new 5.25in secondaries, catapult and hangars aft, due for completion in mid-1942; Rodney began her reconstruction in 1941 and won’t complete until 1943
Hm, if I recall correctly, the pre-war reconstruction plans also included the possibility of replacing the powerplant, to reach 24-26 knots...
 

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More thoughts later, probably. But deployments would have been totally different under this scenario, as would geo-politics.

The French are likely to have reinforced their Far East squadron and the Indochina garrison, given the Franco-Thai war and Japanese political aggression. The Dutch have some limited freedom to reinforce the NEI, but not much in the way of forces to do it with.

For the UK, the submarine flotilla wouldn't have been pulled from Singapore, giving much better reconnaissance of Japanese harbours. While Force Z might well have been based at Cape Town as a swing fleet, much as originally intended. There's a significant chance that some of the reinforcement convoys will arrive in time to make a difference as they can sail through the Med without needing a battleship and carrier escort. Australia probably has most of its forces at home, meaning there's a chance for significant reinforcement of the positions in New Guinea and of the Dutch in the NEI.
 
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zen

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Wouldn't this drive the larger and more longer ranged successor systems earlier?
Could Irresistible become a proto-Malta?
In fact assuming drydock in Australia Malta becomes far more feasible.
 

uk 75

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The main problem faced by the British in resisting Japan was the absence of effective air power.
How would you propose remedying that in this scenario?
 

Hood

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Hm, if I recall correctly, the pre-war reconstruction plans also included the possibility of replacing the powerplant, to reach 24-26 knots...
Yes, you can assume the reconstruction in this scenario is identical to that planned for 1940.

More thoughts later, probably. But deployments would have been totally different under this scenario, as would geo-politics.
Indeed, I didn't want to make my initial post a wall of text. I would envision some continuation of pre-war practice as well as redeployment of certain assets as newer ships came on line. I was thinking the heavy forces would comprise of two R-class battleships at Singapore, Eagle and a Courageous-class for carrier support and once tensions rose in mid-1941 a Z Force of at least Renown and possibly KGV or PoW and one of the Illustrious-class. Its bad luck that Hood and Repulse are likely to have been unavailable for another year. There is no direct Kongo killer and so the fast wing of the battlefleet is going to be the Renown and the few completed KGVs and two of those are brand-new. I thought the French might of sent a Dunkerque-class at least as their big stick.

But such a fleet also poses problems for the Japanese, could they afford to detach 6 carriers to Pearl Harbour knowing there are 2 or maybe 3 British carriers in the South and a far larger surface fleet than they historically faced. It might of made Pearl Harbour impossible, its hard to imagine them gambling on a knock-out blow using less than 6 carriers and of course there is no Taranto in this scenario as a blueprint.

I was hoping to focus on constructional aspects but the strategic implications without a European war do open the way to a quite different Pacific War in many ways.

Wouldn't this drive the larger and more longer ranged successor systems earlier?
Could Irresistible become a proto-Malta?
In fact assuming drydock in Australia Malta becomes far more feasible.
I am not so sure. Audacious was under the 1941 Programme and did not complete before the war ended. In this scenario war experience won't reach the DNC and their Lordships until spring 1942, even if the DNC works flat out its hard to imagine them having designs ready much before January 1943 and laying down that year, you are looking at 1947 before a Malta would complete at the most optimistic scenario. Before 1942 I don't see the drivers being their to force the designers to move away from the armoured hangar Illustrious pattern.

The main problem faced by the British in resisting Japan was the absence of effective air power.
How would you propose remedying that in this scenario?
That is a good question. I can't see their being much difference; Albacores and Fireflies backed up by the few Barracudas coming off the production lines at this time, older Swordfish and Skuas would still be around (Rocs probably not). Would the Sea Hurricane and Seafire exist without the European war? I would say probably not, the FAA may of brought some Martlets though in 1940 if there had been a war scare around that time - but that's not a given either. Likewise we have to assume Hurricanes, Blenhiems and a few longer-range Wellingtons etc. being land-based.
 

Dilandu

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Yes, you can assume the reconstruction in this scenario is identical to that planned for 1940.
Oh, they would be quite tough then! With new machinery, new outer belt (or at least lower belt extension), and DP guns they would essentially be among the very best battleships.
 

DWG

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The main problem faced by the British in resisting Japan was the absence of effective air power.
How would you propose remedying that in this scenario?
That is a good question. I can't see their being much difference; Albacores and Fireflies backed up by the few Barracudas coming off the production lines at this time, older Swordfish and Skuas would still be around (Rocs probably not). Would the Sea Hurricane and Seafire exist without the European war? I would say probably not, the FAA may of brought some Martlets though in 1940 if there had been a war scare around that time - but that's not a given either. Likewise we have to assume Hurricanes, Blenhiems and a few longer-range Wellingtons etc. being land-based.
This is where you start to get multiplying deviations from OTL. The lack of a BoB means no Beaverbrook/MoS panic resulting in a Merlin-monoculture. The Exe would proceed, making the Barracuda less underpowered, available earlier, and more suitable for the Far East due to less constrained range. IIRC there's about a year's delay to either Firefly or Barracuda production resulting from the panic. There's also the potential that Vulture would have been fixed - it had already mostly been fixed for fighters in OTL before the panic - which makes Tornado and Warwick potentially available.
 

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BTW, I've tried gaming* the opening moves of a Pacific campaign with a somewhat similar hypothesis and where the French have reinforced Indochina rather than Vichy buckling under Japanese pressure. If the Japanese stick with the historic plan then with the UK sub flotilla at Singapore, and a similar French flotilla at Cam Rahn bay, plus the Dutch subs, it turns into a massacre for the Japanese convoys, but on the way home, not the way in. They get the first wave of troops ashore because of the advantage of surprise attack/declaration of war. We'd have greater warning with a patrol line across the South China Sea, but it would depend on politics for how much use we could make of it.

* Using War In the Pacific - Admiral's Edition and a combination of several people's scenarios.
 

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The Dutch would have had at least one and possibly two of their planned three Design 1047 battlecruisers in commission by 1942. They would have also had two brand new fleet tankers by this time. The Royal Navy would have more heavy cruisers available than in OTL, including likely at least one nine inch gun cruiser.

EDIT: I had forgotten that the RN was also seriously looking at an Alaska style 'Super-Heavy' cruiser design in the late 1930s (Study 3). Six 12 inch guns on a displacement of 20,000 tons. It is quite possible we might have seen one of these in commission by 1942 as a hedge against reported Japanese developments.
 
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Colonial-Marine

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Where did you read that Royal Sovereign had her main battery elevation increased to 30 degrees? I believe she (like all the other members of her class) was limited to 20 degrees. Malaya and Barham were also limited to 20 degrees if I recall correctly.

Do you have any more information on the planned reconstruction of Nelson and Rodney? Sounds pretty ambitious. I believe that in OTL there was talk of adding a strake of armor connecting the bottom of the armor belt to the outer hull that would better protect against diving shells.

Design work on the 1047 battlecruisers continued well into 1940 so I'm a bit skeptical any would be in commission by 1942.
 

Hood

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Where did you read that Royal Sovereign had her main battery elevation increased to 30 degrees? I believe she (like all the other members of her class) was limited to 20 degrees. Malaya and Barham were also limited to 20 degrees if I recall correctly.

Design work on the 1047 battlecruisers continued well into 1940 so I'm a bit skeptical any would be in commission by 1942.
The R's had often been planned to receive higher elevation to 30 degrees but lack of funds prevented it in the late 1930s and then the war intervened. Resolution apparently did have 'A' and 'B' turrets modified however in 1941.

Agreed on the 1047 battlecruisers, there was little sign of them being ready to lay down in 1940. A 1941 laying down date is far more plausible and Dutch shipyards were not used to building such vessels, I can't see them taking much less than four years to complete - roughly 1945. In this scenario perhaps we can squeeze this to 1944 at the earliest if all effort went into them.

I think that what is apparent is that it was not really until 1942 that the committees really started to get to grips with new requirements such as the N2 and Neptune cruisers, Colossus light fleet carriers, Malta etc. and that this design work lasted until at least 1944. So for most of the Second World War 1930s designs from the post-Treaty rearmament phase had to fill in the gaps. It took just over two years of war experience to define the ships it needed and another two to see the first of them off the slipways (only the Colossus and Castles and Lochs made it in time). In some regards the war broke out at the right time.
If we apply such lead times to a purely Pacific war breaking out in late 1941, if the conflict runs anything like the pattern it did OTL, its hard to see the RN getting Pacific-oriented ships with modern war experience in their design until 1946 at the earliest.
The avoidance of a Battle of the Atlantic avoids industrial effort on masses of merchant tonnage and corvettes and smaller escorts, but whether that would outweigh the longer build time of larger destroyers and cruisers is another factor. Let's say for example the RN lost 4 carriers in 1942 like the IJN did at Midway. It would be hard for them to replace like-for-like with new Implacables in much the same way that the IJN struggled to rebuild its carrier fleet. The result would be reliance on rolling off Colossus and Majestics off the commercial yards in 1945 in big numbers or maybe getting some US Essex class under Lend Lease instead of CVEs? Or maybe doing what Japan did and completing the last two Lions and Vanguard as carriers?

As for aerial matters, an Exe-powered Barracuda would be a nice bonus.
Who knows, the German's putting a Bf109 onto the Graf Zeppelin might have inspired the Admiralty to do the same with a Spitfire sooner rather than later?
But lets not forget, even with no war Rolls-Royce has its hands full with Peregrine, Merlin, Griffon, Exe and Vulture and something may still have to give. Reliability is not a given just because Beaverbrook isn't breathing down their neck. On the other hand would Bristol have been able to iron out their sleeve-valve issues as quickly without that impetus to get the Hercules and Centaurus into mass production?
 
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A Tentative Fleet Plan

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The Dutch would have had at least one and possibly two of their planned three Design 1047 battlecruisers in commission by 1942. They would have also had two brand new fleet tankers by this time. The Royal Navy would have more heavy cruisers available than in OTL, including likely at least one nine inch gun cruiser.

EDIT: I had forgotten that the RN was also seriously looking at an Alaska style 'Super-Heavy' cruiser design in the late 1930s (Study 3). Six 12 inch guns on a displacement of 20,000 tons. It is quite possible we might have seen one of these in commission by 1942 as a hedge against reported Japanese developments.
Vanguard was built as an alternative to the 9.2 inch super cruisers. The 9.2 inch guns would require new gun pits and so were ruled out.

The 12 inch armed design was not a serious design, and was drawn up to simulate what Britain thought the Japanese would be building.
 
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CNH

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The R class? They were at one time based in Kilindini in Kenya.

In the eastern theatre, they would be floating coffins.
 
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Hood

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Vanguard was built as an alternative to the 9.2 inch super cruisers. The 9.2 inch guns would require new gun pits and so were ruled out.

The 12 inch armed design was not a serious design, and was drawn up to simulate what Britain thought the Japanese would be building.
Churchill was always keen on building new heavy cruisers, the 9.2in designs you mention, as well as the slightly more feasible 8in armed designs. Two Vanguards were seen as a better bargain than three 22,000 ton 9.2in cruisers that would take up to four years to build. Realistically only an 8in design was feasible in terms of cost and construction time.

No war in 1939 means no Winston back at the Admiralty, but I wonder if with the Germans completing their Hippers and given the IJN's Ibukis under construction, whether a new heavy cruiser design would have been back on the agenda for the 1941 Programmes onwards.
The Fijis ordered in bulk before the outbreak of war seem to have been the end of the light cruiser programme at that time, with discussion whether the last two should be a modified K34 with thicker armour but losing X turret. The first three Minotaurs were ordered under the 1941 Programme but arguably there would have been slip space and resources for at least two if not three heavy cruisers for a peacetime 1941 programme.

Of all the designs the 17,500 ton 1941 8in cruiser looks the best on paper.

As for light cruisers, it would be hard to avoid the same prolonged discussions on calibre sizes. In this scenario we lack the last six Didos so there may have been a greater demand for a dual-purpose cruiser with 5.25in guns over ordering more Minotaurs. The result might of been an N2 but with a higher speed (31-33kt) although endurance may have been more important (N2 was designed for 7,700nm at 18kt).
A mix of large 8in cruisers and smaller 5.25in cruisers would have been interesting, especially in post-war and Cold War scenarios as it would have provided a ready solution to the Sverdlov problem in the shorter-term and might of seen off the Cruiser-Destroyer concept at birth. The 5.25in cruisers would have been ideal for conversion as larger FADE units too in the 1950s.
 

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Are you sure that there was a second Vanguard planned at one stage? The Vanguard was an attempt at squeezing a fast battleship into the bottlenecked (due largely to the decimation of Great Britain's shipbuilding industry during the 1920s & 30s thanks in part to to blunders by a succession of British governments) wartime emergency building program when starts or construction on other battleships had to be suspended at the outbreak of what was initially thought was going to be a short war. IIRC she was originally intended to reinforce the Mediterranean Fleet's order of battle. Vanguard wasn't seen at all as an alternative to nine inch or other heavy cruisers.

The 12 inch design was seen as a very serious prospect indeed for use in the Pacific. When it was first mooted in 1938 it was seen as a way to get more firepower on station there as a counter to the reported new Japanese naval developments while keeping within the provisions of the Second London Navy Treaty (even though the treaty was already pretty much a dead letter to everyone by that stage except for Britain and the United States). In early 1939 the Royal Navy also concurrently started work on a smaller super-heavy cruiser design of 18,000 tons, armed with six ten inch guns. Again attempting to keep within the limits of dead treaties, this design was apparently being looked at as an 'economical' counter against both the Kriegsmarine's planned P-class cruisers and existing heavy cruisers, though the former would shortly end up being shelved in favour of the O-class Battlecruisers, whose construction in turn would be frustrated by the unexpected outbreak of war in September 1939. Based on what I have heard about this particular British super-heavy design, I don't think it would have been successful if it had been built, at least not against the P-class cruisers; it was only armored against 8-inch fire for example. The O-class BC's needless to say would have had it for lunch.

All this prewar planning by the Admiralty however was based on an assumption (held by the Navies of and others from both sides) that open war between the Entente and Germany would not break out until the latter part of the first half of the 1940s at the earliest.

With regards as to the Design 1047 battlecruisers, work on their design was severely impacted in OTL by the start of WWII (ironically German companies were heavily involved in the program at that time). Without that, it is quite likely construction would have been able to start on the first of class by late 1940, baring a major domestic political foul-up. Though the point about whether the Dutch shipyards would have been able to meet the challenges of such a major program in a timely manner is a good one. Ongoing German assistance would be vital, and not necessarily guaranteed to continue unhindered.
 
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JFC Fuller

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Vanguard was a product of a lack of turret building capacity, not of shipbuilding capacity, she was a ship afterall. Specifically, there were seven turret erecting pits active in the UK in the late 1930s, it would have been possible to open another three though it appears a decision to do so was never taken. Vanguard allowed the RN to get to a three ship per year battleship programme without opening the additional pits and training the men to use them. Had the additional three been opened it would have made for the tantalising option of building two fast three turret ships and one slower four turret ship every year.

Hood is entirely correct that the Vanguard concept was compared directly to big 9.2" cruisers and it was found every time to be better to have a smaller number of Vanguards over a larger number of 9.2" cruisers for a given amount of money, and I suspect manpower. The Vanguard concept was not universally loved, several senior offices were sceptical of using Lion levels of armour (also in short supply) to carry what was now seen as a relatively light main armament, but nobody seems to have been of the view that large cruisers were a better option. I have seen suggestions that additional units would be possible as Revenge class ships were withdrawn from service.

The Vanguard process is interesting for another reason. The Board was starting to think about speed and 31 knots was originally requested. To save time the Lion machinery was used instead of a bespoke set which took the design speed to 30.5 knots. The ship as completed beat that design speed by over a knot on trials, she would have made a good companion to the reconstructed Hood.
 
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EwenS

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Re Resolution - what is the source for her A & B turrets being modified to 30 degrees elevation? According to Burt "British Battleships 1919-1945" p172 it was proposed to increase the elevation to 30 degrees but it was never carried out. Her 1941 refit was carried out in the US and she was photographed there on 11 Sept 1941 (Burt p198-199) on completion and A & B turrets had, to my eye, not been altered, there being no cut-outs in the front of the turret roof to accomodate that increased elevation as in the modified QEs and Vanguard. The turrets of the QEs and Renown all had to be returned to the factory gun pits at Vickers Elswick to be modified. Details of the work needed is in note 6g here

 

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Taking into account your scenario:
- Assuming a version where the European part of WW2 just didn’t start in 1939 then Nazi Germany still around to implement a version of their Z-plan, Facist Italy has its own naval update/ expansion plans being put into practice - these potential opponents remain the main focus of general UK (and specifically RN) planning and deployment. Far East remains a secondary focus getting old/ second rate ships etc. Just slightly different version of what was in place in 1941(hard to know if theoretically more could be spared versus greater inertia/ less interest/ spending because no ones at war yet).
- Japan’s and the US’s strategic positions would be fundamentally different if no European War in 1939 (and they very much interact with each other). For Japan far less likely to have seized Vietnam from the French and less likely to see easy pickings to be had at the Western Colonial powers expense. Similar while likely to still likely to be tension between Japan and the US re: China the dynamics would have been different. No seizing of Vietnam removes the act that triggered the oil embargo; more generally the lack of the US 2-Ocean Navy Naval expansion plans (doesn’t happen or at least is slower and more incremental - no fall of France and fear of fighting the Axis alone) means the Japan may have felt less time pressure to strike early (and they would would known they where facing less “distracted” opponents).
- Additionally the Japanese may have been more reluctant to commit to another major campaign (in addition to China) with the USSR not already committed to a campaign (presumably no Eastern front too?).
- If the scenario allows the RN greater focus on Japan then perhaps greater need to focus on what the Japanese were building. Does the UK and US stay largely ignorant of the nature of the Yamato’s or plan and build direct counters? (Quality versus quantity? Those rebuilds might looking increasingly like throwing good money after bad as you see growing numbers of Yamato’s, Z-Plan Super Bismarck’s etc laid down and launched.)
- Plus RN carrier construction may not have received quite the same priority as it actually got if you eliminate the related war experience (hence fewer and different carriers planed and initiated in this period).
 
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Volkodav

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A big factor in where the RN is in 1942 if WWII doesn't start in 1939 is why didn't it start? Basically is Germany still a threat or is the primary concern Italy, Spain, maybe USSR and, of course Japan.

So is Hitler is still in power but had health issues, or perhaps one of the almost coups goes ahead and fails, resulting in him having to reconsolidate power before advancing his plans of conquest? Alternatively say the West stands up to Hitler over Czechoslovakia and Oster Conspiracy results in a successful coup, this would likely have resulted in a change in government in Germany and a move away from expansionist policies, i.e. Germany is no longer a threat.

A side effect of no more Nazi Germany means no more panic buying from the US, no lend lease, no free transfer of technology to the US, and no reason for US rearmament and expansion of their industries of the scale that happened in reality. US is weaker, but Japan is as strong as in reality, France, UK and Netherlands are all in a better position to defend their territories in SEA.

Possible maybe, Germany sells some or all Deutschland's and or maybe Scharnhorst's to the Dutch as they move to stabilise their economy post Hitler.

With out war in 1939 would the RN have perfected the L and M class destroyers and repeated them instead of the N (repeat J) and War Emergency Flotillas that followed?
What about the Hunts, Steam Gun Boats, corvettes and frigates?

So many potential changes without the pressure of (or potentially the threat of) a war in Europe.
 
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A Tentative Fleet Plan

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The 12 inch design was seen as a very serious prospect indeed for use in the Pacific. When it was first mooted in 1938 it was seen as a way to get more firepower on station there as a counter to the reported new Japanese naval developments while keeping within the provisions of the Second London Navy Treaty (even though the treaty was already pretty much a dead letter to everyone by that stage except for Britain and the United States).
Norman Friedman's British Cruisers Page 228 states:
"Based on this work, in December 1938 DNC asked for details of an Alaska-like super-cruiser, at 20,000 tons , armed with six 12in guns, with 7in belt and 3in deck, which was what the Japanese were (incorrectly) reported to be building."

The associated footnote (43, page 364) states:
"The Japanese 20,000-tonner appears in notes in DNC's private office files (ADM 229 series)."
 

Desertfox

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No European war means Roosevelt is less intent in getting the US involved in anything, and the stronger British, Dutch, and French fleets probably means that Pearl Harbor does not happen at all, with the US maybe even sitting this war out completely.
 

uk 75

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Even in a scenario where you remove European dangers altogether, perhaps by having no lurch to dictatorships in Italy and Germany, the UK still has a backward approach to naval aviation compared with Japan.
It is hard to see the Royal Navy at Singapore surviving a Pearl Harbour style attack.
 

zen

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?
And is that a specific scenario or a general rule? That no matter what the RN is likely to face a Pearl Harbour style attack?
 

kaiserd

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I suppose the underlying point is that the superior Japanese naval air power and carrier fleet wouldn’t be eclipsed by a few more UK capital ships (including a carrier here and there), particular if the RN air service’s equipment and other issues weren’t addressed (in the absence of early WW2 experience that helped push necessary developments, including the adoption of Seafires and US types).
 

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Reading on the Battle of Ceylon it appears that the Japanese didn't have as easy time as they did at Pearl Harbour or Darwin, in fact they were very nearly caught with their pants down as happened at Midway. This was when they had numerical and qualitive superiority over the opposing Eastern Fleet and RAF, and the RN was under specific orders only to engage if they assessed they had numerical advantage, which is why they withdrew once they had determined the size of the Japanese force.

Now recast the battle in terms of no Churchill (hence contradictory political interference), a fleet drawn from three or more armoured Fleet Carriers (Sea Hurricane II, plus possibly Seafire or equivalent), Ark Royal, plus the older converted carriers, modernised battle cruisers, KGVs Rodney and Nelson, and modernised QEs, verses the actual Hermes, and one armoured Fleet, one modernised QE and the Rs. It would not have been pretty but an early playout of the Midway scenario would surely be on the cards, especially as it is questionable how effective dive bomber would have been against the armoured fleet carriers. What chance would the Kongos have had protecting the carriers from Hood, Renown and Replulse, plus the KGVs had any of them been slowed by air attack?
 

kaiserd

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Reading on the Battle of Ceylon it appears that the Japanese didn't have as easy time as they did at Pearl Harbour or Darwin, in fact they were very nearly caught with their pants down as happened at Midway. This was when they had numerical and qualitive superiority over the opposing Eastern Fleet and RAF, and the RN was under specific orders only to engage if they assessed they had numerical advantage, which is why they withdrew once they had determined the size of the Japanese force.

Now recast the battle in terms of no Churchill (hence contradictory political interference), a fleet drawn from three or more armoured Fleet Carriers (Sea Hurricane II, plus possibly Seafire or equivalent), Ark Royal, plus the older converted carriers, modernised battle cruisers, KGVs Rodney and Nelson, and modernised QEs, verses the actual Hermes, and one armoured Fleet, one modernised QE and the Rs. It would not have been pretty but an early playout of the Midway scenario would surely be on the cards, especially as it is questionable how effective dive bomber would have been against the armoured fleet carriers. What chance would the Kongos have had protecting the carriers from Hood, Renown and Replulse, plus the KGVs had any of them been slowed by air attack?
You appear to have been influenced by the name (but rather less the full content) of the following:

The Battle of Ceylon was a clear victory for the Japanese and in terms of luck involved it appears significantly more likely that the Japanese could have inflicted a worse/ more strategically significant defeat than that any UK version of a Midway-scale victory was possible or plausible.
The UK’s limited success was in keeping as much of their forces intact as possible.
And the various simultaneous combinations of your proposed scenario don’t appear at all likely in nearly any remotely likely scenario.
 

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And the various simultaneous combinations of your proposed scenario don’t appear at all likely in nearly any remotely likely scenario.
As Hood made very clear in the opening post of this thread:

With no war in Europe, by the time of the Japanese Indian Ocean raid the Royal Navy would have been in possession of five modern fast carriers with another two close to commissioning, quite aside from the older conversions of WW1 construction, backed up by Unicorn as a maintenance carrier. At about that time Renown, and three KGVs would have been available to form a pair of Battlecruiser squadrons to support a force consisting of some combination of these fast ships. It is impossible not to conclude that the Royal Navy's Eastern Fleet would have looked very different, and different enough that its standing orders may have been very different as a consequence. Equally, it's leadership would have been different and would likely have acted differently.

As Volkodav correctly points out, whilst Japanese naval aviation was excellent in some respects it was certainly not without its imperfections and these were exposed in brutal fashion at Midway. Equally, the IJN's poor array of AA guns and associated fire control systems, all-too-often mounted on ships with significant shortfalls in passive protection and damage control consistently contributed to their loss of major warships.

To get back to Hood's original question. I wonder whether, without a major ASW campaign to fight in the Atlantic and the construction and design required to support that, the RN would have had greater scope to pursue carrier design and construction. Perhaps some of those designs that were intermediate between the original Implacable design and the ultimate Audacious class would have been built at a more regular drumbeat and the development of the Light Fleets would have moved forward at an accelerated pace. Equally, without the need to engage in a massive offensive air campaign against German the output of the British Aviation industry may have looked quite different too.

As a final point, pre-War editions of Progress In Naval Gunnery make it clear that RN AA weaponry and fire control would have continued to evolve. The Tachymetric System 1 (TS 1) was intended to replace HACS and entered development just prior to the War. In 1940 it was expected to be available by 1944, with hostilities delayed by two years it is entirely possible that it would have been accelerated rather than abandoned and may have become quite common in British ships in the latter stages of the conflict. Similarly, the quad .50 Vickers mountings were to be replaced by single 2pdrs. The Lion class were to receive additional Octuple 2pdr mountings compared to the KGVs even prior to the war so the need for enhanced AA firepower was understood even it the extent was not.
 
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uk 75

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JFC has set out excellently what might have happened.
My only reservation is that British gocernments in the 30s, both Labour and Conservative were not very defence-oriented. After all even without the depression a lot needed doing at home.
Unlike Hitler and Mussolini Japan did not loom so large in most minds in Britain. A more robust stance in the Far East should not be taken as read. Baldwinism might have kept the UK focussed on home fires.
Equally, Chamberlain might have been less keen on appeasing Japan than he was Hitler. The nature of Japan's aggression was not clouded by the Versailles Treaty.
 

zen

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Hmmmm.....
Without the threat of European War....

Are we sure certain things would happen as per history?
Wasn't the Army looking at a change of calibre and ammunition?
Wasn't there still the search for a semi-automatic rifle?

Wouldn't that RN have continued with the 4.7" L50?

What about the turret fighter?

I suspect a lot might be different by the time Japan triggers war.
 

Arjen

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I suspect a lot might be different by the time Japan triggers war.
Japan went to war in China in 1931. That sort of merged into WW2.
 

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Hood made the same opening post on All the Worlds Battlecruisers site. A few of us have commented at some length over there on the potential structure of an RN fleet in the Far East in 1941 which may interest some posters here.


I’m still pondering the aircraft types that would have been on the carriers.
 

uk 75

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Not my period of historical interest but if one alters European history to remove the dictatorships, it also has implications for Japan. As has been mentioned, it is Japan's invasion of China which starts the slide to war and highlights the impotence of "collective security" under the League of Nations which was the basis of contemporary British foreign policy.
The cynic in me suggests that the League was used by HM Government to reduce defence spending. The military men disliked its vague and open ended commitment of their forces.
The absence of rearmament to deal with Mussolini and Hitler might make it even harder to confront Japan. As with the recent Chinese assertiveness in defence spending politicians would put it in the tray marked "too difficult".
 

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Hmmmm.....
Without the threat of European War....

Are we sure certain things would happen as per history?
Wasn't the Army looking at a change of calibre and ammunition?
Wasn't there still the search for a semi-automatic rifle?

Wouldn't that RN have continued with the 4.7" L50?

What about the turret fighter?

I suspect a lot might be different by the time Japan triggers war.
I believe the Army was looking to switch to 7.92x57 Mauser and actually adopted it with the BESA MMG. I could go diving into some of my book boxes or even brave my 12 yo sons room (where two of my book cases are because they were too heavy to move up stairs) but until then I can't provide full detail or references. I'm sure there was earlier consideration of an intermediate round, that was (possibly) discontinued for economic reasons, in the late 20s early 30 based on WWI experience.

Perhaps the RN would get an new generation heavy cruiser, I agree the 4.7" L50 would continue and be perfected, perhaps even a complete enclosed mount including below deck arrangements and hoist. Repulse and Hood may have been modernised, and Vanguard completed to one of her earlier proposed configurations. I wonder if, given more time, the escalator clause may have been applied to the KGVs, or at least the later hulls.

On carriers, if Europe is not the primary concern, would there be a return to an Ark Royal type? Ark apparently was able to achieve her specified performance on only two shafts, raising the question as to whether a war emergency carrier could have been evolved from a two shaft, four boiler derivative of Ark, with better subdivision and more space for aviation fuel and stores.

The Spitfire and Hurricane were seen as interim types and without an war starting in 1939 / 40 would have been superseded in service by other types, perhaps making them available to the Fleet Air Arm earlier.

Little of this would affect 1942 directly but would have an impact in following years.
 
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zen

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Thing is, if the threat of war in Europe remains low from say 1936.....which is a reasonable point of departure. Then processes beginning after 1938 in real history are unlikely to happen in quite the same way.
If anything it's the increasing threat of another European War that's causing the divergence from extent decision processes.

I would agree that Ark Royal is more likely to have a follow on sister. Albeit of different design, but not an armoured CV like Illustrious class.

I've seen evidence here in a thread that another. 276 round was of considerable interest.
Though practically it's even reasonable to consider the Japanese 7.7mm, which I seem to recall is just a metric rimless .303.
 

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There was the Pattern 1913 Enfield rifle with the rimless .276 round that was issued for troop trials prior to WWI. This was developed in response to the observed long range performance of the various Mauser Rifles during the Boer War(s), but was dropped due to the onset of WWI. There was a necked up .303 version the .303 Magnum, trialed between the wars, that was apparently similar if not slightly superior to the 30 06.
 

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As I understood it from Moore’s Building for Victory, the UK rearmament in the late 30s was financially a very close run thing. Start too early and Britain would be bankrupt before the war, start too late and lose it.
With Europe neutered, it seems hard to see Japan as being considered the existential threat Germany would always be, and thus hard to imagine anything like the funds that were expended.

Also in Europe, war was clearly signposted by numerous major events. Once Japan is at war with China, what is there to suggest the conflageration that erupted and thus to drive spending?

I can’t imagine the Japanese taking on undistracted European powers? or attacking them without drawing in the US (as Germany could by fighting in Europe only). Surely it just ends quicker worser in any scenario for them?
 

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Pretty sure the 12” was the opposite of a serious project. The 9.2 more serious but evaporated against reality of doing it and Staff unanimously in favour of Vanguards (Brown’s Nelson to Vanguard). Brown talks about various 9.2/8” heavy cruisers but makes no mention of a 12” at all so the idea there was some push to send that kind of firepower to the Far East is without evidence. As above makes far more sense as a quick study just to flesh out what the Japanese might do - I’ve been part of that for developing outline aircraft concepts that draw from intelligence and feed back to aid analysis of int.

Again from Brown - more Vanguards were proposed, to use turrets from R class boats but there was no effort to spare.

I suspect building ships reliant on turrets that might not be available (in battle/sunk!) was also a consideration given only 4 were spare immediately for Vanguard. The Rs being expected to be useful as pre-Dreads had been in WWI.
 
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