Oberon_706

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You might want to know that the Admiralty did plan to build more Vanguards, using twin 15s from the R class, which were to have been scrapped, having been subject to only the most minimal improvements in the 1930s. In 1939-40 the Admiralty was much concerned over the possibility that the Japanese were building new battleships (but hadn't the slightest idea of what was involved), and it saw the Vanguards as the least painful way of augmenting the fleet in the East. For a time, for example, there was hope (in the Admiralty) that Australia would pay for or operate Vanguard herself. This was 1940-41, and you can find a hint of Australian interest in a battleship in the Australian official history. Of course nothing came of either the Australian fantasy or of junking Rs to get more Vanguards, because by the time that might have happened there were rather more urgent concerns.

On Hood, she was considered the first true fast battleship, and as such revolutionary, although some might see much the same thing in the German battlecruisers. What happened to her was extraordinary, as it appears that the fatal shell hit roughly lengthwise, where she -- and the QEs and Rs -- was poorly protected. It also seems to have had a rather long fuze delay, which was why it exploded in just the wrong place. After the action, there was an emergency analysis of the vulnerability of existing British ships, pointing up the transverse vulnerability of the QEs and Rs -- I do not remember for sure whether that also applied to the Nelsons.

On Australia, I doubt anyone in 1921-22 would have accepted that the Commonwealth was not integral with the British. I think there was even a legal link which made that clear. Nor were the Australians likely to have paid up to operate something that expensive. They found it difficult to finance their post-WW I navy for quite some time, despite their fear of the Japanese.

It surprises me that no one pointed out that, had work continued on the three other Hoods, they would have been in much the same position as the Lexingtons in 1921 -- incomplete, expensive, proceeding slowly. Wouldn't the RN have tried converting two of them into carriers, given the carrier clause of the Washington Treaty? And wouldn't that have afforded the RN the experience of running really large carriers like those the USN and the IJN used to learn what big carriers could do? They would have been a whole lot more survivable than Courageous and Glorious.

Re: Australia and the WNT - please see link below;


According to the Author, the government of Australia (if it chose) could likely have won excemption and retained HMAS Australia as an “Armoured Cruiser”. As others have said, a comprehensive reconstruction and modernisation would have been required to see her through to WW2, but she would have remained the most powerful ship in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, requiring any any wishing to interdict trade beyond the dutch east indies to bring at least a bigger, newer battlecruiser to the fight.
 

David Chessum

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Re: Australia and the WNT - please see link below;


According to the Author, the government of Australia (if it chose) could likely have won excemption and retained HMAS Australia as an “Armoured Cruiser”. ...

That was an alternate history scenario which was based on some dubious assumptions which imho were completely unrealistic. Once Australia had made the decision to attend the WNC, the only way they could have retained HMAS Australia would have been at the expense of one of the newer and more capable capital ships that the RN was entitled to retain. There is zero chance that the US would entertained her recategorisation as an armoured cruiser.

Regards

David
 

Oberon_706

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Re: Australia and the WNT - please see link below;


According to the Author, the government of Australia (if it chose) could likely have won excemption and retained HMAS Australia as an “Armoured Cruiser”. ...

That was an alternate history scenario which was based on some dubious assumptions which imho were completely unrealistic. Once Australia had made the decision to attend the WNC, the only way they could have retained HMAS Australia would have been at the expense of one of the newer and more capable capital ships that the RN was entitled to retain. There is zero chance that the US would entertained her recategorisation as an armoured cruiser.

Regards

David

Interesting, David.

I mean no disrespect by saying so, but I disagree.

What 'dubious assumptions' are you referring to? You say its implausible even when the author of the article cites the USN retaining their 10"-armed armoured cruisers well into the '30's as an exemplar?

True, the Tennessee's are pre-dreadnought era ships, outmatched by HMAS Australia in almost any scenario, but by 1921, any reasonable naval analyst would have to admit (however biased by national partisanship) that virtually no existing 12"-armed ship could stand in the line of battle against the fleet of a peer enemy and expect to survive (the WNT definition of a Capital Ship). And that's the key point! The gold standard for 'capital ships' was 15-16-inch armament, battleship-level armour and 26-30-knots (a benchmark first set by Hood btw), not 12" armament, max. 7" armour protection and 25-knots with a tail wind.

Furthermore (as the author states), the Government of Australia was not bound to any fiat accompli regarding Britain's compliance with the WNT tonnage limits. HMAS Australia was 100% owned by her namesake nation and included in the RN limits only because the government of the day offered her up voluntarily - it had decided it could no longer afford her and had other, more pressing spending priorities. Offering the battlecruiser up as tribute helped Her standing with London and attending the conference cemented her status as an up and coming global team player, a claim staked by the prominent role her forces played in winning the '14-'18 war.

From a Japanese point of view, a push to retain/reclassify HMAS Australia could only be seen as an anti-Japanese hedge and therefore they would likely have been opposed to the idea. HMAS Australia thoroughly outclassed or could outrun all the Japanese ships that were slated for disposal under WNT, so retaining older ships achieves little. On the other Hand, her oldest Battlecruisers were the 14"-armed Kongo's, which outclassed Australia in any event!

As I mentioned before, retaining Australia (and at least partially reconstructing her in the interbellum), paired with a light cruiser force for defence of the northern approaches gives a deterrent value akin to a fleet in being due to the fact that a Japanese raiding force coming south towards the Malacca strait/Sunda strait and the trade routes to Suez now has to bring at least a Kongo to the fight or it's going to get a bollocking.

In summary, however 'alternate history' the proposition, I believe it to be a plausible one, and if realised would have made the issue of the defence of Australia and her sea lines of communication in the interwar era far less tenuous.

Regards,

Oberon.
 

Dilandu

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That was an alternate history scenario which was based on some dubious assumptions which imho were completely unrealistic. Once Australia had made the decision to attend the WNC, the only way they could have retained HMAS Australia would have been at the expense of one of the newer and more capable capital ships that the RN was entitled to retain. There is zero chance that the US would entertained her recategorisation as an armoured cruiser.

Well, I'm not sure it was completely impossible - after all, Australia FORMALLY was a sovereign country from Great Britain, and HMAS "Australia" was OFFICIALLY part of RAN, not RN. Technically, Australian may claim that they are ally of Great Britain, and therefore not obliged to the treaty.

But problem is, RAN have little interest in retaining HMAS "Australia". She was obsolete. Her speed was inadequate for neither chasing down enemy light cruisers, nor fleeing from enemy battlecruisers. From tactical point of view, it was not clear what exactly she could do: she was too slow to be of much support to modern cruisers, and not armed/armored heavy enough to actually engage any other capital ship on Pacific. Using her in actual combat situation would be a major headache.

Most importantly, though, "Australia" in her existing (non-refitted) state was not THAT more powerful than 8-inch heavy cruisers. Her main advantage over, say, "Aoba" - which was laid up the same year than "Australia" was scuttled - was bigger guns. But without extensive turret refit, 12-inch/45 guns of old battlecruisers have almost 40% less range than 8-inch/50 guns of modern heavy cruiser. In terms of armor, "Australia" was superior only because she have armored belt; her decks were as vulnerable for 8-inch shells of modern heavy cruiser as the heavy cruiser's decks - for her 12-inch shells.

P.S. In fact, "Aoba" may be more resistant to "Australia"'s long-distance fire, than "Australia" to "Aoba"'s; "Aoba" armored deck was thicker, and British 12-inch shells did not have good deck penetration.
 

Dilandu

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What 'dubious assumptions' are you referring to? You say its implausible even when the author of the article cites the USN retaining their 10"-armed armoured cruisers well into the '30's as an exemplar?

The American, French, Italian armored cruisers in question were significantly weaker than any dreadnought-type battleship. Armored cruisers with heavier guns - like Japanese "Tsukuba" and "Ibuki"-class ships, that have 12-inch main artillery - were included in the list of ships, slated for decommissioning by Washington Treaty.

True, the Tennessee's are pre-dreadnought era ships, outmatched by HMAS Australia in almost any scenario, but by 1921, any reasonable naval analyst would have to admit (however biased by national partisanship) that virtually no existing 12"-armed ship could stand in the line of battle against the fleet of a peer enemy and expect to survive (the WNT definition of a Capital Ship). And that's the key point!

Problem was, that France have more than a half of her battleline composed of 12-inch battleships, and all Italian battleships were 12-inch. Moreover, part of those ships were pre-dreadnought. And while Paris and Rome played less important role, without their agreement, no efficient naval limitation could be reached.
 

David Chessum

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Re: Australia and the WNT - please see link below;


According to the Author, the government of Australia (if it chose) could likely have won excemption and retained HMAS Australia as an “Armoured Cruiser”. ...

That was an alternate history scenario which was based on some dubious assumptions which imho were completely unrealistic. Once Australia had made the decision to attend the WNC, the only way they could have retained HMAS Australia would have been at the expense of one of the newer and more capable capital ships that the RN was entitled to retain. There is zero chance that the US would entertained her recategorisation as an armoured cruiser.

Regards

David

Interesting, David.

I mean no disrespect by saying so, but I disagree.

What 'dubious assumptions' are you referring to? You say its implausible even when the author of the article cites the USN retaining their 10"-armed armoured cruisers well into the '30's as an exemplar?

True, the Tennessee's are pre-dreadnought era ships, outmatched by HMAS Australia in almost any scenario, but by 1921, any reasonable naval analyst would have to admit (however biased by national partisanship) that virtually no existing 12"-armed ship could stand in the line of battle against the fleet of a peer enemy and expect to survive (the WNT definition of a Capital Ship). And that's the key point! The gold standard for 'capital ships' was 15-16-inch armament, battleship-level armour and 26-30-knots (a benchmark first set by Hood btw), not 12" armament, max. 7" armour protection and 25-knots with a tail wind.

Furthermore (as the author states), the Government of Australia was not bound to any fiat accompli regarding Britain's compliance with the WNT tonnage limits. HMAS Australia was 100% owned by her namesake nation and included in the RN limits only because the government of the day offered her up voluntarily - it had decided it could no longer afford her and had other, more pressing spending priorities. Offering the battlecruiser up as tribute helped Her standing with London and attending the conference cemented her status as an up and coming global team player, a claim staked by the prominent role her forces played in winning the '14-'18 war.

From a Japanese point of view, a push to retain/reclassify HMAS Australia could only be seen as an anti-Japanese hedge and therefore they would likely have been opposed to the idea. HMAS Australia thoroughly outclassed or could outrun all the Japanese ships that were slated for disposal under WNT, so retaining older ships achieves little. On the other Hand, her oldest Battlecruisers were the 14"-armed Kongo's, which outclassed Australia in any event!

As I mentioned before, retaining Australia (and at least partially reconstructing her in the interbellum), paired with a light cruiser force for defence of the northern approaches gives a deterrent value akin to a fleet in being due to the fact that a Japanese raiding force coming south towards the Malacca strait/Sunda strait and the trade routes to Suez now has to bring at least a Kongo to the fight or it's going to get a bollocking.

In summary, however 'alternate history' the proposition, I believe it to be a plausible one, and if realised would have made the issue of the defence of Australia and her sea lines of communication in the interwar era far less tenuous.

Regards,

Oberon.

The most obvious flaw in this argument is the contention that "the Government of Australia was not bound to any fiat accompli regarding Britain's compliance with the WNT tonnage limits". The Government of Australia attended the WNC as an independent country, signed the WNT on her own behalf, and ratified the Treaty in the Australian Parliament. They were bound.

My natural inclination is to agree with you regarding the potential Japanese position, however in the early 2000's, when Kerr and his associates were working on this project, I took this specific question to a military historians conference in Sophia University (Tokyo). The unanimous response I received was that in 1921-22, Japan would not have been bothered if Australia had wanted to retain HMAS Australia, and it wouldn't have impacted on the Japanese attitude to the proposed treaty. They claimed that at that time Japan was only concerned with the ratio vis-a-vis the US, and were not concerned with the British Empire. That response surprised me - and still does - so I don't know - which is why I didn't mention Japan in my previous post.

If you believe that it is credible that the US delegation would have accepted the British Empire recategorising a capital ship with 8-12" guns as an armoured cruiser so that it could be retained in excess of quota, while the US were obliged to scrap older and weaker capital ships armed with 4 or 8-12"guns, particularly when the retained capital ship would be significantly faster than every single US capital ship, and significantly more powerful than any cruiser the US could build under the WNT limits, AND that the US press would not have crucified the US delegation had they even entertained such a proposal, then we will have to agree to disagree.

But had Australia really wanted to keep HMAS Australia, there was another strategy that might have worked. They could have simply not turned up. After all, they weren't invited (as the US at that time did not really acknowledge the self-governing Dominions as separate entities). If Australia wasn't represented, and the British delegation had responded to the original US proposals along the lines of 'The British Government accepts the principle of battle fleet parity with the US, however we have no authority to negotiate on behalf of Australia - if you had wanted to include them, you should have invited them' - then the US would have been in a difficult position. They wanted a Treaty as badly as anyone, they could hardly argue that the RN as the world's largest navy should accept a smaller quota than the US, and it would have been their own fault for not inviting Australia.

However there may have been a better option for Australia if they really did have an appetite (and funding) to retain a cruiser killer in the 1920s. At the time of the WNC, Courageous was still intended to be retained in her cruiser configuration, and could be retained indefinitely under the terms of the Treaty. Her hull managed to accept several thousand tons of additional weight when she was converted into a carrier - if it had been possible to add that weight in the form of additional protection, it may well have been possible to turn her into an adequate cruiser killer. She was significantly newer and faster than Australia, and might have been a better option for the RAN.

Regards

David
 

Oberon_706

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But had Australia really wanted to keep HMAS Australia, there was another strategy that might have worked. They could have simply not turned up. After all, they weren't invited (as the US at that time did not really acknowledge the self-governing Dominions as separate entities). If Australia wasn't represented, and the British delegation had responded to the original US proposals along the lines of 'The British Government accepts the principle of battle fleet parity with the US, however we have no authority to negotiate on behalf of Australia - if you had wanted to include them, you should have invited them' - then the US would have been in a difficult position. They wanted a Treaty as badly as anyone, they could hardly argue that the RN as the world's largest navy should accept a smaller quota than the US, and it would have been their own fault for not inviting Australia.
Great point. Brazil, Argentina, Spain and others who had dreadnoughts were left well enough alone, so why not!

However there may have been a better option for Australia if they really did have an appetite (and funding) to retain a cruiser killer in the 1920s. At the time of the WNC, Courageous was still intended to be retained in her cruiser configuration, and could be retained indefinitely under the terms of the Treaty. Her hull managed to accept several thousand tons of additional weight when she was converted into a carrier - if it had been possible to add that weight in the form of additional protection, it may well have been possible to turn her into an adequate cruiser killer. She was significantly newer and faster than Australia, and might have been a better option for the RAN.
And the Navy still had 15" turrets in store from Glorious + spares built as a hedge against the failure of the 18" turrets on Furious... Again, fair call.

Thanks for your thoughts :)
 

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Problem was, that France have more than a half of her battleline composed of 12-inch battleships, and all Italian battleships were 12-inch. Moreover, part of those ships were pre-dreadnought. And while Paris and Rome played less important role, without their agreement, no efficient naval limitation could be reached.
Acknowledged, Dilandu. However I feel that you're neglecting to recognise the difference between a 'Battleship' and a 'Battlecruiser' (whether pre-dreadnought or not). France and Italy had only each other (and a transitory RN presence) in the Med/Aegean to worry about. Their most powerful units in 1921/22 were significantly inferior to the bulk of the US, Japanese or British battle fleets, which at that point they were unlikely to face off against in any event. Additionally, under the treaty, no 'capital ships' of either nation were required to be disposed of until 1930 (the end of the 10-year construction ban) - so its all relative.

It comes down to two key considerations;
1) Who are you likely to go toe to toe with?
2) Can your ships duke it out in a fleet engagement against that anticipated foe and expect to survive; or not?

The RN, USN and IJN were all competing on the basis of bigger and better, and had fleets of up to 15-16" armed ships so didn't need to keep 12" vessels. HMAS Australia was a 1st generation 12" Battlecruiser with negligible armour protection and obviously couldn't mix it up against anything larger than herself. Refitted and up-armoured, sporting improved main armament with increased elevation for greater range + firing the post-Jutland 'green boy' shells of which there was a considerable stock post-war, I'm confident she would have been more than up to deterring a Japanese 8" cruiser form attacking shipping in Australia's northern approaches - which would have been it's mission had it survived WNT.

Cheers
 

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A few points may be worth keeping in mind. First, the U.S. Navy kept 12in gun battleships after the Washington Treaty was signed. One of them, Arkansas, survived to fight in World War II. The Royal Navy got rid of all its 12in gun ships, true, and there was some thought after 1922 that the USN had come off distinctly second-best. Any all-big-gun ship was considered a modern battleship, and only modern capital ships counted.

Second, as far as the United States was concerned, Australia was part of the British Empire. Any deal struck had to include Australia in that context. So the question, which has been raised legitimately, is what would have happened had the Australians said 'we are independent, and we aren't interested?' The issue was political and economic. The navies involved had, it turned out, very little say in the outcome. For example, the British badly wanted to soften the building holiday so that they could gradually modernize their fleet (and avoid destroying their naval industry). However, they were broke. The Americans were not broke, but the naval program was very unpopular in Congress (which is why the Harding Administration called the conference in the first place). The Japanese were also broke due to the collapse of the wartime economic bubble. The governments involved were more than happy to cut costs. That was true even before the conferene was called. When Parliament approved the four G3s, it was on the specific understanding that they were bargaining chips for the expected arms reduction deal.

Both Britain and Japan were uncomfortably aware that they were being offered a good deal. The United States had the economic clout, and the U.S. Administration knew it. Neither Britain nor Japan seems to have realized that the United States was in a poor political position to keep up building, and if the conference had gone badly the politics might well have turned around. Remember how the United States was able to force the 5:3 strength ratio down the throat of the Japanese in the knowledge that the Japanese government knew how weak it was.

In the case of HMAS Australia, retention was going to be rather expensive, at a time when the Australian government was hard-pressed to keep small light cruisers in active service. At the very least, she would have required conversion to oil fuel. She had neither underwater protection nor serious air defense, at a time when both air and underwater threats were understood to be growing. The Treaty assigned battleships an effective life of about a quarter-century, in which case Australia's would have expired in the 1930s. This was too pessimistic, but not by all that much.

As far as Courageous and Glorious went, I wouldn't be all that sure that they were allowed to survive as cruisers. Remember that the deal was that they would be converted to carriers under the clause allowing two converted capital ships per signatory.

I should add that while the British delegation included senior naval officers such as Beatty, with real impact on what was done, the U.S. Navy was effectively shut out of U.S. proposals. It wanted existing naval programs completed before any freeze took effect, and was shocked by the initial proposal of a total building 'holiday.'
 

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...

As far as Courageous and Glorious went, I wouldn't be all that sure that they were allowed to survive as cruisers. Remember that the deal was that they would be converted to carriers under the clause allowing two converted capital ships per signatory.

...

The carrier conversion paragraph didn't apply to Courageous and Glorious. That paragraph only applied to either:

(1) Carriers that exceeded 27,000 tons, or
(2) Carriers converted from "ships, whether constructed or in course of construction, which would otherwise be scrapped under the provisions of Article II"

Neither criteria applied to the converted Large Light Cruisers - the British Empire was entitled to retain them in the same way that they were entitled to retain any other existing cruisers, and the British never exercised their rights under the second para of Article IX.

At the time of the WNC, the decision had already been taken to convert Glorious to a carrier, with the subsequent conversion of Courageous to be 'considered' if the Glorious conversion proved successful - however these were internal British decisions that were not related to either the terms of the treaty, or undertakings made at the Conference.

Regards

David
 

Dilandu

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Acknowledged, Dilandu. However I feel that you're neglecting to recognise the difference between a 'Battleship' and a 'Battlecruiser' (whether pre-dreadnought or not). France and Italy had only each other (and a transitory RN presence) in the Med/Aegean to worry about.

Italy - yes, France - no. France was world power, with colonies everywhere, and thus acknowledged the possibility of conflicts with Britain or Japan.
 

Dilandu

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Refitted and up-armoured, sporting improved main armament with increased elevation for greater range + firing the post-Jutland 'green boy' shells of which there was a considerable stock post-war,

Problem is, that the supply of 12-inch shells was not infinite - and would not last forever. Britain decided to stop the production of 12-inch guns already. Even if Britain could be persuaded to gave Australia all remaining stock of 12-inch barrels and projectiles, by 1930s most of those projectiles would degrade significantly, and become unsafe to use.

So essentially, any plans of long-therm retaining of those ships clashed with aging of their main guns.
 

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nitpicking
it's FAIT accompli.
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On the Washington Treaty, I disagree with Mr. Chessum's interpretation. The Treaty allows each of the major signatories to convert up to two capital ships to carriers displacing up to 33,000 tons -- there is no minimum. The reference to 27,000 tons is to carriers that can be built. Again, there is no minimum.
 

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David’s point, which I’ll admit I missed on a previous occasion we had this discussion, is that Article IX says that for those 33,000 ton ships signatories can use CAPITAL ships built or building that would otherwise be scrapped under Article II.

But, when you read the rest of the Treaty, Courageous and Glorious are not listed as capital ships the RN can retain and, more importantly, they are NOT listed as capital ships to be disposed of (Chapter II Part III Section II lists of disposals by country).

Lexington, Saratoga, Akagi and Kaga do all appear on those lists.

If C&G were considered CAPITAL ships then they would have been named in the Treaty. They are not. So it seems that everyone signing the Treaty accepted the RN designation of C&G as Large Light Cruisers and not as Capital Ships despite the fact they carried 15” guns. So the section on converting capital ships to carriers can’t apply to them.

I’ll admit, even with my legal background, it took a while to get my head around it, but that is what is in the Treaty.
 

David Chessum

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On the Washington Treaty, I disagree with Mr. Chessum's interpretation. The Treaty allows each of the major signatories to convert up to two capital ships to carriers displacing up to 33,000 tons -- there is no minimum. The reference to 27,000 tons is to carriers that can be built. Again, there is no minimum.

Yes it does allow them to convert up to two capital ships to carriers. But the RN never did this - none of the capital ships that the British Empire was required to dispose of were converted into carriers. It also allows them to build (or convert) two carriers of greater than 27,000 tons, but they didn't do that either.

What they did do is convert two cruisers into aircraft carriers that were less than 27,000 tons. They didn't need to use any part of the second paragraph of Article IX to do this - they were allowed to convert as many cruisers into <27,000 ton carriers as they wanted, as long as they remained within the overall carrier quota. They were also entitled to keep all of their existing cruisers as cruisers, and build new carriers.

There is nothing in the Treaty that required them to either convert Courageous or Glorious into carriers, or dispose of them at all. They were just two more cruisers that as far as I can tell, were never even mentioned in the recorded minutes of any of the many meetings held at the WNC.
 

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Refitted and up-armoured, sporting improved main armament with increased elevation for greater range + firing the post-Jutland 'green boy' shells of which there was a considerable stock post-war,

Problem is, that the supply of 12-inch shells was not infinite - and would not last forever. Britain decided to stop the production of 12-inch guns already. Even if Britain could be persuaded to gave Australia all remaining stock of 12-inch barrels and projectiles, by 1930s most of those projectiles would degrade significantly, and become unsafe to use.

So essentially, any plans of long-therm retaining of those ships clashed with aging of their main guns.
True, there wasn’t an infinite stockpile in the inventory, bet there were alot. A least enough to get one ship with 8 guns through another 10-15 years of peacetime routine - which would have been the aim. If the need arose to keep Australia in service beyond 1935-say, i’m sure a means to manufacture shells and propellant domestically could have been arranged. Or they could have colaborated with the Brazillians and Spanish, the latter of whom used 12”/50cal guns from their old dreadnoughts in coastal batteries till well after the end of WW2!

Acknowledged, Dilandu. However I feel that you're neglecting to recognise the difference between a 'Battleship' and a 'Battlecruiser' (whether pre-dreadnought or not). France and Italy had only each other (and a transitory RN presence) in the Med/Aegean to worry about.

Italy - yes, France - no. France was world power, with colonies everywhere, and thus acknowledged the possibility of conflicts with Britain or Japan.
Acknowleged the possibility - Yes; in a position to do anything about preparing for the possibility??... Probably not.
The French (like the British) were nigh-on-bankrupt after the most destructive and murderous conflict in human history to date - and weren’t really in the position to be able to spend significant sums on rebuilding their fleet to face either Britain or the US - they also remained largely land-centric in their defensive thinking, despite their global colonial interests and the global nature of the Great War. Neither potential protagonist had designs on French colonial posessions in Africa or the Far East anyway.

But, when you read the rest of the Treaty, Courageous and Glorious are not listed as capital ships the RN can retain and, more importantly, they are NOT listed as capital ships to be disposed of (Chapter II Part III Section II lists of disposals by country).

Lexington, Saratoga, Akagi and Kaga do all appear on those lists.

If C&G were considered CAPITAL ships then they would have been named in the Treaty. They are not. So it seems that everyone signing the Treaty accepted the RN designation of C&G as Large Light Cruisers and not as Capital Ships despite the fact they carried 15” guns. So the section on converting capital ships to carriers can’t apply to them.
Further proof that the arguement to reclassify Australia as an armoured cruiser had merrit? Courageous and Glorious carried - primarily - capital ship armament [4 x 15” guns in twin turrets], but weren‘t fit to stand in the line of battle. Therefore they were not considered ‘Capital Ships’ and exempted. Why not Australia? How does 4 x 15” shells compare to 6-8 x 12” in firepower and weight of shot? Is that comparison even relevant? Just interesting to think about.
 

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BUT, C&G were not being reclassified. They had always been described as Large Light Cruisers. The fact that they are not mentioned in the Treaty is an acceptance that was what they were in the eyes of all the signatory nations. Looking back, given their 15” armament, it may seem anomalous, but that is clearly what happened. I’m sure other nations could and would have kicked up a fuss at the time if they didn’t accept that position.

Remember also that until the 1922 Treaty there is no definition of a “capital” ship, or for that matter an “armoured cruiser”. That comes with the Treaty (<35k tons 16” guns) and that applies going forward. So the Treaty had to cover named ships, or discussions would have become mired in trying to define in retrospect what were the ship characteristics to be covered.

But if you have been calling Australia a “battlecruiser” all those years it becomes difficult to suddenly turn round to the world and say, actually no, we really think she is an armoured cruiser so we will exclude her from the Treaty, when you accept other “battlecruisers” as “capital” ships as do other nations. It is especially difficult when, at the same time, you also have New Zealand of the same class and the Inflexible and Indomitable of the preceding class also listed as “capital” ships. So you either have to argue to exclude all 4, which I doubt anyone else would have accepted for the advantage, at least in numbers, it would be seen to give the British Empire, or you accept her for what she is, a “capital” ship, and therefore to be taken into consideration under the Treaty.

You need to look much wider than just at HMAS Australia herself.
 

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True, there wasn’t an infinite stockpile in the inventory, bet there were alot. A least enough to get one ship with 8 guns through another 10-15 years of peacetime routine - which would have been the aim.

But what to do then? When the old British shells became dangerous to use, and RAN would be stuck with efficiently disarmed battlecruiser?


the need arose to keep Australia in service beyond 1935-say, i’m sure a means to manufacture shells and propellant domestically could have been arranged

Again: whats the point of spending money on maintaing and refitting the old ship, if we would be forced to replace her rather soon anyway?


Acknowleged the possibility - Yes; in a position to do anything about preparing for the possibility??... Probably not.
Well, one of the point that French was adamant in Washington talks was to stop any attempts to regulate submarine fleets... :) Britain was not exactly happy - the implications were obvious - but without France, there would be no treaty.
 

Dilandu

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Further proof that the arguement to reclassify Australia as an armoured cruiser had merrit? Courageous and Glorious carried - primarily - capital ship armament [4 x 15” guns in twin turrets], but weren‘t fit to stand in the line of battle. Therefore they were not considered ‘Capital Ships’ and exempted. Why not Australia? How does 4 x 15” shells compare to 6-8 x 12” in firepower and weight of shot? Is that comparison even relevant? Just interesting to think about.

It would open too big can of worms, frankly. It would essentially require sides to agree what is battlecruiser, and what is mere armored cruiser. While it may be possible, the most likely differentiator would be main guns - and thus "Australia" would not fit either.

No, more promising would be for Australian Navy to distance themselves from talks, claiming that they are sovereign force from Royal Navy, and thus are not subjected to limitations.
 

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It's interesting to speculate if Churchill and Fisher's pre-war concept of Dominion-funded fleets in Australia and Canada to form an Imperial Navy, whether Japan would have been so keen to have ignored Australia's contribution.
Let's not beat about the bush, in 1922 the Canadian and Australian navies were a motley collection of pre-war paid-for ships and wartime British cast offs. Numerically and on a tonnage basis they were probably smaller than most Latin American navies or minor European navies and so its no wonder that they were initially ignored.
Even if Australia had chosen to remain outside of the Washington Treaty, there is no doubt that had Britain tried to divest its tonnage to her, the other signatories would have kicked up a fuss.

HMAS Australia could only have been reconstructed in Britain. Indeed a replacement could only have come from Britain and again politics would have intervened. Australia was able to purchase County-class cruisers (far more useful than HMAS Australia) from Britain. Had Australia not agreed to the notion of being included in the Treaty they might not have been able to secure the Counties, the British government even in 1939 was still steadfastly refusing to build 8in or larger calibre cruisers for non-signatory nations for a desire not to be seen to be breaking the Treaty.

C&G were largely freaks and its no surprise that they slipped under the net, for example Furious was already a proto-carrier. This probably explains why the Admiralty converted C&G; they were relatively young hulls useless for anything else and Furious had shown potential as a carrier and they could convert all three ships. Making use of the other clauses probably seemed of less value, Hermes was the experimental new-build and of course with Argus and Eagle converting too (not sure of Eagle's legal status, presumably the WT classified her as a British capital ship?).
 

Dilandu

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British government even in 1939 was still steadfastly refusing to build 8in or larger calibre cruisers for non-signatory nations for a desire not to be seen to be breaking the Treaty.
I wonder, what stopped the potential customers from just claiming that they wanted "small battleship"? There were no lower limits on capital ship size in the Treaty; while it was impractical for signatories to waste limited battleship's tonnage on super-cruisers, for non-signatories it was not a concern.
 

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Conversion of Eagle to a carrier had begun in June 1918. After suspension of work on her in 1919, trials as a carrier in 1920 and changes of shipyard, Elswick to Walker on the Tyne then Portsmouth and finally Devonport, she was finally completed in Sept 1923. She was very definitely a carrier by the time of the Washington Conference, complete with flight deck and island.

Furious’ conversion to a flush decked carrier was agreed in principle in July 1920, a design took until March 1921 to produce, was approved in Oct 1921 and work took place from Nov to strip her down at Rosyth. She was then sailed Devonport in June 1922 in that stripped condition to begin the reconstruction that took until Sept 1925.

As for C&G, the Admiralty had decided in July 1920 to convert one of them to a carrier to serve alongside Furious, with Glorious being chosen in July 1921. Courageous was then added to the conversion programme in 1922 after the Washington Conference. Conversion work on them did not however begin until June and Feb 1924 respectively after a design had been drawn up for them.

Argus, Hermes and Eagle were considered experimental carriers under the Washington Treaty, having been in existence or building on 21 Nov 1921, and could be replaced any time Britain chose, regardless of their age. Britain also argued that Furious, a semi carrier at the time of the Conference (Friedman), also fell into that category. Whether that was by virtue of her past use, or the fact that she was already being stripped for conversion to a full carrier is not clear to me.
 

EwenS

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British government even in 1939 was still steadfastly refusing to build 8in or larger calibre cruisers for non-signatory nations for a desire not to be seen to be breaking the Treaty.
I wonder, what stopped the potential customers from just claiming that they wanted "small battleship"? There were no lower limits on capital ship size in the Treaty; while it was impractical for signatories to waste limited battleship's tonnage on super-cruisers, for non-signatories it was not a concern.
Because the Washington Treaty prevents it.

Article XV
“No vessel of war constructed within the jurisdiction of any of the Contracting Powers for a non-Contracting Power shall exceed the limitations as to displacement and armament prescribed by the present Treaty for vessels of a similar type which may be constructed by or for any of the Contracting Powers.....”

Other Articles prevent the “construction” of capital ships except for replacement tonnage for the Contracting Powers ie not just construction of capital ship tonnage for them.

One oddity is the 2 Spanish cruisers Canarias and Balearis. They were built in Spain by a subsidiary of Vickers Armstrong to a design very similar to the British Counties. AIUI that use of a Spanish subsidiary was enough to allow them to get around the Washington Treaty provisions. But of course you then have to have a customer nation with the requisite skills to actually do the physical work.

VA Barrow built one 6” cruiser for Argentina between 1936 and 1939. But it was delayed due to British rearmament.
 

Dilandu

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Article XV
“No vessel of war constructed within the jurisdiction of any of the Contracting Powers for a non-Contracting Power shall exceed the limitations as to displacement and armament prescribed by the present Treaty for vessels of a similar type which may be constructed by or for any of the Contracting Powers.....”

Yes, but what exactly forbade from building "small fast battleship" of, say, 17.500 tons with 10-inch guns for export? (in fact, France considered 17.500 units for its own navy)

Other Articles prevent the “construction” of capital ships except for replacement tonnage for the Contracting Powers ie not just construction of capital ship tonnage for them.
It was not so much articles themselves, as their interpretation, which was quickly abandoned.
 

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Very interesting topic, thankyou.

A couple of thoughts come to mind.

WNT also ended the Japan / UK alliance, it is not too much of a stretch that it could have demanded the structural separation of the dominion navies (where they existed) from the RN. Thus in the eyes of some weakening the RN but in reality also forcing greater autonomy onto the smaller navies.

There were elements within Australia and the UK still of the view that the RAN should be a minimal force, if not disbanded all together, and Australia should provide for her defence by paying for the upkeep of a RN Australian Squadron. Even into WWII the RAN retained its links to the RN in numerous ways that actually inhibited operations as technically matters that could and should have been dealt with locally (many administration, court marshals and bravery awards etc.) had to be referred to the UK who were busy fighting a global war and couldn't afford the distraction. This was especially the case when the RAN became operationally imbedded with the USN in the Pacific.

Between the wars the RAN was meant to become a cruiser and sloop navy, but significant funds were still expended on destroyers, aviation (seaplane carrier) and submarines. The elderly destroyers served well in the early war period but arguably provided less capability than the modern cruiser force, while HMAS Albatross and the submarines were gone so made no contribution to the Australian war effort at all. I can't help but wonder if the money would have been better spent on local production of the County class cruisers and additional sloops, with the battlecruiser Australia retained to cover the likely longer local build time.

C & G are an interesting possibility as the RN was looking at building something similar pre WNT as a counter to Japans growing power in the region, eventually deciding on eight deployed Counties when the WNT intervened.

Transfer of C & G to replace Australia could have occurred and been affordable if it happened instead of buying the two Counties as well as declining the transfer of the S and T class destroyers and J class submarines. That would leave Australia with C & G, three Town Class light cruisers (one building) a Challenger class light cruiser, as well as the totally obsolete pair of P class light cruisers and the River class destroyers. Logically the destroyers would be retired along with the older cruisers, meaning either C or G in service and the other in reserve, four Town class light cruisers and as many sloops as could be afforded built locally with local build Arethusa class light cruisers replacing the Towns from the mid 30s, switching to Didos as war approached.

Another option, if more money was available could have been to convert the battlecruiser Australia into a carrier. This would have kept Codoc busy instead of building Albatross or potentially the two Counties. This could have been worthwhile whether C & G were acquired or not, perhaps Australia retained as a battle cruiser until either C & G or the two counties were delivered, then converting her to a carrier.

My ideal fantasy between wars RAN, Australia retained until C and G transferred, Australia then converted to a carrier. Adelaide completed as a prototype light carrier (expect it will be found to be too small but could be useful for training and developing operational concepts), or broken up before completion. Four C class cruisers transferred instead of S & T class destroyers and J class submarines. Four County class cruisers built locally in slow time to replace the Towns (including Adelaide), followed by four Arethusas to replace the Cs. A light carrier is designed using County class machinery and built to replace the Australia and Adelaide, or potentially, when the London treaty ends heavy cruiser construction, Counties still under construction are completed as light carriers.
 

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British government even in 1939 was still steadfastly refusing to build 8in or larger calibre cruisers for non-signatory nations for a desire not to be seen to be breaking the Treaty.
I wonder, what stopped the potential customers from just claiming that they wanted "small battleship"? There were no lower limits on capital ship size in the Treaty; while it was impractical for signatories to waste limited battleship's tonnage on super-cruisers, for non-signatories it was not a concern.
LNT36 introduced the no-construction zone between cruisers and capital ships explicitly to prevent this sort of thing.

Regards

David
 

Archibald

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British government even in 1939 was still steadfastly refusing to build 8in or larger calibre cruisers for non-signatory nations for a desire not to be seen to be breaking the Treaty.
I wonder, what stopped the potential customers from just claiming that they wanted "small battleship"? There were no lower limits on capital ship size in the Treaty; while it was impractical for signatories to waste limited battleship's tonnage on super-cruisers, for non-signatories it was not a concern.
LNT36 introduced the no-construction zone between cruisers and capital ships explicitly to prevent this sort of thing.

Regards

David

Very interesting. Surely enough there were no lack of trying to blur the lines.
Armored cruisers were one (gone) example.
The battlecruiser was another (before WWI)
German "pocket battleships", a third one closer in time.

Heavy cruisers had 8-inch guns, Alaska (for example) had 12 inch but in the past, such calibers as 9.2 inch also existed.


A whole bunch of "intermediate calibers" from 8.1 inch to 11.1 inch - some very old of course and some more recents.

Clearly, there was a very real risk of "intermediate ships" with 9 - 10 - 11 inch guns.
It wouldn't take a "gun scientist" to create intermediate guns for intermediate ships.
Of course they wouldn't stand any chance against battleships; but used as raiders they could outgun 8-inch WNT Heavy Cruisers.
 

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I'm pretty sure, either SOMEWHERE on this board, or on one of it's earlier incarnations there was a discussion regarding the modernisation of HMS New Zealand (memory may be playing tricks on me and it might have be HMAS Australia), but, for the life of me I am unable to locate my downloads from it...:(
I have however located the following drawing from CanisD's old webpages which I downloaded. They show 'suggestions' for a modernisation for HMS New Zealand.
As mentioned above however, with the best will in the world, you are never going to achieve a vessel that can stand in the line-of-battle as it were...
 

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dan_inbox

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This whole thread should really be in the section "Alternative History"
 

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I'm pretty sure, either SOMEWHERE on this board, or on one of it's earlier incarnations there was a discussion regarding the modernisation of HMS New Zealand (memory may be playing tricks on me and it might have be HMAS Australia), but, for the life of me I am unable to locate my downloads from it...:(
I have however located the following drawing from CanisD's old webpages which I downloaded. They show 'suggestions' for a modernisation for HMS New Zealand.
As mentioned above however, with the best will in the world, you are never going to achieve a vessel that can stand in the line-of-battle as it were...
CanisD’s interpretations of ‘Large Repair’ variants of scrapped 1st gen dreadnoughts are fantastic and provide some insight into what could have been done if some of these ships had been able to be retained and transferred to the Dominions post-WNT. Thanks for posting this!

In Reference to Volkodav’s ‘Fantasy RAN’, Admiral’s Henderson, Jelicoe and Beatty produced (at various times) planning papers specuilating on Australia’s naval defence requirements. These are freely available online and provide some interesting reading. Henderson IIRC advocated a two-ocean, two-Squadon policy involving the fielding of Battlecruisers, light cruisers, along with a flotilla each of destroyers and submarines on both the east and west coasts (Sydney and Fremantle) - totally beyond Australia’s will and resources at the time, but prophetic given the way the RAN is structured and deployed almost a century later.

Imagine an Interwar RAN that fielded two BCs (Lion and Princess Royal spared from the breakers??) six light cruisers (C/D class later replaced/supplimented by Arethusas/Southamptons), two mixed flotilla’s of Standard Destroyers and Sloops and a Flotilla of Submarines!
 

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any reasonable naval analyst would have to admit (however biased by national partisanship) that virtually no existing 12"-armed ship could stand in the line of battle against the fleet of a peer enemy and expect to survive (the WNT definition of a Capital Ship).

It's a treaty, you aren't dealing with 'reasonable naval analysts', you're dealing with weaponised lawyers (and note for that matter that the RN itself tried to introduce a 12" capital ship limit in later naval treaty negotiations). It was difficult enough to get any agreement at Washington, and the RN, but even more so the government, is not going to risk having it all fall apart and finding itself in another building race, but this time in the Pacific, over the fate of an obsolete battlecruiser it would have automatically scrapped but for it being HMAS, not HMS. Chances of persuading anyone choosing to object to HMAS Australia that the RAN isn't a part of the RN when it is commanded by a British Admiral, manned by large numbers of RN personnel, and takes considerable strategic direction from the Admiralty are just about zero. The presence of all of the Dominions*, plus India at the Conference, and as Signatories, further undermines the status of the RAN as an independent service, because no one would pretend for a second that the New Zealand Squadron, Royal Indian Marine and SANS were independent services.

* Well, except Newfoundland.

And the definition of a capital ship under Washington is explicit in the treaty text and not at all what you state here.

"Definitions

For the purposes of the present Treaty, the following expressions are to be understood in the sense defined in this Part.

CAPITAL SHIP
A capital ship, in the case of ships hereafter built, is defined as a vessel of war, not an aircraft carrier, whose displacement exceeds 10,000tons (10,160 metric tons) standard displacement, or which carries a gun with a calibre exceeding 8 inches (203millimetres)"

There's probably room to make legal arguments over whether 'hereafter built' covers existing designs, but there's only one clause defining capital ships, not one for existing vessels and one for new ones, and the treaty clearly expects the definition to cover both.
 

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While I agree with most of your post, I can’t agree with the final paragraph.

Using that logic C&G would fall to be classed as capital ships as they exceeded 10,000 tons and had 15” guns. And, as pointed out earlier, they were NOT covered by the Treaty. So the definition of “capital ship” in the Treaty cannot have been intended to be retrospectively applied to existing ships. It can only be applied to ships “hereafter built”.

As there is no prior definition of capital ship, rather than getting bogged down trying to come up with one, the Treaty takes the alternative, and very practical, route of listing those “capital ships” each nation can retain and those that must be scrapped. There could then be no doubt as to which vessels were intended to be covered by it.

And I think “hereafter built” is also sufficiently clear. The Treaty specifically included all those ships then in the course of construction, including the British “4 building or projected” (the 4 G3 battlecruisers designed, approved, ordered and suspended immediately prior to the Conference but on which no construction had begun),
 

Volkodav

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I'm pretty sure, either SOMEWHERE on this board, or on one of it's earlier incarnations there was a discussion regarding the modernisation of HMS New Zealand (memory may be playing tricks on me and it might have be HMAS Australia), but, for the life of me I am unable to locate my downloads from it...:(
I have however located the following drawing from CanisD's old webpages which I downloaded. They show 'suggestions' for a modernisation for HMS New Zealand.
As mentioned above however, with the best will in the world, you are never going to achieve a vessel that can stand in the line-of-battle as it were...
CanisD’s interpretations of ‘Large Repair’ variants of scrapped 1st gen dreadnoughts are fantastic and provide some insight into what could have been done if some of these ships had been able to be retained and transferred to the Dominions post-WNT. Thanks for posting this!

In Reference to Volkodav’s ‘Fantasy RAN’, Admiral’s Henderson, Jelicoe and Beatty produced (at various times) planning papers specuilating on Australia’s naval defence requirements. These are freely available online and provide some interesting reading. Henderson IIRC advocated a two-ocean, two-Squadon policy involving the fielding of Battlecruisers, light cruisers, along with a flotilla each of destroyers and submarines on both the east and west coasts (Sydney and Fremantle) - totally beyond Australia’s will and resources at the time, but prophetic given the way the RAN is structured and deployed almost a century later.

Imagine an Interwar RAN that fielded two BCs (Lion and Princess Royal spared from the breakers??) six light cruisers (C/D class later replaced/supplimented by Arethusas/Southamptons), two mixed flotilla’s of Standard Destroyers and Sloops and a Flotilla of Submarines!
Familiar with the Henderson and Jellicoe papers but not Beatty's.

I have considered a hypothetical where, following the WNT, Australia dropped the Fleet Unit all together and adapted the Henderson plan to suit the new reality. Basically the eight BCs / Armoured Cruisers with Counties, the town class cruisers with C/D type light cruisers / scouts or super destroyers and the destroyers with smaller torpedo boats, sloops or possibly even an earlier equivalent to the Steam Gun Boats. Basically each type in the Henderson Plan would be replaced by a type of the next size down for a much cheaper but still balanced and effective force.
 

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Not a bad representation...

whatif-HMAS-Australia-BS1942-768x273.jpg

Credit: naval-encyclopedia.com
 

Deino

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A great comparison made by @AkelaFreedom and posted at the SDF: "For comparison, satellite imagery - Type 075 LHD, Shandong and Liaoning. The same pier and height." But at least for the Liaoning, it seems to be not "the same pier"! Or am I wrong?

Anyway a great comparison.


1619422515842.png
 

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Deino, I think your post has ended up in the wrong thread (there is a bit of a posting glitch going around at the moment).
 

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