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Kaiser Wilhelm II's Homunculus (and torpedo battleships generally)

Avimimus

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

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

Do any more details survive?
 

Avimimus

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Speaking of the topic Battlecruiser "Q" of 1939 design was to have 12 submerged torpedo tubes... I'm wondering about the rationale? Obviously they aren't needed to make up for poor armour penetrating capabilities of guns (as had been he case in 1895) and seem antithetical to proper deployment of a battlecruiser...
 

TomS

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What's the source for that quote? And what timeframe are we talking about here?
 

Jemiba

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In the book "Kiel, die Deutschen und die See" by Jürgen Elvert, Jürgen Jensen and Michael Salewski,
the "Homunculus" is just described (very short only) as a very fast and heavily armoured battleship, "proposed"
by the Emperor in the 1890s. Back then, battles were still expected to be fought at close distances, so torpedoes
seemed a plausible weapon against other battleships.

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

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Avimimus

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TomS said:
What's the source for that quote? And what timeframe are we talking about here?
Source: 'Kaiser Wilhelm II' by Emil Ludwig (1926).

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

lastdingo

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Early torpedoes had terrible range and speed, so the practical utility cannot have been about much more than night battles.

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

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

Avimimus

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

Although, for nuance it is worth noting that HMS Polyphemius carried 5 ready to fire torpedoes (and 14 torpedoes in all), and French and Russian submarines of the next decade had large numbers of ready to fire torpedoes due to the use of external Drzewiecki drop collars (e.g. the Bars class in 1914 could have salvoed twelve torpedoes)!

So the move from having single torpedo tube boats or spar torpedo boats with a couple of locomotive torpedoes in drop collars towards considerably more powerful salvoes was well underway.
 
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Avimimus

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Here is another rare one... with 84 torpedoes stored in submerged tubes this is a candidate for the largest torpedo load proposed. It would certainly be a nasty surprise.
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However, the actual weight of the running torpedoes at 50-60 tons is outmatched by that later Kuma class cruisers (108 tons). This is due to the much smaller size of these torpedoes (assuming dimensions of typical whiteheads). Even the Shimikaze could release a larger broadside as it could turn all of its tubes to release a single broadsie of 40.5 tons (compared to that of the 42 torpedoes at a total of 25-30 tons). Of course the Type 93 was also much longer ranged, more reliable, more accurate, and carried a proportionally more devastating warhead. So Japan would still carry the title in terms of overall effect if not in terms of absolute numbers.
 
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Graham1973

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I remember seeing that Russian torpedo battleship on the old Warships 3.0 board and I will make the same remark I made back then. It is one of the few 'Torpedo Battleship' designs that didn't end up looking like an overgrown destroyer.
 

Grey Havoc

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Imagine it in World of Warships, say as a Tier 3 Premium. The screams would be heard in orbit.
 

TomS

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That's a lot of underwater holes just waiting to happen.
 

Archibald

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Most. ridiculous. ship.name.ever.

If the Kayser (that moustache and the casque a pointe, OMG !) send such ship attacking the french fleet, I can tell you the French sailors would die of laughter, because there are so many play on words with that name... homunculus ? oh, mon cul lisse ! Homme enc...le - and on, and on.
 

RLBH

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Most. ridiculous. ship.name.ever.

If the Kayser (that moustache and the casque a pointe, OMG !) send such ship attacking the french fleet, I can tell you the French sailors would die of laughter, because there are so many play on words with that name... homunculus ? oh, mon cul lisse ! Homme enc...le - and on, and on.
It wouldn't have been called 'HOMUNCULUS' in service, much as the ships built to Fisher's Rhadamanthus concept were named 'RENOWN' and 'REPULSE'.
 

Avimimus

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Most. ridiculous. ship.name.ever. If the Kayser (that moustache and the casque a pointe, OMG !) send such ship attacking the french fleet, I can tell you the French sailors would die of laughter, because there are so many play on words with that name... homunculus ? oh, mon cul lisse ! Homme enc...le - and on, and on.
It wouldn't have been called 'HOMUNCULUS' in service, much as the ships built to Fisher's Rhadamanthus concept were named 'RENOWN' and 'REPULSE'.
Indeed, it was a pejorative term in this case... one can read up on it and try to figure out the connotations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homunculus
 

Avimimus

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Interesting find! I always find it intriguing to think about how there was uncertainty regarding how technology would develop - and how wrong I could have been in some of my speculations if I'd been alive at the time. The idea that heavily armoured torpedo ships could resist the QF guns and luckily miss hits from the main guns of dreadnought to destroy it with a single salvo... is appealing... it reduces the uncertainty and provides another avenue to the Jeune École to advance...

Btw. Assuming the 21" Whiteheads discussed are similar to the 'Mk.I Long'... that would work out with only about 17.78 tons for the broadside, however with the reloads, the actual weight of torpedoes is about 152.4 tons... so greater than any of the theoretical or built projects discussed earlier!
 

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MJBurmaster

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Do not forget that Willie was also reacting to potential foreign developments. Bad timing in the sense that the torp battleship came about at the time the Germans had to consider increasing the size of the HG. The torpedo battleship required keeping the 12"/305mm which sat uneasily on Willie given his desire to increase HG size and at a time when the budget was already stretched.
 

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Profuse apologies to ALL on the site, I have yet again found an old image saved from somewhere not recorded (recall it being from a book, not on-line) and it was done on an old style 'wet' photo-copier (xerox) - those were the days, hand drawn sketches or xerox copies, no scanning of images to hard drives...

Kaiser Wilhelm II's torpedo cruiser design:-
 

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MJBurmaster

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Beside Friedman, Alan Dodson devoted a few paragraphs to the RM torpedo battleship in his book on the Kaiser's battlefleet.
 

natewillcome4you

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Interesting to think about how this ship could have affected WW!, probably not much use against the British but against the Russians, maybe
 

Grey Havoc

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Actually, it could have caused a fair bit of trouble for the Royal Navy as well, properly deployed (for example, helping to ambush Northern Patrol sweeps and the like).
 

natewillcome4you

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I think U-Boats could have done a much better job as ambushers, or a swarm of torpedoboats
 

Tzoli

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That is if I'm not mistaken the Austro-Hungarian idea for a torpedo warship
 

natewillcome4you

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That makes more sense, I imagine it would be useful in the adriatic
 

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royabulgaf

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Speaking of the topic Battlecruiser "Q" of 1939 design was to have 12 submerged torpedo tubes... I'm wondering about the rationale? Obviously they aren't needed to make up for poor armour penetrating capabilities of guns (as had been he case in 1895) and seem antithetical to proper deployment of a battlecruiser...
I've been thinking of this- It would be nice if the torpedos would hit the enemy ship. However it would be better if the torpedos forced the enemy ships to swerve into a kill zone for the ship's guns.
 

Graham1973

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Here is a link to an online copy of the US Navies 'Springstyles' plan book Volume 1, this is the section which covers the American Torpedo battleship proposals. From memory they gamed out the concept and realized that the ships became targets as soon as they started their run in. Again these designs all have that 'Overgrown Destroyer' look that I've noted with a lot of the other 'torpedo battleship' designs.

http://www.shipscribe.com/styles/S-584/albums/s584-bt.htm

Below is the final iteration of the design with a quad 14inch turret forward to protect the ship during the run in and a 16 x 21inch TT battery.

 

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Hi, a couple of figures and a caption form the Italian book "Sotto i mari del mondo. La Whitehead 1875-1990", Laterza Ed., 1990, dealing about the history of the Whitehead torpedo factory.

Lombardia.jpg
Re Umberto.jpg

Caption.jpg
The caption briefly describes the two underwater tubes on the "Lombardia" (a cruiser launched in 1890) and the four underwater tubes on the "Re Umberto" (an ironclad launched in 1888).
 
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