Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Battleships Without Pants

Quite innocently, (that is my story and I am sticking to it) I was directed to this site and learned that these Mecha-Tan thingies are not just an occasional item that pops up now and again, but yet more proof that the Japanese are Stark-Raving-Cuckoo-4-Cocca-Puffs.
But this madness seems to manifest itself in a way that is kind of wacky, but ( we all dearly hope) harmless.

Anyway, in amongst these Transformers from the Island of Doctor Moreau, I stumbled upon these gems. Yes, Dreadnaught-Tans! Each wearing some identifying bit of superstructure, and armarment, and a uniform that is as appropriate as possible without pants......as this is a SFW blog they are wearing bikini bottoms.

I'm pretty sure the above is supposed to represent the first of the German Pocket Battleships, Deutschland, the control mast is much slimmer than the others of the class. This vessel was later renamed Lutzow by Hitler, to prevent a ship with the name "Germany" from being sunk which would be bad for morale. This quasi-superstitious name change made much more sense than invading the USSR, which ended up causin a far greater loss of morale...... The ship caused much consternation amongst the Naval powers of the '30s as she was of cruiser size with light battleship guns, but was too slow and poorly armored to even be an acceptable cruiser.
Jumping into the Tardis and going back to WW1 we find SMS Von Der Tan, The first German battlecruiser and one of the smallest vessels ever given that designation. This spunky little minx was pounded mercelessly at Jutland, but survived and, as the British Battlecruisers retired from the confused opening phase of the battle to alert their main force, she fired a salvo of 2x11 inch shells from her last operational turret at extreme range and sank HMS Indefatigable with a magazine explosion. She survived considerable pounding throughout the rest of the battle doing a good bit of damage to the enemy and made it home.......only to be scuttled with the rest of the High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow after the war.

Not as fortunate was the old SMS Scharnhorst an "armored cruiser" (a sort of second class battleship). Admiral Graff Spee's flagship in the German Asiatic squadron, she and her squadron were caught in an untenable position with no hope of support when Japan declared war upon Germany. Scharnhorst and the rest of the squadron then embarked on an epic journey across the Pacific in hopes of making it back to Germany. Scharnhorst's gun crews were crack and had won a Navy-wide competition just before the war. They stood her in good stead when the 2 armored cruisers and 3 protected (light) cruisers utterly annihilated Admiral Christopher Craddock's armored cruiser squadron off the coast of Chile. Unfortunately for our ascot adorned beauty, when the Germans attempted to raid the Falkland Islands, they encountered Admiral Sturdees squadron of 1 old battleship, 2 modern battlecruisers, and a whole schlew of smaller UK cruisers that could outrun and outgun the old German ships. Spee went down with his ships, and most of his men.

I think this is the WW1 era French battleship Lorraine which fought under the Free-French flag during WW2, firing her guns mainly at shore positions in....France.

Not a battleship, but an old and quite small light cruiser, SMS Emden was a member of the same ill-fated squadron as Scharnhorst, but did not join the rest of the squadron on the journey across the Pacific. Instead, she lurked in the SW pacific and Indian Ocean as a corsair cruiser, raiding UK and Japanese commerce, tying down a ridiculous number of UK and IJN assets to guard the Anzac convoys, spreading abject panic, attacking coaling stations filling her bunkers with looted coal and being generally piratical. Her Captain, Karl von Muller was universally praised for his chivalrous treatment of his prisoners and his efforts to assure their saftey after he'd liberated them of their vessels. Always turning heads, one of Frau Emdens most daring exploits was when she ran between the allied ships she encountered when she raided the Malayan (Myanmar) port of Penang, causing them to hit mainly each other. She then concluded her evening by sinking a Russian Cruiser and a French destroyer.

While putting a raiding party ashore in the Keeling islands to destroy a telegraph station, she was caught by the brand new Australian cruiser Sydney, which was faster, and had much longer ranged guns, Emden, astonishingly managed to get close enough to the faster cruiser to knock out a gun and fire control station, but her old 105mm guns were not able to punch through Sydneys armor. She could not get away and was pounded into scrap resulting in Muller beaching on North Keeling Island to save what was left of his crew. The Sydney took the few survivors prisoner.

Afterwards...that raiding party.... Remember them? Well, HMAS Sydney didn't. They had captured the island in question, so they seized a sailboat, and embarked on a harrowing journey through the East Indies then across the Red Sea and Arabia finally arriving in Germany via the Ottoman Empire in 1915.
I'm pretty sure this is the Vichy French battleship Jean Bart, because of the single quad turret. Unfinished when France fell, the Richelieu class battleship Jean Bart fled to North Africa despite only having one of her 15" turrets installed and little of her fire control. Later she sallied forth to oppose the Allied North African landings and engaged the brand new US battleship Massachusets (which had all of her turrets BTW) in a spirited but rather unequal duel, before being defeated. Repaired after the war with a state of the art AAA battery, she served into the 1950's. I'm guessing this is the French Battleship Richelieu, judging from the funnel shape, the presence of two turrets .......and the word "Richelieu" being prominently displayed.
The 2 French Richelieu class BBs were ton for ton, perhaps the best BBs ever built, very nearly as fast as the Iowas, with comparable armor, 8x15 inch guns in two innovative quad turrets and a superior torpedo defense system, all on 13,000 tons less displacement. Still incomplete at the French capitulation, she was amongst the ships attacked by the British Force-H, a squadron sent to prevent Hitler from utilizing the French fleet. They did this by sinking it. Unlike much of the French fleet, Richelieu gave a good account of herself and withstood shell and torpedo hits well. Despite this, after several engagements with UK ships determined to sink her, and with no desire to pull into a now Nazi controlled French port, she was unable to effect repairs and she was essssentially a stateless ship, thus her damage accumulated. By the time North Africa threw in with Free French forces, she had only 3 working main guns and could only attain a speed of 14 kts. Finally able to join Free French forces in 1942, she was fully repaired and completed in the US, later seeing considerable action with the UK in the Indian ocean, relieving the hard run UK BB's in escorting carriers and conducting shore bombardment. She tripped a magnetic mine but suffered little damage. She was present at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo bay. She was scrapped in 1968.

HMS Warspite, built in 1912, fought in both World Wars, and saw as much action as any battleship....EVER. Present at Jutland, Warspite was, due to a helm jammed by battle damage engaged at one point by virtually the entire German line, she is said to have taken as many shell hits as the rest of the Grand fleet at that battle combined, even if that is an exaggeration (I'm pretty sure it is), Warspite took a terrific pounding and lived to tell the tale. In WW2 she fought thru the conflict i the Atlantic, Mediterranian and Indian Ocean seeing action against aircraft and surface vessels including Italian Battleships. Struck off Salerno by 3 of the massive Fritz-X guided missiles, the same type that sank the state of the art Italian BB Roma, The old Lady Warspite soldiered on (albeit with one turret forever jammed)and continued to fight for the rest of the war, covering the Normandy landings in 1944.

Although the most storied battleship in UK history and indeed the world, she was, despite calls for her to become a museum ship alongside Nelson's Victory, ignominiously sold for scrap, but being the defiant Dame that she was, she beached herself hard aground on the way to the breakers...It took years to finish the job!
Ever dignified, Dame Warspite is the only one of our dreadnought damsels to wear pants.
The Italian Battleship Roma, one of the graceful and fast Vittorio Veneto class battleships, was one of he most attractive BBs ever built. Her carreer was quite short. As Italy changed sides in WW2 she fled south to join the Allies, but was struck by 2 massive Fritz-X guided missiles, which blew her apart.
The German-built Chinese battleship Zhenyuan was one of the most advanced ships in the world when built in the 1880s. During the Sino-Japanese War, despite the fact that the Japanese won pretty much every engagement, she did considerable damage to the Japanese at the Battle of the Yalu River, she probably would have done more had corrupt procurement officers not embezzled and filled her 12 inch shells with coal dust rather than the high explosive they were designed for! Ultimately captured at the end of the war by the Japanese, she saw action in the Russio-Japanese War, this time on the winning side, though the graceful old lady was quite obsolete by then.

Speaking of grace, a cheongsam may not be pants, but it beats the heck out some of the other things we've seen today...

This concludes todays special insanity.....I'm on active duty right now, hence little blogging.

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