[...] Compte tenu des actes récents des Autorités Impériales Allemandes en violation des droits Français en haute mer qui ont abouti au torpillage et au naufrage du navire à vapeur Français Aquitaine le 3 mai 1918, par lequel plus de 230 citoyens Français ont perdu la vie, il est clairement judicieux et souhaitable que le gouvernement Français et le gouvernement Impérial Allemand soient parfaitement conscients de la situation grave qui en a résulté. [...]
-Excerpt from an official notice sent by the French Government to the German Authorities, three days after the sinking of the Aquitaine.
On the night of the 3rd of May 1918, near the coast of Armorique, a German submarine, the U-112
, spots a large liner, possibly a troopship. A close inspection of the vessel reveals it to be sailing with its lights extinguished; but sonar operators report that she is regularly sounding her fog horn. Kapitänleutnant
Igor Muetz brings his ship closer and confirms that she is the French transatlantic liner Aquitaine
, a registered neutral ship. She is within the specified 'war zone', where civilian ships may be subject to submarine attack, but she is a neutral ship and not
a valid target. Muetz briefly considers surfacing and offering assistance (it is clear that the ship has sufffered some
electrical difficulties), but he finally decides that this would expose his boat to danger from potential British ASW patrols and decides not to risk it. He returns to his hunting grounds and gives the Aquitaine
no second thought - after all, if she holds her present course, she will leave the 'war zone' within two or three hours at the most.
Unfortunately for the French liner (that is, indeed, suffering from a massive
short-circuit of her electrical systems that, in itself, killed two of its crewmen) Kapitänleutnant
Heinrich Körner of the U-132
is not as conscientious or professional as Muetz; and his boat has a temperamental sonar array. Unlike his most experienced and wary colleague, upon spotting what he perceives to be a blacked-out troopship or freighter, Körner immediately snapshots a spread of three torpedoes in her general direction and maneuvers to evade.
is struck port amidships and sinks within the hour, almost a hundred miles from the French coast. The early spring sea is freezing and there is no time to mount an ordered, complete evacuation. Almost four hundred civilians (men, women and children alike) die, including thirty British, seven Germans, eighty-four Americans and over a hundred and fifty French.
The vocal protests of Woodrow Wilson's USA is but a distant buzzing in the ears of von Mecklenburg - no matter the American imperialists' protests, Wilson still lacks the popular support he needs to involve the US in a transatlantic war. Similarly, the protests of the Italians and the Japanese do not come as a surprise; and it is possible to stall those. But the massive blow to von Mecklenburg's foreign policy comes from the dramatic (and completely justified) alienation of the French. This is not a (debatably) legal sinking of a British ship (Red Cross or no); this is a clear-cut case of unjustifyingly sinking a neutral ship - a war crime by any definition of the term, including that of the Germans.
Escalation with France (that would have them, potentially, join the war on the Brits' side) is only averted by the prompt arrest and military trial of Körner. This time, there is no protest from the Admiralität
. Tirpitz and Galster are very much
aware of how dramatically the situation could change if the Marine Nationale joins the Grand Fleet. War with France would also immediately cut the lifelines of supplies (including military
supplies) currently flowing into Germany from the French borders; this, in turn, would lead to a terrifyingly
more effective British naval blockade.
Mecklenburg, by now significantly more aged and tired that he was nearly two decades ago, when he first made his debut in the Berlin scene, dances like he's never danced before. He knows that Britain is ready to fold - he knows that it's simply a matter of weeks
before the starving populace resorts to extreme measures. He must
prevent the revitalisation an alliance with France would bring to the British; and so, he appeases, compromises, obfuscates, makes empty promises. Anything
to buy the Admiralität
the weeks - days - hours
they will need.
This same urgency permeates the entirety of the German Navy. The submarines have performed quite well, but now Tirpitz pulls them back. There must be no repeat of the
Aquitaine this month.
Instead, it is the Hochseeflotte
that is sent out to raid. Specifically, the new, G7
. They are big enough and their range is just
long enough to permit them to reach the Celtic Sea; they are fast enough to escape any British light cruisers they might encounter and
large enough to smash any British destroyers they might face. It is a desperation measure, but desperate times...
draw the attention of the British fleet near Skaggerak; five Zerstörer
slip through the Channel to hit the British convoys. This is a one-way trip; a German-chartered coaler is diverted to resupply them near the northern coast of Spain.
are lucky. On the morning of the 25th of March, they sight a large British convoy. Nine massive freighters - American grain transports, mostly - escorted by seven British destroyers.
The German ships form line of attack; Fregattenkapitän
Friedrich Halsband's S-22
leading the charge. The freighters are sailing in two groups, of four and five ships; the Germans attack from the south, breaching the British perimeter and engaging the southernmost, five-freighter group with their 100mm guns. As the British destroyers scramble to intercept, the Germans show their broadsides and launch their fish.
The lead enemy destroyer - a 700-ton Boyne
-class ship - eats a German torpedo on her bow and her hull cracks like an eggshell. She flips over and sinks almost immediately.
But the British destroyermen pay the Germans back, blow for blow. The S-18
, one of the newest, mine-bearing G7 Zerstörer
, eats a British torpedo in return and suffers the same fate as her opponent.
But, despite the supreme valour shown by the British, their ships are smaller and less seaworthy than the German Zerstörer
and they are too late to save the freighters. The Germans take an utter mauling at the hands of the enemy destroyers: they lose the S-10
as well, to enemy guns; and the G-7
herself only barely
makes it to Spain; but, they still manage to sink seven of the nine freighters and skulk away...
...slipping into a small, localised squall.
The British, in turn, lose three of their destroyers; but it is the loss of the food transports that hurts them the most. There is little they can do beyond gathering up their survivors, and morosely returning to Britain.
The surviving German raiders do not feel jubilant either. They have sunk their targets, but have suffered considerable damage themselves. Any plans for a long-lived Zerstörer
raiding flotilla operating near the Spanish and French coastlines have been dashed - they have lost two ships and the G-7
will take weeks
to repair in neutral ports.
They sail south at cruise speed, blacked-out and under strict radio silence, baby-sitting the crippled G-7
for two rainy, cold, miserable
days. And then, having finally entered radio range of the collier Siegfried
, they learn the news.
On the 26th of March, a day that will be forever marked in the history of our world, London burns
. Several Army regiments mutiny and march on the British capital; others just...fall apart. Three Dreadnoughts (the Glory, Prince of Wales
and the newly-commissioned Redoutable
) join in the mutiny and pin the rest of the Grand Fleet in Scapa Flow; they are quickly joined by many other ships.
Despite the opening chaos, the mutineers manage to re-establish a modicum of control within the next week. There is no question of civil war here - there are only desperate people
, who need this war to end
. They are quickly joined by several 'Peoples' Delegations' from many cities and boroughs. Their representatives request a Royal audience.
The King and Royal Family are sacrosanct to the mutineers. Even the more cynical amongst them recognise that the legality of their coup depends on their claim that they are respecting the Royal authority. To say that King George V is not pleased
to be dealing with the 'rebel socialists' is an understatement. But he is politically savvy enough to recognise that the situation has no conventional solution; and that it is terrifyingly
easy to squander the political goodwill his people are willing to accord him.
And so he backs off. The previous Parliament is dissolved, by Royal Decree. The April Armistice with the Germans is negotiated; for the first time in almost a year, food supplies reach the Isles. Elections are held, for the first time including women over 30 years old and all men over 21 into the electoral body. A new government is elected, with a clear peace mandate.
And von Mecklenburg meets with British delegates in Paris, to discuss terms of peace.
At this point, the Germans, essentially, can dictate what terms they want. But Mecklenburg has a specific agenda, and he pushes it mercilessly.
For two hundred years, the British have ruled the waves. Their colonial Empire spans the globe; it lives and dies by the control of sea traffic. Mecklenburg wishes for this to stop
The lifeline of Britain - the jugular that connects her with her Far Eastern holdings, including the jewel of the Raj, Hong Kong and Australia - is the Mediterranean. This is the jugular that the Reichskanzler
is now poised to rip out.
Negotiations continue for a month, during which the British Grand Fleet remains interned in Brest, under the watchful eyes of the three Zähringens
and with skeleton crews. During this time, a limited number of supply ships and freighters are allowed through the German submarine blockade, to bring the bare necessities to the suffering British population.
Eventually, and under von Mecklenburg's ultimatum that hostilities will resume unless an agreement is reached by the 15th of May, the British relent. As a compromise, Mecklenburg agrees to release the British Fleet without claiming any prizes. But, on the other hand, he has secured two holdings for Germany that far surpass any war gains she has seized since the turn of the century.
First: the Rock. Gibraltar itself. Britain's bastion on the entrance of the Mediterranean for the last three hundred years, now flies the Schwartz-Weiss-Rot
Second: Egypt, with her oh-so-precious Suez canal, is ceded to Germany. This is a true humiliation for the British - this is von Mecklenburg's masterstroke. Never mind the hugely profitable cotton crops that are now under new management; never mind the gateway to the Sinai (and, through that, to the oil-rich Arab peninsula) that Egypt provides the Germans: what Johann Albrecht von Mecklenburg has achieved, with this, his short victorious war, that lasted less than a year, is to render the Mediterranean a German lake. Both entrances are now controlled by the Reich
; and allied Greece serves as a strong buffer state in the Dardanelles region, to keep the Russian Black Sea Fleet bottled in. British sea traffic from the Indian Ocean now needs to either pay absurd tolls to cross the Suez, or circumnavigate Africa.
And, of course, the strategic implications of this paradigm shift in times of war are enormous. Germany can now, at will, deny her enemies the Suez.
So, finally, there is peace. Germany settles in, grimly satisfied, like a well-fed beast
. The Kaiser crows of German superiority; the Navy are the heroes of the day.
And that same satisfaction permeates the Navy as well. They have all done their duty. From the relentless grinding stone of the U-bootflotte
, to the daring pirate raids of the light cruisers, to
the overwhelming might of the Schlachtkreuzergeschwader
, to the suicidal bravery of the Zerstörer
has been a part of this victory.
And the Navy enjoys the fruits of victory as well. With tensions as low as they've ever been - with the world still reeling at the upset that Mecklenburg and his 'Iron Dogs' have brought, the Admiralität grants massive Siegestag
pay bonuses to the sailors, followed by blanket leaves of absence for most of the active-duty personnel.
Not the R & D folk, though. They are the unsung heroes; and they are still working hard (perhaps harder now than ever) to digest the treasure-trove of information they have received.
For, amidst the chaos of the burning of London, some designs and blueprints went missing, only to, eventually, find themselves in the hands of the German Intelligence. If some mid-ranking British officers who had seen which way the wind was blowing found themselves somewhat richer, that was a fortuitous coincidence and nothing more. Furthermore, German agents had had multiple chances to covertly (but thoroughly
) examine the British ships during their internment in Brest. All their notes were channeled to the German ship designers; and some of these notes were worth their weight in gold.
Firstly, British gun mounts. They were designed to handle considerably heavier guns than their German analogues. The turret designs of the Camperdowns,
for instance, were a revelation in space savings and ergonomic design for the Germans. They were still criminally under-armored, of course; but the Germans now had a radically different base turret layout that they could up- or down-scale to some extent, and modify for their purposes (including a massive increase in armor). Another thing to integrate in the Zähringens'
Secondly, British guns
. Specifically, the complete blueprints to the British BL 15-inch Mk I rifles: the 'big terrors' that had terrorised the Schlachtkreuzer
Here, the engineers were appalled
. The British guns were high-caliber, but they exhibited a number of obvious performance faults, that brought to mind Germany's 14-inchers. After beginning work on the Bismarck
-class superdreadnoughts, the Germans had experimented extensively with their own 14-inch designs, ironing out many of the early problems. These innovations were now integrated into the BL15Mk1, producing a working prototype of what was classified as the "38cm SK L/45" gun. Caliber was one milimetre lower than the British rifle; but the German gun was 45 calibers long, instead of the British shorter, 42-caliber barrel, which gave it a higher muzzle velocity, extended range and increased penetration, at the expense of a slight reduction in shell weight. This was, again, countered by a drastic redesign of the gun breech, to accept German metal propellant casings, instead of the British warhead-and-bag loading system. This helped push the rate of fire up and provided increased safety.
Finally, preliminary designs for a new 1500-ton Zerstörer
class, reached the surprising conclusion that a hull of that size would be sufficient to support superfiring turrets. This was revolutionary
. While the budget of the Admiralität
could not support laying down such a class yet (especially after the severe slashing that the military budget had received after peace had been concluded), a small group of naval engineers stayed on the project, with a strange gleam in their eyes.
Passers-by their offices would often see them huddled around ship models, hull framing mockups and blueprints, muttering things like "Nein, wir brauchen schwerere Geschütze, Klaus!"
September 1918; a hundred days after peace is concluded. Let's have a look at the state of the world.
For the first time in recent history, the Brits are not leading the world in their naval budget. They simply can't afford to outspend the Americans, for now. Thankfully for the brits, their infrastructure
has not been significantly hit; they can
rebuild pretty quickly. Germany is third, with a yearly budget that dwarfs that of the other powers, but is still sixty million Reichsmark
behind the British one and almost a hundred
million behind the 'Muricans.
Germany is far behind her leading competitors in Dreadnought tonnage, as well. She has no
'official' Dreadnoughts in commission: two of the three Fürst Bismarcks
are still almost a year away, while work on the third ship of the class, SMS Brandenburg
has been frozen due to budgetary difficulties. That said, these three ships combined displace three-quarters the total active Dreadnouht tonnage of the British; and the British have eight
Dreads in active service. Germans build bigger and better.
Germany, on the other hand, leads the world in heavy battlecruisers. No surprise there, as the three Zähringens
alone clock in at 156k tons and account for almost half her active Schlachtkreuzer
tonnage. It is worth noting, however, that none of her active battlecruisers can reach a speed higher than 25 knots (a speed shared by the German Dreadnoughts
, under construction) and none of her ships mount any weapon of higher caliber than 12 inches. These ships have served well; but, despite their elite crews and their illustrious careers, they are rapidly falling behind in effectiveness. The early veterans (the Von der Tanns
and the Moltkes
, in particular, with their lack of torpedo belts, are obsolescent.
Predreads are, of course, irrelevant, as EVERYBODY BUT THE BRITS has realised.
Heavy cruisers are an interesting field of discussion. Here, Germany reigns supreme; but she does so by sacrificing supremacy in the light cruiser field. Once more, Germany builds uncompromising hybrids
. Her doctrine has completely discarded the idea of the light cruiser raider; her cruisers are meant to scout
enemy cruisers, with heavy guns. Anti-DD work is considered a secondary function; and the large German Zerstörer
are thought sufficient to handle it.
That said, Germany does suffer from a crippling lack of Zerstörer
. Yes, in tonnage, her destroyer fleet is quite satisfactory; but in number of hulls not so much. German Zerstörer
can usually win one-on-one fights with their contemporary equivalents; but they can't be everywhere
And as for submarines...
Aww, look at Russia and Japan trying to submarine, they honestly think they're intimidating.Adorabble.