- PART 5 -
Wir fahren ge'en Engeland"The new experimental designs for the so-called 'All or Nothing' armor schemes were received with limited enthusiasm by the Admiralität. This was such a radical departure from our tried-and-true past designs that were were, perhaps,
too cautious in adopting them. But what was, finally, decided, was that the
Zähringen and her sisters would be completed as designed; and that a new generation of heavy cruisers would be laid down, to serve as testbeds.""After all, while the
Schlachtkreuzer had proved to be perfectly capable of catching and sinking the Japanese raiding light cruisers, our enemies had only employed old, obsolete designs. The British or French navies operated light cruisers that were easily capable of outrunning our capitals; we needed something capable of safeguarding our merchantmen."
-Vizeadm. Galster K (post mort.) 1956, The Naval Question: Collected Papers and Letters, edited by Dr. Ernst Jablonka, Universitätsverlag Heidelberg.
Zelle, you've been busy
designs, you say? My, my, don't mind if we do...Godverdammt,
the Brits are building hard.
The German analysts get cracking on the blueprints. The end conclusions are not encouraging.
First things first: this thing is fast
. It has three knots on the Zähringens
and it also has a respectable, eleven-and-a-half inch belt. It's no dreadnought, but it's enough to cause our 12-inchers problems at long range. And it will be able to keep
our heavy hitters at range, because it's faster and it can dictate the engagement.
And its guns are made
for long-range engagements. It cannot dish out the same volume of fire as the Zähringens
(not even close), but it is
armed with the dreaded British 15-inch rifles. Eight of them. The analysts have no
idea what the capabilities of these weapons are, but they are sure
to give the Zähringens
problems, especially if we're talking about long-range, plunging fire down into the Schlachtkreuzers'
two- and three-inch decks.
Finally, the British (unlike the French and Japanese) have fire-control directors.
On the other hand, there are some good news, too. Firstly: these are medium-sized ships. They are just now under construction and yet they are not significantly bigger than the five-year-old Wittelsbachs
. The Zähringens
enjoy a considerable
tonnage advantage here - they have the displacement to simply absorb more damage than the Sutlejs
. Also, the Brits have no Superimposed B turrets. These ships have a decent-to-fearsome broadside, but they will be utter ****
in any battle where they will have to pursue their opponent.
And their turrets...
The German analysts are uncertain of whether the blueprints are accurate, here. Germany's own experience has confirmed that weak turret armor is a recipe for turret jams and, potentially, even disastrous magazine hits. The Sutlejs
have 10-inch turret front armor, to the Zähringens'
13.5 inches. Is it a mistake? Is it a design feature? A compromise? Do the British know something that the Germans do not?
Or -oh, the utter dread
of the idea- do they have some new armor alloy? Something that Germany lacks? How far behind are we!?
This is very, very
Well, it's folly to expect to match the British in naval artillery, given the Erzfeind's
head start. It makes more sense to invest in a tried-and-true weapon. Ten more modern submarines leave the slipways in February.
And in April, this. Hah. Well, if we can't match their rifles, we'll surpass them in ammunition quality.
Three months from completion, the workers have reached the Mackensen's
superstructure. It is time to install the fire-control systems. It is worth reminding the reader that the Zähringens
were originally designed with Central Firing systems in mind, not Directors; the modifications will take an extra month to complete but that's a no-brainer for Galster and Tirpitz.
And then, everything goes to ****, very, very
Java had been a Dutch colonial holding since 1815, when it was ceded back to the Dutch by the British. The Dutch had maintained strict order on the island throughout the 19th century, including bringing a local civil war to a forceful end. Now, on the other hand, with local nationalism gaining roots, a dramatic series of riots shook the island and impacted the foundations of Dutch colonial rule.
The British, seeing an opportunity to re-establish a base of operations in the Far East, on a holding that economically and strategically dominated the Indonesian islands, dispatched a force to 'assist' the Dutch in quelling the riots. Notably, the Dutch had requested no such assistance; and, in some distress, they sought support from the new rising Power in the area: Germany.
Von Mecklenburg, for once, fully
stood behind Kaiser Wilhelm's thunderous polemic against the British interventionism - and this stance fully endeared him to his monarch and solidified his position as Reichskanzler
until his death. It took his government less than two days to convene, discuss and come to a conclusion regarding the Java Crisis: following that, an ultimatum was delivered by the German Ambassador to Whitehall, on the 26th of April. The British forces were to be recalled, immediately, and to the satisfaction of the Dutch allies of His Majesty the Kaiser's Government; if orders to that extent had not been given within fourty-eight hours from the time of receipt of the ultimatum, the Ambassador of His Majesty, George V, would no longer be welcome in Berlin and a state of war would be in effect between Germany and the United Kingdom.
An exchanged of surprised and increasingly panicked telegrams from England followed, only to be met with stony, uncompromising determination from von Mecklenburg. Quietly, the German army began mobilising. The Hochseeflotte
having just completed their maintenance cycle after their return from the Far East) made steam and left their harbours.
The world held its collective breath, waiting for the bang.
And then, to the stunned surprise of everyone
, on the morning of the 27th of April, the squadron of acting Vice-Admiral Sir David Beatty receives a recall order from the Admiralty. They are to pull away from Java and cease and desist with any operations in the area.
Britannia has backed off
Not without a considerable amount of ill will, of course. Von Mecklenburg is very much aware that this cannot
be the end of this matter. For the first time in a century, British interventionism has been challenged directly; she cannot allow this challenge to remain unanswered, or she risks losing everything.
The pace is now frantic. As tensions slowly, slowly
bleed off, the Admiralität
focuses on completing the Zähringens
on time for the inevitable clash. Zähringen
herself is close to completion: the workers are now installing her fire Directors.No.
Perfect. This is the last piece of the puzzle that Germany needs right now.
gives her the money necessary to move to the next step of Tirpitz's and Galster's rearmament program.
On the 5th of July, the Mackensen
is formally commissioned into the German Navy and departs on her shakedown cruise. She is a behemoth
, nearly twenty thousand tons heavier than any other ship afloat. And her mighty bulk in the Baltic makes German morale soar.
Kaiser Wilhelm's constant polemic provides a constant undertone of war-drums, all through these months. His darlings are now ready to carry out his will; he has no more need of the Spionspiel
. For the first time in years, he speaks his mind, openly.
There is some...collateral damage. But nothing too
Goddammit, Wilhelm, we're trying to fight the British
here. Stop trying to bring the entire world down on our heads!
Meanwhile, it's time for some changes. With Mackensen
operational, funds are released for the construction of a flotilla of twelve Zerstörer
, bigger and faster than anything Germany had built before. They displaced eleven hundred tons and were armed with three centreline 100mm guns. They also carried four torpedo tubes, in double launchers, a significant innovation in the German Navy.
Perhaps more significantly, they each carried dual-purpose mine rails, able to both lay mines and launch the new German depth-charges, when called upon to perform ASW duties.
Germany also lays down two next-generation heavy cruisers, unlike anything the world has ever seen before. They are the pioneers of the All-or-Nothing armor scheme, with underwater protection to rival the Zähringens
and a blistering top speed of 32 knots - almost
enough to keep up with the Zerstörer
flotillas and certainly enough to catch up with any light cruiser in existence. They carry a 5-inch belt, enough to bounce 6-inch shells with ease; a 2-inch, splinter-proof deck; modern fire-Directors. And, more importantly, they carry twelve 9-inch rifles
, mounted in four triple turrets. There is no light or heavy cruiser in the world that can stand against such armament.
These are the raider-killers of the German Navy. These are the ships that are too fast to be countered by enemy capitals and too powerful for any light cruiser to have a chance against them. There is no compromise here (except, perhaps, the anemic turret armor): the Prinz Heinrich
and the Freya
are built to be the worth successors of Hertha
and her sisters.
They are also bloody massive
. At nearly 17k tons, they are bigger than most pre-dreadnought battleships. But Galster can't help but drool when studying their blueprints.
And then, Frau
Zelle comes along with her newest scoop, this time from the Italians. And Military Intelligence finally
figures out what the Brits have been planning to hurt Germany.**** you
, Brits. No, really, **** you
The Italian battlecruiser is an almost exact
copy of the Japanese one, down to the shape of her superstructure
. 'Parallel development' my ass.
There's a brief discussion in the Admiralität
regarding how to best counter these beasts. Experimental designs of quadruple
turrets are put forwards. This would mean that the successors to the Zähringens
would be able to carry...oh...twenty-four
But the Admirals are not impressed by the complicated blueprints. Too liable to jam or break in combat situations. And, frankly, Germany needs to focus on upping her gun calibers. Scattershot is useful, but only up to a degree...
And then, Russia pokes the Baltic states again; and the Kaiser, now in full anti-British mode, makes a very
ill-advised comment towards the Russians and their potential being in the pocket of the British.
Von Mecklenburg scrambles for damage control - but it's too little, too late. Tensions with Russia spike once more.
Von Mecklenburg is pulling out what little hair he has left - chances are now very
high that Germany will have to deal with a war on two fronts. Or even worse - that the next war will be another delaying affair with Russia, while the Brits build up their forces even further. But Tirpitz and Galster come to his aid. In a joint effort with the Navy League, Krupp and most of the large shipbuilding industries of Germany, they push for a raise in the Naval budget - and are not
discreet at all about whom they consider to be Germany's next enemy.
As we enter 1916, the British Foreign Secretary fires back a formal protest; and tensions with Albion spike again. It's now a close race between The Brits and the Russians, with a very real danger of a tripartite war...
Meanwhile, Tirpitz uses his increased funding to refurbish all the old Piepers
. It'll take less than two months - a safe enough margin.
****ING HELL, BISMARCK WAS RIGHT.
KILL THE LEFT. KILL IT WITH FIRE AND STEEL. KEEP THAT **** OUT OF THE NAVY.