A STRATEGIC MISTAKE OF THE EMPIREIt is not easy to assess the situation in the world that has developed after the First world war. The defeated German Empire is the largest country in Western Europe fizzled out in the universal race of ambition and the fight for the championship. Near the bottom of the “pit” was Russia, which was drained almost six years of fighting and revolution. The formal winners — Britain and France suffered during the four years of the “great grinder” too great losses in men, and in the media. The role of a leading world power increasingly passed into the hands of “overseas uncle”. The future seemed vague and incomprehensible.


However, the situation in the sea looked a little different With almost a complete departure from the scene of the German, Austro-Hungarian and Russian navies position of England seemed unshakable. Particularly preferred is a situation in the class cruisers. The Admiralty for the first time in many years, could revel in the fact that almost 90% of the world “Park” the ships in this class under his leadership. A huge Empire with entangled all the world Maritime trade routes was almost safe condition.
However, outside the splendor like a huge vintage wardrobe, fully pierced by beetle-woodworm, which urgently needs to restore or discard and replace the others. Almost all British cruisers built for joint operations with the Grand fleet, which in coming years was not planned. Of course, they were quite versatile, but for the traditional historical role of “guardians of the trade” ships “letter” of the series is still not enough range. Plans are new rivals and “old friends” of Britain was planned the construction of larger ships, capable of good deal with modest in size, “British.” The appearance of their raiders might have left behind the whole Armada of the Empire, represented by dozens of cruisers. To withstand the next unlimited race for naval armaments of Britain was no longer able to do. Even the exploitation of the huge number of existing ships hung “heavy weights on my legs” “mistress of the seas”. In fact its fleet immediately after the war had 42 battleships and battle cruisers, 120 destroyers, 527 147 destroyers and submarines. On ships and on shore by the time of the signing of the armistice in compiègne, there were 438 thousand British sailors. Moreover, the Grand fleet was preparing to take a thousand ships of various classes, in various stages of construction! But even the planned reduction, in accordance with which, in particular, the number of cruisers has been halved, the problem of “tied down” is not solved.
In such circumstances, in 1921, a conference was held, which received in history the name of Washington, at the venue. The participants (and the main countries represented a very important figure among politicians and naval experts), among other issues, tried to find a way out of the postwar economic depression by limiting naval armaments. Not to say that consent came quickly and was complete. The British did not want further reductions in its fleet, but the new “top player”, the United States, put forward a terrible argument, consisting in the fact that they can easily build on each English ship two. In the end, the number and tonnage of ships of the line managed to settle with accuracy to the ship. Cruisers with the same, similar arrangements failed. And not the last role here was played by the stubbornness of the British. They wanted to consolidate their superiority for a long time, not sacrificing any important unit. As the world’s largest modern cruisers were “Elizavetinsky”, whose displacement exceeded 9000 tons, armed with 190-mm guns, in the end, and took them as the upper limit of decency for a few rounding numbers up to 10,000 tons and 8 inch respectively. Britain succeeded not only in quality but in quantity: a common limitation of cruiser tonnage was not subject.
However, as it turned out, the victory of the Empire was a Pyrrhic one. Immediately after the Washington conference in early 1922, all major sea powers as the team announced the desire to build a cruiser only size limit and the maximum permitted 8-inch guns. Britain, a huge cruising fleet which consisted mainly of small units with a displacement of less than 5,000 tons, had nothing to do but to follow the example of rivals. Moreover, to maintain the excellence required to immediately take a high rate.
The Admiralty did. The decision on the construction of “County” or “counties”, as outlined the new type (they bore the names of the counties of England and Scotland), managed to take at the end of 1922, after which work on the project started with a good “pressure”. As it turned out, the pace went at the expense of quality. The designers of the first Maritime powers of the world having the same problems as their colleagues in other countries. The combination of restricted 10 thousand tons displacement and a powerful artillery, together with the planned high speed (take less than 30 knots, the new cruisers were considered obscene) put them in a dead end: tonnage on protection remained. Therefore, the Admiralty decided to make the main “highlight” of the project of the new vosmidesyati. They were supposed to be set in the two-gun towers and provide semi-automatic loading system, to achieve unprecedented for this caliber rate of fire. Early on in the press slipped quite fantastic figure up to 20 rounds per minute, but experts rightly have said it was impossible. Then lowered the bar to 10 — 12 rounds per minute. Naval theorists asserted boldly that the cruiser will be able to fill the shells of his opponent from a distance of 15 miles in a matter of minutes. However, the reality is strikingly different from the searchlights. Not only that, in project artillery laid a high degree of mechanization, and wanted to, they could fire at air targets! Of course, such early detection of a new chief of the enemy ships is a matter of respect, but the implementation of the project could not fail. The complexity of this technique just ahead of their time. In the throes of testing it was found that even for a greatly reduced rate of fire (5-6 rounds per minute) will have a lot to overcome. In the end, after several years of service and alterations, even under ideal conditions, the weapon could fire in 12 seconds. However, as a result desperate struggle with unruly mechanics the mass of each tower was increased by 50 tonnes-nearly one-third. Although the trunks of vospityvat could really bully up to 70 degrees, the speed pickup does not have enough to fire even at the slow aircraft of the late 1920-ies. In the end, the British supersustenance was quite ordinary, about the same level of technological development, that of rivals.
And it was still a good result, because the rest of the qualities of British “Washingtonians” is not shining. They had the smallest rate among the “classmates”, although the British stipulated that from now on, not going to be blown tests of lightweight vehicles, reaching records that will never be repeated in the service. Indeed, the “County” could maintain its 29 — 30 knots and a decade later, and in bad weather, on a strong emotion, which greatly contributed to the very vysokovoltny case. He even superficially looked so spacious, that very serious marine magazines it was stated that the British cruiser can carry in their large rooms up to 1,000 soldiers at any distance, and without loss of combat capability. Of course, the British were able to once again valiantly to fool future opponents, but the conditions for the team performance was quite decent.
Another “lie” about the data “County” is not demanded from the Admiralty nothing but full of the importance of silence. We are talking about protection. In the literature of that time British desyatitysyachnye often appear as armored cruisers, beveled deck, reaching a thickness of 102 mm. Sailors of other countries for quite a long time thought that the “mistress of the seas” has created a kind of modern version of “Powerful” and “Terrible”. In fact, however, fared much worse. More or less well managed to cover the armor only the charger cellars (in England well remembered, as they are armored and battle cruisers flew into the air from fires of gunpowder in the Jutland battle). The remaining area of the huge building was left virtually unprotected not only from the guns of cruisers and modern destroyers guns. Only cover the engine and boiler rooms were 25-mm thick sheathing Board. Not too solid looked, and 35 mm armored deck with no bevels. Very original was the protection of the artillery. For booking and so pretailing towers had no weight, and the experts gave birth to the theory that it is better not to book at all. Say, armor-piercing shells be able to penetrate both walls and go outside, unless you hurt yourself guns. So impressive-looking “boxes” were actually made of a thin 25-mm sheets, protects is that from not too large fragments. In General, for the protection of “County” is categorized as “cans”. Modest achievements have added a very primitive fire control system and more than doubtful underwater protection, consisting of placed outside the housing of the Boule. And the invisible faults immediately added pretty sharp pitching (although the legend of good artillery platform was supported by all the service) and strong vibration at large speeds, especially in the aft. The Soviet Ambassador in England, to I. Mayskiy, travelled on the “Kent”, could not sleep in the elegant Admiral’s cabin. Jumpin ‘ all, but the cruiser kept not the maximum stroke. A very high Board had an effect on the firing of the torpedoes: “fish”, dropped from a height of eight meters, broke or, at least, off course, creating a danger to the ship. The problem was solved, not without difficulty, enhancing the design of torpedoes themselves and carefully choosing the angle at which they entered the water.
160. Heavy cruiser “Dorsetshire” (England, 1930)
Built at the shipyard of the Navy in Portsmouth. Displacement standard — 9950 t, full — 13 425 tons, maximum length — 192,93 m, width — 20,12 m, maximum draught of 6.37 m. the thickness chetyrehbalnoy steam turbine — 80 000 HP speed -32,25 site. Reservations: the Board of 25 mm, the deck 35 — 38 mm, cellars and handlebars 102 — 25 mm, turret and barbettes 25 mm. Armament: eight 203/50-mm guns, four 102/45 mm anti-aircraft guns, four single 40-mm antiaircraft gun, four 47-mm saluting guns, two four 533-mm torpedo tubes. In 1930, built two units: “Dorsetshire” and “Norfolk”. Upgraded in 1937 with the installation of new anti-aircraft artillery: paired four 102-mm guns and two four-barrelled 40 mm gun. “Dorsetshire” sunk by Japanese carrier aircraft in April 1942, “Norfolk” scrapped in 1950
161. Heavy cruiser “Northumberland” (England, 1930 project)
Had to be built at the shipyard of the Navy in Devonport. The standard displacement of 10,000 tons, full — 12 665 tons, maximum length — 182,87 m, width — 19,51 m, draught of 6.55 m. Capacity chetyrehbalnoy steam turbine 60 000 HP, speed 30 knots. Reservations: the Board of 140 mm, deck 35-76 mm, cellars 76-140 mm, 37 mm rudders, turrets and barbettes 25 mm. Armament: eight 203/50-mm guns, four 102/45 mm anti-aircraft guns, two four-barrel 40 mm anti-aircraft gun, four 47-mm saluting guns, two four 533-mm torpedo tubes, two seaplane. In 1930 it was planned to lay two units: the “Northumberland” and “Serra” the 4th series of the type “County”. Construction cancelled in connection with the signing of the London naval agreement and the change in the shipbuilding policy.
162. Heavy cruiser “London” (England, 1930) (type and data after the modernization of the 1938 — 1941)
Built at the shipyard of the Navy in Portsmouth. The standard displacement — 015 t 11 full — 14 580 tons, maximum length — 192,03 m, width — 20,12 m, maximum draught of 6.91 m. Capacity chetyrehbalnoy turbine plant 80 000 HP, speed 32 knots. Reservations: the Board of 89 — 114 mm, deck 35 — 38 mm, cellars and handlebars 102-25 mm, turret and barbettes 25 mm. Armament: eight 203/50-mm guns, four two-gun 102/45 mm anti-aircraft guns, two four-barrel 40 mm anti-aircraft gun, and later added six 40-mm and twenty 20 mm guns. In 1929, built four units: “Devonshire”, “London”, “Shropshire” and “Sussex” but the alterations on the draft managed to pass only “London”. All scrapped in 1950 — 1955.

However, the “disease” of this kind was characteristic of almost all the “Washington” of the firstborn, built in the 1920-ies. To undoubted advantages of the British cruisers should include the strength and reliability of construction, great seaworthiness, a very large range of quality, demand in the service no less than the power of guns and thickness of armor. The clumsy-looking vysokovoltnyi “ships” with three high trumpets (originally, they had a reasonable height, but they quickly increased to 4.5 m in order to take the smoke away from the bridge and control flame) is perfectly suited for sailing in Northern waters and enjoyed the sympathy of the Royal Navy.
Worse was the case with the number. The Admiralty had expressed a desire to order at least 17 “mile high”, but economic difficulties forced increasingly to cut needs. In October 1923, was limited to eight ships, the timing of construction of which dragged on for five years. And in January next year followed by a reduction of the order up to five units. The happiness of the Empire, the desire to have a pair of such ships has expressed Australia, so that the final amount of the order accounted for seven of the cruisers “Kent”. In total for eight years, until 1930, it was built only 13 the “Washington” cruisers three series, the differences between which, however, remained insignificant. Cuts appetite admirals is simple: “the County” turned out to be very expensive. Each was worth about 2 million pounds (of which nearly a third were “wonder tower”), that is three “Washingtonians” matched at the price of huge linear cruiser “hood”. Still the same amount we had to pay for 8-10 years of service of each “County”.
In the second and third episodes of the Admiralty has tried to get rid of the obvious weaknesses of their firstborn, but serious intentions always resulted in purely cosmetic changes. The designers have left too little space (or rather weight) to maneuver. So the struggle for higher speed led to almost complete “Stripping” and so did not Shine with protection of the ship. Therefore, limited to cleaning of the Boule into the body, thereby winning half-knot speed, as well as increased armor shell cellars, previously covered only 25-mm screens.
Meanwhile, foreign designers after the first equally disappointing results with a new class of cruisers has gradually created more and more powerful and balanced projects. Most importantly, the Japanese, the Americans, the French and the Italians managed to ensure their ships are quite decent protection. “County” in the background of second generation “Washingtonians” looked just as pale. Had finally to swing and the British. The project is the fourth of a series of “County” is significantly different from its predecessors. They finally got serious armor belt and a more modern appearance, but at the cost of reducing the project speed of 29-30 knots. “Tin” was the 25-mm gun turret. But the “Surrey” and “Northumberland” could be a significant step forward.
However, this step failed to do. Once again politics intervened. At the beginning of 1930 in London was another naval conference on disarmament, which after a long “battle” managed to reach agreement on total tonnage of cruisers. And consent it turned out to be very bad for Britain. All the cruisers were divided into two categories, referring to the class “A” (which became a few years later heavy cruisers) ships with major caliber artillery over 155 mm England received a quota of only 146 800 tons of such ships, and existing units filled her almost to the limit. So “Washington” strategic mistake in Maritime policy and shipbuilding, and added another “London”. From a more or less decent fourth series had to be abandoned.
In order not to lag behind rivals, the British moved on to upgrading the existing “County.” In view of the apparent failure of the reservation with its heavy cruisers the Navy has proposed, first of all, to further protect them. After repeated study of the projects (designers required to meet the same 10,000 tons standard displacement, although made “a little overloaded” 200 t) “Washingtonians” finally gained armor belt. And pretty solid for the thickness of 114 mm, which together with the existing 25 mm lining giving some protection even against eight-inch shells. However, it was only quite short and very narrow (1.8 m) strip of armor that covered only the upper part of the turbines and boilers. However, even this belt saved “Berwick” in battle with the German heavy cruiser “Admiral hipper”: a German shell still managed to get into the narrow “loincloth”, the breakdown of which could not. In addition, the ships received new anti-aircraft artillery, including four 40-mm automatic “POM-POM” guns at that time a very decent and seaplanes.
To compensate for the weight of all this wealth on the part of the unit lowered the front superstructure, and the “Cumberland” and “Suffolk” went on a more severe measure, cut the hull at the stern behind the towers on one deck (along with the Admiral’s and commander’s quarters). It was supposed to combine all three tubes in a common or restricted to combining only two back, but it gave just ten tons of win for big money, so from conducting such “surgery” is refused. Oddly enough, but the upgrade costs were quite modest, less than 10% of the original cost of the ships.
Much more serious trouble had to endure the units of the second and third series. Their modernization was prepared more than two years, and eventually the onset of war did not allow it, except on the head “London”, and he was able to enter service only in 1941 year. The lords of the Admiralty long to decide whether to replace all turbines and boilers, or just swap the boiler room and engine compartments, improving survivability. In the end did something in between, updating all the boilers and turbines part. Outwardly, the ship changed dramatically. He got a brand new add-ins, including a massive front, two pipes and tips the mast by purchasing the typical shape of the new British light cruisers.
The British hoped that such a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” can become an unpleasant surprise for any more weak “easy” opponent, or, on the contrary, he will shy away from any vehicle with this appearance. However, the cruiser has changed not only in appearance: he’s got a 89 mm waist, and, unlike the narrow “Kent”, more serious size, deeply immersed in the water. In the gentleman’s set also included new 102-mm anti-aircraft guns and multi-barrel “POM-pay”.
Have an upgrade, it was found not only roses, but thorns. Reduced range, since the reduced volume of the fuel tanks. But this can be overcome, but the loss of hull strength due to overload, leading to discontinuities and cracks in constructions, made to drive the ship back to the factory after a short service in polar waters. To service the London re-entered only in the middle of 1943, we can say, at the finish.
Small refurbishments of all “County” continued throughout the war. In the result, the cruiser had a new radar and increased anti-aircraft armament.
The British “County” actively participated in the war and were one of the lucky ships. None of them died either from a shell or from a mine or torpedo. We went to the bottom, only two of them, and bombs very worthy opponent. “Dorsetshire” and “Cornwall” in early 1942 year joined the motley Eastern fleet, hastily put together in order to confront actively looking into the Indian ocean to the Japanese. Several British detachments from time to time successfully evaded the scouts with aircraft carrier connections, Vice Admiral Nagumo, who had already in his account of the American battleships attacked at pearl Harbor, and the English “Prince of Wales” and “Repulse” sunk on the move in the open sea. A similar fate befell a couple of “County”, who tried to escape after a RAID on the Japanese base at Colombo in Ceylon. On the morning of 5 April, 1942 on the unfortunate ships flew a dive bomber 53. The British did not help multi-barreled “POM-pay”: the Japanese one after the other gently went to your goal right from the nose, from the sun, kupivshego gunners, and dropping bombs from a height of 300 m. 19 minutes of the Japanese cruiser was struck by nineteen bombs. Both the “Washingtonian” quickly and meekly went down; the only consolation he served a large number of rescued more than 1,100 people.
In other fights, “County” showed his best side, although some of them had to go under fire of the battleships. A “witness” even twice: he was involved in a fight with the “Bismarck” with the release of the German battleship more than five hundred shells, and a year later fought with the “Scharnhorst” received from him two 283 mm a “gift” without any consequences. “Shropshire” fell under the guns of Japanese battleships “Fuso” and “Yamashiro” in the Surigao Strait in 1944, during the famous battle of Leyte Gulf, being the only notable target, as with an enviable rate of fire was released volley after volley with the use of gunpowder, which gave a visible flash. Saved him, perhaps, only a quick death of the enemy ships. “County” showed good survivability. So, Australia has become a favorite target for suicide bombers: it was hit by six Japanese aircraft, but the ship remained afloat and reached port. Like “Suffolk”, struck a direct hit of a 500-kg bombs and a few close tears and almost a day chromasia 15-node move to Scapa Flow. Or “Kent”, torpedoed by the Italian torpedo. But and repaired all of them had long and hard. But overall strategic mistakes that seemed very significant in the 1930-ies, in fact, has cost Britain the minimum consequences. In the war “of the County” was necessary and valuable ships.
After the Second world war, the fate of very old ships had become apparent. The former great Empire rapidly reduced its fleet, the place in which “County” were not. One after another they were excluded from the lists of the fleet and sent to be scrapped. Lucky only the “Cumberland”. In 1947 it was converted in the testing of the ship, depriving the three towers of the main fire. On the cruiser there was only nasal lofty tower, which, however, too soon removed. Former “Washingtonian” used now as a floating platform for testing weapons. He alternately carried on Board that lonely 114-mm tower-to spark new design, few single 114-millimetrovogo and then mounted armament for the new cruisers “tiger”: the universal tower with two 76-mm guns, which was replaced by the same two-gun 152-mm tower. With the new lattice towers, it looked modern and even impressive, but no combat value, of course, already had. “Cumberland” was the last of the surviving “County”, having left “on eternal peace” in 1959, 30 years after put into operation.

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