Sub Corner 23: London, Part Two – of Cruisers and Flight-decks

*yawn* Mornin’

There’s a bunch of stuff that the team’s working on that’s now done and ready for conventions. So! That means I can get back to my sub corners!

As for when Silent Service is coming out? Probably early next year. 2016’s being shipped. Then we have a bunch of stuff that we’re working on. Some, like a couple of FGO Yuri doujins in China, are the works of other artists. We’re just helping out. Others, like the stuff we’ve got below, is our own production.

Looks nice, doesn’t it? What does that have to do with the topic at hand?

Uh… I’m just, leaving a record of what we’ve been up to! Documentation’s kind of important you know! Besides, you know we don’t really waste that much space here on the site! Besides, now that –





You know what, I’m not gonna get into that argument at all. Let’s take a look at where we’ve last left off.

Last time we left the series off on Article 6 and 7. It talked about a new definition of what standard displacement is, and laid out new definitions for submarines. Here, negotiations start to become more troublesome.

By this point, Britain and France are already butting heads over the consideration of cruisers. As I’ve explained last time, the French wanted less restrictions on their cruisers. The idea of a “global tonnage” type of rule would have been ideal so everyone can build what they would like. The English, on the other hand, obviously did not another colonial power to be growing in naval strength.

The US thought, well, if the issue is just defending your colonies, why not create a new category of ships for this specifically? Just build some gunboats! Make them small and relatively unthreatening on the high seas! Then you can defend all you want.

After much arguing as to what exactly constitutes as a “naval surface combatant” ship, everyone finally settled down on an easy definition. The reason? Well, let’s take a look at the avisos coloniaux – the “colonial sloop” of the French.

Bougainville class. Designed around 1926-1927. Photo is just prior to the war. Looks a little like a destroyer, but it’s much slower – going only at 15 knots. It has three little 5 inch (138mm) guns, but they were close to 2,000 tons in displacement.

The rules, thus, ended up being very similar to it. It made sense because we already have a yardstick to measure these ships to. Naval surface combatants had no tonnage limits. In order to count as one of these naval combatants, you had to have:

  • A displacement of 600 to 2000 tons
  • Guns that are smaller than 6 inches (155mm)
  • No more than four guns that are bigger than 3 inches (76mm)
  • Couldn’t go faster than 20 knots
  • Couldn’t launch torpedoes

Here’s the interesting thing about this part. First, it means that anything below 600 ton was fair game. Go wild and build as much as you want! As long as these additional restrictions were made.

  • Couldn’t launch mines
  • Couldn’t launch more than three sea planes
  • Couldn’t receive planes (yes, just in case someone tried to build a 599 ton displacement aircraft carrier)
  • Had no armor plates

Secondly, though, it implicitly states that anything that wasn’t part of the restrictions up there had to be a destroyer (or a very small cruiser). You’ll see why this is important because it resulted in a hilariously large amount of paperwork later.

Now, Article 9 is simple. It extended the rules for replacement of capital ships that was found in Washington to cruisers, destroyers, and submarines.

  • In brief, replacements  can begin three (cruisers) and two (destroyers and submarines) years in advance.
  • Anything bigger than 3000 tons but smaller than 10000 tons can be replaced after sixteen years (if it was built before 1920) or twenty (if after).
  • For smaller ships (below 3000), it was twelve (if built before 1920) or sixteen (if built after), and submarines were thirteen years regardless.

Now, you’ll remember that earlier destroyer displacements were around the lines of 2000. What changed? Well, the French argued that the contre-torpilleur was a very large destroyer. Even though they had larger guns, the design and construction was still destroyer-like and could not be expected to last as long as cruisers do. They scored a pretty good victory here, as classes such as the Fantasque (I keep on pronouncing this in my head as “Fan-tas-tique” for some reason) ended up around the 2500-2600 range. Naturally, it would be good for the French to be able to replace their destroyers.

Article 10 is pretty simple. Basically, it formalizes methods of communication for powers wanting to build more ships. It also states very explicitly what needs to be communicated. This includes date when the keel was laid, the displacement, class of ship, dimensions, and most importantly, gun caliber.

Article 11 and 12 are largely definitions. You need to read them with the annexes to figure out just who’s keeping what. It’s a hilarious multi-page list of rules and regulations. Makes sense, now that we’ve clearly defined what a destroyer and cruiser is. Nobody would want their warships to fall under those categories!

Now, you’ll see that in Annex II, the rules about disposing a ship is pretty clear. The five ways are respectively, scrapping, converting to a hulk, converting to a target ship, or changing the ship exclusively for experimental or training purposes. I’ve already mentioned Hiei and Iron Duke earlier. This is where the details for what count as a training ship gets formalized.

(Basically, remove most of the guns and machinery so it couldn’t be a warship. Sounds simple, until you realize it wasn’t exceptionally difficult to get ’em back and running – at least not in the case of Hiei!)


Now, if you peer a bit closer, you’ll see a long list of special exemptions. For us, a lot of the older ships (you’ll see a couple of “yachts” on the list!) we ended up handing over to the Asiatic Fleet.

Thus, Part II comes to a close. What comes after is the hard stuff and where negotiations start to break down. The reason, unfortunately, lies in some fundamental differences within the goals of each country in question. A very bitter and acrimonious negotiation period followed, and while the countries came to a conclusion, it wasn’t particularly liked by anyone.

The next section includes only the US, Britain, and Japan. France and Italy didn’t want to be a part of it. For the purpose of discussion, we ended up defining cruisers as anything that had a bigger displacement than 1850 tons OR carried a gun larger than 5 inches (well, 5.1 inches to be precise).

So, what’s the issue? As they say, the devil lies in the details. Article 14 talked about overall tonnage limitations for anything that’s not a battleship or a carrier, and Article 15 tried very hard to define just what a cruiser and a destroyer is.

Basically, Britain came to us a years ago in 1929. Remember what I was telling you about Ramsay MacDonald basically running on dismantling the Royal Navy? Well, turns out that wasn’t entirely correct, but under his leadership the Royal Navy indeed had a much more compromise position. Britain’s offer was a simple one. Stop building your 8 incher cruisers, and we’ll cut our demands from the seventy-ninety some numbers down to fifty. So long as we maintain our advantage over Japan (our 15 to their 12) you can build up to 15 as well if you’d like.

America: No. We want to keep all 23 of our 8 inch cruisers.

Britain: Okay, how about this then. Let’s create a new category of cruisers that we can both build. A small one. About 7500 tons.

America: We don’t actually need a small cruiser like that because of the range of the Pacific ocean, so no.

Japan: Oh hey, if the US wants 23 cruisers, we want to build 16. After all, the only way we can beat the Westerners is to maintain our quality.

Britain: Unacceptable! You get twelve and that’s it. We’re even willing to let the Americans go to 18.

America: (question mark.jpg)

America: Okay, how about this. We’ll go down to twenty one. You, Brits. We’ll think about the smaller cruiser type if you can cut the total cruiser numbers to 35.

Britain: In that case how about letting us do 18 8 inchers?

America: …

And so on and so forth. You get the idea. Negotiations were harsh, and not much progress was actually made. However, there’s a couple of things you have to keep in mind as we think about why each country negotiated the way they did.

  • Britain wanted to protect its trade empire against Japan, France, the US, Italy… Basically, anything on the high seas. Because of the massive size of its empire, it needed as many cruisers with as many guns as it can muster. Range is slightly less of a concern due to the nature of Britain’s huge naval empire until we get to the Far East.
  • America sees Japan’s own actions in Asia as problematic and assumes that Japan will be its primary opponent should it come to war. The Europeans are less overtly antagonistic, but it is still necessary to secure parity if not advantage over Britain. As such, America is willing to shell out more money for better cruisers. Its primary need is the ability to deploy at extreme ranges given the size of the Pacific ocean, and so America favored building larger cruisers. With larger cruisers naturally comes with larger guns.
  • Japan believes that the western powers cannot be negotiated with and is inherently hostile to Japanese manifest destiny. Japan is aware of its relative weakness in industry and naval traditions, but Japan hopes – with its decisive battle doctrine (yes, it was definitely a thing by 1930!) – that quality in shipbuilding and training in crew (samurai spirit!) will trump anything the westerners throw out. As the decisive battle doctrine envisions systematic attrition by non-capital ships first before engaging in a decisive battle, it means that the cruisers will be the “workhorses” of the IJN. Thus, Japan wants at a minimum a reasonable tonnage number, but favors any situation where nominal restrictions can be lifted on ship design.

Here’s the issue. Basically, all three of the countries are running into financial troubles. Ships are super expensive and cost a lot to build and maintain. So, with much debate after, everyone settled on a compromise definition.

Cruisers will be split into two broad categories. Those with guns that are larger than 6 inches (155mm), and those with guns that are smaller than 6 inches. You’ll see this in the document as (a) and (b) category cruisers. In Article 16, then, here were the functional limitations of each nation as they proceed to build cruisers. Ideally, the limitations by 1936 looks like this below.

US Britain Japan
Cruiser Type A (>6 inches) 180000 146800 108400
Cruiser Type B (<6 inches) 143500 192200 100450

What this meant for the US was that the US gets 18 8-inchers, Britain 15, and Japan 12. The Type B category also allowed for the possibility of the US building bigger 6 inch cruisers if she wants.

I’m just going to say that neither the Brits nor the Japanese liked this at all. The perceived insult by the western powers rippled through Japanese politics and directly caused a massive increase of support in the militant factions within the Japanese government. It took forever for Japan to actually agree to the terms laid out in this treaty (they finally did it in October), but by then the harm was done. Hindsight being 20/20, this was definitely an instrumental factor in the demise of the Japanese democratic government.

Britain looks like it got a big number of ships, but in reality this would be only good enough for twenty-five 7500 ton cruisers in total. This would bring Britain’s total cruiser numbers to only forty, which was much, much less than ninety or the seventy that they would have liked.

Even America saw this as a compromise (though secretly, we were rather pleased. It saved us money and fulfilled the initial goal for us to have this thing to begin with – limiting shipbuilding!), but we were the least unhappy party out of the deal. Internally, the US high command had a split of opinions. Some adamantly believed that the 6 inch cruiser was no good and we got a bad deal leaving tonnage for things that we’d never build. Others thought it could potentially be of use if the guns could fire fast. Still a third group believe that the time of aviation is here, and that those cruisers  might be able to be converted to aircraft carrying cruisers.

Thus, an article was inserted into the naval treaty. Up to 25% of cruisers can be fitted with a flight deck or some sort of aircraft receiving design. This was (ironically) carried out at the insistence of the US. Funny how we never went through with it, huh?

At this time, we were quite literally slapping flight decks on everything. Congress loved the idea of the carrier-cruiser hybrid. The Naval War College thought it would crush any standard cruiser of a similar displacement due to its extensive attack range. With twenty-four dive bombers or fighters, it was basically a third of an aircraft carrier already! In any case this “CLV” – flight deck cruiser – could even potentially be the backbone of a new navy, because – as Congress pointed out – it had guns!

If it has guns, it means it can shoot the bad guys.

So, even if the flight deck got destroyed, this ship can still fight on! What a remarkable example of American tenacity!

… General Board took a look at what Congress suggested and collectively did a facepalm-equivalent. The ocean is very large and twenty-some aircraft wouldn’t even find you the enemy, let along do any kind of real damage. The addition of the flight deck meant that the striking range of your airgroups by necessity had to be small due to the lack of fuel, which meant you were sitting ducks against actual carrier-borne airgroups. In a straight-up gunfight situation you’d lose to any real cruisers because you have less guns than the opponent and your armor would probably be paper because of all the extra stuff you have to stuff into it.

So, if we had built this thing, we’d have gotten a cruiser that couldn’t fight capital ships, would be threatened by the destroyers it’s supposed to bully, had a third of the airgroup of a dedicated aircraft carrier, less maximum range, and a completely confused doctrine of deployment where either its aircraft or guns would be useless.

General Board went to Congress and go, uh, sir? Are you sure you want this and not more actual fighting ships? Better destroyers and submarines maybe? Newer aircraft carriers?

Congress answered: Yeah go build me a prototype I got your contracts and everything. Enthusiasm for this thing was high enough that we almost built this thing. Remarkably and ironically, one definitively good thing out of the Great Depression was that we didn’t have the resources or the interest to pursue it further.

Funny how things turn out, huh?