Sub Corner 24: London, Part III, IV, and V – Destroyers, Submarines, and the Aftermath

“Why, hello Tautau! Can you post more bikini-clad shipgirls?”

cough It’s the dead of winter, you know! Even subgirls like to stay warm. Just because we aren’t hurt by the cold doesn’t mean we can’t feel cold!

Anyways. I’m not here to talk about –

You know, an article on bikini design wouldn’t be a bad thing at all. I bet you plenty of our readers would be super interested at a chance to oogle pretty young women for uh, academic purposes.

Well, Trout, that’d defeat the whole point of an academic exercise, you know!

I know.

So? Why?

Let’s just say that fanservice is fanservice and welcomed for a good reason, okay?

W-well! For some of our readers, history stuff is fanservice too!

Anyways. Last time we left off at the definition of cruisers, and how everyone pretty much ended up settling on a compromise that no one really liked. So far, this treaty is looking like a bust (and it was), but wait until you get to see the next sections of this thing!

First of all, just to recap, Article 16 has a lot of bullet points. The first few talked about cruisers, including how many each country is supposed to build. Point 4 talks about just what a destroyer is supposed to be. In short, each country gets 16% of its total destroyer tonnages allocated to “large destroyers” with a maximum displacement of 1850 tons. All other destroyers were supposed to be smaller, at 1500 tons.

“16% is a really odd percentage, Tautog! Why did they do that?”

I’m glad you asked. 16% is roughly 1/8th of 100%. This was actually standard Royal Navy doctrine at the time. The Royal Navy had the idea that large destroyer “leaders” can serve as the flagships for the destroyer flotillas, and thus, this number gets a perfect ratio of one big DD for every 8 smaller DDs.

If this sounds a little too generous for the British, well, let’s just say we were all for it. Some day when we get around to writing Destroyer Corners we’ll go over the funding battle that went on during Congress. As it stands, we’re quite happy with the arrangement. This means not only would we have space for larger DDs in our navy planning, but this also takes care of one problem we’ve got across the ocean.

Readers familiar with KanColle will no doubt recognize the “special type” destroyers that the Japanese were building across the sea. In fact, the entire Fubuki class, twenty ships in all, would count as these destroyer leaders. Taken altogether, the Japanese had nearly 40% of their DD allocation to these special destroyer leaders.

This DD deal was absolutely bad for Japan for two reasons. One, it stopped them from building the large destroyers (which made sense for their naval doctrine). Two, it effectively curbed Japanese advantages in destroyer development at the time, and essentially gave the British and the Americans a blank slate to catch up on in terms of tonnage.

Yeah. Things basically started to get really complicated by this point. Article 17 and 18 were simple. They talked specifically about replacements, and what proportion of cruiser tonnages would be allowed to go into the destroyer leader category (10%). This might have sounded silly until you think about the Japanese navy. Plenty of light cruisers were built for this role, after all!

Article 19 basically outlined what each country should be doing while replacing old ships, and Article 20 provided some exceptions. This was generally seen as a concession for the British and the Japanese, who had old ships that they wanted to replace.

Article 21 was targeted directly at France and Italy, who refused to agree to the restrictions earlier. Basically, it gave each of the three countries permission to “respond proportionally” to any naval build up by any world power, provided so long as the other two countries are alerted at the same time.

… Here, you can see, this whole conference was really useless. This article by itself negated the purpose of naval build-up restriction. If you think about it, should any country in the world decide to build up its naval strength, you really have no choice, right? You’re either going to build more ships or you’ll probably get invaded and lose.

Do you think a country who wanted to conquer other countries would come and sign this treaty?

Now you get it. The reason why the London Naval Treaty was roundly criticized by many media sources is that it’s really an empty sheet of promises. It might have made some politicians feel better by claiming moral high ground, but it really did very little to stop the build-up that would eventually result in World War II.

Part IV. My favorite part!

The English tries to ban submarines, again!

The English fails to ban the submarine, again!

Where have we seen this before…

Oh. Right. At every previous naval conference, of course!

(So, less sarcastic for a bit. This is the famous submarine warfare international law. You know, the part about submarines could not sink or disable a merchant vessel without first having ensured the crew is in a position of safety?

Yeah, the one that everyone realized that nobody was going to follow, especially after certain countries deciding to make their merchant ship into belligerents?

This had the right ideas and the right thoughts going into it. However, it would ultimately be doomed to failure. Again, such is war.)

Part V. Finally, we’re getting to the end. This is where we sign the thing and settle the deal. Unfortunately, like most other deals, it soured very quickly.

None of the provisions of the present treaty shall prejudice the attitude of any of the High Contracting Parities at the conference agreed to.

The “conference agreed to” is the next naval conference, which is supposed to happen in 1935. Japan put that line in there. It’s a very cold and formal way of giving the US and the Brits the cold shoulder. Basically, Japan was going to grow powerful whether or not the western powers wanted it so, and thus, the westerners had better be prepared to receive a much stronger Japan.

Well, whatever the case may be, might as well get it signed, right? France and Italy didn’t sign Part III, but they did manage to sign all the other parts. Japan, as I’ve mentioned earlier, signed it months later with great dissatisfaction. Which, to be honest, really leaves us as the “winners” of this deal as a whole.

Here’s what we got out of this naval treaty.

  • We’re gonna save a lot of money, now that the English are bankrupting themselves (spoilers: the Great Depression hits almost very soon after)
  • We’ve maintained parity with the English, which is currently the world’s best navy in major capital ships.
  • We’re going to get more cruisers than the British, so we’ll have naval superiority in the long run.
  • We screwed over Japan’s attempts to build up significantly. See: all the limitations, including capital ships, cruisers, and destroyer leaders.

The English I’d say were the runner ups in this conference. In short:

    • The Royal Navy secured limitations with its chief rival, America, and for the next decade or so English naval superiority is more or less retained.
    • The Royal Navy secured a number of policies specifically catering to its defense interests, and the additional clauses built into article IV meant that it had the moral authority to engage in build-up should the situation in Europe deteriorates
    • However, the Royal Navy did not get the cruisers it would have needed. In total they got forty cruisers instead of seventy or ninety.
    • The fact that France and Italy did not agree to limitations on cruisers, destroyers, and submarines is of concern, particularly as there is risk of hostility from both parties.
    • Submarines were not banned.

Now, I couldn’t find much on how Italy felt about the London Naval Treaty. I can only assume that they were offended, since they didn’t even sign Article III. However, Italy did largely stick to the articles in which they signed, so there’s that.

France? France was pretty offended (again)

  • Once again, France was not taken seriously at the conference, and French demands for security were left largely ignored. For the French this was a particularly heavy insult, as France had the world’s second largest colonial empire at the time, but its naval strength was relegated to a third or fourth rate.
  • Due to the English, the Americans, and the Japanese (in that order) was viewed as intentionally trying to beat down France, public outcry against the treaty was significant. This may have contributed (somewhat) to the unstable political atmosphere. In any case significant political capital was expended for the sake of peace. However, the French government, to my understanding, did not formally ratify it.
  • However, France  was also affected by an economic recession, so the actual number of ships that were built were largely in line with what they would have gotten had they ratified the treaty.
  • France viewed the parity in capital ships and carriers with Italy as a compromise made on Italy’s behalf. It, in turn, expected to have significant advantages in other combat vessels and submarines. Italy, naturally, did not agree to this. This would be a continued source of conflict for the two countries to come.
  • Hindsight is 20/20. Fascist Italy’s attempts to build large capital ships in the mid-30s only confirmed this point. Later on, when Hitler negotiated a naval treaty with London (and the implicit permission of the Americans), France saw this as Germany trying to circumvent Versailles. Then you know, the rest happened.

This leaves Japan. Oh, boy.

  • Japan saw this as an affront of national proportions. Historians now view this as one of the catalysts for Japan’s rampant militancy. Nationalist elements were particularly angry at the perceived mistreatment of Japan at the hands of the western powers, and they weren’t exactly unjustified.
  • Japan could not secure superiority in its cruiser forces, and its cruisers were heavily curbed. The failure to secure a 10:7 ratio at least was seen as a national humiliation, and is actually one of the failures Japan’s (later) military government cites during the eventual coup.
  • The limitation of destroyer leaders meant that more tonnage from light cruisers had to be spent.
  • Japan still remained in a position of inferiority pertaining to the capital ships.
  • Worst of all, the tonnage limitations in essence negated any Japanese advantages it might have enjoyed. Japan had invested in large cruisers, submarines, and destroyers. The limitations slapped onto this new treaty meant that Japan’s greatest enemy – the Americans – can catch up in naval construction at a pace that is advantageous to the U.S.
  • Furthermore, the guarantee of American numerical superiority is yet another insult to Japan, and it is here where some Japanese naval officers started to think, maybe our inherent “superior quality Japanese ships” won’t be good enough to win us the war. Unfortunately, their voices were completely ignored as Japan started its journey towards projects such as Battleship Yamato.

So, to sum up (or why this is a sub corner in the first place):

The London Naval Treaty of 1930 was largely unsuccessful at preventing, well, war. It did successfully curb shipbuilding for a time, but as the diplomatic situation worsened, it quickly fell by the wayside.

What this gave us, however, was two things. One, it gave us fresh perspectives about how to fight wars. Two, it gave us a lot of ideas for ship designs. Many of our best WW2 submarines had its roots in thinking during this time, and I thought it would be important for you to see just what was going on at the highest level, so we can come to the details later.

Plus, I like history! So hope to see you guys soon in another sub-corner. Then we’ll go back and talk more submarines, yay!