KM Anhalt-Dessau (CVE-from-1934)


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Germanys first venture into the realms of naval aviation was the conversion of the battlecruiser Anhalt-Dessau. First commissioned in 1912, the Anhalt-Dessau was 20 years old when it was taken in hand in 1932 for conversion. This was a fairly quick conversion. Everything from the break of the hull backwards was removed and replaced with an aircraft hangar with one lift/elevator. The forepart of the ship was altered to carry the rest of the flight deck. The first trials with aircraft proved to the Navy High Command that further carriers were not only feasible but an absolute necessity.

The biggest challenge for the Kriegsmarine was to retain the right to choose and fly their own aircraft. Not be subordinated to the Luftwaffe. The Kriegsmarine had watched what had happened in the Royal Navy where the RN had had to fight for control of the Fleet Air Arm. Luckily for the Navy, Goering was out of favour, and Hitler had enjoyed his flight in a Fi-167 when it landed and took off the Anhalt-Dessau, The Navy got control of its aircraft squadrons.

The Anhalt-Dessau trialed all of the first modern aircraft that served aboard the big carriers to come. At wars start the aircraft in service were:

Torpedo Bomber: Fiesler Fi-167

Dive Bomber: Junkers Ju-87

Fighter: Messerschmitt Me-109

Displacement: 20,400 tons normal, 25,250 tons full load
Dimensions: 622 x 90 x 30 feet
Machinery: 4 shaft, turbines, 40,000shp (converted to oil firing at same time as conversion to CVE)
Speed: 23 knots
Endurance: 6,000 nmi at 12 knots
Armour: 2" deck, 3.4" box armour around armoury and engineering spaces
8 x 3.4" LA" (4x2)
2 x 20mm (2x1)
Aircraft: 18-20
Crew: 1,400

1942 and the British Admiralty decide that the Anhalt-Dessau needs to be sunk so that the Germanic States have to use a front line carrier for any further training purposes. A squadron of the new long range Whirlwind 2 aircraft are tasked with the job. Armed with a pair of 250lb bombs in the wing roots and 6x60lb rockets under the wings, the squadron makes a low level run across Denmark and into the Baltic where a Russian submarine has sent the co-ordinates of the Anhalt-Dessaus whereabouts. One pass and the ship is left a smoking ruin, heeling onto its side and slowly sinking. One of its escorting destroyers was also sunk. The Whirlwinds flew on to land in Russia, from there flying South to end up in Egypt via Iran. The Admiralty had been unable to do this before as the Mosquitoes and Whirlwinds that could do the job did not have the range to get there and back, and it was not until the Russians were attacked and became part of the Allied forces that the attacking aircraft could be flown on to Russia.

Very quickly the Fi-167 was replaced with an uprated Ju-87 that could carry a torpedo or its normal load of bombs.

The Me-109 was also replaced with the much more versatile Focke Wulf FW-190A from early 1941.


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