Royal Netherlands Navy:
By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
In the world of the Second Great War, the Japanese Empire stands apart from the great alliances, yet is more than willing to use war as a mean of national policy. With the Russian Empire fully entangled with Germany, Austria and Turkey, Japan decides to end the threat to its empire in Manchuria and Korea by pushing the Russians out of Eastern Siberia. After several months of war Imperial troops have captured the Russian naval bases at Vladivostok and Nikolayevsk and the remnants of Russia’s Pacific Fleet have been driven to Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka.
Meanwhile, Russia’s French ally has built up a powerful fleet of modern warships in French Indo-China. This fleet directly menaces Japan’s colony of Formosa as well as its Chinese puppet/ally. The decision to strike south is made in the late summer of 1940, and finally implemented in December 1941.
Second Great War at Sea: Royal Netherlands Navy is our alternative-history expansion for Second World War at Sea: Strike South that describes this segment of the Second Great War. The fleet with which Japan undertakes this strike south is pretty much the one from Strike South, with some notable additions. The navies of the Second Great War are far more reliant on the battleship than those of the Second World War we know, and the Imperial Japanese Navy is no exception.
There are naval limitations treaties in the world of Wilson’s Peace, but they are far kinder to old battleships than the Washington agreements that governed our own world’s naval arms race. The Imperial Japanese Navy includes a number of battleships and battle cruisers not present in the timeline known to us, most of them having been scrapped to meet treaty obligations.
Settsu is the oldest of the “new” ships, Japan’s first dreadnought. Laid down in 1909, she commissioned in 1912 with a mixed main armament of 12-inch/50-caliber and 12-inch/45-caliber main guns installed as a cost-saving measure (Britain’s Royal Navy had discontinued use of the 45-caliber weapon, and Vickers-Armstrong sold them to Japan at a discount). She’s been re-armed with a uniform battery of 50-caliber guns (these now being cheap to come by, from scrapped British battleships) and given oil-fired machinery and a modern antiaircraft suite.
Despite these improvements, Settsu remains greatly outclassed by more modern ships. Suitable for convoy escort, shore bombardment and similar second-line duties, this is where she finds herself during the Second Great War, at least until she’s found in turn by the modern French fast battleships.
Note: The actual Settsu was never considered for modernization and had been laid up well before her deletion under the Washington Naval Limitations accord.
More suitable to challenge the French are the two huge battleships of the Tosa class. Laid down in 1920 and completed in late 1922, they carry ten 16-inch guns and are very fast for a battleship of their era, making 28 knots after their reconstruction in the mid-1930’s. As rebuilt they carry the huge bridgework also fitted on the preceding Nagato class, and a strong anti-aircraft armament. Originally designed and built with the mixed-fuel arrangement typical of the period (some boilers burning oil, others coal), they now are fueled exclusively by oil.
Unlike Nagato, they have had their original secondary armament removed and the casemates plated over, replaced by dual-purpose weapons in twin mounts. They carry a seaplane, built are not protected as well as other battleships of their era. They also share the poor gunnery training of all Japanese battleship crews (as opposed to the elite gunners of the cruiser force), which makes them less formidable in battle than they may appear.
Note: In our reality Tosa and Kaga were sacrificed under the Washington Naval Limitations treaty while still ncomplete, but here they have been completed and modernized. Kaga would be converted to an aircraft carrier in our timeline, but serves in the Second Great War in her battleship configuration.
Very similar in appearance to Tosa and her sister Kaga are the four battle cruisers of the Amagi class. The first pair were laid down in 1920, and the second in 1921 (on the slips vacated by the launch of Tosa and Kaga). They are even larger than the two battleships, displacing almost 42,000 tons when first commissioned and over 45,000 after modernization in the 1930’s. Like the battleships they carry ten 16-inch guns, and have also had their coal-firing boilers replaced and seen similar changes to their armament.
They are fast ships, but even less well-protected than the battleships, as will be seen in the fighting with the French. Like the earlier Kongo class battle cruisers, this quartet conducts gunnery training with the battleships and shares their poor results.
Note: In our world Akagi would be completed as an aircraft carrier and Amagi, scheduled for similar conversion, badly damaged during the 1923 Tokyo Earthquake (with the incomplete Kaga taking her place). Here construction was never suspended on the battle cruisers, so Amagi would have been complete before the temblor wrecked Tokyo and surrounding areas. Their two sisters have received different names than originally assigned by the Imperial Navy, since those names would later be re-assigned to heavy cruisers.
And that’s what we’ve added to the Japanese lineup for Royal Netherlands Navy.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.