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Graf Fitti

Line drawing of Graf Fitti

Displacement 11,900 tons
Armament 1 x 3   11"
4 x 1   6" + TT
Med + Lt. AA
Aircraft 16
Speed 30 knots
VTS Rating   (1)   2   6 1

The three Deutschland-class panzerschiffs that Germany built to jumpstart a new, modern Navy in the 30's astounded the world with their powerful armament on such a small (supposedly 10,000 tons, but more like 12,500 tons) hull. Coined "Pocket Battleships" by no less than Winston Churchill himself, they were really little more than a very heavy cruiser. Faster than anything they couldn't outshoot (save for three British battlecruisers) and more powerful than anything they couldn't outrun, they were "ideal" for commerce raiding on the high seas. Even the Japanese thought about making something similar, but never got around to making the Thomburi nor Chichibu written about elsewhere in this site. In the mid 30's the Deutschland's were a novel and clever warship. By the end of the decade, however, new fast battleships and more plentiful aircraft carriers were being built by all her enemies, so the writing was on the wall that the concept was doomed. The Germans actually DID conceive of turning these ships into aircraft carriers, but along with so many other projects, failed for lack of official interest, funds, and labor.

In "Grand Fleet", Hermann Göring takes an avid interest in naval aviation. Britain, France and even Italy had experimental carriers, but Germany had yet to put anything but scout seaplanes aboard naval ships. Because the recent London naval treaty allowed 25% of "cruisers" to carry attack planes, he commanded that the next panzerschiff be altered to accommodate wheeled aircraft. Italian assistance was readily accepted to speed the conversion. An experimental flight deck was erected over the removed stern 11" turret to test the concept of an aircraft-capable gunship. A more thorough conversion moved the superstructure forward and to the right, and added a hangar and single lift. "Loss" of a triple 11" turret and four 6" guns was theoretically offset by far-ranging attack aircraft and slightly higher speed. With her radar-directed guns and 16 Arado Ar-196T scout-bombers (wheeled versions of the floatplane with highly-folded wings for storage) she was considered an ideal "corsair" commerce raider.

Conti di Fitti was an obscure Italian nobleman and patriot from Lombardy who helped Bismarck's Germany defeat Austria in 1866. Hitler wanted to honor and impress his "friend" Benito Mussolini, and thank him for his naval assistance, so named the most recent additon to his renascent Kriegsmarine Graf Fitti.

Along with panzerschiff Admiral Scheer, Graf Fitti slipped out to sea prior to the planned start of war, bound for the Indian Ocean. Spreading alarm and uncertainty, she sank or captured several merchantmen off Mauritius. HMS Cumberland, responding to the RRR ran afoul of Graf Fitti's scout-bombers and was last seen settling into the ocean. Graf Fitti's captain sailed in her direction to pick up survivors, but the hull of the Cumberland lay suspended in the water, just barely submerged, and Graf Fitti collided with it. Forced to seek immediate repairs, she headed for Italian Somaliland. Agents in Mogadishu harbor informed the British Admiralty of her arrival and condition and all Allied units operating East of Suez planned to converge on her. From their Maldive Islands base came the carrier Hermes and cruiser HMAS Canberra. Hastily repaired, Graf Fitti put to sea and her Arados found Canberra and attacked, but evasive manuvering by the British cruiser and accurate AA fire kept damage to a minimum. Swordfish torpedo bombers from Hermes attacked through shell splashes like church steeples as Graf Fitti's main armament shot futilely at the water in front of them. Two torpedoes found their mark and the resulting list made flight operations and starboard gunnery operations nearly impossible. With Swordfish spotting, Canberra approached Graf Fitti's starboard side and her 8" shells thoroughly wrecked the powerful little carrier.

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