Letter: Fisher's plan to breach the Baltic

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Fisher's plan to breach the Baltic

Sir: Your article of 6 November relates how Churchill planned to buoy up battleships with air bags to get them into the Baltic. Churchill was recycling the "Baltic Project" inherited from the previous war.

Admiral Fisher, first Sea Lord up to 1915, when Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty, dreamed up special heavy ships with shallow draught to get into the Baltic to intercept shipping, seize islands and attack Germany's northern coast. His ideas, unlike Churchill's, actually became hardware, though it was not used for its original purpose.

In 1915 Fisher's three extraordinary ships were laid down: Glorious, Furious and Courageous, inevitably nicknamed Curious, Spurious and Outrageous. Each had half a battleship's armament, unprecedented speed (33 knots), armour unworthy of a light cruiser and draught shallow enough (25 feet) to penetrate the Baltic safely without the benefit of balloons.

The abandonment of the Baltic Project left them with attitude but no role. After odd experiments they were rebuilt as aircraft carriers, in which capacity they were able to carry more aircraft (52) than any RN carrier until the Ark Royal of 1938. Two were lost early in the Second War, but Furious, which had launched an air strike against Zeppelin sheds in 1918, survived to attack the Tirpitz in 1944.

An all-wise government has finally solved this problem by reducing the Navy to such a limited collection of relatively small ships that today none would find any difficulty in getting into the Baltic.

DAVID COLEMAN

Oxford

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