In my last post I looked at some Wikipedia claims about the German battleship Baden, based on secondary sources. One of these sources was based on a ‘memorandum’ for Arthur Marder by a retired British naval officer, Commander Windham Phipps Hornby, and I wrote that I had ‘found no trace of this memorandum’ in Marder’s papers. Fast forward four months, 12,000 miles, and more research, and I found the ‘memorandum’, which is actually anything but. Marder was in the habit of getting his draft manuscripts read through by a legion of retired naval officers: Stephen Roskill, Peter Gretton, Peter Kemp, to name a few. The reader might have been forgiven for assuming that this ‘memorandum’ related specifically to the Baden, or ship design and construction. It was in fact a 10 page list of corrections and comments on the draft of Marder’s From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow Volume V. Addressing page 456 line 16 Phipps Hornby wrote:
Here, with the utmost respect, I categorically disagree with the D.N.C. and the other Admiralty experts. Having lived onboard the Baden for weeks, employed on salving her, I had got to know her internal arrangements as well as those of my own ship, the Ramillies. And my considered opinion – which I know coincided with that of others engaged on the same job – was that, considered as a fighting machine, anyhow on balance the Baden was markedly in advance of any comparable ship of the Royal Navy. Possibly the British Constructors and others, understandably if unconsciously, were loath to concede that the young German Navy had much to teach them.
Of course, the Germans either kept to a minimum, or else altogether dispensed with, anything that did not conduce directly towards fighting capability. Thus the much inferior accommodation in the German ships has already been noted. Again: in the British capital ships the Engineers had at disposal a quite extensive workshop, equipped with a variety of machine tools. Nothing comparable was found in the Baden. Such small workshops as there were equipped only with benches and vices. I do not recollect to have seen a machine tool in the ship.
What did impress me was the range of spares the Baden seemed to carry. Did any at any rate at all important component fail, a replacement for it was to hand.
In the last post I touched on the potential danger of relying on Phipps Hornby alone. Here we see that he had been careful to qualify his statement, which qualification Marder saw fit to ignore: he couldn’t even correctly reproduce Phipps Hornby’s emphasis.