The hell is a "pocket" battleship?

I hear like historians talking about this sometimes.  Like, the Germans didn't have a big navy in WW2, but they had a couple of "pocket" battleships.  Stuff like that.  What does the "pocket" mean?  Are they bettter or worse than "non-pocket" battleships?


Deutschland-class ships, the last pre-dreadnoughts.  More guns than a heavy cruiser, but not quite as many as a battleship, thus derisively referred to as a "pocket battleship."


Germans were allowed to keep them after the Treaty of Versailles, I believe.

Friend of mine in college had one.

He used to pull it out at parties and tie it in a knot.

After WWI Germany had severe restrictions on its military, including its navy. One of those restrictions was no battleships.

While Germany was rearming under Hitler, eventually all those restrictions were ignored. But he couldn't go balls out all at once. He had to move incrementally. One of those first steps was a "pocket" battleship.

It had the armor of a battleship, but it was MUCH smaller, only slightly bigger than a regular heavy cruiser. It has battleship-size guns, but only a few of them.

Remember, prior to WWI entire NATIONS had bankrupted themselves trying to show that they were a world-class power by building and deploying just a single battleship. Even Russia never did build a battleship. They were just too expensive.

So with a pocket battleship you ended up with a ship that was just as expensive to build and maintain as a battleship. It could outclass any heavy cruiser or smaller ship. And one was a legit threat to any "real" battleship, at least for the first few salvos. As the battle went on their smaller number of guns would spell their doom. Unless they got a lucky hit, which was something that could happen. That's how the HMS Hood was sunk. A lucky hit from the Bismark blew her apart.

Remember what I said about battleships being so expensive to build? Politicians were TERRIFIED of sending battleships into battle because one of theirs might get sunk.

The big naval "battle" of WWI, Jutland, was basically little more than a dick wagging contest. British Fleet Admiral Jellicoe had the German Navy TOTALLY outgunned - 28 battleships to 16 battleships. Every authority says Jellicoe could have smashed the German fleet into junk. But he was so afraid of having one of his own battleships sunk that he never engaged, and allowed the German Navy to withdraw.

In WWII, after the Bismark sunk the Hood, the Royal Navy engaged is a HUGE operation to sink the Bismark, and they got her. Hitler was so scared by this that he hid her sister ship, the Terpitz, for the rest of the war.

Wow, thanks guys.  So the Bismark was a pocket battleship, inferior to a regular battleship?  Weird - I thought the Bismark was like one of the baddest battleships of all time.  Heck, as you mentioned phydeau the royal navy needed some huge operation to sink her.  Amazing that she wasn't even as good as a regular battleship?  How'd she sind the Hood so easy?  Think the Hood also had a sister ship on her side as well v. the bismark.

No. The Bismark was built after Germany said "fuck it" and ignored the restrictions. She and the Terpitz were full-size battleships. But pocket battleships carried the same guns as full size battleships, just fewer of them. I used the sinking of the Hood as an example of how a pocket battleship could pose a threat to a full size battleship because, with guns that large, there's always the chance that the smaller ship can get off one lucky hit.

The Hood was sunk when one hit from the Bizmark's main guns penetrated & exploded inside one of the Hood's magazines. One lucky hit and ka-FUCKING-boom down went the Hood. She sunk so quickly that out of roughly 1400 crew on board only three men survived.

I don't think any pocket battleship ever faced a full size battleship in combat. WWII in the Atlantic didn't have ANY battleship-on-battleship engagements. Hood was classed as a battlecruiser, not a battleship. Same size as a battleship, and same size guns, but less armor so it could be faster.

That's the trade off - Lots of big guns, plenty of armor, and fast, pick any two. By the 1940s most nations were building battlecruisers not battleships. The US Iowa-calss ships, while called battleships, are arguably more correctly classed as battlecruisers.