Thiarian Amphibious Forces
After Thiaria had joined the LNT 1, future fleet requirements were re-assessed. One of the demands that was eventually adopted called for the ability to conduct a brigade-level amphibious landing from the open ocean anywhere along the South American or African coast. Although ‘brigade’ sounds modest at first glance, the capability to bring 4.000 fully equipped Marines ashore at the same time requires a considerable number of ships, starting with sufficiently robust landing craft all the way to large heavy lift vessels with very strong cranes to launch the largest landing craft fully loaded. Development started in 1931, and by 1938, the first specialized amphibious ships were available. This head start resulted in Thiaria having one of the largest and best equipped amphibious forces in the whole world during the first two years of the war.
After Thiaria had introduced a regular army in 1905 – only local militias had been raised prior to that date – it soon became apparent that it relied on sea transport to effectively defend Thiaria’s over 150 islands. Most major garrisons were in the South-east, where 80% of the population and the economy were concentrated, and the farther north-westerly one came, the smaller military presence became. To quickly move troops within the archiple, civilian barges and ferries were hired according to necessity, but by 1937, the army wanted a purpose-built vehicle transport vessel. A straight upscale of the 20 meter LCVP, twice its size in every direction and eight times its weight, was adopted for production in 1939; the final series version was 47 meters long, displaced 280ts empty and could carry up to 150ts of cargo. Positions for four 13mm AAMGs were provided for close defence.
220 of these LCTs were built in Thiaria during the war by various railway carriage factories and all manned by the Army. As they were too heavy to be carried by an oceangoing landing ship (there was no Thiarian equivalent to the LSD) and too small and flimsy to cross the Ocean by themselves, most of them never left home waters and were only employed in their designed function as inshore transports. About 50 were shipped to Uruguay for use on the Parana and other rivers (half of which were converted to riverine fire support craft, see above) and locally upgunned; a typical outfit contained a 20mm cannon, six 13mm AAMGs and four 81mm mortars.
Uruguayan yards built another 20 of this type for the Thiarian Army between 1943 and 1944. Of the grand total of 240, over a hundred were lost. Thiaria retained 40 after the war, Agentina 16 and Uruguay 4; Brazil and Patagonia took over some 30 each.
In 1934, the CSCA shipyard proposed a standard hull design which could be fitted as a large aviation tender, a large amphibious mother ship or a fleet repair ship. The type was judged a little too complex and expensive, but otherwise useful, and in 1935, four hulls were approved, two each as amphibious base ships and as aviation tenders. One of each type was laid down in 1936 and 1937; CSCA built the Aviation tenders, while Slatasciagh license-produced the amphibious platforms. They were huge 15.000-tonners with typical warship lines, relatively slender and fast; the design speed was 24 knots (48.000 SHP designed power), the idea being that they could be refitted to light fleet carriers if necessary. The amphibious variant carried two huge 50-ton gantry cranes and could embark up to ten 20m LCVPs as deck load aft; up to twelve 12m LCVPs could be embarked in davits forward. Cargoes and personnel could be loaded and unloaded through big roof hatch right aft and several small doors along the hull. 800 Marines and their equipment could be embarked. Four twin 100mm guns were fitted, with the aftermost pair in a quite awkward position with very limited firing arcs, plus four twin 37mm cannon and four quad 13mm AAMGs. Priomhaire (Premier) and Rialtoir (Ruler) were completed late in 1938 and early in 1940, respectively, and formed the core of Thiaria’s amphibious force.
In the first year of the war, the dire situation in Argentina and the geography of Patagonia, which was singularly unsuited for invasions, forced the use of these magnificent ships as troop transports, but after Patagonia’s fall, both ships played key roles in the liberation of Uruguay and the invasion of New Portugal in 1941. Late that year and early in 1942, both were fitted with radar and a total of twelve twin 20mm mounts in lieu of their AAMGs.
In this shape, they participated in the Battle of Florianopolis and the attempted invasion behind Brazilian lines which resulted in the disastrous battle of Meanhchiorcal in 1943, where both were sunk by British carrier airplanes (Priomhaire) and cruiser gunnery (Rialtoir), respectively.
In 1936, Thiarian naval officers had the opportunity to visit the Japanese Shinshu Maru, the world’s first purpose built amphibious ship. Their impressions directly influenced the CTS design for a smaller amphibious assault ship better suited to series production than the large Priomhaire-class. The 6.000-ton-hull was fitted with large stern doors through which a maximum of six 12m or 16m LCVPs or a total of 40 amphibious tanks and/or amphibious transport vehicles could be discharged. Another eight 12m-LCVPs were carried in davits. A total of 400 fully equipped Marines could be embarked. Armament was on par with that of the Priomhaires with four twin 100mm mounts and six twin 37mm mounts; on the whole, they were a much more economical approach to the amphibious assault ship than the Priomhaires. To meet the brigade-sized assault goal, ten ships were required, but only two each were ordered in 1938 and 1939, respectively, all from CTS. Their hulls were utilized for a submarine tender design of which two more were laid down in 1938 and 1939 each (see auxiliaries). In 1940, another four were laid down under the war emergency programme. All but the last two (built at the Slatiascaigh yard) were built by CTS. They were named Bladhmiaire (Marauder), Foghlai (Privateer), Creachadoir (Reaver), Corai (Wrestler), Dornalai (Flogger), Crosaidire (Crusader), Ainscian (Berserk) and Teascadar (Mauler). Foghlai was the first unit commissioned in May 1940.
The others followed between September 1940 and December 1943. The 1940 units were completed with radar and six quad 13mm AAMGs; the others were all retrofitted accordingly by mid-1943.
One of these, LT Crosaidire, was completed in October 1942 as an amphibious command ship. She mounted the same armament as the others except that no AAMGs were carried, but instead seven twin 20mm mounts. She had no stern ramp and carried no LCVPs, but a catapult and four floatplanes for liaison service; a huge air surveillance radar (a navalized air force set) and copious communications gear were provided for a 200 strong staff able to coordinate every aspect of a mid-sized amphibious operation.
Crosaidire and four others of the class (Foghlai, Creachadoir, Corai and Dornalai) fell victim to the British in the battle of Meanhchiorcal. Bladhmhiaire had already been destroyed a year before by a Recherchean submarine. Both survivors were commissioned too late to take part in the Meanhchiorcal operations; they spent most of their careers transporting reinforcements and supplies to Montevideo. By 1944, they had received seven twin 20mm cannon mounts and a modernized radar suite.
Both survived the war and had to be ceded to Great Britain. They were scrapped in 1950 after a brief test series.
Soon after the war had started, highly specialized amphibious vessels like the Priomhaires and Bladhmhiaires were discontinued, as they could only be built by specialized warship yards. At the same time, the navy approved an upscale of the amphibious fleet by a factor of four; the missing numbers were to be made up quickly by merchant and naval auxiliary conversions. Riordan Steel offered a development of its 23.000ts Coimeadai-class fast fleet support ship, which could carry sixteen 20m and four 12m LCVPs and no less than 1.000 Marines (normal loadout; more could embark in an emergency). Armament was the same as on other large amphibious ships – eight 100mm and twelve 37mm, plus four quad 13mm AAMGs. Two huge side doors – one on each side – were available for loading and unloading; it was theoretically possible to load the LCVPs through these doors using cranes mounted immediately above, but in the few instances they were debarking outside a port, the cargoes for the landing craft were usually brought to the upper deck first and loaded with the gantry cranes. The whole design was not overly practical, but the ships could be built quickly as their plans had been drawn as a private venture before the war. Riordan used one fleet support ship which was already in an advanced stage of construction as a prototype and delivered her in November 1940 under the name Ionroir (Invader).
Under the 1941 war programme, three sister ships were ordered from Riordan and Slatiascaigh and named Ceannfine (Chieftain), Concaire (Conqueror) and Buailteoir (Victor). They were completed between late 1943 and mid-1944 with radar and twelve twin 20mm cannon. Their service mostly consisted of supply runs to Montevideo.
After Meanhchiorcal, another four hulls (Gabhalai (Warlord), Curadh (Champion), Lochlannach (Viking) and Sirriam (Sherriff) were ordered in 1943 (two each at the Riordan and the Slatiascaigh yard), but none of these was ever completed; all four were stopped in early 1944 to be converted to escort carriers, but this plan was not followed through. Ionroir was sunk at Meanhchiorcal by British air attack and destroyer torpedoes, Buailteoir was sunk by British carrier planes in mid-1944 and Ceannfine a few weeks later by a British submarine. Concaire was ceded to the USA and Great Britain after the war and scrapped.
Oceangoing landing ships with beaching capability were never a part of Thiaria’s pre-war buildup; at that time, it was widely held that it was simply not possible to build a direct landing vessel with any worhtwile seakeeping capabilities. Only when the Americans proved that belief wrong with their LST, the Thiarians quickly designed a pendant and were surprised when it actually worked. It was five knots faster than its US counterpart, more seaworthy and maneuverable, and its diesel powerplant offered a range of 12.000 nm at 12 knots. With three of the newest 100/60 AA guns and four 37/70 autocannon, directed by integrated fire control systems and augmented by sixteen 20mm cannon, they were capable of looking after themselves against air and light surface attack. On the downside, these ships were larger, heavier, took three times as long to build, cost five times as much and had slightly less cargo capacity than an American LST. Consequently, when series production of a Thiarian LST was decided upon in early 1943, the initial order called for 32 hulls, followed by another order of 32 in mid-1944 – compared to 1.150 American LSTs built between 1942 and 1945. All were built by the Longaon yard. They were named for military professions: Coisi (Infantryman), Ridire (Cavalryman), Scabtha (Scout), Leigiunach (Legionary), Garda (Guard), Scirmiseoir (Skirmisher), Gunnadoir (Gunner), Lansaire (Lancer), Dragan (Dragoon), Naoscaire (Marksman), Ionsaitheoir (Sapper), Innealtoir (Engineer), Straeire (Ranger), Marcach (Cavalryman), Teachtaire (Messenger), Boghdoir (Archer), Granaidoir (Grenadier), Phiobhoir (Fifer), Comanlach (Commando), Marai (Marine), Husar (Hussar), Drumadoir (Drummer), Frogaire (Frogman), Roiceadoir (Rocketeer), Hoipliteach (Hoplite), Amhas (Mercenary), Ceannairceach (Insurgent), Buamadoir (Bombardier), Snipeir (Sniper), Craolaire (Signaller), Cheathrunach (Quartermaster) and Stocaire (Trumpeter). The class ship could be delivered after eight months building time in November 1943. The rest of the first batch followed within twelve months, save six hulls (Innealtoir, Teachtaire, Husar, Hoipliteach, Ceannairceach and Cheathrunach) which remained incomplete after the armistice. Of the second batch, none were laid down.
At the time these vessels became available, major amphibious operations were no longer feasible for the Thiarians, and they were mostly used to move army and militia forces between Thiarian mainland islands. Three were lost to submarines and one to an accident; the others survived the war. They were all requisitioned by the allies, because Thiaria was not allowed any amphibious capabilities under armistice conditions; as there was an overabundance of American landing craft, no one was really interested in them. Most were scrapped, a few were put to civilian use.
Commando raids were an important aspect of Thiaria’s pre-war amphibious warfare doctrine. To assist these, they developed a dedicated light attack transport on the hull of a fast minelayer design (which also formed the base for a small aviation tender). Four were ordered in 1938 and laid down in 1939 and 1940 at the CTS yard. They were capable of 24 knots and armed with four 100mm AA guns and eight 37mm cannon; the latter however were old semi-automatic pieces because the fully automatic L/70 version was not available in sufficient numbers to arm ships whose priority was downgraded as soon as the war started. They could embark four 12m LCVPs and 150 Marine commandoes each. Toscaire (Envoy), Teachtaire (Messenger), Straeir (Wanderer) and Bolscaire (Herald) were delivered between October 1941 and July 1942, all painted raider-blue and already fitted with radar, active and passive sonar, depth charges to function as contingency escorts if necessary and four 20mm cannon to bolster air defence.
After they were in service, these ships made several daring operations in their originally conceived function, and all units of the class were very active off the Brazilian coast. Port facilities in Recife, Capetown and Durban were repeatedly raided in 1942, and three of the class participated in the battle of Florianopolis. Straeir conducted a raid against Dakar in January 1943, attempting to aid Vichy troops preventing to turn over Dakar to the Allies; their actions resulted in much bloodshed, but delayed Dakar’s changing sides only by days. Teachtaire was sunk by allied airplanes in February 1943 while her commandoes successfully blew up two bridges on the crucial rail line from Recife to Rio. At Meanhchiorcal, Toscaire and Bolscaire were involved, sailing ahead of the main fleet to insert Commandoes before the invasion proper began; when the allies intercepted the Invasion fleet, both APDs cancelled their mission and returned home. The class was reduced to supply runs to Thiarian held islands in the South Atlantic for the rest of the war, and Bolscaire was sunk by a British submarine during one of these missions in April 1944. The other two survived the war and were scrapped in 1948.
5. Attack transports and Troopships
5.1. purpose built
As soon as the war had started, contingency plans to acquire a lot more amphibious ships were put in force. The Thiarian transport ministry had obtained standard designs for bulk freighters, oilers, feightliners, passenger liners and coasters of simple, yet robust construction for mass production purposes from the Riordan yard in the mid-30s, and small scale production began as early as 1936. Soon after mobilization, several hundred hulls were ordered from every yard not involved in warship construction. These ships still were more complex, more expensive and took longer to build than the designs of the Maritime Commission, and numbers were dwarfed by the US programme. On the other hand, the Thiarian yard industry, out of range of enemy strategic bombardment throughout the war, neither suffered from lack of workforce nor of steel and could deliver an impressive number of ships; the merchant hull output nearly equalled Japan’s. For the amphibious forces, two types were of particular interest.
The first was a 18.000 ton passenger liner with turbine propulsion and a sustained speed of 20 knots, of which a total of twelve were completed between 1938 and 1942 by the Riordan and Longaon yards. They were named for ancient Irish high kings: Ardri Cinaed, Ardri Mael Sechnaill, Ardri Brian Boruma, Ardri Domhnall, Ardri Diarmait, Ardri Toirrdelbach, Ardri Muirchertach, Ardri Ruaidri, Ardri Tuathal, Ardri Cathair Mor, Ardri Cormac and Ardri Niall Noigiallach. Only the first four of them served with the the Black Sun Line, a state owned passenger haul company, prior to the war.
Ardri Domhnall was interned in Koko when Thiaria entered the war and sold to the Kokoans in late 1940; she served as a hospital ship for the Kokoan Navy. Her three sisters were employed as troopships throughout the war; Ardri Mael Sechnall was sunk by British Carrier Aircraft in 1944. Another two hulls (Cathair Mor and Miall Noigiallach) were completed as troopships in 1943 and 1944, respectively. Ardri Niall Nogiallach was sunk during the same action as Mael Sechnall. The other three survived and reverted to civilian use after the war. They were sold off in the 1960s to various South American and South-East Asian buyers.
Four hulls (Ardri Tuathal, Ardri Diarmaid, Ardri Toirrdelbach and Ardri Cormac) were converted on stocks to large infantry landing ships with twenty 12m-LCVPs and the ability to embark 1.000 fully equipped troops. They were armed with four 100mm AA guns, eight 37mm cannon and twelve 20mm cannon. Completion was between mid-1941 and early 1943. Ardri Domhnall was wrecked in December 1942, and two more were sunk at Meanhchiorcal. Ardri Tutahal survived the war and was ceded to Brazil.
The two remaining hulls – Ardri Ruaidri and Ardri Muirchertach – were completed as hospital ships and will be treated in the next post about auxiliaries.
Another type suitable for amphibious operations was the Real-class freightliner, of which 26 hulls were completed between 1942 and 1944, by the yards of Riordan, Longaon, Loingsigh&Riain and Meara. All were named for stars; eighteen were delivered to the Navy, the rest to civilian freight lines operating under naval direction during the war. Their names were Aldebaran, Achernar, Procyon, Zaurak, Sirrah, Mirach, Banghaiscioch (Bellatrix), Agena, Spica, Antares, Toliman, Sirius, Canopus, Acrux, Fomalhaut, Mimosa, Miaplacidus, Regor, Alnair, Avior, Atria, Alsephina, Diphda, Aspidiske, Suhail and Naos. Of these, Procyon, Banghaiscioch, Canopus, Spica, Miaplacidus and Aspidiske were completed as attack transports with a troop capacity of 400. They were armed with four 100mm AA guns, twelve 37mm cannon and sixteen 20mm cannon and carried four 20m and eight 12m LCVPs.
Only Procyon was involved in the debacle of Meanhchiorcal, but survived; she and her sisters were the core of Thiaria’s rebuilt amphibious fleet after 1943. Spica and Miaplacidus were lost during the war, the others were ceded to the Allies in 1944.
5.2. converted prizes
In the early days of the war, Thiarian raiders captured several dozen Commonwealth merchant ships. Unlike German raiders, who operated far from home and had to scuttle their prey, the Thiarians actually managed to retrieve a total of 29 hulls intact. The largest and newest ones were requisitioned into the Navy and given new names: Ceannaire (Leader), Seanfhundir (Veteran), Oglach (Volunteer), Crannlaoch (Hero), Gaiscioch (Champion), Fiannai (Berserk), Ceannasai (Chieftain) and Faraire (Warrior). The first four were converted to attack transports;
the other four to large Infantry landing ships.
No two were alike; armament varied on all, and most only had rudimentary self-defence weaponry. All were intensely employed till 1943, and three were lost. After 1943, the survivors served as troopships or stores ships, and two more were lost. The three survivors were returned to their owners afterwards.