Official vs. practical manpower in ships

Discussion in 'WW2 General' started by magnocain, Aug 14, 2009.

  1. magnocain

    magnocain Member

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    If a warship has a crew of 1000 on paper (or in a book), does it need 1000 crewmen to operate? Can it get by with 750 or 500 during wartime? At what number will efficiency fall off?
     
  2. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Great question. Used to be a lot of ships had more guys in wartime to cover losses and damage control. Now, they are tending towards automation more and more, which is reducing the crew. That will change when the shooting starts.

    I guess a ship could float and move with just a salvage crew on it (5-10% of the crew). But that's worst case scenario.

    Love to hear more input on it.
     
  3. Colin1

    Colin1 Active Member

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    Wouldn't a ship's wartime complement be tailored by the designers to the requirements of the vessel? Those requirements would more than likely include shift rotation.
    I don't know how it works on a ship, it is a 2-way shift, 3-way? More? If it's more I suppose you could pare it down to a 2-way shift.
    I would say as many as is needed to maintain the vessel at a good state of alert and readiness and not too many so as to risk extra lives unnecessarily.
     
  4. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    Ships generally run watches (essentially shifts). Depending on how many guys you have on board, and how many are in your division (ship's companies are divided up in to divisions: Engineering, Operations, Deck, Weapons, ect) depends on how often you have to go on Watch. If you have a lot of guys in your division (and your specialty which is a sub-section of your division) then you go on watch 4 hours on and 8 Hours off. If you don't have enough guys, then you are looking at 4 on and 4 off. Plus, there are regular maintainence and house keeping to be done as well during normal working hours. Sometimes you can end up working 16 hour days or, especially in port for sea going sections, you work 4 hours and take off.
     
  5. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    If one is talking about WW2, the wartime complements typically increased a great deal because of new equipment added to the ships. Examples would be AA guns and electronics. Each crew member added put strains on berthing, messing, food and water supplies. In addition, the heavy service demands of wartime, (the ships were under much heavier use than in peacetime) increased the amount of maintenance needed for the ship. Although a member of a ship's complement was on average a lot safer than an infantryman, the sailor had no bed of roses. His work could be 24/7 and when at sea, which could be months, there was constant strain. The crews of the British carriers in the PTO suffered greatly from the heat as their ships were not as well ventilated as the USN's.
     
  6. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Its not always the case that the complement goes down in peacetime. I served on the melbourne, a WWII Majestic Class carrier. Her warime design called for a complement of just under 1000, with an air group of 37 aircraft.

    After the war the incomplete hull was taken in hand for a comprehensive design. The incomplete hull was taken in hand and fitted with an angled deck and mirror deck landing system. The AA armamant was reduced from 45 guns to just 12. The air group was reduced from 37 aircraft to 21. Yet the standing complement went up from the 1000 embarked in wartime to over 1300 men. Most of the additional ships company were used in the CAG maintenance groups....modern aircraft require a lot of maintenance compared to their wwII cousins. And Melbourne was a very busy ship. In the two years I was aboard, she steamed something like 250000 miles, and was on more or less continous deployment. We were very busy in the Indian Ocean, because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the general tensions in the Middle East at the time.

    With 1350 men onboard Melbourne was cramped and uncomfortable. Men were bunked in the passageways. As a young officer I hot bunked in a cabin designed for four men, with 7 other officers. I hated that, so I used to sleep in the aft cable locker.....it was the quietest place on the ship

    Ships lose efficiency proportionally as the complements are reduced, however ther are limits to this, depending on the habitability levels enjoyed on the ship
     
  7. renrich

    renrich Active Member

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    As mentioned before in other threads, I had two uncles, now no longer with us, who served on CAs in the early going. They had joined in the 30s right out of high school and eventually were CGMs and warrant officers. In talking with them I got many observations about the battles, some stories about drinking with Russians at Vladivostok, diving off a pier while drunk with the tide out, what they did with Japanese survivors in the water, their reactions at the word of Pearl Harbor, etc. but never asked them about mundane things like housekeeping. My suspicion is that both being petty officers when war broke out they had it better than the lower ranking EMs. I do recall reading that CA25, one of my uncle's ships returned once to PH with almost no food left. A ship designed for a crew of 800 or 900 with a crew of over 1100 was bound to be lacking in food storage capacity.
     
  8. magnocain

    magnocain Member

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    Thanks for the info.
     
  9. Vincenzo

    Vincenzo Active Member

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    Afaik wartime actual crew it's more numberous of need crew, for obvious reason.
     
  10. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    Wow! Interesting post parsifal!

    I had a look around the Melbourne on occasions while working as a trainee draughtsman at Garden Island back in the early eighties and was appalled at living conditions. Maybe you can adjust my memory, but I was sure I saw an area (passageway) with what looked like six bunks stacked one above the other. Is my memory kaput?

    Possessing no nautical blood, but to me one of the most impressive interiors was the USS Okinawa. Assault carrier? (I should google. There were very nice looking Cobras up top and until then never realised how small they really were).
     
  11. parsifal

    parsifal Well-Known Member

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    Hi graeme


    I think your memory is correct. She was hot, and rusty, noisy and slow.....and we loved her.......
     
  12. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    There are occasions where ships have had to pull out of port in a hurry with an anorexic skeleton crew. I know of several occasions where a hurricane hit shore a day or two before expected, with most of the crew out for weekend or whatever, and the sub had to fire up the reactor, cast off, and head out to sea with just the duty section on board. One story (unconfirmed) has the sub pulling back into port a few days later, with everyone on board smelling alot worse (nobody was ready to go to sea) and a whole lot hungrier, to be met on the pier by Admiral Nimitz himself, who walked on board before the brow was even secured (he was like that) and immediately promoted every man on board a rank, for saving one of his boats (and, coincidentally, the attached reactor). There is a standard set number of crew for each ship, and deviating from those numbers either way can affect morale and productivity. Too many, and you've got a lot of hot-racking (a phenomenon I do NOT miss, not even in my worst nightmares) and overcrowding and flaring tempers. Too few, and you've got guys being overworked and sleep-deprived, which really eats into morale and efficiency. Again, theoretically, you could go to sea with only one able-bodied person on a sub. But you wouldn't want to. I'd say that running...oh, 20%-25% undermanned would be the absolute limits.
     
  13. mlsco

    mlsco New Member

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    This one does seem a little over the top. Chester Nimitz, per a quick Wikipedia scan, ended his active career in 1947, which was a bit before the Nautilus. Even his son, Chester Jr., left the USN in 1957 and only with retirement was a rear admiral.
     
  14. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Heh. Yeah, it was late in the evening after a long day when I posted that. It was Rickover, the "Father of the Nuclear Navy". Anyhoo, its a story that gets told a lot when watches get boring, but nobody ever seems to be able to quote a source. I did hear one about Rickover, though, that was confirmed...he was visiting the Prototype Training facilities outside of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and forgot his security badge one day. The Marine sentry would not let him through, no matter how much Rickover yelled. Rickover had to drive back (an hour and a half drive) to town, get his badge, and drive back to the site. The guard let him in this time. Rickover barged into the Marine detachment's commander's office, and demanded to know who the guard was, and told the officer to promote him on the spot. The Marine had royally screwed Rickover's schedule, but had followed proceedures, even though he knew who Rickover was.

    Rickover was crazy like that.
     
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