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What If the High Seas Fleet was Never Built?

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Thanas
PostPosted: 2011-08-26 06:08pm 

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Lonestar wrote:
12 BBs to 16 BBs is still something that would throw the Brits into a panic, since that would mean they would have to start stripping assets from overseas duty stations in order to guarentee the defense of the British Isles and that would also present a lot of exposure to the Greater Empire(tm).

Crap, if *I* were PM then and the Germans were openly discussing a 3:4 ratio of battleships, you could bet your sweet ass I would be pushing to order a lot more BBs.


2:3 was the planned eventual ratio. And the Brits did not keep any BBs on overseas duty outside the med since the Russian threat evaporated anyway. While also having a ridiculous advantage in pre-dreads.
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Lonestar
PostPosted: 2011-08-26 06:31pm 

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12:16 is the same as 3:4. And yeah, it would push me into a panic. Why does Germany, a continental power, need such a large navy? They don't need one to defeat France or Russia. It could be only be as some kind of check or attempted neutralization of the RN.
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Simon_Jester
PostPosted: 2011-08-26 09:15pm 

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Thanas wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:
It's a lot easier to feel confident about the security of your home waters when the enemy has four battleships to your twelve than when they have six, or eight. Complicating factors or bad luck may put some of your ships out of action at a critical moment, the enemy may pull a secret weapon out of their hat, and so on.
Actually, even the most optimistic German plans only called for a building of 12 BBs to 16 British ones (and that was before the British stepped up the plate).
Yes- I'm saying 8:12 as a sample ratio, lower even than 12:16, but it's still enough to make a defense planner wary in naval affairs. Again, one dramatic reverse, a few ill-timed engineering casualties, an unexpected secret weapon... it would not be that hard to lose naval parity in a war that starts with such a narrow margin of superiority.

Which is the entire point of 'fleet in being' doctrine- it effectively locks down a superior enemy fleet, because the enemy cannot commit that fleet without risk of having it banged up badly enough to lose superiority and be placed in grave danger. Jellicoe's famous ability to "lose the war in an afternoon" preyed very heavily on the minds of the British.
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CaptHawkeye
PostPosted: 2011-08-26 09:31pm 

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The idea that Jellicoe was some sort of coward though is totally unfounded. We all saw how well Beatty's impatience and arrogance frequently worked out.

Jellicoe just understood that in order to win he really just had to sit and wait. He wasn't unwilling to meet the HSF in battle if he could and indeed at Jutland he was basically minutes from becoming the next Nelson. A combination of poor visibility and crummy luck really ruined his chance at having and winning the most decisive naval action in history. It wasn't really important though and he knew it. The blockade was winning the war and their was no sense in constantly risking ships in his fleet against mines and subs.

Last edited by CaptHawkeye on 2011-08-26 09:37pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Stark
PostPosted: 2011-08-26 09:36pm 

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Did Simon Jester just misinterpret Churchill's quote?

Churchill said that Jellicoe could 'lose the war in an afternoon', because if he engaged and the fleet took heavy losses, the UK was fucked. Therefore, without engaging he had already won, and by engaging he stood to lose a great deal and gain not much. He was certainly not calling Jellicoe out for personally losing the war by calling a retreat; protecting the fleet that bottled up the HSF was arguably his number one responsibility.
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CaptHawkeye
PostPosted: 2011-08-26 09:44pm 

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I hear people say "Jellicoe was a coward" as much as you hear people say "Shit battlecruisers". It irks me. :lol:

I don't think Jester was directly saying it. What he said after that, "preying on the minds of the British" seems wrong to me though. Most Brits wanted the Fleet to decisively pursue and destroy the HSF and Scouting Force so they'd stop bombarding towns on the coast. That's why Beatty seemed like such a hero. Even though he was a total idiot. It seemed like Jellicoe, safely storing his big bad fleet waaay up in Scapa Flow was avoiding the war. Even though he was just avoiding pointless risk posed by submarines, mines, etc.
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Steve
PostPosted: 2011-08-28 11:51am 

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I don't think Jester was going with the "Jellicoe was a coward" line, just remarking on the situation he was in.
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Simon_Jester
PostPosted: 2011-08-28 01:25pm 

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CaptHawkeye wrote:
The idea that Jellicoe was some sort of coward though is totally unfounded. We all saw how well Beatty's impatience and arrogance frequently worked out.
[blinks]

...That seems like a total non sequitur from what I was talking about. My point is simple. Because the Germans had a large battle fleet, it was possible for Britain to "lose the war in an afternoon." Bad luck, or enemy secret weapons, or any of a dozen X-factors could have shifted the balance of power to the point where the German surface fleet could have contested British naval superiority, threatening the island's ability to supply itself and continue the war.

This has nothing to do with Jellicoe being brave or cowardly, or good or bad, or any other personal quality of the man at all. The only reason I even used his name is because the simplest, clearest-written description of just what was at stake happens to be associated with his name- Jellicoe was the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon, if he'd happened to make a serious mistake or if he'd been particularly unlucky. Almost any other mistake would be reparable or recoverable for the nation making it- losing naval superiority might not be recoverable for Britain.

When you think about the strategy this imposes on the British, it becomes totally obvious why the Royal Navy played up the German naval threat and demanded vast increases in construction. They were trying to rebuild the margin of superiority that the construction of the HSF was taking away from them, so that in the event of war they'd have a margin of error.

No war planner is going to be all that comfortable going into a war where they depend on naval superiority for basic survival needs, if they only have a 16:12 advantage in battleships. They will want more battleships as a matter of course, and that is what "preys on their minds."

Stark wrote:
Did Simon Jester just misinterpret Churchill's quote?

Churchill said that Jellicoe could 'lose the war in an afternoon', because if he engaged and the fleet took heavy losses, the UK was fucked. Therefore, without engaging he had already won, and by engaging he stood to lose a great deal and gain not much. He was certainly not calling Jellicoe out for personally losing the war by calling a retreat; protecting the fleet that bottled up the HSF was arguably his number one responsibility.
Stark, you just misinterpreted me. Or more likely, saw a quote and decided to leap on it without bothering to check the context I was using it in.

My point all along* was that the historical HSF was strong enough that one bad day in a war with Germany could lose the war for Britain. One unexpected X-factor, or one German tactical success, and the comfortable margin of British naval superiority could vanish. Which was exactly the point Churchill made in The World Crisis, that you so kindly just explained to me.

The only I am applying this observation to the strategic level (the Admiralty's construction plans), not the tactical level (Jellicoe's decisions at Jutland). As long as there existed an enemy battlefleet strong enough that Britain could lose the war in an afternoon, the British were forced to adopt a conservative strategy for the use of their fleet. In that respect, the German "fleet in being" doctrine worked- Britain was forced to keep its battleships ready to counter a sortie by the High Seas Fleet.

This is not to say the conservative British strategy adopted de facto (over the objections of hotheads like Beatty and Churchill) was bad. This is not to say that said strategy didn't work, but I didn't say any of that.
_______________

*and this will be supported if you read my post instead of just spotting the quote, asserting that I didn't understand it, and then explaining to me what it means.
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Sea Skimmer
PostPosted: 2011-08-28 10:01pm 

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Thanas wrote:
This lead to a lot of militaristic policies - like trying to provoke the Russian Navy into firing at British ships when making the transit through the Channel, denying them coaling and transit through Suez and in General trying everything to ensure Russia would lose the war.


The British didn't react nearly as they might have after the Russians fired on the hull trawlers. The only reason that wasn't a war was because people knew Russian crews sucked, and it was believed by some that Japan really did have secret torpedo boats in Europe. If any other European power had done the same thing it would have been a war. No transit was denied at Seuz. The third pacific squadron passed through the canal in fact to catch up. the second second squadron avoided the canal because the Russian Admirals felt the overloaded predreadnoughts might not fit, it was pretty small back then, and they feared a Japanese ambush in the Red Sea. The Brits did deny the use of ports for coaling, but then so did almost everyone else on earth. Even the German government wasnt too fond of German ships being used.
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Sea Skimmer
PostPosted: 2011-08-28 10:04pm 

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Thanas wrote:

2:3 was the planned eventual ratio. And the Brits did not keep any BBs on overseas duty outside the med since the Russian threat evaporated anyway. While also having a ridiculous advantage in pre-dreads.


Ratios are deceptive things as the German plans were based on a count of modern first class units under 20 years age; not the number of ships the fleet actually had. Result of the wording of the naval laws; Tirpitz had no intention of disposing of the older ships.
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Thanas
PostPosted: 2011-08-29 12:10pm 

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Sea Skimmer wrote:
Thanas wrote:

2:3 was the planned eventual ratio. And the Brits did not keep any BBs on overseas duty outside the med since the Russian threat evaporated anyway. While also having a ridiculous advantage in pre-dreads.


Ratios are deceptive things as the German plans were based on a count of modern first class units under 20 years age; not the number of ships the fleet actually had. Result of the wording of the naval laws; Tirpitz had no intention of disposing of the older ships.


Yeah, but we all know the worth of German pre-dreads.
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Simon_Jester
PostPosted: 2011-08-29 02:26pm 

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I'd think it was fairly clear early into the Dreadnought Revolution that pre-dreadnoughts weren't worth very much against dreadnoughts.

Compare the 1890s-vintage battleships at roughly ten thousand tons to the twenty thousand ton dreadnoughts, and it's easy to see why both sides would wind up discounting old pre-dreadnoughts. Tirpitz might not want to dispose of the old pre-dreadnoughts, but he had to know they wouldn't count for very much in a war with Britain.
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Sea Skimmer
PostPosted: 2011-08-29 03:37pm 

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Simon_Jester wrote:
I'd think it was fairly clear early into the Dreadnought Revolution that pre-dreadnoughts weren't worth very much against dreadnoughts.


The Russians were very successful using predreadnoughts in coordinated groups for gunnery purposes, and in this manner scored the longest range confirmed ship to ship hit in WW1 against Goben. So its certainly not hopeless. At least not until everyone had effective APC rounds from really heavy caliber guns. Then the more limited protection of the predreadnoughts would be a much bigger deal then it would have been at say, Jutland.

Quote:

Compare the 1890s-vintage battleships at roughly ten thousand tons to the twenty thousand ton dreadnoughts, and it's easy to see why both sides would wind up discounting old pre-dreadnoughts. Tirpitz might not want to dispose of the old pre-dreadnoughts, but he had to know they wouldn't count for very much in a war with Britain.


The main problem is that of controlling a large mass of predreadnoughts against a smaller number of dreadnoughts. The line gets very long, and multiple lines are harder still to control. But if you have to do it, you could still take and dish out a lot of punishment with them. 1890s predreadnoughts are not so good, such ships predated features like electrical gunnery circuits, but the 1900-1908ish ships are a lot better in detail design. You would of course expect heavy losses, but the point of ships is to fight. Limited gun elevation is the biggest problem, but this could be modified quickly had anyone cared.

Quote:
Yeah, but we all know the worth of German pre-dreads.


Some of them are well worth something, and Tirpitz's planning had by the 1913 naval law extended far enough into the future that replacement of the first dreadnoughts became relevant. I personally also believe. and I think anyone would agree, that if you gave him another few years, another naval law amendment would be certain and he would have almost certainly pressed for a further reduction in the life of battleships once British 15in ships appeared so rapidly.
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Thanas
PostPosted: 2011-08-29 03:41pm 

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This I doubt. What I have read from Herwig especially seems to suggest that the Army was growing more and more jealous every year and would not countenance such a massive expansion. Maybe some ships, but certainly not anything above the already existing ratio. Tirpitz only got BCs in the first place because he convinced the Reichstag to actually list them as cruiser replacements.
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Simon_Jester
PostPosted: 2011-08-29 05:11pm 

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QUICK EDIT: Yes, I know you can use two or three pre-dreadnoughts to overpower one dreadnought if you play your cards right. But as far as I can see, the ratios quickly become so unfavorable that sending the ships to fight the enemy's modern battleline is dangerous and the rate of exchange in hulls is favorable to the enemy- they sink more of your ships than you do of theirs.

The Germans might reasonably look forward to an engagement between, say, four of their battleships and six to eight British pre-dreadnoughts, bearing that in mind. So the impact of the pre-dreadnoughts on the strength ratio is reduced by that, and also by the fact that the British will deploy many pre-dreadnoughts to remote stations where they have little direct impact on the conduct of the High Seas Fleet.

Sea Skimmer wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:
I'd think it was fairly clear early into the Dreadnought Revolution that pre-dreadnoughts weren't worth very much against dreadnoughts.
The Russians were very successful using predreadnoughts in coordinated groups for gunnery purposes, and in this manner scored the longest range confirmed ship to ship hit in WW1 against Goben. So its certainly not hopeless. At least not until everyone had effective APC rounds from really heavy caliber guns. Then the more limited protection of the predreadnoughts would be a much bigger deal then it would have been at say, Jutland.
I may be flat wrong about this, but I could swear I remember you mentioning that the Germans were ahead of the British in developing effective armor-piercing ammunition.

Could this have affected an attempt to use less armored British pre-dreadnoughts against the German fleet?
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CJvR
PostPosted: 2011-08-31 11:41am 

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Simon_Jester wrote:
I may be flat wrong about this, but I could swear I remember you mentioning that the Germans were ahead of the British in developing effective armor-piercing ammunition.
They were, the British didn't match the preformance of the German AP shells until the Greenboy shells, available in limited numbers and only towards the end of the war. IIRC it was based of the German shell design.
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Sea Skimmer
PostPosted: 2011-08-31 12:46pm 

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Thanas wrote:
This I doubt. What I have read from Herwig especially seems to suggest that the Army was growing more and more jealous every year and would not countenance such a massive expansion. Maybe some ships, but certainly not anything above the already existing ratio. Tirpitz only got BCs in the first place because he convinced the Reichstag to actually list them as cruiser replacements.


He got them because he had agreed to defer said cruisers earlier, and then got them reinstated as the most expensive possible type of warship; not really a strong argument for him being turned down for spending. Tirpitz as I have said earlier actually just wanted battleships for all roles but in this case he was happy enough to get even more money for battlecruisers because it fit the laws more easily. In reality the battlecruisers had no rational wartime role for Germany, and the whole cruiser requirement was purely to show the flag in Asia... This is also why Blucher was built even though Germany was perfectly aware of the I class battlecruisers being intended to have 12 inch guns. Any big cruiser would work to support a naval ensign, and since the design process had already been ongoing nobody felt like allowing further delay for a ship with a far more serious combat value. Though... I like Blucher for the hell of it anyway. Course I also like cruisers to have five or six funnels and six calibers of guns.

The German Army just kept loosing out to the navy, being stripped among other things of its coastal defense role and mastery of all fortifications at the insistence of Tirpitz, which also provided an excuse to start forming large units of German Marines. Few other naval powers ever did this. I can't see why this would change with the Kaiser overwhelmingly behind him and the industrialists very fond of big warship projects as well. Allowing Tirpitz to build a fleet in the first place was based on the absurd but accepted logic that no war could occur anytime soon, in which case, depriving the army, which can expand fairly rapidly if need be, of funding makes sense. Of course its also simply possible that German military spending would have risen in total compared to the GDP; in 1913 French spending was far higher. Something like 1.3% vs 3.3% though Germany was outlaying significantly more money each year as it had such a larger economy.
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Sea Skimmer
PostPosted: 2011-08-31 01:01pm 

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Simon_Jester wrote:
I may be flat wrong about this, but I could swear I remember you mentioning that the Germans were ahead of the British in developing effective armor-piercing ammunition.


Well, basically the Germans had ones which worked. The British simply did not, for very fundamental reasons starting with the burster explosives simply being too sensitive to ever survive piercing a large thickness of armor without setting itself off, fuse be damned. So they could perforate fairly thick armor, by exploding after partial penetration and blowing in the remaining chunks of armor, which was pretty deadly against say, a turret or barbette, but not so good against larger parts of the ship but passing through and exploding behind just wasn't going to happen. The British never cared that much about this prior to Jutland (when it was shown that hit rates would be low) because they felt it was better to fire CPC and HE shells at the enemy with big bursters and the ability to defeat weak armor in ordered to just blast the enemy ship apart. The Germans actually ended up firing a fair bit of SAP and HE at heavy ships as well. As long as you got a high hit rate this all works very well, as shown by some rather huge craters left behind in German ships at Jutland. Lutzow sank in part because of massive flooding from a CPC hit blowing out a big chunk of her belt and sending the massive belt fragments well into the ship.

Quote:
Could this have affected an attempt to use less armored British pre-dreadnoughts against the German fleet?


The earlier dreadnoughts did not have all that much more armor then the later predreadnoughts, and even as later British dreadnoughts had a lot thicker max armor, the area this thicker armor covered tended to be very limited, and often barely above the waterline at combat displacements. So the armor disparity is not nearly as great as it might have been. The big problem with the predreadnoughts is simply the low density of high caliber firepower, compounded by inferior gun range and inferior speed. But when you had so damn many of them, and so many people are dieing on land anyway that doesn't mean as much as it might have in a different war. Another problem is the predreadnoughts by 1914 tended to have reserve crews with limited training, but that could be resolved in service had anyone cared.

As I recall for some time the British did in fact maintain a predreadnought squadron in the channel-Thames area as a backstop against a German dreadnought attack on the cross channel ferry service. The narrow shoal filled waters around Dover are a boost to the predreadnought force, since it would be very hard for a full battleline of dreadnoughts to come into action against them.
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Simon_Jester
PostPosted: 2011-08-31 04:38pm 

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What I mean is that the Germans, relatively confident in the ability of their ships' guns to blow through pre-dreadnought armor, might have further discounted the pre-dreadnoughts as a threat relative to either side's dreadnoughts. That would make the British advantage in this type less relevant.
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CJvR
PostPosted: 2011-08-31 04:57pm 

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Some RN armor belts:

Nelson (1925) 14"
R-class (1916) 13"
Orion (1911) 12"
Bellerophon (1907) 10"
Agamemnon (1906) 12" - last PDN
KE VII (1903) 9"
Majestic (1895) 9"
Victoria (1887) 18"
Inflexible (1876) 24" + 17" Teak
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Sea Skimmer
PostPosted: 2011-08-31 05:39pm 

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That listing means little, the armor types aren't the same, and some of those belt thicknesses only apply to a strake 10-13ft high which was my main point. The odds of the max thickness of armor becomes pretty damn low when said thickness is only 13ft high with only 2-4ft of that above the waterline and which often only covers the machinery and not the end magazines! The huge areas of intermediate armor were more relevant; which is why the US and then others began to favor all or nothing armor so they could afford decent main belt heights. Germany did a better on this note by deliberately limiting the firepower of its ships and cutting back on the really thin parts of the belts; though the first German dreadnoughts shared all the the armoring flaws with the British in terms of limited main belt length.

Simon_Jester wrote:
What I mean is that the Germans, relatively confident in the ability of their ships' guns to blow through pre-dreadnought armor, might have further discounted the pre-dreadnoughts as a threat relative to either side's dreadnoughts. That would make the British advantage in this type less relevant.


Maybe but I think Tirpitz was just taking a long term view that by the time his massive grand plan was done around 1920 the 1906- predreadnoughts would all simply be old, even had no dreadnought revolution taken place. War before then was just ignored, to fatal results. As for overseas stations, this is really not true. The British had almost no predreadnoughts overseas in 1914, they had just one in all of east Asia for example, HMS Triumph which was a second class ship built for Chile and never really wanted (was bought to avoid sale to Russia) and the only major deployments became the Mediterranean to oppose the Turks. French ships handled the job of bottling up Austria before and after Italy joined the war; even had RN ships been required to do this your talking about needing only a fraction of British predreadnought strength. In reality a lot of British predreadnoughts simply had nothing on earth to do once U-boats and mines drove them away from shore bombardment duties. Many had their ammo stocks and reserve guns raided to form railway batteries in France, and in hindsight even more should have been but the RN liked to keep all the predreadnoughts it could active precisely so they had a backup should the whole Grand Fleet be sunk.

Prewar the British used battlecruisers and armored cruisers as the big foreign station ships; after Spee's squadron was sunk they had no specific need for anything larger then a light cruiser outside of Europe, though some armored cruisers were still used for patrol work since, why not? The only way a lot of British battleships would be drawn away from Europe is if the British had to fight one or more other naval powers at the same time as Germany, alone. Otherwise the vast RN armored cruiser force can handle things just fine, and hell, even if you put France and Germany or Germany and Russia against the British they could still handle it and frankly, even larger combinations. IIRC the British had 41 predreadnoughts, at least ten of which aren't worth much except against older cruisers, and I believe it was 26 armored cruisers? Plus a number of protected cruisers which still had a few 7.5in or 9.2in guns to give them some punch. It was a staggering force and staggering advantage over all other fleets to back up the front line ships.
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