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Pocket battleship

The pocket battleships (Panzerschiff - "armoured ship" in German, also known as Deutschland class) were a class of warships built by Germany in accordance with restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles. In fact they were not battleships, but big heavy cruisers, armed with guns larger, than other nations' cruisers. The three ships in the class were launched between 1931 and 1934.

The principal feature of the pocket battleship design was that they carried guns large enough (280 mm / 11" calibre) to outgun any enemy ship fast enough to catch them, while being fast enough to outrun an enemy powerful enough to cause damage. The same basic design philosophy had led to a generation of ships just prior to World War I known as the battlecruiser. In practice the fleet commanders forced the battlecruisers to operate along with the larger dreadnoughts, and they suffered badly (see Battle of Jutland).

The Germans were dedicated to not making the same mistake twice, and used the panzerschiff purely as commerce-raiders on the high seas. This would make them very difficult to bring to task, as they could generally avoid any fight they didn't like. Speed is not enough to save a ship from a bad commander however, and three much less capable Royal Navy ships were able to damage the Graf Spee during the Battle of the River Plate. Just as in World War I, the ships then spent the vast majority of their time at anchor.