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The Nebula Hawk Battleship Spaceport has currently reviewed the following:

Battleships - The Ultimate Guide to the Worlds Greatest Battleships, HMS Agincourt, HMS Dreadnought, HMS Queen Elizabeth, Indianapolis and Hood - Great Blunders of World War Two, The Mighty Hood - Ernle Bradford

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The Mighty Hood - Ernle Bradford

At first glance, the most prominent feature of this book (on HMS Hood) - is the fact that it was written, within just a few years of HMS Hood, having been lost:


The Mighty Hood - The Life and Death of the Royal Navy's Proudest Ship


Initially, I felt somewhat apprehensive - as haven been written in 1959, how good could it be? Well ... Whilst it took me a chapter or two, to get into the text, I was so pleased that I did :) For one simple reason: this book on the Mighty Hood, contains a wealth of information, that you just don't find, in other (more modern) Battleship books. A clue lies in the book's subtitle: The Life and Death of the Royal Navy's Proudest Ship. And it is Hood's Life, that the book primarily concentrates on ... And of this Life, is Hood's Empire/World Cruise, one of the most important parts of the book. For it is here, that I started to feel, just something of the values of the Men, and of the importance of Routine (to the men that served on her) ... For a Sailor learns the Ways of the Sea: where to polish, where to knot, where to stand, where to tuck, where to box, where to train - but not after Rum! For a sailor endures the Trails of the Sea: in the sweats of the Tropic, in the freeze of the Arctic, in the storms of the Pacific, in the fogs of the Vikings, in the cheers of the Empire, in the demands of the Bow. As practice makes perfect - and all is not quite :) For a Warship is Alive: foot-steps in her corridors, meals in her galleys, lights in her decks, breathes in her hull, study in her gauges, commands in her Bridge. For a Warship, is the Heart and Soul of her Crew :) And yet, is there no accounting for luck ... As when Hood's fatal blow was struck, did all of it end: her lights and sounds were no more - just silence. The book's handling of this fate, was just as sudden - which left me with a feeling of, how can this be? How can a warship that sailed around the World, be lost in a matter of seconds? How can a warship that was a Legend the World over, suffer such an instant demise? Well ... We shall never know for sure - although the book does hint, at flaws in her design (especially the thinness of her deck armour, compounded by the stresses of her long hull form). In any case, I found several surprises within this book ... First: Was the level of competitiveness, that existed between the sailors of Destroyers/Cruisers, and the sailors of Capital Ships (such as HMS Hood). Destroyer men, seemed to feel that Capital Ships (such as HMS Hood), could not look after themselves - and did not want to be outdone (especially in terms of seamanship), by the crews of Capital Ships (that to them, almost never put to sea!). It is with some irony then, that such Destroyer/Cruiser men, longed to serve on-board HMS Hood :) Second: Was the level of luck encountered (or lack of it!), on the day of Hood's loss, by her Commander - Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland. For all intents and purposes, decisions that Holland took on the day, all appeared to be logical and correct (as of a wise and talented commander) - but without one key ingredient, luck of any kind! An example would be, when he sent his accompanying Destroyers, further North (to seek the Bismarck), only to stumble upon the Bismarck himself (well away from his Destroyers). The irony is, that at every decision he took (even those that were based upon, sound naval value) - luck simply conferred, his advantage away. For example: He had more heavy calibre Naval Guns (eight 15 inch and ten 14 inch), but his manoeuvrers during the night (whilst seeking the Bismarck), meant that he lost much of his Angle of Approach advantage - and as such, could only bring his forward naval guns to bear (four 15 inch from Hood, six 14 inch from Prince of Wales). Third: was the order, in which HMS Hood fired her guns (one barrel from each turret fired, followed by the other barrel, alternating for continuous fire). It's the first time that I'd read, such a specific fact like this, which I feel is a forgotten fact - from the time that this book was written ... Added to this, did I also find another forgotten fact - the fact that Hood, was not a new ship: she had been heavily used, throughout the oceans of the World, and her boilers plus turbines, were no longer capable of propelling her, at her design speed (of over thirty knots). Thus, it may appear obvious, that she was in need of a service - but I'd not thought about this requirement before (preferring instead, to ponder upon, her potential redesign). Overall: this book contrasts the Life of HMS Hood, against the Loss of HMS Hood. Her life was long, for a warship (around twenty-five years). She'd navigated the World. She was known to most (if not all) of the British Empire. She was known to the VIPs (such as Kings and Queens). She was known to the Children (that in peacetime, had both danced and played - upon her decks). She was known to the Sailors (both those that served on her, and those that wanted to). She was Alive - but she was still a warship. Her guns, that had been primarily used in training, were now for war. She was a Legend (known to all), that bore an Achilles Heel (known to few). Her men knew the calibre of her steel, the power of her guns, and the meaning of her flags. For they served a way of Life, that now no longer exists ... Silence: for those that know the Sea, may never walk upon the Land again - our Mighty Hood.

15/01/2017 | Nebula Hawk

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HMS Queen Elizabeth

Of all the Royal Navy's Battleships, there are none more highly regarded, than those of the Queen Elizabeth class - and of those, is there none more renowned, than the lead warship herself - HMS Queen Elizabeth:


HMS Queen Elizabeth - with eight fifteen-inch Naval Guns and twenty Dual Purpose four-and-a-half-inch Quick Firing guns.


HMS Queen Elizabeth, was one of five sister battleships, that having been laid down in 1912/1913, became the workhorses of the Royal Navy (throughout both World Wars). In terms of Naval Architecture, is there an important milestone, that is usually accredited to them: that they are seen as, the World's first true, fast battleships :) For one simple reason - their designs were close to, the ideals of matched: armour, guns and speed! For me, I feel that the Queen Elizabeth, was also the most glamorous (of her sisters) - as she received, the most modifications, throughout her long service life (of thirty-six years). When it comes to the Queen Elizabeth's profile, are there four features, that I particularly liked ... First: Is the arrangement of her primary armament - two naval gun turrets forward, and two naval gun turrets aft. Which for me, has always felt, like it encapsulated, the ideas of balance. And yet, do these ideas of balance, also transfer themselves, to the choice of naval gun calibre. For the Queen Elizabeths, were armed with eight fifteen-inch naval guns, which are believed to have been, the best well balanced guns, within the Royal Navy (of all time). As the fifteen-inch naval gun/shell, met the ideals of: maximised destructive fire-power, with low barrel wear/tear, and considerable engagement range :) Which is perhaps (just slightly) ironic, because it was feared, that the fifteen-inch calibre shell, would not be as successful, as the earlier, thirteen-and-a-half-inch calibre shell, nor as successful, as the much more widespread (and familiar), twelve-inch calibre shell - which had both been fitted, to previous battleship classes. Second: Whilst the earlier profile, of the Queen Elizabeth, was certainly impressive - they are as nothing, when compared to the Queen Elizabeth, when she was overhauled, with her imposing block like, forward superstructure (and conning tower). As this feature, really modernised the appearance of, the Queen Elizabeth :) Whilst at the same time, do I feel that it improved, her fighting capabilities no-end, as there was so much more, available space and vantage points - for fire control :) Third: Originally, the Queen Elizabeth was armed, with sixteen six-inch (case-mated) secondary naval guns - which were again, at the mercy of turbulent seas! The fact that these six-inch guns, were also intended, with the soul purpose of engaging, enemy vessels - meant that they were of little use/value, against enemy aircraft. Thus was I glad, when the Queen Elizabeth was overhauled, with a dedicated secondary armament, of twenty dual purpose four-and-a-half-inch guns - that could target both enemy vessels, and enemy aircraft :) I also liked the fact, that these dual purpose guns, were both enclosed in turrets, and that they were located, at higher levels, above the hull form (e.g. at main deck level), which afforded more usability, in turbulent seas :) Forth: Was the addition of bulges, onto the sides, of the Queen Elizabeth's hull form. Where as earlier battleships, had been coal powered (with the coal providing reasonable levels of dampening, against the shock/power of a torpedo impact/explosion) - there was no such protection, within the Queen Elizabeths (as they were oil fuelled). Thus, did the hull form bulges, provide a layer of protection, against the menace - of the submarine/aircraft launched torpedo :) Despite this, was there one particular modification, to the Queen Elizabeth (and her battleship class), that I was not-so-keen on: their aircraft arrangements. Whilst I understand the logic, of having aircraft launched from a battleship (e.g. a spotter plane), I feel that such modifications, were really too space occupying, and should have been reserved/relegated, to the role of a support ship (such as an accompanying aircraft carrier, or an accompanying destroyer/cruiser - equipped with sonar, for the detection of submerged submarines). Overall: the Queen Elizabeths, were the most heavily used, of all the Royal Navy's battleships. They were present at every major theatre of war, even being useful - when heavily damaged! An example of this, was when HMS Warspite (one of Queen Elizabeth's sisters), was limped into position, to bombard the invasion beaches (of D-Day) - whilst only having six usable, fifteen-inch naval guns. And as for the Queen Elizabeth? Well ... I just loved the fact, that her later modifications, resulted in a truly impressive and imposing - Titan of the Seas :)

20/10/2016 | Nebula Hawk

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HMS Agincourt

If there's one Battleship (more than any other), that best illustrates the requirement of, mounting as many naval guns on your battleship (as possible), then there's no finer example, than the Royal Navy's - HMS Agincourt:


HMS Agincourt - with fourteen twelve-inch Naval Guns in seven twin-turrets (circa 1918).


HMS Agincourt (of 1913), mounted no fewer than, fourteen twelve-inch naval guns (in seven twin-turrets). This was done, to both maximise her fire-power, and increase the chances of hitting, an enemy battleship. I like the fact, that her turret arrangement, adhered to the principles of Naval Conflict, that had been learned in the days of Nelson's - HMS Victory: the more guns you have, the more fighting power, your warship - brings to bear :) And yet, perhaps unlike the days of HMS Victory, did this maximisation of guns - come with a price tag! In the case of Agincourt, carrying so many turrets (seven), meant that their weight had to be paid for, at the expense of adequate - armoured protection ... For me, this was particularly apparent, upon the thinness of her belt armour (up to nine inches), the thinness of her deck armour (up to two and a half inches), and the thinness of her bulkheads (up to six inches). Of these, I would say that it's the bulkheads thickness, that would concern me the most - as having seven gun turrets, could easily mean, that a fire/explosion, in one of their magazine's/shell handling room's, could easily spread, to an adjacent gun turret/group of turrets! And given the fact, that HMS Agincourt was regarded (amongst the Royal Navy), as a floating magazine - leads little to the imagination ... Despite this, did HMS Agincourt, have several features to her profile, that I quite liked ... First: was the fact that Agincourt, mounted all of her primary naval guns, on the centreline, of her hull form. This meant that she could bring all, primary guns to bear, on both port and starboard - which maximised her broadside. The adoption/standardised use of centreline turrets, went hand-in-hand, with the Space Age Idea, of super-firing turrets (where one turret's roof, was directly beneath, another turret's barrels). In the case of Agincourt, did this lead to an interesting arrangement, of her aft turrets - a little group of three, that was somewhat unique, in their layout :) Second: having so many primary naval guns (fourteen twelve-inch), was it also a key requirement, for the shell spotters, to have an unimpeded line-of-sight, towards the enemy. Thus, is it good to see, that her forward lookout platform (that's mounted atop the forward-most tripod mast), is actually located, in-front of the forward-most smokestack :) Third: Where as HMS Dreadnought (the so-called grandfather of all later/better battleships), had for the most part, omitted any (dedicated) secondary armament - the same could not be said, for HMS Agincourt. In the case of Agincourt, do I like the fact, that she featured twenty six-inch guns - that were all grouped, within the central third, of her hull form. For me, the inclusion of six-inch (surface target) guns, reflected a decent realisation of the (potential) menace of Destroyers and Patrol Boats (who could both launch torpedoes!). Yet here, do I find, that there's a secondary armament feature, that I was not so keen on ... The fact that her six-inch guns, were case-mated (i.e. built into the hull form), and that they were situated (mostly) beneath main deck level, meant that they would have been unusable, in anything but - a calm sea! Despite this, the inclusion of a (powerful) secondary armament, meant that Agincourt, did at least cater for, two different ranges, of Naval Engagement - both long range (with her twelve-inch guns), and short/medium range (with her six-inch guns). Which really was, a step in the right direction :) Overall: HMS Agincourt, was a (somewhat) novel solution, to the conflicting Naval requirements - of both maximising fire-power, and maintaining survivability. Ironically, the spread of her seven turrets, both aided survivability (as the chances of an enemy shell, knocking them all out - was much reduced), but the chances of an enemy shell, knocking out the entire battleship, was much increased (as the turrets were housed within a hull form, that did not have enough - armoured protection).

19/10/2016 | Nebula Hawk

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HMS Dreadnought

If there's one Battleship (more than any other), that's responsible for defining an entire genre of Warships, than that credit of distinction, belongs only to the Royal Navy's - HMS Dreadnought (of 1906):


HMS Dreadnought - with ten twelve-inch Naval Guns and anti-torpedo net booms (in 1906).


HMS Dreadnought, was a World Above, the Warships that had come before her (the pre-dreadnoughts), and her design was so radical (at the time), that she gave her name, to all the Dreadnoughts that came after her (which we know by today - as Battleships). I especially like the fact, that HMS Dreadnought, helped redefine the definition/meaning of the phase: Naval Engagement ... This was achieved, through a Space Age Idea - that unified her primary armament, to be of all the same calibre of guns: ten twelve-inch naval guns. This in-turn, supported the idea of Naval Engagements, from greater distances - as shell spotters, only had to look for one type of shell splash (to help correct their aiming). But, why the requirement for a greater range of engagement? Well ... It was believed, that such Dreadnoughts, would no longer be within the range of - enemy torpedoes! It was an idea that was regarded as radical, because Navy Engagements (up to circa 1906), had always been fought, at closer ranges (being somewhat reminiscent, of the days of Nelson's - HMS Victory). When it comes to HMS Dreadnought's profile, there's three features, that stand out for me ... First: her high (ram shaped) bow. This would have helped with her sea keeping (of 21 knots), and have been useful (owing to its shape), for the ramming of enemy warships, and submarines! Second: the poles that extend along the side of her hull form. At first, I thought that these were a part of her armour - but they are in-fact, booms for her anti-torpedo nets (which would have been deployed, when she was in port, and/or when she was stationary). Third: the layout of her primary armament gun turrets (i.e. her ten twelve-inch naval guns). Three gun turrets were located on her centre line, and could fire on either beam - at an enemy located to port or starboard (as the turrets rotated). The remaining two turrets, were located on her beams/wings (one port, one starboard) - but could only fire at an enemy, located on the relevant beam/wing (owing to limited rotation, and no line of sight/fire across her main deck). Thus, do I like the fact, that HMS Dreadnought, could bring to bear: eight twelve-inch naval guns - for a full naval broadside! Despite this, are there two design features (of HMS Dreadnought), that I did not like ... First: was her complete lack (of a true) secondary armament. Having been so revolutionary, it was almost an afterthought, to have added in twenty-seven twelve-pounder guns (5.44 kilograms). These, were all mounted above deck, both on the roofs of her primary gun turrets, and within her topside superstructure. And as such, I find it slightly ironic/reflective, that these were the positions, that were used in later Battleship classes, for anti-aircraft arrangements. Thus did Dreadnought, lack any effective close range, medium calibre guns - that could have been of use, against enemy Patrol Boats and Destroyers (who ironically, could launch torpedoes!). Second: Was the location of her forward most, gun spotting platform (atop the tripod mast). Which could easily be smoked out, when she was at speed! Although to be fair, this particular design flaw, also affected - later Battleships. Overall: Dreadnought was the first of her kind, who sparked a Naval Arms race (as other countries wanted Dreadnoughts). Even so, there's one particular area, that Dreadnought often receives flak for - and that is, that her thickest belt armour (of 11 inches), was actually located beneath the waterline (when she was at sea), where it would do - little good! In any case, Dreadnought was a step in the right direction, as many of her novel features, made it successfully into - later Battleship classes :)

15/10/2016 | Nebula Hawk

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Indianapolis and Hood - Great Blunders of World War Two

All warships, no matter whether Battleship or Cruiser, Carrier or Destroyer, are to the men that serve on them - the Bastions of the Sea:


USS Indianapolis and HMS Hood - Great Blunders of World War Two


Yet in-turn, are the warships themselves, at the mercy of the men that command them, and the men that designed them. In the case of the USS Indianapolis, was it a catalogue of errors - that lead to her loss ... Whilst watching this DVD, I found myself amazed, that she was sunk in the Pacific, because of a denied request (of an anti-submarine escort) and a gargled radio message (that nobody requested clarification of). In essence: no one knew that the USS Indianapolis had been sunk (by at least two torpedoes), and no one knew that she was declared overdue (as radio operators had not received, the message that she was on her way - in the first place!). This DVD shows the horrors of the loss of the Indianapolis, which through the use of computer animation, helps drive home, one simple point: she was all alone, in the middle of the Pacific at night, listing heavily (through her breeched hull), with no ability to call for assistance - as her radio was out, on her top secret mission, that no one knew about! To say that this DVD shocked me, is something of an understatement ... This DVD then shocked me again, as it portrays (at least in part) the true horrors, of her crew's five days in shark infested waters - whilst various elements of the US/Allied Navy, believed her sinking to be a hoax/false report (even after having intersected and decoded, a Japanese Sub's radio message). Thus, can I say that the loss of the Indianapolis, was compounded by communication failures. And it is here that the DVD, plays right into: the loss of HMS Hood ... Hood was the biggest warship of the Royal Navy, a requirement that came from the Navy's desire, to have a battle-cruiser/fast-battleship, that was capable of: over thirty knots. Yet as this DVD shows, this speed - came with a price tag! This time, the blunder occurred, at Hood's design stage - which was itself, combined with two further blunders, on the day of her loss ... The first blunder (for me), was the fact that her Vice-Admiral, ordered both a radio silence, and for her accompanying escort (the battleship Prince of Wales), to turn off it's radar (directed fire), and refrain from using it's spotting aircraft. Thus was Hood, already at a disadvantage ... Which when compounded with the blunder of her design (having too thin/little deck armour), and the blunder of her going up against a fully modernised, enemy battleship (the Bismarck), sealed her fate. Again, the DVD makes use of computerised animation, to help drive home, the dramatic loss of HMS Hood. It also shows some footage, of a genuine magazine explosion (possibly HMS Barham's), which helps to further illustrate, why HMS Hood, stood no chance at all. I too, am in awe of the colour footage of HMS Hood, that's present upon this DVD - as it certainly does feel, as though she really was, invincible! Yet it is here that I found a twist, or should that be, a distort in the lines of communication? For it was known from day one, that her deck armour, was too thinly spread (especially over her magazines), which was itself only known - by a few high ranking, Navy personnel. Thus, were both the USS Indianapolis, and the Royal Navy's HMS Hood - lost on missions, that neither should really have been on - even if on paper, they both seemed up to the task. Overall: I feel that this DVD does a reasonable job, of covering the loss of both the Indianapolis, and the Mighty Hood. There's some great colour footage of the Indianapolis (I liked her camouflage scheme), together with some decent colour footage of HMS Hood (I liked the size and power, of her formidable arsenal of weapons). Added to this, is there some high-clarity (black and white) footage of the battleship Bismarck (who truly did look impressive - with her eight fifteen inch guns, and thick armour plating, especially visible, on her hull-form). And yet, did I find it hard, not to draw parallels, between these so-called blunders, and another frequently encountered term: that of (so-called) friendly fire.

07/10/2016 | Nebula Hawk

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Battleship Artwork - HMS Hood 1937