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, 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 :)
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 (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).
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, 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 :)
| Nebula Hawk
Battleships - The Ultimate Guide to the Worlds Greatest Battleships
The third book on battleships that I have read, is Battleships - The Ultimate Guide to the World's Greatest Battleships:
The first fact I noticed about this book, is that it takes a different format ... Battleships are not presented country-by-country, they are instead broken down based upon their chronological classification: The Pre-Dreadnought Era, Dreadnought, The First World War, The Treaty Battleships, The Second World War, and the End of the Line (aka the swansong). Amazingly, this approach seems to work quite well! Another difference is the fact that this book is much more reading based - and yet, the book still manages to be crammed full of many high-quality battleship photographs :) You may think that the Pre-Dreadnought Era could be quite boring - but not at all ... I'm amazed that the Royal Navy built a fourteen thousand tonne, Royal Sovereign class battleship (called HMS Hood) in circa 1889. That fact made me wonder how many battleship classes, and battleship names have been re-used throughout naval history (as those of you who enjoy reading about battleships - shall be aware that the Royal Navy, also had a 1913 Royal Sovereign battleship class, and a later/better edition HMS Hood). My favourite chapters are The Treaty Battleships, and The Second World War - for one simple reason: battleships were clearly becoming larger and more powerful (despite the so called Washington Treaty). The book features one of the best descriptions of The Washington Treaty (and related) that I have ever read: an attempt to limit the expense of battleship building programs, by con-straining the amount of battleships each nation could have, together with the size and power of future battleships ... For me, the aim of such treaties, is no more clearly illustrated, than by the book's coverage, of the Royal Navy's Nelson class. As this book's stunning photos of HMS Nelson, only serves to highlight the fact, that Nelson had all three triple sixteen inch gun turrets mounted forwards, of the main superstructure - in a bid to save weight. Even so, this book helped me realise, that there was an unexpected side effect of such treaties: that there was nothing to stop the World's navies, improving/modernising existing battleships! This was especially true of Japan, who with an eye to future war, pretty much modernised her entire fleet - especially with regard to speed and protection. In doing so, such nations hotted up the battleship building programs again, ensuring that as World War Two broke out, most battleships would be true behemoths (the like of which had not been seen before!). I feel that this book, covers all of this in great detail, which is why it can be hard to put down :) Added to this, is the fact that the book goes one stage further, as it includes specific battleship technology sections ... Of these, my favourites are: armour protection (as I enjoyed reading about the evolution of battleship armour, especially that it's all wood backed!), inside a gun turret/naval gun (as it helped to make me aware, of the tasks undertaken by gun crews) and anti-aircraft defences (as it helped me realise, that later battleships featured three levels of such defences - long range for bombers, medium range for torpedo bombers, and short range for fighters that got through, including kamikaze). Overall: I found this book to be an amazing merger of battleship fact, battleship story/spirit, battleship history/war, and battleship photographs. Of these, there's one particular photograph (that for me), captures the Heart and Soul, of a battleship and her crew (more than any other): the USS North Carolina, as she steams to war ... (ISBN-13: 978-0857342577)
The second book on battleships that I have read, is Conway's Battleships: The Definitive Visual Reference to the World's All-big-gun Ships:
After reading the introduction of this book, I decided upon one simple stance: I was hooked! The introduction covers an amazing amount of topics: battleships before 1900, fire control, Dreadnought, armour, World War One, the Washington Treaty and World War Two. The introduction also features some stunning photographs ... My favourite is that of the USS Wisconsin - which immediately puts the size of triple 16 inch naval gun turrets into perspective. Another eye opening photograph is the rotating upright of the USS Oklahoma (fifteen months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour) as I had no idea that the American's possessed such salvage equipment. Its another book that lays out battleships country-by-country, and class-by-class, with each entry typically featuring four components: a profile line drawing, a statistics box, lengthy descriptive text, and decent photographs (and/or art). I first read this book in 2011, and still find it's content - to be of interesting value :) Its another navy book, where you cant help but notice, the shear number of entries that both Great Britain, and it's Royal Navy has ... I think its fair to say, that the entries for Great Britain, best illustrate the rise of battleship technology: earlier units featuring anti-torpedo nets and booms, earlier units featuring the loading of coal (as opposed to oil fuel), earlier units featuring bi-planes (on their primary gun turrets), earlier units with wrong lessons learned (the entire battle-cruiser concept!), middle units with the emergence of the first modern battleships (the Queen Elizabeth class), all units the race for bigger naval guns (12 inch, 13.5 inch, 14 inch, 15 inch, 16 inch and 18 inch), later units the quest for speed (especially the Royal Navy's Renown and Hood classes) and finally: later units featuring thicker armour and better armour disposition (with lessons learned from wartime experience). My other favourite country's battleships (within the book), is of course the United States, and it's US Navy ... As such, one important fact is immediately apparent, about earlier American battleships: their reliance on lattice masts. Whilst I understand why the Americans opted for lattice masts (weight saving and supposed better protection from blast shock-waves), I'm so glad that they eventually made the switch to (more conventional) tripod masts! My three favourite American battleship classes (within this book) are: North Carolina (with USS Washington at speed), South Dakota (with USS Massachusetts' secondary armament all aimed skywards) and Iowa (with USS Missouri in memorial at Pearl Harbour). All three entries feature text, that just keeps you turning those pages :) Overall: an amazing battleship book, that both features informative text (although there are some errors), together with stunning photographs (especially for later battleships - such as the Iowa class). And it is here, that I realised which of the book's photographs, is indeed my all-time favourite, battleship photo (thus far): the crew of the USS Missouri, on a particular VJ Day anniversary (which really serves to illustrate, both the size and the power, of an American triple 16 inch naval gun turret!).
The first book on battleships that I ever read, was Jane's Battleships of the 20th Century:
I was first struck by the quality of this book, especially the quality of the battleship artwork: being hand-drawn, coloured and (usually) of the right-hand-side of the vessel, I have found the drawings to be suitable fuel for my battleship interest :) The larger drawings span two pages, and are crammed full of details - including battleship conning towers, primary and secondary armament arrangement, camouflage schemes, and plenty of smaller features (such as life-rafts and lifeboats). I like the fact that the battleships are laid out country-by-country, and class-by-class, allowing me to quickly lookup a specific entry. I also like the fact that each class of battleship, is presented combined, with descriptive text, and suitable photographs. A further twist, is the fact that the drawings/text, are not only for battleships that were actually made, but are also for several battleship design studies - with my personal favourite, being the post Yamato class (Japanese) battleships. When it comes to the battleship drawings/write-ups, one of the most interesting countries is the United Kingdom. From the shear number of entries, you can see why the British Royal Navy used to be so powerful ... Although you can also see the reasons why, they lost out eventually - to the industrial might of the United States. Some of my favourite battleship classes (within this book) are: the Bismarck (I like her thick armoured hull), the Vittorio Veneto (I like her turret layout and camouflage scheme), the Nagato (I like her uniqueness, power and layout), the Yamato (I like her massive imposing presence), the Queen Elizabeth (I like the idea of them as the bastions of the Royal Navy), the Hood (I like the idea of the Pride of the Royal Navy), the South Dakota (I like their citadel layout, plus triple 16 inch naval guns!) and the Iowa (I like their subscription to the battleship maximum speed - less armour, less firepower principal). I also found the books text to be quite informative, although there are some errors! For example: there's one particular photograph, showing some of the aftermath of Pearl Harbour, that actually has an incorrect caption (and initially caused me some head-scratching). Even so, there's an incredible amount of battleship facts, history and information - contained within this book, and I especially like the way, that topic specific articles, are dropped in. Of these, there's three that I particularly enjoyed reading about ... First: The Sinking of the Utah. I had not realised before, that Utah had been modified to be a radio-controlled target ship (a side effect of the Washington Treaty). As such, she was in no fit state to defend herself - when she came under fire, at Pearl Harbour. Second: Amphibious Assault. The older battleships (such as USS Texas), could not keep up with the US aircraft carrier fleets - but their big guns were highly suitable for bombarding beaches (and other land-based fortifications). As such, I liked the fact that such battleships, were modified to work in-conjunction with the Marines (who helped to direct their ordinance, from land based positions). Third: Night Battles off Guadalcanal. Unintentional perhaps, but the USS South Dakota lost power, in the middle of one particular battle! I was amazed that this could happen to a US battleship, but it seems that the US Navy, learnt a great many lessons from this experience (such that an over-reliance on technology - that when knocked out, left key personnel, unable to perform their duties: of maintaining an operational, manoeuvrable, gun platform). Overall: this is my favourite battleship book :) I have spent many an evening just flicking through, and I often pick random pages - just to read them.