Of all the Royal Navy's Battleships, there are none more 'highly regarded, heavily worked and wartime modified' than those of the Queen Elizabeth class - and of those, is there 'none more renowned' than HMS Queen Elizabeth herself:
HMS Queen Elizabeth and her four sister battleships (Barham, Malaya, Valiant and Warspite) had all been laid down (for construction) in 1912/1913. Being completed in 1915/1916 they were soon 'put to use' within World War One - with HMS Queen Elizabeth 'shelling land forts' in the Dardanelles, and her sisters 'taking heavy fire' at the Battle of Jutland. In terms of Naval Architecture, there is 'an important milestone' which is usually accredited to them: 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! By the time of World War Two (1939 to 1945), they were regarded as the Royal Navy's primary battleships - with HMS Queen Elizabeth herself 'being the most modified' within her long service life (of 33 years).
When it comes to the Queen Elizabeth's profile/battleship class, there are four features that I particularly liked:
- The arrangement of her primary armament naval guns - 2 twin turrets forward, and 2 twin turrets astern. Which for me 'has always felt like' that it best encapsulated 'the ideas of balance'. And yet, do these ideas of balance, also apply to the choice of naval gun calibre. For the Queen Elizabeth class, were armed with eight 15 inch naval guns, which are believed to have been, the best well balanced guns, within the Royal Navy. As the 15 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 15 inch calibre shell, would be inferior (in terms of performance and robustness) to the 'well established and proven' 13.5 inch calibre shell - which was fitted to 'the preceding generation' of British battleships (the Iron Duke class).
- Whilst the earlier profile/appearance 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 'more than any other' totally 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 (including new 'gunnery radar').
- The Queen Elizabeth 'was originally armed' with sixteen 6 inch (case-mated) secondary naval guns - which were 'at the mercy' of turbulent seas! The fact that these 6 inch guns, were designed 'with the sole 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 4.5 inch dual purpose guns - that could target both enemy warships and enemy aircraft :) I also liked the fact, that these dual purpose guns, were now 'enclosed in turrets', and that they were located 'at higher levels' above the hull form (i.e. at forecastle deck and quarterdeck levels), which afforded more 'usability and accuracy' in turbulent seas :)
- The addition of anti-torpedo bulges 'onto the sides' of the Queen Elizabeth's hull form. Whereas previous battleships had been 'coal powered' - the Queen Elizabeth class was 'oil fuelled'. Yet oil 'did not protect' like coal did! Because coal 'when stored in hull forms' - both dampened the explosive forces/shockwaves of torpedo impacts, and guarded against flooding. Thus 'the addition of hull form bulges' provided an external layer of protection, against 'incoming enemy torpedoes'. Unfortunately, as the torpedoes of World War Two 'gradually became stronger' - it was found that their bulges 'were insufficient'. HMS Barham provided 'conclusive proof of this' - when she was hit by 3 torpedoes (amidships), soon capsizing 'with her magazines exploding' and sinking!
I feel that the Queen Elizabeth class battleships 'would have been even better' if the modifications had been 'left at the above' - yet they were also modified to carry aircraft. As it was felt (at the time) that battleships 'needed help spotting'. The idea being that 'spotting/reconnaissance aircraft' would be useful, for providing information to the battleship - such as 'sighted local enemy warships' and/or ground forces (for shore bombardment). In previous battleships, such aircraft were 'usually launched' from modified gun turret roofs - but HMS Queen Elizabeth herself, had the following setup:
- An aircraft 'launch catapult' that was installed 'across the width of the ship' (behind the smokestack).
- Two large 'aircraft recovery cranes' that were installed 'one port one starboard' (behind the smokestack).
- Two large 'aircraft hangers' that were used for 'aircraft storage and maintenance' (behind the smokestack).
Despite having these 'fancy aircraft handling arrangements' - it was 'eventually learned' that aircraft aboard battleships 'took up too much space', and that aircraft 'were better left' to aircraft carriers. As such, HMS Queen Elizabeth had all of her aircraft removed (July 1943) - yet I also feel, that the superiority of 'radar directed fire' contributed to this decision.
Within World War Two, HMS Queen Elizabeth was initially stationed within the 'Home Fleet' (i.e. coastal waters of the United Kingdom) whereby she completed her 'sea trails' (as was required 'on completion' of her major refit). After assisting within the Atlantic (i.e. convoy duties) she was then transferred to the Mediterranean. Whilst based at Gibraltar, she 'steams to rendezvous with' an incoming Atlantic convoy (which is carrying allied 'troops, fighter planes and tanks' for Egypt). The convoy 'runs the gauntlet' to Alexandria (also being protected 'along the way' by the battleships HMS Barham, HMS Warspite and HMS Valiant) - where upon arrival (at Alexandria), the Queen Elizabeth becomes flagship. At this time, 'Germany decides' that Crete (as held by the British) is fundamental 'to the German war machine'. As such, the Queen Elizabeth reinforces 'defensive fleet operations' in/around the waters of Crete (helping to guard against Italian warships and German aircraft). The Queen Elizabeth then participates in several 'fleet gunnery exercises' (north of the Suez Canal), together with several 'diversionary missions' (that are designed to 'draw heat' from other 'allied convoys and naval operations'). It's then time 'for the big one' when Queen Elizabeth (and her sisters Barham and Valiant) are ordered 'to provide fire support' for the British Army's 'North African relief of Tobruk'. It is here that HMS Barham is 'torpedoed and sunk'! Shortly after, with both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant 'having returned' to Alexandria, the Italians penetrate the harbour defences and 'place explosives' underneath their hull forms. Both Queen Elizabeth and Valiant are damaged! Unfortunately, the Queen Elizabeth was 'so badly damaged' that it takes around 18 months to repair her (even having to transfer to the United States 'to fully complete her repairs'). The Queen Elizabeth then returns to the United Kingdom, whereby her crew 'is made ready', and it is decided that she be transferred to the Indian Ocean (via Gibraltar and the Suez Canal) to support British operations 'against the Japanese'.
It really 'can be seen' that the Queen Elizabeth 'was a workhorse' of the Royal Navy, which is why she was 'repaired and overhauled' during wartime (although 'the same is also true' for her sisters). She had a 'fundamental role' to play within the Mediterranean, whereby if she hadn't been present at Alexandria, I feel that the Allies 'would have been overrun'. As a whole, the Queen Elizabeth class battleships were regarded as 'being extremely robust, but frequently targeted by the enemy'. This was 'even more so' for her sister HMS Warspite, who with incomplete repairs (only six 15 inch naval guns) was used to bombard the invasion beaches of D-Day! Even so, the Queen Elizabeth 'shall always be my favourite':
Yes, she was 'heavily damaged' at Alexandria, but she was 'rebuilt and made as new' - because she had a job to do!
HMS Queen Elizabeth's Battleship Data ('as modernised' in 1940):
Armament: Eight 15 inch naval guns (4 x 2), twenty 4.5 inch dual purpose guns (10 x 2), thirty-two 2-pounder 'pom-poms' guns (4 x 8), fifty-two 20 mm 'Oerlikon cannons' (26 x 2) and sixteen 0.5 inch 'Vickers' machine guns (4 x 4).
Armour: Belt (6 to 13 inches), primary turrets (4.5 to 13 inches), barbettes (4 to 10 inches), secondary turrets (up to 2 inches), decks (up to 5 inches) and bulkheads (4 to 6 inches).
Displacement: 38450 tons (when fully loaded).
Dimensions: Length: 640 feet (195 metres). Beam/Width: 104 feet (31.7 metres). Draught/Height: 34.5 feet (10.5 metres).
Shaft Horse Power: 80000. Top Speed: 23.5 knots.
Ship's Crew: 1160. Country: United Kingdom.
Whilst Valiant's data 'was similar' and Warspite's data 'secondary armament different' - both Barham and Malaya 'were considerably different' (because they were not modified 'as much as their sisters').
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