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Sunday Battleship Blogging: HMS Vanguard

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One of Jackie Fisher’s goofier schemes involved a trio of light cruisers armed with enormous weapons. The idea was that shallow draft ships with heavy guns could operate in the Baltic and support landings on the German coast. To this end, the Royal Navy constructed Courageous, Glorious, and Furious. Courageous and Glorious each carried 4 15″ guns to two twin turrets, while Furious was to carry 2 18″ (!) guns in two single turrets. The operation was not practical, and was eventually abandoned. Furious was converted into the world’s first aircraft carrier, soon to be followed by her two half-sisters. This left 4 twin 15″ turrets lying about, guns which couldn’t be used on new ships because of the Washington Naval Treaty. Gun turrets are among the most expensive and diffcult to construct parts of a battleship, however, so they were retained in the hope of future use.

In 1939, the Royal Navy decided to complement the King George V and Lion class battleships with a ship designed to carry the old 15″ guns. Intended for use in the Pacific, the ship would be fast enough to catch and powerful enough to destroy the Japanese Kongo class battlecruisers. The design went through several evolutions (at one point the Royal Navy declared that the ship would be a replacement for HMS Royal Oak, sunk by U-47 in 1939) before the keel was finally laid in 1941. Work proceeded slowly, and Vanguard was not finally completed until late 1946. Last battleship built by the Royal Navy, Vanguard carried 8 15″ guns, displaced about 50000 tons, and could make 30 knots. Only Iowa and Yamato were larger, but numerous battleships carried a more heavy armament. Vanguard was well armored and an excellent seaboat, but because of her light main battery she likely would have fared poorly against the other super-fast battleships. In the pictures, note that the 15″ turrets are dwarfed by Vanguard’s great size.

Completed after the war, Vanguard didn’t see much action. In 1947 she carried the King, Queen, and a young Princess Elizabeth on a Royal visit to South Africa. Vanguard was placed in reserve in 1956. After efforts to preserve her as a museum failed (why would the UK preserve Vanguard instead of Duke of York or King George V?), she was scrapped in 1960.

(Images courtesy of HMS Vanguard)

Trivia: What dreadnought owning state have I not yet discussed?

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  • Jonathan Nicholas

    The British 15″ gun was probably the finest heavy gun ever put to sea , ( US Navy verdict)other guns may have had a heavier shell Japanease 18″ (but could they hit any thing with it plus slow fireing, the British 15 inch was the par excellence gun thats why it holds the world record for a hit in action at 29,000 yards from H.M.S Warspite, so Vanguard had the best guns ever!

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