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Sunday Battleship Blogging: Almirante Latorre


Chile was the final entrant into the South American battleships race. Chile ordered Almirante Latorre and Almirante Cochrane from Armstrong-Whitworth in 1911. The ships were very similar to the excellent British Iron Duke class, except that they carried 10 14″ guns rather than 10 13.5″. Unfortunately for Chile, World War I intervened, and both ships were purchased by the Royal Navy. Almirante Latorre was completed as HMS Canada in October, 1914, and joined the Fourth Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet.

As mentioned, Almirante Latorre was a well armed, well designed ship. The armament of 10 14″ guns compared favorably with most foreign competitors, and made Latorre more powerful than her Argentinian and Brazilian contemporaries. Latorre displaced 32000 tons fully loaded, and could make almost 23 knots. As HMS Canada, she participated in the Battle of Jutland, but did not play a large role. Following the war, Almirante Latorre was refit and sold back to Chile. The Chileans decided not to re-purchase Almirante Cochrane, which was converted into an aircraft carrier, renamed Eagle, and sunk by a U-boat in World War II.

Almirante Latorre served as flagship of the Chilean Navy. In contrast to her Brazilian counterparts, Almirante Latorre was kept in good condition up until an engine room fire in 1951. In 1929 she underwent an extensive modernization in the United Kingdom. In 1931, in protest of a pay cut, the crew mutinied. Chilean Air Force planes, attempting to put down the mutiny, successfully hit Almirante Latorre with one bomb.

Following the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941, the United States Navy offered to purchase Almirante Latorre. The reasons for this are unclear, as the USN did not really suffer from a shortage of battleships. Three of the eight battleships at Pearl Harbor were returned to service in short order. In fact, the USN withdrew the Tennessee, only lightly damaged at Pearl Harbor, from service for an extensive two year refit. West Virginia and California also underwent much longer than necessary refits. The USN made no effort to bring Wyoming, demilitarized under the terms of the 1930 London Treaty, back to active service, although this probably would have been cheaper and quicker than buying the Chilean ship. Almirante Latorre would have been roughly equivalent to the USS New York, which served most of the war in shore bombardment and convoy escort duty. In any case, the Chileans declined to sell their flagship to the United States.

After the engine fire in 1951, Almirante Latorre spent its last few years inactive. In 1958, she was sold to a Japanese company for scrapping. In 1959, Admiral Chester Nimitz was supporting a project to refurbish the Japanese battleship Mikasa, last survivor of the Battle of Tsushima. Mikasa had suffered some damage in World War II and had generally been neglected since the end of the war. Nimitz provided financial and administrative support for the restoration of Mikasa to her original state. Almirante Latorre, being a rough contemporary of Mikasa, was canibalized in the service of this restoration. Thus, parts of the last survivor of Jutland were used to restore the last survivor of Tsushima.

Trivia Question: What was the oldest dreadnought battleship to serve in a combat capacity in World War II?

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