King Georges V class Battleships (1937)

United Kingdom (1937-1941)
KG V, Prince of Wales, Duke of York, Howe, Anson

The Royal Navy’s first rapid battleships, following the ten-year moratorium of the Washington Treaty, were the King George V class. They were the culmination of nearly 15 years of vacation since the post-war design that led to the unusual Nelson and Rodney, and relied on the new London Treaty (1930), which extended the moratorium until 1937, among others. Larger and heavier than the previous ones (38 000 standard tons, whereas the old limit was 35 000 tons), the King George Vs were also a compromise class in that they returned to a lower caliber (340 mm or 15 inches, compared to 381 mm – 16 inches, on the Nelson) under the treaties. To improve the protection, this time extended over almost the whole ship, the pieces were for the first time, and on the model of the French Dunkirk, grouped in quadruple turrets.

With a double turret in position B, it gave them 10 pieces against 9 on the Nelson, with a substantially equal range and a higher rate of fire. But these new carriages caused many problems of development even as the war began. Finally, their speed was much higher than that of the Nelson.

Notice: This is the traduction of an old article which was never released publicly, please do consider it as a placeholder as it will be corrected and expanded in the future.

KG V secondary turret

KG V Armor scheme

Details of the armored belt, near HMS Howe B Turret, Sydney 1944

The genesis of this class began in 1937. The compartmentalisation of their engine room was for the first time very neat, boilers and machines grouped in pairs, to prevent a single shot at the goal paralyzed their propulsion. The nominal power was 110,000 horsepower at 230 rpm, the steam injected into the tubes being raised to 375 ° C.

An emergency system was planned to push the machines to 125,000 hp or up to 138,000 on the POW (Prince Of Wales). Their boilers, from a very successful long series, had excellent yields. However, they were not planned to be operated with high viscosity oil mixed with seawater, a situation forced by shortages after 1942. This resulted in significant losses in machine yields and rising costs. maintenance KGV armor protection

The armor of these units had been revised and expanded to many parts of the ship less vital, unlike the “all or nothing” system of previous Rodney. The protection of machines had largely benefited from these attentions. The belt was widened downwards, and the internal subdivision, the central armored caissons, also lengthened and strengthened considerably. Nevertheless the protection of the bridge against the bombs of planes still remained sufficient for 1935, but less for the heavy projectiles used by the dive bombers of 1939…

The armor of the turrets was also lessened, but not that of the wells and the bunkers. on the contrary, ammunition has been greatly increased and better distributed. Lightened likewise was the “blockhouse”, whose roof reached only 100 mm. The reason was that in practice, the officers always favored the visibility of the footbridge to the protected containment of the blockhouse…

HD Details of the King Georges V, midship section

The main armament considered reflected the procrastination of the moment. The first scheme involved a battery of three triple turrets of 381 mm pieces, but political pressures from the London Treaty forced a reduction of this caliber to 356 mm (14 inches). We considered the design of quadruple turrets to replace the triples, which would have given a rim of 12 pieces, ideal for a saturation shot, a popular principle in 1936. In the end, it was in the light of the war, a cruel mistake, while the neighboring nations opted for the 381, the 406 or even in the projects Nippons, the 460 mm.

While the sounds of boots were already heard, the admiralty obtained to influence the treaty on this point and leaned quickly on the adaptation of pieces of 381 mm. But the delays of such an operation would have further reduced the entry into active service of the first building. In addition the quadruple turrets, entirely new, knew many problem of maneuvering. Regarding the Bismarck for example, and the events of May 1941, these shortages and shells that lacked mass to seriously damage the German battleship were almost fatal to the POW.

KGV’s secondary artillery was also innovative in itself and also had some development problems. It was planned to equip them not with anti-ship secondary parts (such as 152 mm), but with truly versatile parts, capable of providing DCA against-aircraft such as anti-ship fighter for light and fast vessels (such as launching stars) torpedoes).

Here again, this character of compromise was a disaster in application: Too slow for an effective air defense (meanwhile the speed of the aircraft had evolved.), it was insufficient to fight against destroyers for example. In question, the complexity of the charging system and the weight of the shells. At the end of the 10-12 shots per minute, we spent in practice at 7-8, painfully and with very trained crews. This also explains in This is why the POW’s AA defense was ineffective in December 1941. The anti-aircraft defense was compounded with 40 mm quadruple and occluder QF2 (“pom-pom”), as well as 20 mm Oerlikon cannons and Bofors single pieces. 40 mm under mask. This armament was more than doubled during the conflict. In 1945, for example, the Anson had 65 pieces of 20 mm and 216 of 40 mm in octuple carriages.

HMS Prince of Wales in Singapore
HMS Prince of Wales in Singapore

HMS Duke of York
HMS Duke of York

HMS Howe underway at sea, circa 1943
HMS Howe underway at sea, circa 1943

HMS Duke of York gunners posing
HMS Duke of York gunners posing

HMS Anson at Devonport, March 1945
HMS Anson at Devonport, March 1945

HMS King Georges V after her ramming of an U-boat
HMS King Georges V after her ramming of an U-boat

HMS King Georges V at Tokyo Bay, September 1945, V-Day
HMS King Georges V at Tokyo Bay, September 1945, V-Day

The class King George V finally counted 5 buildings, in the British tradition, the first (KGV) entering service in December 1940, and the others (Prince of Wales, Duke of York, Howe, Anson), respectively in March in November 1941, June and August 1942 … Their career was splendidly filled and they were of all theaters of operation except the mediterranean. The Prince of Wales was the only casualty of the war, one of the many battleships sunk by the air force … One can find the career of these ships in the historical records. As early as 1938, the replacement of these units by a new class, this time equipped with standard artillery pieces (9 pieces of 406 mm), had been envisaged, and the first two were started in September 1939. But the lack of materials, manpower and priorities caused them to be suspended and then canceled. The last British battleship was the Vanguard (1947), inheriting the artillery of a decommissioned battle cruiser.

King Georges V class specifications

Dimensions227 m x 31 m x 9,9 m (FL).
Displacement38 030 t. standard -42 237 t. FL
Crew1314-1631 officers and enlisted men
Propulsion4 propellers, 4 Parsons turbines, 8 Admiralty boilers, 128,000 hp.
SpeedTop speed 28 knots,
Range5;400 nautical RA at 18 knots.
Armament10 x 356 mm Mk.VII (2×4, 1×2), 8 x 127 mm (4×2) Mk.I, 32 x 40 mm AA (4×8) 4 walrus seaplanes.
Armor350 mm casemates, 149 mm decks, 373 mm belt, 152 mm rangefinders, 324 mm turrets, 324 mm barbettes, 100 mm bunker.

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