Queen Elizabeth class battleship

Missing image
HMS Warspite

HMS Warspite
General characteristics (original configuration) RN Ensign
Displacement: 27,500 tons standard, 33,400 tons full load
Length: 645 ft 9 in (197 m)
Beam: 90 ft 6 in (27.6 m)
Draught: 28 ft 9 in (8.8 m)
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 24 boilers, 4 shafts, 56,500 hp (42 MW)
Speed: 24 knots (44 km/h)
Range: 4,400 miles
Complement: 950–1300
Armament: 8 x 15 in (381 mm) guns, 14 x 6 in (152 mm) guns, 2 x 3 in (76 mm) guns, 4 x 47 mm guns, 4 x 21 in (533 mm) submerged torpedo tubes

The Queen Elizabeth class battleships were five super-dreadnoughts of the Royal Navy, named in honour of Elizabeth I of England. They were majestic looking battleships that captured the imagination of much of the British public, symbols of the Royal Navy and Britannia's rule of the waves. They boasted an excellent combination of weaponry, armour and speed, indeed they were the first fast battleships. They dwarfed their Royal Navy predecessors and preceding German classes such as the Knig, although the corresponding Bayern were competitive except for being 2 knots slower. They were the first battleships to be armed with the potent 15 inch (381 mm) guns, which indeed forced the Germans to alter the Bayern class armament from its original 12 inch (305 mm) guns to 15 inch (381 mm).

The move to the 15-in gun was accelerated by one or two years by the intervention of Winston Churchill, now at the Admiralty. Rather than waiting for prototype guns, the entire design was optimized on paper for the new weapon, and construction commenced immediately. In making this decision, the Admiralty ran a considerable risk, as a forced reversion to the 13.5-in gun would have resulted in a much weaker ship. Calculations showed that 8 15-in guns threw a greater broadside weight than 10 of the 13.5-in, so the Q turret was completely omitted. The space was given over to boilers.

Meanwhile, an investigation lead by Admiral Jackie Fisher had worked through all the logistical problems associated with oil fuel instead of coal, and so oil fuel was installed. Oil has a much greater energy density, vastly simplified refueling arrangements, requires no stokers, and emits much less smoke to obscure gun-laying, and makes the ships less visible on the horizon.

The combination of oil fuel and more boilers provided for a speed of 24 knots, a useful improvement on the traditional battle line speed of 21 knots and just fast enough to be thought of as the first "fast battleships".

The 15-in gun turned out to be a complete success in service. It was reliable and extremely accurate, being able to drop tight groups at 20000 yards. Poor shell design reduced its effectiveness at Jutland, but this was addressed with the arrival of the superior "Green Boy" shells in 1918. The gun even remained competitive in World War 2, after receiving further shell upgrades, and mountings with greater elevation. The gun disposition of 4 forward, 4 aft, in 4 twin turrets, became ubiqitous.

Armor protection was modified from the previous Iron Dukes, although designers remained reluctant to provide deck armor on a sufficient scale. However, the 5th Battle Squadron survived a considerable pounding at Jutland so it should be judged as sufficient by the standards of World War I.

They performed with distinction in World War I. At the battle of Jutland, four of the ships formed Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas's 5th Battle Squadron, and in the clash with the German scouting force under Admiral Franz von Hipper they "fired with extraordinary rapidity and accuracy" (according to Reinhard Scheer), sinking Ltzow and severely damaging Seydlitz and a number of other German warships. Three of the Queen Elizabeths received a number of hits from German warships during the engagement, which reached into double figures, yet they all returned home, though Warspite had been heavily damaged, taking fifteen hits, coming close to foundering.

Between the wars, the ships received considerable upgrade, in some cases amounting to a new ship inside the old hull. This included new machinery, small tube boilers, deck armor upgrades, torpedo belt armor, new superstructure, trunked funnels, new secondary armament and AA armament, and many gunlaying and electronics upgrades.

In World War II, the class also performed with distinction, though their age, and the increasing obsolescence of the battleship in the face of air power, was beginning to show. They would not have been able to face a well-handled modern battleship such as a Bismarck. Modern torpedoes outclassed their torpedo belt protection: in November 1941, Barham was torpedoed and sunk in just five minutes, with the loss of over 800 of her crew.

They were followed by the Revenge class, which took the Queen Elizabeth design and economized it back down to the standard 21-knot battle line.

Ships of the class

  • Barham received five hits at Jutland and fired 337 shells. In World War II, she fought at Cape Matapan. On 25 November 1941 she was struck by three torpedoes from U-331 and sunk.
  • Malaya was hit eight times at Jutland, though only receiving minor damage. In World War II she escorted convoys and was damaged by a torpedo from U-106 in 1941.
  • Queen Elizabeth took part in the Dardanelles Campaign in World War I. In World War II she was mined and sunk by Italian frogmen at Alexandria in 1941. She was subsequently raised, repaired, and served in the far east until 1945.
  • Valiant astonishingly receiving no hits at Jutland. In World War II, she took part in the destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir, and was mined and sunk Alexandria in 1941. She was subsequently raised, repaired, and served in the far east until 1944.
  • Warspite had perhaps the most distinguished career of any Royal Navy ship of the 20th century. She suffered severe damage at Jutland and nearby foundered. In World War II, she took part in many operations, including Narvik, Cape Matapan, Crete, and Salerno, where she was hit by a glider bomb. She was never fully repaired, and became a coastal bombardment ship, covering the Normandy landings, and further operations in other parts of France.

The class had been originally intended to have another three ships, funded by Canada, but the Canadian Naval Aid Bill 1913 failed to be passed. Agincourt was cancelled before any work had been done.

Queen Elizabeth-class battleship
Queen Elizabeth | Warspite | Valiant | Barham | Malaya

List of battleships of the Royal Navy



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