Naval Firepower, Battleship Guns and Gunnery in the Dreadnought Era

B1890

The author has produced an excellent book on the subject of naval firepower that is unlikely to be bettered. The photographs and drawings provide a rare view of the elements that together made the firepower of the battleship devastating. This is an essential reference and review for every student of naval history, but it is also an excellent introduction to those who are not yet naval enthusiasts.

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NAME: Naval Firepower, Battleship Guns and Gunnery in the Dreadnought Era
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
DATE: 121113
FILE: R1890
AUTHOR: Norman Friedman
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
PAGES: 319
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: guns, gunnery directory, range finders, big guns, naval guns, battleships, attack tables, mechanical computers, electronic computers, radar, spotter aircraft
ISBN: 978-1-84832-185-4
IMAGE: B1890.jpg
BUYNOW: http://tinyurl.com/pef8syp
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: This is a comprehensive review of the big gun battleship from the Dreadnought revolution to the last battleships. The text is readable and well-researched, with a high standard of illustration that explains the elements of naval firepower.

HMS Dreadnought pulled together all of the developments from the ships that began to replace the traditional sailing line-of-battle-ship with its layers of gun decks and guns mounted on four wheel trucks and slides. Before Dreadnought, each new class of battleship introduced a new piece of technology and, as these new generations were introduced, the engagement range of future battleship actions increased, leading to the prospect of gun duels being fought beyond the visual horizon. Shells became larger and heavier, demanding improved armour protection. Range finders developed dramatically and the need to automate the processing of battle information required new types of computing machine. Ship speed had to increase and account had to be taken of aircraft and submarines. In a period of a hundred years, the battleship had moved from a sedate sailing warship exchanging broadsides in easy visual contact with the enemy, to battleships that had advanced radar, communications and helicopters, with missiles augmenting the gun armament.

Dreadnought introduced the concept of a main armament that was turret mounted and of a single calibre. To those guns, a secondary armament was provided to deal with close range threats, particularly from torpedo boats and torpedo boat destroyers. Gunnery control was introduced to enable multiple threats to be addressed by the most appropriate guns. The hull was armoured to withstand likely threats, torpedo nets were added to provide protection at anchor, steam turbines were introduced to provide efficient high speed steam propulsion and the traditional flag and light signalling was increasingly augmented by wireless telegraphy to provide communication around the world and between ships at sea and the home base ashore.

By the end of WWI in 1918, the battleship had acquired progressively larger main guns with most battleships having six to nine 14 inch or 15 inch guns and with navies considering 16 inch and 18 inch main guns for the next generations of battleship. The oil-fired steam boilers, powering turbines, became the standard propulsion and the last coal-fired battleships were deleted. The wireless telegraph and the radio telephone had become standard items of communication equipment and the secondary armament had increased, beginning to move to dual purpose high angle mounts that could engage surface targets and aircraft.

The gunnery computer became essential equipment. The British Admiralty had funded Charles Babbage in his work on mechanical computing engines during the Nineteenth Century and the promise of the mechanical computing engine had led to attack tables that collected and processed information from the gunnery directors to provide a significantly more accurate method of laying guns and dealing with targets on or beyond the visual horizon. After 1918, aircraft began to be carried by battleships and larger cruisers to provide reconnaissance and gunnery spotting, linked to the parent battleship or cruiser by radio. All of this was logical development, but it came at a time when the new threat to a battleship was the aeroplane. The aircraft carrier was to replace the battleship as the capital ship in any fleet.

In its final days, the battleship acquired radar and this replaced the spotter aircraft, providing near all weather, beyond visual horizon, control of the big guns and the secondary armament as it came to provide anti-aircraft fire.

By 1945, most considered the battleship obsolete after a five hundred year rule of the waves. In terms of small squadrons or large fleets of battleships engaging other squadrons or fleets of similar vessels, it was the end of the line. However, the battleship has lingered on and modern missile cruisers are effectively battleships that can engage a range of targets and at close range or very long distance. The last big gun battleships have now retired but only just. Their final duty was shore bombardment and the big naval gun is still superior to the missile in a number of shore bombardment scenarios, so that some form of rebirth is not beyond credibility.

The author has produced an excellent book on the subject of naval firepower that is unlikely to be bettered. The photographs and drawings provide a rare view of the elements that together made the firepower of the battleship devastating. This is an essential reference and review for every student of naval history, but it is also an excellent introduction to those who are not yet naval enthusiasts.

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