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April 21st Focus: Victoria Class

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April 21st



 



1885 - Sans Pariel – Victoria class - Laid Down



1898 – Varese - Giuseppe Garibaldi class - Laid Down



1900 - Kaiser Barbarossa - Kaiser Friedrich III-class - Launched



1907 – Roma - Regina Elena class - Launched



1913 – Bretagne – Bretagne class - Launched



1922 – Nagara – Nagara-class - Commissioned



1936 - Duca Degli Abruzzi – Condottieri-class - Launched



1936 - Giuseppe Garibaldi - Condottieri-class - Launched



1938 – Trinidad – Fiji-class – Laid down



1943 – Topeka – Cleveland-class– Laid down



1943 – Shah – Bogue- and Repeat Bogue-class– Launched



1943 – Jamaica – Bogue- and Repeat Bogue-class– Launched



1944 – Thetis Bay – Casablanca-class- Commissioned



 



Allies



Laid down - 34



Launched - 52



Commissioned – 32



 



Not allies



 



Japan - 1



Germany - 1



Italy - 4



 



 



Bretagne was covered earlier this week and there are about 10 of the Giuseppe Garibaldi class armored cruisers so today we get a class of two ships that when they were the pride of the Royal Navy they were called the “Pair of Slippers”



 



1885



 



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The Lords of the Admiralty cannot come to agreement.



 



Industry cannot make big guns fast enough. Naval warfare technology is changing rapidly. The pace of naval construction cannot keep up and a dozen battleships are under construction in Britain. And a major naval engagement between seagoing battleships has not been fought in decades.



 



Barbette ship or turret ship?



 



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The Admiral class ships put their main guns atop fore and aft barbettes giving them good command both in height above the water and around fire. But that puts the gun crews in harm’s way as they are unprotected against the new quick fire guns. The main armament of a battleship could be silenced by a lesser ship with quick fire guns argue some since the rate of fire from big guns is only one round every couple of minutes with the “smaller” guns and triple that for the big 110 ton guns like those on the HMS Benbow.



 



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What is needed, they argue, is protection for the big guns in a heavily armored turret. An older technology that it tested and familiar but very heavy given the armor required to resist big guns at the then standard battle range of 1,000-3,000 yards.



But the preferred 13.5” gun is a construction bottleneck in 1885 and their Lordships, always mindful of expense, also want a ship no bigger than the current Admiral class at ~10,500 tons. The Italians have taken delivery of 17” breech loading guns for their new battleships and the Royal Navy required parity. The 16.25” breech loading gun as used on the Benbow was available but on the displacement only two could be fitted.



 



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And so we get HMS Sans Pariel (roughly translates as “without equal”), laid down on this date in 1885 but not commissioned until more than five years later on July 8th, 1891. Though “available” the production of the 16.25” was slow and trouble filled and delayed completion of the ship and her sister HMS Victoria.



 



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To stay within the displacement specified she is much the same dimensions as the Admiral class ships though a touch longer and broader. With a single round turret forward housing the pair of 16.25” guns protected by 17 inches of compound armor. The belt armor was even thicker at 18 inches. They appear to be enlarged version of HMS Conquer of a few years before but that does not seem to have been a factor in the design. Conquer also has a single bow turret. For fear of damage she is not permitted to fire her guns with 45° of straight forward nor abaft the beam. One can only wonder the damage the 16.25” guns would do to the ship if fired over the deck forward or too near the superstructure aft.



 



Low freeboard necessary with such a heavy turret on such a small displacement mean that though these were the first battleships with triple expansion engines installed, and could reach over 17 knots at forced daught power of over 14,000 horsepower, they could not reach this speed in heavy seas. Nor could they fight the main armament since it was bow mounted and would be washed out by water coming over the bows. Oddly enough Victoria also carried the first steam turbine in the fleet but it was used to power a generator. Since one of the design requirements was to offset the big gunned Italian ship they could spend their lives in the Mediterranean where they would not normally encounter heavy seas. They were the last battleships designed by Nathaniel Barnaby.



Neither ship saw combat action. HMS Victoria was rammed by HMS Camperdown on June 22, 1893 while Flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet.  This was a huge shock to the British Public at the time. It would be like the USS Nimitz being rammed and sunk by the USS Ronald Reagan today.



 



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Sans Pareil served in the Mediterranean for 3 years and then was a guardship at Sheerness until 1904. She was scrapped in 1907 as part of Admiral Fisher’s modernization drive. She had lasted barely 20 years in service.



 



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