The Battleship

When people think of military vessels, they often think of the huge warships of World War II that were equipped with huge guns that could be used to attack other ships, or pummel ground troops from the sea.

While they certainly looked impressive, many military tacticians questioned how effective they were, especially when sheer size began to take more importance than manoeuvrability. In fact, many sailors lost their lives on these vessels because they became sitting ducks to weapons such as torpedoes fired by submarines, air raids and the dreaded human kamikaze bombs used by the Japanese Imperial forces.

The term battle ship comes from the term line-of-battle ship, which was basically a ship that was used in a naval battle in the Age of Sail. In those days, ships used to sail towards each other in a straight line and fire broadsides at each other. Sometimes, a firefight would ensue and others would end up in bloody boarding party battles.

It was Admiral Horatio Nelson who first saw the limitation of the battle ship and he defeated several enemy fleets by sailing his smaller, faster and more agile ships straight into the enemy line, breaching it and robbing the enemy fleet of concentrated firepower.

In the run up to WWI, the British Navy commissioned the HMS Dreadnought, which was the precursor to all later battleships. Bristling with guns, she packed a formidable punch and was very heavily armoured.

In WWII, all nations had a fleet of battleships, and many times, battles were fought over the horizon, with spotter planes launched from aircraft carriers reporting the co-ordinates for the guns to be fired. After WWII, the US and the USSR retained battleships, primarily to use as artillery pieces in the event of land warfare breaking out. The guns were so powerful that they could be fired from hundreds of miles away onto their targets. The last battleships were removed from the US Navy in the early 2000s as new breeds of faster and smaller ships were developed.

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