Sunday, 1 November 2015

Centre-battery ship

In Warship development of the 19th century, the transformation from broadside to batteries, turrets and barbettes was just as pivotal as the shift from sail to steam (and took less time too). The excellent Weapons and Warfare site recently publicised an article on this topic which I highly recommend.  While I have reproduced it here in full from the original I strongly recommend you peruse the site for a range of other excellent posts:

Centre-battery ship

Redoutable was a central battery and barbette ship of the French Navy. She was the first warship in the world to use steel as the principal building material.
Compared to iron, steel allowed for greater structural strength for a lower weight. France was the first country to manufacture steel in large quantities, using the Siemens process. At that time, steel plates still had some defects, and the outer bottom plating of the ship was made of wrought iron.
All-steel warships were later built by the Royal Navy, with the dispatch vessels Iris and Mercury, laid down in 1875-1876.
HMS Inflexible was a Victorian ironclad battleship carrying her main armament in centrally placed turrets. The ship was constructed in the 1870s for the Royal Navy to oppose the perceived growing threat from the Italian Regia Marina in the Mediterranean.
The Italian Navy had started constructing a pair of battleships, Duilio and Dandolo, equipped with four Armstrong 15-inch (381 mm) guns weighing 35 tons each. These were superior to the armament of any ship in the British Mediterranean Squadron, and Inflexible was designed as a counter to them.
Packed with innovations, Inflexible mounted larger guns than those of any previous British warship and had the thickest armour ever to be fitted to a Royal Navy ship. Controversially, she was designed so that if her un-armoured ends should be seriously damaged in action and become water-logged, the buoyancy of the armoured centre section of the ship would keep her afloat and upright.
The ship was the first major warship to depend in part for the protection of her buoyancy by a horizontal armoured deck below the water-line rather than armoured sides along the waterline.
The centre-battery ship was a major warship and a development of the ironclad ships. The man behind the design was the newly appointed Chief Constructor of the Royal Navy, Edward James Reed. The centre-battery ships had their main guns concentrated to the middle of the ship in an armoured citadel. The concentration of armament amidships mean the ship could be shorter and handier than a broadside type like previous warships. In this manner the design could maximize the armour in a limited space while still carrying a significant broadside. These ships meant the end of the full deck broadside warships.
The development of major warships in the latter half of the 19th century was extreme. New designs were obsolete by the time of commissioning. The first centre-battery ship was the HMS Bellerophon of 1865. The previous Royal Navy ironclad design, represented by the HMS Warrior, had proven to be seaworthy, fast under power and sail – however, when under sail alone, she had left much to wish for in terms of seagoing qualities.
The disadvantage of the centre-battery was that, while more flexible than the broadside, each gun still had a relatively restricted field of fire and few guns could fire directly ahead. The centre-battery ships were soon succeeded by turreted warships.
Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino had its origins in a private shipyard founded by Giuseppe Tonello at San Marco, on the coastline west of Trieste, in 1838. In 1857, the shipyard was merged with a local manufacturer of marine engines to become STT. A second shipyard was also acquired, at San Rocco near the town of Muggia just south of Trieste.
STT was the largest and most important shipbuilder in the Austrian Empire and its successor state, the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The company built most of the Austro-Hungarian Navy’s capital ships, as well as many merchant vessels. In the 1860s and 1870s, STT built five of the Austro-Hungarian Navy’s seven centre-battery ships (a forerunner of the battleship), as well as a number of ironclads, cruisers, frigates and corvettes.


Michael Awdry said...

Formidable looking ships, there is almost a sense of science fiction to them.

CoastConFan said...

Thanks for the enjoyable link into military history. The shift from broadsides began fairly early with rotating heavy guns as seen on the CSS Alabama for example, where massive pivot cannons could be swung from one side of the ship to the other. Mind you these particular guns had no armor protection. But you can see the association with such ships as the HMS Bellerophon (1865) with earlier with armored turreted monitors and the like.

After all, the CSS Alabama was made in British yards and the Confederates planned to make a fleet of armored blockade busters was in the works. Interestingly, their proposed use of convoys foreshadowed their use in WWI and WWII. Anyway the emerging mid century Victorian naval technology was fascinating. But really nothing is new, the Spanish treasure flotillas of previous centuries was rather the same idea.

As most of you probably know the 1898 edition of Fred Jane’s All the World’s Fighting Ships has some fine line drawings with top views of some fascinating older vessels of the pre dreadnaught era such as highly obsolete sea elephants and other novelties. BTW Fred Janes had a set of naval wargame rules called The Naval Wargame circa 1898 and there was reprint from 1912 by Bill Leeson, as well as later reprints, although I have never have seen a copy of these rules in any incarnation. We usually used a set of naval rules (whose exact name escapes me) back in the late 1970s which also used the ’98 Janes as a primary reference.

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