At first glance, the most prominent feature of this book (on HMS Hood) - is the fact that it was written, within just a few years of HMS Hood, having been lost:
Initially, I felt somewhat apprehensive - as haven been written in 1959, how good could it be? Well ... Whilst it took me a chapter or two, to get into the text, I was so pleased that I did :) For one simple reason: this book on the Mighty Hood, contains a wealth of information, that you just don't find, in other (more modern) Battleship books. A clue lies in the book's subtitle: The Life and Death of the Royal Navy's Proudest Ship. And it is Hood's Life, that the book primarily concentrates on ... And of this Life, is Hood's Empire/World Cruise, one of the most important parts of the book. For it is here, that I started to feel, just something of the values of the Men, and of the importance of Routine (to the men that served on her) ... For a Sailor learns the Ways of the Sea: where to polish, where to knot, where to stand, where to tuck, where to box, where to train - but not after Rum! For a sailor endures the Trails of the Sea: in the sweats of the Tropic, in the freeze of the Arctic, in the storms of the Pacific, in the fogs of the Vikings, in the cheers of the Empire, in the demands of the Bow. As practice makes perfect - and all is not quite :) For a Warship is Alive: foot-steps in her corridors, meals in her galleys, lights in her decks, breathes in her hull, study in her gauges, commands in her Bridge. For a Warship, is the Heart and Soul of her Crew :) And yet, is there no accounting for luck ... As when Hood's fatal blow was struck, did all of it end: her lights and sounds were no more - just silence. The book's handling of this fate, was just as sudden - which left me with a feeling of, how can this be? How can a warship that sailed around the World, be lost in a matter of seconds? How can a warship that was a Legend the World over, suffer such an instant demise? Well ... We shall never know for sure - although the book does hint, at flaws in her design (especially the thinness of her deck armour, compounded by the stresses of her long hull form). In any case, I found several surprises within this book ... First: Was the level of competitiveness, that existed between the sailors of Destroyers/Cruisers, and the sailors of Capital Ships (such as HMS Hood). Destroyer men, seemed to feel that Capital Ships (such as HMS Hood), could not look after themselves - and did not want to be outdone (especially in terms of seamanship), by the crews of Capital Ships (that to them, almost never put to sea!). It is with some irony then, that such Destroyer/Cruiser men, longed to serve on-board HMS Hood :) Second: Was the level of luck encountered (or lack of it!), on the day of Hood's loss, by her Commander - Vice Admiral Lancelot Holland. For all intents and purposes, decisions that Holland took on the day, all appeared to be logical and correct (as of a wise and talented commander) - but without one key ingredient, luck of any kind! An example would be, when he sent his accompanying Destroyers, further North (to seek the Bismarck), only to stumble upon the Bismarck himself (well away from his Destroyers). The irony is, that at every decision he took (even those that were based upon, sound naval value) - luck simply conferred, his advantage away. For example: He had more heavy calibre Naval Guns (eight 15 inch and ten 14 inch), but his manoeuvrers during the night (whilst seeking the Bismarck), meant that he lost much of his Angle of Approach advantage - and as such, could only bring his forward naval guns to bear (four 15 inch from Hood, six 14 inch from Prince of Wales). Third: was the order, in which HMS Hood fired her guns (one barrel from each turret fired, followed by the other barrel, alternating for continuous fire). It's the first time that I'd read, such a specific fact like this, which I feel is a forgotten fact - from the time that this book was written ... Added to this, did I also find another forgotten fact - the fact that Hood, was not a new ship: she had been heavily used, throughout the oceans of the World, and her boilers plus turbines, were no longer capable of propelling her, at her design speed (of over thirty knots). Thus, it may appear obvious, that she was in need of a service - but I'd not thought about this requirement before (preferring instead, to ponder upon, her potential redesign). Overall: this book contrasts the Life of HMS Hood, against the Loss of HMS Hood. Her life was long, for a warship (around twenty-five years). She'd navigated the World. She was known to most (if not all) of the British Empire. She was known to the VIPs (such as Kings and Queens). She was known to the Children (that in peacetime, had both danced and played - upon her decks). She was known to the Sailors (both those that served on her, and those that wanted to). She was Alive - but she was still a warship. Her guns, that had been primarily used in training, were now for war. She was a Legend (known to all), that bore an Achilles Heel (known to few). Her men knew the calibre of her steel, the power of her guns, and the meaning of her flags. For they served a way of Life, that now no longer exists ... Silence: for those that know the Sea, may never walk upon the Land again - our Mighty Hood.
Of all the Royal Navy's Battleships, there are none more 'highly regarded, heavily worked and wartime modified' than those of the Queen Elizabeth class - and of those, is there 'none more renowned' than HMS Queen Elizabeth herself:
HMS Queen Elizabeth and her four sister battleships (Barham, Malaya, Valiant and Warspite) had all been laid down (for construction) in 1912/1913. Being completed in 1915/1916 they were soon 'put to use' within World War One - with HMS Queen Elizabeth 'shelling land forts' in the Dardanelles, and her sisters 'taking heavy fire' at the Battle of Jutland. In terms of Naval Architecture, there is 'an important milestone' which is usually accredited to them: they are seen as, the World's first true, fast battleships :) For one simple reason - their designs were close to 'the ideals' of matched: armour, guns and speed! By the time of World War Two (1939 to 1945), they were regarded as the Royal Navy's primary battleships - with HMS Queen Elizabeth herself 'being the most modified' within her long service life (of 33 years).
When it comes to the Queen Elizabeth's profile/battleship class, there are four features that I particularly liked:
The arrangement of her primary armament naval guns - 2 twin turrets forward, and 2 twin turrets astern. Which for me 'has always felt like' that it best encapsulated 'the ideas of balance'. And yet, do these ideas of balance, also apply to the choice of naval gun calibre. For the Queen Elizabeth class, were armed with eight 15 inch naval guns, which are believed to have been, the best well balanced guns, within the Royal Navy. As the 15 inch naval gun/shell, met the ideals of: maximised destructive fire-power, with low barrel wear/tear, and considerable engagement range :) Which is perhaps 'just slightly ironic', because it was feared, that the 15 inch calibre shell, would be inferior (in terms of performance and robustness) to the 'well established and proven' 13.5 inch calibre shell - which was fitted to 'the preceding generation' of British battleships (the Iron Duke class).
Whilst the earlier profile/appearance of the Queen Elizabeth, was certainly impressive 'they are as nothing' when compared to the Queen Elizabeth, when she was overhauled - with her imposing 'block like' forward superstructure (and conning tower). As this feature 'more than any other' totally modernised the appearance of the Queen Elizabeth :) Whilst at the same time, do I feel that it improved, her fighting capabilities 'no-end' - as there was so much more 'available space and vantage points' for fire control (including new 'gunnery radar').
The Queen Elizabeth 'was originally armed' with sixteen 6 inch (case-mated) secondary naval guns - which were 'at the mercy' of turbulent seas! The fact that these 6 inch guns, were designed 'with the sole purpose' of engaging enemy vessels - meant that they were of little use/value, against enemy aircraft. Thus 'was I glad' when the Queen Elizabeth was overhauled, with a dedicated secondary armament, of twenty 4.5 inch dual purpose guns - that could target both enemy warships and enemy aircraft :) I also liked the fact, that these dual purpose guns, were now 'enclosed in turrets', and that they were located 'at higher levels' above the hull form (i.e. at forecastle deck and quarterdeck levels), which afforded more 'usability and accuracy' in turbulent seas :)
The addition of anti-torpedo bulges 'onto the sides' of the Queen Elizabeth's hull form. Whereas previous battleships had been 'coal powered' - the Queen Elizabeth class was 'oil fuelled'. Yet oil 'did not protect' like coal did! Because coal 'when stored in hull forms' - both dampened the explosive forces/shockwaves of torpedo impacts, and guarded against flooding. Thus 'the addition of hull form bulges' provided an external layer of protection, against 'incoming enemy torpedoes'. Unfortunately, as the torpedoes of World War Two 'gradually became stronger' - it was found that their bulges 'were insufficient'. HMS Barham provided 'conclusive proof of this' - when she was hit by 3 torpedoes (amidships), soon capsizing 'with her magazines exploding' and sinking!
I feel that the Queen Elizabeth class battleships 'would have been even better' if the modifications had been 'left at the above' - yet they were also modified to carry aircraft. As it was felt (at the time) that battleships 'needed help spotting'. The idea being that 'spotting/reconnaissance aircraft' would be useful, for providing information to the battleship - such as 'sighted local enemy warships' and/or ground forces (for shore bombardment). In previous battleships, such aircraft were 'usually launched' from modified gun turret roofs - but HMS Queen Elizabeth herself, had the following setup:
An aircraft 'launch catapult' that was installed 'across the width of the ship' (behind the smokestack).
Two large 'aircraft recovery cranes' that were installed 'one port one starboard' (behind the smokestack).
Two large 'aircraft hangers' that were used for 'aircraft storage and maintenance' (behind the smokestack).
Despite having these 'fancy aircraft handling arrangements' - it was 'eventually learned' that aircraft aboard battleships 'took up too much space', and that aircraft 'were better left' to aircraft carriers. As such, HMS Queen Elizabeth had all of her aircraft removed (July 1943) - yet I also feel, that the superiority of 'radar directed fire' contributed to this decision.
Within World War Two, HMS Queen Elizabeth was initially stationed within the 'Home Fleet' (i.e. coastal waters of the United Kingdom) whereby she completed her 'sea trails' (as was required 'on completion' of her major refit). After assisting within the Atlantic (i.e. convoy duties) she was then transferred to the Mediterranean. Whilst based at Gibraltar, she 'steams to rendezvous with' an incoming Atlantic convoy (which is carrying allied 'troops, fighter planes and tanks' for Egypt). The convoy 'runs the gauntlet' to Alexandria (also being protected 'along the way' by the battleships HMS Barham, HMS Warspite and HMS Valiant) - where upon arrival (at Alexandria), the Queen Elizabeth becomes flagship. At this time, 'Germany decides' that Crete (as held by the British) is fundamental 'to the German war machine'. As such, the Queen Elizabeth reinforces 'defensive fleet operations' in/around the waters of Crete (helping to guard against Italian warships and German aircraft). The Queen Elizabeth then participates in several 'fleet gunnery exercises' (north of the Suez Canal), together with several 'diversionary missions' (that are designed to 'draw heat' from other 'allied convoys and naval operations'). It's then time 'for the big one' when Queen Elizabeth (and her sisters Barham and Valiant) are ordered 'to provide fire support' for the British Army's 'North African relief of Tobruk'. It is here that HMS Barham is 'torpedoed and sunk'! Shortly after, with both HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Valiant 'having returned' to Alexandria, the Italians penetrate the harbour defences and 'place explosives' underneath their hull forms. Both Queen Elizabeth and Valiant are damaged! Unfortunately, the Queen Elizabeth was 'so badly damaged' that it takes around 18 months to repair her (even having to transfer to the United States 'to fully complete her repairs'). The Queen Elizabeth then returns to the United Kingdom, whereby her crew 'is made ready', and it is decided that she be transferred to the Indian Ocean (via Gibraltar and the Suez Canal) to support British operations 'against the Japanese'.
It really 'can be seen' that the Queen Elizabeth 'was a workhorse' of the Royal Navy, which is why she was 'repaired and overhauled' during wartime (although 'the same is also true' for her sisters). She had a 'fundamental role' to play within the Mediterranean, whereby if she hadn't been present at Alexandria, I feel that the Allies 'would have been overrun'. As a whole, the Queen Elizabeth class battleships were regarded as 'being extremely robust, but frequently targeted by the enemy'. This was 'even more so' for her sister HMS Warspite, who with incomplete repairs (only six 15 inch naval guns) was used to bombard the invasion beaches of D-Day! Even so, the Queen Elizabeth 'shall always be my favourite':
Yes, she was 'heavily damaged' at Alexandria, but she was 'rebuilt and made as new' - because she had a job to do!
HMS Queen Elizabeth's Battleship Data ('as modernised' in 1940):
Armament: Eight 15 inch naval guns (4 x 2), twenty 4.5 inch dual purpose guns (10 x 2), thirty-two 2-pounder 'pom-poms' guns (4 x 8), fifty-two 20 mm 'Oerlikon cannons' (26 x 2) and sixteen 0.5 inch 'Vickers' machine guns (4 x 4).
Armour: Belt (6 to 13 inches), primary turrets (4.5 to 13 inches), barbettes (4 to 10 inches), secondary turrets (up to 2 inches), decks (up to 5 inches) and bulkheads (4 to 6 inches).
Whilst Valiant's data 'was similar' and Warspite's data 'secondary armament different' - both Barham and Malaya 'were considerably different' (because they were not modified 'as much as their sisters').
If there's one Battleship (more than any other), that best illustrates the requirement of, mounting as many naval guns on your battleship (as possible), then there's no finer example, than the Royal Navy's - HMS Agincourt:
HMS Agincourt (of 1913), mounted no fewer than, fourteen twelve-inch naval guns (in seven twin-turrets). This was done, to both maximise her fire-power, and increase the chances of hitting, an enemy battleship. I like the fact, that her turret arrangement, adhered to the principles of Naval Conflict, that had been learned in the days of Nelson's - HMS Victory: the more guns you have, the more fighting power, your warship - brings to bear :) And yet, perhaps unlike the days of HMS Victory, did this maximisation of guns - come with a price tag! In the case of Agincourt, carrying so many turrets (seven) meant that their weight had to be 'paid for', at the expense of adequate - armoured protection ...
This was particularly apparent, upon the thinness of her belt armour (up to nine inches), the thinness of her deck armour (up to two and a half inches), and the thinness of her bulkheads (up to six inches). Of these, I would say that it's the bulkheads thickness, that would concern me the most - as having seven gun turrets, could easily mean, that a fire/explosion, in one of their magazine's/shell handling room's, could easily spread, to an adjacent gun turret/group of turrets! And given the fact, that HMS Agincourt was regarded (amongst the Royal Navy), as a 'floating magazine' - leads little to the imagination ... Despite this, there are three features to HMS Agincourt's profile, that I quite liked:
The fact that HMS Agincourt mounted all of her primary naval guns, on the centreline, of her hull form. This meant that she could bring all, primary naval guns to bear, on both port and starboard - which maximised her broadside. The adoption/standardised use of centreline turrets went hand-in-hand with the 'Space Age Idea', of super-firing turrets (where one turret's roof, was directly beneath, another turret's gun barrels). In the case of HMS Agincourt, this leads to an interesting arrangement, of her stern turrets - a little group of three, which was 'somewhat unique' in their layout :)
Having so many primary naval guns (fourteen twelve-inch), made it a 'key requirement' for her shell spotters, to have an unimpeded line-of-sight, towards the enemy. Thus, it is good to see, that her forward lookout platform/spotting top (that's mounted atop the forward-most tripod mast), is actually located, in-front of the forward-most smokestack - where it seems less likely to have been 'smoked out'.
Whereas HMS Dreadnought (the so-called grandfather of all later/better battleships), had for the most part, omitted any (dedicated) secondary armament - the same could not be said, for HMS Agincourt. In the case of Agincourt, I like the fact that she featured twenty six-inch guns - that were all grouped, within the 'central third' of her hull form.
For me, the inclusion of six-inch (surface target) guns reflected a decent realisation of the 'potential menace' of Destroyers and Patrol Boats (who could both launch torpedoes!). Yet here do I find, that there's a secondary armament feature - which I was not so keen on:
The fact that her six-inch guns, were case-mated (i.e. built into the hull form), and that they were situated (mostly) beneath main deck level - meant that they would have been unusable, in anything but 'a calm sea'!
Despite this, the inclusion of a (powerful) secondary armament, meant that Agincourt, did at least cater for, two different ranges, of Naval Engagement - both long range (with her twelve-inch guns), and short/medium range (with her six-inch guns). This made naval combat 'so much easier' - as off target 'shell splashes' could be traced 'more easily' to one of two gun calibres (with any 'necessary aiming adjustments' being made to the associated naval guns).
HMS Agincourt was a 'somewhat novel solution', to the conflicting naval requirements - of both maximising fire-power, and maintaining survivability. Ironically, the spread of her seven turrets, both aided survivability (as the chances of an enemy shell, knocking them all out - was much reduced), but the chances of an enemy shell, knocking out the entire battleship, was much increased (as the turrets were housed within a hull form, that did not have enough - armoured protection).
HMS Agincourt's Battleship Data:
Armament: Fourteen 12 inch naval guns (7 x 2), twenty 6 inch naval guns (20 x 1), ten 3 inch naval guns (10 x 1) and three 21 inch torpedo tubes.
Armour: Belt (4 to 9 inches), turrets (up to 12 inches), barbettes (3 to 9 inches), decks (1 to 2.5 inches), bulkheads (up to 6 inches).
If there's one Battleship (more than any other), that's responsible for defining an entire genre of Warships, than that credit of distinction, belongs only to the Royal Navy's - HMS Dreadnought (of 1906):
HMS Dreadnought was a 'World Above', the Warships that had come before her (the pre-dreadnoughts), and her design was so radical (at the time), that she gave her name, to all the Dreadnoughts that came after her (which we know by today - as Battleships). I especially like the fact, that HMS Dreadnought, helped redefine the definition/meaning of the phase: Naval Engagement ... This was achieved, through a 'Space Age Idea' - that unified her primary armament, to be of all the same calibre of guns: ten twelve-inch naval guns. This in-turn, supported the idea of Naval Engagements, from greater distances - as shell spotters, only had to look for one type of shell splash (to help correct their aiming).
Why the requirement for a greater range of naval engagement? Well ... It was believed, that such Dreadnoughts, would no longer be within the range of - enemy torpedoes! It was an idea that was regarded as radical, because Navy Engagements (up to circa 1906), had always been fought, at closer ranges (being somewhat reminiscent, of the days of Nelson's - HMS Victory).
When it comes to HMS Dreadnought's profile, there are three features, which stand out for me:
Her high 'ram shaped' bow. This would have helped with her sea keeping (of 21 knots), and have been useful (owing to its shape), for the ramming of enemy warships, and submarines!
The poles that extend along the side of her hull form. At first, I thought that these were a part of her armour - but they are in-fact, booms for her anti-torpedo nets (which would have been deployed, when she was in port, and/or when she was stationary).
The layout of her primary armament gun turrets (i.e. her ten twelve-inch naval guns). Three gun turrets were located on her centre line, and could fire on either beam - at an enemy located to port or starboard (as the turrets rotated). The remaining two turrets, were located on her beams/wings (one port, one starboard) - but could only fire at an enemy, located on the relevant beam/wing (owing to limited rotation, and no line of sight/fire across her main deck). Thus do I like, the fact that HMS Dreadnought, could bring to bear: eight twelve-inch naval guns - for a full naval broadside!
Despite this, there are two design features (of HMS Dreadnought), that I did not like:
Her complete lack 'of a true' secondary armament. Having been so revolutionary, it was almost an afterthought, to have added in twenty-seven twelve-pounder (5.44 kilogram) guns. These, were all mounted above deck, both on the roofs of her primary gun turrets, and within her topside superstructure. And as such, I find it slightly ironic/reflective, that these were the positions, which were used in later Battleship classes, for anti-aircraft arrangements. Thus did HMS Dreadnought, lack any effective close range, medium calibre guns - that could have been of use, against enemy Patrol Boats and Destroyers (who ironically, could launch torpedoes!).
The location of her forward most, gun spotting platform (atop the tripod mast). Which could easily be 'smoked out', when she was at speed! Although to be fair, this particular design flaw, also affected - later Battleships.
HMS Dreadnought 'was the first of her kind', who sparked a Naval Arms race - as other countries, also wanted Dreadnoughts. Even so, there's one particular area, that Dreadnought often receives flak for - that her thickest belt armour (of 11 inches), was actually located beneath the waterline (when she was at sea), where it would do - little good! In any case, HMS Dreadnought was a 'step in the right direction', as many of her novel features, made it successfully into - later Battleship classes :)
HMS Dreadnought's Battleship Data:
Armament: Ten 12 inch naval guns (5 x 2), twenty-seven 12 pounder guns (27 x 1) and five 18 inch torpedo tubes.
Armour: belt (4 to 11 inches), turrets and barbettes (up to 11 inches), decks (0.75 to 4 inches), bulkheads (up to 8 inches).
At many times in the past, have I thought that it would be a good idea, to be able to play a game of Battleships, whilst your out and about :) The Battleships Card Game, is a massive-step towards, achieving this goal:
Granted, you may prefer to play this game on your table at home - but being a card game, it's format is slightly different, to the traditional table-top game of Battleships. Added to this, is the fact that the game has been enhanced - as there's two possible modes of play: beginners (aka simple), and with Power Cards (aka complex). Personally though, I found even the beginners version too complicated (and somewhat different to traditional Battleships) - so I decided to play, My Own Version ... And it's My Version of gameplay, that I really loved - as it's both easier to play, and quicker to play :) But first, the most fundamental difference (to traditional Battleships), is the fact that you can actually take, more than one shot at a time ... This is achieved, through the game's use of destruction/armament cards - which can either be bombs or torpedoes, and can either be single shot, double shot or triple shot (in the case of bombs). In any case, you aim a destruction/armament card, at one of your opponent's (face down) coordinate cards ... And it is these coordinate cards, that take the place of the grid, from a traditional game of Battleships. On the back of each coordinate card, is there either: a warship (indicating that you hit), or a miss (indicating that you missed!). It was here that I found myself laughing, as there's nothing like seeing your three bomb card, sinking into the water :) And yes, that is a clue, as to My Version of gameplay: we just set-up our coordinate cards, then took the entire (red/blue) suite of destruction/armament cards, and simply removed the top card all the time. This made the card game, feel much more like traditional Battleships - which is why, I enjoyed it so much :) What of the warships? I was glad to see, that the standard warships are present (but now as card artwork): Patrol Boat (two hits), Destroyer/Cruiser (three hits), Submarine (three hits), Battleship (four hits) and Aircraft Carrier (five hits). In any case, there's far less coordinate cards (usually twelve) - which is responsible, for a faster game (as in traditional Battleships, there's a hundred coordinates). Yes the card game's, quicker to play (especially in My Version of gameplay), but you end-up, having just as much fun - as you play many more games! Even so, did one of my opponent's, find a way to speed up his gameplay even more (he'd devised a method, so he knew which of my coordinate cards, had a warship on them). I thought at first, that he was having incredible luck - until I realised, that he'd creased the edges of my warship cards! Just for that, I'd considered drawing a five bomb card myself :) Which in-turn, leads us into the Power Cards ... These make the game so much more complicated, that we pretty-much, gave-up! I think the idea of the Power Cards, was to jazz up Battleships a bit, but I just found, that they lead to confusion ... What do the Power Cards do? A simple Power Card is the Shield. If you play it on your Battleship, then your Battleship shall receive a plus two (meaning that instead of needing four bombs to sink it, it will need six bombs). That was simple right? But then, your warship cards also have Ship Powers on them, which come into effect when the card is turned over. An example is the Destroyer/Cruiser Power, which means that you can count torpedoes as bombs. To be honest, this really became too confusing (as I kept forgetting), and with each warship that was found/turned over, did you have another Ship Power to remember (such as Battleship - add plus one bomb to each of your bomb cards). Added to this, is the confusion that's possible, when you Upgrade Your Game (as the box/web suggests - through the App). Well ... After having downloaded the Battleships App, I again found myself head scratching ... I thought it would allow me to play Battleships on my tablet - but I eventually realised, that it actually supports the card game! It took a while for me to realise this fact :) I kept clicking that spinning torpedo, and realised that it was giving each player orders - such as: Tail Wind Miscalculation (you can only hit your opponent's back line), Super Repair (remove two cards from any of your damaged ships), Cannon Stuck (you can only fire torpedoes), and Fast reload (play two cards - a bomb and a torpedo, or two bomb cards, etc.). Thus, did I again, come up with My Own Upgraded Version of the App plus Card game: i) Set-up your coordinate cards. ii) Deal your (red/blue) destruction/armament cards. iii) Have the App generate an Order Card (click the torpedo at the start of your turn) - then play as normal (i.e. only drawing the top destruction/armament card), with that power/order in effect (just for that turn). iv) Repeat iii) until you have sunk your opponent's fleet (or they've sunk yours!). Another interesting feature (of the Battleships App) - is that you also gain, a Battleship's themed musical background, whilst you pound the enemy fleet! Overall: I enjoyed playing My Own Version of this Battleships card game - as in doing so, I'd recreated the gameplay, of traditional Battleships :) I felt happy about this, as it was as though, I was a Battleship's Commander, who'd saved the day - but at the same time, had also disobeyed, the Admiral's orders ...
One of my favourite Battleship board games, is of course - Battleships itself! Whether you have a basic manual version, or a fancy electronic version, the game play's the same - to find and sink, your opponent's fleet :)
My Battleships fleet may have been moth-balled for sometime, but that all changed, this weekend! I found myself grinning, as I came across the box, with it's fleet of warships, and it's coloured pegs (red for hit, white for miss). With it's secret plastic case, and it's two dimensional peg boards - why it felt like time, for a skirmish or two :) I've always liked the fact that this game, had five warships in each fleet: one Aircraft Carrier (five slots), one Battleship (four slots), one Destroyer/Cruiser (three slots), one Submarine (three slots) and one Patrol Boat (two slots). Whilst the game has changed little (over the years), one part that had changed, was my choice of opponents: two younger relatives - who knew, they'd sink my fleet! Well now ... With a Battleship's broadside, we setup our boards :) It may have been for an hour, it may have been for an afternoon - but in any case, was I amazed with just how much, I'd forgotten ... Perhaps most paramount, was the importance of keeping your ships board, hidden from your opponent(s) - as I kept forgetting, not-so-secret after-all! Even so, I found myself amazed, by the amount of game-play variation, that can be found within this game - both depending upon your chosen shot strategy, and upon the level of your opponents, perceived luck :) For example, I decided to proceed logically, by shooting into: A1, B2, C3, etc. (i.e. make a big cross and subdivide), whilst my opponents, both tended to fire randomly. There was something of a contrast between these two methods - as I was surprised that random firing, tended to find warships, faster than with my logical approach ... Even so, I was glad to see that the random firing method, still seemed to suffer - when it comes to the two-peg Patrol Boat! Although if your first random shot, just-so-happens to be in the Patrol Boat, well ... Even a Battleship's Commander, may raise an eyebrow at that! In any case, I found it good to compare, each other's boards - at the end of the game. Where-as my first opponent, tended to keep her warships on the outer edges of the board, my second opponent, preferred to keep his warships, towards the centre of the board. I on the other hand, preferred to mix the location of my warships (although never on an outside edge, and avoiding the standard big cross firing layout - where possible). I also seemed to obsess more, about the location of my Battleship, to the location of my Aircraft Carrier - as Battleships were always my favourite form, of Capital Ship! As I would say: Nothing wrong with that :) I also love, the maths side to this game - as your really learning/using 2d coordinates, and for the most part, your not even aware, that your doing this! Mind you, one minor downside, with the standard (non-electronic) version of Battleships, is that it's relatively easy, for your opponents to cheat ... For one of my opponents, kept moving their Battleship about! Weve all done that, havent we? Although from memory, it was much harder to cheat, on electronic Battleships - as the computer knew just where, your Battleships were :) When I asked my opponents, what their favourite warship was (in the game): one said Patrol Boat (their reason being - the hardest to find), and the other said Battleship (their reason being - that their big gunned, and sink your fleet). In any case, I've always enjoyed the mystery that surrounds, both the Destroyer/Cruiser, and the Submarine - as their both three-slot models, that lead to a particular question: which one have I sunk? Although again, with the electronic version, I believe that didn't matter - as it used to tell you (for example: Cruiser sunk!). Overall: a classic Battleship game, that feels as though, it has stood the test of time ... For me, it's secrets lay - in both it's warships, and it's strategy. For others, it's secrets lay - in both it's timeless, and it's fun. Yet in any case, it's secrets lay - in both it's Battleships, and it's pegs! For this game of Battleships, is as much fun now, as it was back then :) And let's be clear, on one simple point: there's no way, you'll sink MY Battleship!
If you asked me to name, one of the first Battleship board games (that I ever played) - then I would say, Torpedo Run!
My Destroyer's been hit! Or at least it felt like it, whilst I hounded my parents, to go get me this game :) This game had the biggest board, that I had ever seen: at 34.5 x 46.5 inches ... Perhaps it was this, that made me feel (at the time), that I was in command, of a large Naval Fleet - perhaps in the Pacific? In any case, the aim of the game was of course, to sink your opponents fleet ... And a formidable Naval fleet, it was indeed: one Commander's Battleship (guess which ship I was on/in?), three Cruiser/Destroyer support ships (each sub-servant to the Battleship), and one Submarine shooter (the Achilles heel - of the enemy fleet). As such, the Submarine shooter was equipped, with red projectiles - that you fired, at the enemy warships. Each warship in turn, had small gaps in the bottom, which the projectiles could enter, causing your ship to blow up! In the case of the Battleship, it had five such points, and only when all associated structures had been blown off - did this Dreadnought sink. These structures were representative, of the Conning Tower (on the Cruisers), and both the Conning Towers (front and back), and three Naval Gun Turrets - on the Battleship. I especially liked the fact, that this game represented, the relative power/hierarchy, of a Cruiser to a Battleship: the Cruisers were in-front of the Battleship (from memory), and as such, would (usually) be damaged/sunk first. Yet a Battleship, was much larger (hence the five damage points - compared to just one, for the Cruiser), so in many respects, it was easier to hit (if your Cruisers were not positioned correctly, and/or had already been sunk!). I remember being impressed with the size of the Battleship (the model was over 14 inches long), together with the details of the Battleship (which included - both primary and secondary, naval gun turrets) and thinking to myself: there's no way you'll sink this :) But alas, the game was representative (in iron sight), of the very weapons - that helped to finish off, the dominance of the battleship (during World War Two). As those red projectiles, were indeed - torpedoes! I remember thinking, that I could work around this (game play) challenge, by turning my Battleship, around the other way :) In effect, I'd fitted my Battleship, with anti-torpedo nets ... There's no way that my opponent, would ever notice of course :) Overall: a classic board game, with some decent (game play) models, of Battleships and Cruisers - and a large playing board, that kept us entertained for hours. It left an impression on me, as I still have the warships, around here somewhere - but perhaps slightly ironic, I have not seen the board, for quite a few years now ... Such a big board it was to: at 34.5 x 46.5 inches, it's Torpedo Run! you know, and where am I? Well ... Still on my Commander's Battleship, moving that Cruiser here :)
Indianapolis and Hood - Great Blunders of World War Two
All warships, no matter whether Battleship or Cruiser, Carrier or Destroyer, are to the men that serve on them - the Bastions of the Sea:
Yet in-turn, are the warships themselves, at the mercy of the men that command them, and the men that designed them. In the case of the USS Indianapolis, was it a catalogue of errors - that lead to her loss ... Whilst watching this DVD, I found myself amazed, that she was sunk in the Pacific, because of a denied request (of an anti-submarine escort) and a gargled radio message (that nobody requested clarification of). In essence: no one knew that the USS Indianapolis had been sunk (by at least two torpedoes), and no one knew that she was declared overdue (as radio operators had not received, the message that she was on her way - in the first place!). This DVD shows the horrors of the loss of the Indianapolis, which through the use of computer animation, helps drive home, one simple point: she was all alone, in the middle of the Pacific at night, listing heavily (through her breeched hull), with no ability to call for assistance - as her radio was out, on her top secret mission, that no one knew about! To say that this DVD shocked me, is something of an understatement ... This DVD then shocked me again, as it portrays (at least in part) the true horrors, of her crew's five days in shark infested waters - whilst various elements of the US/Allied Navy, believed her sinking to be a hoax/false report (even after having intersected and decoded, a Japanese Sub's radio message). Thus, can I say that the loss of the Indianapolis, was compounded by communication failures. And it is here that the DVD, plays right into: the loss of HMS Hood ... Hood was the biggest warship of the Royal Navy, a requirement that came from the Navy's desire, to have a battle-cruiser/fast-battleship, that was capable of: over thirty knots. Yet as this DVD shows, this speed - came with a price tag! This time, the blunder occurred, at Hood's design stage - which was itself, combined with two further blunders, on the day of her loss ... The first blunder (for me), was the fact that her Vice-Admiral, ordered both a radio silence, and for her accompanying escort (the battleship Prince of Wales), to turn off it's radar (directed fire), and refrain from using it's spotting aircraft. Thus was Hood, already at a disadvantage ... Which when compounded with the blunder of her design (having too thin/little deck armour), and the blunder of her going up against a fully modernised, enemy battleship (the Bismarck), sealed her fate. Again, the DVD makes use of computerised animation, to help drive home, the dramatic loss of HMS Hood. It also shows some footage, of a genuine magazine explosion (possibly HMS Barham's), which helps to further illustrate, why HMS Hood, stood no chance at all. I too, am in awe of the colour footage of HMS Hood, that's present upon this DVD - as it certainly does feel, as though she really was, invincible! Yet it is here that I found a twist, or should that be, a distort in the lines of communication? For it was known from day one, that her deck armour, was too thinly spread (especially over her magazines), which was itself only known - by a few high ranking, Navy personnel. Thus, were both the USS Indianapolis, and the Royal Navy's HMS Hood - lost on missions, that neither should really have been on - even if on paper, they both seemed up to the task. Overall: I feel that this DVD does a reasonable job, of covering the loss of both the Indianapolis, and the Mighty Hood. There's some great colour footage of the Indianapolis (I liked her camouflage scheme), together with some decent colour footage of HMS Hood (I liked the size and power, of her formidable arsenal of weapons). Added to this, is there some high-clarity (black and white) footage of the battleship Bismarck (who truly did look impressive - with her eight fifteen inch guns, and thick armour plating, especially visible, on her hull-form). And yet, did I find it hard, not to draw parallels, between these so-called blunders, and another frequently encountered term: that of (so-called) friendly fire.
Hood and Bismarck - Channel 4 Documentary - Part Two
In stark contrast to the sinking of HMS Hood (which was all over in a matter of minutes), The Battle of Hood and Bismarck documentary - explains that Bismarck, took several hours to sink:
And yet, this is not the only difference between the shipwreck of HMS Hood, and the shipwreck of Bismarck. Where as Hood is in a terrible state (with wreckage blown over a large area), Bismarck's wreck is a totally different story. Rather amazingly, her hull form sits perfectly upright, on the side of an underwater volcano. Her hull form also appears to be amazingly intact, as the documentaries underwater footage shows ... With for example, her bow swastika - being clearly visible. One of the most amazing scenes (for me), is the underwater footage of an open barbette, as it drops away to the dark depths, of the innards of this once mighty battleship. The documentary also explains an important difference between how HMS Hood, and Germany's battleship - the Bismarck, were sunk. In essence, the Royal Navy stood back and pounded the Bismarck for over an hour (with heavy calibre shells from the battleships HMS Rodney, and HMS King George V). The Royal Navy wanted revenge for the Hood, and the Bismarck's crew paid - the ultimate price. As such, it seems that the Bismarck's above deck areas were utterly destroyed - which was fundamental to the reasons of her loss: she lost the ability to fight, and as such, was unable to return fire with her eight 15 inch guns. The documentaries underwater footage provides evidence of this, as for example, the large superstructure, together with various range finders, are found separate to the main hull form, on the bottom of the sea bed. There is also a difference between how the crews of both HMS Hood, and Bismarck awaited their fates. On Hood, the catastrophic explosions, probably gave little to no time at all - to know what was happening. On Bismarck, her crew knew full well what was happening, as her rudders had been damaged (by a Royal Navy Swordfish air-strike) - which meant that she eventually meandered towards her awaiting fate (the heavy pounding by available British battleships). The documentary concludes by laying a Memorial Plaque on Bismarck's superstructure, and overseeing a memorial gathering, with both Hood and Bismarck survivors. Overall: Hood and Bismarck - an informative DVD to watch, on one of the last great sea battles ... Both Hood and Bismarck were for me, the Space Age of their time - as they must have been as far beyond, the Ships of the Line, as a 15 inch shell is beyond, the power of a cannon ball. It is somewhat fitting then, that this documentary, levels the playing field so to speak - as undersea exploration, is still very much, in it's infancy ... Yes, David Mearns finds the wrecks of both ships, but it is a real challenge. In finding those wrecks, do I feel that he helps to remember - the spirit of the men, that served on them. And it is for us to remember, that such wrecks are still tasked with an important duty - the homes of the sailors that lost their lives, lay undisturbed, looked but never touched, for all of time.