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RN Battleship Development if war hadn't broken out in 1939

A Tentative Fleet Plan

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Inspired by this comment from @JFC Fuller , from the 1940 Building Programme onwards, what form would Royal Navy Battleship designs take?

The design from which Lion evolved, Design 16F/38 was hardly the largest of the studies for battleships for the 1938 and 1939 Building Programme. Two notable examples, which later battleship designs could have been based on are described below:

Design 16E/38 was the largest of the and most heavily-armed of the Lion preliminary designs, with 12 16-inch guns, but had the same 110,000shp machinery a KGV, but in a 48,500 ton standard displacement, providing a speed of only 26knots.

Friedman states that this design was opposed by the Director of Plans on the grounds that firepower would only be gained on the broadside, that theaddition of a fourth turret would delay completion due to bottlenecks in turret production capacity, and that the ship could only be docked in three commercial docks in home waters.

Design 16G/38 was a larger, faster (making 30-31 knots with 150,000shp) alternative to design 16F/38 (which eventually became Lion). It should be noted that this was prior to the adoption of higher boiler forcing rates which increased Design 16F/38's installed from 115,000shp to 120,000shp, and then to the 130,000shp of the approved 1938 Lion design. It is also possibly prior to the adoption the transom stern on the Lion design (the conjectural sketches in John Robert's Penultimate Battleships have KGV-style cruiser-sterns).

Again Friedman states that this design was opposed by D of P, as a 2 knot increase in speed was not considered to be worth the increase in displacement, and that the increased speed was still insufficient to catch a cruiser in most a weather conditions, with the defence of trade routes from enemy raiders being a role that the new battleship was unlikely to perform in the first place.

Would later designs drawn for the 1940-41 Building Programmes onwards have any similarities to these designs?

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(Source of Images: Penultimate Battleships: The Lion class 1937-1946 by John Roberts, Warship No.19)
 

Sherman Tank

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British battleship designs of the period were restricted by the size of their drydocks so any major leap in size would have required a substantial investment in upgrading docking facilities at the major naval bases.
 

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With the KGVs and Lions in service, plus fully refitted Hood, Repulse and Renown, Rodney and Nelson, and the QEs (and assuming we pushed the Rs into reserve or to the breakers), would the Treasury be prepared to tolerate additional capital expenditure and the manning costs of further ships?

ISTR there were planned fleet strength estimates through into the '50s based on planned construction and refits. Do they actually call for any further construction?
 

Sherman Tank

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With the KGVs and Lions in service, plus fully refitted Hood, Repulse and Renown, Rodney and Nelson, and the QEs (and assuming we pushed the Rs into reserve or to the breakers), would the Treasury be prepared to tolerate additional capital expenditure and the manning costs of further ships?

ISTR there were planned fleet strength estimates through into the '50s based on planned construction and refits. Do they actually call for any further construction?
It would depend entirely upon the political outlook. If there's no war and the Z-Plan and Japanese new construction continues the Treasury will probably have to cough up funds for more ships, because the arms control treaties are fully dead and buried.
 

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With the KGVs and Lions in service, plus fully refitted Hood, Repulse and Renown, Rodney and Nelson, and the QEs (and assuming we pushed the Rs into reserve or to the breakers), would the Treasury be prepared to tolerate additional capital expenditure and the manning costs of further ships?

ISTR there were planned fleet strength estimates through into the '50s based on planned construction and refits. Do they actually call for any further construction?
It would depend entirely upon the political outlook. If there's no war and the Z-Plan and Japanese new construction continues the Treasury will probably have to cough up funds for more ships, because the arms control treaties are fully dead and buried.
Agreed, but whether there was existing provisional planning for further construction would depend on the planned fleet strength. That might be modified later, but that's the point where we transition from 'what do the archives say?" to speculation. DNC's workbook would be the obvious place to look for future speculation.

Outside of accelerating the Lions (2 each in the 1938, 1939 and 1940 Naval Programmes), the earliest a Lion successor could be ordered would be the 1941 Naval programme/laid down in 1942, so there was still significant development time available to start a Lion successor design from scratch.

Even with 45,000t allowed under the Escalator Clause, the RN opted to keep the Lions at 40,000t to get them into Portsmouth and Rosyth, so any increase in tonnage for a successor is fighting an uphill struggle.
 

Sherman Tank

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Next time I'm in the UK I'll have to have a look at the relevant surviving Admiralty paperwork, I guess. God knows when that'll be though.
 

Dilandu

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It would depend entirely upon the political outlook. If there's no war and the Z-Plan and Japanese new construction continues the Treasury will probably have to cough up funds for more ships, because the arms control treaties are fully dead and buried.

Well, by 1942 without war starting, there would be:

* Germany - two "Bismark"-class build, two first H39 class launched, four more H39 laid up.
* Italy - all four "Littorio"-class completed, probably some follow-up envisioned.
* Japan - two "Yamato"-class completed, one more launched, one more constructed, one more laid up.
* USSR - first "Sovetsky Souyz"-class launched, two more in various state of construction.
* France - two "Richelieu"-class completed, "Gascogne" launched, two "Alsace" most likely ordered.
* United States - two "North Carolina"-class, four "South Dakota"-class completed, two "Iowa"-class launched, two in various state of construction, five "Montana"-class started.

The real "fun" for RN would start in 1944, though, when more superbattleships would start to come in - H39, "Sovetsky Souyz", "Montana"... RN by that time would just start to receive "Lion"'s, which would be viewed as absolutely inadequate. I suspect, there would be a lot of nasty name-calling in British upper echelons...
 

Dilandu

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Even with 45,000t allowed under the Escalator Clause, the RN opted to keep the Lions at 40,000t to get them into Portsmouth and Rosyth, so any increase in tonnage for a successor is fighting an uphill struggle.

My suspicion is, that Britain would aim for rapid fire 16-inch gun as they tried post-war. They were quite interested in reaching higher ROF on destroyers and cruisers, so battleships would be a logical next step.
 

Nick Sumner

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Sherman Tank, Dilandu, there's a lot of useful information in 'Building for Victory' By George Moore, 2002. Its a bit pricey to buy even used, but chock full of good info.
 

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Rather than size I think the issue would have been the guns to be fitted.
The cancelled N3 battleships were planned to have 18" guns.. The first two sets of 16" guns for the G3 battlecruisers ended up on Nelson and Rodney.
They had problems in service.
 

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IIRC the Lions were to be armed with a 'MkII' 16" gun - intended to be a significant improvement over the MkI of G3 and the NelRods. Development work on this naval rifle (and the turret to carry it) continued as late as 1948. I can't remember reading about comparative performance specs but I'm assuming it would have been at least as capable as the 16" rifles shipped by the Iowas [happy to be corrected on this]
 

Tzoli

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The 1938 Lions would carry the 16" Mark II there was a Mark III Gun but there is little info on it, Mark IV would had been the Rapid fire verson intended for the 1944/45 Lions. These were all /45 ones. There was consideration for /50 version in 1945 if I remember correctly. As well as a new 15" gun was under considerable development in 1945!
 

JFC Fuller

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I suspect it was only a matter of time before the dock situation in the UK was addressed through development at one of the existing yards. Construction, with RN encouragement or funding, of much larger docks in the Commonwealth and Empire had been undertaken/was ongoing/considered, notably:

Singapore: King George VI graving dock, 1,000ft x 140ft x 35ft - opened February 1938
Australia: Captain Cook graving dock, 1,1177ft x 145ft x 45ft - decision to create taken at the beginning of 1939
Alexandria: 1,000ft dock proposed in 1937 though never started

That leaves home waters as the only key strategic location where I can not identify consideration for a new large dock in the immediate pre-WW2 era but it seems reasonable to assume that one would have been pursued eventually based on the fact that larger facilities were being built for RN use overseas.

New Construction would be partly determined by the RN understanding of new construction by Germany, Japan and to a lesser extent Italy. Until mid-1939 Germany was transparent in terms of numbers, timings and armament even though they were evidently lying about displacement. Once the Anglo-German Naval Treaty collapsed that transparency declined rapidly. Nobody seems to have known until at least mid-war that the Japanese were building ships on the scale they were and general assumption was they were at 45,000 tons and 16" guns. That leaves the RN view of hostile nation new construction as broadly being in line with what was possible under the escalator clause of the 1936 London Naval Treaty, 8-9 15-16" guns on 45,000 tons, with that limit due to expire at the end of 1942. Moving into 1939 consensus (with some dispute) in the RN was that the Germans were building fast surface raiders and the Bismarck class were representative of this, equally there was the false (though ultimately self-fulfilling) rumour that Japan was building 12"/super-cruisers. The latter was a consideration in the Vanguard process and both would require fast ships as a response but neither suggest a requirement for a significant increase in main armament.

Taking all that together, including the 4,500 tons of treaty displacement the RN was leaving on the table with the 1938 and 1939 Lions, it seems reasonable to extrapolate that future condtructon, at least prior to the 1942 programme, may have emphasised higher speed. This would probably be brought with increased displacement given the heavy emphasis on protection in British designs of this era. Therefore, taking 16D/38 and putting it through the same evolutionary process as 16F/38 to produce a 31-32+ knot ship is probably not an unreasonable guess at the trajectory RN battleship design would have been had war not broken out in 1939.

Though some RN officers thought a 45,000ton limit would inevitably produce a twelve gun ship Design 16E/38 seems to demonstrate that it was probably impossible to get acceptable speed and protection with 12 x 16" guns on 45,000 tons so laying down a 12x16" design prior to 1st January 1943 would have been very unlikely. I imagine such a ship could have been part of the 1942 programme if it was not laid down until 1943 though.
 

Dilandu

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New Construction would be partly determined by the RN understanding of new construction by Germany, Japan and to a lesser extent Italy. Until mid-1939 Germany was transparent in terms of numbers, timings and armament even though they were evidently lying about displacement. Once the Anglo-German Naval Treaty collapsed that transparency declined rapidly

I'm really interested, what would be possible reaction on new Soviet ships - Prjoject 23 Sovetsky Souyz battleships, and Project 69 Kronshtadt battlecruisers? Project 23 was way bigger and tougher than anything RN have (there were flaws in her, actually, but British admirals could hardly knew about them).
 

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And the Sturrock Dock at Cape Town. Work started early in the war when large ships became regular visitors. Completed Sept 1945.

But how much of the planning for these new facilities was at the instigation of the Admiralty? Esquimalt and Captain Cook seem to me to be by the respective Canadian and Australian Govts decision makers with a request then for Admiralty input to select the site for the latter. The Canadians certainly had an eye to the liner market and sized it to slightly exceed the then Panama Canal locks. Financing of these came from those Govts. Singapore AFAIK is the only one driven by the Admiralty.

Incidentally, was Singapore big enough? Recently, I looked at the question of docking Yamato there in answer to a query and concluded it would be difficult. The problem was not length and breadth, but the depth of the dock relative to her draft. A similar kind of problem existed with the new dock in Brisbane in 1945. Not enough depth of water in the approaches for a KGV.

I’d like to see any evidence of Admiralty plans for new docks in Britain from 1930-50. Every time the subject of new battleships or carriers comes up in the period, the limiting factor is the same, dry docks. And look at the length of time the creation of new facilities takes. Even in wartime Sturrock & Captain Cook took about 5 years to take from plans to operating docks. Interestingly both were built of reclaimed land, or perhaps more accurately, land was reclaimed around them.
 
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JFC Fuller

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I’d like to see any evidence of Admiralty plans for new docks in Britain from 1930-50. Every time the subject of new battleships or carriers comes up in the period, the limiting factor is the same, dry docks. And look at the length of time the creation of new facilities takes. Even in wartime Sturrock & Captain Cook took about 5 years to take from plans to operating docks. Interestingly both were built of reclaimed land, or perhaps more accurately, land was reclaimed around them.

You have previously been involved in threads where plans for much larger docks in a UK naval base in the 1930-50 period were discussed and the plans themselves presented.

5 years is also, roughly, the time from conception of a battleship to it commissioning, aligning the two therefore being an achievable exercise had the need for larger ships been perceived.

Singapore was an Admiralty funded 1,000ft dock, the Admiralty proposed the 1,000ft dock for Alexandria and the Admiralty advised on the size of the Captain Cook dock in Sydney:

In 1938 Cabinet approved in principle the construction of an Australian naval graving dock, and sought the assistance of the British Admiralty for the design. A second-hand floating dock was considered but the Naval Board recommended a graving dock, despite the much greater cost. Initial concepts were increased in length by some 12 m and in beam by about 3 m on Admiralty advice.
 
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EwenS

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I’d like to see any evidence of Admiralty plans for new docks in Britain from 1930-50. Every time the subject of new battleships or carriers comes up in the period, the limiting factor is the same, dry docks. And look at the length of time the creation of new facilities takes. Even in wartime Sturrock & Captain Cook took about 5 years to take from plans to operating docks. Interestingly both were built of reclaimed land, or perhaps more accurately, land was reclaimed around them.

You have previously been involved in threads where plans for much larger docks in a UK naval base in the 1930-50 period were discussed and the plans themselves presented.

5 years is also, roughly, the time from conception of a battleship to it commissioning, aligning the two therefore being an achievable exercise had the need for larger ships been perceived.

Singapore was an Admiralty funded 1,000ft dock, the Admiralty proposed the 1,000ft dock for Alexandria and the Admiralty advised on the size of the Captain Cook dock in Sydney:

In 1938 Cabinet approved in principle the construction of an Australian naval graving dock, and sought the assistance of the British Admiralty for the design. A second-hand floating dock was considered but the Naval Board recommended a graving dock, despite the much greater cost. Initial concepts were increased in length by some 12 m and in beam by about 3 m on Admiralty advice.
But the only evidence of Admiralty plans is that dock at Portsmouth in the 1960s which I referred to. There is next to nothing for the UK other than modifications to existing docks to try to make them fit ships being designed. That lack of facilities was still an issue in the 1960s.

I'm interested in finding out what if anything was being proposed for the UK in terms of new Admiralty facilities between 1930 and 1950. Is there anything or were they simply burying their heads in the sand and hoping commercial docks would pick up the slack even with the limitations on some of them.
 

JFC Fuller

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But the only evidence of Admiralty plans is that dock at Portsmouth in the 1960s which I referred to. There is next to nothing for the UK other than modifications to existing docks to try to make them fit ships being designed. That lack of facilities was still an issue in the 1960s.

I'm interested in finding out what if anything was being proposed for the UK in terms of new Admiralty facilities between 1930 and 1950. Is there anything or were they simply burying their heads in the sand and hoping commercial docks would pick up the slack even with the limitations on some of them.

If you had followed the link to the thread and read the posts, from less than a year ago, in which you were previously involved you would have seen a discussion of a well documented 1943-45 plan for a new basin and multiple 1,000ft docks at Devonport. The evidence is at the link.
 
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As regards Admiralty home dockyard ‘extension’ plans prior to WW2, I found this in one of my MANY miscellaneous folders which I have compiled over the years. The document this came from is a discussion about the planning and construction of Rosyth in 1926. I do not know the provenance of the discussion, but it looks as if it may have been some sort of architectural group. I have attached a reduced-size copy (the original is over 13Mb - apologies for its resulting poor quality) The document itself I have to confess, I find it somewhat odd if there were real proposals to extend Rosyth as at that time there were disagreements in Parliament regarding the plans for the construction of the Singapore base. I think it more likely that it was part of a version of the original ideas for Rosyth.
I also have a copy of the original Singapore plan, and the end result, from the Rise and Fall of the Singapore Naval Base 1919-1942 by W. David McIntyre.
 

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Hood

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Infrastructure always seems to be the sticking point.
I guess when you consider the investment made in RAF airfields during 1937-44 its not hard to believe that without WW2 some manpower and materials would be available, its even possible had their been an economic recession during the 1940-45 period that unemployment relief public works could have featured naval infrastructure. In fact it seems a missed opportunity during the Depression era, although I suppose that the major port towns/naval towns had less unemployment and thus less idle labour to be utilised.

Foreign competition was probably well considered anyway.
Could Germany have ever sustained her Z-Plan anyway? She couldn't sustain it once war broke out, admittedly Germany's war economy was not fully mobilised until 1943, but Hitler often cut back armament programmes when victory looked near, for him rearmament was to fulfil a specific goal. In 1939 the Z-Plan was rather quickly abandoned even when the war was only months old. In a no way scenario Germany may have completed all 6 H-class but I don't think we can necessarily take that as a given and other naval construction would have suffered.

Italy seems to have had no concrete plans for post-Littorio capital ships and with four new ships and four rebuilds she probably had all the battleships she needed to face France - historically Italy's battlefleet was always small.

Everyone thought Japan was building 45,000-ton ships with 16in guns, they had no conception of the real Yamato. Even the carrier programme seems to have only been sketchily understood with bogus ships listed (sometimes result of poor translation) and poorly understood conversion programmes. But once the Yamato broke cover in 1941-42, and with perhaps growing evidence of their true size and power and with potentially six hulls it would have been a late scramble to try and match that before the end of the decade. Saying that, Goodall considered Vanguard capable enough against Yamato so its not necessarily true that the Lions would have been considered inferior in any way.

The Soviet Navy is the biggest unknown, it doesn't seem to have featured much in RN planning - probably because the Russian Navy had been invisible since 1917 and hardly left its sphere of operations. Stalin's naval programme seems to have been recognised with the Sovietsky Soyuz and Khronstadt classes and even rumoured carriers in 1940-41, but the true scale of Stalin's planned fleet wasn't known. By 1944-45 it might have been more evident as hulls kept coming off the slips in all four Fleet areas, but by then it might have been too late to consider counters before the 1950s.

In any case the RN could never have matched all threats, it would have to trust France to match Italy and the USA to match Japanese power and hope for the best. A two-power standard was simply impossible.

I don't think that Vanguard would have been built in this scenario, unless the gun pit issue was of sufficient worry to the naval programme. But I do think that a fast battleship would still have been desired alongside the reconstructed Renown and Hood and ultimately replacing them. I would speculate an AH fleet of six Lions with the last two perhaps having Mk IV guns (add to that the reconstructed Nelsons and you have eight 16-inchers) and possibly 2 or 4 fast 16in battleships completing 1946-48. Plus you have five KGVs, not a bad fleet to enter the 1950s with (unless someone goes and proves carriers are the new Queens of the Sea by then of course).
 

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The deflection point in time of where this scenario departs from actual history/ events are critical. To later this deflection is the greater the associated developments in carriers and carrier aviation (and aviation in general) and the more self evident battleships shared or subordinate role would be become (even if to some extent driven by awareness of US and Japanese developments). Hard to see anything beyond the Lions (and they would have still been competing for limited resources versus new carriers, irrespective of other circumstances) or all those reconstructions actually happening.
 

Dilandu

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The deflection point in time

Deviation point. But I agree, it's important. For example, if the deviation point is pre-1938 (i.e. pre-occupation of Czechoslovakia), then Soviet-Western relations would most likely be steady improving, and Britain might even start to consider USSR as potential ally against Japanese.
 

JFC Fuller

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I don't think that Vanguard would have been built in this scenario, unless the gun pit issue was of sufficient worry to the naval programme. But I do think that a fast battleship would still have been desired alongside the reconstructed Renown and Hood and ultimately replacing them. I would speculate an AH fleet of six Lions with the last two perhaps having Mk IV guns (add to that the reconstructed Nelsons and you have eight 16-inchers) and possibly 2 or 4 fast 16in battleships completing 1946-48. Plus you have five KGVs, not a bad fleet to enter the 1950s with (unless someone goes and proves carriers are the new Queens of the Sea by then of course).

The turret erecting pit issue was binary, if the need for battleship turrets exceeded the capacity of the existing pits the options were to recycle existing turrets or open more pits. According to Friedman, as of January 1939 annual capacity was seven triple 16" turrets per year. We can interpret that as sufficient to support a two ship per year programme with a third ship every three years with significant forward planning and an assumption of three turret ships only. It was apparently considered possible to open three additional pits but this would require recruiting and training more labour.

By 1939 the Royal Navy was working towards a de facto two power standard against forecast German and Japanese strength, not just at a fixed point in time but at any point in the foreseeable future. The Soviet Union doesn't really seem to have been considered, though the Soviets were sharing intelligence with the British about German shipbuilding. Italy, whilst individual ship designs were taken note of, was mostly France's problem.

The combination of that requirement and the shortage of large diameter turret erecting pits resulted in (what became) Vanguard being included in the provisional 1940/41 programme alongside an additional two Lions prior to the outbreak of war. To expand on the latter point, starting with the 1936/37 programme the Royal Navy had managed at least two new battleships and one armoured carrier every year in addition to the reconstructions and modernisations. The 1940/41 programme alone would have taken the number of Lion class battleships ordered to six. The cabinet authorised a battleship fleet strength of 21 in February 1939 and this was laid out to the House of Commons during debate about the 1939/40 Estimates (see below). The UK was overcoming industrial bottlenecks and sustaining a massive naval building programme.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Shakespeare) to the house of Commons - 16th March 1939
It is desirable that I should say something about the strength of our capital ships. To-day we have 15 capital ships, of which three only are of post-war construction. It was our original intention;is we built new ships to replace the old ones, but we have made a recent review of the situation and our decision is now influenced by two main considerations. In the first place, to retain old pre-war capital tonnage indefinitely is both uneconomical and unsound; on the other hand, to scrap capital tonnage that is capable of modernisation would be equally unwise.

Ships of the "Queen Elizabeth" class are capable of considerable improvement and much has been and is being done on them, not only in the way of modernisation, but in the way of reconstruction. The ships of the "Royal Sovereign" class, which were laid down in 1913–14, do not lend themselves in the same way to modernisation. By 1943 all of them will be over-age, and though they might give a good account of themselves now against existing ships, in the near future they would not compare favourably with the ships now building or projected. In these circumstances it has been decided to replace one capital ship of the "Royal Sovereign" class in 1942 by the last ship of the 1937 programme, that is, when five new capital ships have joined the Fleet, and to replace one more ship of the "Royal Sovereign" class in 1943 by the last ship of the 1938 programme. Our capital ship strength by the end of 1943 will be 21. Those ships which we intend to keep in the battle line for a number of years have been or are being reconstructed, and they will be much stronger and better protected. Their armament will have been modernised and their boilers and machinery renewed. I am glad to inform the House that the "Valiant" of the "Queen Elizabeth" class and the battle cruiser "Renown" will have been so modernised and will join the Fleet this year.

The last ship of the 1937 programme, to replace the first Royal Sovereign class ship, would have been Howe and the last ship of the 1938 programme replacing the second Royal Sovereign class ship would have been Temeraire.
 
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Tzoli

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I could see a Vanguard-ish like capital ship built to complement the slower ships and give a punch to the cruiser force if the Alaskas, B-65s, Kronshtadts and the P class ships were built. A True battlecruiser or 15" armed big cruiser maybe?
Historically the Germans built the Deutschlands, the USN (And the RN) thought Japan will build something similar (the Chichibus) so to counter them, the USN built the Alaskas, to counter the Alaskas the IJN designed the B-65 and the Soviets designed the Alaska killers the Stalingrads.
I could see in this non treaty word that the RN would want to build something similar but question is, would it put money of building the 12" cannons and turrets of the abortive 1930 LNT designs to mount them on similar large cruisers or just go for a fast capital ship eg a modern Renown with 3x2 15" using the old guns of the R's?
Note the RN made calculations for 12" armed vessels in 1938 and offered a 10" large cruiser for Greece and there were the various 9,2" armed cruisers.
 

Hood

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The 9.2in armed cruiser was largely a Churchill-driven fad, so not likely to appear in the early 1940s.
The US would likely have continued with the Alaskas given the 'Chichibu' fears and Japan would have built the B65s as work had already begun in 1939. The Project 69 ships may or may not have received German 15in guns depending on the political situation in this non-WW2 world. The Project 82 was designed in mid-1941 specifically to counter 8in cruisers and not until 1945 did the design get reacast with 12in guns (which Stalin then favoured) and its possible that had there been no war they may have been built with 210-220mm guns.

So some form of response would have been necessary and by 1944/45 its probable that work would have begun on successors to the interwar Type A and Type B heavy cruisers then getting long in the tooth and of decreasing value, especially the older tinclads and of course the London reconstruction proved ill-considered as a means to prolong the Counties lives.

It's hard in these scenarios to guess what might have been possible, its unlikely Britain or France could have sustained long-term rearmament from 1938 to say 1944/45 without economic dislocation and heavy public expenditure and there is no way of telling if the world economy would have grown or dipped during this period. Even Germany had limits as to how much it could realistically spend (printing money was never going to end well) and I suspect had Hitler got his immedate aims by political bluff in 1939 with less chance of war with Britain that he would have soon scaled back the naval expansion. Stalin's plans were grandiose in the extreme. The US would be hard pressed to build more than she planned in 1940/early 1941, the Montanas were a step too far even in a mobilised war economy (admittedly war brought up competing calls on steel production and additional ships of other types). And of course war between one or more of these powers seems inevitable in hindsight.

The verdict is open on carriers for me. Yes in 1939/40 most major navies were planning more but numbers were still relatively modest. Its not likely the US would have ordered more than the originally forecast 8 Essex in a peacetime world and this by far was probably the largest carrier expansion then planned, the RN looking at only 1-2 additional carriers per annual programme. The Midways might never have been built without wartime experience from the RN to prove the armoured deck, but some kind of larger Essex successor seems likely to replace the Lexingtons and other early Treaty carriers during the early 1950s.
 

Dilandu

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The Project 69 ships may or may not have received German 15in guns depending on the political situation in this non-WW2 world

Without the war, this is unlikely. Krupp offered 15-inch cannons to USSR in 1940 mostly because they have nowhere to put them after suspension of "Sharnhorst" & "Gneisenau" refit plans and cancellation of O-class cruisers. Without the war, those guns would most likely went on S&G in 1942-1943.
 

Tzoli

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The 9.2in armed cruiser was largely a Churchill-driven fad, so not likely to appear in the early 1940s.
The US would likely have continued with the Alaskas given the 'Chichibu' fears and Japan would have built the B65s as work had already begun in 1939. The Project 69 ships may or may not have received German 15in guns depending on the political situation in this non-WW2 world. The Project 82 was designed in mid-1941 specifically to counter 8in cruisers and not until 1945 did the design get reacast with 12in guns (which Stalin then favoured) and its possible that had there been no war they may have been built with 210-220mm guns.

The 1939/40 versions yes, but there were earlier calculations or proposals from 1938 January, 3x4 or 3x3 ( DNC Called them Armoured Cruisers )
 

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The RN was particularly concerned with the quantity of ships - in a worst-case scenario they could see themselves needing to fight Germany in the North Atlantic, Italy in the Mediterranean and Japan in the Pacific - simultaneously. The biggest bottleneck - and cost - in battleship production was the gun mountings, hence the decision to build Vanguard. I recall reading that for this reason there was at one point interest in the Admiralty in scrapping the Royal Sovereigns but using their 15" mountings to launch another five Vanguards, much more quickly and cheaply than ships using new mountings. Whether that could feasibly have happened, I know not.
 

Dilandu

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I could see in this non treaty word that the RN would want to build something similar but question is, would it put money of building the 12" cannons and turrets of the abortive 1930 LNT designs to mount them on similar large cruisers or just go for a fast capital ship eg a modern Renown with 3x2 15" using the old guns of the R's?

Actually, it may be a very interesting idea - not "more Vanguards" but "more Renowns", big fast cruisers with 15-inch guns for guaranteeing superiority against "large cruisers" like "Alaska", "Kronshtand", and Japanese projects. Five "Royal Sovereigns" gave twenty turrets; it's enough for six three-turret battlecruisers with two to spare, and they would not affect gun & turrets production for battleships.
 

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A silly question but was 18" calibre armament ever a serious option for the RN?
HMS Furious was originally designed with two 18" guns in single turrets, had in fact received her aft gun just before it was decided to convert her to an aircraft carrier. She never received the forward gun, before she received her aft flight deck the aft gun was removed. In 1918, one of her 18" guns was mounted on the monitor HMS General Wolfe. Another 18" gun was mounted on the monitor HMS Lord Clive - the other gun intended for Furious?
 
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JFC Fuller

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The final pre-war proposed, though not approved by Cabinet, RN cruiser force structure called for the RN + Commonwealth navies to build up to 40 small cruisers (Didos etc.), 40 medium cruisers (Fiji's etc.) and 20 heavy cruisers (Counties etc.) for a total force of 100. Friedman lists the then current inventory as of 1939, I have attempted to align ships to categories but there are a few ships that could be in either small or medium:

Small Cruisers: 35 including ten building [I assume the ten ordered Didos plus the 23 remaining C,D and E class WW1 ships, Frobisher and Hawkins could potentially have been counted in this category had they been rearmed with the 5.25" turrets that were ordered, but subsequently cancelled, for them - making 35]

Medium Cruisers: 36 including thirteen building [I assume 8 x Leander, 4 x Arethusa, 10 x Town, 13 x Fiji - including the four ships originally included in the 1939/40 programme, and Effingham which had just been rearmed with 9 x 6" guns]

Heavy cruisers: 15 [13 counties plus York and Exeter]

Assuming the above is broadly accurate it suggests that a pause in 6" cruiser production was near, Effingham was an old hull with old guns in open mountings, taking account for that five more ships would have filled out the medium cruiser part of the force - that could theoretically be achieved in a single annual programme (e.g. 1941/42 if Didos had been built in the 1940/41 programme). Small cruiser construction would obviously have to continue.

That leaves heavy cruisers, unless the 1936 Treaty either collapsed or was amended no new ships could be laid down until 1st January 1943 so ships could have been included in the 1942/43 programme if their keels weren't laid until that date. The RN seems to have determined that 9.2", 10" or 12" larger cruisers offered less value for money than fast battleships, Director Plans concluded it would be better to build as many fast capital ships as possible. By extension, I suspect the RN would have ended up building 9 x 8" ships on 10-12,500 tons as studied in 1939 and 1940 and mixing their procurement with small cruisers of the Dido variety. Keeping everything aside from the main guns and some protection as close to the Towns and Fijis as possible would have been crucial to achieving the desired volumes of 8" ships.

If the 1940/41 programme had included the seventh armoured carrier (Irresistible) proposed it would have taken RN procurement to eight modern fleet carriers (inc. Ark Royal) plus Unicorn as a supply and repair ship. Pre-war planning seems to have assumed 0.75 carriers per battleship (e.g. 15 carriers to 20 battleships) which is a fairly progressive ratio for the era.
 
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Tzoli

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A silly question but was 18" calibre armament ever a serious option for the RN?
HMS Furious was originally designed with two 18" guns in single turrets, had in fact received her aft gun just before it was decided to convert her to an aircraft carrier. She never received the forward gun, before she received her aft flight deck the aft gun was removed. In 1918, one of her 18" guns was mounted on the monitor HMS General Wolfe. Another 18" gun was mounted on the monitor HMS Lord Clive - the other gun intended for Furious?
Yes Furious would had been armed with 2x1 18"/40 Mark I cannons, some of the Hood preliminaries show 4x1, 3x2 or 4x2 18" Mark I cannons (There was an modified Furious design of 1915 with 3x2 18") then there were the Post WW1 capital ship designs leading to the N3/G3/O3 - Nelson featured 15"/50 16"/45 16,5"/45 and 18"/45 Mark II weaponry.

But WNT killed off the big gun development of the RN after 1922
 

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A silly question but was 18" calibre armament ever a serious option for the RN?
The following is a transcription of part of NJM Campbell's article in Warship when it was a quarterly magazine, sorry I do not recall the edition number:

The Admiralty requested Sir Robert Hadfield of the famous steel firm to stop talking about 20-inch and 21-inch APC shells in 1920, but this was apparently done to prevent other countries thinking that guns of these calibres might be adopted, and there does not seem to have been any intention of so doing, though Elswick could have handled a 20-inch of about 42-calibres on their existing plant. The Japanese built a 19-inch gun which split in testing, and a second one that was still in existence in December 1945, while the United States constructed an 18-inch/48 calibre; a ponderous weapon of nearly 178 tons, firing a 2900lb shell at 2700fps. It was later lingered down to a 16-inch/57 calibre and then back to an 18-inch. No other naval guns of 18-inche or over appear to have been built at this time, although the French began design work on a 17.7-inch (45cm) in 1920.

I hope this shed a little light on your question, but as previously mentioned an 18-inch weapon was planned for the unbuilt N3 class battleships, and HMS Furious was designed with a pair of single 18-inch weapons, although she finally completed with just the aft turret, having had her first 'aircraft carrier' conversion before commissioning.
 

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