A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. As they were the largest, best-armed and most heavily armored ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a nation's naval power from the late nineteenth century until World War II. With the rise of air power, notably aircraft carriers, battleships were no longer able to establish naval superiority, and so all have been withdrawn from active service. The related battlecruiser, a successor to the armored cruiser, shared the very large main armament, general size, and cost of a battleship of the same generation, but they traded armor or firepower for higher speed.
Battleship design evolved to incorporate and adapt technological advances to maintain an edge. The word battleship was coined around 1794 as a contraction of the phrase line-of-battle ship, the dominant wooden warship during the Age of Sail. It came into formal use in the late 1880s to describe a type of ironclad warship, but these are now referred to as "pre-dreadnoughts". In 1906, the launch of HMS Dreadnought heralded a revolution in battleship design. Later designs that were influenced by this ship were referred to as "dreadnoughts". Battlecruisers were developed around this time by the British First Sea Lord Jackie Fisher. They were envisioned as being more effective armored cruisers, able to destroy any normal cruiser while being able to outrun any ships capable of sinking them.
By 1910, so-called "super-dreadnoughts" were entering service. In the four years between Dreadnought and the first super-dreadnoughts, the Orion class, displacement had increased by 25% and weight of broadside had doubled. Many battlecruisers and battleships of all varieties served in the First World War, most notably in the Battle of Jutland. None were built between the Nelsons of the early 1920s and the Dunkerques of the early 1930s due to various treaties, but quite a few battleships were constructed shortly before or during World War II. The last, HMS Vanguard, was commissioned just after the war, in 1946.
From this time on, most battleships and all battlecruisers were decommissioned and broken up. France's Jean Bart and Turkey's Yavuz were the last to be scrapped. However, members of the American Iowa class lasted until 1992 to aid troops with fire support; four were deployed in Korea, one in Vietnam, and two to Iraq. Nine battleships exist today as museum ships; eight from the United States, and Japan's Mikasa. (more...)
HMS Royal Oak (pennant number 08) was a Revenge-class battleship of the British Royal Navy. Launched in 1914 and completed in 1916, Royal Oak saw action in First World War at the Battle of Jutland. In the inter-war period, she served in the Atlantic, Home and Mediterranean fleets, coming under accidental attack on more than one occasion. The ship became the centre of worldwide attention in 1928 when her senior officers were controversially court-martialled. During a twenty-five year career, attempts to modernise Royal Oak could not address her fundamental lack of speed, and by the start of the Second World War, she was no longer suited to front-line duty. Royal Oak was anchored at Scapa Flow in Orkney, Scotland on 14 October 1939 when she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-47, becoming the first of the five Royal Navy battleships and battlecruisers sunk in the war. Although the sinking made little difference to the naval balance of power, it considerably affected wartime morale. The raid made an immediate celebrity and war hero out of the U-boat commander, Günther Prien, who became the first Kriegsmarine submarine officer to be awarded the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross. To the British, the raid demonstrated that the Germans were capable of bringing the naval war to their home waters, and the shock resulted in rapidly arranged changes to dockland security. Now lying almost upside-down in 30 m of water with her hull 5 m beneath the surface, Royal Oak is a designated war grave. In an annual ceremony to mark the loss of the ship, Royal Navy divers place a White Ensign underwater at her stern. Unauthorised divers are prohibited from approaching the wreck at any time.
Gensui Marquis Tōgō Heihachirō, OM, GCVO (東郷 平八郎 Tōgō Heihachirō ), (27 January 1848 - 30 May 1934) of the Imperial Japanese Navy was nicknamed "Nelson of the East". One of Japan's greatest naval heroes, he fought in the Anglo-Satsuma, Boshin, First Sino-Japanese, and Russo-Japanese wars. After some skirmishes at age 16, he attended the Royal Naval Academy and Old Royal Naval College before returning as a Japanese naval officer. Rising to success aboard the Japanese cruiser Naniwa, he would rise in the ranks and command the Japanese Naval War College, Sasebo Naval Arsenal, Combined Fleet, and serve as Chief of the Navy General Staff. In 1914, he tutored Crown Prince Hirohito, the future Shōwa Emperor, and would receive many honors in his retirement, such as the Orders of the Chrysanthemum, Paulownia Flowers, Sacred Treasure, Golden Kite 1st Class, and the Tōgō Shrine built after his death. In 1958, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz financed the restoration of the Japanese battleship Mikasa, Tōgō's flagship.