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The Lion class were a class of four battleships for the British Royal Navy of which two were laid down and never completed. They were an elaboration of the King George V class and were intended to replace the World War I vintage Revenge class. The Revenge class had been built with economy in mind giving them a top speed of only 21 knots, and they were therefore not suitable candidates for reconstruction.
The unusual choice of 14 inch gun and the mix of quadruple and twin turrets for the King George Vs had been due to adhering to the Second London Naval Treaty, which limited capital ships to 35,000 tons standard displacement and a main calibre of 14 inches. The Lion class were to have adhered to an escalation clause in the treaty, allowing for 16 inch guns and 45,000 tons. They would have displaced between 40,500 and 42,500 tons standard and would have carried nine 16 inch guns in three triple turrets, the same as the Nelson class of 1925, although both the guns and turrets were entirely new designs. The appearance of the Lions closely followed that of the KGVs, but with a transom stern to improve steaming efficiency. Secondary armament would have been similar to the KGVs, with sixteen 5.25 inch guns in eight twin turrets, arranged in superfiring pairs on each side fore and aft of the athwartships aircraft catapult. The Lions would have been contemporaries of the US Navy's Iowa class, with both ships free of the treaty restrictions (the Treaty-conforming KGVs were contemporaries of the North Carolinas).
Four ships were planned, and the first two, Lion and Temeraire, were laid down in mid-1939. However, after the outbreak of the Second World War that year, construction was at first suspended as it was unlikely that the Lions could be completed before the probable conclusion of the war, and were thus a questionable investment. After some consideration, construction work on the two ships was halted during October 1940 to allow the shipbuilding industry to concentrate on other important vessels such as escort craft. The two partially complete hulls were scrapped on the slip during 1942–43.
Serious thought was given to resuming construction of at least one Lion to a new design immediately following the Second World War. However these proposals all came to naught due to both the financial situation of postwar Britain and the realization that, if the ships were to be given adequate protection from air attacks, the amount of deck armour they would have to carry would be excessively heavy.
In the event only two battleships were completed after World War II, the British HMS Vanguard and the French Jean Bart. Jean Bart's construction had been interrupted by the fall of France in 1940, and Vanguard had been designed during the war to take advantage of four spare turrets removed from the two Glorious class large light cruisers during their conversion to aircraft carriers during the 1920s.
- D.K. Brown, Nelson to Vanguard, 2000, Chatham Publishing