Although eventually supplanted by the submarine and the aircraft carrier, the battleship took pride of place in the navies of the first half of the twentieth century.
When the German battleship Bismarck entered service in 1941, she became the largest warship in the world, displacing the Royal Navy battlecruiser HMS Hood. In May 1941, the Bismarck sortied from Norway in the company of the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. The Germans planned to use the pair as commerce raiders, with Bismarck drawing off or destroying the capital ship escorts of any convoys, while Prinz Eugen concentrated on the merchant ships themselves. The first task force to intercept Bismarck included HMS Hood, HMS Prince of Wales, and four destroyers. HMS Prince of Wales was theoretically comparable to Bismarck, but teething problems (she had only very recently completed trials) limited her combat effectiveness. HMS Hood carried a similar armament to Bismarck (8 15” guns), but also carried twenty more years of age.
The age of the steel line-of-battleship really began in the 1880s, with the construction of a series of warships that could carry and independently aim heavy guns external to the hull. In 1905, HMS Dreadnought brought together an array of innovations in shipbuilding, propulsion, and gunnery to create a new kind of warship, one that could dominate all existing battleships.
Although eventually supplanted by the submarine and the aircraft carrier, the battleship took pride of place in the navies of the first half of the twentieth century. The mythology of of the battleship age often understates how active many of the ships were; both World War I and World War II saw numerous battleship engagements. These are the five most important battles of the dreadnought age.
Battle of Jutland:
In the years prior to World War I, Britain and Germany raced to outbuild each other, resulting in vast fleets of dreadnought battleships. The British won the race, but not by so far that they could ignore the power of the German High Seas Fleet. When war began, the Royal Navy collected most of its modern battleships into the Grand Fleet, based at Scapa Flow.
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