The first one is a chija-ch’ongt’ong which was the second largest of the cannons that appeared in the mid-1500s. The second was a pyorhwangja which was a swivel gun variant of the smallest cannon, the hwangja, which appeared during the Imjin War or shortly after. The third was a hyonja which was the second smallest.
The first one is a chija-ch’ongt’ong which was the second largest of the cannons that appeared in the mid-1500s. The second was a pyorhwangja which was a swivel gun variant of the smallest cannon, the hwangja, which appeared during the Imjin War or shortly after. The third was a hyonja which was the second smallest.
The turtle ship was equipped with Cheonja “Heaven”, Jija “Earth”, Hyeonja “Black”, and Hwangja “Yellow” type chongtong (Joseon cannons). There was also an arquebus known as Seungja (Victory). The Seungja ranged 200 metres (660 ft) while the Hwangja was the lightest but with a range of 1,200 metres (3,900 ft). According to Hae-Ill Bak, one Japanese record of the Battle of Angolpo records the experience of two Japanese commanders on July 9, 1592 in their battle against turtle ships: “their (turtle ships’) attack continued until about 6 o’clock in the afternoon by firing large fire-arrows through repeated alternate approaches, even as close as 18-30 feet. As a result, almost every part of our ships – the turret, the passages and the side shielding – were totally destroyed…”
The bolts from the Korean guns look very heavy and large. That means, with the same powder charge and quality, the range would be very limited compared to a gun firing plain metal ball, and effective range even more so with the low muzzle velocity. At this effective range the impact would be devastating though.
I can see them working as a kind of counterpart to carronades – very short range, very big punch, but… They will miss out on the bonus of carronade, which was relatively small weight for the projectile weight. Still, since the concept is already there, they may be available earlier, especially for ship armament and perhaps for sieges (though getting close enough would be a challenge). But the ship then either should have a mixed battery… Or the gun needs to be “universal” – at longer ranges firing shot, at short ranges the bolt (and extra arrangements for reloading).
But overall this style of bolts would be always tied by the need to have them sticking out. I do not really see any option to make a discarding sabot arrangement reliable enough and giving enough benefit to make such thing work in given time period. Maybe by the late 19th century you can have shells with spring-loaded fins (kinda like RPG-7) but that would be solution looking for problem at that time.
According to partially confirmed information, largest of such cannons “cheonja-chongtong” which fired 30 kg (66 pounds) heavy bolt had a maximum range of ~ 1600 m. With help of some math, I eventually ended up estimating its muzzle velocity to be around 140-170 m/s. These cannons were being improved from 15th to 18th century but except for minor improvement, there was no major overhaul.
In fact, the bolt fining cannons were gradually pushed out by Chinese take on European Culverins named Hongyipao.
Muzzle velocity of 140-170 m/s that I calculated is greatly below what the potential of black powder cannon can do, so it appears there is lot of space to improve that. However, that would require a thicker cannon, that can withstand a larger charge (Cheonja Chongtong apparently used only a bit over 1kg charge to fire the 30 kg bolt) and also making the cannon longer would improve its efficiency. Actually without making the cannon longer, the improvement we can achieve is limited.
Which is where the problem is. These bolts have to have fins to have stable flight and accuracy. And so, making the cannon longer without making the bolt longer poses a problem, as in the historical version, bolt was put into cannon in a way that fins were in front of the muzzle.
Ottoman ship-of-the-line which name is Peleng-i Bahri 1777s (Tiger-sea) with 58 guns
The first time cannons were used on Ottoman ships was during
the siege of Constantinople to hit the city walls from the sea. Guilmartin,
however, tells about a contemporary Turkish sketch preserved in Topkapi Palace
showing two Ottoman siege bombards in action and he suggests that this may
represent the earliest type of gun mount regularly used aboard galleys,
considering the similarity to a German woodcut depicting the port of Venice and
illustrating a book published in 1486. This woodcut shows a bombard, made of
wrought iron or bronze cast in ‘hooped’ form, mounted on the bow of a galley
tightly pinioned between heavy horizontal timbers lying alongside the barrel
and supported by a much heavier vertical post to absorb the recoil.
If we take a look at Ottoman ships carrying cannons,
irrespective of the century in which they were used, we see that among the ones
powered with oars were galliot (kalite), brigantine (perkende), saika (şayka)
with three guns, mahone (mavna) with 24 guns, galley (kadirga) with 13 guns and
bafltarda with three heavy guns and several light guns. Among sailing ships
carrying guns were sloops (şalope) of 12 guns, brigs (brik), ağribar
with over 30 guns, corvettes (korvet) with 20–30 guns, barça with over 80 guns,
galleons (kalyon) with 60–80 guns, three-decked galleons (üç ambarh kalyon)
with 80–120 guns, frigates (firkateyn) with 30–70 guns, kaypak/kapak with
80–100 guns and uskuna with 16 guns.
In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, beside
warships, merchant ships were observed to have guns as well. Guns required for
the merchant ships owned by the state were generally provided from the
Tophâne-i Âmire, while the ones for the private non-military ships were
purchased or hired in return for a certain amount of money.
Considering the galleons constructed following the
systematic adoption of sailing ships in 1682, we see that four out of ten
galleons were 50 zira and had 80 bronze guns while the remaining six were 45
zira and had 60 guns. These sizes seem to be comparable to the ones of European
At the beginning of the eighteenth century, 112 guns were
required for a three-decker built in 1700, and 130 guns for a big galleon kebîr
kalyon constructed in 1701. The sizes of these guns were between three and 16 kiyyes.
Broken guns or the ones needed to change were transferred to the Tophâne-i
Âmire in order to be replaced with new ones. Broken ones were melted down to be
cast into new guns.
Looking at the first-, third-, fourth- and fifth-rate
Ottoman ships between 1736 and 1739, it is seen that the Çift Aslan, a
first-rate ship, could carry 108 guns of 8-112, 22-48, 2-24, 30-18, 28-12, 18-8
pounders. The İki Bağçeli and the Büyük Gül Başh, two third-rate Ottoman ships,
had 66 guns on board each. Sixty-six guns of the İki Bağçeli consisted of 4-112,
24-48, 2-18, 28-12, 8-8 pounders, while there were 28-24, 2-18, 28-12, 8-8
pounders on the Büyük Gül Başh. A fourth-rate ship, the Yaldizh Şiahin,
carried 62 guns of 26-18, 28-12, 8-8 pounders; another fourth-rate ship, the
Mavi Aslan, had 50 guns of 22-12 and 28-8 pounders. The Mavi Firkata, another
fifth-rate ship, could carry 36 guns of 8 and 4 pounders.
Of course, these were not the only ships of the period in
question. Panzac, in addition to mentioning the gun capacities of the ships
between 1736 and 1739 as mentioned above, focuses on the ones operating in a
more limited time period. To give the gun capacity of some other ships between
1737 and 1738, the following names can be mentioned: the Çift Kaplan with 102
guns, the Sipah-i Bahr with 98 guns, the Malika-i Bahr with 98 guns, the Yaldizh
Hurma with 72 guns, the Deve Kuşu with 68 guns, the Şiadirvan
Kiçh with 68 guns, the İspinoz with 68 guns, the Küçük Gül Başh with 66 guns, the
with 66 guns, the Beyaz At with 66 guns, the Al-qasr with 62 guns, the Zülfikar
with 62 guns, the Selvi Bağçeli with 62 guns, the Yaldiz Bağçeli with 58 guns, the Ejder
with 56 guns, the Yildiz Kiçh with 54 guns, the Ay Bağçeli with 54 guns, the Sari Kuşlakh
with 54 guns, the Kirmizi Kuşlakh with 52 guns, the Yaldizh Nar
with 52 guns, the Baba Ibrahim with 52 guns, the La PremièËre with 46 guns, the
La Seconde with 46 guns, the Küçük Şiahin with 46 guns, the Serçe Kuflu
with 44 guns, the Beyaz Şiahin with 38 guns, the La Bleue with an unknown number of
guns. The following table, drawn by Panzac, gives a general idea of the rates
of the ships and the number of guns present on them for five different leading
powers of the world between 1735 and 1740.
The Ottoman navy consisted of 33 ships: 27 ships of the line
(of which four were three-deckers with 98–108 guns and 23 were two-deckers) and
six ships of the fifth rank. In the second half of the eighteenth century, as
the oared ship became obsolete, giving way to sailing ships such as the
galleon, the three-decker, the frigate and the corvette, the number of cannons
on the ships began to increase. Therefore, parallel to the growing need for
ships, the manufacture and order of new cannons and ammunition increased.
Ottoman documents often mention correspondence between authorities about the
urgent need for the manufacture of cannons to be used on galleons and other
types of ships in 1793–94. It became routine for new ships to be equipped with
cannons and shells cast, manufactured and processed in the shell works and the
Humbarahâne within the Tersâne-i Âmire.
The Ottoman authorities, including Sultan Selim III, were aware of the deficiencies of the naval ships in terms of gunnery. Selim III was so interested in contemporary war techniques and weapons that he wrote a treatise (risâle) on the subject. The second part of the treatise was on flares (fişlekler) and the third part on cannons (toplar). It seems that the Kaptan Pasha checked the treatise and stated that Ottoman naval ships were deprived of these flares and cannons, and ordered the procurement of these weapons.
Ottomans seem to have been aware that the copper-sheathing
technique, when it first appeared in Europe in the second half of the
eighteenth century, had offered significant advantages. Among them were
protection from wood-eating worm; the creation of a surface on which external
weed and shellfish could not grow; an increase in sailing speed that not only
reduced voyage times but made navigation easier, since if a vessel could move
in light winds it was less liable to drift on ocean current; the applicability
of copper sheathing to any shape or size of hull; providing an outer skin of
copper protecting the hull to some extent; holding caulking materials in
position; and reducing maintenance costs between voyages.
The disadvantages, such as high material and application
costs, the risk of galvanic action and the deterioration of iron fastenings,
and the fact that a coppered vessel could not be grounded in harbour without
considerable risk to the sheathing and thus was restricted to harbours with
water at all tides, could not prevent the Ottomans from adopting this
technology. However, some of these disadvantages were unknown to them
initially. The Ottomans learned about these as a result of prolonged naval
experiences. Thanks to academic work from the 1950s onwards, the nature, type
and properties of the molluscs and crustaceans hazardous to the timbers in the
seas surrounding Turkey have been identified.
There is considerable evidence indicating the existence and
application of this technology in ships built specifically in the reign of
Sultan Selim III. There were at least 40 ships that were sheathed with copper
between the years 1789 and 1802, mostly galleons, frigates and corvettes. This
figure must have been higher considering the imperial edict issued in 1795–96.
Indeed, it shows that the application of copper sheathing to ships proved to
bear good results and it led the Sultan to order the authorities to try hard to
outfit the remaining ships using this technology. Firmans ordering the copper
sheathing of ships were issued repeatedly. For instance, in a firman dated
1795–96, copper sheathing and painting were ordered for river ships (ince
donanma gemileri) when they were at anchor. Following the copper sheathing of
Arslan- i Bahrî and fiehbâz-i Bahrî, the same application was ordered in 1795
for Pertev-i Nusret, Ejder-i Bahrî, Âsâr-i Nusret, Bahr-i Zafer and another
three-decked galleon under construction. The estimate amount of raw copper
required for all five ships was around 60,000 kiyyes. Since this process
required casting very thin copper sheets processed twice, the copper coming
would not be suitable; instead, that from Kastamonu or Ergani would be needed.
It seems that copper-sheathing technology was limited to warships at the time.
Mahmut Raif Efendi described copper sheathing in his account
as well. He wrote that all the shipmen shared the idea that copper sheathing
was the best way to protect ships. He noted that three ships, a three-decker of
67 zirâ and six kâne, a frigate of 55 zirâ, a corvette of 37 zirâ, and a boat
(filika) for the Sultan were launched in a single day, which was something
previously unseen. The year before (1797), all of them had been sheathed with
copper, and more ships were to be sheathed in 1798. Therefore, it would not be
misleading to regard most of the ships, especially warships constructed after
1795–96, copper-sheathed. Also, the prize ships and the ones received as
presents would increase the number of shipped that were copper-clad at the
The earliest document found during this study indicating the
Ottomans’ application of the copper-sheathing technique dates back to
1792–93141 In that year, the Ottoman government ordered the copper sheathing of
a new galleon, and copper merchants were ordered to prepare copper planks on
certain models. Once the copper sellers saw the model, they declared that the
production of the model was different and would be more difficult than the one
they had used previously, and therefore it would require more labour and money.
Then the merchants were presented with lumps of unrefined copper for the
production of the copper plates for the sheathing of the galleon in question.
They were given 55 akçes per vukiyye, whereas it had been 35 akçes in the past.
However, since the new technique required the use of copper nails, which were
expensive, they found a solution by producing a new type of nail made of raw
copper and zinc (rûy-i mâye) mixed in equal proportions. In order to test the
efficiency of the new nail, they first produced five or ten test nails. After
applying them to the copper plates, the authorities were convinced that the new
method would work, so copper merchants were commissioned to cast this mixture
in return for 50 akçes per vukiyye. It is noteworthy that such a decision was
taken with the collaboration of the port commander (liman reisi), the chief
architect (baflmimar), the chief augerer of the naval arsenal (tersane
and copper merchants (bakirci esnafi). The raw materials were provided by the state
from the mahzen-i sürb.
On 30 August 1795, 5,000 vuk›yyes of raw copper were
demanded urgently from the Darphâne-i Âmire. For the copper sheathing of a
three-decked galleon under construction at the naval arsenal, 10,000 vukiyyes
of raw copper were required on 20 October 1801. Since there was not enough
copper at the mahzen-i sürb, it was provided by the Darphâne-i Âmire,
two-thirds of it low quality and one-third high quality. The cost, 6,666.5 kuruş,
was met by the seferiyye akçesi.
It seems that copper sheathing caused further changes in the
structure of materials used in the construction of ships. It was noted on 14
September 1796 that it was a tradition that bearing pintles (inecikler) mounted
on the rudders of the imperial galleons were made of iron. However, this
traditional application was changed with an imperial edict ordering the
introduction of copper sheathing of the ships constructed at the Tersâne-i Âmire
and other sites outside of Istanbul. From then on, the former iron bearing
pintles of the sheathed ships were replaced by ones made of bronze (tunç). Four
vukiyyes of tin (kali), 32 vukiyyes of raw copper (nühâs-› hâm) and 64 vukiyyes
of zinc ferment or alloy (rûy-i maye) were needed for every 100 vukiyyes of
bronze bearing pintles. Also, one k›yye of hark-i nâr was required for every
ten vukiyyes of the product. It seems that new regulations were applied to a
new frigate under construction on Limni on the same date. It was declared that
eight bearing pintles for rudders (465 vukiyyes) would be produced by Dimitri,
the chief founder at the Tersâne-i Âmire on 3 September 1796. The Ottoman
authorities continued the copper-sheathing applications in the following years.
On 3 January 1806, 30,000 kiyyes of copper were demanded from the Darphâne-i
Âmire for the re-sheathing of five naval ships with copper plates (nühas tahta)
and the repair of the copper elements of some other ships at the naval arsenal.
The Foxtrot class was the NATO reporting name of a class of diesel-electric patrol submarines that were built in the Soviet Union. The Soviet designation of this class was Project 641. The Foxtrot class was designed to replace the earlier Zulu class, which suffered from structural weaknesses and harmonic vibration problems that limited its operational depth and submerged speed. The first Foxtrot keel was laid down in 1957 and commissioned in 1958 and the last was completed in 1983. A total of 58 were built for the Soviet Navy at the Sudomekh division of the Admiralty Shipyard (now Admiralty Wharves), St. Petersburg. Additional hulls were built for other countries.
In the Cold War era, that commitment began with the massive
submarine construction programs initiated immediately after World War II-the
long-range Project 611/Zulu, the medium-range Project 613/Whiskey, and the
coastal Project 615/Quebec classes. Not only did these craft serve as the
foundation for the Soviet Navy’s torpedo-attack submarine force for many years,
but converted Zulus and Whiskeys were also the first Soviet submarines to mount
ballistic and cruise missiles, and several other ships of these designs were
employed in a broad range of research and scientific endeavors.
These construction programs were terminated in the mid-1950s
as part of the large-scale warship cancellations that followed dictator Josef
Stalin’s death in March 1953. But the cancellations also reflected the
availability of more-advanced submarine designs. Project 641 (NATO Foxtrot)
would succeed the 611/Zulu as a long-range torpedo submarine, and Project 633
(NATO Romeo) would succeed the 613/Whiskey as a medium-range submarine. There
would be no successor in the coastal category as the Soviet Navy increasingly
undertook “blue water” operations. Early Navy planning provided for the
construction of 160 Project 641/ Foxtrot submarines.
Designed by Pavel P. Pustintsev at TsKB-18 (Rubin), Project
641 was a large, good-looking submarine, 2991/2 feet (91.3 m) in length, with a
surface displacement of 1,957 tons. Armament consisted of ten 21-inch (533-mm)
torpedo tubes-six bow and four stern. Project 641/Foxtrot had three diesel
engines and three electric motors with three shafts, as in the previous Project
611/Zulu (and smaller Project 615/Quebec). Beyond the increase in range brought
about by larger size, some ballast tanks were modified for carrying fuel.
Submerged endurance was eight days at slow speeds without employing a snorkel,
an exceptional endurance for the time. The Foxtrot introduced AK-25 steel to
submarines, increasing test depth to 920 feet (280 m). The large size also
provided increased endurance, theoretically up to 90 days at sea.
The lead ship, the B-94, was laid down at the Sudomekh yard
in Leningrad on 3 October 1957; she was launched-64 percent complete-in less
than three months, on 28 December. After completion and sea trials, she was
commissioned on 25 December 1958. Through 1971 the Sudomekh Admiralty complex
completed 58 ships of this design for the Soviet Navy.
Additional units were built at Sudomekh from 1967 to 1983
specifically for transfer to Cuba (3), India (8), and Libya (6). The Indian
submarines were modified for tropical climates, with increased air conditioning
and fresh water facilities. Later, two Soviet Foxtrots were transferred to
Poland. The foreign units brought Project 641/Foxtrot production to 75
submarines, the largest submarine class to be constructed during the Cold War
except for the Project 613/Whiskey and Project 633/Romeo programs.
(Two Project 641 submarines are known to have been lost, the
B-37 was sunk in a torpedo explosion at Polnaryy in 1962 and the B-33 sank at
Vladivostok in 1991.)
The Soviet units served across the broad oceans for the next
three decades. They operated throughout the Atlantic, being deployed as far as
the Caribbean, and in the Pacific, penetrating into Hawaiian waters. And
Foxtrots were a major factor in the first U.S.-Soviet naval confrontation.
Standing on the deck of his submarine, staring at a
strange-looking torpedo, Captain First Rank Ryurik Ketov flipped up the collar
on the back of his navy blue overcoat to shield his neck from the cold. A
fading September sun coated the waters of Sayda Bay and reflected remnants of
orange and yellow from the sides of a floating crane. The crane hovered over
Ketov’s boat and lowered a purple-tipped torpedo through the loading hatch.
Within minutes the long cylinder disappeared into the forward torpedo room.
Blowing into his gloved hands to keep his nose warm, Ketov glanced at the
submarine’s conning tower. Three large white numbers were painted on the side,
but Ketov knew this label held no meaning, except to serve as a numerical decoy
for enemy eyes. The boat’s real designation was B4—B as in Bolshoi, which means
The handsome, blue-eyed Ketov inherited his B-4 Project 641
submarine—known as a Foxtrot class by NATO forces—from his former commander,
who was a drunk. Tradition dictated that submarine captains who were too
inebriated to drive their boats into port should lie below until they sobered
up. First officers took charge and positioned a broomstick on the bridge in
their captain’s stead. Atop the handle they placed the CO’s cap so that
admirals on shore peering through binoculars would raise no eyebrows. Ketov
stood watch with a broom more times than he could recall. He didn’t dislike
vodka, nor did he disapprove of his CO’s desire to partake, but Ketov felt that
a man must know his limits and learn to steer clear of such rocks when under
way. He demanded no less of his crew. Unfortunately, as his appointment to
commander required the approval of the dozen sub skippers in his group, and all
of them drank like dolphins, Ketov’s stance on alcohol held him back for a year
when he came up for promotion.
The Soviet navy formed the sixty-ninth Brigade of Project
641 submarines in the summer of 1962. Ketov and his comrade captains were
ordered to prepare for an extended deployment, which they suspected might be to
Africa or Cuba. Some wives, filled with excitement, anticipated a permanent
transfer to a warm locale.
The four subs arrived in Gadzhiyevo at Sayda Bay a month
earlier and were incorporated into the Twentieth Submarine Squadron along with
the seven missile boats. Vice Admiral Rybalko assumed command of the squadron,
and over the next thirty days, each boat was loaded with huge quantities of
fuel and stores.
Now, aboard B-4, Captain Ketov coughed into the wind and
turned to stare at the weapons security officer. Perched near the crane, the
man shouted orders and waved long arms at the fitful dockworkers. The officer’s
blue coveralls and pilotka “piss cutter” cap signified that he belonged to the
community of submariners, but Ketov knew better. The shape of a sidearm bulged
from under the man’s tunic, and his awkwardness around the boat made it obvious
that he was not a qualified submariner.
Ketov also knew that the security officer came from Moscow
with orders to help load, and then guard, the special weapon. Although he’d not
yet been briefed about the weapon, Ketov figured this torpedo with the
purple-painted nose, which stood in sharp contrast against the other gray
torpedoes on board, would probably send a radiation Geiger counter into a
Ketov looked down at the oily water that slapped against the
side of his boat. Attached by long steel cables, three sister boats of the
Soviet Red Banner Northern Fleet floated nearby. If one approached these
late-model attack subs from the front, their jet-black hulls, upward-sloping
decks, and wide conning towers with two rows of Plexiglas windows might look
menacing. The silver shimmer of their sonar panels, running across the bow like
wide strips of duct tape, might appear odd. The reflective panels of the
passive acoustic antenna, jutting from the deck near the bow, might look
borrowed from the set of a science-fiction movie. But the seasoned sailors on
the decks of these workhorses were unmistakably Russian, and undeniably
Ketov strutted across the wooden brow that connected B-4 to
the pier. Two guards, with AK-47 assault rifles slung on their shoulders,
snapped to and saluted. Ice crunched under his boots as he walked toward a
small shed less than a hundred meters away. Captain Second Rank Aleksei
Dubivko, commander of B-36, matched his stride and let out a baritone grunt.
“Did they give you one of those purple-nosed torpedoes?”
“Yes,” Ketov answered, “they did.”
Although the round-faced commander was about Ketov’s height
of five foot seven, Dubivko’s stocky frame stretched at the stitches of his
overcoat. He let out another grunt and said, “Why are they giving us
nuclear-tipped weapons? Are we starting a war?”
Dubivko’s boots clicked on the ice as he hurried to keep up
with Ketov. “We haven’t even tested these weapons. We haven’t trained our
crews. They have fifteen-megaton warheads.”
“So if we use them, we’ll wipe out everything within a
sixteen-kilometer radius. Including ourselves.”
Ketov neared the door of the shed and stopped to face
Dubivko. “Then let’s hope we never have to use them.”
Dubivko let out a low growl and followed Ketov into the
Inside, Captain First Rank Nikolai Shumkov, commander of
submarine B-130, stood by the door. Only a few stress lines underscored his
brown eyes and marked his boyish features. Next to Shumkov, Captain Second Rank
Vitali Savitsky, commander of B-59, appeared tired and bored. None of them had
slept much since their trip from Polyarny to Sayda Bay.
The tiny shed, once used for storage, offered no windows. A
single dim bulb hung from the ceiling and cast eerie shadows inside. Someone
had nailed the Order of Ushakov Submarine Squadron flag on one wall. The
unevenly placed red banner, fringed in gold and smeared with water stains,
appeared as if hung by a child in a hurry. In one corner sat a small stove that
flickered with yellow sparks but offered little warmth. The air smelled of
One metal table graced the center of the room, where the
squadron commander, Leonid Rybalko, sat with his arms crossed. Ketov noticed
that the vice admiral shivered, despite being bundled in a dark navy greatcoat
and wool senior officers’ mushanka cap. The tall, broad-shouldered Rybalko had
a reputation for analytical brilliance and a smooth, engaging wit. A dedicated
performer, Rybalko exuded the confidence and mastery of a seasoned leader.
To the side and behind Rybalko, the deputy supreme commander
of the Navy Fleet, Admiral Vitali Fokin, fidgeted with his watch. Thin and
lofty, Fokin kept his back straight. Ketov deduced that Fokin, given his close
relationship with Fleet Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, held the reins of what ever
mission they were about to undertake. A slew of other officers filled the room,
including Anatoly Rossokho, the two-star vice admiral chief of staff. Ketov
suspected that Rossokho was here to define their rules of engagement about
using the special nuclear torpedoes.
Vice Admiral Rybalko motioned for everyone to find a seat.
He coughed and brought a handkerchief to his lips to spit out a clump of mucus.
His face looked pale and sickly. He locked his eyes on each submarine commander
one at a time. When he looked at Ketov, those few moments seemed like days.
“Good morning, Commanders,” Rybalko said. “Today is an
important day. I’m not going to discuss mission details, as we’ve included
those in your sealed briefings, which you will open under way. So instead we
will focus on other aspects of your mission.”
Metal clanked as an attendant creaked open the front panel
on the hot stove and dumped in another can of coal pellets.
Rybalko continued. “I’m sure you all know Admiral Fokin. He
asked me to emphasize that each of you has been entrusted with the highest
responsibility imaginable. Your actions and decisions on this mission could
start or prevent a world war. The four of you have been given the means with
which to impose substantial harm upon the enemy. Discretion must be used.
Fortunately, our intelligence sources report that American antisubmarine
warfare activity should be light during your transit.”
Ketov hoped that the ASW intelligence report was correct but
feared that optimism probably overruled reality. He glanced at the other sub
commanders. Dubivko and Shumkov wore excited smiles. Savitsky, who’d earned the
nickname “Sweat Stains” because he was always perspiring about something,
wrinkled his brow. Ketov, who received the title of “Comrade Cautious,” shared
Savitsky’s angst. As adventurous as this might seem to Dubivko and Shumkov,
Ketov knew Project 641 submarines were not designed for extended runs into hot
tropical waters and had no business carrying nuclear torpedoes.
Rybalko imparted more information, concluded his speech, and
asked if anyone had questions.
Ketov raised a hand. “I do, Comrade Admiral. I understand
that our sealed orders provide mission details, but we share concerns about our
rules of engagement and the special weapon. When should we use it?”
Vice Admiral Rossokho broke in. “Comrade Commanders, you
will enter the following instructions into your logs when you return to your
submarines: Use of the special weapons is authorized only for these three
situations—One, you are depth charged, and your pressure hull is ruptured. Two,
you surface, and enemy fire ruptures your pressure hull. Three, upon receipt of
explicit orders from Moscow.”
There were no further questions.
After the meeting, Ketov followed the group out into the cold.
A witch’s moon clung to the black sky and hid behind a dense fog that touched
the ground with icy fingers. Ketov reached into his coat pocket and took out a
cigarette. Dubivko, standing nearby, held up a lighter. Ketov bent down to
accept the flame. Captains Shumkov and Savitsky also lit smokes as they
shivered in the dark.
Between puffs, Ketov posed the first question to Captain
Savitsky. “How are your diesels holding up?”
Savitsky cringed. “No problems yet, but I’m still worried
about what might happen after they’ve been run hard for weeks. If they fail on
this mission…” Savitsky’s voice trailed off as he shook his head.
Ketov knew that shipyard workers had discovered flaws in
B-130’s diesel engines during the boat’s construction. The shipyard dismissed
the hairline cracks as negligible, and Savitsky did not press the issue, as to
do so would have resulted in his sub’s removal from the mission. Still, he
fretted endlessly about the consequences.
Sensing his friend’s distress, Ketov changed the subject.
“Have you seen those ridiculous khaki trousers they delivered?”
“I’m not wearing those,” Savitsky said.
“I wouldn’t either,” Shumkov said, “if I had your skinny
Savitsky snorted and threw his head back. “I’d like to see
how you look in those shorts, Comrade Flabby Ass.”
“Right now,” Dubivko said as he pulled his coat tighter,
“I’d rather look like a duck in shorts than a penguin in an overcoat.”
Ketov smiled and shook his head. “I’m going back to my boat,
try on those silly shorts, and have a long laugh and a can of caviar.”
“And maybe some vodka?” Shumkov said.
“I wish,” Ketov said. “We cast lines at midnight.”
Shumkov nodded and said nothing.
Savitsky raised his chin toward Ketov. “Do you think we’re
coming back or staying there permanently?”
Ketov shrugged. “All I know is that we can’t wear those
stupid shorts in this weather.”
Back on board B-4, Captain Ketov sat on the bunk in his
cabin and stroked the soft fur of the boat’s cat. “It’s time to go, Pasha.”
Over the past year, the calico had become a close member of
B-4’s family. Like many Russian submarines, B-4 enlisted the services of
felines to hunt down rats that managed to find their way on board, usually by
way of one of the shorelines. Boats often carried at least one or two cats on
board, and the furry creatures spent their entire lives roaming the decks in
search of snacks and curling up next to sailors on bunks. Unfortunately, for
reasons unknown, headquarters decreed that cats were forbidden on this journey.
Given no choice, Ketov found a good home for Pasha with a friend who could care
for her and keep her safe.
As Pasha purred by his side, Ketov reached for a can of
tuna. “The least I can do is give you a nice snack before we leave.”
Ketov thought about his mother, still living in the rural
Siberian village of Kurgan. She’d lost her husband to one war; would she now
sacrifice her first born son? When Ketov was thirteen, his father, who was an
accountant with bad eyesight, was forced to fight in the battle at Leningrad.
He was killed in his first engagement. Ketov became the man of the house and
helped support his younger siblings and his mother, who earned a meager
teacher’s salary. He could still not explain why, but the day he turned
eighteen, one year after the war ended, he took the train to Moscow and
enrolled in the naval college. He also had no explanation for why he’d jumped
at the chance to serve aboard submarines. He only knew that, despite the
sacrifices and often miserable conditions on the boats, no other life could
fulfill him like the one under the sea.
A few minutes past midnight on October 1, 1962, Captain
Ketov stood on the bridge of B-4 and watched Captain Savitsky cast off lines
and guide B-59 away from the pier using her quiet electric motors. Captain
Vasily Arkhipov, the brigade’s chief of staff, stood next to Savitsky in the
small cockpit up in the conning tower. A flurry of snow mingled with the fog
and dusted the boat’s black hull with streaks of white. Thirty minutes later,
B-36, commanded by Dubivko, followed in the wake of her sister sub and
disappeared into the darkness of the bay. After another thirty minutes,
Shumkov, in B-130, followed by Ketov in B-4, maneuvered away from the pier.
Ketov stared into the blackness as the three subs ahead of him, all with
running lights off, vanished into the night. Then he heard the low rumble of
B-59’s diesel engines, signaling that Savitsky had cleared the channel and
commenced one of the most important missions undertaken by the Russian navy
since World War II.
Full-scale replica of a Dutch sailing ship – a
VOC-ship in the Golden Century of Holland.
The “Prins Willem”, built in 1651 at
Middelburg, Zeeland (the Netherlands) was one of the largest of East Indiamen
to be constructed during the 17th Century.
Built to withstand long and often hazardous sea
voyages, the East Indiaman enabled the Dutch East Indie Company to participate
in the highly profitable trade with Asia and contributed to the Netherlands’
dominance of world trade during the 17th Century.
The “Prins Willem” was seconded to the Dutch
Navy during the First Anglo-Dutch War. The ship was the flagship of Witte de
With in the Battle of the Kentish Knock during the First Anglo-Dutch War..
After returning to the merchant navy, the “Prins Willem” made five
journeys to South East Asia along the lucrative spice route, before being
wrecked off the island of Brandon on the return voyage to the Netherlands in February
A full-scale replica was recently built in Holland and
shipped to Japan to be a major attraction in Nagasaki Holland Village, in Omura
(Japan), a Dutch-themed amusement center.
To maximize their competitive advantage, the government
persuaded the many competing trading companies to pool their financial assets
to create the United Netherlands Chartered East India Company (Verenigde
Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC) in 1602. Under the charter granted by the States
General to the VOC, the company was granted monopoly rights to trade and
navigation for 21 years over the vast reaches east of the Cape of Good Hope and
west of the Straits of Magellan. The company consisted of chambers (kamers) in
six port cities-Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Delft, Enkhuizen, Middelburg, and
Hoorn-made up of individuals chosen from the community of wealthy merchants and
bankers. The chambers assigned from their members delegates to sit on the
central board of 17 directors (Heeren XVII), the number allotted each chamber
based on the regional representation of capital in shares contributed.
Amsterdam held the largest number of seats at eight. The company was given the
power to conclude treaties of alliance and peace, to wage defensive war, and to
build forts and trading posts.
Backed by the government’s blessing, the VOC constituted the
world’s first trading company based on permanent shares of capital. Fitted out
with gunpowder and cannonballs, fleets were dispatched to the East Indies-more
than a year’s journey away-to take Portuguese military/trading posts by force.
In 1605 armed merchantmen captured the Portuguese fort at Amboina, in the
Moluccan Islands, which the VOC then established as its first secure base in
the Indies. In the midst of declaring dazzling dividends that jumped from 50
percent in 1606 to 329 percent in 1609, the company soon emerged as master of
the spice trade. The Dutch seized Jakarta in 1619, renaming it Batavia and
making it the administrative center of the Netherlands East Indies. Interloping
English traders on Amboina were massacred in 1623. By the mid-17th century, the
company operated as a virtual state within a state, the distance from the
homeland and the wealth its ships brought home compelling the States General to
leave the fi rm alone and give it virtually a free hand in the East Indies. The
richest private company in the world, in 1670 the VOC counted 150 merchant
ships, 40 warships, a private army, and 50,000 employees.
Employing ruthless methods to push their competitors aside,
the company moved beyond the Indies to drive the Portuguese systematically from
the trading posts they had held for a century in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and on the
South Asian subcontinent. By 1658 they held all of coastal Ceylon and, a decade
later, they occupied isolated trading stations on the southern coasts of India.
Moving farther afield, they founded Fort Zeelandia on Formosa (now Taiwan) in
1624, drove the Portuguese out of southern bases on the island and, in 1641,
pushed the Spanish from northern holdings, before the Dutch in turn were
expelled by Chinese arriving from the mainland in 1662. Regular trading
relations were also established with Japan. From 1641 to 1854 the Dutch were
the only Europeans permitted to trade there, exchanging European goods for
Japanese gold, silver, and lacquerware from their isolated island post of
Deshima in Nagasaki Bay.
Within only a few short decades, East Indiamen ships had won
fame for the seemingly irrepressible daring of their captains and crews. South
and east of Batavia they pressed on to within sight of western Australia’s
barren shore and Abel Tasman (1603-59) sailed beyond the continent’s east coast
to discover Tasmania, Fiji, and New Zealand. Jacob Le Maire (c. 1585-1616) and
Willem Schouten (c. 1567-1625) sailed two vessels from Texel in 1615 west
across the Atlantic, discovering a new route to the East Indies through Cape
Horn, rounded for the first time on January 29, 1616, and which Schouten named
for his birthplace. They sailed in search of gold, but they found none, leaving
instead a legacy in new island discoveries, including the Admiralty Islands and
the Schouten Islands in the southwest Pacific.
Enticed east by spices, the Dutch traveled west in search of
salt, their sources in Portugal closed by Spain in 1621. The Dutch West India
Company (Geoctroyeerde West-Indische Compagnie, WIC) was chartered that year,
under a central governing board of 19 members (Heeren XIX), to finance
incursions into the Spanish and Portuguese Americas, where the Venezuelan
coastal pans in particular furnished a fine natural salt with which to preserve
the fishing fleets’ catch. Caribbean waters offered added benefits in goods
from contraband trading with Spanish settlements and in booty seized from
preying on Spanish ships. The capture by Piet Heyn (1577-1629) of the Spanish
silver fleet in 1628 assumed mythic status in the Dutch historical memory.
Anxious to secure trading depots on Caribbean islands, the
WIC occupied Curaçao, the largest of the Leeward Islands and one that had long
been abandoned by the Spanish, in 1634. Aruba was seized in 1636 and the Dutch,
together with the French, drove the Spanish from Sint Maarten, which they
divided between them in 1648. Sint Eustatius (Statia) was colonized by the
company in 1636 with settlers from Zeeland, and Saba with those from Sint
Eustatius in about 1640. Colonies were founded in Guyana (1625-1803), Brazil
(1630-54), Suriname (1667-1975), and Demarara (1667-1814). The WIC under its
governor-general John Maurits of Nassau-Siegen (1604-79) made an especially
vigorous effort to occupy northeastern coastal areas of Brazil. The Dutch
transformed the region into a profitable colony, largely through sugar
production, and Jewish merchants arrived to set up operations at Recife before
Dutch colonizers were ousted by the Portuguese, the discoverers of the country,
who returned in force in 1654.
Colonists on Sint Eustatius first planted tobacco but soon
switched to sugar, and sugar plantations established throughout the Dutch
Caribbean islands furnished the bulk of Europe’s supply in the 17th century. On
Sint Eustatius as well as on Curaçao, the largest of the Leeward Islands, the
WIC established slave depots for trade with the continental Americas.
A fashion fad in Europe for furs drew the Dutch north. In
Dutch service, Englishman Henry Hudson (1565-1611) in 1609 sailed his De Halve
Maan (The Half Moon), a brand-new ship with a crew of eight Englishmen and
eight Dutchmen, up the river later named for him and, in doing so, laid claim
to one of the most strategically significant slices of the North American mainland.
The first permanent settlement of Fort Orange (just south of present-day
Albany, New York) was founded in 1614 to trade directly with Native Americans
for beaver pelts even before the settlement of New Amsterdam was made in 1626
on Manhattan island, famously purchased by Governor Peter Minuit (1580-1638)
for 60 guilders ($24) worth of goods. Unlike elsewhere in their empire where
the Dutch preferred not to plant settlements but rather to set up military
trading posts at strategic spots to which the native inhabitants would come to
trade, their North American territory became a real colony. Not only soldiers
and WIC employees came but also ordinary settlers, who arrived intending to
stay. Its history short (1614-64) and tempestuous, marked by wars with Native
American tribes, threats from intruding Swedes and English, and, above all,
neglect by a ruling company-wholly engrossed in the struggle against Spain-more
intent on privateering and profitmaking than attracting emigrants, New
Netherland managed, nevertheless, to bequeath a scattering of settlements from
western Long Island up the Hudson and Mohawk rivers as far as present-day
Schenectady, New York, that has left an enduring legacy in place-names,
folklore, and English-language loanwords.
Under the auspices of the VOC, Jan van Riebeeck (1619-77)
founded Cape Town, southern Africa’s oldest settlement, in 1652. At first a
watering place for ships bound to and from the Far East, the Cape Colony saw
settlers start to arrive by the end of the 17th century. By then a series of
forts and trading posts dotted the West African coast, first serving as
watering stations but soon also operating as slave markets to meet the constant
need of Dutch New World plantations for such labor. Curaçao, in particular,
grew wealthy on the trade. In 1637 the Dutch wrested Elmina from the
Portuguese, their strongest fortification on the Guinea coast. They also sold
captive labor to other nations, bringing the first 19 slaves, captured from a
Spanish slave ship, to Virginia in 1619, and, from 1663 to 1701, Dutch traders
held the state contract (asiento) for transport of African slaves to Spain’s
American colonies. Global trading ties gave a cosmopolitan character to the
major cities, especially those in Holland, that was probably unmatched in
Europe. The Dutch acquired a fl air for foreign languages that they have
retained ever since. A traveler remarked: “There is no Part of Europe so
haunted with all sorts of foreigners as the Netherlands, which makes the
Inhabitants as well Women as Men, so well versed in all sorts of Languages, so
that, in Exchange-time, one may hear 7 or 8 sorts of Tongues spoken. . .
.” (Howell 1753, 103).
Early medieval Europeans received from their predecessors
two broad ranges of wooden shipbuilding traditions, one in the Mediterranean
and the other in the northern seas. At the same time Chinese shipwrights had
already developed the central features of the design of the junk. Its
watertight compartments, adjustable keel, and highly flexible number of masts
each carrying a lug sail with battens, made the junk a highly versatile and
reliable seagoing ship. Junks by the year 1000 were much larger than any ships
in Europe or in the great oceanic area where a Malaysian shipbuilding tradition
predominated. There, ocean-going rafts with outriggers or twin hulls and rigged
with, at first, bipole masts ranged much more widely than vessels from any
other part of the world carrying the designs and building practices across the
Indian Ocean to Madagascar and around the Pacific Ocean to the islands of
Polynesia. Along the shores of the Arabian Sea shipbuilders constructed dhows,
relatively shallow cargo vessels rigged with a single triangular or lateen
sail. The planks of the hulls were typically sewn together with pieces of rope,
a loose system which made the hull flexible, and so able to handle rough seas,
but not very watertight. There were also serious limitations on how big such
hulls could be built, unlike junks where vessels of one thousand tons and more
seem to have been feasible.
Roman shipbuilders followed Greek practices in building
their hulls with mortise and tenon joints. Wedges or tenons were placed in
cavities or mortises gouged out of the planks and held in place by wooden nails
passed through the hull planks and the tenons. In the Roman Empire the methods
of fastening predominated on all parts of ships, including the decks, and the
tenons were very close to each other. The resulting hull was extremely strong,
heavy, and sturdy so the internal framing was minimal. The hull was also very
watertight but even so the surface was often covered with wax or even copper
sheathing to protect it from attack by shipworm (Teredo navalis). Propulsion
came from a single square sail stepped near the middle of the ship. Often the
mainsail was supplemented with a small square sail slung under the bowsprit.
Roman shipbuilders produced vessels of two general categories, round ships with
length-to-breadth ratios of about 3:1 propelled entirely by sails, and galleys
with length-to-breadth ratios of about 5:1 propelled both by the standard rig
and by oars. Although it was possible to have multiple banks of rowers, in the
Roman Empire there was typically only one, with each rower handling a single
oar. Shipbuilders gave all those vessels at least one but often two side
rudders for control.
As the economy declined in the early Middle Ages and the
supply of skilled labor was reduced, the quality of shipbuilding deteriorated.
The distance between mortise and tenon joints increased, and on the upper parts
of hulls such joints disappeared entirely with planks merely pinned to internal
frames. The trend led by the end of the first millennium C.E. to a new form of
hull construction. Instead of relying on the exterior hull for strength,
shipbuilders transferred the task of maintaining the integrity of the vessel to
the internal frame. The process of ship construction as a result reversed, with
the internal ribs set up first and then the hull planks added. The planks were
still fitted end-to-end as with the old method but now to maintain
watertightness they needed to be caulked more extensively and more regularly. The
internal frames gave shape to the hull so their design became much more
important. The designer of those frames in turn took on a significantly higher
status, the hewers of the planks a lesser position. The new type of
skeleton-first construction made for a lighter and more flexible ship which was
easier to build, needed less wood, but required more maintenance. Increasing
the scale of the ship or changing the shape of the hull was now easier.
Builders used the new kind of construction both on large sailing round ships
and oared galleys.
In the course of the early Middle Ages Mediterranean vessels
went through a change in rigging as well. Triangular lateen sails were in use
in classical Greece and Rome for small vessels. As big ships disappeared with
the decline of the Roman Empire and economy the lateen sail came to dominate
and square sails all but disappeared. Lateen sails had the advantage of making
it possible to sail closer to the wind. Lateen sails had the disadvantage that
when coming about, that is changing course by something of the order of ninety
degrees, the yard from which the sail was hung had to be moved to the other
side of the mast. In order to do that the yard had to be carried over the top
of the mast, which was a clumsy, complex, and manpower-hungry operation. There
was a limitation then on the size of sails and thus on the size of ships. It
was possible to add a second mast, which shipbuilders often did both on galleys
and on round ships since that was the only way to increase total sail area.
Northern European Practice
Shipbuilders around the Baltic and North Seas in the early
Middle Ages produced a variety of different types of vessels which were the
ancestors of a range of craft that melded together over the years to create one
principal kind of sailing ship. The rowing barge was a simple vessel with
overlapping planking. The planks could be held fast by ropes but over time
shipbuilders turned to wooden nails or iron rivets for the purpose. That type
of lapstrake construction for hulls meant that internal ribs were of little
importance in strengthening the hull. At first shipwrights used long planks
running from bow to stern but they discovered that by scarfing shorter pieces
together not only did they eliminate a constraint on the length of their
vessels but they also increased the flexibility of the hulls. At some point,
probably in the eighth century, the rowing barge got a real keel and also a
single square sail on a single mast stepped in the middle of the ship. The new
type, with both ends looking much the same, was an effective open ocean sailor.
Scandinavian shipbuilders produced broadly two versions of what can be called
the Viking ship after its most famous users. One version was low, and fitted
with oars and a mast that could be taken down or put up quickly and with a
length-to-breadth ratio of 5:1 or 6:1. The other version had a fixed mast, few
if any oars at the bow and stern which were there just to help in difficult
circumstances, and a length-to-breadth ratio of around 3:1. Both types had a
single side rudder which apparently gave a high degree of control. The Viking
ship evolved into a versatile cargo ship which was also effective as a military
transport and warship. Often called a keel because of one of the features which
allowed it to take to the open ocean, it was produced in variations throughout
northern Europe and along the Atlantic front as far south as Iberia.
The other types that came from early medieval northern
shipyards were more limited in size and complexity. The hulk had a very simple
system of planking which gave way over time to lapstrake construction. The hull
had the form of a banana and there was no keel so it proved effective in use on
rivers and in estuaries. The hull planks, because of the shape of the hull, met
at the bow in a unique way and were often held in place by tying them together.
Rigging was a single square sail on a single mast which could be, in the case
of vessels designed for river travel, set well forward. The cog had a very
different form from the hulk. While the planks on the sides overlapped there
was a sharp angle between those side planks and the ones on the bottom. Those
bottom planks were placed end-to-end and the floor was virtually flat. With
posts at either end almost vertical the hull was somewhat box-like. The type
was suited to use on tidal flats where it could rest squarely on the bottom
when the tide was out, be unloaded and loaded, and then float off when the tide
came in. There was a single square sail on a single mast placed in the middle
of the ship. The design certainly had Celtic origins but it was transformed by
shipwrights in the High Middle Ages to make it into the dominant cargo and
military vessel of the North.
Shipbuilders, possibly in the Low Countries, gave the cog a
keel. In doing that they also made changes in the form of the hull, overlapping
the bottom planks and modifying the sharp angles between the bottom and side
planks. The result was a still box-like hull which had greater carrying
capacity per unit length than keels. The cog could also be built higher than
its predecessors but that meant passing heavy squared timbers through from one
side to the other high in the ship to keep the sides in place. Shipbuilders
fitted the hull planks into the heavy posts at the bow and stern and also fixed
a rudder to the sternpost which was more stable than a side rudder. In the long
run it would prove more efficient as well. Cogs could be and were made much
larger than other contemporary vessels. Greater size meant a need for a larger
sail and a larger crew to raise it. To get more sail area sailors added a
bonnet, an extra rectangular piece of canvas that could be temporarily sewn to
the bottom of the sail. That gave the mariners greater flexibility in deploying
canvas without increasing manning requirements. Riding higher in the water and
able to carry larger numbers of men than other contemporary types cogs became
the standard vessels of northern naval forces, doubling as cargo ships in
While the two shipbuilding traditions of the Mediterranean
and northern Europe remained largely isolated through the early and High Middle
Ages, from the late thirteenth century both benefited from extensive contact
and borrowing of designs and building methods. Sailors in southern Europe used
the cog certainly by the beginning of the fourteenth century and probably
earlier. Shipwrights in the Mediterranean appreciated the advantages of greater
carrying capacity but they were also conscious of the limitations set by the
simple rig. They added a second mast near the stern and fitted it with a lateen
sail. They also changed the form of hull construction, going over to
skeleton-first building. The result was the carrack, in use by the late
fourteenth century. It was easier to build, probably lighter than a cog of the
same size, and could be built bigger. Most of all the two masts and the
presence of a triangular sail gave mariners greater control over their vessels
and made it possible for them to sail closer to the wind. The next logical
step, taken sometime around the end of the fourteenth century, was to add a
third small mast near the bow to balance the one at the stern. The driving sail
and principal source of propulsion was still the mainsail on the mainmast but
the combination or full-rig made ships more maneuverable and able to sail in a
greater variety of conditions. While older forms of ships, such as the keel or
the cog or the lateen-rigged cargo ship of the Mediterranean, did not by any
means disappear, the full-rigged ship came to dominate exchange over longer
distances, especially in the form of the full-rigged carrack travelling between
southern and northern Europe. Northern Europeans were slow to adapt to
skeleton-first hull construction, in some cases even combining old methods with
the new one. By the end of the fifteenth century the full-rigged ship was the
preferred vessel for many intra-European trades, in part because of its
handling qualities, in part because of its versatility, and in part because its
crew size could be reduced per ton of goods carried compared to other types.
The greater range also led to its replacing, for example, the simpler, lower,
lateen-rigged caravel in Portuguese voyages of exploration along the west coast
of Africa. Full-rigged ships in daily use were the choice for voyages of
exploration and became in the Renaissance the vehicles for European domination
of the ocean seas and for the resulting international trading connections and
The Arabian Peninsula, surrounded by the Red Sea, the Indian
Ocean, and the Arabian (or Persian) Gulf, had a geostrategic position in
relations between East and West. Before the beginning of Islam in 622 the Arabs
had had some nautical experience which was reflected in the Qur’an (VI, 97: “It
is He who created for you the stars, so that they may guide you in the darkness
of land and sea”; XIV, 32: “He drives the ships which by His leave sail the
ocean in your service”; XVI, 14: “It is He who has subjected to you the ocean
so that you may eat of its fresh fish and you bring up from it ornaments with
which to adorn your persons. Behold the ships plowing their course through
it.”) and in ancient poetry (some verses of the poets Tarafa, al-A‘sha’, ‘Amr
Ibn Kulthum, and others). Arabs used the sea for transporting goods from or to
the next coasts and for the exploitation of its resources (fish, pearls, and
coral). However, their experience in maritime matters was limited due to the
very rugged coastline of Arabia with its many reefs and was limited to people
living on the coast. Because they lacked iron, Arab shipwrights did not use
nails, but rather secured the timbers with string made from palm tree thread,
caulked them with oakum from palm trees, and covered them with shark fat. This
system provided the ships with the necessary flexibility to avoid the numerous
reefs. The Andalusi Ibn Jubayr and the Magribi Ibn Battuta confirm these
practices in the accounts of their travels that brought them to this area in
the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, respectively. Ibn Battuta also notes
that in the Red Sea people used to sail only from sunrise to sunset and by
night they brought the ships ashore because of the reefs. The captain, called
the rubban, always stood at the bow to warn the helmsman of reefs.
The regularity of the trade winds, as well as the eastward
expansion of Islam, brought the Arabs into the commercial world of the Indian
Ocean, an experience that was reflected in a genre of literature which mixes
reality and fantasy. Typical are the stories found in the Akhbar al-Sin
wa-l-Hind (News of China and India) and ’Aja’ib al-Hind (Wonders of India), as
well as the tales of Sinbad the Sailor from the popular One Thousand and One
Nights. But medieval navigation was also reflected in the works of the pilots
such as *Ahmad Ibn Majid (whose book on navigation has been translated into
English) and Sulayman al-Mahri.
In the Mediterranean
The conquests by the Arabs of Syria and Egypt in the seventh
century gave them access to the Mediterranean, which they called Bahr al-Rum
(Byzantine Sea) or Bahr al-Sham (Syrian Sea). Nautical conditions were very
different in this sea: irregular but moderate winds, no heavy swells, and a
mountainous coastline that provided ample visual guides for the sailors on days
with good visibility. The Arabs took advantage of the pre-existing nautical
traditions of the Mediterranean peoples they defeated. In addition, we have
evidence for the migration of Persian craftsmen to the Syrian coast to work in
ship building, just as, later on, some Egyptian craftsmen worked in Tunisian
The Arab conquests of the Iberian Peninsula (al-Andalus) and
islands such as Sicily, Crete, and Cyprus set off a struggle between Christian
and Muslim powers for control of the Mediterranean for trade, travel, and
communications in general. Different Arab states exercised naval domination of
the Mediterranean, especially during the tenth century. According to the
historian Ibn Khaldun, warships were commanded by a qa’id, who was in charge of
military matters, armaments, and soldiers, and a technical chief, the ra’is,
responsible for purely naval tasks. As the Arabs developed commercial traffic
in Mediterranean waters, they developed a body of maritime law which was
codified in the Kitab Akriyat al-sufun (The Book of Chartering Ships). From the
end of the tenth century and throughout the eleventh, Muslim naval power
gradually began to lose its superiority.
In navigation technique, the compass reached al-Andalus by
the eleventh century, permitting mariners to chart courses with directions
added to the distances of the ancient voyages. The next step was the drawing of
navigational charts which were common by the end of the thirteenth century. Ibn
Khaldun states that the Mediterranean coasts were drawn on sheets called
kunbas, used by the sailors as guides because the winds and the routes were
indicated on them.
In the Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic coasts of Europe and Africa, despite their
marginal situation with respect to the known world at that time, had an active
maritime life. The Arabs usually called this Ocean al-Bahr al-Muhit (“the
Encircling or Surrounding Sea”), sometimes al-Bahr al-Azam (“the Biggest Sea”),
al-Bahr al-Akhdar (“the Green Sea”) or al-Bahr al-Garbi (“the Western Sea”) and
at other times al-Bahr al-Muzlim (“the Gloomy Sea”) or Bahr al-Zulumat (“Sea of
Darkness”), because of its numerous banks and its propensity for fog and
storms. Few sailors navigated in the open Atlantic, preferring to sail without
losing sight of the coast. The geographer *al-Idrisi in the middle of the
twelfth century informs us so: “Nobody knows what there is in that sea, nor can
ascertain it, because of the difficulties that deep fogs, the height of the
waves, the frequent storms, the innumerable monsters that dwell there, and
strong winds offer to navigation. In this sea, however, there are many islands,
both peopled and uninhabited. No mariners dare sail the high seas; they limit
themselves to coasting, always in sight of land.” Other geographers, including
Yaqut and al-Himyari, mention this short-haul, cabotage style of navigation.
Yaqut observes that, on the other side of the world, in the faraway lands of
China, people did not sail across the sea either. And al-Himyari specifies that
the Atlantic coasts are sailed from the “country of the black people” north to
Brittany. In the fourteenth century, Ibn Khaldun attributed the reluctance of
sailors to penetrate the Ocean to the inexistence of nautical charts with
indications of the winds and their directions that could be used to guide
pilots, as Mediterranean charts did. Nevertheless, Arab authors describe some
maritime adventurers who did embark on voyages of exploration.
Only on the great rivers such as the Tigris, the Euphrates,
the Nile and, in the West, the Guadalquivir was there significant navigation.
It was common to establish ports in the estuaries of rivers to make use of the
banks to protect the ships.
Two important innovations used by the Arabs in medieval
period are worthy of mention: the triangular lateen sail (also called
staysail), and the sternpost rudder. The lateen sail made it possible to sail
into the wind and was widely adopted in the Mediterranean Sea, in view of its
irregular winds. The Eastern geographer Ibn Hawqal, in the tenth century,
described seeing vessels in the Nile River that were sailing in opposite
directions even though they were propelled by the same wind. To mount only one
rudder in the sternpost which could be operated only by one person proved
vastly more efficient that the two traditional lateral oars it replaced.
Although some researchers assert that this type of rudder originated in
Scandinavia and then diffused to the Mediterranean Sea, eventually reaching the
Arabs, it is most likely a Chinese invention which, thanks to the Arabs,
reached the Mediterranean.
The Arabs made great strides in astronomical navigation in
the medieval period. With the help of astronomical tables and calendars, Arab
sailors could ascertain solar longitude at a given moment and, after
calculating the Sun’s altitude as it comes through the Meridian with an astrolabe
or a simple quadrant, they could know the latitude of the place they were in.
At night, they navigated by the altitude of the Pole Star. For this operation
Arab sailors in the Indian Ocean used a simple wooden block with a knotted
string called the kamal which was used to take celestial altitudes. They also
knew how to correct Pole Star observations to find the true North. Ibn Majid,
for example, made this correction with the help of the constellation called
Farqadan, which can only be seen in equatorial seas.
The determination of the longitude was a problem without a
practical solution until the invention of the chronometer in the eighteenth
century. Arab sailors probably may have used a sand clock to measure time,
because they knew how to produce a type of glass that was not affected by
weather conditions. So they could estimate the distance that the ship had
already covered, even though speed could not be accurately determined. The
navigational time unit used was called majra, which the geographer Abu l-Fida’
defines as “the distance that the ship covers in a day and a night with a
following wind,” a nautical day that it is the rough equivalent of one hundred
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Gardiner, Robert, ed. The Earliest Ships: the Evolution of
Boats into Ships. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1996.
——, ed. Cogs, Caravels and Galleons The Sailing Ship
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Hutchinson, Gillian. Medieval Ships and Shipping.
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Lane, Frederic C. Venetian Ships and Shipbuilders of the Renaissance.
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Lewis, Archibald R. and Timothy J. Runyan. European Naval
and Maritime History, 300–1500. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985.
McGrail, Seán. Boats of the World from the Stone Age to
Medieval Times. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Pryor, J. H. Geography, Technology and War: Studies in the
Maritime History of the Mediterranean 649–1571. New York: Cambridge University
Unger, Richard W. The Ship in the Medieval Economy,
600–1600. London: Croom-Helm Ltd., 1980.
Fahmy, Aly Mohamed. Muslim Naval Organisation in the Eastern
Mediterranean from the Seventh to the Tenth Century A.D. 2 vols. Cairo: General
Egyptian Book Organisation, 1980.
Lewis, Archibald Ross. Naval Power and Trade in the
Mediterranean, A. D. 500–1000. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951.
Lirola Delgado, Jorge. El poder naval de Al-Andalus en la
época del Califato Omeya. Granada: Universidad de Granada, 1993.
Picard, Christophe. La mer et les musulmans d’Occident au
Moyen Age. VIIIe–XIIIe siècle. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1997.
Pryor, John H. Geography, Technology and War. Studies in the
Maritime History of the Mediterranean, 649–1571. New York: Cambridge University
Tibbetts, G. R. Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean before
the Coming of the Portuguese being a translation of Kitab al-Fawa’id fi usul
al-bahr wa’l-qawa’id of Ahmad b. Majid al-Najdi. London: Royal Asiatic Society,
Inflexible, 1876, as completed with sails for training. Note the torpedo launching chute over the stem.
The design concept of Inflexible was of a raft, the citadel, which
would float if the ends were destroyed or flooded. The ends were closely
subdivided and protected by a thick deck. A light, unprotected structure above
In 1885 Inflexible’s sailing rig was replaced by two military masts.
In a letter to The
Times of 1 January 1877, Edward Reed described the Inflexible as `… a huge
engine of war, animated and put into activity in every part by steam and steam
alone. The main propelling engines are worked by steam, a separate steam engine
starts and stops them; steam ventilates the monster, steam weighs the anchors,
steam steers her, steam pumps her out if she leaks, steam loads the gun, steam
trains it, steam elevates or depresses it. The Ship is a steam being .’
The 1873 Estimates envisaged the building of a single,
improved ‘Fury’ (in fact, this meant Fury, not yet renamed, with the
modifications which made her Dreadnought). The problem facing Barnaby was
stark; the 12.5in, 38-ton gun fitted in recent ships could fire an 820lb
projectile through 15.7in of iron armour at 1000yds. Fury’s 14in belt
(amidships) was already inadequate and, furthermore, both Woolwich and Elswick
claimed that 50-ton guns were within existing capabilities with even larger
guns in the near future.
The early studies retained the main features of Dreadnought
with the two twin 38-ton turrets augmented by a number of smaller guns en
barbette amidships. In one such study a single 50-ton gun in a turret was
squeezed in amidships. The 14in belt was retained amidships but the thinner
belt at the ends was omitted and a thick transverse bulkhead fitted at each end
of the belt. Thus the much admired end-to-end belt of Devastation was already
abandoned for what must have been a very small saving in weight.
By this time Woolwich was speaking with confidence of a 60-ton gun and Barnaby was driven to a more radical solution. The main requirements seem to have been set by Barnaby himself, though presumably after discussion with Board members and others. The armament was to consist of two twin turrets with 60-ton guns capable, if possible of being changed to 80-ton guns when available. White described the problem: ‘At first it was contemplated to have 60-ton guns and the ship was laid down on this basis. Finally, in 1874 it was decided to adopt 80-ton guns, which involved an increased weight aloft of 200 tons, and considerably modified the design, the draft and displacement having to be increased. There had been some previous instances of ships getting ahead of the settlement of their gun designs but never so serious one as this. Unfortunately, it was only the first of a long series of similar difficulties … .’ The armour was to be concentrated over a short citadel with a maximum thickness of 24in. She was to be fast – 14kts – and capable of using the Suez Canal at light draught (24ft 4in). Barnaby’s ideas were generally welcomed and the design was progressed incorporating some detail improvements mainly suggested by the DNO, Captain Hood, but with some later ideas from Barnaby. The following paragraphs describe the design as it finally evolved.
The design concept was of a very heavily armoured raft
containing the machinery and magazines on which the two turrets were carried.
The ends were protected by a strong armoured deck below the waterline, by close
subdivision and by buoyant material whilst a light superstructure provided
living space. Even if both ends were flooded, the armoured box was intended to
have sufficient buoyancy and stability to float upright. This stability
requirement led to a wide beam which, in turn, meant that the turrets could
fire close to the axis past the narrow superstructure, limited by blast damage
to the superstructure. She was fitted with anti-rolling water tanks to reduce
the severity of rolling but these were ineffective.
The earliest studies of this configuration showed 60-ton guns though provision was made to mount 100-ton guns when they became available. Woolwich built an experimental 80-ton MLR which completed in September 1875 with a 14.5in bore. After tests, it was bored out to 15in and after further tests in March 1876 it was finally enlarged to 16in bore with an 18in chamber, accepting a 370lb charge. This gun fired a total of 140 rounds-215,855lbs of iron from 42,203lbs of powder – mostly against what was known as ‘Target 41’ which had four 8in plates separated by 5in teak. The standard system of grooving used with studded shell proved troublesome and in final form it had thirty-nine shallow grooves (‘polygroove’) with a lead gas check at the base of the shell.
The production guns-80-ton, Mark I-were mounted in twin
turrets each weighing 750 tons and 33ft 10in external diameter. These turrets
had an outer layer of compound armour with 18in teak backing and an inner layer
of 7in wrought iron. The projectile weighed 16841b and when fired with the full
charge of 450lbs brown prism powder had a muzzle velocity of 1590ft/sec and in
tests could penetrate 23in of wrought iron in either a single thickness or two
plates spaced. The interval between rounds was said to be between 2½ and 4
minutes. To load, the guns were run out and depressed against ports in the deck
through which hydraulic rams loaded the guns. Two of these monstrous guns
survive on the train ferry pier at Dover, though the turret design is rather
different and an early studded shell is in the Naval Armament Museum, Gosport.
Inflexible’s citadel was protected at the waterline by a strake of 12in plate, 4ft deep, backed by 11 in teak containing vertical frames. Behind this was another 12in plate backed by 6in horizontal frames, filled with teak followed by the shell of two thicknesses of ⅝in plate. The total thickness of this waterline belt was 4lin, weighing 1100lbs/sq ft and this thickness was preserved in the protection above and below, the thickness of teak increasing as that of the iron was reduced. Above the waterline strake there was a 12in outer plate and an 8in inner plate whilst below the thicknesses were 12in and 4in.
It is not clear why the armour was in two thicknesses as a 22in plate was made by 1877 and it was already recognised that two plates are inferior to a single plate of the same total thickness. A test in 1877 showed that a single plate 17-17½in thick was equivalent to three plates of 6½in. The waterline belt of 24in in total was the thickest belt ever carried on a battleship but it was only 4ft high and would have been of limited value. It does not seem that this protection was tried in final form. It was claimed that this protection was invulnerable to guns similar to those she carried and even to the 17.7in, 100-ton Elswick guns mounted in Italian ships but it was clearly the end of the road for wrought iron as the weight was already at the very limit of what could be carried.
The protection for the ends was a very sophisticated combination of measures. The first line of defence was a 3in wrought iron deck, normally 6-8ft below the waterline. The space between this deck and the middle deck, just above water, was closely subdivided and used for coal and stores which would limit the amount of water which could enter from holes in the side. In addition, narrow tanks 4ft wide and filled with cork were arranged at the sides between these decks and extending 4ft above the middle deck. Inside these cork-filled spaces there was a 2ft coffer dam filled with canvas packed with oakum. All these fillings were treated with calcium chloride to reduce their flammability although tests showed this was not very effective. This scheme has much in common with that which Reed proposed to the 1871 Committee.
In 1877, Reed wrote to Barnaby and later to The Times
claiming that calculations which he and Elgar had made showed that the
stability provided by the citadel was inadequate if both ends were flooded.
Despite a comprehensive rebuttal by Barnaby, an enquiry was set up chaired by
Admiral Hope and consisting of three distinguished engineers, Wooley, Rendel
and W Froude. Their investigation was extremely thorough, entering into aspects
of naval architecture never previously studied.
Their report concluded that it was most unlikely that both
ends would be completely flooded but that if this did happen, the Inflexible
would a retain a small but just adequate margin of stability in terms of the GZ
curve. Their comments on the difficulty of actually hitting the enemy ship are
of interest – remember the Glatton turret and Hotspurs initial miss! They
listed the problems as the relative movements of the two ships, the smoke
generated (470lbs of powder per round), the rolling and pitching of the firing
ship, the lack of any way of determining range and the deflection due to wind.
In particular, they noted that it was customary to fire the guns from a rolling
ship when the deck appeared horizontal at which position the angular velocity
was greatest. (Note also that Froude had showed that human balance organs are
very bad at determining true vertical in a rolling ship.) All in all, hits
anywhere on the ship would be few and those in a position to flood the ends few
A shell exploding within the cork would destroy it locally
but tests showed that a shell hitting light structure would explode about of a second later during which it would
travel 6-10ft, clear of the cork. The canvas and oakum filling of the coffer
dam was quite effective at reducing the size of the hole made by a projectile
passing through. Both the cork and the coffer dam were tested full scale with
the gunboat Nettle firing a 64pdr shell into replicas. The Committee also
pointed out that shells were unlikely to enter the space between the waterline
and armoured deck except at long range when hits were even less likely.
Though the Committee thought it was unlikely that the ends
would be riddled (filled with water) and even less likely that they would be
gutted (all stores, coal, cork etc, blown out with water filling the entire
space), they examined these conditions with extreme care. Stability curves were
prepared and Froude carried out rolling trials on a 1-ton model both in his
experiment tank at Torquay and in waves at sea. The movement of floodwater
within the ship acted to oppose rolling in waves, as in an anti-rolling tank.
The effect of speed on the trim of the flooded model was also examined. Their
conclusion was that the ship should survive this extreme condition but would be
incapable of anything other than returning for repair.
This investigation was far more thorough than any previous study of the effects of damage and owed much to White’s calculations and Froude’s experiments. It was the first time that GZ curves of stability had been drawn for a damaged ship and the importance of armoured freeboard was brought out and it must be a matter for regret that similar work was not carried out for later ships. With the invaluable gift of hindsight, one may suggest two aspects not fully brought out. The first was the vulnerability of the citadel armour itself, particularly bearing in mind the shallow 24in layer, in two thicknesses, and the increasing power of guns. The second point was the assumption that the watertight integrity of the citadel would endure even when multiple hits had riddled the ends. The Victoria collision was to show that doors, ventilation and valves do not remain tight after damage and Inflexible would probably have foundered from slow flooding into this citadel. Barnaby claimed that she was designed to withstand a torpedo hit with the centreline bulkhead giving only a small heel – but he did not envisage flooding extending beyond one transverse compartment.
However, it is difficult to see a better solution to the
design requirement and the concept received some vindication from the battle of
the Yalu Sea on 17 September 1894 when two Chinese ironclads, Ting Yuen and
Chen Yuan, to Inflexible’s configuration, but smaller, received a very large
number of hits and survived. To some extent, the 1913 trial firings against the
Edinburgh may be seen as justifying the concept. Opponents of the Inflexible
mainly favoured protected cruisers whose only protection was similar to that at
the ends of the Inflexible which they derided. White gives her cost as £812,000
though other, much lower, figures have been quoted. There were two diminutives
which call for no mention.
‘The Ship is a Steam Being’
Reed’s letter, quoted at the beginning of the chapter,
referred to the increasing use of auxiliary machinery. Some early examples
include; a capstan in Hercules (1866), hydraulic steering gear, fitted to
Warrior in 1870, and a steam steering engine for Northumberland as well as the
turrets in Thunderer and later ships. The number increased rapidly and
Inflexible was truly a ‘steam being’. Her auxiliaries comprised:
1 steering engine
2 reversing engines
2 vertical direct fire engines
2 pairs steam/hydraulic engines to work the 750-ton
1 capstan engine
4 ash hoists
1 vertical direct turning engine
2 40hp pumping engines, total capacity 4800 tons/hr 2
donkey engines for bilge pumping
2 steam shot hoists
4 auxiliary feed, similar to donkey engines.
2 Brotherhood 3 cylinder for boat hoisting
4 Brotherhood 3-cylinder fan engines
4 Friedman ejectors
2 horizontal direct acting centrifugal circulating pump
The list above does not mention ventilation fans but it is
virtually certain that these were fitted. It was some time before satisfactory
ventilation systems were developed. An electric searchlight was tried in Comet
in 1874 and the first permanent fitting was in Minotaur in 1876. Inflexible had
800-volt d.c. generators by the US Brush company. These powered arc lights in
the machinery space and Swan ‘Glow’ lamps elsewhere. The Swan lamps were
connected in series and it was a year before the 800-volt system killed its
first victim. She was even launched by electricity; when Princess Louise
touched a button, a wire fused and the bottle of wine fell and weights crashed
onto the dog shores.
The designers of the Bismarck class adhered to the tried and tested main armament arrangement of two twin turrets forward and aft, the rearmost of each superfiring. The reason for this was the better field of fire and more effective sequence of salvos. The smaller calibres—the 15cm secondary artillery and the 10.5cm flak—followed the previous layout.
The concept of the 15cm gun was its role as a classic anti-destroyer weapon. It fired a theoretical eight, but in practice only six, rounds per barrel per minute, and was in no respects of any value as an anti-aircraft gun, having too slow a rate of fire and turret rotation speed and an inadequate angle of elevation. Together with the main armament, it was used on Tirpitz in an anti-aircraft role as it could put up a long-range barrage of time-fused shells to confront approaching bomber formations with a curtain of shrapnel.
German naval flak was inadequate, and lacked a gun which was capable of engaging both a fast bomber at high altitude and long distance and also a torpedo bomber closing in just above the wave tops. The planners had failed to grasp the concept of the multi-purpose flak gun. There would certainly have been room for them, but it was left to other navies to address the problem and to come up with workable solutions towards the end of the war. Of course, Germany already had an excellent flak gun, the 12.7cm Flak L/45 Model 34, which had a range, at 30 degrees’ elevation, of 10,497.3m, a shell weight of 23.45kg and a muzzle velocity of 829.97m/sec and which had given outstanding results against enemy bombers over the Reich.
The VDI-Memorandum (which had had handwritten comments added in April 1957 by former ministerial adviser Dipl-Ing Ludwig Cordes, from December 1942 Chief of the Official Group for Artillery Construction at Naval Command, a personality familiar with the whole subject inside and out) drew special attention to fire direction centres with the following notable conclusion:
There was no technical expert at Naval Command (OKM) charged with responsibility for this particular interest. Rulings were ultimately within the jurisdiction of a military centre, which led to frequent erroneous decisions.’
There were two different models. The 10.5cm model C33 guns of Bismarck were fitted in twin mountings, C31 forward and C37 aft. The guns differed principally in the coordination system for their target data. In themselves both weapons were flawless, but unfortunately when the C37 had been shipped, the necessity to install the fire direction equipment individual to each model of gun had been overlooked, with the result that, when the fire direction instructions were transmitted, Flak C33 fired at the target and Flak C37 at a point beyond it. The error here clearly lay with Kriegsmarine planning, which resulted in the linking of an incompatible battery to the control centre.
Flak Direction Centres
Until the end of the war, German heavy units were equipped with grossly inferior flak direction centres based on the Cardan ring system with a large revolving base. At a massive 40 tons, their weight tended to affect the ship’s stability. In battle, many defects came to light, for the Cardan ring system was very sensitive to underwater hits: even the lightest hits could cause a break in the ring, resulting in a total system breakdown.
As early as 1932 engineers had set out proposals for an improved and more suitable development which had a smaller and triaxial rotating base. Despite repeated reminders, it was not until 1942 that the new device was first commissioned, and the experimental prototype was eventually ready by the end of the war though never fitted aboard ship. Complementing a far superior handling capability and better armour protection, the new device had a weight of only 6 tons.
In 1933 proposals had been put forward for automatic fire direction mountings for 3.7cm and 2cm guns. This demonstrates how far-sighted the German weapons engineering industry was, but in this case nothing came of the proposals.
At the outbreak of war in 1939 Germany had two workable radar systems, Freya (2.4cm waveband) and Würzburg (50cm waveband). At the time, the Third Reich led the world in this field. This would change. In the autumn of that year the British built a 12m system and then concentrated their efforts on the centimetre wavebands. In 1943, they introduced the 9cm device known to the Germans as ‘Rotterdam’.
In Germany the industry was fragmented, and instead of drawing on the experience of well-established firms, new companies were set up and the Luftwaffe commandeered all new developments. In 1942–43 it was decided that no new developments in radars of wavebands less than 20cm were possible, and all research into that area was abandoned. Only when a ‘Rotterdam’ set fell into German hands was work resumed. None of the equipment built worked satisfactorily in service. Germany had ‘missed the bus’.
These few concluding remarks may be sufficient to permit a more critical assessment of German warship construction of the period than is normally the case. At their completion, the two Bismarck class units were the culmination of capital ship building, but they were already obsolescent. They were powerful and sturdy fighting ships, but not unsinkable. In their final form they were, asthetically, the crowning glory of German warship construction.
The destruction by Bismarck of the world’s largest capital ship of the time, the battlecruiser Hood, is an impressive testimonial to German naval gunnery. But in respect of this success, it must be remembered that it was achieved against a warship which had been laid down in the Great War twenty-five years previously—certainly modernised but unchanged in her basic structure.