The design of the Queen Elizebeth-class

The general design line was already proven from earlier battleship productions and the Iron Duke-class formed the basis for the Queen Elizabeth. However, big decisions were yet to be made. First of all the question of propellant. Oil was an attractive fuel as replacement for the space consuming and ineffective coal, which was used in almost all other vessels at the time. Oil had to be imported from the Middle East and therefore it could be a problem if Britain’s supply lines were threatened, whereas coal could be mined in the Admiral's own backyards – the risk was deemed acceptable and oil was chosen.



A second decision regarding the armament was also to be made. The first Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, strongly advocated for the new untested 15inch guns for the ships main armament. These guns were developed in secret as a 14inch test gun.  They were finally installed and soon after launch were proven a great success at the Battle of Jutland where the ships gunnery capabilities were specifically mentioned in battle report of the German Battlecruiser commander - Vizeadmiral Franz Hipper.

The ships were designed to a displacement of 31.500 tons but at the very beginning this number proved to be too low. At launch Warspite weighted 33.140 tons - a number that continued to rise throughout its entire career although 1400 tons was saved from new machinery in the 1934 refit. The weight issue meant that the intended 25 knots was never reached.

Propulsion

The design speed was 23 knots at 56.000 shaft horse power. At trials in 1915 the ship ran 24.1 knots at 56,600 hp. At an overload of 75,500 hp it managed to go 24.65 knots - just above half a knot for 20,000 hp....quite modest. In the 1934 refit programme new machinery was installed which gave 80.000 hp and the oil consumption was reduced by 30%. Furthermore a considerable space and weight reduction was achieved.

The ships were equipped with 4 three bladed shafts. They had a diameter just above 11ft and operated at a maximum of 275 rpm. Two rudders were placed to give the manoeuvrability required for naval operations. The placement between the shafts instead of behind them gave them poor manoeuvrability at low speed but good at high - which of course is beneficial for a ship of war.

 


Development

Between the two World Wars, all five ships underwent major upgrades. Warspite's revisions were most extensive, and her entire superstructure was remade.

During its lifetime the ship underwent a lot of changes in its arms configuration. Technological development made shooting beyond the horizon possible which resulted in an upgrade of the 15" main batteries so they could be elevated to 30 degrees instead of the original 20 and thereby increase its operational range. The rapid development of the aircraft and its role in modern naval warfare had a huge impact on the configuration. A large number of AA guns where placed and replaced during its later years. Especially during WWII the number was increased considerably. The number of the original secondary armament - the 6" gun batteries - was decreased again and again to be completely removed by the end of 1944.

Warspite was originally fitted with 8 40in searchlights. After the Battle of Jutland, the number of searchlights was nearly doubled due to the bad performance by the Royal Navy during the night action.

In 1915 there was a crew of 951 men and officers. Large quarters were reserved for the Admiral and senior officers. The number of crew members increased to 1134 after the 1934 refit but no effort was made to increase the accommodation accordingly.

The advantage of airplanes was realized early in WWI and already in 1918 Warspite was installed with onboard planes. Two planes were carried onboard a forward and an aft 15" turret but this installation was abandoned 1934 when a steam catapult was constructed between the funnels and the aft turrets. A number of different planes were carried (Sopwith 2F1 Camel, Swordfish etc.) and by 1940 it was the Supermarine Walrus that gave Warspite its aviation capabilities. The aircraft was removed in 1943 and the hangar was then used for recreational purposes.