Ugliest BB of WWII?



  • What do you consider the ugliest battleship of WWII?  This includes post WWI designs.

    My top nominee is the Nelson/Rodney.  I don’t understand why this class was ever built.  It only made 23 knots, but the real problem is the bizarre gun layout:  three triple gun turrets, all forward, with the C turret sandwiched between the superstructure and the B turret (which was above it.)  I can’t see any real purpose to the C turret–sure it could fire broadsides, but that was it.  Being godawful slow with no aft main guns seems an exceptionally bad idea to me.  Delete the C turret and do something worthwhile with the tonnage saved. These BB’s did have very thick armour for the time and they had 16" guns, so they weren’t hopeless.

    Another contender: Richelieu/Jean Bart.  These weren’t as ugly in some ways (and had beauty in others) but shared a similarly questionable turret design/layout:  two quadruple turrets forward, only secondary guns aft.  The tight spacing of the quadruple guns resulted in a “wake effect” that increased dispersion when firing.  The 15" guns had projectile design/propellant problems as well–but I can’t really hold this against the ship design.  The projectile problem resulted in an exploding gun taking out a turret during battle. The saving grace for this class was excellent speed and decent armour.  Hey, if you are going to delete the aft gun, at least have the speed to disengage…

    Honorable (?) mention:  Graf Spee/Admiral Scheer/Lutzow “pocket battleships.”  Having only a single triple turret at each of the ship is risky.  Having only 11" guns to employ against real battleships in WWII is not a viable idea.  Combine this with armour that can’t withstand 8" cruiser fire and you have a problem even against a couple of cruisers.  To be fair, these ships were really very heavy cruisers and they did have speed.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017

    @Red:

    Honorable (?) mention:  Graf Spee/Admiral Scheer/Lutzow “pocket battleships.”  Having only a single triple turret at each of the ship is risky.  Having only 11" guns to employ against real battleships in WWII is not a viable idea.  Combine this with armour that can’t withstand 8" cruiser fire and you have a problem even against a couple of cruisers.  To be fair, these ships were really very heavy cruisers and they did have speed.

    Those weren’t battleships. The German navy never classified them as such, and in fact, weren’t allowed to have any ships that could reasonably be considered battleships at the time these ships were built (under the terms of the Versailles treaty).
    The term “pocket battleship” was a British invention.

    While “ugly” is a word that I’d prefer to avoid since that appears to be a matter of taste, I think that the British Revenge class battleships could qualify as inadequate. Dating back from the WW I era, they saw action in WW II, but were badly outdated by then. That’s not so strange of course, but I wonder why this class was created in the first place: the earlier Queen Elizabeth class ships were actually better!


  • '12

    A modern US destroyer displaces nearly as much as the Treaty of Versailles allowed the German battleships to displace.  Of course in reality the German pocket battleships exceed this limit by roughly 50%.  However, even at 15,000 tonnes that is less than 1/3 of a fully dressed Iowa class battleship.  I totally agree with your first two.  I have an affection for the pocket battleships so will have to vehemently disagree with them included on any list with a heading “Ugly….” 🙂


  • 2017 '16 '15 Organizer '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    My top nominee is the Nelson/Rodney

    WOW! I think these are the best looking ships.

    Ugly must be that Soviet clunker that we got in the game.

    I like the Pocket Battleships BTW

    The Greek had a really ugly BB ( got sunk anyway)

    Some of the ships at Hawaii in 41 were pretty ugly looking



  • When I say ugly, I’m not referring primarily to aesthetics, but to functionality.  That’s why Nelson/Rodney gets my vote, although it looks ugly too…  It seems more a pre-WWI throwback when turrets were sometimes buried amidship and guns were still in sponsons.

    Double and triple gun turrets worked well.  But having only a single turret on both ends of a ship made it more fragile.  Any mechanical damage, hit, misfire, etc. could render the boat nearly toothless.  The pocket battleships were too powerful to be cruisers, too weak to be battlecruisers.

    Quadruple turrets had multiple problems.  Concentrating so much in one turret increases the vulnerability of the turret.  It also made gunnery less accurate and limited the number of targets that could be engaged at once.



  • I would have to say the ugliest battleship of WWII is the great granfather of the the war, the pre-dreadnought the SMS Schleswig-Holstein.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    The peculiar shape of Nelson and Rodney, their all-forward main armament, and their low speed were all the products of design compromises intended to let them meet the displacement limits imposed by the Washington Treaty.  The all-forward main gun layout allowed the ship to have a shorter armoured citadel, thereby saving weight.  The French gave Richelieu and Jean Bart (who are also contenders on R.H.'s list) an all-forward main armament (consisting of two quadruple turrets) for the same reason.  The same layout was planned for the projected third unit of the class, Clemenceau, but for the projected fourth unit, Gascogne, the French opted for a more standard fore-and-aft disposition.  The main reason, as I recall, was the argument that putting all eight of the ship’s main guns in two adjacent quad turrets might make it possible for a single unlucky enemy hit to knock both turrets out of action.

    I think it’s important to distinguish between looks and functionality.  There might be good reasons to attack a ship design as being ineffective, but aesthetics aren’t a consideration when it comes to effectiveness in battle.  Naval architects design weapons of war, not works of art.  It’s certainly possible to design an effective warship that also looks good, but achieving good looks isn’t the objective in and of itself.  The long, slender shape of the Iowa class battleships, for example, gives them a graceful appearance (if that’s the right word to use for a ship that displaces 50,000 tons), but it was chosen for the purely practical reason of giving them a high speed capacity.



  • @Red:

      The pocket battleships were too powerful to be cruisers, too weak to be battlecruisers.

    Would the term ‘armored cruiser’ be a better category for the pocket battleship?



  • @ABWorsham:

    Would the term ‘armored cruiser’ be a better category for the pocket battleship?

    Probably so, although it seems to get mixed with “heavy cruiser” frequently.  The German term for it was Panzerschiff meaning “armoured ship.”  However in some ways it was less heavily armoured than some heavy cruisers.  On the other hand, 11" guns put it well above the standard 8" heavy cruiser armament, but not quite in the 12" starting point for real battleships.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    All cruisers were armoured, so “armoured cruiser” wouldn’t quite work; giving an indication of the degree to which a particular cruiser is armoured (like heavily armoured) would be better.  I think the term “pocket battleship” was actually invented by the British press (as was the term Blitzkrieg, as I recall); as R.H. says, the German term was Panzerschiff, which was deliberately vague.

    The best description I’ve read of exactly what the Deutschland class ships should be considered to be comes from a book on the Battle of the River Plate called The Price of Disobedience.  As I recall, the author described them as very heavily gunned, reasonably fast, marginally protected cruisers. They had the 11" gun caliber of German first-generation Dreadnoughts, which is way above the 8-inch caliber which defined a WWII heavy cruiser, but their armour protection was weak – essentially more suited to a 6-inch light cruiser than to an 8-inch heavy cruiser, let alone an 11-inch cruiser.



  • @CWO:

    The peculiar shape of Nelson and Rodney, their all-forward main armament, and their low speed were all the products of design compromises intended to let them meet the displacement limits imposed by the Washington Treaty.  The all-forward main gun layout allowed the ship to have a shorter armoured citadel, thereby saving weight.  The French gave Richelieu and Jean Bart (who are also contenders on R.H.'s list) an all-forward main armament (consisting of two quadruple turrets) for the same reason.  The same layout was planned for the projected third unit of the class, Clemenceau, but for the projected fourth unit, Gascogne, the French opted for a more standard fore-and-aft disposition.  The main reason, as I recall, was the argument that putting all eight of the ship’s main guns in two adjacent quad turrets might make it possible for a single unlucky enemy hit to knock both turrets out of action.

    The key thing about producing an ugly design functionally is in the term above, “design compromises.”  Some compromises work for an elegant design, some don’t.  I would give the Nelson and Rodney a pass if they also possessed enough speed, but being slow with an awkward forward gun arrangement is potentially a very bad combination.  And being slow makes them inadequate for operations with fast fleet carriers.

    The French quadruple turret design was a failure functionally in several ways.  The British also had two quad turrets in their King George V class but split them forward and aft.  (It was supposed to have a third one forward in the B slot, but so much weight so high would have made the design unstable so a double turret was used there instead.)  The British quad turrets performed very poorly, although as with the French BB’s some of this could be attributed to teething problems since they were still in finishing stages when they entered actual combat.  The saving grace of KGV class is that they had speed, a nearly balanced turret layout, and decent protection–although the Prince of Wales might have been lost if one of the German AP shells had detonated.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Red:

    The saving grace of KGV class is that they had speed, a nearly balanced turret layout, and decent protection–although the Prince of Wales might have been lost if one of the German AP shells had detonated.

    The pursuit of the Bismarck is interesting to bring up in this context, not just because Rodney was involved in its final stages but because PoW’s partner in the initial engagement was the battlecruiser HMS Hood.  Hood was widely regarded as an extremely handsome ship, but it was woefully underarmoured by WWII standards and it only lasted about seven minutes in combat against Bismarck before blowing up.



  • @Imperious:

    Ugly must be that Soviet clunker that we got in the game.

    The Greek had a really ugly BB ( got sunk anyway)

    Some of the ships at Hawaii in 41 were pretty ugly looking

    These were pretty much WWI ships, so I cut them some slack and am not measuring them by the same yardstick since they were built for another era.  They came from an era of chunky, slow designs.

    The Greek BB’s were actually pre-Dreadnought designs from the U.S.

    The battleships lost/damaged (and in many cases re-floated/repaired) at Pearl Harbor were WWI ships.  They really weren’t up to the task of escorting fleet class carriers for WWII.  The only semi-post WWI boats at Pearl Harbor were the West Virginia and the Maryland.  They at least had sensible turret layouts while being slow.  For comparison I haven’t been on the end-of-the-BB-era Missouri yet, but I have been on the Alabama and the Texas.  Even though the Texas was modernized that old style of boat is still ancient compared to the Alabama (plus the Texas is stubby.)  My kids were tiny when on both of these but they still remember the battleship chains for the anchors.

    The Gangut (Soviet/Imperial Russia ship model used in A&A 1942) is as slow as the Nelson/Rodney and has a the screwball WWI arrangement with two of the four triple turrets along the centerline amidships.  As weak as it is it beats two of the following handily:

    @ABWorsham:

    I would have to say the ugliest battleship of WWII is the great granfather of the the war, the pre-dreadnought the SMS Schleswig-Holstein.

    I ran this scenario earlier today in Fighting Steel and the twelve 12" guns of the Gangut easily handled both of these pre-Dreadnoughts (the above and her sister, Schlesien) with their four 11" guns each.  They could make only about 18-19 knots…and much slower once my twelves started connecting outside the elevens’ effective range.



  • @CWO:

    The pursuit of the Bismarck is interesting to bring up in this context, not just because Rodney was involved in its final stages but because PoW’s partner in the initial engagement was the battlecruiser HMS Hood.  Hood was widely regarded as an extremely handsome ship, but it was woefully underarmoured by WWII standards and it only lasted about seven minutes in combat against Bismarck before blowing up.Â

    The Rodney is ideal for pursuit against an already crippled/slowed opponent (who would otherwise outrun it).  It’s armament is structured for just that sort of engagement.  That appears to be exactly what the designers envisioned (I’ll give them credit for it too!)  But consider the reverse:  what happens when the slower Rodney is the one that would want/need to disengage?  This is a boat with the same fatal flaw as the Fokker DR. I triplane…it couldn’t disengage from unwanted combat because it was too slow.  And if the Rodney did try to disengage it could be pummeled with impunity during a stern chase.  This is a common theme/advantage in fighter vs. fighter engagements.  If you have the speed to disengage you can pick your fights, while your opponent cannot.

    No doubt about the Hood’s aesthetics, but it had major flaws and was engaged in a non-ideal (to put it kindly) manner vs. a more modern pair of ships.  This sort of pursuit required cruiser support (which was withheld with disastrous consequences) to give the aggressor enough weight that the defender couldn’t turn and engage full broadsides.  I wonder what would have happened with the Bismark and her consort chasing the Hood and the PoW?



  • There is an interesting discussion of the armour and gun layout philosophy under “all or nothing” on Wikipedia.  The Dunkerque/Strasbourg BB’s with their quad turrets in an all forward design feature prominently.  (Perhaps they should be on the list.)  Quad turrets were an “end of the line” failure, although it was too soon to know this when the ships were laid down.  They were not pragmatic as the quad structure also restricted their own arc of fire as well–and led to damage to the ship superstructure when firing.  Nelson class ships with their triple turrets all forward have the same basic compromise of poor gun effectiveness for a shortened citadel…coupled with low speed that the French ships didn’t suffer from.

    This doesn’t look like an appropriate solution to the armoured citadel problem.



  • So, I had an enlightening experience with quad mounted heavy guns in Fighting Steel a few days ago that confirmed my concerns.  I came across a randomly generated bombard scenario that was supposed to be a match up of battle cruisers: 13" Dunkerque/Strasbourg against the 11" armed Scarnhorst, Gneisenau defending.  Piece of cake for the French, right?  Au contraire, mon frere!

    I admit I didn’t employ the forward only quad guns of the French BC’s to best effect, instead unnecessarily turning broadside to engage when I could/should have plunged forward.  And in a bit of misfortune the German’s got the range and scored a lucky hit on one of the quad turrets within a few salvos (the computer seems to be able to knock out turrets much more easily than I ever can.)  Still, I’ve got bigger guns and won’t need many hits to make up for the early loss of 1/4 of my firepower.  Let’s call it equal and proceed…

    So we begin slugging it out and while I score a straddle or two, I can’t follow up with real hits, while the Krauts occasionally drop one of their 11" shells on me despite my timing movements after I fire into their splashes.  Then something funny happens, my boat with two good turrets stops firing.  Mon Dieu!  I frantically poke around trying to figure out why it can see the ship ID’s but won’t target…then I get a sinking feeling…what if they hit the forward magazine, disabling it but not detonating it?  Sure enough, I check and the magazine is out of action, no more firing from either of the two forward guns.  3/4 of my firepower is now gone, the Kriegsmarine has my range, and I can’t even disengage, because I don’t have any big guns to cover my tail.

    And that my friends is a demonstration of just how poor the quad gun turret concept is in practice, particularly when placed all forward.  A single hit can take out ALL of a ship’s primary guns.  Or it can take out half of them…  And if you are really unlucky and have two of these ships you can experience BOTH situations at the same time.

    Now, combine this with the wartime experience of both France and the UK with their quad gun turrets:  the turrets themselves frequently did not work properly, had excessive dispersion because of the close proximity of the barrels, and were out of action for long critical stretches of intense combat.



  • I found a hypothetical scenario that pitted the Richelieu & Jean Bart against the 11" KM battlecruisers…suprisingly it was ugly for the French.  The scenario claimed to be using the Dunkerque and Strasbourg with 13" guns, but looking “under the hood” they were actually using the Jean Bart/Richelieu and their 15" guns.  Since the editor doesn’t work for me I did text edits to put in the actual French BC’s with their appropriate arms, ammunition quantities, and hull/flotation hit points.

    The French get mauled!  It isn’t even close after playing it from both sides several times.  (No wonder the designer fudged in French BB’s with BC names…it was an attempt to balance the scenario.)  The heavier armour belt/turrets of the German boats seem to handle the 13" French guns, while the fast firing 11" German guns soon take out the turrets and/or magazine of the French ships.  In about 1/4 of the engagements one of my French boats pulled a “Hood” early in the exchange from about 13,000 yards (where the Kriegsmarine ships couldn’t even identify her yet but were reliably hitting.)  Boom! went the entire magazine.

    I don’t know if there is some sort of artificial difference in the 3D model, if it is a reflection of the gunnery bonus for the Germans in the game, a particular range band, or even the 5.9" secondary guns of the KM scoring (vs. 5.1" for the French), but those quad turrets and thinner belt are proving a very brittle instrument of war.

    And after you knock out the French guns, the stern chase is a breeze for the Germans!


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