Warships that should never been built?

Humm I'd argue that French navy's whole line of large destroyers during the interwar era were simply put bad designs due to how slow their guns fired and the massive expense in both weight and cost that came with the French obsession with speed. If they had spent the money on more reasonably sized destroyers they could have afforded to build twenty or so more of them and probably have built three or four more cruisers to boot.
 
Last edited:
The real dream would be to trade it for a Malta. That could have been highly useful all the way to the 1980's.

To some degree, this concern sadly applies to all battleships on the slipways during WW2, to varying degrees. I suppose I would say that if I'm making out my list of top 20 offenders (post-1906) on this list, Vanguard isn't really problematic enough to get on it. Maybe because I grade the "good ship but questionable use of resources"candidates on a curve, especially if the power that built them won the war anyway.
This is me writing, trying to put my mindset into the frame of the badly beaten up and nearly bankrupt VICTORS of WW II as they saw 1940 roll in with the Italians, Germans and presumably the Japanese ready to bring (3 for Italy), (2 for Germany) and (2 for Japan) 7 battleships into service by 1942. All of them were 38 cm MA or better. Britain's 5 KGVs were 35.5 cm MA battleships and the RN already knew the fire control and the guns were NTG on those otherwise fair to good fast battleships. They did not know about susceptibility to battle damage yet, but they had enough worries about being outgunned. The Lions were 1943 at the earliest. 5 QEs and the Hood, Repulse and Renown were not enough. Something deliverable by 1942 was urgent. Hence Vanguuard with bits in storageto cut down build time. Insurance. Events of 1941-1942 of necessity slowed her delivery to a crawl. (U-boat war and the failure of the Singapore Bastion Defense meant other more urgent needs for that steel.).

The program for Vanguard in place was started in 1939 as an emergency measure to retain battleship presence and to augment that oceanic coverage.in Europe and to hedge against surprise in the eastern station as part of overall empire defense. NOBODY had seen the results of Taranto or of Pearl Harbor when the keel was laid in early 1940. Was it a bad decision based on the best naval thought in Britain? I would argue that given Royal Navy doctrine which saw the flattop as a scout and air defense ship for the battle-line restricted to opportunity attacks and given that in 1939-40, the British and the Americans were still largely bi-plane naval aviation and that neither navy had a good grasp on what the Japanese had learned about aircraft carrier warfare during the China Incident, that investment to COTS Vanguard made good sense.

We are looking at the question from a world when aircraft finally had BAT and other semi-active radar homing missiles and bombs, and submarines could GUPPY their way under helpless escorts to hammer battleships above and below. That is 1947. The guys who decided on the KGVs, Vanguard, the North Carolinas, Sodaks and Iowas could still make a case in a world (1945) when it took four waves of 60 aircraft each to kill Musashi and almost that many again to kill Yamato. Sibuyan Sea did not even shift the case to aircraft carrier centric warfare until SAMAR, which arguably was still a surface action. And there were plenty of pure or mostly pure gun and torpedo actions... 29 of them to the 7 aircraft carrier battles. Then there was shore bombardment and NGS for ship to shore operations in the 180 (that's right 180) amphibious assaults or raids or so against defended coasts during WWII that required naval GUNFIRE support.

The days of the missile duel between swarming small combatants (current USN theory) is not demonstrated for certain until 1973 at Latakia. The last conventional naval operation that showed a powerful bodyguard ship is still needed for aircraft carriers was the Falkland Islands when HMS Conqueror subbed (PUN!) for a true cruiser to foil a hammer and anvil Argentine air and missile attack launched from what was USN recognized at the time as a Japanese style gorilla embrace (they called it a 強い腕を抱くor sei-ie-yu-oh-dak-yu or what we would transliterate as a bear-hug.).

The thoughts we have about what we regard as ships that never should have been built, need to be tempered with those factors in mind.
 
Last edited:
Its not that bad, just has the same Pre-Dread problem of instant obsolescence in 1905. Its also primarily designed for close range coastal defense so the major issue it would have had is misuse in an offensive role (even in the calm water of the Carribbean).
It was a first out the gate Congress-cretin mandated botch. Even though it leaned when it fired a broadside, had to be coaled every day and was WET bow to stern, it was better than this ship.


Public Domain (NYT?)

Liberte, French battleship. Photo taken some time between 1908 and 1911, almost certainly during the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in New York City in September 1909.

That is the MNS Liberté. She blew up on 24 Sept. 1911, just riding at anchor, which also own-goaled MNS Republique' and several other French cruisers and battleships nearby with chunks of her hitting THEM.. It turned out that the propellant the Marine National used (Poudre B) did not like hot, wet, humid conditions. It crystallized and became unstable. At least the Americans tried to keep their propellant storage aboard their Massachusetts, cool and dry (She had a magazine fire.) and used automatic sprinklers. Lessons learned? Rotate your ammunition and propellant, don't overstuff the magazines and either shoot it as it is issued or discard after year/use storage date indicates DISCARD. Remember the turret explosion on the modern Iowa?
 
And it wasn't the first French ship or even battleship to sink like that. It' in a book I have called Naval Blunders
 
HMS Swift. It was underarmed even by the standards of the day, and it was a long range ocean going destroyer with poor seakeeping. It was also horrendously expensive and didn't meet the (entirely unrealistic) expectations set for it. It was also the culmination of Jackie's entire failed philosophy of speed as armour.

It was like a super ghetto version of a Tribal (1936) class, if it also had no sub-hunting capability.
 
It was a first out the gate Congress-cretin mandated botch. Even though it leaned when it fired a broadside, had to be coaled every day and was WET bow to stern, it was better than this ship.


Public Domain (NYT?)

Liberte, French battleship. Photo taken some time between 1908 and 1911, almost certainly during the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in New York City in September 1909.

That is the MNS Liberté. She blew up on 24 Sept. 1911, just riding at anchor, which also own-goaled MNS Republique' and several other French cruisers and battleships nearby with chunks of her hitting THEM.. It turned out that the propellant the Marine National used (Poudre B) did not like hot, wet, humid conditions. It crystallized and became unstable. At least the Americans tried to keep their propellant storage aboard their Massachusetts, cool and dry (She had a magazine fire.) and used automatic sprinklers. Lessons learned? Rotate your ammunition and propellant, don't overstuff the magazines and either shoot it as it is issued or discard after year/use storage date indicates DISCARD. Remember the turret explosion on the modern Iowa?
These were the first respectable French pre-dreads imo-far less restrictions than previous ships.
 
On the subject of the Flower class corvette, in his book ‘Atlantic Escorts’ Brown lists the following options that were looked at for a cheap A/S vessel.


Conversion of commercial trawler. About 620 tons, 11–12 knots. Coal burning, cylindrical boiler and single reciprocating engine. Endurance about 3,500 at 9 knots. Complement 24. They were moderate asdic platforms but had inadequate subdivision. Conversion would take 4 weeks and cost £35,000.

Admiralty trawler. 510 tons. 11¾–12½ knots. Coal burning, cylindrical boiler and single reciprocating engine. Endurance 3,500 at 9 knots. Complement 24. Good asdic platform with adequate subdivision. They would take 4 months to build and cost £57,000.

Converted whale catcher (Southern Pride). 700 tons, 16 knots. Oil fuel, two boilers, one reciprocating engine. Endurance 4,000 at 12 knots. Complement 30. Moderate asdic platform, subdivision bad. Conversion would take 6 weeks and cost £75,000.

New whale catcher to Admiralty requirements. 900 tons, 16 knots. Oil fuel, two boilers, one reciprocating engine. Endurance 4,000 at 12 knots. Complement 30. Good asdic platform with adequate subdivision. They would take 7 months to build and cost £90,000.

A/S version of Bangor. 500 tons, 17 knots. Oil fuel, two boilers, turbines (alternative diesel). Endurance 4,000 at 10 knots. Complement 50. Good asdic platform and good subdivision. They would take 8 months to build and cost £135,000.

Simplified Guillemot. 580 tons, 20–1 knots. Oil fuel, two boilers, geared turbines. Endurance 3,000 at 11 knots. Complement 63. Good asdic platform and good subdivision. They would take 8 months to build and cost £160,000.

Hunt class. 890 tons, 29 knots. Endurance 3,500 at 20 knots. Oil fuel, two boilers, geared turbines. Complement 144. Good asdic platform and good subdivision. They would take 12 months to build and cost £400,000.

It was noted that all would be ‘seaworthy craft capable of hard work’ but not equal. Similarly they were ‘vessels in which men can live in reasonable conditions’ but again not equal. Protection depended on transverse subdivision and the commercial trawler and whale catcher were ‘very unsatisfactory’ in that regard. Time and cost figures are relative. Note the cost of Guillemot, far larger than usually quoted. Faced with these figures, the Board chose option 4, which developed into the Flower class – and who can blame them?

The problem was still seen, particularly in respect of coastal work on the east coast. The little coastal sloops of the Kingfisher class were capable – and beautiful – but rather shallow for asdic work and far too expensive (Kingfisher cost £160,000) to build in numbers. They displaced 550 tons, coming under a clause of the London Treaty permitting unrestricted building of vessels under 600 tons. Trawlers, particularly those of Admiralty design developed from Basset, were cheap and useful but their speed of twelve and a half knots and short endurance limited their ASW capability, as did their size. Something bigger but still cheap was needed.

It seems that ideas were sought from several builders but details have only survived for the successful candidate from Smith’s Dock. This was a well-known shipbuilder on the Tees specialising in fishing vessels and most notable for its whale catchers. Their managing director, Mr W Reed, pointed out that they had been building A/S vessels since the ‘Zed’ whalers of 1915, followed by the ‘Kil’ class boats, also of World War I. These ‘Kils’ were originally intended to have oil-fired, water-tube boilers for a speed of seventeen to eighteen knots, remarkably similar to the Flowers of World War II. However, oil was scarce, as were skilled personnel, and they completed with coal-fired Scotch-type boilers and a speed of fourteen knots.

Reed’s first proposal in 1938 was based closely on the whale catcher Southern Pride, lengthened by thirty feet. There was a meeting in January 1939 at which Reed seems to have been given some degree of approval for a 700-ton ship costing £90,000. It then grew to 1,390 tons, mainly as a result of a change to coal burning. Fortunately, sanity returned and final approval was for an oil burner of 940 tons (standard). The DNC (Sir Stanley Goodall) was an enthusiastic supporter of the proposal, noting in his diary, ‘I spoke against Guillemot and for whale catcher.’12 Initially they were known as ‘patrol vessels of whale catcher type’. The origin of the term ‘corvette’ is unclear; it is often said that Churchill chose it and this may well be true, though no evidence has been found to support this. Canadian sources attribute it to Adm Nelles, RCN. Both could be right. Historically it was a very unsuitable name, as a corvette was much bigger than a sloop, but it had a fine ring to it.

At a meeting on 8 February 1939 Messrs Edwards and Reed of Smith’s Dock drew attention to the performance of the steam trawler Imperialist, which they would guarantee for thirteen knots loaded with 1,050ihp (indicated horsepower) on wet steam. DNC was not interested, as the extra speed was little more than the Admiralty design for which Smith’s Dock were doing the drawings and the Admiralty design was easier to build. DNC was more interested in the whale catchers Southern Pride and Sondra. The drawbacks to these were poor subdivision and the bar keel. Reed thought he could produce an intermediate design with speed of fifteen to sixteen knots. It was agreed that he should look into the possibility and send an outline drawing and particulars of dimensions, speed and draught, and state time to build, cost and breakdown of equipment between ASI/commercial.

Dr Harland has pointed out that the Flowers were far from a copy of the Southern Pride. They had a flat plate keel instead of the whale catchers’ bar keel. Corvettes had bilge keels, inadequate in size at first. They were given a pair of stockless anchors and a windlass. A forecastle was added, forming a seamen’s washplace, heads and stores. The mess deck was below and traditionalists were horrified that seamen and stokers messed together.

The bridge block was sited above the wardroom and two officers’ cabins. On the lower level there was the CO’s cabin and the officers’ bathroom, with a wheelhouse above. On top there was an open bridge with an enclosed compass shelter. In early years there were many individual variations in bridge details but later most were altered to a standard design. The POs’ mess was aft with the galley above, ensuring that food was cold before it reached the forward mess deck.

It was originally thought (1939) that these ships could be used to enforce the blockade on the Northern Patrol. To this end they were given a long-range radio that required two masts some distance apart. Six RN corvettes completed with the two-masted rig but many more retained the foremast ahead of the bridge, where it interfered with the view ahead. All early RCN ships had two masts.

The machinery was little changed from Southern Pride, a four-cylinder, triple-expansion engine driving a single shaft. Such engines were simple to build and within the capability of the engineering departments of most shipyards. Smith’s Dock supplied patterns to other builders and a total of 1,150 units were built for corvettes, frigates and transport ferries (LST 3). Shaft rpm was increased to 185, about the limit for a reciprocating engine lacking forced lubrication. At this speed the engine developed 2,750ihp giving a ship speed of sixteen knots, much faster than any trawler but less than a surfaced U-boat. The machinery was generally reliable, though the maintenance task was heavy. There were early problems with crankshaft alignment, which led to some bearing failures. The majority had two Scotch-type boilers but those from Harland and Wolff had Howden Johnson units, and about twenty later ships (mostly Canadian) had water-tube boilers in closed stokeholds. The particulars of these war-winning engines were: stroke 30in; high-pressure diameter 18½in; medium-pressure 31in; both low-pressure 38½in.
 
This is me writing, trying to put my mindset into the frame of the badly beaten up and nearly bankrupt VICTORS of WW II as they saw 1940 roll in with the Italians, Germans and presumably the Japanese ready to bring (3 for Italy), (2 for Germany) and (2 for Japan) 7 battleships into service by 1942. All of them were 38 cm MA or better. Britain's 5 KGVs were 35.5 cm MA battleships and the RN already knew the fire control and the guns were NTG on those otherwise fair to good fast battleships. They did not know about susceptibility to battle damage yet, but they had enough worries about being outgunned. The Lions were 1943 at the earliest. 5 QEs and the Hood, Repulse and Renown were not enough. Something deliverable by 1942 was urgent. Hence Vanguuard with bits in storageto cut down build time. Insurance. Events of 1941-1942 of necessity slowed her delivery to a crawl. (U-boat war and the failure of the Singapore Bastion Defense meant other more urgent needs for that steel.).
Oh, I think the initial decision to go ahead with Vanguard is very defensible - and you've given some sound reasons why.

Now, things get a little more debatable as you get into 1944 with the date of launching approaching. The Admiralty knows Germany has only months to live, and the Bizmarck's are interesting coral reefs now; the Americans are in the process of rapidly converting the Combined Fleet to the same status; and the Regina Marina is mostly sitting at Taranto in friendly hands. So with the possible exception of shore bombardment or AA cover for BPF carriers in a notional invasion of Japan in 1946, the Vanguard no longer has any apparent role to play in *this* war. Do you stay on with the sunk costs in hopes that it can be a valuable postwar asset, or scrap it now?

Good arguments to be made both ways at that point without the benefit of hindsight. With hindsight, of course, you can understand why there is so much pining for having one of the new big carriers instead.
 
Last edited:
Not sure she counts, its being modified to take F-35b so shouldn't be any less capable than any other light....whatever in a couple of years.
More capable than most, I should say.

One more reason why no matter how robust its shipbuilding program is, the PLA Navy should think twice, three times, about tangling with Japan at sea.
 
Its not that bad, just has the same Pre-Dread problem of instant obsolescence in 1905. Its also primarily designed for close range coastal defense so the major issue it would have had is misuse in an offensive role (even in the calm water of the Carribbean).
Yeah.

For a country taking its first legit stab at steel capital ship, the Indianas were not a discreditable beginner's try. You just have to keep them close to shore (which, of course, the USN did not).
 
More capable than most, I should say.

One more reason why no matter how robust its shipbuilding program is, the PLA Navy should think twice, three times, about tangling with Japan at sea.
Well given their carriers are copies or upgrades of a Soviet one universally considered a piece of crap and flying planes with serious range limitations due to the STOBAR system's flaws I'd say that's a given. When the CATOBAR carrier launches things might get "interesting" I guess...
Yeah.

For a country taking its first legit stab at steel capital ship, the Indianas were not a discreditable beginner's try. You just have to keep them close to shore (which, of course, the USN did not).
To be fair its a case of using what was given and a sudden change of priorities. If Isolation had held then they would have spent their careers patrolling and defending the coast, then the Spanish American war blew up and they were deployed some distance away on an offensive role they were unsuited for. Sheer bad luck.
 
Yeah.

For a country taking its first legit stab at steel capital ship, the Indianas were not a discreditable beginner's try. You just have to keep them close to shore (which, of course, the USN did not).
To be fair to the USN when they actually needed to use the Indianas in a war they only had one other battleship in service
 
It was a first out the gate Congress-cretin mandated botch. Even though it leaned when it fired a broadside, had to be coaled every day and was WET bow to stern, it was better than this ship.
snip

Liberte, French battleship. Photo taken some time between 1908 and 1911, almost certainly during the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in New York City in September 1909.

That is the MNS Liberté. She blew up on 24 Sept. 1911, just riding at anchor, which also own-goaled MNS Republique' and several other French cruisers and battleships nearby with chunks of her hitting THEM.. It turned out that the propellant the Marine National used (Poudre B) did not like hot, wet, humid conditions. It crystallized and became unstable. At least the Americans tried to keep their propellant storage aboard their Massachusetts, cool and dry (She had a magazine fire.) and used automatic sprinklers. Lessons learned? Rotate your ammunition and propellant, don't overstuff the magazines and either shoot it as it is issued or discard after year/use storage date indicates DISCARD. Remember the turret explosion on the modern Iowa?
To be fair they weren't the only ones to have this happen, I mean only a few years later there was HMS Vanguard in Scapa Flow:
 
To be fair its a case of using what was given and a sudden change of priorities. If Isolation had held then they would have spent their careers patrolling and defending the coast, then the Spanish American war blew up and they were deployed some distance away on an offensive role they were unsuited for. Sheer bad luck.
Helped a lot that they were up against the Spanish Navy and, not, say, the Royal Navy.
 
The Flower class was only meant to be a coastal and local escort. They were not meant to do long range mid ocean escort.
The interesting thing there is that the Kingfisher class sloops were considered coastal sloops but were 40ft or so longer than the Flower class corvettes which were themselves extended versions of the whalecatcher. Now if the Flowers were the same length as the Kingfishers or Castles from the start, would that have helped?
 
Top