Dread Nought but the Fury of the Seas

Build them by the Mile…
Build them by the Mile…

Elijah Cromwell, superintendent at Dock B, Beardmore’s yard, looked out over the wharf from his office at the top of the dockside sheds.
The steel hull of HMS Indomitable had been launched last month, and currently lay alongside the fitting-out dock. Three huge holes seemed to dominate the foc’sle deck, deep cavities into the hull where the turrets would eventually sit.
Today, they would remain unfilled, but Indomitable would be receiving the first section of her superstructure, which currently lay on the dockside, looking strangely like the upperworks were emerging out of the solid dock. While the smooth lines of the hull had been growing on the slip, the decks and gangways of what would be her aft control tower, searchlight platform and boat deck had been assembled on the wharf. Parts of it were even welded together, using a new electric-arc machine installed specially for the job.
Cromwell had his hopes and his doubts about the technique; it was far from proven, and he knew the Navy thought so too. They had insisted that no load-bearing areas be welded, and the method hadn’t been used on the hull at all.

More than eighty lines connected the completed deckhouse to the huge crane that could lift a thousand-ton turret with ease. Today it would be lifting barely a fifth of that.
Beardmore’s had pioneered this method of prefabrication, and knew it required previously undreamt-of precision. It was no good building the superstructure a cable trunking in one corner of a compartment, when the men building the hull below had fitted it on the other side. They had therefore taken the Admiralty drawings of the ships and improved them, forming a ‘design line’ on the foc’sle deck, the line at which everything had to meet from top and bottom.

They’d passed the drawings back to the DNC’s office, who had reportedly been impressed. With suitable compensation paid to Beardmore’s, their sketches of the entire layout of the deck at 1” to 1-foot had been passed on to the yards who were building Indomitable’s four sister-ships.
He smiled to himself; despite this co-operation, they were in an informal race with Portsmouth Dockyard to complete the first of the Royal Navy’s new battlecruisers. If they won, the Directors had promised all staff a bonus, subject to the quality of the workmanship being maintained, of course.

The craning completed, he had to busy himself with the countless details of fitting out; most importantly the defect that had come to light in the port boiler of No.4 Room. Yarrow’s were claiming that it was Beardmore’s who had damaged the boiler when it was being fitted into the hull early in construction.
It was a new design with a superheater and would also run at a high pressure than in previous battleships, so it had to be built and tested to higher standards than previosuly. Initial tests were fine for the ship’s eleven other boilers, but this one leaked, even when cold and filled with water. An inspector from Yarrow’s had said the drums had been twisted slightly during installation, damaging the packing between the drums and the hundreds of heating tubes.
Privately, Cromwell knew this was probably true, as Yarrow’s were renowned for delivering very high-quality machinery. However, they also took pride in building it as light as possible, and Indomitable’s boilers had thin-walled tubes and a boxy air pre-heater on one side, which he suspected had been mis-used as a hoist point when the boiler was lowered into the ship. His records showed it had been done on a Friday afternoon, and no doubt the men had been keen to finish the job.
However, he couldn’t admit any of that to the men from Yarrow’s. He mustn’t acknowledge it was Beardmore’s liability, and then there was the Boilermaker’s Union to consider. The shipyards’ productivity was up, but production was flat and employment was falling. Now would be a bad time to suggest that the fitters hadn’t done their jobs properly. They were already agitated over calls for a ‘General Strike’ in support of the miners, and while that had so far been avoided, suggestions of further changes to working practices were a source of friction.

He suspected there would be a compromise; Yarrows would supply and fit new parts, and Beardmore’s would cover half the cost. Until then, it was best to keep his mouth shut.

The following day, there was another problem; four hundred reels of lead-coated wiring had been delivered. On previous ships, this would be fine, but Indomitable and her sisters used a new lighter-weight rubberised canvas and aluminium wrapped wire. Aside from saving more than 30 tons over the whole ship, the Navy wanted no more lead coatings, as if the ship caught fire, they could melt and make the situation worse.
Mercifully this problem couldn’t cause any strikes. No, this was a problem of paperwork; what had been ordered, did the yard want the cable for other purposes, and if it was wrong, where was the wire that had been ordered?
He sent his assistant to search the cabinets for the right order bill, while he picked up the telephone, mentally stiffening his resolve before engaging the stores department more closely.
 
So the Royal Navy have gone for 4 of these new ships. What are they, let us see them man.
They're building five.

who were building Indomitable’s four sister-ships.
Indomitable plus four sisters ships for five for a total of 70,000 tons of treaty tonnage and at least 115,000 tons of actual ships. The RN is going to remain the biggest fleet in the world for a while longer.
 
Five new ships, three turrets and a welded superstructure, PLUS superheaters on their boilers and trying to save weight everywhere...you tease us!
 
I'm really surprised the British have gone with welding even in non structural areas, as a new technology for naval warship construction deploying it for the first time on five battlecruisers is.....ambitious.
 
I'm really surprised the British have gone with welding even in non structural areas, as a new technology for naval warship construction deploying it for the first time on five battlecruisers is.....ambitious.
[Permanent Secretary] One might even call it a bold and courageous decision...
 
So a bit like the OTL US Flight Deck Cruiser but with four twin 8" rather than two triple 6"?

View attachment 552608

Yes, just like that.
Curiosity, why didn't they try to extend the flight deck over the turrets? Concerns over blast damage? IIRC the OTL Akagi and Furious had the flight deck supported by pillars up to the actual bow. That would allow the cruiser- carrier to have a longer flight deck which works better for aviation operations. It would also help future proof it against the likelihood of heavier aircraft that need longer take-off rolls.

The main problem is that the turrets would have restricted elevation, but that shouldn't be a disqualifier unless they are really counting on 45 degree or higher elevation for AA use. If the blast is a real problem, they could use a grid structure for the deck which ould allow most of the blast to pass through the deck.
 
I'm really surprised the British have gone with welding even in non structural areas, as a new technology for naval warship construction deploying it for the first time on five battlecruisers is.....ambitious.
Probably due to the weight savings. They probably consider it worth the gamble to save tonnage that can be used for other things.
 
Probably due to the weight savings. They probably consider it worth the gamble to save tonnage that can be used for other things.
That and its useful in building up a body of knowledge about such fabrication techniques. And it also helps show that it works and can be used to prod manufacturers towards it.
 
I'm really surprised the British have gone with welding even in non structural areas, as a new technology for naval warship construction deploying it for the first time on five battlecruisers is.....ambitious.
[Permanent Secretary] One might even call it a bold and courageous decision...
Probably due to the weight savings. They probably consider it worth the gamble to save tonnage that can be used for other things.
I agree they are doing it for the weight savings, but the more prudent approach would be to try it on one or two ships first and see if it works, before building five at once. It is roughly like the gamble Churchill took with the Queen Elizabeths combining oil-fired turbines and 15-inch guns for the first time in one ship and building five of them at once. When it works its great. If it doesn't work, you have two to five times the problems to fix.
 
I agree they are doing it for the weight savings, but the more prudent approach would be to try it on one or two ships first and see if it works, before building five at once. It is roughly like the gamble Churchill took with the Queen Elizabeths combining oil-fired turbines and 15-inch guns for the first time in one ship and building five of them at once. When it works its great. If it doesn't work, you have two to five times the problems to fix.
My guess is that the thinking is more like...
1. We want to order all five in order to keep yards busy and employed
2. The weight calculations require welding to work so we need to use it on all of them
3. Welding is only being used on non-load bearing structures so even if it's not as good as advertised then it still shouldn't affect the structural integrity of the ship.
4. If there is a problem we can always do a refit and possibly use that to justify other changes.
 
My guess is that the thinking is more like...
1. We want to order all five in order to keep yards busy and employed
2. The weight calculations require welding to work so we need to use it on all of them
3. Welding is only being used on non-load bearing structures so even if it's not as good as advertised then it still shouldn't affect the structural integrity of the ship.
4. If there is a problem we can always do a refit and possibly use that to justify other changes.
I suspect that's their thinking but that's a major departure from OTL and really "courageous".

That and its useful in building up a body of knowledge about such fabrication techniques. And it also helps show that it works and can be used to prod manufacturers towards it.
Then you try it with a destroyer first, like they did with high pressure boilers.
 
Then you try it with a destroyer first, like they did with high pressure boilers.
[/QUOTE]
It doesn’t specifically say that it hasn’t been used elsewhere yet or tested in a destroyer, just that it’s far from proven. Doesn’t seem too risky to try it in non-structural parts of the ship.
 

Stenz

Monthly Donor
Or maybe the welding is publicised and acknowledged to bring the weight down, maybe even used in the first one to be launched. The other four, however, are merely declared to have the same welding, but what no one checks can’t be disproven...
 
Top