Battleships firing forward?

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Rick Rather
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Battleships firing forward?

Postby Rick Rather » Tue Apr 02, 2013 3:03 am

(DISCLAIMER: I am well-aware that Wikipedia is often inaccurate, and as such is most useful as a starting point for further research & learning, rather than an authoritative source.)

While reading Wikipedia's article about the turret explosion aboard USS Iowa, I came across this interesting - but inadequately-referenced - anecdote:

Iowa's new executive officer, Commander John Morse, directed a main battery drill, over the objections of his gun crews, in which Turrets One and Two fired while both were pointed 15° off the starboard side of the ship's bow. At this angle, one of Turret Two's guns was firing over Turret One... The concussion from Turret Two's guns shredded Turret One's gun bloomers (the canvas covers at the base of the main gun barrels) and damaged Turret One's electrical system. Dan Meyer said of the shoot that it was "the most frightening experience I have ever had in my life. The shock wave blew out the turret officer's switchboard and the leads. We had no power, no lights for a time. Men were screaming. There was panic."


I had always been given to understand that the firing arcs for the forward turrets on a battleship (unless blocked, e.g. the C-turret on Rodney & Nelson) could fire from the port quarter all the way around the bow to the starboard quarter. Were there restrictions on the B-turret firing arcs, so that they could only fire port & starboard but not forward?

(I ask this question mostly about BBs & BCs, since the overpressure from cruiser guns was not as great.)
Just because it's stupid, futile and doomed to failure, that doesn't mean some officer won't try it.
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Re: Battleships firing forward?

Postby tommy303 » Tue Apr 02, 2013 4:37 pm

Bill Jurens might well be the person who could best answer your query.

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MikeBrough
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Re: Battleships firing forward?

Postby MikeBrough » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:46 pm

Burt says that HMS Neptune, the first British dreadnought with super-imposed turrets (X and Y), had stops in place to prevent X-turret firing directly over Y-turret. For the RN, it wasn't until HMS Hood that super-firing was possible.

I've read various personal accounts that suggest super-firing was no fun (in fact, any firing was no fun) but none to suggest it was out of bounds.

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Re: Battleships firing forward?

Postby tommy303 » Tue Apr 02, 2013 7:58 pm

In the early dreadnoughts in which superfiring turrets were mounted, it was generally a bad idea to have the superfiring turret fire over the turret crown of the lower turret as the sighting ports, often in the gunhouse crowns, would allow the effects of blast into the gunhouse and make life for the crew very unpleasant. In the case of the Iowa, it might be that the super charges being used might have been more than the electronics of the turret could handle, particularly if they had not been upgraded since she was last in commission.

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Re: Battleships firing forward?

Postby dunmunro » Tue Apr 02, 2013 8:14 pm

Another factor is that RN BBs generally used salvo firing during daylight, so that 'B' turret would probably only fire one or two guns per salvo.

However, it is an interesting quote that reveals some of the limitations of BB fire at low elevations.

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Re: Battleships firing forward?

Postby Byron Angel » Wed Apr 03, 2013 2:01 am

Oscar Parkes writes at length in his book "British Battleships" about the practical arc of fire limits of the NELSON Class, stating that firing the main battery (particularly B turret) on any bearing aft of abeam was frowned upon and that firing 30deg aft of abeam made the bridge untenable.

The devil is always in the details .....

B

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Rick Rather
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Re: Battleships firing forward?

Postby Rick Rather » Wed Apr 03, 2013 2:33 am

Byron Angel wrote:Oscar Parkes writes at length in his book "British Battleships" about the practical arc of fire limits of the NELSON Class, stating that firing the main battery (particularly B turret) on any bearing aft of abeam was frowned upon and that firing 30deg aft of abeam made the bridge untenable.


That was my very next question. :wink:
Just because it's stupid, futile and doomed to failure, that doesn't mean some officer won't try it.
-- R. Rather

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Re: Battleships firing forward?

Postby tommy303 » Wed Apr 03, 2013 3:45 am

There appears, if memory serves, a similar injunction against firing the forward turrets of the Iowa's abaft the beam as well following the recommissioning of the ships with advanced electronics and cruise missile systems. It seems the tremendous blast of the forward guns was capable of damaging the more sensitive systems. The blast pressure of battleship guns was enormous and full capable of causing minor damage to the ship firing them as witnessed by numerous post action reports. Rodney, for instance, suffered more damage from her own guns than she did from near misses from Bismarck.

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