Updating the KGV class

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paul.mercer
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Updating the KGV class

Post by paul.mercer » Fri Mar 20, 2020 10:44 am

Gentlemen,
I realise we have debated the reasons for arming the KGV's with 14" guns before, but on looking up the Second London Treaty it seems that the USA took advantage of this to update USS Washington with 9 x 16" instead of the original 14" that they were due to be armed with.
As the KG's and Washington were of a similar size and weight and it must have been obvious by that time that no-one (except perhaps the RN) were going to stick by the Washington Treaty, that the RN did not take advantage of this and up gun the KG's with 16", they did after all have experience of this caliber with the Nelson class, this would have made the KG's a very formidable ship indeed.
I believe that there were originally some l problems with the Nelson triple turrets, but as most of the other Navies including Germany, Italy and the US managed to fit triple turrets to their ships without too much problem it should not have been beyond the scope of the RN to do the same.
I have often wondered if the real reason was the 'We're British and we stick to the rules and agreement' attitude' was behind it!

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Byron Angel » Sat Mar 21, 2020 5:10 pm

Hi Paul,
DK Brown ("Design and Construction of British Warships 1939-1945" - p.25) commented as follows -

"King George V class were designed to comply with Treaty limitations of 35,000 tons standard displacement and 14in caliber of largest gun. The 14in gun limit (London Navel Treaty 1936) was subject to Italy and Japan also agreeing to the 14in gun not later than 1 April 1937. Great Britain, however, decided to la down two capital ships at the earliest date permitted by the Treaty, namely 1 January 1937, and this necessitated the completion of the design about the middle of 1936. Great Britain thus became committed to the 14in gun although, in the event, Japan refused to signify acceptance of this limitation. Consideration was given to designing the ships to permit of a changeover from 14in quadruple to 16in triple mountings if Japan failed to agree to the 14in gun, but this would have involved an appreciable increase in citadel length and armour weight and considerable delay in the design and production of new 16in turrets. It was therefore decided to design for 14in guns only."

This is a relatively short book - a monograph really, but well laden with insider details and insights. DKB provides an excellent overview to outline the complexities of the warship design and development process, with all the compromises necessary to produce a practical and affordable naval vessel.

B

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Dave Saxton
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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Dave Saxton » Sun Mar 22, 2020 4:44 pm

Churchill was also critical of the KGV class and thought they compared unfavorably to the North Carolina, and sent memos to the Admiralty about it. The Admiralty replied that the KGV compared favorably on several factors.

The KGV had heavier armour protection, and the aircraft hanger amidships did not detract from the deck protection as Churchill feared.

To get 16 " guns on the same displacement would have required compromise of the amour protection though, resulting a ship that had little immunity zone against its own gun. As it was, KGV had a viable IZ vs 14", 15" AND 16" guns.

The KGV exceeded its design max speed in practice, while NC was hard pressed to meet its designed max speed of 27 knots.

R&R point out that the KGV had a deeper belt and were much less vulnerable to below the belt hits.

The Lion class tells us that 40,000 tons+ was required to mount 16" on a KGV type design without making undesirable trade offs. Invoking the escalator clause at that time would have legitimized the duplicity suspected of other nations.

Much of the hand wringing was about not having a 16" main battery, but the 14" guns did not compare that unfavorably to the 16".

At 20,000 meters the KGV 14" is claimed to defeat 355 mm belt and at 30,000 meters about 135 mm of deck protection.

At 20,000 meters the NC 16" still only defeats 360 mm of belt.

The projected Lion class 16" belt penetration was to be significantly more at 430mm at 20,000 meters (way overly optimistic in my opinion), but the deck penetration was projected to be only about 25 mm more than the KGV's 14" at 30,000 meters. The long range deck penetration of the USN 16"/45 was significantly greater but much of that had to do with head shape trade offs.

I kind of like the 9x15" alternative considered at one point. (see R&R). It involved very little trade offs in protection and speed at could have been close to 35,000 metric tons. As a point of comparison, the Bismarck 15"/52 had about 420 mm belt penetration at 20 km and the deck penetration was 130 mm at 30 km. However, looking at the numbers we don't find a significant improvement in penetration over the KGV 14" using a heavy shell lower MV combination with a 15"/45. Based on the French 15"/45 (1950 lb shell at 2575 f/s specs instead of as 2700 f/s mv) the belt penetration increases only to about 385 mm and the deck penetration is the same.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by wadinga » Mon Mar 23, 2020 10:34 am

Fellow Contributors,

The original design brief for the KG Vs was for three quadruple turrets giving a 12 14" gun broadside. "Artist Impressions" including RN promotional posters show this configuration, but concerns to further boost overall protection meant downsizing of the armament weight budget. With a smaller diameter turret and barbette for B turret mounting only two guns, this weight saving could be re-allocated elsewhere.

Like the Scharnhorsts greater weight forward without compensating increase in buoyancy, might have damaged seakeeping capabilities, the lower weight of a two gun B turret may have had considerable advantages in this area.

In the event, and as extensively disputed elsewhere (against the clear evidence), the less-constrained two gun arrangement proved more reliable from the get-go than the complex four gun turret. It is suggested that concerns over increasing hull frame weights meant the rotating tracks for the large diameter structures were inadequately supported and hull flexure was an element in continuing problems.

Indeed, at the heart of things was a desire to stick to roughly the Treaty displacement, juggling elements within this to avoid extensive re-design, and to avoid delays intrinsic in re specifying an increase in gun calibre with concomitant delivery setbacks.

Whatever the theoretical factors of penetration at various distances, against various armament set-ups, at various angles of incidence, the practical reality was Bismarck was mission-killed by a single 14" hit.

If the Lions had ever been built, within the increased displacement a better balanced design could probably have been achieved.

All the best in troubled times.

wadinga
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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by paul.mercer » Fri Mar 27, 2020 10:41 am

Gentlemen,
Once again,many thanks for all your valuable input, I do see Wadinga's point about two quad turrets making the ship 'nose heavy' although I understand (rightly or wrongly) that the class were regarded as being quite 'wet' ships in the bow.
Re the 14" v 15 or 16", i may have got the wrong impression but i seem to recall that the 14" shell has come under some criticism in the past, when compared with the armour protection on later enemy ships and most of the credit in the demise of Bismarck seems to have gone to Rodney with her 16" guns - although i woulds think that there would be few ships of any nation that would have stood up to point blank 16" broadsides for any length of time. Perhaps the KG's have been unfairly judged by the PoW episode?
Regarding the original intention of fitting 12 x14" in three quad turrets (or possibly the same armament in four triple turrets) with this amount of firepower (presuming everything worked as it should) would surely have been a one on one match for Bismarck and most of the other battleships then available - excluding the later Yamotos and Iowas.
I still think that it's a pity that the RN and HM Government put so much faith in the original Treaties when they must have realised that no-one except themselves was going to abide by them.

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Mar 27, 2020 3:43 pm

It's easy to see the attraction of quad turrets because one then has 8 guns firing forward and 50% more guns in full broadside than a Bismarck or a Vanguard. However, as Sean points out, bigger turrets and mountings really require larger ships. Once one is dealing with a larger platform then it's a matter of juggling the trade offs of fewer larger guns vs more slightly smaller caliber guns, vs the trade offs of armour protection and speed.

For example, in the case of North Carolina, a case could be made that the design may have been better with 14" guns, considering the marginal improvement in penetrating power at practical battle ranges by going to the low velocity 16"/45. Quad 14" turrets may have proved impractical on 35,00 tons once the engineering problems were seriously tackled, but a 9x14" NC could probably have made 30 knots.....

The KGV 14"/45 really doesn't compare that badly with the Iowa class 16"/50 firing the super heavy projectile. The 16"/50 belt penetration is 410 mm at 20,000 meters, and the deck penetration at 30,000 meters was less one inch greater than the KGV 14". Even the Yamato class 18"/45 only gets about one inch more deck penetration at 30,000 meters.
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by Dave Saxton » Fri Mar 27, 2020 3:59 pm

One has to consider that the Japanese were unwise to invest such enormous resources into only two battleships. The five KGV class ships made significant contributions to the ultimate Allied victory. This is particularly true in northern waters were operations by aircraft carriers were hampered by environmental conditions. As an island nation, the Japanese navy needed a rescheduling of its priorities and allocation of resources toward a dramatic increase in anti-submarine warfare capability. What if they had three or four modern 14"-16"/gun, and more fuel efficient, battleships available during Guadalcanal?
Entering a night sea battle is an awesome business.The enveloping darkness, hiding the enemy's.. seems a living thing, malignant and oppressive.Swishing water at the bow and stern mark an inexorable advance toward an unknown destiny.

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by dunmunro » Sat Mar 28, 2020 1:06 am

paul.mercer wrote:
Fri Mar 27, 2020 10:41 am
Gentlemen,
Once again,many thanks for all your valuable input, I do see Wadinga's point about two quad turrets making the ship 'nose heavy' although I understand (rightly or wrongly) that the class were regarded as being quite 'wet' ships in the bow.
Re the 14" v 15 or 16", i may have got the wrong impression but i seem to recall that the 14" shell has come under some criticism in the past, when compared with the armour protection on later enemy ships and most of the credit in the demise of Bismarck seems to have gone to Rodney with her 16" guns - although i woulds think that there would be few ships of any nation that would have stood up to point blank 16" broadsides for any length of time. Perhaps the KG's have been unfairly judged by the PoW episode?
Regarding the original intention of fitting 12 x14" in three quad turrets (or possibly the same armament in four triple turrets) with this amount of firepower (presuming everything worked as it should) would surely have been a one on one match for Bismarck and most of the other battleships then available - excluding the later Yamotos and Iowas.
I still think that it's a pity that the RN and HM Government put so much faith in the original Treaties when they must have realised that no-one except themselves was going to abide by them.
Generally, the 3 x quad turret designs had greater beam and/or were longer than the historical KGV, and this was achieved by having significantly less armour, mainly by reducing the height of the main belt. Certainly the longer and beamier 3 x quad designs would probably have been dryer forward than KGV.

If we look at all the treaty constrained ships:

North Carolina
South Dakota
Scharnhorst
KGV
Littorio

KGV is probably the best of the lot in terms of sea keeping.

Any realistic analysis of the Bismarck's final action has to conclude that the majority of early hits came from KGV's radar ranged guns with their modern FC systems. It is an unfortunate myth that Rodney scored the majority of early hits.

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by paul.mercer » Sat Mar 28, 2020 10:36 am

Gentlemen, Again, thanks for your input.
having read all the posts past and present,regarding the 14" gun , \idid wonder if that maybe the RN did have the right idea of multiple fairly fast firing guns were actually the answer as until the radar and range finding equipment really improved firing at very long range was mainly a waste of ammo with only a fairly slim chance of doing much damage. With the considerable improvements in armour (remember it was claimed that Bismarck/s main belt was not penetrated in the final battle but most of the superstructure was shot to pieces) multiple hits at a shorter range from 14" shells were quite capable of wrecking the upper works radar range finders etc.of even the most powerful ships rendering them incapable of continuing the battle even if they could still steam but not fight effectively/
Perhaps the RN did have the right idea and had the original design of 12x14" been possible the KG's would have been very formidable ships to any enemy.

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by wadinga » Sat Mar 28, 2020 1:16 pm

Fellow Contributors,

Interestingly, according to Dulin Garske & Sumnall's US Battleships of World War The North Carolinas were laid down as 3 turret quad 14" Mk 11 ships and the design only changed when building was already underway to 3 turret triple 16" ships.

The confusion over what their armament was actually going to be is highlighted when the authors say:
Fortunately the turrets for the heavier guns had been deliberately designed to be of the almost the same size and weight as the quadruple 14" turrets....
because the authors then present a table showing the similarity in weights between a triple 14" turret and a triple 16" (two variants) and continue on to say the barbette diameters were about the same, and therefore upgrade did not impact overall design too much. But the contract design characteristics table above says twelve 14" guns in three turrets. Can you really squeeze reliable four gun mounts and handling systems into the space/weight designated for three? Were they ever actually going to be 12 gun ships? Has anyone seen plans of a four gun turret to see if the barbette diameter matches the 36-37ft DG & S give for three gun mounts?

Back to the subject of the thread. According to John Roberts' British Warships of the Second World War a decision during design in 1936 to move the armoured deck one deck higher in the KG Vs meant weight savings were urgently needed unless armour thickness/coverage was to be dangerously reduced. Instead, dropping the B turret down to two guns, requiring a smaller diameter barbette, saved 770 tons on the armament budget element. Heightening international tensions meant the first two ships were wanted as quickly as possible and redesign for new 16" guns would impose unacceptable delays. The same was considered true for the second group of three vessels which were ordered.

The Admiralty made pragmatic decisions to get the KG Vs to sea in a reasonable timeframe, especially given that diversion of resources to other priorities once war was declared was inevitable. The US navy had less urgency and it would appear had been gearing up in the background for a switch to heavier guns anyway. As has been observed the British ships were actually very effectively armed, if/when the quad turrets could be persuaded to perform.

It's great to talk in the current locked-down environment.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by paul.mercer » Mon Mar 30, 2020 10:08 am

Gentlemen,
Re the quad mounts on the KG's.
i'm afraid I may be about to display my lack of knowledge of the technical bits here, but was the problem with the 14" gun and its loading procedure that was the problem or was it with the difficulty of squeezing 4 guns into one turret (or both)?
i have always thought, (probably wrongly) that whether a cordite powered gun was anything between 11" and 18", the basic breach and loading procedure and would be the same no matter how many were in the turret even though the supply from the magazines would probably be somewhat different. this is why i cannot quite grasp the reasons that the 'Nelsons' originally had with their triple turrets when such turrets were used in WW!,
and appeared to be used successfully on a number of ships from several nations in WW2.
Also, while accepting that 3 x 4 14" quad turrets may have been a prob;em on a ship the size of the KG class, i wonder if a different configuration like 4 triple 14" or 1 x 4 + 1 x 2 14" guns on both ends of the ship to keep the original idea of 12 guns in place, particularly after it became apparent that other nations were not going to stick to the original agreement of 35000 tons and the later KG's could have had their design altered to take this into account?
I believe that when the Japanese fleet trounced the Russian fleet in the early 1900's it was not only because of the better training of the Japanese navy but although the Russians had heavier guns the lighter weapons on the Japanese ships produced a 'rain' of shells from their quicker firing guns which overwhelmed the Russian ships and i have often wondered whether this could have applied against the better armoured ships of WW2 and to stick my neck out, i also wonder if a 12x14" KG would have done the same to Bismarck - assuming that all the guns,turrets etc worked properly!

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by wadinga » Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:29 pm

Hello Paul, (and I hope we can tempt others to post and keep things going in these troubled times)
i wonder if a different configuration like 4 triple 14" or 1 x 4 + 1 x 2 14" guns on both ends of the ship
Not without tearing up the plans and accepting an enormous delay. The RN wanted to start building at the earliest opportunity ie beginning of 1937. They were stuck with a three barbette layout unless they wanted to trash everything with the design and start again from scratch.

Unlike the Americans who delayed building start until mid 1937 on North Carolina and made the decision to switch to 9 by 16" about that time, the RN had swayed towards protection, the KG Vs had a 23ft top to bottom thicker belt unlike the 16ft of the American ships. This Wikipedia details the design decisions on the NCs

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Car ... battleship

but the sketch of the apparently-chosen 3 by 14" quad design is confusing. Norman Friedman (in the book from which the sketches are lifted!) apparently notes the single funnel and single secondary mounts but surprisingly says nothing about A and B turrets, unaccountably spread out from each other, like Richelieu, and with the barbette so low on B turret it is hardly capable of superfiring at all. Is it just a sloppy piece of draftsmanship, or was this a real 3 by quad design that was actually approved to build? It has to be said the US did an excellent job of designing the triple 16" mount so late on unless they had already started, assuming the Treaty was going to fail, and suggests this 3 by quad design was never going to get built.

To answer your other point:
and would be the same no matter how many were in the turret even though the supply from the magazines would probably be somewhat different.
Very different indeed to the traditional two gun turret. Getting twice as many shells and charges per broadside out of the magazines into and up through the bottleneck of the revolving trunk then into a handling chamber, where they then had to be transhipped onto four shell hoists to the individual guns is a very great deal more complicated.

When we discuss the revolving trunk, and hence the diameter and overall weight of the enormously heavy barbette armour necessary to protect it, we come to another interesting point. DG & S refer to 36-37ft diameter revolving trunk for triple mounts (14" or 16") for the NCs, but David Brown (RCNC) in The Design and Construction of British Warships 1939-1945 Vol 1 says the KG V quad turret trunk was only 35 ft 6in in diameter. So in order to minimize diameter and weight of revolving structure (1500 tons) and hence protecting armour, the British designers were trying to squeeze four shells at a time through a narrower space than the Americans were sending just three. Too ambitious, especially when telling everyone the lighter shells would mean a faster rate of fire.

The quad mounts in the Richelieus seem to have had many problems with ammunition supply and with only two main armament mounts in the ship they had space/weight to get things right. Triple turrets in the Russian ships- reliability- who can say?

Real world rates of fire have been something that has not, and perhaps cannot be resolved in these threads, despite heated discussion over many years. Claimed rates are often so much hyperbole, or based on the time to handle a single inert round in practice, and the unwarranted assumption this can be repeated ad infinitum, in real combat conditions. Attempting to feed more, slightly smaller guns, more often, through the same bottleneck of the handling system, complicated by the desire for a complex interlock system to enhance flash protection was probably an unattainable goal. What PoW could have done with 12 guns that actually worked belongs in the Hypothetical Section.

Modern warships have highly automated ammunition handling systems allowing high rates of fire but for "small beer" ammunition.

All the best

wadinga
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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by dunmunro » Mon Mar 30, 2020 9:31 pm

paul.mercer wrote:
Mon Mar 30, 2020 10:08 am
Gentlemen,
Re the quad mounts on the KG's.
i'm afraid I may be about to display my lack of knowledge of the technical bits here, but was the problem with the 14" gun and its loading procedure that was the problem or was it with the difficulty of squeezing 4 guns into one turret (or both)?
i have always thought, (probably wrongly) that whether a cordite powered gun was anything between 11" and 18", the basic breach and loading procedure and would be the same no matter how many were in the turret even though the supply from the magazines would probably be somewhat different. this is why i cannot quite grasp the reasons that the 'Nelsons' originally had with their triple turrets when such turrets were used in WW!,
and appeared to be used successfully on a number of ships from several nations in WW2.
Also, while accepting that 3 x 4 14" quad turrets may have been a prob;em on a ship the size of the KG class, i wonder if a different configuration like 4 triple 14" or 1 x 4 + 1 x 2 14" guns on both ends of the ship to keep the original idea of 12 guns in place, particularly after it became apparent that other nations were not going to stick to the original agreement of 35000 tons and the later KG's could have had their design altered to take this into account?
I believe that when the Japanese fleet trounced the Russian fleet in the early 1900's it was not only because of the better training of the Japanese navy but although the Russians had heavier guns the lighter weapons on the Japanese ships produced a 'rain' of shells from their quicker firing guns which overwhelmed the Russian ships and i have often wondered whether this could have applied against the better armoured ships of WW2 and to stick my neck out, i also wonder if a 12x14" KG would have done the same to Bismarck - assuming that all the guns,turrets etc worked properly!
Unlike the USN's largely hand worked ammo feed train, the RN chose to mechanize as much of the work as possible. This allowed for smaller crews and better performance in poor weather and there was less weight on the revolving structure of the turret. The 14in turrets suffered from a variety of minor issues, that were mainly due to interlocks that automatically opened and closed flash tight doors [ after Jutland the RN became understandably fanatical about flash tightness and magazine protection], and wear and tear on various moving components. However, these minor problems could cause a loss of output when they occurred frequently as during PoW's first 18 salvos. On KGV, the mountings were trouble free for the first ~30mins (~50 salvos) of the action. The major problem with the KGV class turrets centred on the Quad 14in shell transfer ring:

The shells had to be transferred from the shell rooms to the rotating portion of the turret. To do this the shells were moved via hoists to an outer shell ring that could be locked to the hoist location, the shells placed on trays, and then rotated to match the position of the shell cages which could be halted while the shells were rammed from the shell ring tray to the cages. Problems arose because the shells could surge forward or back whilst in their trays and catch the fixed structure of the ship as the shell ring was revolving to match the rotation of the turret. Additionally, the ship's structure, could flex (more than expected) and the nominal clearance, between the fixed and revolving structure, allowed for could be exceeded. It was the interaction of the shell ring and the fixed portion of the ship that led to the most severe issues, including the jamming of Y turret on PoW in her first action and A turret in the 3rd action, and A turret on KGV during her action against Bismarck. After the Bismarck episode the clearances between the revolving ring and fixed structure were increased and crew training modified to take into account these issues which AFAIK, only reoccurred once more, at the very end of DoY's action against Scharnhorst, when the ship turned at high speed and was struck by a large wave, causing a shell to surge in it's tray before the shell arrestor could engage, and fouled the shell ring for ~15mins. B turret because of it's smaller ring and more central location in the hull, suffered less from shell ring transfer issues, but they were just as prone to the same minor issues as the quad turrets because they were identical to the quad in all other respects.

Lest we assume that other navies such as the USN, were immune to such issues it must be stated emphatically, that they were not, and USS Massachusetts, fighting in calm seas, suffered two turret jams (~35 and ~7 mins) at Casablanca when 16in shells that were being moved by hand, toppled and fouled the revolving structure of the turret (recapturing a 16in shell that was rolling around must have been exciting!).

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by dunmunro » Tue Mar 31, 2020 4:38 am

Here's KGV in 1941, during her visit to the USA:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iP_nE1cJv7k

She met severe weather on her voyage and as you can see she was actually pretty dry forward.

This is from later in the war:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoM4SjBceEg

and here she is forcing her way through heavy seas, and does ship water forward, but really, any battleship would be wet forward in the same weather and sea conditions.

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Re: Updating the KGV class

Post by wadinga » Tue Mar 31, 2020 9:24 am

Hi Dunmunro and all,

Interesting bits of film, but I would say the ship is proceeding at relatively slow speed in both cases and therefore minimizing pitch into the waves and consequently how much of the green stuff comes aboard.

Here is David K Brown, Deputy Head of the RN Corps of Naval Constructors' opinion from the book mentioned above:
To meet the weight limitations imposed by the Treaty, it was necessary to design the ships with the minimum depth practicable and, in order to fire "A" turret at small angles of elevation on forward bearings, the sheer of the deck was kept to a minimum. The growth of weight during building still further reduced the freeboard and the class was criticised as being "wet" ships".
Free of Treaty restrictions Vanguard was built with more freeboard, considerable sheer in the deck giving a relatively high prow and flare at the bow (deck wider than waterplane) giving a considerable advantage in seakeeping.

Brown notes that the revolving weight of a quadruple 14" gun turret was 1500/1550 tons, whereas the twin was only 825 tons and based on a 26ft roller path. These are the weights of the revolving structure only, the barbette armour adding a great deal more.

I can't find a revolving weight for the proposed new 16" triple for the Lions but Campbell says there were two sketches with roller paths of 34ft and 39ft. Maybe the latter meant somebody decided squeezing the mechanism too much was a bad idea. The weight of the triple 16" mounted in the Nelsons was 1600 tons.

The KG Vs honoured the Treaty and had heavy armour and but no spare buoyancy/space capacity to mount even the proposed 12 guns, let alone an upgun to 16". Their armour was thicker and covered more area than their contemporaries, the North Carolinas. The South Dakotas used a lot of innovative weight saving to get better protection that their predecessors and the same armament and speed.

All the best in troubled times

wadinga
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