Battleships Nelson & Rodney

Published: August 19th, 2020     
Product Image
Front Cover
Author: Witold Koszela
Reviewed by: George Cully - IPMS# 2290
Company: MMP Books
ISBN #: 978-83-65958-35-8
Other Publication Information: Hardbound, 120 pages, 18 black & white photos 71 pages of drawings and 9 two-view color profiles (various scales)
Price: $42.00
Product provided by: Casemate Publishers

The Royal Navy's HMS Nelson and HMS Rodney came about in an unusual way, and that helps to explain their unusual silhouette: all three of both ships' triple barrel main gun turrets were mounted on the foredeck, and their massive bridge superstructures and secondary armament suites were sited aft. Nothing else afloat looked quite like them. These ships were named after two famous British admirals: George Rodney, victor of the Battle of Cape St. Vincent (1780) and the Battle of the Saintes (1782), and Horatio Nelson, who won the Battle of the Nile (1798) and the Battle of Trafalgar (1805).

The 1922 Washington Naval Treaty was intended to 'rebalance' the numbers of capital ships allocated among the major victorious powers after WWI; this agreement was further extended by the London Treaty of 1936. The resulting "battleship holiday" forced the signatories to scrap multiple existing major fighting ships and to cease construction of new ones. But Britain managed to carve out an exception to the 1922 Treaty's rules: it was allowed to build two new battleships, provided they were built within strict, specified limits, especially as to their displacement, which could not exceed 39,000 tons when fully loaded.

Obeying those limits required that the new ships could not be laid down as per the Admiralty's long-familiar design format, i.e., main turrets placed fore and aft with the bridge superstructure in between. But this 'clean sheet of paper' approach provided some opportunities. Concentrating the main armament forward, for example, required less armor overall that saved weight. Using a much higher tensile strength steel for construction permitted the use of thinner plate, and that also helped. The turrets, too, were of a novel design that allowed for an elevation of +40deg. That gave the ships' 16"/45 caliber guns a maximum range of almost 40,000 yards. But there were tradeoffs. Moving the propulsion machinery further aft than usual imposed constraints on horsepower, which limited the ships' maximum speed to about 23 knots. That said, in the end it didn't really matter that these ships weren't as fast as the next generation of battleships built in the 1930s. They served well and faithfully in World War II, and HMS Rodney earned lasting fame for its major role in the destruction of the German battleship Bismarck on May 27, 1941.

As a summary volume for these two warships, I found Koszela's book to be very useful. He provides a concise but thorough description of the ships' origins, design approach and major component systems, and he deftly encapsules both ships' service with bullet chronologies for each from keel laying to breaker's yard. If I have a complaint, it's the book's lack of research notes and/or a bibliography. It would have been helpful to know what Koszela used for sources in order to judge how accurate his drawings are likely to be, and where else to look if we wanted to know more.

But it's for the modeler that Koszel's book is of real use. There are 71 pages of drawings, beginning with nine 1/550thscale general arrangement side and overhead views of both ships at various points in their service between 1927 and 1945. These are followed with interior profiles, cutaways, detail drawings of various decks, armament, and equipment that range in scale from 1/550th to 1/25th. The 1/200th scale deck layout drawings would be of particular value in detailing the Trumpeter kit of HMS Nelson, and the 1/100th scale three-views of the Fairey Swordfish Mk. 1 and Supermarine Walrus are a nice bonus. The closing section of the book provides nine color side and overhead views of both ships in prewar and wartime colors dating from 1928 (for HMS Rodney) and ending in 1945 (for HMS Nelson).

Surprisingly, as best I can determine, there are relatively few kits to be had for HMS Nelson and none for HMS Rodney. Airfix produced an HMS Nelson years ago in its preferred 1/600th warship scale. Trumpeter has done that ship in a 1/700th version and, more noteworthy, in an impressive 1/200th scale edition. Perhaps somebody will give us a suitable 1/350th scale model of either of these most unusual battleships?

Thanks to Casemate for providing the review sample.

  • Front cover
    Front cover
  • Sample color illustration
    Sample color illustration
  • Sample drawing
    Sample drawing
  • Sample drawing
    Sample drawing
  • Sample drawing
    Sample drawing
  • Sample photo
    Sample photo

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