Above, HMS Queen Elizabeth, super-dreadnought.
Tomorrow, as British Gazette readers will know is Trafalgar Day. It will also be the first anniversary of the online British Gazette’s founding. To avoid this article becoming a mini treatise on the subject of the nation’s defence (which tomorrow’s article will be), we will offer a detailed critique of the decision on the procurement of the two new carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth II and HMS Prince of Wales.
In the Commons on Tuesday, Mr. Cameron pointed out that due to the penalty clauses built into the contract with the shipbuilders, the cost of cancelling the two carriers would exceed the cost of finishing their construction. Continued construction would therefore seem to be the obvious conclusion. Of course the cost of constructing these two behemoths are but one of three parts. There is the cost of manning (or should we now in these politically correct days use the word “crew”?) the ships. Then there is the cost of arming the ships. This is because these ships are aircraft carriers. An aircraft carriers armament is in two parts. There are defensive weapons (generally anti-aircraft but also a secondary anti-ship role) for “last ditch” defence against an enemy. The principal weapon is the carrier’s air wing. The air wing are the aircraft that are in fact the aircraft’s raison d’être. An aircraft carrier without aircraft has the military value of a chocolate teapot.
Two chocolate teapots however is precisely what this Brokeback government has ordered!!!! British Gazette readers may recall our humorous article, “Dave and Nick’s new warship” of 17th May, we never expected that it would contain a grain of truth!
Having described these ships as chocolate teapots, let us state that of course, these ships will have an air wing. That air wing however will not be from the Fleet Air Arm. The air wing be from the French Aviation de Marine and the ship will be the flagship of the Force Navale d’Union Européenne (FNE). That this is the military logic behind this decision is demonstrated by the Brokeback’s government’s decision to reduce the number of frigates. This is because a capital ship always puts to sea with a naval force known as a “screen.” Traditionally (during WWI and WWII) screens were double layered. The outer screen were what was known as “pickets.” Picket duty meant a ship maintaining a station many miles away from the battle squadron. These ships were the lookouts that would spot an enemy and then use the invention of radio to communicate with the battles squadron. The inner screen itself comprised small fast destroyers whose task it was to intercept and destroy the enemy’s torpedo boats that would be en route to attack the battle squadron. The inner screen also comprised cruisers whose guns would engage the enemy’s destroyers and any enemy cruisers. In the later stages of the Pacific War (WWII 1944 onwards) this defence tactic was maintained although the pickets used radar (and were called “radar pickets”) and the screen itself comprised battleships, heavy and light cruisers and destroyers with the true capital ships the aircraft carriers whose aircraft would engage the enemy. The battle that laid the foundations for future naval actions was the Battle of Midway (4th to 7th June, 1942) where the naval fleets were way over the horizon many miles away from each other and the attacking aircraft of each side engaged their opponents at great distance.
HMS Queen Elizabeth was the first of the Royal Navy’s 15 inch gun super dreadnoughts. At 33,000 tons deep load and able to make 25 knots they were considered the finest capital ships of their day. These fine ships mounted eight 15″/42 Mark I in four twin turrets on the centreline. This was possibly the best large-calibre naval gun ever made for the Royal Navy and it was certainly one of the longest-lived of any nation, with the first ship-board firing taking place in 1915 and the last in 1954. In July 1940 a sister ship, HMS Warspite made one of the longest hits ever scored by a naval gun on an enemy ship when she struck the Italian battleship Guilio Cesare at approximately 26,000 yards. Can you imagine the reaction of the British public if the government had announced during the construction of these ships that due to the need to reduce defence expenditure the primary armament of the 15 inch guns would be replaced by 380 mm guns supplied by the French Navy using French ammunition and gun crews from and under the control of the Marine Nationale?
This of course brings us to the propitious aspect of the names these ships have received.
The finest capital ship of 1914 was named after the Queen who had made the famous, “Speech to the Troops at Tilbury” delivered on 9th August Old Style, 19 August New Style 1588 to the land forces earlier assembled at Tilbury in Essex in preparation of repelling the expected invasion by the Spanish Armada:
“…My loving people, We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit our selves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear. I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good-will of my subjects; and therefore I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live and die amongst you all; to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and my people, my honour and my blood even, in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm; to which rather than any dishonour shall grow by me, I myself will take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, for your forwardness you have deserved rewards and crowns; and We do assure you in the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean time, my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom [sic] never prince commanded a more noble or worthy subject; not doubting but by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and your valour in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over those enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people….”
The chocolate teapot that will be HMS Queen Elizabeth II of 2017 (or thereabouts) is named after the Queen who ascended to the throne of an Imperial Power on 6th February 1952 and became following the Lisbon Treaty becoming effective on 1st December 2009, a suzerain state of the European Union. What better monument could there be to this woman?