Battleship Bismarck

Battleship Bismarck

Anson - Royal Navy Commander and Statesman, 1697-1762

Anson - Royal Navy Commander and Statesman, 1697-1762

The Windfall Battleships - Agincourt, Canada, Erin, Eagle and the Latin-American & Balkan Arms Races

Aidan Dodson

This new book explores for the first time the full story of how two Turkish and two Chilean battleships became British capital ships after the outbreak of the First World War. The stories and back-stories of Agincourt, Erin, Canada and Eagle embrace almost the whole of the twentieth-century battleship era. A fascinating and original story.
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This new book explores for the first time the full story of how two Turkish and two Chilean battleships became British capital ships after the outbreak of the First World War. Under construction by the shipbuilding giants of Armstrong and Vickers in August 1914, Sultan Osman I, Resadiye, Almirante Latorre and Almirante Cochrane became HM Ships Agincourt, Erin, Canada and Eagle. The first three served with the Grand Fleet, fighting at Jutland, while the last was transformed into a pioneering aircraft carrier, which would serve with distinction until sunk while escorting a convoy to Malta in 1942. While two of the other ships had short lives – cut short by the Washington Naval Treaty – the final ship, Almirante Latorre, would be returned to Chile after the war, for a continuing active career that would last into the 1950s. When finally towed away for scrap in 1959, she was the penultimate survivor of Jutland. Drawing on extensive archival research, the book begins with an overview of the warships under construction around Europe for foreign customers in August 1914, and how the four ships featured were acquired by the Royal Navy. It then looks at them as manifestations of the international rivalries which directed much of the national budgets of impecunious South American and Balkan states towards armaments. The focus then switches to the British service of the ships actually completed as battleships, and then to the story of the carrier. Although never finished as a battleship, she would play a crucial role in the development of British carrier aviation. Finally, the author traces the stories of the battleships of the Latin-American naval race from the 1920s down to the 1950s. The stories and back-stories of Agincourt, Erin, Canada and Eagle embrace almost the whole of the twentieth-century battleship era, and they take us down the byways of international naval power, ranging from the Pacific to the Black Sea, and from the line of battle to mutiny and revolution. A fascinating and original story.

ISBN: 9781399063227
Format: Hardback
Author(s): Aidan Dodson
First Publishment Date: 30 September 2023
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Author(s) Aidan Dodson
Customer Reviews
  1. A fascinating and informative read, highly recommended.
    In the early 20th century warship building in the UK was thriving, building for Britain, and also for overseas customers. With a sub title,“The Balkan and Latin American Arms Races”, the author tells the story of the Agincourt and Erin, originally ordered by Turkey, and the Canada and Eagle ordered by Chile. The ship orders were a major investment for the two countries, and were the result of international rivalries, although not on the scale of the Anglo German arms race. As WW1 started, the two Turkish battleships, Sultan Osman and Resadiye, were seized by the British and renamed Agincourt and Erin. Turkish reaction was distinctly negative, but there was concern that the Turks would deliver the ships to Germany. Chile was a friendly power and the Almirante Latorre, which was fitting out at Armstrongs, was purchased and renamed Canada. Form a design point of view, the ships differed from their British counterparts with poorer protection. Armament wise the Agincourt had 12” guns, the Erin 13.5” and the Canada 14”; of particular concern in both Agincourt and Erin were ammunition passages running the length of the machinery spaces. Endurance was to prove a concern, with poor bunker arrangements with all the ships. Furthermore, Canada’s unique boiler layout caused issues for her British crew. Under British ownership, changes were made to the gunnery control, masts and replacement of the squat heads! Their wartime service was unremarkable; at Jutland Agincourt has the second highest ammunition expenditure of any battleship in the main fleet, Erin on the other hand didn’t fire her main armament at all, and Canada only a few salvoes. With the end of the war, the Agincourt and Canada were placed in Reserve; Erin became Reserve Flagship and Turret drill ship, but the Washington Treaty brought the end for Agincourt and Erin in 1922. Canada was sold back to Chile in 1920 at a bargain price, along with the complete RN inventory of 14” ammo. Canada served in the Chilean Navy until 1958. The second Chilean ship, the Almirante Cochrane, was still on the slip in 1914. However,work was suspended until 1918 when it was decided by the British to complete her as an aircraft carrier. However, the conversion was not straightforward, not least because the Chileans expressed an interest in purchasing her as a battleship. The Navy won the battle with the Treasury to retain her as a carrier; the unique Chilean boiler layout that had caused problems in Canada had the bonus of providing speed for flying operations. Her war service in the Mediterranean ended when she was sunk in 1942. The three battleships were, in the author’s words, “ones of a kind”, and this book tells the detailed story of their design, refits and modifications, and fleet employment where their individuality marked them out in the Grand Fleet. Eagle achieved her own fame as the first fleet aircraft carrier in the world. Along with the story of these four ships, the author covers both the complexities of the South American and Balkan rivalries, and political issues and their impact on the ships. A fascinating and informative read, highly recommended.

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