Meet The Lion-Class Battleship: The Royal Navy's Plan To Win World War III

Robert Farley

Key Point: That the design process continued as long as it did is a testament both to the longevity of Great Britain imperial pretensions, and to the belief that battleships would remain an important factor in naval warfare.

The five battleships of the King George V class served the Royal Navy honorably during the war, participating in the destruction of the battleships Bismarck and Scharnhorst along with an array of other missions. HMS Vanguard, the last battleship ever built by the United Kingdom, did not enter service until after the war. Neither of these classes, however, were the apogee of British battleship design. Instead, the Lion class—a group of six ships of advanced design and high capabilities—were initially intended to lead the battlefleet of the Royal Navy in its next war. But the war came too soon, and the Lions never saw service.


The Royal Navy entered the mid-1930s with an odd assortment of capital ships, including the two intermediate ships of the Nelson class and a variety of modernized and unmodernized battleships and battlecruisers. Reconstruction of HMS Hood, the Renown class battlecruisers, and the Queen Elizabeth class battleships was hoped to bring these ships up to modern standards, but the Navy still required new vessels. The five ships of the King George V class, while excellent ships, remained creatures of the interwar Treaty system. Bound to 35,000 tons, they carried 14” weapons in part because of a desire to adhere to the Second London Naval Treaty, and in part out of other design requirements. When it became clear that Japan would unbind itself from the terms of the London Naval Treaty, the restrictions on battleship designs eased considerably.

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