Battleships Queen Elizabeth class

British Battleships Queen Elizabeth class.
History, development, service in the First World War, specifications, statistics and pictures.

Battleship 'Barham'
Battleship ‘Barham’ of Queen Elizabeth class with the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow.

British Battleships Queen Elizabeth class

The Queen Elizabeth class was a group of five super-dreadnought battleships built for the Royal Navy in the early 20th century. These ships were a significant advancement in battleship design and served in both World War I and World War II.


The ships of the Queen Elizabeth class were:

1. HMS Queen Elizabeth (1913)
2. HMS Warspite (1913)
3. HMS Valiant (1914)
4. HMS Barham (1914)
5. HMS Malaya (1915)

Key characteristics of the Queen Elizabeth class:

– Displacement: Approximately 33,000 long tons (34,000 t)
– Length: 643 ft 9 in (196.2 m)
– Beam: 90 ft 7 in (27.6 m)
– Main armament: 8 × 15-inch (381 mm) guns in four twin turrets
– Secondary armament: 16 × 6-inch (152 mm) guns
– Propulsion: 24 Yarrow boilers powering two sets of Parsons steam turbines, four propellers
– Speed: 23-24 knots (43-44 km/h)
– Armor: Main belt 13 inches (330 mm), decks up to 3 inches (76 mm)

These battleships were the first to be armed with 15-inch (381 mm) guns, which were a significant improvement over the previous 13.5-inch (343 mm) guns. They also introduced oil-fired boilers, which provided better performance than coal-fired boilers.

The Queen Elizabeth-class battleships served in numerous engagements during both world wars, including the Battle of Jutland in WWI and the Mediterranean and Pacific theaters in WWII. HMS Barham and HMS Malaya were lost during WWII, while the remaining three ships survived the war and were eventually scrapped in the late 1940s.


One of the most successful classes of capital ships ever built, the five units of the Queen Elizabeth class were also the first true fast battleships. This re­sulted from the decision to mount 381­-mm (15-in) guns, the current British 343-mm (13.5-in) weapon being already surpassed by larger foreign calibers. Though there was no question of building ships large enough to take the accepted 10-gun main bat­tery, an eight-gun battery was deemed acceptable as its broadside weight was 6,940 kg (15,300 lb) compared with the 6,350 kg (14,000 lb) of 10 x 343-mm (13.5-in) guns. The abandonment of the amidships turret was further advan­tageous in that the machinery spaces beneath were not fragmented. As a result the 29,000-shp (21,625-kW) machinery of the preceding Iron Dukes could be increased to 75,000 shp (55,927 kW), giving 24 kts despite a larger hull. With improved speed and gun range, the Queen Elizabeths were judged able to accept protection on a slightly reduced scale and their greatly increased bunker require­ments were met by the adoption of all-oil firing.

One drawback was that much bunker space lay between the outer skin and the longitudinal ‘torpe­do bulkheads’. As oil is in compressible this space could no longer satisfactori­ly absorb an explosion; moreover, if essentially empty it could well be filled with an explosive vapor.

The three 1915 units were HMS Queen Eli­zabeth, HMS Warspite and HMS Barham, while the two 1916 units were HMS Valiant and HMS Malaya.
The powerful 16 x 152-mm (6-in) secondary battery was feasible only by siting the majority in casemates, a layout already so completely discre­dited as to guarantee that only the name ship was thus completed.

Four of the class were present at Jutland as the homogeneous 5th Battle Squadron which, because of its speed, was attached to Beatty’s battle-cruiser force rather than to the main body of the Grand Fleet. They thus became heavily engaged at a critical point of the battle. Between them they suffered 27 major caliber hits, the Valiant com­ing through unscathed but the Wars­pite taking 13. They were well able to absorb it and all were again fully oper­ational by the following month. All were modified in varying degrees be­tween the wars and all were active in the WW2, in which only the Barham became a total loss.

More Pictures of battleships of Queen Elizabeth class

Specifications Battleships Queen Elizabeth class

Battleships Queen Elizabeth class:

Battleships Queen Elizabeth classSpecification (as built)
Displacement 29,150 tons standard and 33,000 tons full load
Dimensions length 196.82 m (645.75 ft)
Dimensions beam 27.58 m (90.5 ft)
Dimensions draught 9.35 m (30.66 ft)
Propulsion four sets of geared steam turbines delivering 75,000 shp (55,927 kW) to four shafts
Speed 24 kts
Main armament 8 x 381-mm (15-in) guns
Secondary armament 14 x 152-mm (6-in) guns
Anti-aircraft 2 x 76-mm (3-in) AA guns
Torpedo tubes 4 x 533-mm (21-in) torpedo tubes
Armour belt 330 mm (13 in)
Armour bulkheads 152-mm (6-in)
Armour barbettes 254 mm (10 in)
Armour upper deck 44 mm (1.75 in)
Armour main deck 32 mm (1.25 in)
Armour middle deck 25 mm (1 in)
Armour lower deck 76mm (3 in)
Launched October 1913 (Queen Elizabeth); November 1913 (Warspite), November 1914 (Valiant), 31st December 1914 (Barham), 18th March 1915 (Malaya)

References and literature

Jane’s Fighting Ships of Word War I
Kriegsschiffe von 1900 bis heute – Technik und Einsatz (Buch und Zeit Verlagsgesellschaft)
Flotten des 2. Weltkrieges (Antony Preston)
The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Weapons of World War I (Chris Bishop)
An Illustrated History of the Weapons of World War One (Ian Westwell)

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