Lion class (1939)

Drawing of the Lion class, as they were laid down in 1939. Original believed to be in the public domain.

Ship Class
Ship Type
Laid Down

Not to be left out of the new battleship boom of the late 1930s, the Royal Navy began plans for their new battlefleet, intending to lay down the first as soon as the Washington Treaty ban expired in 1936. Hoping to limit the main guns on all future battleships to 356mm (14") in the London conference of 1936, the British based the King George V class on this assumption. When the US and Japan refused the treaty, the British found themselves behind the eight ball, and seriously outgunned. The following HMS Vanguard was a stop-gap, using existing World War I-era 15" gun turrets from ships converted into carriers, but the guns didn't hold up to modern standards. The result was a new design called the Lion-class (different from the World War I battlecruiser class), that, while patterned after the King George V-class, increased the displacement to 43,200 tons, and mounted nine 406mm (16") guns in three triple turrets. Speed would have been approximately 28 knots. Lion and Temeraire were laid down on 4 July and 1 June, 1939, respectively, and were the only two of the class to do so. Conqueror and Thunderer were never ordered, though contracts were awarded, and no contracts were awarded for the final two. Lion and Temeraire were suspended in October, 1939, to free up resources for escort ships, and the order was cancelled in 1942, Lion's keel being broken up post-war.

Bonus Information

Fun Fact: In the fad of the times, the Lions were proposed to be completed as hybrid battleship-carriers, similarly to the Japanese Ise-class conversion. The proposal was studied in 1941, but the Director of Naval Gunnery gave the most damning criticism of the project: "The functions and requirements of carriers and of surface gun platforms are entirely incompatible ...the conceptions of these designs evidently the result of an unresolved contest between a conscious acceptance of aircraft and a subconscious desire for a 1914 Fleet ...these abortions are the results of a psychological maladjustment. The necessary readjustments should result from a proper re-analysis of the whole question, what would be a balanced fleet in 1945, 1950 or 1955?"