The Battleships

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Technology Documentary hosted by Robyn Williams and published by Channel 4 in 2000 - English narration

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Image: The-Battleships-Cover.jpg

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Before the nuclear bomb, no weapon on earth had evoked so much fear, veneration and passion as the battleship. In destructive power it had no equal. Produced for Channel 4, The Battleships in four epic programmes unveils the dramatic saga of power, international politics, and one-upmanship that led to the titanic wars of the twentieth century. It is a story involving rulers, warlords and admirals who all became intoxicated by the grandeur, majesty and sheer power of these floating fortresses.

Enriched with eyewitness accounts and contributions from naval experts around the globe, the series explores the rapid evolution of firepower and battleship design from canvas to steam, timber to steel, muzzle-loading cannon to 18-inch guns, and beyond, to rocket launchers and missiles. As the spearhead of colonial expansion and in defence of the great empires the battleship reigned supreme. In the decade leading up to World War I, Britain and Germany became embroiled in an unprecedented arms race for domination of the seas.

It was a period when the battleship reigned supreme, a reign, however, that could not keep pace with the technological advancements taking place that would effect the way wars would be fought in the future. In the face of submarines and air warfare, the battleship would have a real fight on its hands to survive as the ultimate weapon of naval warfare. Destruction by aerial bombing and torpedo attacks during World War II became turning points in the story of the battleship. With the major powers rethinking their arsenals, only the four US Iowa Class battleships would survive to play a significant role in the wars of the latter part of the twentieth century.

RGA Films Pty Ltd

Producer: Rob McAuley

Director: Peter Butt

Writers: Rob McAuley, Peter Butt

Distribution: ABC, Channel 4

[edit] A Thirst for Blood and Iron (1800-1906)

For centuries in the era of sail, the wind and the elements were dominant factors in war at sea. Even Admiral Nelson’s brilliant defeat of the French at the Battle of Trafalgar was seen as more a mark of the man, than of Britain’s fleet of wooden sailing ships. When the industrial revolution ushered in the era of steam propulsion, the British naval establishment resisted change fearing it would make its massive fleet of wooden sailing men-of-war obsolete overnight. The French, with less to lose, embraced the new technology and produced the world’s first armour plated ironclad, GLOIRE. Britain, forced to follow, replied with two revolutionary iron hulled steam powered fighting ships, WARRIOR and BLACK PRINCE.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the American Civil War tested a brazen new weapon – the turret gun. Its success, plus the rapid development of naval guns, steam technology and the use of steel armour plate and steel for hull construction, changed the entire concept of designing and building all future ships-of-war.

The late 19th century saw bold new fleets emerge – those of Italy, the United States, Russia and Japan. The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 gave Japan its first major naval victory in the Battle of Tsushima, making its emergence as a powerful maritime nation.

By the turn of the century it was Germany that Britain had to fear. Kaiser Wilhelm II deliberately set about building a navy that could rival Britain for supremacy of the seas. The British countered, introducing a stunning new design – HMS DREADNOUGHT – the largest, fastest and deadliest battleship ever created. Rather than quell the opposition, DREADNOUGHT started an arms race of global proportions – a race that would finally contribute to the outbreak of “the war to end all wars”, World War I.

[edit] Clash of the Dreadnoughts (1906 – 1916)

The outbreak of hostilities between Germany and Britain in August 1914 saw the battleship at almost the peak of its superiority among fighting ships. In firepower, nothing could equal that of the DREADNOUGHTS – now the ultimate class of battleship in the navies of the world.

On windswept waters of the North Sea the two greatest navies in the world put their fleets to the test of fire. First was the British raid on Heligoland Bight. In spite of the risk of mines and torpedos and the probability of meeting a more superior force, British rear – Admiral Sir David Beatty led his battle cruisers into the Bight, sinking four ships with the loss of one thousand German sailors.

Then, in May 1916, came The Battle of Jutland - when the entire might of the British Grand Fleet under the command of Admiral Jellico came head to head with the German High Seas Fleet, with Admiral Scheer in command. It was the first and the largest naval battle fought between the capital ships of the two most powerful navies in the world. Both sides claimed victory, and both sides suffered enormous casualties and loss of capitol ships. To this day controversy still surrounds this epic battle.

Despite losing more ships and more men than the German’s, Britain’s Grand Fleet remained master of the North Sea. Never again did the High Seas Fleet throw down the gauntlet to their great rivals across the Channel.

[edit] The Darkness of the Future (1916 – 1939)

On the morning of the signing of the treaty of Versailles, the entire German High Seas Fleet was scuttled. The second largest navy in the world instantly ceased to exist without the firing of a single shot. But soon a new arms race began between Britain, the United States and Japan. Radical new battleships, larger, and with more firepower than ever before were planned.

Fearing another global catastrophe, US Secretary of State, Charles Evan Hughes called a conference to try and halt the madness. The Washington Conference set limitations for the size and power of the fleets of the world’s navies. Battleships were scrapped and, for a brief moment in history, it appeared that sanity would prevail. One of the extraordinary results of the Washington Agreement was that America now matched Britain in naval power. Japan had been delegated to a ‘second-class’ naval power, restricted to maintaining a fleet substantially less powerful than either Britain or the USA.

Japan brooded about the agreement, and a decade later, consolidated plans to build new battleships in secret. By the mid-1930’s Italy, Russia and re-emerging National Socialist Germany began building up their battle fleets. Germany, ignoring the Treaty of Versailles restrictions, laid down a small but powerful fleet of “pocket battleships”. On September 1st, 1939 the first shots were fired in what was soon to become the most horrendous war in global history.

[edit] Terror from Above (1939 – present)

The early months of the Second World War saw some of the most dramatic naval battles of all time. A German U-boat entered the Royal Navy’s main fleet base at Scapa Flow and sunk the British battleship ROYAL OAK. The Battle of The River resulted in the scuttling of the German pocket battleship GRAF SPEE. Britain’s legendary battle cruiser HMS HOOD was sunk by Germany’s mighty BISMARCK, and only days later, the BISMARCK was destroyed.

In the Mediterranean, British battleships destroyed French battleships at Mers-el-Kabir-carrier-based Swordfish aircraft carried out a daring torpedo attack on the Italian Fleet at Taranto. The success of this raid confirmed the vulnerability of battleships to air attack – a lesson later put to good use by the Japanese in their attack on Pearl Harbour.

Immediately after the devastation of the US Pacific battle fleet at Pearl Harbour. Japanese mastery of the air bought new victims off Singapore with the sinking of the REPULSE and PRINCE Of WALES.

The great naval battles of the Pacific between the might of the Japanese imperial navy and the power of the US military juggernaught, supported by its Australian and New Zealand allies, battleships play, for the first time in their history, a secondary role to the mighty aircraft carriers and their airborne fire power – bombers, torpedo bombers, plus their cover of wave after wave of fighter aircraft. The role of the fleets major strike weapon had passed, from the battleship, to the aircraft carrier.

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[edit] Technical Specs

  • Video Codec: XviD ISO MPEG-4
  • Video Bitrate: 1880 kbps
  • Video Resolution: 592x448
  • Video Aspect Ratio: 1.321:1
  • Frames Per Second: 25.000
  • Audio Codec: 0x0055 MPEG-1 Layer 3
  • Audio Bitrate: 113kb/s VBR 48000 Hz
  • Audio Streams: 2
  • Audio Languages: english
  • RunTime Per Part: 52:01.360
  • Number Of Parts: 4
  • Part Size: 782,821,376 Bytes
  • Subtitles: english
  • Ripped by: DocFreak08

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