Unveiling an epic saga of power, international politics, and one-upmanship that led to the titanic wars of the 20th century, Battleships is a story involving rulers, war lords and admirals who all became intoxicated by the grandeur, majesty and sheer power of these floating fortresses.
The first programme, "Empires Collide", covers the period from 1800 - 1914. The British, French, Spanish and Dutch created and defended their empires through the firepower of their sail-driven battle fleets. But the stakes were soon to be raised with the arrival of the industrial revolution and steam propulsion. France's revolutionary ironclad fighting ship Gloire with her improved speed, firepower and armoured protection heralded a new generation of battleships. This was soon followed by Britain's ironclad Warrior, launched on the Thames in 1860 and boasting an unprecedented speed of 14 knots, and the American's Monitor, carrying the first turret gun. In less than a lifetime, steam had taken over from sail, wood had given way to steel and sweeping changes in ordnance had revolutionised naval warfare.
Programme two, "Armageddon", covers the period 1914-1918. When war broke out in August 1914, the strength and number of battleships of the opposing British and German fleets reflected the maritime might of both nations. Never before in history had two such powerful battle fleets been assembled to fight to the death for national glory.
Programme three, "Nice Decks For Dancing On", covers the period 1919-1939. In the immediate post-war years, Britain maintained the mantle as the world's leading maritime power. But when America announced plans to build the world's largest battleship, the 70,000 Terror, Japan decided to counter with eight battle ships and eight battle-cruisers, all with enormous 18-inch guns. In war-weary Britain however, a rising tide of public sentiment and expert opinion saw no future in the floating fortress. Admiral Sir Percy Scott advertised in The Times for someone who could tell him what was the use of the battleship. From a captain at the admiralty came the reply: "To fight other battleships!" From a midshipman in the Fleet: "No damned use!" And from a female Times reader: "they have nice decks for dancing on!"
The final programme, "End Game", looks at 1939 to the present day. The battleships was still by far the greatest symbol of naval might, but the Second World War would see the submarine and the aircraft carrier rival it for supremacy of the seas. Following the war, battleships rapidly disappeared from the seas of the world. The last British battleship HMS Vanguard was removed from service in 1960. One of the few battleships to survive, the USS Missouri, proved invaluable in the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf Wars. In 1998, USS Missouri made its final voyage to Hawaii, where it became a floating museum. The long, distinguished lineage of the mighty battleship had finally come to an end.
Running Time: 60 minutes (approx)
Classification: PG Certificate
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