King George V Class, British Battleships

Photograph of HMS King George V
Wikipedia Commons


Tonnage 36,727 tons standard displacement
Dimensions 745' by 103' by 29'
227.1m by 31.4m by 8.8m
Maximum speed       28.5 knots
Complement 1422
Aircraft 1 double-ended catapults
4 seaplanes
Armament 1x2, 2x4 14"/45 guns
8x2 5.25"/50 guns
6x8 2pdr AA guns
1 40mm Bofors AA gun
7x1 20mm Oerlikon AA guns
Protection 14" (356m) belt tapering to 4.5" (114mm) (machinery)
15" (381mm) belt tapering to 5.5" (140mm) (magazines)
12" (305mm) forward bulkhead
10" (254mm) aft bulkhead
6" (152mm) armor deck (magazines)
5" (127mm) armor deck (machinery)
5" (127mm) lower deck (steering)
4" (102mm) bulkhead (steering)
12.75"/8.8"/6"/6.75" (324mm/224mm/152mm/171mm) turret face/side/roof/rear
13"/12"/11"  (330mm/305mm/280mm) barbette sides/ends/amidships
4.5"/3" (114mm/76mm) conning tower side/roof
Torpedo depth 13'5" (4.1m) resistant to 1000lb (454kg) TNT charge
1.7" (44mm) torpedo holding bulkhead
4-shaft Parsons geared turbine (128,000 shp)
8 Admiralty 3-drum boilers
Bunkerage 3730 tons fuel oil
Range 6000 nautical miles (11,000 km) at 15 knots
Sensors Type 271 surface search radar
Type 279 air search radar
Type 282 fire control radar (four sets)
Type 284 fire control radar
Howe: By 1944-7 her antiaicraft armament was 6x8 2pdr guns, 18x1 20mm guns, and radars 271, 281, 282, 284 and 285.

King George V: By 1944-12 her aircraft facilities had been removed and her antiaircraft armament was 8x8 2pdr guns, 2x4 40mm Bofors guns, 6x6 and 2x1 20mm guns, and radars 277, 279B, 281B, 284, 285, and 293.  In 1945-12 the two single 20mm were removed.

Anson: By 1945-7 her antiaircraft armament was 8x8, 4x4 2dpr guns, 2x4 40mm Bofors guns, 8x2, 13x1 20mm guns, and radars 271. 281, 282, 284 and 285.

Duke of York: By 1945-7 her aircraft facilities had been removed and her antiaircraft armament was 6x8, 6x4 2dpr guns, 2x4 40mm Bofors guns, 8x2, 12x1 20mm guns, and radars 273, 274, 281, 282, 284 and 285.

The King George Vs were completed just prior to the Pacific War. Nevertheless, they gave a distinct impression of obsolescence. Armor protection was excellent, with a deep belt resistant to underwater shell hits and an underwater protection system rated as capable of withstanding a full 1000 lbs (454 kg) of TNT. But speed was unexceptional and endurance was poor due to the use of machinery whose high standard of workmanship could not compensate for poor design. The ships had 14” (356mm) guns versus 16” (406mm) on contemporary battleships of the other powers. Antiaircraft protection was dismal due to poor fire control, a weakness found throughout the Royal Navy due to a politically-driven decision in the interwar years to adopt an inferior antiaircraft director technology. The design of the 5.25" heavy antiaircraft guns has also been criticized.

Their most distinctive feature was the mounting of ten guns in three turrets, requiring the use of one double and two quadruple turrets. Originally, the class was planned to have three quadruple turrets, but the weight saved by replacing one of the quadruple turrets with a twin turret was put to use in the armor system. One might anticipate difficulties with cramped turrets and closely spaced barrels, and the quadruple turrets have been widely criticized. The actual firing cycle in historical engagements was closer to 45 seconds than the design value of 30 seconds.

The use of 14" guns was driven by the British position on arms limitations. Britain wished to revert to a 14" gun limit at the Second London Conference contingent on Japan accepting the limit. Both Britain and the United States then began working on designs for 14" gun battleships. The U.S. design was such that the guns could be readily switched to 16" if Japan renounced the limit. British designers found the complications of designing a barbette for either caliber daunting and committed themselves to the 14" plan. Japan renounced the limit and the U.S. promptly proceeded with the 16" variant. The British took scant comfort in being able to begin commissioning their new battleships a few months earlier than either of the other two powers.

The ships were designed to fight at significantly closer ranges than battleships of other powers. The inner edge of the immune zone was set at 17,200 yards (15,700m) versus 20,000 yards (18,300m) for the American North Carolinas, and the fire control stations were located lower in the ships than in their foreign counterparts. Overall, the ships reflected a design philosophy which assumed combat would take place in the North Sea under conditions of uncertain visibility. This meant that combat at extremely long range was unlikely and high endurance was unnecessary.

The underwater protection system was less effective in practice than on paper, as was demonstrated during the sinking of Prince of Wales in the first days of the Pacific War. Part of this was bad luck, in that two of the torpedoes hit near the propeller shafts and the distorted shafts tore open the hull and inner bulkheads. But postwar analysts concluded that the system could not have been capable of protecting against the charge of explosives it was credited with in contemporary tests and have suggested the test explosives were not properly confined. The protection system was also too shallow, allowing the deck above to rupture and flood.

Units in the Pacific:

Prince of Wales      


Sunk by aircraft 1941-12-10 off Malaya


Arrived 1944-7

King George V

Arrived 1944-12     


Arrived 1945-7

Duke of York

Arrived 1945-7

Photo Gallery

side view of King George V class


View from directly aheasd of King George V class


View from forward elevation of King George V class


Aft view of King George V class in dry dock


Forward turrets on King George V class


Details of midships of King George V class

State Library Victoria

Details of secondary turret of King George V class

State Library Victoria

Aircraft hangars on King George V class


Rear turret and superstructure on King George V


Details of pompom mount on King George V class


Inside 14" turret on King George V class


Armor protection scheme of King George V class

Wikimedia Commons


Brown (2000)

Friedman (2008)

Gogin (2010; accessed 2012-12-26)
Whitley (1998)

Worth (2001)

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