Great dreadnought races
Another hemisphere, the end of the world, South America ... A place that is not immediately remembered in connection with the history of shipbuilding. Meanwhile, the majority of Latin American countries have always been very attentive to their naval forces, and the largest of them have had quite significant fleets since the end of the last century.
Another thing is that the development of these fleets took place in a kind of impulses - it was enough for one of the competing countries to begin the active construction of ships, like the rest of them pulled together for the “leader”. One of these outbreaks is associated with the construction of dreadnoughts.
This time the next maritime arms race in Latin America began Brazil. Having frightened even the United States with its Akvidaban and Riachuelo at the end of the 19th century and forcing the latter to start creating their New Fleet, by the beginning of the 20th century the Brazilian naval forces were completely neglected. They were based on the same two battleships, which now could have been more amused than scared by any of the neighbors.And one of them - Argentina, border disputes with which remained a constant threat, created by that time, unlike a more powerful fleet. Brazilians could not hesitate.
The battleship "Aquidaban" in the USA
It must be said that the need to recreate the fleet coincided with the possibilities, which is not often found in maritime history. The Brazilian economy has entered a period of rapid growth, and to the number of minerals mined in the country has added a product that is extremely useful for the fleet — gold.
And the maritime leaders of the largest country in South America decided to swing. They managed to achieve the approval of the special shipbuilding program of 1904. But a couple of years had to be spent on it to agree on what kind of combat units should be ordered or purchased.
Finally, in 1906, they came to a decision that shook the whole world. Brazil wanted neither more nor less than a fleet of four dreadnoughts, and the most powerful in the world!
If the program were completed, the Brazilians would have received ships of a new type before the traditional maritime powers, such as France and Russia.
It is not surprising that rumors began to spread in diplomatic circlesthat the South American republic plays only the role of a screen, and the real "consumer" of the ordered ships is one of the main maritime powers. Here are just some of them? The British believed that this was their potential adversary - Germany; the Germans - that the ships are destined to Japan or the United States; and the rest of the European countries - that the British themselves skillfully camouflage their claims and will not fail to include a couple of powerful dreadnoughts in the composition of the Grand Fleet.
But everyone was wrong: the Brazilians sincerely wanted to get them themselves. Then their mighty northern neighbor, the United States, spoke of "American unity." The United States and the United States of Brazil began to be viewed as allies and almost as equal military partners. True, the heyday of the Brazilian sea power was short-lived, but - about everything in order.
The contract for the construction of the first pair of dreadnoughts was easily won by a large British firm, Vikkers-Armstrong.
Advertising "Sir W G Armstrong Whitworth & Co Ltd"
The traditional supplier of ships to almost all Latin American countries decided to try themselves in a new class. At the time of its inception in 1907, the Minas Gerais and Sao Paulo were indeed the most powerful ships in the world, carrying 12 twelve-inch guns each.Their construction took only about three years, but when the ships went into service, much stronger battleships were already laid on the stocks of Britain, Germany and the USA.
"Minas Gerais" is launched. At that time, the displacement of the ship was 9100 tons
Nevertheless, the Brazilian dreadnoughts have left their mark on the history of shipbuilding. Of interest is, in particular, their protection scheme. The nine-inch Krupp steel belt was wide and extended.
He, in fact, formed a powerful, albeit somewhat old-fashioned citadel in the central part of the building. Behind it "hid" cars, boilers, cellars and mechanisms for the supply of ammunition of the main caliber and even anti-mine artillery. The belt extended from the stem to the stern, but at the extremities its thickness decreased to four to six inches.
The location of the main caliber artillery is also curious. It was a mixture of American (high towers in the bow and stern) and European (side towers in the center, intended for firing at the bow and stern) ideas.
The main gun "Minas Geraes" 1910.
The battleships could have issued a volley of 10 shells on board, and theoretically by 8, into the bow and stern,that is, for them supposedly there were no unfavorable course angles, but in reality the average towers could hardly fire along the ship without the risk of carrying their own superstructures with muzzle gases.
By the time the first pair entered service, the Brazilians were ready to once again fight for the title of the owner of the most powerful ship in the world.
In August 1910, the government approved the construction of the third dreadnought, named, of course, in honor of the capital of the country and the rival city of Sao Paulo "Rio de Janeiro". The ship was supposed to have a displacement of 32 thousand tons and armament of a dozen fourteen inches. At the same time, the decision on the purchase of the fourth battleship, called "Riachuelo", was considered.
With the same displacement, the speed increased to 23 knots, the belt’s armor was assumed to be at least 12 inches, and the weapon options — from 12,381 mm guns to 10,406 mm — would make any opponent pale.
Main caliber "Minas Geraes"
But Brazil undertook the task beyond its powers. Spreading over two million pounds sterling (huge money for that time) for each “toy” turned out to be fraught for a country that half a century later continued to be awarded the title of a developing one.
Even the sailors themselves couldn’t stand it: they almost turned the Minas Gerais, which had just been commissioned, into the Latin American Aurora, who were dissatisfied with the general economic and political situation in the country.
Almost exactly 7 years before the storming of the Winter, November 10, 1910, an uprising broke out on the ship. The revolt was suppressed, but it was impossible to ignore such a warning. The new president of Brazil, Rodriguez de Fonseca, quite reasonably chose to pay his seamen’s salary, rather than build the world's largest warship.
Risen sailors from Minas Geraes, November 26, 1910.
True, the Brazilian admirals and British shipbuilders quickly responded to such unpleasant savings. Before the laying of the "Rio de Janeiro" noticeably cheaper, but also "lost" - and in terms of displacement, and the caliber of guns.
But if to build the most powerful ship in the world became unreal, then on one Latin American representatives stood to the death. They wanted their battleship to carry the most guns. The British designers had to try a lot to accommodate as many as seven two-gun towers.The length of the hull came close to two hundred meters, and even in the appearance of the ship there was a clear overload of artillery.
But such a "truncated" Brazilian battleship could not be completed. "Rio de Janeiro" was already launched and upgraded afloat when the government finally decided to get rid of it.
Fortunately, the buyer was found right there: Turkey frantically searched for an opportunity to build up her strength in the Black Sea as soon as possible before the Russian "empresses" would come into operation.
The semi-finished ship was purchased immediately, without waiting for completion. It was assumed that the Turks themselves would upgrade it. They were in a hurry, and in a hurry, obviously not in vain - there was a great war in Europe that smelled. Half a thousand sailors in fez arrived in England to accept the "goods" at the very end of July, the fatal year of 1914.
"Sultan Osman I", the former "Rio de Janeiro", during the completion of
Departure to Turkey "Sultan Osman I" (the so-called ship in the Ottoman Empire) was scheduled for August 3, but - the day before, on August 2, the British announced the confiscation of the ship.
The world conflict broke out, and the mistress of the seas chose to kill two birds with one blow: to deprive the combat unit of a possible enemy and include the valuable dreadnought in her fleet.With a total lack of tact, the British decided to call it "Emergency". This is how the name of Azinkur, a small village, is pronounced in English, around which, during the Hundred Years 'War, the islanders' army inflicted a severe defeat on the French - their current allies in the Entente.
Dreadnought Agincourt (in the foreground) 1918.
One way or another, but the dreadnought with the most numerous armament became part of the Grand Fleet and participated in the main naval battle of the war - the Jutland battle. It was noted that an excessive number of guns rendered him no better service - his artillery fire was difficult to control, and the hull of the ship with a full onboard salvo experienced serious overloads. When the dreadnought launched a full volley in the gathering gloom of Jutland, it seemed to the sailors on the neighboring ships that another battleship had exploded!
Brazilian Dreadnought Sideboard Volley "Minas Gerais"
during the testing of main-caliber guns, circa 1909.
Dr. Oskar Parké, a specialist in the history of battleships, called the "Aegyncourt" "a floating artillery cellar, the best defense of which is the powerful fire it spews." To designate the gun turrets, the letters adopted in the English fleet were clearly not enough, therefore they were proudly called by the days of the week.
After the end of hostilities, the British wanted to get rid of such an extravagant acquisition. They offered to Brazil, nevertheless, to pick up their order, and only for half the price. But by that time the largest country in South America had finally ceased to play in the maritime superpower, plunging into the next shipbuilding hibernation. The British had to send a ship for scrap.
In contrast to the accommodating Brazilians, who fully relied on the experience of the most powerful maritime power, the Argentines, in order to get the "goods" of the highest quality and at the lowest price, applied a very clever way.
They were not too lazy to create a special mission in London, whose main task was to evaluate the projects submitted for the announced competition. But the mission was in no hurry to choose the best option from among those represented by the fifteen largest firms in the world. Instead, the Argentines chose the best features from all the drawings they liked and ... included them as a technical task for a new competition.
Such a banned technique, and repeated twice, led to the indignation of many leading shipbuilders who felt robbed.Moreover, the winner at the last stage was the not too well-known American firm "for River", who had no experience in building dreadnoughts, but offered the lowest price.
The Americans did not philosophize, almost completely transferring their technical solutions to Rivadavia and Moreno. As a result, the Argentinean battleships became very similar to the North American ones, with the exception of the linear-echelon arrangement of main-caliber artillery borrowed from Europeans.
“Moreno” in dry dock at Brooklyn Harbor, October 1914
So similar that a special American inspectorate, who examined the dreadnoughts completed in 1913, stated that after minor modifications they could easily become part of the US Navy.
Rivadavia, circa 1914-1915
But the Argentines chose not to give up their battleships, which had a number of very interesting technical solutions, in particular, the world's most numerous auxiliary artillery - almost four dozen six and four-inch guns and a huge stock of main-caliber shells - one and a half thousand pieces. In any case, “Rivadavia” and “Moreno” more than balanced “São Paulo” and “Minas Gerais”.
Argentina and Brazil could feel satisfied, but, their third rival for domination in South America, Chile, was slighted. On the other side of the Andes did not have time to forget the most dangerous confrontation with the Argentines at the turn of our and past centuries. The solution could be only one thing - to build your own dreadnoughts.
Doubts about who exactly will take up the construction, there was practically no one left. In Chile, they have always preferred the "English good" And “Armstrong”, which received an order for two “admirals” - “Almirante Latorre” and “Almirante Cochrane” - tried with might and main. Founded a little later, Argentine, Chilean battleships received the most modern artillery.
The battleship Almirante Latorre, aka Canada (1915)
Their fourteen inches had no analogues not only among their South American rivals, but even surpassed the 343-mm guns of the British themselves.
For the first time, the firing range was limited only by the limits of visibility. The guns were so successful that they served as the basis for the main caliber of the newest British battleships such as "King George" a quarter of a century later. The battleship itself had decent protection and speed.
Chileans miscalculated only one thing - the insatiable need for the dreadnought of the builders themselves.Since the beginning of World War II, the ships were lost not only by the Turks inclined to German influence, but also by more than loyal South Americans.
The admiralty apologized and, not without benefit, for Chile, at first, bought almost ready "Almirante Latorre", and a little later - the second battleship, the construction of which in 1914 was almost completely suspended. Latorre became part of the Grand Fleet called Canada and took an active part in all operations. "Cochrane" suffered a more original fate. Almost completely rebuilt, he became one of the first British aircraft carriers - "Eagle".
The aircraft carrier "Eagle", mid 30s.
After the war, the British returned “Latorre” to the original customer, first bringing him to a great view. The Chileans did not refuse their second dreadnought either, but “reverse castling” from an aircraft carrier to the battleship would be a real “project of the century”.
By that time, the passions in the south of the Americas had finally subsided, and after some thought, the smallest of the candidates for leadership decided to be content with one symbol of sea power.
The British tried to atone for old sins, completely retooling "Latorre" in 1929-1931.The ship was transferred to the oil heating system, installed on it anti-mine protection in the form of special do-it-yourself boules and equipped with modern fire control systems.
However, all this did not matter much. The threat of a maritime war in South America was over, and all the remaining dreadnoughts of Argentina, Brazil and Chile remained in peace, but a long life was prepared.
Dreadnought "São Paulo", 1910
They successfully survived the Second World War, were repeatedly modernized (however, without any significant improvement in combat performance) and went for scrapping only in the 1950s and 1960s. "São Paulo" while on the list of victims of the Bermuda Triangle. In some not too professional books, it is noted that the Brazilian battleship was lost in this fateful place "with all its crew."
The authors forget to add (or simply do not know) that the former powerful dreadnought was towed to the place of disassembly, and there were less than two dozen people on board.
“São Paulo” in the parking lot, awnings are clearly visible above the decks, protecting against heat.
One way or another, the “dreadnought flash” of shipbuilding activity in South America contributed to the history of world shipbuilding and the history of this continent.The ensuing intermission lasted four decades until the Latin American battleships could not keep afloat from old age.