CUS Columbia (BB-1936+)


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In 1930 the GALT (Geneva Arms Limitation Treaty) was due to expire. The signatories were convened to either extend or debate certain changes to the current treaty. It was clear from the early discussions that Japan was going to start building battleships, and backed by Italy who also wanted to build battleships that the treaty was going to fail. What the other signatories tried to do was to keep the size of the ships to the limits set by the treaty, 35,000 tons and 16" guns. Both Italy and Japan agreed or to put it another way did not disagree. That effectively cancelled the treaty and the race to build battleships was on.

While all countries may have been doing design studies through the 1920's as to what could be done with the treaty limitations, a certain period of time was going to elapse before the designers finalised their designs and got approval from the money people to place the orders for the ships. The first ship of the new 35,000 ton class was ordered midway through 1931 and work began in September with the keel being layed in November 1931. Further orders for another two ships of the class were placed in May 1932, and January 1933. The space between the orders coincided with the six monthly budget allocations from a still reviving economy after the 1929 stock market crash. One of the reasons that building the battleships was good news was that the shipbuilding industry was a major employer and having three ships to build that would take five years each, guaranteed employment for that time.

The last completed battleship for the CUA Navy had been the twin 16" gunned Manitoba class. So the jump to three triple turrets from four twins was not a large increase. What had become clear through the prior ten years was the importance of the anti-aircraft armament. The need for weapons that could combat destroyer attacks with torpedoes was also still a priority. The destroyers required a gun big enough to stop them and this had been covered by the 6" single mountings in the previous classes while the heavy anti-aircraft weapons had been the single 3". To carry enough of each weapon put a strain on the space limited by the treaty limits, so a compromise to what became the dual-purpose weapons was made. The CUA Navy was trialling two weapons which they thought would be useful for the DP role. A pair of 5"/25cal and a 5"/38cal weapons. What changed things was that Vickers of Toronto received a copy of the plans for the new UK 4.5"/50cal weapon system and produced a trial weapon to be matched against the two local guns. There was no contest, the short barelled 5" guns were inaccurate compared to the 4.5" and the 4.5" fired further and higher. But what finished off the contest was the crew deterioration between the 5" and 4.5" when operating for 30/45/60 minute trial firing periods. The 5" fired a 60 pound shell, the 4.5" a 54 pound shell. The difference of 6 pounds made little difference in the 10 minute trial, but over the longer lengths of time the crews of the 5" dropped off the pace far faster than the 4.5" crew.

Elevation With 54/60 lbs. (25/27 kg) HE Shell
4.5"/50cal Range @ 45 degrees 20,750 yards (18,970 m)
4.5"/50cal AA Ceiling @ 80 degrees 41,000 feet (12,500 m)
5"/38cal Range @ 45 degrees 17,392 yards (15,903 m)
5"/38cal AA Ceiling @ 80 degrees 37,200 feet (11,887 m)

The AA armament was also to include the new 1.1" quad mounting of which ten mountings were to be fitted along with a few of the single 0.5" Browning machine guns. As noted elsewhere the 1.1" was not a success and was replaced during refits with twin and quad 40mm mountings.

To fit the nine 16" guns meant that a compromise had to be made elsewhere and in this case armour and speed were not what the designers considered optimal and it was not till the next Massachusetts class ships that a more complete battleship could be produced.


Displacement 36,100 tons std 44,200 tons full load
Length 731 ft
Breadth 106 ft
Draught 31 ft
Machinery 4 shaft steam turbines 130,000shp
Speed 27 knots
Range 14,000 miles at 15 knots
Armour 12.5" Belt, 15/10/9" Turrets, 5" Deck
Armament 9 x 16" (4x2)

16 x 4.5" (8x2)

56 x 40mm (14x4)

14 x 20mm (14x1)

Aircraft 5
Torpedoes nil
Complement 2300
Notes CUS Columbia


Through the spray on the right may be noted the bow 20mm mounting. The ill fated 1.1" mounting, it was just as well that its faults were found out prior to WW2.


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