Norflicks Productions Ltd. - Library



Editor: Wesley Cudlip
Narrator: Robin Ward
Composer: Rob Plowman, Mark Camillari
Writer: Phil Surguy
Producer: Robert Linnell, Richard Nielsen
Director: James Hyslop


The development of the fighting ship encapsulates the advances in technology over the ages. The sailing ships were the Space Shuttles of their times, able to harness the invisible forces of the winds and waters. They fostered exploration and the spread of colonisation.

The distant roots of oceanic warships are found in the Viking longboat. It was capable of sailing the Atlantic and raiding deep into other lands but its limitations in cargo carrying held back its development as a warship. The Cog of the Middle Ages was the true ancestor of the sailing ship which became both trader and warship. It evolved into the Caravel like the Matthew and the Carrack like the Mary Rose.

The evolution of large, seaworthy sailing ships in the fourteenth and fifteenth century provided ambitious nations with a global exploration and colonisation capability, as well as a new kind of fighting platform. The Carrack had high fore and after castles, which were redoubts for soldiers fighting a land battle at sea. But it also carried cannons, and was the first warship, being built only to fight, and not to carry cargo in times of peace as most ships had been. Still the primitive quality of cannon technology and the consequences of new design features are illustrated by the fate of the recently raised Mary Rose, which sunk because of open gunports.

The Galleon was a ship type developed first in England by John Hawkins and it quickly spread across Europe. It married the high stern of the Carrack with the lower bow of the galley, which allowed forward firing long guns, and a better sailing performance to windward. Drake's Golden Hinde was a Galleon, and they fought the Spanish Armada.

Sailors were becoming fighters, not just the carriers of soldiers as the Dutch Wars began, and the reconstruction of De Ruyter's flagship Five Provinces illustrates the evolution of shipboard construction and weaponry. Improvements in both cannon and gunpowder had made ships' broadsides into devastating weapons.

In the wars against Napoleonic France the sailing ship of war reached its azimuth with Nelson's Victory. The Battle of Cape St Vincent made a hero of Nelson and showed the benefits of the training and enterprise of the Royal Navy.. The British fired with Lee guns and because the guns bear low, they aim for the waterline, versus the Spanish, fired with weather guns bearing high for attacks on the rigging.

As well as new tactics, there was new technology - a significant development in gun design: the Carronade, which was suited to British fighting tactics. It fired a large load for a short distance in comparison to the cannon, which could fire a solid ball a long distance.

The 19th century was an era of great technological change. The age of sail ended with the coming of the steamship and the contest between HMS Alecto and HMS Rattler finally decided the fate of the paddlewheel versus the screw propeller.

Yet, in the early days of sail the fuel requirements initially limited the range and station-keeping abilities of steam warships. Navies are slower than the merchant marine to adopt changes. Faced with a new French Ironclad, La Gloire, the British quickly respond with the HMS Warrior, and used their industrial might to outstrip their opponents in iron-ship construction.

The development of new weapons like torpedoes and mines during the American Civil War paved the way for new classes of warships—fast attack destroyers and submarines, which called into question the doctrine of capital ships. So an example of the new American Navy, the USS Olympia has torpedo tubes as well as powerful . breech-loading guns. She was Dewey's flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay, which closed the Spanish Empire and announced the beginning of the American.

At the Battle of Tsushima, it is the big guns of the Japanese that take their toll. While every nation has ideas about the mix of guns, turrets and broadside weapons and calibre’s, Britain gambles on the all-big-gun capital ship and renders all previous battleships obsolete, and begins the battleship race by unveiling the HMS Dreadnought.

While the enormous range and power of Dreadnought guns renders stately line of battle manoeuvres obsolete, they also threaten the very existence of battleship fleets. The incredible destructive power of new high explosive shells is shown in the Battle of Jutland during the First World War when British battle cruisers, (fast battleships without heavy armour) are blown up.

The reign of the battleship lasts until the Second World War, and ends at the Battle of Midway, when Yamamoto's battleships have to flee when his aircraft carriers are sunk by naval air power coming from the new Queen of the sea. The Aircraft carrier has been crowned, but she has a rival under the waves. By the end of the Second World War, America was using the submarine as effectively as the Germans had in the Battle of the Atlantic, where the struggle between Type V!! submarines and corvettes like HMCS Sackville was bitterly fought.

In the last half of the 20th Century the principle advance in naval warship evolution has been the addition of nuclear power, both as a propulsion system, and as a source of armament. Within the context of the cold war, the sea becomes a battle of technology with nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines. Ship technology evolves to create an antisubmarine surface navy, based on helicopters and frigates. The Aircraft carrier still rules the surface, and projects power 600 miles from land, and even farther from home base as was shown in the Falklands.

Now, warships are larger, faster and more costly than ever before. They can wreak more havoc than their predecessors could have ever imagined. In the future, with stealthy designs like the DD21, known as a Land Attack Destroyer, warship design and technology will be as cutting edge as ever.