Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week.
– Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, April 10
Here we see the Swedish Pansarskepp HSvMS Gustav V as she looked in broadside in the 1940s. Pansarskepps ( literally “armored ships” ) were a peculiar design that was popular in the Baltic from about 1900-45. These short, shallow-draft ships could hug the coastline and hide from larger capital ships, while carrying big enough guns to be able to brutally bring the pain to any landing ship escorted by a shallow draft light cruiser or destroyer approaching from offshore. Sweden had kept out of wars since Napoleon was around, but she was still very wary of not only Russian and German, but British designs on the Baltic. With her neutrality only as good as the ships that could protect it, the country built a series of 13 coastal defense vessels, or Pansarskepps from 1897-1918.
Here’s a brief run down:
Oden-class coastal defense ship 3445 tons, 17kts, 2 x 254 mm (10 in) m/94
HMS Oden (launched1897)
HMS Niord (1899)
HMS Thor (1898)
Dristigheten-class coastal defense ship
HMS Dristigheten (1900) -3445 t, 16.5kts 2 x 210 mm (8.2 in) m/98
Äran-class coastal defense ship 3,650 tons, 17kts, 2 x 210 mm (8.2 in) m/98
HMS Äran (August 1901) – Stricken 1947
HMS Wasa (September 1901)
HMS Tapperheten (November 1901) – BU 1952
HMS Manligheten (December 1903)
HMS Oscar II (1905) –
Sverige-class coastal defense ship 7,633 tons full load, 23kts, 4x 283 mm (11.1 inch 45 cal.) 8x 152 mm (6 inch 50 cal.)
HMS Sverige (ordered 1912, comm May 1915)
HMS Drottning Victoria (September 1917)
HMS Gustav V (January 1918)
The Gustav V, as you can see, was the last of the baker’s dozen of these craft to come off the line in Sweden and by all rights, the most advanced of the design. Laid down at Kockums, Malmö (the same company that makes Sweden’s AIP Subs today) on 12/1914, just four months after outbreak of WWI. She was launched 31/1/1918 and finally commissioned in January 1922. She was quite a bit longer than her 1912-designed sister ship and class leader Sverige. This fact, coupled with minor changes to the ship’s armament and major ones to her engineering made Gustav V was the crown jewel of the Swedish fleet from 1922 through 1957.
She served in WWII and helped keep Sweden neutral even with the large Kreigsmarine and Soviet Navies coming within very close range on occasion. The Wiemar Germany-era Deutschland class was a series of three Panzerschiffe (“armored ships”), better known as Pocket Battleships, were based in part from lessons learned by the Swedes with the Gustav. When compared, the 14500-ton SMS Graf Spee carried six 11-inch and 8x 5.9-inch guns to the 7700-ton Gustav V’s four 11-inch and 8x 5.9-inch guns. The Swedish ship had much heavier armor but the German ship was built to run five knots faster and make round-the-world cruises, something the Swedes had no use for. As a final proof-of-point, the Gustav could float and fight in 20-feet of water whereas the German pocket battleships needed 24 (and a Soviet Gangut class battleship required 30).
So the Swedes had a group of tiny battleships, about the size of a frigate in today’s navies, for almost forty years. The 1938 edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships even lists the Swedish Pansarskepps of the Sverige class as battleships.
Well, Gustav lived a quiet life and in 1957 at age 35 was tied up to the pier for the last time– the Soviets had decommissioned the last of their WWI-era Gangut class battleships the year before. Her two sisterships, Sverige and Drottning Victoria were laid up in 1947 and their parts had been used to help Gustav V stay operational for another decade.
But her story was not over. Gustav’s 8x 152 mm (6 inch 50 cal.) Bofors QF guns were removed and mounted around Sweden for use as Coastal Artillery should the Soviets (or Germans, or Norwegians, or British, or whoever feel froggy) and were only retired in the 1980s. The disarmed ship herself was still used as a training hulk and pierside until 1970, when she was scrapped.
The end of the Pansarskepp era.
In fact, when Gustav was scrapped, she was arguably the only battleship still ‘in service.’ At the time the US Iowa-class battleships were all in mothballs and had been since the 50s. Tthe British Vanguard was scrapped in 1960 and the Turkish battle-cruiser Yavuz (formerly the Kaiser’s Goeben, launched in 1911) had been struck in 1954 by the Turks and her hulk scrapped in 1973 after an offer to sell her back to Germany was refused.
Displacement: 7,239 tonnes standard, 7,755 tonnes full load (some sources list 7633 as FL)
Length: 396.6 ft (120.9 m)
Beam: 18.6 m (61 ft)
Draught: 6.7 m (22.0 ft)
Belt: 200/150–60 mm (7.9/5.9-2.4 in)
Turret: 8 in. Front, 4 in. Sides, 4 3/8 in Rear
Conning Tower: 175/100–60 mm (6.9 in)
Deck: 1 5/8 in.
Redoubt: 4 in.
Barbettes: 6 in.
Small Turrets: 5 in. Front, 3 in. Sides
2 shafts; Westinghouse Geared Turbines (Manufactured by Motala Company) in Gustaf V 22,000 SHP; originally with 12 Yarrow-type coal-fired boilers with (originally) 761-tons bunkerage of coal. The provided a nominal range of 3300-miles. This was seen as plenty for the Baltic region of operations. In the 1930s half of the ships 12 boilers were replaced by 2 oil-burning Penhöet type boiler. This upgrade slightly increased speed and allowed the ship to use both oil and coal for strategic reasons to operate on alternative fuel if the swedish oil supply was ever cut off). Fuel stowage was 360ts of coal and 273ts of oil after this.
- 4x 283 mm (11.1 inch 45 cal.) Bofors guns (2 twin turrets), load in 17 seconds, rated as cramped, dividing partition between guns. These guns could fire a 672.4 lbs. (305 kg) Arrow Nose Shell to 31,700 yards (29,000 m), capable of penetrating 13.5-inches of armor at 6500-yards. These four guns could fire a total of a dozen rounds every minute at targets upto 29-km away.
- 8x 152 mm (6 inch 50 cal.) Bofors QF guns (1 twin turret superfiring over the forward 11 inch battery, and 6 single turrets, 3 on each beam)
- 4x 75 mm Bofors AA cannons mounted forward of the rear 11 inch battery
- 2x 57 mm short-barreled Bofors cannons (6 pdr.)
- 9x 6,5 mm MG
- 2x 457 mm (18 in) TT
Armament after modernization (late 1930´ts to WW-II)
The underwater torpedo tubes where removed, and the underwater torpedo room was converted into an artillery central plotting room to serve the installation of modern range meters and fire control equipment for heavy, secondary and AA-gunnery.
All small gunnery and 2x152mm (6 inch 50 cal. ) was removed and replaced with modern Bofors 75mm, 40mm and 20mm Anti aircraft gunnery. (2 x 2 – 25mm/58, 4 x 1 – 25mm/58; + 1 x 2 – 40mm/56cal M32, 2 x 2 – 20mm/66cal M40, 4 x 1 – 20mm/66cal M40
The range of the 281 mm (11 inch) main-artillery was upgraded by new ‘Arrow Point’ ammunition. An upgrade at the time to the guns that would have enabled them to fire to 35-degrees elevation (from the 1912-era 25-degrees) which would have added some 10,000-m to their range, was canceled.
Complement 450 after reconstruction
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