Welcome back to your weekly installment of the ship of the week! Back again by unpopular request, I'm sealclubbing moderator Tsukiumi. Do you like to watch the world burn? Do you like to rack up massive damage salvoes? Do you like watching your enemy get salty while you print a new warship, casually mocking their intense HE barage? And, do you want to do this all while being Top Tier and beating up on Omahas? Boy, do I have the ship for you. Stick your front out proudly, because
it's Nelson time!
As per tradition, I will stick in as many Nelson) puns as I can fit, for no reason whatsoever. Who doesn't love obscure hair metal in your ship review? I can't live, if living is without you. Ah shit, never mind. That's Nilsson. Let's just superheal that one out in edits.
History (Only Time Will Tell)
With the culmination of the First World War, the great powers of the time quickly realized that another naval arms race was commencing, and understanding the effect the first one had at dragging the world into a global war, politicians were not too keen on repeating that mistake. Ratified in 1922, the Washington Naval Treaty imposed limitations on sizes of navies, and restrictions upon the specifications of new battleships under design; two most important being tonnage no greater than 35,000 tonnes and caliber no greater than 16-inches. The Royal Navy needed new ships for it’s post-war era, so along with the recently commissioned HMS Hood, the Navy decided to build a pair of new battleships under treaty regulations: the Nelson-class battleships.
The story beings with a man named Sir Eustace Tennyson D’Eyncourt, the Director of Naval Construction for the Royal Navy. A veteran of the trade, Tennyson was originally given the task of planning for the G3-class and N3-class, but with their subsequent rejection, and his posting to the treaty battleship project, he sought to incorporate as much as he could from the aforementioned designs to save time. Tennyson envisioned the G3-class battlecruisers to be tougher then the rest; using the “all-or-nothing” armor scheme championed by the Americans to shield vital components like magazines and propulsion machinery. And many boilers there were – 20 in all – to propel this machine to 32 knots. Tennyson also considered an armament of nine 16-inch guns in three triple turrets: two forward and one amidships. Accordingly, the N3-class of battleships were similar to the G3-class but in which they trade speed for firepower, Tennyson imagine these vessels to mount 18-inch guns in three triple turrets.
With the restrictions of the treaty in mind, Tennyson chose to use the armament of the G3-class, but altering the layout so that all main battery would be forward of the superstructure; secondary battery would be to the rear to balance out. Finalization of the design would not happen till 1922 as designers opted to reduce armoring, remove boilers, and decrease length in the name of saving tonnage.
Armour was an important factor for the Nelson-class, as Tennyson learned the lessons of Jutland but conversely had a weight limitation too keep in mind. He opted to use the “all-or-nothing” scheme; 14-inches of belt would run from A turret in the front to secondary magazines in the rear. Top deck was properly armored as well, to mitigate plunging fire. Furthermore, torpedo bulges were an integral part of the design, and not just added on as an afterthought. Like Hood’s, they were multilayered to spread and absorb the shock of impact.
Aforementioned, designers chose to reduce the number of boilers on board to save weight. In the end, the Nelson-class had only 8 boilers powering their two turbines. Interestingly, the fire rooms – which housed the boilers – were placed behind the engine rooms. The propulsion machinery could only manage a meager 46,000 shaft horsepower, which could move the vessel no more than 23 knots.
The most significant aspect about the Nelson-class was its firepower. This class was the first to mount 16-inch guns in triple turrets. The other two major naval powers at the time – United States and Japan – were less keen on placing 16-inch guns in triple turrets as the would be too heavy and cumbersome. There was truth to this: the 16-inch guns used by the Nelson-class were far less reliable than the 15-inch guns used on other British dreadnoughts. Although, by 1939, many of the complications that arose from mounting large guns in triple were resolved. Furthermore, such an arrangement allowed one to maximize firepower in the smallest amount of space; ideal for the treaty era. In fact, despite being a 14-year old battleship by the start of the Second World War, there was no question to the potency of Nelson’s firepower; her broadside was fearsome.
HMS Nelson (Pennant number: 28) was laid down on 28 December 1922 by the Armstrong-Whitworth Company at Hebburn, near the River Tyne and Launched 3 September 1925.
Completed and commissioned on the 15th of August 1927, HMS Nelson joined the British Home Fleet as the most powerful battleship in the world; being the first ship completed to be armed with 9 16” guns in three triple turrets in a unique all-forward layout that made Nelson and her sister-ship HMS Rodney instantly recognizable. Serving as the flagship of the Home Fleet, Nelson saw little action during the pre-war period, with her crew participating in the Invergordon Mutiny following harsh cuts to her sailor’s pay in 1931. Modified little throughout the 1930’s, she was to be extensively modernized in the early 1940’s, but this never came to be following the breakout of the War in Europe in 1939.
Retaining her position as the flagship of the Home Fleet, Nelson’s first major action was sailing north-west to Icelandic waters following news that a German raiding force may be waiting in the area to attack trade routes once War truly broke out on the 1st of September 1939. The order to commence hostilities didn’t come to the Royal Navy until the 3rd, and Nelson’s limited top speed became apparent in her failures to find the supposed German raiding force in the North Sea. Nevertheless, she led the Home Fleet operating from Scapa Flow and Loch Ewe for the rest of 1939. On the 30th of October, Nelson in the company of Rodney and HMS Hood and their escorting destroyers were attacked by a line of 4 U-boats. U-56 fired three torpedoes at Nelson, all three hit, but miraculously two broke apart on hitting and the third failed to explode. Nelson was constantly deployed to intercept German raiders, but was never quite able to find them herself. The Royal Navy was under pressure, with German panzerschiffe Admiral Graf Spee wreaking havoc in the South Atlantic and panzerschiffe Deutschland operating in Icelandic waters. She continued searching for the German raiders until mid-January 1940, when she detached from the Home Fleet for repairs and refits.
Nelson had to be moved further north while being refitted, however, due to the Luftwaffe bombing and laying magnetic mines near Portsmouth where she was anchored, so she sailed north to Clyde in early June 1940, returning to the Home Fleet by the 9th. On the 29th of June, she was ordered to sail to Gibraltar, before this order was cancelled two days later and she returned to the Home Fleet in Scapa Flow, where she remained until early September that year. On 6 September, she escorted carrier HMS Furious on Operation DF off the cost of Norway, returning to the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow on the 7th. She sailed from Scapa to Rosyth mid-September, where she remained until November. She returned to Scapa again on 5 November, the following day she sortied to the Icelandic Channel to hopefully intercept the German panzerschiffe Admiral Scheer on her way back to Germany, but Scheer managed to evade the sizeable British fleet sent to sink her. Nelson returned to Scapa by mid-November, returning to Rosyth by the 29th, before sailing to Scapa again where she remained until mid-January 1941.
Operating out of Scapa Flow, Nelson spent the first quarter of 1941 patrolling the waters between Iceland and Denmark, poised to intercept any attempted breakout by German ships. Come late March, she sailed south to join Convoy WS 7, headed for South Africa via Freetown in modern-day Sierra Leone. Nelson reached South Africa by mid-April, where she remained until the 13th of May where she set sail for St. Helena, with orders to search for the German commerce raider Atlantis. On the night of the 18th, Atlantis sited two darkened vessels approaching at speed, which were quickly identified as warships and Atlantis moved slowly out of their path. These ships were Nelson and accompanying carrier HMS Eagle, both vessels passed within 7,000 meters of her without either vessel spotting her. Nelson slowly made her way up the west African coast, reaching Gibraltar by the 26th. She was deployed here to prevent German battleship Bismarck, which had sunk Hood two days earlier, from breaking into the Mediterranean and joining up with the Italian navy. However, the next day Nelson was signaled that Bismarck had been sunk. Her orders changed several times for the next few hours, before she was finally ordered to escort a troop convoy that had set sail from Freetown bound for England. She detached from this convoy on the 4th of June, however, for an allied armed merchant vessel had spotted an unidentified vessel that attempted to outrun her. Nelson moved to intercept this ship, that turned out to be the German supply ship Gonzenheim. Gonzenheim attempted to outrun Nelson, until she halted when Nelson fired a 6” warning round across her bow. Gonzenheim began to slow and lower life boats, causing Nelson to fire two more warning rounds at Gonzenheim, and Gonzenheim was scuttled by her crew before Nelson’s accompanying cruiser HMS Neptune could reach her. Nelson returned to her convoy, reaching Londonderry by the 6th and then returning to Scapa to rejoin the Home Fleet.
Nelson set sail for the Mediterranean in July, escorting a convoy bound for besieged Malta, joining up with Force H stationed at Gibraltar by mid-July. Nelson exercised heavily in the western Mediterranean, covering convoys bound for Malta and North Africa, coming under attack from Italian torpedo boats and aircraft several times and evading several large sorties by the Italian Regia Marina. Nelson was hit by an aerial torpedo on 27 September, immediately dropping her speed to 18 knots, but she remained with the convoy. She later had to reduce speed to 15 knots to reduce flooding, and she dropped to the rear of her convoy. Nelson’s speed and steering continued to deteriorate, and by the 28th she broke off from the convoy with destroyer escorts for temporary repairs in Gibraltar, so she could survive the return trip to the UK for proper repairs. She remained at Gibraltar from early October to early November, returning to the UK on the 22nd and entering drydocks on the 24th. She remained in dry dock until mid-April 1942.
Following the completion of her repairs, she returned to the Home Fleet by 22 April, joining in on fleet exercises out of Scapa Flow. By June she was back on convoy escort duty, ferrying troops to Freetown with her sister Rodney. She re-entered the Mediterranean, and was chosen to be the flagship of the fleet for Operation Pedestal; a major convoy resupply of the Island of Malta. Nelson continued operating in the Mediterranean until she was recalled to Scapa, arriving on the 28th of August and remaining there until the 20th of September. Come October, she returned to the Mediterranean as part of the re-organized Force H to carry out Operation Torch, to liberate North Africa then under the control of Vichy France. Following the immense success of Operation Torch, Nelson, alongside Force H, spent the rest of the year patrolling between Gibraltar and Mers-el-Kébir.
Nelson and Force H remained in the western Mediterranean until May 1943, where Nelson detached from Force H and returned to England for a short refit. While at Scapa Flow, Nelson alongside Rodney, HMS Valiant and HMS Warspite carried out bombardment exercises in preparation for Operation Husky – the Allied invasion of Sicily. She returned to Gibraltar by 23 June, later sailing to Mers-el-Kébir and then Algiers by early July. On 6 July, Force H sailed from Algiers to take part in Operation Husky. She spent the first half of July patrolling off eastern Sicily, giving naval fire support in support of Allied landing forces as they seized Sicily. On the 20th Nelson returned to Malta, where she remained until the 30th of August when she sailed for the coast of Calabria to carry out Operation Hammer. In September she supported Operation Avalanche, bombarding Axis positions around Salerno as Allied forces invaded the Italian Mainland. Nelson remained in Italian waters until 26 October. The Italian navy had surrendered a month before, and Nelson’s guns were needed elsewhere. She returned to the UK by the 6th, entering dry dock for refits. She was undocked on 1 December, moving to Scapa Flow where she remained until 1944.
Come January 1944, Nelson was running out of enemies. The Italians had surrendered their capital ships when they signed the Armistice of Cassibile signed on Nelson’s own deck, Scharnhorst sank in December 1943, Gneisenau was permanently out of action, and Tirpitz was locked up in Norwegian fjords. Until June 1944, Nelson rotated between the ports of Scapa, Clyde, and Rosyth, as the Allies prepared for Operation Overlord: the Allied invasion of Normandy. Nelson moved to Milford Haven on 4 June, on standby for bombardment duties off the Normandy beachheads. Nelson sailed for northern France on the 11th, anchoring off Caen and beginning her bombardment. Nelson spent seven days off the beachhead, firing nearly 1,000 16-inch shells at German positions along the shores. By the 18th, she returned to Portsmouth for re-ammunition, having to dock shortly after hitting two acoustic mines for minor repairs. It was decided that Nelson would sail for the USA for some more extensive retrofitting; Nelson was nominated for service in the Indian Ocean and required extensive improvement of her crew facilities and ventilation systems. She departed Portsmouth on 23 June, arriving at Delaware Bay on 4 July. The next day, she arrived at the Philadelphia Navy Yard where she would remain for the rest of 1944.
Just Once More
Come 1945, her repairs were nearly completed and she sailed for Portsmouth by 18 January 1945, arriving in Portsmouth for the final stages of her refit by the 28th. She remained in drydocks at Portsmouth until mid-April, sailing for Spithead to receive ammunition and supplies, before setting sail for Malta, via Gibraltar. She reached Malta by 5 May, beginning extensive exercises for future endeavors against the Japanese. She set sail from Malta on 14 June, sailing across the western Indian Ocean via the Suez Canal, arriving in Sri Lanka on the 10th of July and joining the East Indies Fleet. She began assisting in mine sweeping duties of the area for Operation Livery, to clear the way for allied troops to land in Japanese-held Thailand and Malaya, the last offensive action of the Eastern Fleet before the Japanese surrendered. On the 15th of August, Nelson was anchored at Sri Lanka when she received news of the Japanese surrender, and that the war was over.
Nelson’s duties weren’t quite over, however, as she continued mine sweeping to clear the way for merchant vessels and supply ships. On the 27th, Nelson set sail for Penang, and the following day the Japanese forces occupying Penang climbed on board Nelson and signed the surrender of the local Japanese Commanders. Nelson remained at Penang for a few more days, as the Japanese willingly cooperated with the Allied officers and provided information relative to the extensive minefields in the South-East Asia region. Nelson later sailed for Singapore, arriving on 12 September, where the Japanese Forces in South-East Asia officially surrendered on Nelson’s decks.
Following the surrender at Singapore, Nelson slowly made her way back to England, visiting Sri Lanka, Suez, Malta and Gibraltar before finally reaching Portsmouth by 17 November 1945. Deployed as flagship of the Training Battleship Squadron in the Home Fleet 1946, she carried out training duties including the Home Fleet 1946 Spring Cruise, before being relieved by carrier HMS Victorious on 22 September 1947. Having served the Royal Navy for two decades, Nelson was nevertheless an outdated vessel and lacked the speed to operate with a modern navy. Nelson was paid off and reduced to reserve status, later being placed on the disposal list. Following bombing target trials on her hulk, she was sold for scrap and disappeared from the world before the end of 1949, her name later carried on to the name of the barracks and support services site based in Portsmouth.
So, what’s she like in game?
You have two ways to deal damage in Nelson: You can choose the AP route and play like a "traditional" battleship, or load HE and cosplay a Conqueror. Both can yield very nice success. Which one you choose will depend on the conditions of the battle. Expert Loader is a skill well worth it on Nelson. Being able to switch ammo on the fly can send enemies running for the five o'clock plane very quickly. You can hit hard, but you have downsides. You're not invincible. Don't be that Nelson who screams "Muh Superheal", while dying two minutes later.
We Always Want What We Can't Get
In Nelson's case, that would be armor. Do you remember the pre-buff Iowa? You know, before they lowered the citadel in patch 0.6.6? Yeah, she was less vulnerable than Nelson. When you're sailing, you always have to be aware of your raised citadel. Unless you want to be holding your kneecap like Peter Griffin, DO NOT SHOW BROADSIDE! Or, really, any side. Her armor is kinda crap. So, what do you do? Dodge by stopping? Good luck with that. Have you ever driven a Kenworth without brakes? Odds are that it would outstop a Nelson. So, what's left? Run fast like the Frenchies? Good luck with that one too. Nelson is not that fast. You're not going to be a travellin' man. Here's how you play her…
Nelson has the same basic turret setup as Dunkerque and Izumo: All business up front. Let's look at what I said in my Dunkerque spotlight back in April:
"you stay mobile. You have really nice ruddershift and maneuverability. You abuse that. While you can’t stay perfectly nose-in to everything, you don’t have to show much side, and you can easily switch that side too. Suck it, Izumo. This is what your turrets need to be. Cock your ship to the side just a little to trigger the mighty bounce noise as enemies do nothing to your glorious French armor, folded 1000 times in a croissant. "
Well, Nelson loses on ruddershift and manuverability. Imagine if you will, a fat Dunkerque with better guns and a meme heal. You pretty much have a Nelson. You have to stay mobile, and one of my favorite Dunkerque tricks works on Nelson: You can switch sides between shots, though Dunkerque will always have all her guns on point. Nelson will out-turn her back turret. You angle, trying for autobounce. But, you will eat random pens and citadels at weird angles. You time your repairs and heals correctly. That's your key for staying power. Nelson can bring back 40% of her health with a good use of the repair party. Her damage control is nothing noteworthy, but the heal means that you don't need to employ it as often as in a traditional battleship. You can just sit there, taking two fires, while smugly knowing that you can just undo them if your heal is only a moment away. So, that's your basics for defense: Try not to get shot pretty much, and if you do, hope it's HE.
What about offense? This is where things get fun. Nelson is quite the rockstar here. Your HE is a meme. In Ranked, I was able to pull off a fair amount of one-shots on DDs with it. On cruisers, you can deal massive damage, while of course enjoying almost a 50% chance of starting a fire with each shell, all with the bonus of knocking out important things- you know: rudders, engines, and torpedoes. Things that might help. As for the AP, it's not weak. In fact, I find it to be extremely strong. Broadsiding cruisers will regret their mistakes instantly. And battleships. And even DDs can be hurt a lot. The key for Nelson is to minimize her weak side armor by using terrain to your advantage. This allows you to keep her safe. A good Nelson player will learn the art of pulling snapshots. Her turrets can turn really quickly if you can turn the bow a little with them. Work this, pop your shot, and be ready to either turn in open water, or duck behind concealment. Nelson is one of the best ships for doing a drive-by in my opinion. Her closely-placed turrets mean that you'll likely be able to fire all of them if you can fire any of them.
If you end up facing bow-in targets, just keep withering them down. You can often knock out battleship guns too in the process. When you destroy the torpedoes and one gun turret on a Scharnhorst who's nose in over the course of a couple of salvoes, you've changed the game for him. Nelson's HE can impact battles a lot by forcing people to not be able to play the way they want. Who needs good, hard citadel shots when you can just keep torching the enemy, and if you're lucky, lock him in place with a damaged engine? You sure don't. Unless you're facing another Nelson, any enemy won't want to play a war of attrition with you.
This made Nelson a beast in Ranked Sprint. She was great for star-saving, because she could rack up insane damage totals, while using AP to punish the cruiser that just got spotted by your team's Pay-To-Radar.
My Nelson strategy for Narai:
Okay, this is the part that I'll probably get flamed by some for. But, when I play Narai, I almost exclusevely take Nelson. My strategy is unconventional, but I almost never fail in it. Here's what I do:
Your goal is to get King. You can take out the CV easily- he can't stand close-range brawls with your guns. Take a route that puts you on path to nuke King. If you time it right, you can get two salvoes into the Missouri on your way there. These soften her up for your team to finish. This is where your friendly torp-equipped ship does cleanup. You just want to get her low enough on HP that the torps will finish her. You take your first salvo as the MO makes her 90 degree turn, and you can pop the second just before he goes behind the island. You may be able to get a third potshot off too if timing permits. Ideally, then you can use the moment that King is initially spotted to fire a snapshot at him. You may miss, or you may do good damage. I usually do minimal damage on this shot since you don't have much time. Watch for the Nicholas- if you are unsure which way he is going, load HE. You want to take him out first. She's way too cute for him (King). Then, I will go for the CV and Phoenix (Usually the CV first, since you shouldn't have needed to use a heal yet). Take out both of them, and push through into the base. You can have a cross-fire all to yourself. The rest of the match is just target practice for you. It's an odd strategy, but it really has been effective for me.
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