In November 1918 as the Grand Fleet met the High Seas Fleet steaming to internment at Scapa Flow, the Royal Navy was at the heights of power and prestige. With the German fleet removed from competition, the Royal Navy had more capital ships (42) than the next two largest naval powers combined (16 + 9). However, those two powers, the United States and Japan, had not been idle. In 1914 Great Britain switched from emphasis on capital ships to emphasis on faster construction. It was figured that capital ships took so long to build that the war would be over before any new ones were completed. Admiral Jackie Fisher diverted funds and supplies for two of the approved R Class battleships for construction of Renown and Repulse and acquired the oddities, Glorious, Courageous and Furious, by describing them as "Large Light Cruisers" in the appropriations request. However, only one true capital ship was laid down for the Royal Navy during the middle part of the war, HMS Hood.
The Royal Navy may have had the greatest number of battleships and battle cruisers but a large percentage of them were armed with 12-inch guns. Since funds for construction of new capital ships were frozen for the Royal Navy during the war, with exception of Hood, the average age of Royal Navy capital ships was significantly older than those of the Japanese navy or the USN. Battleship construction with both of those powers continued through World War One and newer and better battleships were added to both fleets during the war. Just as both powers had trumped the British 13.5-inch gun by going to 14-inch guns, so too did they both jump ahead of the British 15-inch gun with 16-inch gun designs. In 1916 Congress passed legislation that provided for a huge increase in capital ship construction for years ahead and Japan passed its own 8-8 plan. These huge programs were funded and started during the war while the RN was still in stasis.
In 1919 the government of a cash strapped Great Britain decided to scrap older 12-inch gun dreadnought battleships as a cost saving measure, and the numbers in the naval balance of power equation started to swing. By 1920 it suddenly dawned on the government that the Royal Navy was in real danger of falling behind in capital ships numbers and quality not to one, but to two other powers. Although Britain really couldn’t afford new capital ships, there was no other choice than to match construction of her two former allies. There had been rough plans for new battleships prepared in 1919 but these did not progress too far. They used the Hood as a starting point and explored a four-turret triple 15-inch or three-turret triple 18-inch arrangement. The 15-inch design would have been 4,000-tons heavier and 6-knots slower than Hood and the 18-inch design would have the same displacement but be 4 knots slower than Hood. In 1920 the "L" designs were prepared but these were apparently drawn up to show the impossibility of producing a ship able to use existing dockyards and with armor able to withstand an 18-inch shell. None of the turrets were superfiring, so barbettes were widely separated from each other and created an extensive armor requirement. Battleship designs were designated by the letters "L" through "Z" with the newer design further up in the alphabet. Battle cruiser designs were allocated the letters "K" through "A" with newer designs given letters earlier in the alphabet. The number 2 or 3 after the letter indicated whether the design had twin or triple turrets.
By October 1920 the "M2" design had been drafted. All of the M designs clustered the turrets forward. All were designed with a main armament of 18-inch guns. The M2 design had two turrets forward and two aft of a tower bridge and then an aft superstructure with funnel and masts. The M3 had two triple turrets forward and one aft of the tower bridge. Both designs allowed for savings in weight of armor, since the main guns were clustered forward. The big disadvantage was that no main guns could fire directly aft. In December the Admiralty chose the M3 design as the basis for future battleship construction. Original British plans called for three new battleships and one battle cruiser to be ordered in 1921-22 and four more in the same proportions in 1922-23.
The composition was subsequently modified to four battle cruisers for the 1921-22 program and the G-3 design was chosen. These ships were called battle cruisers primarily because of their high speed but there was some small difference in their armor design from that of contemporary battleship designs. The G3 battle cruiser had a design speed of 33-knots compared to the 23.5 knots of the M3 battleship. The belt for the G3 was to be at a maximum of 14-inches compared to 15-inches for the M3. Turret armor was the same and the G3 had one inch less armor for the barbettes, 14" vs 15". In reality, the G3 was a fast battleship with much greater speed than the M3 battleship but 16.5-inch guns instead of the 18-inch guns of the M3. (Click for a review of the IHP model of the G-3 design, HMS Invincible)
For the 1922-23 program it was decided to build four battleships. Four months passed after the M3 design had been chosen for the 1922-23 program but in April 1921, it was suggested to modify the M3 design. The big change was to lengthen the ship by 40 feet. If this was done there could be a greater setoff of the magazines from the outer hull, which further protect them from any torpedo hit. This was done and the final battleship design finished in November 1921 was designated "N3". This design was very close to the M3 predecessor but the length of the N3 had increased by 50-feet. The design was never ordered as the Washington Naval Conference in the following months led to the Washington Treaty, which restricted design of new battleships. Oddly enough, in the month after the finalization of the N3 design, the design of a smaller 35,000-ton design was started, which incorporated the tower bridge and main armament concentrated forward. This design became the Rodney and Nelson. The only comparable design to the N3 were the USN South Dakota Class designed in the same period (Click for review of the IHP 1920 USS South Dakota). The N3 would have been a significantly larger ship, 815 feet (wl) vs 660-feet (wl) and 48,000-tons vs 43,200-tons. N3 had a half-knot edge in speed (23.5 kn vs 23 kn) and an edge in armor (15-in belt vs 13.5-in belt) but in main armament they were probably evenly matched. The N3 had bigger but fewer guns than the South Dakota, 9 x 18-in/45 vs 12 x 16-in/50. However, all this is speculation as both designs were scrapped as the result of the Washington Treaty. (History from Washington’s Cherrytrees: The Evolution of the British 1921-22 Capital Ships, in Four Parts in Warship Volume I, 1977, by N.J.M. Campbell.)
The N3 of Imperial Hobby Productions
The IHP G3 hull measures 14-inches, which comes out to 816-feet in 1:700 scale. Considering that the design was 815-feet, that is about as close as you can get in resin casting. As you can see by the comparison photos with the IHP G3, the N3 battleship is slightly shorter than the battle cruiser. This is hardly surprising, as nothing requires great size like high speed. Battle cruisers always tended to be larger than contemporary battleship designs. The hull, although very much longer and finer in line than the Rodney, still has characteristics that carried over to the Rodney design. The cutwater, fairly high freeboard, and slab-sided appearance of the hull are all characteristics that reappeared in the following 35,000-ton Rodney design. At the very stern there is something very different. The N3 featured a square transom stern, which in part duplicated the underwater flow of a longer hull. This in turn allowed a slightly higher speed with the given horsepower. Another feature at the stern is a throwback to the past. On each side of the hull at the stern are four large square windows. These were often found on later predreadnoughts and early dreadnoughts. Casting quality of the hull is very good. There were no voids, breakage or other defects in the large hull casting.
Since the N3 was a design that was never finalized with detailed builder’s plans, much less built, deck detail could be expected to be fairly sparse. Actually IHP has included quite a few deck fittings, mostly consisting of access coamings. At the forecastle there are locators for the anchor chain hawse, running to the anchors and also to the chain locker. IHP provides blackened metal chain for the anchor chain, so you won’t have to go looking for that item from 3rd party vendors. The chain run plates appear too thick but this will be diminished after painting and attachment of the anchor chain. However, you may consider sanding them down a bit. The breakwater has a very sharp angle forward and if you’re so inclined, might be improved with the additions of support gussets.
The largest amount of deck detail is located between the breakwater and A barbette. This detail basically amounts to different types of access hatches but it definitely breaks up the large deck area in front of A turret. Forward amidships is the armament, tower cluster. This is only one of the two areas of superstructure on this design. Because of the desire to minimize the area that had to be armored, the design creates two separate areas of superstructure, the heavily armored forward section and the lesser armored aft. One cluster of four twin six-inch turrets is located along each side of the B barbette and tower base area. There is another concentration of detail aft of Q turret. The aft superstructure runs the aft third of the ship. Most of the area is only one level higher than the main deck but there is a large 02 level deckhouse, which forms the base for the single funnel of the design. There is also a smaller 02 level deckhouse, which has directors for the aft cluster of four 6-inch gun turrets.
In addition to the hull there are an additional six resin parts. Two of these are for the tower, the stack and three main gun turrets. The base of the tower is cast as part of the hull but the next level is separate. This level includes the conning tower. On this part are four smaller guns cast integral to the part. These are apparently 4.7-inch HA guns. There is no detail on these guns and my preference would be to remove them and add HA guns from another source. The tower part itself has good detail and resembles the superstructure of HMS Nelson. There is no step-back at the top as found in the tower of the Rodney. If I have one complaint about the kit, it is the design of the tower, as the N3 tower was somewhat different from that employed in either Rodney or Nelson. The stack is rather plain but it does have a cap with clinker grate. Most modelers will probably wish to remove the resin grate and use photo-etch. The three turrets are of the Rodney/Nelson design and have range finder hoods attached.
Director of Naval Construction (DNC)
One very interesting facet of any warship model that replicates a ship design that was not completed, is the speculation as to how it would have been modified during service. Some modelers will not be comfortable in using their own judgement in adding parts to show the design as it might have appeared later in service. On the other hand the fact that the ships were not completed eliminates most historical constraints from the build of the modeler. Cable reels can be added on the deck or other bulkheads and this is true with other deck fittings, such as mushroom ventilators, which were all over the Rodney. It seems that the most common build of most of the "Never Were" models from Imperial Hobby Productions is to portray the design as it might have appeared during World War Two. Of course with the N3 design the basic refit pattern would have been the Rodney and Nelson but since the N3 was so much larger than this historical pair, there is far more room available for budding naval constructors. As an example of the freedom allowed to refitting a "Never Were" design, consider a ship’s catapult.
Only Rodney, not Nelson, carried a catapult and that was on B turret with a crane off set to port. One possibility for a N3 update would be to follow the example of Rodney and mount a catapult on B turret. However, the N3 has a substantial quarterdeck and one reasonable fit could have a centerline catapult on the quarterdeck with a stern crane. The Hood tried out a quarterdeck catapult in the 1930s but the aft freeboard of Hood was low and the catapult was removed. The N3 design had a much higher freeboard aft, so a quarterdeck catapult would be much drier. A third possibility would be a catapult and hangar arrangement as found in the King George V Class, Warspite, Queen Elizabeth/Valiant, County Class cruisers and other Royal Navy ships of World War Two. This would entail adding an athwartship catapult with hangars on each side of the funnel. This would be the most complex change as the small 02 deckhouse that forms the base of the funnel would have to shortened to allow room for the catapult. The locations of the aft 6-inch turrets seem to preclude placing such an arrangement further aft. However, the final design of any WWII fit of the N3 would be left to DNC Modeler.