From ancient Viking ships to modern aircraft carriers, THE GREAT SHIPS let you step on board to explore the design, construction, technology and armaments of history’s great vessels of war and peace. Join HISTORY as we roam majestically over the oceans of the world with the modern Aircraft Carrier – the largest warship ever to sail the seas acting as the centerpiece of a mighty taskforce – to the Battleships that were designed to be the ultimate expression of naval power. Nimble Cruisers played a crucial role in the world’s navies for the past two centuries thanks to an amazing versatility, as well as the Destroyers – some of the fastest and most deadly warships ever built.
Part 1: Ironclads
With their menacing dark silhouettes belching fire and smoke, the Ironclad warships of the mid 19th century burst onto the naval scene like hulking metal monsters. Combining iron plating, steam propulsion and the biggest and most powerful guns afloat, the Ironclads represented a radical advance over all previous warships. Although pioneered by the French and British with ships like HMS Warrior, today they are best remembered for the part they played in the American Civil War. Discover how the Confederate Merrimac devastated Union shipping until its epic duel with the Monitor, relive the epic sea battles of Charleston and Mobile Bay and follow the Ironclad duels for control of the mighty Mississippi river.
Part 2: Dreadnoughts
When HMS Dreadnought was launched in 1906, she immediately rendered every other battleship in the world obsolete and started the 20th century’s first arms race. Constructed from thousands of tons of steel and armour plate, these new leviathans took on the generic name of ‘dreadnoghts’ and were the first modern battleships. They were both a technical marvel and a stirring symbol of national might. Discover how the personal vision of a British Admiral brought about an entire fleet of these superweapons of their era, and see how the new dreadnoughts were put to the ultimate test on the high seas during the First World War in such epic clashes as the Battle of Jutland.
Part 3: Battleships
Carrying the largest, most destructive naval guns ever built and protected by massive steel armour, battleships were designed to be the ultimate expression of naval power. They were the embodiment of the cherished belief held by virtually every naval commander since the age of sail that the immense might of naval gunfire was the decisive element in combat at sea.
Now you can relive the power of these ships, from the dreadnoughts of the First World War to the last use of a battleship in the Gulf War. See the greatest naval battles of the 20th century – Jutland, the Bismarck chase and Leyte Gulf – and experience the might of a battle fleet in action.
Part 4: Aircraft Carriers
Air power is a 20th-century phenomenon. And one of the most effective uses of air power has been at sea where, at the end of the century, the aircraft carrier rules the waves. US Navy battle groups, centered around mighty aircraft carriers, are the most powerful expressions of naval force in the world today.
This is the story of these amazing ships, from the early flat-tops created by the British in the First World War to the immense floating airfields of today. See how the war in the Pacific was turned in favour of the allies by the engagements at Coral Sea and Midway, experience the frenzied activity on a flight deck during the Vietnam War and sail with a carrier patrolling the gulf.
Part 5: Cruisers
Built for speed, strength and the ability to scout far and wide, cruisers have played a key role in the world’s navies for the past 200 years. From early missions as raiders savaging enemy merchant ships to sailing in support of the battle fleet, cruisers have shown an amazing versatility and longevity exceeding that of almost any other type of warship.
BROADSIDE charts the history and development of this exciting line of fighting ships, from 18th-century frigates to today’s cruisers with their deadly guided missile systems. Included is rare footage of WWI cruisers in action, as well as a dramatic account of the German cruiser Graf Spee and the epic battle of Savo Island.
Part 6: Destroyers
Knifing through the waves, destroyers are amongst the fastest and most deadly warships ever built. Mounting a powerful arsenal of offensive and defensive weapons, they can serve equally well as escorts for other vessels or as formidable attack ships in their own right.
From their humble beginnings as stripped-down vessels designed exclusively to destroy torpedo boats, through the WWII models battling the U-boat ‘wolf packs’ in the North Atlantic to the most modern versions each now more powerful than a whole squadron of WWI dreadnought, BROADSIDE shows how the destroyer has continued to live up to its name. Rare and exclusive footage captures destroyers in action during both World Wars – in pitched battle at Cape Esperance and the Solomons, supporting the D-Day landings, fending off swarms of kamikazes at Okinawa and much more.