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The Queen Elizabeth-class battleships were a class of five super-dreadnoughts of the Royal Navy commissioned in 1915–16. The lead ship was named after Elizabeth I of England. These battleships were superior in firepower, protection and speed to their Royal Navy predecessors of the Iron Duke class as well as preceding German classes such as the König class, although the corresponding Bayern-class ships were competitive except for being 2 knots (3.7 km/h) slower. As such, the Queen Elizabeths are generally considered the first fast battleships.The Queen Elizabeths were the first battleships to be armed with 15-inch (381 mm) guns, and were described in the 1919 edition of Jane's Fighting Ships as "the most successful type of capital ship yet designed." They saw much service in both world wars. HMS Barham was lost to U-boat attack in 1941, but the others survived the wars and were scrapped in the late 1940s.
Following the success of the 13.5-inch (343 mm) 45 caliber gun, the Admiralty decided to develop a 15-inch (381 mm)/42 gun to equip the battleships of the 1912 construction programme. The move to the larger gun was accelerated by one or two years by the intervention of Winston Churchill, now at the Admiralty. Rather than waiting for prototype guns, the entire design was optimized on paper for the new weapon, and construction commenced immediately. In making this decision, the Admiralty ran a considerable risk, as a forced reversion to the 12-inch (305 mm) or 13.5-inch (343 mm) gun would have resulted in a ship with weakened striking power.
The initial intention was that the new battleships would have the same configuration as the preceding Iron Duke class, with five twin turrets and the then-standard speed of 21 knots (39 km/h). However, it was realised that, by dispensing with the so-called "Q" turret amidships, it would be possible to free up weight and volume for a much enlarged powerplant, and still fire a heavier broadside than the Iron Duke. The original 1912 programme envisaged three battleships and a battlecruiser, possibly an improved version of HMS Tiger named Leopard. However, given the speed of the new ships, envisaged as 25 knots (46 km/h), it was decided that the battlecruiser would not be needed and a fourth battleship would be built instead. When the Federation of Malay States offered to fund a further capital ship, it was decided to add a fifth unit to the class (HMS Malaya).