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It weighs 22,000 tons and its longer than two football fields, but for the next four months, 1,000 sailors will think of it as home. HMS Illustrious (aka Lusty) has its own mayor, police force and fire service, in addition to live bombs and ammunition, military vehicles and about 25,000 pounds of food. What would it be like to live at sea for months on end? Filmed on board the actual aircraft carrier, the 4-DVD set Warship shows you exactly what its like for the men and women of the British Royal Navy.
The Royal Navys flagship aircraft carrier, HMS Illustrious, heads off on a 4-month deployment to the Indian Ocean. But, immediately, things go wrong.
The crew of the HMS Illustrious is on high alert as they head to the Strait of Gibraltar, but once ashore, they make the most of the club scene.
New recruits get their hands on live weapons for the first time as they prepare to go through the Suez Canal.
Newly trained pilots attempt to land Harrier jump jets on the ship.
Harrier jet pilots attempt to land on the moving ship in the dark and the Merlin helicopter boys get their guns out for target practice.
The HMS Illustrious and a nuclear sub, the HMS Trafalgar, get together for war games while Harrier practice vertical take-offs. Then, the ship arrives in Goa and romance blooms on shore.
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The Royal Navy's seriousness and professionalism has always been the goal of the US Navy, until, perhaps, the US Navy surpassed it. Perhaps because both "Sailor" and "Warship" have edited their programmes so that carriers are "on deployment" with "carrier aviators" landing on a ship for the first time in their lives, with all of the attendant failure, tends to understate the professionalism of the RN, or at least the RAF knuckle-heads they allow to land on their ships. And a lot of this may be terminology. In the US Navy, all carrier aviators undergo CarQuals, and the ship undergoes pre-deployment work-ups BEFORE they depart on cruise, so that when they pull off the pier, they are ready to do what they need to do. Perhaps in the RN the "deployment" begins when they leave port to start the work-ups and other readiness exercises. If so, this terminological distinction makes a crucial difference in these videos, which is that this, like "Sailor" before it, tends to make "Warship" present the RN as somewhat amateurish.
Similarly, there is the fact that these videos are made from the "everyman" perspective (e.g., a landlubber dumb-ass like you or me), so that most of the characters they focus on are newbies rather than professionals. This yields a certain charm, when it works correctly, although a certain contempt at the other times when it doesn't.
The net effect is that the makes the RN look amateurish. This is painful. When you compare it to USN series such as the PBS "Carrier," the difference is painful and shocking. Whether you want to say that this is the ACTUAL difference between the USN and RN today, or simply the difference between how the USN and RN allow film-makers to portray them is up to you. Nonetheless, this DVD set will allow you to ask that question. It is a shame that the female sailors in "Warship" are, with one great exception (the engineer LCDR) a pack of quitters or too-young romantic dilettantes. Say what you will about the reason (truth or approved editing), women in USN documentaries fare better.
And here's the sad part. HMS Illustrious is an Invincible-class "through-deck cruiser," or "aircraft carrier" or whatever terminology was accepted at a given time. She was built to host an air wing of 22 helicopters and Harriers, not the "six Merlins" plus whatever number of Harriers (four in this series) can be bothered to show up on their way to Afghanistan. On the one hand this a sign of the low ebb to which Her Majesty's Armed Forces have fallen, but on the other a sign of how high those same armed forces, in today's constrained economic environment, are still striving, and a credit to them. However, just a couple short years after "Warship" was filmed, all British Harriers were retired from service en masse, and two of the three Invincible-class carriers were retired as well, all for economic reasons. During this 30th anniversary year of the Falklands War, it is hard not to compare the 1982 operations of Invincible and Hermes, and their embarked air wings, with this lower ebb displayed in 2008. (It is worth remembering that Britain was struggling with money in 1982 as well: Invincible was to be sold, brand-new to the Australians until the Falklands invasion forced changes to those plans.) But we all do what we can, with the money available.
Bless 'em all.
Rule, Britannia, Britannia rules the waves, Britons, never, never, never shall be involved in a coalition without the United States Navy. But the USN learned it from Britannia, and to Britannia goes all the credit.
The first segment were about the evolution of the sailing ship into a steam powered ironclad. This segment included the lesser known stories about the early steamship USS Demologos; the battle of Sinope, Turkey in 1853; and the use of ironclad barges in the Crimean War, 1854-55.
The second segment was about the evolution of the ironclad into the dreadnought. This has an interesting film clip on the museum ship ironclad Huascar in Chile. There are also discussions about the augment between the British naval designers Cowper Coles and Edward Reed. Another section talks about the impotents of Charles Parson's yacht Turbinia.
The third segment is about the development of the Submarine. This starts with the USS Turtle in 1776 and the CSS Hunley in 1864. It then talks about the Whitehead torpedo and John Holland's primitive submarines. It then talks about the effectiveness of the German u-boats in both wars. Finally there is a good discussion of the development of the nuclear submarine with the USS Nautilus and USS Albacore.
The Final Segment is about the development of the aircraft carrier. This starts with the early experiments of Eugene Ely in 1910. There was much experimentation with helping a plane to safely land on a flight deck even to our modern day. The British navy made several attempts to use seaborne aircraft to attack German Zeppelin hangers, but they were not successful until 1918. There is a well balanced discussion of the carrier evolution from the 1920s to the Jet Age.
Overall this is a very enjoyable and educational documentary.
Anyone interested in the Battleship will also enjoy the two part documentary "The Complete History of the Battleship". This excellent series has a lot of information not covered in the PBS Warship film.