We've built a nice, sturdy enclosure to house one of our drydocks to do covert work on a battleship without people easily spying on us. As such, there are no significant windows. Additionally, it's not a quick and dirty coverup - This dock has been used a few times for such purposes, so the construction is fairly robust and sturdy.

Then we're attacked. We were actually planning on launching the ship soon, so the drydock is actually full, and the ship is armed and ready. The enemy doesn't know this, so we figure we can surprise them with the battleship's guns.

What happens to and inside the building? To the battleship? I'm not concerned with actually hitting anything with the shells, or what the shells would do to their target. I'm mostly concerned with what happens to the interior - And possibly the squishy people inside.

While not 100% accurate to my world, let's just use the USS Maryland (BB-46) as our baseline. As battleships rarely fired all turrets at once, it'd probably be a single turret of three guns firing at once.

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    $\begingroup$ Seems like you would quickly asphyxiate the crew when you fired up the boilers to power the turret (and comms, etc). If the building isn't airtight, everyone outside the building will see the smoke and think the ship is on fire. The smoke will also give away the surprise to enemy observers. And, yes, the first shell(s) will either explode spectacularly, or simply cause the entire building to collapse...onto the ship. Er, why are the ship's magazines full in dry-dock? $\endgroup$ – user535733 May 4 '17 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ A number of weapons (Grenade launchers come to mind) have devices that won't let the fuse go off before a certain distance is traveled. Not sure if that's a modern thing or if it even applies to artillery-sized things. Magazines are "full" because ship was prepping to leave, but I hadn't thought about supplying power. Could a drydock provide enough power for turret mechanisms? $\endgroup$ – Andon May 4 '17 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ This seems like an allround terrible idea... $\endgroup$ – Erik May 4 '17 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ Well, yes. That's the primary reason of wanting to know what would happen - Just HOW bad of an idea is it? $\endgroup$ – Andon May 4 '17 at 19:11
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    $\begingroup$ @Andon, ships do NOT fuel nor arm while in dry dock. Both are dangerous operations, requiring special equipment and properly-trained personnel. Both take place after departing dry-dock. The yard could likely provide enough power (of the proper type) to operate the ship's turrets, lights, blowers, etc...but only after several days of work by yard personnel to adapt and test the often incompatible systems. $\endgroup$ – user535733 May 4 '17 at 21:01

It really depends on the structure...

So now, you already know it is a bad idea to fire a (huge) gun in a confined space...

Soft shell:

To conceal a ship you don't need to build a big heavy thing. A wooden of steel frame can be made. Covered with wooden planks, corrugated steel or even burlap can be used to hide it from view. Like the Japanese did with the building of the Yamato.

It might even allow you to move the guns out to the side where the enemy is. When the guns fire you don't want to be near. I don't have good numbers, but some video will give you an idea. First start with small Leopard 2 gun firing, only 120mm. You don't want to be in front of that. Or anywhere near without ear protection. Now here is a nice video about the workings of those lovely big guns: Firing Operations of Heavy Battleship 16"/406mm Guns, 7:25 for the shooting part.

So with a light structure, everyone near, let keep it to Danger Close distances. (I know this is for explosions, but firing a 16" guns is a big explosion, just very directed.) So, that makes 2000 meters for every one to have big hearing problems. If not outright deaf. And every thing that is not bolted down will move. The closer to the gun, the more. One big shotgun blast of dirt and debris, if not for the bullet itself. Yes, people will be blown over and break things. And your ship will be covert with that is left of the building.

Hard shell:

So you want big, hard and somewhat secure. Sure, we have the thing for you! Let build an oversized Submarine pen. This thing is going to be huge, battle ships are no where near as small as submarines. And I don't think you can move the guns too much to the sides, it will be cramped in there.

But if a gun goes off here it will be much worse, as the whole structure will work as a gun barrel itself and the sheer pressure of the blast will not dissipate as much as in the open. It's probably not good for the structural integrity of the building as well.

In the end we are just talking about an explosion, either in the open or in an enclosed space.


In both cases you will need to find a way to power your ship to be able to aim and fire the guns. And unless you have updated and automated lots of it, you will need quite a crew on hand to do so.

As with aircraft and tanks, there will be few if any locks and keys to stop someone gaining access to your toy. Most often you will find guards with weapons and backup.


Since large naval guns could kill people who got too close enough to their muzzle blast firing it indoors would be bad news. Any glass in the building or on the ship would be shattered by the pressure wave.

Depending on how enclosed and sturdy the structure is hearing loss and ruptured eardrums are likely from the sound waves being reflected off the walls. There's probably enough space so that there aren't any more serious injuries caused by shockwaves.

Luckily by the 1920s naval shells had a time delay after firing before they armed themselves. So while its velocity and mass would be impressive when it collides with the walls, it wouldn't explode.


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