Dreadnoughts and the First World War

Dreadnoughts and the First World War

In October 1905, Admiral Sir John Fisher gained control at the Admiralty as First Sea Lord. Fisher believed the German threat was real and that it was only a matter of time before the fleet across the North Sea would test his own. For the next five years fought to uphold the traditional "two-power standard" by which "the British had attempted to maintain a fleet twice as large as the combined naval forces of its two most likely foes". Alfred Harmsworth, the owner of The Daily Mail, The Times, The Daily Mirror and The Evening News, did what he could to support Fisher in this task. (1)

Britain's first dreadnought was built at Portsmouth Dockyard between October 1905 and December 1906. It was the most heavily-armed ship in history. She had ten 12-inch guns (305 mm), whereas the previous record was four 12-inch guns. The gun turrets were situated higher than user and so facilitated more accurate long-distance fire. In addition to her 12-inch guns, the ship also had twenty-four 3-inch guns (76 mm) and five torpedo tubes below water. In the waterline section of her hull, the ship was armoured by plates 28 cm thick. It was the first major warship driven solely by steam turbines. It was also faster than any other warship and could reach speeds of 21 knots. A total of 526 feet long (160.1 metres) it had a crew of over 800 men. It cost over £2 million, twice as much as the cost of a conventional battleship. (2)

Germany built its first dreadnought in 1907 and plans were made for building more. The British government believed it was necessary to have twice the number of these warships than any other navy. David Lloyd George had a meeting with the German Ambassador, Count Paul Metternich, and told him that Britain was willing to spend £100 million to frustrate Germany's plans to achieve naval supremacy. That night he made a speech where he spoke out on the arms race: "My principle is, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, less money for the production of suffering, more money for the reduction of suffering." (3)

Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, used his newspapers to urge an increase in defence spending and a reduction in the amount of money being spent on social insurance schemes. In one letter to Lloyd George he suggested that the Liberal government was Pro-German. Lloyd George replied: "The only real pro-German whom I know of on the Liberal side of politics is Rosebery, and I sometimes wonder whether he is even a Liberal at all! Haldane, of course, from education and intellectual bent, is in sympathy with German ideas, but there is really nothing else on which to base a suspicion that we are inclined to a pro-German policy at the expense of the entente with France." (4)

Kaiser Wilhelm II gave an interview to the Daily Telegraph in October 1908 where he outlined his policy of increasing the size of his navy: "Germany is a young and growing empire. She has a world-wide commerce which is rapidly expanding and to which the legitimate ambition of patriotic Germans refuses to assign any bounds. Germany must have a powerful fleet to protect that commerce and her manifold interests in even the most distant seas. She expects those interests to go on growing, and she must be able to champion them manfully in any quarter of the globe. Her horizons stretch far away. She must be prepared for any eventualities in the Far East. Who can foresee what may take place in the Pacific in the days to come, days not so distant as some believe, but days at any rate, for which all European powers with Far Eastern interests ought steadily to prepare?" (5)

Grey replied to these comments in the same newspaper: "The German Emperor is ageing me; he is like a battleship with steam up and screws going, but with no rudder, and he will run into something some day and cause a catastrophe. He has the strongest army in the world and the Germans don't like being laughed at and are looking for somebody on whom to vent their temper and use their strength. After a big war a nation doesn't want another for a generation or more. Now it is 38 years since Germany had her last war, and she is very strong and very restless, like a person whose boots are too small for him. I don't think there will be war at present, but it will be difficult to keep the peace of Europe for another five years." (6)

David Lloyd George complained bitterly to H. H. Asquith about the demands being made by Reginald McKenna, First Lord of the Admiralty, to spend more money on the navy. He reminded Asquith of "the emphatic pledges given by us before and during the general election campaign to reduce the gigantic expediture on armaments built up by our predecessors... but if Tory extravagance on armaments is seen to be exceeded, Liberals... will hardly think it worth their while to make any effort to keep in office a Liberal ministry... the Admiralty's proposals were a poor compromise between two scares - fear of the German navy abroad and fear of the Radical majority at home... You alone can save us from the prospect of squalid and sterile destruction." (7)

Lord Northcliffe had consistently described Germany as Britain's "secret and insidious enemy", and in October 1909 he commissioned Robert Blatchford, to visit Germany and then write a series of articles setting out the dangers. The German's, Blatchford wrote, were making "gigantic preparations" to destroy the British Empire and "to force German dictatorship upon the whole of Europe". He complained that Britain was not prepared for was and argued that the country was facing the possibility of an "Armageddon". (8)

Lloyd George was constantly in conflict with McKenna and suggested that his friend, Winston Churchill, should become First Lord of the Admiralty. Asquith took this advice and Churchill was appointed to the post on 24th October, 1911. McKenna, with the greatest reluctance, replaced him at the Home Office. This move backfired on Lloyd George as the Admiralty cured Churchill's passion for "economy". The "new ruler of the King's navy demanded an expenditure on new battleships which made McKenna's claims seem modest". (9)

The Admiralty reported to the British government that by 1912 Germany would have 17 dreadnoughts, three-fourths the number planned by Britain for that date. At a cabinet meeting David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill both expressed doubts about the veracity of the Admiralty intelligence. Churchill even accused Admiral John Fisher, who had provided this information, of applying pressure on naval attachés in Europe to provide any sort of data he needed. (10)

Admiral Fisher refused to be beaten and contacted King Edward VII about his fears. He in turn discussed the issue with H. Asquith. Lloyd George wrote to Churchill explaining how Asquith had now given approval to Fisher's proposals: "I feared all along this would happen. Fisher is a very clever person and when he found his programme in danger he wired Davidson (assistant private secretary to the King) for something more panicky - and of course he got it." (11)

On 7th February, 1912, Churchill made a speech where he pledged naval supremacy over Germany "whatever the cost". Churchill, who had opposed naval estimates of £35 million in 1908, now proposed to increase them to over £45 million. The German Naval Attaché, Captain Wilhelm Widenmann, wrote to Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, in an attempt to explain this change in policy. He claimed that Churchill was "clever enough" to realise that the British public would support "naval supremacy" whoever was in charge "as his boundless ambition takes account of popularity, he will manage his naval policy so as not to damage that" even dropping "the ideas of economy" which he had previously preached. (12)

The Admiralty reported to the British government that by 1912 Germany would have seventeen dreadnoughts, three-fourths the number planned by Britain for that date. (13)

Admiral Fisher refused to be beaten and contacted King Edward VII about his fears. Fisher is a very clever person and when he found his programme in danger he wired Davidson (assistant private secretary to the King) for something more panicky - and of course he got it." (14)

Winston Churchill now advocated spending £51,550,000 on the Navy in 1914. (15) Lloyd George remained opposed to what he saw as inflated naval estimates and was not "prepared to squander money on building gigantic flotillas to encounter mythical armadas". According to George Riddell, a close friend of both men, recorded they were drifting wide apart on principles". (16) Riddell reported there were even rumours that Churchill was "mediating... going over to the other side." (17)

The economic rivalry and all that do not give much offence to our people, and they admire (Germany's) steady industry and genius for organization. But they do resent mischief making. They suspect the Emperor of aggressive plans of Weltpolitik, and they see that Germany is forcing the pace in armaments in order to dominate Europe and is thereby laying a horrible burden of wasteful expenditure upon all the other powers.

Germany is a young and growing empire. Who can foresee what may take place in the Pacific in the days to come, days not so distant as some believe, but days at any rate, for which all European powers with Far Eastern interests ought steadily to prepare?

Look at the accomplished rise of Japan; think of the possible national awakening of China; and then judge of the vast problems of the Pacific. Only those powers that have great navies will be listened to with respect when the future of the Pacific comes to be solved; and if for that reason only, Germany must have a powerful fleet. It may even be that England herself will be glad that Germany has a fleet when they speak together on the same side in the great debates of the future.

The German Emperor is ageing me; he is like a battleship with steam up and screws going, but with no rudder, and he will run into something some day and cause a catastrophe. I don't think there will be war at present, but it will be difficult to keep the peace of Europe for another five years.

(1) J. Lee Thompson, Northcliffe: Press Baron in Politics 1865-1922 (2000) page 117

(2) Lawrence Sondhaus, Naval Warfare 1815–1914 (2001) pages 203-204

(3) The Times (29th July, 1908)

(4) David Lloyd George, letter to Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe (9th April, 1908)

(5) Kaiser Wilhelm II, interview in The Daily Telegraph (28th October 1908)

(6) Sir Edward Grey, letter published in The Daily Telegraph (1st November, 1908)

(7) Roy Hattersley, David Lloyd George (2010) page 245

(8) S. J. Taylor, The Great Outsiders: Northcliffe, Rothermere and the Daily Mail (1996) page 141

(9) Roy Hattersley, David Lloyd George (2010) page 306

(10) Bentley B. Gilbert, David Lloyd George: Architect of Change (1987) page 365

(11) David Lloyd George, letter to Winston Churchill (3rd January, 1909)

(12) Captain Wilhelm Widenmann, letter to Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz (28th October, 1911)

(13) Bentley B. Gilbert, David Lloyd George: Architect of Change (1987) page 365

(14) David Lloyd George, letter to Winston Churchill (3rd January, 1909)

(15) Roy Hattersley, David Lloyd George (2010) page 306

(16) George Riddell, diary entry (15th June, 1912)

(17) George Riddell, diary entry (27th July, 1912)


German Battleship Classes of the First World War

The German battleship fleet of 1914 was both the cause and the product of the battleship race between Britain and Germany. The new German navy was an inevitable result of German unification, but its size and the direct challenge to British naval power was not. This arose partly because of Kaiser Wilhelm II&rsquos interest in naval matters, and partly because of Admiral Tirpitz&rsquos &ldquoRisk Theory&rdquo.

Tirpitz became Secretary of State for the Navy in 1897. At that point Britain was maintaining a &ldquotwo power&rdquo navy, with squadrons scattered around the globe. This fleet was still largely aimed against France and Russia, and initial British responses to the new German navy were framed by the rivalry with France &ndash there was concern that the Germans might hold the balance of power at sea.

The idea behind the &ldquorisk theory&rdquo was that Germany would build such a large navy that it would be a &ldquorisk&rdquo for the British home fleet to take it on in battle. A series of naval laws and amendments were passed, which provided for an increasingly large fleet.

The First Naval Law, on 1898, provided for 19 battleships, 8 coastal defence ships, 12 heavy cruisers and 30 light cruisers, all to be built by 1903. The Second Naval Law of 1900 increased that to 38 battleships, to be built by 1920. The two laws were followed by a series of amendments. The First Naval Amendment of 1906 was something of a defeat for Tirpitz. He had wanted 6 more battleships, but instead he had to make do with 6 heavy cruisers.

The same year saw one of the most dramatic developments in the naval race. The launch of HMS Dreadnought, the first all-big-gun battleship, made every earlier battleship obsolete. From having a two-power battle fleet, the British now had a one Dreadnought fleet. Tirpitz had a new chance to catch up with the British.

The six cruisers of the First Naval Amendment became battlecruisers, although the term was not adopted at the time. The Second Naval Amendment of 1908 decreased the lifespan of a battleship to 20 years, making the Siegfried and Oldenburg classes obsolete. Tirpitz now got his six new battleships, first requested for the First Amendment.

Finally, the Third Naval Amendment of 1912 called for a fleet containing 25 battleships and 8 battlecruisers in the front line, with another 16 battleships in reserve &ndash a total of five squadrons of eight battleships.

The new Dreadnought race was won by Britain. At the start of the First World War Britain had completed 20 dreadnoughts to Germany&rsquos 13. Damage to British ships and the completion of the König class in late 1914/ early 1915 closed the gap, but by the time of Jutland the British Grand Fleet had 28 dreadnoughts to the High Seas Fleet&rsquos 16, and the Germans still had one squadron of pre-dreadnoughts in the fleet.

The &ldquoRisk Theory&rdquo suffered two blows in the years before the First World War. The first was Entente cordiale between Britain and France. The British were now free to concentrate on the increasing threat from Germany. The second was the willingness of Lord Fisher, the First Sea Lord, to concentrate the British battle fleet in home waters. At the start of 1904 Britain had 16 battleships in home waters, by the end of 1905 that number had increased to 25.

The first German pre-Dreadnoughts, and the older German battleships in use in 1914 were the Brandenburg class, laid down in 1890. They were armed with six 11in guns, and were generally similar to the British Royal Sovereign Class, laid down in 1889, and mounting four 13.5in guns. Germen pre-Dreadnoughts tended to have smaller main guns and bigger secondary guns that their British equivalents, and were generally to be less battle worthy ships.

In contrast German dreadnoughts were much more impressive. They still tended to carry lighter main guns than their British opponents, but had much better armour piercing shells. They were generally wide (greater beam), which gave them better protection against torpedoes, but made them slightly less stable gun platforms.

In the event neither dreadnought fleet was put to the ultimate test of a full scale fleet battle. The nearest they came was at Jutland, where after a brief encounter the German battlefield escaped from the much larger British fleet. The most dramatic clashes of the war came between battlecruisers, where the Germans ships were proved to be rather superior, or at least less prone to explode, but the evidence is lacking to make a similar judgement over the battleships.


Dreadnought

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Dreadnought, British battleship launched in 1906 that established the pattern of the turbine-powered, “all-big-gun” warship, a type that dominated the world’s navies for the next 35 years.

The Dreadnought displaced 18,000 tons (more than 20,000 tons full load), was 526 feet (160 m) long, and carried a crew of about 800. Its four propeller shafts, powered by steam turbines instead of the traditional steam pistons, gave it an unprecedented top speed of 21 knots. Because recent improvements in naval gunnery had made it unnecessary to prepare for short-range battle, Dreadnought carried no guns of secondary calibre. Instead, it mounted a single-calibre main armament of 10 12-inch guns in five twin turrets. In addition, 24 3-inch quick-firing guns, 5 Maxim machine guns, and 4 torpedo tubes were added for fighting off destroyers and torpedo boats.

The Dreadnought immediately made all preceding battleships obsolete, but by World War I it was obsolescent itself, having been outclassed by faster “superdreadnoughts” carrying bigger guns. The Dreadnought’s only notable engagement of the war was the ramming and sinking of a German U-boat near the Pentland Firth, Scotland, in March 1915. Placed in reserve in 1919, the ship was sold for scrap the following year and broken up in 1923.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.


Dreadnoughts and the First World War - History

W orld War 1 at Sea

AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN NAVY
Kaiserlich und Koniglich or k.u.k Kriegsmarine

by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

Naval War in Outline
Austrian ship titles
Warship numbers & losses, 1914-18
Losses by year
Key to main characteristics including Austrian torpedo and gun calibres
Main ship types - Dreadnoughts to Submarines

Apart from one major fleet sortie on the declaration of war between Austria and Italy on the 23rd May 1915, and an aborted one in June 1918 when dreadnought 'Szent Istvan' was lost, the Austrian heavy ships spent the entire war as a fleet-in-being within the Adriatic Sea, holding down a large portion of the Italian and French battle fleets as well as units of the Royal Navy. Most of the action in the Adriatic that took place involved the well-handled destroyers, submarines and to a lesser extent light cruisers of the Austrian Navy.

The initially small Austrian submarine force was unable to play a role outside the Adriatic, and by early 1915 the Germans were sending U-boats into the Mediterranean, in part to attack the Allied fleet off the Dardanelles. As Italy had declared war on Austro-Hungary but not Germany, the German boats operated under the Austrian ensign and were temporarily commissioned into the Austrian Navy. Once Germany and Italy had gone to war in August 1916, German U-boats operated under their own flag. Although the Austrian submarine fleet did not grow to large numbers it had an impressive record - damaging French dreadnought 'Jean Bart', and sinking:

Armoured cruisers - French 'Leon Gambetta', Italian 'Giuseppe Garibaldi'

Destroyers - British 'Phoenix', French 'Fourche' and 'Renaudin', Italian 'Impetuoso' and 'Nembo'

Submarines - French 'Circe', Italian 'Nereide'

Key to Austrian titles

Erzherzog - Archduke Kaiser - Emperor Kaiserin - Empress Konigen - Queen Kronprinz - Crown prince Sankt - Saint

WARSHIP NUMBERS and LOSSES - 1914-18

August 1914 Strength

Wartime additions

1914-18 losses

LOSSES BY YEAR - (In date order within each year)

Year - Ships lost (all in Adriatic Sea, except 'Kaiserin Elisabeth' in Far East)
1914 - protected cruiser 'Kaiserin Elisabeth', light/scout cruiser 'Zenta'
1915 - submarines 'U.12', 'U.3', destroyers 'Lika', 'Triglav'
1916 - submarines 'U.6', 'U.16'
1917 - submarine 'U.30', destroyer 'Wildfang', coast defence ship 'Wien'
1918 - submarine 'U.23', destroyer 'Streiter', submarines 'U.20', 'U.10', dreadnoughts 'Szent Istvan', 'Viribus Unitis'

Key to Main Characteristics

Tonnage - standard displacement Speed - designed speed at standard displacement, rarely attained in service Main armament - sometimes changed as the war progressed secondary armament usually changed Complement - normal peace time. Exceeded in war with consequent reduction in living space and higher battle casualties Year - year or years class completed and normally entered service. Only includes ships completed up to war's end Loss Positions - estimated from location unless available from reliable sources Casualties - totals of men lost, or survivors plus saved, will often exceed peacetime complements.

Austrian torpedo and gun calibres in inches:

Torpedoes: 53.3cm - 21in 50cm - 19.7in 45cm - 17.7in

Guns: 30.5cm - 12in 24cm - 9.4in 19cm - 7.5in 15cm - 5.9in 12cm - 4.7in 10cm - 3.9in 8.8cm - 3.5in 7.5cm - 2.9in 6.6cm - 2.6in

DREADNOUGHTS

August 1914 Strength (3)

1. TEGETTHOFF class, PRINZ EUGEN, TEGETTHOFF, VIRIBUS UNITIS, class of four, 1 lost, 1 completed in 1915) - 20,000t, 20 knots, 12-30.5cm/12-15cm/20-6.6cm, 1912-14


SMS Viribus Unitis, believed firing a forward turret (Photo Ships)

In August 1914, the three completed 'Tegetthof' dreadnoughts and three 'Radetzky' pre-Dreadnoughts formed the First Battle Squadron, spending most of the war as a fleet-in-being

VIRIBUS UNITIS ('with joined forces'), 1st November 1918, northern Adriatic Sea at Pola (Pula) naval base (c 44-45’N, 13-45’E) - Italian 'Mignata' (or leech) self-propelled mines. With the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the state of Yugoslavia was formed by the southern Slavs and declared on the side of the Allies. 'Viribus Unitis' (Capt Janko Vukovic de Podkapelski, also provisional Yugoslav Fleet commander) was taken over on the 31st October by the Yugoslav National Council as flagship of the new navy. Apparently ignoring the new political situation, the Italians went ahead with a planned attack on Pola. Early in the morning of the 1st November and with few defensive precautions now being taken, two Italian frogmen, Maj of Naval Engineers Raffaele Rossetti and Doctor Lt Raffaele Paolucci, slipped into the naval base and attached mines to the dreadnought and liner 'Wien'. Both ships sank, 'Viribus Unitis' capsizing and going down around dawn. Several hundred men died including the new Captain.

1. Last of Tegetthof class, SZENT ISTVAN, lost - as above

SZENT ISTVAN (King Stephen 1 of Hungary), 10th June 1918, northern Adriatic Sea, south east of Pola (Pula), nine miles southwest of Premuda island (c 44-15’N, 14-30’E) - 2 torpedoes from Italian motor boat 'Mas.15'. Leaving Pola on the 9th, she and the three other 'Tegetthof' dreadnoughts of the 1st Battle Division, First Battle Squadron sailed to support a planned cruiser raid on the Otranto Barrage, now believed by the Germans to be a serious obstacle to U-boat movements. Two Italian anti-submarine motor boats - 'Mas.15' and 'Mas.21', both 16 tons and armed with two-45cm torpedoes, happened to be out in the northern Adriatic, towed there for a minesweeping mission. 'Mas.15' (Cdr Luigi Rizzo, who sank the coast defence ship 'Wien' in December 1917 - below) hit the 'Szent Istvan' amidships at 03.30hrs on the 10th. She rolled over and sank at 06.00hrs with 89 men lost. 'Mas.21' missed the 'Tegetthoff', but both Italian boats escaped and the Austrian operation against the Otranto Barrage was called off.

(latest researchs shows the possibility that 'Szent Istvan' was hit by 3 torpedoes - twice by MAS 15 and once by MAS 21. Due to the conditions - twilight etc, MAS 21 probably attacked her and not 'Tegetthof' as noted above. The information has not been confirmed offically. More can be found at the bottom of http://www.geocities.com/tegetthoff66/szent.html and http://www.beyondmagazine.co.uk/wreck/svent.htm . Information is again courtesy of Danijel Zavratnik from Slovenia)

August 1914 Strength (3)

2. RADETZKY class, ERZHERZOG FRANZ FERDINAND, RADETZKY, ZRINYI, 3 ships - 14,500t, 20 knots, 4-30.5cm/8-24cm/20-10cm, 890 crew, 1910/11


SMS Radetsky (Photo Ships)

In August 1914, the three 'Radetzky’s' and three completed 'Tegetthof' dreadnoughts formed the First Battle Squadron

All three ships, serving as the 2nd Battle Division, First Battle Squadron, took part in a May 1915 shore bombardment of the Italian coast with the three dreadnoughts, but thereafter remained inactive at Pola as a fleet-in-being

PRE-DREADNOUGHT BATTLESHIPS

August 1914 Strength (6)

3. HABSBURG class, ARPAD, BABENBERG, HABSBURG, 3 ships - 8,230t, 18 knots, 3-24cm/12-15cm, 625 crew, launched 1900-02

In August 1914, all six pre-dreadnoughts formed the Second Battle Squadron. The three 'Habsburg’s' served as the 4th Battle Division, but were later decommissioned as harbour guardships

4. ERZHERZOG KARL class, ERZHERZOG FERDINAND MAX, ERZHERZOG FRIEDRICH, ERZHERZOG KARL, 3 ships - 10,500t, 19 knots, 4-24cm/12-19cm, 750 crew, launched 1903-05

In August 1914, the three 'Erzherzog Karl’s' formed the 3rd Battle Division of the Second Battle Squadron

August 1914 Strength (4)

5. KRONPRINZ ERZHERZOG RUDOLF, KRONPRINZ ERZHERZOG RUDOLF, Local defence ship, Cattaro (Kotor) Bay - 6,830t, 16 knots, 3 old 30.5cm/6-12cm, 455 crew, launched 1887

6. MONARCH class, BUDAPEST, MONARCH, WIEN, 3 ships, 1 lost - 5,500t, 17 knots, 4-24cm/6-15cm, 435 crew, 1897

All three ships formed the 5th Battle Division, but remained in reserve

WIEN (Vienna), 10th December 1917, northern Adriatic Sea, off Muggia in the Bay of Trieste (c 45-30’N, 13-45’E) - torpedoed by Italian motor boat 'Mas.9'. Based with the 'Budapest' at Trieste and used in support of the Austrian army fighting on the Italian front, the two old ships were preparing to carry out a shore bombardment. Two of the 16 ton, 2-45cm torpedo-armed motor boats, 'Mas.9' and 'Mas.13' were towed from Venice by torpedo boats 9PN and 11PN to within 10 miles of Trieste. Cutting through the heavy hawsers that protected the anchorage the two craft broke through and launched their torpedoes. 'Mas.9' (Lt Luigi Rizzo - see the 'Szent Istvan' above) hit the 'Wien' which went down rapidly, but 'Mas.13' missed 'Budapest'. They both returned safely to Venice. Most of 'Wien’s' crew was saved

August 1914 Strength (3)

7. KAISERIN UND KONIGEN MARIA THERESIA type, KAISERIN UND KONIGEN MARIA THERESIA, KAISER KARL VI, SANKT GEORG, 3 ships - 5,330-7,300t, launched 1893-1903

These ships formed the 1st Cruiser Division, but Kaiserin und Konigen Maria Theresia spent 1914-16 as harbour guardship, Sebenico (Sibenik) and from 1917 as German U-boat accommodation ship, Pola

August 1914 Strength (3)

8. KAISER FRANZ JOSEPH I class, KAISER FRANZ JOSEPH I, KAISERIN ELISABETH, 2 ships, 1 lost - 4,000t, 6-15cm, 1892

Kaiser Franz Joseph I soon decommissioned as harbour defence ship

KAISERIN ELISABETH, 2nd November 1914, Chinese waters, off Tsingtao (Qingdao) in Kiaochow Bay (c 36-00’N, 120-15’E) - blown up and scuttled. Represented the Austrian Navy on the Far East Station at Tsingtao. Most of her guns and guns crews were landed as the 'Elisabeth' Battery for the defence of the German naval base during the Japanese siege. The largely disarmed old cruiser was scuttled five days before the final surrender on the 7th November

August 1914 Strength (4)

9. ZENTA class, ASPERN, SZIGETVAR, ZENTA, 3 ships, 1 lost, survivors served from 1918 as accommodation or target ships - 2,300t, 8-12cm, 300 crew, 1899

ZENTA (Austrian-Ottoman Battle of Zenta), 16th August 1914, southern Adriatic Sea, off Antivari (Bar), Montenegro (c 42-00’N, 18-30’E) - French heavy gunfire. 'Zenta' (Cdr Paul Pachner) and escorting destroyer 'Ulan' were blockading the Montenegran coast in foggy conditions when surprised by the main French battlefleet under Adm Lapeyrere, now based at Malta with the aim of keeping the Austrian fleet locked in the Adriatic. 'Ulan' escaped to the north, but 'Zenta' was cut off and received at least two heavy shell hits from dreadnought 'Courbet'. Severely damaged, she blew up and sank around ten minutes later, but most of her crew of 300 reportedly got ashore in their boats

10. ADMIRAL SPAUN - 3,500t, 27 knots, 7-10cm, 330 crew, 1910

11. Modified ADMIRAL SPAUN class, HELGOLAND, NOVARA, SAIDA, 3 ships - 3,500t, 27 knots, 9-10cm, 340 crew, 1914-15

Helgoland took part in the December 1915 raid into the Adriatic to interfere with the Allied evacuation of Serbian forces

All three cruisers took part in the May 1917 attack on the British drifters patrolling the Otranto net barrage

August 1914 Strength (25)

12. METEOR - 430t, launched 1887

13. BLITZ class, BLITZ, KOMET, MAGNET, PLANET, SATELIT, TRABANT, 6 ships - 380-605t, launched 1888-1896

14. HUSZAR class, CSIKOS, DINARA, HUSZAR, PANDUR, REKA, SCHARFSHUTZE, STREITER, TURUL, ULAN, USKOKE, VELEBIT, WILDFANG, 12 ships, 2 lost - 390t, 28 knots, 6-6.6cm/2-45cm tt, c 70 crew, launched 1906-10

STREITER (Fighter), 16th April 1918, northern Adriatic Sea off Laurana in the Quarnero channel (now The Kvarner, Croatia) (c 45-00’N, 14-15’E) - collision with SS 'Petka'. 'Streiter' escorting convoy including the 'Petka'

WILDFANG (Tomboy), 4th June 1917, northern Adriatic Sea, west of Peneda Island, Brioni Islands (Brijuni) off Pola (Pula) naval base - mined. Believed based at Cattaro (Kotor) at the time. On reconnaissance patrol when sunk by a floating mine

15. TATRA class, BALATON, CZEPEL, LIKA, ORJEN, TATRA, TRIGLAV, 6 ships, 2 lost - 850t, 32 knots, 2-10cm/6-6.6cm/2-45cm tt, 105 crew, launched 1912-13

LIKA (region in Croatia) , 29th December 1915, southern Adriatic Sea, off Durazzo (Durres), Albania (c 41-15’N, 19-15’E) - Italian mines. Two Italian destroyers were reported carrying troops to Durazzo at the time of the Serbian evacuation in the face of the slowly advancing Austrian army. An Austrian force of scout 'Helgoland' and five 'Tatra' destroyers were ordered to search for the Italians, and if unsuccessful destroy any shipping in Durazzo. After sinking the French submarine 'Monge' on passage south. the destroyers entered the harbour at daybreak, sank three small ships and as shore batteries opened up, turned into a minefield. 'Triglav' and 'Lika' detonated mines, 'Lika' sinking at once survivors were picked up by her sister ships

TRIGLAV (mountain in Slovenia), 29th December 1915, southern Adriatic Sea, off Cape Rodini, Albania (c 41-30’N, 19-00’E) - scuttled after striking Italian mine off Durazzo. On the same mission as 'Lika', 'Triglav' was badly damaged in the same minefield. 'Czepel' attempted to take her in tow, but fouled a propeller, and the job was taken over by 'Tatra'. As the crippled Austrian force returned slowly north at 6 knots, Allied ships got between them and their Cattarro base. 'Triglav' was abandoned, but attempts to scuttle her failed. She was finished off by five French destroyers of the 'Casque' group, including 'Casque' herself

16. WARASDINER - 390t, 30 knots, 6-6.6m/4-45cm tt, 75 crew, launched 1912

17. Ersatz (equivalent) TATRA class, DUKLA, LIKA (2), TRIGLAV (2), UZSOK, 4 ships - 880t, 32 knots, 2-10cm/6-6.6cm/4-45cm tt, 115 crew, launched 1917

August 1914 Strength (5)

18. U.1 class, U.1-U.2, 2 boats - 230/250t, 10/6 knots, 3-45cm tt, 17 crew, launched 1909

19. U.3 class, U.3-U.4, 2 boats, 1 lost - 240/300t, 12/8 knots, 2-45cm tt, 21 crew, launched 1909

U.3 , 13th August 1915, Southern Adriatic Sea, NE of Brindisi (41-00’N, 18-15’E) - gunfire of French destroyer 'Bisson'. Italian AMC 'Citta di Catania' patrolling the northern end of the Strait of Otranto was attacked by the German-built 'U.3' (Lt Cdr Karl Strnad) on the 12th, but not hit. 'U.3' is believed to have been rammed and badly damaged in return, and was unable to submerge. Allied destroyers were called up and next morning on the 13th she was sighted on the surface and sunk by 'Bisson's' gunfire 7 men were lost including Lt Strnad, and 14 survivors picked up

U.4 torpedoed and sank Italian armoured cruiser 'Giuseppe Garibaldi' in the central Adriatic in July 1915

20. U.5 class, U.5-U.6, class of 3 boats, 2 completed before war, 1 lost - 240/275t, 8/6 knots, 2-45cm tt, 19 crew, 1910/11

U.5 torpedoed and sank French armoured cruiser 'Leon Gambetta' in the southern Adriatic in April 1915

U.6 , 13th May 1916, Southern Adriatic Sea in Strait of Otranto, 12m ENE of Cape Otranto (40-10’N, c 18-45’E) - British drifter nets and gunfire. Attempting to break through the Otranto Barrage at night, 'U.6' (Lt Cdr Hugo von Falkenhausen) fouled the nets of patrolling fishing drifter 'Calistoga', surfaced and was shelled by her and the 'Dulcie Doris' and 'Evening Star II'. The Austrian boat was scuttled and all 15 crew saved. One source gives the date as the 10th May. Throughout the war, only two U-boats were confirmed sunk in the Otranto Barrage - Austrian 'U.6' at this time and German 'UB.53' in August 1918

21. U.7 class, U.7-U.11, under construction in Germany and sold to the German Navy in November 1914. Commissioned as German U.66-70

20. (above - concluded) U.5 class completed 1914 with 'U-12'

U.12 torpedoed and damaged French dreadnought 'Jean Bart' in the Adriatic Sea in December 1914

U.12 , 8th August 1915, northern Adriatic Sea, off Venice, NE Italy - Italian mines. Most sources presume she was lost on mines on or around the 11th or 12th trying to penetrate the harbour defences of Venice. Kemp's 'U-Boats Destroyed' is more specific - 'U.12' (Lt Cdr Egon Lerch) was on patrol off Venice and on the 6th August damaged by Italian destroyer 'Rossolina Pilo'. Two days later an explosion was observed in a defensive minefield and divers sent down. The wreck of 'U.12' with her stern damaged was found 7.6 miles bearing 104 degrees from the Punta Sabbioni lighthouse in the Venetian lagoon all 13 crew were lost with her

22. U.10 class coastal boats, U.10-U.11, U.15-U.17, 5 boats, 2 lost - 125/140t, 6/5 knots, 2-45cm tt, 17 crew, launched 1915.

Transported from Germany to Pola in sections, 'U.10' initially commissioned as German 'UB.1', 'U.22' as 'UB.15'

U.10 (ex-German 'UB.1'), damaged 9th July 1918, northern Adriatic Sea, off Caorle, NE Italy in the Gulf of Venice (c 45-30’N, 13-00’E) - Italian mines. Heavily damaged by a mine, 'U.10' (Lt Cdr Johann von Ulmansky) was beached between Caorle and the estuary of the Tagliamento River. She was salvaged and towed to Trieste, but not repaired before the end of the war all her crew of 13 were saved

U.16 , 17th October 1916, southern Adriatic Sea, off Valona (Vlore), Albania (c 40-45’N, 19-00’E) - Italian convoy ships and escorts. During a convoy attack, 'U.16' (Lt Cdr Oerst von Zopa) torpedoed Italian destroyer 'Nembo', but was then sunk herself. She may have been rammed and badly damaged by one of the convoyed ships, Italian steamer 'Borminda' (or 'Bermida'), and scuttled. Or otherwise sunk by the exploding depth charges of 'Nembo' which had not been set to 'safe' before she went down 11 of 'U.16’s' crew including her CO were lost and two survivors picked up

23. U.14 - 400/550t, 12/9, 1-53.3cm tt/6-53.3cm external torpedoes/rearmed with 1-8.8cm, 28 crew, recommissioned 1915.

Ex-French 'Curie', sunk off Pola in December 1914, raised and repaired

24. U.20 class coastal boats, U.20-23, 4 boats, 2 lost - 175/210t, 12/9 knots, 2-45cm tt/1-6.6cm, 18 crew, launched 1916/17

U.20, 4th July 1918, northern Adriatic Sea, off the estuary of the Tagliamento River, west of Trieste (45-29’N, 13-02’E) - torpedoed once by Italian submarine 'F.12'. The attack on 'U.20' (Lt Cdr Ludwig Muller) by the surfaced 'F.12' took place on the night of the 4th/5th from a range of 650 yards. Other sources give the date as the 6th or 9th July 1918 all her crew were lost. 'U.20’s' salvaged midships section and conning tower is on display at the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum, Vienna

U.23, 21st February 1918, southern Adriatic Sea, off Valona (Vlore), Albania in the Strait of Otranto (40-26’N, 19-02’E) - Italian torpedo boat 'Airone'. 'U.23' (Lt Cdr Klemens von Bezard) was first sighted on the surface by 'Airone' which attempted to ram. Once submerged the destroyer sunk her with a towed explosive paravane. Sources differ on 'U.23’s' activities at this time - she was either attacking an Allied convoy or attempting to break through the Strait of Otranto, or perhaps both all her crew were lost

25. U.27 class coastal boats, U.27-U.32, U.40-U.41, 8 boats, 1 lost - 265/300t, 9/7 knots, 2-45cm tt/1-7.5cm gun, 23 crew, launched 1916/17, built at Pola to German 'UB-II' design

U.30 , early April 1917, possibly southern Adriatic Sea in the Strait of Otranto area - missing. 'U.30' (Lt Cdr Friedrich Fahndrich) sailed from Cattaro (Kotor) on the 31st March 1917 for Mediterranean patrol between Malta and Crete, and was never seen again. Some sources suggest she disappeared around the 1st or 2nd, cause unknown, but possibly mined in the Otranto Barrage or an accident off Cape Otranto. She might also have gone down in the Mediterranean, one of the few U-boats lost in the area in 1917 all her crew were lost

26. U.43 class coastal boats, U.43, U.47, 2 boats - 265/290t, 9/6 knots, 2-50cm tt/1-8.8cm gun, 22 crew, 1917.

Originally German 'UB.43' and 'UB.47' from 1916, but sold to Austrian Navy and recommissioned in July 1917

Note - My thanks to Danijel Zavratnik from Slovenia for noting that most of the place names are Italian spellings and that many have changed since World War 1.

The old Italian names and the modern Croatian, Montenegran and Albanian equivalents are as follows:

ITALIAN = CROATIAN:
Brioni = Brijuni
Laurana = Lovran
Pola = Pula
Quarnero = Kvarner
Sebenico = Sibenik

ITALIAN = MONTENEGRAN:
Antivari = Bar
Cattaro = Kotor

ITALIAN = ALBANIAN:
Durazzo = Durres
Valona =Vlore


Armament

For its main armament, Dreadnought mounted ten 12" guns in five twin turrets. Three of these were mounted along the centerline, one forward and two aft, with the other two in "wing" positions on either side of the bridge. As a result, Dreadnought could only bring eight of its ten guns to bear on a single target. In laying out the turrets, the committee rejected superfiring (one turret firing over another) arrangements due to concerns that the muzzle blast of the upper turret would cause issues with the open sighting hoods of the one below.

Dreadnought's ten 45-calibre BL 12-inch Mark X guns were capable of firing two rounds per minute at a maximum range of around 20,435 yards. The vessel's shell rooms possessed space to store 80 rounds per gun. Supplementing the 12" guns were 27 12-pdr guns intended for close defense against torpedo boats and destroyers. For fire control, the ship incorporated some of the first instruments for electronically transmitting range, deflection, and order directly to the turrets.


Contents

The distinctive all-big-gun armament of the dreadnought was developed in the first years of the 20th century as navies sought to increase the range and power of the armament of their battleships. The typical battleship of the 1890s, now known as the "pre-dreadnought", had a main armament of four heavy guns of 12-inch (305 mm) calibre, a secondary armament of six to eighteen quick-firing guns of between 4.7 inches (119 mm) and 7.5 inches (191 mm) calibre, and other smaller weapons. This was in keeping with the prevailing theory of naval combat that battles would initially be fought at some distance, but the ships would then approach to close range for the final blows, when the shorter-range, faster-firing guns would prove most useful. Some designs had an intermediate battery of 8-inch guns. Serious proposals for an all-big-gun armament were circulated in several countries by 1903. [2]

All-big-gun designs commenced almost simultaneously in three navies. In 1904, the Imperial Japanese Navy authorized construction of Satsuma, originally designed with twelve 12-inch (305 mm) guns. Work began on her construction in May 1905. [3] [4] The Royal Navy began the design of HMS Dreadnought in January 1905, and she was laid down in October of the same year. [5] Finally, the US Navy gained authorization for USS Michigan, carrying eight 12-inch guns, in March 1905, [5] with construction commencing in December 1906. [6]

The move to all-big-gun designs was accomplished because a uniform, heavy-calibre armament offered advantages in both firepower and fire control, and the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 showed that naval battles could, and likely would, be fought at long distances. The newest 12-inch (305 mm) guns had longer range and fired heavier shells than a gun of 10-inch (254 mm) or 9.2-inch (234 mm) calibre. [7] Another possible advantage was fire control at long ranges guns were aimed by observing the splashes caused by shells fired in salvoes, and it was difficult to interpret different splashes caused by different calibres of gun. There is still debate as to whether this feature was important. [8]

Long-range gunnery Edit

In naval battles of the 1890s the decisive weapon was the medium-calibre, typically 6-inch (152 mm), quick-firing gun firing at relatively short range at the Battle of the Yalu River in 1894, the victorious Japanese did not commence firing until the range had closed to 3,900 metres (4,300 yd), and most of the fighting occurred at 2,000 metres (2,200 yd). [9] At these ranges, lighter guns had good accuracy, and their high rate of fire delivered high volumes of ordnance on the target, known as the "hail of fire". Naval gunnery was too inaccurate to hit targets at a longer range. [b]

By the early 20th century, British and American admirals expected future battleships would engage at longer distances. Newer models of torpedo had longer ranges. [10] For instance, in 1903, the US Navy ordered a design of torpedo effective to 4,000 yards (3,700 m). [11] Both British and American admirals concluded that they needed to engage the enemy at longer ranges. [11] [12] In 1900, Admiral Fisher, commanding the Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet, ordered gunnery practice with 6-inch guns at 6,000 yards (5,500 m). [12] By 1904 the US Naval War College was considering the effects on battleship tactics of torpedoes with a range of 7,000 yards (6,400 m) to 8,000 yards (7,300 m). [11]

The range of light and medium-calibre guns was limited, and accuracy declined badly at longer range. [c] At longer ranges the advantage of a high rate of fire decreased accurate shooting depended on spotting the shell-splashes of the previous salvo, which limited the optimum rate of fire. [2]

On 10 August 1904 the Imperial Russian Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy had one of the longest-range gunnery duels to date—over 13 km (8.1 mi)—during the Battle of the Yellow Sea. [13] The Russian battleships were equipped with Liuzhol range finders with an effective range of 4 km (4,400 yd), and the Japanese ships had Barr & Stroud range finders that reached out to 6 km (6,600 yd), but both sides still managed to hit each other with 12-inch fire at 13 km (14,000 yd). [14] Naval architects and strategists around the world took notice.

All-big-gun mixed-calibre ships Edit

An evolutionary step was to reduce the quick-firing secondary battery and substitute additional heavy guns, typically 9.2-inch or 10-inch. Ships designed in this way have been described as 'all-big-gun mixed-calibre' or later 'semi-dreadnoughts'. Semi-dreadnought ships had many heavy secondary guns in wing turrets near the center of the ship, instead of the small guns mounted in barbettes of earlier pre-dreadnought ships.

The design process for these ships often included discussion of an 'all-big-gun one-calibre' alternative. [16] [d] The June 1902 issue of Proceedings of the US Naval Institute contained comments by the US Navy's leading gunnery expert, P.R Alger, proposing a main battery of eight 12-inch guns in twin turrets. [17] In May 1902, the Bureau of Construction and Repair submitted a design for the battleship with twelve 10-inch guns in twin turrets, two at the ends and four in the wings. [17] Lt. Cdr. H. C. Poundstone submitted a paper to President Roosevelt in December 1902 arguing the case for larger battleships. In an appendix to his paper, Poundstone suggested a greater number of 11-inch (279 mm) and 9-inch (229 mm) guns was preferable to a smaller number of 12-inch and 9-inch. [2] The Naval War College and Bureau of Construction and Repair developed these ideas in studies between 1903 and 1905. War-game studies begun in July 1903 "showed that a battleship armed with twelve 11-inch or 12-inch guns hexagonally arranged would be equal to three or more of the conventional type." [18]

The Royal Navy was thinking along similar lines. A design had been circulated in 1902–1903 for "a powerful 'all big-gun' armament of two calibres, viz. four 12-inch and twelve 9.2-inch guns." [19] The Admiralty decided to build three more King Edward VIIs (with a mixture of 12-inch, 9.2-inch and 6-inch) in the 1903–1904 naval construction programme instead. [20] The all-big-gun concept was revived for the 1904–1905 programme, the Lord Nelson class. Restrictions on length and beam meant the midships 9.2-inch turrets became single instead of twin, thus giving an armament of four 12-inch, ten 9.2-inch and no 6-inch. The constructor for this design, J.H. Narbeth, submitted an alternative drawing showing an armament of twelve 12-inch guns, but the Admiralty was not prepared to accept this. [21] Part of the rationale for the decision to retain mixed-calibre guns was the need to begin the building of the ships quickly because of the tense situation produced by the Russo-Japanese War. [22]

Switch to all-big-gun designs Edit

The replacement of the 6-inch or 8-inch (203 mm) guns with weapons of 9.2-inch or 10-inch calibre improved the striking power of a battleship, particularly at longer ranges. Uniform heavy-gun armament offered many other advantages. One advantage was logistical simplicity. When the US was considering whether to have a mixed-calibre main armament for the South Carolina class, for example, William Sims and Homer Poundstone stressed the advantages of homogeneity in terms of ammunition supply and the transfer of crews from the disengaged guns to replace gunners wounded in action. [23]

A uniform calibre of gun also helped streamline fire control. The designers of Dreadnought preferred an all-big-gun design because it would mean only one set of calculations about adjustments to the range of the guns. [e] Some historians today hold that a uniform calibre was particularly important because the risk of confusion between shell-splashes of 12-inch and lighter guns made accurate ranging difficult. This viewpoint is controversial, as fire control in 1905 was not advanced enough to use the salvo-firing technique where this confusion might be important, [24] and confusion of shell-splashes does not seem to have been a concern of those working on all-big-gun designs. [f] Nevertheless, the likelihood of engagements at longer ranges was important in deciding that the heaviest possible guns should become standard, hence 12-inch rather than 10-inch. [g]

The newer designs of 12-inch gun mounting had a considerably higher rate of fire, removing the advantage previously enjoyed by smaller calibres. In 1895, a 12-inch gun might have fired one round every four minutes by 1902, two rounds per minute was usual. [7] In October 1903, the Italian naval architect Vittorio Cuniberti published a paper in Jane's Fighting Ships entitled "An Ideal Battleship for the British Navy", which called for a 17,000-ton ship carrying a main armament of twelve 12-inch guns, protected by armour 12 inches thick, and having a speed of 24 knots (28 mph/44 km/h). [25] Cuniberti's idea—which he had already proposed to his own navy, the Regia Marina—was to make use of the high rate of fire of new 12-inch guns to produce devastating rapid fire from heavy guns to replace the 'hail of fire' from lighter weapons. [7] Something similar lay behind the Japanese move towards heavier guns at Tsushima, Japanese shells contained a higher than normal proportion of high explosive, and were fused to explode on contact, starting fires rather than piercing armour. [26] The increased rate of fire laid the foundations for future advances in fire control. [7]

Building the first dreadnoughts Edit

In Japan, the two battleships of the 1903–1904 programme were the first in the world to be laid down as all-big-gun ships, with eight 12-inch guns. The armour of their design was considered too thin, demanding a substantial redesign. [27] The financial pressures of the Russo-Japanese War and the short supply of 12-inch guns—which had to be imported from the United Kingdom—meant these ships were completed with a mixture of 12-inch and 10-inch armament. The 1903–1904 design retained traditional triple-expansion steam engines, unlike Dreadnought. [4]

The dreadnought breakthrough occurred in the United Kingdom in October 1905. Fisher, now the First Sea Lord, had long been an advocate of new technology in the Royal Navy and had recently been convinced of the idea of an all-big-gun battleship. [h] Fisher is often credited as the creator of the dreadnought and the father of the United Kingdom's great dreadnought battleship fleet, an impression he himself did much to reinforce. It has been suggested Fisher's main focus was on the arguably even more revolutionary battlecruiser and not the battleship. [28]

Shortly after taking office, Fisher set up a Committee on Designs to consider future battleships and armoured cruisers. [5] The committee's first task was to consider a new battleship. The specification for the new ship was a 12-inch main battery and anti-torpedo-boat guns but no intermediate calibres, and a speed of 21 kn (39 km/h), which was two or three knots faster than existing battleships. [29] The initial designs intended twelve 12-inch guns, though difficulties in positioning these guns led the chief constructor at one stage to propose a return to four 12-inch guns with sixteen or eighteen of 9.2-inch. After a full evaluation of reports of the action at Tsushima compiled by an official observer, Captain Pakenham, the Committee settled on a main battery of ten 12-inch guns, along with twenty-two 12 pounders as secondary armament. [29] The committee also gave Dreadnought steam turbine propulsion, which was unprecedented in a large warship. The greater power and lighter weight of turbines meant the 21-knot (24 mph/39 km/h) design speed could be achieved in a smaller and less costly ship than if reciprocating engines had been used. [30] Construction took place quickly the keel was laid on 2 October 1905, the ship was launched on 10 February 1906, and completed on 3 October 1906—an impressive demonstration of British industrial might. [5]

The first US dreadnoughts were the two South Carolina-class ships. Detailed plans for these were worked out in July–November 1905, and approved by the Board of Construction on 23 November 1905. [31] Building was slow specifications for bidders were issued on 21 March 1906, the contracts awarded on 21 July 1906 [32] and the two ships were laid down in December 1906, after the completion of the Dreadnought. [33]

The designers of dreadnoughts sought to provide as much protection, speed, and firepower as possible in a ship of a realistic size and cost. The hallmark of dreadnought battleships was an "all-big-gun" armament, but they also had heavy armour concentrated mainly in a thick belt at the waterline and in one or more armoured decks. Secondary armament, fire control, command equipment, and protection against torpedoes also had to be crammed into the hull. [34]

The inevitable consequence of demands for ever greater speed, striking power, and endurance meant that displacement, and hence cost, of dreadnoughts tended to increase. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 imposed a limit of 35,000 tons on the displacement of capital ships. In subsequent years treaty battleships were commissioned to build up to this limit. Japan's decision to leave the Treaty in the 1930s, and the arrival of the Second World War, eventually made this limit irrelevant. [35]

Armament Edit

Dreadnoughts mounted a uniform main battery of heavy-calibre guns the number, size, and arrangement differed between designs. Dreadnought mounted ten 12-inch guns. 12-inch guns had been standard for most navies in the pre-dreadnought era, and this continued in the first generation of dreadnought battleships. The Imperial German Navy was an exception, continuing to use 11-inch guns in its first class of dreadnoughts, the Nassau class. [36]

Dreadnoughts also carried lighter weapons. Many early dreadnoughts carried a secondary armament of very light guns designed to fend off enemy torpedo boats. The calibre and weight of secondary armament tended to increase, as the range of torpedoes and the staying power of the torpedo boats and destroyers expected to carry them also increased. From the end of World War I onwards, battleships had to be equipped with many light guns as anti-aircraft armament. [37]

Dreadnoughts frequently carried torpedo tubes themselves. In theory, a line of battleships so equipped could unleash a devastating volley of torpedoes on an enemy line steaming a parallel course. In practice, torpedoes fired from battleships scored very few hits, and there was a risk that a stored torpedo would cause a dangerous explosion if hit by enemy fire. [38] And in fact, the only documented instance of one battleship successfully torpedoing another came during the action of 27 May 1941, where the British battleship HMS Rodney claimed to have torpedoed the crippled Bismarck at close range. [39]

Position of main armament Edit

The effectiveness of the guns depended in part on the layout of the turrets. Dreadnought, and the British ships which immediately followed it, carried five turrets: one forward, one aft and one amidships on the centreline of the ship, and two in the 'wings' next to the superstructure. This allowed three turrets to fire ahead and four on the broadside. The Nassau and Helgoland classes of German dreadnoughts adopted a 'hexagonal' layout, with one turret each fore and aft and four wing turrets this meant more guns were mounted in total, but the same number could fire ahead or broadside as with Dreadnought. [40]

Dreadnought designs experimented with different layouts. The British Neptune-class battleship staggered the wing turrets, so all ten guns could fire on the broadside, a feature also used by the German Kaiser class. This risked blast damage to parts of the ship over which the guns fired, and put great stress on the ship's frames. [41]

If all turrets were on the centreline of the vessel, stresses on the ship's frames were relatively low. This layout meant the entire main battery could fire on the broadside, though fewer could fire end-on. It meant the hull would be longer, which posed some challenges for the designers a longer ship needed to devote more weight to armour to get equivalent protection, and the magazines which served each turret interfered with the distribution of boilers and engines. [42] For these reasons, HMS Agincourt, which carried a record fourteen 12-inch guns in seven centreline turrets, was not considered a success. [43]

A superfiring layout was eventually adopted as standard. This involved raising one or two turrets so they could fire over a turret immediately forward or astern of them. The US Navy adopted this feature with their first dreadnoughts in 1906, but others were slower to do so. As with other layouts there were drawbacks. Initially, there were concerns about the impact of the blast of the raised guns on the lower turret. Raised turrets raised the centre of gravity of the ship, and might reduce the stability of the ship. Nevertheless, this layout made the best of the firepower available from a fixed number of guns, and was eventually adopted generally. [41] The US Navy used superfiring on the South Carolina class, and the layout was adopted in the Royal Navy with the Orion class of 1910. By World War II, superfiring was entirely standard.

Initially, all dreadnoughts had two guns to a turret. One solution to the problem of turret layout was to put three or even four guns in each turret. Fewer turrets meant the ship could be shorter, or could devote more space to machinery. On the other hand, it meant that in the event of an enemy shell destroying one turret, a higher proportion of the main armament would be out of action. The risk of the blast waves from each gun barrel interfering with others in the same turret reduced the rate of fire from the guns somewhat. The first nation to adopt the triple turret was Italy, in the Dante Alighieri, soon followed by Russia with the Gangut class, [44] the Austro-Hungarian Tegetthoff class, and the US Nevada class. British Royal Navy battleships did not adopt triple turrets until after the First World War, with the Nelson class. Several later designs used quadruple turrets, including the British King George V class and French Richelieu class.

Main armament power and calibre Edit

Rather than try to fit more guns onto a ship, it was possible to increase the power of each gun. This could be done by increasing either the calibre of the weapon and hence the weight of shell, or by lengthening the barrel to increase muzzle velocity. Either of these offered the chance to increase range and armour penetration. [45]

Both methods offered advantages and disadvantages, though in general greater muzzle velocity meant increased barrel wear. As guns fire, their barrels wear out, losing accuracy and eventually requiring replacement. At times, this became problematic the US Navy seriously considered stopping practice firing of heavy guns in 1910 because of the wear on the barrels. [46] The disadvantages of guns of larger calibre are that guns and turrets must be heavier and heavier shells, which are fired at lower velocities, require turret designs that allow a larger angle of elevation for the same range. Heavier shells have the advantage of being slowed less by air resistance, retaining more penetrating power at longer ranges. [47]

Different navies approached the issue of calibre in different ways. The German navy, for instance, generally used a lighter calibre than the equivalent British ships, e.g. 12-inch calibre when the British standard was 13.5-inch (343 mm). Because German metallurgy was superior, the German 12-inch gun had better shell weight and muzzle velocity than the British 12-inch and German ships could afford more armour for the same vessel weight because the German 12-inch guns were lighter than the 13.5-inch guns the British required for comparable effect. [47]

Over time the calibre of guns tended to increase. In the Royal Navy, the Orion class, launched 1910, had ten 13.5-inch guns, all on the centreline the Queen Elizabeth class, launched 1913, had eight 15-inch (381 mm) guns. In all navies, fewer guns of larger calibre came to be used. The smaller number of guns simplified their distribution, and centreline turrets became the norm. [48]

A further step change was planned for battleships designed and laid down at the end of World War I. The Japanese Nagato-class battleships in 1917 carried 410-millimetre (16.1 in) guns, which was quickly matched by the US Navy's Colorado class. Both the United Kingdom and Japan were planning battleships with 18-inch (457 mm) armament, in the British case the N3 class. The Washington Naval Treaty concluded on 6 February 1922 and ratified later limited battleship guns to not more than 16-inch (410 mm) calibre, [49] and these heavier guns were not produced. [50]

The only battleships to break the limit were the Japanese Yamato class, begun in 1937 (after the treaty expired), which carried 460 mm (18.1 in) main guns. [51] By the middle of World War II, the United Kingdom was making use of 15-inch guns kept as spares for the Queen Elizabeth class to arm the last British battleship, HMS Vanguard. [52]

Some World War II-era designs were drawn up proposing another move towards gigantic armament. The German H-43 and H-44 designs proposed 508-millimetre (20 in) guns, and there is evidence Hitler wanted calibres as high as 609-millimetre (24 in) [53] the Japanese 'Super Yamato' design also called for 508 mm guns. [54] None of these proposals went further than very preliminary design work.

Secondary armament Edit

The first dreadnoughts tended to have a very light secondary armament intended to protect them from torpedo boats. Dreadnought carried 12-pounder guns each of her twenty-two 12-pounders could fire at least 15 rounds a minute at any torpedo boat making an attack. [55] The South Carolinas and other early American dreadnoughts were similarly equipped. [56] At this stage, torpedo boats were expected to attack separately from any fleet actions. Therefore, there was no need to armour the secondary gun armament, or to protect the crews from the blast effects of the main guns. In this context, the light guns tended to be mounted in unarmoured positions high on the ship to minimize weight and maximize field of fire. [57]

Within a few years, the principal threat was from the destroyer—larger, more heavily armed, and harder to destroy than the torpedo boat. Since the risk from destroyers was very serious, it was considered that one shell from a battleship's secondary armament should sink (rather than merely damage) any attacking destroyer. Destroyers, in contrast to torpedo boats, were expected to attack as part of a general fleet engagement, so it was necessary for the secondary armament to be protected against shell splinters from heavy guns, and the blast of the main armament. This philosophy of secondary armament was adopted by the German navy from the start Nassau, for instance, carried twelve 150 mm (5.9 in) and sixteen 88 mm (3.45 in) guns, and subsequent German dreadnought classes followed this lead. [40] These heavier guns tended to be mounted in armoured barbettes or casemates on the main deck. The Royal Navy increased its secondary armament from 12-pounder to first 4-inch (100 mm) and then 6-inch guns, which were standard at the start of World War I [58] the US standardized on 5-inch (130 mm) calibre for the war but planned 6-inch guns for the ships designed just afterwards. [59]

The secondary battery served several other roles. It was hoped that a medium-calibre shell might be able to score a hit on an enemy dreadnought's sensitive fire control systems. It was also felt that the secondary armament could play an important role in driving off enemy cruisers from attacking a crippled battleship. [60]

The secondary armament of dreadnoughts was, on the whole, unsatisfactory. A hit from a light gun could not be relied on to stop a destroyer. Heavier guns could not be relied on to hit a destroyer, as experience at the Battle of Jutland showed. The casemate mountings of heavier guns proved problematic being low in the hull, they proved liable to flooding, and on several classes, some were removed and plated over. The only sure way to protect a dreadnought from destroyer or torpedo boat attack was to provide a destroyer squadron as an escort. After World War I the secondary armament tended to be mounted in turrets on the upper deck and around the superstructure. This allowed a wide field of fire and good protection without the negative points of casemates. Increasingly through the 1920s and 1930s, the secondary guns were seen as a major part of the anti-aircraft battery, with high-angle, dual-purpose guns increasingly adopted. [61]

Armour Edit

Much of the displacement of a dreadnought was taken up by the steel plating of the armour. Designers spent much time and effort to provide the best possible protection for their ships against the various weapons with which they would be faced. Only so much weight could be devoted to protection, without compromising speed, firepower or seakeeping. [62]

Central citadel Edit

The bulk of a dreadnought's armour was concentrated around the "armoured citadel". This was a box, with four armoured walls and an armoured roof, around the most important parts of the ship. The sides of the citadel were the "armoured belt" of the ship, which started on the hull just in front of the forward turret and ran to just behind the aft turret. The ends of the citadel were two armoured bulkheads, fore and aft, which stretched between the ends of the armour belt. The "roof" of the citadel was an armoured deck. Within the citadel were the boilers, engines, and the magazines for the main armament. A hit to any of these systems could cripple or destroy the ship. The "floor" of the box was the bottom of the ship's hull, and was unarmoured, although it was, in fact, a "triple bottom". [63]

The earliest dreadnoughts were intended to take part in a pitched battle against other battleships at ranges of up to 10,000 yd (9,100 m). In such an encounter, shells would fly on a relatively flat trajectory, and a shell would have to hit at or just about the waterline to damage the vitals of the ship. For this reason, the early dreadnoughts' armour was concentrated in a thick belt around the waterline this was 11 inches (280 mm) thick in Dreadnought. Behind this belt were arranged the ship's coal bunkers, to further protect the engineering spaces. [64] In an engagement of this sort, there was also a lesser threat of indirect damage to the vital parts of the ship. A shell which struck above the belt armour and exploded could send fragments flying in all directions. These fragments were dangerous but could be stopped by much thinner armour than what would be necessary to stop an unexploded armour-piercing shell. To protect the innards of the ship from fragments of shells which detonated on the superstructure, much thinner steel armour was applied to the decks of the ship. [64]

The thickest protection was reserved for the central citadel in all battleships. Some navies extended a thinner armoured belt and armoured deck to cover the ends of the ship, or extended a thinner armoured belt up the outside of the hull. This "tapered" armour was used by the major European navies—the United Kingdom, Germany, and France. This arrangement gave some armour to a larger part of the ship for the very first dreadnoughts, when high-explosive shellfire was still considered a significant threat, this was useful. It tended to result in the main belt being very short, only protecting a thin strip above the waterline some navies found that when their dreadnoughts were heavily laden, the armoured belt was entirely submerged. [65] The alternative was an "all or nothing" protection scheme, developed by the US Navy. The armour belt was tall and thick, but no side protection at all was provided to the ends of the ship or the upper decks. The armoured deck was also thickened. The "all-or-nothing" system provided more effective protection against the very-long-range engagements of dreadnought fleets and was adopted outside the US Navy after World War I. [66]

The design of the dreadnought changed to meet new challenges. For example, armour schemes were changed to reflect the greater risk of plunging shells from long-range gunfire, and the increasing threat from armour-piercing bombs dropped by aircraft. Later designs carried a greater thickness of steel on the armoured deck [67] Yamato carried a 16-inch (410 mm) main belt, but a deck 9-inch (230 mm) thick. [68]

Underwater protection and subdivision Edit

The final element of the protection scheme of the first dreadnoughts was the subdivision of the ship below the waterline into several watertight compartments. If the hull were holed—by shellfire, mine, torpedo, or collision—then, in theory, only one area would flood and the ship could survive. To make this precaution even more effective, many dreadnoughts had no doors between different underwater sections, so that even a surprise hole below the waterline need not sink the ship. There were still several instances where flooding spread between underwater compartments. [69]

The greatest evolution in dreadnought protection came with the development of the anti-torpedo bulge and torpedo belt, both attempts to protect against underwater damage by mines and torpedoes. The purpose of underwater protection was to absorb the force of a detonating mine or torpedo well away from the final watertight hull. This meant an inner bulkhead along the side of the hull, which was generally lightly armoured to capture splinters, separated from the outer hull by one or more compartments. The compartments in between were either left empty, or filled with coal, water or fuel oil. [70]

Propulsion Edit

Dreadnoughts were propelled by two to four screw propellers. [71] Dreadnought herself, and all British dreadnoughts, had screw shafts driven by steam turbines. The first generation of dreadnoughts built in other nations used the slower triple-expansion steam engine which had been standard in pre-dreadnoughts. [72]

Turbines offered more power than reciprocating engines for the same volume of machinery. [73] [74] This, along with a guarantee on the new machinery from the inventor, Charles Parsons, persuaded the Royal Navy to use turbines in Dreadnought. [74] It is often said that turbines had the additional benefits of being cleaner and more reliable than reciprocating engines. [75] By 1905, new designs of reciprocating engine were available which were cleaner and more reliable than previous models. [73]

Turbines also had disadvantages. At cruising speeds much slower than maximum speed, turbines were markedly less fuel-efficient than reciprocating engines. This was particularly important for navies which required a long range at cruising speeds—and hence for the US Navy, which was planning in the event of war to cruise across the Pacific and engage the Japanese in the Philippines. [76]

The US Navy experimented with turbine engines from 1908 in the North Dakota, but was not fully committed to turbines until the Pennsylvania class in 1916. In the preceding Nevada class, one ship, the Oklahoma, received reciprocating engines, while the Nevada received geared turbines. The two New York-class ships of 1914 both received reciprocating engines, but all four ships of the Florida (1911) and Wyoming (1912) classes received turbines.

The disadvantages of the turbine were eventually overcome. The solution which eventually was generally adopted was the geared turbine, where gearing reduced the rotation rate of the propellers and hence increased efficiency. This solution required technical precision in the gears and hence was difficult to implement. [77]

One alternative was the turbo-electric drive where the steam turbine generated electrical power which then drove the propellers. This was particularly favoured by the US Navy, which used it for all dreadnoughts from late 1915–1922. The advantages of this method were its low cost, the opportunity for very close underwater compartmentalization, and good astern performance. The disadvantages were that the machinery was heavy and vulnerable to battle damage, particularly the effects of flooding on the electrics. [i]

Turbines were never replaced in battleship design. Diesel engines were eventually considered by some powers, as they offered very good endurance and an engineering space taking up less of the length of the ship. They were also heavier, however, took up a greater vertical space, offered less power, and were considered unreliable. [78] [79]

Fuel Edit

The first generation of dreadnoughts used coal to fire the boilers which fed steam to the turbines. Coal had been in use since the very first steam warships. One advantage of coal was that it is quite inert (in lump form) and thus could be used as part of the ship's protection scheme. [80] Coal also had many disadvantages. It was labor-intensive to pack coal into the ship's bunkers and then feed it into the boilers. The boilers became clogged with ash. Airborne coal dust and related vapors were highly explosive, possibly evidenced by the explosion of USS Maine. Burning coal as fuel also produced thick black smoke which gave away the position of a fleet and interfered with visibility, signaling, and fire control. In addition, coal was very bulky and had comparatively low thermal efficiency.

Oil-fired propulsion had many advantages for naval architects and officers at sea alike. It reduced smoke, making ships less visible. It could be fed into boilers automatically, rather than needing a complement of stokers to do it by hand. Oil has roughly twice the thermal content of coal. This meant that the boilers themselves could be smaller and for the same volume of fuel, an oil-fired ship would have much greater range. [80]

These benefits meant that, as early as 1901, Fisher was pressing the advantages of oil fuel. [81] There were technical problems with oil-firing, connected with the different distribution of the weight of oil fuel compared to coal, [80] and the problems of pumping viscous oil. [82] The main problem with using oil for the battle fleet was that, with the exception of the United States, every major navy would have to import its oil. As a result, some navies adopted 'dual-firing' boilers which could use coal sprayed with oil British ships so equipped, which included dreadnoughts, could even use oil alone at up to 60% power. [83]

The US had large reserves of oil, and the US Navy was the first to wholeheartedly adopt oil-firing, deciding to do so in 1910 and ordering oil-fired boilers for the Nevada class, in 1911. [j] The United Kingdom was not far behind, deciding in 1912 to use oil on its own in the Queen Elizabeth class [83] shorter British design and building times meant that Queen Elizabeth was commissioned before either of the Nevada-class vessels. The United Kingdom planned to revert to mixed firing with the subsequent Revenge class, at the cost of some speed—but Fisher, who returned to office in 1914, insisted that all the boilers should be oil-fired. [84] Other major navies retained mixed coal-and-oil firing until the end of World War I. [85]

Dreadnoughts developed as a move in an international battleship arms-race which had begun in the 1890s. The British Royal Navy had a big lead in the number of pre-dreadnought battleships, but a lead of only one dreadnought in 1906. [86] This has led to criticism that the British, by launching HMS Dreadnought, threw away a strategic advantage. [87] [88] Most of the United Kingdom's naval rivals had already contemplated or even built warships that featured a uniform battery of heavy guns. Both the Japanese Navy and the US Navy ordered "all-big-gun" ships in 1904–1905, with Satsuma and South Carolina, respectively. Germany's Kaiser Wilhelm II had advocated a fast warship armed only with heavy guns since the 1890s. By securing a head start in dreadnought construction, the United Kingdom ensured its dominance of the seas continued. [89]

The battleship race soon accelerated once more, placing a great burden on the finances of the governments which engaged in it. The first dreadnoughts were not much more expensive than the last pre-dreadnoughts, but the cost per ship continued to grow thereafter. [k] Modern battleships were the crucial element of naval power in spite of their price. Each battleship signalled national power and prestige, in a manner similar to the nuclear weapons of today. [90] Germany, France, Russia, Italy, Japan and Austria all began dreadnought programmes, and second-rank powers—including the Ottoman Empire, Greece, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile—commissioned British, French, German, and American yards to build dreadnoughts for them. [91]

Anglo-German arms race Edit

The construction of Dreadnought coincided with increasing tension between the United Kingdom and Germany. Germany had begun building a large battlefleet in the 1890s, as part of a deliberate policy to challenge British naval supremacy. With the signing of the Entente Cordiale in April 1904, it became increasingly clear the United Kingdom's principal naval enemy would be Germany, which was building up a large, modern fleet under the "Tirpitz" laws. This rivalry gave rise to the two largest dreadnought fleets of the pre-1914 period. [92]

The first German response to Dreadnought was the Nassau class, laid down in 1907, followed by the Helgoland class in 1909. Together with two battlecruisers—a type for which the Germans had less admiration than Fisher, but which could be built under the authorization for armoured cruisers, rather than for capital ships—these classes gave Germany a total of ten modern capital ships built or building in 1909. The British ships were faster and more powerful than their German equivalents, but a 12:10 ratio fell far short of the 2:1 superiority the Royal Navy wanted to maintain. [93]

In 1909, the British Parliament authorized an additional four capital ships, holding out hope Germany would be willing to negotiate a treaty limiting battleship numbers. If no such solution could be found, an additional four ships would be laid down in 1910. Even this compromise meant, when taken together with some social reforms, raising taxes enough to prompt a constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom in 1909–1910. In 1910, the British eight-ship construction plan went ahead, including four Orion-class super-dreadnoughts, augmented by battlecruisers purchased by Australia and New Zealand. In the same period, Germany laid down only three ships, giving the United Kingdom a superiority of 22 ships to 13. The British resolve, as demonstrated by their construction programme, led the Germans to seek a negotiated end to the arms race. The Admiralty's new target of a 60% lead over Germany was near enough to Tirpitz's goal of cutting the British lead to 50%, but talks foundered on the question on whether to include British colonial battlecruisers in the count, as well as on non-naval matters like the German demands for recognition of ownership of Alsace-Lorraine. [94]

The dreadnought race stepped up in 1910 and 1911, with Germany laying down four capital ships each year and the United Kingdom five. Tension came to a head following the German Naval Law of 1912. This proposed a fleet of 33 German battleships and battlecruisers, outnumbering the Royal Navy in home waters. To make matters worse for the United Kingdom, the Imperial Austro-Hungarian Navy was building four dreadnoughts, while the Italians had four and were building two more. Against such threats, the Royal Navy could no longer guarantee vital British interests. The United Kingdom was faced with a choice between building more battleships, withdrawing from the Mediterranean, or seeking an alliance with France. Further naval construction was unacceptably expensive at a time when social welfare provision was making calls on the budget. Withdrawing from the Mediterranean would mean a huge loss of influence, weakening British diplomacy in the region and shaking the stability of the British Empire. The only acceptable option, and the one recommended by First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill, was to break with the policies of the past and to make an arrangement with France. The French would assume responsibility for checking Italy and Austria-Hungary in the Mediterranean, while the British would protect the north coast of France. In spite of some opposition from British politicians, the Royal Navy organised itself on this basis in 1912. [95]

In spite of these important strategic consequences, the 1912 Naval Law had little bearing on the battleship-force ratios. The United Kingdom responded by laying down ten new super-dreadnoughts in its 1912 and 1913 budgets—ships of the Queen Elizabeth and Revenge classes, which introduced a further step-change in armament, speed and protection—while Germany laid down only five, concentrating resources on its army. [96]

United States Edit

The American South Carolina-class battleships were the first all-big-gun ships completed by one of the United Kingdom's rivals. The planning for the type had begun before Dreadnought was launched. There is some speculation that informal contacts with sympathetic Royal Navy officials influenced the US Navy design, [97] but the American ship was very different.

The US Congress authorized the Navy to build two battleships, but of only 16,000 tons or lower displacement. As a result, the South Carolina class were built to much tighter limits than Dreadnought. To make the best use of the weight available for armament, all eight 12-inch guns were mounted along the centreline, in superfiring pairs fore and aft. This arrangement gave a broadside equal to Dreadnought, but with fewer guns this was the most efficient distribution of weapons and proved a precursor of the standard practice of future generations of battleships. The principal economy of displacement compared to Dreadnought was in propulsion South Carolina retained triple-expansion steam engines, and could manage only 18.5 kn (34.3 km/h) compared to 21 kn (39 km/h) for Dreadnought. [98] For this reason the later Delaware class were described by some as the US Navy's first dreadnoughts [99] [100] only a few years after their commissioning, the South Carolina class could not operate tactically with the newer dreadnoughts due to their low speed, and were forced to operate with the older pre-dreadnoughts. [101] [102]

The two 10-gun, 20,500-ton ships of the Delaware class were the first US battleships to match the speed of British dreadnoughts, but their secondary battery was "wet" (suffering from spray) and their bow was low in the water. An alternative 12-gun 24,000-ton design had many disadvantages as well the extra two guns and a lower casemate had "hidden costs"—the two wing turrets planned would weaken the upper deck, be almost impossible to adequately protect against underwater attack, and force magazines to be located too close to the sides of the ship. [99] [103]

The US Navy continued to expand its battlefleet, laying down two ships in most subsequent years until 1920. The US continued to use reciprocating engines as an alternative to turbines until the Nevada, laid down in 1912. In part, this reflected a cautious approach to battleship-building, and in part a preference for long endurance over high maximum speed owing to the US Navy's need to operate in the Pacific Ocean. [104]

Japan Edit

With their victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, the Japanese became concerned about the potential for conflict with the US. The theorist Satō Tetsutarō developed the doctrine that Japan should have a battlefleet at least 70% the size of that of the US. This would enable the Japanese navy to win two decisive battles: the first early in a prospective war against the US Pacific Fleet, and the second against the US Atlantic Fleet which would inevitably be dispatched as reinforcements. [105]

Japan's first priorities were to refit the pre-dreadnoughts captured from Russia and to complete Satsuma and Aki. The Satsumas were designed before Dreadnought, but financial shortages resulting from the Russo-Japanese War delayed completion and resulted in their carrying a mixed armament, so they were known as "semi-dreadnoughts". These were followed by a modified Aki-type: Kawachi and Settsu. These two ships were laid down in 1909 and completed in 1912. They were armed with twelve 12-inch guns, but they were of two different models with differing barrel-lengths, meaning that they would have had difficulty controlling their fire at long ranges. [106]

In other countries Edit

Compared to the other major naval powers, France was slow to start building dreadnoughts, instead finishing the planned Danton class of pre-dreadnoughts, laying down five in 1907 and 1908. In September 1910 the first of the Courbet class was laid down, making France the eleventh nation to enter the dreadnought race. [107] In the Navy Estimates of 1911, Paul Bénazet asserted that from 1896 to 1911, France dropped from being the world's second-largest naval power to fourth he attributed this to problems in maintenance routines and neglect. [108] The closer alliance with the United Kingdom made these reduced forces more than adequate for French needs. [107]

The Italian navy had received proposals for an all-big-gun battleship from Cuniberti well before Dreadnought was launched, but it took until 1909 for Italy to lay down one of its own. The construction of Dante Alighieri was prompted by rumours of Austro-Hungarian dreadnought-building. A further five dreadnoughts of the Conte di Cavour class and Andrea Doria class class followed as Italy sought to maintain its lead over Austria-Hungary. These ships remained the core of Italian naval strength until World War II. The subsequent Francesco Caracciolo-class battleship were suspended (and later cancelled) on the outbreak of World War I. [109]

In January 1909 Austro-Hungarian admirals circulated a document calling for a fleet of four dreadnoughts. A constitutional crisis in 1909–1910 meant no construction could be approved. In spite of this, shipyards laid down two dreadnoughts on a speculative basis—due especially to the energetic manipulations of Rudolf Montecuccoli, Chief of the Austro-Hungarian Navy—later approved along with an additional two. The resulting ships, all Tegetthoff class, were to be accompanied by a further four ships of the Ersatz Monarch class, but these were cancelled on the outbreak of World War I. [110]

In June 1909 the Imperial Russian Navy began construction of four Gangut dreadnoughts for the Baltic Fleet, and in October 1911, three more Imperatritsa Mariya class dreadnoughts for the Black Sea Fleet were laid down. Of seven ships, only one was completed within four years of being laid down, and the Gangut ships were "obsolescent and outclassed" upon commissioning. [111] [112] Taking lessons from Tsushima, and influenced by Cuniberti, they ended up more closely resembling slower versions of Fisher's battlecruisers than Dreadnought, and they proved badly flawed due to their smaller guns and thinner armour when compared with contemporary dreadnoughts. [111] [113]

Spain commissioned three ships of the España class, with the first laid down in 1909. The three ships, the smallest dreadnoughts ever constructed, were built in Spain with British assistance construction on the third ship, Jaime I, took nine years from its laying down date to completion because of non-delivery of critical material, especially armament, from the United Kingdom. [114] [115]

Brazil was the third country to begin construction on a dreadnought. It ordered three dreadnoughts from the United Kingdom which would mount a heavier main battery than any other battleship afloat at the time (twelve 12-inch/45 calibre guns). Two were completed for Brazil: Minas Geraes was laid down on by Armstrong (Elswick) on 17 April 1907, and its sister, São Paulo, followed thirteen days later at Vickers (Barrow). Although many naval journals in Europe and the US speculated that Brazil was really acting as a proxy for one of the naval powers and would hand the ships over to them as soon as they were complete, both ships were commissioned into the Brazilian Navy in 1910. [97] [116] [117] The third ship, Rio de Janeiro, was nearly complete when rubber prices collapsed and Brazil could not afford her. She was sold to Turkey in 1913.

The Netherlands intended by 1912 to replace its fleet of pre-dreadnought armoured ships with a modern fleet composed of dreadnoughts. After a Royal Commission proposed the purchase of nine dreadnoughts in August 1913, there were extensive debates over the need for such ships and—if they were necessary—over the actual number needed. These lasted into August 1914, when a bill authorizing funding for four dreadnoughts was finalized, but the outbreak of World War I halted the ambitious plan. [118] [119]

The Ottoman Empire ordered two dreadnoughts from British yards, Reshadiye in 1911 and Fatih Sultan Mehmed in 1914. Reshadiye was completed, and in 1913, Turkey also acquired a nearly-completed dreadnought from Brazil, which became Sultan Osman I. At the start of World War I, Britain seized the two completed ships for the Royal Navy. Reshadiye and Sultan Osman I became HMS Erin and Agincourt respectively. (Fatih Sultan Mehmed was scrapped.) This greatly offended the Ottoman Empire. When two German warships, the battlecruiser SMS Goeben and the cruiser SMS Breslau, became trapped in Ottoman territory after the start of the war, Germany "gave" them to the Ottomans. (They remained German-crewed and under German orders.) The British seizure and the German gift proved important factors in the Ottoman Empire joining the Central Powers in October 1914. [120]

Greece had ordered a dreadnought from Germany, but work stopped on the outbreak of war. The main armament for the Greek ship had been ordered in the United States, and the guns consequently equipped a class of British monitors. In 1914 Greece purchased two pre-dreadnoughts from the United States Navy, renaming them Kilkis and Lemnos in Royal Hellenic Navy service. [121]

Super-dreadnoughts Edit

Within five years of the commissioning of Dreadnought, a new generation of more powerful "super-dreadnoughts" was being built. The British Orion class jumped an unprecedented 2,000 tons in displacement, introduced the heavier 13.5-inch (343 mm) gun, and placed all the main armament on the centreline (hence with some turrets superfiring over others). In the four years between Dreadnought and Orion, displacement had increased by 25%, and weight of broadside (the weight of ammunition that can be fired on a single bearing in one salvo) had doubled. [122]

British super-dreadnoughts were joined by those built by other nations. The US Navy New York class, laid down in 1911, carried 14-inch (356 mm) guns in response to the British move and this calibre became standard. In Japan, two Fusō class super-dreadnoughts were laid down in 1912, followed by the two Ise class in 1914, with both classes carrying twelve 14-inch (356 mm) guns. In 1917, the Nagato class was ordered, the first super-dreadnoughts to mount 16-inch guns, making them arguably the most powerful warships in the world. All were increasingly built from Japanese rather than from imported components. In France, the Courbets were followed by three super-dreadnoughts of the Bretagne class, carrying 340 mm (13.4 in) guns another five Normandies were canceled on the outbreak of World War I. [123] The aforementioned Brazilian dreadnoughts sparked a small-scale arms race in South America, as Argentina and Chile each ordered two super-dreadnoughts from the US and the United Kingdom, respectively. Argentina's Rivadavia and Moreno had a main armament equaling that of their Brazilian counterparts, but were much heavier and carried thicker armour. The British purchased both of Chile's battleships on the outbreak of the First World War. One, Almirante Latorre, was later repurchased by Chile. [124] [125]

Later British super-dreadnoughts, principally the Queen Elizabeth class, dispensed with the midships turret, freeing weight and volume for larger, oil-fired boilers. The new 15-inch (381 mm) gun gave greater firepower in spite of the loss of a turret, and there were a thicker armour belt and improved underwater protection. The class had a 25-knot (46 km/h 29 mph) design speed, and they were considered the first fast battleships. [126]

The design weakness of super-dreadnoughts, which distinguished them from post-1918 vessels, was armour disposition. Their design emphasized the vertical armour protection needed in short-range battles, where shells would strike the sides of the ship, and assumed that an outer plate of armour would detonate any incoming shells so that crucial internal structures such as turret bases needed only light protection against splinters. This was in spite of the fact that these ships could engage the enemy at 20,000 yd (18,000 m), ranges where the shells would descend at angles of up to thirty degrees ("plunging fire") and so could drop behind the outer plate and strike the internal structures directly. Post-war designs typically had 5 to 6 inches (130 to 150 mm) of deck armour laid across the top of single, much thicker vertical plates to defend against this. The concept of zone of immunity became a major part of the thinking behind battleship design. Lack of underwater protection was also a weakness of these pre-World War I designs, which originated before the use of torpedoes became widespread. [127]

The United States Navy designed its 'Standard type battleships', beginning with the Nevada class, with long-range engagements and plunging fire in mind the first of these was laid down in 1912, four years before the Battle of Jutland taught the dangers of long-range fire to European navies. Important features of the standard battleships were "all or nothing" armour and "raft" construction—based on a design philosophy which held that only those parts of the ship worth giving the thickest possible protection were worth armouring at all, and that the resulting armoured "raft" should contain enough reserve buoyancy to keep the entire ship afloat in the event the unarmoured bow and stern were thoroughly punctured and flooded. This design proved its worth in the 1942 Naval Battle of Guadalcanal, when an ill-timed turn by South Dakota silhouetted her to Japanese guns. In spite of receiving 26 hits, her armoured raft remained untouched and she remained both afloat and operational at the end of action. [128]

The First World War saw no decisive engagements between battlefleets to compare with Tsushima. The role of battleships was marginal to the land fighting in France and Russia it was equally marginal to the German war on commerce (Handelskrieg) and the Allied blockade. [129]

By virtue of geography, the Royal Navy could keep the German High Seas Fleet confined to the North Sea with relative ease, but was unable to break the German superiority in the Baltic Sea. Both sides were aware, because of the greater number of British dreadnoughts, that a full fleet engagement would likely result in a British victory. The German strategy was, therefore, to try to provoke an engagement on favourable terms: either inducing a part of the Grand Fleet to enter battle alone, or to fight a pitched battle near the German coast, where friendly minefields, torpedo boats, and submarines could even the odds. [130]

The first two years of war saw conflict in the North Sea limited to skirmishes by battlecruisers at the Battle of Heligoland Bight and Battle of Dogger Bank, and raids on the English coast. In May 1916, a further attempt to draw British ships into battle on favourable terms resulted in a clash of the battlefleets on 31 May to 1 June in the indecisive Battle of Jutland. [131]

In the other naval theatres, there were no decisive pitched battles. In the Black Sea, Russian and Turkish battleships skirmished, but nothing more. In the Baltic Sea, action was largely limited to convoy raiding and the laying of defensive minefields. [132] The Adriatic was in a sense the mirror of the North Sea: the Austro-Hungarian dreadnought fleet was confined to the Adriatic by the British and French blockade but bombarded the Italians on several occasions, notably at Ancona in 1915. [133] And in the Mediterranean, the most important use of battleships was in support of the amphibious assault at Gallipoli. [134]

The course of the war illustrated the vulnerability of battleships to cheaper weapons. In September 1914, the U-boat threat to capital ships was demonstrated by successful attacks on British cruisers, including the sinking of three elderly British armoured cruisers by the German submarine U-9 in less than an hour. Mines continued to prove a threat when a month later the recently commissioned British super-dreadnought HMS Audacious struck one and sank in 1914. By the end of October, British strategy and tactics in the North Sea had changed to reduce the risk of U-boat attack. [135] Jutland was the only major clash of dreadnought battleship fleets in history, and the German plan for the battle relied on U-boat attacks on the British fleet and the escape of the German fleet from the superior British firepower was effected by the German cruisers and destroyers closing on British battleships, causing them to turn away to avoid the threat of torpedo attack. Further near-misses from submarine attacks on battleships led to growing concern in the Royal Navy about the vulnerability of battleships. [136]

For the German part, the High Seas Fleet determined not to engage the British without the assistance of submarines, and since submarines were more needed for commerce raiding, the fleet stayed in port for much of the remainder of the war. [137] Other theatres showed the role of small craft in damaging or destroying dreadnoughts. The two Austrian dreadnoughts lost in November 1918 were casualties of Italian torpedo boats and frogmen.

World War I Edit

The outbreak of World War I largely halted the dreadnought arms race as funds and technical resources were diverted to more pressing priorities. The foundries which produced battleship guns were dedicated instead to the production of land-based artillery, and shipyards were flooded with orders for small ships. The weaker naval powers engaged in the Great War—France, Austria-Hungary, Italy and Russia—suspended their battleship programmes entirely. The United Kingdom and Germany continued building battleships and battlecruisers but at a reduced pace. [138]

In the United Kingdom, Fisher returned to his old post as First Sea Lord he had been created 1st Baron Fisher in 1909, taking the motto Fear God and dread nought. This, combined with a government moratorium on battleship building, meant a renewed focus on the battlecruiser. Fisher resigned in 1915 following arguments about the Gallipoli Campaign with the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill.

The final units of the Revenge and Queen Elizabeth classes were completed, though the last two battleships of the Revenge class were re-ordered as battlecruisers of the Renown class. Fisher followed these ships with the even more extreme Courageous class very fast and heavily armed ships with minimal, 3-inch (76 mm) armour, called 'large light cruisers' to get around a Cabinet ruling against new capital ships. Fisher's mania for speed culminated in his suggestion for HMS Incomparable, a mammoth, lightly armoured battlecruiser. [139]

In Germany, two units of the pre-war Bayern class were gradually completed, but the other two laid down were still unfinished by the end of the War. Hindenburg, also laid down before the start of the war, was completed in 1917. The Mackensen class, designed in 1914–1915, were begun but never finished. [140]

Post-war Edit

In spite of the lull in battleship building during the World War, the years 1919–1922 saw the threat of a renewed naval arms race between the United Kingdom, Japan, and the US. The Battle of Jutland exerted a huge influence over the designs produced in this period. The first ships which fit into this picture are the British Admiral class, designed in 1916. Jutland finally persuaded the Admiralty that lightly armoured battlecruisers were too vulnerable, and therefore the final design of the Admirals incorporated much-increased armour, increasing displacement to 42,000 tons. The initiative in creating the new arms race lay with the Japanese and United States navies. The United States Naval Appropriations Act of 1916 authorized the construction of 156 new ships, including ten battleships and six battlecruisers. For the first time, the United States Navy was threatening the British global lead. [141] This programme was started slowly (in part because of a desire to learn lessons from Jutland), and never fulfilled entirely. The new American ships (the Colorado-class battleships, South Dakota-class battleships and Lexington-class battlecruisers), took a qualitative step beyond the British Queen Elizabeth class and Admiral classes by mounting 16-inch guns. [142]

At the same time, the Imperial Japanese Navy was finally gaining authorization for its 'eight-eight battlefleet'. The Nagato class, authorized in 1916, carried eight 16-inch guns like their American counterparts. The next year's naval bill authorized two more battleships and two more battlecruisers. The battleships, which became the Tosa class, were to carry ten 16-inch guns. The battlecruisers, the Amagi class, also carried ten 16-inch guns and were designed to be capable of 30 knots, capable of beating both the British Admiral- and the US Navy's Lexington-class battlecruisers. [143]

Matters took a further turn for the worse in 1919 when Woodrow Wilson proposed a further expansion of the United States Navy, asking for funds for an additional ten battleships and six battlecruisers in addition to the completion of the 1916 programme (the South Dakota class not yet started). In response, the Diet of Japan finally agreed to the completion of the 'eight-eight fleet', incorporating a further four battleships. [144] These ships, the Kii class would displace 43,000 tons the next design, the Number 13 class, would have carried 18-inch (457 mm) guns. [145] Many in the Japanese navy were still dissatisfied, calling for an 'eight-eight-eight' fleet with 24 modern battleships and battlecruisers.

The British, impoverished by World War I, faced the prospect of slipping behind the US and Japan. No ships had been begun since the Admiral class, and of those only HMS Hood had been completed. A June 1919 Admiralty plan outlined a post-war fleet with 33 battleships and eight battlecruisers, which could be built and sustained for £171 million a year (approximately £7.92 billion today) only £84 million was available. The Admiralty then demanded, as an absolute minimum, a further eight battleships. [146] These would have been the G3 battlecruisers, with 16-inch guns and high speed, and the N3-class battleships, with 18-inch (457 mm) guns. [147] Its navy severely limited by the Treaty of Versailles, Germany did not participate in this three-way naval building competition. Most of the German dreadnought fleet was scuttled at Scapa Flow by its crews in 1919 the remainder were handed over as war prizes. [l] [148]

The major naval powers avoided the cripplingly expensive expansion programmes by negotiating the Washington Naval Treaty in 1922. The Treaty laid out a list of ships, including most of the older dreadnoughts and almost all the newer ships under construction, which were to be scrapped or otherwise put out of use. It furthermore declared a 'building holiday' during which no new battleships or battlecruisers were to be laid down, save for the British Nelson class. The ships which survived the treaty, including the most modern super-dreadnoughts of all three navies, formed the bulk of international capital ship strength through the 1920s and 1930s and, with some modernisation, into World War II. The ships built under the terms of the Washington Treaty (and subsequently the London Treaties in 1930 and 1936) to replace outdated vessels were known as treaty battleships. [149]

From this point on, the term 'dreadnought' became less widely used. Most pre-dreadnought battleships were scrapped or hulked after World War I, [m] so the term 'dreadnought' became less necessary.


7. Caio Duilio

Battleship: Italian Regia Marina
Built: 1912

One of the rare battleships that stood the test of time, the Caio Duilio not only survived both world wars, but also the Cold War. With its dreadnought class capabilities, this ship could hold its own in a conflict. With five turrets and over 2,000 men onboard, this battleship primarily maintained patrols. However, the enemy was cautious about engaging it, so this battleship didn’t get to see much action in the war, but was definitely was a great defense for the Italian Navy.


[edit] Design [ edit | edit source ]

The designers of dreadnoughts sought to provide as much protection, speed, and firepower as possible in a ship of a realistic size and cost. The hallmark of dreadnought battleships was an "all-big-gun" armament, but they also had heavy armor concentrated mainly in a thick belt at the waterline and in one or more armored decks. In addition, secondary armament, fire control, command equipment, protection against torpedoes also had to be crammed into the hull. [35]

The inevitable consequence of demands for ever greater speed, striking power, and endurance meant that displacement, and hence cost, of dreadnoughts tended to increase. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 imposed a limit of 35,000 tons on the displacement of capital ships. In subsequent years a number of treaty battleships were commissioned designed to build up to this limit. Japan's decision to leave the Treaty in the 1930s, and the arrival of the Second World War, eventually made this limit irrelevant. [36]

[edit] Armament [ edit | edit source ]

[7][8]A plan of Bellerophon (1907) showing the armament distribution of early British dreadnoughts. The main battery is in twin turrets, with two on the "wings" the light secondary battery is clustered around the superstructure.[9][10]Tegetthoff-class battleship (SMS Szent István (1914)) with two-storeyed "triple gun turrets" With this layout, the ship was able to keep an enemy ship under fire with her entire main battery.Dreadnoughts mounted a uniform main battery of heavy-caliber guns the number, size, and arrangement differed between designs. Dreadnought herself mounted ten 12-inch (305 mm) guns. 12-inch guns had been standard for most navies in the pre-dreadnought era and this continued in the first generation of dreadnought battleships. The Imperial German Navy was an exception, continuing to use 280-millimetre (11.0 in) guns in its first class of dreadnoughts, the Nassau-class. [37]

Dreadnoughts also carried lighter weapons. Many early dreadnoughts carried a secondary armament of very light guns designed to fend off enemy torpedo boats. However, the caliber and weight of secondary armament tended to increase, as the range of torpedoes and the staying power of the destroyers expected to carry them also increased. From the end of World War I onwards, battleships had also to be equipped with anti-aircraft armament, typically a large number of light guns. [38]

Dreadnoughts also very frequently carried torpedo tubes themselves. In theory, a line of battleships so equipped could unleash a devastating volley of torpedoes on an enemy line steaming a parallel course. In practice, torpedoes fired from battleships scored very few hits, while there was a risk that a stored torpedo would cause a dangerous explosion if hit by enemy fire. [39]

[edit] Position of main armament [ edit | edit source ]

The effectiveness of the guns depended in part on the layout of the turrets. Dreadnought, and the British ships which immediately followed her, carried five turrets: one forward and two aft on the centerline of the ship, and two in the 'wings' next to the superstructure. This allowed three turrets to fire ahead and four on the broadside. The Nassau and Helgoland classes of German dreadnoughts adopted a 'hexagonal' layout, with one turret each fore and aft and four wing turrets this meant more guns were mounted in total, but the same number could fire ahead or broadside as with Dreadnought. [40]

Dreadnought designs experimented with different layouts. The British Neptune class staggered the wing turrets, so all ten guns could fire on the broadside, a feature also used by the German Kaiser class. This, however, risked blast damage to parts of the ship over which the guns fired, and put great stress on the ship's frame. [41]

If all turrets were on the centerline of the vessel, then the stresses on the ship's frame were relatively low. This layout also meant that the entire main battery could fire on the broadside, though fewer could fire end-on. It also meant the hull would be longer, which posed some challenges for the designers a longer ship needed to devote more weight to armor to get equivalent protection, and the magazines which served each turret interfered with the distribution of boilers and engines. [42] For these reasons, HMS Agincourt, which carried a record fourteen 12-inch guns in seven centerline turrets, was not considered a success. [43]

A superfiring layout was eventually adopted as standard. This involved raising one or two turrets so they could fire over a turret immediately forward or astern of them. The U.S. Navy adopted this feature with their first dreadnoughts in 1906, but others were slower to do so. As with other layouts there were drawbacks. Initially, there were concerns about the impact of the blast of the raised guns on the lower turret. Raised turrets also raised the center of gravity of the ship, and might reduce the stability of the ship. Nevertheless, this layout made the best of the firepower available from a fixed number of guns, and was eventually adopted generally. [41] The U.S. Navy used superfiring on the South Carolina class, and the layout was adopted in the Royal Navy with the Orion class of 1910. By World War II, superfiring was entirely standard.

Initially, all dreadnoughts had two guns to a turret. However, one solution to the problem of turret layout was to put three or even four guns in each turret. Fewer turrets meant the ship could be shorter, or could devote more space to machinery. On the other hand, it meant that in the event of an enemy shell destroying one turret, a higher proportion of the main armament would be out of action. The risk of the blast waves from each gun barrel interfering with others in the same turret also reduced the rate of fire from the guns somewhat. The first nation to adopt the triple turret was Italy, in the Dante Alighieri, soon followed by Russia with the Gangut class, [44] the Austro-Hungarian Tegetthoff class, and the U.S. Nevada class. British Royal Navy battleships did not adopt triple turrets until after the First World War, with the Nelson class. Several later designs used quadruple turrets, including the British King George V class and French Richelieu class.

[edit] Main armament power and caliber [ edit | edit source ]

Rather than try to fit more guns onto a ship, it was possible to increase the power of each gun. This could be done by increasing either the caliber of the weapon and hence the weight of shell, or by lengthening the barrel to increase muzzle velocity. Either of these offered the chance to increase range and armor penetration. [45] The workings of a dreadnought's main armament, based on the British 15-inch gun used on super-dreadnoughtsBoth methods offered advantages and disadvantages, though in general greater muzzle velocity meant increased barrel wear. As guns fire, their barrels wear out, losing accuracy and eventually requiring replacement. At times, this became problematic the U.S. Navy seriously considered stopping practice firing of heavy guns in 1910 because of the wear on the barrels. [46] The disadvantages of heavier guns were twofold: first, the required guns and turrets weighed much more and second, heavier and slower shells needed to be fired at a higher angle for the same range, which affected the design of turrets. However, the big advantage of increasing caliber was that heavier shells are also affected less by air resistance, and so retain greater penetrating power at long range. [47]

Different navies approached the decision of caliber in different ways. The German navy, for instance, generally used a lighter caliber than the equivalent British ships, e.g. 12-inch (305 mm) caliber when the British standard was 13.5-inch (343 mm). However, because German metallurgy was superior, the German 12-inch gun was superior to the British 12-inch in terms of shell weight and muzzle velocity and because the German guns were lighter than the British 13.5-inch, German ships could afford more armor. [47]

On the whole, however, the caliber of guns tended to increase. In the Royal Navy, the Orion class, launched 1910, used ten 13.5-inch guns, all on the centerline the Queen Elizabeth class, launched 1913, used eight 15-inch (381 mm) guns. In all navies, the caliber of guns increased and the number of guns tended to decrease to compensate. The fewer guns needed meant distributing them became less of an issue, and centerline turrets became entirely the norm. [48]

A further step change was planned for battleships designed and laid down at the end of World War I. The Japanese Nagato class in 1917 carried 16-inch (406 mm) guns, which was quickly matched by the U.S. Navy's Colorado class. Both the United Kingdom and Japan were planning battleships with 18-inch (457 mm) armament, in the British case the N3 class. However, the Washington Naval Treaty meant these plans with their mammoth guns never got off the drawing board. [49] A 14-inch naval gun, as fitted to the King George V class treaty battleshipsThe Washington Naval Treaty limited battleship guns at 16-inch (410 mm) caliber. [50] Later treaties preserved this limit, though reductions of the limit to 11, 12, or 14 inches were proposed. [51] The only battleships to break the limit were the Japanese Yamato class, begun in 1937 (after the treaty expired), which carried 460 mm (18.1 in) main guns. [52] By the middle of World War II, the United Kingdom was making use of 15-inch guns kept as spares for the Queen Elizabeth class to arm the last British battleship, Vanguard (23). [53]

A number of World War II-era designs were drawn up proposing another move towards gigantic armament. The German H-43 and H-44 designs proposed 508-millimetre (20 in) guns, and there is evidence Hitler wanted calibers as high as 609-millimetre (24 in) [54] the Japanese 'Super Yamato' design also called for 508 mm guns. [55] None of these proposals went further than very preliminary design work.

[edit] Secondary armament [ edit | edit source ]

The first dreadnoughts tended to have a very light secondary armament intended to protect them from torpedo boats. Dreadnought herself carried 12-pounder guns each of her twenty-two 12-pounders could fire at least 15 rounds a minute at any torpedo boat making an attack. [56] The South Carolinas and other early American dreadnoughts were similarly equipped. [57] At this stage, torpedo boats were expected to attack separately from any fleet actions. Therefore, there was no need to armor the secondary gun armament, or to protect the crews from the blast effects of the main guns. In this context, the light guns tended to be mounted in unarmored positions high on the ship to minimize weight and maximize field of fire. [58] 12-pounder anti-torpedo boat guns mounted on the roof of a turret on Dreadnought (1906)Within a few years, the principal threat was from the destroyer—larger, more heavily armed, and harder to destroy than the torpedo boat. Since the risk from destroyers was very serious, it was considered that one shell from a battleship's secondary armament should sink (rather than merely damage) any attacking destroyer. Destroyers, in contrast to torpedo boats, were expected to attack as part of a general fleet engagement, so it was necessary for the secondary armament to be protected against shell splinters from heavy guns, and the blast of the main armament. This philosophy of secondary armament was adopted by the German navy from the start Nassau, for instance, carried twelve 150-mm (5.9 in) and sixteen 88-mm (3.45 in) guns, and subsequent German dreadnought classes followed her lead. [40] These heavier guns tended to be mounted in armored barbettes or casemates on the main deck. The Royal Navy increased its secondary armament from 12-pounder to first 4-inch (100 mm) and then 6-inch (150 mm) guns, which were standard at the start of World War I [59] the U.S. standardized on 5-inch (130 mm) caliber for the War but planned 6-inch guns for the ships designed just afterwards. [60]

The secondary battery also served several other roles. It was hoped that a medium-caliber shell might be able to score a hit on an enemy dreadnought's sensitive fire control systems. Also, it was felt that the secondary armament could play an important role in driving off enemy cruisers from attacking a crippled battleship. [61]

The secondary armament of dreadnoughts was, on the whole, unsatisfactory. A hit from a light gun could not be relied on to stop a destroyer. Heavier guns could not be relied on to hit a destroyer, as experience at the Battle of Jutland showed. The casemate mountings of heavier guns also proved problematic being low in the hull, they proved liable to flooding, and on several classes some were removed and plated over. The only sure way to protect a dreadnought from destroyer or torpedo boat attack was to escort it with its own destroyer squadron. After World War I the secondary armament tended to be mounted in turrets on the upper deck and around the superstructure. This allowed a wide field of fire and good protection without the negative points of casemates. Increasingly through the 1920s and 1930s the secondary guns were seen as a major part of the anti-aircraft battery, with high-angle, dual-purpose guns increasingly adopted. [62]

[edit] Armor [ edit | edit source ]

[11][12]This section of Bellerophon (1907) shows a typical dreadnought protection scheme, with very thick armor protecting the turrets, magazines and engine spaces tapering away in less vital areas also note the subdivided underwater compartments to prevent sinking.Much of the displacement of a dreadnought was taken up by the steel plating of its armor. Designers spent much time and effort to provide the best possible protection for their ships against the various weapons they would be faced with. However, only so much weight could ever be devoted to protection, without compromising speed, firepower or seakeeping. [63]

[edit] Central citadel [ edit | edit source ]

The bulk of a dreadnought's armor was concentrated around the "armored citadel". This was a box, with four armored walls and an armored roof, around the most important parts of the ship. The sides of the citadel were the "armored belt" of the ship, which started on the hull just in front of the forward turret and ran to just behind the aft turret. The ends of the citadel were two armored bulkheads, fore and aft, which stretched between the ends of the armor belt. The "roof" of the citadel was an armored deck. Within the citadel were the boilers, engines, and the magazines for the main armament. A hit to any of these systems could cripple or destroy the ship. The "floor" of the box was the bottom of the ship's hull, and was unarmored. [64]

The earliest dreadnoughts were intended to take part in a pitched battle against other battleships at ranges of up to 10,000 yd (9,100 m). In such an encounter, shells would fly on a relatively flat trajectory, and a shell would have to hit at or just about the waterline to damage the vitals of the ship. For this reason, the early dreadnoughts' armor was concentrated in a thick belt around the waterline this was 11 inches (280 mm) thick in Dreadnought. Behind this belt were arranged the ship's coal bunkers, to further protect the engineering spaces. [65] In an engagement of this sort, there was also a lesser threat of indirect damage to the vital parts of the ship. A shell which struck above the belt armor and exploded could send fragments flying in all directions. These fragments were dangerous, but could be stopped by much thinner armor than what would be necessary to stop an unexploded armor-piercing shell. To protect the innards of the ship from fragments of shells which detonated on the superstructure, much thinner steel armor was applied to the decks of the ship. [65]

While the thickest protection was reserved for the central citadel in all battleships, some navies also extended a thinner armored belt and armored deck to cover the ends of the ship, or extended a thinner armored belt up the outside of the hull. This "tapered" armor was used by the major European navies—the United Kingdom, Germany and France. This arrangement gave some armor to a larger part of the ship for the very first dreadnoughts, when high-explosive shellfire was still considered a significant threat, this was useful. However, it tended to result in the main belt being very short, only protecting a thin strip above the waterline some navies found that when their dreadnoughts were heavily laden, the armored belt was entirely submerged. [66] The alternative was an "all or nothing" protection scheme, developed by the U.S. Navy. The armor belt was tall and thick, but no side protection at all was provided to the ends of the ship or the upper decks. The armored deck was also thickened. The "all-or-nothing" system provided more effective protection against the very-long-range engagements of dreadnought fleets and was adopted outside the U.S. Navy after World War I. [67]

During the evolution of the dreadnought, armor schemes changed to reflect the greater risk of plunging shells from long-range gunfire, and the increasing threat from armor-piercing bombs dropped by aircraft. Later designs carried a greater thickness of steel on the armored deck [68] Yamato carried a 16-inch (410 mm) main belt, but a deck 9-inch (230 mm) thick. [69]

[edit] Underwater protection and subdivision [ edit | edit source ]

The final element of the protection scheme of the first dreadnoughts was the subdivision of the ship below the waterline into several watertight compartments. If the hull was holed—by shellfire, mine, torpedo, or collision—then, in theory, only one area would flood and the ship could survive. To make this precaution even more effective, many dreadnoughts had no hatches between different underwater sections, so that even a surprise hole below the waterline need not sink the ship. However, there were still a number of instances where flooding spread between underwater compartments. [70]

The greatest evolution in dreadnought protection came with the development of the Anti-torpedo bulge and torpedo belt, both attempts to protect against underwater damage by mines and torpedoes. The purpose of underwater protection was to absorb the force of a detonating mine or torpedo well away from the final watertight hull. This meant an inner bulkhead along the side of the hull, which was generally lightly armored to capture splinters, separated from the outer hull by one or more compartments. The compartments in between were either left empty, or filled with coal, water or fuel oil. [71]

[edit] Propulsion [ edit | edit source ]

[13][14]Paris on speed trialsDreadnoughts were propelled by two to four screw propellers. [72] Dreadnought herself, and all British dreadnoughts, had screw shafts driven by steam turbines. However, the first generation of dreadnoughts built in other nations used the slower triple-expansion steam engine which had been standard in pre-dreadnoughts. [73]

Turbines offered more power than reciprocating engines for the same volume of machinery. [74] [75] This, along with a guarantee on the new machinery from the inventor, Charles Parsons, persuaded the Royal Navy to use turbines in Dreadnought. [75] It is often said that turbines had the additional benefits of being cleaner and more reliable than reciprocating engines. [76] However, by 1905, new designs of reciprocating engine were available which were cleaner and more reliable than previous models. [74]

Turbines were not without disadvantages. At cruising speeds much slower than maximum speed, turbines were markedly less fuel-efficient than reciprocating engines. This was particularly important for navies which required a long range at cruising speeds—and hence for the U.S. Navy, which was planning in the event of war to cruise across the Pacific and engage the Japanese in the Philippines. [77]

The US Navy experimented with turbine engines from 1908 in the North Dakota, but was not fully committed to turbines until the Pennsylvania class in 1916. In the preceding Nevada class one ship, the Oklahoma, received reciprocating engines, while the Nevada received geared turbines. The two New York class ships of 1914 both received reciprocating engines, but all four ships of the Florida (1911) and Wyoming (1912) classes received turbines.

The disadvantages of the turbine were eventually overcome. The solution which eventually was generally adopted was the geared turbine, where gearing reduced the rotation rate of the propellers and hence increased efficiency. However, this solution required technical precision in the gears and hence was difficult to implement. [78]

One alternative was the turbo-electric drive where the steam turbine generated electrical power which then drove the propellers. This was particularly favored by the U.S. Navy, which used it for all dreadnoughts from late 1915–1922. The advantages of this method were its low cost, the opportunity for very close underwater compartmentalization, and good astern performance. The disadvantages were that machinery was heavy and vulnerable to battle damage, particularly the effects of flooding on the electrics. [A 7]

Turbines were never replaced in battleship design. Diesel engines were eventually considered by a number of powers, as they offered very good endurance and an engineering space taking up less of the length of the ship. However, they were also heavier, took up a greater vertical space, offered less power, and were considered unreliable. [79]

[edit] Fuel [ edit | edit source ]

The first generation of dreadnoughts used coal to fire the boilers which fed steam to the turbines. Coal had been in use since the very first steam warships, but had many disadvantages. It was labor-intensive to pack coal into the ship's bunkers and then feed it into the boilers. The boilers became clogged with ash. Coal produced thick black smoke which gave away the position of a fleet and interfered with visibility, signaling, and fire control. In addition, coal was very bulky and had comparatively low thermal efficiency. Coal was, however, quite inert and could be used as part of the ship's protection scheme. [80]

Oil-fired propulsion had many advantages for naval architects and officers at sea alike. It reduced smoke, making ships less visible. It could be fed into boilers automatically, rather than needing a complement of stokers to do it by hand. Oil has roughly twice the thermal content of coal. This meant that the boilers themselves could be smaller and for the same volume of fuel, an oil-fired ship would have much greater range. [80]

These benefits meant that, as early as 1901, Fisher was pressing the advantages of oil fuel. [81] There were technical problems with oil-firing, connected with the different distribution of the weight of oil fuel compared to coal, [80] and the problems of pumping viscous oil. [82] However, the main problem with using oil for the battle fleet was that, with the exception of the USA, every major navy would have to import its oil. This meant that a number of navies adopted 'dual-firing' boilers which could use coal sprayed with oil British ships so equipped, which included dreadnoughts, could even use oil alone at up to 60% power. [83]

The US was a major oil producer, and the U.S. Navy was the first to wholeheartedly adopt oil-firing, deciding to do so in 1910 and ordering oil-fired boilers for the Nevada class, in 1911. [84] The United Kingdom was not far behind, deciding in 1912 to use oil on its own in the Queen Elizabeth class [83] shorter British design and building times meant that Queen Elizabeth was commissioned before either of the Nevada class. The United Kingdom planned to revert to mixed firing with the subsequent Revenge class, at the cost of some speed—but Fisher, returned to office in 1914, insisted that all of the boilers should be oil-fired. [85] Other major navies retained mixed coal-and-oil firing until the end of World War I. [86]


Design [ edit | edit source ]

The designers of dreadnoughts sought to provide as much protection, speed, and firepower as possible in a ship of a realistic size and cost. The hallmark of dreadnought battleships was an "all-big-gun" armament, but they also had heavy armor concentrated mainly in a thick belt at the waterline and in one or more armored decks. In addition, secondary armament, fire control, command equipment, protection against torpedoes also had to be crammed into the hull. ⎮]

The inevitable consequence of demands for ever greater speed, striking power, and endurance meant that displacement, and hence cost, of dreadnoughts tended to increase. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 imposed a limit of 35,000 tons on the displacement of capital ships. In subsequent years a number of treaty battleships were commissioned designed to build up to this limit. Japan's decision to leave the Treaty in the 1930s, and the arrival of the Second World War, eventually made this limit irrelevant. ⎯]

Armament [ edit | edit source ]

A plan of Bellerophon (1907) showing the armament distribution of early British dreadnoughts. The main battery is in twin turrets, with two on the "wings" the light secondary battery is clustered around the superstructure.

Tegetthoff-class battleship (SMS Szent István (1914)) with two-storeyed "triple gun turrets" With this layout, the ship was able to keep an enemy ship under fire with her entire main battery.

Dreadnoughts mounted a uniform main battery of heavy-caliber guns the number, size, and arrangement differed between designs. Dreadnought herself mounted ten 12-inch (305 mm) guns. 12-inch guns had been standard for most navies in the pre-dreadnought era and this continued in the first generation of dreadnought battleships. The Imperial German Navy was an exception, continuing to use 280-millimetre (11.0 in) guns in its first class of dreadnoughts, the Nassau class. ⎰]

Dreadnoughts also carried lighter weapons. Many early dreadnoughts carried a secondary armament of very light guns designed to fend off enemy torpedo boats. However, the caliber and weight of secondary armament tended to increase, as the range of torpedoes and the staying power of the destroyers expected to carry them also increased. From the end of World War I onwards, battleships had also to be equipped with anti-aircraft armament, typically a large number of light guns. ⎱]

Dreadnoughts also very frequently carried torpedo tubes themselves. In theory, a line of battleships so equipped could unleash a devastating volley of torpedoes on an enemy line steaming a parallel course. In practice, torpedoes fired from battleships scored very few hits, while there was a risk that a stored torpedo would cause a dangerous explosion if hit by enemy fire. ⎲]

Position of main armament [ edit | edit source ]

The effectiveness of the guns depended in part on the layout of the turrets. Dreadnought, and the British ships which immediately followed her, carried five turrets: one forward and two aft on the centerline of the ship, and two in the 'wings' next to the superstructure. This allowed three turrets to fire ahead and four on the broadside. The Nassau and Helgoland classes of German dreadnoughts adopted a 'hexagonal' layout, with one turret each fore and aft and four wing turrets this meant more guns were mounted in total, but the same number could fire ahead or broadside as with Dreadnought. ⎳]

Dreadnought designs experimented with different layouts. The British Neptune-class battleship staggered the wing turrets, so all ten guns could fire on the broadside, a feature also used by the German Kaiser class. This, however, risked blast damage to parts of the ship over which the guns fired, and put great stress on the ship's frame. ⎴]

If all turrets were on the centerline of the vessel, then the stresses on the ship's frame were relatively low. This layout also meant that the entire main battery could fire on the broadside, though fewer could fire end-on. It also meant the hull would be longer, which posed some challenges for the designers a longer ship needed to devote more weight to armor to get equivalent protection, and the magazines which served each turret interfered with the distribution of boilers and engines. ⎵] For these reasons, HMS Agincourt, which carried a record fourteen 12-inch guns in seven centerline turrets, was not considered a success. ⎶]

A superfiring layout was eventually adopted as standard. This involved raising one or two turrets so they could fire over a turret immediately forward or astern of them. The U.S. Navy adopted this feature with their first dreadnoughts in 1906, but others were slower to do so. As with other layouts there were drawbacks. Initially, there were concerns about the impact of the blast of the raised guns on the lower turret. Raised turrets also raised the center of gravity of the ship, and might reduce the stability of the ship. Nevertheless, this layout made the best of the firepower available from a fixed number of guns, and was eventually adopted generally. ⎴] The U.S. Navy used superfiring on the South Carolina class, and the layout was adopted in the Royal Navy with the Orion class of 1910. By World War II, superfiring was entirely standard.

Initially, all dreadnoughts had two guns to a turret. However, one solution to the problem of turret layout was to put three or even four guns in each turret. Fewer turrets meant the ship could be shorter, or could devote more space to machinery. On the other hand, it meant that in the event of an enemy shell destroying one turret, a higher proportion of the main armament would be out of action. The risk of the blast waves from each gun barrel interfering with others in the same turret also reduced the rate of fire from the guns somewhat. The first nation to adopt the triple turret was Italy, in the Dante Alighieri, soon followed by Russia with the Gangut class, ⎷] the Austro-Hungarian Tegetthoff class, and the U.S. Nevada class. British Royal Navy battleships did not adopt triple turrets until after the First World War, with the Nelson class. Several later designs used quadruple turrets, including the British King George V class and French Richelieu class.

Main armament power and caliber [ edit | edit source ]

Rather than try to fit more guns onto a ship, it was possible to increase the power of each gun. This could be done by increasing either the caliber of the weapon and hence the weight of shell, or by lengthening the barrel to increase muzzle velocity. Either of these offered the chance to increase range and armor penetration. ⎸]

Animated diagram of gun turret loading and firing, based on the British 15-inch gun used on super-dreadnoughts

Both methods offered advantages and disadvantages, though in general greater muzzle velocity meant increased barrel wear. As guns fire, their barrels wear out, losing accuracy and eventually requiring replacement. At times, this became problematic the U.S. Navy seriously considered stopping practice firing of heavy guns in 1910 because of the wear on the barrels. ⎹] The disadvantages of heavier guns were twofold: first, the required guns and turrets weighed much more and second, heavier and slower shells needed to be fired at a higher angle for the same range, which affected the design of turrets. However, the big advantage of increasing caliber was that heavier shells are also affected less by air resistance, and so retain greater penetrating power at long range. ⎺]

Different navies approached the decision of caliber in different ways. The German navy, for instance, generally used a lighter caliber than the equivalent British ships, e.g. 12-inch (305 mm) caliber when the British standard was 13.5-inch (343 mm). However, because German metallurgy was superior, the German 12-inch gun was superior to the British 12-inch in terms of shell weight and muzzle velocity and because the German guns were lighter than the British 13.5-inch, German ships could afford more armor. ⎺]

On the whole, however, the caliber of guns tended to increase. In the Royal Navy, the Orion class, launched 1910, used ten 13.5-inch guns, all on the centerline the Queen Elizabeth class, launched 1913, used eight 15-inch (381 mm) guns. In all navies, the caliber of guns increased and the number of guns tended to decrease to compensate. The fewer guns needed meant distributing them became less of an issue, and centerline turrets became entirely the norm. ⎻]

A further step change was planned for battleships designed and laid down at the end of World War I. The Japanese Nagato-class battleships in 1917 carried 16-inch (406 mm) guns, which was quickly matched by the U.S. Navy's Colorado class. Both the United Kingdom and Japan were planning battleships with 18-inch (457 mm) armament, in the British case the N3 class. However, the Washington Naval Treaty meant these plans with their mammoth guns never got off the drawing board. ⎼]

A 14-inch naval gun, as fitted to the King George V-class treaty battleships

The Washington Naval Treaty limited battleship guns at 16-inch (410 mm) caliber. ⎽] Later treaties preserved this limit, though reductions of the limit to 11, 12, or 14 inches were proposed. ⎾] The only battleships to break the limit were the Japanese Yamato class, begun in 1937 (after the treaty expired), which carried 460 mm (18.1 in) main guns. ⎿] By the middle of World War II, the United Kingdom was making use of 15-inch guns kept as spares for the Queen Elizabeth class to arm the last British battleship, HMS Vanguard. ⏀]

A number of World War II-era designs were drawn up proposing another move towards gigantic armament. The German H-43 and H-44 designs proposed 508-millimetre (20 in) guns, and there is evidence Hitler wanted calibers as high as 609-millimetre (24 in) ⏁] the Japanese 'Super Yamato' design also called for 508 mm guns. ⏂] None of these proposals went further than very preliminary design work.

Secondary armament [ edit | edit source ]

The first dreadnoughts tended to have a very light secondary armament intended to protect them from torpedo boats. Dreadnought herself carried 12-pounder guns each of her twenty-two 12-pounders could fire at least 15 rounds a minute at any torpedo boat making an attack. ⏃] The South Carolinas and other early American dreadnoughts were similarly equipped. ⏄] At this stage, torpedo boats were expected to attack separately from any fleet actions. Therefore, there was no need to armor the secondary gun armament, or to protect the crews from the blast effects of the main guns. In this context, the light guns tended to be mounted in unarmored positions high on the ship to minimize weight and maximize field of fire. ⏅]

12-pounder anti-torpedo boat guns mounted on the roof of a turret on Dreadnought (1906)

Within a few years, the principal threat was from the destroyer—larger, more heavily armed, and harder to destroy than the torpedo boat. Since the risk from destroyers was very serious, it was considered that one shell from a battleship's secondary armament should sink (rather than merely damage) any attacking destroyer. Destroyers, in contrast to torpedo boats, were expected to attack as part of a general fleet engagement, so it was necessary for the secondary armament to be protected against shell splinters from heavy guns, and the blast of the main armament. This philosophy of secondary armament was adopted by the German navy from the start Nassau, for instance, carried twelve 150-mm (5.9 in) and sixteen 88-mm (3.45 in) guns, and subsequent German dreadnought classes followed her lead. ⎳] These heavier guns tended to be mounted in armored barbettes or casemates on the main deck. The Royal Navy increased its secondary armament from 12-pounder to first 4-inch (100 mm) and then 6-inch (150 mm) guns, which were standard at the start of World War I ⏆] the U.S. standardized on 5-inch (130 mm) caliber for the War but planned 6-inch guns for the ships designed just afterwards. ⏇]

The secondary battery also served several other roles. It was hoped that a medium-caliber shell might be able to score a hit on an enemy dreadnought's sensitive fire control systems. Also, it was felt that the secondary armament could play an important role in driving off enemy cruisers from attacking a crippled battleship. ⏈]

The secondary armament of dreadnoughts was, on the whole, unsatisfactory. A hit from a light gun could not be relied on to stop a destroyer. Heavier guns could not be relied on to hit a destroyer, as experience at the Battle of Jutland showed. The casemate mountings of heavier guns also proved problematic being low in the hull, they proved liable to flooding, and on several classes some were removed and plated over. The only sure way to protect a dreadnought from destroyer or torpedo boat attack was to escort it with its own destroyer squadron. After World War I the secondary armament tended to be mounted in turrets on the upper deck and around the superstructure. This allowed a wide field of fire and good protection without the negative points of casemates. Increasingly through the 1920s and 1930s the secondary guns were seen as a major part of the anti-aircraft battery, with high-angle, dual-purpose guns increasingly adopted. ⏉]

Armor [ edit | edit source ]

This section of SMS Bayern shows a typical dreadnought protection scheme, with very thick armor protecting the turrets, magazines and engine spaces tapering away in less vital areas

Much of the displacement of a dreadnought was taken up by the steel plating of its armor. Designers spent much time and effort to provide the best possible protection for their ships against the various weapons they would be faced with. However, only so much weight could ever be devoted to protection, without compromising speed, firepower or seakeeping. ⏊]

Central citadel [ edit | edit source ]

The bulk of a dreadnought's armor was concentrated around the "armored citadel". This was a box, with four armored walls and an armored roof, around the most important parts of the ship. The sides of the citadel were the "armored belt" of the ship, which started on the hull just in front of the forward turret and ran to just behind the aft turret. The ends of the citadel were two armored bulkheads, fore and aft, which stretched between the ends of the armor belt. The "roof" of the citadel was an armored deck. Within the citadel were the boilers, engines, and the magazines for the main armament. A hit to any of these systems could cripple or destroy the ship. The "floor" of the box was the bottom of the ship's hull, and was unarmored. ⏋]

The earliest dreadnoughts were intended to take part in a pitched battle against other battleships at ranges of up to 10,000 yd (9,100 m). In such an encounter, shells would fly on a relatively flat trajectory, and a shell would have to hit at or just about the waterline to damage the vitals of the ship. For this reason, the early dreadnoughts' armor was concentrated in a thick belt around the waterline this was 11 inches (280 mm) thick in Dreadnought. Behind this belt were arranged the ship's coal bunkers, to further protect the engineering spaces. ⏌] In an engagement of this sort, there was also a lesser threat of indirect damage to the vital parts of the ship. A shell which struck above the belt armor and exploded could send fragments flying in all directions. These fragments were dangerous, but could be stopped by much thinner armor than what would be necessary to stop an unexploded armor-piercing shell. To protect the innards of the ship from fragments of shells which detonated on the superstructure, much thinner steel armor was applied to the decks of the ship. ⏌]

While the thickest protection was reserved for the central citadel in all battleships, some navies also extended a thinner armored belt and armored deck to cover the ends of the ship, or extended a thinner armored belt up the outside of the hull. This "tapered" armor was used by the major European navies—the United Kingdom, Germany and France. This arrangement gave some armor to a larger part of the ship for the very first dreadnoughts, when high-explosive shellfire was still considered a significant threat, this was useful. However, it tended to result in the main belt being very short, only protecting a thin strip above the waterline some navies found that when their dreadnoughts were heavily laden, the armored belt was entirely submerged. ⏍] The alternative was an "all or nothing" protection scheme, developed by the U.S. Navy. The armor belt was tall and thick, but no side protection at all was provided to the ends of the ship or the upper decks. The armored deck was also thickened. The "all-or-nothing" system provided more effective protection against the very-long-range engagements of dreadnought fleets and was adopted outside the U.S. Navy after World War I. ⏎]

During the evolution of the dreadnought, armor schemes changed to reflect the greater risk of plunging shells from long-range gunfire, and the increasing threat from armor-piercing bombs dropped by aircraft. Later designs carried a greater thickness of steel on the armored deck ⏏] Yamato carried a 16-inch (410 mm) main belt, but a deck 9-inch (230 mm) thick. ⏐]

Underwater protection and subdivision [ edit | edit source ]

The final element of the protection scheme of the first dreadnoughts was the subdivision of the ship below the waterline into several watertight compartments. If the hull were holed—by shellfire, mine, torpedo, or collision—then, in theory, only one area would flood and the ship could survive. To make this precaution even more effective, many dreadnoughts had no doors between different underwater sections, so that even a surprise hole below the waterline need not sink the ship. However, there were still a number of instances where flooding spread between underwater compartments. ⏑]

The greatest evolution in dreadnought protection came with the development of the anti-torpedo bulge and torpedo belt, both attempts to protect against underwater damage by mines and torpedoes. The purpose of underwater protection was to absorb the force of a detonating mine or torpedo well away from the final watertight hull. This meant an inner bulkhead along the side of the hull, which was generally lightly armored to capture splinters, separated from the outer hull by one or more compartments. The compartments in between were either left empty, or filled with coal, water or fuel oil. ⏒]

Propulsion [ edit | edit source ]

Dreadnoughts were propelled by two to four screw propellers. ⏓] Dreadnought herself, and all British dreadnoughts, had screw shafts driven by steam turbines. However, the first generation of dreadnoughts built in other nations used the slower triple-expansion steam engine which had been standard in pre-dreadnoughts. ⏔]

Turbines offered more power than reciprocating engines for the same volume of machinery. ⏕] ⏖] This, along with a guarantee on the new machinery from the inventor, Charles Parsons, persuaded the Royal Navy to use turbines in Dreadnought. ⏖] It is often said that turbines had the additional benefits of being cleaner and more reliable than reciprocating engines. ⏗] However, by 1905, new designs of reciprocating engine were available which were cleaner and more reliable than previous models. ⏕]

Turbines were not without disadvantages. At cruising speeds much slower than maximum speed, turbines were markedly less fuel-efficient than reciprocating engines. This was particularly important for navies which required a long range at cruising speeds—and hence for the U.S. Navy, which was planning in the event of war to cruise across the Pacific and engage the Japanese in the Philippines. ⏘]

The US Navy experimented with turbine engines from 1908 in the North Dakota, but was not fully committed to turbines until the Pennsylvania class in 1916. In the preceding Nevada class, one ship, the Oklahoma, received reciprocating engines, while the Nevada received geared turbines. The two New York-class ships of 1914 both received reciprocating engines, but all four ships of the Florida (1911) and Wyoming (1912) classes received turbines.

The disadvantages of the turbine were eventually overcome. The solution which eventually was generally adopted was the geared turbine, where gearing reduced the rotation rate of the propellers and hence increased efficiency. However, this solution required technical precision in the gears and hence was difficult to implement. ⏙]

One alternative was the turbo-electric drive where the steam turbine generated electrical power which then drove the propellers. This was particularly favored by the U.S. Navy, which used it for all dreadnoughts from late 1915–1922. The advantages of this method were its low cost, the opportunity for very close underwater compartmentalization, and good astern performance. The disadvantages were that machinery was heavy and vulnerable to battle damage, particularly the effects of flooding on the electrics. [lower-alpha 9]

Turbines were never replaced in battleship design. Diesel engines were eventually considered by a number of powers, as they offered very good endurance and an engineering space taking up less of the length of the ship. However, they were also heavier, took up a greater vertical space, offered less power, and were considered unreliable. ⏚] ⏛]

Fuel [ edit | edit source ]

The first generation of dreadnoughts used coal to fire the boilers which fed steam to the turbines. Coal had been in use since the very first steam warships, but had many disadvantages. It was labor-intensive to pack coal into the ship's bunkers and then feed it into the boilers. The boilers became clogged with ash. Coal produced thick black smoke which gave away the position of a fleet and interfered with visibility, signaling, and fire control. In addition, coal was very bulky and had comparatively low thermal efficiency. Coal was, however, quite inert and could be used as part of the ship's protection scheme. ⏜]

Oil-fired propulsion had many advantages for naval architects and officers at sea alike. It reduced smoke, making ships less visible. It could be fed into boilers automatically, rather than needing a complement of stokers to do it by hand. Oil has roughly twice the thermal content of coal. This meant that the boilers themselves could be smaller and for the same volume of fuel, an oil-fired ship would have much greater range. ⏜]

These benefits meant that, as early as 1901, Fisher was pressing the advantages of oil fuel. ⏝] There were technical problems with oil-firing, connected with the different distribution of the weight of oil fuel compared to coal, ⏜] and the problems of pumping viscous oil. ⏞] However, the main problem with using oil for the battle fleet was that, with the exception of the United States, every major navy would have to import its oil. As a result, a number of navies adopted 'dual-firing' boilers which could use coal sprayed with oil British ships so equipped, which included dreadnoughts, could even use oil alone at up to 60% power. ⏟]

The US was a major oil producer, and the U.S. Navy was the first to wholeheartedly adopt oil-firing, deciding to do so in 1910 and ordering oil-fired boilers for the Nevada class, in 1911. [lower-alpha 10] The United Kingdom was not far behind, deciding in 1912 to use oil on its own in the Queen Elizabeth class ⏟] shorter British design and building times meant that Queen Elizabeth was commissioned before either of the Nevada-class vessels. The United Kingdom planned to revert to mixed firing with the subsequent Revenge class, at the cost of some speed—but Fisher, returned to office in 1914, insisted that all of the boilers should be oil-fired. ⏠] Other major navies retained mixed coal-and-oil firing until the end of World War I. ⏡]


Dreadnoughts: The Ships that Changed the World

In the aftermath of the American Civil War, naval military forces underwent a revolution. The old wooden sailing ships with broadsides of smoothbore cannon were replaced by sleek steam-powered steel-plate ships, with breech-loading rifled guns in turrets that could fire in any direction. The “battleship” was born. But it wasn’t until after the turn of the century that the naval battleship reached the full potential of its power.

The dreadnought USS Texas

When the US Navy engaged the Spanish fleet in Manila Harbor in 1898, during the Spanish-American War, the typical battle cruiser was armed with 6-inch rifled guns, usually two per turret, with a range of a little over a mile. Most naval engagements took place at short ranges of 2,000 yards or so. By 1900 some navies had begun adding a number of larger guns, in 10 or 12 inch caliber, for engaging targets at longer ranges, but long-distance fire was still relatively inaccurate, and most warships still carried a large number of 6 or 8 inch guns for close-in combat.

Then in 1904, war broke out between Japan and Russia, and the two navies clashed in several battles. Both fleets were equipped with new radio-based “range-finders” for better accuracy, and during the Battles of the Yellow Sea and Tshushima Straits, the 12-inch guns were able to hit each other at ranges up to eight miles, far outside the reach of the smaller guns. It was a wake-up call to the world’s navies: from now on, it was assumed that war at sea would take place at long ranges, with large-caliber guns. To meet these requirements, a new type of battleship was needed: an “all-big-gun” platform with heavy armor to protect against enemy shells. Every naval power in the world now scrambled to produce the new super-weapon.

It was the British Royal Navy that won the race. In October 1905, the Royal Navy began plans for a new battleship, to be called “HMS Dreadnought“. On paper, she was designed with the then-incredible armament of a dozen 12-inch guns mounted in six turrets. Later, technical difficulties would reduce this to ten guns in five turrets–one at the front, one at the rear, one in the center amidships, and two on each side.

The traditional secondary batteries of 6 and 8 inch guns, intended for short-range combat, were dropped completely. Instead, the new design included 18 4-inch guns which were used as defenses against small torpedo boats. (There was no provision for anti-aircraft guns, since the airplane had not yet reached the point where it was any sort of effective military factor.)

All those turrets meant that Dreadnought was, at 526 feet long and a little less than 18,000 tons, significantly bigger than any other previous naval ship, and that presented a problem with armor. Previously, ships had been protected by hulls made from steel plates, which were good enough to give some defense against 6 or 8 inch shells. But the new 10 or 12 inch shells could penetrate this easily, and making Dreadnought’s hull even thicker would increase the weight so much that it was unworkable. To solve the problem, the Royal Navy came up with the concept of the “armored box”: the middle of the ship would be enclosed in heavy armor plating that would protect the ammunition magazines, coal bunkers, and the fire control rooms, but leave the rest of the ship relatively lightly armored. The Dreadnought’s armor was particularly thick–about 11 inches–along her hull near the waterline, to protect against torpedos.

The new ship was also powered by new steam turbine engines instead of reciprocating piston engines, which despite her increased weight could push her to 21 knots, making her the fastest warship in the world. When Dreadnought entered service in 1906, she immediately made every other warship obsolete. The very name “dreadnought” became a synonym for “big-gun battleship”. And the battleship was far more than a mere military weapon–it was a symbol of national strength and pride. With enormous effort and expense, Britain began launching new dreadnoughts each year.

Every other naval power scrambled to catch up, in a furious arms race. By the time the First World War broke out in August 1914, Britain had 19 dreadnoughts in service and another 13 under construction, Germany had 13 and 7 more being built, and smaller numbers were at sea with the American, Japanese, French, Italian and Austrio-Hungarian navies.

Until 1898, the United States had possessed only a token military, and preferred to remain isolated from involvement in conflicts with other nations. But after the war with Spain, the US found herself in possession of a series of colonies scattered all over the world, and needed a modern navy to protect them. In 1905, as the HMS Dreadnought was being constructed, the US drew up plans for its own big-gun battleship design, the South Carolina class, followed later by the Delaware class. These were some of the first warships in the world to be oil-fired instead of coal. In 1907, the US sent a squadron of battleships, known as the “Great White Fleet”, on a year-long cruise around the world as a show of American industrial strength and military power.

During the First World War, battleships grew bigger and bigger, with guns growing from 12 inch caliber to 14 inch and then 16 inch. They became so expensive that it began to strain the economies of even the richest nations to produce them, and they were so valuable, both militarily and symbolically, that few commanders wanted to actually risk them in battle, so they mostly sat in port throughout the war.

In 1922, the world’s leading naval powers negotiated a treaty in Washington DC to end the battleship arms race, placing limits on the numbers, size and armament that would be allowed to each nation. Just before the outbreak of World War II, the Japanese withdrew from the Washington Treaty and built the super-battleships Yamato and Musashi, with 18 inch guns. They were the biggest battleships ever built. During the war, the US produced the South Dakota class, a super-fast design intended to escort and protect carrier groups.

But with the rise of naval air power, the battleship no longer had a central role. No navy has produced one since the 1940s (though the US has occasionally pulled its WW2 battleships out of mothballs and used them in conflicts in the Middle East).

Today, only one pre-WW1 “dreadnought” style battleship still exists. The USS Texas, of the New York class, was built in 1911 and launched in 1912. She has ten 14-inch main guns, and was the first US battleship to be fitted with anti-aircraft gunnery. While serving in World War One and World War Two the Texas was upgraded and modernized several times, and is now displayed in her 1945 configuration. In 1948 she was decommissioned and was given to the State of Texas, who docked her in Houston as a memorial ship. Today the USS Texas is a National Historic Landmark.


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