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HMS Dreadnought 1906

HMS Dreadnought
HMS Dreadnought

HMS Dreadnought HMS Dreadnought (Royal Naval Museum) HMS Dreadnought, named after a ship of the line at the Battle of Trafalgar, gave her name to a revolution in naval warfare. Built in Portsmouth Dockyard in just over a year, she was the best-armed and fastest battleship in the world when completed in 1906. At a time when battleships usually mounted only four big guns and an array of smaller weapons, Dreadnought's ten big 305mm guns made all other battleships out-of-date. Powered by new steam turbines she had a top speed of 21 knots, 3 knots faster than battleships with traditional piston engines.

Dreadnought was the idea of Admiral Sir John Fisher who became First Sea Lord in 1904. Fisher wanted to replace battleships with fast all-big-gun armoured cruisers, called battlecruisers, which could deal with both battleships and cruisers. Armour was not as important as big guns that could penetrate any armour at long range. Fisher's colleagues at the Admiralty were not so revolutionary, so Fisher gave in and built an all-big-gun battleship, Dreadnought, instead.

In the same way as HMS Warrior almost fifty years before, the construction of Dreadnought was intended by Fisher to deter Britain's enemy, in this case Germany, through a demonstration of technological excellence and to indicate that any challenge to British naval supremacy would be futile.

On 29 March 1915 she rammed and sank the German submarine U-29. She remains the only battleship to have sunk a submarine. Compare the statistics for HMS Dreadnought and for pre-dreadnought battleship HMS King Edward VII completed only a year earlier:

  HMS Dreadnought (1906) HMS King Edward VII (1905)
Period in service: 1906 - 1918 1905 - 1916
Displacement: 18,110 tons 15,630 tons
Length: 160.6m / 526ft 138.3m / 453.8ft
Beam: 25m / 82ft 23.8m / 78ft
Complement: 773 777
Speed: 21kts 18.5kts
Armament: 10 x 12 inch (305mm) guns

27 x 12 pounder guns

5 x 18 inch (457mm) torpedo tubes

4 x 12 inch (305mm) guns

4 x 9.2 inch (232mm) guns

10 x 6 inch (102mm) guns

4x 18 inch (457mm) torpedo tubes

Armour: 4 - 11 inch belt, Up to 4 inch deck

4 - 11 inch barbettes, 11 inch turrets

Up to 9 inch belt, 2.5 inch deck

12 inch barbettes, 12 inch turrets

Notes: The armour belt was the protection along the sides of a ship's hull. The barbette was an armoured cylinder below the turret which protected the ammunition hoists and the turret's turning mechanism.