Super-dreadnought HMS Orion

Super-dreadnought HMS Orion

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Super-dreadnought HMS Orion

This picture shows the super-dreadnought HMS Orion. She was the name-ship of the Orion class of battleships, the first British dreadnoughts to carry all of their main guns on the centre line. They were also the first to carry 13.5in guns. The biggest design flaw was the position of the tripod mast with the important gun control platform. This was placed just behind the forward funnel and the view was often obscured by the ship's own smoke.


A battleship entering service in 1900 typically mounted a mixed battery of four heavy (11- to 13.5-inch) guns in two twin turrets, about a dozen secondary guns of six to nine inches, and small, fast-firing guns of three inches or less for beating off torpedo-boat attacks. These ships usually displaced 12,000 to 18,000 tons.

By 1904 studies reinforced by battle experience in the Spanish-American and Russo-Japanese wars indicated that fire from large guns at longer ranges was more effective than mixed-battery fire closer in. Only bigger shells could do serious damage to well-armoured ships. Moreover, the shells fired from guns of many different calibres produced a confusing pattern of splashes in the water that made the correcting of aim and range quite difficult. Effectively increasing range, then, depended upon abandoning the multiple-calibre pattern of previous battleship armament in favour of a single-calibre armament. Several navies reached this conclusion simultaneously, but the British were the first to produce such a ship, HMS Dreadnought, completed in 1906. Displacing about 18,000 tons, it carried 10 12-inch guns its only other armament consisted of three-inch weapons intended to fight off destroyers.

The Dreadnought gave its name to an entirely new class of battleships of the most advanced design. By 1914 the Royal Navy had 22 dreadnoughts (another 13 were completed during World War I), Germany built a total of 19 (five completed after 1914), and the United States completed 22 (14 of them after 1914). Japan and Italy built six, while Russia and France each built seven. Not all of these ships were strictly equivalent. Unlike its immediate German and American contemporaries, the Dreadnought had steam turbines in place of reciprocating engines. These enabled it to attain a speed of 21 knots, which was hitherto achieved only by cruisers. (Contemporary battleships were generally limited to about 18 knots.) Thus, in mobility as well as in size, the Dreadnought began a new era.

HMS Dreadnought also marked a beginning of rapid development in big-gun firepower. In 1909 the Royal Navy laid down HMS Orion, the first “super dreadnought,” which displaced 22,500 tons and was armed with 13.5-inch guns. The U.S. Navy followed with ships armed with 14-inch guns. Then, on the eve of World War I, the Royal Navy went a step further with HMS Queen Elizabeth, armed with 15-inch guns and capable, in theory, of 25 knots. World War I stopped the growth of British and German battleships, but the United States and Japan continued to build ships exceeding 30,000 tons displacement. In 1916 both countries adopted the 16-inch gun, which fired a shell of approximately 2,100 pounds. Such guns could be aimed to hit at ranges as great as 20,000 yards.

The battleship saw little combat in World War I, yet, despite submarines, aircraft, and destroyers, the outcome of the war still hinged upon control of the sea by the battleship. Had superiority in battleships passed to Germany, Britain would have been lost, and the Allies would have lost the war. The one moment when this might have happened was the only large-scale clash of battleships, the Battle of Jutland. Fought in May 1916 in mist, fog, and darkness, Jutland revealed the strengths and weaknesses of battleships and battle cruisers. Three British battle cruisers were lost. Several German battleships, thanks to watertight subdivision and efficient damage-control systems, survived despite more hits. But the British advantage in numbers was decisive, and Germany turned to the submarine to counter the Allied blockade.

H.M.S. Orion at the Battle of Jutland

V.A.'s Signal No. 1815 of 2nd June 1916. The attached report on the Action of 31st May 1910 is submitted in accordance with the above-quoted signal.

6.15. Deployed S.E. by E.
Trained on an enemy cruiser apparently of Kolberg class already on fire aft and stopped, steam escaping from funnels. Foremast shot away.
Range from foretop rangefinder, 12,400.
Did not open fire as blanked by a ship of the 1st Cruiser Squadron. Fire opened by other ships of the 2nd Division.
About this time one of the 1st Cruiser Squadron on starboard quarter blew up and totally disappeared.
6.20. Observed one of the Battle Cruisers heavily engaged before starboard beam. Ricochets falling near ship.
6.32. Sighted ship of Kaiser class bearing 105° green on slightly diverging course, range by rangefinder, 11,100 yards.
6.33. Opened fire by director. Fired four salvoes. First two short. Third over and fourth hit with 13,300 on sights. Large flames observed near enemy's after turrets when fourth salvo fell. Immediately after this, enemy lost sight of in spray and mist resulting from a short salvo from another ship.
6.37. Ceased fire, enemy out of sight.
7.00. Passed wreck of what appeared to be British battle cruiser, 3,000 on starboard side. Bow and Stern showing above water.
7.09. Sighted ship, apparently battle cruiser of Derfflinger class bearing (50° green, accompanied by a large number of destroyers approaching and then turning on approximately parallel course.
7.15. Opened fire by director on her. Range, 19,800. Fired six salvoes of which the last two were seen to straddle. Other ships of the 2nd Division also firing at same enemy.
Enemy turned away about the fourth salvo.
7.20. Ceased fire, enemy drawing out of range, and becoming indistinct.
7.21. Sighted enemy battleship (Markgraf or Kaiser class) coming out of smoke bearing green 98° on approximately parallel course, apparently the leading ship of a column, as others could be seen astern of her. Range by Foretop rangefinder, 14,800, but before director could be steadied on target ship, ship turned 4 points to port to follow 1st Division in avoiding a destroyer attack.
Enemy then lost sight of in the smoke from enemy destroyers advancing from head of column.
Fire not opened on enemy destroyers as own light cruisers and destroyers advanced and blanked the range.
No further enemy ships seen after this time.

Firing was by director throughout, and the control was carried out from aloft.

Details on fire control omitted from the Report as reproduced in the Official Despatches.

There was no interference with spotting by the fire of other ships.

Details on fire control omitted from the Report as reproduced in the Official Despatches.

Number of rounds fired—51 A. P. Lyddite accidents and delays—nil.

As the ship did not come under fire there are no other points calling for special mention.

Tracing is attached showing track of ship and of enemy's ships observed with times of events.

Catalyst: Brazil's opening salvo [ edit | edit source ]

After construction began on Brazil's three new small battleships, the Brazilian government reconsidered their order and chosen battleship design (something that would happen several more times during the construction of Rio de Janeiro in 1913). This was wrought by the impact of the Battle of Tsushima, which led navies to believe that larger guns were necessary, and the debut of the United Kingdom's new dreadnought concept, represented by the surprisingly fast construction and commissioning of the eponymous ship in 1906, rendered the Brazilian ships obsolete before they were completed. ⎧]

The money authorized for naval expansion in 1905 was redirected to building three dreadnoughts (with the third to be laid down after the first was launched), three scout cruisers (later reduced to two, which became the Bahia class), fifteen destroyers (later reduced to ten, the Pará class), three submarines (the F 1 class), and two submarine tenders (later reduced to one, Ceara). ⎩] This move was made with the large-scale support of Brazilian politicians, including Pinheiro Machado and a nearly unanimous vote in the Senate the navy, now with a large-ship advocate, Rear Admiral Alexandrino Fario de Alencar, in the powerful post of minister of the navy and the Brazilian press. ⎪] Still, these changes were made with the stipulation that the total price of the new naval program not exceed the original limit, so the increase in battleship tonnage was bought with the previous elimination of armored cruisers and decreasing the number of destroyer-type warships. ⎫] The three battleships on which construction had begun were scrapped beginning on 7 January 1907, and the design for the new dreadnoughts was approved on 20 February. ⎬] Newspapers began covering a Brazilian order for dreadnoughts in March, ⎭] while the full order, including all three dreadnoughts and the two cruisers, was widely reported beginning in August. ⎮]

The Brazilian order for what contemporary commentators called "the most powerful battleship[s] in the world" came at a time when few countries in the world had contracted for such armament. ⎯] Brazil was the third country to have a dreadnought under construction, behind the United Kingdom, with Dreadnought and the Bellerophon class, and the United States, with the South Carolina class. This meant that Brazil was in line to have a dreadnought before many of the world's perceived powers, like France, the German Empire, the Russian Empire, and the Empire of Japan. ⎰] [upper-alpha 6] As dreadnoughts were quickly equated with international status, somewhat similar to nuclear weapons today—that is, regardless of a state's need for such equipment, simply ordering and possessing a dreadnought increased the owner's prestige—the order caused a major stir in international relations. ⎲]

Newspapers and journals around the world speculated that Brazil was acting as a proxy for a naval power which would take possession of the two dreadnoughts soon after completion, as they did not believe that a previously insignificant geopolitical power would contract for such powerful armament. ⎳] Many American, British, and German sources variously accused the Americans, British, German, or Japanese governments of secretly plotting to purchase the vessels. ⎴] [upper-alpha 7] The World's Work remarked:

The question that is puzzling diplomats the world over is why Brazil should want ferocious leviathans of such size and armament and speed as to place them ten to fifteen years in advance of any other nation besides Great Britain. . Although Brazil has denied that these are meant for England or Japan, naval men of all nations suspect that they are meant for some government other than Brazil's. [upper-alpha 8] In the event of war, the government which would first be able to secure these vessels . would immediately place the odds of naval supremacy in its favor. England, no matter how many Dreadnoughts she has, would be compelled to buy them to keep them from some lesser power. They bring a new question into international politics. They may be leaders of a great fleet which minor government are said to be preparing to build or, to put it more accurately, to stand sponsors for. Some Machiavellian hand may be at work in this new game of international politics and the British Admiralty is suspected. But every statesmen and naval student may make his own guess. (" The Mystery of the Great Brazilian Battleships ," World's Work 17, no. 1 [1909]: 10867–68)

On the other side of the Atlantic, in the midst of the Anglo–German naval arms race, members of the British House of Commons fretted over the battleships' possible destinations, though the Admiralty consistently stated that they did not believe any sale would occur. In mid-July and September 1908, the Commons discussed purchasing the ships to bolster the Royal Navy and ensure they would not be sold to a foreign rival, which would disrupt the British naval plan set in place by the "two-power standard", though in March and late July 1908, the Brazilian government officially denied any sale was planned. ⎷] In March 1909, the British press and House of Commons began pushing for more dreadnoughts after the First Lord of the Admiralty, Reginald McKenna, asserted that Germany had stepped up its building schedule and would complete thirteen dreadnoughts in 1911—four more than previously estimated. Naturally, the subject of purchasing the Brazilian dreadnoughts already being built was brought up, and McKenna had to officially deny that the government was planning to tender an offer for the warships. ⎸] He also stated that a sale to a foreign power would be inconsequential, as "our present superiority in strength in 1909–10 is so great that no alarm would be created in the mind of the Board of Admiralty." ⎹]

Despite the plethora of rumors, the Brazilian government was not planning to sell their ships. Dreadnoughts formed an important role in Rio Branco's goal of raising Brazil to an international power, as the New York Evening Mail correctly surmised:

Brazil begins to feel the importance of her great position, the part she may play in the world, and is taking measures in a beginner's degree commensurate with that realization. Her battle-ship-building is one with her attitude at The Hague, and these together are but part and parcel, not of a vainglorious striving after position, but of a just conception of her future. Dr. Ruy Barboza did not oppose the details of representation on the international arbitral tribunal out of antipathy to the United States, but because he believed that the sovereignty of Brazil was at least equal to that of any other sovereign nation, and because he was convinced that unequal representation on that tribunal would result in the establishment of 'categories of sovereignty'—a thing utterly opposed to the philosophy of equal sovereign rights. [upper-alpha 9] And as in international law and discourse, so in her navy, Brazil seeks to demonstrate her sovereign rank. (New York Evening Mail quoted in " Mystery of the Brazilian 'Dreadnoughts' ," Literary Digest 37, no. 4 [1908]: 103)

Super-dreadnought HMS Orion - History

This newspaper reported that for the British Royal Navy two new cruisers named Orios and Leo were to be lay down. The Leo was to be the mightiest every built cruiser with a displacement of 26,000 tons and engines delivering 70,000 hp allowing a speed of 28 knots. Her armament was to be 10-12: of 13” guns. The speed of the Orios was to be 21 knots. The names of the British warships are not correctly spelled.

On the internet I found the next beautiful photo of the Orion. source with courtesy of Navy-photos. The photo is dated around 1912-1922 but the name of her photographer is unknown.

The Orios was of course the first so-called super dreadnought HMS Orion within the British Royal Navy. Laid down at the Portsmouth Dockyard on 29 November 1909, launched on 20 August a year later, sea trials in September 1911, commissioned on 2 January 1912, June 1921 seagoing gunnery training ship at Portland, on 12 April of the next year paid off, sold on 19 December to be broken up which was started in February 1923 at Upnor. With a displacement of 22,000 long tons/22,000 tons (standard)-25,870 long tons/26,290 tons (maximum) were her dimensions 177 x 27,00 x 7,47 metres or 581’ x 88𔄁” x 24𔄀”. Her steam turbines and 18 boilers supplied 27,000 hp allowing a speed of 21 knots. The coal bunker capacity was 900/2,700 tons. Her crew numbered between 750 and 1,100 men. The armament consisted of 5x2-13.5” (34,29cm) breech loading guns, 16-4” (10,16cm) breech loading guns and 3-21’ (53cm) submerged torpedo tubes (2x beam, 1 stern). The Naval Annual for 1913 reported a displacement of 22,500 tons and as dimensions 545’x 88½’x 27½’. The engines built by Wallsend P.T. supplied 29,108 ihp allowing a speed of 21.02 knots. The armour consisted of a 12” thick belt, the side above the belt was protected by 9” and the heavy guns by 10”. Estimated building costs 1,918,773 British pound.

I found on the internet at a photo of the Lion. She is part of the Imperial War Museum collection no. 1900-01 as photo no. SP1672 and made during the First World War by Oscar Parkes.

The Leo (Latin for Lion) was of course the battle cruiser HMS Lion laid down at the Devonport Dockyard on 29 November 1909, launched on 6 August a year later, commissioned on 4 June 1912, on 30 May ten years later decommissioned and on 31 January 1924 sold to be broken up. Her displacement was 26,690 (normal load)-31,310 (full load) tons. Her armament consisted of 4x2-13𔃿” guns, 16x1-4” guns and 21x1-21” submerged torpedo tubes. Estimated building costs 2,08,458 British pound. The engines were manufactured by Vickers PT.

Another Dutch newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad evening edition dated 9 November was more correct with the spelling of the name. She used the British newspaper Glasgow Herald for her item and called the Orion which was recently laid down an improved dreadnought with a displacement of 22,500 tons. She was to fitted out with turbines allowing a speed of 21 knots. The armament was to consist of 10-30cm guns placed in the centre line of the ship allowing always firing with four of the guns ahead or backwards. Two new cruisers including the Lion were to have a length of 700 feet and a displacement of 26,350 tons with a speed of 28 knots.


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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.

Reciprocation: Brazil orders again

Rio de Janeiro

After the first Brazilian dreadnought, Minas Geraes, was launched, the Brazilian government began an extended campaign to remove the third dreadnought from the contract because of political—backlash from the Revolt of the Lash coupled with warming relations with Argentina—and economic reasons. After much negotiating and attempts from Armstrong to hold the Brazilian government to the contract, the Brazilians relented, due in part to lower bond rates that made it possible for the government to borrow the necessary money. Rio de Janeiro was laid down for the first time in March 1910. [106]

By May, the Brazilian government asked Armstrong to stop work on the new warship and to submit new designs which took in the most recent advance in naval technology, super-dreadnoughts. Eustace Tennyson-d'Eyncourt served as Armstrong's liaison to Brazil. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica specifies this design as a 655-foot (200 m) long overall, 32,000-long-ton (33,000 t) ship mounting twelve 14-inch guns and costing near £3,000,000. The many requests made by the Brazilian Navy for minor changes delayed the contract signing until 10 October 1910, and the battleship's keel laying was delayed further by a labor dispute with the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights, which led to a lockout. During these delays, a new Minister of the Navy, Admiral Marques Leão, was appointed to replace de Alencar—an important development, as the contract stipulated that the design could only proceed with the approval of the new Minister. Again, however, the Brazilian Navy found itself torn between two schools of thought: Leão and others in the navy favored a reversion to the 12-inch gun, but others, led by the outgoing Minister of the Navy (de Alencar) and the head of the Brazilian naval commission in the United Kingdom (Rear Admiral pt  (Duarte Huet de Bacelar Pinto Guedes) ), were strongly in favor of obtaining the ship with the largest armament—in this case, a design drawn up by Bacellar, carrying eight 16-inch guns, six 9.4-inch guns, and fourteen 6-inch guns. [107]

D'Eyncourt, who had departed Brazil in October immediately after the contract was signed, returned in March 1911 to display the various design options available to the Brazilian Navy. Armstrong evidently thought the second faction would prevail, so he also took with him everything needed to close a deal on Bacellar's design. By mid-March, Armstrong's contacts in Brazil reported that Leão had convinced the recently elected President Hermes Rodrigues da Fonseca to cancel the design with twelve 14-inch guns in favor of a smaller ship. [108] The credit may not have laid with Leão alone, though da Fonseca was already dealing with multiple issues. Most importantly, he had to deal with the fallout from a large naval revolt in November 1910 (the Revolt of the Lash), which had seen three of the new vessels just purchased by the navy, along with one older coast-defense ship, mutiny against the use of corporal punishment in the navy. [109]

To make matters worse, the dreadnoughts' expense combined with loan payments and a worsening economy led to growing government debt compounded by budget deficits. By one measure of Brazil's GDP per capita, income in the country rose from $718 in 1905 to a high of $836 in 1911 before declining over the next three years to a low of $780 in 1914 (both measured in 1990 international dollars). It did not fully recover until after the First World War. [15] At the same time, Brazil's external and internal debt reached $500 and $335 million (respectively, in contemporaneous dollar amounts) by 1913, partly through rising deficits, which were $22 million in 1908 and $47 million by 1912. [110] In May, the president commented negatively on the new ship:

When I assumed office, I found that my predecessor had signed a contract for the building of the battleship Rio de Janeiro, a vessel of 32,000 tons, with an armament of 14-inch guns. Considerations of every kind pointed to the inconvenience of acquiring such a vessel and to the revision of the contract in the sense of reducing the tonnage. This was done, and we shall possess a powerful unit which will not be built on exaggerated lines such as have not as yet stood the time of experience. [111]

D'Eyncourt probably avoided proposing any design with 16-inch guns when he saw the political situation. In meetings with Leão, designs of only ten 12-inch guns mounted on the centerline were quickly rejected, even though their broadside was as strong as that of the Minas Geraes class, but a design with no less than fourteen 12-inch guns emerged as the frontrunner. Author David Topliss attributes this to political necessity, as he believed the Minister of the Navy could not validate purchasing a seemingly less-powerful dreadnought than the Minas Geraes class: with larger guns ruled out, the only remaining choice was a larger number of guns. [112]

After numerous requests for design alterations from the Brazilian Navy were accommodated or rejected, a contract was signed for a ship with fourteen 12-inch guns on 3 June 1911 for £2,675,000, and Rio de Janeiro ' s keel was laid for the fourth time on 14 September. It did not take long for the Brazilian government to reconsider their decision again [113] by mid-1912, battleships with 14-inch guns were under construction, and suddenly it seemed that Rio de Janeiro would be outclassed upon completion. [114] Making matters worse, a European depression after the end of the Second Balkan War in August 1913 reduced Brazil's ability to obtain foreign loans. This coincided with a collapse in Brazil's coffee and rubber exports, the latter due to the loss of the Brazilian rubber monopoly to British plantations in the Far East. The price of coffee declined by 20 percent and Brazilian exports of it dropped 12.5 percent between 1912 and 1913 rubber saw a similar decline of 25 and 36.6 percent, respectively. [115] The Brazilian Navy later claimed that selling Rio de Janeiro was a tactical decision, so they could have two divisions of battleships: two with 12-inch guns (the Minas Geraes class), and two with 15-inch guns. [116]

Armstrong studied whether replacing the 12-inch guns with seven 15-inch guns would be feasible, but Brazil was probably already attempting to sell the ship. In the tension building up to the First World War, many countries, including Russia, Italy, Greece, and the Ottoman Empire, were interested in purchasing the ship. While Russia quickly dropped out, Italy and the rival Greeks and Ottomans were all highly interested. The Italians seemed close to purchasing the ship until the French government decided to back the Greeks—rather than allow the Italians, who were the principal naval rivals of the French, to obtain the ship. The Grecian government made an offer for the original purchase price plus an additional £50,000, but as the Greeks worked to obtain an initial installment, the Ottoman government was also making offers. [117]

The Brazilian government rejected an Ottoman proposal to swap ships, with Brazil's Rio de Janeiro going to the Ottomans and Reşadiye going to Brazil, presumably with some amount of money. The Brazilian government would only accept a monetary offer. Lacking this, the Ottomans were forced to find a loan. Fortunately for them, they were able to obtain one from French banker acting independent of his government, and the Ottoman Navy secured the Rio de Janeiro on 29 December 1913 for £1,200,000 as-is. [118] [upper-alpha 16] As part of the purchase contract, the remainder of the ship was constructed with £2,340,000 in Ottoman money. [119] Renamed Sultân Osmân-ı Evvel, it was eventually taken over by the British shortly after the beginning of the First World War, serving with the Royal Navy as HMS Agincourt. [121] [upper-alpha 17]

The Argentine government authorized a third dreadnought in October 1912 in case Rio de Janeiro was completed and delivered, but the ship was never named or built. [123]


After selling Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian government asked Armstrong and Vickers to prepare designs for a new battleship, something strongly supported by the Navy League of Brazil (Liga Maritima). [124] Armstrong agreed to construct the ship without any further payments from Brazil. They replied with at least fourteen designs, six from Vickers (December 1913 through March 1914) and eight from Armstrong (February 1914). Vickers' designs varied between eight and ten 15-inch and eight 16-inch guns, with speeds between 22 and 25 knots (the lower-end ships having mixed firing, the higher using oil), and displacements between 26,000 tonnes (26,000 long tons) and 30,500 tonnes (30,000 long tons). Armstrong took two basic designs, one with eight and the other with ten 15-inch guns, and varied their speed and firing. [125] [upper-alpha 18]

While most secondary sources do not mention that Brazil ordered a battleship, [126] with the ship's entry in the warship encyclopedia Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships even remarking that "Brazil had not selected from the four design variations," [127] the Brazilian government chose what was labeled as Design 781, the first of the eight 15-inch designs tendered by Armstrong, which also shared characteristics with the Queen Elizabeth and Revenge classes then being built for the United Kingdom. [128] They placed an order for one ship of this design, to be named Riachuelo, at the Armstrong Whitworth shipyard in Elswick on 12 May 1914. [129] Some preliminary gathering of materials was completed for a planned keel laying date of 10 September, but the beginning of the First World War in August 1914 delayed plans. Riachuelo was officially suspended on 14 January 1915 and canceled on 13 May 1915. [130]

Side-By-Side Saturday: Royal Navy Battleships and Battlecruisers [4376x5792]

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Jutland, the largest battleship action in history. To commemorate this historic battle, I will post a series of composites leading up to the main event. This week, a history of Royal Navy battleships and battlecruisers.

Lord NelsonIndefatigableN3
OrionTigerKing George V
Iron DukeRepulseLion
CanadaHood 1920Hood 1941
Queen ElizabethMalaya 1937Queen Elizabeth 1941
RevengeRevenge 1933Resolution 1942


In the early 20th century, Great Britain led the world in naval power. Her fleet of fifty battleships was far and away the largest in the world. However, these were all armed only four main guns, mostly 12” pieces. Therefore, the British began adding 9.2” weapons to supplement the main battery, but they still wanted more.

In late 1906 one of the most revolutionary ships in history arrived HMS Dreadnought. Compared to a King Edward VII, Dreadnought increased the broadside weight by 100% (63% counting 9.2” pieces), the speed by 14%, and the belt by 22%, among many other improvements, for only an 18% increase in tonnage. Overnight every other pre-dreadnought in the world became obselete. Every battleship built for the next two decades would be called dreadnoughts.

Britain corrected a few design flaws with the following Bellerophon class and added a new high powered 12”/50 gun to the St. Vincents. However, this gun was an utter failure, with uncertain muzzle velocities (and therefore range) and an incredibly short barrel life. The Neptune class added the first superfiring turrets to a British warship, albeit with one critical flaw. The sighting hoods in the turret roofs were holes through the armor that allowed the pressure from the upper guns to damage the lower guns, meaning these ships could not fire within 30 degrees of the lower guns. This flaw would continue on all but eight ships even after modernizations.

Britain again led the way to the future with the first Super-Dreadnought, HMS Orion. Mounting five 13.5” turrets, all on the centerline, these ships had the heaviest broadside in the world. However, they suffered from a common flaw shared by all British shells until 1918: they were prone to shatter when striking armor at angles above 20 degrees.

The following King George V and Iron Duke classes were improved Orions. They mounted guns that fired heavier shells, improved mast and funnel arrangements (which changed with every British battleship), and improved the secondary battery. However, they were very vulnerable to mines and torpedoes, as shown when 23,000 ton HMS Audacious sank from one 180lb (82kg) mine, a warhead half the size of almost every torpedo in service.

During this period Britain was also building warships for nations from Chile to Greece to Japan. When WWI broke out they immediately took over all of these ships in the yards and pressed them into service. The Royal Navy bought Almirante Latorre from Chile, commissioning her as HMS Canada, but they were less kind to the Turks. Reşadiye (Erin) and Sultân Osmân-ı Evvel (Agincourt) were confiscated and their Turkish crews sent back empty handed. This infuriated the Ottoman citizens, who had helped privately fund the two ships, and was one of many triggers that led to them joining the Central Powers. Agincourt deserves special mention for the most main battery guns of any battleship ever built: fourteen guns in seven turrets, each named after a day of the week.

But the most powerful British ships of WWI were the five Queen Elizabeths and the five smaller and simplified Revenge class ships. Armed with eight 15” guns, these ten ships were the heart and soul of the British fleet. These ten ships would serve through WWII, where two were sunk in action. Warspite would earn more battle honors than any other British ship in history and shares the record for Longest Gunfire Hit on a Moving Target.


The battlecruiser was the brainchild of Admiral John Fisher, who imagined a revolution to armored cruisers as dreadnoughts had been for battleships. These ships mounted battleship-caliber guns and had the speed of the cruisers they hunted, but were only armored against small caliber guns.

The Invincible class were smaller than Dreadnought and lacked the broadside firepower, but were four knots faster. These ships easily destroyed German armored cruisers at the Falkland Islands, but suffered heavily at Jutland, where Invincible exploded after just five hits. Six survived.

The Indefatigable class improved the basic design of the Invincibles, allowing the wing turrets to fire to either broadside. Two, New Zealand and Australia, were funded by their respective dominions. However, they had the same flaws as the Invincibles: Indefatigable exploded on the third 11” hit at Jutland, with only two survivors.

The Lions and the slightly improved Queen Mary greatly improved on the older designs and were truly new designs. They were armed with 13.5” guns (Queen Mary with the heavier versions), had 50% more armor and were 2 knots faster. However, they were still vulnerable: Lion twice seriously damaged by German ships and nearly exploded at Jutland a half hour after she was hit in Q turret. Queen Mary was not so fortunate, taking seven hits before exploding at Jutland. Twenty survived.

The next British battlecruiser, Tiger, improved the armor yet again, yet kept the same speed of the Queen Mary. At Jutland she withstood more shells than any other British battlecruiser, although none caused serious damage they were all 11” shells. The follow up Renown class was the first to mount 15” guns, albeit only six, but reduced the armor back to 6”. Nevertheless both ships served into WWII, where Repulse was sunk by air attack before she could be extensively modernized.

During WWI the Allies tried every way possible to find a flank in the Central Powers that could win the war. Three “large light cruisers” were designed and built for one such plan-the Baltic Project. Intended to sail the shallow waters off Denmark, these ships mounted only four 15” guns and three inches of armor, less armor than light cruisers. The final ship, Furious, was to receive two 18” guns, the largest naval guns then built, but the British finally realized this was a terrible idea. Furious was completed with a flying-off deck in place of the forward turret and all three ships were converted to carriers by the mid-20s.

The final British battlecruiser class, the Admiral class, was the best battlecruiser built in this period. Unfortunately, only one was completed. HMS Hood, weighing in at 45,000 tons, was the largest warship in the world for two decades. In 1941 she went up against the ship that took her crown, and in the shortest naval battle on record sank with all but three of her men at most eight minutes of combat.

After WWI Britain planned a great expansion of their naval power. The G3 battlecruisers and the N3 battleships were unique in mounting their armament in the forward half of the ship, shortening the armor belt and decreasing the weight. By every metric G3 was one of the first true fast battleship designs, with 9x16” guns, 14” of armor, and a top speed of 32 knots. However, the Washington Naval Treaty in 1922 killed these plans. Britain was allowed to build two gimped G3 style ships, the Nelson class, but these ships had such a laundry list of problems they rival the battlecruisers for flaws. The guns were mediocre at best, they turned like modern supertankers, and they were sluggish even by standards of the day. Their only major action was Rodney verses Bismarck, where the ship scored the only two main belt penetrations at point-blank range and may have scored the only battleship-launched torpedo hit in history.

Learning from these problems, the British built the (second) King George V class in the late 1930s. Apart from some teething troubles with the guns, which were prone to breaking down, these were excellent ships. The major drawback was the 14” guns, which the British installed hoping treaties would set this as the limit for gun caliber, but they were extremely well armored, second only to the Yamato class. At North Cape Duke of York, scored 21 straddles of 25 broadsides against the German battleship Scharnhorst, crippling the German ship and sending her to the bottom with some of the most accurate extended shooting of the war.

Once treaties failed to cap battleship guns, Britain laid down their best battleship class, the Lions. Armed with nine excellent 16” guns, these ships were the British equivalent of the Iowas. However, just three months after the keel was laid WWII started and the ships cancelled. A modified design using spare 15” guns from the Courageous class was ordered. HMS Vanguard became the last battleship ever launched in November 1944. Doomed to serve as a Royal Yacht, she served until 1960 and was the last Royal Navy battleship left above water. Like most of the others listed here, she was scrapped and turned into razor blades.

The original images were drawn by the artists at If you have any ship plans or rare photographs, head over to Shipbucket’s forums to help the artists with their projects. If you have any artistic skill, head over and draw one of the many ships that remain to be done. British ships in particular need all the help they can get.

Next week, German battleships and battlecruisers. The following week, a brief hiatus on Jutland to mark the 75th Anniversary of the Bismarck chase.

How HMS Dreadnought Rammed and Sunk a U-Boat During World War I

How many British dreadnoughts did German submarines sink in World War I? None. How many German submarines did the United Kingdom’s dreadnoughts sink? One.

Stories of naval technology in the twentieth century typically emphasize how the submarine and aircraft carrier rapidly displaced the battleship, despite the stubbornness of admirals who refused insisted on building more dreadnoughts. While there is an element of truth to this, especially in World War II, in the First World War both submarines and aircraft struggled to make inroads against the �stles of steel” that made up much of the most powerful fleets.

In March 1915, the U-27 class submarine U-29 began a cruise in the North Sea. U-29 was built in the months before the war started and had the most advanced design then available. Her captain was Otto Weddigen, who had commanded U-9 in 1914 and 1915, during which he executed one of the most successful attacks in the history of submarine warfare. On September 22, 1914, U-9 sighted three Royal Navy cruisers patrolling the eastern entrance of the English Channel. The Royal Navy did not take the submarine threat as seriously as it should have, and the three old cruisers had no destroyer escort. U-9 targeted and sank the HMS Aboukir, Hogue, and Cressy, killing over 1400 officers and men. From that point on, the Royal Navy took submarine attacks on the fleet much more seriously and radically improved its anti-submarine practices. Less than a month later, U-9 sank the even more elderly cruiser, HMS Hawke.

In the week before the encounter with the HMS Dreadnought, U-29 had sunk or damaged six Allied merchant vessels of over 17000 total tonnages. RMS Lusitania had not yet been torpedoed, and so German U-boat captains remained relatively free in their selection of targets. Weddigen was unusual in his preference for attacking warships, however. On March 18, U-29 encountered a portion of the Grand Fleet on exercise in Pentland Firth, in the Orkney Islands. U-29 fired a torpedo at the battleship HMS Neptune but missed. As was often the case with WWI submarines, the boat inadvertently broke the surface after firing the torpedo, which gave HMS Dreadnought and another battleship, HMS Temeraire, a chance to sight her.

212 feet long with a displacement of 675 tons, U-29 was dwarfed by Dreadnought, which at 527 feet long displaced around 20000 tons. The HMS Dreadnought also had a speed advantage over the German submarine, even on the surface. Like many battleships of the period, HMS Dreadnought had a ram bow, although expectation that battleships would ever be able to use their rams in combat effectively had diminished as the quality of long-range gunnery improved. Indeed, all Royal Navy battleships would have such a bow until the post-war Nelsons.

After a chase that lasted only a few minutes𠅊nd almost involved a collision between Dreadnought and Temeraire—the former rammed U-29 and cut the submarine in half. U-29 sank almost immediately, taking all hands. The sinking of U-29 was the only consequential operation of war ever conducted by HMS Dreadnought. She missed the Battle of Jutland due to a refit. In reserve by the end of the war, she never fired her guns against a surface target and was scrapped soon after the conclusion of the peace.

The crew of HMS Dreadnought received several congratulatory telegrams after the sinking of the sub. One of these read 𠇋unga Bunga!” in reference to the 𠇍readnought Hoax” of 1910. A handful of literary pranksters (including Virginia Woolf) associated with the Bloomsbury Group donned blackface and what they imagined to be royal Abyssinian costume and convinced the Royal Navy to grant them a tour of the HMS Dreadnought. While on the tour, the group would yell 𠇋unga Bunga!” whenever they saw something interesting or surprising. The prank became a minor scandal in the Royal Navy.

Overall, submarine attacks saw mixed success against warships throughout World War I. The British and French lost several older pre-dreadnought battleships to submarine attack, but of the dreadnoughts, only the French battleship Jean Bart took serious damage from a submarine. In addition, the super-dreadnought HMS Audacious was sunk by a mine laid by a German surface vessel. Even when the Germans attempted to combine surface and submarine operations, they saw little success efforts to lure the Grand Fleet into submarine ambushes in 1916 and 1918 yielded no sinkings. In 1917, the Germans turned to British commerce with considerably more success, almost starving Britain before the implementation of the convoy system. And in World War II submarines would see enormous success against capital ships, sinking numerous battleships and aircraft carriers.


More than 44,000 Allied troops died at Gallipoli. The Turkish death toll was much higher, with as many as 90,000 killed in the successful defense of their country. The British and French suffered far more casualties at Gallipoli than the Australians and New Zealanders, but the campaign would always have a special significance in the history of the colonies and on their road to becoming independent nations. The campaign also had a marked emotional significance for Turkey, a country evolving from a multinational empire into a nation-state. Militarily, its effect was to allow Turkey to fight on for three more years. The Allied failure encouraged Bulgaria to enter the war on the side of the Central Powers in October 1915, sealing the fate of Serbia.

Watch the video: Orion-class battleship