Learn about the famous Royal Naval Vessel the HMS Dreadnought

HMS Dreadnought History

The Royal Navy battleship HMS Dreadnought was designed to revolutionize naval power. The ship’s debut into service in 1906 signified such a leap forward in naval technology that her name became linked with an entire generation of battleships known as “dreadnoughts,” as well as the class of ships named after her.

Dreadnought is attributed to Admiral Sir John “Jacky” Fisher, First Sea Lord of the Board of Admiralty. Dreadnought was the only battleship of her day to feature a single main battery rather than a few massive guns supplemented by a substantial secondary armament of smaller weapons.

She was also the first big ship to be equipped by steam turbines, enabling her to be the fastest warship in the world at the point of its completion.

HMS Dreadnought Construction

Before its construction ever began, extraordinary measures were made to assure a timely delivery. The hull had been built to be as basic as possible while still being able to endure the shock of firing an eight-gun broadside.

The variation of steel sizes was maintained to a minimal, and when possible, the size of armour plating in its various thicknesses was regulated. By the time work started, £12,217 had been spent on labor, £29,078 on materials, and 1,100 men had been hired, however, this figure quickly grew to 3,000.

Furthermore, she was built at HM Dockyard, Portsmouth, which was known as the world’s quickest shipbuilder. They were expected to work a 69-hour, six-day week from 06:00 to 18:00, including mandatory overtime, with only a 30-minute lunch break.

After only four months on the ways, King Edward VII christened Dreadnought with a bottle of Australian wine on February 10, 1906. The bottle required numerous blows to shatter on a legendary bow.

Dreadnought-two-days-after-the-keel-was-laid

Characteristics

Dreadnought was much bigger than the two Lord Nelson class ships that were being built at the same time. She measured 527 feet overall, 82 feet 1 inch in beam, and 29 feet 7.5 inches in draught at deep load.

She had a displacement of 18,120 long tons at normal load and 20,730 long tons at deep load, which was over 3,000 long tons larger than the previous ships. At deep load, she had a metacentric height of 5.6 feet and a complete double bottom.

HMS Dreadnought Development

Admiral Fisher suggested numerous designs for battleships with similar weaponry in the early 1900s, and in early 1904, he convened an unofficial council of experts to help him decide on the optimum qualities. 

In January 1905, he formed a Committee on Designs comprised of several members of his informal group to examine numerous design suggestions and aid in the thorough design process. 

On 18 January 1905, the committee decided on the main armament layout, rejecting any super firing arrangements due to worries about the impacts of muzzle blast on the accessible sighting hoods on the turret roof below, and decided turbine propulsion over reciprocating engines to save 1,100 long tons in total displacement.

The Committee ended its deliberations on February 22, 1905, and announced its results in March of that year. Due to the experimental nature of the design, it was decided to postpone making orders for any further ships until Dreadnought and her trials were completed.

Military weapons, Fire Control and armour

The main weaponry of the Dreadnought was ten 45-calibre BL 12-inch Mark X guns in five twin Mark BVIII gun turrets. Along the ship’s centerline were the forward turret (‘A’) and two aft turrets (‘X’ and ‘Y’). Two wing turrets (‘P’ and ‘Q’) were positioned port and starboard of the forward superstructure, correspondingly.

Dreadnought could fire a broadside of eight guns from 60° ahead of the beam to 50° behind it. She could fire six guns aft and four forward beyond these restrictions. She could fire six guns on bearings 1° ahead or astern, although she would have caused explosion destruction to the superstructure.

The secondary weaponry was initially made up of 27 50-calibre, quick-firing 3 in 12-pounder 18 cwt Mark I guns. The weapons had an elevation range of 10° to +20°. They fired 12.5-pound projectiles at a muzzle velocity of 2,660 feet per second. The weapons fired at a rate of 20 rounds per minute. The ship carried 300 rounds for each cannon.

Fire Control

Dreadnought was one of the first Royal Navy ships to be equipped with devices for electrically conveying range, order, and deflection data to the turrets. The main armament control stations were positioned in the spotting top at the foremast’s head and on a platform on the signal tower’s roof.

In 1907, firing experiments against Hero exposed the system’s vulnerability to gunfire, as the spotting top was struck twice and a massive splinter broke the voice pipe and all wire going down the mast. Dreadnought’s fire-control system was extensively updated during her refits in 1912-13 to prevent against this scenario.

During the years leading up to World War I, fire-control technology evolved significantly, with the most significant advancement being the director firing system. This system consisted of a fire-control director situated high aboard the ship, which electrically delivered signals to the turrets via pointers, which the turret crew was to follow.

Facts/Trivia about the HMS Dreadnought

  • Dreadnought was the flagship of the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet from 1907 to 1911.
  • In 1910, she drew the attention of noted conman Horace de Vere Cole, who convinced the Royal Navy to arrange for a tour of a ship for a group of Abyssinian royals.
  • Neptune took over as Home Fleet flagship in March 1911, and she was assigned to the 1st Division of the Home Fleet.
  • In June 1911, she took part in King George V’s Coronation Fleet Review.
  • Dreadnought was transferred from the 1st Battle Squadron to the 4th Battle Squadron in December 1912, after the 1st Division was redesignated earlier that year.
  • She was the flagship of the 4th Battle Squadron in the North Sea at the commencement of the First World War in 1914, located at Scapa Flow.
  • Dreadnought was the first battleship to sink an enemy submarine on purpose.

Wrapping it up 

This battleship indeed serves its purpose as it had gone through a lot of experiences. But, eventually, everything must go and come to an end. On March 31, 1920, Dreadnought was placed up for sale and sold for scrap to Thos. W. Ward on May 9, 1921