The dreadnought was the predominant type of battleship in the early 20th century. The first of its kind, the Royal Navy's HMS Dreadnought, made such a strong impression on people's minds when launched in 1906 that similar battleships built subsequently were referred to generically as "dreadnoughts", and earlier battleships became known as "pre-dreadnoughts". Dreadnought's design had two revolutionary features: an "all-big-gun" armament scheme, with more heavy-calibre guns than previous ships, and steam turbine propulsion.[a] As dreadnoughts became a symbol of national power, the arrival of these new warships was a crucial catalyst in the intensifying naval arms race between the United Kingdom and Germany. With the launch of a single ship, Dreadnought, the scales of naval power were reset overnight. As a result, dreadnought races sprang up around the world, including in South America, during the lead up to World War I. Successive designs increased rapidly in size and made use of improvements in armament, armour, and propulsion throughout the dreadnought era. Within five years, new battleships had outclassed Dreadnought. These more powerful vessels were known as "super-dreadnoughts". Most of the original dreadnoughts were scrapped after the end of World War I under the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty, but many of the newer super-dreadnoughts continued to be used throughout World War II. The only surviving dreadnought is USS Texas, located near the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site.[1]

Dreadnought-building consumed vast resources in the early 20th century, but there was only one battle between large dreadnought fleets. In the 1916 Battle of Jutland, the British and German navies clashed with no decisive result. The term "dreadnought" gradually dropped from use after World War I, especially after the Washington Naval Treaty, as virtually all remaining battleships shared dreadnought characteristics; the term can also be used to describe battlecruisers, the other type of ship resulting from the dreadnought revolution.[2][3]

HMS Dreadnought 1906 H61017
The Royal Navy's revolutionary and eponymous HMS Dreadnought, the world's first
USS Texas BB-35
USS Texas, the only dreadnought still in existence, was launched in 1912 and is now a museum ship.


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 (203 mm) guns. Serious proposals for an all-big-gun armament were circulated in several countries by 1903.[4]

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.[5][6] The Royal Navy began the design of HMS Dreadnought in January 1905, and she was laid down in October of the same year.[7] Finally, the US Navy gained authorization for USS Michigan, carrying eight 12-inch guns, in March 1905,[7] with construction commencing in December 1906.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10]

Long-range gunnery

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).[11] 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.[12] For instance, in 1903, the US Navy ordered a design of torpedo effective to 4,000 yards (3,700 m).[13] Both British and American admirals concluded that they needed to engage the enemy at longer ranges.[13][14] In 1900, Admiral Sir John "Jackie" Fisher, commanding the Royal Navy Mediterranean Fleet, ordered gunnery practice with 6-inch guns at 6,000 yards (5,500 m).[14] 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).[13]

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.[4]

On 10 August 1904 the Imperial Russian Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy had one of the longest-range gunnery duels to date – over 13km (8 miles) – during the Battle of the Yellow Sea.[15] The Russian battleships were equipped with Liuzhol range finders with an effective range of 4km (4400 yards) and the Japanese ships had Barr & Stroud range finders that reached out to 6km (6550 yards), but both sides still managed to hit each other with 12-inch (305 mm) main battery fire at 13km.[16] Naval architects and strategists around the world took notice.

All-big-gun mixed-calibre ships

HMS Agamemnon (1908) profile drawing
HMS Agamemnon, an all-big-gun mixed-calibre ship of the Lord Nelson class. It carried four 12-inch (305 mm) and ten 9.2-inch (234 mm).

An evolutionary step was to reduce the quick-firing secondary battery and substitute additional heavy guns, typically 9.2-inch (234 mm) or 10-inch (254 mm). 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 centre of the ship, instead of the small guns mounted in barbettes of earlier pre-dreadnought ships.

Semi-dreadnoughts classes included the British King Edward VII and Lord Nelson; Russian Andrei Pervozvanny; Japanese Katori, Satsuma, and Kawachi;[17] American Connecticut and Mississippi; French Danton; Italian Regina Elena; and Austro-Hungarian Radetzky class.

The design process for these ships often included discussion of an 'all-big-gun one-calibre' alternative.[18][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 (305 mm) guns in twin turrets.[19] 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.[19] 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.[4] 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."[20]

The Royal Navy was thinking along similar lines. A design had been circulated in 1902–03 for "a powerful 'all big-gun' armament of two calibres, viz. four 12-inch and twelve 9.2-inch guns."[21] The Admiralty decided to build three more King Edward VIIs (with a mixture of 12-inch, 9.2-inch and 6-inch (152 mm)) in the 1903–04 naval construction programme instead.[22] The all-big-gun concept was revived for the 1904–05 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.[23] 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.[24]

Switch to all-big-gun designs

The replacement of the 6-inch (152 mm) or 8-inch (203 mm) guns with weapons of 9.2-inch (234 mm) or 10-inch (254 mm) 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.[25]

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 (305 mm) 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,[26] 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 (305 mm) rather than 10-inch (254 mm).[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.[9] 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).[27] 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.[9] 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.[28] The increased rate of fire laid the foundations for future advances in fire control.[9]

Building the first dreadnoughts

HMS Dreadnought (1911) profile drawing
A plan of HMS Dreadnought, showing the revolutionary design

In Japan, the two battleships of the 1903–04 programme were the first in the world to be laid down as all-big-gun ships, with eight 12-inch (305 mm) guns. The armour of their design was considered too thin, demanding a substantial redesign.[29] 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 (254 mm) armament. The 1903–04 design retained traditional triple-expansion steam engines, unlike Dreadnought.[6]

The dreadnought breakthrough occurred in the United Kingdom in October 1905. The new First Sea Lord, John "Jackie" Fisher 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.[30]

Shortly after taking office, Fisher set up a Committee on Designs to consider future battleships and armoured cruisers.[7] 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.[31] 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 (234 mm). 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.[31] 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.[32] 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.[7]

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.[33] Building was slow; specifications for bidders were issued on 21 March 1906, the contracts awarded on 21 July 1906[34] and the two ships were laid down in December 1906, after the completion of the Dreadnought.[35]


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.[36]

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.[37]

Battleship building scatter graph 1905 onwards
Growth in size of battleship designs from 1905 onwards, showing the dreadnought's rapid growth between 1905 and 1920, prior to the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922


HMS Bellerophon Plan
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.

Dreadnoughts mounted a uniform main battery of heavy-calibre guns; the number, size, and arrangement differed between designs. Dreadnought 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.[38]

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 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.[39]

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.[40]

Position of main armament

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.[41]

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.[42]

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.[43] For these reasons, HMS Agincourt, which carried a record fourteen 12-inch guns in seven centreline turrets, was not considered a success.[44]

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.[42] 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,[45] 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

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.[46]

Animated gun turret
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 US Navy seriously considered stopping practice firing of heavy guns in 1910 because of the wear on the barrels.[47] 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.[48]

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 (305 mm) 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" guns were lighter than the 13.5" guns the British required for comparable effect.[48]

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.[49]

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,[50] and these heavier guns were not produced.[51]

British 14in Naval Gun 1930s Model
A 14-inch naval gun, as fitted to the King George V-class treaty battleships

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, HMS Vanguard.[53]

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);[54] the Japanese 'Super Yamato' design also called for 508 mm guns.[55] None of these proposals went further than very preliminary design work.

Secondary armament

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.[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 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.[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 this lead.[41] 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 (150 mm) guns, which were standard at the start of World War I;[59] the US standardized on 5-inch (130 mm) calibre for the war but planned 6-inch guns for the ships designed just afterwards.[60]

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.[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 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.[62]


This section of SMS Bayern shows a typical dreadnought protection scheme, with very thick armour 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 the armour. Designers spent much time and effort to provide the best possible protection for their ships against the various weapons they would be faced with. Only so much weight could be devoted to protection, without compromising speed, firepower or seakeeping.[63]

Central citadel

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".[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' 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.[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 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.[65]

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.[66] 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.[67]

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;[68] Yamato carried a 16-inch (410 mm) main belt, but a deck 9-inch (230 mm) thick.[69]

Underwater protection and subdivision

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.[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 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.[71]


Battleship Paris
Paris on speed trials

Dreadnoughts were propelled by two to four screw propellers.[72] 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.[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] By 1905, new designs of reciprocating engine were available which were cleaner and more reliable than previous models.[74]

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.[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. 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 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.[79][80]


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.[81] 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.[81]

These benefits meant that, as early as 1901, Fisher was pressing the advantages of oil fuel.[82] There were technical problems with oil-firing, connected with the different distribution of the weight of oil fuel compared to coal,[81] and the problems of pumping viscous oil.[83] 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.[84]

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;[84] 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.[85] Other major navies retained mixed coal-and-oil firing until the end of World War I.[86]

Dreadnought building

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.[87] This has led to criticism that the British, by launching HMS Dreadnought, threw away a strategic advantage.[88][89] 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 1904–05, 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.[90]

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.[91] 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.[92]

Anglo-German arms race

George V and Admiral Callaghan onboard HMS Iron Duke
King George V (left) inspects HMS Neptune

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.[93]

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.[94]

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 1909–10. 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.[95]

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.[96]

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.[97]

United States

USS New York-1
USS New York making full steam in 1915

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,[98] 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 (305 mm) 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.[99] For this reason the later Delaware class were described by some as the US Navy's first dreadnoughts;[100][101] 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.[102][103]

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.[100][104]

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 class, 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.[105]


The Japanese battleship Settsu

With their victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05, 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.[106]

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 (305 mm) 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.[107]

In other countries

Provence, a Bretagne-class battleship

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.[108] 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.[109] The closer alliance with the United Kingdom made these reduced forces more than adequate for French needs.[108]

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.[110]

Austro-Hungarian battleship Tegetthoff

In January 1909 Austro-Hungarian admirals circulated a document calling for a fleet of four dreadnoughts. A constitutional crisis in 1909–10 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, but these were cancelled on the outbreak of World War I.[111]

The Poltava
The Baltic Fleet's dreadnought Poltava in 1916.

In June 1909 the Imperial Russian Navy began construction of four Gangut class 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.[112][113] 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.[112][114]

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 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.[115][116]

Brazilian battleship Minas Geraes firing a broadside
The gun trials of the Brazilian dreadnought Minas Geraes, where all the guns capable of training to the port side were fired, forming what was at that time the heaviest broadside ever fired from a warship

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 in (30 cm)/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.[98][117][118] 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.[119][120]

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 (1913) 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.[121]

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.[122]


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 in one salvo) had doubled.[123]

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 dreadnoughts to mount 16-inch (406 mm) 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.[124] 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.[125][126]

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 - 28.5 mph) design speed, and they were considered the first fast battleships.[127]

Argentine Rivadavia Class Battleship 1912
The Argentine Rivadavia, first of its class, under construction

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.[128]

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.[129]

In action

HMS Audacious crew take to lifeboats
HMS Audacious sinks after hitting a mine, October 1914

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.[130]

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.[131]

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.[132]

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.[133] 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.[134] And in the Mediterranean, the most important use of battleships was in support of the amphibious assault at Gallipoli.[135]

Bundesarchiv Bild 134-C2280, Szent István, Sinkendes Linienschiff
SMS Szent István begins to roll over after being torpedoed in 1918

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.[136] 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.[137]

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.[138] 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.

Battleship building from 1914 onwards

World War I

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.[139]

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 redesigned 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.[140]

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 1914–15, were begun but never finished.[141]


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.[142] 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 and Lexington-class battlecruisers), took a qualitative step beyond the British Queen Elizabeth class and Admiral classes by mounting 16-inch (406 mm) guns.[143]

USS California (BB-44) - NH 82114
The American California, one of two Tennessee-class battleships, steaming at high speed in 1921

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.[144]

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.[145] 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.[146] 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 £7.72 billion today); only £84 million was available. The Admiralty then demanded, as an absolute minimum, a further eight battleships.[147] 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.[148] 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][149]

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.[150]

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.



  1. ^ The concept of an all-big-gun ship had been in development for several years before Dreadnought's construction. The Imperial Japanese Navy had begun work on an all-big-gun battleship in 1904, but finished the ship with a mixed armament. The United States Navy was building ships with a similar armament scheme, though Dreadnought was launched before any were completed.
  2. ^ At very close ranges, a projectile fired from a gun follows a flat trajectory, and the guns can be aimed by pointing them at the enemy. At greater ranges, the gunner has a more difficult problem as the gun needs to be elevated in order for the projectile to follow a proper ballistic trajectory to hit its target. This, therefore, needs accurate estimation (prediction) of the range to the target, which was one of the main problems of fire control. On warships, these problems are complicated by the fact that the ship will naturally roll in the water. Friedman 1978, p. 99.
  3. ^ Lighter projectiles have a lower ratio of mass to frontal surface area, and so their velocity is reduced more quickly by air resistance.
  4. ^ See Friedman 1985, p. 51, for discussion of alternative proposals for the Mississippi class.
  5. ^ Additional advantage is gained by having a uniform armament. A mixed armament necessitates separate control for each type; owing to a variety of causes the range passed to 12-inch guns is not the range that will suit the 9.2-inch or 6-inch guns, although the distance of the target is the same." First Addendum to the Report of the Committee on Designs, quoted in Mackay 1973, p. 322.
  6. ^ In the United Kingdom: "Fisher does not seem to have expressed interest in ... the ability to hit an adversary at long range by spotting salvoes. It is also very difficult to understand just when this method was first officially understood"; Mackay 1973, p. 322. And in America: "The possibility of gunnery confusion due to two calibers as close as 10 inches (250 mm) and 12 inches (300 mm) was never raised. For example, Sims and Poundstone stressed the advantages of homogeneity in terms of ammunition supply and the transfer of crews from the disengaged guns to replace wounded gunners. Friedman 1985, p. 55.
  7. ^ In October W.L. Rogers of the Naval War College wrote a long and detailed memorandum on this question, pointing out that as ranges became longer the difference in accuracy between even 10-inch and 12-inch guns became enormous.Friedman 1985, p. 55; "The advantage at long range lies with the ship which carries the greatest number of guns of the largest type", Report of the Committee on Designs, quoted in Mackay 1973, p. 322.
  8. ^ Fisher first firmly proposed the all-big-gun idea in a paper in 1904, where he called for battleships with sixteen 10-inch guns; by November 1904 he was convinced of the need for 12-inch guns. A 1902 letter, where he suggested powerful ships 'with equal fire all round', might have meant an all-big-gun design. Mackay 1973, p. 312.
  9. ^ Friedman 1985, pp. 126–128. Friedman notes, for instance, the total loss of power in the turbo-electric drive of converted battlecruiser USS Saratoga (CV-3) after just one torpedo hit in World War II.
  10. ^ Friedman 1985, pp. 104–105. While Nevada was designed and completed with oil-fired steam turbines, Oklahoma was designed and completed with oil-fired triple-expansion engines.
  11. ^ Dreadnought (1906) cost £1,783,000, compared to the £1,540,000 for each of the Lord Nelson class. Eight years later the Queen Elizabeth class cost £2,300,000. Comparable figures today are 188 million; 163 million; 222 million. Original figures from Breyer, Battleships and Battlecruisers of the World, p.52, 141; comparisons from Measuring Worth UK CPI.
  12. ^ The Nassau and Heligoland classes were war prizes. The Kaiser and König classes, and first two of the Bayern class were scuttled (though Baden was prevented from sinking by the British who refloated her and used her as a target ship and for experiments). Battleships under construction were scrapped instead of being completed.
  13. ^ This process was well under way before the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty. Sixteen pre-dreadnoughts served during World War II in such roles as hulks, accommodation ships, and training vessels; two of the German training vessels Schlesien and Schleswig-Holstein undertook naval gunfire support in the Baltic.


  1. ^ The Battle of Jutland: The Navy's Bloodiest Day. BBC. 2016.
  2. ^ Mackay 1973, p. 326, for instance.
  3. ^ Mizokami, Kyle (26 October 2016). "A Brief History of All the Warships Called "Dreadnought"". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 27 October 2016. If the name of Britain's next nuclear sub sounds old, it's because it is very, very old.
  4. ^ a b c Friedman 1985, p. 52.
  5. ^ Jentschura, Jung & Mickel 1977, pp. 22–23.
  6. ^ a b Evans & Peattie 1997, p. 159.
  7. ^ a b c d Gardiner 1992, p. 15.
  8. ^ Friedman 1985, p. 419.
  9. ^ a b c d Friedman 1978, p. 98.
  10. ^ Fairbanks 1991.
  11. ^ Sondhaus 2001, pp. 170–171.
  12. ^ Lambert 1999, p. 77.
  13. ^ a b c Friedman 1985, p. 53.
  14. ^ a b Lambert 1999, p. 78.
  15. ^ Forczyk 2009, pp. 50, 72.
  16. ^ Forczyk 2009, pp. 50, 56–57, 72.
  17. ^ Gardiner & Lambert 2001, pp. 125–126.
  18. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 113, 331–332, 418.
  19. ^ a b Friedman 1985, p. 51.
  20. ^ Friedman 1985, pp. 53–58.
  21. ^ Parkes 1990, p. 426, quoting an INA paper of 9 April 1919 by Sir Philip Watts.
  22. ^ Parkes 1990, p. 426.
  23. ^ Parkes 1990, pp. 451–452.
  24. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 113.
  25. ^ Friedman 1985, p. 55.
  26. ^ Fairbanks 1991, p. 250.
  27. ^ Cuniberti 1903, pp. 407–409.
  28. ^ Evans & Peattie 1997, p. 63.
  29. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 331.
  30. ^ Sumida 1995, pp. 619–621.
  31. ^ a b Breyer 1973, p. 115.
  32. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 46, 115.
  33. ^ Friedman 1985, p. 62.
  34. ^ Marder 1964, p. 542.
  35. ^ Friedman 1985, p. 63.
  36. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 19–21.
  37. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 85.
  38. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 54, 266.
  39. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 141–151.
  40. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 151–153.
  41. ^ a b Breyer 1973, p. 263.
  42. ^ a b Friedman 1978, p. 134.
  43. ^ Friedman 1978, p. 132.
  44. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 138.
  45. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 393–396.
  46. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 130–131.
  47. ^ Friedman 1978, p. 129.
  48. ^ a b Friedman 1978, p. 130.
  49. ^ Friedman 1978, p. 135.
  50. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 72.
  51. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 71.
  52. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 84.
  53. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 82.
  54. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 214.
  55. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 367.
  56. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 107, 115.
  57. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 196.
  58. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 135–136.
  59. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 106–107.
  60. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 159.
  61. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 113–116.
  62. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 116–122.
  63. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 7–8.
  64. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 54–61.
  65. ^ a b Gardiner 1992, p. 9.
  66. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 65–66.
  67. ^ Friedman 1978, p. 67.
  68. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 66–67.
  69. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 360.
  70. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 77–79.
  71. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 79–83.
  72. ^ Friedman 1978, p. 95.
  73. ^ Friedman 1978, pp. 89–90.
  74. ^ a b Friedman 1978, p. 91.
  75. ^ a b Breyer 1973, p. 46.
  76. ^ Massie 2004, p. 474.
  77. ^ Friedman 1985, pp. 75–76.
  78. ^ Gardiner 1992, pp. 7–8.
  79. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 292, 295.
  80. ^ Friedman 1985, p. 213.
  81. ^ a b c Friedman 1978, p. 93.
  82. ^ Mackay 1973, p. 269.
  83. ^ Brown 2003, pp. 22–23.
  84. ^ a b Brown 2003, p. 23.
  85. ^ Parkes 1990, pp. 582–583.
  86. ^ Friedman 1978, p. 94.
  87. ^ Sondhaus 2001, p. 198.
  88. ^ Kennedy 1983, p. 218.
  89. ^ Sondhaus 2001, p. 201.
  90. ^ Herwig 1980, pp. 54–55.
  91. ^ Sondhaus 2001, pp. 227–228.
  92. ^ Keegan 1999, p. 281.
  93. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 59.
  94. ^ Sondhaus 2001, p. 203.
  95. ^ Sondhaus 2001, pp. 203–204.
  96. ^ Kennedy 1983, pp. 224–228.
  97. ^ Sondhaus 2001, pp. 204–205.
  98. ^ a b Sondhaus 2001, p. 216.
  99. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 115, 196.
  100. ^ a b Friedman 1985, p. 69.
  101. ^ The New York Times, 26 October 1915.
  102. ^ Friedman 1985, p. 57.
  103. ^ Gardiner & Gray 1985, p. 112.
  104. ^ Gardiner & Gray 1985, p. 113.
  105. ^ Friedman 1985, pp. 69–70.
  106. ^ Evans & Peattie 1997, pp. 142–143.
  107. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 333.
  108. ^ a b Sondhaus 2001, pp. 214–215.
  109. ^ Gardiner & Gray 1985, p. 190.
  110. ^ Sondhaus 2001, pp. 209–211.
  111. ^ Sondhaus 2001, pp. 211–213.
  112. ^ a b Gardiner & Gray 1985, pp. 302–303.
  113. ^ Gibbons 1983, p. 205.
  114. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 393.
  115. ^ Gibbons 1983, p. 195.
  116. ^ Gardiner & Gray 1985, p. 378.
  117. ^ Gardiner & Gray 1985, pp. 403–404.
  118. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 320.
  119. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 450–455.
  120. ^ Gardiner & Gray 1985, pp. 363–364, 366.
  121. ^ Greger 1993, p. 252.
  122. ^ Sondhaus 2001, p. 220.
  123. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 126.
  124. ^ Sondhaus 2001, p. 214.
  125. ^ Sondhaus 2001, pp. 214–216.
  126. ^ Gardiner & Gray 1985, pp. 401, 408.
  127. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 140–144.
  128. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 75–79.
  129. ^ Friedman 1985, pp. 202–203.
  130. ^ Kennedy 1983, pp. 250–251.
  131. ^ Keegan 1999, p. 289.
  132. ^ Ireland & Grove 1997, pp. 88–95.
  133. ^ Keegan 1999, pp. 234–235.
  134. ^ Phillips 2013, p. .
  135. ^ Kennedy 1983, pp. 256–257.
  136. ^ Massie 2005, pp. 127–145.
  137. ^ Kennedy 1983, pp. 245–248.
  138. ^ Kennedy 1983, pp. 247–249.
  139. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 61.
  140. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 61–62.
  141. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 277–284.
  142. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 62–63.
  143. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 63.
  144. ^ Evans & Peattie 1997, p. 171.
  145. ^ Evans & Peattie 1997, p. 174.
  146. ^ Breyer 1973, p. 356.
  147. ^ Kennedy 1983, pp. 274–275.
  148. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 173–174.
  149. ^ Gröner 1990, p. .
  150. ^ Breyer 1973, pp. 69–70.


  • Breyer, Siegfried (1973). Battleships and Battlecruisers of the World, 1905–1970. London: Macdonald and Jane's. ISBN 978-0-356-04191-9.
  • Brown, D. K. (2003). Warrior to Dreadnought: Warship Development 1860–1905. Book Sales. ISBN 978-1-84067-529-0.
  • Cuniberti, Vittorio (1903). "An Ideal Battleship for the British Fleet". All The World's Fighting Ships. London: F.T. Jane.
  • Evans, David C.; Peattie, Mark R (1997). Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887–1941. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-192-8.
  • Fairbanks, Charles (1991). "The Origins of the Dreadnought Revolution". International History Review. 13 (2): 246–272. doi:10.1080/07075332.1991.9640580.
  • Forczyk, Robert (2009). Russian Battleship vs Japanese Battleship, Yellow Sea 1904–05. London: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84603-330-8.
  • Friedman, Norman (1978). Battleship Design and Development 1905–1945. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-85177-135-9.
  • Friedman, Norman (1985). US Battleships: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-715-9.
  • Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1992). The Eclipse of the Big Gun. London: Conways. ISBN 978-0-85177-607-1.
  • Gardiner, Robert; Lambert, Andrew, eds. (2001). Steam, Steel and Shellfire: The Steam Warship 1815–1905. Conway's History of the Ship. Book Sales. ISBN 978-0-7858-1413-9.
  • Gray, Randal (1985). Gardiner, Robert, ed. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-907-8.
  • Gibbons, Tony (1983). The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers: A Technical Directory of all the World's Capital Ships from 1860 to the Present Day. London: Salamander Books. ISBN 978-0-517-37810-6.
  • Greger, René (1993). Schlachtschiffe der Welt (in German). Stuttgart: Motorbuch Verlag. ISBN 978-3-613-01459-6.
  • Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships 1815–1945. Volume One: Major Surface Vessels. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-790-6.
  • Herwig, Holger (1980). "Luxury" Fleet: The Imperial German Navy 1888–1918. Amherst, New York: Humanity Books. ISBN 978-1-57392-286-9.
  • Ireland, Bernard; Grove, Eric (1997). Jane's War At Sea 1897–1997. London: Harper Collins. ISBN 978-0-00-472065-4.
  • Jentschura, Hansgeorg; Jung, Dieter; Mickel, Peter (1977). Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869–1945. London: Arms & Armor Press. ISBN 978-0-85368-151-9.
  • Keegan, John (1999). The First World War. London: Pimlico. ISBN 978-0-7126-6645-9.
  • Kennedy, Paul M. (1983). The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-35094-2.
  • Lambert, Nicholas A. (1999). Sir John Fisher's Naval Revolution. University of South Carolina. ISBN 978-1-57003-277-6.
  • Mackay, Ruddock F. (1973). Fisher of Kilverstone. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 978-0-19-822409-9.
  • Marder, Arthur J. (1964). The Anatomy of British Sea Power: A History of British Naval Policy in the Pre-Dreadnought Era, 1880–1905. Frank Cass & Co.
  • Massie, Robert (2004). Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the Coming of the Great War. London: Pimlico. ISBN 978-1-84413-528-8.
  • Massie, Robert (2005). Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea. London: Pimlico. ISBN 978-1-84413-411-3.
  • Parkes, Oscar (1990) [1957]. British Battleships. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press (reprint of Seeley Service & Co. edition). ISBN 978-1-55750-075-5.
  • Phillips, Russell (2013). A Fleet in Being: Austro-Hungarian Warships of WW1 (Paperback). Shilka Publishing. ISBN 9780992764807.
  • "Sea Fighter Nevada Ready For Her Test". The New York Times. 26 October 1915. p. 12. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  • Sondhaus, Lawrence (2001). Naval Warfare 1815–1914. London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-21478-0.
  • Sumida, Jon Tetsuro (October 1995). "Sir John Fisher and the Dreadnought: The Sources of Naval Mythology". The Journal of Military History. Society for Military History. 59 (4): 619–637. doi:10.2307/2944495. JSTOR 2944495.

Further reading

  • Archibald, E. H. H. (1984). The Fighting Ship in the Royal Navy 1897–1984. Blandford. ISBN 978-0-7137-1348-0.
  • Brooks, John (2005). Dreadnought Gunnery at the Battle of Jutland: The Question of Fire Control. Routledge. ISBN 978-0-7146-5702-8.
  • Brown, D. K. (2003) [1999]. The Grand Fleet: Warship Design and Development 1906–1922. Caxton Editions. ISBN 978-1-84067-531-3.
  • Corbett, Sir Julian (1994). Maritime Operations In The Russo-Japanese War 1904–1905. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-55750-129-5. Originally Classified and in two volumes.
  • Gardiner, Robert, ed. (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1922–1946. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-85177-146-5.
  • Johnston, Ian; Buxton, Ian (2013). The Battleship Builders - Constructing and Arming British Capital Ships. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-027-6.
  • Sumida, Jon Tetsuro (January 1990). "British Naval Administration and Policy in the Age of Fisher". The Journal of Military History. Society for Military History. 54 (1): 1–26. doi:10.2307/1985838. JSTOR 1985838.

External links


The battlecruiser, or battle cruiser, was a type of capital ship of the first half of the 20th century. They were similar in displacement, armament and cost to battleships, but differed slightly in form and balance of attributes. Battlecruisers typically carried slightly thinner armour and a lighter main gun battery than contemporary battleships, installed on a longer hull with much higher engine power in order to attain faster speeds. The first battlecruisers were designed in the United Kingdom in the first decade of the century, as a development of the armoured cruiser, at the same time as the dreadnought succeeded the pre-dreadnought battleship. The goal of the design was to outrun any ship with similar armament, and chase down any ship with lesser armament; they were intended to hunt down slower, older armoured cruisers and destroy them with heavy gunfire while avoiding combat with the more powerful but slower battleships. However, as more and more battlecruisers were built, they were increasingly used alongside the better-protected battleships.

Battlecruisers served in the navies of the UK, Germany, the Ottoman Empire, Australia and Japan during World War I, most notably at the Battle of the Falkland Islands and in the several raids and skirmishes in the North Sea which culminated in a pitched fleet battle, the Battle of Jutland. British battlecruisers in particular suffered heavy losses at Jutland, where their crews' poor fire safety & ammunition handling practices left them vulnerable to catastrophic magazine explosions following hits to their main turrets from large-calibre shells. This dismal showing led to a persistent general belief that battlecruisers were too thinly armoured to function successfully. By the end of the war, capital ship design had developed with battleships becoming faster and battlecruisers becoming more heavily armoured, blurring the distinction between a battlecruiser and a fast battleship. The Washington Naval Treaty, which limited capital ship construction from 1922 onwards, treated battleships and battlecruisers identically, and the new generation of battlecruisers planned was scrapped under the terms of the treaty.

Improvements in armor design and propulsion created the 1930s "fast battleship" with the speed of a battlecruiser and armor of a battleship, making the battlecruiser in the traditional sense effectively an obsolete concept. Thus from the 1930s on, only the Royal Navy continued to use "battlecruiser" as a classification for the World War I–era capital ships that remained in the fleet; while Japan's battlecruisers remained in service, they had been significantly reconstructed and were re-rated as full-fledged fast battleships.Battlecruisers were put into action again during World War II, and only one survived to the end. There was also renewed interest in large "cruiser-killer" type warships, but few were ever begun, as construction of battleships and battlecruisers was curtailed in favor of more-needed convoy escorts, aircraft carriers, and cargo ships. In the post–Cold War era, the Soviet Kirov class of large guided missile cruisers have also been termed "battlecruisers".


A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of large caliber guns. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries the battleship was the most powerful type of warship, and a fleet of battleships was considered vital for any nation that desired to maintain command of the sea.

The term battleship came into formal use in the late 1880s to describe a type of ironclad warship, now referred to by historians as pre-dreadnought battleships. In 1906, the commissioning of HMS Dreadnought into the United Kingdom's Royal Navy heralded a revolution in battleship design. Subsequent battleship designs, influenced by HMS Dreadnought, were referred to as "dreadnoughts", though the term eventually became obsolete as they became the only type of battleship in common use.

Battleships were a symbol of naval dominance and national might, and for decades the battleship was a major factor in both diplomacy and military strategy. A global arms race in battleship construction began in Europe in the 1890s and culminated at the decisive Battle of Tsushima in 1905, the outcome of which significantly influenced the design of HMS Dreadnought. The launch of Dreadnought in 1906 commenced a new naval arms race. Three major fleet actions between steel battleships took place: the decisive battles of the Yellow Sea (1904) and Tsushima (1905) during the Russo-Japanese War, and the inconclusive Battle of Jutland (1916) during the First World War. Jutland was the largest naval battle and the only full-scale clash of battleships in the war, and it was the last major battle fought primarily by battleships in world history.The Naval Treaties of the 1920s and 1930s limited the number of battleships, though technical innovation in battleship design continued. Both the Allied and Axis powers built battleships during World War II, though the increasing importance of the aircraft carrier meant that the battleship played a less important role than had been expected.

The value of the battleship has been questioned, even during their heyday. There were few of the decisive fleet battles that battleship proponents expected, and used to justify the vast resources spent on building battlefleets. Even in spite of their huge firepower and protection, battleships were increasingly vulnerable to much smaller and relatively inexpensive weapons: initially the torpedo and the naval mine, and later aircraft and the guided missile. The growing range of naval engagements led to the aircraft carrier replacing the battleship as the leading capital ship during World War II, with the last battleship to be launched being HMS Vanguard in 1944. Four battleships were retained by the United States Navy until the end of the Cold War for fire support purposes and were last used in combat during the Gulf War in 1991. The last battleships were stricken from the U.S. Naval Vessel Register in the 2000s.

Coastal defence ship

Coastal defence ships (sometimes called coastal battleships or coast defence ships) were warships built for the purpose of coastal defence, mostly during the period from 1860 to 1920. They were small, often cruiser-sized warships that sacrificed speed and range for armour and armament. They were usually attractive to nations that either could not afford full-sized battleships or could be satisfied by specially designed shallow-draft vessels capable of littoral operations close to their own shores. The Nordic countries and Thailand found them particularly appropriate for their island-dotted coastal waters. Some vessels had limited blue-water capabilities; others operated in rivers.

The coastal defence ships differed from earlier monitors by having a higher freeboard and usually possessing both higher speed and a secondary armament; some examples also mounted casemated guns (monitors' guns were almost always in turrets). They varied in size from around 1,500 tons to 8,000 tons.

Their construction and appearance was often that of miniaturized pre-dreadnought battleships. As such, they carried heavier armour than cruisers or gunboats of equivalent size, were typically equipped with a main armament of two or four heavy and several lighter guns in turrets or casemates, and could steam at a higher speed than most monitors. In service they were mainly used as movable coastal artillery rather than instruments of sea control or fleet engagements like the battleships operated by blue-water navies. Few of these ships saw combat in the First World War, though some did in the Second World War. The last were scrapped in the 1970s.Navies with coastal defence ships serving as their main capital ships included those of Belgium, Ecuador, Finland, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Thailand, and the British colonies of India and Victoria. Some nations which at one time or another built, bought, or otherwise acquired their own front-line capital ships, such as Argentina, Austria-Hungary, Brazil, China, Germany, Russia, and Spain, also deployed this type of warship, with Russia using three at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905.

Apart from specially built coastal defence ships, some navies used various obsolescent ships in this role. The Royal Navy deployed four Majestic-class battleships as guardships in the Humber at the start of the First World War. Similarly, the U.S. Navy redesignated the Indiana and Iowa classes as "Coast Defense Battleships" in 1919. Such ships tended to be near the end of their service lives and while generally considered no longer fit for front-line service, they were still powerful enough for defensive duties in reserve situations.

Dreadnought-class submarine

The Dreadnought class is the future replacement for the Vanguard class of ballistic missile submarines. Like their predecessors they will carry Trident II D-5 missiles. The Vanguard submarines entered service in the United Kingdom in the 1990s with an intended service life of 25 years. Their replacement is necessary if the Royal Navy is to maintain a continuous at-sea deterrent (CASD), the principle of operation behind the Trident system.Provisionally named Successor class, it was officially announced on 21 October 2016 (to mark Trafalgar Day) that the first of class would be named Dreadnought, and that the class would be the Dreadnought class. The next three boats will also be given names with "historical resonance". On 6 December 2018, the second boat of this class was named by the Secretary of State for Defence as HMS Valiant. On 25 February 2019, the third boat of this class was named by the Secretary of State for Defence as HMS Warspite.

Dreadnought hoax

The Dreadnought hoax was a practical joke pulled by Horace de Vere Cole in 1910. Cole tricked the Royal Navy into showing their flagship, the battleship HMS Dreadnought, to a fake delegation of Abyssinian royals. The hoax drew attention in Britain to the emergence of the Bloomsbury Group, among whom some of Cole's collaborators numbered. The hoax was a repeat of a similar impersonation which Cole and Adrian Stephen had organised while they were students at Cambridge in 1905.

HMS Dreadnought (1742)

HMS Dreadnought was a 60-gun fourth rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built according to the 1733 proposals of the 1719 Establishment at Deptford, and was launched on 23 June 1742.Dreadnought served until 1784, when she was sold out of the service.

HMS Dreadnought (1906)

HMS Dreadnought was a Royal Navy battleship that revolutionised naval power. Her name and the type of the entire class of warships that was named after her stems from archaic English in which "dreadnought" means "a fearless person". Dreadnought's entry into service in 1906 represented such an advance in naval technology that its name came to be associated with an entire generation of battleships, the "dreadnoughts", as well as the class of ships named after it. Likewise, the generation of ships she made obsolete became known as "pre-dreadnoughts". Admiral Sir John "Jacky" Fisher, First Sea Lord of the Board of Admiralty, is credited as the father of Dreadnought. Shortly after he assumed office, he ordered design studies for a battleship armed solely with 12-inch (305 mm) guns and a speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph). He convened a "Committee on Designs" to evaluate the alternative designs and to assist in the detailed design work.

Dreadnought was the first battleship of her era to have a uniform main battery, rather than having a few large guns complemented by a heavy secondary armament of smaller guns. She was also the first capital ship to be powered by steam turbines, making her the fastest battleship in the world at the time of her completion. Her launch helped spark a naval arms race as navies around the world, particularly the German Imperial Navy, rushed to match it in the build-up to World War I.Ironically for a vessel designed to engage enemy battleships, her only significant action was the ramming and sinking of German submarine SM U-29, becoming the only battleship confirmed to have sunk a submarine. Dreadnought did not participate in the Battle of Jutland in 1916 as she was being refitted. Nor did Dreadnought participate in any of the other World War I naval battles. In May 1916 she was relegated to coastal defence duties in the English Channel, not rejoining the Grand Fleet until 1918. The ship was reduced to reserve in 1919 and sold for scrap two years later.

HMS Dreadnought (S101)

The seventh HMS Dreadnought was the United Kingdom's first nuclear-powered submarine, built by Vickers Armstrongs at Barrow-in-Furness. Launched by Queen Elizabeth II on Trafalgar Day 1960 and commissioned into service with the Royal Navy in April 1963, she continued in service until 1980. The submarine was powered by a S5W reactor, a design made available as a direct result of the 1958 US–UK Mutual Defence Agreement.

List of battleships of France

French battleships (French: Cuirassés de la Marine Française) which feature here below, were serviced for the period 1859–1945. Years given are the ships' launch date.

List of battleships of Germany

The German navies—specifically the Kaiserliche Marine and Kriegsmarine of Imperial and Nazi Germany, respectively—built a series of battleships between the 1890s and 1940s. To defend its North and Baltic Sea coasts in wartime, Germany had previously built a series of smaller ironclad warships, including coastal defense ships, and armored frigates. With the accession to the throne of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1888, the Kaiserliche Marine began a program of naval expansion befitting a Great Power. The navy immediately pushed for the construction of the four Brandenburg-class battleships, after which soon followed five Kaiser Friedrich III-class ships. The appointment of Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz to the post of State Secretary of the Navy in 1897 accelerated naval construction. Tirpitz's "risk theory" planned a fleet that would be sufficiently powerful so that Great Britain, then the world's preeminent naval power, would avoid risking war with Germany in order to preserve its superiority.Admiral von Tirpitz secured a series of Naval Laws between 1900 and 1912 that drastically increased the budget of the navy and authorized scores of battleships; the final law envisioned a fleet of some 41 battleships, 25 of which would have been assigned to the High Seas Fleet, with the remainder in reserve. Following the Kaiser Friedrich III class were the Wittelsbach, Braunschweig, and Deutschland classes, the last pre-dreadnoughts built in Germany. The launch of the "all-big-gun" HMS Dreadnought in 1906 revolutionized battleship construction, and forced von Tirpitz to radically alter his shipbuilding plan. In order to remain in the battleship race, Tirpitz secured the funds for the first four German dreadnoughts, the Nassau class, which were laid down beginning in June 1907. The four Helgolands followed in 1908, as well as the five Kaisers in 1909–1910. Four König-class battleships were laid down in 1911–1912, and four Bayern-class battleships were laid down in 1913–1915, though only two—Bayern and Baden—were completed. Germany's defeat in 1918 resulted in the internment of the majority of the High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow; the ships were eventually scuttled on 21 June 1919 to prevent them from being seized by the British Royal Navy. Of the ten battleships interned, only one, Baden, was prevented from sinking; she was later expended as a gunnery target by the Royal Navy.Following the war, Germany was limited to eight pre-dreadnought battleships, two of which would be in reserve. New warships were severely limited in terms of armament and size. Admiral Erich Raeder was appointed the commander of the German navy in 1928. Raeder initially employed a cautious strategy vis a vis the government of the Weimar Republic. However, the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in 1933 allowed Raeder opportunity to expand the fleet. Hitler's government negotiated the Anglo-German Naval Agreement in 1935, which stipulated the German navy could rebuild to 35 percent of the strength of the Royal Navy. The first new battleships built in Germany were the two Scharnhorst-class ships, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in 1935. The two Bismarck-class battleships followed in 1936; Bismarck was completed in 1940 and Tirpitz in 1941. Plan Z was formulated in 1939 to rebuild the German navy; the plan called for six additional battleships of the H-39 class. Two of them were laid down in mid-1939, though they were canceled within two months, due to the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. The other four were canceled without any work being done. Bismarck, Tirpitz, and Scharnhorst were sunk during the war and Gneisenau was scuttled in Gotenhafen in 1945. Further design studies were drawn up, culminating in the massive H-44 class, but they were not serious proposals due to the infeasibility and expense of the ships.

List of dreadnought battleships of the Royal Navy

This is a list of dreadnought battleships of the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom.

In 1907, before the revolution in design brought about by HMS Dreadnought of 1906, the United Kingdom had 62 battleships in commission or building, a lead of 26 over France and 50 over the German Empire. The launch of Dreadnought in 1906 prompted an arms race with major strategic consequences, as countries built their own dreadnoughts. Possession of modern battleships was not only vital to naval power, but also represented a nation's standing in the world. Germany, France, the Russian Empire, Japan, Italy, Austria-Hungary, and the United States all began dreadnought programmes; and second-rank powers including the Ottoman Empire, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile commissioned dreadnoughts to be built in British and American shipyards.The Royal Navy at the start of the First World War was the largest navy in the world due, in the most part, to The Naval Defence Act 1889 and the two-power standard which called for the navy to maintain a number of battleships at least equal to the combined strength of the next two largest navies. The majority of the Royal Navy's strength was deployed at home in the Grand Fleet, with the primary aim of drawing the German High Seas Fleet into an engagement. The Royal Navy and the German Imperial Navy did come into contact, notably in the Battle of Jutland, but no decisive naval battle came.

The inter-war period saw the battleship subjected to strict international limitations to prevent a costly arms race breaking out. Faced with the prospect of a naval arms race against Great Britain and Japan, which would in turn have led to a possible Pacific war, the United States was keen to conclude the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. This treaty limited the number and size of battleships that each major nation could possess, and required Britain to accept parity with the U.S. and to abandon the British alliance with Japan. The Washington treaty was followed by a series of other naval treaties to limit warship size and numbers, concluding with the Second London Naval Treaty in 1936. These treaties became effectively obsolete on 1 September 1939 at the beginning of Second World War.The treaty limitations meant that fewer new battleships were launched from 1919–1939 than from 1905–1914. The treaties also inhibited development by putting maximum limits on the weights of ships and forced the Royal Navy into compromise designs for the Nelson and King George V classes. Designs like the projected British N3-class battleship continued the trend to larger ships with bigger guns and thicker armour, but never got off the drawing board. Those designs which were commissioned during this period were referred to as treaty battleships. After the Second World War, the Royal Navy's four surviving King George V-class ships were scrapped in 1957 and Vanguard followed in 1960. All other surviving British battleships had been sold or broken up by 1949.

List of pre-dreadnought battleships of the Royal Navy

This is a list of the pre-dreadnought battleships of the Royal Navy and covers the ships between the monitors and the launching of HMS Dreadnought in 1906.

Lord Nelson-class battleship

The Lord Nelson class was a two-ship class of pre-dreadnought battleships built by the Royal Navy between 1905 and 1908. Although they were the last British pre-dreadnoughts, both were completed and commissioned after HMS Dreadnought had entered service. Lord Nelson and Agamemnon were serving in the Channel Fleet when World War I began in 1914. They were both transferred to the Mediterranean Sea in early 1915 to participate in the Dardanelles Campaign. They remained there, assigned to the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron, which was later redesignated the Aegean Squadron, to prevent the German battlecruiser SMS Goeben and her consort Breslau from breaking out into the Mediterranean. Both ships returned to the United Kingdom in 1919. Lord Nelson was placed into reserve upon her arrival and sold for scrap in June 1920, but Agamemnon was converted into a radio-controlled target ship before being sold for scrap in 1927, the last surviving British pre-dreadnought.

Pre-dreadnought battleship

Pre-dreadnought battleships were sea-going battleships built between the mid- to late 1880s and 1905, before the launch of HMS Dreadnought. Pre-dreadnoughts replaced the ironclad battleships of the 1870s and 1880s. Built from steel, and protected by hardened steel armour, pre-dreadnought battleships carried a main battery of very heavy guns in barbettes (open or with armoured gunhouses) supported by one or more secondary batteries of lighter weapons. They were powered by coal-fuelled triple-expansion steam engines.

In contrast to the chaotic development of ironclad warships in preceding decades, the 1890s saw navies worldwide start to build battleships to a common design as dozens of ships essentially followed the design of the British Majestic class. The similarity in appearance of battleships in the 1890s was underlined by the increasing number of ships being built. New naval powers such as Germany, Japan, the United States, and – to a lesser extent – Italy and Austria-Hungary, began to establish themselves with fleets of pre-dreadnoughts, while the navies of Britain, France, and Russia expanded to meet these new threats. The decisive clash of pre-dreadnought fleets was between the Imperial Russian Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy during the Battle of Tsushima on 27 May 1905.

These battleships were abruptly made obsolete by the arrival of HMS Dreadnought in 1906. Dreadnought followed the trend in battleship design to heavier, longer-ranged guns by adopting an "all-big-gun" armament scheme of ten 12-inch guns. Her innovative steam turbine engines also made her faster. The existing pre-dreadnoughts were decisively outclassed, and new and more powerful battleships were from then on known as dreadnoughts while the ships that had been laid down before were designated pre-dreadnoughts.

South American dreadnought race

A naval arms race among Argentina, Brazil and Chile—the most powerful and wealthy countries in South America—began in the early twentieth century when the Brazilian government ordered three dreadnoughts, formidable battleships whose capabilities far outstripped older vessels in the world's navies.

In 1904, the Brazilian Navy found itself well behind its Argentine and Chilean rivals in quality and total tonnage; few ships had been ordered since the fall of the Brazilian monarchy in 1889, while Argentina and Chile had just concluded a fifteen-year naval arms race which filled their navies with modern warships. Rising demand for coffee and rubber was fueling a large increase in the Brazilian government's revenue, and the country's legislature voted to devote some of the proceeds to address this naval imbalance. They believed that building a strong navy would play an essential role in remaking the country into an international power.

The Brazilian government ordered three small battleships from the United Kingdom in late 1905, but the appearance of the revolutionary British warship HMS Dreadnought in 1906 quickly scrapped these plans. Instead, the Brazilians ordered three Minas Geraes-class dreadnoughts—warships that would be the most powerful in the world, and of a type which quickly became a measure of international prestige, similar to nuclear weapons in the mid-twentieth century. This action focused the world's attention on the newly ascendant country: newspapers and politicians in the great powers fretted that Brazil would sell the ships to a belligerent nation, while the Argentine and Chilean governments immediately canceled their naval-limiting pact and ordered two dreadnoughts each (the Rivadavia and Almirante Latorre classes, respectively).

Meanwhile, Brazil's third dreadnought faced a good deal of political opposition after an economic downturn and a naval revolt: the crews of both of their brand-new battleships, along with several smaller warships, mutinied and threatened to fire on Rio de Janeiro if there was no end to what they called the "slavery" being practiced by the Brazilian Navy. Despite these pressures, the shipbuilder Armstrong Whitworth successfully held the Brazilians to their contractual obligations. Construction on the new ship, preliminarily named Rio de Janeiro, was halted several times due to repeated design changes. Brazil's coffee and rubber booms collapsed soon after. Concerned that their ship would be outclassed by larger super-dreadnoughts, they sold the incomplete vessel to the Ottoman Empire in December 1913.

The First World War marked the end of the naval arms race, as the South American countries found themselves unable to purchase additional warships. The Brazilian government ordered a new battleship, Riachuelo, in May 1914, but the conflict effectively canceled the ship. The British purchased the two Chilean battleships before they were completed; one was sold back to Chile in 1920. Argentina's two dreadnoughts, having been built in the neutral United States, escaped this fate and were commissioned in 1914–15. Although several South American post-war naval expansion plans called for dreadnoughts, no additional units were constructed.

St Thomas' Hospital

St Thomas' Hospital is a large NHS teaching hospital in Central London, England. It is one of the institutions that comprise the King's Health Partners, an academic health science centre. Administratively part of the Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, together with Guy's Hospital and King's College Hospital it provides the location of the King's College London GKT School of Medical Education.

Originally located in Southwark, but based in Lambeth since 1871, the hospital has provided healthcare freely or under charitable auspices since the 12th century. It is one of London's most famous hospitals, associated with names such as Sir Astley Cooper, William Cheselden, Florence Nightingale, Linda Richards, Edmund Montgomery, Agnes Elizabeth Jones and Sir Harold Ridley. It is a prominent London landmark – largely due to its location on the opposite bank of the River Thames to the Houses of Parliament.

St Thomas' Hospital is accessible from Westminster tube station (a 10-minute walk across Westminster Bridge), Waterloo station (tube and national rail, also a 10-minute walk) and Lambeth North tube station (another 10-minute walk).

Star Destroyer

Star Destroyers are capital ships in the fictional Star Wars universe. The Imperial-class Star Destroyer is "the signature vessel of the Imperial fleet" in numerous published works including film, television, novels, comics, and video games. Each can be deployed individually as a forward operating base responsible for safeguarding multiple planets, trade routes and systems, and carried enough firepower to subdue an entire planetary system or annihilate a small rebel fleet. The term "Star Destroyer" also refers to other "triangular" vessels in the franchise; the successful v-shaped designs are explained in Legends as originating from Sith influence, and have been adapted by numerous factions for a wide variety of applications.

Numerous Star Destroyer models and toys have been released. The iconic scene in Star Wars (1977), featuring the Imperial Star Destroyer's first appearance where it pursues a Corellian Corvette has been called a milestone in special effects history.


A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces of a state. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more manoeuvrable than merchant ships. Unlike a merchant ship, which carries cargo, a warship typically carries only weapons, ammunition and supplies for its crew. Warships usually belong to a navy, though they have also been operated by individuals, cooperatives and corporations.

In wartime, the distinction between warships and merchant ships is often blurred. In war, merchant ships are often armed and used as auxiliary warships, such as the Q-ships of the First World War and the armed merchant cruisers of the Second World War. Until the 17th century it was common for merchant ships to be pressed into naval service and not unusual for more than half a fleet to be composed of merchant ships. Until the threat of piracy subsided in the 19th century, it was normal practice to arm larger merchant ships such as galleons. Warships have also often been used as troop carriers or supply ships, such as by the French Navy in the 18th century or the Japanese Navy during the Second World War.

History of the battleship
Aircraft carriers
Patrol craft
Fast attack craft
Mine warfare
Command and support

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