By the turn of the 19th century the conceived range of fleet actions was being seen as already increasing out to 6000 yards (5,500 meters) 3.04miles)). At such ranges gunners would have to await to spot for the fall of their salvo, before the application of any adjustments could be made to their following salvo. A further issue was that shell splashes from the smaller mixed calibre guns carried on board ship over that period, had a tendency to obscure the splashes from the bigger guns. This resulted in the smaller calibre guns having to cease fire, in order to wait on the slower firing main calibre weapons. In doing so they sacrificed the advantage of their faster rate of fire. To not do so would only serve to cause confusion of which shell splash was due to which calibre.
The use of a single main calibre without multiple calibre guns would greatly simplify the job of fire control in action. All the 12-inch guns had the same ballistic characteristics.
A further problem was the introduction of longer range torpedoes which were soon expected to enter service. The increased range of these weapons would discourage ships from closing to a range where the smaller calibers’ faster rate of fire would become effective. Engaging at the greater range’s would cancel out the threat from torpedoes and only further reinforced the need for heavy guns of a uniform calibre.

In 1903, Vittorio Cuniberti, a Italian naval architect, first proposed in print the concept of an ‘all-big-gun-battleship’. The ship Cuniberti proposed would be a “Colossus”. His main idea was for the ship to carry only one calibre of gun, the biggest available at the time being the 12 inch (305 mm).

The ‘Colossus’s’ 12″ armour would be impervious to all except the 12-inch (305 mm) shell. Cuniberti believed that the small calibre shells would have no effect on his ship. His ideal ship had twelve of the large calibre guns, which would give a significant advantage over the norm then, the four gun ship. His ship would in addition be fast at 24 knots, allowing her to choose the point of attack.

Cuniberti believed that his ship would able to fire a one calibre broadside of such weight, that she would overwhelm her enemies ship’s in rapid succession, finally destroying their entire fleet. He argued that a squadron of “Colossus’s” would give a fleet such an overwhelming advantage it would deter be a ultimate deterrent.

There would be a cost to pay for building such a ship. Part of Cuniberti’s argument was that “Colossus” would be such a financial outlay that only the “navy at the same time most potent and very rich” could afford them.

Cuniberti offered his design to the Italian government, but they declined it giving budgetary reasons, but did grant him permission to write an article for the 1903 edition of Jane’s Fighting Ships. Cuniberti’s article was to be published before the Battle of Tsushima, (27–28 May 1905), which would vindicate his ideas. The battle witnessed that the real damage to the Russian fleet was inflicted by the large calibre guns of the Japanese fleet.

Admiral ‘Jackie’ Fisher first considered his own concept of a ‘all-big-gun’ ship, while C-in-C of the Royal Navies Mediterranean fleet in 1900. By 1904-5 Fisher knew the Japanese, Russians, USA and Germany were examining the ‘all-big-gun’ concept. On the 8th December 1904 on receipt of a report from the German naval attache in London, detailing Vickers ‘all-big-gun’ design the Kaiser was to write “in my opinion this is the battleship of the future”. Fisher was also aware by 1904 that the USA was making plans to build the ‘all-big-gun’ ship. By 1905 the navies of Britain, the USA and Japan had all come to accept the validity of Cuniberti’s concept. Both Fisher and the Admiralty recognized that if they didn’t build the first ship, then an other nations would and the British supremacy at sea would be threatened, if not lost. The Royal Navy duly modified the design of their current Lord Nelson class battleships so to include a secondary armament of 9.2-inch (234 mm) guns. These they felt were in improvement on the traditional 6-inch (152 mm) guns mounted onto the older ships, due to their increased range. A ‘radical’ proposal that the two Lord Nelson’s be armed with 12-inch guns was rejected by the Admiralty. Then on the 15 May 1905 the Japanese battleship IJN Satsuma was laid down as the first ‘all-big-gun battleship’, a clear five months before Dreadnoughts keel was laid down. Unfortunately a shortage of gun barrels was to see the Satsuma being equipped with only four of the twelve 12-inch guns that had been planned. This being due to Armstrong’s only being able to supply 4 of the 12 big guns that had been ordered, for shipment to Japan. As a result 10 inch guns were substituted.

The United States Navy was to begin their design work on the ‘all-big-gun’ South Carolina class battleship in October 1903, but the progress was slow and the first of the two battleships, the USS Mitchigan, was only laid down in New York on the 17 December 1906, having been ordered in July of that year, (USS South Carolina ordered 20.07.06 and Mitchigan 21.07.06). HMS Dreadnought (meaning “fear nothing”) had been laid down five month prior and launched the month before.What was to mark the Dreadnought from both the South Carolina or Satsuma designs was the decision to use turbines, instead of the more usual reciprocating engines, resulting in a higher speed, faster cruising and less vibration. It was to be this that helped make Dreadnought such a revolutionary design. Neither the Americans nor the Japanese had visualized their new ships as part of a fundamental break with the past. South Carolina was built onto the hull of a Connecticut-class battleship, or a ‘pre-dreadnought’ with what basically a rearranged armament. But unlike the British Dreadnought, the Americans pursued the superfiring design. The Admiralty didn’t believe that a superfiring turret configuration, would work, and, in their defense, superfiring experiments with American battleships had yielded poor results.

It’s worth remembering at this point, that the two Lord Nelson’s and Dreadnought were under construction at the same time, giving the admiralty two horses in the race. The Lord Nelson’s were in their own right an advanced battleship design on what had gone before. If the Dreadnought had not developed as well as envisaged and fell at the fence, then the navy still had the two Nelson’s to add to the fleet. ( A detailed look at Lord Nelson and Agamemnon can be found in a previous post of mine at

Charles Algernon Parsons invention of the steam turbine in 1884 allowed a substantial increase in the speed of warships. He ‘introduced’ the world to his steam turbine with a unauthorized demonstration of ‘Turbinia’ at 34 knots during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee at Spithead in 1897. ‘Turbinia’ in a publicity stunt, raced through the two lines of warships and steamed up and down in front of the crowd and V.I.Ps. She all to easily evaded a Navy picket boat that tried to pursue her, almost swamping it in wake. Following the successful trials in 1900 of two turbine powered destroyers, HMS Viper and HMS Cobra, and in addition to experience gained with several small passenger liners equipped with turbines, the Dreadnought was ordered with the new technology, (the last ship to use a Parsons propulsion system was HMS Glamorgan launched in 1964).

Finally, Captain William Pakenham, an observer at the battle of Tsushima was to write ’12-inch gunfire’ by both sides demonstrated hitting power and accuracy, whilst 10-inch shells passed unnoticed’. Both the Battle of the Yellow Sea and Battle of Tsushima were to be analysed by Fisher’s Committee. Fisher expected his board to both confirm, refine and implement his ideas for a battleship with the speed of 21 knots and 12-inch guns. He felt that at the Battle of Tsushima, Admiral Togo had only been able to cross the Russians ‘T’ due to his superior speed. The long range (14,000 yd)13,000 metres) 7.94 miles))) of fire during the Battle of the Yellow Sea only served to confirm what the Royal Navy already believed.

Admiral Fisher had several designs for the ‘all-big-gun’ battleship by the first few years of the twentieth century, and in early 1904 he created an unofficial committee of advisors to help him in deciding on the shape his ideas would take. Following his appointed as First Sea Lord on 21 October 1904, he succeed in forcing the Board of the Admiralty into a decision to arm the next battleship with just 12 inch guns and with a speed of no less than 21 knots. In January 1905, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Selborne, formed a ‘Committee on Designs'(C-of-D), which included members of Fisher’s unofficial committee, to examine the designs proposed and then to assist in the details of the design progress. The committee was to include the recently appointed Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy, Captain Henry Jackson. In addition the future C-in-C of the Grand Fleet, John Rushworth Jellicoe, prior to his appointment as Director of Naval Ordnance and Torpedoes a month later, in February 1905 was appointed. Another committee member was (the then) Captain Charles Edward Madden, who in 1907 would serve as Captain to the Dreadnought, before going onto rise to be C-in-C of the Atlantic Fleet in 1919. Whilst ‘supposedly’ independent, the ‘C-of-D’ served to deflect any criticism of both Fisher and the Board of the Admiralty, as it had no power other than to consider the options already placed before them. Fisher was responsible for the appointment of all the committee members and was himself President of the Committee. He was to never deny that the introduction of ‘Dreadnought’ would temporarily reduce the British battleship lead to just one ship, but he was of the firm belief one dreadnought equated to two and a half pre-dreadnought’s.

On the 18th January 1905 the committee was to finally decide on the format of the main armament, rejecting the superfiring arrangement, because of their concerns about the effects of muzzle blast, on the open sighting hoods located on the turret roof below. They chose the turbine propulsion over reciprocating engines in an effort to save 1,100 long (imperial) tons (1,100 metric tonnes) in the ships total displacement. Before disbanding, a number of other issues were decided upon by the committee. These included the number of shafts (up to six had been considered), the calibre and quantity of the anti-torpedo boat armament, as well as adding longitudinal bulkheads to protect the magazines and shell rooms from any underwater explosions. This last decision was considered necessary after the Russian battleship Tsesarevich was believed to only have survived a Japanese torpedo hit during the Russo Japanese War because of her heavy internal bulkhead. To avoid any increase in the displacement of the ship, the thickness of her waterline belt was reduced by 1 inch (25 mm).

The Committee finally completed its works on 22 February 1905 and reported on their conclusions in March of that year. It was also decided that due to the radical nature of the design to place no orders for a second ship until the ‘Dreadnought’ had completed her trials. The then completed designs hull shape was tested at the Admiralty’s experimental ship tank at Gosport. Seven amendments were made before the final hull form was decided upon. Once the design was complete, a team of three assistant engineers and 13 draughtsman worked on producing the detailed drawings.

To speed up the build time, the hulls internal structure was simplified as much as was possible, and an attempt was made to standardize on a number of plate shapes, that would only vary then in their thickness.

Dreadnought was to be larger than the two ships of the Lord Nelson class, which were under construction at the same time. She had an overall length of 527 feet (160.6 m) 《Agamemnon 443 ft 6 in/Satsuma 482 ft /South Carolina 443 ft 6 in 》, a beam of 82 feet 1 inch (25.0 m), 《 Ag 79 ft 6 in /Sat 83 ft 6 in /SC 79 ft 6 in 》 and a draught of 29 feet 7.5 inches (9.0 m) at deep load, 《 Ag 26 ft 9 in/Sat 27 ft 6 in/SC 26 ft 9 in 》. Her displacement was 18,120 long tons (18,410 t) at normal load 《Ag 16,500/Sat 19,372 long/SC 16,000 》and 20,730 long tons (21,060 t) at deep load《Ag 17,683/SC 17,617 》, which was all but 3,000 long tons more than earlier ships. She had a metacentric height of 5.6 feet (1.7 m) at deep load and a double bottom for the length of her hull.

Dreadnought was to be the first British battleship to make use of steam turbines, in place of the older reciprocating triple-expansion steam engines. Prior to 1905 no large commercial ships had used turbines, and the first British cruiser (HMS Topaze, 1904) to use them had not yet gone to sea and the first turbine powered destroyers were only four years old. She had two paired sets of Parsons direct-drive turbines, each of which was was housed in a separate engine-room and powered two shafts. As a result of her turbines she was to be two and a half knots faster than her rivals. The wing shafts were coupled to both the high-pressure ahead and astern turbines, while the low-pressure turbines were connected to the inner shafts. A cruising turbine was also coupled to each of inner shaft, but these were not used often and were to be eventually to be disconnected. Each of the four main turbines powered a 8 feet 10 inches (2.69 m) diameter three-bladed propeller, with a ‘8.37 ft pitch, 33 sq ft for 5750 shp at 320 rpm’.The turbines also had an impact on the working conditions within the engine room, making them a far more pleasant and much less noisy place to work in.

‘The turbines were powered by eighteen Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers located within three boiler rooms. These had a working pressure of 250 psi. The turbines were designed to produce a total of 23,000 shaft horsepower, but almost reached 27,018 shp during the trials in October 1906’. Dreadnought was designed for a speed of 21 knots, but exceeded that on her trials at 21.6 knots.
The ship developed an early reputation for being an easy vessel to handle, compared to bring almost like a destroyer, (her design even gave good visibility, as if from the bridge of a destroyer). In her ‘turning trials’, six runs were made. There is no clear definition that I can find describing the nature of a turning trial. (As far as I can deduce it’s a manoeuvre involving the ship turning on hard rudder.( If I’m incorrect, I apologise and know someone out reading this will be able to shed a better understanding)).
Over the first run she made 17.72 knots over a ‘distance in turning’ of 359 yards, in a ‘turn time’ over 4 points’ of 36.0 seconds.
Run number two was at 14.8 knots, over 268 yds and the 4 points were accomplished in 25.0 seconds.
The third run was at 10.9 knots, over 156 yds at a similar turn of 27.5 seconds.
Turn number 4 was at 9.02 knots, at a distance of 165 yds, turning at 32.7 seconds.
The fifth turn was 8.9 knots, over 175 yds, with the four points at 34.8 seconds.
The final sixth turn was at 7.71 knots, over 169 yds and at a time of 39.0 seconds.

Dreadnought bunkerage was of 2,868 long tons of coal, with 1,120 long tons of fuel oil, which was sprayed on the coal to increase its burn rate. With full bunkers and tanks, she had a range of 6,620 nautical miles at 10 knots, 《SC 6,950 nmi at 10 kn》.
Dreadnought’s 12″ guns were a 45-calibre BL Mark X model mounted into five twin Mark BVIII gun turrets, designed and manufactured by Vickers, Sons & Maxim of Sheffield, 《SC 8 × 12 in 45 calibre Mark 5 guns》. Three of the turrets were located on the centreline, with the forward ‘A’ turret and two aft ‘X’ and ‘Y’ turrets separated by the torpedo control tower located on a short tripod mast. The two wing ‘P’ and ‘O’ turrets were located port and starboard of the forward superstructure. The ‘A’, ‘P’ and ‘Q’ gun mountings were produced by Sir W.G. Armstrong Whitworth & Company in their Elswick factory. The Armstrong mounting were tendered at a cost of £70,092 (£7,820,910@2016) and the ‘X’ and ‘Y’ mountings by Vickers, Sons & Maxim’s Barrow factory at a cost of £69,860 (£7,795,023@2016) per mounting. Armstrong and Vickers were given the order to produce the turntables for Dreadnought on 6 January, 1905.

Dreadnought’s broadside of eight guns ranged between 60° before the beam and 50° aft the beam. Beyond these limits she could fire six guns aft, and four forward. On bearings 1° ahead or astern she could fire six guns, although in the process of doing so, she would have inflicted blast damage on her superstructure. Fisher was also was determined that “end on fire” was of more importance than broadside fire. But the future battles would reveal his concept to be less than effective.

The guns could on completion be depressed to −3° and elevated to +13.5°, but later the turrets were modified, during the war, to allow 16° of elevation. Each gun fired a 850Ib (390 kg) shell with a muzzle velocity of 2,725 ft/s. At a barrel elevation of 13.5° this produced a maximum range of 16,450 yd (15,040 m) (9.34 miles)) with armour-piercing (AP) 2 crh shells. At a 16° elevation the range could be extended to 20,435 yd (18,686 m) (11.6 miles)) using the more aerodynamic, but slightly heavier, 4 crh AP shell. The rate of fire for the 12″ guns was one to two rounds per minute and the magazines held 80 rounds per gun, (960 in total).

‘The gun sights were gear-worked sights fitted with telescopes (periscopes would not debut until St.Vincent in 1907) with a range gearing constant of 32 and limited to 15 degrees elevation, but 6 degree super-elevation prisms would have been provided by 1916.

The deflection gearing constant was 82.5 in the side positions and 82.66 in the centre, with 1 knot equalling 2.53 arc minutes, calculated as 2700 fps at 5000 yards. Range drums were provided for 2 CRH projectiles at full charge at 2650 fps, reduced charge at 2225 fps, as well as 12-pdr guns on the roof and 6-pdr sub-calibre guns and .303-in aiming rifles. By some time in 1916, dials and drums were on hand for 4 CRH heads.

Muzzle velocity was corrected by adjustable pointer between +/- 75 fps. The adjustable temperature scale plate could vary between 18 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, and a “C” corrector could alter the ballistic coefficient between -10% and +15%. Drift was corrected by inclining the sight bracket by 2 degrees and using 1 knot permanent left deflection when firing 4 CRH shells.

The side position sighting lines were 36 inches above and 41.35 inches abreast the bore, and the central scopes were 36.75 inches above and 42 inches abreast. The side sights had dials and were set from the side, and the central sights had drums and were set from the front. Oddly, the deflection dials were set without use of handwheels or gearing. An arrow etched in her deflection dial at 1 knot right was inscribed, “Zero for sight testing.”

The first shells provided were 2crh until 1915 or 1916 when 4crh shells were supplied. These later shells were more aerodynamically efficient and manufactured to tighter tolerances, yielding an increase in range from 16,450 to 18,850 yards and improving accuracy.

The hydraulic controls in training and elevation were no more agile than in preceding ships, and the inability to smoothly follow a point of aim obviated the goal of continuous aim for the fastest possible salvo firing. Dreadnought used two three-cylinder training engines controlled by a two-position lever for direction and a hand-wheel operated “creep valve” to control the speed of traversal. This clumsy control method was to be superseded by a hand wheel which controlled both functions. Dreadnought received this in a retrofit by November, 1909’. *

‘The secondary armament comprised of twenty-seven 50-calibre 3-inch (76 mm) 12-pounder 18 cwt Mark I guns 《SC22 × 3 in 50 caliber guns, 2 × 3-pounder 47 mm (1.85 in)/40 caliber guns and 8 × 1-pounder 37 mm (1.46 in) guns》. The 12 pdr guns were mounted both within the superstructure and on the turret roofs. The 12-pdrs were never to have directors installed for their use. The guns maximum depression was of −10° and maximum elevation of +20°. They fired a 12.5Ib pound (5.7 kg) shell at a muzzle velocity of 2,600 ft/s (790 m/s), making the weapon technically a 12.5pdr! This allowed a maximum range of 9,300 yd (8,500 m)5.2miles)) and their rate of fire was 15 rounds per minute. The magazines held three hundred rounds for each gun (8100 in total !(?)). The high velocity 12-pdr 18 cwt guns were mounted on P IV* mountings were the similar to those in the Lord Nelson, King Edward VII and Minotaur classes.

The 12-pdr mountings could elevate to 20 degrees and depress to 10 degrees, but though its sight could match the 20 degree elevation. The range dial was only graduated to 14.5 degrees (7,900 yards). This was fine, as there was limited fire control support provided for them and the weapons proved to have little effectiveness at the ranges where torpedo attack became a major concern.

The gear-worked sights were similar to the P IV type, but added a cross-connected trainer’s sight. They had a range gearing constant of 54 and range dials for 2550 fps, 1962 fps, and 1-in and .303-in aiming rifles. The first series produced corrected for MV with detachable cams for 2600, 2575, 2550, 2525 and 2500 fps. The second series replaced these with an adjustable pointer for +/- 50 fps.

The deflection gearing constant was 63.38 with 1 knot equal to 2.96 arc minutes, corresponding to 2600 fps at 2000 yards. Drift was corrected by inclining the sight carrier arm 2 degrees.

The layer’s and trainer’s sight lines were 10 inches above the bore, and 10.25 inches abreast.The sight lacked a “C” corrector. There do not seem to be temperature correctors or open sights. The gun was worked by a crew of six and could fire about 20 rounds per minute’. (*)

The original design had envisaged the dismounting of eight guns on the forecastle and quarterdeck and the ability to have them stowed away on chocks on the deck during the day, in order to avoid blast damage from the main guns. But gun trials in December 1906 were to prove that this was more difficult than had been expected, so the two port guns from the forecastle and the outer starboard gun from the quarterdeck were transferred to turret roof’s, giving each turret two guns. The remaining forecastle guns and the outer port gun from the quarterdeck were to be removed by the end of 1907, which reduced the total number of these weapons to twenty-four guns. During the 1915 refit, the two guns located on the roof of ‘A’ turret were reinstalled back in the original location on the starboard side of the quarterdeck. In 1916 the two guns at the rear of the superstructure were removed, there by reducing the number to twenty-two guns. Two of the quarterdeck guns were fitted onto high-angle Mark IV*C mounts for anti-aircraft use and in 1917 the two guns abreast the conning tower were removed.

In 1915 a pair of QF 6 pounder Hotchkiss AA guns on high-angle mountings were installed on the quarterdeck. They had a maximum depression of 8° and a maximum elevation of 60°, firing a 6Ib (2.7 kg) shell at a muzzle velocity of 1,765 ft/s (538 m/s). The rate of fire was 20 rounds per minute with a maximum ceiling of 10,000 ft (3,000 m), but an limited range of only 1,200 yards (1,100 m). In 1916 a pair of QF 3-inch 20 cwt guns on high-angle Mark II mounts replaced the guns and the new weapons had a maximum depression of 10° and a maximum elevation of 90°. They fired a 12.5Ib (5.7 kg) shell, at a muzzle velocity of 2,500 ft/s (760 m/s) at a rate of 12 to 14 rounds per minute. Their maximum effective ceiling was 23,500 ft (7,200 m). Dreadnought also carried 5 Maxim machine guns.

HMS Dreadnought carried five 18-inch torpedo tubes submerged in three compartments. Each compartment contained two torpedo tubes, one for each broadside. The stern compartment was to only contain one tube. The forward torpedo room was forward of ‘A’ turret’s magazine and the rear torpedo room was aft ‘Y’ turret’s magazine. The stern torpedo compartment shared space with the ships steering gear. Twenty-three Whitehead Mark III* torpedoes were carried and in addition, a further six 14-inch (356 mm) torpedoes were carried for use in the steam picket boats. In 1909 it was decided that Dreadnought would carry 10 heater torpedoes, with six in the forward compartment, two in the aft, and two at the stern tube. The goal, when supplies were available, was to have the ten heaters as either Mark VI* H’s or Mark VI** H’s.

In 1913, it was decided as part of a general reallocation of 18-in torpedoes, to replace the Mark VI** H. or 18-in Mark VI*** H torpedoes on Dreadnought, the Neptune, St. Vincent and Bellerophon classes with the Mark VII* or Mark VI**. The Admiralty had at the same time imposed a limit of gyro angle settings of 20 degrees in the same ships. This restriction was lifted just before the war.The stern tube was removed altogether in 1916 to 1917.

In July 1914 Dreadnought was allocated a 42-foot motor launch No. 258, though the boat was delayed in its delivery from the appointed contractor.

Dreadnought was to be one of the earliest ships vessels of the Royal Navy to be fitted with instruments for electrically transmitting range, order and deflection information directly to the turrets. The control positions for the 12″ guns was located both in the spotting top at the head of the foremast and on a platform on the roof of the signal tower. Information received from a 9-foot Barr and Stroud FQ-2 rangefinder located at each control position was fed into a Dumaresq mechanical computer and electrically sent to a Vickers range clocks located in the Transmitting Station, found beneath each position on the main deck, where it was then converted into range and deflection data for use by the 12″. Traditional voice pipes were retained for use between both the Transmitting Station and control positions. The standard fire control system with navies at this time, was the voice pipe system, through which any changes in range and deflection were yelled into a brass pipe from fire control down to the gunnery crew in the turrets. This proved near to useless in combat where the noise generated made the spoken order impossible to hear.The target’s information was further recorded onto a plotting table to help the gunnery officer with the forecasting of movement for the current target. The turrets, transmitting stations, and control positions could be connected to communicate in almost any combination.

Dreadnought on completion was equipped with two 9-foot Barr and Stroud rangefinders, plus a number of other 9-foot instruments, from the same manufacturer were added through her years of service life.
From 1906 to 1912 she carried a F.Q. 2 on M.P. 2 mounting in fore top, plus a further F.Q. 2 on the same mounting in the signal tower.
Between 1912 and 1915 her rangefinders were one F.Q. 2 on an Argo Mounting in the fore top plus the retained a F.Q. 2 in the signal tower. In addition there was a F.T. 8 on M.G. 3 in “A” turret and one F.Q. 2 on M.N. 1 on the compass platform.
From 1915 to 1918 she carried one F.Q. 2 on Argo Mounting in fore top, five F.T. 8s on M.G. 3s in the turrets (all fitted in1915) and one F.Q. 2 on M.N. 1 on compass platform. There was also one F.Q. 2 on Argo Mounting in fore top, one F.T. 24 on M.G. 3 in “A” turret, four F.T. 8s on M.G. 3s in other turrets and the F.Q. 2 on M.N. 1 on the compass platform.

Traditionally within the Royal Navy, the Officers accommodation was located to the aft of the ship, but on the Dreadnought this tradition was reversed. The result was the officers being closer to their action stations, but this was to prove to be unpopular with them, not least due to the fact they were now nearer the noisy auxiliary machinery, but the turbines made the rear of the ship a much quieter place than it had been in previous classes. This arrangement was to remain as standard through the succeeding dreadnoughts designs, until the advent of the King George V class of 1910. Another improvement was the removal of the longitudinal passageways that ran between compartments below decks. The doors connecting compartments were always closed during battle to prevent the spread of fires and flooding.

Lieutenant Lionel Dawson would later recalled that he found Dreadnought in the time he served in her to be ” a very uncomfortable ship……The mess-decks were small and cramped, and, being aft, most inconvenient for the internal economy of the ship.

She was the first battleship in which the greater part of the officers’ quarters were forward. It was by no means an unqualified advantage. Cabins were small and distributed all over the ship, wherever room could be found for them. My first cabin was in one of the mess-decks aft, and a horrible place it was to live in. From it one had to walk half the length of the ship to the officers’ bathroom. My second was forward, all mixed up with the chain cables and a Diesel engine that provided an auxiliary supply light for the fore part of the ship when necessary, and whose vibrations made life in its vicinity very uncomfortable when it was running. There was a good wardroom forward,very light and airy, and on the upper deck; the Admiral’s quarters, on the deck below, were also good’.

In late 1913, a study on board Dreadnought examining her low humidity in winter, put it down to the ships heating system. An Admiralty Order was issued stating that all mess decks be kept no warmer than 60 degrees Fahrenheit, rather than the previous standard of 70 degrees.

In 1907 firing trials against the obsolete Conqueror class battleship, HMS Hero (1885) were to reveal the system’s potential vulnerability to incoming gunfire. Hero’s spotting top was hit twice and a large splinter severed the voice pipe as well as all wiring running up the mast. To insure against this, Dreadnought’s fire control system was substantially altered during her refits of 1912 &13. The fore-top rangefinder was fitted with a gyro-stabilized Argo mount and both ‘A’ and ‘Y’ turrets were refitted to serve as secondary control positions for all or any portion of 12″ turrets. A further 9 foot rangefinder was installed on the compass platform. ‘A’ turret was also fitted with a 9-foot rangefinder at the rear of the turret roof and a Mark I Dreyer Fire Control Table was installed in the main Transmitting Station. It combined the functions of the Dumaresq and the range clock.

In the years leading up to the war, Fire-control technology developed at a rapid rate and the most important advancement were in the director firing system. This comprised of a fire-control director mounted high in the ship which provided data electrically to the turrets via pointers. The turret crew were trained to follow this inward flow of data. The director layer fired the guns simultaneously, which greatly helped in spotting the fall of the shells and also reduced the effects of the roll than if the guns fired independently and out of sync. A prototype was installed on board Dreadnought in 1909, but it was to be later removed in order to avoid conflict with her duties as flagship to the Home Fleet. Preparations for the installation of a production director were made during her May to June 1915 refit and every turret was to receive a 9-foot rangefinder at the same time. The exact date of the installation of the director is not known, but it was not fitted before the end of 1915, and it most likely to have been installed during her April to June 1916 refit.

Krupp cemented armour, supplied by William Beardmore’s factory in Dalmuir was, in the main, used to armour Dreadnought. Krupp plates were made of nickel chrome steel and were put through a special heating treatment during manufacture. ‘Cementation’ is a process where by the prepared steel plate is placed in a special furnace and the face that is to be ‘cemented’ is put in contact with a special type of carbon, over a long period of time. The temperature is then gradually raised and once ‘cementation’ has taken place, lowered. The plate was then heated once more and immersed quickly into an oil bath, the plate then reheated to a lower temperature this time and then immersed in a water bath. Although it was entitled Krupp Armour, the process for the Dreadnought’s armour was undertaken in Great Britain.

Dreadnought’s waterline belt measured 11 inches (279 mm) in thickness, but it tapered down to 7 inches (178 mm) along at its lower edge. The belt extended from the rear of ‘A’ barbette to the centre of ‘Y’ barbette. Level with ‘A’ turret it reduced for an unknown reason, to 9 inches (229 mm). A extention of 6-inch (152 mm) thickness ran from the ‘A’ barbette forward to the bow and a similar extension of 4″ ran aft to the stern. There was an 8-inch (203 mm) bulkhead angled diagonally inwards from the end of the main belt to the side of ‘X’ barbette, which fully enclosed the armoured citadel at middle deck level. An 8-inch belt lay above the main belt, but it only ran up to the main deck. Dreadnought’s armour at the top of the 11 inch belt was only 2 feet (0.6 m) above the waterline at normal load, but it was submerged by 12 inches plus at deep load. This resulted in the waterline then being protected only by the 8 inch upper belt. The turret sides and faces were armoured to 11 inches, but the turret roofs were of 3 inches Krupp non-cemented armour (KNC). The exposed faces of the barbettes were of 11 inches thickness, but the inner faces was only 8 inches thick above the main deck. ‘X’ barbette’s was of 8 inches all around. Below the main deck, the barbettes’ armour thinned down to four inches, except for ‘A’ barbette which was eight inches and ‘Y’ turret which remained at 11 inches thickness. The thickness of the main deck varied from 0.75 to 1 inch (19 to 25 mm). The middle deck was of 1.75 inches (44 mm) thickness along the flat and 2.75 inches (70 mm) where it sloped down to meet with the bottom edge of the main belt. Over the magazines for ‘A’ and ‘Y’ turrets the armour was 3 inches thick, on both the slope and flat. The lower deck armour was 1.5 inches (38 mm) forward and 2 inches aft, and increased to 3 inches from there to protect the steering gear.

The conning tower sides were 11 inches thick and it to had a 3-inch roof of KNC. It had a communications tube of 8 inch walls made from mild steel which ran down to the transmitting Station on the middle deck. The walls of the signal tower were 8 inches thick and it had a roof of 3 inches of KNC armour. Two inch torpedo bulkheads were located level with the magazines and shell rooms of ‘A’, ‘X’ and ‘Y’ turrets, but this then increased to 4 inches when level with ‘P’ and ‘Q’ turrets to compensate for their outboard locations.

As was normal in that period, Dreadnought was fitted with anti-torpedo nets, but these were later to be removed early in the war, since they were the cause of a loss of some considerable speed and were to easily penetrated by torpedoes fitted with net-cutters.

Her electrical power was produced from three 100 kW, 100 V dc Siemens generators, which were powered by two Brotherhood steam and two Mirrlees diesel engines, but this system was later amended to three steam and one diesel. The 15 and 100 volt powered, among other things, five lifts, eight coaling winches, ventilation fans, pumps, lighting and telephone systems.

The ship’s final bill was £1,785,683, ( £199,247,661@2016)(other sources state £1,783,883. and £1,672,483). The hull cost £844,784 (£94,261,543@2016), and the propelling, along with other machinery, cost £319,585, (£35,659,500@2016). Her hull fittings, gun mountings, and torpedo tubes were £390,145 (£43,532,630@2016)in total and incidental charges ran to £117,969 (£13,163,057@2016). The all important guns cost £113,200m(£12,630,929@2016). As a side note, Dreadnought he was slightly cheaper to maintain than the Lord Nelson class due to not needing to carry and maintain two different calibre of shells.


Dreadnought was to be the sixth ship of the Royal Navy to bear the name. In an effort to achieve Fisher’s goal of building the ship in record time, materials were stockpiled in advance and a great deal of prefabrication was done from May 1905 onwards. Approximately six thousand man weeks-of-work were undertaken prior to the keel being laid down on 2 October 1905 on No.5 Slip, HM Dockyard, Portsmouth, which then had a reputation as the fastest shipbuilding shipyard in the world. The slip was screened from prying eyes and rumours were circulated that the design was in fact no different from that of any than other battleships.

By the time she was laid down £12,217 (£1,363,180@2016) had been spent on labour. £29,078 (£3,244,542@2016) had been spent on materiel and 1,100 men were already employed in her creation, but that number increased rapidly to reach 3,000. On previous ships the shipyard had worked a 48-hour week, but with the Dreadnought the working week increased to a 69-hours, six day week. Work started at 6.00 and ran to 18.00, which included compulsory overtime, and with only a thirty minute break for lunch. Double shifting was even considered in an effort to ease the long hours which were not unsurprisingly unpopular with the men, but labour shortages made this impossible.

By Day 6 (7 October) the first of the bulkheads and most of the middle deck beams were in place. By Day 20 the forward part of the bow was in position and the hull plating was well underway. By Day 55 all of the upper deck beams were in place and by day 83 the upper deck plates were in position. Day 125 (4 February) saw the hull finished.

On the 10th February 1906, Dreadnought was christened with a bottle of Australian wine by King Edward VII after only four months on the slipway. The bottle was to require a number of attempts before it finally shattered on the bow. Given the importance of the ship the launch had been planned as a large elaborate festive event, but the court was still in mourning for Queen Alexandra’s father, who had died twelve days before. The Queen did not attend and a more sober event took place.

Her fitting out took place at No 15 dock in the Portsmouth yard and on 1 October 1906 steam was raised for the first time. She went out to sea on 3 October 1906 for two days of trials at Devonport, only a year and a day after her keel being laid down.

On the 9 October 1906 she undertook an eight hour full power contractors trial off Polperro on the east Cornwell Coast, during which she was to average between 20.05 and 21.6 knots on the measured mile. She then returned to Portsmouth for her gun and torpedo trials, before undertaking her final fitting out, (she had officially’ been completed in October 1906). On the 11th December 1906 she was commissioned into the fleet, only fifteen months after being laid down.

In 1906 on Dreadnoughts commissioning into the Royal Navy, Britain held a lead of 25 first class battleships, over the navies of the countries. But with the commissioning of Dreadnought, the gap was reduced to that of one ship. All other first class battleships became ‘Pre-Deadnought’ vessels, (we forget to easily that before dreadnoughts there were only battleships. But with her commissioning the term pre-dreadnought came into the languages of the world).

The traditional suggestion that Dreadnoughts building time had been sped up by the use guns and turrets designed for the Lord Nelson-class battleships is not borne out as both guns and turrets were not ordered until July 1905. It is more likely that that Dreadnought’s turrets and guns merely received higher priority than those of the two Nelson class pre-dreadnoughts.

Dreadnought was to sail for the Mediterranean Sea in December 1906, (calling in at Arosa Bay in Spain, Gibraltar and Golfo d’Aranci Sardinia) for extensive trials. Following her time in the Mediterranean she crossed the Atlantic to Port of Spain in Trinidad during January 1907, then returning to Portsmouth on the 23 March 1907. During this time both engines and guns underwent a thorough workout by Captain Reginald Bacon, (Bacon was Fisher’s former Naval Assistant and in addition a member of the Committee on Designs). In his report he was to state, ‘No member of the Committee on Designs dared to hope that all the innovations introduced would have turned out as successfully as had been the case.’ Over this cruise she was to averaged 17 knots, and was only slowed by a damaged rudder. The speed was an unprecedented high-speed performance. The shakedown cruise was to reveal several issues that were to be dealt with in her subsequent refits. Her steering engines were replaced and cooling machinery installed to reduce the temperature levels in her magazines, (cordite degrading more quickly at high temperatures). The most important issue, which was never to be addressed, was that the location of her foremast behind the forward funnel. This resulted in the spotting top being in the plume of hot exhaust gases, much to the detriment of her fighting ability.

On 5th August 1907, His Majesty, king Edward VII, joined by Her Majesty Queen Alexandra, The Prince of Wales, Princess Victoria, Prince Edward of Wales and the Duke of Connaught visited the Dreadnought while she was moored at Spithead. Their Majesties were received on board by the Board of the Admiralty, Vice-Admiral Sir Francis Bridgeman, commanding the home fleet, and Captain R. H. Bacon, who commanded the ship. With the Royal Standard flying over the ship the royal party toured the battleship, and then from a distance were treated to a demonstration of the main calibre firing. They also saw a series of exercises performed by the Submarine Flotilla. From 1907 to 1911 Dreadnought was to serve as the flagship to the Royal Navy’s Home Fleet.

In 1910, Dreadnought attracted the attention of the then notorious hoaxer Horace de Vere Cole. The idea behind the ‘Dreadnought hoax’ was suggested to Cole by a friend who was serving as an officer on board HMS Hawke, in an effort to embarrass their rivals on Dreadnought. Virginia Woolf was to recount later, ‘In those days the young officers had a gay time. They were always up to some lark, and one of their chief occupations it seemed was to play jokes on each other. There were a great many rivalries and intrigues in the navy. The officers like scoring off each other. And the officers of the Hawke and the Dreadnought had a feud. … Cole’s friend who was on the Hawke had come to Cole, and said to him, ‘You’re a great hand at hoaxing people; couldn’t you do something to pull the leg of the Dreadnought?’ Cole also decided on Dreadnought because at that time she was the most prominent and a visible symbol of Britain’s naval power.

The group comprised Cole and five friends, among whom was writer Virginia Stephen (later Virginia Woolf), her brother Adrian Stephen, (Commander Willie Fisher, Stephens’ cousin was serving on Dreadnought on the staff of the Admiral). As Virginia Woolf wrote later, ‘Guy Ridley, Anthony Buxton and artist Duncan Grant, who all disguised themselves with outfits from the theatrical costumer Willy Clarkson with skin darkeners and turbans to resemble members of the Abyssinian royal family. The main problem they encountered with their disguises was that the “royal party” could not eat anything or their make-up would be ruined. Adrian Stephen undertook the role of the “interpreter”.

On 7 February 1910 Cole sent a telegram to Dreadnought which was at that time moored in Portland Harbour, Dorset. The telegram required that the ship should be made ready for a visit of a party of Abyasinan princes, and was supposedly signed by the Foreign Office Under-secretary Sir Charles Hardinge.

Cole and his group traveled to London’s Paddington station where Cole announced that he was “Herbert Cholmondeley” of the Foreign Office and demanded that a special train to Weymouth be provided for their use. The stationmaster duly arranged for a VIP coach for the party.

On their arrival in Weymouth, the navy formally welcomed the princes with an honour guard. An Abyssinian flag could not be found, so the navy made use of an Zanzibar and to play Zanzibar’s national anthem. The party inspected the fleet and to show their appreciation, they communicated in a gibberish language comprised of Latin and Greek words. They requested prayer mats and even attempted to award fake military honours on the officers. Commander Fisher failed to recognise either of his cousins.

On the party’s return to London, Cole sent a photo of the ‘princes’ to the Daily Mirror. The pacifist views of the group were a source of embarrassment, and the Royal Navy briefly became an object of ridicule. The Admiralty demanded that Cole should be arrested, but unfortunately for the navy neither Cole or his accomplices had broken any laws. During the ‘official’ visit to Dreadnought, the group repeatedly showed amazement or appreciation of the ship by using the phrase “Bunga Bunga!”. The ships crew were greeted with cries of “Bunga, Bunga” wherever they went ashore. One newspaper suggested that the Dreadnought change its name to the Abyssinian. Humiliated and furious, the Navy sent the ship out to sea until the episode blew over. It wanted to press formal charges against the pranksters, but the idea was dropped for fear that it would simply attract further publicity to the case. Finally a more informal punishment was agreed upon. In the style of British boarding-schools, the participants (though not Virginia Stephen) were each symbolically tapped on their buttocks with a cane. In 1915 (spoiler alert!) during the war, Dreadnought was to ram and sink a U-boat and among the telegrams of congratulation was one that read “BUNGA BUNGA”.

On 27 July, 1910, King George V visited the Dreadnought and the Home Fleet once more, but this time off Torbay. For two days Dreadnought, then under the command of Captain Herbert Richmond, flying the flag of Admiral Sir William H. May, C-in-C of the Home Fleet, went to sea on exercises. The King was happy to to go to sea over the 27th and 28th. Whilst he was on board, the Royal Standard flew once again from the Dreadnought’s mast.

In March 1911 HMS Neptune replaced Dreadnought as fleet flagship to the Home Fleet and she was reassigned to the 1st Division of the Fleet. In June 1911 she was present at King George V’s Coronation Fleet Review off Spithead.

In December 1912 Dreadnought was to become the flagship to the 4th Battle Squadron, following her release from the 1st Battle Squadron, as the 1st Division had been renamed earlier in the year. From September to December 1913 she was busy under going training in the Mediterranean Sea. Then on the outbreak of the war in 1914, she was became the flagship of the 4th Battle Squadron in the North Sea, based with the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. She was relieved as flagship on 10 December 1914 by HMS Benbow.

On March 10 1915, U 29 departed from Zeebrugge on her first patrol under the command of Otto Weddigen, (earlier in the conflict Weddigen had gained notoriety with the sinking of the British armored cruisers, HMS Aboukir , HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy). On reaching it’s operational area in the Irish Sea U29 sank four ships totalling 12,934 GRT, over the next few days. On her voyage home, passing around Scotland, U 29 arrived east off the Pentland Firth (between the Scottish mainland and the Orkney Islands) on March 18. The Grand Fleet was on its way back to Scapa Flow, when U 29 fired, and missed, at HMS Neptune. In the process her periscope was spotted by Dreadnought lookouts. Weddigen failed to dive the boat in time and at 13.40 the dreadnought sliced the German boat in two, after a short chase during which she almost collided with HMS Temeraire. U 29’s forecastle briefly broke the surface before U 29 sank and Otto Weddigen and his entire crew were lost. It was the only time during the war Dreadnought was to see combat. Ironically, the number of dreadnoughts sunk by submarine in World War I is smaller than the number of submarines sunk by Dreadnought.

During 18 April to 22 June 1916 Dreadnought was refitted at Portsmouth and as a result was to miss the Battle of Jutland on 31 May. Following the refits completion, on the 9th July she became flagship of the 3rd Battle Squadron, based at Sheerness on the Thames. The 3rd Battle Squadron, comprising mainly of pre-dreadnoughts was intended to counter the threat of shore bombardment by German battlecruisers. The 3rd squadron had only been moved to Sheerness in May 1916, following the German raid on Lowestoft, on 25 April 1916. The raid had seen the High Seas Fleet shell the east coast without any interference from the Grand Fleet. During her time in Sheerness Dreadnought was to fire her AA guns in the defence of London as German aircraft passed over her. In March 1918 she returned to the Grand Fleet, resuming her role as flagship of the Fourth Battle Squadron. In July 1918 she was decommissioned to begin another refit.

But with the war coming to an end, she was decommissioned on 7 August 1918 and went into the Reserve fleet at Devonport, being moved to Rosyth on 25 February 1919. She was to recommission there as the tender Hercules, to act as a parent ship for the Reserve.

On the 31st March 1920, after just fourteen years service, Dreadnought was put up for sale. Thos W Ward brought her on the 9th May 1921, as one of the 113 ships that the firm purchased at a flat rate of ₤2.50 per ton, later being reduced to ₤2.20 per ton. With the Dreadnought assessed at 16,650 tons she was to cost the shipbreaker ₤36,630, though another source states ₤44,750. She was broken up at Thos W Ward’s premises at Inverkeithing, Scotland, upon arrival on 2 January 1923. She survived Baron Fisher (who had taken “Fear god and dread nought” on his family’s coat of arms) by three years.

During her fourteen years Dreadnought under went a number of refits:
1908-1909: Main T.S. moved from middle deck to lower deck, old space being made into a plotting room.
1912-1913: Turrets provided with local control transmitters in the officer’s position.
Turrets “A” & “Y” configured as alternate control positions.[98]
30 APRIL 1913: 9-foot F.T. 8 rangefinder added to “A” turret (with range transmitter).
9-foot F.Q. 2 rangefinder added to compass platform.
2 APRIL 1914: Evershed Bearing Indicators added to fore top
7 JUNE 1915: Fore top rebuilt to receive director tower
36-in searchlight platforms added to foremast struts
9-foot F.T. 8 R.F.s added to “P”, “Q”, “X”, and “Y” turrets
Bridge wings removed
Searchlight control gear installation begins
Open sights added to all turrets
12-pdr guns removed from “A” turret and placed on quarterdeck
Two 6-pdr H.A. guns added to quarterdeck
Aft control position atop signal tower removed.
M6id 1916: (By May 25th) torpedo nets removed
Director for her main battery added to roof of fore top
given a Dreyer Table Mark I in main T.S.[100]
Late 1916: 6-pdr H.A. guns replaced by two 3-in H.A. guns
27 JANUARY 1917: Extra 0.75 to 1-in armor added to middle deck over magazines
19 AUGUST 1917: Anti-flash scuttles added to magazine doors
Type 16 W/T installed in former Lamp Room
Four 36-in searchlights replace main top with control position underneath
Stern torpedo tube removed
Upper 12-pdr magazine converted into T.S.
Two 12-pdrs on quarterdeck converted to H.A. mountings
Pedestal for Evershed equipment added in fore bridge
Bearing indicators added to 3-in and 12-pdr H.A. guns
Henderson gear being added to director
Adding a Sperry gyrocompass
1917: Deflection scales painted on “A” and “Y”
1917-1918: Semaphore machine on bridge removed
1 June 1918: Converted upper 12-pdr magazine to Type 31 W/T room
31 DECEMBER 1918: Wind screen added to director tower
Turrets get open director sights
Open trainer’s sight added to director canopy
“A” turret’s F.T. 8 R.F. replaced by 9-foot F.T. 24
Henderson gear and Sperry gyro completely installed
Argo R.F. moved to aft end of fore top, able to train all around
Aircraft flying platforms added to “A” and “Y”
New 36-in searchlights installed
Also, in September 1914, the ship was to be sent eight 3/9 power telescopes and to return the same number of 2.5 power scopes, Pattern G. 329 upon their receipt. These were most likely to have served as trainer telescopes. Constrained supplies meant that 26% of the scopes actually supplied her may have wound up being 5/12 or 5/21 scopes. (Source John Roberts)

It’s interesting to wonder what the modern battleships would have been called if another ship had preceded Dreadnought. Would the navies of the world have come to call their battleships “South Carolinas” or “Satsumas”? Maybe unlikely as “Dreadnought” has just the right ring of menace for a revolutionary warship.

(Dates of appointment are provided when known).
Captain Reginald H. S. Bacon, 2 July, 1906
Captain Charles E. Madden, 12 August, 1907 – 1 December, 1908
Captain Charles Bartolomé, 1 December, 1908– 24 February, 1909
Captain A. Gordon H. W. Moore, 1 December, 1908 – 30 July, 1909
Captain Herbert W. Richmond, 30 July, 1909 – 4 April, 1911
Captain Sydney R. Fremantle, 28 March, 1911 – 17 December, 1912
Captain Wilmot S. Nicholson, 17 December, 1912 – 1 July, 1914
Captain William J. S. Alderson, 1 July, 1914 – 19 July, 1916
Captain John W. L. McClintock, 19 July, 1916 – 1 December, 1916 (and as Flag Captain from Vice-Admiral de Robeck hoisting his flag)
Captain Arthur C. S. H. D’Aeth, 1 December, 1916 (Sidney Robert Drury-Lowe may have been loaned here on 1 December, as well)
Captain Thomas E. Wardle, January, 1918 – 20 April, 1918
Captain Harold B. Bedwell, 7 February, 1918 – 20 April, 1918 (temporary? Had been navigator since 8 December, 1916)
Captain Maurice S. FitzMaurice, 20 April, 1918 – 5 October, 1918
Captain Robert H. Coppinger, 25 February, 1919 – 31 March, 1920 (and, from 16 December, in charge of ships for disposal in the Scottish Command)

www. (*)
1907 Jane’s Fighting Ships
From Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, A Marder. Volume 1.
The Sight Manual, 1916


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  1. Regarding the Dreadnought’s armour plating, how were the “plates” attached to the ship’s steel “framework”. The thickness of the armour plates seem to preclude the use of rivets ?


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