HMS Dreadnought


H.M.S. Dreadnought was a battleship of the Royal Navy whose design had a revolutionary impact on all navies of the world and whose construction led to an arms race of warships that in no small part contributed to the start of The Great War. Dreadnought was the brainchild of Admiral “Jacky” Fisher who became First Sea Lord in 1904. She was the first all-big-gun battleship to be laid down, launched, and commissioned. Her design also featured the novel elements of turbine propulsion and rendered all other battleships building or in service obsolescent, thus lending her name to an entire generation of all-big-gun warships.

The flagship of the Mediterranean fleet, HMS Marlborough at anchor in the Grand Harbour of Valletta, Malta, sometime between 1858 and 1864. It seems incredible that just 150 years ago it was these wooden walls which still ruled the seas, but things were changing. In 1860, HMS Warrior, the first true iron-hulled warship, now at Portsmouth, revolutionised everything. Within another 10 years, HMS Devastation again made an immeasurable leap forward, making all before her obsolete. It’s a story of technological progress at a remarkable pace, all paving the way to Dreadnought within just 40 years.

‘Past & Present’

While the date of the photograph is unclear one HMS Dreadnought’s presence in Portsmouth places it between 1907 when she was launched and 1911 when she ended her tenure as Flagship of the Home Fleet and transferred to the First Battle Division.  

The photographs’s caption dates HMS Victory as '1805’ this is in fact incorrect as by 1805 Victory would already have been in service for 40 years.  Instead the date probably refers to Victory’s most notable action, the Battle of Trafalgar.  
These photographs from the early 20th century are marvelous as they show Victory still afloat and allows her to be compared to the then state of the art new battleships.  During the first few years of the 20th Century Victory was still in use as a Signal School which operated from 1889 to 1904, sadly after 1906 she was left dormant at her mornings with not official use, it would not be until the 1920s when she was saved from dereliction.  You can see on her deck, just behind the foremast, a large wooden hut built upon her deck.  That was a Telegraphy room and mast which was a part of the Signal School. 

HMS Dreadnought saw action during World War One becoming the only Dreadnought class ship to sink a submarine but was decommissioned in 1919 and scrapped in the early 1920s.  Just as the public campaign to save HMS Victory gathered pace.  Victory is still in commision today, restored to her former glory, but sadly not afloat.  She has seen more than a dozen generations of warship evolve and eventually be surpassed.  

More on HMS Victory

More on HMS Dreadnought

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HMS Dreadnought: The Only Battleship Ever To Sink a Submarine

HMS Dreadnought is perhaps best known for being the catalyst of a naval arms race between Britain and Germany during the early 1900s. The Dreadnought far outclassed every vessel that proceeded her, when she was commissioned in 1906 she instantly became the world’s most powerful battleship.  With increased armour, revolutionary fire control systems and huge 12-inch guns, she became the pride of the nation.  

However, while being one of the most powerful ships in the world she in reality saw very little action during WWI.  She was refitting during the great Battle of Jutland and never fired in anger against a comparable adversary.  Her only real action took place on 18th March 1915 when she sank SM U-29 in the Pentland Firth, near the Royal Navy’s base at Scapa Flow.  U-29 had made a torpedo run against one of Dreadnought’s squadron mates HMS Neptune and surfaced dead ahead of Dreadnought’s bow.   Dreadnought immediately went all ahead flank speed and rammed U-29 amidships, slicing the U-Boat in two, she sank within minutes, with the loss of all hands.

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 U-29 was a U-27 Class U-Boat (see above starboard side profile).

Never again would a battleship engage and sink a submarine, submarine hunting became the preserve of destroyers and fleet escorts during WWII.  These ships were increasingly armed with equipment specifically designed to find and destroy submarines, such as radar and depth charges. 

After the end of the war HMS Dreadnought was placed in reserve in 1919 and offered up for scrap in 1921.  Dreadnought’s military legacy is unquestioned, not only was she revolutionary in design she was also the only Battleship ever to sink an enemy submarine in action.

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Fleet Analysis - HMS Dreadnought

You can’t talk about naval warfare without talking about HMS Dreadnought, because this bad boy started a part of naval warfare that lasted for four decades, and through two world wars. Dreadnought and it’s ideas might be forgotten now, but naval warfare wouldn’t be the same without it. What is HMS Dreadnought? Let’s have a look.


Battleships up to 1900 all had the same idea going for them. Take, for instance, the Canopus-class battleship. It had a displacement of 13,000 long tons, did 18 knots, and had just four 12-inch guns in two dual turrets. But, it also had twelve 6-inch guns and ten 3-inch guns. Pre-dreadnought battleships had a larger emphasis on smaller weapons than the main battery, and four heavy guns was a privilege at this time. This was a trait carried on from the ship-of-the-line era, where it was deemed more important to fit as many guns as possible onto the ship, regardless of the total damage the guns could actually do.

HMS Dreadnought changed this. Commissioned in 1906, Dreadnought changed everything from the past battleships from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Firstly, the Dreadnought had ten 12-inch guns in 5 twin turrets, as well as 27 3-inch guns. It had a displacement of 20,000 long tons, and could do 21 knots, while also had twelve inches of armour. It had three turrets along the centre line and one on either side of the ship, giving it a broadside of eight 12-inch guns. It was extremely powerful, having more guns, thicker armour and a faster speed than every other battleship in the world.

Dreadnought sparked what is now known as the dreadnought races, where other nations began rapidly building dreadnoughts now that all of their capital ships were effectively obsolete. Between 1906 and 1914, the Royal Navy constructed and commissioned eight new classes of battleships. Britain was pumping out a battleship every three months. This also brought about new advancements, and by the time World War One started, HMS Dreadnought was already obsolete.

Dreadnought served through World War One, but never participated in a single naval battle. She underwent a refit during the Battle of Jutland, and was then relegated to coastal defence until the war ended. She was sent to reserve in 1919, and scrapped in 1921. She did, however, gain the title of being the only battleship to ever sink a submarine, when she rammed the German submarine SM U-29 after it attacked another dreadnought and broke surface.


Dreadnought was monstrous in it’s armament for it’s time. The class that came before it, the Lord Nelson-class, had four 12-inch guns in two dual turrets; HMS Dreadnought has ten guns of the same size. Dreadnought also had twenty-seven 3-inch guns (imagine a broadside where fifteen Sherman tanks were shooting at you all at once) and five 18-inch torpedoes. Dreadnought’s armament was the one thing that remained dangerous even when other ships outclassed her other features. The Royal Navy didn’t expand on this armament until the Orion-class of 1912, which used ten 13.5-inch guns. Orion was the first “super-dreadnought”.

Dreadnought was also quicker than the Lord Nelson-class, going at 21 knots to Lord Nelson’s 18 knots. While 21 knots was slow compared to the later fast battleships and battlecruisers, it was thought insane that a battleship of 1906 could achieve such a speed.

Dreadnought also had better armour. While the thickness was the same as on the Lord Nelson-class, the armour was often angled and sloped increasing the chance that shells would simply bounce off the armour, doing no damage to the ship. Long story short, Dreadnought was to 1906 what the Yamato was to 1941.


You probably get the message by now: HMS Dreadnought was the best ship of it’s time when first constructed. Every other warship in the world was made obsolete by it, especially other battleships, and while it was out of date by the time World War One started, it could have still posed a serious threat to it’s German rivals, which it like created. Therefore, the Dreadnought gets a rating of 9/10 for me. What a bloody good ship!