Little Bits of History

February 10

Posted in History by patriciahysell on February 10, 2017

1906: HMS Dreadnought is launched. The Royal Navy battleship was a game changer, caused a paradigm shift at the time she was commissioned, and came to be associated with an entire generation of battleships as well as a class of ships. Dreadnought has been used for many ships of the Royal Navy and this was the sixth such named one. Admiral Sir John “Jacky” Fisher, First Sea Lord of the Board of the Admiralty, called for an entire reworking of the battleships of his time. He insisted the guns be uniform and large, 12-inch or 305 mm. He also wanted a top speed of 21 knots (39 km/h or 24 mph). Fisher, the father of the design, convened a Committee of Designs which not only helped to lay out the new ship, but helped protect the Admiralty from charges of insider work. With this group of experts, no one could charge they did not consult them.

Dreadnought was the first ship to have a uniform main battery rather than large guns supplemented by a second battery of smaller guns. She was also the first capital ship (these are the most important ships owned by any Navy) to be powered by steam turbines which also made her the fastest ship of her day. On this day, competing navies were put on notice as the stakes had now been raised. A naval arms race began as other nations beefed up their navies in preparation for what would become World War I. She was also one of the first ships of the Royal Navy to be fitted with instruments for electrically transmitting data (range, order, and deflection) to the turrets for more accurate firing.

The 527 foot ship displaced 18,120 long tons with a normal load and 20,730 long tons with a deep load. She was 82 feet at the beam and need 29 feet, 7.5 inches of water to sail when at sea with a deep load. Her Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers turned the four-shaft Parsons direct-drive steam turbine to unprecedented speeds. Her range was 7,620 miles at 10 knots. It took a crew of 700-810 to completely man the ship. Dreadnought became the only battleship to sink a submarine in March 1915 when she rammed the German U-boat, SM U-29 which was confirmed sunk. She was refitted in 1916 and road out the rest of the war but was put on coastal defense in the English Channel.

Fisher wanted the new ship built in a year and to that end, material was stockpiled in advance. As much prefabrication as possible was also done before she was officially laid down on October 2, 1905. Dreadnought was built at HM Dockyard, Portsmouth, considered to be the fastest building shipyard in the world. She was Christened with a bottle of Australian wine. On this day, King Edward VII launched the ship after only four months (taking several tries to smash the wine bottle). She was commissioned on December 2, 1906, only fifteen months after she was laid down. It cost £1,783,883 (£195,651,683 inflation-adjusted to 2016) to build. The ship was decommissioned in 1919 and sold for scrap in 1923.

The Royal Navy of England hath ever been its greatest defense and ornament; it is its ancient and natural strength; the floating bulwark of the island. – William Blackstone

In the Navy, the path is paved for you. Your job is to be a soldier and fit in. As long as you stick to your place, it’s actually really easy. – Kiesza

I don’t go anywhere without clean shoes. That’s one thing I’ve got from the navy. – Mark Hadlow

Before the BBC, I joined the Navy in order to travel. – David Attenborough

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