Dreadnought Class (1906) BB 

This HMS Dreadnought was the first battleship to have turbines, for increased speed. The first to have four screws and twin rudders, with the rudders in line with the inboard screws. Carried both coal and oil to fuel her boilers. Her main armament was of only one gun size, and as many guns of that size as possible were mounted in turrets, to increase the weight of salvo fire. Had reduced secondary armament enough to combat destroyers. Carried very comprehensive water-tight sub-division 

She was so revolutionary and successful that battleships of all countries which were built to older designs were known as 'Pre-dreadnoughts'. Those which followed her design were known as 'Dreadnoughts', or later, as size continued to increase, 'Super-dreadnoughts'.

She made all previous battleships obsolescent, and sparked an unprecedented battleship building race for all countries which had pretensions to naval greatness.

Dreadnought's design was primarily the result of improvements in gunnery. The early 1900's showed that fighting ranges began to be about 8,000 yards as against the 2-3,000 yards engagement ranges of battleships of the late 1800's. 
Also the torpedo threat was another factor which pushed engagement ranges out to 8,000 yards. If enemy battleships fired torpedoes then a ship was safely out of range at 8,000 yards. If destroyers were the threat then they would have to advance a long way outside the immediate protection of their own Fleet in order to attack.
Another factor was that, at 8,000 yards guns of about 6-9in would probably inflict only limited damage on a well-armoured battleship.

The requirement therefore was to obtain damaging hits with heavy guns at ranges about 8,000 yards. With the methods of gunnery control at that time this only had a reasonable chance of success by using salvo fire.

This was because, with salvo fire;
a) The more shells fired at the same time, the greater the chance of obtaining a single hit.
b) The fall of shot could be observed and corrections made.
c) Effective salvo fire required as many guns as possible to be fired together and for all the guns to be of the same size.


So future battleships would require main armament all of the same size, and mount as many guns as possible of that size,

Having decided on the main armament, secondary armament need only counter a single threat, that of destroyers. It was decided that 12pdrs would be sufficient to counter them. 


Speed was recognised as being vital in any engagement. Superior speed meant an enemy could be chased and brought to battle. It also gave the ability to control the range at which the action was fought, and so maintain the tactical advantage. So steam turbine propulsion was used. 

Armour protection

The height of armour protection along the ships side was reduced, because even at ranges of 8,000 yards, trajectories would be almost flat, so protection against plunging fire was of less importance.

Water-tight sub-division

Very comprehensive water-tight sub-division was adopted. With solid bulkheads to a point well above the water line. Water tight doors were seen as a weakness and were not fitted. So movement from one compartment to another was up, along and down.  The use of oil fuel during an action was what made this design possible. If coal was used during an action, passages would have had to be kept open between coal bunkers and the boiler rooms, reducing sub-division integrity.
However Coal was still carried as coal supplies were easier to maintain, Britain was a major coal producer, and coaling stations were well established around the world. Also the oil industry was in its infancy, oil fields were a considerable distance from Britain, and more subject to disruption.

Other improvements

Other smaller improvements were also made such as mounting the control position high up on a tripod mast which would remain standing even if one leg was shot away.


The combination of all the improvements. Some of which were natural progressions from previous designs, some of which were radical and bold departures from before. Gave a design which made all previous battleships obsolescent and, set a standard for all battleships to come.


Other HMS Dreadnought
- 1st  HMS Dreadnought
- 2nd HMS Dreadnought
- 3rd HMS Dreadnought
- 4th HMS Dreadnought
- 5th HMS Dreadnought
- 6th HMS Dreadnought
- 7th HMS Dreadnought
- 8th HMS Dreadnought
- 9th HMS Dreadnought
- 10th HMS Dreadnought 

- Dreadnought Class (1906) BB
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Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.

This page last edited - 11 January, 2013.