British Battleship Classes of the First World War

Introduction
Pre-Dreadnoughts
Dreadnoughts

Introduction

The Royal Navy’s battle fleet in 1914 could be divided into two very distinct types of battleship. In 1905 Great Britain had had a fleet of fifty modern first class battleships, most capable of reaching 18 knots and carrying four 12in guns, with the most recent ships adding 9.2in guns to the mix.

In 1906 the completion of the Dreadnaught made that fleet effectively obsolete. The powerful Lord Nelson class ships would be obsolescent even before they had been completed. The Dreadnaught was bigger, faster and better armed than any other battleship then in existence. Her turbine engines meant she could reach 21kts while her ten 12in guns gave her the firepower of two and a half pre-dreadnaughts.

Every existing battleship became a pre-dreadnought, every new ship would be a dreadnought or super-dreadnought. The same would be true for every other country with a powerful navy, many of whom had been working on similar ships before the Dreadnaught was completed. The transformation was just as complete as that triggered by the appearance of the ironclad warship during the 1860s.
 
The resulting dreadnaught race played a significant role in increasing the tension between Britain and Germany in the years before the First World War. When that war finally broke out the massive fleets of dreadnaughts produced disappointing results. They were simply too large, too expensive and increasingly too vulnerable to cheap weapons such as the mine or the torpedo to be risked without a good cause. The only real clash between the British and German battle fleets, the battle of Jutland, was an inconclusive clash that satisfied nobody.

Pre-Dreadnoughts

Name

Size

Speed

Biggest guns

Built

Ships

Majestic

14,820t

17kts

4x12in

1896-1898

9

Canopus

13,150t

18kts

4x12in

1897-1902

6

Formidable

14,500t

18kts

4x12in

1898-1902

3

London

14,500t

18kts

4x12in

1899-1904

5

Duncan

13,400-13,745t

19kts

4x12in

1901-1904

6

King Edward VII

15,610-15,885t

18.5kts

4x12in, 4x9.2in

1903-1907

8

Swiftsure

11,800-11,985t

19kts

4x10in

1903-1904

2

Lord Nelson

15,925-16,090t

18kts

4x12in, 10x9.2in

1906-1908

2

Dreadnoughts

Name

Size

Speed

Biggest guns

Built

Ships

Dreadnought

21,845t

21kts

10x12in

1906

1

Bellerophon

22,102t

20.75kts

10x12in

1907-1909

3

St. Vincent

23,030t

21kts

10x12in

1908-1910

3

HMS Neptune

22,720t

21kts

10x12in

1909-1911

1

Colossus

23,050t

21kts

10x12in

1910-1011

2

Orion

25,870t

21kts

10x13.5in

1911-1912

4

King George V

25,700t

21kts

10x13.5in

1911-1913

4

Iron Duke

29,560t

21.25kts

10x13.5in

1912-1914

4

Queen Elizabeth

31,500t

23kts

8x15in

1913-1916

5

Revenge/ Royal Sovereign

31,000t

23kts

8x15in

1914-1917

5

HMS Erin

25,250t

21kts

10x13.5in

1913-1914

1

HMS Agincourt

30,250t

22kts

14x12in

1913-1914

1

HMS Canada

32,120t

22.75kts

10x14in

1913-1915

1

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (9 September 2007), British Battleship Classes of the First World War , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/lists_batteship_classes_WWI.html

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