Bellerophon class battleships

The three Bellerophon class ships were the first British battleships built after HMS Dreadnought made all earlier battleships obsolete. To speed up their construction they were virtual copies of the Dreadnought, with a few minor changes to remove the biggest flaws in the earlier design. Like the Dreadnought they were turbine powered, and carried their ten 12in guns in five turrets, three on the centre line and two on either side of the superstructure, allowing them to fire an eight gun broadside.

Plans of HMS Dreadnought
Plans of HMS Dreadnought

The two biggest flaws with the Dreadnought had been her weak secondary armament of 12pdr (3in) guns and the position of her tripod mast and gunnery spotting platform just behind the forward funnel. At high speed the platform filled with smoke and became very hot.

The first of these problems was solved by replacing the 12pdr guns with 4in guns. The second was partially solved by moving the existing tripod mast in front of the forward funnel. A second mast was added, in front of the rear funnel, but this was prone to be steamed out in action.

The Bellerophon class ships were modified several times during the war. In 1915 they were given more powerful radio equipment, which allowed a reduction in the height of the topmasts. In 1916 those 4in guns which were on the turret roofs were moved into the superstructure. In 1917 they gained two antiaircraft guns, one 4in and one 3in. Finally, in 1918 they were given aircraft platforms over their “A” and “Y” turrets, allowing them to carry a Sopwith Pup and a Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter.

The three Bellerophon class ships spent almost the entire First World War serving with the 4th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet (Superb began the war with the 1st Battle Squadron, but was moved in 1915). They were all present at the battle of Jutland, taking part in the brief battleship phase of the battle. None of them suffered any casualties in the battle.

HMS Superb from the right
HMS Superb from the right

At the very end of the war HMS Superb and HMS Temeraire were detached from the 4th Battle Squadron, and sent to the eastern Mediterranean. They had two jobs. Their military job was to reinforce the fleet outside the Dardanelles in case the Germans made a sortie with the battleships of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Their political job was to reinforce Admiral Gough-Calthorpe, the senior flag-officer at Mudros, so that his squadron would outclass the French squadron. The British government wanted to make sure that it was their admiral who negotiated the Turkish armistice, and it was felt that this would reinforce his claim to that role.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



7,720nm at 10 kts

Armour - deck


 - belt


 - bulkheads


 - barbettes


 - turret facings


 - conning tower





Ten 12in MK X guns
Sixteen 4in quick firing guns
Four 3pdr saluting guns
Three 18in submerged torpedo tubes

Crew complement






Ships in class

HMS Bellerophon
HMS Superb
HMS Temeraire

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 November 2007), Bellerophon class battleships ,

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