History of the Royal Navy - Steam, steel and Dreadnoughts (1806-1918)Feb 27, 2020
With few exceptions, the 19th century will be a time of undisputed dominance for the
navy. The Napoleonic Wars are over and the British Empire will enjoy a period of peace. Expansion and surprising economic supremacy. the great wooden walls of the
navyprince albert is said to have asked the admiralty what we have to deal with this new engine of war when england's old nemesis france brought in an armored ship and sent shock waves through the channel the royal navy's response will finally come in the form of the biggest, fastest and most powerful battleship the world has ever seen october 1805 aboard his flagship hms victory admiral horatio nelson leads the royal navy in a desperate battle against the napoleon's dream off cape trafalgar in a matter of hours nelson's victory is complete 19 of the enemies 33 ships are destroyed or captured although the land wars with napoleon's army will continue trafalgar is the most amazing triumph in the
historyof the navy other skirmishes would challenge britain's dominance of the seas to the british war of 1812 with the united states united states was but a sidebar in the continuing conflict in europe victories of american frigates like the constitution over warships British warfare, though wildly celebrated in the United States in the face of a global naval power like Great Britain, were considered minor setbacks.
The fact was that the ships sent to the america station were largely unarmed the american frigates were cut off in line from much more powerfully armed battleships larger crews and of course they had familiarity with their own local station it was very difficult to get their lordships take america station seriously did not affect vital english interests which of course centered on the continent in 1814 war with us ended less than a year later napoleonic wars finally ended 1815 found england With a large empire, it geographically dominated the sea routes. everywhere you looked south africa north america south america and the falklands the mediterranean aidan and the far east none of these places lacked a british maritime presence but at the same time the line of battleships reduced the concentration was on cruise ships larger ships light able to look after themselves, but able to command a presence around the world, but decades-long struggle with France left Britain near-bankrupt to save money, most of the Royal Navy's large ships-of-the-line were sent back to port and within a few years their staff numbers were reduced by more than 80 per cent sailors were thrown out of work en masse officers were laid off at half pay and many young men hoping for brilliant careers and prize wealth in metallic and all else would be sadly disappointed by sociology from britain's point of view it became an era of enormous political and social change with a growing economy fueled by increased production of domestic goods england's exports increased rapidly this in turn led to profound changes in its shipping industry and the role of the royal navy in foreign trade obviously went on ships and those ships were protected by the navy the merchant fleet made the money and provided the sailors who made the navy possible the navy provided the protection that made the merchant fleet possible it was a symbiotic relationship and all national prosperity was therefore tied to the sea, this all began during the 19th century industrial revolution in england which saw enormous technical advances that would transform the world and, with it, the ships of the world.
The development of shipping in this period is extremely interesting. It is the crucial turning point. Between, so to speak, the traditional age of sailing and the world of modern technology and the rapid technological and scientific advancement of all developments during the middle of the 19th century, the most revolutionary was
steampower, even with the introduction of new
steamtechnology, most people were suspicious of the fact that the thing could run out of coal, it could have a mechanical failure, so people were very reluctant to get rid of the masts and spas and in fact a man-of-war did not appear until the 1830s and even then it was a paddle man-of-war and the navy was very suspicious of this because they thought that a well-timed well-aimed shot that hit the paddles would completely eliminate the propulsion system on that ship, although the royal navy was slow to commit to new technology, it was even slower to invest in it, the royal navy was very good at spotting new ideas and also quite ruthless in making sure the private sector did all the fundamental design and development work on the screw propeller in the 1840s, they got the private sector to do all the development cost almost all the expense of testing and getting the thing from being a very good idea to a solid practical proposal ready to be used before the navy stepped in and started spending money one of the private sector was a brilliant and ambitious young engineer from portsmouth edinburgh kingdom brunel was the greatest engineer of the 19th century and was involved in almost all the major engineering projects of the day he was hired by the admiralty to oversee the technical introduction of the screw propeller in the early 1840s and brunel was pleased to do this not because he was a patriot but because he had a large merchant ship iron screw propelled ship he was building in 1843 brunel built britain the first large ship powered by a screw propeller but that was not the only innovation displayed on this remarkable ship all sorts of developments were taking place in shipping the introduction from the iron hull with brunel's great britain there were developments in armaments the flat trajectory breach charge shell firing gun the concept this iron material could give you Armor plates began to interest people;
However, these innovations were slowly considered by a naval command that was reluctant to alter the great wooden warships that had served Britain so well for centuries, but across the channel the French launched a warship ominous looking iron armored car. Driven by a screw propeller, its name expressed the French navy's hope for future glory. battleship caused great alarm in london this formidable vessel was 256 feet long displaced over 5600 tons and was capable of a top speed of 13 knots with its naval dominance now seriously threatened the royal navy was forced to find an answer to the new super French ship if they failed England's timber the walls could be fighting their last battle in 1861 in response to France's iron clad man of war Laguar the Royal Navy launched HMS Warrior Warrior reflects the urgency with which the British wanted to get something in camp against laguar this was the victorian equivalent of an arms race if you got something we must have it to counter it there is a wonderful old black myth that the royal navy was conservative and opposed to progress and didn't want to change but this just not true, the royal navy grasped the technology and exploited it to its fullest the warrior did much more than just counter her french rival she outclassed her in every way dwara is a wooden hulled battleship and is essentially a conventional wooden ship with an iron armor bolted to the warrior, on the contrary, it is an iron ship in which the iron armor is bolted to an iron structure, so the difference is not in the armor, the coating, but in the structure Developed by Navy Chief Builder Isaac Watts, the Royal Navy Warriors showed the world that the Royal Navy was still determined to rule the seas.
At 420 feet long and with a displacement of over 9,200 tons, it was designed to carrying a crew of over 700 men and, despite its size, it was fast thanks to a huge trunk configuration that powered a steam engine powered by a screw propeller in which the pistons are carried in trunks that run through the cylinder on the other hand this is the old fashioned system from 1845 it was a vane steam engine but it was such a good engine that shipbuilders bought it for their boats because it was powerful and compact and at 56 rpm it gave 5400 horsepower it gave the ship 14 1/2 knots, making her the fastest warship on the water of the day, but this cost her 10 tons of coal an hour, so it was not done very often to save fuel on long voyages , the warrior carried about forty eight thousand square feet of sales this also provided an extra burst of speed in emergencies if the boat has sails up and engines running using the two together is capable of 17 knots you are talking about Over 20 miles per hour, the Warrior's punch was provided by a variety of heavy weapons, 26 muzzle-loading guns firing 68-pounders and 10 110-pounders arranged much like earlier ships of the line, such as the victory. these guns were also carried sideways the gun platform itself would have been recognizable to any sailor in nelson's navy the only difference was there were far fewer guns on the warrior victory has 104 guns firing broadside this ship he only has 43 firing from the broadside, but all the guns are much bigger than the wins, so if one were to add up the weight of the shots in a Warrior volley, it's very similar to the weight of a Victory volley, the warrior also carried hundreds of small arms for the crew.
There are about 360 British enfields. rifles and about 70 roy naval cult pistols the reason there are so many small arms around the ship is that the victorian navy was not used that much in big battles in fact there were no big battles at the time it was used a lot more to go and settle the slave trade and the drug trade in China, so this would require sending small groups of armed men ashore, but perhaps the most revolutionary feature of this extraordinary ship was the armored box or citadel of the female warrior. designed to protect your vital weapons and machinery. the citadel I'm standing on right now is the 200 foot center of the ship and is where most of the guns are the side of the ship in the citadel area is made of four and a half inches of wrought iron plate in the exterior capable of avoiding any shot that could be fired by the cannons of the 1860's era behind the iron armor there are 18 inches of teak arranged in two layers with grains in the opposite direction all this teak and the exterior armor is bolted to 7 8 of an inch plate which is then riveted into the frame In addition, the warrior possessed the world's first elevated bridge structures from which the vessel could be commanded and navigated during combat, the captain would direct the shot from a conning tower armored on the lower deck. here he would be protected from most of the enemy fire, and thus could direct operations by shouting his orders into a voice tube to the deck below inside the armored citadel where most of the crew would be manning the weapons manning the engines steering the ship ironically during her decade of active service between 1861 and 1871 this commanding ship never fired a shot in anger the warriors place in royal naval
historyis that it marked the end of the armada wooden the famous walls of Timber of England who defended this country against invasion for 300 years from the time of Henry VIII, suddenly this ship is built of heavily armored iron and that's the end of the Timber navy's quest for naval dominance.
Iron warships were soon being built everywhere, including the United States, where the inventor of the screw. Propeller was once again making a name for himself, he did so by building a ship that would force the world and the Royal Navy to radically change the way they built their warships on March 18, 1862 during the United States Civil War. United two iron clad warships the monitor and the confederate ship virginia pummel each other for hours on hampton road virginia though the battle is inconclusive it demonstrates to the world the significant advantages of one of the monitor's revolutionary features the rotating turret designed by propeller innovator john erickson the turret allows a 360 degree field of fire for its two 11 inch guns soon naval architects are beginning to realize that heavy ships like the warrior, limited to firing only broadsides, they will be simply obsolete. ship with much heavier protection which was later supplemented by iron clad turrets with cannons androtating turrets in 1866 the royal navy commissioned its first turret ship hms captain which still relied on auxiliary sales but over the next two decades naval technology and artillery advanced by leaps and bounds, the leader of the artillery revolution in the royal navy was admiral sir percy scott whose innovations included a centralized fire control system whereby all a ship's guns were aimed and fired from a single directing center atop a ship's main list, previously all guns were fired independently during this period, new ships were built with a wide variety of designs and mechanical innovations, but no one was sure which of these strange-looking ships' features were actually useful.
Part of the problem was that Britain had established a global empire and the royal navy was successfully enforcing a long period of general world naval peace, often called pox britannica, as a result there was no way any of these new features could proven or disproved by combat experience between 1860 and around 1890. You have a whole set of ships of different designs, some with vents, some without vents, some with guns on the broadside, some with guns in different ways of mounting, what What I had was a variety of ships, some of which were better for certain deployments, some of which were better for other deployments because this time no one had the first idea of what the optimal type and design of a warship once was. in 1871 the same year that hms warrior ended its service as a front line warship the royal navy introduced its first iron hulled mastless ship hms devastation marked a major turning point in modern warship design since the introduction of ships like devastation, the main capital ships of the royal navy begin to resemble the ships that you and I think of as a classic warship, it had huge muzzle-loading guns of about 12-inch caliber and was a potent symbol of what was to come and was quickly followed by neighbors in other nations, in addition to focusing on improving a warship's armor and firepower, naval engineers began trying to refine the steam engine to increase its reliability for late From the 19th century the development of the turbine proved to be a solution, the turbine is a much more powerful engine, much more reliable and durable, capable of generating very high power for long periods of time without serious damage to the machinery. at sea sailing fast, he would spend a week in port repairing the engine;
However, the Royal Navy was reluctant to adopt the turbine until a British inventor, an engineer named Charles Parsons, found a unique way to demonstrate the benefits of this new technology. a review of the fleet in the late 19th century, sir charles parsons launched through the fleet in his private turbine-driven steam yacht, the turbinia, and proved conclusively that the turbine was faster and this made the the admiralty thought about the turbine, was chased by the latest brand of destroyers that failed to catch up and at 33 knots tore through the ranks of anchored warships with innovations like these, the Royal Navy once again led the world in ship design of war, but it was also during this period that a much less visible but no less important leadership was recognized for its role in navigation in october 1884 the international meridian conference was held in washington dc to finally select a location for the first Earth's meridian Essentially the longitudinal equivalent of the equator By a vote of 22 to 1 England's meridian at Greenwich was given this designation which would also determine the world's time zones.
There were several compelling reasons why Greenwich was selected, but the most important were reliability and practicality. It came down to who produced the charts and the chance that the time was the most accurate and therefore was there in most cases. the demand turned out to be in the end that of great britain and if you look at the charts of other nations you will find that they all drew them with their own main meridian in the middle, not surprisingly, but the charts of great britain were more available in the end and more respected and the prime meridian of Greenwich arose through that understanding that if you sailed far from these shores you carried a British chart with you in almost every case as the 19th century drew to a close the world political landscape was also beginning to change and new challenges were on the horizon for the royal navy to remain the ruler of the world's oceans, even greater reforms would be needed, they would be proposed by an iconoclastic admiral who was destined to completely revolutionize the royal navy, he did so by advocating a new innovative generation of warships one of these would dominate the surface of the oceans with massive barrages another would terrify the seeds of the world from beneath the waves in the latter part of the 19th century there was growing uneasiness in the British admiralty many of their battleships while In addition, other potential rivals were beginning to catch up with Britain economically and were spending huge amounts expanding their armies, including their navies.
Britain's industrial advantage and technical superiority was rapidly being reviewed by other countries, notably France, Germany, and the United States, and it was certainly clear. to the people that commercial and financial superiority was not a substitute for industrial and technological strength for these reasons the naval defense act of 1889 was passed the legislation called for a two power standard which essentially meant that the royal navy should be more Larger than the next two largest navies in the world combined, yet nothing would have a greater impact on the royal navy for years to come than an ambitious and headstrong sailor who was at the time rising through his senior command this man was john or both was not a better-known fisherman like jackie fisher had joined the navy as a 12-year-old midshipman, but lacked the social connections that often ensured advancement through its ranks;
However, the talent and drive of the fishermen were relentless and in 1894, Admiral Fischer was knighted and ten years later made First Sea Lord the highest military post in the royal navy that had once embarked on a complete overhaul of a system that had been stuck in his mind for far too long. will in a whole generation and make sure the royal navy was ready to meet the challenges of world war 1 when fisher became the first sea lord germany had passed several naval bills of its own to expand its fleet between its new ships it was a sinister yet relatively unproven weapon of war, power's weapon of the week, as it was known, the submarine posed a direct threat to what we call dominance of the seas, which is the ability to go to wherever the nation has the most to lose from successful development. of the submarine was, in fact, Britain, relied on absolute free trade and the protection of those routes around the world to convert her empire into a commonwealth, while the first submarines had been used with minimal success during the war American Revolutionary and Civil War.
It had been primitive at best, however the submarine's viability as a warship was greatly enhanced by the talents of an Irish-American inventor, John Phillip Holland. In 1901, the Royal Navy purchased five Holland-class submarines, one of these vessels, the h-1, is now housed. At the Royal Navy Submarine Museum at Gosport in historic Portsmouth, each of the ships was approximately 64 feet long and displacing over 100 tons, capable of sailing 500 miles and reaching speeds of 8 knots on the surface and five submerged knots it wasn't long before jackie fisher saw the potential of the new ships now fischer when he was commanding officer of the mediterranean which was probably the most powerful of all sea fleets in 1904 he wrote a letter to the then first lord and said that i was perfectly in awe amazing how the best among us failed to realize the impending revolution that the submarine will bring to naval warfare and naval strategy while arguing for the submarine mr jackie also insisted that britain prepare for any potential challenge to his surface fleet the culmination of his ideas came in the form of another avant-garde british warship launched on 10 february 1906 at portsmouth hms dreadnought was britain's attempt to secure its naval supremacy in one fell swoop dreadnought was the battleship largest and fastest in the world capable of speeds of 21 knots but its most obvious advantage over all previous battleships was its armament.
Previous battleships had had a maximum of two turrets with two guns each. The hms dreadnought had ten guns in five turrets and completely revolutionized naval warfare. Our huge turrets weighed 500 tons each and their guns could fire. a barrage of 850 pound shells over 10 miles soon all the otherworldly naval powers were building their own versions of the battleship the battleship as a concept is inevitable and the japanese and americans and russians have all seen it it's just the fisherman who is most the dynamic figure of the age seizes the opportunity and runs away with it builds a ship in a year and a day and has one ready at sea before anyone has even set about starting one and the name dreadnought not only it became the name for all battleships of that type, but it also became a brand, it became a badge of identity, it became one of those words that means more than the name of a ship, in addition to its powerful weapons The battleship was the first major warship to replace the old and inefficient reciprocating steam engine with modern steam turbines.
Its total of eight turbines generated a power of 23,000 horsepower. The battleship made a deep impression in Germany where the Kaiser Wilhelm II and his Minister of the Navy Admiral Alfred von Turpitz had been monitoring Britain's naval production while stepping up theirs On March 7, 1908, Germany launched its version of the Dreadnought battleship Nassau, while slightly smaller and less powerful. that the dreadnought nassau, still a well built ship with formidable armor protection, kaiser velham came to the throne convinced that he had to face germany in his grandfather had made germany a nation and his destiny was to make it a world empire he was a great admirer of the royal navy after all he was queen victoria's grandson and had grown up seeing the royal navy as an example of an exceptional world and ultimately wished to emulate and replace the royal navy with his own fleet, as if Fisher Wilhelm had been greatly impressed by a book called The Influence of Sea Power on History, written by an American naval scholar.
If there was only one prophet of sea power then. it has to be the american alfred thayer mahan who wrote books that were enormously acclaimed at the time for demonstrating the usefulness of sea power he distilled the naval history of the classical sea power period into a particularly accessible form he was a big supporter of the navy battle thus provided an ideology for political decision makers in all countries in most major powers who wanted to build battleships it was apparent to jackie fisher that kaiser wilhelm intended germany to become such a power to maintain itself Ahead of Germany and everyone else, Fisher arranged for England to build improved versions of the battleship.
He also pioneered a new class of combat missile. Lighter armor was a decision that would prove fateful In 1910 Germany and Britain were locked in a naval arms race the likes of which the world had never seen before New classes of battleships were built on both sides with breakneck speed, each bigger faster and more expensive than the previous one the culmination of this fight would be the greatest clash of battleships in history in 1916 the first world war had been raging in europe for almost two years although the empires of britain and germany had Established his place at the head of the warring alliances the two nations had yet to face off at sea under their commander, Admiral Sir John Jelico, the British Grand Fleet had instituted a stranglehold naval blockade of Germany and, with few exceptions, the Admiral Reinhardt Shearer's German High Seas Fleet had been in port for the first two years of World War I.
Jelico in command of the British Grand Fleet and Shir in command of the German High Seas Fleet had tried to work out how they were going to deal with each other in a major fleet action there have been there has been aseries of isolated incidents in which pockets of both fleets have been found and it has been something of a skirmish and ships have been lost and the Germans have generally been bested in most actions while the British and German naval leaders waited for their opportunity to prove itself in a major battle the other new naval weapon the submarine was proving its potential as an instrument of war the only really powerful tool the germans had at their disposal was their submarine service now they started the war imagining their submarines would be used to softening up the British land fleet and elements of their sea-going fleet could pick off the British bit by bit and then of course they began to consider the concept of gearing of course getting of course means attacking the merchant ships of their enemy the German.
The U-boat campaign against British merchant shipping was an immediate and devastating success that threatened to cut the maritime life line upon which the island nation of Great Britain had always defended itself for its own survival, but British U-boats they made some notable achievements in one of their major theaters. of operations was the baltic sea and among its boldest commanders was a man named max horton horton should have become the chief submariner in the baltic but the current commander in chief thought he was too pirate he was the first real navy the submariner ever sank an enemy ship max horton became the top ace of the british submarine force survived the war and ironically was destined to achieve even greater achievements in the next war not as a submariner but as a submarine hunter meanwhile as a field of war in The epic clash of battleships that many had anticipated was about to take place The chain of events leading up to the battle began in May 1916 when German Admiral Scheer left the harbor for the North Sea.
Shear hoped to catch a squadron of Royal Navy battleships and battlecruisers under the command of Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty Beatty's squadron had left their anchorage earlier in an effort to ambush a squadron of German battlecruisers under the command of Rear Admiral France von Hipper and the idea was once bt replied shia Then he would go out with all the way to the German high seas fleet and close the trap. He also placed submarines in front of the main British fleet bases in case the grand fleet came out in force, unfortunately for the Germans. British intelligence had detected the increase in submarines. deployments and consequently had sailed three days earlier, now British Admiral Sir John Jellicle was at sea with his 27 battleships hoping to catch Shear in his own trap the personalities of the opposing commanders would play a crucial role in the battle what was coming to high command is an interesting study in the contrasting types of jelic professionalism is the centralizing arc the materialistic arc understands how everything works and makes sure everything works as well as possible doesn't take chances because he knows the consequences of defeat and is I think he is one of the most underestimated commanders of the 20th century, he presents himself as an extremely aggressive officer willing to use what he has knowing that he is inferior in many ways to obtain the maximum strategic effect 31 May 1916 off a known Danish peninsula as Jutland cuts a battle fleet of 16 battleships and six older battleships sail across the North Sea to join the five fast battlecruisers in the squadron of hippers late afternoon hipper and beatty battlecruisers sight each other within minutes with high precision 12 inch guns from the german battlecruisers are tearing the queen mary apart suddenly over a thousand men are lost when they explode beede's tireless loaders we now know that his battlecruisers blew up in jutland not because they were poorly armored but because their ammunition was being mishandled soon beedy receives a message informing him that shear's main fleet has been sighted knowing that jalico's battleships are now only a few miles away beedy led his battered squadron away from the enemy as he made contact with the german fleet and turned around and was pursued by hippa's battlecruisers the cavalry approached in the form of shi's battleships only to discovering that jelico's grand fleet was waiting for them jelico of course knew he could win or lose the war in an afternoon because if he had lost britain's grand fleet would have effectively been out of the war but jelico is still determined to win a crushing victory over the Germans and orders his fleet to deploy in a column directly ahead and perpendicular to the shear across the enemy's tee, he will bring all the broadsides from his battleship to target the column of German battleships 6 30 pm with shear's fleet now in angelic range he gives the order to fire the seven mile long battle line of the great british fleet unleashes the most powerful salvo in the history of naval warfare, albeit outnumbered and under fire, the german guns capitalize on more british security mistakes this time on the invincible battlecruiser what they were doing was placing a large number of cordite charges on the bar stake which is the bottom of the turret and the turret itself in anticipation of having to fire many rounds now this was contrary to all safety regulations at the time as you would carry a cartridge, one shell at a time, through the flash doors and was designed to prevent turret explosions.
The reason for his caution in pursuing him at night was that he was afraid of the mines and submarines waiting for him and who's to say Jelico was wrong, but his overcautiousness was seen by some as part of a larger problem: a general suffocation of the initiative among the commanders of the royal navy. the result of decades of inaction during the british parks and this conflicts with nelsonian theory in fact someone who was an opponent of nelson in 1797 commented on the ease with which british captains went into battle he said they are there to hurt the enemy they are there to protect their friends and are allowed to use their initiative that's the difference between the british and us and sometime between 1797 and 1916 the british lost or suppressed it now just a few minutes after Shear had turned around. of the great fleet, it suddenly turns around and heads towards Jelico Shear.
He would later comment that in his aggressive manner, he wanted one more shot at the enemy again, the British battleships raining fire on the Germans quickly seeing that their situation is hopeless. Pure flashes. a signal to his four remaining battlecruisers to charge the enemy. This voyage of death buys time to maneuver his flotilla and fire one last torpedo attack before escaping into the deepening twilight in the confused night action that follows as the German fleet somehow manages to slip through the ships of war British returned to port badly damaged but safe The Germans got out They clashed with the British in the afternoon They escaped three times and the next morning they thought they were very lucky most of them had made it home, although Jelica was heavily criticized in time and afterwards for not destroying the high seas fleet the germans never looked for another major battle for the rest of the war the british won the battle of jutland comprehensively but fundamental to all of that after jutland is the german decision of a unrestricted submarine warfare the decision bringing the usa into war ensures that in the long run the western allies must win when the usa went to war in 1917 a very successful attempt was made to counter the threat of submarines by deployment of a convoy system at the same time as the blockade of germany by the british surface fleet was amazingly effective lack of food and supplies germany eventually collapsed even though it had not decisively defeated the german fleet at sea the royal navy it had been a key factor in bringing the german nation to its knees but more importantly for england the royal navy did not lose we have a naval tradition in this country that most countries would give their right arm for and we still like to think we are the benchmark by which we set naval standards and, in a sense, one remembers all these glorious traditions, all this history and you say that now I am part of it and if you are part of it, you adhere to the standards, you send the principles and adheres to the fact that we do not lose, we will not be defeated in our island home, we will uphold our values and as long as we have life, fight and spirit in us, we will, while the impetus for the expansion of the royal navy in 1858 was largely due to a perceived threat from France, their final showdown would come more than half a century later in World War I, but by the 1930s, after this titanic struggle, the royal navy would be severely disadvantaged. and he would face unprecedented challenges to defend his nation and reputation again in another world war.
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