Battleships 1900 - 1914

Leaps in naval technologies and intense rivalry with Germany spurred on massive changes to Britain’s senior service in a century famous for the biggest wars the world has ever seen. From 1890 to 1914 the increase in size, speed and power was immense as can be seen from this table. The Royal Sovereign-class ships, built during the 1890s, marked a significant improvement in ship design for its time. However, the advent of HMS Dreadnought in 1906 heralded a revolution in battleship design with subsequent improvements and technological advances. By 1914 the Queen Elizabeth-class of dreadnought battleships had made even the original dreadnought obsolete with its superior speed, armour and firepower. Below are some examples of life and changes in the Royal Navy during the period.

1 of 12
next »HMS Indefatigable (1909) with HMS Invincible (1907) to the left.last »HMS King Edward VII (1903) taking in ammunition.
"Spotters" on gun turret of HMS Lord Nelson (1906) c.1913.

"Spotters" on gun turret of HMS Lord Nelson (1906) c.1913.

View of the main deck looking aft showing sailors atop the gun turret and various sailors on deck. The big 12-inch guns are visible in the foreground. Shipbuilders constructed HMS Lord Nelson around the same time as HMS Dreadnought. Due to its pre-dreadnought design, the Royal Navy gave building and armament priority to Dreadnought. Therefore they did not finish construction on HMS Lord Nelson until 1908. Accurate spotting took good eyesight, judgment, and thorough training. The spotter had to judge the amount each shell was off target by visually estimating the distance between the splash and the target. The spotter would then have to re-calculate the aim of fire. However, as battle ranges grew greater due to the increased size of naval main armaments, spotters found it more difficult to visually estimate firing ranges. As a consequence the navy began to develop more advanced fire control methods aboard ship.

"Spotters" on gun turret of HMS Lord Nelson (1906) c.1913.
HMS Indefatigable (1909) with HMS Invincible (1907) to the left.
HMS Vanguard (1909).
Signalmen c.1910.
HMS Benbow (1913).
HMS Tiger in Action, Battle of Jutland 1916.
HMS Orion (1910).
Postcard: 'Facts and Figures of a Dreadnought.'
HMS Jupiter (1895) coaling at Alexandria c.1900.
HMS Jupiter (1895) hoisting in torpedo netting.
Postcard: HMS Queen Elizabeth (1913). Colour illustration of the ship underway.
HMS King Edward VII (1903) taking in ammunition.