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Battleship design 1890 - 1914

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Orion class 1910 – 1911

The Orion-class included HM Ships Orion, Conqueror, Monarch and Thunderer. The ships were 22 200 tons with a complement of around 752 men. They were a sixth class of dreadnoughts to be produced and were the first "super dreadnoughts" which were heavier, with better armour protection and carrying bigger guns than HMS Dreadnought.

HMS Orion (1910). (RNM)
HMS Orion (1910). (RNM)

The main armament fitted was the 13.5-inch gun instead of the 12-inch gun. The latest version of the latter was proving to be inaccurate and suffered too much barrel wear.

The new gun had a lower muzzle velocity and larger shell, which helped reduce instability in flight and thus increase accuracy. It could fire a 1400 pound shell 24 000 yards.

All main armament was now on centre line for the first time in British battleship design. There were however, problems with this design as it retained old designed sighting hoods. These hoods prevented the gun crew of the top turrets firing without the risk of injuring the gun crew of the lower ones.

Designers also greatly improved fire control apparatus in these ships, enabling the main turrets to fire salvos in most weather conditions. In 1911 the Royal Navy installed a second prototype Director Control system in HMS Thunderer.

HMS Thunderer (1911) control salvo c.1912. (RNM)
HMS Thunderer (1911) control salvo c.1912. (RNM)

The Orion-class ships cost the Admiralty almost £1.9m to build. By World War One however, the Queen Elizabeth class battleships (1913-15) greatly outdated the Orions.

They had larger, guns, faster speeds and better armour protection, highlighting the massive technological change of the early 20th century.



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