Battleship design 1890 - 1914

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Queen Elizabeth class 1913 – 1915

The Queen Elizabeth-class became known as ‘super fast dreadnoughts’ as they were faster, more heavily protected and carried a bigger main armament than any other warship at the time. Because of this, the ships were regarded as the finest battleships of their time.

Queen Elizabeth-class battleship (1913-15) as first completed. (RNM)
Queen Elizabeth-class battleship (1913-15) as first completed. (RNM)

The class included HM Ships Queen Elizabeth, Barham, Valiant, Warspite and Malaya. The ships were 27 500 tons and had a complement of 925 men.

The Queen Elizabeth class also was the first class of Royal Naval battleships to be powered entirely by oil, rather than coal, which gave them more endurance and efficiency.

They were also cleaner, more spacious and produced less smoke than coal-fired ships. Below is a paper prepared by former First Sea Lord Baron John Fisher of Kilverstone in his role as the Chairman for the Royal Commission on Fuel outlining the various arguments for switching to oil-fired engines.

The provision of oil for the warships meant that First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill had to secure oil supplies in wartime leading to the Anglo-Persian Oil Convention in 1913.

As a consequence of concerns about the supply of oil in wartime, the next class of dreadnoughts, the Revenge class, was built with both an oil and coal-firing capacity. This made it slower and less effective than its predecessor - an obvious back step in naval technology.

15-inch gun tompion from HMS Queen Elizabeth. (RNM)
15-inch gun tompion from HMS Queen Elizabeth. (RNM)

The Queen Elizabeth class was the first battleship to be built to carry the newly developed 15-inch guns that were being designed by the Admiralty.

The ship was developed around the guns as the naval arms race expanded the limits of naval technology. The 15” guns were to prove more accurate and suffer less barrel wear than the 13.5-inch gun.

They had a heavier broadside than any other five-turret predecessor with guns firing a 1920-pound shell thus producing a broadside of approximately 16 000 pounds.

Fore Turret Deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth. (RNM)
Fore Turret Deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth. (RNM)

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