Battleship design 1890 - 1914

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HMS Invincible 1907

To Fisher the dreadnought design was a compromise on his vision of Britain’s new fighting ships. Fisher had envisaged a faster ship with less armour, more along the lines of a cruiser but with the firepower that the dreadnought ultimately carried. His battlecruiser brainchild was realised in 1907 with the launch of HMS Invincible.

Illustration of the battlecruiser HMS Invincible coming into harbour. (RNM)
Illustration of the battlecruiser HMS Invincible coming into harbour. (RNM)

HMS Invincible was the first battlecruiser ever built. This class represented the ultimate version of the Armoured Cruiser and was based on the combination of heavy guns and high speed. Admiral Fisher was convinced that speed could compensate for a lower level of armour protection.

Commissioning Details of HMS Inflexible 1909. (RNM)
Commissioning details of HMS Inflexible 1909. (RNM)

The Invincible class consisted of HM Ships Invincible, Inflexible and Indomitable. They were long ships- 567 ft compared with HMS Dreadnought’s 527 ft. This was in order to accommodate the number of boilers required to give them their top speed of 26 knots compared with HMS Dreadnought’s speed of 21 knots.

This speed was also achieved by using 4 shafts and twin rudders. The ships were 17 373 tons and had a complement of 784 men in comparison to HMS Dreadnought’s 18 110 tons and 695 men.

Invincible-class battlecruiser (1907) firing main armament. (RNM)
Invincible-class battlecruiser (1907) firing main armament. (RNM)

These first battlecruisers only had eight 12-inch guns set in 4 turrets. The practice of wing turrets was still in place and meant that 50% of the main armament had limited firing arcs.

However, in recognition of the limitations of HMS Dreadnought’s 12-pounder guns, the battlecruiser’s secondary armaments were improved by the addition of 4-inch quick fire guns.

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