HMS Dreadnought: The ship that triggered the naval run

(To Mario Veronesi)

Between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, after the abandonment of the artillery in the wall and their installation in armored armored towers, the use of embarking on the battleships, as main armament, pieces of different caliber, complicating the problem of shooting direction and necessitating different ammunition deposits. The battleship projects of the time generally included four main guns in twin towers, aft and bow, with several lower caliber cannons, lined up along the sides of the ship, a similarity from warships to sailing. In addition, each cannon caliber had different ballistic properties, complicating pointing operations, especially the observation of impact splashes. In this period the need arose to have new naval units, with a high and uniform firepower, so as to simplify the ammunition and the firing line.

The naval planning, moved in this direction, both in Italy and in England, where already from the 1900, the admiral John Fischer (1841-1920), supported the idea of ​​a fast armor and monocaliber, the concept of a ship from armed war only with large-caliber cannons (all-big-gun) able to shoot at great distances. The Russian-Japanese War (1904-1905) provided practical experience to demonstrate its concept. The Russian Navy was defeated in naval battles, especially in the battle of Tsushima by the Japanese Imperial Navy, equipped with modern battleships, mostly for British design. The events of the battle confirmed to the world that in the naval battles of the period only the major calibers were important.

United States, Japan and Great Britain, began to study plans for the design of monoculars battle ships. There Satsuma (photo on the right) was the first battleship in the world to be designed (1904) and set (1905) as a monoculars battle ship, five months before the HMS Dreadnought. In fact, the original concept was similar to that of the English ship, but with one fundamental difference: the triple expansion boiler engine, rather than the revolutionary steam turbines for the time. The operational life of the Satsuma it was not very long; after having spent the First World War patrolling the Pacific Ocean, it was sunk in the 1924.

The United States also began to design a single-hulled flagship before HMS Dreadnought: I'USS South Carolina andUSS Michigan were presented at the Congress in the 1904, but were set only in the fall of 1906. The class South Carolina mounted all of its main cannons on the central line, avoiding the towers on the sides preferred by the British. They were equipped with triple expansion steam engines, not turbines, a conservative approach required by the US requirement of greater autonomy at speeds.

On the idea of ​​Admiral John Bettolo (1846-1916), Colonel Genio Navale Vittorio Emanuele Cuniberti (1854-1913), in 1903, first put the concept of an armed battle ship, only large canons caliber and designs two versions of a battleship: one by 8.000 tons, eight cannons and a speed of 22 knots; the other by 17.000 tons, twelve guns and even speeds.

Cuniberti designed numerous vessels including, in the early twentieth century, the class of battleships Vittorio Emanuele (photo on the left), considered by many to be the true antesignan of the battle cruiser. He introduced the combustion to naphtha in steam boilers, perfected the torpedo, improved the underwater defense of the battleships, and unified the caliber of the main armament of the battleships. He designed a type of armor of modest displacement (8.000 tons), armed with 203 mm guns, which, with some modifications, was then adopted in the four ships of the class Regina Elena, from 12.700 tons, set by 1901.

Cuniberti also designed battleships for the Russian Imperial Navy: the class Gangut of 23.000 tons. When the Regia Marina, for economic reasons, did not pursue its idea, Cuniberti, having permission, wrote an article for Jane's Fighting Ships, entitled "An ideal Battleship for the British Navy", In which he proposed to the British Navy, a future battle ship of the displacement of 17.000 tons, armed with a main artillery of twelve 305 mm cannons, equipped with a thick armored belt 30 cm and with a speed of 24 knots. The calculated speed was sufficient to exceed, in speed, every existing battleship. The impression on insiders was huge, and a debate began among marine experts from around the world, debate even more infuriated by the launch, in the 1905, of the British battleship HMS Dreadnought. Thus began the season of the armored monocalibre that would accompany, with subsequent technical improvements, the battleship.

The project committee o Director of Naval Construction of Admiral John Fisher, produced the project for the 1904 Dreadnought, which was set and assembled with unprecedented speed. The use of uniform main batteries greatly simplified the correction of shooting in action. Since all the cannons had the same ballistic characteristics and that they were all controlled by a single firing unit. Another innovation was the elimination of longitudinal passages, between the compartments below the main bridge. The typical organization of the crew was reversed, the staff recruited at the bow of the ship and the officers at the stern. Unlike sailboats, which were controlled by stern, modern warships were controlled by the upper bridge and the first quarter or third of the ship. It was also the first ship powered exclusively by steam turbines: 4 steam turbine groups, for a total 24.700 CV. The secluded engine, with the adoption of the Parsons turbines, had allowed, with the same power, a considerable weight saving, compared to the alternative engines of the previous armored vehicles. [Charles Algernon Parsons (1854-1931) his name is linked to the construction of the first jet steam turbine, which he patented in the 1884, and which he produced in the 1889, in his plants at Heaton. While the first Italian steam turbine was built and perfected, in the 1905, by the engineer Giuseppe Belluzzo (1876-1952), which was then applied to the Italian warships]

Construction began in the Portsmouth arsenals between October 1905 and December 1906. The 1841 February 1910 was launched by King Edward VII (10-1906), after only four months of work. The HMS Dreadnought took the sea the 3 October 1906 after only a year and a day from the beginning of construction. The process had been accelerated using the towers originally designed for the class Lord Nelson, battle ships that had preceded it. The speed of the construction of the HMS Dreadnought it was almost alarming for the other military navies.

Il HMS Dreadnought went into service for sea trials in December 1906 and in January 1907 broke for the Mediterranean Sea and then to Trinidad. Upon his return to Portsmouth he became the flagship of Home Fleet. 24 cannons were then added by 76 mm for close defense. A curious detail of the armament included the presence, in addition to the 23 457 mm torpedoes for launchers, of another six by 356 mm, which would have to be embarked on by steamboats on board, transformed into torpedo boats. Solution that was never practiced. It was such a revolutionary ship that its name became a generic term for modern battleships, while previous ones were called "pre-dreadnoughts." Its introduction triggered an arms race between Great Britain and the other military navies in the world. The Germans for the moment remained passive, this not to stiffen the already tense relations with England, but in the 1907 set up their first monocalypse, the classes Nissau, then the Helgoland, Konig, Kaiser, followed by Baden e Bavaria with 8 cannons from 380 mm.

In England, between December 1906 and February of 1907, the battleships were set Bellerophon, Superb e reckless. Identical to HMS Dreadnought the main armament remained, while the anti-torpedo armament was reduced but increased in size. They were the first monocalibres to have an underwater protection, ensured by a thick watertight compartment, which extended to the central 3 / 5 of the length. They followed the King Gorge V andIron Duke that embed pieces from 343 mm, and between 1915 and 1917 enter into service ten super-dreadnought (improved), of the two classes Warspite: Vailant, Malaya, Barham, in addition to the class manager. IS Royal Sovereign: Royal Oak, Resolution, Ramillies, Revenge, in addition to the class leader, armed with pieces from 381 mm. With appropriate modernizations in the 1930s, these ships will form the backbone of the Royal Navy battle line in the Second World War.

Only in 1908, Italy decided to build such a unit. The study of the project was entrusted to the Lieutenant General of the Naval Genius Edoardo Masdea (1849-1910), who worked on a project of a well-armed 20.000 ton ship, armed with 12 guns from 305 mm and capable of a speed higher than the 22 knots. In order to contain the weight of heavy artillery, the project led to the adoption, for the first time in the world, of truncated towers of great caliber. The Dante Alighieri (photo on the right), this was the name of the first Italian monocalibro unit, was set in June of 1909, and entered service in the 1913. The Dante Alighieri it was also the first Italian battleship equipped with 4 propellers, with a turbine engine and part of the boilers, with oil combustion. At the outbreak of World War I, the Royal Navy, had 19 armored monoculars in service and 13 were under construction, while Germany had 13 and 7 under construction. The other fleets with armored monoculars in the 1914 were: United States (8), France (8), Japan (4), Austria-Hungary (2) and Italy (1).

HMS Dreadnought

The 2 February 1905 is set up in the Portsmouth shipyards

Make 10 February of 1906

Completing the 3 December of the 1906

Radiated the 31 March of the 1920

Displacement: normal 17.900 t. - at full load 21.845 t.

Dimensions: length ft 160,6 m - width 25 m, - immersion 8 m

Engine system: 18 Babcock & Wilcox mixed combustion boilers - Two sets of Parsons turbines on four propellers

Power: HP 23.000

Speed: 21 nodes

Autonomy: 6.620 miles to 10 nodes

Fuel: 2.900 t of coal + 1.120 of naphtha

Armament: 10-305 / 45; 27-76 / 50 tls. 457

Crew: 773 men

(photo: Royal Navy / web)