Where Warrior was it the end of a five hundred year evolution of the wooden broadside battleship, Dreadnought was a revolution. From her, battleships evolved with super imposed turrets, larger calibre guns, stronger armour, spotter planes, and radar. The author has chosen well in timing his account to run from HMS Warrior to HMS Dreadnought. An excellent book, a good standard of reproduction and a fine selection of photographs and illustrations. Highly recommended.
NAME: Warrior to Dreadnought
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: David K Brown
PUBLISHER: Seaforth Publishing
BINDING: Soft back
PRICE: GB £16.99
SUBJECT: RN, naval architecture, technology, Victorian, steam, iron clad, turret guns, frigates, cruisers, torpedo boat destroyers, battleships, Dreadnought, warship design, warship development, 1860 to 1905
DESCRIPTION: This comprehensive and well-researched book covers an important period of British naval history that has been neglected before. In October 1805 the Royal Navy set the seal on global naval supremacy that had been forged half a Century earlier during the Seven Years War. It marked the height of development of the sailing oak battleship with three or four decks of carriage-mounted guns. From 1805 the Royal Navy was to remain unchallenged by any country for more than a Century. That did not mean an end to naval conflict, but it did mean an end until 1914 of major global naval campaigns. For historians and enthusiasts, the period of Nelson and the wars with revolutionary France and Napoleon has proved a powerful focus because so much happened at sea. The result has been a relatively low level of interest in the very important periods before and after that era, until the renewed interest of two World Wars. This is unfortunate because the periods of prime interest cannot be fully understood without a firm grasp of the historical progress to each era. From 1805 to 1860, the Royal Navy faced a number of challenges. The most powerful navy was equipped with warships that had remained largely unchanged for a Century and which were based on a technology development that dated back to the early Sixteenth Century. Steam was being slowly introduced, but largely as an adaptation of the Nelsonian warship. The cutting of wells down which propellers could be lowered, and the occupation of hold and gun deck space by steam engines and coal bunkers produced few benefits and many dangers. Having a source of fire in the midst of a timber, cloth and tar vessel was not a happy combination. Gunnery developments were also difficult because the wooden broadside warship had evolved into a reliable design. The early Great Castle battleships introduced in the early Fifteenth Century were often unstable because the mass of cannon was carried too high, raising the metacentric high to a dangerous level. This tender performance was dramatically demonstrated when the Mary Rose sank as she left Portsmouth. By the time of Nelson, a First Rate battleship carried its heaviest carriage guns, 32 pounders on the lowest gun deck. Each deck above carried progressively lighter guns, all firing outboard through narrow arcs and designed for a close quarters pounding of enemy vessels. As the first turret guns were being introduced in the mid-Nineteenth Century, they were still muzzle loading cannon although most were rifled. The masts and rigging of what were still effectively sailing ships reduced the arcs of fire from a theoretical 360 degree arc to a series of narrow arcs. As guns increased in size and weight of shot the battleship needed armour that could only be provided by steel plate. These technical challenges were made more difficult because the illusion of peace at sea encouraged politicians to spend peace dividends, and the Admiralty was less motivated to try harder for technology development funding because there was a proven wooden fleet that was no longer directly challenged. Where actions were fought in this period they were classic frigate actions of bombardment of shore defences, anti-slavery and anti-piracy patrols, and convoy escort. David Brown has very comprehensively recorded the development from the Nelsonian broadside battleship to the all turret, turbine powered, armoured, Dreadnought. It was not an entirely painless process, but it enabled the Royal Navy to maintain its position as an effective naval counter to any potential enemy. The wealth of photographs and drawings that support his text demonstrate how the sailing rig was progressively reduced and the steam engine became the primary power of a warship. As that sailing rig reduced, the turret gun became a very practical weapon with a progressively cleaner field of fire. We are fortunate that HMS Warrior has been restored and exhibited at Portsmouth. She was an evolutionary design, laid out in a manner that would have been familiar to Nelson. However, she combined a more powerful engine room with a cleaner sailing rig, 110 pounder rifles in her battery, armour and a well balanced hull. The Union Navy introduced the Monitor during the American Civil War after the Royal Navy had begun the introduction of turret guns. The Monitor was not intended for blue water sailing and featured a very low freeboard, a tiny superstructure closer to an early submarine’s conning tower, and two muzzle loading heavy guns in a turret amidships. The ironclad construction combined with a very small silhouette to make her a very difficult target for an enemy warship, while her turret had an uninterrupted field of fire. The Royal Navy took note of the Monitor, but faced a more difficult challenge because RN vessels had to be ocean going vessels with good sea keeping abilities. Early RN turret armed warships were very tender and at risk of capsize. By the latter part of the Nineteenth Century, the Royal Navy was largely a steam powered fleet although with coal burning boilers. Dreadnought completed the development with large calibre breach loading rifles in turrets, heavy armour and oil burning steam turbines. Overnight she made pre-Dreadnoughts obsolete. Where Warrior was it the end of a five hundred year evolution of the wooden broadside battleship, Dreadnought was a revolution. From her, battleships evolved with super imposed turrets, larger calibre guns, stronger armour, spotter planes, and radar. The author has chosen well in timing his account to run from HMS Warrior to HMS Dreadnought. An excellent book, a good standard of reproduction and a fine selection of photographs and illustrations. Highly recommended.