British Battleship Classes of the First World War

British Battleship Classes of the First World War

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

British Battleship Classes of the First World War



The Royal Navy’s battle fleet in 1914 could be divided into two very distinct types of battleship. In 1905 Great Britain had had a fleet of fifty modern first class battleships, most capable of reaching 18 knots and carrying four 12in guns, with the most recent ships adding 9.2in guns to the mix.

In 1906 the completion of the Dreadnaught made that fleet effectively obsolete. The powerful Lord Nelson class ships would be obsolescent even before they had been completed. The Dreadnaught was bigger, faster and better armed than any other battleship then in existence. Her turbine engines meant she could reach 21kts while her ten 12in guns gave her the firepower of two and a half pre-dreadnaughts.

Every existing battleship became a pre-dreadnought, every new ship would be a dreadnought or super-dreadnought. The same would be true for every other country with a powerful navy, many of whom had been working on similar ships before the Dreadnaught was completed. The transformation was just as complete as that triggered by the appearance of the ironclad warship during the 1860s.

The resulting dreadnaught race played a significant role in increasing the tension between Britain and Germany in the years before the First World War. When that war finally broke out the massive fleets of dreadnaughts produced disappointing results. They were simply too large, too expensive and increasingly too vulnerable to cheap weapons such as the mine or the torpedo to be risked without a good cause. The only real clash between the British and German battle fleets, the battle of Jutland, was an inconclusive clash that satisfied nobody.





Biggest guns






























4x12in, 4x9.2in










4x12in, 10x9.2in







Biggest guns


















HMS Neptune































Revenge/ Royal Sovereign






HMS Erin






HMS Agincourt






HMS Canada






Books on the First World War |Subject Index: First World War

Dreadnoughts and the First World War

In October 1905, Admiral Sir John Fisher gained control at the Admiralty as First Sea Lord. Fisher believed the German threat was real and that it was only a matter of time before the fleet across the North Sea would test his own. For the next five years fought to uphold the traditional "two-power standard" by which "the British had attempted to maintain a fleet twice as large as the combined naval forces of its two most likely foes". Alfred Harmsworth, the owner of The Daily Mail, The Times, The Daily Mirror and The Evening News, did what he could to support Fisher in this task. (1)

Britain's first dreadnought was built at Portsmouth Dockyard between October 1905 and December 1906. It was the most heavily-armed ship in history. She had ten 12-inch guns (305 mm), whereas the previous record was four 12-inch guns. The gun turrets were situated higher than user and so facilitated more accurate long-distance fire. In addition to her 12-inch guns, the ship also had twenty-four 3-inch guns (76 mm) and five torpedo tubes below water. In the waterline section of her hull, the ship was armoured by plates 28 cm thick. It was the first major warship driven solely by steam turbines. It was also faster than any other warship and could reach speeds of 21 knots. A total of 526 feet long (160.1 metres) it had a crew of over 800 men. It cost over £2 million, twice as much as the cost of a conventional battleship. (2)

HMS Dreadnought (1906)

Germany built its first dreadnought in 1907 and plans were made for building more. The British government believed it was necessary to have twice the number of these warships than any other navy. David Lloyd George had a meeting with the German Ambassador, Count Paul Metternich, and told him that Britain was willing to spend £100 million to frustrate Germany's plans to achieve naval supremacy. That night he made a speech where he spoke out on the arms race: "My principle is, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, less money for the production of suffering, more money for the reduction of suffering." (3)

Alfred Harmsworth, Lord Northcliffe, used his newspapers to urge an increase in defence spending and a reduction in the amount of money being spent on social insurance schemes. In one letter to Lloyd George he suggested that the Liberal government was Pro-German. Lloyd George replied: "The only real pro-German whom I know of on the Liberal side of politics is Rosebery, and I sometimes wonder whether he is even a Liberal at all! Haldane, of course, from education and intellectual bent, is in sympathy with German ideas, but there is really nothing else on which to base a suspicion that we are inclined to a pro-German policy at the expense of the entente with France." (4)

Kaiser Wilhelm II gave an interview to the Daily Telegraph in October 1908 where he outlined his policy of increasing the size of his navy: "Germany is a young and growing empire. She has a world-wide commerce which is rapidly expanding and to which the legitimate ambition of patriotic Germans refuses to assign any bounds. Germany must have a powerful fleet to protect that commerce and her manifold interests in even the most distant seas. She expects those interests to go on growing, and she must be able to champion them manfully in any quarter of the globe. Her horizons stretch far away. She must be prepared for any eventualities in the Far East. Who can foresee what may take place in the Pacific in the days to come, days not so distant as some believe, but days at any rate, for which all European powers with Far Eastern interests ought steadily to prepare?" (5)

Grey replied to these comments in the same newspaper: "The German Emperor is ageing me he is like a battleship with steam up and screws going, but with no rudder, and he will run into something some day and cause a catastrophe. He has the strongest army in the world and the Germans don't like being laughed at and are looking for somebody on whom to vent their temper and use their strength. After a big war a nation doesn't want another for a generation or more. Now it is 38 years since Germany had her last war, and she is very strong and very restless, like a person whose boots are too small for him. I don't think there will be war at present, but it will be difficult to keep the peace of Europe for another five years." (6)

Leonard Raven-Hill, Poker and Tongs (8th January, 1908)

David Lloyd George complained bitterly to H. H. Asquith about the demands being made by Reginald McKenna, First Lord of the Admiralty, to spend more money on the navy. He reminded Asquith of "the emphatic pledges given by us before and during the general election campaign to reduce the gigantic expediture on armaments built up by our predecessors. but if Tory extravagance on armaments is seen to be exceeded, Liberals. will hardly think it worth their while to make any effort to keep in office a Liberal ministry. the Admiralty's proposals were a poor compromise between two scares - fear of the German navy abroad and fear of the Radical majority at home. You alone can save us from the prospect of squalid and sterile destruction." (7)

Lord Northcliffe had consistently described Germany as Britain's "secret and insidious enemy", and in October 1909 he commissioned Robert Blatchford, to visit Germany and then write a series of articles setting out the dangers. The German's, Blatchford wrote, were making "gigantic preparations" to destroy the British Empire and "to force German dictatorship upon the whole of Europe". He complained that Britain was not prepared for was and argued that the country was facing the possibility of an "Armageddon". (8)

Lloyd George was constantly in conflict with McKenna and suggested that his friend, Winston Churchill, should become First Lord of the Admiralty. Asquith took this advice and Churchill was appointed to the post on 24th October, 1911. McKenna, with the greatest reluctance, replaced him at the Home Office. This move backfired on Lloyd George as the Admiralty cured Churchill's passion for "economy". The "new ruler of the King's navy demanded an expenditure on new battleships which made McKenna's claims seem modest". (9)

The Admiralty reported to the British government that by 1912 Germany would have 17 dreadnoughts, three-fourths the number planned by Britain for that date. At a cabinet meeting David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill both expressed doubts about the veracity of the Admiralty intelligence. Churchill even accused Admiral John Fisher, who had provided this information, of applying pressure on naval attachés in Europe to provide any sort of data he needed. (10)

Admiral Fisher refused to be beaten and contacted King Edward VII about his fears. He in turn discussed the issue with H. H. Asquith. Lloyd George wrote to Churchill explaining how Asquith had now given approval to Fisher's proposals: "I feared all along this would happen. Fisher is a very clever person and when he found his programme in danger he wired Davidson (assistant private secretary to the King) for something more panicky - and of course he got it." (11)

On 7th February, 1912, Churchill made a speech where he pledged naval supremacy over Germany "whatever the cost". Churchill, who had opposed naval estimates of £35 million in 1908, now proposed to increase them to over £45 million. The German Naval Attaché, Captain Wilhelm Widenmann, wrote to Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, in an attempt to explain this change in policy. He claimed that Churchill was "clever enough" to realise that the British public would support "naval supremacy" whoever was in charge "as his boundless ambition takes account of popularity, he will manage his naval policy so as not to damage that" even dropping "the ideas of economy" which he had previously preached. (12)

The Admiralty reported to the British government that by 1912 Germany would have seventeen dreadnoughts, three-fourths the number planned by Britain for that date. At a cabinet meeting David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill both expressed doubts about the veracity of the Admiralty intelligence. Churchill even accused Admiral John Fisher, who had provided this information, of applying pressure on naval attachés in Europe to provide any sort of data he needed. (13)

Admiral Fisher refused to be beaten and contacted King Edward VII about his fears. He in turn discussed the issue with H. H. Asquith. Lloyd George wrote to Churchill explaining how Asquith had now given approval to Fisher's proposals: "I feared all along this would happen. Fisher is a very clever person and when he found his programme in danger he wired Davidson (assistant private secretary to the King) for something more panicky - and of course he got it." (14)

Winston Churchill now advocated spending £51,550,000 on the Navy in 1914. The "new ruler of the King's navy demanded an expenditure on new battleships which made McKenna's claims seem modest". (15) Lloyd George remained opposed to what he saw as inflated naval estimates and was not "prepared to squander money on building gigantic flotillas to encounter mythical armadas". According to George Riddell, a close friend of both men, recorded they were drifting wide apart on principles". (16) Riddell reported there were even rumours that Churchill was "mediating. going over to the other side." (17)

The one remaining British-built battleship left.

TMT has run pieces about former Royal Navy ships either in preservation or service overseas. There is one class that is sadly absent from modern types of ship – the battleship. None exists in this country. Indeed, there are no ex-RN battleships anywhere in the world – which is a very sad state of affairs.

The desire to preserve a capital ship is not new: even as it was decided to scrap HMS Warspite, people were arguing that she of all ships should have been kept as a monument to capital ship-building in this country, as well as a memorial to those who served in them.

Other candidates might have been HMS Rodney and the Vanguard, our last and biggest battleship, though completed with First World War guns in the interests of economy. In fact, if you consider that HMS Dreadnought was the first modern battleship, and HMS Vanguard the last, it just about sums up the British contribution to heavy naval ship construction in the first half of the 20 th Century – and makes it even more astonishing that we do not have one of these vessels preserved today.

Perhaps all is not lost, however, as there is one British-built pre-dreadnought battleship left in the world. It is the Mikasa, an improved Formidable Class ship built for the Japanese Navy at Vickers shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness and commissioned in 1902.

She was not large, only 432ft long, with a beam of 76ft (please note the absence of metric dimensions these are proper ships we are talking about!), and displaced just over 15,000 tons. Into this small space, they squeezed a crew of 830 men. Her 15,000 indicated HP could push her along at almost 18knots, though at a cruising speed of about 10kn she could cover some 9,000 nautical miles on her 2,000 tons of coal.

Four Elswick Ordnance Company, 40-calibre, twelve-inch guns made up her main battery she was in fact commissioned only three years before HMS Dreadnought rendered this sort of firepower obsolete over-night. She also carried a range of 6” casemate-mounted guns, as well as 12pdr Quick Firers for defence against the torpedo-boats that were becoming all the rage in naval circles at that time.

She was the Japanese flagship at the Battle of Tsushima in May 1905 when the Japanese navy thrashed the Russian fleet in the first victory of an Asian navy over a Western force. After destroying two-thirds of the enemy ships, the Japanese accepted the surrender of the Russian fleet at sea, the last time this happened in naval warfare.

Mikasa had been hit many times but survived with relatively light casualties. However, a few days after the battle, she sank as a result of a fire and explosion that killed some 250 of her crew. She was raised the following year and went on to fight in the First War and afterward in operations against Soviet Russia. She was decommissioned in 1923 as part of Japan’s obligations under the Washington Treaty.

Japan was allowed to keep her as a memorial ship and preserved her by setting her hull in concrete next to the sea at Yokosuka. She was opened to visitors in 1926 and was set to be a permanent memorial – until the Second World War broke out. After the war, Russia insisted the Mikasa should be broken up, but the US agreed that she represented no threat and allowed her to be kept as long as anything to do with weapons or main machinery was removed – a sad decision as it turns out. She then started to go into decline as she had become a rather anonymous hull adorned with a building to turn her into an amusement centre. She was slipping into terminal decline when John Rubin, a British–borne US-citizen decided to try to save her in 1955. After getting support from the Japanese public and senior US naval officers, he managed to rebuild the ship sufficiently convincingly for her to open in 1961.

A quick look at her main weapons shows how no attempt was made to reconstruct them as working, or even demonstration, items. She also has no engines – they were removed as explained earlier. Down below, a lot of the space has been turned over to museum exhibition spaces – but enough of the original cabin-area has been preserved (or restored) to allow one to get a good feel for what a ship of this sort might have been like when first launched.

Trus – she is not a former RN ship, but she is still a monument to British ship-design and building at the height of this country’s naval power. The ship is commemorated in Barrow-in-Furness by Mikasa Street on Walney Island.

HMS Vanguard

Source: Wikimedia Commons via United Kingdom Government

The HMS Vanguard was the last battleship built by the British Royal Navy. Although the HMS Vanguard was built for World War II, construction started too late into the war. After the War ended in 1945, the British Royal Navy decided to finish the battleship in case the war against the Japanese Empire dragged on.

Although the HMS Vanguard wasn’t used during World War II, the battleship was outfitted with the most anti-aircraft guns of any ship in the Royal Navy. Despite such heavy armament, the HMS Vanguard never fired any of its guns. The HMS Vanguard was used to carry out a few NATO duties during the Cold War before it was decommissioned.

Did You Know?

Since the HMS Vanguard was never used for war, it became a royal yacht in 1947 and carried the Royal Family of King George VI to South Africa.


Ships of the line Edit

A ship of the line was the dominant warship of its age. It was a large, unarmored wooden sailing ship which mounted a battery of up to 120 smoothbore guns and carronades. The ship of the line developed gradually over centuries and, apart from growing in size, it changed little between the adoption of line of battle tactics in the early 17th century and the end of the sailing battleship's heyday in the 1830s. From 1794, the alternative term 'line of battle ship' was contracted (informally at first) to 'battle ship' or 'battleship'. [14]

The sheer number of guns fired broadside meant a ship of the line could wreck any wooden enemy, holing her hull, knocking down masts, wrecking her rigging, and killing her crew. However, the effective range of the guns was as little as a few hundred yards, so the battle tactics of sailing ships depended in part on the wind.

The first major change to the ship of the line concept was the introduction of steam power as an auxiliary propulsion system. Steam power was gradually introduced to the navy in the first half of the 19th century, initially for small craft and later for frigates. The French Navy introduced steam to the line of battle with the 90-gun Napoléon in 1850 [15] —the first true steam battleship. [16] Napoléon was armed as a conventional ship-of-the-line, but her steam engines could give her a speed of 12 knots (22 km/h), regardless of the wind condition. This was a potentially decisive advantage in a naval engagement. The introduction of steam accelerated the growth in size of battleships. France and the United Kingdom were the only countries to develop fleets of wooden steam screw battleships although several other navies operated small numbers of screw battleships, including Russia (9), the Ottoman Empire (3), Sweden (2), Naples (1), Denmark (1) and Austria (1). [17] [2]

Ironclads Edit

The adoption of steam power was only one of a number of technological advances which revolutionized warship design in the 19th century. The ship of the line was overtaken by the ironclad: powered by steam, protected by metal armor, and armed with guns firing high-explosive shells.

Explosive shells Edit

Guns that fired explosive or incendiary shells were a major threat to wooden ships, and these weapons quickly became widespread after the introduction of 8-inch shell guns as part of the standard armament of French and American line-of-battle ships in 1841. [18] In the Crimean War, six line-of-battle ships and two frigates of the Russian Black Sea Fleet destroyed seven Turkish frigates and three corvettes with explosive shells at the Battle of Sinop in 1853. [19] Later in the war, French ironclad floating batteries used similar weapons against the defenses at the Battle of Kinburn. [20]

Nevertheless, wooden-hulled ships stood up comparatively well to shells, as shown in the 1866 Battle of Lissa, where the modern Austrian steam two-decker SMS Kaiser ranged across a confused battlefield, rammed an Italian ironclad and took 80 hits from Italian ironclads, [21] many of which were shells, [22] but including at least one 300-pound shot at point-blank range. Despite losing her bowsprit and her foremast, and being set on fire, she was ready for action again the very next day. [23]

Iron armor and construction Edit

The development of high-explosive shells made the use of iron armor plate on warships necessary. In 1859 France launched Gloire, the first ocean-going ironclad warship. She had the profile of a ship of the line, cut to one deck due to weight considerations. Although made of wood and reliant on sail for most journeys, Gloire was fitted with a propeller, and her wooden hull was protected by a layer of thick iron armor. [24] Gloire prompted further innovation from the Royal Navy, anxious to prevent France from gaining a technological lead.

The superior armored frigate Warrior followed Gloire by only 14 months, and both nations embarked on a program of building new ironclads and converting existing screw ships of the line to armored frigates. [25] Within two years, Italy, Austria, Spain and Russia had all ordered ironclad warships, and by the time of the famous clash of the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia at the Battle of Hampton Roads at least eight navies possessed ironclad ships. [2]

Navies experimented with the positioning of guns, in turrets (like the USS Monitor), central-batteries or barbettes, or with the ram as the principal weapon. As steam technology developed, masts were gradually removed from battleship designs. By the mid-1870s steel was used as a construction material alongside iron and wood. The French Navy's Redoutable, laid down in 1873 and launched in 1876, was a central battery and barbette warship which became the first battleship in the world to use steel as the principal building material. [27]

Pre-dreadnought battleship Edit

The term "battleship" was officially adopted by the Royal Navy in the re-classification of 1892. By the 1890s, there was an increasing similarity between battleship designs, and the type that later became known as the 'pre-dreadnought battleship' emerged. These were heavily armored ships, mounting a mixed battery of guns in turrets, and without sails. The typical first-class battleship of the pre-dreadnought era displaced 15,000 to 17,000 tons, had a speed of 16 knots (30 km/h), and an armament of four 12-inch (305 mm) guns in two turrets fore and aft with a mixed-caliber secondary battery amidships around the superstructure. [1] An early design with superficial similarity to the pre-dreadnought is the British Devastation class of 1871. [28] [29]

The slow-firing 12-inch (305 mm) main guns were the principal weapons for battleship-to-battleship combat. The intermediate and secondary batteries had two roles. Against major ships, it was thought a 'hail of fire' from quick-firing secondary weapons could distract enemy gun crews by inflicting damage to the superstructure, and they would be more effective against smaller ships such as cruisers. Smaller guns (12-pounders and smaller) were reserved for protecting the battleship against the threat of torpedo attack from destroyers and torpedo boats. [30]

The beginning of the pre-dreadnought era coincided with Britain reasserting her naval dominance. For many years previously, Britain had taken naval supremacy for granted. Expensive naval projects were criticised by political leaders of all inclinations. [2] However, in 1888 a war scare with France and the build-up of the Russian navy gave added impetus to naval construction, and the British Naval Defence Act of 1889 laid down a new fleet including eight new battleships. The principle that Britain's navy should be more powerful than the two next most powerful fleets combined was established. This policy was designed to deter France and Russia from building more battleships, but both nations nevertheless expanded their fleets with more and better pre-dreadnoughts in the 1890s. [2]

In the last years of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th, the escalation in the building of battleships became an arms race between Britain and Germany. The German naval laws of 1890 and 1898 authorised a fleet of 38 battleships, a vital threat to the balance of naval power. [2] Britain answered with further shipbuilding, but by the end of the pre-dreadnought era, British supremacy at sea had markedly weakened. In 1883, the United Kingdom had 38 battleships, twice as many as France and almost as many as the rest of the world put together. In 1897, Britain's lead was far smaller due to competition from France, Germany, and Russia, as well as the development of pre-dreadnought fleets in Italy, the United States and Japan. [31] The Ottoman Empire, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Chile and Brazil all had second-rate fleets led by armored cruisers, coastal defence ships or monitors. [32]

Pre-dreadnoughts continued the technical innovations of the ironclad. Turrets, armor plate, and steam engines were all improved over the years, and torpedo tubes were also introduced. A small number of designs, including the American Kearsarge and Virginia classes, experimented with all or part of the 8-inch intermediate battery superimposed over the 12-inch primary. Results were poor: recoil factors and blast effects resulted in the 8-inch battery being completely unusable, and the inability to train the primary and intermediate armaments on different targets led to significant tactical limitations. Even though such innovative designs saved weight (a key reason for their inception), they proved too cumbersome in practice. [33]

Dreadnought era Edit

In 1906, the British Royal Navy launched the revolutionary HMS Dreadnought. Created as a result of pressure from Admiral Sir John ("Jackie") Fisher, HMS Dreadnought made existing battleships obsolete. Combining an "all-big-gun" armament of ten 12-inch (305 mm) guns with unprecedented speed (from steam turbine engines) and protection, she prompted navies worldwide to re-evaluate their battleship building programs. While the Japanese had laid down an all-big-gun battleship, Satsuma, in 1904 [34] and the concept of an all-big-gun ship had been in circulation for several years, it had yet to be validated in combat. Dreadnought sparked a new arms race, principally between Britain and Germany but reflected worldwide, as the new class of warships became a crucial element of national power. [35]

Technical development continued rapidly through the dreadnought era, with steep changes in armament, armor and propulsion. Ten years after Dreadnought ' s commissioning, much more powerful ships, the super-dreadnoughts, were being built.

Origin Edit

In the first years of the 20th century, several navies worldwide experimented with the idea of a new type of battleship with a uniform armament of very heavy guns.

Admiral Vittorio Cuniberti, the Italian Navy's chief naval architect, articulated the concept of an all-big-gun battleship in 1903. When the Regia Marina did not pursue his ideas, Cuniberti wrote an article in Jane ' s proposing an "ideal" future British battleship, a large armored warship of 17,000 tons, armed solely with a single calibre main battery (twelve 12-inch [305 mm] guns), carrying 300-millimetre (12 in) belt armor, and capable of 24 knots (44 km/h). [36]

The Russo-Japanese War provided operational experience to validate the "all-big-gun" concept. During the Battle of the Yellow Sea on August 10, 1904, Admiral Togo of the Imperial Japanese Navy commenced deliberate 12-inch gun fire at the Russian flagship Tzesarevich at 14,200 yards (13,000 meters). [37] At the Battle of Tsushima on May 27, 1905, Russian Admiral Rozhestvensky's flagship fired the first 12-inch guns at the Japanese flagship Mikasa at 7,000 meters. [38] It is often held that these engagements demonstrated the importance of the 12-inch (305 mm) gun over its smaller counterparts, though some historians take the view that secondary batteries were just as important as the larger weapons when dealing with smaller fast moving torpedo craft. [2] Such was the case, albeit unsuccessfully, when the Russian battleship Knyaz Suvorov at Tsushima had been sent to the bottom by destroyer launched torpedoes. [39]

When dealing with a mixed 10- and 12-inch armament. The 1903–04 design also retained traditional triple-expansion steam engines. [40]

As early as 1904, Jackie Fisher had been convinced of the need for fast, powerful ships with an all-big-gun armament. If Tsushima influenced his thinking, it was to persuade him of the need to standardise on 12-inch (305 mm) guns. [2] Fisher's concerns were submarines and destroyers equipped with torpedoes, then threatening to outrange battleship guns, making speed imperative for capital ships. [2] Fisher's preferred option was his brainchild, the battlecruiser: lightly armored but heavily armed with eight 12-inch guns and propelled to 25 knots (46 km/h) by steam turbines. [41]

It was to prove this revolutionary technology that Dreadnought was designed in January 1905, laid down in October 1905 and sped to completion by 1906. She carried ten 12-inch guns, had an 11-inch armor belt, and was the first large ship powered by turbines. She mounted her guns in five turrets three on the centerline (one forward, two aft) and two on the wings, giving her at her launch twice the broadside of any other warship. She retained a number of 12-pound (3-inch, 76 mm) quick-firing guns for use against destroyers and torpedo-boats. Her armor was heavy enough for her to go head-to-head with any other ship in a gun battle, and conceivably win. [42]

Dreadnought was to have been followed by three Invincible-class battlecruisers, their construction delayed to allow lessons from Dreadnought to be used in their design. While Fisher may have intended Dreadnought to be the last Royal Navy battleship, [2] the design was so successful he found little support for his plan to switch to a battlecruiser navy. Although there were some problems with the ship (the wing turrets had limited arcs of fire and strained the hull when firing a full broadside, and the top of the thickest armor belt lay below the waterline at full load), the Royal Navy promptly commissioned another six ships to a similar design in the Bellerophon and St. Vincent classes.

An American design, South Carolina, authorized in 1905 and laid down in December 1906, was another of the first dreadnoughts, but she and her sister, Michigan, were not launched until 1908. Both used triple-expansion engines and had a superior layout of the main battery, dispensing with Dreadnought ' s wing turrets. They thus retained the same broadside, despite having two fewer guns.

Arms race Edit

In 1897, before the revolution in design brought about by HMS Dreadnought, the Royal Navy had 62 battleships in commission or building, a lead of 26 over France and 50 over Germany. [31] From the 1906 launching of Dreadnought, an arms race with major strategic consequences was prompted. Major naval powers raced to build their own dreadnoughts. Possession of modern battleships was not only seen as vital to naval power, but also, as with nuclear weapons after World War II, represented a nation's standing in the world. [2] Germany, France, Japan, [43] Italy, Austria, and the United States all began dreadnought programmes while the Ottoman Empire, Argentina, Russia, [43] Brazil, and Chile commissioned dreadnoughts to be built in British and American yards.

World War I Edit

By virtue of geography, the Royal Navy was able to use her imposing battleship and battlecruiser fleet to impose a strict and successful naval blockade of Germany and kept Germany's smaller battleship fleet bottled up in the North Sea: only narrow channels led to the Atlantic Ocean and these were guarded by British forces. [44] Both sides were aware that, because of the greater number of British dreadnoughts, a full fleet engagement would be likely to result in a British victory. The German strategy was therefore to try to provoke an engagement on their terms: either to induce a part of the Grand Fleet to enter battle alone, or to fight a pitched battle near the German coastline, where friendly minefields, torpedo-boats and submarines could be used to even the odds. [45] This did not happen however, due in large part to the necessity to keep submarines for the Atlantic campaign. Submarines were the only vessels in the Imperial German Navy able to break out and raid British commerce in force, but even though they sank many merchant ships, they could not successfully counter-blockade the United Kingdom the Royal Navy successfully adopted convoy tactics to combat Germany's submarine counter-blockade and eventually defeated it. [46] This was in stark contrast to Britain's successful blockade of Germany.

The first two years of war saw the Royal Navy's battleships and battlecruisers regularly "sweep" the North Sea making sure that no German ships could get in or out. Only a few German surface ships that were already at sea, such as the famous light cruiser SMS Emden, were able to raid commerce. Even some of those that did manage to get out were hunted down by battlecruisers, as in the Battle of the Falklands, December 7, 1914. The results of sweeping actions in the North Sea were battles including the Heligoland Bight and Dogger Bank and German raids on the English coast, all of which were attempts by the Germans to lure out portions of the Grand Fleet in an attempt to defeat the Royal Navy in detail. On May 31, 1916, a further attempt to draw British ships into battle on German terms resulted in a clash of the battlefleets in the Battle of Jutland. [47] The German fleet withdrew to port after two short encounters with the British fleet. Less than two months later, the Germans once again attempted to draw portions of the Grand Fleet into battle. The resulting Action of 19 August 1916 proved inconclusive. This reinforced German determination not to engage in a fleet to fleet battle. [48]

In the other naval theatres there were no decisive pitched battles. In the Black Sea, engagement between Russian and Ottoman battleships was restricted to skirmishes. In the Baltic Sea, action was largely limited to the raiding of convoys, and the laying of defensive minefields the only significant clash of battleship squadrons there was the Battle of Moon Sound at which one Russian pre-dreadnought was lost. The Adriatic was in a sense the mirror of the North Sea: the Austro-Hungarian dreadnought fleet remained bottled up by the British and French blockade. And in the Mediterranean, the most important use of battleships was in support of the amphibious assault on Gallipoli. [49]

In September 1914, the threat posed to surface ships by German U-boats was confirmed by successful attacks on British cruisers, including the sinking of three British armored cruisers by the German submarine SM U-9 in less than an hour. The British Super-dreadnought HMS Audacious soon followed suit as she struck a mine laid by a German U-boat in October 1914 and sank. The threat that German U-boats posed to British dreadnoughts was enough to cause the Royal Navy to change their strategy and tactics in the North Sea to reduce the risk of U-boat attack. [50] Further near-misses from submarine attacks on battleships and casualties amongst cruisers led to growing concern in the Royal Navy about the vulnerability of battleships.

As the war wore on however, it turned out that whilst submarines did prove to be a very dangerous threat to older pre-dreadnought battleships, as shown by examples such as the sinking of Mesûdiye, which was caught in the Dardanelles by a British submarine [51] and HMS Majestic and HMS Triumph were torpedoed by U-21 as well as HMS Formidable, HMS Cornwallis, HMS Britannia etc., the threat posed to dreadnought battleships proved to have been largely a false alarm. HMS Audacious turned out to be the only dreadnought sunk by a submarine in World War I. [46] While battleships were never intended for anti-submarine warfare, there was one instance of a submarine being sunk by a dreadnought battleship. HMS Dreadnought rammed and sank the German submarine U-29 on March 18, 1915, off the Moray Firth. [46]

Whilst the escape of the German fleet from the superior British firepower at Jutland was effected by the German cruisers and destroyers successfully turning away the British battleships, the German attempt to rely on U-boat attacks on the British fleet failed. [52]

Torpedo boats did have some successes against battleships in World War I, as demonstrated by the sinking of the British pre-dreadnought HMS Goliath by Muâvenet-i Millîye during the Dardanelles Campaign and the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian dreadnought SMS Szent István by Italian motor torpedo boats in June 1918. In large fleet actions, however, destroyers and torpedo boats were usually unable to get close enough to the battleships to damage them. The only battleship sunk in a fleet action by either torpedo boats or destroyers was the obsolescent German pre-dreadnought SMS Pommern. She was sunk by destroyers during the night phase of the Battle of Jutland.

The German High Seas Fleet, for their part, were determined not to engage the British without the assistance of submarines and since the submarines were needed more for raiding commercial traffic, the fleet stayed in port for much of the war. [53]

Inter-war period Edit

For many years, Germany simply had no battleships. The Armistice with Germany required that most of the High Seas Fleet be disarmed and interned in a neutral port largely because no neutral port could be found, the ships remained in British custody in Scapa Flow, Scotland. The Treaty of Versailles specified that the ships should be handed over to the British. Instead, most of them were scuttled by their German crews on June 21, 1919, just before the signature of the peace treaty. The treaty also limited the German Navy, and prevented Germany from building or possessing any capital ships. [54]

The inter-war period saw the battleship subjected to strict international limitations to prevent a costly arms race breaking out. [55]

While the victors were not limited by the Treaty of Versailles, many of the major naval powers were crippled after the war. Faced with the prospect of a naval arms race against the United Kingdom and Japan, which would in turn have led to a possible Pacific war, the United States was keen to conclude the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. This treaty limited the number and size of battleships that each major nation could possess, and required Britain to accept parity with the U.S. and to abandon the British alliance with Japan. [56] The Washington treaty was followed by a series of other naval treaties, including the First Geneva Naval Conference (1927), the First London Naval Treaty (1930), the Second Geneva Naval Conference (1932), and finally the Second London Naval Treaty (1936), which all set limits on major warships. These treaties became effectively obsolete on September 1, 1939, at the beginning of World War II, but the ship classifications that had been agreed upon still apply. [57] The treaty limitations meant that fewer new battleships were launched in 1919–1939 than in 1905–1914. The treaties also inhibited development by imposing upper limits on the weights of ships. Designs like the projected British N3-class battleship, the first American South Dakota class, and the Japanese Kii class—all of which continued the trend to larger ships with bigger guns and thicker armor—never got off the drawing board. Those designs which were commissioned during this period were referred to as treaty battleships. [58]

Rise of air power Edit

As early as 1914, the British Admiral Percy Scott predicted that battleships would soon be made irrelevant by aircraft. [59] By the end of World War I, aircraft had successfully adopted the torpedo as a weapon. [60] In 1921 the Italian general and air theorist Giulio Douhet completed a hugely influential treatise on strategic bombing titled The Command of the Air, which foresaw the dominance of air power over naval units.

In the 1920s, General Billy Mitchell of the United States Army Air Corps, believing that air forces had rendered navies around the world obsolete, testified in front of Congress that "1,000 bombardment airplanes can be built and operated for about the price of one battleship" and that a squadron of these bombers could sink a battleship, making for more efficient use of government funds. [61] This infuriated the U.S. Navy, but Mitchell was nevertheless allowed to conduct a careful series of bombing tests alongside Navy and Marine bombers. In 1921, he bombed and sank numerous ships, including the "unsinkable" German World War I battleship SMS Ostfriesland and the American pre-dreadnought Alabama. [62]

Although Mitchell had required "war-time conditions", the ships sunk were obsolete, stationary, defenseless and had no damage control. The sinking of Ostfriesland was accomplished by violating an agreement that would have allowed Navy engineers to examine the effects of various munitions: Mitchell's airmen disregarded the rules, and sank the ship within minutes in a coordinated attack. The stunt made headlines, and Mitchell declared, "No surface vessels can exist wherever air forces acting from land bases are able to attack them." While far from conclusive, Mitchell's test was significant because it put proponents of the battleship against naval aviation on the back foot. [2] Rear Admiral William A. Moffett used public relations against Mitchell to make headway toward expansion of the U.S. Navy's nascent aircraft carrier program. [63]

Rearmament Edit

The Royal Navy, United States Navy, and Imperial Japanese Navy extensively upgraded and modernized their World War I–era battleships during the 1930s. Among the new features were an increased tower height and stability for the optical rangefinder equipment (for gunnery control), more armor (especially around turrets) to protect against plunging fire and aerial bombing, and additional anti-aircraft weapons. Some British ships received a large block superstructure nicknamed the "Queen Anne's castle", such as in Queen Elizabeth and Warspite, which would be used in the new conning towers of the King George V-class fast battleships. External bulges were added to improve both buoyancy to counteract weight increase and provide underwater protection against mines and torpedoes. The Japanese rebuilt all of their battleships, plus their battlecruisers, with distinctive "pagoda" structures, though the Hiei received a more modern bridge tower that would influence the new Yamato class. Bulges were fitted, including steel tube arrays to improve both underwater and vertical protection along the waterline. The U.S. experimented with cage masts and later tripod masts, though after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor some of the most severely damaged ships (such as West Virginia and California) were rebuilt with tower masts, for an appearance similar to their Iowa-class contemporaries. Radar, which was effective beyond visual range and effective in complete darkness or adverse weather, was introduced to supplement optical fire control. [64]

Even when war threatened again in the late 1930s, battleship construction did not regain the level of importance it had held in the years before World War I. The "building holiday" imposed by the naval treaties meant the capacity of dockyards worldwide had shrunk, and the strategic position had changed. [65]

In Germany, the ambitious Plan Z for naval rearmament was abandoned in favor of a strategy of submarine warfare supplemented by the use of battlecruisers and commerce raiding (in particular by Bismarck-class battleships). In Britain, the most pressing need was for air defenses and convoy escorts to safeguard the civilian population from bombing or starvation, and re-armament construction plans consisted of five ships of the King George V class. It was in the Mediterranean that navies remained most committed to battleship warfare. France intended to build six battleships of the Dunkerque and Richelieu classes, and the Italians four Littorio-class ships. Neither navy built significant aircraft carriers. The U.S. preferred to spend limited funds on aircraft carriers until the South Dakota class. Japan, also prioritising aircraft carriers, nevertheless began work on three mammoth Yamatos (although the third, Shinano, was later completed as a carrier) and a planned fourth was cancelled. [13]

At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, the Spanish navy included only two small dreadnought battleships, España and Jaime I. España (originally named Alfonso XIII), by then in reserve at the northwestern naval base of El Ferrol, fell into Nationalist hands in July 1936. The crew aboard Jaime I remained loyal to the Republic, killed their officers, who apparently supported Franco's attempted coup, and joined the Republican Navy. Thus each side had one battleship however, the Republican Navy generally lacked experienced officers. The Spanish battleships mainly restricted themselves to mutual blockades, convoy escort duties, and shore bombardment, rarely in direct fighting against other surface units. [66] In April 1937, España ran into a mine laid by friendly forces, and sank with little loss of life. In May 1937, Jaime I was damaged by Nationalist air attacks and a grounding incident. The ship was forced to go back to port to be repaired. There she was again hit by several aerial bombs. It was then decided to tow the battleship to a more secure port, but during the transport she suffered an internal explosion that caused 300 deaths and her total loss. Several Italian and German capital ships participated in the non-intervention blockade. On May 29, 1937, two Republican aircraft managed to bomb the German pocket battleship Deutschland outside Ibiza, causing severe damage and loss of life. Admiral Scheer retaliated two days later by bombarding Almería, causing much destruction, and the resulting Deutschland incident meant the end of German and Italian participation in non-intervention. [67]


Archaeologists generally agree that the majority of the British Isles were inhabited by Celts before the Roman invasion. [2] The Romans did not distinguish between the Welsh tribes and all of the other British tribes. [3]

Northern Wales and southern Wales have some notable cultural differences before the Roman invasion, and should not be considered one entity. [4] Southern Wales was advancing along with the rest of Britain throughout the Iron Age, whereas the Northern parts of Wales were conservative and slower to advance. [4] Along with their technological advancement, from the fifth to the first century BC, southern Wales became more heavily and densely populated. [3] [4] Southern Wales had more in common with the north than it did with the rest of Britain, and they saw little outside influence up until the Roman conquest. [5]

Hill forts are one of the most common sites found throughout Iron-Age Wales, and this is what archaeologists mostly rely on for most of their evidence. Nevertheless, due to the relative lack of archaeological activity, survey groupings of these forts throughout Wales can be uneven or misleading. [4] Modern scholars theorize that Wales before the Roman conquest was similar to the rest of Iron Age Britain, however, this is still debated due to the sparsity of evidence. [6] For the most part, the regions' archaeological legacy consists of burials and hill forts, Wales (along with more distant parts of Britain) gradually stopped making pottery throughout the Iron Age (which usually helps archaeologists explore the distant past). [6] However, this is not to say that there was no trade within the region evidenced by archaeological assemblages (such as the Wilburton complex) suggest that there was trade throughout all of Britain, connecting with Ireland and Northern France. [6]

On the eve of the Roman invasion of Wales, the Roman military under Governor Aulus Plautius was in control of all of southeastern Britain as well as Dumnonia, perhaps including the lowland English Midlands as far as the Dee Estuary and the River Mersey, and having an understanding with the Brigantes to the north. [7] They controlled most of the island's centers of wealth, as well as much of its trade and resources.

In Wales the known tribes (the list may be incomplete) included the Ordovices and Deceangli in the north, and the Silures and Demetae in the south. Archaeology combined with ancient Greek and Roman accounts have shown that there was exploitation of natural resources, such as copper, gold, tin, lead and silver at multiple locations in Britain, including in Wales. [8] Apart from this we have little knowledge of the Welsh tribes of this era.

There is uncertainty regarding which parts of Wales were invaded by the Romans prior to the conquest of Anglesey in 60AD. [2] This uncertainty stems from a lack of written source material, with Tacitus as the only written source documenting this period. [3]

Tacitus records that a tribe had attacked a Roman ally in Britain. [9] According to Tacitus, the tribe that was responsible for this incursion was the 'Decangi', scholars associate this tribe with the Welsh Deceangli. [3] The Romans responded swiftly, imposing restrictions upon all of the suspected tribes, then they began to move against the Deceangli. [3] The Roman conquest of this tribe is predicted to have been between the years AD 48 or 49. [3]

Shortly following this, the Romans campaigned against the Silures tribe of south-eastern Wales which must have had previous encounters with the Roman army. [3] Due to the Silures' ferocity and insubordination, the Romans built a legionary fortress to suppress them. [3] The Silures (and later the Ordovices) were led by Caratacus, a king who fled South-eastern England. [3] Under Caratacus' rule, the Welsh fought the Romans in a pitched battle which resulted in the loss of all the Ordovician territory. [3] This defeat was not crushing, and Caratacus continued to fight the Romans, defeating two auxiliary cohorts. [3] Caratacus fled to the Queen of the Brigantes. Queen Cartimandua was loyal to the Romans and handed Caratacus over to Roman forces 51 AD. [10] While dealing with all of these problems, in 52 AD, Scapula died. [3] This death gave the Silures some time before Scapula's successor, Didius Gallus, would arrive. In that time, the Silures defeated a Roman legion led by Manlius Valens. [3]

In AD 54, emperor Claudius died and was succeeded by Nero. This caused the situation in Britain to change, and Rome began to focus more on consolidating their power in Britain instead of expanding their territory. [3] This is evidenced from the archaeological record, which finds vexillation fortresses (small Roman forts) at the time of Nero's succession. [3]

After a short period of relative inaction, Quintus Veranius became governor of Britain and decided it was time to conquer the rest of the British Isles. [10] Veranius began to campaign against the Silures, but in 58 AD he died, one year after he was appointed to Britain. [3] Suetonius Paulinus was his successor, and it would seem that Veranius had some success in his campaigns because Paulinus began to shift north (suggesting that there was no notable opposition in the south). [3] Paulinus was quite successful in his conquest of northern Wales, and it would seem by 60 AD that he had pushed all the way to the Irish Sea because he was preparing for a conquest of Anglesey. [10]

Anglesey was swelling with migrants fleeing from the Romans, and it had become a stronghold for the Druids. [3] [10] Despite the Romans initial fear and superstition of Anglesey, they were able to achieve victory and subdue the Welsh tribes. [10] However, this victory was short lived and a massive British rebellion led by Boudica erupted in the east and interrupted the consolidation of Wales. [3] [10]

It was not until 74 AD that Julius Frontinus resumed the campaigns against Wales. [10] By the end of his term in 77 AD, he had subdued most of Wales. [3] [10]

Only one tribe was left mostly intact throughout the conquest - the Demetae. This tribe did not oppose Rome, and developed peacefully, isolated from its neighbors and the Roman Empire. [10] The Demetae were the only pre-Roman Welsh tribe to emerge from Roman rule with their tribal name intact.

Mining Edit

The mineral wealth of Britain was well-known prior to the Roman invasion and was one of the expected benefits of conquest. All mineral extractions were state-sponsored and under military control, as mineral rights belonged to the emperor. [11] His agents soon found substantial deposits of gold, copper, and lead in Wales, along with some zinc and silver. Gold was mined at Dolaucothi prior to the invasion, but Roman engineering would be applied to greatly increase the amount extracted, and to extract huge amounts of the other metals. This continued until the process was no longer practical or profitable, at which time the mine was abandoned. [12]

Modern scholars have made efforts to quantify the value of these extracted metals to the Roman economy, and to determine the point at which the Roman occupation of Britain was "profitable" to the Empire. While these efforts have not produced deterministic results, the benefits to Rome were substantial. The gold production at Dolaucothi alone may have been of economic significance. [13]

Industrial production Edit

The production of goods for trade and export in Roman Britain was concentrated in the south and east, with virtually none situated in Wales.

This was largely due to circumstance, with iron forges located near iron supplies, pewter (tin with some lead or copper) moulds located near the tin supplies and suitable soil (for the moulds), clusters of pottery kilns located near suitable clayey soil, grain-drying ovens located in agricultural areas where sheep raising (for wool) was also located, and salt production concentrated in its historical pre-Roman locations. Glass-making sites were located in or near urban centres. [12]

In Wales none of the needed materials were available in suitable combination, and the forested, mountainous countryside was not amenable to this kind of industrialisation.

Clusters of tileries, both large and small, were at first operated by the Roman military to meet their own needs, and so there were temporary sites wherever the army went and could find suitable soil. This included a few places in Wales. [14] However, as Roman influence grew, the army was able to obtain tiles from civilian sources who located their kilns in the lowland areas containing good soil, and then shipped the tiles to wherever they were needed.

Romanisation Edit

The Romans occupied the whole of the area now known as Wales, where they built Roman roads and castra, mined gold at Luentinum and conducted commerce, but their interest in the area was limited because of the difficult geography and shortage of flat agricultural land. Most of the Roman remains in Wales are military in nature. Sarn Helen, a major highway, linked the North with South Wales.

The area was controlled by Roman legionary bases at Deva Victrix (modern Chester) and Isca Augusta (Caerleon), two of the three such bases in Roman Britain, with roads linking these bases to auxiliaries' forts such as Segontium (Caernarfon) and Moridunum (Carmarthen).

Furthermore, South-east Wales was the most Romanised part of the country. It is possible that Roman estates in the area survived as recognisable units into the eighth century: the kingdom of Gwent is likely to have been founded by direct descendants of the (romanised) Silurian ruling class [15] '

The best indicators of Romanising acculturation is the presence of urban sites (areas with towns, coloniae, and tribal civitates) and villas in the countryside. In Wales, this can be said only of the southeasternmost coastal region of South Wales. The only civitates in Wales were at Carmarthen and Caerwent. [16] There were three small urban sites near Caerwent, and these and Roman Monmouth were the only other "urbanised" sites in Wales. [17]

In the southwestern homeland of the Demetae, several sites have been classified as villas in the past, [18] but excavation of these and examination of sites as yet unexcavated suggest that they are pre-Roman family homesteads, sometimes updated through Roman technology (such as stone masonry), but having a native character quite different than the true Roman-derived villas that are found to the east, such as in Oxfordshire. [19]

Perhaps surprisingly, the presence of Roman-era Latin inscriptions is not suggestive of full Romanisation. They are most numerous at military sites, and their occurrence elsewhere depended on access to suitable stone and the presence of stonemasons, as well as patronage. The Roman fort complex at Tomen y Mur near the coast of northwestern Wales has produced more inscriptions than either Segontium (near modern Caernarfon) or Noviomagus Reginorum (Chichester). [20]

Hill forts Edit

In areas of civil control, such as the territories of a civitas, the fortification and occupation of hill forts was banned as a matter of Roman policy. However, further inland and northward, a number of pre-Roman hill forts continued to be used in the Roman Era, while others were abandoned during the Roman Era, and still others were newly occupied. The inference is that local leaders who were willing to accommodate Roman interests were encouraged and allowed to continue, providing local leadership under local law and custom. [21]

There is virtually no evidence to shed light on the practice of religion in Wales during the Roman era, save the anecdotal account of the strange appearance and bloodthirsty customs of the druids of Anglesey by Tacitus during the conquest of Wales. [22] It is fortunate for Rome's reputation that Tacitus described the druids as horrible, else it would be a story of the Roman massacre of defenceless, unarmed men and women. The likelihood of partisan propaganda and an appeal to salacious interests combine to suggest that the account merits suspicion. [ citation needed ]

The Welsh region of Britain was not significant to the Romanisation of the island and contains almost no buildings related to religious practice, save where the Roman military was located, and these reflect the practices of non-native soldiers. Any native religious sites would have been constructed of wood that has not survived and so are difficult to locate anywhere in Britain, let alone in mountainous, forest-covered Wales.

The time of the arrival of Christianity to Wales is unknown. Archaeology suggests that it came to Roman Britain slowly, gaining adherents among coastal merchants and in the upper classes first, and never becoming widespread outside of the southeast in the Roman Era. [23] [24] There is also evidence of a preference for non-Christian devotion in parts of Britain, such as in the upper regions of the Severn Estuary in the 4th century, from the Forest of Dean east of the River Wye continuously around the coast of the estuary, up to and including Somerset. [25]

In the De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae, written c. 540, Gildas provides a story of the martyrdom of Saint Alban at Verulamium, and of Julius and Aaron at Legionum Urbis, the 'City of the Legion', saying that this occurred during a persecution of Christians at a time when 'decrees' against them were issued. [26] Bede repeats the story in his Ecclesiastical History, written c. 731. [27] The otherwise unspecified 'City of the Legion' is arguably Caerleon, Welsh Caerllion, the 'Fortress of the Legion', and the only candidate with a long and continuous military presence that lay within a Romanised region of Britain, with nearby towns and a Roman civitas. Other candidates are Chester and Carlisle, though both were located far from the Romanised area of Britain and had a transitory, more military-oriented history.

A parenthetical note concerns Saint Patrick, a patron saint of Ireland. He was a Briton born c. 387 in Banna Venta Berniae, a location that is unknown due to the transcription errors in surviving manuscripts. His home is a matter of conjecture, with sites near Carlisle favoured by some, [28] while coastal South Wales is favoured by others. [29]

By the middle of the 4th century the Roman presence in Britain was no longer vigorous. Once-unfortified towns were now being surrounded by defensive walls, including both Carmarthen and Caerwent. [30] Political control finally collapsed and a number of alien tribes then took advantage of the situation, raiding widely throughout the island, joined by Roman soldiers who had deserted and by elements of the native Britons themselves. [31] Order was restored in 369, but Roman Britain would not recover.

It was at this time [32] that Wales received an infusion of settlers from southern Ireland, the Uí Liatháin, Laigin, and possibly Déisi, [33] [34] [35] the last no longer seen as certain, with only the first two verified by reliable sources and place-name evidence. The Irish were concentrated along the southern and western coasts, in Anglesey and Gwynedd (excepting the cantrefi of Arfon and Arllechwedd), and in the territory of the Demetae.

The circumstances of their arrival are unknown, and theories include categorising them as "raiders", as "invaders" who established a hegemony, and as "foederati" invited by the Romans. It might as easily have been the consequence of a depopulation in Wales caused by plague or famine, both of which were usually ignored by ancient chroniclers.

What is known is that their characteristically Irish circular huts are found where they settled that the inscription stones found in Wales, whether in Latin or ogham or both, are characteristically Irish that when both Latin and ogham are present on a stone, the name in the Latin text is given in Brittonic form while the same name is given in Irish form in ogham [36] and that medieval Welsh royal genealogies include Irish-named ancestors [37] [38] who also appear in the native Irish narrative The Expulsion of the Déisi. [39] This phenomenon may however be the result of later influences and again only the presence of the Uí Liatháin and Laigin in Wales has been verified.

Historical accounts tell of the upheavals in the Roman Empire during the 3rd and 4th centuries, with notice of the withdrawal of troops from Roman Britain in support of the imperial ambitions of Roman generals stationed there. In much of Wales, where Roman troops were the only indication of Roman rule, that rule ended when troops left and did not return. The end came to different regions at different times.

Tradition holds that Roman customs held on for several years in southern Wales, lasting into the end of the 5th century and early 6th century, and that is true in part. Caerwent continued to be occupied after the Roman departure, while Carmarthen was probably abandoned in the late 4th century. [40] In addition, southwestern Wales was the tribal territory of the Demetae, who had never become thoroughly Romanised. The entire region of southwestern Wales had been settled by Irish newcomers in the late 4th century, and it seems far-fetched to suggest that they were ever fully Romanised.

However, in the southeast Wales, following the withdrawal of the Roman legions from Britain, the town of Venta Silurum (Caerwent) remained occupied by Romano-Britons until at least the early sixth century: Early Christian worship was still established in the town, that might have had a bishop with a monastery in the second half of that century.

In Welsh literary tradition, Magnus Maximus is the central figure in the emergence of a free Britain in the post-Roman era. Royal and religious genealogies compiled in the Middle Ages have him as the ancestor of kings and saints. [37] [38] In the Welsh story of Breuddwyd Macsen Wledig (The Dream of Emperor Maximus), he is Emperor of Rome and marries a wondrous British woman, telling her that she may name her desires, to be received as a wedding portion. She asks that her father be given sovereignty over Britain, thus formalising the transfer of authority from Rome back to the Britons themselves.

Historically Magnus Maximus was a Roman general who served in Britain in the late 4th century, launching his successful bid for imperial power from Britain in 383. This is the last date for any evidence of a Roman military presence in Wales, the western Pennines, and Deva (i.e., the entire non-Romanised region of Britain south of Hadrian's Wall). Coins dated later than 383 have been excavated along the Wall, suggesting that troops were not stripped from it, as was once thought. [41] In the De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae written c. 540, Gildas says that Maximus left Britain not only with all of its Roman troops, but also with all of its armed bands, governors, and the flower of its youth, never to return. [42] Having left with the troops and senior administrators, and planning to continue as the ruler of Britain, his practical course was to transfer local authority to local rulers. Welsh legend provides a mythic story that says he did exactly that.

After he became emperor of the Western Roman Empire, Maximus would return to Britain to campaign against the Picts and Scots (i.e., Irish), probably in support of Rome's long-standing allies the Damnonii, Votadini, and Novantae (all located in modern Scotland). While there he likely made similar arrangements for a formal transfer of authority to local chiefs: the later rulers of Galloway, home to the Novantae, would claim Maximus as the founder of their line, the same as did the Welsh kings. [41]

Maximus would rule the Roman West until he was killed in 388. A succession of governors would rule southeastern Britain until 407, but there is nothing to suggest that any Roman effort was made to regain control of the west or north after 383, and that year would be the definitive end of the Roman era in Wales.

Wendy Davies has argued that the later medieval Welsh approach to property and estates was a Roman legacy, but this issue and others related to legacy are not yet resolved. For example, Leslie Alcock has argued that that approach to property and estates cannot pre-date the 6th century and is thus post-Roman. [43]

There was little Latin linguistic heritage left to the Welsh language, only a number of borrowings from the Latin lexicon. With the absence of early written Welsh sources there is no way of knowing when these borrowings were incorporated into Welsh, and may date from a later post-Roman era when the language of literacy was still Latin. Borrowings include a few common words and word forms. For example, Welsh ffenestr is from Latin fenestra, 'window' llyfr is from liber, 'book' ysgrif is from scribo, 'scribe' and the suffix -wys found in Welsh folk names is derived from the Latin suffix -ēnsēs. [44] [45] There are a few military terms, such as caer from Latin castra, 'fortress'. Eglwys, meaning 'church', is ultimately derived from the Greek klēros.

Welsh kings would later use the authority of Magnus Maximus as the basis of their inherited political legitimacy. While imperial Roman entries in Welsh royal genealogies lack any historical foundation, they serve to illustrate the belief that legitimate royal authority began with Magnus Maximus. As told in The Dream of Emperor Maximus, Maximus married a Briton, and their supposed children are given in genealogies as the ancestors of kings. Tracing ancestries back further, Roman emperors are listed as the sons of earlier Roman emperors, thus incorporating many famous Romans (e.g., Constantine the Great) into the royal genealogies.

The kings of medieval Gwynedd trace their origins to the northern British kingdom of Manaw Gododdin (located in modern Scotland), and they also claim a connection to Roman authority in their genealogies ("Eternus son of Paternus son of Tacitus"). This claim may be either an independent one, or was perhaps an invention intended to rival the legitimacy of kings claiming descent from the historical Maximus.

Gwyn A. Williams argues that even at the time of the erection of Offa's Dyke (that divided Wales from medieval England) the people to its west saw themselves as "Roman", citing the number of Latin inscriptions still being made into the 8th century. [46]

The WWI Battleships That Saved (And Doomed) the British Empire

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

The HMS Dreadnought underway in 1906. U.S. Naval Historical Center/Wikimedia

To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

World War I was shaped by the new vehicles developed during the four years of conflict. A century after the start of the war, we’re looking back at the most remarkable vehicles---the planes, cars, tanks, ships, and zeppelins---it helped bring about.

Aviation and the automobile were in their infancy when World War I started in 1914, but naval warfare had thousands of years of history behind it. It was, however, in a period of dramatic change, and the ships Britain poured its resources into building helped the country win the war---and eventually lose its empire.

At the time, the backbone of the British Royal Navy's Grand Fleet consisted of dozens of dreadnought battleships. The HMS Dreadnought, commissioned in 1906, was the latest in a line of warships that had carried the name since the 1500s. The name referred to a heavy overcoat worn in stormy weather, but the HMS Dreadnought was so revolutionary its name came to describe an entire class of battleships.

Though still a matter of some dispute amongst military historians, World War I largely ushered in the end of British dominance of the high seas and the beginning of the end of the British Empire. The Grand Fleet's enormous number of first-class battleships---some 35 ships, including a half-dozen from the US---played a key role in the war effort. They forced Germany to pour huge sums into its own navy, making it difficult to effectively finance its war effort. However, the massive cost of the ships, at a time when the British Empire was in severe financial distress, was ruinous in the long term. By the end of the war, the nation had nearly bankrupted itself building close to 30 dreadnoughts that faced significant threats from torpedo ships operated by even small navies.

"The lure of a convenient enemy, intent on fighting a battle that the Royal Navy relished, was too much," says Angus Ross, a professor at the US Naval War College in Rhode Island who has written about the topic. "So, Britain went into Dreadnoughts. In so doing, she bankrupted the Empire and lost her position as the world's premier navy forever."

Two of the HMS Dreadnought's 12-inch guns.

The Dreadnoughts were developed to do more with less while simultaneously addressing issues with previous battleships. For one thing, battleships of the era found it difficult to hit their targets. All ship guns were unguided, with gunners using splashes in the water to judge missed shots and adjust their aim. However, because both the target and the gun were constantly moving, by the time the gun was reloaded and ready to fire, any information gleaned about range and direction was nearly useless.

Royal Navy and the First World War

In 1914 the Royal Navy was by far the most powerful navy in the world. The Royal Navy's basic responsibilities included policing colonies and trade routes, defending coastlines and imposing blockades on hostile powers. The British government took the view that to do all this, the Royal Navy had to possess a battlefleet that was larger than the world's two next largest navies put together.

By early 1914 the Royal Navy had 18 modern dreadnoughts (6 more under construction), 10 battlecruisers, 20 town cruisers, 15 scout cruisers, 200 destroyers, 29 battleships (pre-dreadnought design) and 150 cruisers built before 1907.

After the outbreak of the First World War, most of the Royal Navy's large ships were stationed at Scapa Flow in the Orkneys or Rosyth in Scotland in readiness to stop any large-scale breakout attempt by the Germans. Britain's cruisers, destroyers, submarines and light forces were clustered around the British coast.

The Mediterranean fleet, of two battlecruisers and eight cruisers were based in Gibraltar, Malta and Alexandria. These were used during the operations to protect Suez and the landings at Gallipoli. There were also naval forces in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

In August 1914 Admiral Sir David Beatty devised a plan to draw the German Navy into a major sea battle. Beatty used two light cruisers, the Fearless and Arethusa and 25 destroyers to raid German ships close to the German naval base at Heligoland. When the German Navy responded to the attack, Beatty brought forward the battleships, New Zealand and Invincible and three battlecruisers. In the battle that followed, the Germans lost three German cruisers and a destroyer. The British ship, the Arethusa was badly damaged but was towed home to safety.

The British Navy suffered three early shocks. On 22nd September, 1914, German U-boats destroyed the Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue with the loss of 1,400 sailors. This was followed by Audacious, a dreadnought completed in late 1913, sinking after hitting a mine off the northern coast of Ireland. After this, the Royal Navy became very cautious and restricted itself to unadventurous sweeps of the North Sea.

In December 1914 Admiral Franz von Hipper and the First High Seas Fleet bombarded the costal towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby. The attack killed 18 civilians and created a great deal of anger against Germany and the Royal Navy for failing to protect the British coast.

Admiral Hipper planned to make another raid on 23rd January, 1915, but this time his fleet was intercepted by Admiral David Beatty and six fast cruisers and a flotilla of destroyers. The British shells damaged the ships, Sydlitz and Bloucher but the German's retaliated and damaged Beatty's flag ship, the Lion. Afterwards, both sides afterwards claimed Dogger Bank as a victory.

The only major wartime confrontation between the Royal Navy and the German High Seas Fleet took place at Jutland on 31st May 1916. The British lost three battlecruisers, three cruisers, eight destroyers and suffered 6,100 casualties the Germans lost one battleship, one battlecruiser. four cruisers and five destroyers, with 2,550 casualties. The Royal Navy was shocked by the outcome considering that it clearly outnumbered outnumbered German forces (151 to 99). However, Jutland was seen as a victory by the British commanders because it reinforced the idea that the Britain had command over the North Sea.

After Jutland the Royal Navy's main preoccupation was the battle against the German U-Boats. The war against submarines in the Mediterranean and home waters was vital to the British war effort and it was not until the autumn of 1917 that the transportation of troops and supplies from the British Empire to Europe could be made with confidence.

During the First World War the Royal Navy lost 2 dreadnoughts, 3 battlecruisers, 11 battleships, 25 cruisers, 54 submarines, 64 destroyers and 10 torpedo boats. Total naval casualties were 34,642 dead and 4,510 wounded.

Home Front

Even more alarming to the authorities, especially those in the West Indies, was the fact that between 1916 and 1919 a number of colonies including St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados, Antigua, Trinidad, Jamaica and British Guiana experienced a series of strikes in which people were shot and killed. It was into this turmoil that the disgruntled seamen and ex-servicemen were about to return and many people in the region were hoping or anticipating - and, in the case of the authorities, fearing - that their arrival would bring the conflict to head.

West Indian participation in the war was a significant event in the still ongoing process of identity formation in the post-emancipation era of West Indian history.

When the disgruntled BWIR soldiers began arriving back in the West Indies they quickly joined a wave of worker protests resulting from a severe economic crisis produced by the war, and the influence of black nationalist ideology espoused by black nationalist leader Marcus Garvey and others. Disenchanted soldiers and angry workers unleashed a series of protest actions and riots in a number of territories including Jamaica, Grenada and especially in British Honduras.

West Indian participation in the war was a significant event in the still ongoing process of identity formation in the post-emancipation era of West Indian history. The war stimulated profound socio-economic, political and psychological change and greatly facilitated protest against the oppressive conditions in the colonies, and against colonial rule by giving a fillip to the adoption of the nationalist ideologies of Marcus Garvey and others, throughout the region. The war also laid the foundation for the nationalist upheavals of the 1930s in which World War One veterans were to play a significant role.

Legacies ↑

The Anglo-German naval race heightened the tensions between the German and British Empires and cast a long shadow over their pre-war diplomacy. To be sure, the race was decided early on political leaders and diplomats learned to bracket it as an issue, and it did not cause the decision for war in 1914. But the naval competition nonetheless created an atmosphere of mutual hostility and distrust, which circumscribed the space for peaceful diplomacy and public recognition of shared interests, and helped to pave the twisted road to war in Europe. The race’s outcome fed the panic among German elites over the prospect of Germany losing its place as a world power. This, in turn, provided a necessary condition for the German policy of brinkmanship in July 1914, which ultimately made war inevitable. On the British side, thinking about the German naval challenge colored the decision to go to war over Germany’s invasions of Belgium and France. The pre-war culture of conflict then easily turned into intense wartime hostility, a mutually reinforcing regime of British Germanophobia and German Anglophobia combined with the totalizing conditions of a war cast as a clash of civilizations. To view the Anglo-German arms race as a direct precursor of the war and both as part of a developing Anglo-German antagonism became common in each country, with German Anglophobes going so far as to denounce the British Empire as the main instigator of the war. Foreign observers, especially in the United States, were also prone to draw a direct line from the arms race to a war and to view the latter as a product of the pre-war Anglo-German conflict over navies and empire.