Warships are usually owned and operated by a navy. They differ from other types of vessels as they are built and designed purposefully for use in combat situations they must therefore be more manoueverable and have the ability to withstand damage. Warships carry arms and unlike merchant vessels, carry only the weapons, ammunition and supplies for it’s crew.
The use of warships can be traced as far back as the 4th century BC when galleys were used by the Persians, Romans and Greeks. Galleys were long narrow vessels which were operated by oarsmen. The galleys were designed to be used as a ram to sink enemy vessels.
The next major war ship advancement came with the introduction of the man-of-war, developed from roundships in the early 16th century by the British Royal Navy and used between the 16th and 19th centuries. The man-of-war was propelled by sails and armed with cannons.
A man of war resembled a galleon but had heavy fire-power, on average a ship had at least 65 guns and it was not uncommon for a ship to carry 100 guns. These vessels typically had 3 masts and weighed up to 1000 tons. Men of war ships were only used extensively by the 3 major sea-powers of the time, France, England and Spain and were often avoided by pirates.
There were 3 classes of man of war, the ship of the line, frigate and corvette. The main battle ship was the ship of the line. These ships were not usually very good sailing ships and were clumsy to manouevre. Their advantage was the fire-power which they carried with guns arranged over between 2 and 4 gun decks, the most common being 3 decks.
Frigates were noticeably smaller than the ships of the line and usually carried between 24 and 40 guns. Corvettes or sloops of war were faster and lighter than the other ships of the line as they were less well armoured and carried less guns, usually between 12 and 20 guns.
19th century – construction, propulsion and armament
In the development of battleships HMS Dreadnought was so revolutionary that all similar battleships were referred to as “dreadnoughts” and earlier battleships were referred to as “pre-dreadnoughts”. The revolutionary design of the Dreadnought rendered all other existing battleships obsolete and she was the most heavily armed battleship in history with “all-big-guns” she was equipped with 10 12” (305mm) guns, 24 x 3” (76mm) guns and 5 torpedo tubes below water. The previous record for guns on a battleship was 4 x 12”. The gun turrets were situated higher than on a usual battleship and therefore allowed for more accuracy when firing long-distance.
The Dreadnought, which was constructed at Portsmouth Dockyard, England between October 1905 and December 1906 was developed and constructed upon the influence of Admiral John Fisher who chaired the Committee on Designs which produced the outline design for the battleship. The ship was the fastest battleship to date and could travel at speeds of 21 knots and was powered by steam turbine engines. She was 526 feet (160.1m) long and the waterline section of hull was armored by plates 28cm thick and was crewed by over 800 men.
HMS Dreadnought served as flagship of the Home Fleet between 1907 and 1912 and remained part of that fleet until she served with the 4th Battle Squadron during the first two years of World War I, during which she rammed and sank a German submarine U-29 on 18 March 1915. HMS Dreadnought was the flagship of 3rd Battle Squadron and was based on the Thames to counter the threat of bombardment by German battle cruisers.
HMS Dreadnought was sold for scrapping in 1922 but inspired the production of the Queen Elizabeth in 1915, the first of the super-Dreadnoughts.