The term battleship came into use in the late 1880s to describe a type of ironclad warship, now referred to by historians as pre-dreadnought battleships. In 1906, the commissioning of HMS Dreadnought into the United Kingdom's Royal Navy heralded a revolution in the field of battleship design. Subsequent battleship designs, influenced by HMS Dreadnought, were referred to as "dreadnoughts", though the term eventually became obsolete as dreadnoughts became the only type of battleship in common use.
Battleships were a symbol of naval dominance and national might, and for decades the battleship was a major factor in both diplomacy and military strategy. A global arms race in battleship construction began in Europe in the 1890s and culminated at the decisive Battle of Tsushima in 1905, the outcome of which significantly influenced the design of HMS Dreadnought. The launch of Dreadnought in 1906 commenced a new naval arms race. Three major fleet actions between steel battleships took place: the long-range gunnery duel at the Battle of the Yellow Sea in 1904, the decisive Battle of Tsushima in 1905 (both during the Russo-Japanese War) and the inconclusive Battle of Jutland in 1916, during the First World War. Jutland was the largest naval battle and the only full-scale clash of dreadnoughts of the war, and it was the last major battle in naval history fought primarily by battleships.
The Naval Treaties of the 1920s and 1930s limited the number of battleships, though technical innovation in battleship design continued. Both the Allied and Axis powers built battleships during World War II, though the increasing importance of the aircraft carrier meant that the battleship played a less important role than had been expected in that conflict. (Full article...)
The North Carolina class was a series of two fast battleships, North Carolina and Washington, built for the United States Navy in the late 1930s and early 1940s. The navy was originally uncertain whether the ships should be fast enough to counter the Japanese Kongō class, which was believed by the United States to be capable of 26 knots (30 mph; 48 km/h), or should sacrifice speed for additional firepower and armor. The Second London Naval Treaty's requirement that all capital ships have a standard displacement of under 35,000 long tons (35,560 metric tons (t)) meant that the desired objectives could not be fully realized within the treaty limits, and the navy considered over fifty designs before one was chosen. Towards the end of this lengthy design period, the General Board of the United States Navy declared that it was in favor of design "XVI-C", which called for a speed of 30 knots (35 mph; 56 km/h) and a main battery of nine 14-inch (356 mm)/50 caliber Mark B guns. The board believed that such ships could fulfill a multitude of roles, as they would have enough protection to be put into a battle line while also having enough speed to escort aircraft carriers or engage in commerce raiding. However, the acting Secretary of the Navy authorized a modified version of a different design, "XVI", which in its original form had been rejected by the General Board. This called for a 27-knot (31 mph; 50 km/h) ship with twelve 14-inch rifles in quadruple turrets and protection against guns of the same caliber. In a major departure from traditional American design practices, "XVI" accepted lower speed and protection in exchange for maximum firepower. After construction had begun, the United States, concerned over Japan's refusal to commit to the caliber limit of the Second London Naval Treaty, invoked the "escalator clause" of that pact and increased the caliber of the class' main armament; nine 16-inch (406 mm)/45 Mark 6 caliber guns replaced the twelve 14-inch guns of the original design.
Though recognized as a seagoing admiral involved in major battles, Fisher is primarily celebrated as an innovator, strategist and developer of the navy. When appointed First Sea Lord, he removed 150 ships then on active service but which were no longer useful and set about constructing modern replacements, creating a modern fleet for World War I. His reforms improved naval gunnery, torpedoes, destroyers as a class of ship intended for defence against attack from torpedo boats or submarines, introduced turbine engines to replace reciprocating designs, and oil fueling to replace coal. He also supervised the construction of HMS Dreadnought, the first all big gun battleship.
Image 21HMS Dreadnought shows the low freeboard typical for early ironclad turret-ships. This ship, launched in 1875, should not be confused with her famous successor, launched in 1906, marking the end of the pre-dreadnought era. (from Pre-dreadnought battleship)
Image 32Mikasa, a typical pre-dreadnought in many respects; note the positioning of secondary and tertiary batteries, and the concentration of armour on turrets and engineering spaces (from Pre-dreadnought battleship)
Image 40The gun trials of the Brazilian dreadnought Minas Geraes in 1910, where all the guns capable of training to the port side were fired, forming what was at that time the heaviest broadside ever fired from a warship (from Dreadnought)
Image 46This section of SMS Bayern shows a typical dreadnought protection scheme, with very thick armour protecting the turrets, magazines and engine spaces tapering away in less vital areas (from Dreadnought)
Image 52A plan of Bellerophon(1907) showing the armament distribution of early British dreadnoughts. The main battery is in twin turrets, with two on the "wings"; the light secondary battery is clustered around the superstructure. (from Dreadnought)
Image 54Punch cartoon from May 1876 showing Britannia dressed in the armor of an ironclad with the word Inflexible around her collar and addressing the sea god Neptune. Note the ram sticking out of Britannia's breast plate. The caption reads: OVER-WEIGHTED. Britannia. "Look here, Father Nep! I can't stand it much longer! Who's to 'rule the waves' in this sort of thing?" (from Ironclad warship)
Image 55Schematic section of a typical pre-dreadnought battleship with an armoured upper and middle deck and side belt (red), lateral protective coal bunkers (grey), and a double-bottom of watertight compartments. The machinery was arranged in the protected internal void. (from Pre-dreadnought battleship)
Brazil's Minas Geraes fires a full ten-gun broadside to port during her firing trials. A 1910 article in Scientific American commented that it was "the greatest broadside ever fired from a battleship." Minas Geraes participated in many revolts throughout her career, both on the side of rebels and the government. After Brazil's entrance into the Second World War, she was regulated to harbor defense, as the battleship was too old to play an active part in the war. Minas Geraes was towed to Italy for scrapping in 1954 after having been in service for over forty years.
Operation Majestic Titan is the code name for a long-term Wikipedian project with two primary objectives, the first of which is to create the single largest featured topic on Wikipedia, centered around the battleships considered, planned, built, operated, canceled, or otherwise recorded. There are probably a few hundred articles of this nature which will be included, from the earliest pre-dreadnoughts to the last of the dreadnoughts. Once all articles are featured this project will reorient to ensuring that the articles remain up to standard. If you're interested, please view the project page to familiarize yourself with the guidelines, and simply pick an article to improve! There is also ongoing discussion you can participate in.