- Royal Sovereign class battleship
The "Royal Sovereign" class was an eight-ship class of
pre-dreadnought battleships of the British Royal Navy.
The ships of the "Royal Sovereign" class were built under the
Naval Defence Actof 1889, which provided £21 million for a vast expansion programme. The Act was inspired by rumours of a possible Franco-Russian alliance and by perceived shortcomings in naval forces revealed during manoeuvres the year before. In total, ten battleships, forty-two cruisers, and eighteen other vessels were built—an enormous increase. The Act marks the adoption of the two-power standard, whereby the Royal Navy sought to be as large as the next two major naval powers combined.
At the centre of the expansion programme were the "Royal Sovereign"s, the largest and fastest capital ships of their time. Like HMS "Dreadnought" a generation later, this class made all other battleships obsolete. The class would be the template of British battleship design for 15 years, until "Dreadnought", being improved upon by the "Majestic" class ships launched just a few years later. The "Royal Sovereign"s are considered the first of the type of battleship which would become known after the commissioning of "Dreadnought" in 1906 as
pre-dreadnoughts. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1806-1905", p. 32]
The "Royal Sovereign"s were designed by the noted warship designer Sir William White. They were much bigger than the Admiral, "Victoria", and "Trafalgar" classes that had preceded them, and when "Royal Sovereign" herself was completed she was the largest warship in the World. At convert|17.5|kn|km/h|1 they were also faster than any other battleship afloat. This class established the pattern of succeeding battleships in the Royal Navy and indeed in many foreign navies too.
They used the same 13.5 inch (343 mm) guns of the Admirals, though the first seven "Royal Sovereign"s used open
barbettes instead of heavy, nineteenth-century-style circular turrets, allowing them to have a freeboardof 19 feet 6 inches (about 90% of modern guidelines), much higher than in immediately previous classes, thus making them better seaboats.
The last ship of the class, "Hood", was equipped with old-style, heavy, circular turrets of the type that first appeared in the 1860s, and consequently had a lower freeboard of only 11 feet 3 inches. She was otherwise virtually identical to her sister ships (in terms of machinery, protection, and armament) and therefore provided a very useful comparison to them in terms of the heavily protected, heavy, self-contained old-style turrets aboard "Hood" and their requirement for lower freeboard and the lighter, open barbettes, with their exposed guns but allowing greater freeboard, as in the first seven ships. "Hood" proved too wet for efficient operations in the rough waters of the
Atlanticand North Sea, while the high freeboard of her barbette-equipped near-sisters gave them the advantage in those waters. "Hood" was the last British battleship with the old-style turrets, and based on the experience with her and with her sisters, all future British battleships were of a high-freeboard design and had their main armament in barbettes, although the adoption of armored, rotating gunhouses over the barbettes gradually led to them being called "turrets" as well, as remains the case today. [Burt p. 85; "Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 33]
They were heavily armoured with an 8 feet 6 inch high belt 18 inches thick, reducing to 14 inches thick at the ends past the two barbettes, and with a 4 inch thick steel armour belt above. This belt was intended to detonate any lighter shells and was the result of live firing experiments on the old battleship "Resistance". The armour was backed by convert|10|ft|m|0 deep coal bunkers, the coal providing additional protection and were subdivided to continue to provide buoyancy after being hit. The deck was 3 inches thick, thinning to 2.5 inches at the ends and curving down. The intention was that if this were penetrated then the ends could be flooded with little loss of
Although the new convert|12|in|mm|0|sing=on guns were preferred there were doubts that they could be built in time and so the 13.5 inch (343-mm) 67-ton guns used in preceding classes were fitted. The secondary armament was an important part of the design and consisted of ten 6 inch (152-mm) quick-firing guns were provided to counter torpedo boat attacks and were widely spaced on two decks so that a single hit would not disable more than one of them. As well as the weight of the guns, accommodation had to be provided for the 31 men needed to operate each one (eight manning the gun itself, eight more in each of two magazines and seven in the shell room). The convert|6|in|mm|0|sing=on guns on the upper deck had only light shields when the class was built but in 1902-1903 they were enclosed within casemates.
The ships rolled excessively when first put into service, the captain of "Resolution" turning back to
Englandon one occasion in rough weather in the Bay of Biscayin December 1893, but the fitting of bilge keels and the carrying of as heavy a coal store as possibly (up to 1,400 tonnes) remedied this fault to a great degree. However, sensationalist reporting of "Resolution" rolling heavily during the 1893 storm gave the ships a nickname, the "Rolling Ressies," which stuck with the ships throughout their lives. [Burt, p. 66-67]
The ships spent their lives in the routine of the Victorian
Royal Navy, participating in annual manoeuvres and occasional fleet reviews from their commissioning until the early 1900s. All saw service in home waters and many also served in the Mediterranean, where some saw service in the 1897-1898 blockade of Crete. The class generally went into the commissioned reserve around 1905. [Burt, pp. 80-84]
In 1906, the "Royal Sovereigns", like every other battleship in the world, were made obsolete with the launch of the revolutionary HMS "Dreadnought", the first all-big-gun battleship. They were consigned to less critical duties for the remainder of their service life, and began to appear on the disposal list in 1909. [Burt, pp. 80-84] Only two ships survived to see the outbreak of war in 1914, one of them ("Hood") quickly being sunk as a blockship. Only one, "Revenge" (renamed "Redoubtable" in 1915), saw action in
World War I, bombarding the coast of Belgiumin 1914 and 1915 before decommissioning. [Burt, p. 83-84]
hips in Class
HMS "Royal Sovereign"
"Royal Sovereign" served in the
Channel Fleet(1892-1897), Mediterranean Fleet(1897-1902), Home Fleet(1902-1905), the new Channel Fleet (1905-1907), and the commissioned reserve (1907-1909) before going into material reserve in 1909. She was scrapped in 1913.
"Hood" served in the
Mediterranean Fleet(1893-1900) and (1901-1902), Home Fleet (1903-1904), and commissioned Reserve (1905-1907), then on subsidiary duties in home waters until decommissioned in 1911. She was sunk as a blockship at Portland harbourin November 1914.
HMS "Empress of India"
"Empress of India" (originally to have been named "Renown") served in the
Channel Fleet(1893-1897), Mediterranean Fleet(1897-1901), Home Fleet(1902-1905), Reserve Fleet (1905-1907), and the new Home Fleet (1907-1912), and was sunk as a target in 1913.
"Ramillies" served in the
Mediterranean Fleet(1893-1903), Reserve Fleet (1903-1907), and Home Fleet (1907-1911), and was scrapped in 1913.
"Repulse" served in the
Channel Fleet(1894-1902), Mediterranean Fleet(1902-1903), and Reserve Fleet (1905-1907), then in subsidiary roles until decommissioned and scrapped in 1911.
"Resolution" served in the
Channel Fleet(1893-1901), then in various subsidiary and commissioned reserve duties until decommissioned in 1911 and scrapped in 1914.
HMS "Revenge" (later HMS "Redoubtable")
"Revenge" served in the Special Flying Squadron in 1896 as its
flagship, then in the Mediterranean Fleet(1896-1900, during which service she was flagship during the blockade of Crete in 1898), then as flagship of the Home Fleet(1902-1905), in the Channel Fleetin 1905, and on various duties in the commissioned reserve (1905-1913). Bombarded the Belgian coast in 1914 and 1915 and was renamed "Redoubtable" in 1915, then decommissioned and was scrapped in 1919.
HMS "Royal Oak"
"Royal Oak" served in the Special Flying Squadron in 1896,
Mediterranean Fleet(1897-1902), Home Fleet(1903-1905), Reserve Fleet (1905-1907), and new Home Fleet (1907-1911), before decommissioning in 1912 and being scrapped in 1914.
List of battleships of the Royal Navy
* D. K. Brown, "Warrior to Dreadnought, Warship Development 1860-1906", ISBN 1-84067-529-2
* Burt, R. A. "British Battleships 1889-1904". Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1988. ISBN 0870210610.
* Chesneau, Roger, and Eugene M. Kolesnik, Eds. "Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905." New York, New York: Mayflower Books Inc., 1979. ISBN 0831703024.
* Archibald, E.H.H.; Ray Woodward (ill.) (1971). The Metal Fighting Ship in the Royal Navy 1860-1970. New York: Arco Publishing Co.. ISBN 0-6680-2509-3.
* [http://www.worldwar1.co.uk/pre-dreadnought/hms-royal-soverign.html World War 1 Naval Combat]
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