Now that the huge new battleship, the “Dreadnought,” is nearing completion in full view of all the world at Portsmouth, some details of her construction can be secured, which were previously kept concealed. In the course of a lengthy article on this magnificent battleship, the writer gives the following information about the size, construction and equipment of the ship.
WHAT are the dominating features of the Dreadnought? She will displace nearly 18,-000 tons of water when ready for service, will be propelled by turbines of the Parsons type, with four propellers, will have a trial speed of over 21 knots an hour—equivalent to 25 statute miles—will carry ten 12 in. guns of a new type of a most destructive character for use in line of battle, and twenty-four quickfirers, particularly handy for repelling torpedo craft, supplemented by five submerged torpedo tubes as in all recent battleships. She has no ram, because a ram is as dangerous to attacker as attacked, but she is specially strengthened forward. Her furnaces will be fitted to burn oil as well as coal, of which she will have sufficient to carry her to Quebec and back without re-coaling. The Dreadnought will be practically unsinkable, because her hull is divided into a great number of water-tight compartments with no doors or other communication such as led to the rapid sinking of the ill-fated Victoria; officers and men having to pass from one compartment to another will be conveyed in lifts—a unique feature of this ship—up to the main deck, and then down into the compartment to be visited in other lifts, which means real subdivision of the ship and at the same time tends to save time. It is understood that there is a special arrangement of the double bottom and sides which will render the Dreadnought largely C
immune from destruction by torpedo or mine, while her shell rooms and magazines are so arranged that it will be humanly impossible for her to share the fate of the Russian battleship Petropavlovsk, which, struck by a mine which exploded all the accumulative explosives in the forward end, was sent to the bottom in a few terrible seconds with almost her entire crew.
Abandoning phrases trenching on technicalities, it may be said that the Dreadnought is a combination of five powerful sea-going fortresses. Visitors to Spithead are familiar with the forts that rise from the water off Southsea. This new man-of-war consists of five such circular forts, or redoubts, which rise from the bottom of the ship, through the armoured deck, to the upper deck, where they are capped with revolving turrets, each containing two 12 in. guns. Each redoubt is thickly armored and is entirely separate and self-contained, with an ample supply of ammunition. Round these five redoubts the ship has been constructed with a belt of armor varying in thickness from about 6 in. to 11 in., so that where the guns are placed there is a double defence, (1) the belt, and (2) the redoubts’ armor. From end to end of the ship runs an armored deck, and beneath this,, with the armor of the belt and the armor of the bulkheads on the four sides, the powerful engines and the water-tube boilers are placed.
In every former British ship the
admiral, captain, and officers have lived in the after part of the vessel, while their work has been chiefly in the forward part. This is changed in the Dreadnought. Officers will have their accommodation underneath the scene of their work, and lifts are being made so that they may be “run,” in an emergency, from their messroom to the bridge directly above them. A complete bakery is, being installed to enable the crew to have bread, instead of hard biscuit, even at sea. The vessel will be heated in winter and ventilated in summer as completely as a mail steamer. Instead of little round ports she will have windows of a large size so as to let in plenty of light and air—as much as we have in our rooms, ashore — and in every minute detail the fittings and equipment customary in British ships have been scrutinized with a view to incorporating in this vessel the most convenient and serviceable features and eliminating all unnecessary weights. In place of steamboats she will have motor boats, because the internal combustion engine will soon be as general in small craft afloat as it is becoming in the streets of London.
The essential features of the design of the Dreadnought are simplicity of armament, concentration in fighting power, and cheapness. She carries only two types of guns, the best and smallest effective big gun for battle and the lightest efficient small gun for anti-torpedo work. She has no medium weapons. The result of this policy is an increase of effective destructive power with a considerable saving of weight, a great gain in gun protection, and an improvement in fire control organization.
Accuracy of fire in these days of long-distance fightimg—at anything
from three to five miles—depends upon “fire control,” that is, on each gun’s crew acting on the directions as to range, etc., of an officer from his place of vantage high above the ship and given by electrical and other means of communication; and for each type of battle gun not only must separate communication be installed and the storage and quick supply of ammunition be complicated. but separate “fire control” instructions have to be issued. In the Dreadnought there will only be two types of guns—the 12 in., of 58 tons, with a muzzle velocity of 2,900 foot-seconds, which is the heaviest and most powerful gun that can be conveniently mounted afloat, and the new 12-pounder, for repelling attacks by torpedo craft. There being only two types of guns, there will be only two sizes of projectiles to store, which leads to economy of room and weight in the shell-rooms and magazines and to efficiency in fire control, as the gunnery officer will have only one set of calculations to make in long-range battle, when the 12 in. guns alone will be fired. Consequently, simplicity in armament, apart from other results, is an economy in weight and an advantage in file control —on which success in battle at modern ranges will largely hinge —while the simplification of the magazine arrangements behind the armored belt and beneath the armored deck enables a measure of armor protection to be afforded to the few larger storehouses of the two kinds of projectiles, which, with a multiplicity of different ,'magazines, has been physically impossible. Similarly, in mounting the guns themselves, the fact that there are only ten big weapons to be considered, instead of eighteen as in the case of the King Edward VIL, leads to more complete
arrangements for armor protection not so much of the turrets in which the guns’ crews work—here the defence «.has always been adequate— but of the ammunition supply from below, of the mechanism for elevating or depressing the gun and for pointing it in the desired direction, and of the whole foundation, or redoubt, on which the gun rests. It is possible to give an adequacy of protection to ten big guns, their ammunition supply, and their magazines, which has never been found practicable in the case of men-of-war carrying from sixteen to eighteen pieces of artillery of the main and secondary armament. At the same time a far more effective system of “fire control” can be installed when there is but one type of big gun for battle fighting instead of three, as in the King Edward VII. class, and in case of a fleet being damaged it will probably be a much easier task to refit the less injured ships from the more injured by exchanges owing to the standardization of mountings which can be adapted in the Dreadnought.
There is also another overwhelming advantage in getting rid of the intermediary armament—guns need no longer be placed between decks where the sighting is difficult and where the seas come in owing to the nearness of the guns to the water, rendering them useless in anything but calm weather. Anyone who doubts this need only be reminded of those costly failures, the “County” class of armored cruisers, with their drenched 6 in. guns. Last, but not least, in the Dreadnought it has not been necessary to put on the sides a great thickness of armor and then, at vast expense, to cut huge holes in it— weakening it to practical uselessness —in order to allow for the gunports.
Again, in her mechanical equipment
this ship is peculiarly simple. In contrast with reciprocating engines her turbines will be cheaper and will be more easily protected against injury; owing to the absence of heavy bearings, which are the curse of reciprocating engines, and lead to endless trouble at times, breakdowns are less likely to occur, upkeep will be less costly, and a smaller staff in the engine-room will be sufficient. Unless experience in the two score or so of big ships of the mercantile and passenger services, already provided with turbine installations, is entirely misleading, the repair bill of the Dreadnought will be much less heavy than in the case of vessels fitted with reciprocating engines. The economy in lubricating oils alone will be beyond present belief. The expenditure on this head—a heavy item in present ships —will be practically nil. It is extraordinary how little even the technical engineering world yet realizes the full significance of the turbine and the full measure of the revolution in the engine-room which it will accomplish in the near futuie, in the simplicity of the whole system of propulsion and in the reduction of the number of officers and men. Fearful people who are afraid of their own shadows, and are the first to praise enterprise and foresight abroad to the disparagement of their own countrymen, exclaim, “But, you see, Germany and France are not adopting the turbine system!” No other country, it is true, has yet decided to fit the turbine in big ships, for the very simple reason that no other nation has produced an Hon. Charles Parsons to materialize in a perfect engine the nebulous dreams of marine engineers. The type of turbine which is fitted in the new Cunare! Atlantic “fliers.” and will be employed in all British men-of-
war, is a British invention, and it has been tested in Great Britain as no other turbine has been tested abroad, and it has proved conspicuously successful.
It is a mistake, by the way, to say that the speed of the Dreadnought — an advantage of three or four knots -—has been gained at the expense of gun-power and protection. The improvement of speed is due to better “lines" than in former ships, to the splendid triumph of the water-tube boiler—which all naval engineers now fully admit—and to the fact that, owing to the gain in weight attained by the use of turbines, it has been practicable to instal more boiler and engine power in this one hull than has ever before been incorporated in any man-of-war intended for the line of battle, and yet to provide the roomiest engine-rooms in any existing man-of-war. A British battleship should mark the highest possible concentration of gun-power, with adequate protection, and with at least a knot more speed than any foreign battleship. The Dreadnought will have the advantage of speed over any warship of the first-class afloat.
Though she will cost only £300,000 more than each of the six French battleships of the Patrie class now hjuilddmg, the Dreadnought will be equivalent in fighting power at modern ranges to two such vessels. She will have a broadside of eight 12 in. guns to the four which either of these ships can use, and a fire ahead or astern of six of these big weapons to the two which the French ship could bring to bear, while she is far more invulnerable to attack owing to the arrangements for her protection. The same argument applies with greater force to most German battleships.
The size of the Dreadnought is great—conducive to a short, handy line of battle, since there will be fewer, but more powerful, ships in a fleet than at present—but owing to her four propellers and the special construction of her stern she has the appearance of being at least as handy as any existing man-of-war. Not even the most expert designers can “put a quart into a pint pot,” and therefore the Dreadnought with her ten 12 in. guns and speed of over 21 knots will displace about 18,000 tons of water. Increase of size, as any observer of the ship in dock can see, has meant no increase in draught, and the Dreadnought will not only be able to enter any dock as easily as. and more easily than, most British battleships, but she will be able to pass through the Suez Canal without such lightening as the battleship Victorious of only 15,000 tons had to undergo on her voyage to China. The “lines” of this newest British man-of-war mark a new -departure, and it is no slight matter for congratulation that such an unparalleled concentration of power, gun-fire protection, and speed has been possible in a hull conforming to essential docking and other measurements.
The Dreadnought will be a magnificent addition to the fleet—a ship unique in all respects, and cheap in first cost as in maintenance, for she will require far fewer officers and men than previous 15,000 ton battleships. Owing to Admiralty policy Great Britain has gained a start of over a year in the new construction necessitated by the war in the Far East, and the details of the design of special importance still fortunately remain a secret to all, save possibly one foreign Admiralty, which, it is 'rumored, has given a large sum for the Dreadnought’s design.
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