Osprey's British Battleships 1890-1905


Angus Konstam, illustrated by Paul Wright


Osprey Publishing


$19.00 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 48 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softbound
ISBN: 978-1-4728-4468-2

During the latter part of the 1800s, Great Britain had the largest fleet of modern warships in the world. These were necessary to not only match perceived European threats, but also to deal with concerns around the world regarding her large empire. In the late 1800s, warships were finally all metal with armor being mostly iron. Steel at the time was fairly brittle, but developments in steel allowed equivalence to iron, but in a thinner sheath. This allowed ships to be somewhat lighter and so faster. Technology also improved in boilers and by the early 1900s, these were providing a considerable amount of power.

This book covers the period of 1890 to 1905, a time when British battleship design was fairly constant, with each class adding a little advancement to the class before it. It was a time when the turret ship, which dated back to the 1860s, was replaced by ships that used barbettes. This not only reduced top weight, but made them less likely to be destroyed during battle. In addition, the freeboard of the ships was raised. This improved seakeeping and made the ships just that much faster.

These battleships were, like other large warships, armed with a variety of gun sizes, each installed to deal with a particular threat. The main guns started being muzzle loaders, but soon turned to breech loading designs. These early breech loaders were very heavy for the bore that was provided, with the larger guns weighing upwards of 40 tons each. Again, as metallurgy improved, so the size of these weapons were reduced. Eventually, a fairly standard size of 12 inch main gun was fitted and this lasted for several decades. All this development of standard battleships was soon made obsolete within a year with the launch of the HMS Dreadnaught.

That made these last builds what became known as pre-Dreadnought battleships. With the building of the new types, these older ships were soon decommissioned as soon as was practical. Several did still operate with the fleets and in WWI, they basically performed shore bombardment duties (where quite a few were sunk by U-boats) and with convoy escort.

This book looks at the state of British battleship building up until the time that the main British designer, William White came to ascendency. It is under his watch that the best of the pre-Dreadnought ships were build. We go in order of the classes built, discussing the improvements in each class. There is also a section on their war service and eventual demise. In line with the series, we have a lot of great photos of the men and machines in qutestion along with a great series of full color profiles of many of these ships. It is a superb primer on the subject and like all other books in this series, well worth picking up.

January 2021

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