HMS Lord Nelson (1906)

HMS Lord Nelson (1906)

HMS "Lord Nelson" was a sclass|Lord Nelson|battleship launched in 1906 and completed in 1908. She was the Royal Navy's last predreadnought battleship.

Design history

HMS "Lord Nelson" was laid down by Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company at Jarrow on 18 May 1905 and launched on 4 September 1906. He completion was greatly delayed by labor troubles and by the diversion of the 12-inch (305-mm) guns intended for her to expedite completion of HMS "Dreadnought", and she was not finally completed until October 1908.

A first-class battleship, "Lord Nelson", together with her sister ship HMS "Agamemnon", was designed in the very early years of the twentieth century, at a time when the standard battleship armament in the Royal Navy and in many other navies was four guns of 12-inch (305-mm) calibre and a number of guns, usually twelve, of 6-inch (152-mm) calibre. There were already in existence proposals for all-big-gun ships, promoted largely by Admiral Jackie Fisher, but at the time of the laying-down of the "Lord Nelson" class these plans were at an early stage. It was, however, recognised that with increasing thickness of armour and prospective increases in combat ranges, a heavier armament than had heretofore been carried in battleships was necessary.

The "Lord Nelson" class were the first battleships for which Sir Phillip Watts was responsible. Although they followed the predreadnought pattern established in the "Royal Sovereign"-class battleships in the early 1890s of having two twin main battery mounts, one fore and one aft, and mounted a main battery of four 12-inch (305-mm) guns, as had every predreadnought since those of the "Majestic" class in the mid-1890s, they otherwise were a major departure from previous British predreadnought designs; they might have marked a new era in predreadnought design had not the rise of the dreadnoughts snuffed out the predreadnought era.

In order to match increases in firepower seen in foreign battleships of similar displacement, the preceding "King Edward VII" class had introduced a 9.2-inch (234-mm) intermediate battery into British battleships in addition to the 6-inch (152-mm) secondary battery they long had mounted, but the "Lord Nelson" and her sister ship "Agamemnon" carried this further by mounting an all-9.2-inch (234-mm) secondary battery; they were the first British battleships not to mount 6-inch (152-mm) guns since HMS "Inflexible", which joined the fleet in 1881. (The "Trafalgar" and "Centurion" classes had joined the fleet with 4.7-inch (120-mm) secondaries but had later had them replaced by 6-inch (152-mm) guns.) Also, the 9.2-inch (234-mm) battery, made up of more powerful guns than on the "King Edward VII"-class ships, was mounted in turrets (four double and two single) on the upper deck, rather than on the main deck in a central battery or casemates; this eliminated the problem of being unable to work the secondaries in a seaway, a problem in the many classes of British battleships with main-deck-mounted secondaries which were washed out in all but the calmest weather. [Burt, p. 229-238, 281-288]

Watts had wanted to include twelve 9.2-inch (234-mm) guns in three twin turrets amidships on each beam. This gun, which he had included in the "Warrior" and "Minotaur" classes of armoured cruisers, was very well thought of in Royal Naval service. Unfortunately, the Controller (the Fourth Sea Lord) decreed that the ships must be able to dock at number 9 dock at Chatham and number 5 at Devonport. These stipulations necessitated shortening the designed length by eleven feet, and restricting the beam to 79.5 feet (24.2 m). It was therefore necessary to re-work the design with the central 9.2-inch (234-mm) turret on each beam holding a single gun only, and limitations on the size of their turrets meant that the turrets were cramped, which impaired the rate of fire of the 9.2-inch (234-mm) guns. The design requirements imposed also made "Lord Nelson" and her sister rather cramped overall in service, but the requirements also made the ships both flat-sided and fairly flat-bottomed; this and the mounting of the heavy 9.2-inch (234-mm) guns and their turrets had the useful side-effect of making the "Lord Nelsons" resistant to rolling and therefore both good seaboats and good gun platforms. [Burt, p. 286-287]

The 12-inch (305-mm) guns in "Lord Nelson" were of a new, more powerful, 45-caliber type; they and their turrets were the same as those carried by the revolutionary "Dreadnought". [Burt, p. ] Indeed, as the rapid completion of HMS "Dreadnought" was held to have absolute priority, the 12-inch (305-mm) gun turrets being produced for "Lord Nelson" and "Agamemnon" were diverted to "Dreadnought", and the "Lord Nelsons" had to wait for further production, and where therefore not completed until 1908, nearly two years after "Dreadnought".

In the end, the mixed-caliber heavy armament proved unsuccessful, as gunnery officers found it impossible to distinguish between 12-inch (305-mm) and 9.2-inch (234-mm) shell splashes, making fire control impractical. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860-1905", p. 40] This finding further pushed the navies of the world to move to all-big-gun dreadnought battleship designs. Indeed, an all-big-gun design had been considered for the "Lord Nelsons" in January 1905, but their design was too far advanced by then to be changed, and the all-big-gun layout had to await HMS "Dreadnought". [Burt, p. 284]

For anti-torpedo-boat defense, "Lord Nelson" retained a battery of 12-pounders. These were mounted on a large flying deck amidships, where they had good command. However, this innovative mounting scheme also was critcized because it made a good target and because falling debris due to damage might foul the 9.2-inch (234-mm) turrets below in combat. In addition, some officers believed that the all-12-pounder battery was too light to deal with larger, modern torpedo boats. [Burt, pp. 284-288]

Larger gun calibers becoming common in foreign battleships, it was also recognised that greater protection was needed than had been thought to be the case in previous classes, and her main armour belt was twelve inches (305 mm) thick over the machinery spaces and magazines; the armour belt in the "King Edward VII"-class battleships, the immediately preceding class, was nowhere more than nine inches (229 mm) thick. "Lord Nelson" and "Agamemnon" were more heavily armored than any other British predreadnoughts, and more heavily armored in terms of area and thickness than any of the dreadnoughts prior to the "Orion" class of 1909. They were the first British battleships to have solid watertight bulkheads, penetrated by no doors or pipes, intended to contain flooding, with access across the bulkheads being via lifts (elevators). The solid bulkheads proved unpopular in service because of the inconvenience they imposed on the crew and were not repeated in the early British dreadnoughts, although Russian experience in the Russo-Japanese War suggested that such bulkheads were useful in keeping predreadnoughts from sinking. As further protection, each compartment in "Lord Nelson" had its own ventilation and pumping arrangements, eliminating the need for a single main drainage system as employed in previous British battleships and seen as a possible weakness during flooding. [Burt, p. 289] The underwater defenses of "Lord Nelson" were tested only once, when an Ottoman Turkish artillery shell holed her below waterline and caused coal bunker flooding, but is likely that if she had suffered greater underwater damage she would have performed bette than other other British predreadnought battleships, which usually sank due to progressive flooding after only a single torpedo or mine hit.

"Lord Nelson" was the last British battleship to have reciprocating engines and the last with twin screws, future classes having turbines and quadruple screws. She also were the last with inward-turning screws, which allowed greater propulsive force and slightly higher speeds and slightly less fuel consumption, but were unpopular in service because they made ships less maneuverable at low speeds or when going astern. It was decided to stop using mixed boiler types in the same ship, and "Lord Nelson" had 15 Babcock and Wilcox large water-tube boilers. Although primarily coal-powered, she and "Agamemnon" were the first British battleships designed to carry oil, earlier ships having been retrofitted to carry oil; "Lord Nelson" had six oil spayers, and the use of these extended her range considerably. The boiler arrangememts were very successful in service, and she easily made her design speed of 18 knots (33.33 km/h); on trials, in fact, she made 18.7 knots (34.6 km/h). ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860-1905", p. 40]

"Lord Nelson" was the last British battleship to have an armored ram built into her bow. [Burt, p. 286-287]

As completed, "Lord Nelson" was homely but intimidating in appearance, and looked more like French battleships than the previous British predreadnought pattern. [Burt, p. 293-294] Like all predreadnoughts, "Lord Nelson" were made obsolete by the commissioning of the revolutionary HMS "Dreadnought" at the end of 1906 and the many other dreadnought battleships commissioned in succeeding years; indeed, "Dreadnought" commissioned two years before "Lord Nelson".

However, her obsolescence often is overstated. While clearly outgunned by any dreadnought battleship or battlecruiser at ranges of over 10,000 yards (9,100 m), she probably could have more than held her own in engagements under that range, as might occur at night or in fog or bad weather, especially if paired with "Agamemnon"; she was better armored than the early dreadnoughts or any battlecruiser, and the all-9.2-inch (234-mm) secondary battery gave her a powerful broadside with a higher rate of fire than the all-big-gun ships could manage. Thanks to their excellent armor and powerful secondary battery, "Lord Nelson" and "Agamemnon" remained in active front-line service right to the end of World War I, something that could not be said of any other British predreadnought or even of HMS "Dreadnought" herself.

ervice history

HMS "Lord Nelson" was first commissioned in reserve on 1 December 1908 at Chatham Dockyard, being attached to the Nore Division of the Home Fleet with a nucleus crew. She first went into full commission on 5 January 1909 to relieve battleship HMS "Magnificent" as Flagship, Nore Division, Home Fleet, and in April 1909 became part of the First Division, Home Fleet. She was transferred in January 1911 to the Second Division of the Home Fleet, and in May 1912 to the 2nd Battle Squadron. She was temporarily attached in September 1913 to the 4th Battle Squadron. [Burt, p. 297, and "Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921", p. 10, both say this attachment was to the 4th Battle Squadron] In April 1914 she relieved battleship HMS "Queen" as Flagship, Vice Admiral, Channel Fleet. [Burt, p. 297]

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, "Lord Nelson" remained flagship of the Channel Fleet and was based at Portland. With other ships, she covered the safe transport of the British Expeditionary Force, under the command of Sir John French, to France. On 14 November 1914 she transferred to Sheerness to guard the English coast against the possibility of a German invasion. She returned to Portland on 30 December 1914 and was employed in the defence of the southern ports of England and patrols of the English Channel until February 1915 [Burt, p. 297]

In February 1915, "Lord Nelson" was ordered to the Dardanelles to participate in the Dardanelles Campaign. She departed Portland on 18 February 1915, and joined the British Dardanelles Squadron at Mudros on 26 February 1915. She took part in the bombardment of the inner forts and supported the initial landings in early March 1915. The Ottoman Turkish forts engaged her heavily on 7 March 1915 and hit her several times; she suffered damage to her superstructure and rigging and was holed by one hit below the waterline which flooded two coal bunkers. After repairs at Malta, she returned to take part in the main attack on the Narrows forts on 18 March 1915. Later she fired on the German battlecruiser "Goeben" briefly off Gaba Tepe, and bombarded Ottoman field batteries on 6 May 1915 prior to the Second Battle of Krithia.

when he succeeded Wemyss. [Burt, p. 298]

With the end of the Dardanelles Campaign in January 1916, during which "Lord Nelson" had suffered no casualties, British naval forces in the area were reorganized, and "Lord Nelson" became Flagship, Vice Admiral, Eastern Mediterranean Squadron, which was redesignated the Aegean Squadron in August 1917; unde eitehr name, the squadron was dispersed throughout the area to protect Allied-held islands, support the British Army at Salonika, and guard against any attempted breakout from the Dardanelles by the German battlecruiser "Goeben" and light cruiser "Breslau". "Lord Nelson" spent the remainder of the war based at Salonika and Mudros, alternating between the two bases with her sister ship HMS "Agamemnon"; "Lord Nelson" was based mostly at Salonika, "Agamemnon" at Mudros. [Burt, p. 298]

Of all the responsibilities given the two ships, the most important was to guard the Eastern Mediterranean against a breakout by "Goeben". On 12 January 1918, Rear Admiral Arthur Hayes-Sadler hoisted his flag aboard "Lord Nelson" at Mudros as the new commander of the Aegean Squadron; needing transportation to Salonika for a conference with the British Army headquarters there and finding his personal yacht unavailable, Hayes-Sadler opted to have "Lord Nelson" take him there, [van der Vat, p. 227] and thus she was not present when "Goeben" and light cruiser "Breslau" finally made their breakout attempt on 20 January 1918. "Lord Nelson" could not get back to the Dardanelles in time to participate in the resulting Battle of Imbros or intercept "Goeben" before she gained shelter in the Dardanelles. [Burt, p. 298]

"Lord Nelson" underwent a refit at Malta in October 1918. She was part of the British squadron that went to Constantinople in November 1918 following the armistice with the Ottoman Empire, [Burt, p. 298] after which she served as flagship in the Black Sea. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921", p. 10] In April 1919 she conveyed Grand Duke Nicholas and Grand Duke Peter of Russia from the Black Sea to Genoa. [Burt, p. 298]

"Lord Nelson" returned to the United Kingdom in May 1919 and was placed in reserve until August 1919, when she was placed on the sale list. On 4 June 1920 she was sold to Stanlee Shipbreaking Company of Dover. She was resold to Slough Trading Company on 8 November 1920, then again to German scrappers. She was towed to Germany for scrapping in January 1922. [Burt, p. 298]



* Brown, D.K., Warrior "to" Dreadnought. Chatham Publishers, 1998.
*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: Mayflower Books, Inc., 1979. ISBN 0831703024.
*Gibbons, Tony. "The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers: A Technical Directory of All the World's Capital Ships From 1860 to the Present Day". London: Salamander Books Ltd., 1983.
*Gray, Randal, Ed. "Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906-1921." Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1985. ISBN 0870219073.
*McBride, K. "Lord Nelson" and "Agamemnon". "Warship", Conway's, 2005.
*Parkes, Dr. Oscar. "British Battleships". Octopus Publishing Group, 1957.
*van der Vat, Dan. "The Ship That Changed the World: The Escape of the" Goeben "to the Dardanelles in 1914". Bethesda, Maryland: Adler & Adler, 1986. ISBN 0-917561-13-9.

External links

* [ Maritimequest HMS Lord Nelson Photo Gallery]

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