Trafalgar class battleship

Trafalgar class battleship

The two "Trafalgar"-class battleships of the British Royal Navy were late nineteenth century ironclad warships. Both were named after naval battles won by the British during the Napoleonic wars under the command of Admiral Nelson.

Laid down in 1886, they were designed by William Henry White to be improved versions of the Admiral and "Victoria" classes, having a greater displacement to allow for improved protection. However they sacrificed a full armoured belt for greater thickness amidships in a partial belt.

They were originally intended to have a secondary armament eight 5 inch guns but this was changed to six quick firing 4.7 inch guns for use against attacking torpedo boats, which led to a weight increase of 60 tons, partly due to the increased amount of ammunition carried. This was one of the changes which led to the vessels being 600 tons overweight, causing an increase in draught of a foot.

They were the last class of low freeboard battleships built for the Royal Navy. They had favoured this design for several years because they felt that it reduced the size of the target that would be hit by gunfire in a battle and the smaller hull area allowed thicker armour. However the consequence of having a freeboard of only 15 feet or so were that the vessels were unable to cope with very rough seas, although this was mitigated by their spending most of their active service in the relatively calm Mediterranean.

When they were built, many observers over-estimated the vulnerability of large ships to torpedoes and the perceived inability to avoid them, which made them believe that large warships would inevitably be replaced by smaller, less vulnerable, and less valuable, vessels. For example, the parliamentary secretary of the Admiralty told Parliament in 1886 that this class represented "the last ironclads of this large type that will ever be built by this or any other country". In fact it took the development of effective naval aircraft able to carry torpedoes in the years immediately preceding the Second World War nearly fifty years later to finally make this true.

This class was followed by the very successful high freeboard "Royal Sovereign" class.


* D. K. Brown, "Warrior to Dreadnought, Warship Development 1860-1906", ISBN 1-84067-529-2
* John Beeler, "Birth of the Battleship, British capital ship design 1870-1881", ISBN 1-86176-167-8
* K. McBride, Nile and Trafalgar, The Last British Ironclads, in Warship 2000-2001, Conways Maritime Press
* 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.

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