Naval Warfare - Naval Race

In order to protect her vast overseas empire from her traditional enemies, France and Russia, Britain had maintained a strong naval force since the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Around the 1890’s the danger to Britain’s Naval superiority was increasingly from the USA and Japan. Dreadnought was built in response to this potential threat. However, from the late 1890’s Germany was beginning to emerge as a potential competitor due to Kaiser Wilhelm II’s desire for Germany to be an Imperial power on the same scale as Britain.

The launch of Dreadnought in 1906 sparked a naval race between Britain and Germany. Britain had a naval policy, called the Two Power Standard, which demanded her fleet was at least equal in strength to the combined strength of the next two largest fleets of any other nations.

To enable the expansion of her High Seas Fleet Germany introduced the Fleet Acts between 1898 and 1912. By 1914 Germany had laid down 20 Dreadnought battleships and 7 Battlecruisers.

Germany was the most powerful nation on the European continent and there was a possibility that Germany could acquire by force the fleets of another continental nation. Britain could not afford to be faced with the prospect of defending her empire against such a potentially formidable foe.

In response to the apparent competition Britain grew apart from her old friend Germany, smoothed over old disputes and sought an alliance of sorts with her old enemies, France and Russia, and embarked on an accelerated build program that saw the introduction of 29 Dreadnought battleships and 10 Battlecruisers by 1914 with another six Dreadnoughts and two Battlecruisers completed by 1916/1917.

Britain never quite managed to maintain the Two Power Standard but did have a significantly larger navy than any other power at the outbreak of World War One.

British Capital Ships

Class Laid Down Completed Ships
Dreadnought 1905 1906 HMS Dreadnought
Bellerophon 1906 1907 HMS Bellerophon
      HMS Superb
      HMS Temeraire
St. Vincent 1907/1908 1909/1910 HMS St. Vincent
      HMS Vanguard
      HMS Collingwood
Neptune 1909 1911 HMS Neptune
Colossus 1909 1911 HMS Colossus
      HMS Hercules
Orion 1909/1910 1912 HMS Orion
      HMS Monarch
      HMS Conqueror
      HMS Thunderer
King George V 1911 1912/1913 HMS King George V
      HMS Ajax
      HMS Centurion
      HMS Audacious
Erin 1911 1914 HMS Erin
Agincourt 1911 1914 HMS Agincourt
Canada 1911 1915 HMS Canada
Queen Elizabeth 1912 1913 HMS Queen Elizabeth
      HMS Warspite
      HMS Barham
      HMS Valiant
      HMS Malaya
Iron Duke 1912 1914 HMS Iron Duke
      HMS Marlborough
      HMS Benbow
      HMS Emperor of India
Royal Sovereign 1913/1914 1916/1917 HMS Royal Sovereign
      HMS Revenge
      HMS Royal Oak
      HMS Resolution
      HMS Ramillies
      Total: 35
Class Laid Down Completed Ship
Invincible 1906 1908/1909 HMS Invincible
      HMS Inflexible
      HMS Indomitable
Indefatigable 1909/1910 1911/1913 HMS Indefatigable
      HMS New Zealand
      HMAS Australia
Lion 1909/1910 1912 HMS Lion
      HMS Princess Royal
Queen Mary 1911 1912 HMS Queen Mary
Tiger 1912 1914 HMS Tiger
Renown 1915 1916 HMS Renown
      HMS Repulse
      Total: 12

German Capital Ships

Class Laid Down Completed Ship
Nassau 1907 1910 SMS Nassau
      SMS Posen
      SMS Rheinland
      SMS Westfalen
Helgoland 1908/1909 1911/1912 SMS Helgoland
      SMS Ostfriesland
      SMS Thüringen
      SMS Oldenburg
Kaiser 1909/1911 1912/1913 SMS Kaiser
      SMS Fredrich der Grosse
      SMS Kaiserin
      SMS König Albert
      SMS Prinzregent
      SMS Luitpold
König 1911/1912 1914 SMS König
      SMS Grosser Kurfust
      SMS Markgraf
      SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm
Bayern 1913/1914 1916/1917 SMS Bayern
      SMS Baden
      Total: 20
Von der Tann 1908 1911 SMS Von der Tann
Moltke 1908/1909 1912 SMS Moltke
      SMS Goeben
Seydlitz 1911 1913 SMS Seydlitz
Derfflinger 1912 1914/1915 SMS Derfflinger
      SMS Lutzow
Hindenburg 1913 1917 SMS Hindenburg
      Total: 7