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
|St. Vincent||1907/1908||1909/1910||HMS St. Vincent|
|King George V||1911||1912/1913||HMS King George V|
|Queen Elizabeth||1912||1913||HMS Queen Elizabeth|
|Iron Duke||1912||1914||HMS Iron Duke|
|HMS Emperor of India|
|Royal Sovereign||1913/1914||1916/1917||HMS Royal Sovereign|
|HMS Royal Oak|
|HMS New Zealand|
|HMS Princess Royal|
|Queen Mary||1911||1912||HMS Queen Mary|
German Capital Ships
|SMS Fredrich der Grosse|
|SMS König Albert|
|SMS Grosser Kurfust|
|SMS Kronprinz Wilhelm|
|Von der Tann||1908||1911||SMS Von der Tann|