1st February 1911. Dreadnoughts
Welcome to the Month of February.
‘Why, what’s the matter, that you have such a February face, so full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?’ Much Ado About Nothing. (Shakespeare).
FEBRUARY … from the Roman god Februus. Februa Fest celebrated the end of the year in the Julian Calendar, when it had 28 days, as in the Republican Calendar.
It was the Anglo-Saxon sprote-cal, the month, when the kale sprouted; Shakespeare’s Feverell and Isaac Newton’s Februeer.
‘February brings the rain, thaws the frozen lakes again’: Traditional Nursery Rhyme: associated words: febrile, fever, spring fever.
Records going back 340 years show that the 1990s mean temperatures were 5.1(c), 41.2(f). Previously these varied from 2.3(c), 36.1(f), in the 1690s, to 4.8(c), 40.6(f) in the 1860s.
Quiet weather with easterly airflow means February can experience long periods of severe cold.
However February is typically one of the driest months of the year. The expression February fill-dyke relates not to a wet month, but an exhortation to fill the ditches with water in dry eastern England, where the saying comes from.
February was once regarded as the first month of spring probably because our climate was warmer during 11th, 12th and 13th centuries and spring habitually arrived earlier.
The first Post of this month looks at Dreadnought Battleships which made their appearance in 1906. They made such an impact on the popular mind that subsequent Classes were designated as Dreadnought. As a result all previous ships were known as pre-Dreadnought or Ironclads.
The Orion Class of four ships, included Thunderer, which was the last and largest warship to be built on the Thames, London, at Blackwall Thames Ironworks. She entered the water Today in 1911.(1)
Soon afterwards the Company went bankrupt.
The Dreadnought Programme was the result of pressure from Admiral Sir John ‘Jackie’ Fisher and had two revolutionary features: big gun armaments with more heavy calibre guns, and steam turbine propulsion. The result was an arms race between the major powers.
The improved Dreadnought Battleships was followed by many generic Classes beginning with the eponymous Dreadnought, and by inspiring names such as Bellerophon, St. Vincent, Neptune and Colossus The Revenge Class was the last laid down pre-WWI.
The Dreadnoughts the most powerful in history, were armed with ten (rather than four) 12-inch guns, which could be fired on either side at the same time. The Royal Naval Dockyard, Portsmouth was to build a ship in 31 months, the shortest time on record.
Within five years of the commencement of the Dreadnoughts, we see the Super-Dreadnoughts with the Orion Class, which saw a jump in tonnage of 2,000 and heavier guns.
By 1914 the British had 24 Dreadnoughts to Germany’s 17, with the German ‘risk’ strategy being based on the calculation that a portion of the British Grand Fleet might be caught and destroyed by cunning which would equalise the imbalance.
Most of Dreadnoughts were scrapped after WWI under the Washington Naval Treaty, which limited naval ship-building among the major powers. Many of Super-Dreadnoughts saw service through WWII.
The importance of the Dreadnought Programme was its deterrence, as the only major sea-battle was the indecisive Jutland. It is a factor we see today in Nuclear Submarines.
(1) The football club West Ham United is known as the ‘Hammers’, and their emblem is crossed riveting hammers.
wikipedia.org/HMS Thunderer. Picture Ref.
wikipedia.org/thames_ironworks_and_shipbuilding_company. Picture Ref.