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The Collier—a ship used to transport steam coal—was one of the most important types of auxiliary vessels during the Dreadnought Era. Captain Asa Walker wrote that:

The modern man of war presents no canvas to the winds; within her bowels is an insatiable monster whose demand is ever for coal and still more coal. Every cubic inch of available space is filled with fuel, and when this is consumed the vast machine becomes an inert mass.
Coal may then be considered the lifeblood of the man of war, and upon its supply depends her existence as a living factor in the battle equation.[1]

It was vital that a naval squadron have a steady supply of coal available, and colliers were used for that purpose. This logistical necessity is an oft-overlooked factor in the anatomy of Dreadnought Era naval policy.

Virtually alone of the major naval powers, the United States Navy built massive purpose-designed colliers manned by naval crews instead of relying on chartered merchantmen. This had much to do with the nature of American naval power and its expected wartime role: a trans-Pacific naval offensive required a massive fleet "train", and purpose-built fleet auxiliaries were considered essential.


  1. Quoted in Maurer, John H. (Nov-Dec 1981) "Fuel and the Battle Fleet: Coal, Oil, and American Naval Strategy, 1898-1925". Naval War College Review 34 (6): pp. 60-61.

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