Committee on Designs

From The Dreadnought Project
Jump to: navigation, search

In October 1904 the Committee on Design was appointed by Lord Selborne in order to consider the characteristics of the new type of ships the navy would be building in the coming decade and hence to formulate the designs of the first all-big-gun battleship and armoured cruisers. The committee would be presided over by Admiral Fisher with committee members being appointed between November 1904 and January 1905. As a result of the timing of the committee members, the committee would include the newly-appointed Third Sea Lord and Controller of the Navy, Captain Henry Jackson, and hence omitting his predecessor William May. Another member of the committee and one who would play a key role in proceedings was John Rushworth Jellicoe, in advance of his appointment as Director of Naval Ordnance and Torpedoes a month later in February 1905. Other committee members included Lord Kelvin, Sir John Thornycroft, Captains Henry Bradwardine Jackson (Controller), Charles Edward Madden (Naval Assistant to Controller) and Reginald Hugh Spencer Bacon (Naval Assistant to First Sea Lord), and Rear-Admirals Prince Louis of Battenberg (D.N.I.) and Alfred Leigh Winsloe (Commanding Officer, Torpedo and Submarine Flotillas).

The work of the committee was strongly directed by Fisher, with a clear mandate to explore specific ways to implement big-gun capital ships. The 12-in gun was soon taken as a given for these, with super-imposed turrets being suspect for issues of overpressure and creating too large a target for a single enemy shell-hit. David Brown would discern in their work, especially as it dealt with issues of mast placement, a lack of practicality and quirky design priorities, and opined that this may have been a consequence of the bulk of the committee being formed of men too senior to think in practical terms.[1]

The main recommendation of the committee was the adoption of the battle-cruiser, a recommendation agreed to by the Admiralty leading to the construction of H.M.S. Dreadnought in 1905 and the further construction of Indomitable, Invincible, and Inflexible in 1906.[2] Dreadnought is generally credited to Admiral Fisher and it has been suggested by some that one purpose of the committee "was that it would shield [Fisher], and the Admiralty, from political charges that they had not consulted leading experts before designing such a radically different battleship [such as HMS Dreadnought]".[3] The committee also made secondary recommendations with regard to the first large ocean-going destroyers, again implemented by the Admiralty.[4]


  1. Brown. Warrior to Dreadnought. pp. 189-90.
  2. Hovgaard, William. Modern History of Warships: Comprising a Discussion of Present Standpoint: 227-228.
  3. Wikipedia page on H.M.S. Dreaadnought.
  4. Hovgaard, William. Modern History of Warships: Comprising a Discussion of Present Standpoint: 266.

See Also