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A Pre-Dreadnought is a battleship built before H.M.S. Dreadnought and not sharing her then-unique combination of strengths that revolutionised battleship design:

  1. All-Big-Gun: gun outfit reduced in variety to mount largest number of largest available and then a sufficient number of the smallest capable of fending off attack by torpedo boats.
  2. Speed of 20+ knots: often obtained by adoption of turbine propulsion as opposed to V.T.E. propulsion.
  3. Increase in armor protection to a belt thickness of at least 11 or 12 inches.

The coining of the term "dreadnought" as a generic description of modern battleships immediately relegated battleships conforming to the earlier norm the collective appellation of "pre-dreadnought". At the same time as battleships were being "reborn", the Battlecruiser type was being inaugurated by the launch of Invincible.

There are a small number of vessels built at nearly the same time as Dreadnought and which have just one or two of the three characteristics named above. For instance, American ships of the South Carolina class and German ships of the Nassau class had heavy armour and all big guns, but lacked the high speed that turbines gave Dreadnought. Various sources will term these "dreadnoughts" or "semi-dreadnoughts". We will generally not sweat it.

See Also



  • Beeler, John (2001). Birth of the Battleship: British Capital Ship Design 1870-1885. London: Caxton Editions. 1-84067-5349.
  • Brown, David K, RCNC (2003). Warrior to Dreadnought: Warship Development 1860 — 1905. London: Chatham Publishing. (on and