Tag Archives: arms race

Dreadnought

The launch of the Dreadnought

On the 10th February 1906 the British King, Edward VII, launched HMS Dreadnought – a revolutionary new type of battleship that made all other ships obsolete. She was the fastest and most heavily-armed ship in the world, and the name Dreadnought began to be used to describe a whole class of similar ships.

You might think that having the best ship in the world would make Britain the undisputed champion of the seas, but the launch of the Dreadnought arguably created more problems than it solved.  Ever since the British government adopted the Two-Power Standard as part of the Naval Defence Act in 1889, the Royal Navy had to have at least the same number of battleships as the next two largest navies in the world combined.  At that point it was France and Russia, but by 1906 Wilhelm II had become Kaiser of Germany and began aggressive military expansion and the development of a German Empire under his ‘World Policy’ or Weltpolitik.

But why was the Dreadnought a problem to Britain the Two-Power Standard?  The issue was that Britain now only had one more Dreadnought than every other country in the world.  With all other ships obsolete in the wake of the new design, it was too easy for other countries to catch up.  When Germany launched the first of its Dreadnought-style Nassau ships in 1908, Britain was forced to keep ahead by building more and more.  The naval arms race and the tension that followed was a major contributing factor to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.