chapter  7
BRITISH PREPARATION FOR GLOBAL NAVAL WAR, 1904–14: DIRECTED REVOLUTION OR CRITICAL PROBLEM SOLVING?
ByJOHN TETSU RO SUMI DA
Pages 13

Between 1904 and 1914, Britain’s fleet was transformed by radical changes in warship design initiated by the Admiralty. The driving force behind the policy of technical innovation was Admiral Sir John Fisher, the navy’s service chief (First Sea Lord). The apparent centerpiece of Fisher’s scheme was the adoption of a novel kind of battleship that achieved substantial increases in speed and fire power at relatively low cost by exploiting the latest advances in steam and ordnance engineering. The first of the line was HMS Dreadnought, which was commissioned in 1906. The advent of the much-improved battleship upset the building program of Germany, Britain’s single most dangerous naval rival. Fisher then responded to rapid German construction of similar units with even more heavily armed dreadnoughts in larger numbers. During the First World War, Royal Navy containment of the German battle fleet seemed to depend upon the quantitative and qualitative superiority of its capital ships. The so-called ‘Dreadnought Revolution’ has thus been viewed as a successful attempt to combine intelligent manipulation of technology with far-sighted strategic purpose.