HMS Bellerophon (1907)
HMS Bellerophon took part in the famous Battle of Jutland concerning World War 1.
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The British Royal Navy revolutionized naval warfare when it introduced their HMS Dreadnought in 1906. The vessel was the first of a new generation of battleships in which all of the main battery were of the same large-caliber gun type. In conjunction with its steam turbine power, the Dreadnought was the fastest capital battleship in the world for her time and was principally responsible for the German Empire enacting a new naval program all its own to keep pace with a potential enemy. Indeed the Dreadnought is labeled responsible for beginning the whole naval arms race that precipitated World War 1 (1914-1918) and was so revolutionary that all previous battleships were now categorized as "pre-Dreadnought". HMS Dreadnought served into 1919 before being scrapped and gave rise to a whole new thinking in steel warships for the period. The three-strong Bellepheron-class of battleships was born from this thinking and followed in 1907 with HMS Bellerophon, HMS Temeraire and HMS Superb - all based on the dimensions set forth by the Dreadnought with improvements added to make for a stronger fighting group.
HMS Bellerophon had her keel laid down on December 6th, 1906 by Royal Dockyard (Portsmouth) and was launched on July 27th, 1907 to undergo her requisite sea trials. She was formally commissioned on February 27th, 1909. The Bellerophon name stemmed from the Greek hero, a "slayer of monsters" on par with Perseus. Improvements to the Bellerophon-class over the Dreadnought included increased firepower to the secondary guns as well as its torpedo stock and, internally, bulkhead armor was also improved. The triple foremast - found aft of the smoke funnel in the Dreadnought - was now relocated ahead of the funnel for obvious reasons.
The Bellerophon and her sisters all utilized the same machinery as the preceding Dreadnought. Power was served through 18 x Babcock & Wilcox coal-fired boilers feeding 4 x Parsons geared steam turbines (by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company) driving 4 x shafts under the stern at 25,060 shaft horsepower output. Maximum speed in ideal conditions was nearly 21 knots with a listed range of 12,300 kilometers when steering at 12 knots ahead.
As completed, the Bellerophon exhibited a conventional form and arrangement for the time. She was a two-masted vessel with a tapered bow and stern, forcing a bulging of her shape at amidships. The design managed a single superstructure forward with one smoke funnel just aft and the other at amidships. Two masts were fitted, the foremast ahead of the first funnel as the second mast just ahead of the second funnel. Internally there lay nineteen compartments in her hull running from bow to stern. A rudder arrangement was added under the stern section for the required steering. The vessel was crewed by 735 personnel and displaced at 18,800 tons. Dimensionally, she sported a length of 526 feet, a beam of 82 feet, 6 inches and a draught of 31 feet, 5 inches.
The armament plan for the Bellerophon began with 10 x BL 12" (305mm) /45 Mk X main guns with two guns seated across five total Vickers BIX model turrets. The turrets were arranged as follows: one on the forecastle, one each at the port and starboard side ahead of amidships and the final two inline over the stern. This arrangement allowed for the vessel to bring at least eight of its main guns to bear on a target at any one angle and up to six guns when approaching a target ahead or eight guns when engaging astern. Secondary armament included 16 x BL 4-inch (101.6mm) /50 Mk VII guns across single-barreled mounts. 4 x QF 3-pounder (47mm) /50 naval guns were retained in single-mounts for close-in work. The vessel was also outfitted with 3 x 18" (450mm) torpedo launchers.
Once launched from her construction berth, trialled and commissioned into service with the Royal Navy, Bellerophon joined the Home Fleet primary charged with the security of the British mainland. However, her career began with a suspicious start as she was caught in a collision with HMS Inflexible on May 26th, 1911. The Inflexible was a 20-gun battlecruiser born through a 1905 initiative and saw service into 1920. Taking on damage, both ships were docked for repairs.
World War 1 began on July 28th, one month after the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria at the hands of Serb Gavrilo Princip. Long-held alliances soon thrust all of Europe into a grand conflict that would engulf most of the known world - this largely due to colonial holdings by principle powers that spanned the globe. As such, Bellerophon joined her sisters and cousins in forming the naval arm of the British war effort and was ordered under the banner of the Grand Fleet beginning in August of 1914. She was assigned to operations with the 4th Battle Squadron. The "Grand Fleet" served as the main fleet of the Royal Navy throughout World War 1.
During transit to Scapa Flow in Scotland UK waters to join her fleet, Bellerophon once again was involved in a notable collision with an allied ship - this time the merchant vessel SS St Clair - on August 27th. Despite the crash, there was no major structural damage to the warship to retain her in repair and she continued on, seeing little action. In May 1915, she was recalled to Plymouth for refitting.
HMS Bellerophon's major participation in World War 1 came at the famous Battle of Jutland. The battle began on May 31st, 1916 and spanned into June 1st, 1916, taking place in the North Sea off the coast of Denmark with Norway to the north and Scotland due west. Two main allied forces approached, one from the west and another from the northwest (a combined force of British, Canadian and Australian vessels and personnel took part), to meet the German fleet (known as the "High Seas Fleet") emerging from Wilhelmshaven in northern Germany. The battle proved the largest naval engagement in all of World War 1. For the Allies, the goal was to simply destroy, or contain, the German fleet where it lay while the Germans sought to severely damage Allied naval power in the region and retain use of its vital shipping lanes.
The result of the battle proved tactically inconclusive though the Allies managed to keep their control over German actions on water from that point forward. Both sides naturally claimed the victory though losses were heavier for the Allies. 151 Allied vessels squared off against 99 German ships to which the Allies lost three battlecruisers, three cruisers and eight destroyers to the German's single battlecruiser, one pre-dreadnought battleship, four light cruisers and five torpedo boats. Allied personnel losses included 6,094 killed and a further 674 wounded while the Germans counted 2,551 killed and 507 wounded. The Allies lost more certainly in the realm of total tonnage - 113,300 tons to 62,300 tons. During the Battle of Jutland, Bellerophon was not hit by the enemy and engaged with fire from her 12-inch guns.
For the remainder of the war, Bellerophon served in patrolling actions in controlled waters while playing host to several admirals during her tour. The war ended with an armistice on November 11th, 1918 to which Bellerophon was eventually called back home and set to reserve status in 1919, ultimately converted for, and relegated to, gunnery training for a new generation of seamen. Her second life proved rather short for the terms agreed upon terms of the Washington Naval Treaty (1921-1922) destined the Bellerophon for the scrapman's torch. She was sold off on November 8th, 1921 and scrapped during 1923.