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History of the Royal Navy – Steam, Steel and Dreadnoughts 1806-1918 – #3/4


About the series

This History Channel series, hosted by Prince Andrew, Duke of York, explores the dramatic rise and decline of British naval power over the last 500 years. Since its creation under orders of King Henry VIII, the Royal Navy heralded Britain’s emergence as a global superpower, presiding over what was the largest colonial empire in world history. This documentary series explores the evolution of British sea power from wooden galleons and ships-of-the-line, through to ironclad dreadnoughts and modern aircraft carriers. Discover how the Royal Navy was created during the reign of King Henry VIII, travel with Sir Francis Drake aboard his famous ship Golden Hinde in 1577, admire Admiral Nelson’s triumph at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and learn why so many illustrious ships were decommissioned at the end of the Falklands War. Produced by Perpetual Motion Films for The History Channel

Steam, Steel and Dreadnoughts 1806-1918

With the exception of the surprising setbacks inflicted by America’s fledgling navy during the War of 1812, the 19th century was a time of unchallenged mastery for the Royal Navy. Nevertheless, technical innovations developed at an unprecedented rate and forever changed the face of the navy. Muzzle-loading cannon fired in broadsides were replaced by powerful breech-loaders mounted in revolving armoured turrets. Mighty Wooden Walls were shattered and replaced by iron and steel as sail gave way to steam power. 
Finally, in an extraordinary leap forward in naval design and construction, a super-ship named the DREADNOUGHT was launched in 1906. She was the brainchild of the British Admiral Sir John Jacky Fisher and, under the first Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, sparked a naval arms race with Germany that culminated with the gigantic showdown at Jutland during WWI. 
Ironically, the very expense and complexity of the Dreadnought, which had kept the Royal Navy in the lead over its rivals, led to Britain’s ultimate naval downfall. 
The Washington Naval treaties of the 1920s and 30’s saw Britain finally give up what no rival has been able to take from her in battle – absolute rule of the seas. 

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