HMS Dreadnought was a revolutionary design, but not for the reasons most people assume. Her all big gun main armament was evolutionary, not revolutionary. Prior to Dreadnought, battleship secondary guns had been increasing in size with each new design. This made it very difficult to distinguish the splash of a big gun shell from that of  secondary armament, a crucial factor in an era of visual range-finding. Adding impetus to the all big gun trend was the Battle of Tsushima during the Russo-Japanese War. Effective firing started far in excess of what was then thought to be effective battle range. And the effects of a single 12" shell hit were observed to be far more devastating than numerous secondary caliber strikes. These developments focused attention on the importance of big gun armament. The Royal Navy was not the first navy to gain authorization of an all big gun battleship. The 1905-1906 Jane’s Fighting Ships states in the Progress of Construction section, "To the United States belongs the credit of being the first nation to sanction that battleship with a uniform armament of big guns which ever since Colonel Cuniberti’s article on ‘The Ideal Battleship,’ in the 1903 ‘Fighting Ships’ has hovered on the horizon of the building programmes of most naval powers." The trend to the all big gun battleship was already present and its appearance inevitable.  

The real impact of HMS Dreadnought was her propulsion system. Until Dreadnought, major warships of all nations used the triple expansion reciprocating steam engine. It had a limited top end so that the maximum speed for a battleship was around 18 knots. At this speed the huge rods and pistons of the engine caused tremendous vibration throughout the ship. The vibration greatly interfered with accurate spotting from the optical rangefinders then in use. Additionally reciprocating machinery broke down with increased frequency when run near its limits. A high-speed run of any duration was likely to result in the ship sitting in harbor for days or making repairs to damaged parts.

The Royal Navy, in an inspired leap of faith, adopted the Parsons turbine for Dreadnought, used only in small ships prior to this time. The turbine was an overwhelming success. Its advantages over reciprocating machinery were enormous. The top speed at 21 knots was at least three knots higher than that of previous first class battleships, maintenance time was greatly reduced, and the lack of the vibration allowed for accurate range finding at much greater ranges. 

Plan, Profile & Quarter Views
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Dreadnought burst on the world stage, seemingly out of nowhere. She was laid down on October 2, 1905, launched February 10, 1906 and commissioned September 1, 1906. Eleven months from her keel laying to commissioning, a record never since broken by any other big ship. The speed of construction was a deliberate attempt by the Royal Navy to demonstrate its construction and design capabilities to would-be naval powers. The building materials were pre-stocked at the building site, multiple work-shifts labored around the clock, and the First Lord of the Admiralty, the legendary Jacky Fisher, saw to it that nothing interfered with Dreadnought’s construction. In the meantime the Royal Navy did not wait for the Dreadnought’s trials to draft further designs. While Dreadnought was rushing through her construction the question of the design of the battleships for the 1906 Program came up. Originally there were four battleships scheduled for this year but certain politicians were afraid that four battleships might upset the neighbors and give the citizens of other countries a negative view of Great Britain and chopped one of the battleships out of the program. It was realized that other navies would follow the example but was hoped that by reducing construction from four to three, other countries would now copy the Dreadnought concept as quickly. Why other navies would wish to continue building inferior ships just because there was a reduction of one ship in the building program is logic which eludes me.

Hull Detail
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The original intention was to greatly expand the Dreadnought design to greatly increase the armor scheme, increase speed, and yet keep the armament scheme. Others, more cautious, thought this is too great of a leap forward and a more cautious approach was adopted. Instead of designing a new super- Dreadnought, let’s just improve on the original with an improved-Dreadnought.  As 1905 turned into 1906 the design was being finalized. It was anticipated that there would be modifications made to the design based upon the trials of Dreadnought.  Phillip Watts, the DNC, worked in another 700-tons of displacement over that of Dreadnought. With this the armor scheme could be much improved. The machinery plant remained the same and with improvements in the turbines there was very little fall off in speed in spite of the additional 700-tons.  One big difference between the ships of the 1906 program, named the Bellerophon class, and the Dreadnought was with the secondary guns. Admiral Fisher didn’t want to waste displacement on secondary guns so Dreadnought had only light QF guns to fend off torpedo attacks. Extensive RN tests revealed that the light QF guns installed on Dreadnought were completely ineffectual against even medium displacement torpedo boats, much less a destroyer. In spite of a much higher rate of fire the QF guns lacked penetrating power and explosive force. The 4-inch gun on the other hand could stop a destroyer dead in its tracks. Accordingly, over Jackie Fisher’s objections, the design board designated that sixteen 4-Inch/45 Mk III guns be carried as secondary armament. Since the greatest threat of torpedo attack was at night, the Bellerophon design incorporated a rudimentary control system that tied in the 4-Inch guns, searchlights and directors into an integrated system. 

Hull Detail
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Armor improvements also focused on the torpedo threat. Evaluating combat results from the Russo-Japanese War the Bellerophon added continuous armored longitudinal bulkheads for the first time on a British battleship.  The purpose was to provide an inner security zone by localizing damage from a torpedo to the spaces on the exterior of the ship, outboard from the longitudinal bulkhead. With heavier secondary armament, the addition of a mainmast and the inclusion of the internal armor bulkheads, even with another 700 displacement, something had to give, which a slight thinning of the external armor. With a maximum thickness of ten-inches, the main armor belt was actually thinner than the eleven-inch belt of Dreadnought. The dimensions of the Bellerophon class were almost identical with Dreadnought, as was the turret layout. The ship was 490-feet long, 82-feet 6-inchs in width (6-inches more than Dreadnought) and had a draught of 27-feet (6-inches more than Dreadnought). The greatest change in appearance over Dreadnought was the addition of a full mainmast forward of the second funnel. By moving the fore mast ahead of the first funnel a major problem of the Dreadnought was corrected. The fore mast on Dreadnought was aft of the funnel and as a consequence the foretop, which was the battle station of the gunnery officer, was virtually inhabitable due to the high temperature exhaust fumes and gases. However, the positioning of the mainmast created its own problems on Bellerophon. The two masts were very closely spaced with the main mast being located almost amidship. The exhaust fumes of the first funnel interfered with operational effectiveness of the main top position.  The same 12-inch/45 gun model was used, as it also was with the Invincible battle cruiser class, but of course the secondary armament was much improved with sixteen 4-inch QF compared to Dreadnought’s twenty four 12pdr QF. While the Dreadnought had five submerged18-inch torpedo tubes (1 bow and four beam), the Bellerophon class dropped two of the beam tubes.

Bellerophon was laid down at Portsmouth Dock Yard December 3, 1906 two months after Dreadnought was completed. Temeraire followed at Devonport Dock Yard January 1, 1907 and Superb at the Armstrong yard at Elswick on February 6.  With all three the yards were very quick in getting the ships ready for launch with launchings in 1907, Bellerophon July 27, Temeraire August 24 and Superb November 7. However, completion took longer than the record breaking construction time of Dreadnought. Bellerophon was completed in February 1909 with other two being finished in May 1909. When completed the ships were fitted with experimental director controlled gunnery equipment and range indicators. However, this experiment fit was removed in 1911-1912, which was unfortunate as director controlled gunnery proved more accurate than the previous spotting system. It wasn’t until 1914-1915 that director control was again mounted in the main top and on a platform below the fore top.

Hull Detail
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When commissioned at Portsmouth , Bellerophon became the flagship of the Nore Division of the Home Fleet, which became the First Division Home Fleet in March 1909. Fore most of the spring and summer 1909 Bellerophon was involved in either exercises in the Atlantic of Mediterranean or in reviews, including one with the Czar of Russia, with annual maneuvers and another review in July 1910. Bellerophon then underwent a short refit period at Portsmouth until January 1911. On May 26, 1911 Bellerophon was entering the harbor of Portland when she collided with the battle cruiser Inflexible, however, there was no significant damage. She was certainly ready the next month for the Coronation Review for King George V on June 24, 1911. There were more exercises for Bellerophon when she went to Devonport for another refit with less than a full year’s service from her last refit. On May 1, 1912 First Division Home Fleet was renamed First Battleship Squadron Home Fleet but Bellerophon was still under refit. In this 1913 refit the two 4-inch guns on Bellerophon’s forward turret were moved to the superstructure above the forward pair of 4-inch guns as built. Vertical blast screens were also added behind the pairs of 4-inch guns on the crowns of the wing turrets. Also in this time period searchlight were repositioned to concentrate them and thus make it more difficult to judge the length of the ship or its course at night. 

On April 1, 1913 the ship rejoined her squadron. On March 10, 1914 Bellerophon was transferred to the Fourth Battleship Squadron Home Fleet, as the new HMS Neptune replaced her in First Division. At the start of World War the Fourth Battleship Squadron of the Home Fleet became the Fourth Battleship Squadron of the Grand Fleet in August 1914. On August 27, 1914 Bellerophon was involved in her second collision, this time with SS St Clair off the Orkney Islands , as the merchantman made the unwise decision to steam through the Grand Fleet while it was under weigh. As with the first collision, no significant damage was sustained. The rest of the turret crown 4-inch guns, except for those on Y turret, were moved to the superstructure, which was greatly enlarged to add a second story of 4-inch gun positions over those originally fitted. Bellerophon underwent her third refit from May to August 1915 at Devonport. On May 31, 1916 Bellerophon was still with the Fourth Battleship Squadron, along with Temeraire, Vanguard and Benbow, when the Grand Fleet finally came to grips with the High Seas Fleet at the Battle of Jutland. Billy Ruffin, as her crew called Bellerophon had the distinction of being the oldest all big gun battleship, British or German, at the battle, although the German pre-Dreadnought battleships at the battle were older.

Smaller Resin Parts
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As the twenty four battleships of the Grand Fleet that were present for the battle steamed south, they were organized into six columns of four. The Fourth Battleship Squadron 2nd Division was one of the center columns, flanked to the port by the column Fourth Battleship Squadron 1st Division led by the Fleet flagship, HMS Iron Duke. The Squadron was led by the squadron flagship Benbow and Bellerophon was second, followed by Temeraire and finally Vanguard. Visibility was poor as the battleships rushed south to surprise the High Seas Fleet, which was in pursuit of Beatty’s battle cruisers and four of the Queen Elizabeth class fast battleships. Fourth Battleships Squadron reported, “-visibility about 5 to 6 miles…the light becoming bad.” At 6:14PM Beatty’s battle cruisers were sighted and Jellicoe deployed his six columns into one battle line. They deployed to port with the most eastern four ship column at the front of the battle line with each subsequent four ship column following in behind them. This placed Bellerophon as 14th ship in the battle line. Within minutes the German battleships became visible at a range of 12,000-yards, well within gunnery range. Bellerophon was the second battleship to sight the Germans and opened fire, as Agincourt was the first to do so. The target were Admiral Hipper’s battle cruisers. As Admiral Scheer reported, “It was now quite obvious that we were confronted by a large portion of the English fleet. The entire arc stretching from north to east was a sea of fire. The flash from the muzzles of the guns was distinctly seen through the mist and smoke on the horizon, though the ships themselves were not distinguishable. ” During the course of the battle Bellerophon fired 62 12-inch shells and did not receive any damage.

Built for battle, this was it for Bellerophon as no one knew at the time that this would be the only fleet engagement of the war. From June to September 1917 she again resumed the role of flagship (2nd division) for the 4th Battle Squadron and was present on November 21, 1918 when the High Seas Fleet steamed to internment. With the dissolution of the Grand Fleet in March 1919 Bellerophon became a turret drill ship until put in reserve at Devonport on September 25, 1919.  Oddly, considering Bellerophon’s age, the ship was put in for refit from September 1919 to January 1920. As soon as she came out of her refit she was immediately marked for disposal, which clearly wasted the refit cost. However, the actual disposal didn’t take place until 1921. As the terms of the Washington Treaty were hammered out, the ships of the Bellerophon class were clearly not needed, as they were the oldest dreadnoughts still remaining after the sale of HMS Dreadnought in May 1921. Placed for sale on August 14 Bellerophon was sold to Slough Trading Company on November 8, 1921. In September 1922 the ship was resold to a German company and left under tow from Portsmouth on September 14 for breaking in Germany .

Smaller Resin Parts
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Iron Shipwright’s HMS Bellerophon
OK, I’ll admit it! I love predreadnoughts, dreadnoughts, battle cruisers and armored cruisers. These are ships that were built when the gun was king, before newfangled gizmos such as the submarine and the airplane overthrew the king and usurped the thrown. It is always a joyous experience to see a new dreadnought from Iron Shipwright, as that is one more ship that you’ll never see from anybody else. You can wring your hands all you want and plead “when will I see a plastic HMS Bellerophon” but you’ll have better odds of winning the Lotto and with prices of 1:350 scale plastic kits now, plus after market photo-etch, you’ll end up paying just as much, if not more, for a plastic version. Anyway, enough speechifying.  Jon Warneke did the original master for the HMS Dreadnought, originally sold by Rhino Models and then reacquired for Iron Shipwright. With a Queen Mary and Invincible already released, the battle cruisers already have good coverage and so it was time for another battleship class to join the solitary Dreadnought. As with history here comes the Bellerophon. The kit itself portrays the Bellerophon with 4-inch guns on the turret crowns before they were moved to an enlarged superstructure, so it is a pre World War One fit and appears to be the 1909 fit.

Smaller Resin Parts
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In looking at the photographs of the model the cutwater profile seems a little bit off in that it has a slight sheer forward at the top of the cutwater on the model, which was not present on the original. However, the actual model does not sheer forward at the top of the cutwater and does have a correct profile. The armor belt matches the shape and length as found in comparing with the plan and profile of the March 1909 Bellerophon drawings found on pages 60-61 in R.A. Burt’s British Battleships of World War One, THE REFERENCE, for RN battleships 1914-1918. Be careful handling the hull casting at the deck edge, as the shelves for the antitorpedo nets are integral to the hull. In profile I compared the ISW model with the Burt profile and the model does seem to match Burt even in small details such as porthole groupings. There are no rigoles (eyebrows) over the portholes on the model. The hull casting includes the superstructure through the 4-inch superstructure mounts. The openings for the superstructure 4-inch guns have resin film covering the openings that is easily removed with a hobby knife. If you look at the Burt drawings, the aft pair have a simple rectangular opening but the two pairs forward do not have pure rectangular openings in that the bottom edge is lower at muzzle end than at breech end. ISW matches the pattern perfectly.

When it comes to comparing the deck plan between the ISW Bellerophon and the R. A. Burt profile, it the kit is almost spot on with only a couple of minor discrepancies. For instance aft of Y turret there are a couple of deck access hatches that are not quite side by side on the plan in that the starboard hatch is positioned slightly further aft of the port hatch and the model shows them side by side. Another minor discrepancy is the shape of the deck anchor hawse. Burt shows an oval design and the kit as a U-shaped design. These are so minor that it serves to illustrate how close the model detail is to that shown in the Burt plan. The forecastle is awash in detail with a very busy anchor machinery arrangement, large multi-hatch access fitting and an admirably thin breakwater with support gussets, deck plate, access fitting and lockers. The kit has good deck planking but no butt ends. The circular coal scuttles are present and match the locations shown in the Burt plan, except for the one furthest to the stern, which is slightly out of position. However, on my sample the aft five scuttles the aft five scuttles (two on each side of Y barbette and one at the stern were domed rather than flat. This is no big deal as gentle sanding will easily remove the dome. The amiship and aft fittings locations also match the Burt plan. Mostly access hatches and ventilators they match the shape on the plan with one minor exception. The Burt plan shows the most aft access fitting at the very stern to be rectangular in shape instead of the almost square shape on the ISW kit.

Metal Parts
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As with any ISW kit there is some cleanup necessary for the hull casting. Most of this is on the centerline of the bottom of the hull. Since the hull is cast with bottom on top of the mold, any air bubbles that are released as the resin cures go to the top of the mold, creating small voids along the bottom of the hull. In most cases nothing really needs to be done as once mounted, the bottom of the hull wouldn’t be seen. However, if you are a purest, a light application of filler and quick sanding will fill in and smooth out the voids. There is one large resin pour stalk that will need to be removed. The easiest way is to use a cutting disc on your Dremel and then smooth the location with the sanding drum. If you don’t have a Dremel it doesn’t take long to remove the stalk with sanding alone. There was a thin resin runner along the center line that can be broken off with your fingers and then remnants sanded smooth easily. The shaft housings had some larger voids that will need to be filled and then sanded, as they can be seen at certain angles once the model is mounted. ISW gives a positioning line for each of the bilge keels but you’ll have to add the keels themselves with plastic strips and taper the ends through sanding. I would prefer to have the bilge keels cast as part of the hull but when ISW did this with previous kits, they proved to be a trap for air bubbles, requiring repair. I can’t argue with ISW because it is easier to just add plastic bilge keels rather than fill a void in the thin bilge keels. In the same vein you’ll have to add the bitts to the bollard plates, as the bitts also proved to be air traps in the past in which it was easier to entirely replace rather than repair. Although the net shelves are included, you’ll have to add the rolled netting. My personal favorite to do this is to get some bendable plastic rods found in the garden section of a Wal-Mart or major hardware store, bend to the shape to rest on the net shelves and then covered with a mesh fabric from Hobby Lobby with liberal applications of white glue. The process might be a little messy but the end result looks good. The net booms are provided by ISW.

Decals, Box Art & Instructions
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The turrets have the right shape but the aft fitting on the crown appears rounded in the Burt profile, rather than angular as portrayed on the kit. On all turrets ISW provide circular plates for mounting the 4-inch guns on the turret crowns. However, X turret did not have the QF guns on the crown, so you’ll have to remove the plates from one of the turret castings. Superstructure, as well as smaller parts have casting sprues to be removed, along with minor flash needing cleanup but nothing significant. The bridge windows can easily be opened by using a hobby knife, giving a better appearance by using Krystal Klear to provide “glass” windows, rather than painting them. Searchlights have a concave front face so you can add Krystal Klear or any white glue that dries clear to provide clear lenses.

ISW provides plenty of brass parts. Chief among them are brass main gun barrels from B&D Barrels. If you haven’t tried B&D brass barrels, they are first rate. There is also one large brass photo-etch fret that mostly consists of railing but there are plenty of other fittings. The fret was originally designed for the Dreadnought kit but since the Bellerophon was an improved Dreadnought, this fret is very applicable for Bellerophon. It even includes a brass bridge face so you can remove the resin bridge face and substitute the brass part. Also included are two different diameter brass rods and a plastic rod. About the only thing that you’ll need to add is some anchor chain. The included decal sheet has the Union Jack and White Ensign but the name plates on the sheet do not include any of the Bellerophon class names. The instructions are serviceable, consisting of ten pages. Presented in a modular format, they are fine for assembly of the resin parts and major brass parts but lack placement locations for many of the smaller brass parts. Most of these locations will be common sense, such as inclined ladders and railing but having a copy of Burt’s volume will certainly help. The 3rd page does show each pattern of railing on the fret and lists where it is used.

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If you have been waiting for a worthy follow up for the 1:350 HMS Dreadnought kit, the Iron Shipwright HMS Bellerophon will certainly be your ticket. With two closely spaced tripods the Bellerophon has a more majestic profile than the Dreadnought with her single tripod. Although almost a repeat of the Dreadnought design, the presence of two tripods does create a significantly different look.