Shells in the Royal Navy

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In his report to Scheer of 4 July, 1916, Hipper praised British gunnery but emphasised:

"Das von den Engländern nicht mehr erreicht ist, ist eine Folge ihres mangelhaften Geschos-Materials, im Besonderen der wenig wirksamen Spreng-Ladung.
[What the English can no longer achieve is a consequence of their inadequate projectile material, in particular the ineffective explosive charge.]"[1]

Looking Back

Jellicoe later wrote in his memoirs:

In order to determine the effectiveness against armoured ships of the shell supplied for the various guns I arranged for extensive firing trials to be carried out in 1910 against the old battleship Edinburgh, which had been specially prepared by the addition of modern armour plates. As a result of these trials, before the end of my term of office as Controller, the Ordnance Board were asked in October 1910 to endeavour to produce an armour piercing shell which would perforate armour at oblique impact and go on in a fit state for bursting. The minute of the D.N.O. on the subject and the Ordnance Board reply were as follows: -
Minute No.3284.
D.N.O. 18.10.10. states that the trials recommended by the Board are approved. Ordnance Board reply.
He asks them to consider the possibility of increasing the chance of A.P. shell carrying their burster through armour plates when striking obliquely by increasing the thickness of the walls of the shells, or by carrying out trials with shell of various shaped cavities, i.e. ribbed, which may be stronger than the cylindrical cavities, observing that the introduction of lyddite seems to render this question more feasible than formerly. Ask C.S.O.F. [Chief Superintendent of Ordnance Factories] to consider the D.N.O.'s proposals, and to favour the Board with his remarks.[2]

Looking Back

On the strength of a conversation with Admiral Sir Frederic C. Dreyer in 1946, Professor Marder wrote in 1960 that:

[I]t seems that the person mainly responsible for the shell deficiency was an officer in the Department of the D.N.O., Lieutenant-Commander John A. Duncan. He was, in 1910—1913, one of the naval officers employed on inspection and experimental duties under the War Office. In 1914 he served as Chief Inspector of Naval Ordnance, with the acting rank of Commander.[3]

Marder later wrote:

The statement is not fair, since I have only the Admiral's [Dreyer's] opinion, without supporting facts, and were he alive, moreover, he might wish to qualify the charge.[4]

Churchill wrote in 1926 to the then First Lord, Francis Bridgeman, "I suppose I am to blame for our shells not being as good as the German. I assumed our constructors and ordnance experts were the last word in their science."[5]

Sir Charles Madden wrote to Dreyer in 1924, "I try to avoid discussing the demerits of our shell because Lord Jellicoe had more to do with the gunnery material we used than any other one man."[6]


  1. Jellicoe Papers. British Library. Add MS 49014. fo. 240.
  2. British Library. Jellicoe Papers. Add. MSS. 49038. ff. 211-212.
  3. Marder. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. I. p. 418.
  4. Marder. From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. III. p. 206.
  5. Letter of 15 November, 1926. Quoted in Prior. Churchill's World Crisis as History. p. 204.
  6. Quoted in McCallum. Warship 2005. p. 23.


  • Admiralty, Gunnery and Torpedo Division (July, 1919). Progress in Naval Gunnery, 1914-1918. C.B. 902. The National Archives. ADM 186/238.
  • Marder, Arthur J. (1961). From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904-1919: The Road to War, 1904-1914. Volume I. London: Oxford University Press.
  • Marder, Arthur J. (1978). From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904-1919: Jutland and After, May 1916–December 1916. Volume III (Second ed.). London: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192158414.