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Sister ships: none (see Notes)
Notes: British designers were aware that the layout of guns in DREADNOUGHT and her successors were far from ideal, particularly in light of developments in other navies. These ships could only fire eight guns on a broadside, while (for example) the American DELAWARE class could fire ten and the Argentine MORENO class could fire twelve. Two solutions were chosen for the first ship of the 1908 Program; the "wing" turrets were staggered to give a limited degree of cross-deck firing; and to avoid a "too-long" hull, the "X" turret was raised a deck level over the "Y" turret, as in the American ships. Cross-deck firing proved to be relatively unsuccessful, as both the blast damage and the strain on the hull proved to problematic; but "in a pinch", NEPTUNE could deliver a broadside of ten guns. The other problem with the NEPTUNE's main battery was due to the sighting hoods being located in the front part of the turret; if the "X" turret was to fire directly aft, the blast effect on "Y" turret directly below caused concussions to the crew of those guns. Nonetheless, the design was a step in the right direction, and all subsequent British battleships had at least one set of superimposed turrets. The exposed positions for the 4" guns atop the main battery turrets were abandoned, and the guns were mounted in the superstructure. To keep arcs clear for the "wing" turrets firing cross-deck, the ship's boats were carried on a prominent "flying bridge". (It was soon recognized that these were likely to be destroyed by gunfire, with the inevitable consequence that the wreckage would foul the guns below.) In addition, the "control tops" mounted atop tripod masts continued to have problems with smoke and heat from the funnels; this continued to plague British battleships for years. On the "plus" side -- for the first time, cruising turbines we provided, to cut coal consumption at slow and medium speeds. NEPTUNE was the fastest British battleship to date in her trials, reaching a top speed of 22.7 knots, and she was able to maintain 21.75 knots for eight hours. Overall, the changes to NEPTUNE's design were deemed a success, and the following COLOSSUS class (COLOSSUS and HERCULES) were built to much the same standards, with only limited modifications; the three ships are often considered to be of a single class. And at £87 per ton, the NEPTUNE was, on a cost-per-ton basis, the cheapest British battleship ever built.1
NEPTUNE was commissioned for temporary Special Service in January, 1911; in May, 1911, she became Flagship of the C-in-C, Home Fleet. In May, 1912, she joined the 1st Battle Squadron. In 1912, NEPTUNE's fore funnel was raised, and in 1913, twin searchlights were grouped on her forward superstructure. At the outbreak of World War I, NEPTUNE was transferred to the Grand Fleet. NEPTUNE collided with a neutral merchant ship on 23 April 1916, but was not seriously damaged. She took part in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916, but suffered no damage. Later in 1916, a funnel cap was added to her fore funnel, and the twin searchlights were replaced by singles. NEPTUNE was transferred to the 4th Battle Squadron in 1917. Following World War I, NEPTUNE was paid off into Reserve in 1919, and sold for breaking up in September, 1922 at Blyth.
* slightly modified; I added topmasts and cranes to the original kit, and removed the cast-on 4" from the main battery turrets.
1 "After the Dreadnought" by Keith McBride; WARSHIP 1992, Conway Maritime Press, London, England, 1992; pg. 107