Great Britain

H.M.S. Victory postcard

H.M.S. Victory- This was Admiral Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and is currently preserved as a museum ship in Portsmouth, England.

H.M.S. Royal Sovereign postcard

H.M.S. Royal Sovereign- Launched in 1891, this ship and the rest of this class of battleships are commonly referred to as the first pre-dreadnoughts.

H.M.S. Majestic postcard

H.M.S. Majestic- The most numerous class of battleships ever constructed, with 9 vessels, they set the standard for pre-dreadnought design and were copied by other navies- with the Japanese Mikasa being an example.

Dominant throughout the 19th century, the Royal Navy was responsible for maintaining and protecting the British Empire- importantly the world's trade routes, as well as acting as a global police force. With distant colonies, such as India and Australia, Great Britain used its navy as the bulwark of the Empire's forces, which helped compensate for Britain’s relatively small professional army. The British quickly reacted to the launch of the first ironclad- the French vessel Gloire in 1858 by launching the larger HMS Warrior in 1860. This iron-hulled and armored ship helped solidify Britain’s place as the premiere world power of the day. After the Civil War proved the effectiveness of iron hulled ships, Britain continued to build up its sizeable fleet of ironclads. By the 1880s Germany, France, Japan, Russia and the United States began to construct modern fleets. As a result of this challenge to the Royal Navy’s power, Britain passed the Naval Defense Act of 1889, which increased British Naval spending based on the “two-power standard.” The two-power standard stated that the British Navy should possess battleships at least equal in number to the next two largest navies combined. While this act greatly increased the size of the Royal Navy, it also helped spur the naval arms race between Germany and Great Britain which would loom large in the run up to World War I.