The launch of the British ship-of-the-line HMS Dreadnought, in 1906, was an event comparable to the first detonation of an atomic bomb in 1945. It completely revolutionised warfare and rendered obsolete most if not all capital warships of the time. "Dreadnought" quickly became the type name for all ships of her kind; all older capital ships were soon to be called "pre-Dreadnoughts".

Before World War I, ships-of-the-line were what ICBMs are today: the biggest and meanest weapon system of all. Their numbers were carefully regulated by written and/or unwritten treaties. Building new ones could upset the international balance of powers. By building the Dreadnought, the British navy essentially forced all navies in the world to upgrade their fleets (this was much like an MS Office release). The German Empire realised that in the ensuing arms race, they stood a chance of overtaking Britain and, for the first time, becoming the leading naval power in the world. This German decision ultimately caused World War I.

Now, what was so special about the Dreadnought? It was the first "all big gun battleship". Unlike ships-of-the-line before, which had a mix of many cannon of different calibers mounted in turrets all over the ship, with usually only four guns (the "main battery") being of the heaviest caliber, the Dreadnought had a main battery of ten 305 mm (12 inch) guns. It was also turbine-powered, which meant higher speed (21 knots, i.e. three knots more than usual) and less vibration.

The years between 1906 and 1914 would see a frenzy of Dreadnought construction, ultimately leading to mile-long formations of Dreadnoughts in keel line affronting each other in the few larger sea battles of WWI.

A clipper ship built in 1853 in Newburyport, Massachusetts. It's dimensions were 212 feet long and 1413 tons, and it is one of the most notable sailing vessels ever built in America. Nicknamed "The Wild Boat of the Atlantic" the Dreadnought set speed records of the day with crossings of the Atlantic in little over 13 days.
There's a flash packet, a flash packet of fame,
She belongs to New York and the Dreadnought's her name;
She's bound to the westward where the strong winds blow,
Bound away in the Dreadnought, to the westward we go.
The time for her sailing is now drawing nigh,
Farewell, pretty May, I must bid you goodbye,
Farewell to old England and all we hold dear,
Bound away in the Dreadnought, to the westward we'll steer.
O, the Dreadnought is pulling out of Waterloo Dock,
Where the boys and the girls to the pierheads do flock;
They will give us three cheers while their tears do flow,
Saying, "God bless the Dreadnought, where'er she may go!"
O, the Dreadnought is waiting in the Mersey so free,
Waiting for the Independence to tow her to sea;
For around that Rock Light where the Mersey does flow,
Bound away in the Dreadnought, to the westward we'll go.
O, the Dreadnought's a-bowlin' down the wild Irish Sea,
Where the passengers are merry, their hearts full of glee,
While her sailors like lions walk the decks to and fro,
She's the Liverpool packet, O Lord, let her go!
O, the Dreadnought's a-sailin' the Atlantic so wide,
While the dark, heavy seas roll along her black sides,
With her sails neatly spread and the red cross to show,
She's the Liverpool packet, O Lord, let her go!
O, the Dreadnought's becalmed on the banks of
Newfoundland, Where the water's so green and the bottom
is sand; Where the fish of the ocean swim round to and fro,
She's the Liverpool packet, O Lord, let her go!
O, the Dreadnought's arrived in America once more,
Let's go ashore, shipmates, on the land we adore,
With wives and sweethearts so happy we'll be,
Drink a health to the Dreadnought, wherever she be.
Here's a health to the Dreadnought, to all her brave crew,
Here's a health to her captain, and her officers, too,
Talk about your flash packets, Swallowtail and Black Ball,
Then, here's to the Dreadnought, the packet to beat them all.

Dreadnoughts, in Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 setting, are cybernetic battle suits, into which a skilled warrior is permanently ensconced. Typically, they have brutal close-combat weapons as well as heavy long-ranged weaponry, combined with heavy armor and the ability to move and fire said heavy weapons.

Imperial Space Marines (the force that coined the term "Dreadnought") uses them as ambulatory tombs, taking advantage of both their abilities as firebases and experienced leaders. While the Codex Astartes role of the dreadnought is to spearhead assaults and provide fire support for the other marines, both roles dreadnoughts excel at, some chapters (notably the Space Wolves) also draw on the expertise of such venerable warriors.

The Space Wolves and Iron Hands are noted for the quality of their "venerable" dreadnoughts, as the Space Wolves maintain theirs almost religiously, while the Iron Hands have some of the greatest techcraft outside of the Adeptus Mechanicus.

A couple examples of famous dreadnoughts are the venerable Bjorn the Fellhanded of the Space Wolves and the bloodthirsty Moriar the Chosen of the Blood Angels.

The Chaos Space Marines, for their part, use dreadnoughts in much the same way as their loyalist counterparts, although they are considerably less likely to consult them for advice. Instead of entombing dying war heroes, those driven mad by possession are most often entombed next most common is simply inducing a Chaos daemon to possess the shell. Chaos dreadnoughts are not terribly stable, and are prone to simply annihilating whoever might be lingering around, friend or foe. Generally, given their poor disposition and general instability, they are chained outside of battle.

Rumor has it that the Blood Angels similarly entomb those possessed by the Red Thirst.

Orks, for their part, think that the Dreadnoughts are...well...really neat. Orks, being not at all averse to grafting loud, unreliable bits of machinery to other Orks, didn't really need a lot of inspiration to start grafting loud, unreliable Orks into bits of machinery. A four-armed Ork dreadnought (or a brace of smaller, two-armed "Killa Kans") will often be a Mekboy's pride and joy, after grafting some hapless victimvolunteer into the pilot's...um...hole.

While the other races of the 40K galaxy have vehicles that fulfill the role of the dreadnought (the Imperial Guard has light chicken-walkers called Sentinels, the Tyranids have crablike juggernauts known as Carnifexes, the Tau have heavy battlesuits known as Crisis Suits, the Dark Eldar have murderous automatons known as Taloses, and the Necrons have heavily armed repair robots known as Tomb Spyders), only one other race has a vehicle analogous to the dreadnoughts; so much so, that they are often known as dreadnoughts.

Eldar Wraithlords are tall and spindly, especially compared to other dreadnoughts, and are constructed almost entirely of wraithbone (What silicon and copper are to computer equipment, wraithbone is to Eldar spirit-powered equipment) and piloted by dead Eldar, possessing Spirit Stones. Faster and more agile than their counterparts, they are generally less heavily armed.


Originally, dreadnoughts (for Eldar, Orks, Space Marines, and Chaos) were in the first Warhammer 40,000 Compendium book, one of the first books to turn Rogue Trader into a real competitive wargame. An outgrowth of the robot rules, they were basically robots that didn't use the cumbersome programming rules. (Said rules were entertaining, but utterly unplayable.) These rules were extremely versatile, allowing for customization of both equipment and stats, but ultimately too easy to break.

Stats for a dreadnought from this Compendium ranged all over, as generation was semi-random.

The Dreadnoughts made another appearance in the second edition of Warhammer 40,000, using the new vehicle rules. Now, they weren't nearly the close-combat juggernauts they had been in the first edition, but their new ability to move and fire heavy weapons, combined with their much-improved armor, made them excellent units to build a firebase around. (Curiously enough, Chaos dreadnoughts, with their ostensibly inferior technology, got much cooler guns and close combat weapons than their Imperial counterparts.)

A second edition dreadnought used a datafax with damage tables and armor charts, but the core stats were...

M8 WS5 BS5 S6 I5 LD10
...with armor ratings from 18-20 on the front, and 12-14 on the back.

Now, in the third edition of Warhammer 40K, the new close combat rules give the relatively imprecise, but ridiculously powerful dreadnoughts a close combat edge, on top of their shooting prowess. Unfortunately, as Eldar dreadnoughts (renamed to Wraithlords) use the rules for living creatures, a quirk of the rules for the toughness of living creatures forces the Toughness stat to straddle a nasty breakpoint that can render them immune to small arms fire. This has prompted constant (often vitriolic) arguments about what stats the Wraithlord should have.

A Space Marine dreadnought has one of several heavy weapons, a storm bolter (upgradable to a heavy flamer), and a Dreadnought Close Combat weapon (basically a power fist without the disadvantage of striking last; this can be replaced with a missile launcher). It can fire two weapons, either of which can be heavy, in the turn it moves, or all of them if it doesn't.

WS4 BS4 ST6 I4 Armor 12/12/10

Dread"nought` (?), n.

1.

A British battleship, completed in 1906-1907, having an armament consisting of ten 12-inch guns, and of twenty-four 12-pound quick-fire guns for protection against torpedo boats. This was the first battleship of the type characterized by a main armament of big guns all of the same caliber. She has a displacement of 17,900 tons at load draft, and a speed of 21 knots per hour.

2.

Any battleship having its main armament entirely of big guns all of one caliber. Since the Dreadnought was built, the caliber of the heaviest guns has increased from 12 in. to 13½ in., 14 in., and 15 in., and the displacement of the largest batteships from 18,000 tons to 30,000 tons and upwards. The term superdreadnought is popularly applied to battleships with such increased displacement and gun caliber.

 

© Webster 1913.

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