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Jun 4, 2006
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In the thread here

John talks about a design suggested by Fisher for an fats all big gun ship.

Fisher’s first project was what he considered an essential upgrade to his own seagoing command, the ironclad; HMS Inflexible. She was the most technically advanced and also most powerful warship of her time and Fisher adored her. But she appears to have had one serious deficiency in his eyes; an insufficient turn of speed.

With a top speed of 14.75 knots, Inflexible was already one of the fastest warships in service anywhere in the world. However, with many warships under construction, both at home and abroad, which promised to raise the speed of modern battlefleets up to 17 knots or thereabouts, Fisher seems to have decided to try stay ahead of the game.

He determined (probably on advice by Watt’s) that if Inflexible’s bow were extended by 50 feet, then the resulting improved length/beam ratio would increase Inflexible’s speed up to the future standard of 17 knots. However, Considering the very long building times for warships at that time, this apparently relatively quick and straight forward reconstruction would have left Inflexible the fastest warship on the world’s oceans for several years: Effectively a battle cruiser in all but name. Fisher sent this proposal to the Admiralty but as nothing was done it was presumably rejected.

Fisher’s second warship project was a new concept which he named HMS Nonsuch. This ship would have a top speed of 18 knots, making her the fastest warship of the period bar none. She would combine the turret layouts of the then current Dreadnought and Inflexible creating a warship with four twin gun turrets with an eight-gun broadside and (theoretically) six guns able to fire dead ahead and astern.

This ship would have at least twice the firepower of any warship either in service or planned and a speed that ensured complete tactical control during any potential one on one duel against any foreign rival.
It is unknown what guns Nonsuch was intended to have, but by 1882 the Royal Navy had finally returned to breach loaders and the available latest guns were 12in, 13.5in and 16.25in. I have come across the suggestion before that she was to have mounted 12in guns, but it seems to me that 13.5in was more likely as that was the latest and most modern gun available to the Royal Navy and as such was slated to arm four of the six new ‘Admiral’ Class ironclads that were under construction or soon to be laid down. The first Admiral (Collingwood) had 4x12in guns and the sixth (Benbow) ended up with 2x16.25in guns instead of 4x13.5in due to a shortage of 13.5in guns.

It is not known at this time what the armour layout for Nonsuch would have been, but, I believe that it would probably have been a development of Inflexible’s “all our nothing” arrangement. It should be noted that the word “nonesuch” means the same as the word “incomparable”. The armour on Fisher’s much later HMS Incomparable project does seem to have been influenced by the Inflexible’s armour scheme. Also, Fisher’s two Nonpareil (again this means the same as nonesuch) projects of 1908 and 1912 both appear to have “all or nothing” armour scheme’s.

The concept of Nonsuch made it at least as far as the DNC (Barnaby), who rejected it, not because the design wasn’t feasible, but on the grounds that it would make every ship in the Royal Navy obsolescent.

The following is a note Fisher sent to Barnaby in January 1883:

“I have delayed sending you this letter hoping to find copy of a brief article I wrote on H.M. Ironclad “Nonsuch” of 18 knots, after seeing your design A; I can’t find it, and have written for the original, which I will send for your amusement. I don’t think your argument is a sound one as to the “degradation of our other ironclads by the construction of an 18-knotter.” Isn’t the principle right to make each succeeding ironclad an improvement and as perfect as you can?
We have enough of the Admiral class of ship. Now try your hand on a “Nonsuch” (of vast speed!).
In violent haste,
Ever yours,
J. A. F.
“Build few, and build fast, Each one better than the last.””

It is interesting to note that Fisher was still preaching the exact same principles 30 years later in letters to Winston Churchill. Also, of course, that he eventually did make the Royal Navy’s existing fleet obsolescent with the commissioning of his own HMS Dreadnought in 1906.

Further it should be noted that the first of the Admiral class would not enter service for a further four and a half years after this note was written. Is this an indication of Fisher’s views on the design? I have a suspicion Fisher was not fond of the low freeboard, which could indicate that Nonsuch had a high freeboard for good seakeeping: A factor of ship design Fisher was very strong champion of.

The last thing that needs to be noted is that Fisher wrote an article on the Nonsuch concept and presumably also forwarded the full details of the design to the Admiralty. This increases the chances that the full details of this design still exist and are buried somewhere in the National Archives at Kew or perhaps the Admiralty Library at Portsmouth. I will have to keep an eye out for them during my research trips.

Anyone have more information?

Sherman Tank

I don't want to change my personal text
Oct 15, 2016
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I have a letter from former Chief Constructor Nathaniel Barnaby about this design somewhere, I'll try to find it when I have time. I think there's an illustration of this design in a D.K. Brown article about Dreadnought in Warship vol. 4.


Big Wingy Thingy
Jul 15, 2018
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(Another thread resurrection, bah!)

Is there any reliable speculation as to what this ship would have looked like?

The first thing that comes to mind is a cross between Admiral and Indefatigable, with the components of the latter combined with the layout of the former. Admiral doesn't appear to have a fore and aft bridge though, so the placement of the wing guns is subject to question.

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