- 1st Battle of Heligoland (28 August 1914)
- Admiral Souchon’s Escape (3-8 August 1914)
- Armistice and consequences
- Battle of Cape Sarytch (18 November 1914)
- Battle of Coronel (1st November 1914)
- Battle of Elli and Lemnos (1912-13)
- Battle of Gotland (July, 2, 1915)
- Battle of Imbros (20 January 1918)
- Battle of Jutland (May 31, 1916)
- Battle of Moon Island (October 1917)
- Battle of the Falklands (8 December 1914)
- Dover Strait Actions – October 1916 to April 1917
- Lake Tanganyika’s naval battles
- Operations in the Adriatic
- Otranto Strait Battle (May, 15, 1917)
- Second Battle of Heligoland (17 November 1917)
- SMS Emden’s Incredible True Odyssey
- The Antivari Action (August 14 1914)
- The Dardanelles Campaign (February 1915)
- The Königin Luise Event (5 August 1914)
- The Odensholm Action (August 26, 1914)
- The torpedoing of Lusitania – May 7, 1915.
- Zeebruge Raid (April, 23, 1918)
The great war at sea saw more modern, industrial age ships-to-ship duels, in these four years largely dominated by the trenches of the Western front in popular imagination than any other conflict on human history, including WW2. Indeed the latter was dominated by actors of the 4nd generation naval warfare*, submarines and airplanes. Actual ships duelling occurrences were rare, especially big gun battleships. There was no equivalent of the battle of Jutland for example. The only clash that came close was the hunt for the Bismarck -a single ship- whereas entire line of battles were committed at Jutland, one of the numerous sea battles of the north sea.
Precious knowledge was passed on designs that emerged in the interwar. In the pacific during ww2, aeronaval battles appeared for the first time in history, almost “proxy battles” with only planes engaged, over the horizon. For the first time two fleets battled without never see each other. Planes also nailed the coffin for battleships, which still unconceivable in 1918. However the Japanese introduced the concept of airborne naval attacks in 1914, precisely at Tsin Tao against the Germans.
The various naval oppositions of the great war were set in the Mediterranean and the North Sea, and with the development of the submarine, the Atlantic. But at the beginning of the war, the German Far East squadron would lead the pursuit of its forces over most of the globe. Naval actions also emerged in Africa, the Germans holding several colonies like Dar-el-Salaam, and east asia (the Japanese attacking the TsingTao base and the whole German pacific colonies and protectorates).
The North Sea
The battle of Jutland remain the largest naval battle with modern battleships (dreadnoughts and battlecruisers) in history. Previous only Tsushima in 1905 match its scale.
At Jutland, stakes were high. Apart damaged battlecruisers, one lost and one old battleships sunk, plus nine lighter ships (including four light cruisers), the bulk of the Kaiserliche Marine, and its homeland force, the Hochseeflotte was still intact afterwards. Both sides claimed victory -propaganda obliged- as it was seen largely as a draw. But in truth , British losses were higher with 3 battlecruisers and 3 armoured cruisers.
German High seas TB at Jutland
Other naval battles of the era and in this contested sector included the sinking of the Königin Luise, the night of the declaration of war, the first battle of Heligoland (august 1914), a contested Island, advanced sea sentinel off the German coast, the Battle of the Dogger Bank in January 1915, right in the center of the North Sea, the second battle of Heligoland in November 1917.
Further south, in the Channel, captured Belgian coast allowed the Germans to be dangerously close to French and British coastal operations and lines of communication. It was the light ships’ paradise and the German Admiralty wasted no time to create several naval bases, of which Ostende and Zeebruge were the largest. They operated ships ranging to destroyers to coastal torpedo boats and coastal submarines. Several clashes between light units occured, the largest being probably the Pas de Calais naval battle (21 april 1917).
The threat was sufficient to spawn on the British side an array of quite formidable monitors, mounting guns ranging from 12 in to 16 in, some of which were still in service in WW2. These shallow water ships were also indicated to deal with German artillery positions and german lines up to 25-30 km inland. But moreover many raids were mounted. Two raids on Oostende (last in May 1918) and one on Zeebruge (23 April 1918) which was a pyrrhic “victory” at best.
HMS Kempenfelt with the Grand fleet: WW1 helped refine the concept of destroyer into a true “blue navy” ship, which ten years before was seen very much like a glorified torpedo boat
During the war, the Russian Empire had two adversaries (Germany and Turkey), at at some point and in another sector ustria-Hungary via riverine warfare (like on the Danube). On the naval side, she fought the Germans in the Baltic and the Turks in the black sea; The Baltic sea presented numerous island, shoals and estuaries, shallow seas, was not friendly to submarines, but to mines and light ships like destroyers and torpedo boats. Minefield indeed were found quickly to be the best way to protect valuable assets and channel enemy forces into sectors that can be dealt with coastal artillery and submarines.
The Russian Baltic sea fleet in 1914 comprised by far the largest and most modern forces, proximity of the German Empire obliged. It comprised 6 armoured and 4 light cruisers, 13 torpedo-boat destroyers, 50 torpedo boats, 6 mine layers, 13 submarines, 6 gunboats. The most outstanding Russian ships deployed there were the dreadnought of the Gangut class (Gangut; Poltava; Petropavlovsk; and Sevastopol) in completion and the following Imperatritsa Maria class in construction. They were to be complemented by four battlecruisers of the Borodino class (in construction) and a dozen light cruisers, most of which will be completed in the 1920s or even 1930, modified. These forces plan to receive by further complements through constructions of destroyers and submarines, like large fleet destroyers (like the Novik class), about 30 submarines (a division) and dozens of auxiliary ships, including minesweepers and minelayers as well as large motherships like the Europa, Tosno, Khabarovsk, Oland and Svjatitel Nikolai.
Operations did not included any large-scale attempt to take on the Kaiserliche Marine, seen as too massive. However once weakened by the Royal Navy, it was a realistic, even very likely scenario. The admiralty also planned to draw some forces on prepared minefields. The Baltic Fleet indeed systematically conducted active mine-laying operations along enemy shores and important sea lines of communication. The Russian Navy there distinguished itself in also taking up mine-artillery positions, denying any access by the German Fleet in the Gulf of Finland. The German Navy lost indeed 53 ships and 49 auxiliary vessels, while the Baltic Fleet lost 36 ships of al ranks and tonnage. The Baltic Fleet was under command of Admiral N.O. Essen (from 1909), Vice-Admiral V.A. Kanin, Vice-Admiral A.I. Nepenin, Vice-Admiral A.S. Maksimov, Rear-Admiral D.N. Verderevsky, and Rear-Admiral A.V. Razvozov.
Battleship Slava, badly damaged after the battle of the Moon island
Notable actions included the Battle of Odensholm (August 1914), where the SMS Magdebourg et Augsburg charged of mining the gulf of Finland clashed against the Pallada and Bogatyr. The Magdebourg was left stranded and unable to be towed to safety. Captured, it gave probably the best valuable asset in naval intelligence the allies never had: Intact, complete German naval codebooks. From then on, both the Royal Navy and the Russians were able to “read” German communication and prevent any sortie. It took time for the Germans to figure it out and find a parade. The battle of Gotland in july 1915, a cruiser’s battle over minefiels, and the third, perhaps largest battle of this theater of operations was the battle of the Gulf of Riga (12-20 October 1917) and the battle of moon island. Although a tactical Russian success it allowed later German forces to be landed and gaining valuable territorial assets, with a Russian army gangrened by Bolshevism. The following are mostly Allied+White/Red naval battles like at Kronstadt and Krasnaya Gorska in 1919.
The situation in 1914 did not implied for the German admiralty a push in the Atlantic, at least at first. It was hoped from the beginning two scenarios:
1-Winning on land in France, quickly enough to prevent the British to be in force or mobilize their Empire. Once France defeated, Peace could have been proposed and the Germans and Austro-Hungarians and their potential ally Turkey would have concentrated on Russia. However if Britain had refused peace proposals and decided to fight on with the Empire instead, a naval solution was researched (see below). Operating from French ports would have been quite an advantage, especially for submarines.
2-Breaking the Royal Navy by tactics destined to gradually weakening its capital ships, making for initial German inferiority in numbers: Setting a trap by sending raids of Battlecruisers (like off Scarborough), then retreating and drawing British forces into an array of minefields and U-boats and the backing of the Hochseeflotte. After two or three occasions like this, once balance was obtained, searching for the usual decisive “big gun battle” at sea with all the fleet. This was basically the preferred scenario of the German admiralty (and implemented policy until Jutland). But this does not imply the Atlantic at first. If, and when the Royal Navy had been defeated and seriously weakened, it would have been easier to launch commerce raiding by using surface ships, and gradually blockading UK. But once the north sea strategy failed (more so when German codebooks were in British intelligence hands), Germany resorted to a more massive use of submarines, which can evade British surveillance and made their way into the Atlantic.
SS Aquitania in razzle-Dazzle camouflage used as a troop transport in 1917
The decision to attack British shipping with submarines came as a response to British naval blockade, cutting off Germany from many foreign supplies. Since engaging the surface fleet in commerce raiding was impossible because of the superiority of the Grand Fleet, only submarines, still short in numbers by 1914, could evade British surveillance and attack shipping outside the North sea; Several sea lanes were at hand, starting with the Channel, the coastal traffic between the British isles, south and northern coast, river entrances like the Thames and Mersey, and of course mid-range in the Atlantic inclyusinf what was called in WW2 the “western approaches”. Minelaying was a very dangerous business so a few years had to pass before the Germans were able to devise a proper minelaying submarine, the UC type.
Twice during the twentieth century, the Germans tried to isolate Britain from its colonies, vital for its population and war effort. Not benefiting from a classic naval superiority (surface), the German navy engaged in a submarine war on a vast scale. In 1914, the concept of submersible was still fresh, but had been accepted in principle by all countries. This was no longer the field of experimentation, but operational level. Even the very conservative Royal Navy had equipped with ten submersibles from American patents of John Holland, one of the greatest references of the time in the field.
The Kaiserliches Marine had August 1914 about 45 units. The latter were recent and well made, but very different in design of the Holland types. They had originally been designed by a Spanish engineer, Ecquevilley, former Gustave Laubeuf’s “right arm”. The design of the first U-Bootes thus derived closely from the French “Narval”, whose general concept can be summed up in a “submersible torpedo boat” in which surface capacities were privileged to the detriment of pure submarine performances, as for Holland boats.
However, the bulk of warships in service then were of a generation that had completely ignored submersibles and were therefore not protected under the waterline, to the exception of heavy nets that were carried by ships at anchor, created at first to deal with torpedo boat attacks inside harbours. (They were removed anyway). In fact during the Second World War, the “score” recorded by U-Bootes was not as important (the record holder in WW2 was Otto Kreshmer who sank “only” 46 ships -270 000 tons in 16 sorties). The submarine war was in its infancy, and anti-submarine warfare was an entirely new concept. Therefore, submersibles aces made their appearance, and became national heroes, like Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière (194 ships – 450 000 tons), but also Johannes Lohs (165 000 tons), or Reinhold Saltzwedel (111 vessels, more than 300 000 tonnes). Others have become famous for various reasons: The young Walther Schwieger, who sank the Lusitania, (classified by “Jane’s Fightning Ships” as a potential auxiliary cruiser) and was accused by the entente of war criminal, or Paul König, who came from the merchant navy, and commanded the submarine cargo Deutschland, rallying the US (then at peace) to carry back supplies, or Karl Dönitz, the future admiral of U-boats during the Second World War, and who received during his career two iron crosses, commanding the U-25 and U-68.
U boat sinking a troop transport by Willy Stöwer
The U-boat threat was real for unarmed freighters, even tall ships (still part of commerce fleets at that time), but submarines were taken very seriously following a feat that was the first of a long serie, incuding in WW2: Kapitänleutnant Otto Weddigen (U9) indeed on 22 September 1914 torpedoed the armoured cruiser HMS Aboukir. HMS Hogue and Cressy in turn, approached to rescue the crew, as it was thought to be the result of a rogue mine. The result was these three ships were sunk, wiping out the entire 7th Cruiser Squadron of Rear-Admiral H. H. Campbell, all by a single boat, the tenth of the tonnage of a cruiser .
Faced with this impunity at the beginning of the war (heavy military losses of the British and French in the Mediterranean in particular), a system was set up, that of the convoys. The principle dated back to antiquity and was likened to a flock escorted by watch dogs – in this case destroyers. Natually in this cruel fable, the “wolves” were the U-Bootes. Despite this measure (resisted by merchant captains), the losses remained very high. A primitive listening system was developed (not yet a sonar) because a sound-conducting water. It had the shape of simple “yoghurt pot” placed to the wall at the bottom of the hold. Once the sound of onboard machines was learnt and set aside, the surrounding water could betray the distant sound of propellers, including incrasing or fading out tones, giving basic directions. Also was developed a new weapon, basically an underwater grenade, the deep charge. These “cans” filled with TNT had a firing control dial, operated before launching usually form the stern, exploding to a preset depth where was supposed to be the enemy. However, until 1918, with slowly submerging submarines, surface gun attacks or even ramming were very common (like the HMS Dreadnought sinking the SM U-29 this way).
Unrestricted submarine warfare (1915-1917): The battle of the Atlantic, stepped up in two phases, with a moderation in between: In 1915, a measure proposed by Admiral Henning von Holtzendorff, was to simplify the rules of engagement to torpedoing ships directly depending on the pavillion, not loosing time with boarding parties, etc. Neutality was respected, and boarding parties could be used to verify the nature of the cargo still in some cases.
The most visible effect of this new tactic was to dissuade U-boat commanders from boarding isolated cargo ships, moreover afte the britsh started to introduce “Q-ships“. The other reason was the inefficiency of the conventional “gentle” methods, cargo ships being able to be captured indefinitely, and prisoner crews not to be carried on board U-Bootes, forcing U-boats to break their missions and seek land instead to land their prisoners before resuming their campaign at sea. The general practice was instead to let the crew joi the nearest land on their own rescue boats, given in some case some food, map and compass by the German crew. That was still a convention of peacetime sailor’s solidarity.
This “unrestricted submarine warfare” was approved by the Kaiser in February 1915. From then on all Allied merchant ships would be torpedoed in sight in a vast area surrounding the United Kingdom’s islands. The use of submersibles then took its most hideous face, which worsened until the end of the war. On May 7, 1915, the torpedoing of the RMS Lusitania, the most mediatic tragedy after the Titanic, turned global opinions against submarines and Germany, seen as “barbaric”. This was a godsend to the allied propaganda machine.
Facing the fear of a US entry into the war, the Kaiser decided in September 1917 to interrupt for some time this policy. Many U-boats passed through the Mediterranean, braving the English-controlled Strait of Gibraltar, and started hunting on very favorable terrain: Clear weather, excellent visibility, generally calm seas, neutral and allied ports, and slow and obsolete ships, easy prey.
HMS kildangan, with a razzle-dazzle camouflage – IMW. The basic design was a whaler.
The British Navy for their part, made a concerted effort to disperse convoys, and increased defensive tactics. For example, the use of zig-zag path was tested: By changing course frequently it was hoped to deceive U-Bootes before launching their torpedoes, and hinder their shot calculations if surfaces. There was also the setting up of a “camouflage office”. For the first time, the army employed contemporary artists (mostly cubists) to deploy their talent on hulls and make them indicernable by disrupting shapes. Really unknown artists create a real artistic current and, at the beginning purely utilitarian: The “razzle dazzle art”. Or how to transform a cargo ship into a true “multicolored zebra”, without a way to dicernate the prow from the bow, where were the superstructures, etc. A team was commissioned to test on a model of new drawings that painters translated into reality on sometimes gigantic hulls (like that of the “liners” used as transports of troops and auxiliary cruisers). The camouflage reached its nobility and was not generalized until the end of the year 1917.
In February 1917 however, the Kaiser decided to end the “truce” in his underwater war without restriction, led this time with more U-bootes than ever, new types, and in addition without distinction between neutrals and enemies. With the US likely to enter the war soon or later the priority was effectively to destroy shipping by getting rid of any unhiderance (rules of engagement, nationalities) crippling Great Britain faster and afterwards prevent the arrival of US Troops on the Western front. And this nearly succeeded, despite inferior numbers of U-boats compared to WW2.
U-Boat types during WW1
The “blockade” of the British Isles, difficult to keep in view for distances were reciprocal, U-Bootes also began to act as “blockade runners”. (However Germany’s dependence on its maritime connections was not comparable to the UK). Thus, the Deutschland, first cargo submarine, was built in 1916 to be able to join a neutral port and return to Germany with a civilian load without being worried by British surveillance. Although the feat remained anecdotal – the Deutschland served mainly to design a new type of “submersible cruiser” long-range, heavily armed, and augured new developments for types expanded to lay mines, plus tailored oceanic models. but these were coslty boats.
Enter the coastal types (UB). Inexpensive and requiring only a small crew, coastal U-Bootes were widely used from flanders coasts as far as Denmark. With the US commitment following their own U-boat losses, the bet was almost won: 1030 ships had been sunk before April and England was bleeded white as sea like never before in history. At some point, the Island country had only six weeks left worth of reserve before total interruption of connections and widespread famine, with a population which grew tired and fed up with the war.
With the production of escorts from civilian yards to discharge Naval ones, new destroyers, deep charges, sound detection, convoys and camouflage, but especially with the entry into the war of the USA and their own escorts, the tide was turning at last. These “four stackers” that were going to cross the North Atlantic in 1918 also helped and the situation began to recover in favor of the allies. Loss figures for the British were 252,000 gross tonnage (GRT) for 1914, 885,500 for 1915, 1,240,000 for 1916, 3,660,000 for 1917 (and 166,000 for the US), and finally 1 630 000 for the year 1918. This last figure reflects well the evolution of the combined means deployed against submarine warfare uring these two critical years, while the Hochseeflotte was kept inactive after Jutland. Total tonnage sunk was 12,540,000 tonnes. When capitulation was signed, 182 U-Bootes had been lost at sea. The latter had basically sent to the bottom nearly 16 million tons of ships (more than 3,000) civilians and soldiers. The trauma was therefore great among allies who demanded a total ban on Germany to design and own submersibles. We know what happened later…
Never saw large naval battles but mostly light ships skirmishes as the gap between the allied forces and those of Turkey and Austria-Hungary combined were massively unequal. In general central powers had almost a 1:10 disadvantage during this war, after 1917 and the USA entering the war. In ww2 by comparison, naval forces were more balanced: The Kriegsmarine was only the shadow of the Kaiserliches Marine but compensated on units quality, and by the largest submarine fleet ever, unheard of at any rate. Axis powers also compensated like a powerful Italian Regia Marina dominating the Mediterranean (on paper) after the French surrendered, and a seemingly invincible Imperial Japanese Navy in the Pacific. Both nations were on the sides of the entente in 1915, the central powers could hope little from their naval capabilities. Moreover, both fleets were effectively blockaded. Each sortie of the fleet was known and closely monitored by the Royal Navy which blocked her accesses to the Atlantic. So in short, the Entente powers enjoyed naval domination for the entire war. In WW2, this was arguably true from late 1942 onwards.
Battle of Otranto
Operations in the Adriatic consisted mostly of isolated actions, resulting of the Adriatic blockade (of the Austro-Hungarian fleet) and the Dardanelles campaign dominated by big-guns coastal bombardment. Safer place (as it was thought) for pre-dreadnoughts, both British and French, that were sent there in numbers. The Battle of Otranto merely included several cruisers (and all started with the SMS Novara attacking patrol boats on the defensive lines).
HMS Indefatigable sinking at Jutland, May 1916, victim of SMS Von Der Tann volleys
The black sea
This dependency of the Mediterranean saw several clashes between the Russian navy and the Turkish navy: At cape Sarytch by 18 november 1914, led by a much reinforced Turskish fleet with powerful and recent German ships (Souchon’s African squadron), the latter part of the Dardanelles campaign, when naval and land forces had evacuated, leaving only submarines behind, and many allied incursions that compensated for the losses. The battle of Kefken (8 august 1915) was such another naval clash between Russians and Turks.
Colonial theaters of operation
A map showing the extent of the young German colonial Empire. Left, Western Africa’s Togoland, (now part of Ghana and Togo), Cameroon, and in the east, “German East Africa” (Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania), and South-West Africa (Namibia), German New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, the Carolines, the Marianas, the Palau Islands, Bismarck Archipelago and Nauru, the German Samoa protectorate and the Chinese enclaves of Tsingtao (Naval Base) Tientsin and Kiautschu.
Naval forces were symbolic in these areas at best. In fact to “police” so many colonies, the East Asia squadron was regularly patrolling the area before the war. When the war broke out, the departure of this squadron left these posessions to fend for themselves. Some were captured after substantial fight though. Small gunboat SMS Geier and the unarmed survey ship SMS Planet were assigned to all German South Seas protectorates but Geier never reached Samoa. As a whole, the “Imperial German Pacific Protectorates” were left without any permanently attached naval force and only a symbolic police force which was no match for any invader. Australian troops captured Kaiser-Wilhelmsland and the nearby islands in 1914 (with some armed resistance from Captain Carl von Klewitz and Lt. Robert “Lord Bob” von Blumenthal) and the Japanese took the remainder. The “pacified” this theater of operation for the duration of the war.
Scharnhorst and Gneisenau in battle, 1914.
As for Spee’s squadron, his rampage after fleeing the doomed Chinese station under threat by the Japanese spawned the battle off Coronel (Chile) and another off the Falklands which ended this epic. There was nothing close in WW2 as the German Empire was gone. The bulk of Kriegsmarine’s operations was located in the North sea and the baltic again. Due to a forbidden access (Gibraltar) the German navy was absent from the Mediterranean until captured ships were available, from late 1943 onwards. German possessions overseas however were substantial. The most important force, near an “easy” market (China), was located at TingTao (now a large brewery, most famous Chinese beer, at the time created for local European settlers). Now called Qingdao and an important naval base, yard and arsenal for the PLAN. After Graf Von Spee’s Ostasiengeschwader squadron, 6 cruisers strong, departed, the base still housed 3,650 German infantry and 324 Austro-Hungarian crew of the Kaiserin Elisabeth, 100 Chinese police and still at sea cpuld count on a force of 1 protected cruiser, 1 torpedo boat, 4 gunboats and one aircraft for reconnaissance. This led to an epic siege by Japanese forces, and the base was later occupied by British forces.
At Dar-Es-Salaam, East Africa (Now Tanzania), the German fleet possessed another naval base, giving her access to the red sea and Indian Ocean. But this outpost in Deutsch-Ostafrika was threatening mostly France, and her prized possession of Madagascar, largest African Island. This led to some naval fightinh, in particular in the interland, like the very strange battle of Tanganyika.
The case of the Königsberg (i) is interesting. This 1905 cruiser was initially posted in German East Africa. When World War I broke out in August she attempted first to raid British and French commercial traffic in the area. But only sank one merchant ship as coal shortages severaly limited her moves, in September though, she attacked and destroyed the British protected cruiser HMS Pegasus in the Battle of Zanzibar. The Royal Navy was then dead ben on revenge and sent a sieable force to hun the cruiser down. She retreated into the Rufiji River for repairs but was located and blockaded. Battle of Rufiji Delta saw the British sending monitors Mersey and Severn to destroy the cruiser, which happened On 11 July 1915. The crew salvaged the main guns that were put to good use later in Lieutenant Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck’s successful guerrilla campaign in East Africa. The cruiser was a wreck but still there in the 1960s before being scrapped.
The Hochseeflotte, after the episode of the Dogger bank where she almost lost all of her fast-paced force, was of a rare timidity. Jutland was finally a “failed battle” where the clash of the bulk of the fleets failed again as a result of too much fear of the German command, which knew that its fleet had numerically the underside. The old trap of attracting the bulk of the British fleet on minefields and U-Bootes in ambush never succeeded, and the German fleet, which had finally been little changed by four years of war, was forced to to join a port of internment in Scotland and ended there without glory its existence. The decisive battle that both the German and British thought out never happened. This episode, humiliated for the Germans, of naval internment of such epic scale, was the first of its kind. By Inaction, unrest, and bolshevik influence, part of the fleet mutinied and it was decided the scuttle the whole fleet, fearing it would end into British hands.
War in the Pacific: The presence of a German east asia squadron meant war was also to spread in the Pacific; All for an aborted colonial empire. Here, the naval battle of Penang
Naval battles also erupted before and after the Great War:
-Balkans: The fight of Varna (November 21, 1912)
-Balkans: The Battle of Elli (December 16, 1912)
-Balkans: The Battle of Lemnos (January 18, 1913)
-Russia: The Battle of Krasnaya Gorska (June 17, 1919)
-Russia: The Battle of Kronstadt (August 18, 1919).
*Naval Warfare Generations:
- The age of rams, rows, bows, and ballistae: Antiquity and Medieval era
- The age of gun: First gun-armed ships in the 1400s
- The age of Steam: 1820-1860
- The age of steel (and barbettes, turrets, new guns): 1860-1914
- The age of combined forces (air power and submarines): 1914-1960
- The age of missile and electronics: 1960 to today.