HMS Thunderer was the third Orion class battleship built for the RoyalNavy and was the last vessel to be constructed by Thames Iron Works. She was the last andlargest warship ever built on the River Thames, and after her completion her buildersdeclared bankruptcy.
By a margin of £1000, she was the most expensive battleship of the 1909 construction programme built. The Admiralty had called for six new 'super-Dreadnoughts' in 1909 to counter the German naval expansion; the Treasury economists would offer only four, but politics intervened in a year of two general elections, and when the cry went up, "We want eight, and we won't wait!", the Orions were built as part of an unusual compromise of four ships in 1910 and four more in 1911. Thunderer and her sisters were huge ships of 22,000 tons, with ten 13.5 inch guns in super-firing turrets, all mounted on the centreline. Her machinery consisted of new steam turbines, and her electrics were provided by four 200 KW generators, installed in separate compartments, and capable of isolation if damaged, an important innovation.
Her design was dominated by wireless equipment: the Royal Navy led the world in the adoption of the Marconi system, and Admiral Fisher was adamant that the new ships should have "No masts or fighting tops: only a pole for wireless. The necessity for masts and yards for signalling does not exist." So only a single tripod was fitted to carry a tall WT pole; eliminating the after mast, and slinging the aerials down to a short stump aft saved 50 tons of top-weight.
Thunderer was fitted with the Deyer fire-control table designed by Frederic Charles Dreyer, which was effectively the world's first automatic computer and ten years ahead of any other navy's developments. She was also the first of her class to carry Captain Percy Scott's new director firing system, which made her top-shooting ship in the 1912 trials, when she delivered over six times the hits of Orion into her sister's target in just 3 minutesand 30 seconds.
During World War I, Thunderer served in the 2nd Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet. In December 1914, she was refitted. She was present with her squadron at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916, firing 37 13.5" (343 mm) shells. She suffered no damage. In 1917, she was fitted with flying-off platforms on the B and X turrets.
As a result of the Washington NavalConvention, she was decommissioned in 1921. From 1922, she served as a seagoing training ship for cadets, the sole survivor of her class. One of those trainees recalled a CPO thrusting his jack-knife up to the hilt into the side of one of the turrets: the layers of paint were over five inches thick. In December 1926, she was paid off, though she ran ashore off Blythe on her way to be broken up.