In 1911 Winston Churchill, the new First Lord of the Admiralty began to switch the Navy’s most powerful battleships from coal to oil power. He did so in the face of withering scepticism from the naval establishment. Just a few years before, Lord Selborne, one of his predecessors, had thundered that “the substitution of oil for coal is impossible because oil does not exist in this world in sufficient quantities. It must be reckoned only as a most valuable adjunct.”

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August 23, 2017