1000 Days-1912

From Battle of Jutland Crew Lists Project

(Introduction) | (1910) | (1911) | (1912) | (1913) | (1914) | (1915) | (1916) | (Epilogue) | (The Ship) | (Battle Cruiser) | (Design) | (Protection) | (Ordnance) | (Machinery) | (Miscellaneous) | (Sources) | (Artwork) | (Photos - Build) | (Photos - Pre-War) | (Photos - On board) | (Photos - WW1) | (Photos - Beatty’s Battlecruisers) | (Photos - Miscellaneous)


Even at this stage significant alterations to the design could still be readily accommodated from the result of experience gain in the building of her two near sisters. This was clearly shown after the 11 January when Lion undertook her contractor’s trials over the Polperro measured mile in the English Channel. It was specifically from these that the decision was taken in February to make one significant alteration to this ships internal boiler trunking forward and bridge structure. While Lion returned to Devonport for this necessary conversion, the fitting-out Princess Royal at Barrow was also modified. This revised work on Queen Mary’s interior configuration was absorbed without serious delay, so that by the 20 March it had reached a stage where she was ready to be launched. A public holiday was declared in Jarrow so as to allow as many people as possible to view the spectacle.

This initial funnel arrangement for Lion had been adopted to enable the foremast to be employed as the main (heavy boat) derrick post, an arrangement were the mast was abaft the fore funnel. However Lion’s Captain, A.A.M. Duff, had some choice comments about this layout, and it was duly revised, to remove the detrimental effect the noxious hot gases from the fore funnel had upon the bridge structure and its exposed crew.

At this point in Queen Mary’s construction the vessel was a basic hull structure, the extent of which, and how far advance she was at this period is now impossible to relate accurately. However a fair indication of her status can be obtained through two sources, the first are the photographs of her launch showing her physical appearance at the time, with no superstructure to speak off, no principal barbette armour showing above the weather deck, and no main side armour in place. The second impression of her state at this event can be determined from inspecting the appropriate entries in the records held by Vickers Engineering, for the launch of their Princess Royal almost a year previous. Documented details, which very closely matched the visible features, captured at the launch of the Tyneside leviathan.

The condition of the Princess Royal on the day of her launch, at 10.26am on the 29 April 1911 was as follows. Her steelworks was seven-eight’s complete, with the forecastle and shelter deck plating on and riveted to the sides, while the hands was bolted into position. These temporary sections would have been the plating over empty machinery spaces, which would later be removed to allow for the installation of her boilers, condensers and turbines. Funnel casings and interior cabin bulkheads were in place, but the bridge structure was not yet fitted.

Practically no interior fitting work had been done, and further to this there was no teak planking on her weather decks, the capstan engine was in place, as was a single 50 tons pump, both installed for emergency purposes. The two secured rudders were in place, complete with crossheads, but no steering gear fitted at this stage. Auxiliary equipment for machinery spaces on-board weighted only some 280 tons, a very good indication of her bland interiors condition. Various secondary components of her armour were in position however, with the light armour strake at her forward section totalling 350 tons in situ. The lower portion of the four main barbettes was also complete along with their 3 inch protective armour in location, as was the forward and aft internal armour bulkheads. The total amount of plate classified as armour on-board at this time was 911t with 61t of backing. All told at her launch the Princess Royal had a displacement of some 10,500 tons, from which the weight of internal shoring, staging, men, tools etc., accounted for an estimated 500 tons.

Although no specific details of Queen Mary structural status at her launch have survived, details concerning the accompanying ceremony thankfully have. Covering this significant event, information has been obtained to reveal in some clarity the scene and procedure involved, in what was for the Tyne a very important occasion, the launching of the biggest warship in the world up to that time.

While the Tyne had witnessed the launch of the mighty Cunard liner Mauritania, which was 790 feet in length as opposed to Queen Mary’s 700 feet, the launching of this battle-cruiser into her natural element was an event of considerable distinction for the entire region. To mark this a large and influential gathering had been assembled to witness the event, and the company had arranged for the erection of two large platforms at the bow of the ship, on which Lady Allendale who was to perform the actual christening ceremony, and another one thousand specially invited guests were to be assembled for the launch.

Other dignitaries on the dais that day included Viscount Allendale, Lord and Lady Furness, Captain H.B. Pelly and his wife, Lord Aberconway, Lord Northbourne, Admiral Sir Archibald Douglas and Miss Douglas, the Hon. Robert James and Lady Evelyn James, Viscount and Viscountess Chetwynd, with various other directors of the firm and important local people also present. Also attending on that day was one naval observer who was to go on to be very closely connected to the ship, Captain Reginald William Hall, attending as the Admiralty’s representative at the ceremony, and who was destined to be appointed to Queen Mary as her first captain the following year.

For the convenience of the town’s people fortunate enough to have obtained public tickets for the memorable event, a large space had been enclosed on the West Side of the ship; an arrangement, which gave much satisfaction to those, favoured with these enclosure tickets, giving them as it would a splendid view of the proceedings. After these invited guests had been accommodated, the yard gates were thrown open to the general public just prior to the ceremony, and the hands of the yard vantage points was quickly thronged with:

Work people, and their wives and sweethearts, who manifested their pride in the huge craft. (Chronicle)

Indeed it appears from all surviving accounts that every vantage point in the neighbourhood of the yard, and on the opposite bank of the river was availed off by spectators. With apparently the ‘Ballast Hill’ site at Howden on the opposite shore a favoured spot. Special ferryboats had been engaged to carry sightseers on the Tyne, who gladly paid for the privilege of getting a good viewpoint of the launch. In preparation for which the Howden landing of the Jarrow direct ferry had to be temporarily removed, just in case the travel of the launched Queen Mary encountered it.

The massed crowd in the yard and the immediate surrounding area were regulated and controlled by fifty policemen under the direction of Superintendent Yeandle of the local constabulary. However it is noted that their only duty upon that day was basic crowd control and marshalling, with certainly no trouble to mar the happy occasion.

That day the weather had begun cold and dull with occasional showers in the spring morning. But by the time of the launch that afternoon, there had been a great improvement, with it being undertaken in excellent weather conditions when the time of the launch actually arrived.

The band of the local Territorial’s, The Durham Fortress Engineers, was present in the yard, and they played a selection of popular tunes and national airs during the period leading up to the launch. Shortly after 3.30pm Lady Allendale entered the raised dais, accompanied by her husband, along with Lord and Lady Furness, the Admiralty representatives and several directors of the firm. Just prior to the christening ceremony itself the Reverend G. Pybus, Rector of nearby Jarrow Grange, conducted a short religious service at the bow of the cradled and prepared Queen Mary, with the choir of Christ Church also present to praise this aspect of the proceedings.

Punctually at 4.06pm the Viscountess stood up and approached the front of the dais, gave her brief naming speech, loosed the bottle of Champagne breaking it over her bows at the first attempt, and thereby instigated the chain of events to launch this great ship. Christened the seemingly inanimate structure with its regal name, immediately took on her identity. Queen Mary was about to feel her natural element for the first time, as the lever for releasing the four 51.5t hydraulic triggers for the cradle on which the ship rested where activated. Below the retaining blocks were also knocked away, leaving the bulk of the hull weighing some 10,500 tons began to move down the inclined slipway at the appointed time.

There was no need to call upon the services of the four 60 tons hydraulic rams standing by to render extra assistance, as the ship glided gently down the greased ways into the River Tyne. Being accompanied on her travel down the slight inclination by the tremendous cheers of the mass of assembled spectators.

Around 740 tons of drag chains secured to her hull by six 8 inch steel wire ropes were now employed to check her travel, bringing her to a complete rest in around 80 seconds in a tumult of sound: Once stopped the hull was soon brought under the ministering control of attendant tugs, ready for her short journey to the nearby fitting-out basin. In the immediate post-launch phase the Psalm ‘Those who go down to the sea in ships’, along with the Hymn ‘For those in peril on the sea’ where sung by the choir. The playing of ‘God save the King’ concluded the proceedings at one of the finest launches seen on the Tyne.

A descriptively colourful, proud, and evocative account of this important local event was subsequently included in the Chronicle the following day:

Scene from the North side
The triumph of Jarrow and of Palmers Company was made complete yesterday, by the successful launch of the great Queen Mary. It was not surprising, but quite in keeping with the importance of the event that the attendance was particularly large on the Willington side of the river, from which it was generally admitted the best view of the launch could be obtained. The crippled train service from Newcastle was severely taxed, and along the line past the huge cranes, monuments of Tyneside industry, a cosmopolitan crowd was hurrying with one common objective. The Ballast Heap was indeed a favourite spot. From there Queen Mary lying on her cradle, was plainly seen. Over the water were noticed the guests and workmen hurrying about in the shipyard, and the sharp rap of the hammers releasing the stays mingled with the strains of the band as they reached the ears of the expectant crowd. All this time those on the quayside found diversion in observing the difficult process of removing the steel gangway at Howden ferry landing. A couple of tugs were engaged, and the supported gangway was drawn up the river, a wise, but as it happened an unnecessary precaution. The cheering in the shipyard was the first indication those on the other side received that Lady Allendale had set the vessel in motion. As the stern kissed the water the spray dashed out at either side and then, gaining momentum as it moved down the way, the cruiser took the water with the grace of a swan. There were those who beat a hasty retreat from the quayside, when the vessel crossed the river, and it did appear probable that the Quay would be struck. But the heavy drags did their work well, and with a slight lurch Queen Mary stopped thirty feet from the side, and was immediately drawn up by the powerful tugs to the Jarrow side, there to be admired by all. Happily no untoward incident marred the launch, and as the crowd dispersed many, who have witnessed similar events on the Tyne, declared that the launch of Queen Mary was the most successful of all. After this obviously successful event, the dignitaries and official guests happily retired to the specially prepared mould loft were tea was served. The chairman of the company presided over the ceremony, reading out various telegrams from those who regrettably could not attend the event. These included Sir Theodore Doxford (the Lord Mayor of Newcastle), Vice-Admiral Louis of Battenberg (First Sea Lord), Rear-Admiral Briggs (Controller of the Navy), leaving it to Captain Pelly to make the Naval response in their absence. Along with one telegram from The Frontiersmen of the North of England, which was specially noted by the Chronicle: Old soldiers and sailors send their heartiest congratulations on the launch of another battleship for the defence of our country. Captain Pelly, in responding, said that the absence of Prince Louis of Battenburg and the Controller of the Navy was not to be wondered at when they remembered the work they had in hand at the Admiralty. In the Navy Estimates they must have noticed that in spite of the trouble that was going on in this country, there was no words of scare or of pessimism, nor were they told to rest on their oars. There was only one thing put forward - a great navy to keep the peace. In Queen Mary they had seen an example of the material of the British Navy, and he was glad to have the opportunity of congratulating Messrs. Palmers and Company on the splendid workmanship they had put into that great vessel. He could not help comparing it with the Victory. That ship was 200 feet long and carried 100 guns, and yet the whole of her broadside was not heavier than one shot from one gun of Queen Mary. However, it was ships like the Victory, which built up the great Empire to which they belonged, and they, naval officers, with Queen Mary, and ships of her class, had to protect the Empire. (Chronicle, 21 March 1912)

By putting Queen Mary into the water, they had added another important page to their history, the policy always followed by Palmers Company had been to constantly extend and add to its equipment to meet the new and changing conditions of the times. Truly, it was a great vessel they had just launched. Larger that Lion, a similar class of vessel built at his Majesty’s dockyard at Devonport, it was even an improvement on the Princess Royal, building on the West Coast. At the moment, it was the most powerful of battle-cruisers afloat, possessed by either the British or any other Navy, and embodied all that the best knowledge and highest skills could devise for the naval service of the nation. (Lord Furness, Chronicle)

A telegram from Her Majesty Queen Mary herself, which had been received by Lady Allendale, was also read out to the assembled dignitaries:

I am most grateful to you for so kindly representing me at the launch of His Majesty’s ship Queen Mary today, and I sincerely hope that all prosperity May follow the ship, which has been named after me.

To which Lord Furness said the following reply would be sent:

In thanking your Majesty for your most gracious message, communicated to Lady Allendale, we are able to inform your Majesty that the cruiser bearing your name, the most powerful in the world, has just been successfully launched in the presence of a large and enthusiastic concourse of your Majesty’s subjects.

One of the final acts of the launching ceremony was the presentation to Lady Allendale, by Lord Aberconway one of Palmers directors, of a specially engraved commemorative gold cup. With this well presented ceremony finally being concluded by a round of toasts proposed, to Lady Allendale, Palmers, and Queen Mary.

After this her inaugural fitting-out was to follow, which would be an involved and prolonged exercise, since at this stage in her existence she was basically an empty hull, devoid of any propelling machinery, ordnance, heavy armour, or auxiliary equipment, or crew fixtures and fittings. It was to provide these vital components that Queen Mary had been towed to the fitting-out basin, were the long process of installing these vital components would take place over the following year.

Two months after the launch of Queen Mary, an event of some note in her overall story occurred. Lion was finally completed that May after her necessary modifications, with her final cost being £2,086,458. She was later to go on to be commissioned at Devonport on the 4 June as the flagship of what was then referred to as the 1st Cruiser Squadron (1CS). As for her other near sister, over the period from the 9 to 20 September the Princess Royal undertook her acceptance trials in the English Channel. These were satisfactorily completed and the ship returned to Vickers for the culmination of her fitting-out, at Barrow-in-Furness, which gave her a final cost of £2,089,178. That November this second unit was commissioned, therefore this year was obviously an important one in Queen Mary’s career. With her successful and highly acclaimed launch on the Tyne that March, and her fitting-out, followed by the commissioning of her two close sisters’ into the ranks of the Royal Navy.

While fitting-out it is noted that a coalminers' strike took place, which affected both the social climate and the delivery of goods due to decreased traffic, consequent to a lack of coal supplies. Unlike most shipyards, Palmers was not unduly affected by this situation, as a large amount of materiel had already been stocked. However, on 9 December 1912, two hundred platers went on strike at Palmers over a pay dispute related to odd jobs.

(Introduction) | (1910) | (1911) | (1912) | (1913) | (1914) | (1915) | (1916) | (Epilogue) | (The Ship) | (Battle Cruiser) | (Design) | (Protection) | (Ordnance) | (Machinery) | (Miscellaneous) | (Sources) | (Artwork) | (Photos - Build) | (Photos - Pre-War) | (Photos - On board) | (Photos - WW1) | (Photos - Beatty’s Battlecruisers) | (Photos - Miscellaneous)