1000 Days-BattleCruiser

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(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)


Battle Cruiser

Upon her commissioning in September 1913, Queen Mary was the latest example in the steadily growing number of this unique capital ship type. She was the ninth member of this select group within the Royal Navy, and the practical expression of a steady evolutionary path of building fast well armed capital ship, extending back to the earlier protected/armoured-cruiser type.

The origins of Queen Mary, and the battle-cruiser type can be traced back to the two 14,345 ton first class protected cruisers of the Powerful class dating from 1895. An increase in displacement and size presented here had been brought about by the requirement for improved speed and endurance figures. They were generally regarded as good sea boats, possessing a striking appearance, possessing a number of features that would become early British armoured/protected cruiser standards over the following decade. With their two single 9.2 inch turrets located in high commanding positions fore and aft, light basic superstructure, their tall fore and main masts with fighting tops separated by their four towering funnels, and hull casement mounted 6 inch secondary batteries with some in a two level arrangement.

The eight examples of the following Diadem class, provided for between the 1895-97 estimates, where reduced versions of the expensive Powerful class, with less armour on the protected deck, lower speed, and a uniform sixteen 6 inch gun outfit. They where an attempt to produce a greater number of lighter protected cruisers rather than a small number of large ones.

Around the turn of the century improvements in the manufacture and properties of armour plate soon enabled significant weight savings to be made in relation to thickness and its strength: Therefore the replacement of heavy compound armour by cemented armour now made it possible for the next generation of large cruisers to be given a degree of belt protection. Whilst retaining their deck armour, high performance and armament, a virtual merging of the protected cruiser type with the armoured-cruiser type.

With this advance in metallurgy, the Cressy class design had its basic protective scheme modelled on that of a contemporary battleship concept, in this case the Canopus class. This arrangement of side and deck armour would protect a significant portion of the vital waterline and hull. The resulting six ships of this class of 1897-98, were each of 12,000 tons, had two 9.2 inch and twelve 6 inch main guns, with a maximum design speed of 21.5 knots. But the main factor in their design which advanced them over their predecessors was this provision of a 6 inch thick Krupp hard faced waterline armoured belt, which was no less than 231 feet long and 11 feet 6 inch deep amidships. There was now a corresponding reduction of armoured deck thickness behind this new principal element in her protection, the belt. With the installation of thirty boilers, and twin shafts driven by four cylinder triple expansion engines, and a suitably large coal capacity for extended cruises, this class was well received as properly balanced designs, good sea-boats and efficient cruisers of the period.

The follow-up four ship Drake class design from 1899-99 retained this degree of belt protection in a 6 inch strake covering the central 257 feet of the hull. But there was also granted an allocation of 6 inch of plate to the main turrets and barbettes, and 5 inch to the secondary casements, with an allocation of between 1 inch to 2.5 inch for the lower deck armour. As well as an extra pair of 6 inch guns, which now gave them a full broadside weighing 1,560 pounds. An increase in speed to 24 knots was derived from a larger 30,000 ihp propulsion plant. Therefore they were heavier at a 15,445 ton deep load displacement structure, with an overall length of 533 feet 6 inch and beam of 71 feet. It has been noted that this class was exceptional steamers, capable of running for prolonged periods at a high speed. An attempt to reduce the upper-works in this design meant that they were very basic in this department. The prominent cowl ventilators of earlier designs had been replaced by light-canvas wind-sails.

But one failing that these ships shared with all other cruisers of this era was in the effectiveness of their secondary battery. The lower casement mounted pieces located on the main deck were subject to flooding in anything but calm conditions, and they were very wet if employed while at speed, thereby greatly reducing the available ordnance, potential and effectiveness of this distribution of armament.

The 1898 design for the Monmouth, also known as the ‘County’ class, was specifically evolved to produce a large class of ten ships of slightly reduced fighting power compared to recent trends. They were built primarily to counter foreign commerce raiding cruisers, and they were cheaper to build and more economical to run than their immediate predecessors. To meet this basic requirement therefore a design incorporating a reduced 260 feet long belt of 4 inch plate, and a uniform main armament of fourteen 6 inch pieces, on a light 9,800 tons displacement, capable of 23.5 knots was adopted.
The following years programme include an improved version of this type of anti-commerce raider design, through the Devonshire class. Here the Major changes being in their increased displacement to 10,850 tons, 22 knots mixed four 7.5 inch and six 6 inch particulars, and reversion to 6 inch protection on the 260 feet long belt. It is interesting to note that the six examples of this class from the 1901-02 estimates were provided with between fifteen to seventeen boilers, from different manufacturers, to test out their various systems in operation.

The two examples of the subsequent Duke of Edinburgh design included in the 1902-03 programme, where to prove to be a significant advance in approach and requirements. These where the first naval designs under the new Director of Naval Construction, Phillip Watts, who now evolved a set of particulars with a designed deep displacement of 14,050 tons, six 9.2 inch in single turrets and ten main deck 6 inch guns, with a total broadside weight of 2,020 pounds.

One negative point about this design however was that it had a low freeboard abaft the raised forecastle, which effectively resulted in the secondary battery still being very wet and prone to the effects of heavy seas. This design had a principal 260 feet long, 6 inch thick belt, and a 22.5 knots maximum performance, from her twin shafts and twenty boilers. The degree of armour worked into this design encompassed the above by then standard belt, 7.5 inch maximum for her turrets, a maximum of 6 inch plate on the main barbettes, 6 inch central armoured secondary battery, 10 inch conning tower, and between 0.75 inch to 2 inch for her lower armour deck. The extent of the waterline belts coverage was reduced in this class, but it was still a creditable portion of her 505 feet 6 inch long overall structure.

This type was to undergo a significant improvement, with the introduction of the four-member Warrior class of the 1903-04 programme. In this design the single greatest advance over earlier configurations was undoubtedly the adoption of an all turret arrangement for their armament, with their six 9.2 inch and four 7.5 inch pieces in single enclosed turrets, capable of a broadside of 1,920 pounds. This armament arrangement was far superior to all previous classes, and proved to be effective under weather conditions that would have greatly restricted earlier examples.
Physically all of these improvements where incorporated into a hull 505 feet 6 inch in overall length, and 73 feet 6 inch in the beam displacing 13,350 tons at normal displacement, which rose to 14,440 tons under deep loading conditions. They also gained a high reputation as being excellent sea-boats. The then ubiquitous standard armoured-cruiser 6 inch waterline belt protected this structure, 272 feet in length, with a main turret having a maximum cover of 7.5 inch. Along with armoured secondary turrets and conning tower, supported by a 0.75 inch to 2 inch lower deck. The members of this class where capable of 23 knots, derived from twin shafts and nineteen Yarrow boilers plus six cylinder boilers.

The Minotaur class of three vessels, included within the 1904-05 building programme, followed on this successful all turret arrangement, with their 16,085 ton deep displacement indicating the large structure now required to carry their increased number of mountings. In overall length this design was 519 feet and 74 feet 6 inch in the beam sufficient deck space required to mount four 9.2 inch and no less than ten 7.5 inch pieces, capable of a 2,520 pound broadside. A speed of 23 knots was possible from their twenty-four boilers and twin four cylinder triple expansion engines. Here a 6 inch belt was retained, along with a maximum of 8 inch armour for all turrets, 7 inch for the barbettes, and 1.5 inch to 2 inch lower deck.

An interesting breakdown of the various areas involved in this last ‘conventional’ armoured-cruiser design, indicate the following. Of her 14,600 tons legend displacement, ordnance and fittings accounted for 2,065t (14.1%), machinery and stores for 2,530 tons (17.3%), while 1,000 tons of coal would have represented 6.9% of her displacement. With armour and protection accounted for 2,790 tons (19.1%), and her basic hull structure weighed 5,520 tons (37.8%). Figures, which can be compared with similar ones for the first battle-cruiser’s, listed below.

When Admiral Fisher became the First Sea Lord on Trafalgar Day, the 21 October 1904, the future nature of the fast vanguard units for the Royal Navy were to undergo a Major revolutionary change, instead of the previous evolutionary progress. As early as 1902, Fisher along with Naval Constructor W.H. Gard had formulated a set of basic particulars desired for the vanguard armoured-cruisers. Envisaged initially was a 15,000 ton design, armed with four 9.2 inch and twelve 7.5 inch guns, all mounted in twin turrets, protected by a 6 inch belt. Very similar to existing designs and proposals, except in their mode of propulsion, here instead of the existing triple expansion engines, Fisher wanted turbine powered units capable of at least 25 knots.
This basic concept would slowly be worked out over the next three years, through observed foreign developments and naval actions, especially in the Far East, along with improvements in ship technology and ordnance at home. The proposal to build an, all big gun, armoured-cruiser consort for the revolutionary ten 12 inch gunned Dreadnought was an obvious path to follow. With Admiral Fisher maxim, ‘Speed is protection’, the basic plan was to now build a agile capital ship, armoured like a nimble fast cruiser, but gunned like the new battleship, a suitable companion for the epoch making Dreadnought was born, a swift, well armed, adequately armoured, super cruiser.

A design committee was set up on the 22 December 1904. Amongst its ranks were experienced individuals of high reputation and knowledge of naval requirements. Including the then Director of Naval Construction, Phillip Watts, Constructors Gard, Froude, and Thornycroft, along with eminent naval representatives like Admiral’s Jellicoe, Bacon and Jackson, with Prince Louis of Battenburg attending as well, all chaired by Fisher himself. With such a background no observer could possibly say that the basic concept for what would be initially referred to as the ‘armoured-cruisers’, and only later as ‘battle-cruisers’, had not been a carefully appraised and measured one. A fast, lightly armoured, but heavily armed, ship had been asked for, and sought after, to fulfil a particular roll. That of a potent and powerful support to the cruiser vanguard of the fleet.

To start with the particulars for the new armoured-cruiser design were very flexible, but the basic properties were soon set. The design would have a uniform 12 inch gun outfit, as in the Dreadnought. Armoured to the extent of the Minotaur class. And be capable of 25 knots.

From the five sketch designs submitted to the committee on the 12 January 1905, design ‘E’ was to be proceeded with: An advanced and detailed arrangement of this design was inspected by the committee on the 21st of that month, with some alterations and changes then being noted. The final proposal was then presented to the Board of the Admiralty for approval on the 20 March, which was duly passed, before forwarding to J.H. Narbeth at the Constructors Department. This skilled office was entrusted to complete the overall design for this class of three proposed armoured-cruisers, for inclusion within the 1905/06 programme, built to this novel set of specifications. The main drawings and details for which had been arrived at by the 22 June 1905.

By now comparing the outlined specifications listed earlier for her armoured-cruiser predecessors, the particulars for the new design below will give an interesting insight into this revolutionary step of the armoured-cruiser type, brought about in this design. Although later condemned as badly conceived and faulty, this draught at the time more than satisfied the requirements set that of a logical successor to the Minatour, and companion to the Dreadnought.

The three ships included within these estimates would all be laid down in 1906, with the Invincible at Elswich on the 2 April, Inflexible at Clydebank on the 5 February, and the Indomitable at Fairfield’s on the 1 March. The class name ship was completed in March 1908, while both her sisters were finished in October of that year. In appearance they were striking creations, possessing a unique silhouette completely different from every previous cruiser design. Formed around four main turrets, one on the forecastle deck and quarter deck, with the two positions amidships staggered on each beam separating the two principal superstructures, which carried the open light bridge assembly forward, with two funnels, with a third funnel rising from the after structure.

On her trials the Invincible clearly indicated what she and her kind where capable of. Producing 46,500 shp, achieving 26.64 knots, very respectable figures for a 12 inch gunned vessel. Each unit had legend displacement of 17,250 tons, measure 567 feet in length overall, and was 78 feet 6 inch in the beam with a mean draught of 26 feet. In service the thirty-one coal fired boilers where designed to feed the turbines with the means to produce 42,000 shp, although as was clearly illustrated in her trials she could exceed this figure. The four-shaft turbine installation provided both ahead and astern power for each unit, from the ten individual sets of Parsons turbine units attached to these shafts. To aid there manoeuvrability, twin balanced rudders where adopted.

The designs outfit of eight 12 inch guns, was mounted in four twin gun-houses, with ‘P’ and ‘Q’ mountings amidships arranged ‘en echelon’. Along with a secondary outfit of sixteen lightly protected, individual 4 inch mountings located in high commanding positions in the fore and aft superstructures, and initially on the turret crowns as well.

Their armour protection was in the range of a standard 6 inch thick allocation to their 11 feet 3 inch high waterline belt, with 4 inch extensions beyond this fore and aft. The end bulkheads where between 6 inch to 7 inch, a maximum of 7 inch was allocated to the turrets and most exposed portions of the barbettes, with 7 inch to 10 inch for the conning tower, and between 2 inch to 1.5 inch for the lower deck.

On a legend displacement of 17,250 tons, this particular design had 2,440 tons (14.1%) of her displacement taken up by ordnance and fittings. The machinery and engineer’s stores occupied 3,390 tons (19.7%) plus 1,000 tons (5.8%) for coal and 3,460 tons (20.1%) for her armour and protection. With 6,200 tons (35.9%) of the balance worked into the figure for the hull structure alone. All in all they were superior in every way to every preceding cruiser design, either at home or abroad.

In the 1908-09 programme, provision was made for three additional units, and given the success of the Invincible’s there was not going to be any significant changes in this design for the three Indefatigable’s. Apart from the longer hull now enabling the two wing turrets, ‘P’ and ‘Q’, to theoretically allow training across the ship onto the beam for a full eight 12 inch gun broadside.

With a legend displacement of 18,800 tons, on a hull measuring 590 feet overall and 80 feet in the beam drawing a mean 26 feet 6 inch draught, the new arrangement certainly looked sleek and lean, the archetypal battle-cruiser appearance. The Indefatigable herself was laid down at Devonport on the 23 February 1909, and completed there in April 1911. The Australia was laid down at Clydebank on the 23 June 1910, and completed in June 1913. With finally the New Zealand laid down at Fairfield’s yard on the Clyde on the 20 June 1910, and completed in November 1912. Both of these last two important units had been paid for by their respective Dominions.

The principal main armament was again eight 12 inch pieces mounted in four twin turrets, with sixteen shield protected 4 inch mounting comprising the secondary battery. For protection there was a 10 feet 3 inch high, 6 inch thick, 298 feet long waterline belt, weighing 721 tons, with reduced 4 inch waterline strakes forward and aft. As with the earlier design, there was no upper hull protection. The maximum applied to a barbette was 7 inch, but again this only covered the most exposed portion. A main turret had a 7 inch face, sides and rear, with the fore conning tower between 7 inch to 10 inch. The lower armoured deck was between 1.5 inch to 2 inch thick. The Australia and New Zealand had a very slightly modified version of Indefatigable’s allocation. Speed considerations were again of the utmost importance in this design, with the class name ship herself achieving 55,140 shp on the Polperro measured mile in April 1911, producing a 26.89kt passage.

For comparison, from a legend figure of 18,750 tons, the Indefatigable’s structure could be broken down into the following categories. That is 2,580 tons (13.8%) towards ordnance, 3,655t (19.5%) for machinery and stores, 3,735t (19.9%) for armour, leaving 7,000 tons (37.4%) of the balance for her hull structure.

However after this came the pair of Lion’s, with an increase of around 7,600 tons and an extra 110 feet in length, incorporating experiences and improvements gained in the trials and tests with the two earlier designs. The two units of this new class where to be universally appreciated as a Major improvement over the first pair of battle-cruiser designs. The salient physical features and specifications for Lion design can be obtained from my detailed Queen Mary coverage, which were very similar in a number of respects. Lion herself was laid down at Devonport, on the 29 September 1909, and completed in May 1912. She was the largest ship ever to be built in a Royal Dockyard: The Princess Royal was laid down at Vickers on the 2 May 1910, and completed there in November 1912.

This particular design was the cruiser equivalent of the new four ship, 13.5 inch gunned Orion battleship class, each of which was around 25,870 tons, carrying ten such pieces, and capable of 21 knots. Lion’s speed advantage over this contemporary super-dreadnought design was graphically revealed in her trials, when her machinery produced 76,120 shp, and reached 27.62 knots over the Polperro measured mile in the English Channel.

As originally fitted out Lion had one curious feature corrected by the time Queen Mary was far advanced with: Originally this class had been provided with its tripod foremast, with the spotting top, mounted abaft the fore funnel, as in the battleships of the Colossus and Orion classes. But while these positions might be justifiable in these slower dreadnoughts, in Lion experience clearly revealed that this funnel serving the foremost twelve boilers, produced gases at 550 degrees Celsius, and rendered the spotting top virtually untenable. It was decided in February 1912 to move these funnel uptakes further aft and mast forward.

It was to be from this period, around the completion of these two majestic creations, that the term armoured-cruiser was to be replaced by the more appropriate and popular battle-cruiser label for this type of capital ship. The envisaged ‘role’ for this type of fast capital ship, had recognised the fact that they might someday be expected to perform against enemy capital ships, if so required. In an obvious attempt to develop a more battle worthy design and to now fully embrace this expanding field of potential enemy vessels to be engaged, Lion’s were specifically built for this challenge.

Although very similar to the later Queen Mary’s particulars, there where subtle differences between these two designs, this will be apparent through a direct comparison between the legend weights. For Lion from a total legend figure of 26,475tons, she had 3,270 tons (12.3%) committed towards her ordnance, 5,340 tons (20.2%) towards her machinery and engineer’s stores, 6,400 tons (24.2%) allocated to her armour, and a hull structure of 9,660 tons (36.5%).

However Queen Mary’s particulars quote figures of 27,000 tons. Entailing an allocation of 3,380 tons (12.5%) for her ordnance outfit, 5,460 tons (20.2%) towards her machinery, 6,595 tons (24.5%) for her armour and protection, leaving the figure of 9,760 tons (36.1%) for her hull structure. Obviously these divergent figures indicate subtle differences and changes between these two designs.

This now places Queen Mary within the evolutionary path of the British battle-cruiser. However to close this section I would like to briefly mention the details of the subsequent class, to give an indication of the design priorities which followed on from this particular vessel.

The sole example of her class, the Tiger, from the 1911-12 estimates, was undoubtedly the finest early Royal Navy battle-cruiser design. Initially conceived as an improved Queen Mary. This design was to see a considerable number of alterations and modifications before it was finalised. Laid down at the Clydeside yard of John Brown on the 20 June 1912, she was completed there in October 1914. A proposed sister, the Leopard, was planned, but never advanced with.

In appearance the Tiger was unique, with the bringing together of her boiler rooms, locating the amidships turret between this grouping and the engine room, clear of any after funnel restricting is firing arc. Her primary armament comprised of eight 13.5 inch pieces in four twin mountings, and her secondary outfit of twelve 6 inch casement positions was a welcome increase in weight of shell. Although their casement main deck location positions did mean that they became wet very easily.

The 9 inch thick main waterline armour belt was extended further in this design, with an upper 6 inch strake, with 5 inch to 4 inch components forward and aft. The armouring of the secondary casements now resulted in 24 feet 3 inch of the hull above the legend waterline being armoured to some degree. The main barbettes where armoured to the same extent as in the other 13.5 inch gunned units, as were the gun-houses, which had a wide distribution of plate between 1 inch to 9 inch in thickness, depending upon exposure. The armour deck was 1 inch behind the side belt, as was the main deck, with heavier 3 inch allocations beyond the citadel.

At a normal displacement of 28,400 tons, some 3,600 tons were dedicated towards her ordnance (12.65%), 5,900 tons (20.7%) for her machinery, and a very respectable 7,390 tons (25.9%) committed towards her armour protection. As for the performance produced from her concentrated thirty-nine boilers in five boiler rooms, an extreme of 108,000 shp could be achieved, resulting in 30 knots. In service at the Battle of the Dogger Bank, with a displacement of 31,500 tons, she managed 96,000 shp and a very creditable 28 knots. But with such a machinery performance fuel considerations where always a problem with the Tiger, since she could burn 1,245 tons of coal daily to produce a steady 59,500 shp. By comparison with other units she had a significantly enlarged bunker capacity, just to give her the same endurance as Lion’s.

That all of the above early battle-cruisers where deficient to some degree in the scale of armour protection they were allocated, is a matter of debate. Admittedly the losses which they where to suffer appear to graphically reveal this inherent ‘weakness’, but perhaps instead of condemning the actual vessels, the conditions of their later employment should be questioned. Conceived initially as super armoured-cruisers, the vanguard of the fleets scouting cruiser squadron, they where more than capable of dealing with an enemy cruiser screen, as is witnessed by their success at the Heligoland Bight action, and Battle of the Falklands. While their performance against their German contemporaries at the Dogger Bank, and Jutland deserve to be looked at again in a more favourable light.


(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)