1000 Days-Design

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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)


Following on from the last general view of this type, it should be emphasised that in simple terms the design of every warship built can be described as a compromise. And in this respect Queen Mary was to be no exception to this accepted rule. Simply put the principal characteristic of the early battle-cruiser type to which she belonged, was impressive physical dimensions, to carry powerful ordnance matching that of contemporary battleships, and a large propulsion installation to obtain a high speed equalling that of the latest cruisers. With this balance being achieved plainly through a reduced scale of integral armour protection in comparison to a battleship.

This battle-cruiser to be completed at Palmers yard on the Tyne for a total expenditure of £2,078,491 derived her regal nomenclature from the wife of King George V, Queen Mary. Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, known popularly as ‘Princess May’ in her early years, was born on the 26 May 1867, at Kensington Palace, London, and married the future King on the 6 July 1893 in the Chapel Royal, St. James Palace. She finally died on the 24 March 1953,at Marlborough House, and was buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, after a long and distinguished service to the nation.

This new battle-cruiser was an imposing structure by any standards, being at the time of her commissioning the largest capital ship then built, with her normal displacement of 26,780 tons, which would rise to 31,486t under deep loading conditions. Her dimensions where impressive as well with her overall length of 703 feet 6 inch, including her distinctive sternwalk. While between her perpendiculars she measured 660 feet, and 698 feet on the waterline. With her maximum beam amidships a maximum of 89 feet. Her displacement at various loads patently would greatly affect her draught, which was 28 feet under normal and 31 feet 11 inch under deep load conditions. Her freeboard under load water line (LWL), came out as 30 feet forward, 25 feet amidships, and 19 feet aft.

As the supporting illustrations will clearly reveal, in overall appearance she was a truly majestic creation. With her long lean battle-cruiser hull, supporting three dissimilar towering funnels, a pair of 13.5 inch superimposed main mountings forward with her light open bridge arrangement dominating them. One other turret amidships separated her two principal superstructures, with her fourth turret aft all merging successfully together into one harmonious combination of distinctive characteristics very pleasing to the eye. With at least during her pre war commission an immaculate overall well maintained finish to complete this striking picture of harnessed power.

All in all Queen Mary was an aesthetically pleasing arrangement of hard lines and strong features. The archetypal early battle-cruiser design, an impression which the supporting photographic selection and artwork will more than amply reflect and convey very well. Evident in most reference works and mentions from this period, to most contemporary commentators Queen Mary and her kind where highly regarded, both for their manifest prowess and pleasing appearance, while underwater in her general hull form she and her near sisters have been described as.

Grey thunderbolts... Nobel examples of the ship designer’s art. Their lines below water where sweet and wonderful... They steered like boats and never failed to respond when the impossible in the way of speed was asked of them.

I shall go on to expand upon these points about her structure and particulars in subsequent sections dedicated towards investigating virtually every aspect of her design. But I think first a look at her birthplace on the Tyne is called for.

The firm responsible for the construction of Queen Mary was the renowned Jarrow based yard of Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company limited. At the time her contract was described as the ultimate ship to be built by this Tyneside yard, and the finest example of their work to that date. Which was high praise indeed when one considers their acknowledged achievements up until that time. The origins for this yard go back to 1851, when the brothers Charles and George Palmer founded it. Starting of on civilian maritime construction their activities soon embraced naval work as well, along with iron and steel production and marine engineering, while later this expanding firm was renamed and became a Limited Company in 1865. As an indication of its prowess by 1911, the nearby Hebburn yard of Robert Stephenson and Sons was acquired, along with a number of other works and plant additions. With further enlargements and construction projects following, obviously reflected a period of growth and expansion for Palmers at the time of Queen Mary’s order.

But after the Great War conditions changed drastically, and with it the yards fortunes. Leaving the troubled firm to be liquidated in 1933 after a history spanning the constructing of over one thousand vessels. A component of the firm did survive however, and this was the ship-repairing subsidiary, Palmers Hebburn Company Limited, which was sold as a viable concern to Vickers in 1934. This was later acquired by Vickers Armstrong Limited in 1958 and eventually sold to Swan Hunter and Tyne Shipbuilding in 1972. To most observers, the commissioning of the Richmond in November 1994 at the yard effectively marked the end of Major shipbuilding on the Tyne, when Swan Hunter went into receivership. But after a period of running down the facilities after the collapse of negotiations with various parties, the yard was saved at the eleventh hour by the Jersey based T.H.C. concern, in July 1995.

So there is still a vestige of Palmers left, albeit by now very distant and obscure, after the changing fortunes of those who followed. Today the potential of discovering original documents from 1910 is very remote. Obviously all trace of Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron works original records and files from the pre Great War age have been well and truly consigned to deep archives, or lie forgotten in the remotest nook of a depository. What yard records, plans and photographs there are from the period of Queen Mary’s construction have now been unseen for a significant period. With as far as I know only the National Maritime Museum the holder of one significant set of original material to survive, the invaluable draft plans and sections of this particular design. But apart from these plans the initial order, official reports, correspondence and notes on the construction of this battle-cruiser have not been discovered.

Today there just exist a shadowy trace of these vanished documents, which can just be discerned upon reference to some contemporary newspaper inclusions, surviving from the early phase of this Major Tyneside order. Indicated in articles dating from this period, can be picked out some interesting impressions and facts. Such as that between Queen Mary and the first naval contract awarded to Palmers lay a diverse and numerous collection of seventy-six warships built over a period of nearly fifty years, from the monitor Terror, to ironclads, battleships, cruisers, and the 12 inch gunned dreadnought Hercules. Of Palmers itself a naval writer of the day had said aptly that:

The ships built at Jarrow represent the history of modern practice in warship construction.

All this accumulated experience was to be gathered together for the company’s most prestigious project, Queen Mary. Lord Furness the Chairman of the Company at her launch on the 20 March 1912 commented that:

He did not doubt that Queen Mary would be as successful as the other ships they had had the honour of building for His Majesty’s Navy, and that she would be a credit to her designers at the Admiralty as well as to her builders. She bore a happy and auspicious name, and if the vessel filled as large a place in the Navy as the Royal lady after whom it was named occupied in the hearts of the people of the nation, then they would have every reason to be gratified.

This battle-cruiser with her regal name was indeed destined to go on and serve as a vital unit of the Royal Navy during a critical time. And although her career would be brief it was to be a glorious and distinguished one. One which the owners and workers at Palmers could have been more than satisfied to have participated in, and indeed one which her future crew judging by all contemporary accounts were proud to have shared in as well. With Queen Mary going on to achieve the distinction of being both a very happy and efficient ship, serving in the premier squadron of the Royal Navy’s BCF.

(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)