(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)
Queen Mary carried eight 13.5 inch Mk.V 45 calibre pieces in four BII* twin mountings. These where arranged with ‘A’ and ‘B’ superimposed turrets forward, ‘Q’ amidships and ‘X’ mounting aft. One single 13.5 inch piece weighed 76t, including its complex breech mechanism, while the revolving structure in which each pair of guns was mounted weighed some 600 tons. The muzzle velocity of this piece of ordnance was 2,498 fps, with recorded muzzle energy of a staggering 63,190 feet/t, with a chamber pressure of 20 tons per square inch. Each barrel had an expected life span of 300 to 350 full charge firings, after which the rifling had become worn to such a degree that a replacement became necessary.
To range these might pieces of ordnance a number of Barr and Stroud 9 feet based optical coincident range-finders where used on-board: The principal devices being located in the spotting top one within each gun-house, and a secondary control position in the after superstructure. At its maximum 20 degree of elevation, this gun could attain a range of 23,700 yards. But with its sights and range tables not extending beyond 15 degrees 21 minutes in 1914, the effective maximum controlled range was around 20,500 yards.
As for manning these four mountings, it appears that in this arrangement Queen Mary was unique in having her marines man ‘A’ turret, the topmen ‘B’ turret, the forecastle men ‘Q’ turret, and the quarterdeck men ‘X’ turret. In Lion and Princess Royal ‘Q’ mounting was manned by the marines, with the forecastle men in ‘A’.
The respective heights to centres of gun axis as designed from her load water line, were 33 feet for ‘A’, 42.5 feet for ‘B’, 31 feet for ‘Q’, and 23 feet for ‘X’.
Queen Mary’s slightly modified version of this piece of ordnance could dispatch a 1,400 pound projectile, as opposed to her two near sister’s 1,250 pound shells. In total no less that 661 tons, that is 2.5% of her displacement, was taken up by her full ammunition allowance of all types. Her early outfit per gun was made up from 24-APC (Armour Piercing Capped) projectiles, 28-CPC (Common Pointed Capped), 28-HE (High Explosive) rounds, and finally 6-Shrapnel shells. Shortly after the outbreak of war this complement of projectiles per gun was changed. This revised complement at first comprised of a balanced 33-APC, 38-CPC, and 39-HE projectiles. By the time of Jutland the make-up of the outfit had been altered to a complement more aimed at a capital ship exchange, with an allowance of 66-APC, 22-CPC, and 22-HE shells per gun.
Further to these main shell-room arrangements, the main mountings had a reserve source of supplies, in the event of damage or disruption to the system below. Stowage racks for 8 rounds were provided in each gun-house, with bins for a further 6 rounds in the working chamber directly below the gun-house. This reserve and shell room outfit finally rendered to Queen Mary an overall 13.5 inch allowance of 936 projectiles.
Each type of shell had a specific finish, to allow for instant recognition. Here a chaplain in the GF, writing in ‘Naval Intelligence’, personifies the exterior appearance of these various devices:
Shells are painted different colours, according to the material with which they are filled; it would be quite a novel idea in dress-reform, and I think a most convenient one, if the same principal were adopted with regard to our clothes. If, for instance, the Lyddite individual, whose principal contribution to society consists of noise and gas, were obliged to wear a suit of dingy yellow; if the pushful, get-there-quick person were recognisable by his Armour-piercing costume of dull black surmounted by a red cap. The giggly, irresponsible fellow of the Shrapnel type, whose motto is ‘Here goes; let’s make a splash and we May hit something’, being appropriately garbed in a motley of red and white stripes. And the mere dummy, the blockhead on whom all men practice, the simple stitched up in a leather jerkin.
The magazines housing the propellant where located above the shell rooms. These compartments were provided with safety devices and checks in the way of automatic flash proof door, hatches and ports in the ammunition supply chain. There was also a definite break in supply to the gun-house at the sealed and supposedly flash-proof working chamber below it. Further to these checks, vent paths had been established within the structure surrounding the magazines, to dissipate the effects of an internal flash or ignition of propellant to the air, in the event of a charge detonating in the gun-house, trunk, or handling room. This series of flash proof feature and safety devices are not often commented upon, but the danger inherent in this explosive substance had been recognised, and had certainly been given some consideration in British designs of this period.
Required for one full charge, was a total of 297 pounds of cordite, made up in the form of four-quarter charges contained in pure silk bags, with a black powder igniter pad located at the base of each individual charge. This silk containing medium was employed simply because it was easily consumed in the combustion of a discharge, leaving minimal glowing residue in the chamber for subsequent loading’s. While in the magazines themselves the component cordite charges were stowed in secure metal cases, these where sealed containers with specially weakened lids to enable the contents to vent if one accidentally detonated. But as was to be unveiled on a number of occasions, British propellant did not lend itself to controlled venting, it exploded violently if ignited and did not ‘flare-up’ as did its German equivalent.
Two contemporary naval writers present an interesting pen picture of the scenes inside a mounting in action. Along with some thoughts at the time of Jutland into what could possibly have happened to those capital ships which had been lost due to magazine explosions.
In modern ships the heavy guns are mounted in turrets; there are generally two guns in each turret. Immediately below the turret is a curricular chamber called the working chamber; and as a continuation of this a central tube some twelve feet in diameter goes right down to the bottom of the ship. All these three units, the turret, the working chamber, and the central hoist-tube, move together as the turret is swung round by the trainers to keep the guns pointing on the enemy. In the process of loading, a cordite charge is taken from the magazine, which is close at hand, and placed in the tray of a hoist in the central tube. A shell is placed into another tray in the same hoist, and up they go to the working chamber. Here they are transferred to waiting trays, where they lie ready to be placed in another hoist which takes them up immediately behind the gun. The hoists in the working chamber have ‘flash doors’ fitted to them to prevent flames finding their way down the central tube to the magazine. There is no doubt that, when one or two charges were ignited by a shell bursting in the turrets of these doomed ships, the flash forced its way past the flash doors in the working chamber. And penetrated down the central hoist, probably igniting a charge there, and so on down to the magazine. Or perhaps a direct explosion of a German projectile in close vicinity to the magazine itself May have occasioned the disaster. (The Jutland Scandal, Admiral Sir Reginald Bacon)
A magazine is deep down in the bowels of the ship, beneath the turrets. Shells are stored in one place, the cordite cartridges in another. The shells are hardly ever touched by hand, even in the cast of smaller calibre’s. They roll gently from the shell bay into little cradles running on rails, which carry them to the bottom of the ammunition hoist, a heavily armoured lift-shaft that runs straight up to the turret. The shell rolls again gently and without the slightest shock from one cradle to another, and so by hydraulic power up to the breach of the gun, where it is again transferred to the loading-cage, another form of cradle, and finally passes at the right moment into the gun itself. These operations must all be carried out with the precision of clockwork. When it is remembered that a 13.5 inch gun can fire two 1,250 pound shells a minute. And that, in addition to the shells, the prescribed number of cordite cartridges, which propel the shells from the gun, must be supplied at the same time. It is a small wonder that the half-clothed men are in a bath of perspiration practically all the time the ship is in action. It is this ammunition-hoist which May be a source of peril to the ship. Of course, all sorts of safety devices are in use to prevent anything like flames or heavy concussion affecting the shells in the cradles on their way up the shaft. At the same time, if the roof of a turret were to be blown off, the shock to the whole delicate mechanism would be such that the safety devices might cease to work. One shell, perhaps just on the point of being loaded into the gun, would go off. Another, affected by the shock on its way up, also goes off. The air, tinged with cordite fumes, in which the men cough with a curious irritable sound, is instantly full of flames, beaten downwards by the sudden opening of the top of the turret to the draught created by the ship moving at perhaps twenty-eight or thirty miles an hour. Need the rest be described. One magazine, and then another, blows up, and the ship is gone. A minute later the vessel that had been her next astern cuts right through the waters beneath which the wreck is sinking, and the Navy is a thousand good lives the poorer. That does not inevitably happen in every ship. Information as to the safety devices employed is, of course, confidential, but some work better than others, and in some cases the turret can be injured without putting the whole of its internal working out of gear. (The History of The Great European War, Vol.V. Naval correspondent)
One vital factor in the disasters which where to overtake the battle-cruisers at Jutland not often commented upon, was the handling of propellant within this supposedly protected chain of supply from the magazines to gun-houses. Despite the fact that British mounting where provided with the aforementioned various anti-flash fittings checks and seals. In the heat of battle these mechanisms could be by-passed by the mountings crews, striving to achieve a high rate of fire, leaving various openings ajar for the rapid movement of personnel and charges. As early as 21 November 1915, Beatty had written to Jellicoe about this subject.
I should like very much to have a yarn with you on the subject of rapidity of fire. I feel very strongly on this subject and I think we should endeavour to quicken up our firing.
It also appears that during the early years of the war embracing Jutland, in action it was the practice to remove the lids of propellant cases in the magazines before they where needed to be passed through the flash-proofed hatches into the handling room. Compounding this, stacks of charges could pile up in these rooms in the lower trunk, with their powder igniters uncovered. All of these faults effectively nullified mountings in-built anti-flash safety devices. However one individual appears to have recognised this serious defect in handling, Chief Gunner Grant of Lion, had before Jutland instigated a more rigid and controlled handling procedure, a factor which might very possibly have contributed to the survival of Beatty’s flagship during this action.
In this case it appears that some 28 minutes after ‘Q’ gun-house amidships receiving a telling hit. Smouldering residue, possibly in the form of crew clothing, ignited the black power detonator of a charge, which had fallen out of the open breech of a slightly elevated gun, into the well below the piece. The explosion of this could then have instigated a chain of detonations to the exposed magazine below. Only the dying orders of the mortally wounded Captain of the Turret, Major Harvey RM, in flooding the magazine saved the ship. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for this act.
It is vital to note here that the initial hit which devastated the gun-house did not immediately set of a catastrophic chain of exploding cordite charges. It was only after a considerable delay that glowing embers flared sufficiently to detonate the black powder in a rogue charge. From this one can appreciate that despite certain weaknesses in the system, it could contain the devastating effects of a hit away from the magazine, possibly due to Grant’s regime. And that indeed the magazine itself could be rapidly flooded or doused with powerful sprays in very short order if required.
Nevertheless it appears that during the early phase of The Great War that a distinctly ‘liberal’ approach, to carefully protecting and securing propellant appears to have been practised in most battle-cruisers. With their crack crews eager and gingered-up to a very high degree, being expected to perform at top efficiency, especially in the area of rapid gunnery. One should clearly bear the points above in mind when reading further into the reasons behind the loss of the battle-cruisers at Jutland.
As a graphic indication of this aspect of Queen Mary’s story the account of AB Seaman Gunner G.F. Bowen RNVR, on-board her near sister the Princess Royal at the Heligoland Bight action, contains a passage worth quoting:
‘’I arrived down in ‘A’ magazine within a few seconds of the ‘Action’ bugle, and we loaded the hopper and got about five rounds in the handling room. Then there was a lull, during which we stripped off our flannels, opened up plenty of cases and waited.’’ It is very likely that such a practice was adopted by the zealous magazine handling parties of Queen Mary as well, opening up a number of sealed propellant cases and stacking their contents in potentially exposed positions, with as it was to transpire fatal results for her at Jutland.
Three hydraulic pumps where installed on-board to provide the necessary pressure to work the four mountings, in training, elevating and loading procedures. Queen Mary was provided with the recently adopted, swash-plate engine, as a primary means of training, which allowed a more controlled and well measured creep onto a bearing over previous arrangements. A small turbo-generator, called a pelton wheel, was installed in each mounting. This device was supplied by a take-off pipe connected to the main hydraulic pressure main, and produced 20 volts at 5 amps to operated the mountings firing circuits.
As with the review of her armour, a review of exactly how well this piece of ordnance perform under actual battle conditions will be of interest. From the various marks of these mountings which were carried in the thirteen battleships of the Orion, King George V, Erin and Iron Duke classes, as well as the four battle-cruisers Lion, Princess Royal, Tiger and Queen Mary, a fair impression of its capabilities can be gauged. In this exercise looking at some of the noted and documented success of these 13.5 inch pieces, on the heavily armoured German battleships and battle-cruisers against which they where pitted, will reveal some enticing data.
Koinig: A 13.5 inch APC shell defeated the lower 7 inch portion of her belt, fully detonating some 7 feet inboard: This waterline hit caused 1,630 tons of flooding within her.
Grosser Kurfurst: Such a device hit the 6 inch portion of her forward waterline belt, and a 51 inch by 35 inch hole resulted. This caused extensive flooding, and increased her draught by 5 feet.
Blucher (Panzerschiffe): Hit by the Princess Royal at a prodigious range of around 19,000 yards. The shell easily pierced her 2.75 inch (70mm) armoured deck aft, which ignited a number of propellant charges starting a disastrous fire, also cutting the main steam lines from number three boiler room by Fragmental damage, slowing her down to be caught and eventually sunk.
Von der Tann: One device holed the 8 inch portion of armour around ‘A’ barbette, jamming the turret. A second easily penetrated her 1 inch main deck and two bulkheads, finally detonating well inboard near the aftermost barbette. Splinter and Fragmentation damage penetrated into the mounting jamming the turret and starting a serious fire.
Seydlitz: One of the three 13.5 inch hits she received at the Dogger Bank, burst as it holed the 9 inch barbette armour of her aft mounting. The flash ignited a devastating propellant fed fire, involving 62 full chargers (6t of propellant), which effectively gutted her two after turrets and killed their crews. Fires and fumes rendered the after part of the ship untenable. At Jutland a very similar event occurred, when a 13.5 inch hit defeated her 9 inch aft barbette armour, Fragments entered the turret knocking out some of its functions. Another shell destroyed a 10 feet by 10 feet portion of her 1 inch thick upper deck. A hit on the junction of the 8 inch to 9 inch plates and the 6 inch battery bulkhead holed it and caused Fragmentation damage well inboard: A penetration of the 6 inch armour of number four secondary casement caused extensive splinters and Fragment damage inboard.
Lutzow: Although the full nature and extent of the twelve 13.5 inch (plus four 15 inch and eight 12 inch) hit she received could not be recorded since she sank. But it is identified that Lion scored a serious hit on her upper deck forward, which later contributed to her floundering, as she gradually settled by the head. A second shell is credited with holing the 8.75 inch side armour of ‘B’ turret, causing Fragment damage, which knocked out the right hand gun.
Derfflinger: At the Dogger Bank, a hit on her 12 inch belt forced in the immediate area some 2 inch to 4 inch causing some flooding. At Jutland, a shell from Lion struck the 10.25 inch armour of ‘A’ barbette, was deflected and opened up an 11 feet 6 inch by 4 feet hole in the upper and upper main decks.
From the above examples it can be seen that all weights of horizontal armour dedicated to German capital ships could defeat by such shells. Although no main belts where directly pierced, secondary side armour where penetrated on more than one occasion, as was heavy barbette plate and even the side armour of a turret could be defeated.
Queen Mary carried sixteen 4 inch 50 calibre Mk.VII pieces on PVI mountings, in two eight gun batteries. Both of these where carried on the forecastle deck, in well appointed firing positions, with a concentration of no less than six pieces ahead, four astern, and eight on either beam being possible. The only negative factor to note about this outfit was that many considered its 25 pound projectile to be to light to counter German torpedo-boats, let alone light-cruisers. An ammunition allowance of 150 rounds per barrel (rpb) was allowed for in peace, which was increased to 200 rpb in war.
As with the main 13.5 inch mountings, the rapid firing secondary batteries posed a potentially fatal factor in their employment. Namely the location of unprotected rounds and propellant readily to hand near the mounting, compounded by an unbroken chain of supply which led directly to shell rooms and magazines below. This aspect is graphically brought home when considering the experiences of the starboard 6 inch battery on-board the Malaya at Jutland: Admittedly there were significant differences between the Malaya’s casement mounted 6 inch batteries, and Queen Mary’s 4 inch pieces. But the fact that it was common practice to locate ready-use charges nearby in each installation is the pertinent point here.
In the case of the Malaya, twelve ready charges per 6 inch gun were stowed in three rectangular ‘W’ cases holding four charges each, they were not sealed or fire-proofed in any way. Upon being hit on her starboard side, a hail of shell Fragments and splinters ignited the charges in a number of these cases within a casement. And with each casement virtually open inboard, with only a waist high dwarf bulkhead, the resulting cordite feed fire rapidly spread right along the entire starboard battery. Not only this, but the flash passed down the forward 6 inch hoist into the magazine compartments below. This was only prevented from igniting ten charges ready for hoisting, by the prompt actions of Petty Officer Day and Leading Seaman Watson, who removed smouldering debris away from the endangered charges.
If these charges had ignited, the 6 inch magazine above the shell room, which had two open handling scuttles to the latter, would certainly have exploded, immediately followed by the adjacent forward main 15 inch magazine. The Malaya would certainly have been lost but for the heroic actions of these two men.
Through such examples I believe that the vulnerability and indeed quality of the explosive materials contained within the main and secondary installations on-board Queen Mary, can now be seen as the primary reasons behind her eventual loss, and not directly her degree of armour protection.
It is noted, The three ships of this general class were not identical in their secondary batteries. Lion had a different 4 inch mounting (P. IV); Princess Royal's configuration is documented here, which best describes Queen Mary's.
Sixteen 4-in B.L. Mark VII guns on P.II* mountings were arranged for broadside fire. They were similar to the P.II and P.II* equipment fitted in the Bellerophon, Neptune, Indefatigable classes and other ships.
The mounting could elevate 15 degrees and depress 7 degrees, but though its sight could match the 15 degree elevation, the range dial was only graduated to 11.5 degrees (10,000 yards). The 4 inch broadside guns are not listed as ever having had directors installed.
In February 1913, Princess Royal's mountings, along with many other 4 inch and 6 inch mountings in various capital ships and cruisers were to have illumination added for their training index racers. Apparently, Lion and Queen Mary were excluded from this order.
In August 1913, Portsmouth Royal Dockyard was to supply head rests for the 4 inch guns in Lion and Princess Royal, to be fitted in the dockyard when the opportunity arose. Queen Mary was omitted from that order.
As designed this light outfit included one 12 pounder, for either use on land or on-board a steam pinnace. This piece would only be embarked however if serving outside home waters. Provision for the stowage of 200 rpb was allowed for.
Four saluting Hotchkiss 3 pound quick-firing guns were initially carried during her peacetime commission, with an allowance of 150 rpb. Five .303 Maxim machineguns were also included in her early outfit, with an allowance of 5,000 rpb for these rapid firing pieces. In operation it was expected that these machine guns would perform the role of ‘spotting’ for the 4 inch battery in a close in exchange. This duty was performed at the ‘Battle of Cromarty’, as will be noted later in coverage of that event. Other items listed under small arms included no less than 272 Lee Enfield rifles, 100 revolvers, and 100 cutlasses.
Queen Mary’s light outfit did change during her short career. Two 3 pound anti-aeroplane guns arrived on the 24 September 1914, while a single 3 inch 20 cwt Mk.I high-angle gun came on-board on the 30 October 1914 and was fitted on the aft shelter deck, being subsequently manned by Marines. One 6 pounder Hotchkiss piece also primarily for anti-aircraft use was added in October 1914.
Completing her armament was her torpedo installation. These devices were also known as ‘mouldies’, or more obscurely ‘Twickenham’s’ (as mentioned in Naval Intelligence). This comprised of two 21 inch underwater tubes, one trained on the beam to port, the other to starboard, located just forward of ‘A’ magazine, with its complement of fourteen Mk.II torpedoes stowed in racks. A torpedo of the type carried by this battle-cruiser could achieve a range of 7,000 yards at 40 knots or 10,000 yards at 30 knots. In service it has been mentioned that Queen Mary could dispatch a torpedo while steaming at 27 knots. A performance only bettered by the evolved installation of the Tiger, which could be operated with her underway at 29 knots. It appears that the only instance that such devices were employed in action by ‘The Big Cats’ was at Jutland: Here Lion fired no less than five during the ‘Run to the north’ phase of the battle, the final three at 18,000 yards and 18 knots against the advancing head of the German line. While the Princess Royal discharged one around 8.30pm at 10,000 yards, no definite hits were however achieved, although it is possible that one of Lion’s might have struck home on the light-cruiser Wiesbaden.
‘’In the early stages of an action, when opportunities for firing torpedoes May be few and brief, it is very important to fire as many torpedoes as possible when the chances occur and for this reason more than one tube on each broadside is extremely desirable. (Assistant Director of Torpedoes, S. Nicholson. Queen Mary. Ship’s Cover, ADM138/378)’’
It is noted, the torpedo control arrangements for Queen Mary were generally similar to those of the King George V class, except that she lacked a stern torpedo tube. After Jutland, her two close sisters were provided a Torpedo Control Plotting Instrument Mark I in the T.C.T. in mid 1917. It is not certain that Queen Mary was so equipped at the time of her loss, but it seems likely. In 1919, the two surviving ships were selected to eventually receive a Renouf Torpedo Tactical Instrument Type B, and Lion was to additionally receive a Renouf Torpedo Tactical Instrument Type F manufactured by Elliott Brothers. In 1920, however, it was decided to send Lion's Type F to Orion or to the the Staff College at Greenwich.
In the case of the equipment installed on-board Queen Mary, her gunnery control facilities upon completion were rather unique. Whereas it appears that every other British capital ship went on to possess a Dreyer fire control plotting table system, she was fitted with a Pollen device, the Argo clock. Each system differed sufficiently for a series of competitive trials between each other’s capabilities to be undertaken between the years 1913-14, and it appears that Queen Mary was Pollen’s designated champion.
Queen Mary carried what was designated on 27 March 1914, as a Mark III Dreyer Table, but later designated a Mark II Dreyer Table.(a variation of the Mark III to evaluate the Argo Clock Mark IV by integrating it with the Dreyer range and bearing rate-plots. Little is known of the particulars of the table. Not even the outer dimensions are specified in the Handbook of Captain F.C. Dreyer's Fire Control Tables, 1918. Confusingly, in 1914, these tables were referred to as ‘Mark III*’ tables, a designation later given to a different type of table. Also on that date, she carried a Dreyer Turret Control Table (The Turret Control Table, Pattern 6880, was a compact range-only Dreyer Fire Control Table intended for use should a turret have to resort to local control using only its roof-mounted rangefinder) in ‘B’ turret. This implies that ‘X’ turret may also have eventually carried one, as it, too, was a control position.
In her transmitting station a Pollen Mk.IV table was installed, while both Lion and Princess Royal had an Mk.III Dreyer fire control tables, and the Tiger had an Mk.IV Dreyer table. The early 12 inch gunned battle-cruisers were retrofitted with Dreyer Mk.I tables. The fact that Queen Mary’s trial arrangement was never converted to a standard Dreyer device at a later date is very interesting. Was this simply because she could not be spared for the necessary conversion work to be carried out. Or indeed as it now appears, was it retained simply because it was found to be more successful than the opposing system.
Certainly Queen Mary was to go on and be recognised as being one of, if not the best shooting member of the BCF. Was this simply because of the skill of Commander Llewelyn, and his dedicated gunnery team or the inherent advantages possessed by the Pollen control carried, or a successful merging together of all of these elements into one very effective system.
It is commented that the Argo clock was more sophisticated than the Dreyer device, also a more compact and altogether versatile instrument, which was capable of tracking a target regardless of the motion of the firing ship. Although to achieve accurate results it was very dependent upon sound data from skilled observers, while the Dreyer installation was more forgiving here. However in the end the Dreyer device was chosen for service, primarily because being less refined, it was cheaper, less complex (for maintenance and operation), and it was a service originated piece of equipment.
In 1923, a resolution of the Pollen verses Dreyer debate reached its final outcome. In establishing payments for the development of the Royal Navy’s fire control, the Royal Commission on Awards and Inventions held that Mr. Pollen should receive £30,000, while Captain Dreyer received £5,000. The Commission found that the Dreyer system worked substantially on the same basic principals as Pollen’s. Basically a plagiarism of the latter’s invention, being a duplication of its salient features, but not is mathematical refinements or intrinsic subtleties, vital factors which gave Pollen’s system its comprehensive accuracy.
A significant advance in the field of naval gunnery was the adoption of a single director sight. A remote gun sight positioned high in the ship, from where electrical signals to every main gun-house directed elevation and training in unison, through pointers which operators followed. And from where all the guns could be fired simultaneously. A commanding position placed high above any visual restrictions imposed by gunfire/funnel smoke, and the severe handicap of spray and water.
In 1913, Queen Mary was slated as part of the ‘Twelve Ship Order’, to replace the prototype director in Thunderer with production gear, and to provide sets also for Monarch, Benbow, Emperor of India, Marlborough, Iron Duke, King George V, Ajax (which received the first production set), Centurion, Audacious, Queen Mary and Tiger, to receive a director. She did not receive one until some point between May to December 1915.
As initially completed, the primary gunnery control position was centred around the armoured-conning tower, with its 9 feet base Argo range-finder, located on the crown in a protected revolving turret. There was no early aloft control position, apart from a light top for a spotter.
As a result of trials carried out with the Vanguard, to establish if individual mountings could provide their own ‘local’ fire control, as a back up to the primary system. Queen Mary was selected to be the first capital ship to be provided with 9 feet range-finders and related equipment, installed in each main gun mounting.
However the single director aloft was to be a significant improvement over even this early improvement. The Invincible was the first to be so fitted, in her April-August 1914 refit; the rest of the BCS would follow. To receive her Vickers built director ‘Argo tower’; Queen Mary arrived at the Cromarty refit facilities on the 19 July 1915 to have one fitted. A series of work-up shoots followed to enable her to discover the advantages of this device, of which there were many once operated in capable hands by a worked up crew.
Now by the pressing of a single pistol grip in the director, either opening ranging shots, four gun salvoes, or full eight gun broadside could be unleashed at once, when the roll of the ship provided the optimum point of discharge. The fall of shot falling together, could then be readily spotted by the skilled observes in the foretop, and further corrected on the Pollen control table if necessary. Enabling Commander Llewelyn to gradually find the range, straddle, and then once established, unleash a telling fusillade of fire onto an enemy.
Queen Mary was completed with a 9-foot ‘Inference’ rangefinder in each turret and two in addition in the T.C.T. (Torpedo Control Tower) on a British capital ship was a cylindrical or oval-shaped armoured structure located before the aft-most turrets on the ship and which housed rangefinders and instruments dedicated to torpedo control. Although the weight and space so dedicated seems lavish, it is worth noting that it was not generally the primary control position, as it lacked good forward arcs of visibility. The editor feels this is symptomatic of what was to become a comically excessive stress on the meagre torpedo punch accorded the capital ships of the Royal Navy in this period.) and G.C.T. (Gun Control Tower) on a British capital ship was a cylindrical or oval-shaped armoured structure located forward atop or behind the Conning Tower which housed rangefinders and instruments dedicated to gunnery control. They were first introduced into service in the Orion and Lion classes. In earlier vessels such as Queen Mary, the G.C.T. often had an armoured rangefinder position. From the Queen Elizabeth class and later capital ships, it was surmounted by an Armoured Tower containing a secondary director for the main guns as well as a 15-foot rangefinder). Her sisters had fewer but would be brought up to similar standard during the war.
It is noted that Lion and Princess Royal were given 9 feet rangefinders in ‘B’ and’ X’ turrets, and Queen Mary was completed with 9 feet rangefinders in all four turrets, the first capital ship equipped in this lavish pattern that was to be applied to earlier ships in retrofit when possible. Lion was completed with a 9-ft rangefinder in the forward top dismally situated abaft the forward funnel. It proved untenable, and was moved to a newly added armoured hood atop the conning tower in a refit in 1912. Queen Mary and Princess Royal had the armoured hood from completion. Queen Mary differed by having a 9 feet rangefinder in an armoured hood atop her torpedo control tower aft, whereas the other ships had smaller structure here and an open rangefinder mounting.
In July 1914, Lion and Princess Royal were requested to arrange directly with Ottway & Co. to have the trainers' periscopes for their armoured hood rangefinders, altered apparently to have them attached to the rangefinder as opposed to the revolving hood. Sometime during or after 1917, an additional 15-foot rangefinder on an open mounting was to be added specifically to augment torpedo control to these surviving sisters.
In closing this section one area where Queen Mary excelled, should be noted. A number of sources state that she was one of, if not the best, gunnery member of the 1BCS, and indeed BCF. But there was one other related area where the skills of her personnel displayed themselves, the destruction of practice targets. In this undertaking, after a practice shoot during the war, Beatty would obviously not stop to pick-up a target, and present any lurking enemy submarine with such an easy prize. Instead a policy of ‘destroying’ such a large, solid structure, ones that could conceivably have damaged light vessels in a collision, was undertaken as a seemingly competitive ship handling evolution.
Ramming targets was great fun; the ships formed into line ahead and made for the target; if No.1 missed it, No.2 had a chance, and if both missed it No.3 and No.4 had an opportunity of covering themselves with glory. The success or failure of each ship depended very much on who the officer of the watch happened to be; for it was no easy matter to steer a battle-cruiser going between 15 knots and 20 knots so as to hit a 50 feet target fairly in the middle. If the blow were at all a glancing one, the target would slide off to one side and pass astern. I have often known Lion miss, and the Tiger, a much more difficult ship to steer owing to her taking large sheers when given much helm, very seldom succeeded. But the Princess Royal rather fancied herself. While Queen Mary was a model target destroyer, and could generally be safely entrusted to hit the target in the middle, upon which it would disintegrate it to its component parts and be no more seen except in the form of bits of floating timber. (Young, Lion)
(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)