Orion class Battleships (1911)

United Kingdom (1911)
Orion, Monarch, Conqueror, Thunderer.

Built in emergency

Built in the emergency plan of 1909 (due to public pressure “we want eight and we won’t wait” the programme was raised to six dreadnoughts and two battlecruisers), these four battleships innovated by their main artillery, with a 343 mm caliber (13.5 in) instead of 305 (12 in). The house of commons was very satisfied on many points: This Orion class outclassed the German caliber by quite a margin both in hitting power and range, while retaining and arrangement in line, for a full broadside, and were much larger than previous battleships.

Orion in completion
HMS Orion in completion

With the four Orion, the Home Fleet once again took the initiative of the game. The class included the HMS Orion, Monarch, Conqueror and Thunderer (started in March 1910, launched in 1911, August 1910 for Orion) completed in 1912 (January for the Orion, November for the Conqueror). They had a short but active career.

Profile of the HMS Monarch
Profile of the HMS Monarch


There were several points of comparisons with their forebearers, in addition to the main artillery. Essentially these were the first “clean-slate” design, free of cost limitations. According to the shipyard’s data, their overall cost ranged from £1,918,773 (Orion) to £1,860,648 (Conqueror)

Orion’s main rear battery


Their turrets were arranged in a centerline and in superfiring gun turrets, a first for a British battleship. These guns were the new breech-loading (BL) 13.5-inch Mark V gun, essentially rebored 12 in 45-calibre pieces that had a 300 feet per second (91 m/s) less muzzle velocity, significantly reducing the wear and tear of the barrel. But the paradox was their rounds retained much of the velocity by their masses and therefore turned to have a 2,500 yards (2,286 m) greater range at +20° elevation, only limited by their restricted gunsights (his was corrected with super-elevating prisms installed in 1916). Fire rate was two rounds per minute, with about 80 to 100 shells in store per gun.

The next sixteen 50-calibre BL four-inch (102 mm) Mark VII were arranged in exposed shelter deck and superstructure, unshielded. They had a 11,400 yd (10,424 m) range, fired at 2,821 ft/s (860 m/s) muzzle velocity, +15° elevation, and had 150 rounds in store. The small 3-pdr were 1.9 in (47 mm) saluting guns. The 21-inch torpedo tubes were submerged, placed in each broadside and stern, with 20 more torpedoes in store.

Dreadnoughts through the Solent

Fire direction

The installation of their tripod mast was one of their most important innovation: They were all equipped with a new type of fire control and direction, located behind the front chimney. This was justified to avoid smoke disturbance and by relocating the cranes lifting the lifeboats. Similarly, the superstructures around the front chimney were modified shortly before the war. That took time however, pushed by Board of Admiralty and architects while two major members of the Admiralty, the Director of Naval Ordnance arguing for roof-mounted sights and Jellicoe being obsessed by boat-handling arrangements.

At last their views were overcome and the Orion would get the best fire direction so far, unhampered by hot funnel gases. The data obtained by Barr and Stroud coincidence rangefinders was electrically transmitted to a Dumaresq mechanical computer, and then to Vickers range clocks located in the transmitting stations for and aft and translated into range and deflection data.

Protection and propulsion

The hull received a waterline belt of Krupp cemented armour, with a thickness concentration on the armoured citadel, decreased at 6–2.5 inches outside. There were 6-inch (152 mm) bulkheads, and a total of four armoured decks from 1 to 4 inches (25 to 102 mm) thick.

Collision between the Revenge and Orion

Submarine protection could not be enhanced by the addition of lateral ballasts (if not further subdivided below the waterline), in order to preserve the metacentric height of the building with unchanged speed. The lest innovative of their design were the three engine-room layout inherited from the Colossus-class design. The outer propeller shafts were coupled to the high-pressure turbines while the two inner shafts were served by resulting low-pressure steam. Their turbines were fed by water-tube boilers, providing 21,000 hp for a 21 knots top speed as designed. However, they all exceeded these figures on trials.

Active service

These four vessels were part of the Great Fleet, more precisely within the 2nd line squadron, or the 2nd Battle Squadron (BS) and fought in Jutland in May 1916 without loss, but some suffered collisions before the war. Prewar, they participated in the Parliamentary Naval Review on 9 July at Spithead, participated in training manoeuvres with Vice-Admiral Prince Louis of Battenberg, and greeted President of France, Raymond Poincaré, at Spithead on 24 June 1913. At the time of the July crisis they participated in a test mobilization.

HMS Monarch firing

In late 1914 the ships received nine-foot rangefinders, and the computer and range clocks were replaced by Mark II or III Dreyer Fire-control Tables. Shelter-deck guns were enclosed in casemates, a pair of QF 3-inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft (AA) guns were installed and additional armour fitted after the battle of Jutland. They were cleared of their anti-torpedo nets in 1915 and their masts were reduced, and after Jutland they saw their ammunition tanks reinforced and airplane platforms fitted on their turrets. In 1917 4-inch AA gun were exchanged for one of the 3-inch guns.
HMS Orion was the flagship of Cdr Leveson during the Battle of Jutland. All four were disarmed in 1922-25 because of the Washington Treaty, the HMS Thunderer becoming a training ship until 1926.

Raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby

As the German admiralty projected a raid on these cities led by Rear-Admiral Franz von Hipper, British Intelligence decoded the message and allowed the fleet to prepare. The three orion were mobilized but during the night heavy weather of 16 December, only destroyers met, Hipper retiring before the big battleships could met.


Jellicoe was to met the 2nd BS, coming from Cromarty, Scotland, mustering his force morning of 31 May, and the Orion class were organized into a single four battleship column, with the two divisions of the 2nd BS to his eastern flank. Conqueror and Thunderer fired at the SMS Wiesbaden without results, and did also against German battleships. Monarch and Orion did some hits on the SMS König and SMS Markgraf, more seriously damaging SMS Lützow (five hits). The rest of their wartime career was linked to a possible German raid, which never happened. Their last sortie occurred in the afternoon of 23 April 1918. They were present at Rosyth, Scotland when the Hochseeflotte surrendered on 21 November 118.

Painting – HMS Monarch

After the war in 1920 they were transferred to the Reserve Fleet at Portland. Two were briefly recommissioned to carry troops into the Mediterranean and back. Thunderer became a training ship for naval cadets in 1921, and Orion a gunnery training ship. As the result of Washington Naval Treaty limitation all four had to be sold for scrap in 1922.

HMS Thunderer at Spithead, 1912
HMS Thunderer at Spithead, 1912


Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1906-1921
British Battleships 1914–18 (2): The Super Dreadnoughts by Angus Konstam
The Battleships Builders
2-view color illustration

A class specifications

Dimensions 177,1 x27 x7,6m ()
Displacement 22,200t, 25,870t FL
Crew 752
Propulsion 4 screws, 4 Parsons Turbines, 18 Babcock & W boilers, 27,000 HP
Speed 21 knots (39 kph; 24 mph) surf/sub
Range 6,730 nautical miles (12,460 km; 7,740 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Armament 10 x343, 16 x102, 4 x37, 3 TT 533 mm (18 in)

Author’s Illustration of the HMS Orion in 1914

Blueprint - HMS Monarch
Blueprint – HMS Monarch

Drake class Armoured Cruisers (1901)

United Kingdom (1901)
Drake, Good Hope, King Alfred, Leviathan.

A new class of large armoured cruisers

The 1897 Powerful class marked its era as the most impressive cruisers in the Western Hemisphere, but they has been considered since as one of a kind “white elephants”, leading to the construction of more reasonable series of the Diadem (1898) and Cressy (1900) classes, the first eight being the last massive protected cruisers, while the new ones were the first true “armoured cruisers”; They were to be designed by Sir William White, Chief Constructor of the Royal Navy, in response to the new French armoured cruiser Jeanne d’Arc. There was also the threat of new armoured cruisers being built in Russia, Italy or Japan that triggered plans for a larger class of ships anyway, leading to the Drake class. Two were sunk in action, two survived the war.

HMS Good Hope, the only one sunk in battle.


The Drake was provided under the 1898/99 programme, as armoured equivalent of the earlier Powerful class. Compared to the previous Cressy they were about 3000 tons more, most of the extra space being dedicated to boilers for an increase of 2 knots, at 23 knots. This extra space also helped stacking four more 6 in guns and improvements in protection. They has been started respectively at Pembroke (April 1899), Fairfield (Sept. 1899), Vickers (Aug. 1899) and J Brown Clydebank (Nov. 1899), launched in 1901 and accepted into service in 1902 (Good Hope) and 1903. On trials they all exceeded their expected top speed (24 knots for Drake), even achieving hours long cruises at full speed without incident. They were considered good steamers, excellent seaboats. Their large size meant their operational career was spent as cruiser squadron leaders.

King Alfred in construction – the ram bow


By size, these ships were much larger than the previous Cressy, in lenght particularly with 152 m instead of 134 m, and were wider also at 21,74 instead of 21,18 m, but the same draught. Their impressive machinery comprised 43 Belleville boilers, feeding four Triple expansion 4-cycle engines producing a total of 30,000 ihp for 23 knots. They carried 2500 tons of coal versus 1600 on previous ships, making them suited for far overseas stations.

Armour scheme was of a “all of nothing” type, based on the Cressy. However the protective deck was 2,5 in between the stern and aft bulkhead, side armour was 6 in, on 80 m, then reduced to 4 and 2 in on both ends. The bulkhead themselves were 5 in thick, the turrets were protected by 6 in cast armor, as well as the barbettes, 5 in for the casemates and 3in for the ammunition tubes while the conning tower was 12 in (305 mm) thick.

Armament was better than previous classes, with a total of two single turreted breech-loading 9.2 in (234 mm) Mk.X pieces, sixteen breech-loading 6 in (152 mm), and fourteen 12 pdr (76 mm) plus three QF Hotchkiss revolver 3-pdr for anti-torpedo boat warfare and two submerged 18 in (457 mm) torpedo tubes. The main guns fired 380-pound (170 kg) shells at 15,500 yards (14,200 m), while the 6 in range was only about 3,000 m shorter.

Kin Alfred 1901
King Alfred in 1901

Most of the ship superstructure amidship was omitted. Cowl ventilators were replaced by windsails while other fittings above the upper deck were reduced to the bare minimum.
In addition two more 12-pounder 8 cwt guns could be dismounted for service ashore. The lead ship, the Drake was the costier of them all, at £1,050,625.


Their operational life began as cruiser’s squadron leaders to justify their large size and cost. The King Alfred was the CinC in China until 1910, the Leviathan preceded her in 1903-1904, and was also CinC in the Mediterranean in 1905-1906, but the Good Hope and Drake spent their remaining carrer in Home Waters, until the first was sent as flagship of the South Atlantic squadron, under orders of Commander Kradock. Famously the latter sailed to battle with the Monmouth and Glasgow, facing two formidable German armoured cruisers that punched above her weight, and sank with all hands.


Drake class cruisers (wiki)

Drake class specifications

Dimensions 162.6 x21.7 x7.9m (533 x 71 x 26 ft)
Displacement 14,150 t FL
Crew 900
Propulsion 2 props, four 4-cyl TE, 43 boilers 30,000 hp
Speed 23 knots (43 kph, 26 mph)
Armament 2x 234mm, 16x152mm, 12x12pdr, 3x3pdr, 2 TT 450mm

Illustration of the Good Hope by naval encyclopedia

British ww1 Submarines

United Kingdom (1890-1918)
About 350 subs.

Overview of British ww1 submarines

In the general sense, the very conservative Royal Navy always considered surface warfare like the only “honorable way” to do battle on the seven seas. Submarines were either not considered as to be trusted (not proven) in the 1890s, and good only for small navies and defensive purposes only. For a truly naval superpower, it just had no reason to be developed. The same reasoning made torpedo-boats long lasting at the fringe of the British “naval dust”. Only destroyers (at that time still considered as TBDs or “torpedo boat destroyers” have some right to exist alongside cruisers and battleships, thanks to their range and high seas capabilities. 80 submarines were in service when the Great War broke out in 1914.

Holland 1
HMS Holland 1, first British submarine, in trials 1902

This mistrust however ended when Admiral John Arbuthnot “Jacky” Fisher arrived at the head of the admiralty in 1914 (first sea lord). This energetic figure, innovator, strategist and developer of the navy introduced both torpedo boat destroyers and fast monocaliber battleships of the Dreadnought class, created the Battlecruiser concept, encouraged the introduction of submarines into the Royal Navy, and the conversion to oil-fuelled only ships at large.

C-class submarines (author’s vector illustration)

C class
C class, experimental vector-photoshopped illustration

Introduction – The first British subs

When decision was made to test a small serie, rather than rival France, UK turned more naturally towards USA and the most important manufacturer then that was John Holland. Licence was acquired and the boats were built at Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness and simply denominated as the “Holland” serie. Holland 1 was launched 2 October 1901 and decommissioned 5 November 1913. In fact the five built only saw training in home waters. Hollands’s designs were famous to be fast and deep diving, with excellent agility underwater due to their electrical propulsion, but suffered of being relatively complicated and having poor range and surface speed.

Holland class specifications

Dimensions 19.5 x3.6 x3.0m
Displacement 113/122 t FL
Crew 8
Propulsion 1 screw, 1 4-cyl Wolseley engine, 1 electric mot. 160/70 hp
Speed 7.5/6 knots ( kph; mph) surf/sub
Range 500 nmi ( km; mi) at 7 knots ( km/h; mph)
Armament 1x 457mm TT, 3 torpedoes

Prewar subs: A, B and C classes

A class (1902)

13 boats derived from the Holland model, but way more larger were built at Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness, this time only using part of the former licence. There were considerable variation amongst the boats, as the serie was revised on the fly until 1905. Various propulsion were tested, battery-powered electric motors and shaft-drive Wolseley petrol engines, 400 bhp (300 kW) (A1) for surface warfare, 450 bhp (340 kW) (A2,A3,A4), 600 bhp (450 kW) (A5 to A12). The last, A13 tried an experimental 500 bhp (370 kW) heavy oil diesel engine by Vickers, which proved unreliable. Range was however increased as well as surface speed. The first was 31.5 x3.6 x3.1 m large. All were given the same Wolsleley 16-cylinder engine, but power output ranged from 350 to 450 hp, even 600 hp for the last serie A8 to A12. Armament also varied, the A5 to A13 having two instead of a single TT.

A class specifications

Dimensions 32 x3.9 x2.3m
Displacement 190/207 t FL
Crew 11
Propulsion 1 screw, 1 16-cyl Wolseley engine, 1 electric mot. 350/125 hp
Speed 9.5/6 knots ( kph; mph) surf/sub
Range 320 nmi ( km; mi) at 10 knots ( km/h; mph)
Armament 1/2x 457mm TT, 3/4 torpedoes

B class (1904)

More homogeneous, these 11 boats were similar to the previous class, still ordered for coastal patrol work and relying on petrol engine (surface propulsion) and batteries (underwater propulsion). Armament was limited to two forward tubes in the prow, with four torpedo spares. Top speed (surface was 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)) but range was increased to 1000 nautical miles. The main improvements were a substantial deck casing to improved submerged performances and and a bigger reserve of buoyancy. They were also fitted with a pair of hydroplanes as the forward end of the conning tower to improve underwater handling. This feature was not repeated in following classes, but reintroduced on US submarines half a century later for the very same reason… In action: The first six (out of 11 boats) were sent to the Mediterranean, but mothballed from the autumn of 1915 because of the lack of spares. An arrangement made them rebuilt by the Italians as patrol boats in 1917, with their electric engines removed, a forecastle raised, a new superstructure added, and a platform for the 12 in gun.

B class specifications

Dimensions 19.5 x3.6 x3.0m
Displacement 113/122 t FL
Crew 8
Propulsion 1 screw, 1 4-cyl Wolseley engine, 1 electric mot. 160/70 hp
Speed 7.5/6 knots ( kph; mph) surf/sub
Range 500 nmi ( km; mi) at 7 knots ( km/h; mph)
Armament 1x 457mm TT, 3 torpedoes

C-Class blueprints
C-Class blueprints

C class (1906)

Having built three classes of submarines, the Admiralty felt confident enough to embark on a large serie. Some 38 boats of this class were built, having the distinction to be the last Royal Navy development of the Holland-Type, using petrol engines for surface. This was essentially a large coastal design however, and in that delayed the construction of proper sea going boats. The decision falls squarely on Fisher, that advocated submarines for harbour and coastal defence only and even saw them as substitutes for minefields. Despite their limitations like petrol engines, limited armament and cramped interiors, the Type C saw active service throughout the war. The last was launched in 1910. Six were built at Chatham Dyd, partly to ensure the yard keep up with submarine design development. In general appearance they were stille very much like the B, only for the diving planes amidships. An interesting note for modellers, many were camouflaged towards the end of the war.

Action service includes the Zeebruge raid, when the elderly C1 was converted to destroy the viaduct during the famous 1918 raid. Eventually kept as a backup, this task fell on the C3, loaded with explosives and conducted on 23 april 1918 to the Belgian base, later succesfully blew up to severe the link of the mole to the shore and prevent reinforcements. The C11 was sunk in collision with steamer SS Eddystone off Cromer. The C14, C17 suffered the same fate (first with TB N°27, second with HMS Lurcher), but both were salvaged and repaired. The C26, 27 and 35 served in the Baltic from 1916, they were scuttled on 4 April 1918 off Helsingsfors to avoid surrender to the Germans. The C32, also served in the Baltic but was stranded and scuttled in the gulf of Riga.

C class specifications

Dimensions 43.3 x3.1 x3.5m
Displacement 287/290 t FL
Crew 16
Propulsion 1 screw, 1 16-cyl Vickers engine, 1 electric mot. 600/300 hp
Speed 13/7 knots ( kph; mph) surf/sub
Range 1,000 nmi ( km; mi) at 8.5 knots ( km/h; mph)
Armament 2x 457mm bow TT, 3 torpedoes

D class (1908)

At last, these were the first type of oceanic and overseas patrol capabilities approved by the Admiralty. These eight British submarines were much larger than previous types, with almost twice their displacement, diesel engines, more than 2,5 times the range, one more TT tube, two more torpedoes and a gun (at least for one). Out of range, diesels also stopped the dangerous petrol emanations that caused so many accidental explosions in previous boat. Another great novelty in design was the adoption of saddle tanks and the two screw propellers gave some extra agility. The D types also received radio sets, with emitter units, not the case for previous classes, through an extendable telescopic mast. Contemporary references showed the entire class equipped with as many as two guns in some cases, but in fact only the C4 tried one, a 12 pdr (76mm) installed on a platform. At last also the D types possessed proper conning towers, allowing several officers to scan the horizon. In action, the D2 was sunk by German patrol boats while attempting to cross the Ems estuary, and the D3 was sunk by error by a French airship, while the D6 was torpedoed by the UB 73 off Northern Ireland.

D-class submarines

D class specifications

Dimensions 49.7 x6.2 x3.2m
Displacement 483/595-603-620 t FL
Crew 15
Propulsion 2 screws, 2x 6-cyl Vickers Diesels, 2electric mot. 1200/550 hp
Speed 14/9 knots ( kph; mph) surf/sub
Range 2500 nmi ( km; mi) at 10 knots ( km/h; mph)
Armament 2x 457mm TT (2 bow, 1 stern), 6 torpedoes

Wartime British Submarines

About 156 Submersibles (approximately) in all:
The first submersibles of the war series were the “E”, in fact the continuation of a class begun in 1913, which will comprise 47 units in total, operational between 1914 and 1916. Inspired by the Italian submarines designed by Laurenti, the 3 “S” of 1915, the 4 “V” followed in 1915, the 4 “W” in 1915-16, the 3 “F” in 1915-17, the HMS Nautilus (1915) and HMS Swordfish (1916). All were prototypes, but operational during the war but the K26. Larger series were the 14 “G” in 1915-16, 17 oceanic “K” in 1916-17 and seven “J” in 1915-17, twenty “H” in 1917-19, 34 “H bis” in 1917-19 (Of which more than 50% did not see service during the Great War, being released too late.

The 12 “R” of 1918 however did saw action, as well as the eight of the “L” type in 1917, 19 “L-bis”, half of which entered service just before the armistice. 5 ships of the L50 class only were completed post-war, all the remaining ordered leading to mass cancellation. The most gigantic British submersible of WW1, has been, without contest, the three of the class “M”, classed as submersible cruisers and equipped with a 305 mm gun intended for coastal bombardments on Belgian shores. Only the M1 became operational before the armistice but they remains the most powerfully gunned subs of all times.

A5 of the A-class submarines, cdts. theatlantic.com

E class (1914), sub workhorses

These 60 submarines were distributed in two groups. E1 group comprised 8 boats, plus two AE in service with the RAN (Royal Australian Navy), all built either by Chatham or Vickers. These were among the first of the 1911-12 programme of six enlarged and improved D types. One of the change was the addition of beam TTs optimized for short-range shootings. As a result, these boats received only one tube at the bow and stern and two amidship. Standard for propulsion were the same Vickers 4-stroke diesels, although E3 tested Belgian 2-stroke Carel diesels.

One major innovation was the provision of two watertight bulkheads. With their long range these successful subs saw heavy action and lost 50% of their numbers, sunk by mine, torpedo, sunk or disappeared. E7 for example tried to force nets in the Dardanelles, trapped, the crew was made prisoner and the boat and was sunk by UB14. But she did several successful sorties in the Marmora sea. E8 was lost and scuttled in the Baltic in 1918, AE2 off Bismark archipelago.

The second group called E9 comprised 47 ships (three were never achieved). They were built at Chatham and Vickers but also later Palmer, John Brown, Fairfield, Denny, Beardmore, Thornycroft, White, Yarrow.. incorporating early lessons learned with the D and early E class subs. The Admiralty renounced to an improved D type and preferred to mass-produce the basic E1 type with some improvements. They were 3 feet longer to incorporate one more bow TT, the tubes reverted to a side-by-side TT configuration, the bulkhead moved aft for better loading. The engines were moved forward, the conning tower was enlarged and now included a steering position, and a third watertight bulkhead was added.

E9, seen from the stern.

The Chatham design was the norm, but a few boats were built to a slightly modified Vickers design, apparently with one bow TT for some time. On 11 November 1914 contracts were awarded to the various shipbuilder, on a Chatham licence. From E19, these boats were given a plough bow, and some were armed, following the experience in the sea of Marmora: E20 had a 6 inches howitzer, and E11-12 when at Malta were fitted with 12-pdr guns (76 mm). Some North sea boats also had 12 pdr guns. In 1916, E22 tested a launching ramp for a Sopwith Baby floatplane, used in Heligoland Bight. Other modifications included the addition of extra Torpedo external cases, and the external rudder was often eliminated.

E18. Submarines of the E-type were often camouflaged. At least three patterns has been identified.

They had interesting career, most surviving the war. Three were scuttled in the Baltic to avoid capture, one was sunk in Marmora sea, one by a German decoy ship K, and E41 accidentally rammed by E4, both sinking with heavy losses.

HMS E11 in the Dardanelles, painting.

E9 class specifications

Dimensions 55.2 x 4.6 x 3,8 m
Displacement 667 t, 807 FL
Crew 30
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 Vickers 8-cyl diesels, 2 electric engines, 1600/840 hp
Speed 15/9 knots ()
Range 3,000 nmi at 10 knots
Armament 4-5 TT 457 mm, wartime 1x 12 pdr 18cwt (76 mm)

S class (1914), the “Italian” ones

This little-known class was the result of a visit by the Admiralty to FIAT-San Giorgio La Spezia yard in Italy back in the summer of 1911. They were shown the Medusa and Velilla in construction. Back in UK, Scott shipyard, owner of FIAT’s Laurenti double hull licence since 1909, offered in September 1911 to built this type of submarine for fifty thousand pounds, a request that was accepted by the Admiralty, resulting in the S1. She was launched 28/2/1914 and featured a partial double-hull for a size comparable to the C class, excellent buoyancy and cruise due to a refined hull with a “ducktail” stern. Their compartimentation included no less than ten watertight bulkheads. However, diving time and top speed were inferior than the C class.

Eventually, only three were delivered by Scott, S2 (14 April 1915) and S3 (10 june 1915) following the S1. The class has been said to be unfit for northern sea conditions, but it’s difficult to assert. On 25 October 1915 all three were transferred to the Italian Navy. Their fate is obscure.

S class blueprint.

S class specifications

Dimensions 45.1 x 4.4 x 3,2 m
Displacement 265 t, 324 FL
Crew 18
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 Scott-FIAT 6-cyl diesels, 2 electric engines, 650/400 hp
Speed 13/8 knots ()
Range 1,600 nmi at 8 knots
Armament 2 TT 457 mm (4 torpedo), 1x 12 pdr 18cwt (76 mm)

V class (1914)

Basically these four, 386 tonnes submarines were launched in July 1914, March and November 1915. This new type was planned by the Submarine Committee back in 1912: A new overseas 1000t type and a coastal 300t type, the latter being derived into the S and F types. However Vickers privately planned its own version, and a short semi-experimental serie was accepted. They were close to the S type but with a partial double hull extending 75ft amidship, rather than the 45ft of the S class. However the battery capacity was rather low, with 132 exide cells versus 166, which weighted on their submerged endurance, but their designed speed was reached. The first used Laurence Scott electric motors and 300 hp engines, the three others Don Works motors. They also had two lots of 21 in frames in the torpedo and battery compartments. The foremost tank compartment was shortened. All four survived the war and were broken up in 1920-21.

v class submarines

V class specifications

Dimensions 43.9/45 x 5 x 3,5 m
Displacement 386 t, 453 FL
Crew 20
Propulsion 2 shafts, Vickers diesels, 2 electric motors 900/450 hp
Speed 14/8.5 knots ()
Range 3000 nmi at 9 knots
Armament 2 TT 457 mm (4 torpedo), 1x 12 pdr 18Pdr (76 mm)

W class (1915), the “French” ones

Four, 321 tonnes submarines, that has been inspired by the French Schneider-Laubeuf design, on which the admiralty was not too keen, preferring the FIAT-Laurenti one. Nevertheless, Armstrong Withworth was ordered two, just to keep the building pace. The first two were ordered in December 1913, and the two others seven month later, with many modifications by Laubeuf to meet the British requirements. The main difference between the two pairs was the absence of drop-collars for the second. Engines were Schneider-Laubeuf types, 8cyl. in the first pair and 6 cyl. in the second. The hull pressure diameter was rather small but there was no internal framing. Diving control was excellent, with practical and efficient installations, however agility was not and diesels were somewhat unreliable. These non-standard ships were soon handed over to the Italians in 1916. In that capability they received an additional 3 in/30 cal. gun. W4 was probably sunk by a mine, all three others were striken and BU after the war.

W class specifications

Dimensions 15.7-52.4 x 4.7-5.4 x 2.7-2.8 m
Displacement 331/321 t, 499/479 FL
Crew 18
Propulsion 2 shafts, 8-cyl. diesels, 2 electric motors 710(760)/480 hp
Speed 13/8.5 knots ()
Range 2500 nmi at 9 knots
Armament 2 TT 457 mm (2 torpedo), 4 drop collars, or 4 bow, 3in (76 mm) AA

F class (1915)

Three subs, 363t, built by Chatham, White and Thornycroft, prototypes of the admiralty 1912 coastal design. F2 has a MAN diesel (licence built by White), the two others Vickers ones. The battery comprised 128 Exide cells. Two additional ones were ordered in 1914 but later cancelled. These small submarines saw little service, since no coastal attack needed their deployment.

F class specifications

Dimensions 46 x 4.9 x 3.2 m
Displacement 363/525 t FL
Crew 19
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 diesels, 2 electric motors 900/400 hp
Speed 14/8.75 knots
Range 3000 nmi at 9.5 knots
Armament 3 TT 457 mm (2 bow, 1 stern, 6 torpedoes), 1×2 pdr

HMS Nautilus (1915)

A single, large oceanic type planned by the admiralty in 1912 which displaced 1441t. She was launched at Vickers 31 December 1914, which as predicted did not met the 20 knots requirement with their diesels. Eventually the 78.8 m long (258 ft) submarine was given a pair of shafts fed by two V12 diesels, and two electric motors which produced 3700 hp in surface and 1000 submerged, for a top speed of 17 knots and 10 submerged. She carried eight torpedo tubes (2 bow, 4 beam, 2 stern, 16 tropedoes in store), one 3in (76mm) gun. Completed in October 1917 she was never really given a chance and spent the rest of her career as a depot ship, before being broken up in 1921.

HMS nautilus in completion at Devonport in 1917

HMS Swordfish (1915)

This second, 932t oceanic design was proposed by Laurenti, the admiralty still hoping reaching its required 20 knots top speed. FIAT 14 bis design was locally developed by Scott, which augmented the displacement, reduced the autonomy and added a heavier displacement. She has a double hull for 75% of the lenght, but more crucially, rather than diesels, she was given two Parsons geared impulse-reaction steam turbines (fed by a single Yarrow boiler)), two electric motors for a total of 4000 hp when submerged and 1400 underwater. When cruising, a small funnel was lifted. Top speed was 18 knots and range 3000 nautic miles. Complement was about 18. She was armed with two 21-in TTs (533mm) in the bow, four beam (18 in or 457mm with eight torpedoes) and one 3in gun.

Launched in April 1916 she was commissioned as the Dolphin’s tender, and affected to the 4th flotilla, but her trials lasted for more month. laid up in January 1917 at Portsmouth she was renamed Swordfish in July and converted back as a patrol boat. She received a new forecastle, wheelhouse, plus a new taller funnel, two 12-pdr guns and depth charges. Batteries were replaced by ballasts. She was recommissioned in August 1917 and served as a tender for Victory, and was eventually accepted for service in January 1918, only to be broken up in 1922.

G class (1915), double-hullers built in emergency

These were fourteen submarines of 703t, of a new coastal type which design was triggered by a rumor that Germany was producing masses of double-hulled overseas boats. The panicked admiralty ordered a modified E type with a partial double hull, single forward TT tube and two beam. Seven G types were ordered on the 1914 estimates, while another serie of seven was ordered in November 1914. Tenders for five boats allowed to test new diesels, but MAN models being impossible to provide, they all were given Vickers models. Armament was changed during construction, with the 21 TTs relocated aft and 18in TTs were fitted to the bow. The boats were built by Vickers, Armstrong, Scott and White. Three subs were lost, one sunk by error (G9), another by enemy ship (G7) and another probably accidentally sunk (G8). All the others were unlisted and BU in 1920 to 1923.

G9 at Scapa Flow

G class specifications

Dimensions 46 x 4.9 x 3.2 m
Displacement 363/525 t FL
Crew 19
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 diesels, 2 electric motors 900/400 hp
Speed 14/8.75 knots
Range 3000 nmi at 9.5 knots
Armament 3 TT 457 mm (2 bow, 1 stern, 6 torpedoes), 1×2 pdr

J class (1915), the Australians

Seven submarines, 1204t built at Devonport, Pembroke and Portsmouth Dyds. J3 and J4 were cancelled, the others were transferred to Australia (RAN). Rumors about German submarines fed yet another attempt to design a fleet submarine capable to operate with the Grand fleet. Vickers argued that to achieve the 20 knots required, three V12 diesels would need to be carried and the new design was prepared with haste and accepted with a projected figure of 19.5 knots top speed in mind in January 1915. The type J would remain the only triple shaft sub design to be approved. There was a partial double hull (56% of the length), but the three large free-flooding casings at the bow caused the sub to plow into the water and slow her down. As a result the plugs were later welded shut. At the end of the war they were all rearmed with a 4in (106 mm) gun in a raised bathtub forward of the conning tower, inaugurating a long tradition in British subs.


J-6, camouflaged

J class specifications

Dimensions 84/83.7 x 7 x 4.3 m
Displacement 1204/1820 t FL (1212/1280 J7)
Crew 44
Propulsion 3 shafts, 3x 12 cyl. diesels, 2 electric motors 3600/1350 hp
Speed 19.5/9.5 knots
Range 5000 nmi at 12.5 knots
Armament 6 TT 457 mm (4 bow, 2 beam, 12 torpedoes), 1x 12 pdr AA

K class (1916-17), the turbine cruisers

These 18 submarines of 1980t were the result of a C-in-C competition in the spring of 1915 for a 24 knots submarine. Two designed were submitted, one from DNC and one from Vickers. The former was 300 tons lighter, one knot faster, carried larger TTs (21 instead of 18in) with a reduced power, 10,000 hp instead of 14,000 on the Vickers design. The latter proposed a radical solution, with eight of the new, untested V12 models that already were choosed to power the J class. Ultimately its design was not accepted, but obtained to develop the DNC design into a new larger oceanic fleet submarine. Orders followed in 1915 and 1916 but the last K18-21 were cancelled with the arrival of the new M class.


The K class was basically tailored for speed with Brown-Boveri steam geared turbines or Parsons ones for the K3, 4, 8,9,10 and 17), fed by two Yarrow boilers and 4 electrical motors, at the expense of range. There were tow small chimney on the superstructure behind the coning tower. The K type was well armed, with 4 bow and 4 stern TTs all of the standard “heavy” 21 in (533 mm) type, plus one twin revolving TT mount on the superstructure, 18 torpedoes in store, but also two 4in (102 mm) guns for and aft of the superstructure, and one QF 3 in gun (76 mm) for AA defence on a platform behind the conning tower.
All ships but three survived the war. K1 and K4 sunk by collision and K17 by an unknown cause. They had a reputation of bad luck and poor design, a result of an earlier faulty conception. These collisions were attributed to their close deployment with surface ships; The K17 was probably sunk because of an obstruction of the ventilator, left open. The disastrous “battle of may island” in 1918 which they took part in, was more of the result of poor navigation than bad design. These low ships speeding at night without lights in close vicinity of much faster destroyers and battlecruisers were a matter for having troubles.

An “improvised K” design was soon called to remedy the design issue of the serie, and 10 ships in total were ordered early in 1918 (six, later cancelled in November) and three more in December 1918 to be completed at Chatham which never happened. In fact only K26 was completed there in June 1923. She served for the whole interwar and was broken up in 1931. Motors, batteries and rotating surface beam TTs were kept but two more tubes were added to the bow, which was also given more flare to improve seakeeping, and the superstructure was raised as well, encasing the fragile funnels and aeration systems while it was extended front of the conning tower to form a bathtub for the forward gun platform. The hydroplanes were moved 16ft further aft, less susceptible to damage and ballasts tanks were moved to the internal hull and below the waterline to improve diving.

K class specifications

Dimensions 100.6 x 8.1 x 5.2 m
Displacement 1980/2566 t FL
Crew 59
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 brow-Curtis/Parsons turbines, 2 electric motors 10500/1440 hp
Speed 24/9.5 knots
Range 3000 nmi at 13.5 knots
Armament 10 TT 457 mm (4 bow, 4 beam, 1×2 revolving mount, 18 torpedoes), 2x 4in (102 mm), 1x 3in QF AA

M class (1917-18): The battleship subs

Three 1594t submarines clearly apart all other designs: These were closely related to the K class and proceeded from the same idea, but the design was also brand new, with few in common. They would be forever famous as the “heavy gun” British subs, the only ones ever fitted with a 12 in (305 mm) battleship gun. It seems they had been ordered almost immediately when K18-21 were cancelled in February, may and August 1916 and laid down in July-September 1916. Originally one pair was built at Vickers and two at Armstrong Dyd however M4 was launched in July 1919 (cancelled) only to clear the slip.

M class submarine
M class submarine

The idea of the battleship gun was from submarine Commodore Hall, which argued a monitor submarine could be useful to complement torpedo attacks. Fifty shells had to be carried, in exchange from only eight torpedoes. Tests showed that once in surface the crew could fire within 20 secs or even from periscope depth at max elevation, about 30 secs when submerged with a round pre-loaded. The goal was to provide a submersible shore bombardment platform, and the idea was endorsed by Admiral Tudor. The guns chosen were the 40 cal Mk.IX part of the large stock available from deactivated Formidable group of pre-dreadnoughts. The whole idea was torpedoes were considered ineffective against moving warships at more than 1,000 yards (900 m). A gun was therefore a more viable option, with a hitting power well able to disable or destroy any “softskin” ship.

Main engines and motors were taken from the L class, meaning two Vickers V12 diesels for a top speed of 15 knots, and about 3500 nautical miles of range. Although the gun was capable to be trained 15° there was no real traverse. Elevation was 20°, depression 5°. But the paradox was in 1918 when they were put into service, the C-in-C had no role for them, and by default they would have been used as patrol submarines without their gun, which was vetoed by the first Lord of the admiralty. Eventually only M1 served actively with the 6th flotilla, and then 11th. She was rammed and sunk in 1924 off Start point by SS Vidar. Washington treaty’s limitation imposed the disarmament of these subs and M2 became a seaplane carrier, foundered off Portland in 1933. M3 became a minelayer and was paid off and BU in 1932.

M class specifications

Dimensions 90.1 x 7.5 x 4.9 m
Displacement 1594/1946 t FL
Crew 65
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 Vickers V12 diesels, 2 electric motors 2400/1600 hp
Speed 15/9 knots
Range 3840 nmi at 10 knots
Armament 4 TT 457 mm (bow, 8 torpedoes), 1x 12in (305 mm)

H class (1915-18), the “Americans”

With 20 and later 34 submarines of the improved H class has been ordered but actually only the first saw service. Back in November 1914, desperate of materials for shipbuilding, the admiralty contracted Bethlehem Steels to supply ten American H class submarines parts, which were assembled, because of US neutrality, in Canadian Vickers works at Montreal. A second batch was to be ordered at Bethlehem Steel proper for after the war, unarmed, also to be shipped to Vickers Canada. The first batch, delivered in MayèJune 1915 crossed the Atlantic, but the second were held up by the US Government until April 1917. In between, Bethlehem steel managed to send the engines, motors and fittings for assembly of H21 in UK. Launching dates were kept secret. These single hulled ships gave good account of themselves, and after April 1917 six of the ten next boats (H11-H20) were given to Chile in compensation for the requisition of Almirante Latorre and her sister ship. The remainder were integrated to the Royal Canadian Navy. H3 sunk because of a mine, H5 by collision, and H6 ran aground on the coast and was captured. After the war she was turned to the Dutch Navy as O-8, having long years of service contrary to the British ones, sold in 1921.

H4 at Brindisi in 1916

The “Improved H” proceeded from an order in January 1917 for twelve boats of the same type as above, albeit larger and armed with 21 in Torpedo Tubes, all in the bow. In addition their engines and equipment were shipped from the USA. Eventually 34 boats would be ordered, in addition to Cammel Laird, Armstrong, Beardmore, Pembroke and Devonport. However with the war ending, only 22 were completed and put into service, the remainder being cancelled or the components used for twelve of the R class. Devonport boats were a mix with British engines and fittings, on US design. As usual with these single hull designs they had a small reserve of surface stability, and served all along the interwar and through WW2 for most, albeit as training subs.

H class specifications

Dimensions 45.8 x 4.7 x 3.8 m
Displacement 364/434 t FL
Crew 22
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 diesels, 2 electric motors 480/620 hp
Speed 13/11 knots
Range 1600 nmi at 10 knots
Armament 4 TT 457 mm (bow, 6 torpedoes)

R class (1918), the Sub-Killers

These were a special breed of submarines. In fact they had been the first “hunter-killers”, 30 years ahead of their time, specified by the admiralty as specialist of ASW warfare, and fast enough made to catch and torpedo U-boats. This March 1917 design was for a time buried, then resurrected by Commodore S in December with more TTs, and orders were placed to various Dyds, Chatham, Pembroke, Vickers, Armstrong and Cammell Laird. Built fast, they were launched in April to June 1918. These were lightweight boats designed with the old spindle shape of the first series, but using cross section from the H class to save time.

R class scheme


To make them fast enough they were give a single H type diesel (240 hp) but “j” class 220-cell battery for a total of 2400 hp, making these faster submerged at 15 knots, than surfaced at 9.5. They could also dive at 250 ft (75 m). They were armed with six bow TTs, with a reload for each. In addition the main shaft was mated to an auxiliary 25 hp motors for slow speed maneuvers, and a large rudder, but also for the first time a set of five hypersensitive microphones. However with the war ending, the class was not seriously tested and only H8 fired a torpedo on an U-boat but the faulty projectile failed to explode. Despite their advanced features, almost the “type XXI of their day” all the 12 boats built were written off and broken up in 1923.

R class blueprints

R class specifications

Dimensions 49.9 x 4.6 x 3.5 m
Displacement 410/503 t FL
Crew 22
Propulsion 2 shafts, 1 diesel, 1 electric motor 240/1200 hp
Speed 9.5/15 knots
Range 200 nmi at 8 knots
Armament 6 TT 457 mm (bow, 12 torpedoes)

L class ( 1917-18)

These 8+19+5 (32 total) 891t submarines were the last British subs to be planned for WW1. They proceeded for an order to replace the E class, and with provisions to stretch the boats for further improvements. The Admiralty wanted a well-proven saddle tank design, and the first two were in effect much modified E types. They were little variations in design from the L1-L2 (Vickers) to L8 all having a bathtub like gun platform at the forward end of the conning tower. These 8 boats were all BU in 1930.


The next “improved L” made a 19 boats serie (L9 to L49) but in reality many were cancelled in 1919. Their main difference was the adoption of 21 in (533 mm) bow TTs, while retaining their 18 in beam tubes. Some were modified as minelayers, having four bow TTs but carrying 14 to 16 mines. The latter were five boats ordered with mine-chutes much like the modified E class. Their pressure hull was lenghtened, with a watertight bulkhead abaft the bow TTs, and 78t more fuel was carried for extra range and their main gun was placed as to fire or of torpedo range whith the boat trimmed down.
Most actually served in the interwar, some BU in the 1930s, but three were still in service throughout ww2 as training boats. L10 was sunk by a German destroyer in 1918, and it was the only wartime loss (at least for ww1).

The last serie called L50 was to comprise a new serie ranging up to L74. However most were cancelled because of the armistice and only five boats were completed. Two unfinished boats were sold and completed as the Yugoslavian Hrabi class. They had a second platform for an additional 4in gun behind the conning tower. Also the beam TTs were deleted and the bow received 6 TTs. L55 actually served in the Baltic and sunk off Kronstadt by a patrol craft and was later raised and repaired, to be incorporated into the new Soviet Navy. Many features of this class would be adopyted in the next interwar serie, but this is reserved for the ww2 British submarine chapter.

L class specifications

Dimensions 70.4/72.7 x 7.2 x 4 m
Displacement 890/1074-1080 t FL
Crew 35-38
Propulsion 2 shafts, diesels, 2 electric motors 2400/1600 hp
Speed 17/10.5 knots
Range 3800 nmi at 10 knots
Armament 6 TT 457 mm (4 bow,2 beam, 10 torpedoes), 1x 4in (102 mm)

Links & sources

Submarines of the RN
K-class subs (wikipedia)
E-lass subs (wikipedia)
On harwichanddovercourt.co.uk
The K class on Mil Factory.com
On dropbears.com
Article on henry Stoker, AE2 sub Dardanelles
Timeline of submarines
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905 and 1906-1922.

Iron Duke class Dreadnoughts

United Kingdom (1911)
Iron Duke, Marlborough, Benbow, Emperor of India

The last prewar dreadnought class

Last dreadnoughts before the revolutionary Queen Elisabeth class largely completed during the war, the Iron Dukes were the last of a lineage started with the HMS Dreadnought a few years ago. The class consisted in four ships which design was in straight line with the previous King Georges V and Orion. The main battery of twin 13.5 in turrets (343 mm) were centerline, with a central turret encased between the rear funnel and rear blockhaus.

HMS Emperor of India

The four battleships of this class (Iron Duke, Marlborough, Benbow and Delhi – later renamed Emperor of India) were laid down in Portsmouth, Devonport, Beardmore and Vickers in 1912 (two in January and two in May). They were not the idea of Sir John Fisher, who left his post as lord of the sea in 1910, but of the Admiralty under the pressure of those practicing naval exercises, wishing for a less dogmatic approach than partisans of “speed and heavy artillery only” school. Importantly enough, 6 in (152 mm) cannons were reintroduced into the secondary battery, as 5 in (102 mm) were considered too weak, and the 533 mm torpedo tubes were adopted as a new standard.

Jane’s Fighting Ship 1911 depiction of the Iron Duke class and armour scheme.

For the rest, these battleships were inspired by the King Georges V but reached out a level close to 30,000 tons, with a speed slightly higher than 21 knots. HMS Benbow and Emperor of India may not have been the best known of British prewar battleships, but they undoubtedly closed an important chapter in British battleship design, stretching from 1910 with a total of 18 dreadnoughts of relatively similar design. Only HMS Duke of York made it into WW2, leaving much for speculation towards Washington treaty’s limitations and possible wartime modernization (see later).


Iron Duke’s design was slightly enlarged, 25ft longer, a bit beamier and deeper. That increase was related to the new secondary artillery, much heavier, in order to preserve buoyancy forward and aft. This secondary battery was also moved further aft to reduce interference in bad weather. The configuration of their secondary batteries meant that all but two of the guns pointed at the front, and the two rear ones were soon considered too low and inefficient in heavy weather. They were removed during the war and carried over to the Upper, firing forward.

The firing station was much reinforced, as an even more essential organ of control, enlarged and supported by a solid tripod. The Iron Dukes were also the first battleships equipped with anti-aircraft guns, the “12-pounders” (76 mm). Very long in caliber, these anti-aircraft Mk.1 20cwt pieces were meant to shoot down no less than Zeppelins.

Cranston Fine Arts splendid depiction of the type.

The HMS Iron Duke tested a new model of anti-torpedo nets, quickly removed and never adopted by other ships in its class. As for protection, barbettes had a new type of reinforced integral shield that was also adopted on the HMS Tiger and later battleships of the Queen Elisabeth class. They saw also reinforced their light armor after the Battle of Jutland, around the searchlights, the deck and ammunition bunkers. In 1918 their shooting range was considerably enhanced and their mast shortened while airplane platforms were placed on the central and second front turrets for advanced reconnaissance.

HMS Iron Duke and floatplane

The Iron Dukes in service

These four ships spent nearly all their career within the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. Their completion was achieved at the eve of the war (March and June 1914 for the first two, October and November 1914 for the last two). As a result, their crews were not yet well trained at the beginning of the war, but nevertheless these powerful ships became the spearhead Of the Royal Navy. HMS Iron Duke was the general flagship of the Great Fleet until November 1916. The Iron Duke served the longest, being converted as a training ship in 1930, then depot from 1939, and retired in 1946. The three others also served in Jutland. The Marlborough was torpedoed and repaired in three months while serving in the Atlantic, and was sent to the Mediterranean after the war. These ships were reformed in 1929-32.

HMS Iron Duke under way

HMS Iron Duke

HMS Iron Duke fought in Jutland with the 2nd battle squadron, and after the war, sent to the Mediterranean in 1919, reaching the Black Sea to support the White Russians until 1920. She then served in the North Atlantic squadron until 1929 before being reformed, following the limitations of the Washington Treaty, and converted the next year as a training ship. She was partially disarmed, cleared of its armor, and its powerplant flanged for an effective speed of 18 knots, conditions required by the treaty for such category of ship.

The Iron Duke in berth, pending conversion.

In this second chapter of her life, she served as the main advanced training battleship of the Royal Navy until 1939. Based at Scapa Flow, she then served as pontoon, totally disarmed. On 17 October 1939 she suffered a German air attack and was damaged. Summarily repaired but beached, at anchor, she was eventually stricken out and sent to the breaking yard as scrap metal value in 1946. The Iron Duke’s bell is on display at Winchester Cathedral.

What-if photoshop of the Iron Duke rearmed and used in WW2 (here on the Mediterranean theater).

HMS Benbow

She teamed with HMS Emperor of India at the 4th Battle Squadron in December 1914, shortly after completion. Her rearmost 6-inch guns were removed and the casemates sealed off. She replaced HMS Dreadnought as the flagship of the 4th Squadron, then took part in various naval drills in 1915 without noticeable incident off the Orkneys and Shetlands and along the North Sea. The routine of gunnery drills restarted in 1916, but on the night of 25 March, Benbow and the rest of the fleet sailed from Scapa Flow to support the Battlecruiser Fleet and other ships raiding the German zeppelin base at Tondern. However as she approached the area on 26 March, opposite forces had already disengaged, and a severe gale prevented any further action. The Benbow also took part in the diversion action off Horns Reef on 21 April. Another similar action will take place in early May.

HMS Benbow in the battle line

On May, 31, 1916 she took part in the battle of Jutland, as the flagship of Vice Admiral Doveton Sturdee, stationed toward the center of the British line. Benbow’s gunners however did not scored any hit because of poor visibility at first. Gunners later claimed incorrectly some hits on the SMS Derfflinger. But she engaged successfully German TBs with her secondary battery, repelling these before any efficient torpedo launch. In the course of the battle, Benbow fired forty 13.5-inch armour-piercing, capped shells and sixty 6-inch rounds. After the battle, the routine of drills restarted, as the German Fleet never ventured in force again in the North Sea. She was at Scapa Flow to see the Hochseeflotte being interned, escorted by 320 ships of an international coalition, following the Versailles treaty conditions.

HMS Benbow exeprimenting with an observation kite balloon in 1916

By 1919, she was stationed with the 4th Squadron of the Mediterranean fleet, and served until 1926, supporting the White Russians in the Black sea, then as an observer in the Greek-Turkish war of 1920. Prior to her departure she received like her sister-ships flying off ramps on B and Q turrets, rangefinder baffles, funnel caps, additional searchlights and armour. On July 1920 however she landed a force at Gemlik to secure the harbor for the Greeks to take over. She trained in the sea of Marmara in 1921 and in September and October took part in further operations against Turkish forces. Her unit, renamed 3rd Squadron was transferred to the Atlantic in 1926. In 1929 she was paid off and broken up in 1931 as part of the tonnage limitation of the Washington Treaty.

HMS Marlborough

Marlborough was assigned as the flagship of the 1st Battle Squadron, for all the war. In December she was second-in-command flagship for the Grand Fleet. She took part in gunnery drills during 10–13 January 1915 and later sailed in support of Beatty’s Battlecruiser Fleet (battle of Dogger Bank). She spent the rest of the year and the next performing drilling exercises. She supported the raid Trondern and sortied for a demonstration off Horns Reef in favor of Russian fleet efforts in the Baltic. However in May 1916 she took part in the battle of Jutland, scoring three hits on the König-class battleship’s SMS Grosser Kurfürst during the battle.

HMS Marlborough secondary artillery

This was on the second part of the battle. During the action however she was engaged by the SMS Wiesbaden a torpedo hit around the starboard diesel generator room. She engaged her twice, firing salvos at ranges of 9,500 to 9,800 yards (8,700 to 9,000 m). She also fired two torpedoes that missed their targets. However she listed the torpedo hit damaging forty watertight compartments, thought the torpedo bulkhead resisted. Evasing action took her out of harm from other German TBs as she avoided several more hits. On its way back however the whole 6th Division was slowed down by Marlborough, at 15 knots. She proceeded to the Humber for temporary repairs, and later departed for Cromarty where she was repaired but also received an extra 100 tons of deck armour.

By February 1917 she was relegated as second command flagship. In 1918 she received flying-off platforms on her “B” and “Q” turrets for reconnaissance aircrafts. In March 1919, she was recommissioned at Devonport and assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet, 4th Battle Squadron where she served until 1926. She also took part in the support to the Whites against the Red Bolsheviks in the Black sea. Sailing to Yalta she took Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna and other members of the deposed Russian Imperial Family including Grand Duke Nicholas and Prince Felix Yusupov and later anchored off Halki Island, near Constantinople. Part of her guests then boarded HMS Lord Nelson destined for Genoa.

HMS Marlborough

She later took part in high-explosive 6-inch shells trials off the Kerch Peninsula, and operated a kite balloon. She was also an observer in the 1920 Greco-Turkish War. She departed for Devonport in 1920, received some modifications, then returned to the Mediterranean, and in March 1926, her unit renamed the 3rd Battle Squadron was relocated in the Atlantic. In 1930, however, according to the Washington Treaty she was disarmed, then used as a target in the summer of 1931, before being disposed of in 1932 and broken up the same year by the Alloa Shipbreaking Co.

HMS Emperor of India

She served with the 4th Battle Squadron as the second division flagship, for the first two years of the war. By December 1915, her rearmost 6-inch guns were removed (like for the four Iron Duke-class ships) and casemates sealed off. These had been a liability in bad weather as water regularly gushed in. She served with 4th and 2nd Squadrons, conducting drills west of the Orkneys and Shetlands, supported the squadron engaged at the first battle of Dogger bank. Other exercises in the north sea followed in March and April, May, and up to the fall of the year. In January 1916 Jellicoe had intended to use the Harwich Force to sweep the Heligoland Bight, but bad weather prevented operations in the area. Later on the battleship supported the action of the battlecruiser fleet that raided the German zeppelin base at Tondern.

HMS Emperor of India aft 13.5 in gun turrets

In April 21, 1916, she took part of a demonstration off Horns Reef to distract the Germans while the Russian Navy relaid its defensive minefields in the Baltic Sea. In May missed however the battle of Jutland, refitting in drydock. She was transferred to the 1st Battle Squadron, and in August was equipped to handle a kite balloon, for spotting mines and U-boats. She also received an additional 100 t (98 long tons; 110 short tons) of armour over the magazines between October and December 1916. Next years she was given larger, additional searchlights, funnel caps, rangefinder baffles (later removed).

Ammunitions loaded onboard HMS Emperor of India

She was assigned in 1919 to the Mediterranean 4th Battle Squadron and served in the Black Sea, supporting the white Russians, bombarding Bolshevik troops on 5 May 1919 outside Theodosia, and later at Novorossiysk, even duelling with an armoured train ! She was also an observer in the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–22. After a refite in 1922 (long-base rangefinders installed on “X” turret), she served in the Mediterranean until 1926, had a refit the next year in Devonport, served as squadron flagship from until January 1931, and was disarmed following the Washington Treaty, then Broken up in 1932.

The burning of Smyrna (Gerco-Turkish war of 1920) as seen from the King Georges V. The Iron Duke is on the foreground.

The Dreadnought on wikipedia
On the dreadnought project
Specs ww1.co.uk
Article by Steve Woodward
On Royal Navy’s portal
Another article on the Iron Duke
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1906-1921.


Dimensions 189,9 x 27.4 x 9 m (622’9” x 90′ x 29’6”)
Displacement 25 000t, 29 560t FL
Crew 995 to 1022 (wartime)
Propulsion 4 screws, 4 Parsons turbines, 18 Babcock & Wilcox boilers 29,000 hp
Speed 21.5 knots (39 km/h; 24.7 mph)
Range 7780 nmi @10 knots (18.5 km, 11.5 mi)
Armament 10 x 13.5 in/45 cal Mk V (343 mm) (5×2), 12 x 6 in/45 cal (152 mm) BL Mk VII, 2 x 4 in (76 mm) Mk I AA, 4 x 3pdr (47 mm), 5 TT 21 in (553 mm) (sub)
Armor (max figures) Belt 12 in (300 mm), Bulkheads 8 in (200 mm), Barbettes 10 in (250 mm), turrets 11 in (280 mm -face) as the conning tower, deck 4 in (76 mm)


Iron Duke
Illustration of the Iron Duke

Diadem class armoured cruisers (1896)

United Kingdom (1896)
HMS Diadem, Amphitrite, Andromeda, Argonaut, Ariadne, Europa, Niobe, Spartiate

Back to (too?) normal

The 8 Diadem signed an attempt to stand out from the gigantic Powerful, deemed too expensive. They had reduced their size, armor and saved a total of 3,000 tons with a saving of 100,000 pounds per ship, which was almost the price of another light cruiser. Constructed in two groups, the following had more powerful machines for a gain of half a knot. Good walkers, they easily reached their desired speeds, although the Niobe suffered from machine failures and other units in the class had problems with boilers in service. They were criticized for their lack of heavy parts and insufficient protection (shields rather than turrets).

HMS Diadem 1894 plan and elevation

Active carrer

At the beginning of their career, three of these ships operated in China and one in the Mediterranean, the others remained in territorial waters.


The HMS Amphitrite was stationed at Cape Verde at the beginning of the war, in the 9th Cruiser Squadron. From June 1915, he rallied to Portsmouth to be converted into a minesweeper. In August 1917 it had been rearmed with only 4 pieces of 152 mm (bow and stern) and one of 102 mm AA. It could carry 354 mines and since its release in August 1917, anchored some 5053 mines, replacing the Ariadne on the Dover dam. And it was the great northern dam in the company of the US Navy. He was involved in a collision in September 1918 with destroyer Nessus and retired from service in June 1919.


HMS Andromeda was anchored at Devonport and served as a training ship, a role he held until 1919. Then, renamed Impregnable II, he held his role until 1929. In 1931 she became a torpedo ship renamed Defiance, and survived as a schoolship until 1956.

HMS Andromeda in China, 1904


HMS Argonaut was stationed until 1915 at Cape Finisterre with the 9th squadron of cruisers. She captured the German armed cargo ship Graecia. It was set aside in Portsmouth in October 1915, then converted into a hospital ship until 1917, then a bark vessel until 1920. HMS Ariadne was a driver training ship in 1914 in Portsmouth. He was transferred to Devonport in 1915 and was converted into a mineswincher such as the Amphitrite in 1917. He was able to anchor 400 mines, and from March he was sent to anchor mines at Dover Dam and Heligoland Bay , But on 26 July he was torpedoed by UC 65 in front of beachy Head, with 38 victims.

HMS Argonaut in the late 1890s


The HMS Diadem was stationed as a driver training ship in 1914 in Portsmouth. In October 1915 his activities were terminated, which he did not take back until 1918 for a brief moment. It was sold in 1921. The HMS Europa operated at Finisterre Cape in 1914 with the 9th squadron of cruisers, of which he was the flagship. He was then sent to the Mediterranean, operating in Mudros and Malta after the war. It was sold in 1920.

HMS Diadem in 1914


HMCS Niobe operated with the RCAN and was the victim of a stranding before the war. In 1914, he was based in Bermuda. In October 1915 it was anchored in Halifax, disarmed, as ship-deposit of ammunition. A nearby warehouse that exploded damaged it severely. It was not repaired but remained as a pontoon until 1922.


HMS Spartiate was a training ship of drivers in 1914, a role that it held until 1932, under the name (from 1915), of HMS Fisgard.

HMS Spartiate in 1898

HMS Ariadne


The Diadem class on wikipedia
On historyofwar.org
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905.

Diadem class specifications

Dimensions 141 x 21 x 7,7 m
Displacement 11,000 t FL
Crew 677
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 TE steam engines, 18 Belleville WT boilers, 16-18,500 hp
Speed 20 knots (38 kph; 24 mph)
Range 2,000 nmi (3700 km; 2400 mi) at 19 knots (35 km/h; 21 mph)
Armament 16x 152, 14x 76, 3x 47, 2 TT 457 mm (SM), 8 MG
Armor Deck: 2.5–4 in (64-102 mm) CT: 12 in (300 mm), casemates/gun shields 4.5 in (110 mm)


HMS Diadem
HMS Argonaut with the 9th cruiser sqn, illustration in 1915.

HMS Amphitrite as a minelayer in 1918, notice de Dazzle camouflage

HMS Niobe in drydock

HMS Niobe in service

HMS Europa in WW1

Loading the QF 6 inches gun

Powerful class Armoured Cruisers

United Kingdom (1895)
HMS Powerful, HMS Terrible

Two record-breaking cruisers

These two impressive vessels outside purely technical aspects, perfectly embodied the British naval supremacy as navigating symbols, both in quantity and quality. Real military ships, they were in fact retrospectively regarded as of “great white elephants”. Their construction at Vickers, Barrow in Furness and J&G Thompson, Clydebank cost around £740,000 in 1894–98. These were to answer the two impressive Russian cruisers Rossia and Rurik, then certainly among the largest warships afloat. In fact, upon completion in 1897 and 1898 (with a construction span of 4-5 years), they took over the torch of largest warships in the world. Tellingly named “Powerful” and “Terrible”, their displacement was double of previous cruisers, Edgar class, and accordingly cost twice. Their crew was nearing 900, giving them a more expensive maintenance.

HMS terrible

Design of the Powerfuls

Technically, they were the first ships of this size to employ water tube boilers of the Belleville type, which raised concerns about their development and accumulated teething problems. Despite this, their machines gave them a satisfactory rate, keeping them efficient steamers throughout their length of service. After testings, their four chimneys (a first in the Royal Navy) appeared too short and therefore had to raise to five meters to avoid clouding the observation points. Their roomy configuration with three bridges made them much more livable quarters, although their weapons distribution remained classic: They had only two 152 mm cannons, but two twin 234 mm in turrets rather than protected by shields, and for the first part the 152 mm were barbettes spread among two levels. All their artillery was thus perfectly protected. For the rest, their size did not asked for only a similar armament to previous ships, and in 1904, four 152 mm cannons were added to the upper deck. Their speed was higher by 3 knots than previous ships, and because of a 3000 tons of coal surplus, their autonomy was also much higher. Not quite agile due to their very long, high and buoyant hulls, there were however recognized as good sailors and walkers.

HMS Powerful naval Brasseys diagram

The Powerfuls in action

Early in their careers, the two ships were based in China, then rallied South Africa to carry troops and support infantry companies. In 1899, they made the big titles of newspapers when landing vanguard troops to support Ladysmith during the Boer War. In 1902-1904 they were the subject of a small redesign and were set aside as being considered too expensive for service. Only in 1915 HMS Terrible was reactivated, used as a troop transport. She rallied the Mediterranean, then returned in reserve at Portsmouth, reclassed as an utility ship at anchor until 1920. Renowned Fisgard III she then served as a training ship until 1932. The HMS Powerful came out of the reserve in 1915 to serve as a training ship in Devonport. Her vast dimensions made it well predestined for this new duty. She continued this service from 1919 under the name Impregnable II until 1929, before being stricken, sold off and later broken up.

HMS Powerful circa 1905


The Powerful class on wikipedia
On historyofwar.org
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905.

Powerful class specifications

Dimensions 164 x 21,6 x 7,3 m
Displacement 14,200 t FL
Crew 894
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 VTE steam engines, 48 Belleville WT boilers, 25,000 hp
Speed 22 knots (40.7 km/h; 25.3 mph)
Range 7,000 nmi (12,960 km; 8,060 mi) at 14 knots (25.9 km/h; 16.1 mph)
Armament 2x 254, 12x 152, 16x 76, 12x 47, 4 TT 457 mm (SM)
Armor Deck: 2–6 in (51–152 mm) Barbettes: 6 in (152 mm)


HMS Powerful
HMS Powerful illustration in 1914.

HMS Terrible

The opposing Russian cruiser Rurik.

Edgar class protected cruisers

United Kingdom (1891)
Edgar, Endmyon, Hawke, Gibraltar, Crescent, Royal Arthur, St Georges, Theseus, Grafton

Among the oldest cruisers in British service

Pre-1890s cruisers were often sail/steam thing intended to safeguard the immense colonial trade roads of the Empire. By 1890s the concept of protected cruiser was well accepted as more “military” ships compared to 3rd rate ones, barely better than enlarged gunboats, but still cheaper than armoured cruisers.

Born from the 1889 program, these 9 cruisers were smaller versions of the Blake (1890),yet with the same protection and armament. Machinery was reduced and the tonnage lower by 1800 tons. However these new steam engines gave 20 knots and had a better range of 10,000 nautical miles. Tests proved their great endurance. These ships could sustain 18 knots for 48 hours. They also had better seaworthiness in bad weather and were well suited for the north sea, although intended as local “capital ships” for distant stations.

Edgar class cruiser – Brasseys Diagram of 1897

Four units, the HMS Gibraltar, Crescent, Royal St Georges, Royal Arthur were built by using large amounts of wood and copper for their (tropical) service overseas. The Royal Arthur and Crescent were slightly different, having both a raised forecastle, improving living quarters and holding heavy weather. Heavier by 350 tonnes, they also had two 152 mm guns at the front instead of a single heavy 234 mm gun in the axis as their sister ships.

A long service worldwide for the King and country

These ships began their careers in distant stations, Hong Kong, the East Indies, the Mediterranean, South Africa, Australia and the Pacific; Their career was more or less active during the Great War:
HMS Crescent was part the 10th cruiser squadron in 1914, patrolling in the north sea. In February 1915, she was assigned to the defense of Hoy. In November, she was disarmed and converted into an anchored tanker in Hoy. She then joined Rosyth to be reformed in 1918.

HMS Edgar operated together with other units of the same class with the 10th squadron operating in the North of Scotland. In November-December 1914, her heavy guns were removed to be given to the new monitors. She was then kept at anchor, and later rearmed with 12x 152 mm guns and fitted with large side ballasts in order to carry out bombing missions on the Flemish coast. In May 1915, she was transferred to the Dardanelles and served there until 1918, date of retirement.

HMS Endymion was assigned to the 10th Wing also in 1914. she was then disarmed, rearmed and equipped with ballasts like the Edgar to serve in Flanders, but was transferred instead to the Dardanelles. She then served in the Aegean Sea and was decommissioned in 1920.

HMS Gibraltar served with the 10th Cruiser Squadron. In March 1915 she was disarmed and anchored to the Shetland Swarbacks Minns islands to serve as tanker for the 10th fleet, starting in June 1915. She was then sent to Portland to be assigned to a diving school. She then became a destroyers supply ship from 1919 to 1922.

HMS Gibraltar

HMS Grafton was affected to the 10th flotilla in 1914. She was then disarmed from its heavier guns, then rearmed and equipped with side ballast, for Flanders bombings. She was sent in mid-1915 to support the Dardanelles landings. On 11 June 1917 she was struck by a torpedo from a German U-boat, but survived and was towed for repairs. She then served in the Aegean until the armistice, then the Black Sea in support of “white” Russians as flagship. She was disarmed and demolished in the end of 1919.

HMS Hawke served with the 10th squadron, North Sea, in 1914. She narrowly escaped sinking after a collision with the large liner SS Olympic. She lost her bow and was repaired but its spur was removed during reconstruction. She served from 1908 to 1913 in Portsmouth, after being briefly a training ship for cadets. She was torpedoed in mission on October 15, 1914 by the U9 and sank with 524 hands.

HMS Royal Arthur was detached to the 10th squadron in 1914. In February 1915, she was reduced as a submarine supply ship, a role she held until 1919 in Scapa Flow. She witnessed arrival of the great Hochseeflotte and was later disarmed.

HMS Royal Arthur in Sydney drydock

HMS St George was put in reserve, having served for the training of sailors student, in 1906. She also served as a supply ship, and was converted to Chatham for that very purpose from 1909. She served with the 9th flotilla of destroyers in November 1914, and later for patrols in the Humber. In 1917 she was converted into an armed tanker for submarines, and sent in the Mediterranean. She served in the Aegean Sea in 1918-19 with the second flotilla and was retired in 1920.

HMS Theseus served as tanker HMS Cambridge from 1905 in Devonport. In 1914 she was affected to the 10 squadron operating in the North of Scotland, and then was transformed in early 1915, rearmed with 152mm guns and fitted with ballasts to operate in Flanders. She was then sent to the Dardanelles and served in the white sea in 1916, before returning to the Aegean to serve as tanker, then the Black Sea in support of the “white” Russians. She was retired in 1920.

HMS Grafton in wartime livery.


The Edgar class on wikipedia
On historyofwar.org
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905.

St Vincent specifications

Dimensions 113,11 x 18,29 x 7,24 m
Displacement 6870t, 7700 T FL
Crew 544
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 Reciprocating TE engines, 4 boilers, 12,000 hp
Speed 20 knots (? km/h; ? mph)
Range 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)
Armament 2x 234, 10x 152, 12x 57, 5x 47, 4 TT de 457 mm (SM)
Armor Ammo wells 160, Bulkheads 76, Blockhaus 305, bridges 120-76, casemates 152 mm


HMS Edgar
HMS Edgar illustration in 1914 (notice the raised forecastle).








Active class Cruisers

United Kingdom (1911)
Active, Amphion, Fearless

The last prewar scout cruisers

This class of three ships were closely derived from previous Blonde/Boadicea scout cruisers. This third group only counted Amphion and Active, but the Fearless was built on similar plans a few months later. These three units were operational in 1913. With a few adjustments in armour, the main observable difference from previous classes were an arched bow of the new “breakwater” model. These ships also received extra AA 76mm guns during the war.

HMS Active 1917
HMS Active, 1917


The Active served in the 2nd destroyers flotilla, being transferred to Harwich. Then, after a quick mission in the Grand Fleet, joined the fleet division 4 in Portsmouth, and after 1917 in Queenstown, and after that was based in the Mediterranean. She was withdrawn from service in 1920 and later sold for scrap.

The HMS Amphion was assigned to the 3rd fleet Division in Harwich, engaged and later was sunk in August 6, 1914 by one or several of the mines laid by German auxiliary cruiser Königin Luise, becoming the first naval loss of the war.

HMS Fearless after its collision.

The HMS Fearless served with the 1st Fleet division in Harwich before becoming leader of the 12th squadron of submarines, and finally served as flotilla leader for destroyers of the “K” class. She was took part in the Battle of May Island January 31, 1918, spurring the K17, and was withdrawn from service in 1921.


The Active class on wikipedia
On historyofwar.org
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

St Vincent specifications

Dimensions 163,4 x25,6 x8,5 m
Displacement 19 560t, 23 030t FL
Crew 758
Propulsion 4 screws, 4 Brown-Boveri turbines, 18 Wagner boilers, 24,500 hp
Speed 21 knots
Range 6,900 nmi (12,800 km; 7,900 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Armament 10 x305mm (5×2), 20 x102mm, 3 TT 457mm (port, starboard and aft)
Armor Belt 250, Battery 200, Barbettes 230, turrets 280, blockhaus 280, bridge 75 mm.


HMS Amphion
HMS Amphion illustration in august 1914.

HMS Fearless in 1913HMS Amphion in august 1914.HMS Amphion in august 1914.

HMS Tiger

United Kingdom (1913)

Genesis of the Tiger

Despite active lobbying from Sir “Jackie” Fisher, the Admiralty began to doubt the usefulness of battle cruiser concept in 1911 already. Instead of launching a new class of three ships, a sole battlecruiser was authorized in the 1911–12 Naval Programme, and a less expensive ship than the last “splendid cats”. (In fact the cost was £2,593,100) This plan focused on improvements based on the Queen Mary, integrating the experience gained in years. Turrets placement and superstructure were completely revised, as well as the position and height of chimneys and the front firing control tower. A potent secondary armament was added, located into the central battery, giving concentrated superstructures to clear the range, like the Japanese Kongo class, then under construction at Vickers. Again, it was specified a very high speed, 28 knots from a nominal 85,000 hp and more resulting from machines pushed white hot to give 105 000 hp (in theory capable of giving 30 knots). In fact 29 knots were achieved with 104,000 hp, but with a daily consumption rising to 1245 tonnes of fuel oil. The smaller hull necessitated twisted compromises to try to find the missing extra storage.

Tiger in 1916
Tiger in 1916


Although not yet have good protection, the Tiger was a ship with fine and pleasant lines, original though childless. Although it was laid down after the Kongo, the chief engineer of Vickers drew extensively the ideas contained in the design of Tiger, whose plans had arrested early summers. Indeed, the last of the “splendid cats” – a little less expensive than the others, was launched in December 1913 and completed and accepted into service after trials in October 1914.

tiger in 1918
The HMS Tiger in 1918.

Active service

HMS Tiger joined the Grand Fleet in November, naturally placed with the 1st squadron of battle cruisers. She took Part in the Dogger Bank battle, her first major commitment, and took six large caliber hits, one blowing off its Y rear turret, but only suffered 11 dead and 11 wounded.
Repaired in February 1915 she later participated in the battle of Jutland. At the heart of the scrum in David Beatty squadron wing, she fired no less than 303 rounds, but only score thee hits, conceding 15 heavy impacts, without however compromising its chances of survival. Yet it was a miracle: The Q turret (rear center) was blown ff, and a barbette, but the ammunition stores were spared a flash. Returning to Rosyth, she was listing to port and had 24 dead and 46 wounded. Repairs were completed in July 1916 and the Tiger resumed service in the 1st squadron, performing various missions. She served in the squadron of the Atlantic from 1919 to 1922, and after the Treaty of Washington served as gunnery training ship after two years of conversion, from 1924 to 1929. She then replaced the Hood in 1929 and 1931 and was retired in 1931 in Devonport, paid off and broken up in 1932.


The HMS Tiger on wikipedia
Detailed armour scheme
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

HMS Tiger specifications

Dimensions 214,6 x 27,6 x 8,7 m
Displacement 428 430 t, 35 710 t FL
Crew 1121
Propulsion 4 screws, 4 Brown-Curtis turbines, 39 B&W boilers, 85 000 cv.
Speed 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph)
Armament 8 x 343, 12 x 152, 2 x 76 AA, 4 x 47 parade, 4 TT 533 mm SM.
Armor Blockhaus 254, belt 230, bulkheads 100, barbettes 230, turrets 230, deck 75 mm.


HMS Tiger profile

HMS Tiger in drydock
HMS Tiger in drydock

Tiger X barbette damageX turret roof damageDamaged sustained at JutlandSopwith pup on a launching ramp 1919Diagrams Brasseys annual 1923

Tiger illustration
The HMS Tiger in 1916.

Lion class Battlecruisers

United Kingdom (1910)
HMS Lion, Princess Royal, Queen Mary

Development and design

The Lion and Princess Royal, as well as the strongly related Queen mary launched in 1912, were three ships of a new standard, breaking with the Invincible and Indefatigable series. Larger, they opted for a 343 mm caliber, that of Orion class battleships, thus becoming even more formidable hard-pounding ships, still capable to remain out of reach. At that time German battleships were still armed with feebler 280 mm artillery pieces. They embodied perfectly the essence of the battle cruiser concept. The hull was massive, artillery was distributed in the same centerline arrangement as the Orion, but machines power was increased by 150% compared to that of Orion. Despite being 29,700 tonnes fully load, they were 6 knots faster than the Orions.

3 inches 2cwt AA guns
3 inches 2cwt AA guns onboard HMS princess Royal

However these ships suffered from conception issues: The central turret position combined was the placement of its ammunition bunkers and boilers between the front and stern was an error, the hull was fragile and vibrated, and they possessed woefully unprotected areas, even though the press was talking of “capital ships”, “fast battleships” which was false. Moreover the fire direction system placed very close to the forward chimney became a prison for its servants such as the temperature of the mast became unbearable by metal heat transmission. Despite of this, the three Lion, built in Devonport, Vickers and Palmers respectively were launched in 1910, 1911 and 1912, completed in 1912 and 1913 and at their acceptance into service were the largest warships in the world and the pride of the Royal Navy. Nobody then would have thought or believed a second what fate was awaiting for them…

HMS Lion damage to Q-turret 1916
HMS Lion damage to Q-turret 1916

This pride turned into propaganda at the beginning of the war, the press exaggerating also their speed figures (alleged peaks of 34 knots) when actually it was only possible on trials for very short periods, and wearing their boilers red hot (to reach a staggering 90,000 hp). In reality, speed remained in service under 28,1 knots. These “beautiful cats”, adored by the press,and despite teething problems were naturally always at the forefront of the action in 1914-18. During the war their AA artillery was improved, their mast became tripod and the chimney-heating problem was fixed, their firing range was extended while the torpedo nets were removed.

Lion class battleship Jane’s Fighting Ships 1919

HMS Lion

The Lion was part of the 1st battle cruisers squadron (Counter-Admiral Beatty) in 1914. She took part in the Heligoland Bay battle in August 1914 then to the Dogger bank action in 1915, claiming three hits but also conceding three with serious consequences: Stopped dead in the water after its machines were shut down (port turbines damaged) she had to be towed to Rosyth by the Indomitable. Repaired, she became flagship of the fleet and had its moment of truth at Jutland in may 1916. She undergone took no fewer than 13 hits from the Lützow. She escaped certain destruction by the heroism of the only surviving officer inside the bunker that prevented explosion, although badly injured and burned, by ordering through the intercom to drown this section (and drawned with other survivors as a consequence). The Lion joined with great difficulty Rosyth and undergine comprehensive repairs. She returned at sea in September. She then made numerous trips until the armistice under the command of counter-Admiral Pakenham. She was decommissioned in 1924 following the Treaty of Washington, paid off and broken.

HMS Princess Royal

She became flagship of the 1st squadron of battle cruisers in 1914. She fought at Heligoland, was sent to the Far East to intercept Von Spee’s pacific squadron, then came back to the North Sea to participated in the Dogger bank engagement, without damage. However in May 1916 this was not the same music anymore. Targeted by concentrated and accurate fire from Derrflinger, Markgraf and Posen, she took eight hits and had to drown her ammunition bunkers to avoid the fire trigerring yet again an explosion (the fate suffered by the Queen Mary). Despite being still operational and remaining so until the end of the battle with part of her artillery useless she escaped. From Rosyth, she still did a number of missions before disarmament in 1922.

Princess Royal, Andrey Pervozvannyy, Admiral Makarov & Queen Mary in Kronstadt

HMS Queen Mary

The Queen Mary differed in some details: She was slightly faster, bigger and heavier. Her late completion (August 1913) was caused by strikes and social troubles in the yard. Nonetheless, she passed her tests successfully, and joined Beatty’s first squadron for the duration of the war. She took part in the Heligoland bay action, but not the Dogger as being in overhaul at that time. At Jutland she fired about 150 rounds to the Seydlitz, and was attacked by the Derrflinger. The latter responded with a shot in here third turret. Another shell fell, following the same path the same turret, making the jump even though a second made its transition to the ammunition bunkers turrets before. The result was a terrifying explosion that vaporized the entire front, including the footbridge. The ship sank slowly forward while burning inside, with new explosions before sinking with almost all hands 38 minutes after the start of the battle.

HMS Princess Royal


Lion class BCs on wikipedia
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.

Lion class specifications

Dimensions 213,4 x 27 x 8,4 mm
Displacement 26,270 t, 29,690 t FL
Crew 997
Propulsion 4 screws, 4 Parsons turbines, 42 Yarrow boilers, 70,000 hp
Speed 27 knots ()
Armament 8 x 343 (4×2), 16 x 102, 4 x 37, 2 TT 533 mm (side SM)
Armor Belt 230, Battery 230, Barbettes 230, turrets 250, blockhaus 250, decks 65 mm.



HMS Lion hit at Jutland
HMS Lion hit at Jutland

Queen Mary
Battlecruiser Queen Mary, 1916.