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Contents Acknowledgements






Royal Sovereign Class Hood




Centurion and Barfleur Renown



109 124


Majestic Class



Canopus Class



Formidable Class



Bulwark Class



Duncan Class



Queen Class



King Edward VII Class

1901/2/3 ESTIMATES


Swiftsure and Triumph



Lord Nelson Class



Appearance Changes


Battleship Forts and Battleship Exterminators










BENBOW: PARTICULARS, AS COMPLETED Construction Thames Ironworks, Blackwall; laid down 1 Nov 1882; launched 15 June 1885; transferred to Chatham Aug 1886 to await main armament; completed 1888. Displacement (tons) 10,040 (load), 10,750 (deep).

Left: Collingwood. A splendid view taken during the Diamond Jubilee Fleet Review for Queen Victoria, 12 June 1897. She continued to take part in annual manoeuvres and acted as Guardship until 1904 when she was laid up and finally sold in 1909.

Dimensions Length: 330ft pp Beam: 68ft Draught: 26ft 3in forward, 27ft 3in aft. Armament Two 16.25in 30cal 111-ton Mk I; 92rpg Ten 6in Mk IV Eight 6pdr Ten Nordenfelt QF guns Six Gardiner MG Five 14in torpedo tubes above water (four beam, one bow). Armour Belt: 18in–8in, 150ft long Bulkheads: 17in–16in Barbettes: 14in–12in Ammunition tubes: 12in Decks: 3in main, 21⁄2in lower Battery: 6in Conning tower: 12in–9in Total weight of armour 3,999 tons. Machinery Two sets 3-cylinder inverted compound engines, two propellers Cylinder diameter: as other ships of the ‘Admiral’ group. Stroke: 3ft 6in Boilers: twelve cylindrical single-ended return tube, working pressure 90psi IHP: 7,500 normal, 11,000 forced (17.5 knots with 10,860shp on trials) Fuel: 900 tons coal normal, 1,200 tons max. Radius of action: 6,300nm at 10 knots. Searchlights Four 24in. Complement 523–538. Cost £764,022.

Left: Howe taking it green, c.1897–8. In a seaway, because of the low freeboard, they would rise and dip in a smother of green seas and foam presenting a magnificent spectacle.They all shipped hundreds of tons of water through the gun barbettes when seas broke over them.



Above: Anson at Portsmouth, c.1890–1.

The 1882–3 programme allowed for an extra vessel, but because of a shortage of building slips within the Royal dockyards, the vessel was allocated to a private yard (Thames Ironworks). Originally she was to have belonged to the Camperdown group, but owing to the anticipated delay in deliverance of the new 13.5in guns selected for these ships, and which was unacceptable in a contract-built ship, the design was modified to carry the Armstrong 16.25in gun which at that time was just becoming available. Great consideration was given to this move, but the only other proven heavy gun generally available was the 12in as fitted in Collingwood. In foreign constructions, it was noted that the Italian Navy were mounting 16.5in (75-ton) guns in the Andrea Doria class, and the French Formidable had been given 14.5in (75-ton).The 12in was considered by their Lordships to be inadequate and the 16.25in was chosen, although it was realized that its great weight made it impracticable to carry more than two guns. Named Benbow, she was the first of only three ships ever to mount the 16.25in gun. In most respects, the class as a whole were generally successful except for the low freeboard.The design does show that the Admiralty was seeking greatly to improve qualities of British battleships, and to bring some sort of homogeneity to the battlefleet, As a result of interim changes in the Board of Admiralty, the principles of attack and defence on which the design of the ‘Admiral’ class had been based were no longer favoured when the design for the two battleships of the 1885–6 programme came up for discussion, and there was a demand for a reversion to turrets with full height of armoured side below these and complete waterline protection in place of the open barbettes,

‘ADMIRAL’ CLASS: PARTICULARS, AS COMPLETED Construction Anson: Howe: Camperdown: Rodney:

Dockyard Pembroke DY Pembroke DY Portsmouth DY Chatham DY

Laid Down 24 April 1883 7 June 1882 18 Dec 1882 6 Feb 1882

Launched 17 Feb 1886 28 April 1885 24 Nov 1885 24 Nov 1885

Displacement (tons) 10,007 (as designed), 10,619 (load), 10,919 (deep) (Camperdown). Dimensions Length: 330ft pp Beam: 68ft 6in Draught: 28ft 61⁄2in (deep).

Completed Transferred to Portsmouth DY for completion of armament March 1887 Transferred to Portsmouth DY for completion of armament 15 Nov 1885 Completed trials 14 March 1887 Completed trials 14 March 1887. Armament Four 13.5in 67-ton Mk I (Rodney three 67-ton, one 69-ton experimental) Six 6in 26cal Mk IV Twelve 6pdr Two 3pdr Seven–ten Nordenfelt QF guns Five 14in torpedo tubes (Rodney not fitted with bow tube).






Above: A superb port quarter view of Renown as she approaches Portsmouth dockyard after her second Royal Spring Cruise on 8 May 1906 (the Prince and Princess of Wales’s Indian Tour). After this journey she practically disappeared from the effective list, her active service career having been shorter than that of any other British battleship (not actually sunk) with the exception of Lord Clyde (1866). Right: Renown all grey and in service as Stokers’Training Ship at Portsmouth dockyard in 1909.



Majestic Class


Design In 1891 the Controller (Vice-Admiral J. A. Fisher) had asked the DNC (White) to prepare a sketch design for a 1st class battleship based on Royal Sovereign, but which would naturally incorporate the new 12in guns then under construction and make full use of the latest Harvey armour developments. On 27 January 1892 the DNC supplied the Board with provisional figures showing a displacement of 12,500 tons (excluding BM), four 12in guns, and a 9in uniform main armoured belt. Approval was given to prepare suitable specifications for such a ship, but the DNC was asked to postpone progress a little because the new 12in gun was taking longer than expected to complete. Initially, three ships were laid down under the 1892 programme. The first two were of the new design (1st class), to be named the Majestic class, and these were finally allowed to proceed, under the normal 1893 programme, when the final layout had been approved. The third ship, however, was redesigned to smaller dimensions in an endeavour to provide an economical but strong ship for eastern waters (see Renown). In August 1893, however, following considerable public agitation over the declining strength of the Royal Navy compared to the fleets of France and Russia, further building was called for which resulted in an emergency five-year programme. Initiated by

the First Lord (Earl Spencer), it became known as the Spencer Programme. The original amendment called for an additional seven vessels all of which were grudgingly accepted by Parliament and finally approved in 1894. Although general public satisfaction was guaranteed, the huge building programme caused much discontent in Government; Left: Mars. On completion the mighty Majestics were the largest and probably the most efficient battleships extant, generally admired, and greatly copied abroad.The frame work of Mars takes shape, 28 June 1894.

MAJESTIC CLASS: FINAL LEGEND Displacement: 14,820 tons (load) Freeboard: 25ft forward, 17ft 3in amidships, 18ft 6in aft Armament Four 12in; 80rpg Ten 6in Armour Main belt: 9in; 5ft 6in below waterline, 9ft 6in above waterline IHP: 9,000 Fuel: 900 tons coal Complement: 760. Left: Prince George. Launched by the Duchess of York (later Queen Mary) on 22 August 1896, Prince George takes the water.



CAESAR: ESTIMATED COSTS 1896 Hull fittings and equipment: Machinery: Incidental charges: Gun mountings and TT, etc: Total:

£631,537 85,783 78,004 77,150 £872,474

the attendant disadvantages of low command. 2. Reduced stability associated with longitudinal bulkheads without adequate counter-flooding arrangements (150 watertight compartments). The original design leaned heavily, of course, on that of the Royal Sovereign, but the original displacement asked for (12,500 tons) was exceeded by a large increase (15,500 tons).White had wanted the entire 6in secondary battery to be mounted on the upper deck, and this arrangement is shown in a sketch design dated 3 January 1893 and bearing his signature.This sketch also shows one large top, low on each mast, with a small upper top as in Royal Sovereign, but this was later modified to provide two tops each capable of carrying a 6pdr gun. The design load displacement was only approximately 750 tons more than in the Royal Sovereign class, while the length increased by 10ft (pp) and the freeboard by 5ft 10in forward and 6in aft (although reduced amidships by 9in), but the beam and nominal draughts were retained. The all-round freeboard of the new vessels was never equalled in a pre-dreadnought of any succeeding class. The marked tumble-home was rather greater than in the previous class, with a marked sheer forward; this was criticized because it detracted from buoyancy on an already low metacentric height, but it was consid-

ered that the loss of initial stability through action damage was less likely owing to the deep armoured belt.

Armament The Majestic class marked a reversion to the 12in calibre gun, which had not been fitted in a British battleship since that mounted in Collingwood in 1880.The new gun was the first large wire-wound gun in service with the Royal Navy and was such an advance on earlier designs that older guns could not hope to match its qualities. The gun was designed by Vickers specifically for the Majestic class and on trials proved its ballistic superiority to the 13.5in gun of Royal Sovereign. It was also of superior strength, so much so that both Vickers and Armstrongs (also gun makers) thought that the Admiralty were over worried regarding this feature of the gun, and that it was ‘over designed’. There were also considerable improvements to the twin mountings for the 12in gun compared to those of the 13.5in, these being summarized below: 1. The turntables were balanced at their centre of rotation, making it possible to employ lighter training engines and allowing the fitting of hand-training gear. 2. The mountings were evenly balanced even with guns run out, allowing for lighter elevating gear and again, the use of alternative hand gear. 3. At the fixed loading positions the rammer was alongside instead of through the hoists, so the cages could be removed while the rammers were in motion (the main advantage here was that much time was gained in the loading cycle). 4. The loading trays worked with the rammers and the entry of the guides of their supply bogies locked the turntables, doing away with the need for separate outside locking bolts.

Below: Illustrious. Fitting out at Chatham Dockyard, early 1898. Note the canvas covers over tops, a common sight during the 1890s.


Magnificent at Portsmouth Dockyard, 1896–7.View over quarterdeck. Note the large barbette plates, sighting hoods and turret top. Prince George in background.


and correct procedure was observed at all times, but it was recorded that magazine doors had been left open. Since the outbreak of war, quantities of 6in cordite charges were kept in casemates, and those in the upper deck casemates, were occasionally sent up to the ammunition passages except when circumstances render it inadvisable (coaling or when recorded temperatures were too high). At the forward and after ends of the ammunition passages in Bulwark (and others of the group) were hooks for twenty charges of 6in cordite, and along the passages were hooks for twenty lyddite fused shells, and 24 common. There were also three 6in armour-piercing shells and 47 rounds for the 12-pounder guns available. It was recorded that on the day of the disaster, as on any day during the early months of the war, there would have been 275 6in shells plus 178 12-pounder shells actually touching one another while stacked along these passages. The unanimous conclusion was that some of the charges had been placed too close


LONDON Outboard profile, after conversion to minelayer, 1918 Note reduced bridgework, removal of 12in guns and after 12in turret, canvas screen over whole length of quarterdeck to hide minelaying equipment, and removal of nets.

to one of the boiler room bulkheads, which at that time would have been increasing in temperature as the ship got up steam for the day. One or more of the charges ignited and set off 6in shells in the area (causing smoke seen by other ships at the time) which reached the main 12in magazines in the stern of the ship causing a tremendous explosion and resulting in the complete loss of the vessel.When records were checked it was noted that some of the cordite charges in Bulwark were more than thirteen years old, but no significance was attached to this; Bulwark was not the only ship to have old cordite on board.The Court of Inquiry finally blamed the dead officers for not checking that all safety measures had been carried out (such as charges left against bulkheads). On 27 November 1914, the day after her loss, three photographs appeared in the Daily Mirror showing explosions at different heights; it was stated that this was ‘Bulwark blowing up’. The headlines caused quite a stir, and a stream of correspondence poured into the Admiralty saying that this could not be possible, and how did the newspaper get such photographs in wartime.The stories (and the photographs) were soon discredited and the Mirror

Right: Venerable showing unofficial dark-red funnel bands, c.1910. Note rangefinder in lower top. Left: Bulwark blows up, 26 November 1914 (see report).

Left: London as minelayer, May 1918. Note the many modifications: main armament removed; after turret out; secondary guns reduced; after charthouse removed; no nets; screen on quarterdeck to hide minelaying equipment and rails, etc. Also the Norman Wilkinson dazzle camouflage scheme which is often quoted as being black, grey and white, but in fact sports a shade of green as well.




HIBERNIA Outboard profile, as fitted for aircraft take-off experiments, 1912 Note runway over forecastle and aircraft handling derrick to foremast




History: King Edward VII Laid down at Devonport 8 March 1902 and launched by HM King Edward VII 23 July 1903. In giving consent for the ship to bear his name, King Edward is reported to have stipulated that she should always serve as Flagship. This was carried out, although at the date of her loss, when en route from Rosyth to Devonport for refit, the flag had been temporarily transferred. 7 Feb 1905 Commissioned at Devonport as Flagship CinC, Atlantic Fleet, until Mar 1907. 1906–7 Refit. 4 Mar 1907 Paid off at Portsmouth and recommissioned on 5th for service as Flagship of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford, CinC, Channel Fleet, until Mar 1909. 1907–8 Refit at Portsmouth. Channel Fleet became 2nd Division, Home Fleet on reorganization in Mar 1909, and King Edward VII was commissioned at Portsmouth 27 Mar as Flagship (VA), Home Fleet, Mar 1909–Aug 1914. Dec 1909–Feb 1910 Refit at Portsmouth. 1 Aug 1911 Commissioned at Portsmouth as Flagship (VA), 3rd and 4th Divisions, Home Fleet. 14 May 1912 Completed to full crew at Sheerness as Flagship (VA), 3rd BS, First Fleet. Nov 1912 3rd BS detached to Mediterranean because of troubles in the Balkans. Took part in blockade of Montenegro by International Force, and subsequent occupation of Scutari. 27 June 1913 Rejoined Home Fleet. Aug–Nov 1914 Grand Fleet (Flagship, 3rd BS). Squadron employed with Grand Fleet cruisers on Northern Patrol area, augmented by five Duncans for this purpose. 2 Nov 1914 Detached to reinforce Channel Fleet (Flagship, 3rd BS), until end of month. Returned to Grand Fleet on last day of November 1914.With Grand Fleet until Jan 1916. 6 Jan 1916 Mined and sunk off Cape Wrath in field laid by German raider Moewe. Explosion occurred under starboard engine room, and ship immediately listed slightly to starboard. Attempts to tow her by the collier Princess Melita and the leader Kempenfelt in a strong wind and rising sea proved unsuccessful, the ship becoming very low in the water and quite unmanageLeft and right: Hibernia seen at Weymouth January 1912 after receiving the flying-off equipment. There are many photographs for the Hibernia tests but very few for those of Africa. Note the large derrick for retrieving the aircraft from the water.

British Battleships 1889-1904  

This volume brings to completion the reissue of R A Burt’s magnificent bestselling three-volume history of British battleships, and it cover...