Chilean cruiser Chacabuco (1898)

Chacabuco (1898)

Armada de Chile – 1897-1902

The longest-living cruiser of South America

Chacabuco was a 1890s British-designed protected cruiser by Philip Watts at Elswick in 1897, and a sister shp to the Japanese Takasago. She was modernized during WW2 and had a fairly long career until 1952. In fact she was still around in 1959, pending her fate.

Context: The Argentine-Chilean naval arms race

The Argentine–Chilean naval arms race, was initiated by the Chileans in 1887, acquiring the battleship Capitán Prat, and the protected cruisers Presidente Errázuriz and Presidente Pinto. In the return Argentina ordered the Libertad and Independencia, and later the Veinticinco de Mayo and Nueve de Julio.

Chile naturally could not rest idle, and 1892 ordered in UK one of the most formidable cruiser at the time, Blanco Encalada. In 1895, not to be undone, Argentina ordered ARA Buenos Aires, to what the Chilean answered with another, even more massive cruiser, the Esmeralda, and later Ministro Zenteno.

Next Argentina went with four armored cruisers built in Italy, Garibaldi class. To what Chile replicated in 1896 with O’Higgins and in 1901, with two further orders confirmed, Chile, ordered two battleships, which turned out to be the second-class Swiftsure class Constitución and Libertad.

In the same move, they also ordered the protected cruiser Chacabuco. Eventually as Argentina was also to order two battleships, Great Britain came to the rescue and force a treaty between those nations. The strain on Chile has been enormous in particular, as its started o commit, like a gambler, its gold reserve to pay for new acquisitions. Eventually due to the tight links between UK and Chile, which was highly dependent for some deliveries, did not want to risk the country’s future economy and this resulted also in the cancellation of the two pre-dreadnoughts, which were taken over by the RN to combat the Russians in the far east. The treaty whi peut and end to the rivalry was signed on 28 May 1902

Her sister ship IJN Takasago at Portsmouth

At the end of this however, Chacabuco was completed as a sister-ship of the IJN Takasago, an export class cruiser of Sir Philip Whatt’s Elswick cruiser of 1896. Same design, with a balanced armament with two main 8-in guns and a serie of 4.7 in secondaries.

She was launched on 4 July 1898 and was far too close to completion for cancellation at the signing of the agreement between Chile and Argentina, so she was completed and acquired in 1902, just before the treaty was applied.

Chacabuco on 15 October 1902


Chacabuco was named originally, and provisionally Fourth of July, was actually a battle in Feb. 12, 1817, securing José de San Martín’s south patriots a decisive success against Spanish Royalists north of Santiago, Chile. It mostly secured the Independence of Chile, also after a campaign by José Miguel and Juan José Carrera on the one hand, and Bernardo O’Higgins on the other. The latter became rightfully so an important warship name as well in the Chilean Navy.

Design of the Chacabuco

Her sister ship Takasago on Brasseys

Hull & main characteristics

Classic Watt’s design at Armstrong Whitworth with a forecastle and poop, main guns on these decks, and secondary guns at battery deck below, some on sponsons and under well design protective masks, just as the main guns. Forward bridge above the conning tower, military mast fore and aft with fighting tops and spotting platforms, two funnels heavenly spaced and small platform aft for redunncy plus quarterhouse. Both masts had limited rig for optional sails, never mounted. Projectors were also mounted either side of the main bridge platform wings.

She carried small boats along the amidship flying bridge, along the funnels and eight air grates, vents and ducts. There was a single steam pinnace, a picket boat, two dingheys, two yawls. It could have been possible to have the 3-pounder guns dismounted and carried on board to cover landing parties, but no wheeled mount was provided for them. The anchors were three, fitted on sloped plates forward of the forecastle deck, one port and two starboard.

Chacabuco entered service with the typical Victorian livery of 1898, black hull, upper deck white and superstructures in “sand canvas” (masts, funnels, bridges). The main guns shields were whote, as the gun shields. She had a golden-looking armories at the prow like most war vessels of the time. This was changed in overall white, and supestructure partly in dark grey in 1907-1908. Probably at the time of WW2, she had an overall medium grey livery, and still was painted that way after refit in WW2 and until the end of her career.

Armor protection of the Chacabuco

It matched the caliber of her main guns, and concrned the belt, the armored deck, and some details of her battery decks and gun shields:

  • Main waterline belt: 4.5-in (114 mm) sloped
  • Armored deck: 1.75-4.5-in (44-114 mm)
  • Conning Tower: 3-in (76mm)
  • Gun shields: 4.5 in (114 mm)


Elswick 8-in guns and pivot, showing its elevation

2x 8-in/45 Elswick

The EOC 8 inch 45 caliber designed in 1894 and operational in 1895. These were Pattern S guns on a single pedestal mount and enveloping shield. It fired a separate loading bagged charge and 116 kg (256 lb) projectile at a rate of fire of 2 rpm and muzzle velocity of 790 m/s (2,600 ft/s) and max firing range of 18 km (11 mi) at 30°.

10x 4.7-in/40 Elswick

Designed from 1885, this ordance uses a separate loading QF AP or HE 45 pounds (20.41 kg) shell to a – 20° elevation, 5–6 rounds per minute at 1,786 feet per second (544 m/s), max range 10,000 yards (9,100 m) at 20°. All shielded, they were located along the battery deck (five, including two in niches and recesses in the forecastle).

12x 12-pdr vickers

The 1893 QF 12-pounder 12 cwt naval gun uses a single-motion screw breech, for 15 rpm at 2,210 ft/s (670 m/s) and 11,750 yd (10,740 m) range at 40° elevation. There four four along the battery deck either side (8 in all), alternating the 4.7 in guns with simple flat shields and taller mounts. The last four were installed under the bridge’s wings fore and aft and in hull’s recesses fore and aft.

6x 3-pdr Hotchkiss

1885 standard QF gun firing a fixed QF 47 × 376 mm R 3 kg (6.6 lb) shell with charge, 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) alone 47 mm (1.9 in) projectile at 30 rpm, 571 m/s (1,870 ft/s) and max 5.9 km (3.7 mi) at +20°.

8x 0.303 Maxim LMG

Singe mounts, difficult to locate and only stated by a few sources. Not Conways for example.

3x 18-in TTs

Standard Whitehead model, above waterline, presumably two broadside, one at the bow which is visible on photos. One reload for each.

Later in 1941 six 6-in/40 guns were installed. If prewar vintage, they had the following specs: 6.6 tons with a barrel length of 240 inches (6.096 m), firing a 100 pounds (45 kg) QF, separate cartridge and shell at 5-7 rounds per minute and 2,154 feet per second (657 m/s). It could elevate to 20° and its max range is 10,000 yards (9,140 m).


It was rather standard with power two shafts driven by two vertical triple-expansion steam engines fed by the steam coming from six cylindrical boilers, rated for a total of 15,700 ihp (11,700 kW) and a designed speed of 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph).

Specifications of Chacabuco (1898)

Dimensions 109.7 m oa x 14.2 m x 5.2 m (360 x 46 x 17 ft)
Displacement 4,160 long tons (4,230 ST) FL
Crew 400
Propulsion Two shaft VTE, 6 cyl. boilers, 15.700 ihp
Speed 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph)
Range Unknown
Armament 2x 8-in/40 (8-in), 10x 4.7 in/40, 12x 3-in, 6x 3 Pdr, 3 TTs.
Armor Armored deck 1.75-4.5 in, gun shields 4.5 in, CT 3 in

A (very) long service history

Chacabuco in 1898, just completed.

In the middle of 1902 it sailed from Portmouth under the command of the ship’s captain Pedro Nolasco Martínez. It was part of a flotilla also made up of destroyers O’Brien, Thomson and Merino Jarpa. During her journey to Chile, she stopped in Cherbourg and participated in the national holidays of France (14 of July 1902).

Chacabuco arrived in Valparaíso by October 1902 in Chile, and started routine patrols, later interrupted by hydrographic duties in Chilean waters. In 1903, on a courtesy trip, she visited Buenos Aires, Montevideo and Bahía Blanca. She was fitted to carry out hydrographic surveys in the area between Antofagasta and Coquimbo.

After the 1906 Valparaíso earthquake she came there to assist the overwhelmes security services, helping maintaining order, preventing damage on property and pillage; She used her artillery to destroy some buildings, her crew helping to remove debris and controlling acts of looting.

She also took a role of assistance in the Santa María School massacre in 1907. From 1907 to 1911 he was part of the National Squad. She was present in 1911 in the British Royal Navy fleet review, held in honor of the coronation of King George V.

In 1914-18 Chile remained neutral, and she kept a watchful eye on south Atlantic possible German attack on neutral or Chilean trade fleet. The British escorted the vessels well in order to keep importing what Chile had to offer. When the battle of Coronel happened, Chacabuco was far away.

Chacabuco 1902

In 1917, she sailed to support the transport SS Casma which ran aground in the Picton channel. She carried out later an hydrographic mission, a survey of the Picton Pass, updating maps.

Also in 1917, Great Britain ceded to Chile in compensation for the seizure of the battleship Valparaíso, six Holland-class submarines built in the United States. Chacabuco moved to New London in Connecticut to escort them to Chile.

While she cruised back home, she troured several cities, stopping in Charleston, Havana, Kingston, Arica before reaching Valparaíso. On board, she also brought three million dollars in gold bullion, as payment for the sale of saltpeter to the United States.

Cacabuco in 1900

Chacabuco made another relief effort, this time during the November 10, 1922 Vallenar earthquake, between Atacama and Coquimbo.

As part of the National Squad until the end of 1928, passing in Talcahuano to the reserve until 1941.

Due to her age, she was placed in reserve in 1928. The admiralty wanted to use her as training ship, possibly with a conversion in order to be rearmed with modern ordnance, and partial reconstruction and accomodations. Discussion went nowhere as the economical situation of Chile prevented new acquisitions.

Chacabuco in Punta Arenas, circa 1920

Chacabuco’s second life: 1942-50

In 1941, amazingly, Chacabuco was still held in reserve, in a degraded state. As a vessel of the 1890s she was completely obsolete. This time again Chile maintained its neutrality, but feared that encounters with German U-Boats would led to a declaration of war. As the only cruiser available, Chacabuco was brought out of reserve and the admiralty conducted a survey for a possible reconstruction.

By then there were no other cruisers available in the Chilean Navy and was too precious to be converted as a training ship. Instead, she was fully modernized to the latest standards. Her hull was modified, her armament was changed to six more modern 6 inch/50 guns and a revised AA with Hotchkiss 57 mm guns.

Profile of Chacabuco as modernized in WW2.

In 1941, her modernization was carried out, consisting of changing its main armament for 6 6”/50 cannons and the installation of extra anti-aircraft machine guns. Deflectors were installed in the funnels and she was provided with anti-submarine equipment and paravanes to search for mines. The command bridge was enlarged, and her habitability was improved in order to be used as a training ship, with new accomodations.

At this time, her armament comprised still her two 203mm/45 main guns, under better shields, ten 120mm/40 and twelve 76mm/40 AA plus six 47mm/40 guns and three 450mm TT. But six 152mm/50 EOC tirpedo tubes were added, as well as four single 57mm/40 Hotchkiss AA guns. In 1945, this was altered to four 57mm/40 and ten 20mm/70 Mk 4 Oerlikon AA guns.

Chacabuco at anchor in Valparaíso, after her modernization concluded in 1942. This involved the modernization of the bridge, renovation of boilers, new funnels, removal of the mizzen mast and main 8 inches guns, as well as four secondary pieces 4.7 inches. Of the latter, six were left. Later in 1945, ten 20mm anti-aircraft pieces were installed. Original photograph of the time. Source: Martin Skalweit Herter Collection src.

In 1942, she joined the Squadron and carried out drilling work between Caldera and Valparaíso, rectified some notable points in Coquimbo and carried out the survey of the port of Punta Arenas.

In 1943 she quelled the Papudo uprising. In 1944 she was based in Matanzas cove. In 1945, she carried out the survey of the Herradura de Guayacán cove and Punta Tortuga. In January 1946, her crew was sent to control a coal miners’ strikes. During all these years and until 1947, in addition to the aforementioned hydrographic works, she was part of the National Squadron, as flagship on various occasions.

Chacabuco became flagship alternating with battleship Almirante Latorre, and after the war, was modified to assume the peacetime role of midshipmen school cruiser, with new accomodations, a role that she held only from from 1949 to 1950, making for a 50 years career.

In December 1950, after carrying out three training cruises within the national coastline she called the Talcahuano port, where she was definitively placed out of commission.

Chacabuco was put in reserve again for almost ten years, only stricken from the lists on 15 December 1959. She was by then sold to the Compañía de Acero del Pacífico (Pacific Steel Company) for scrapping.

Read More/Src

Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1906-21 and 1922-47. – from
Garrett, James L. “The Beagle Channel Dispute: Confrontation and Negotiation in the Southern Cone”.
Sater, William F. “The Abortive Kronstadt: The Chilean Naval Mutiny of 1931”.
Scheina, Robert L. Latin America: A Naval History 1810–1987.6.
Somervell, Philip. “Naval Affairs in Chilean Politics, 1910–1932”.
Worth, Richard. Fleets of World War II. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2001.
Museo Naval y Marítimo – Valparaíso, Armada Chile. ed. Cruceros de instrucción 1936-1954

Chacabuco 1898 wikipedia es archive
Book: Historia de la Marina de Chile, Carlos López Urrutia

Esmeralda (1896)


Armada de Chile – 1894-96

The largest Chilean cruiser of WW1: Esmeralda – The previous Cruiser Esmeralda, a 1884 British-built ship was soled to Japan on 5 february 1895 to Japan, and became the Izumi, participating to the Battle of Tushima. Before that, in 1891, the Chilean admiralty was embroiled into a vivid naval rivalry with Argentina, the first, eventually closed after difficult negociations in London. There was second one, the “battleship race” initiated by the Brazilians in 1907.

Esmeralda in 1896
Esmeralda in 1896

Context: The Argentine-Chilean naval arms race

The first rivalry called the Argentine–Chilean naval arms race, started by the Chileans which purchased in 1887 three important vessels, the battleship Capitán Prat, and the Presidente Errázuriz and Presidente Pinto, protected cruisers made in France and UK respectively. The Argentinians ordered two armored ships, the Libertad and Independencia and the next years the armored cruiser Veinticinco de Mayo and Nueve de Julio. Chile replicated in 1892 with the Blanco Encalada, another protected cruiser, and in 1895, the Argentines ordered the Buenos Aires, followed by the Chileans with the cruisers Esmeralda and Ministro Zenteno, Argentina with the Garibaldi (From the prolific Italian class of the same name), Chile in 1896 came with the O’Higgins and the Argentines bought two more of the Garibaldi class, San martin and Pueyrredón, and hammered the point by also ordering again two more ships of the same type, the Rivadavia and Moreno. In 1901, Chile, not to be undone, ordered two battleships, second-class Swiftsure class pre-dreadnoughts, named Constitución and Libertad, and the protected cruiser Chacabuco. Argentina was to order two even more massive battleship to Ansaldo when negociations in Great Britain put this madness to an end. Indeed Chile was using an increasing part of its gold reserve to pay for them, risking the country’s future economy for what was considered, even inside the country as a naval folly.

Large model of the Esmeralda, kept in Swiss archives.

Increased tensions, near state of war and near-bankrupcy of both rivals pushed the UK, by then, THE respected superpower on the international stage, to start a negotiations process with Argentina and Chile, and argued for a resolution. This was largely due to their strong economic interests in the region, massive exports of raw materials (including Chilean nitrates for explosives and Argentine grain) and also its own trade goods to both countries, likely to be severely disrupted. Talks were at first held in Santiago de Chile, between the British ambassador and Argentine ambassador and local foreign minister and President, Germán Riesco.

Three Pacts were agreed, signed on 28 May 1902, ending the dispute. Naval armaments were limited, and both countries were forbidden of any new acquisitions for five years, unless giving an eighteen months advance notice. Those under construction were resold to the builder, UK. Chile’s battleships became the Swiftsure class, Japan obtained a cruiser, and the last two Garibaldi class armored cruisers were also resold to Japan (Kasuga class). The two planned Argentine Battleships were never ordered, Garibaldi, Pueyrredón and Capitán Prat were partially disarmed.


The Esmeralda could originate to pay homage to the Line Regiment 7 “Esmeralda” which in 1820 participated in the Pacific War, or to Vasco Da Gama’s Galleon during his second expeditions to the Indies in 1503. It was also given before 1894 to a 1753 and 1733 Spanish Frigates involved in the region, or the one captured by the Chileans in 1820 (likely) or the 1855 steam Corvette which participated in the second war of the Pacific. There was also a 1885 unprotected Cruiser of the same name. After the 1890s protected cruiser was discarded, the name was passed onto a 1946 frigate and the sailing schoolship of the Chilean Navy as of today. It is perhaps the most remembered ship name by the Chileans.

Genesis of the design

Both to replace the previous Esmeralda, sold to the IJN on 15 November 1894. The funds also helped purchasing a more modern ship. The Chilean Admiralty obtained a vote for the parliament to purchase another cruiser, despite the expensive Chilean Civil War (1891) and finally ordered her on 15 May 1895. Previously, they had seen the Argentinians purchase the ARA Buenos Aires on 27 November 1893, added to the earlier Veinticinco de Mayo and the more recent Nueve de Julio which entered service also in 1893. ARA Buenos Aires has been a Philip Watts design built on private funds by Armstrong-Elswick. Meanwhile the Blanco Encalada, purchased for £333.500, just entered service. She was closely based on the Japanese Yoshino cruiser design, with some alterations.

Blanco Encalada

For the Esmeralda, the Chilean looked at both the Argentine designs and their own Encalada, a 4,420 tons ship. The Buenos Aires, purchased on stocks was displacing more, 4,788 long tons, and armed about the same, with two main guns (8 in) and ten secondaries (6 in) for the Chilean cruiser, whereas the Argentinian choose to mix four 6-in and six 4.7 in (119 mm)/45 QF guns instead. They loose in broadside weight but gained much in terms of rate of fire. Therefore for the next design, the Chileans choose an even heavier 6-in battery, to just overwhelm their adversary in a single broadside, expecting to disable much of the secondary battery at the same time. A very ambitious ship, the Esmeralda was also the first fitted with torpedo tubes, and significantly heavier and better managed Harvey armor. She was also to be as fast as the Buenos Aires, one knot faster than the Encalada, although design figures were only reached by overheating the boilers. All this made the displacement rose to 7,032 long tons (7,145 t), nearly 3,000 tons more than the previous cruisers.

ARA Buenos Aires
ARA Buenos Aires.

After the Esmeralda was released, Argentina opted for an Italian design instead of British one, the 6800 tonnes Garibaldi-class, which sported 10 in guns instead of 8-in, had a larger battery of 6-in (10), and added to this six fast-firing 4.7 in guns to keep and edge on the rate of fire, plus a good overall armor, but at the expense of speed.

Design of the Esmeralda

Blueprint of the Esmeralda, part of a 1890s review of Elswick cruisers

Philip Watts, the lead designer of Vickers Armstrong gained over time the patina of late recoignition by authors and historians alike for his role in the worldwide advances in cruiser designs, as during his career he probably drawned more cruiser blueprints than anyone else in History. The main reason was the fantastic capabilities of the Vickers yards to deliver these classes of ships on the export market almost like sausages, and to both camps if necessary, like in the Chilean-Argentinian case. The foggy and controversial figure of Basil Zarahoff was not stranger to this either, also feeding on tension areas like later between Russia and Japan. Watts designed 19 cruisers for customers on a broad spectrum, from Romania to the United States, Italy, Portugal, Brazil and Japan (and many battleships including the HMS Dreadnought). He was replaced in 1912 by Eustace Tennyson d’Eyncourt and became an adviser for the admiralty.

Watts in 1895 when receiving Chilean specifications could not really take on an existing design as a basis. The contemporary Powerful class were giant cruisers designed for the sole purpose of beating the Russian Gromoboi and Russia, and the earlier Edgar class (1890) were very different ships although of a similar tonnage. Therefore he simply took the previous Blanco Encalada and scaled it up. It is particularly evident when seeing both blueprints and silhouettes. Both had two center spaced funnels, two short masts with military tops, and their main bridge was located behind the mainmast. They were also both flush-deck.

Nevertheless, the Esmeralda being much longer (20 meters), larger (2 meters) and with a higher draught, the flush-deck hull was also taller, which avoided the use of a turtleback forward deck and wave breaker in front of the forward main gun, for example.
Another difference, outside the armament, was the enclosed deck superstructure, allowing to built enclosed corner casemates, whereas the Encalada secondary guns were all in open air sponsons. Construction-wise, the ship was steel-hulled, wood and copper-sheated.

brasseys depiction esmeralda
Brassey’s depiction of the Esmeralda

Armor protection of the Esmeralda

Brassey’s drawing of the Esmeralda
Protection was rather standard but with haigher figures than the previous cruisers: The armoured belt was 152 mm thick (6″), extending 350 feet in the central section and connected to an armoured deck between 25,4 and 50,8 mm (1-2″). There was no specific protection for the machinery or ammo rooms. In addition there were 18 ASW built-in compartments. She was considered one of the most powerful cruisers in the world, incorporating the latest technological advances.

Armament of the Esmeralda

Stern view of the ship in the 1900s

The main armament comprised the classic 208 mm (8 “/40), four guns in all in thick shields fore and aft.
The secondary armament was impressive, all made of 152 mm ,6 “/ 40) guns, sixteen in all.
To deal with torpedo boats, eight 12-pounder cannons, nine 6-pound cannons, 2 3-pound cannons and 8 Maxim machine guns were installed.
In addition these ships had three torpedo tubesof 18 inches (457 mm) on the water line, one in the prow, two in the hull, submersible.

Powerplant of the Esmeralda

She was fitted by two propellers connected to four-cylinder, TE (triple expansion), and later two modern cylindricical model replaced them diring her 1910 refit, with two multitubular Niclausse models. Thanks to this increase in power, she could reach 23 knots.


After her service commission, she joined the main cruiser Squadron. Nothing is noted about her service years. On May 2, 1910, she sailed alongside the O’Higgins on a state cruise to Buenos Aires, to participate in the Naval review of the centenary of the Argentine Republic. Later on September 14, she participated in the Great Naval review celebration, on the occasion of the centenary of Chile. Both gestures underlined the good will between countries after the 1890s naval race, but this coincided with the “dreadnought race”.
In 1910, still, until the end of the year, Essmeradla was taken in hands in a dockyard for refitting. She was given new cylindrical boilers, multicubular models from Niclausse and the removal of four of her 152 mm (6-in) cannons from the main superstructure. She stayed active during WW1 and the early 1920s but was outdated by technological advances she was discharged and decommissioned in 1930, after which she was sold on auction for scrapping in 1933.

Specifications of Esmeralda (1897)

Dimensions 132.89 m/142.72 m oa x 15.98 m x 6.25 m
Displacement 7,032 long tons (7,145 t) FL
Crew 500
Propulsion Two shaft VTE, 6 cylindrical boilers, 16,000 ihp-18,000 ihp on forced draft
Speed 22,25 knots (42.13 km/h; 26.18 mph)
Range 8,000 km? 550 t normal/1350 t wartime coal reserve
Armament 2 x 208 mm/40 (8-in), 16 x 152 mm/40 (6-in), 8 x 12 Pdr, 9 x 6 Pdr, 2 x 3 Pdr, 8 Maxim MGs, 3 TTs.
Armor 6 in (152 mm) belt, armored deck 25,4-50,8 mm (1-2 in) thickness

Esmeralda 1896

Author’s illustration of Esmeralda in the early 1900s.

Read More/Src

Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1906-21 and 1922-47. – from
Garrett, James L. “The Beagle Channel Dispute: Confrontation and Negotiation in the Southern Cone”.
Sater, William F. “The Abortive Kronstadt: The Chilean Naval Mutiny of 1931”.
Scheina, Robert L. Latin America: A Naval History 1810–1987.6.
Somervell, Philip. “Naval Affairs in Chilean Politics, 1910–1932”.
Worth, Richard. Fleets of World War II. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2001. ISBN 0-306-81116-2. OCLC 48806166.
See on ISSUU (escuadra nacional, p.115)
More photos:,_1895)

Almirante Latorre class battleships

Almirante Latorre class battleships

Almirante Latorre, Almirante Cochrane (1916)

The Roots of local naval rivalry

Last of the “dreadnought race”: Chile’s Latorre class – Third naval power of South America, Chile at some point in 1890 possessed certainly the largest and most powerful navy of the continent, before the Argentines ordered four brand-new armoured cruisers in Italy (The Garibaldi class). The 1902 tripartite agreement (“Pactos de Mayo”), sanctioned by UK, ended the Chilean-Argentine naval arms race, ongoing since 1880. Soon after, Brazil in 1907 revealed to the world she has took the very bold step of ordering two dreadnoughts in UK.

Latorre Prow

After the Minas Geraes class was out, threatening the very existence of both the Argentine or Chilean navies, Argentina counter-attacked with the order in 1910 of two larger dreadnoughts in US shipyards, the Rivadavia class.

Relaunch of the naval race

The Chilean government took the measure of the threat as her only active “battleship” at this point was the French-built 1889 Capitán Prat, an ironclad from a by-gone era, demilitarized by treaty since 1902. The main concern was more the building of the Rivadavia class in relation to the Argentine–Chilean boundary dispute. This was a complicated situation as despite both nations ordered many ships in British yards, the British government had extensive commercial interests in the area.

illustration of the larorre circa 1926

In 1902, the other strong gesture was to purchase the two Chilean battleships in construction. Now with the Argentines stepping out of the treaty, Chile wanted to respond in February 1906 already. Naval plans however were delayed by a major earthquake in 1906 and a financial depression in 1907, which impacted also greatly the nitrate market, the Chilean economy was linked to.

Order and bidding process (1910-1912)

On 6 July 1910, the National Congress of Chile passed a bill, allocating £400,000 pounds sterling for six destroyers, two submarines, and two large battleships.
Their names were chosen in a naval commission and submitted later to approval, Almirante Latorre and Almirante Cochrane. The United Kingdom was certainly the most certainly sure to be chosen due to its unique bonds with the Chilean Navy. The long-standing close relationship existed since the 1830s. Chilean naval officers were trained on British ships and a local academy was literally created by the Royal Navy. The relation was much stronger than the Anglo-Japanese alliance. Of course this privileged relation has one underpinning reason: Nitrate, used notably for explosives the Royal Navy depended upon. This was translated in 1911 by a British naval mission requested by Chile.

The Iron Duke, the blueprint for the design of the Latorre, with some additions making her larger and better armed.

When the order was known, the United States actively advocated for their own shipyard order, sending Henry Prather Fletcher in Chile in September 1910. He had previously implemented President William Howard Taft’s “Dollar Diplomacy” in China but in Chile her met resistance, perhaps fuelled by the 1891 Baltimore Crisis, a sentiment confirmed The US naval attaché; The Chilean bidding process specifications were indeed mirroring the latest armament and armor of British battleships. However after pressuring the commission, Fletcher obtained an extension to the bidding process to allow US shipyards to participate;

Meanwhile, the Germans ably sent the battlecruiser Von der Tann on a South American cruise, “widely advertised as the fastest and most powerful warship afloat”. US and British shipyards, not to be undone, started to sent ships of their own. The USS Delaware on a ten-week excursion to Brazil and Chile with the pretext of carrying back the deceased Chilean minister Anibal Cruz, while the British sent an armored cruiser squadron. During her stay in Chile, USS Delaware was fully opened to Chileans personal except sensitive data about the new fire-control system, and Fletcher announced soon after the willingness to provide a $25 million loan to support the purchase. But this came to nil.

launching of latorre

The final decision eliminated Germany, and eventually securing a loan from the Rothchilds, awarded one order to Armstrong Whitworth on 25 July 1911. The design was prepared by J.R. Perret, the same pen that draw the Rio de Janeiro. The US arenals still pushed to place a contract for the main guns, their 14-inch/50 caliber guns, but the Chilean Navy only ordered them for coastal batteries. A second dreadnought was ordered in June 1912, assorted by Six Almirante Lynch-class destroyers to J. Samuel White. The official order was published on 2 November 1911.

Development & construction of the Latorre class

The design was modified to mount sixteen 6-in (152 mm) rather than initial twenty-two 4.7-in (120 mm) guns planned, making the displacement jumped by 600 long tons (610 t), to 28,000 long tons (28,449 t). Draft was augmented to 33 feet (10 m), and the top speed fell from a quarter-knot, to 22.75 knots. The general drawing resembled the contemporary Orion and Iron Duke classes, with five twin axial turrets, a battery of ten heavy caliber guns. This was less than the twelve of the Minas Geraes and Rivadavia, but woth a larger caliber, they can outrange them and bringing each time (and slightly faster) a heavier broadside. Moreover, their rangefinders and fire control systems were certainly more modern and provided a much greater accuracy.

latorre battleship of chile

The Latore was laid down less on 27 November, 1911, ans so far her specs made her the largest ship that Armstrong had ever built, and the largest battleship at this point. The second, ordered on 29 July 1912, was laid down on 22 January 1913 only, as she has been delayed by Rio de Janeiro occupying her slipway.
Almirante Latorre was launched on 27 November 1913 in an grand ceremony attended by many dignitaries and Chile’s ambassador, Agustín Edwards Mac Clure, christened by his wife, Olga Budge de Edwards. At this point, the massive hill weighed 10,700 long tons alone. The ship was conducted to a working pier for completion.

The First World War broke out and all work on Almirante Latorre (named after Juan José Latorre) was halted. She was formally purchased on 9 September by Government for the Royal Navy, not forcibly seized to avoid backlash, because of Chile’s own particular “friendly neutral” status. She was eventually completed as work resumed on 30 September 1915, slightly modified for British service.

She was commissioned on 15 October as HMS Canada. Meanwhile, Cochrane’s construction was also halted for the duration of the war. She was purchased eventually on 28 February 1918, but only to be converted to an aircraft carrier, but labour shortages, workers quarrels with the direction and lower priority slowed her completion. She made a long career later as HMS Eagle.

Design of the Latorre class

General Characteristics

The Almirante Latorre class was basically a slightly redesign of the Iron Duke class, with a longer hull at 661 feet (201 m) overall, so 39 feet (12 m) longer. Her designed featured also less forecastle and more quarterdeck. She had larger funnels for a better draft and an aft mast. Above all, total displacement was a good indicator of her scale with 28,100 long tons (28,600 t) standard and up 31,610 long tons (32,120 t) full loaded whereas it was 25,000 tons/29,500 FL the the Iron Dukes. Latorre’s beam was 92 feet (28 m) versus 90 ft (27.4 m) but was “shallower” with a mean draft of 29 feet (8.8 m) versus 32 ft 9 in (9.98 m), which was always a good thing but for stability.

Armament of the Latorre class

The class main battery was composed of ten 14-inch/45 cal. guns mounted in five axial dual turrets as for Iron Duke class. The same twin turrets superfiring fore and aft was kept, but the extra fifth single turret in the middle was separated by the aft superfiring pair by the rear superstructure and a mast. The superstructures design allow to fire in chase and retreat up to a certain angle, with a margin of security to avoid blast damage.
Latorre forward 14 in guns

The Elswick Ordnance guns fired a 1,586-pound (719 kg) shell at 1507 ft/s (764 m/s). Their useful range at max elevation (−5° – +20°) was 24,400 yards (22,300 m). Fourteen has been manufactured for the Latorre, four kept as spares to replace worn-out barrels in mid-life, Kept by the arsenal to be sold later, but they were ultimately scrapped in 1922 unlike those for Almirante Cochrane. There would be reused after a while as the ship was converted. These guns were therefore a rarity, the only 14-inch 45-calibre naval gun manufactured by the company. A few others were also produced for Japan but requisitioned in 1914 and later used as railway guns at the front. The exact calibre was 355.6 mm, and muzzle velocity ranged from 2,450 ft/s (747 m/s) (1,586 lb shell) or
2,600 ft/s (792 m/s) (1,400 lb shell) depending of the projectile. Iron Dukes’s 13.5-inch (343 mm) guns and their range was up to 23,820 yards (21,780 m) at 20° at a slightly lesser muzzle velocity.

The secondary battery comprised sixteen 6-inch (152 mm) Mark XI guns. 155 of these ordnance pieces were built, weighing 19,237 lbs (8,726 kg), for a barrel length of 300 inches (7.620 m), a bore of 50 caliber, firing a 100 pounds (45.36 kg) shell filled with Lyddite, Armour-piercing cap or Shrapnel. The exact calibre was 152.4 mm. Its muzzle velocity was 2,900 feet per second (884 m/s), range 18,000 yards (16,000 m) at 22.5° elevation (less in barbettes).
They were completed by two 3-inch 20 cwt AA guns plus four saluting/DP 3-pounders. Close combat provision also included the traditional four submerged 21-in (533 mm) torpedo tubes. Two of the 6-inch guns located farthest aft were removed in 1916. They were indeed blast damaged by the amidships 14-in turret, o the total fell to fourteen.

6-inch (152 mm) Mark XI guns
Masked version of the standard 6-inch (152 mm) Mark XI guns (HMS Melbourne).

Propulsion of the Latorre class

Almirante Latorre was powered by Brown–Curtis and Parsons steam turbines producing an output of 37,000 shaft horsepower, on four propellers. The group was fed by 21 Yarrow mixed-firing boilers in separated boiler rooms. Top speed was around 22.75 knots (26.18 mph; 42.13 km/h). In comparison, the Iron Dukes powerplants were rated for 29,000 shp (22,000 kW), for a weaker top speed of 21.25 knots (39.36 km/h; 24.45 mph).

For their autonomy they carried 3,300 tons of coal and 520 tons of oil (all metric) could be carried. Theoretical range was 4,400 nautical miles (5,100 mi; 8,100 km) at 10 knots, a far cry of the Iron Dukes 14,000 nmi.

Brasseys plan Canada


The armor belt range from 4 to 9-inch (102 -229 mm) on the ends, while her bulkheads were 3-4.5 in (76-114 mm).
Main turrets were protected by 10-in (254 mm) on the faces, 102 mm for the sides and 76 mm for the roof. Associated barbettes were 4-10 in (102-254 mm) while the conning tower was 11-inch (280 mm) thick. The armored decks ranged from 1 to 4 in (25-102 mm).
These figures were much lower compared to the Iron Dukes, which Belt was thicker, up to 12 in, as well as the Bulkheads at 8 in.
The Barbettes (10 in) were comparable but Turrets (11 in face and sides) were slightly thicker, while decks were thinner at 2.5 in max.

Almirante Latorre’s service life

Model of the Battleship Almirante Latorre at the Valparaiso Museum
Model of the Battleship Almirante Latorre at the Valparaiso Museum – Courtesy of Triqui Bala.

A Veteran of Jutland: HMS Canada

When the War broke out in Europe, the Chilean battleship was formally purchased by the British government on 9 September 1914, renamed HMS Canada. Modifications included two open platforms (the bridge was removed) and a mast between the two funnels on which was mated a derrick to service launches. Fitting-out completion was over on 20 September 1915, she was commissioned on 15 October.

AlmiranteLatorre in ww2

At first she served with 4th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet, and fought at Jutland, 31 May–1 June 1916. She fired 42 main guns rounds and 109 lighter 6-in shells during the battle. She reported neither any hit or casualties but disabled the SMS Wiesbaden in two salvoes at 18:40 and fired on another unknown vessel around 19:20. She also fired with her secondary battery on German destroyers.

After the battle she was transferred to the 1st Battle Squadron in June 1916 and from late 1917 to mid-1918 received better rangefinders and range dials. Two of the aft 6-inch secondary guns were removed (blast damage). Flying-off platforms were later added atop the two superfiring turrets. She joined the reserve in March 1919 instead of being sent in the Baltic, on disposal for Chile or other purposes.

Indeed at that time there was a debate in Chile about what types of ships could bolster the fleet. British surplus warships were on offer, including two Invincible-class battlecruisers. However there was a rocky debate bout this acquisition, some promoted cheaper and more modern submarines and aircrafts instead; Other South American countries also were weary of another naval arms race.

Logically, Chile eventually purchased HMS Canada with four destroyers in April 1920. These were indeed the original orders of 1914. In addition total cost was less than a third of the amount Chile was to pay originally. Therefore HMS Canada was renamed Almirante Latorre again. She was formally handed on 27 November 1920, departing Plymouth with destroyers Riveros and Almirante Uribe; The squadron was under the command of Admiral Luis Gomez Carreño. In Chile, there was a ceremony held by president Arturo Alessandri on 20 February 1921 and the new battleship became the flagship of the navy.

aerial view of latorre

As flagship of the Chilean Navy

Almirante Latorre frequently carried the Chilean president in official venues or events. In the aftermath of 1922 Vallenar earthquake for example, Almirante Latorre carried President Alessandri there, bringing humanitarian equipments, personal, rations, clothing and money. By that time the whole Chilean Navy was limited to the Latorre, a cruiser, and five destroyers. But the lack of a second battleship compared to Brazil and Argentina was deeply resented despite Almirante Latorre being individually superior. Her escort, a unique old cruiser, was not really useful.
In 1924, Almirante Latorre visited Talcahuano for the inauguration of a new naval drydock and after the fall of the January Junta in 1925 she carried President Alessandri at a Naval Review in Valparaíso. President Alessandri would also receive Edward, Prince of Wales on board, started negotiations for a British naval mission in 1926.

During the 1929-31 refit in the United Kingdom, four additional anti-aircraft guns were placed in the aft superstructure.

Modernization at Devonport

After a new partnership was signed with UK, Almirante Latorre sailed there for a modernization at Devonport in 1929. Departing in the Pacific coast she past Balboa an crossed the Panama Canal, refuelled at Port of Spain on 28 May 1929, crossed the Atlantic past the Azores and arrived in Plymouth on 24 June. Modernization included rebuilding her bridge, while her fire control system was comprehensively modernized and extended to serve the secondary armament as well. Her old steam turbine engines were also deposed and replaced by new models and boilers converted to oil-fire only.

A new mast was erected between the third and fourth turret. The hull received anti-torpedo bulges. A brand new anti-aircraft battery was installed on the superstructure. This took two years to complete and the ship departed after trials to Valparaíso on 5 March 1931, carrying two 33-long-ton (34 t) tug boats stored on her aft deck. She also received an aicraft catapult.

Almirante latorre and officers

1931 Mutiny

South America is not stranger to coups, revolutions, rivaly between arms and mutiny. In 1931 While was hit badly by the 1929 stock crash crisis, seeing President Carlos Ibáñez del Campo leaving the office. Wages for civil servants fell to down 30% and naval personal in the Chilean Navy went on open revolt. After midnight 1 September, the crews jailed the officers and took the ships in the whole navy, taking advantage of the boxing tournament in La Serena were the sailors opposed to the mutiny. They elected a committee to sent requests to the government for full restoration of their salaries and punish those responsible for the Chilean economical depression. They will send later a list of twelve demands.

The Government was so keen to obey, fearing workers would join the movement across Chile. They asked the assistanvce of the US Navy and air force to assist them quelling the rebellion, which was flatly refused. Vice President Manuel Trucco choiced a path of reconciliation, and admiral Edgardo von Schroeders obtained a restpite. However the 4th fleet returned, all the assets of the mutineers on land were seized and the fleet was attacked by the air force. Only the submarine H4 was damaged while Almirante Latorre had a near-miss. This demonstration sapped the morale of the mutineers which asked for a truce. Almirante Latorre sailed later to the Bay of Tongoy with Blanco Encalada, and leaders were sentenced to death while others ended in jail.

The Latorre in WW2

In 1933 economic depression was still on hands and the Navy had to make budget cuts. Latorre was deactivated at Talcahuano, the crew dispersed and rendered to civilian life. She was not the only ship concerned, mothballed with a small caretaker crew which just ensured all ships were maintained in operational state. 1937 saw her sent for a short refit in the Talcahuano dockyard. The catapult was landed and AA was added. When the war broke out, the Latorre was definitely obsolete, even her AA was unsufficient and her protection was no longer relevant. However after the losses at Pearl Harbor, the US Government was desperate enough to ask Chile to purchase the Almirante Latorre and a few destroyers, which was declined.

The Latorre was fully reactivated nonetheless and participated in neutality patrols until the end of the war. She later joined a state of semi-active reserve but suffered a fatal boiler accident in 1951, killing three. She was not repaired and instead mothballed in Talcahuano, used as a storage hulk and decommissioned in 1958. She was sold the next year to a Japanese shipbroker.

Specifications of Latorre (1921)

Dimensions 181.3 x 29.30 x 8.4m (594 x 98 x 27 ft)
Displacement 28,600 t, 32,120 t FL
Crew 834
Propulsion 4 shafts Brown-Curtis & Parsons turbines, 21 Yarrow Boilers, 37,000 hp
Speed 22.75 knots (42.13 km/h; 26.18 mph)
Range 10,000 km at 10 knots
Armament 10 x 356mm/50 (14in) (5×2), 16 x 152mm/50 (6in), 2x76mm AA (3in), 4x47mm (1.9in) saluting, 2x533mm TTs (21in).
Armor Belt: 9in (230mm), deck 1.5in (38mm), turrets, barbettes 10in (254mm), CT 11-in (280mm)

Almirante Latorre
Author’s illustration of Almirante Latorre, ex-HMS Canada

Eagle ex-Almirante Cochrane
Author’s illustration of HMS Eagle, ex-Almirante Cochrane, never delivered and converted. The Chilean Government thought to ask her back but the cost of rebuilding her in original state was staggering.

Read More/Src

Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1906-21 and 1922-47.
Burt, R. A. British Battleships of World War One.
Garrett, James L. “The Beagle Channel Dispute: Confrontation and Negotiation in the Southern Cone”.
Gill, C.C. “Professional Notes”. Proceedings 40: no. 1 (1914)
Livermore, Seward W. “Battleship Diplomacy in South America: 1905–1925”.
Sater, William F. “The Abortive Kronstadt: The Chilean Naval Mutiny of 1931”.
Scheina, Robert L. Latin America: A Naval History 1810–1987.6.
Somervell, Philip. “Naval Affairs in Chilean Politics, 1910–1932”.
Worth, Richard. Fleets of World War II. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2001. ISBN 0-306-81116-2. OCLC 48806166.,_1913)