Cassin class destroyers (1913)

Cassin class destroyers (1913)

US Navy ww2 USN Fleet Destroyers (1912-1935): USS Cassin, Cummings, Downes, Duncan, Aylwin, Parker, Benham, Balch (DD-43-50)

US WW1 Destroyers
Bainbridge | Truxtun | Smith | Paulding | Cassin | O'Brien | Tucker | Sampson | Caldwell | Wickes | Clemson

The first USN “1000 tonners” Destroyers

After the very early Bainbrige and the 800-tonners (late called “flivvers” – Paulding & Smith) the USN seeked a new incremental step based on the same desig, just upscaled the previous design, prpducing a four-stacked class reaching 1,000 tonnes standard and thus called retrospectively the “1000-tonners”. Four were ordered first, known as the Cassin class. They innovated as being the first to carry the new 4-inch (102 mm)/50 caliber gun while gaining two more torpedo tubes. Despite of a more powerful machinery, top speed fell to 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph). All served as co,voy escorts and three agains as USCG’s “rum-runners” until 1932. They led to the Aylwin class. #USN #destroyer #ww1 #usnavy

The need for new scouts

USS Cassin, date unknown
The initial motivation was to increase the standard to a normal displacement of over 1,000 tons to combine a heavier armament with better cruising range. The main goal was to be able to cross the Atlantic in one go if possible. The USN’s three modern scout cruisers of the Chester class, totally unsufficient to offer screeing to the fleet of new battleships, and so, these new fleet destroyers were to be used as scouts. The two-shaft direct drive turbines engineering arrangement was repeated as globally satisfactory, although poor performance of the early cruising turbines conducted to reciprocating engines being recalled for cruising. In fact, DD-43 and DD-44 (the first two) used triple expansion engines which could be clutched to one shaft for cruising and the other two followed suite.

Order and Contruction

Two classes of “1000-tonners” were defined in FY1912. It was hoped that during the short span between the Cassin and Aylwin, a few incremental improvements could be made, before swapping on a new, bolder upgrade (which were ordered in FY1913) turning to be the eight O’Brien class. In fact both the Cassin and Aylwin ended built concurrently, and the whole considered by many authors to be a sub-class of the Cassins, or all the same so much so differences were tiny.
So for the sake of clarity we are going to see them in one swoop.

A new standard: The “1000 tonners”

What is really important there, is that the Cassin and following constituted five classes (or five depending of who is speaking). In all, this “superclass” included 26 destroyers. After the Cassins/Aylwins, the six O’Briens, six Tuckers, and six Sampsons. Arguably the Tucker were repeats of the O’Brien, so it left use with three main types in reality. They were commissioned in 1913–17 and thus the last prewar US destroyers.

They all combined the same gun armament of four 4 inch (102 mm) but torpedo armament was greatly increased, with a displacement rising to 100 tons. The Cassin/Aylwin stuck to the previous 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes but had two more, in four twin broadside mounts but O’Briens had a new 21-inch (533 mm) caliber torpedo, still keeping eight, as the Tucker. The new Sampsons went further and stocked no less than twelve 21 inch (533 mm) tubes, when switching on triple mounts. The first brand new design, first “flush deck” types were the Caldwell class, which retained both gun and torpedo armament of the Sampsons with 100 tons more and a new, more powerful engineering plant. They were the true prototypes for the wartime Wickes/Clemsons. The Sampson class was also the first to introduce an anti-aircraft armament with two 1-pounder (37 mm) autocannons. After getting rid of the issues causes by turbines they were reintroduced with the Tucker/Sampson classes. The arrangemen was repeated and improved on the Caldwell, and adopted for the mass-built “four stackers” of 1917-1921.

Design of the class

Aylwin: 2nd Generation of “1000 tonners”

The Aylwin were four destroyers built at Cramp (William Cramp & Sons in Philadelphia). In fact USS Aylwin was launched well before USS Cassin (23 November 1912 vs. 20 May 1913) and so the class in European publications is sometimes called “Aylwin class”. They were full repeats of the Cassin class assimilated as the very same Cassin class in Conways, which however made a distinction between the Pauldings and Monaghans.

Design of the class

Hull and general design

As the first “thousand tonner” the Cassin and Aylwins were a significant improvement over the Paulding/Monaghan, Based on a displacement of 1,036 tons (on normal load), 1,165 tons fully loaded, for an overall lenght 305 ft 3 in (93.04 m) overall and 30 ft 4 in (9.25 m) in beam. Their mean draft reached 9 ft 5 in (2.87 m). The previous ships reached 289-293 ft for 26-27 ft in beam and “only” 885 tonnes fully loaded.
Externally they shared the same basic silhouette, with the caracteristic short forecastle, small open bridge and four tall funnels, close together. The “four stacker” pattern remained standard until 1921 on all US DDs. Wireless telegraphy as installed had cabled resting on the two masts, foremast behind the bridge and mainmast. Unfortunately profiles and plans are near-impossible to find. Only those of the following O’Brien are known. So photos shows a relatively large quarterdeck house aft, on which the mainmast was planted. It also housed the radio room. The axial aft gun was located behind, but no TT. They were all on the broadside amidships.


The Cassin/Aylwin were given the same powerplant in principle but dependong of the yard, various brands of turbines and boilers.
The Cassin/Cummings defined the standard although the Data Book for 1912 shows the first two indeed had the same four Normand boilers (They were built at Bath Iron Works) and two direct-drive Parsons-type steam turbines on two shafts. They produced a total of 16,000 shp (12,000 kW). Theu would inaugrate two small triple-expansion engines which could be clutched to one shaft for economical cruising. Only better, higher temp/pressure boilers would resolve the poor performances of early steam turbines with new geared cruising turbines of the Caldwell and following. The next USS Downes (from New York SB) had Thornycroft boilers, USS Duncan (From Fore River Yard, Mass.) had Yarrow boilers and both were given Curtis steam turbines and the same two triple-expansion cruising engines. The choice of having both turbines and TE engines dictated a longer hull indeed.

Downes made 29.14 knots (53.97 km/h; 33.53 mph) on trials at 14,254 shp (10,629 kW). Normal fuel oil capacity was 312 tons.[4]
The Aylwin were all from Cramp and thus, had the same four White-Forster boilers feeding stem to two Cramp direct-drive turbines. The four destroyers exceeded the 16,000 shp output on trials. But like the Cassins they had the same Compound steam engines clutchable onto shafts for economical and medium-speed cruising. Aylwin managed to reach 29.6 knots (54.8 km/h; 34.1 mph) on trials based on 16,286 shp (12,144 kW) like her sisters (so less than the requested 30 kts), and standard fuel oil capacity was 307 tons in peacetime. It could be increased in wartime.


USS Cassin’s crew

The Cassin class were a true improvement in terms of firepower, by introducing 4-in/50 guns (102 mm) which shells had twice the weight of the previous 3-in (76 mm) of the Pauldings. This choice had them trading one gun (from five to four) but the new caliber was such an improvement there was no second though about it. In fact this became the standard for all US Destroyers until 1922. The only difference was their organization: On the Cassins and up to the Sampsons, it was the same configuration as before, with a forescastle gun, two at the lower deck under recess, also facing forward, and one aft, axial. The 1917 Caldwell would introduce the new “lozenge” pattern.
During early phases of the design, the board even hoped to replace at least one of 3-in/50 gun with a long-recoil 5-in (127mm) but C&R managed though it was a stability issue and promoted instead a uniform battery of four 102mm/50, and a fourth twin 450mm TT as replacing the fifth gun in a way.

They Aylwin retained the Cassins’ armament of four 4-inch (102 mm)/50 caliber Mark 9 guns and eight 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes in twin broadside mounts. This broadside with twin mounts each side reflected the General Board’s desire to have torpedoes remaining for a second one instead of having to retire and reload. The class also received one or two depth charge racks for convoy escort in 1917-18. USS Benham tested four twin 4-inch mounts in 1917. But she proved top-heavy an reverted back to single mounts before her first overseas deployment. The idea of stacking double mounts would resurface in 1918 on the larger Clemsons though. In 1929 they all recuved the same additional 3-inch (76 mm)/23 anti-aircraft gun, placed immediately aft of the forecastle main gun.

Main guns: Four 4-in/50 Mark 9

The serie started with the Mark 7 (1898), first used as secondary guns on the Arkansas class monitors. The Mark 8 were an improved version designed from 1905, but they gave apparently little satisfaction and were reworked from 1910, ending with threat standard Mark 9. Its general performances were such that it became also an allied standard with more than 400 transferred to the British. They were still in service in WW2 on a large quantity of ships by the way.
It was light weight and thus easy to handle, fast-firing, fast revolving and traversing.

Quick Specs:
ROF 8-9 rpm, 64.75 lbs. (29.4 kg) complete round, 2,900 fps (884 mps), 15,000 yards (13,720 m/19°. Each destroyer carried 300 rounds total.
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Torpedo Tubes: Four twin 18-in Mark 5

They used the standard Whitehead torpedo Mk.5, available since 1910.
Diameter: 17.7 in (45 cm)
Length: 204 in (520 cm)
Weight: 1,452 lb (659 kg)
Warhead: 200 lb (91 kg) Guncotton
powerplant: Heated Air-flask Brotherhood pattern engine
Speed settings: 27 kn (50 km/h)4,000 yd (3,700 m) or 36 kn (67 km/h)/2,000 yd (1,800 m) or 40 kn (74 km/h)/1,000 yd (910 m)

ASW armament (1917-18)

In 1917-1918 to perform better as ASW ships, the class was equipped with two depht charge racks (DCR) and a single thrower or DCT, which was the “Y-gun”, called that way before its shape. It throwed two depht-charges at once.
The latter were probably of the Mark I type (1916) weighting 100 lbs. (45 kg) with a 50 lbs. (23 kg) wet gun-cotton exploser ad two settings, 25 and 100 feet (8 – 30 m).

⚙ Cassin class specifications

Displacement 1,020 tons (normal) 1,139 tons (full load)
Dimensions 305 ft 3 in x 30 ft 4 in x 9 ft 3 in (93.04 x 9.25 x 2.82 m)
Propulsion 2 shafts DD Turbines, 4 boilers 16,000 shp (12,000 kW) as designed
Speed 29 kn (54 km/h; 33 mph)
Range 312-290 tons oil (fuel) 4,500 nmi () at 16 kn
Armament 4 x 4-in/50 guns, 4×2 18-in torpedo tubes*
Crew 5 officers, 93 ratings

*In 1918, One DCT Y-gun, 2 DCR.


The prow of USS Cassin
In addition to the dedicated ASW armament added in 1917-18, it seems the most obvious change was their new bridge. All eight ships arrived like their predecessors wit a barebones “open deck”, meaning the small tower supported a platform on which was installed all the essential command for the captain and bridge officers: A chadburn and voice pipes. There was also a telephone to communicate with the machinery spaced. The forward steering wheel was located in the structure below and there was an open deck aft backup steering wheel aft, before the rear gun.
In 1917 however when prepared for overseas deployment they were given a new, fixed bridge. Indeed only canvas on barriers were the standard, but they had a hard time coping with heavy weather spray as the forecastle as short.
The same approach and standard design recommanded bu BuShip was called upon as used on the prevous Paulding/Monaghans. It was composed of a triangular-shaped beak like structure, lighlty buil, but still enough to break incoming waves and bedind were located a serie of ten glass windows, five on either size of the angled face, and two larger ones on sides. This was still open top though. Right behind was located a platform with a single projector. The main mast receiceved also a larger spotting top, designed for submarine spotting, alshough ealry hydrophones were probably fitted as standard in 1918.

The lower level forward guns either side of the forecastle behind recesses were excessively “wet” in even moderate weather and so canvas were applied when not in use. This issue of “wet guns” also common on early USN battleships barbette, was resolved only from the Caldwell class, which had them replocated on either beam between funnels on high platforms, way out of any sprey. This explains why the artillery arrangement and limited speed was seen as drawbacks of the design and they did not stayed long in service unlike the flush-deckers.
In the 1920-30s patroling for the Coast Guard on the great lakes was no longer an issue for these guns…
Speaking of which, modifications also occured in Coast Guard service:
They lost all their main guns bar one, and all their torpedo tubes but retained their newly added AA gun. This allowed them to reclaim some speed also, although moderated by their worn-out machinery.

Read More


Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the USN, 1775–1990: Major Combatants. Greenwood Press.
Friedman, Norman (2004). US Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History (Revised ed.). NIP
Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal (1985). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906–1921
Silverstone, Paul H. (1970). U.S. Warships of World War I. London: Ian Allan.

Author’s profile:

USS Duncan 1916


Model Kits

None found so far

US Navy ww2 USS Cassin

USS Cassin, date unknown
USS Cassin was commissioned on 9 August 1913, her first captain was Lieutenant Commander Harris Laning. She started training with the Atlantic Torpedo Flotilla.
Later she moved to Key West in Florida and from 5 December 1913 to 16 June 1914 she operated with the 6th Division in the Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico in maneuvers. On 19 May she was dispatched to recue passengers of SS Atlantis which sunk north of Tampico. After her post-shakedown overhaul, Cassin stayed along the east coast until 27 January 1915 abnd took part in the Carribean winter maneuvers.

Soon after the US entered war, she started neutrality patrols in and from the Caribbean and later prepared for overseas service. She crossed the Atlantic to Queenstown in Ireland where most USS DDs were stationed for atlantic convoy escprt service and western approaches waters patrols against U-Boats. on 17 May, she started her first American troopships convoy, ventilated to England and France. On 15 October, she spotted U-61, some 20 nmi south of Mine Head Lighthouse, Monagoush (County Waterford) in Ireland. A chase began but she lost her from view an at 13:30, she was hit on her port stern by a torpedo. There, it ignited several depth charges, killing Gunner’s Mate First Class Osmond Ingram. The latter (posthumously awarded the MoH) saw where the torpedo was coming and started to throw the DCs overboard but was still here when it hit.

USS Cassin’s mushed stern 1917,which allows to see her peculiar triangular framing

Nine other were wounded but there was no more victim but Dudley Walton Queen by his wounds later.
USS Cassin had her rudder blown off, stern mushed, and started to circle, while still firing on the U-Boat until she submerged. She was assisted by USS Porter and HMS Jessamine, HMS Tamarisk until the morning, towed back in Queenstown. After repairs in Newport she was back escorting on 2 July 1918.

On 12–13 December 1918 she escorted SS George Washington carrying President Woodrow Wilson into Brest in France for the Versailles Peace Conference. She was back to Boston on 3 January 1919, resumed her training career in the Caribbean and assisted the transatlantic NC-4 flight. She was overhauled in Philadelphia on 18 June. From 14 February 1921 she joined the Flotilla 5 training off New England and was decommissioned again in Philadelphia on 7 June 1922. On 28 April 1924 she started her service with the Coast Guard as CG-1 after a refit in Maine and based in New London for the “Rum Patrol” and with Division 3 as flagship, decommissioned a final time in Philadelphia by 5 June 1933.
Stricken on 5 July 1934 she was sold on 22 August 1934 and BU.

USCG Tucker and Cassin in the interwar, prohibition partrols

US Navy ww2 USS Cumming DD44

USS Cumming was commissioned on 19 September 1913, trained in the Caribbean and from June 1915, joined the Neutrality Patrol. She was in New York Navy Yard on 12 May 1917, refitted for overseas service and sailed for Queenstown, arriving on 26 May under command of Henry Kent Hewitt (future admiral). Between escort and anti-submarine patrols off the southern Irish coast she had 14 encounters with U-Boats. She also escorted in 1918 SS George Washington to France.

USCG-3 Cummings during the rum patrols

Departing on 16 December 1918 she resumed peactime service in Guantanamo Bay, Newport, in reserve for a short time in Philadelphia, back in operation off the east coast and decomm, again in Philadelphia on 23 June 1922. She also served with the Treasury Department (Coast Guard) from 6 June 1924 from New London. Stricken on 23 May 1932 she was sold for BU on 22 August 1934.

US Navy ww2 USS Downes DD45

USS Downes was commissioned on 11 February 1915. After her shakedown off New York and the Chesapeake Bay, her training off new england, she was refitted in Philadelphia from 4 October 1915 to 26 May 1917 for distant service and sailed from New York (18 October 1917) for Devonport (7 November) and then Queenstown (17th) and until 5 December 1918, operated in convoy escort, notably across the channel. She made a dozen spotting and attacks with no sure result but also aided distressed ships. She also won British commendations when protecting the torpedoed HMS Manley and rescue and salvage of a British submarine.

USS Downes as Coast Guard ship CG-45

In late December she departed back in Norfolk and from January 1919 alternatied between the Carribean, New York and Norfolk, for an overhaul. She was later back to Newport and Charleston in 1922 for exercizes. Decommissioned in Philadelphia in June she was reactivated for the coast guard on 28 April 1924 but at first as Academy practice ship and later, Rum Patrol. Back to Philadelphia in May 1931, she was stricken and sold for BU on 22 August 1934.

US Navy ww2 USS Duncan DD46

USS Duncan was commissioned on 30 August 1913, with Lieutenant Commander C. E. Courtney in command. After her carribean shakedown and training on the East Coast she was decommissioned for a refit in Boston and back in neutrality patrol from January 1916 from Rhode Island. In addition of fleet manoeuvers with battleships and patrolling the entrance to the York River from 8–30 September 1917, she escorted a convoy.

USS Duncan
USS Duncan – NARA

Next she was prepared in NY for Irish service, departing at first to Brest from 30 October 1917. From 15 November she started her convoy escort, making several sightings and attacks. On 17 July 1918 she rescued survivors of the Norwegian bark Miefield and later Shaw. She also escorted SS G.Washington and by December 1918, left Queenstown for home, Norfolk.
She spent five months training off the East Coast and Caribbean, decomm. from 1st January 1920 and full reserve in August. After a long period she was stricken, sold and scrapped on 8 March 1935.

US Navy ww2 USS Aylwin DD-47

USS Aylwin was commissioned on 17 January 1914 (Lt. Cdr. Leigh C. Palmer, former aide of U.S. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels). She made her shakedown to Cuba and trained off the North Carolina coast, training with sisters Benham and Parker. During one of these she suffered an internal explosion 15 nm off the Diamond Shoals lightship, in her forward fire room. She had three wounded, one later died. She was towed into Norfolk by USS Parker and the tug Sonoma on 7 April for repairs. According to the captain she was flooded so much she barely had five hours of buoyancy to spare.

A short enquiry determined faulty metal in her No. 1 boiler’s mud drum was the probable cause and her whole machinery was carefully monitored for defects; Repairs dragged one for more than a year at Norfolk, being recommissioned on 25 May 1915, 6th TBD Division, Atlantic Fleet. After retraining on the east coast she took part in Neutrality Patrols, based from Newport, Rhode Island by early October 1916. At 05:30 on 8 October reports of a U-Boat near the Lightship Nantucket (off Long Island) and British SOS she was rushed to investigate by Rear Admiral Albert Gleaves.

She arrived on the scene on 17:00 and caught U-53 (Kapitänleutnant Hans Rose) red-handed, after stopping the Holland-America Line Blommersdijk, the passenger ship Stephano and three other ships. But the destroyer had strict neutrality rules observances and could only respond to Rose’s signal to the destroyer to move away from Stephano for him to torpedo the ship after gathering the crew. Aylwin complied and gathered in turn the 226 survivors from various U-Boat victims. This “attitude” was criticized at the house of Lords.
In early 1917, USS Aylwin was back in manoeuvers, and off the Virginia capes by April.

From June 1917 to January 1918 unlike her sisters she was not sent to Europe but instead was used for special experimental work led by Reginald Fessenden, off Boston and Newport. On 4 January 1918, at last she sailed for Queenstown after some patorls, was detached to join the RN in Portsmouth and Devonport, learning new ASW patrol drills.
On 26 December 1918, she sailed with USS Chester for the Baltic, toured German ports and escorted some war prize ships, as part of the Inter-Allied Naval Armistice Commission. By May 1919, she was based in Brest and later Antwerp. She was back in New York on 26 June and inactivated in Philadelphia, decommissioned on 23 February 1921. Renamed on 1 July 1933 (new Mahan class destroyer renamed after her) “DD-47” was stricken on 8 March 1935, sold for BU on 23 April.

US Navy ww2 USS Parker DD-48

Commissioned in January 1914, USS Parker assisted Aylwin after her dramatic explosion in April.

In early April 1915 with USS McDougal she was sent to patrol near the New York City Quarantine Station. It was suspected that Dudley Field Malone (local port collector) would allow after a bribe interned German steamships at New York to slip out, using a heavy snowstorm as cover. The New York Times titled also a “widespread conspiracy” as NY ships at the contrar were supplying British warships outside U.S. territorial waters…

USS Parker went through the usual Carribean-East Coast training routine and neutrality patrols. From April 1917, she was part of the fourth group, escorting the first troopship convoy to Europe. She was relocated to Queenstown and made many patrols, a few sighting, no sure kill. She rescued 9 survivors of a torpedoed British hospital ship in February 1918, being congratulated by the British Parliament and U.S. Navy officials. She had a probable “kill” or at least sever damage to an U-Boat on 3 August 1917. As the others in late 1918 she was moved to Brest and Antwerp.
She was back home July 1919, Atlantic Fleet and resuming peactime training.

In July 1920, she was sent to the Mediterranean, searching a missing American missionary couple (Paul Nilson and Harriet Fisher Nilson) thought abducted by Turkish Nationalists. She located them later was while off Mersina demanded under the cover of her guns, their release, dispatching messages by airplane to Tarsus and Adana.
Decommissioned in June 1922, she was kept in reserve until stricke March 1935, sold for BU in April.

US Navy ww2 USS Benham DD-49

USS Benham was commissioned on 20 January 1914 under command of Lt. Cdr. Charles J. Train. In February-March she made a shakedown cruise to the West Indies. From April she trained off Hampton Roads with USS Aylwin and Parker, assiting the first after her boiler explosion. In August 1916, she took part in the largest USN war game to date, scouting for “Blue force” and first to spot the inbound “Red” transports and escorts.

After her tour of duty in Neutrality Patrols from Newport, on 8 October, wireless reports signalled an U-Boat near the Lightship Nantucket (U-53) and later evacuated part of the 226 survivors she carried. From 6 April 1917 she was one of the first chosen to be sent in Europe, departing Tompkinsville, New York on 17 May for Queenstown. On 13 July she reported her attack by two U-Boats, spotting three torpedoes, evaded. She had them repelled by agressive depth charge attacks. On 30 July she spotted the wake of another torpedo 1,500 yd away and charged to the attack with guns and depth charges, spotting later air bubbles and surfaced oil, gaining a “probable” damage. By June 1918 she was sent to Brest until December.
In September however she was was rammed by the British Azalea-class sloop HMS Zinnia (future flagship of the Belgian Navy).

On 21 December she left for home, Atlantic Fleet for the annual fleet maneuvers and a trip to the Azores in May 1919. Place in provisional decomm. in Norfolk on 28 June and back in service in 1921, on the eastern seaboard, plane guard and tender for the Atlantic Fleet Air Squadrons until May 1922. She was inactivated and later decomm. in Philadelphia, stricken on 8 March 1935 and BU.

US Navy ww2 USS Balch DD-50

USS Balch was commissioned on 26 March 1914 (Lt. Cdr. David C. Hanrahan).

After shakedown and Carribean training with the Torpedo Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet, she took part in a Presidential Fleet Review on 7 May in NYC. She would take part also in Narragansett Bay maneuvers organized by the Naval War College. After a short decommissioned in July-December 1914 she resumed her training. In June 1915 one of her torpedoes was unloaded at the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a display for the “Peace and Preparation” conference of the National Security League. In 1916 she served as an observation platform for the Seawanhaka-Corinthian Yacht Club’s annual regatta. After Neutrality Patrols from Newport, on 8 October 1916 she took part in the action which implied U-53, alsop picking up part of the crews of the sunken ships.

From April 1917, USS Balch was refited with depth charge racks, a new bridge and other modifications for her overseas deployment, to Queenstown from 17 November. She started her first patrol on 24 November, having later two encounters with German submarines. On 29 January 1918 off Liverpool and on 12 May, while escorting convoy HS 60; No kill, but she drove the latter off.

On 20 October 1918 she collided with USS Balch during a convoy in foul weather, which had her port depth charge knocked overboard, fortunately set to “safe” by three of the crew seeing the immiment collision. They earned commendations later. The destroyer still suffered steering gear damage, being repaired in Queenstown. On 5 November she helped USS Sterett rescuing 29 survivors from the cargo Dipton. She left Ireland for hime, Norfolk, on 16 November via Ponta Delgada in the Azores.

Fully recommissioned by early April she was back in normal drills routines on the West Indies and east coast. After an overhaul by July 1920 she was renamed “DD-50” and was left in port due to funding shortages, resuling service with the Torpedo Flotilla before inactivation, decommission at Philadelphia (20 June 1922), stricken on 8 March 1935, sold for BU on 23 April.

Caracciolo class battleships (1917)

Caracciolo class battleships (1917)

Italy – Regia Marina: RN Francesco Caracciolo, Marcantonio Colonna, Cristoforo Colombo, Francesco Morosini (1914-1921)

The first Italian Fast Battleships

The last class of Italian dreadnoughts conceived before the war was the Caracciolo class, started in 1914-15. They were radically new battleships, much faster and heavily armed: They presented the new generation of Italian ‘super dreadnought’ and first fast battleships, but were condemned by the Washington treaty. Because of war priorities, none was completed and they had to be broken up after the Washington treaty was signed, despite completion projects, notably as an aircraft carrier conversion.


When the Washington Treaty was ratified in 1923, it put an end to an industrial and military escalation started in 1913, towards even faster and better-armed dreadnoughts. Italy was no exception to the rule. In 1916, her last dreadnought to enter service, the Doria class, was only equipped with 12-in guns and limited to 21 knots. But the Royal Navy with its five Queen Elizabeth in 1913 and later confirmed with the five Revenge launched in 1915, all armed 6-in guns (381 mm) and capable of 23 knots with oil-burn for better range and seemed to lead the pack in Battleship design. Conscious of this fact, the Italian admiralty already in 1914 (Italy was still neutral at this point and both the British and French were potential adversaries) ordered a study as early as 1914. The new new project was intended to give some parity with to the Royal Navy and the study was conducted by Chief Engineer Rear Admiral Edgardo Ferrati.

The 1911 Italian super-dreadnought competition

But even further back in time, in 1911, Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Giovanni Bettolo and the Minister of the Navy, Vice Admiral Pasquale Leonardi Cattolica announced a competition for a “super-dreadnought” design. The basic characteristics concerned a 35,000 tons standard ship, which was quite ambitious for the time, with a top speed of no less than 28 knots speed, and and armament of twelve 381 mm (15 inches) and twenty 152 mm (6 inches) guns. Nothing was said about the armor, which was likely lighter than contemporaty designs in order to reach the desired speed, and in the tendency of the time.

The Ansaldo shipyards (Sestri Ponente), the Orlando Yards of and the Odero shipyard also of Livorno, the only ones with drydocks large enough, took part in the competition. The Regia Marina reunited all the major generals around Naval Engineers Edgardo Ferrati and Agostino Carpi. The reunion was also attended by colonels G.N. Giuseppe Rota and Gioacchino Russo. After a careful examination of the projects, Major General Ferrati was entrusted with making the preliminary draft. He had to work, keeping in mind the various solutions presented and attempting to make a fusion of these proposals.
The definitive draft was ready in December 1913. For practicity reasons, and to rationalize protection, the initial top speed of 28 knots was maintained by the displacement was reduced to 30,900 tons, the armament to eight 381 (15 in) in four twin main turrets. For the secondary, it was reduced to eighteen 152mm adnd completed by twenty-four 76 (3-in) guns for anti-torpedo warfare as well as eight torpedo tubes of 450 mm (18 in), all fixed.

The design is drastically scaled down in 1913

line drawing
The first plan calling a battleship armed with no less than twelve 381 mm (16-in) distributed in four triple turrets and twenty 6-in barbettes guns if completed in 1917, would have been the most powerful warships in the world. But this project was visibly too ambitious for the means of the Regia Marina’s limited budget. It was drastically scaled down. The second project had twin turrets, resulting in smaller barbette and thus, a narrower and short hull. It enabled to scale down the ship considerably, towards a more classic equivalent of the Queen Elisabeth class.

Among its specificities, the 6-in (152 mm) adopted as a secondary caliber and four inches (102 mm) rather than 3-in (76 mm) for the QF guns mounted on top of the turrets, were completed by 2-pdr (40 mm) rapid fire anti-aircraft mounts. These were wise, even avant-garde choices for the Italian Navy, giving the initial design the best AA protection of any warship at the time. However in 1914 it was recoignised that the “all-in the citadel” protection motto was a danegrous one, and that speed could be curtailed a bit if allowing to significantly reinforcement armor overall, alongside a revised torpedo armament distribution, less ambitious but more rational.

Eng. Orlando’s fast alt battleship design, 1913

Knowing that the “grandi ammiragli” class battleships design was still not fixed, engineer Giuseppe Orlando (his father Luigi was even perhaps more famous) redacted in his hotel’s invoice and notes, and drafted his own proposal for the Odero-Terni yard he directed. He also worked at La Spezia with Vickers, adapting many armaments designs.
src: stefsap site (see credits/src at the end of the article)

Design Approval in 1914 of the “grandi ammiragli”

After the approval by new Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Paolo Thaon di Revel in 1912, construction of the four new battleship was started, preceded by a more refined design.
Shortly before the start of construction of Francesco Caracciolo in October 1914, it was decided protect the forward area of the ships (beyond the citadel) with a 150 mm vertical armour over two bridges in height. There were also last-minutes changes in 1914, as the displacement rose to 31,400 tons. The secondary armament lost six guns, and the 76mm/40 Mod. 1916 R.M. were replaced by lighter and faster Vickers-Armstrong QF 2 lb automatic QF guns manufactured in Italy under licence.

The names were also in balance: The four Francesco Caracciolo class were prior to their renaming known as the “Grandi Ammiragli” (“great admirals”) when ordered in 1914. The lead ship was eventually ordered on 12 October at the Royal Naval Shipyard of Castellammare di Stabia, the most trusted and prestigious of the Regia Marina and work started with the keel laying ceremony on the next 16 October. By June 1915, work started at last on the remaining three which by consequences would end as the least advanced of the class. But they were launched anyway.

General Ferrati ‘F’ 1915 alternative proposal for a quadruple turrets battleship SOURCE. By that time the initial design had been approved. These were possibly applied to a better protected successors of the Ammiragli, to be started in 1916 when the docks would be free and the launched vessels in completion.


The keel of the first ship was laid in Castellamare di Stabia in October 1914 and construction went on well, while three other keels (Cristoforo Colombo, Marcantonio Colonna, and Francesco Morosini) were laid in Ansaldo, Odero and Orlando yards respectively in March and June 1915. But as soon as the war broke out, it seemed impossible to complete them, due to the lack of manpower and resources. After a while construction was halted entirely.
Francesco Caracciolo: Regio Cantiere di Castellammare di Stabia -Naples. 16 October 1914. Launched 12 May 1920: Cancelled on 2 January 1921
Marcantonio Colonna: Cantieri navali Odero -Genoa-Sestri Ponente. 3 March 1915. Never launched, BU on slip 1921.
Cristoforo Colombo: Ansaldo, Genoa. 14 March 1915. Never launched, BU on slip 1921.
Francesco Morosini: Cantiere navale fratelli Orlando (Livorno) 27 June 1915. Never launched, BU on slip 1921.
Apart Colomb which was an explorator, the remainder three were renown renaissance admirals.

Launch of the Caracciolo in October 1920
Launch of the Caracciolo in October 1920

Whatif rendition of the caracciolo SOURCE

Design of the class

Since the start, requirements had the final design down to eight main guns, 381 mm caliber, and to 31,000 tons. Water tank trials conducted in La Spezia helped identifying the best hull shapes, and scale models were use to also test the best underwater protection. This process in fact went one even after the construction was ordered and helped furtther refining the underwater protection as well. Venica arsenal was put in charge of testing indeed the horizontal protection and La Spezia for the oil boilers and connected pipes, so changed were made also to the machinery spaces design to the last minute.

The final drawings were approved in December 1914 and setup overa a 30,900 tons design (standard) but a revised secondary battery of eighteen 6-in/50 QF guns, twenty-four 3-in QF guns and still eight torpedo tubes, plus a still “light” 300 down to 220 mm vertical armor(but with sloped sections, layered armor made of Krupp cemented plating) and just 35+16 mm horizontal armor (that is deck armor) with a final revised underwater protection which integrated a main 24 mm longitudinal bulkhead and 10 mm layers for the crush tubes and inner compartment separating the machinery spaces from the hull. Additional protection close to the bow section comprised two 2 levels of 150 mm thick plating, which rose the displacement and obliged to removed some artillery and TTs.

Hull and general design

The Francesco Caracciolo class was 201.6 m (661 ft) long (waterline), 212 m (696 ft) overall combined with a beam of 29.6 m (97 ft) making for a favourable lenght-to-beam ration for speed. This was helped by the twin turret barbettes. The mean draft was calculated at 9.5 m (31 ft). Displacement as planned was 31,400 metric tons (30,900 long tons) normal load but 34,000 t (33,000 long tons) fully loaded. This was well below the Washington treaty limits.

As for the way the main armament was staged and superstructures kept to the mininum, which wa caracteritic of Italian capital ships: The bridge was compact, with a short tower composed of the conning tower and a two-story structure above supporting the main telemeter and fire control system. The small bridge was a rapported piece in front of the conning tower, just above “B” turret’s roof line. They were to be equipped with two tripod masts, although some designers, like Orlando, professed the idea of corbel or lattice masts. The two tripods were of equal height and size, the foremast supporting a spotting top and two projectors, and the main mast, located just in front of the aft funnel (which was shorter than the forefunnel) supported the rear spotting top.

The estimated crew comprised 40 officers and 1,200 ratings. There were around six service boats located in between funnels, served with an axial crane, with probably more planned under davits (location unknown). But the real innovation of the design was the placement of the main turrets: In 1914, the initial design shown a classic superfiring arrangement with the two pairs relatively close together like the previous Doria class. However as the construction was well engaged in 1915, last minute changes were operated, confirmed past-mid 1916 and shown in the final draft in 1919: The four barbettes had been moved far apart of each others.

The driving idea was to keep themelves widely separated for security reasons: If one was hit, the fire could spread in theory in the second one, destriying half the armament in one go. By spreading the turrets this way, this was less likely. Similar design solutions were also chosen in Germany as shown by the caracteristic aft turrets far apart of late battlecruisers. “B” and “X” turrets therefore were placed not in barbettes but in superstructures, which was needed to increase accomodations, and added the benefit of a supplementary protection around the barbettes.
It should be said by keeping the turrets closer together, engineers could have saved armour weight by considerably reducing the citadel’s lenght, and thus reinforced it considerably, possibly reaching 350-360 mm instead of 300 and making it immune to same caliber instead of 12-in or 14-in caliber only. Would have it be worthwile in the end ? Between the use of sloped armor and Krupp Cemented plating, and due to the high speed requirement, the choice made in the end seemed valid at the time.


The Caracciolo class were to be powered by four Parsons steam turbines. They were built locally under licence. Each of these was driving a single shaft, with staged outer and inner pairs. As usual in this configuration, a play was made between lower and higher pressure turbines, the inner ones kept for cruising and the outer ones for speed. The turbines themelves had a double stage, of low and higher pressure.

Steam came from twenty oil-fired Yarrow type boilers. Their exhausts were trunked into two large funnels of various heights, equal in the 1914 design and anf with a taller forefunnel (and caps) in the revised 1919 design. The turbines were rated at 105,000 shaft horsepower (78,000 kW). This enabled a top speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph). At economical speed of 10 knots range was still of 8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km; 9,200 mi), perfectly adequate for the Mediterranean. It was 4800 nm for the Doria class for example. It was in small part due to efficiency but moreover of a far larger fuel capacity given the larger hull and greater compartimentation. Keeping the same 20 boilers from the Doria to the Caracciolo, even all oil-fed (mixed on the Doria) did not explained the enormous output difference between the 30,000 shp of the former and 105,000 shp (more than trice as much !).

Both the turbines and boilers were larger, the latter being higher pressure and using superheated steam, in short more efficient overall. Indeed going from 21 to 28 knots was an enormous change, which proportionally forced the tripling of output given the also larger hull, from 23,000 to 32,000 tonnes standard, 9,000 tonnes more. In any circumstances 28 knots for a capital ship was considerable. This was five knots more than the British QE class, way more than the French planned Normandie class, and about the same as battlecruisers. This alone made the Caracciolo the first true “fast battleships” ever built, even if they were never completed. It could be argued that the German battlecruisers were so well protected that the 28-kts Mackensen class were equivalent to the Caracciolo in overall caracteristics, which included the main armament. Italy had at the same time started its next generation battleships as well as its first battlecruisers in the same package. They would have been certainly more relevant that the Doria/Cavour class in 1940, but postwar conditions completely changed the deal and we are left with conjectures.

Armour protection layout

As planned, Early 1915

The main armor was entirely made of Krupp cemented steel, manufactured under licence by Terni (Odero Yard, Sestri Ponente). The main belt armor reached 303 mm (11.9 in) only. The horizontal protection (armor deck and battery deck above) consisted of a 50 mm (2 in) thick deck, with a two-layered approach, a 35 mm (1.37 in) KCA main layer and a softer steel layer of 16 mm. The battery deck was proably only 16 mm (0.6 in) thick, as the weather deck.

The main conning tower was massive, both in height (she went down to the citadel and towered above the roofline of “B” turret) and thickness with walls 400 mm (16 in) thick. The same protection was applied to the main battery turrets with faces the same thickness (and slopes, making them immune to even 16-in caliber), the secondary casemate guns being protected by 220 mm (8.7 in) plating.
The vertical armor did not exceeded 300 mm, but the 30° slope artificially accentuated its thickness, although it was still weak against parabolic shells. The citadel was closed fore and aft by 220 mm (8.7 in) transverse bulkheads.

As revised 1917-19

In the meanwhile, war experience showed the importance of a good ASW defence and the designed was revised by adopting a common solution also chosen by the Royal Navy and derived from experiences conducted on old, discarded hulls. The solution chosen though was not as efficient as the one adopted by the Kaiserliche Marine, which was based on a larger large range of simulation, each time verifying the effects of the explosion on a 1:1 mock up hull.

The Jutland/Skagerrak experiences on long, parabolic fire also had an effect on revising the obviously insufficient horizontal protection still possible at this stage of contruction. This led to a further revision of the design but that that stage, forced to add the extra armour, 90-110 mm (3.5 – 4.3 in) directly over the weather deck. This enhanced the usual curved shape but this compromised stability. The barbettes where also increased up to 400 mm (300 mm before). The new protected deck was added to the same lateral protection still comprising a double layer of 300 and 220 mm in thickness, but the underwater protection remained whoefully insufficient. If these vessels would have been still around in 1941-42, they could have been defeated even by aerial torpedoes.


The main armament was unchanged basically since 1913 when fixed on only eight guns. The development of this ordnance however took time. Secondary armament was also revised and in 1914, the light armament took a far more AA or dual purpose coloration which was avant-guard for the time. The torpedo tubes were not however, but Jutland would soon relativise their utility.


Francesco Caracciolo and her sisters had the same main battery of eight 40-caliber Cannone navale da 381/40 guns. They were located in in four twin gun turrets mounted on the centerline in “superfiring pairs” fore and aft, but pushed as the design progress further apart.

Italy planned four dreadnought battleships to succeed the two Andrea Doria with 381 mm (15 in) guns already in 1912 when the construction of the British Queen Elizabeth class was decided. Thirty guns were ordered in 1913 as soon as a proposition submitted to Ansaldo-Schneider, Armstrong-Pozzuoli, and Vickers-Terni. They all had identical ballistic performance, but differed in construction. The British Vickers-Terni in the end was the preffered design, and ten more ordered in 1914 from Armstrong-Pozzuoli. The Italo-French Ansaldo guns however were close contenders, weighing only 63 long tons (64 t) whereas the Armstrong’s 83.56 long tons.

The Cannone navale tested in 1913-1915 were 381mm/40 with a total overall length, barrel included, of 15.74 meters (51 ft 8 in), the barrel itself being 15.24 meters (50 ft) long. The propellant depending on the shell type was weighting between 148 or 150 kilograms (326 or 331 lb). Rate of fire depending on the loading angle and mount, circa one round per minute for the battleships guns. Indeed they were used instead on improvized monitor mounts and railways during the war. They fired a standard AP shell at 885-kilogram (1,951 lb) and 700 meters per second (2,300 ft/s), up to 19,800 meters (21,700 yd) in range. To compare the British 15-in Mark 1 fired twice as fast (2 rpm), faster at 2,450–2,640 feet per second (750–800 m/s) with supercharge and way further at 33,550 yards (30,680 m) on the later war version. However this range was on the standard naval round, at 20°, the Monitor’s mounts could elevate for some to 30° and enable a range of 27,300 m (29,900 yd) which was closer. These were compatrable shells, the British ones being slightly lighter at 1,938 pounds (879 kg). More on navweaps
As said above, if the ships were suspended, the 26 guns manufactured in all were put to good use on a variety of monitors on the north adriatic front (Isonzo). Those not ported on railway cars mounts, were used in fortifications. Post-WW1 these were increasingly seen as an obsolete gun, with plans either to rechambered these or work on the mount to obtain a better range and faster loading. A highly modified version was developed in the late 1920s and adopted for the Littorio class many years later.


The secondary armament of the ships was planned to be eighteen and then only twelve Cannone navale da 152/50 (6 in) guns, 6-inches guns of Italo-British design. They were still quite a heavier, longer range caliber compared to the 135 mm of the Doria class.
They were classically mounted in casemates, clustered amidships in the battery deck which opened in two series broadly forward covering well the weather deck. This ensured six in chase, retreat and on broadside as well.
It should be said that these casemate guns did not made unanimity. Some Italian engineers (Like General Ferretti) defended turrets instead, placed above the deck and less subject to water spray, as well as a greater arc of fire fore and aft. However experience of twin 6-in turrets in 1913 was limited and pose problems of its own, notably the size of wings barbettes and complications for loading and citadel protection. They fired 50-kilogram (110 lb) AP or HE shells at a muzzle velocity of 850 meters per second (2,800 ft/s), one roudn a minute, and a mount allowing a 20° elevation max, making for a range of 19.4 km (12 mi). They could traverse 60 degrees and also depress to −5 degrees and were still “wet” in heavy seas as waves crashing on the foredeck could reach all the way to the battery. Instead of placing them in the hull instead, which would have force to raise the whole hull (and increase weight), this was a sensible weight-saving solution. Superstructure casemates seems also a new tendency in 1912-14, in France and Germany also.

DP/AA/light Guns

The anti-torpedo armament was to comprise originallt standard 57 and 47 mm, probably Arsmtrong and Hotchkiss. But in 1914 it was entirely revise and boldly, dual purpose armament with good anti-aircraft capabilities was chosen with eight Cannone da 102/45 (4 in)/45 guns. These were a rather modern Franco-British design from Amstrong-Schneider, as both countries were looking at the same type dual puspose gun in WWI. The Cannone 102/45 was in tuen licensed copy of the QF 4 inch Mk V, using a horizontal or vertical sliding breech block and semi-automatic action, fixed quick-fire ammunition. They fired a 13.75-kilogram (30.3 lb) unitary HE shell at 850 meters per second (2,800 ft/s) wich could reach 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) at +35° against ships and had a ceiling of 8,000 m (26,000 ft). They could have shattered any biplane of the time, being able in addition of 7rpm, so seven volleys for each main and secondary battery shots. These were located either on the main turrets and/or battery deck roof.

This was further reinforced by twelve 40-millimeter (1.6 in) guns, essentially British Bofors equivalents (QF 2-pdr) which was well complementing the 102 mm guns. These were essentially the same as the British models, made under licence by Ansalso as the ships were built in 1917. Same performances, short range but very high rate of fire. They were presumably to be located on the the main turrets (eight) and the remainder four in the bridge structure or deck. Indeed the smaller calibers are nor shown in plans.


As was typical for capital ships of the period, the Francesco Caracciolo class were also given their initially planned eight torpedo tubes. These were either 450 mm (17.7 in) or 533 mm (21 in) in diameter. This has no tbeen clarified. The exact type is not known either. Read more.

⚙ F. Caracciolo super-dreadnoughts specifications

Displacement 31 400 – 34 000 T. FL (33,000 long tons full load)
Dimensions 212 x 29,6 x 9,5 m (696 ft x 97 ft 1 in x 31 ft 2 in)
Propulsion 4 shafts Parsons turbines, 20 Yarrow boilers, 105,000 shp (78,000 kW)
Speed 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph)
Range 8,000 nmi (15,000 km; 9,200 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Armament (1917) 8 x 381 (4×2), 12 x 152, 8 x 102, 12 x 40, 8 x 533 mm TTs sub
Protection Belt 303, Decks 40, Blockhaus 400, turrets 400, casemates 220 mm
Crew 1400

Caracciolo – author’s illustration

Construction and Fate

From the entry of Italy into the war in April 1915, priorities were entirely reshuffled by the Admiralty. The latter wanted construction of lighter units more economical and faster to build to cover the needs notably of interdicting the Adriatic to the Austro-Hungarian Navy and operate in the confines of the Ionian sea against the Turks. The maintenance and repair of existing units was soon also completely overruling congoing construction, especially four ships as complex, ciostly and cost-intensive as the Caracciolo class. They were no longer relevant in the new context. Entente Navies indeed had a clear advantage in battleships over the central empires, making the acceptance of new battleships even less desirable in the immediate context of the time.

The construction of the four Caracciolo was thus officially suspended in March 1916. Shortages of steel slowed their construction already before Italy entered the war, and after being suspended it was estimated that 9,000 t (8,900 long tons) of steel had been assembled for Francesco Caracciolo alone at this point. On her side, Cristoforo Colombo had just seen 12.5 percent of her hull completed, 5 percent of the machinery assembled. It was even far less for the remainder two, below 8%. Apart the bottom plates aroud the keel and some framing, little more was assembled. Two of the heavy guns intended from Cristoforo Colombo were soon removed and shipped to be installed aboard the monitor Faà di Bruno, those from Alfredo Cappellini coming from Francesco Morosini, the two Monte Santo and four Monte Grappa-class monitors having the remaining ones. The Regia Esercito also took delivery of four Cannone da 381/40 AVS railroad guns for its opetations on the Isonzo front, the remaining spare gns being pressed into coast-defense fortifications, notably around venice.

A nice what-if of the Caracciolo if completed and in service in 1940-43 SRC

RN Caracciolo herself, whose commissioning was originally planned to happen in late 1917 was still impressive on paper and no decision was taken about her fate and of her sister still in the slipways. Too much has been built to justify their demolition, other than that a particular need of steel. Which never presented this emergency until 1918. In 1919, Italy entirely reassessed her priority again. The cost of the war and prominent pacifism of the time precluded any “large fleet” plans and the admiraklty itself was still digestin the lessons of WWI before choosing any future orientation. The situation was also still “volatile”, especially in the Balnkans with the recent creation of Yugoslavia, a civil war in Turkey and conflict with Greece.

At least, the international context brought a fast decision: The treaty of Washington not only capped the Italian Tonnage, it also excluded completion of new battleships, even those planned before the war. France was in no better shape with her four Normandie class either. However the path taken was not to convert the completed hull as an aircraft carrier, as France did with the Bearn. The Admiralty was rather conservative towards the idea of using carriers.

When the official cancellation occurred, 9,000 tons of the Carracciolo hull had been assembled already and its new owner, the “Navigazione Generale Italiana”, proposed a reconversion into a civilian ships, ideally a liner. She was purchased, launched in October 1920 for a future completion. But the conversion project into a liner on the engineering point made little sense, and it was seemed in the end not realistic, dropped afterwards. There has been discissions about a conversion as an aicraft carrier (see later), but in the end, the admiralty wanted quality steel for its new heavy cruisers and decided to have all four scrapped on their slipways for the last three, and the hull of Caracciolo dismantled. Their precious artillery was kapt where it wa sinstalled until WW2, and that included the twin turret on Faa’ di Bruno.

1919: The construction is relaunched

Revised design in 1919 src: Le navi da battaglia classe “Caracciolo”, A Mascolo, Storia Militare. via

Work resumed on Francesco Caracciolo in October 1919 but completion was still far away. Not only resourcves but also manpower was lacking. The Regia Marina however considered a flush-decked aircraft carrier conversion (like HMS Argus), but in 1919 the poor economic situation of Italy and the soon costly Italian pacification campaigns in Libya saw the naval budget curtailed. In 1919 ship’s design specs were: 31.400 tons standard, 34.000 tons full load, 212,08 m x 29,6 m x ,50 m draught, 20 Yarrow boilers, 4 Parsons turbine, 70.000 HP up to 105.000 HP forced, 8,0000 miles ranges based on 1,800 oil tons, same armamenr but eight 102mm/35 AA and sixteen 40mm/39 QF, main belt 300 mm (max vertical) and 90 mm to 110mm for the armored decks and horizontal protection in general).

The last-ditch aircraft carrier conversion project

The first conversion project of Caracciolo in 1920
The first conversion project of Caracciolo in 1920.
In 1919, the Regia Marina considered the idea of converting her into an aircraft carrier (see also Italian interwar carrier projects). Duing negotiations at the Washington Naval Conference the 61,000 metric tons (60,000 long tons) battleship limit now included a converted Francesco Caracciolo and newly purpose-built ships. But still, limits on aicraft carriers were left open. Inexistant limits under 10,000 tonnes, and some global tonnage. Thus, a new conversion design was prepared, this time, not “flush deck”, but more mature. In between before the Washington treaty was signed, the Ansaldo shipyard still proposed converting Francesco Caracciolo into a floatplane carrier which was a cheaper alternative. But even this was too expensive for the Regia Marina in 1920.
In 1922, the new design examined by the Regia Marina was featuring an island superstructure, and specially prepared for Francesco Caracciolo. It receive a favouable overview, but again, chronic budgetary problems led to a thord cancellation.

Ultimate Fate

As well as budgetary problems, the senior Italian navy commanders could not agree on the shape of the post-war Regia Marina, with one faction advocating for aa traditional surface battle fleet, while a second (Romeo Bernotti, his assistant and Giuseppe Fioravanzo) believed in a fleet composed of aircraft carriers and small vessels such as torpedo boats, and submarines. The third faction was led by Admiral Giovanni Sechi. Her argued that a balanced fleet was ideal: A core of battleships and carriers seemed the most flexible composition. In this, he was right; although many still saw carriers like “screening auxiliaries” for the fleet. The other issue was absolute control of the Regia Aeronautica which prevented the birth of an independent naval aviation in Italy to its great detriment in WW2.

To secure budgetary space for new construction however, Admiral Sechi had to make axe cuts into the older ships still in service, cancelling altogether the Francesco Caracciolo class. Francesco Caracciolo was sold on 25 October 1920 to the Navigazione Generale Italiana shipping company in an attempt of a last-ditch trade reconversion. She was to be converted into a fast merchant ship, probably a mix of liner and cargo carrier, but the work was deemed too expensive for engineering reasons. So she was temporarily mothballed in Baia Bay outside Naples. Eventually returned to the Navy, the latter mothballed her untilk finding a company that can proceed to broken her up for scrap, which started by late 1926. Her other three sister ships had been long dismantled, in 1919-20. Machinery from Cristoforo Columbo however was at least recycled into the new prestige ocean liner Roma…

Read More


Fraccaroli, Aldo (1974). Italian Warships of World War II. London: Ian Allan Publishing.
Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-459-4.
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Seaforth.
John Gardiner Conway’s all the world’s fighting ships 1905-1921
Cernuschi, Enrico & O’Hara, Vincent P. (2007). “Search for a Flattop: The Italian Navy and the Aircraft Carrier 1907–2007”. In Preston, Anthony (ed.). Warship. NIP
Clerici, Carlo; Robbins, Charles B. & Flocchini, Alfredo (1999). “The 15″ (381mm)/40 Guns of the Francesco Caracciolo Class Battleships”. Warship International.
Fraccaroli, Aldo (1985). “Italy”. In Gray, Randal (ed.). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906–1921. NIP
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One: Guns, Torpedoes, Mines and ASW Weapons of All Nations; An Illustrated Directory. Seaforth Publishing.
Goldstein, Erik & Maurer, John H. (1994). The Washington Conference, 1921–22: Naval Rivalry, East Asian Stability and the Road to Pearl Harbor. Routledge.
Ordovini, Aldo F.; Petronio, Fulvio; et al. (2017). “Capital Ships of the Royal Italian Navy, 1860–1918: Part 4: Dreadnought Battleships”. Warship International. LIV (4)
Romanych, Marc & Heuer, Greg (2017). Railway Guns of World War I. London: Osprey Publishing.
Sandler, Stanley (2004). Battleships: An Illustrated History of Their Impact. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World’s Capital Ships. New York: Hippocrene Books.
Zabecki, David T. (1999). World War II in Europe. New York: Garland Publishing.


WW2 Italian battleships

Francesco Caracciolo class battleships
General Ferrati’s 1915 battleship “G” series designs
General Ferrati’s 1915 battleship “D” series designs
RN Caracciolo – Article from “La Lettura”
RN Francesco Caracciolo 1919 design
Eng. Orlando’s fast battleship design, 1913


Note: I am not aware of any model maker making the Caracciolo.

A 3D reconstitution of a “modernized WW2 Caracciolo by world of warships

Calabria (1894)

Calabria (1890)

Italian Colonial Cruiser (1892-1924)

Calabria was a small protected cruiser of the Italian Regia Marina which was to serve across the growing Italian empire. Construction took six years, and she was armed with four 6-in main guns, four 4.7 in guns with the size and displacement of a typical large gunboat. She saw a lot of naval mileage, being assigned to stations in China, North American and Australian waters, in addition to East Africa and the Mediterranean, seeing action in the Italo-Turkish War and reclassified as a gunboat in 1921, then training ship in 1924.

Design of the class

Calabria was a protected cruiser designed by naval engineer Edoardo Masdea, part of the “Regioni” superclass also comprising the classes Elba, Lombardy, Umbria, Etruria, Liguria and Puglia. However she differed from the others by having three masts and single funnel, looking like more of a gunboat than a regular cruiser.

Hull and general design

The choice of three shorter masts coud have been dictated by the need of easier rigging management, but photos shows an improper set of two Yards (fore and mainmast) and three spanker heads. But this was in 1890. The rigging was never installed if ever intended and the masts were transformed into propoer military masts anyway around 1905. The foremast in its original form carried two tops, oa projector platform and a spotting platform above, barely at the level of the funnel top.

Edoardo Masdea plan to have her using a steel hull sheathed with wood and zinc to “tropicalize” the hull from fouling, during lengthy stays far away stations in mostly tropical conditions. She was to be serviceable with minium maintenance and quasi-absent or limited shipyard facilities and so capable of long periods without proper overhauls. For a cruiser, even for 1890, she was small and “stubby”, with a 76 meters (249 ft 4 in) long hull long between perpendiculars, 81 m (265 ft 9 in) overall combined with a beam of 12.71 m (41 ft 8 in) making for a 6.2 ratio.
She had an important draft of 5.05 m (16 ft 7 in) so allowing only limited inlets, bays and rivers (like the YangTse).

Normal displacement was 2,453 long tons (2,492 t) and reaching 2,660 long tons (2,700 t) fully loaded. Her design included a flush deck and ram bow with minimalistic superstructures: Apart a small conning tower aft of the forward barbette, a small bridge platform above, another aft, she had three pole masts with planned rigging, but mostly intended for signaling and spotting. The central section of the structure, around the single round funnel, comprised pathways and air intakes, as well as 8 service boats mostly on davits, and she carried a crew of 214-254 officers and ratings.

Armour protection layout

Armor protection was limited, to the level of a protected cruiser. It consisted of a curved 50 mm (2 in) thick deck sloping downward on each sides to offer a slope to incoming fire. There was not proper armor belt. Her conning tower had walls 50 mm thick with steel plating, enough to top shell fragments up to a medium caliber round. The ASW compartimentation alongside the macihinery space comprised ten sections, but no armored walls, nothing which would have resisted a heavy torpedo impact on WWI. It is likely these sections were filled with coal as customary at the time, up to waterline level, with extra compartments above the armored turtledeck.


Calabria was given by two vertical triple-expansion steam engines driving each a propeller shaft. They were fed by steam supplied by four coal-fired and cylindrical fire-tube boilers. In turn, these were exhausted into truncated single funnel located amidships behind the bridge and conning tower. Tootal output on trials was 4,260 indicated horsepower (ihp) or 3,180 kW. This enabled a top speed of 16.4 knots (30.4 km/h; 18.9 mph). Let’s remind here that the Garibaldi class, a couple of years later and definitely better protected, were capable of 20 knots. Calabria however had sufficient range for its intended role, at 2,500 nautical miles (4,600 km; 2,900 mi) while cruising at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). Although a sailing rig was planned, it was never installed given its absence on the rare photos of the ship.


Calabria was armed with a mix of “secondary guns” heavy and medium fast cannons of neighbouring calibers making in firepower what she lacked in range. Her two torpedo tubes were the only reason she was classed as a “torpedo ram” in the first place.


Calabria’s main battery comprised four 15 cm (5.9 in) L/40 guns. They were located fore and aft of the deck, in the axis, and two on sponsons forward, to have three in chase but two in retreat, their arc of fire was limited rearwards. The guns were British QF 6-inch 40 calibre naval guns, from Elswick Ordnance Company manufactured at the Elswick Ordnance Companyn Royal Arsenal, Woolwich.
They fire a 100 pounds (45 kg) QF, separate cartridge and shell round, the mount elevated and depressed to -5/+20 degrees, ROF was 5-7 rpm, Muzzle velocity 2,154 feet per second (657 m/s) and effective 10,000 yards (9,140 m) at 20° elevation.


The secondary battery comprised four 12 cm (4.7 in) L/40 guns, all mounted individually on side sponsons, amidship along the hull. These were also classic Elswick guns designed in 1885, QF 4.7-inch Mk II (presumably), which used Separate loading AP and HE 45 pounds (20.41 kg) rounds. The gun used a single motion interrupted screw breech, with 12 inches (305 mm) recoil. The mount elevated and depressed to -6° – 20°, ROF 5–6 rpm, Muzzle velocity 1,786 fps (544 m/s) with gunpowder or 2,150 feet per second (660 m/s) with cordite bags. Max range was about the same as the main guns at 10,000 yards (9,100 m) at 20°. So they had the same range and rate of fire. An average broadside volley was five shells strong every ten seconds…


Light armament for close-range defense against torpedo boats comprised eight 5.7 cm (2.2 in) L/40 Hotchkiss guns. They were located along the weather deck and protected by shields just thick enough to stop light fire and shrapnel, four either side. These were capable of 25 rpm (mv 1,818 fps) and also 10,000 yds, but 4,000 (3,700 m) effective.
This was complemented by eight 3.7 cm (1.5 in) L/20 guns which type and location are unknown. This was complemented by a pair of machine guns, liekly liquid-cooled Maxim type. They could have been dismounted to be placed on the steam cutters to cover and landing party, also a part of colonial duties in case of insurrections.

Torpedo Tubes

Calabria was also equipped with a pair of 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes, likely underwater and broadside. The torpedo type was probably the Siluranti B57 (Schwarzkopff & Rijeka, 1888). Provision is unknown.


In 1914 she had still her four 152mm/40 maintained, all 4.7-in guns removed (two more modern added) also and two single QF 57mm/40 (Two 5.7 cm guns, six of the 3.7 cm removed).
In 1921 when used as a training ship, she had her two 450mm TTs removed, a single 152mm/40 A1891 kept, two single 57mm/40 kept, but a single 40mm/39 M1917 added.

⚙ Calabria specifications

Displacement 2,453 long tons standard, 2,660 long tons FL
Dimensions 81 x 12.71 x 5.05 m (265 ft 9 in x 41 ft 8 in x 16 ft 7 in)
Propulsion 2 shaft TE, 4 FT boilers 4,260 ihp (3,180 kW)
Speed 16.4 knots (30.4 km/h; 18.9 mph)
Range 2,500 nmi (4,600 km; 2,900 mi) at 10 knots
Armament 4× 15 cm, 4× 12 cm, 8× 5.7 cm, 8× 3.7 cm, 2× 450 mm TT
Protection Turtledeck 50 mm (2 in), Conning tower 50 mm
Crew 214–254

Good Gunboat, Poor cruiser design

Calabria, date unknown, prewar, Stae Library of Queensland Australia
Calabria, date unknown, prewar, Stae Library of Queensland Australia. Note this is one of the very rare photo showing a semblance of rigging, with folded spanker sails.
Calabria was built in the Military Maritime Arsenal of La Spezia. Her hull was laid down on 22 September 1890. She was officially classified as a “torpedo boat ram” (ariete torpediniere) when launched on 20 September 1894, and then again reclassified as a “protected cruiser” (incrociatore protetto) and after being completed in 1897 she entered service on 21 July 1897.

Her career was colorful: She took part in an expedition to China during the Boxer Rebellion, with a landing party retaking the Taku forts. She served in the Carribean, Atlantic, Pacific (Tuamotu, Marshall), Shanghai and made two more world trips before taking part in the Italo-Turkish war in 1911, from the Red Sea, useing her guns for coastal bombardment. In 1914 she protected Italian interest during the Mexican revolution and from 1915 patrolled off Eastern Africa (24 missions). Postwar she returned in the Far East and back home was replaced in 1924 by the cruiser Libya (herself was classified as a gunboat).

Initially this type of small cruiser had little success, lacking protection and being slow. However she was still able to show it’s excellent agility and seaworthiness in difficult weather and heavy seas, having great stability due to the low lenght-weight ratio. This favored artillery accuracy in her posting role of “quasi-gunboat”. This armament was modified several times in 1905, 1914 and 1921 and her size and speed made her reclassified logically as a “gunboat” (cannoniera). Despite of this, she went on in service as a far from home TS until the mid-1920s which was not bad for a ship designed in 1890.

Calabria’s 24 years career (1897-1924)

Calabria as completed, 1897 to 1900.
Calabrian was built at La Spezia dockyard, laid down in February 1892, launched on 20 September 1894, fitted-out work completed by mid-1897. She was commissioned on 12 July. Part of the Reserve Division (ironclads Lepanto, Italia, Duilio, Francesco Morosini, Ruggiero di Lauria) with the protected cruiser Lombardia, torpedo cruiser Calatafimi, two torpedo boats she started training until prepared for her first overseas deployment.
Calabria’s first mission was to show the flag during a crisis on Crete that could spread into the eastern Mediterranean, with the Ottoman Empire in high tension. In 1898, the Spanish-American War saw her redeployed in the Carribean until the end of the conflict. She safeguarded Italian trade and her own citizen’s interests in Cuba. Back home after a refit she started the first of many, long overseas deployments marking her first decade. She was in Chinese waters in 1899 as the Boxer Uprising started and soon joined an international squadron (“Eight Nation Alliance”). She entered the mouth of the Hai River carrying a contingent of 475 Italian Marine Rifles, which were landed and traveled to Beijing in order to reinforce the Legation Quarter. She landed her own party also to retake the Taku forts which protect the entrance of the Peiho (Hai river).

Back home after another upkeep, she was sent on 20 May 1902 to Cuba, whuich was granted its independence from the US and found there the British protected cruiser HMS Psyche. Both fired salutes to USS Brooklyn. In April 1903, Calabria was in Kobe, Japan, as part of her far east station. She took part in a naval review in presence of Japanese Emperor Meiji. Also included were the British Battleship HMS Glory and protected cruiser HMS Blenheim, German protected cruiser SMS Hansa, French protected cruiser Pascal, Russian protected cruiser Askold.

Calabria made another long overseas cruise from early 1905 with a midshipman of mark aboard, Prince Ferdinando. She departed Venice on 4 February, fitted with wireless telegraphy for testings. She called Gibraltar, which was a success. She crossed the Atlantic to the West Indies, visiting Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) for “gunboat diplomacy” as the country developed huge debts from Italian nationals. She went on along the West South American coast, calling Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Callao and Lima, and rounding the cape, Valparaiso, and finally Acapulco in Mexico.

Calabria in white livery, moored at Fremantle, Australia, November 1905 (Reddit)

On 11 September she visited San Francisco and after crew’s leave, she went on with her circumnavigation, heading to Oceania, visiting Australia and several Pacific islands. In May 1906, Calabria was back in Chinese waters. On the 18th, she saluted in Nanking the French cruiser Descartes and German gunboat SMS Vorwärts. By October 1909, she was back on the west coast, taking part in the Portola Festival of San Francisco (140th anniversary of the Portolà expedition). 1910 was about the same long trip, but not much more is known.

Italo-Turkish War
On 29 September 1911 war was declared between Italya and the Ottoman Empire. The goal was to seize Ottoman Tripolitania (Libya), and the Ottomans made a move to threaten Italiean Eritrea by lauanching an attack across the Red Sea from Arabia. The staff started to support anti-Ottoman rebels in Yemen to free their move to Tripolitania. Calabria was still in the Far East at the time, and received an urgent communication to sail back to the red sea via the Indian ocean. She was to reinforce the small naval force in Eritrea.

After arrival, she was soon joined by the cruiser Puglia, and both started bombarding the Turkish port of Aqaba (19 November 1911) and force the contingent to leave. Hostilities ceased when King George V crossed the Red Sea after his coronation ceremony in India. They resumed on 26 November and on the 30th, Calabria and the gunboat Volturno bombarded a quarantine station near Perim and later to Mocha and Cheikh Saïd.

In early 1912, the Italian Red Sea Fleet tried to locate seven Ottoman gunboats which carried contingents to attack Eritrea. They ignored the flotilla never departed due coal shortages. Calabria and Puglia executed several diversionary bombardments: Jebl Tahr, Al Luḩayyah, and with the cruiser Piemonte (escorted by the destroyers Artigliere and Garibaldino) she resumed her search for the Turkish gunboats. On 7 January, they located them and engage the (unequal) fight at the Battle of Kunfuda Bay. Four were sunk, the others so badly damaged they were beached to avoid sinking. On the 8th, the Italian flotilla landed a shore party to finish off the grounded gunboats, now deserted, with explosives. Calabria and the rest of the flotilla were back shelling Turkish ports in the Red Sea which ended with a blockade of Al Hudaydah on 26 January. Calabria, short of coal and ammunition then was ordered back to Italy in April. Xorn-out, she also needed a dydock refi and compehensive overhaul. The war ened in absentia, the Turkish Ottoman Empire accepting surrender tems in October.

WW1 and late career
In 1914, after her overhaul she had less armament but more modern 12 cm guns and less light guns. This enabled to reduce the crew and overall maintenance costs as well, although she was still classified as a cruiser. She took part in the safeguarding of Italian interests and Citizens in mexico during the revolution in 1914. In January 1915, while still neutral, Calabria roamed the coast of Ottoman Syria, assisting refugees with the armoured cruiser USS North Carolina. Her records are not known for late 1915 and 1916, she was likely stationed in East Africa.

She was sent in July 1917 for a diplomatic mission, departing Massawa and crossing the Red Sea to visit Hussein bin Ali (autoproclaimed King of Hejaz), to the Mecca and was back to East African waters, in January 1918. She showed the flag off Somalia and visited Aden and Djibouti. The war ended and Calabria was still stationed in East Africa, but sailed back home for a refut, being reclassified as a gunboat in 1921, with her armament curtailed again (since 15 cm gun, two 5.7 cm guns, 4 cm (1.6 in) L/39 autocannon). She was used as a gunboat until early 1924, acting as a gunnery training ship for a few months. Due to her age, she was condemned and discarded, then sold for BU on 13 November 1924.

Read More


Annual Reports of the Navy Department for the Year 1902. Washington, DC
Beehler, William Henry (1913). The History of the Italian-Turkish War. USNA
Cresciani, Gianfranco (2003). The Italians in Australia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Esposito, Gabriele (2020). Armies of the Italian-Turkish War: Conquest of Libya, 1911–1912. Oxford: Osprey.
Fraccaroli, Aldo (1979). “Italy”. In Gardiner, Robert (ed.). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905.
Garbett, H., ed. (June 1897). “Naval Notes—Italy”. Journal of the Royal United Service Institution.
Robinson, C. N. (1912). Hythe, Thomas (ed.). “The Turco-Italian War”. The Naval Annual. Portsmouth: J. Griffin & Co.
Willmott, H. P. (2009). The Last Century of Sea Power. Vol. I: From Port Arthur to Chanak, 1894–1922. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Photo of the launch (De Agostini coll.)

Holland class Submersibles (1901)

Holland Type submersibles (1901)

HMS N°1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (1900-1921)

British WWI subs: Holland | A-class | B-class | C-Class | D-Class | E-class | S-class | V-Class | W-class | F-class | HMS Nautilus | HMS Swordfish | G-class | J-class | K-class | M-class | H-class | R-class | L-class

The start of the British sub. lineage

HMS N°1 on sea trials.

Initial Resistance

The Royal Navy long resisted the idea of having submarines (submersibles would be more exact) in its ranks, ajthopugh the type gained traction already before the US Civil war and especially in Europe in the 1870-80s. France in particular, betting on the young school concept of asymetric warfare, largely invested as submersibles as complement of is expansive torpedo boats fleet, and worked on many prototypes and first series already in the 1890s. The US was not far behind with already renowned manufacturers such as Irish-born engineer J.P. Holland.

The move towards submersibles was not an easy one. There was quite some resistance from the admiralty to this new “dishonorable and ungentlemanly” form of warfare, or basically a sneaky weapon only good for inferior navies. In the 1890s that position was near-impossible to move and indeed, as a weapon of war, the submersible was still not impressive, slow and dangerous, carrying a single spar torpedo or “dynamite gun” as on the USS Holland. In its early infancy with no series in adoption in any navy yet, its future was all but uncertain as some called it a “fad”, like the torpedo rams and torpedo cruisers.

USS Holland

Initial Forays

Captain Henry Jackson was a British naval attaché in Paris, reporting on French submarine developments in the 1890s. In 1898 he witnessed trials of “Goubet” a small 11-ton submersible designed to be carried aboard any large warship. In January 1899, he informed the Admiralty of exercises made by the much lager (270-ton= experimental Gustave Zédé. And its success when torpedoing the battleship Magenta. The Board of Admiralty however dismissed the idea France had ordered 12 submarines based on technical issues and political propaganda in France.
In January 1900 however, Washington DC attaché Captain Charles Ottley reported on his side on Holland’s progresses and the real interest showed by the US government to purchase one. Soon he also sent a complete set of specifications and trial performances figured to the admiralty, even a a set of blueprints.

In February 1899, new came from Paris, that Gustave Zédé was mre successful that anticipated and that a class was on its way. Meanwhile, Admiral Fisher (see later) at the head of the Mediterranean Fleet and concerned that the French might have some of these subs, asked the Admiralty defensive instructions, himself suggesting mines. In May 1899, the Admiralty asked the torpedo school to investigate on the question while requesting a submarine to provide a basis for these experiments. The same month news from the US confirmed the US purchase. Thus Sea Lord Walter Kerr and Controller Rear Admiral Arthur K. Wilson confirmed the need of purchasing one of these to investigate its capabilities, to better combat it in the Mediterranean.

Enters Sir John A. Fisher

Before being a first sea lord (appointed First Sea Lord in 1904), John Arbuthnot Fisher, 1st Baron Fisher, was already in influencial figure in the naval staff. A 1856 cadet in the “wooden fleet”, narrowly missing the Crimean war, with mentors that knew and worked with veterans of Trafalgar, he soon became aware of rapid technological developments, new powerplants with VTE, new casting techniques and the birth of ironclads, pivot breech-loading rifled cannons and central batteries as well as the first turrets, and the birth of the torpedo in the late 1870s. This coincided with the rise of the “Jeune Ecole” in France, which saw the 2nd largest fleet sinking to the 4th rank in 1910, betting everything on new development. Fisher looked at it with great attention in the 1880s and started to sense a possible counter to the absolute dominance of the RN, established as twice as powerful of the next two fleets combined.

In 1891-92, Fisher was Admiral Superintendent of the dockyard at Portsmouth, fighting inertia, accelerate shipyards output, and fight bureaucratic bottlenecks. When Third Naval Lord and Controller of the Navy, she pushed forward for the adoption of the first torpedo-boats units in the navy, and soon the first destroyers. But it’s really as First Sea Lord he drove forward the construction of HMS Dreadnought, and accelerate submarines development with the “A” class. In order to accelerate things, rather than going through the pain of many prototypes, adopting the Holland design, which had an excellent reputation at the time, as paradox since the admiralty suspected the Irish inventor’s proposal was a way to combat the British in the first place, and support the nationalist cause.

A Few works about John Holland

John Philip Holland was born in Ireland in 1841. He emigrated to America to create his first successful submarine, since Ireland lacked suitable facilities for this (clandestine at that), but it was still paid for by Irish nationalists, seeking Ireland’s liberation from Britain. His first experimental submarine was a succes which impressed everyone. He convinced his backers to pay for a bigger vessel launched in 1878, named the “Fenian Ram” (another irish reference).
In 1900, after decades of struggle and disappointment, the US Navy accepted Holland’s Type 6 design. One US newspaper described as “Uncle Sam’s Devil of the Deep”. The Holland Type 6 was the culmination of decades of research and design. The father of submarine in the US would soon turned out to be also the father of British Submarines, quite an irony. But this still was a bold move from the British Admiralty, with probably some arms torned off in the process. It’s only on October 12th, 1900, That US Navy commissioned it first official submarine, USS Holland (SS-1). It should be said that due to the soon established British-Japanese alliance, the IJN will soon have its own Holland type in 1905.

The Vickers-Holland Agreements

The Admiralty naturally started negotiating with Holland’s Torpedo Boat Co., with Vickers Ltd as trusted manufacturer. It was agreed that The Electric Boat Co. which was granted the patents rights from Holland, would license Vickers for a local construction rather than just assemble boats shipps from the US. An order was placed for five. The Board of Admiralty on its trajectory even considered using them on offensive role if trials of defensive purposes were successful, and even to place further orders.

The general election of November 1900 saw the Earl of Selborne as new first sea lord, and new Parliamentary Secretary Hugh Oakley Arnold-Forster, which previously criticized Goschen for his resistance towards submarines, now informed of the secret development, but also worried about the advancement compared to the French. Contract was at last signed by December 1900, for a delivery in October 1901. Arnold-Forster also wanted to involve other companies but this was opposed Vice Admiral Archibald Douglass and Wilson, still unwilling to encourage such developments and give other navies encouragement this was the way forward (since the RN would lead the way).

Wilson considered that by range, the new class would only be able to operate in French waters, and the contrary was also true and French subs could well threat home ports. He saw potential to prevent maritime trade and that it was more advisable to slow down submarine development and rather focus in ant-submarine defence. This was the general state of mind before Fisher came in turn as first sea lord in 1904. However the admiralty was baffle to see the secret construction of a submarine was leaked by a Glasgow newspaper in February 1900.
The Admiralty had to acknowlede it officially in March but Arnold-Forster continued to press for more submarines, always opposed by the Sea Lords. His plans were to order three per yearas a minimum to maintain Vicker’s expertis and involvment in developing this specialization. Again from Paris came news and data showing he French design was technically superior to the Holland boats but there was no alternative to the type chosen.

A secret start

The threat posed by foreign submersibles was recoignised in 1900 at last and eventually led to the secret commissioning of a first submarine from Holland Company. The dock hoising it was labeled as “yacht shed” and there was to be no launching ceremony when HMS Holland 1 was completed in 1901. John Holland provided not only a chief engineer to Vickers but also a team of experienced submariners to train Royal Navy personnel. The first feedback was not encouraging: The British crew dislike the cramped contraption for its complicated operation.

When decision was made to continue serie through the same licence from Electric Boats Co., manufacturer for the USN, the Licence was negociated for a first boat, but was soon extended for four more, and eventually went with brand new facilities created at Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness. They were simply denominated the “Holland” serie. Secret no longer applied since March 1900, and completion proceeded much faster. Holland HMS N°1 or “Holland 1” was launched on 2 October 1901.
The five Hollands built only saw training in home waters. Their all-important task was to train future British submariners. The contract included support from the Electric Boat Co. (which sent a chief engineer at Vickers as adviser and later send USN personal already working on USS Holland and the following). Initially a sixth one was to be built but so considerably altered it became the HMS A-1, first of the A class and really the start of a proper British submersible design lineage.

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. In short they were good “submarines” and poor “submersibles”. Perhaps not the best start. It should be said however that the British already had a potential model to be improved, dating back the 1880s: The Nordenfelt type. Although its prime creator was the namesake Swedish industrialist, it’s designer was Manchester Parish’s Reverend George Garrett. The thing worked on coal and steam and was nothing more than a reactualisation of the Confederate “David” of civil war fame. It was sold to both Greece and Turkey through the shady work of arms dealer Basil Zaharoff. However Holland’s boat was clearly a brand new league forward, combining gasoline-electric propulsion, a conning tower, ballast and trim tanks, and dynamite gun rather than a spar torpedo. Clearly the forerunner of modern submarines.

Construction and further developments

Construction however for such small vessels, despite secret was lifted, still took longer than anticipated. The first boat ready to dive was on 6 April 1902. The actual design, from engineer Fulton, was an untested, but improved version of the original Holland design. The main difference was its use od a 180 hp petrol engine. A “Captain of Submarines” was created anew to oversee development work, Reginald Bacon being appointed in this role by May 1901.

He was engineer-minded and quite experienced already with torpedo boats. He soon signalled that the Holland models were likely inferior to current French designs and unable to operate on the surface but in rare, perfectly calm sea conditions. He also criticized their limitation to just 20 miles (32 km) underwater. Finally he suggested that the boats 4 and 5, not yet started, should be revised to improve their seaworthiness. The Admiralty feared Holland would retired it’s “warranty” and thus only authorized the sixth boat to be of a brand new design, the A1, first of the “A-class” and official start of British submarine design.

Design of the British Holland Type

The single-hull was built from “s” grade steel which had been only used previously for the Forth Bridge. She displaced 110 long tons (112 t) surfaced and 123 long tons (125 t) submerged, so with limited ballast. The hull was 63 ft 10 in (19.46 m) long for a beam of 11 ft 9 in (3.58 m). The hull was well profiled according to the design of the time, of cyclindircal section and gradual beam up to amidships. It was however with with an inverted prow fitted with a hook eye, and a deck prolongated to a spine over the upper rudder. This was a “X” type system with four rudders enabling axcellent agility underwater, but no trim vane.
The only protruding element of the bridge was a conning tower, just large enough for a man, reinforced by spinal frames in case of collisions, and dotted with four portholes, the only internal light source in case electric lighting failed.

Vickers, Sons and Maxim in Barrow-in-Furness did not modified one bit of the original design; Except she was equipped with one of the first periscopes in the world a that times, of British design, using a ball socket joint on the hull for raise and lowering it. Her pressure hull contained the fuel tanks, ballast and internal equipments but there was no compartimentation nor bulkhead. Due to this particulars, she was limited to a maximum depth of just 100 feet (30 m). This was however well enough to completely disappear underwater, so out of view. There was no aviation at the time, and ballooning war rare, so no way to detect her but from a spotting top of a war vessel, at the time about 40 m (131 ft) above the waterline, at best. The crew was limited to eight men. Four were dedicated to manage the ballasts and pumps, one the diving controls and rudder, two the single torpedo tube and it’s reload. The only officer aboard had such an inferior rank that a Lieutenant could command a whole flotilla at least on paper. There were not so many candidates for this contraption at the time. Officers and sailors in the RN had an innate distrust for these new vessels.

Cross-section of the Type


The holland type was powered by a Vickers Petrol engine, rated for 160 hp (119 kW), to run while surfaced, venting through a telecopic pipe close to the conning tower. There was also another telescopic air intake behind. To run submerged, she had a Electric motor ratd for 74 hp (55 kW). She ran at 8 knots (9.2 mph; 15 km/h) surfaced and 7 knots (8.1 mph; 13 km/h) submerged, so almost the same, typical of Holland’s boat at the time. Such speed precluded any fleet use, but only harbour defence service as planned.
This was compounded by their poor rang, 250 nmi (460 km) surfaced at 8 knots and just 20 nmi (37 km) at 7 knots while submerged, more at lower speeds.


The Holland boat had limited internal space and also to avoid complications, a single torpedo tube was fitted, a standard caliber at the time of 14 in (360 mm) with just enough space for two more torpedoes, stored on either sides of the tube. The tube itself depending on a compressed air tank located just above. The space there was quite cramped. The opening and closing of the round torpedo hatch was manual.
The torpedo was likely the 14-in Mark IX Torpedo made by Royal Gun Factory at Woolwich. It averaged 27 knots over 600 yards in 44.7 degree water when tested in 1896-97.


⚙ Holland 1 specifications

Displacement 110 long tons (112 t) surfaced, 123 long tons (125 t) submerged
Dimensions 63 ft 10 in x 11 ft 9 in (19.46 m x 3.58 m)
Propulsion Petrol engine, 160 hp (119 kW) + Electric motor, 74 hp (55 kW)
Speed 8 knots surfaced, 7 knots submerged
Range 250 nmi (460 km)/8 kn surf. 20 nmi (37 km)/7 kn sub.
Max Depht 30 m (100 ft)
Armament 1 × 14 in (360 mm) torpedo tube, 2 torpedoes

General assessment

The “Holland 1” and its class had its limitations but they impressed the Navy enough to commission a first fully proprietary British design patented by Vickers in 1902 – the A1. This new class boasted a double propulsion system, both with electric drive while submerged and petrol engines when surfaceed. HMS A13 was the first to test a diesel engine but without success. It was however clar that gasoline vapors into such a confined environment was not thre greatest idea and the diesel would come forward again. Unlike the Holland serie, the A class provided active service for two decades, mostly to train personal, quite an achievement for Vickers.
It proved however still notoriously accident-prone. But nothing could have been done withut the Holland class that came with a fully matured design that Vickers had just to improve. The other important role of the Holland class, which missed WWI entirely, was of course to provide this early submarines training, the next generation starting on the A-class instead. They will all be promoted to officers when WWI and greatly participated in the role played by the British submarine fleet in that conflict.

Another incentive to order more submarines came during the Russian Baltic Fleet redeployment in the Pacific (Russo-Japanese War, up to Tsushima). While transiting in 1904 while in the fog, the “Dogger Bank incident” saw these ships taking some British fishing trawlers for Japanese torpedo boats and fire, before recoignising their mistake.

They were indeed aware of the 1902 alliance and some believed that it was a possible scenario that freshly delivered britush-built TBs to the IJN could await in ambush in international waters. The chaos saw one trawler sunk, two fishermen killed and several more injured, another one badly damaged, further degrading very difficult Russo-British relations since the late 1880s “war scare” over Asian russian crisers and decade long arm’s race. The Parliament obtained for the Royal Navy and order for 28 battleships… but also the Holland and A-class submarines, that can ambush indeed Russian Ships coming from the Baltic.

Experiments with the first boats went on in 1901 at the torpedo school as planned, to devise at first easly ASW tactics. Before the first boat was there, underwater charges were launched at a moving torpedo. From November 1902 when HMS Holland 1 arrived, she was used as target, with live explosive charges. A 200 lb (91 kg) guncotton charge at 80 yards (73 m) caused almost no damage. It was also soon realized how hard ot was to locate a submarine and even concluded it was impossible to attack submerged submarines, only raising more alarm bells at the admiralty about French plans.

Destroyers could carry such experimental charges, that could ideally be thrown off the stern (fore-runners of the depht charges) and put themselves at risk, while inneficient if too small to effectively damage a submarine. Only two charges were to be carried. Other were resolutely optimistic about the subs offensive capabilities. They planned that a flotilla of 3–5 were a perfect deterrence for any fleet close to the port where they were based. And indeed a few years later in 1904, they were scrambled to meet the Russian Battle fleet.

The Holland type initially suffered from serious reliability problems. In 1903 an attempted circumnavigation around the Isle of Wight, on the surface, resulted in four boats breaking down after just 4 miles (6.4 km). The boats were so frequently unable to operate they were lmerely used for testing and training. As soon as the A-class boats were available, which cured all the Holland’s past issues, they would in turn be kept for training submariners and the Holland boats directed to the scrapyard.

Royal Navy ww2 HMS N°1

Holland 1’s keel was laid down 4 February 1901, assembled in the new famous “Yacht Shed”. In addition, parts fabricated in the general yard were marked for “pontoon no 1”. She was still launched in secrecy with only the yards and some navy personal present, on 2 October 1901. After initial training or British sailors with US ones, she dived for the first time in an enclosed basin on 20 March 1902. Her sea trials only begun from April 1902.

In September 1902 the First Submarine Flotilla, commanded by Captain Reginald Bacon arrived in Portsmouth. It consisted of two completed Holland boats and the gunboat H.M.S. Hazard that served as a floating submarine base. Captain Bacon recognized how dangerous the new submarines could be and proceeded cautiously with training his small band of volunteer officers and men. There were accidents and disappointments but just a few months later Captain Bacon reported that :

“Even these Little Boats would be a terror to any ship attempting to remain or pass near a harbour holding them”.

And also:

“…..the ingenious designer in New York evidently did not realize that the average Naval Officer has only two eyes and two hands: the little conning tower was simply plastered with wheels, levers and gauges with which some superman was to fire torpedoes, dive and steer and do everything else at the same time…”
From the 1902 diary of Lt. Arnold Fosters Royal Navy’s first submarine commander.

While in Portsmouth, along with HMS Holland 2 boat they were soon joined by their dedicated tender HMS Hazard. The latter was a former Dryad-class torpedo gunboat (1892), reconverted for the purpose that year. Together the two subs and their tenders made the Royal Navy’s “First Submarine Flotilla” under overall command of Captain Reginald Bacon. HMS Holland 1 however suffered an explosion on 3 March 1903 due to gasoline vapors, but fortunately only caused four injuries.

On 24 October 1904, she was scrambled with the four other Holland boats and three freshly commissioned A-class boats, from Portsmouth to the north sea, looking to attack the Russian Baltic fleet which just mistakenly sunk a fishing trawler near the Dogger Bank. They were all recalled before interception as dimolacy prevailed though.
Eventually Holland 1, used to train until then future A and B class submariners, arrived at the end of her useful life in 1913. She had been also caught up by rapidly advanced technology and in the worst shape compared to her sisters.
HMS Holland 1 was thus decommissioned, sold for BU in 1913 to Thos. W. Ward for “just” £410. (not many steel to cut out here !). However what happened next added a new twist to her history. When sold she did not have been even stripped of her fittings, which were all intact. However before purchase, Thos. W. Ward wanted her torpedo tube to be deactivated.
While towed to the scrapyard, the towed boat encountered foul weather, and due to leakage or possibly caused by the torpedo hatch being left open, she sank a mile and a half off Eddystone Lighthouse. The Tug’s crew saw her already slowly sinking beforehand and simply released the tow rope, preventing damage to the tug and knowing there was nobody onboard anyway. This was considered a small loss for the Yard anyway.

The wreck was located in 1981 by Plymouth historian Michael Pearn. She was raised, with the full support of the RN, in November 1982. From 1983 she was coated with anti-corrosion chemicals, restored the best possible and first displayed at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum. But in her state, she was not suitable for a visit. Thus, full restoration plans started soon and went on until September 1988. By 1993 the treatment she had soon proved inadequate and she degraded fast again. To prevent further damage it was decided to immerse her in a A fibreglass tank filled with a sodium carbonate solution, and she stayed there from 1995 to 1999. The corrosive chloride ions being removed, painted anew and reequipped for display she reopened in 2000.

She is now listed as part of the National Historic Fleet (alongside HMS Victory and Warrior among others). In 2001 for her centenary, a new purpose-built climate-controlled building was created around her financed by the Countess Mountbatten. In 2011 she was given an Engineering Heritage Award, by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Her original batteries were later restored by their original manufacturer, Chloride Industrial Batteries Ltd (Swinton) and even recharged and tested. She is now cutout for easy access, opened to public at Gosport.

Royal Navy ww2 HMS N°2

Holland 2 was the second Royal Navy submarine built and had now a non-secret launch in February 1902, being laid down on 4 February 1901. She was commissioned on 1 August 1902 and during her first trials, set the depth record for any British Holland-class. It however was not willful, but an accident. She dove way to quickly to 78 feet. Technically these were rated for 100 feets, but of calculated crushing depht, certainly not a reachable value in normal times. In usual, dives were done at less than 15m (50 fts). In December 1902 she sustained minor damage: A strong current was sufficient due to her anemic power sending off course. She surfaced directly underneath a brigantine and “scrapped her belly”. After a training and tasting career withut much else to report, she was quitely retired in 1911 and sold for BU on 7 October 1913.

Royal Navy ww1 HMS N°3

Number 3 was launched on 9 May 1902, laid down on 4 February 1901, commissioned on 1 August 1902. Her frist captain was John Alfred Moreton, appointed to the submarine depot ship HMS Hazard and also of HM Submarine No.3. She was the first truly accepted in service with N°5 as the others went into many mishaps delaying it. She went on testing until 1911, and sank during a dive. She was refloated later and sold for BU on 7 October 1913.

Royal Navy ww2 HMS N°4

Holland No 4 was laid down in 1902, launched on 23 May 190 and completed, then went through its deep sea trials in the Irish Sea, in August 1902. She was commissioned at last on 2 August 1903. Apparently she was completed with the same small conning tower as the others but a “sail” was added in 1905, although there is no photo to show it. After an uneventful short career of test dives and manoeuvers, she was stricken in 1912. Probably under tow to her breaker, she foundered on 3 September 1912, was salvaged and ended as gunnery target on 17 October 1914.

Royal Navy ww2 HMS N°5

HMS N°5 was the second (after N°3) submarine accepted into Royal Navy service. This was on on 19 January 1903. On 4 March 1903 she was assigned the five-boat Holland-class flotilla, providing a demonstration for Captain Reginald Bacon in Stokes Bay. During this event there was a spark and emanations from the gasoline engine that trigerred an explosion on Holland 1, whic cut shot the even. Reduced to the role of harbor defense and training afterwards she made another display on the Thames River on 1909, and not considered “seaworthy” anymore by the media otr the navy istelf. In 1910, Holland 5 ran aground off Fort Blockhouse close to HMS Dolphin, home of the Royal Navy Submarine Service, not a good omen.
By 1912, decision was made to scrap her and her sisters. While en route under tow bound to Sheerness, she sank in the English Channel off Beachy Head, Sussex for unknown reasons. The same was advanced as for HMS Holland 1: A leaking or unshut torpedo tube hatch, which cause a massive leakage.

Her Wreck was discovery in September 2000, under 98 ft (30 m), 6 miles (9.7 km) off Eastbourne. In April 2001 an Archaeological Diving Unit scanned the area and recoignised, confirmed it as she sat upright on the seabed, reinforcing the hypothesis of a gradual flooding. On 4 January 2005, Andrew McIntosh (Minister for Tourism and Heritage) announced it was added to the list of Protection of Wrecks Act. Despite of this in 2010, it was discovered that the torpedo tube hatch had been stolen. The last dive on her wreck was on 2008, and she had been further damaged by fishing nets, torning off the periscope and deck implements.

Read More


Hutchinson, Robert (2001). Submarines War Beneath the Waves From 1776 to the present day. HarperCollinsPublishers.
Compton-Hall, Richard (1983). Submarine boats The beginnings of underwater warfare. London: Conway maritime press.
Dunmore, Spencer (2002). Lost Subs From the Hunley to the Kursk, the greatest submarines ever lost – and found. Madison press books.
Tait, Simon (1989). Palaces of Discovery The Changing World of Britain’s Museums. Quiller Press.
“Holland I Conservation”. Holland 1. The Royal Navy Submarine Museum.
Chamberlain, Zoe (6 April 2001). “Sailors give a stamp of approval”. Mail (Birmingham).
“Holland One submarine given engineering award”. BBC News. BBC. 4 May 2011.
Hutchinson, Robert (2001). Submarines War Beneath the Waves From 1776 to the present day. HarperCollinsPublishers.
“Naval & Military intelligence”. The Times. No. 36903. London. 20 October 1902
Compton-Hall, Richard (1983). Submarine boats The beginnings of underwater warfare. London: Conway maritime press.
Gray, Edwyn (2003). Disasters of the Deep A Comprehensive Survey of Submarine Accidents & Disasters. Leo Cooper.
Hutchinson, Robert (2001). Jane’s submarines : war beneath the waves from 1776 to the present day. HarperCollins.


The Evolution of Early Naval Submarines: Part 2


Model Kits

Gloire class Armoured Cruisers (1900)

Gloire class Armoured Cruisers (1900)

French Navy Marine Nationale, 1899-1954:
Gloire, Marseillaise, Sully, Amiral Aube, Condé

The Gloire class consisted of five armored cruisers built for the French Marine Nationale in 1901-1904, designed after a long internal debate in the Navy staff between three factions to determine the best type of cruiser in the next decade. A compromise was found and the Gloire class was approved in 1897 With a mixed armament of 7.6 in/6.5 in guns, and fleet-capable operations. Completed in 1903–1904, they served with the Northern Squadron, some operating in the far east, Mediterranean Squadron, where all met in 1910 in the 2nd Light Squadron, quite active in WWI. They served in the Far East, North sea, and Mediterranean and all fronts in WWI, including the black sea in 1919. Two survived in the 1920s, and on was still a training ship in 1944. #ww1 #marinenationale #frenchnavy.

Design Development of the Gloire class (1896-1899)

A nice view of Gloire’s forward section during an hommage to Vendemiaire (agence Rol). It shows in order, the capstan, main battery forward turret, conning tower, bridge and concidene rangefinders above, and fighting top with the four 37 mm Hotchkiss. Above was a spotting top and a platform for a projector.

By mid-1897 the three factions inside the navy staff, the Jeune École, traditionalists and modernists fiercely debated since 1896 over a newly authorized class of five cruisers:
-The Jeune Ecole (Young School) wanted fast, lightly armed ships for commerce raiding, faithful to their asymetric naval warfare credo.
-The traditionalists wanted cruisers to defend colonies, a quite extensive network between Africa, the Indian Ocean, Pacific and far East.
-The modernists desired both armored cruisers and small scout cruisers to operate with the fleet. Only their first would be accepted. They had to wait for 1912 for the second.

jeanne darc
The previous Jeanne D’Arc, that quickstarted this new serie.

They came to a consensus that balanced armored cruisers could fulfill all these roles. The five cruisers intended to work with the fleet had been authorized already as part of the 1896 construction program but only three, the Gueydon class, would be ordered in 1897. Later Navy Minister and Vice Admiral Armand Besnard ordered Louis-Émile Bertin, Director of Naval Construction (“Directeur central des constructions navales”) started design work on an enlarged successor to the Gueydons with 500 metric tons (490 long tons) of extra displacement as room for improvements.

Artist depiction of the class in Brassey's naval annual 1904
Artist depiction of the class in Brassey’s naval annual 1904

The 1896 construction program was amended in 1898. It was now to include six more armored cruisers, three of which were intended to be laid down under FY 1898. Édouard Lockroy (new Naval Minister), a politician, approved the new design based on the DNC previous work, and on 17 September ordered the first two in naval dockyards, while the remaining three would have their orders confirmed in 1899.

Detailed Design

Hull and general design

Comparison between the Gueydon and Gloire (Brasseys naval annual 1906 and 1912).

The additional weight decided by Besnard, on advices from Bertin, enabled the new Gloire-class to have an increasing height above the waterline and higher armored belt, with the extra benefit of adding more torpedo tubes. The final hull was established at 139.78 meters (458 ft 7 in) in overall lenght, 20.2 meters (66 ft 3 in) in beam, and 7.55 meters (24 ft 9 in) draft, more comfortable dimensions indeed compared to the Gueydons. This went for a displacement of 9,996 metric tons (9,838 long tons) compared to the Gueydon’s 9,516 tonnes for 139.90 m (459 ft) in lenght but 19.38 meters (63 ft 7 in) in beam.

Conway's profile of the class
Conway’s profile of the class.

The crew amounted to 25 officers and 590 enlisted men, more than the 566 officers and ratings of the Gueydon’s. Now, on the general design itself, they still resembled their forebears, with a long forecastle, limited tumblehome and modest ram bow, almost straight, a bridge with a thick military mast forward (with fighting and spotting top, going up), tall mainmast aft, two pairs of heavenly spaced funnels, and service boats on davits either side. For more, plans kept at Chatelleraut seems to not have been digitzed for this class yet.

Armour protection layout

The Gloire class had a main armored belt made with Harvey face-hardened armor plates.
-The main waterline belt was 150 mm (5.9 in) amidships and tapered down to 90 mm (3.5 in) forward past the barbette and 80 mm (3.1 in) aft.
-The upper belt strake was 130 mm (5 in) amidships tapered down 80 mm fwd and 70 mmm (2.8 in) aft. These outer strakes however were in less resistant nickel steel.
-ASW compartimentation extensive: (Bertin-style ship) Watertight internal cofferdam, backed by a longitudinal watertight bulkhead.

-Main-gun turrets 161 mm (6.3 in), Harvey armor all around.
-Main barbettes 174 mm (6.9 in) in ordinary steel.
-Secondary turrets faces/sides 92 millimeters (3.6 in)
-Secondary turrets barbettes 102 millimeters (4 in).
-164.7 mm casemates 102 millimeters.
-Conning tower 174 mm thick walls.
-Forward transverse bulkhead 100 mm (3.9 in) thick
-Aft transverse bulkhead 40-84 mm (1.6 and 3.3 in).
-Lower armored deck (made in mild steel plates) 25 mm (0.98 in), flat and sloped sections.
-Upper armored deck 24 mm (0.94 in) hardened steel.


These cruisers innovated little in this field and retook the Gueydon’s machinery essentially: They had three vertical triple-expansion steam engines each on a single propeller shaft. The idea of three shaft was that the axial one would be reserve fo cruising and the outer ones for speed and manoeuver, with different pressures.
In total this machinery was rated for 20,500 metric horsepower (15,100 kW) – To compare with Gueydon’s 21,500 shp), with the steam coming from 28 Belleville water-tube boilers.
Condé and Gloire had Niclausse boilers instead, a choice of their Yard.
This enabled a speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph), but 21.27–21.88 knots (39.39–40.52 km/h; 24.48–25.18 mph) on trials based on 20,110–22,331 PS (14,791–16,424 kW). To compare with the Gueydon’s 21,4 nœuds. For range, they carried 1,660 long tons (1,690 t) of coal, enough for 6,500 nautical miles (12,000 km; 7,500 mi) at 10 knots. To compare, the Gueydons carried 1,575 tons of coal, for a 5,000 nm raduis at 18 knots according to some sources.


The main difference betwen the Gloires and Gueydons were in the armament’s repartition. They carried the same battery, but the Gloires had four of the previously casemated secondary guns relocated in deck turrets. It was homogeneous, with three calibers, main, secondary and light QF (2 calibers) anti-torpedo boat armament. But the torpedo armament was also superior to the Gueydon’s.


The main battery of the Gloire class rested on two quick-firing (QF) 194 mm (7.6 in) Mod. 1893–1896 guns. Same as the Gueydons. They were mounted in single-gun turrets fore and aft.
These fired a 75–90.3-kilogram (165–199 lb) shells (depending of its AP or HE nature) at a muzzle velocity of around 770-800 meters per second (2,500 to 2,600 ft/s).
Range was about 11,500 meters (12,600 yd) at +15° elevation. Each had a reserve of 100 shells. ROF (Rate of Fire) was two rounds a minute.



The secondary armament was split in two caliber, consisting of eight QF 164.7 mm (6.5 in) Mod. 1893–1896 guns plus six QF Canon de 100 mm (3.9 in) Mod. 1893 (two more compared to the Gueydons).
Four 164.7 mm were in two single-gun wing turrets on the broadside, forming a triangle pattern with the axial main turrets fore and aft.
The remaining ones were in single hull casemates.
They fired 45–54.9-kgs (99–121 lb) shells, HE or AP, fired at 900 meters per second (3,000 ft/s) and with a ROF of 3 rounds per minute. At +15° elevation they reached 10,800 meters (11,800 yd), which was almost the same as the main guns. Thus they completed well the slower-firing main guns.
200 rounds were in store for each of these gun.
The six 100 mm guns were located in casemates, two in the froward section of the hull, close to the bow, two in upper superstructure forward, and two in recesses aft, also above the main secondary casemates.
They fired a 14–16-kilogram (31–35 lb) shell (AP/HE) with a muzzle velocity of 710-740 meters per second (2,300 to 2,400 ft/s). Each had a storage of 250 rounds, all stowed in the casemates, and ROF was six rounds per minute.

Anti Torpedo-Boat armament

Their anti-torpedo boat defence rested on eighteen Hotchkiss M1886 47mm/40 -instead of 10 on the Gueydons- (1.9 in) and four Hotchkiss 37mm/40 (1.5 in) guns, the latter usable as saluting guns but not usable for a landing party as they were located in the fighting top. They were all in single mounts. Oddly enough, according to the photos above, these guns were presented as “AA guns”. They indeed had quite an important elevation that could enable this possibility. But being shoulder-moved and slow-firing contact-exploding shells, they would have been inefficient for this role.
These 47 mm guns were located in various positions: Four on the superstructure’s roof, on the corners, four in hull’s casemated position in recesses, one in stern chase, three either broadside also in casemates, just above the main belt. Their usefulness in heavy weather was dubious.

Torpedo Tubes

The Gloire class received a better torpedo armament, with five 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes: A submerged pair and another above water (4), broadside, and the last in the stern and also above water, on pivot mount like the ones of the broadside. Underwater tubes were fixed. In between they shared a stock of sixteen torpedoes. The ships could also be equipped to carry between 10 and 14 naval mines. This capability was never exploited.


During WWI, it’s likely that many of these Hotchkiss guns were landed at some point during a refit and replaced by at least two high-angle 75 mm AA guns. Only Marseillaise was thoroughly modified to be used as training ship.
Condé was largely disarmed as demoted as a barrack ships and later depot ship for submarines in the interwar. She was used as a tender for German U-Boats while in Lorient in WW2 and thus, perhaps rearmed with some modern AA by the Germans, but this information is researched right now for the WW2 section. As for Marseilaise again, she had her main fore and aft guns replaced by 164 mm guns instead, also in turrets in 1925. That’s about all which is known. She was retired in 1929.

Author’s profile.

⚙ Gloire class specifications as built

Displacement 9,996 t (9,838 lt) standard
Dimensions 139.78 x 20.2 x 7.55m (458 ft 7 in x 66 ft 3 in x 24.8 ft)
Propulsion 3 shafts VTE, 28 wt boilers 20,500 PS (15,100 kW)
Speed 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph)
Range 6,500 nautical miles (12,000 km; 7,500 mi) at 10 knots
Armament 2× 194, 8× 164, 6× 100, 18× 47, 4× 37, 5x 450 mm TTS
Protection Main belt 5.9-2.8 in, turrets 6.3-in, bkhds 3.9-in, CT 6.9-in
Crew 615

General Assessment of the Gloire class

Victor Hugo of the next Gambetta class. They were much larger, reaching 13,000 tonnes FL, and carried almost double the armament.

Design-wise, the Gloire class were surely an improvement on their commerce-raiding capabilities, with a slightly better range (but not better speed), larger armament and more flexible secondary turrets for better arc of fire, more guns of intermedediate and light armament plus more torpedo tubes for closer quarters. Armour was generally better, and their main armament was still ranged enough for a battlefleet use at the time. But in general they were too weak to engage anything else but their own kind.

Note that in this post, no word as been said about the Dupleix class, which will be seen next. They were started in the same 1896 programme, but the three cruisers were only 7000 tonnes, seen as weaker versions for the Gueydon/Gloire and one-off pure commerce raider experiment (not fleet capable) armed only with lighter caliber, 6.4-in and 4-in guns. But still armoured cruisers capable of combating other escorting cruisers.

It should be also said at this point that the “Jeune Ecole” wanted and had it’s serie of “pure” commerce raider, largely unarmoured or lightly protected from 1894, D’Entrecasteaux, Guichen, Chateaurenault (which even faked a liner’s silhouette !) and Jurien de la Gravière. Better jugdment prevented more to be built and greater efforts put into more versatile and capable armoured cruisers instead. As for “scouts” asked for the modernists, the last closest to home was “Milan” in… 1884. The French scout program was planned by Admiral and Navy minister Boué de Lapeyrière in 1912 but never realized. It was eventually the basis for the 1920s Duguay-Trouin class.

The armoured cruiser design really started to improve afer the Gloire class, which were more an in-between. A transitional class that made in numbers for what deficiences they possessed. From the next Léon Gambetta, the French Navy went for a brand new standard, way more impressive, and ended with the last “six pipers” just before the Dreadnought age, impressive commerce raiders but also very competent armoured cruisers considering the competition at the time.

Career-wise, the Gloire class had a short existence, on average 15 years of active service. The only exception were Marseillaise, a TS until 1929, and Condé, a barrack ships and later U-Boat depot ship, thus surviving the interwar treaties and still used in WW2. She was the only one to survive the war and be spent as target. The others had a rather dull existence. Apart Sully, sunk in the far east, all four were mostly deployed in largely uneventful escort missions during the Great War.

Read More


Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905.
Dai, Wei (September 2020). “A Discussion on French Armored Cruiser Identification: From the Gueydon Class to the Edgar Quinet Class”. Warship International. LVII
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One: Guns, Torpedoes, Mines and ASW Weapons of All Nations. Seaforth
Jordan, John & Caresse, Philippe (2019). French Armoured Cruisers 1887–1932. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing.
Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World’s Capital Ships. New York: Hippocrene Books.


Model Kits

None (even Kombrig) but small 1/1750 models for wargaming.

French Navy FS Gloire (1899)

FS Gloire (“Glory”) was authorized in the 1896 Naval Program, ordered from Arsenal de Lorient on 17 September 1898, laid down on 5 September 1899, launched 27 June 1900, completed 28 April 1904 (cost 22,081,725 francs).

Prewar Service

She was assigned as flagship, Rear Admiral Joseph Bugard, 1st Cruiser Divisio, Northern Squadron, until 4 August 1905, participating in many exercises between the North sea, Channel, Bay of Biscaye, and Atlantic. With her sisters Condé and Amiral Aube, she carried the remains of John Paul Jones from France to Annapolis in April 1906, also stopping in NyC. Later the 2nd Cruiser Division formed in January 1907 in the Mediterranean. Gloire was transferred there and became its flagship. On 7–8 August she took part in the bombardment of Casablanca at the start of the conquest of Morocco. In October 1907 she was the flagship again, but carrying the flag of Rear Admiral Joseph-Alphonse Philibert.

Bombardment of Casablanca

A reorganization that saw the Mediterranean Squadron becoming the 1st Squadron again and Gloire with Condé and Marseillaise went to the 2nd Light Division of this 1st Squadron, by June 1910. Gloire was still divisional flagship and saw service with Amiral Aube and Condé in January 1911 while the Northern Squadron was fusioned in the same division. All ships but Sully, lost in Indochina years prior, were in March visiting New York City again.

As the turbine-driven Danton-class battleships entered service the 2nd Squadron became the 3rd in September. Gloire hoisted the colors as flagship of Rear Admiral Charles-Eugène Favereau. She took part in a fleet review for President Armand Fallières off Toulon. During a gunnery training on 20 September, a propellant charge exploded prematurely in a main turret, killing all operators instantly, badly wounding another five. The Agadir Crisis of 1911 had a treaty signed between the French and British governments in 1912, a famous agreement that was still valid in 1939. From then on, the Royal Navy would be tasked of protecting the northern French coast and the French would focus on the Mediterranean and defend British (and French) interests, notably Malta, Gibraltar and Suez. The norther squadron was all but reduced to a few vessels, and the 2nd-3rd Light Squadrons were fusioned into the 1st Cruiser Squadron. Gloire was sent back to the Atlantic Training Division by 10 November 1913 as flagship for Rear Admiral Auguste-Georges Bouxin.

WWI Service

During the July Crisis of 1914, Gloire and the other training cruisers of her unit, with reduced crews, were fully reactivated, assigned to the 2nd Light Division, 2nd Light Squadron to defend the English Channel with the Royal Navy. The 2nd DL was posted at the western end of the Channel on 4 August, to spot and captured German shipping as well as escorting troop convoys to France, notably General French British Expeditionary Force to France. On 27 October Channel patrols fell under command of Rear Admiral François le Canellier (flagship Gloire).

Nevertheless some German merchant raiders (like Möwe) did such a rampage that in 1916 the Allies had to transfer more cruisers to the Atlantic. Gloire ended in the 3rd DL and was sent to Dakar, French West Africa in February 1916. She was back to her post in May. A new reorganization saw her assigned to the 3rd DL patrolling the West Indies (Carribean), still hunting down German commerce raiders. Amiral Aube and Gloire left Brest on 20 May for Fort-de-France (Martinique) where Marseillaise and Condé already operated. The four armored cruisers were replaced by the 4th DL in September 1916.

Gloire was just barely back when recalled while trying to intercept Möwe by late December, off Halifax. She was back 17 January 1917. After some upkeep she was sent back to the West Indies as flagship, 3rd DL, until this unit was disbanded on 18 May. The cruisers were sent to the 4th DL, redesignated “Atlantic and Antilles Division” on 1 June 1917, Gloire still a flagship. From then on, the “four musketeers” were only tasked of escorting convoys from Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. This work started on 15 February 1918 and by May, Gloire collided by night with the American ocean liner SS City of Athens. Repaired in France she was back as flagship in the West Indies for which was now simply the “Atlantic Division” from 25 June. On 7 July the French were reassigned the protection of convoys from New York City to the Bay of Biscay. On 11 November she was still in this role.

Postwar Service

After leave, upkeep and refresher training, Gloire was still active. On 1 September 1919 she was escorting the ocean liner SS Leviathan carrying General “Blackjack” John Pershing back home. After this, she was placed in reserve for many more years, and stricken eventually on 7 July 1922 due to her age, sold for BU in 1923.

French Navy FS Marseillaise (1900)

FS Marseillaise (after the French national anthem) was authorized in the 1898 Naval Program. She was ordered from the Arsenal de Brest (Britanny peninsula, Northwest France) on 19 June 1899. Laid down on 10 January 1900 she was launched on 14 July 1900, completed in October 1903 as a cost of 22,031,750 francs.

Prewar Service

Marseillaise joined at first the 1st Cruiser Division, Northern Squadron, like Gloire and her sisters. She however carried President Emile Loubet to Naples for a state visit, in April 1904. She was then transferred to the Light Squadron, Mediterranean by October 1904. In September 1905 like Gloire, she became flagship, Rear Admiral Paul Campion until placed in reserve by July 1907.

Fully recommissioned in January 1908, still as flagship, but hoisting the colors of Rear Admiral Thierry, 2nd Cruiser Division, Northern Squadron. Thierry was soon relieved by Rear Admiral Paul Auvert by July 1909. In October the Mediterranean Squadron became the 1st Squadron, the Northern one, the 2nd Squadron. Marseillaise and Gloire in the latter were part of the 1st Squadron, 2nd DLC (Light Cruiser Division). From August 1911, they were now part of the renumbered 3rd squadron, 2nd DLC, then 3rd DLC, 3rd Squadron in September. After a fleet review and 1912 reorganization, their unit was reconcentrated in the Mediterranean, 2nd Light Squadron, 1st Cruiser Squadron with Marseillaise flagship again for Rear Admiral Albert Royer from 10 November 1913.

WWI Service

From 3 August, the 1st Cruiser Division became the 1st Light Division, retransferred to Cherbourg as distant cover to catch ships going through the recently created blockade at the western entrance to the Channel, for all German ships which would want to cross there. The 1st DL covered also troop transports of the British 6th Infantry Division, BEF, from Southampton to Saint-Nazaire in September and from 27 they patrolled the Channel at the head of an armada of smaller cruisers.

When the eastern Channel entrance was sealed off by a barrage of anti-submarine nets and minefields in 1915, Marseillaise, Gloire and sisters were relocated to the West Indies. By May 1916 the four sisters were now part of the 3rd DLC, trying to spot and catch German commerce raiders in the Carribean. The 3rd DL was disbanded on 18 May 1917. All four cruisers were reassigned the 4th DL “Atlantic and Antilles Division” from 1st June.
After escorting a convoy of nine tugboats from Brazil to Agadir in Morocco, stopping at Dakar in French West Africa, Marseillaise had an outbreak of malaria, infecting 420 men. The few remaining were only able to had her underway at 4 knots to Fort-de-France (Martinique) on 12 November and the rpidemic only ended in December. Marseillaise escorted convoys from Saint Thomas from 15 February 1918 and until the end of the war.

Postwar Service

Marseillaise was in general good condition post-war and reassigned to the Baltic Division on 18 December 1918 until relieved by Gueydon in November 1919, watching over the Bolsheviks manoeuvers and supporting the allies there themslves supporting “white Russians”. Reaassigned to the Atlantic Division in March 1920, she escorted on 29 June the ocean liner SS George Washington with president Woodrow Wilson back to the US. Placed in reserve the next year in 1921 she became a gunnery training ship, with a few modifications (uniform main artillery, new accomodations) based in Toulon in 1925–1929. Stricken in 1929 and renamed “Marseilles II” to free the name for a new light cruiser (La Galissonière class). On 13 February 1932 she was stricken and sold for BU in December 1933.

French Navy FS Sully (1901)

Sully (named after Henry IV marshall and statesman Maximilien de Béthune, Duke of Sully 1559-1641) was authorized in 1898, ordered from Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée on 24 May 1899, laid down the same in La Seyne-sur-Mer, and launched on 4 June 1901. She was completed in June 1904 and soon sent to French Indochina for her first commission. After a few weeks of servuce there, she struck an uncharted reef on 7 February 1905, in Hạ Long Bay. Fortunately where she was, the flooding was gradual and she settled, leaving time for her crew to evacuate in good order, without any casualty. Later small ships tried to salvage what could be, such as ammunitions and guns, or equipment in order to lighten her up. But while trying to refloat her due to tide movements she eventually broke in two. It was decided to abandon the wreck, stricken and considered a total constructive loss.

French Navy FS Amiral Aube (1902)

FS Amiral Aube (named after Théophile Aube, 1826-1890, a colonial veteran of the war with China) was authorized in 1898, ordered from Chantiers de Penhoët on 9 August 1899. Laid down in February 1901 at Saint-Nazaire she was launched on 9 May 1902. Completed on 1 April 1904 at a cost of 24,336,000 francs, her crew came from the just paid off protected cruiser Guichen. Assigned to the 1st Cruiser Division, Northern Squadron, she carried out exercizes in the Atlantic and English channel in the same group as Condé and Gloire (flagship). They escorted the remains of John Paul Jones from France to Annapolis in April 1906. She visited New York City (enabling taking many photos, now in the libray of congress coll.). Later she was assigned to the 2nd Cruiser Division in January 1907. Amiral Aube was later versed to the 1st Cruiser Division (in October) and took part in the Quebec Tercentenary in Canada, berthed in quebeck city, just below the famous “Frontenac Hotel”, the occasion to take many more photos.

As the new République-class battleships entered service in late 1909, the French Navy reorganized these cruisers into the 2nd Squadron. From January 1911, she was in this unit with Gloire and Condé and from March she visited New York City. Deployed in the Mediterranean and training by mid-1911 she took part in the fleet review off in September. Reassigned to Reserve Group by November 1911 she was only fully reactivated by January 1914, assigned the 1st Cruiser Division, 2nd Light Squadron.
Now part of the 1st Light Division she was based in Cherbourg, trying to catch german vessels trying to pass the western Channel entrance blockade. Next, she also escorted troopships of the BEF to France, notably the 6th Infantry Division from Southampton. On 27 October, Amiral Aube and Gloire led a fleet of smaller cruisers patrolling until the eastern entrance was seal off by a barrage in 1915.

Reassigned in the Eastern Mediterranean from 24 December, 2nd Division, 3rd Squadron, Amiral Aube, Marseillaise and Gloire patrolled Egyptian waters, protecting Suez, as well as the Ottoman-held Levantine coasts. After all this time at sea without a proper refit, Marseillaise’s machinery needed more and more repairs until the general staff had enough and ordered her to Brest for a full drydock refit in March 1916. In May she was reassigned to the West Indies, looking for German commerce raiders with Gloire from Fort-de-France. The 3rd DL was disbanded and renamed “Atlantic and Antilles Division” from 1 June 1917 and she escorted convoys from Saint Thomas, from 15 February 1918 until the end of the war.

With the Bolsheviks signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on 3 March 1918, she was sent to North Russia, supportig the Allied intervention from Murmansk on 18 March. She covered the occupation of Arkhangelsk on 10 August and was back home on 18 October, relieved by Gueydon. In early 1919, Amiral Aube was reassigned like her sisters to the Atlantic Division and eventually placed in reserve in March 1920, in Lorient. She was stricken on 7 July 1922 and sold for BU in 1924.

French Navy FS Condé (1902)

FS Condé (after Louis Condé, famous Louis XIV’s generalissimo) was authorized in the 1896 Naval Program. Ordered from Arsenal de Cherbourg, on 17 September 1898 and then Arsenal de Lorient, 8 April 1898, she was eventually laid down on 29 January 1901 in the same slipway of FS Gloire. Launched the last in her class, on 12 March 1902, she was completed on 12 August 1904 at a cost of 21,594,975 francs.

Assigned to the 1st Cruiser Division, Northern Squadron with Gloire and Amiral Aube she had about the same career as the latter. She was in the Mediterranean Squadron by 1906. When the Light Squadron was split in half, Condé, Gloire and Amiral Aube went into the 2nd Light Division and from January 1911, 2nd Squadron. By August, she was in the 3rd Sqn, 3rd DL. Next the 2nd Light Squadron, 1st Cruiser Squadron, Atlantic Division in the French West Indies by early 1914. She took part in the US occupation of Veracruz by April 1914, protecting French citizens and interests off Mexico during the Revolution.

After the July Crisis, Condé and Descartes were at Veracruz in Mexico when recalled home. On 4 August they were assigned to the British 4th Cruiser Squadron trying to catch SMS Karlsruhe last spotted in the area. On 16 October, Condé teamed with HMS Berwick looking for other ships reported off the coast of Brazil. They were looking for the approaching German East Asia Squadron and prevent it to cross the Panama Canal as the US at the time were still neutral. The British Admiralty concentrated all its assets in the West Indies, including Condé on 8 November. However Von Spee was spotted off Chile five days later while Karlsruhe had been destroyed by an internal explosion on 8 November. Condé and Descartes remained in the West Indies until August 1915 and from 14 February HMAS Sydney reluieved Condé which could join her sisters in Martinique.

By January 1916 in the 3rd DL she took part in the search for German commerce raiders. Condé hiwever was pretty worn out after all this time and sent in France for a major overhaul at the Forges et Chantiers de la Gironde shipyard, Bordeaux, Western France, by July 1916. Since commerce raiders were now quite rare, by 1917, the local armored cruisers of the Atlantic and Antilles Division were tasked of escorts from late 1917, and started to cover the line St Thomas-St Nazaire from February 1918. Condé was ordered back alone however to the West Indies on 1 March. She later replaced the torpedoed armored cruiser Dupetit-Thouars in August 1918 and still in the Atlantic Division when the war ended.

Back to France by 28 May 1919, she carried 176 mutineers from French colonial infantry units to Casablanca, to be judged and interned. Condé relieved Gueydon in the Arctic on 25 June. There, she covered the French troops withdrawing from Arkhangelsk and later Murmansk on 12 October as the “reds” were advancing steadily. Reduced to “special reserve” on 15 March 1920 in Brest, Condé became a barracks ship in 1922 for the naval infantry in Lorient. In 1928, she became the HQ for the Naval Infantry School, but was stricken on 15 February 1933. From there, she was converted into a hulk instead of being scrapped. She was captured by the Germans in June 1940. They considerably modified her to be usable as a U-Boat depot ship. She was therefore spotted and sunk by Allied aviation in 1944. Her wreck was refloated in 1954 to be broken up.


Devonshire class Armored Cruisers (1903)

Devonshire class Armored Cruisers (1903)

HMS Devonshire, Antrim, Argyll, Carnarvon, Hampshire, Roxburg (1902-1922)

The synthesis of past designs

The Devonshire class were follows-up of the previous Monmouth an attempt to improve their general characteristics while keeping dimensions and tonnage acceptable in peacetime. Nothing really changed between the armament quite close but with larger main guns, same machinery but lower speed. They all six (Devonshire, Antrim, Argyll, Carnarvon, Hampshire, Roxburg) were completed in 1905 and saw action in WWI: Argyll was wrecked, Hampshire was sunk by a naval mine and the four survivors were disposed of soon after the war.

Design of the class

The Devonshire class followed a path of incemental improvements caracteristic of great navies of the time. They were improved versions of the preceding Monmouth class (launched 1901) with three years of design gap, and also intended for commerce protection, a vital role given the extensive network of long globe-spanning trade lines of the Empire. Their armament was made however powerful to deal with the new generation of armoured cruisers of many nations (including the Russians) and instead of the previous twin 6-inch (152 mm) turrets, they were replaced by four 7.5-inch (190 mm) single turrets, in a diamond arrangement (two broadside forward). Displacement was at the higher en of the type, at 10,850 long tons (11,020 t). The rest was constutited by casemated guns and light anti-torpedo artillery.

As usal to rapidly provide the Navy a full homogenous class without design revisions, the construction spanned six yards at the same time, all ordered in 1902, laid down from march to September to HM Dockyard, Chatham, John Brown, Clydebank, Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering at Greenock, William Beardmore & Company in Dalmuir, Armstrong Whitworth ar Elswick and London & Glasgow Shipbuilding in Govan. Average construction cost was between £866,199 and £912,588 pounds BNA 1905. They were followed by the more powerful Duke of Edinburgh class that were leaning towards 13-15,000 tonnes and with 10 inches guns.

Hull and general design

The previous Monmouth class to compare

The class as depicted On Brassey’s 1905 naval annual

The Devonshire class measured overall 473 feet 6 inches (144.3 m), for a beam of 68 feet 6 inches (20.9 m) (6.8/10 ratio) and deep draught of 24 feet (7.3 m). The general appearance was quite not the same as the previous monmouth class: They had four funnels instead of three, but taking about the same space, so closer together. They looked a bit “hibrid” with their forward side turrets replacing stacked secondary casemate guns, kept aft. The forward bridge was built above the conning tower, which was tall enough to peek above the roof of the froward turret. There was the usual open bridge above. The two masts were raked, the forward one supporting a spotting top and small platform below for the forward projector. The mainmast aft supported a lower observation post and the projector platform was located at the upper level.
The ships carried twelve service boats: Six were suspended on davits along the battery deck, framing the funnels and air intakes, and the larger picket boats and steam cutters used for landing parties and laison in harbor and bteween ships were located on the deck aft, at the foot of the mainmast, served with a crane boom. The crew consisted of 610 officers and ratings.

Armour protection layout

Harvey armour for the main protection. The same scheme as the Monmounth was kept, albeit with minor differences:
-Waterline armour belt: 6 inches (152 mm).
-Weterline belt, outer (fore and aft ends): 2-inches (51mm)
-Transverse bulkheads: 5-inch (127 mm) fore and aft barbettes.
-Main gun turrets: 5 inches
-Main barbettes: 6 inches (above protective deck).
-Main armored deck armour; 0.75 inches flat section, 2 in sloped section (19–51 mm)
-Conning tower; 12 inches (305 mm) walls.


HMS Hampshire’s propeller

The Devonshire-class ships were powered by two 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines connected to a shaft each and fed by 15 to 17 and six cylindrical boilers, the whole producing a total of 21,000 indicated horsepower (16,000 kW). This enabled a top speed of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph). However this changed between ships and yards: Hampshire and Antrim had 17 Yarrow, 6 cylindrical boilers, Carnarvon 17 Niclausse and same, Roxburgh 17 Durr boilers, Argyll 16 Babcock boilers and Devonshir the lead ship, 15 Niclausse boilers
For autonomy they carried 1,033 long tons (1,050 t) of coal in peacetime up to 1,950 in wartime, ensuring a 4,900 nautical miles at 13 kts range.


In short they were better armed compared to the Monmouth, with four single BL 7.5-inch, sinx single BL 6-inch, two single 12-podr, eighteen QF 3-pounder (47 mm) Hotchkiss and the usual torpedo tubes.


The main armament consisted in four breech-loading (BL) 7.5-inch Mk I guns in single-gun turrets. This optimised forward firing and chase firing unlike a twin-turret solution, since all three guns could be brough to bear at any angle, chase in retreat. Designed circa 1901 by Vickers and introduced from 1905, only 33 were built, for the Devonshire class. They weighted 13.7 long tons (13.9 t) for a barrel length o 28 feet (8.534 m) (bore 45 calibres), then firing a 200 pounds (90.7 kg) shell. They used the classic Welin breech block and could elevate -5° to +15°, for a ROF of 4-5 rpm
and 2,700 ft/s (820 m/s) muzzle velocity. This elevation have them a range of only 7.9 mi (12.7 km). However after latr modifications it was alleged ported to 13,800 yards (12,600 m) in WW1.


Their secondary armament comprised six BL 6-inch Mk VII guns, all arranged in casemates amidships. Four mounted on the main deck level, usable by calm weather, the aft one on a two-storey casemate.
Designed by Vickers these fairly common models started in 1899 and arrived in the navy in 1901, with 898 produced (some saw field use). They weighted 16,875 lb (7,654 kg) for 25 tons and needed nine operators. They used a Welin interrupted screw for 8 rpm, firing a Lyddite, HE, Shrapnel 100 lb (45 kg) at between 2,525 ft/s and 2,775 ft/s (846 m/s) and up to 12,200 yards (11,200 m).

Anti-TB armament

The ships also carried 18 quick-firing (QF) 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns along the battery deck, with masks, and two 12-pounder 8-cwt guns (76mm/40 12pdr 12cwt QF Mk I) on the wings, that could be dismounted for landing parties ashore.

Torpedo Tubes

They also carried two single 18-inch (45 cm) torpedo tubes (submerged). One reload each. Whitehead 1900 model.

Design Modifications

During their WWI overhauls, their lower main deck 6-in guns were moved to the upper deck, with gun shields. The four casemates were plated over, improving seakeeping. Also four 3-pdr guns which were located there were landed. They carried their grey livery all along their WW1 service as camouflage was rare on this class, there is no photo to show it, even in 1918 and despite their escort missions against submersibles.

Author’s profile of the Devonshire class in 1914.

⚙ Devonshire specifications

Dimensions 144,32 x 20,9 x 7,3 m
Displacement 9 600 t, 10 850 T FL
Crew 665
Propulsion 2 shafts 4-cyl. TE, 21 boilers, 21 000 hp.
Speed 22 knots (41 km/h)
Range 6,680 nautical miles (12,370 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)
Armament 4 x 190 (4×1), 6 x 152, 2 x 76, 18 x 47, 2 x 457mm TTs (sub).
Armor Belt 152, Battery 105, Barbettes 152, turrets 76, CT 305, decks 60 mm.

General assessment

Devonshire in 1904. These cruisers stayed with the Grand Fleet in Atlantic escort missions and northern patrols, seeing little to no combat.
After completion, these ships were based in territorial waters within the Home Fleet, except for HMS Carnarvon, which was posted to Gibraltar for 2 years, and Hampshire, which did the same in 1911 and then moved to Hong Kong in 1912.
HMS Antrim captured a German freighter as early as August 6, 1914, then in the Grand Fleet. She narrowly escaped October 9 the attack of an unidentified U-Boote. Based in Arkhengeslk from June 1916, she was later based in South America and the Indian Ocean. In Dec. 1917 she was back home, reserve and back in service in August-September 1918. She became postwar an experimental ship for the Asdic then cadets TS cadets until 1922.
HMS Argyll captured a German freighter on 6 August 1914 but ran aground at Bell Rock reef on 28 October 1915, a constructive loss. HMS Carnarvon captured a German freighter. She patrolled from Cape Verde in August 1914 was in Montevideo by October, leading a squadron and taking part in the the battle of the Falklands in December, suffering extensive damage on the Abrolhos reefs. Repaired in Rio she was assigned the North America station, and Indian Ocean NS until 1918. HMS Devonshire captured a German freighter in the Atlantic Ocean too in August 1914. She spent her time between Scapa Flow and Norway and from December 1916 in the East Indies until V-Day.
HMS Hampshire also captured a German freighter then took part in the search for Admiral Graf Spee and Emden squadrons. Back in the Grand Fleet she started escorting convoys to the White Sea but took part in the Battle of Jutland with the 2nd cruiser squadron. She carried Lord Kitchener to Russia but hit a mine and sank off the Shetlands in June 1916.
HMS Roxburg was torpedoed on June 20, 1915, but saved by her crews. Towed and repaired, from April 1916 she was based in Norway, then East Indies/North America Station until the armistice. During this service she managed to ram and sink U89.
These records shows rare ship-to-ship encounters, but a varied escort service on all seas. They fell to mines and U-Boat torpedoes typical of WW1, plus the usual uncharted rock “surprise” when not a collision. Their anti-shipping campaign in 1914 was successful. But on the grand scheme of things, their combat service history was rather unglamorous as only one, Hampshire, took part in a significant naval battle and had the occasion to fight. Apart their usual ASW protection weakness caracteristic of the time, the fact that one could be saved denoted that still possible, given the place hit, officer’s reaction and crew’s skills. But design-wise they suffered no particular issue, being considered good sea boats (their useless lower deck guns were replaced one deck above), having a good compromise for artillery that was repeated on the next classes of British armoured cruisers.

Read More


Brassey, T.A. (ed)The Naval Annual 1905
Chesneau, Roger & Kolesnik, Eugene M., Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905.
Corbett, Julian. Naval Operations to the Battle of the Falklands. Vol. I, London and Nashville IWM & Battery Press6-X.
Friedman, Norman (2012). British Cruisers of the Victorian Era. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Seaforth.
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Seaforth.
Leyland, J. and Brassey, T.A. (ed) Brassey’s Naval Annual|The Naval Annual 1906
Massie, Robert K. (2004). Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany, and the Winning of the Great War at Sea. Jonathan Cape.
Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World’s Capital Ships. New York: Hippocrene Books.

The Devonshire class on wikipedia

Model Kits

None known. Feel free to add one kit on the comments below.

First Published in June 2018

Royal Navy ww2 HMS Devonshire

Devonshire was ordered to HM Dockyard, Chatham, laid down 25 Mar 1902, launched 30 Apr 1904 and completed on 24 Aug 1905 at a coast in 1905 of £900,792. She was at first assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron, Channel Fleet. Transferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, Atlantic Fleet (March 1907), by August 1909 she was reassigned to reserve Third Fleet based in Devonport. By 1913 she was fully reactivated and assigned to the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, Second Fleet together consisting of most of her sister ships.

As war grew near, she was reaffected to the Grand Fleet by mid-1914 and fully mobilized, but from August she spent her time in patrols near the Shetland and Faeroe Islands, and eastwards to the Norwegian coast, whereas Devonshire captured a German merchantman (on 6 August). Refitted in September and February that year she resume the same routine without incident. Patrolling the Norwegian coast however from April 1916 she was reassigned to the Nore and later to the 7th Cruiser Squadron, Grand Fleet, then transferred to the Atlantic, protecting Allied shipping by December 1916. This was the North America and West Indies Station, escorting further ships trans-atlantic. She went on until decommissioned in 1919, and stricken, on disposal in May 1920, then sold on 9 May 1921, BU at Barrow-in-Furness, 1923. Her name was assigned to a County class cruiser, just ordered.

Royal Navy ww2 HMS Antrim

Armoured cruiser HMS Antrim; IWM.

HMS Antrim was built at John Brown, Clydebank, laod down on 27 Aug 1902, launched 8 Oct 1903 and completed on 23 Jun 1905 at a cost of £899,050 all included. She was assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron, Channel Fleet together her sisters. Then she was sent in Casablanca, Morocco by August 1907 to assist a coalition againsy an insurrection thteatening westerner citizens. This led ultimately to the bombardment of Casablanca. Transferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, Atlantic Fleet in March she later joined in April the reserve Third Fleet, Devonport. In 1911 she was sent to the Mersey fo show her guns during the 1911 Liverpool general transport strike. In December 1912, she became flagship of the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, second Fleet.

By mid-1914 she joined the grand fleet at Scapa flow, reinforcing patrols near the Shetland and Faeroe and eastwards to the Norwegian coast. At this occasion she captured a German merchantman on 6 August. In October she saw the trays of torpedo waves close to her, launched from U-16 on 9 October. She multiplied sorties with the Grand Fleet but failed to see active combat. In the end she ws sent to Archangelsk, white sea, to assist convoy escorts from June 1916 before transferred to the North America and West Indies Station, far warmer waters. HMS Antrim was back to the home fleet by December 1917, paid off to free crews, but recommissioned in August 1918 for the same escort missiones until the capitulation. Place in reserve at the Nore in 1919 she carried out Asdic trials in March 1920 and became cadet TS in 1922, then sold for BU on 19 December 1922 at Blyth, Northumberland.

Royal Navy ww2 HMS Argyll

HMS Argyll was laid down at Scotts Shipbuilding & Engineering (Greenock, Scotland) on 1st Sep 1902, launched 3 Mar 1904 and completed on December 1905 (construction cost £912,588). Name after a Scottish county, she was assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron, Channel Fleet, in January 1906. Transferred to the 5th Cruiser Squadron, Atlantic Fleet in 1909, in 1910 she escorted the Royal Yacht Medina during the King’s Delhi 1911–12 cruise. When back to Plymouth she ran aground on 28 December. After repairs in 1913 she was attacjed to the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, Second Fleet.

By mid-1914 she joined the Grand Fleet and stayed in patrols in the Shetland-Faeroe area, and Norwegian coast, allowing her to capture a German merchantman, on 6 August. She ran aground again, this time on the Bell Rock, near Dundee on 28 October 1915. Thus happened during a storm since lighthouses were switch shut off for fear of assisting U-boats. She sent a signal requesting the light to be turned on on a special permission, but the lighthouse had no radio to receive it, not could see the ship’s lights visuals. Unable to modify the lighthouse she proceeded, still expecting using the light at some point, until ran aground at 04:30 (on charted but unseen reefs). The damage was massive and a fire started in her machinery, the crews fought for hours. By radio a SOS sscrambled all ships available and soon, two destroyers, HMS Hornet and Jackal on site, evacuating the entire crew. The salvaged followed when the weather allowed it the new days, for all valuable items on board and this included guns and ammunitions, then she was broken up by the salvage team. Her propellers were recovered only in 1970. The rest of the wreck is still there, a popular diver’s spot.

Royal Navy ww2 HMS Carnarvon

HMS Carnarvon was ordered and laid down to William Beardmore & Company, Dalmuir on 1 Oct 1902, launched 17 Oct 1903 and completed on 29 May 1905 (cost £899,465), Carnarvon, named after the Welsh county. She was assigned to the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet but retransferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron, Atlantic Fleet in June 1907, and next, reserve, Third Fleet at Devonport by April 1909. Next she joined the Second Fleet still there in March 1912 and flagship of the 5th Cruiser Squadron until the war. She took part in both the July–August 1913 and July 1914 fleet manoeuvers.
On 5 August she was now flagship of Rear Admiral Archibald Stoddart, heading to the Canary Islands from Gibraltar, then Cape Verde. There, she intercept the German merchant ship SS Professor Woermann, on 23 August 1914. The prize ship was escorted to Freetown, Sierra Leone for disposal. Next she patrolled along the Brazilian coast by October 1914 and arrived in the Falkland Islands, joining Vice-Admiral Doveton Sturdee’s squadron. Hence her participation to the battle. (See the article: Battle of the Falklands)

After she arrived at Port Stanley on 7 December, Sturdee wanted to have all ships recoaling from the two available colliers and then start searching for Von Spee’s East Asia Squadron, believed rounding the cape at that time. Meanwhile von Spee planned to destroy Port Stanley’s radio station on 8 December. Sturdee first spotted them at 07:30, caught off-guard, and scrambled the ships. At first HMS Canopus main guns drive them out, and Carnarvon completed her recoaling at 08:00 so the entire sqaudron was made ready to leave at 10:30 with “general chase” ordered. Carnarvon could only achieve 18 knots and fell behind and the pack was led bt the two battlecruisers followed by the cruisers, opening fire at 12:55.

SMS Leipzig was straddled first. Von Spee’s own armoured crusiers were slower and soon her order his fleet to scatter, covering their retreat by boldly engaging Sturdee with Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. The three light cruisers started their made escape at 13:20 and Carnarvon which closed op to 10 nautical miles (19 km; 12 mi) was only able to trail the battlecruisers as theu engaged Von Spee. When she eventually came within range, she opened fire on them but alread Scharnhorst capsized at 16:17. She turned to Gneisenau until the “cease fire” ordered at 17:50. The latter’s captain was asked to scuttle his ship and it was done at 18:00. Carnarvon rescued 20 survivors and then turned to the sinking spot of the other, but failed to pick up more.

Next, the hunt for SMS Dresden started in anchorages in Argentina, Chile and South Georgia. Failing to find her, Carnarvon sailed to Brazil in February but struck a coral reef off the Abrolhos Archipelago (22 February 1915), beached to avoid sinking. By that point she was probably the most unlucky cruiser in her class and perhaps of all British cruisers. After temporary repairs at Rio de Janeiro in March, she received permanent ones in Montreal, Canada (May-July). She departed to escort Canadian-built H-class submarines from Halifax to Devonport. Back to Halifax she stayed there to escort other east-bound convoys.
Later she was assigned to tje North America and West Indies Station, home port Royal Naval Dockyard, Bermuda’s Imperial fortress, and she went on escorting more convoys until V-Day. She also assisted the grounded USS Stewart at Bermuda on 16 August 1917. In 1919, she became a cadet TS until decommissioned, stricken on March 1921 and sold for BU in November 1921, in Germany.

Royal Navy ww2 HMS Hampshire

HMS Hampshire was ordered to Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick, started on 1 Sep 1902, launched 24 Sep 1903 and completed on 15 Jul 1905 at a cost of £872,327. She at first served wit the 1st Cruiser Squadron, Channel Fleet, was refitted at Portsmouth Royal Dockyard in December 1908 and reassigned to the reserve Third Fleet by August 1909. Fully recommissioned in December 1911 she was assigned to the 6th Cruiser Squadron, Mediterranean Fleet and then China Station in 1912.

In August 1914 she was stationed in Wei Hai Wei, reassigned to Vice Admiral Martyn Jerram’s squadron. Her first mission was to deal with the German radio station at Yap with Minotaur and Newcastle. En route they captured the German collier SS Elspeth on 11 August. HMS Hampshire was soon running out of coal and ordered head back to Hong Kong with the crew of the Elspeth. Next, she proceeded to the Dutch East Indies, again looking for German ships. SMS Emden passed nearby but she was too far away to spot her. She was soon in chase in October-November, assisted by the armed merchant cruiser Empress of Asia, but Emden was eventually sunk on 9 November by HMAS Sydney.

She escorted an ANZAC troop convoy through in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea, then Egypt and crossed the Mediterranean to be refitted and overhauled at Gibraltar in December. She was then sent back to the Grand Fleet, 7th Cruiser Squadron, by January 1915. In November she escorted convoys to the White Sea and was back in time to take part in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916 as part of the 2nd Cruiser Squadron. She was never engaged and only fired four salvos on the II Scouting Group making no hits.

Next she carried Lord Kitchener from Scapa Flow to Russia, Arkhangelsk. Gale-force winds forced her to sail through the Pentland Firth and turn north west of the Orkney Islands. At 17:45 she met her escorts, HMS Unity and Victor adn the gale forced them to face it head on, caused both destroyers to fall behind until HMS Hampshire’s Captain Savill ordered both back. While 1.5 mi (2.4 km) off Orkney’s Brough of Birsay, Marwick Head at 19:40, 5 June 1916 and explosion was heeard, and she took a list rapidly to starboard. It appeared she struck mines laid by the German minelaying submarine U-75 in later May before the battle, part of Scheer’s plans. Not only she had flooding from several holes but her lifeboats were smashed during the gale and in 15 minutes she sank by the bow with only 12 survivors, 737 lost, including lord Kitchener the whole mission to Russia’s staff. Her wreck is now protected, but the propellers were salvaged and are now in display.

Royal Navy ww2 HMS Roxburgh

HMS Roxburgh – IWM

HMS Rosburg (after a Scottish County) was laid down at London & Glasgow Shipbuilding in Govan on 13 Jun 1902. She was launched on 9 Jan 1904 and completed 5 Sep 1905 at a cost of £866,199. Construction was slowed due to a late boilers delivery. At first sher was assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron, Channel Fleet before a refit at Devonport Royal Dockyard, by December 1908. She joined the reserve Third Fleet until June 1912, then the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, Second Fleet. She assisted the stranded merchantman SS Ludgate off Morocco.

When the war broke out she was with the Grand Fleet by mid-1914, speinf much time in patrols in the Shetland-Faeroe and Norway, captured a German merchantman on 6 August (same as her sisters). On 18 June 1915, she sailed to Rosyth with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron for a large North Sea foray. They spotted several U-Boats, HMS Roxburgh being hit by a torpedo in her bow (launched by SM U-38) on 20 June. He damage control teams did wonders and stopped the flooding and since she still has her machinery intact, she managed to return to Rosyth, but remained in repairs until April 1916.

At that time she returned to the Norwegian coast before joining the North America and West Indies Station in September like may of her sisters, for escort. On 13 February 1918 Roxburgh rammed and sank U-89, north of Malin Head (Ireland). She was placed in reserve, Plymouth by June 1919, recommissioned for testing radio equipments and train radoo specialists until paid off in February 1920, sold on 8 November 1921.

Garibaldi class armoured cruisers (1901)

Garibaldi class armoured cruisers (1901)

Italy (1894-1904)
10 Armoured Cruisers (+1 cancelled). Italy: Giuseppe Garibaldi, Francesco Ferruccio, Varese

The best Italian Armoured Cruisers ?

Among the best armoured cruisers of their time with 10 ships built (11 planned, one cancelled), The Garibaldi class were sold to Argentina, Spain and Japan. Italy operated Varese (launched 1899), Guiseppe Garibaldi (1899) and Francesco Ferruccio (1901). They were designed by chief engineer Edoardo Masdea in 1893, combining elements that would make their success, a perfect balance of armament, protection and speed given their limited specified tonnage, and the ability to join a battle line. The class is either referring to the Argentinian “Garibaldi” or the Italian one, a rare case in ships classification, but based on the same historical figure. Despite a design dating back 1893, the last were launched in 1904 for Japan, a mere year before the construction of HMS Dreadnought. They all saw plenty of service on all oceans, with two lost in action.

Edoardo Masdea About Edoardo Masdea: Born in Naples, 23 July 1849 died in Rome, 12 May 1910, a naval engineer, politician and general.
As a general grade naval engineer, Masdea designed various naval classes of the Regia Marina at the end of the nineteenth century, including the armored cruisers of the Vettor Pisani class. At a suggestion of Benedetto Brin, he also worked on the Giuseppe Garibaldi class, meeting with considerable success in terms of sales abroad. He worked later on the Pisa and San Giorgio classes, as well as the first monocaliber battleship (or dreadnought from the name of the first ship of this type built) of the Regia Marina: Dante Alighieri.
He was awarded the Commander of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus, Commander of the Order of the Crown of Italy ribbon, Gold Cross for Long Service (40 Years) and Commander of the Order of the Legion of Honor in France.

The Garibaldi class were in short, very versatile ships able to hold their place within the fleets line, ands perfect intermediaries between heavy cruisers and battleships. In addition, they were built quickly (4 years against often 6 to 9 for French ships) and at a lower cost than other most European shipyards making them an attractive proposition on export. Thus, they became the first major export success of Italian military shipbuilding at the time, for many years, and in fact the largest cruiser export for a European player outside Britain (Armstrong anyone ?). Indeed a total of 10 units were built, of which 3 for the Regia Marina and 7 for foreign navies.

Design Genesis

launch of Garibaldi The design of the Giuseppe Garibaldi-class cruisers was submitted to naval architect Edoardo Masdea known for his successful, earlier Vettor Pisani-class. He was submitted an admiralty project that was reworked by him as chief naval engineer, conducting studies following directives of the Minister of the Navy Benedetto Brin, crossed with suggestions by Ansaldo Yard commissioned to build the first ship. Brin suggested to rework the design indeed of the Vettor Pisani class in the light of new characteristics presented by St Bon class Battleships. It would have been odd to have battleships faster than cruisers…

The basic concepts behind the project were:
-Cruisers able to work as “normal” armored cruisers (commerce raiding notably) and line units, operating closely with the fleet.
-Facing enemy formations of protected cruisers, even in individual missions, and thus having heavy armament and protection.
-Being still able to out-run battleships due to a higher speed.

In the end, Brin was confirmed in the idea that Vettor Pisani was a good starting base by Masdea, but he revised it to gain an increase in displacement, no less than 1000 tons to reach the difficult requirements, in large part the larger hull meant to accomodate a greater powerplant. The first design was deemed satisfactory on this base as everythibng match the upgraded design: Better armament, still adequate protection 20 knots as a top speed. The classic “impossible trilogy”, nightmare of all naval engineers, between armament, protection and speed for once was perfectly well balanced. The displacement also reflected this fact, with 40% of the total going to structural weight, 15% to artillery (including ammunition), 25% to the armor, 20% to the powerplant.
This new design was slightly larger, a knot faster than the Pisanis, with the improvement of two twin gun turrets fore and aft of the superstructure, which remedied the primary armament on the broadside for older ships, not able to engage targets forward and aft.

Design of the class

Hull and general design

The hull was continuous (flush deck) with a rounded (pointed fom above) stern, high freeboard. Their width/length ratio favored stability more than speed, making them good platforms, and agile in navigation. Superstructures were almost completely symmetrical, with a reinforced bow ram. In the central section, between the two brirges there were located the two well apart funnels, both with a circular section.

In between was located a single military mast, with a spotting and fighting top. It supported at its base two boom cranes for the numerous service boats, pinnaces and cutters aboard. The steam pinnaces were unarmed but will be put to good use during landing parties. The rudder was of the semi-compensated type. The general architecture saw superstructures reduced to the essential minimum, offering a smaller target, tonnage and aor drag as well. Though, the bridge had an enclosed level with broad wings and open deck above. This design remaind the same for all vessels of the class. Only the armament changed.

Armour protection layout

The ship’s armor was made of Harvey-type case-hardened steel. It was cast locally at Terni in Nothern Italy, using a process treating surfaces of nickel steel with carbon for high hardness. So the structural strenght was provided by internal iron bracing. Krupp managed later to obtain more elastic ensemble with adding chromium in the steel alloy.
On the Garibaldis it was nickel-plated steel reaching 150 mm for the main belt, tapered down to 80 mm at both ends.
-The central citadel had 130 mm thick transverse bulkheads.
-The armored deck reched 38 mm on the slopes.
-The turrets and barbetes reached 150 mm
-The 152/40 casemates were protected by 130 mm shield.
-Underwater protection consisted of a double bottom but only a few compartments above to protect the machinery space. This was unsufficient as shown by the loss of Garibaldi by a single torpedo hit in WWI.
To resume: belt 75 to 150mm, upper belt 150mm, main barbettes 100 below deck, 150mm above, main turrets 150mm, casemates 150mm, armor deck 25 (flat section) to 38 mm slopes. Conning Tower 150mm.


Garibaldi in trials
Garibaldi in 1915
The Garibaldi class cruiser’s powerplant consisted of two triple expansion, reciprocating steam engines. They were in turn fed by the high pressure steam coming out from 24 boilers, coal-fired with a reserve of 1,200 tons. Ansaldo, Hawthorn, Guppy, Orlando, Belleville and Niclausse provided the VTE and/or boilers including the export cruisers. These VTE engines drove in turn two shafts, and their two bronze propellers.
Trials had Garibaldi reaching 14,713 hp (13,655 not forced heated), for a speed of 19.7 knots. Close results were provided by her sister’s tests: Varese reached 14,713 shp and Ferruccio 13,500 shp. Varese had 24 Belleville boilers, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Franceso Ferruccio, 24 Niclausse boilers. The “standard” was 19.5. Varese reached 20 on trials, the faster of them all, and Ferruccio: 19.3.

In normal use, although design rated at 20 knots (37,04 km/h), they rarely reached more than 18 knots. Autonomy, or radius of action was either 9,300 nautical miles or 4,400 at 10 knots. Most sources states it was 5,500 nmi (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) at 10 knots. It could be caused by their “normal” and “wartime” coal load, with all empty compartments filled. This speed was not stellar: The follow-up Pisa class indeed cranked up 23 knots based on 10,000 tonnes, but almost half the range at 12 knots with 2,500 nmi (4,600 km; 2,900 mi).


The overall class was unusual in that it was not an uniform armament. Earlier group (4 Argentinian and Colon) had single 10-inch (254 mm) Elswick Pattern R guns in their turrets fore and aft. The next group, Italian and and Japanese ships, had a mixed armament: Single 10-inch (254 mm) forward, twin 8-inch (203 mm) aft. Nisshin had four 8-inch (203 mm) in twin turrets. Cristobal Colon had its own 10-inch defective, removed, and thus came to Cuba with just her ten Armstrong casemated 6-inch guns. The Italian 10-in proved formidable “fort levellers” during their careers, but worn out rapidly.

Giuseppe Garibaldi, Brasseys Naval Annual 1902
Giuseppe Garibaldi, Brasseys Naval Annual 1902


The main armament of the Italian cruisers was mixed:
-One EOC 10 gun Armstrong Pattern R 254mm/40 (10 inches) in the forward turret. 30,5 tons, Elevation 35°, range 19,700 yards (18,000 m), ROF 1.5 rpm 1
Note that Francesco Ferruccio had a 254mm/40 A99 forward, unlike the 254/40 A Type of the others;
-Two EOC 8, same Pattern W 203mm/45 (8 inches) in aft twin turret. 19 tons, Elevation 25°, range 19,700 yards (18,000 m), ROF 2 rpm 2
These cannons were build under licence by Società degli Alti Furnaces, Foundries and Steelworks, of Terni, which also procured the armor plating.


Fourteen single 152mm/40 (6 in) A99 pattern (Ansaldo Terni cannoni da 152/40). All three carried the same casemated guns, located in five side positions amidships: The four outer ones were encased in armoured sponsons to fire in chase and retreat. The other three either side were only capable of a limited traverse, broadside fire. They fired a 256 lbs. (116 kg) shell, with a bagged charge;
Performances: mv 2,592 fps (790 mps); 19,700 yards (18,000 m); 2 rpm 3


All three shared the exact same tertiary armament.
Ten single 76mm/40 A Pattern (3 in) guns: 1894+ QF 12-pounder 12 cwt naval gun, licenced later by Ansaldo as the Cannone da 76/40 Modello 1916. 15 rpm, mv 2,210 ft/s range 11,750 yd (10,740 m) 40°
Six single 47mm/40 H Pattern (1.9 in) guns: Hotchkiss 3-pdr, 30 rpm mv 571 m/s (1,870 ft/s) range 5.9 km (3.7 mi) at +20°
The 76 mm were located on the bridges and in embrasures on the hull, at the prow and stern. The 47mm were located also on the bridges, inclusing on extended wings, and upper gallery above the battery deck.
Two 6.5mm/115 Maxim Machine guns, when commissioned, likely Fiat–Revelli Modello 1914 from 1915. They were deployed on the steam cutters for landing parties and support.

Torpedo Tubes

Four single broadside 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes. Whitehead Type 1890, from Fiume.

Design Differences

For ships built between 1892 to 1903, design improvements and changes in armaments and sub-systems occurred. The the three ships actually accepted by Italy were true sisters, with totally similar caracristics. All were built by Gio. Ansaldo & C. in Genoa-Sestri Ponente, but ARA San Martin and ARA Belgrano in Orlando, Livorno. The first five, the Argentinian ones and Spanish Colon, were built to the same dimensions displacement, however the Garibaldi “sub-class” and last Kasuga and Nisshin were stretched by six frames amidships. The first group tuhus measured 106.94 meters (350 ft 10 in), for 18.2 meters (59 ft 9 in) in beam and deep draft of 7.1 meters (23 ft 4 in). Displacement was 6,840 metric tons (6,730 long tons) at normal load, although General Belgrano is reported by to have had a beam of 18.8 meters (61 ft 8 in) -Not in Conways- and thus displacing some 300–400 metric tons more.

Illustration of the Garibaldi in 1914

HD Profile of G. Garibaldi as completed in 1901 src

⚙ specifications

Displacement 6,840 t standard 7,400–7,700 t FL
Dimensions 108.8/111.73 oa x 18.9 x 7.32 m (366 ft 7 in x 62 x 24 ft)
Propulsion 2 shafts VTE, 8–24 Boilers 13,000–13,500 ihp (10,100 kW)
Speed 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Range 5,500 nmi (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Armament 1x 254, 10x 152, 6x 120mm, 6x 76 mm, 4x 47mm, 4x 450 mm TTs.
Armor Belt 70-150, CT 150, turrets 190, decks 100-150, barbettes 10-150 mm
Crew 555 total, 578 as flagship

Exports & Final Assessment

Cristobal Colon, showing her complete lack of heavy armament at the battle of Santiago de Cuba. If fully armed, she may have caused some concerns for the US fleet, having the largest, most recent main guns in town (author’s work)

Of the units sold overseas, four were purchased by Argentina, one by Spain and two by Japan. The Spanish ship was christened Cristobal Colon, and the four Argentine units were named Garibaldi (yes, the same one, which also fought in the Argentinian war of independence), San Martin, Belgrano and Pueyrredon, while the two Japanese vessels were named Kasuga and Nishin. They were delivered just before the Russo-Japanese war and Colon before the Hispano-American War.

The ships of this class, as well as those sold abroad, made history, in addition of being a breakthough design, with many naval actions:
-The sole Spanish Cristoforo Colombo fought at the Hispano-American war and was sunk at the Battle Santiago de Cuba, barely delivered with a missing forward main gun.
-The two Kasuga class saw action at Tsushima, also just delivered, and the Japanese went to appreciate their advantages, comparing her with the previous French-Built Kasuga, the German-built Yakumo, British Asama and turned their attention to a much larger design, hybrid, with an influence on what became the Tsukuba and Ibuki.
-The four Argentine cruisers went through on their side in a civil war.
-The three Italian ships saw action in the 1912 and the Great War, Garibaldi being torpedoed and sunk by U4 on July 18, 1915. Varese ended as training ship from 1920 as Ferruccio which on her side survived as TS until… 1934. before being used as a floating barrack and still around in WW2.

IJN Kasuga, the last of the export cruisers, with Nisshin both rocking at the battle of the Yellow Sea and Tsushima. Colorized by Irootoko Jr.

But the design itself was a new starting point to the Regia Marina to built even larger armoured cruiser classified as “battleships” but in reality large “armored cruisers” such as the Regina Margherita-class and Regina Elena-class battleships in 1904, also forerunners to monocaliber battleships seen through by Colonel Cuniberti.
The consequence of this strategic vision was saw the confirmation of armored cruisers at this level of development with upgraded, larger units not only able to compete with battleships but also potentially out-do them by superior speed and agility. Italy with this class was one of the progenitor of the concepts of both, the fast monocaliber battleship (Dreadnought), and the battlecruiser in a sense.

First published on Nov 13, 2017


Note: I will not cover here the whereabouts of the export cruisers: They will be seen in their own respective posts for the sake of clarity, and to appear in their respective Spanish, Argentinian, and Japanese lists. Here is the career of all three Italian cruisers only, spanning from 1902 to 1915, 1922 and 1931 depending on their fate. All three saw in addition to WWI the Italo-Turkish War but not the Balkan war. They were part of the same unit most of the time, but never had the occasion to fight other ships, mostly putting their heavy guns to good use in coastal bombardments instead, and even capturing towns and sending landing parties.

Italian Navy Francesco Ferruccio (1902)

Francesco Ferruccio (after the condottiere), was built in Venice, launched 23 April 1902 and baptised by the Duchess of Genoa, completed on 1 September 1905. She took part in this year’s fleet maneuvers as part of the “hostile” force blockading La Maddalena in Sardinia. Joined in the same unit with her sisters Giuseppe Garibaldi and Varese, she made her first visit to a foreign port, Marseilles, France, on 15–16 September 1906, a remarked part of the fleet review held for French Pdt. Armand Fallières. Later Francesco Ferruccio made a cruise to the Levant (Syria-Lebanon), in July 1909. She was deployed to Crete from 26 June 1910 to January 1911. Her home port was Taranto in 1911.

Italo-Turkish War

On 29 September 1911, Francesco Ferruccio was assigned to the 4th Division, 2nd Squadron with her sisters Garibaldi and Varese. The first two shelled Tripoli on 3–4 October for their first mission, Varese being in watch for the incoming Ottoman fleet. On 13 October, the cruisers recoaled at Augusta, Sicily and both Ferruccio and Garibaldi were again detached to bombard Beirut (24 February 1912) while Varese stood in watch. Doing so, they sank in harbor the old ironclad Avnillâh, used a guardship, and forced the torpedo boat Ankara to scuttle, not to be captured. Varese in some sources also participated at some point. Ferruccio was then transferred to Libya, remaining there until the war ended.
The First Balkan War, showed her deployed to Albania (18 February-5 June 1913) and again on 4 January-7 February 1914.

Mytilene Island, Aegean sea, Italian cruisers

WWI service

In May 1915 Italy was at war agains the central powers, and Ferruccio was assigned to the 5th Cruiser Division in Brindisi. On 5 June, she took part of a bombardment of railways near Ragusa. She left Brindisi on 17 July for another shelling sortie off Ragusa Vecchia. However at 04:00, Giuseppe Garibaldi was torpedoed by the Austro-Hungarian submarine U-4 and sank in a short span, just minutes, carrying with her 53 crewmen.
This forced the division to wihdraw immediately and further attacks were cancelled. They left three destroyers to rescue survivors. This crippling loss, added to the one of armored cruiser Amalfi (Pisa class) by another submarine on 7 July put a hard stop to any activities in the Adriatic Sea as decided by admiral Paolo Thaon di Revel. Francesco Ferruccio was stationed to the Levant (19 November-22 December) and send to Brindisi for a short refit. Afterwards she proceeded to several escort missions, protecting convoys to Albania. She also patrolled the Albanian coast until the fall of 1918.

After the war due to her already old design, Francesco Ferruccio was no longer attached to an active unit, but kept as a cadet training ship in 1919. Found good enough for the role, she was fully converted with new accomodations and a larger panel of armaments, back in service by 1924. On 30 July 1922, she collided with the Spanish cargo Ayala Mendi, in the Bay of Biscay. The latter sank withing minuts, and the cruiser, which only had superficial damage proving the soundness of her construction, rescued all but 33 of her crew. The rest of her years were quite peaceful and uneventful, shared between times in home waters and training cruisers. She also escaped due to her status the axe blows resulting of the Washington treaty. A new generation of light and heavy cruisers were now filling the ranks of the Regia Marina; She was eventaully decommissioned and stricken on 1 April 1930, sold for BU afterwards.

Italian Navy Giuseppe Garibaldi (1899)

Launch of Garibaldi at Ansaldo in 1899

Giuseppe Garibaldi (after Italian General, statesman and Country Founding father General Giuseppe Garibaldi) was built at Gio. Ansaldo & C. shipyard in Genoa-Sestri Ponente. Launched on 29 June 1899 she experienced an incident prior to commission, during her steam trials, on 12 July 1900: Two boiler’s tubes burst, killing one, gravely burning two other sailors. Inspecting and replacing all tubes went on until 10 August, so she completed her sea trials on 1 January 1901 and commissioned soon after.

From 23 July to 2 October 1902, she made a long training cruise in the Mediterranean, stopping in Tripoli and the Aegean Sea. In 1903 she did the same, this time stopping at Algiers, Salonica, and Piraeus in Greece. With her sisters at the 1905 fleet maneuvers, she was assigned to the “hostile” force off Sardinia. She was later detached to join the international expeditionary force occupying Lemnos and Mytilene, in November–December 1905. This was in a failed effort to force the Ottoman Empire to pay its debts to European Banks. Back with her sisters Ferruccio and Varese, she took part in the naval review in Marseilles (15–16 September 1906) and like Ferruccio she was was deployed to the Levant (May–July 1907) but also again in June 1908.

Italo-Turkish War

From 29 September 1911 she became flagship of the 4th Division, 2nd Squadron with her sisters. The 2nd Sqn was under orders of Rear Admiral Paolo Thaon di Revel. She took part in the same bombardment missions as her sister Ferruccio, starting with Tripoli on 3–4 October. In fact, Giuseppe Garibaldi was the first to enter the harbor, sending a landing party which made its way into Fort Hamidiye, disabled the fort’s guns beech and raising the flag. The shelling left 12 Ottoman soldiers dead, wounding 23 and 7 civilians. On 13 October after a stop to recoal in Augusta, Sicily they sailed to Tobruk in January 1912.

Battle of Beirut

Next, they bombarded Beirut, on 24 February 1912 (claiming Avnillâh). In fact, after having her set alight, Giuseppe Garibaldi entered the harbor and torpedoed the ironclad to good measure. Her secondary fire disabled the torpedo boat Ankara, which also scuttled herself. The shelling made 140 civilian victims, wounding more than 200. On 18 April, Garibaldi and Varese were sent for a nother bombardment mission, this time on the Dardanelles forts. The first took heavy damage, which conducted the Ottoman high command to ask Germany to improve them. We know how this turned out in 1915… Back in Italy by late April she started a refit until mid-June. Her worn-out guns were replaced. Her two sisters followed suit.

She did not participated in the First Balkan War in May 1913 but was deployed after it in the Albanian port of Scutari to watch over its passation by Montenegro to the Ottoman Empire. She also stand guard to protect Italian interests there, and went back home in August. Next year in February-March 1914, she was stationed in Benghazi.

WWI and Sinking

From May 1915, Garibaldi stayed as flagship of the 5th Cruiser Division (Rear Admiral Eugenio Trifari) based in Brindisi. On 5 June, the division sorties in the Adriatic. The first mission was to bombard, with her sisters, the rail lines near Ragusa (Dubrovnik). The next day, she did the same off Ragusa Vecchia, but soon after the start of the bombardment at 04:00, Giuseppe Garibaldi was struck without warning by a single torpedo from Austro-Hungarian U4.

Main flag of Garibaldi saved from the sinking

The torpedo hit her starboard side, near the aft boiler rooms. The blast presumably went through the first layer of compartimentation and breeched the engine rooms. The flooding was soon uncontrollable and she sank very quickly, in minutes, but on an even keel, nor rolling over, which saved most of her crew, raking with her 53 crewmen, most being trapped inside the lower levels and machinery rooms.

The remaining 525 could survive in these mildly cold waters, and were rescued by three destroyers, left behind while Ferruccio steamed out of the area by order, joining Varese. Just after rescuing survivors, the destroyers derparted at full speed and joined the the division, which retreated to Italy. This event (plus the loss of Amalfi) constrained Di revel to avoid any further exposure of major Italian ships in the Adriatic. Only fast, scout cruisers, destroyers and TBs would be deployed and the “Otranto Barrage” was setup until the end of the war.


The wreck of the Giuseppe Garibaldi did not stayed oin an event keel but apparently rolled over as she was rediscovered upside-down at 42°28.362′N 18°16.758′ and 42°28.362′N 18°16.758′E, south-east of Dubrovnik, now in Croatia below 122 meters (400 ft). At forst she was uncovered by a Czech expedition in 2008, but she claimed a diver on 9 September. Without permits to explore what os now a war grave, another Croatian expedition explored and filmed her in August 2009 using CCR technology. Others followed in November 2009 and May 2010 with underwater archaeologists, making her one of the best known modern wreck in the Adriatic.

Italian Navy Varese (1899)

Varese prewar
Varese prewar

Varese (in reference to the Battle of Varese, Second Italian War of Independence) was built at Orlando, Livorno, launched on 6 August 1899, completed on 5 April 1901 and making her sea trials without incident. After working out and initial training she departed for her first long cruise, visiting Algiers on 14 September 1903, Barcelona on 4 April 1904. She took part in the 1905 fleet maneuvers in the “hostile” force off Sardinia.

Varese was the only of the sisters present off Athens during the Olympic Games of April 1906, representing the country. Back with Ferruccio and Garibaldi she visited Marseilles on 15–16 September 1906 for the presidential fleet review. By May 1907 she departed for the US, showing the flag at the Jamestown Exposition with honored guest and command of Prince Luigi Amedeo, Duke of the Abruzzi. Nothing of note for 1908. Like her sisters she was assigned in October 1909 to the levant, and returned home on 20 February 1910 via Suda Bay in Crete where she stayed from 23 August to 20 September 1911.

Italo-Turkish War

From 29 September 1911, like her sisters she was in the 4th Division, 2nd Squadron ands took part in the bombardment of Tripoli on 3–4 October but not activaly as she was deployed away at sea to stand watch for any incoming Ottoman ships, what is usually called a “distant cover”, but also probably to a certain frustration from the crew. On 13 October, the three recoaled at Augusta. While both reutned to another bombardment, Varese was dectahed to escorted two troop transports and a hospital ship. On 16 October, she escorted yet another troop convoy to Homs, and this time bombarded the Ottoman town. This happened after she signalled the fort to surrender, which Commander refused. Bad weather however prevented her to send a landing party, which only was launched on 21 October. She covered the progression of the Marines backed by armed sailors to the Fort, and its capture. She also provided fire support in support for the troops.

Varese and Garibaldi were in Tobruk in January 1912, standing guard for any sortie of the Ottomans, while the rest of the fleet was refitting in Italy. Varese may or may not have taken part of the bombardment of Beirut, on 24 February 1912. She was prehaps detached at some point to join in, but was normally assigned as distant cover. On 18 April Varese and Garibaldi shelled the fortifications of the Dardanelles (southermost forts), blasting them outright. She was back in Italy by late April and like Garibaldi, her her worn out guns replaced. She was operational again in mid-June.

Varese in WWI

She was poissibly sent in benghazi in early to mid-1914, but stationed in Brindisi with the 5th Cruiser Division in May 1915. On 5 June she sortied with her sisters to shell and completely destroy the Austro-Hungarian rail line hub at Ragusa to disrupt troop reinforcements to the north. On 17 July she joined her sisters for another such missions off Ragusa Vecchia when at 04:00, Giuseppe Garibaldi was torpedoed and sank. U4 launched a full four array, one torpedo spotted passing between Varese and Garibaldi. This could have been far more deadly, close to what happened on 22 September 1914 with Aboukir, Cressy, and Hogue with Weddingen’s U 9. That was a second wakeup call to the brand new submarine preile, and not the last. All 1890s designs were at risk.

Varese and the division left immediately, leaving escorting destroyers behind at the rescue. After the loss of Amalfi on 7 July it was clear that sorties from Venice and activities in the Adroatic at large would be severely restricted from now on. The setup of the Otranto Barrage saw many ships “taking turns of duty” Italian but also British and French, to patrol the strait closing the Adriatic. Only a few sorties were spotted, generally to attack Italian mineslayers, and in one of these, on 15 May 1917, as full Austro-Hungarian Fleet attacked when it was turn of Varese to stand guard from the port of Butrino, north coast of Corfu. She however was too slow to make a sortie when signalled. The fast ships were already away after skirmishing.
The rest of the war, in 1917-18 was uneventful. After the war she retained her post in 1919, but was reclassified as training ship for cadets in 1920 and until 1922. Unlike Ferruccio she was not transformed as TS but rather decomissioned and stricken on 4 January 1923, sold for BU afterwards.



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Garibaldi class on wikipedia

Huáscar (1865)

Huáscar (1865)

Peruvian Ironclad (1864-79) Chilean ironclad (1879-94), museum ship since 1934

The first American turret ironclad

The legendary battle of Angamos between Huascar and Esmeralda
BAP Huáscar was the first sea going turret ironclad in the Americas, a true naval landmark. Until then (she was started on 4 August 1864 at Laird Bros. in UK as the US civil war raged on), only Monitors used turrets. Chile at the time was at odds with its neighbours, and in context of the ongoing naval races she became flagship of the Peruvian Navy. At the time only the Royal Navy had such turret ships HMS Royal Sovereign (launched 1857, modified and completed 1864) and HMS Prince Albert (launched 1864). This was certainly the first export of the kind. Huáscar had a strong naval record, several battles and campaigns, but was eventually captured by Chile. She is also the only one of her kind still preserved to this day. #huascar #peruviannavy #ironclad #1865 #colesturret #battleangamos #almirantegrau

Huáscar was commissioned 8 November 1866 after a period of rapid expansion of the Peruvian Navy. She saw plenty of action at the Battle of Pacocha and in the War of the Pacific of (1879–1883), until capture by Chile at the Battle of Angamos on 8 October 1879. Changing hands, she served without much incidents and the same name until 1897 when decommissioned (she had been upgraded and modernized in between). Fortunately, she was preserved in 1834, after spending years as a utilitarian hulk. Today Huáscar is one of the only surviving ironclads with HMS Warrior, restored in her original 1870s appearance, and now a memorial ship anchored in Talcahuano in Chile.

A bit of context: The Peruvian Navy in 1865

Peru gained independence from the Spanish Empire in 1824 after a long struggle from 1809. In the 1860s, the economics of Peru were on the green, thanks notably to a rapid expansion of local exports and the birth of industry. Long story short, the beginnings of the Republic were marked by Spanish resistance, the Bolivarian era, Conflict with Bolivia and Colombia and instability, then from 1836 the Peru-Bolivian Confederation wirth the 1839 Restoration, a period of Military anarchy in 1841–1845, the “fallacious prosperity” and the Guano Era in 1845–1866 and in between the 1854 Liberal Revolution, 1857 Ecuadorian–Peruvian War and subsequent War with Spain.

The early Peruvian Navy 1821-1860

BAP Amazonas
BAP Amazonas
Despite this context, the Peruvian Navy (Marina de Guerra del Perú), was founded by general José de San Martín on 8 October 1821 but stayed fairly small. It took part in the War of Independence (1821–1824) only using captured Spanish warships and deploying on land a Naval Infantry which illusrated themselves in many actipons, notably by taking the Spanish-held city of Arica. This navy also took part in the Gran Colombia (1828–1829) was, blockading Guayaquil, assisting Peruvian occupation, and then as part of the Peru-Bolivian Confederacy (1836–1839) and the Chincha Islands War with Spain. At the time, outside former catpured vessels, the “flagship” was Aurimac, a 1850s screw frigate with 34 guns, probably acquired in 1862.

The 1864 naval plan

The 1855 Frigate Apurimac

In 1864 an ambitious naval program was launched, largely funded by the commerce of Guano with Europe. There were two new constructions: The Central Battery ship Independencia buiult in Samuda Bros.
with 18 guns, launched in August 1865, and the more ambitious turret ship Huascar, launched two months afterwards, and ordered at Laird Bros. It was completed by the acquisition in 1965 of the former steam corvette CSS Texas (built in France for the Confederacy), resold as “America” to Peru as well as the steam corvette CSS Georgia, renamed “Union”. In 1866 was acquired from the Union, the former monitor USS Catawba, purchased and renamed Atahualpa and completing Huascar as the second turret ship of the Peruvian Navy, giving it a crucial advantage over its rivals during the Pacific war.

The monitor Atahualpa, ex USS Catawba
The monitor Atahualpa, ex USS Catawba

The War of the Pacific (1879–1883) caught the Peruvian Navy still unprepared however, with inferior naval forces at least in numbers compared to the Chilean Navy. Even so, led by war hero and Peruvian Admiral Miguel Grau, hit-and-run tactics based around Huáscar famously delayed the Chilean advance by six months until her demise at the Battle of Angamos. Huascar was captured, Independencia was destroyed in May 1879, Atahualpa was scuttled in Callaso in 1881, at the time of a second naval plan was launched to acquire two cruisers (The Lima class, launched in Germany, 1880) and two torpedo boats of the 1879 Herreschoff type. The full historical context of the Peruvian Navy is expected in 2023.

BAP Loa after conversion as a monitor.

Design of the Huascar

Development context

Initial plans at Laird Brothers. The latter were recoignised for their expertise in rams.

In 1864, Peru was in a delicate diplomatic situation with Spain later leading to the Spanish-South American war. It was realized at the time, the small Peruvian Navy lacked firepower to compete with the armada, and these exceptiopnal cicumstances motivated Juan Antonio Pezet to send a commission in UK to seek after new warships to reinforce the Chilean battle squadron.
On August 12, 1864, the contract for the construction of a new, innovative warship after a suggestion of naval attaché there to contact Coles, was signed in Birkenhead between future captain José María Salcedo, on behalf of the Peruvian government, and Laird & Brothers shipyard for 71,000 £ without artillery, which brought the total to 81,247 £ and 12 months of construction.

General appearance
General appearance. See also a 3d reconstruction

The shipyard assigned the new ship, construction number 321 and it was designed by Captain Cowper Phipps Coles, who incorporated a number of innovative features, notably his trademark turret, plus many technological advances for the time to face the Spaniards. Her propulsion machinery and boilers were provided by Penn and Sons, artillery came from Armstrong. She was launched on October 7, 1865, baptised Huáscar in reference to the penultimate Inca Emperor, son of the Inca Huayna Cápac.

Hull and general design

Main dimensions of Huáscar were modest: 59.4 m (195 ft) overall in lenght for 10.6 m (34 ft) in beam and 4.5 m (14 ft) in draft. She displaced 1,100 tonnes light or standard, and 1,745 t at full load.
The hull was made in riveted iron and subdivided divided longitudinally into five watertight compartments defined by four 15 mm (5/8 in) thick bulkheads. She had a main deck 1.37 m (4.5 ft) above the waterline (full loaded) and a low profile not well suited for harsh weather conditions, and a second deck 2.5 m below it.
Huáscar’s prow had a spur and a customary decoration up. Her stern was well shaped, clipper style and she was generally considered “very manoeuvrable” by the standards of the time. She could notably made a 180° turn in 2 minutes.

Huascar’s lower deck wheelhouse

Her superstructure comprised the forecastle and foremast, then the main artillery Coles turret, hexagonal-shaped conning tower, telescopic funnel (8 meters high when deployed), which can be dfolded down to reduce drag when sailing, the main mast aft and sterncastle. To deal with heavy seas, the main deck had retractable metal skirtings, folded down to free the turret’s sight. Huáscar has two steering control rooms, the main one was located on the main deck forward, in to the unprotected sterncastle while the combat steering room was deeper in the second deck under the conning tower. Officers’ accommodations were aft, in the second deck aft while the rest of the was in the second deck, forward of the artillery tower, which was customary at the time. The galley was located aft of the combat control room in the second deck.

Captain Grau’s cabin, restored in her original state

Armour protection layout

Huáscar was protected by side armor made of hardened iron:
-Belt: 114.3 mm (4.50 in) thick amidships, tapering down to 63.5 mm (2.50 in) fore and aft
-Belt extended below waterline to 1 m (3′ 3″).
-Intermediate hull/armor teak lining 254 mm (10 in) thick acting as cushion.
-Main deck 50 mm (1.97 in) thick plating.
-Main turret 139.7 mm (5.50 inches), reinforced close to embrasures with 177.8 mm (7 inches) plates
-The main turret was bolted to a metal frame 330.2 mm (13 in) thick teak interior lining.
-The conning tower had 3.00 in (76.2 mm) thick armor backed by 8.00 in (203.2 mm) teak.


Huascar’s propulsion system revolved around her steam engine, Maudslay type, horizontal and two-cylinder, two-stroke. Each cylinder has a 1.37 m (54 in) bore, 914.4 mm (3 ft) stroke, generating 1.23 MW (1,650 HP) at 78 revolutions per minute. Each cylinder discharged to independent condensers, in which it mixed with seawater, producing condensation. This enabled to reduce feedwater loss, consumed from the double bottom tanks. This vacuum came from a air pump located immediately below the condenser, actuated by a rod coupled to the piston. Four trunk pumps driven by eccentrics were also connected to the crankshaft, and there were salt water pumps for the condenser, and two bilge pumps.
The boiler department was a single room with four horizontal boilers, two with four funaces, two with three furnaces, working at 172.3 kPa (25 psi). Coal feeding was ensured by a multi-purpose machine in the same room.

Original Coles plan, showing her internals

This steam engine drove a single four-bladed propeller 4.49 m (14 ft 9 in) in diameter. This allowed Huascar to reach 12.25 knots on her maiden sea trial, without guns or load and just 100 tons of coal.
Huascar was also fully rigged: This consisted of a brigantine-type rig, on two masts with tripod-shaped ratchet derived from Coles patent than can be quickly dismounted in combat, clearing the main guns’s view all around. In June 1879, however, before the first engagement, Captain Grau removed this system in Callao permanently.



The main armament of Huáscar was in the single, large Coles rotating turret located on the main deck, between the forecastle and conning tower. Cylindrical and 6.7 m (22 ft) in diameter, this turret weighted 37 tons, sitting on a platform on top of a spine located further in the hull, straight to the bottom. The main rotation on deck was ensured by a roller bearing located on the second deck, consolidated by the fixed guide axis in an inkwell bolted to the keel. Traverse was manual, required 16 men and 15 minutes for a 360°. The forecastle being taller than the guns, their traverse was limited to 138° per side with blind angles 64° aft and 20° forward.

As designed, she carried two Armstrong guns. These were muzzle-loading, rifled models which barely protruded from the turret, 12.5 tons each. Their caliber was caliber 254 mm (10 inches). They fired 136 kg (300 lbs.) hardened shells with the Palliser armor-piercing model which was made standard on Chilean vessels, but never arrived on time before the battle of Angamos. They certainly would have changed the balance.


Huáscar also was fitted with two 120 mm (5 in) Armstrong rifled guns located port and starboard. They fired 18 kg (40 lb) shells. No data is available about their detailed specs.
-This was completed by a smaller Armstrong 76 mm (3 in) rifled gun at the poop, firing 5.5 kg (12 lb) shells, aft, located in a porthole and acting as chase gun.
-Prior to the Pacific War, it was decided to add a single 11 mm Gatling machine gun (0.44 in) on top of the mainmast to “clean up” enemy’s decks if needed.

⚙ Huascar specifications

Displacement 1870 – 1900 tonnes
Dimensions 66.9 x 10.9 x 5.7m (219 x 36 x 19 feets)
Propulsion 1 shaft Maudslay HRCR*, 4 boilers, 1,650 ihp (1,230 kW), Brig sail
Speed 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Range Unknown
Armament 1×2 10-in, 2× 4.7-inc, 1× 12-pdr, 1 Gatling gun, ram
Protection Belt 4.5 in, Main turret 7.5 in, CT 3 in, Deck 2 in
Crew 170

*Horizontal-return connecting rod-steam engine

In the naval press of the time

A drawing of Huascar with her brig-rigged sails

Captain Cowper Coles, wrote of Huáscar: “…as a sea-going vessel of 1,100 tons, 300-horse power, and a speed of 12 1/4 knots. Her foremast is fitted with tripods; she carries two 300-pounders in one turret.” And “…the “Huascar” class of 1865 fitted with a hurricane deck; she was one of six different classes designed and built by Messrs. Laird Brothers, to whom the credit for their great success is due. She can fire right ahead from her 300-pounders, and aft within 15 degrees of the line of keel, but would have a stern chaser either on or under her poop.”

The British magazine Engineering described it: “She is an armour-clad monitor built by Messrs. Laird Brothers, of Birkenhead, in 1866…… She is 190 ft. in length between perpendiculars, 35 ft. in extreme breadth, and 19 ft. 9 in. in depth of hold. Her builder’s tonnage is 1101, and indicated horse power 1500. Her draught of water is 15 ft. 6 in., and her maximum speed is said to be 12 knots when her boilers are in good condition, and the bottom is clean. Her usual speed under good working conditions is probably not more than 10 1/2 to 11 knots. She is propelled by a single screw. The Huascar is a rigged two-masted vessel, the foremast being upon Captain Cole’s tripod principle. Her freeboard, or height of deck above water, is about 5 ft. She carries two 300-pounder Armstrong guns in one turret, which is protected by 5 1/2-in. armour plating upon a teak backing of 14 in. The sides are protected by armour plating 4 1/2 in. thick amidships, tapering to 2 1/2 in. at the extremities, which is also worked upon a teak backing of 14 in. There is an armoured pilot tower of hexagonal form abaft the turret from which the ship is worked in action; and the openings in the deck are protected by 2-in. iron plates that are shipped in the openings for skylights or hatchways. The Huascar is an iron-built vessel, and at the time she was built was most perfect in all the appliances of defence, and in her internal arrangements.”

Career in Peruvian Navy

Huascar at the battle of Angamos, one of the most fiercely contested industrial era duel at sea, a legendary fight worthy of a movie

Early Years
Huascar was commissioned, Commanded by bi-national Peruvian-Chilean Captain José María Salcedo. He was a naval officer in service of the Peruvian government, surveying the construction on behalf of the Peruvian Navy, leaving the channel on complicated trip, starting on 20 January 1866. Due to bad weather, he had to wait a month at Brest, France, then had a minor collision with the also British-built ironclad Independencia on 28 February. Due to refusal by neutral countries back in South America, she spent a further month for repairs at Rio de Janeiro. Salcedo also had to deal with the insubordination by Independencia’s commander, and managed to capture and sink the Spanish brigantine Manuel en route, even before stating official service. She finally arrived in port at Ancud, in allied Chile, joining the rest of the combined fleet on 7 June but too late to take part in the war with Spain.

Later, under Captain Lizardo Montero, Huáscar was sent to Valparaíso in order to take part in a late 1866 expedition against the Spanish fleet in the Philippines. However Montero and other Peruvian officers objected Rear Admiral John R. Tucker’s plans (he was “loaned” by the Govt. as a former Confederate officer). Unable to command the fleet he requested to be relieved. Captain Salcedo took back both his position and the command of Huáscar and the expedition was cancelled.

In February 1868, Miguel Grau took command of Huáscar in turn. Her would remain in command until 1876, as her longest-serving commander (and a superstar here). His long stay on board, also due to the unconditional love of its crew, managed to produce a finely tuned ship, the best of the Chilean Navy, and Grau was to become Peru’s most renowned naval officer.

Peruvian Civil War: The Battle of Pacocha
Huáscar then took part in Nicolás de Piérola’s 1877 attempt to overthrow the Peruvian government. On 6 May, two of de Piérola’s supporters, Colonel Lorranaga and Major Echenique, went on Huáscar at Callao while the captain and executive officer where ashore, trying to take command. Some of the officers on board however proved part of the plot, persuading the crew to join their cause. The now “rebel” Huáscar departed with Luis Germán Astete in command. They wanted Atahualpa to follow them, but the old ship was in such a state she had to turn down. From then on, Huáscar started to harass and disrupt government forces and its shipping lanes, preying so much on shipping eventually, the British, which depended in part on Peruvian goods, intervened in force.

On 29 May, Huáscar took part in the Battle of Pacocha against two British vessels, the frigate HMS Shah and the corvette HMS Amethyst, (Admiral Algernon Frederick Rous de Horsey), HMS Shaha using a torpedo for the first time. This proved enough as the rebel turret ship surrendered to the British, and behind, legegitimate Peruvian government, after a month of rampage.

War of the Pacific: Iquique and Angamos
Huáscar then back in Grau’s hands, and after some sacking of officers and dismissal of some in the crew, she took part in the War of the Pacific (1879–1883). Thus episode is long and would need a fully fledge article of its own, but anyway, Huascar started a serie of daring harassment raids on Chilean ports and transports. These standalone actions managed to delay the ground invasion for almost six months, until the Chilean fleet could muster enough forces to track, corner and and stop Huáscar.

In Valparaiso, 1879
In Valparaiso, 1879

On 21 May 1879, Huáscar was falling on the Chilean Navy responsible for the blockade of Iquique. This led to the Battle of Iquique, in which an equally famous captain, onboard the corvette Esmeralda, Arturo Prat, was killed after aboarding action on Huáscar’s deck. Huáscar managed to ram repeatedly the corvette which sank, but Grau ordered to rescue the survivors and resume the pursuit of the fleeing corvette Covadonga. The siege was lifted.

Bombardment of Iquique
Bombardment of Iquique

Battle of Iquique, sinking of the Esmeralda

For 137 days afterwards, Huáscar managed to both evade confrontation while following orders from the Peruvian government rampaging the Chilean coast, preying on transport ships. Her biggest prize was the Chilean gunned transport Rímac with the full cavalry regiment “Carabineers of Yungay” 260 men, horses and equipments. Nevertheless, the Chilean Government was dead set a an invasion of Peru and wanted to secure its supply lines whatever the cost. They committed every possible unit to hunt down the Peruvian “ghost ship”. On 8 October 1879 at last, after a surprise boarding, Huáscar was captured by the Chilean Navy under command of Galvarino Riveros Cárdenas at the Battle of Angamos. In this episode, the crew fiercely resisted and both Rear Admiral Grau and 32 of his most faithful followers of the crew were killed. The rest surrendered.

Battle of Angamos

With the Chilean Navy

War of the Pacific: Arica
After the Battle of Angamos, Huáscar entered service with the Chilean Navy and was sent in Arica to duel with the older Peruvian monitor Manco Cápac, making short work of her. Afterwards, she took part in the shelling of the city under of Manuel Thomson, later killed. She also took part later in the blockade of Callao. Peru lost this war. Nothing much happened the following years but it was recoignised the old ironclad was no longer relevant, and between 1885 and 1887, she was completely rebuilt and modernized in drydock in Chile. She had her steam engine and boilers replaced, a new propeller screw design installed, and new steam lines and hydraulics to power the main turrets.

In May 1888, as part of a ceremonial division commanded by Rear Admiral Luis Uribe, Huáscar brought back home Esmeralda’s officers bodies from their graves at Iquique, to a new burial in Valparaíso, given a national fallen hero’s welcome. The ceremony was presided by Rear Admiral Uribe, former executive officer aboard Esmeralda in this battle.

Chilean Civil War
Huáscar participated in the 1891 Chilean Civil War, between government and congress. When it broke out she was under maintenance and seized by the rebels, towed out of Valparaíso, readied for action against the loyalists under Command of Captain José María Santa Cruz. She took part in the takeover of Taltal and spent some days escorting convoys, protecting rebel-held ports. She was only back to Iquique to shell the government-held port. In all she spent eight months in continuous operations, until the fall of government’s forces.

Postwar years

Huascar in 1903
Huascar in 1903

Huáscar despite her age continued to serve the Chilean Navy, until a boiler explosion in 1897, while anchored in the Talcahuano military harbour. Due to her poor condition at the time, and long service, it was consider wise to have her decommissioned, but she was at least partially repaired, used as floating barracks in the 1900s, and became a submarine tender from 1917 to 1930.
In the early 1930s, Huáscar was considered such a national treasure, that she was reconditioned for service, this time with a new armament.

Huascar in the early 1920s

As a submarine tender in 1929-30
As a submarine tender in 1929-30

She was restored and recommissioned in 1934, with two more modern 8-inch guns, three 4.7 inch guns and four 47 mm guns to serve as semi-active flagship in case of war. She was moved to Talcahuano and survived WW2. By 1949 she was listed in Jane’s Fighting Ships as a “active coast defense ship” but her last photo showed her as she was in 1938. At the missile age, such a relic had little meaning as a surface combatant and thoughts were given for her preservation.

Preservation as memorial ship

Huáscar anchored in the harbour at Talcahuano and painted in Victorian-era colours, 27 July 2005
Decision was taken in 1950 to presrve her, and between 1951 and 1952, she was restored her to her 1897 state in the Chilean Navy. She was one of the rare museulm ships in the Americas and certainly the only one of her generation to be preserved outside the British HMS Warrior.
As a symbol of reconciliation with Peru, she was considered a bi-national treasure, an homage to the glory of both the Peruvian and Chilean navies.
As a floating museum and a memorial she also housed all objects and relics recovered from Navy warehouses or donated by private citizens between Talcahuano and Concepción area.

Closeup of her turret and CT

Between 1971 and 1972, she was restored again in the drydock of Talcahuan. Her hull was patched, repaired, repainted anew, and the restoration pushed further as her original engines were rebuilt according from blueprints obtained in England. There is a strict maintenance program to ensure this preservation for future generations.
In 1995, due to the care she received, the World Ship Trust awarded her the Maritime Heritage medal, handed to the Chilean Navy for its restoration. Huáscar is now berthed Talcahuano, still drawing tens of thousands of visiters each years. The great 2010 earthquake and tsunami did not damaged Huáscar. After a quick restoration, she reopened to the public in March 2011.

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Huascar by Drachinifel

Model Kits

HSwMS Clas Fleming (1912)

HSwMS Clas Fleming (1912)

Swedish Navy – Minelayer cruiser 1911-1960

Commissioned in 1914, Clas Fleming was among the first Swedish warships using Parsons steam turbines. Faitly small for cruiser standards in WWI with just 1550 tons of displacement, she was still armed with four 120 mm (4.7 in) guns, had some armor in vital spaces and could carry and lay 190 naval mines. It had one upgrade in 1926 and in 1939 when fitted with an extended section to house brand new diesel engines used as gas generators for the turbines, one idea that will ultimately led to the Gas Turbines and CODOG/COGOG systems of today. Clas Fleming was ultimately decommissioned in 1959. #swedishnavy #ww1 #ww2 #svenskamarinen #clasfleming

Design Development

Before WWI, Sweden had only a few cruisers, mostly resting on armoured monitors and coast defence ships, torpedo boats and minelayers. But at the turn of the century the Navy was rapidly modernizing, with the development of destroyers started in 1902, with the Mode class, and of submarines, with Hajen launched in 1904. In terms of cruisers, this was disparate: Five ships of the örnen type, 1896 small Torpedo Cruisers, and from 1905 the armoured cruiser Fylgia we already saw. But aside Gunboats, there was no dedicated minelayer in service. Other nations, notably Germany (with the Nautilus class) were looking at this new type, and Sweden soon wanted to enquire about the validity of acquiring one.

Clas Fleming post-WWI reconstruction with her raised aft deck, rebuilt mines chutes and doors

HMS Clas Fleming, known as a Minkryssare (“Minecruiser”) was designed after a naval staff specifically for this role in 1908. She was to be large enough to carry a sufficient number of naval mines, and well armed to defend against other destroyers and torpedo boats. But moreover to have a good seaworthiness in all weathers and be quickly out of the area after laying mines.
In addition, the new ship should be used for reconnaissance. In 1909, funds were granted, after the final specifications were drawn up, as the new cruiser was approved by the Riksdag. She was ordered on 17 May 1910 for FY1911, attributed to Bergsund’s Mekaniska Verkstad (Bergsund Finnboda, Stockholm) which already had previously built the cruiser HMS Fylgia. She was laid down presumably in early 1911 (date unknown) and launched on 14 December 1912.

Clas Fleming was ultimately commissioned on 23 February 1914. Based on precise and innovative specifications, she was Sweden’s first ship intended specifically for quick mine laying. Since it was necessary to escape if caught by an enemy squadron, for the first time it was decided to equip the ship with steam turbines. Having no previous experience in the matter, Sweden turned to the world’s leader at that time, Parsons of Great Britain. However the limited size of the cruiser, which seemed acceptable on paper, changed in reality many factors.

Appearance in 1914 as completed

Hull and general design

Clas Fleming was pretty small for a cruiser, more related to 1880s unprotected ones and gunboats. She was 80 meters long, for 10.4 meters wide (1/8 ratio) for a 4.3 meters draft (263 ft 1 in long, 34 ft 1 in wide, 14 ft 1 in draft). Standard displacement was 1,640 tonnes, maximum displacement, fully loaded was 1,850 tonnes.
The silhouette looked conventional, but more for a gunboat than a cruiser. She was relatively tall, between the forecastle with good seaworthiness, and superstructures taking much of the space. Her artillery was placed in superfiring positions fore and aft, and a lower deck, partially protected, an amidship section for two tall funnels and air scoops around, plus six light service boats in davits on the sides.
Clas Fleming had two tall pole military masts fore and aft. The forward one had a walled spotting top. She carried on the second a projector, and another was located aft of the upper bridge’s open deck. The bridge was located above the behind the Conning Tower and was used as the main navigation bridge at all times.
The crew amounted to approximately 160 men, with 8 officers, 23 non-commissioned officers housed in their own cabins, the 129 ratings laying in bunks below. Since at the time landing parties were still a thing, it was planned for the ship to house and operate a force of 47 marines.

However the small design was criticized over several points:
-Excessively cramped boiler rooms
-Low armour deck which participated in this narrow space
-Wet in rough seas

Armour protection layout

As per the specifications, the level of protection was that of a protected cruiser: She had an armored deck 16–25 mm thick. This was quite weak for any engagement with something larger than a destroyer. The other feature was the usual conning tower, complete with backup fire control and navigation and was protected by 75 mm (3 inches) walls all around. By default, it is estimated to be Krupp armor. For ASW protection, the hull was divided into 14 watertight compartments. The main guns had no shields, which were added in the interwar.

Operator of the machinery


The machinery consisted of steam boilers and steam turbines. Eight coal-fired steam boilers, divided into two groups and set up in two furnaces, supplied steam at 17 bar pressure to two steam turbines which together developed 6,500 horsepower, giving the ship a speed of 20.3 knots. The ship was the first in the Swedish fleet, along with the destroyers HMS Hugin (24) and HMS Munin (8) to be equipped with steam turbines. The turbines were directly connected to each propeller shaft, giving the ship two propellers.



It consisted in four 12 cm m/11 guns or 120mm/48 K/50 Model 11 (4.7 in), of Swedish Bofors Manufacture. There were two in the bow, two in the stern in superfiring positions.
The closest model was the previous 12 cm cannon m/94 45 caliber was common on Swedish torpedo cruisers from 1898 and the remainder went to the Coast Artillery (battery Mojner, Gotland notably). They were used on the monitors Tirfing and Thordön and the Svea, Oden, Thor and Niord. Weight 3507 kg, 21 kg shell, elevation +15°, rate of fire 7-10 rounds/min, effective range 12 km for the L/48.


There was no secondary armament, which was rare for a cruiser, but dictated in large part by the small dimensions of the intermediate deck and for stability concerns. To defend against destroyers, the main armament was the only answer, but still, Clas Fleming had four single 6.5 mm/80 caliber m/10 machine guns installed on pivots on the upper decks, for close range, and possibly used during landings as well.


As a mine cruiser, around 190 could be taken on board, 130 stored directly on deck and moved by railings, the standard fitting of the time. The remainder 60 were kept below decks, moved up to these railings using a ramp. It’s hard to find relevant infos on this pre-WWI Swedish Mines. The first large-scale use of of sea mines was the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, which draw a lot of interest of the Swedish Admiralty and a coast defence deterrent. Early types were probably ordered abroad, in Britain or Germany. Swedish complied to the eighth Hague Convention in 1907, introducing rules for mine warfare, including a ban on drift mines and notifications of seafarers where laid. Sweden remaining neutral in WWI, the minefields were all signalled.

Author's rendition of Clas Fleming
Author’s rendition of Clas Fleming

⚙ specifications

Displacement 1,550 long tons (1,575 t)
Dimensions 80.2 x 10.4 x 4.3 m (263 ft 1 in x 34 ft 1 in x 14 ft 1 in)
Propulsion 2 shaft Parsons steam turbines, 8 Yarrow boilers, 6,500 ihp (4,847 kW)
Speed 20 knots (23 mph; 37 km/h)
Range Unknown
Armament 4 × 1 – 4.7 in (120 mm) guns, 4 MGs, 190 mines
Protection Deck: 16–25 mm (0.63–0.98 in), Conning tower: 75 mm (3 in)
Crew 161

Career of Clas Fleming 1914-1959

WW1 and interwar service

Clas Fleming entered service in May 1914 as the sole and only Swedish fleet minesweeper, named after Admiral Clas Larsson Fleming of the Russo-Swedish war. The same summer she started training and fleet exercizes, onl interruopted in August by the start of the First World War. Exercises were still carried out, this time to test different methods of “minute minelaying”. It went on until 1917 when regulations were issued for how these should be carried out. Clas Fleming was only to lay offensive minefields, older vessls freshly converted would lay defensive minefields. In addition the admiralty decreted that all Swedish destroyers would be in the future fitted with mine rails and join Clas Fleming in the laying of offensive minefields.
The different between the two was simply that in case onf a sea invasion of territorial waters, Clas Fleming would go out in the estimated path of the incoming fleet and quickly lay a minefield before escaping at full speed.

Before the war ended on 24 October 1917 already, Clas Fleming was ordered to Stockholm for partial disarmament. During the First World War, Sweden being neutral was deployed in order to guarantee safe passage of merchant traffic to and from Sweden and up to the Skagerrak, by enforing the respect of Swedish territorial waters. Clas Fleming ship provided valuable knowledge in mine warfare by placing several of these to defend some areas.

In service she had shown some issues. Her stern was found to be very wet on rough seas. It had been discovered also that the mine ports were too close to the water’s surface, causing a blowback and possible detonation when waves came in from the stern. So while in Stockholm, she was placed in drydock in 1918-19 to rebuilt her poop deck, extended to the stern. The gates were raised, and the minerails after were covered by a full deck, also, the aft guns had to be relocated and the two superfiring guns were moved to a old-fashioned amidships sponsons position.

In 1926, she underwent other modifications as three 25 mm (0.98 in) anti-aircraft guns were added in place of the light machine guns, atop the conning tower two more at the stern, abaft the amidships 120 mm guns. Also a modern range finder was installed on top of the bridge.
Her interwar service was quiet, and in 1938, there was a reorganization in the Swedish Navy, Clas Fleming being part of the coastal fleet’s 2nd cruiser division. According to the regulations of the time she was considered too old to be part of it at that stage. She should have been transferred to local forces as early as 1938, but this was delayed. By September 1939 a commission examined her fate. She had not received any upgrades since 1929, with a brief exception to lower her high operating costs.

New AA Bofors guns after reconstuction

Refit and WW2 service

In order to reduce these costs, it was planned to replace her machinery for which would much more efficient. Funds were granted by the Riskdag in the first half of the 1930s already but never carried out before the Second World War broke out. Instead of a full reconstruction, the emergency dictated a simple replacement of the engines, although it was concluded that she still was in great need of a more intensive modernisation.

Appearance as completed and recommissioned in 1940, with her two “true” funnels, far apart.

At last she was taken in hands for a full reconstruction in 1939-1940, and by November, she was sent in drydock at Götaverken, Gothenburg: Her hull was lengthened by 6 meters (20 feets), with a whole new section added amidship, the Parsons steam turbines were removed and replaced by a brand new experimental machnery designed also in Götaverken.
It was in essence the world’s first-ever gas turbine:
This consisted in choosing two modified Laval geared turbine sets, keeping of eight original coal-fired, only two modified to fire oil, to feed the turbines, and adding four six-cylinder two-stroke diesel engines used as gas generators, to also feed the turbines. Indeed instead of connecting the the diesels to the propeller shafts, the engines exhaust gases were used to drive the turbines, connected to the shafts. This was a clever, low engineering solution, but proved quite an innovation. The ship only had two new funnels, set further apart, but a second dummy one was installed between them in 1941, to mimick the silhouette of Swedish destroyers of the time as deterrence.

Clas Fleming in WW2
Clas Fleming in WW2

The artillery was also modernized, the mounted were modified so that the firing range jumped to 16,000 meters and the guns were protected by lightly armoed shields. Air defense was strengthened by thz adoption of three 40 mm m/36 Bofors autocannons, and tow depht charge racks at the stern for ASW defence. The aft mast was removed, the foremast was shortened and modified, the new funnels were raked and shaped differently so completely changing her silhouette.

⚙ specifications 1940

Displacement 1640t standard, 1850t FL
Dimensions 86 x 10.4 x 4.30m (282 x 34 x 14 feets)
Propulsion De Laval steam+gas turbines, same boilers+4 diesel generators
Speed 20.3 kts
Range 7,200 nm
Armament Same but 3x 40mm/56 K/60 M32, 3x 25mm/55 K/58 M32, 200 mines, 2 DCR
Crew 160

Cold War service 1945-1959

Clas Fleming postwar, with her three funnels.
On 8 August 1940, Clas Fleming was recommissioned, deployed to the Coastal Fleet, where she remained for the remainder of the war. After 1945, Clas Fleming was disarmed at Stockholm’s shipyard, now way to old for effective fleet service. But she was kept in reserve, and not stricken from the list and decommissioned before 1959. All valuable material was removed so that she could be converted as a target ship for firing exercises. In the fall of 1960, at last, after being at sea for more than half a century, Clas Fleming was sold, and scrapped in Ystad.

Read More


Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1906–1921.
Harris, Daniel G. (2004). Preston, Antony (ed.). Minelayer Clas Fleming: An Early Gas Turbine Ship. Warship. Vol. 2004. Conway
Borgenstam, Curt; Insulander, Per; Åhlund, Bertil (1993), Kryssare : med svenska flottans kryssare under 75 år (1:a)
Lagvall, Bertil (1991), Flottans Neutralitetsvakt 1939–1945, Karlskrona: Marinlitteraturföreningen nr 71
von Hofsten, Gustav; Waernberg, Jan (2003), Örlogsfartyg: Svenska maskindrivna fartyg under tretungad flagg (1:a), Karlskrona: Svenskt Militärhistoriskt Bibliotek
Borgenstam, Insulander & Åhlund 1993
Von Hofsten & Waernberg 2003, s. 136.
Holmquist 1972, s. 198-199.


Model Kits

French Battleship Suffren (1899)

Suffren (1899)

French Navy Pre-Dreadnought Battleship (1899-1916)

Design of the class

The Suffren was the last “classic” French pre-dreadnought. The next Republique class would indeed be of a modernized design, leaving no trace of the Jeune Ecole theories. Suffren was designed amost as a sister ship of Iéna, and improved Charlemagne design, whereas Suffren was at first a sister-ship, delayed to become an improved Iéna, with changes in armament and armour, notably a secondary battery in turrets and not in casemates.

Iéna, for comparison
Iéna, for comparison (Bougault coll.)

Completed in 1902, Suffren served wit the Mediterranean Squadron as flagship. She twice collided with ships and her propeller shafts replaced, and from 1914, assigned to the Dardanelles fleet, shelling Ottoman fortifications.
Moderately damaged on 18 March 1915 and repaired in Toulon, she returned to support the landings of the Gallipoli Campaign and when the entente withdrew. She collided and sank a frighter and was repaired again, reassigned to the French squadron off Salonica. Back to Lorient for a major refit she was torpedoed and sank off Lisbon by U-52 on 26 November 1916.

Hull and general design

The three Charlemagne class authorized in 1893 were in construction when VADM Armand Besnard convinced the Chamber of Deputies to authorize Iéna in 1897, improved and another next year Besnard requiring an entirely new design. Basically he wanted an enlarged and improved Iéna, providing a ground for future class.

Suffren at first only showed limited improvements in armament and armour but project became the new hot topic at the Conseil des travaux de la Marine (Board of Construction) and it veered towards a brand new new design, ony retaining token parts of Iéna. The biggest influence at the time was the expected move towards secondary armament in turrets rather than in barbettes, notably to five them a better field of fire. Thus, engineers were ordered to place all the secondary armament in wing turrets, three per side. The shell stowage also grew to 60 rounds per gun (45 on Iéna). In total, on ten, six 6.5-in guns were mounted in single-mount turrets, three per side, the remaining four in caemates at the largest beam.

Brassey's plan
Brassey’s plan

The hull was classic in design, albeit longer and larger than Iéna, 125.91 m (413 ft 1 in) long overall at the tip of the spur ram, 21.42 m (70 ft 3 in) in beam, and 8.22 m (27 ft) in draught, for 12,432 t (12,236 long tons) of normal displacement and 12,892 t (12,688 long tons) full loaded. In comparison, Iéna reached 12,105 t deeply loaded, her hull measured 122.31 m (three meters shorter) for 20.81 m (68 ft 3 in) in beam, so 61 cm narrower, but with a higher draft.

The hull shape was well rounded, albeit the clssic tumblehome was less accentuated, and metacentic height was better due to the beamier hull. She was supposed to have a slow, predictive roll. Superstructure wise, it ran allong the ship between barbettes. It comprised a conning tower one deck taller than the roofline of the A turret, and a bridge built above and behind, then a taller foward military mast, complete with a fighting top and spotting top above. The same was repeated on a shorter mast aft. They als had two funnels rasonably fat apart, forward.

Two view blueprint (HD)

She had well filled hull shapes, good freeboard, stepped aft: There was still the trademark “half deck” forward to support the A turret. Later designs of the Republique class would have a full deck forward. The stern was classically pear-shaped. The armour design focused on the same armoured belt full lenght to the bow, but was cut short mid-way to “B” barbette.
She had a fleet of service boats: Two barges and two steam cutter on deck, aft of the main military mast, four rowing boats under double davits aft either side, and two small yawls forward also under davits at the prow.
The crew comprised 668 officer and men in normal service (31 officers and 637 ratings) and up to 742 as flagship (42 officers and 700 ratings).

Armour protection layout

Armour scheme, extract from a Russian publication (see the model kits credits)

As said prior, most of the scheme of the previous Iéna was kept. She had a complete waterline armour belt, using Harvey armour:
-Main belt, citadel: 300 mm (11.8 in), 250 mm (9.8 in) at the bow, 230 mm (9.1 in) stern.
-Main belt lower edge: 124 millimetres (4.9 in) amidships, 113 mm (4.4 in) bow, 100 mm (3.9 in) stern.
-Main belt height 2.5 metres (8 ft 2 in), 1.4 m (4 ft 7 in) above, 1.1 m (3 ft 7 in) below waterline.
-Special-steel armour strake above, from the bow to aft transverse bulkhead, 70 mm (2.8 in) – 110 mm (4.3 in) amidships. -ASW: Subdivided cofferdam filled by water-resistant “bricks” of dried Zostera seaweed.
-Outer casemates special-steel 110 mm.
-Casemates transverse bulkheads 80 mm (3.1 in), centreline bulkhead 50 mm (2 in)
-Main turret: 290 millimetres (11.4 in) walls, 50mm roof
-Main barbettes: 250 mm (9.8 in).
-Secondary turrets 102 mm (4 in) fwd, 192 millimetres (7.6 in) back.
-Conning Tower: 224–274 mm (8.8–10.8 in) walls
-CT Communications tube: 150 mm (5.9 in) walls.
-Armoured deck 55–60-mm (2.2–2.4 in) in mild-steel plating laid+ 2x 10mm (0.39 in) plates.
-Splinter deck: 2x 19-millimetre (0.75 in) plates.

Suffren as completed in Le Pays de France N°21, page 13


Suffren was powered by three Indret vertical triple-expansion steam engines. They drove a propeller shaft each, the centre one driving a three-bladed screw propeller. The wing shafts drove four-bladed, 4.39 metres (14 ft 5 in) in diameter.
Steam came from 24 Niclausse boilers, working at 18 kg/cm2 (1,765 kPa; 256 psi). The whole was rated for 16,200 indicated horsepower (12,100 kW). As designed this was estimate to bring he to 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph).
Sea trials on 12 November 1903 revealed, based on a total of 16,809 ihp (12,534 kW), 17.9 knots (33.2 km/h; 20.6 mph). So contract speed was excedeed.
For range, Suffren carried 1,233 tonnes (1,214 long tons) of coal. This brought her, based on onsumption averages, to 3,086 nautical miles (5,715 km; 3,551 mi) on her designed cruise speed of 12 knots. However being a modern ship, she also had sprayers in their boilers, using a reserve of 52.15 tonnes fuel oil. This enabled to improve the coal burn rate. At last, to power a minimum systems when idle at anchor or machine cold, she had a 80-volt electrical power procured by two 600 amp dynamos, and three 1,200 amp ones.


Detail of Suffren’s forward turret, conning tower, secondary tower and casemate guns.

As said above, the main difference between the Suffrent and Iéna was an intereting artillery mix, with the same four twin Schneider 305 mm (12 in) guns as previous classes, but also a first level of secondary artillery with ten single Canet 164.7 mm (6.5 in) guns and eight single Canet 100 mm (3.9 in) guns as intermediate 2/3 rate artillery.
The bulk of anti-torpedo defence consisted in twenty-two single 47 mm Hotchkiss QF (1.9 in) guns and just two single 37 mm (1.5 in) Hotchkiss guns usable as saluting guns (and possible dismounted for landing parties), plus the usual four 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes. It was a well-rounded ensemble ensuring a volume of fire at all distances, but a bit nightmarish for the ammuntion supply.


The four Canon de 305 mm Modèle 1893/96 were in two turrets in the typical shape as previou battleships, of round section but with flat walls and thus, same protection all around. Each turret rested on its barbette, with the roof pierced by two observation posts for backup targeting in case the main fire direction was inoperable.
These mainstream guns, largely used in WWI, notably from railways, used a Welin interrrupted-screw breech with Hydro-pneumatic recoil. They elevated only to 15°, had a rate of fire of just one rpm, firing a 349.4-kilogram (770 lb) AP shell at 780/800 m/s (2,600 ft/s) to a maximum of 12,000 m (13,000 yd).


1st level: Ten 45-calibre Canon de 164.7 mm (6.5 in) Modèle 1893/96 guns:
-Six were mounted in single-gun turrets on either side of the superstructure. The remaining four were in upper deck casemates in sponsons. They fired a 54.9 kg (121 lb) shell at 900 mps (3,000 ft/s) to 10,800 metres (11,800 yd). Rate of fire was 2-3 rounds per minute. 200 shells for each gun were in store.
2nd level:
To compensate for the relatively slow rate of fire of the 6.5 in, Suffren had also eight 45-calibre Canon de 100 mm (3.9 in) Modèle 1893 guns. They were placed in shielded mounts on the shelter deck and superstructure. Each fired a 16-kg (35 lb) shell at 710 mps (2,300 ft/s) and could elevate to +20° for 9,000 metres (9,800 yd) in range. But their main advantage was four rounds per minute. 2,000 shells were carried for each.

Light Anti-torpedo boat Armament

The twenty-two 50-calibre Canon de 47 mm (1.9 in) Modèle 1885 Hotchkiss guns were located on the fighting tops (8) and the remainder in the superstructure. They fired a 1.5-kg (3.3 lb) shell at 650 mps (2,100 ft/s) to 5,000 metres (5,500 yd) and at a 15 rounds per minute in a short burst, down to 7 sustained due to heat issues. 16,500 rounds were carried in all.
The two 37-millimetre (1.5 in) Modèle 1885 Hotchkiss guns were placed on the upper bridge, close to officers to fire blanks for saluting, smoke or flares.

Torpedo Armament

No change compared to Iéna: Suffren carried four 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes, both on the broadside, half being submerged abaft the forward turret (offset to a 30° angle). The remainder two were above-water with limited 80° traverse. There was a supply of twelve Modèle 1892 torpedoes, four being were training models with dud warheads. I have no info on the specifics of these torpedoes.

⚙ Suffren specifications

Displacement 12,432 t normal, 12,892t full load
Dimensions 125.91 x 21.42 x 8.22 m (413 x 70 x 27ft)
Propulsion 3 shafts, triple-expansion steam engines, 24 Niclausse boilers 16,200 ihp (12,100 kW)
Speed 17 knots (31 km/h; 20 mph)
Range 3,086 nmi (5,715 km; 3,551 mi) at 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)
Armament 2×2 305, 10× 164.7, 8× 100, 22× 47, 2× 37 mm, 4× 450 mm TTs
Protection Belt: 300, Decks 60, Barbettes 250, Turrets 290, Bulkheads 110, CT 224–274 mm
Crew 688 normal, 742 as flagship

Read More


Campbell, N.J.M. (1979). “France”. Gardiner, Robert (ed.). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905.
Caresse, Philippe (2010). “The Drama of the Battleship Suffren”. Warship 2010. Conway.
Corbett, Julian (1997). Naval Operations. History of the Great War: Based on Official Documents. Vol. II
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One: Guns, Torpedoes, Mines and ASW Weapons of All Nations; Seaforth Publishing.
Jordan, John & Caresse, Philippe (2017). French Battleships of World War One. Annapolis NIP
Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World’s Capital Ships. Hippocrene Books


Model Kits

None, but a book with tons of plans and photos for a scratchbuilt: MCN-201801 Naval Campaign 2018/01 French battleship Suffren.

Career of FS Suffren (1904-1916)

Created with GIMP

Suffren was laid down at Brest Arsenal on 5 January 1899. She was launched on 25 July 1899, so quick for French standards at the time, but completed much later. She was named after 18th Cent. admiral Pierre André de Suffren de Saint Tropez (4th of the name, later a heavy cruiser class followed, a missile guided destroyer, and the first Barracuda class SSN).

Prewar Service

Suffren had her fitting-out delayed as fittings and armour were themselves much delayed. She started her sea trials in November 1903 (nearly four years after launch !) but was not commissioned until 3 February 1904. She made her inisitial training in the Channel.

On 18 August, she took part in a gunnery trial with Masséna, off Île Longue. She was attached for this a mild-steel plate of 55 centimetres (21.7 in) thickness, 225 x 95 cm long (7 ft 5 in by 3 ft 1 in) on the her forward turret side. This was one of the first of such resistance tests, by a large-calibre shell. Six sheep left inside simulated the crew.
Masséna fired from an anchored position just 100 metres (330 ft) away, and fired several 305 m (12 inches) AP shells at the plate, the first three knocking splinters off the armour plate and the last two with full charges cracked the plate, but still did not sent through debris inside. The turret was found still operational. Its Germain electrical fire-control system was also still functional and the sheep unharmed.
Splinters however did some damage, one retirned on Masséna, hit above the armour belt leaving a hole, and another landed close to the Naval Minister Camille Pelletan as an observer.

Suffren prewar at full speed. The lighting shows her tumblehome is still clearly a feature of the design. From shipsnostalgia

Suffren at last was fully commissioned in Brest and assigned to the Escadre de la Méditerranée immediately departing for Toulon. Upon arrival, as she was the most modern and largest French Battleship to that point, she became flagship, hoisting the mark of Vice-amiral Palma Gourdon on 24 February 1904. In April she carried President Émile Loubet on a state visit to Naples. However along the way several reports of defects were revealed, notably the underpowered capstan, barely capable of raising the anchor, the centre engine and propeller shaft overheating.

Gourdon was relieved by Vice-amiral Charles Touchard on 4 October 1905 and Suffren took part in fleet exercises off Hyères on 5 February 1906 when accidentally ramming the submersible Bonite, as the latter while submerged, miscalculated the fleet’s movements. Bonite was just at periscope depth 30 metres (98 ft) in front of Suffren, but both captains reacted promptly. The sub made a crash dive and Suffren veered quickly enough to just inflict a glancing blow. The submersible still had her bow crushed, ballast tanks ripped open so she had to drop her weighted keel and be beached to avoid sinking. Suffren on her side had two compartments next to the starboard engine room flooded as the steel plating was displaced. She was docked for emergency repairs and there were no casualties. During this immobilization it was decided to removed her above-water torpedo tubes. Suffren took part in an international fleet review in Marseille, on 16 September.

She was drydocked very close to Iéna on 12 March 1907, berthed in Toulon, when the latter exploded. The damage was moderate, and only a small fire started after some bruning debris landed on her decks. However soon, her ammunition magazine powder load was scriutinized. She took part in the annual fleet manoeuvres of the summer. On 5 November, Patrie took her place as flagship. She was still second in line on the 1th Battle Division.
In early 1908 engineers had her completed with a 2m (6 ft 7 in) Barr and Stroud rangefinder mounted on the navigation bridge for accuracy. She was transferred to the 3rd Battle Division this summer. During a manoeuver off Golfe-Juan on 13 August, she had her port propeller shaft badly damaged, dropping her propeller under 85 ft deep (it was recovered). A new shaft was to be ordered from Indret but since Iéna was at the time in full salvage after the enquiry, it happened the shafts were compatible and engineers seeked to obtain permission to do the transfer. But this was rejected by the Naval Ministry.

Suffren in Toulon
Suffren in Toulon, Agence Rol

In drydock it was also decided to have her center propeller shaft reworked to fix an old issue of overheating. 1909 saw her in a reorganisation, into two “Escadre de ligne” or battle squadrons each with three ships. 3rd BatDiv was reassigned to the 2nd BatRon. Suffren replaced ships in refitting, repair or maintenance. By November 1910 again, she lost her starboard propeller, lost this time in deep water and not recoverable. No shaft being available she had to wait three months, time during which her boilers were overhauled, one replaced. On 14 February 1911 this time, the port anchor chain broke while making towing exercises. One chain link killed a sailor and injured two. She took part in a naval review off Toulon on 4 September and her unit became the “1st Naval Army” on 31 October: Following an agreement with Britain in case of war, the French Fleet would concentrate in the Mediterranean. Several ships were transferred from the Northern Fleet.

After Iéna, another tragedy was to hit Toulon again, when Liberté exploded on 25 September 1911. Flying debris landed on Suffren and kill four men, but otherwise damage was light. Suffren was moved to BatDiv2, BatRon in replacement for her. On 14 March 1913 she was moved to BatDiv 1, BatRon 3, as flagship VADM Laurent Marin-Darbel on the 18th. Annual manoeuvres started on 19 May and ended wit a naval review for President Raymond Poincaré. BatRon 3 was dissolved on 11 November, Suffren becoming flagship, RADM Gabriel Darrieus in the “Division de complément” or Complementary Division. Her was replaced by CADM Émile Guépratte on 1 April 1914. She took part in the annual fleet exercise of 1914, starting on 28 May, but during manoeuvers she accidentally rammed Démocratie. The latter suffered little damage but Suffren lost her port anchor and hawsepipe, in addition to a hole, sent for emergency repairs. Thus she was absent fresh from drydock when WW1 broke out.

WWI Service

On 1 August, Division de complément sailed for Algiers to protect troopships convoy back to France. This mission started on 6 August and also went to Bizerte in Tunisia (22th) this time to operate contraband patrols in the strait of Sicily. By September she received another Barr and Stroud rangefinder, fitted close to the bridge, mounted on transverse rails fore and aft. She also had her after bulkhead removed, two 100 mm guns moved a deck lower.

CADM Guépratte complained about the fact his ships were not approriate for escorts and obtained permission to send Suffren, Saint Louis and the cruiser Cassini to Port Said in Egypt, this time to escort troop convoys coming from British India, starting on 23 September. She met the battleship Vérité off Tenedos and bot reported under British VADM Sackville Carden close to the Dardanelles. The idea was to intercept the newly commissioned battlecruiser Yavuz (Former Goeben) in case of a sortie with Midilli into the Mediterranean. Suffren was now in the renamed “Division des Dardanelles” (Dardanelles Division).

The Dardanelles Campaign

On 3 November, Suffren and Vérité joined the British squadron tasked of shelling Ottoman fortifications at the entry of the Dardanelles. This was a short pass to evaluate Turkish defences, and Suffren fired just 30 main guns shells with little results; In between the Ottomans bolstered their defences, and Suffren was reinforced by the earlier Gaulois from 16 November. Next, Suffren sailed for Toulon.

Suffren was back to the Dardanelles on 9 January 1915, still flagship of the Dardanelles Division. She shelled the fort of Kum Kale (Asiatic side) on 19 February assisted by Bouvet, which sent firing corrections via radio. Gaulois meanwhile dealt with Ottoman coastal artillery. HMS Vengeance started to take heavy fore when closing on fort Orhaniye Tepe and the battlecruiser HMS Inflexible tried to obliterate the coastal artillery but failed to do so and soon, Suffren and Gaulois were called to the rescue, combining fire for Inflexible and Vengeance to withdraw. Suffren fired 30 main, 227 secondary shells.

Suffren took also part in the bombardment of 25 February and was far more successful, closing to 3,000 yards (2,700 m). On 2 March, the Division moved to fire on fortifications in the Gulf of Saros. On 7 March it was back in its previous position, some forts continuously firing despite the delige of shells. British battleships joined in and later, Guépratte moved his squadron to the Gulf of Saros, arriving on 11 March for more shelling.

On 18 March was planned another major attack on the fortifications, the French following the British line into the Dardanelles. The French decided to engage forts at closer range and Suffren soon took coastal artillery fire. She was hit 14 times in 15 minutes, without significant damage since most were no larger than 240 mm (9.4 in) shells. They just bounced off her turret and hull. On such shell, while richeting, hit and stripped clean off the roof of a 164 mm turret and port casemate killing the crew. Debris entered its magazine and put it afore, but it was quickly flooded. Another hole her bow, flooding the area close to the citadel and forward turret.
Under Admiral John de Robeck orders, the French were ordered to withdraw, while Bouvet hit a mine and sank in less a minute with almost all hands. Suffren still managed to rescue 75 men and then escorted the badly-damaged Gaulois to safety. The pre-dreadnought was left beached on the Rabbit Islands, but she was later towed away after some patching up.

Suffren escorted Gaulois to Toulon via Malta, and weathered a storm underway, taking refuge in the Bay of Navarin. She arrived on 3 April, went straight into drydock on 20 May. She then headed east again joining the combined fleet at the Dardanelles, and remained in the area until 31 December, then sent to Kefalos, Kos island, during which she accidentally collided (and sank) the British steamer Saint Oswald, which was a horse transport evacuating troops from Gallipoli. Suffren was badly damaged and was sent back to Toulon on 20 January 1916.

Suffren and Agamemnon passing in front of the Dardanelles Forts
Suffren and Agamemnon passing in front of the Dardanelles Forts

The Greek Campaign

She left Toulon in April and joined a reconstituted French squadron of six predreadnoughts.
The Initial French goal was to support operations on the Salonica front. On 9 July, Suffren became flagship of the 3e Escadre de ligne (BatRon 3) in place of Patrie, sent for a refit in Toulon. By August, political changes in Greece had King Constantine I wanted to maintain Greek neutrality and eny Greek Ports to the entente. On 7 October, the naval staff decided to pressure the Greeks into joining the entente and the French Battleships Patrie, Démocratie, and Suffren entered the harbour of Eleusina. Battle stations were clearly signalled, preparations were made to engage the Greek predreadnoughts Kilkis, Lemnos and the cruiser Elli. Negociations prevented to go any further and the French ships returned to their base.

Suffren in 1915

Suffren was to be refitted newt to Bizerte, but it was full already and she was diverted to the Lorient Dockyard instead, which proved in hindsight a fatal decision. On 15 November, Suffren too coal at Bizerte on 18 November and sailed two days kater to Gibraltar, the first leg. She was delayed by heavy weather en route and arrived on 23 November, recoaled and and exited the strait into the Atlantic without escort, which also was denied (the captain fully knew about U-Boat activites, some going as far south as the coast of Portugal.

Thus, on the morning of 26 November, circa 50 nautical miles (92.6 km; 57.5 mi) off Lisbon, Suffren was spotted and attacked by SM U-52, which launched four torpedoes. The latter was at the time not supposed to operate there, but en route to the Austro-Hungarian naval base at Cattaro, Adriatic, expecting a difficult crossing at Gibraltar. One torpedo hit close to a magazine, which detonated. This was sufficient enough to break the back of the battleship which sank within seconds will apparently all hands, 648 at the time. U-52’s captain arrived on the scene and emerged to see if he can puckup up suvivors but found none. After the loss of the Bouvet this was one of the most tragic loss of the French Navy up to that point.