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.
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.
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 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
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.
Four single broadside 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes. Whitehead Type 1890, from Fiume.
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
6,840 t standard 7,400–7,700 t FL
108.8/111.73 oa x 18.9 x 7.32 m (366 ft 7 in x 62 x 24 ft)
1x 254, 10x 152, 6x 120mm, 6x 76 mm, 4x 47mm, 4x 450 mm TTs.
Belt 70-150, CT 150, turrets 190, decks 100-150, barbettes 10-150 mm
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.
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.
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
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 submarineU-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.
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.
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.
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.
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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http://www.pietrocristini.com/schede_tecniche_navi_italiane.htm Garibaldi class on wikipedia on navypedia.org
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
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 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
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.
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.
Belt 4.5 in, Main turret 7.5 in, CT 3 in, Deck 2 in
*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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
1,550 long tons (1,575 t)
80.2 x 10.4 x 4.3 m (263 ft 1 in x 34 ft 1 in x 14 ft 1 in)
Deck: 16–25 mm (0.63–0.98 in), Conning tower: 75 mm (3 in)
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
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
1640t standard, 1850t FL
86 x 10.4 x 4.30m (282 x 34 x 14 feets)
De Laval steam+gas turbines, same boilers+4 diesel generators
Same but 3x 40mm/56 K/60 M32, 3x 25mm/55 K/58 M32, 200 mines, 2 DCR
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.
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.
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 (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.
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.
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.
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
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).
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, 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.
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
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.
Following the success of the Jeanne d’Arc, the French admiralty tasked chief engineer Emile Bertin to create a simplified and cheaper version, to be built in series.
However they still were intended to fill the same commerce-raiding strategy in line with the “Jeune École” theories. With three ships built, the Gueydon class confirmed the path taken since the Jeanne d’Arc, mostly caracterized by a much greater range and better speed compared to the previous ships since Dupuy de Lôme. The last commissioned, Dupetit-Thouars, in 1905 was the only lost in WWI. The two other survived the war, the interwar, and were scuttled in 1940 in Brest, later refloated but destroyed in 1944.
A “template” with mass production
“Following” them were (they were built practically at the same time, and quicker) were the Dupleix class (Dupleix, Desaix, Kléber), the Gloire class (Gloire, Marseillaise, Sully, Amiral Aube, Condé) near-repeats of the Gueydon, and finally back to much larger ships, the Léon Gambetta class (Léon Gambetta, Jules Ferry, Victor Hugo), followed by modified one-offs, the Jules Michelet (1905) and Ernest Renan (1909). No cruiser was built by France past the launch of HMS Dreadnought. There were only unrealized projects of battlecruisers and scout cruisers before WWI broke out. In all, following the Jeanne d’Arc in 1899 and in the span of six years, the French cranked up 16 armoured cruisers for their commerce raiding war, which scenario never realized itself.
Hull and general design
The Gueydon class measured 137.97 meters (452 ft 8 in) long overall, and with a beam of 19.38 meters (63 ft 7 in), maximum draft of 7.67 meters (25 ft 2 in) for a displacement of 9,367 metric tons (9,219 long tons). Thus they were indeed less costy to built thanks to a ten meters shorted hull (147 m/482 ft 3 in on the Jeanne D’Arc), slightly narrower of just 5 cm (2 inch), and with a lower draft.
Protection was following about the same scheme, but less extensive by the dimensions. The Gueydon class had a lower hull, and the aft turret was not on deck, but elevated to the main upper deck.
About the silhouette, they had about the same superstructures, albeit lower and lighter, with the same, but thinner single military mast forward and pole aft like all previous cruisers, but based on a lighter machinery, with exhausts truncated into four main funnels, easier to distinguish. The hull seen from above still had a fairly elliptic design without straight section as customary of the time, hull lines were refined with narrower entries and ends. Their hull ratio was slightly less favourable, but they were regarded as better steamers overall, gaining a knot in top speed.
They had a crew of 566 officers and ratings, and would serve as flagships but added staff are not known.
Armour protection layout
It was Harvey armor for the main armor belt.
-The main belt was 150 mm (5.9 in) and extended vertically 1.3 meters (4 ft 5 in) below the waterline, and up to the upper deck over 43.0 meters (141 ft) in lenght.
-It went forward to the bow except but stopped 4.0 meters (13 ft) short of the stern.
-The lower, 150mm main armor tapered down to 91 mm (3.6 in) forward, 81 mm (3.2 in) aft, and down to 51 mm (2 in) to its lower edge.
-The upper armor strake was about 97–81 millimeters (3.8–3.2 in) down to 56–41 millimeters (2.2–1.6 in) above, between the main and upper deck.
-There was an aft transverse bulkhead, 84–41 mm (3.3–1.6 in) thick.
-There was a forward bulkhead, closing the casemate compartment, 120 mm (4.7 in) thick.
-There was another 102 mm (4 in) bulkhead below it, down to the lower deck, aft this time, rear of the casemate compartment.
-Horizontal protection comprised a main, curved, lower protective deck 2 to 2.2 inches thick. It was completed by a light armor deck on top, 20 mm (0.8 in) thick.
-Underwater protection was about the same as previous Bertin’s ships and his speciality: Extensivelty subdivided watertight internal cofferdam filled with cellulose, which ran all along these two protective decks.
-Gun turrets were semi conical with slanted sections, and had all around protection of 160–176 mm (6.3–6.9 in) with 32 mm (0.9 in) roofs.
-Main barbettes estimated 200 mm (8 in) thick, down to 50 mm (2 in) under the protective deck.
-The Main ammunition hoists had walls 2 inches thick.
-Secondary Casemate guns probably the same as for the Jeanne d’Arc, 74 mm (2.9 in) thick.
-100 mm guns had 50mm shields (2 in).
-The forward conning tower had 160 mm thick walls. There was no aft CT.
This was consistent with the previous design and perhaps better balanced, although with hindsight the thicker conning tower was not that useful. The greatest difference was the position of the aft turret, one deck higher, making for a taller barbette.
The Gueydon class like their predecessors had three shafts. The central one was the cruise shaft, and two outer ones were used for full speed. Gueydon had three vertical triple-expansion steam engines, connected to each propeller shaft. The interesting point is that not only this powerplant was reduced in size compared to the previous cruiser (which had 36 boilers and nearly 30,000 shp). Three variants were tried, all based on the same vertical triple expansion models:
-Gueydon had 28 Niclausse Boilers (19.600 shp)
-Dupetit Thouars had 28 Belleville boilers (22,000 shp)
-Montaclm had 20 normand Siguaudy boilers (Unknown output, assumed to be also 22K shp)
Going up to 22,000 indicated horsepower (16,400 kW) they could reach between 21 and 22 knots (39–41 km/h; 24–25 mph), so most authors put 21.4 kts as a medium. They were reached on trials. For autonomy, the Gueydon class carried up to 1,575 metric tons of coal (1,550 long tons; 1,736 short tons), enough for 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) which was far less than the 12,000 nm of the Jeanne d’Arc, seen probably as too ambitious. She would also travel 5,000 nautical miles at 18 knots as extrapolated from the trials.
The armament of the Gueydon class was in straight line inspired by Jeanne d’Arc but with a twist: In common, they had the same single 194 mm (7.6 in) guns fore and aft, still “light” for armoured cruisers, but the secondary armament was brand new and composite: Wheras Jeanne d’Arc had fourteen single 138.6 mm (5.5 in) guns, the Gueydon class adopted eight of the new 164 mm (6.5 in) casemate guns which offered a far better range, same rate of fire, and heavier broadside. To compensate for the numbers, they had four single 100 mm (3.9 in) guns, with a much greater ROF. This made for a total of twelve guns.
The light battery was less extensive also, with ten instead of sixteen Hotchkiss 47 mm (1.9 in) guns and four single 37 mm (1.5 in) guns to compensate, located in the forward military top. This was completed by the usual torpedo tubes, the same two 450 mm (17.7 in) fixed broadside models. Overall a somewhat lighter but perhaps more balanced armament, which complicated supply though.
Same two 194 mm/40 (7.6 in) guns in single gun turrets fore and aft of the superstructure as for Jeanne d’Arc and all following cruisers. It used a separate-loading, bagged charge for a 75–90 kg (165–198 lb) AP shell existing the barrel at 840–875 m/s (2,760–2,870 ft/s). ROF was 2 rpm. The mount could elevate -6° to +15°. Range was circa 12,580 yards (11,500 m).
Their secondary armament comprised eight 45-caliber quick-firing (QF) 164 mm (6.5 in) guns in casemates. They were located along the hull, four in casemates to fire forward and aft, close to the bridge and aft superstructures and main turrets, and four in side postion with limited traverse.
These 164 mm guns became a staple of French designs up to that point. They were not that more powerful than the common Vickers 6-in (152mm), and the Modèle 1893 was used up to WWI and beyond, found vrtually on all cruisers and battleships of the French Navy. They had a Welin breech block, Hydro-pneumatic recoil, could elevate -10° to +25°, had a ROF of 2-3 rpm, shells leaving the barrel at 770–775 m/s (2,530–2,540 ft/s), up to 9,000 m (9,800 yd) at 25°. Later mounts allowed 36° and 18,000 m (20,000 yd).
The remainder Canet/Schneider 100mm/3.9-in guns (Canon de 100 mm Modèle 1891) fired a Fixed QF ammunition. Recoil used a Hydro-spring recuperator with a Canet screw breech for loading. ROF was 10 rpm, muzzle velocity 710–740 m/s (2,300–2,400 ft/s) and max range 9.5 km (5.9 mi). So they were even longer range compare to the 164mm.
Anti-torpedo boat armament
The same battery as before was used, but reduced. The ten Hotchkiss 47mm located along the main deck were 2 in Modèle 1886 using fixed projectiles for a 30 rpm ROF, at 571 m/s (1,870 ft/s), up to 5.9 km (3.7 mi) at +20°. The smaller 37 mm Hotchkiss (1.5 in) guns were located all four in the forward military top.
Same configuration as for the Jeanne d’Arc, both 450 mm tubes (17.7 in) were located above the waterline to avoid any weakness of the hull.
The Blueprints.com – Reconstruction of the class, two views.
Illustration by the author
⚙ Gueydon class specifications as built
9,367 metric tons (9,219 long tons) standard
137.97 x 19.38 x 7.67 meters (452 ft 8 in, 63 ft 7 in, 25 ft 2 in).
3 shafts VTE steam engines, 28 Niclausse Boilers* 19,600-22.000 hp
Main belt 6-1.6 in, turrets 8-in, casemates 4.7-in, CT 6.3-in
Chesneau, Roger & Kolesnik, Eugene M., eds. (1979). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905. Greenwich: Conway Maritime Press.
Dai, Wei (September 2020). “A Discussion on French Armored Cruiser Identification: From the Gueydon Class to the Edgar Quinet Class”. Warship International. LVII (3): 199–221.
Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One: Guns, Torpedoes, Mines and ASW Weapons of All Nations: An Illustrated Directory. Barnsley, UK: 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.
Sondhaus, Lawrence (2014). The Great War at Sea: A Naval History of the First World War. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Commandant de Balincourt, Les Flottes de combat en 1915, Augustin Challamel
Jean-Michel Roche, Dictionnaire des bâtiments de la flotte de guerre française de Colbert à nos jours, t. 2, Rezotel-Maury Millau, 2005
Jean Meyer et Martine Acerra, Histoire de la marine française : des origines à nos jours, Rennes, Ouest-France, 1994, 427 p.
Michel Vergé-Franceschi (dir.), Dictionnaire d’Histoire maritime, Paris, éditions Robert Laffont, coll. « Bouquins », 2002, 1508 p.
Alain Boulaire, La Marine française : De la Royale de Richelieu aux missions d’aujourd’hui, Quimper, éditions Palantines, 2011
Rémi Monaque, Une histoire de la marine de guerre française, Paris, éditions Perrin, 2016, 526 p.
Les Flottes de Combat en 1917, Commandant de Balincourt, Augustin Challamel, 1917
Les marques particulières des navires de guerre français 1900-1950, Jean Guiglini, SHM, 2002
Les navires français 1914-1918, Jean Moulin, Marines Editions, 2008
Dictionnaire des bâtiments de la flotte de guerre française de Colbert à nos jours, Tome II, 1870-2006, LV Jean-Michel Roche, Imp. Rezotel-Maury Millau, 2005
Répertoire des navires de guerre français, Jacques Vichot, Pierre Boucheix, refondu par Hubert Michéa, AAMM, 2003
The first cruiser was named after Louis Henri de Guédon, Briton Vice Admiral, Governor of Brest and first governor of Algeria under the Third Republic. She was built at Arsenal de Lorient, started on 2.8.1898, launched on 20.9.1899 and completed, commissioned on the first September 1903 (construction time six years).
Gueydon was armed in Toulon in 1903 and started her first campaign in the Far East, based in Indochina for a time. Its assignation there ran from 1903 to 1906 after which, and following a refit, she was in gome waters (Toulon) in 1906-1909, then in service along the South Atlantic in 1910-1915.
When WWI started, she patrolled and escorted convoys along the shores of South America, from Brest to Gribraltar in 1915, and to the West Indies (French Caribbean, Antilles) in 1916. It seems this was her assignation until 1918, without much action. In 1919 she was in limited service and probably in reserve in 1922 due to to the Washington treaty limitations.
In 1923, she was comprehensively overhauled at Arsenal in Brest to serve from 1926 in Toulon as a gunnery schoolship. She had part of ther machinery removed (aft boilers groups) to make room for extra accomodation and had a mix of weapons to present the trainees all types in service. In 1927, she replaced Pothuau (an old protected cruiser) in this role. She was stricken in 1935, and from there was reconverted as a pontoon-barracks for the Preparatory School of the Navy.
She was anchored in Brest when WW2 started. She was notably photographed by the Luftwaffe, and to avoid capture, scuttled on June 18, 1940, just before troops entered the city. However her hull sunk in shallow waters and still emerged. She was refloated by the Germans but found little use, until at least she was maskeraded in 1943 as the cruiser Prinz Eugen to deceive RAF observers. The Germans added the old sloops Aisne and Oise to beef it up, erecting fake superstructures. Eventually she was completely blasted by the Germans in August 1944, during the capture of Brest by the allies, Free French and resistance groups. Photo 1Photo 2
FS Montcalm (1900)
FS Montcalm, named after the French General in North America, was built in F C de la Méditerranée, La Seyne, south of France. Laid down on 27.9.1898 she was launched on 27.3.1900 and completed on 24.3.1902 (five years construction).
After sea trials and working out, she made her maiden voyage and shakedown cruise by conveying French President Émile Loubet to Russia, reaching Kronstadt in the black sea, to receive the official visit of Tsar Nicolas II on board for lunch on May 23, 1902. From 07.02.1903 she departed for the far east fleet, and served there until 1906. In 1906, she lost a propeller while steamiong back home in the Mediterranean. She was repaired in Bizerte and returned to Brest for final repairs and overhaul. She returned to the Far East fleet, until 1910, and was back home to be used on the south atlantic until the war broke out.
On February 17, 1915, the British requested her for a mission to Singapore, to quell a rebellion by companies of the 5th Light Infantry Regiment of the Indian Army. The latter was fuelled by the party’s anti-British nationalist propaganda “Ghadar”. The same year she returned to her patrol duties along the Atlantic coast from Brest to Gibraltar. The next year in 1916 like her sister she covered convoys to the Caribbean and South America, until 1918.
Marshall Joffre in Tokyo, as part of a goodwill diplomatic trour on behalf of the French government in Asia.
In 1921, she left for Singapore again, as part of Joffre’s Mission in the Far East. She carried the Marshal for a “goodwill tour” of four months in Asia. This tour lasted from November 11, 1921 – to March 12, 1922, a diplomatic mission to strengthen French influence in emerging Asian countries such as Indochina, Cambodia, Siam, Japan, Korea and the China, also to thank them, in his name as commander in chief, for their participation in the Great War.
Montcalm was decommissioned on October 28, 1926 and was converted as a training ship, paer of the “Armorique Group”, renamed “Trémintin” to free the name for a French heavy cruiser, in 1934. When the Second World War broke out, she was in Brest, scuttled on June 18, 1940 as German troops entered the city. She was refloated but destroyed again in 1943 following an air raid. Other sources states August 1944 which was more likely.
“Armorique” school group, with Tremintin (ex-Montaclm) and Gueydon, modified as a school ship. Photo reconnaissance by the Luftwaffe over Brest in June 1940.
FS Dupetit-Thouars (1901)
The cruiser, built at Toulon was named after Aristide Aubert du Petit-Thouars (1760-1798), killed in Aboukir while commanding Le Tonnant. She was laid down on 17 april 1899, launched on 5 july 1901 and completed on 28 august 1905 (6 years). She served at first in the Mediterranean, with nothing really notable but her peacetime exercises and upkeep periods routine. After a reserve period from 1911 to 1913, the Dupetit-Thouars was assigned in 1914 to the ocean instruction division. The cruiser will then carry out various missions during this period of war, including the escort of supply convoys leaving from North America to France.
In WWI she served in various escort missions and patrols between the far east, Mediterranean and Atlantic. In 1918 she mostly carried out transtlantic escorts. It’s with one of these, in August, that she was sunk by U-62.
Montcalm in the naval review EB1911
The sinking: Commander Pasqué commanded the ship on 26 June, sailing from New York to take charge of a convoy of 24 merchant ships leaving Halifax for the Verdon in France. On August 7, 1918, 7:50 p.m., carrying out a security mission in the Atlantic, 800 km from the French coast, for the Cruiser and Transport Force. She was ambushed (as known later) by SM U-62 at 46° 18′ north latitude, 12° west longitude. Armand Baudoin organized the evacuation aboard makeshift rafts, saving almost all of the crew. Out of 500 men, only ten were lost. Those still stranded at sea had to wait until August 8, spotted and picked up by USS Tucker, later landedin Brest on August 12. Commander Armand Baudoin was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor on August 15, 1918 by President Poincaré for his actions to save his crew.
As per the report when it arrived the Commander Pasqué went out for dinner while on the bridge was second in command, Captain of the Corvette Winter. Since she was underway in a very dangerous sector, all lookoputs were at their post, officers in duty on deck and engines as the crew. The outside watch from the forward topmast would warn the bridge at any moment by megaphones and by an electric warning bell. There was a security service in combat posts in case.
The was electrical emergency lighting was provided, reduced lights activated, maneuvering winches constantly heated and lifeboats arranged outside under the davits, whaleboats and yawl stored on the bridge. There were also many inflatable rafts and all men on the upper decks wore their lifejackets or have them close at hand. In addition the captain frequently ordered evacuation drills the day before each departure.
The three wireless telegraphy stations and radio direction-finding station were constantly armed. Ship position was reported by radio every half hour from the main and emergency station.
As the sun set at 8:15 p.m. the convoy stopped zigzagging, assuming a too low visibility for effective submarine operations. FS DUPETIT-THOUARS however leading the front of the convoy was still lacing at that time and by 8:45 p.m., moved circa 1000 meters in front of the convoy’s center.
The horizon was still clear enough to see the ships’s silhouettes. However wothout warning the first torpeo hit at 8:51 p.m. on the starboard side, under the forward bridge. Ten seconds later, a second hit near the aft gangway. No one spotted either the submarine or its periscope also Lt. POCHARD on the main lookout post, saw the last element of the trajectory first torpedo wake.
The damage was immediately apparent as the ship took a moderate list to starboard, and seemed slow enough to take measures. Security teams tried to stop the flood, but the explosion served the electric circuitry, most lamps shut inside the machinery and total darkness after the second hit due to the rupture of the lead switchboard.
Montcalm in Sydney, 1914, photo by Sam Hood
A few emergency quinquets allowed minimal visibility in the engines and boiler room and officers carried American portable electric lamps.
On the bridge, the hit broke the windows, damaged various control and transmission systems and acoustic pipes which prevented steering and communication with the engines. The megaphone was used instead. The wireless mast came down and a lifeboat was swept away.
A distress signal was posted though, and if the main machinery still worked, auxiliary machines died, and the pumps with them. Officers reported that even the progression of the flood was slow, there there was no chance of saving the ship and now only personnel safety mattered. Captain Winter ordered “full port, 90 turns” to move away from the probable position of the submarine, but all links with the steering room were broken, as well as to the port engine. Commander Pasqué back on bridge ordered to move on the port side to not coming across the convoy, risking collisions.
Aftr being informed of the extent of the flooding and damage, he ordered Captain Winter to start the evacuation on deck. He ordered to stop the engines, to lower the flooding but the list progressed. The evacuation was very orderly, going on for nearly sixteen minutes, in boats and rafts, others being picked up by escorting US destroyers.
The cruiser sank just moments after the last men and two commanders left the board. Documents contained in the box of the cipher room were thrown at sea. Of the ones lost, three died in boiler room 3, and the remaining ten were probably dragged with their rafts, into the capsizing. Officers indeed toured the ships in the depht to be sure none was missing. 50 minutes after the torpedoing, Dupetit Thouars went down. On August 8, all six escorting US destroyers Tucker, Drayton, Winslow, Porter, Warrington and Fanning carried the survivors. However around 10 p.m., the guilty U-62 emerged near the remaining rafts, maneuvered with precaution, alongside one of them and and officer spoke in French to ask the name, tonnage of the cruiser sunk, sent food and clothese, took off one of the men’s cap for its ribbon as souvenir and disappeared. U-63 was an U-57 class U-Boat, very successful as between 1917 and 1918 she sank 53 ships, Dupetit-Thouars included, her last and best “kill” of this war.
The Ibuki class (伊吹型) or Kurama class (鞍馬型) were transitional “semi-battlecruisers” classed as armoured cruisers (Sōkō jun’yōkan) of Imperial Japanese Navy, with a powerful secondary armament leaning towards monocaliber.
Delays had them completed only in 1909-1911, and they were obsolete. An interesting design nonetheless, they served in WWI, trying to catch Von Spee’s Asian squadron and covering missions to seize the German Carolines and Mariana Islands, or escorting convoys to the Indian Ocean. In 1922, the Washington treaty was signed and they were disarmed and latter scrapped. #IJN #WWI #ibuki #kurama #armouredcruisers #imperialjapanenavy
Origins and context
After the Russo-Japanese War, many lessons had been digested around the world on naval combat. This was arguably the most influential battle of “modern” battleships so far, prior to Jutland ten years afterwards, generated a lot of theories about how combat between capital ships should be done. The Ibuki class ships reflected Japanese experience from that war, designed to fight side-by-side with battleships and were given an armament almost as superior to Japanese battleships of the time. The key of this design was a very powerful secondary battery, making them for most author’s “battlecruisers” yet, they were still armoured cruisers, of the very last generation, their best equivalents would be the German SMS Blücher, with had lower caliber guns, but on a monocaliber fashion. However by the time they were completed, HMS Dreadnought had been built, and with her sister ship IJN Kurama she was obsolete even before completion in 1909 and 1911, British proper battlecruisers were much more heavily armed, and faster. In 1910 already was launched HMS Lion, which was way superior, and trigerred an order for the Kongo class, studied from 1911.
Both ships “battlecruisers” had a short carrer in World War I, hunting Von Spee’s German East Asia Squadron without success and searched for the commerce-raider SMS Emden, al well as protected troop convoys in the Pacific Ocean in 1914. They were both were sold for scrap in 1923 due to the Washington Naval Treaty.
The Ibuki-class ships originally had been ordered during the Russo-Japanese War, on 31 January 1905. They were to be supplementary Tsukuba-class armored cruisers. However they were redesigned to incorporate 8-inch (203 mm) guns rather than the twelve 6-inch guns initially planned. Engineers thus had to rework their hull entirely, which became larger to fit the new, large side turrets and required also more output, adding extra boilers to keep the same speed.
Protection was well cared for, more even that for the Tsukuba class since they needed to be superior to all armored cruisers and and to take part in a battleline, along with regular battleships and drew much from the two Kasuga-class armored cruisers, drawiong inspiration from the Battles of the Yellow Sea and Tsushima. Of course, the appearance of the British Invincible class as they were just started, having eight 12-inch guns for 25 knots, cause concerns to the admiralty, which proceeded anyway.
Design of the Ibuki class cruisers
The Ibuki class were 485 feet (147.8 m) long (between perpendiculars 450 feet or 137.2 m) for 75 feet 6 inches (23.0 m) in width and 26 feet 1 inch (8.0 m) in draft. This for a displacement in line with the last generation armoured cruisers, about 14,636 long tons (14,871 t), normal, 15,595 long tons (15,845 t) fully loaded. This was 900 tons more than the Tsukuba class. Metacentric height was 2 feet 11.5 inches (0.902 m). The crew amounted to 845 officers and ratings.
Compared to the Tsukuba class, they were longer, larger, but proceeded from the same general design, with a forecastle given recesses for the broadside forward turrets, and a lower deck, a tall bridge, two mast, taller this time and tripod, and three equal size and span funnels instead of two. Conways classed both the Ibuki and Tsukuba classes as “battlecruisers” given their role (this is literraly their intended role), not based on armament consideration. In comparative sense, only the Kongo class were the first true IJN “battlecruisers”. On the other hand, the Blücher, despite having a more homogeneous, monocaliber armament, was still considered an “armoured cruiser”, because she was not intended to take part in battles but to hunt down cruisers.
Armor of the Ibuki class was improved compared to the Tsukuba class. She used for the most important parts, comprising the belt, Krupp cemented (KC) armour. Main belt amidship: 7 inches (178 mm) along the citadel (between barbettes). For and aft Belt: 4 inches (102 mm) beyonf the citadel. Upper belt strake: 5-inch (127 mm) only betwen the 8-in barbettes. Secondary turrets semi-bulkheads 6 inches (152 mm) thick. Transverse bulkheads: 1-inch (25 mm) thick 12-in gun turrets: faces and sides 9 in (229 mm), roof 1.5-in (38 mm). Main barbettes: 7 inches 8-inch turrets: 6 inches frontal arc. Secondary barbettes: 5 inches, 2 in (51 mm) below the armor belt. Main & secondary armored decks: 2 inches. Forward conning tower: 8 inches, communications tube 7 inches.
Both battlecruisers had the same vertical triple-expansion (VTE) steam engines as the Tsukuba class, but the delayed Ibuki allowed her to serve as a test-bed to install steam turbines. Four sets of Curtis turbines purchased from Fore River Shipbuilding Co. in the US were in the end procured to equip both IJN Ibuki and the battleship IJN Aki. Later $100,000 were paid to buy a manufacturing license, to be manufactured by Gihon. However the first ships planned to received these were the never completed Amagi class battlecruisers (But IJN Akagi had those).
IJN Ibuki thus diverged from Kurama by having a superior total output of 24,000 shp (18,000 kW), allowing her to reach 21.5 kts, wheras Kurama had two shaft VTE for 22,500 shp (16,800 kW), reaching 20.5 kts. However both had 28 Miyahara water-tube boilers, to compare with the 20 of the Tsukuba class, which “only” reached 22,500 shp for 21.25 kts.
These boilers comprised 18 mixed-firing ones with superheating of the Miyabara water-tube type, with a working pressure of 17 kg/cm2 (1,667 kPa; 242 psi). They used fuel oil sprayers on coal to boost burn rate. But still, they were considered bad steamers: For Ibuki on sea trials, 12 August 1909, she only reached 20.87 knots (38.65 km/h; 24.02 mph) based on 27,353 shp (20,397 kW). The turbines were modified, propellers changed but for only “scratching” a fraction of knot. New trials on 23 June 1910 had her reaching 21.16 knots (39.19 km/h; 24.35 mph), based on 28,977 shp (21,608 kW), just enough to be accepted, but still below expectation.
IJN Kurama with her old style four-cylinder reciprocating steam engines and same boiler with four more for 28 total, and an additional funnel, seemingly reeached the desired speed figures on trials. Both carried 1868 and 2,000 long tons of coal plus 215 (200 and 218 long tons respectively) long tons of fuel oil for the sprayers. No range figure was given, like for the Tsukuba class.
The Ibuki-class were armed with four 45-caliber 12-inch 41st Year Type guns as main armament. They were mounted in twin, hydraulically powered turrets. These mounted elevated to −3°/+23° and could load at an angle of +5°, and up to +13° in thoery, although problematic due to the shell weight. They fired a 850-pound (386 kg) armour-piercing shell at a muzzle velocity of 2,800 ft/s or 850 m/s, enabling a max range of 24,000 yd (22,000 m) although like in the RN and considered past experiences at Tsushima, a 18,000 yds was preferred.
The intermediate armament was the earl game changer of the design and why she leaned more towards a “battlecruiser” unlike her predecessor: She boasted four twin-gun turrets, all alongside the central superstructure with large cutouts and sponsons to enable a 250° traverse. They had a 45-calibre 8-inch 41st Year Type gun, derived from Vickers models built under licence in Japan. They actually could fire as far as the main guns thanks to a 30° elevation, givin them the near-same range of around 23,000 yards (21,000 m), and they were faster. Their 254-pound (115 kg) shell, AP or HE, existed the barrle at a muzzle velocity of 2,495 ft/s (760 m/s). Thus in battle, they were likely to fire their whole broadside at max range, not waiting for the secondaries to engage.
Torpedo boat threat was well understood by the admiralty as as previous ships she had an impressive range of smal caliber fast-firing guns:
-The core was fourteen 4.7-inch/40 Type 41 QF guns, mounted in casemates of the hull and two in the superstructure. They fored a 45 Ib shell at 2,150 ft/s
-They also came with four 12-pdr/40 12 cwt QF guns, plus four 12-pdr/23 QF on high-angle mounts for AA fire alread, doubling as saluting guns. Both fired the same 12.5 Ib shells at 2,300 ft/s or 1,500 feet per second.
These cruisers were fitted with three submerged 18-inch (457 mm) torpedo tubes, each on a broadside, one in the stern. The latter was a training torpedo with some traverse, but the two broadside ones were fixed. The torpedo model was likely 18″ (45 cm) Ho Type 38 No. 1 (1905) purchased from Whitehead with a Gyroscope, three-bladed propeller, 220 lbs. (100 kg) Picric Acid or Shimose warhread, and ranges of 1,100 yards/27 knots or 3,300 yards/20 knots. More
Belt 4–7, Deck 2, Bulkheads 1, Barbettes 2–7, Turrets 9, CT 8.0 in
Construction was delayed due to a lack of shipyard facilities as much as of skilled workers, they fell in low priority in construction order, which in part explains their very late release.
-Kurama in particular was started in Yokosuka Naval Arsenal on 23 August 1905 and should be the lead ship. But construction dragged on until launch on 21 October 1907 as priority was given to the new Kawachi and Settsu plus the repair and reconstruction of the captured ex-Russian ships. She was only completed on 28 February 1911, making for a five years time.
Ibuki on her side was started two years later, she had to wait for the slipway used by IJN Aki became available in Kure Naval Arsenal. However the latter took advantage by stockpiling material and components and this was ready to break a record construction time of five months, only beaten by HMS Dreadnought (four months). The decision to go from reciprocating engines to turbines on Ibuki made her a high priority over IJN Aki, so she was first Imperial Japanese Navy ship fitted with steam turbines. Aki was delayed for five months as it was estimated the cruiser was better suited as a testbed.
IJN in June, 23, 1910, colorized by Irootoko Jr.
Problems with her turbine engines delayed the full completion of Ibuki, compounding her construction started two years after her sister IJN Kurama still using reciprocating engines. Both were completed far too late, mostly due to Shipyard capacity. Ibuki emerged from Kure Naval Arsenal to be commissioned on 11 November 1907.
She made a first sortie, doubling as shakedown cruise to Thailand, attending the coronation ceremony of the Thai king Rama VI Vajiravudh. Not much happened until 1914, and she was mobilized with the rest of the fleet when Japan declared war on the central Empire and started to go after German possessions in the Pacific and Asia. She thus took part in the hunt for the German light cruiser SMS Emden in 1914. But she never caught her.
She also escorted a convoy of ten troopship with the New Zealand Expeditionary Force aboard, crossing the Tasman Sea with the cruisers HMS Pyramus, HMS Minotaur. They went first to Albany in Western Australia in November 1914 and later departed with HMAS Sydney, to protect a large ANZAC convoy (20,000 men and 7,500 horses) across the Indian Ocean to participate to the British campaign against the Ottoman Empire.
They were landed in Egypt where they trained for many months before being thrown into the furnace of Gallipoli.
The fleet moved ahead from Albany at 8.55, in all 36 transports and 3 escorting cruisers, in case the Germans would shown along the way. Ibuki escorted the liners Ascanius and Medic carrying troops from South and Western Australia. During a rain squall they fell out of the line and of sight, Ibuki taking HMAS Melbourne’s position, starboard beam, while the latter wen astern of the convoy. They arrived off the Cocos Islands. Soon, HMAS Sydney was dispatched to the island and took part in the Battle of Cocos. Meanwhile, Ibuki “shephered” the convoy, its most serious protection. Captain Kanji Katō wanted to engaged Emden, but this was denied by the convoy commander aboard HMAS Sydney. The Royal Australian Navy however noted this and saluted the “samurai spirit of the Ibuki” each time an IJN Imperial Japanese ships visited Australia in WWI and the interwar. Little did they know…
The rest of the war saw mundane tasks, fleet training, gunnery drills and patrols in the Pacific or Japanese waters. IJN Ibuki was still active when her country decided to sign the Washington Naval Treaty. The axe was to fell and the “armoured cruiser/battlecruisers” of the two classes were thussold for scrap on 20 September 1923, despite their age. The guns however were all salvaged and reused in shore batteries, installed at Hakodate in Hokkaidō, and along the Tsugaru Strait. They were still active in WW2, thus a reason, why the USN mostly launched air strikes, and only later closed for shire bombardment of industrial eras, but at such distance they were never threatened. A full review of IJN shore batteries and fortifications are awaited as part of the Naval Fortifications portal.
IJN Kurama colorized by Irootoko Jr.
Problems encountered with IJN Ibuki’s geared turbine engines led the Navy to decide for Kurama to keep her planned vertical triple expansion reciprocating engines. This was fortunate as she was already three years beyond sechedule, delayed at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal.
Kurama in sea trials. She was just half a knot slower than her turbine-driven sister.
Shortly after commissioning, she carried the mark of Admiral Hayao Shimamura for a long trip (doubling as shakedown cruise) to Great Britain. She was to represent Japan in the Coronation Fleet Review for King George V, held in Spithead, on 25 June 1911.
IJN Kurama at the KGV Cornonation review in Spithead
IJN Kurama next trained and made several voyages to China and the Pacific until 1914. Like her sister, she was mobilized, after failing to catch Graf Spee’s fleet, to protect British merchant shipping in the South Pacific. Soon, she joined the newly completed IJN Kongō and Hiei) to support landings in the Caroline and Mariana Islands, both former German colonies. They did not stood a chance.
From the 1st South Seas Squadron search for the East Asia Squadron, departing on 14 September 1914 to Truk on 11 October, protecting troop carriers as part of the squadron task to occupy the Carolines.
The squadron was based in Suva, Fiji by November 1914, to prevent a return of the East Asia Squadron. IJN Kurama was flagship of the 2nd Squadron in 1917. She was then transferred to the 5th Squadron in 1918, but nothing much happened. She trained, between fleet exercizes and gunnery drills.
In 1921 she was assigned to the northern fleet with the intention of taking part in the East Siberian campaign, supporting the “white russians” based in Ekaterinburg. She covered the landings of Japanese troops in Russia during the Siberian Intervention and went back home for a short refit and training. Unfortunately the internatonal coalition cold not prevent the Red Army successes and was forced to evacuate.
However like her sister she was disarmed in 1922 followed the signature of the Washington treaty. She was stricken in 1923 and scrapped while jer artillery was salvaged, two 203 mm turrets engine as coastal batteries around Tokyo Bay.
Conway’s all the world’s battleships 1860-1905
C.E.W. Bean, The Story of Anzac from the outbreak of war to the end of the first phase of the Gallipoli Campaign
O’Brien, pp. The Anglo-Japanese alliance, 1902-1922, p. 142
Evans, David (1979). Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941. NIP
Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1906–1921. NIP
Gibbs, Jay (2010). “Question 28/43: Japanese Ex-Naval Coast Defense Guns”. Warship International. XLVII (3)
Jentschura, Hansgeorg; Jung, Dieter & Mickel, Peter (1977). Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869–1945. NIP
Lengerer, Hans & Ahlberg, Lars (2019). Capital Ships of the Imperial Japanese Navy 1868–1945, Zagreb Despot Infinitus
Jane’s Fighting Ships of World War I. London: Random House Group. 2001. p. 167.
The cruiser “Jeanne d’Arc” was the largest French cruiser in 1899, first oceangoing armoured cruiser and prototype for all following French armoured cruisers until 1907. Designed initially in 1892 as protected cruiser for overseas service, this was changed later and the design was modified by Engineer Emile Bertin as an armoured cruiser. Very different from previous armoured cruisers by this last minute change, she emphasised speed and range over protection, and was even considered woefully under-armed for her size. Not ideal for the fleet, she proved however roomy and adaptable to be transformed as a dedicated training vessel after WWI and until 1928, starting a long lineage and tradition in the Marine Nationale.
Design & construction
Jeanne d’Arc being designed in the 1890s was completely alien to the Dupuy de Lôme type armoured cruisers. This was basically a protected cruiser for overseas service, meeting requirement of range and speed that dictated some sacrifices, especially in protection.
Following a government change, with a new minister which privileged the home fleet, the design however was completely revised to be an armoured cruiser. Given the challenge and numerous recalculations to be done, notably in order to preserve stability, the task was given to superstar naval architect Emile Bertin, the director of the Navy’s Technical Section in 1895. He did his best, but still, his final design was regarded as unsuccessful: Too light for her armament, and the added armor lower her her designed speed considerably, meaning that for her size and cost she was not impressive for an armoured cruiser, especially in the light of foreign designs being built at the time: Her contemporaries were the Cressy class and Fürst Bismarck. Jeanne d’Arc was much larger but a bit slower and indeed less well armed and protected.
The name “Jeanne d’Arc” (Joan of Arc) chosen, was correlated to French Republican Nationalism of the time. It was for the first time given to a cruiser, but she was not the first french vessel to bear the name:
There was before a French frigate of 1820, a 52-gun frigate (1820–1834) from Brest, flagship of the Caribbean squadron, another frigate launched 1837, 42-gun comm. in 1852 and until 1865 taking part in the Crimean War. She was renamed Prudente in 1865 and decommissioned in 1898, freeing the name for the new armoured cruiser. There was also an armoured corvette built in Cherbourg in 1876 and still active until 1885. After this 1899 armoured cruiser, there was a 1930 cruiser, and a 1960 helicopter cruiser, both solely designed and used for training.
Jeanne d’Arc is a popular figure both in and outside France. The “maiden of Orleans”, liberating the British-occupier city and succeedeing in having the prince Charles crowned Charles VII, king of France. However betrayed, captured before Paris, she was famously prosecuted by the hostile faction of the Bouguignon and burned to the stakes as a witch and relapse, later rehabilited and made a Saint in 1920 by the Roman Catholic Church. She is contributed to the end of the 100 years war but modern historians are wildly dicussing many details of her life and impact at the time, to this day, making her a somewhat controversial figure, and today instrumentalized by the right/far-right nationalist and conservative part of the Society.
Final redesign of FS Jeanne d’Arc
Hull and general design
The final cruiser measured 147 metres (482 ft 3 in) long overall (a record for any French Warship), with a beam of 19.42 metres (63 ft 9 in) and a maximum draught of 8 metres (26 ft 3 in). She displaced 11,264 tonnes (11,086 long tons) under normal load, but up to 14,000 fully loaded with extra coal for long cruises in wartime. She had a had a metacentric height of 1.458 metres (5 ft). Her crew was of 651 officers and ratings.
Design-wise, she could not have been more different than the previous armoured cruisers like the Pothuau, last of a line of armoured cruisers derived from the Dupuy de Lôme. They were low on water with an impressive ram bow and had a limited top speed, of 19 knots and often 16 in practice. Pothuau herself displaced 5,347 tonnes standard, whereas the Jeanne d’Arc was twice as heavy, longer by 35 meters, larger by three, draftier by two, with a much longer superstructure, a large tower bridge forward and military mast, plus its six unmistakable funnels in two rows of three. Thanks to 36 boilers (instead of 18) or a larger and more modern type, she tripled her output for a theoretical 22 knots, or even 23 as first planned by the yard.
But despite of all of this, she kept the same armament of two 7.6 in/40 main guns (19,3 cm) wheread Fürst Bismarck had four 9.4 in (24 cm) and the Cressy class had two 9.2 in guns.
She was one of the rare cruisers to have her whole forward section fully armoured, from the belt to the weather deck, down to the bridge tower. Unlike previous cruisers she was at first envisioned to ream the atlantic and her size was seen as advantage: Her tall prow, one deck taller, and very long hull were meant for her to ride the waves instead of ploughing heavily in foul weather as the previous armoured cruisers did.
Armour protection layout
Jeanne d’Arc was designed with Harvey Armor plating for her main Parts:
-Belt: 150 mm (5.9 in) thick amidships.
-Fwd belt to bow: 100 millimetres (3.9 in)
-Rear Belt to stern: 80 millimetres (3.1 in).
-Main Belt extension: 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) below, 0.7 metres (2 ft 4 in) above waterline
-Main belt, lower edge: 50 millimetres (2.0 in).
-Upper belt: 80 mm strake armour over 1.92 m (6 ft 4 in) amidships
-Upper belt upper edge: 40 millimetres (1.6 in).
-Bow sides, above belt: 3x 40 mm up to forecastle deck.
-Protective Deck, slope: 45-55 mm (1.8 to 2.2 in) in mild steel +2×10 mm (0.4 in) “extra-mild” steel.
-Upper Deck: 11+7mm (0.4+0.3 in).
-Conning tower walls: 138 millimetres.
-Main turret plating: Krupp armour, 161 mm (6.3 in) on 2×11 mm plating
-Main turret roof: 20 millimetres (0.8 in)+10mm plating.
-Main Barbette 160 millimetres (6.3 in) thick
-Main barbette, below upper deck: 60 millimetres (2.4 in)
-Gun shields, secondary battery: 74 millimetres (2.9 in)
-Sponsons, secondary battery: 40 mm plating, hinged.
-ASW prot. 15 watertight bulkhead up to main armored deck, double bottom
Jeanne d’Arc had a momunmental powerplant, the largest ever placed on a French warship at the time. It consisted in three single three-bladed propellers, instead of two like on the Admiral Charner, driven by 3 four-cylinder vertical triple-expansion steam engines. These propellers were not all the same; Both outer propellers were meant for speed and 5-metre (16 ft 5 in) in diameter, while the centre one was smaller at 4.7 metres (15 ft 5 in), for cruise.
Steam came by no less than 36 Guyot-du Temple boilers, the largest ever fit, which altogether produced a total output of 28,500 indicated horsepower (21,300 kW; 28,900 PS) or even 33,000 shp in forced heat as designed (Conways). Jeanne d’Arc however failed to reach her designed speed of 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph). During her sea trials; on 23 January 1903, the best she managed was 21.7 knots (40.2 km/h; 25.0 mph), based on 29,691 ihp (22,141 kW; 30,103 PS), so less also than planned.
She carried however far more coal than previous cruisers (abour 600 tonnes), from 1,970 tonnes and up to 2,100 tonnes (2,067 long tons). This produced a range of 13,500 nautical miles (25,000 km; 15,500 mi) at 10 knots which was intended for her initial commerce raiding career. Bertin was tasked to improve her speed, and dedcided after the trials to replace her propellers and their struts. He also redesigned her her bilge keels, shortened, but new trials did not showned the awaited improvement, with around 21.8 knots reached. This was not that bad compared to her rivals, the Cressy reached 21 knots, and Fürst Bismarck 18.7 kts. However she was not a good steamer, with excessive coal consumption and poor agility, with a 2000 m tactical diameter.
Jeanne d’Arc’s main armament was the same since FS Dupuy de Lôme: Two 40-calibre 194 mm (7.6 in) Modèle 1893 guns in single-gun turrets fore and aft of the superstructure. Due to her particular design, they were further from the sterna and prow, higher up, so as not to be affected by bad weather. Each fired a 75–90.3-kilogram (165–199 lb) shell at 770 to 800 metres per second (2,500 to 2,600 ft/s) depending of the ammunition. Elevation was between -6° and +15°, rate of fire 2 rpm and range was below 16,000 meters (useful). Built with with several layers of steel reinforcing hoops, interrupted screw breech, they fired separate loading bagged charges and projectiles. They were also shared by Jeanne D’Arc derivatives, the Gloire, Gueydon and Léon Gambetta class cruisers, all in the same configuration.
Jeann d’Arc secondary armament comprised fourteen 138.6 mm/45 (5.5 in) Modèle 1893 guns, all in single mounts and protected by gun shields along the sides. Four were in each broadside, positioned in hull sponsons for maximum traversen while the remaining guns were on the sides of the superstructure, with a more limited traverse. They fired 30–35-kilogram (66–77 lb) shells at around 730-770 metres per second (2,400 to 2,500 ft/s) depending of the type. The breech was of the interrupter crew type, with a separate-loading, cased charge, their rate of fire was also 4 rpm and range (maximum) was 15,000 m (16,000 yd) at 25°. This armament was twice as much as previous armoured cruisers: Charner had only six. This at least compensated for her weak main armament.
Anti-Torpedo Boat Armament
The close-range anti-torpedo boat defense as not forgotten: She carried sixteen QF 47-millimetre Hotchkiss (1.9 in)/40 Modèle 1885. Four were in the fighting top on the forward military mast, the others along the superstructure. By contrast, previous cruisers were armed with only four of them completed by eight 37 mm (1.5 in) 5-barreled revolver guns. So in this department also, this was quite a potent defence, much superior.
Like all previous cruisers, the usual practice was to add torpedo tubes, in that case two submerged 450-millimetre (17.7 in) torpedo tubes in the broadside, with reloads. They carried indeed in total six Modèle 1892 torpedoes, each carrying a 75-kilogram (165 lb) warhead at 800 metres (870 yd) and unique setting of 27.5 knots (50.9 km/h; 31.6 mph).
Author’s illustrations: Jeanne d’Arc as completed and in WWI.
2× 194 mm (7.6 in), 14× 138.6 mm (5.5 in), 16× 47 mm (1.9 in), 2× 450 mm (17.7 in) TTs
Belt 150, Deck 55, Gun turrets 161, Barbettes 140, CT 138 mm
Jeanne d’Arc Carrer
Her start was very troubelsome: Planned in 1892 as a large protected cruiser to prey on trade routes as planned by the Young School, after a government change she became an armoured cruisers and Bertin managed to up-armor her. She was at last ordered on 28 December 1895, from Arsenal de Toulon. She was laid down in October 1896. Construction was slow and prolonged, almost brought to a standstill from September 1896 to June 1898. This was the result of a dispute between the constructor and naval administration, as well as disagrements about her engines, and multiple delays. In the end, she was only launched on 8 June 1899, and without her engines installed to press forward.
Jeanne d’Arc depicted in a specialized magazine in 1902
A troublesome early career
At last she received her intended boilers (not from the Yard, which was the usual practice at the time) and she was commissioned for sea trials on 1 March 1901. But her troubles were not over. It was revealed indeed the boiler rooms were very poorly ventilated, in addition to the boilers being very poorly insulated so that the temperature inside rose to 65 °C (149 °F), making all work impossible at high consumption rates. That heat brought countless indesirabke side effects, like the feed pumps failing repeteadly due to beyonf boiling hot feed water, managing to overheat in turn the condensers. This led to many modifications until March 1902, so that trials be resumed in next April.
There, heat problems were cured, but new problems appeared, this time with the piston rings, not in one, but all three engines. Further modifications and parts replacements, she was finally commissioned on 10 March 1903, even before her final trials took place. The whole process took since her keel laying seven years, and all this time, technology went forward; She was no obsolete however by any standards and at the contrary a great leap forward comparted to all previous armoured cruisers.
On 14 April, Jeanne d’Arc, considered very much a prestige vessel at this point, ferried President Émile Loubet to French North Africa, and back in Marseilles on the 29th of April. The cruiser was sent for her first atlantic trials, reassigned to the Northern Squadron in Brest. After all this was her intended theater of operation. On 1 June she took part in exercises off the coast of Brittany which lasted for several months.
However still, she was regularly plagued by boiler problems and overheating, and capped to a much slower speed as intended. This was so bad she was eventually reduced to reserve on 14 September, refitted and started new trials on 8 October, again reported unsuccessful. The admiralty ordered her to be decommissioned for full repairs on 15 November. Again, her troublesome machinery went through a complete overhaul. She was notably given 48 Normand-Sigaudy boilers in replacement. At last she was recommissioned for new trials, more successful in May 1905, but returned in reserve on 6 August.
Jeanne d’Arc in Brest, Britanny, 1905
On 26 May 1906 Captain Émile Guépratte (future admiral in WWI) assumed command and she was reassigned to the Mediterranean Fleet, as flagship of the Light Squadron. She visited Tangiers in Morocco, and Gibraltar, and proceeded to the large scale annual exercizes with fleet on 12-28 July. She later took part in a fleet review for the inauguration of the Rove canal tunnel connecting Marseilles to the Rhône River, assisted by President Armand Fallières in Marseilles, on 16 September.
In October 1906, Jeanne d’Arc visited Bizerta, Tunisia. In 1907, she visited Morocco, Algeria and Cherbourg on her way for a drydoc refit in Brest in June 1907, back to the Mediteranean Sqn. on 20 July. While in transit, just departing Gibraltar on 12 February 1908, one of her boiler exploded. The accident killed five, injured three more, badly burned. She returned in Brest to be placed in reserve on 15 April. This time, the admiralty had new plans for the capricious cruiser. Her numerous engines problems lead to unsufficient speed for her intended role but her large hull presented many advantages.
Christian Benjamin Olsen, Jeanne d’Arc, 1913
They ordered modifications to make her suitable as a training ship for naval cadets. After adding new accomodations in 1908-1910, and interior modifications, she was recommissioned on 20 May 1911.
It seems her armament was unchanged. She was attached to the Third Division, Reserve Squadron, until 1 May 1912 and prepared for long cruises. Next she was reassigned to the Atlantic Schools Division, with Brest as new home port. This was the start of a lengthy cruise in the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Baltic, from 10 October 1912 to 29 July 1913. She went to the Mediterranean and crossed the Zuez canal for her first visit to the Indian Ocean in her second cruise (10 October 1913-27 July 1914). When back, as war was looming and the admiralty wanted to convert her back to her role of cruiser, her boilers were replaced again, this time by 36 Guyot de Temple (28,000hp), and she received in addition six 37mm/20 QF guns.
Jeanne d’Arc at Annapolis, Maryland during her prewar cruise, with French officers on deck
Jeanne d’Arc WWI
The war has broken when she was done with her last modifications: She was assigned to Northern Squadron on 1 August, 1st Division, 2nd Light Squadron as flagship. Her first missions were to patrol the western English Channel, looking for German blockade runners. When reinforcements were needed in the Eastern Mediterranean with the start of the Dardanelles Campaign by February 1947, the admiralty wanted her reassigned to the Third Squadron, arriving in March.
Her first mission was to escort a troop convoy to Mudros and later in April, she covered French diversionary landings on the east (Anatolian) coast. Diverting attention for the main landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula, western side. During these operations close to the shore she was targeted by Ottoman artilley and hit twice by 6-in shells, on 26 April. Damage was light: She had a sponson hit, small fire started, mastered, some wounded crewmen, and a dud, tossed overboard.
Reassigned as flagship of the Third Squadron, she housed not one but three Vice-Admirals: Louis Dartige du Fournet, Dominique-Marie Gauchet, and Frederic Moreau, until 30 March 1916. She served as a HQ thanks to her roomy accomodations, based in Port Said, Egypt. There, she became the base for the French operations to blockade the Levantine and Aegean coasts, occupied by Turkey. Next she was deployed to cover landings on Ruad Island, on 30–31 August 1915. Later she covered the landings at Castellorizo, on 28 December. She shelled central Empires tarhets of upportunity, batteries and positons held by either Turkish or German troops and bombarded the German consulates in Alexandretta and Caiffa.
She was sent for a short refit and maintenance in Malta in October 1915 and returned to the Levant front, until March 1916, witthdrawn and sent back home for a comprehensive refit in France. She emerged from the drydock in January 1917, reassigned to the 4th Light Squadron operating in the West Indies (French Carribean). In late 1918 she returned to France, placed in reserve with a nucleus crew for peacetime.
In 1919, a commission examined her general state, and reported it was good enough for more service, after a refit. She had all her previous accomodations back to house many cadets and their instructors. She was recommissioned in her former role of training cruiser by August 1919. For ten years, until 1929, she made nine “world-spanning cruises” from her home port of Brest, usually departing by September or October, and back in July the next year. For her very last cruise in 1927–1928, Jeanne d’Arc was commanded by no ther than François Darlan. She was replaced in her role by the prewar armoured cruiser, but more modern Edgar Quinet, and the venerable “Jeanne” joined the reserve. She even became briefly “Jeanne d’Arc II” in 1930 as the brand new 1930 cruiser needed her name. This purpose-built training cruiser was the first. The former “Jeanne” was stricken on 15 February 1933, condemned on 21 March, sold for BU on 9 July 1934.
Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905.
Feron, Luc (2018). “The Armoured Cruiser Jeanne d’Arc”. In Jordan, John (ed.). Warship 2018. Osprey.
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. Seaforth.
Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World’s Capital Ships. NY Hippocrene Books
The last ‘Esploratori’
Agordat and Coatit were built at Castellamare in 1897. They had been designed by Nabor Soliani as protected scout cruisers, launched in 1899 and commissioned in 1900. They derived also from Italian Torpedo Cruisers and became a first modern attempt as creating a scout cruiser or “esploratori”. Alas, they were lightly armed, proved too slow and too short ranged to be useful as such, and apart the Italo-Turkish War of 1911–12, they saw little action in World War I, being converted as a minelayers and gunboats to serve a few years until 1923. #regiamarina #ww1 #esploratori #naborsoliani https://bit.ly/3W4wn1R *First published on April 27, 2018.
The tipping point of an European fad: Torpedo Cruisers
For context, both vessels emerged after a lineage started in 1875 with the laying down of Petro Micca. Well before any idea of a destroyer, or even fleet torpedo boats, Italy was among the first to take the bandwagon of a new and ephemeral type in all navies: The Torpedo Cruisers, born from the enthusiasm for the newly developed torpedo. During the years 1885-1890, the Italians built sixteen torpedo cruisers, a fashionable solution at first to use torpedoes, but soon hardly pressed to counter early torpedo boats. They were obsolete in a decade. Still operational ships were turned into minelayers, often rebuilt with forecastle, new machines, new armaments.
Partenope, the previous class of torpedo cruisers (eight ships, the last completed in December 1895)
These were the Tripoli (1886), Goito class (1888), Folgore classs (1886), and Partenope class (1889-94). Tripoli was designed by Benedetto Brin the precursor of the following classes. She was rearmed in 1904 and rebuilt, then re-armed a second time in 1910, with two 76mm, 57mm and 64mm guns, discarded in 1923. Goito was converted in 1897 and carried 60 mines. Montebello served as a training ship for mechanics in 1898, converted in 1903. The last three were modified in 1906-1909, thus having a new armament. Iride and Minerva were discarded in 1920 and 1921 but Partenope was sunk by UC67 on March 23, 1918.
Development of the Agordat class
In this lineage, the Agordat class were at first classed as torpedo cruisers, but they became later protected cruisers. The design for the Agordat class, which was started in 1895, even before the completion of the last torpedo cruiser, Caprera (PARTENOPE CLASS) was prepared by Engineering Director Nabor Soliani. The admiralty staff had the wish to build a pair of fleet scouts.
The filiation showed in their design, broadly similar to the previous Partenope class while beign significantly larger. In fact it was a 50% scaling up, with in addition a proper forecastle to manage better performances as a seaboat. Much hopes were placed of course in their powerplant, and after much debate, choice was made of eight Blechynden boilers to power two vertical tubes steam engines. Initial prospects called for 9,000 shp and 24 knots, to compare with the previous Partenope class, 4,000 ihp for 18 to 20 knots. There were discussions about protection, which had to be minimal as these ships were not intended to fight, as well as armament, which was purely defensive. They even got rid of the previous 4.7 in guns of the Partenope class.
Design of the class
The Agordat class, classified as “explorers” or scouts from 1914, and protected cruisers before, were just slightly larger than a destroyer of the time and roughly considered as light cruisers by default of a better classification. They were relatively unsuccessful units mainly to their steam engines while plagued by heavy compromises in protection and autonomy, not to speak of the ludicrously weak armament gor a “cruiser” of any kind. This seriously jeopardized her chances of survival in any combat.
She was de facto the lightest of all Italian cruisers at 1,300 tons but still largely above the average 500 tons of contemporary Italian destroyers. They were ultimately replaced by proper scouts at last, the excellent Quarto, with steam turbines and the proper performances for this role, followed by the Nino Bixio class.
Hull and general design
They had displacement around 50 percent greater while Soliani discarded their medium-caliber guns and choose instead an homogeneous battery of quick-firing 76-millimeter (3 in) guns derived from Vickers Guns made under licence by Ansaldo. The hull was similar in great lines than the previous Partenope class, but adopting a forecastle extended to the conning tower which made all the difference to carry out missions in all weather. They were constructed entirely from mild steel and wood in scarce quantities to reduce fire hazards in combat. Generally they were regarded as elegant ships, with their two tall funnels rakes and well spaced, and their two pole masts heavenly placed before the main bridge and behind the aft funnel.
The bridge placed in front of the foremast was an inheritance of the sailing navy, most cruisers keeping this caracteristic until the 1890s. It’s only after 1900 than most light cruisers had the formast placed behind the bridge, notably due to the needed proximity between the spotter and staff for fire corrections, carrying projectors but also signals and radio. In that guise, from two masts, it was reduced to just the forward one during refits after WWI, the aft mainmast being reduced to a short quarterdeck pole.
Measuring 87.6 meters (287 ft 5 in) between perpendiculars, 91.6 m (300 ft 6 in) overall they were 9.32 m (30 ft 7 in) wide, with a draft of 3.54 to 3.64 m when fully loaded (11 ft 7 in to 11 ft 11 in), for an overall displacement of 1,340 long tons (1,360 t) for Agordat, and 1,292 long tons (1,313 t) for Coatit. The ships were originally fitted with two pole masts, but the mainmast was removed in both vessels later in their careers. The crew ranged between 153 and 185 depending of the time. Both were painted in the classic peacetime scheme of black hull, white superstructure and canvas for funnels, air intakes and other structures. In 1914, they were both repainted in medium grey.
Armour protection layout
Not a strong point of the design: While the previous Partenope class had 1.6 in (40.6 mm) plating on their conning tower and main armored deck, on the Agordat class it was reduced to 3/4 inches at best for the armored deck or 11.43 mm, although it reached 20 mm on the slopes (0.79 in), acting a bit as internal semi-belts. This was only able to stop rifle fire and shrapnel, and it was only for the armored deck. There was a conning tower forward, persumably also with 0.79 in walls.
Agordat at full steam prior to WWI. This was one of the very earliest photos taken by an aircraft.
Probably the biggest point of contention as great hopes were placed on it. The final design speed only called for 22 knots, a bit light as scouts, but good for “protected” cruisers.
The steam engines were fed by eight Bleschynden boilers working at 15 standard atmospheres (1,500 kPa). The boilers were trunked into two widely-spaced funnels. Those of Agordat were slightly taller. They powered two alternative, three-stroke 8,000 hp engines, positioned halfway between the two boiler rooms. The steam engines in turn drove two bronze four-bladed propellers. There was a single rudder which was large enough for procuring some agility whitout beeding speed too much. They seemed a successful experiment at first, but the rapid progress made by armored cruisers, able to reach 20-21 knots led to the disapprearance of scouts, at least before 1911.
On paper, they eventually developed 8,129 ihp (trials figure) for a top speed of 22 knots, which was only obtained by Agordat with minimal weight and overheating and lake-like sea conditions. In realistic combat conditions, fully loaded, this was 20 knots. With the engines worn-out in WWI this went down more likely to 19. Coatit managed to reach the second design speed of 23 knots based on a superior output and same conditions, at 8,251 shp (6,062 to 6,126 kW respectively). As for their range, due to the ships being poor steamers, it only reached 300 nautical miles (560 km or 350 mi) at 10 knots, which was not even enough to patrol the Italian coast north to south in one go. This also made most destinations in the Mediterranean out of reach.
Although initially Solani envisioned the same 4.7 mm guns used on the previous Partenope, the choice was made for an homogeneous twelve 76 mm/40 (3 in Ansaldo) guns instead, for reasons of weight and stability (with a 4.7 in gun on top of the forecastle) and tactical reasons. This was completed two standard 450 mm torpedo tubes. This armament changed during post-WWI refits (see career).
The main battery comprised twelve 76 mm L/40 guns on single mounts, with six placed in sponsons along the lower hull, aft of the forecastle, three each side, and two on deck aft. The other two were in casemates in the forecastle and two on deck. In early publications these seems far larger, owing the initial choice of 4.7 in guns.
These models derived from the Vickers gun, but using Fixed QF ammunitions. They used for the Breech single-motion screw system, were capable of 15 rounds per minute at 2,210 ft/s (670 m/s) and up to 11,750 yd (10,740 m) at 40° elevation. Some were landed and/or replaced during modernizations.
Both cruisers came with two 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes. It is unclea if they were submarine, broadside or on deck, but likely the first option. They fired the standard Whitehead 1890 type.
Agordat – author’s illustration
1340t, 1292t. FL
91.6 x 9.32 x 3.6 m ( x x feets)
2 shafts TE, 8 boilers Blechynden, 8,300 hp.
22 knots max (23 planned, 20 in 1915)
300 at 10 kts
12 x 76 mm, 2 x 450 mm TTs.
Armored deck 16-19 mm (0.45-0.8 in), CT 0.8 in
185 as built
The Agordat class in action 1900-1923
Agordat just entering service in the Bay of Naples in 1900
Both vessels were classified as “explorers” (Esploratori) on 4 June 1914. Their mediocre performabces soon changed these plans at the end of the war. Both ships served as reconnaissance vessels in 1914-18, which were not satisfactory because of their relatively low speed and range. The ships proved short-ranged and marginally faster than contemporary pre-dreadnought battleship designs such as the Regina Margherita class, limiting their utility as fleet scouts and prevented them to serve on foreign stations since they were unable to cruise long distances, so they could not be usable as gunboats, in addition to their armament, making for a poor deterrence anyway.
Agordat had to make up for the replacement of much older scouts of the 1860-70s and answer to this new type of unit widespread in Great Britain, fast and light to fulfill part of the tasks of the armored cruiser of the ‘exploratori’ in Italian sense, a modern interpretation of the “warning ships” used at Lissa. The armament was modified during construction, after envisioing 4.7 in guns, but quickly centered on a battery of small-caliber 76 mm having only on paper to combat torpedo boats, and expecting 22 kots being sufficient with a presence of larger units nearby.
On 26 September 1900 under the command of frigate captain Emilio Prasca, the torpedo cruiser Agordat entered service in Naples.
Agordat, built in Castellammare, was laid down on 18 February 1897, launched on 11 October 1899, completed and commissioned with the Regia Marina on 26 September 1900. Sea trials by February-March 1901 so her reaching 22 knots, better than the 21 expected, and was partially in service in the years 1902–1904. Her unit comprised also eight battleships, six cruisers, and six destroyers, later reduced in 1905. She took part in the 1908 fleet maneuvers, as part of the “hostile force” simulating a landing on Sicily.
The Italo-Turkish War by September 1911 saw her assigned to the 2nd Division, 1st Squadron (RADM Ernesto Presbitero), separated from her sister. On 15 October, she was runited with her to escort the battleship Napoli, the cruisers Pisa, Amalfi, San Marco to escort a troop convoy to take Derna, which was done after failed negociations and a naval bombardment. She was meanwhile offshore to deter Ottoman counterattacks. Later with San Marco she raid Ottoman positions at Al-Kuwayfiya on 28 November, returning afterwards to Benghazi. In December 1911 stil with San Marco, the battleships Roma and Regina Margherita in Benghazi she prevented by gunfire Ottoman troops to close on the city.
Agordat also intercepted the French mail steamer SS Carthage on 16 January 1912 with an aircraft and pilot (Emile Duval) suspected to be Turkish mercenaries. She forced the steamer to go to Cagliari in Sardinia, on which the pilot and his plane were landed, before being authorized to proceed. The same happened with the French steamer SS Manouba, with fleeing Ottoman citizens aboard also brought to gunpoint to Cagliari. There was a mild diplomatic between the countries until the Ottomans were disembarked and the French pilot authorized to board another steamer, not for France but Tunis, still a protectorate. In April 1912 with Iride and other vessels she protected a 10,000 men troop convoy to Zuwarah (close to the Tunisian border).
By 1914, Agordat was assigned to the 2nd Division, 2nd Squadron comprising armored cruisers, supported by both and other scout cruisers. In May 1915, they were mobilized but after a few opertations in the Adriatic, the fleet was retired due to the submarine threat by Di Revel’s order, preferring blockading the southern end of the Adriatic with the Otranto Barrage. Although light, Agordat was too slow to perform attacks and saw little service but uneventful patrols.
In November 1918, she however took part in the International occupation of Constantinople, going through the Dardanelles, landing troops to occupy the city. In 1921, being reclassified as a gunboat she had four 76 mm guns retired and replace like her sister by two 120 mm (4.7 in) L/40 guns fore and aft, her TT removed, but on 4 January 1923 she was sold for BU.
Coatit in Genoa, photo by Alfred Noack, already with her new grey wartime paint.
Coatit was laid down at Castellammare Di Stabia NyD like her sister on 8 April 1897, launched on 15 November 1899, completed and commissioned on 1 October 1900. As we saw ans like her sister way too “short-legged” as a scout, the admiralty stuck her with the main fleet in 1902–1904, ative yearly for seven months and with reduced crews the rest of the time. In 1904, she sailed for the Red Sea, staying in Eritrea as a gunboat with the old corvette Cristoforo Colombo, gunboat Volturno, aviso Galileo and “played” at being used to land enemy troops on Sicily in 1908 when back for Mediterranean fleet maneuvers.
Soon however, lk,eher sister she was prepared to take part in the Italo-Turkish War, and from September 1911 she was assigned to the 4th Division, 2nd Squadron (RADM Paolo Thaon di Revel). Her task was to secure the flanks of battleships and armored cruisers shelling Tripoli on 3–4 October. She later patrolled the area with the armored cruiser Varese and sixteen destroyers. No surprise attack came from the Ottoman Navy.
On 15 October, Coatit and Agordat with Napoli, Pisa, Amalfi, San Marco and three destroyers protected a coniy of troop transports landing at Derna. Negotiators were unsucessful and the port and city were pummeled. On 18 October the Ottomans withdrew and the port was captured. Both cruisers remained offshore in case of counterattacks for two weeks. On 3 October 1912, Coatit shelled the port of Kalkan, making light damage as expected but had more success against an exposed Ottoman infantry battalion spotted by aircraft, put it in flight and spending 200 rounds on these. The captain of the nearby French cruiser Bruix witnessed the attack and officially protested based on international law.
Coatit entered Constantinople during the First Balkan War, in November 1912, after the Italo-Turkish War was over, with Emanuele Filiberto, the French Victor Hugo and Léon Gambetta and two British cruisers, joined by Goeben, Rostislav and a Spanish vessel, together landing 3,000 men ashore to protect nationals. Later she stayed in the Sea of Marmara befoore joining Crete and going back home.
Coatit in 1916, note the mainmast has been removed.
In August 1914, Coatit was in the “special purpose” Division (2nd Squadron) with two Regina Margherita-class and two Ammiraglio di Saint Bon-class battleships, still acting as scout. With netrality gone by May 1915, Revel started the Otranto blockade and in that new context, Coatit rarely was at sea but to take part of patrols, without anything notable. In 1919 Coatit was converted into a minelaye, with eight 76 mm guns disposed of as her torpedo tubes. Instead two 120 mm (4.7 in) L/40 guns were installed fore and aft. Eventually she was placed in reserve and sold for BU on 11 June 1920.
Beehler, William Henry (1913). The History of the Italian-Turkish War. USNI
Fraccaroli, Aldo (1979). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press.
Garbett, H., ed. (1902). “Naval Notes”. Journal of the Royal United Service Institution.
Leyland, John (1908). Brassey, Thomas A. (ed.). “Foreign Naval Manoeuvres”. J. Griffin & Co.
Marsh, C. C. (November 1899). “Notes on Ships and Torpedo Boats”. Notes on Naval Progress. General Information Series, No. XVIII
Willmott, H. P. (2009). The Last Century of Sea Power (Volume 1, From Port Arthur to Chanak, 1894–1922). Indiana University Press
One aspect of the Royal Navy which is frequently overlooked or downright forgotten, is the topic of Torpedo Boats. Just as for Gunboats. But it’s understandable as these vessels are more generally assimilated to small navies, not the world’s largest one. And what the RN did not lacked were its squadrons of battleships and cruisers. The British Royal Navy saw not only the Dreadnought and Battlecruisers pioneered, but also much earlier the Torpedo-boat destroyer, later abbreviated as “destroyer”. The Royal Navy also very much forged the Victorian era “gunboat policy”. But is is one aspect in particular that is generally misses by the general public. Despite this aspect of “naval dust” and the disdain shown for this asymetric, even disloyal warfare tool par excellence, Britain also pioneered the torpedo boat.
This chapter starts with two pioneers. They had been evoked in other related topics on torpedo boats, but it’s good to recall them and dive deeper into their history:
-Robert Whitehead, which turned Giovanni Lupis idea into reality, the locomotive torpedo.
-John Isaac Thornycroft: Shipbuider, which used a new innovative, light and fast steam machinery into the HMS Lightning, world’s first torpedo boat.
The famous little ship interested the Navy, less because of genuine use at present in the allmighty Royal Navy, but better to stay one step ahead of rival nations that certainly will soon embrace this new asymetric warfare asset. And indeed, all nations wishing to assess their power at sea did just that and adopted the “miracle weapon”, which could in one stroke, destroying a far more costly capital ship. Just like for the Dreadnought, Britain was not far from shooting itself in the foot, by enabling this cheap “leveller” into undesirable rivals. Among which was, the eternal one, France; Recently defeated by the Prussians in 1870, the old Nation under the guidance of Admiral Aube would soon embark into a massive new fleet of torpedo boats instead of classic assets, rather focusing funds on the army and “Revanche”. This was the Jeune Ecole. And without Britain it would not have been possible.
Poster of all British TBs prior to WWI, including the wartime CMB.
Granddady: The spar Torpedo Boat
The experimental spare TB HMS protector
It’s well known an invention has many fathers. Nothing really ever came from the blue. Ideas of technology transfer, connecting the dots between several patents and concepts often results in what is called “invention”, but sometimes plain luck and/or a fortuitous event drives it also. So if the concept of “modern” torpedo boat is attributed to Britain, the term “torpedo boat” was found much earlier than these 1870s experiments. Ten years prior, both the North American Confereracy and the Union, pitted in a vicious civil war, tested small steam boats carrying “torpedoes” mounted on spars. The term at the time designated basically an explosive charge, inspired by biology, precisely electric fishes, rays, part of the Torpediniformes Genus. It is derived from the Latin word “torpidus”, meaning ‘numb’ or ‘paralysed’. A good way to describe the effect of such explosive on a warship, basically “dead in the water”.
Various types of spar TB launches
So, the idea was just to place an explosive charge onto a ship’s flank or even better, belly. Early experiments dates back from 1812, notably with Fulton’s submarine, which carried such “torpedo” intended for British ships. But the way to detonate with a fuse or accurate and waterpoof retarding mechanism, was long. The spar, maintained above the water, simply using a wick long enough to escape to safety once the charge was somewhat hooked in place, or a distance-based detonation mechanism. Simply, a cable under tension between the carrying boat and torpedo would be automatically severed, releasing the tension to a hammer, igniting the charge.
The spar torpedo invention is generally attributed to American (Confederate) engineer E.C. Singer. He pioneered an explosive charge suspended from a pole around 10 feet long at the bow of the vessel. The attachment steel line to a trigger mechanism was released, after the torpedo was placed onto the enemy hull and while retreating to the extent of the steel line’s length, trigger did its office. Still, the steam launch behind was dangerously close. A more sophisticated system was adopted by Union, with the USS Spuyten Duyvil, which automated the whole process and was not only partly submerged, but also all-metal.
Overall, dozens of vessels used spar torpedoes, not only small steam launches, but also larger ships like monitors, generally in that case to blast apart riverine defensive obstructions, in particular in the James River. The Confederacy used them liberally, and devised clever vessels for such operations, the CSS David from Rear Admiral Dahlgren, and HL Hunley, generally regarded as the world’s first operational submarine with a confirmed kill.
Long story short, the widespread use and successes of this new weapon preceded the modern torpedo, and were still used operationally and tested until the end of the XIXth century: For example, Romanian steam launch Rândunica sank the Ottoman river monitor Seyfi on the Danube on May 26, 1877 (war of independence). Even later in 1884 French admiral Courbet used two spar torpedo boats at the Battle of Foochow, destroying the Fujian Fleet’s flagship Yangwu and the gunboat Fuxing, both by night at anchor. The Royal Navy went on testing modernized spar torpedoes, all metal with telescopic masts and longer cables, up to the end of the Century. Many navies adopted these in the 1870s, before swapping onto the “modern type”. Simply because the new type was complicated, and not trusted yet.
Development of the torpedo boats: Two pioneers.
Robert Whitehead, father of the “locomotive torpedo”
Now were had in mind the origin of the “torpedo” and its first uses, it should be noted that the concept dated back well before the American Civil war. In Europe, many engineers were looking of a better, safer way to dispense the explosive charge, based on early 1800s experiments. Giovanni Lupis is generally attributed the merit of the initial concept invention. Austro-Hungarian subject, Coratian-born Giovanni (Ivan) Biagio Luppis Freiherr von Rammer (1813-1875) in 1850 imagined the “Salvacoste”, a floating device for destroying ships that would be unmanned and controlled from land.
He believed it dearly and in fact, managed to create an early prototype, one metre long with glass wings and controlled via long ropes from the coast. But it was too heavy and cumbersome for this. Next, he created the original “Salvacoste”, with a clock mechanism as engine, driving the propeller, explosives in the stern ignited via a pistol-like control, two rudders, and again, coastal ropes guidance. 6 meters long, it did a little better. In 1860, undeterred, he retired from the Navy to focus on his idea. He made a demonstration with a new prototype using compressed air, to the Emperor Franz Joseph and a commission, which rejected it.
Enters Robert Whitehead (1823-1905). The Lancashire-born engineer at the time directed the “Stabilimento Tecnico Fiumano”, a technical workshop with a small factory. He moved after his studies in Manchester to Toulon at Philip Taylor & Sons and later Milan as consultant, and then Trieste, on the Adriatic coast. Crafty, he was noticed by the owners of Fonderia Metalli near Fiume and by 1856, became manager, producing very modern marine steam boilers and engines used by the Austrian Navy.
In 1863, Whitehead met Giovanni Luppis, just retired to Trieste. He was not long explaining his idea, and Robert to see the potential, with a small steam engine instead of a clock mecanism and compressed air. This enabled far more distance and no longer needed cables. The two men soon found common cause and entered partnership. But soon, Robert discarded entirely Luppis initial concept. Instead, with the help of his 12-year-old son, John, and a workman, Annibale Ploech, he experimented a Minenschiff, first self-propelled (locomotive) torpedo.
It was presented in 1866, just one year after the end of the civil war, which confirmed the use of the “torpedo”, to Austrian Imperial Naval commission, on 21 December 1866. This time, his prototype worked flawlessely, and the commission was impressed, purchasing prototypes to be tested on the gunboat, SMS Gemse was adapted at the Schiavon shipyard, Fiume, with Whiteheads patented launching barrels, forerunners of torpedo tubes. No less than 50 launches were performed at STT. In 1870 the very first all-patented, working Whitehead Torpedo was ready for service adoption. It was capable of 7 knots (13 km/h), reaching 700 yards (640 m), and powered by a small reciprocating engine run by compressed air, the only part kept from Luppis late design. There was indeed no way for a small steam engine to get hot and had enough pressure in time. A faster system was needed. It should be noted that Compressed Air was also the system chosen on the 1864 French submarine Plongeur.
Various types of Thornycroft’s early designs, 1877
Soon, by its own volution and pressure from the Austrian Naval staff, strict secrecy surrounded his work. His workers had to sign a waver with rigid compliance to several rules. He meanwhile perfected further his model, bringing a self-regulating device for a constant preset depth using an hydrostatic valve, linked to a pendulum balance, connected in turned to the horizontal rudder, plus gyroscopic stabilisation to keep direction. Way later, Whitehead would adopt the patents of the 1898 gyroscope mechanism from Ludwig Obry. The paradox was that, instead of bringing him fortune, the long design process diverted him from his usual affairs, and Stabilimento Tecnico di Fiume filled a bankrupcy note in 1873.
Two years later he moved to Azioni and funded “Torpedo-Fabrik von Robert Whitehead”, later renamed Whitehead & Co. Completely focused on torpedo production and sales, this time he met success, as his product was purchased in droves -despite Austrian initial resistance- by all the navies that counted at the time. Money talked, but Whitehead took arrangements at least for the Austrian Navy to have a short exclusivity. Luppis, who at the time was no longer attached to the company in any way, never mad a cent in royalties.
2nd class TB HMS Nadine
In 1873, there was still plenty of interrogations about the carrier, and many navies simply transitioned from spar torpeo steam launches to the same with torpedo ‘tubes’ or simple launching cradles. These vessels were painfully slow. Enters Parsons & Thornycroft. Others thought there was no way to create a small but powerful steam engine with existing technologies and advocated torpedo cruisers, pioneered in 1880. Many solutions were found, and locomotive boilers, proven and compact, were part of it.
John Isaac Thornycroft
The father of HMS Lightning, world’s first torpedo boat.
Born in 1843, a student in Regent Street Polytechnic & the Royal School of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering (South Kensington) he worked on the steam launch Nautilus in his father’s study, a fast boat with a reliable engine. By 1862 it won the University race. The publicity helped his father puschasing a strip of land along the Thames near Chiswick the next year, with a Workshops for both. By 1866 Thornycroft extended over the whole Chesterman’s yard completely with the founding of John I. Thornycroft & Co, but John Isaac still worked mid-time at Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Co., Jarrow-on-Tyne while pusrusing an engineering degreed at the University of Glasgow. After a marriage back from Scotland he built the fast steam yacht Miranda in 1871.
From there, he recieved orders for similar vessels like the Gitana (1876), capable of 20.8 knots (38.5 km/h; 23.9 mph), record breaking at the time. Of course the oyal Navy was not long before meeting the man and after he sold Rap to Norway in 1873, a spar torpedo vessel, he started to be interested in Whitehead’s self-propelled torpedoes by 1876 and designed HMS Lightning for Royal Navy’s tests. She was shaped like the yacht Gitana and immediately made breaking records. John Thornycroft’s influence on the torpedo boat design is monumental.
Still, he was not satisfied with the locomotive type boiler system which prevented for him reaching 22–23 knots (41–43 km/h; 25–26 mph) and worked on his own Water-tube boiler system, meeting a new record with the river-steamer Peace in 1882 (Herreshoff design) and it was ready to be sold in 1885, along with 50–60 patents. The Spanish TB Ariete for example reached 26.2 knots with these in 1887. By 1894 Thornycroft’s torpedo gunboat HMS Speedy became the first RN ship with water-tube boilers. He also nearly solved the rolling issue by 6-ton moveable watertank controlled by hydraulic cylinders (1892) and by 1894 had one employee nearly solving the effects of cavitation on HMS Daring. A new wider blade model emerged allowing speed up to 28.4 knots on the same power previous propellers only allowed for 25 knots.
He also tested numerous hull-shapes, settling on a stepped hull for fast motor boats like those used by the RN WWI. In 1910, his 25 ft Miranda IV used a single-step hydroplane and from 120 hp (89 kW) reached 35 knots (65 km/h) already, another world record. In 1915, he resurrected the idea of a torpedo boat (after pioneering it) by having one of these Motor Boats equipped with torpedoes and thus invented the MTB for coastal service. By January 1916 he started production of the Coastal Motor Boats (CMB) and also worked on air-flow devices, hovercrafts and hydropters. His company was still recoignised as champion of MTBs in WW2…
Charles Algernoon Parsons
Father of MS Turbinia and the end of torpedo boats.
To close this topic, let’s cite a famous third pioneer, vital for the RN small ship’s inventory: Parsons was born into an Anglo-Irish family in London, his father being the famous astronomer William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Rosse. Educated at home in Ireland by private tutors, he attended Trinity College, Dublin and at St. John’s College in Cambridge, graduated 1877 before starting work at Newcastle’s W.G. Armstrong as an apprentice, then Kitsons, Leeds, on rocket-powered torpedoes. In 1884 he was hired by Clarke, Chapman and Co., ship-engine manufacturers near Newcastle. From the electrical-equipment dept. he developed a turbine engine that same year to drive the electrical generator he designed.
This was revolution, more efficient than the one invented by Gustaf de Laval (1845–1913) working on an impulse design and did not worked due to the materials of the time. Logically, in 1889 he founded C. A. Parsons and Company in Newcastle to produce his turbines, that he scaled up and improved constantly, and the Newcastle and District Electric Lighting Company (DisCO) later opening in 1890 the world’s first power-station using turbo generators. In 1894 with patent rights from Clarke Chapman he rapidly improved the poor efficience of the first model (1.6%, 7.5 KW) to a megawatt turbine in 1899, and seeing fruitful prospects with the Royal Navy he also founded the Parsons Marine Steam Turbine Company, also in Newcastle.
The Turbinia in construction
In June 1897 he had a his personal yacht experimenting a turbine, named “Turbinia”. He made a publicity stunt by turning up unannounced at the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee, and made a splash by being spotted by all present at the Navy Review in Spithead, this 26 June 1897. He attracted the attention of the Prince of Wales, foreign dignitaries, and Lords of the Admiralty, moving at 34 knots (63 km/h; 39 mph) while the fastest ships in the RN at the time reached 27 knot (50 km/h; 31 mph). But he achieved this not only based on the efficience of his turbine. The latter was narrow and he created a slender hull around like a glove, making the Turbinia an unbeatable “greyhound”.
Needess to say, the Admiralty was impressed, and despite its policy disregarding light ships at the time, just to avoid such design falling into foreign hands like Russia, France or Germany, two orders were rapidly made to Parsons the next years: These were scaled-up to carry two turbines each: The destroyers HMS Viper and Cobra. He also received an order from a civilian yard to have the first turbine-powered passenger ship, the TS King Edward, in 1901. What followed were the turbine-powered transatlantic liners RMS Victorian and Virginian (1905) and of course HMS Dreadnought in 1906.
The Turbinia at sea, at full speed. The world’s first turbine-powered vessel. By that stage, the torpedo boat era was over in Britain.
So what caused the end of Torpedo Boats in the Royal Navy ?
The prodige that was turbinia however only affected late British destroyer designs: After HMS Cobra, the admiralty built the River class, which innovated by replacing their traditional turtleback forward section, low above water, but a proper forecatle, inaugurating the classic shape that would be copied by all. With this new hull and Parsons’s turbines, this was a match made in heaven. But this did not affect torpedo boat production, which was halted altogether. It was decided indeed these new destroyers could blend the role of both in the same package, the standard torpedo ship the fleet needed as an escort.
Yarrow Steam Launch
Indeed, Palmer Yard’s first batch with HMS Erne completed in February 1904, mirrored the fact the very last 1st class Torpedo Boat, TB-117 was made by White and launched in 1905. As for the 2nd class, the last was the colonial TB HMS Countess of Hopetown made by Yarrow in 1890 for the South African station (see later). The main reasons seemed to be based on technico-economic grounds: The size, cost and complexity of a turbine for a torpedo boat. The second main reason was of course that destroyers by themselves could take on better the tasked of the torpedo boats. TBs were still seemed to be cheap and useful however for point defence and thus, ended that way, but the fleet needed destroyers and focus simply turned to these, ending the craze for torpedo boats just like the contemporary torpedo cruisers. They were seen largely as a technological dead-end.
As for the turbine, it was already available and a single, smaller model probably would have fit into the belly of the 1900 160-footers, but the design was mostly done when HMS Viper and Cobra were tested (the latter in 1902). And so, since the admiralty decided already to get rid of this type for destroyers only, the next generations, possibly “170 footers”, turbine-powered, never saw the light of day. The turbine was just too complex and costly for these cheap vessels, which did well to reach 25 knots until then with way cheaper and classic VTE engine. None was also ever equipped with J. Thornycroft’s watertube boilers, although many were later modernized with those in the early 1900s.
Norwegian spar-torpedo boat Rap, 1873.
HMS Lightning’s internal scheme
The British Torpedo Boats were derived from a civilian Yacht which preceded Thornycroft’s HMS Lightning, called the “Gitana” a Yacht operating on Lake Geneva, which calm waters were ideal for long runs and speed tests. But also the “Rap”, a Norwegian spaer-torpedo vessel, which had a stronger construction and was more utilitarian. The Lightning was roughed up to fit the admiralty needs and thus still had many of its civilian heritage perks, notably luxurious internal wooden paneling and fixtures, all of which were eliminated on the first serie, the TB 2 class (Thornycroft 1878 model).
The Yarrow design for Japan
Technically, construction was classic, calling for steel framing, with a light skin steel paneling. There were concerns to make the structure lightweight, notably to compensate for the enormous weight of the steam engines at the time, using massive foundry pieces, cast iron and even lead. It was no wonder the powerplant was installed right in the center of the boats for stability.
The prow was generally straight, and in rare case “swan like”, meaning curved in a bow like shape, but not reinforced. They were certainly not rams. The draft was variable, since with speed, most of the boats forward was almost over water when at full speed, and the greater depht was aft, at the rudder level. The latter changed in time and shape. The earlier ones were divided with the single propeller shaft passing though it. Later a larger rudder was installed at the more conventional “cruiser stern”, succeeding to the early clipper stern of the 1870s TBs.
Early Thornycroft designs
The advantage of the new rudder was it’s manual backup with a bar mounted on the aft deck. Another perk of the design was that the crew was housed in the single level hull, with minimalist superstructures: There was in common to all at least a small conning tower, with minimal armour to be usable by the captain under small arms and shrapnel fire. But the standard position was behind it, standing with a wheelbar. Apart the storage space for torpedoes, and later supplementary axial torpedo tubes, there were only access hatches below, funnels and air intakes. They also had all a single pole mast to be rigged for signals, either close to the conning tower or aft.
Internal accomodations of HMAS Acheron, Australian-built 2nd class TB
As for internal accomodations, officers’s living quarters were spartan and in the forward section, while the rest of the crew lived in a single space aft, above the propeller shaft, between storage bunks, a table and hammocks. There were limited facilities and storage as most of the time, these boats were used to a one-day sortie or a 48h patrol. All the rest of the space along the flanks was taken by coal.
Thornycroft’s watertube boilers. They started to replace classic locomotive single-ended boilers for compound and VTE engines in the 1890s and 1900s, and went to oil-firing with the Cricket class in 1905.
HMS Lighting had a Compound engine and the following the same, with yards variations and powers going from 330 to 550 hp. Speeds ranged from 16 to 22 knots, but engines were worrn out after ten years and performances rapidly deteroriated, with their “loco boilers” replaced when possible by VTE or later watertube boilers in the 1890s. The 113 footers were given the same, as the 125 footers and greater machinery power giving 700 ihp to compensated for twice the displacement. They still maintained up to 21 knots. The experimental Yarrow’s TB 79 introduced a vertical tubes engine (VTE) and better double-ended boilers to reach a symblic 1000 ihp and 22.5 knots in 1886.
Suceeding to the “war scare” 125 footers, the late 1880s Yarrow boats of the TB 80 and 81 types innovated between their turtleback bow and VTE engines. The next 130 footers had the same but up to 1800 ihp for 23 kts and in between the hull lines were refined and the structure reinforced in 1884 as their weakness and lack of seaworthtiness were blatlant. The 1890s 140 footers by Yarrow and Thornycroft were all fitted with VTE engines with a gradual improvement from 1500 to 2000, then 2350 ihp on the TB 91 series. The goal was not to at least sustain 23.5 kts and if possible reach 25 knots; This was only relaized by the next decade 160 footers, still with VTE and water tubes boilers fitted when possible. They reached 25 knots based on 3000+ ihp. Of course perfoormances degraded and consumption exploded as soon as the weather became foul.
Early Torpedo types chart 1870 Torpedoes
HMS Lightning (TB 1) was so small she had no armament past the torpedoes. The first were in drop-collar but soon a single forward tube on a traversing pivot mount became the norm. Spares torpedoes aft needed to be carried vua pulleys and crew’s effort forward for reload. Later, these were placed in dropping gears as to be used too. The 125 footers introduced fixed tubes forward with ram bows, and those became the norm, albeit with straight stem and turtleback, allowing internal, safe reload. Generally two torpedoes were carried forward, two aft, later in dropping gears. TB 80 innovated by having two side tubes with some traverse aft on deck, and a fixed bow tube.
HMS Polyphemus, another interesting alternative using torpedoes.
As for the models, these were of course Whitehead Mk.I models 14-in caliber, constantly improved. The late 140 and 160 Footers however were equipped with the Whitehead 18″ (45 cm) designed from 1888, but only entering service in 1894. It weighted 845 lbs. (383 kg) for 140 in (3.556 m) in lenght, and carried a 118 lbs. (53.5 kg) wet gun-cotton warhead at 800 yards at 26.5 knots, powered by a cold running Air-flask (compressed air) feeding three cylinder: The radial Brotherhood pattern engine.
In WWI these were possibly upgraded for the surviving ships with the 18″ (45 cm) Mark V (1901) weighting 1,353 lbs. (614 kg) and carrying a 296 lbs. (134 kg) charge, also air-compressed.
Defensive armament was pretty unheard of until TB 39 by Yarrow. The 1882 and 1885 TB 40 had two 1-in (25 mm) Nordenfelt hand-crack Palmcrantz twin barreled heavy machine gun. Weighting 447 pounds (203 kg), pivot mount they fired 7.25 ounces (0.206 kg) solid steel bullets with brass jacket at 1,464 feet per second (446 m/s), with a rate of fire of average 120 rpm. In reality when targeting a small point, this was rather 20 rpm at sea.
From the large TB 80-81 onwards, for the first time 3-pdr (37 mm) Hotchkiss guns were introduced. These Vickers RF guns replaced the Nordenfelt when possible. Typically one was mounted on top of the conning tower at the end of the turtleback prow, and/or aft, both centerline. Two small Nordenfelt were installed on either side when there was enough room. The 160 footers had three 3-pdr, two on either side of the conning tower at the end of the turtleback bow, behind bulwarks and a single aft with a much greater arc of fire. The conning tower top supported a projector for night actions. src
The exception were the 1915 Cricket class: coastal destroyers (1905) Reclassified as TBs in 1915, these small boats had two 12-pounder guns (76 mm) Vickers Arsmtrong Elswick and three 18-inch torpedo tubes of the later model described above.
1905: The last British Torpedo Boats
TBs in the Medway, 1894 -CC painting
Just as HMS Dreadnought was laid down, pioneered by Admiral Sir Jackie Fisher, the very last British Torpedo Boat, at least in this traditional shape initiated in 1876, was launched. This was HMS TB 117. Unnamed, as were all TBs but a few early exceptions, these were part of the thirteen “160 footers” ordered from White and Thornycroft, launched 1900 to 1905. So why stopping there ?
Reasons were many, chief of these simply the introduction of scored of torpedo boat destroyers, which incidentally also carried torpedoes, and were just larger, faster, better armed, more seaworthy, with better range. They proved more useful and could take on the tasks of the TBs while keeping pace with the fleet, the traditonal TBs could not.
Charles Edward Dixon RN TBs in manoeuvers
The first “TB destroyer” was strickly speaking not British but Spanish, the 1885 “destructor”, built in Britain. After a short venture into Torpedo Cruisers in 1886 with HMS Rattlesnake, the Grasshopper, Sharpshooter, Alarm and Dryad classes launched 1887-94, the same year, Yarrow just perfect compact high pressure boilers enough to fit them into basically and enlarged torpedo boat: The 26-knotter HMS Havock class. These were also “180 footers” so technically designated sucessors of the 160 footers we just saw. This looked almost like a seamless transition.
Second, there was a swap in policy and Fisher (and others) had spent the initial virtues of the concept. After the failure of HMS Vulcan sole attempt to provide the fleet with an organic defending fleet of torpedo boats, they seemed condemned to harbour and coastal defence only and gradually lost their usefulness. More resources were now channeled into extreme destroyers like HMS Swift and naturally HMS Dreadnought, or the more promising submersible, just adopted from John Holland. Fisher proved instrumental in this transition. Though, British TBs of the last generation were still in service in WWI. The 140 and 160 footers found utility in point defence in colonial waters and harbours, such as Gibraltar or Alexandria, Colombo or Mumbai.
However if the classic torpedo boat was dead, John Thornycroft experiments with new hull shapes, combined with lighweight and powerful aviation engine just resurrected the concept of torpedo boat, with the Coastal Motor Torpedo Boat concept built in serie during WWI and still experimented on various designs in the interwar, until he passed away. This resurrection would have to wait until 1916, and this new breed, quite different, nimbler and way faster would have a long lineage, going through WW2, the Cold War, and still active today as the Fast Attack Craft (FAC).
The torpedo depot ship HMS Hecla
HMS Hecla (1878) was a torpedo boat carrier and depot ship purchased in 1878 for this purpose. The idea of carrying torpedo boats on a mothership was to some sort of dynamic fleet protection not only in open sea but also at anchor when the fleet was in transit in a possible dangerous area. There were multiple applications, chief of which was an enemy harbor attack, but some conditions needed to be met: The Torpedo boat needed to be small enough to be carried aboard -on this chapter the goal was achieved- and still be capable of operating with the fleet.
Hecla was the former merchant ship British Crown, requisitioned and converted whilst under construction by the admiralty. The hull was modified with a new aft section dedicated to carry up to six 2nd class “torpedo boats”.
Considered a bit as a “secret weapon”, the ship was stationed (like her purpose-built sister HMS Vulcan) in the Mediterranean, where sea conditions were more lenient. HMS Hecla was given to the best officers in RN especially experts in torpedo boats. Under their guidance, they conducted scores of tests. But like HMS Vulcan, conclusions were the same: Despite the merits of the solution, 2nd class TBs needed absolutely calm weather to operate. They were still slow and lacked capabilities to achive their missions in a wide range of circumstances. HMS Hecla was transformed in 1912 as a destroyer tender, eventually sold in 1926. See also.
Tonnage: 6,400 tons Dimensions (h:w:l): 391 x 39 x 24 ft (119 x 11.82 x 7.42m) Powerplant: 2 shafts compound 2400 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 13 kts, unknown Armament: 5x 64 pdr, 1x 40 pdr, 6x TBs.
The mothership experiment: HMS Vulcan
Unlike HLS Hecla, Vulcan was a purpose-built mothership, a bit like the French Foudre. She looked like a cruiser and was well armed, but kept the same aft modifications to carry six 2nd class TBs operated by a large gooseneck crane. She also had a workshop and full equipments as a depot ship. Unlike Hecla, she was more specialized into fleet combat and intended to deploy her torpedo boats organically in a squadron.
Built at Portsmout NyD, laid down 18 june 1888 and launched in June 1889, trials took time due to boilers issues and the in(house “battle of the boilers”. She eventually was reboilered and arrived in service more than ten years after HMS Hecla, which already proved the limitations of the concept. Her service was further delayed by strenghtening the hull and curing her of teething problems past 1903. By that time the days of the 2nd class TB were over and those of the type in general were counted. She also operated in the Mediterranean, only making a few tests with TBs before being transformed as a submarine tender, a role in which she operated in 1915. In 1931 she became a training hulk and she was BU in 1955 named Defiance III.
Tonnage: 6,600 tonnes Dimensions (h:w:l): 373 x 58 x 22fr (114 x 17 x 6.71m) Powerplant: 2 shafts TE 12,000 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 20 kts Armament: 8x 4.7 in, 12x 3-pdr, 2x 14-in TTs, 6x 2nd class TBs
Early Torpedo Boats
HMS Lighting (1876)
HMS Lightning at the Royal Science Museum.
The founding father: Before HMS Lighting, “spar torpedo boat” was a familiar term to all admiralties. These small launched could pack indeed a deadly punch, but their used was daring to the absurd, with as many risks for the pilot and crew than for the target ship. In “special operations” by night however in the right circumstances, they could do wonders. However in 1874 Robert Whitehead in the Adriatic changed all this, with his “locomotive torpedo”. Now, only a faster ship than usual steam launched to operate such promising new weapon ws required. This was John Thornycroft’s idea.
And thus, from his Miranda and Gitana, both civilian vessels, he was asked by the Royal Navy to marry both concepts. The test ship was named HMS Lightning, a fitting name sounding like a combination of speed and utter destruction. But technically, the Royal Norwegian Navy indeed had Thornycroft’s HNLMS Rap, delivered in 1873, three years before the British prototype. She was however a spar-torpeo vessel, as Whitehead’s model was not ready yet, but between the hull shape and technical details, she really was fast and modern for the time, certainly the world’s best spar torpedo vessel ever built.
HMS Lightning was built by John Thornycroft at Church Wharf, Chiswick and entered service in 1876, the first seagoing vessel armed with self-propelled Whitehead torpedoes. But with her solid military-grade compouned engine and the weight of torpedoes and equipments, she was not as nimble as previous yachts and her final top speed only was 19 knots.
When integrated definitely in an active unit she became Torpedo Boat No. 1. and was rated a a second class. Originally built she had no torpedo tubes, but two drop collars for launch. Thornnycroft knew this solution was not ideal and proposed in 1879 to replace these by a single torpedo tube, located on a pivot at the bow.
The two reload torpedoes were stored amidships. The reloading operation was fastidious though. The idea she would launch, and then use her fast speed to retreat far enough for this reload to proceed out of harm. As a ship, after extensive trials proving the concept, Thornycroft’s little wonder spent the remainder of her active life as a tender to the torpedo school HMS Vernon at Portsmouth, but still was used for extra experiments. She was BU in 1896 and therefore never saw WWI, like most 1870s torpedo boats.
Specs, HMS Lightning
strong>Tonnage: 32-1/2 ton Dimensions (h:w:l): 87 x 10-1/2 x 5ft2in (26.52 oa x 3.28 x 1.57m) Powerplant: 2-cyl Compound engine 460 ihp (340 kW) Speed and Autonomy: 18.5-19 kts, range unknown, about 100 nm at best. Armament: Two drop collar 14-in (356 mm) torpedoes (1879 1x torpedo tube).
TB 2-12 (1878-79)
The first serie. TB 2 and following was improved sister ships built with a variety of features asked by the admiralty. They does not have the coach top aft and less wooden furnitures and fittings, for a more martial outlook, and her pivot torpedo tube at the bow from the start. But the size and general hull shape, dimensions were about the same. TB 10 differed from the pack by her ram bow, and in general they were considered “very fair seaboats” although only fit for coastal operations in calm weather. Their compouned engine wore rapidly, so much they could barely reach 16 knots in 1886, making them obsolete. To augment their capacity they received two torpedoes in a dropping gear in addition to the bow tube. Spread out between colonial outposts, in Gibraltar, Hong Kong, and the Cape, they were BU between 1896 and 1906, also missing WWI.
Specs TB 2-12
Tonnage: 28 tons Dimensions (h:w:l): same but 10-1/2 ft x 5-1/2 ft (3.12 x 1.60) Powerplant: Same, top speed 20 knots. Armament: Same.
TB 13-18 (1878-80)
Convinced to pursue the effort, the Admiralty decided the design was too important not to entust other yards with the same design, owing the capacity of Thornycroft at the time, and wanted to make comparative tests for tech and cost and determine additional yards suitable for a possible mass production in the future. Thus, they ordered one each to the following: Maudslay, Yarrow, Hanna, Donald & Wilson, White, and Rennie in order. This determined Maudsley’s TB 13 was a very poor seaboat, slow, rolling excessively.
In 1886 this 28 ton boat was limited to 11 knots, BU 1896. TB 14 by Yarrow did much better. The best of the Batch, she reached 21.5 knots out of 550 ihp, and was BU in 1904. TB 15 by Hanna & Co was not judged superb and sent out to the Cape for local defence. White’s TB 19 was also good, also less than Yarrow’s. and she was the longest at 93 feets, reaching 21 knots. She was discarded in 1886 and BU in 1899. Rennie’s boat was powered by 360 ihp and thus slow at 16 knots and not agile at all. She was sent to Hong Kong and scrapped in 1903.
Thus, they ordered one each to the following: Maudslay, Yarrow, Hanna, Donald & Wilson, White, and Rennie in order. This determined Maudsley’s TB 13 was a very poor seaboat, slow, rolling excessively. In 1886 this 28 ton boat was limited to 11 knots, BU 1896. TB 14 by Yarrow did much better. The best of the Batch, she reached 21.5 knots out of 550 ihp, and was BU in 1904. TB 15 by Hanna & Co was not judged superb and sent out to the Cape for local defence. White’s TB 19 was also good, also less than Yarrow’s. and she was the longest at 93 feets, reaching 21 knots. She was discarded in 1886 and BU in 1899. Rennie’s boat was powered by 360 ihp and thus slow at 16 knots and not agile at all. She was sent to Hong Kong and scrapped in 1903.
Also of note, TB 16 was ordered to Lewin & Poole but never delivered on time, and thus cancelled. The number was later reused by Yarrow. TB 21 was never accepted. Built by Des Vignes on time, she proved to be a bad seaboat, too slow for operational service.
Also of note, the case of TB 17 and Tb 18. These were two copies of TB 14 for the Russian Imperial Navy during the Russo-Turkish war, but the war scare had them requisitioned and renumbered. However they were describes at the time as “norotiously shaky and weakly built”. Completely rebuilt to fit RN service they add an odd look with their propeller shaft projecting underneath the rudder, conning tower aft, and two funnels abreast. TB 17 was sent to Malta, making a “boom jumping” in 1887, proving the port was not immune to a torpedo boat attack. She was BU in 1907. The otrher served in Gibraltar until sold in 1902 and they possessed the now standard dropping gear for their aft spare torpedoes.
Tonnage: 28-33 tons (Yarrow boats) Dimensions (h:w:l): 86-87 to 93 ft (White) x 20 x 4-5 ft (26 x 3 x 1.22-70m) Powerplant: 2-cyl Compound, 330 to 550 ihp Speed: 16.5 to 21.5 kts (Yarrow boat). Armament: Same as previous TB 2-12. Launching gear in 1890. Crew: 14-16
113 Footers, TB 21-24 (1884-86)
A pair of a much larger, more sea going type was ordered to Thornycroft and Yarrow, the winners of the previous order. Among others, they were larger to accomodate two torpedo tubes, and not just one. Both were axial and pivot-mounted.
A double pair of a much larger, more sea going type was ordered to Thornycroft and Yarrow, the winners of the previous order. Among others, they were larger to accomodate two torpedo tubes, and not just one. Both were axial and pivot-mounted. The four boats were discarded in the early 1910s. Crew was 14. TB 21-22 differed from TB 23-24:
Tonnage: 64-67 tons Dimensions (h:w:l): 113-1/2 x 12 x 5ft 10in (34.59 x 3.81-84 x 1.78-2.06m) Powerplant: 1 shaft Compound 700-600 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 20-18.5 kts Armament: 2 TT bows, 1 deck, 1x 3 pdr.
2nd class british torpedo boats
The general concept was to carry these midget TBs on davits of larger ships, either specialized (like HMS Hecla and Vulcan) or battleships or even large cruisers for self-defence. Many were built from 1878 to 1889, so for a decade, before it was realized nothing was a subsititute for larger, more seaworthy and sturdier boats for this task. The idea was abandoned and the 2nd class were it.
60 footers (1878)
These twelve boats (TB-51 to TB-62) were built by Thornycroft as reduced steam launches to be carried by any mothership. They could also be used for harbour defence, where the calmer seas, protected by jetties, were more fitting to their capabilities. The radius of action was pretty limited, about 24h at best. All discarded in the late 1890s.
Tonnage: 10-1/2 tons Dimensions (h:w:l): 60-1/2 x 7-1/2 ft (18.44 x 2.29m) Powerplant: Compound TE, 120-150 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 15-16 kts Armament: 2 Torpedoes in lowering cages, later dropping gear Crew: 7
Herresschoff TB 63
Instead of spying it is sometimes usuful coming with a straight face and purchase a potential adversary’s or competitor vessel for technological updates: The admiralty’s most unusual boat was the sole TB 63, purchased from the US company of the same name on speculation and studied, compared with British designs.
The Director of Naval construction was the main proponent of this experiment, Daniel Barnaby. She had a wooden bottom and steel topsides, while the propeller was well forward, quite at a distance compared to the hull, in an eccebntric position. Interesting also was the boilern very temperamental but efficient to raise steam quickly; She could on paper carry two torpedoes but lacked the stability to do so. She never officially entered service, mutitilpying experiments until worn out. Her main constribution was to give the idea to Thornycroft of the watertube boiler.
Tonnage: 15 tons Dimensions (h:w:l): 60-1/2 x 7-1/2 ft (18.29 x 2.29m) Powerplant: Compound TE, Unknown, 150? ihp Speed and Autonomy: Unknown Armament: 2 Torpedoes in lowering cages, never installed. Crew: 7
This serie of 34 boats by Yarrow and Thornycroft was to equip the Hecla and Vulcan. Specs range is given below, in order of the three series: Thornycroft TB-64-73 1880: The first had ram bows and two torpedoes in dropping gears, the other bow TTs. All had a same crew of 7, 6 sailors and a junior officer. Yarrow TB 74-75, 96-97 (1881): Last batch delivered in 1883. The two bow TTs were fired by steam and they had a Nordenfelt MG. Thornycroft TB 76-95 (1880): Last delivered in 1883. All fitted with Herresschoff boilers, later locomotive ones.
Specs 63 footers
Tonnage: 12-13 tons Dimensions (h:w:l): 63 ft 7 in x 7-1/2 ft (19.20-39 x 1.02-7m) Powerplant & speed: Compound TE, 110-220-170 ihp, 16.5 kts
HMS TB 95
TB 98 (1880)
A single experimental TB to test the Ruthven turbine, a water jet propulsion by centrifugal pump. She had a hull similar to the second class boats in general, with the boiler placed aft, but disappointed by her poor speed and agility, being unable to go astern and being extra noisy, she could be heard from 10 miles away a calm day.
Tonnage: 14.5 tons Dimensions (h:w:l): 66ft 4in x 7.5 x 2.5 ft (20.22 x 2.29 x 0.84m) Powerplant: 1 shaft Ruthven Turbine, 1 Boiler, 167 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 11.5 kts Armament: 2 bow TTs Crew: 7
65 footers (1884)
Another expetimental pair by Thornycroft built in 1884 and 1885. The first tested a new model of powerful loco boiler and the second an early experimental watertube boiler.They als introduced the new “semi-tunnel” stern and double rudders for better agility, both encasing the propeller. They were indeed quite agile, but not that fast. Both were discarded after their experiments in the 1890s.
Tonnage: 12 tons Dimensions (h:w:l): 65 x 8 x 3-1/2 ft (19.81 x 2.44 x 1.07m) Powerplant: See notes. 1 shaft Compound TE, 190 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 16.5 kts Armament: 2 14-in bow TTs Crew: 7
56 Footers (1883)
White’s twelve small 2nd class Torpedo Boats (TB 1-12) designed to be carried on davits, with two 14-in torpedoes in dropping gear, optional spar torpedo and one or two MGs. They were short but had a larger beam and draft for better seakeeping. Crew rose to nine. They were all wooden-hulled, and built in the White’s turnabout system with a cutaway stern for extra agility. Considered very successful thay had a longer service, becoming the 56 feet picket boats also tested on various ironclads and pre-dreadnoughts of the decade. In fact they became the largest steam boats ever carried by RN capital ships.
Tonnage: 10-1/2-14 tons Dimensions (h:w:l): 56 x 9 x 4 ft (17 x 2.82 x 1.45m) Powerplant: Compound TE, 140-200 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 15.5 kts Armament: 2 Torpedoes in lowering cages, see notes. Crew: 9
60 Footers (1888-89)
General scheme TB 41, Brasseys
The last 2nd class British Torpedo Boats ever built. Two experimental boats were built by Yarrow in 1888 (TB ), followed by ten in 1889 (TB 39-48) armed all with two 14-in torpedoes in dropping gears and armed with a defensive two-barrel Nordenfelt MG. The second serie were larger and actually made 60 feets. They were also more powerful and beamier, with better seakeeping but the same speed. See the specs below for more. The second serie also was built largely in aluminium, followed thosed ordered by the French Navy. They were also intended to be carried by HMS Vulcan.
Tonnage: 15-16.5 tons Dimensions (h:w:l): 59-1/2 -60 x 8/9-1/2 x 3 ft (18.14/29 x 2.51/82 x 0.91m) Powerplant: Compound TE, 200-240 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 16.5 kts Armament: 2 in dropping gear, 1 MG Crew: 9
“War Scare” Torpedo Boats
125 Footers, TB 25-87 (1885-87)
TB-75 in sea trials
Profile of TB 80
Essentially mass-production resulting from the “war scare” with Russia. After the Lightning-like experiments, and the large 113 footers, tensions with Russia led to a rapid extension of the British defences capabilities, but serial-producing new models by Thornycroft, Yarrow and White. Another factor was simply the fact that both France and Russia, in closer alliance were now in the same path, mass-building torpedo boats. But they were used as “torpedo catcher” at a time the concept of destroyer was not born yet. They were to escort the fleet and counter Russian TB attacks.
Thus one stringent Admiralty requirement was to have them armed with two 3-pdr cannons, and later their Nordenflet MGs were replaced by either a third or the two twin by four-barreled equivalents.
The fix bow TT also became standard.
All in all, 53 vessels built, the largest British Torpedo Boat serie ever. They featured the fixed torpedo tube in a “bull-nose” bow and ram combined. The ram was not meant to be used as such through, but for seakeeping. It was however unsuccessful and when possible, altered by straight bow after entering service, also meaning lossing the bow tube, replaced by a deck tube. T.B. 79 was built by Yarrow to new specs making her 128 feet overall, 25% more in displacement at 75 tonsn and more importantly V.T.E. engines for two funnels, a reshaped hull form to achieve better steering compared to the 125 Footers in general. This was overly successful and applied on the next series TB-80+.
TB 51 – IWM
Plan of TB 52
Specs 125 footers (TB25 to 60)
Tonnage: 60 tons standard Dimensions (h:w:l): 128 x 12 x 6ft (39 x 3.81 x 1.82m) Powerplant: 1 shaft Compound TE, 2 Loco Boilers, 700 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 20.5 kts Armament: 1 bow tube, 2 trainable TTs 14-in, 2x Nordenfelt MGs.
Specs 125 footers (Yarrow Boats, TB 30-33, 61-78)
Tonnage: 60 tons standard Dimensions (h:w:l): 125 x 13 x 6ft (38.2 x 3.96 x 1.82m) Powerplant: 1 shaft Compound TE, 2 Loco Boilers, 670 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 19.5 kts Armament: 1 bow tube, 2 trainable TTs 14-in, 2x Nordenfelt MGs.
Specs 125 footers (White Boats, TB34-38)
Tonnage: 60-66 tons standard Dimensions (h:w:l): 125 x 14 x 4ft (38.10 x 4.42 x 1.32m) Powerplant: 1 shaft Compound TE, 2 Loco Boilers, 950 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 19 kts Armament: 1 bow tube, 2 trainable TTs 14-in, 2x Nordenfelt MGs.
The case of TB 79: This unique boat by Yarrow in 1886 was the first fitted with triple expansion engines, and improved hull form to reach greater speeds as well as improve steering. She displaced 75 tonnes for a 128 x 13 ft hull (39.22 x 3.96), 1000 ihp for 22.5 knots, the fastest of the serie. Two funnels and reboilered in 1901. Captain was no other than the future King Georges V. She was BU in 1919.
TB 39-40 (1882)
This pair was built for Chile, and were sent to the country disasembled when the Russian scare caused the RN to hastily repurchase them in order to bolster the defenses of the Pacific. They were assembled in Chile but escorted to be based in Esquimalt, British Columbia. There, they served as tenders for HMS Swiftsure and were unofficially dubbed by their crews “swift” and “sure”. They were rearmed in 1900 with two new 14-in torpedo models, in dropping gears and 4 barrels Nordenfelt MGs, sold in 1905.
Specs TB 39 Yarrow
Tonnage: 40 tons standard Dimensions (h:w:l): 100 x 12 x 4ft (30.48 x 3.81 x 1.22m) Powerplant: 1 shaft Compound TE, 2 Loco Boilers, 500 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 20 kts Armament: 1 bow tube, 2x twin Nordenfelt MGs.
TB 81 “swift” (1884)
H.M.S T.B. 81 was built by J. Samuel White as a private venture, then purchased by the Royal Navy for evaluation. She had White’s trademark cut-up stern and ram bow, laid down in 1884 and named “Swift” by her builders. It seems she coud have been built as a destroyer for the Brazilian Navy. She was generally regarded as a curious-looking one, innovationg by being the first fitted with a flush “turtle-back” upper-deck. She also was manœuvred from the top of the oddly shaped conning-tower.
Accommodation however were deplorable. This vessel kept armament options as she was considered as an early destroyer. The pure DD option called for just the bow tube, and up to six 3-pdr, in a role fitting the war scare with Russia. She was reboilered in 1888, with two small funnels, commissioned on 18 July for the 1894 Annual Manoeuvres, leading the Queenstown Division, Blue Side. In 1895, classed as a 125 feet she was stationed in Portsmouth, but ran aground off Alderney in 1901, salvaged, reboilered in 1905 with small tubes, collided in 1906 with TB 108. She was kept out of commission most of the time and used as senior flotilla officer’s boat. She survivd WWI and was sold on 22 October 1921.
Specs TB 81 White
Tonnage: 137 tons standard Dimensions (h:w:l): 153 x 17 x 9ft (46.85 x 5.33 x 2.90m) Powerplant: 1 shaft Compound TE, 2 Loco Boilers, 1330 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 23.5 kts Armament: 1 bow tube + 2 on deck, 4x 3pdr, 2x twin Nordenfelt MGs.
TB 80 (1886)
These were the first fitted with a turtleback bow intended to deal with heavy weather and to be seaworthy. This influenced the construction of all subsequent TBs and early destroyers before the introduction of the forecastle with the River class. She was initially based on a design for Austria, and sometimes called the “Falke” type.
Considered superior to the later TB 82 type, with better seaworthiness and agility; However she was reboilered in 1898 with small water tubes types, ging from one to two funnels. A powerful ship as planned as she was to be equipped with two pairs of TTs, but it was chosen instead a bow TT and four 3-pdr for anti-torpedo boat work, a bit like TB 80. She served in one of the patrol flotillas in WWI and was BU in 1921.
Specs TB 80 Yarrow
Tonnage: 105 tons standard Dimensions (h:w:l): 135 x 14 x 6ft (41.15 x 4.27 x 1.83m) Powerplant: 1 shaft Compound TE, 2 Loco Boilers, 500 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 23 kts Armament: 1 bow tube + 2 on deck, 3x 3pdr, 2x twin Nordenfelt MGs.
130 Footers (TB 82-87) (1884)
Also called 130 Footers, this small serie was generally similar to TB 79, but with the new turtleback forward. Too lightly built they were not a success, being buffed up after initial service. In 1900-1902 these six vessels were reboilered with watertube models. Apparently assigned to the Mediterranean. TB 84 wans in collision in 1906, the orhers served in WWI.
Specs TB 82 Yarrow
Tonnage: 85 tons standard Dimensions (h:w:l): 130 x 13 x 5ft (39.67 x 4.14 x 1.75m) Powerplant: 1 shaft Compound TE, 2 Loco Boilers, 1,800 ihp Speed and Autonomy: 23 kts Armament: 1 bow tube + 2 on deck, 3x 3pdr, 2x twin Nordenfelt MGs.
140 Footers, TB 21-24 (1884-86)
This peculiar serie came just as the admirakty also ordered its first destroyers. Ten first-class torpedo boats called “140 Footers” in reference to their greater size, three by Yarrow being considerably smaller than the others, but beamier than the T.B. 82 class (“130 Footers”).
They entered service in 1894, starting exercizes that year and the next, all were delivered, six being sent for the defence of Gibraltar.
They had a single bow fixed 18-in torpedo tube plus two trainable tubes on deck aft, apparently parallel on single mountings, possibily in opposite directions. They also had three 3-pdrs for self-defence. By mid-1904, the 5-barrel .45-in Nordenfelt machine guns were replaced by .45-in Maxim guns, extended to the 125 footers. Yarrow Boats: 105 tons, T.B. 88 and 89 slightly longer (142 feet) 23.5 knots/1850 I.H.P. T.B. 90 made 23 knots on 1500 I.H.P thanks to a new 4-cylinder engine plus new experimental water-tube boilers by Thornycrof. Unsuccessful however it seems. Thornycroft Boats: T.B. 91 and 92 were heavier at 141 tons, for 24.5 knots. T.B. 91 was 142.5 feet long as her propellor placed further aft. They had 4-cylinder TE engines fed by early water-tube boilers. T.B. 93 displaced 136 tons for 140.5 feet but inaugurated twin screws for better agility, a first. White Boats: Three 130 tons, 23 knots (2000 I.H.P.) made at Maudslay, Sons with locomotive boilers, re-boilered later with water tube types. Laird: The 130 tons, 140 feet 4-in T.B. 97 had its locomotive boilers replaced by water tube boilers in 1909. She reached 23 knots on 2000 ihp.
Specs (Yarrow 1894)
Tonnage: 105 tons Dimensions (h:w:l): 142 x 14 x 7 ft (43.28 x 4.50 x 2.29m) Powerplant:1 shaft TE, 2x Loco boilers, 1850 ihp, 23.5 kts Armament: 1 bow tube, 2x trainable TTs, 2x 3-pdr, 2x Nordenfelt MGs
TB 97 (White’s early ram bow tube type) in manoeuver, escorting a pre-dreadnought in rough seas, 1907
Torpedo Boats actually registered in WWI
160 Footers (1900-1905)
HMS TB98, 99, 107, 108, 109-113, 114-117
TB 110 underway
The last torpedo boat class, developped in parallel to the last 33-knotters and experimental turbine boats. Their inferior speed of 25 knots and range have them largely considered technological dead-ends. They could have been saved by adopting the turbine, but the admiralty decided at this point to concentrate all efforts into modern fleet destroyers instead, leaving torpedo boats for point defence.
The last class called “160 footers” related to their size (50 m on average) were distributed among two yards, Thornycroft (Four of the early type, five of the late type), and White (4), for thirteen boats total. They did their share in WWI, notably patrolling the channel and coastal areas in general. They were poorly armed to face U-Boats through, and were mostly intended to combat German TBs from Belgian ports, notably Zeebruge. Serie I Thornycroft (1900): Serie II Thornycroft (1901): White (1902): Slightly larger than their Thornycroft cousins, and little different in design. Only TB 117 was lost in WWI, but due to collision. The rest were BU 1919-21.
Profile of TB 109
TB 116 on sea trials
Specs White’s 160 footers
Tonnage: 219 tons standard Dimensions (h:w:l): 166 x 17 x 5-1/2 ft (50.29 x 5.33 x 1.68 m) Powerplant: Speed and Autonomy: Armament:
It is important to note here, these were not considered torpedo boats until October 1906, 1st class torpedo boats to be exact. But they had been designed and called as “coastal destroyers”. In late 1906, the serie was ongoing and they were thus completed (including TB 1) as “torpedo boats” indeed, relevant to this topic. They resurrected the old numeration, from TB 1 to TB 36. For once, instead of a collection of prototypes, French-style, the RN had a potent defensive force for the Channel fleet (mostly) made of the latest tech. Several Yards took part in their construction and they were subdivided into three sub-classes:
–Cricket class (1905-1906 programme) TB 1-5 all built in J. Samuel White
–Gadfly-class (same) TB 6 to TB 10 by Thornycroft
–Mayfly class (same) TB 11 and TB 12 by Yarrow
–TB 13 class (same, unnamed at this point), TB 13-36 by White, Denny, Thornycroft, Yarrow, Hawtorne, Palmers. The last, TB 36, was completed in September 1910.
They had a fairly short career, rendered virtually obsolete by the much cheaper CMB boats in WWI, and retired/scrapped in 1921 to save treaty tonnage.
Design-wise, they introduced a serie of “firsts” since 1900 and the design of the 160 footers. At first, the torpedo boat destroyers (TBDs) were intended to complement the Tribal-class destroyers. Soon, it was realized they were not strong enough for open ocean operations, thus reclassified as 1st class torpedo boats. They differed in detail per shipbuilder but all had two funnels, torpedo tubes on the stern and broadly resembled the 26-knotter TBDs with their turtle-back forecastle. However they had this time Parsons Turbines, and oil-fired watertube boilers, a powerful combination giving them 3,600 shp (2,700 kW) and 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph) while their three shafts and two rudders gave them unprecedented agility. They were better suited for longer missions and patrols, however still cramped and wet.
By 1914 they were all in the North Sea Patrol Flotillas, or in the Nore Flotilla. TB 4 and TB 24 illustrated themselves engaging their German peers of the Belgian Coast in 1915. By 1918 the four Denny boats went to the Mediterranean at Gibraltar and Malta.
TB 15, Cricket class (IWM)
Specs, HMS Cricket
Tonnage:247 t normal, circa 272 t deep load Dimensions (h:w:l):178 ft oa x 17 ft 6 in x 6 ft 1.5 in ( x 5.33 x 1.867 m) Powerplant: 3shafts, 2 Yarrow boilers, 3 Parsons turbines: 3,600 shp (2,700 kW) Speed and Autonomy: 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph), 21.7–37 t of oil Armament: 2× 12-pdr guns, 3× 18-inch torpedo tubes Crew:39
Colonial Torpedo Boats
HMS Acheron plans HMS Childers plans
As a point-defence vessel, the torpedo boat was ideal to replace a cruiser, and faster to react than a gunboat. Australian & NZ 2nd class vessels
In 1879, New South Wales received HMAS Acheron and Avernus, built on Thornycroft plans in Sydney: 16t, 78ft, 300 ihp for 16kts
Victoria received in 1884 the HMAS Nepean and Longsdale from Thornycroft, 63ft models broadly similar to the Acheron.
Also in 1884 came HMAS Childers (65t, 113ft, 670ihp, 19kts, 2×15 TTs, 3pdr)
And in 1890 HMAS Countess of Hopetown by Yarrow (82t, 130ft, 1150 ihp, 23kts, 3x 14in TTs, 3-3pdr)
Tasmania received a 1884 single Thornycroft unnamed spar TB (63ft, 17 kts, 1x Nordenfelt MG).
New Zealand received four boats, numbered 1-4, built in Thornycroft in 1883, shipped a year later, close to the Tasmanian boat, but in 1885 they had sets of two dropping gears installed; They were BU in the late 1910s.
Indian 130 footers
Gurkha and another Indian TB in Brasseys Annual
Six very different ships were sent to the RIN (Indian stations): TB-100 to TB-106. They greatly differed by their yard and were all ordered in 1887 by the Indian office. Loosely based on the 125 footer design, they were the following:
-TB 100 to 103, Thornycroft 1887 (96t, 134ft, 1260 ihp, 23 kts)
-TB 101, Hanna & Co 1888 (92t, 135ft, 1000 ihp, 21 kts)
-TB 104 to 106, White 1889 (95t, 134ft, 1000 ihp, 22 kts)
They were renamed Baluchi, Karen, Pathan, Gurkha, Mahratta, Sikh, Rajput and served in WWI, BU 1919.
British Torpedo Boats in WWI
HMS TB 17 (Cricket class) in black livery at a mole alongside HMS Tartar, 1907
British Torpedo Boats were not many so see action in WW1. Of the still active class in August 1914 were 34 boats of the 125, 130, 140, 150 and 160 footer, plus the new 36 Cricket Boats. The last 2nd class, TB 6, was discarded in 1906 and sold in 1912. So that made for a fleet of no less than 70 TBs, not unsignificant. They mostly had been redirected to point defence in the colonies, keeping only the more recent, quite a few, for home Defence. This was in addition to the the 160 footers and of course the Cricket class. Those stationed at Gibraltar, the Cape, Malta, or Singapore, saw little action and spent their career in dull patrols.
The 125-140 Footers in action:
Some should have been active in WWI but were lost or discarded prior: TB 56 foundered off Damietta on 17 May 1906 while in tow, TB 59 ended as target, sold 1912. TB 84 sank in collision with the destroyer HMS Ardent on 17 April 1906. TB 98 sank in collision in 1907 but was salvaged and repaired.
For those in home waters, that was another story. Given their short range, the 140-160 footers in various ports of the east coast were mobilized for patrols and as the war progressed, equipped when possible with depht charges and hydrophones. The “oil wad” were considered as coastal destroyers, and divided between the Local Defence Flotilla, Firth of Forth (about 24 boats) and the LDF based in Newcastle, Sheerness and Portsmouth. TB 98 to 117 were in Portsmouth. TB 90-97, 86, 88, 89 formed the Gibraltar home flotilla. TB 42, 44, 46, 63, 70 formed the Malta defence flotilla in August 1914. But they were all sent to the Suez Canal in 1915, and indeed played a deterrence against the Turks, notably during the sole crossing attempt.
The remaining ones were used in home waters for various duties with reduced crews, needed elsewhere. TB 46 made a run between Port Said and Mudros but ran out of coal and was stranded on Lemnos on 27 December 1915. She was later refloated and repaired. TB 64 was wrecked in the Aegean sea, 21 March 1915. TB 90 capsized in heavy weather off Gibraltar on 25 April 1918. TB 97 collided with the troopship Tringa off Gibraltar on 1st November 1915. TB 117 sank in collision with SS Kamouraska in the channel on 10 June 1917.
The 160 Footers in action:
For the four boats of the TB 114 class (160 footers): In November 1911, TB 115 was a tender to the torpedo school HMS Actaeon and the remainder part of The Nore torpedo boat flotilla with skeleton crews by February 1913. TB 116 was versed in the Portsmouth Flotilla. TB 114 was modified as the senior officer’s (Nore flotilla), colliding with TB 18 in April 1913 and repaired at Chatham afterwards. They were still in the Nore and Portsmouth flotillas by July 1914 and served with local defence flotillas there.
On 13 October 1914, TB 116 spotted U-20 off Culver Cliff (Isle of Wight), opened fire but was not quick enough to close and ram her. She had no DCs and the U-Boat dove and disappeared. TB 117 was sunk in collision with SS Kamouraska as said above and the remainder stayed in their local defence flotillas until December 1918. In 1919 only TB 116 was in service as a tender, Portsmouth and then for cadet training, sold in 1921.
, the “TB catcher”, served as a patrol boat operating out of Portsmouth and Portland, fitted with hydrophones and depth charges to hunt down U-Boats. On 15 May 1917 she spotted and directed a seaplane towards one, attacked in the English Channel. TB 81 detected another until UB-36 or UB-20 surfaced and was chasen off until diving, depth-charged, producing a patch of oil. A “possible” success credited by naval intel that could have been the only one by a WWI TB during the war.
It would be just too long to span their entire record logs, most of these were not quite interesting anyway. As the war ended, they were all sold in July to December 1919, and a few in January-June 1920 except TB 80-82, 85, 86 and 116, kept in service until October 1921.
The Cricket class in action:
As for the more modern Cricket class, TB 4 in 1912 was part of the four Patrol Flotillas formed with torpedo boats and older destroyers to prevent any enemy minelaying or torpedo attack attempt on the east coast. She was in 1913 in the 8th Flotilla, Chatham and in 1914, 7th at Devonport, then 1915 9th, and 6th (Dover Patrol). On 17 November 1915, she assisted the sinking hospital ship Anglia, saving many lives by taking on board all that she could. On the night of March 17/18 1917 during an importan German raid, she spotted the German torpedo boats shelling targets on land, reported it but failed to catch them up. On the night of 26/27 April 1917, the same repeated off Kent, with the shelling of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs, also spotted by TB 4 and trie to close to deliver a torpedo attack, but it was too late as the forced already folded out.
TB 5, another early boat of the class, was also in the 8th Flotilla (Chatham) and by 1914, 7th at Devonport. In February 1915 she escorted a convoy to Newhaven with stores ships sailing from France. On 23 February, she chased the hunt for U-8 off Beachy Head based in Ostend. She was based afterwards to Portsmouth command to escort transports from Southampton. On 3 September 1916, SS Johan Siem was stopped off Newhaven by a German submarine but TB 5 came in time from Newhaven, driving it off and escorting the Danish steamship back to Newhaven. On 3 May 1917 she rescued the victims of UB-40. On 6 June 1917 she spotted an U-Boat which dove away, and attacked her with four depth charges, but success by naval intel was judged “Improbable”.
TB 31 TB 9 on 23 November 1914 chased off the rampaging U-21. On the morning of 24 November 1914, with HMS Conflict, she escorted transports from Harwich but on 26 July 1916 TB 9 was sunk in collision with HMS Matchless, herself damaged after colliding with HMS Manly). TB 13 was part of the 7th Flotilla at Devonport and 8th at Chatham by July 1914, 8th in November (Tyne), escorted transports and took part in ASW sweeps. She was lost in a collision (North Sea) on 26 January 1916. TB 23 by March 1913 was in Chatham, until July 1914, versed in November to the Nore’s Local Defence Flotilla, defending the Thames Estuary, until December 1918.
These are just chips among the whole class.
The last British TBs were scrapped soon after the end of WWI, 1919 for most. In between, an even lighter craft, yet still capable of carrying a torpedo was devised: The CMB for “Coastal Motor Boat”. Thanks to rapid development of more powerful engines mostly driven by the aviation industry, and light hulls pioneering new construction techniques, the first motor-boats developed at the end of the war looked like a way cheaper solution to deliver the same deadly payload.
It would evolve in small quantities during the interwar and “explode” in many forms in WW2, then evolving during the cold war as the fast attack craft, definitely discarding the torpedo for missiles in the 1960s, exactly a full century after the first experimental torpedo boats. The legacy continues today, widespread in small navies, proving this old concept for coastal defence is still relevant regardless of the final payload.
Brown, D. K. (2003). Warrior to Dreadnought: Warship Development 1860–1905. London: Chatham Publishing
Friedman, Norman (2009). British Destroyers: From Earliest Days to the Second World War. Barnsley, UK: Seaforth Publishing
Hythe, Viscount, ed. (1912). The Naval Annual 1912. Portsmouth, UK: J. Griffin & Co.
Gardiner, Robert; Lambert, Andrew, eds. (1992). Steam, Steel & Shellfire: The Steam Warship 1815–1905.
Moore, John (1990). Jane’s Fighting Ships of World War I. London: Studio Editions.
Gardiner, Robert. Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906–1921
Gardiner, Robert. Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905
Nothing found so far… Feel free to suggest any via the comments below.
Many thanks in advance !
The Svea class armored ships (“pansarskepp”) of the Swedish fleet comprised HMS Svea, Göta and Thule. They were coastal defensive ships armed with 25 cm guns and the lead vessel was launched on 12 December 1885. They were modernized in 1900-1904, and after enforcing the country’s neutrality in WWI, were discarded betwen 1928 and 1941, making fairly long careers. https://bit.ly/3BTDIcn #pansarkepp #pansarbåt #swedishnavy #svenskamarinen #WW1
Around 1850, Swedish’s defensive strategic thinking was dominated by the “central defense principle”. The doctrine pointed that in the event of an invasion delayed by the Navy, the army should retreat inland to Karlsborg’s fortress as a fixation point for it to be destroyed by reinforcements. The Swedish Naval Forces had to refrain from engaging the enemy fleet out at sea and instead, function as an inlet defense with the main task of defending the archipelago and inlets to Swedish most important coastal cities.
Early in the 1870s, however, opinion was voiced about the Swedish fleet in need to be able to meet the enemy on the open sea if need be. By this time, Great Powers, even outside France and Britain, like the neighbouring Russia or Prussia, introduced large ocean-going ironclads with heavy artillery that can out-range Swedish vessels with ease. At the 1875 Riksdag session, the naval minister Fredrik Wilhelm von Otter, proposed that the Swedish fleet should be supplied with ironclads too, but was refused.
The 1870s arms race
The German battleship SMS Württemberg, launched 1878. Lithograph by Hugo Graf, 1902.
Still the future of the fleet was discussed eagerly in Sweden, as everyone can see an arms race developing in the Baltic Sea area between Russia and the newly formed German Empire. Neihbouring Herman Empire now boasted a fleet of no less than nine large armored ships. And Sweden was fully aware of sabre-rattling about borders, like during the Second Schleswig War. From 1877, the Kaiserliches Marine would go up in tonnage and armament. The Russian Navy meanwhile experienced the strongest expansion of its historoies, with views on the Pacific, and constant reinforcement of the Baltic fleet, for long second to the Black sea fleet. And with the influence of the French Young School, produced itself in the 1880s decade a fleet of a hundred torpedo boats which could be transported by rail at any moment to the Östersjön. An if diplomatic tensions with Russia were toned down, the souvenir of the epic XVIIIth cent. wars and rivalry with Russia was still in all memories.
The Maritime Defense Committee 1880
Soon, increasing political tensions were taken at last in account by the Swedish government, which in 1879 appointed a committee to find out the best expansion scheme for the fleet. The committee pointed out that existing monitor-type vessels in service until then no longer fit requirements of the time. Their guns were short range and their seakeeping abilities were fairly limited, even in moderate weather. They also lacked speed and maneuverability and in general, just cannot compete with a modern battleship. The committee retook von Otter’s opinion about the need of sea-going, heavily armed armored ships to meet any enemy beyond the coastline. For more precision, these vessels were the three John Ericsson class (1865-67 Thordon, Tirfing) and the 1870, 1574 tons HMS Loke.
The previous Monitor HMS Ericsson (1867), which differed little from those of the American Civil war. Hardy an off-shore defensive deterrent.
Early sketches and concept drawings were elaborated for this new type A or “Pansarbåt typ A”, carried out by Marinförvaltningens ingenjörsavdelning Göthe Wilhelm Svenson. It was essentially a development of the Loke design, mixed with the armored gunboats of the 1860s with a well-increased freeboard for greater seaworthiness. The overall lenght was designed to be 68 meters long for a displacement of 2,622 tonnes. Armament was soon fixed on two 25 cm guns (10 in) and three 15 cm guns (6 in).
A new government took office in 1881 and Carl Gustaf von Otter was appointed as the new Navy Minister. A new maritime defense committee was also created, which worked for a year based on the previous design, which took into account calculations about Russia’s and Germany’s troop transports in potential invasion scenarios. The Russians were suspected to be able to deploy to Östersjön a transport fleet of some 103 vessels escorted by 14 large armoured ships, an invasion force of over 36,000 men, 10,000 horses and 1,500 field guns. The German capacity was estimated on this even greater, with 360 ships escorted by 19 armored ships, carrying 100,000 men, 30,000 horses, 5,000 guns. These frightening possibilities conducted some in the committee to see bigger.
Still, the majority thought the A-type was best suited for the task of deterrence. Acquisition of three Type A was recommended and the Riskdag at last voted funds to be allocated for first of these Pansarkepp in 1883, but by the first chamber. The second chamber of the Riskdag refused. A political battle followed until a joint vote was obtained, to have the proposal approved. HMS Svea was eventually ordered to Lindholmens varv (NyD) on 14 January 1884. She was laid down in March that year, launched on 12 december 1885 and completed on 20 september 1886. In 1887 and 1890, the Riksdag also allocated funds for the two others, named Göta and Thule, built this time in Finnboda varv for the latter. They differed from the lead ship in some aspects but all three are still considered sister ships by the majority of historians, and that’s the position taken here.
Design of the Svea class
Hull Construction and general design
Svea’s hull had a significantly higher freeboard than earlier Swedish vessels. Heavy artillery was also placed almost twice as high above water and had a much better range. The hull was entirely constructed in Motala bessemer steel, 75.7 meters long (waterline), for 14.84 meters wide and with a 5.18 meters draft. Length/width ratio was 5.1. to compare with 1865 John Ericsson, 4.5. They were made for better speeds. Göta and Thule were even slightly longer at 78 meters overall, and greater draft.
To increase seaworthiness, the stern was provided with a so-called brädgång (“upright plating hatches”) which could be lowered when the artillery needed a better arc of fire and depression. If the weather was bad enough, these were normally raised up to provide the hull better elevation. Their hulls were also divided into many watertight compartments, separated by longitudinal and transverse bulkheads, no less than 194 on HMS Svea and 199 on her two sisters. There was also a layer of cells filled with cork below the waterline, in the hope of increase their buoyancy in case of flooding. The compartimentation, funnily enough, was less thought for torpedo damage but collision at sea.
Engraving of HMS Svea in the 1880s.
Overall their design was reminiscent of battleships by the lenght-width ratio indeed, and as shown in the basic schemes, it was minimalistic, with a large place made to the main twin turret, and the small bridge and conning tower behind, followed by a battery superstructure going up to the broadside after the usual recess to grant the best rear fire arc to the main turret. There was a single, thick military mast supporting the spotting top and two light QF guns. Right behind were located the two main funnels, of equal size and with flattened sides (round on Thule). The three secondary aft guns were located in a triangle pattern, later during modernization, in four positions. The stern was a very classic clipper style, also very popular on liners and most merchant vessels of the time. The bow so-called of the “swan” type was a faux ram, with a torpedo tube below.
Service boats were located around the funnels and aft on the battery deck’s roof. The crew varied over time, at first comprising 237 officers and men. It was not much lower as a submarine tender for HMS Svea at the end of her career, but she add a much lesser armament and additional facilities and structure (see later). These ships were well and strongly built, and endured the test of time, since they were still around up to the end of the interwar, transformed as much as possible to fit their new roles.
Drawing över Svea showing the thickness of the armor in mm and the caliber of the guns in cm.
The Svea-class armored ship were protected by Schneider & Co steel, made in Le Creusot, France. The armor protection took inspiration from famous ironclads of the time such as the HMS Inflexible and the Italian Caio Dulio. Here are the details:
Armor belt 293 mm () thick over 35 meters (). Intermediate Layer of teak wood with the deck. Transverse bulkheads Unknown. The Citadel around the vitals parts (engine rooms, ammunition bins) was short and had rounded ends. The armored deck 49 mm () thick stretched fore and aft around the waterline belt, formed the rounded turtle-like structure over the citadel. ASW protection counted on heavy compartimentation, most being coal boxes around the the engine area, as long as filled. Conning tower: 268 mm or 10-1/2 inches
Krupp steel was used for the guns turrets and their barbettes. Main Gun turret: 268-290 mm armor (10.5-11.4 in), later 7.-1/2 inches Main turret hoist and barbette 5-in (127 mm) – After refit. Aft secondary turret 268 mm (10.5 in), later 5-in. Aft secondary turret’s barbette and ammo hoist 100 mm (4 in) – After refit.
The Svea class had two propeller shafts while the steam engine was manufactured at the Motala Workshop, Göta canal. They had six cylindrical steam boilers with double-ended drums in a single machine room, which supplied steam at 5 kg/cm² working pressure to two two-cylinder compound machines, which developed a combined power of 3,100 indicated horsepower at 105 revolutions per minute.
Design speed was 14 knots, with 14.7 knots sustained on trials. Operational radius extended to 2,240 nautical miles at 10 knots cruise speed. Fuel consumption was good, with one coal kg per horse power and hour. They were considered good steamers. However the machinery was quite heavy, the equivalent of 100+ kg per horse power. It took also 73 m² of space per 1,000 horsepower. They were protected under the armored deck and due due to the limited width placed in “double weight”, with the crankshaft closest to the cylinder bottom. Each piston as a result had two rods attached outside the top center working on either side of the crankshaft. The condensers were housed under the machines. Nominal capacity for coal was 260 tonnes but it could be augmented to 288 tonnes if needed.
Göta and Thule on this also differed from the lead ship: Steam pressure was augmented up to 6.25 kg/cm² for 4,600 ihp, and 16 knots (more on trials). The radius of action also went up to 2,400 nautical miles with a coal capacity raised to 290 tonnes.
The admiralty planned all three to be supplied Svea with Swedish-made artillery, but the local industry was just not was capable at that time to deliver such massive guns. After a search, the choice fell on famous manufacturer Armstrong Withworth, Elswick, well used to this manufacturing, and took charge of the entire order of six main guns and twelve spares at a cost of 19,000 crowns. Secondary guns also came from Armstrong. In addition to the seocndary and QF anti-TB cannons, the Svea class also had, not uncommon in that time and age, “boarding” weapons, in the shape of four 2,54 cm heavy machine-guns (see later). It is not known if they were dismountable for landing parties.
The main battery consisted of two breech-loading 25.4 cm guns m/1885 (10 inches), mounted in a rotatable tower (meaning a platform not connected to the fixed ammo well). This platform was surmounted by a semi-open cupola and rested in a sort of low-rise saddle, which could move forward and back on two underlying cursor beams. There was a hydraulic recoil brake and elevation was powered by a steam engine-driven liquid pump. Traverse used a gear wheel and ring gear sitting under the turret table. This allowed a good arc of fire of 136° on either side, to 272° total on 360 theoretical.
These heavy guns fired a 200 kg (440 Ibs) HE or AP shell at a rythm of one shot every five minutes, up to 8,500 m max (9,300 yds). However useful range went down to 2,000 metres (2,170 yds), and an AP shell at this distance was estimated capable of defeating any armored ship in the Baltic. Göta and Thule were armed the same, but produced over time, their gune were noted as the m/1889A and m/1889B with improvements such as a more advanced breechloading mechanism under 60 seconds, for a far better rate of fire of around a shot every 2 minutes.
The secondary armament of the Svea class consisted of four 15.2 cm guns (6 in) m/1883 and m/1889 för Göta and Thule. Two were mounted on each broadside, encased behind 25.4 mm (10 in) thick shields in the open superstructure. Svea’s went from Armstrong but Göta and Thule had those manufactured by Bofors, at the time a landmark for the Swedish company.
Anti-torpedo boat Cannons
Against the rising threat of torpedo boats, HMS Svea and her sister ships had small, fast-firing guns and machine guns. Two fast-firing 38 mm guns m/1884 were mounted on the aft edge of the superstructure. They were supplemented by four four-barreled 25 mm machine guns m/1877 in drum-like projecting semi-circular platforms in the hull on each side of the ship. A single 10-barrel machine m/1875 was placed on the military mast’s spotting top. Machine guns as said were also a boarding defence scheme, still considered a real possibility in the 1880s.
Torpedo Tubes (and ram)
Svea and Göta also had torpedo tubes in the foredeck, but Thule had a ram bow, without torpedo tube. The ram use was “discovered” at the Battle of Lissa between Austria and Italy and estimated to be a valuable last resort weapon by the Swedish Admiralty, which pressed designers to install it on this particular ship. It was also planned to provide Svea and Göta with a ram also originally, but as the bow torpedo tubes were sensitive to impacts and constituted a hull weakness the prospect was abandoned abandoned. Instead they were fitted with “swan bows” but retained their torpeod tube.
Svea ha a 38.1 cm underwater bow torpedo tube, with the torpedo room located at the bottom of the stem, under the armored deck, with six torpedoes m/1889 in reserve. Göta, had two overwater tubes located amidships on the weather deck. These tubes were stored in ball-shaped sealing sleeves and had travers. HMMS Thule’ framing however and ram prevented the installation of hull tubes and had instead two 45.7 cm (18 in) broadside deck tubes with some traverse, 40° forward and 20° aft.
Jane’s 1914 edition on the modernized Svea class
It was done in several steps. Mostly driven by Artillery, as its development went for accuracy and fast-firing capabilities.
-In 1896–97 her secondary artillery was exhanged for fast-firing 12 cm guns m/1894.
-The two 57 mm QF were replaced with six m/1894B, by Bofors.
The second wave was in 1900, fuelled by lessons learned from the 1894 Sino-Japanese War, 1898 Spanish-American War. It was argued that the main artillery was too exposed in the same unique turret. The admiralty wanted it spread out, with a lesser caliber, but faster and longer range single 21 cm cannon m/1898. Hitting power was still equivalent thanks to new ammunitions.
If two were planned in smaller turrets, forward and aft, the increase in weight conducted to its abandonment and instead a single gun was kept forward but completed by no less than seven 6-in (15.2 cm) m/1898 artillery pieced in single mounts, three on either side, one on the aft deck. This was complemented by the new quick-firing 57 mm m/1898B in the superstructure, protected by 6.4 mm armored shields. Göta and Thule got rid of their main deck torpedo tubes as space was lacking.
All three ships anchored with the fleet at Karskrona for a review on 9 July 1904, freshly rebuilt.
Improvements were made also to the armour, with new processes allowing to reduce thickness but providing the same degree of protection. The main gun turret (still on a platform, not barbette) saw a new flat-side rounded turret with 19 cm walls (7.4 in). The 15 cm cannons had semi-turrets with 11.5 cm (4.5 in) walls. During the same rebuilding, The heavy military mast was removed and twio light pole masts fitted instead, the foremast supporting a lookout and signal platform and the aft rigged mast supporting the wireless telegraphy apparatus. The Svea class’s old wooden deck was replaced by an insulated iron deck while interior wooden furniture were removed as a fire hazard, ventilation improved, portholes plated over, electric lighting modernized and electric power augmented.
This major reconstruction was perfomed at Karlskrona örlogsvarv, Göta being the modernization prototype, starting on 1 July 1900, completed in December 1901. However it proved more complicated than expected, even through the machinery was mostly unchanged. Thule had to wait 1.5 years for her turn and Svea was last, and more extensive than the others, as her main turret had to be moved deeper into the hull. This ensured they would serve for another 20 years, depending on the elderly machinery’s maintenance.
HMS Svea was launched on 12 December 1885 at Motala Mekaniska Verkstad, a subsidiary in Gothenburg, and commissioned on 20 September 1886, about a year later. Construction costs without equipment and furniture rose to 1,134,000 crows. Until 1921 she served in her initial role, but was was converted into a staff and submarine depot ship, the only way for her to survived into WW2.
Despite she was the lead ship, the launch ceremony was very simple, unattended by King Oscar II due to severe winter conditions. On September 20, 1886 the navy arrived in Gothenburg aboard the gunboat Skagul and five days later, both departed for Karlskrona and her outfitting. She was a radical improvement of the Swedish fleet at the time, modern and very capable, including as planned, to defeat any threat on the open sea. She was of course gradually modernized to stay relevant during her early years of service. In 1890, the addition of four 12-pdr w/1889 guns, 1896-97, 12 cm guns m/1894 installed, by six 57 mm guns w/1889B installed, and finally the 1903-04 reconstruction.
The 1897 modernization was put forward by her royal majesty Oskar II, which had deep interest for the fleet, and requested additional funds to have the whole class maintained in modern conditions to stay relevant as a deterrent. During the 1901-1904 reconstruction, Karlskrona Artillery Corps Colonel Anders Fredrik Centervall also requested the modernization of the military base’s fortress artillery, but only obtained a compromise as the coastal fortress earned the replaced main and secondary guns of the Svea class, notabvly the entire two turret, complete with their turret.
HMS Svea after reconstruction
After being rebuilt, HMS Svea was transferred from the coastal fleet, later “coastal squadron” and made in full battle readiness after the dissolution of the union in 1905. With the rise of international tensions, this would stay the same until the first World War, but at that stage, and despite extensive modernization, military technology outpaced the Svea class. Much better vessels, larger were completed in between, including the Sverige class, which made the 1st generation Svea completely obsolete on paper. In 1915, the admiralty considered them no longer as relevant combat assets.
The same year, HMS Svea was retrogaded as a barracks ship. Two 15.2 cm guns were removed. In 1918, it was decided to convert her into a depot submarine ship. The main gun and remaining secondaries were removed, a large deckhouse erected extening from the leading edge of the bridge to the stern. This was all done in Karlskrona in 1921. Se made speed trials, was re-accepted into service, but anchored from most of the time, her old machinery did no mattered much. In 1932 her remaining 12 cm guns were also removed and the only defensive armament consisted from then on in two 40 mm Vickers m/1922 AA “pompom” guns.
Later, her machinery was halved, with two boilers and the corresponding funnel removed, making room for additional storage. In 1939 as the war broke out, an assessment was made. It was concluded her general state was still good although her hull was quite aged at this point, but her machinery was so old and in such condition it was decided not to risk using it, and she was from then on only towed to position. As a new generation of modern ships were planned it was decided in 1941 to have her decommissioned.
Svea as a sub-tender in the interwar
She was later stricken, put on the sales list, and sold to Karlskrona shipyard for scrapping in 1943-44. So she did not saw the end of the war, but was still in service in 1939 despite her age. She saw all conflicts basically since 1894 at that stage, making her the oldest serviced warship ever in the Swedish inventory.
Construction of Göta in 1889.
HMS Göta as commissioned on 1 July 1891, making her acceptance sea trials on April 22, 1891, reaching 14.9 knots on average, and judged not completely satisfactory. A renewed test was performed four days later after some fixes. This explained the delay until July, 1. In 1891-96, she became was the flagship of the coastal fleet, later coastal squadron but the staff complained of cramped and unsufficient accomodation in that role. On 23 May 1894 was ordered modifications for her new role of flagship.
In 1895 Germany opened the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Kanal (Kiel Canal) in Schleswig-Holstein allowing the transit of her fleet from the Baltic Sea to the North Sea. The ceremony was attended by 14 nations including Sweden, which sent Göta and Thule under command of Vice Admiral Fredrik Wilhelm von Otter, escorted by the gunboat Edda. On June 16, they arrived in Kiel Bay and honored at Friedrichsort the German flag by with 21 shots as well as Prince Henry of Prussia aboard SMS Wörth. Moored at designated buoys they were visited on 20 June by the Kaiser from his yacht Hohenzollern, on his way to Brunnsbüttel. They fired a 31-shot salute and crews were invited ashore to balls and fireworks in Kiel, before departing for Karlskrona the following day.
The Spithead review
Queen Victoria celebrated her 60th anniversary in 1897 and the naval review in Spithead, off Portsmouth saw Sweden invited, sending HMS Göta Commandeded by Magnus Ingelman and second captain Herman af Sillén, also carrying Rear Admiral Hjalmar af Klintberg as representative of the king. She also saied with 52 conscripts and went through the Kiel Canal, but was later battered by North Sea heavy weather. Göta had to come back and took refuge outside Brunnsbüttel until the 17th. Damage was assessed, as she was flooded with about 23 tonnes of seawater. The machinery worked well however. As the weather improved she proceeded in the English Channel on the 18th, and upon arrival, Admiral af Klintberg and other senior officers left for London. On June 22 she made a 60 shots salute. On June 26 she hoisted the very large parade flag to salute the Prince of Wales aboard the Yacht Victoria and Albert. Göta returned to Karlskrona on 4 July 1897.
As her sisters, she was completely modernized, and by 1904, was ready for another decade of service. She was transferred to the local forces and retook her place as flagship of the Gothenburg squadron in 1915, then Stockholm squadron in 1917. After the war was over, the admiralty considered her obsolete and suggested a decommission as in a fronline role on 12 October 1923.
Göta as an accommodation ship at Roslagen’s air fleet (F2) in Hägersnäs.
But after being examined carfully, it was estimated her hull was still in pretty good shape, if her machinery was not. Not scrapped, it was decided to convert her as an accommodation ship in 1927. She was to be a parmament mobile base for the newly created Swedish Naval Air Force (Svenska Marinen flygvapnet). Her main armament was removed, replaced by 40 mm Bofors guns, and new accomodation built. Recommissioned, she was sent at Roslagen’s air flotilla (F2) in Hägersnäs to replace the very old steam corvette HMS Freja. In 1938, she was decommissioned again to free crews for more modern ships and owing her weak value. She was mothballed and finally scrapped at Stockholm 1942-43, with the remains sold and reused as a tipping pontoon in Riddarfjärden.
Launch of HMS Thule in winter, 4 March 1893.
HMS Thule was delivered to the navy on 1 December 1893, and served in her role untl 1923, but like her sister found some use afterwards. Until 1928 she was an accommodation ship, and was sold the first to scrap, in 1933. Eventually, the heavily reconstructed lead ship, Svea, outlived both her sister ships.
In 1895, she participate with Göta to the inauguration of the Kiel Canal, taking part in the review and travel of the Canal. In 1899, she was funded for a comprehensive modernization, the second in order. It was done at Karlskrona shipyard. Afterwards, she was transferred from the coastal squadron to the local forces. In 1905 she returned to the forefront of Swedish war planning. In the First World War she took part in neutrality Guard, travalling little due to the age of her machinery. In 1916, she was transferred from the Stockholm squadron to the Gothenburg squadron (west coast). In 1923 she was no longer relevant and it was decided to decommission her. She was rebuilt as an accommodation ship with her armament removed. In 1928 she was decommissioned for good, stricken, but not scrapped right away. Instead, she was modified as a target ship during, moored in the old shipyard area in Karlskrona. Sveral tests were made, nut not enough to sink her. In 1933 she was sold for scrapping, the earliest to go.
Nice painting showing the three Svea-class “Pansarbatar” at sea (Stockholm History Museum).