The HMS Tiger: Feline beauty and hard shell
Battlecruiser HMS Tiger (1913)
United Kingdom (1913) Battlecruiser
Described by historian John Keegan as "certainly the most beautiful warship in the world then, and perhaps ever", the Tiger was also better protected yet cheaper than the older Lion class, the "big cats" disliked by the admiralty. Despite her many merits, no additional battlecruiser of the same type was built. Alone, the Tiger nevertheless proved her worth during three battles. If it was not for the Washington Treaty limitations forcing her retirement from active service and eventual scrapping in 1932, with the right modernizations, she would have become the British equivalent of the Kongo class
Throughout her career, HMS Tiger served with Beatty's 1st battlecruiser squadron. She took part in the battle of Dogger Bank
in which she took six hits, lost the roof of her Y rear turret, but only suffered 11 dead and 11 wounded. She then participated in the battle of Jutland
, firing no less than 303 rounds, but only scored three hits, in exchange conceding 15 heavy impacts.
Q turret was blown off, but the ammunition stores were spared a flash fire and she returned to Rosyth, listing to port with 24 dead and 46 wounded. She also took part in the second battle of Dogger Bank
. After the Washington Naval Treaty was signed she started a second life as a gunnery training ship after two years of conversion (1924 to 1929), retiring in 1931.
Genesis of the Tiger
Despite active lobbying from Sir "Jackie" Fisher, the Admiralty had begun to doubt the usefulness of the battlecruiser concept as early as 1911. Instead of launching a new class of three ships, a sole battlecruiser was authorized in the 1911–12 Naval Programme, and a less expensive ship than the last "splendid cats". (In fact, the cost was £2,593,100) This plan focused on improvements based on the Queen Mary, integrating the experience gained during her construction.
Although not fitted with good protection, the Tiger was a fine vessel with pleasant lines, original though sisterless and childless. Although she was laid down after the Kongo, the chief engineer of Vickers drew from the ideas contained in the design into the Tiger, and the last of the "splendid cats" - a little less expensive than the others, was launched in December 1913 and accepted into service after trials in October 1914.
Tiger in 1916
The hull had an overall length of 704 feet (214.6 m), a beam of 90 feet 6 inches (27.6 m), and a standard draught of 32 feet 5 inches (9.88 m) when deeply loaded and battle-ready. Displacement was 28,430 long tons (28,890 t) standard and up to 33,260 long tons (33,790 t) deeply loaded. The hull was only 4 feet (1.2 m) longer, 1 foot 5.5 inches (0.4 m) wider than the previous class, but she displaced 2,000 more long tons, with a metacentric height of 6.1 feet (1.9 m).
Armaments-wise, turret placement and superstructure were completely revised, as well as the position and height of funnels and of the front-firing control tower. A potent secondary armament was added, located on the central battery, giving concentrated superstructures to clear the range much like the Japanese Kongo class, then under construction at Vickers. Again, the ship was specified at a very high speed, 28 knots from a nominal 85,000 hp and a theoretical 105 000 hp if the machines were pushed white hot. (in theory capable of giving 30 knots).
In fact, 29 knots were achieved with 104,000 hp, but this had the effect of raising her daily consumption rising to 1245 tonnes of fuel oil. The smaller hull necessitated compromises to try to find the missing extra storage, and thus her crew consisted of a relatively small 1,112 officers and ratings (compared to the previous Lion and Queen Mary) at the beginning of the war, reaching 1,459 in April 1918.
The HMS Tiger in 1918.
HMS Tiger was given two paired Brown-Curtis direct-drive steam turbines. They were placed in separate engine rooms to avoid losing all power in case of flooding. Each turbine set comprised high-pressure ahead and astern turbines. The high pressure drove an outboard shaft while the low-pressure ahead and astern turbines drove the inner shaft. Both shafts ended with three-bladed propellers measuring 13 feet 6 inches (4.11 m) wide. The steam came from no less than 39 Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers. They were also compartmentalized into five boiler rooms. These boilers worked at 235 psi (1,620 kPa; 17 kgf/cm2). The powerplant was rated for a total of 85,000 shaft horsepower (63,000 kW). With forced heating, this went up to 108,000 shp (81,000 kW), however, on trials, 104,635 shp (78,026 kW) which allowed her to exceed her contract speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph)by a knot.
HMS Tiger main guns, 'Q' turret, painting
Fuel stowage was mixed like the boiler heating, 3,800 long tons (3,900 t) of fuel oil, 3,340 long tons (3,390 t) of coal. In total these 7,140 long tons, way more than HMS Queen Mary for example (4,800 long tons), were stowed in a varied repartition along the ship's double hull and caissons. Fuel consumption was 1,245 long tons (1,265 t) on average per working day at sea, staying at 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph). At this optimal speed, a range of 3,300 nautical miles (6,100 km; 3,800 mi) could be achieved. Again, HMS Queen Mary, the last of the "Big Cats" only reached 2,400 nautical miles (4,400 km; 2,800 mi). In addition, electrical power to subsystems was provided by four direct current electric dynamos mated on the drives, producing together 750 kilowatts (1,010 hp), which fed the electrical system at 220 volts.
HMS Tiger and the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow - Painting (cc)
HMS Tiger had about the same artillery as previous battlecruisers: Eight 45-calibre BL 13.5-inch Mk V guns in four twin turrets. They were hydraulically powered and called A-B, Q-X because of the situation of the third turret. The mounts allowed the barrels to depress to −5° and to be elevated to +20°. However, the directors which controlled them only reached 15°. Fortunately, superelevating prisms were installed just before the Battle of Jutland to increase that figure.
Each of these main guns fired 1,400-pound (635 kg) shells (standard HE) at 2,491 ft/s (759 m/s). At max elevation, the range was 23,740 yards (21,710 m). The standard rate of fire was just below 2 rounds per minute and faster if security measures were botched like in the other "big cats" at Jutland. 1040 rounds were stored in wartime, so this provided 130 shells for each of the eight guns.
Fire control was provided by one of the two fire-control directors, the first installed on the fore-top, foremast and the other on the aft superstructure which doubled as the torpedo control tower. Both were 9-foot (2.7 m) rangefinders under armoured hoods. The one above the conning tower passed its data to the 'B' and 'Q' turrets via a Mk IV Dreyer Fire Control Table and was located in the transmitting station, deep below the waterline. Range and deflection data were calculated from the observation plots there. This data came from a mechanical analog fire control instrument in the armoured tower, called Dumaresq Mark VIII*, provided by Fidelity Engineering Company, Limited of London.
HMS Tiger underway, date unknown.
The battery was housed in casemates, twelve BL 6-inch Mk VII guns total, and their mount could depress −7°, elevate 14°. Their shells weighed 100-pounds and the (45 kg)muzzle velocity was 2,770 ft/s (840 m/s), with a range of 12,200 yds (11,200 m) on average at max elevation. The rate of fire was 8 rpm on average, with 120 rounds being stockpiled for each gun.
In addition, the Tiger was given two QF 3 inch 20 cwt Mk I anti-aircraft guns placed on high-angle Mark II mounts. They elevated up to 90°, and fired a 12.5-pound (5.7 kg) shell at 2,604 ft/s (794 m/s), at a ceiling of 23,000 ft (7,000 m), and 16-18 rpm on average. 300 rounds were carried for each gun, reduced to 150 rounds in wartime. For these, a second firing control station was fitted, one for each broadside in 1915.
Four 21-inch (530 mm) submerged torpedo tubes mounted into the beam, port, and starboard pairs, either side of the armor belt end. 20 Mark II*** torpedoes were carried total, each fitted with a 400 pd TNT warhead (181 kg). They could be set to two speeds, 45 knots and 4,500 yards (4,100 m), or 10,750 yards and 29 knots
Tiger's armour protection was similar to that of Queen Mary with a waterline belt made of Krupp cemented armour at 9 inches (229 mm) thick, thinned down to four inches on the aft end while the bow or the stern were left unprotected. The belt under the waterline went down to 27 inches (686 mm) with a strake of 3-in armour being placed down to 3 feet 9 inches (1.14 m) below that. This portion went from 'A' barbette to 'B' barbette. This was pretty much the system developed for Vickers's battlecruiser Kongo, and that was the sole similarity with HMS Tiger. Like previous Battlecruisers and the Queen Mary, HMS Tiger had an upper armour belt of 6-in, thinned to 5-in abreast the end barbettes.
HMS Tiger armour scheme
However, HMS Tiger innovated with an additional strake of 6-in above the upper belt, which protected the secondary armament. The transverse bulkheads closed the ends of the armoured citadel were 4-in thick. Also, armored decks used High-tensile steel, and ranged from 1 to 1.5 inches (25 to 38 mm).
Main gun turrets were protected by 9-in, on the front and sides, with roofs 2.5 to 3.25 inches (64 to 83 mm) thick. Barbettes were protected by 8-9 in (203 to 229 mm) and 3-4 in for the part left inside the citadel. The main conning tower had walls 10 inches (254 mm) thick and 3-in roof. The communication tube had walls 4-in thick. The aft conning tower was given 6-in walls and a 1-in cast steel roof. The torpedo bulkheads were 1.5 to 2.5 in (38 to 64 mm) in High-tensile steel, abreast the magazines. The Battle of Jutland reports urged modifications to this scheme, notably over plunging shellfire, so 295 long tons (300 t) of additional armour was fitted, spread between the turret roofs, decks over the magazines, and bulkheads separating at the 6-in guns levels.
HMS Tiger profile
The most important occurred in the drydock at Rosyth, which started on 10 November 1916 and lasted until 29 January 1917 where her turret roof armour was thickened against plunging fire. Also, 'A' and 'Q' turrets received 25-foot (7.6 m) rangefinders, and 15-foot (4.6 m) ones were fitted on 'X' turret, the conning tower and the torpedo control tower. A new fore-top 12-foot (3.7 m) rangefinder was also fitted. Three 9-foot (2.7 m) models were installed on 'B' turret, the gun control tower, and the compass platform roof. Finally, the already crowned fore-top received a 6-foot-6-inch (2.0 m) rangefinder for the anti-aircraft guns later in the war.
The HMS Tiger during the surrender of the German fleet in November 1918
Laid down at John Brown & Co, Clydebank, 6 June 1912, HMS Tiger was launched on 15 December 1913 and commissioned on 3 October 1914. For the British taxpayer, she was declared costing £2,593,100. She was still outfitting when the war broke out and Captain Henry Pelly was appointed in command. At last, on October 3rd, she was commissioned in Beatty's prestigious 1st Battlecruiser Squadron. About a month later, she was deployed for her first mission after the Battle of Coronel, searching for the elusive German East Asia Squadron. After the operation, Beatty estimated she was not fit to fight, with three dynamos out of action and insufficient training due to bad weather. Nevertheless, in January of that year she departed on a mission that would turn soon into her first battle.
The Dogger Bank: First serious test
On 23 January 1915, German battlecruisers (Admiral Hipper Sqn) headed to the Dogger Bank, chasing for British fishing boats and other craft which could warn the admiralty over German moves. By that time, the British were able to decipher coded messages and by the time Hipper had left port, Beatty and the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron were already en route to intercept them. Beatty was informed of them at 07:20, 24 October, by British light cruiser Arethusa, spotting her German vanguard opposite, SMS Kolberg. 15 minutes after, the Germans spotted Beatty's battlecruisers in return, and Hipper ordered his ships to head south at 20 knots, expecting to flee if they were indeed enemy ships.
Meanwhile, Beatty ordered full speed to catch them and the Lion, Princess Royal, and Tiger in the lead made 27 knots at that point. HMS Lion opened fire at 08:52, at 20,000 yards, followed by the others but due to both the range and low visibility, the British failed to hit anything before 09:09, when SMS Blücher was hit by either Indomitable or New Zealand. Orders were given for each ship in the British line to pick corresponding targets, but this was not understood by Tiger, with both she and Lion targeting the lead ship, Seydlitz, leaving Moltke un-harried. The distance fell to 18,000 yards and the German ships concentrated their fire on HMS Lion. After a brief u-boote scare which broke the engagement up at 11:02, the pursuit resumed. As Hipper retreated, Rear-Admiral Sir Gordon Moore aboard New Zealand misinterpreted signals and veered northeast to attack the limping Blücher, leaving the line and causing the rest of the formation to follow. Blücher ended as the involuntary victim, saving Hipper's battlecruisers.
HMS Tiger took six German hits, among them a 280 mm shell bursting into the 'Q' turret roof, fragments from it damaging the gun's breech mechanism, jamming the training gear. She had to depart back home with 10 killed and 11 wounded. The repairs ended on 8 February. Reports showed her gunnery to be incredibly inaccurate, with two hits for 355 13.5-inch (340 mm) shells fired on Seydlitz and Derfflinger. Lord Fisher went to criticize Pelly's management, but Beatty diffused this and the ship was refitted quickly in December 1915 with more advanced fire control equipment.
Jutland: The battered beatty veteran
By May 31, 1916, HMS Tiger with the 1st BCS sallied forth to try to intercept the High Seas Fleet’s rush into the North Sea. Here again, decoding messages has been decisive and the British Battlecruisers are already out at sea for a while when Hipper's squadron spotted their opposites at 15:20. Beatty however failed to see them in return until 15:30, and ordered course corrections to engage promptly. After taking an east-southeast heading to cut off the German's retreat path, Hipper noticed Beatty’s course and himself ordered a starboard turn, trying to reach an escaping southeasterly course. This manoeuver allowed also to fall back on the High Seas Fleet positioned 60 nautical miles behind, essentially luring Beatty into a trap.
The first part of the action, the "Run to the South" at 15:45 allowed Beatty to run parallel to Hipper's course, at a range of 18,000 yards. The Germans fired first (15:48) at the echeloned 1st BCS with HMS Tiger taking position at the rear and west. She was essentially the closest to the Germans. German fire proved accurate and HMS Tiger was hit six times by SMS Moltke. In seven minutes 'Q' and 'X' turrets were out of action, but otherwise, the damage was not serious.
When the range was down to 12,900 yards (11,800 m), Beatty ordered a course change to starboard, opening up the range. Shortly thereafter, Indefatigable was hit and lost, her magazines detonating. Despite this, the range was soon too great and Beatty altered course this time to port, closing in at 14,400 yards. However, as the range closed HMS Queen Mary was also lost in a cataclysmic forward magazines explosion. HMS Tiger on her part, saw this first hand, at 500 yards, forcing her to make a hard-a-starboard manoeuver to avoid collision. At 16:30 HMS Southampton spotted and reported the High Seas Fleet's lead ships. Beatty later would turn north, bringing his last ships to safety. HMS Tiger had been hit 17 times by SMS Moltke. Damage was serious but she still was able to continue fighting.
The Germans turned to the north themselves to catch them, but Beatty maintained full speed and he soon outran them. They tried to join the Grand Fleet wherein they opened fire again at 17:40 on the Germans while the setting sun behind them blinded German gunners. Beatty went on engaging Hipper's fleet and later, both Scheer and Beatty would lose sight of each other in the haze. Beatty changed course south-east, south-southeast before Lion's gyrocompass failed and she led the squadron in a complete circle. At 18:55, Scheer closed in with the Grand Fleet which meanwhile prepared to cross Scheer's "T". But Scheer escaped the trap.
Later in the evening, Beatty lost sight of Sheer and German torpedo boats engaged the British destroyer squadron, whereas Beatty was led by the sound of gunfire, westward. He spotted the battlecruisers at 8,500 yards and opened fire. It was 20:20. Soon a German pre-dreadnought battleship (Under the command of Rear Admiral Franz Mauve) was spotted and later sunk.
Eventually, after another exchange, HMS Tiger returned to Rosyth Dockyard (Scotland) two days later. She was docked for repairs, lasting until 1 July. Reports over HMS Tiger's 18 hits, with 24 killed and 46 wounded, made a sensation. She fired 303 13.5-inch shells but was credited with just one hit on SMS Moltke,2 on SMS Von der Tann, and also 136 6-inch rounds on the light cruiser Wiesbaden and destroyers.
Late war career
After her repairs, HMS Tiger served briefly as flagship for the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron while HMS Lion was in drydocks for repairs. On 18 August, during the evening, the Grand Fleet received a message from Room 40 that the High Seas Fleet was about to depart the naval base in its entirety this night, less the II Squadron. The objective was Sunderland and reconnaissance would be assumed by airships and submarines. The Grand Fleet steamed up and sailed with 29 dreadnought and six battlecruisers, and every officer expected (hoped) for a new Jutland, this time expecting not to let the Germans escape.
Jellicoe and Scheer received conflicting intelligence however and both fleets passed each other in the North Sea, the Grand Fleet north and Scheer south-eastward. The Germans steered for home and soon the British did the same. The RN lost a cruiser to submarine attack, while a German dreadnought was damaged by a torpedo.
HMS Tiger's last years were spent in routine patrols in the North Sea. Both fleets were now prevented from sailing again. However, she did provide support for the light forces engaged at the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight
, 17 November 1917. This was distant support: She was never close enough to open fire. Between this and the end of the war , she had a flying-off platform installed on 'Q' turret and a searchlight platform on the third funnel. By 1918 however, her topmast was moved to the top of the derrick-stump and a large observation platform fitted to it while the smaller rangefinders were replaced.
HMS Tiger in drydock
Post war carrer
In 1919, HMS Tiger received a new flying-off platform for a Sopwith Camel on 'B' turret roof. Later she collided with HMS Royal Sovereign by late 1920 in the Atlantic but the damage was minimal and she was repaired. HMS Tiger survived the Washington Naval Treaty and was placed in reserve, 22 August 1921. She was refitted in March 1922, receiving a 25-foot rangefinder on 'X' turret. Four 4-inch (102 mm) guns replaced her 3-inch AA guns. The 'Q' turret flying-off was removed.
HMS Tiger was recommissioned in 1924 as a training ship, until 1929. At that stage, she replaced HMS Hood which was planned for a refit, and thus was temporarily out of commission. HMS Tiger's brief active service was to maintain the three Battlecruiser Squadron normal strength alongside Renown and Repulse. In 1930, HMS Tiger was perfectly serviceable and could have been taken in hand for a major reconstruction, but she was old, and the decision was taken to discard her after the new reduction signed at the London Naval Conference of 1930. Captain Kenneth Dewar was replaced by Arthur Bedford until early 1931, when she was decommissioned, paid off on 15 May 1931 at Rosyth, and sold for scrap in 1932.
Specs Conway's all the world fighting ships 1921-1947.
The Tiger's crew list
On maritime Quest
Additional tech info on battleship-project.org
The HMS Tiger on wikipedia
The Beatty Papers. Volume I. London
Breyer, Siegfried (1973). Battleships and Battle Cruisers, 1905–1970
Brooks, John (2005). Dreadnought Gunnery and the Battle of Jutland: The Question of Fire Control.
Brown, David K. (2003). The Grand Fleet: Warship Design and Development 1906–1922
Burt, R. A. (1986). British Battleships of World War One.
Campbell, N. J. M. (1978). Battle Cruisers. Warship Special. 1(Conways)
Campbell, John (1998). Jutland: An Analysis of the Fighting.
1st Baron Fisher: Fear God and Dread Nought: Restoration, Abdication, and Last Years, 1914–1920
Goldrick, James (1984). The King's Ships Were At Sea: The War in the North Sea, August 1914 – February 1918
Newman, Brian (2019). "Battlecruiser Tiger: The Arrangement of the Main Engines".
Roberts, John (1997). Battlecruisers.
Roberts, John Arthur (1978). "The Design and Construction of the Battlecruiser Tiger"
Author's illu of the HMS Tiger in 1916.
A whatif appearance of the HMS Tiger circa 1942 if kept in service and modernized in the late 1930s: Dual purpose 4-in guns, improved mounts allowing 30° elevation, AA battery of Bofors octuple mounts, single 20 mm, RL on the upper turrets, new 8 new boilers with all-oil firing, trucated funnels, rebuilt bridge, new ballistic computer and FCS, improved vertical armor, ASW bulges, aircraft (no hangar) and radar. Capable of 30 knots despite the addition of armour, new structures and AA, a potent addition to the Royal Navy. (Both illustrations by the author)
HMS Tiger specifications
|Dimensions||214,6 x 27,6 x 8,7 m (704x 90x 32 feets)|
|Displacement||25 500 LT, 33 260 LT FL|
|Propulsion||4 shafts Brown-Curtis turbines, 39 watertubes boilers, 85 000 shp.|
|Speed||28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph)|
|Armament||8 x 343, 12 x 152, 2 x 76 AA, 4 x 533 mm sub TT.|
|Armor||CT 9in (254), belt 9in (230), bulkheads 4in (100), barbettes 9in (230), turrets 9in (230), decks 3in (75 mm).|