HMS Conqueror (1911)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Conqueror.
HMS Conqueror IWM SP 003080.jpg
HMS Conqueror during World War I
Career (UK)
Name: HMS Conqueror
Builder: William Beardmore and Company, Dalmuir
Cost: £1,891,164
Laid down: 5 April 1910
Launched: 1 May 1911[1]
Commissioned: 1 December 1912[2]
Decommissioned: 1921
Struck: 1922
Fate: Sold for scrap
General characteristics
Class & type: Orion-class battleship
Displacement: 22,000 tons standard
25,870 tons full load
Length: 581 ft (177 m)
Beam: 88 ft (27 m)
Draught: 24 ft (7.3 m)
Propulsion: Steam turbines, 18 boilers, 4 shafts, 27,000 hp
Speed: 21 knots (39 km/h)
Complement: 750–1100
Armament:

10 × BL 13.5 inch (343 mm) guns
16 × BL 4-inch (101.6 mm) Mk VII guns

3 × 21 inch (533 mm) submerged torpedo tubes

HMS Conqueror was an Orion-class battleship of the Royal Navy. She served in the 2nd Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet in World War I, and fought at the Battle of Jutland, 31 May 1916, suffering no damage.

As a result of the Washington Naval Convention she was decommissioned in 1921 and sold for scrap.

Following the Colossus-class, Britain's next class of battleship was the Orion class, which was the first class of British ship to dispense with the wing turret arrangement. Beaten to a world's first by the American South Carolina class (commissioned in 1910), these were the first battleships in the Royal Navy to feature an all big-gun armament on the centre-line and were a major step forward, and were thus described as 'Super-Dreadnoughts'.

With the possibility of war looming, the cost savings achieved with the dreadnought types were dispensed with resulting in a far better and larger ship. The Orion class also saw the introduction of the new 13.5-inch gun. To achieve greater striking power for the later variants of the dreadnought the barrels of the 12-inch guns had been lengthened to increase the muzzle velocity and hence the range and impact power; however this was an unsatisfactory gun, with poor accuracy and wear levels. With the 13.5-inch gun a return to lower muzzle velocities was achieved, and striking power was increased by means of a heavier shell thereby resulting in an altogether superior weapon.

Design and description[edit]

Compared to the other Orion-class battleships, the Conqueror design came across as sleeker and more refined than earlier ships. Outwardly similar to the following King George V class, the two could be told apart by the Orion's foremast being placed behind the forward funnel. Unfortunately this resulted in the same problems experienced by Dreadnought herself, in that the fire control top at the mast head was affected by smoke, heat and gases from the funnel.

One other feature of the ships was dictated by the size of the dry-docks available at the time; the size of the ships was the maximum that could fit into these dry-docks and something had to give. The bilge keels were omitted, and initially the ships rolled heavily and, if reports in the tabloids of the times are to be believed, the class would capsize in any sea. In truth the rolling, whilst undesirable, was not this severe and the class were later fitted with bilge keels, but the size and design was nonetheless a compromise between effectiveness and dock size.

Another problem facing the designers was where to place the mast; place it in front of the funnel and the spotting top would be clear of smoke and heat with a head wind, but another problem then appeared: where to put the derrick needed to hoist the boats? The Orion class would seem to have bowed to the seamanship problem and placed the mast aft of the fore funnel to allow the fitting of a large derrick for hoisting the ship's boats. However this did cause problems with smoke and heat in the spotting top. To partially alleviate this the fore funnel was smaller in diameter than the aft funnel and only vented six boilers with the remaining twelve vented via the aft funnel.

Conqueror was 580 ft 9 in (177.08 metres) long overall. She had a maximum beam of 88 ft 6 in (26.8 metres) and had a draft of 27 ft 6 in (8.4 metres). She had a displacement of 22,000 tons at normal load and 25,870 tons at full load.

Building data[edit]

Ordered under the 1909 naval estimates, she was built by William Beardmore and Company at their Clydebank Dalmuir works at a cost of £1,891,164. She was laid down on the 5 April 1910, and launched on the 1 May 1911 and commissioned in November 1912.

Propulsion[edit]

The machinery arrangement for the Orion class was very similar to that of the earlier Colossus class with quadruple propellers being driven by Parsons direct drive steam turbines. The machinery spaces were split into three with the inboard shafts leading to the centre engine room and the outer shafts the port and starboard wing engine rooms. The two inboard shafts were driven by the high pressure ahead and astern turbines with the ahead turbines having an extra stage for cruising, this was separated from the main turbine by a bypass valve.

The outer shafts were driven by the ahead and astern low pressure turbines, when cruising the out board turbines would be shut down, the ship relying on the inboard shafts alone. The Babcock and Wilcox boilers of greater power remained in three groups of six, although coal fired oil spraying equipment was fitted for quickly raising steam. The normal power for the Conqueror was 27,000 SHP giving 21 knots but on trials she developed 33,198 SHP for 22.13 knots.

Armament[edit]

The main battery consisted of ten 13.5-inch guns arranged in five twin turrets all mounted on the centre-line and enabled this class to fire a ten gun broadside without any risk of structural damage to the ship, problems still existed with the open sighting hoods of the lower turrets ("A" & "Y") in that to prevent muzzle blast of the two upper turrets ("B" & "X") entering the lower turrets via the sighting hoods, firing of the upper turrets was prevented from right ahead to 30 degrees on either bow for "A" turret and 30 degrees either side of right astern for "X" turret. The mid-ships turret was designated "Q".

The 13.5-inch gun and was designated the Mark V L, the L indicating it fired the lighter of the 13.5 inch shells, later classes had the Mk VH guns which fired the heavier shells, the guns were just over 52 feet long and the barrel alone weighed more than 70 tons each with a working pressure of 18 tons per square inch, construction was of wire winding, so good were these weapons that they were still in use during World War II as shore guns at Dover. Although just 1.5 inch larger than the earlier 12-inch gun it fired a shell weighing 1,266.5 lb against the 859 lb of the earlier gun, although of lower velocity than the 12-inch 50 calibre gun the 13.5-inch 45 calibre weapon’s heavier shell maintained its in-flight velocity and so had greater hitting and penetrative power, the new gun was also very accurate and possessed very good wear rates – up to 450 rounds per gun, tests also showed that the gun had a very good safety margin so that the following King George V-class ships could fire an even heavier 1,410 lb shell, although this lowered the wear rate to 220 rounds per gun.

Using a charge of 293 lbs of cordite ranges of just short of 24,000 yards were achieved at 20 degrees elevation, although this was of little real use, the gun range finders had been designed with closer ranges in mind and so could only work up to 16 degrees elevation. Used as a railway gun and using an elevation of 40 degrees the range was then 49,000 yards using 400 lbs of propellant what this did to the wear rate is unknown.

Projectile details[edit]

The ships carried three types and weights of shell.

  • Common Percussion Capped - Weighed 1,250 lb - Bursting Charge of 117 lb
  • Armour Piercing Capped - Weighed 1,266.5 lb - Bursting Charge of 30 to 40 lb
  • High explosive - Weighed 1,250 lb - Bursting Charge of 176.5 lb

At 10,000 yards the Armour Piercing Capped shell could penetrate just over 12 inches of Krupp cemented armour plate.

Five Mk 2 turrets were fitted to the Conqueror, these were very similar to those fitted on the earlier 12” dreadnought designs and each weighed about 600 tons. In case of failure of the magazine hoists, 8 ready use shells were stowed within the gun houses and could be loaded using manually powered davits, a further six rounds were stowed in the handling room under the gun with the cordite charges stowed in the turret trunk – the rotating section of the turret reaching down from the handling room down to the magazines and holding the hoists.

Fire control[edit]

Fire control was assisted by seven co-incidence type rangefinders located one each in the five turrets and in the spotting top and over the aft shelter deck.[3] Range and bearing data were fed into a Dreyer fire control table (invented and developed by Frederic Charles Dreyer) which was an early mechanical computer into which was fed range and bearing of the target, own course and speed, target's course and speed, and various ballistic adjustments. The Dreyer table generated a continuous firing range and deflection which was sent electrically to the aloft director on the foremast which would point at the target and send angles of elevation and training to the gun layers and trainers in the turrets using electrically worked pointers. These men would work their hydraulic controls to make their weapons match the indicated angles. When all guns were ready they would be fired electrically by the director layer in the director.[4]

In the event of the main director being knocked out or if two targets were to be engaged simultaneously, a gun in "X" turret could serve as a directing gun for the entire battery or simply "X" and "Y" turrets. The individual turrets were also able to aim and fire in local control if able to see the target.[5]

Torpedo armament[edit]

This remained the same as the earlier Colossus class with three submerged 21-inch torpedo tubes, one firing on each beam and one astern. The torpedoes used by the Orion-class battleships were the Whitehead 21 inch Mk2 these had a range of 4,000 yards at 35 knots or 5,500 yards at 30 knots and had a TNT warhead of about 400 lb.

Armour[edit]

At the time of the design of Orion, the largest bore gun carried by battleships of other nations was twelve inches. It was believed, however, that as part of the continuing trend to increasing size in this class of warship, bores would inevitably rise.[6] Orion and her sisters therefore received heavier and more extensive armour than had been carried by earlier British dreadnoughts.

The main waterline belt was twelve inches thick, and extended from a point level with the centre of "A" barbette to a point level with the centre of "Y" barbette. The lower edge was three feet four inches below the waterline at normal displacement.[7] Above this belt was an upper belt of eight inches in thickness, which ran for the same length. The belt extended further upwards than in previous dreadnoughts; the upper edge was at the level of the middle deck, giving a total belt height of twenty feet six inches.[7] Forward of "A" barbette the belt was extended by a short length of armour of six inches in thickness tapering to four; and the after end of the belt continued as a short strake two and a half inches thick. The extreme ends of the ships sides were not armoured.

A torpedo defence screen ran from "A" barbette to "Y" barbette, and extended from the lower deck to the bottom of the ship. It was of varying thickness, from one to one and three quarter inches, and was intended to prevent mine or torpedo detonation from causing magazine explosion.[8]

An armoured bulkhead ten inches thick ran from the after end of the armour belt around "Y" barbette, and there was a further bulkhead mid-way between this barbette and the stern composed of two and a half inch armour. Both bulkheads extended from lower deck to upper deck level. The forward bulkhead, which ran from the forward end of the main belt on either beam to the forward aspect of "A" barbette, was eight inches thick between the forecastle deck and maindeck levels, and six inches thick from maindeck to lower deck. A further bulkhead of four inches thickness was situated in the bow, one third of the distance from the stem to the forward barbette.

There were four armoured decks. The upper and main decks were of one and a half inch armour, the middle deck was one inch thick, and the lower deck was two and a half inches tapering to one inch forward, and four inches tapering to three aft. The greater thickness was over the magazines and machinery.[8]

The faces of the main armament turrets were eleven inches thick, the turret crowns being four inches tapering to three. The barbettes were ten inches thick at their maximum, tapering to seven, five or three inches in areas where adjacent armoured structures or armoured decks afforded some protection.[9]

The conning tower was protected by eleven inches of armour, tapering to three in less vulnerable areas.

Service history[edit]

Conqueror was commissioned in November 1912 and was the last of the four Orion-class ships to be completed; together they formed the Second Division of the 2nd Battle Squadron with the Home Fleet. In 1914 the 2nd Battle Squadron joined the Home Fleet, on 27 December 1914 she was rammed by the Monarch, which caused serious damage to both ships. Conqueror was given temporary repairs at both Scapa Flow and Invergordon before being fully repaired at Devonport. On completion of these repairs she rejoined the 2nd Battle Squadron and the Home Fleet in March 1915.

At Jutland on 31 May 1916 all four of the Orions were present under the leadership of Rear Admiral Arthur Leveson flying his flag in Orion, her CO was Captain O. Backhouse, followed by: Monarch – Captain G.H. Borret, Conqueror - Captain H.H.D. Tothill and Thunderer - Captain J.A. Fergusson. It is thought that Conqueror had engine problems during the battle and was having trouble maintaining 20 knots as a signal from Admiral Jellicoe at 17:17 instructed Thunderer to overtake the Conqueror if she could not maintain speed. Conqueror first came to action at 18:31 when she sighted a König-class battleship at 12,000 yards and fired three salvoes of 13.5-inch. No hits were claimed and the target rapidly disappeared in the smoke and mist. A few minutes later and the disabled German light cruiser Wiesbaden appeared; this ship had been disabled by the battlecruiser Invincible and was then fired at by a large number of British battleships as they passed and she appeared to them out of the mist; the number of hits she took before sinking and who actually hit her was impossible to tell by the sheer number of ships which fired at her. At 19:12 the Conqueror engaged the German destroyers of the 3rd, 6th, and 9th flotillas which were attacking with torpedoes to distract the Grand Fleet and allow the German High Seas Fleet to escape to the south, there was also an attempt to rescue the crew of the sinking Wiesbaden; Conqueror engaged with 13.5-inch Common percussion capped shells but again claimed no hits. This was the last action by Conqueror as the main German fleet was now fleeing south and contact was not regained. In total, Conqueror fired 57 rounds, of which 16 were armour-piercing Capped and 41 were high explosive. Conqueror suffered no damage or casualties. Post-war she was placed in lay-up and decommissioned in 1921; under the 1922 Washington Naval Treaties she was sold for scrap in 1922.

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Times (London), Tuesday, 2 May 1911, p.8
  2. ^ The Times (London), Wednesday, 13 November 1912, p.16 col. F
  3. ^ R. A. Burt. British Battleships of World War I, p. 136.
  4. ^ Dreyer Fire Control Table on The Dreadnought Project.
  5. ^ Orion Class Battleship on The Dreadnought Project.
  6. ^ Parkes p. 527[citation needed]
  7. ^ a b Burt p. 136[citation needed]
  8. ^ a b Parkes p. 500
  9. ^ Parkes p.524

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