King Edward VII-class battleship

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HMS King Edward VII, King Edward VII class battleship.jpg
HMS King Edward VII, lead ship of the King Edward VII class, in drydock
Class overview
Name: King Edward VII-class batlleship
Builders: Chatham Dockyard, Devonport Dockyard, John Brown, Fairfield, Portsmouth Dockyard, Vickers
Preceded by: Duncan class
Succeeded by: Swiftsure class
Built: 1904–1906
In commission: 1905–1921
Planned: 8
Completed: 8
Lost: 2
Retired: 6
General characteristics
Type: Pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 16,350 tons (normal)
17,500 tons (full load)
Length: 453 ft 6 in (138.23 m)
Beam: 78 ft (23.8 m)
Draught: 26 ft 9 in (8.15 m)
Installed power: 18,000 hp (13 MW)
Propulsion:

2 shafts
2 × 4-cylinder vertical compound expansion steam engines
Coal-fired (with oil sprayers) boilers, except no oil sprayers in New Zealand
2,164–2,238 tons coal maximum, 380 tons oil
Boilers:[1] King Edward VII:

Commonwealth, Dominion:

  • 16 Babcock and Wilcox

Africa, Britannia, Hibernia, Hindustan:

  • 12 Babcock and Wilcox and 3 cylindrical

New Zealand:

Speed: 18.5 knots (34.25 km/h) maximum
Range: 5,270 nm (9,760 km) at 10 knots (18.5 km/h)[2]
Complement: 777
Armament:

King Edward VII, Commonwealth, Dominion, Hindustan, New Zealand:

Africa, Britannia, Hibernia:

All ships:

Armour:
  • Belt: 8–9 inches (203–229 mm)
  • Bulkheads: 8–12 inches (203–305 mm)
  • Deck: 1–2.5 inches (25.4–63.5 mm)
  • Conning Tower: 12 inches (305 mm)
  • Turrets: 8–12 inches (203–305 mm)
  • Barbettes: 12 inches (305 mm)
  • 9.2 inch turrets: 5–9 inches (127–229 mm)
  • 6 inch battery: 7 inches (178 mm)
Notes: During their Grand Fleet service (1914–1916), the King Edward VII-class ships were nicknamed "The Wobbly Eight".

The King Edward VII class was a class of pre-dreadnought battleships launched by the Royal Navy between 1903 and 1905.

Technical characteristics[edit]

Armament[edit]

Left elevation and deck plan as depicted in Jane's Fighting Ships 1906–7

By 1901, the 29 British battleships of the Majestic, Canopus, Formidable, London, Queen, and Duncan classes then in service or under construction, all following the same basic design by Sir William White, had come under criticism as being undergunned for their displacement.

All the King Edwards had four 12 inch (305 mm) guns in two twin turrets and a secondary armament of twelve 6 inch (152 mm) guns on a displacement of 13,000 to 15,000 tons; questions were beginning to arise as to the usefulness of 6 inch (152 mm) guns in the face of improved armor in foreign battleships, and it was noted that foreign navies such as those of Italy and the United States had begun to arm their battleships with an intermediate battery of 8 inch (203 mm) guns. The King Edward VII class was built as a response, with the intention of halting the gap in firepower and maintaining the dominance of the Royal Navy.[3]

Like the classes in between, the King Edward VII class was a direct descendant of the Majestic class, but it was also the first class to make a significant departure from the Majestic design, displacing about 1,000 tons more and mounting for the first time an intermediate battery of four 9.2 inch (234 mm) guns in addition to the standard outfit of 12 inch (305 mm) and 6 inch (152 mm) guns. The 9.2 inch gun was quick-firing like the 6 inch, and its heavier shell made it a formidable weapon by the standards of the day when the King Edward VII class was designed. The four 9.2 inch guns were mounted in single turrets abreast the foremast and mainmast, and the ships thus could bring two of them to bear on either broadside. Even then, the King Edwards were criticised for not having a uniform secondary battery of 9.2 inch guns, something considered but rejected because of the length of time it would have taken to design the ships with such a radical revision of the secondary armament layout; an all-9.2-inch secondary battery would have to await the Lord Nelson class. In the end, it proved impossible to distinguish 12 inch and 9.2 inch shell splashes from one another, making fire control impractical for ships mounting both calibres, although the King Edwards had fire-control platforms on their fore- and mainmasts rather than the fighting tops of earlier classes.[4]

The first five ships (Commonwealth, Dominion, Hindustan, King Edward VII, and New Zealand/Zealandia) mounted the Mark IX 12-inch gun, while the final three (Africa, Britannia, and Hibernia) mounted the more advanced Mark X 12-inch gun.[2] The new Mk X gun with bore length increased from 40 to 45 calibres (i.e. from 40 to 45 feet) allowed more cordite propellant to be burned and increased muzzle velocity from 2,600 feet per second (790 m/s) to 2,700 feet per second (820 m/s), giving a significant increase in range and armour penetration.[2]

Mounting of the 6 inch guns in casemates was abandoned in this class, the 6 inch instead being placed in a central battery amidships protected by 7 inch (178 mm) armoured walls. Otherwise, armour was much as in the London class, although there were various differences in detail from the Londons.[4]

Seaworthiness[edit]

The King Edward VIIs were the first British battleships with balanced rudders since the 1870s and were very manoeuvrable, with a tactical diameter of 340 yards (311 m) at 15 knots (27.75 km/h). However, they were difficult to keep on a straight course, and this characteristic led to them being nicknamed "the Wobbly Eight" during their 1914–1916 service in the Grand Fleet. They had a slightly faster roll than previous British battleship classes, but were good gun platforms, although very wet in bad weather.[4]

Propulsion[edit]

Primarily powered by coal, all of the class except New Zealand had oil sprayers installed during construction, the first time this had been done in British battleships. These allowed steam pressure to be rapidly increased, improving the acceleration of the ships. The eight ships between them were given four different boiler installations for comparative purposes, but all exceeded their designed power, making between 18.1 and 19.3 knots (35.7 km/h) on trials.[4]

Evaluation[edit]

The King Edward VIIs were powerful ships when they were designed, and completely fulfilled the goals set for them at that time. However, they were unlucky in that the years of their design and construction were ones of revolutionary advancement in naval guns, fire control, armour, and propulsion. The ships joined the fleet between early 1905 and the very beginning of 1907, but were made quickly obsolete by the commissioning of the revolutionary battleship HMS Dreadnought at the end of 1906 and the large numbers of the new dreadnought battleships that commissioned in succeeding years, although Commonwealth was reconstructed in 1917–1918 with all the trappings of modern battleships, so as to provide an adequate gunnery training platform. By 1914, the King Edward VII class was, like all pre-dreadnoughts, so outclassed that they spent much of their Grand Fleet service steaming at the heads of divisions of the far more valuable dreadnoughts, protecting the dreadnoughts from naval mines by being the first battleships to either sight or strike them.[5]

Operational history[edit]

King Edward VII-class battleships on maneuvers ca. 1909.

The King Edward VIIs served together as a tactical unit during much of their careers, operating in the Atlantic Fleet, Channel Fleet, and Home Fleet before World War I. They formed the 3rd Battle Squadron in 1912, with individual ships leaving the squadron between 1916 and 1918. The squadron served in the Mediterranean during the First Balkan War in 1912–1913 and in the Grand Fleet for most of the first half of World War I, although it was detached to the Channel Fleet for a time in 1914 and two ships served in the Dardanelles Campaign (1915–1916).[6] The ships were treated as expendable while with the Grand Fleet, which routinely placed them at the heads of divisions of the more valuable dreadnoughts to protect the dreadnoughts by watching for mines or being the first to strike mines.[5] The 3rd Battle Squadron left the Grand Fleet in 1916; as it gradually broke up between 1916 and 1918, some ships served in the Adriatic Sea and Atlantic, while others performed subsidiary duties in home wates or went into reserve. Two were lost during World War I and those that survived the war were sold for scrapping in 1920 and 1921.[6]

Ships in class[edit]

HMS Africa[edit]

Africa served in the Atlantic Fleet (1906–1907), Channel Fleet (1907–1908), and Home Fleet (1908–1914); in 1912 experiments with aircraft, she became the first large British warship ever to launch an aircraft (from a flying-off platform on her deck). She was part of the 3rd Battle Squadron (1912–1916), which was detached from the Home Fleet for service in the Mediterranean during the First Balkan War in 1912–1913. The 3rd Battle Squadron's World War I service was in the Grand Fleet (1914), the Channel Fleet (1914), and Grand Fleet again (1914–1916). Africa then served in the Atlantic 1917–1918, then was in reserve until sold for scrapping in 1920.[7]

HMS Britannia[edit]

Britannia served in the Atlantic Fleet (1906–1907), Channel Fleet (1907–1909), and Home Fleet (1909–1914). She was part of the 3rd Battle Squadron (1912–1913), which was detached from the Home Fleet for service in the Mediterranean during the First Balkan War in 1912–1913. She returned to the 3rd Battle Squadron for its World War I service in the Grand Fleet (1914), the Channel Fleet (1914), and Grand Fleet again (1914–1916). Britannia then served in the Adriatic Sea (1916–1917) and Atlantic (1917–1918). She was torpedoed and sunk just two days before the armistice, on 9 November 1918 by German submarine UB-50 off Cape Trafalgar, with the loss of 50 dead and 80 injured. She was the last British warship lost in World War I.[8]

HMS Commonwealth[edit]

Commonwealth served in the Atlantic Fleet (1905–1907), Channel Fleet (1907–1909), and Home Fleet (1909–1914). She was part of the 3rd Battle Squadron (1912–1917), which was detached from the Home Fleet for service in the Mediterranean during the First Balkan War in 1912–1913. The 3rd Battle Squadron's World War I service was in the Grand Fleet (1914), the Channel Fleet (1914), and Grand Fleet again (1914–1916), then in the Nore Command (1916–1917). Commonwealth served on the Northern Patrol (1918), then as a seagoing gunnery training ship (1918–1921). She was sold for scrapping in 1921.[9]

HMS Dominion[edit]

HMS Dominion and HMS Hibernia

Dominion served in the Atlantic Fleet (1905–1907), Channel Fleet (1907–1909), and Home Fleet (1909–1914). She was part of the 3rd Battle Squadron (1912–1918), which was detached from the Home Fleet for service in the Mediterranean during the First Balkan War in 1912–1913. The 3rd Battle Squadron's World War I service was in the Grand Fleet (1914), the Channel Fleet (1914), and Grand Fleet again (1914–1916), then in the Nore Command (1916–1918). Dominion served in subsidiary duties (1918–1919) and was sold for scrapping in 1921.[9]

HMS Hibernia[edit]

Hibernia served in the Atlantic Fleet (1906–1907), Channel Fleet (1907–1909), and Home Fleet (1909–1914); in 1912 she conducted experiments with flying off aircraft, She was part of the 3rd Battle Squadron (1912–1917), which was detached from the Home Fleet for service in the Mediterranean during the First Balkan War in 1912–1913. The 3rd Battle Squadron's World War I service was in the Grand Fleet (1914), the Channel Fleet (1914), Grand Fleet again (1914–1916)—Hibernia was part of a division of the squadron detached to the Dardanelles Campaign (1915–1916)—and Nore Command (1916–1917). Hibernia was in reserve 1917–1919 and was sold for scrapping in 1921.[7]

HMS Hindustan[edit]

Hindustan served in the Atlantic Fleet (1905–1907), Channel Fleet (1907–1909), and Home Fleet (1909–1914). She was part of the 3rd Battle Squadron (1912–1918), which was detached from the Home Fleet for service in the Mediterranean during the First Balkan War in 1912–1913. The 3rd Battle Squadron's World War I service was in the Grand Fleet (1914), the Channel Fleet (1914), and Grand Fleet again (1914–1916), then in the Nore Command (1916–1918). Hindustan then served in subsidiary duties (1918), went into reserve (1918–1919), and was sold for scrapping in 1921.[9]

HMS King Edward VII[edit]

King Edward VII, at the request of King Edward VII, was a flagship throughout her career. She served in the Atlantic Fleet (1905–1907), Channel Fleet (1907–1909), and Home Fleet (1908–1914). She was part of the 3rd Battle Squadron (1912–1916), which was detached from the Home Fleet for service in the Mediterranean during the First Balkan War in 1912–1913. The 3rd Battle Squadron's World War I service was in the Grand Fleet (1914), the Channel Fleet (1914), and Grand Fleet again (1914–1916). On 6 January 1916 she struck a mine off Cape Wrath; her engine rooms flooded and she capsized nine hours later and sank without loss of life.[10]

In August 2001 a team of British divers led by Deep shipwreck explorer Leigh Bishop and Captain John Thornton discovered the wreck location of the King Edward VII. Along with the international diving Team Starfish Enterprise successfully explored the wreck in a depth of 115m using open circuit scuba. The expedition marked a milestone in diving history being the first expedition of its kind to explore a shipwreck in European waters deeper than 100m by amateur divers.

HMS New Zealand[edit]

New Zealand served in the Atlantic Fleet (1905–1907), Channel Fleet (1907–1909), and Home Fleet (1909–1914); she was renamed Zealandia in 1911 to allow battlecruiser HMS New Zealand to use her original name. She was part of the 3rd Battle Squadron (1912–1917), which was detached from the Home Fleet for service in the Mediterranean during the First Balkan War in 1912–1913. The 3rd Battle Squadron's World War I service was in the Grand Fleet (1914), the Channel Fleet (1914), Grand Fleet again (1914–1916)—Zealandia was part of a division of the squadron detached to the Dardanelles Campaign (1915–1916)—and Nore Command (1916–1917). Zealandia was in reserve 1917–1919 and was sold for scrapping in 1921.[7]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905, p. 38; Burt agrees for Commonwealth and Dominion but provides different boiler arrangements for the other seven ships as follows: King Edward VII 10 Babcock and Wilcox and 3 cylindrical; Africa, Britannia, Hibernia, and Hindustan 18 Babcock and Wilcox and 3 cylindrical; New Zealand 18 Niclausse and 3 cylindrical
  2. ^ a b c Burt, p. 233
  3. ^ Burt, p. 229
  4. ^ a b c d Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905, p. 38
  5. ^ a b Burt, p. 235
  6. ^ a b Burt, pp. 246–258
  7. ^ a b c Burt, pp. 257–258
  8. ^ Burt, pp. 251, 253; Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 9
  9. ^ a b c Burt, pp. 255–256
  10. ^ Burt, pp. 246–249, 251

References[edit]

  • Burt, R. A. (1988). British Battleships 1889–1904. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-061-0. 
  • Chesneau, Roger; Kolesnik, Eugene M., eds. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. Greenwich, UK: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-8317-0302-4. 
  • Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Seaforth. ISBN 978-1-84832-100-7. 
  • Parkes, Oscar (1990). British Battleships (reprint of the 1957 edition ed.). Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-075-4. 

External links[edit]