Active-class cruiser

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HMS Active underway.jpg
Class overview
Name: Active
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Blonde class
Succeeded by: None
Built: 1910–13
In commission: 1911–21
Completed: 3
Lost: 1
Scrapped: 2
General characteristics (as built)
Type: Scout cruiser
Displacement: 3,340 long tons (3,390 t) (normal)
Length: 405 ft (123.4 m) (o/a)
Beam: 41 ft (12.5 m)
Draught: 14 ft 6 in (4.4 m)
Installed power:
Speed: 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph)
Range: 4,630 nautical miles (8,570 km; 5,330 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 293

The Active-class cruiser was a trio of scout cruisers built for the Royal Navy in the first decade of the 20th century. The three ships that made up the class were HMS Active, HMS Amphion and HMS Fearless.

Design and description[edit]

They were the last class of scout cruisers built for the Royal Navy as they were too slow to lead destroyers in battle or to defend the fleet against enemy destroyer attacks. The Active class was a slightly improved version of the previous Blonde class scouts, with the main visible difference being the new 'plough' bow changed to improve their seakeeping abilities. Two of the three were ordered under the 1910–1911 Naval Programme and the last in the following naval programme.[1]

Displacing 3,340 long tons (3,390 t), the ships had an overall length of 405 feet (123.4 m), a beam of 41 feet (12.5 m) and a deep draught of 14 feet 6 inches (4.4 m). They were powered by two sets of Parsons steam turbines, each driving two shafts. The turbines produced a total of 18,000 indicated horsepower (13,000 kW), using steam produced by 12 Yarrow boilers that burned both fuel oil and coal, and gave a maximum speed of 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph). They carried a maximum of 855 long tons (869 t) of coal and 200 long tons (200 t) of fuel oil that gave them a range of 4,630 nautical miles (8,570 km; 5,330 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph). Her crew consisted of 293 officers and enlisted men.[2]

The main armament of the Active class consisted of ten breech-loading (BL) four-inch Mk VII guns. The forward pair of guns were mounted side by side on a platform on the forecastle, six were amidships, three on each broadside, and the two remaining guns were on the centreline of the quarterdeck, one ahead of the other.[3] The guns fired their 31-pound (14 kg) shells to a range of about 11,400 yards (10,400 m).[4] Her secondary armament was four quick-firing (QF) three-pounder (47 mm (1.9 in)) Vickers Mk I guns and two submerged 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes. In 1918, two 4-inch guns were removed from Active and Fearless. A QF three-inch 20 cwt[Note 1] anti-aircraft gun was added to Active in 1916; Fearless receiving her own two years later.[5]

As scout cruisers, the ships were only lightly protected to maximize their speed. They had a curved protective deck that was one inch (25 mm) thick on the slope and .5 inches (13 mm) on the flat.[2] Their conning tower was protected by four inches of armour.[3]


All three ships started the war with the Harwich Force, and saw action in a number of engagements, with Amphion becoming the first ship of the Royal Navy lost in the war, when she was sunk by a mine on 6 August 1914. Fearless later became leader of the 12th Submarine Flotilla that consisted of notoriously accident-prone K-class steam submarines, accidentally ramming and sinking HMS K17 in January 1918. Already considered obsolete as the war was drawing to a close, the two survivors were sold for scrapping in the early 1920s.[5]


  1. ^ "Cwt" is the abbreviation for hundredweight, 20 cwt referring to the weight of the gun.


  1. ^ Friedman 2009, pp. 111–13
  2. ^ a b Friedman 2009, p. 295
  3. ^ a b Gardiner & Gray, p. 50
  4. ^ Friedman 2011, pp. 75–76
  5. ^ a b Gardiner & Gray, p. 53


  • Corbett, Julian. Naval Operations to the Battle of the Falklands. History of the Great War: Based on Official Documents I (2nd, reprint of the 1938 ed.). London and Nashville, Tennessee: Imperial War Museum and Battery Press. ISBN 0-89839-256-X. 
  • Friedman, Norman (2009). British Destroyers From Earliest Days to the Second World War. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-1-59114-081-8. 
  • Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Seaforth. ISBN 978-1-84832-100-7. 
  • Gardiner, Robert & Gray, Randal, eds. (1984). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1921. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-85177-245-5. 

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