HMS Kent (1901)
Kent leaving Portsmouth
|Builder:||Portsmouth Royal Dockyard|
|Laid down:||12 February 1900|
|Launched:||6 March 1901|
|Completed:||1 October 1903|
|Fate:||Sold for scrap, 20 June 1920|
|Class and type:||Monmouth-class armoured cruiser|
|Displacement:||9,800 long tons (10,000 t) (normal)|
|Length:||463 ft 6 in (141.3 m) (o/a)|
|Beam:||66 ft (20.1 m)|
|Draught:||25 ft (7.6 m)|
|Speed:||23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph)|
HMS Kent was one of 10 Monmouth-class armoured cruisers built for the Royal Navy in the first decade of the 20th century. She was placed in reserve when completed in 1903, but was recommissioned for the China Station in 1906. She remained there until she returned home in 1913 for a lengthy refit.
At the beginning of World War I in August 1914, she was still refitting. In October Kent was ordered to the South Atlantic to join Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock's squadron in their search for the German East Asia Squadron, but arrived at the Falkland Islands after the British squadron had been destroyed in the Battle of Coronel. During the subsequent Battle of the Falkland Islands, the ship sank a German light cruiser. Several months later she discovered the sole surviving German ship from that battle and forced Dresden to scuttle herself in the Battle of Más a Tierra. She was briefly assigned to the China Station in mid-1915, but returned home several months later to begin convoy escort duties until mid-1918 when she returned to the China Station. In early 1919 the ship was deployed to Vladivostok to support the Siberian Intervention during the Russian Civil War. Kent was sold for scrap in 1920.
Design and description
Kent was designed to displace 9,800 long tons (10,000 t). The ship had an overall length of 463 feet 6 inches (141.3 m), a beam of 66 feet (20.1 m) and a deep draught of 25 feet (7.6 m). She was powered by two 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines, each driving one shaft, which produced a total of 22,000 indicated horsepower (16,000 kW) designed to give a maximum speed of 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph). Kent, however, was one of three of the Monmouths that failed to meet her designed speed. The engines were powered by 31 Belleville boilers. She carried a maximum of 1,600 long tons (1,600 t) of coal and her complement consisted of 678 officers and enlisted men.
Her main armament consisted of fourteen breech-loading (BL) 6-inch Mk VII guns. Four of these guns were mounted in two twin-gun turrets, one each fore and aft of the superstructure and the others positioned in casemates amidships. Six of these were mounted on the main deck and were only usable in calm weather. They had a maximum range of approximately 12,200 yards (11,200 m) with their 100-pound (45 kg) shells. Ten quick-firing (QF) 12-pounder 12 cwt guns were fitted for defence against torpedo boats. Kent also carried three 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns and two submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes.
Beginning in 1915, the main deck six-inch guns of the Monmouth-class ships were moved to the upper deck and given gun shields. Their casemates were plated over to improve seakeeping. The twelve-pounder guns displaced by the transfer were repositioned elsewhere. At some point in the war, a pair of three-pounder anti-aircraft guns were installed on the upper deck.
The ship's waterline armour belt had a maximum thickness of four inches (102 mm) and was closed off by five-inch (127 mm) transverse bulkheads. The armour of the gun turrets and their barbettes was four inches thick while the casemate armour was five inches thick. The protective deck armour ranged in thickness from .75–2 inches (19–51 mm) and the conning tower was protected by ten inches (254 mm) of armour.
Construction and service
Kent, named to commemorate the English county, was laid down at Portsmouth Royal Dockyard on 12 February 1900 and launched on 6 March 1901 (one day late due to weather), when she was christened by Lady Hotham, wife of Admiral Sir Charles Frederick Hotham, GCB, Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. She was completed on 1 October 1903 and was initially placed in reserve. On 15 March 1905 she ran aground in the Firth of Forth. The ship was assigned to the China Station between 1906 and 1913 and returned to Portsmouth Dockyard for a refit in September 1913.
She was still refitting in August 1914 when the war began and was ordered south to join Cradock's squadron searching for the East Asia Squadron after completing her sea trials in October. Kent, however, was diverted en route to hunt for the German light cruiser Karlsruhe in the Cape Verde — Canary Islands area. After the news of the disastrous Battle of Coronel reached the Admiralty in early November, she was ordered to resume her original mission. She joined Rear Admiral Archibald Stoddart's force at the Abrolhos Archipelago by 17 November and then proceeded to the Falkland Islands with the squadron commanded by Vice-Admiral Doveton Sturdee.
Battle of the Falklands
Upon arrival at Port Stanley on 7 December, Sturdee ordered Kent to anchor in the outer harbour and be prepared to relieve the armed merchant cruiser Macedonia as the harbour guardship the following morning. He planned to recoal the entire squadron the following day from the two available colliers and to begin the search for the East Asia Squadron the day after. Vice-Admiral Maximilian von Spee, commander of the German squadron, had other plans and intended to destroy the radio station at Port Stanley on the morning of 8 December. The appearance of two German ships at 07:30 caught Sturdee's ships by surprise although they were driven off by 12-inch (300 mm) shells fired by the predreadnought battleship Canopus when they came within range around 09:20. Kent, though, had been ordered out of the harbour at 08:10 to protect Macedonia and keep the Germans under observation. This gave time for the squadron to raise steam, although the cruisers had not yet begun to recoal. The squadron cleared the harbour by 10:30 and Sturdee ordered, "general chase". His two battlecruisers were the fastest ships present and inexorably began to close on the German cruisers. They opened fire at 12:55 and began to straddle the light cruiser Leipzig, the rear ship in the German formation. It was clear to Spee that his ships could not outrun the battlecruisers and that the only hope for any of his ships to survive was to scatter. So he turned his two armoured cruisers around to buy time by engaging the battlecruisers and ordered his three light cruisers to disperse at 13:20.
In accordance with Sturdee's plans, Kent, her sister ship, Cornwall, and the light cruiser Glasgow immediately set off in pursuit while the battlecruisers and the slow armoured cruiser Carnarvon dealt with the German armoured cruisers. At 14:45 Glasgow, the fastest of the British cruisers, was close enough to Leipzig to open fire and the two ships exchanged salvos and scoring the occasional hit. An hour later, the Germans scattered in different directions; Cornwall and Glasgow pursued Leipzig while Kent went after Nürnberg. Short on coal, her crew threw in everything burnable, and she reached 24 knots (44 km/h; 28 mph) in her pursuit; she closed to within 11,000 yards (10,000 m) when the German cruiser opened fire at 17:00. Kent replied nine minutes later with her forward guns; neither ship hit anything at that time. At 17:35 two of Nürnburg's worn-out boilers burst, which reduced her speed to 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph). As Kent continued to close, the German ship turned about for a fight when the range was only 4,000 yards (3,700 m). Most of the German 105-millimetre (4.1 in) shells failed to damage the British ship, but one did burst inside a gun position, killing or wounding most of the its crew, and another burst inside the wireless compartment and knocked out her radio transmitter. The British shells battered Nürnburg severely; she was dead in the water by 18:25 with only two guns able to fire. Ten minutes later not a gun could shoot and the cruiser was aflame. She did not strike her colours until 18:57 and then lowered a boat filled with some of her wounded men. It promptly sank and Kent had to repair the splinter holes in her own boats before they could be launched. Nürnburg capsized half an hour later and Kent continued to search until 21:00, but only rescued a dozen men, five of whom later died. She had been hit 37 times, but none of them penetrated her armour; four crewmen were killed and twelve wounded during the battle. Kent was critically short of coal and had to steam slowly enough that she did not arrive at Port Stanley until the following afternoon.
Battle of Más a Tierra
Sturdee's ships continued to search for Dresden even after he returned to England. The German cruiser successfully evaded the searching British for months by hiding in the maze of bays and channels surrounding Tierra del Fuego. She began moving up the Chilean coast in February 1915 until she was unexpectedly spotted by Kent at a range of 11,000 yards on 8 March when a fog burned off. The British cruiser tried to close the distance, but Dresden managed to break contact after a five-hour chase. Kent, however, intercepted a message during the pursuit from Dresden to one of her colliers to meet her at Robinson Crusoe Island in the Juan Fernández Islands. Dresden arrived there the next day, virtually out of coal.
International law allowed the German ship a stay of 24 hours before she would have to leave or be interned and her captain claimed that his engines were disabled which extended the deadline to eight days. In the meantime, Kent had summoned Glasgow and the two ships entered Cumberland Bay in the island on the morning of 14 March and found Dresden at anchor. The German ship trained her guns on the British ships and Glasgow opened fire, Captain John Luce justifying his action by deeming it an unfriendly act by an interned ship that had frequently violated Chilean neutrality. Dresden hoisted a white flag four minutes later as she was already on fire and holed at her waterline. A boat brought Lieutenant Wilhelm Canaris to Glasgow to complain that his ship was under Chilean protection. Luce told him that the question of neutrality could be settled by diplomats and that he would destroy the German ship unless she surrendered. By the time that Canaris returned to Dresden, her crew had finished preparations for scuttling and abandoned ship after opening her Kingston valves. It took 20 minutes before the cruiser capsized to port and sank. The British shells had killed one midshipman and eight sailors and wounded three officers and twelve enlisted men.
Kent was briefly assigned to the China Station later that month before returning to the United Kingdom in May. She then began escorting convoys and continued until she returned to the China Station in July 1918. Shortly before she departed, she was escorting two Union-Castle Line steamers from South Africa, Durham Castle and Kenilworth Castle, on 4 June together with five destroyers when Kenilworth Castle collided with the destroyer Rival while trying to avoid Kent.
She was sent to Vladivostok in January 1919 to support American and Japanese forces in action against the Bolsheviks. Kent was listed for sale at Hong Kong in March 1920 and sold for scrap on 20 June.
- "Cwt" is the abbreviation for hundredweight, 12 cwt referring to the weight of the gun.
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