HMS Monarch (1911)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Monarch.
Ships of the 2nd Battle Squadron
HMS Monarch firing her 13.5 inch guns
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Monarch
Builder: Armstrong, Elswick
Cost: £1,888,736
Yard number: 828
Laid down: 1 April 1910[1]
Launched: 30 March 1911[1]
Commissioned: February 1912
Decommissioned: 1921
Struck: 20 January 1925
Fate: Sunk as a target
General characteristics
Class and type: Orion-class battleship
Displacement: 22,000 tons standard
25,870 tons max
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 Monarch 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 was used as an experimental and target ship. She was sunk by HMS Revenge in 1925.

Following the Colossus class, Britain's next class of battleship were the Orion class. 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.

With the possibility of war looming the cost savings made by limiting the displacement of 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 hitting power in the later variants of Dreadnought the barrels of the 12 inch guns had been lengthened to increase the muzzle velocity and hence the range and impact energy. This was, however, a less satisfactory gun with poor accuracy due to excessive muzzle droop and with a short active life due to higher wear levels. In the 13.5 inch gun a return to lower muzzle velocities was made, the hitting power being increased by the greater weight of the shell fired by the bigger gun, making it a more accurate and more powerful weapon.

Design and description[edit]

Compared to the Colossus-class battleships, the Orion-class 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 aft funnel being broader, and fore mast being placed aft of the smaller forward funnel. This resulted in the fire control top at the mast head being heavily affected by smoke, heat and gasses from the funnel, which had also been a problem in the Dreadnought and Colossus classes. The problem facing the designers was where to place the foremast? Place it in front of the funnel so that the spotting top would be clear of smoke and heat with a head wind, and that would lead to the problem of where to put the derrick needed to hoist the boats. The Orion designers 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 ships boats. To partially alleviate the smoke and heat problem the fore funnel was made smaller than the aft one by only venting six boilers into it, the remaining twelve venting via the aft funnel.

One other feature of the ships, their beam, 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 a design compromise had to be made; the bilge keels were reduced in size. It was recognised that the ships could be expected to roll heavily, but if reports in the tabloids of the times were to be believed the class would capsize in any sea. In reality the rolling, whilst undesirable, was not that severe and the class were fitted with bilge keels which were adequate for their design function if not perfect for it.

General characteristics[edit]

Monarch was 177.08 metres (581.0 ft) long overall. She had a maximum beam of 26.8 metres (88 ft) and had a draught of 8.4 metres (28 ft). She had a displacement of 22,200 tonnes at normal load and 25,870 tonnes at full load.

Building data[edit]

Ordered under the 1909 naval estimates, Monarch was built at a cost of £ 1,888,736 by W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth and Company Ltd, at their Walker Shipyard, Newcastle on the Tyne. Was laid down on the 1 April 1910, launched on 30 March 1911 and commissioned in February 1912


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 outboard 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 shaft horsepower (shp) giving 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph) but on trials she developed 33,198 shp for 22.13 knots (40.98 km/h; 25.47 mph).


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" and "Y") in that to prevent muzzle blast of the two upper turrets ("B" and "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 VL, 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 (16 m) 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, and so good were these weapons that they were still in use during World War II as shore guns at Dover. Although of a calibre just 1.5 inch larger than the earlier 12 inch gun it fired a shell weighing 1,266.5 pounds (574.5 kg) against the 859 pounds (390 kg) of the earlier gun. Although of lower muzzle velocity than the 12 C50 gun the 13.5 C45 weapon’s heavier shell maintained its in-flight velocity to a greater range 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 pounds (640 kg) shell, although this lowered the wear rate to 220 rounds per gun.

Using a charge of 293 pounds (133 kg) of cordite, ranges of just short of 24,000 yards (22,000 m) were achieved at 20 degrees elevation, although this was of little real use as 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 (45,000 m) using 400 pounds (180 kg) of propellant; what this did to the wear rate is unknown.

Secondary battery[edit]

The secondary battery guns on Monarch were rather weak, comprising sixteen 4 inch C50 Mk7 installed in 14 casemate mounts and two open mounts. They fired a 31 pounds (14 kg) shell to 11,500 yards (10,500 m) and a good crew could achieve a rate of fire of 8 rounds per minute but normally this would be 6 rounds per minute. This weapon lacked the stopping power to prevent a determined attacking torpedo boat.

Four 3-pounder signalling guns were also added to Monarch.

Projectile details[edit]

The ship carried three types and weights of shell.

  • Common Percussion Capped - weighed 1,250 pounds (570 kg) - bursting charge of 117 pounds (53 kg)
  • Armour Piercing Capped - weighed 1,266.5 pounds (574.5 kg) - bursting charge of 30–40 pounds (14–18 kg)
  • High explosive - weighed 1,250 pounds (570 kg) - bursting charge of 176.5 pounds (80.1 kg)

At 10,000 yards (9,100 m) the Armour Piercing Capped shell could penetrate just over 12 inches (300 mm) of Krupp cemented armour plate.

Five Mk2 turrets were fitted to Monarch; these were very similar to those fitted on the earlier 12 inch 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 while 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 was effected by a 9 feet 6 inches (2.90 m) co-incidence type rangefinder in the fire control tower high in the ship, this data was fed into a Dreyer Table (invented and developed by Frederic Charles Dreyer). This was an early mechanical computer into which was fed range and bearing of the target, wind speed and direction, own course and speed, target's course and speed, ambient temperature and adjustments for Coriolis effect; this produced a firing solution which was fed electrically to the guns where the gun layers would follow the pointers. When the guns were loaded the interceptor switches would be closed and gun ready lamps would light in the fire control tower; when all guns were ready they would be fired electrically by the gunnery officer.

Torpedo armament[edit]

This remained the same as the earlier Colossus class with three submerged 21 inches (530 mm) torpedo tubes, one firing on each beam and one astern. The torpedoes used by the Orion-class battleships were the Whitehead 21 inch Mk2, which had a range of 4,000 yards (3,700 m) at 35 knots (65 km/h; 40 mph) or 5,500 yards (5,000 m) at 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) and had a TNT warhead of about 400 pounds (180 kg).


At the time of the design of Orion, the largest calibre of gun carried by battleships of other nations was 12 inches. It was believed, however, that as part of the continuing trend to increasing size in this class of warship, calibres would inevitably rise.[2] Orion and her sisters therefore received heavier and more extensive armour than had been carried by earlier British dreadnoughts.

The main waterline belt was 12 inches (300 mm) 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 3 feet 4 inches (1.02 m) below the waterline at normal displacement.[3] Above this belt was an upper belt of 8 inches (200 mm) 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 20 feet 6 inches (6.25 m).[3] Forward of "A" barbette the belt was extended by a short length of armour of 6 inches (150 mm) in thickness tapering to four; and the after end of the belt continued as a short strake 2.5 inches (64 mm) 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 1–1.75 inches (25–44 mm), and was intended to prevent mine or torpedo detonation from causing magazine explosion.[4]

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 2.5 inches (64 mm) 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 8 inches (200 mm) thick between the forecastle deck and maindeck levels, and 6 inches (150 mm) 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 1.5 inches (38 mm) armour, the middle deck was 1 inch (25 mm) thick, and the lower deck was 2.5 inches (64 mm) tapering to one inch forward, and 4 inches (100 mm) tapering to three aft. The greater thickness was over the magazines and machinery.[4]

The faces of the main armament turrets were 11 inches (280 mm) thick, the turret crowns being 4 inches (100 mm) tapering to 3 inches (76 mm). The barbettes were 10 inches (250 mm) thick at their maximum, tapering to 7 inches (180 mm), 5 inches (130 mm) or 3 inches (76 mm) in areas where adjacent armoured structures or armoured decks afforded some protection.[5]

The conning tower was protected by 11 inches (280 mm) of armour, tapering to 3 inches (76 mm) in less vulnerable areas.

Service History[edit]

On her commissioning in Feb 1912, Monarch was the second of the Orion class to be completed, she was followed by the Thunderer in June and Conqueror in November of the same year, together they formed the second division of the 2nd Battle Squadron. Pre-war their lives were typical of any other major warship in the British fleet with fleet manoeuvres and battle practice.

Early in World War I, Monarch was unsuccessfully attacked by the German submarine U-15, on 8 August 1914 and off the Fair Isle channel, U-15, an early gasoline engined boat, was sighted on the surface by the cruiser HMS Birmingham, after Birmingham opened fire the submarine commenced diving, the cruiser then rammed the submarine which was lost with all 25 of her men, it was U-15‍ '​s first and last patrol.

On 27 December 1914 Monarch rammed Conqueror suffering moderate damage to her bow, she received temporary repairs at Scapa Flow before proceeding to Devonport for full repairs, she rejoined her sister-ships on 20 January 1915. Conqueror was also seriously damaged in this collision. At the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916 all four of the Orion-class ships were present under the leadership of Rear Admiral Arthur Leveson flying his flag in the Orion; his CO was Captain O. Backhouse. Monarch was commanded by Captain G.H. Borret. Monarch‍ '​s first action at Jutland came at 1833 when she sighted five German battleships, three König and two Kaiser-class ships. She opened with Armour Piercing Capped shells at the leading König-class ship, but could only fire two salvoes before the König ships disappeared. She then fired a further salvo at the leading Kaiser-class ship. Although claiming a ‘straddle’ on the leading König, she actually scored one hit on SMS König herself. This 13.5 inch shell hit the 6.75 inches (171 mm) casemate side armour in way of Number 1 port 5.9 inch gun, the shell burst on the armour blowing a hole some 3 by 2 feet (0.91 m × 0.61 m) in size. Most of the blast went downwards, blowing a 10 feet (3.0 m) square hole in the 1.5 inches (38 mm) thick armoured upper-deck; the deck was also driven down over a large area. Several charges for the 5.9 inch gun were ignited and burnt including those in the hoists to Number 14 magazine, but the fires did not penetrate the magazine. The crew of the gun had a lucky escape as an earlier nearby hit had forced them to evacuate the gun-house due to gas from the explosion and so no injuries were incurred. The gun however whilst largely undamaged had its sights and control cables destroyed. In 1914 Monarch sighted the German battlecruiser SMS Lützow and opened on her with five salvos of Armour Piercing Capped shells at a range of 17,300 yards (15,800 m) increasing to 18,500 yards (16,900 m); straddles were claimed but no hits before the target was lost in smoke and spray. There were five hits on Lützow at this time and they could only have been fired by either Orion or Monarch. Lützow was in serious trouble and was only saved from further serious damage by the actions of her escorting destroyers in making smoke and shielding her from view. This was effectively the end of the battle for the Orion class as the German high seas fleet was in retreat to the south under cover of smoke and a torpedo attack by their destroyers which for a while had the British fleet turned away to the north to avoid the torpedoes. In total Monarch fired 53 rounds of 13.5 inch shell all of which were Armour Piercing Capped shells. Like the rest of her sister ships she did not use her 4 inch secondary batteries, and also like the rest of her sister ships she received no damage or injuries. After the Battle of Jutland the German High Seas Fleet put in very few appearances on the North sea so life for the British fleet became mainly sweeps and patrols of the North Sea.

Target ship[edit]

On 14 June 1924, Monarch was assigned her final role, that of target ship. She was decommissioned and stripped of anything valuable including scrap metals at Portsmouth Dockyard. She was then towed out by dockyard tugs into Hurd's Deep in the English Channel approximately 50 miles (80 km) south of the Isles of Scilly and on 21 January 1925 was attacked by a wave of Royal Air Force bombers, which scored several hits; this was followed by the C-class light cruisers Caledon, Calliope, Carysfort, and Curacoa firing shells of 6-inch (152-mm) caliber, and the V and W-class destroyer Vectis, using her guns of 4-inch (102-mm) calibre. Following this exercise, the battlecruisers Hood and Repulse and the five Revenge-class battleships Ramillies, Resolution, Revenge, Royal Oak, and Royal Sovereign commenced firing at her with their 15-inch (381-mm) guns. The number of hits on Monarch is unknown, but after nine hours of shelling she finally sank at 2200 after a final hit by Revenge.


  1. ^ a b The Times (London), Thursday, 30 March 1911, p.8
  2. ^ Parkes p.527
  3. ^ a b Burt p. 136
  4. ^ a b Parkes p. 500
  5. ^ Parkes p.524


  • Parkes, Oscar (1990) [1956]. British Battleships : Warrior to Vanguard 1860-1950 - A History of Design, Construction and Armament. ISBN 0 850 526043. 
  • Burt, Ray (2012). British Battleships of World War One. Seaforth Publishing. ISBN 978 1 84832 147 2. 

External links[edit]