HMS Superb (1907)

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For other ships with the same name, see HMS Superb.
HMS Superb
HMS Superb shortly after completion
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Superb
Ordered: 1906
Builder: Armstrong Whitworth
Yard number: 800
Laid down: 6 February 1907
Launched: 7 November 1907
Commissioned: 29 May 1909
Decommissioned: 26 March 1920
Fate: Sold for scrap 1922
General characteristics
Class and type: Bellerophon-class battleship
Displacement: 18,600 long tons (18,900 t) (normal); ~22,000 long tons (22,000 t) (full load)
Length: 490 ft (150 m) (p.p.); 526 ft (160 m) (o/a)
Beam: 82 ft 6 in (25.15 m)
Draught: 27 ft 3 in (8.31 m) (mean); 30 ft 11 in (9.42 m) (maximum)
Installed power: 25,375 shp (18,922 kW) (trials); 23,000 shp (17,000 kW) (service)
Speed: 21 kn (24 mph; 39 km/h) (trials); 20.75 kn (23.88 mph; 38.43 km/h) (service)
Range: 5,000 nmi (5,800 mi; 9,300 km) at 19 kn (22 mph; 35 km/h); 6,600 nmi (7,600 mi; 12,200 km) at 10 kn (12 mph; 19 km/h)
Capacity: Coal: 900 tons (normal), 2,648 tons (maximum); Fuel Oil: 842 tons; "Patent Fuel": 170 tons
Complement: 840
  • Belt: 9 to 10 in (230 to 250 mm) (lower, amidships); 8 in (200 mm) (upper, amidships); 6 to 7 in (150 to 180 mm) (upper and lower, bow); 5 in (130 mm) (stern)
  • Deck: .75 to 1.75 in (19 to 44 mm) (main); 1.75 to 3 in (44 to 76 mm) (middle); 1.5 to 4 in (38 to 102 mm) (lower)
  • Bulkhead: 8 in (200 mm) (aft)
  • Barbettes: 9 to 10 in (230 to 250 mm)
  • Turrets: 11 in (280 mm)
  • Conning Tower: 11 in (280 mm) (fore); 8 in (200 mm) (aft)

HMS Superb was a Bellerophon-class battleship of the British Royal Navy. She was built in Elswick at a cost of £1,744,287, and was completed on 19 June 1909.[1] She was only the fourth dreadnought-type battleship to be completed anywhere in the world, being preceded only by HMS Dreadnought and by her two sister ships HMS Bellerophon and HMS Temeraire.


The advent of HMS Dreadnought produced a significant pause in the battleship building programmes of France, Germany and The United States of America, caused by the realisation that new ships would have to match her capabilities.[2] In order to capitalise on this pause the succeeding class of ships, the Bellerophon-class battleships were built to a design only marginally modified from that of Dreadnought. The same main armament was retained, in the same distribution; the same machinery was installed. There were minor design improvements; the tripod foremast was placed forward of the forefunnel, to reduce the likelihood of the topmast spotting position being smoked out; and the mainmast became a full-size tripod, unlike the diminutive mainmast carried by Dreadnought. As this mast was placed forward of the after funnel, however, the spotting position it carried was itself likely to be rendered unusable by funnel exhaust.[3]


The main armament consisted of ten 12-inch (305mm) 45 calibre Mark X guns, with Mark VIII mountings, arranged in five double turrets. The forward turret, or "A" turret, was positioned on the forecastle. It had an unobstructed arc of fire of 270 degrees over the bow. A pair of turrets ("P" and "Q") were positioned, one on either beam, on the maindeck, level with a point between the fore and aft funnels. They had a nominal arc of fire of 180 degrees, from directly forward to directly aft, but in practice firing too close to the superstructure caused unacceptable damage to it. There was no possibility of firing across the deck on the opposite beam. "X" turret was placed at maindeck level between the after funnel and the after superstructure. It had an arc of fire of some 120 degrees on either beam but could not fire either directly aft or forward. "Y" turret was situated on the quarterdeck, also at maindeck level, and had an arc of fire over the stern of some 300 degrees. Eighty rounds per gun were carried.[4]

For defence against small craft attacking with torpedoes Dreadnought was armed with guns of 3-inch calibre, usually referred to as 12-pounders. This was at the insistence of Admiral Fisher, at that time the First Sea Lord.[5] This was generally regarded as being too small, and Superb and her sisters received sixteen 4-inch (102mm) 50-calibre Mark III guns, eight mounted singly in the superstructure and eight disposed in pairs on the roofs of "A", "P", "Q" and "Y" turrets.[6] During a refit in 1916 the guns on the turret roofs were removed, and relocated in the superstructure to form eight double-decked units of two guns each. In 1917 three guns were removed for distribution to small warcraft to be used for commerce protection, and one four-inch anti-aircraft gun and one three-inch anti-aircraft gun were installed right aft.

As built, Superb carried three torpedo tubes of 18-inch calibre, one discharging on either beam and one astern. The stern torpedo tube was removed at the 1916 refit.[7]

Four 3-pounder saluting guns were also carried.


The waterline armour ran in a continuous belt from stem to stern of the ship. The portion protecting the citadel, running from a point level with the centre of "A" barbette to a point level with the centre of "Y" barbette, was ten inches thick and seven foot six inches deep. At normal load five foot two inches of this belt was below the waterline. An upper belt of eight inches thickness ran immediately above the main belt and for the same extent. The top edge was eight feet six inches above the waterline in normal load conditions.[8] Both upper and main belts extended forward to the bow, the thickness of this extension being seven inches tapering to six. At the after end of the ship the main belt continued to the stern in a strake of five inch thickness; the upper belt did not extend past "Y" barbette.[9]

The barbettes were protected by nine-inch armour above the armour deck, and five-inch below. The outer sides of "P" and "Q" barbettes, which were seen to be at greater risk by being situated immediately adjacent to the hull, received ten-inch armour plate. The turret faces had the strongest armour of any part of the ship, being eleven inches thick. The turret roofs were three-inch plate.

There were three armoured decks. The upper, known as the maindeck, was only lightly armoured with between one half and three-quarter inch protection. The middle deck was one and three-quarters inches thick, increased over the after magazines to three inches. The lower deck, which was below the waterline, was one and a half inches thick, increasing to four inches over the magazines and machinery spaces.[10]

A transverse bulkhead of eight-inch armour ran obliquely across the after end of the ship, extending from the end of the main belt to the after extent of the armour of "Y" turret. There was no forward transverse bulkhead.

The conning tower was protected by armour eleven inches thick on the forward aspect and eight inches elsewhere.[11]

Superb' and her sisters were the first battleships to be designed and built with an anti-torpedo bulkhead as an integral part of the design.[12] These bulkheads, one on either side, ran continuously from the fore to aft magazines, and extended from the lower deck down to the double bottom of the hull of the ship. The thickness varied from one inches to three, being greatest at the level of the more vulnerable magazines.[13] It had been reported during the war between Russia and Japan of 1905 that major warships hit by either torpedo or mine were only sunk as a result of these strikes if the magazines exploded. These bulkheads were designed to minimise this risk.[14]


There were four shafts, each one driven directly by a Parsons turbine. Steam was provided by eighteen Babcock boilers with an operating pressure of 235 pounds per square inch (psi). The designed shaft horse power (SHP) was 23,000, and the design maximum speed was 20.75 knots.[15] Maximum fuel load was 2,648 tons of coal and 840 tons of oil; the radius of action was 4,230 nautical miles at eighteen knots, burning coal with oil sprayed onto it, and 5,720 nautical miles at ten knots, also using a fuel mixture. The design of boiler in use did not permit the burning of oil as sole fuel.[16]


Superb leading Lord Nelson, Agamemnon and the rest of the fleet
Superb underway, 1917

Having been ordered on 26 December 1906 and laid down on 6 February 1907 she was only completed in May 1909. Her building was significantly delayed by labour disputes in the dockyard.[17] She was commissioned at Portsmouth on 29 May 1909 into the first division of the Grand Fleet. She undertook normal peacetime exercises with other units of the fleet, and on 24 June 1911 was present at the Coronation fleet review. On 1 May the first division became the First Battle Squadron. She continued routine peacetime activity until 29 July 1914 when the Grand Fleet relocated to its war base at Scapa Flow. On 10 November 1915 Superb was transferred to the Fourth Battle Squadron, which changed her place in the command structure but not her geographical location. At the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916 Superb was the flagship of the fourth battle squadron, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Alexander Ludovic Duff.[18] She received no hits and sustained no casualties. She saw no other active service during the First World War; routine exercises continued until 1918. In October 1918 she was sent to reinforce the British Eastern Mediterranean Squadron, and in November, as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Gough-Calthorpe, led a combined Franco-British force through the Dardanelles to Constantinople (now Istanbul) after the signing by Turkey of the armistice at the conclusion of the war. In April 1919 she was relieved and sailed for England, and on 26 April 1919 was reduced to reserve status at Sheerness. In May 1922 she was used as a gunnery target, and later in the year as a target for aerial attack. In December 1922 she was sold to Stanlee Shipbreaking Company of Dover, and was towed to Dover where she was broken up.[19] Her ship's bell is exhibited at Melford Hall, a National Trust property in Suffolk.


  1. ^
  2. ^ British Battleships Oscar Parkes p. 497 ISBN 0-85052-604-3
  3. ^ All the World fighting Ships 1906-1921 Conway p.22 ISBN 0-87021-907-3
  4. ^ British Battleships of World War One R.A. Burt pp. 64-66 ISBN 0-85368-771-4
  5. ^ Parkes p. 475
  6. ^ Parkes p.499
  7. ^ Parkes p. 499
  8. ^ Burt p. 62
  9. ^ Parkes p. 498
  10. ^ Burt p. 62
  11. ^ Parkes p. 498
  12. ^ Parkes p.499
  13. ^ Burt p.62
  14. ^ Parkes p. 500
  15. ^ Jane's Fighting Ships 1914 Fred T. Jane p.40 ISBN 0-7153-4377-7
  16. ^ Burt p.64
  17. ^ Burt p. 72
  18. ^ Parkes p. 502
  19. ^ Burt p. 73
  • Taylor, Michael J.H. (1990). Jane's Fighting Ships of World War I. Studio. ISBN 1-85170-378-0. 

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