Monmouth-class cruiser

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HMS Suffolk
HMS Suffolk
Class overview
Name: Monmouth
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Drake class
Succeeded by: Devonshire class
In commission: 1903–1921
Completed: 10
Lost: 2
Scrapped: 8
General characteristics
Type: 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)
Installed power:
Speed: 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph)
Complement: 678

The Monmouth class was a ten-ship class of 10,000 ton armoured cruisers built around 1901 to 1903 for the Royal Navy and designed specifically for commerce protection. The ships were also referred to as County-class cruisers as they carried the names of British counties.


Left elevation and deck plan as depicted in Jane's Fighting Ships 1914
Aft port casemate guns on Berwick, illustrating the unfortunate positioning

Expected only to fight light cruisers and armed merchant ships, the class was armed with fourteen 6-inch guns at a time when most British armoured cruisers also carried at least a pair of 9.2-inch guns: Four of the guns were mounted in two twin turrets at a good height, the remaining ten were installed in hull-mounted casemates, five on each side. The lower casemate guns were just a few feet above water, making them impossible to use in heavy seas. Sir John Fisher commented that "Sir William White designed the County class but forgot the guns."[1] On the other hand, they were relatively fast ships for their time.

Building programme[edit]

The following table gives the build details and purchase cost of the members of the Monmouth class. Standard British practice at that time was for these costs to exclude armament and stores. The compilers of The Naval Annual revised costs quoted for British ships between the 1905 and 1906 editions. The reasons for the differences are unclear.[2]

Ship Builder Engine
Date of Cost according to
Laid Down Launch Completion (BNA 1905)[3] (BNA 1906)[4]
Monmouth London and Glasgow Shipping Company London & Glasgow
Shipping Company
29 Aug 1899 13 Nov 1901 2 Dec 1903 £709,085 £979,591
Bedford Fairfield, Govan Fairfield 19 Feb 1900 31 Aug 1901 11 Nov 1903 £734,330 £706,020
Essex Pembroke Dockyard J Brown 1 Jan 1900 29 Aug 1901 22 Mar 1903 £770,325 £736,557
Kent Portsmouth Dockyard Hawthorn 12 Feb 1900 6 Mar 1901 1 Oct 1903 £733,940 £700,283
Berwick W. Beardmore
& Company
Humphrys 19 Apr 1901 20 Sep 1902 9 Dec 1903 £776,868 £750,984
Cornwall Pembroke Dockyard Hawthorne 11 Mar 1901 29 Oct 1902 1 Dec 1904 £789,421 £756,274
Cumberland London & Glasgow
Shipping Company, Glasgow
London & Glasgow
Shipping Company
19 Feb 1901 16 Dec 1902 1 Dec 1904 £751,508 £718,168
Donegal Fairfield, Govan Fairfield 14 Feb 1901 4 Sep 1902 5 Nov 1903 £752,964 £715,947
Lancaster Armstrongs, Elswick Hawthorn 4 Mar 1901 22 Mar 1903 5 Apr 1904 £763,084 £732,858
Suffolk Portsmouth Dockyard Humphrys 25 Mar 1901 15 Jan 1903 21 May 1904 £783,054 £722,681


Upon completion, the ships served briefly in home waters before being assigned to various oversea stations (China, Halifax, and the Caribbean). During this time HMS Bedford was wrecked in the East China Sea and scrapped.

Following the outbreak of WW1, the ships were primarily tasked with combating German commerce raiders, patrolling in both the North and South Atlantic. HMS Monmouth was assigned to Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock's squadron, and was sunk at the Battle of Coronel. HMS Kent was also assigned to Cradock's squadron, but failed to join in time; she remained at the Falklands and joined Admiral Sturdee's squadron, which also included HMS Cornwall. In the ensuing Battle of the Falklands, HMS Kent pursued and sank Nürnberg, while HMS Cornwall pursued and sank Leipzig. HMS Kent continued the pursuit of Dresden, eventually locating her and forcing her to be scuttled at the Battle of Más a Tierra. Later HMS Cornwall participated in the blockade of Königsberg in the Rufiji river.

After the war, several of the ships served briefly as training ships. All were withdrawn from service and scrapped in 1920–21.


  1. ^ "Cwt" is the abbreviation for hundredweight, 12 cwt referring to the weight of the gun.


  1. ^ Massie, Robert K. (2004). Castles of Steel. Balantine Books. ISBN 0-345-40878-0. 
  2. ^ The 1906 figure for Monmouth is particularly high. but is as quoted in the original. The 1914 edition also quotes £979,591 as the cost of Monmouth.
  3. ^ Brassey's Naval Annual 1905, p234-243
  4. ^ Brassey's Naval Annual 1906, p208-215


External links[edit]