In the 1890s there were a mish-mash of cruiser types, that were ranked as 1st, 2nd or 3rd class based upon size. As almost all of these, at least in 1st and 2nd class, were protected cruisers, armored with just an armored deck and no side armor belt, they were all susceptible to damage. In the Royal Navy, even the largest of these, HMS Powerful and HMS Terrible of 14,000, had no belt armor. The Royal Navy had tried another type of cruiser in the past armored with a belt but these were unsuccessful. Armor technology of the time had required to heavy of a belt and this accordingly had produced slow vessels with thin short, armored belts. However, by the 1890s new processes for hardening armor made fast armored cruisers possible. The French and Russians can take credit for ushering in the armored cruiser craze. They both built a series of large, fast cruisers, whose apparent mission was to pray on an enemy's merchant shipping. Since their rival at the time was the United Kingdom, the ships flying the Red Duster were their obvious targets. 

These designs set the British public and their Lordships of the Admiralty into a state approaching panic. In the collective zoo of RN protected cruiser designs, very few of Her Majesty's cruisers were capable of facing the new French and Russian designs. If they managed to reach British trade routes they could bring British commerce to a screeching halt. There were two ways to counter this. One was to post cruiser squadrons in bases throughout the Empire's long commercial routes. This would be very expensive, not for just the numbers of cruisers that would be needed but for the personnel needed for crews. The second choice was to develop cruisers with the speed, armament and armor necessary to run down and destroy these commerce raiders. The armored cruiser was the perfect type to do this. This belief was further reinforced by the results of the Spanish-American War. Two USN armored cruisers, the USS Brooklyn and USS New York, had played prominent roles. Between 1898 to 1905 the Royal Navy constructed 35 armored cruisers divided into seven classes. 

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On October 21, 1904 Admiral John "Jackie" Fisher was appointed as First Sea Lord of the Admiralty. As the top naval officer in the Admiralty part of his portfolio was to develop requirements for new warships designs. On December 22, 1904 a Committee on Design was appointed to select designs for a new battleship and new armored cruiser. Designs for both types were considered and the final selections set the world's collective naval establishments on their ears. The battleship design was HMS Dreadnought. Although other countries had looked at an all big gun battleship and the USN already had one such design selected for construction, the RN design coupled the all big gun design with a leap in speed. Using turbine engines over reciprocating engines, the Dreadnought was capable of 21 knots, instead of 18 knots of those ships with reciprocating engines. Speed, Fisher was obsessed with speed. The new armored cruiser design was even more radical than the Dreadnought design. Speed was pushed to incredible heights for such large warships. 

The new design went further than just jumping the top speed of the armored cruiser, it marked a complete evolution of the type. If the Committee had followed the all big gun concepts carried through with the Dreadnought, the logical outcome for the new armored cruiser design would be one armed with an uniform armament of 9.2-inch guns. The 9.2-inch gun was the heaviest gun then mounted in British cruisers. However, the new design made a tremendous leap by adding battleship 12-inch guns to a 25-knot cruiser hull. It created a new type of ship, one that was armed like a battleship but with the speed and armor of a cruiser. At first they were called armored cruisers but they were so different and more powerful than all other armored cruisers that new terminology had to be coined for them. Next the term Dreadnought Cruiser was tried, but by 1911 the term Battle Cruiser came into use and stuck. The thirteen battle cruisers built by the Royal Navy were the most glamorous big gun ships ever built and they started with a three ship class chosen by the 1904 Committee on Design, the Invincible Class

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The Invincible design carried eight 12-inch Mk X guns mounted in four turrets. The two amidships turrets were mounted in echelon to in theory allow for a limited degree of cross deck fire. This was not tried in peace time because of the blast damage and chance of concussion to personnel in the down range turret. However, in battle the Invincibles did use cross deck fire. With turbines capable of 41,000 shp the ship was capable of 25.5-knots, a two knot jump over the fastest of previous armored cruisers. The armored belt stayed on armored cruiser style. Maximum thickness was 6-inches, although turrets had 8-inch armor. The three ships were HMS Invincible, HMS Inflexible and HMS Indomitable. The new ships were laid down in early 1906 in the space of three months, Inflexible in February 1906 and Invincible in April 1906. HMS Indomitable was the first warship of that name for the Royal Navy and was laid down on March 1,1906 at Fairfield Ship Building in Glasgow. She was launched arch 16, 1907 and commissioned on June 20, 1908 at Portsmouth. Indomitable was the heaviest of the three at 17,410-tons (20-125 deep load). During full power trials in April 29, 1908 Indomitable hit 26.1-knots. 

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As completed, all three ships had all three funnels at the same height. This presented a problem for bridge personnel, as stack exhausts of the forward funnel would be drafted into bridge positions. In 1910 the forward funnel of Indomitable was raised. In August 1913 Indomitable and Invincible were transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet and became the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron. In at refit at Malta in 1914 the 4-inch guns on top of A and Y turrets were moved to the superstructure. The new superstructure gun positions were open except the two on either side of the conning tower, which were in unarmored casemates. Guns in the forward superstructure had gun shields. The anti-torpedo net and net booms were removed. On July 27, 1914 Indomitable came out of the drydock early. Europe was already spiraling towards war. The assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand by a Serbian and assorted misjudgments by emperors and politicians had started a domino effect, which culminated in World War One in August.  

From August 2 to August 4, 1914 Indomitable, along with Indefatigable, which had replaced Invincible in the 2nd BCS in December 1913, hunted for the German battle cruiser Goeben. On August 4 they found her but since the British ultimatum to Germany had not yet expired, Britain was not yet at war with Germany. Inflexible joined on August 5 and Indomitable was detached to Bizerta to coal. Contact was lost with Goeben when she outran her persuers and on August 6, Indomitable joined the other two at Malta and the three battle cruisers sailed eastward on August 8. By August 8 through August 10 they were scouring the Aegean Sea but Goeben was never resighted. On August 12, 1914 Indomitable and the other two arrived at the entrance to the Dardanelles but Goeben was now safely anchored at Constantinople. This first established a relationship between Indomitable and the Dardanelle Campaign. After a brief visit to Gibraltar, Indomitable had returned to the Dardanelle blockade by September. On November 3, 1914 Indomitable and Indefatigable attacked the outer Turkish forts at Sedd el Bahr and Cape Hellas. Forty-six 12-inch shells were fired and the magazine at Sedd el Bahr blew up. 

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While the two sisterships Invincible and Inflexible were winning glory at the Battle of the Falkland Islands, Indomitable was steaming back to Great Britain to join the Grand Fleet. She had a short refit from December 1914 to January 1915 and on January 15 joined HMS New Zealand as the new 2nd BCS. At dawn on January 24 Beatty had five battle cruisers at sea. "At dawn, Beatty appeared on Lion's bridge with Lieutenant Commander Seymour, his Flag Lieutenant and signal officer. Looking over the stern, he could make out the four darkened battle cruisers steaming in line behind his flagship: Tiger in Lion's wake, followed by Princess Royal, New Zealand and Indomitable." (Castles of Steel,, 2003, Robert K. Massie) Indomitable may have missed the Falklands but she was the only Invincible class at the Battle of Dogger Bank. At 0720 the light cruiser Aurora encountered the German light cruiser Kolberg, screening Admiral Hipper's battle cruisers, which were cruising northwards to raid the English fishing fleet and light forces. Hipper had battle cruisers, Seydlitz, Moltke, Derfflinger and the armored cruiser Blucher. As the two light opened fire on each other, Beatty saw gun flashes to the southeast and turned his battle cruisers in that direction. As Hipper steered towards Aurora, with the hope of gobbling up British light forces,  disturbing reports came in of great amounts of smoke being sighted to the southwest and northwest. Blucher reported that one force was made up of 7 light cruisers and 20+ destroyers. That force was too big for a mere patrol and what about the unknown force to the northwest? A report came in that these were unidentified large ships and suddenly call signs of British battle cruisers were intercepted. These signs and portents were enough for Hipper and at 0735 he ordered his force to reverse course to the southeast and home. At 0750 Hipper made out the British battle cruisers closing on his force from the rear. "The pace at which the enemy was closing in was quite unexpected.' he said later. 'The enemy battle cruisers must have been doing twenty-six knots. They were emitting extraordinary dense clouds of smoke."  (Castles of Steel,, 2003, Robert K. Massie)






HMS Indomitable Vital Statistics


Dimensions: Length - 530-feet; Beam - 78.5-feet; Draught - 26-feet; Displacement - 16,850 tons:
Armament: Eight 12-inch/45 guns; Fourteen 4-inch guns Mk III; Two Maxim machine guns; Five submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes:

Armor: Belt - 6-inch to 4-inch; Turrets - 7-inches; Barbettes -  7-inches; Conning Tower - 10-inches; Armored Deck - 2 1/2 to 1 1/2-inches: Machinery - Ten Parsons Turbines, 31 boilers,  41,000 shp: Maximum Speed - 25-knots

 

However, Hipper had a sea anchor tied to his force, the Blucher. When Fisher had selected the Invincible design he had created a body of misinformation about the design to deceive the Germans. The Germans swallowed this misinformation hook, line and sinker. Believing that the new Invincibles were armed with all 9.2-inch guns and had the same speed of the previous armored cruisers, the Germans had designed the Blucher. She was a reply not to the actual Invincibles but to the misinformation campaign on the Invincibles. Armed with twelve 8.2-inch guns she was ore than a match for any British armored cruiser but against a British battle cruiser, was meat on the table. She was also three knots slower than Hipper's or Beatty's battle cruisers and as long as she crept along at the rear of Hipper's column, Beatty would continue to close the gap. By 0800 the chase was on. The British were brimming with anticipation. They had caught four German heavy units and were gaining on them. Night comes early in January in the North Sea but they had all day to complete their work. Beatty still had to close four miles with the German force to get within gunnery range and those miles came slowly in a stern chase. "Beatty said to Percy Green, Lion's chief engineer. 'Tell your stokers that all depends on them.' 'They know that, sir.' Green replied." From 0810 to 0854 Beatty sent six signals that kept raising the speed of his squadron from 24 to 29 knots. Indomitable, designed for 25.5-knots hit 26-knots. "Beatty was grateful and at 8:55 a.m. the flagship signaled: 'Well done, Indomitable." However, neither Indomitable, nor New Zealand, were capable of greater speeds. As the three splendid cats increased speed, a gap appeared between them and the older pair at the end of the column and finally another gap appeared between New Zealand and Indomitable

When Lion had closed to within 20,000 yards of Blucher, Beatty consented to Lion's captain's request to open fire. At 0852 Lion's B turret sent one round down range towards Blucher to check range. It was short. Two more 13.5-inch shells were fired and they were over. At 0900 Tiger fired a ranging shot on hapless Blucher. Finally at 0905 Beatty ordered his squadron to open fire. Lion and Tiger immediately responded to be joined shortly by Princess Royal. New Zealand and Indomitable were only voyeurs as their 12-inch guns had a shorter range than the 13.5-inch guns of the cats and they were at the end of the column. This range was far greater than that used for any peace time gunnery practice but the cats started making hits. Lion hit Blucher at 0909 and as Tiger and Princess Royal straddled Blucher, Lion shifted fire to Moltke ahead of Blucher. At 0915 Blucher replied but her 8.2-inch shells were short. The third British salvo struck Blucher at the waterline and further reduced her speed and the fourth salvo had destroyed her after superstructure and put two aft turrets out of action. An 8.2-inch shell finally hit Lion's A turret at 0928. It did not penetrate but disabled one gun from concussion. By 0935 New Zealand could open fire but Indomitable was still out of range. 

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Now the first a series of British errors occurred. Beatty signaled that each of his ships were to engage their opposite number. Beatty and all of his captains except one, knew that Indomitable was still out of range. However, Captain Pelly of Tiger did not realize Indomitable was not engaged and had Tiger gang up with Lion on Seydlitz at the head of the German column. This left Moltke unengaged and she put her guns to good effect against Lion. At 0943 a shell from Lion destroyed the two aft turrets of Seydlitz when ignited powder charges from Y turret fell into handling rooms below and then to X turret when crew of Y opened the doors to Y in the hope of escaping. In a column of fire all men of both turrets were incinerated. Three men on the German flagship saved the Seydlitz from being lost to a magazine explosion. They turned red hot wheels to flood the aft magazines to prevent their detonation from the blaze above. As a result of this incident the Germans learned to improve their anti-flash protection, a lesson not learned by the British. Now the Germans were down to 2 1/2 battle cruisers against the British 5. 

Finally Indomitable tumbled into action. "From Indomitable, struggling to catch up, a young turret officer observed 'the Lion, Tiger, Princess Royal and New Zealand on our starboard bow, cleaving the water at full speed....We slowly gained on... {the Germans}...{then} through the navy phone came. 'A turret open fire.'...At 10.31 the enemy altered to port and so did we and this brought my turret {Q turret, amidships} into action against Blucher. In and out recoiled the guns as we pounded the enemy. 'Left gun ready,' shouts someone and another 850 pounds of explosive goes hurtling towards the enemy."(Castles of Steel,, 2003, Robert K. Massie, at page 395) At 1001 Lion was hit again and seawater flooded the main switchboard m. Circuits for the 4-inch guns and aft fire control were lost. 

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Finally at 1018 Lion was hit twice at the same time. One pierced the belt and flooded a number of compartments. Additionally a fresh water feed line was damaged, allowing salt water into the system. As water boiled off, the solid salt remaining quickly clogged the condensers and pipes. The port engine had to be shut down. The second shell opened up more underwater compartments to the sea.   Another hit at 1041 started a small fire in A turret, which fortunately was put out. Blucher had lost most of her guns and when she had dropped to 17-knots and her steering had been disabled, she veered out of line to the north. Beatty saw this and at 048 ordered Indomitable, "attack the enemy breaking away to northward." By 1052 Lion lost electrical power and with that, the ability to use the radio and signal light and send messages through either medium. She was left with just flag communications. Her port engine ground to a halt and her speed quickly slowed to 15-knots as she staggered out of line. Lion had absorbed 14 heavy shell strikes and was carrying 3,000 tons of sea water. Now another series of errors were made. Mistakenly believing he had seen a German periscope Beatty ordered a 90 degree turn to port, carrying the British to the north away from Hipper but towards Blucher. With no radio or signal light, an Alter Course signal was hoisted. Most of the signal halyards of Lion had been carried away so the signal Submarine Sighting was not flown first. The Alter Course signal flew for 5 minutes and Beatty's battle cruiser complied. Frustrated, Beatty tried to correct the problem but only exasperated it. He had two signal hoisted, one was Course North East Flag and the other was an Attack the Rear of the Enemy flag. At that time the luckless Blucher was to the northeast of the British battle cruisers. Where Beatty only intended to send Indomitable to mop up the carcass of Blucher, now all of his ships were filled with blood lust towards the cripple. Thereafter Beatty was out of the battle. He had no radio, he had no signal lamb and with distant and smoke signal flags on Lion could not be seen by the rest of his squadron. 

The command of the force devolved to Rear Admiral Sir Archibald Moore, commander 2nd BCS on New Zealand. Moore blindly carried through with what he though was Beatty's last order, even when the Lion had dropped below the horizon. By 1109 pursuit of the German battle cruiser was given up to allow New Zealand and two cats to join Indomitable to go after Blucher. Hipper had been preparing a torpedo attack by his destroyers and to come to the aid of Blucher but when he saw the British battle cruisers turn to the northeast, he cancelled those plans and reluctantly left Blucher to her fate. Meanwhile, all four remaining British battle cruisers circled Blucher and pumped large caliber rounds into her at close range. Blucher took 70 hits and seven torpedoes before capsizing at 1207. The photograph of her turning turtle was certainly a morale raiser for the British public but masked the opportunity that was squandered. Hipper had opened enough distance that he was unchallenged in his voyage back to Germany. Beatty had left the dead in the water Lion, boarded the destroyer HMS Attack and by 1233 hoisted his flag on Princess Royal. Beatty initially ordered a resumption of the pursuit but saw it was hopeless and soon called it off. The Indomitable was ordered to tow battered Lion and the battle cruisers returned to port. It took Indomitable a day and half of towing Lion at 7 knots to regain port. Indomitable had only been hit by one 8.2-inch shell, which caused little damage. 

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After a short refit Indomitable joined the 3rd BCS, eventually all three Invincibles, in March 1915. At 17:16 on May 30, 1916 Beatty received word that the Germans would out again on the next day. Admiral Jellicoe directed Hood and the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, with two light cruisers and four destroyers, to act as a screen for the Grand Fleet in a position ten miles ahead of the fleet, while Beatty with the 1st and 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadrons acted independently. If nothing happened, the 3rd Squadron would rejoin the rest of the battle cruisers the next day at an appointed rendezvous position 100 miles off of the Jutland Peninsula of Denmark. By 23:00 the Grand Fleet and all of the battle cruiser force was at sea steaming eastward. By 14:00 on the 31st Invincible, Inflexible and Indomitable were at their appointed position but were 25 miles ahead of the fleet, rather than ten, as the fleet had been delayed. Meanwhile Hood and the three Invincibles started hitting patches of mist. Visibility would be at one-moment 16,000 yards and then quickly drop to only 2,000 yards. At 17:30 gunfire was first heard aboard Invincible to the southwest. This was from the German battle cruisers 14 miles away but unseen through the mist. Hood, believing Beatty was still ahead, maintained his course but sent the light cruiser Chester to investigate. In this mission Chester was surprised by German light cruisers and at 17:40 Hood saw gun flashes from the direction in which Chester had steamed. Hood altered course and sped his force towards those flashes. A few minutes later Chester reappeared heading back towards the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron and she was surrounded by shell splashes. At 17:53 the four German light cruisers chasing Chester were sighted and Invincible opened up in battle for the first time since the Battle of the Falklands. Inflexible and Indomitable followed in opening fire two minutes later. The Germans made a quick about turn and disappeared into the mist at 18:00. The rear ship, Wiesbaden, didnít reach the sanctuary of the mist in time and a twelve-inch shell from Invincible destroyed her engine room. Although mist enveloped her, she was dead in the water, to be raked later by guns of the Grand Fleet. Eventually she sank at 02:00 June 1 but her fate was sealed by Invincible. Inflexible hit Pillau and knocked out four of her eight boilers but she managed to creep away. 

Then the men of the 3rd BCS sighted Beatty's battle cruisers of the 1st (Splendid Cats) and 2nd BCS (Indefatigables) and Hipper's battle cruisers. Invincible mortally wounded Lutzow but in turn was destroyed by Derfflinger, when a shell ignited the amidships magazine for P & Q turrets. As Inflexible and Indomitable raced past the wreck, they were cheered by survivors of Invincible. On June 5, 1916 the Indomitable joined the 2nd BCS with Inflexible and Australia. There was no need for three squadrons after the loss of three RN battle cruisers at Jutland. The rest of the war was uneventful for Indomitable although she was present at the internment of the High Sea Fleet. In February 1919 Indomitable was placed in reserve until paid off on March 21, 1920. She was finally sold for scrap on December 1, 1921 and arrived at Dover for breaking up on August 30, 1922. (History from: Castles of Steel,, 2003, Robert K. Massie, Warship Monographs Invincible Class, 1972, John Roberts)

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Combrig has just released 1:700 scales of all three members of the Invincible class. In this photographic review, you can see photographs of all components to the kit for HMS Indomitable. Having examined the Indomitable and Invincible models so far, I can say that they do reflect the differences between the ships. The Invincible in 1914 had a number of features that distinguished it from Indomitable and Inflexible in 1914. Invincible had two types of experimental electrical turrets, which were different in design from the hydraulic turrets of Indomitable. Indomitable's turrets were the same as fitted in Dreadnought. The Combrig Indomitable does indeed have the same turret design for all four turrets, which is different from the two turret designs for the Combrig Invincible. This certainly fits. By 1914 Invincible was the only member of the class to still have funnels of equal height. Indomitable had her forward funnel lengthened in 1910. The Combrig Indomitable comes with a lengthened forward funnel and the Combrig Invincible comes with all thee funnels of the same, shorter height. The Invincible had all of her 4-inch guns in the forward superstructure in casemates in 1914, while the Indomitable had hers in open positions, except for the two on either side of the conning tower. With the two Combrig kits, the Invincible has the casemates for the forward superstructure, while the same part for Indomitable lacks the casemates. However, this does present one small problem for the Indomitable kit as it should have one casemate on each side abreast with the conning tower. One additional problem with the Indomitable kit. The box states that it is Indomitable in 1908, when her funnels were the same height. The instructions show that there are optional parts for the first funnel. One with a short forward funnel and one with a longer forward funnel. Only the longer forward funnel is provided, so the parts provide for Indomitable after her forward funnel was lengthened in 1910. The plan and profile drawing shows Invincible, not Indomitable. In any event the parts are there for an outstanding kit. Look at the photographs and make up your own mind.

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Verdict
This is another superb model from Combrig, which includes ship specific brass photo-etch. The Combrig 1:700 scale HMS Indomitable kit will allow the modeler to build a post 1910 Indomitable with lengthened forward funnel. Sign up now with your favorite retailer, as their first shipment of the Combrig Indomitable won't last long.

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