"There straight ahead of us in lovely procession, like elephants walking through a pack…of dogs came Lion, Queen Mary, Princess Royal, Invincible and New Zealand. Great and grim and uncouth as antediluvian monsters, how solid they looked, how utterly earthquaking. We pointed out our latest aggressor to them…and we went west while they went east…and just a little later we heard the thunder of their guns." (Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 113)
|"In the Lion, the horse-power will
be increased to 70,000, and it is reported that her design speed will be
not less than 30 knots. The advance in this direction upon earlier ships
in the British Navy is so great as to be well nigh incredible, but it is
necessary to bear in mind the similar advances in this direction which
have been made abroad, and it is essential for us to surpass if our
pre-eminent position as the possessor of the most effective warships is
to be retained." (Naval Annual 1911, The
Dreadnought Era, by Commander C. N. Robinson, at page 153)
|"There seems to be something wrong
with our bloody ships today."
Vice Admiral David Beatty, May 31, 1916
(The history of the Combrig HMS Queen Mary is identical with the histories found in two previous reviews of other Queen Mary kits) With the introduction of HMS Dreadnought in the 1905 Royal Navy Estimates, the evolution of the power of battleship designs accelerated dramatically. For 15 years the designs of William White had a stability of design, in that each new class of battleship seemed to only tweak details of the preceding design. Admiral John A. "Jackie" Fisher upset that apple cart with inclusion of not one radically new design but two such completely new designs. The first such design was for a battleship, HMS Dreadnought, which incorporated an all big gun armament, turbine engines and raised fleet speed, upped from 18-knots to 21-knots. However, Fisher’s true love was the second design of the 1905 estimates, a new armored cruiser design. Fisher loved speed and combined the big guns of a battleship with the high speed of a cruiser. Just as Dreadnought design had increased the speed of battleships, so too did the new armored cruiser design for Invincible increase the top end of that type. The previous Minotaur class had a top speed of 23-knots but the new Invincibles stretched the envelope to 25-knots. Fisher’s priorities can be seen in the fact that the Royal Navy placed orders for only one Dreadnought but for three Invincibles in that year’s program. If Jackie had his way battleship construction would cease in favor of the super-armored cruisers, which Admiral Fisher called the New Testament Ships.
Although Fisher was 1st Sea Lord, the bulk of the Admiralty did not share his unbounded enthusiasm for the giant big gun armored cruisers. The 1906 estimates added three more battleships of an improved Dreadnought design, the Bellerophon Class. The following 1907 estimates added further refinements to the Dreadnought design with the three ships of the St. Vincent class. The chief innovation with this class was the introduction of the 12-inch/50 Mk XI gun. Finally with the 1908 estimates Fisher gets to add more big gun armored cruisers as one such ship was approved for the program. The program also included one battleship, HMS Neptune, which for the first time departed from the Dreadnought layout. The armored cruiser was HMS Indefatigable. Fortunately, New Zealand and Australia each offered to fund the construction of one capital ship for this program and Fisher selected two more Indefatigable armored cruisers for these contributions, named after those nations. For the second time Fisher had a program with three armored cruisers and only one battleship. Fisher could have made improvements to the three-year old Invincible design but failed to do this. The Indefatigable design was merely an enlarged Invincible with the same meager armor fit. The two amidships turrets were spaced further apart to allow more cross deck fire. Even the main guns were the same as Invincible. The older Mk X 12-inch/45 were fitted as there were not enough Mk XI 12-inch/50 to go around and these went to the battleships.
The 1909 Naval Estimates represent one of the strangest years in Royal Navy appropriations. The original program started with three battleships and one armored cruiser. Two of these were armed with the 12-inch/50 Mk XI and were merely warmed over versions of the prior year’s Neptune. Significant innovation came in the form of the third battleship and armored cruiser. Each of these would be armed with a new gun, the 13.5-inch/45 Mk V. One of the biggest puzzle is why the RN would build two 12-inch gunned ships in the same program in which they jump to a significantly larger gun. One other quirk with the 1909 Estimates is the manner in which it mushroomed in size. The Labour government had approved these four ships, which is a sizable expenditure in its own right but the Admiralty wanted six capital ships to be laid down in the program. The Navy League and the popular press got hold of the situation. The extent of the German building program was magnified and fears of the public were played upon. Their rallying cry was "We want eight and we won’t wait!" In the end, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, the politicians who wished to fund four ships and the admirals who wished to fund six ships compromised in an agreement to build eight ships in that year’s program. The additional ships were three more battleships armed with 13.5-inch guns, the Orion class, and another armored cruiser armed with the larger gun, the Lion class.
From the start the Lion class seized the imagination of the British public and became instant icons of the Royal Navy on the world stage. Originally the new armored cruisers were to be improved versions of the Indefatigable. However, not only did the 1909 Program call for a doubling in the quantity of capital ships laid down but it also removed all constraints on the size or quality of the individual ships. The designers were no longer constrained by restraints on size or cost. For their time they were huge magnificent ships, which combined power, speed and beauty. After the lead ship HMS Lion, the class quickly acquired the nickname "the Splendid Cats". All characteristics of this new class leaped ahead of he previous Indefatigable class. Compared to the Indefatigable class of 1908 the Lion class of 1909 raised the displacement by 7,600-tons, length by 110 feet, beam by 8 ½-feet, firepower from 12-inch to 13.5-inch, armor from a six-inch belt to a 9-inch belt and top speed from 25-knots to 27-knots. By any standard a passage of one year brought substantial quantifiable improvements to the all big gun armored cruiser. Around 1909 the type ceased to be called armored cruisers and were called cruiser battleships or dreadnought cruisers, although the Admiralty still called them armored cruisers. Finally around 1912 the term battle cruisers was applied.
"In the last number of the Naval Annual we commented on the practice, recently adopted in our own and certain foreign navies, of withholding particulars of ships for the construction of which provision is made in the Estimates, as most unlikely (as far as this country is concerned), to prevent those obtaining information from whom it may be desirable to conceal it." (Naval Annual 1909, Preface by T. A. Brassey, at page iii) The design and construction of Dreadnought was done with secrecy and speed. As a consequence, the Royal Navy gained a march on the other powers. By the time that the Estimates of 1909 were made, secrecy of design details had become Royal Navy policy. In his preface to the Naval Annual 1909 T. A. Brassey blames this policy of secrecy as in large measure producing a scare in Parliament over the Royal Navy’s building program compared to that of Germany. Not only did the Admiralty restrict information, they also passed on false material in an effort to confuse the Germans. When the Lion was ordered, along with the Orion, their armament was reported as consisting of 12-inch guns, rather than 13.5-inch guns. As can be seen from the passage below, the Naval Annual 1910 took those statistics with a grain of salt. "The cruiser-battleship Lion was laid down at Devonport on November 29th. The following particulars must be accepted with reserve. Displacement, 26,350 tons; length between perpendiculars, 660 ft.; overall, 700 ft.; beam, 88 ft. 6 in.; draught, 28 ft.; shaft H.P., 70,000; speed, 28 knots; armament, eight 12-in. and sixteen 4-in. B.L. guns." (The Naval Annual 1910, at pages 4-5) By the 1911 issue of the annual, the main guns were correctly identified as 13.5-inch but instead of understating capabilities, rumors went the other way and grossly overstated the speed of the ships. Speed was reported to exceed 30-knots. In the popular press exorbitant claims were made about the speed of the Splendid Cats. The Army and Navy Gazette reported a top speed of 34.7-knots for Princess Royal. It was little wonder that the British public adored their new super ships. Antony Preston wrote the commentary about the ships of the Royal Navy for Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906-1921. In his commentary for the Lion class, he states, "Thanks to adroit manipulation of the Press they were regarded with affection by the public but they must surely be ton-for-ton the least satisfactory ships built for the RN in modern times. The faults of the original battlecruiser could be forgiven for lack of experience with new tactics and technology, but the Lions were expensive second-rate ships." (Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906-1921, 1985) I disagree with that assessment. If the comments had been about the preceding Indefatigable class, I might agree. However, Lion was laid down only seven months after Indefatigable and the improvement of Lion over Indefatigable is very marked.
In broadside weight of shell, the new class almost doubled that of the Invincible and Indefatigable designs, 10,000lb versus 5,200lb. The design did away with wing or echelon turrets and put them all on centerline. However, the design created a weakness by placing Q turret amidships between the second and third funnels. The funnels restricted the arc of fire of this turret to 120-degrees on each side and smoke could interfere with local fire. Additionally the magazines for Q turret were placed squarely between two sets of boiler rooms. A hit in a boiler room could rupture the bulkhead separating it from the magazine and fire and powder was never a good internal mixture for any warship. The 1910 Estimates provided for the King George V class of battleships, plus one additional battle cruiser. This ship was HMS Queen Mary.
Some authorities call the Queen Mary a sistership to Lion with minor modifications, however, to other authorities these same modifications make her a half-sister to Lion and Princess Royal. However, Queen Mary is normally listed separately from the other two. Queen Mary was laid down at Palmers on March 6, 1911, 15 months after Lion. Launched on March 20, 1912, the completion of the ship was slowed due to labor difficulties. She was ready for trials in May 1913 but was not delivered to the Royal Navy until August 1913. There were external and internal differences, which made Queen Mary different from Lion and Princess Royal. One internal change caused a change in external appearance. Traditionally officers were quartered aft on Royal Navy warships with men berthed forward. However, one of the new features that Admiral Fisher worked into HMS Dreadnought was to reverse the traditional berthing arrangement. Fisher thought that by placing officer’s quarters forward, they would be closer to the bulk of their action stations in the bridge and conning tower. With this arrangement, ratings were quartered aft and the stern walk disappeared off of British capital designs because ratings didn’t rate a stern walk. Both officers and men detested this new arrangement but it took some time before the berthing arrangement reverted to the traditional layout. With Queen Mary the officers quarters were again placed aft and Queen Mary was given a stern walk, a feature lacking on Lion and Princess Royal.
The most noticeable external difference with Queen Mary from the other pair was the middle funnel. Lion and Princess Royal had an oval, slab sided middle funnel but in place of that on Queen Mary, the middle funnel was a large round design. A common mistake is to think that all of Queen Mary’s funnels were round. This is incorrect because Queen Mary had the same flat-sided third funnel as found on the Lion pair. Another difference was the arrangement of the 4-inch guns in the forward superstructure. With Lion they were arranged in two levels. Six were on the main deck and two were on the shelter deck above just aft of B barbette. For Queen Mary all eight were placed on the main deck with none on the shelter deck. Queen Mary had 6-inches greater beam than the other two and displaced 500 tons more. Because of the inclusion of the stern walk, her overall length was also three feet greater. Her machinery plant had greater power with 75,000shp compared to 70,000shp in Lion. On trials she reached a top speed of 28.17-knots compared with the trials maximum of 27.62-knots for Lion and 28.5-knots for Princess Royal. Per Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906-1921 the fastest run of Princess Royal forced the machinery and the resultant strain made her the "lame duck" of the battle cruiser force thereafter. One of difference was that Queen Mary had slightly increased horizontal armor protection and a slightly different armor distribution scheme.
The armor belt was a 50% improvement over the Indefatigable. Although not on battleship scale the 9-inch belt did deploy substantial weight for the armor, compared to the 6-inch belt ships of the Invincible and Indefatigable classes. In the Naval Annual 1912 none other than Sir William White penned an article on current warship development. He did note that although the armor of the Lion class was relatively weaker than that of the contemporary battleships, it was however, "still considerable." White’s chief concerns were the upward spiraling size and costs of each new design. Accordingly fewer battleships could be built and the importance of each individual unit increased. He was skeptical about the benefits of the high speed of battle cruisers compared to their great cost. "The propelling and other machinery are estimated to cost half a million – a sum which closely approaches the costs of first-class British battleships built thirty years before the Lion was laid down. In face of figures such as these, it appears to be well worth considering afresh the opinion expressed by competent authorities to the effect that such high speed is not of great advantage in ships whose primary duty is to serve as units in fleets." (The Naval Annual 1912, Recent Changes in Warship Design by Sir William White, at pages 138-139)
HMS Queen Mary was completed in August 1913 and commissioned into service the following month. At first she joined the 1st Cruiser Squadron, as the battle cruiser squadron was called at the time. Months earlier the battle cruisers had been given a new commander, Rear Admiral David Beatty. Beatty was no intellectual but he was fearless and prone to take risks. If you have ever visited the great department store of Marshall Field’s in Chicago, you will have visited a location with which Beatty had a connection. He married Ethel, the only daughter of Marshall Field. On January 1, 1910 Beatty at age 38 became the youngest Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy since Horatio Nelson. He risked his career by refusing the position of second in command of the Atlantic Fleet but through a stroke of luck became the advisor to the new 1st Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. In March 1913 he was rewarded with the most coveted position for a Rear Admiral, command of the battle cruiser force. "I had no doubts whatever,’ Churchill wrote of Beatty latter, ‘in appointing him over the heads of all to this incomparable command, the nucleus as it proved to be of the famous Battle Cruiser Fleet – that supreme combination of speed and power, the strategic cavalry of the Royal Navy." (Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 93) In January 1914, the Splendid Cats became part of the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron with the 2nd BCS (Indefatigable and the Invincibles) stationed in the Mediterranean. In May 1914 Beatty with his battle cruisers were dispatched to St. Petersburg. The ships, Lion, Princess Royal, Queen Mary and New Zealand, anchored at the Russian naval base at Kronstadt, where they were visited by the Imperial Russian family.
Queen Mary was still the newest battle cruiser in the fleet when World War One began in August 1914. She did not have long to wait to see action. In World War One there were four significant actions in which the British battle cruiser played a prominent role: Heligoland Bight in September 1914, the Falklands in December 1914, Dogger Bank in January 1915 and Jutland in May 1916. The first three were engagements in which the battle cruisers of the Royal Navy won praise for their performance and the type as a whole but the last one dramatically changed that situation. Queen Mary participated in the first and last of these actions. With the coming of the war, expectations were high that the High Seas Fleet would immediately sortie for a big show down with the Grand Fleet. Beatty and the rest of the fleet were quickly disappointed as the German ships stayed in port. Beatty wrote his wife, "We are still wandering about the face of the ocean…entirely in the hands of our friends the Germans as to when they will come out and be whacked." (Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 97)
The Royal Navy had lighter ships, light cruisers leading destroyers, and submarines operating out of Harwich in the south, independently from the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. Commodores Tyrwhitt and Keyes of the Harwich force became aware that German destroyers, backed by light cruisers made regular sweeps of the Heligoland Bight, that area of water surrounding the fortified island of Heligoland, guarding the approaches to the fleet anchorage of Wilhelmshaven. The two commodores concocted a plan to catch the German destroyers without their light cruiser escort and to destroy them. Keyes approached Churchill about the plan and the 1st Lord was enthused. The next day the two commodores met with Churchill, Prince Louis Battenberg the 1st Sea Lord and Admiral Sturdee the chief of staff. The plan called for back up from the Grand Fleet for insurance but Sturdee vetoed that idea and in its place suggested that the battle cruisers Invincible and New Zealand would station themselves 40 mile west of Heligoland in support. Admiral Jellicoe, commander of the Grand Fleet, did not even know of the meeting or plan until two days later. Jellicoe was alarmed at this operation with light forces engaging the enemy so close to the main German fleet. He immediately wired the Admiralty of his wish to support the operation with the Grand Fleet. Sturdee clearly bungled the situation when he dismissed the offer. "Cooperation with battle fleet not required. Battle cruisers can support if convenient." Fortunately for the Royal Navy Jellicoe used his initiative. He ordered Beatty to steam south with Lion, Princess Royal, Queen Mary and six light cruisers to support the plan. He then sortied the Grand Fleet behind them. Having been less than impressed with the response from Sturdee, he didn’t bother informing the admiralty of his plans until he was well at sea with his whole force. Even with this information the seeds of a fiasco were sown. The message from the Admiralty informing Keyes and Tyrwhitt that they would be supported by Beatty’s battle cruisers was sent to Harwich but was not sent to Keyes, who had already departed with his force. Instead this important piece of information was placed on his desk to await his return. The British light forces were under order to torpedo any heavy ships, other than the light cruisers Arthusa and Fearless. If it had not been for the actions of Jellicoe, the Battle of Heligoland Bight probably would have ended as a disaster for the British. Because of communication bungles, it almost ended in disaster anyway.
At 07:00 on August 28, 1914 the German destroyer G-194 was sighted by Arthusa, Tyrwhitt’s flagship. German destroyers were pursued by British destroyers and light cruisers. The Germans dispatched the three light cruisers already in the Bight to support their destroyers. Eight more light cruisers were ordered to raise steam. The battle began in thickening mist that concealed each side’s forces. By 07:58 the ready German light cruisers arrived on the scene. Arthusa, Tyrwhitt,s flagship was a brand new ship. Commissioned only two weeks earlier, she had never had firing practice, when she encountered the German light cruiser Frauenlob. On the British cruiser, guns jammed or were knocked out by the excellent German fire and the engine room started to fill with water. Both cruisers peppered each other and both were forced out of action. Now action was totally confused. Commodore Keyes sighted the British light cruisers that Jellicoe had ordered in for support, Goodenough’s squadron of six Town class. He took them for German and radioed Tyrwhitt for help. Tyrwhitt, who had already encountered and identified Goodenough’s cruiser, asked Goodenough to support Keyes. This amounted to Goodenough being asked to support Keyes against Goodenough’s own cruisers. In this confusion the HMS Southampton and the submarine HMS E-6 attacked each other. Fortunately the two torpedoes from E-6 missed the cruiser and also managed to avoid being rammed by the cruiser through a crash dive. By 11:00 three more German light cruisers were approaching under Admiral Maass. Because of tides the German battle cruisers could not leave harbor until 12:00. The British now found their light cruisers and destroyers hard pressed and signaled Beatty for assistance. Invincible and New Zealand had already linked up with Beatty’s Splendid Cats.
Beatty was in a dilemma. He knew that shortly the tides would allow the entire High Seas Fleet to sortie into the area and that if he sent his battle cruisers into the Bight, they were subject to mines and U-Boats, although with calm seas the submarine threat was discounted. At 11:35 Beatty charged in with five battle cruisers at 26-knots. Shortly it was raised to 27-knots and the two older battle cruisers couldn’t keep up with the cats. Tyrwhitt was under fire from two cruisers when Beatty appeared out of the mist. "I really was beginning to feel a bit blue,’ he wrote after the battle. Then, suddenly, out of the haze to westward, the shadowy form of a large ship loomed up. She was coming at high speed, black smoke was pouring from her funnels, and a huge white wave was rolling back from her bow. Alarm and dismay were followed by relief and joy when the oncoming giant was identified as HMS Lion. One by one, out of the mist astern of the leader, four more huge shapes came into view. ‘Following in each other’s wake, they emerged…and flashed past us like express trains." (Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 111) The battle cruisers quickly smashed the light cruisers, Koln and Ariadne and after 40 minutes turned west and steamed out of the Bight. Another four German light cruisers were in the area but were not spotted because of the mist. Beatty’s Cats could have made a meal of them as well, if they had been spotted. German battle cruisers did not show up until 14:25, well after the Beatty and the rest of the British forces had left the scene. The British public was overjoyed at the first British naval victory of the war. The performance of the battle cruisers in crushing German light forces and sweeping all before them seemed to vindicate everything Jackie Fisher had said about his New Testament warships.
In January 1915 Queen Mary, considered the finest gunnery ship in the force, was being refitted and missed the Battle of Dogger Bank. More of an opportunity missed than a victory, the British did not learn a lesson that the Germans did through this action. In this engagement the Seydlitz came close to blowing up. Her aft turrets were hit and the ready ammunition and powder in the two aft turrets exploded killing the crews of both turrets. Fortunately for Seydlitz the aft magazine was flooded in time. The Germans further improved magazine and anti-flash protection in their turrets and ammunition handling. This is a lesson that the victorious British would not learn until May 1916. By June 1915 there were three battle cruiser squadrons, the Lions and Tiger were the 1st BCS, the three Indefatigables the 2nd BCS and the three Invincibles the 3rd BCS.
On May 31, 1916 the Queen Mary would be in her second action but this time against German battle cruisers in the Battle of Jutland, rather than the light cruisers faced in the Battle of Heligoland Bight. As the battle cruisers of the 1st BCS went to action stations, HMS Queen Mary was third in line behind Lion and Princess Royal. "In Queen Mary, a gunner’s mate checked to make certain his turret was ready with ‘urinal buckets, biscuits and corned beef, drinking water and plenty of first aid dressings."(Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 586) Beatty’s six battle cruisers chased Hipper’s five in the Run to the South as it is now called. By 15:45 the range between the forces had narrowed to 16,500-yards and at that time the British opened fire on order of the Lion’s captain, not Beatty. The British 13.5-inch guns out-ranged the German 12-inch and 11-inch guns but for some reason Beatty did not open fire during the time that the Germans couldn’t respond. Captain Chatfield of Lion wanted to open fire earlier but his requests to Beatty went unanswered, as Beatty was communicating with Jellicoe. Finally Chatfield, on his own initiative, opened fire and with Lion, the rest of the British battle cruisers fired. Likewise the German ships opened up. For the first ten minutes, British gunnery was poor as shells landed beyond the German ships. Beatty hoisted a signal for Lion and Princess Royal to double on Lutzow, Queen Mary was to fire at Derfflinger, second in the German line. Queen Mary missed Beatty’s signal and fired on Seydlitz, third in the German line. As a result Derfflinger enjoyed target practice gunnery, unhampered by enemy shell splashes.
At 16:05 the last ship in the British line, Indefatigable, was in serious trouble. Engaged by the last ship in the German line, Von der Tann, her steering was apparently damaged by a hit on the aft superstructure as she didn’t follow the other battle cruisers in a turn to port. Then she was hit by two more shells, one on the forecastle and one on A turret. After 30 seconds Indefatigable blew up, leaving only two survivors. Although Queen Mary was hitting Seydlitz, by 16:17 the 12-inch guns of Derfflinger and 11-inch guns of Seydlitz concentrated on the Queen Mary. Aboard Derfflinger, the gunnery control officer observed his target.
"The Queen Mary was firing less rapidly than we were but usually full salvos. I could see the shells coming and I had to admit that they were shooting superbly. As a rule, all eight shells fell together, but they were almost always over or short…But the poor Queen Mary was having a bad time. In addition to Derfflinger, she was being engaged by Seydlitz… At 4:26 p.m. [she] met her doom….First, a vivid red flame shot up from her forepart. Then came an explosion forward, followed by a much heavier explosion amidships. Black debris flew into the air and immediately afterwards the whole ship blew up with a terrific explosion. A gigantic cloud of smoke rose, the masts collapsed inwards, the smoke cloud hid everything and rose higher and higher. Finally, nothing but a thick, black cloud of smoke remained where the ship had been. At its base, the smoke column covered only a small area, but it widened towards the summit and looked like a monstrous pine tree." (Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 595) Immediately behind Queen Mary was Tiger. Aboard Tiger’s bridge Queen Mary was observed to be hit by three of a four-shell salvo with two more hits in a following salvo. "As they hit, I saw a dull red glow amidships and then the ship seemed to open out like a puffball or one of those toadstool things when one squeezes it. There was another dull red glow forwards and the whole ship seemed to collapse inwards. The funnels and masts fell into the middle, the roofs of the turrets were blown a hundred feet high." Tiger missed the stern of sinking Queen Mary by only a few feet. As the New Zealand plunged into the cloud of smoke from the explosion of Queen Mary, she passed 50 yards to starboard when the smoke cleared. The stern was afloat with propellers still turning but the rest of the ship had sunk. As they passed men were climbing out off X turret. Then the stern turned over and the aft magazine exploded. Based upon the descriptions of the end of Queen Mary, it appears possible that all of the main gun magazines aboard the battle cruiser might have exploded. British rescued two officers and five men and the Germans an additional one officer and one man.
It was shortly after the loss of Queen Mary, when it was mistakenly reported to Beatty that Princess Royal had blown up that he stated, "There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today." The loss of Indefatigable and Queen Mary, along with the subsequent explosion of the Invincible, discredited the British battle cruisers. They went from being the glamorous darlings of the fleet to floating coffins just waiting to explode. Jackie Fisher’s dictum that speed equaled armor was discredited and the loss of the three battle cruisers blamed on their light armor. However, the losses were more likely the result of British shell handling practice. The British always emphasized offensive operations. To maintain a high rate of fire, extra powder was kept in handling areas and doors were kept open. From the near disaster aboard Seydlitz at the Battle of Dogger Bank, the Germans learned a lesson that was not learned by the British until Jutland. The magazine explosions aboard Queen Mary, as well as the other two British battle cruisers, seem to indicate a delayed sequence in which a flash of ready powder reaching the magazines caused the explosion rather than direct penetration by German shells. With Indefatigable it was said to be a 30-second delay between shell strike and magazine detonation and there was a delay in Queen Mary as well. There should not have been a delay if there had been a direct penetration of the magazine. Their major flaw was the lack of protection against flash. In the end, the British battle cruisers were not the wonder ships that the press had proclaimed them before the war or after Heligoland Bight, the Falklands or Dogger Bank and they were not the white elephants that some saw them after Jutland. They were raised high and brought low by expectations that could not be met. (History from:British Battleships of World War One, 1986, by R.A. Burt; Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie; Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906-1921, 1985; Naval Annual 1909; Naval Annual 1910; Naval Annual 1911, Naval Annual 1912)
Combrig Queen Mary
The Combrig 1:700 scale HMS Queen Mary will indeed be followed by Lion and Princess Royal but alas, the other Splendid Cats will not be on the prowl until the fall 2007. In the meantime you can anticipate the beauty of those cats by examining the Combrig Queen Mary. Having just finished photography for a review of a 1:350 scale Queen Mary by a different manufacturer when the Combrig Queen Mary arrived, I was struck in reviewing the Combrig photographs with one image. It was a photograph of the screen just in front of the third funnel. On the macro-photo I could ascertain the name "Queen Mary". I could not see the ship’s name with my unaided eye but here it was, so small that most would miss it. That was not on the 1:350th model. Normally in a review I would not list defects of a product until I listed strengths, however, with the Combrig Queen Mary, there was only one significant flaw, the lower cutwater. It may not be a flaw with your copy but it was with mine. The lower part of the cutwater at the waterline is cast exceedingly thin. As a consequence it can be damaged in transit. A small triangular piece of the cutwater had broken off my copy. Be very careful in taking out the hull casting so as not to damage this point. If that part is damaged, carefully remove the styrofoam packaging and look for the small broken part. It should be there and can be easily reattached. If it is not there it can be easily fabricate from thin resin scrap of plastic sheet. The Combrig Invincible and Iron Duke kits were also susceptible to this breakage.
The Combrig Queen Mary has one of their biggest 1:700 scale hulls yet produced. A fraction under twelve-inches at the waterline, the hull appears spot on in length to the 698-feet of the original ship. Some may think of the Lion design as having slab sided hulls but they didn’t. The Combrig has the gentle tumblehome found on the hulls of the class. As usual the hull casting is very fine and as mentioned above, the lower cutwater might be cast too finely. The bow has a prominent flare with the forecastle wider than the bow’s waterline width. This was designed to force water outwards to try to keep the forecastle dry. There is only one row of portholes along the upper deck plus a few more on each side of the aft quarterdeck. A shallow torpedo net shelf is found almost the entire length of the ship. This feature is very prominent as it changes direction downwards from upper deck to quarterdeck as it stands out and divides the hull from otherwise flush superstructure. The upper aft superstructure has four secondary gun positions per side and there is a locator line on the stern for the sternwalk. There are two other prominent features on the hull. Almost all of the ship’s boats were in the well of the aft superstructure or between the funnels. However, two ship’s boats were placed at deck edge abreast the forward funnel. These boats could be launched very quickly from davits, unlike the other ones that had to be maneuvered by booms. These boat positions actually extend beyond the deck edge and have support ribs underneath.
From an overhead or plan view there is a riot of detail. In front of the graceful U-shaped breakwater, the forecastle detail is dominated by the three sets of anchor fittings. The bases for the windlasses are not the common flat plates. Instead they are significantly higher than normal and have sloping front plates. Two are to starboard and a third to port. Each has a metal chain run plate going from the windlass plate to the elongated oval deck hawse. Centerline there are three access hatches with hinge detail and a square flat base plate for a large separate windlass. Other detail includes four open deck edge chocks and a couple of twin bollard fittings. Nine locator holes are provided for separate parts for the windlasses and ventilators. From aft of the breakwater to the first funnel deck detail is somewhat less. Of course, since the forward superstructure is found here there is less deck area. Raised detail includes five raised coamings and access hatches, plus two open chocks. In this area there are 13 locator holes for smaller parts. Even the coal scuttles are shown in small circles on the wooden planking of the deck.
The bulk of deck detail is found in the large expanse from the first funnel to the aft superstructure. First of all there are outlines for the superstructure and funnel stack houses, so it is easy to properly affix those parts to the hull. Amidships from the first funnel to the aft castle/superstructure are an amazing 44 raised items of deck detail. Most of these are access hatches with intricate detail including hinges and handles. Others are skylights, twin bollards and open chocks. A bulkhead surrounds the primary boat deck. The aft superstructure reminds one of a land fort. It has six angular flat sides with a concave forward face and a narrow convex aft face. On top of the bulkheads is a planked walkway that surrounds the structure and is open underneath and provided some minimal shelter for the crews of the secondary guns located there. The Combrig kit duplicates this architecture in that there are thin bulkheads with a separate walkway for the top. The base for the third funnel is part of the hull casting and comes with 24 ventilation hatches. Inside the area are incised locator lines for boat chocks, nineteen raised access hatches, incised coal scuttle circles and six locator holes for smaller parts. The quarterdeck of course features even more coamings and raised detail. Detail here includes eighteen fittings comprising skylights, access hatches, bollard fittings and open chocks.
Smaller Resin Parts
The single largest part, other than the hull casting is the base of the forward superstructure. This part includes the first two levels and the conning tower. The first level includes four secondary gun positions on each side. There are even 14 raised detailed fittings on the very compact deck between B barbette and the conning tower. A separate resin deck fits on top of the second level so that it will be open to the rear. With the Queen Mary Combrig includes two resin wafers of thin deck and platform parts. On the largest sheet are included the aft superstructure top deck, three bridge platform levels, deck for second bridge level, raised boat deck between the first two funnels, sternwalk, foretop parts, decks on either side of the conning tower and a small deckhouse. On the aft superstructure deck are found the aft control position, access hatches, ventilation doors, locator holes and other detail. The top bridge level has a raised navigation platform. The smaller sheet includes just three parts. Two are the stack bases for the first and second funnels. Each of these has numerous ventilation doors for the boiler rooms that could be opened in fair weather and closed in adverse weather. The part for the second funnel also includes thin vertical bulkheads on each side. The third part is B barbette. One omission is the lack of an awning for the sternwalk.
As mentioned at the start, I found it amazing to find the ship’s nameplate on the two story bulkhead forward of the third funnel. The four main gun turrets are also wonderful castings. They reflect the overlapping armor plates on the turret crowns and of course have the range finding hoods at the rear and sighter hoods at the front of the crown. The stacks are of interest because of each of their unique shapes. From front to rear they were a small round funnel, large round funnel and large narrow slab sided funnel. The second funnel of Queen Mary was completely different from that on Lion or Princess Royal, which used a slab sided funnel in that position. All three funnels have base aprons, top aprons or lips and are sufficiently hollow at the top for a three dimensional appearance. The tower bridge fits inside a well on the large superstructure piece with incised placement lines for one platform with two other platforms fitting on two levels at the top of the piece. Two resin runners contain an assortment of smaller deckhouses and screens for the funnels. Main armament is good with a slight flare at the funnel but you will have to remove very small resin pour vents at the muzzle, so they don’t have hollow muzzles. Secondary guns are just barrels. You’ll have to drill out locator holes in the casemates. Unfortunately Combrig missed an opportunity here as gun mounts for the secondary guns in the aft superstructure are not included. Since Combrig does have a separate walkway covering these positions, the actual gun mounts could have been seen underneath the walkway’s overhang. Still, if you can find an acceptable substitute for these four-inch mounts, you can still add this detail. Another sprue has some open mount QF guns with separate guns and mounts but these are not the four-inch secondary guns.
There are eight sprues, which contain assorted deck fittings. Two contain windlasses for the forecastle. One has winch machinery. One has those unique double searchlights used by Royal Navy warships of the period. Three have different shape ventilators. One has two different sized cable reels, binnacles and assorted other fittings. Three anchors occupy another runner. Some of these fittings are extremely small so use care in removing then from the runner or else you’ll lose them to the carpet monster. Combrig includes three runners of torpedo net booms but remember these may have been removed by the time of Jutland (CAVEAT: just to crawfish - Queen Mary may have still had her nets and booms at Jutland, a photo of Lion dated June 1, 1916 clearly show's Beatty's flagship carrying the system), although the ship still carried the net shelf. There is one runner of mast parts, which will have to be adjusted in length and two runners of yardarms and ship’s mast booms. Ship’s boats will be prominently displayed inside the boat deck of the aft superstructure, between the first two funnels and of course the two small deck edge quick-launch boats. Combrig supplies a runner of the four davits for the quick-launch boat positions, three steam launches, one very large whaler, and seven other open boats of different designs but with bottom plank detail and some with oar detail. Rounding out the boat fittings is a runner of small boat chocks and one balsa raft.
Brass Photo-Etch Frets
The Combrig Queen Mary comes with two ship specific brass photo-etch frets. The larger of the two frets has stack grates, anchor chains, various platform supports, a chart table for the open navigation deck, blocks and tackle for the masts and booms, foretop supports and a slew of other smaller fittings. The second fret provides a significant number of open boat chocks, which will provide detail far greater than the average 1:700 scale kit. Fourteen of these are provided and present significantly better detail than the resin boat chocks, although I don’t know if they will be seen once the boats are positioned on them. You will need some generic railing, vertical ladder and inclined ladders to supplement to ship specific items provided by Combrig.
These are in the standard Combrig format but with two back-printed sheets. Page one has the ship’s history and statistics in Russian and a line drawing plan and profile. The plan and profiles are in 1:700 scale and are essential to determine the exact placement of many of the parts. For modelers wishing to build the ship as built, with torpedo net booms, you’ll have to use the profile to ascertain exact placement locations of the booms on the hull, as there are no locator marks on the hull casting for these booms. They also serve to show a rigging scheme. Page two shows photographs of all of the parts included in the kit. Page three starts assembly with attachment of parts to the aft superstructure, turret and forward superstructure assembly and deck ventilator fittings. Each size of ventilator is identified by a number and the specific numbers delineate which vent goes in which ventilator locator hole. There are also three inset diagrams, which cover assemblies/attachment of brass boat chocks, forward superstructure, aft open superstructure and QF assembly. The last page has the final assembly. All of the major components are shown with four small insets for turret assembly, 2nd stack assembly, top position for foretop and PE bracing assemblies.
Combrig has launched the first of their Splendid Cats. The HMS Queen Mary was outrageously beautiful and Combrig has reproduced the power and magnificence of the battle cruiser in this 1:700 scale kit. With the high parts number of miniscule resin and brass parts, the Combrig Queen Mary is probably not for the beginner but is certainly a superb kit for any modeler with resin experience.