Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock- The name may not be recognized by many modelers. However, for any student of the naval actions of the First World War, the name is instantly recognized and conjures visions of bravery and tragedy. In 1906 Kit Cradock commanded a cruiser squadron from his flagship, the armored cruiser, HMS Leviathan. At that time he published a book entitled Whispers From the Fleet. In it he mentored the midshipmen of the Royal Navy on the tasks aboard a King’s Warship and how to best accomplish them efficiently. The book was a success and in 1908 he published a greatly expanded second edition. As you go through the book, you will find chapters on all sorts of tasks that are essential for an officer of the Royal Navy to master. How to coal ship, how to receive the king for inspection, courts martial and the list goes on. There are also other odds and ends such as navy songs, arranging fleet regattas, riding a destroyer through a Pacific Typhoon, and the salvaging the 12-Inch guns from the wrecked battleship Montagu among many other topics.
Swiftsure & Kit Cradock
As you glance through the volume, you’ll run into two charts, which seem out of place. They show the results of a test of the battleships of the Channel Fleet in six events. Everything else in the book concentrates on how to do things but the charts show the times required for the units of the battleline in one specific fleet evaluation. A quick glance at the top of the charts reveals that one battleship stands out by the speed and efficiency displayed by her during the fleet evaluation. That ship was HMS Swiftsure. Of the six events Swiftsure was first in four (Clear Ship for Action – 26 seconds; last was Irresistible at 4 minutes 23 seconds)(In Nets – 1 minute 4 seconds; last was Irresistible at 5 minutes 46 seconds)(Out sheet Anchor at 4 minutes 56 seconds; last was Vengeance at 18 minutes 40 seconds)(Negative Clear for Action – 54 seconds; last was sistership Triumph at 8 minutes 1 second) Swiftsure was second in one event. (Out Nets at 46 seconds; first was Exmouth at 36 seconds and last was Mars at 6 minutes 5 seconds) Finally in her poorest showing Swiftsure placed third in the other event. (Replace Sheet Anchor by Hand at 7 minutes 40 seconds; First was Goliath at 6 minutes 14 seconds, followed by Caesar at 6 minutes 20 seconds and last was Hindustan at 28 minutes 7 seconds) Why was this specific meticulous detail included in Whispers From the Fleet? The answer is clear when you look at the preface to this second edition. In 1908 Kit Cradock no longer commanded a cruiser squadron but now had command of a battleship squadron from the bridge of his flagship, HMS Swiftsure.
On November 1, 1914 Kit Cradock could have used his pride, HMS Swiftsure but in the initial months of World War One was back in command of a cruiser squadron assigned to the South Atlantic. His flag flew from HMS Good Hope, sistership to his former flagship Leviathan. Following the directions of the Admiralty he went west, through the Straits of Magellan and north up the coast of Chile. His mission was to intercept the German East Asiatic Squadron under Admiral Graf von Spee. This he did 50 miles off the Chilean port of Coronel. In a one sided contest in heavy seas, Kit Cradock engaged the armored cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, along with their accompanying light cruisers and was crushed. The flagship HMS Good Hope and the other British armored cruiser HMS Monmouth were sunk with the loss of all hands, including Admiral Cradock.
More than a decade before Kit Cradock met his end at the Battle of Coronel in the Pacific off of the coast of Chile and five years before HMS Swiftsure was Cradock’s pride in the Channel Fleet competition, another impending war in the Pacific caused the Admiralty to acquire Swiftsure and sister Triumph. In 1903 it was clear to many that war was coming between the Empires of Russia and Japan. Both countries had their own shipyards employed to maximum capacity in building warships and both countries had been building warships in foreign yards. In 1903 neither country had time to wait for new construction orders. They needed ships and they needed them immediately. So both went shopping for recently completed or soon to be completed warships ordered by foreign navies. Japan was successful and acquired the armored cruisers Kasuga and Nisshin and Russia eyed two battleships that were being built in Britain for Chile.
Foiling the Bear
Throughout the 19th century France was the great rival of Great Britain. Imperial Russia had become closely linked with France by the end of the century. It was traditional for the British to compare their battle fleet with the combined fleets of France and Russia. However, by the last decade of the 19th century and the start of the 20th century, the Russian fleet was expanding at a much greater rate than that of France and the Russian Navy became the chief "bogeyman" in the eyes of the Admiralty and consequently the British press and public. On the other hand British officers had helped train the Imperial Japanese fleet. Japan had built numerous warships in Britain. Britain viewed the Japanese Navy as an alley and surrogate in checking Russian and to a lesser extent German expansion in the Pacific. There was such a close tie between the two navies that Britain and Japan subsequently entered into an alliance that did not end until the 1922 Washington Treaty required its dissolution. In the eyes of the British Admiralty and the British Government, Russia could not be allowed to acquire the two battleships soon to be completed for Chile. So the British Government jumped in and purchased the ships for the Royal Navy. They were named HMS Swiftsure and HMS Triumph.
The ships did not fit in with the homogeneous body of the British battlefleet. They were 2nd class battleships armed with 10-Inch guns, when the other first line British battleships mounted 12-Inch ordnance. They had a non-standard 7.5-inch secondary, when the standard British secondary guns were 9.2 or 6-inchers. Some of the newer British armored cruisers mounted 7.5-inch guns but they were of a different design and the British 7.5-inch shell was larger than that for the guns of Swiftsure. The 7.5-inch guns of the pair were the largest and longest secondary guns mounted in casemates in the Royal Navy. The ships were narrow and had light armor. They were also longer than any British battleship and because of the finer lines, faster. When the standard British battleship had a maximum speed of 18-knots, the new pair could do 20 knots. With their widely spaced funnels and goose neck cranes, Swiftsure and Triumph looked different, they looked alien to the British naval officer, rating and the public. Since these ugly ducklings did not fit in with the contemporary battle fleet, they often found themselves assigned as flagship on distant stations.
Chile Buys Battleships
Chile ordered two of the 2nd class battleships and one was laid down at Elswick on February 26, 1902 and were named Constituction and the other, Libertad, was laid down at Vickers. Constituction was launched on January 12, 1903 with Libertad following three days later. Not long after that Chile ran into financial problems and developed cold feet about her new battleship program. Chile and Argentina patched up their differences and signed a convention that eased the tensions between the two countries. One clause in the agreement was that the two battleships that Chile was building in Great Britain would be sold to another power. She decided to put the ships up for sale and Russia was very interested. It is odd that earlier in 1903 the RN wasn’t interested in the ships. "It has been decided not to secure them for the British Navy, to which they would have been valuable additions." (Naval Annual 1903, at page 51) However, the deteriorating situation in the east and Russia’s interest in them changed the Admiralty’s tune. They were purchased by the Royal Navy in December 1903 with Constituction being renamed Swiftsure and Libertad being renamed Triumph. With the coming year Naval Annual 1904 reported in glowing terms the acquisition of Swiftsure and Triumph. "Admiral Sir John Hopkins remarks in a letter to the Times: ‘The developed 10-in. gun, which forms the main armament of the Chilians, has now practically power enough for anything, and need not be looked upon as a disqualification for any battleship.’ If the principal armament is inferior, the secondary armament of 14 7.5-in. guns, each firing 200 lb. shell at the rate of eight per minute, is immensely superior to the 12 6-in. guns of the Duncans and Cesarevitch and the ten 6.4-in. guns of the Suffren. (Naval Annual 1904 at page 2-3) In closing the three pages devoted to the newly acquired battleships, their value was summed up, "The Swiftsure and Triumph are valuable additions to the British Navy, where in speed and offensive power they have as yet no equals. They carry their broadside guns as hign above the waterline as the Duncans, and their freeboard forward is only 1 ft. less. The Swiftsure was sent to Chatham to be docked before her trials. There is no reason for believing that her scantlings are too light. In defensive qualities – and it is from this point of view that they are most open to criticism – the ships are certainly fit to take their place in the line of battle." (Naval Annual 1904, at page 3)
Both were completed in June 1904. Because of light construction and contrary to the prediction in the Naval Annual 1904, Swiftsure did develop some weakness and certain sections of the ship had to be reinforced. Since two different yards built the ships, there were differences by which they could be distinguished from each other. The turret shapes differed in detail, the Swiftsure had a 10-Inch Mk VI and the Triumph a 10-Inch Mk VII, each of which was unique to that particular ship. Triumph was fitted with shelters on the tips of the bridge wings and Swiftsure was not. Swiftsure had lighter funnel caps with steam pipes to the rear and a prominent bow scroll. Triumph had heavy funnel caps, steam pipes to the front of the funnels and a smaller bow scroll of a different design. The ships were the last battleships to enter the service of the Royal Navy to carry bow ornamentation and ventilator cowlings.
Swizzle Stick Secondary
The armor protection scheme averaged about two inches less thickness than the standard first rate British battleship. They had a 7-inch belt versus a 9-inch belt in the King Edward VII Class. However, the Swiftsure and Triumph were always compared against the 19-knot, light armored Duncan Class with which they compared favorably. One main weak point of the sisters was very thin barbette armor below a certain point on the ship. A large shell plunging down to the lower barbette could easily penetrate the armor found there.
Greyhound of the Fleet
Swiftsurewent on her trials under different conditions. Instead of being loaded with reporters, she was loaded down with RN officers to check out the standards used in the trials. Swiftsure did in fact average over 20 knots during her trials and hit a high speed of 20.87 knots. In reality the pair were great on the sprint but slowed down with distance. They were rated as being half a knot faster than the Duncans. In practice the class would initially pull ahead of the Duncans in a sprint but fall behind as time and distance increased. Still they were very comparable and both classes were faster than the rest of the RN battleships. Swiftsure and Triumph could average over 19-knots in a six-hour period.
From commissioning in 1904 up to World War One, there were some minor appearance changes. Both ships were completed with the standard anti-torpedo net and boom system used in the RN but by 1914 Swiftsure had landed hers. The specific changes, plus drawings of the changes are found in British Battleships 1889-1904.
Both ships were commissioned into the channel fleet and on June 3 1905 they collided with each other. The propeller, stern walk and rear hull were damaged on Swiftsure. On October 7, 1908 Swiftsure was placed in reserve but went back on active service on April 6, 1909 when she was assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet. In May 1912 she returned to Britain for a refit which lasted from May 1912 to March 1913. On March 23, 1913 Swiftsure became the flagship of the East Indies Squadron.
Swiftsure in the Great War
HMS Swiftsuresupported ANZAC landing at Helles on June 8, 1915 at the start of the land phase of the campaign. From then on her gunfire supported the troops. On September 18, 1915 Swiftsure was underway from Murdos to Suvla, when she was unsuccessfully attacked by a German U-Boat, possibly U-21, which sank the Triumph. On January 18, 1916 she bombarded Dedeagatch. Her duties at the Dardanelles came to an end the following month when she was assigned to the 9th Cruiser Squadron for Atlantic patrol and convoy duty. From February 1916 to March 1917 she performed this monotonous duty, operating from Sierra Leone. By that time the Admiralty was feeling a manpower crunch. They decided that it took too many seamen to man the Swiftsure, compared to its value on patrol duty and ordered her home on March 26, 1917. She arrived at Plymouth on April 11 and was paid off on April 26, 1917. Her crew was broken up in order to provide crews for anti-submarine vessels. Although placed in reserve, Swiftsure did receive a small refit in 1917 and became an accommodation ship in February 1918. Before the war was over, they started taking her apart. In the autumn of 1918 she started to be dismantled so that she could be sunk as a blockship in a second attempt to seal the port of Ostend. The war ended before the execution of this operation and poor Swiftsure was used for a target for a period of time. On March 1920 she was put up for sale and on June 18 she was sold to the Stanlee Shipbreaking Company. (History From British Battleships 1889-1904, 1988, by R.A. Burt: Naval Annual 1903; Naval Annual 1904; Whispers from the Fleet, 2nd Edition, 1908, by Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock)
The Combrig Swiftsure
From the side there is also detail to excite the interest of the modeler. At the bow, on each side, are two deeply inset QF casemate positions. These are very crisp and well defined. There are two more at the stern but these are not as deep. The two anchor washboards are also very noticeable from the side. They angle down from the foc’sle at about a 40 degree angle and create a focal point up front. The seven 7.5-inch secondary gun positions are featured with the gun shutters in an up or closed position. The locator holes for the secondary guns are placed on the hull but appear to be too small for the guns. So, you’ll probably have to slightly enlarge the locator holes to get the correct fit. With rows of portholes on the lower deck, main deck and some on the top deck, three vertical strakes, sternwalk door, with sternwalk inset and anchor chain hawse, there is plenty of detail to add texture to the sides of the hull. One significant item you will not find on the hull, a net shelf. While Swiftsure carried anti-torpedo nets, when stored they rested on narrow shelves that were positioned just above the row of lower deck portholes. Ten booms on each side would swing the nets out from the hull, where they would be lowered into the water to stop torpedoes before they hit the ship, at least in theory. More on that with the Triumph review. The Combrig Swiftsure does not have the shelves, nets or booms. To accurately portray Swiftsure before 1914, you’ll have to scratch-build the net system.
I would like to emphasize a couple of areas of standout detail. In the photographs look at the bollards, especially from the side. They are just not posts but have a wider top. You can see how lines are secured on these fittings and almost want to try it out in 1:700. Other highlights are the two QF positions on each side of the upper deck amidships. Combrig has provided open positions for these guns. The boat deck goes on top of these positions but since Combrig has opened up the positions, it provides a great depth amidships. Fine work!
Smaller Resin Parts
The 10-inch gun turrets are oddly shaped for a British battleship, however this is not too surprising since they were designed originally for Chile. Each turret has ten facets. Ten armored plates are joined together around the circumference of the turret. In British Battleships 1889-1904 it is mentioned that the two ships had different turret shapes and further stated to check the drawings. However, both detailed two-page profiles in the chapter on the class were of Triumph. The turrets provided in both the Swiftsure and Triumph kits are identical and match the drawings in the reference. There are some small profiles in an appendix at the back of the book on changes in ship appearances but I could not they were too small to help. I studied all the photos of the Swiftsure to look for differences in the turrets between the two. So far I have not noticed any differences. There has to be something there for R.A. Burt to mention it in his book but so far, I don’t know what differences existed between the turret design of the two. Anyway, the Combrig turrets are nicely done and match the shape of those of Triumph in the two detailed profiles and one plan in the book. The gun barrels are likewise very well done. There is no warp in them. The 7.5-inch guns have hollow muzzles. One nice feature about the QF guns is the nice open gun shields, which give a different appearance to the normally open ordnance.
British Battleships 1889-1904
The funnels are rather plain thin, round and tall. You’ll need to add the stem pipes to increase detail. Funnel caps would help as well. The Combrig Swiftsure includes a small brass photo-etched fret but funnel caps are not part of the mix. Combrig provides the unique goose-neck boat cranes with structural detail on the sides. Some of the tiny parts are just wonderful with the detail that is included. The capstans have to be seen in person. Even though they are very small, you will notice individual vertical flanges. Binnacles and searchlights are crisp, clean and beautiful. As usual with Combrig the cowl openings to the J-shape ventilators are hollow to ore than the ordinary depth. Ship’s boats are more than just an afterthought. Some boats have the oars set cast on the thwarts. The benches and thwarts are well defined and the two steam pinnacles or launches are little jewels of detail. I especially admire the detail on the smaller of the steam launches with the outward flare at the top of its small stack. Combrig provides individual resin boat chocks for the boat deck, rather than cast them onto the deck. It may take longer to assemble but there won’t be the breakage risk inherent in cast on boat chocks.
Brass Photo-Etch Fret
White Ensign Models is developing a brass photo-etched fret designed specifically for the Combrig Swiftsure, just as they produced one specifically for the Combrig Tiger. I have not heard of the exact parts composition for this fret but given the thoroughness of WEM, you certainly can anticipate certain items. For one thing, you can be sure that you’ll get all of the vertical ladder, inclined ladder, railing and anchor chain that you need for the kit. You can never tell what miniscule items Peter Hall will throw into the mix but I would anticipate two sets of funnel caps (a heavy one for Triumph and a lighter one for Swiftsure), davits, probably boat chocks, mast detail, a complete stern walk with the special railing. Given their usual blinding speed in production, you probably can expect the appearance of this fret in short order. You can build a fine replica of the Swiftsure right from the box with some generic railing and inclined ladders but Combrig has lavished such detail on the resin parts of the model that you’ll probably want to add the brass detail that WEM will undoubtedly provide. A century ago the original Swiftsure was built in Britain to be sold to Chile and purchased by the British government to keep it out of the hands of the Russians. One century later, the 1:700 Swiftsure is built in a 1:700 scale shipyard in Russia and enhanced through a 1:700 scale shipyard in Britain. I find that there is a marvelous irony in the situation.