"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
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 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. 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)
The NNT Queen Mary
The master pattern for the NNT Queen Mary was prepared by Michal Samek and it is one his best designs yet. When Norbert Thiel of NNT sent photographs of the completed model of the NNT Queen Mary it looked really good. However, when I opened the box to look at the actual model for the first time, I realized that the model is far better than merely good, it is superb. In the mass of detail worked into the design, it is one of the best 1:700 scale models currently available. Queen Mary had a high freeboard compared with other designs so there is plenty of area. Even with such a large area, the hull sides of the NNT Queen Mary are covered with detail. Battlecruisers, Chatham Publishing 1997, by John Roberts has an excellent set of large scale drawings of Queen Mary included in a pocket part and the end of the book. You may want to compare the NNT kit with that set. However, I misplaced that set so used the profile of Queen Mary found on pages 164-165 in British Battleships of World War One, Naval Institute Press 1986, by R.A. Burt. NNT includes a 1:700 scale plan and profile, which appears to be based on the Roberts’ source.
First of all the hull has the gentle tumblehome that was present in the original design. There are number of different types of features on the hull sides of Queen Mary, all of which are found on the NNT model. There are two different types of portholes, the traditional small round scuttles and large square ports found on many British designs of the period. There are six of the square type found at the stern on each side. Their presence and location all matched with the Burt profile. For the row of traditional portholes/scuttles, their placement appears to match the reference except for two additional portholes found at the stern of the NNT model, not found with Burt but found with Roberts. An interesting divergence from the profile and model comes with the vertical strake detail. The NNT Queen Mary actually has significantly more of these vertical strakes than the Burt drawing. Burt depicts four such strakes on the hull side but the NNT model has eleven vertical strakes and one horizontal strake on each side. I you consult a photograph of Queen Mary in 1914 found at page 36 of the Roberts’ reference, you’ll see that the NNT kit is more accurate than the Burt drawing, as the photo shows at least eleven vertical strakes on the ship.
Another prominent feature of this design was torpedo net and booms. The NNT kit is listed as Queen Mary 1913. At this time, as commissioned in September 1913, the Queen Mary was equipped with torpedo nets and booms. Some things missing from the NNT kit are the torpedo net booms. However, by using the 1:700 profile as a template, the booms can be easily cut from narrow plastic rod. Fortunately these booms will be easy to place as each of the 18 booms on each side had a swivel fitting at their base. The hull sides of the NNT Queen Mary includes these swivel fittings in the casting. At the top of the hull and overhanging it are the torpedo net shelves. These are very finely done. They are very thin and match the Roberts’ plan. On each side there was a small platform where the shelves expanded outward for two small boat positions. These two positions are on the model including support ribbing underneath. The secondary gun positions, square windows, portholes and doors on the sides of the fore and aft superstructures cast as part of the hull, match the references and are very finely done. If I had to pick at something about the detail on the hull sides, it was that the open chock fittings at hull edge don’t have the small hull side plates that were part of the fittings.
In viewing the decks of the NNT Queen Mary, one is struck by the huge gamut of detail found in the NNT kit. With this detail, some fittings are exaggerated. Most prominently the coal scuttles are raised above the deck. Typically these coal scuttles were flush with the deck, however, by having the scuttles extend slightly above the deck, NNT enhances the prominence of these fittings and makes them easier to paint. Purists may object to this but I think that it enhances the model for the average modeler. Because it is far easier for the average modeler to cleanly paint the circular scuttles by having them slightly raised from the deck, rather than flush with it, I believe the benefits to the modeler far outweigh any negatives. The coal scuttles, although numerous are only a fraction of the deck detail found on the hull casting. There are 30 very thin individual boat cradles cast on the deck. I personally prefer this approach of having boat cradles cast on the deck as opposed to having them separate, as it simplifies the assembly. These cradles are for eight ship’s boats positions. Four are found inside the aft superstructure and four more just behind the fore superstructure. A huge amount of coamings, skylights and other detail further make the NNT deck a riot of detail.
NNT has an outstanding breakwater in front of A barbette. The breakwater itself is very thin but still has excellent support gussets and lockers on the aft face. Forward of that the anchor gear fittings reflect the windlass base plates, anchor chain plates and deck hawse. Bollards, open chocks, deck coamings and other fittings provide further detail on the forecastle. Surrounding A barbette on the forecastle and B barbette on the shelter deck are a large number of deck fittings, 30 around A barbette and 20 around B barbette. These include scuttles, coamings, chocks and bollards. I tried counting the fittings cast onto the deck between the forward and aft superstructures but kept losing count because of their frequency. Suffice it to say the level, quantity and quality of detail on the deck is stupendous. These include coal scuttles, boat cradles, coamings, lockers, bollards and skylights. About the only thing that I noted as missing were ventilation knock out panels around the base of the funnels. Fortunately, because of the confined space within the aft superstructure, I can get a handle on the fittings count. Here are found 51 fittings, if you include the 01 level as well. Again these fittings are a mixture of the types found amidships, except there are no bollards. The quarterdeck continues the detail parade. I counted 46 fittings on this deck, which comprised a mix of bollards, open chocks, coamings, skylights, lockers and coal scuttles. Taken as a whole, I think the level of detail on the NNT Queen Mary exceeds that of any other 1:700 scale World War One warship kit that I have seen. One other remarkable set of details are two ultra-thin bulkheads extending forward from the aft base of the second funnel. I really don’t know how Mr. Samek created a master or NNT cast kits with such thin bulkheads. They are outstanding by any standard.
Smaller Resin Parts
Although the hull casting is where the detail is amassed, the smaller resin parts still have their share of detail. The largest single piece after the hull is the forward superstructure. This part combines conning tower, and three levels of the bridge. Detail includes solid splinter shields, doors and portholes. A rectangle of resin casting film has eleven parts attached. As with the forward superstructure part, some minor sanding is needed to smooth where the castings were poured on casting film. The eleven parts include three bridge levels, a large flying boat deck between the 1st and 2nd funnels, four searchlight positions, aft conning tower, starfish and foretop. The four 13.5-inch gun turrets are cast on their own rectangle of resin film. Turret detail captures the crown detail with armor plate lines, three forward vision hoods, and aft range finder. Notable is the decision by NNT to include blast bags as part of the hull casting. I am really happy that NNT did this because blast bags are not found on most models and can be difficult to add. It is a lot easier to insert a barrel into the opening in the blast bag than to build up a blast bag around the gun barrels’ bases. The resin barrels for the main guns come on two resin runners of nine barrels per runner. You only need eight barrels but NNT provides 18. I guess the spares are in case some of the barrels are warped but with my sample, all 18 were straight. Another option is for brass barrels. NNT makes brass 13.5-inch barrels in 1:700 scale. Brass barrels are a common feature in deluxe versions of NNT kits. The 4-inch secondary gun barrels come on a single resin runner of 18 barrels. As you only need sixteen secondary barrels, you’ll have two spares. NNT has placed locator holes in the 4-inch gun positions in the hull casting but these will probably need to be widened to a degree.
The three funnels have good side detail including very good cast on steam pipes. Each one should be cleaned at the base. There may be some disagreement about the detail at the top. There are two poles as to the manner in which to handle clinker screens found at the top of the stacks. One method is just to cast a dome at the top with scribed lines representing the clinker screens or grille-work. The problem with this is that it lacks detail. Another method is to have hollow funnel ends with photo-etch grille-work. This method normally omits a stack design feature that there are normally a number of separate ducts from the different boilers within each stack. NNT has taken a middle approach. NNT casts the cap as part of the funnel but there is also significant depth into the funnel. Other small parts include thirteen ship’s boats to occupy all of those fine boat cradles, unique double searchlight fittings, masts, windlasses, boat king-posts, bridge supports, and two odd fittings on the hull sides just forward of the sternwalk, whose purpose eludes me. Also included is a narrow diameter cable to be used for the rolled anti-torpedo net. The inclusion of this by NNT is very welcome, as normally the modeler must fabricate his own net. Also included is a decal for the White Ensign flag.
The NNT Queen Mary comes with a stainless steel photo-etch fret manufactured by Eduard of the Czech Republic. The fret includes ship specific fittings but no railing. Included are usable anchor chain and vertical ladder. Although the fret provides accommodation ladders and two aft inclined ladders with platforms, these parts lack handrails. You may wish to use the platforms but to substitute inclined ladder with handrails for the rail-less portions of these fittings. Although NNT did a superb job with the solid resin bulkheads in connection with the 2nd funnel, for similar bulkheads associated with the upper level second funnel and third funnel, NNT employs photo-etch. One difference in these bulkheads is that the bulkheads with the upper level 2nd and 3rd funnels have openings at the centerline. The three-piece bulkhead in front of the 3rd funnel also serves as the base for the four resin searchlight positions. The stern walk is comprised of two photo-etch parts, the solid deck/platform and open grid railing, including awning stanchions. Boat booms for the mainmast aft and king posts forward are part of the fret. These parts include, block & tackle, rigging and crane hook detail. The four saluting 3pdrs found on the upper level of the aft superstructure are found on the fret. Other stainless steel parts included on the fret are three two-piece anchors, four large boat davits, eight small boat davits, two rail-less leadsman platforms, aft well ladder, and four amidships cranes. Each photo-etch part number is found on the fret.
You cannot go wrong with the NNT 1:700 scale model of the British battle cruiser HMS Queen Mary. Although the model can use photo-etch railing and replacements for inclined and accommodation ladders, the photo-etch of ship specific parts is good. However, where this model excels is in the quality and detail of the hull casting. In this regard the NNT Queen Mary is one of the most intricately detailed hull castings currently available to the modeler. As the British public said about the originals, you can also say about this replica of the third of the class, that the NNT model of Queen Mary is a "Splendid Cat".