"They were an old man’s children,’ said Churchill, ‘Nevertheless, their parent loved them dearly and always rallied with the utmost vehemence when any slur was cast upon their qualities." Churchill on Admiral Fisher and the Courageous class light battle cruiser, Castles of Steel, Random House, New York 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 295
John "Jackie" Fisher knew not moderation. He either loved or hated and knew nothing in between. He served two tours as First Sea Lord of the Admiralty, the highest position available to a serving officer in the Royal Navy. His first tour was in the first decade of the 20th century and ended on January 25, 1910 with his 69th birthday. At one time Admiral Jackie Fisher had commanded the 2nd class battleship, HMS Renown and felt such great attachment to his old command that upon being promoted to Admiral the Renown became his flagship. The Renown had lighter guns and lighter armor than the 1st class battleship but it was faster and Fisher loved speed. In 1902 as Commander of the Mediterranean Fleet, Fisher and one of his favorites W. H. Gard, Chief Constructor of the Malta Dockyard, drafted up plans for a superior armored cruiser. The design was armed with a uniform 9.2-inch battery but most remarkably had a top speed of 25 knots. With his appointment as First Sea Lord Fisher could bring these dreams to fruition but in a design with much greater firepower than those sketches of 1902. When Fisher became First Sea Lord in 1904, he organized a committee to consider new capital ship designs.
The first order of business was to consider a new battleship design, which became HMS Dreadnought. As soon as this design was agreed upon, Fisher turned his attention to his true love, a new armored cruiser design but an armored cruiser that would reflect his wishes. The result was HMS Invincible. It was the battle cruiser design, which riveted Fisher’s attention and affection. To Fisher the perfect capitol ship combined a very high speed to chase down the foe and overwhelming firepower to smash them quickly. Armor was at most a secondary consideration. Fisher’s dictum was that speed was armor. After all the only qualities of a warship required of Jack Tar was the ability to catch and destroy the enemy. Armor was for sissy sailors like those parvenus of the US and German navies. "Fisher called the dreadnoughts ‘Old Testament ships’, and the battle cruisers ‘the real gems’ and ‘New Testament ships’, because ‘they fulfilled the promise of the ‘Old Testament ships." (From Dreadnought to Scampa Flow, Volume I, The Road to War 1904-1914, by Arthur Marder, 1961 , a page 44)
"The raison d’etre of the battle cruiser was threefold: to have armoured ships (1) to act as super-scouting cruisers, ships fast and powerful enough to push home a reconnaissance in the face of an enemy’s big armoured cruisers; (2) fast enough to hunt down and destroy the fastest armed merchant raiders, especially the 23-knot German transatlantic liners, which were known to be carrying guns for commerce destruction in war; (3) to act as a fast wing reinforcing the van or rear of a battle fleet in a general action. The genesis of the type was sound, as the existing armoured cruisers could not fulfill any of these tasks It is unfortunate that Admiralty statistics often included battle cruisers under dreadnoughts and that the ships came to be called, from 1912, battle cruisers (at first they were known as large armoured cruisers or ‘fast battleships’, and, in 1911, as battleship-cruisers’), for they were not intended to stand up to battleships (certainly not dreadnoughts) not already engaged with other battleships." (From Dreadnought to Scampa Flow, Volume I, The Road to War 1904-1914, by Arthur Marder, 1961 , a page 44-45)
To maximize the heavy main gun armament not only was armor sacrificed but also secondary armament. The first two classes of battle cruisers, the Inflexible class and Indefatigable class, mounted only light QF guns, which were too small to turn away the larger torpedo boats or the destroyers of the day. After Fisher retired in 1910 the third class of battle cruisers, the Lion class, raised the secondary armament to 4-inch guns and with Tiger to six-inch guns, as well as raising belt armor by 50%. Although not designed under Fisher’s tenure, he undoubtedly appreciated the offensive qualities of the Splendid Cats because they further increased speed and firepower of the earlier two designs by a jump in three knots in top speed and adoption of the much heavier 13.5-inch main gun. He did consider the adoption of 6-inch secondary guns in Tiger to be a waste of weight. Admiral Fisher had met a young up and coming politician at the French resort of Biarritz in April 1907 and instantly established an instant mutual friendship. This young whipper-snapper was Winston Churchill. Even after retiring Fisher and Churchill kept up correspondence. Fisher had been retired for a year and a half when on October 25, 1911 Churchill became the First Lord of the Admiralty. Churchill was still in that position when World War One erupted.
The First Sea Lord at the start of the war was Prince Louis of Battenberg, relative to King George V. Born in Graz, Austria. He was already related by marriage to the British Royal Family when in 1868 the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria’s second son, suggested that Prince Louis join the Royal Navy to join the Duke, who was captain at age 23, on a world cruise. Louis crossed the channel, sworn an oath to Queen Victoria, and signed up for the Royal Navy. In 1884 he further cemented his ties to the Royal family by marrying one of the granddaughters of Queen Victoria. The Royal Navy has never had a more loyal officer than Prince Louis. However, when the start of the war did not produce an immediate smashing naval victory over Germany the press and populace began to get uneasy and agitated. Early on there was the Battle of Heligoland Bight in which Beatty’s battle cruisers had saved the bacon of British light forces and gained laurels for the battle cruiser as a type. However, other events had not gone in favor of the Royal Navy. The Goeben had escaped the Mediterranean squadron and three old armored cruisers had been torpedoed and sunk in one afternoon by a U-boat. The press increasingly blamed Battenberg for lack of success. Unfortunately, Prince Louis took this criticism to heart and depressed, gradually withdrew from any public appearances as his health declined. From the start his German birth was questioned and it had even been stated that he was in league with Germany and sabotaging the Royal Navy. On October 29, 1914 Jackie Fisher came out of retirement and replaced Battenberg as First Sea Lord. Later, as the British mania against anything German intensified, the family name was changed to an anglicized form of Battenberg, to that of Mountbatten.
The public was overjoyed with the change, as Fisher was the most influential admiral in the navy since Nelson. Now that Jackie was back, this would change and the huns would pay. Fisher came into the Admiralty like a hurricane, sweeping out anyone connected with his old enemy Lord Charles Beresford. The first week after Fisher’s appointment was momentous. On November 1 Cradock’s armored cruiser squadron was annihilated by von Spee’s armored cruisers at the Battle of Coronel. On November 3 German battle cruisers appeared off the English coast and shelled Yarmouth, on November 4 the news of the disaster of Coronel broke in Britain and that same day Fisher made the snap judgement to unleash two of his beloved greyhounds, the battle cruisers to find and smash von Spee. Also on November 3 Fisher opened an Admiralty conference to select a new ship building program, which would result in the largest individual construction program in Royal Navy history.
The initial focus of the conference was in the acquisition of submarines and light craft. The government had earlier forbidden contracting for any warship larger than a light cruiser. After Fisher’s battle cruisers’ overwhelming victory at the Battle of the Falklands became know in December 1914, Fisher thought he saw a way to acquire more of his greyhounds. Fisher used the Battle of the Falklands to push through a plan that would allow two suspended R Class battleships of the 1914 program to be built, not as repeats of the Revenge Class, but as new battle cruisers. At first Churchill refused, as he was against the battle cruiser concept. However, Fisher asked Admiral Jellicoe, the new commander of the Grand Fleet to write Churchill a casual letter in which Jellicoe would lament his need for more battle cruisers. That was all that was needed to overcome Churchill’s resistance. The pair was ordered as battle cruisers. The pair retained the names assigned to them when they were planned as R Class battleships, HMS Renown and HMS Repulse. Fisher could not have been more delighted than seeing one of his newest creations become the 8th HMS Renown of the Royal Navy.
Fisher had wanted three new battle cruisers. In addition to the two suspended R class battleships there had been a sixth Queen Elizabeth class suspended as well. However, he was unable to grab that one off. Never one to take no for an answer, Fisher clearly believed that the end justifies the means, at least when it came to getting new battle cruisers. Fisher had no problem employing chicanery or deception. If the government forbade building battleships or battle cruisers but allowed construction of light cruiser, then he would order large light cruisers, very large light cruisers. By calling them large light cruisers, Fisher ordered three more battle cruisers, Courageous, Glorious and Furious. These three odd birds took Fisher’s principles to extreme. With a very high speed of 31 knots, armament of 15-inch guns on Courageous and Glorious and 18-inch guns on Furious, and almost no armor, these ships fulfilled another Fisher dream, a shallow draught. A pet project of Fisher was to use capitol ships with a very shallow draught in the Baltic Sea to support landing a Russian army on the Pomeranian beaches north of Berlin. He envisioned that his new creations would provide gun support for the Russians as they marched inland. Their shallower draft allowed the ships to operate closer to shore.
There is no doubt that the three are the most bizarre designs of the dreadnought error. They were so specialized as to be comparable to an exotic hothouse orchid. Designed to exist in a very narrow niche but unable to survive outside of a sheltered environment. Fisher may have called them large light cruisers to hide their true characteristics from the government but there was a lot of truth in that designation. The battle cruiser had always been criticized for light armor but all of the previous battle cruiser designs had at least a 6-inch armor belt but the Courageous class did away with that extravagance. The belt on these beauties was a maximum of two to three inches, making them armored on a light cruiser scale. The 15-inch gun turrets were part of the R class order. Since the main armament is the operation system that always takes the longest time to produce, the fact that the armament was already in the pipeline expedited speed of building. However, the ships only had two main gun turrets. The Royal Navy gunnery experts always emphasized that for accurate ranging fire, six guns were needed. Since the Courageous class lacked that and had almost no armor, the ships could have been at a severe disadvantage in a battle. They clearly had no chance against a German battle cruiser and in the misty conditions of the North Sea could have been surprised and hard pressed by even a light cruiser.
For a secondary armament, the same triple 4-inch turkey as mounted in the Renown class was chosen. It was a new design, which combined the breach mechanism of one type of 4-inch gun with the mountings of another. More radically they were placed in three gun mountings with the idea of concentrating a high rate of fire from the best positions. The guns would train together but each gun could be elevated separately. However good in theory, they were a flop in actual operations. The breach mechanisms were set closely together. Since each triple mounting had a crew of 32, crewmen would get in the way of each other in firing the guns. The mountings could never generate the rate of fire of which they were technically capable. As far as the machinery, the Courageous class was blessed with a fortuitous choice. Efficient, small water tube, high-pressure boilers had already been shipped in the most modern British light cruisers. By using the same power plant of a light cruiser but doubling the plants, the Courageous class was fitted with a good set of machinery, which produced 90,000shp and produced a top speed of 31-knots.
Just after the Renown and Repulse were laid down in January 1915, Fisher sent in the requirements for his dream ships. By February 23 the design was prepared. The requirements were for a design which, (1) provided for suficient displacement for high speed in moderate weather, (2) shallow draft for operations in the Baltic, (3) powerful armament, (4) speed of 32-knots so could overtake the fastest German light cruiser, (5) protected on light cruiser level, and (6) underwater torpedo bulges. The design was approved an orders let to Armstrong and Harland & Wolff. In March Fisher wrote to the chief contractor, Tennyson d’Eyncourt, and stated is views on his latest creation. "…he saw the ships as the fulfillment of his ideals, ‘all three requisites of gunpower, speed and draught of water so well balanced’. He also said that he envisioned them hunting gown enemy cruisers on the high seas. Ninety years later, the impression is one of exuberance about the technical feat of building such ships rather than much serious thought about their use." (The World’s Worst Warships, Conway Maritime Press, London 2002, by Antony Preston, at page 91) Courageous was laid down March 28, 1915 and Glorious on April 20, 1915. Courageous launched February 5, 1916, followed by Glorious on April 20, 1916. At the time of the launching of Glorious, the reputation of the battle cruiser was still at high tide. Victorious everywhere, at Heligoland Bight, at the Falkland Islands, at Dogger Bank, the British battle cruiser had never known anything but victory. This view changed dramatically two months later.
At the Battle of Jutland, three British battle cruisers were lost through explosions, loosing almost all crewmen. From being placed on the pinnacle of public and press opinion, the opinion took a 180 degree change. After Jutland the battle cruiser was seen as a death trap. The change was somewhat unfair for none of the lost battle cruisers were lost through belt penetration. On the contrary their loss was through a systemic flaw with the Royal Navy. To maximize rate of fire, shell and powder handling were lax in the extreme. Extra powder bags were kept in turrets to speed operations and for the same reason, anti-flash doors leading into the magazines were kept open. It was these foolhardy practices that allowed a turret hit to facilitate the flash from the explosion set off the extra powder bags and for the flash to travel downwards through the open doors and into the magazine. After Jutland an additional 16 tons of armor was worked into the Courageous design around the magazines.
When Renown and Repulse joined the fleet in mid-1916 they were looked upon as white elephants. With only a 6-inch belt, they too were seen as death traps. In January 1917 both Courageous and Glorious were completed. The view of the Admiralty was even more dismal, since they had light cruiser armor. As far as Jack Tar, his opinion was equally negative. They were dubbed the Outrageous class with Outrageous for Courageous, Uproarious for Glorious and Spurious for Furious. During sea trials of Courageous it was shown that the ships were constructed too lightly. Driving into heavy seas at high speed (30-knots) but short of maximum speed, the Courageous suffered hull damage. Deck and side plating were buckled and leaks were sprung in oil and boiler feed water tanks. Additionally there was water seepage around the submerged torpedo tubes and other signs of strain. As completed the Courageous had all of her stack platform searchlights on one level and the gaff at the butt of the topmast, while Glorious had her searchlights on two levels and the gaff on the starfish.
As the ships entered service in 1917 further changes were made. Six additional torpedo tubes were added, two pairs on each side of the mainmast and a single tube on either side of the aft turret. Range clocks were added to each mast and deflection scales painted on the turrets. Courageous had a unique modification not extended to the Glorious. The Admiralty didn’t know quite how to employ the curiosities. So it was decided to try Courageous as a high-speed minelayer. Her entire quarterdeck was fitted with mine rails with deployment chutes off each quarter. She never did lay mines while under this fit but did get the nickname Clapham Junction after a well-known British railway interchange. On the days of October 17 and 18 both of the light battle cruisers saw their only action with units of the High Sea Fleet. Operating with Repulse the pair were trying to catch the German mine laying cruisers Bremse and Brummer. This German pair had consistently sortied into the North Sea to lay mines, especially along the route of the British Scandinavian convoys. These operations had claimed many merchant ships, so their destruction was very desirable. The trio went after the German light forces off of Heligoland but then encountered German heavy units including German battle cruisers, which came up to support the light forces. After exchanging salvoes and recognizing the opponents it was decided that the lightly armored trio were not exactly placed for an opportune engagement and contact was broken. The only damage sustained by Courageous and Glorious was blast damage from firing their 15-inch guns. Glorious has the distinction of being the only British ship that German battle cruisers tried to destroy in the First World War and they did succeed in destroying in the Second World War. Later that year off the Kattegat, the entrance into the Baltic Sea, the three battle cruisers encountered German mine sweepers in process of sweeping British minefields.
In the winter of 1917-1918 the 36-inch searchlight on the bridge was moved to the mainmast. The stack searchlight platforms were replaced with "coffee pot" searchlight towers with a single searchlight on each of the four towers. In 1918 the Courageous had her mine laying apparatus removed and both ships had flying off platforms added to their turret crowns. Furious went in another direction, as an aircraft carrier, but that is another story. Courageous was flagship of the light cruisers when the High Seas Fleet steamed into Scapa Flow for internment. Both went into reserve in 1919 but came out of reserve in 1920, when Courageous was made flagship of the Reserve Fleet and Glorious as turret drill ship at Devonport. After the Washington Naval Treaty of 1923 both Courageous and Glorious were slated for full conversion to aircraft carriers. The conversion work went from 1924 to 1926. The four 15-inch turrets landed from the pair also had a new career awaiting them in the future. It was the turrets from Courageous and Glorious that were dusted off and went on to equip the main gun battery of the last British battleship, HMS Vanguard.
The Admiralty Models HMS Courageous
To this point I have always held the White Ensign Models HMS Renown 1942 in 1:700 scale as the most perfect kit available. Now the WEM kit has a peer with the Admiralty Models HMS Courageous 1917 kit. The quality of the Admiralty product is that great in that it can go toe to toe with the best in the industry and finish no worse than a draw. The Admiralty Courageous is superb in every category, design, casting, photo-etch, decals and instructions are all top drawer. There are no casting flaws, although there is a minimal amount of flash to be removed from the hull waterline and from parts removed from resin sheets and resin sprues. The Admiralty Models Courageous is of the intriguing minelayer fit carried from 1917 into 1918, including the action off Heligoland in October 1917.
Can you say phenomenal? Some resin casters design their kits with a level by level approach with a hull and then separate superstructure levels added one level at a tie sort of like a layered wedding kit. Admiralty Models takes the more difficult approach of adding as many levels and details possible integral to the hull casting. It is a more difficult approach as with overhangs and other architectural features, the creation of a reusable mould is more difficult. Overhangs on a casting have a tendency to tear away portions of the mold when removed. The photographs barely convey the toe curling good detail of the hull casting of Courageous. From the meat cleaver cutwater to the finely tapered stern, the design is grace personified. The main features of the sides of the hull are the concave cutwater, prominent anchor hawse with two to starboard and one to port, amidships torpedo tubes and overhanging mine deployment chutes. However, the model does not have the single above water torpedo tube doors for the positions on either side of Y turret (per British Battleships of World War One by R.A.Burt). Superstructure bulkhead detail includes doors, very well done ventilators, cables, piping, window shutters and very nicely incised vision slits for the conning tower.
As with most hull castings the deck is really where a kit’s detail is found. Where are the wooden deck planks? Well boys and girls, the Courageous and Glorious were not fitted with traditional wooden decks. Chalk it up to the light cruiser nom de guerre or as a weight saving measure, either way this design with their steel decks will stand out from the long line of tan wooden decks of the other battleships and battle cruisers. That certainly does not mean smooth decks. The class used various raised lines to canalize water off the deck. This comes in the form of raised chevrons connected to fore and aft straight lines. One exception is the pattern around the anchor machinery, which is in a star pattern with the rays channeling water away from the machinery. Each circular base plate for the triple 4-inch guns has multiple concentric rings providing even more detail.
Fittings detail is extravagant in quantity and quality. Oh sure you have the standard twin bollard plates and open chokes but what starkly stands out is crispness of equipment fittings that are part of the hull casting. Just take a look at the anchor machinery. Whether it is the windlass or the fittings to run the anchor chain into the chain locker, each fitting is really top rate in crispness. Just look at the breakwater aft of the anchor machinery. It has thin casting for the main breakwater as well as the supporting ribs on the aft face and behind that perfectly formed mushroom ventilators. With this fit of Courageous you’ll get the Clapham Junction railing at the stern. The railing is significantly raised and just right for the individual mines that come with the kit. Deck access hatches have porthole, hinge and dog detail. There are many other significant fittings on the superstructure decks. There are a plethora of various lockers with door detail. As mentioned above, the superstructure has many deep overhangs, which makes the casting technology used for this kit significantly better than run of the mill casting.
With so much of the superstructure of the Admiralty Models Courageous integral to the hull casting there are not really that many additional parts to complete the superstructure. This of course simplifies the assembly process for the modeler. Most of these are various platforms. The navigation deck includes cast on binnacle and engine controls. Different platforms have external support brackets on the splinter shielding and bridge windows. Three different levels go into the foretop and each level has its own unique detail. The largest single piece of superstructure is the stack. This one piece is crammed with detail from a finely detailed stack cap to steam pipes of various diameters. The larger pipes have attachment bracket detail and deeply incised open ends on the pipes. This is a feature that you would like to see on the muzzles of the main gun barrels and don’t find with some manufacturers but you don’t expect to see this on steam pipes. The stack openings between the trunk forms are also deeply incised for a true three dimensional appearance.
The main gun turrets have the right rounded appearance and profile. However, the aft face has a more angular appearance than the curved appearance of the turret plan found in the R.A. Burt reference. However, these turrets were originally ordered for the R class and if you check the overhead plan for the R Class in the same volume, you’ll find that the Admiralty turrets are consistent in appearance with the R class turrets. Whether there was a design change in R class turrets or whether there was a mistake in drafting the plan for the Courageous included in the Burt book, I don’t know. I tend to believe that all of the R class turrets were identical. Crown detail has the three sighting hoods forward and overlapping armor slabs with a range finder fitting at the aft end of the crown. Admiralty Models provides well-done turned brass barrels with obligatory open muzzles. One complaint I do have is the lack of blast bags. These were significant features on all of the British 12-inch through 15-inch guns. Given the high level of casting proficiency of Admiralty, they could have been included on the turret casting. I believe this is the most significant omission/error in the kit. Each of the triple 4-inch gun mounts come in four parts, the three individual guns, which fit into the open backed gun shields. This allows individual barrels to be trained at different elevations although in reality they very rarely were. Two single gun 3-inch HA mounts with separate guns and mounts round out the gun complement. You can also include in the armament listing is a resin sheet with 24 mines. This clearly separates the Admiralty Courageous from other models. You have all of the mine railing on the quarterdeck and plenty of mines to populate it. Each mine has individual contact horn detail. The horns might be over scale but the effect is spectacular.
There are plenty of other fittings for the Courageous. There are quit a number of smaller platforms, search lights, balsa rafts, carley rafts, outstanding paravanes and boat chocks. Some of the best-detailed smaller fittings in addition to the paravanes are the three anchors with superb fluke detail, excellent mast and boom parts and one of the best main directors that I have seen in the kit. Admiralty doesn’t stint in boat detail either. There are three steam launches with two different designs, five large whalers in two styles and a dinghy. The steam launches have separate stacks with hollow top openings and the whalers have wooden deck planking. As an added bonus there is a large ship’s crest.
Admiralty provides a relief-etched photo-etch fret of stainless steel. Some of the parts further detail the bridge with open triangular supports for various bridge platforms. The tripod gets yardarms with foot ropes and a fitting attached to the forward face. The mainmast gets cable pulley fittings. The stack gets a top grate, vertical ladders and supports for searchlight platforms. Each deck access hatch is provided in two different patterns. Bulkhead doors in two patterns are also included. Door detail includes hinge, handle and porthole detail. There are quite a number of hull and superstructure mounted boat booms. Alternate main anchors are included but the resin anchors are too good to replace. The smaller stern anchors are photo-etch parts. Separate inclined ladders leading from quarterdeck to main deck have perforated top platforms, as well as the accommodation ladders. All deck railings are included. Admiralty also includes long runs of vertical ladder and inclined ladder that are cut to the appropriate length. The inclined ladders have rungs rather than trainable treads. Admiralty also includes separate brass and plastic rods as well as three runs on metal anchor chains.
The Admiralty Model Works instruction sheet is a first class effort. Consisting of thirteen pages the assembly sequence is logically presented through well done drawings parts identity numbers. The assembly steps include 67 separate panels or steps. Further supplement comes with text assembly instructions and a cover sheet with a history and statistics. Additional features that significantly assist the modeler are rigging diagrams and plan & profile sheet with color chips.
Roll out the barrel or roll off the mine. The Clapham Junction fit of HMS Outrageous--- er--- HMS Courageous 1917-1918 provides a kit for a 20,000-ton fast minelayer, nee large light cruiser, prima facie light battle cruiser. Casting detail ranges the field from superb to superb, complemented with a full photo-etch fret, brass main gun barrels and masts, metal anchor chain, and a colorful decal sheet. Anyway you slice it, the Admiralty Model Works 1:700 scale HMS Courageous is a magnificent kit.