"With her long sleek hull, ram bow, sturdy tripod masts, three funnels, and huge menacing guns, she did appear to be the very summation of sea power: long, lean, ferociously handsome: the unchallengeable guardian of the trade routes. But all was not quite as well as it seemed."
(Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 18)

Indeed the HMS Invincible was the first of a new type of warship, the battlecruiser. As such she represented the first book end of a type of warship that was in existence only for a comparatively short period of time. However, within that period the type was the epitome of the romance and glamour in the Royal Navy. "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)

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. Later the RN produced the Minotaur Class, which featured most of the details of this design except the speed. 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.

"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

The new design reflected the 6-inch armor belt of previous armored cruiser designs but achieved the 25 knots desired by Fisher in 1902. However, the mostly startling characteristic was the uniform main battery, not of 9.2-inch cruiser guns but 12-inch/45 guns, the same as mounted in Dreadnought. Fisher was delighted and had three of them ordered before the second dreadnought class was even designed. However, there were some observers that were skeptical of the new wonder ship. "Of the vessels officially designated as armoured cruisers belonging to the 1905 programme, three have been laid down – the Invincible at Elswick, the Inflexible at the yard of Messrs. John Brown and Co., Clydebank, and the Indomitable at Fairfield…. The Invincible class have been given the armament of a battleship, their superiority in speed being compensated for by lighter protection. Vessels of this enormous size and cost are unsuitable for many of the duties of cruisers; but an even stronger objection to the repetition of the type is that an admiral having Invincibles in his fleet will be certain to put them in the line of battle, where their comparatively light protection would be a disadvantage, and their high speed of no value." (The Naval Annual 1907, The British Navy, by T.A. Brassey1907, at page 9)

Laid down on February 6, 1906 Invincible was launched on June 26, 1907. She was finally completed on October 20, 1908. Trials were undertaken early in 1909 and completed in March. On March 20, 1909 she received her commission and was assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron. One design feature of Invincible was an experiment in using electricity to power the turrets. Invincible was chosen to be the guinea pig for testing the design and she received electrically powered turrets, while her sisters received the traditional hydraulically powered design. The four turrets of the ship were built by two different manufacturers in order to test each of their designs. The fore and aft turrets were made by Vickers and the two amidships turrets by Armstrong to a different design than that used by that of Vickers. The system was not successful. The electrically powered turrets showed no advantage over hydraulic powered turrets and were slower to train and elevate. In a refit in the summer of 1914 all of the turrets reverted to hydraulic power.

As Britain and the Royal Navy kept building battleships and battlecruisers in the never ending race with Imperial Germany, no one was quite sure of the true value of the battlecruiser. In June 1912 the new First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston S. Churchill, wrote, "At present the British battle cruisers have an immense prestige in themselves; no one really knows their full value, it is undoubtedly great – it may even be more than we imagine… their speed, their armour, their armament, are all great assets, even their appearance has a sobering effect." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 24)

Battle of he Heligoland Bight
It was not long before HMS Invincible would see her first action. In early August 1914 two German light cruisers had sortied to the coast of the Netherlands. The purpose was to catch British destroyers which were patrolling the area known as the "Broad Fourteens". Two destroyer flotillas and five old armored cruisers were assigned to the area but Invincible and New Zealand were moved south to the Humber to provide heavy support in case the German battle cruisers should appear in the area in the next sortie. They arrived at their new station on August 22 and were designated Cruiser Force K. On the 25th the force was ordered to support a sweep by Admiral Beatty’s battle cruisers from Scampa Flow to the Heligoland Bight on August 28th. In the morning of the 27th the two battle cruisers accompanied by four destroyers departed to fulfill their role in the operation. At 0400 on the 28th the pair sighted Beatty’s force of Lion, Princess Royal and Queen Mary and took station on their starboard beam.

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For most of the morning the five RN battlecruisers loitered around to the west of Helgioland waiting for the Germans to appear. However, action had already started at 0653 when British destroyers and light cruisers contacted German destroyers. As the British light forces pushed in the German screen and sank one destroyer, the German fleet acted vigorously and dispatched a number of their light cruisers to support the withdrawing German destroyers. The weather was misty with visibility reduced to 3,000 yards in some spots and before the British light forces realized their danger, they were under fire by a superior force of German light cruisers. At 1125 Beatty received a message from the light cruiser HMS Arthusa requesting assistance and then with five minutes to more urgent messages stating that the British forces were hard pressed. At 1135 Beatty turned his force towards the Arthusa, forty miles away, and rang up full speed, as the British cavalry in the form of Fisher’s Greyhounds, would come to the rescue of the beleaguered light forces. At first the Invincible and New Zealand had a slight lead as they were closer to Arthusa when the turn was made but quickly they were overtaken and passed by the three "Splendid Cats" who had worked up to 28-knots.

New Zealand had fallen behind the three Lions and behind New Zealand was Invincible. Aboard Invincible, "it was just after noon that action was sounded on the Invincible – the first time any of us had ever heard the stirring call blown (on a bugle) in earnest. Sounds of firing could be heard to the North West and half an hour later the Arthusa and the 3rd Flotilla were sighted in action with an enemy Light Cruiser." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 33) Invincible was already two miles behind the "Splendid Cats" whose 13.5-inch guns quickly made short work of the German light cruisers. The German forces scattered, totally surprised by the appearance of the battle cruisers. Mainz and Ariadne were already reduced to sinking wrecks by Beatty, as Invincible searched for a target. "The only remaining target presenting itself to Invincible was the light cruiser, Coln, on fire and limping away to the north. Swinging out of line, Invincible altered course to port to chase the fleeing Coln which was steering north-east on the fringe of the mist. At 1.10 p.m. Invincible fired her guns for the first time in anger. Although the range was short (5,000 yards) none of the eighteen shells she fired found the target. Coln’s northerly course led her back onto the guns of the other battlecruisers which had turned north and circled around to port. They immediately opened fire at 4,000 yards, once more robbing Invincible of a kill." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 33) With the light cruisers rescued and three German light cruisers bagged, the force turned west and Invincible was finally able to rejoin the faster ships. Although she had failed to hit Coln, she was untouched herself as none of the few 4.1-inch shells that Coln had lobbed at her had hit. The crew was jubilant at having taken part in what was called the Battle of Heligoland Bight.

In this first action of Fisher’s beloved battlecruisers, the type did seem to have acted as Fisher had predicted. When Invincible was being designed Fisher had said that she would gobble up enemy cruisers as an Armadillo gobbles up ants. Well the five battlecruisers had done just that. They had quickly dispatched three German light cruisers without no significant damage to themselves. Of course the enemy force consisted of old light cruisers and it had taken 284 13.5-inch and101 12-inch rounds to sink them but the London Times described the battle as "A Brilliant Naval Action" and Winston Churchill called it, "a fine feat of arms – vindicated by success". The expenditure of so many rounds was blamed on the poor visibility but concealed within the success was a more significant problem. The British large caliber shells were defective. Many didn’t explode on impact but merely broke apart upon striking the German ships. Their kinetic energy was still capable of punching holes through the unarmored German light cruisers and causing significant superficial damage but if they had not been defective, the German force would have been sunk far more quickly with far less expenditure of ammunition. "Ill equipped to take a punch, it now transpired that Invincible couldn’t throw a proper punch either." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 34)

Afterwards Invincible and New Zealand were moved to Rosyth, where they were joined by the other battlecruisers within a week. Cruiser Force K was dissolved in September and Invincible and sister, Inflexible newly returned from the Mediterranean, became the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron (BCS) as New Zealand was transferred to the 1st BCS to join the three Lions. Another foray into the area of the Heligoland Bight was undertaken in early September by the now, six battle cruisers, backed up by the entire Grand Fleet, but no contact was made. On October 3, 1914 Invincible and Inflexible were dispatched on another mission for which they were designed. The Royal Navy had received intelligence that two German passenger liners, converted to armed merchant cruisers (AMC), were in Norwegian waters waiting to break out into the Atlantic. It was an especially dicey time as a Canadian troop convoy was scheduled to cross the Atlantic at that time. Since the original battle cruiser concept envisioned the type chasing down armed liners, they were perfect for going after the Prince Friedrich Wilhelm and Brandenburg, if they attempted to run the blockade. As it transpired, the two German liners never attempted to leave the safety of coastal waters and the two battle cruisers spent a very disagreeable ten days cruising a North Sea that was continuously wracked in a gale during the time. At the end of October the pair were assigned the mission of providing heavy support for seaplane carriers tasked to undertake a seaplane raid on the Zeppelin sheds at Cuxhaven. Because of bad weather, which prohibited the use of the seaplanes, the operation was cancelled on October 25. "Meanwhile 9,000 miles away, on the western seaboard of South America, events were taking place that would give Invincible’s crew the glory they craved." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 40)  

Hull Detail
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Battle of the Falklands
"Received news that Admiral Sturdee was to hoist his flag in Invincible. Admiral Moore to shift his flag to New Zealand. Invincible and Inflexible to go to Devonport at once. We first of all thought that we were booked for the Mediterranean, but later received the following signal from Cromarty: ‘Unofficial. Monmouth and Good Hope attacked off Valparaiso by German ships. Monmouth sunk all hands lost. Good Hope ran ashore in burning condition. Glasgow seriously damaged but is thought she was able to make for the nearest port. The report comes from the Germans and therefore must not be accepted as reliable."
(Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 41) Actually, the report of the action on November 1 was not quite reliable, as the reality was worse than the initial German report. Not only was the 9,500-ton County Class armored cruiser Monmouth sunk with all hands at the Battle of Coronel, but also the flagship of Rear Admiral Christopher Craddock, HMS Good Hope, an armored cruiser of 14,000-tons was also lost with all hands. The German East Asiatic Squadron had crossed the Pacific from their prewar base at Tsingtao China and sunk the two cruisers with minimal damage to themselves. The force under the command of Vice Admiral Graf von Spee was centered on the two armored cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, as well as four light cruisers. However, Glasgow was not seriously damaged. Aboard Invincible the purpose of their detachment from normal operations became clear. "Putting two and two together, we came to the conclusion that we were obviously going out to settle things."

It was one thing for the Royal Navy to loose three armored cruisers to a skulking German submarine off the Dutch coast, but quite another matter to loose two armored cruisers with their entire complements in a stand up fight with two German armored cruisers. Jackie Fisher who gave birth to the Invincible, had returned from retirement to be First Sea Lord on October 29, 1914. Less than an hour of hearing of the disaster at Coronel, Fisher had ordered two of his beloved Greyhounds to go to South America and crush the German force. Fisher and Churchill wasted no time. The pair were immediately sent to Devonport dockyard for a quick refurbishment. When the admiral commanding the dockyard reported that work could not be finished on them until midnight of November 13, Churchill fired back, "Invincible and Inflexible are needed for War Service and are to sail Wednesday 11th November. Dockyard arrangements must be made to conform. You are held responsible for the speedy dispatch of these ships in a thoroughly efficient condition. If necessary dockyard men should be sent away in the ships, to return as opportunity offers." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 43)

On November 11, 1914 promptly at noon, Vice Admiral Doveton Sturdee hoisted his flag aboard Invincible. The two greyhounds left Devonport at 4:45 PM that evening. It was cold and dreary when Invincible left England but by the 16th the ship was in a much warmer environment. So warm in fact that a canvas bathing pool was set up on the foc’sle. "It is pleasantly warm. It was funny to see the two fore 12-inch guns used to support a big sail for the bathing pool!" The next day the battle cruisers pulled into Porto Grande in the Cape Verde Islands for coaling, having traveled 2,500 miles, and left there on the 18th. At 4:15 AM on November 21 the Invincible sped across the equator. At dawn on the 26th the two battle cruisers were joined by the armored cruiser Kent and the trio reached Abrolhos Rocks off Brazil at 7:31 AM. Waiting there for them was the 5th Cruiser Squadron under the command of Rear Admiral Stoddart. This force consisted of the armored cruisers Carnarvon and Cornwall, light cruisers Glasgow and Bristol and AMC Orama. Additionally there were nine colliers and an oiler with the squadron. It had been another 2,300 miles since leaving Cape Verde so the ships again had o coal. A fresh directive from the Admiralty reported that the German cruisers were still off Chile and for Sturdee, now in command of the combined force, to proceed to the Falkland Islands, 2,200 miles further south, which were to be used as a base for future operations.

On the 30th Sturdee undertook gunnery practice at the range of 12,000 yards, which was the distance from which he wished to engage the German armored cruisers. Firing 32 rounds, four from each gun, at a target towed by Inflexible, Invincible hit only once. Inflexible hit with three of her 32 rounds on the target towed by Invincible. While Invincible was reeling in her towed target, the towing cable fouled the starboard outer propeller and wrapped around the shaft. Invincible stopped with the rest of the squadron, and divers were sent over the side to clear the propeller. They were unsuccessful and six and a half hours later, the battle cruiser started south again on her three unfouled propellers. Early on the morning of December 7 the lookouts of Invincible spotted the Falklands. At 10:26 she dropped anchor at the deep-water anchorage of Port William, having traveled the 7,000 miles from Devonport in 27 days. Divers were immediately sent back over the side to free the fouled propeller. For over twelve hours the worked to free it from the cable and finally that night, were rewarded by finally separating the cable from the shaft and propeller. Invincible could again use all four of her shafts. It was fortunate that they were successful for in a matter of hours, Invincible would need all of the speed of which she was capable. 

Hull Detail
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On the evening of the 7th Sturdee had a conference of his captains aboard Invincible. Although all reports that he had received indicated that von Spee’s squadron was still in Chilean waters, German colliers had bee observed moving into ports on the eastern side of South America, which Sturdee concluded was an indicator that the Germans would round Cape Horn. His plan was to coal his battle cruisers early on the 8th and leave that evening and to race west around the Horn to catch the Germans as they traveled south along the coast of Chile. "At 4:30 a.m. the collier Trelawney secured to the port side of Invincible and an hour later all hands commenced coaling. By 7:30, when the ship’s company were piped to breakfast, 400 tons had been embarked. At 8:00 a.m. the Officer of the Watch on the bridge of the flagship was alerted by the report of a saluting gun fired by Glasgow in the inner harbour; she then signalled by lamp: ‘A four-funnelled and a two-funnelled man-of-war in sight from Sapper Hill steering northwards." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 55) Sturdee ordered the colliers to cut free and for his squadron to raise steam for full speed. Only the armored cruiser Kent had steam up and she was ordered out steam out of harbor. With those orders given, Sturdee went to breakfast. "It was an interesting fight off the Falklands Islands…a good stand-up fight, and I always like to say I have a great regard for my opponent, Admiral von Spee. At all events he gave me and our squadron a chance by calling on me the day after I arrived. He came at a very convenient hour because I had just finished dressing and was able to give orders to raise steam at full sped and go down to a good breakfast." (Admiral Doveton Sturdee, Coronel and the Falklands, 1962, by Geoffrey Bennett, at page 135)

Admiral Sturdee would not have to search the South Atlantic looking for von Spee, as the German squadron arrived at exactly the same spot on the globe that the British battle cruisers reached 24 hours earlier. Von Spee at 5:30 a.m. had detached Gneisenau and Nurnberg to reconnoiter the Port Stanley and Port William anchorages. The weather, which was normally misty, rainy or occluded with sleet or snow in the area of the Falklands was abnormally clear and bright that morning. The Germans were sighted at more than ten miles from Sapper Hill. At 8:45 the smoke of the rest of the German squadron was reported as coming up behind the first two ships. As the German ships continued to close, Sturdee ordered the old battleship Canopus, which had grounded herself as an immobile fort, to fire on the Germans when they were within range of the predreadnoughts 12-inch/35 guns. At 9:20 just as Gneisenau and Nurnberg trained their guns on the wireless station, Canopus fired her first shots at a range of 11,500 yards. Another twist of fate came into play at this point. The Canopus had planned a practice firing for the morning of the 8th to show Admiral Sturdee how she could fire her guns blind over a spit of land under the directions of a spotter on Sapper Hill. The gun crews of both turrets were fiercely competitive with each other. On the night of the 7th crewmen from the after turret sneaked out and loaded practice ammunition into their guns, replacing the standard rounds. Even at maximum elevation the guns of the old Canopus still couldn’t reach the German ships. The two shells of the forward turret burst on impact, a mile short of the Germans. However, the practice rounds loaded in the aft two guns hit the sea and skipped onward, right into the Germans. One of these two practice rounds hit at the base of the Gneisenau’s aft funnel. The Gneisenau had spotted the Kent leaving harbor and was steering towards her when she was hit by this round from an unseen assailant, because the Kent hadn’t fired and the Germans were well outside the range of the six inch guns on the County Class cruiser. With the hit the Germans turned to rejoin the rest of their squadron. Without this hit the Germans had the opportunity to close the British force and perhaps damage the immobile ships sufficiently to allow the German squadron to escape.

Aboard the Gneisenau, the Germans spotted huge clouds of coal smoke, which they assumed was coming from coal stocks set on fire by the British to deny them to the von Spee’s squadron. At 09:00 warship funnels and masts were made out in the inner harbor. This did not bother Captain Maerker of the Gneisenau, his ship and the Scharnhorst had easily handled British armored cruisers a month earlier. "He was not, however, willing to believe the next report which came from his gunnery officer: across the low-lying neck of land which linked Cape Pembroke with Stanley, Busche saw tripod masts, four of them. But the possibility that there were a couple of dreadnoughts in the South Atlantic was something undreamed of even in the cautious Maerker’s philosophy: Busche was curtly told that the nearest battle-cruisers were as far away as the Mediterranean." (Coronel and the Falklands, 1962, by Geoffrey Bennett, at page 133) Gneisenau signaled von Spee that the British apparently had three County Class armored cruisers, one light cruiser and two larger ships, which may be predreadnought battleships. With this report and the solitary hit from Canopus, von Spee ordered Maerker to avoid action. There were no repair facilities available for the East Asiatic Squadron to repair battle damage and the squadron certainly could easily outrun predreadnoughts.

With the Germans breaking contact, all Sturdee could do was wait until his squadron had sufficient steam to get underway. Finally at 10:00, forty minutes after Gneisenau and Nurnberg had turned away, Invincible got underway. "As Invincible started to move down harbour at 10:00 a.m., a cutter loaded with mutton and flour, left behind by Inflexible, drifted across her bows. Stopping for nothing the great ram bow of the battlecruiser sliced the boat in two throwing each portion contemptuously aside as the ship gathered speed." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 56) By 10:30 the two battle cruisers, three armored cruisers and the light cruiser Glasgow had reached the open sea, while Bristol was still at anchor trying to raise steam. By this time the Germans were 19 miles away with their presence indicated in the sunny day by huge inverted pyramids of coal smoke. 

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By 11:15 the British force was considerably strung out. The two battle cruisers had considerably cut in to the German lead, as the German ships’ funnels and superstructures were above the horizon. However, the British armored cruisers had really started to lag and were five miles behind the Invincible and Inflexible. With perfect visibility and plenty of daylight left Sturdee slowed the battle cruisers to 19 knots to allow the armored cruisers to catch up with the greyhounds. At 11:32 he directed that the crews of his squadron should serve the noon meal. Finally at 12:20 Sturdee decided not to wait further. The armored cruisers were not catching up and he decided that it was time to bring von Spee to action. With the two battle cruisers steaming parallel to each other, they went to action stations at 12:30. "At full speed Invincible and Inflexible made an impressive sight to all who witnessed them. Ram bows foaming into the steely green sea, sterns leaving boiling wakes, five white ‘battle’ ensigns fluttering from the yards standing out in stark contrast to the thick black, oily smoke pouring from their funnels, the huge guns searching out the enemy at full elevation." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 57-58)

The light cruiser Leipzig had fallen 3,000 yards behind the rest of von Spee’s force. Fidgety Phil Phillimore, captain of the Inflexible, fired first from the guns of A turret with the guns at maximum elevation at 16,500 yards at 12:55. The shells fell 1,000 yards short of Leipzig. Invincible opened up at 12:57 from her A turret but was also short. By 13:15 the range had closed to 15,000 and Leipzig was being bracketed by huge geysers produced by the shells of the two battle cruisers. At 13:20 von Spee made a tactical decision. The courageous German admiral turned the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau into the path of the Invincible and Inflexible and ordered his three light cruisers to separate and break contact to the south. Following Sturdee’s established battle plan, the smaller British cruisers took out after the German light cruisers while the battle cruisers charged towards the two German armored cruisers. Sturdee’s plan also directed that the battle cruisers engage the German ships outside the range of their 8.2-inch guns, which was 13,500 yards. So when the British ships the 14,000 yards range they swung parallel to the German armored cruisers. "Lieutenant-Commander Smyth-Osborne, in command of Invincible’s ‘P’ turret, was confident that it would all be over within an hour. After all, the battlecruisers had a crushing superiority in broadside fire over the two armored cruisers (combined weights of 10,200 pounds against 3,914 pounds). But it wasn’t going to be that simple." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 59)

At almost the same time the four ships opened fire. They were steaming to the northeast with a wind blowing in from the northwest. The wind carried the huge quantities of coal and oil smoke produced by the battle cruisers downrange, significantly obscuring the vision from the British ships. In the two British ships only the range finders in A turret of Invincible and the personnel in the fore control top had a clean view of the German ships. Inflexible was hampered by her own smoke as well as Invincible’s smoke. Invincible engaged Scharnhorst and Inflexible engaged Gneisenau. The first two German salvos fell short but von Spee closed range to 12,000 yards and the shells of the third salvo straddled Invincible. "Five columns of water simultaneously shot into the air all round the ship,’ Duckworth recalled. ‘At the noise of the approaching shells I involuntarily ducked my head!" In spite of the design in which cross deck fire from the amidships turret on the unengaged side, the 12-inch guns of P turret did fire across the ship at von Spee’s cruisers. Of course every time P turret fired, the marine crew of Q turret were dazed by the concussion. British fire was slow and inaccurate, hindered by their own smoke and the constant splashes of German 8.2-inch shells. Additionally the fire control station on the foretop of Invincible couldn’t use the stereoscopic rangefinder because of vibration caused by speed and the firing of A turret, as well as the smoke. The spotters had to resort to binoculars and observe fall of shot. This was also hamstrung in that shots that were over could not be observed because of the smoke of Scharnhorst.

Additionally Invincible was suffering some internal problems. The lights had gone off and the ship was on emergency lighting. Then at 13:42 the right hand gun of A turret jammed. It took 30 minutes of work with crowbars to get the gun operational again, and even then it continued to provide misfires. At 13:44 the first 8.2-inch round from Scharnhorst hit the side armor of Invincible, causing only superficial damage as the armored belt was not penetrated. Sturdee who was directing the battle from the platform below the foretop ordered his ships to open range. He also slowed to 22 knots to lessen smoke. By 14:00 the guns on both sides had fallen silent. The Germans turned south again as clouds were observed in that direction. If they could find the mist and rain found normally in that area of the world, they could make good their escape. Because of the battle cruiser’s smoke, it took awhile before it was clear that the Germans were again making off to the south. Sturdee immediately turned his battle cruisers towards the Germans and increased speed to 24-knots. The chase lasted 40 minutes before the range had closed back to 15,000 yards. Again Sturdee turned to port to present a broadside and at 14:53 the German pair turned to present their broadsides. 

Superstructure & Armament
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 The range continued to close until at 15:03 it was at 11,000 yards and the German secondary 5.9-inch guns were within range. For the next fifteen minutes the Invincible became the punching bag for 8.2-inch and 5.9-inch shells from Scharnhorst, as the battle cruiser was hit repeatedly by the crack German gunners. One 8.2-inch shell blew away 10 feet of the starboard leg of the forward tripod mast. The blast traveled up the leg and blew open the access hatch in he foretop. The foretop personnel were knocked down but there were no serious injuries. Another 8.2-inch shell hit near X turret, penetrated two decks and burst in an empty sickbay. Shells also wrecked the canteen and wardroom. Engine room stokers were quick to seize the opportunity presented by the wrecked canteen. "About five minutes later a stoker came down with an armful of fags and tins of pineapple. The stokers were all smoking cigars and yaffling (eating) chocolate, pineapple, etc., looted from the wrecked canteen." One 8.2-inch shell tore off the barrel of a 4-inch gun, went down two decks to the Admiral’s storeroom cupboard but did not explode. A 5.9-inch shell wrecked the chaplain’s quarters and the paymaster office without exploding. 

However, the Invincible had also been hitting home, crippling the Scharnhorst. By 15:12 Scharnhorst was on fire forward and her fire had slackened significantly. Her steering was also affected as she suddenly veered away and opened range. Three minutes later Sturdee ordered a full turn to port and the battle cruisers turned in a circle until at 15:30 they were steering to the southwest. This maneuver placed the British ships clear of their smoke and for the first time they had a good view of the German armored cruiser. During the turn two more 8.2-inch shells from Scharhorst hit the bow of Invincible but caused no significant damage. A 5’9-inch shell struck right between the guns of A turret. "If the shell had struck thirty inches higher,’ wrote Bingham, ‘it would have sent the sighting hood, rangefinder operator and myself to glory.’ As it was, it only dented the turret armour but it holed the gun aprons with the result that every time the guns fired the personnel in the turret were subject to the blast and the choking effects of the sickly effects of the cordite fumes which the aprons had been designed to eliminate." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 66) Now the starboard side was engaged and the crew of Q turret were able to repay their brothers in P turret for their experiences of muzzle blast with their own cross deck firing. "I had ‘Q’ turret firing across the deck,’ wrote Smyth-Osborne in ‘P’ turret. ‘They practically put my turret out of action, their blast deafening and dazing my gunlayers, spotters and trainers. In fact making all those in the gun house partly damned stupid. In the excitement the Marines in ‘Q’ were firing on some dangerous bearings." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at pages 66-67

With smoke interference reduced greatly, the British 12-inch shells really started tearing the guts out of the German armored cruisers. Scharnhorst was down by three feet from her waterline, her third funnel gone and almost hidden in explosions and smoke from her onboard fires. "Her upper works were a shambles of torn and twisted steel and iron, and through the holes in her side, even at the great distance we were from her (12,000 yards) could be seen the dull-red glows as the flames gradually gained mastery between decks" At this time Invincible received an 8.2-inch hit that could have been catastrophic. The round hit below P turret but plunged underneath the waterline and protective armor belt. A four by two foot hole was blown open in the hull in a coal bunker. Seawater quickly scoured out the coal in the bunker, washing it into the sea. However, on the inboard side of this bunker, separated by a thin armor bulkhead, was the amidships magazine that traversed the ship from P to Q turrets. Fortunately for Invincible, the round failed to explode. If it had and splinters had penetrated the bulkhead, Invincible would probably have blown up. 

By 16:00 Scharnhorst had it. Her guns were silent, all of her funnels were down, she was afire forward and aft and water was coming over her forecastle. She was listing to port and drifting without steerageway. Scharnhorst with von Spee and his entire crew, heeled slowly to port and went down by the bow. Now it was just Gneisenau against Invincible, Inflexible and the armored cruiser Carnarvon that had caught up with the battle. However, Gneisenau proved to be a tough nut to crack. Limited to 18-knots due to under water damage caused by Inflexible, she made for rain clouds now clearly seen to the south. For the next hour and forty minutes, shell after shell tore into her. Gneisenau appeared to be concentrating her fire on Invincible. Sturdee’s flagship suffered hits at 16:29, 16:38, 16:43 and 17:15. However, Gneisenau couldn’t make it to the cover of the rain clouds. Her speed continued to fall until by 17:30 she was dead in the water. By 17:49 could only fire the guns from one turret. Sturdee called cease fire at 17:53 as the British squadron watched Gneisenau settle. It was then that mist and rain made it to the sinking Gneisenau, too late to help. By 18:00 she was on beam ends and two minutes later, she plunged to follow her sister to the bottom of the south Atlantic. 

HMS Invincible Vital Statistics

Length - 567 feet (oa); 560 feet (wl); 530 feet (pp): Width - 78 feet 8 1/2 inches: Draught - 25 feet 1 inch (load), 26 feet 8 inches (full load): Displacement: 17,290 tons (load), 19,975 tons (full load): Armament: Eight 12-inch/45 Mk X; Sixteen 4-inch/45 Mk III; Five 18-inch torpedo tubes (four beam, one stern), 23 18-inch torpedoes carried plus six 14-inch torpedoes for ships boats

Armor: Belt - 6 Inches; Turrets - 7 Inches on Face and Sides, 3 Inches on Crown; Barbettes - 7 Inches through the Armored Deck and then 2 Inches; Conning Tower - 10 Inches on face, 2 Inches on roof and floor; Magazine - 2 1/2 Inches; Bulkheads - 7 Inches forward, 6 Inches aft; Deck - Main Deck 1-3/4 Inches, Armored Deck 2 1/2 to 1 1/2 Inches:
Machinery: Four Parsons turbines, four shafts; 31 Yarrow boilers; 46,500 shp; Maximum Speed at Trials - 26.64 knots Range - 6,210nm @ 10 knots, 3,050nm @ 22.3 knots: Complement: 729 in 1909, 799 in 1914, 1,032 in 1916


The British quickly moved in to rescue survivors but the icy cold water was claiming them very quickly. About 300 of the German crew made it into the water. Cutters were lowered and ropes thrown over the high sides of the battle cruisers as well as the Carnarvon. Although the battle cruisers had landed their anti-torpedo nets and booms, they still were fitted with the shelves, which jutted out from the hull. It proved to be particularly difficult to get the survivors over these shelves. Invincible picked up 111 of the crew but only 91 survived. Inflexible picked up 63 and Carnarvon 33.

The German East Asiatic Squadron had been crushed. Of the three light cruisers that made a run for it, Leipzig and Nurnberg were sunk and only Dresden made it clear. The battle had taken about four and ½ hours and for many of the victorious British, the most troubling aspect was that it had lasted that long. Admiral Fisher criticized Sturdee for being "dilatory and theatrical" but then Sturdee had been in the sphere of Fisher’s arch rival Admiral Charles Beresford and Fisher hated anything or anybody associated with Beresford. A total of 1,174 12-inch shells had been expended in the battle. The British claimed 40 hits on Scharnhorst and 34 on Gneisenau, although both figures were probably to great as a survivor from Gneisenau recorded the battle, minute by minute, and chronicled that only 23 hits were scored on his cruiser. The low percentage of hits was said to be caused by the extreme range and the fact that the battle cruisers smoke caused great interference in observing the target. Sturdee simply and telling stated that he saw no need of giving away his advantage of a greater range for his armament. To close to save ammunition would merely have increased the damage to his ships and loss to his crews. The argument about the smoke interference was indeed correct but since the battle was primarily fought well within the extreme range of 16,500 yards of the 12-inch guns of the battle cruisers, that portion of the argument does not ring true. However, British training was partly responsible for the low number of hits. Since 1912 Invincible had carried out only one firing practice at targets over 6,000 yards.

Other, even greater systemic problems, were not even examined. The performance of the foretop fire control station of Invincible had been greatly degraded by the vibration caused by high speed and the firing from the guns of A turret. The stereoscopic ranging devices had been rendered useless because of this. Commander Dannreuther, gunnery officer of the ship, had been in the foretop and had made note that many of the shells fired by Invincible, did not explode upon striking the water, as they should have. This observation clearing pinpointed a fault in British heavy caliber ammunition, but nothing was done and that same fault was still present 1 and ½ years later at Jutland. Invincible had a host of mechanical problems with her main armament during the battle. In addition to the incapacity of the right gun in A turret, the left barrel was taken off line near the end of the battle. The crew of Q turret also had to use a crowbar to "assist" the breechblock of one of their guns. Water pipes had burst inside some turrets, soaking the crew in a continuous spray and in A turret the fume evacuator pipe had burst so that cordite smoke filled the turret with every salvo. 

In turn Invincible had been struck with a total of 22 German shells, twelve 8.2-inch, six 5.9-inch and four unidentified. Except for some flooded compartments forward and the flooded coal bunker, all of the damage was superficial. There was additional self-inflicted blast damage caused by the cross-deck firing of P and Q turrets at different stages in the battle. Total casualties on the flagship amounted to two injured, one with a bruised foot and the other with a cut on the arm. The fact that Invincible received so little damage in spite of being the target of one of the crack gunnery ships in the German fleet certainly seems to vindicate Sturdee’s tactics and paint Fisher as just being vindictive over past associations. Although Inflexible had received only three hits, shrapnel from one explosion had killed one of the crew and injured three others. In addition to sinking two armored cruisers and two light cruisers, Sturdee’s force also bagged two German colliers. On the 9th he ships spent their time looking for the armored cruiser Kent, which had taken off after the Nurnberg during the battle and had not reported thereafter. By 15:00 Kent was sighted and the report came in that she had sunk her quarry at 19:27 the previous evening but due to damage to her wireless could not use it to report her status. 

Superstructure, Boats & Fittings
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Sturdee still wanted to catch the Dresden and kept up a search for her for the next few days. On the 13th the German cruiser was reported to be at Punta Arenas, a port in the Straits of Magellan and Sturdee planned to take his whole force after her, as Invincible had patched the holes in her hull and pumped out the flooded compartments. However, this was vetoed by the Admiralty and the battle cruisers were directed to come home. On December 16 Invincible raised her anchor and made for Montevideo, which she reached on the 20th. On the 19th Inflexible had received a separate order to proceed to the Dardanelles. While at Montevideo rumors were received that the German battle cruisers Seydlitz, Moltke and von der Tann were close and searching for Invincible. A telegram was sent to the Admiralty asking for confirmation of this information and the quick reply was that on December 16, these ships were still in the North Sea and consequently couldn’t be in the South Atlantic. The probable reason for this these frantic rumors lies with the change of color of the British battle cruisers. Before steaming for the Falklands, they had been painted in a light gray, which was much more effective at concealment in the misty conditions of the North Sea than the prior dark gray used by RN warships. As the pair had steamed south, every merchantman had steered clear of them and reported German battle cruisers, as the light gray paint was almost identical to the color of German warships. Once started the rumors took on a life of their own. Invincible retraced the steps that she had taken in her journey to the south and on January 11, 1915 entered the harbor at Gibraltar for repairs and a light refit. She stayed there for a month. During this period an additional 15 feet were added to her forward funnel to keep down fumes off the bridge. This modification had been made to the other two of the class before the war. Sturdee and his staff left the ship at Gibraltar and boarded a P & O liner bound for Britain. For his victory, the greatest British naval success of the war at that time and arguably for the entire war, he was given command of the 4th Battle Squadron and subsequently made a baron and awarded 10,000 pounds sterling. The crew of Invincible to a man, were sad to see Sturdee leave, as they had come to admire and respect his command style.

Hood Takes Command
On February 13 Invincible left Gibraltar and reached Scampa Flow on the 19th. For the rest of the month and into March Invincible engaged in gunnery practice, not as a result of her performance t the Falklands, but to test the new director firing system in which the gunnery officer in a platform below the foretop fired all of the ship’s main guns from his position. This system proved to be more accurate in hitting a target and was adopted throughout the fleet. On February 21, 1915 the ten battle cruisers of the RN were reorganized into three squadrons under the overall command of David Beatty. The four splendid cats were in the First Squadron, the three Indefatigable’s in the 2nd and the three Invincibles in the 3rd. The force was moved to Rosyth to be placed to counter German battle cruiser raids of the east coast. The commander for the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron remained vacant until May 27, 1915 at which time the flag of Rear Admiral Horace Hood, lineal descendant of Admiral Samuel Hood of Seven Years War, American Revolution and the Napoleonic wars fame, was raised aboard his flagship, HMS Invincible. For the next year very little happened, as the battle cruisers were to react to German moves, rather than undertake offensive action. On September 29, 1915 Invincible was detached to proceed to Belfast for a quick refit. She left Belfast on October 6 and rejoined the battle cruisers on October 8. On December 8, 1915 Admiral Sturdee cabled his respect and gratitude to the crew of Invincible on the anniversary of the Battle of the Falklands. The day was made a holiday for the ship’s crew.

The first months of 1916 brought more training and boredom but no action. On April 24, 1916 word came that the German fleet was out and the battle cruiser force raced into the North Sea looking to cut off their retreat as the Grand Fleet moved down from Scampa Flow. Invincible hit 25 knots in her efforts to keep up with the splendid cats of the 1st Squadron. The operation was a near miss and the British battle cruisers missed the German battle cruiser force by a mere 50 miles. The battle cruisers were recalled and on the journey home, Invincible was rammed by the patrol yacht Goissa in thick fog. The bow of Goissa broke off and was embedded in the starboard quarter of Invincible. Invincible limped home at 12 knots due to flooding and was placed in drydock for repairs until May 22. During this time the ship’s company had home leave, which would prove to be the last the families of the crew of HMS Invincible would see of their loved ones, except for six.

Battle of Jutland
At 17:16 on May 30, 1916 Beatty received word that the Germans would out again on the next day. Admiral Jellicoe directed Hood and the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron, with two light cruisers and four destroyers, to act as a screen for the Grand Fleet in a position ten miles ahead of the fleet, while Beatty with the 1st and 2nd Battlecruiser Squadrons acted independently. If nothing happened, the 3rd Squadron would rejoin the rest of the battle cruisers the next day at an appointed rendezvous position 100 miles off of the Jutland Peninsula of Denmark. By 23:00 the Grand Fleet and all of the battle cruiser force was at sea steaming eastward. By 14:00 on the 31st Invincible and her two sisters were at their appointed position but were 25 miles ahead of the fleet, rather than ten, as the fleet had been delayed. 

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Shortly thereafter Invincible started intercepting strong German message traffic and then began to receive reports of the light cruiser Galatea, which was an escort of Beatty’s 1st and 2nd Battlecruiser Squadrons, that the cruiser had spotted two German ships. Reports kept coming in and the number of German ships sighted kept increasing. Hood steered his three battle cruisers ESE with the intent of cutting off the German retreat and increased speed to 22 knots. At 15:18 Action was sounded and the crew went to battle stations. At 15:38 Hood picked up a transmission from Beatty that his battle cruisers were in action with five German battle cruisers. Without informing Jellicoe, Hood ordered full speed and charged south at 16:06 to support the battle cruisers of the 1st and 2nd Battlecruiser Squadrons, estimated to be 50 miles to the south. "At 4.56 p.m. with Invincible and her consorts foaming through an empty sea at 26 knots, without sight or sound of the battle which was raging somewhere to the southward, Hood sent a radio message to Beatty requesting his position, course and speed. There was no reply." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 99)

While Hood and Invincible were charging south, Beatty’s force of six battle cruisers (Australia was absent) with the support of four Queen Elizabeth Class battleships, were making the "Run to the South" after the German battle cruisers. At 16:02 Indefatigable of the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron was blown up by von der Tann and at 16:26 Queen Mary of the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron met the same fate from Derfflinger. "Fisher’s belief that ‘speed is armour’ had proved to be devastatingly foolish. ‘The loss of the two Battle Cruisers’, wrote Beatty in 1934, ‘was not the fault of anybody in them, poor souls, but of faulty design…Their ships were too stoutly built whereas ours went up in a blue flame on the smallest provocation." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 102) At 16:36 the battleships of the High Seas Fleet were sighted steering north and ten minutes later Beatty turned his force northward, followed by the entire German fleet, towards the Grand Fleet. This started the "Run to the North".

Meanwhile Hood and Invincible started hitting patches of mist. Visibility would be at one-moment 16,000 yards and then quickly drop to only 2,000 yards. At 17:30 gunfire was first heard aboard Invincible to the southwest. This was from the German battle cruisers 14 miles away but unseen through the mist. Hood, believing Beatty was still ahead, maintained his course but sent the light cruiser Chester to investigate. In this mission Chester was surprised by German light cruisers and at 17:40 Hood saw gun flashes from the direction in which Chester had steamed. Hood altered course and sped his force towards those flashes. A few minutes later Chester reappeared heading back towards the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron and she was surrounded by shell splashes. At 17:53 the four German light cruisers chasing Chester were sighted and Invincible opened up in battle for the first time since the Battle of the Falklands. Inflexible and Indomitable followed in opening fire two minutes later. The Germans made a quick about turn and disappeared into the mist at 18:00. The rear ship, Wiesbaden, didn’t reach the sanctuary of the mist in time and a twelve-inch shell from Invincible destroyed her engine room. Although mist enveloped her, she was dead in the water, to be raked later by guns of the Grand Fleet. Eventually she sank at 02:00 June 1 but her fate was sealed by Invincible. Inflexible hit Pillau and knocked out four of her eight boilers but she managed to creep away.

With the appearance of the British battle cruisers, the Germans immediately launched a torpedo attack from 31 destroyers. The four British escorting destroyers charged forward in spite of the 8 to 1 odds and blunted the attack. Because of the British destroyers’ gallant counterattack, the Germans were only able launch a total of nine torpedoes at the battle cruisers, which were broadside to the attack. As torpedoes were seen approaching, Inflexible turned into their path and Invincible and Indomitable turned way. During the turn the helm of Invincible jammed and she had to come to a stop. As the torpedoes passed harmlessly, Invincible, her helm problem fixed, regained speed and the other two fell behind the flag. Finally shortly before 18:30 at 4,000 yards, Admiral Hood saw Beatty’s battle cruisers of the 1st and 2nd Battlecruiser Squadrons approaching, followed by Hipper’s battle cruisers, 11,000 yards away. 

Brass Photo-Etch Frets
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Hood swung to a south-easterly course as the vanguard of the entire Grand Fleet deployed in line of battle behind and Invincible was on the very tip of the spear. Now the race was to the south again. Beatty’s battle cruisers concentrated on the rear of Hipper’s column while 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron concentrated on Lutzow from Invincible and Inflexible and on Derfflinger from Indomitable. For the next eight minutes Invincible maintained a very effective fire on Lutzow at 9,600 yards. About 50 rounds were fired and eight hits were achieved on Lutzow. Hood was very happy with firing of his flagship. He called Commander Dannreuther, his gunnery officer directing fire from the foretop. "Your firing is very good, keep at it as quickly as you can, every shot is telling!" Two of those eight hits were below the armor belt on the bow of Lutzow, which let in 2,000 tons of seawater. Lutzow pulled out of line away from the fire of Invincible and steered towards the mist. "Although she had been hit a total of twenty-four times by heavy shell in the course of the battle, it was these two hits by Invincible which sank her. Lutzow struggled on to 2.00 a.m. the following morning." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 107

Although Lutzow was mortally damaged by Invincible, she at least had over seven hours of live left. The same could not be said about the ship that had put paid to Hipper’s flagship. In the eight minutes of the engagement Lutzow and Derfflinger had concentrated their fire on the Invincible. After falling short by 1,200 yards, German salvos quickly bracketed Invincible. From Indomitable a salvo was seen to hit the stern of Invincible but without any apparent effect. At 18:34 another salvo from Derfflinger hit amidships. One shell hit the face of Q turret, penetrated the armor and burst inside, blowing off the turret roof. All of the Marine crew was killed except Bryan Gaston in an enclosed compartment of the rangefinder. Dannreuther in the foretop saw the turrets roof blown over the side. Either the flash from that explosion traveled down the trunk to the magazine or another shell from the same salvo penetrated the amidships magazine, which ran across the width of the ship and fed both P and Q turrets. The entire center part of Invincible was instantly converted into a huge fireball that rose to 400 feet. The entire amidships section of the battlecruiser was destroyed. With the ship blown in two, the separated bow and stern sections each had one end on the shallow seabed with the bow and stern jutting above the surface.

As the foremast crashed into the sea, Commander Dannreuther and two other members of the foretop crew managed to get free and come to the surface. A fourth survivor from the foremast was Yeoman Pratt who had been stationed on the director platform right under the top. A fifth was Lieutenant Sanford who escaped through an open hatch in the forward conning tower. Incredibly, the sixth and last survivor of HMS Invincible was Marine Bryan Gaston of Q turret. He had miraculously survived the explosion of Derfflinger’s 12-inch shell inside his turret and then, even more incredibly, had survived the explosion of the huge magazine beneath his turret, as he was blown out of the open roof of his turret and clear of the ship. As Beatty passed the wreck of Invincible, he dispatched the destroyer Badger to rescue survivors and at 19:00 she had boats in the water heading for the wreckage. As Admiral Jellicoe passed the Badger on the port side in his flagship Iron Duke, he signaled to Badger, "Is wreck one of our own ships." As Badger responded with "Yes, Invincible.", the column on the starboard side of Badger was headed by HMS Benbow under the flag of Admiral Doveton Sturdee.

"History’, Fisher wrote, ‘is a record of exploded ideas,’ and his belief that ‘speed is armour’, would literally explode with the magazines of Invincible, Indefatigable and Queen Mary at Jutland." (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986, at page 22) There are a couple of odd coincidences connected with admirals who fought against Invincible and in Invincible. In December 1914 Admiral Graf von Spee was lost at the Battle of the Falklands in the South Atlantic through the fire of HMS Invincible. Almost exactly 25 years later, the ship named after that admiral, the Panzersciffe Admiral Graf Spee, was likewise destroyed in the South Atlantic in December 1939. On May 31, 1916 Admiral Hood was lost when his flagship, HMS Invincible, the first of the battle cruisers, blew up at Jutland. Almost exactly 25 years later in May 1941, the last of the battle cruisers, HMS Hood, laid down on the very same day of Invincible’s destruction, went that same route. In 1907, with the start of this new type of warship, The Naval Annual 1907 had predicted the future with "…an even stronger objection to the repetition of the type is that an admiral having Invincibles in his fleet will be certain to put them in the line of battle, where their comparatively light protection would be a disadvantage, and their high speed of no value." (The Naval Annual 1907, The British Navy, by T.A. Brassey1907, at page 9) This prediction certainly showed remarkable foresight as to the qualities of the battlecruiser type, as well as the aggressive mettle of the Captains and Admirals of the Royal Navy. (Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser 1909-16, by V.E. Tarrant, 1986: Coronel and the Falklands, 1962, by Geoffrey Bennett: From Dreadnought to Scampa Flow, Volume I, The Road to War 1904-1914, by Arthur Marder, 1961: The Naval Annual 1907, The British Navy, edited by T.A. Brassey1907

Dry-Fitted Parts
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The Combrig HMS Invincible
The Combrig 1:700 scale kit of the first battle cruiser, HMS Invincible is an excellent kit. Of the three members of the class, Invincible was unique in a number of ways and Combrig has picked up and replicated those architectural features that made Invincible unique. I’ll start with the hull, although the unique features of Invincible were not found there. You have to love the Invincible hull. It has that slab sided look with armor plates outboard of P and Q turrets. Be careful removing the hull from the box, as the bottom of the cutwater at the waterline is extremely fine and delicate, perhaps too delicate. It is quite easy to chip off the lower tip of the ram bow. The mixture of port holes and square windows also contributes to the allure of the design. As with the actual Invincible, the net shelves protrude substantially at the deck edge over the hull with notches in the shelf where the top of the booms attached to the nets. First of all, decide whether your Invincible will have torpedo booms and nets. The booms are included in the parts but you will have to scratch-build the rolled nets. Remember that the Invincible did not have either the booms or nets at the Battle of the Falklands. They were landed earlier in 1913. However, the ships did keep the shelves. Additionally, there is strong photographic evidence that the nets and booms were remounted when she returned to the Grand Fleet in 1915. 

The real detail comes in with the plan view. The net shelves are very evident from this view. Since they are metal, they will stand in stark contrast with the wooden planking of the decks. As usual, Combrig has nicely done planking detail but without butt ends. Deck anchor hawse are well done with metal plates running to the windlasses. Although there is a significant amount of deck detail cast onto the hull, such as deck edge open chocks, bollards, access hatches and other fittings, locator holes are provided for the higher fittings, which are furnished as separate parts. The breakwater is commendably thin. There is a triangular formation of skylights surrounding A barbette with one on centerline in front and two on either side aft of the barbette. Combrig provides wells into which the superstructure fits, so there is no guessing or adjustments to be made in attaching those pieces. A series of lockers and other fittings ring the circumference of the forward superstructure. Amidships is dominated by the barbettes of P and Q turrets but there are also six access hatches and other fittings cast onto the hull, plus ten locator holes for the taller separate fittings that are found in this area. There is one area in the hull casting where detail is lacking but easily added. The lower level of the aft superstructure at the deck break between the upper deck and quarterdeck is lacking port holes and doors. By examining the line drawing profile in the instructions their locations can be readily ascertained. Use of a pin vice and addition of some brass doors will perk up these bulkheads. The long quarterdeck has comparatively fewer deck fittings with two skylights, four other coamings, four sets of open chocks, four sets of twin bollards and locator holes for nine higher fittings. 

Larger Resin Parts
This is the area where you will find the items that make Invincible unique. First is the forward superstructure. Only Invincible had casemates for the 4-inch QF guns that protruded from the forward superstructure sides. The Combrig kit has duplicated these positions in the forward superstructure, which is not found in the kits for Inflexible or Indomitable. Both forward and aft superstructure parts have a good level of detail, including ladder wells. Second is the shape of the turrets. The turret shapes on Invincible were different from her two sisters. Not only that but A ad Y turrets were different in shape from P and Q turrets in Invincible. That is because Invincible was chosen to be the guinea pig for trials of electrically powered turrets. A and Y turrets were manufactured by Vickers and weighted 365 tons without guns while P and Q turrets, weighing 345 tons without guns, were manufactured by Armstrongs. Combrig provides the correct turrets as the designs are significantly different. Further, as was true with the actual Invincible, both types are different from the hydraulic turret designs of Inflexible and Indomitable. A third difference distinguishing Invincible from her sisters was the height of the forward funnel. In 1914 only Invincible still had a forward funnel of the same height as the other two. In January 1915, after the Battle of the Falklands, Invincible had her forward funnel heightened at Gibraltar to match those of her sisters. The Combrig Invincible features funnels of the same height so it is appropriate for the ship at the Battle of the Falklands but not the Battle of Jutland. Indomitable had her forward funnel raised in 1910 and Inflexible had hers raised in 1911. If you wanted to model a Jutland fit Invincible, you could either scratch-build the additional height, or more easily use the higher funnel found in the Inflexible or Indomitable kits and use the short forward funnel to depict one of the sisterships early in her career. 

Smaller Resin Parts
There are two areas where you should use extreme care in cleaning the parts. There are two flying open grid boat decks, one for the forward superstructure and one for the aft superstructure. These frames are very thin and fine and are cast on resin film. Rather than sanding the frames to open up the frames, it may be better to use a hobby knife with a new sharp blade to do so. The main resin film sheet also contains a number of other platforms and decks, rear casemate positions for the forward superstructure, as well as both control tops. There is a host of smaller fittings cast on various resin runners. One runner has the forward conning tower with incised lines for photo-etch bridge braces, aft conning tower and forward control top director. The open 4-inch guns have extremely well done guns and pedestals. There are separate 4-inch gun barrels for the forward casemate guns. The 12-inch gun barrels have pour vents as muzzle plugs and these will have to be removed. These open mounts will be attached to the positions in the aft superstructure and on the turret crowns. Boat fittings include two types of steam launch, five different types of open boats, a raft, davits and individual boat chocks. One runner contains small platforms and caps for different parts of the superstructure. There are a number of large winches, whose positions on the superstructure are marked with sunken rectangles into which the winch bases fit. These winches, as well as the reels, searchlights, binnacles, and windlasses are very well done. There are a goodly number of ventilators that fit in locator holes on the decks. If you build the model with net booms, you will have to be careful in locating their hull attachment points. The notches in the net shelf show where the upper point of the boom came through the shelf but the attachment points for the lower end are not marked on the hull. The Invincible had landed the nets and booms in 1913 and did not carry them at the Battle of the Falklands. However, there is strong photographic evidence to show that they were remounted when the ship returned to the Grand Fleet in 1915. Use the 1:700 profile in the instructions to ascertain exact placement. The last resin runs have four nice anchors but they are susceptible to damage. 

Box Art & Instructions
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Brass Photo-Etch Fret
The Combrig Invincible comes with its own ship specific brass photo-etch fret. The nicest items are the two pilothouses. They have fold lines to ease getting the right shape but best of all have open windows, which gives so much extra detail to the model. The aft turret has photo-etch breakwaters in front and back. Two search light platforms are on raised lattice towers. Other latticework includes the larger bridge side supports and the very prominent support frame under the top level navigating bridge, which overhangs A turret. There are plenty of other parts, which include various triangular supports, vertical ladder, anchor chains and various platforms. No generic items such as railing is included.

These are in the standard Combrig format but with two back-printed sheets. Page one has the ship’s history and statistics in Russian and a line drawing plan and profile. The plan and profiles are in 1:700 scale and are essential to determine the exact placement of many of the parts, like the net booms. They also serve to show a rigging scheme. Page two shows photographs of all of the parts included in the kit. Page three starts assembly with attachment of main superstructure, turrets and deck ventilator fittings. Each size of ventilator is identified by a number and the specific numbers delineate which vent goes in which ventilator locator hole. The last page has three assemblies. One is for the aft superstructure. The second is for the first steps in assembling the forward superstructure and the third step shows final assembly, including tripod, of the forward assembly.

Outstanding! Combrig has captured the peculiarities of HMS Invincible. All of those architectural features that made Invincible unique from her sisterships are there. The model has casemate positions in the forward superstructure, different shaped turrets and a short forward funnel for the Battle of the Falklands fit.