|"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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers from Scampa Flow to the Heligoland Bight on August 28th. In the morning of the 27th the two battlecruisers 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.
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 battlecruisers. 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.
Battlecruiser Invincible by V.E. Tarrant
A very good textual history of HMS Invincible, the Battlecruiser Invincible, The History of the First Battlecruiser, 1909-1916 by V.E. Tarrant is 158 pages in length. The volume also contains 34 photographs and 14 battle maps. However, these graphics are just icing on the cake to the title's major value. It provides a gripping treatment of the history of the Invincible with a great wealth of quotations of crewmen of the ship.
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 battlecruisers, 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 battlecruiser 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 battlecruisers 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)
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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruiser 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.
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 battlecruisers 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 signaled by lamp: ‘A four-funneled and a two-funneled 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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers, 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.
By 11:15 the British force was considerably strung out. The two battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers. 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 battlecruisers charged towards the two German armored cruisers. Sturdee’s plan also diected that the battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruiser’s smoke, it took awhile before it was clear that the Germans were again making off to the south. Sturdee immediately turned his battlecruisers 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.
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 battlecruiser 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 battlecruisers 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.
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 battlecruisers as well as the Carnarvon. Although the battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers, 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.
Invincible Class, Warship Monographs, Monograph One by John A. Roberts
This title is the single best title devoted strictly to a technical and historic analysis of the design of HMS Invincible. Written by noted authority John Roberts, this 51 page monograph provides hard data on the design, detailed list of and appearance changes of all three ships of the class, as well a wealth of photographs and line drawings, including a two page drawing of Indomitable with her experimental two tone mottled camouflage that she wore from December 1914 to February 1915. The volume is out of print but modestly priced on the used book market, considering its excellent quality.
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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers. 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 battlecruisers, 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
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 battlecruiser 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 battlecruisers missed the German battlecruiser force by a mere 50 miles. The battlecruisers 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
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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers were in action with five German battlecruisers. Without informing Jellicoe, Hood ordered full speed and charged south at 16:06 to support the battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers (Australia was absent) with the support of four Queen Elizabeth Class battleships, were making the "Run to the South" after the German battlecruisers. 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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers, 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 battlecruisers of the 1st and 2nd Battlecruiser Squadrons approaching, followed by Hipper’s battlecruisers, 11,000 yards away.
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 battlecruisers 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 battlecruisers, blew up at Jutland. Almost exactly 25 years later in May 1941, the last of the battlecruisers, 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)
Invincible from Iron Shipwright
Well it’s about time. I have been waiting for the 1:350 scale HMS Invincible from Commanders/Iron Shipwright for years and now its here. Decades ago a handful of naval history books captured my imagination and one of these was Coronel and the Falklands by Geoffrey Bennett published in 1962. The German and British personalities and ships of those two battles fascinated me. Armored cruisers – what were they? However, it was the battlecruisers Invincible and Inflexible that created the greatest curiosity. A few years after reading the book, I discovered the 1:1250 scale metal models from Navis. My first purchase of course was HMS Invincible. Shortly after acquiring the 1:350 scale kit of HMS Dreadnought by Rhino Models, I discovered that ISW had a pattern for the Invincible and I have been pestering them ever since for them to release it. The wait is over!
The ISW Invincible has an absolutely lovely hull. Not only does the one piece full hull casting have the hull but also it has the first levels of the fore and aft superstructures cast integral to the hull casting. Detail is jammed into almost every square inch of this beauty. Starting with the sides, the profile of the model is a very clean crisp presentation. ISW has cast on sturdy bilge keels that are finely done and yet avoid the air trap created with too thin bilge keels on the master. That is not to say that they were perfect. The port bilge keel had one very small pinhole void on the forward edge that is easily filled with CA glue and sanded. The starboard bilge keel had a somewhat larger area that was damaged along the edge during shipment. I’ll probably square that off and use thin plastic card to replace the damaged area, sand even with the existing structure and it will be ready for painting. Other than the bilge keels the side of the hull had zero casting defects, resin splash or anything else that needs clean-up. The sides of the hull are not identical as the starboard side has two nicely done oval anchor hawse, while the port side has only one, which is how the Invincible was fitted. These hawse appear to be slightly larger than shown in printed profiles of the ship. The prominent squares or armor plate for the two amidships gun positions, P and Q turrets, match the profile and plan of John Robert’s P&P of Invincible August 1914 and also that of Invincible 1909 found in British Battleships of World War One by R.A. Burt. Comparing the model with both plans, there seems to be a perfect match as the armor extends slightly beyond the outer edge of the net shelves. The models cutwater is nicely formed as is the gracefully curving stern.
For the superstructure sides you have to use the Roberts profile for comparison as it reflects the changes of the 1914 refit. The biggest change was in the mounting of the superstructure 4-inch positions. Before the 1914 refit the 4-inch guns were in the open and trained through rectangular openings in the bulkhead. In the summer of 1914 most of these guns were given none armored casemates in the forward superstructure. The ISW model matches the Roberts profile in this regard. The model also has the slight insets in the outside bulkhead that allowed these guns to train in a forward position.
ISW has even included the four side underwater torpedo ports in the detail in this casting. The placement of these positions doesn’t exactly coincide with the profile by John Roberts of Invincible August 1914. In that profile the forward positions are in a vertical line slightly behind the muzzles of A turrets guns and with the ISW hull, they are in a vertical line slightly ahead of the A turret barbette, placing them slightly to the rear of where they appear in the Robert’s profile. The aft positions in the Roberts profile are above the forward edge of the outboard shaft housings and in the kit they are positioned above the inboard shafts. I tried to verify placement locations with the Burt volume but the profile in that source doesn’t show these positions. I’ll build it as is but if the placement of these locations bother you, simply sand level and add a very thin circle of resin or plastic at the locations shown in the Robert’s profile. There also seems to be one other slight deviation between the model profile and the two reference profiles mentioned above. The lower line of portholes seems to be spaced a little bit too close to the upper line at the extreme bow. Part of this could be because the hawse on the model are a trifle oversize but even at that the two lines are a little too close at the extreme bow. On the model the first porthole on the bottom row is very close to the lower outside rim of the second hawse on the starboard side. Robert’s plan shows this porthole slightly lower but still under the second hawse and the Burt profile doesn’t show any porthole at that location with the first porthole in the lower line placed a distance aft of the second hawse. Just judging with the Mark I eyeball, it appears that the two lines of portholes on the ISW model are equidistant from each other from bow to deck break aft of Q turret, whereas in both plans the two lines of portholes appear further apart from each other at the extreme bow than they are when they get to A barbette. With the ISW hull this discrepancy disappears by the time the second row of portholes reaches A barbette. Along the top row of portholes, Invincible had a series of small square doors. The model has 12 of these doors. This matches the count in the Burt plan but the Roberts plan has a 13th door aft of the side armor of Q turret. The model has ten of these doors on the port side but as both the Robert’s and Burt profiles only show the starboard side, I could not check the count with established drawings.
Of course with any ship model almost all of the hull detail is found on the decks and the ISW Invincible is no exception. The Iron Shipwright kit has a great amount of lovely detail cast integral with the hull casting. In comparing the Roberts and Burt plans, I noticed a few slight variances that they had with each other, however those differences could be based upon the fact that Burt shows the plan in 1909 and Roberts shows it after the refit in August 1914. The ISW Invincible plan is almost a perfect match with the Roberts’ plan, which makes sense since the model portrays Invincible as she appeared at the Falklands in December 1914. The model has the prominent anti-torpedo net shelves cast onto the hull as shown in both the Burt and Roberts profiles but by fall 1914 the net itself and the booms had been removed as modeled in the kit and shown in the Roberts profile. These were a series of shelves on each side at deck level separated from each other by notches where the booms passed up from below. These notches, as shown in the Roberts plan, are also reflected in the ISW model. Although the net and booms had been removed, the shelves were still there at the Falklands and proved to be an obstacle in the rescue of survivors from the Gneisenau. As these shelves jut out from the sides of the hull with a significant overhang, this feature adds great interest to the model.
The ISW foc’sle is crammed with fittings from the triangular plates on either side of the apex formed by the cutwater, to the anchor chain run plates to a multitude of deck fittings and equipment. The fittings include capstans/windlasses for the three anchors, deck access coamings, mushroom ventilators, bollards with deck plates, as well as circular and square deck plates for various parts of the deck fittings. The breakwater his very thinly and nicely cast with the numerous support gussets cast thereon. There is a whole cluster of access doors and hatches, as well as mushroom ventilators and deck plates in from of A turret. On either side of the bustle of A turret are two large, multi-door access housing with skylight portals. The Burt plan does not show the circular skylights but the Roberts plan does. The kit detail matches that in the Roberts plan. Running along the juncture of the forward superstructure and the deck both plans show a series of small ventialtors and rectangular deck hatches. The model mirrored these features. Amidships are found more fittings, mostly concentrated between the two beam turrets. Both plans agreed as to location and shape, as did the details on the model, except that the model omitted on square deck coaming slightly in front of and inboard of Q turret. This can easily be added with plastic card.
British Battleships of World War One by R.A. Burt
For overall coverage of all classes of dreadnought battleships and battlecruisers to serve in the Royal Navy during World War One, the best reference by far is British Battleships of World War One by R. A. Burt. This title is 320 pages in length and has intensive coverage of HMS Dreadnought through the "Large Light Cruisers" of Courageous, Glorious and Furious. It is heavily illustrated with photographs and fine line drawings. The volume is out of print and expensive on the used book market.
As a coal burner Invincible of course had a great number of circular coal scuttles, running from aft of A turret to the aft superstructure. These were basically circular hatches, flush with the deck, that would be opened to pour in coal from sacks during the arduous coaling of the ship. ISW does have the coal scuttles on the deck but they are very faint, especially on the starboard side of them deck. At 1:350 scale these are realistically small but they are really hard to see. Use the Roberts or Burt plan, they are in agreement, in locating and painting these scuttles. The quarter deck has far fewer fittings than the foc’sle or main deck. The X turret has two small break waters forward of the barbette, flanking the aft face of the rear superstructure and a large one aft of barbette. There are more mushroom ventilators, access coamings and bollards on deck plates. The two plans differ on the existence of a square fitting on a deck plate at the stern. Burt does not show it as present but Roberts does. The ISW kit shows the square fitting but not the plate that it rests upon. The decks for both the forward and aft superstructures are just loaded down with detail. There are access coamings, winches in different styles, and deck structures in profusion. A lot of this detail will be obscured once you get the boat skids and upper superstructure in place.
There are some air bubble voids along the bottom of the hull. None of these voids would be seen once the model is mounted on wooden blocks or brass pedestals but if desired, they can be easily filled with a thin sheet of Bondo and sanded smooth before painting. Likewise there were some pinhole voids in some deck fittings such as ventilators or capstans/windlasses. Most of these can be fairly easily filled with CA and sanded smooth or can be entirely replaced with separate spare fittings that come with the smaller parts. These are caused by the casting process. The hull mold, as well as the smaller parts’ molds, are placed in a pressure tank to force out air trapped in the resin pour. Since the hull is cast upside down, the last few bubbles normally cause some small voids along the bottom. Likewise some bubbles are forced into some small extremities of the mold, such as the bilge keels or small deck fittings, which again can cause a small void. Because of this process, you will typically find pinhole voids in most ISW kits in three areas, hull bottom, bilge keels, and deck fittings. With my copy of the Invincible, there were some small bubbles on the bottom, negligible problems with the bilge keels and some small voids in the deck fittings. About four of the fittings, I might replace with the included spare parts, but all of the rest just require a very small dab of CA and sanding smooth after the glue dries.
Smaller Resin Parts
With the lower superstructure levels cast as part of the hull, there are surprisingly few smaller resin parts for a model of the size of Invincible. However, when you think about it, ships of that period were mostly all hull with minimal superstructure. Some of the first parts you notice are the turrets, as they come in two styles. This reflects the fact that the fore and aft turrets were built by Vickers and the amidships turrets by Armstrong as Invincible was a guinea pig for testing electrically operated turrets from both manufacturers. The turret design is significantly different between the two styles. The ISW turrets feature all of the multiple angled facets of the original two styles as well as all of the sighting hoods and turret crown detail. By 1914 the fore and aft turrets had lost their turret crown QF guns but they were still present on P & Q turrets. Another set of strong features in this design were the three large slab sided funnels. The two forward funnels were much larger than the third and until her Gibraltar repairs in January 1915, they were all of the same height in Invincible. With the funnels I noticed a slight variance in height between the two larger funnels, which could have been caused by a different rate of shrinkage. If you are building this kit, make sure that the two larger funnels are of the same height. There is an easy fix if they are not exactly the same height. Both funnels have some resin overpour below the funnel apron, which is greater than the variance in height. For the taller of the two, sand the overpour until the apron will be flush with the deck and use this funnel for the middle funnel. For the slightly shorter funnel, leave some of this overpour on the piece, after making sure that the hulls are of equal overall length, as the base of the forward funnel is completely hidden by the structures surrounding it. Of course the key is adjusting the height at the base to ensure equal height funnels, before attaching them to the hull.
There are three major superstructure deck parts. The largest is the 02 deck for the forward superstructure. This rests atop the solid bulkheads of the 01 level and this piece has its own nice detail. The conning tower has access hatches in the roof and a small non-skid deck at its base with grid pattern. There are also a set of two boat cradles that were used for some of the smaller ship’s boats. This piece also has finely done bulkheads, an inclined ladder opening and a deck house with windows. There is another deck above this. This part has the chart house and is flanked by two more inclined ladder openings. The third major deck is the flying boat beck that rests above the aft superstructure. This part is almost entirely composed of an open grid of lengthwise support beams and lateral support beams with boat chocks, used to store the large steam launches and boats of Invincible. As this part has the delicate open design, use care in cleaning this part of flash because it is delicate. This part in my kit had a slight warp but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a little heating. Even this is probably not necessary as the deck should be level after attaching it to the superstructure below. This part also features the aft conning tower.
The two tripod masts are composed of three tripod legs, control tops and control top roofs. The control tops are in two sizes with the larger top and top roof going to the forward tripod. Assembly is straightforward as the legs fit through the upper decks in precut holes into locator holes in the superstructure deck. Just check the fit before gluing them into place. Also, since tripods can be a bit fiddly, I recommending using white glue, which will allow you the time to fine-tune and adjust their placement. The 4-inch QF guns for the P & Q turret crowns and the open 4-inch positions in the superstructure are nicely done two-piece fittings. There are plenty of spares, so you might want to cut off some spare barrels for use as the barrels of the casemate 4-inch positions. Other smaller resin parts include various styles of ship’s boats, booms, large winch, balsa raft, various types of piping, smaller platforms, propellers, shaft supports, rudders, as the design had twin rudders. Make sure you have two, as only one came with my kit. ISW also throws in a run of extra ventilators in case some of those cast on the hull are damaged, which is probable do to the casting process. In case a ventilator or capstan has a pin hole void caused by an air bubble that you don’t want to fill, you can remove the cast on part and replace it with one of these substitutes. If you are missing any parts or believe you need replacements, just give Ted Paris a call and they will be sent to you at no charge.
White Metal Parts
With the ISW you do get a small number of white metal fittings. These consist of 12-inch gun barrels, anchors and two of the shaft support struts. I believe that the metal barrels are much to be preferred over resin barrels. Barrels, since they are long and thin, are very prone to being warped when cast in resin. The longer the barrel, the greater the risk of warp. With white metal you are more likely to get straight barrels right out of the box and if there is a curve, it can be removed by hand. My pack of barrels for Invincible had 12 white metal barrels, 8 for the ship and four spares. Although minor clean-up is needed along seams, all twelve were straight right from the box. The searchlights are also in white metal, although they were accidentally omitted from a few of the white metal packs. If you didn't receive them, no problem, a quick call to Ted will cure that omission.
There are three brass photo-etch frets included with the Commanders/Iron Shipwright Invincible. The first fret has stack gratings for each of the three stacks and is dominated by support lattices for the forward superstructure. There is the very prominent triangular support structure for the top open bridge that overhangs A turret, as well as four support lattice frames that flank the first funnel and support the chart house deck. Other parts on this fret include davits, inclined ladders, yardarms, runs of vertical ladder, small platforms, ship’s boats rudders and a series of railing custom fitted to various points on the model. For some time now ISW has precut superstructure railings in their kits to provide for a perfect fit, ending the need of the modeler to try to fit generic railings in these areas. It really does speed up the process of attaching the photo-etch and the pieces fit right in without experimentation or fiddling.
The second fret contains the support latticework for the aft superstructure. Primary structures include the flying boat deck supports, forward & aft searchlight towers and large elevated boat storage lattice. Other parts include mainmast rigging, block & tackle, small platforms with folding railing, more inclined ladders in two sizes, turret crown safety railing, boat oars, more vertical ladder and more custom fitted superstructure railing. The third fret is composed exclusively of railing. This is generic railing and the bulk of it is used to provide railing on the main deck and quarterdeck, while the superstructure railing is exactly fitted. One exception is the inclusion on this fret of the wireless apparatus with spreaders, running from the foremast to the main mast. ISW also throws in three long lengths of brass rod in three different widths. The larger is for those that want brass tripod legs. However, you’ll have to cut them to shape and taper them at the top as shown by the form of the resin pieces. The smaller rods can be used in a variety of ways, such as using the smallest diameter rod to provide barrels for the casemate 4-inch guns and the medium size for propeller shafts.
ISW instructions have been called rather Spartan in the past. For a time ISW used CAD designed instructions but currently they do not do so. However, when Ted drafted this set for Invincible he tried to make it as clear as possible for the modeler and he has achieved that goal to a remarkable degree. The instructions consist of five pages. The first page provides a short history for the ship as well as ship’s statistics. Page two lists all of the resin parts. Each part is described in text and a number is assigned to it. This number is repeated in the assembly modules in the instructions and enclosed in a box to show placement locations. Photo-etch parts are assigned a letter and the assembly location for specific photo-etch parts are shown in the assembly modules with that parts letter inside a circle. It is a simple procedure but it really does clarify assembly. Page three is the assembly module for the forward superstructure and foremast. ISW provides a large isometric view as well as a smaller overhead plan. In addition to resin and metal parts being identified by a number in a square and photo-etch parts being identified by a letter in a circle, one other symbol found here is a diamond which indicates placement of brass inclined ladders. Page four is the assembly module for the aft superstructure, mainmast, amidships turrets, quarterdeck and running gear section of the hull. There is an isometric drawing of the aft superstructure, plan view of the turrets, plan view of the quarterdeck and profile of the propeller shaft/rudder area. Page five contains a reduced image of the three brass frets as well as profiles of the fore and aft tripods with rigging plan. With each of the three frets almost all of the brass parts are labeled with the letter that appears within the circle during the assembly modules. Some items aren’t specifically identified such as the stack gratings, generic railing and vertical ladder. The location of each brass part can be easily seen by looking for the corresponding letter in a circle in the assembly modules. However, there are a few disconnects. One is the forward superstructure searchlight tower. In the assembly module it is labeled "R" but there was no such part on the fret drawings. However, there are two part "D". These are identical searchlight towers, one for the aft superstructure and one for the forward tower, as the forward tower was offset at the port rear corner of the forward superstructure and the aft tower was offset at the starboard forward face of the aft superstructure, which matches the plan views in both Roberts and Burt. The searchlight tower platforms are not labeled but they appear to be the two parts next to "D" on the second fret, and I’m still searching for the locations for the two parts that appear to be labeled "F" on the drawings. These two brass parts appear to be either solid bulkheads or platforms but the circled "F" in the instructions appears to be two bar railing for the top bridge platform. However, I see these few disconnects as minor problems, as it appears that the attachment locations for 95-98% of the parts are clearly identified.