"There straight ahead of us in lovely procession, like elephants walking through a pack…of dogs came Lion, Queen Mary, Princess Royal, Invincible and New Zealand. Great and grim and uncouth as antediluvian monsters, how solid they looked, how utterly earthquaking. We pointed out our latest aggressor to them…and we went west while they went east…and just a little later we heard the thunder of their guns." (Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 113)
"In the Lion, the horse-power will be increased to 70,000, and it is reported that her design speed will be not less than 30 knots. The advance in this direction upon earlier ships in the British Navy is so great as to be well nigh incredible, but it is necessary to bear in mind the similar advances in this direction which have been made abroad, and it is essential for us to surpass if our pre-eminent position as the possessor of the most effective warships is to be retained." (Naval Annual 1911, The Dreadnought Era, by Commander C. N. Robinson, at page 153)
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships
With the introduction of HMS Dreadnought in the 1905 Royal Navy Estimates, the evolution of the power of battleship designs accelerated dramatically. For 15 years the designs of William White had a stability of design, in that each new class of battleship seemed to only tweak details of the preceding design. Admiral John A. "Jackie" Fisher upset that apple cart with inclusion of not one radically new design but two such completely new designs. The first such design was for a battleship, HMS Dreadnought, which incorporated an all big gun armament, turbine engines and raised fleet upped from 18-knots to 21-knots. However, Fisher’s true love was the second design of the 1905 estimates, a new armored cruiser design. Fisher loved speed and combined the big guns of a battleship with the high speed of a cruiser. Just as Dreadnought design had increased the speed of battleships, so too did the new armored cruiser design for Invincible increase the top end of that type. The previous Minotaur class had a top speed of 23-knots but the new Invincibles stretched the envelope to 25-knots. Fisher’s priorities can be seen in the fact that the Royal Navy placed orders for only one Dreadnought but for three Invincibles in that year’s program. If Jackie had his way battleship construction would cease in favor of the super-armored cruisers, which Admiral Fisher called the New Testament Ships.
Although Fisher was 1st Sea Lord, the bulk of the Admiralty did not share his unbounded enthusiasm for the giant big gun armored cruisers. The 1906 estimates added three more battleships of an improved Dreadnought design, the Bellerophon Class. The following 1907 estimates added further refinements to the Dreadnought design with the three ships of the St. Vincent class. The chief innovation with this class was the introduction of the 12-inch/50 Mk XI gun. Finally with the 1908 estimates Fisher gets to add more big gun armored cruisers as one such ship was approved for the program. The program also included one battleship, HMS Neptune, which for the first time departed from the Dreadnought layout. The armored cruiser was HMS Indefatigable. Fortunately, New Zealand and Australia each offered to fund the construction of one capital ship for this program and Fisher selected two more Indefatigable armored cruisers for these contributions. For the second time Fisher had a program with three armored cruisers and only one battleship. Fisher could have made improvements to the three-year old Invincible design but failed to do this. The Indefatigable design was merely an enlarged Invincible with the same meager armor fit. The two amidships turrets were spaced further apar to allow more cross deck fire. Even the main guns were the same as Invincible. The older Mk X 12-inch/45 were fitted as there were not enough Mk XI 12-inch/50 to go around and these went to the battleships.
The 1909 Naval Estimates represent one of the strangest years in Royal Navy appropriations. The original program started with three battleships and one armored cruiser. Two of these were armed with the 12-inch/50 Mk XI and were merely warmed over versions of the prior year’s Neptune. Significant innovation came in the form of the third battleship and armored cruiser. Each of these would be armed with a new gun, the 13.5-inch/45 Mk V. One of the biggest puzzle is why the RN would build two 12-inch gunned ships in the same program in which they jump to a significantly larger gun. One other quirk with the 1909 Estimates is the manner in which it mushroomed in size. The Labour government had approved these four ships, which is a sizable expenditure in its own right but the Admiralty wanted six capital ships to be laid down in the program. The Navy League and the popular press got hold of the situation. The extent of the German building program was magnified and fears of the public were played upon. Their rallying cry was "We want eight and we won’t wait!" In the end, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, the politicians who wished to fund four ships and the admirals who wished to fund six ships compromised in an agreement to build eight ships in that year’s program. The additional ships were three more battleships armed with 13.5-inch guns, the Orion class, and another armored cruiser armed with the larger gun, the Lion class.
From the start the Lion class seized the imagination of the British public and became instant icons of the Royal Navy on the world stage. Originally the new armored cruisers were to be improved versions of the Indefatigable. However, not only did the 1909 Program call for a doubling in the quantity of capital ships laid down but it also removed all constraints on the size or quality of the individual ships. The designers were no longer constrained by restraints on size or cost. For their time they were huge magnificent ships, which combined power, speed and beauty. After the lead ship HMS Lion, the class quickly acquired the nickname "the Splendid Cats". All characteristics of this new class leaped ahead of he previous Indefatigable class. Compared to the Indefatigable class of 1908 the Lion class of 1909 raised the displacement by 7,600-tons, length by 110 feet, beam by 8 ½-feet, firepower from 12-inch to 13.5-inch, armor from a six-inch belt to a 9-inch belt and top speed from 25-knots to 27-knots. By any standard a passage of one year brought substantial quantifiable improvements to the all big gun armored cruiser. Around 1909 the type ceased to be called armored cruisers and were called cruiser battleships or dreadnought cruisers, although the Admiralty still called them armored cruisers. Finally around 1912 the term battle cruisers was applied.
"In the last number of the Naval Annual we commented on the practice, recently adopted in our own and certain foreign navies, of withholding particulars of ships for the construction of which provision is made in the Estimates, as most unlikely (as far as this country is concerned), to prevent those obtaining information from whom it may be desirable to conceal it." (Naval Annual 1909, Preface by T. A. Brassey, at page iii) The design and construction of Dreadnought was done with secrecy and speed. As a consequence, the Royal Navy gained a march on the other powers. By the time that the Estimates of 1909 were made, secrecy of design details had become Royal Navy policy. In his preface to the Naval Annual 1909 T. A. Brassey blames this policy of secrecy as in large measure producing a scare in Parliament over the Royal Navy’s building program compared to that of Germany. Not only did the Admiralty restrict information, they also passed on false material in an effort to confuse the Germans. When the Lion was ordered, along with the Orion, their armament was reported as consisting of 12-inch guns, rather than 13.5-inch guns. As can be seen from the passage below, the Naval Annual 1910 took those statistics with a grain of salt. "The cruiser-battleship Lion was laid down at Devonport on November 29th. The following particulars must be accepted with reserve. Displacement, 26,350 tons; length between perpendiculars, 660 ft.; overall, 700 ft.; beam, 88 ft. 6 in.; draught, 28 ft.; shaft H.P., 70,000; speed, 28 knots; armament, eight 12-in. and sixteen 4-in. B.L. guns." (The Naval Annual 1910, at pages 4-5) By the 1911 issue of the annual, the main guns were correctly identified as 13.5-inch but instead of understating capabilities, rumors went the other way and grossly overstated the speed of the ships. Speed was reported to exceed 30-knots. In the popular press exorbitant claims were made about the speed of the Splendid Cats. The Army and Navy Gazette reported a top speed of 34.7-knots for Princess Royal. It was little wonder that the British public adored their new super ships. Antony Preston wrote the commentary about the ships of the Royal Navy for Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906-1921. In his commentary for the Lion class, he states, "Thanks to adroit manipulation of the Press they were regarded with affection by the public but they must surely be ton-for-ton the least satisfactory ships built for the RN in modern times. The faults of the original battlecruiser could be forgiven for lack of experience with new tactics and technology, but the Lions were expensive second-rate ships." (Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906-1921, 1985) I disagree with that assessment. If the comments had been about the preceding Indefatigable class, I might agree. However, Lion was laid down only seven months after Indefatigable and the improvement of Lion over Indefatigable is very marked.
In broadside weight of shell, the new class almost doubled that of the Invincible and Indefatigable designs, 10,000lb versus 5,200lb. The design did away with wing or echelon turrets and put them all on centerline. However, the design created a weakness by placing Q turret amidships between the second and third funnels. The funnels restricted the arc of fire of this turret to 120-degrees on each side and smoke could interfere with local fire. Additionally the magazines for Q turret were placed squarely between two sets of boiler rooms. A hit in a boiler room could rupture the bulkhead separating it from the magazine and fire and powder was never a good internal mixture for any warship. The 1910 Estimates provided for the King George V class of battleships, plus one additional battle cruiser. This ship was HMS Queen Mary.
Some authorities call the Queen Mary a sistership to Lion with minor modifications, however, to other authorities these same modifications make her a half-sister to Lion and Princess Royal. However, Queen Mary is normally listed separately from the other two. Queen Mary was laid down at Palmers on March 6, 1911, 15 months after Lion. Launched on March 20, 1912, thec ompletion of the ship was slowed due to labor difficulties. She was ready for trials in May 1913 but was not delivered to the Royal Navy until August 1913. There were external and internal differences, which made Queen Mary different from Lion and Princess Royal. One internal change caused a change in external appearance. Traditionally officers were quartered aft on Royal Navy warships with men berthed forward. However, one of the new features that Admiral Fisher worked into HMS Dreadnought was to reverse the traditional berthing arrangement. Fisher thought that by placing officer’s quarters forward, they would be closer to the bulk of their action stations in the bridge and conning tower. With this arrangement, ratings were quartered aft and the stern walk disappeared off of British capital designs because ratings didn’t rate a stern walk. Both officers and men detested this new arrangement but it took some time before the berthing arrangement reverted to the traditional layout. With Queen Mary the officers quarters were again placed aft and Queen Mary was given a stern walk, a feature lacking on Lion and Princess Royal.
The most noticeable external difference with Queen Mary from the other pair was the middle funnel. Lion and Princess Royal had an oval, slab sided middle funnel but in place of that on Queen Mary, the middle funnel was a large round design. A common mistake is to think that all of Queen Mary’s funnels were round. This is incorrect because Queen Mary had the same flat-sided third funnel as found on the Lion pair. Another difference was the arrangement of the 4-inch guns in the forward superstructure. With Lion they were arranged in two levels. Six were on the main deck and two were on the shelter deck above just aft of B barbette. For Queen Mary all eight were placed on the main deck with none on the shelter deck. Queen Mary had 6-inches greater beam than the other two and displaced 500 tons more. Because of the inclusion of the stern walk, her overall length was also three feet greater. Her machinery plant had greater power with 75,000shp compared to 70,000shp in Lion. On trials she reached a top speed of 28.17-knots compared with the trials maximum of 27.62-knots for Lion and 28.5-knots for Princess Royal. Per Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906-1921 the fastest run of Princess Royal forced the machinery and the resultant strain made her the "lame duck" of the battle cruiser force thereafter. One of difference was that Queen Mary had slightly increased horizontal armor protection and a slightly different armor distribution scheme.
The armor belt was a 50% improvement over the Indefatigable. Although not on battleship scale the 9-inch belt did deploy substantial weight for the armor, compared to the 6-inch belt ships of the Invincible and Indefatigable classes. In the Naval Annual 1912 none other than Sir William White penned an article on current warship development. He did note that although the armor of the Lion class was relatively weaker than that of the contemporary battleships, it was however, "still considerable." White’s chief concerns were the upward spiraling size and costs of each new design. Accordingly fewer battleships could be built and the importance of each individual unit increased. He was skeptical about the benefits of the high speed of battle cruisers compared to their great cost. "The propelling and other machinery are estimated to cost half a million – a sum which closely approaches the costs of first-class British battleships built thirty years before the Lion was laid down. In face of figures such as these, it appears to be well worth considering afresh the opinion expressed by competent authorities to the effect that such high speed is not of great advantage in ships whose primary duty is to serve as units in fleets." (The Naval Annual 1912, Recent Changes in Warship Design by Sir William White, at pages 138-139)
HMS Queen Mary was completed in August 1913 and commissioned into service the following month. At first she joined the 1st Cruiser Squadron, as the battle cruiser squadron was called at the time. Months earlier the battle cruisers had been given a new commander, Rear Admiral David Beatty. Beatty was no intellectual but he was fearless and prone to take risks. If you have ever visited the great department store of Marshall Field’s in Chicago, you will have visited a location with which Beatty had a connection. He married Ethel, the only daughter of Marshall Field. On January 1, 1910 Beatty at age 38 became the youngest Rear Admiral in the Royal Navy since Horatio Nelson. He risked his career by refusing the position of second in command of the Atlantic Fleet but through a stroke of luck became the advisor to the new 1st Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. In March 1913 he was rewarded with the most coveted position for a Rear Admiral, command of the battle cruiser force. "I had no doubts whatever,’ Churchill wrote of Beatty latter, ‘in appointing him over the heads of all to this incomparable command, the nucleus as it proved to be of the famous Battle Cruiser Fleet – that supreme combination of speed and power, the strategic cavalry of the Royal Navy." (Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 93) In January 1914, the Splendid Cats became part of the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron with the 2nd BCS (Indefatigable and the Invincibles) stationed in the Mediterranean. In May 1914 Beatty with his battle cruisers were dispatched to St. Petersburg. The ships, Lion, Princess Royal, Queen Mary and New Zealand, anchored at the Russian naval base at Kronstadt, where they were visited by the Imperial Russian family.
Queen Mary was still the newest battle cruiser in the fleet when World War One began in August 1914. She did not have long to wait to see action. In World War One there were four significant actions in which the British battle cruiser played a prominent role: Heligoland Bight in September 1914, the Falklands in December 1914, Dogger Bank in January 1915 and Jutland in May 1916. The first three were engagements in which the battle cruisers of the Royal Navy won praise for their performance and the type as a whole but the last one dramatically changed that situation. Queen Mary participated in the first and last of these actions. With the coming of the war, expectations were high that the High Seas Fleet would immediately sortie for a big show down with the Grand Fleet. Beatty and the rest of the fleet were quickly disappointed as the German ships stayed in port. Beatty wrote his wife, "We are still wandering about the face of the ocean…entirely in the hands of our friends the Germans as to when they will come out and be whacked." (Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 97)
The Royal Navy had lighter ships, light cruisers leading destroyers, and submarines operating out of Harwich in the south, independently from the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. Commodores Tyrwhitt and Keyes of the Harwich force became aware that German destroyers, backed by light cruisers made regular sweeps of the Heligoland Bight, that area of water surrounding the fortified island of Heligoland guarding the approaches to the fleet anchorage of Wilhelmshaven. The two commodores concocted a plan to catch the German destroyers without their light cruiser escort and to destroy them. Keyes approached Churchill about the plan and the 1st Lord was enthused. The next day the two commodores met with Churchill, Prince Louis Battenberg the 1st Sea Lord and Admiral Sturdee the chief of staff. The plan called for back up from the Grand Fleet for insurance but Sturdee vetoed that idea and in its place suggested that the battle cruisers Invincible and New Zealand would station themselves 40 mile west of Heligoland in support. Admiral Jellicoe, commander of the Grand Fleet, did not even know of the meeting or plan until two days later. Jellicoe was alarmed at this operation with light forces engaging the enemy so close to the main German fleet. He immediately wired the Admiralty of his wish to support the operation with the Grand Fleet. Sturdee clearly bungled the situation when he dismissed the offer. "Cooperation with battle fleet not required. Battle cruisers can support if convenient." Fortunately for the Royal Navy Jellicoe used his initiative. He ordered Beatty to steam south with Lion, Princess Royal, Queen Mary and six light cruisers to support the plan. He then sortied the Grand Fleet behind them. Having been less than impressed with the response from Sturdee, he didn’t bother informing the admiralty of his plans until he was well at sea with his whole force. Even with this information the seeds of a fiasco were sown. The message from the Admiralty informing Keyes and Tyrwhitt that they would be supported by Beatty’s battle cruisers was sent to Harwich but was not sent to Keyes, who had already departed with his force. Instead this important piece of information was placed on his desk to await his return. The British light forces were under order to torpedo any heavy ships, other than the light cruisers Arthusa and Fearless. If it had not been for the actions of Jellicoe, the Battle of Heligoland Bight probably would have ended as a disaster for the British. Because of communication bungles, it almost ended in disaster anyway.
At 07:00 on August 28, 1914 the German destroyer G-194 was sighted by Arthusa, Tyrwhitt’s flagship. German destroyers were pursued by British destroyers and light cruisers. The Germans dispatched the three light cruisers already in the Bight to support their destroyers. Eight more light cruisers were ordered to raise steam. The battle began in thickening mist that concealed each side’s forces. By 07:58 the ready German light cruisers arrived on the scene. Arthusa, Tyrwhitt,s flagship was a brand new ship. Commissioned only two weeks earlier, she had never had firing practice, when she encountered the German light cruiser Frauenlob. On the British cruiser, guns jammed or were knocked out by the excellent German fire and the engine room started to fill with water. Both cruisers peppered each other and both were forced out of action. Now action was totally confused. Commodore Keyes sighted the British light cruisers that Jellicoe had ordered in for support, Goodenough’s squadron of six Town class. He took them for German and radioed Tyrwhitt for help. Tyrwhitt, who had already encountered and identified Goodenough’s cruiser, asked Goodenough to support Keyes. This amounted to Goodenough being asked to support Keyes against Goodenough’s own cruisers. In this confusion the HMS Southampton and the submarine HMS E-6 attacked each other. Fortunately the two torpedoes from E-6 missed the cruiser and also managed to avoid being rammed by the cruiser through a crash dive. By 11:00 three more German light cruisers were approaching under Admiral Maass. Because of tides the German battle cruisers could not leave harbor until 12:00. The British now found their light cruisers and destroyers hard pressed and signaled Beatty for assistance. Invincible and New Zealand had already linked up with Beatty’s splendid cats.
Beatty was in a dilemma. He knew that shortly the tides would allow the entire High Seas Fleet to sortie into the area and that if he sent his battle cruisers into the Bight, they were subject to mines and U-Boats, although with calm seas the submarine threat was discounted. At 11:35 Beatty charged in with five battle cruisers at 26-knots. Shortly it was raised to 27-knots and the two older battle cruisers couldn’t keep up with the cats. Tyrwhitt was under fire from two cruisers when Beatty appeared out of the mist. "I really was beginning to feel a bit blue,’ he wrote after the battle. Then, suddenly, out of the haze to westward, the shadowy form of a large ship loomed up. She was coming at high speed, black smoke was pouring from her funnels, and a huge white wave was rolling back from her bow. Alarm and dismay were followed by relief and joy when the oncoming giant was identified as HMS Lion. One by one, out of the mist astern of the leader, four more huge shapes came into view. ‘Following in each other’s wake, they emerged…and flashed past us like express trains." (Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 111) The battle cruisers quickly smashed the light cruisers, Koln and Ariadne and after 40 minutes turned west and steamed out of the Bight. Another four German light cruisers were in the area but were not spotted because of the mist. Beatty’s Cats could have made a meal of them as well, if they had been spotted. German battle cruisers did not show up until 14:25, well after the Beatty and the rest of the British forces had left the scene. The British public was overjoyed at the first British naval victory of the war. The performance of the battle cruisers in crushing German light forces and sweeping all before them seemed to vindicate everything Jackie Fisher had said about his New Testament warships.
In January 1915 Queen Mary, considered the finest gunnery ship in the force, was being refitted and missed the Battle of Dogger Bank. More of an opportunity missed than a victory, the British did not learn a lesson that the Germans did through this action. In this engagement the Seydlitz came close to blowing up. Her aft turrets were hit and the ready ammunition and powder in the two aft turrets exploded killing the crews of both turrets. Fortunately for Seydlitz the aft magazine was flooded in time. The Germans further improved magazine and anti-flash protection in their turrets and ammunition handling. This is a lesson that the victorious British would not learn until May 1916. By June 1915 there were three battle cruiser squadrons, the Lions and Tiger were the 1st BCS, the three Indefatigables the 2nd BCS and the three Invincibles the 3rd BCS.
On May 31, 1916 the Queen Mary would be in her second action but this time against German battle cruisers in the Battle of Jutland, rather than the light cruisers faced in the Battle of Heligoland Bight. As the battle cruisers of the 1st BCS went to action stations, HMS Queen Mary was third in line behind Lion and Princess Royal. "In Queen Mary, a gunner’s mate checked to make certain his turret was ready with ‘urinal buckets, biscuits and corned beef, drinking water and plenty of first aid dressings."(Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 586) Beatty’s six battle cruisers chased Hipper’s five in the Run to the South as it is now called. By 15:45 the range between the forces had narrowed to 16,500-yards and at that time the British opened fire on order of the Lion’s captain, not Beatty. The British 13.5-inch guns out-ranged the German 12-inch and 11-inch guns but for some reason Beatty did not open fire during the time that the Germans couldn’t respond. Captain Chatfield of Lion wanted to open fire earlier but his requests to Beatty went unanswered as Beatty was communicating with Jellicoe. Finally Chatfield, on his own initiative, opened fire and with Lion, the rest of the British battle cruisers fired. Likewise the German ships opened up. For the first ten minutes, British gunnery was poor as shells landed beyond the German ships. Beatty hoisted a signal for Lion and Princess Royal to double on Lutzow, Queen Mary was to fire at Derfflinger, second in the German line. Queen Mary missed Beatty’s signal and fired on Seydlitz, third in the German line. As a result Derfflinger enjoyed target practice gunnery, unhampered by enemy shell splashes.
At 16:05 the last ship in the British line, Indefatigable, was in serious trouble. Engaged by the last ship in the German line, Von der Tann, her steering was apparently damaged by a hit on the aft superstructure as she didn’t follow the other battle cruisers in a turn to port. Then she was hit by two more shells, one on the forecastle and one on A turret. After 30 seconds Indefatigable blew up, leaving only two survivors. Although Queen Mary was hitting Seydlitz, by 16:17 the 12-inch guns of Derfflinger and 11-inch guns of Seydlitz concentrated on the Queen Mary. Aboard Derfflinger, the gunnery control officer observed his target.
"The Queen Mary was firing less rapidly than we were but usually full salvos. I could see the shells coming and I had to admit that they were shooting superbly. As a rule, all eight shells fell together, but they were almost always over or short…But the poor Queen Mary was having a bad time. In addition to Derfflinger, she was being engaged by Seydlitz… At 4:26 p.m. [she] met her doom….First, a vivid red flame shot up from her forepart. Then came an explosion forward, followed by a much heavier explosion amidships. Black debris flew into the air and immediately afterwards the whole ship blew up with a terrific explosion. A gigantic cloud of smoke rose, the masts collapsed inwards, the smoke cloud hid everything and rose higher and higher. Finally, nothing but a thick, black cloud of smoke remained where the ship had been. At its base, the smoke column covered only a small area, but it widened towards the summit and looked like a monstrous pine tree." (Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie, at page 595) Immediately behind Queen Mary was Tiger. Aboard Tiger’s bridge Queen Mary was observed to be hit by three of a four-shell salvo with two more hits in a following salvo. "As they hit, I saw a dull red glow amidships and then the ship seemed to open out like a puffball or one of those toadstool things when one squeezes it. There was another dull red glow forwards and the whole ship seemed to collapse inwards. The funnels and masts fell into the middle, the roofs of the turrets were blown a hundred feet high." Tiger missed the stern of sinking Queen Mary by only a few feet. As the New Zealand plunged into the cloud of smoke from the explosion of Queen Mary, she passed 50 yards to starboard when the smoke cleared. The stern was afloat with propellers still turning but the rest of the ship had sunk. As they passed men were climbing out off X turret. Then the stern turned over and the aft magazine exploded. Based upon the descriptions of the end of Queen Mary, it appears possible that all of the main gun magazines aboard the battle cruiser might have exploded. British rescued two officers and five men and the Germans an additional one officer and one man.
It was shortly after the loss of Queen Mary, when it was mistakenly reported to Beatty that Princess Royal had blown up that he stated, "There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today." The loss of Indefatigable and Queen Mary, along with the subsequent explosion of the Invincible discredited the British battle cruisers. They went from being the glamorous darlings of the fleet to floating coffins just waiting to explode. Jackie Fisher’s dictum that speed equaled armor was discredited and the loss of the three battle cruisers blamed on their light armor. However, the losses were more likely the result of British shell handling practice. The British always emphasized offensive operations. To maintain a high rate of fire, extra powder was kept in handling areas and doors were kept open. From the near disaster aboard Seydlitz at the Battle of Dogger Bank, the Germans learned a lesson that was not learned by the British until Jutland. The magazine explosions aboard Queen Mary, as well as the other two British battle cruisers, seem to indicate a delayed sequence in which a flash of ready powder reaching the magazines caused the explosion rather than direct penetration by German shells. With Indefatigable it was said to be a 30-second delay between shell strike and magazine detonation and there was a delay in Queen Mary as well. There should not have been a delay if there had been a direct penetration of the magazine. Their major flaw was the lack of protection against flash. In the end, the British battle cruisers were not the wonder ships that the press had proclaimed them before the war or after Heligoland Bight, the Falklands or Dogger Bank and they were not the white elephants that some saw them after Jutland. They were raised high and brought low by expectations that could not be met. (History from:British Battleships of World War One, 1986, by R.A. Burt; Castles of Steel, 2003, by Robert K. Massie; Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906-1921, 1985; Naval Annual 1909; Naval Annual 1910; Naval Annual 1911, Naval Annual 1912)
Commanders/Iron Shipwright Queen Mary
The hull casting for the 1:350 scale Queen Mary by Commanders/Iron Shipwright is absolutely gorgeous and packed with detail. A check of the length of the hull registered 24-inches (oa) but since I had to move the ruler, this measurement would qualify as an approximation. However, since the actual ship measured 700-feet over-all, it appears that ISW is spot on in the length of the model. The ISW Queen Mary hull is a one piece, full hull model, which is just perfect for those modelers who like to build their warships in full hull format. For those who like a waterline version, you’ll probably have two options. One is to slowly remove the underwater portion of the hull with a belt sander. However, unless you are experienced at doing this, go slowly as you don’t want to remove too much hull and have her low in the water. A second possible choice is to contact Ted Paris and request a waterline casting. Since the hull is upside down in the mold, Ted stops short of pouring all of the resin. Usually the hull will still be high in the water to some degree, as it is better to pour too much resin rather than too little resin. This would still involve the removal of some resin from the bottom of the casting but much less than from the full hull casting.
The ISW hull casting with not only deck fittings cast integral to the hull but also most of the superstructure. Sure there still is the bridge, turrets and stacks to attach but the inclusion of the superstructure integral to the hull simplifies and speeds assembly. Also there are no fit problems that can be encountered with attaching separate resin pieces. The hull casting has two cone shaped resin pour vents and some flash along the keel that will need to be removed. Hull side detail is very nice. The armor belt relief is probably a little too thick but I like the appearance. There is a nice crisp ram bow and two exterior anchor hawse rings at the bow. The side of the hull also features the line of portholes and at the stern the combination of round portholes and square, shuttered windows. A few of the portholes were slightly out of line. At first I thought that ISW only provided base lines for the bilge keels but upon examining the cross section at Q turret found at page 108 in Battlecruisers by John Roberts, it is clear that the bilge keels of Queen Mary was very small compared to those on other ships. So in retrospect, it appears that these are the bilge keels cast onto the hull. Although the anti-torpedo nets and booms were long gone, Queen Mary still retained the net shelves at deck edge. Normally these were not removed when the nets and booms were landed. The shelves are there on the ISW Queen Mary and this includes an extended platform with underneath bracing just aft of the forward superstructure.
The sides of the cast on superstructure are excellent. The aft superstructure has the embrasures for the 4-inch gun positions on the boat deck. There is some light flash to be removed from these gun openings but the 4-inch guns sticking through those open positions will add detail not seen before. Additionally the round portholes and square windows are also found on the aft superstructure bulkheads, which add further interest to this location. The forward superstructure has more than its own share of detail and interest. Here the 4-inch guns are in casemates, rather than open mounts. These are at the 01 level. The hull casting has not only the 01 level but also the 02 level and conning tower cast integral to the hull piece. With my copy I made a mistake. I leaped before I looked. If I had looked at photographs or plans of the Queen Mary, I would have realized that there were no 4-inch guns on the 02 level. True, Lion and Princess Royal had guns at this level but they were in separate houses and not part of the bridge base. However, when I looked at the 02 level bridge base, it appeared that there were openings for gun positions. So I quickly grabbed a hobby knife and opened them up like I did with the gun openings in the aft superstructure. I was wrong! These were not gun openings but an area where the resin was too thin. Now I have to repair the damage that I did, which won’t be that difficult, but aggravating nonetheless. The conning tower has the vision slit incised at the top.
Deck detail on the hull casting is even better. On the forecastle are three anchor chain run plates, two to starboard and one to port. Anchor chain is not cast onto these plates, as ISW provides a pack of metal anchor chain. The anchor windlasses are cast on base plates with deck locator hulls for additional deck fittings. There is also a series of deck access hatches and other fittings clustered here. You’ll have to add your own bollards, as they are not part of the casting. One gripe I have is that the base plates for the bollards are not there as well. Some repair work will need to be done on some of the tops of the fittings, as air bubbles were trapped in these locations during the resin pour. The forward breakwater is thin and nicely done with gussets and fittings on the aft face. Another cluster of hatches, and winch machinery is found on the deck between A and B barbettes. On the 01 deck there are a huge number of deck fittings right behind B barbette. I have no idea of their purpose but it certainly is busy. You’ll notice that the top of the stack houses are all decorated with rectangular panels. These were weather covers for the boiler rooms and could be opened in good weather to provide extra light and ventilation. The first boat positions are found on each side and between the first two stacks. The chocks are slightly thick but will not be seen as boats will be on these and the whole position is under another deck. The deck detail is almost none ending from the aft face of the forward superstructure to the forward face of the aft superstructure.
Deck hatches and fittings run amuck around Q barbette. The solid stack screens aft of the second funnel and forward of the third funnel have openings on their centerline faces. The second series of boat chocks appears in the enclosed boat deck of the aft superstructure. The aft superstructure resembles a fort surrounding the open boat deck inside. The perimeter is ringed with open mount 4-inch gun positions, with the house for the third stack forward and rear conning tower aft. The quarterdeck also has its share of deck detail. As with the other decks, coal shuttle covers are shown with raised circular covers. Although there are deck hatches found here as well, the two large fittings at the stern are skylights for officer’s country. As with any Commanders/Iron Shipwright kit, there are some casting problems with the hull. As bubbles escape the liquid resin they rise to the surface. Since the hulls are cast upside down, you will find some pin hole voids on the bottom of the hull of the Queen Mary. I consider these to be minor and easily fixed, even though they are not seen on the upright model. However, if you expect perfect hull castings, you will not find it with the ISW Queen Mary. However, there was a notch out of the aft centerline keel that I will have to correct since it will be visible. This will probably be best done with Bondo, allowed to dry and smoothed with the resin surface. As mentioned earlier, it is common to find voids in the tops of deck fittings as air pockets can be trapped in the mold at these locations. I had one piece of breakage in that a portion of the torpedo net shelf on the port side at the aft superstructure break was broken. This is another simple fix as a plastic strip can easily be shaped and fitted to this location. Also, as previously mentioned, the resin bulkheads on the 02 level of the forward superstructure were cast too this and had some small voids at their juncture with the deck.
Smaller Resin Parts
There are hundreds of smaller parts cast on resin sprues. These will put you in the middle of flash city as there is a significant amount of flash over-pour with every sprue. Obviously this will involve a moderate amount of cleaning to remove the flash and smooth the seams. Before you go to that trouble, pick and choose the parts that you wish to clean. All parts are not created equal. The same part can be well cast or have defects such as air bubbles or breakage. Since ISW includes additional small parts beyond the number needed for assembly, you should have enough parts to cull those that don't make the grade. If not, contact Ted Paris at Commanders/Iron Shipwright and get replacement parts. It is best to contact him on the toll free telephone number provided on the ISW web site. Unless he is in Vegas, he can usually be contacted in the afternoon. The smaller resin parts include a plethora of parts. Included are: anchors, deck binoculars, net booms, directors, vents, kingposts, sternwalk, platforms, control top parts, secondary guns, gun mounts, gun shields, rudders, ship's boats, mast and booms.
Brass Photo-Etch & Metal Parts
The ISW Queen Mary has a number of brass photo-etch parts provided found on three frets. The parts are well labeled on the frets but are not in themselves relief-etched. Fret 1 includes parts for stack grates, accommodation ladders, platforms, vertical ladder, yardarms, rigging and various deck railing. The second fret includes parts for: inclined ladders, gun shields, bridge railing, platform railing, aft superstructure railing and amidships railing. Fret 3 contains parts for: additional accommodation ladders, davits, triangular braces, platforms and sternwalk railing. Additional metal parts are provided. Included is a package of Model Shipways 27 links-per-inch chain for the anchor chains. The main gun barrels are white metal but either these were forgotten in packing my sample or were not yet ready, as none came with my sample.
The 1:350 scale model of the battle cruiser, HMS Queen Mary, by Commanders/Iron Shipwright is every inch a Splendid Cat. The one piece, full hull casting is beautiful and has an enormous amount of detail cast integral to the hull. The hull casting is the strongest element of the kit but there are others, such as three brass photo-etch frets. Some weaknesses are the smaller parts that have a significant amount of resin flash and need moderate cleanup and the modeler will need other sources to supplement the sparse instructions included with the model.