"The ships of the Queen Elizabeth class were perhaps the most famous of all British steam propelled battleships, and as originally completed with two well-proportioned funnels they were among the most handsome." Queen Elizabeth Class, Warship Monographs, Monograph Two by John Campbell. at page 1.
By 1913 the Lords of the Admiralty looked around and noticed two of the world’s naval powers producing battleships armed with 14-Inch guns. Japan introduced the 14-Inch gun with the Kongo Class battlecruisers and Fuso Class battleships and the United States introduced the 14-Inch with the New York Class. As the latest capital ships of the Royal Navy, the Iron Duke Class battleships and Tiger battlecruiser mounted 13.5-Inch guns, the Admiralty felt compelled to design a bigger gun for the next class battleship.
Concurrent with this planning, there were discussions of the role of the battlecruiser in fleet actions. When the Invincible was designed, it was thought that the battlecruiser could have a secondary mission of turning the van of an enemy fleet. After all Admiral Togo had included to armored cruisers, Kasuga and Nisshin, in his battleline with his four battleships and the Nisshin had taken more hits than any Japanese warship, other than Mikasa at the Battle of Tsushima. The significantly faster fleet speed of the Japanese was one of the prime ingredients for the overwhelming Japanese victory. However, their Lordships were having second thoughts about using battlecruisers to engage battleships. What was needed was a battleship with speed.
The Royal Navy had designed battleships with speed greater than the battleline speed. The Duncan Class was one example of battleship that sacrificed some armor for a knot of extra speed over the standard design, 19 knots versus 18 knots. The Admiralty rightfully decided that there had to be a greater speed advantage than 1 to 2 knots. They wanted the new design to have a maximum speed of 25 knots, 4 knots faster than the existing battleline. So began the design of the first truly "Fast Battleship".
The 1912 Building Program had already allocated funds for three battleships and one battlecruiser and the Director of Naval Construction (DNC) Philip Watts had three designs prepared for the fast battleship. These were Watt’s last designs as DNC and the three were designated designs RIII, RIII* and RIV and were compared with the previous Iron Duke Class design. On paper the designs carried the 14-Inch Experimental gun but in reality this was a operational security designation for the 15-Inch gun, with which the Royal Navy intended to steal a march on the other navies of the world.
The preliminary sketches had five twin 15-Inch turrets arranged as in Iron Duke but the new class could not accommodate the amidship’s turret and also accommodate the enlarged machinery space necessary for the large plant necessary for the ship’s to achieve 25 knots. When a four turret design was compared with the five 13.5-Inch turret design of the Iron Duke, it became apparent that the eight 15-Inch gun design would have the same weight of armament as the earlier ten 13.5-Inch design but gave an increase of 1,360 pounds in broadside shell weight with 50% greater destructive power. Eliminating the fifth turret provided the additional room for the required increase in room for a 25-knot power plant. All three of the final designs, RIII, RIII* and RIV had four twin 15-Inch gun turrets.
RIII was based very closely upon the Iron Duke design but 20 feet longer. It had a armor scheme modified from the Iron Duke design. Compared to the Iron Duke the belt and barbettes had an additional 1-Inch of armor, the turret tops an additional 1 to 2-Inches of armor and the conning tower 1-Inch less armor than that in Iron Duke. Otherwise, the general layout was very similar with additional engine room making up for the space occupied by the fifth turret.
RIII* was similar to RIII but with another armor scheme. With RIII* an anti-torpedo bulkhead was fitted over the long machinery spaces. This bulkhead would be 1 ½ to 2 inches in thickness in addition to the belt, which would be the 12-Inches as in Iron Duke. The armor above the main belt would be a single belt of 6-Inches, instead of the two tiered 8 and 6-Inches in the earlier design. Turret and barbette protection would be the same as in Iron Duke. The anti-torpedo nets and shelving were eliminated with the weight saved being used to provide for an internal armor screen. Both RIII and RIII* had the last two turrets aft of the machinery spaces, which allowed four gun fire forward and aft with eight guns on the broadside.
RIV moved the third turret, X turret on RIII and RIII* from aft of the machinery spaces to in front of the machinery spaces, thereby becoming Q turret as in the amidships turret of Iron Duke. This design reduced the stern on fire to two guns, as the Q turret could not fire directly astern. At 27,300 tons, this design was also 300 tons heavier than the other two. In the end design RIII* was chosen as the basis for the new fast battleships of the Queen Elizabeth Class.
Queen Elizabeth Vital Statistics as Completed
Dimensions: Length - 600 1/2 feet (pp), 634 1/2 feet (wl), 639 feet 9-inches (oa); Beam - 90 feet 7-inches; Draught - 29 1/2 to 33 feet;
Displacement - 27,500 tons light; 31,534 tons deep load; Armament - Eight 15-Inch/42 Mk I; Sixteen 6-Inch/45 MkXII; Four 21-Inch Underwater Torpedo Tubes
Armor: Belt -13-Inches; Barbettes
- 10-Inches; Turrets - 13-Inches; Conning
Tower - 11-Inches; Decks - Up to 3-Inches
The Royal Navy opened bidding for construction of the new design of the four ships of the class in June 1912 and all four were laid down by February 1913. In November 1912 the Federated Malay States offered to pay for the construction of a capital ship and the Admiralty decided to use this donation to build a fifth member of the class. This fifth battleship became HMS Malaya and was laid down in October 1913, eight months after her four sisters. A sixth unit of the class, to be named Agincourt, was to be built at Portsmouth under the 1914-1915 estimates but was cancelled with the start of World War One and the name given to a battleship that was just completed for Turkey and was seized by the British.
The Royal Navy has often been characterized as a very conservative organization. In the past it was known to let foreign navies indulge in the expense of dramatic experiments or sweeping innovations with the RN adopting successful experiments and simply outbuilding the competition. That philosophy was not employed with the Queen Elizabeth. The class represented a huge gamble on an unprecedented scale for the Royal Navy. Even though the design was closely patterned from a lengthened Iron Duke, the two crucial differences, speed and armament, were leaps of blind faith for the Admiralty.
To achieve 25 knots, the Queen Elizabeth needed 2 ½ times the horsepower of the 21-knot Iron Duke. The larger machinery spaces provided by the elimination of the fifth turret was still not sufficient for achieving the proposed 25-knot speed. With coal supplemented by oil, the best that could be achieved was 22-knots, without sacrificing armor or armament. Something new had to be tried to achieve 25-knots. To achieve this the Admiralty jumped to machinery entirely run by oil fuel. Since oil had to be imported, there was a high degree of apprehension in placing the operation of these battleships contingent upon obtaining overseas oil supplies but the gamble was made. Additionally oil firing gave other advantages such as a greater radius over coal, a much greater acceleration ability over goal, much faster and easier refueling over coal and far less smoke created over coal fired ships, allowing the ships to be closer to an enemy before they would be spotted. In reality the ships never operated at 25-knots by 1916 after Jutland, maximum speed was a fraction under 24-knots. The Admiralty tried to do too much on too small a displacement.
The inclusion of the Mk I 15-Inch gun was the second great gamble. Of all components of warships, heavy caliber artillery took the most time to develop and produce. Since no 15-Inch gun had been developed, the Admiralty gambled that a satisfactory piece of ordnance could be created to fit into their new design. Contracts were signed before there was any evidence that a 15-Inch gun would be successful. If the 15-Inch program had failed, the Royal Navy could have ended up with very expensive battleships armed with eight 13.5-Inch guns. Instead of having 50% more destructive power than the Iron Duke design, they would have had 20% less. As it turned out the British 15-Inch gun was one of the most efficient and successful ordnance designs ever created.
The design for the secondary armament was for sixteen 6-Inch guns, an increase of four over the twelve of the Iron Duke Class. However, only Queen Elizabeth, completed in December 1914 carried all sixteen 6-Inchers. It was quickly noticed that the aft casemate positions were useless. Situated only 12-feet above waterline, there was only a very minimal vision and command for these four guns. One pair was eliminated entirely and the second pair were moved to open mounts on the shelter deck amidships. The other four were so modified during construction. The remounted pair proved to be unsatisfactory as well, as they only had light shielding and were very cumbersome to reload, as the design had no provision for shell supply to these open mounts. The open mount 6-Inchers were removed from all five in 1916.
When completed Queen Elizabeth was fitted with a sternwalk, the only ship of the class to have this feature. Otherwise, the units of the class were difficult to distinguish, one from the other. As already mentioned, she also had four 6-Inch casemate guns aft which were soon removed. The other four never had these. There were also minor variations among the five as to yard and platform placement: Queen Elizabeth lowest yard on foremast below control top at starfish level; Warspite lowest yard as in Queen Elizabeth; Valiant small control position on upper bridge, lowest yard similar to Queen Elizabeth; Malaya small platform without search light low on main mast, lowest yard below starfish; and Barham search light on upper bridge at base of foremast and on small platform low on mainmast, lowest yard as in Queen Elizabeth.
There was an element of secrecy maintained in the construction of Queen Elizabeth. While on the stocks at Portsmouth, her lower hull was concealed. For launching the predreadnought Zealandia was moored as to partially and rather unsatisfactorily conceal the ceremony. Construction was slowed by labor problems but quickly ran up to speed upon the outbreak of World War One. Sea trials started in October 1914. Commissioned on December 22, 1914, Queen Elizabeth continued with her shake down until February 1915.
Queen Elizabeth Class in World War One Reference
The Queen Elizabeth Class: Warship Monographs, Monograph Two by John Campbell in 1972 by Conway Maritime Press. The volume is only 50 pages in length but packs a tremendous amount of information on the Queen Elizabeth Class as they appeared in World War One. Through text, photographs, drawings by John Roberts and tables, the volume has tremendous coverage of the class, as they first appeared.
After trials Queen Elizabeth was almost immediately sent to the eastern Mediterranean to support the Dardanelles campaign. She left in February 1915 and was given a false bow wave, which was painted over upon her return to the Grand Fleet in May 1915. She did carry out gunnery trials until on her way to Gibraltar. As soon as she arrived at the Dardanelles on February 19, 1915, she went into action against the Turkish forts. On February 25 in an attack on the forts guarding the entrance, Queen Elizabeth dismounted the 9.4-Inch guns in two Turkish forts at a range of 12,000 yards. From February 19 to March 1915 she bombarded Turkish position at the mouth and narrows of the Dardanelles.
On March 5 Queen Elizabeth supported the attack on the "Narrows" against the five 14-Inch and thirteen 9.4-Inch guns that guarded this point on the critical waterway. She steamed to the west of the Gallipoli Peninsula and used indirect fire while anchored. Therefore she was masked against return fire. Spotting was to be by aircraft and three predreadnoughts in the straits. The seaplanes proved useless in this mission and the predreadnoughts could not furnish corrections because of their placement. In four ½ hours she fired 33 shells at 14,000 yards range and caused no serious damage. Although hit by field artillery batteries 17 or 18 times during this period, she did not suffer significant damage. The six-inch secondary, along with fire from Inflexible and Prince George silenced the light Turkish guns.
The next day featured an unusual confrontation. The Turks sailed the ancient predreadnought Hairredin Barbarossa into position in the Dardanelles to use indirect fire against Queen Elizabeth. The Hairredin Barbarossa was completed in 1894 as the German Kurfurst Friedrich Wilhelm and mounted six short 11-Inch guns in three turrets, capable of 25 degrees of elevation. Barbarossa fired three 11-inch rounds at Queen Elizabeth. Thinking that this fire came from Turkish howitzers, the battleship moved another 1,000 yards from the peninsula. The spotting position of Barbarossa was discovered and suppressed by secondary fire. A new spotting position was established as Barbarossa shifted her anchorage. With another three rounds Barbarossa had the new range of Queen Elizabeth. Barbarossa then opened salvo fire and hit her giant adversary with three 11-inch shells. All three hits were on the armor belt below the waterline and caused no damage. Queen Elizabeth moved another 3,100 yards off shore, which finally put her beyond the range of Barbarossa’s guns. "In all the Barbarossa expended twenty-one 11-in shells at about 16,500 yards, and it was doubtless fortunate for the Queen Elizabeth that none fell on her decks." ." Queen Elizabeth Class, Warship Monographs, Monograph Two by John Campbell. at page 25.
On March 8 Queen Elizabeth steamed into the straits on a bombardment mission, which was ineffectual due to rain squalls and bad light, which made spotting impossible. On March 18, 1915 the combined Anglo-French Fleet made the grand effort of trying to force the narrows with Queen Elizabeth, Inflexible and fourteen predreadnought battleships. It proved to be an unmitigated disaster for the allies. The small Turkish steamer Nusret had laid 26 mines in an area thought to have been clear of mines. Three predreadnoughts, two British and one French, were sunk and Inflexible seriously damaged by the mines. Two more French predreadnoughts received serious damage from Turkish guns from the forts. The target for Queen Elizabeth was the most powerful of the forts, which mounted two 14-inch and seven 9.4-inch guns, as well as being the most well placed. QE fired 178 rounds of 15-inch and 101 rounds of 6-inch high explosive at 14,000 to 17,000 yards. One 9.4-inch gun was put out of action. Queen Elizabeth was hit by five 5.9-inch (150mm) howitzer rounds which caused no damages or casualties.
In April Queen Elizabeth used direct fire to support British Army landings and operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula. On April 26 she used kite balloons for spotting, to engage the Hairredin Barbaroosa and her sistership Torgut Reis. This arrangement was far more effective than that used in March and both old Turkish predreadnoughts were soon driven off.
On April 27, 1915 Queen Elizabeth tried something new. Off Nagara she used indirect fire to engage the battlecruiser Goeben, using a kite balloon for spotting. She also engaged the empty transport Scutari of Nagara and sank her on the third shell fired at 18,000 yards. Although the Admiralty had high hopes of the destructive power of the new 15-Inch guns against Turkish fortifications, they were not as effective in this mission as had been anticipated. The guns flat trajectory and the lack of high explosive shells severely constrained her abilities in attacking the fortifications. Because of the high risk posed by mines and submarines, Queen Elizabeth was recalled to the Grand Fleet on May 12, 1915 and arrived at Scampa Flow two weeks later. At this time she joined the 5th Battle Squadron made up of the five ships of the class.
In May 1916 Queen Elizabeth was in the dockyard and was the only unit of the class to miss the Battle of Jutland. In 1916-1917 she had some minor appearance changes. Secondary control positions were added low on the mainmast and a number of changes were made to the signal lamp and search light dispositions. Middle bridge search lights were remounted in a position abaft of her second funnel, aft superstructure search light was raised on a platform, a 36-Inch light was added to a platform low on the mainmast two signal lamps were added to the middle bridge, carley rafts were added and the sternwalk was removed. For a time range baffles were added on the funnels to confuse German range-finding.
On November 28, 1916 when Admiral David Beatty replaced Admiral Jellicoe as Fleet Commander, Beatty selected Queen Elizabeth as his flagship. As the dashing commander of the battlecruiser force prior to his elevation to fleet command, it was to be expected that Beatty would appreciate the value of the fastest battleships in the fleet. From November 1916 to February 1917 Queen Elizabeth was fitted for duty as fleet flagship. From 1917 to 1918 she received other changes. Deflection scales were painted on either A & X or B & Y turrets, range finder clocks were added, coffee-box search light towers were added abeam and abaft of the second funnel, two 3-inch high angle anti-aircraft guns were added and range baffles were removed. Towards the end of 1918 the class received flying-off platforms to B and X turrets for Sopwith Camel fighters and Sopwith One & ½ Strutter reconnaissance aircraft. According to R. A. Burt Queen Elizabeth did not receive these but there are photographs of the ship showing the flying-off platforms in place. John Campbell states that all five ships received the flying-off platforms by mid 1918. While serving as flagship at the end of the war. The naval terms of the armistice with Germany were arranged aboard Queen Elizabeth on November 15 at Rosyth.
Queen Elizabethwent on to serve another three decades. Although she may have seemed to be at the peak of her career in November 1918, as fleet flagship of the Grand Fleet, her greatest trials were still ahead of her. From 1926 to 1929 she received a major refit in which an extraordinarily ugly trunked stack ruined her classic beauty and an almost total rebuild from August 1937 until January 1941 in which she received a tower bridge. In World War One, she was one of the few modern capital ships that faced two enemies, the Turks and the Germans but in World War Two, she faced three, the Regia Marina, Kriegsmarine and the forces of Imperial Japan. Sold in May 1948, demolition started the following July. However, the career and accomplishments of HMS Queen Elizabeth after World War One are outside the scope of this article.
"Looking back over the tale of our capital ships we can see at long intervals a few such as the Achilles, Dreadnought, Majestic, Dreadnought (1905) and Tiger which stand out by virtue of their fine appearance and exceptional military qualities. To them the Queen Elizabeth must be added and given pride of place as the most perfect example of the naval constructor’s art as yet put afloat." British Battleships by Oscar Parkes, at page 562. (History from British Battleships by Oscar Parkes; British Battleships of World War One by R.A.Burt; Queen Elizabeth Class, Warship Monographs, Monograph Two by John Campbell)
White Ensign Models Queen Elizabeth Hull Casting
In any warship model, especially models of World War One warships, the hull casting or pieces are the most significant. The WEM Queen Elizabeth sets a new standard in fineness and quality of the hull casting. At first glance you don’t notice any deck planking on the QE. With almost all 1:700 scale models deck planking is readily apparent as the planking is normally done oversize for appearance sake. White Ensign Models has taken another route. They have clearly opted to model fidelity in scale in the planking in this model. The deck planking is so fine that initially you don’t realize that it is there. All I had to do is put on my two power glasses and there it was, planking of such delicacy and fineness that it is hard to believe.
That is just one of a long list of stellar detail on this model. The overhang of the forecastle deck over the hull casemate batteries is a difficult piece of casting but has been flawlessly executed in this model. Those are only two of the undercuts carried out perfectly on this model. Other beautiful undercuts are found in the plated over aft 6-inch positions, forward superstructure and funnel base housings. To complement these features there is a great deal of very fine solid bulkheads. These include the foc’sle breakwater and four breakwaters found on the casemate decks. Other solid bulkheads are on the superstructure aft of B barbette and at the break of foc’sle and quarterdeck. This type of casting done with the thinness and crispness exhibited in the WEM Queen Elizabeth can be very susceptible to damage in transit. However, there was absolutely no damage here or in any other part to this kit.
What does jump out are the great number of deck fittings. They are everywhere, presenting a very busy and satisfying appearance. All sorts of skylights, deck coamings, circular ventilators, bollards, cleats and winch reels festoon the deck wherever you look. Strakes – if you like vertical strakes, you’ll love the WEM Queen Elizabeth. There are two on each side of the hull, six on the face of X barbette and a riot of nine on the face of B barbette. Additionally WEM has anchor chain cast integral with the hull. Since the photo-etch also contains runs of brass anchor chain, the modeler has the option of leaving the cast on anchor chain in place or replacing it with photo-etch chain.
I have discussed the glories of the hull casting but it is not perfect. Now to throw some rocks, but in the case of the White Ensign Models Queen Elizabeth the rocks only amount in size to grains of sand. Although the hull is perfectly flat there was a slight irregularity at the very bottom edge of the hull, easily corrected by 30 seconds of light sanding. Additionally there was a minute amount of resin splash on the starboard hull side. This was not discerned with even two power glasses. It was only when viewing photographs of the hull greatly magnified by a macro setting that this could be seen. Maybe 5 to 10 seconds will dispose of this sand grain. One last thing about the hull, which is not a defect but which was discernable in the magnified photos was the presence of extraordinarily fine resin or shipping dust. This also was not noticeable to an unaided eye or even with two power glasses. Although I washed and dried the hull before taking photographs, the dust still could be seen on some of the photographs. The solution is of course very simple, wash and dry the hull two or three times.
Smaller Resin Parts
White Ensign Models also provides optional resin parts for the starfish. Both the fore mast and main mast have prominent starfish. These are excellent one piece parts in themselves and provide an easy build alternative to the super-detailed brass starfish, each of which has thirteen parts, included in the photo-etch fret. The two 3-inch HA AA guns have detail that can only be observed when significantly magnified. There are plenty of ship’s boats for the Queen Elizabeth with standout steam launches in various sizes, not to mention a legion of searchlights and signal lamps. Quite a few of the smaller resin parts have resin pour vents attached. These vents are easily removed with a hobby scissors and smoothed with sanding.
Brass Photo-Etched Fret
As mentioned there are 13 piece starfish for the main and fore masts, stack caps, four accommodation ladders in two different styles, two 3-inch HA AA guns (although I prefer the optional resin HA guns), relief etched anchors, oars & rudders for the boats, different types of davits, galley stacks, lifebouy racks, quantities of relief etched doors and deck hatches, flag & ensign staffs, wire braces, different types of multi-piece boat cradles, large boat booms, main mast boom rigging and other parts, along with railing, inclined ladder, vertical ladder and anchor chain. Some parts such as the sternwalk and a third type of starfish are not used in building this kit. They are blacked out in the instructions and not listed in the parts manifest. This fret also includes range clocks but don’t use these. Use the range clocks found on the supplementary smaller fret.
The supplementary fret includes additional detailed brass parts for the late war Queen Elizabeth. Clearly Mad Pete has gone off the deep end again. The range clocks on this fret actually have relief-etched numbers on the dial with the range hands pointing to 10 o’clock. This detail can only be seen under high magnification. Its obsessive, its madness, its incredible! Other delicious detail included are boarding nets for two of the boats, different upper mast rigging, gaff, aft search light platform lattice tower, small boat booms and lots of anti-splinter padding for the superstructure.