Diadem-Class Protected Cruiser (Early Model) HMS/HMCS Niobe (1897): Cost Effective, Chase Effective, Canadian Effective

[Should the early model Diadem-class Protected Cruiser HMS/HMCS Niobe be added?]
  • Yes!
  • No!
0 voters


Part of suggestion originally from December 7, 2018
originally revamped on September 29, 2020


This is a first of a pair of suggestions separating the original one from nearly the beginning of WT Naval Forces for the 8-member Diadem-Class 1st Class Protected Cruiser, now focusing on the definitive member of the first group of four:

HMS; and later HMCS; Niobe.

Laid down by Vickers at Barrow-In-Furness on December 16th, 1895,
launched on February 20th, 1897,
and commissioned on December 6th, 1898

HMS Niobe

bow deck of HMCS Niobe, showing the bow 6-inch guns

HMS Niobe in drydock at Halifax, Nova Scotia, circa late October - early November 1910, after September 6th, recommissioning as the co-first ever Canadian warship

HMS Diadem 1894 plans


The origins of the Diadem-class Protected Cruiser are like many ships even in the early days of the steam-and-steel era of ship design- based upon their predecessor design. Where the Diadem-class however breaks with the standard paradigm, is that it isn’t so much based upon its predecessor; the Powerful-class 1st Class Protected Cruiser; but that it’s basically an 85% scale model and total repeat of the Powerful-class design- see here

it’s basically this meme.

But what the Diadem-class represents is the most powerful force in military procurement since time immemorial- “this costs HOW much?”

While the Powerful and Diadem-class share effectively the same base hull, the cost of HMS Powerful and HMS Terrible with their mission profile of commerce escorts and raiders, being a response to the rare instance of Russians doing the trendsetting in effectively inventing the role of dedicated commerce raider, courtesy of the Armored Cruiser Rurik.

The Powerful-class was a decisive answer to Rurik and its desire for commerce raiding with record speeds at the time for this kind of ship of ~22 knots, well above the 18 knots of the Russian Armored Cruiser Rurik, or the French Armored Cruiser Dupuy de Lôme… which I made a suggestion of… shameless plug.

They were also an answer to the question of “do we put even bigger guns on instead?” with a resounding “yes!”, followed by a slightly less resounding claim of “wait this costs HOW much?” to the realization that the mighty BL 9.2-inch Mk VIII naval gun was just a little bit expensive compared to the ubiquitous series of 6-inch naval guns.

And thus the Diadem-class was born. A classic case of the Cheap Out.

Compared to the Powerful-class, the Diadems were a mild cost cutting downgrade, albeit one with no real loss in practicality for the time as while the ship size was downscaled (though still quite large for its type), Speeds were reduced, firepower was reduced, and armor was reduced… but the number of ships actually built went from just two, to two sets of four.

there were now 8 ships produced for the class in Diadem, Andromeda, Europa, and Niobe being the first group; followed by Ariadne, Spartiate, Amphitrite, and Argonaut; as a second, slightly improved group of otherwise exact duplicate ships.

And the core reason of why, was that at this time, the UK only counted the actual ship itself in the on-paper production costs, and did not include procurement of guns, ammo, provisions, etc; kind of like how during the interwar era in the 1920s and 30s, the US, Italy, Germany, and Japan all used creative accounting to hide treaty breaking tonnage ships; but in the 1890s it was more about keeping the notoriously troublesome British Press in the dark, lest they start another panic.
As for the downsides of being a cheap out design, in hindsight the only true loss of capability in the long run was the lowered speeds- a decade later battleships could outpace most protected cruisers of this vintage. The replacement of the 9.2-inch Mk VIII on the other hand was rather inconsequential, as these ships main roles were commerce-oriented, and the reduced armor only meant so much as being Protected Cruisers; not Light Cruisers; meant that they mainly only armored the deck and the guns.
The general reaction to the Diadem-class was largely one of disappointment from the press, who criticized the obnoxiously average nature of the ship and it’s lack of maneuverability as a large cruiser- specifically, naval journalist Fred Jane; the man behind the “Jane’s Fighting Ships” publications; characterized them as “much-discussed” (translation: overrated), and complained that “all the weak points of the Powerfuls were exaggerated in them”.

As a result, the legacy of the Diadiem-class is that this was the last class of Protected Cruisers built by the Royal Navy, who had renewed interest in the Development of Armored Cruisers fielding the mighty 9.2-inch guns.


Being commissioned on December 6th, 1898, HMS Niobe had a quiet debut to Royal Navy service for about a year until; as they say; war were declared, in the last waning days of the 19th century.

You see, the UK government hatched a plan to unite the British colony of Cape Colony and the mineral-rich but annoyingly independent Boer republics of Oranje and Transvaal into a single South African colony by judicious application of Lee-Enfields and concentration camps to the face.

HMS Niobe would be one of many ships tasked as troop transports bound from Gibraltar to the Cape Town. Along with a co-op side quest alongside the HMS Doris of rescuing troops from the beached troopship, SS Ismore; Niobe would act in her intended role as an escort for the rest of the war.

For most of 1901, despite her pedestrian pedigree, Niobe would be an escort to HMS Ophir, as it was the royal yacht for the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York, AKA the future monarchs King George V and Queen Mary, on their world tour.

like any good British ship, Niobe would be present for the 1902 doubleheader of the Spithead Naval Review and coronation of King Edward VII.

And that was about it for any real Royal Navy service of note. The next 8 years are a scattering of fleet maneuvers, minor refits, a flagship post of a reserve squadron. nothing interesting.

all across the year of 1910, the incumbent Liberal Party of Canada had been pushing to establish an independent Canadian navy, and by September, it finally accomplished this goal!

On September 6th, 1910, the Diadem-class protected cruiser HMS Niobe and the even older Apollo-class protected cruiser HMS Rainbow for recommissioned as the HMCS Niobe and HMCS Rainbow.

While being recommissioned in drydock at Devonport Dockyard, would be refitted with heating gear and wireless radio sets. the largest refit she ever had.

HMCS Niobe was formally, formally handed over on November 12th, 1910, only once the ship was fully paid for. After this, HMCS Niobe stayed in coastal waters, on account of the Canadian government now had a navy, and now had ships for that navy, but now had no clue where their jurisdiction even extended to, or if they could operate at sea independent of the Royal Navy.

And here is where it all starts to go downhill. After about 8 months of service, HMCS Niobe would be conducting a training cruise off of Nova Scotia, when in the area of Cape Sable, Niobe would run headlong into the coast in a fog around midnight. while the ship would be saved, and would spend 6 months under repair; some damage would be permanent, slowing an already not exactly speedy ship.

After this, Niobe was… basically left to rot. Fortunately for Niobe, WWI started in 1914, necessitating Niobe being brought back into a ready state… if only the crew weren’t mostly in the west of the country at that point. After that series of events, HMCS Niobe would patrol the east coast of Canada, transport the Royal Canadian Regiment to garrison Bermuda, and break down.

After this, a 16-year old Niobe would finally see some action. As part of the Royal Navy’s 4th Cruiser Squadron patrolling outside the maritime borders of the US where she would raid any German commerce coming from; or fleeing to; American ports… much to the Americans irritation, and the burgeoning anglophobia of a future admiral and god-king of the US Navy.

at the time of early March 1915, for all her faults, Niobe would spot and chase a german commerce raider, the Hilfskreuzer SS Prinz Eitel Friedrich, would would flee into the port of Newport News on March 11th, 1915, opting to be interned as her engines were worn out.

Speaking of worn out machinery, Niobe! In late July 1915, Niobe would return to Halifax, where it would be noticed that the boilers were worn out, the funnels were on the verge of collapse, and her internal bulkheads were now about as useful as the ones on Titanic.

on September 6th, 1915, HMCS Niobe would be decommissioned, and rebuilt as a depot ship based out of Halifax… remember that one for later.

As it became clear that Niobe was of no practical use anymore, Vice-Admiral Kingsmill offered to swap her for a newer cruiser. the Royal Navy then offered HMS Sutlej, a Cressy-class armored cruiser… the design that was the immediate successor to the Diadem-class in the first place, was about the same age, and apparently of the same terrible condition as well.
shocker, nothing happened.

Niobe’s fate was sealed when the infamous ammunition ship SS Mont-Blanc detonated in Halifax harbor after being rammed. In fact, 7 of Niobe’s crew were boarding.

Alongside the harbor and 90% of the town of Halifax and most of its population being leveled by an explosion so large that today it’s only rivaled by the power of tactical nuclear bombs, HMCS Niobe had the 7 men of the Mont-Blanc boarding party effectively vaporized, another 7 aboard Niobe killed, the superstructure mangled by the initial explosion and then swiss cheesed by the shrapnel, and the whole ship effectively punted around the bay despite having an anchor embedded in concrete, because as a depot the ship was never expected to be moving anywhere.

That misadventure aside, Niobe would remain in Canadian service as a depot ship until 1920. She was sold for scrap in 1920, and broken up in Philadelphia in 1922.

Thus ended the HMS/HMCS Niobe. never considered among the best of ships, but no slouch when there was work to be done.



11,000 long tons (standard)

132.6 meters (435 feet) at the waterline
141 meters (462 feet, 6 inches) overall


21.0 meters (69 ft)

7.77 meters (25 feet, 6 inches)

30 Belleville Water-Tube boilers feeding into 2 four cylinder Vertical Triple Expansion Steam Engines producing 16,500 hp (12,300 kW), powering 2 propellers through two shafts that produced speeds of 20.25 knots (37.50 km/h; 23.30 mph)

on Diadem, Andromeda, Europa, and Niobe, the layout of the boiler and engine rooms were less efficient than the second group, which had another 1500 ihp and half a knot of speed.

2,000 nmi (3,700 km; 2,300 mi) at 19 knots (35.2 km/h; 21.9 mph) - though meaningless in WT, this is historically important as the Diadem-class’s cruising speed was nearly it’s top speed, so they were always ready to go.
Crew: 677


while the Diadem-class has a very heavily armored conning tower, the sides of Diadem-class ships were unarmored as per the usual for most protected cruisers, and the armor is largely scaled down from the Powerful-class.

Armour: Armour was Harvey Steel (case hardened nickel steel)

Casemates and Gun Shields:

all the 6-inch casemate and deck-mounted guns 6-inch guns had 4.5-inch (114mm) armored faces, and a 2-inch thick (51mm) roof

ammunition hoists: 2 inches (51 mm)

“The tubes protecting the ammunition hoists were also 2 inches thick.”
Deck: 4 to 2.5 to 2 inches (102-64-51mm)

"The sloped armoured deck ranged in thickness from 2.5 to 4 inches (64 to 102 mm) on the flat and slopes, respectively.

“The protective deck was 102mm thick over the machinery, thinning to 51mm over a narrow section of the crown and reducing to 64mm forward and aft”
Conning tower:

the conning tower was just about the only area not compromised in the downscaling of the Powerful design to the Diadem design.

12 inches (305mm) fore conning tower walls, 6 inches (152mm) tube to fore conning tower, 2 inches (51mm) conning tower roof.

The conning towers were protected by 12-inch (305mm) walls and their roofs were 2 inches (51mm) thick.


4x1x2 QF 6-inch/40 Mark I EOC Pattern Z deck mounted guns
12x1x6 QF 6-inch/40 Mark I EOC Pattern Z casemate guns
Export-ready sample picture from Elswick with the transitional brown powder early cartridge and shell

bow weather deck of Niobe- you can clearly see the gunshields are the same design

the main armament of the Diadems was a vast smattering of single quick firing 6-inch guns, specifically the Elswick-produced Mk.I guns commercially known as the Pattern Z. there were two on the bow deck, two on the aft deck, and 6 per side in single casemates, making for a possible 7 or 8-gun full broadside, but more easily a 6-gun broadside, like a ye olde Omaha-class cruiser.

The 6-inch/40 used 100-pound CPC Common and HE shells, with 200 rounds per gun.
12x1x6 - 76/40 12pdr 12cwt QF Mk I guns. the venerable 12-pounder was the main anti-torpedo boat armament at this time. six per side, all in casemates.

Didn’t know it at first, but this is actually ingame, as the 3-inch/40 Type 41 on the Ikoma, Kurama, Settsu, and Mutsu.
3×1 47mm QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss Mk.1 guns - the classic Hotchkiss 3-pounder

likely mounted on the superstructure or in fighting tops.
also seen ingame.
3x1 450mm (17.7-inch) M1894 Mark IV torpedoes

one abovewater firing out the back of the stern, 1 for each side underwater

presumably above or below that balcony backdoor on the stern.

“two 18-in submerged broadside tubes forward, depressed three degrees and bearing abeam; axis of tube was 6 foot 6 inches below load water line and 1 feet 6 inches above deck.”

there were also 8 Maxim machine guns chambered in .303, which could be placed anywhere.




Brown, David K. Warrior to Dreadnought: Warship Development 1860–1905. Caxton Editions 2003. ISBN 1-84067-529-2

Chesneau, Roger; Kolesnik, Eugene M., eds. (1979). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860-1905. Greenwich, UK: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-8317-0302-4.

Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) [1969]. Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Revised ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8. OCLC 67375475
(Ships of the Royal Navy - Wikipedia)* (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8.

Macpherson, Ken; Barrie, Ron (2002). The Ships of Canada’s Naval Forces 1910–2002 (Third ed.). St. Catharines, Ontario: Vanwell Publishing. ISBN 1-55125-072-1.

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