Minotaur-class armoured cruiser, HMS Defence (05) (1916)

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Minotaur-class armoured cruiser, HMS Defence (05)


Design History:

The Minotaur-class cruisers were the last class of armoured cruisers built for the Royal Navy as well as the last large royal navy vessels to use reciprocating engines. They were designed to be significantly larger and more heavily armed than their predecessors when they were ordered as part of the 1904-05 Naval Programme, and were initially intended to be more armoured, but this had to be reduced in an attempt to compensate for the additional weight of their substantial armament. The design was criticized at the time for this weakness, along with the wide dispersal of the 7.5-inch (191 mm) turrets which where mounted 8 a side along the length of the ship. The class was initially planned to include four vessels, though the fourth HMS Orion was cancelled due to budgetting issues arising from the purchase of the Swiftsure-class battleships. Because of this HMS Defence was the last of the class to be completed.

In terms of size, The Minotaur class displaced 14,600 long tons (14,800 t) as built and 16,630 long tons (16,900 t) at deep load, giving it comparable weights to pre-drednaught class battleships in service at the time. Defence had an overall length of 519 feet (158.2 m), a beam of 74 feet 6 inches (22.7 m) and a mean draught of 26 feet (7.9 m) and were 1050 long tons heavier than their predecessor “the duke of edinburgh class”. Shannon had 1 foot (0.30 m) more beam and one foot less draught than her sister ships to evaluate the theory that she might be faster with these proportions than her sisters. HMS Defence was powered by a pair of four-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines, each driving one shaft, which developed a total of 27,000 indicated horsepower (20,130 kW) intended to give a maximum speed of 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph). The engines were powered by 24 water-tube boilers with a working pressure of 275 psi (1,896 kPa; 19 kgf/cm2). At full capacity, the ships could steam for 8,150 nautical miles (15,090 km; 9,380 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).

In terms of armament, the ship was equipt with a main armament of four BL 9.2-inch Mark X guns in two twin-gun turrets, one each fore and aft. Complimented with a secondary armament of ten BL 7.5-inch Mark II guns which were mounted amidships in single turrets. This already hefty broadside was further enhanced by sixteen QF 12-pounder (three-inch) 18-cwt guns which were intended to protect the vessel from potential torpedo boat attacks. Once WW1 started and the potential of aircraft and zepplin attacks became a possiblity, Defence received a pair of AA guns consisting of a QF 12-pounder (3-inch) 12 cwt anti-aircraft (AA) gun and a QF 3-pounder (47 mm) AA gun in 1915–16, in a small refit that along with her two sister ships. The 12-pounder gun was mounted on the aft superstructure and the 3-pounder on the quarterdeck at the extreme rear. Capping off this large collection of cannons was five submerged 17.7-inch torpedo tubes, one of which was mounted in the stern, creating a package that was just as deadly above the water as it was below. The torpedos were mounted in the following configuration:

  • two on broadside forward, depressed three degrees and bearing abeam; axis of tube was 7 foot 5.75 inches below load water line and 1 feet 6 inches above deck.
  • two on broadside aft, depressed three degrees and bearing abeam; axis of tube was 7 foot 5.75 inches below load water line and 1 feet 6 inches above deck.
  • one at the stern, undepressed and with the axis of tube was 3 feet below load water line and 2 foot 7 inches above the deck

This overwelming firepower was matched by solid armour along the entire ship, as HMS Defence possessed a waterline Belt consisting of 6 inches (152 mm) of Krupp Cemented Armour roughly between the fore and aft 7.5-inch gun turrets. Unfortunately this could not encompass the entire ship due to the pre-explained weight constriants , resulting in it stepping down to three inches towards the fore and aft ends of the ship.The gun turrets and barbettes were protected by 6–8 in (152–203 mm) of armour. The thickness of the lower deck was 1.5–2 inches (38–51 mm). The armour of the Conning tower was 10 inches (254 mm) thick.

Service History:

Defence was ordered as part of the 1904–05 naval construction programme as the last of three Minotaur-class armoured cruisers. She was laid down on 22 February 1905 at the Royal Dockyard in Pembroke Dock, Wales and was completed and ready to launch just over 2 years later. She was christened on 27 April 1907 by Lady Cawdor and commissioned on 3 February 1909 at the cost of £1,362,970, which comes to about £114,478,765.57 when addjusted for inflation. After successfully completeing sea trials the ship was briefly assigned to the 5th Cruiser Squadron of the Home Fleet until she was transferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron when the Home Fleet reorganised on 23 March 1909. It remained there for three months before being reassigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron, where she would escort the ocean liner RMS Medina in 1911–1912 which at the time was serving as the royal yacht for the newly crowned King George V’s trip to India to attend the Delhi Durbar.After the ship returned to Plymouth in early 1912, Defence was transferred to the China Station to protect British assets in the region, where she remained until December when she was ordered to rejoin the 1st Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean as the squadrons flagship.

At the start of the First World War, she was involved in the pursuit of the German warships Goeben and Breslau, but Rear-Admiral Ernest Troubridge decided not to engage Goeben due to the latter’s more powerful guns, heavier armour and faster speed. This resulted in the german ships fleeing into the Dardanelles, which HMS Defence subsequently blockading the ships inside the strait, until the ship was ordered on the 10th of september to teh south Atlantic to take part in the hunt for Admiral Graf von Spee’s East Asia Squadron. This order was cancelled though on September 14th when it became clear the german squadron was still lurking in the eastern Pacific, and Defence then returned to blockading the Dardanelles. Later the Admiralty again ordered the ship to the South Atlantic in October to join Rear-Admiral Christopher Cradock’s squadron searching for the German ships. Though Defence would never take part in that action though, as she had only just reached however, Montevideo, Uruguay by 3 November 1914 when she received word that most of Admiral Cradock’s squadron had been destroyed two days previously at the Battle of Coronel. Because of this the ship rendezvoused with the battlecruisers HMS Inflexible and HMS Invincible later that month and transferred her long-range wireless radio equipment to Invincible before sailing to South Africa to escort a troop convoy to Great Britain. Defence departed Table Bay, Cape Town on 8 December and upon arrival in the united kingdom rejoined the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet as its flagship upon her arrival.

Once safely in Britian Defence received a QF 12-pounder (3-inch) 12 cwt anti-aircraft (AA) gun and a QF 3-pounder (47 mm) AA gun in 1915–16. The 12-pounder gun was mounted on the aft superstructure and the 3-pounder on the quarterdeck at the extreme rear. It was here she would remain until playing her part in the battle of Jutland on the 31st May 1916, where she was assigned as the flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Arbuthnot, where she filled her normal role in leading the First Cruiser Squadron. The squadron fromed a standard starboard flank to the cruiser screen ahead of the main body of the grand fleet. Defence herself was just right of the centre of the line, where at 17:45 she and HMS Warrior the two leading ships of the squadron spotted the german seconds scouting group and immediately engaged. Their shells unfortuantely fell short though, and the two ships turned to port in pursuit, cutting the tee of the battlecruiser HMS Lion, who was not best pleased, as the ship was forced to turn away to avoid a collision. Shortly thereafter, the two cruisers spotted the disabled and straight up having a bad time Wiesbaden. During this attempted engagement they were spotted at 18:05 by the German battlecruiser SMS Derfflinger and four accompanying battleships, as the two cruisers had bumbled within 8,000 yards of this nasty formation. The germans proceeded to unleash a rain of heavy fire, and Defence was subsequently hit by two salvoes from the german ships, causing the aft 9.2 inch magazine to cook off. this chained with the ammunition passages to the adjacent 7.5 inch magazines which in turn detonated specatularly, causing the ship to suffer a significant emotional event and explode catastrophically at 18:20, with the loss of all 900 or so hands on board.



Class and type: Minotaur-class armoured cruiser
Displacement: 14,600 long tons (14,800 t)
Length: 490 ft (149.4 m) PP, 519 ft (158.2 m) overall
Beam: 74.5 ft (22.7 m)
Draught: 26 ft (7.9 m)
Installed power: 27,000 ihp (20,000 kW), 24 Yarrow water-tube boilers
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 2 Vertical triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph)
Range: 8,150 nmi (15,090 km; 9,380 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 779
Armament: 2 twin BL 9.2-inch Mk XI guns,

10 × single BL 7.5-inch Mk V guns

16 x QF 12-pounder 18 cwt guns

1 x QF 12-pounder (3-inch) 12 cwt AA gun

1 x QF 3-pounder (47 mm) AA gun
5 × 18-inch torpedo tubes equipt with 18-in Fiume Mark III** H. Torpedoes
Belt: 3–6 in (76–152 mm)
Deck: 1.5–2 in (38–51 mm)
Barbettes: 7 in (178 mm)
Gun turrets: 4.5–8 in (114–203 mm)
Conning tower: 10 in (254 mm)

Historical pictures:

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