Minotaur-class armoured cruiser, HMS Shannon (92, 8A, 74, N.25) (1917)

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Minotaur-class armoured cruiser, HMS Shannon (92, 8A, 74, N.25)

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Design History:

The Minotaur-class cruisers were the last class of armoured cruisers built for the Royal Navy as well as the last class of 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.

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. Shannon had an overall length of 519 ft (158.2 m), a beam of 75.5 ft (23.0 m) and a mean draught of 26 ft (7.9 m) and was 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, ironically though she was the slowest of the trio, as she was only able to acheive 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph). 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), though due to modification of design HMS Shannon was unable to acheive this unlike her sister ships. 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.

In 1916 HMS Shannon was also the first vessel in her class to receive a Fire director on her rear mast which resulted in it becoming some what unstable, resulting in it being further modified in 1917 to accept the weight. This gave the ships foremast a more tripod like appearance, in order to accomadate the weight of the new installation. interestingly this modification was initially intended for HMS Defence, but she was lost in the battle of Jutland before the refit could be undertaken, resulting in Shannon being the first in class to receive it, followed by HMS Minotaur the year afterwards (1917). The Torpedo officer and sub-lieutenant of Hms Defence were posthumously commended for their initial work on this upgrade, as they were both lost along with all other hands when The HMS Defence was ammoracked at Jutland. This refit also moved the 12 pounder AA gun to the top of the forward turret.

Service History

Shannon along with her sister ships was ordered as part of the 1904–05 naval construction programme as one of the three Minotaur-class armoured cruisers. She was laid down on 2 January 1905 at Chatham Dockyard, and was completed and ready for launch 2 years later. The ship was christened on 27 April 1907 by Lady Carrington and commissioned on 19 March 1908, at the cost of £1,415,135, which comes to about £118,860,215.50 when adjusted for inflation. While she was undergoing fitting out at Portsmouth, Shannon was accidentally struck on 5 December 1907 by the battleship Prince George which had broken loose from her anchorage; thankfully though both ships were only lightly damaged. Upon commissioning, the ship became the flagship of the 5th Cruiser Squadron of Home Fleet and was later transferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron as a private ship when the fleet reorganized in April 1909. Here she became the flagship of her squadron on the 1st of march 1910, and proceded to preform a port visit to Torbay in 1911. Shannon was relieved as flagship by the battlecruiser Indomitable on 5 March 1912, and was transfered to teh 3rd cruiser squadron, to yet again serve as a flagship. In january 1914, she returned to 2nd cruiser squadron, to relieve HMS Indomitable as flagship, before the squadron began excercises off the northwest coast of spain. The month after, Shannon, along with the rest of the 2nd cruiser squadron and 1st battlecruiser squadron made a port visit to Brest. In october of 1914, HMS Shannon performed patrolls off the coast of Norway, and almost intercepted the armed merchant cruiser SS Berlin, on several occasions. During a sweep of the Heliogoland Bight on Novemeber 26th she found herself under attack by german aircraft, though their bombing attempts were unsuccessful. Because of this she underwent a refit on the 24th of January 1915 to receive a QF 12-pounder (three-inch) 12-cwt anti-aircraft (AA) gun and a QF 3-pounder (47 mm) AA gun for air defence purposes. Because of her posting location HMS Shannon was present in Cromarty Firth when the armoured cruiser Natal’s magazine exploded on 30 December 1915. The crew of the HMS Shannon attempted to rescue survivors from HMS Natal, though it is estimated that 421 people went down with the ship. Some time after this a a fire-control system was installed with a director mounted on a platform fitted to the foremast.

Unlike HMS Defence, Shannon’s role in the battle of Jutland is barely a foot note, as she was situated on the unengaged side of the fleet, and she did not fire her 9.2 or 7.5-inch guns at all during the battle. After the battle the ship spent several days sweeping the battlefield searching for survivours from her sistership Defence and other sunken vessels. At some point before the end of the war the foremast was reinforced and the 12-pounder AA gun mounted on the aft superstructure was moved to the roof of the forward 9.2-inch gun turret. Shannon was finally paid off on 2 May 1919, and spent the remainder of her life as an accommodation ship until sold for breaking up on 12 December 1922.

Specifications

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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 75.5 ft (23.0 m)
Draught 26 ft (7.9 m) (mean)
Installed power: 27,000 ihp (20,000 kW), 24 Yarrow water-tube boilers
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 2 Vertical triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)
Range: 8,150 nmi (15,090 km; 9,380 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 842 (1910)
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
Armour:
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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Sources