Warrior-class armoured cruiser, HMS Achilles (24, 00, N.03)
The four armoured cruisers ordered for the 1903–1904 Naval Programme had originally been intended to be direct repeats of the preceding Duke of Edinburgh class, but complaints from the fleet about the low placement of the secondary armament on the earlier ships of this type, prompted a change of design. The reason for this was due to the location of the guns, they could not be used effectively in any situation other than a dead calm sea, causing the issue to be reviewed by the Board of Admiralty in late 1903 to early 1904. Based on their findings regarding the Duke of Edinburgh class, the Warrior class was expected to be lighter, which would allow them lee way to use for changing the secondary armament to something more suitible. Suggertions were taken from Officers of the fleet, and this cumilated in a secondary armament of four 7.5-inch (191 mm) guns being chosen that were to be mounted in single turrets raised to the upper deck. Unfortunately this choice came after the ships had already been laid down, midway through construction resulting in the change costing a total of £250,000 ( £21,223,820.05 when adjusted for inflation) for all four ships to be modified to this specification after the Admiralty approved the change on 30 March 1904.
Because of this change the Warrior class ships ended up being lighter as built, as though initially projected to displace 13,550 long tons (13,770 t), they ended up displacing between 13,200–13,350 long tons (13,410–13,560 t) at normal load and 14,500 long tons (14,700 t) (fully loaded) after the change of armament. The ships had a uniform overall length of 505 feet 6 inches (154.1 m) and a length between perpendiculars of 480 ft (146.3 m). The beam of the ships was 73 feet 6 inches (22.4 m) and a deep draught of 26 feet 6 inches (8.1 m) forward and 27 feet 6 inches (8.4 m) aft. This allowed the ships to complement 770 officers and enlisted men. The changes of design created a much steadier gun platform in comparison to her predecessors, with a metacentric height of 2.75 feet (0.8m), resulting in the ships being amongst some of the most accurate shooting ships in the fleet during the 1907 and 1909 fleet reviews, earning them the reputation of being some of the best cruisers ever built by the british.
The cruisers were powered by two 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines, each driving one shaft, and able to procuers a total of 23,500 indicated horsepower (17,520 kW) giving the ships of this class a maximum speed of 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph). These engines were powered by steam from 19 yarrow boilers and an additional six cylindrical boilers carrying a working pressure of 225 psi (1,551 kPa; 16 kgf/cm2). To fuel this propulsion system, the ships carried a maximum of the ships carried a maximum of 2,050 long tons (2,080 t) of coal and an additional 600 long tons (610 t) of fuel oil that was sprayed on the coal to increase its burn rate, which was a common practise at the time and was a shared trait of most royal navy ships at the time. This load allowed the ships to steam for 7,960 nautical miles (14,740 km; 9,160 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).
These repectable characteristics were supplimented by the Warrior Classes main armament, which consited of six 45-calibre BL 9.2-inch Mk X guns (234mm) mounted in single-gun turrets. The
guns were laid out in two centreline turrets, fore and aft of the superstructure, and four wing mounted turrets disposed in the corners near the funnels. The centreline turrets could traverse a total of 285° while the wing turrets were limited to 120° on the broadside due to muzzle blast, which could injure the crew manning the secondaries and 47mm guns. These turrets all had a gun elevation of −5° to +15°, and could sling a 380 pounds (172.4 kg) shell at a muzzle velocity of 2,778 ft/s (847 m/s) up to a range of 15,500 yards (14,200 m) at maximum elevation. The rate of fire of these guns was around three rounds a minute, and each ship carried 100 rounds for each 9.2 inch gun.
Theis armament was complimented by four 50-calibre BL 7.5-inch Mk II guns aranged in four turrets amidship, 2 either side. These guns could only traverse about 110° on the broadside, due to their location on the ship, and they had an elevation of −7.5° to +15° that gave them a range of 14,238 yards (13,019 m) at maximum elevation. These guns had a rate of fire of about 4 rounds a minute, and just like with the primary cannons, each gun was provided with 100 rounds. The final guns on board were 26 vickers quick firing (QF) 3-pounder guns fitted for defence against torpedo boat attack, which where mounted with ten on turret roofs and eight each on the forward and aft superstructures. These guns had a range of 7,550 yards (6,900 m) at an elevation of +20°, and each gun was equipt with 250 rounds of ammunition. In addition to this collection of cannons, the Warrior class was also equipt with three submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes, with 20 torpedos carried on board. On of these torpedo tubes was mounted in the stern, with the other two mounted in the ships beam in fixed angles.
In terms of armour, the Warrior-class ships had a 6-inch (152 mm) waterline armour belt of Krupp cemented armour that covered 260 feet (79.2 m) of the hull amidships. This armour stretched from the side of the ship, up to the upper deck, to a height of 14 feet 6 inches (4.42 m) above the waterline and reached 4 feet 10 inches (1.47 m) below it. This armour lessened betwixt the central citadel and the bow, where the armour belt was 4 inches (102 mm) thick and it extended to the stern with a thickness of 3 inches (76 mm). In addition 6 six inch bulkheads transversed the ship to protect teh citadel from raking fire. The armour on the turret faces were 7.5 inches thick with 5.5-inch (140 mm) sides and a 2-inch (51 mm) roof. The more modernized secondary gun turrets had an armour of between 6–8-inch (152–203 mm) thick and the same roof thickness as the other turrets. The barbettes and ammunition hoists were protected by six inches of armour, although the armour was thinned to three inches between the armour belt. The lower deck armour was only .75 inches (19 mm) except for a patch of 1.5-inch (38 mm) armour over the steering gear and another 2 inches (51 mm) thick over the engine cylinders. The thickest armour on the ship was teh conning tower, which was equipt with 10 inches (254 mm) of protective armour.
During the war HMS Achilles received two modifications, the first of which was the addition of a single Hotchkiss QF 6-pounder anti-aircraft gun on a high-angle Mark Ic mounting. This was mounted on the quarterdeck of the ship in 1915, and had a maximum depression of 8° and a maximum elevation of 60°. This gun had a rate of fire of around 20 rounds per minute, and firing a 6 pound shell at a muzzle velocity of 1,765 ft/s (538 m/s). This gave the ship an effective anti aircraft bubble of around 1,200 yards (1,100m), though in theory the maximum range was 10,000 ft, (3,000m). The second modification the ship received as the conversion of its foremast into a tripod mast in 1916, which allowed the ship to accomadate a fire-control director, though this would not be fitted until 1918.
HMS Achilles was ordered as part of the 1903–04 naval construction programme as the third of four armoured cruisers, which would become known as the Warrior class armoured cruisers. She was laid down on 22 February 1904 at Elswick by Armstrong Whitworth, and the ship was launched on 17 June 1905 and completed fitting out on 22 April 1907. The cost of construction and fitting out would come to an overall cost of £1,191,103 (£100,043,288.63 once adjusted for inflastion). Like her sister ships, after sea trials she joined the 5th Cruiser Squadron in 1907, and made a port visit to Russia in 1908, before she was transfered to teh 2nd cruiser squadron in 1909.
Just before the start of the first world war, HMS Achilles, accompanied by her sister HMS Cochrane, and three other armoured cruisers were sent ot reinforce the defences of the shetland islands. With the outbreak of the war, she and her squadron where assigned to the grand fleet, where she completed a wide range of north sea patrols between 1915 to 16. HMS Achilles would miss the battle of jutland though, as on the day of may 31st 1916 she was undergoing refitting, sparing her the fate that befell her sister HMS Warrior. On august 18th, the grand fleet put to sea in responce ot a decoded message that the german high seas fleet minus the II battle squadron was going to be doing a ship movement, in which they planned to bombard the port of Sunderland. The germans deviated from this plan when they selected to pursue a lone british battle squadron reported by an airship, though this was infact the Harwich destroyer flotilla under Commodore Tyrwhitt. upon realizing thier mistake the germans set course for home port, during this affair HMS Achillies spotted a u-boat, but failed to engage. During another sortie with the High Seas Fleet, on the 18th of october 1916, Achilles and three other armoured cruisers again had no luck, as they patrolled the approaches to pentland firth, and hardangerfjord, as again the german fleet failed to manifest.
This spate of inaction would come to an end though, when on the 16th of march 1917 Achillies and the armed boarding steamer Dundee, where patrolling north of the shetland islands, when by chance they encountered the disguised german auxillary cruiser Leopard. Leopard responded to the sudden british vessels by heaving to in and manouevering to prevent Dundee from boarding her. To further this she fired two torpedoes which both missed. Dundee retaliated to this agression by raking Leopard’s stern with gun fire, badly damaging the ship, before Achilles opened fire herself. The german ship was ravaged by gunfire, and sank an hour later with no survivours. After this action, Achilles was transfered to the north american and west indies station in August of 1917 for convoy escort duties. these were uneventful, and she returned to britian for refit between feb-december 1918. After the refit she was designated as a training ship for stokers at Chatham, before ultimately being sold for scrap on the 9th of may 1921.
Class and type: Warrior-class armoured cruiser
Displacement: 13,550 long tons (13,770 t) (normal)
14,500 long tons (14,700 t) (deep load)
Length: 505 ft 4 in (154.0 m)
Beam: 73 ft 6 in (22.4 m)
Draught: 27 ft 6 in (8.4 m) (maximum)
Installed power: 23,650 ihp (17,640 kW)
19 Yarrow water-tube boilers and 6 cylindrical boilers
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph)
Range: 7,960 nmi (14,740 km; 9,160 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
6 × 1 - BL 9.2-inch (234 mm) Mk X guns
4 × 1 - BL 7.5-inch (191 mm) Mk II or Mk V guns
26 × 1 - Vickers QF 3-pounder (47 mm) guns
3 × 1 - submerged 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes
1 x 1 Hotchkiss QF 6-pounder anti-aircraft gun
Armour: Belt: 3–6 in (76–152 mm)
Decks: 0.75–1.5 in (19–38 mm)
Barbettes: 3–6 in (76–152 mm)
Turrets: 4.5–7.5 in (110–190 mm)
Conning tower: 10 in (250 mm)
Bulkheads: 2–6 in (51–152 mm)
Image of Achilles during scrapping:
- HMS Natal | Cruiser Funnel Markings (cruiser funnel markings, making it easy to id Achilles in photos, where the funnel markings are present)
- Campbell, John (1998). Jutland: An Analysis of the Fighting. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 1-55821-759-2.
- Chesneau, Roger; Kolesnik, Eugene M., eds. (1979). Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860–1905. Greenwich: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-8317-0302-4.
- Achilles 1907
- HMS Achilles, armoured cruiser - British warships of World War 1