Warrior-class armoured cruiser, HMS Natal (69)
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.
HMS Natal was ordered as part of the 1903-04 naval construction program, and was laid down as the second of four armoured cruisers in the warrior class. Hms Natal was laid down on 6 January 1904 at Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers, Sons & Maxim. She was christened on 30 September 1905 by Louisa Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, though the bottle initially failed to smash on the bow, which is a bad omen for the ship, which is something that would come to fruition years later if your a belive in such things. The ship completed her fitting out on 5 March 1907 at the cost of £1,218,244 (£102,322,919.28) making her the most expensive ship in her class upon completion. The ship was named for the colony of Natal, which provided a large chunk of the initial change required to build the vessel, though most of the fitting out was done with standard tax payers coin. After undergoing sea trials, Natal like her sister ships, joined the 5th Cruiser Squadron in 1907, and was later transferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron in 1909. In 1910, Natal was rated the best gunnery ship of the sixteen in Home Fleet, Second Division and the Second Cruiser Squadron, scoring 90.48 – well ahead of the average 47.567, just adding to the accurate repuation of the warrior class.In june of 1911 she escored the ocean liner RMS Medina in 1911 while the linerr served as the royal yacht for the newly crowned King George V’s trip to India to attend the Delhi Durbar. HMS Natal also received the duty of carrying the body of Whitelaw Reid back to new york in december of 1912 when the US Ambassador to Great Britian unexpectedly died in london. After completing this mission, the ship required a massive refit due to winter damage sustained in the atlantic, and earned her the nickname of Sea Hearse. 1913 was less eventful for Hms Natal, bar an incident on the 5th of june 1913, when she collided with a shipping vessel which she failed to see due to fog. A court inquiry convened to investigate the incident, and concluded that HMS Natal’s speed of 10 knots (11.5 mph; 18.5 km/hr) was excessive for the foggy conditions, though the Admiralty declined to endorse this finding.
With the outbreak of WW1, HMS Natal joined the Grand Fleet, and during January of 1915 was undergoing refitting at Cromarty. Once this was completed Natal spent much of 1915 patrolling the north sea, before undergoing another refit at Birkenhead shipyard of Cammell Laird on 22 November. From here she rejoined the 2nd Cruiser Squadron at Scapa Flow on december 5th, before 12 days later sailing to Cromarty Firth. It was here on december 30th, she was birthed where HMS Natal’s career would come to a explosive end. with most of the crew given shore leave, Captain Eric Back decided to host a film party aboard the vessel, where he invited the wives and children of his officers along with a friend on his family, resulting in 7 women, one civilian male, and 3 children being on board the ship. It was likely fun and games, before at 15:25, without any warning the ship was consumed by a series of violent explosions, that tore through the rear end of the vessel. The whole affair over in less than 5 minutes when the ship catastrophically capsized with the loss of 421 souls. Luckily for about half the crew, they were currently on shore, enjoying their leave, resulting in the fatalities being significantly less than if the explosion had occured during the night. Due to the sudden nature of the explosion it was initially thought that a torpedo or mine from a German U-boat was to blame, but examination of the wreckage indicated that the chain of explosiuons had been internal. After examination by divers, it was found that the explosions began in either the rear 9.2-inch shellroom or the 3-pounder and small arms magazine, and was likely caused by faulty cordite
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
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)
Natal being launched at Vickers shipyard Barrow in Furness, and her leaving Barrow for the last time after completion of being fitted out:
Natal being fitted out in Devonshire dockm to her right is the japanese cruiser Katori:
Two photos showing Natal during coaling, giving a good look at the back of the secondary turrets along with the 47MM guns mounted on top.
pre ww1 service photos of HMS Natal, you can tell due to the rings painted on the funnels, which were initially different for each ship in the class to enable quick identification in the heat of battle and was present on the warrior class and Duke of Ed class ships after around 1910 to mid 1913. HMS Natal could be identified through the following markings – two stripes on the foremost and after funnels, though this form of identification seems to have been discarded by the time WW1 actually rolled around, only being present on the vessels between 1910 and 1913 as in mid 1913 Natal was fitted with a wireless set rendering the stripes redundant.The images below show her during her attendence of the Delhi Durbar, where she was fitted with the sun canopy that was common with royal navy ships serving in the region to protect the deck crews from the intense tropical sun.
Two additional images showing HMS Natal how she would have appeared before her tragic explosion in 1915
Rudolph the cat, the ships cat for HMS Natal, was unfortunately one of the casuilties of the sinking:
- HMS Natal | The Launch of HMS Natal 1905 (covers the launch of HMS Natal)
- HMS Natal | Home (A website that covers the HMS Natal in depth)
- HMS Natal | Life on board HMS Natal (Large collection of deck photos)
- 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.
- McBride, Keith (1990). “The Dukes and the Warriors”. Warship International. International Naval Research Organization. XXVII (4): 362–93. ISSN 0043-0374
- Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World’s Capital Ships . New York: Hippocrene Books. ISBN 0-88254-979-0
- Warrior class armoured cruisers (1905) - naval encyclopedia