Admirals of WW2

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto

Although the war at sea in Europe saw few “big guns” engagements (no Jutland equivalent here), Admirals still played a major part in many operations, from the long battle of the Atlantic to shore bombardments in North Africa, Sicilia, Italy, and France, and naval battles in the Mediterranean. However this was in the pacific that things really get nastier for these top brass, obliged to take history-making decisions, sometimes responsible of the fate of their entire nations on a dice roll. No Top ten here, although some of these admirals would deserve fully-fledged biopics as their career was long and outstanding.

Cunningham, Andrew Browne (1883-1963)

Admiral Cunningham

Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope, born in Dublin, son of a distinguished Scottish doctor who had become dean of the University of Edinburgh, young Cunningam served early on the Britannia, Fox and Doris, taking part in the Boer War. Then he was promoted commander of a torpedo boat, and destroyer during the great war. Andrew Browne (nicknamed “ABC” in the Navy), crossed the ranks and in 1937 became vice-admiral with the command of cruisers, then the battleship Rodney. He then commanded a squadron of destroyers in the Mediterranean, then battle cruisers, and became Deputy Chief of Staff in 1938. As a great connoisseur of the Mediterranean (over 30 years of service), he became commander-in-chief Of the Royal Navy in this sector in 1939.

He finds himself faced with the worst of situations when Italy entered the war in June 1940, with a powerful Italian fleet, a French fleet about to be captured, and its own fleet weakened by transfers in the Atlantic. With great skill he managed as ordered to “deactivate” the French fleet in his area of ​​Alexandria (Operation Catapult). Later adopting a decidedly aggressive tactic, he managed to inflict several crushing blows to the Regia Marina, including the famous Taranto raid that inspired Pearl Harbor.

In general, he was the pivot of British defense in North Africa, protecting with his means the vital Suez canal against the regia marina assisted by the Luftwaffe. He received the surrender of the Italian fleet at La Valette harbour in 1943, then became first Lord of the Sea, following Sir Dudley Pound. Honored Admiral for life, he remains one of the most emblematic Royal Navy officers in history, the “Nelson of the Second World War”.

Darlan, François (1881-1942)

Admiral Darlan

Probably the most famous and controversial French admiral of the war, he was above all a convinced “vichyst”, known paradoxically for his action of turning the fleet to the allies, following Operation Torch. An officer instructor on the Jeanne d’Arc cruiser, then commanding a mobile navy battery on the front during the great war, he was promoted commander of the fleet, including the Atlantic squadron in 1939. Well introduced into the political spheres and personal friend of Georges Leygues, Minister of the Navy, he was promoted by Leon Blum in 1937 to the supreme rank of “Admiral of the Fleet”, Commander-in-Chief of all naval forces.

Nicknamed “the Red Admiral” for his political loyalties to the popular front by his opponents, he effectively reorganized the navy and launched large-scale programs, including those of the first French carriers, and made accurate suggestions for the defense of the northern front, not retained by Gamelin. Faithful of Petain, he would enclose the fleet in a dead end, only leading to British attacks and captures. Hardly struck by the drama of Mers-el-Kebir, he became openly Anglophobic, fervent supporter of the collaboration. He went so far as to lend to the Kriegsmarine in Syria several naval bases, and it was even assumed that he had prepared for a joint offensive with the axis in that sector.

Following the allied landings in North Africa and under the pressure of General Juin, he signed a ceasefire. He was gradually marginalized by Vichy, loosing the confidence of the Nazis. Disavowed by Petain, he eventually took command of the empire as high commissioner, under the close surveillance and support of the Americans, only to see the scuttling of the fleet he promised. He was assassinated on 24 December 1942 by a young pro-Gaullist student, Fernand Bonnier de la Chapelle.

Dönitz, Karl (1891- 1980).

Admiral Dönitz

Born in 1914 on board the Breslau, he moved to submarine command in 1916, with a beautiful “chart”. He was taken prisoner in the Mediterranean in 1918 following the destruction of his U-Boote, interned in Malta, and was released and assigned to various positions in the German temporary navy. In 1934, the Anglo-German naval agreement gave him the freedom to reconstitute the submarine fleet, but he found himself in the face of the backward views of Grand Admiral Raeder.

However, he developed the “Rudeltaktik”, or pack tactics, which was successfully undertaken until 1943. In 1939 he was able to hire only a handful of ocean submersibles. However, with the fall of France and the new bases gained on the Atlantic, this strategy takes on its full meaning. In spite of the ASDIC, the subtle shots of submarines (like the U-47 of Prien) begin to make Hitler doubt of the resistances of Raeder, especially as surface actions are often disappointing (Graf Spee, Bismarck).

After May 1940, Hitler was more circumspect, forbidding even more surface exits, but gave carte blanche to Dönitz, and in particular impressive means: The construction of U-Bootes will increase, in spite of the programs of classic construction. In 1942, the packs of gray wolves are at the top of their action, with 400 units engaged in the Atlantic, saturating the defense of the convoys. The situation became critical for the Admiralty, which urged the US to go to war. Dönitz was promoted Grand-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief of the Kriegsmarine, succeeding Raeder, disavowed. But shortly after his appointment, the US entry into the war and its tremendous material means gradually blurred the U-Boats, then in 1943, making it almost impossible in view of the losses.

However Dönitz is relying on a new generation of U-Bootes, the revolutionary types XXI. Faithful to Hitler, Dönitz will retain his confidence and become his official dolphin after his suicide in his blockhouse in Berlin in 1945. In a week, he will only transfer his armies to the west to avoid their capture by the Red Army And will negotiate with the allies, without success, for a common front against the “reds”. He signed the capitulation, and was arrested two weeks later with his collaborator Albert Speer. He was brought before the Nuremberg court and sentenced to ten years for having prepared a war of aggression and supposed to have condoned the killings (controversial after the “Laconia” affair) of shipwrecked.

Halsey, William (1882-1959)

Admiral Halsey

An officer in 1904, commander of the destroyers during the great war, he became naval attache in Berlin in 1919, then in Scandinavia, will still have some commandments before graduating from the Naval Aviation School at the age of 52, obtaining his pilot’s license. Very popular, he rose to the rank of Rear Admiral commanding Saratoga, then the 2nd Division of Aircraft Carrier, and Vice Admiral with the command of the Pacific fleet.

Following Pearl Harbor and the destruction of the bulk of the classic fleet, he has to face with the remaining aircraft carriers and is conducting an offensive to the Marshall Islands and Gilbert, taking over the Doolittle raid. The “Taurus”, impulsive, energetic and tenacious, is absent for health reasons in Midway, but then exercises all its authority on the South Pacific, organizing in particular the offensives of Guadalcanal and the Carolinas. He was the artisan of the reconquest of New Guinea, of the New Georgia, of the Bougainville.

He was then appointed to the head of the powerful Third Fleet and had to take the decisive blow to the Philippines in 1944. His impulsiveness almost caused the Japanese plan to succeed in Leyte, but the crews would behave wonderfully, reestablishing the situation. With Spruance, he completed the reconquest by destroying the rest of the Nippon fleet in Kure and Tokyo, and preparing for the landing on the island of Honshu. It is aboard his battleship Missouri that will be signed the capitulation of Japan putting an end to the war.

Kinkaid, Thomas Cassin (1888-1972)

Admiral Kinkaid

An officer in 1908, he participated in the Great War as an observer with the Royal Navy, then became shooting director of the battleship Arizona. While specializing in artillery, he obtains other commands and becomes a diplomat, participating in the disarmament commission in Geneva within the American delegation. Then he became naval and air attache to the Italians and Yugoslavs from 1938 to 1941.

After Pearl Harbor, he became engaged as rear admiral, commander of the fleet of cruisers of the Pacific, and then commanded a task force grouped around Of the Enterprise Carrier. With this force, Kinkaid will be the hardest engagements from 1942 to 1944, showing qualities of remarkable cold blood, organization and tactical genius. (Gilbert, Marshall, Wake, Marcus, Coral Sea, Midway, Guadalcanal, Santa cruz, Solomons).

He was then sent to expel the Japanese from the Aleutians, to occupy Attu and Kiska, and was then propelled to the head of the Fifth Fleet under the direction of Marc Arthur and engaged during the whole reconquest of the Philippines. Participating in the Battle of Leyte and Surigao, he was the main craftsman of the destruction of the Nippon fleet. He was then engaged for the reconquest of Luzon, Borneo, and then went to Korea in 1945 to receive the Nippon capitulation. He became the Admiral and took over as head of the Atlantic Reserve Squadron until 1950.

Leahy, William Daniel (1875 – 1959)

Admiral Leahy

Leahy left the Annapolis naval school in 1897 and fought in the Philippines in 1898, in China in 1901 (the Boxers revolt), then in Central America, Nicaragua and Cuba in 1912-14, commandant of the gunboat Dolphin, As in Mexico in 1916.

He is a very experienced man who is entrusted with a cruiser, operating in the Mediterranean, then in the Atlantic from which he climbs the ranks: In 1921 during the Greco-Turkish War, In charge of the command of the American fleet in the Aegean Sea. Rear-Admiral in 1927, he was Vice-Admiral in 1935 and Admiral in 1936, and Head of US Naval Operations. Eminence gray of Roosevelt, he advised firmness to him during the Japanese offensive in China, when the gunner USS Panay is destroyed, but is not followed.

Reached by the age limit in 1939, he became governor of Puerto Rico, then joined to Vichy as ambassador in 1940, of which he denounced the collaborationist drift. Recalled to Washington, and still having Roosevelt’s confidence, he will accompany him as chief of interallied staffs, participating in major conferences until the end of the conflict, being assigned a function of Allied defense organizer To the USSR by Truman after the war.

Muselier, Emile (1882 – 1965)

Admiral Muselier

After leaving the naval school of Toulon, and a campaign in the Far East in 1902-05, Emile Muselier fought n the front in the great war, as an artillery batery officer, first under the command of Admiral Ronarc’h, in champagne, and in Belgium. After the war, he was heading the naval control delegation in Germany. In 1933 he became Rear Admiral, commanding the Tunisian fleet and the 2nd Division of Cruisers. He was in charge of the defense of Marseilles and was appointed Vice-Admiral By darlan in October 1939.

Refusing the armistice, he joined Gibraltar on board a cargo ship, and then by plane London where De Gaulle appointed him commander-in-chief of the FNFL (Free French Navy) and provisionally he organized the FAFL (Free French Air Force). Despite Operation Catapult, he continued his recruitment, and famously proposed a new navy pavilion showing a cross of Lorraine (symbolizing Jeanne d’Arc), lated adopted by the Free French at large. Difficult relations with De Gaulle have him assigned to Algeria in 1943 with General Giraud to maintain order. Compromised in a Putsch against De Gaulle, he was deprived of any official function until his appointment as head of a naval delegation charged with German affairs in 1945.

Nagano, Osami (1880-1947)

Admiral Nagano

Descendant of an illustrious family of samurai, Nagano is one of the pillars of the imperialist party Nippon. Released in 1900 from the naval academy, he entered the war school but also made his right to Harvard. Having become a commander, but without participation in the Russo-Japanese war or the great war, he was an officer on the Nisshin, the Iwate and the Hirado. He told the naval attache of the Nipponese Embassy in Washington. Against Admiral, he was appointed head of the fleet of the Yangtze, and the squadron command, and holds leadership positions as the direction of the Naval Academy, or as head of state of the Assistant Or assist the Director of the Naval Training Office.

He participated in the London naval conference in 1930, trying to get more resources for his fleet. He was then delegated to the Geneva and London Conferences of 1936, withdrawing Japan for lack of agreement on the limitation of armaments in his favor. He then became Minister of Marine of Hirota Cabinet in 1936. In April 1941 he became chief of staff of the navy, and directs all naval strategy, well attended by Yamamoto. But the back of the fleet in 1942 and its inaction in 1943 are reported to be his responsibility, he assumed and resigned in 1944. Captured in 1945, prosecuted, convicted of war crimes Japanese diet, And dies in prison.

Nagumo, Chuichi (1887-1944)

Admiral Nagumo

An officer in 1908 and a torpedo specialist, he commanded a destroyer in 1917 before entering the war school, then climbed the ranks quickly, captain, then rear-admiral and finally vice-admiral in 1939 Destroyers flotillas, but also Takao and Yamashiro. Curiously then, he took the command of the naval aviation, still little considered. At the head of this first fleet he led brilliantly the attack on Pearl Harbor, the destruction of the Repulse and the Prince of Wales, the Dorsetshire and Cornwall cruisers, the Hermes aircraft carrier, the Dutch fleet, the ABDA force, Chased the Royal Navy from the Pacific and the Indian Ocean, and ensured effective coverage of all operations of conquest until the end of 1942.

But he also made the unfortunate decision to change, at the last minute, armaments of aircraft which would eventually lead to the destruction by the American naval aviation of the bulk of its force at Midway. Then it will be the Solomons. Santa Cruz will be a Pyrrhic victory, and he will not be able to clear Guadalcanal. His disgrace would only be temporary, for in 1943 he returned to the head of a new carrier force but wiped another defeat to the Mariana in an attempt to defend Saipan. Associated until the end with General Saito defending the island, he eventually committed Seppuku.

Nimitz, Chester Williams (1885-1966)

Admiral Nimitz

This quiet and introverted Texan left the school of Annapolis in 1905, served in Manila before preferring the submersibles and became the chief of staff of this fleet in 1917. Affected in Hawaii, School of War, he joined the naval staff. He was noted for his qualities as a captain, was assigned to the training of reserve officers, then became director of the shipping office in Washington, and became a rear admiral in 1939. He then trained naval officers.

Following the Japanese attack in the Hawaiian Islands, he was promoted to Vice-Admiral and became Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet. Under his vigorous leadership, the staff is reorganized and priorities set. His first major decision will be to launch the bulk of the oceanic submersible force in the Pacific to ensure the disruption of Nippon traffic, and a total underwater warfare. He directs and creates the task forces that will bomb the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, as well as Doolittle’s bold raid. He also heads the US forces during the Battle of the Coral Sea, and indirectly saves Port Moresby. He took a major part in the victory of Midway, well supported by spruance and Fletcher.

He then committed his forces to Guadalcanal, leading to a very aggressive and also very risky solution: The remaining Pacific fleet’s fate then had for a brief moment little more than one carrier, the USS Enterprise, and he did the most of it. Nimitz then embarked on a slow and costly reconquest of the Solomons, and in 1943 found himself at the head of a huge new fleet from the gigantic industrial efforts of the United States under the leadership of Admiral King. But a different one will quickly oppose him to Mac Arthur, a proponent of a reconquest of the Pacific West, including the Philippines, while Nimitz wants to go up the island to Okinawa. He devised a combined tactic promised to a great success, operating against the bases of Rabaul and Truk, which he took over, and advanced gradually towards the Mariana.

In September 1944, however, he rejoined MacArthur’s forces in the Philippines and confronted the Japanese forces in the immense battle of Leyte. Despite Halsey’s impulsiveness, he managed to trap the big units of the Nippon fleet and destroy his last aircraft carriers. He later engaged a real Maelstrom in front of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, wiping away swarms of kamikazes almost without loss. He again opposed Mac Arthur on the question of whether or not to conquer Japan, Nimitz preferring a blockade and naval operations designed to bend the Japanese government. But the atomic bomb will solve this question and it is Nimitz who will sign the act of surrender aboard the battleship Missouri.

The press will finally be grateful to him for his efforts in the face of a Mac-Arthur hitherto more media and he will be entitled to a triumph in Washington on his return. He was appointed “Admiral of the Fleet”, an honorary higher rank, and then fully engaged in politics as a UN administrator, regulating the Indian question. He retired in 1951 from politics as well as from his command.

Ozawa, Jizaburo (1886-1963)

Admiral Ozawa

He joined the navy in 1906 and was enthusiastic about the victory of Port Arthur, who quickly specialized in the question of torpedoes and destroyers in 1916. Captain of a frigate, then of ship, he commanded the cruiser Maya then the ship of line Haruna.

Rear-Admiral in 1936, then Chief of Staff of the Combined Fleet, he commanded the 1st and then the 3rd Naval Aviation Squadron. Vice-Admiral in 1941, after serving as Director of the Naval High School, playing his role at Pearl Harbor, he then took over Nagumo’s leadership of the forces that destroyed the Dutch fleet and led to the conquest of Java and Sumatra. In 1944, he was to face Mitscher Task Force 38 in the Marianas, an offensive that turned into a disaster.

In Leyte, he will take the lead of the “bait fleet” including aircraft carriers deprived of air force. He realizes his share but the plan fails following the unexpected withdrawal of Kurita. He will finally take the lead of Kamikazes training for the defense of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. After the capitulation, he will not be disturbed by justice, having had no role in the decision-makers of the regime.

Pound, Sir Dudley (1877-1943)

Admiral Pound

Sailor by blood (born on the Isle of Wight), Pound entered the naval school in 1891, then became commanding officer in 1909 and instructor at the Portsmouth naval school in 1913. Captain and Lord Fisher’s deputy, He commanded the battleship Colossus and participated in the battle of Jutland. He served in the Mediterranean, commanding the Hood and the Repulse, and in 1927, after having commanded under Keyes, was appointed Rear Admiral, Deputy Chief of Staff.

Vice-Admiral in 1930, he became commander of the Mediterranean squadron, then gave up his post at Cunningham, to be appointed in 1939 Admiral and First Lord of the Sea, and as Chief of Staff of the Navy , Will become a close counselor of Churchill. Particularly dynamic, although with a failing health, he spends without counting during the pursuit of the Graf Spee, the operations in Norway, the Dynamo operation (the Dunkerque embarkation), then the bismarck affair. He organized the best defense of the convoys of the Atlantic (despite the total loss of the PQ-17) until his deaths of exhaustion in 1943, in London.

Raeder, Erich (1876-1960)

Admiral Raeder

He entered the naval school in 1894 and retired as an officer in 1897, campaigned in the Far East, moved to the naval academy in 1904, and rapidly climbed the ladder. He was first assigned to the naval information service, then to the Imperial Yacht Hohenzollern, Lieutenant-Commander in 1912, and then Chief of Staff to Admiral Hipper during the Great War.

He will see the battles of Dogger Bank and Jutland. Captain of a frigate, then captain of cruiser, commander of the Köln, was called to berlin to direct the central section of the ministry of the navy, and was finally captain of ship in 1919. Rear-Admiral in 1922, Raeder commands the forces of The North Sea, then head of the Baltic station, and the Nazis out of respect for his career, offered him the command of the Kriegsmarine then reconstituted thanks to the naval agreement of 1935.

He then developed an ambitious program , Plan Z, whose completion is planned in 1944, with the construction of 6 to 8 battleships, two aircraft carriers, and other surface vessels of which he is an unconditional of the old guard.

Opposed to the visions of Dönitz, he enjoys the confidence of Hitler until the disastrous exit of the Bismarck against the English traffic. His views on Hitler’s strategy, including the attack on the USSR, brought him a growing animosity by the leader of the Third Reich, consummated when the Hipper group operating in the Arctic was destroyed.

Hitler decides to disarm the surface fleet in favor of the submarines, and Raeder resigns in January 1943, replaced by Dönitz. Having never been a proponent of the Nazis, Raeder frequently opposed attempts to “purge Aryan” naval personnel. He was nevertheless tried and sentenced in Nuremberg to life imprisonment and released in 1955 on account of his age. He died 5 years later.

Sommerville, Sir James Fownes (1882-1949)

Admiral Sommerville

A commanding officer, after being appointed lieutenant in 1898, Sommerville was at the head of various staffs during the Great War. He was recognized and decorated (DSO) for his service during the Dardanelles expedition (Amiral Robeck), and became director of communications at the Admiralty during the 1920s and before the command of Norfolk.

Admiralty staff, and was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Far East Squadron. He became interested, then specialized in radars, and was recalled to the Admiralty, assistant Ramsay during the evacuation of Dunkirk. It is Sommerville who will have the heavy task of firing on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir near the capitulation. He then engaged the Italians and fled them to Punta Stilo, bombed Italian cities, including Genoa, and in May 1941 brilliantly engaged his forces from Gibraltar to sink the Bismarck.

He then returned to the Far East fleet in April 1942, succeeding Layton, himself a follower of Philips, but undergoes the attacks of Nagumo and Ozawa and is obliged to replicate his surviving forces on the East African coasts . Vice-Admiral, he was seconded as a delegate of the British Admiralty in Washington and in 1945 was appointed Admiral. He then left his post and died shortly thereafter.

Spruance, Raymond Ames (1886-1969)

Admiral Spruance

Released from Annapolis in 1903, “Ray” Spruance served aboard Iowa and Minnesota as an officer, with the skills of an electrical engineer. Recognized in these skills, he will be assigned to the technical services of the navy and large shipyards. He made war school in 1926-27, was ship’s captain in 1932, commanded the battleship USS Mississippi in 1937, freshly rebuilt. He will also command the naval district of central america, before becoming chief of naval operations in Washington.

At the head of a division of cruisers of the Pacific fleet in 1941, he replaced Halsey, sickly, with happiness at Midway. Impressed, Nimitz then appointed him vice-admiral, and he became his chief of staff. He then commands the Fifth Fleet in charge of the peaceful center, brilliantly resumes the Gilbert Islands, Marshall, and develops and executes the Truk raid. He became Admiral and began his campaign in the Marianas in 1943. He then commanded the naval forces deployed at Iwo Jima and Okinawa in 1945. He was then Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet and later Diplomat at the request of Truman, In 1955.

Tovey, Sir John Cronyn (1885-1971)

Admiral Tovey

Lieutenant of the ship during the great war, he served aboard the Faulknor and the light cruiser Amphion. Known for his brilliant maneuver on the Onslow in Jutland, he was appointed frigate captain in 1916. He was subsequently deployed to the 2nd lord of the sea, then became captain of the ship, commanding the battleship Rodney and the Cruiser Chatham.

Rear Admiral in 1938, he commanded a squadron in the Mediterranean, and directed the convoys to Malta and the Middle East. In July 1940 he was vice-admiral and commanded the light forces of the Mediterranean, illustrated at Punta Stilo, and was summoned to London to take over as head of the Home Fleet, succeeding Admiral Forbes. He then took on the heavy task of escorting the convoys, and directed the combined actions against the Bismarck, before organizing and controlling the convoys of the Arctic.

He will be responsible for the destruction of the PQ17 by giving the order of his dispersion, which will earn him the wrath of Churchill. But protected from Cunningham, under whose command he had served, he remained at his post. In 1943, he became an admiral and actively prepares the “D-Day” operations.

Vian, Sir Philip (1894-1968)

Admiral Vian

Of French origin (Huguenot), Vian leaves as an officer the naval school of Dartmouth and served aboard destroyers during the great war. He climbed the ladder and in 1934 became captain. In 1939, he was awarded the honors of the press by capturing the tanker Altmark (supplier of the Graf Spee), as commander of HMS Cossak, carrying out an old school boarding commando operation.

Speaking French, he headed the Franco-British operations at Narvik at the head of the 4th flotilla of destroyers. He then committed his forces against the Bismarck and was named afterwards at the head of the XVth Division of Cruisers under the orders of Cunningham in the Mediterranean. It is Vian who will keep the supplies of Malta at the worst hours of his siege, and will illustrate himself during the second battle of the Great Sirte.

Under the orders of Ramsay, in 1943 he went to protect the landing in Sicily and then in Normandy the following year. He then took the lead at the end of 1945 of the British Carrier Task Force which will engage the reconquest of the sector of the Indian Ocean. He also participates in the assault of Okinawa. Vice-Admiral and Fifth Lord of the Sea in 1946, he became Admiral and Commanding Officer of Home Fleet in 1950.

Yamamoto, Isoroku (1884-1943)

Admiral Yamamoto

Undoubtedly the most famous Japanese admiral of the war, Yamamoto was recognized as an unparalleled tactician, a talented organizer fully aware of the possibilities of the plane in naval warfare. Orphaned and adopted by the Yamamoto family, he entered the naval school of Yetajuma, and it is as a young officer that he engages during the Russo-Japanese war, on the Nisshin. Wounded at Tsushima (loses two fingers), he is fascinated by the possibility of torpedoes and consequently attends classes at the torpedo boats school.

He left in 1908 with the rank of lieutenant. After further studies at the Navy High School, he returned to the Staff of the Second Fleet in 1916 and then to the Military Affairs Office. In 1919 he studied at Harvard, and in 1925 he returned to the United States as naval attache and then delegated to the London conference in 1929 where he pleaded in vain for the parity of the Japanese fleet with those of the USA and Great Britain, likewise at the second conference which will see Japan withdraw.

He was then Rear Admiral, and Deputy Minister of Marine, Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Violently anti-American, he urged the government to accelerate the arms programs, introduced very advanced methods of training for the crews, and was an indefatigable advocate for aircraft carriers of which he knew the potential. The performance of the combined fleet at the beginning of 1942 is entirely due to him.

In 1941, he was promoted to Admiral, set up the main lines and led Operation “Tora”, the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the direction of the forces of the Pacific he unfolded his forces with great success, and personally commanded his forces at Midway. He is surprised at the American response and in the face of disaster, is obliged to give up the operation against the island.

He was then criticized for not having committed his remaining considerable forces in the Solomons, leaving the Americans the initiative, winning with his “tokyo night express” still some successes at the expense of the American cruisers and supplying his troops. Although he was a virulent critic from the USA, he had warned the Tojo government against aggression in the country. The admiral died when his transport was abased by American fighters in the Solomons, who were ignorant of his precious passenger.

Chinese Aircraft Carrier 001A

Chinese PLAN Chinese Popular Liberation Army Navy (2017)

Li Gang/Xinhua via AP

The Chinese Navy goes one step higher for naval dominance

Flash News !
That’s not everyday a new aircraft carrier is launched. Symbol of the times, it’s Chinese. Still unnamed, it was built at Dalian. The PLAN (Popular Liberation Army Navy) is already, since a few years, rated as the world’s third largest. Supreme symbol of a superpower’s strength and projection power, the aircraft carrier is at the highest level of any naval hierarchy. Subject of pride, the new Chinese aircraft carrier will back the 20-years old Liaoning. So what’s about this new kid in the block ? She joins the many other Asian aircraft carriers in service, showing the obvious Asian naval race and growing regional tensions of the last decade.

China’s first domestically built aircraft carrier is launched at a shipyard in the northeastern port city of Dalian on April 26, 2017. (Kyodo)

The 001A in brief

Form most analysts that could follow the ship’s construction at Dalian, this is undoubtedly a clone of the Russian Kuznetsov class carrier, a glorified, modernized copy. There was a model of it already available, as the Liaoning. First launched in the USSR as the Varyag, her transfer story alone was amazing. Once achieved at Dalian, the new aircraft carrier became the first ever featured by PLAN, and has since be at the forefront of massive naval force projection, especially in highly strategic contested areas in the Southern China Sea.

There was no doubt that a second one was needed if China wanted a permanent presence at sea as the center of a task force. That’s the same issue also seeked by Japan, Russia, France and the United Kingdom, the United States still largely ahead with 10 aircraft carriers, included two permanently deployed in Asia, the USS Carl Vinson being recently involved in intimidation maneuvers nearby the North Korean territorial waters.

The Varyag, then towed off Istambul, future Liaoning.

The new, still unnamed aircraft carrier (possibly called “Shandong” according to the province she was built in or even “Mao Zedong?”), is about the same size and width than the Liaoning, same characteristic superstructure inherited from the Soviet-era hybrid missile cruiser/aircraft carriers. Contrary to the 1970s Kiev class, the Kuznetsov class (now three ships indirectly with this last one) bears more resemblance with modern aircraft carriers, having comparatively a much larger deck, more catapults, and a much larger hangar, for a capacity of around 50 aircraft, including SU-33 fighter-bombers, largely more effective than the STOVL jets carried in what was a glorified cruiser/helicopter carrier.

Shenyang J-15 fighter
Shenyang J-15 fighter

Z9 SAR helicopter
Z9 SAR helicopter

It should be added that the Liaoning mostly performed training missions from 2012, and the PLAN had before that in 1985 purchased the HMAS Melbourne. The carrier was sold to the China United Shipbuilding Company for A$1.4 million, in order to be broken up, but was comprehensively studied and possibly in part reverse-engineered, as part of the top secret carrier development program. The Minsk and Kiev were also purchased and studied.

Development of the 001A

According to state media service Xinhua, initial work on the new ship began in November 2013, and the hull was in drydock by 2015. So a launch in 2017 is relatively quick, although the ship is way off completion, which could occur around 2020. The hull was largely finished by May 2016, the launch taking place in a great burst of mediatic pride on 25 April 2017. The new ship still has to go through fitting out and sea trials before making into service with PLAN. At that time, China would be the only naval power outside the USA to have two “true” aircraft carriers at sea simultaneously, a clear-cut rise in capabilities.

Inauguration at Dalian Shipyard 25, April, 2017

Armament and capabilities

Although little is known yet, the new Chinese aircraft carrier is estimated to carry 30 to 40 aircrafts of all types, including the possibility of a complement slightly larger than the Liaoning: Currently 24 Shenyang J-15 fighters (copy of Russian SU-33), six Changhe Z-18F ASW helicopters, four Changhe Z-18J airborne early warning helicopters (Glorified Super Frelon copy) and two Harbin Z-9C rescue helicopters (copy of the AS365 Dolphin).

According to CSIS, the control tower is approximately 10 percent smaller than that of the Liaoning, and displacement is also a few thousand more, around 8 additional aircraft and optimized internal arrangement.

001A island
001A island

As defined the ship still is given extra large proper missile capabilities, KJ-88, YJ-83K, and YJ-91 missiles. This means if the escort would be destroyed, the ship still retains a medium-range strike capability well-beyond those of Nimitz-class aircraft carriers, that relies primary on their own air force. In addition the 001A came with improved radar Type 346 S-band AESA system, and increased storage capacity for ammunition and fuel.

Japanese Izumo “helicopter destroyer”. The latter can deploy about 28 helicopters but also V22 Osprey and F-35A

Other Aircraft Carriers in Asia

China’s blue water navy ambitious programme only is getting started. After the CV16 (Liaoning), CV17 (001A), the CV19 (Type 002, est.2021) and CV20 (Type 003, est.2026?) are already listed, both CATOBAR (standard flat deck take-off). With four task forces, the PLAN would have the potential of ruling the whole pacific ocean, in addition to the nearby Indian ocean, Korea and China seas. Indeed, the US Fleet can deploy only the same number, roughly, of task forces in this sector at a time in peace time.
But that’s with the inaction of traditional, and rising regional naval powers:
Japan: 2 very large Izumo-class and 2 Hyūga-class “helicopter destroyers”
India: INS Vikramaditya, a former Soviet era Kiev hybrid cruiser/aircraft carrier
Thailand: Chakri Naruebet midget aircraft carrier (Spanish-built)
Australia: Canberra class assault aircraft carriers (Spanish built)


These are subject of changes and evolution, based on the latest available informations

001A specifications

Dimensions (est.) 300 x76 x9 m
Displacement 50,000/70,000 t FL
Crew 2500+
Propulsion 4 propellers, 4 Steam turbines, 200,000 hp
Speed 32 knots (59 km/h; 37 mph)
Range 4,000 nautical miles
Armament 40 aircraft, see notes

Naval Encyclopedia plans about PLAN

The Chinese Navy is interesting strategically, and a very “hot” topic. So it will led in the near future to a complete, exhaustive and upgraded review of modern Chinese naval assets, including naval air force capabilities.

Forbes – Comparison infographics with USS G. Ford
About the 001A aircraft carrier (wikipedia)
About the Liaoning

British ww1 Submarines

United Kingdom (1890-1918)
About 350 subs.

Overview of British ww1 submarines

In the general sense, the very conservative Royal Navy always considered surface warfare like the only “honorable way” to do battle on the seven seas. Submarines were either not considered as to be trusted (not proven) in the 1890s, and good only for small navies and defensive purposes only. For a truly naval superpower, it just had no reason to be developed. The same reasoning made torpedo-boats long lasting at the fringe of the British “naval dust”. Only destroyers (at that time still considered as TBDs or “torpedo boat destroyers” have some right to exist alongside cruisers and battleships, thanks to their range and high seas capabilities. 80 submarines were in service when the Great War broke out in 1914.

Holland 1
HMS Holland 1, first British submarine, in trials 1902

This mistrust however ended when Admiral John Arbuthnot “Jacky” Fisher arrived at the head of the admiralty in 1914 (first sea lord). This energetic figure, innovator, strategist and developer of the navy introduced both torpedo boat destroyers and fast monocaliber battleships of the Dreadnought class, created the Battlecruiser concept, encouraged the introduction of submarines into the Royal Navy, and the conversion to oil-fuelled only ships at large.

C-class submarines (author’s vector illustration)

C class
C class, experimental vector-photoshopped illustration

Introduction – The first British subs

When decision was made to test a small serie, rather than rival France, UK turned more naturally towards USA and the most important manufacturer then that was John Holland. Licence was acquired and the boats were built at Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness and simply denominated as the “Holland” serie. Holland 1 was launched 2 October 1901 and decommissioned 5 November 1913. In fact the five built only saw training in home waters. Hollands’s designs were famous to be fast and deep diving, with excellent agility underwater due to their electrical propulsion, but suffered of being relatively complicated and having poor range and surface speed.

Holland class specifications

Dimensions 19.5 x3.6 x3.0m
Displacement 113/122 t FL
Crew 8
Propulsion 1 screw, 1 4-cyl Wolseley engine, 1 electric mot. 160/70 hp
Speed 7.5/6 knots ( kph; mph) surf/sub
Range 500 nmi ( km; mi) at 7 knots ( km/h; mph)
Armament 1x 457mm TT, 3 torpedoes

Prewar subs: A, B and C classes

A class (1902)

13 boats derived from the Holland model, but way more larger were built at Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness, this time only using part of the former licence. There were considerable variation amongst the boats, as the serie was revised on the fly until 1905. Various propulsion were tested, battery-powered electric motors and shaft-drive Wolseley petrol engines, 400 bhp (300 kW) (A1) for surface warfare, 450 bhp (340 kW) (A2,A3,A4), 600 bhp (450 kW) (A5 to A12). The last, A13 tried an experimental 500 bhp (370 kW) heavy oil diesel engine by Vickers, which proved unreliable. Range was however increased as well as surface speed. The first was 31.5 x3.6 x3.1 m large. All were given the same Wolsleley 16-cylinder engine, but power output ranged from 350 to 450 hp, even 600 hp for the last serie A8 to A12. Armament also varied, the A5 to A13 having two instead of a single TT.

A class specifications

Dimensions 32 x3.9 x2.3m
Displacement 190/207 t FL
Crew 11
Propulsion 1 screw, 1 16-cyl Wolseley engine, 1 electric mot. 350/125 hp
Speed 9.5/6 knots ( kph; mph) surf/sub
Range 320 nmi ( km; mi) at 10 knots ( km/h; mph)
Armament 1/2x 457mm TT, 3/4 torpedoes

B class (1904)

More homogeneous, these 11 boats were similar to the previous class, still ordered for coastal patrol work and relying on petrol engine (surface propulsion) and batteries (underwater propulsion). Armament was limited to two forward tubes in the prow, with four torpedo spares. Top speed (surface was 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph)) but range was increased to 1000 nautical miles. The main improvements were a substantial deck casing to improved submerged performances and and a bigger reserve of buoyancy. They were also fitted with a pair of hydroplanes as the forward end of the conning tower to improve underwater handling. This feature was not repeated in following classes, but reintroduced on US submarines half a century later for the very same reason… In action: The first six (out of 11 boats) were sent to the Mediterranean, but mothballed from the autumn of 1915 because of the lack of spares. An arrangement made them rebuilt by the Italians as patrol boats in 1917, with their electric engines removed, a forecastle raised, a new superstructure added, and a platform for the 12 in gun.

B class specifications

Dimensions 19.5 x3.6 x3.0m
Displacement 113/122 t FL
Crew 8
Propulsion 1 screw, 1 4-cyl Wolseley engine, 1 electric mot. 160/70 hp
Speed 7.5/6 knots ( kph; mph) surf/sub
Range 500 nmi ( km; mi) at 7 knots ( km/h; mph)
Armament 1x 457mm TT, 3 torpedoes

C-Class blueprints
C-Class blueprints

C class (1906)

Having built three classes of submarines, the Admiralty felt confident enough to embark on a large serie. Some 38 boats of this class were built, having the distinction to be the last Royal Navy development of the Holland-Type, using petrol engines for surface. This was essentially a large coastal design however, and in that delayed the construction of proper sea going boats. The decision falls squarely on Fisher, that advocated submarines for harbour and coastal defence only and even saw them as substitutes for minefields. Despite their limitations like petrol engines, limited armament and cramped interiors, the Type C saw active service throughout the war. The last was launched in 1910. Six were built at Chatham Dyd, partly to ensure the yard keep up with submarine design development. In general appearance they were stille very much like the B, only for the diving planes amidships. An interesting note for modellers, many were camouflaged towards the end of the war.

Action service includes the Zeebruge raid, when the elderly C1 was converted to destroy the viaduct during the famous 1918 raid. Eventually kept as a backup, this task fell on the C3, loaded with explosives and conducted on 23 april 1918 to the Belgian base, later succesfully blew up to severe the link of the mole to the shore and prevent reinforcements. The C11 was sunk in collision with steamer SS Eddystone off Cromer. The C14, C17 suffered the same fate (first with TB N°27, second with HMS Lurcher), but both were salvaged and repaired. The C26, 27 and 35 served in the Baltic from 1916, they were scuttled on 4 April 1918 off Helsingsfors to avoid surrender to the Germans. The C32, also served in the Baltic but was stranded and scuttled in the gulf of Riga.

C class specifications

Dimensions 43.3 x3.1 x3.5m
Displacement 287/290 t FL
Crew 16
Propulsion 1 screw, 1 16-cyl Vickers engine, 1 electric mot. 600/300 hp
Speed 13/7 knots ( kph; mph) surf/sub
Range 1,000 nmi ( km; mi) at 8.5 knots ( km/h; mph)
Armament 2x 457mm bow TT, 3 torpedoes

D class (1908)

At last, these were the first type of oceanic and overseas patrol capabilities approved by the Admiralty. These eight British submarines were much larger than previous types, with almost twice their displacement, diesel engines, more than 2,5 times the range, one more TT tube, two more torpedoes and a gun (at least for one). Out of range, diesels also stopped the dangerous petrol emanations that caused so many accidental explosions in previous boat. Another great novelty in design was the adoption of saddle tanks and the two screw propellers gave some extra agility. The D types also received radio sets, with emitter units, not the case for previous classes, through an extendable telescopic mast. Contemporary references showed the entire class equipped with as many as two guns in some cases, but in fact only the C4 tried one, a 12 pdr (76mm) installed on a platform. At last also the D types possessed proper conning towers, allowing several officers to scan the horizon. In action, the D2 was sunk by German patrol boats while attempting to cross the Ems estuary, and the D3 was sunk by error by a French airship, while the D6 was torpedoed by the UB 73 off Northern Ireland.

D-class submarines

D class specifications

Dimensions 49.7 x6.2 x3.2m
Displacement 483/595-603-620 t FL
Crew 15
Propulsion 2 screws, 2x 6-cyl Vickers Diesels, 2electric mot. 1200/550 hp
Speed 14/9 knots ( kph; mph) surf/sub
Range 2500 nmi ( km; mi) at 10 knots ( km/h; mph)
Armament 2x 457mm TT (2 bow, 1 stern), 6 torpedoes

Wartime British Submarines

About 156 Submersibles (approximately) in all:
The first submersibles of the war series were the “E”, in fact the continuation of a class begun in 1913, which will comprise 47 units in total, operational between 1914 and 1916. Inspired by the Italian submarines designed by Laurenti, the 3 “S” of 1915, the 4 “V” followed in 1915, the 4 “W” in 1915-16, the 3 “F” in 1915-17, the HMS Nautilus (1915) and HMS Swordfish (1916). All were prototypes, but operational during the war but the K26. Larger series were the 14 “G” in 1915-16, 17 oceanic “K” in 1916-17 and seven “J” in 1915-17, twenty “H” in 1917-19, 34 “H bis” in 1917-19 (Of which more than 50% did not see service during the Great War, being released too late.

The 12 “R” of 1918 however did saw action, as well as the eight of the “L” type in 1917, 19 “L-bis”, half of which entered service just before the armistice. 5 ships of the L50 class only were completed post-war, all the remaining ordered leading to mass cancellation. The most gigantic British submersible of WW1, has been, without contest, the three of the class “M”, classed as submersible cruisers and equipped with a 305 mm gun intended for coastal bombardments on Belgian shores. Only the M1 became operational before the armistice but they remains the most powerfully gunned subs of all times.

A5 of the A-class submarines, cdts.

E class (1914), sub workhorses

These 60 submarines were distributed in two groups. E1 group comprised 8 boats, plus two AE in service with the RAN (Royal Australian Navy), all built either by Chatham or Vickers. These were among the first of the 1911-12 programme of six enlarged and improved D types. One of the change was the addition of beam TTs optimized for short-range shootings. As a result, these boats received only one tube at the bow and stern and two amidship. Standard for propulsion were the same Vickers 4-stroke diesels, although E3 tested Belgian 2-stroke Carel diesels.

One major innovation was the provision of two watertight bulkheads. With their long range these successful subs saw heavy action and lost 50% of their numbers, sunk by mine, torpedo, sunk or disappeared. E7 for example tried to force nets in the Dardanelles, trapped, the crew was made prisoner and the boat and was sunk by UB14. But she did several successful sorties in the Marmora sea. E8 was lost and scuttled in the Baltic in 1918, AE2 off Bismark archipelago.

The second group called E9 comprised 47 ships (three were never achieved). They were built at Chatham and Vickers but also later Palmer, John Brown, Fairfield, Denny, Beardmore, Thornycroft, White, Yarrow.. incorporating early lessons learned with the D and early E class subs. The Admiralty renounced to an improved D type and preferred to mass-produce the basic E1 type with some improvements. They were 3 feet longer to incorporate one more bow TT, the tubes reverted to a side-by-side TT configuration, the bulkhead moved aft for better loading. The engines were moved forward, the conning tower was enlarged and now included a steering position, and a third watertight bulkhead was added.

E9, seen from the stern.

The Chatham design was the norm, but a few boats were built to a slightly modified Vickers design, apparently with one bow TT for some time. On 11 November 1914 contracts were awarded to the various shipbuilder, on a Chatham licence. From E19, these boats were given a plough bow, and some were armed, following the experience in the sea of Marmora: E20 had a 6 inches howitzer, and E11-12 when at Malta were fitted with 12-pdr guns (76 mm). Some North sea boats also had 12 pdr guns. In 1916, E22 tested a launching ramp for a Sopwith Baby floatplane, used in Heligoland Bight. Other modifications included the addition of extra Torpedo external cases, and the external rudder was often eliminated.

E18. Submarines of the E-type were often camouflaged. At least three patterns has been identified.

They had interesting career, most surviving the war. Three were scuttled in the Baltic to avoid capture, one was sunk in Marmora sea, one by a German decoy ship K, and E41 accidentally rammed by E4, both sinking with heavy losses.

HMS E11 in the Dardanelles, painting.

E9 class specifications

Dimensions 55.2 x 4.6 x 3,8 m
Displacement 667 t, 807 FL
Crew 30
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 Vickers 8-cyl diesels, 2 electric engines, 1600/840 hp
Speed 15/9 knots ()
Range 3,000 nmi at 10 knots
Armament 4-5 TT 457 mm, wartime 1x 12 pdr 18cwt (76 mm)

S class (1914), the “Italian” ones

This little-known class was the result of a visit by the Admiralty to FIAT-San Giorgio La Spezia yard in Italy back in the summer of 1911. They were shown the Medusa and Velilla in construction. Back in UK, Scott shipyard, owner of FIAT’s Laurenti double hull licence since 1909, offered in September 1911 to built this type of submarine for fifty thousand pounds, a request that was accepted by the Admiralty, resulting in the S1. She was launched 28/2/1914 and featured a partial double-hull for a size comparable to the C class, excellent buoyancy and cruise due to a refined hull with a “ducktail” stern. Their compartimentation included no less than ten watertight bulkheads. However, diving time and top speed were inferior than the C class.

Eventually, only three were delivered by Scott, S2 (14 April 1915) and S3 (10 june 1915) following the S1. The class has been said to be unfit for northern sea conditions, but it’s difficult to assert. On 25 October 1915 all three were transferred to the Italian Navy. Their fate is obscure.

S class blueprint.

S class specifications

Dimensions 45.1 x 4.4 x 3,2 m
Displacement 265 t, 324 FL
Crew 18
Propulsion 2 screws, 2 Scott-FIAT 6-cyl diesels, 2 electric engines, 650/400 hp
Speed 13/8 knots ()
Range 1,600 nmi at 8 knots
Armament 2 TT 457 mm (4 torpedo), 1x 12 pdr 18cwt (76 mm)

V class (1914)

Basically these four, 386 tonnes submarines were launched in July 1914, March and November 1915. This new type was planned by the Submarine Committee back in 1912: A new overseas 1000t type and a coastal 300t type, the latter being derived into the S and F types. However Vickers privately planned its own version, and a short semi-experimental serie was accepted. They were close to the S type but with a partial double hull extending 75ft amidship, rather than the 45ft of the S class. However the battery capacity was rather low, with 132 exide cells versus 166, which weighted on their submerged endurance, but their designed speed was reached. The first used Laurence Scott electric motors and 300 hp engines, the three others Don Works motors. They also had two lots of 21 in frames in the torpedo and battery compartments. The foremost tank compartment was shortened. All four survived the war and were broken up in 1920-21.

v class submarines

V class specifications

Dimensions 43.9/45 x 5 x 3,5 m
Displacement 386 t, 453 FL
Crew 20
Propulsion 2 shafts, Vickers diesels, 2 electric motors 900/450 hp
Speed 14/8.5 knots ()
Range 3000 nmi at 9 knots
Armament 2 TT 457 mm (4 torpedo), 1x 12 pdr 18Pdr (76 mm)

W class (1915), the “French” ones

Four, 321 tonnes submarines, that has been inspired by the French Schneider-Laubeuf design, on which the admiralty was not too keen, preferring the FIAT-Laurenti one. Nevertheless, Armstrong Withworth was ordered two, just to keep the building pace. The first two were ordered in December 1913, and the two others seven month later, with many modifications by Laubeuf to meet the British requirements. The main difference between the two pairs was the absence of drop-collars for the second. Engines were Schneider-Laubeuf types, 8cyl. in the first pair and 6 cyl. in the second. The hull pressure diameter was rather small but there was no internal framing. Diving control was excellent, with practical and efficient installations, however agility was not and diesels were somewhat unreliable. These non-standard ships were soon handed over to the Italians in 1916. In that capability they received an additional 3 in/30 cal. gun. W4 was probably sunk by a mine, all three others were striken and BU after the war.

W class specifications

Dimensions 15.7-52.4 x 4.7-5.4 x 2.7-2.8 m
Displacement 331/321 t, 499/479 FL
Crew 18
Propulsion 2 shafts, 8-cyl. diesels, 2 electric motors 710(760)/480 hp
Speed 13/8.5 knots ()
Range 2500 nmi at 9 knots
Armament 2 TT 457 mm (2 torpedo), 4 drop collars, or 4 bow, 3in (76 mm) AA

F class (1915)

Three subs, 363t, built by Chatham, White and Thornycroft, prototypes of the admiralty 1912 coastal design. F2 has a MAN diesel (licence built by White), the two others Vickers ones. The battery comprised 128 Exide cells. Two additional ones were ordered in 1914 but later cancelled. These small submarines saw little service, since no coastal attack needed their deployment.

F class specifications

Dimensions 46 x 4.9 x 3.2 m
Displacement 363/525 t FL
Crew 19
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 diesels, 2 electric motors 900/400 hp
Speed 14/8.75 knots
Range 3000 nmi at 9.5 knots
Armament 3 TT 457 mm (2 bow, 1 stern, 6 torpedoes), 1×2 pdr

HMS Nautilus (1915)

A single, large oceanic type planned by the admiralty in 1912 which displaced 1441t. She was launched at Vickers 31 December 1914, which as predicted did not met the 20 knots requirement with their diesels. Eventually the 78.8 m long (258 ft) submarine was given a pair of shafts fed by two V12 diesels, and two electric motors which produced 3700 hp in surface and 1000 submerged, for a top speed of 17 knots and 10 submerged. She carried eight torpedo tubes (2 bow, 4 beam, 2 stern, 16 tropedoes in store), one 3in (76mm) gun. Completed in October 1917 she was never really given a chance and spent the rest of her career as a depot ship, before being broken up in 1921.

HMS nautilus in completion at Devonport in 1917

HMS Swordfish (1915)

This second, 932t oceanic design was proposed by Laurenti, the admiralty still hoping reaching its required 20 knots top speed. FIAT 14 bis design was locally developed by Scott, which augmented the displacement, reduced the autonomy and added a heavier displacement. She has a double hull for 75% of the lenght, but more crucially, rather than diesels, she was given two Parsons geared impulse-reaction steam turbines (fed by a single Yarrow boiler)), two electric motors for a total of 4000 hp when submerged and 1400 underwater. When cruising, a small funnel was lifted. Top speed was 18 knots and range 3000 nautic miles. Complement was about 18. She was armed with two 21-in TTs (533mm) in the bow, four beam (18 in or 457mm with eight torpedoes) and one 3in gun.

Launched in April 1916 she was commissioned as the Dolphin’s tender, and affected to the 4th flotilla, but her trials lasted for more month. laid up in January 1917 at Portsmouth she was renamed Swordfish in July and converted back as a patrol boat. She received a new forecastle, wheelhouse, plus a new taller funnel, two 12-pdr guns and depth charges. Batteries were replaced by ballasts. She was recommissioned in August 1917 and served as a tender for Victory, and was eventually accepted for service in January 1918, only to be broken up in 1922.

G class (1915), double-hullers built in emergency

These were fourteen submarines of 703t, of a new coastal type which design was triggered by a rumor that Germany was producing masses of double-hulled overseas boats. The panicked admiralty ordered a modified E type with a partial double hull, single forward TT tube and two beam. Seven G types were ordered on the 1914 estimates, while another serie of seven was ordered in November 1914. Tenders for five boats allowed to test new diesels, but MAN models being impossible to provide, they all were given Vickers models. Armament was changed during construction, with the 21 TTs relocated aft and 18in TTs were fitted to the bow. The boats were built by Vickers, Armstrong, Scott and White. Three subs were lost, one sunk by error (G9), another by enemy ship (G7) and another probably accidentally sunk (G8). All the others were unlisted and BU in 1920 to 1923.

G9 at Scapa Flow

G class specifications

Dimensions 46 x 4.9 x 3.2 m
Displacement 363/525 t FL
Crew 19
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 diesels, 2 electric motors 900/400 hp
Speed 14/8.75 knots
Range 3000 nmi at 9.5 knots
Armament 3 TT 457 mm (2 bow, 1 stern, 6 torpedoes), 1×2 pdr

J class (1915), the Australians

Seven submarines, 1204t built at Devonport, Pembroke and Portsmouth Dyds. J3 and J4 were cancelled, the others were transferred to Australia (RAN). Rumors about German submarines fed yet another attempt to design a fleet submarine capable to operate with the Grand fleet. Vickers argued that to achieve the 20 knots required, three V12 diesels would need to be carried and the new design was prepared with haste and accepted with a projected figure of 19.5 knots top speed in mind in January 1915. The type J would remain the only triple shaft sub design to be approved. There was a partial double hull (56% of the length), but the three large free-flooding casings at the bow caused the sub to plow into the water and slow her down. As a result the plugs were later welded shut. At the end of the war they were all rearmed with a 4in (106 mm) gun in a raised bathtub forward of the conning tower, inaugurating a long tradition in British subs.


J-6, camouflaged

J class specifications

Dimensions 84/83.7 x 7 x 4.3 m
Displacement 1204/1820 t FL (1212/1280 J7)
Crew 44
Propulsion 3 shafts, 3x 12 cyl. diesels, 2 electric motors 3600/1350 hp
Speed 19.5/9.5 knots
Range 5000 nmi at 12.5 knots
Armament 6 TT 457 mm (4 bow, 2 beam, 12 torpedoes), 1x 12 pdr AA

K class (1916-17), the turbine cruisers

These 18 submarines of 1980t were the result of a C-in-C competition in the spring of 1915 for a 24 knots submarine. Two designed were submitted, one from DNC and one from Vickers. The former was 300 tons lighter, one knot faster, carried larger TTs (21 instead of 18in) with a reduced power, 10,000 hp instead of 14,000 on the Vickers design. The latter proposed a radical solution, with eight of the new, untested V12 models that already were choosed to power the J class. Ultimately its design was not accepted, but obtained to develop the DNC design into a new larger oceanic fleet submarine. Orders followed in 1915 and 1916 but the last K18-21 were cancelled with the arrival of the new M class.


The K class was basically tailored for speed with Brown-Boveri steam geared turbines or Parsons ones for the K3, 4, 8,9,10 and 17), fed by two Yarrow boilers and 4 electrical motors, at the expense of range. There were tow small chimney on the superstructure behind the coning tower. The K type was well armed, with 4 bow and 4 stern TTs all of the standard “heavy” 21 in (533 mm) type, plus one twin revolving TT mount on the superstructure, 18 torpedoes in store, but also two 4in (102 mm) guns for and aft of the superstructure, and one QF 3 in gun (76 mm) for AA defence on a platform behind the conning tower.
All ships but three survived the war. K1 and K4 sunk by collision and K17 by an unknown cause. They had a reputation of bad luck and poor design, a result of an earlier faulty conception. These collisions were attributed to their close deployment with surface ships; The K17 was probably sunk because of an obstruction of the ventilator, left open. The disastrous “battle of may island” in 1918 which they took part in, was more of the result of poor navigation than bad design. These low ships speeding at night without lights in close vicinity of much faster destroyers and battlecruisers were a matter for having troubles.

An “improvised K” design was soon called to remedy the design issue of the serie, and 10 ships in total were ordered early in 1918 (six, later cancelled in November) and three more in December 1918 to be completed at Chatham which never happened. In fact only K26 was completed there in June 1923. She served for the whole interwar and was broken up in 1931. Motors, batteries and rotating surface beam TTs were kept but two more tubes were added to the bow, which was also given more flare to improve seakeeping, and the superstructure was raised as well, encasing the fragile funnels and aeration systems while it was extended front of the conning tower to form a bathtub for the forward gun platform. The hydroplanes were moved 16ft further aft, less susceptible to damage and ballasts tanks were moved to the internal hull and below the waterline to improve diving.

K class specifications

Dimensions 100.6 x 8.1 x 5.2 m
Displacement 1980/2566 t FL
Crew 59
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 brow-Curtis/Parsons turbines, 2 electric motors 10500/1440 hp
Speed 24/9.5 knots
Range 3000 nmi at 13.5 knots
Armament 10 TT 457 mm (4 bow, 4 beam, 1×2 revolving mount, 18 torpedoes), 2x 4in (102 mm), 1x 3in QF AA

M class (1917-18): The battleship subs

Three 1594t submarines clearly apart all other designs: These were closely related to the K class and proceeded from the same idea, but the design was also brand new, with few in common. They would be forever famous as the “heavy gun” British subs, the only ones ever fitted with a 12 in (305 mm) battleship gun. It seems they had been ordered almost immediately when K18-21 were cancelled in February, may and August 1916 and laid down in July-September 1916. Originally one pair was built at Vickers and two at Armstrong Dyd however M4 was launched in July 1919 (cancelled) only to clear the slip.

M class submarine
M class submarine

The idea of the battleship gun was from submarine Commodore Hall, which argued a monitor submarine could be useful to complement torpedo attacks. Fifty shells had to be carried, in exchange from only eight torpedoes. Tests showed that once in surface the crew could fire within 20 secs or even from periscope depth at max elevation, about 30 secs when submerged with a round pre-loaded. The goal was to provide a submersible shore bombardment platform, and the idea was endorsed by Admiral Tudor. The guns chosen were the 40 cal Mk.IX part of the large stock available from deactivated Formidable group of pre-dreadnoughts. The whole idea was torpedoes were considered ineffective against moving warships at more than 1,000 yards (900 m). A gun was therefore a more viable option, with a hitting power well able to disable or destroy any “softskin” ship.

Main engines and motors were taken from the L class, meaning two Vickers V12 diesels for a top speed of 15 knots, and about 3500 nautical miles of range. Although the gun was capable to be trained 15° there was no real traverse. Elevation was 20°, depression 5°. But the paradox was in 1918 when they were put into service, the C-in-C had no role for them, and by default they would have been used as patrol submarines without their gun, which was vetoed by the first Lord of the admiralty. Eventually only M1 served actively with the 6th flotilla, and then 11th. She was rammed and sunk in 1924 off Start point by SS Vidar. Washington treaty’s limitation imposed the disarmament of these subs and M2 became a seaplane carrier, foundered off Portland in 1933. M3 became a minelayer and was paid off and BU in 1932.

M class specifications

Dimensions 90.1 x 7.5 x 4.9 m
Displacement 1594/1946 t FL
Crew 65
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 Vickers V12 diesels, 2 electric motors 2400/1600 hp
Speed 15/9 knots
Range 3840 nmi at 10 knots
Armament 4 TT 457 mm (bow, 8 torpedoes), 1x 12in (305 mm)

H class (1915-18), the “Americans”

With 20 and later 34 submarines of the improved H class has been ordered but actually only the first saw service. Back in November 1914, desperate of materials for shipbuilding, the admiralty contracted Bethlehem Steels to supply ten American H class submarines parts, which were assembled, because of US neutrality, in Canadian Vickers works at Montreal. A second batch was to be ordered at Bethlehem Steel proper for after the war, unarmed, also to be shipped to Vickers Canada. The first batch, delivered in MayèJune 1915 crossed the Atlantic, but the second were held up by the US Government until April 1917. In between, Bethlehem steel managed to send the engines, motors and fittings for assembly of H21 in UK. Launching dates were kept secret. These single hulled ships gave good account of themselves, and after April 1917 six of the ten next boats (H11-H20) were given to Chile in compensation for the requisition of Almirante Latorre and her sister ship. The remainder were integrated to the Royal Canadian Navy. H3 sunk because of a mine, H5 by collision, and H6 ran aground on the coast and was captured. After the war she was turned to the Dutch Navy as O-8, having long years of service contrary to the British ones, sold in 1921.

H4 at Brindisi in 1916

The “Improved H” proceeded from an order in January 1917 for twelve boats of the same type as above, albeit larger and armed with 21 in Torpedo Tubes, all in the bow. In addition their engines and equipment were shipped from the USA. Eventually 34 boats would be ordered, in addition to Cammel Laird, Armstrong, Beardmore, Pembroke and Devonport. However with the war ending, only 22 were completed and put into service, the remainder being cancelled or the components used for twelve of the R class. Devonport boats were a mix with British engines and fittings, on US design. As usual with these single hull designs they had a small reserve of surface stability, and served all along the interwar and through WW2 for most, albeit as training subs.

H class specifications

Dimensions 45.8 x 4.7 x 3.8 m
Displacement 364/434 t FL
Crew 22
Propulsion 2 shafts, 2 diesels, 2 electric motors 480/620 hp
Speed 13/11 knots
Range 1600 nmi at 10 knots
Armament 4 TT 457 mm (bow, 6 torpedoes)

R class (1918), the Sub-Killers

These were a special breed of submarines. In fact they had been the first “hunter-killers”, 30 years ahead of their time, specified by the admiralty as specialist of ASW warfare, and fast enough made to catch and torpedo U-boats. This March 1917 design was for a time buried, then resurrected by Commodore S in December with more TTs, and orders were placed to various Dyds, Chatham, Pembroke, Vickers, Armstrong and Cammell Laird. Built fast, they were launched in April to June 1918. These were lightweight boats designed with the old spindle shape of the first series, but using cross section from the H class to save time.

R class scheme


To make them fast enough they were give a single H type diesel (240 hp) but “j” class 220-cell battery for a total of 2400 hp, making these faster submerged at 15 knots, than surfaced at 9.5. They could also dive at 250 ft (75 m). They were armed with six bow TTs, with a reload for each. In addition the main shaft was mated to an auxiliary 25 hp motors for slow speed maneuvers, and a large rudder, but also for the first time a set of five hypersensitive microphones. However with the war ending, the class was not seriously tested and only H8 fired a torpedo on an U-boat but the faulty projectile failed to explode. Despite their advanced features, almost the “type XXI of their day” all the 12 boats built were written off and broken up in 1923.

R class blueprints

R class specifications

Dimensions 49.9 x 4.6 x 3.5 m
Displacement 410/503 t FL
Crew 22
Propulsion 2 shafts, 1 diesel, 1 electric motor 240/1200 hp
Speed 9.5/15 knots
Range 200 nmi at 8 knots
Armament 6 TT 457 mm (bow, 12 torpedoes)

L class ( 1917-18)

These 8+19+5 (32 total) 891t submarines were the last British subs to be planned for WW1. They proceeded for an order to replace the E class, and with provisions to stretch the boats for further improvements. The Admiralty wanted a well-proven saddle tank design, and the first two were in effect much modified E types. They were little variations in design from the L1-L2 (Vickers) to L8 all having a bathtub like gun platform at the forward end of the conning tower. These 8 boats were all BU in 1930.


The next “improved L” made a 19 boats serie (L9 to L49) but in reality many were cancelled in 1919. Their main difference was the adoption of 21 in (533 mm) bow TTs, while retaining their 18 in beam tubes. Some were modified as minelayers, having four bow TTs but carrying 14 to 16 mines. The latter were five boats ordered with mine-chutes much like the modified E class. Their pressure hull was lenghtened, with a watertight bulkhead abaft the bow TTs, and 78t more fuel was carried for extra range and their main gun was placed as to fire or of torpedo range whith the boat trimmed down.
Most actually served in the interwar, some BU in the 1930s, but three were still in service throughout ww2 as training boats. L10 was sunk by a German destroyer in 1918, and it was the only wartime loss (at least for ww1).

The last serie called L50 was to comprise a new serie ranging up to L74. However most were cancelled because of the armistice and only five boats were completed. Two unfinished boats were sold and completed as the Yugoslavian Hrabi class. They had a second platform for an additional 4in gun behind the conning tower. Also the beam TTs were deleted and the bow received 6 TTs. L55 actually served in the Baltic and sunk off Kronstadt by a patrol craft and was later raised and repaired, to be incorporated into the new Soviet Navy. Many features of this class would be adopyted in the next interwar serie, but this is reserved for the ww2 British submarine chapter.

L class specifications

Dimensions 70.4/72.7 x 7.2 x 4 m
Displacement 890/1074-1080 t FL
Crew 35-38
Propulsion 2 shafts, diesels, 2 electric motors 2400/1600 hp
Speed 17/10.5 knots
Range 3800 nmi at 10 knots
Armament 6 TT 457 mm (4 bow,2 beam, 10 torpedoes), 1x 4in (102 mm)

Links & sources

Submarines of the RN
K-class subs (wikipedia)
E-lass subs (wikipedia)
The K class on Mil
Article on henry Stoker, AE2 sub Dardanelles
Timeline of submarines
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905 and 1906-1922.

Etna class protected cruisers (1885)

Italy (1885)
Etna, Vesuvio, Stromboli, Fieramosca

The first Italian modern protected cruisers

Etna was the only survivor of a class of four protected cruisers dating from 1885-1888. Designed by Carlo Vigna and George Rendel , they were based on the Giovanni Bausan of 1883, herself largely based on a Sir W G Armstrong Mitchell & Co.’s Elswick design. Most importantly, they were built in Italian shipyards, gaining considerable knowledge in the process for these kind of ships (British exports of cruisers had been particularly successful).

Giovanni Bausan 1883
Giovanni Bausan (1883), a typical 1880s Elswick cruiser on which the Etna were based on.


Ettore Fieramosca, was slightly longer than the others at 290 feet (88.4 m). For the others normal figures were 283 feet 6 inches between perpendiculars, 42 feet 6 inches in beam and 19 feet of draft.
They had been armed originally two 254 mm guns, six 152 mm, five 57 mm, five 37 mm, 1 Revolver cannon, 2 machine guns and two to three torpedo tubes. Propellers were fed by two horizontal compound steam engines and four double-ended cylindrical boilers. They could reach on trials 17–17.8 knots (31.5–33.0 km/h; 19.6–20.5 mph).

The original Armstrong 10-inch (254 mm), 30-caliber breech-loading guns had been mounted in barbettes (open turrets) fore and aft, as customary for the 1880s. So despite their size, these ships packed quite a punch being capable of delivering 450-pound (200 kg) shells flying at a muzzle velocity of 2,060 ft/s (630 m/s).

Ettore Fieramosca off Algiers
Ettore Fieramosca off Algiers

Secondary armament was mounted in Vavasseur mountings, in sponsons. The secondary anti-torpedo armament was quite comfortable with 6-pounder Hotchkiss guns firing at 6 rpm, completed by 1-pounder Hotchkiss guns (37 mm) at 30 rpm. General disposition of the torpedo tupes were one mounted underwater in the bow and the other three were above water, but for the Ettore Fieramosca which dispensed of a TT.

Protection was interesting as they had an armoured belt with a maximum thickness of 1.5 inches (38 mm) doubled with an inner belt of cork at their waterline to absorb water if needed.

1900 Reconstruction

In 1900 they were rearmed with one 75 mm and 4 TTs, then in 1907-1909 (Not for the Stromboli and the Fieramosca, disarmed at these dates), their old 254 mm, two 152 mm were removed while two 120 mm guns were added. The remainder of her artillery were two 47 mm, two 37 mm and 2 TTs.

Etna as rebuilt, at the 1909 Hulton-Fulton Celebrations, Hudson bay, NYC


The ships had been laid down in 1884 respectively at Castellammare, Venice and Livorno shipyards. The Fieramosca was laid down in 1885 at Livorno. Launched in 1885-86, they were completed in 1887 (Etna), 1888 (Vesuvio, Stromboli), and 1889 (Fieramosca). The ships went into the Squadra Permamente (Permanent Squadron) up to 1893, visiting South and North America several times. Etna was in Red Sea (First Italo-Ethiopian War 1895–6) and the Cretan Revolt of 1898. She was also flagship of the Superior Torpedo-Boat Command in 1904.

The three other ships participated in putting down the Boxer Rebellion as part of the Eight-Nation Alliance. The Vesuvio was disarmed in 1911, before the first Balkan war, while Etna was converted into a training vessel and served as such from 1907 to 1914. At the time of the war, she was assigned as a coast guard after Serving as a floating HQ, then a tanker and finally a GHQ for the entire Italian fleet in Taranto. She was only sold and broken up in 1921.

It should be noticed that there was a second, perhaps better-known Etna class on the Internet, which was one of a never-finished class of light cruisers (1941) originally built for the Thai Kingdom. There will be an article about these too.


Etna class on Wikipedia
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905.

Etna class cruisers specs

Dimensions Lenght 91.4 m x 13.22 m x 5.8 m (283 x 42 x 19 ft)
Displacement 3390 long tons, 3700 t FL
Crew 321
Propulsion 2 shafts, two DE engines, 4 boilers, 7200 hp,
Speed 17 knots (31.5 km/h; 19.6 mph)
Range 5,000 nautical miles (9,300 km; 5,800 mi) at 10 knots
Armament (Etna 1914) 2x 152 mm, 2× 120 mm, 2x 47mm, 2x 37mm, 2 TT 350 mm.
Armor Belt armor: 38 mm, Barbettes 51 mm, Deck: 30 mm, blockhaus 13 mm


Etna as rebuilt in 1914
Illustration of Etna as rebuilt in 1914

HD photo of the Etna on the Hudson Bay, 1909

Italian cruiser Etna in its 1890s black, white and sand canvas livery

Ettore Fieramosca’s officers taking the pose

Giovanni Bausan
Cruiser Giovanni Bausan

Line drawing of the Bausan. The Etna were very smiliar (after reconstruction)

Italian protected cruiser Stromboli in 1895

Battle of Yalu (1894)

Battle of the yellow sea
Japanese vs Chinese Navy, 17 September 1894

The first major naval battle of the industrial era

Less well known than Tsushima, the battle of Yalu River is nevertheless one of the few naval battles that occurred at the end of the Century, with relatively modern ships. Other contemporary examples had been the battle of Cuba, and of Manila Bay in 1898, opposing a young American navy and the old Spanish Empire.

Yalu was not a prelude to Tsushima as adversaries were not judged -from the Japanese point of view- of the same caliber (The Russian navy vs. the Chinese one). But both were a mirror of the young, ambitious and aggressive Japanese Navy which was seen as an instrument of imperial challenge after the end of the Meiji era and the rise of nationalists. China, on the other end, was still mined by corrupted officials and had a too conciliant international policy that allowed foreign concessions and fed imperialist appetites from nearly all industrial nations, Japan included. The old empire indeed was seen largely as a large untapped industrial market, and Western commercial interventions were backed up by force if needed. Throughout the XIXth century several wars (with Britain, France, the USA) saw all-out easy victories, as the Chinese fleet mostly counted armed junks and few modern vessels.

Context: The first Sino-Japanese war

The first Sino-Japanese war was motivated over influence of Korea.
The second one was of course set in the XXth century and lasted from the early 1930s to 1945. What happened was a shift in dominance from a weakened Qing Empire, unable to modernize its military to Japan’s after a successful Meiji Restoration. As a result of the war, China was humiliated, loosing Korea as a tributary state, and Japan only left with more resolve and confidence in its rising star.

The war erupted after a casus belli, First Punic war style: On June 4, the Korean king, Gojong, seek help from the Qing government in suppressing the Donghak Rebellion, and the latter complied, sending general Yuan Shikai as its plenipotentiary before the main contingent of 28,000 men. But this was seen by the Japanese as a violation by the Convention of Tientsin, as they claimed to have not been informed. In response, the latter sent a 8,000-troop expeditionary force (Oshima Composite Brigade) in Korea. Any reform of the Korean government was refused, and later when the Koreans asked the Japanese troops to leave, the latter bluntly refusing. As events unfolded, in early June, the brigade occupied the Royal Palace in Seoul and replaced officials by a pro-Japanese government, which was understandably seen as an outrage by the Qing Empire.

Opposing Forces


On land, the Qing army has no national army. As a whole, there were separate forces based on ethnicity, and sub-divided into independent regional commands. There was however a local Beiyang Army, born from the Huai Army (experienced by dealing with the Taiping rebels), well-equipped with modernized equipment and well trained. This force would bear the bulk of the Japanese assault. However this forced was also largely unsupported as pleas for help from other regional armies failed. Despite of this, pronostics by International experts saw it crushing the Japanese.

Battleship Ting Yuen. The Japanese has nothing equivalent in 1894.

The local Beiyang fleet was also the best of the whole Empire, pat of the four modernised Chinese navies in the late Qing dynasty: Northern (Beiyang), Southern (Nanking), Foochow and Canton. From 1880, China started to order ships abroad, modernize its training, with the aid of a few British Officers. The modernized Foochow fleet however was entirely sunk by the French Navy over Indochina in 1884, and it’s later rebuilding was largely supported by British and Germans, while Japan was at that time purchasing ships from France. It should be noted also that the fleet lacked ammunitions and more modern ships, as funds were embezzled by corrupt officials (even during the war), the Empress Dowager Cixi even spending military funds on renovating the Summer Palace.

Armoured cruiser Jing Yuan
Armoured cruiser Jing Yuan (King yan class).

In 1894, The Beiyang fleet was considered first-rate in Asia, largely supported by Li Hongzhang, Viceroy of Zhili. She counted two ironclads called “armoured turret ships” (Ting Yen class), 8000 tons German-built battleships, but also the armoured cruisers King Yuen, Lai Yuen, protected cruisers Chih Yuen, Ching Yuen, Torpedo Cruisers Tsi Yuen, Kuang Ping class, Chaoyong, Yangwei, and the coastal warship Pingyuan.


On land, the Japanese infantry, first trained and formed by French officers, has been from 1885 onwards re-modelled after the Prussian model. This army was well equipped with German guns, had Western, high level standard doctrines, military system and organization. Mobility was improved by enhancing logistics, transportation, and structures. In 1894, 120,000 men and four divisions were mobilized.

A bit like the American Navy in 1898, the Japanese Navy was seen largely as a young underdog in 1894. Officers has been formed by the British Navy, and an academy was set up for technical training and background by France. Therefore the Jeune Ecole came to influence largely Japan’s first fleet, largely based on cruisers supported by torpedo boats, that were in theory to render battleships obsolete.

Matsushima, built by engineer Emile Bertin, flagship of the Japanese navy at Yalu.

The first expansion bill was passed, ordering 46 vessels, including 2 cruisers in 1881. Orders were delivered mainly to French and British yards, while the Yokosuka yard was refit by French engineer Emile Bertin in 1886, allowing to built large all-iron hull ships. The first HTE engines were introduced in 1892 and the first VTE in 1890 (Cruiser Oshima). A new naval plan was passed in 1893, this time largely leaning towards British yards, but none of the ships would enter service before the war broke out.

As of july 1894, the Japanese mustered virtually all their available warships into one combined force. This counted 9 Protected Cruisers, Matsushima (flagship), Itsukushima, Hashidate, Naniwa, Takachiho, Yaeyama, Akitsushima, Yoshino, Izumi, the cruiser Chiyoda, the Armored Corvettes Hiei, Kongō, and the old Ironclad Warship Fusō.

25 July 1894, Battle of Pungdo

Also called the sinking of the Kow-shing, it was a small scale engagement, between the cruiser Naniwa (detached from the Japanese flying squadron off Asan bay), and the Chinese cruiser Tsi-yuan and gunboat Kwang-yi, both at sea to reinforce the escort (gunboat Tsao-kiang) of the transport Kow-shing. Guns blazed for an hour, after which the damaged Chinese cruiser fled, the Kwang-yi ran aground to avoid sinking, and the Kow-shing sank, with nearly all hands. Some were rescued by the gunboats Itlis (German) and Lion (French). The Kwang-yi was a 2,134-ton British merchant vessel from the Indochina Steam Navigation Company of London, carrying 1,100 troops plus supplies and equipment and one Prussian officer. This led to a diplomatic crisis with Great Britain. However Naniwa’s captain Tōgō Heihachirō became a celebrity in Japan for this feat.

Japanese cruiser naniwa
Japanese cruiser Naniwa

Meanwhile the Battle of Seonghwan and Battle of Pyongyang (1894) would make the headlines. After a first engagement at Asan in August, the Japanese had free hands to converge from four direction on Pyongyang. The city fell on 15 September. According to posterior accounts, the Chinese lost 2,000 killed and around 4,000 wounded. However, the bulk of the action would take place two years after at sea.

17 September 1894, prelude to battle

At that time, the Beiyang fleet was located off the mouth of the Yalu River. The latter was crossing the northern border between Korea and China, ending in the yellow sea. The name in Manchu, signified “the boundary between two countries”. It should be noted that there was a second battle of the Yalu, this time with the Russian Empire ground forces in 1904 and the site was also crucially nearby major battles of 1950. Japanese objective was simple, as command of the yellow sea would allow Japan to transport troops to the mainland. However the Chinese fleet was a tough nut to crack, with two battleships (the Japanese had none).

Chinese armoured cruiser Chao Yong
Chinese cruiser Chao Yong, as built, on the Thames (1880). She was armed with two 254 mm (10.0 in) cannons, four 120 mm (4.7 in) cannons and 12 smaller guns. She was very similar to the previous Chilean Arturo Prat.

At some point Li Hongzhang recommended the Beiyang fleet to be kept safely in Lüshunkou (Port Arthur), a naval stronghold, safe from a naval engagement far at sea that would be at the advantage of the fast and agile Japanese. However the Guangxu Emperor insisted that convoys passed safely, and this required neutralizing the Japanese fleet in any case; In fact the battle occurred while the Beiyang fleet was back from the mouth of the Yalu River, escorting a convoy, and then intercepted by the Japanese.

Japanese armoured cruiser Matsushima, Japanese flagship. She was badly burnt and nearly lost, showing this was never an easy fight.

Respective Strengths

On paper, the Chinese advantage with big guns and armour was completed by the presence of Western naval advisors: Prussian Army Major Constantin von Hanneken, appointed to Admiral Ding Ruchang and W. F. Tyler, (Royal Navy Reserve) his assistant. Philo McGiffin (former U.S. Navy ensign, Weihaiwei naval academy instructor) appointed to Jingyuan as co-commander. It seems however that the gunners did not had sufficient practice, a result of a serious lack of ammunition. The fleet was arranged in a line facing southward, with the two battleships in the center. There was another group of four ships, that had to catch up and would not be ready before 14:30.

The Japanese Combined Fleet comprised, in addition of the flying squadron described above (Yoshino, Takachiho, Akitsushima, and Naniwa, under command of Tsuboi Kōzō), consisted in a main fleet: Cruisers Matsushima (flagship), Chiyoda, Itsukushima, Hashidate, ironclads Fusō and Hiei, under command of Admiral Itō Sukeyuki.

Japanese Ironclad Fuso
Japanese Ironclad Fuso (1877), after rebuilt at Yokosuka (July 1894). Slower, she was heavily engaged, hit many times by 6-inch (152 mm) shells, but none penetrated.

Three protagonists of the battle: Baron Tsuboi Kozo (Jap. combined fleet), Admiral Ding Ruchang (Beiyang Fleet) and co-commander Philo Mc Giffin (here at the hospital after the battle). He became a national celebrity in the US after the war.

Start of the battle

When the two battle lines approached each other, the Chinese fleet formation had somewhat been broken into a rough wedge, due to bad signal interpretation, and diverging speeds. Admiral Sukeyuki Ito ordered the flying squadron to engage the Chinese right flank. The Chinese however opened fire at a range of 5,000 metres (5,500 yd), and missed because of extreme dispersion, while the Japanese waited patiently for twenty minutes, closing range for maximal effect. Their maneuver consisted in heading diagonally across the Beiyang Fleet at twice the speed, making them difficult to hit. They then headed straight for the center, then, puzzling the Chinese, moved around the right flank and started to pummel the weakest ships.

The Beiyang Fleet at Weihaiwei.

The Chinese right flank is dislocated

After holding their fire until the last possible moment, the Japanese unleashed it on the Chaoyong and Yangwei, which were battered and soon rendered inapt for any further engagement. The squadron then turned northward to face Chinese reinforcements coming from the Yalu river, but doing this, it circled round the Chinese. Meanwhile, the Japanese main squadron starting the same manoeuver as the flying one, ended the other way, completing the encirclement of the Chinese fleet. Therefore, the Beiyang Fleet ended sandwiched between the two Japanese squadrons, a classic of the Royal Navy, giving a much-needed local superiority against the center battleships.

Western Illustration of the Chinese battleships

The Chinese center is fully engaged

Dingyuan and Zhenyuan hulls, according to their excellent protection, suffered little damage, but following the French Jeune Ecole practice, the Japanese targeted the weaker superstructures. Soon, both ships were ablaze and suffered many casualties. Mostly the crews were cut to pieces by the numerous quick-firing secondary and tertiary guns of the Japanese, which were now close enough to have every single one speaking.

Matsushima attacking Chinese warships (Shunsai Toshimasa)

The Chinese left flees and partly escapes

Meanwhile cruiser Zhiyuan broke the line and attempted to ram the Japanese cruiser, and latter tried to rally fleeing ships from the left wing. She was soon caught, battered and sunk by the flying squadron. The trap was not properly closed, as in chasing (and destroying) the cruiser Jingyuan, leaving other ships fleeing northwards unmolested. Eventually Admiral Itō completed the annihilation of what’s remained in the circle, targeting superstructures, but doing so, also taking serious damage: The Yoshino, Akagi, Hiei, Saikyō Maru were hit and/or put out of action. The Matsushima probably suffered most, as two 12-inch shells penetrated the deck, blasted ready rounds, putting the ship ablaze and forcing the admiral to carry his mark to Hashidate.

“Battle of the Yellow sea” by Korechika

End of the battle

The engagement ceased at sunset, when most ships from the Beiyang fleet had been sunk, seriously damaged and fled, but the two battleships remained, although short of ammunitions. As a result, they were able to retire and fight another day. However ultimately the Japanese would sink the Ting Yuen (on February, 6, 1895), torpedoed by TB.26 at the battle of Wei Hai Wei, while the Chen Yuan was engaged heavily by Japanese army guns three days after, sunk in shallow waters and would be later refloated, repaired, and reused by the Japanese (renamed Chin Yen). She would be used as a flagship in 1904, but was retired eventually in 1910 and used afterwards for training in home waters.

Both Chao Yung class protected cruisers were sunk, the Chi Yuan, badly damaged, would be captured later in February 1895, the Chih Yuan (namesake for the class) was also sunk and the Ching Yuan also captured in 1895, as well as the armoured cruiser Ping Yuen, while both King Yuan armoured cruisers would be sunk, one in this battle, the other at Wei-Hai-Wei.

Yalu battle map 1894
Global map of the battle, mid-day, afternoon and evening.

Post battle analysis

Admiral Ding’s decision not to change formation had been pointed out, but this was due to the unwillingness of Dingyuan’s captain to not change formation himself, pass the order to other ships, while the flying bridge of the flagship was later destroyed, Ding apparently injured and the mainmast later destroyed, leaving no way to signal orders. Meanwhile the Chinese fleet wisely reorganized itself in three-ships self-supporting formations. From some time, when distances fell below 3000 m, Chinese 12-inch (305 mm) and 8.2-inch (208 mm) guns apparently failed to score any hit. One of the “legends” of the battle was that Chinese heavily varnished and polished wooden decks burnt more easily.

Jiyuan and Guangjia turned and fled as soon as the Japanese opened fire, therefore weakening the Chinese position, however the full encirclement never happened as the flying squadron was soon diverted to oppose the rallying Chinese ships, previously escorting a convoy (cruisers Kuang Ping and Pingyuan, Fu Lung and Choi Ti TBs). Slower Hiei, Saikyō Maru and Akagi had been severaly hit by the Chinese left, therefore diverting more ships in support. One of the Chinese heroes of the battle had been Zhiyuan’s captain: Whereas his ships was crippled and burning, rather than fleeing he decided to ram and opportunity target, the nearby cruiser Naniwa. However, the slow cruiser never made it. The Japanese immediately concentrated their fire and sank it.

It has been said that the rapid-fire guns (and fast ships) has been a factor, as opposed to a relative lack of training and lack of ammunition from the Beiyang Fleet. Indeed, if the two battleships had been able to fire more, and with more precision, there was no doubt the Japanese would had been at a serious disadvantage as none of their ships was protected enough. The Matsushima (flagship) was seriously crippled, the Hiei would be in repairs for the duration of the war, the Akagi was burnt from stern to stem, and the converted liner Saikyō Maru, after taking four 12-in hits was definitely out of the way. It was a bold gamble and afterwards a major propaganda victory.

Saikyō Maru, Japanese wooden block painting.

The tactical result was indeed overall, and despite later analysis, favorable to the Japanese, which strictly lost no ship, and strategically “cleaned” the Yellow sea of Chinese escorts. On a strategic level, without Chinese reinforcement, the whole campaign’s ultimate fate made no doubt. Lessons for the Japanese has been to take battleships more into consideration (in fact the Chinese Chen Yuan became the first Japanese battleship), therefore departing a bit from French tactics, but keeping agility and maneuvering at heart. There is no doubt that some of the veterans were still present in 1905 with the confidence to undertake a whole new challenge: The destruction of two entire Russian fleets, then the world’s third largest naval power…

Chinese movie about the battle, 2012 (no subtitles).

Aftermath of the battle

At first, the Chinese government denied this defeat, as a sizeable part of the fleet was able to retire at Weihaiwei. But Viceroy Li Hongzhang and Admiral Ding Ruchang served as scapegoats. International press praised the “rapid assimilation of Western tactics and training” by the Japanese that had taken a “much bigger adversary”. Some analysts however pointed out this battle as a near-draw.

Blueprint of Japanese Cruiser Chiyoda.

The battle of Yalu did not ended the hostilities: This victory secured the Japanese position, to launch a crossing of the Yalu, and invade Manchuria. This was followed by the Fall of Lüshunkou (Port Arthur) and the sack of the city and massacre of the whole population. In Jan-Feb. 1895, the Fall of Weihaiwei followed. This was a sea-land battle, with the navy actively participating, the Japanese operations against fortified positions behind the cover of the cruisers Yoshino, Akitsushima, and Naniwa of the “flying squadron”. This secured most coastal access to the route of Beijing. In March, the Japanese occupied the Pescadores Islands (west coast of Taiwan). The Treaty of Shimonoseki was eventually signed on 17 April 1895 and the war was officially over.

Links & Sources

Kaiser Friedrich III class Battleships

Germany (1896)
Friedrich III, Wilhelm II, Wilhelm der Grosse, Karl der Grosse, Barbarossa

The “Emperors” class

This class of 5 battleships (the “emperors”) included the Friedrich III, Wilhelm II, Wilhelm der Grosse, Karl der Grosse and Barbarossa. Very different from the Brandenburg in all respects, they would formed the basis of the other following three classes of pre-dreadnoughts. In 1914 these ships were in the second line. In 1916, never having fired a shot in anger, they were disarmed and used as utility pontoons. Too slow and with insufficient artillery, they were no longer compatible with the German Hochseeflotte, especially after Jutland. Officially they had been known as the Kaiser Friedrich III class.

Lithograph of the Kaiser Wilhelm II
Lithograph of the Kaiser Wilhelm II

The Friedrich III was approved in 1894 and laid down in 1895, 1896 for Wilhelm II, 1896, 1898 for the others. They were launched in 1896-1900 and completed in 1898-1902. Their main artillery comprised two turrets armed with two 240 mm guns (vs 305mm in the Royal Navy), but they had an impressive secondary artillery: No less than eighteen 150 mm guns divided into six single turrets and the others in barbettes. They were quite top-heavy and suffered from a lack of stability, and thus rebuilt in 1907-1910.

Design of the Kaiser class

They have been heavily influenced by Japanese cruisers victory a Yalu in 1894 and therefore opted for smaller quick-firing guns instead of large heavy guns usually used by contemporary battleships. One idea was to raze the superstructures and demoralize the crew, rather than attempting to sink the ship. The armour scheme remains similar to the one used on the Brandenburg, but the propulsion system was improved and reorganized, incorporating a third propeller shaft.

Brassey’s naval annual schematics of the configuration

That propulsion included 3-cylinder vertical triple expansion engines, driving three 3-bladed screws, and the first ship was given four Thornycroft and eight cylindrical boilers, the others having Marine type boilers in alternative. Their arrangements differed, also to give an idea of the best combination for future developments. Top speed was 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h; 20.1 mph) which was rather good for the time, back in the mid-1890s. The ships also had 320 kW 74 and 240 kW 74 Volt generators.

SMS Kaiser Barbarossa
SMS Kaiser Barbarossa

They were generally regarded as excellent sea vessels, agile with a tight turning circle and responsive. They suffered only minor speed loss in heavy seas. It should be noted that they carried its own flotilla, two picket boats, two launches, one pinnace, two cutters, two yawls, and two dinghies.

The armament consisted in four 24 cm (9.4 in) SK L/40 guns in twin gun turrets mounted in Drh.L. C/98 turrets, allowing elevation to 30° and depression to −5°. Max range was 16,900 meters (18,500 yd). They fired 140-kilogram (310 lb) shells at 690 m/s (2,263 ft/s), and at a 4 rpm. 75 shells were carried per gun for a comfortable total of 300.

Launching of the SMS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse

The eighteen 15 cm (5.9 inch) SK L/40 guns were in turrets and barbettes and fired at 4-5 rpm. In addition twelve 8.8 cm (3.45 in) SK L/30 quick-firing guns were mounted in casemates. For close combat, they were fitted with six 45 cm torpedo tubes, four amidships, one bow and one stern. Each carried a 87.5 kg (193 lb) TNT warhead and could be set to speeds up to 26 to 32 knots.

SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II after refit

1907 refit

All but Kaiser Karl der Grosse were so rebuilt. Their superstructures were lowered, as their funnels, the military masts were lightened, four 150 mm pieces in barbettes were removed and replaced by four 88 mm quick firing guns, also replaced on the superstructure. Stern TTs were also removed. Smoke stacks were lengthened.

Active service:

The five battleships were assigned to the 1st Squadron of the Heimatflotte (German home fleet) after commissioning. They conducted annual training maneuvers and after ten years of fleet service, were transferred to the 3rd Squadron (High Seas Fleet) and joined the reserve. They were recalled at the outbreak of World War I, but saw no action.

SMS Kaiser Friedrich III in 1900

The Wilhelm II was the flagship of the Hochseeflotte in Kiel until 1906. The other four were part of the 1st Squadron of the Heimatflotte, five taking part in extensive training maneuvers in September 1902. Kaiser Wilhelm II hosted Wilhelm II and staff during several of the mock engagements.

By 1911, the class was relegated to the 3rd Squadron, placed into reserve and by 1914 joined the Vth Squadron, but in February 1915, they leaved active service one again, and were disarmed by 1916. The first became a torpedo training ship, the Kaiser Wilhelm II a headquarters ship for the commander of the High Seas Fleet (Wilhelmshaven), the other three ships served as floating prisons.

All but Kaiser Wilhelm II were stricken from the navy register on 6 December 1919, sold for scrapping. All had been scrapped by 1922, but the bow ornaments from Kaiser Friedrich III and Kaiser Wilhelm II could still be seen at the Militärhistorisches Museum der Bundeswehr in Dresden.


Kaiser Friedrich III class on wikipedia
The SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II (wikipedia)
Profile of the Barbarossa
Specs Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1906.

Kaiserliches Marine

Kaiser Friedrich III class specifications

Dimensions 125.3 x 20.4 x 7.9 m (411 x 66 x 25 ft)
Displacement 11,097 t – 11,785 t FL
Crew 658 -687(wartime)
Propulsion 3 screws, 3 shaft TE 13,000 PS (12,820 ihp; 9,560 kW)
Speed 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h; 20.1 mph)
Range 3,420 nmi (6,330 km; 3,940 mi) @10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Armament 4 x 240 mm (9.4 in), 18 x 150 mm (5.9 in), 12 x 88 mm (3.5 in), 12 x 1-pdr (37 mm), 6 TT 450 mm (18 in) Sub
Armor Belt 150-300 mm (11.8 in), casemates 150 mm, Turrets 250 mm (9.8 in), Blockhaus 250 mm, deck 65 mm (2.6 in)


Kaiser Friedrich III lithograph showing its pre-refit superstructures

The high sea fleet pre-dreadnoughts battleline

Illustration of the Kaiser Barbarossa in 1914

SMS Kaiser Barbarossa after refit

SMS Kaiser Karl der Grosse

SMS Kaiser Wilhelm II

SMS Kaiser Barbarossa, full speed.

WW1 American Gunboats

42 ships (1889-1914)

Overview of American Gunboats in ww1

Yorktown class gunboats
Among the first ships built for the “new navy”, the “old” one being the one built by the Union to blockade the Confederate states in 1861-65, the Dolphin and the ships that followed has been seen as cheap alternative to cruisers. They were, in fact, small protected cruisers, which duty was essentially to “show the flag” on distant overseas stations, freeing the main fleet to be available for large scale oceanic actions.

So these gunboats (and its there only the ocean-going ones, not the riverine gunboats of that era) saw a lot of the world, most participated in the war of 1898 before ww1. They often featured near-obsolete barquentine rigging like most foreign ships of the same type because of the lack of coaling facilities far from home waters. They also had a long carrier, through the interwar and up to ww2 for some, often converted as school ships, revenue cutters and coast guards depending of a Secretariat of State and not the Navy. Also included in this chapter are captured Spanish gunboats, often of small tonnage, in the Philippines and Cuba as a result of the “splendid little war” of 1898.

USS Dolphin (1886)

First ship of the “new navy” she was authorized under the act 3.3.1883, at first classified as a dispatch boat, with light barque rig with no head gear, later rigged as a three-masted schooner, and then reduced to two masts. She served for most of her career as a dispatch ship for the secretary of the Navy. Its upper deck forecastle 6 in had a full traverse, later replaced by two 4in/40 QF guns each side, and its artillery reduced to one 6-pdr (47mm) and six 3-pdr (37mm)
-Displacement & Dimensions: 1486 tons, 78 x 9.7 x 4.3m
-Propulsion: 4 cyl boilers, 1 shaft VC, 2255 ihp 16 kn.
-Crew: 152
-Armament (origin): 6 x 6in/30 (152mm), 2 x 6-pdr (76mm), 4 x 47mm revolver

Yorktown class gunboats (1889)

Yorktown class gunboats
The Yorktown class units, initially classified as light cruisers, had a comfortable armament. The other two units of this class, Concord and Bennington, were put into service in 1891. The first was reclassified as an all-purpose ship, then a depot ship, and finally a customs ship from 1914. The USS Bennington suffered a terrible fire from Boilers in 1905 and was removed from the lists and sold in 1910.
-Displacement & Dimensions: 1700 tons and 1920 pcs, 74.52 x 10.97 x 4.27m
-Propulsion: 4 boilers, 2 propellers, 3400 hp. And 16 nodes max.
-Crew: 200
-Armament (origin): 6 x 4in (127mm), 4 guns x 3in (76mm), 2 x 6pdr (47mm), 4 x 37mm.

Petrel class gunboats (1888)

The Petrel and Bancroft were barquentine-rigged. The former had later its mainmast removed and armament reduced to 4 x 4in/40 QF guns. Originally the guns were mounted in sponsons before the forecastle and poop. On the USS Bancroft (which was lighter at 839 tonnes), guns were mounted port and starboard between the forecastle and poop. She became a revenue cutter Itasca and TTs were removed in 1899.
-Displacement: 867 tons, 900 FL
-Dimensions: 57.3 x 9.44 x 3.5m
-Propulsion: 4 cyl. boilers, 1 propeller, 1000 ihp, 11.4 kn max.
-Crew: 200
-Armament (origin): 6 x 4in (127mm), 4 x 3in (76mm), 2 x 6pdr (47mm), 4 x 1pdr (37mm)

Machias class gunboats (1891)

The two USS Machias and Castine gunboats were real small cruisers, designed for long crossings. They were commissioned in 1893 and 1894, but never fired a shot in anger, and spent a peaceful career without notable story during the Great War. USS Castine served as submersible tanker from 1909, her armament reduced. The Machias was sold to the Mexicans in 1920, which employed her until 1935.
-Displacement & Dimensions: 1045 tons, 62 x 4.6 x 4 m
-Propulsion: 4 Babcock boilers, 2 propellers, 1250 hp and 16 knots max.
-Crew: 198
-Armament: 6 x 4in (127 mm), 4 x 3in (76mm), 2 x 1pdr (37mm)

USS Nashville (1895)

USS Nashville
The USS Nashville was a high-tonnage patrol gunboat designed to serve the coasts of South America and the Gulf of Mexico. After a career without history, it was canceled in 1921.
-Displacement: 1085 tons
-Dimensions: 62 x 4.6 x 4 m
-Propulsion: 2 Babcock boilers, 2 propellers, 1250 hp and 13 knots max.
-Crew: 198
-Armament: 6 x 4in (120 mm), 4 x 3in (76mm), 2 x 1pdr (37mm)

Wilmington class gunboats (1895)

The large patrol boats Wilmington and Helena had a good habitability and considerable artillery. The first survived as a training vessel under the name of IX-30 Dover until 1946, the second was struck off in 1932. They had a low draft and could therefore operate on the rivers.
-Displacement 1400/1700 tons FL
-Dimensions 76,42 x 12,47 x 2,74 m
-Propulsion: 6 boilers, 2 screws, 1900 hp 15 knots.
-Crew: 199
-Armament: 6 x 127 mm, 4 x 76mm, 4 x 37mm

USS Wilmington
Illustration of the Wilmington class

Annapolis class gunboats (1896)

Four ships total: Annapolis, Vicksburg, Newport and Princeton, authorized 2.3.95, laid down as PG-10-13 in 1896, launched in December the same year and commissioned in 1897 (may 98 for Princeton). Originally they were barquentine-rigged, with a clipper bow and long bowsprit, like composite-built vessels assimilated as sloops. 4 in guns (120 mm) were mounted fore and aft on the upper deck, reductions were later made, down to six 4-in guns in 1919.

Newport was a training ship 1907-1931, Vicksburg was renamed Alexander hamilton by the coast guard.
Annapolis participated in the 1898 Spanish-American war, 15th conferred with a group of friendly Cubans and engaged in a brief gun duel with an enemy shore battery near the eastern end of the Baracoa, and later resumed duty at Guantanamo Bay. She participated in the Battle of Nipe Bay, assisted landings at Puerto Rico, and later the Far Eastern fleet. Refitted at Mare Island, California in 1907. Then based at Tutuila, American Samoa. She was decomm. in 1911, recom. in 1912 to participate in the coast of Nicaragua events. She then patrolled the Mexican coast as “Pancho” Villa was most active. She was part of the American Patrol in 1918, based in Louisiana. Then she joined the Pennsylvania Nautical School was served there until 1940.

-Displacement 1400/1700 tons FL
-Dimensions 76,42 x 12,47 x 2,74 m
-Propulsion: 6 boilers, 2 screws, 1900 hp 15 knots.
-Crew: 199
-Armament: 6 x 127 mm, 4 x 76mm, 4 x 37mm

Wheeling class gunboats (1896)

Launched at Union Iron Works in march 1896, and completed in September and October 1897.
-Displacement: 1700 tons and 1920 FL
-Dimensions: 74.52 x 10.97 x 4.27m
-Propulsion: 4 boilers, 2 propellers, 3400 hp. And 16 nodes max.
-Crew: 200
-Armament (origin): 6 guns of 127mm, 4 guns of 76mm, 2 of 47mm, 4 of 37mm.

USS Topeka (1881)

Former SS Diogenes purchased 22.4.1898 from Thames Iron works, and was a two-funneled, two-masted schooner, with iron hull, classed by the British as an unarmoured cruiser. Her initial provision of six 4in guns was later reduced to four. She was recommissioned in US service in June 1898 and became a prison ship in 1907.
-Displacement: 2372 tons
-Dimensions: 76 x 10.66 x 5.41 m
-Propulsion: 4 cyl boilers, 2 shaft HTC, 2200 ihp, 16 knts.
-Crew: 152
-Armament (origin): 8 x 4in (127mm), 2 x 6pdr (76mm), 2 x 3pdr (47mm), 2 x 1pdr (37mm)

Isla de Luzon class (1886)

Captured Spanish gunboats. Both scuttled at the battle of Manila, salved, repaired, and pushed in US service bu 1900. Its original armament comprised 4-in guns on the forecastle, poop and a deck protected by 2-1/2 to 1 inch of armour. Babcock and Wilcox Boiler were fitted in 1911. This ship served with the Louisiana and Illinois naval militias and after 1918 became a naval torpedo station as a yard craft. The Isla de Cuba was scuttled at the battle of Manilla. Recommissioned in January 1911. Quite similar to Isla de Luzon, they were near sister-ships. She was sold to Venezuela in 1912 and renamed Mariscal Sucre, surviving to ww2.
-Displacement: 1020 tons
-Dimensions: 59.4 x 9.14 x 3.47m
-Propulsion: 2 cyl boilers, 2 shaft VTE, 535ihp, 16 knts.
-Crew: 137
-Armament: 4 x 4in/40 (127mm), 4 x 6pdr, 3 TT 457mm aw.

Don Juan De Austria (1887)

Don Juan de Austria
Protected cruiser built at Cartagena, Spain (the two above were from Armstrong), for colonial service. Sunk at the battle of Manila, salved, repaired. She has been recommissioned in 1900, and her main armament was modified to four 4in/40 QF guns, and she served with the Michigan naval militia from 1907 up to 1917. She was sold for scrap in 1919.
-Displacement: 1700 tons and 1920 FL
-Dimensions: 74.52 x 10.97 x 4.27m
-Propulsion: 4 boilers, 2 propellers, 3400 hp. And 16 nodes max.
-Crew: 200
-Armament: 6 guns of 127mm, 4 guns of 76mm, 2 of 47mm, 4 of 37mm.

Dubuque class gunboats (1904)

Authorized under act 1.7.1902, they were modern two-funneled, two-masted (with much reduced rigging), with a composite hull, bowsprit, and rated as sloops. Both PG17 and PG18 (“Patrol Boat”) has been built at Gas engine & Power and CL. Seabury, completed in june 1905. The 4in guns were mounted port and starboard on the upper deck. Served on the great lakes from 1922, with their armament reduced and from 1940s, passed onto the cadets naval reservists, but employed actively as armed guards for merchant shipping on the Great lakes, numbered IX-9 and IX-23. Both were sold in 1946 as scrap metal.
-Displacement: 1084 tons
-Dimensions: 61 x 10.6 x 4m
-Propulsion: 2 B&W boilers, 2 shaft VTE, 1250 ihp, 13 knts.
-Crew: 184
-Armament: 6 x 4in/50 Mk7 (127mm), 4 x 6-pdr (76mm), 2 x 1pdr (37mm).

Small gunboats (ex-Spanish) (1886-95)

These 17 ships from various builders (Clydeband, Manila ship. co., Cavite, Hong Kong and Whampoa, had a displacement ranging from 106 (Alvarado) to 370 tons (Villalobos), a top speed limited to 7-11 knots (19 for Alvarado), armed often with a unique 6-pdr (76 mm) or one or two 3-pdr and a complement of 1-pdrs in some cases. All were taken in the Philippines and commissionned from 1899 to 1902. They served as coastal patrol boats until sold 1911-1933, some used as targets. They kept their original names and were listed as Albay, Alvarado, Arayat, Calamianes, Callao, Ectano, Leyte, Manileno, Mariveles, Mindoro, Pampanga, Panay, Paragua, Quiros, Samar, Sandoval, and Villalobos. Interestingly enough, the second USS panay was involved in an incident, a Japanese attack while it was anchored in the Yangtze River outside Nanking, China on 12 December 1937. A famous movie with Steve McQueen was later inspired by this story.


The Gunboats on wikipedia
About USS Petrel on navsource
-Conway’s all the world fighting ships 1860-1905 and 1906-1921.

RMS Titanic (1911)

United Kingdom (1911)

Before the tragedy, there was a luxury liner

And the Titanic was the objective pride of the White star lines. This company which surfed on an human wealth, the ten of thousands immigrants willing to leave for an American dream. These were the real steam that allows these enterprises to flourish and showcased bigger, faster and more outstanding passenger liners on the highly competitive transatlantic line. Now the tea races were long gone, catching the blue ribbond was the new thing, making headlines again.


Everything has been written and dozens of movies and documentaries done on the topic, the Titanic is probably for that reason one of the most studied passenger liner of the era, called “la belle époque” in French (prewar “gold years”) which reflected overconfidence in technological progresses, but also social crackings in the heavy edifice of the industrial revolution. Armaments were sold in quantities to nations, most often led by intermarried crowned heads that still favored militarism and patriotic values. This was the old world, still largely molded in the XIXth century. This was in this context that a technological marvel was built, to carry the rich and famous as well as unsung populations in distress.

Cutaway Diagram

The Titanic and its sister ships

Built in Belfast, Ireland, by Harland and Wolff shipyard, the RMS Titanic was the second of the three Olympic class ocean liners (Olympic, Titanic, Britannic). It was designed to rival Cunards liners that retook the initiative for a few years like the “grey hounds of the sea”, the Mauretania and Lusitania, and succeeded to the “big four” of 1901-1907, Cedric, Baltic, Celtic, Adriatic. She was designed by Thomas Andrews (which will goes down with it as captain Smith), was the largest ship afloat, and integrated cutting-edge innovations like watertight compartments and remotely activated watertight doors, and a Marconi-type high-power radiotelegraph transmitter.

RMS Titanic
Titanic leaving Belfast for sea trials in 1912.


Generally close to the two others by her appearance, she showed four funnels (last fake), displaced 46,328 GRT, was 270 m long for 28.2 wide and was propelled by two three-blade wing propellers and one four-blade centre propeller. There were 24 double-ended and five single-ended boilers feeding two reciprocating steam engines for the wing propellers, and a low-pressure turbine for the centre propeller, total output was 46,000 HP. Nominal top speed when cruising was 21 kn (39 km/h; 24 mph) for a maximum of 24 kn (44 km/h; 28 mph).

Titanic collapsible lifeboat
She carried 2,435 passengers (all class confounded), served by a crew of 892 for a Total of 3,327 (to 3,547 for some sources), and famously had 20 lifeboats, sufficient only for 1178, such was the confidence in the new system that was to be adopted on future liners.

The Titanic was 269.04 meters long, 28.19 meters wide, 53.33 meters high (lower edge keel to upper edge chimney), had a 10.54 meters draft, displaced 46,329 gross tonnage, 39,380 tons (lean mass) and displayed a 13,767 tons load capacity.
Special attention was paid to safety, the hip being described as “practically unsinkable” in the Shipbuilder’s own magazine in June 1911, due to the fully automatic water protection doors between the 16 sealed divisions. Titanic’s machines were stronger than planned in the tests, so the Titanic was registered with a total engine power of 51,000 horsepower with a maximum achievable, red hot boiler drive capacity of approximately 60,000 hp. She consumed 620 to 640 tons of coal per day at sea (29 boilers, 159 combustion units total). All boilers however did never running at the same time. 6700 tons of coal were carried in total.

The four chimneys of the Titanic were about 19 meters high. The fourth one was for aesthetics, as four-pipers were very popular with ship architects and medias. However it was used to vent the boiler and machine rooms, as well as the kitchen areas with the coal heaters, therefore the Titanic needed considerably less fans on deck than comparable ships.

Marconi wireless communication system. The actual range was 400 miles, while at night it could even be received and sent up to a distance of 2000 miles. The radio station was the property of the Marconi company and was operated by their staff, Jack Phillips and Harold Bride. Famously, private telegrams of the passengers contributed to the delayed or unsuccessful transfer of ice warnings to the ship’s route.

The Titanic also set a record, with a largest electrical networks of all ships of the time. Four steam-driven 400 kilowatt generators, for a total of 16,000 amps at 100 volts. The telephone system had 50 lines, 1500 bells to get the stewards. 10,000 light bulbs lit the ship, some having two glow wires (night and day). There were 48 clocks, 520 radiators for the 150 Titanic electric motors, heating the swimming pool heated, pictures, signposts, some gymnastic equipment, kitchens ovens, knife cleaners, potato peelers, dough mixers, plate heaters… Kitchens were each equipped with 19 ovens, but there were also large ovens, steam ovens, steam cookers, silver grills and electrical appliances for almost every purpose. The Titanic also carried 127,000 glasses, 29,700 plates, 18,500 cups, and more than 40,000 cutlery pieces.

Titanic’s not too small rudder and stern: Notice the worker, just below the central screw, and look at the size of the hinges

The RMS Titanic in service

She was laid up in Belfast on 31 March 1909, launched on 31 May 1911, and completed 2 April 1912. She started her sea trials at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, 2 April 1912. After these were successful she then headed to Southampton and arrived on 4 April, then anchored at Berth 44. She then waited for cargo, passengers and the remainder of the crew. She made her famous maiden voyage on 10 April 1912. The White Star line put heavy pressure on the captain (through Bruce Ismail, which survived the tragedy) to make headlines on the occasion, the best way to draw attention and make it profitable on the long run. Some of its luxury features were already famous, like numerous elevators and the grand staircase.

Grand staircase, from the promotional booklet

The Titanic left Southampton with hundreds of emigrants from Great Britain and Ireland, Scandinavia and all over Europe and beyond, as well as an array of the “rich and famous” of the day, including billionaire John Jacob Astor, Benjamin Guggenheim or Margaret “Molly” Brown among others. Captain Edward Smith was the most seasoned and reliable the company can pick at that time, but the ship also carried managing director J. Bruce Ismay and chief engineer T. Andrews, which presence was required to observe the performances of the ship, which were also its trials. The Titanic made a stop at Cherbourg, France to pick up more passengers, and then sailed towards New York, for a four-days trip which justified all the accommodations on board.

Construction: Titanic in her gantry, prior to launch at H&W shipyard, Belfast, 1911Construction: Titanic Launched.Construction: Fitting out.

Like all disasters, a chain of events led to the tragedy: The decision to go full steam ahead to make headlines was enforced by Bruce Ismay, and not contested by Capt. Smith even though, there had been concerns of ice in the northern Atlantic in this season; Knowing this, the safest route was due south-west then full west and north west, but again, this would have delayed the trip and missed the opportunity to hit the press; The heavy use of Marconi’s brand new wireless was also an attraction for 1st class passengers, having the operators busy with private messages whereas official warning notices of deriving icebergs have been delivered; The night of the accident, the calm weather did the sea flat as a lake and it was then harder to spot the characteristic wave crests forming at the base of the iceberg; When the order was passed to stir the ship to avoid collision there was apparently a floating in command, the second not present at that particular moment, but ordering just after a full starboard turn, and machine reverse;

The apparent insufficient size of the rudder that made the turn quite slow (it was in fact a “standard” size at that time); The internal safety configuration, ironically made to be flood-proof but that was never conceived to withstand more than four compartment submerged (in that case the water’s own weight level was sufficient to tilt the liner enough to fill the next compartments); The lack of lifeboats, justified by regulations of the time, seen as transfer boats to other rescuing ships, and overall Titanic’s own innovative safety systems that pushed the owners to promote the ship as “unsinkable” for the press; The relatively slowly operating winches that made the whole operation a lengthy affair (and perhaps lack of training on part of the crew);

The reluctance of first officer William Murdoch to allow more passengers on-board the lifeboats (tested at 65+ but only carrying a handful of mostly 1st class women and children each); The absence of nearby ships that can rescue the crew (Only the SS California spotted flares to its stern, but did not responded and carried on her voyage, and the SS Carpathia that did, was two hours away), And last but not least, the freezing waters in this latitude and month of the year that provoked hypothermia among survivors before decision was made to rescue them, after boarding the lifeboat and transferring passengers from one to another.

The first great maritime disaster

The Titanic often shadows by the celebrity of its tragedy others like the Wilhelm Gustloff in 1945 and the MV Doña Paz in 1987. The Gustloff sank, carrying 9400 passengers, soldiers and civilians fleeing Eastern Prussia at siege by the Soviet forces, while the second collided by night the tanker MS Vector, and an estimated 4386 died, burning alive or drowned off the Philippine coast. We can of course cite previous maritime disasters that probably were much more of consequence in terms of death toll alone, like the destruction of the Spanish Armada in 1580, the entire Roman fleet off Sicily (1st Punic war), or the Persian fleet off the Peloponnese, due to gale storms. Let’s remind that also modern cruise ships are not exempt of tragic accidents like shown the Costa Concordia. MS Harmony of the Seas carries 6,780 maximum passengers and 2,300 crew.

Documentary about the Titanic by history channel

Caracteristics :

  • Displacement: 46,500 tonnes
  • Dimensions: 98 x 15,2 x 6,5 m (PP length, width, waterline).
  • Propulsion 1 screw, one 4-cylinders, 500 hp.
  • Speed 10 knots.


On wikipedia
The eponym movie on imdb
why the titanic still fascinates us
New FX Titanic sunk
BBC – Titanic


RMS Titanic painting
Painting, by myself.

Titanic ad for the maiden voyage

Whit Star Line Captain EJ Smith

Profile of the Titanic (wikimedia)