Development and design
This second-class of battle cruisers (1908 plan) was based on that of Neptune to the artillery configuration plan and still strongly resemble the Invincible, not only keeping their armour configuration, but also their faults. Construction in a short time was also justified for providing two first line ships for the Pacific Commonwealth navies, HMAS Australia and HMNZS New Zealand. They were the subject of some exaggerations both from Sir John Fisher in terms of firepower, as from Fred T. Jane in his review for the armour.
In fact they were neither faster nor better armed/protected. Additional length for the hull was meant to give more room for the central battery, allowing an easier broadside, unlike the Invincible.
For obvious reasons of smoke clogging the watcher’s view, it was made higher during testing, a modification applied in the yard for the other two. The problem was also the same with the rear tripod fire control, which was dismantled during the war on the three ships.
HMS Indefatigable was laid down and launched in 1909, completed in April 1911 while HMAS Australia was ordered in June 1913 and New Zealand in November 1912. The latter received a 76 mm and a 57 mm AA guns.
The other two received a single 76 mm gun AA in March 1915. After the battle of Jutland their protection was altered, they received new modern searchlights, new enlarged fire direction post and a shorter, reinforced main mast.
Their stern torpedo tubes were removed. A further 76 mm gun was added in 1917 and in 1918 a short take-off platform on the two central turrets, operating a a Sopwith Strutter for reconnaissance and a Sopwith Camel for escort. In 1919-20, they received some changes to their AA artillery. Their career was active but not especially memorable.
HMS Indefatigable was operational within the 1st squadron of battle cruisers, then was sent to the Mediterranean with the 2nd squadron of battle cruisers.
She participated in the hunting of the Admiral Souchon’s German squadron, and then served in the Aegean. She became Admiral Carden’s flagship, and was replaced by the HMS Inflexible.
Back to the Grand Fleet in early 1915 she was at the forefront of Beatty vessels during the Battle of Jutland in May 1916, taking several hits from the Von der Tann, including two in the ammunition rear turret bunker.
The hull broke up in two at the rear, and the ship quickly sank by the stern. Another salvo made explode central bunkers and the ship was literally blew apart and disintegrated in the world’s known largest explosion at that time, leaving no chance to her crew.
HMAS Australia at Sydney October 1913
HMAS Australia was sent to Australia where she became the flagship of the RAN (Royal Australian Navy). She was mobilized in a massive squadron combining Australian and New Zealander ships to prevent an incursion of Von Spee’s squadron in the South Pacific.
She participated in the Second Battle of the Falklands, still hunting down Spee’s ships, then returned in the Grand Fleet. She was not present at the Battle of Jutland, being repaired after a collision at sea with her sister ship New Zealand in April 1916.
She remained flagship of the 2nd squadron of battle cruisers until 1919 before returning to Australia and serve until 1922 but then was out of service due to compliance with restrictions of tonnage resulting from the Washington Treaty.
The Australian Government decided to scuttle her in a great ceremony held in April 12, 1924 in Sydney Harbour. Today she’s a large artificial artificial coral reef teaming with life, and a major local touristic and diver’s attraction, a fitting end for such a steel grim reaper.
HMNZS New Zealand
HMNZS New Zealand became the flagship of the small Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN), but she was requisitioned after completion by the Royal Navy to bolster the Grand Fleet’s strenght. She began touring the world as RN courtesy ambassador, then left for the Baltic in 1913.
She was flagship of the Admiral of the 2nd squadron of battle cruisers in August 1914. She fought in Dogger Bank carrying Admiral Beatty’s mark when HMS Lion was badly damaged and out of action. She collided later with Australia but was repaired in time to participate in the battle of Jutland.
She fired 420 shots but only scored 4 hits and in return was struck by a 280mm shell behind the rear turret. She made another cruise, carrying Admiral Jellicoe around the world in 1919, but was disarmed and demolished under Washington Treaty’s tonnage limitations.
|Dimensions||179,8 x 24,4 x 8,1 m|
|Displacement||18 500 t, 22 110 t FL|
|Propulsion||4 screws, 4 Parsons turbines, 32 Babcock & Wilcox boilers, 44,000 hp|
|Speed||25.8 knots (47.8 km/h; 29.7 mph)|
|Range||6,690 nmi (12,390 km; 7,700 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)|
|Armament||8 x 305 (4×2), 16 x 102, 4 x 47 mm, 3 TT 457 mm (SM)|
|Armor||Belt 150, Battery 180, Barbettes 180, turrets 180, blockhaus 250, deck 65 mm.|
Illustration of the Indefatigable in November 1914.