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Canopus Class Battleships (Or Pre-dreadnoughts if you want to call them that)

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History and Design


The Canopus class Battleship (6 built) was the next series of ships designed by the long standing Director of Naval Construction Sir William White and followed on from his preceeding Majestic class but were different in many ways.  Longer, narrower and faster than the Majestics's and faster for it the Canopus class was designed with service in the Far East in mind where the rising power of Englands ally Japan was causing a stir of worry amongst the Admiralty.  Mr White designed the Canopus class to take in the latest developments in engineering and armour as well as developing the shielded barbettes of the Majestic class into a type of armoured turret that would serve in one form or another until the 'Super-Dreadnoughts' of 1900's were designed and laid down.


The preceeding Majestic set down the almost standard layout for RN battleships that would serve until the King Edwards were designed, four 12 inch guns in dual turrets fore and aft, a battery of 6 inch guns amidships in casemates and in the upper hull and the Canopus didn't break from this basic mold but improved upon it.

With their design being intended for Far Eastern service the Canopus class had a relatively shallow draft allowing them to sail through the Suez Canal the Canopus class were fast ships for the time as well as being very efficient coal consumers.



* A Majestic class Battleship, the huge class (9 built) that preceeded the Canopus class.


Guns and armour


The 430 ft long Canopus class was armed with the classic 12 inch guns, one of the first made for the RN with the new 'wire wound' technique which strengthened the barrels as well as being designed for the new Cordite propellant.  The heavy guns could lob a 850 lb shell out to 13500 yards which was well outside the ranges the RN practiced gunnery with, the usual and planned battle range being at most 4000 yards going down to 2000 yards.  The ships secondary armament was a dozen 6-inch mark VII guns, which saw service on a dozen ship classes and scores of ships. This was backed up by a large tertiary armament of quick firing guns including 10 12-pounder guns and 6 3-pounder guns spread over the superstructure and in her masts as anti-torpedo boat armament.  In another first the Canopus class's turrets were also designed so they didn't have to point forwards and aft to be loaded like the turrets on the Majestic's, which sped up loading considerably.



* Inside a turret of a Canopus class vessel.


The Canopus was the first class of RN battleships to feature the new Krupp style cemented armour which was lighter but offered the same sort of resistance as a thicker mass of the prevous Harvey type of armour, this meant that the Canopus class's 7 inches of armour which covered most of her sides down to 6 feet below the waterline was actually equal to the Majestic classes 9 inches of Harvey pattern armour.  The gun turrets or 'shields' as they were called were 8 inches thick whilst the barbettes they rested on were protected by 12 inches of armour making the Canopus class a tough opponent for any foe, even though the RN classed them as 'Second Class Battleships' for a considerable time.


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* A Diagram of the protection scheme of the Canopus class including the positions of their guns, this style and look for RN battleships was not to change until the advent of the later Dreadnought and the Lord Nelson classes.




Continuing their drumroll of 'firsts' the Canopus class ships were the first RN ships fitted with the new water tube boilers as opposed to the cylindrical boilers of previous classes, these produced a greater power to weight ratio and led to the adoption of fore and aft funnels rather than the side by side ones which the RN had favoured previously.  These more powerful boilers, combined the the hull design and general light weight of the Canopus class at 13150 tonnes meant the class could thunder along at 19 knots or more if they forced the engines and 18 knots at full speed reliably for hour on end. They also were efficiant coal consumers and their engines didn't wear out, during exercises in 1906 the Canopus class ships present were able to run down and overtake all other present battleships save the new King Edward's in a stern chase, not bad for a ship from the late 1800's.


Peace time and Wartime service


In peace time the Canopus class were part of the Meditteranian fleet as well as the Channel fleet and taking part in patrols to the Far East.  Old and obsolete by World War One the Canopus class had been laid up as part of the third reserve fleet, a brainchild of Admiral Fisher, the ships would be kept in a servicable state in case of emergency, all that would be needed was the men to crew the ships before being sent off to war.  Called up for service and manned with volunteers the Canopus class escorted convoys carrying the BEF to France before heading to more quiet parts of the Empire, or so it was hoped.


Of the six ships built, two would be sunk, mercifully with little loss of life in the Dardnells campaign, the Goliath by torpedo and the Ocean by mine, the two sunk barely a month apart.  One, the name ship of the class the Canopus herself had an adventurious career in South American waters.  Worried his meger forces would be outgunned by any German forces he might face the commander of the South Atlantic Squadron, Admiral Cradock requested support and he was given the Canopus, unfortunately she was not the right ship for the job although far more powerful than the ships that would destroy Craddocks command and kill the Admiral she was far too slow and didn't arrive in the region until after the disaster of the Battle of the Coronel where the RN lost the armoured cruisers Good Hope and Monmouth.  It turned out the Canopus could have arrived in time but her cheif engineer had had a nervous breakdown trying to maintain the old engines with barely trained crew and stated to his Captain that the ship was slower than she really was, he was eventually detained in his cabin for his own safety.  With no squadron to support the Canopus was ordered to the Falkland Islands, the next assumed target on the list for the Germans under Admiral Von Spee where she was to be grounded and serve as a gun battery to defend the islands and the capital the small town of Stanley.



HMS Good Hope, flagship of Admiral Cradock aflame, she would later explode and no survivors were recovered.


With RN reiforcements on the way the Canopus' Captain prepared to defend Stanley, landing Royal Marines ashore along with some of the tertiary guns at possible landing points as well as setting up an observation post for the big guns so they could shoot over the land without needing to see the Germans should they come, and come they did.


On the 8th of December the Germans sailed to the Falklands with the intent of burning the coal stocks there and destroying the wireless, not knowing that two Battlecruisers, two light cruisers and three armoured cruisers were in the harbour that had the express mission of hunting down the Germans and destroying them.  A legend grew up about the battle, that the Germans were sighted by a islander and his pregnant wife cycled to the town to raise the alarm, managing to raise the alarm that the germans were coming but dying of shock and exhaustion slightly later.  Alerted the RN ships were at a massive disadvantage, they were all tied up for coaling and could not move immediately.  The Canopus was thus the first line of defence, if the Germans came on boldly they could possibly shell and torpedo the stationary RN ships facing the minimum risk of return fire.


The Canopus fired a ranging shot at the approaching armoured cruiser Gnisenau, the shot some say was a training round, intended for practice that morning and its also rumoured although strongly denied by the Germans that the shot ricochetted off the waves and hit the Gnisenau's funnel. If this is true or not the German ships were under orders not to press the attack if they encountered heavy opposition and being fired at by unseen guns as well as sighting the distinctive tripod masts of the battlecruisers was more than enough to have them withdraw.  Because she was grounded the Canopus took no part in the victory that followed but is widely credited with saving the town with her ranging salvos.



* the after effect of 12 inch gunfire. LOTS OF SMOKE.



* A Canopus class ship




Sadly none are around today, the four ships that survived the war were all scrapped in the early 20's.

Edited by sharlin648

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