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December 30 - Focus: St. Vincent-class dreadnoughts

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Well, today seems to be Royal Navy day, with only British ships to cover!


1907 - HMS St. Vincent - St. Vincent-class - Laid down

1916 - HMS Resolution - Revenge-class - Commissioned

1936 - HMS Edinburgh - Belfast-class - Laid down

1943 - HMS Venerable - Colossus-class - Launched

1944 - HMS Block Island - Commencement Bay-class - Commissioned


Allies: 38 ships laid down, 49 launched, 51 commissioned, 2 sunk

British (before WW2): 1 ship laid down (HMS St. Vincent), 1 ship commissioned (HMS Resolution)




Today is another chance for me to write about a very nice (and old) lady, for today in 1907 the keel was laid for HMS St. Vincent, the lead ship of the St. Vincent-class of dreadnoughts.


But first, we go back a little further in history!
Back in 1906 when the Royal Navy launched HMS Dreadnought they took the world by surprise and had the most advanced warship of the world at their disposal. While this seems like a good thing, it also had one very big drawback: HMS Dreadnought outclassed -EVERYTHING- that was afloat at the time, including the Royal Navy’s own ships. This mean that if another navy, like the German Kaiserliche Marine for instance, started building dreadnoughts they could severely threaten the dominating position over the seven seas the Royal Navy had enjoyed for the last few centuries.


So, there was only one thing the Royal Navy could do to stay ahead of the other navies: build, build, BUILD!



HMS St. Vincent


The same month HMS Dreadnought was launched, the keel was laid down for HMS Bellerophon, with HMS Superb and HMS Temeraire following soon after, making up the Bellerophon-class.


Of course, this wasn’t enough as other navies also started building dreadnoughts of their own, so the Royal Navy placed an order for three more improved Bellerophon’s, these would become known as the St. Vincent-class.


To speed up construction, the St. Vincent’s design was only a slightly modified when compared to that of the Bellerophon-class. Biggest change was the use of the new Mark XI 12” gun, which had a larger calibre than the Mark X (/50 against /45) and minor alterations in armor thickness and more powerful engines to handle the increase in displacement.


The new Mark XI guns actually weren’t that much of an improvement over the older Mark X’s though, due to the higher muzzle velocity of the shells the guns had a much shorter barrel life and had reduced accuracy on long range. But if the shells did hit, they had better armour penetration than the Mark X’s.


When it comes to the weaponry of the St. Vincent’s, they carried ten 12”/50 Mark XI’s in five twin turrets (with two being wing turrets, giving the ships an 8-gun broadside), twenty 4”/50 BL Mark VII quickfiring guns in casemates, four 3-pounder saluting guns and three 18” torpedo tubes under the waterline (one on each broadside, one in the stern). Targeting was done from two tripod masts, of which (when at steam) the aft one was completely useless as it would be covered in smoke from the fore funnel.



HMS St. Vincent


The St. Vincent’s were protected by a 10” armoured belt which tapered to 7”, turret faces were 11” thick, barbettes 9” to 5”, conning tower had between 8” and 11” protection, the deck had 3” to 0.75” of armour and the bulkheads were between 8” and 4” thick.

While this all seemed nice, experience would prove that the 10” belt actually wasn’t up to the task. The first (logical) reason for this was that as the guns grew bigger, the belt just wasn’t thick enough. But the biggest problem actually had to do with the belt being too shallow. It was a recurring problem which started with HMS Dreadnoughtand was carried over up to HMS Neptune (the successor of the St. Vincent’s) that if the ships were fully loaded, the thickest part of the belt armour would actually be below the waterline! One can imagine that this was FAR from ideal, but as the belt was an integral part of the ship, this couldn’t be altered with a quick fix.


The power plant of the St. Vincent’s was more or less the same as the preceding ships: four Parsons turbines driving four shafts, with steam being produced by 18 Babcock & Wilcox or Yarrow boilers.

These engines produced 24,500shp and gave the ships a top speed of 21kts.


Of the ships in the class, HMS Collingwood was actually a bit special in that it had launch platform for aircraft installed on its “Y” turret in 1918.



HMS Collingwood


Ships in class


HMS St. Vincent
Laid down: 12-30-1907 at Portsmouth Dockyard
Launced: 09-10-1908
Commissioned: 05-03-1909
Fate: Sold for scrapping in 12-12-1921


HMS Collingwood
Laid down: 02-03-1907 at Devonport Dockyard
Launced: 11-07-1908
Commissioned: Sometime during April 1910
Fate: Sold for scrapping in 12-01-1921


HMS Vanguard
Laid down: 04-02-1908
Launced: 02-22-1909
Commissioned: 03-01-1910
Fate: Destroyed in Scapa Flow during an accidental ammo explosion at 07-09-1917


Service life


Like most dreadnoughts of the time, the service life of all ships are pretty much the same. All three ships were placed in the First Squadron of the Home Fleet after being commissioned and remained there for the rest of the war. All three ships took part in the Battle of Jutland, with only HMS Collingwood having reported scoring hits on a König-class dreadnought. Fun fact is that during the battle the “A” turret on HMS Collingwood was commanded by Prince Albert, the later King George VI, who was a sub-lieutenant at the time. It is said that he commanded his turret from the turret roof, as he wanted to see the action.


The most noticeable incident with ships of the St. Vincent-class is how HMS Vanguard met its end.



HMS Vanguard


Vanguard was anchored at Scapa Flow on the afternoon of July 9th, 1917 with its crew practicing how to abandon ship when at 23:20 a small explosion followed by two huge ones tore the ship apart. It has never become clear what exactly happened, except that the large explosions most likely came from the “P” or “Q” magazines (or both). There are several theories: one was that there was cordite on board which was well beyond its stated safe life and could, in theory, have spontaneously exploded (but this could not be proven during tests). Another was that some boilers were still in operation, but that the watertight doors were still open, causing the temperature in the magazines to reach dangerously high levels, causing the cordite to go off. The last theory was that a fire started in a 4” magazine (possibly due to earlier noted high temperatures), which made the cordite go off (first smaller explosion) which made the cordite in the main magazines explode.


No matter the cause, around 804 men died in the explosion and still is one of the worst accidents in the Royal Navy.



HMS Collingwood at steam




Length (total): 152.4m
Beam: 25.6m
Draft: 8.5m
Dispacement: 19,560t


12”/50 Mark XI: 10
4”/50 BL Mark VII: 20
Vickers 3-pdr QF: 4
18” torpedo tubes: 3


Belt: 10” to 7”
Turrets: 11”
Barbettes: 9” to 5”
Deck: 3” to 0.75”
Conning tower: 11” to 8”
Bulkheads: 8” to 4”


Shafts: 4
Engines: 4
Type: Parsons steam turbine


Total Performance: 24,500shp
Max speed: 21kts
Range: 6,900 nautical miles at 10kn


Total: 718 men



Conway’s Battleships (revised and expanded edition)



Waterpainting of HMS St. Vincent


Edited by JeeWeeJ
  • Cool 8

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Supertester, Members, Alpha Tester, In AlfaTesters, Beta Testers
11,416 posts
1,963 battles

Good job!

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Alpha Tester, In AlfaTesters, Beta Testers
1,526 posts
1,218 battles

very nice job, thanks!!

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