Queen Mary class Battle-Cruiser - HMS Queen Mary
The name Queen Mary
An early image of the Queen Mary, she kept her anti torpedo nets throughout her short life, note the towering topmasts for the radio aerials, these were fitted for her intended world wide service, these were removed as the war for these ships became centred on the North Sea, this indicates an early image of the ship- although due to her early loss these may not have been removed image scanned from a magazine clipping of my fathers
This was a name new to the Royal Navy, the ship being named after Her Majesty Queen Mary, Queen Consort of King George V.
Queen Mary, born as Mary Princess Mary of Teck, launched the ship HMS Queen Mary on the 20th May 1912, thankfully she was not given Queen Mary’s full name : Victoria Mary Augusta Louise Olga Pauline Claudine Agnes. Since the loss of the ship on the 31st may 1916 the name has not been, and probably never will be, used again.
Although appearing similar to the two ships of the lions class ( Lion and princess Royal) and often quoted as the third ship of that class the Queen Mary was no more than a half sister coming about halfway between the development of Britain’s best battle-cruiser of this era, the Tiger, and the lion class and as such formed a single ship of her own class. The principle differences were the change from the 13.5” Mk5 L gun firing a 1,250 lb shell to the 13.5” Mk5 H gun firing a 1,400 shell, an additional 5,000 shp of propulsive power , she was also 3’06” longer, 6” wider and 6” deeper, if externally she was similar to the Lion class internal she was quite different, to tell her from her half sisters examine the funnels, the Queen Mary’s were round whilst the Lion’s were oval and the forward 4” secondary battery was contained on a single deck whilst the Lion’s had a single gun on the second deck of the forward superstructure. One feature which was removed from other ships to prevent their fouling propellers and steering if damaged in battle but not removed from the Queen Mary were her torpedo nets and booms, these remain with her on the bottom of the North Sea. One other difference made the Queen Mary easily told from her sisters, she had an Admirals gallery on her stern.
Queen Mary was ordered under the 1910 naval estimates and was built by Palmers Shipyard at Jarrow on the south bank of the River Tyne, she was laid down on the 06th march 1911 and launched by her namesake, Queen Mary, on the 20th May 1912, she cost a little over two million pounds to build. The famous Palmers shipyard yard was opened in 1851 by the two Palmer brothers Charles and George building many famous ships and once employing over 10,000 people, it closed its doors for good in 1933
Queen mary on her launch day image courtesy of Martimequest website
L 703’06” B 89’00” Draft 28’00” Displacement 26,770 tons standard and 31,650 tons full load
Quadruple propellers were driven by Parsons direct drive steam turbines and forty-two Yarrow type large tube coal fire boilers, of nominally 75,000 shp and 27.5 Knots she attained 28.3 knots on trials for a little over 83,000 shp The machinery consisted of a high pressure ahead and astern turbine on the inboard shafts and a low pressure ahead and astern on the two outboard shafts, the inboard shafts also incorporated an ahead cruising turbine for fuel economy. The machinery installation being split into two engine spaces separated by a centre-line watertight bulkhead. Her bunker capacity of 3,700 tons of coal and 1,170 tons of oil gave her a range of 5,600 miles at 10 knots and 2,400 miles at 24 knots Steering was by twin rudders.
The main battery of the Queen Mary was very similar to that of the preceding half-sisters of the Lion class but the Queen Mary was fitted with the modified gun firing the heavier 1,400lb shell against the 1,250lb shell of her earlier siblings, the very good wear rates attained by the 13.5” go allowed the firing of a a heavier shell this lowered the wear rates some-what which meant that the gun liner life fell from about 450 to 300 rounds but this was more than offset by the greater accuracy and much higher hitting power of the 1,400lb shell. Eight 13.5” Mk5H C45 guns in four twin Mk2 turrets, two forwards, one mid-ships and one aft , the MK5H signifying that the guns fired the heavier design of 13,5” shell weighing 1,400 lbs, this was fired using a little under 300 lbs of MD45 cordite, the MD45 indicating cordite manufactured in rods of .45” in diameter. The maximum range for these guns was about 24,000 yards at 20 degrees elevation with a maximum rate of fire of two rounds per minute ( 2RPM) on trials but in reality this would be nearer 2 rounds in 1min 20 seconds in actual use, 80 rounds per gun were carried. To explain how these guns worked, a person would have to understand the layout of the guns, when looking at the guns on a ship what is seen is the turret, or gun-house with it’s two guns, this fits into a circular protective sleeve called the barbette, this 9” thick metal cylinder protects the turrets rotating mechanism and ammunition hoists. Immediately under the turret is a circular handling room and below that a circular trunk which runs down to stand on its bearing on the inside of the double bottom of the ship, all of this structure rotates with the turret within the confines of the barbette. Around the base of the turret trunk is the shell handling room and around this space is the shell room with water-tight doors leading into the handling space, the shell room contained 160 shells – 80 rounds per gun were carried. The shells on British warships were carried stacked horizontally in bins, the shells were lifted from the bins by grabs travelling on overhead rails. To feed the guns two shells at a time are passed out of the shell room doors and loaded into the lower part of a three layer hoist, there were two hoists, one for each gun. Immediately above the shell rooms lay the magazines , round the turret trunk was a circular handling room and off this were four separate magazines arranged in a square, each separate magazine was closed off from the handling space by a watertight door which led onto a short narrow passageway into the magazine.. As a safety precaution only one door to any one room should be open at any time. The cordite charges for the guns comprised four quarter charges each one weighing about 75 lbs and consisted of cordite rods contained in a bag of a type of artificial silk called shallon, shallon burnt rapidly without leaving any burning embers, at the base of each charge was a small igniter charge of fine black powder. The charges were stored in tubular protective cases, two quarter charges to a case so each of the four magazines contained 100 cases with a total of 400 cases or 200 full charges per turret, with four turrets the total for the ship was 1,600 cases or 240,000 lbs of explosive, precautions in working in the magazines required all smoking materials to be left outside, and only cotton clothing and special shoes to be worn. As a demonstration of the need for special shoes and clothing, after a gunnery drill on the Lion the magazine floors were swept and the dust laid out in a trail on deck, a match to one end of this trail caused it to flash off instantly. It should be noted that slightly more full charges than shells were carried. To load the guns only one full charge – four cases should be in the lower handling room at any one time, the charges were removed from their cases and were then loaded into the upper two layers of the main hoist, when completely loaded with a shell and four quarter charges the main hoist would be sent up to the upper handling room passing through a set of flap type flash doors on the way. In the upper handing room the cage would stop opposite the gun loading cage were the shells and cordite would be rammed across into the gun loading cage, and the main hoist sent back down below for the next load, the gun loading cage would then be hoisted up to the gun stopping at the lower layer, the gun at this time would be in the load position with the breech lock in, the lock was a type of huge door bolt stopping the gun moving during the loading, the breech itself would be open. The shell would now be rammed into the gun a preset distance so that the copper driving bands at the base of the shell would engage with the rifling in the gun barrel. The rammer would withdraw and the cage move down one level and the first two quarter charges would be rammed home, with the rammer and hoist repeating the operation for the two quarter charges on the upper level. The loading tray and gun loading cage would now withdraw dropping back into the upper handling room for the next load, the breech would slam shut and rotate to the lock position, the breech lock would then release allowing the gun to elevate to it’s firing position. Once all the safety interlocks had opened and the gun had been aligned with the direction and elevation dials fed from the main battery director transmitting station the gun ready lights would come on in the main battery director – for the Queen Mary this was on top of the armoured conning tower and when ready the gun could be fired. It was normal practice in daylight to initially fire salvo’s, i.e. half the guns – normally all the left guns would fire together , then wait for the shell to land . Observation of the fall of shot would indicate whether the firing solution was correct, if not it would be adjusted before firing the other four guns. Once on target full broadsides could be fired if required although this was rarely done unless the chance of a hit was an almost certainty, at night because the fall of shot could not be seen it was the usual practice to fire full broadsides. One of the major draw-backs to these guns and their fire-control was that the director system only worked to 15 degrees of elevation, thus limiting the ship to 15,000 yards range, beyond this she had to use her turret control gear, until super elevation prisms were manufactured and fitted to the director system.
Y turret on the Queen Mary giving a good view of the 13.5" guns with their Tompions carrying Queen Mary's seal in place, note the upper edge of the 9" barbette armour clearly seen arround the base of the turret, also note the two aft firing 4" guns of each of the port and starboard after batteries protruding from their casemates above Y turret , this image may have been taken during her 1915 January-February refit at Portsmouth but as she is mounting awning spars may be earlier as a new ship being finished off - image courtesy of the Maritimequest website
The Queen Mary had sixteen single casemate mount 4” C50 Mk7 guns in her secondary batteries, the same number as the Lion class, but whereas the Lions had the forward pair of guns in the forward deck house mounted one over the other the Queen Mary’s guns were all mounted on one level on the foc’sle deck . The guns were mounted in four batteries of four guns each, one battery to port and starboard in the forward deck house and one either side the after deck house, they were so arranged that four guns could fire right ahead or astern and eight could fire on either beam. These weapons fired a shell weighing about 35lbs using a separate bagged charge of about 5.5lbs of cordite to a range of 5 miles at a rather low elevation of twenty degrees, this low elevation combined with the guns being in case mates meant that they were only suitable for surface targets.
For anti-aircraft use four 3 pounder Hotchkiss guns were mounted aft, of little use they were really only of use as saluting guns , these useless weapons were removed in early 1915 In 1914 a single 12 pounder C45 Mk1 gun was fitted aft , the 12 pounder whose actual bore was 3” fired a shell weighing a little under 13 pounds to a height of about 22-23,000 feet and a surface range of 5 miles. These guns were usually called 12 pounders but could be called 3” or even 20cwt guns, 20 cwt being the overall weight of the gun. In addition a single 6 pounder Hotchkiss gun was also fitted aft
Fire Control equipment
At the time of her completion Queen Mary, like other ships at that time was not immediately fitted with fire control equipment. Her director and fire control equipment was fitted in December 1925 when she was two years old, other ships had the director system added to the spotting top but on the QM it was fitted to the roof of the armoured conning tower. Previously each individual gun was aimed and fired by its own turret captain with data obtained from the turrets own fire control instruments , to control and concentrate the fire of newer ships all guns came under control of the gunnery officer in the gunnery director . The Queen Mary was fitted with a Mk2 Dreyer table and where the Lion class were fitted with a Dreyer- Elphinstone clock., the Queen Mary was fitted with one of the few Argo clocks fitted in RN ships, she was also the only battle-cruiser to be so fitted , the Mk4 Argo clock was a superior piece of equipment, this was proved through gunnery trials to be more accurate particularly when the target and own ships courses where widely different and there was a large change in relative bearings and distances, so much better was this equipment that the Queen Mary was known as a crack gunnery ship in the RN.
Queen Mary was fitted with a Mk2 Dreyer table, the table was invented by Admiral Sir Frederic Charles Dreyer, and was in fact a mechanical computer which from a large number of variable inputs a deflection required to be applied to the guns to hit a moving target could be calculated and automatically applied to the range and bearing pointers in the turrets, basically it calculated were the target would be at the end of the flight of the shell. The inputs fed into the table were : Range in yards from the range finders, bearing also from the range finder, Own ships heading and speed from the gyro compasses and, at that time, the Forbes log, range corrections verbally received from the spotting ( director) officer, these would be of the order when, say, the shells landed short : range plus 500 yards, Targets estimated course and speed , if the main range finder failed then there was provision for manual ranges and bearings to be inputted, this ‘table’ actually looked very little like a table other than it had four legs and was about six feet long by 2 feet 6 wide it more resembled an engineer’s work bench with some odd looking machinery bolted to it plus a large number of input clocks and handles .
Range finding was by a nine-foot base coincident type range finder manufactured by Barr and Stroud. Barr and Stroud’s was founded in 1888 by two inventors, Archibald Barr who became the Professor of Engineering at Glasgow university and William Stroud who was the Professor of Physics at the Yorkshire College Initially working from a small workshop in Glasgow they later moved to a large factory at Anniesland in 1904. The coincidence range-finder consisted of a single eye-piece in the centre of a long tube with two lenses facing the target at either end of the tube, prisms are rotated by a dial and thus range is read off the dial corresponding to the angle of the prisms. Much has been written about the supposed superiority of German range finders which used the Stereoscopic principle, these worked in a similar way but used two eye-pieces, one advantage of the German system was that it did not as absorb as much light as did the British system so it would work better in poor lighting so on first sighting of each other the German range finders gave the edge over the British units in that they were more likely to obtain an early hit. But once the British had got the range their superior fire control meant that they would keep on hitting with greater frequency.
Two 21” submerged torpedoes were fitted, one on either beam in a torpedo space located forwards of A turret, the tubes themselves were fixed and projected into the torpedo body room were the reloads were stored, after firing only one tube at a time could be reloaded due to constrictions of space in the room.
There are two ways of viewing the level of protection for the Queen Mary and for that matter any other battle-cruiser of the RN at that time, if she was viewed as an armoured cruiser and her duties were what she was designed for, the chasing down of commerce raiders then her protection was good and perfectly up to the job, if she is to be used for something for which she was not designed : The line of battle standing her ground with battleships then that level of protection was poor.
The lower main belt extending some 6 feet below the water and three above was 9” thick with a 4” belt above that, both belts ran from just forward of A turret barbette to just aft of Y Turret barbette covering the hull over the magazines and machinery. Closing off the armoured citadel at the ends of these belts was an armoured bulkhead of 4” forward and aft , the barbettes were 9” when outside of other armour but tapering to 3” inside other armour. The decks were 21/2” over the machinery and magazines and just 1” elsewhere, proof against light to moderate cruiser fire only. Turret faces were 9” with 3” on the sides and roof, the control tower was protected by 10” plating
On Completion of her trials and working up the Queen Mary joined the 1st. Cruiser squadron (1CS) in the September of 1914, the term battle-cruiser was soon after coined and the 1CS became the 1st. Battle-Cruiser Squadron (IBCS) in January 1914. When WW1 was declared on the 28th July 1914 the RN’s capital ships, including the Queen Mary, maintained a blockade of all German trade, largely for the capital ships this was a watch and wait period of inactivity, the first battle to involve the Queen May was the first battle of Heligoland Bight on the 28th August 1914.
Heligoland Bight Action ( first)
It was known that German light mine-laying forces and supporting torpedo boats ( the German name for destroyers) were working from the Jade and Elbe rivers in the Heligoland Bight and it was the intentions of Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt’s light cruiser and destroyers forces out of Harwich to intercept and destroy some of these forces. The initial attack by Tyrwhitt in the light cruisers Arethusa and Fearless with 16 destroyers each was on these German light forces with the intention of drawing out heavier German units over a line of seven D and E class submarines. Backing up Tyrwhitt in close support were the six light cruisers of Commodore W.E. Goodenough’s 1st LCS |: Southampton (flag), Birmingham, Falmouth, Liverpool, Lowestoft and Nottingham , and as distant cover at the last minute Admiral Jellicoe assigned the three ships of Admiral David Beatty’s 1BCS – Lion (flag) , Princess Royal and the Queen Mary and the two ships of Admiral John Moore’s 2BCS New Zealand (flag) and Invincible Due to a failure of communications neither Tyrhwitt nor Goodenough were aware of Beattie’s forces being assigned, nor were Beatty and Goodenough aware of the submarines, thankfully a chance meeting of the forces before the battle put these unknowns correct. The initial contact between the two light forces went the way of the British plan, although the day was bright with good initial visibility a mist of the western horizon hid the supporting ships from the German view, the time of the attack had been for low water on the River jade were the German heavy forces were thus preventing them leaving until the tide made sufficiently for them to safely cross the bar. The British forces initially attacked two destroyers G187 and 194 with great success but as more German light cruisers responded to this attack and the fact that Tyrwhitt though that some German heavy forces were in the vicinity her requested the assistance of Beatty. Beatty is his typical dashing fashion wading in with his battle-cruisers, the 1BCS being faster at 28 knots left the 2BCS behind at their more sedate 25 knots, Between 1135 and 1200 Beattie’s ships burst of the fog and Lion immediately engaged the light cruiser Koln with two salvoes virtually disabling her, the following battle-cruisers tore this hapless ship to pieces sinking her with repeated salvoes with her went the German Konter-Admiral Leberect-Maass and all but one of her crew, the effect of the battle-cruisers was described as a tribe of elephants stampeding through a pack of dogs, next to feel their heavy salvoes was the light cruiser Ariadne, she was hit so often and burning furiously the heavy smoke hide her from view and saved her from the fate of the Koln, the light cruiser Stralsund took her in tow later but she capsized and sank before reaching port. Forming mist made the battle confused and dangerous from all sides and 1300 Beatty signalled a recall and the British ships returned to port, although communications had been poor between both forces the battle-cruisers had distinguished themselves well in the task for which they had been designed : the destruction the of opposing fleets scouting cruisers. Britain had lost no ships however two light cruisers and three destroyers had received considerable damage, 35 men had been killed and 40 injured whilst the Germans had had three light cruisers sunk and one torpedo boat sunk, and three light cruisers damaged – 1 severely plus a number of destroyers, more than 700 killed with nearly 350 taken prisoner – both sides had gallantly rescued survivors.
The next several months for the 1BCS were spent on routine patrols and sweeps of the North Sea, during this time an event in the Baltic was to have a far reaching event on the war, the German Magdeburg class light cruiser – Magdeburg ran aground near the Odensholm lighthouse she tried to refloat herself but two Russian cruisers, the Bogatyr and Pallada, found her and destroyed her, they also captured all her code books intact and passed these on to the British, unknown to the German fleet the British fleet now knew how to decoded their signals and as a result knew most of their movements. The next major event for the IBCS was the battle of Dogger Bank on the 24th January 1915 however the Queen Mary was absent from this action as she was undergoing a routine dry-docking at Portsmouth during January and February.
Post The Dogger Bank action the IBCS spent the time on routine sweeps and patrols with little or no action until the battle of Jutland at the end of May in 1916. Late in the evening of the 30th May 1916 Beatty’s forces sailed from Rosyth on the Firth of Forth these comprised : Lion - Captain A.E.M. Chatfield – Flag Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty, followed by Princess Royal – Captain W.H, Cowan and flying the flag Rear Admiral O.de Brock – RA1BCS, Queen Mary - Captain C.I. Prowse and finally Tiger Captain H.B. Pelly. And the 2BCS comprising : New Zealand – Captain J.F.E. Green and flying the flag of Rear Admiral W.C. Packenham RA2BCS followed by Indefatigable - Captain C.A. Selby, Australia was missing due to being in an earlier collision with New Zealand and was still in dry-dock. With the battle-cruisers were the escorting vessels of the 1st Light cruiser Squadron ( 1LCS) - Galatea, Phaeton, Inconstant and Cordelia, 2LCS – Southampton, Birmingham, Nottingham and Dublin, 3LCS Falmouth, Yarmouth, Birkenhead and Gloucester, the 13th DF – Champion with ten M class and two Talisman class destroyers as a screen on the 1BCS, the 2BCS had as a screen four L class and two M class destroyers As the 3BCS had been on a temporary attachment at Scapa flow for gunnery practice replacing them was Rear Admiral Hugh Evans-Thomas’s 5BS comprising four ships of the Queen Elizabeth class battleships, assigned due to their top speed of 24 knots being close to that of the battle-cruisers and certainly faster than other battleships, these four were : Barham ( flag) - Captain A.W.C. Waller, Valiant - Captain M. Woollcombe, Warspite - Captain E. Phillpotts and Malaya Capt A.D.E.H. Boyle, the Queen Elizabeth was under refit at Rosyth and so missed the action. Screening the 5BS was the 1DF of 11 destroyers of the L class. The chief protagonists were to be the German battle-cruisers led by Vizeadmiral Franz von Hipper – Lutzow (flag) captain Erich Raeder, Derfflinger - Captain Hartog, , Seydlitz – Captain von Egidy, Moltke Captain Harpf and Von der Tann– Captain Zenker, as scouting forces the four light cruisers of Konteradmiral F. Boedicker’s 2nd Scouting group (2SG) – Frankfurt, Pillau, Elbing and Wiesbaden were attached, escorting the battle-cruisers were eleven destroyers of the 9DF ten of the 2DF and nine of the 6DF. To summarise Jutland into a very basic outline there were two schools of thought, Jellicoe knowing he out-numbered his opponents wanted to crush and destroy them without unduly risking his fleet, without which Britain could not blockade Germany into submission, Churchill stated that only one man could win or lose WW1 in an afternoon, that man was ADMIRAL Sir John Jellicoe, Admiral of the British Grand fleet. The German plan under Admirals Reinhard Scheer and Franz von Hipper was simpler, to lure out what was seen as the weaker part of the Royal Navy, Beattie’s battle-cruiser forces, Beatty was known to be a man of action and for refusing to let go once he had his teeth into an opponent, it was intended to use this sometimes impetuousness and lure Beatties ships into the arms of Scheer’s battleships using Hippers battle-cruisers, this way the Royal Navy would be seriously weakened. Rather prophetically Beatty had been warned by Jellicoe in letter that the Scheer may well be intending this very manoeuvre, Beatty came within a whisker of this very trap and was only saved by the intervention of Evan –Thomas’s 5BS, he then turned this near defeat round into a brilliant tactical win by leading Scheer and Hipper into the arms of Jellicoe. The Queen Mary first came to action shortly before 1600 on the 31st May , the firing sequence should have been opposite numbers of the two battle-cruiser fleets firing at each other but due to targeting errors Lion and the princess Royal engaged their selected target the Lutzow but the Queen mary missed out the next in line, the Derfflinger, and engaged the Seydlitz, Tiger and New Zealand fired on the Moltke and the Indefatigable the Von der Tann, this targeting error left the Seydlitz unfired upon. For the German ships the first four engaged their opposite numbers, Lutzow engaged the Lion, Derfflinger the Princess Royal, Seydlitz the Queen Mary, Moltke the Tiger and the last ship in line for some reason skipped the New Zealand and engaged the Indefatigable, shooting was not good on either side initially and all first salvo’s were over. Several hits were made on British ships in the first few minutes of firing, the QM is thought to have been hit at least once by the Seydlitz at this time. Sometime around 1602 the QM hit the Seydlitz with a 13.5” shell and at this time Indefatigable, the first of the British battle-cruisers to be lost in the battle was hit by the Von der Tann and exploded with the loss of all but two of her men picked up some 3 hours 45 minutes later by the German destroyer S16. The hits on the Seydlitz attributed to the QM were: 1555 a 13.5” APC shell hit the starboard deck above battery deck abreast the foremast, it pierced this deck and a coal shoot before exploding, the blast damage was quite severe ( unusual for a British shell) blowing ten by ten foot hole in the 1” thick battery deck , severe damage was caused to the adjacent longitudinal bulkhead splinters and shell fragments then travelled through the ship exiting through the port longitudinal bulkhead causing severe damaged to cabins and light structures whilst doing so, several fires were also started, the damage to bulkheads was to have a greater effect later on, as the ship took on water from other hits the QM’s hit allowed this flood water to spread further than would have otherwise occurred.
1605 ( approx) a 13.5” hit exploded below the water line below the starboard wing turret causing the hull to be bulged in over an area of 40 x 15 feet and causing localised flooding.
1617 13.5” struck the hull side plating aft of the aftermost starboard 5.9” gun casemate on the junction between the 9” and *2 side armour belts over a 6” bulkhead, it exploded on contact blowing a large hole in the armour plating and in the 6” bulkhead, the hit was just above the battery deck which had a hole of 20 square feet blown in it, splinters entered the case mate causing a lot of damage , the aft 5.9” gun was put out of action, luckily flash protection kept the flash out of the magazines but all but one of the crew in this area were killed, smoke and gas from the explosion penetrated the starboard engine rooms ( HP and LP) causing their temporary evacuation.
The battle continued with sporadic hits by both sides for the next forty minutes or so, targeting was made difficult due to mist and smoke from both guns and funnels, at 1548 Evan- Thomas finally managed to close up the action with the battleships his 5BS, their overwhelming fire no doubt saved a lot more casualties on the British side., however this was too late for the Queen Mary At 1617 The Seydlitz lost sight of her target, the Lion, and shifted to the next ship in sight, the Queen Mary, now engaged by two battle-cruisers Queen Mary was under a hail of shells however this did not at first affect her firing, her intended target, Seydlitz, later admired the way right up to the end that she maintained a heavy, fast and accurate rate of fire. At 1621 QM was hit on Q turret, although a serious hit disabling the turret there was no secondary explosion and the other three turrets carried on the action, at 1626 she was hit again by two shells about the area of the forward superstructure, this time she exploded and sank. Although some sources state her forward magazines exploded causing the loss, the examination of eye-witness reports point to the possibility of another source. The Queen Mary had sixteen 4” guns as before mention split into four batteries of four guns, which meant that eight guns were located in the forward superstructure and eight in the after one. Each gun carried approximately 150 rounds i.e. 1,200 rounds were stowed in the forward and aft shell rooms, to fire these similar number of charges were carried, at approximately 9lbs a charge this meant that each of the two magazines held about 11,000 pounds or 5 tons of cordite. The forward 4” magazine were most of this ammunition was kept was well below the water line, one deck below, and just aft of, the magazine for B turret. The propellant for the 4” was raised via hoists to a 4” ready use magazine located two decks below the foc’sle deck were the guns were located from there a second hoist raise it to the guns. From eye witnesses QM was hit somewhere around the superstructure on the engaged ( port) side of the shelter deck over the 4” batteries, the witnesses say there were two bright red explosions typical of a shell explosion followed shortly afterwards by a second explosion which was seen to vent from the aft end of the superstructure and the boiler room vents, this explosion split the ship in two in this area, from the location this points to the explosion of the shells either on the4” gun deck, or the deck below, igniting loose cordite in that area and following a trail down to the 4” main magazine and causing that to explode. Shortly after this a third and far more violent explosion took place forwards. It was after this terrible explosion that Beatty is quoted as saying “There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”
The exact delay between the second and third explosions is not recorded but the crew of Y gun aft feeling the explosion of the hits and the ship starting to heel over and the second explosion left the turret and witnessed the third explosion destroy the fore-part of the ship which was separate from the after-part and already sinking , this was in all certainty the forward magazines, this was also supported by witnesses who survived from Q turret amidships , shortly after this QM was hit again aft with a further large explosion aft, this was possibly the after 4” magazine exploding, the range of this engagement was about 14,500 yards. Tiger immediately astern and with New Zealand astern of her were both showered in red-hot debris after steaming through the smoke of the explosion, the pillar of smoke rose to over 2,000 feet.
Of the Queen Mary’s crew of 1,266 men 18 were picked by the destroyer HMS laurel, a further survivor was picked by another destroyer Petard and another two were rescued by the German destroyer G8, 21 men, leaving 1,245 men still with their ship, tragically the Petard was sunk shortly afterwards putting the survivor through a further ordeal which he thankfully survived
A pall of smoke marking the grave of 1,245 men Image although freely available is courtesy of the Martimequest website - this is the clearest copy I have found to date
Today the wreck, the deepest of all the Jutland wrecks, lies mainly upside down, shattered but clearly torn into two halves, due to the depth of water the wreck has not suffered the attentions of the salvage scavengers that the other Jutland wrecks have suffered, she is now a protected wreck site, a search of the internet will reveal many sites with photographs of her sad remains, it is now look, remember, but do not touch.
- Jutland – John Campbell,
- Jutland - Geoffrey Bennett,
- Conway’s 1906-21
- Royal Naval names JJ Colledge and Ben Warlow
- Heligoland : the first sea battle - David Woodward (no relation)
Article completed 28th November 2008 by Steve Woodward