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4,004 Posts
  • 1 The name Colossus
  • 2 Class information
  • 3 Building data
  • 4 Basic Details
  • 5 Machinery
  • 6 Armament
  • 7 Torpedo armament
  • 8 Armour Protection
  • 9 Service History
  • 10 Bibliography
The name Colossus[edit]

There have been Six ships in the Royal Navy bearing the name Colossus which frst appeared in 1787

  1. 1787 - An 74-gun ship of the line of the Courageux class
  2. 1803 - An 74-gun 3rd rate ship of the line that fought at Trafalgar
  3. 1848 - An 80 gun ship of the line an early conversion tp steam paddle propulsion in 1854
  4. 1882 - A second class battleship, leadship of the first Colossus class Ironclad victorian battleships, there were just two ships in the class colossus and Edinburgh their displacement was about 9,520 tons, and bore armament of Four 12.5-inch breechloaders, 5 x 6-inch guns, poor seaboats they had the disconcerting habit of rolling the main gun barrel ends under water when they were trained out on the beam, there were scrapped in 1908-10
  5. Is the subject of this article
  6. The last Colossus was the lead ship of the 11 strong Collussus class of light fleet air-craft carriers built in 1944 she was transfrred to France in 1946 being renamed the Arromanches she was scrapped in 1978.

Warship Naval ship Vehicle Ship Boat

An undated picture of Colossus courtesy of Maritime quest

Class information[edit]

A follow on design to the Neptune class there was originally meant to be three ships of the Neptune class but a change to the armour scheme on the last two ships resulted in them being quite different from the Neptune , hence the single ship Neptune class and the two ship Colossus class ( Colossus and Hercules ).The Colossus class were similar to the Neptune (but could be told apart by the Colossus's only having one mast) The Neptune was the first capital ship in the Royal Navy to use super-firing where one main turret is placed on the centre-line above another turret, this produces a compact pair of turrets taking up less length in the ship needing less weight of armour for protection, an added gain is that both turrets can also fire on either beam. One of the great concerns was that muzzle blast from the upper turret could adversely affect the lower turret, a great concern in days when the guns were fitted with open sighting hoods, to prevent damage to the lower turret 'Y' by 'X' turret firing astern by 'X' turret was limited to no closer than 30 degrees from right astern.Another feature of the Neptune and Colossus classes were the midships turrets P and Q, on all previous British Dreadnoughts these were placed one abeam of the other and they could then only fire on their own side of the ship, on the Neptune they were staggered ( En Echelon) along the length of the ship allowing limited cross-deck firing and in theory a ten gun broadside, the cross deck firing was not a success and would cause damge to the ship by muzzle blast from thr turret so firingAlthough some length was saved by having x and Y turrets arranged for super-firing the en echelon arrangement of the two midships turrets, p and Q took up a lot more space than the old abreast layout. To combat this a a novel way of fitting the ships boats was devised, this consisted of a flying bridge type deck between the forward and aft deck houses, nicknamed the 'Marble Arches' after the RN offices of that name due to their arched appearance, they were not a good idea, the fear was that in battle they could be damaged and drop onto the gun turrets below disabling them, during WW12 they were in facr removed because of this risk.The Colossus class were followed by the first of the 13.5" gunned Super-Dreadnought classes the Orions

Vehicle Warship Naval ship Armored cruiser Watercraft

Colossus seen in 1912 - courtesy of Maritimequest

Building data[edit]

Ordered under the 1909 naval estimates both the Hull and Machinery were built by Scotts of Greenock , she was Laid down on the 08th July 1909, Launched on the 09th April 1910 and commissioned in July 1911, the building costs for the two ships of this class - Colossus and Hercules was approximately £1,700,000

Basic Details[edit]

Length 546 feet. Beam, 85 feet. Draught (normal), 27 feet. (max.), 31 feet. Displacement 19,700 tons standard and 22,700 tons full load


Machinery: Quadruple propellers driven by Parsons direct drive steam turbines in a more or less identical layout to the Dreadnought with the exception that no cruising turbines were fitted, instead an extra stage was fitted to the High pressure turbines, this was separated from the main turbine by a by-pass valve. As in the Dreadnought, Bellerophon,St Vincent and Neptune classes the high pressure turbines drove the inboard propeller shafts and the low pressure turbines the outer shafts developing just under 27,334 SHP on trials at about 345 Rpm giving a maximum speed of 21.5 knots , normal power was 25,000 HP for 21.3 knotsIn the Colussus class the engine rooms were, for the first time, split into three with the two inboard shafts leading into the centre engine room and the outboard shafts to the port and starboard wing engine rooms.Steam was provided by eighteen Babcock and Wilcox boilers arranged in three groups essentially coal fired they were however fitted with oil sprayers to permit faster raising of steam. Steam pressure was approximately 235 psi.Bunker capacity was 2,900 tons of coal and 800 tons of oil, consumption at full speed being in the order of 360 tons per day, range was about 4,000 miles at 18 knots rising to 6,300 miles at 10 knots


Main battery

Ten 12" C50 Mk11 guns in five twin turrets The New weapon was not a success, now fifty calibres in length the longer barrel was designed to give higher muzzle velocities and thus greater range and hitting power, it used a larger propellant charge of 307 lbs against the earlier 12" guns 258 lbs of MD size 45 cordite. The larger charge did not always burn correctly within the barrel length resulting in a very poor shell spread pattern, also the higher pressures within the gun barrel , something akin to 20-22 tons per square inch, caused serious wear and thus the guns only had a working life of around 220 rounds.Shell weights were the same for the earlier 12 " guns at 850 to 859 lbs the range was around 21,000 yards at 15 degrees elevation against 19,000 yards for the C45 guns of the earlier classes.

Secondary battery

The Idea of mounting the secondary battery on top of the main turrets had died a death and all the secondary armament was mounted in the deck houses, 12 of these rather useless 4" guns, which were too small to stop a determined attacking torpedo boat, were fitted largely in case mates with another High angle (HA) 4" being fitted as an AA gun, four 3 pounder signalling guns were fitted.

Text Diagram

The main turret ID is 'A' forwards, 'P' to port and 'Q' to starboard of midships with 'X' and 'Y' aft.From an extremly old Admiralty manual

Torpedo armament[edit]

This class introduced the 21" torpedo with three submerged torpedo tubes being fitted, one on either beam and one firing astern, the stern tube being removed circa 1914-6.

Armour Protection[edit]

Not greatly different to the Dreadnought these ships were similar to the Neptune, differing mainly in disposition of armouring and internal protection, however Neptune's internal protection was not used in the Colossus class , to save weight the internal screens ( torpedo bulkheads) were not continuous between end barbettes instead they just protected the machinery spaces and magazines, the weight saved was spent on thicker belt armour, to compensated for the poorer anti torpedo protection internal subdivision was increwased. Weights of armour were 4560 tons vertical +and 2010 tons decks total 6570 tons.

Vertical Armour all KC:- Lower belt 11", 8" Upper belt 8", foward and after belts 2.5", Armoured Bulkheads forwards 8" Aft 5", Torpedo screen bulkheads 2" tapered to1.5". 7" - 2.5", Barbettes 10" tapering to 7", Gunhouses faces 11" sighting hoods 3 to 6" , Funnel uptakes 1"; Control tower 11", Fore communications Tube 5", Torpedo Control Tower 3" Tube, Horizontal armour KNC:- decks 3"

Abbreviations: KC = Krupp cemented armour, KNC = Krupp Non-Cemented armour.

Ship Armored cruiser Vehicle Watercraft Ocean liner

Scanned from an extremely old admiralty manual

Service History[edit]

On commissioning on the 8th August 1911, Colossus and joined the 2nd Division of the Home Fleet and the 2nd Battle Squadron (BS) between May and December 1912 and in August 1914 she became Flagship to the 1st battle squadron.Present at Jutland Colossus led the 5th. Division of the first BS led by Rear Admiral Gaunt (later Sir Ernest Frederick Augustus Gaunt KBE) an Australian who's brother Guy was also an admiral in the RN.The other ships in the 5th Div were in order the Collingwood, Neptune and St Vincent, Colossus's CO was Captain Dudley pound - future Admiral and First Sea LordColossus's first action at Jutland occurred at 1812 when she reported heavy shells falling nearby but with her reporting the visibility as being 6 miles no enemy was in sight, at this time the visibility favoured the German High Seas fleet, At 1830 Colossus briefly sighted the German battle line and fired three salvoes before losing sight of the German ships she then sighted the disabled light cruiser Wiesbaden and fired four salvoes of 12", so many ships fired at this hapless cruiser that it is impossible to determine accurately who hit, nevertheless she was seriously damaged by this unwelcome attention.She then witnessed the loss of the British Minotaur class armoured cruiser Defence, hit by heavy shells aft the 9.2" main magazine exploded spreading to the entire ship in a further large explosion. All 893 of her men went with her.At 1916 with visibility still favouring the German High Seas Fleet the battle-cruiser Seydlitz hit the Colossus with two 11" shells, these were part of four salvoes fired at a range of 8,000 yards, in addition to these shell hits some splinter damage was caused.The first hit was on the sounding machine platform on the port signal deck and passed through some light structure before going overboard.The second hit caused quite a lot of damage, this shell burst on the port lower gun-deck, thankfully the explosion damage was very local. Several 4" shell cartridges were set on fire and some 4" HE shells were cut in half by splinters. Light damage was caused to the range finder on P turret and to the intakes of 'A' boiler room, nine me were injured with no fatalities.Around this time the Colossus re-sighted the Wiesbaden and re-opened on her firing three salvoes at 9,700 yards before shifting target to the German destroyer G42 which was attempting to rescue the crew from another disabled destroyer, Colossus engaged G42 with both her main and secondary batteries.Just after 1900 Colossus and the Royal Oak sighted the German battle line through the mist and smoke with both ships opening on an unknown target, Royal Oak was firing at two higher ranges so hits made on the Derfflinger at this time may well have come from the Colossus which fired five salvoes of Armoured Percussion Capped (APC) the range was between 8 and 9,000 yards with the colossus claiming 4 hits, post-war analysis revealed she hit the Defflinger five times.The hits on Derfflinger were 1. A barbette armour 10.25" this armour was grazed by a 12" APC which was deflected down onto the upper-deck which was only bulged down by 4 to 5", however a very heavy shock was felt in the turret throwing men off their feet. The shock also put the turret out of action for a few minutes due to shock damage to the diesel driven dynamo.2. struck the No3 port 5.9" gun completely destroying it the upper deck and battery roof decks were damaged and pieced by splinters.3. hit the 12" side armour belt below no6 5.9" gun, although the deficient British shell broke up it did however hole the armour over 45 by 18 inches and caused flooding of an outer coal bunker.4. Another hit on the side armour belt, this time the 10.5" section between the two aft gun turrets causing a 16 by 24" hole with a 11 by 10" fragment being blown into the ship which passed through the splinter bulkhead, the engine workshops before falling down a vent shaft into the port after engine room, this piece of armour penetrated a total of 2,25" of plating.5. Ploughed a furrow across the upper deck before passing through an amidships skylight on the quarter deck , here it blew a 10 foot hole in the deck below and caused substantial damage to the cabins aft.At 1935 Colossus made an emergency turn to port to avoid a torpedo launched by the unseen (by her) 6th and 9th German destroyer flotilla's. This turn away from the German fleet allowed that fleet to turn south and break off the battle, during the night chase to the south the German pre-dreadnought battleship Pommern was torpedoed and sunk by British destroyers at 2330 Colossus struck some wreckage though to be from this ship causing damage to her starboard propellers, although continuing the chase no further contact was made with the High seas fleet.Colossus fire a total of 93 rounds of 12" of which 81 were APC and 12 were CPC, she also fired 16 rounds of 4"Post Jutland her life was that of routine patrols relegated ever more to that of a second rate ship super-ceded by the newer super Dreadnoughts, in 1919 she was converted to a cadet training ship until she was reduced to reserve in 1920 and finally scrapped in the July of 1928

Warship Armored cruiser Vehicle Naval ship Battleship

Undated Scanned image from my fathers collection, although there is no date or location the masts in the back-ground would appear to be HMS Victory indicating Portsmouth

Warship Vehicle Armored cruiser Naval ship Ship

Another image of Colossus courtesy of SN member Stein

Warship Armored cruiser Ship Vehicle Naval ship

And another fine picture of Colossus courtesy of Stein, of particular note are the boat davits being used to hoist the ships boat.The boats on this class of ship were stowed well inboard on the Marble Arch (flying bridge) and thus needed these strange very long davits

Article completed by Steve Woodward on the 19th October 2007

  1. Bibliography: IWM,
  2. Jutland - John Campbell,
  3. Jutland - Geoffrey Bennett,
  4. wikipedia
  5. First two pictures of Colossus:-

Colossus Class Battleships

Colossus class battleship - HMS ColossusColossus Class Battleship - HMS Hercules
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