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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
  • 1 The name New Zealand
  • 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 New Zealand[edit]

The name has been used twice in the Royal navy, the first appearance was in 1905 when it was used for one of the eight strong class of King Edward VII class of pre-Dreadnought battleships , 454 feet long and a little over 16,000 tons in displacement, this class mounted four 12" and four 9.2" guns amongst their armament, New Zealand was built by the Portsmouth Dockyard between February 1903 and July 1905, in 1911 she was re-named Zeelandia to free up the name for the new battle-cruiser the subject of this article.It was intended that there would be a third usage of the name, This New Zealand would have been one of four large air-craft carriers of the Malta class, these ships would have been contemporaries of the large USN Midway classes displacing 56 to 57,000 tons, although ordered none were laid down and all were cancelled in the November and December of 1945.New Zealand differed from her sister-ship Australia in that although both were funded by their respective counties New Zealand was a gift to the Royal Navy, Australia remained under Australian control in the RAN.


Taken on the 01st July 1911 New Zealands launch day. although in the public domain this image is courtesy of the MaritimeQuest website as it is the clearest of the images I have seen

Class information[edit]

The indefatigable class of three battle-cruisers - Indefatigable, Australia and New Zealand were intended to be a battle-cruiser variant of the single ship of class HMS Neptune, a battleship, however financial constraints dictated that costs were kept down and instead the class was a virtual repeat of the previous Invincible class but some 23 feet longer to allow the two mid-ships turrets ( P and Q) to be placed on the centre line thus giving them better arcs of fire and removing the problems of cross-deck firing associated with the Invincible class. The armour scheme of the Indefatigable class was virtually identical to the Invincible class apart from the enclosing bulkheads of the citadel, inadequate in the Invincible's, was actually thinner in the Indefatigable's. Much has been written about the poor comparison between the Armour of the British battle-cruisers and their German Counter-parts but it should be remembered that the role for the battle-cruiser was not to engage similar ships, in the days before radar and aerial scouting fleets sent ahead fast scouting cruisers, these would make contact with an enemies ships and then steam back at high speed to report to the slower heavy ships in the main fleet. Battle-cruisers were intended to be as fast, if not faster , than these scouting cruisers and to be armed with heavy long range guns, they would then sink these scouting cruisers thus depriving an enemy of its 'eyes'. For this role the British designed battle-cruisers were ideally suited unfortunately it was all too easy for an Admiral to look at these ships and include their eight heavy guns into the main battle-line, this was a major error, once the battle-cruisers were kept in the main gun line they became a target for ships similarly armed and they were just not protected against this sort of battle and the end results were inevitable, three Invincible, Indefatigable and Queen Mary were to be lost during the Battle Of Jutland., exposed to fire against which they had no armoured defence. Although similar in many ways the Invincible and Indefatigable classes were easy to tell apart, the Invincible two mid-ships turret s were fitted en-echelon and were also together between the second and third funnels whilst the Indefatigable class had the two mid-ships turrets separated by the middle funnel.


An undated image of the New Zealand - she still retains her anti-torpedo nets so this image will be pre- 1915 as most ships had them removed by this date as they were a hazard in battle, if damaged and trailing in the water they may foul the ships propellers or steering.

Building data[edit]

New Zealand was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company at their Govan Yard on the Upper-Clyde, Glasgow, being laid down on the 20th June 1910, launched on the 01st July 1911 and commissioned in the Royal Navy in November 1912. Her building costs were just under £1,800,000. A strange feature of both the New Zealand and Australia, which were funded by their respective countries, was that their construction started at about the same time the RN began building the Lion class, the Lion's were a far better design of battle-cruiser, the only reason I can think for this occurring was that the Indefatigable's were a very much cheaper design

Basic Details[edit]

Length 590'00" Beam 80'00" Draft 26'06" Displacement 18,500 tons standard and 22,110 tons full load


Quadruple propellers were driven by Parsons direct drive steam turbines in a virtually identical layout to that of the Invincible class battle-cruisers , the turbines consisted of a high pressure ahead and astern turbine on the outboard shafts and a low pressure ahead and astern on the two inboard shafts, the inboard shafts also incorporated an ahead cruising turbine for fuel economy, the turbines developed a total of 44,000 shp giving a speed of 25 knots., during her trials on overload she attained 49,048 shp which gave her a speed of 26.38 knots.Steam was supplied from a total of 32 Babcock and Wilcox coal fired boilers, the boilers were also fitted with oil sprayers to facilitate raising steam quickly and to provide maximum power when required, the bunker capacity of 3,170 tons of coal and 840 tons of oil gave them a range of 6,330 miles at 10 knots. The class was fitted with twin rudders which made them quite manoeuvrable with a small tactical diameter.


Main battery

Eight 12" C45 Mk10 guns in four twin turrets with one turret - A - on the foc'sle deck, Y was right aft and two turrets were amidships P forward of the No2 funnel and Q aft, although P and Q turrets still had restricted arcs of fire ahead and astern they were in a better position than the echelon arrangement in the previous Invincible class and could fire an eight-gun broadside without risking blast damage to the ship,.Construction of the gun barrels was of wire winding of several miles of thin flat wire onto a steel inner tube, this was then covered with a steel jacket, bore length was 45 calibre's or 540 inches and the guns were fitted with an improved mechanical type breech, each gun weighed approximately 57 tons with the two gun turret weighing a total of 450-500 tons, although of a calibre favoured by the Admiralty these guns were not a good weapon at long range as the shell tended to wobble in flight giving poor accuracy. The guns had a range of 16,500 yards at an elevation of 13.5 degrees and fired a shell weighing 850 to 859lbs using a propellant charge of 258lbs. of Cordite MD45 (MD standing for Cordite Modified - now obsolescent and comprised 65% guncotton and 30% nitro-glycerine and 5% Vaseline) the number indicates this is a rod shaped propellant i.e. it is in long rods not granular. The charges were in four silk bags, the silk was a special type called 'Shallon' much coarser than normal silk this ensured that it burnt completely in the barrel so as to leave no residue that might ignite a following charge. The shell life of the guns was reasonable at 220 rounds per gun (RPG) with on board stowage being 800 rounds or 80 RPG. Rate of firing was two rounds per minute on gun-layers tests but in battle it was nearer one round per minute Penetration was given as 10.5" of armour plate at a range of 10,000 yards.

New_zealand_guns.jpg This image is of the New Zealands 12" A turret, immediately aft of the turret can be seen the circular structure of the Armoured control tower, on either side of it can be seen the barrels of two of the ships 4" secondary battery, this image is undated and there are no clues but I think as she is rugged for awnings it is later in her life, maybe on the Dominion tour in 1919 - the image is courtesy of the MaritimeQuest website

Secondary battery

Sixteen single 4" C50 Mk7 guns were fitted to this class of ship, thankfully none were installed on the main turret roofs a place that was untenable when the main armament was in action instead they were all in either casemates open mounts around the deck houses.Four 3 pounder signalling guns were also fitted and in October 1914 New Zealand had a single 3" Mk1 AA gun and a single 6 pounder Hotchkiss gun fitted aft

Idefarm.jpg This image scanned from a very old manual shows the layout of the main and secondary weapons of the Indefatigable class battle-cruisers. Note that the two midships (P and Q) turrets are offset, this was to keep the additional length of the ship to a minimun from the original Invincible design. The proximity of the guns to the ships side and thus lack of protection from interior structures entailed a patch of armour having to be added to the side of each respective side of the ship in the area of the vulnerable turret. The side elevation shows the outline of the armour scheme

Torpedo armament[edit]

The class were originally fitted with three 18" submerged torpedo tubes, one aft and one on either beam, about 1915 the stern tube was removed from all three of the ships.

Armour Protection[edit]

As already mentioned above the armour scheme of these ships was not great nor was it intended to be, fighting a heavily armed opponent was not originally intended, and the class was particularly weakly defended against long-range plunging shell-fire. The main belt consisted of a shallow belt just 6" thick with a 4" upper belt, closing the armoured citadel off were two armoured bulkheads which were just 4" thick, The decks over the magazines and machinery spaces were just 2.5" thick and reduced to an inch elsewhere, the barbettes protecting the turret machinery and shell hoists were a little better at 7" were they were outside of other armour but reduced to just 3" inside of other armour. The main turret faces were 10" thick with 6" side and back plates and the control tower armour was 2.75" thick.

Service History[edit]

New Zealand was commissioned in the February 0f 1912, gifted to the Royal Navy by the people of New Zealand, and sailed shortly afterwards on a world cruise of the Empire on her return to British shores in December 1913 she joined the First Battle-Cruiser Squadron (1BCS) of the Grand Fleet, this comprised the battle-cruisers Lion (Flag), Princess Royal, Queen Mary and the New Zealand the first duties were a cruise to the Baltic during the spring and early summer of 1914. In January and February 1915 whilst Lion underwent a dry-docking New Zealand was temporarily made the flagship of the 1BCS.

Helgoland Bight Battle

On the 28th August 1914 she was one of the ships engaged in the first battle of the Helgoland Bight, this was an action between two British light cruisers under Commodore Tyrwhitt: Arethusa and fearless and thirty one support destroyers, facing them were a flotilla of torpedo boats and the German light cruisers Frauenlob and Stettin under rear Admiral Leberect Maass, at the commencement of the action four more light cruisers joined the German force, Tyrwhitt started losing the advantage and was initially backed up by Commodore Goodenough's force based on Harwich and comprising Six town class cruisers: Birmingham, Falmouth, Liverpool, Lowestoft, Nottingham and Southampton, Providing distant cover were the battle cruisers Invincible and New Zealand Under Admiral Moore, in a communications failure the Admiralty had not advised the British commanders of their intention to also send David Beatty with the IBCS - Lion, Princess Royal and Queen Mary, this inclusion caused some confusion but the two opposing sets of battle-cruisers thankfully recognised each other before opening fire.As the cruiser battle became more confused in the smoke and mist Tyrwhitt requested assistance from the battle-cruisers, although not an annihilation of the German forces this action was seen as a major British victory with several British ships being damaged and 35 men killed and 55 wounded whilst the German fleet lost 3 light cruisers 2 torpedo boats and a destroyer with another 3 light cruisers damaged in vary degrees, they also lost 712 men, had 149 wounded and had nearly 350 taken prisoner.

Dogger Bank Battle

On the 15th January 1915 New Zealand assumed the role of Flag of the 2BCS comprising New Zealand, Australia and Indefatigable , on the 24th January 1915 she took part in the Battle of the Dogger Bank, here the German battle-cruisers under Admiral Hipper had planned to attack the British fishing fleets who used the Dogger Bank , Hippers force comprised the battle- cruisers Seydlitz, Derfflinger and Moltke also with them was the somewhat useless armoured cruiser Blucher and supported by four light cruisers and eighteen torpedo boats. The British had long been able to read the German naval codes and were aware of the German plan and responded with the IBCS under Beatty: Lion (flag), Tiger and Princess Royal and the 2BCS New Zealand and Indomitable supported by nine light cruisers and thirty-five destroyers.In this action Lion was heavily damaged by the German battle-cruisers and had to retire with New Zealand assuming the role of flagship but the German ships received the worst of it, a 13.5" shell from Lion penetrated the aft turret (Dora) of Seydlitz ignite ready use cordite, the flash from this fire passed through a door that should have been closed and vented into the super-firing turret above ( Caesar) and ignited cordite charges there, this fire killed both turret crews, some 80 men in each and had the German cordite not been of a less volatile type than the British type and had not the magazines below been flooded Seydlitz would have suffered a catastrophic magazine explosion and been destroyed, Germany would learn from this lesson for a later class of forces at Jutland, sadly Britain did and lost ships at Jutland because of it. With the Lion quite badly hit and losing speed the German fleet attempting to break off the action was now drawing away, Beatty tried to send a signal made famous by Nelson at Trafalgar - " engage the enemy more closely" this was not in the Admiralty signals book any longer so the signal "engage the enemies rear " was sent this was unfortunately interpreted as attack the rear of the enemy formation, this was the Hapless Blucher, already damaged and slowed down by the Lion the remaining four British battle-cruisers targeted this one ship which eventually sank under a veritable hail of heavy shell, sad though her loss was for the German fleet the British signals blunder allowed them to escape bank to Germany thus was an opportunity to inflict a crushing defeat on the Germans lost. Britain had one ship, the Lion, badly damaged and lost 15 men and suffered 21 men wounded, the Germans lost an armoured cruiser, had a battle cruiser seriously damaged and lost over 1,000 men with another 250-270 wounded, New Zealand fired 147 rounds of 12" shell, whether she hit anything is not known. This battle was also to show David Beatty's impetuosity, his ships Lion Tiger and princess were all faster than the New Zealand and Indomitable, even though those two ships actually steamed faster than they did on trials were left behind by Beatty, if you are going into battle in most cases it is better to keep your ships together an attack as a combined force thus overwhelming your opponent, this impetuosity and keenness to 'get at the enemy' was to appear again in the battle of Jutland when Beatty's battle-cruisers left behind the slower but infinitely more powerful guns of the Queen Elizabeth class battleships of the 5BS.Out on manoeuvres on the 16th April 1916 the 2BCS were in fog when the New Zealand and Australia were in collision on the 22nd , the damage to Australia was quite serious and was under repair missing the battle of Jutland whilst the New Zealand's damage was repaired in time for the battle on the 31st May - 01st June 1916

Jutland Battle

At Jutland New Zealand was part of the reduced force of the 2BCS, the Australia was still under repair following the earlier collision New Zealand was flying the flag of Rear Admiral W.C. Packenham and her Captain was JFE. Green, she was followed by Indefatigable under Captain C.A. SelbyWe join New Zealand at 1534 when the 2BCS was ordered to take station astern of Beatty' ships, the 1BCS with Lion leading as flag followed by the Princess Royal , Queen Mary and Tiger, thus all six battle-cruisers formed into a single line with NZ as the fifth ship, at this time Hippers five battle-cruisers of the first Scouting group ( 1SG): Lutzow ( Flag) , followed by Defflinger, Seydlitz, Moltke and Von der Tann were 18 miles away bearing 065 from the New Zealand - which at that time was the nearest British ship to the German 1SG, the British were steaming at 25 knots on a NE'ly course whilst Hipper was at 15 knots on a NNW'ly course. Normally the 3BCS: Invincible, Inflexible and Indomitable would have been detached from the grand Fleet by Jellicoe to join Beatty's forces but instead they had been stationed to the North West to trap any retreating enemy light forces.

Contact was made between the two battle cruisers with Hipper sighting Beatty each other at 1535 for some unknown reason the British ships did not do what Hipper feared and that was to open fire using the greater ranges of their 13.5" and 12" guns over Hippers 11" guns, instead they held their fire until about 1550 when the range had fallen from 23,000 to 18,000 yards or less. New Zealand opened fire at 1551, both she and the Tiger engaged the Moltke, Tiger was replied to by the Moltke but initially the NZ was not fired on, both sides initially over-estimated the ranges and missed, NZ initially opened fire with CPC Common Percussion Capped shell, these were semi Armour Piercing (AP) on obtaining straddles she changed to High Explosive (HE) rounds. At 1602 or 1603 the Von der Tann hit the Indefatigable with two shells each out of two salvoes, a small explosion occurred aft and she swung out of line sinking by the stern, almost at the same time she was hit again near A turret she then listed over rapidly to port and commenced a massive explosion beginning forwards and moving aft sinking her in less than 4 minutes under a huge cloud of black smoke, just two survivors from her crew of 1,017 were rescue by the destroyer S16 at 1950, these were Able Seaman Elliot and Leading Signalman Falmer.

At 1611 NZ shifted her fire to the Von der Tann, Beatty's impetuosity was costing the British battle-cruisers dearly at this time, with substantially less deck armour than their German counter- parts they were being punished for rushing into the battle using their higher speed to leave part of their force behind, that part rear Admiral Hugh Evan-Thomas's 5th Battle Squadron ( 5BS) comprising four of the Queen Elizabeth class battleships: Bar ham, Valiant Warspite and Malaya would have made all the difference and may well have turned the tables on Hippers's ships, however at 1548 Evan-Thomas managed to catch up with Beatty and his timely arrival almost certainly saved Beatty's ships from a crushing defeat, however Hipper was to inflict one more heavy blow on Beatty's ships, at 1621 the Queen Mary under fire from both the Derfflinger and Seydlitz was hit amidships on Q turret, she was hit again moments later forwards but the hit on or near Q turret appears to have penetrated her armour , apart from a small clod of what looked like coal dust nothing happened for a short while then a massive sheet of yellow flame burst out of her as her mid-ships magazines ignited , the following cloud of dense black smoke completely hid most her final moments , when the smoke cleared all New Zealand could see was the stern aft of the aft funnel sticking up out of the sea with her propellers still turning , men were crawling out of X turret via the escape hatch, moments later she had gone, Nine men of 1,266 crew survived.At 1626 the New Zealand was hit by an 11" APC shell from the Von der Tann at a range of 15,000 yards, this shell hit the 7" armour plate on X gun Barbette about 15" above the upper-deck and exploded outside the barbette, a cone shaped piece of armour 11" on the outside and 30" on the inside was blown inwards with some fragments jamming the turret roller path for a short while, a hole some 3 feet square was blown in the upper-deck, splinters also holed the 1" main deck and started a small fire. Following this although visibility was poor fire continued to be exchanged between Moltke and the NZ, firing became sporadic with the continued poor visibility NZ was firing at un-identified targets from 1755. Later on the 3BCS (Invincible, Inflexible and Indomitable) were 0rderd to join up with Beatty's ships but before this occurred Invincible was engaged by both the Derfflinger and Lutzow at 1832 she was hit on Q turret blowing the turret roof off, flash reached the magazines and she too suffered a fatal magazine explosion, this blew the ship in half, she sank quickly in a pall of smoke leaving the destroyer badger to pick up just six of her crew of 1,021 men. The remaining two ships of the 3BCS, Inflexible and Indomitable joined astern of the NZ, New Zealand had at this time ceased firing as there were no targets in sight due to smoke and mist. At 19120 the grand Fleet came under torpedo attack from the German 6th and 9th destroyer Flotilla's during this New Zealand fired two salvos of 12", this destroyer attack made under smoke caused the British fleet to turn away from the German fleet allowing them to turn to the south and commence with drawing as fast as possible back to Germany via the Horns Reef and although the Jellicoe with the Grand Fleet pursued the High Seas fleet to the south this was the last major contact between the two fleets.

At about 2020 there was brief exchange of fire between the two battle cruiser fleets with New Zealand opening fire at 2021 at a range somewhere between 11 and 13,000 yards in this she scored three hits on the Seydlitz but conditions were poor and the British ships could not make the best of their advantageous position, at 2031 NZ shifted to the pre-Dreadnought battleship Schleswig-Holstein hitting her once before she too disappeared into the mist and smoke, NZ next engaged the Schlesien although not hit Schlesien was peppered with splinters indicating a very near miss.The three hits on the Seydlitz by the New Zealand did not cause a large amount of damage, the first at 2028 hit the 2.75" roof of the aft turret, hitting at a shallow angle the shell was deflected by the armour and the shell exploded about 3 feet above the turret causing light scarring and shallow cracks in the roof plate , the roof was also bowed some 5 to 6" over a substantial area, The other two hits came in from about 40 degrees aft of the beam at about 2030 , one hitting the 12" armour belt below the No 6 port 5.9" gun, although most of the blast was kept out by the armour a hole 16" by 24" was blown in the armour and splinters holed the inner hull plating flooding the coal bunker spaces over a length of 35 feet. The second hit was on the upper armoured belt at its thickest part (12"), a section of the plate was driven in with numerous cracks, water then slowly flooded the No2 coal bunker behind, it then spread downwards into the lower bunkers via an armoured man-hole which had been displaced by the hit and later started flooding the No2 boiler room through a damaged ash ejector pipe, A bulkhead also damaged in this hit allowed water to later spread into the No1 port bunker.The Hit on the Schleswig-Holstein at 2032 was on the level of the superstructure deck and went through an air-intake shaft before exploding against the armour of the 4.75" upper-deck and the side of the 6.7" gun casemate, the shell thought to be a 12" HE put the 6.7" gun out of action igniting two cartridges and killing three of the guns crew and injuring nine, large amounts of splinter damage was caused holing the superstructure and tearing up a 15 length of the main deck. The splinter damage to the Schlesien caused minor damage but some of the splinters pierced the foretop high up the foremast killing one man. This concluded New Zealand's part in the battle, although hit on X turret barbette she was very quickly repaired whilst still afloat, she had fired a total of 420 rounds of 12" comprising 172 rounds of APC, 76 CPC and 172 HE out of this she had scored just 4 known hits, she fired more heavy calibre shells than any other ship engaged in the battle but she not fire her 4" secondary batteries.

Post Jutland

Following Jutland she joined the 1BCS in January 1916 until remained there until the Renown commissioned into the 1BCS in September 1916, NZ then moved to the 2BCS were she stayed for the remainder of WW1 during which she saw no further action. Following the war she took Admiral Jellicoe on a tour of the British Empire , never a good ship she was totally eclipse by modern designs, this 1919 tour was led by New Zealand as the flagship, she was obviously very popular in her home country, following the tour NZ returned to the UK only to be paid off into Reserve awaiting disposal, the 1922 naval arms limitation treaty in Washington was the undoing of many ships , New Zealand being one and on the 19th December 1922 aged just ten years and one month she was sold for scrap, she was broken up at Rosyth. Although her demise was blamed on the Washington Treaty in reality the fact that her 12" guns were superseded by 15" weapons and her poor protective armour had already sealed her fate, she would have gone to the scrappers anyway.


Article completed 25th may 2008 - Steve Woodward


  1. IWM
  2. Kew records office
  3. Jutland - John Campbell,
  4. Jutland - Geoffrey Bennett,
  5. Naval battles of the first World War Geoffrey Bennett,
  6. Conway's 1906-21

Template:Indefatigable class class battle-cruisers

Indefatigable class battle-cruisers
Indefatigable class battle-cruiser - HMS Indefatigable Indefatigable class battle-cruiser - HMS Australia Indefatigable class battle-cruiser - HMS New Zealand
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