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

There have been just two ships named Indomitable, the first is the Invincible class battle-cruiser of this article, the second was a member of the four ship Illustrious class of world war two fleet carriers, she was built by Vickers Armstrong at their Barrow-in-Furness yard 1937 to 1941 , she was 780 feet long and displaced over 35,000 tons, armed with 45 aircraft and eight twin 4,5" and 58 lighter weapons she stayed in service until 1955.There was to be a third Indomitable, she would have been the third member of the Invincible class of through-deck cruisers but the name was changed to Ark Royal


This image is undated but an examination reveals that most of the 4" guns are missing so I feel this is an early image of Indomitable ,possible taken in mid 1908 as a new ship, taken arround the time of her trip to Montreal carrying the Prince of Wales - she was only fully completed after this trip to CanadaImage courtesy of the MartimeQuest website

Class information[edit]


This image of Imdomitables stern was taken pre 1910 as her funnels are shorter and all of the same height, note the smoke interference - particularly to the main mast fighting top. Image courtesy of the MaritimeQuest website

No other design or warship seems to have caused as much controversy as that of the Battle Cruiser, the category started with the Invincible class and ended with the Admiral class, of which just one was built - the tragic Hood.The development of the battle-cruiser owed much too many men but none more than Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher - known better as Jackie Fisher.Throughout its history battleships in the RN always had their cruiser counterparts, lighter but faster ships to work ahead of the fleet, In 1902 Fisher worked with the then Chief Naval constructor for the RN W.H. Gard, a friend originally based at the Malta Dockyard, to develop a counterpart to what would be a new type of battleship - Dreadnought, herself not off the drawing board. One of the factors was the battle of Tsushima between the Russian and Japanese fleets in which Admiral Togo's fleet had triumphed over a seemingly larger and superior force, here the large armoured Japanese cruisers had fared quite well against the Russian battleships, however the fact that the Russian fleet was in poor condition and very inefficient was completely overlooked , this was to have disastrous consequences later in history when British battle cruisers stood against their better armoured opponents.The ship they were designing was not called a battle cruiser, but an armoured cruiser, in some ways the design harked back to the earlier armoured cruisers and in others copied features to be used on the Dreadnought such as the 12" gun instead of the originally planned 9.2" gun and of course steam turbine propulsion for extra speed , the main difference was the far longer hull to accommodate the huge machinery outfit needed for the then unheard of speed of 25 knots, the light armouring compared with earlier armoured cruisers and thus was nothing new, and as such they were a successful design. Used as intended who was to scout ahead of the fleet they could have destroyed enemy scouting cruisers with ease thus removing the eyes of the enemy fleet. In 1910, 2 years after their completion a new name for these ships was coined, the Battle-Cruiser, so named this gave them extra credibility that they did not possess, it was not long before these ships, armed but not armoured the same as battleships, were pressed into the line of battle with disastrous consequences.Although called the Invincible class, Invincible was the third of the three ships in the class to be laid down after the Inflexible and then the Indomitable, first to complete was the Indomitable followed by the Inflexible and finally the Invincible.On initial inspection the Invincible class ships appeared similar to the following Indefatigable class ships built a little over two years later however P and Q turret on the Invincible's were placed between the second and third funnel and on the Indefatigable's P turret was on the centre line between the first and second funnel and Q the second and third.

05_hms_indomitable.jpg Imdomitables bow, the lightness of construction of these ships is evident in this picture which given that the forefunnel is taller was taken at the end of her 1910 refit Image courtesy of the MaritimeQuest website

Building data[edit]

Indomitable was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding & Engineering Company at their Govan Yard on the Upper-Clyde, Glasgow. She was laid down on the 01st March 1906, launched a little over a year later on the 16th March 1907 and completed in early June 1908 commissioning later that month.

Basic Details[edit]

L 567'00" B 78'06" draft 29'06" max, Disp. 17,373 tons standard and 20,078 tons full load


Quadruple propellers were driven by Parsons direct drive steam turbines in a virtually identical layout to that of the battleship Dreadnought , 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 41,000 shp giving a speed of 25.5 knots. Steam was supplied from a total of 31 Babcock and Wicox 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 3,085 tonnes of coal and a 725 tons of oil gave them a range of 3,090 miles at 10 knots. The class was fitted with twin rudders which made them quite manoeuvrable with a small tactical diameter.

In dating photographs of the ship, Indomitable came out with short funnels to give her a low profile but as these were causing smoke interference to the bridge then were lengthened in 1910.


Although attributed to the year 1908 this photo shows Indomitable with a taller fore funnel, this was only done in 1910 so I think this is a picture taken at the end of her 1910 refit Image courtesy of MartimeQuest website


Main battery 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 arranged in echelon ( staggered) so that P to port could fire in a limited arc across the deck as could Q to starboard, although this gave a broadside of eight guns it was not a good arrangement as blast damage from the guns firing across the deck could be incurred.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.Originally the turrets were electrically driven, unusually A and Y were built by Vickers and a slightly different design to P and Q which were built by Armstrong's. The electric drive proved un-successful due their being too slow and not smooths enough, In March 1914 all the turrets were changed over to hydraulic power.

Secondary battery Sixteen single 4" C45 Mk3 guns were fitted to this class of ship, two each were placed on top of the main gunturrets, not a good location as they could not be used when the main armament was in use due to blast effects from the main guns, the remaining eight were mounted in open mounts around the deck houses, these were designated quick firing (QF) guns in which the shell and propellant cartridge contained in a brass case where delivered to the gun as a single unit thus speeding up the loading and thus the firing rate of the gun. In 1911 the 4" guns on the turret roofs were fitted with canvas screens to protect them from the weather.The class also carried 7 Maxim machine guns


This image of indomitable shows the fine lines of thses ships, note also the booms for the anti-torpedo nets, these were removed in 1914, shealso has her short funnels so this is pre 1910.Image courtesy of MaritimeQuest website

Torpedo armament[edit]

The invincible class were fitted with five under water mounted 18" torpedo tubes, one was placed aft firing right astern, the others were paired on either beam located forwards of A turret barbette and the other pair aft of Y turret barbette, to fire these a very strong slide mechanism had to extended from the ships side first to protect the torpedo from the water-flow as it let the hull.

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, 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 the forward one being 7" thick and the aft one 6". The decks over the magazines and machinery spaces were just 2.5" thick and reduced to less than 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 2" inside of other armour. The main turret faces were 10" thick with 6" side and back plates and the control tower was just 2.75" thick.

Service History[edit]

Indomitable commissioned in June 1908 but did not sail for another month which indicates she may not have been fully completed, her first long voyage was an Atlantic Crossing for a Royal Visit to Montreal in which she carried the Prince of Wales, on her return to the UK more work was carried out on her after which she joined the Nore Division of the home fleet in October 1908. In March 1909 she joined the 1st Cruiser Squadron (1CS) becoming the flagship that July. In 1910 she was re-classified from an Armoured cruiser - which she truly was to a battle-cruiser and also received a refit during which the height of the funnels was raised, in particular the fore funnel which was now taller than the others in the hope of keeping the bridge clear of funnel gasses, following this refit she resumed her role as Flag of the 1CS.She received another more comprehensive refit from November 1911 to January 1912, in 1913 the ICS became the 1st battle-cruiser Squadron IBCS in January 1913 with Indomitable retaining the flag, Indomitable along with Invincible transferred to the Mediterranean later in 1913 to form the 2BCS based on Malta. In July 1914 Indomitable was in dry-dock when the crisis in Sarajevo erupted, the docking was hastily cancelled and she returned to service.

At the beginning of August 1914 the two ships of the 2BCS along with others of the Mediterranean fleet began the hunt for the German navy's Mittelmeerdivision , this comprised the battle-cruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau under the command of Rear Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, at the out-break of war between France the two German ships were off North Africa were they shelled the Algerian ports of Bone and Phillipville, the British fleet did not anticipate that Souchon intended to proceed to Turkey thinking that he was trying to get back to Germany, although a British light cruiser, the Glasgow, bravely engaged both ships in a vain attempt to delay them they escaped the clutches of the RN and arrived in Turkey on the 10th August here the two ships were renamed as Turkish ships, Goeben being remained Yavuz Sultan Selim and Breslau the Millili, although now 'Turkish' ships they still had German naval crews.Following this the Indomitable formed part of the blockade of the Dardanelles and on the 03rd November 1914 bombarded the outer forts. In December she returned to the UK joining the Grand Fleet at Rosyth, as part of the 1BCS, where she underwent a short refit.

Following the refit she joined the 2BCS with the Grand fleet in early January 1915; on the 25th January she took part in the battle of the Dogger Bank. On the 23rd January 1915 Rear-Admiral Franz Hipper sailed from the River Jade flying his flag in the battle-cruiser Seydlitz of the 1st Scouting group followed by two other BC's Moltke and Derfflinger also with them was the armoured cruiser, Blucher, with them were the 2SG comprising the light cruisers Kolberg, Rostock and Stralsund and 18 torpedo-boat destroyers. Hopper's intent was to attack the British fishing fleets working the Dogger Bank in the middle of the North Sea, however Britain had been able to read the German naval codes for some time and sailed their own fleet to counter attack.The British fleet under Vice Admiral David Beattie comprised the IBCS - Lion, Tiger and Princess Royal, the 2BCS - New Zealand (Admiral Moore) and Indomitable, ILCS Southampton under Commodore Goodenough with - Birmingham Lowestoft and Nottingham and Commodore Tyrwhitt in the Cruiser Arethusa with thirty-five destroyers. Although a British victory there were signaling failures in the British fleet and Beattie's flagship Lion was disabled by shells from the Defflinger and was subsequently towed home by the Indomitable, as Lion fell behind a signal to the remaining British battle-cruisers, who had the upper-hand and were punishing the opposing ships heavily, to engage the enemy rear as they were retreating was read as engage the rear enemy ship, the fire of all four British battle-cruisers now fell on the hapless and largely useless German armoured cruiser Blucher, she was battered and sunk but her sacrifice allowed the remaining German fleet to escape back to Germany. In this battle Indomitable fired 134 rounds; nearly a fifth of her outfit of 800 12" shells, later she also opened fired on a German Zeppelin airship scouting for their fleet with two rounds of 12" but did not hit the airship.In early February 1915 Indomitable suffered a fairly serious electrical fire and was out of commission until March for repairs, following these repairs she joined the 3BCS with her two sister-ships. On the 11th march 1915 whilst on patrol in the North Sea she unsuccessfully attacked a German U-boat.On the 31st may she was at sea with the 3BCS, and temporarily attached too , the Grand Fleet taking part in training, when she took part in the battle of Jutland on the 31st may and 01st June 1916. The 3BCS led by Invincible flying the flag of Rear Admiral the Hon. H.A. Hood -Captain A.L. Cay, Inflexible - Captain EHF Heaton-Ellis and last Indomitable - Captain F.W. Kennedy.


Indomitable steaming at high speed taken from another battlecruiser, it is undated but she has a taller fore-funnel so it is post 1910, the volume of smoke is typical of a coal burner at speed, note how close the smoke and gasses are to the foremast, I would image life in the spotting top - the structure up the mast - would be fairly unpleasant

Indomitable first came to action at 1755 on the 31st May when the 3BCS opened fire on the German 2nd scouting group (2SG) of light cruisers led by Konteradmiral F. Boedicker in the Frankfurt - Kapitän zur See Thilo von Trotha, Pillau - Fregattenkapitän Konrad Mommsen, Elbing - Fregattenkapitän Madlung, and Wiesbaden -, Fregattenkapitän Reiß In an action for which they were designed - find and sink the opposing enemies scout cruisers firing was by the fierce by the British battle-cruisers, and although the German light cruisers were soon lost in mist and gun smoke Invincible hit and disabled the Weibaden, the Pillau was also hit heavily, a shell penetrated the forward deck house demolishing it, although most of the explosion went outwards in the flimsy (,to a 12" CPC shell, (CPC = Common Percussion Cap or semi armour piercing ) ship, however some of the blast went down into the second boiler putting temporarily out of action all six coal fired boilers, she just managed to escape into the mist on her oil-fired boilers, with the cruisers lost in the mist firing ceased in just a few minutes at 1801, torpedoes were fired at Hoods ships but all were avoided.At 1820 the 3BCS sighted the head of the German 1SG - Vizeadmiral Franz von Hipper, in the Lutzow - Korvettenkapitän Erich Raeder, Derflinger - Kapitän zur See Hartog, Seydlitz - Kapitän zur See von Egidy, Moltke - Kapitän zur See Harpf, and the Von der Tann - Kapitän zur See Zenker. Also joining in were some of Beatties 1BCS and 2BCS, this concentrated fire initially caused great damage to the leading German ships, Lutzow in particular was heavily hit at this time, with the range at 8,500 to 11,000 yards all the German battle cruisers were in good view. However at 1832 Invincible was heavily hit by either the Lutzow or Derfflinger and she exploded in a huge explosion which blew her in half sinking with the loss of all but six of her 1032 men. Inflexible and Indomitable then had to alter course rapidly to avoid the wreckage of the Invincible later forming in line astern with New Zealand the last of Beattie's ships.During the above action Indomitable was deduced to have hit Derfflinger three times with 12" shells, one at 1926 and one at 1830, the first hit was below the No1 port 5.9" gun on the water-line bulging in the armour over a length of 40 feet causing leakage rather than flooding, this may have been a CPC shell. The next two were APC the first hitting the 12" side armour between the two after barbettes, flooding over a length of 25 feet occurred. The second shell also hit the side armour but just aft of the after barbette, apart from slight setting in of the armour and buckling of the main deck damage was slight, however the torpedo nets were damage and forced the stopping of the port wing propeller until the nets were cleared.The Indomitable also hit the Seydlitz at 1834 with a 12" APC shell on the 12" belt armour under the super-firing aft gun barbette, the armour was set in and some flooding took place, although not serious the hit shook the Seydlitz so heavily the one of the steering couplings sheared and she had to be steered by hand for a time. Just after 1900 there was an attack with torpedoes by the German 6th and 9th destroyer flotillas, Indomitable was one of the ships replying to the attack with her 12" guns., not hits were thought to have occurred.At 2020 there was brief skirmish between the battle-cruisers of the German 1SG and Beattie's ships, visibility and daylight was failing and Indomitable fired briefly at an unknown target with no hits .At 2039 or thereabouts Indomitable opened fire again, this visibility was so poor now that it could not be decided whether the target was one of the Helgoland class battleships or an earlier 3 funnel pre-Dreadnought, it was actually the Pommern and she was hit once with a 12" APC, the damage caused is unknown as the Pommern was later sunk by torpedo. The light having failed and with the German ships fleeing back to port and safety this was effectively the end of the action and the battle, Indomitable had fired a total of 175 rounds of 12" shell of which 99 were APC (Armour Piercing capped) 10 CPC (Common Percussion Capped or semi Armour piercing) and 66 HE (High Explosive) she also fired 4 rounds of 4".In June 1916 Indomitable joined the 2BCS and paid off for a refit in August of that year during which a further 1" of armour plate was added over the magazines.In late 1917 early 1918 flying off platforms were added to P and Q turrets admidships, she remained in the 2BCS for the remainder of her service, following WW1 she was paid off into reserve in February 1919 and sold for scrap at the beginning of December 1921, it is often stated that she went under the 1922 Washington treaty, she actually went before this came into effect but it's coming may have hastened her end.



  1. IWM,
  2. Kew Records office
  3. Jutland - John Campbell,
  4. Jutland - Geoffrey Bennett,
  5. Conway's 1906-21
  6. Naval battles of WW1 - Geoffrey Bennett

This article was completed by Steve woodward on the 19th april 2008

Invincible class Battle-cruisers
Invincible class Battlecruiser - HMS Invincible Invincible Class Battlescruiser - HMS Inflexible Invincible Class Battlecruiser - HMS Indomitable
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