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


This image shows Invincible in her as built condition - courtesy of the MartimeQuest website

The name Invincible first came into use as an adaption of the name L'invincible a 74 gun French ship of the line captured during the 1747, another Five ships have followed her.

  1. was built at Deptford on the Thames in 1765, another 74 gun third rate ship of the line she fought at St Vincent in 1780, and St Kitts as well as several other major battles against both the French and Spanish fleets she was driven ashore on the North Norfolk coast in a gale with the huge loss of life.
  2. Was another 74 gun third rate ship of the line built at Woolwich in 1806-09, her battle honours include the peninsular war in which Britain, Spain and Portugal fought France, she was paid off into reserve in Plymouth and scrapped in 1861
  3. was an Audacious class central battery Ironclad battleship built by Napiers of Glasgow in 1867 to 1870, she was 280 feet long 54 feet in the beam and displaced 6,010 tons at 23 feet draft, armed with ten 9" MLR ( muzzle loading rifled) guns , four 6" MLR and six 20 pounder BLR guns she was shipped rigged but fitted with twin screws driven by 2 cylinder HRCR ( Horizontal Return Connecting Rod) steam engines with six rectangular boilers developing 4,800 IHP and giving a speed of 14 knots, they carried a crew of 450 men, others in the class were: Audacious, Iron Duke and Vanguard Invincible was converted to a barque rig in the early 1870's she was a good sea boat but as with most auxiliary sail equipped craft she was very slow under sail, it was meant as a get you home in case of break down or running out of fuel. In 1904 she was renamed Erebus and Fishguard II in 1906; in 1914 she was under tow to the scrap-yard on the 17th September when she sank.
  4. was the Invincible class battle-cruiser of this article
  5. Is the Invincible class light aircraft carrier currently serving in the royal navy

There would have been a seventh Invincible as it had been intended to so name the sister-ship of the 1861 built Broadside Ironclad HMS Warrior, however she was renamed Black Prince whilst still under construction


This freely available image of Invincible shows her in her as built condition, note the completely open position of the 4" guns mounted on top of A turret, the low level of the forward funnel which caused smoke and gas problems on the bridge, also note the booms along the hull side for supporting the anti-torpedo nets

Class information[edit]

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.


This early image of Invincible is taken pre january 1915 as her funnels are still short and of even height, following january the funnesl were raisedin height, the fore funnel becoming taller than the other two. Image courtsey of the MaritimeQuest website

Building data[edit]

Invincible was built by Sir William George Armstrong and Joseph Whitworth's shipyard at Elswick, Newcastle On Tyne. She was laid down on the 02nd April 1906 and launched just over a year later on the 13th April 1907, on the 28th December that year a collier, the Oden, collided with the Invincible as she lay on the fitting out berth causing moderate damage to framing and several bottom plates to be sprung thus delaying her completion. Construction was completed in early March 1909 and she commissioned on the 20th march 1909 she cost £1,767,515 to build.

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 Yarrow 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 Invincible 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 January 1915.


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 A and y turrets, 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 12 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

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 reduce 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]

Following her completion on the Tyne in early march 1909 en-route from the Tyne to Portsmouth under an RN navigating party she collided with a small sailing ship which had to be towed into Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. At Portsmouth she commissioned on the 20th March 1909 into the 1st cruiser squadron (1CS) itself attached to the 1st Division of the Home Fleet , after working up with the fleet she took part in the Spithead Review in June and later the Southend review in July of 1909,In 1909-1910 she received a major refit at Portsmouth and following this she was reduced to reserve at Portsmouth in March 1911, she re-commissioned with the forming of the Battle-Cruiser squadrons when she joined the 1stBCS in January 1913, on the march of that year she collided with, but fortunately did not sink the 288 ton C class submarine C34. Following this she saw service with the Mediterranean fleet before returning to the UK in December 1913, a further refit was carried out between March and the 03rd of August 1914 following this she was posted to Queens-town Southern Ireland in case of a German breakout from the North Sea, following this there was a posting to that far flung edge of the British Empire - the River Humber - were with the New Zealand ( Indefatigable class) she formed the 2nd BCS.

In early August 1914 Invincible had her anti torpedo nets removed, modern torpedoes would probably pierce the nets and there was always that should the nets be damaged in battle they could foul the steering or propellers, the conning towers were modified about this time and range-finder baffles fitted on the masts, a 3" HAAA gun was also fitted at the after end of the shelter-deck

The admiralty had long used it's submarines to patrol the German coast, In the late summer of 1914 these patrols revealed that the German light forces were conducting patrols on a routine basis using torpedo boats covered ,in case of interruption by British patrols, with light cruisers. A plan was formulated to attack these forces with a force of light cruisers and destroyers based at Harwich under the command of Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt, to support these ships in case of interference by larger German units was the 2BS - Invincible and New Zealand from the Humber under rear Admiral Moore, also added to the distant support was Beattie with the 1BS ( Lion, Queen Mary and Princess Royal) and Goodenough with the 1st LCS ( Light cruiser squadron, due to miscommunication this inclusion was not passed on to Moore in the Invincible, but eventually this was sorted out and the five battle-cruisers formed up together

When the British cruisers caught at a disadvantage started taking a pounding from the their German counterparts Tyrwhitt requested assistance, the five battle-cruisers now waded in and sank the German Ariadne and Koln, additionally the light cruiser action had claimed the Mainz and V187 with the German fleet losing more than 700 men with another 500 or so wounded plus over 330 men taken prisoner against 35 dead and forty wounded with no ships lost in the RN this was seen as a major victory and a vindication of the battle-cruiser design. The German fleet could not respond with their larger ships because it was low tide at Wilhelmshaven and they could not sail. This battle which took place on the 28th August 1914 was called the First Battle of the Helgoland Bight, there was a second battle but Invincible did not play a part

Events at the other side of the world now shaped Invincible's future movements, Vice-Admiral Maxillian Von Spee's armoured cruisers had scored a major victory over Rear admiral Sir Christopher Craddock's older and inferior fleet off Coronel in Chile on the 01st November 1914, this was Britain's first naval defeat since 1812 and the Admiralty were stung into action.Invincible, Inflexible, along with the armoured cruisers Carnarvon, Cornwall and Kent and the light cruisers Bristol and Glasgow under the leadership of Vice admiral Sir Frederick Charles Doveton-Sturdee formed up at Port Stanley in the Falkland and were coaling there on the morning of the 08th December 1914, acting as guard ship was the old 1899 built Canopus class battleship - HMS Canopus, although not in the best of conditions the old battleship had been grounded near the entrance to the port and her captain, Grant, had landed a spotting party on Sapper Hill as a lookout and to direct her fire over the hills, the grounding was merely to provide a steady gun platform.Von Spee was, unknown to the British intent on attacking the port and destroying the naval signal station there that very morning whilst Sturdee's ships were coaling. At 0756 Grants lookouts signalled "enemy in sight" and signalled by flags to Sturdees ships, Glasgow further drew attention by firing a saluting gun to ensure the message was spotted. Frantic activity now broke out to end the coaling and raise steam on all boilers for the coming battle at 0845 the Kent got underway as she had already bunkered and had steam up but it would be another hour before the rest had steam to sail.The lookouts from Canopus reported that Von Spee's ships had trained their guns on the naval signal station so Grant ordered his ship to open fire at his old and worn out 12" guns maximum range of 13,500 yards, Grant had held a practice shoot the previous evening to check for alignment and range but luck would be with them that morning, of the two gun salvo the first landed short and exploded on the sea, the second ricocheted off the sea surface and hit the Gneisenau at the base of her after funnel, Maerker her captain had been hoping to cut off the emerging Kent and sink her but this surprise hit changed his mind and the two German armoured cruisers turned away very sharply.When the British fleet had steam up what developed was an action that the British battle-cruisers had been designed for - to run down an enemy cruiser fleet and destroy it at long range with heavier gunfire, Von Spee's ships top speed was 22.5 knots and they were armed with eight 8.2" guns against Sturdee's 25 .5 knots and eight 12", the result was inevitable, as it was intended to be, Sturdee sent his cruisers after Von Spee's accompanying cruisers - Nurnberg Dresden and Leipzig whilst his big ships ran down the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau. Scharnhorst, Von Spee's flagship, was caught first by the Invincible with the Gneisenau shortly afterwards by the Inflexible, each ship engaging its own target, although the shooting at this time was not that accurate the heavy British shells slowly overcame the German armour and shortly after 1600 Scharnhorst with flames showing through the holes in hull listed suddenly to port onto her beam ends and sank at 1617 with all her crew of nearly 800, her flag still flying.

Gneisenau, her funnels shot away and her speed down to 15 knots still managed a hit on Inflexible at 1715, at 1730 she came to a stop with steam escaping from her vents but she was still firing from a single gun so she remained under fire from the British ships, at 1740 she hauled down her foremast battle-ensign and although the battle-flag remained at the main mast truck the British ships ceased fire at 1750 for their adversary was obviously sinking , the British ships picked up just 190 survivors.Of the German Cruisers Nurnburg was sunk by the Kent with just 5 men surviving, the Glasgow and Cornwall sank the Leipzig with only 18 of her crew surviving.Dresden escape and Sturdee in the Invincible sent her this signal: The CinC is very gratified that your life has been spared. The Gneisenau fought in a most plucky manner to the end. We so much admire the good gunnery of both ships. We sympathise with you in the loss of your Admiral and so many of the officers and men, unfortunately our two countries are at war; the men of both navies, who can count friends in the other, have to carry out their duties which your Admiral, and men worthily maintained to the end.The Dresden's C/O Commander Pochammer replied; I thank your excellency very much for your kind words, we regret ,as you, the course of the fight, As we have learned to know during peacetime the English navy and her officers, we are all most thankful for our good reception.The two battles coronel and the Falklands had cost 1,654 British and 1,871 German seamen.

Following the Falkland islands battle Invincible dry-docked at Gibraltar on the 01st January 1915 for three months before joining and forming the 3rd BCS with her two sisters Indomitable and Inflexible at Rosyth were after a further short refit in May they were all stationed at Scapa Flow for working up exercises, Invincible now flew the flag of Rear admiral the Honourable Horace Lambert Alexander. Hood.On the 31st May whilst temporarily attached to the Grand fleet at Scapa Flow for gunnery, the 3rd. BCS took part in the battle of Jutland in order the ships were Invincible flag, Rear Admiral the Hon. H.A. Hood - Captain A.L. Cay, Gunnery Officer Commander H. Dannreither , followed by Inflexible - Captain EHF Heaton-Ellis and Indomitable - Captain F.W. Kennedy, Jellicoe kept the 3rd BCS away from Beattie's battle-cruiser force as it was felt they could use their speed to intercept any German light forces attempting to escape the coming battle by fleeing to the Skagerrak. The 3rd BCS first came to action at about 1755 on the 31st opening fire at 10,000 yards on the German 2nd scouting group (2SG) led by Konteradmiral F. Boedicker in the Frankfurt, followed by the Pillau, Elbing and Wiesbaden - all light cruisers due to smoke and mist firing ceased at 1800, although firing was only for a few brief minutes Invincible hit and disabled the Wiesbaden. Next torpedoes were fired at the 3rd BCS by the German destroyers with the 2SG, in turning to avoid this Invincible's steering jammed and she had to stop for a short period. No hits were scored and the 3BCS reformed in line ahead after the Invincible's tantrum. Beattie had now altered his course for his battle-cruisers to join Hood's ships. At 1820 the 3BCS contacted Vizeadmiral Franz von Hipper, in the Lutzow, followed by Derfflinger, Seydlitz. Moltke and Von der Tann, initially the 3BCS had the upper hand with the better visibility and the 12" shells of the ships were concentrated on the Lutzow, serious damage was done to her at this time., Invincible's firing was considered very good at this time with the range at only 8,500 to 10,000 yards, all the German ships could see was the muzzle flashes of the British guns. At 1830 Lutzow got a clear view of Invincible and fired three salvo's opening at 10,900 yards , the first salvo was over by 400 yards, the second straddled and the third hit, also firing at the Invincible was the Derfflinger which had also fired three salvo's at the closer range of 9,800 yards, she was also using her 5.9" secondary battery against the British ship, it cannot be certain who fired the fatal shell but at 1832 there was one or perhaps two shell hits on Q turret, the amidships on the starboard side. One certainly penetrated the turret and burst inside blowing the turret roof into the air, whether flash from the turret explosion or another shell penetrated the magazine will never be known but a massive explosion amidships blew the Invincible in half, the centre of the ship sank leaving the bow and stern sticking up out of the water to sink several hours later, just six of her crew were picked up by the destroyer Badger - 1,026 of men remain with her.


This image taken on the 31st may 1916 shows Invincible at the very moment Q turret started to explode.image is courtsesy of the MartimeQuest website

Today the Invincible is a protected war grave, she was found by the navy in 1919, she lies in two pieces, her stern is upright but her bow is upside down, at some time in the past thieves had stolen her propellers.


This image shows Invincible shortly after the smoke from the devasting magazine explosion that had split her in two, in water depth of about 180 feet only thebow and stern remain aove water with the destroyed midships section sitting on the sea-bed. It was reported that following the explosion she sank in 10 to 15 seconds and an hour later the cruiser Galatea had reported the stern had sunk so this picture will have been taken circa 1845 - 1900Image courtesy of MaritimeQuest website


Bibliography: IWM,

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


This article completd by Steve Woodward on the 18th 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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