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

I have found four ships mentioned to carry the name Inflexible but I feel the list is inconclusive

1/.The name Inflexible's first usage appears uncertain but the earliest I have found the name mentioned was at the Battle of Lake Champlain on the 11th October 1776, this battle was between 15 American ships and a much larger British fleet. In this battle close to the Isle de Valcour, the little American fleet was totally Annihilated. The British fleet was led by their Flagship, Inflexible, she was a three masted ship some 80 feet long and bearing eighteen 12 pounder guns, to get to Lake Champlain Inflexible had been constructed in sections and then re-assembled on the lake shores, her commander was Lt. John Schank. Lake Champlain is land-locked and located between Vermont and new York states.

2/. Was a 64 gun third rate fully rigged ship of the line built at Harwich in 1777- 1782 her length appears variable as to were you read about her but was about 180-190 feet overall and she displaced approximately 1,400 tons, she was scrapped in 1820.

3/. Was a single ship of her class - a masted turret ship built by Portsmouth Naval Dockyard, being laid down on the 24th February 1874 she was launched on the 27th April 1876 and commissioned in October 1881, she was scrapped in 1903, L 344 B 75' Draft 25'06" Disp 11,880 tons fully laden, twin screws driven by 3 cylinder Elden compound expansion steam engines with twelve cylindrical boilers, 8,470 ihp gave a speed of 14.75 knots. She was armed with four 16" muzzle loaders in two twin turrets mounted in the centre of the ship, six 20 pounder breech loaders, and two 14"submerged torpedo tubes.She was built to answer the new Italian battleship Dulio and had a very heavy box protection citadel with the sides being up to 24" thick and the bulkheads up to 22" and 17" on the turrets, the iron and steel armour was backed up by oak linings. She originally carried over 18,000 square feet of sail on a brig rig but this was cut down to military masts in 1885, her main claim to fame was her first commander - a Captain John Arbuthnot Fisher who was destined to become rather more well known with the design of the next and last HMS Inflexible.

4/. Was an Invincible class battle-cruiser and the subject of this article


This image of Inflexible is undated but noting that her funnels are of an even and low height gives this as before 1911, the year when her funnels were alteredImage courtsey of the MiritimeQuest website

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.

Building data[edit]

Inflexible was built by John Brown and Company's Clydebank Shipyard, she was laid down on the 05th February 1906, launched on the 26th June 1907 and completed in early October 1908.

Basic Details[edit]

L 567'00" B 78'06" draft 29'06" max, Disp. 17,300 tons standard and 20,700 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 large tube 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 Inflexible 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 1911.


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.In 1918 flying off platforms were added to the tops of P and Q turrets operating either Sopwith pups or Sopwith one and a half strutters.

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]

She commissioned into the Nore Division of the Home Fleet on the 20th October 1908 replacing the ageing Majestic class battleship HMS Jupiter which was then converted into a radio controlled target ship. During her gunnery trials Inflexible caused quite serious blast damage to herself - possibly from the cross deck firing of P and Q turrets, she was then under repairs from October 1908 to January 1909. In March 1909 she joined the first Cruiser squadron ( ICS) shortly afterwards she suffered a coal bunker explosion but was not appreciably damaged. In September 1909 she flew the flag of Admiral Sir Edward Hobart Seymour for a visit to New York, she returned to refit in October and December.In May 1911 she damaged her bows when she was in collision with the Bellerophon class battleship HMS Bellerophon, during the repairs which lasted until November the height of her fore funnel was raised, funnel gasses had caused problems on her bridge and it was hoped this would clear the problem. On re-commissioning she assumed the role of Flagship of the 1CS were she stayed until may 1912 when she hoisted the flag of Admiral Archibald Berkeley Milne CinC of the Mediterranean fleet joining her sister-ship Indomitable in forming the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron ( 2BCS)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 fruitless hunt she returned to the UK on the 18th August were she replaced the New Zealand in the 2BCS at Rosyth, On the 05th November in company with the Invincible she sailed for Devonport for a quick refit in preparation for a long voyage to the Falkland Islands .Events at the other side of the world now shaped the Inflexible and 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 and 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 escaped 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 excellencey 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 , Inflexible had fired 661 rounds of 12" shell during the battle, a sure indicator that whilst naval gunnery range had increased dramatically accuracy had not, it would take the advent of director fire and better and larger rangefinders to improve it.


Although frequently attributed to the Invincible it is in fact the Inflexible, the date is the 08th December 1914 and the ship in the photograph is stopped rescuing the survivors of the SMS Gneisenau, a German armoured cruiser sunk during the battle of the falkland isnalnds by the Inflexible andlater the Invincible. Invincibles fore funnel was not raised in height relative to the other two funnels until January 1915 - after the battle, so this is HMS Inflexible taken from the Invincible

Following the Falkland islands battle Inflexible sailed for the Mediterranean were she replaced the battle-cruiser Indefatigable as flagship CinC Mediterranean here she bombarded the outer forts of the Dardanelles on the 19th February and again on the 15th march 1915, during the first attack her gunfire helped disable to shore mounted 14" guns, in return she suffered superficial damage by shore guns and had nine of her crew killed. However on the on the 19th march 1915 she hit a mine and was seriously damaged, and incurred heavy flooding forwards - only narrowly avoiding sinking, she was towed to Malta for initial repairs then fully repaired at Gibraltar.Inflexible arrived back in the UK in mid June 1915 were she joined her sisters Indomitable and Invincible in forming the 3BCS.

On the 31st May 1916 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. The Pillau was also badly hit by a shell in the forward deck house which wrecked the bridge, the blast from this explosion also disabled all six coal fired boilers and the Pillau had a lucky escape by managed to retreat into the mist using only her four oil-fired boilers 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. The 3BCS'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 the German ships had got the range on Invincible and she was hit in short order by several shells , at 1832 she was hit by a shell or shells on Q turret amidships, the roof of the turret was blown off by the explosion and the flash then penetrated her Q magazine, the resulting massive explosion blew the ship in half and the centre section sank in just 10 of 15 seconds leaving the bow and stern sticking up in 180 feet of water, Inflexible and Indomitable had to turn sharply to port to avoid the sinking Invincible, the destroyer, Badger, picked up just six of her crew of 1032 men.During the turn to port Inflexible lost sight of the enemy and ceased fire, once clear of the wreckage the two remaining 3BCS ships assumed their previous course of 116 and then shaped course to join astern of Beatties 1BCS and 2BCS ships, eventually forming astern of the New Zealand. Although Inflexible was not damage during this part of the action a previous crack a previous crack in the inner tube of the right gun of Q turret extended past 30 feet in length due to the firing of the gun, although defective it remained capable of being fired.

During the above part of the action Lutzow was hit by eight 12" shells from either the Invincible or the Inflexible, she was also hit by 2 further shells from the Lion, As a result of this and other damage Lutzow was very severely damaged and retired from the battle, on the way back to Germany it was apparent she was going to sink and her end was speeded up by scuttling, thus which ship did what damage to her is not available.Around 1920 the destroyers of the German 6th and 9th flotillas attacked the British fleet with torpedoes, Inflexible was less involved with this but did fire two salvoes of 12" at the destroyers, she reported a torpedo passing 150 yards astern at 1925., this attack was used by the German fleet to make a tactical withdrawal and it was now fleeing the British fleet heading south back to the Horn Reefs passage and safety.There was a brief flurry of firing at 2020 or thereabouts between the two battle-cruiser fleets but smoke and mist prevented any hits and the Inflexible is thought to either not fired or fired very little at this time, with the German fleet now in retreat to the south and night having fallen no further contact of note was made during the night and to all intents and purposes the battle was over, Inflexible had fired a total of 88 rounds of 12", 10 were Armour Piercing Capped shell ( APC), 59 Common Percussion capped ( CPC or semi AP) and 19 High Explosive ( HE) shell, she did not use her 4" secondary batteries at all, she received no damage or casualties during the battle.

Following Jutland Inflexible remained in the 3BCS, On the 01st February 1918 she collided with the steam driven submarine K22 in the Firth of Forth off the Isle of May , this occurred during a night exercise, another steam driven sub the K14 had suffered s steering failure causing her to collided with the K22, Inflexible then collided heavily with the starboard side of the K22, K22 was badly damaged and very lucky to survive, that night was infamous for the useless K class, K4 and K17 were sunk, but some good came of that night for the K class were withdrawn before the made widows out of anyone else.In November 1918 Inflexible was one of the huge fleet receiving the German fleets surrender, In January 1919 she joined the Nore reserve and was placed on the disposal list at the end of march 1920, she was offered for sale to Chile along with her sister Indomitable, but the Chileans were wise in turning the sister-ships down, in 1921 she was sold for scrapping being towed to Germany in early 1922, her scrapping was completed in 1923.


Bibliography: IWM,

  1. Kew Records office
  2. Jutland - John Campbell,
  3. Jutland - Geoffrey Bennett,
  4. Conway's 1906-21
  5. Conway's 1860-1905
  6. Naval battles of WW1 - Geoffrey Bennett

This article was completed by Steve Woodward on the 20th 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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