Ships Nostalgia banner

1 - 1 of 1 Posts

3,935 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited by Moderator)
  • 1 The name Benbow
  • 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 Benbow[edit]


'Benbow leads sisterships Marlborough and Iron Duke in this wel known picture' the low mounting of the secondary 6 inch battery in their casemates can be clearly seen in this undated picture.

There have been three ships in the Royal Navy to have born the name Benbow, Admiral John Benbow after whom they were named served in the Royal Navy from 1678 until 1702 when he died of his wounds sustained during an attack on four French ships by the seven of his squadron.This attack was a dark day as of the seven british ships five were mutinous leaving just two, the Ruby and Bebow's Breda, to carryout the attack, when Benbow's Right leg was removed by chain shot he had his bed brought up to the quarterdeck and fought the battle from there.

1. Was a 74 gun third rate ship of the line built by Brent's at Rotherhithe in 1813, her sea service came to an end in 1848 and was used as an accommodation hulk until 1859 she then became a coal hulk and was scrapped in 1895.

2. Was the 1895 admiral class battleship built by Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding Company Limited, of 10,600 tons displacement and armed with two 16.5" BL guns she was scrapped in 1909.

3. Was the Iron Duke class battleship of this article.

Class information[edit]

The Iron Duke class were a modified King George V class battleship , they were followed by the Queen Elizabeth class which was a radically different design and a far better class making the Iron dukes the final development of the Dreadnought battleship.A major difference was that at last the very weak 4" secondary battery gun used in all previous classes was replaced with a 6" weapon, far more capable of repelling the larger destroyers and torpedo boats then being built, these guns were no longer fitted in the deck houses, although still in casemates ten were situated five either side of the foc'sle deck and two right aft in the hull below the quarter deck.Although only 2" larger in calibre the additional weight of these 12 guns resulting in the ships being 25 feet longer, 1 foot wider and 10 inches deeper and 2,000 tons heavier.Fire direction was now an established need and to carry the weight of the direction gear the class had heavy tripod masts fitted from new, and compared to the preceding KGV class the funnels were taller and thinner which made them very easy to distinguish from the KGV class.Although the Iron Duke was initially fitted with Anti Torpedo nets these were removed during her sea trials, these nets were not fitted to the Benbow or her sisters.

Building data[edit]

Ordered under the 1911 naval estimates Benbow was built by William Bearmore's at their Dalmuir yard on the Clyde, she was laid down on the 30th. May 1912 and launched on the 12th. November 1913.On completion she commissioned into the 4th Division of the Fourth battle squdron ( 4BS) of the Grand fleet as the flagship of Admiral Douglas Gamble. Her approximate building costs were just over two million pounds.

Basic Details[edit]

L 622'09" B 90'00" Draft 29'06" standard to 32'09" full load. Disp 25,000 tons standard and 29,560 tons full load.


The machinery for the ship was built by Beardmores using virtually the same layout as that of the preceeding King george V and earlier classes of Dreadnought was used with quadruple propellers being driven by Parsons direct drive steam turbines. The machinery spaces were split into three with the inboard shafts leading to the centre engine room and the outer shafts the port and starboard wing engine rooms. The two inboard shafts were driven by the high pressure ahead and astern turbines with the ahead turbines having an extra stage for cruising, this was separated from the main turbine by a bypass valve. The outer shafts were driven by the ahead and astern low pressure turbines, for cruising the out board turbines would be shut down , the ship relying on the inboard shafts alone. The eighteen Babcock and Wilcox boilers of greater power remained in three groups of six , although coal fired oil spraying equipment was fitted for quickly raising steam. The normal power for the iron Duke was 29,000 SHP giving 21.25 knots on her trials in late 1912 she attained 32,530 SHP which gave 21.6 knots over 30 hours.

Bunker capacity was up to 3,250 tons of coal and 1,050 tons of oil, this gave a range of 7,780 miles at 10 knots.

Finding details of the machinery layout of these old ships is quite daunting, I obtained details of the layout from studying a minute plan with a magnifying glass, the details are as accurate as I can get them for the moment SW 21 oct 2007


Main battery

Ten 13.5" C45 Mk5 guns were carried in five twin turrets all on the centre line with B and X superfiring over A and Y turrets , Q turret sited amidships was the only one with restricted firing arcs although B and X were still restricted from firing directly over A & Y due to the very real possibility of muzzle blast entering the lower turrets sighting hoods which were still placed in the forward ends of the turret roofs, because of this B & Y guns were restricted from firing over from right ahead / astern to 30 degrees either side.

The main battery of the Iron Duke class was identical to that of the preceeding KGV class and was very similar to that of the preceeding Orion class battleships. Britain had learnt from the rather poor performance of the high velocity 12" C50 gun fitted to the St Vincent, Neptune and Colossus classes that higher velocity was not the answer to greater range and hitting power, the answer lay in a heavier shell. The 13.5" gun which had reappeared in the Royal navy after a gap of many years, and was first fitted in the Orion class, was an excellent weapon with very good range, accuracy and hitting power, it also had a good safety margin allowing it to fire a heavier shell, the increase from the 1260lb early shells fired by the Orions to the 1410 lbs heavy shell did not increase the range even though the propellant charge was now four quarter charges of almost 106 lbs of MD450 (rod based) cordite, the gun still had a maximum range of just under 24,000 yards. The barrel construction was of a liner in an inner tube (A) which was wire wound with many miles of flat wire, over this was shrunk a steel jacket, there were problems with wire winding, the barrel could droop and it is often quoted that the german solid guns were better made. Solid guns took a lot longer and much more machining to make whereas the wire wound gun was much quicker in manufacture. With a navy with such a large number of weapons speed of manufacture was of the essence and the Royal Navy never had supply problems for replacement barrells that the German navy had. There were five main magaines and an associated shell room, each serving it's own gun, there were 112 rounds for each gun so each magaine would hold 896 106lb quarter charges of cordite a total of 474,880 lbs of explosive and a total of 1,120 shells weighed 1,568,000 lbs or 700 tons. The excellent barrel life of 400 rounds for the lighter shell was reduced to 220 rounds, which was still good.


Undated picture of Benbow courtesy of MaritimeQuest

Secondary battery

The Iron Dukes were the first of the Dreadnought classes to drop the under-weight 4" secondary gun and instead fitted twelve 6" C45 Mk7 guns all in case mates, Initially ten guns were mounted in casemates under the focsle deck, five either side and a further two guns in the stern of the vessel in case mates below the quarter deck - these two guns proved so wet and useless they were removed and the case mates plated over. They were re-installed at the aft end of the focsle deck above the original foward guns in an unarmoured placement.Case mate guns tended to be wet so the Iron Dukes mouted theirs as far aft as possible even still this caused problems, the clam shell type doors which were intended to keep out the weather leaked badly and rubber seals were designed which improved matters but by no means cured the problem.

To compare the two weapons the 4" fired a shell of 31lbs whilst at just 2" bigger in bore the the 6" fired a 100 to 112lb shell, the 6" had a much bigger stopping power when used against an attacking torpedo boat or destroyer. The rate of fire was given at 12 rounds per minute (RPM) but in reality this would be closer to 6 or 8 RPM , it should be noted that this was not a new weapon, designed and manufactured arround 1900 by Vickers and was of partially wire wound construction, a very large number of these wepaons was produced -about 900 - and some remained in service until britain scrapped it's remaining 6" coastal guns in the mid 1950's. The range of these weapons was just under 18,000 yards using a charge of 28 to 29 lbs of SC140 cordite contained in a silk bag. SC140 cordite is a solvent free cordite contained rod shaped elements of the propellant 140 being the diameter of the rods in thousands of an inch.

The class were also fitted with four 3 pounder signalling guns and a first for a British battleship, two 3" or 12 pounder anti aircraft guns fitted in 1914 to the aft deck house.

Torpedo armament[edit]

The stern torpedo tube was dropped on this class and all subsequent battleships, they were however fitted with four 21" submerged beam mounted ( two a side) submerged torpedo tubes. For Whitehead type RGF Mk2 torpedoes, these were about long with a 515lb TNT warhead and having a range of 4,500 yards at 45 knots and 11,000 yards at 30 knots.

RGF is short for the Royal Gun factory which is were these weapons were made when the Royal navy took over the manufacture of these weapons.

Armour Protection[edit]

Very similar to previous designs, however the internal protection was better than the King GeorgeC class, the main armour belt was of Krupp Cemented Armour (KCA) and 12 inches thick at the water line trapering down to 8" at the lower edge. The upper armour belt being 4" KCA.The fore and aft armoured bulkheads were of 8" KCA tapering down to 3" at the lower edges, whilst the discontintinous foer and aft torpedo or screen bulkheads were just 1.5" thick, these covered the engines rooms and magazines only, the boiler room torpedo protection was afforded by the wing coal bunker spaces.Barbettes were of 10" KCA were they were either above deck or outside of other armour but inside other armour they reduce to just 3", turret faces were of 11" KCA with lesser armour on the sides,roofs and backs.The decks remained rather lacking at just 2.5" over machinery psaces and magazines reducing to 1" in non-vulnerable areas.

Service History[edit]

Benbow was commissioned on the 07th October 1914 and on the 10th December of that year joined the 4th division of the 4th Battle Squadron (4BS) of the Grand Fleet under the flag of Admiral Douglas Gamble, in February 1915 Gamble, succeeded in February 1915 by Vice Admiral Sir Frederick Doveton Sturdee of the battle of the Falkland Islands Fame in which Sturdee's fleet destroyed the Fleet of Von Spee on the 08th November 1914. Benbow remained as flaghip VA4BS until June 1916 under the command of Capt. H,W. Parker.At Jutland on the 31st may - 01st June 1916 Benbow was in the lead of the 4th division followed by Bellerophon - Capt. E.F. Bruen, Temeraire- Capt. E.V. Underhill and Vanguard - capt J.D. Dick,m the 4th division was the column of ships immediately to starboard of the Iron Duke under Jellicoe as they steamed South east wards to meet the High Seas fleet.At 1710 as stand by vessel on the CinC's wavelength Benbow relayed a message to Jellicoe on the Iron Duke that the High Seas fleet was at sea with 26-30 battleships on a course of 347 in line ahead, this indicated to Jellicoe that the German Admiral was at sea with his full strength - 18 Dreadnought type battleships and ten pre-Dreadnoughts and that the two sides were on a converging course.

Benbow first came to action at 1830 with intermittent salvos at the lead German battleships of the Konig class her target is unknown and the visibility was poor and after 10 minutes fire was checked due lack of a visible target, she fired just six 2 gun salvoes from her forward turrets.At 1909 she opened fire with her 6" batteries on the German destroyers of the 3rd flotilla at 8,000 yards, this was though to be a torpedo attack but was actually an attempt to rescue the crew of the german light cruiser Weisbaden disabled earlier by Invincible and now being over run and fired at by the British Grand fleet, latterly this fire was shifted to the 6th and 9th destroyer flotillas which did attack with torpedoes.

At 1917 Benbow opened fire on the Derfflinger initially with a two gun salvo from her forward turrest this was over and she spotted down 1,600 yards and had swung to open her after gun arcs, she then fired four 5 gun and one 4 gun salvos claiming a single hit which was disallowed, she checked fire at 1924 due to poor visibility caused by the smoke laid by the German destroyers during their torpedo attacks successfully allowing the High Seas fleet to disengage and flee to the south.At 2010 there was a brief skirmish between the German destroyers V46 and V69 and the British 2nd Light Cruiser squadron and the Benbow in which Benbow fired a single salvo of 6" and a single round from B gun before the German ships made off into the night., this was the last contact with the enemy, in total Benbow fired 40 rounds of 13.5" shell all being APC ( Armour Piercing capped) and 60 rounds of 6" suffering no damage or casualties.Post Jutland life was one of time at anchor at the 4th Divisions home port of Scapa Flow or manoeuvres and routine patrols in the North Sea.

In 1919 Benbow was part of the Black Sea squadron in support of the White Russians in theircivil war against the Red Russians this duty consisted largely of shore bombardments, she finished this duty in 1920 and stayed on as part of the Mediterranean fleet until 1926, during 1921-3 one of her C/O's was captain James Fownes Somerville later Sir James Fownes Somerville , 1882-1949, Knight, and Admiral of the Fleet


Benbow seen leaving Malta in 1921 - courtesy of MartimeQuest

After leaving the Mediterranean Benbow then joined the Atlantic fleet until 1929 when she was paid off into reserve, she was disarmed in 1930 under the terms of the London naval Treaty and placed on the disposal list, sold for scrap in January 1931 and scrapped in March 1931.


Benbow in May 1928 - courtesy of MaritimeQuest



  1. IWM
  2. Jutland - John Campbell,
  3. Jutland - Geoffrey Bennett,
  4. Conway's 1906-21
  5. History of the Torpedo by Geoff Kirby
  6. Pictures of bebow courtesy of MartimeQuest

Article completed 05th December 2007 by Steve Woodward

1 - 1 of 1 Posts