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

The name stems from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS who bore the Nickname "Iron Duke".It is probably no coincidence that the first ship so named was an Ironclad battleship.


This picture of the iron Duke clearly shows the larger 6" secondary battery guns in their focsle deck casemate mounts, these and the heavier tripod masts and tall thinner funnels easily distinguish the class from earlier designs. Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

There have been three ships of the Royal Navy bearing the name Iron Duke

  1. Was an an iron built battleship of the Audacious class of central battery ironclads ( Audacious, Iron Duke, Invincible and Vanguard) of Just over 6,000 tons displacent they were 341 feet long 54 in the beam and of just over 23 feet draft mounting ten 9" and four 6" guns with coal fired steam reciprocating machinery.She was built by Napier's at Glasgow during 1868-71 reduced to harbour service in 1902 and renamed Fishguard in 1904 and further remaned Imperiouse is 1914 she was scrapped in 1922.
  2. Is the subject of this article
  3. Is the type 23 Frigate F234 which is still in service as of november 2007

the motto of the iron Duke is:- Virtutis Fortuna Comes - "Fortune is the companion of valour"

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 and were not fitted to the other three ships.

Building data[edit]

Iron Duke was ordered under the 1911 programme and built by the Royal Portsmouth Dockyard being laid down on the 12th. January 1912 and launched on the 12th October 1912, building costs were on average £1,891,600 per shipAs the first of the class to be completed she commissioned in march 1914 into the 3rd Division of the fourth Battle Squadron (4BS).


Courtesy of MaritimeQuest this picture is circa 1915-20

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 Lairds of Birkenhead, this was prior to, or about the time of the merger of Lairds with Johnson Cammell & Co of Sheffield.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 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 knots on her trials in late 1912 she attained 30,040 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.


Iron Duke in the 1920's 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 abreast Y gun - 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 their 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, later the Iron Duke had the two forwardmost guns on each side fitted with a short retaining bulwark at the rear of the guns, this stopped the water from finding it's way below into the mess-decks, this was copied into the following Queen elizabeth Class but not the remainder of the Iron Duke class.

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 22 feet 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 reduced 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]

On her commissioning in March 1914 Iron Duke joined the Home Fleet as flagship of Sir George Calaghan and in August of that year she became Flagship CinC of the Grand Fleet under Admiral Sir John Jellicoe and remained as such until November 1916.At Jutland Iron Duke, Captain F.W. Dreyer, under Jellicoe was lead ship of the 3rd. Division of the of the 4th. Battle Squadron ( 4BS) based on Scapa Flow followed by Royal Oak , Capt. C. MacLachlan , Suberb flag Rear Admiral Duff - Rear Admiral of the 4BS, Capt. E Hyde-Parker and Canada, Capt. WCM Nicholson..Iron Duke first came to action at 1823 when she fired on the disabled German Light cruiser Weisbaden with four salvoes, one of which was a straddle, the hapless Wiesbaden disabled by an earlier encounter with the Invincible was fired at by virtually every ship in the rand Fleet as they passed, with so many ships firing at her it is impossible to say properly who actually hit the german vessel.At 1830 Iron Duke engaged the SMS König at a range of 12,600 yards, Konig with the 3rd Squadron and was part of the main body of the German High seas fleet, , the Visibility as for all of the battle was poor with mist and smoke frequently obscuring the targets, Iron Duke fired a total of nine salvoes of 13.5" Common Percussion Capped (CPC) shell in total 43 rounds over 4minutes and 50 seconds and hitting the German vessel 7 times.At 1840 Konig and the entire German battle-line was seen to turn away to the south, this brief engagement inflicted serious damage on the fore-body of the Konig and started an ammunition fire amongst her 5.9" guns.The damage from the seven hits was 1, passed through the port capstan and burst holing the focsle deck for 30 square feet destroying cabins below on the upper-deck, fragments also holed the upper-deck causing numerous small fires. 2. Hit the face plate of A turret and glanced off and burst over the starboard side of the foc'sle deck which was holed by splinters, the biggest hole being over 3 feet by 2 feet. 3 entered the side plating just below the upper-deck on the port side adjacent to A turret, this shell hitting and being deflected by the forward armoured bulkhead - 6.75" onto the main deck, the armoured bulkhead was pushed back just over 4 feet, the upper-deck was distorted down over a large area, fires started and some flooding occurred through the hole in the ide plating which was 10 feet above the WL.4. Went through the side plating just forward of the port 5.9" gun battery about 2 feet above the upper-deck and struck the 6.75" forward battery bulkhead making a hole nearly 3.5 by 2.5 feet on the outside and 5 by 3 feet on the inside, the upper-deck was holed over 60 square feet and the foc'sle deck above bowed up by 22" whilst the main-deck below was bowed downwards, several 5.9" charges were ignited and the magazine hoists for the forward guns destroyed but the gun itself was only slightly damaged but all it's gre was killed, the 5/8" casemate bulkhead to the rear was holed and shell fragments damaged the galley and chart room.5 was the most damaging , it hit 5.5 feet below the waterline right immediately below B turret and on the edge of the 7" armoured belt, the 14" diameter hole was half in the armour and half in the armoured shelf, the shell then passed inboard and through the inboard wing longitudinal bulkhead making a 25 square foot hole, it then destroyed a transverse bulkhead when it detonated, the explosion went through the 6'06" wide protective side coal bunker which was full of coal and then finally hit the side 2" torpedo bulkhead holing this over some 27 square feet, the No14 5.9" magazine inboard of the torpedo bulkhead was completely destroyed, shells were damaged and buried under coal and charges ignites but rapid flooding through the hole probably saved the ship from a disastrous magazine explosion, damage also spread to the adjacent No.12 magazine which was also flooded. It is estimated that nearly 500 tons of water flooded into the ship over a length of 60 feet as a result of this one shell. Additional flooding via vent trunks and cable glands increased this to over 1,600 tons, thankfully only nine were killed in this hit.6 was a glancing blow to the armoured conning tower, the 6.75" roof was slightly dented by just over half an inch doing minor damage but injuring Rear Admiral Behncke with a fragment.

The turn to the South by the German fleet was made under the cover of smoke and a torpedo attack by their covering destroyers of the 6th and 9th flotilla's it is now thought that some of the destroyers were attempting a brave manoeuvre to rescue there fellow men from the battered Wiesbaden and this was mistaken for a torpedo attack, for whatever reason Jellicoe turns his ships wawy from the threat of the torpedoes which gave the beleagured high seas fleet to disengage to the south.At 1913 the Konig was re-sighted and re-engaged with four salvoes of CPC at 15,400 yards with one further hit, this struck below the No7 port 5.9" gun and passed through the rolled up torpedo nets, the upper edge of the side armour and the upper-deck before exploding in the PO's mess causing much splinter damage to lighter structures. The Konig was then lost to sight again in the smoke and mist, around this time the Iron Duke also fired on the German destroyers with her 6" and 13.5" batteries sinking the S35 with two13.5" hits and also damaging another. Although there were skirmishes between the destroyers and light cruisers during the night Jellicoe's battle-fleet did not regain contact, widely criticised for turning away under torpedo attack Jellicoe did what was sensible, by keeping the Grand Fleet in being he defeated his opposing forces, to risk losing a lot of ships in a torpedo attack may have kept him in contact with the High Seas fleet, but that was not a risk worth taking at the time. Although the chase was maintained through the night, lack of knowledge of which route the German fleet was taking back prevented another encounter.In total Iron duke fired 90 rounds of 13.5" all CPC and 6 rounds of 6".

In 1916 on the 12th January she collided with the oil tanker Prudentia which sank as a result In late 1915 Admiral Sir David Beatty assumed the rank of CinC and flew his flag in Iron Duke but in January 1916 he moved his flag to the Queen Elizabeth.In 1919 the now outdated ship was sent to the Mediterranean sea and joined in the operation in the Black Sea to help the White Russians., she stayed in the Med until 1920 before joining the Atlantic fleet until 1929.In 1929 she was paid off and disarmed losing B & Y Turrets and armour plating, to further comply with the requirements of the 1922 Washington Treaty she was also reduced in engine power by removing some of her boilers, now being capable of about 15 knots. She spent the next years of her life as a gunnery training ship.


'This image shows the Iron Duke at Portsmouth as a traing ship, Y turret is missing and replaced with what look like a pair of 4" AA guns, also the armour belt is missing, the outline of which can just be seen on the hull from aft of where Y gun used to be and running forwards through the shadow of the swung-out boat to just forward of the the missing A Turret' this photo will be dated Circa the early to mid 1930's it is courtesy of SN member Stein

At the start of WW2 in 1939 the old battleship was turned into a depot ship based at Scapa Flow, on the 17th October 1939 she was attacked and bombed by four German aircraft. Although not hit the near misses caused her to leak badly and she was beached to prevent her sinking. She was repaired and refloated, her remaining six 13.5" and 6" guns removed for use in shore batteries and she spent her remaining years as a base ship in Scapa Flow.Post war she was sold for scrap and broken up at Faslane arriving on the 19th August 1946.


Iron Duke at Faslane circa 1947 this shows her from the stern, the large semi circle is the barbette of Y gun with that of X just forwards with a large hole in the upper deck over the Machinery and boiler rooms, the upper deck aft and the focsle deck ahve already been removed

Her bell exists to this day and can be seen in Winchester Cathedral



  1. IWM
  2. Jutland - John Campbell,
  3. Jutland - Geoffrey Bennett,
  4. Conway's 1906-21
  5. History of the Torpedo by Geoff Kirby
  6. Wkipedia for first photograph
  7. MaritimeQuest for photographs were noted see:-

Article completed 02nd December 2007 by Steve Woodward

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