Invincible class battlecruiser

Invincible class battlecruiser

The three "Invincible" class battlecruisers were built for the Royal Navy and entered service in 1908 as the world's first battlecruisers. They were the brainchild of Admiral Sir John (Jackie) Fisher, the man who had sponsored the construction of the world's first "all big gun" warship, HMS|Dreadnought|1906|6. He visualised a new breed of warship, somewhere between the armoured cruiser and battleship; it would have the armament of the latter, but the high speed of the former. This combination would allow it to chase down most ships, while allowing it to run from more powerful designs.


In early 1906, three ships were laid down to the final specifications of Admiral Fisher's vision - HMS|Invincible|1908|6, HMS|Inflexible|1908|6 and HMS|Indomitable|1907|6.

Each carried eight 12-inch guns in four twin turrets, with two mounted fore and aft and another two on the centreline port and starboard. These guns were equivalent to those mounted in the most modern battleships. However, the armour protection given to the ships was light - the armoured belt measured convert|6|in|mm amidships and convert|4|in|mm at the bow, with the deck armour in some places only ¾ of an inch thick. This compared with an armoured belt of convert|11|in|mm on "Dreadnought". But, it was Admiral Fisher's assertion that the ships' speed would be their protection. They were designed for convert|25|kn|km/h|0, but in the event, all three bettered convert|28|kn|km/h|0.

Building programme

The following table gives the build details and purchase cost of the members of the "Invincible" class. Whilst standard British practice at that time was for these costs to exclude armament and stores, for some reason the cost quoted in The Naval Annual for this class includes armament.* = estimated cost, including guns

In service

All three ships entered service in the first half of 1908. Initially, "Invincible" and "Inflexible" were assigned to the Home Fleet, while "Indomitable" took the Prince of Wales (later King George V) to the tercentennial celebrations in Canada, before also joining the Home Fleet.

In 1914, "Invincible" was based on the east coast of England as part of Admiral Beatty's force, while "Inflexible" and "Indomitable", together with the newer HMS|Indefatigable|1909|6 formed the nucleus of the Mediterranean Fleet. It was in the Mediterranean that the first significant naval action of the First World War took place, when the British pursued the German warships "Goeben" and "Breslau". "Invincible" 's first action was as part of the battlecruiser force supporting the Heligoland operation.

In November 1914, the Battle of Coronel took place and saw the cruiser squadron of Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock destroyed by the German squadron commanded by Admiral Graf von Spee. In response, the Admiralty ordered that a squadron of ships be sent to destroy the Germans. This was led by Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee in "Invincible", accompanied by "Inflexible" and several other cruisers. The result of this was the Battle of the Falkland Islands which saw the British force sink all five German warships.

On 24 January 1915, a force of German battlecruisers entered the North Sea in the vicinity of the Dogger Bank. Here they were met in action by a larger force of British battlecruisers, which included "Indomitable". This action saw the German cruiser "Blücher" sunk. In the same year, "Inflexible" was included in the bombardment force against the Turkish shore defences in the Dardanelles, in which she sustained significant damage. Towards the end of the year, the British battlecruiser force was organised into three squadrons, with the 3rd BCS consisting of the three "Invincible" class ships under the command of Rear Admiral H.L.A. Hood in "Invincible".

In May 1916, the 3rd Battlecruiser Squadron had been temporarily re-assigned to the Grand Fleet for gunnery practice, and was re-located to Scapa Flow. On 30 May, the entire Grand Fleet, along with Admiral Beatty's battlecruisers, had been ordered to sea to prepare for an excursion by the German High Seas Fleet. The outcome of this was the epic Battle of Jutland. In order to support Beatty, Admiral Hood took his three battlecruisers ahead of the Grand Fleet. "Invincible" scored at least eight hits on Admiral Scheer's flagship "Lützow", which caused crucial damage below the waterline and led to flooding. However, Hood's ship came under fire from the German battlecruisers "Lützow", "Derfflinger" and the battleship "König", which penetrated the flimsy deck armour and exploded in the 'Q' turret magazine which caused explosions in the adjacent 'P' turret, and led to the ship blowing up and breaking in two, with the loss of 1020 of her crew.

The loss of three battlecruisers at Jutland (the others were "Queen Mary" and HMS|Indefatigable|1909|2) led to the force being reorganised into two squadrons, with "Inflexible" and "Indomitable" in the 2nd BCS. However, after Jutland there was little significant naval activity, thanks to the Kaiser's order that his ships should not be allowed to go to sea unless assured of victory. The end of the war saw the end for many of the older vessels, not least the two remaining "Invincible" class ships. Both were sent to the Reserve Fleet in 1919, and were paid off in March 1920, before being sold for scrap in December 1922.


* Hythe, Viscount (ed) The Naval Annual 1914
* Gardiner, Robert and Gray, Randal (ed) "Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906 - 1921", Conway Maritime Press, London, 1982. ISBN 0-85177-245-5.
* Parkes, Oscar "British Battleships", first published Seeley Service & Co, 1957, published United States Naval Institute Press, 1990. ISBN 1-55750-075-4

External links

* [ World War 1 Naval Combat]

ee also

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