Lion Class Battle-Cruiser — HMS Princess Royal — SN Guides

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Princess V46 boat

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The name Princess Royal


This image, one of my own collection, shows the Princess Royal being assisted out of the builders yard to carry out her sea trials in 1912

Although not as numerous as some ships names, five ships have been named Princess Royal, who’s first use stems back to 1728 when a vessel called the Princess was renamed Princess Royal.

The first Princess Royal started out as a 2nd rate full rigged ship of the line mounting ninety guns, she was a 1,307 ton vessel some 161 feet long and 45 feet in the beam and built at Portsmouth Dockyard in 1682, in 1682 she was rebuilt by Deptford Shipyard and renamed Prince in 1705 and Princess in 1716 she was further renamed becoming the Princess Royal under which name she survived until 1773 when she was scrapped.

Was a simple store-ship of 541 tons bought in for the purpose in 1739, she was some 123 feet long and 32 feet in the beam, she was sold on in 1750.

Was a 90 gun 2nd rate ship of the line built by Portsmouth Dockyard in 1773, she was 177’06” long and 50’06” in the beam and in 1800 was rebuilt to mount 98 guns, in later life she was reduce to 74 guns and scrapped in October 1807

Was laid down on the 26th March 1842 as the Prince Albert and was to be a 91 gun second rate ship of the line whilst still on the building ways she was renamed Princess Royal and the design modified to that of a screw driven two decker still mounting 91 guns. Her dimensions were: L 217 feet with a 58 foot beam and a displacement of 4540 tons.

She was launched on the 23 June 1853 and commissioned into the Royal navy under the command of Captain Lord Clarence Edward Paget on the 29 October 1853. Her commissions were in the Baltic for the first year of her life followed by the Mediterranean until 1859; this was flowed by time in the Channel Squadron and the East India and China station. In 1867 she went into lay-up and was scrapped in 1872 being sold to Castles for breaking up at Charlton – then a port on the Thames opposite what is now Silvertown.

Princess V46 boat

Was the Lion class battle-cruiser of this article since her scrapping in 1922 the name has not been in use.

Class information

This class of elegant battle-cruisers were nick-named the Splendid cats because of that elegance and the air of power they projected, despite this air of power the class still lacked proper armour although at 9” the main belt was fifty per-cent thicker at than the previous Invincible and Indefatigable classes, possibly proof against the eleven inch guns mounted by their German counter-parts but certainly nothing larger. They were also to be far larger than earlier classes to accommodate more powerful machinery for ever higher speeds and of course to mount the new 13.5” gun which meant the class could fire almost double the weight of broadside, 10,112 lbs against 6,800lbs. The class originally planned to number four ships comprised just two ships, Lion herself and the Princess Royal, these two were to be built under the 1909 programme of building, the third battle-cruiser, the Queen Mary built under the 1910 programme was really a half sister mounting the modified 13.5” gun. The fourth ship Tiger was built under the 1911-2 programme and the design for her was totally reworked so although referred to as one of the four ‘Splendid cats’ she was in reality a totally different ship to the other three. Three major errors were made in the building of the Lion class, the first was that although super-firing was used for A and B turrets, X was fitted aft alone and the fourth turret, Q, was fitted amidships between the second and third funnels, apart from placing the associated magazine between two sets of boilers this arrangement limited Q from firing from right ahead to 30 degrees on either beam and similarly for 30 degrees from right aft. the location of Q magazine between two boiler rooms necessitated that it be fitted with air-conditioning as the cordite shell propellant became unstable at high temperatures. The second error was the problem of smoke affecting the spotting top this, initially the mast supporting the spotting top was positioned between the first and second funnels, the previous battle-cruisers with 31 and 32 boilers suffered this problem but with 42 boilers fitted to the Lions this position untenable and the first Sea Lord, Winston Churchill, had to appropriate funds of £60,000 to modify the design in 1912, thankfully the Princess Royal was not far enough along the line to need the mast moving but on the Lion following sea-trials the mast had to be moved to a new position forwards of the funnels, even so when steaming hard the access to the masts was so hot that no-one could either climb up to, nor leave, the fighting tops. The third error was the sighting of the bridge directly on top of the armoured conning tower, a practice discontinued many years previous as the collapse of the relatively light structure of the bridge in battle could block the view from the conning tower There was a huge amount of propaganda written about the capabilities of these ships but it was mostly hugely exaggerated, indeed the term capital ship was coined for these very ships however with just 23% of the ships total weight given over to protection and with the ships leading a very busy war they were extremely vulnerable to damage as the loss of the Queen Mary proved at the battle of Jutland, or the Battle of the Skagerrak as it was termed by the German navy. It is a widely discussed subject as to whether the Japanese Kongo class were based on British designs or it was the other way round, whilst there is no hard evidence of collaboration it is obvious that the Kongo design followed the Lion class and as such would have borrowed and learned from these designs and that the follow on Tiger would have learned from the Kongo, although that being said the Tiger was also a natural progression of British design. Originally designed for a crew of 1,000 men after one year of world war one this had risen to just over 1,100.

Building data

Princess Royal was laid down by Vickers at their Barrow in Furness yard on the 02nd May 1910; she was launched on the 24th April 1911, and commissioned for the 1CS in November 1912. She was launched by her name-sake namely Princess Louise, the Princess Royal.

This image from an old magazine clipping of my fathers shows Princess Royal with Lion in the back-ground at anchor off Rosyth in the Firth of Forth circa: late 1916/early 1917

Princess V46 boat
Princess V46 boat
Princess V46 boat
Princess V46 boat

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