Iron Duke Class Part II




Considerably altered and generally heavier-looking than in 1914 owing to wartime modifications. SL towers added, enlarged control top, aircraft platforms, reduced rig, turret scales painted up at end of war (painted out by early 1919), range clocks on face of control tops and at rear of after superstructure in Iron Duke only. Clinker screen to fore funnel in Emperor of Indio but removed by early 1919.

Individual differences

Benbow: Small hood over director tower (only ship thus, removed 1921), shallow triangular strut to derrick stump (deep in others).

Marlborough: Long middle bridge wings (from 1916).

Emperor of India: Clinker screen to fore funnel. No sternwalk. Short W/T spreaders on after superstructure (tall in others).

Iron Duke: 6in director towers on lower bridge (upper in others). From Iron Duke and 202 tons of new equipment were added.

Benbow was placed on the disposal list in 1930; Emperor of India and Marlborough in 1931 and 1932 respectively. From 1932 only Iron Duke was left in service. She was demilitarized from November 1931 until September 1932.

‘B’ and ‘Y’ turrets removed (barbettes retained). 6in secondary armament retained. Two 4.7in AA added on quarterdeck, both on centre line on and abaft ‘Y’ barbette. 4in AA on after superstructure was removed. Small AA gun mounted on crown of ‘B’ barbette. Rangefinder on after superstructure was replaced by HA director. TT removed. Belt and side armour between ‘B’ and ‘Y’ barbettes was removed. Conning tower was removed. Battery armour, deck and internal protection was retained. The forward group of boilers were mutilated and the remaining boilers converted to burn oil only. Speed was reduced to about 18 knots.

1933–5: 4in AA replaced on after superstructure; 4.7in AA on quarterdeck was removed (autumn 1935).

1939: Twin 5.25in dual-purpose turret mounted abaft ‘Y’ barbette for experimental purposes.

1939–45: More or less unchanged except that some of the 6in guns were removed and many AA guns were added while serving as Depot and Base AA Ship at Scapa.

Although the Naval Treaty of 1930 dealt the death blow to the other three ships of the class, it was advantageous to the Royal Navy in that these ships could be used experimentally to determine the degree to which a modern battleship would stand up to battle damage and retain her structural integrity. To this end, it was agreed to place Emperor of India and Marlborough in the hands of HMS Excellent, the Gunnery Training School. The following tests were made in the two ships during the next eighteen months (from 1931).

History: Iron Duke

After the Great War the Iron Duke class formed the 4th Battle Squadron and as such were very effective. (For their service history 1914–19 see author’s British Battleships of World War One.)

21 November 1918 Present in the southern line at surrender of the German High Seas Fleet off the Firth of Forth.

21 March 1919 Commissioned for service as flagship of newly reconstituted Mediterranean Fleet (4th BS) on abolition of Grand Fleet.

April 1919 Relieved Superb as flagship, Mediterranean.

April–June 1919 Operations against Bolsheviks in Black Sea.

11 August 1919 Left Alexandria for Malta.

April 1920 Small refit at Malta, flag temporarily flown in Ajax.

June–July 1920 Operations against Turkish Nationalists in Sea of Marmora and at Constantinople.

July 1920 Shelled Turkish Nationalist forces at Beicos.

9 March 1921 Recommissioned at Portsmouth for further service as flagship, C-in-C Mediterranean Fleet (4th BS).

5 April 1922 Reached Bosphorus from Malta with Admiral Sir John de Robeck on his farewell visit.

14 April 1922 Left Constantinople for Malta visiting Chanak, Mitylene, Smyrna, Limassol, Haifa, Port Said and Alexandria.

28 April 1922 Arrived Malta.

12 May 1922 Left Malta for Marseilles.

15 May 1922 Arrived Marseilles where flag of Admiral Sir John de Robeck was replaced by that of Admiral Sir Osmond Brock.

May 1922 Returned to Malta and left to visit Alexandria and Port Said.

23 May 1922 Reached Jaffa where the following day one of her signal men was drowned while bathing from the beach.

July 1922 Visited Haifa, Cyprus and Smyrna.

12 July 1922 Reached Constantinople.

31 July 1922 With the Fleet left Constantinople after Greek threat to city during Graeco-Turkish War.

20 August 1922 Visited Tuzla Bay (where Sultan Selim Yavuz was lying) and Kilia Liman before returning to Constantinople.

31 August 1922 Left Bosphorus for round of visits in Adriatic.

2 September 1922 In Doro Channel when she received urgent instructions to proceed to Smyrna to protect British interests during the rout of the Greek army. Reached Smyrna the next day.

9–13 September 1922 During the massacre and fire at Smyrna she was endeavouring to maintain order and assist the victims with Ajax.

3 October 1922 Carried Allied representatives to the Mudania Conference.

5 October 1922 Carried delegates to Constantinople from Mudania.

6–8 October 1922 Lying at Mudania.

17 November 1922 Landed an armed guard at Constantinople to escort the deposed Sultan Mahommed VI to the harbour for passage into exile in Malaya.

23 December 1922 Reached Malta.

27 December 1922 Left Malta for Dardanelles.

September 1924 Relieved as fleet flagship by Queen Elizabeth and became private ship in 4th BS.

1 November 1924 4th BS became 3rd BS.

9 March 1926 Alter combined exercises in Mediterranean transferred with her class to Atlantic Fleet as flagship of newly formed 3rd (Special Boys’ Training) BS. Relieved in Mediterranean by Resolution and Royal Oak. 15 May 1928 Relieved as flagship, 3rd BS by Benbow.

30 May 1928 Paid off into Dockyard Control at Devonport for extensive refit; transferred into independent service as seagoing gunnery firing ship.

7 June 1929 Commissioned for service as seagoing gunnery firing ship at Portland, relieving Tiger.

11 June 1931 Carried out firing tests at her sister ship Emperor of India off Bognor Regis, damaging her and causing her to settle on the bottom in shallow water.

27 July 1931 Arrived at Rosyth to prepare for demilitarization under terms of London Treaty.

10 November 1931 Paid off into Dockyard Control at Devonport.

6 September 1932 Commissioned Devonport for further service as seagoing gunnery training ship and other training duties (attached to Portsmouth).

20 February 1935 Recommissioned for same service at Portsmouth.

16 July 1935 Took part in Jubilee Naval Review of HM King George V at Spithead and afterwards visited Torbay.

21 May 1936 Recommissioned at Portsmouth for further service as seagoing gunnery firing and training ship.

20 May 1937 Present at Coronation Review of HM King George VI at Spithead.

12 August 1939 Present at Review of Reserve Fleet at Weymouth.

Battle Damage While in Scapa Flow 17 October 1939:

Iron Duke was lying at ‘C’ Buoy in about 10 fathoms of water when a power-dive attack was made from 1,000 to 1,500 feet by four bombers at 10.33 hours. One bomb (probably 500lb) which struck the water some distance out on the port bow shook the ship and threw mud and water to a considerable height; a second bomb fell some distance out on the port quarter.

The major damage against ‘C’ boiler room appears to have been caused by two bombs (probably 500lb) which were observed to be released simultaneously and struck the water not far out from the ship’s side. It is possible that these bombs contacted ships side near the turn of bilge before exploding. They were released from a plane which power-dived down some 1,000 feet in a direction slightly inclined to the fore and aft line of ship travelling from bow to stern. A third bomb was observed to be released immediately after the two released simultaneously. There is no record where the third bomb struck but it probably caused the further damage aft.

Ship heeled to port quickly, reading a maximum angle of probably 20–25° and appeared to steady at that angle. Main deck scuttles were open and these came awash when the ship heeled. Estimates of the time to reach this heel vary from 2–5 minutes, when raiders had passed cable was slipped and ship towed to shallow water in Ore Bay by tugs. She was beached forward about 40 minutes after the attack and about an hour before high water, with damaged side towards the shore. Tugs were kept until about one hour after high water hauling in the stern to get ship approximately parallel to the shore to ground her fore and aft. With fall of tide she slowly righted, vibrating noticeably, and finally took up a heel of 3–4° to starboard (the undamaged side), presumably in conformity with the slope of the bank on which she grounded. Ship was secured by two 7½ ton anchors supplied by Metal Industries. Further efforts were made at the next high water to get the stern further in. Bottom in sand and shingle. Divers reported 17.10.39 ship grounded forward to about after end of engine room and 18 inch to 2 foot clear at the after cut up.

She remained in that position until the end of the war.

February 1946 Sold to Metal Industries to be raised and broken up.

19 April 1946 Refloated at Scapa Flow.

15 August 1946 Left Scapa Flow bound for Faslane (Garetoch), a wartime port acquired by Metal Industries for shipbreaking (taking possession on 15th).

19 August 1946 Reached Faslane after being delayed for twenty hours by rough seas and high winds.


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