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HMS Benbow (1913)
HMS Benbow
Class and type: Iron Duke-class battleship
Name: HMS Benbow
Ordered: 1911
Builder: William Beardmore and Company, Glasgow
Laid down: 30 May 1912
Launched: 12 November 1913
Commissioned: 7 October 1914
Decommissioned: 1929
Fate: Sold for scrap March 1931
General characteristics
Displacement: 25,000 tons normal
28,800 tons full load
Length: 622 ft 9 in (189.8 m) o/a
580 ft (176.8 m) p/p
Beam: 90 ft (27.4 m)
Draught: 28 ft 6 in (8.69 m) (mean)
32 ft 9 in (9.98 m) (max)
Propulsion: Four shaft Parsons steam turbines, driving four propellers
18 Babcock & Wilcox boilers delivering 31,000 ihp (23,000 kW)
Speed: 21.25 knots (39.36 km/h)
Range: 14,000 nmi (25,930 km) at 10 knots (18.5 km/h)
Complement: 995-1,022

Main battery:

Secondary battery:

  • Belt:
    • Lower: 12-8 inches
    • Middle: 9 inches
    • Upper: 8 inches
    • Ends: 6-4 inches
  • Bulkheads: 8, 6 or 4 inches (100 mm)
  • Battery: 6 inches
  • Barbettes: 10-7 inches
  • Gunhouses: 11 inches
  • Funnels: 1½ inches
  • Conning tower base: 6-3 inches
  • Conning tower: 11 inches
  • Communication tubes: 6 or 4 inches (102 mm)
  • Deck:
    • Forecastle (over battery): 1 inch
    • Upper: 2-1¼ inches
    • Middle:
      • amidships: 1 inch
      • aft: 2½-1½ inches
    • Lower: 2½-1 inches
  • Screens to magazines, shell and engine rooms: 1½-1 inches
  • HMS Benbow was an Iron Duke-class battleship of the Royal Navy, the third ship of the class and the third ship to be named in honour of Admiral John Benbow.

    She was ordered under the 1911 Naval Estimates and built in the yards of William Beardmore and Company, of Glasgow.[1] She was laid down on 30 May 1912 and launched on 12 November 1913.[2] She was commissioned in October 1914 after the outbreak of the First World War .

    She served during the First World War as part of the Grand Fleet, and led one of the squadrons of the Fleet in the major naval engagement of that war, the battle of Jutland in 1916. She spent the rest of the war in home waters, but was dispatched to the Mediterranean after the end of the war, and then into the Black Sea. Here she carried out a number of shore bombardments in support of the White Russians in the Russian Civil War, until their collapse in 1920. She remained with the Mediterranean Fleet until 1926, when she returned to the Atlantic Fleet. She was decommissioned in 1929, disarmed under the terms of the London Naval Treaty in 1930 and was sold for scrapping in 1931.



    The ships of the Iron Duke class were a modification of the design of the previous King George V class of 1911 and cost in the region of £1,891,600.[3] Benbow carried a main armament of ten 13.5 inch guns mounted in five twin turrets.[3] The 13.5-inch (340 mm) guns had been initially developed for the Orion class and were so successful that the type was fitted to the succeeding battleship classes, including the Iron Dukes. The guns were fitted along the centre line with B and X turrets superfiring over A and Y turrets. Q turret was sited amidships, and had restricted firing arcs. B and X were restricted from firing directly over A and Y due to the possibility of muzzle blast entering the lower turrets' sighting hoods which were still placed in the forward ends of the turret roofs.

    A more radical departure was the replacement of the 4-inch (102 mm) guns of the secondary armament with twelve 6-inch (152 mm) guns. These made Benbow more capable of engaging the larger destroyers and torpedo boats then being built. Admiral of the Fleet Jackie Fisher had been opposed to mounting such heavy weapons on the grounds of economy, and because he believed they would be rendered useless in bad weather. He had retired by the time the class were being designed, but the guns were still heavy for a secondary armament and so they were mounted low in casemates. This had the predicted effect of often rendering them unusable in poor weather. Attempts were made to alleviate the situation including mounting Benbow's as far back as possible to help reduce wetness but met with limited effectiveness.[4] Benbow's 6-inch (150 mm) guns were fitted in casemates, with five either side of the forecastle deck and two right aft in the hull below the quarter deck, rather than in the deck houses, as had been the practice before. The two stern 6-inch (150 mm) guns were subsequently found to be so wet as to be useless. They were re-sited on the forecastle deck, but the forward batteries continued to swamped in heavy seas. Eventually rubber sealing joints for the gun ports were designed and fitted at Scapa Flow to try to alleviate the situation.[3] The fitting of the larger guns made Benbow 25 feet (7.6 m) longer, 1-foot (0.30 m) wider and 10 inches (254.0 mm) deeper and 2,000 tons heavier than previous classes.

    She was also armed with two 3-inch (76 mm) anti-aircraft guns on her after superstructure in 1914, making the class the first British battleships to carry anti aircraft guns.[4] Benbow carried four submerged 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes mounted along her sides, but unlike preceding classes, she did not carry a stern mounted torpedo tube. Her total broadside was ten 13.5-inch (343 mm) guns, six 6-inch (152 mm) guns and two 21-inch (533 mm) torpedoes.[3]


    Benbow's armour was an improvement on the preceding King George V's. She used Krupp Cemented Armour. The main armour belt was 12 inches (305 mm) thick at the waterline, reduced to 8 inches (203 mm) at the lower edge. The fore and aft armoured bulkheads were 8 inches (203 mm) thick, but 3 inches at the lower edges, whilst the screen bulkheads were just 1.5 inches thick. These extended to the engine rooms and magazines only. The torpedo protection for the boiler rooms consisted of the wing coal bunker spaces. The barbettes had 10 inches (254 mm) of armour when mounted externally of the main ship armour, but only 3 inches (76 mm) when mounted internally. The turrets were armoured with 11 inches (279 mm) on the faces, with decreasing amounts on the sides and tops. The decks meanwhile had 2.5-inch (64 mm) thick protecting machinery spaces and magazines, but this was reduced to 1-inch (25 mm) in non-vital areas. Finally Benbow's conning tower was protected by 11-inch (279 mm) thick armour.[3]


    The design of Benbow's machinery closely followed the earlier classes of dreadnoughts, consisting of four propellers being driven by Parsons direct drive steam turbines. The machinery spaces were divided into three with the inboard shafts leading to the central engine room and the outer shafts to 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 outboard turbines would be shut down, the ship relying on the inboard shafts alone. The eighteen Babcock and Wilcox boilers were arranged in three groups of six, although coal fired oil spraying equipment was fitted for quickly raising steam. The engines were designed to produce 31,000 ihp (23,117 kW) and speed of 21.5 knots (39.8 km/h).[4] On trials though Benbow exceeded this, producing 32,530 ihp (24,260 kW).[3] She could carry 3,250 tons of coal and 1,050 tons of oil, giving a range of 7,780 nautical miles (14,410 km) at 10 knots (18.5 km/h).

    She also had heavy tripod masts fitted to enable the addition of fire direction equipment. Compared to the preceding King George V class, Benbow's funnels were taller and thinner which made her distinctive. Unlike her sister, HMS Iron Duke, she was not fitted with anti torpedo nets, due to their effect in reducing the ship's speed.

    Construction and commissioning

    Benbow was ordered under the 1911 Naval Estimates and the contract to build her was awarded to William Beardmore and Company, of Glasgow.[1] She was laid down on 30 May 1912 and launched on 12 November 1913.[2] She was commissioned on 7 October 1914, the third of the Iron Dukes to do so, and behind her sisters HMS Iron Duke and HMS Marlborough. She cost in the region of £1,891,600.[3] The month after commissioning she joined the 4th Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet, then based at Scapa Flow.


    At Jutland

    Benbow would serve as the 4th Battle Squadron's flagship until June 1916.[4] She was initially the flagship of Admiral Douglas Gamble, until he was replaced in February 1915 by Vice-Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee.[2] Her commander was Captain H. W. Parker.

    Prior to the Battle of Jutland, Benbow left Scapa Flow with the rest of the Grand Fleet under the command of Admiral John Jellicoe on 30 May 1916. She led the 4th Division, consisting of HMS Bellerophon, HMS Temeraire and HMS Vanguard. The 4th Division formed the column of ships immediately to starboard of the fleet flagship, the Iron Duke under Jellicoe as they steamed south eastwards to meet the German High Seas Fleet. At 1710 on 31 May, 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 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 opened fire at 1830 with intermittent salvoes at the lead German battleships of the König class. Poor visibility led to her ceasing fire 10 minutes later, having fired just six two-gun salvoes from her forward turrets. By 1900, she had made a turn to starboard, leading the 4th division past the wreck of HMS Invincible which had been destroyed by a magazine explosion. The turn brought them towards the German fleet, and at 1909 she again opened fire with her 6-inch (150 mm) batteries on the German destroyers of the 3rd flotilla at 8,000 yards (7,300 m), believing them to be making a torpedo attack. They were actually attempting to rescue the crew of the German light cruiser Wiesbaden, which had been disabled earlier by HMS Invincible, and was now under fire from the Grand fleet. Benbow then shifted her fire to the 6th and 9th destroyer flotillas which had begun to launch torpedo attacks.

    At 1917 Benbow opened fire on the Derfflinger with a two gun salvo from her forward turret. The shells passed over the ship and Benbow readjusted her aim down 1,600 yards (1,500 m) and swung about to allow her after gun to fire. She then fired four 5 gun and one 4 gun salvoes, claiming a single hit on the German battlecruiser, which was later disproved. She again ceased fire at 1924 due to poor visibility caused by the smoke laid by the German destroyers during their torpedo attacks. The High Seas Fleet disengaged and fled 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 Benbow, in which Benbow fired a single salvo of 6-inch (150 mm) shells and a single round from her B gun before the German ships escaped. This was the last contact with the enemy, and Benbow returned with the rest of the fleet to Scapa Flow. In total Benbow had fired 40 rounds of 13.5-inch (340 mm) shells, all of them being "Armour Piercing capped" (APC), and 60 rounds of 6-inch (150 mm) shells. She had mananged to escape damage or casualties.

    She spent the remainder of the war at anchor at the 4th Division's home port of Scapa Flow, or on manoeuvres and routine patrols in the North Sea.


    HMS Benbow in 1921

    In 1919 Benbow was deployed in the Mediterranean, and then with the Black Sea squadron in support of the White Russians in the Russian Civil War. She carried out a number of shore bombardments, until she left the squadron in 1920. She became part of the Mediterranean fleet until 1926. Benbow's captain between 1921 and 1923 was James Fownes Somerville, later Sir James Fownes Somerville, Admiral of the Fleet.

    Benbow left the Mediterranean in 1926 and 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. Benbow was sold for scrap in January 1931 and scrapped in March 1931 by Metal Industries, of Rosyth.[1]


    1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Colledge, p. 37
    2. 2.0 2.1 2.2
    3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Jane's Fighting Ships of World War One (1919), Jane's Publishing Company
    4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Iron Duke class


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