Military Wiki
Lion-class battlecruiser
HMS Princess Royal LOC 18244u.jpg
Class overview
Operators: United Kingdom
Preceded by: Indefatigable class
Succeeded by: Queen Mary
Built: 1910—12
In commission: 1912—20
Completed: 2
Scrapped: 2
General characteristics Lion class
Type: Battlecruiser
  • 26,270 long tons (26,690 t) normal load
  • 30,820 long tons (31,310 t) deep load
Length: 700 ft (213.4 m)
Beam: 88 ft 6.75 in (27.0 m)
Draught: 32 ft 5 in (9.9 m) at deep load
Installed power:
  • 70,000 shp (52,000 kW)
  • 42 Yarrow boilers
  • 4 shafts
  • Parsons direct-drive steam turbines
Speed: 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph)
Range: 5,610 nmi (10,390 km; 6,460 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 1,092
  • Belt: 9–4 inches (229–102 mm)
  • Bulkheads: 4 inches (102 mm)
  • Barbettes: 9–8 inches (229–203 mm)
  • Turrets: 9 inches (229 mm)
  • Decks: 2.5 inches (64 mm)
  • Conning tower: 10 inches (254 mm)

The Lion class were a class of battlecruisers built for the British Royal Navy before World War I. Nicknamed the "Splendid Cats",[1] the ships were a significant improvement over their predecessors of the Indefatigable class in terms of speed, armament and armour. The Lion-class battlecruisers were 2 knots (3.7 km/h; 2.3 mph) faster, exchanged the 12-inch (305 mm) guns of the older ships for 13.5-inch (343 mm) guns, and had a waterline armour belt 9 inches (229 mm) thick versus the 6 inches (152 mm) of the Indefatigables. These improvements were in response to the German Moltke class, the first German battlecruisers, which were larger and more powerful than the first British battlecruisers of the Invincible class.

HMS Lion served as the flagship of the Grand Fleet's battlecruisers throughout World War I, except when she was being refitted or under repair.[2] She sank the German light cruiser Cöln during the Battle of Heligoland Bight and served as Vice Admiral Beatty's flagship at the battles of Dogger Bank and Jutland. She was so badly damaged at the first of these battles that she had to be towed back to port by the battlecruiser Indomitable and was under repair for more than two months. During the Battle of Jutland, Lion suffered a serious propellant fire that could have destroyed the ship if not for the action of Royal Marine Major Francis Harvey, the turret commander, who posthumously received the Victoria Cross for ordering the magazine to be flooded. However, the fire destroyed Harvey's turret which had to be removed and rebuilt while the ship underwent repairs for several months.

Princess Royal participated in the Battle of Heligoland Bight a month after the war began and then was sent south to the Caribbean to prevent the German East Asia Squadron from using the Panama Canal. After the East Asia Squadron was sunk at the Battle of the Falkland Islands in December 1914 by the Invincible and Inflexible, Princess Royal rejoined the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron (BCS). During the Battle of Dogger Bank she scored only a few hits, although one crippled the German armoured cruiser Blücher which allowed the enemy vessel to be caught and sunk by the concentrated fire of the British battlecruisers. Shortly afterwards, Princess Royal became the flagship of the 1st BCS, under the command of Rear Admiral Osmond Brock. She was then moderately damaged during the Battle of Jutland and required a month and a half of repairs afterwards.

Both ships spent the rest of the war on uneventful patrols in the North Sea, although they did provide distant cover during Second Battle of Heligoland Bight in 1917. In 1920 they were both put into reserve and sold for scrap a few years later in accordance with the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922.

Design and description

The acceleration of the German naval building programme in 1907–08 forced the Government to yield to public pressure and authorize more ships for the 1909–10 Construction Programme. Only a single battleship and a battlecruiser had been authorized in the 1908–09 Construction Programme, but three battleships and a battlecruiser were authorized in the 1909–10 Programme with another three battleships and a battlecruiser planned as "contingency" ships to placate the public and the Admiralty. Continuing pressure forced the Government to announce in July 1909 that the "contingency" ships would also be built. This pressure also allowed the Admiralty to gain approval to improve the size and power of its new ships so as to maintain qualitative superiority over the new German dreadnoughts then under construction.[3]

The Lion-class battlecruisers were designed to be as superior to the new German battlecruisers of the Moltke class as the German ships were to the Invincible class. The increase in speed, armour and gun size forced a 70% increase in size over the Indefatigable class and made them the largest warships in the world.[4] Their layout was adapted from the design of the first "super-dreadnought" (or 13.5-inch gunned) class, the Orion-class battleships of 1910. The ships were the first battlecruisers to be armed with the new model 13.5-inch gun (343 mm) by Vickers. The design of the Lions remedied some of the shortcomings of the preceding battlecruisers, which suffered from an inability for the en echelon amidships turrets to safely fire across deck, which limited them to a three turret broadside. This was done, however, because the greater size and weight of the new guns rendered beam turrets impracticable. As such, all four turrets in the Lions were arranged on the centreline, although 'Q' turret was located amidships and was unable to fire directly aft.[5] The Director of Naval Construction, Sir Philip Watts suggested that a fifth turret, superfiring over the rear turret, could be added if the ship was lengthened by three frames, 12 feet (4 m) in total, and that this would add very little cost other than the £175,000 for the additional turret, but add 25% more firepower to the ship.[6] This was not approved, however, possibly because of doubts about its feasibility.[5]

General characteristics

Drawing of three-stacked battlecruiser

Left elevation and deck plan from the 1918 Jane's Fighting Ships

The Lions were significantly larger than their predecessors of the Indefatigable class. They had an overall length of 700 feet (213.4 m), a beam of 88 feet 6.75 inches (27.0 m), and a draught of 32 feet 5 inches (9.9 m) at deep load. They displaced 26,270 long tons (26,690 t) at load and 30,820 long tons (31,310 t) at deep load, over 8,000 long tons (8,100 t) more than the earlier ships. They had a metacentric height of 6 feet (1.8 m) at deep load.[7]


The Lion-class ships had two paired sets of Parsons direct-drive steam turbines, each of which was housed in a separate engine-room. The wing shafts were coupled to high-pressure turbines and these exhausted into low-pressure turbines which drove the inner shafts. A cruising stage was built into the casing of each high-pressure ahead turbine.[8] Their three-bladed propellers were 12 feet 3 inches (3.73 m) in diameter on the inner shafts while the outer propellers were 11 feet 8 inches (3.56 m) in diameter. The turbines were powered by forty-two Yarrow water-tube boilers in seven boiler rooms.[9] They were designed to produce a total of 70,000 shaft horsepower (52,199 kW), but achieved more than 76,000 shp (56,673 kW) during trials, although Lion did not exceed her designed speed of 28 knots (52 km/h; 32 mph) and Princess Royal only reached 28.5 knots.[10]

They carried 3,500 long tons (3,556 t) of coal, and an additional 1,135 long tons (1,153 t) of fuel oil that was to be sprayed on the coal to increase its burn rate.[11] At full capacity, they could steam for 5,610 nautical miles (10,390 km; 6,460 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).[1]


The Lion-class ships mounted eight BL 13.5-inch Mark V guns in four twin hydraulically powered turrets, designated 'A', 'B', 'Q' and 'Y' from front to rear. The guns could be depressed to −3° and elevated to +20°, although the rangefinders controlling the turrets were limited to +15° 21' until superelevating prisms were installed before the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 to allow full elevation.[12] They fired 1,250-pound (567 kg) projectiles at a muzzle velocity of 2,582 ft/s (787 m/s); at 14.75°, this provided a maximum range of 20,000 yd (18,288 m) with armour-piercing (AP) shells. At 20° elevation, the range was extended to 23,820 yd (21,781 m). The rate of fire of these guns was 1.5–2 rounds per minute.[13] The ships carried a total of 880 rounds during wartime for 110 shells per gun.[14]

Their secondary armament consisted of sixteen BL 4-inch Mark VII guns, most of which were mounted in casemates.[14] The guns on their PII* or PIV* mounts had a maximum elevation of 15°. They fired 31-pound (14.1 kg) projectiles at a muzzle velocity of 2,864 ft/s (873 m/s); this gave a maximum range of 11,600 yd (10,607 m). Their rate of fire was 6–8 rounds per minute.[15] They were provided with 150 rounds per gun.[12]

The Lion-class ships were built without anti-aircraft guns, but a variety of guns were fitted over the course of the war. These included the QF 6 pounder Hotchkiss gun on HA MkIc mounting.[14] This had a maximum depression of 8° and a maximum elevation of 60°. It fired a 6-pound (2.7 kg) shell at a muzzle velocity of 1,765 ft/s (538 m/s) at a rate of fire of 20 rounds per minute. It had a maximum ceiling of 10,000 ft (3,000 m), but an effective range of only 1,200 yards (1,100 m).[16] QF 3 inch 20 cwt[lower-alpha 1] AA guns on high-angle MkII mounts were also used. They had a maximum depression of 10° and a maximum elevation of 90°. They fired a 12.5-pound (5.7 kg) shell at a muzzle velocity of 2,500 ft/s (760 m/s) at a rate of 12–14 rounds per minute. It had a maximum effective ceiling of 23,500 ft (7,200 m).[17]

Princess Royal received two 4-inch Mark VII guns on HA MkII mounts capable of 60° of elevation in April 1917[14] and a pair of single 2-pdr MK II "pom-poms" were added in April 1919.[18] They fired 40-millimetre (1.6 in) shells weighing 2 pounds (0.9 kg) at a muzzle velocity of 1,920 ft/s (590 m/s) to a maximum effective range of 1,200 yards (1,097 m). Their practical rate of fire was between 50 and 75 rounds per minute.[19]

Two 21-inch (533 mm) submerged torpedo tubes were fitted on the beam.[1] Fourteen Mark II*** torpedoes were carried which had a warhead of 515 pounds (234 kg) of TNT. They had two speed settings which governed their range; at 45 knots (83.3 km/h; 51.8 mph) they could reach 4,500 yards (4,115 m) or 10,750 yards (9,830 m) at 31 knots (57.4 km/h; 35.7 mph).[20]


The main guns of the Lion-class ships were controlled from the conning tower. Data from a 9-foot (2.7 m) Argo rangefinder located on top of the conning tower was input into a Mk I Dreyer Fire Control Table located in the transmitting station (TS) below the conning tower where it was converted into range and deflection data for use by the guns. The target's data was also graphically recorded on a plotting table to assist the gunnery officer in predicting the movement of the target. 'B' and 'X' turrets were provided with nine-foot rangefinders and were fitted as secondary control positions.[21]

Fire-control technology advanced quickly during the years immediately preceding World War I and the development of the director firing system was a major advance. This consisted of a fire-control director mounted high in the ship which electrically provided gun data to the turrets via pointers, which the turret crewmen only had to follow. The director officer fired the guns simultaneously which aided in spotting the shell splashes and minimized the effects of the roll on the dispersion of the shells.[22] Lion received her system in early 1915 while undergoing repairs after the Battle of Dogger Bank[23] and Princess Royal got hers in early 1916. A second director was added to each ship in 1918.[12]


The armour protection given to the Lions was heavier than that of the Indefatigables; their waterline belt of Krupp Cemented Armour measured 9 inches (229 mm) thick amidships in contrast to the 6-inch (152 mm) belt of their predecessors. It thinned to four inches towards the ships' ends, but did not reach either the bow or the stern. In addition they were given an upper armour belt with a maximum thickness of six inches over the same length as the thickest part of the waterline armour and thinned to 5 inches (127 mm) abreast the end turrets. Four-inch transverse bulkheads closed off the ends of the armoured citadel. Nickel-steel plating was used for the protective decks. The lower armoured deck was generally only 1 inch (25.4 mm) thick except outside the citadel where it was 2.5 inches (64 mm). The upper armoured deck was situated at the top of the upper armour belt and was also only one inch thick. The forecastle deck ranged from 1.25 to 1.5 inches (32 to 38 mm).[24]

The gun turrets had 9-inch front and sides while their roofs were 2.5 to 3.25 inches (64 to 83 mm) thick. The barbettes were protected by 9 inches of armour above the deck, but it thinned to 8 inches (203 mm) above the upper armour deck and 3 inches (76 mm) below it. The conning tower sides were 10 inches (254 mm) thick and it had a three-inch roof and communication tube. Nickel-steel torpedo bulkheads 2.5 inches (64 mm) thick were fitted abreast the magazines and shell rooms. Her funnel uptakes were protected by nickel-steel splinter armour 1.5 inches (38 mm) thick on the sides and one inch on the ends between the upper and forecastle decks.[25] After the Battle of Jutland revealed her vulnerability to plunging shellfire, one inch of additional armour, weighing approximately 130 long tons (132 t),[18] was added to the magazine crowns and turret roofs.[26]


Only Lion was completed to the original design, which had the foremost funnel placed between the forward superstructure and the tripod foremast. This meant that hot clinker and flue gases from the boilers made the spotting top on the foremast completely unworkable when the ships were steaming at high speed, that the upper bridge could easily be rendered uninhabitable, depending on the wind, and that the signal flags and halyards were at risk of burning.[27] Both ships were altered to correct this problem, Lion before she commissioned, and Princess Royal as she was fitting out, at a total cost of £68,170.[4] The fore funnel was replaced and moved aft, the original fore and mainmasts exchanged position, although the foremast was now just a pole mast, not a tripod, the spotting tower at the rear of the conning tower was removed, the conning tower enlarged, the 9-foot Argo rangefinder was moved from the foremast spotting top to the roof of the conning tower, and all the funnels were raised to the same height.[28] The two four-inch guns mounted above the forward group of casemates were enclosed in casemates of their own to protect the gun crews from weather and enemy action as part of these modifications.[5]

Although the standard British practice was to quote the cost without armament, the data available for the Lions includes guns.

Name Builder Engine-builder Laid down Launched Completed Cost according to
BNA (1914)[29] Parkes[30]
Lion Devonport Dockyard Vickers,
Parsons turbines
29 September 1909 6 August 1910 May 1912 £2,086,458 * £2,086,458 **
Princess Royal Vickers, Barrow Vickers,
Parsons turbines
2 May 1910 24 April 1911 November 1912 £2,092,214 * £2,089,178 **

* = estimated cost, including guns

** = including guns

Wartime modifications

The pole foremast was modified to a tripod after 1916. This was due to the increased weight of masthead fire-control equipment associated with director firing. In 1917 Lion and Princess Royal received searchlight towers on the after funnel and mainmast while losing 1 × 4-inch (102 mm) gun each from the after battery. In early 1918, both ships received flying-off platforms on 'Q' and 'X' turrets, for Sopwith Pup and Sopwith 1½ Strutter aircraft. Lion was fitted with a torpedo control station at the aft end of her aft superstructure.[4]


Pre-war career

Upon commissioning, both Lion and Princess Royal were assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron, which in January 1913 was renamed the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron (BCS), although Lion became the flagship. Rear Admiral Beatty assumed command of the 1st BCS on 1 March 1913. Lion and Princess Royal, along with the rest of the 1st BCS, made a port visit to Brest in February 1914 and the squadron visited Russia in June,[4] where Lion entertained the Russian Royal Family aboard while in Kronstadt.[31]

World War I

Battle of Heligoland Bight

HMS Lion

Lion's first action was as flagship of the battlecruiser force under the command of Admiral Beatty during the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28 August 1914. Beatty's ships had originally been intended as distant support of the British cruisers and destroyers closer to the German coast in case the large ships of the High Seas Fleet sortied in response to the British attacks. They turned south at full speed at 11:35 am[lower-alpha 2] when the British light forces failed to disengage on schedule and the rising tide meant that German capital ships would be able to clear the bar at the mouth of the Jade Estuary. The brand-new light cruiser Arethusa had been crippled earlier in the battle and was under fire from the German light cruisers Strassburg and Cöln when Beatty's battlecruisers loomed out of the mist at 12:37 pm. Strassburg was able to duck into the mists and evade fire, but Cöln remained visible and was quickly crippled by fire from the squadron. Beatty, however, was distracted from the task of finishing her off by the sudden appearance of the elderly light cruiser Ariadne directly to his front. He turned in pursuit and reduced her to a flaming hulk in only three salvos at close range (under 6,000 yards (5.5 km)). At 1:10 pm Beatty turned north and made a general signal to retire. Beatty's main body encountered the crippled Cöln shortly after turning north and she was sunk by two salvos from Lion.[32]

Princess Royal was detached from the 1st BCS and sailed from Cromarty on 28 September to rendezvous with a Canadian troop convoy and escort it to the United Kingdom. She rejoined the 1st BCS on 26 October. Shortly afterward she was detached again to reinforce the North Atlantic and Caribbean Squadrons in the search for Admiral Graf Spee's German East Asia Squadron after it destroyed the West Indies Squadron of Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock during the Battle of Coronel on 1 November 1914. She arrived at Halifax on 21 November before cruising off New York City for a period and then down to the Caribbean to guard against the possibility of Graf Spee using the Panama Canal. She departed Kingston, Jamaica for the U.K. on 19 December, after the East Asia Squadron had been sunk at the Battle of the Falkland Islands on 7 December.[33]

Raid on Scarborough

The German Navy had decided on a strategy of bombarding British towns on the North Sea coast in an attempt to draw out the Royal Navy and destroy elements of it in detail. An earlier Raid on Yarmouth on 3 November had been partially successful, but a larger-scale operation was devised by Admiral Franz von Hipper afterwards. The fast battlecruisers would actually conduct the bombardment while the entire High Seas Fleet was to station itself east of Dogger Bank to provide cover for their return and to destroy any elements of the Royal Navy that responded to the raid. But what the Germans did not know was that the British were reading the German naval codes and were planning to catch the raiding force on its return journey, although they were not aware that the High Seas Fleet would be at sea as well. Admiral Beatty's 1st BCS, now reduced to four ships, including Lion, as well as the 2nd Battle Squadron with six dreadnoughts, was detached from the Grand Fleet in an attempt to intercept the Germans near Dogger Bank.[34]

Admiral Hipper set sail on 15 December 1914 for another such raid and successfully bombarded several English towns, but British destroyers escorting the 1st BCS had already encountered German destroyers of the High Seas Fleet at 5:15 am and fought an inconclusive action with them. Vice Admiral Sir George Warrender, commanding the 2nd Battle Squadron, had received a signal at 5:40 that the destroyer Lynx was engaging enemy destroyers although Beatty had not. The destroyer Shark spotted the German armoured cruiser Roon and her escorts at about 7:00, but could not transmit the message until 7:25. Admiral Warrender received the signal, as did the battlecruiser New Zealand, but Beatty did not, despite the fact that New Zealand had been specifically tasked to relay messages between the destroyers and Beatty. Warrender attempted to pass on Shark's message to Beatty at 7:36, but did not manage to make contact until 7:55. Beatty reversed course when he got the message and dispatched New Zealand to search for Roon. She was being overhauled by New Zealand when Beatty received messages that Scarborough was being shelled at 9:00. Beatty ordered New Zealand to rejoin the squadron and turned west for Scarborough.[35]

Relative positions of the British and German forces at about 12:00 hours

The British forces split going around the shallow Southwest Patch of the Dogger Bank; Beatty's ships passed to the north while Warrender passed to the south as they headed west to block the main route through the minefields defending the English coast. This left a 15 nautical miles (28 km) gap between them through which the German light forces began to move. At 12:25, the light cruisers of the II Scouting Group began to pass the British forces searching for Hipper. HMS Southampton spotted the light cruiser Stralsund and signalled a report to Beatty. At 12:30 Beatty turned his battlecruisers towards the German ships. Beatty presumed that the German cruisers were the advance screen for Hipper's ships, however, those were some 50 km (31 mi) behind. The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, which had been screening for Beatty's ships, detached to pursue the German cruisers, but a misinterpreted signal from the British battlecruisers sent them back to their screening positions.[lower-alpha 3] This confusion allowed the German light cruisers to escape, and alerted Hipper to the location of the British battlecruisers. The German battlecruisers wheeled to the northeast of the British forces and made good their escape.[36]

Battle of Dogger Bank

On 23 January 1915, a force of German battlecruisers under the command of Admiral Franz von Hipper sortied to clear the Dogger Bank of any British fishing boats or small craft that might be there to collect intelligence on German movements. However, the British were reading their coded messages and sailed to intercept them with a larger force of British battlecruisers under the command of Admiral Beatty. Contact was initiated at 7:20 am on the 24th when the British light cruiser Arethusa spotted the German light cruiser SMS Kolberg. By 7:35 the Germans had spotted Beatty's force and Hipper ordered a turn to the south at 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph), believing that this would suffice if the ships that he saw to his northwest were British battleships and that he could always increase speed to Blücher's maximum speed of 23 knots (26 mph; 43 km/h) if they were British battlecruisers.[37]

Beatty ordered his battlecruisers to make all practicable speed to catch the Germans before they could escape. The leading ships, Lion, Princess Royal and Tiger, were doing 27 knots (50 km/h; 31 mph) in pursuit and Lion opened fire at 8:52 at a range of 20,000 yards (18,000 m). The other ships followed a few minutes later but, hampered by the extreme range and decreasing visibility, they did not score their first hit on Blücher until 9:09. The German battlecruisers opened fire themselves a few minutes later at 9:11, at a range of 18,000 yards (16,000 m), and concentrated their fire on Lion. They first hit her at 9:28 on the waterline with a shell that flooded a coal bunker. Shortly afterwards a 21-centimetre (8.3 in) shell from Blücher hit the roof of 'A' turret, denting it and knocking out the left gun for two hours. At 9:35 Beatty signalled 'Engage the corresponding ships in the enemy's line', but Tiger's captain, believing that Indomitable was already engaging Blücher, fired at Seydlitz, as did Lion, which left Moltke unengaged and able to continue to engage Lion without risk. Moltke and Derfflinger combined their fire to cripple Lion over the next hour even though Princess Royal engaged Derfflinger during this period.[38]

In the meantime Blücher had been heavily damaged by fire from all the other battlecruisers; her speed had dropped to 17 knots (20 mph; 31 km/h) and her steering gear had been jammed. Beatty ordered Indomitable to attack her at 10:48 am. Six minutes later Beatty spotted what he thought was a submarine periscope on the starboard bow and ordered an immediate 90° turn to port to avoid the submarine, although he failed to hoist the 'Submarine Warning' flag because most of Lion's signal halyards had been shot away. Almost immediately afterward Lion lost her remaining dynamo to the rising water which knocked out all remaining light and power. He ordered 'Course Northeast' at 11:02 to bring his ships back to their pursuit of Hipper. He also hoisted 'Attack the rear of the enemy' on the other halyard although there was no connection between the two signals. This caused Rear-Admiral Sir Gordon Moore, temporarily commanding in New Zealand, to think that the signals meant to attack Blücher, which was about 8,000 yards (7,300 m) to the northeast. So they turned away from the pursuit of Hipper's main body and engaged Blücher. Beatty tried to correct the mistake, but he was so far behind the leading battlecruisers that his signals could not be read amidst the smoke and haze.[39]

He transferred his flag to the destroyer Attack at 11:50 and set off in pursuit of his battlecruisers. He caught up to them shortly before Blücher sank and boarded Princess Royal at 12:20. He ordered the pursuit resumed of the German battlecruisers, but rescinded the order when it became clear that too much time had been wasted sinking Blücher and Hipper's ships would be able to reach German waters before the British could catch them. Lion was headed home at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) when the rest of the battlecruisers caught up with her around 12:45.[40]

Lion's starboard engine was temporarily shut down due to contaminated feed water, but it was restarted and Lion headed home at 10 knots (12 mph; 19 km/h) when the rest of the battlecruisers caught up with her around 12:45. At 2:30 the starboard engine began to fail and her speed was reduced to 8 knots (9.2 mph; 15 km/h). Indomitable was ordered to tow Lion back to port at 3:00, but it took two hours and two tries before she could start to tow Lion, and a further day-and-a-half to reach port at speeds of 7–10 knots (8.1–11.5 mph; 13–19 km/h), even after Lion's starboard engine was temporarily repaired.[41]

Lion was temporarily repaired at Rosyth with timber and concrete before sailing to Newcastle upon Tyne to be repaired by Palmers as the Admiralty did not wish it known that she was damaged badly enough to require repair at either Portsmouth or Devonport Dockyards lest that be seen as a sign of defeat. She was heeled 8° to starboard with four cofferdams in place between 9 February and 28 March to repair about 1,500 square feet (140 m2) of bottom plating and replace five armour plates and their supporting structure.[42] She rejoined the Battlecruiser Fleet, again as Beatty's flagship, on 7 April.[33] She had fired 243 rounds from her main guns, but had only made four hits: one each on Blücher and Derfflinger, and two on Seydlitz. In return she had been hit by the Germans sixteen times, but only one man was killed and twenty wounded.[43]

Princess Royal hit Derfflinger once, but only forced in a pair of armour plates that flooded a coal bunker.[44] She also hit Blücher at least twice, including the hit that crippled her, but having fired a total of 271 13.5-inch shells during the battle this gave the Princess Royal a hit rate of only 0.7%. She also fired two 13.5-inch shrapnel shells at the German airship L5 as it attempted to bomb the sinking Blücher, thinking that it was a British ship,[45] despite the fact that the maximum elevation of those guns was only 20°.[12] Princess Royal was not damaged during the battle.[46]

Battle of Jutland

Two-gun turret with front section of armoured roof missing

Lion's 'Q' turret showing the armour blown off by the ammunition fire

On 31 May 1916 Princess Royal was the flagship of the 1st BCS, under command of Rear Admiral Osmond Brock,[45] which had put to sea with the rest of the Battlecruiser Fleet, led by Vice-Admiral Beatty in Lion, to intercept a sortie by the High Seas Fleet into the North Sea. The British were able to decode the German radio messages and left their bases before the Germans put to sea. Hipper's battlecruisers spotted the Battlecruiser Fleet to their west at 3:20 pm, but Beatty's ships did not spot the Germans to their east until 3:30. Almost immediately afterward, at 3:32, he ordered a course change to east south-east to position himself astride the German's line of retreat and called his ships' crews to action stations. Hipper ordered his ships to turn to starboard, away from the British, to assume a south-easterly course, and reduced speed to 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph) to allow three light cruisers of the 2nd Scouting Group to catch up. With this turn Hipper was falling back on the High Seas Fleet, then about 60 miles (97 km) behind him. Around this time Beatty altered course to the east as it was quickly apparent that he was still too far north to cut off Hipper.[47]

This began what was to be called the 'Run to the South' as Beatty changed course to steer east south-east at 3:45, paralleling Hipper's course, now that the range closed to under 18,000 yards (16,000 m). The Germans opened fire first at 3:48, followed almost immediately afterward by the British. The British ships were still in the process of making their turn as only the two leading ships, Lion and Princess Royal had steadied on their course when the Germans opened fire. The German fire was accurate from the beginning, but the British overestimated the range as the German ships blended into the haze. Lion and Princess Royal, as the leading British ships, engaged Lützow, the leading ship in the German formation. Lutzow targeted Lion while Derfflinger, the second ship in the German formation engaged Princess Royal, her opposite number. Fire from both German ships was very accurate, and both Lion and Princess Royal had been hit twice within three minutes of the Germans' opening fire. By 3:54 the range was down to 12,900 yards (11,800 m), and Beatty ordered a course change two points to starboard to open up the range at 3:57.[48] Lion scored her first hit on Lützow two minutes later, but Lützow returned the favour at 4:00 when one of her 305 mm shells hit 'Q' turret at a range of 16,500 yards (15,100 m).[49] The shell penetrated the joint between the nine-inch turret face plate and the 3.5-inch roof and detonated over the center of the left-hand gun. It blew the front roof plate and the center face plate off the turret, killed or wounded everyone in the turret, and started a fire that smouldered, despite efforts to put it out that had been thought to have been successful. Accounts of subsequent events differ, but the magazine doors had been closed and the magazine flooded when the smouldering fire ignited the eight full propellant charges in the turret working room at 4:28. They burnt violently, with the flames reaching as high as the masthead, and killed most of the magazine and shell room crews still in the lower part of the mounting. The gas pressure severely buckled the magazine doors, and it is probable that the magazine would have exploded if it had not already been flooded.[50][51] Royal Marine Major Francis Harvey, the mortally wounded turret commander, was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross for having ordered the magazine flooded.[52]

At 4:11 pm Princess Royal observed the track of a torpedo fired by Moltke, pass underneath her, but it was thought that the torpedo was fired by a U-boat on the disengaged side. This was confirmed when the destroyer Landrail reported having spotted a periscope before the torpedo tracks were seen.[53] The range had grown too far for accurate shooting so Beatty altered course four points to port to close the range again between 4:12 and 4:15. This maneuver exposed Lion to the fire of the German battlecruisers and she was hit several times. The smoke and fumes from these hits caused Derfflinger to lose sight of Princess Royal, and she switched her fire to Queen Mary at 4:16. By 4:25 the range was down to 14,400 yards (13,200 m) and Beatty turned two points to starboard to open the range again. However, it was too late for Queen Mary, which was hit multiple times in quick succession about that time, and her forward magazines exploded.[54] At 4:30 the light cruiser Southampton, scouting in front of Beatty's ships, spotted the lead elements of the High Seas Fleet charging north at top speed. Three minutes later she sighted the topmasts of Vice-Admiral Reinhard Scheer's battleships, but did not transmit a message to Beatty for another five minutes. Beatty continued south for another two minutes to confirm the sighting himself before ordering a sixteen-point turn to starboard in succession.[55] During the 'Run to the South' Princess Royal was hit a total of six times by Derfflinger, but none of these were serious.[56]

Lion was hit twice more, during what came to be called the 'Run to the North', after the German battlecruisers made their own turn north.[57] Beatty's ships maintained full speed to try and put some separation between them and the High Seas Fleet and gradually moved out of range. They turned north and then northeast to try to rendezvous with the main body of the Grand Fleet. At 5:40 pm they opened fire again on the German battlecruisers. The setting sun blinded the German gunners and they could not make out the British ships and turned away to the northeast at 5:47.[58] Beatty gradually turned more towards the east to allow him to cover the deployment of the Grand Fleet into its battle formation and to move ahead of it, but he mistimed his manoeuver and forced the leading division to fall off towards the east, further away from the Germans. By 6:35 Beatty was following the 3rd BCS as they were steering east-southeast, leading the Grand Fleet, and continuing to engage Hipper's battlecruisers to their southwest. A few minutes earlier Scheer had ordered a simultaneous 180° starboard turn and Beatty lost sight of them in the haze.[59] At 6:44 Beatty turned his ships southeast and to the south-southeast four minutes later searching for Hipper's ships. Beatty took this opportunity to recall the two surviving ships of the 3rd BCS to take position astern of New Zealand and then slowed down to eighteen knots and altered course to the south to prevent himself from getting separated from the Grand Fleet. At this moment Lion's gyrocompass failed and she made a complete circle before her steering was brought under control again.[60] At 6:55 Scheer ordered another 180° turn which put them on a converging course again with the Grand Fleet, which had altered course itself to the south. This allowed the Grand Fleet to cross Scheer's T and they badly damaged his leading ships. Scheer ordered yet another 180° turn at 7:13 in an attempt to extricate the High Seas Fleet from the trap into which he had sent them.[61]

Large ship at sea billowing dark smoke

Lion hit by shellfire during the Battle of Jutland

This manoeuver was successful and the British lost sight of the Germans until 8:05 pm when Castor spotted smoke bearing west-northwest. Ten minutes later she'd closed the range enough to identify German torpedo boats and engaged them. Beatty turned west upon hearing the sounds of gunfire and spotted the German battlecruisers only 8,500 yards (7,800 m) away. Inflexible opened fire at 8:20, followed almost immediately by the rest of Beatty's battlecruisers.[62] Shortly after 8:30 the pre-dreadnought battleships of Rear Admiral Mauve's II Battle Squadron were spotted and fire switched to them. The Germans were able to fire only a few rounds at them because of the poor visibility and turned away to the west. The British battlecruisers hit the German ships several times before they blended into the haze around 8:40.[63] After this Beatty changed course to south-southeast and maintained that course, ahead of both the Grand Fleet and the High Seas Fleet, until 2:55 the next morning when the order was given to reverse course.[64]

Lion, Princess Royal and the rest of the battlecruisers reached Rosyth on the morning of 2 June 1916[65] where Lion began repairs that lasted until 19 July. The remains of 'Q' turret were removed during this period and not replaced until later. She had been hit a total of fourteen times and suffered 99 dead and 51 wounded during the battle. She fired 326 rounds from her main guns, but can only be credited with four hits on Lützow and one on Derfflinger. She also fired seven torpedoes, four at the German battleships, two at Derfflinger and one at the light cruiser Wiesbaden without success.[66]

Upon her arrival at Rosyth, Princess Royal began repairs that lasted until 10 June. She sailed later that day for Plymouth where more permanent repairs were made until 15 July and was back at Rosyth by 21 July. She was hit nine times during the battle, six time by Derfflinger, twice by Markgraf and once by Posen, with 22 of her crew killed and 81 injured. She fired only 230 rounds from her main guns, as her visibility was often impaired by the funnel smoke and fires aboard Lion and can be credited with three hits on Lützow and two on Seydlitz. She also fired one torpedo at the German pre-dreadnoughts without success.[45]

Post-Jutland career

Lion rejoined the Battlecruiser Fleet, again as Beatty's flagship, on 19 July 1916 without 'Q' turret, but then had the turret replaced during a visit to Armstrong Whitworth at Elswick that lasted from 6 to 23 September. In the meantime, on the evening of 18 August the Grand Fleet put to sea in response to a message deciphered by Room 40 which indicated that the High Seas Fleet, less the II Squadron, would be leaving harbour that night. The German objective was to bombard Sunderland on the 19th, with extensive reconnaissance provided by airships and submarines. The Grand Fleet sailed with 29 dreadnought battleships and six battlecruisers.[lower-alpha 4] Throughout the 19th, Jellicoe and Scheer received conflicting intelligence, with the result that having reached its rendezvous in the North Sea, the Grand Fleet steered north in the erroneous belief that it had entered a minefield before turning south again. Scheer steered south-eastward pursuing a lone British battle squadron reported by an airship, which was in fact the Harwich Force under Commodore Tyrwhitt. Having realised their mistake the Germans then shaped course for home. The only contact came in the evening when Tyrwhitt sighted the High Seas Fleet but was unable to achieve an advantageous attack position before dark, and broke off contact. Both the British and the German fleets returned home, the British having lost two cruisers to submarine attacks and the Germans having a dreadnought battleship damaged by torpedo.[67]

Lion became the flagship of Vice-Admiral W. C. Pakenham in December 1916 when he assumed command of the Battlecruiser Fleet upon Beatty's promotion to command of the Grand Fleet.[33] Lion had an uneventful time for the rest of the war conducting patrols of the North Sea as the High Seas Fleet was forbidden to risk any more losses. She provided support for British light forces involved in the Second Battle of Heligoland Bight on 17 November 1917, but never came within range of any German forces. Lion and Princess Royal, along with the rest of the Grand Fleet, sortied on the afternoon of 23 March 1918 after radio transmissions had revealed that the High Seas Fleet was at sea after a failed attempt to intercept the regular British convoy to Norway. However, the Germans were too far ahead of the British and escaped without firing a shot.[68] When the High Seas Fleet sailed for Scapa Flow on 21 November 1918 to be interned, Lion was among the escorting ships. Along with the rest of the 1st BCS, Lion and Princess Royal guarded the interned ships[69] until both ships were assigned to the Atlantic Fleet in April 1919.[33]

Lion was placed in reserve in March 1920, paid off on 30 March 1922, and sold for scrap on 31 January 1924 for £77,000.[46] Princess Royal was placed in reserve in 1920 and an attempt to sell her to Chile in mid-1920 was unsuccessful. She became the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief Scottish Coast on 22 February 1922, but was sold for scrap in December 1922.[2] Both ships were scrapped to meet the tonnage limitations of the Washington Naval Treaty.[1]


  1. "cwt" is the abbreviation for hundredweight, 30 cwt referring to the weight of the gun.
  2. The times used in this article are in UTC, which is one hour behind CET, which is often used in German works.
  3. Beatty had intended on retaining only the two rearmost light cruisers from Goodenough's squadron; however, Nottingham's signalman misinterpreted the signal, thinking that it was intended for the whole squadron, and thus transmitted it to Goodenough, who ordered his ships back into their screening positions ahead of Beatty's battlecruisers.
  4. While no sources explicitly state that Lion and Princess Royal were part of the fleet at this time, of the seven Royal Navy battlecruisers then in commission, Indomitable was under refit through August and the only one unavailable for action. See Roberts, p. 122.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Gardiner and Gray, p. 29
  2. 2.0 2.1 Campbell, p. 29
  3. Roberts, pp. 31–32
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Burt, p. 151 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "b1" defined multiple times with different content
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Burt, p. 154
  6. Roberts, p. 33
  7. Roberts, pp. 43–44
  8. Burt, p. 158
  9. Roberts, pp. 70–76
  10. Roberts, pp. 76, 80
  11. Roberts, p. 76
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Campbell, p. 27
  13. "British 13.5"/45 (34.3 cm) Mark V(L) 13.5"/45 (34.3 cm) Mark V(H)". 1 May 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 Roberts, p. 83
  15. "British 4"/50 (10.2 cm) BL Mark VII". 28 January 2010. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  16. "Britain 6-pdr / 8cwt [2.244"/40 (57 mm)] QF Marks I and II". 16 May 2008. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  17. "British 12-pdr [3"/45 (76.2 cm)] 20cwt QF HA Marks I, II, III and IV". 27 February 2007. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 Campbell, p. 28
  19. "British 2-pdr [4 cm/39 (1.575")] Mark II". 2 March 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  20. "British Torpedoes Pre-World War II: 21" (53.3 cm) Mark II***". 12 January 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2011. 
  21. Roberts, pp. 91–92
  22. Roberts, pp. 92–93
  23. Burt, pp. 159, 161
  24. Roberts, pp. 102–03
  25. Roberts, pp. 109, 112
  26. Roberts, p. 113
  27. Roberts, p. 34
  28. Roberts, p. 35
  29. Brassey's Naval Annual 1914, pp. 192–99
  30. Parkes, pp. 531–36
  31. "HMS Lion". MaritimeQuest. 22 February 2007. Retrieved 17 February 2010. 
  32. Massie, pp. 109–13
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 Roberts, p. 123
  34. Massie, pp. 333–34
  35. Massie, pp. 342–43
  36. Tarrant, p. 34
  37. Massie, pp. 376–384
  38. Tarrant, pp. 35–36
  39. Massie, pp. 398–402
  40. Tarrant, p. 38
  41. Massie, pp. 409–412
  42. Campbell, p. 30
  43. Campbell, pp. 29–30
  44. Tarrant, pp. 35–39
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 Campbell, p. 32
  46. 46.0 46.1 Burt, p. 162
  47. Tarrant, pp. 69, 71, 75
  48. Tarrant, pp. 80–83
  49. Massie, p. 592
  50. Brown, pp. 166–67
  51. Roberts, p. 116
  52. "No. 29751". 15 September 1916. 
  53. Tarrant, p. 85
  54. Tarrant, pp. 89–91
  55. Massie, pp. 598–600
  56. Tarrant, p. 97
  57. Massie, p. 601
  58. Tarrant, p. 109
  59. Tarrant, pp. 130–38
  60. Tarrant, p. 145
  61. Tarrant, pp. 149, 157
  62. Tarrant, p. 175
  63. Tarrant, pp. 177–78
  64. Tarrant, p. 178, 224
  65. Massie, p. 657
  66. Campbell, pp. 30, 32
  67. Marder, Arthur J. (1978). From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow, The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904-1919. III: Jutland and After, May 1916–December 1916 (Second ed.). London: Oxford University Press. pp. 287–296. ISBN 0-19-215841-4. 
  68. Massie, p. 748
  69. Marder, Arthur J. (1970). From Dreadnought to Scapa Flow: The Royal Navy in the Fisher Era, 1904–1919. V: Victory and Aftermath (January 1918–June 1919). London: Oxford University Press. p. 273. ISBN 0-19-215187-8. 


  • Hythe, Viscount, ed (1914). The Naval Annual 1914. London: Brassey's. 
  • Brown, David K. (2003). The Grand Fleet: Warship Design and Development 1906–1922 (reprint of the 1999 ed.). London: Caxton Editions. ISBN 1-84067-531-4. 
  • Burt, R. A. (1986). British Battleships of World War One. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-863-8. 
  • Campbell, N. J. M. (1978). Battle Cruisers. Warship Special. 1. Greenwich: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-130-0. 
  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds (1984). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships: 1906–1922. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-85177-245-5. 
  • Massie, Robert (2004). Castles of Steel: Britain, Germany and the Winning of the Great War. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-224-04092-8. 
  • Parkes, Oscar (1990). British Battleships (reprint of the 1957 ed.). Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-075-4. 
  • Roberts, John (1997). Battlecruisers. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-068-1. 
  • Tarrant, V. E. (1999). Jutland: The German Perspective: A New View of the Great Battle, 31 May 1916 (reprint of the 1995 ed.). London: Brockhampton Press. ISBN 1-86019-917-8. 

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