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HMS Cornwallis (Duncan-class battleship).jpg
Duncan-class battleship HMS Cornwallis
Class overview
Name: Duncan
Builders: Cammell Laird, Chatham Dockyard, Devonport Dockyard, Thames Iron Works, Palmers
Preceded by: London class
Succeeded by: King Edward VII class
Built: 1900-1903
In commission: 1903-1917
Planned: 6
Completed: 6
Lost: 3
Retired: 3
General characteristics
Class and type: Duncan class
Type: Predreadnought battleship
Displacement: 13,270 to 13,745 tons load
14,900 to 15,200 tons deep[1]
Length: 432 ft (132 m) overall[1]
Beam: 75 ft 6 in (23.01 m)[1]
Draught: 25 ft 9 in (7.85 m)[1]
Installed power: 18,000 ihp
Propulsion: 24 Belleville water tube boilers
4-cylinder triple expansion
2 shafts[1]
Speed: 19 knots (35 km/h)
Range: 7,000 nautical miles (12,964 km) at 10 knots (18.5 km/h)
Complement: 720

4 × BL 12-inch (304.8 mm) Mark IX guns[2]
12 × 6-inch (152-mm) 45-caliber BL Mk VII guns[3]
10 × 12-pounder guns
6 x 3-pounder guns
2 x machine guns

4 × 18-inch (450-mm) torpedo tubes (submerged)[1]
Armour: Belt: 7 in (178 mm)
Bulkheads: 11 in-7 in (279 mm-178 mm)
Decks: 2 in- 1 in (51 mm-25.4mm)
Gun houses: 10 in-8 in (254 mm-203 mm)
Barbettes: 11 in-4 in (279 mm-102 mm)
Casemates: 6 in (152 mm)
Conning tower: 12 in (356 mm)[1]
Notes: TheDuncan-class battleships were informally known as "The Admirals"[4]

The Duncan-class battleships built 1901-1903 were predreadnought battleships of the Royal Navy. From 1889, Britains “rank as a first-class power was bound up with its Mediterranean position” [5] and these lightly armoured fast ships were intended to help meet combined Russian and French threats. Their period of maximum operational significance was short. By 1904, Britain had formed the Entente cordiale with France whilst Russia was decisively defeated at the Tsushima the following year. This battle led to the design of HMS Dreadnought launched 1906 which eclipsed the Duncans and all previous ships.


Technical Description

Right elevation and deck plan as depicted in Brassey's Naval Annual 1915

The Duncan-class battleships were ordered in response to large French and Russian building programs,[1] including an emphasis on fast battleships in the Russian program;[6] they were designed as smaller, more lightly armored, and faster versions of the preceding Formidable class.[1] As it turned out, the Russian ships were not as heavily armed as initially feared, and the Duncans proved to be quite superior in their balance of speed, firepower, and protection.[6] Although they were designed before the ships of the London subclass of the Formidable class, the first two Londons were laid down before the first Duncan.[1]

Armor layout was similar to that of London, with reduced thickness in the barbettes and belt.[1]

The Duncans had machinery of 3,000 more indicated horsepower than the Formidables and Londons and were the first British battleships with 4-cylinder triple-expansion engines. They also had a modified hull form to improve speed. The ships had a reputation as good steamers, with a designed speed of 19 knots (35 km/h) and an operational speed of 18 knots (33 km/h),[1] good steering at all speeds, and an easy roll. They were the fastest battleships in the Royal Navy when completed, and the fastest predreadnoughts ever built other than the Swiftsure-class HMS Swiftsure and HMS Triumph.[7]

They had the same armament as and a smaller displacement than the Formidables and Londons.[1]

The ships of the class were named after famous admirals of the Royal Navy and were informally known as "the Admirals".[4] Like all predreadnoughts, they were outclassed by the dreadnought battleships that began to appear in 1906, but they nonetheless continued to perform front-line duties up through the early part of World War I.

Operational History

All six ships were launched in 1901; all were completed in 1903 except Cornwallis, which was completed in 1904. Before World War I, the ships served in the Mediterranean Fleet, Channel Fleet, Atlantic Fleet, and Home Fleet; Montagu, was lost prematurely when she was wrecked in 1906.[8]

During World War I, the ships saw early service in the Grand Fleet and Channel Fleet. Later, Albemarle continued to serve in the Grand Fleet and in North Russia, while the others all were involved in service in the Mediterranean, where some saw action in the Dardanelles Campaign and members of the class served in the Atlantic Ocean, Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea, and Indian Ocean. Russell and Cornwallis were lost off Malta; the survivors went into reserve in 1917 and were scrapped in 1919-1920.[8]

Duncan-Class Ships


HMS Albemarle

Albemarle (after George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle) served in the Mediterranean Fleet (1903-1905), Channel Fleet (1905-1907), Atlantic Fleet (1907-1910), and Home Fleet (1910-1914). Her World War I service was in the Grand Fleet (1914), Channel Fleet (1914-1915), and Grand Fleet again (1915-1916), where she was badly damaged in November 1915 in heavy weather while in the Pentland Firth. She then served in at Murmansk in North Russia (1916), including duty as an icebreaker at Arkhangelsk. She was in reserve 1916-1919 and was scrapped in 1919.[9]

HMS Cornwallis

Cornwallis (after Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis) served in the Mediterranean Fleet (1904-1905), the Channel Fleet (1905-1907), the British Atlantic Fleet (1907-1909), the Mediterranean Fleet again (1909-1912), and the Home Fleet (1912-1914). Her World War I service was in the Grand Fleet (1914); in the Channel Fleet (1914); and in the West Ireland area (1914-1915). She took part in the Dardanelles Campaign (1915), during which she was the first ship to fire her guns during the campaign and took part in all operations including the Gallipoli evacuation, being the last large ship to leave the Suvla Bay area. She then served on the Suez Canal Patrol and East Indies Station (1915-1917), including duty in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and Indian Ocean. She was sunk with the loss of fifteen lives off Malta, on 9 January 1917 by two or three torpedoes from U-32.[10]

HMS Duncan

Duncan, named after Adam Duncan, 1st Viscount Duncan of Camperdown, served in the Mediterranean Fleet (1903-1905), Channel Fleet (1905-1907), Atlantic Fleet (1907-1908), Mediterranean Fleet again (1908-1912), and Home Fleet (1912-1914). Her World War I service was in the Grand Fleet (1914), in the Channel Fleet (1914-1915), on the Finisterre-Azores-Madeira Station (1915), in the Adriatic Sea (1915-1916), in the Aegean Sea (1916-1917), and in the Adriatic again (1917). She was placed in reserve in 1917 and broken up in 1920.[11]

HMS Exmouth

Exmouth (after Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth) served in the Mediterranean Fleet (1903-1904), Home Fleet (1904-1905), Channel Fleet (1905-1907), Atlantic Fleet (1907-1908), Mediterranean Fleet again (1908-1912), and Home Fleet again (1912)-1914), during which she was a gunnery tender at Portsmouth in 1913, then joined the 6th Battle Squadron and was later allocated to the 3rd Battle Squadron. Her World War I service was in the Grand Fleet (1914); in the Channel Fleet (1914-1915), during which she was in action during the Zeebrugge bombardment in 1915; in the Dardanelles Campaign (1915); in the Aegean Sea (1915-1917); and in the Indian Ocean (1917). She was placed in reserve in 1917 and broken up in 1920.[12]

HMS Montagu

Montagu served in the Mediterranean Fleet (1903-1905) and Channel Fleet (1905-1906). She was wrecked on Lundy Island on 30 May 1906.[13]

HMS Russell

Russell served in the Mediterranean Fleet (1903-1904), Home Fleet (1904-1905), Channel Fleet (1905-1907), Atlantic Fleet (1907-1909), Mediterranean Fleet again (1909-1912), and Home Fleet again (1912-1914). Her World War I service was in the Grand Fleet (1914); Channel Fleet (1914-1915), during which she took part in the bombardment of Zeebrugge; Grand Fleet again (1915); and Dardanelles Campaign (1915-1916), taking part later on in the evacuation of Gallipoli, being the last British battleship to leave the Cape Helles area. She continued to serve in the eastern Mediterranean Sea until, on 27 April 1916, she struck two mines off the coast of Malta and sank with the loss of 125 lives.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860-1905, p. 37
  2. ^ Tony DiGiulian, British 12"/40 (30.5 cm) Mark IX
  3. ^ Tony DiGiulian, British 6"/45 (15.2 cm) BL Mark VII
  4. ^ a b Burt, p. 198
  5. ^ Geoffrey Miller. "THE MILLSTONE: British Naval Policy in the Mediterranean, 1900-1914". Retrieved 2009-08-01.  
  6. ^ a b Gibbons, p. 159
  7. ^ Burt, p. 202
  8. ^ a b Burt, p. 204-214
  9. ^ Burt, p. 211-212
  10. ^ Burt, p. 208-209
  11. ^ Burt, p. 204-205
  12. ^ Burt, pp. 212, 214
  13. ^ Burt, p. 205
  14. ^ Burt, pp. 209, 211


  • Burt, R. A. British Battleships 1889-1904. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1988. ISBN 0870210610.
  • Chesneau, Roger, and Eugene M. Kolesnik, eds. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships, 1860-1905. New York: Mayflower Books, Inc., 1979. ISBN 0831703024.
  • Gibbons, Tony. The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers: A Technical Directory of All the World's Capital Ships From 1860 to the Present Day. London: Salamander Books Ltd., 1983.

External links


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