Swiftsure class battleship

Swiftsure class battleship

The "Swiftsure"-class battleships were a class of two British predreadnought battleships. Originally built for Chile, they were purchased by the United Kingdom prior to completion.

Technical Characteristics

Late in 1901, Chile and Argentina were at the brink of war, and Chile was concerned about its navy's ability to counter the armored cruisers "Rivadavia" and "Moreno", which Argentina had ordered in Italy earlier that year. Sir Edward Reed was in Chile for health reasons at the time, and met with Chilean Navy officials to discuss the idea of purchasing or building two battleships with high speed and a powerful armament on a low displacement. Purchase did not prove a practical option, so the Chileans asked Reed to design the ships for construction in the United Kingdom. Chile ordered the ships, to be named "Constitución" and "Libertad", on 26 February 1902, "Constitución" from Armstrong-Whitworth at Elswick and "Libertad" from Vickers at Barrow.

The crisis with Argentina subsided, Argentina opted to put "Rivadavia" and "Moreno" up for sale and never took delivery of them ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1806-1905", p. 403] , and Chilean financial problems arose, so Chile put "Constitución" and "Libertad" up for sale in early 1903; concerned that Russia might buy them, the United Kingdom stepped in and purchased the still-incomplete ships fom Chile on 3 December 1903 for £2,432,000. Although they were designed to Chilean rather than British requirements and required some modifications during construction after their purchase, no major changes were needed. Both were completed in June 1904 and entered service with the Royal Navy, "Constitución" as "Swiftsure" and "Libertad" as HMS "Triumph [Burt, pp. 259, 261-262]

The ships were second-class battleships, lightly constructed, armed, and armored by British standards; "Swiftsure", in fact, suffered from structural weakness while in serice and required hull stengthening, although "Triumph" did not have such problems. Chile had required the ships to fit into its graving dock at Talcahuano, so they had to be longer and narrower for their displacement than ships built to British standards. They had a noticeably foreign appearance, with taller, narrower funnels than on other British battleships and a pair of heavy cranes amidships. Details in mast and anchor arrangements as well as the arrangement of magazines and shell-handling rooms also were different from British standards. [Burt, pp. 262, 264 ]

They were the first British battleships since the "Centurion"-class ships "Centurion" and "Barfleur" to mount a main battery of 10-inch (254-mm) guns and the last to do so. Each ship mounted a different type of 10-inch, with "Swiftsure" carrying the Mark VI and "Triumph" the Mark VII. The ships followed the standard British pactice of the time of mounting the main battery in two double turrets, one forward and one aft. The Royal Navy believed that the 10-inch guns were too light to be effective against modern battleships -- they could penetrate the armor of the latest German and Russian battleships, but not that of the better-armored French battleships -- but that they could be useful against foreign cruisers, although the ships were not fast enough to catch cruisers. They had a powerful secondary battery, being the only British battleships to mount 7.5-inch (190.5-mm) guns; these were of a different type than the 7.5-inch mounted on British cruisers. Ten of the 7.5-inch were mounted in a central battery on the main deck, where they were criticized for taking up too much deck space; the other four were in casemates abreast the fore- and mainmasts on the upper deck. The ships mounted 14-pounders, again a heavier battery than the 12-pounders of most British battleships, although in practice the the 14-pounders proved no more effective than the 12-pounders. [Buert, pp. 264, 267-268]

The armor of the "Swiftsure"s compared favorably with that of the "Duncan"-class battleships, but would not have stood up well against the main battery rounds of foreign first-class battleships. About the same percentage of their displacement was devoted to armor as in the "Duncan"s, with much of its rearrangement from that of the "Duncan"s having to do with most of the secondary guns being mounted in a central battery, rather than casemated as in the "Duncan" class. [Burt, p. 269]

The "Swiftsure"s had balanced rudders and an improved hull form, making them quite maneuverable. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860-1905", p. 39] They received the latest in British boiler technology when built, and this made them the fastest predreadnoughts ever built, with "Triumph" making nearly 20.17 knots (37.4 km/h) and "Swiftsure" achieving 20.87 knots (38.65 km/h)on trials, although these were short sprints under ideal conditions. Operationally they averaged a top speed of convert|19|kn|km/h, slightly faster than the battleships of the "Duncan" class, and this still was enough to qualify them as the fastest predeadnoughts. [Burt, p. 271-272]

The "Swiftsure"s were the last British battleships to enter service with bow crests. They also were the last to enter service equipped with ventilation cowls. [Burt, p. 274]

Purchased solely to deny their acquisition by other navies, "Swiftsure" and "Triumph" met no outstanding Royal Navy requirement when purchased, did not match Bitish standards in many ways, required the manufacturing of their own, special 10-inch (254-mm) ammunition, and were problematic for the British to employ, being too weakly armed and protected to face modern enemy battleships and too slow to catch enemy cruisers. Like all predreadoughts, they were made obsolete by the completion of the revolutionary new battleship HMS "Dreadnought" at the end of 1906 and the many dreadnought battleships commissioned in succeeding years. They nonetheless had useful and eventful careers, playing an active role in British operations on foreign stations during the first half of World War I.

Operational History

Both ships spent their early years in home waters before seeing service in the Mediterranean. They then served on foreign stations, "Triumph" participating in the hunt for the Pacific Squadron of Maximilian Graf von Spee and in Allied action against German forces in China, and both ships seeing action in the Dardanelles Campaign, where "Triumph" was lost. "Swiftsure" then served on the Atlantic Patrol before being decommissioned and scrapped. [Burt, p. 274-276]

hips in class

HMS "Swiftsure"

HMS "Swiftsure" was laid down as the Chilean "Constitución" in 1902 and purchased from Chile on 3 December1903, being renamed "Swiftsure" on 7 December 1903. She served in the Home Fleet (1904), in the Channel Fleet (1905-1908), in the Mediterranean Fleet (1909-1912), in the Home Fleet again (1912-1913), and on the East Indies Station (1913-1915), where her World War I service began. Served on the Suez Canal Patrol (1914-1915) and saw action in the Dardanelles Campaign (1915-1916). Served in the Atlantic (1916-1917), then went into reserve. Sold for scrapping in 1920. [Burt, p. 274-275]

HMS "Triumph"

HMS "Triumph" was laid down as the Chilean "Libertad" and purchased from Chile on 3 December1903, being renamed "Triumph" on 7 December 1903. She served in the Home Fleet (1904), in the Channel Fleet (1905-1909), in the Mediterranean Fleet (1909-1912), in the Home Fleet again (1912-1913), and on the China Station (1913-1914), where her World War I service began. She participated in the hunt for the German Navy Pacific Squadron of Maximilian Graf von Spee and in the campaign against the German colony at Tsingtao, China (1914), then in the Dardanelles Campaign (1915). She was torpedoed and sunk off Gaba Tepe by German submarine "U-21" while bombarding the Dardanelles on 25 May 1915. [Burt, p. 275-276]



*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.

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.