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HMS Tiger



   

HMS Tiger

HMS Tiger was the sole battlecruiser in the 1911–12 Naval Programme. She was laid down at the John Brown and Company shipyard in Clydebank on 6 June 1912, launched on 15 December 1913 and commissioned into the Royal Navy on 3 October 1914, at a cost of £2,593,100, including armament. The ship was still under construction when the First World War broke out in August 1914. On 3 August 1914 Captain Henry Bertram Pelly was appointed to command the ship. Beatty described Pelly at the time as "a very charming person and, what is more important just now, a very efficient officer". After the Battle of Coronel and the deployment of three battlecruisers to hunt for the German East Asia Squadron, Tiger was ordered to cut short her firing trials off Berehaven and was commissioned into the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron (1st BCS) two months later, on 3 October. She began trials and working up and Beatty described Tiger to the First Sea Lord, Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher of Kilverstone, as "not yet fit to fight. Three out of her four dynamoes are out of action for an indefinite period, and her training is impeded by bad weather, which might continue for many weeks at this time of year and at present is quite unprepared and inefficient."

Tiger took part in the First Battle of Dogger Bank and The Battle of Jutland. She was also present in support during the second Battle of Heligoland Bight and the unsuccessful attempt to intercept German ships after a planned bombardment of Sunderland.

After her repairs were completed, Tiger served as the temporary flagship of the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron while Lion was under repair. 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. 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 steered 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 had lost two cruisers to submarine attacks and a German dreadnought had been damaged by a torpedo.

The ship received a lengthy refit from 10 November 1916 to 29 January 1917 at Rosyth where her deck and turret roof armour were reinforced and additional rangefinders were added over her conning tower and the rear of 'X' turret. For the remainder of the war, Tiger uneventfully patrolled the North Sea, as both fleets were essentially 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. The same year saw her undergo a minor refit during which a flying-off platform for a Sopwith Camel was mounted on 'Q' turret and a searchlight platform was added to her third funnel. She underwent a more extensive refit in 1918 which saw her topmast shifted to the top of the derrick-stump and a more substantial observation platform added to the foremast. Some of her short rangefinders were replaced by longer ones as well.

Tiger remained in service with the Royal Navy after the Armistice with Germany and she had a flying-off platform added on 'B' turret's roof in 1919. The ship collided with the battleship Royal Sovereign in late 1920 while assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. Tiger survived the culling of older capital ships following the Washington Naval Treaty, although she was placed in reserve on 22 August 1921. The ship was refitted in March 1922 with a 25-foot rangefinder fitted on 'X' turret, her original pair of 3-inch AA guns replaced by four 4-inch guns and the flying-off platform on 'Q' turret was removed. On 14 February 1924, Tiger was recommissioned and became a seagoing training ship, a role she served in throughout the 1920s. Her last major period of activity came in 1929, when Hood went into dockyard hands for refit. While Hood was out of commission, Tiger returned to active service to keep the Royal Navy's three-ship Battlecruiser Squadron (normally made up of Hood plus the smaller Renown and Repulse) up to strength. Although by the 1930s Tiger was still in reasonable condition, the decision was taken to discard her following the London Naval Conference of 1930 as part of an overall reduction in world battleship fleets. Under the command of Captain Kenneth Dewar from 1928 to 1929, her final commander was Arthur Bedford, and she remained in service with the fleet until Hood came out of refit in early 1931, at which time she was taken out of commission in accordance with the terms of the London Naval Treaty. Tiger took the cheers of the Atlantic Fleet on 30 March 1931 at Devonport.

She was paid off on 15 May 1931 at Rosyth, before being sold to T. W. Ward of Inverkeithing for breaking up in February 1932.

John Doran


24th January 1915 Battle of Dogger Bank 1915  The First Battle of Dogger Bank was fought in the North Sea on 24 January 1915, between squadrons of the British Grand Fleet and the German High Seas Fleet. The British, through decoded radio messages had received advance information that a German raiding squadron was heading for Dogger Bank and sent naval forces to intercept it.

They encountered the Germans at the expected location, surprising the smaller and slower German squadron, who fled homewards. Chasing them for several hours, the British slowly closed with the Germans and engaged them with long-range gunfire. The rearmost German ship, the Blücher was badly damaged, but the Germans also put the British flagship HMS Lion out of action with heavy damage. Due to a signalling error, the remaining British ships broke off pursuit of the fleeing enemy force to sink Blücher, as a result of which the German squadron escaped. All the remaining German vessels returned safely to harbour, though some had heavy damage requiring extended repairs.

Lion made it back to port but was out of action for several months. It was hailed as a British victory as no ships were lost and casualties were light, while the Germans lost a ship and most of its crew. Both navies drew lessons from the encounter and both Commanders were replaced on grounds of poor judgement.

Order of battle at Dogger Bank (1915)

  • British Forces:
  • 1st Battlecruiser Squadron: HMS Lion, Tiger and Princess Royal.
  • 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron: HMS New Zealand and Indomitable.
  • 1st Light Cruiser Squadron: HMS Southampton, Birmingham, Lowestoft, and Nottingham.
  • Harwich Force: three light cruisers (HMS Aurora, Arethusa, Undaunted) and 35 destroyers.
  • German Forces:
  • 1st Scouting Group: SMS Seydlitz, Moltke, Derfflinger and Blücher.
  • 2nd Scouting Group: SMS Kolberg, Stralsund, Rostock, and Graudenz.
  • Two flotillas of torpedo boats - 18 in total.

Background to the action

The success at Heligoland Bight had the main German battle fleet effectively bottled up, so the German high command decided a raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby would be made with Admiral Franz Hipper's battlecruiser squadron. This comprised three battlecruisers and one large armoured cruiser—supported by light cruisers and destroyers. Hipper opened fire at 0800 on 16 December 1914, eventually killing 108 civilians and wounding 525. Public and political opinion was outraged that German warships could sail so close to the British coast, shelling coastal towns with apparent impunity. British naval forces had failed to prevent the attacks, and also failed to intercept Hipper's raiding squadron afterwards. Though the British fleet was at sea hunting Hipper after the raid, the Germans escaped in stormy weather, aided by low visibility and British communication problems.

Buoyed by the success of the raid, Admiral Hipper resolved to repeat the exercise by attacking the British fishing fleet on the Dogger Bank — midway between Germany and Britain — the following month. Hipper suspected that the British fishing fleet was providing intelligence on German fleet movements.

Through intercepted German radio traffic decoded by Room 40 of British Naval Intelligence, the British learned of Hipper's planned sortie on 23 January 1915. Acting Vice Admiral Beatty set sail from Rosyth with five battlecruisers — supported by four light cruisers — to attempt to trap Hipper's force. They were joined by additional cruisers and destroyers from Harwich as Beatty headed south, encountering Hipper's screening vessels at the Dogger Bank at 0705 on 24 January. The day was clear and visibility was unusually good.

Sighting the smoke from a large approaching force, Hipper headed southeast by 0735 to escape, but Beatty's ships were faster than the German squadron, which was held back by the slower armoured cruiser SMS Blücher and by Hipper's coal-fired torpedo boats. By 0800, Hipper's battlecruisers were sighted from Beatty's flagship, HMS Lion. The older battlecruisers of the British 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron lagged somewhat behind the 1st Battlecruiser Squadron. Chasing the Germans from a position astern and to starboard of Hipper's force, the British ships gradually caught up — some reaching speeds of 27 kn (31 mph; 50 km/h) — and closed to gun range. Beatty chose to approach from this direction because the prevailing wind then blew the British ships' smoke clear, allowing them a good view of the enemy, while Hipper's gunners were partially blinded by funnel and gun smoke blowing in the direction of their targets. Lion opened fire at 0852 at a range of 20,000 yd (18,000 m). Other British ships opened as they came within range, while the Germans were unable to reply until 0911 because of the shorter range of their guns. No warships had ever before engaged at such long ranges or at such high speeds and gunnery challenges for both sides were therefore unprecedented. Nevertheless, after a few salvos the British shells had straddled Blücher.

The British fire was concentrated on two of the German ships, Hipper's flagship battlecruiser SMS Seydlitz at the head of the line and Blücher at the rear. With five British ships to the German four, Beatty intended that his two rear ships, HMS New Zealand and Indomitable, should engage Blücher, while his leading three engaged their opposite numbers. But Captain H.B. Pelly of the newly commissioned battlecruiser HMS Tiger assumed that two ships should concentrate on the leading German ship and engaged Seydlitz, leaving SMS Moltke unmolested to fire at Lion. Worse, Tiger's fire was ineffective, as she mistook Lion's shell splashes for her own (when her shots were actually falling 3,000 yd (2,700 m) beyond Seydlitz).

At 0943, Seydlitz was hit by a 13.5 in (340 mm) shell from Lion, which penetrated her after turret barbette and caused an ammunition fire in the working chamber. This fire spread rapidly through one compartment after another, igniting ready propellant charges all the way to the magazines, and knocked out both rear turrets with the loss of 165 men. Only the prompt action of the executive officer in flooding the magazines, saved Seydlitz from a massive magazine explosion that would have destroyed the ship.

The British ships were relatively unscathed until 1018, when SMS Derfflinger hit Lion with several 12 inches (305 mm) shells, damaging her engines and causing flooding so that Lion began to lag behind. At 1041, Lion narrowly escaped a disaster similar to what had happened on Seydlitz, when a German shell hit the forward turret and ignited a small ammunition fire which, fortunately for the British, was extinguished before it caused catastrophe. A few minutes later, taking on water and listing to port, Lion had to stop her port engine and reduce speed to 15 kn (17 mph; 28 km/h), and was soon out of action, having been hit 14 times.

Meanwhile, at 1030, Blücher was hit by a shell from HMS Princess Royal, which caused an ammunition fire and boiler room damage. As a result, Blücher had to reduce speed to 17 kn (20 mph; 31 km/h), and fell further and further behind the rest of the German force. Beatty ordered Indomitable — his slowest ship — to intercept Blücher.

Now Hipper, running low on ammunition, made the difficult decision to leave the disabled Blücher to her fate and steam for home, in order to save his remaining damaged ships. Nevertheless, the annihilation of the German squadron still appeared likely to the pursuing British until 1054, when Beatty — believing he saw a submarine's periscope on Lion's starboard bow — ordered a sharp, 90° turn to port to avoid a submarine trap. (It is possible that the "periscope" was actually a surfacing, run-out torpedo which had been launched 15 minutes earlier by the German destroyer V5). At 1102, realising that so sharp a turn would open the range too much, Beatty ordered "Course NE" to limit the turn to 45°, and then added "Engage the enemy's rear", in an attempt to clarify his intention that his other ships, which had now left Lion far behind, should pursue Hipper's main force. With Lion's electric generators now out of commission, Beatty could only signal using flag hoists, and both these signals were flown at the same time. But the combination of the signal of "Course NE" — which happened to be the direction of Blücher — and the signal to engage the rear was misunderstood by Beatty’s second-in-command — Rear-Admiral Gordon Moore on New Zealand — as an order for all the battlecruisers to finish off the cripple. Therefore, the remaining British battlecruisers broke off the pursuit of the fleeing German squadron and rounded on Blücher. Most of the British light cruisers and destroyers also attacked Blücher. Beatty tried to correct this obvious misunderstanding by using Horatio Nelson's famous order from Trafalgar "Engage the enemy more closely", but this order was not in the signal book, so he chose "Keep nearer to the enemy" as the closest equivalent. But by the time this signal was hoisted, Moore's ships were too far away to read Beatty's flags, and the correction was not received.

Despite the overwhelming odds, Blücher fought stubbornly to the end. Blücher managed to put the British destroyer HMS Meteor out of action and scored two hits on the British battlecruisers with her 8.2 in (210 mm) guns, but was pounded into a burning wreck by approximately 50 British shells. Finally, struck by two torpedoes from the light cruiser HMS Arethusa, Blücher capsized and sank at 1313 with the loss of 792 men. British efforts to rescue survivors in the water were interrupted by the arrival of the German Zeppelin L-5 (aka LZ-28), and by a German seaplane which attacked with small bombs. No damage was done, but the British ships — which were sitting targets while stopped in the water for rescue — put on speed and withdrew to avoid further aerial attack.

By this time, Hipper had escaped; his ships were now too far away for the British to catch them again. Beatty had lost control of the battle, and he perceived that the opportunity of an overwhelming victory had been lost. The Admiralty — incorrectly believing that Derfflinger had been badly damaged — would soon reach the same conclusion. However, in light of what happened later at Jutland, where the British battlecruisers were shown to be highly vulnerable to ammunition fires and magazine explosions following hits on gun turrets, it is possible that if Moore's three fast battlecruisers had pursued Hipper's remaining three (leaving the slower Indomitable behind as Beatty intended), the British might actually have been at a disadvantage and might have got the worst of it. Blücher demonstrated the ability of the German ships to absorb great punishment. All of Hipper's remaining ships were larger, faster, more modern, more heavily armed, and far better armoured than Blücher and only Seydlitz had suffered any serious damage. Apart from the sinking of Blücher, the Germans out-hit the British by over three to one, with 22 heavy-calibre hits — 16 on Lion and six on Tiger — against the British total of just seven hits.

Aftermath of the Battle

Lion had to be towed back to port by Indomitable at 10 kn (12 mph; 19 km/h), a long and dangerous voyage in which both battlecruisers were exposed to potential submarine attacks. Therefore, an enormous screen of over fifty ships was assigned to guard Lion and Indomitable as they crept home. Both reached port safely. The disabled Meteor was also towed home. Lion was out of action for four months, Lord Fisher having decreed that her damage be repaired on the Tyne without going into dry dock, making for an extremely difficult and time-consuming job.

All the surviving German ships reached port, though Seydlitz was heavily damaged and had to go into drydock for repairs. Although the Germans initially believed that Tiger had been sunk because of a large fire that had been seen on her decks, it was soon clear that the battle was a serious reverse. A furious Kaiser Wilhelm II issued an order that all further risks to surface vessels were to be avoided. Admiral Friedrich von Ingenohl—commander of the High Seas Fleet—was replaced by Admiral Hugo von Pohl. The Germans took the lessons of the battle to heart, particularly the damage to Seydlitz, which revealed flaws in the protection of her magazines and dangerous ammunition-handling procedures.Some of these issues were corrected in Germany's battleships and battlecruisers in time for the Battle of Jutland the following summer. Although the Germans realized that the appearance of the British squadron at dawn was too remarkable to be mere coincidence, they concluded that an enemy agent near their base in the Jade Bay was responsible, and did not suspect that their wireless codes had been compromised.

Although the battle was not greatly consequential in itself, it boosted British morale. But while the Germans learned their lessons, the British did not. The unfortunate Rear-Admiral Moore was quietly replaced, but Beatty's flag lieutenant Ralph Seymour — responsible for hoisting Beatty's two commands on one flag hoist, thereby allowing them to be read as one — remained. Signalling on board Lion would again be poor in the first hours of Jutland, with serious consequences for the British. Nor did the battlecruisers learn their lesson about fire distribution, as similar targeting errors were made at Jutland.

John Doran


31st May 1916 Battle of Jutland  On 31 May 1916, the 2nd Battlecruiser Squadron consisted of HMS New Zealand (flagship of Rear Admiral William Christopher Pakenham) and HMS Indefatigable. (Australia was still under repair following her collision with New Zealand.) The squadron was assigned to Admiral Beatty's Battlecruiser Fleet, which had put to sea 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 1520, but Beatty's ships didn't spot the Germans to their east until 1530. Two minutes later, 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. He also ordered the 2nd BCS, which had been leading, to fall in astern of the 1st BCS. Hipper ordered his ships to turn to starboard, away from the British, to assume a south-easterly course, and reduced speed to 18 knots 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 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. Thus began the so-called "Run to the South" as Beatty changed course to steer east-south-east at 1545, paralleling Hipper's course, now that the range closed to under 18,000 yards. The Germans opened fire first at 3:48, followed by the British. The British ships were still in the process of making their turn, and only the two leading ships, HMS Lion and HMS Princess Royal, had steadied on their course when the Germans opened fire. The British formation was echeloned to the right with Indefatigable in the rear and the furthest to the west, and New Zealand ahead of her and slightly further east. The German fire was accurate from the beginning, but the British overestimated the range as the German ships blended into the haze. Indefatigable aimed at SMS Von der Tann, while New Zealand, unengaged herself, targeted SMS Moltke. 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. Indefatigable was destroyed at about 4:03, when her magazines exploded. After Indefatigable's loss, New Zealand shifted her fire to Von der Tann in accordance with Beatty's standing instructions. The range had grown too far for accurate shooting, so Beatty altered course four points to port to close the range again between 1612 and 1615. By this time, the 5th Battle Squadron, consisting of four Queen Elizabeth-class battleships, had closed up and was engaging Von der Tann and Moltke. At 1623, a 13.5-inch shell from HMS Tiger struck near Von der Tann's rear turret, starting a fire among the practice targets stowed there that completely obscured the ship and caused New Zealand to shift fire to Moltke. At 1626, the ship was hit by an 11 inch shell, fired by Von der Tann, on 'X' barbette that detonated on contact and knocked loose a piece of armour that briefly jammed 'X' turret and blew a hole in the upper deck. Four minutes later, 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. New Zealand, the last ship in the line, turned prematurely to stay outside the range of the oncoming battleships. A chunk of armour knocked from New Zealand's 'X' turret during the Battle of Jutland on display at the Torpedo Bay Navy Museum in Auckland New Zealand was straddled several times by the battleship SMS Prinzregent Luitpold but was not hit. Beatty's ships maintained full speed in an attempt to increase the distance between them and the High Seas Fleet and gradually moved out of range. They turned north and then north-east to try to rendezvous with the main body of the Grand Fleet. At 1740, they opened fire again on the German battlecruisers. The setting sun blinded the German gunners and, as they could not make out the British ships, they turned away to the north-east at 1747. Beatty gradually turned more towards the east to allow him to cover the deployment of the Grand Fleet in battle formation and to move ahead of it, but he mistimed his manoeuvre and forced the leading division to fall off towards the east, further away from the Germans. By 1835, Beatty was following Indomitable and HMS Inflexible of the 3rd BCS as they were steering east-south-east, leading the Grand Fleet, and continuing to engage Hipper's battlecruisers to their south-west. A few minutes earlier, Scheer had ordered a simultaneous 180° starboard turn and Beatty lost sight of the High Seas Fleet in the haze. Twenty minutes later, Scheer ordered another 180° turn which put them on a converging course again with the Grand Fleet, which had altered course to the south. This allowed the Grand Fleet to cross Scheer's T, forming a battle line that cut across his battle line and badly damaging his leading ships. Scheer ordered yet another 180° turn at 1913 in an attempt to extricate the High Seas Fleet from the trap into which he had sent them. This was successful and the British lost sight of the Germans until 2005, when HMS Castor spotted smoke bearing west-north-west. Ten minutes later, she had closed the range enough to identify German torpedo boats, and engaged them. Beatty turned west upon hearing gunfire and spotted the German battlecruisers only 8,500 yards away. Inflexible opened fire at 2020, followed by the rest of Beatty's battlecruisers.

New Zealand and Indomitable concentrated their fire on SMS Seydlitz, and hit her five times before she turned west to disengage. Shortly after 2030, the pre-dreadnought battleships of Rear Admiral Mauve's II Battle Squadron were spotted and fire switched to them. The Germans had poor visibility and were able to fire only a few rounds at them before turning away to the west. The British battlecruisers hit the German ships several times before they blended into the haze around 2040. After this, Beatty changed course to south-south-east and maintained that course, ahead of both the Grand Fleet and the High Seas Fleet, until 0255 the next morning, when the order was given to reverse course and head home.

New Zealand fired 420 twelve-inch shells during the battle, more than any other ship on either side. Despite this, only four successful hits were credited to the battlecruiser. Three on Seydlitz and one on the pre-dreadnought SMS Schleswig-Holstein. She was hit only once during the battle, confirming for the crew the piupiu and tiki worn by her new captain, J.F.E. (Jimmy) Green, brought good luck.

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