British Cruiser Classes of the First World War

Introduction
First class cruisers
Battlecruisers
Second class cruisers
Light cruisers
Third class cruisers
Scout cruisers

Introduction

This list covers the fifty classes of cruisers to see active service during the First World War. These ships varied in size from the massive battlecruisers developed after 1906, which at over 30,000 tonnes were essentially light battleships, down to the tiny 2,000 tonne scout cruisers. The number of ships given is the number of ships active during the war, not the total number of ships in the class. HMS Hood is included in the list to illustrate the vast size of the last general of battlecruisers, despite not being completed until after the war.

This period saw a change in the classification of cruisers. In 1888 a three class system had been introduced, originally based on largely on size. The first class cruisers still in use in 1914 were generally over 10,000 tonnes, and most carried two 9.2in guns and a large number of 6in or 7.5in guns.

These large armoured cruisers then evolved into the battlecruiser, with the appearance of the Invincible class (1907-1909), although the term itself was not adopted until 1912. The distinguishing features of these ships were the adoption of the all big-gun armament of the Dreadnaught,  and the choice of the 12 inch battleship gun as the main armament.

The surviving second and third class cruisers in 1914 were distinguished mainly by their largest guns. The second class cruisers all carried at least two 6in guns (except for the wartime Birkenhead class, with ten 5.5in guns). The third class cruisers carried 4in guns and were generally smaller ships.

The second class cruiser went out of fashion after the Highflyer class of 1899-1900, and no new designs appeared until the Bristol class of 1909-1910. These ships saw the older triple expansion engines replaced by turbines and coal power replaced by a mix of coal and oil. They are generally known as light cruisers. While the Bristol and Weymouth class cruisers only carried deck armour, the Chatham class cruisers of 1911-1916 carried a belt of armour on the waterline, a feature on following classes.

The scout class cruisers were very lightly built, and carried even lighter guns than the third class cruisers. They were soon superseded by the increasingly seaworthy destroyers whose faster speed made them much better and rather less expensive scouts.

First class cruisers

Name

Size

Speed

Biggest guns

Built

Ships

Edgar

7,350/7,700t

20kts

2x9.2in, 10x6in

1891-1896

9

Powerful

14,200t

22kts

2x9.2in, 12x6in

1895-1898

2

Diadem

11,000t

20.25kts

16x6in

1896-1903

8

Cressy

12,000t

21kts

2x9.2in, 12x6in

1899-1904

6

Drake

14,150t

23kts

2x9.2in, 16x6in

1901-1903

4

Monmouth

9,800t

23kts

14x6in

1901-1904

10

Devonshire

10,850t

22kts

4x7.5in, 6x6in

1903-1905

6

Duke of Edinburgh

13,500t

23kts

6x9.2in, 10x6in

1904-1906

2

Warrior

13,550t

23kts

6x9.2in, 4x7.5in

1905-1907

4

Minotaur

14,600t

23kts

4x9.2in, 10x7.5in

1905-1909

3

Battle Cruisers

Name

Size

Speed

Biggest guns

Built

Ships

Invincible

20,078t

25.5kt

8x12in, 16x4in

1907-1909

3

Indefatigable

22,110t

25kts

8x12in, 16x4in

1909-1913

3

Lion

29,680t

27kts

8x13.5in, 16x4in

1910-1912

2

HMS Queen Mary

31,650t

27.5kt

8x13.5in, 16x4in

1912-1913

1

HMS Tiger

35,710t

28kts

8x13.5, 12x6in

1913-1914

1

Renown

30.835t

30kts

6x15in, 17x4in

1916

2

Courageous

22,690t

32kts

4x15in, 18x4in

1916-1917

2

HMS Furious

22,890t

31.5kt

2x18in, 11x5.5in

1916-1917

1

HMS Hood

45,200t

31kts

8x15in, 12x5.5in

1916-1918

-

Second class cruisers

Name

Size

Speed

Biggest guns

Built

Ships

Medea *

2,800t

20kts

6x6in

1888-1889

1

Apollo

3,400/3,600t

18.5kts

2x6in, 6x4.7in

1890-1894

12

Astraea

4,360t

19.5kts

2x6in, 8x4.7in

1892-1896

7

Eclipse 5,600t 19.5kts 5x6in, 6x4.7in 1896-1901 9

Arrogant

5,750t

19kts

4x6in, 6x4.7in

1896-1897

3

Highflyer

5,600t

21kts

11x6in

1889-1900

3

Challenger

5,600/5,880t

20kts

11x6in

1902-1905

2

* HMS Medusa was the only survivor of this class, acting as a calibrating vessel at Bantry during the war.

Light Cruisers

Name

Size

Speed

Biggest guns

Built

Ships

Bristol class

5,300t

25kts

2x6in, 10x4in

1909-1910

5

Weymouth class

5,800t

25kts

8x6in

1910-1912

4

Chatham class

6,000t

25.5kt

8x6in

1911-1916

6

Birmingham class

6,040t

25.5kt

9x6in

1913-1922

4

Arethusa class

4,400t

28.5kt

2x6in, 6x4in

1913-1915

8

Caroline class

4,733t

28.5kt

2x6in, 8x4in

1914-1915

6

Calliope class

4,695t

29.5kt

2x6in, 8x4in

1914-1915

2

Birkenhead class

5,845t

25.5kt

10x5.5in

1915

2

Cambrian class

4,799t

28.5kt

2x6in, 8x4in

1915-1916

4

Centaur class

4,870t

29kts

5x6in

1916

2

Caledon class

4,950t

29kts

5x6in

1916-1917

4

Ceres class

5,020t

29kts

5x6in

1917-1918

5

Capetown class

5,250t

29kts

5x6in

1918-1922

1

Danae class

5,870t

29kts

6x6in

1917-1922

3

Third Class Cruisers

Name

Size

Speed

Biggest guns

Built

Ships

Pearl

2,575t

19kts

8x4.7in

1889-1891

1

Pelorus

2,135/2,200t

20kts

8x4in

1901-1900

8

Gem

3,000t

22.5kts

12x4in

1903-1905

4

Scout class cruisers

Name

Size

Speed

Biggest guns

Built

Ships

Adventure

2,670t

25kts

10x12pdr

1904-1905

2

Forward

2,850t

25kts

10x12pdr

1904-1905

2

Pathfinder

2,940t

25kts

10x12pdr

1904-1905

2

Sentinel

2,895t

25lts

10x12pdr

1904-1905

2

Boadicea

3,800t

25kts

6x4in

1908-1910

2

Blonde

3,850t

24.5kts

10x4in

1909-1911

2

Active

4,000t

25kts

10x4in

1911-1913

3

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (8 September 2007), British Cruiser Classes of the First World War , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/lists_cruiser_classes_british_WWI.html

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