HMS Monmouth

HMS Monmouth was the first of ten Monmouth class first class armoured cruisers built for the Royal Navy between 1899, when the Monmouth was laid down and 1904 when the last five of the class were completed. The previous Drake class of cruisers were large, fast and expensive. The Monmouth class was designed to keep the speed but reduce the size and cost. The resulting ship was 4,000 tonnes lighter and 50 feet shorter that the Drake class ships. This had been achieved by reducing the thickness of the main armour belt from 6in to 4in and by removing the two 9.2in guns carried on the Drakes.

HMS Monmouth
HMS Monmouth

HMS Monmouth - the guns
HMS Monmouth - the guns

Instead the Monmouth class cruisers carried fourteen 6in guns. Four of those guns were carried in two turrets, one fore and one aft, with the remaining ten carried in casemates, five on each side of the ship. Although the class was criticized for its lack of firepower at the time, the Monmouth would be the only member of the class to be lost in battle, and eight of the ten ships built survived until 1920-21 when they were sold off.

The Monmouth spent some of its early career in the Mediterranean, joining the 1st Cruiser Squadron. In January 1906 she went into the reserve at Devonport, but only for three months. In April 1906 she was sent to the China Station. In 1913 she was back in home waters with the 3rd Fleet. At the outbreak of the First World War she was part of the 5th Cruiser Squadron, but she was soon detached from that squadron and sent to join Admiral Christopher Cradock’s South American station.

In October 1914 Cradock learnt that Admiral von Spee, at the head of a squadron of five modern cruisers, was planning to leave the Pacific for the South Atlantic. Cradock decided to move into the Pacific in an attempt to prevent this.  At Coronel (1 November 1914) Cradock was effectively ambushed by von Spee’s squadron. The Monmouth’s 6in guns were outranged by the 8.2in guns carried on von Spee’s best ships, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau. The Monmouth was lost with all hands without being able to inflict any damage on the German ships.

Plans of Monmouth Class First Class Armoured Cruisers
Plans of Monmouth Class First Class Armoured Cruisers

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed




Armour – belt


 - bulkhead


 - barbettes


 - turrets


 - casemates


 - ammunition hoists


 - decks


 - conning tower



463ft 6in


Fourteen 6in quick firing
Ten 12pdr quick firing
Three 3pdr quick firing
Two 18in submerged torpedo tubes

Crew complement



13 November 1901


2 December 1903


1 November 1914

The Scapegoat: The life and tragedy of a fighting admiral and Churchill's role in his death, Steve R. Dunn. Fascinating biography of Admiral Kit Cradock, the defeated commander at the battle of Coronel in 1914. Also serves as a history of the late Victorian and Edwardian Navy, looking at its strengths and flaws in the period leading up to the First World War, the Royal Navy's first serious trial since the Napoleonic Wars. [read full review]
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Before the Battlecruiser - The Big Cruiser in the World’s Navies 1865-1910, Aidan Dodson. Looks at the development and careers of the ‘big cruiser’, the most heavily armed cruisers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a type that eventually evolved in the battlecruiser. Covers the development of the type, its combat experience while still state of the art, its role in the First World War, as well as looking at the technical specifications of all of the ships that fell into this category (Read Full Review)
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Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 August 2007), HMS Monmouth ,

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