Armoured Cruiser Cressy, detailed in the original builders’ plan, Andrew Choong

Armoured Cruiser Cressy, detailed in the original builders’ plan, Andrew Choong

The Cressy class of armoured cruisers are most famous for the disastrous loss of three of them – Cressy, Aboukir and Hogue – to a single U-boat, U-9, on 22 September 1914. However when they were first built they were amongst the most modern and powerful ships of their type, and had been considered a successful design. It was the ill fortune of their crews to be serving on ships that were on the verge of being disposed of when war broke out, that were used in a role that they were ill-suited to and left them vulnerable to attack, and that during the attack were rather badly handled. 

This book is based on the ‘as-fitted’ plans produce by the Navy in 1901 after the Cressy had been completed. They were intended to act as a reference work to show how the ship was actually arranged, and include many details that wouldn’t be on the builder’s working plans, such as the contents of the magazines or the layout of the furniture in the officer’s cabins. A wider range of plans were produced, from large scale detailed deck plans to the details of individual fittings.

We start with a lengthy introduction to the class, looking at its overall design, layout, machinery, guns etc, with each section supported by several detailed plans. This helps with things like the internal layout of the gun turrets and casemates. Next is the gatefold section, which folds out to give us a four page wide version of the profile plan, with three page versions of the armour layout and rigging plans on the back. Next comes the most informative section, which contains enlarged sections from the profile, each of which is matched up with the correct cross section. These are enlarged enough for the text to be readable, and give us a really detailed view of the interior layout of the ship – right down to the location of shelves in some of the cabins! Finally there are six deck plans, each spread out over two two page spreads. 

As always with this series, their main value is that they answer key questions about the internal layout of the ships. In the case (and for many similar armoured cruisers) my main question had always been about the layout of the gun decks, with their rows of casemates – were they large open spaces or individually protected, how were they supplied with ammo etc. The biggest surprise to me was that the apparently solid top level of the superstructure, which contained four of the secondary 6in guns, was actually hollow, with an open space in the centre of the ship, with the gun emplacements and a number of other rooms (including the captain’s water closet!) along either edge. The lower 6in gun positions were more what I had expected, with the guns in separate armoured rooms which backed onto a variety of large rooms, including the main crew compartments. There is also a great deal of joy to be had from picking out the minor details. One surprise here was that that some of the crew actually berthed in the casemates, which contained collapsible mess tables very reminiscent of Nelson’s navy.

This is another excellent entry in this series, looking at an example of a type of warship that was at the forefront of naval thinking when they were designed, even if they didn’t hold up well under the pressure of the Great War.

Gatefold Plans
Details and Fittings
Enlarged Profile and Sections, as Fitted 1901
Enlarged Decks, as Fitted 1901

Author: Andrew Choong
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 128
Publisher: Seaforth
Year: 2020

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