Edgar Class first class protected cruisers

The Edgar Class first class protected cruisers were the oldest British first class cruisers to see active service during the First World War. The previous Blake Class cruisers had been the biggest cruisers yet built for the Royal Navy, but had been expensive and failed to live up to expectations, never quite reaching their designed speed.

The Edgar Class ships were built under the Naval Defence act of 1889. They were smaller versions of the Blake Class ships, 15 feet shorter and 1,800 tonnes lighter as originally designed. The majority of the weight was saved by reducing the size of the engines. The Blake class ships had been powered by two shaft three cylinder triple expansion engines with six double ended cylinder boilers. In the Edgar class on cylinder and two boilers were removed. Despite this the reduction in weight meant that the Edgars were generally just as fast as the Blakes.

Four of the ships were given a wooden and copper sheath to protect their hulls while in the tropics (Gibralter, Crescent, Royal Arthur and St. George). This increased their weight by 350 tones and reduced their speed by half a knot, but did make them more robust.

HMS Crescent and HMS Royal Arthur were given forecastles, raising the height of the bow and improving their seaworthiness. These ships had the forward 9.2in gun replaced by two 6in quick firing guns.

Most members of this class spend their early careers serving on overseas stations. By 1914 most of the Edgar class cruisers were in the reserve. At the start of the First World War they were recommissioned, most serving in the 10th Cruiser Squadron (Northern Patrol). During this period HMS Hawke was sunk by U-9 (15 October 1914), with the loss of all but 70 of her crew.

The four surviving un-sheathed ships (Edgar, Endymion, Grafton and Theseus), were not considered sturdy enough for the North Sea, and were removed from that duty. Their 9.2in guns were removed for use in monitors. They were then rearmed with twin 6in guns and sent to the Dardanelles to take part in the bombardment of the Turkish forts.

By the end of the war the majority of the Edgar class ships had once again been taken out of the front line and were serving as depot or guard ships.

Displacement (loaded)

7,350t/ 7,700t

Top Speed



10,000 nautical miles at 10kts

Armour – deck


 - casemates


 - 9.2in gun shields


 - ammo hoists


 - conning tower



387ft 6in


Two 9.2in guns
Ten 6in quick firing guns
Twelve 6pdr quick firing
Five 3pdr quick firing
Four 18in submerged torpedo tubes

Crew complement






Ships in class

HMS Crescent
HMS Edgar
HMS Endymion
HMS Gibraltar
HMS Grafton
HMS Hawke
HMS Royal Arthur
HMS St. George
HMS Theseus

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)
cover cover cover


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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (10 September 2007), Edgar Class first class protected cruisers, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_edgar_class_cruisers.html

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