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The Invergordon Archive

The War Memorial, Invergordon, Showing Fleet
The Invergordon Archive
The War Memorial, Invergordon, Showing Fleet

A postcard showing the War Memorial and the Fleet at anchor in the Firth. The three ships shown appear to have very similar outlines.
The date of the picture is unknown.
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Picture added on 21 September 2004
The ships in the background look like light cruisers and possibly of the Capetown class.
Added by Andrew Bathie on 25 September 2004
These three cruisers are a mix of "D" class, rather than "C" class cruisers, at around the date suggested, c1920.

The "D"s were basically a stretched version of the later "C"s (the 2nd grp "Ceres" class, with superfiring "A" and "B" mounts on the focsle), but with an extra 20 feet of hull inserted between the fwd superstructure and the 1st funnel, to enable them to carry an extra main gun "Q" mount in this position, with sufficient room to swing it through a worthwhile firing arc, and with an additional magazine to feed it below decks.

This created the large "gap" between the superstructure and the 1st funnel, seen in all three ships in this photo.

To cut a long story short, the way this evolved was

AXQF C 1st grp Caledon

ABXF C 2nd grp Ceres & C 3rd grp Capetown

ABXQF D - all three grps

where A is A mount, B is B mount, Q is Q mount, X is the fwd superstructure, and F is the 1st funnel

Another feature of both the "C"s and "D"s is the presence or absence of an upswept "trawler bow", fitted to the later groups of both classes to enable the guns on the focsle to be worked in rough weather. Standing about five feet proud of the deck at the point of the bow and blending into main deck level around "A" mount, it is obvious in close-ups, but less so at a distance.

Comparing the ship on the left with the ship on the right, the former doesn't have it, whereas the latter does.

Introduced on the "C" 3rd grp ("Capetown") class, and with the order in which these classes were laid down C 1st grp, C 2nd grp, D 1st grp, C 3rd grp, D 2nd grp, D 3rd grp, the "trawler bow" is absent on the "D" 1st grp ("Danae") class, which pre-dates the "Capetowns", and present on all the later "D"s.

So, the ship on the left is a "D" 1st grp ("Danae") class.

Beatty had first had an aircraft put up from seaplane carrier Engadine to scout for the opposing fleet at Jutland in 1916, which impressed him sufficiently to warrant inclusion in his post-Jutland report, and within 18 months, with Beatty now C-in-C, Grand Fleet, Furious had launched six Sopwith Camels from her flight deck to carry out the world's 1st carrier air strike.

With aircraft by now seen as a useful extension of the light cruiser's "scouting" role, the entire "D" class was originally to have been fitted with a rather strange-looking "aircraft hanger and catapult" arrangement immediately in front of their fwd superstructure. This took the form, from a side view, of a tall, quit slender oblong structure standing on end, and from a bow-on view as a large square structure seeming to almost entirely conceal the fwd superstructure and bridge, with only the foretop and mast extending above.

It seems to me that the two left hand ships in the photo show areas of dark vertical shadowing inbetween the hanger and the superstructure proper, presumably associated with the hanger, whereas the right hand ship shows only the usual horizontal shadowing associated with the different platforms that make up the fwd superstructure.

As luck would have it, only two "D" class vessels were ever fitted with the original "aircraft hanger and catapult", one the "D" 1st grp ("Danae") class Dauntless, and the other the "D" 2nd grp ("Delhi") class Dragon.

Having already established that the ship on the left is a "D" 1st grp ("Danae") without the trawler bow, it follows that:

The ship on the left in Dauntless.

The ship in the middle is Dragon.

While the precise story of the demise of the original hanger / catapult arrangement is something of a mystery, it seems that all bar two of the "D"s instead received a "flying-off platform aft".

There is precious little photographic evidence of this.

However, on the only "D" 1st grp ("Danae") class without the original hanger there is sometimes a "rectangular box" either between the mainmast and the searchlight platform and deckhouse in front of it, or just forrard of the deckhouse and behind the 2nd funnel, which might conceivably have been used to stow an aircraft.

On the "D" 2nd grp ("Delhi") and "D" 3rd grp ("Daring") class vessels, the location of the "rectangular box" seems to have settled down, and it can be seen on all vessels, with the sole exception of Dragon, the one vessel fitted with the original hanger, immediately in front of and up against the 1st funnel.

It is visible in this location on the vessel on the right in the photo, and just breaks the shore-line in the background. It is not present on the other two vessels.

While this doesn't help much, it does support the view that the vessel on the right does not have the early hanger, and this, coupled with the presence of a "trawler bow", makes it either:

i) Delhi, Dunedin or Durban

"D" 2nd grp ("Delhi") class, so upswept "trawler bow", visible, though way in the distance - but comparing the bow with Dauntless on the left, it looks upswept to me.

In this case there is no hanger fwd, and there is an additional rectangular "box" in front of and right up against the 1st funnel, which is always present on "D" 2nd grp ("Delhi") class and "D" 3rd grp ("Daring") class vessels, but only when not fitted with a hanger fwd.

or ii) Diomede.

"D" 3rd grp ("Daring") class, so again with upswept "trawler bow", and rectangular "box".

I'm a little reluctant to suggest that this might be Diomede. I was under the impression that there was much discussion after the war as to whether the six 3rd grp vessels should be completed or scrapped on the slipways, and that eventually, after four had been cancelled and scrapped (including the nameship Daring), the two survivors, Despatch and Diomede, were eventually commissioned rather later, c1922, and then shipped out to the China Station for three years (Diomede) and five years (Despatch) - though I have seen earlier dates quoted.

However, enlarging a more detailed scan of this photo might reveal a feature peculiar to Diomede, with her "A" mount (only) replaced by a larger, fully-enclosed turret - or it might just be an impression created by the angle of the turret in this less-dense scan of this photo, when enlarged.

The fully enclosed "A" turret was another attempt to make the fwd guns more workable in rough weather, and was only fitted to Diomede, I suspect either "from new" or "from very nearly new" - I have not seen a photo of Diomede without it, and it was certainly fitted before circa 1924-25, when she was converted to full oil firing and given new, slightly "stumpier" funnels.

It would be of interest, if possible, to have the option on this page to open up a more detailed scan of this photo, to hopefully enable the identities of at least two (and possibly all three) of these ships to be confirmed. (alternatively, pls email me the most detailed scan you can get, & I'll take a look at it).

(Hopefully this large version helps - Site Admin.)
Added by Jon Summers (London) on 10 July 2007
It certainly does, thanks. HMS Dauntless is on the left, HMS Dragon is in the centre. The ship on the right is most likely either HMS Delhi, Dunedin or Durban, i.e. it has the standard shielded gun mounts rather than HMS Diomede's turret.
Added by Jon Summers (London) on 13 July 2007
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