España Class Battleships

From the birth of the Dreadnought to the period immediately after the end of World War I.
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España Class Battleships

Post by Tiornu » Wed Dec 08, 2004 10:12 am

There is very little English-language information available on the España class dreadnoughts. What is the best source on the design and its development? What exactly was the intended function of these ships?

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Re: España

Post by Rafael » Fri Dec 10, 2004 8:54 pm

I am writing a paper (in English) on the España class BB together with a couple of friends.

It took me two years of investigations and I have quite a lot of unpublished or not well known material, but finally it is very close to completion now!

A first version of this work (in Russian, as one of the coauthors is Russian and has good contacts with editors there) will be published in the incoming weeks. Honestly, I do not know of any other source as detailed or accurate.

Re her design and development, you will find below a summary of the relevant chapter in our paper.


PS Sorry for the long post. I do not know if it possible to attach files to the message!

"The Law of January 7th 1908, together with the discussions held in the Spanish Parliament and the declarations of the Navy Minister Ferrándiz give a fairy clear idea of the strategic imperatives that drove the tender and subsequent design of the battleships.

The new ships were to be designed and constructed as to be dedicated to the defense of the three main naval bases in continental Spain and the seas close to them: El Ferrol (North-West), Cádiz (South) and Cartagena (South-East), but no real thinking was given on the strategic value of these bases. Anyway, it seems that the number of battleships was fixed by the need to be able to defend these three bases.

From the very beginning, then, a primarily defensive mission was conceived for the battleships. Other considerations that would affect the design of these units were: the need to limit the cost (the Spanish economy of the time was weak and the industrial base poor), the subordinate nature of the Spanish Navy in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean (to the navies of the big powers, specially Britain) and the reduction of the Spanish area of influence after the last colonies (Cuba, Puerto Rico and Philippines) were lost to the USA.

All these resulted in a requirement for ships of small displacement, with an emphasis in offensive power at the expense of resistance to damage and range. Of course, the number of units of each type that could be built was also limited.

The preliminary design (i.e. before the tender was awarded) of the España class battleships was made mainly by Vickers and the final detail design was developed by Armstrong once the contract was awarded to the SECN.

There is evidence that the Spanish Naval authorities worked with Vickers and Armstrong before the public tender was published in order to defined the main characteristics of the battleships . The tender seems to be based in a design by Vickers dated September 5th 1907 with the following particulars:

§ Displacement: 15.000 ton (15.240 tonnes) normal
§ Dimensions: 444ft-6in LPP x 75ft-6in x 25ft-9in (135,52m LPP x 23,02m x 7,85m)
§ Armament: 8 x 12in/45, 20 x 4in, 4 x 0.303in MG
§ Ammo: 80 rpg 12in
§ Speed: 19,5 kts
§ Machinery: 16.500 IHP
§ GM: 2,5ft (0.76m)
§ Coal max: 700 ton (711 tonne)
§ Protection:
§ Belt: 4in-6in-9in-6in-4in
§ Upper belt: 4in-6in-7in
§ Upper deck: 1in fwd-1in (over citadel)
§ Armd deck: 1in (2in slopes) fwd-1in (2in slopes) over citadel-3in (3in slopes) aft
§ Barbettes: 10in
§ Bulkheads: 7in (aft only)
§ CT: 10in fwd, 6in aft
§ Weights:
§ Hull & fittings: 5.800 ton (5.893 tonne)
§ Armour: 3.440 ton (3.495 tonne) including decks
§ Armament: 2.630 ton (2.672 tonne)
§ Equipment: 620 ton (630 tonne)
§ Machinery: 1.300 ton (1.321 tonne)
§ Coal: 700 ton (711 tonne)
§ RFW: 100 ton (102 tonne)
§ Margin: 410 ton (417 tonne)
§ Total 15.000 ton (15.241 tonne)

The design was slightly modified later to increase the GM as follows:

§ Dimensions: 440ft LPP x 77ft-6in x 25ft-3in (134,15m LPP x 23,63m x 7,70m)
§ GM: 3ft (0,91m)

The price quoted by Vickers for this design to Captain Fuster of the Spanish Navy was 1.398.000 £ plus 92.000 £ for ammunition, totalling 1.490.000 £.

The Law of January 7th 1908 containing the naval program and its funding specified 15.000 tonnes battleships with unitary cost of 45.000.000 Spanish pesetas (1.607.143 £ at that time) without ammunition, and this was further detailed in the Royal Decree of April 21st 1908 calling for the tender, as follows:

§ Displacement: 15.000 tonnes (14.764 ton) normal, approx.
§ Armament: 8 x 30cm, 20 x 10cm
§ Speed: 19 kts
§ Range: 5.000 nm
§ Protection:
§ Belt: 100mm-230mm-100mm (4in-9in-4in). Belt height over the waterline minimum 0,6m
§ Upper Belt: 180mm (7in), reduced at the ends
§ Barbettes: 250mm
§ Battery: Some protection (no thickness specified)
§ GM: > 1,06m

The proposal made by the SECN consortium was very close to the revised Vickers design, with the particulars as follows:

§ Displacement: 15.100 ton (15.342 tonnes) normal
§ Dimensions: 435ft LPP x 77ft-6in x 25ft-9in (132,62m LPP x 23,63m x 7,85m)
§ Armament: 8 x 12in/50, 20 x 4in/50, 2 x 3pdr QF, 4 x 0.303in MG
§ Ammo: 80 rpg 12in, 200rpg 4in, 400 rpg 3pdr, 800 rpg MG
§ Complement: 700
§ Speed: 19,5 kts
§ Machinery: 15.500 IHP
§ Range: 5.000 nm
§ GM: 3ft (0.91m)
§ Coal max: 900 ton (914 tonne)
§ Protection:
§ Belt: 75mm-100mm-200mm-230mm (3in-4in-8in-9in)
§ Upper belt: 150mm (6in)
§ Upper deck: 38mm (11/2in) over citadel
§ Armd deck: 38mm (11/2in) fwd-25mm (1in) over citadel-50mm (2in) aft
§ Barbettes: 250mm (10in)
§ Battery: 75mm (3in)
§ Battery internal divisions: 15mm (1/2in)
§ Explosion Bhd: 38mm (11/2in)
§ CT: 250mm (10in) fwd, 150mm (6in) aft
§ Weights:
§ Hull & fittings: 5.800 ton (5.893 tonne)
§ Armour: 3.424 ton (3.479 tonne) including decks
§ Armament: 2.880 ton (2.926 tonne)
§ Equipment: 600 ton (610 tonne)
§ Machinery: 1.350 ton (1.372 tonne)
§ Coal: 900 ton (914 tonne)
§ RFW: 100 ton (102 tonne)
§ Margin: 46 ton (417 tonne)
§ Total 15.100 ton (15.342 tonne)

The price for each battleship was 43.050.000 (1.708.333 £ at the exchange rate at the time of the publication of the tender).

The Spanish Navy asked the SECN consortium to modify the design in February 1909 , taking into account the changes detailed below:

§ Increase of speed to 19,5 knots (this was something that was already in the Vickers preliminary design but was not required in the tender)
§ Include explosion bulkheads
§ Increase of the freeboard to have the forward part of the ship and the main fore main turret at the same height as the Japanese battleship Mikasa
§ The height over the waterline of the secondary battery of 101,6mm guns was to be increased as much as possible (no figure was given)
§ The height of the main belt was to be increased to 2m, with 1,4m under the waterline
§ The belt at max thickness will reach the two end barbettes
§ The range could be modified as follows: 2.250nm @ 19,5 kts and normal dsplacement; 5.000 nm @ 19,5 kts and full load
§ To achieve the desired range an increase in full load displacement was accepted (no limiting figure was provided)
§ The armor was to be of the best quality of the ones used by the Royal Navy at the time
§ The 30,5cm (sic) and 10,1cm (sic) guns were to be of 50 cals and of ordinary hoping (?)
§ Each ship was to be equipped with two landing guns of app 70mm calibre, 2 47mm guns and two machineguns. The original proposal of the SECN was for two 47mm guns and four machineguns
§ The main artillery turrets were to be serviced with hydraulic power with manual back-up for the main movements
§ The main artillery turrets were to be equipped with all safety devices necessary to avoid accidents caused by mistakes and were to have the lashings required to sail in bad weather
§ The main artillery turrets should be able to train with a listing of up to 10º
§ The spring recuperators of the guns should work under 2/3 of the maximum load
§ The structure supporting the bearing of the main turrets should be protected by the barbette armour and not to rest on top of it
§ The main turrets were to be equipped with their own rangefinders, to be used in case of local fire under a breakage of communications with the fire director

In addition, the Spanish Navy required three studies to complete the project:

§ Systems to avoid explosions in the 101,6mm guns due to remains of powder bags or hot gases in the chamber when the breech was opened for loading after firing
§ Protection of the gun embrasures in the turrets
§ Increase of the ammunition stowage without unduly affecting the wor in the magazines and shell rooms

All these modifications were accepted by the SECN on March 20th 1909 and the tender was awarded to this company in April 14th 1909 through a Royal Order that specified additional details:

§ The boilers of Yarrow type were accepted
§ The armour almohadillado was deleted except in the aft part of the ship
§ Each 101,6mm (4in) gun shall be provided of a compressed air tank as a back-up in case of break-down of the main air compressor
§ The landing guns were to be of a new model, different of the then in use by the Spanish Army
§ The Machine guns were to be of the lighter type (?), as proposed by the SECN

All three ships were built at El Ferrol yard, where two new slipways (180m long and 70m wide in all) and a new dry-dock (length of 184m and 35m max width) were constructed for the purpose (also with funds provided by the Law of January 7th 1908). It is a remarkable feat that all the materials employed in the construction were manufactured in Spain, with the exception of armour plate, heavy guns with their associated fire control system and some auxiliary equipment.

The staff of the SECN was filled, specially at the higher levels and the top technical positions, with British managers and engineers with only a minority of Spanish personnel. However, the installations built and the training and skills gained will allow the Spaniards to undertake relatively big building programs later in the XX Century with much less technical support.

It is interesting to note that, as part of the deal, the Spanish Navy ceded to the SECN all the main naval shipyards and industrial installations: El Ferrol in July 1909, Cartagena in August 1909, Matagorda (Cádiz) in March 1914, the Artillery Works in La Carraca (Cádiz) in July 1915 and San Carlos (Cádiz) in September 1923. The SECN also bought the shipyards in Sestao (Bilbao) in January 1915, Nervión (Bilbao) in March 1920 and built a brand new Steel Works and Artillery plant in Reinosa (Cantabria) in December 1917.

The tender specified the following completion dates (from date of taking over of the existing Dockyards to sea trials): four years for the first ship, five years for the second and seven years for the third (this longer construction time for the third battleships was necessary as she could not be begun till the first one was launched). The acceptance by the Spanish Navy was fixed at two months after performing successfully the sea trials. Actual dates were as detailed in the table.

Name Builder Laid down Launched Completed
España SECN, El Ferrol 05-02-1909 05-02-1912 23-10-1913
Alfonso XIII SECN, El Ferrol 23-02-1910 07-05-1913 16-08-1915
Jaime I SECN, El Ferrol 05-02-1912 21-09-1914 20-12-1921

As the completion of the third battleship, Jaime I, was greatly delayed by the outbreak of the First World War because Vickers did not deliver the main guns and other essential equipment until 1919, an opportunity for a radical redesign arose. As early as 1910 and as a result from a request from the Navy Minister Víctor Concas, Vickers studied a modification of the design. It consisted in the increase of displacement up to 17.000 tonnes, installing more powerful machinery and a second funnel for a speed of 21 knots, maintaining the armament and the protection scheme. However, it proved to be impossible to secure the necessary supplementary budget and the project was discarded, the ship being completed to the original design."

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Re: España

Post by Tiornu » Sat Dec 11, 2004 9:31 pm

That's great stuff!
Please note that I've sent you a Private Message.

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José M. Rico
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Post by José M. Rico » Sun Dec 12, 2004 11:47 am

I don't know of any large single volume exclusively dedicated to the España Class Battleships either in English or Spanish.

I believe copies of the original drawings are for sale at the Museo Naval de Madrid, and if I remember correctly they have a very large and detailed model of the battleship España on display there.

I am attaching a couple of cross sectional drawings but I think I already sent these to you Tiornu. Anyway here they are again.



...and if this is of interest to you, one the 30.5cm Vickers-Armstong barrels from the battleship Jaime I is on display (as of 1999) close to the Porto Pi Naval Station in Palma de Mallorca. The barrel has a length of 15.25 meters and a weight of 65.5 tons.

Photos from a nice article published in December 1999 by José Mª Barceló-Fortuny in the REVISTA GENERAL DE MARINA:




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Post by Tiornu » Sun Dec 12, 2004 12:54 pm

Espana is one of those designs that history is leaving behind. The countries who ventured only momentarily into dreadnoughts and who were not major players in the world wars simply do not get much treatment in battleship references. Argentina's Rivadavia is another example, along with Brazil's Minas Gerais. Chile had the "good fortune" to have her only battleship hijacked by WWI, and so the info on Latorre is fairly extensive. perhaps Turkey belongs in the same category.
Thanks to Warship International, the incomplete Dutch ships have had fairly good treatment. The Greek Salamis has not fared as well.

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Javier L.
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Post by Javier L. » Mon Dec 13, 2004 9:01 pm

Some information:

The battleship España was lost on 26 August 1923 when she was en route to Melilla and ran aground off Cape Tres Forcas with thick fog.

The battleships Alfonso XIII and Jaime I were employed for shore bombardment during the Alhucemas landings in September 1925.

The Alfonso XIII was renamed España in 1931, and was sunk on 30 April 1937 when she hit a mine off Santander coast during the Spanish Civil War.

The Jaime I was lost on 17 June 1937 due to an internal explosion in Cartagena.

Alfonso Arenas
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España Class

Post by Alfonso Arenas » Fri Feb 25, 2005 7:59 pm

Hi, all

There is a lot of good and accurate info about the 3 'Españas' on Breyer's 'Battleships and Battlecruisers 1905-1970'.


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