HMS Tiger, launched in 1913, was one of the Royal Navy’s battlecruisers, representing the pinnacle of early 20th-century naval design and ambition.

Most notably, she participated in the Battle of Jutland in 1916, where the strengths and vulnerabilities of the battlecruiser design were prominently showcased.

Despite her technological advancements and service record, changing naval priorities and the Washington Naval Treaty’s restrictions led to her scrapping in 1932.

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Background

The dawn of the 20th century witnessed a transformative period for naval warfare, characterized by rapid technological advancements and changes in naval doctrines. As industrial and engineering innovations gathered pace, naval powers across the globe sought to develop vessels that could meet multiple demands – from swift, global force projection to defending vast colonial empires.

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This turbulent and ambitious era saw the birth of the battlecruiser, a ship that sought to merge distinct naval philosophies into a singular, potent entity.

Admiral Sir John Fisher, one of the most influential naval thinkers of the era, played an instrumental role in the conceptualization of the battlecruiser.

At the core of Fisher’s vision was a drive to address the ever-evolving challenges of naval warfare. While battleships, with their heavy armament and thick armor, dominated the seas as the main capital ships, they often lacked the speed to chase down faster, more nimble cruisers or to quickly respond to threats in distant waters.

HMS Tiger pictured between 1916 and 1917.

Conversely, cruisers, although fast, lacked the firepower to engage battleships effectively.

In addressing this operational dilemma, Fisher envisaged a new type of warship that could, theoretically, outgun anything it couldn’t outrun and outrun anything it couldn’t outgun.

This led to the birth of the battlecruiser – a ship that would combine the formidable firepower of a battleship with the speed and agility of a cruiser.

The first manifestation of this innovative naval philosophy was the HMS Invincible, launched in 1907. The world’s inaugural battlecruiser, Invincible was a revolutionary leap in design, emphasizing a balance between firepower and speed.

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However, this balance meant trade-offs, notably in terms of armor protection. The idea was for the battlecruiser to use its speed as a defensive mechanism, avoiding direct confrontations with heavily-armored battleships, while using its superior armament to dispatch lesser-armed cruisers.

As the battlecruiser concept took shape and entered service, it redefined the balance of naval power, forcing major naval powers of the time to reconsider their naval strategies and shipbuilding programs.

Little did they know, however, that the very strengths and weaknesses of this new ship class would soon be tested in the crucible of war, leading to further debates and reconsiderations about the role and design of battlecruisers in naval warfare.

Design Of HMS Tiger

Measuring an impressive 704 feet in length, the HMS Tiger was a colossus on the seas. Her long and sleek hull was tailored for speed and hydrodynamic efficiency. Her displacement was around 28,430 tons, and while this massive weight might suggest sluggishness, the design aimed to blend this with agility and rapid maneuverability.

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One of the most striking features of the Tiger was her powerful armament. Her main battery consisted of eight 13.5-inch guns housed in four twin turrets. This design ensured that she could deliver a formidable broadside, capable of severely damaging, if not outright destroying, most enemy ships of her era. These guns had a significant range and power, making the Tiger a threat in long-range engagements.

Complementing her primary armament, Tiger boasted a secondary battery of twelve 6-inch guns. This ensured she could defend against smaller, faster ships that might attempt to close in, especially destroyers and lighter cruisers. The ship also featured several smaller-caliber weapons and anti-aircraft guns.

HMS Tiger in drydock.

Tiger’s speed was one of her defining characteristics, and this was made possible by her advanced propulsion system. Powered by steam turbines, she could achieve speeds of up to 28 knots, making her one of the fastest capital ships of her time. Her engine rooms and boiler spaces were state-of-the-art, ensuring efficient fuel consumption and operational longevity during extended deployments.

One of the central debates surrounding battlecruisers, including the Tiger, was the balance between armor, armament, and speed. While Tiger was armored more heavily than some earlier battlecruisers, she still carried relatively thin armor, especially when compared to contemporary battleships.

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The design philosophy behind this was her ability to use speed as a protective measure, avoiding direct hits and outrunning potential threats. However, the trade-off came in terms of potential vulnerabilities, especially around her magazines and machinery spaces.

Operational History Of HMS Tiger

On May 31, 1916, the North Sea became the stage for the largest naval battle of World War I. The Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet, including the battlecruisers under Vice Admiral David Beatty, clashed with the German High Seas Fleet. The strategic aim for both sides was to assert naval dominance in the North Sea, a crucial theatre for controlling maritime routes and trade.

The HMS Tiger, as a part of Beatty’s battlecruiser squadron, played a pivotal role in the initial phases of the battle. Her high speed and formidable armament made her a key asset in the British vanguard. Throughout the engagement, she was actively involved in trading salvos with her German counterparts.

Damage to one of Tiger’s turrets during the Battle Of Jutland.

However, the Battle of Jutland exposed the vulnerabilities of the battlecruiser design. Three British battlecruisers, including the HMS Invincible, HMS Queen Mary, and HMS Indefatigable, suffered catastrophic explosions due to hits in their magazines, leading to their sinking. While the Tiger was hit multiple times, she remained operational.

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Aftermath of Jutland and Operational Re-evaluation:

The Battle of Jutland was, in many ways, inconclusive. While the Royal Navy suffered heavier losses in terms of ships and personnel, the German High Seas Fleet did not achieve its strategic goal of breaking the British naval blockade. However, the battle led to introspection and significant operational and tactical re-evaluations for the Royal Navy.

X turret showing damage after the Battle Of Jutland.

The vulnerability of battlecruisers, as showcased by the loss of three of their number, was a source of intense debate. It was clear that while speed was a defense in its own right, it could not substitute for adequate armor, especially over vital areas like ammunition magazines. Design changes in subsequent ships and modifications to existing ones were influenced by the lessons from Jutland.

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HMS Tiger Post-Jutland:

The Tiger continued to serve the Royal Navy after the Battle of Jutland, albeit with a heightened awareness of her strengths and limitations. She played various roles, from patrolling the North Sea to ensure German naval containment, to representing British naval might during post-war missions.

What happened to the Tiger ship?

In the end, there is little information about how the Tiger ended up shipwrecked in 1760. It was a British ship built in 1743 with 50 canons. Originally, the British called it the HMS Tiger. However, it later on changed its name to Harwich. It went on to serve the British crown for 17 years during which it captured other ships and helped in the expansion of the United Kingdom.

Legacy

The 1920s saw a dramatic change in the global naval landscape. The Washington Naval Treaty of 1922 aimed to prevent an arms race by limiting naval armaments.

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In this new era of restrictions and downsizing, older ships, especially those perceived as having design flaws, were often viewed as expendable.

The Tiger, representative of an earlier design ethos, met her end in the scrapyards in 1932. Her scrapping was not just an end of service but a reflection of changing naval priorities and the move towards more balanced ship designs.