Bellerophon Class Battleship HMS Temeraire


Royal Navy Ships Named Temeraire

HMS Temeraire was the second of the Bellerophon class of Dreadnought type battleships. The preceding class was Dreadnought, and the next class was St Vincent. The Bellerophon class comprised three ships; in order of completion they were Bellerophon, Temeraire and Superb.

The name has also been assigned to two shore establishments. The first was at South Queensferry in Scotland and, when that establishment closed in 1960, the name was transferred to the Directorate of Naval Physical Training and Sport (DNPTS) in Portsmouth. The name has also been used for Norwegian and Greek ships and the French returned the compliment by using the name for ships in both 1927 and 1999 - the last of these being a submarine.

The Royal Navy named four ships Bellerophon as shown in the table below.

For a short while there was a fifth Temeraire - one of the cancelled Lion class Battleships, weighing 42,500 tons - these would have been impressive ships. Construction started in June 1939 but was suspended in October the same year as materials and man-power was needed to build large numbers of escort vessels, and work on her was finally cancelled in 1944.

Date Brief History
1759 The first Temeraire was a 74 Gun Ship captured from the French navy in 1759 and sold on in 1784. The Royal Navy kept the name, perhaps to annoy her previous owners.
1798 The second Temeraire was a second-rate ship of 98 guns launched in 1798. She was astern of HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. This Temeraire achieved fame as the subject of two paintings by J. M. W. Turner. The first shows her at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 - 'The Fighting Temeraire'; the second depicts her being towed to the breaker's yard in 1838.
1876 The third Temeraire was an iron-hulled screw-propelled ship launched in 1876, renamed Indus II in 1904, to Akbar in 1915, and sold 1921.
1906 The fourth Temeraire was a Bellerophon class battleship and is the subject of this page.
HMS Temeraire in 1907 - the location is not known. [1]

Basic Data

Item Value
Type Battleship
Class Bellerophon
Builder Royal Navy Dockyards
Builder's Yard Devonport
Builder's Country UK
Displacement (Std) 18,800 tons
Displacement (Full load) 22,540 tons
Length 526 Ft.
Breadth 82.5 Ft.
Draught 31.5 Ft.
Engines Two Parsons direct drive steam turbines
Engine Builder Hawthorne Leslie
Engine Builder Works Newcastle
Engine Builder Country UK
Power 23,000 SHP
Boilers 18 Yarrow coal-fired boilers operating at 230psi
Propulsion Four Screws
Speed 21 knots
Complement Approx. 790
HMS Temeraire during WW1 from Imperial War Museum catalogue Q 75227 [3]

Additional Construction Information

Temeraire was built by the Royal Dockyard at DevonPort Plymouth, laid down on the 1st January 1907, launched on 24 August that same year, and commissioned on the 1 May 1909. Her building costs were £1,641,114, the cheapest of the three ships in the class.

Although superficially similar to Dreadnought, the main external distinguishing feature was the second tripod mast. Dreadnought had a single tripod mast immediately aft of the forward funnel with a heavy boat derrick facing aft from this mast, whilst Temeraire had a second mast immediately forward of the aft funnel with the boat derrick facing forwards of this mast. Another not-so-easy to tell feature was that the rather weak secondary battery of twenty-four 12 pounder guns of the Dreadnought were replaced with sixteen singly mounted 4” guns which recognised the increasing risk of attack by torpedo-carrying small craft and the rapidly increasing size of these ships.

Internally the main difference was the improvement to the under-water protection from torpedo damage. A continuous fore and aft torpedo bulkhead now ran from the forward end of the forward magazine to the aft end of the after magazine. It was called a screen bulkhead as it was intended to screen the magazines from torpedoes. The Bellerophon class was one foot shorter than the Dreadnought class and just 5" greater in beam. However the Bellerophon ships were slightly less than 500 tons heavier in standard displacement reflecting the greater use of armour. They were also 1,800 tons heavier in full load displacement. The two masts on this class were located on the fore-side of the funnels and an improvement on Dreadnought's single mast which was placed behind the fore funnel but in certain wind condition smoke and hot gases could make the spotting tops untenable. A novel feature of this class having two masts is that they were fitted with two sets of fire control systems.

The machinery of the Bellerophon Class ships was virtually identical to the Dreadnoughts - Quadruple propellers driven by Parsons direct drive steam turbines. The turbines consisted of a high pressure ahead and astern turbine on the outboard shafts, and a low pressure ahead and astern on the two inboard shafts. The inboard shafts also incorporated an ahead cruising turbine for fuel economy. The turbines developed a total of 23,000 SHP and gave 21 knots. Steam was produced by 18 Babcock coal fired boilers. There were three boiler rooms with six boilers in each with a working pressure of 230 psi. The range of the class was not particularly good being about 5,700 miles at 10 knots.

There is further information about the engines on the page for Bellerophon HERE

HMS Temeraire in 1909 - the location is not known. From Imperial War Museum catalogue Q 40285 [3]

Career Highlights

Date Event
1 January 1907 Keel said down
24 August 1907 Launched
1 May 1909 Commissioned
31 May - 1 June 1916 Took part in the Battle of Jutland
1919 Became a Cadet Training Ship
1 December 1921 Taken to Dover for breaking


Main Battery

Ten 12" C45 Mk10 guns (identical to the Dreadnought, Invincible and Indefatigable classes) construction being identical using steel inner tubes and liners and reinforced with flat wire winding and finally enclosed in a steel jacket. The gun houses themselves were Vickers Mk 9.

The guns fired a shell weighing 850lbs for the HE to 859 lbs for the AP. Post Jutland, when it was realised that British shells had performed poorly, and that rather than just make a hole in the armour of an enemy ship what was needed was a shell to penetrate the armour before exploding, a new shell was designed called the ‘Green Boy’ which weighed 854 lbs. Dependant on type, the shells ranged from 38 to 48 inches in length and the rate of fire of the guns was about one round every 40 seconds. The range was just under 19,000 yards at 13.5 degrees elevation and used a charge of 258lbs of MD45 propellant. MD45 is a cordite or colloidal propellant consisting of long rods of explosive - cordite being a somewhat unstable blend of nitro-cellulose and nitro-glycerine with added stabilisers. Shore versions of these guns had a longer range of around 25,000 yards with a much higher elevation (in excess of 40 degrees) not achievable on a ship .

During the building of the Bellerophon class, attention was now being paid to the streamlining of the shells. A measure to this is the formula 'CRH' which stands for Calibre Radius Head, and the 4CRH shells carried on the class indicated the length of the curvature of the nose of the shell in relation to its length. Earlier ships including the Dreadnought had used 2CRH shells, but trials with the 4CRH confirmed these had longer ranges and eventually all 12” gunned ships using the more streamlined shell.

Copy of an Admiralty plan of Bellerophon showing the location of her main and secondary armaments [2]

The main turrets were identified the same way as Dreadnought: 'A' forward on the Foc’sle, 'P' to port, 'Q' to starboard of midships, 'X' & 'Y' aft. It should be noted that the plan gives this as the 'Temeraire' class in fact it should be Bellerophon class.

Secondary Armament

The secondary battery consisted of sixteen 4" Mk7 guns each in single mounts. Eight of these guns were placed two each on 'A', 'P', 'Q', and 'Y' turrets, and the remaining eight in casemate mounts - four on either beam in the deck house at forecastle deck level. There still prevailed the thought that defence of the ship against torpedo attack would only come either before or after a fleet action using the main battery, so that whilst the main battery was in action the eight 4" on their roofs could not be used. At least the eight casemate guns, usable during a fleet action, were a step in the right direction, although the open mounts on two of the turrets had one advantage – they could be fired through 360 degrees whilst the casements were limited to 60 degrees either side of their stowed position. Designed in 1904, 700 of these guns were produced and something like 500 of them remained in use on merchant vessels in WW2. The construction of these weapons was very similar to the main battery using wire winding. On some of the later Dreadnoughts the turret-mounted weapons were high angle AA guns, but to date I have found no evidence of these being fitted on the Bellerophon class ships.

The guns fired three types of shell: CPC ( Common Percussion Cap), HE ( High Explosive), and Shrapnel. All weighed 31lbs and could be fired either electrically or by percussion, range was 11,500yards using a charge of just over 9lbs of cordite, and the rate of fire was up to 8 rounds per minute.

Temeraire also carried two 4" and two 3" HA AA guns and four 3 pounder saluting guns.

Torpedo Armament

Three below-water torpedo tubes were fitted for 18" Whitehead torpedoes. These fired one on either beam and one ahead.


Plate thicknesses were:

Image from an Admiralty manual showing the disposition of armour in black. [1]

Operational History

When completed, Temeraire joined the 4th Battle squadron (BS) of the Grand Fleet and remained in this squadron for most of WW1. On 18 March 1915 she attempted to ram a German submarine. A Jutland veteran, she was third of four ships in the 4th Division under Vice Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee in Benbow (leading) followed by Bellerophon, Temeraire and Vanguard. Temeraire was under the command of Captain E.V. Underhill.

Temeraire commenced her action at Jutland at 18:34 hrs by opening fire at the Wiesbaden with five salvo's of 12" HE claiming two or three hits. Wiesbaden had been hit earlier by the Invincible and disabled. As she appeared out of the smoke she was shot at by a large number of British ships and sank under this attention.

Her next action was around 19:10-30 when she fired 11 salvo's of HE at a range of 12,500 yards at the German battle-cruiser Derfflinger but no hits were claimed at this time. The next action was around 1930 with a torpedo attack by the German 6th and 9th destroyer flotillas when Temeraire joined in the general meleé with her 4" battery. No hits could be claimed in this action, partly due to the density of gun and funnel smoke obscuring the battle, but mainly because of the difficulty of spotting the fall of shot of the puny 4" batteries against the 6" guns of the newer ships. No torpedoes actually hit the British ships.

During the battle she fired a total of 72 12" HE shells. For some reason, although firing at times on a battle-cruiser, she did not fire any APC or CPC; she also fired 50 rounds of 4". Temeraire received no damage herself during the action.

Image Credits

  1. Expired Crown Copyright photos
  2. From an old Admiralty manual
  3. By courtesy of the Imperial War Museum