A tale of two sister-ships: Messudieh and HMS Superb

In the 1860s the Ottoman Navy experienced a resurgence that led to the building of several ironclad battleships. These were ordered from a number of shipbuilders, including Thames Ironworks of Blackwall, London. This company had already built several ironclads for the Royal Navy (including HMS Warrior) and was more than willing to accept a contract for two modern battleships to be named Messudieh and Hamidieh. The ships were designed by Sir Edward Reed and were launched in 1874 and 1875 respectively.

During the Russian war scare of 1878 the Royal Navy found itself in need of some additional modern warships and Hamidieh was compulsorily purchased from the Ottoman government – along with several other warships that were being built in the UK for foreign navies – and renamed HMS Superb. The Messudieh was not purchased as she had already been delivered and commissioned into to the Ottoman Navy.

Subsequently these two sister-ships had very different careers in their respective navies, as outlined below.


MESSUDIEH
Messudieh was commissioned in December 1875 following her trials, and at the time she was considered to be one of the most powerful warships in the world.

Messusieh as completed.

Her specifications when she was built were as follows:

  • Displacement: 8,990 tons
  • Dimensions: 348’ 0” x 59’ 0” x 25’ 11”
  • Machinery: 1-shaft Maudslay horizontal direct-acting engine (7,800 IHP) powered by steam from 8 rectangular boilers
  • Speed: 13.5 knots
  • Armament: 16 x 10-inch MLR guns, 4 x 7-inch MLR guns
  • Armour: Belt: 7-inch to 12-inch; Battery: 10-inch to 12-inch; Control Tower: 8-inch; Bulkheads: 10-inch
  • Complement: 600

In the 1890s 4 x 10-inch MLR guns and 4 x 7-inch MLR guns were removed and replaced by 3 x 5.9-inch BLR guns.

By the end of the nineteenth century it was obvious that Messudieh was obsolete, and between 1898 and 1903 she was completely reconstructed by the Ansaldo shipyards in Genoa, Italy.

Her three masts were replaced with a single military main mast that was stepped aft of the funnels, and two turrets were fitted. The remaining 10-inch MLRs in her central battery were replaced with modern 5.9-inch BLR guns, but her new heavy guns (2 x 9.2-inch BLR guns) were not ready to be fitted when the reconstruction was completed and wooden guns were fitted in their place.

Messusieh after reconstruction.

Her specifications after her reconstruction were as follows:

  • Displacement: 9,250 tons
  • Dimensions: 338’ 0” x 59’ 0” x 27’ 3”
  • Machinery: 2-shaft Ansaldo vertical triple expansion engines (11,000 IHP) powered by steam from 16 Niclausse boilers
  • Speed: 16.0 knots
  • Armament: 2 x 9.2-inch BLR guns, 12 x 5.9-inch BLR guns, 14 x 3-inch QF guns, 10 x 6-pounder QF guns
  • Armour: Belt: 7-inch to 12-inch; Battery: 10-inch to 12-inch; Control Tower: 8-inch; Bulkheads: 10-inch; Turrets and Barbettes: 6-inch
  • Complement: 640

During the First Balkan War Messudieh took part in the bombardment of Varna (12th November 1912) and in two battles with the Royal Hellenic Navy (Elli on 16th December 1912 and Lemnos on 18th January 1913).

When the First World War broke out Messudieh was sent to act as a floating battery just south of the Dardanelles Narrows at Chanak. There her guns were able to cover and protect the minefields that had been laid to protect the Dardanelles.

On 13th December 1914 the British B-class submarine B11 entered the Dardanelles, and just before noon she torpedoed Messudieh from a range of approximately 850 yards. The torpedo caused Messudieh to immediately begin to heel over, and within ten minutes she had capsized and sank. A total of thirty seven crew (ten officers and twenty seven men) were killed.


HMS SUPERB
Before being taken over, HMS Superb had originally be called Hamidieh.

HMS Superb as completed.

Her specifications when she was built were as follows:

  • Displacement: 9,710 tons
  • Dimensions: 348’ 0” x 59’ 0” x 26’ 6”
  • Machinery: 1-shaft Maudslay horizontal direct-acting engine (6,580 IHP) powered by steam from 9 rectangular boilers
  • Speed: 13.25 knots
  • Armament: 16 x 10-inch MLR guns, 6 x 20-pounder MLR guns
  • Armour: Belt: 7-inch to 12-inch; Battery: 10-inch to 12-inch; Control Tower: 8-inch; Bulkheads: 5 inch to 10-inch; Deck: 1½-inch
  • Complement: 640

From 1880 to 1887 HMS Superb served in the Mediterranean and took part – in 1882 – in the bombardment of Alexandria.

In 1885 the 6 x 20-pounder MLR guns were replaced by 6 x 4-inch QF guns and 4 x 14-inch torpedo tubes.

Between 1887 and 1891 HMS Superb was reconstructed. Her original masts were replaced by military masts and the existing engine and boilers were also replaced. As a result her speed increased to 14.5 knots. She was also rearmed but nowhere near as extensively as Messudieh had been.

HMS Superb after reconstruction.

Her specifications after her reconstruction were as follows:

  • Displacement: 9,710 tons
  • Dimensions: 348’ 0” x 59’ 0” x 26’ 6”
  • Machinery: 1-shaft Humphrys vertical triple expansion engine (8,500 IHP) powered by steam from 5 cylindrical boilers
  • Speed: 14.5 knots
  • Armament: 12 x 10-inch MLR guns, 10 x 6-inch BLR guns, 6 x 6-pounder QF guns, 10 x 3-pounder QF guns, and 4 x 14-inch torpedo tubes.
  • Armour: Belt: 7-inch to 12-inch; Battery: 10-inch to 12-inch; Control Tower: 8-inch; Bulkheads: 5 inch to 10-inch; Deck: 1½-inch
  • Complement: 640

In 1904, after serving in the Reserve, she was reclassified as an accommodation ship. On 15th May 1906 she was sold as part of Admiral ‘Jacky’ Fisher’s campaign to scrap ninety obsolete ships that he described as being ‘too weak to fight and too slow to run away’, and ‘a miser’s hoard of useless junk’.

Advertisements

6 Comments on “A tale of two sister-ships: Messudieh and HMS Superb”

  1. Gonsalvo says:

    It certainly seems like the interval from design to obsolescence gets shorter and shorter over time!

    We in the US today have an immense mothballed fleet of obsolete ships that really need to be disposed of as well, as painful as it is to do so!

  2. Sun of York says:

    Fascinating post. Thanks.

  3. Gonsalvo,

    There is a fine balance between ensuring that a navy has enough hulls of the right type to meet the needs if an emergency arises and encumbering said navy with a fleet of obsolete ships that cost a lot to mIntain.

    British experience shows that there is a need to keep long lead-in items (such as gun tubes and mountings) in store as hulls can be built quicker than armament can. The World War II battleship Vanguard is an example of this … and I have recently seen some Spamish warships that had second-hand armament on new hulls. The latter are a very cost-effective means of keeping hull numbers available within a navy that is suffering from low funding levels.

    All the best,

    Bob

  4. Sun of York,

    I am glad that you enjoyed this entry. It seemed to fit in nicely with some of the other recent blog entries.

    All the best,

    Bob

  5. Great post Bob!

    Cheers
    PD

  6. Peter Douglas,

    I am pleased that you enjoyed this blog entry. The history of the more obscure ironclads has always interested me.

    All the best,

    Bob


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s