Notes from the Turrets on the Action of January 24th, 1915, H. M. S. New Zealand

The following has been transcribed from The Naval Review, Volume 5 - 1917. Traditionally, the authors were anonymous. However, James Goldrick, in Mahan is Not Enough (James Goldrick and John B. Hattendorf, editors, Naval War College 1993) identify him as Lieutenant the Earl of Medina, formerly Prince George of Battenburgh - eldest son of the former First Sea Lord, and brother to Lord Louis Mountbatten.

With regard to the action of January 24th: -

For approximately the first two hours after the chase had commenced, the spray from the forecastle caused the greatest possible inconvenience to the gunlayers, trainer, rangefinder operators, and myself. It was found to be almost useless to wipe over any of the glasses, as the spray came over practically continuously. for a few seconds after the glasses had been wetted a fairly good view was obtained (ie when there was a complete film of water over the glass), but as soon as the water started to run off and dry up the glasses became blurred.

The spray being driven in through my observation slit made my eyes extremely sore, and the blast from my own guns firing made this soreness worse. In a very short time I was wet through to the skin and very cold. I propose to try and fit a talc shield which I can place in the slit at will.

My rangefinder operator did not obtain one good reading the whole time.

The water from the hoses ran forward and over the side, where the wind caught it and immediately blew it back over the turret. I sent one man out to shut off all the forecastle hoses.

At one period, after a lull and slight alteration of course, the fire gongs were rung and one of my guns fired at the fourth cloud of smoke from the right. I then noticed that there was yet another cloud of smoke to the left of this one, and immediately asked the conning tower which was our target. They replied: "The left-hand cloud of some - the fifth cloud." (The fourth had been our target all the time previously.) I had considerable difficulty in making the trainer hear my orders through thee voice pipe, due to the noise and the voice pipe being too far from the trainer's ear.

I was unable to use my glasses (except at the very end), and my field of view was interrupted by the muzzles of both guns. Consequently I never obtained a detailed view of the enemy; in fact, during the chase, I never saw the ships, but only the clouds of smoke. (A description of the target would have been useless to me.)

The gunlayers reported that they could have fired more often if the order "Independent" had been given. The fire gongs seldom appear to have been rung at just the right period of the roll. The right gun fired their first round with 18,700 yards on the sights. The left gun fired their first round with 18,800 yards on the sights. The right gun missfired on two occasions, but fired with a second tube each time. The left gun missfired once, and also fired with the second tube.

The vent bit was passed through after each round.

Slight delays were experienced on loading the left gun owing to the wire for lifting the gunloading cage stretching. The cage came up within 3 / 4 inch, and the charges had to be lifted over the edge of the shot guide, otherwise sticks of cordite were forced out. The wire was readjusted, but continued to stretch, and eventually the adjusting screw reached the limit of its travel.

The shell in the gunloading cages in the working chamber flew forward every time the guns were fired. They were pulled to the rear by hand, but on three occasions the fuse cap struck, and was distorted by the nose guide leading up to the large flash floor. These shell were fired with their caps on. Two of them burst and one did not. Chocks are being fitted to the fore side of the gunloading cage with lanyards attached, to prevent the movement of the shell.

Pliers were provided for extracting the safety pins, but a hook to take through the eye of the split pin is also needed. The telescopic rammer appears to bend the pins sometimes. The voice-pipe and bell to the shell room were of the greatest use. The shell room and handing room appreciated it all the more, as I was able to pass down items of interest and the progress of the action. This, I consider, is of the utmost importance in keeping the men cool and keen.

The voice-pipe to the working chamber was also most useful, as all orders and reports are received first-hand and are not distorted en route, as is so often the case.

The "gun-ready" lamps worked throughout, and were useful, inasmuch as I do not consider it right or pleasant to be told by the G. L. that the reason he doesn't fire is because the gun is not loaded.


When the orders "salvoes" and "fire" were first given, the gunlayers could not fire as they could not get the elevation on the guns.

The ship had an appreciable list to port.

"P" turret did not fire until after the other turrets, and only got off two rounds before the fire became general. The maximum range at which the gunlayers fired was 17,800 yards. The gunlayers found that after each round their glasses were dulled by cordite, smoke, and spray, but not to any serious extent.

A man with a big hand cannot get at his glasses to wipe them.

As there was a lot of smoke obscuring the enemy, it was found to be difficult to pick up the right target.

Shortly after the New Zealand opened fire the third ship in the enemy's line was observed to be on fire for about three minutes, and again later on.

Many hits were observed on the Blucher from time to time.

When the airship was bearing about starboard 90, and was at about its closest range, the guns were trained on to it.

Sights were set at about 6,500 yards.

There were no defects except a slight leakage in a gunhouse air head [? can't make this out in the original], which was replaced after the action.

There was one missfire, due to a bad tube.

Left Gunlayer. When periscope became fogged, it was found that in order to reach the wiper it was necessary to cease working the elevating wheel, and consequently lost target. It seems that it should be possible to make the handle of the wiper easier of access.

Right Gunlayer. Noticed that the trainer had difficulty in keeping the target, due to his periscope become fogged. Wiped his own glass with chamois leather; did not use the wiper. Did this when the other gun was firing, and consequently does not think that it interfered with the trainer. also slightly depressed the muzzle when loading; this also when the other gun was firing, and so caused no interference. Salvo firing.

Trainer. Found glass became fogged and consequently very difficulty to keep on the target. If he had wiped his glass he would have had to take his hands off the training wheel and would consequently have lost the target.

In spite of the above difficulties, I think a gun was fired with each salvo when the turret would bear, but I certainly realised that the trainer was having difficulties as I heard the gunlayers talking to him.


The first shot was fired on the extreme port foremost bearing, which opened the gunports of L4 4-inch gun, blew away the canvas round the after searchlight platform, and caused most of the gear in the port seaboat to fall on top of the turret.

The canvas hung down in front of the rangefinder, and had to be cut off.

The boat's gear might easily have fallen in front of the sights or on to the rangefinder.

Spray from the water on the midship deck kept wetting the sights, and made it necessary to send a hand out of the turret to dry them. Owing to this, the wipers soon became sodden and useless.

Midshipman Baker went and turned off all the hoses on the midship deck; he performed this duty cooly and with great daring. I submit that hoses should not be kept running on the midship deck during the action, and even if the deck is wet, the blast from the foremost turret is liable to send spray into the sights of "X" turret.

All hydraulic gear worked without a hitch.

The catch retaining breech screw open of the right gun would not go forward in the middle of the action, and consequently the breech screw revolved before the breech was closed. This was at once repaired by the turret armourer, and did not happen a second time.

The air bottles were charged to 2,000 lbs. The pressure from the main was only 300 lbs. for the first two rounds, and consequently the turret filled with smoke on opening the breech. The pressure then went up to 2,000 lbs.

The left gun missfired once. The tube was shifted and the gun fired. The protrusion of the striker was afterwards measured and found correct.

The right gunlayer reported that his gun had hung fire once. The follow the pointer of the left centre sight broke down and the sight was set by order. The other sights were correct.

The rangefinder operator reported early in the action that the could not take ranges owing to the vibration at high speed.

The safety pin in the cap of one lyddite shell could not be removed and the shell was fired with the cap on.

Submitted that No. 5 be supplied with a pair of pliers each.



Practically the only trouble experienced at the present time is caused by water finding its way into the turret. Difficulties due to the motion of the ship have been almost overcome, though I don't doubt that the loading and handling of the projectiles would be slow, and would have to be done extremely carefully to prevent accidents.

With regard to the loading of the cordite into the main cages, this could hardly be done without getting the charges very wet. I consider, therefore, that it is essential to have some sort of canopy fitted over the cordite hoppers to catch and deflect the drips of water which now falls straight on to the hoppers. Even in calm weather these hoppers are being continually dripped upon, as the drains from the gunhouse discharge into the walking-pipe space within a few inches of the coaming round the trunk; the splashes go over the coaming and fall right down into the handing room. (This has largely been remedied by fitting extensions to the drain pipes, whereby they discharge nearer to the circumference of the walking-pipe space, but drips even now find their way down.)

The proper drainage of the handing and shell rooms is very important. At present the only way of draining the handing room is by baling out by hand. This is slow, unsatisfactory, and employs loading numbers. With the amount of water shipped to-day the magazine doors could not have been opened without allowing a considerable amount of water to enter. A proper drain pipe should be fitted, or at least a hole cut in the deck.

The drainage of the shell room is bad. The pump sucks from a pocket in the compartment under the shell room. This pocket is immediately under the trunk, and a drain hole is cut in the deck of the shell room under the base of the trunk. This drains away any water coming down inside the trunk. Water in the remaining portion of the shell room (which as splashed over the trunk and hatch coamings in the handing room) has to be baled out and thrown into the trunk, over the coaming of the door into the trunk. The alternative is to take off the manhole door into the compartment below the shell room and allow the water to drain into the pocket under this manhole. The disadvantage of this method is that the water will only flow from this pocket into the pocket from which the pump sucks, and when it has reached high enough (2 feet to 3 feet) to overflow this dividing bulkhead. The remainder has to be baled by hand from one pocket to the other. This could be remedied by cutting ah ole in the bottom of the dividing bulkhead. The shell bins, too, want larger drain holes in each corner, or else they should be made perfectly watertight.

Water finds its way into the gunhouse chiefly through the sighting hoods, and, when the blast breeches are damaged, around the guns themselves. Water also comes in round the non-watertight doors in the roof and tail of the turret, through the rangefinder and O.O.Q.,'s sighting ports, and a regular fountain comes up through the hole in the tail for reading the bearing tracer. This fountain only plays when the water swirls round under the tail of the turret, but once is enough to soak all the men and instruments in the silent cabinet. (Suggest a mechanical bearing indicator driven by flexible shafting from the director training receiver spur wheel would be better in every way. The racer is difficult to read sometimes, especially when it is at all dirty.)

Water coming through the sighting hoods is bad, as it soaks the gunlayers, trainer and sightsetters, and the whole of the sight mechanism and electrical gear; but the water entering through the gun ports is far worse. The volume of water is very great, and comes in with sufficient force to carry it all over the gunhouse, soaking everyone and everything there and in the working chamber, into which it pours like a cascade. It overflows from the working chamber into the central trunk, secondary shell trunk and ladder-way trunk. One man who was entering the ladder-way trunk was washed off the ladder and fell down the trunk to the handing room, severely damaging his ankle.

No drill could be carried out in the turret under these conditions for some time. The electric lighting in the gun-house and working chamber failed immediately, through short-circuiting, and the guns themselves were filled with water. If the cages had happened to have been loaded all the charges would have been rendered useless, and the guns could have only been fired by percussion tubes.

I can see no immediate remedy for this, except by fitting very much stronger blast breeches laced on with good big wire, and possibly some form of external metal baffle plates on the gun barrels. These would have the additional advantage of deflecting shell splinters from the gun ports. (The Japanese used them with good results.)

Last Updated: 24 December, 2001.

 Return to WWI The Maritime War

 Return to WWI Archive main page.