The battle cruiser H.M.S. Indefatigable steaming at speed signed 'Montague B. Black' (lower left) oil on board laid down 49.3 x 62.2cm (19 7/16 x 24 1/2in). unframed
H.M.S. Indefatigable was the nameship of a class of three battle cruisers ordered in the 1908 building programme which, thanks to a bitter controversy over their combined cost, was the only one to be paid for by the British government. The other two, Australia and New Zealand, were both funded by the respective dominion governments.
Laid down at Devonport on 23rd January 1909, launched on 28th October the same year and finally completed in February 1911, Indefatigable seemed good value at fractionally over £1½ million even though, in the event, she was to have only a tragically short life thanks to her less than satisfactory armour plating. Displacing 18,500 tons (22,080 fully loaded), she was 590 feet in length with an 80 foot beam and carried a main armament of 8-12in. guns. Capable of 25 knots at full speed, her 44,000ihp. Parsons' turbine engines were fed by 31 coal-fired boilers and she carried a complement of 800 officers and men. Commissioned at Devonport on 24th February 1911, she immediately joined the 1st Cruiser Squadron in Home Waters which, in January 1913, became the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron (B.C.S.). Transferred to the 2nd B.C.S. based in the Mediterranean in December 1913, she played a prominent role in the abortive search for the Goeben, a German battle cruiser which famously eluded the Royal Navy and escaped to the safety of Constantinople during the opening days of the Great War in August 1914. After refitting at Malta, Indefatigable was sent back to Scapa Flow to rejoin the Grand Fleet in February 1915 and was thus ordered into action at Jutland on 31st May 1916. Just after 4.00pm that afternoon, during her duel with the German battle cruiser Von der Tann, she was hit by a salvo of three shots in quick succession. The first two penetrated her upper deck causing 'X' magazine to explode; as the official report later noted "she staggered out of line, sinking by the stern when another salvo struck her; a second terrible explosion rent her, she turned over and, in a moment, all trace of her was gone." From her complement of 1,024, there were only two survivors.