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BIRKENHEAD light cruisers (2, 1915 - 1916)


Name No Yard No Builder Laid down Launched Comp Fate
Birkenhead (ex-Antinavarhos Kontouriotis) 9A, 15, 07 809 Cammell Laird, Birkenhead 27.3.1914 18.1.1915 5.1915 sold for BU 10.1921
Chester (ex-Lambros Katsonis) C9, 39,50 811 Cammell Laird, Birkenhead 7.10.1914 8.12.1915 5.1916 sold for BU 11.1921

Technical data

Displacement normal, t

Birkehead: 5235

Chester: 5185

Displacement full, t

Birkenhead: 5845

Chester: 5795

Length, m

Birkenhead: 131.2 pp 135.9 oa

Chester: 131.2 pp 139.1 oa

Breadth, m


Draught, m

Birkenhead: 4.57 mean

Chester: 4.65 mean

No of shafts



4 Parsons steam turbines, 12 Yarrow boilers

Power, h. p.

Birkenhead: 25000

Chester: 31000

Max speed, kts

Birkenhead: 25.5

Chester: 26.5

Fuel, t

Birkenhead: coal 1070 + oil 352

Chester: oil 1161

Endurance, nm(kts) 
Armour, mm

belt: 51 on 25mm plating, deck: 38 - 10, CT: 102, gun shields: 102


10 x 1 - 140/50 BL Mk I, 2 x 1 - 47/50 3pdr Vickers Mk I, 2 - 533 TT (beam, sub)


Birkenhead: 452

Chester: 402

Standard scale images

<i>Chester</i> 1916
Chester 1916

Project history

After the Balkan War in 1912 the Greek Navy's British Chief of Staff, Rear-Admiral Sir Mark Kerr, proposed the construction of a modern squadron to protect the long coastline and large mercantile marine from any attempt by Turkey to avenge her recent defeat. Kerr wanted a fleet of destroyers and submarines to defend the Archipelago, backed up by seaplanes for reconnaissance and by light cruisers for additional gunpower to stiffen the surface forces. Out of this original and far-sighted scheme not much survived for the Greek Government insisted on buying a battlecruiser from Germany and a battleship from France, but at the beginning of 1914 an order was placed in Britain for two light cruisers and four destroyers. The order was placed with the newly formed Coventry Syndicate, a powerful consortium of John Brown, Fairfield, Cammell Laird and the Coventry Ordnance Works. The cruisers were to be copies of the Chatham/Birmingham design, but with a new 140mm/50 gun designed by Coventry Ordnance Works. It was about 0.7t lighter than the Royal Navy's latest 152mm Mk.XII, enabling ten to be carried instead of nine. At 38.6kg the shell was easier to handle, which made for a higher rate of fire, and as the range and penetration were only marginally less than the 152mm it had a lot to recommend it. Another innovation was the provision in the design for 76mm 12pdr high-angle guns, among the first AA guns ever proposed. To meet a request for 26kts the Chester was modified to burn only oil fuel. The Greek Government continued to pay the instalments on the two ships but by early 1915, when the Antinavarchos Kontouriotis had been launched, British hopes of an early victory had begun to fade, and the Admiralty Director of Contracts advised the Coventry Syndicate that HM Government would take over the two ships and a total of 38 140mm guns and ammunitions. The new names were allocated at this point and orders were given to Cammell Laird to supply builders' specifications and drawings.     As the ships conformed closely to Admiralty requirements, apart from the armament, very few changes were made to them. The two submerged TT were intended to fire a side-loading Elswick-pattern torpedo, but to save time standard Admiralty-pattern tubes and torpedoes were installed. The high-angle 12pdr guns were not available in 1915, and although there were plans to install 12pdr guns on extemporised mountings, Vickers 3pdr AA guns were finally installed when the ships went to sea. The main visual distinction between the two ships was the mainmast, which was vertical in Birkenhead and raked in Chester.

Ship protection

51mm belt and 38mm deck protected machinery, ship ends were protected by 10mm deck.


1916, both: polemast was replaced by a tripod; - 2 x 1 - 47/50; + 1 x 1 - 76/45 20cwt QF Mk I

1918, Birkenhead: + flying-off platform and 1 Camel airplane, kite balloon with winch.

1918, Chester: + High Speed Sweep

Naval service

Both cruisers fought at Jutland, Chester had many losses of crew members.

Many thanks to Wolfgang Stöhr for additional information on this page.