HMS Leviathan heads to auction

This dockyard model is to be auctioned on Wednesday with an estimate of £40,000-60,000.

The monumental model measures 241.5 x 404 x 115.5cm.

Complete with bilge keels, twin propeller shafts on 'A'-brackets with carved and gilt wood propellers, rudder, portholes, kedge and main anchors on studded cable, sponson booms with Jacobs ladders, sponson guns in casemates.

The lined and lacquered deck and superstructure with a multitude of fittings finished in gilt and silvering and including deck rails, bitts, bollards, covered hatches, ventilators and a glazed bridge.

Despite the common practice of using certain ships' names repeatedly over the centuries, only three vessels have borne the name Leviathan during the long history of the Royal Navy; the first was a '74' of 1790 and the last a modest aircraft carrier of 1945 which was never, in fact, completed for sea.

Only the second vessel in this trio remotely lived up to the derivation of her name Leviathan - meaning gigantic, impressive, formidable or 'anything of huge size' [from the Hebrew livyathan] - and she was the splendid four-funnelled armoured cruiser which joined the fleet at the dawn of the twentieth century.

One of the four 'Drake' class cruisers approved in the 1898 Programme, the order for Leviathan went to John Brown's yards at Clydebank where she was laid down on 30th November 1899.

Launched on 3rd July 1901 and completed on 16th June 1903, her design was an enlarged version of the 'Cressy' class of 1897 although this increased size was mostly utilised to accommodate the significantly more powerful machinery needed to provide their top speed of 23 knots.

Displacing 14,150 tons (fully loaded), the 'Drakes' measured 533 feet in length (overall) with a 71 foot beam, and were impressively armoured up to a maximum of 6ins. on the most vulnerable areas of their hulls.

Amongst the fastest ships in the world when completed, Lord Goschen, the First Lord of the Admiralty, hailed the new quartet as "mighty cruisers" and, once in service, all four frequently exceeded their trial speed of 30 knots and proved both good seaboats as well as "exceptional steamers".

All in all a triumph of design and construction, it was therefore a pity that, by the time the Great War began in 1914, more modern cruisers had already outclassed them.

Leviathan was commissioned immediately after completion and sent to join the Cruiser Squadron in the English Channel for two years (1903-04).

Transferred to the 3rd Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean (1905-06), she came home for a refit at Chatham during 1907 after which she remained in Home Waters and joined the 5th Cruiser Squadron in 1908.

The next year (1909) she was sent to join the 4th Cruiser Squadron in North American Waters where she remained until 1912.

After a brief tenure as flagship to the Training Squadron in 1912, she was then transferred to the 6th Cruiser Squadron (3rd Fleet) from 1913 where she stayed until that squadron was broken up in the weeks leading up to the outbreak of War in August 1914 and its vessels attached to the Grand Fleet based at Scapa Flow.

In March 1915, after almost eight months of unremitting patrol work in adverse conditions, Leviathan was ordered to the West Indies as flagship to Vice-Admiral Patey and, in the latter part of the War, was employed on North Atlantic convoy escort duties.

Surviving hostilities, this elegant four-funnelled relic of the Edwardian Royal Navy was finally sold out of the service in 1920 and scrapped at Blyth.

This 1:48 scale model is for sale at Charles Miller Ltd, London on Wednesday 28th April with a £40,000-60,000 estimate, as part of their Collectible Sale: Maritime & Scientific Models, Instruments and Art.

It is being sold to raise funds for the Rotherham Sea Cadets.


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