The “Kongo” was a Battlecruiser of 27,500 tons, designed by Sir George Thurston, built and armed at Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness, U.K., launched 18th May 1912 and completed 16th August 1913. At the time she was the world’s largest warship. Her sea trials were conducted in early May 1913, followed by torpedo and gun trials before returning to Barrow for completion and handover. The gunnery trials used more than 27 tons of projectiles, which cost nearly 6,000 pounds sterling. On 25th August 1913 she was at Devonport to take on stores, including 40x 21 inch torpedoes of a new and secret design which were manufactured at the Whitehead works at Portland Harbour.
“Kongo” then commenced her delivery voyage to Japan. As constructed, she had 36 Yarrow boilers, which provided steam for 27.5 knots. She carried a maximum of 4,000 tons of coal plus 1,000 tons of fuel oil, which could be sprayed into the boiler furnaces for additional heat. No doubt she made her voyage at a more sedate speed to conserve fuel – she arrived at Simon’s Town on 22nd September 1913 and presumably “coaled ship” during her short stay. The attached photograph shows her at anchor in Simon’s Bay.
The “Kongo” was the first warship to mount 14 inch, 45 calibre guns (her main armament was 8x 14”, with 16x 6” as secondary armament). She was able to load the main guns at -5° to +25° which gave her a high rate of fire. She was the last warship built in the U.K. for Japan. The remaining 3 vessels of her class (Hiei, Kirishima and Haruna) were constructed in Japan to the original Vickers designs.
Japan declared war against the German Empire on 23rd August 1914 and subsequently attacked and took the German island possessions in the Marshalls, Caroline, and Mariana Islands and the stronghold islands of the Palau group. Kongo and Hiei, assigned to the First Battleship Division, were directed to support Japanese troops by patrolling the Chinese coast. Kongo spent World War 1 at the Naval base at Sasebo or on patrol along the Chinese coast.
All four ships were re-engined and re-boilered progressively in major refits in 1927/32, 1933/40, 1943 and 1944. The 14” guns remained throughout but their elevation was modified from the initial -5° to 25° through 33° and finally 43°.
“Kongo” was sunk by the submarine USS Sealion II (SS-315) on 21st November 1944 some 60 miles north of Keelung, Formosa.
The “Kongo” in Simon’s Bay 1913
Source material from:
Jane’s Fighting Ships of World War 1 (ISBN 1 85170 378 0)
The Battleship Builders (ISBN 978 1 84832 093 2)
The British Newspaper Archive
Simon’s Town Museum
Submitted by David Erickson