Three cruisers / aircraft carriers of the Royal Navy were probably the most Dieselpunk ships ever built, although powered by steam turbines.
Together with the M-class submarine monitors they belong to "Fisher follies", invented by Admiral John "Jacky" Fisher, the First Sea Lord. With the start of the Great War he found a way to to obtain another three fast, lightly armoured ships which could make use of the several spare 15-inch gun turrets left over from battleship construction. These ships were essentially light battlecruisers, and Fisher can occasionally be found referring to them as such, but were officially classified as "large light cruisers". This unusual designation was required because construction of new capital ships had been placed on hold, while there were no limits on light cruiser construction. They became Courageous and her sisters Glorious and Furious, and there was a bizarre imbalance between their main guns of 15 inches (or 18 inches in Furious) and their armour, which at 3 inches thickness was on the scale of a light cruiser. The design was generally regarded as a bizarre failure (nicknamed in the Fleet Outrageous, Uproarious and Spurious).
It is often held that the Renown and Courageous classes were designed for Fisher's plan to land troops on the German Baltic coast. Specifically, they were designed with a shallow draught, which might be important in the shallow Baltic. This is not clear-cut evidence that the ships were designed for the Baltic: it was considered that earlier ships had too much draught and not enough freeboard under operational conditions.
By 1917 officially classed as battle cruisers they were, at 786 feet length overall, only some 10 feet shorter than Renown and Repulse (they had been laid down only a couple of months after these latter two ships). But so soon after the lessons of Jutland had been so dearly bought Admiral Beatty needed his capital ships to be able to at least withstand German heavy shell - and with their lack of decent armour Glorious and Courageous could not. Initially the former was employed as flagship of the 3rd Light Cruiser Squadron and then the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet (and she saw action at Heligoland Bight in November 1917 where she suffered splinter damage).
HMS Glorious, 1922 by Rowland Langmaid (1897-1956) © Maritime Prints
The most bizarre of the three was HMS Furious. She was modified while under construction as an aircraft carrier. Her forward turret was removed and a flight deck was added in its place, so that aircraft had to manoeuvre around the superstructure to land.
Furious was briefly laid up after the war before she was reconstructed with a full-length flight deck in the early 1920s. But the image of this half-cruiser, half-carrier in her razzle-dazzle paint is driving me crazy:
Her sisters (or should I say "half-sisters") Glorious and Courageous were converted in mid-20s. They drew upon the experience gained by the Royal Navy since Furious had been designed and incorporated an island with a funnel, increasing their aircraft capacity by one-third and making it safer to land.
HMS Courageous off Portland, 1932 by Lt Col Harold Wyllie OBE RSMA (1880-1973) © Maritime Prints
HMS Glorious, 1939
Courageous became the first warship lost by the Royal Navy in the Second World War when she was torpedoed in September 1939 by a German submarine.
Glorious unsuccessfully hunted the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee in the Indian Ocean in 1939. She participated in the Norwegian Campaign in 1940, but was sunk by two German battleships in June when she was unwisely allowed to sail home with minimal escort.
22 images in our Great Conversion album. Browse it - or enjoy the slideshow: