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Sister ships: BEDFORD, BERWICK, CORNWALL, CUMBERLAND, DONEGAL, ESSEX, KENT, LANCASTER, SUFFOLK
Notes: The MONMOUTH class was built in answer to a general increase in armored cruiser construction in foreign navies. The ships represented an attempt to provide first class cruisers of equal speed to the preceding DRAKE class, but of smaller size so they would be cheaper to build and operate, and thus be available in larger numbers. The only way this was possible was to decrease both the armor and armament, enabling the displacement to be brought down to 9,800 tons. However, they were heavily criticized for these reductions in fighting power, and regarded by many as unable to fulfill the functions for which they had been designed. The armor was similar to the CRESSY class, but reduced in thickness. Four of the 6" guns were mounted in twin turrets on the forecastle and the quarterdeck, while the remainder were mounted in two-story casemates abreast the foremast and mainmast, and in single casemates on each side amidships. The turrets were electrically operated and promised to be one of the best features of the design. However, the electrical gear proved to be unreliable, and the gunhouses were too cramped for efficient operation. The entire class were regarded as good steamers and sea boats, but the very fine lines and the weight of the turret on the forecastle tended to cause heavy pitching in rough weather.
MONMOUTH was commissioned into the 1st Cruiser Squadron, Channel Fleet, where she served until she was paid off into reserve in January, 1906. She was recommissioned for China Station in April, 1906, and transferred to the 3rd Fleet in 1913. MONMOUTH was transferred to the 5th Cruiser Squadron in August, 1914, and sent to Pernambuco. While serving with the 5th Cruiser Squadron, MONMOUTH went into battle against the German East Asia Squadron, commanded by Vice-Admiral Graf Maxmillian von Spee, at the Battle of Coronel on 1 November 1914. Nearly every aspect of the battle favored the Germans; their crews were better trained and more capable, they had the advantages of speed and longer range, and the British ships were silhouetted against a setting sun (in return, the Germans were seen as vague shapes in the deepening darkness, marked only by the flashes of their gunfire). GNEISENAU's third salvo knocked out MONMOUTH's forward turret, setting the ship on fire. After MONMOUTH had received a tremendous pounding by the armored cruisers SCHARNHORST and GNEISENAU, ablaze from stem to stern and unable to return fire -- but still flying her White Ensign -- the light cruiser NURNBERG closed to point-blank range and finished her off with gunfire. MONMOUTH sank with the loss of all hands.