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ROBERTS (ex-M 4, ex-STONEWALL JACKSON, ex-EARL ROBERTS)
Ships in class:
Notes: The makeshift fleet of old battleships and gunboats which bombarded the Belgian coast in October, 1914 showed clearly that whatever opportunities might be present for warships to influence events ashore, the Royal Navy lacked ships suited to the task. Thus, when on 3 November 1914, the President of Bethlehem Steel, Charles M. Schwab, called on Winston Churchill to offer four 14" turrets, the First Lord of the Admiralty saw the possibility for using them for shore bombardment. Originally designed for the Greek battleship SALAMIS, Schwab knew that they would never get through the British blockade, and was quite happy to sell them to the Royal Navy instead. Literally the next day, orders were placed with the DNC to investigate the building of two "armored monitors" with a draught of ten feet, within four months. The design, which was pushed through very rapidly, incorporated the new anti-torpedo "bulges". But in combination with the relatively unstreamlined bow and stern and the rather limited power, the class proved to be both slow and unwieldy.
To preserve secrecy, the class was often referred to as the STYX class, but soon had numbers assigned; ROBERTS was M 4. In February, 1915, the ships were re-named to commemorate the American origins of their guns. But the deal, with its flagrant breach of neutrality, drew strong protests from the American State Department; in May, they were re-named again as per the table above. And although the ships bore little resemblance to the John Ericsson's MONITOR of American Civil War fame, single-turreted ships built for coast defense and service in South American rivers had borne the same title, so the name "stuck".
The class was designed to carry seaplanes, making them the first British warships to be so fitted. However, in service the operation of these planes was much more troublesome than the benefits gained, and soon, shore-based RNAS aircraft carried out their spotting duties. In 1916, ROBERTS had a single 6" AA gun added.
ROBERTS was commissioned in May, 1915, and was sent to the Dardanelles in company of the cruiser ENDYMION. She formed part of the 1st Division, Special Squadron through January, 1916. In February, ROBERTS returned home and was sent to Yarmouth for service as a guardship, but apart from air raids, she saw little action. In June, 1917, ROBERTS was docked at Tyne, and then moved to the Thames Estuary to take part in the project Belgian landings (as a reserve monitor). She returned to Yarmouth in October, 1917, and was refitted at Portsmouth in July, 1918; ROBERTS was paid off into C&M at Immingham in May, 1919. She was towed back to Portsmouth in October, 1920, but was not disarmed. She was sold in May, 1921, but then retained by the Admiralty for trials. In 1925, her conversion to an airship mooring mast and fueling point was considered, but this was not carried out. In the early 1930's, ROBERTS was used for trials of underwater protection for new construction. ROBERTS was sold for breaking up in September, 1936.