HMS Formidable (1898)

HMS Formidable (1898)

HMS "Formidable" (1898), the third of four ships of that name to serve in the British Royal Navy, was the lead ship of the Formidable class of predreadnought battleships and the second British battleship to be sunk by enemy action during World War I. [ HMS Formidable's history on the website] Retrieved: 6 April 2008]

Technical characteristics

HMS "Formidable" was laid down at Portsmouth Dockyard on 21 March 1898 and launched on 17 November 1898. She was completed in September 1901, but due to difficulties with machinery contractors her readiness for service was delayed, and she was not commissioned for another three years. Burt, p. 162]

"Formidable" had the same-calibre armament and was similar in appearance to the "Majestic" and "Canopus" classes that preceded her. She and her sister ships are often described as improved "Majestic"s, but in design they were effectively enlarged "Canopus"es. The "Canopus" class employed Krupp armour in their construction which possessed greater strength for a given weight compared to that of the "Majestics"' Harvey armour, allowing the "Canopus"es to be lighter and faster without sacrificing protection; however, in "Formidable", Krupp armour was used to improve protection without reducing the size of the ship."Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905", p. 36] "Formidable" thus was larger than the ships of the two preceding classes, and enjoyed greater protection than the "Majestic"s and the higher speed of the "Canopus" class. "Formidable's" armour scheme was similar to that of the "Canopus" class, although the armor belt ran all the way to the stern being 215 feet (65.5 m) long, 15 feet (4.8 m) deep and 9 inches (229 mm) thick. It tapered at the stem to 3 inches (76.2 mm) thick and 12 feet (3.7 m) deep, and at the stern to 1.5 inches (38.1 mm) thick and 8 feet (2.4 m) deep. The main battery turrets had 10 inches (254 mm) of Krupp armour on their sides and 8 inches (203 mm) on their backs.

"Formidable" improved on the main and secondary armament of previous classes, being upgunned from 35 to 40 calibre 12-inch (305 mm) guns and from 40 to 45 calibre 6-inch (152 mm) guns. The 12-inch guns could be loaded at any bearing and elevation, and had a split hoist with a working chamber beneath the turrets to reduce the chance of a cordite fire spreading from the turrets to the shell and powder handling rooms and to the magazines.

"Formidable" had an improved hull form that endowed better handling at high speeds than the "Majestic"s; and inward-turning screws which allowed reduced fuel consumption and slightly higher speeds than in previous classes, but at the expense of reduced maneuverability at low speeds.

With the appearance of the new dreadnought-type battleships and battlecruisers beginning in 1906, predreadnoughts such as "Formidable" were outclassed; however, they still performed some front-line duties during the early part of World War I.

Operational history

HMS "Formidable" commissioned on 10 October 1904 at Portsmouth Dockyard for service in the Mediterranean Fleet. She began a refit at Malta in 1904 which lasted until April 1905, and in April 1908 transferred to the Channel Fleet."Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921", p. 8] Paid off at Chatham Dockyard on 17 August 1908, "Formidable" began another refit and recommissioned on 20 April 1909 for service in the 1st Division, Home Fleet stationed at the Nore. On 29 May 1909 she transferred to the Atlantic Fleet.Burt, p. 170]

In May 1912, "Formidable" was reduced to a nucleus crew and transferred to the 5th Battle Squadron in the Second Fleet, Home Fleet, again at the Nore, where she served until the outbreak of World War I in August 1914. Hard steaming during this service led to her developing serious machinery problems.

At the beginning of World War I, "Formidable" and the 5th Battle Squadron were based at Portland and assigned to the Channel Fleet to defend the English Channel. After covering the safe transportation of the British Expeditionary Force to France in August 1914, "Formidable" took part in the transportation of the Portsmouth Marine Battalion to Ostend on 25 August 1914.

On 14 November 1914, "Formidable" and the other ships of the 5th Battle Squadron were rebased at Sheerness because of concern that a German invasion of the United Kingdom was in the offing. The squadron was relieved by "Duncan"-class battleships of the 6th Battle Squadron and transferred to Portland on 30 December 1914.

Under the command of Channel Fleet Commander-in-Chief Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, the 5th Battle Squadron spent 31 December 1914 participating in gunnery exercises off the Isle of Portland, supported by the light cruisers HMS|Topaze|1903|6 and HMS|Diamond|1904|6. After the exercises, that night the fleet remained at sea on patrol even though submarine activity had been reported in the area. With rough sea conditions and the wind increasing, submarine attacks would have been difficult to carry out effectively and so were not thought to be a significant threat. "Formidable" was steaming at convert|10|kn|km/h at the rear of the squadron off Portland Bill just 20 nautical miles (37 km) from Start Point, when at 02:20 on 1 January 1915 a torpedo from the German U-boat U-24 struck the number one boiler port side. [ Story of the sinking on Burton Bradstock village website] Retrieved: 6 April 2008] It was thought that she might be saved by reaching the coast, but by about 02:40 she had taken a list of 20 degrees to starboard and her commanding officer, Captain Noel Loxley gave the order to abandon ship. Darkness and worsening weather made it difficult to get the men and boats over the side; some small boats being thrown into the water upside down.

At about 03:05, "Formidable" was struck by a second torpedo on the starboard side. Amidst a 30-foot swell the pinnaces and launch along with other boats (one of which capsized soon after) were launched, and the two light cruisers came alongside and managed to pick up 80 men in the deteriorating weather. By 04:45, she seemed in imminent danger of capsizing, and a few minutes later she rolled over onto many of the men in the water and sank quickly. Captain Loxley remained on the bridge along with his Fox terrier Bruce,"Hero Dogs of the First World War Associated With The Sinking of H.M.S. Formidable". This book also contains a list of all the men who drowned.] calmly overseeing the evacuation of the ship.

In rough seas near Berry Head, a Brixham fishing trawler, "Provident", under the command of Captain W. Piller, picked up the men from one pinnace before it sank, saving 71 members of the crew. The second pinnace took off another 70 men, of which 48 were brought ashore alive after it was eventually spotted from the shore the following night, 22 hours after the sinking. The total loss of life of HMS "Formidable" was 35 officers (including Captain Loxley) and 512 men out of a total complement of 780.

"Formidable" was the third British battleship to be sunk, and the second to be sunk by enemy action, during World War I. Her wreck site is designated as a controlled site under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.cite web |title=The Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 (Designation of Vessels and Controlled Sites) Order 2008 | work=Office of Public Sector Information | url= | accessdate=2008-07-21] The body of Captain Loxley's dog, Bruce, a war dog, washed ashore and was buried in a marked grave in Abbotsbury Gardens in Dorset.

ee also

*Formidable class battleship



*Burt, R. A. "British Battleships 1889–1904". Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1988. ISBN 0870210610.
*"Captain Loxley's Little Dog And Lassie The Life-saving Collie: Hero Dogs of the First World War Associated With The Sinking of H.M.S. Formidable". Diggory Press, ISBN 978-1905363131
*Chesneau, Roger and Kolesnik, Eugene M., eds. "All The Worlds Fighting Ships, 1860–1905". London: Conway Maritime Press, 1979. ISBN 0-85177-133-5
*Dittmar, F. J., and J.J. Colledge, eds. "British Warships 1914–1919". London: Ian Allen, 1972. ISBN 0-7110-0380-7
*Gibbons, Tony. "The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers: A Technical Directory of All the World's Capital Ships From 1860 to the Present Day". London: Salamander Books Ltd., 1983.
*Gray, Randal, Ed. "Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921." Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1985. ISBN 0870219073.

External links

* [ website: World War I naval history – WWI battles, pictures and maps]
* [ "History of the World's Navy's vessels" Home page]
* [ Images on website]
* [ Burton Bradstock village website]

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