HMS Black Prince

HMS Black Prince was a Duke of Edinburgh class first class armoured cruiser. She spent most of her career serving with her sister ship (see HMS Duke of Edinburgh for further details). At the outbreak of the First World War she was serving in the Mediterranean, where she took part in the hunt for the Goeben and Breslau. After those ships reached safety in Turkey, the Black Prince and Duke of Edinburgh were sent into the Red Sea, to watch for German liners. On 15 August the Black Prince captured two Hamburg-Amerika line lines, the Südmark and the Istria. The first of those ships had been seen as suitable for use as an armed commerce raider, so her capture was of some significance.

Plans of Duke of Edinburgh Class First Class Armoured Cruisers
Plans of
Duke of Edinburgh Class
First Class Armoured Cruisers

In November 1914 the Black Prince was sent to Gibraltar, where a new West Coast of Africa Squadron was being assembled to deal with any threat from von Spee’s cruiser squadron. When that squadron was destroyed at the battle of the Falklands, the Black Prince and the Duke of Edinburgh were transferred to the Grand Fleet, forming part of the First Cruiser Squadron at Scapa Flow (with the Warrior, flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir Robert K. Arbuthnot and the Donegal).

On 30 May 1916 the First Cruiser squadron was present at Invergordon. As the Grand Fleet headed towards the fighting at Jutland, the First and Second Cruiser squadrons formed the advance guard, eighteen miles ahead of the fleet. Decreasing visibility forced the cruiser line to close up, and the Black Prince slowly lost touch with the rest of the squadron.

At 5.33 the Black Prince was the first ship from the Grand Fleet to sight the Battlecruiser fleet. Unfortunately her signal seemed to suggest that she had seen German battlecruisers, adding to the confusion on Jellicoe’s flagship. While Jellicoe correctly assumed that these were in fact British ships, the incident does illustrate the difficulties of communications between ships separated by large distances at sea.

At 5.50 Admiral Arbuthnot, with most of the squadron, saw gunfire from a clash with the German light cruisers and advanced into danger, unaware of the close proximity of the German battlecruisers. At 6.20 his flagship, the Defence, was destroyed by two heavy salvoes.

The Black Prince missed this combat, having become detached to the west. Her captain, T.P. Bonham, turned south, presumably expecting the battle to have moved in that direction. Just after midnight on 1 June, she sailed right into the middle of the German fleet, finding herself close to the centre of the High Seas Fleet. She was picked out by searchlights and fired on at short range by the German battleships. After only two minutes she was on fire from end to end, and all resistance had stopped. After burning for a few minutes, at 12.10 she exploded with all hands. 37 officers, 815 men and 5 civilians were lost.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed


Armour – deck

1.5in over steering gear
1in main deck
1in over battery
0.75in lower deck

 - belt

6in amidships
4in forward

 - bulkheads


 - 6in battery


 - barbettes


 - turrets

7.5in front
5.5in sides
4.5in back

 - ammo tubes


 - conning tower



505ft 6in


Six 9.2in guns
Ten 6in quick firing guns
Twenty two 3pdr quick firing guns
Three 18in submerged torpedoes.

Crew complement



8 November 1904


17 March 1906


31 May 1916


J.D Dick (1915)
T.P. Bonham (1916)

Before the Battlecruiser - The Big Cruiser in the World’s Navies 1865-1910, Aidan Dodson. Looks at the development and careers of the ‘big cruiser’, the most heavily armed cruisers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and a type that eventually evolved in the battlecruiser. Covers the development of the type, its combat experience while still state of the art, its role in the First World War, as well as looking at the technical specifications of all of the ships that fell into this category (Read Full Review)
cover cover cover


Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 September 2007), HMS Black Prince ,

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