HMS Campania

HMS Campania was the largest of a number of merchant ships converted to act as seaplane carriers during the First World War. She was originally a record breaking Cunard liner, launching in 1893, but by 1914 her commercial life was over, and she was in the hands of the breakers. They had removed her deck fittings, but had not begun to work on the structure of the ship, and so on 27 November 1914 she was purchased by the Admiralty.

Over the next five months she was converted to carry ten seaplanes. She was given a 120ft long take-off platform forward of the fore funnel, and equipped with hangers and workshops to support the aircraft. The first successful takeoff from her platform was made on 6 August 1915 using a Sopwith Schneider. However, the platform was felt to be too short, and from November 1915-April 1916 she underwent a major refit.

This refit saw her foreward funnel replaced by two funnels side-by-side. The platform was extended to 200ft, starting between the new split funnel. She then returned to the Grand Fleet, operating the Short 184. During 1918 she carried a mix of Sopwith 1 ½ Strutters and the Fairey Campania, a seaplane named in her honour.

The Campania returned to the fleet in time to have taken a part in the battle of Jutland, but is now perhaps best known for failing to join the Grand Fleet. On 30 May she had been to sea on a training exercise, returning to her berth at 5.15pm. Her berth was five miles from the main fleet, and there was no line of sight between the two anchorages. The Campania received the initial order to prepare to go to sea at 5.35pm. She was ready to sail by 9.30pm, but didn’t receive the crucial 10.54pm order to take station with the fleet. She eventually set sail two and a quarter hours after the fleet flagship Iron Duke, but despite her best efforts was unable to catch up with the fleet, and on the morning of 31 May was ordered to return to Scapa.

The Campania was lost in the Firth of Forth on 5 November 1918 during a gale. Depending on the source she was hit by one of HMS Revenge, HMS Glorious or HMS Royal Oak, sinking over the next two hours.


18,000t normal
12,884t gross

Top Speed







Six 4.7in quick firing guns
One 3in AA gun


10 seaplanes

Crew complement




Completed as carrier



Captain O. Schwann


5 November 1918

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (14 November 2007), HMS Campania ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us -  Subscribe in a reader - Join our Google Group - Cookies