HMS Formidable

HMS Formidable was the name ship of the Formidable class of pre-dreadnought battleships. On 1 January 1915 she was sunk by U 24 while on a practice exercise in the English Channel. The Formidable class ships spent their earlier careers in the Mediterranean, serving there from 1901 until 1908. They then returned to Britain and joined the Channel Fleet. In August 1914 they made up part of the 5th Battle Squadron of the Channel Fleet. During the operations to protect the BEF as it crossed the channel, that squadron took up a position in the eastern channel, between Selsey Bill and Dungeness, to guard against any German attempt to break into the channel to attack the troop transports. Later in August she was used herself as a troop transport, taking the Portsmouth Battalion of Marines to Ostend.

Plans of Formidable and London Class Battleships
Plans of
Formidable and
London Class

HMS Formidable was lost during a training exercise. In late December the 5th Battle Squadron, under Admiral Bayly, was based at Sheerness. Bayly felt that the squadron needed gunnery practise, and would need to return to Portland to carry it out. He received permission to swap places with the 6th Battle Squadron.

The 5th Battle Squadron left Sheerness at 10.00am on 30 December 1914. She reached Portland the next day, and spent the day carrying out tactical exercises. Admiral Bayly then decided to spend the night at sea, as no submarines had been sighted. At nightfall the squadron took its only evasive action of the night, a 180 degree turn, and then sailed on, in line ahead at 10knots, with HMS Formidable at the rear of the line.

Unfortunately a German submarine (U-24) had been trailing the squadron all day waiting for a suitable moment to fire. That moment came at 2.30am on 1 January. The Formidable was hit by one torpedo. She developed a 20 degree list and lost all steam. Even though she stayed afloat for over two hours, in the company of two light cruisers, 547 men were lost, amongst them Captain Loxley. Rescue attempts were hampered by the darkness and a rising gale. Finally, at around 4.45am the ship began to tilt over, and then in minutes capsized and sank.

Admiral Bayly was widely criticised for the lake of anti-submarine precautions he had take that night. After a court martial he was ordered to strike his flag in punishment. There must have been some nagging doubt as to the fairness of this judgement (he had been left without destroyer escorts by the Admiralty), for six months later he was recalled and appointed to command the Coast of Ireland Station, to deal with the first serious U-boat campaign.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed


Armour – deck


 - belt


 - bulkheads


 - barbettes


 - gun houses


 - casemates


 - conning tower



431ft 9in


Four 12in guns
Twelve 6in quick firing guns
Sixteen 12pdr quick firing guns
Six 3pdr quick firing guns
Four 18in torpedo tubes

Crew complement



17 November 1898


September 1901


A. N. Loxley


1 January 1915

Formidable - A True Story of disaster and courage, Steve R. Dunn. Looks at the full story behind the loss of HMS Formidable, a British battleship sunk by a U-boat on 1 January 1915 while under the overall command of an Admiral who at that point didn’t accept that the submarine posed a threat to his fleet. Sections on why she was lost and who was to blame are balanced by detailed examinations of the fate of her crew, the dependents of those lost with her and the public reaction to her lose to produce a useful account of this naval disaster(Read Full Review)
cover cover cover
British Battleships 1889-1904 New Revised Edition, R A Burt. Magnificent study of the Royal Navy's pre-dreadnought battleships, amongst the most powerful ships in the world when built, but seen as obsolete by the outbreak of war in 1914. Traces the development of the 'classic' pre-dreadnought design and the slow increase in the power of the secondary armament, leading up to the all-big gun ships that followed. [read full review]
cover cover cover

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 November 2007), HMS Formidable ,

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy