HMS Formidable

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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.

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)

15,800t

Top Speed

18kts

Armour – deck

3in-1in

 - belt

9in

 - bulkheads

12in-9in

 - barbettes

12in

 - gun houses

10in-8in

 - casemates

6in

 - conning tower

14in

Length

431ft 9in

Armaments

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

Crew complement

780

Launched

17 November 1898

Completed

September 1901

Captains

A. N. Loxley

Torpedoed

1 January 1915

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (1 November 2007), HMS Formidable , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Formidable.html

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