HMS Invincible

HMS Invincible was the name ship of the Invincible class of battlecruisers, despite being laid down and completed last of the three. The battlecruiser was a confused design, a mix of the speed and lighter armour of the cruiser and the firepower of the battleship. Although not originally designed to take part in fleet engagements, their heavy guns made it inevitable that they would be used in the line of battle.

Before the outbreak of the First World War the Invincible served with the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the 1st Division of the Home Fleet, to January 1913. She was sent to Mediterranean between August and December 1913, before returning to Britain for a refit between March and August 1914.

On 3 August 1914 the Invincible was sent to Cobh (then Queenstown) on the Cork coast, to guard against any attempted German breakout into the Atlantic. Once that danger had passed, she moved to the Humber, to form the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron with HMS New Zealand.  

HMS Invincible
HMS Invincible

As part of the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron, based on the Humber, the Invincible took part in the battle of Heligoland Bight, 28 August 1914, the first significant naval encounter of the war. The battlecruisers arrived at 12.30pm, after the battle had been underway for some time, and prevented an increasingly strong German cruiser force from mauling the lighter British cruisers and destroyers that had been involved in the first part of the battle.

On 4 November 1914 the Invincible was ordered south to the Falklands to take part in the hunt for Admiral von Spee’s cruiser squadron after the battle of Coronel. She left Devonport on 11 November and arrived at Port Stanley on 7 December. The next day von Spee arrived to attack Port Stanley. After a two hour chase, Invincible and Inflexible caught up with the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and in a three hour battle sank both of them. Only one of Spee’s ships, the Dresden escaped, to be hunted down later.

On her return from the Falklands the Invincible underwent a two month refit at Gibralter (January-February 1915) before joining the battlecruiser force at Rosyth. In June 1915 all three ships of the Invincible class were grouped together as the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron.

Plans of Invincible Class Battlecruisers
Plans of
Invincible Class

The Invincible was the last of the three British battlecruisers to be lost during the battle of Jutland, where she was the flagship of Admiral Horace Hood. In May 1916 the 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadron had been sent to join the Grand Fleet to get some invaluable gunnery practise. This squadron led the advance of the Grand Fleet from Scapa Flow which came close to catching the German High Seas Fleet. At around 6.15 p.m. Hood’s battlecruisers joined with Beatty’s force in the battle against the German battlecruisers. The Invincible opened first at 10,000 yards, disabling the Wiesbadenand the Pillau, two light cruisers (although the Pillau later escaped). The Invincible also scored two hits on the Lützow, but was exposed to fire from that ship and the Derfflinger. The fifth hit, from Derfflinger, hit the roof of “Q” turret, penetrating the thinner battlecruiser armour. The explosion set fire to the cordite propellant, the flash spread back to the magazine and the ship was blown in half. Only seven of her crew survived.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



3090 nautical miles at 10kts

Belt Armour


Bulkhead Armour




Turret faces armour


Conning Tower armour


Deck armour





Eight 12in guns in four turrets
Sixteen quick firing 4in guns
Seven Maxim machine guns
Five 18in submerged torpedo tubes, 4 on beam one on stern

Crew complement



13 April 1907


March 1909


31 May 1916

British and German Battlecruisers - Their Development and Operations, Michele Cosentino & Ruggero Stanglini. A useful volume that covers the development, design and construction of British and German battlecruisers, their wartime deployments and both side's plans for the next generation of battlecruisers, of which only HMS Hood was ever completed. Having all of this material in a single volume gives a much better overview of the two Navy's battlecruisers, their advantages and flaws, and their performance in and out of battle. Concludes with a look at other nation's battlecruisers and battlecruiser designs [read full review]
cover cover cover


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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (7 September 2007), HMS Invincible ,

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