HMS Princess Royal

HMS Princess Royal was a Lion class battlecruiser that fought at the three main naval battles in the North Sea. On 28 August she was one the battlecruisers despatched under Admiral Beatty to support the British raid into the Heligoland Bight. There she took part in the final part of the battle – the destruction of the German cruisers Köln and Adriadne.

In early October she was detached from the Grand Fleet to help escort the first Canadian troop convoy across the Atlantic. She met up with the convoy at sea on 9 October, and remained with it until it reached Britain.

HMS Princess Royal and HMS New Zealand
HMS Princess Royal and HMS New Zealand

In the aftermath of his victory at the battle of Coronel, one of the options open to Admiral von Spee was to take his fleet through the Panama Canal and into the West Indies. The Admiralty was sufficiently worried about this to order Jellicoe to send the Princess Royal to reinforce the New York division of the North America and West Indies squadron. The order was received on 10 November, but Jellicoe protested about the reduction in his strength, and she did not sail until 12 November.

Her movement was so secret that the commander of the station was not informed that she was on her way. At first she was sent to Halifax, in case the Germans attempted to get another heavy cruiser out of the North Sea to join von Spee, but on 29 November reports were received that suggested von Spee was indeed heading towards the canal, and she was moved to Jamaica. The battle of the Falklands removed the danger from von Spee, and on 11 December the Princess Royal left Jamaica to begin her journey home. She was then delayed for a week to search for the German cruiser Karlsruhe. This ship had exploded in mysterious circumstances, but news of this had not reached the outside world, and she was believed to be operational around the Bahamas. After a futile search, the Princess Royal was finally released, leaving Jamaica for a second time on 19 December.

On her return to the Grand Fleet the Princess Royal became the flagship of the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron. She was present at the battle of Dogger Bank (24 January 1915). During the chase she opened fire on the Blücher, before switching her attention to the Moltke when Beatty ordered his squadron to engage their opposite numbers. She wasn’t the target of any of the German battlecruisers, and so emerged from the battle undamaged. Admiral Beatty transferred his flag to her after the Lion lost her port engines.

HMS Princess Royal from the right
HMS Princess Royal from the right

Plans of Lion Class Battlecruisers
Plans of
Lion Class

The Princess Royal was part of Beatty’s Battle Cruiser Fleet at the battle of Jutland. By this point, her captain of 1914, Osmond de Beauvoir Brock, had been promoted to rear-admiral, with his flag in the Princess Royal. During the battle the Princess Royal stayed close to Beatty’s flagship Lion, passing on Beatty’s messages after the Lion’s radio masts were shot away. She took eight 12in and one 11in hits, which started fires and damaged two legs of her tripod mast but failed to cause any significant damage. She suffered twenty two dead and eighty one wounded during the battle. During the duel between the battlecruisers, she joined the Lion in concentrating on the Lützow, but her fire was limited by smoke from a destroyer flotilla passing in front of the fleet.

The Princess Royal was back at Rosyth by 2 June, remaining with the fleet for a week, before going off for repairs. The damage was repaired by 21 July, when the Princess Royal rejoined the fleet, remaining with the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron until she was scrapped in 1922. She was present at the action of Heligoland Bight of 17 November 1917, but wasn’t involved in the final chase. By the start of 1918 she was one of only three British battlecruisers still felt to be capable of serving in the battle cruiser line (with the Lion and the Tiger). This played a part in the British decision not to seek out a battle during 1918, changing the policy that had been in place since 1914.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



5,610 nautical miles at 10kts

Armour – deck


 - belt


 - bulkheads


 - barbettes


 - turret faces


 - conning tower





Eight 13.5in Mk V guns
Sixteen 4in Mk VII guns
Four 3pdr guns
Two 21in submerged torpedo tubes

Crew complement



24 April 1911


November 1912


Captain O. de B. Brock
Captain Cowen

Sold for break up


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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (16 November 2007), HMS Princess Royal ,

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