London class battleships

The London class pre-dreadnought battleships were slightly modified versions of the previous Formidable class, with an improved distribution of armour.

HMS Venerable
HMS Venerable,
London class battleship

HMS Venerable - 12in gun turret
HMS Venerable
12in gun turret
The main chance involved the forward armour. In the earlier ships the side belts had been combined with forward and aft armoured bulkheads to produce an armoured box. In the London class the forward bulkhead was removed and the side belts extended forward. The main belt extended 32ft further forward than on the earlier ships, and the bow armour thickened. Their design and construction overlapped with that of the Duncan class, which sacrificed armour for speed.

Like their half-sisters, the London class ships served in the Mediterranean until 1908. At the start of the First World War they came together in the 5th Battle Squadron of the Channel Fleet, with HMS Prince of Wales as flagship. During this period the class suffered it’s only lose. On 26 November 1914 HMS Bulwark was destroyed by an explosion while loading ammunition at Sheerness.

After that the four survivors of the class had remarkably similar wartime careers. During 1914 they were engaged in channel patrols, with HMS Venerable taking part in the bombardment of the Belgian coast. In early 1915 they were ordered to the Dardanelles, although admittedly not in one batch. In May 1915 they were all transferred to the Adriatic under the terms of the agreement that brought Italy into the war, remaining there until early in 1917. All but HMS Queen were then returned to Britain, and in most cases their crews were paid off to serve in the anti-submarine flotillas. The exception was HMS London. She returned to Britain for conversion to a mine layer, joining the 1st Minelaying Squadron.

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

Displacement (loaded)


Displacement (Queen and Prince of Wales)


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 guns
Four 18in torpedo tubes

Crew complement






Ships in class

HMS Bulwark
HMS London
HMS Venerable
HMS Prince of Wales
HMS Queen
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 (2 November 2007), London class battleships ,

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