HMS Albion

HMS Albion was a Canopus class pre-dreadnought battleship that served on a variety of overseas posts in 1914 before joining the fleet attacking the Dardanelles in February 1915. At the start of August 1914, the entire class was formed into the 8th Battle Squadron of the Channel Fleet, where they helped to guard the BEF as it crossed the channel. In late August the Albion was moved to Gibraltar, flying the flag of Admiral Tottenham. Her role there was to support Admiral de Robeck on the Cape St. Vincent-Finisterre station in a period when it was believed that the Germans were about to use some of their battlecruisers as commerce raiders.

Commodore Reginald Tyrwhitt (1870-1951)
Reginald Tyrwhitt

In early September she was moved again, this time to replace HMS Canopus as the guardship at Cape Verde. Tottenham then struck his flag and took over as commander of the Irish Station. In mid-October she was moved again, this time to Ascension Island, to wait for orders to proceed to the Cape of Good Hope if she was needed against the Boer rebels. By November she was on the Cape Station under Admiral King Hall, remaining there until January 1915, when she departed for the Dardanelles.

She joined Admiral Carden at the Dardanelles in February 1915, and was placed into the 2nd Division of the large squadron of battleships then taking shape. On 19 February she was used (with HMS Amethyst and seven minesweepers) to sweep the seas west of the Gallipoli peninsula to make it safe for HMS Queen Elizabeth to join in the bombardment of the Turkish forts in the straits. At that date she found no mines and no Turkish guns on that part of the coast. During the 25 February bombardment she was used to protect a group of trawlers acting as minesweepers in the entrance to the straits.

On 26 February she was one of the ships chosen to take part in the first opposed entry into the Dardanelles for over a century, attacking Fort Dardanos. During this sortie the ships involved came under heavy fire from howitzers hidden away from the main forts, a sign of things to come. These numerous small batteries of guns were very difficult to spot from the sea, making it almost impossible for the warships to destroy them.

Plans of Canopus Class Battleships
Plans of Canopus Class Battleships

On 1 March she took part in another attempt to bombard Fort Dardanos, but this attack was held off by minefields and good Turkish gunnery. On 6 March she was used as the spotting ship for the last attempt to bombard the forts inside the straits using ships in the safer waters outside. Once inside the straits, the Albion found it difficult to find a safe place to observe, and was only able to report very slowly. HMS Queen Elizabeth was only able to fire five times, confirming Admiral Carden’s view that he would need to take his more valuable ships inside the straits in order to effectively attack the Turkish forts.

The result was the 18 March attempt to force the straits. The British contribution to the battleship squadron used on this attempt was the 3rd Sub-Division of the Second Division of the battle fleet, consisting of HMS Ocean, HMS Irresistible, HMS Albion and HMS Vengeance. The attack was something of a disaster – both the Irresistible and the Ocean were lost during the attempt.

HMS Albion remained off the Dardanelles to support the Allied landings in April. Captain A. W. Heneage was detached to act as Captain “S”, commanding the destroyer flotilla attacked to the Fifth Squadron of the fleet, leaving Commander H. K. Watts-Jones to command the Albion. She was part of the First Squadron, which was used to support the landings at the tip of the peninsula on 25 April. In the operations that followed, the Albion became something of an unlucky ship. On 28 April she was hit by a Turkish shell and had to retire to Mudros for three days of repairs. On 2 May, soon after returning to the Dardanelles, she was hit yet again and forced to return to Mudros.

On 4 October the Albion was used to transport 1,500 British troops from the Xth Division to Salonika in the early days of the intervention in the Balkans. She then returned home, acting as an east coast guardship until 1918, when she transferred to Devonport to be used as an accommodation ship. 

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed


Armour – belt


 - bulkheads


 - barbettes


 - gun houses


 - casemates


 - conning tower


 - deck



421ft 6in


Four 12in guns
Twelve 6in quick firing guns
Ten 12pdr quick firing guns
Six 3pdr guns
Four 18in torpedo tubes, four submerged

Crew complement



21 June 1898


June 1901


A. W. Heneage (1914)
H. L. Watts-Jones (acting)

Sold for break up


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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (31 October 2007), HMS Albion,

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