HMS Southampton

HMS Southampton was a Chatham class light cruiser that served as the flagship of Commodore William Goodenough during the three main naval battles of the First World War. At the outbreak of the war she was the flagship of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet. In that role she led Division 1 of the Light Cruiser Squadron at the battle of Heligoland Bight, 28 August 1914.

Admiral Sir William Goodenough (1867-1945)
Admiral Sir
William Goodenough

On 15-16 December 1914 she took part in the British attempts to intercept the German ships that had launched a raid on the Yorkshire coast, actually opening fire on the German light cruisers at 11.30 am on 16 December, before a poorly worded signal from Admiral Beatty forced Goodenough to break contact.

Southampton was flagship of the 1st Light Cruiser Squadron during the battle of Dogger Bank, 23 January 1915. There she was first to sight the German battlecruisers, and then acted as a spotter for the British battlecruisers during the main phase of the battle, helping to penetrate the barrier of smoke that was obscuring long range gunnery.

From 1915-1917 Southampton was flagship of the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, still under Commodore Goodenough. In this role she was present at the battle of Jutland, as part of Beatty’s battlecruiser fleet. During the battlecruiser phase of the battle, Southampton was first to spot the battleships of the High Seas Fleet as they approached the fighting, triggering Beatty’s run towards the Grand Fleet.

During the night action on 31 May-1 June the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron, four strong, came into direct contact with the German 4th Scouting Group of five cruisers and a short but brutal engagement followed. Southampton was hit by 18 smaller calibre shells, suffering 37 dead and 40 wounded, the highest casualty levels of any British light cruiser at Jutland (with HMS Chester). All of her midships gun crews and most of her searchlight crews were amongst the casualties. However, during the clash Southampton fired the torpedo that sank the German cruiser Frauenlob with all hands.

After the battle Southampton was forced to remain on the scene to conduct repairs on shell holes near the waterline. She finally reached Rosyth twelve hours after the rest of the battlecruiser fleet, and was immediately taken into the dockyards. She was fully repaired by 20 June.

HMS Southampton from the right
HMS Southampton from the right

She was still with the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron in October 1917 when the High Seas Fleet attacked the Scandinavian convoys, evading detection despite widespread British cruiser patrols.

In July 1918 she carried Sir Eric Geddes, the First Lord of the Admiralty, to Murmansk, to investigate the British intervention in northern Russia.

Post-war the Southampton served as flagship of the 7th Light Cruiser Squadron off South America (1919-1920), then in the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron in the East Indies (1921-1924). She was placed into the Nore Reserve in 1924 and sold off in 1926.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed



4,500 nautical miles at 16kts

Armour – deck

1.5in – 3/8in

 - belt

2in on 1in plate

 - conning tower





Eight 6in guns
Four 3pdr guns
Two 21in submerged torpedo tubes (beam)

Crew complement



16 May 1912


November 1912

Sold for break up

July 1926


Captain E. A. Rushton (1915)

Flagship of

Commodore William Goodenough (1914, 1915, 1916)

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (19 October 2007), HMS Southampton ,

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