HMS Swiftsure

HMS Swiftsure was the name ship of the Swiftsure class of battleships, designed for Chile, but purchased by the Royal Navy in 1903. After spending her early career in home waters, in 1913 she was made the flagship of Admiral Peirse, commander of the East Indies station. Pierse had a very small squadron, containing the Swiftsure, the cruisers Dartmouth and Fox and three sloops, one of which had been detached to serve in the Persian Gulf while another been sent to Hong Kong to provide a crew for HMS Triumph.

At the start of the war Peirse had first though to go to Singapore to defend against von Spee’s East Asian squadron, but on 6 August he was ordered west to patrol the route from Colombo to Aden against a possible threat from the German raider Königsberg. On 9 August she was joined back to India, to escort Indian Army troop convoys from Egypt to Aden. She escorted a second convoy from 20 September and a third in November.

Plans of Swiftsure Class Battleships
Plans of
Swiftsure Class

The destruction of the Emden and the inactivity of the Königsberg freed the Swiftsure from escort duties, and in November she was posted to the Suez Canal. The defence of the canal had been added to Admiral Pierse’s duties, and on 1 December he arrived at Port Said to raise his flag. 

On 3-4 February 1915 the Turks attacked the Suez Canal. During this attack the Swiftsure’s assigned station was just north of Kantara. This area was the target of a subsidiary Turkish attack, which was soon repulsed. Swiftsure fired at the retreating Turks until 1.00pm when they were finally out of range.

At the start of 1915 the Swiftsure was allocated to the fleet at the Dardanelles after the Euryalus arrived to take over as Pierse’s flagship. Her first action came on 2 March, when she entered the straits to attack the Turkish forts. In early March Swiftsure and Triumph were detached to attack the forts defending the port of Smyrna. This attack was intended to prevent the Germans from using the port as a submarine base. The forts at Smyrna proved no more vulnerable to naval gunnery than those at the Dardanelles, but the Turks then sank blockships in the harbour entrance.

The Swiftsure and the Triumph returned to the Dardanelles to take part in the failed attempt to force the narrows on 18 March. They were given the task of supporting the main battleship squadrons by attacking the Turkish barrage guns. Swiftsure came in with the second line of battleships, relieving the Triumph.

During the Gallipoli landings on 25 April HMS Swiftsure was the flagship of Admiral Nicholson, covering the attacks at the tip of the peninsula. Her primary role was to bombard the Turkish positions around "W" beach.

During the Gallipoli campaign she had two brushes with U-boats. On 25 May she fired on the U-boat that later sank her sister-ship Triumph. On 18 September, while sailing from Mudros to Suvla, she was attacked by an unidentified submarine, becoming the only ship to be attacked in the British Aegean Zone during this period of intense submarine activity.

In September 1916 the Swiftsure was part of the 9th Cruiser Squadron (with the cruisers King Alfred, Donegal and Sutlej and the armed merchant cruisers Ophir and Avenger. In that role she took part in the hunt for the German raider Moewe in late 1916. In the following year she was paid off into the reserve.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed


Armour – deck


 - belt


 - bulkheads


 - barbettes


 - gun houses


 - battery


 - coning tower


 - decks



479ft 9in


Four 10 guns
Fourteen 7.5in guns
Fourteen 14pdr quick firing guns
Two 12pdr quick firing guns
Four 6pdr quick firing guns
Two 18in submerged torpedo tubes

Crew complement



12 January 1903


June 1904


C. Maxwell-Lefroy
Captain Talbot

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 (6 November 2007), HMS Swiftsure ,

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