HMS Hampshire (1903)
Hampshire at anchor
|Career (United Kingdom)|
|Class and type:||Devonshire-class armoured cruiser|
|Builder:||Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick|
|Laid down:||1 September 1902|
|Launched:||24 September 1903|
|Completed:||15 July 1905|
|Fate:||Sunk by mine, 5 June 1916|
|Status:||Protected war grave|
|Class & type:||Devonshire-class armoured cruiser|
|Displacement:||10,850 long tons (11,020 t) (normal)|
|Length:||473 ft 6 in (144.3 m) (o/a)|
|Beam:||68 ft 6 in (20.9 m)|
|Draught:||24 ft (7.3 m)|
|Installed power:||21,000 ihp (16,000 kW)
17 Yarrow boilers; 6 cylindrical boilers
|Propulsion:||2 × Shafts
2 × 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines
|Speed:||22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph)|
HMS Hampshire was one of six Devonshire-class armoured cruisers built for the Royal Navy in the first decade of the 20th century. She was assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Channel Fleet upon completion. After a refit she was assigned to the reserve Third Fleet in 1909 before going to the Mediterranean Fleet in 1911. She was transferred to the China Station in 1912 and remained there until the start of World War I in August 1914.
The ship hunted for German commerce raiders until she was transferred to the Grand Fleet at the end of 1914. She was assigned to the 7th Cruiser Squadron upon her return home. She was transferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron in 1916 and was present at the Battle of Jutland. Several days later she was sailing to Russia, carrying the Secretary of State for War, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, when she is believed to have struck a mine laid by a German submarine. She sank with heavy loss of life, including Kitchener and his staff. Rumours later circulated of German spies and sabotage being involved in the sinking. Her wreck is listed under the Protection of Military Remains Act, though part was later illegally salvaged. Several films have been made exploring the circumstances of her loss.
Design and description
Hampshire was designed to displace 10,850 long tons (11,020 t). The ship had an overall length of 473 feet 6 inches (144.3 m), a beam of 68 feet 6 inches (20.9 m) and a deep draught of 24 feet (7.3 m). She was powered by two 4-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines, each driving one shaft, which produced a total of 21,000 indicated horsepower (16,000 kW) and gave a maximum speed of 22 knots (41 km/h; 25 mph). The engines were powered by seventeen Yarrow and six cylindrical boilers. She carried a maximum of 1,033 long tons (1,050 t) of coal and her complement consisted of 610 officers and enlisted men.
Her main armament consisted of four breech-loading (BL) BL 7.5-inch Mk I guns mounted in four single-gun turrets, one each fore and aft of the superstructure and one on each side. The guns fired their 200-pound (91 kg) shells to a range of about 13,800 yards (12,600 m). Her secondary armament of six BL 6-inch Mk VII guns was arranged in casemates amidships. Four of these were mounted on the main deck and were only usable in calm weather. They had a maximum range of approximately 12,200 yards (11,200 m) with their 100-pound (45 kg) shells. Hampshire also carried three quick-firing (QF) 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns and two submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes. Her two 12-pounder 8 cwt guns could be dismounted for service ashore.
At some point in the war, the main deck six-inch guns of the Devonshire-class ships were moved to the upper deck and given gun shields. Their casemates were plated over to improve seakeeping and the four 3-pounder guns displaced by the transfer were landed.
The ship's waterline armour belt had a maximum thickness of six inches (152 mm) and was closed off by five-inch (127 mm) transverse bulkheads. The armour of the gun turrets was also five inches thick whilst that of their barbettes was six inches thick. The protective deck armour ranged in thickness from .75–2 inches (19–51 mm) and the conning tower was protected by twelve inches (305 mm) of armour.
Construction and service
Hampshire, named to commemorate the English county, was laid down by Armstrong Whitworth at their Elswick shipyard on 1 September 1902 and launched on 24 September 1903. She was completed on 15 July 1905 and was initially assigned to the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Channel Fleet together with most of her sister ships. She began a refit at Portsmouth Royal Dockyard in December 1908 and was then assigned to the reserve Third Fleet in August 1909. She recommissioned in December 1911 for her assignment with the 6th Cruiser Squadron of the Mediterranean Fleet and was transferred to the China Station in 1912.
She was still there when the war began and captured a German merchant ship on 11 August before beginning to search for the German light cruiser Emden. Hampshire was recalled home in December to serve with the Grand Fleet and joined the 7th Cruiser Squadron in January 1915. She was detached in November to escort shipping in the White Sea and returned in time to participate in the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916.
Last voyage and sinking
Immediately after the battle, she was ordered to carry Lord Kitchener from Scapa Flow on a diplomatic mission to Russia via the port of Arkhangelsk. Due to the gale-force conditions, it was decided that Hampshire would sail through the Pentland Firth, then turn north along the western coast of the Orkney Islands. This course would provide a lee from the strong winds, allowing escorting destroyers to keep pace with her. She departed Scapa Flow at 16:45 and about an hour later rendezvoused with her two escorts, the Acasta-class destroyers Unity and Victor. As the ships turned to the northwest the gale increased and shifted direction so that the ships were facing it head on. This caused the destroyers to fall behind Hampshire. As it was considered unlikely that enemy submarines would be active in such conditions, Captain Savill of the Hampshire ordered Unity and Victor to return to Scapa Flow.
Sailing alone in heavy seas, Hampshire was approximately 1.5 mi (2.4 km) off the mainland of Orkney between Brough of Birsay and Marwick Head at 19:40 when an explosion occurred and she heeled to starboard. She had struck one of several mines laid by the German minelaying submarine U-75 on 28/29 May 1916, just before the Battle of Jutland. The detonation had holed the cruiser between bows and bridge, and the lifeboats were smashed against the side of the ship by the heavy seas when they were lowered. About 15 minutes after the explosion, Hampshire sank by the bows. Of over 600 personnel aboard, only 12 men on two Carley floats managed to reach the shore alive; Kitchener and his staff were lost.
Fritz Joubert Duquesne, a Boer and German spy, claimed to have sabotaged and sunk Hampshire. Duquesne claimed to have assumed the identity of Russian Duke Boris Zakrevsky and joined Kitchener in Scotland. En route to Russia, Duquesne signalled a German U-boat to alert them that Kitchener’s ship was approaching. He then escaped on a raft just before Hampshire was destroyed. In the 1930s and '40s, he ran the famous Duquesne Spy Ring and was captured by the FBI along with 32 other Nazi agents in the largest espionage conviction in U.S. history.
The wreck was designated as a controlled site under the Protection of Military Remains Act. She lies in around 65 m (213 ft) of water off the north west coast of Orkney. In 1983, one propeller and part of a drive shaft were illegally salvaged. The prop was later given to Lyness Museum, Orkney after protests.
The sinking of the ship and the events surrounding Kitchener's death are portrayed in the 1969 film Fräulein Doktor about a female spy, and the 1921 film How Kitchener Was Betrayed. The sinking is also central to one of the plots of Clive Cussler's book Crescent Dawn.
- "Cwt" is the abbreviation for hundredweight, 12 cwt referring to the weight of the gun.
- Chesneau & Kolesnik, p. 71
- Friedman 2012, p. 336
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- "The Loss of HMS Hampshire". Royal Naval Museum. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
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- "Transcript: HMS HAMPSHIRE – October 1914 to February 1915, Indian Ocean to UK, British Home Waters". Royal Navy Log Books of the World War 1 Era. Naval-History.net. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
- HMS Hampshire memorial site
- SI 2008/950 Designation under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986