HMS Hampshire (1903)
|Class and type:||Devonshire-class armoured cruiser|
|Builder:||Armstrong Whitworth, Elswick, Tyne and Wear|
|Launched:||24 September 1903|
|Fate:||Sunk by mine, 5 June 1916|
|Displacement:||10,850 long tons (11,020 t)|
|Length:||473 ft 6 in (144.32 m)|
|Beam:||68 ft 6 in (20.88 m)|
|Draught:||24 ft (7.3 m)|
|Speed:||22 knots (41 km/h)|
|Complement:||655 officers and men|
|Armament:||4 × BL 7.5-inch (190.5 mm) Mk I guns, 6 × BL 6-inch (152.4 mm) Mk VII guns, 2 × 12-pounder guns, 18 × 3-pounder guns, 2 × 18 in (457 mm) torpedo tubes|
Hampshire saw service during the First World War and was present at the Battle of Jutland in mid-1916. 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. A number of films were made exploring the circumstances of her loss.
Hampshire was initially assigned to the Channel Fleet after her commissioning in 1905. She spent 1911 in the Mediterranean, and was on the China Station between 1912 and 1914. She joined the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow to carry out patrol duties in 1915, and fought at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916.
Last voyage and sinking
Immediately after the battle, she was directed 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.
Hampshire departed Scapa Flow at 16:45 and about an hour later rendezvoused with her two escorts, the Acasta class destroyers HMS 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. 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; Kitchener and his staff were lost.
Cause of sinking
It is believed that Hampshire struck one of several mines laid by the German minelaying submarine U-75 on 28 May 1916, just before the Battle of Jutland, in an effort to block one of Scapa Flow's exits.
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.
Location of wreck
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.
- Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) . Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8. OCLC 67375475.
- SI 2008/950 Designation under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986
- "The Loss of HMS Hampshire". Royal Naval Museum. Retrieved 27 June 2011.
- H. Cassar, George H. (2004). Kitchener's War: British Strategy from 1914 to 1916. Brassey's. p. 286. ISBN 978-1-57488-708-2.
- Lyman Atwood Marshall, Samuel (2001). World War I. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 253. ISBN 978-0-618-05686-6.