HMS London (1899)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS London.
HMS London.jpg
HMS London entering Malta Harbour in 1915
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS London
Namesake: London
Builder: Portsmouth Dockyard
Laid down: 8 December 1898
Launched: 21 September 1899
Completed: June 1902
Commissioned: 7 June 1902
Decommissioned: January 1919
Fate: Sold for scrapping 4 June 1920
General characteristics
Class & type: Formidable or London-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 15,000 tons (approx)
Length: 431 ft 9 in (131 m)
Beam: 75 ft (23 m)
Draught: 27 ft 5 in
Propulsion: Water tube boilers, 2 x vertical triple expansion engines, 2 shafts, 15,500 ihp (11.6 MW)
Speed: 18.0 knots (33 km/h)
Range: 5,500 nautical miles (approx) at 10 knots (18 km/h)
Complement: 760
Armament:
Armour:
  • Belt 9 inches (229 mm)
  • Bulkheads 12 -9 inches (305 -229 mm)
  • Barbettes: 12 inches (305 mm),
  • Gunhouses: 10 -8 inches (254 -203 mm)
  • Casemates: 6 inches (152 mm)
  • Conning tower: 14 inches (356 mm)
  • Deck: 1 to 2.5 (25.4–64 mm)
Notes: Cost £1,103,453

HMS London was a Formidable-class battleship in the British Royal Navy, often considered to be part of the London class or subclass. Commissioned in June 1902, she served with the Mediterranean Fleet until early 1907. She was assigned to the Nore Division of the Home Fleet for nearly a year before transferring to the Channel Fleet. Rendered obsolete with the emergence of the new dreadnoughts from late 1906 onwards, she underwent an extensive refit in 1909, after which she served with the Atlantic Fleet. She was assigned to the Second Home Fleet in 1912 as part of the 5th Battle Squadron, and was temporarily fitted with a makeshift ramp for experiments with naval aircraft until 1913.

Following the outbreak of World War I, the squadron was attached to the Channel Fleet before London was detached in March 1915 to participate in the Dardanelles Campaign. She remained in the Mediterranean in support of Italian Navy operations in the Adriatic Sea until October 1916. Returning to the United Kingdom, she was inactive until being converted to a minelayer in early 1918, which entailed the removal of her main armament. She served with the Grand Fleet's 1st Minelaying Squadron until the end of the war. Placed in reserve in 1919, she was eventually disposed of in 1920.

Technical Description[edit]

HMS London was laid down at Portsmouth Dockyard on 8 December 1898, launched on 21 September 1899, and completed in June 1902.[1]

Like the first three Formidable-class ships, London and her four London-class sisters were similar in appearance to the Majestic and Canopus classes that preceded them, and had the same armament. The Formidables and Londons are often described as improved Majestics, but in design they were effectively enlarged Canopuses. While the Canopus class took advantage of the greater strength of the Krupp armour employed in their construction to allow the ships to remain the same size as the heavier Majestics, devoting more to higher speed and less to armour without sacrificing protection; the Formidables '​ and Londons '​ Krupp armour was used to improve protection without reducing the size of the ships.[2] The Formidables and Londons were thus larger than the two preceding classes, and enjoyed greater protection than the Majestics combined with the higher speed of the Canopus class. The armour scheme of the Formidables and Londons was similar to that of the Canopuses, but the armour belt ran all the way to the stern and measured 215 feet (65.5 m) long, 15 feet (4.8 m) deep and 9 inches (229 mm) thick, tapering at the stem to 12 feet (3.7 m) deep and 3 inches (76.2 mm) thick; and at the stern to 8 feet (2.4 m) deep and 1.5 inches (38.1 mm) thick. The main battery turrets had 10 inches (254 mm) of Krupp armour on their sides and 8 inches (203 mm) on their backs.[2]

The Formidables and Londons improved on the main and secondary armament of previous classes, being upgunned from 35-caliber to 40-caliber 12-inch (305 mm) guns, and from 40-caliber to 45-caliber 6-inch (152 mm) guns. The 12-inch guns could be loaded at any bearing and elevation, and a split hoist beneath the turrets with a working chamber beneath the guns reduced the chance of a cordite fire spreading from the turret to the shell and powder handling rooms and to the magazines.[2]

The Formidables and Londons had an improved hull form that endowed better handling at high speeds than the Majestics. They also had inward-turning screws, which allowed reduced fuel consumption and slightly higher speeds than in previous classes but at the expense of less manoeuvrability at low speeds.[2]

A change in design from that of the first three Formidables occurred in London and the other four Londons, which is why they are often considered a separate class.[3] The main difference from the first three ships was thinner deck armour and other detail changes to the armour scheme.[4]

Like all predreadnoughts, London was outclassed by the dreadnought battleships that began to appear in 1906. Like other predreadoughts, however, London took on some first-line duties during the early part of World War I.

Operational history[edit]

Pre-World War I[edit]

HMS London commissioned at Portsmouth Dockyard on 7 June 1902 for service in the Mediterranean Fleet. Before departing home waters, she served as flagship for the Coronation Review for King Edward VII at Spithead on 16 August 1902. While in the Mediterranean, she underwent refits at Malta in 1902–1903 and 1906.[5]

In March 1907, London transferred to the Nore Division, Home Fleet, at the Nore, then to the Channel Fleet on 2 June 1908,[5] serving as Flagship, Rear Admiral, Channel Fleet.[6] She underwent a refit at Chatham Dockyard in 1908, and paid off there on 19 April 1909 to undergo an extensive refit.[5]

Her refit complete, London commissioned at Chatham on 8 February 1910 to serve as Second Flagship, Rear Admiral, Atlantic Fleet. Under the fleet reorganisation of 1 May 1912, she became part of the Second Home Fleet at the Nore, reduced to a nucleus crew and assigned to the 3rd Battle Squadron.[6] She collided with the merchant steamer SS Don Benite on 11 May 1912. She transferred to the 5th Battle Squadron and was used in experiments with flying off aircraft from May 1912 until 1913, employing a ramp built over her forecastle which had been transferred from the battleship Hibernia.[7] During these experiments, Commander Charles Rumney Samson – who had made the world '​s first takeoff from a moving ship in May 1912 from Hibernia using a Short Improved S.27 biplane and the same ramp—repeated his feat by taking off in the same aeroplane from London on 4 July 1912 while London was underway.[8]

World War I[edit]

Upon the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the 5th Battle Squadron was assigned to the Channel Fleet and based at Portland.[9] Their first task was to escort the British Expeditionary Force across the English Channel.[9] A number of experimental paint schemes were tried during the first month of the war but these were quickly abandoned in favour of battleship grey.[9]

It was briefly planned to deploy the squadron to replace the ships lost during the Action of 22 September 1914 but the orders to transfer to the Medway were rescinded.[9]

The squadron transferred to Sheerness on 14 November 1914 to guard against a possible German invasion.[10] While there HMS London was present when HMS Bulwark exploded and London's crew joined in the attempts to rescue survivors.[9] The enquiry into the explosion was carried out aboard HMS London.[9]

The squadron returned to Portland on 30 December 1914.[10]

Australian troops on board London heading for Gallipoli, 24 April 1915

Dardanelles campaign[edit]

On 19 March 1915, London was transferred to the Dardanelles for service in the Dardanelles Campaign. She joined the British Dardanelles Squadron at Lemnos on 23 March 1915, and supported the main landings at Gaba Tepe and Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915.[5]

Mediterranean operations[edit]

London, along with battleships HMS Implacable, HMS Queen, and HMS Prince of Wales, was transferred to the 2nd Detached Squadron, organised to reinforce the Italian Navy in the Adriatic Sea when Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary. She was based at Taranto, Italy, and underwent a refit at Gibraltar in October 1915 during her Adriatic service.

In October 1916, London returned to the United Kingdom, paid off at Devonport Dockyard to provide crews for antisubmarine vessels, and was laid up. While inactive, she underwent a refit in 1916–1917.[5]

Minelaying operations[edit]

London in dazzle camouflage as a minelayer in May 1918

In February 1918, London moved to Rosyth and began conversion to a minelayer.[11] The conversion included removal of all four of her 12-inch (305-mm) guns and her antitorpedo nets, replacement of her after main-battery turret with a 6-inch (152-mm) gun, and installation of minelaying equipment on her quarterdeck, including rails for 240 mines, and of a canvas screen to conceal the entire quarterdeck from external view.[7] The conversion was completed in April 1918, and on 18 May 1918 London recommissioned at Rosyth for service in the Grand Fleet's 1st Minelaying Squadron. Before the war ended on 11 November 1918, London had laid 2,640 mines in the Northern Mine Barrage.[11]

Post-World War I[edit]

In January 1919, London was reduced to reserve at Devonport[11] as a depot ship.[6] As part of a post-war fleet organisation, she was assigned to the 3rd Fleet there.[11]

Disposal[edit]

London was placed on the disposal list at Devonport in January 1920, and on the sale list on 31 March 1920. She was sold for scrapping to Stanlee Shipbreaking Company on 4 June 1920. She was resold to Slough Trading Company, then again resold to a German firm. She was towed to Germany for scrapping in April 1922.[11]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Burt, p. 178
  2. ^ a b c d Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 36
  3. ^ For example, Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 37, and Burt, pp. 175–194, refer to the Londons as a separate class while Gibbons, p. 151, lists them all as part of the Formidable class. Burt refers to the Londons as the Bulwark class.
  4. ^ Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 37
  5. ^ a b c d e Burt, p. 192
  6. ^ a b c Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 8
  7. ^ a b Burt, p. 192; Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 8
  8. ^ Thetford, p. 454
  9. ^ a b c d e f Ballantyne, Iain (2003). H.M.S. London Warships of the Royal Navy. Leo Cooper. pp. 36–40. ISBN 0-85052-843-7. 
  10. ^ a b Burt, p. 170
  11. ^ a b c d e Burt, p. 194

References[edit]

  • Burt, R. A. British Battleships 1889–1904. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1988. ISBN 0-87021-061-0.
  • Chesneau, Roger, and Eugene M. Kolesnik, eds. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1979. ISBN 0-85177-133-5
  • Dittmar, F. J. & Colledge, J. J., "British Warships 1914–1919". London: Ian Allen, 1972. ISBN 0-7110-0380-7.
  • Gibbons, Tony. The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers: A Technical Directory of All the World's Capital Ships From 1860 to the Present Day. London: Salamander Books Ltd., 1983.
  • Gray, Randal, Ed. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1985. ISBN 0-87021-907-3.
  • Thetford, Owen. British Naval Aircraft Since 1912, Sixth Revised Edition. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1991. ISBN 1-55750-076-2.

External links[edit]