HMS Empress of India (1891)

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"HMS Empress of India" redirects here. It is not to be confused with RMS Empress of India.
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Empress of India
Builder: Pembroke Dockyard
Laid down: 9 July 1889
Launched: 7 May 1891
Completed: August 1893
Commissioned: 11 September 1893
Decommissioned: late 1911 or early 1912
Fate: Sunk as target 4 November 1913
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: Royal Sovereign-class battleship
Displacement: 14,190 tons
15,580 tons full load
Length: 410 ft 5 in (125.10 m) o/a
Beam: 75 ft (23 m)
Draught: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
Propulsion: Twin coal-fired Humphreys & Tennant 3-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines
two screws
Speed: 15.7 knots (29.1 km/h)
Range: Carried 350 tons coal (780 tons max)
190 tons fuel oil
Complement: 712
Armament: 4 × BL 13.5-inch (342.9 mm) guns (2 × 2)

10 × QF 6-inch (152.4 mm) guns (10 × 1)
10 × 6-pounder (57 mm) guns (10 × 1)
12 × 3-pounder (47 mm) guns (12 × 1)

6 × 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes (4 above water, 2 underwater)
  • Main belt: 14–18 in (356–457 mm)
  • Upper belt: 3–4 in (76–102 mm)
  • Forward Bulkheads: 16 in (406 mm)
  • After bulkhead: 14 in (356 mm)
  • Barbettes: 11–17 in (279–432 mm)
  • Casemates: 6 in (152 mm)
  • Conning Tower: 14 in (356 mm)
  • Deck: 2.5–3 in (64–76 mm)
Nickname(s): The Royal Sovereign-class battleships were called the "Rolling Ressies"[2]

HMS Empress of India was a pre-dreadnought battleship of the Royal Navy and part of the eight-ship Royal Sovereign class. She was laid down at Pembroke Dockyard on 9 July 1889 and launched by the Duchess of Connaught on 7 May 1891. Initially known as HMS Renown, her name was changed before completion at Chatham on 11 September 1893. She served as the flagship of the second-in-command of the Channel Fleet. She was sunk as a target ship on 4 November 1913 in Lyme Bay.

Technical characteristics[edit]

HMS Empress of India was ordered under the Naval Defence Act Programme of 1889. She was laid down at Pembroke Dockyard on 9 July 1889 and launched by the Duchess of Connaught on 7 May 1891.[3] She was then transferred to Chatham, where she was completed in August 1893.[4] Initially to be known as Renown, her name was changed before her completion.[5]

Empress of India‍ '​s stern 13.5-inch (343-mm) gun barbette while she was in drydock at Chatham Dockyard in the 1890s.

Empress of India displaced 14,150 tons and was 380 feet (120 m) long with a beam of 75 feet (23 m) and a draught of 27 feet 6 inches. Engined by Humphrys and Tennant she produced 13,000 horsepower (9,700 kW) and could make 18 knots (33 km/h). At full strength she carried a complement of 712. At the time of their completion, she and the other ships in her class were perhaps the best all-round battleships in the world. Their greater freeboard enhanced their sea going capabilities, enabling them to engage the enemy in rougher seas than previous designs, an important consideration in the North Sea and North Atlantic; however, they tended to develop a heavy roll in some conditions, and after Resolution rolled badly in heavy seas in 1893, the class was nicknamed the "Rolling Ressies," a name which stuck even though the problem was quickly corrected by the fitting of bilge keels.[2] The ships were also faster and better armoured than their predecessors and carried a potent secondary armament but these features inevitably increased their weight, with previous battleships seldom topping 10,000 tonnes.[6] Her main armament consisted of four 13.5-inch (343-mm) guns in two barbettes with a secondary set of ten 6-inch (152-mm) guns. She also sported an array of smaller guns and seven 18-inch (457-mm) torpedo tubes. She had a partial belt of 18-inch- (457-mm-) thick steel.

Operational history[edit]

HMS Empress of India commissioned at Chatham on 11 September 1893 to relieve battleship Anson as flagship of the second-in-command of the Channel Fleet. She participated in annual manoeuvres in the Irish Sea and English Channel as a unit of "Blue Fleet" from 2 August 1894 to 5 August 1894. In June 1895, she was among the ships representing the Royal Navy at the opening of the Kaiser Wilhelm Canal in Germany. That summer, she again took part in annual manoeuvres, held from 24 July 1895 to 30 August 1895. She was last commissioned in the Channel Fleet in December 1895 by Captain Angus MacLeod. On 7 June 1897, she ended her Channel Fleet service, paying off at Chatham.[7]

On 8 June 1897, Empress of India recommissioned for Mediterranean Fleet service. Before departing, she took part in the Fleet Review for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria at Spithead on 26 June 1897.[7]

Empress of India arrived at Malta to begin her Mediterranean service in August 1897. In August and September 1898, she was part of the International Squadron blockading Crete during the Greco-Turkish uprising there. On 24 December 1900, she recommissioned at Malta for further Mediterranean service, which ended when she was relieved by battleship Implacable 3 October 1901, when she left Gibraltar homebound.[7][8]

On 12 October 1901, Empress of India paid off at Devonport, but she recommissioned on 13 October 1901 to relieve battleship Howe at Queenstown, Ireland, as both port guard ship and flagship of the Senior Naval Officer Coast of Ireland. She left this duty in early March 1902 to undergo an extensive refit at Plymouth.[9][7]

Empress of India was attached to the Home Squadron on 7 May 1902, in which she served as flagship in port and as flagship of the second-in-command when the squadron was at sea. She participated in the Coronation Fleet Review of King Edward VII in August 1902, at which she was the flagship of Admiral Pelham Aldrich. She served as flagship of "B Fleet" during combined manoeuvres of the Home Fleet, Mediterranean Fleet, and Channel Fleet off Portugal from 5 August 1903 to 9 August 1903, but her port engine broke down for 14 hours during the manoeuvres and the fleet had to leave her behind. Her sister ship Royal Oak relieved her as flagship of the second-in-command of the Home Fleet on 1 June 1904,[10] and she became a private ship. On 22 February 1905, battleship Hannibal relieved her of her Home Fleet duties entirely, and she paid off on 23 February 1905.[7]

That same day, Empress of India recommissioned in reserve at Devonport and relieved battleship Barfleur as flagship of the new Fleet in Commission in Reserve at Home. In July 1905 she participated in Reserve Fleet manoeuvres. In September 1905, protected cruiser Aeolus relieved her of her duties, but she recommissioned on 31 October 1905 with a new nucleus crew to resume her Reserve Fleet duties. She then underwent a refit that lasted into 1906.[7]

Empress of India collided with submarine A10 in Plymouth Sound on 30 April 1906.[7]

When the Reserve Fleet was abolished in February 1907 and became the Home Fleet, Empress of India continued her service as flagship, but now for Rear Admiral, Devonport Division. On 25 May 1907 she was relieved as flagship by protected cruiser Niobe. On 28 May 1907, Empress of India recommissioned as a special service vessel.[7] She relieved her sister ship Royal Oak as parent ship of the special service vessels in November 1911.[11]

Hopelessly outclassed by the new dreadnoughts that began to appear in 1906, Empress of India was paid off in 1912. On 2 March 1912 she left Portsmouth under tow by armoured cruiser Warrior en route the Motherbank, where she was to be laid up, but she collided with the German barque Winderhudder and had to return to Portsmouth for repairs. She finally arrived at the Motherbank in May 1912 and was laid up, awaiting disposal.


On 4 November 1913,[7] Empress of India was used as a target ship in firing trials in Lyme Bay that were primarily intended to give officers and men an idea of the effect of live shell against a real target.[12] A secondary objective was to look at the problems caused by several ships firing at the same target at the same time. The first ship to engage the stationary Empress of India was the light cruiser Liverpool, this was followed by two dreadnought battleships (Thunderer and Orion) and the pre-dreadnought battleship King Edward VII, and finally four dreadnought battleships (Neptune, King George V, Thunderer, and Vanguard). By 16:45, "Empress of India was blazing furiously and down by the stern, sinking at" 18:30.[12] She had received forty-four 12-inch (305-mm) and 13.5-inch (343-mm) hits and "it is not surprising that an elderly ship sank,"[12] though the intention had been to repeat the firing at longer range before she did.[12]

When Empress of India sank, she settled upside-down on the seabed, and some salvage was soon carried out by a Jersey company which owned the rights to the vessel. A big hole extant in her side was made not by a shell, but by salvage divers blowing out a condenser."[13] The wreck is accessible and is an advanced dive for recreational divers.[13]

Details of the firing are given in the table below.

Ship firing Type of ship Range Firing order Ammunition Fired Hits Citation
Liverpool Light cruiser 4,750 yd (4,340 m) First 6-inch (152-mm) HE shell 16 7 [12]
4-inch (102-mm) HE shell 66 22 [12]
Dreadnought battleship 9,800 yd (9,000 m) Second 13.5-inch (343-mm) common shell 40 17 [12]
King Edward VII Predreadnought battleship 9,800 yd (9,000 m) Second 12-inch (305-mm) common shell 16 5 [12]
9.2-inch (234-mm) common shell 18 7 [12]
6-inch (152-mm) common shell 27 5 [12]
King George V
Dreadnought battleship 8,000–10,000 yd (7,300–9,100 m) Third 13.5-inch (343-mm) and
12-inch (305-mm) common shell
95 22 [12]


  1. ^ Chesneau, Koleśnik & Campbell 1979, p. 32.
  2. ^ a b Burt, p. 66
  3. ^ "Launch of a Warship at Pembroke Dock". Evening Express. 8 May 1891. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  4. ^ Burt, pp. 63, 84
  5. ^ HMS Empress of India
  6. ^ Royal Sovereign Class Battleship - HMS Royal Sovereign, Ramillies, Royal Oak, Repulse, Revenge, Resolution, Empress of India
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i Burt, p. 84
  8. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence" The Times (London). Friday, 4 October 1901. (36577), p. 8.
  9. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence" The Times (London). Friday, 14 March 1902. (36715), p. 9.
  10. ^ But note that Burt, p. 82, places the relief date on 9 June 1904
  11. ^ Burt, p. 82
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Brown, D K Warrior to Dreadnought, p176-7.
  13. ^ a b "Wreck Tour: 70, HMS Empress Of India". Retrieved 24 March 2011. 


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°29′42″N 2°57′54″W / 50.49500°N 2.96500°W / 50.49500; -2.96500