HMS Prince of Wales (1902)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Prince of Wales.
HMS Prince of Wales (1902) in 1912 2.jpg
HMS Prince of Wales in 1912
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Prince of Wales
Namesake: HRH the Prince of Wales (later King George V)
Builder: Chatham Dockyard
Cost: £1,185,744
Laid down: 20 March 1901
Launched: 25 March 1902
Christened: HRH the Princess of Wales
Completed: March 1904
Commissioned: 18 May 1904
Decommissioned: 10 November 1919
Fate: Sold for scrapping 12 April 1920
General characteristics
Class & type: Formidable-, London-, or Queen-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 15,000 tons (approx)
Length: 431 ft 9 in (131.60 m)
Beam: 75 ft (22.9 m)
Draught: 25 ft 4 in (7.72 m)
Propulsion: Water tube boilers, 2 x vertical triple expansion engines, 2 shafts, 15,500 ihp (11.6 MW)
Speed: 18 knots (33.3 km/h)
Range: 5,500 nautical miles (10,190 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)
Complement: 747
  • 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: 2.5–1 inch (64–25 mm)

HMS Prince of Wales was a London- or Queen-class pre-dreadnought battleship, a sub-class of the Formidable-class battleships of the British Royal Navy. HMS Prince of Wales (1902) was the sixth of seven ships of the Royal Navy that have had the name HMS Prince of Wales.

Technical description[edit]

HMS Prince of Wales was laid down at Chatham Dockyard on 20 March 1901, the first keel plate laid down by Lady Wharton, wife of Rear-Admiral Sir William Wharton, Hydrographer to the Admiralty.[1] She was launched by the Princess of Wales (later Queen Mary) on 25 March 1902, in the presence of the Prince of Wales (later King George V),[2] for whom the ship was named. She was completed in March 1904.

The Formidables were similar in appearance to and had the same armament as the Majestic and Canopus classes that preceded them. The Formidables are often described as improved Majestics, but in design they really were 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 Majestics with increased tonnage devoted higher speed and less to armor without sacrificing protection, in the Formidables Krupp armour was used to improve protection without reducing the size of the ships.[3] The Formidables thus were larger than the two preceding classes, and enjoyed both greater protection than the Majestics and the higher speed of the Canopus class. The Formidables' armour scheme was similar to that of the Canopuses, although, unlike in the Canopuses, the armour belt ran all the way to the stern; it was 215 feet (66 m) long, 15 feet (4.6 m) deep and 9 inches (230 mm) thick, tapering at the stem to 3 inches (76 mm) thick and 12 feet (3.7 m) deep, and at the stern to 1.5 inches (38 mm) thick and 8 feet (2.4 m) deep. The main battery turrets had Krupp armour, 10 inches (250 mm) on their sides and 8 inches (200 mm) on their backs.[3]

The Formidables improved on the main and secondary armament of previous classes, being upgunned from 35-calibre to 40-calibre 12-inch (300 mm) guns and from 40-caliber to 45-calibre 6-inch (150 mm) guns. The 12-inch guns could be loaded at any bearing and elevation, and beneath the turrets the ships had a split hoist with a working chamber beneath the guns that reduced the chance of a cordite fire spreading from the turret to the shell and powder handling rooms and to the magazines.[3]

The Formidables had an improved hull form that made them handier at high speeds than the Majestics. They also had inward-turning propellers, which allowed reduced fuel consumption and slightly higher speeds than in previous classes but at the expense of less maneuverability at low speeds.[3]

After the first three, there was a change in design for the last five ships, starting with London; as a result they are often considered to constitute the London class,[4] but also can be viewed as in effect a sub-class of the Formidable class. The main difference in the Londons was thinner deck armor and some other detail changes to the armor scheme. and the consequent lower displacement.[5]

Prince of Wales and her sister ship HMS Queen were the last two London-class ships built. They were identical to the first three Londons except that they had open 12-pounder gun batteries mounted in the open on the upper deck amidships, had a lower displacement, and had a few other minor details of their design changed.[5] Queen and Prince of Wales were laid down after the Duncan class battleships that succeeded the Formidables and Londons in order to create with their six sisters a tactical group of eight ships, and were completed after the Duncans as well. They generally are considered part of the Formidable[6] or London class,[5] but the difference in the mounting of their 12-pounder guns, their lower displacement, and their later construction than the Duncans lead some authors to viewed them as constituting a Queen class separate from the Formidable and London classes.[7]

Due to service problems with the water tube Belleville boilers the original plans were changed during construction, and HMS Queen was fitted with Babcock and Wilcox cylindrical boilers instead. The nearly identical Prince of Wales was fitted with the problematic water tube Belleville boilers, the last British battleship to be built with them.

Prince of Wales was the last battleship for which Sir William Henry White had sole design responsibility to commission in the Royal Navy. She was also the last of the 29 battleships of the Majestic, Canopus, Formidable, London, Duncan, and Queen classes which commissioned between 1895 and 1904 and all shared a single, standard design that originated with the Majestics and was improved over time to reach its final development in Queen and Prince of Wales.

Like all pre-dreadnoughts, Prince of Wales were outclassed by the dreadnought battleships that began to appear in 1906, although they took on some front-line duties early in World War I.

Operational history[edit]

Pre-World War I[edit]

Upon completion in March 1904, HMS Prince of Wales immediately went into the Fleet Reserve at Chatham Dockyard. She commissioned there on 18 May 1904 for service with the Mediterranean Fleet. While in the Mediterranean, she collided with the merchant steamer SS Enidiven on 29 July 1905, suffering no serious damage.[8] In April 1906 she had a fatal accident when she suffered a machinery explosion during high-speed trials; three men were killed and four injured. On 28 May 1906, she ended he first Mediterranean tour by paying off at Portsmouth Dockyard and went into the commissioned reserve for a refit.[9]

On 8 September 1906, Prince of Wales again commissioned for Mediterranean Fleet service. She became Second Flagship, Vice Admiral, in August 1907, and underwent a refit at Malta in 1908.[8]

Prince of Wales dressed overall at Portsmouth Dockyard in 1912

. Prince of Wales transferred to the Atlantic Fleet as Flagship, Vice Admiral, in February 1909,[10] and underwent a refit at Gibraltar in 1911.[8]

Prince of Wales transferred to the Home Fleet on 13 May 1912, becoming Flagship, Vice Admiral, 3rd Battle Squadron, First Fleet, then later in 1912 Flagship, Rear Admiral, Second Fleet, at Portsmouth, and part of the 5th Battle Squadron.[11] On 2 June 1913, she was rammed by submarine HMS C32 while participating in exercises, but suffered no damage.[8]

Augustus Agar, V.C., served time aboard Prince of Wales as a cadet in her pre-World War I days.

World War I[edit]

When World War I broke out in August 1914, Prince of Wales was Flagship, 5th Battle Squadron. The squadron was assigned to the Channel Fleet and based at Portland, from which it patrolled the English Channel. Prince of Wales and other ships of the squadron covered the movement of the Portsmouth Marine Battalion to Ostend, Belgium, on 25 August 1914.[8] On 14 November 1914 the squadron transferred to Sheerness to guard against a possible German invasion of the United Kingdom, but it transferred back to Portland on 30 December 1914.[12]

Prince of Wales at Malta in 1915 during the Dardanelles Campaign

Dardanelles campaign[edit]

On 19 March 1915, Prince of Wales was ordered to the Dardanelles to participate in the Dardanelles Campaign. She departed Portland on 20 March 1915 and joined the British Dardanelles Squadron on 29 March 1915. She supported the landings of the 3rd Brigade, Australian Army, at Gapa Tepe and Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915.[8] During this time her second-in-command was Commander Kenneth Dewar, later a controversial figure in the Royal Navy.

Adriatic operations[edit]

On 22 May 1915, Prince of Wales, along with battleships HMS Implacable, HMS London, and HMS Queen, was transferred to the Adriatic Sea to form the 2nd Detached Squadron, organized to reinforce the Italian Navy against the Austro-Hungarian Navy after Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary. Prince of Wales arrived at her new base, Taranto, Italy, on 27 May 1915.[8]

Prince of Wales became flagship of the squadron in March 1916. She ended her flagship duties in June 1916, when she went to Gibraltar for a refit. She later returned to the Adriatic.[8]

Prince of Wales awaiting scrapping in 1920.

Decommissioning and subsidiary duties[edit]

In February 1917, Prince of Wales was ordered to return to the United Kingdom. On her voyage home, she called at Gibraltar from 28 February 1917 to 10 March 1917 and arrived at Devonport Dockyard later in March. She was placed in reserve on arrival, and was used as an accommodation ship.[8]


Prince of Wales was placed on the disposal list on 10 November 1919, and was sold for scrapping to T. W. Ward and Company on 12 April 1920. She arrived at Milford Haven for scrapping in June 1920.[8]


  1. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence" The Times (London). Thursday, 21 March 1901. (36408), p. 10.
  2. ^ "The Prince and Princess of Wales at Chatham" The Times (London). Wednesday, 26 March 1902. (36725), p. 8.
  3. ^ a b c d Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 36
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b c Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 37
  6. ^ Gibbons, p. 151
  7. ^ Burt, pp. 215–228
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Burt, p. 228
  9. ^ Burt, p. 228; Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 8
  10. ^ Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906=1921, says that this transfer occurred in November 1908
  11. ^ Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 8
  12. ^ Burt, p. 170


  • 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. New York: Mayflower Books, Inc., 1979. ISBN 0-8317-0302-4.
  • 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.

External links[edit]