HMS Vengeance (1899)

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HMS Vengeance (ca. 1899).jpg
HMS Vengeance in harbour, prior to the Royal Navy's 1903 adoption of the overall grey warship colour scheme.
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Vengeance
Ordered: 1897 Programme
Builder: Vickers, Barrow-in-Furness
Cost: £891,417[1]
Laid down: 23 August 1898
Launched: 25 July 1899
Completed: April 1902
Commissioned: 8 April 1902
Decommissioned: 9 July 1920
Nickname(s): "The Lord's Own"[2]
Fate: Sold for scrapping 1 December 1921
General characteristics
Class and type: Canopus-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 12,950 tons
Length: 431 ft (131 m)
Beam: 74 ft (23 m)
Draught: 26 ft (7.9 m)
Propulsion: 2 shafts, water tube boilers, vertical triple expansion steam engines, 15,400 ihp (11,500 kW)
Speed: 18 knots
Complement: 750

HMS Vengeance was a Royal Navy pre-dreadnought battleship of the Canopus class. Built by Vickers, her keel was laid down in August 1898 and she was launched eleven months later. Her main battery consisted of four 12-inch (305-mm) guns in twin turrets fore and aft, and she had top speed of 18 knots. Commissioned in April 1902, Vengeance served initially in the Far East, transferring to the Channel Fleet in 1906 and then the Home Fleet two years later. Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, she was based in the Mediterranean, and saw action in Dardanelles Campaign in 1915. After further service in East and South African waters, she returned to England in 1917 and was used for research and ammunition storage. She was sold for scrap in 1921 and broken up the following year.

Design and construction[edit]

Launch of HMS Vengeance (1899)

HMS Vengeance was laid down by Vickers at Barrow-in-Furness on 23 August 1898 and launched on 25 July 1899.[1] Her completion was delayed by damage to the fitting-out dock,[2] and she was not completed until April 1902.[1] She was the first British battleship completely built, armed, and engined by a single company.[2]

Vengeance and her five sister ships were designed for service in the Far East, where the new rising power Japan was beginning to build a powerful and dangerous navy, so the Vengeance class ships had to be small enough to be able to transit the Suez Canal. They were designed to be smaller (by about 2,000 tons), lighter, and faster than their predecessors, the Majestic-class battleships, although they were slightly longer at 430 feet (131 m). In order to save weight, Vengeance and her sisters carried less armor than the Majestics, although the change from Harvey armour in the Majestics to Krupp armour in Vengeance meant that the loss in protection was not as great as it might have been, Krupp armour having greater protective value at a given weight than its Harvey equivalent. Still, her armour was light enough to make her almost a second-class battleship. Part of her armour scheme included the use of a special 1-inch (2.54 mm) armoured deck over the belt to defend against plunging fire by howitzers that France reportedly planned to install on its ships, although this report proved to be false.[4]

Vengeance had four 12-inch (305-mm) 35-caliber guns mounted in twin turrets fore and aft; these guns were mounted in circular barbettes that allowed all-around loading. Unlike any of her sisters, whose guns could be loaded only at a fixed elevation, Vengeance had an improved mounting that also allowed loading at any elevation; her turret gunhouses also differed from those of her sisters in being Krupp-armored and flat-sided, Krupp armor plates being difficult to curve.[4] Vengeance also mounted twelve 6-inch (152-mm) 40-caliber guns (sponson mounting allowing some of them to fire fore and aft) in addition to smaller guns, and four 18-inch (457-mm) submerged torpedo tubes.[5][6]

Vengeance and the other Canopus-class ships were the first British battleships with water-tube boilers, which generated more power at less expense in weight compared with the cylindrical boilers used in previous ships. The new boilers led to the adoption of fore-and-aft funnels, rather than the side-by-side funnel arrangement used in may previous British battleships. The Canopus-class ships proved to be good steamers, consuming 10 tons of coal per hour at full speed,[6] with a high speed for battleships of their time, a full two knots faster than the Majestics.[7]

Service history[edit]

Pre-World War I[edit]

HMS Vengeance was commissioned at Portsmouth by Captain Leslie Creery Stuart on 8 April 1902 for service with the Mediterranean Fleet.[8] She left the United Kingdom early the following month,[9] arriving at Malta on 12 May.[10] In July 1903 she transferred to the China Station to relieve her sister ship Goliath, and underwent a refit at Hong Kong 1903–1904.[2]

In 1905, the United Kingdom and Japan ratified a treaty of alliance, reducing the need for a large Royal Navy presence on the China Station and prompting a recall of all battleships from the station.[11] Vengeance was recalled on 1 June 1905[2] and proceeded to Singapore, where she and her sister ship Albion rendezvoused with their sister ship Ocean and battleship Centurion. The four battleships departed Singapore on 20 June 1905 and steamed home in company, arriving at Plymouth on 2 August 1905.[11] Vengeance paid off into the Devonport Reserve on 23 August 1905, and underwent a refit that lasted into 1906[2] during which her machinery was repaired.[12]

On 15 May 1906, Vengeance commissioned for service in the Channel Fleet. She transferred to the Home Fleet on 6 May 1908, and on 13 June 1908 was damaged in a collision with the merchant ship SS Begore Head at Portsmouth.[2] She moved to the Nore Division, Home Fleet, at the Nore in February 1909, where she became a parent ship to special service vessels,[12] and grounded in the Thames Estuary on 28 February 1909 without damage. In April 1909, she became tender to the Chatham Dockyard gunnery school,[13] where she acted as a gunnery drill ship.[12]

On 29 November 1910, Vengeance suffered another mishap when she collided in fog with merchant ship SS Biter, suffering damage to her side, net shelf, and net booms.[14] Vengeance then served in the 6th Battle Squadron based at Portland,[15] then became a gunnery training ship at the Nore in January 1913.[12][13]

World War I[edit]

On the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Vengeance was assigned to the 8th Battle Squadron, Channel Fleet, for patrol duties in the English Channel and Atlantic[12] transferring to the 7th Battle Squadron on 15 August 1914 to relieve battleship Prince George as flagship. She covered the landing of the Plymouth Marine Battalion at Ostend, Belgium, on 25 August 1914.[13]

In November 1914 she transferred to West Africa for operations, against German Kamerun, then to Egypt to relieve armored cruisers Black Prince and Warrior as guard ship at Alexandria, then moved on to the Cape Verde-Canary Islands Station to relieve Albion as guard ship at Saint Vincent.[16]

Dardanelles campaign[edit]

On 22 January 1915, Vengeance was selected to take part in the Dardanelles campaign. She stopped at Gibraltar that month to embark Admiral John de Robeck and become second flagship of the Dardanelles squadron, and arrived at the Dardanelles in February 1915.[12][17]

Vengeance participated in the opening bombardment of the Ottoman Turkish entrance forts on 18 February and 19 February 1915, suffering some damage to her masts and rigging thanks to gunfire from the forts. She also took part in the main attack on the Narrows forts on 18 March 1915, supporting the main landings at Cape Helles in the Morto Bay area on 25 April 1915, and supported the ground troops during the Turkish attack on Allied positions at Anzac Cove on 19 May 1915. A submarine attacked her on 25 May 1915 without success.[17]

By July 1915, Vengeance had boiler defects that prevented her from continuing combat operations, and she returned to the United Kingdom and paid off that month. She was under refit at Devonport until December 1915.[17]

Vengeance at Dar es Salaam in 1916.

Later service[edit]

Vengeance recommissioned in December 1915 and left Devonport on 30 December 1915 for a deployment to The Cape and East Africa. While there, she supported operations leading to the capture of Dar es Salaam in 1916.[17]

In February 1917, Vengeance returned to the United Kingdom and paid off. She was laid up until February 1918, when she recommissioned for use in experiments with anti-flash equipment for the fleet's guns. She completed these in April 1918, and then was partially disarmed,[17] with four 6-inch (152-mm) main-deck casemate guns removed and four 6-inch (152-mm) guns being installed in open shields on the battery deck.[12] She became an ammunition store ship in May 1918.[17]


Vengeance was placed on the sale list at Devonport on 9 July 1920, and was sold for scrapping on 1 December 1921. She had an eventful trip to the scrapyard. After she departed Devonport under tow on 27 December 1921 en route Dover, her tow rope parted in the English Channel on 29 December 1921. French tugs located her and towed her Cherbourg, France. From there she was towed to Dover, where she finally arrived for scrapping on 9 January 1922.[17]


  1. ^ a b c Burt, p. 141
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Burt, p. 156
  3. ^ a b Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 36
  4. ^ a b c d Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 35
  5. ^ Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 35, 36
  6. ^ a b Gibbons, p. 145
  7. ^ Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 35; Gibbons, p. 145
  8. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times (36737). London. 9 April 1902. p. 10. 
  9. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times (36760). London. 6 May 1902. p. 11. 
  10. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times (36767). London. 14 May 1902. p. 12. 
  11. ^ a b Burt, p. 97
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921, p. 8
  13. ^ a b c Burt, p. 157
  14. ^ Burt, p. 157; Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921, p. 8; describes the ship she collided with as destroyer "Biter", but no such destroyer appears to have existed
  15. ^ Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921, p. 8, says she served in the 8th Battle Squadron from 1912 to 1913
  16. ^ Burt, p. 157-158; Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921, p. 8
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Burt, p. 158


  • 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., & J. J. Colledge., "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.
  • Pears, Randolph. British Battleships 1892–1957: The Great Days of the Fleets. G. Cave Associates, 1979. ISBN 978-0-906223-14-7.

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