HMS Irresistible (1898)

HMS Irresistible (1898)

HMS "Irresistible", fourth British Royal Navy ship of the name, was a "Formidable"-class predreadnought battleship.

Technical characteristics

HMS "Irresistible" was laid down at Chatham Dockyard on 11 April 1898 and launched on 15 December 1898 in a very incomplete state to clear the building ways for the construction of battleship HMS "Venerable". "Irresistible" was completed in October 1901. [Burt, p. 173]

"Irresistible" had the same-calibre armament and was similar in appearance to the "Majestic" and "Canopus" classes that preceded her. She and her sister ships are often described as improved "Majestic"s, but in design they were effectively enlarged "Canopus"es. The "Canopus" class employed Krupp armour in their construction which possessed greater strength for a given weight compared to that of the "Majestics"' Harvey armour, allowing the "Canopus"es to be lighter and faster without sacrificing protection; however, in "Irresistible", Krupp armour was used to improve protection without reducing the size of the ship. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905", p. 36] "Irresistible" thus was larger than the ships of the two preceding classes, and enjoyed greater protection than the "Majestic"s and the higher speed of the "Canopus" class. "Irresistible's" armour scheme was similar to that of the "Canopus" class, although the armor belt ran all the way to the stern being 215 feet (65.5 m) long, 15 feet (4.8 m) deep and 9 inches (229 mm) thick. It tapered at the stem to 3 inches (76.2 mm) thick and 12 feet (3.7 m) deep, and at the stern to 1.5 inches (38.1 mm) thick and 8 feet (2.4 m) deep. The main battery turrets had 10 inches (254 mm) of Krupp armour on their sides and 8 inches (203 mm) on their backs. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 36]

"Irresistible" improved on the main and secondary armament of previous classes, being upgunned from 35 to 40 calibre 12-inch (305 mm) guns and from 40 to 45 calibre 6-inch (152 mm) guns. The 12-inch guns could be loaded at any bearing and elevation, and had a split hoist with a working chamber beneath the turrets to reduce the chance of a cordite fire spreading from the turrets to the shell and powder handling rooms and to the magazines. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 36]

"Irresistible" had an improved hull form that endowed better handling at high speeds than the "Majestic"s and inward-turning screws which allowed reduced fuel consumption and slightly higher speeds than in previous classes, but at the expense of reduced maneuverability at low speeds. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 36]

With the appearance of the new dreadnought-type battleships and battlecruisers beginning in 1906, predreadnoughts such as "Irresistible" were outclassed; however, they still performed some front-line duties during the early part of World War I.

Operational History

HMS "Irresistible" commissioned at Chatham Dockyard on 4 February 1902 for Mediterranean Fleet service and relieved turret ship HMS "Devastation" as guard ship at Gibraltar. She suffered two mishaps during her years in the Mediterranean, colliding with the Norwegian merchant steamer SS "Clive" while steaming in fog on 3 March 1902, sustaining considerable side-plate damage, and running aground at Malta on 5 October 1905. She underwent a refit a Malta after her grounding, and a second refit there from October 1907 to January 1908. [Burt, p. 173]

In April 1908, "Irresistible" transferred to the Channel Fleet, where she collided with a schooner while steaming in fog on 4 May 1908, suffering no damage. [Burt, p. 174] She was assigned to the Nore Division in 1909, and was reduced to a nucleus crew in May 1910. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906-1921", p. 8] Her Channel Fleet service ended on 1 June 1910, when she paid off at Chatham Dockyard for a refit. [Burt, p. 173]

Her refit completed, "Irresistible" commissioned at Chatham on 28 February 1911 to serve in the 3rd Division, Home Fleet, at the Nore. [Burt, p. 173] In 1912, she was assigned to the 5th Battle Squadron. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906-1921", p. 8]

When World War I began in August 1914, the 5th Battle Squadron was based at Portland and assigned to patrol duties in the English Channel under the Channel Fleet. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906-1921", p. 8; Burt, p. 173] "Irresistible" covered the landing of the Plymouth Marine Battalion at Ostend, Belgium, on 25 August 1914, and thereafter covered the occupation. [Burt, p. 173]

In October and November 1914, "Irresistible" was temporarily attached to the Dover Patrol. Her duties included bombardment of German Army forces along the Belgian coast in support of Allied troops fighting on the front. On 3 November 1914, she was dettached to support East Coast Patrols during the Gorleston Raid. "Irresistible" returned to the Channel Fleet later in November 1914. [Burt, pp. 173-174]

The 5th Battle Squadron transferred to Sheerness on 14 November 1914 to guard agaist a possible German invasion. The squadron transferred back to Portland on 30 December 1914. [Burt, p. 170]

On 1 February 1915, "Irresistible" transferred to the Dardanelles for service in the Dardanelles Campaign, serving as flagship of the British Dardanelles Squadron until March 1915. She took part in the opening bombardment of the Ottoman Turkish forts guarding the entrance to the Dardanelles on 18 February 1915 and 19 February 1915, [Burt, p. 174, although "Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906-1921", p. 8, says that her first gunfire support was not until 26 February 1915] as well as later bombardments of the entrance forts and Narrows forts. While supporting the initial landings, she knocked out two 9.4-inch (240-mm) guns at Fort Orkanieh on 25 February 1915. [Burt, p. 174]

"Irresistible" relieved battleship HMS "Vengeance" as second flagship of the British squadron on 28 February 1915, continuing this duty until 6 March 1915. In early March, she again supported landings. [Burt, p. 174]


On 18 March 1915, "Irresistible" participated in the main bombardment of the Narrows (where the waterway narrows to one mile in width) forts of Çanakkale and Kilitbahir. The Turks had previously noted that the British ships turned to starboard into Erin Keui bay when withdrawing, and had laid a line of naval mines to intercept this manoeuvre. "Irresistible" was badly damaged when she struck one of these mines at about 1616 hours local time. The starboard engine room flooded very rapidly, killing all but three of the men on duty there, and then the midship bulkhead collapsed, causing the port engine room to flood and leaving "Irresistible" without power, listing to starboard, and down by the stern. She drifted helplessly into range of Turkish guns, which laid down a heavy fire on her. Her main gun turrets began to fail, and she was obscured by smoke and spray. [Burt, p. 174]

, which then transferred them to battleship HMS|Queen Elizabeth|1913|6. Battleship HMS|Ocean|1898|6 was sent to bring "Irresistible" under tow, but "Ocean" temporarily grounded, and "Irresistible" continued to drift nearer the shore. Towing "Irresistible" clear proved out of the question because of her list, heavy enemy fire, and the shallowness of the water. [Burt, p. 174] "Ocean" rescued the remaining men from "Irresistible", which was left to her fate, abandoned and adrift. "Ocean" herself stuck a mine at about 1805 hours while withdrawing, was abandoned at around 1930 hours, and herself sank without loss of life, unobserved by Allied forces, at around 2230 hours.

That evening, destroyer HMS "Jed" entered the Dardanelles to torpedo and sink the two abandoned battleships to prevent their capture in case they had remained afloat, but could find no sign of them. The Turks reported that the derelict "Irresistible" had drifted closer to shore and suffered further severe damage from their shore batteries before sinking [Burt, p. 174] at about 1930 hours. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906-1921", p. 8]

"Irresistible"'s crew suffered about 150 casualties during her sinking. [Burt, p. 174]



*Burt, R. A. "British Battleships 1889-1904". Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1988. ISBN 0870210610.
* Chesneau, Roger, and Eugene M. Kolesnik, eds. "Conway's All The Worlds Fighting Ships, 1860-1905". Londo: 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 0870219073.

External links

* [ History on the Imperial War Museum website (Accessed November 2006)]

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