HMS Prince of Wales (1902)

HMS Prince of Wales (1902)

HMS "Prince of Wales" was a "London"- or "Queen"-class predreadnought 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

HMS "Prince of Wales" was laid down at Chatham Dockyard on 20 March 1901 and launched by Mary, Princess of Wales, on 25 March 1902. She was completed in March 1904.

The "Formidable"s 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 "Majestic"s, but in design they really were enlarged "Canopus"es; while the "Canopus" class took advantage of the greater strength of the Krupp armor employed in their construction to allow the ships to remain the same size as the "Majestic"s with increased tonnage devoted higher speed and less to armor without sacrificing protection, in the "Formidable"s Krupp armor was used to improve protection without reducing the size of the ships. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 36] The "Formidable"s thus were larger than the two preceding classes, and enjoyed both greater protection than the "Majestic"s and the higher speed of the "Canopus" class. The "Formidable"s' armor scheme was similar to that of the "Canopus"es, although, unlike in the "Canopus"es, the armor belt ran all the way to the stern; it was 215 feet (65.5 meters) long and 15 feet (4.8 meters) deep and 9 inches (229 mm) thick, tapering at the stem to 3 inches (76.2 mm) thick and 12 feet (3.7 meters) deep and at the stern to 1.5 inches (38.1 mm) thick and 8 feet (2.4 meters) deep. The main battery turrets had Krupp armor, 10 inches (254 mm) on their sides and 8 inches (203 mm) on their backs. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 36]

The "Formidable"s 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 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. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 36]

The "Formidable"s had an improved hull form that made them handier at high speeds than the "Majestic"s. They also had inward-turning screws, which allowed reduced fuel consumption and slightly higher speeds than in preious classes but at the expense of less maneuverability at low speeds. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 36]

After the first three, there was a change in design for the last five ships, starting with HMS|London|1899|2; as a result they are often considered to constitute the "London" class, [For example, "Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 37, and Burt, pp. 175-194, refer to the "London"s as a separate class while Gibbons, p. 151, lists them all as part of the "Formidable" class. Burt refers to the "London"s as the "Bulwark" class.] but also can be viewed as in effect a sub-class of the "Formidable" class. The main difference in the "London"s was thinner deck armor and some other detail changes to the armor scheme. and the consequent lower displacement. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 37]

"Prince of Wales" and her sister ship HMS "Queen" were the last two "London"-class ships built. They were identical to the first three "London"s 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. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 37] "Queen" and "Prince of Wales" were laid down after the "Duncan" class battleships that succeeded the "Formidable"s and "London"s in order to create with their six sisters a tactical group of eight ships, and were completed after the "Duncan"s as well. They generally are considered part of the "Formidable" [Gibbons, p. 151] or "London" class ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 37] , but the difference in the mounting of their 12-pounder guns, their lower displacement, and their later construction than the "Duncan"s lead some authors to viewed them as constituting a "Queen" class separate from the "Formidable" and "London" classes. [Burt, pp. 215-228]

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 "Majestic"s and was improved over time to reach its final development in "Queen" and "Prince of Wales".

Like all predreadnoughts, "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

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. [Burt, p. 228] 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. [Burt, p. 228; "Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921", p. 8]

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. [Burt, p. 228]

"Prince of Wales" transferred to the Atlantic Fleet as Flagship, Vice Admiral, in February 1909, ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906=1921", says that this transfer occurred in November 1908] and underwent a refit at Gibraltar in 1911. [Burt, p. 228]

"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. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921", p. 8] On 2 June 1913, she was rammed by submarine HMS "C32" while participating in exercises, but suffered no damage. [Burt, p. 228]

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

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. [Burt, p. 228] 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. [Burt, p. 170]

, later a controversial figure in the Royal Navy.

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 2ndDetached 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. [Burt, p. 228]

"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. [Burt, p. 228]

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. [Burt, p. 228]

for scrapping in June 1920. [Burt, p. 228]

See also

* Formidable class battleship



* 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 World's Fighting Ships, 1860-1905". New York: Mayflower Books, Inc., 1979. ISBN 0831703024.
* 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.

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