HMS London (1899)

HMS London (1899)

HMS "London" was a Formidable class battleship in the British Royal Navy, often considered to be part of the "London" class or subclass.

Technical Description

HMS "London" was laid down at Portsmouth Dockyard on 8 December 1898, launched on 21 September 1899, and completed in June 1902. [Burt, p. 178]

Like the first three "Formidable"-class ships, "London" and her four "London"-class sisters were similar in appearance to and had the same armament as the "Majestic" and "Canopus" classes that preceded them. The "Formidable"s and "London"s 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' and "London"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 and "London"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' and "London"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 and "London"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 and "London"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]

A change in design from that of the first three "Formidable"s occurred in "London" and the other four "London"s, which is why the "London"s often are considered a separate 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.] The main difference in "London" and the other four "London"s from the first three ships was thinner deck armor and some other detail changes to the armor scheme. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905", p. 37]

Like all predreadnoughts, "London" was outclassed by the dreadnought battleships that began to appear in 1906. Like other predreadoughts, however, "Bulwark" took on some first-line duties during the early part of World War I.

Operational History

HMS "London" commissioned at Portsmouth Dockyard on 7 June 1902 for service in the Mediterranean Fleet. Before departing home waters, she served as flagship for the Coronation Review for King Edward VII at Spithead on 16 August 1902. While in the Mediterranean, she underwent refits at Malta in 1902-1903 and 1906. [Burt, p. 192]

In March 1907, "London" transferred to the Nore Division, Home Fleet, at the Nore, then to the Channel Fleet on 2 June 1908 [Burt, p. 192] , serving as Flagship, Rear Admiral, Channel Fleet. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921", p. 8] She underwent a refit at Chatham Dockyard in 1908, and paid off there on 19 April 1909 to undergo an extensive refit. [Burt, p. 192]

Her refit complete, "London" commissioned at Chatham on 8 February 1910 to serve as Second Flagship, Rear Admiral, Atlantic Fleet. Under the fleet reorgnization of 1 May 1912, she became part of the Second Home Fleet at the Nore, reduced to a nucleus crew and assigned to the 3rd Battle Squadron. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921", p. 8] She collided with the merchant steamer SS "Don Benite" on 11 May 1912. She transferred to the 5th Battle Squadron and was used in experiments with flying off aircraft from May 1912 until 1913, during which a "hydro-aeroplane" took off from a ramp built over her forecastle. [Burt, p. 192; "Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921", p. 8]

Upon the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the 5th Battle Squadron was assigned to the Channel Fleet and based at Portland. The squadron transferred to Sheerness on 14 November 1914 to guard against a possible German invasion, then returned to Portland on 30 December 1914. [Burt, p. 170]

On 19 March 1915, "London" was transferred to the Dardanelles for service in the Dardanelles Campaign. She joined the British Dardanelles Squadron at Lemnos on 23 March 1915, and supported the main landings at Gaba Tepe and Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. [Burt, p. 192]

"London", along with battleships HMS "Implacable", HMS "Queen", and HMS "Prince of Wales", was transferred to the 2nd Detached Squadron, organized to reinforce the Italian Navy in the Adriatic Sea when Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary. She was based at Taranto, Italy, and underwent a refit at Gibraltar in October 1915 during her Adriatic service.

In October 1916, "London" returned to the United Kingdom, paid off at Devonport Dockyard to provide crews for antisubmarine vessels, and was laid up. While inactive, she underwent a refit in 1916-1917. [Burt, p. 192]

In February 1918, "London" moved to Rosyth and began conversion to a minelayer. [Burt, p. 194] The conversion included removal of all four of her 12-inch (305-mm) guns and her antitorpedo nets, replacement of her after main-battery turret with a 6-inch (152-mm) gun, and installation of minelaying equipment on her quarterdeck, including rails for 240 mines, and of a canvas screen to conceal the entire quarterdeck from external view. [Burt, p. 192; "Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921", p. 8] The conversion was completed in April 1918, and on 18 May 1918 "London" recommissioned at Rosyth for service in the Grand Fleet's 1st Minelaying Squadron. Before the war ended on 11 November 1918, "London" had laid 2,640 mines in the Northern Mine Barrage. [Burt, p. 194]

In January 1919, "London" was reduced to reserve at Devonport [Burt, p. 194] as a depot ship. ["Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921", p. 8] As part of a post-war fleet organization, she was assigned to the 3rd Fleet there. [Burt, p. 194]

"London" was placed on the disposal list at Devonport in January 1920, and on the sale list on 31 March 1920. She was sold for scrapping to Stanlee Shipbreaking Company on 4 June 1920. She was resold to Slough Trading Company, then again resold to a German firm. She was towed to Germany for scrapping in April 1922. [Burt, p. 194]



* 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". London: Conway Maritime Press, 1979. ISBN 0-85177-133-5
* Dittmar, F. J. & Colledge, J. J., "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.

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