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HMS Exmouth (1901)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

HMS Exmouth (1901) in Weymouth Bay ca. 1906.jpg
HMS Exmouth in Weymouth Bay ca. 1906
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Exmouth
Namesake: Edward Pellew, 1st Viscount Exmouth
Builder: Laird Brothers, Birkenhead
Cost: £1,098,159
Laid down: 10 August 1899
Launched: 31 August 1901
Christened: Lady Alice Stanley
Completed: May 1903
Commissioned: 2 June 1903
Decommissioned: April 1919
Nickname(s): The Duncan-class battleships were known informally as "The Admirals"
Fate: Sold for scrapping 15 January 1920
General characteristics
Class and type: Duncan-class pre-dreadnought battleship
  • 13,270 to 13,745 tons load
  • 14,900 to 15,200 tons deep[1]
Length: 432 ft (132 m)[1]
Beam: 75 ft 6 in (23.01 m)[1]
Draught: 25 ft 9 in (7.85 m)[1]
Installed power: 18,000 ihp (13,000 kW)
  • 24 Belleville water tube boilers
  • 4-cylinder triple expansion
  • 2 shafts[1]
Speed: 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph)
Range: 7,000 nautical miles (13,000 km; 8,100 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 720
  • Belt: 7 in (178 mm)
  • Bulkheads: 11–7 in (279–178 mm)
  • Decks: 2–1 in (51–25 mm)
  • Gun houses: 10–8 in (254–203 mm)
  • Barbettes: 11–4 in (279–102 mm)
  • Casemates: 6 in (152 mm)
  • Conning tower: 12 in (305 mm)[1]

HMS Exmouth was a Duncan-class pre-dreadnought battleship of the Royal Navy. Exmouth was laid down by Laird Brothers at Birkenhead in August 1899, launched in August 1901 and completed in May 1903. She served as a flagship for various fleets including the Mediterranean Fleet, the Channel Fleet and the Atlantic Fleet from her commissioning in 1903 until the start of the First World War in 1914. During this time she underwent several refits, two of which occurred in Malta. Originally she was to join the 6th Battle Squadron and serve in the Channel Fleet, but this squadron was temporarily disbanded and she joined the 3rd Battle Squadron at Scapa Flow instead. Exmouth was then moved to the newly reformed 6th Squadron in late 1914. Throughout the First World War Exmouth moved between various squadrons before finishing her career in the East Indies Station starting in March 1917. She performed convoy escort duties in the Indian Ocean between Colombo and Bombay before returning to the United Kingdom, calling at The Cape and Sierra Leone. She arrived at Devonport in August 1917, and paid off to provide crews for antisubmarine vessels. Exmouth remained in reserve at Devonport until April 1919, and was used as an accommodation ship beginning in January 1918. She was placed on the sale list in April 1919 and sold for scrapping to Forth Shipbreaking Company on 15 January 1920.

Technical Description

HMS Exmouth was laid down by Laird Brothers at Birkenhead on 10 August 1899. She was floated out on 31 August 1901, when she was named by Lady Alice Stanley, wife of Lord Stanley, Financial Secretary to the War Office, who afterwards gave a speech.[4] She arrived at the Nore in May 1902, and was armed and completed for sea at Chatham Dockyard.[5] After delays due to labour problems, she was completed in May 1903.[6]

Exmouth and her five sisters of the Duncan class were ordered in response to large French and Russian building programmes,[1] including an emphasis on fast battleships in the Russian programme;[7] they were designed as smaller, more lightly armoured, and faster versions of the preceding Formidable class.[1] As it turned out, the Russian ships were not as heavily armed as initially feared, and the Duncans proved to be quite superior in their balance of speed, firepower, and protection.[7]

Armour layout was similar to that of London, with reduced thickness in the barbettes and belt.[1]

The Duncans had machinery of 3,000 indicated horsepower (2,200 kW) more than the Formidables and Londons and were the first British battleships with 4-cylinder triple-expansion engines. They also had a modified hull form to improve speed. The ships had a reputation as good steamers, with a designed speed of 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph) and an operational speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph),[1] good steering at all speeds, and an easy roll. They were the fastest battleships in the Royal Navy when completed, and the fastest pre-dreadnoughts ever built other than the Swiftsure-class HMS Swiftsure and HMS Triumph.[8]

They had the same armament as and a smaller displacement than the Formidables and Londons.[1] Like all pre-dreadnoughts, Exmouth was outclassed by the dreadnought battleships that began to appear in 1906, but she nonetheless continued to perform front-line duties up through the early part of World War I.

Operational history

Pre-World War I

HMS Exmouth commissioned at Chatham Dockyard on 2 June 1903 for service in the Mediterranean Fleet. She returned to the United Kingdom in May 1904, and on 18 May 1904 recommissioned as Flagship, Vice Admiral, Home Fleet, serving as flagship of Sir Arthur Wilson. When the Home Fleet was redesignated as the Channel Fleet, she continued in her capacity as flagship as a Channel Fleet unit. She transferred her flag in April 1907,[9] was reduced to a nucleus crew,[10] and entered the commissioned reserve to begin a refit at Portsmouth Dockyard.[11]

Her refit complete, she recommissioned on 25 May 1907 to serve as Flagship, Vice Admiral, Atlantic Fleet. On 20 November 1908 she transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet to serve as flagship there, and underwent a refit at Malta in 1908–1909.[9]

Under a fleet reorganization of 1 May 1912, the Mediterranean Fleet became the 4th Battle Squadron, First Fleet, Home Fleet, and changed its base from Malta to Gibraltar.[9] Exmouth became Flagship, Vice Admiral, Home Fleet, in July 1912.[10] In December 1912, the battleship Dreadnought replaced Exmouth in the 4th Battle Squadron, and Exmouth began a refit at Malta.[9]

Upon completion of her refit, Exmouth recommissioned on 1 July 1913 at Devonport Dockyard with a nucleus crew to serve in the commissioned reserve with the 6th Battle Squadron, Second Fleet. She was assigned duties as a gunnery training ship at Devonport.[9]

World War I

When World War I began in August 1914, plans originally called for Exmouth and battleships Agamemnon, Albemarle, Cornwallis, Duncan, Russell, and Vengeance to combine in the 6th Battle Squadron and serve in the Channel Fleet, where the squadron was to patrol the English Channel and cover the movement of the British Expeditionary Force to France. However, plans also existed for the 6th Battle Squadron to be assigned to the Grand Fleet, and, when the war began, the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, requested that Exmouth and her four surviving sister ships of the Duncan class (Albemarle, Cornwallis, Duncan, and Russell) be assigned to the 3rd Battle Squadron in the Grand Fleet for patrol duties to make up for the Grand Fleet's shortage of cruisers. Accordingly, the 6th Battle Squadron was abolished temporarily, and Exmouth joined the 3rd Battle Squadron at Scapa Flow on 8 August 1914. She worked with the Grand Fleet's cruisers on the Northern Patrol.[12] When the Grand Fleet dreadnought battleship Audacious struck a mine north of Ireland on 27 October 1914, Exmouth was sent to tow her to safety, but Audacious had to be abandoned before Exmouth arrived; Audacious capsized and exploded just as Exmouth appeared on the scene.[13]

Exmouth and her four Duncan-class sisters, as well as the battleships of the King Edward VII class, temporarily were transferred to the Channel Fleet on 2 November 1914 to reinforce that fleet in the face of Imperial German Navy activity in the Channel Fleet's area. On 13 November 1914, the King Edward VII-class ships returned to the Grand Fleet, but Exmouth and the other Duncans stayed in the Channel Fleet, where they reconstituted the 6th Battle Squadron on 14 November 1914. This squadron was given a mission of bombarding German submarine bases on the coast of Belgium, and was based at Portland, although it transferred to Dover immediately on 14 November 1914. However, due a lack of antisubmarine defenses at Dover, the squadron returned to Portland on 19 November 1914. Exmouth and Russell bombarded Zeebrugge, which was used by German submarines on passage from their base at Bruges, on 23 November 1914,[14] firing over 400 rounds in what was described as a highly successful action[15] in contemporary Dutch reports but actually achieved very little and discouraged the Royal Navy from continuing such bombardments.[16]

The 6th Battle Squadron returned to Dover in December 1914, then transferred to Sheerness on 30 December 1914 to relieve the 5th Battle Squadron there in guarding against a German invasion of the United Kingdom.[17]

The forecastle of Exmouth during a lull in bombardment duties at the Dardanelles, 1915.
The forecastle of Exmouth during a lull in bombardment duties at the Dardanelles, 1915.

Dardanelles campaign

Between January and May 1915, the 6th Battle Squadron was dispersed. Exmouth left the squadron when she transferred to the Dardanelles on 12 May 1915 for service in the Dardanelles Campaign as Flagship, Rear Admiral, supporting squadron,[9] flying the flag of Rear Admiral Nicholson. She was fitted with extra-heavy anti-torpedo nets for this service. After the torpedoing and sinking of battleships HMS Goliath, HMS Triumph, and HMS Majestic, all within the space of two weeks in May 1915, she was the only battleship allowed to remain off the Gallipoli Peninsula beaches.[10] She supported the Allied attack on Achi Baba on 4 June 1915 and Allied attacks in the Cape Helles area in August 1915.[9]

Later operations

Exmouth moored at Kephalo in 1915
Exmouth moored at Kephalo in 1915

Exmouth left the Dardanelles in November 1915 and transferred to the Aegean Sea to become Flagship, 3rd Detached Squadron, a force based at Salonika that had been organized to assist the French Navy in blockading the Aegean coast of Greece and Bulgaria and to reinforce the Suez Canal Patrol. On 28 November 1915, she took aboard personnel of the British Belgrade Naval Force as they were being evacuated from Serbia. From September to December 1916 she served in the Allied force supporting Allied demands against the government of Greece, participating in the seizure of the Greek fleet at Salamis and landing Royal Marines at Athens on 1 December 1916.[9]

Exmouth transferred to the East Indies Station in March 1917, where she performed convoy escort duties in the Indian Ocean between Colombo and Bombay. In June 1917, she ended this service to return to the United Kingdom, calling at Zanzibar, The Cape and Sierra Leone during the voyage. She arrived at Devonport in August 1917, and paid off to provide crews for antisubmarine vessels. Exmouth remained in reserve at Devonport until April 1919, and was used as an accommodation ship beginning in January 1918. Exmouth was placed on the sale list in April 1919 and sold for scrapping to Forth Shipbreaking Company on 15 January 1920. Her hull was scrapped in the Netherlands.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905, p. 37
  2. ^ Tony DiGiulian, British 12"/40 (30.5 cm) Mark IX
  3. ^ Tony DiGiulian, British 6"/45 (15.2 cm) BL Mark VII
  4. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence - HMS Exmouth". The Times (36549). London. 2 September 1901. p. 5.
  5. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times (36771). London. 19 May 1902. p. 8.
  6. ^ Burt, pp. 198, 212
  7. ^ a b Gibbons, p. 159
  8. ^ Burt, p. 202
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Burt, p. 214
  10. ^ a b c Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 9
  11. ^ Burt, pp. 212, 214
  12. ^ Burt, pp. 211–212, 214
  13. ^ Goldrick, pp. 140–141
  14. ^ Burt, p. 212, and Goldrick, p. 182, agree this bombardment occurred on 23 November, although Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 9, says the bombardment date was 21 November 1914.
  15. ^ Burt, p. 212
  16. ^ Goldrick, p. 182
  17. ^ Burt, pp. 170, 212


  • 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.
  • Dittmar, F. J. & Colledge, J. J., "British Warships 1914–1919". London: Ian Allan, 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.
  • Goldrick, James. The King's Ships Were at Sea: The War in the North Sea, August 1914 – February 1915. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1984. ISBN 0-87021-334-2.
  • 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.
This page was last edited on 11 November 2018, at 19:41
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