H.M.S. Formidable (1898)

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H.M.S. Formidable (1898)
Pendant Number: 50 (1914)[1]
Builder: Portsmouth Royal Dockyard[2]
Ordered: 1897-98 Programme[3]
Laid down: 21 Mar, 1898[4]
Launched: 17 Nov, 1898[5]
Completed: Sep, 1901[6]
Commissioned: 10 Oct, 1901
Torpedoed: 1 Jan, 1915[7]
Fate: by U 24 off Portland[8]

H.M.S. Formidable was the lead ship of the Formidable Class of battleship and the third of four with the name H.M.S. Formidable to serve in the British Royal Navy.



Formidable in early 1901 during trials.
Photograph: Navy & Army Illustrated.

Formidable served in the Mediterranean Fleet up to April, 1908 when she was transferred to the Channel Fleet. She went to Chatham Royal Dockyard for refit from April, 1909 to August, 1909, after which she joined the Home Fleet and later stayed with the Atlantic Fleet until May, 1912.

Captain Philip Nelson-Ward was appointed in command on 4 April, 1911. She was reduced to a "nucleus" crew with the Second Fleet at the Nore. Between 1912–14, H.M.S. Formidable was part of the Fifth Battle Squadron, in which she was serving at the outbreak of World War I.

After covering the safe transportation of the British Expeditionary Forces in August 1914, Formidable took part in the transportation of the Portsmouth Royal Marines Battalion to Ostend on 25 August. She was sunk on 1 January, 1915 while on Channel patrol off Portland Bill by torpedoes of German U-boat U 24. The ship sank quickly during bad weather resulting in the loss of 547 men from her complement of 780, and became the second battleship serving with the Royal Navy to be sunk during the First World War (after H.M.S. Audacious).

Torpedoing and Loss

The squadron was participating in gunnery exercises off Portland, supported by the cruisers Topaze and Diamond. On the night of 31 December after the exercises, the fleet remained at sea even though submarine activity had been reported in the area. With the wind increasing and rough sea conditions, submarine attacks would have been difficult to carry out effectively and so were not thought to be a significant threat. The next day, Formidable was steaming at 10 knots at the rear of the squadron just 20 miles from Star Point, when at 02:20 she was struck by a torpedo on the starboard side giving her a list of 20 degrees. 45 minutes later she was struck by a second torpedo. The pinnace and launch along with two other boats (one of which capsized soon after) were launched, and the two light cruisers managed to pick up 80 men. Formidable remained afloat until 04:45, and then went down quickly with Captain Loxley still on the bridge along with his Fox Terrier Bruce. In rough seas near Berry Head, a Brixham trawler, the Provident under the command of Captain W. Piller, picked up the men from the launch before it sank, saving 71 members of the crew. The second pinnace took off another 70 men. This boat was spotted from the shore the following night and a further 48 men were brought ashore alive 22 hours after the sinking.

The total loss of life in Formidable was 35 Officers and 512 men out of 780.

The wreck site is designated and controlled under the Protection of Military Remains Act. Captain Loxley's dog, Bruce, was washed ashore and is buried in a marked grave in Abbotsbury Gardens in Dorset.


Dates of appointment are provided when known.


In 1901, while serving in the Mediterranean, she had or was slated to receive a "1 to 52" W/T set.[15]


In 1904, in a competition to investigate how rapidly submerged tubes could be fired four times sequentially, starting with the tube loaded and the bar out, the ship's crew was able to do this in one minute, 48 seconds, later improved to 1 minute 31 seconds. The best time was achieved by Cressy at 50.75 seconds, though 2:30 was more typical.[16]


  1. Dittmar; Colledge. British Warships 1914–1919. p. 30.
  2. Dittmar; Colledge. British Warships 1914–1919. p. 30.
  3. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 36.
  4. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 36.
  5. Dittmar; Colledge. British Warships 1914–1919. p. 30.
  6. Burt. British Battleships: 1889-1904. p. 191.
  7. Dittmar; Colledge. British Warships 1914–1919. p. 30.
  8. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. p. 36.
  9. Mackie, Colin. ROYAL NAVY WARSHIPS.
  10. Allenby Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 47.
  11. Allenby Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42 f. 47.
  12. Nelson-Ward Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 378.
  13. Wake Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 125.
  14. The Navy List. (December, 1914). p. 318.
  15. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1901. p. 111.
  16. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1904. pp. 45-7.


  • Potts, Mark; Marks, Tony (2007). Before the Bells Have Faded: The Sinking of HMS Formidable 11 January, 1915. London: Naval and Military Press. ISBN 9781847346834.
  • The National Archives. ADM 137/142, "Loss of Formidable"

See Also

Formidable Class Pre-dreadnought
  Formidable Implacable Irresistible  
<– Canopus Class Battleships (UK) London Class –>
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