H.M.S. Invincible (1907)

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H.M.S. Invincible (1907)
Pendant Number: 85 (1914)[1]
Builder: Armstrong, Whitworth & Company, Elswick[2]
Ordered: 1906 Naval Programme
Laid down: 2 Apr, 1906[3]
Launched: 13 Apr, 1907[4]
Commissioned: Mar, 1909[5]
Sunk: 31 May, 1916[6]
Fate: at the Battle of Jutland

H.M.S. Invincible was a battlecruiser of the Royal Navy, the lead ship of her class of three, and the first battlecruiser to be built by any country. After an initial period of near-continual modification she became an active unit of the Battlecruiser Force. She participated in the Battle of Heligoland Bight, the Battle of the Falkland Islands and the Battle of Jutland, where she was sunk in action on 31 May, 1916.


Invincible was built at Sir W. G. Armstrong, Whitworth & Co., Ltd on Tyneside. She was laid down on 2 April 1906, and launched at 3 p.m. on 13 April 1907 by Lady Allendale.

Construction Costs, pounds Sterling[7]
Hull and fittings 785,335
Propelling and Machinery 485,451
Hydraulics and Air Compressing 330,680
Gun mountings 8,897
Total 1,625,227

She was constructed with a new form of turret operation, namely electrically powered mountings for the 12-inch guns - a first in British naval construction. She was fitted with two turrets each built by Vickers Ltd. and the Elswick Ordnance Company. Her turbines were constructed by Humphreys of Tennant and was fitted with thirty-one Yarrow boilers.

On 28 December, while still fitting out, she was hit by the collier Oden, which resulted in the buckling of beams and frames in the hull and five bottom plates were stove in. On 8 September, 1908 Captain Mark E. F. Kerr was appointed to command. She ran her gun trials on 30 October, 1908 off the Isle of Wight. She was officially completed on 16 March 1909, her completion having been delayed by the Oden incident and the installation of electric turrets. On 17 March, she sailed from the Tyne to Portsmouth, where she would be commissioned. On the way, she collided with the brigantine Mary Ann, and stood by until the lifeboat John Birch arrived from Yarmouth to take the brigantine in tow. She was commissioned into the fleet on 20 March 1909 and joined the First Cruiser Squadron of the First Division, Home Fleet.


Gun Trials

Captain Reginald Tupper of H.M.S. Excellent, who conducted the gun trials, later recalled:

Owing to the representations of our own electrical experts and commercial firms, and the apparently successful gunnery of the new American battleships that had been fitted with electrically manipulated turrets, the Admiralty decided to fit the Invincible with this gear. Two of the turrets were by Armstrong-Whitworth and two by Vickers, but unfortunately both of these firms lacked experience in electric fittings for turret guns, and therefore had to design them all from the beginning and manufacture them while they hoped for the best. This caused considerable delay, and the ship was not reported ready for trial until we were approaching last fortnight of the financial year. Then things had to be hustled, otherwise the money would have had to be returned to the Treasury.

When I went to superintend these gun trials, I was especially warned that if the ship failed to get through them a sum of about half a million pounds would be lost from the current Estimates, and that this would very seriously handicap new construction in the coming year Estimates.

Everything on board appeared to be in a very unfinished and dirty condition, but we put to sea from the Tyen with a good deal of our wiring still exposed and not all of the gear labelled. When the order was given to train the turret, elevate or run a gun in or out, it was only necessary to press a button or move a switch, but the result was often a flash of blue flame which seemed to fill a turret. Something had gone wrong and the fuses had burnt out, so the experts had to chase round and find out what was wrong. Smouldering cordite and red-hot residue was left in the breech of the gun and the water-douche did not work. Cordite from the magazine came up with a run and narrowly escaped being rammed straight on to the red-hot residue.

The trials took nearly three days, but finally we got through and saved the money. Certainly the proverbial little cherub was looking after us marvellously. This electric gear remained in the Invincible for some time, but it always gave trouble, and luckily, just before the War, orders were given that she was to be altered to the hydraulic gear, which we were all satisfied was much preferable to electricity for working heavy guns.[8]

Early career

She participated in fleet manoeuvres in April and June of 1909, the Spithead Review on 12 June 1909, and the Fleet Review off Southend on 2 July. Periodically she had to be taken in hand at Portsmouth for repairs, alterations and additions until 27 March, 1911 when she was reduced to a nucleus crew in preparation for refit. On 28 March Captain Kerr was replaced by Captain R.P.F. Purefoy and the ship went into refit at Portsmouth until 2 June, when she recommissioned at Portsmouth for further service in the 1st C.S.. On 1 May, 1912 Captain M. Culme-Seymour replaced Captain Purefoy.

Midshipman Roderick Hudson committed suicide by hanging himself aboard the ship at Cromarty on 26 September, 1912. His death, oddly, was first reported in The Times as being merely "sudden[ly]".[9]

On 1 January, 1913 the 1st C.S. became the First Battle Cruiser Squadron. On 17 March, 1913 she collided with the submarine C 34 in Stokes Bay in the Solent, suffering no damage in the process.

In August, 1913 Invincible joined the Second Battle Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean Fleet after annual manoeuvres. At the same time Captain H.B. Pelly was appointed to command. From 30 October to 5 November, 1913 she was under refit at Malta. In December she returned to Britain to undertake a major refit which began in March, 1914. She was reduced to a nucleus crew while major work was done, Captain Pelly remaining in command until completion of work in July.

1914 refit

During the refit Invincible's 12" electrically-operated turrets were changed to operate on hydraulic power. The 4-in guns atop A and Y turrets were removed to the forward superstructure, where they along with the others there were enclosed in unarmoured casemates. Two 4-in guns were placed on the shelter deck between the fore funnels, and two 4-in guns placed either side of the Conning Tower on the conning tower platform.

Her foretop was totally reconstructed and a gyro-stabilised Argo 9 foot rangefinder fitted aloft. Her chart house and compass platform were rebuilt, and her forward searchlight battery reorganised. Her torpedo nets and booms were removed entirely. A rangefinder hood for a 9 foot rangefinder was added on A turret.

Battle of Helgoland Bight

Main article: Battle of Helgoland Bight

At the beginning of the First World War, Invincible took part in the action at the Battle of Heligoland Bight on 28 August 1914, before being sent along with her sister Inflexible to the South Atlantic to bring Maximillian Graf von Spee's East Asia Squadron to bay.

Battle of the Falkland Islands

Main article: Battle of the Falkland Islands
Main article: H.M.S. Invincible at the Battle of the Falkland Islands

After the British defeat at the Battle of Coronel on 1 November, the Admiralty swiftly assembled a force to destroy Spee's Squadron. On 5 November Invincible was detached from the Second Battle Cruiser Squadron for duty in the South Atlantic, along with her sister ship Inflexible. From 8 November to 11 November she was docked at Devonport Royal Dockyard refitting and preparing for the voyage. On 9 November Vice-Admiral Sir F. C. Doveton Sturdee hoisted his flag in Invincible, with Captain Tufton P. H. Beamish as his Flag Captain. On 11 November Invincible sailed in company with Inflexible for South American waters.

On 7 December, Sturdee's force arrived in the Falkland Islands, the battlecruisers anchoring off Port William to draw provisions and coal. The next morning smoke was sighted, and while the guardship Kent sailed to investigate, Invincible and Inflexible ceased coaling and proceeded to raise steam. In the meantime Sturdee ordered the ships' companies to breakfast so as to be ready for the expected battle.

During the battle Invincible fired 513 rounds of 12-inch ammunition, some of which bore chalk-written messages such as "Sneezing Pills for Little Willie", "Do you think you could learn to love me?" and "Some Iron for Iron Crosses."[10]

At the end of the action the shells remaining for each turret were tallied: "A" turret, 12 rounds; "P" turret, 112 rounds; "Q" turret, 104 rounds; "X" turret, 29 rounds.[11] One gun had fired 109 rounds.[12]

She exercised primary control from the fore top except for two or three short periods when primary control came from "A" turret or all turrets relied on local control due to funnel smoke. The fore conning tower and "A" turret never lost sight of the enemy, but fore control had minor problems with smoke and the other three turrets had serious smoke issues.[13]

Seaman Arthur James Wilkinson wrote his parents after the battle, "I seem to have got a lucky ship, don't I?"[10] He would be fortunate to choose to "run" from the ship on 11 January, 1916, apparently to join the Army or other land branch of service.[14]

Battle of Jutland

Main article: H.M.S. Invincible at the Battle of Jutland

At the end of May, 1916 the Third Battle Cruiser Squadron had joined the Grand Fleet at Scapa Flow. When the fleet put to sea on 30 May the Commander-in-Chief Admiral Jellicoe ordered it twenty miles ahead of the battle fleet as a scouting force.

At the beginning of the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916 Invincible with the rest of the 3rd B.C.S. was steaming S.50ºE at 14 knots. At 14:23 Indomitable intercepted a signal from H.M.S. Galatea heralding Beatty's Battle Cruiser Fleet's (B.C.F.) sighting of the High Sea Fleet. At 16:00, after the B.C.F. had joined battle, Hood led the 3rd B.C.S. S.S.E. at full speed in order to reinforce Beatty, anticipating Jellicoe's order by five minutes.

By 17:35 the 3rd B.C.S., with Invincible in the van, was within earshot of the fighting. Having heard firing on his starboard beam Hood ordered his squadron turn through eight points. At 17:55 Invincible opened fire on a force of German light cruisers, followed by her sister ships a few minutes later. In a few minutes S.M.S. Pillau, S.M.S. Frankfurt were damaged and S.M.S. Wiesbaden was reduced to a floating wreck.

Lion appeared on Invincible's port side, heavily engaged with Vizeadmiral Hipper's I Scouting Group. Having reformed the 3rd B.C.S. in the aftermath of a German torpedo attack Hood's ships joined the B.C.F. from the east, whence Beatty ordered him to take the van. At 18:26 they took position and were taken under fire by Hipper's battlecruisers. Hood's vessels returned fire, and having the advantage of the light Invincible scored two hits on Lützow which ultimately led to Hipper's flagship sinking.

While engaging Derfflinger and Lützow she received at 18:32 a hit on the front of "Q" turret, which penetrated and detonated in the gunhouse, blowing off the roof and causing the "Q" magazine to explode, followed by that of "P". The resulting explosion raised debris four hundred feet into the air and forced Invincible to break in two and sink. Rear-Admiral Hood was killed along with sixty-one officers, nine hundred and sixty-five men and five civilians. Six men survived, among them the Commander (who was also the Gunnery Officer). Four of the five civilians were canteen staff.

H.M.S. Invincible was officially paid off by the Royal Navy on 3 June, 1916.

After the war, the wreckage was located by a minesweeper at 57-02-40 North Latitude, 06-07-15 East Longitude, 180 feet down.

Commander Hubert Edward Dannreuther was the gunnery officer. He survived the sinking. Lieutenant Cecil Stanley Sandford.

Photos of Her Loss

Hubert Dannreuther's papers at the National Maritime Museum contain two letters, the second of which has three small photographs. The signatures are not very legible, and it is a bit of a mystery who wrote them, though one has plenty of context from which to work.

The first letter is mailed from H.M. T.B. 33 and is dated July 24th 1918.[15]

I only received your letter yesterday or I should have answered it sooner.

I will send you both of my plates of the Invincible as soon as I can get home as they are there with the remainder of my collection.

With regard to their history they were taken for me by one of the 4" gun control snotties in the Inflex about 6.12. pm in the Jutland scrap. The 2nd one of the Invincibles bow &stern end up was taken about 310 of a minute after.

I shall probably forward them to you about Aug 26th or within a few days of that date.

My Uncle Commodore Le Mesurier had quite a good one taken broadside on from the Calliope but I can not say who has the negative probably the navigator took it unfortunately I do not remember who it was. but I shall try and find out &let you know. I think the midshipman who took the Invincible photoes [sic] was R. Locock[16] does not wish to have any of these photoes published.

Yours sincerely,

E.D. O'Connor[17]

The second letter contains three small photographs, and is posted to Dannreuther in Renown from Constance on 21 November, 1918.[18] Simon Harley's analysis of the signature and of service records suggests that the photos were taken from Constance during the battle by Warrant Shipwright Harry L. Metters.

Dear Sir/

As it is not possable
[sic] for me to send along the films as promised, I am doing the next best thing in sending along three prints which I happen to have here in the ship, from which you could make a larger picture[.]

Hoping this will meet your requirements, also that you will keep same for your own personal use. also sorry to have kept you waiting so long.

Yours Sincerely,

H L Metters[19]

Photo Analysis

Tony Lovell prepared a video comparing one of the photos sent to Dannreuther in 1918 to other, published photos of an almost identical scene. They seem to suggest that the photos sent to Dannreuther are different photos than the others despite a phenomenally close match to perspective. Perhaps these were taken mere moments later, and from the same camera, as the others, and that the very slight difference in perspective is due to the photographer's own ship carrying him to a different vantage point as he took successive shots of such a historic scene.

The N.M.M.'s policy on its photographs, alas, seem to prevent me from sharing this video publicly.


In 1913, Invincible was slated as part of the seventeen ship order to receive a director. It was fitted sometime after the war started but prior to May, 1915.[20]


Dates of appointment are provided when known.

See Also


  1. Dittmar; Colledge. British Warships 1914–1919. p. 35.
  2. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. p. 24.
  3. Clydebank Battlecruisers. p. 15.
  4. Clydebank Battlecruisers. p. 16.
  5. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. p. 24.
  6. Dittmar; Colledge. British Warships 1914–1919. p. 35.
  7. Johnston. p. 16.
  8. Tupper. Reminiscences. pp. 183-185.
  9. "Deaths." The Times (London, England), Tuesday, Oct 01, 1912; pg. 1; Issue 40018.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Photocopy of letter provided by Dave Moodie to Tone, 20191018.
  11. The National Archives. ADM 137/304. ff. 161-162.
  12. Grand Fleet Gunnery and Torpedo Orders. No. 50.
  13. Grand Fleet Gunnery and Torpedo Orders. No. 50.
  14. Wilkinson Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 188/686/19902. f. ?.
  15. Letter at National Maritime Museum, DAN/464.
  16. There was a Midshipman, R.N.R., Reginald Locock serving in Inflexible from 16 May, 1915, onwards, per Simon Harley
  17. In T.B. 33 at the end of the war there was an Acting Sub-Lieutenant, R.N.R., Edward Dominic O'Connor, who by the look of things had also been a Midshipman, R.N.R., in Inflexible at Jutland before being appointed to Onslow in September, 1916, per Simon Harley.
  18. Letter at National Maritime Museum, DAN/455
  19. Simon Harley offers that "The signature would appear to belong to Warrant Shipwright Harry Lancelot Metters, who was appointed to Constance on 11 September, 1915."
  20. The Technical History and Index: Fire Control in HM Ships, pp. 9-10.
  21. Roberts. Battlecruisers. p. 122.
  22. The Navy List. (July, 1909). p. 333.
  23. Kerr Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 30.
  24. Roberts. Battlecruisers. p. 122.
  25. Purefoy Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/20. f. 617.
  26. Purefoy Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/20. f. 617.
  27. Clarke Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 352.
  28. Clarke Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 352.
  29. The Navy List. (July, 1913). p. 333.
  30. Culme-Seymour Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 477.
  31. Culme-Seymour Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 477.
  32. Pelly Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 483.
  33. Pelly Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 483.
  34. Roberts. Battlecruisers. p. 122.
  35. Bartolomé Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 208.
  36. Bartolomé Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/43. f. 208.
  37. The Navy List. (December, 1914). p. 338.
  38. Beamish Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/44. f. 51
  39. The Navy List. (October, 1915). p. 395b.


Invincible Class Battlecruiser
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