H.M.S. Audacious (1912)

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H.M.S. Audacious (1912)
Pendant Number: 54 (1914)[1]
Builder: Cammell Laird, Birkenhead
Ordered: 1910 Programme[2]
Laid down: Feb, 1911[3]
Launched: 14 Sep, 1912[4]
Commissioned: 21 Oct, 1913
Mined: 27 Oct, 1914[5]
Fate: off Tory Island[6]


Captain Cecil F. Dampier was appointed to Victory for command of Audacious on 30 May, 1913.[7] She commissioned at Portsmouth on 21 October for service in the Second Battle Squadron of the Home Fleets.[8]


The Second Battle Squadron put out from its Mull anchorage on 26 October, 1914 for firing practice. It rendezvoused at 05:00 on 27 October thirty miles North-by-West of Tory Island, at Lat. 55° 45' N., Long. 8° 30' W., where it met the light cruiser Liverpool with the targets. At 08:45 the Second Battle Squadron was steaming twenty miles N. ¼ E. of Tory Island in line ahead, Audacious being third ship in line. An 8 point turn to starboard in succession was signalled to take the squadron onto the gunnery range, and Audacious struck a mine, which exploded under the port engine room about 5-10 ft forward of the of the after transverse engine room bulkhead. No water was thrown up by the explosion which suggests that the mine exploded well under the bottom—D. K. Brown cites a report which says 16 ft. The crew were going to their battle practice stations at the time, and many doors and watertight hatches were open to facilitate movement. It was claimed that all openings had been shut before flooding reached them.[9][10][11]

The port engine room was flooded, along with the port auxiliary M/C, water tight compartments below and outside these rooms, and "X" turret shell room. Audacious quickly assumed a 10-15° heel, which was corrected to less than 9° by 09:45 by counter-flooding the double bottom and starboard bunkers.[9] Captain Dampier, thinking that the ship had been attacked by a submarine, hoisted the submarine warning and the rest of the squadron steamed away from possible danger.[12] Audacious was still capable of making 9 knots with her starboard engine running at full power.[9] Dampier believed that he had a chance of making the 25 miles to land and beach the ship.[13] Liverpool circled repeatedly in case a submarine was present, and the tugs which had towed in the targets closed and stood by,[14] while Audacious broadcast distress signals by wireless. The Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Fleet, Sir John Jellicoe ordered every available destroyer and tug out to assist, but did not dare send out battleships to tow Audacious in because of the apparent submarine threat. Meanwhile the White Star liner Olympic arrived on the scene.[13] As Audacious settled lower in the water stern-first, a whaler and the accommodation ladder were dislodged, carrying away a number of mushroom tops from vents and damaging hatches, hastening the ingress of water.[15]

At 10:00, with flooding spread to the starboard engine room, Audacious stopped.[9] Dampier brought the head of the ship round to sea and ordered all non-essential crew off. Boats from Liverpool and Olympic assisted until all but 250 men were taken off. At 13:30 the captain of Olympic, Commodore Haddock, suggested that his ship attempt to take Audacious in tow. Dampier agreed and with the assistance of the destroyer Fury a tow line was passed within half an hour. The ships began moving toward Lough Swilly, but Audacious was so unmanageable that the tow line parted. Liverpool and the collier Thornhill attempted to take the battleship in tow, but to no avail.[13] In the mean time, at 13:08 a message had arrived from the coastguard station at Mulroy that the steamer Manchester Commerce had been mined in the same area the day before. At 16:60 Malin Head reported that the sailing vessel Cardiff had also been mined the previous night. Upon learning this, at 17:00 Jellicoe ordered the pre-dreadnought battleship Exmouth out to attempt to tow Audacious in. In case the ship was saved he also requested an officer from the Construction Department at the Admiralty in anticipation of major repairs.[16][17][13]

Vice-Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, commander of the First Battle Squadron, arrived on the scene in the boarding vessel Cambria and took over the rescue operation.[13] With darkness approaching, Bayly, Dampier and the remaining men on Audacious were taken off at 19:15.[18] At 20:45 Audacious heeled over to 120°, hung there, and then capsized. She remained afloat, 45° hull up, until 21:00 when a magazine (probably "B") exploded, sending débris 300 ft into the air. There were two smaller explosions. It has been suggested that a Lyddite H.E., Mk. 15 Fuse shell fell from a rack in a shell room, exploded, and detonated the magazine.[15] A piece of armour plate fell on and killed a petty officer on Liverpool, which was 800 yards distant. This was the only casualty in connection with the sinking.[19]

Jellicoe immediately proposed that the sinking be kept a secret, which the Board of Admiralty and the British Cabinet agreed to, an act ridiculed later on. For the rest of the war Audacious's name remained on all public lists of ship movements and activities. Many Americans on board Olympic were beyond British jurisdiction and discussed the sinking—many photos had been taken and even one moving film. By 19 November the loss of the ship was accepted in Germany.[20] Jellicoe's opposing number in Germany, High Sea Fleet commander Reinhard Scheer, wrote after the war: "In the case of the Audacious we can but approve the English attitude of not revealing a weakness to the enemy, because accurate information about the other side's strength has a decisive effect on the decisions taken."[21]

On 14 November, 1918, shortly after the war ended, a notice officially announcing the loss appeared in The Times newspaper:

H.M.S. Audacious.
A Delayed Announcement.

The Secretary of the Admiralty makes the following announcement:—
H.M.S. Audacious sank after striking a mine off the North Irish coast on October 27 1914.
This was kept secret at the urgent request of the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, and the Press loyally refrained from giving it any publicity.[22]

Account of Lieutenant Galbraith

Lieutenant Thomas D. Galbraith (later Baron Strathclyde) later recorded his experience of the sinking:

When we had almost completed the turn the bridge shuddered … At that moment Captain Dampier came dashing up the bridge ladder in a great hurry and capless - as he came he asked who fired that gun. I answered no gun was fired and as I said it we were on our way to the standard compass - as we arrived there the ship suddenly rolled over to port with a rush at which the Captain said, "Close all watertight doors." That order I repeated though we were at action stations and I assumed they were already closed.

The Captain then ordered the signal bridge to hoist the signal: "I have received damage from mine or torpedo." At the same time he ordered me to bring the ship's head to the swell as with the sea more or less on our beam we were rolling some 15 degrees or so to Port then coming back slowly. It was a horrible feeling -one wondered if she were going to come back and felt a great desire to walk up to Starboard as she rolled to Port. The ship was perceptibly making less headway. Gradually we stopped and then one felt she was dying. Horrible feeling. All this time things were happening. Boats were being got ready for launching and the main derricks were getting ready to hoist out the boom boats and then the power failed and the main derrick took charge and as we rolled, kept swinging from side to side smashing into the superstructure, but was soon got under control again and lashed so it could not move. As the main engines had stopped it was obvious that we would have to be towed and all preparations were made to that end.

… All of a sudden, so it felt, an enormous liner came into sight - the Olympic and with her appearance four destroyers came in sight - the sun had appeared and coming towards us at full speed they really made a wonderful picture.' One of the destroyers took a 6-inch wire hawser to Olympic and, with several shackles of cable attached to it, Olympic attempted to get Audacious moving. The wind on Audacious's superstructure swung her round and the wire parted. Meanwhile, Audacious was being evacuated of all but the executive officers and forty seamen. Disembarkation was far from easy in the heavy swell. As dusk fell, Audacious wallowed deeply in the water, well down at the stern. Rafts had been constructed against the emergency of the ship foundering at night but it was then decided that all those still in the battleship would be taken off for the night to the destroyers and would return in the morning physically better able to secure hawsers to the tugs anticipated from Belfast.

I personally with the Torpedo and Gunnery Lieutenants stepped into a destroyer's whaler from the upper deck abreast 'Q' turret. All the other boats had gone but the Commander was still on board Audacious and in the dim light could be seen as he was wearing a white sweater, wandering round the upper deck. Guns hailed him several times but he paid no attention to them. Finally we shoved off and started rowing away still shouting to the Commander until eventually he came to the ship's side and we returned, took him off, and were taken to a destroyer.[23]


By the end of 1913, she and the rest of the Second Battle Squadron were all equipped with Battleship Auxiliary W/T sets.[24]


In October, 1914, it was decided that Audacious should receive an Open Director Sight for each of her turrets. She was lost before they could be fitted, however.[25]

In October 1914, the ship was to be given a single Pattern 1582 Electric Radiator to warm a cabin whose stoves could not be used for heating it.[26]

Sources indicate that she was not fitted with director firing gear prior to her loss,[27] but photos of her sinking as well as one at Wikipedia clearly show a light aloft director tower atop her spotting top. Her director was certainly fitted after King George V received hers, and to much the same design.[28]


In September 1914, the ship was to be sent eight 3/9 power telescopes and to return the same number of 2.5 power scopes, Pattern G. 329 upon receipt. These were likely to serve as trainer telescopes. Constrained supplies meant that 26% of the scopes actually supplied her may have wound up being 5/12 or 5/21 scopes.[29]


Dates of appointment are provided when known.

  • Captain Cecil F. Dampier, 30 May, 1913[30] – 27 October, 1914  (Vessel Lost under his command)

See Also


  1. Dittmar; Colledge. British Warships 1914–1919. p. 33.
  2. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. p. 30.
  3. Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. p. 30.
  4. Dittmar; Colledge. British Warships 1914–1919. p. 33.
  5. Dittmar; Colledge. British Warships 1914–1919. p. 33.
  6. Dittmar; Colledge. British Warships 1914–1919. p. 33.
  7. Dampier Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 497.
  8. "Naval and Military Intelligence" (Official Appointments and Notices). The Times. Wednesday, 22 October, 1913. Issue 40349, col A, p. 13.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Brown. The Grand Fleet. p. 160.
  10. Naval Operations. Volume I. p. 249.
  11. Liddle. The Sailor's War. p. 39.
  12. Goldrick. The King's Ships were at Sea. pp. 139-140.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 Goldrick. The King's Ships were at Sea. p. 140.
  14. Naval Operations. Volume I. p. 250.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Brown. The Grand Fleet. p. 161.
  16. Naval Operations. Volume I. p. 250.
  17. Jellicoe. The Grand Fleet. pp. 149-150.
  18. Jellicoe. The Grand Fleet. p. 149.
  19. Goldrick. The King's Ships were at Sea. p. 141.
  20. Goldrick. The King's Ships were at Sea. pp. 141-142.
  21. Scheer. Germany's High Sea Fleet in the War. p. 62.
  22. "H.M.S. Audacious: A Delayed Announcement" (News in Brief). The Times. Thursday, 14 November, 1918. Issue 41947, col C, p. 7.
  23. Quoted in Liddle. A Sailor's War. p. 39, p. 41.
  24. Annual Report of the Torpedo School, 1913. W/T Appendix, p. 13.
  25. The Technical History and Index: Fire Control in H.M. Ships. p. 18.
  26. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 512 of 16 Oct, 1914.
  27. Assumption based on Progress in Naval Gunnery, 1914-1918. p. 37, in conjunction with Brooks. "Percy Scott and the Director". p. 168.
  28. Letter in D'Eyncourt Papers at the National Maritime Museum's Caird Library, DEY/27
  29. Admiralty Weekly Order No. 408 of 25 Sep, 1914.
  30. Dampier Service Record. The National Archives. ADM 196/42. f. 497.


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