Channel Fleet

The Channel Fleet and originally known as the Channel Squadron [1] was the Royal Navy formation of warships that defended the waters of the English Channel from 1854 to 1909 and 1914 to 1915.

Channel Fleet
HMSminotaur
British ironclad HMS Minotaur as Channel Fleet flagship, c. 1875-1887.
Active1854-1909, 1914-1915
Country United Kingdom
BranchNaval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg Royal Navy
TypeFleet
Garrison/HQTorbay, Falmouth and Plymouth.

History

Throughout the course of Royal Navy's history there had been different squadrons stationed in home waters. One of the earliest known naval formations to be based at Plymouth was called the Western Squadron [2][3][4] which was the forerunner of the Channel Squadron that was later known as the Channel Fleet.[5] In 1650 Captain William Penn, Commander-in-Chief, was charged with guarding the Channel from Beachy Head to Lands End with six ships. This system continued following the Restoration. It was the start of what was to become a Western Squadron.[6] In 1690 the squadron operated out of Plymouth Dockyard during wartime periods which was for most of the 18th century and early 19th century.[7][8] In 1854 The Channel Squadron and sometimes known as the Particular Service Squadron was established.[9] The Channel Squadron only became a permanent formation in 1858.[10]

During the 19th century, as the French developed Cherbourg as a base for steam-powered ships, the Royal Navy developed Portland Harbour as a base for the fleet.[11] The harbour was built between 1849 and 1872 when the Royal Navy created a breakwater made of blocks from local quarries on the Isle of Portland.[12]

With the amelioration of Anglo-French relations, and the rise of German militarism towards 1900, the need for a Channel Formation diminished and the main European naval arena shifted to the North Sea. Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson was officially "Senior Officer in Command of the Channel Squadron" from 1901 to 1903. His subordinate flag officer in that squadron was the Second-in-Command, who commanded a division of battleships. For the period 1858 to 1903 the Channel squadron was often incorrectly referred to as the Channel Fleet.[13]

On 17 April 1903 The Right Hon. Lord Charles Beresford was appointed Vice-Admiral Commanding, Channel Squadron.[14] On 6 May 1903 Admiral Beresford was informed by the Admiralty "that for the future the Channel Squadron shall be known as the Channel Fleet."[15] On 14 December 1904 the Channel Fleet was re-styled the 'Atlantic Fleet' and the Home Fleet became the 'Channel Fleet'.[16]

On 24 March 1909, under a fleet re-organisation, the Channel Fleet became the 2nd Division of the Home Fleet.[17]

Rear-Vice-Admiral Particular Service Squadron

Vice-Admiral Commanding Channel Squadron

Post holders have included:[22][23]

Note:Channel Squadron - renamed The Channel Fleet, September, 1901

Second-in-Command Channel Squadron

Post holders included:[24]

  • Rear-Admiral Henry Chads, 1 October 1869.
  • Rear-Admiral William M. Dowell, 1877
  • Rear-Admiral Henry Boys, 1878
  • Rear-Admiral The Hon. Henry C. Glyn, 20 June 1881.
  • Rear-Admiral Sir Francis W. Sullivan, 14 August 1882
  • Rear-Admiral John C. Wilson, 1 April 1883
  • Rear-Admiral William H. Whyte, 13 May 1884
  • Rear-Admiral Algernon C. F. Heneage, 3 July 1885 – 7 August 1886
  • Rear-Admiral The Hon.Edmund R. Fremantle , 9 August 1886
  • Rear-Admiral Charles J. Rowley, 18 August 1887
  • Rear-Admiral St. George Caulfield d′Arcy-Irvine, 1 September 1888
  • Rear-Admiral Richard E. Tracey, 12 September 1889
  • Rear-Admiral Loftus F. Jones, 12 September 1890
  • Rear-Admiral Edward S. Adeane, 15 September 1891
  • Rear-Admiral Edward H. Seymour, 16 September 1892 – 25 April 1894
  • Rear-Admiral Alfred T. Dale, 25 April 1894 – 20 April 1895
  • Rear-Admiral Arthur H. Alington, 1 May 1895
  • Rear-Admiral Armand T. Powlett, 1 May 1896 – 19 May 1897
  • Rear-Admiral John Fellowes, 19 May 1897
  • Rear-Admiral John W. Brackenbury, 1 June 1898
  • Rear-Admiral Arthur D. Fanshawe, 1 June 1899 – 31 May 1900
  • Rear-Admiral Albert B. Jenkings, 1 June 1900 - 5 June 1901
  • Rear-Admiral Sir William A. D. Acland, Bart., 5 June 1901 – September 1901

Commanders-in-Chief Channel Fleet

Note Channel Fleet is re-named Atlantic Fleet 1909-1914

Second-in-Command Channel Fleet

Post holders included:[25]

Rear-Admirals in the Channel Fleet

Post holders included:[26]

  • Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Poore, : February, 1905 - 16 November 1905
  • Rear-Admiral Robert L. Groome: 16 November 1905 - 16 November 1906
  • Rear-Admiral George A. Callaghan: 16 November 1906 - 5, April 1907
  • Rear-Admiral Robert S. Lowry: 5, April, 1907 - 1 October 1907
  • Rear-Admiral Francis J. Foley: 1 October 1907 - 1 October 1908
  • Rear-Admiral James Startin: 1 October 1908 - 9 October 1909

Components

1895

Distribution of the Fleet first included:[27]
Unit Date Notes
1 Battleships 4 September 1895 5 ships: Royal Sovereign, Empress of India, Resolution, and Repulse.
2 Cruisers 4 September 1895 5 ships: Blenheim, Endymion, Bellona, Halcyon, and Speedy.

1901 to 1904

Distribution of the Fleet first included:[28]

Of note:As the Channel Squadron - renamed The Channel Fleet, September, 1901.

Unit Date Notes
1 Battleships September 1901 - 1904 5 ships
2 Cruiser Squadron September 1901 - 1904 10 ships

1905 to 1907

Distribution of the Fleet first included:[29]
Unit Date Notes
1 Battleships January 1905-February 1907 12 ships - increased to 18 by 1907
2 1st Cruiser Squadron January 1905-February 1907 5 ships to 1905 + 2 more ships from 1906
3 Channel Fleet Flotilla January 1905-February 1907 consisting of destroyers and divided into 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th Divisions

1907 to 1909

Distribution of the Fleet first included:[30]
Unit Date Notes
1 Battleships March 1907-March 1909 14 ships
2 1st Cruiser Squadron March 1907-March 1909 6 ships
3 Channel Fleet Flotilla March 1907-March 1909 divided into 1st Destroyer Flotilla & 3rd Destroyer Flotilla in March.1909

1914 to 1915

Of note: On 8 August 1914, ships from the pre-war Second and Third Fleets were organised into the Channel Fleet.

Distribution of the Fleet first included:[31]
Unit Date Notes
1 5th Battle Squadron August 1914-March 1915 Transferred from 2nd Fleet
2 8th Battle Squadron August 1914-March 1915 7th and 8th BattSq's (3rd Fleet) merged to form 8th BattSq - dispersed 20/08/14
3 5th Cruiser Squadron August 1914-March 1915
4 6th Cruiser Squadron August 1914-March 1915
5 7th Cruiser Squadron August 1914-March 1915
6 8th Cruiser Squadron August 1914-March 1915
7 9th Cruiser Squadron August 1914-March 1915
8 10th Cruiser Squadron August 1914-March 1915
9 11th Cruiser Squadron August 1914-March 1915
10 12th Cruiser Squadron August 1914-March 1915

In literature

The Channel Fleet features in several historical novels about the Royal Navy, notably Hornblower and the Hotspur by C. S. Forester, in which Forester's fictional hero becomes a favourite of the real Channel Fleet commander, Admiral William Cornwallis. The fleet also features in several of the Aubrey-Maturin novels by Patrick O'Brian.

The novel Billy Budd by Herman Melville is set on board ships of the Channel Fleet, in the immediate aftermath of the Spithead and Nore mutinies of 1797.

In the novel The War of the Worlds, the Channel Fleet protects the huge mass of refugee shipping escaping from the Essex coast in the face of the Martian onslaught. The initial heroic fight of HMS Thunder Child and the subsequent general engagement, is detailed in the chapter entitled "The Thunderchild".

References

Footnotes

  1. ^ Archives, The National. "Admiralty: Channel Squadron and Fleet: Correspondence". discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk. National Archives UK, ADM 144, 1859-1910. Retrieved 8 February 2018.
  2. ^ Weigley, Russell F. (2004). The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo. Indiana University Press. p. 331. ISBN 0253217075.
  3. ^ Ranft, Bryan (1995). The Oxford illustrated history of the Royal Navy. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. p. 144. ISBN 9780198605270.
  4. ^ "THE ROYAL NAVY AND THE FRENCH WARS: THE LONG-TERM BACKGROUND: by Jeremy Black, University of Exeter" (PDF). napoleonicsociety.com. The Napoleonic Society, 2011. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  5. ^ Mackesy, Piers (1964). The War for America: 1775-1783. Lincoln, Nebraska, USA: U of Nebraska Press. p. 192. ISBN 0803281927.
  6. ^ Saunders, Andrew (1997). Book of Channel defences. London: Batsford [u.a.] p. 32. ISBN 9780713475944.
  7. ^ Annal, David; Collins, Audrey (2012). Birth, Marriage and Death Records: A Guide for Family Historians. Casemate Publishers. p. 24. ISBN 9781848845725.
  8. ^ "Royal Navy Dockyards: Plymouth". rmg.co.uk. Royal Museums Greenwich, 2017. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  9. ^ Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony. "Channel Squadron (Royal Navy) - The Dreadnought Project". www.dreadnoughtproject.org. Harley & Lovell, 26 November 2017. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  10. ^ William Loney RN: Channel Fleet
  11. ^ Channel Fleet The Heritage Coast
  12. ^ Portland Harbour Authority: History Archived December 31, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Davis, Peter. "The Times newspaper on the Channel Squadron, 1858-1862". www.pdavis.nl. Peter Davis. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  14. ^ Harley & Lovell, 2017
  15. ^ Harley & Lovell, 2017
  16. ^ National Archives records
  17. ^ HMS Bulwark Archived August 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Admiralty, Great Britain (January 1855). The Navy List. H.M. Stationery Office. p. 135.
  19. ^ Admiralty, Great Britain (January 1855). The Navy List. H.M. Stationery Office. p. 135.
  20. ^ Admiralty, Great Britain (January 1857). The Navy List. London, England: H.M. Stationery Office. p. 137.
  21. ^ Admiralty, Great Britain (January 1857). The Navy List. London, England: H.M. Stationery Office. p. 137.
  22. ^ Mackie, Colin. "Royal Navy Senior Appointments from 1865" (PDF). gulabin.com. Colin Mackie, December 2017. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  23. ^ Whitaker's Almanacks 1900 - 1909
  24. ^ Harley & Lovell, 2017
  25. ^ Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony. "Channel Fleet (Royal Navy) - The Dreadnought Project". www.dreadnoughtproject.org. Harley and Lovell, 7 February 2018. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  26. ^ Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony. "Channel Fleet (Royal Navy) - The Dreadnought Project". www.dreadnoughtproject.org. Harley and Lovell, 7 February 2018. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  27. ^ "CHANNEL SQUADRON. (Hansard, 4 September 1895)". hansard.millbanksystems.com. Hansard, HC Deb 04 September 1895 vol 36 cc1688-9. Retrieved 24 February 2018.
  28. ^ Watson, Dr Graham. "Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployments 1900-1914". www.naval-history.net. Gordon Smith, 8 August 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  29. ^ Watson, 2015.
  30. ^ Watson, 2015.
  31. ^ Watson, Dr Graham. "Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployment, Inter-War Years 1914-1918". www.naval-history.net. Gordon Smith, 27 October 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2018.

Sources

  • Annal, David; Collins, Audrey (2012). Birth, Marriage and Death Records: A Guide for Family Historians. Casemate Publishers. ISBN 9781848845725.
  • Archives, The National. (1859-1910) "Admiralty: Channel Squadron and Fleet: Correspondence". discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk. National Archives UK. ADM 144.
  • Black, Jeremy, (2011) "THE ROYAL NAVY AND THE FRENCH WARS: THE LONG-TERM BACKGROUND: University of Exeter" (PDF). napoleonicsociety.com. The Napoleonic Society.
  • Davis, Peter. "The Times newspaper on the Channel Squadron, 1858-1862". www.pdavis.nl. Peter Davis.
  • Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony. (2018) "Channel Fleet (Royal Navy) - The Dreadnought Project". www.dreadnoughtproject.org. Harley and Lovell.
  • Harley, Simon; Lovell, Tony. (2017) "Channel Squadron (Royal Navy) - The Dreadnought Project". www.dreadnoughtproject.org. Harley & Lovell.
  • Loney, William. RN. "Channel Squadron, the Naval Intelligence column of the Times newspaper refer to the activities of the Squadron in the period 1858-1862". www.pdavis.nl/Channel.php. William Loney.
  • Mackesy, Piers (1964). The War for America: 1775-1783. Lincoln, Nebraska, USA: U of Nebraska Press. ISBN 0803281927.
  • Mackie, Colin. (2017) "Royal Navy Senior Appointments from 1865" (PDF). gulabin.com. Colin Mackie.
  • Ranft, Bryan (1995). The Oxford illustrated history of the Royal Navy. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198605270.
  • Royal Museums Greenwich. "Royal Navy Dockyards: Plymouth". (2017). rmg.co.uk. Royal Museums Greenwich.
  • Saunders, Andrew (1997). Book of Channel defences. London: Batsford [u.a.] ISBN 9780713475944.
  • Watson, Dr Graham. (2015) "Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployments 1900-1914". www.naval-history.net. Gordon Smith.
  • Watson, Dr Graham. (2015) "Royal Navy Organisation and Ship Deployment, Inter-War Years 1914-1918". www.naval-history.net. Gordon Smith.
  • Whitaker's Almanacks (1900 - 1909).
  • Weigley, Russell F. (2004). The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0253217075.

Further reading

  • Rodger, N.A.M. (1979). The Admiralty. Lavenham, England: T. Dalton. ISBN 9780900963940.
Atlantic campaign of May 1794

The Atlantic campaign of May 1794 was a series of operations conducted by the British Royal Navy's Channel Fleet against the French Navy's Atlantic Fleet, with the aim of preventing the passage of a strategically important French grain convoy travelling from the United States to France. The campaign involved commerce raiding by detached forces and two minor engagements, eventually culminating in the full fleet action of the Glorious First of June 1794, at which both fleets were badly mauled and both Britain and France claimed victory. The French lost seven battleships; the British none, but the battle distracted the British fleet long enough for the French convoy to safely reach port.

By the spring of 1794, the French Republic, under the rule of the National Convention, was at war with all its neighbours. With famine imminent, the French Committee of Public Safety looked to France's colonies and the United States to provide an infusion of grain; this was to be convoyed across the Atlantic during April, May and June, accompanied by a small escort squadron and supported by a second, larger squadron in the Bay of Biscay. However, political upheaval had severely reduced the French Navy's ability to fight coherently and supply shortages had devastated its morale, significantly weakening the fleet. Britain, by contrast, was at a high state of readiness with a well-organised command structure, but was suffering from a severe shortage of trained seamen with which to man its large navy. The French Atlantic Fleet, under Admiral Villaret de Joyeuse, was tasked with keeping the British Channel Fleet occupied long enough for the convoy to reach France safely. The Channel Fleet, commanded by Lord Howe, knew of the convoy's passage, and dispatched squadrons to protect British commerce while pursuing Villaret himself with the main body of the Royal Navy's Channel Fleet. For over a week the two battlefleets manoeuvred around one another, Villaret drawing Howe deeper westwards into the Atlantic and away from the convoy. Two partial but inconclusive fleet actions on 28 and 29 May followed, during which Howe seized the weather gage from Villaret, granting him freedom to choose the time and place of his next attack.

The culminating action of the campaign took place over 400 nautical miles (740 km) into the Atlantic, and became known as the Glorious First of June. This final engagement saw Howe use the weather gage to attack Villaret directly while his opponent attempted to fight in a traditional line of battle formation. In the battle, the British fleet inflicted a heavy defeat on the French after a bitterly contested day of fighting. Forcing Villaret to retreat, Howe's force captured seven French battleships, one of which later sank, and inflicted 7,000 casualties on the enemy. Villaret however, claimed strategic success as his delaying tactics had bought enough time for the convoy to reach France safely. The battle was the first in a series of defeats the French Navy suffered during the early years of the war, which bred a defeatist attitude and an unwillingness among the French officer corps to engage the British at sea.

George Darby

Vice Admiral George Darby (c.1720 – 1790) was a Royal Navy officer. He commanded HMS Norwich at the capture of Martinique in 1762 during the Seven Years' War. He went on to command the Channel Fleet during the American Revolutionary War and later in that war served as First Naval Lord when he commanded the force that relieved Gibraltar from its siege by the Spanish in April 1781.

HMS Achilles (1863)

HMS Achilles was an armoured frigate built for the Royal Navy in the 1860s. Upon completion in 1864 she was assigned to the Channel Fleet. The ship was paid off in 1868 to refit and be re-armed. When she recommissioned in 1869, she was assigned as the guard ship of the Fleet Reserve in the Portland District until 1874. Achilles was refitted and re-armed again in 1874 and became the guard ship of the Liverpool District in 1875. Two years later, she was rejoined the Channel Fleet before going to the Mediterranean in 1878. The ship returned to the Channel Fleet in 1880 and served until she was paid off in 1885.

Achilles was recommissioned in 1901 as a depot ship at Malta under a succession of different names. She was transferred to Chatham in 1914 and was again renamed multiple times before she was sold for scrap in 1923. Achilles had more changes of her rigging and armament than any other British warship, before or since.

HMS Albemarle (1901)

HMS Albemarle was a pre-dreadnought Duncan-class battleship of the Royal Navy, named after George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle. Built to counter a group of fast Russian battleships, Albemarle and her sister ships were capable of steaming at 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph), making them the fastest battleships in the world. The Duncan-class battleships were armed with a main battery of four 12-inch (305 mm) guns and they were broadly similar to the London-class battleships, though of a slightly reduced displacement and thinner armour layout. As such, they reflected a development of the lighter second-class ships of the Canopus-class battleship. Albemarle was built between her keel laying in January 1900 and her completion in November 1903.

Albemarle had a fairly uneventful career. She spent her first years in service with the Mediterranean Fleet from 1903 to 1905, when she was transferred to the Channel Fleet. In 1907, she was reassigned to the Atlantic Fleet; in early 1910 she transferred to the Home Fleet, first as part of the 4th Battle Squadron and later the 6th Battle Squadron. She served with the Grand Fleet on the Northern Patrol during the early stages of the First World War. She was later dispatched to Murmansk in Russia for guard and icebreaking duties for most of 1916. On her return to England, she underwent a refit and was in reserve for the remainder of the war. Decommissioned in April 1919, she was scrapped in 1920.

HMS Caesar (1896)

HMS Caesar was a Majestic-class pre-dreadnought battleship of the Royal Navy, named after the Roman military and political leader Julius Caesar. The ship was built at the Portsmouth Dockyard, starting with her keel laying in March 1895. She was launched in September 1896 and was commissioned into the fleet in January 1898. She was armed with a main battery of four 12-inch (300 mm) guns and a secondary battery of twelve 6-inch (150 mm) guns. The ship had a top speed of 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph).

Caesar served with the Mediterranean Fleet after a brief stint in the Channel Fleet. In 1905, she resumed service with a now re-organised Channel Fleet and was also part of the Atlantic Fleet for a time. In the service of the Home Fleet from 1907, she was placed in reserve in 1912. Following the outbreak of World War I, Caesar returned to the Channel Fleet before being transferred to the North America and West Indies Station in 1915 after a brief spell as a guard ship at Gibraltar. From 1918 to 1919 she served as a depot ship, firstly in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas and then the Black Sea, in support of naval operations against the Bolsheviks. In this latter role, she was the last of the pre-dreadnought battleships to see service outside the United Kingdom. Returning to England in 1920, she was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1921.

HMS Defence (1861)

HMS Defence was the lead ship of the Defence-class armoured frigates ordered by the Royal Navy in 1859. Upon completion in 1862 she was assigned to the Channel Fleet. The ship was paid off in 1866 to refit and be re-armed and was briefly reassigned to the Channel Fleet when she recommissioned in 1868. Defence had brief tours on the North Atlantic and Mediterranean Stations, relieving other ironclads, from 1869 to 1872 before she was refitted again from 1872 to 1874. She became guard ship on the Shannon when she recommissioned. The ship was transferred to the Channel Fleet again in 1876 and then became guard ship on the Mersey until 1885. Defence was placed in reserve until 1890 when she was assigned to the mechanical training school in Devonport in 1890. She was renamed Indus when the school adopted that name and served there until sold in 1935.

HMS Formidable (1898)

HMS Formidable, the third of four ships of that name to serve in the Royal Navy, was the lead ship of her class of pre-dreadnought battleships. The ship was laid down in March 1898, was launched in November that year, and was completed in September 1901. Formidable served initially with the Mediterranean Fleet, transferring to the Channel Fleet in 1908. In 1912, she was assigned to the 5th Battle Squadron, which was stationed at Nore.

Following the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the squadron conducted operations in the English Channel, and was based at Sheerness to guard against a possible German invasion. In the first days of the war, the 5th Battle Squadron covered the crossing of the British Expeditionary Force to France. On 31 December, the squadron was conducting training exercises in the English Channel, and despite the risk of German submarines, was without anti-submarine protection; the German U-24 stalked the ships during the day and in the early hours of 1 January 1915, torpedoed Formidable twice, sinking her with very heavy loss of life.

HMS Irresistible (1898)

HMS Irresistible—the fourth British Royal Navy ship of the name—was a Formidable-class pre-dreadnought battleship. The Formidable-class ships were developments of earlier British battleships, featuring the same battery of four 12-inch (305 mm) guns—albeit more powerful 40-calibre versions—and top speed of 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph) of the preceding Canopus class, while adopting heavier armour protection. The ship was laid down in April 1898, was launched in December that year, and was completed in October 1901. Commissioned in 1902, she initially served with the Mediterranean Fleet until April 1908, when she was transferred to the Channel Fleet. Now outclassed with the emergence of the dreadnought class of ships, she entered service with the Home Fleet in 1911 following a refit. In 1912, she was assigned to the 5th Battle Squadron.

Following the outbreak of World War I, Irresistible, along with the squadron, was assigned to the Channel Fleet. After operations with the Dover Patrol, during which she bombarded German forces in northern France, she was assigned to the Dardanelles Campaign in February 1915. She took part in numerous unsuccessful attacks on the Ottoman forts guarding the Dardanelles in February and March. These operations included several raids by landing parties to destroy Ottoman coastal artillery batteries. On 18 March 1915, she struck a naval mine that caused extensive flooding and disabled her engines. Without power, she began to drift into the range of Turkish guns, which laid down a withering fire. Attempts to tow her failed, so her surviving crew was evacuated and Irresistible was abandoned and eventually sank. Her crew suffered around 150 killed in the sinking.

HMS Jupiter (1895)

HMS Jupiter was a Majestic-class pre-dreadnought battleship of the Royal Navy. Commissioned in 1897, she was assigned to the Channel Fleet until 1905. After a refit, she was temporarily put in reserve before returning to service with the Channel Fleet in September 1905. In 1908 and rendered obsolete by the emergence of the dreadnought type of battleships, she once again returned to the reserve, this time with the Home Fleet. After another refit, she had a spell as a gunnery training ship in 1912.

Following the outbreak of World War I, Jupiter served with the Channel Fleet and then as a guard ship on the River Tyne. She was dispatched to Russia in February 1915 to serve as an icebreaker, clearing a route to Arkhangelsk while the regular icebreaker was undergoing a refit. She underwent her own refit later in 1915 and once completed, was transferred to the Suez Canal Patrol. She returned to England late 1916, and spent the remainder of the war based at Devonport. She was scrapped in 1920.

HMS London (1899)

HMS London was the lead ship of the London class of pre-dreadnought battleships built for the British Royal Navy. The Londons were near repeats of the preceding Formidable-class battleships, but with modified armour protection. The ship was laid down in December 1898, was launched in September 1899, and was completed in June 1902. Commissioned the same month, she served with the Mediterranean Fleet until early 1907. She was assigned to the Nore Division of the Home Fleet for nearly a year before transferring to the Channel Fleet. Rendered obsolete with the emergence of the new dreadnoughts in late 1906, she underwent an extensive refit in 1909, after which she served with the Atlantic Fleet. She was assigned to the Second Home Fleet in 1912 as part of the 5th Battle Squadron, and was temporarily fitted with a makeshift ramp for experiments with naval aircraft until 1913.

Following the outbreak of World War I, the squadron was attached to the Channel Fleet before London was detached in March 1915 to participate in the Dardanelles Campaign, supporting ANZAC forces as they landed at Gaba Tepe and Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915. She remained in the Mediterranean, supporting the Italian Royal Navy in the Adriatic Sea until October 1916. Returning to the United Kingdom, she was inactive until being converted to a minelayer in early 1918, which entailed the removal of her main armament. She served with the Grand Fleet's 1st Minelaying Squadron until the end of the war. Placed in reserve in 1919, she was eventually broken up for scrap in 1920.

HMS Majestic (1895)

HMS Majestic was a Majestic-class pre-dreadnought battleship of the Royal Navy. Commissioned in 1895, she was the largest predreadnought launched at the time. She served with the Channel Fleet until 1904, following which she was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet. In 1907, she was part of the Home Fleet, firstly assigned to the Nore Division and then with the Devonport Division. From 1912, she was part of the 7th Battle Squadron.

When World War I broke out Majestic, together with the rest of the squadron, was attached to the Channel Fleet during the early stages of the war before being detached for escort duties with Canadian troop convoys. She then had spells as a guard ship at the Nore and the Humber. In early 1915, she was dispatched to the Mediterranean for service in the Dardanelles Campaign. She participated in bombardments of Turkish forts and supported the Allied landings at Gallipoli. On 27 May 1915, she was torpedoed by a U-boat at Cape Helles, sinking with the loss of 49 men.

HMS Mars (1896)

HMS Mars was a Royal Navy pre-dreadnought battleship of the Majestic class, the seventh member of a class of nine ships. The ship was laid down in the Laird Brothers shipyard in June 1894, she was launched in March 1896, and she was commissioned into the fleet in June 1897. She was armed with a main battery of four 12-inch (305 mm) guns and a secondary battery of twelve 6-inch (150 mm) guns. The ship had a top speed of 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph).

Mars served in the Channel Fleet after her commissioning, and in 1902 an accident with her forward main battery killed eleven men and badly damaged the turret. She was present at the Coronation Fleet Review for Edward VII later that year. She was reduced temporarily to the Reserve in March 1906 before returning to service with the Channel Fleet in October. The following March she was reassigned to the Home Fleet. As tensions in Europe rose dramatically in late July 1914, Mars was mobilized with her sister ships into the 9th Battle Squadron, based as a guard ship in the Humber. In December, she was transferred to the Dover Patrol, though in February 1915, she was decommissioned in Belfast and disarmed. Mars served as a troop ship during the Dardanelles Campaign before being converted into a depot ship. She remained in service until July 1920; the old ship was sold for scrap in May 1921 and broken up in November.

HMS Prince George (1895)

HMS Prince George was a Majestic-class pre-dreadnought battleship launched in 1895. She was named after the future George V of the United Kingdom and was the fourth and final ship to bear that name. Commissioned in 1896, she initially served with the Channel Fleet until 1904. She was involved in a collision with her sister ship, Hannibal, and the resulting damage meant that much of the latter part of 1903 was spent being repaired. After a refit in 1904, she was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet and then from 1907, she was part of the Home Fleet. In 1912, she was assigned to the 7th Battle Squadron.

When World War I broke out Prince George, together with the rest of the squadron, was attached to the Channel Fleet during the early stages of the war. In early 1915, she was dispatched to the Mediterranean for service in the Dardanelles Campaign. She participated in bombardments of Turkish forts and supported the Allied operations at Gallipoli, including the evacuation from the peninsula late in 1915. She spent the remainder of the war back in the United Kingdom, initially as an accommodation ship before being converted to a depot ship for destroyers in 1918 and stationed at Scapa Flow. For this latter role, she was renamed Victorious II before reverting to her original name in 1919. Decommissioned in 1920, she was sold for scrapping to a German company but sank off the Netherlands during transit to Germany.

HMS Resistance (1861)

HMS Resistance was the second of two Defence-class ironclads built for the Royal Navy in the 1860s. She was the first capital ship in the Royal Navy to be fitted with a ram and was given the nickname of Old Rammo. Resistance was initially assigned to the Channel Fleet upon commissioning, but was transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet in 1864, the first ironclad to be assigned to that fleet. She was rearmed in 1867 and became a guardship when recommissioned in 1869. The ship was reassigned to the Channel Fleet in 1873 before reverting to her former duties in 1877. Resistance was decommissioned in 1880 and was used for gunnery and torpedo trials beginning in 1885. The ship was sold for scrap in 1898 and foundered in 1899 en route to the breaker's yard. She was salvaged and later scrapped.

HMS Russell (1901)

HMS Russell was a Duncan-class pre-dreadnought battleship of the Royal Navy commissioned in 1903. Built to counter a group of fast Russian battleships, Russell and her sister ships were capable of steaming at 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph), making them the fastest battleships in the world. The Duncan-class battleships were armed with a main battery of four 12-inch (305 mm) guns and they were broadly similar to the London-class battleships, though of a slightly reduced displacement and thinner armour layout. As such, they reflected a development of the lighter second-class ships of the Canopus-class battleship. Russell was built between her keel laying in March 1899 and her completion in February 1903.

Russell served with the Mediterranean Fleet until 1904, at which time she was transferred to the Home Fleet; in 1905 the Home Fleet became the Channel Fleet. She moved to the Atlantic Fleet in early 1907 before returning to the Mediterranean Fleet in 1909. In another fleet reorganisation in 1912, the Mediterranean Fleet became part of the Home Fleet and it was later transferred to British waters. Russell served as the flagship of the 6th Battle Squadron from late 1913 until the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.

After the start of the war, Russell was assigned to the Grand Fleet and worked with the fleet's cruisers on the Northern Patrol, and in November, she bombarded German-occupied Zeebrugge. In November 1915 she was sent to the Mediterranean to support the Dardanelles Campaign, though she did not see extensive use there. On 27 April 1916 she was sailing off Malta when she struck two mines laid by a German U-boat. Most of her crew survived the sinking, though 125 men were killed.

HMS Temeraire (1798)

HMS Temeraire was a 98-gun second-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. Launched in 1798, she served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, mostly on blockades or convoy escort duties. She fought only one fleet action, the Battle of Trafalgar, but became so well known for her actions and her subsequent depictions in art and literature that she has been remembered as The Fighting Temeraire.

Built at Chatham Dockyard, Temeraire entered service on the Brest blockade with the Channel Fleet. Missions were tedious and seldom relieved by any action with the French fleet. The first incident of note came when several of her crew, hearing rumours they were to be sent to the West Indies at a time when peace with France seemed imminent, refused to obey orders. This act of mutiny eventually failed and a number of those responsible were tried and executed. Laid up during the Peace of Amiens, Temeraire returned to active service with the resumption of the wars with France, again serving with the Channel Fleet, and joined Horatio Nelson's blockade of the Franco-Spanish fleet in Cadiz in 1805. At the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October, the ship went into action immediately astern of Nelson's flagship, HMS Victory. During the battle Temeraire came to the rescue of the beleaguered Victory, and fought and captured two French ships, winning public renown in Britain.

After undergoing substantial repairs, Temeraire was employed blockading the French fleets and supporting British operations off the Spanish coasts. She went out to the Baltic in 1809, defending convoys against Danish gunboat attacks, and by 1810 was off the Spanish coast again, helping to defend Cadiz against a French army. Her last action was against the French off Toulon, when she came under fire from shore batteries. The ship returned to Britain in 1813 for repairs, but was laid up. She was converted to a prison ship and moored in the River Tamar until 1819. Further service brought her to Sheerness as a receiving ship, then a victualling depot, and finally a guard ship. The Admiralty ordered her to be sold in 1838, and she was towed up the Thames to be broken up.

This final voyage was depicted in a J. M. W. Turner oil painting greeted with critical acclaim, entitled The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up, 1838. The painting continues to be held in high regard and was voted Britain's favourite painting in 2005.

Hugh Palliser

Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser, 1st Baronet (26 February 1723 – 19 March 1796) was a Royal Navy officer. As captain of the 60-gun HMS Eagle he engaged and defeated the French 50-gun Duc d'Aquitain off Ushant in May 1757 during the Seven Years' War. He went on to serve as Commodore Governor of Newfoundland, then Comptroller of the Navy and then First Naval Lord. During the American Revolutionary War he came into a famous dispute with Augustus Keppel over his conduct as third-in-command of the Channel Fleet at the inconclusive Battle of Ushant in July 1778; the dispute led to Palliser being court-martialled, although he was subsequently acquitted. In retirement Palliser became Governor of Greenwich Hospital.

Majestic-class battleship

The Majestic class of nine pre-dreadnought battleships were built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1890s under the Spencer Programme, named after the First Lord of the Admiralty, John Poyntz Spencer. With nine units commissioned, they were the most numerous class of battleships in history. The nine ships, HMS Majestic, Caesar, Hannibal, Illustrious, Jupiter, Magnificent, Mars, Prince George, and Victorious, were built between 1894 and 1898 as part of a programme to strengthen the Royal Navy versus its two traditional rivals, France and Russia. This continued the naval re-armament initiatives begun by the Naval Defence Act 1889.

The Majestics introduced a number of significant improvements to British battleship design, including armoured gun shields for the barbette-mounted main battery guns. The ships were armed with a main battery of four BL 12-inch Mark VIII guns, the first large-calibre weapon in the Royal Navy to use smokeless propellant, which made it superior in almost all respects to earlier, larger guns. They were also the first British ships to incorporate Harvey armour, which allowed them to carry a much more comprehensive level of protection. The ships proved to be among the most successful designs of their day, and they were widely copied in foreign navies, including the Japanese Shikishima class and the battleship Mikasa, which were both modified versions of the Majestic design.

The nine ships served in a variety of roles throughout their careers. They primarily served in the Channel Fleet, though several took rotations in the Mediterranean Fleet, and Victorious served on the China Station in 1900–02. No longer frontline ships by the outbreak of World War I in July 1914, the vessels were used to protect the crossing of the British Expeditionary Force and various points on the British coast. In 1915, several of the ships were disarmed, their guns going to equip the Lord Clive-class monitors. The disarmed battleships were used as troop ships during the Dardanelles Campaign, and Prince George and Majestic were used to bombard enemy positions before Majestic was torpedoed by a German U-boat. The surviving ships were employed in secondary roles from 1915 onwards, and after the war, all were sold for scrapping in 1920–22. Only one, Prince George, avoided the breakers' yards by wrecking off Camperduin.

William Cornwallis

Admiral Sir William Cornwallis, (10 February 1744 – 5 July 1819) was a Royal Navy officer. He was the brother of Charles Cornwallis, the 1st Marquess Cornwallis, British commander at the siege of Yorktown. Cornwallis took part in a number of decisive battles including the Siege of Louisbourg in 1758, when he was 14, and the Battle of the Saintes but is best known as a friend of Lord Nelson and as the commander-in-chief of the Channel Fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. He is depicted in the Horatio Hornblower novel, Hornblower and the Hotspur.

His affectionate contemporary nickname from the ranks was Billy Blue and a sea shanty was written during his period of service, reflecting the admiration his men had for him.

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