HMS Hibernia (1905)

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HMS Hibernia (1905).jpg
HMS Hibernia
United Kingdom
Name: HMS Hibernia
Namesake: Hibernia, the Roman name for Ireland
Ordered: 1903/04 Estimates
Builder: Devonport Dockyard
Cost: £1,438,690[1]
Laid down: 6 January 1904
Launched: 17 June 1905
Completed: December 1906
Commissioned: 2 January 1907
Decommissioned: October 1917
Nickname(s): The King Edward VII-class battleships were known as "The Wobbly Eight"
Fate: Sold for scrapping 8 November 1921
Notes: The first launch of an aeroplane from a warship underway was from Hibernia in 1912
General characteristics
Class and type: King Edward VII-class pre-dreadnought battleship
  • 16,350 tons (standard)
  • 17,500 tons (full load)
Length: 453 ft 6 in (138.23 m)
Beam: 78 ft (24 m)
Draught: 26 ft 9 in (8.15 m)
Installed power: 18,000 ihp (13 MW)
Propulsion: 12[2] coal-fired (with oil sprayers) Babcock & Wilcox water-tube and 3 cylindrical boilers, two 4-cylinder vertical compound expansion steam engines, two screws
Speed: 18.5 knots (34 km/h)
Range: 2,000 nautical miles (3,704 km) at 18.5 knots (34 km/h); 5,270 nautical miles (9,760 km) at 10 knots (18.5 km/h)
Complement: 777
  • Belt amidships: 9 inches tapering to 8 inches (203 mm)
  • Bulkheads: 12 inches (305 mm) to 8 inches (203 mm)
  • Barbettes: 12 inches (356 mm)
  • Main turrets (gunhouses): 12 inches (356 mm) to 8 inches (203 mm)
  • 9.2 inch (234 mm) turrets: 9 inches (229 mm) to 5 inches (127 mm)
  • 6 inch (152 mm) battery: 7 inches (178 mm)
  • Conning tower: 12 inches (305 mm)
  • Armoured deck: 2.5 inches (63.5 mm) to 1 inch (25.4 mm)
Notes: 2,164–2,238 tons coal maximum, 380 tons oil

HMS Hibernia was a King Edward VII-class pre-dreadnought battleship of Britain's Royal Navy. Like all ships of the class (apart from HMS King Edward VII) she was named after an important part of the British Empire, namely Ireland. Commissioned in early 1907, she served as the flagship of the Rear Admirals of firstly the Atlantic Fleet and then the Channel Fleet. When the latter fleet was reorganised to the Home Fleet, she was based at the Nore.

In 1912, Hibernia hosted trials in naval aviation with the temporary addition of a runway to her foredeck, and the first launch of an aircraft from a vessel underway was achieved from her in early May. Later in 1912, after her experiment with aviation was completed, she and her sister ships formed the 3rd Battle Squadron. The squadron was assigned to the Grand Fleet at the beginning of World War I, and served on the Northern Patrol. In 1915 she supported the Dardanelles Campaign and provided cover for the evacuation from the Gallipoli Peninsula. On returning to the United Kingdom she was again attached to the Grand Fleet before being transferred to Nore Command in May 1916, finishing the war as an accommodation ship. She was decommissioned in 1919 and scrapped in 1922.

Technical characteristics[edit]

HMS Hibernia was laid down at Devonport Dockyard on 6 January 1904, launched on 17 June 1905, and completed in December 1906. She was the last of the eight King Edward VII-class battleships to be completed.[4]

Although Hibernia and her seven sister ships of the King Edward VII class were a direct descendant of the Majestic class, they were also the first class to make a significant departure from the Majestic design, displacing about 1,000 tons more and mounting for the first time an intermediate battery of four 9.2-inch (234-mm) guns in addition to the standard outfit of 6-inch (152-mm) guns. The 9.2-inch was a quick-firing gun like the 6-inch, and its heavier shell made it a formidable weapon by the standards of the day when Hibernia and her sisters were designed; it was adopted out of concerns that British battleships were undergunned for their displacement and were becoming outgunned by foreign battleships that had begun to mount 8-inch (203-mm) intermediate batteries. The four 9.2-inch were mounted in single turrets abreast the foremast and mainmast, and Hibernia thus could bring two of them to bear on either broadside. Even then, Hibernia and her sisters were criticised for not having, a uniform secondary battery of 9.2-inch guns, something considered but rejected because of the length of time it would have taken to design the ships with such a radical revision of the secondary armament layout. In the end, it proved impossible to distinguish 12-inch and 9.2-inch shell splashes from one another, making fire control impractical for ships mounting both calibres, although Hibernia had fire-control platforms on her fore- and mainmasts rather than the fighting tops of earlier classes.[5]

Like all British battleships since the Majestic class, the King Edward VII-class ships had four 12-inch (305-mm) guns in two twin turrets (one forward and one aft), although the final three King Edwards, including Hibernia, mounted the Mark X 12-inch, a improvement on the Mark IX mounted by the first five King Edwards. Mounting of the 6-inch guns in casemates was abandoned in Hibernia and her sister ships, the 6-inch instead being placed in a central battery amidships protected by 7-inch (178-mm) armoured walls. Otherwise, Hibernia's armour was much as in the London-class battleships, although there were various differences in detail from the Londons.[5]

Hibernia and her sisters were the first British battleships with balanced rudders since the 1870s and were very manoeuvrable, with a tactical diameter of 340 yards (311 m) at 15 knots (27.75 km/h). However, they were difficult to keep on a straight course, and this characteristic led to them being nicknamed "the Wobbly Eight" during their 1914–1916 service in the Grand Fleet. They had a slightly faster roll than previous British battleship classes, but were good gun platforms, although very wet in bad weather.[5]

Primarily powered by coal, Hibernia had oil sprayers installed during her construction, as did all of her sisters except HMS New Zealand, the first time this had been done in British battleships. These allowed steam pressure to be rapidly increased, improving Hibernia's acceleration. The eight ships between them were given four different boiler installations for comparative purposes; Hibernia's outfit of boilers, reported as 12 Babcock & Wilcox and three cylindrical by some sources[5] and as 18 Babcock & Wilcox and three cylindrical by others,[1] allowed her to exceed her designed speed on trials.[5]

Hibernia was a powerful ship when she was designed, and completely fulfilled the goals set for her at that time. However, she was unlucky in that the years of her design and construction were ones of revolutionary advancement in naval guns, fire control, armour, and propulsion. She joined the fleet at the beginning of 1907, but already had been made obsolete by the commissioning of the revolutionary battleship HMS Dreadnought at the end of 1906, and large numbers of the new dreadnought battleships would commission in succeeding years. By 1914, Hibernia and her King Edward VII-class sisters were, like all predreadnoughts, so outclassed that they spent much of their 1914–1916 Grand Fleet service steaming at the heads of divisions of the far more valuable dreadnoughts, protecting the dreadnoughts from naval mines by being the first battleships to either sight or strike them.[6]

Operational history[edit]

Early career[edit]

Hibernia with Commander Charles Samson's Short Improved S.27 aircraft perched on her foredeck runway.
Commander Charles Samson on his historic takeoff from Hibernia underway on 4 May 1912 in a Short Improved S.27 biplane.

HMS Hibernia commissioned on 2 January 1907 at Devonport Dockyard for service as flagship of the Rear-Admiral, Atlantic Fleet. She transferred to the Channel Fleet for service as Flagship, Rear-Admiral on 27 February 1907.[7] During this period, William Boyle, 12th Earl of Cork, served as her executive officer. In January 1909 she became Flagship, Vice-Admiral commanding.[8] Under a fleet reorganisation on 24 March 1909, the Channel Fleet became the 2nd Division, Home Fleet, and Hibernia became a Home Fleet unit in that division. On 14 July 1910 she was rammed by the barque Loch Trool just after Loch Trool had collided with battleship Britannia, but suffered no noteworthy damage. In January 1912, she was relieved in the Second Division by battleship Orion and was reduced to a nucleus crew in the Third Division at the Nore.[7]

In January 1912, aviation experiments began at Sheerness aboard the battleship Africa, during which the first British launch of an aeroplane – the Short Improved S.27 biplane "S.38" (or "RNAS No. 2")[9] flown by Commander Charles Samson – from a ship took place. Africa transferred her flying-off equipment, including a runway constructed over her foredeck above her forward 12-inch (305-mm) turret and stretching from her bridge to her bows, to Hibernia in May 1912, and Hibernia hosted further experiments. Among these was the first launch of an aeroplane from a warship underway; Commander Samson, again flying "S.38," became the first man to take off from a ship which was underway – sources differ on whether the date of the flight was 2 May,[7] 4 May,[10] or 9 May 1912[9] – by launching from Hibernia while Hibernia steamed at 10.5 knots (19 km/h) at the Royal Fleet Review in Weymouth Bay, England. During the fleet review, King George V witnessed a number of flights at Portland over a period of four days. Hibernia then transferred her aviation equipment to battleship London.[7] Based on the experiments, the Royal Navy concluded that aircraft were useful aboard ship for spotting and other purposes, but that interference with the firing of guns caused by the runway built over the foredeck and the danger and impracticality of recovering seaplanes that alighted in the water in anything but calm weather more than offset the desirability of having aeroplanes aboard. However, shipboard naval aviation had begun in the Royal Navy, and would become a major part of fleet operations by 1917.[11]

Under a fleet reorganisation in May 1912, Hibernia and all seven of her sisters of the King Edward VII class (Africa, Britannia, Commonwealth, Dominion, Hindustan, King Edward VII, and Zealandia) were assigned to form the 3rd Battle Squadron, assigned to the First Fleet, Home Fleet. Hibernia returned to full commission on 14 May 1912 for service as Second Flagship, Rear-Admiral, of the squadron.[12] The squadron was detached to the Mediterranean in November 1912 because of the First Balkan War (October 1912 – May 1913); it arrived at Malta on 27 November 1912 and subsequently participated in a blockade by an international force of Montenegro and in an occupation of Scutari. The squadron returned to the United Kingdom in 1913 and rejoined the Home Fleet on 27 June 1913[13]

World War I[edit]

Upon the outbreak of World War I, the 3rd Battle Squadron was assigned to the Grand Fleet and based at Rosyth. It was used to supplement the Grand Fleet's cruisers on the Northern Patrol, and Hibernia continued her service as Second Flagship of the squadron. On 2 November 1914, the squadron was detached to reinforce the Channel Fleet and was rebased at Portland. It returned to the Grand Fleet on 13 November 1914.[14]

Hibernia served in the Grand Fleet until November 1915.[7] During sweeps by the fleet, she and her sister ships often steamed at the heads of divisions of the far more valuable dreadnoughts, where they could protect the dreadnoughts by watching for mines or by being the first to strike them.[6]

In November 1915, a division of the 3rd Battle Squadron consisting of Hibernia (which served as flagship of the division commander, Rear-Admiral Sydney Fremantle) and battleships Zealandia, Russell, and Albemarle was detached for service in the Dardanelles Campaign. The ships departed Scapa Flow on 6 November 1915; Albemarle suffered heavy damage in a storm on the first night of the voyage and had to return for repairs,[7] assisted by Hibernia and accompanied by Zealandia.[15] Hibernia, Zealandia, and Russell then pressed on and arrived at the Dardanelles on 14 December 1915. Hibernia served as stand-by battleship at Kephalo and covered the evacuation of V and W Beaches at Cape Helles on 8 and 9 January 1916. Among those serving aboard her during this time was Augustus Agar, later V.C. and famous for exploits against the Bolsheviks and as captain of heavy cruiser Dorsetshire in World War II. Later in January, Hibernia was stationed at Milo in case she was needed to cover an evacuation of the French force at Salonika. Before the end of January, Russell relieved her as divisional flagship, and Hibernia returned to the United Kingdom, being reassigned to the Grand Fleet upon arrival at Devonport Dockyard on 5 February 1916. She underwent a refit there in February and March 1916 before rejoining the Grand Fleet.[7]

On 29 April 1916, the 3rd Battle Squadron was rebased at Sheerness, and on 3 May 1916 it was separated from the Grand Fleet, being transferred to the Nore Command. Hibernia remained there with the squadron until October 1917.[7]

In 1917 Hibernia's ten 6-inch (152-mm) guns were removed from their casemates because they were flooded in heavy seas and replaced with four 6-inch (152-mm) guns on the higher shelter deck.

Subsidiary duties[edit]

In October 1917, Hibernia left the 3rd Battle Squadron and paid off into the Nore Reserve at Chatham Dockyard, where she served as an overflow accommodation ship.

In September 1918, the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, Admiral David Beatty, called for a large target to be provided which would allow the battleships of the Grand Fleet, which had seen little action since the Battle of Jutland in 1916, realistic gunnery practice. To meet this requirement, it was suggested that Hibernia be converted to radio control and undergo other modifications so that she could assume duty as a target ship, but ultimately the predreadnought battleship HMS Agamemnon became available and was selected instead.[16]


In July 1919, Hibernia was placed on the disposal list at Chatham, and on 8 November 1921 she was sold for scrapping to Stanlee Shipbreaking Company of Dover. She was resold to Slough Trading Company in 1922, resold yet again to German scrappers, and towed to Germany for scrapping in November 1922.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Burt, p. 233
  2. ^ Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905, p. 38, although Burt, p. 233, says she had 18 Babcock & Wilcox
  3. ^ Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, p. 38, says there were only four of these torpedo tubes
  4. ^ Burt, p. 232
  5. ^ a b c d e Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905, p. 38
  6. ^ a b Burt, p. 235
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Burt, p. 257
  8. ^ Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 9
  9. ^ a b Thetford, p. 454.
  10. ^ Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 9.
  11. ^ Burt, p. 242
  12. ^ Burt, p. 257, although Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, p. 9, claims that she already was serving as flagship by 4 May 1912
  13. ^ Burt, p. 255
  14. ^ Burt, pp. 255, 257
  15. ^ Royal Navy Logbooks of the World War I Era: HMS ALBEMARLE - March 1915 to November 1916, 3rd BS, Grand Fleet, damaged in gale Nov 1915, North Russia (icebreaker) at
  16. ^ Burt, p. 295


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Gray, Randal, Ed. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1985. ISBN 0-87021-907-3.
  • Thetford, Owen. British Naval Aircraft Since 1912, Sixth Revised Edition. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1991. ISBN 1-55750-076-2.

External links[edit]