HMS London Postcard

This week’s postcard is a lovely pre-WW1 image of the Battleship HMS London still in her Victorian naval colours rather than battleship grey:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (3)HMS London was a pre-dreadnought of the Formidable class and had been laid down in 1898, being completed in 1902. She displaced 15,000 tons and had a top speed of 18 knots. She was driven by two vertical triple expansion engines fed by water tube boilers. These vented through two central funnels:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (3) - CopyHer armament consisted of two twin 12” gun turrets, one fore and one aft:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (4) - CopyThese were supplemented by twelve 6” guns of secondary armament located in a belt along the side of the shipSKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (6) - CopyShe was still very Victorian in design and had two slender masts fitted:SKM_C284e18070313140 - Copy (5) - CopyHMS London commissioned at Portsmouth Dockyard on 7 June 1902 for service in the Mediterranean Fleet, She left Portsmouth in early July, stopping at Gibraltar, and arrived at Malta on 14 July. While in the Mediterranean, she underwent refits at Malta in 1902–1903 and 1906.

In March 1907, London transferred to the Nore Division, Home Fleet, at the Nore, then to the Channel Fleet on 2 June 1908, serving as Flagship, Rear Admiral, Channel Fleet. She underwent a refit at Chatham Dockyard in 1908, and paid off there on 19 April 1909 to undergo an extensive refit.

Her refit complete, London commissioned at Chatham on 8 February 1910 to serve as Second Flagship, Rear Admiral, Atlantic Fleet. Under the fleet reorganisation of 1 May 1912, she became part of the Second Home Fleet at the Nore, reduced to a nucleus crew and assigned to the 3rd Battle Squadron. She collided with the merchant steamer SS Don Benite on 11 May 1912. She transferred to the 5th Battle Squadron and was used in experiments with flying off aircraft from May 1912 until 1913, employing a ramp built over her forecastle which had been transferred from the battleship Hibernia.

Upon the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the 5th Battle Squadron was assigned to the Channel Fleet and based at Portland. Their first task was to escort the British Expeditionary Force across the English Channel. A number of experimental paint schemes were tried during the first month of the war but these were quickly abandoned in favour of battleship grey.

It was briefly planned to deploy the squadron to replace the ships lost during the Action of 22 September 1914 but the orders to transfer to the Medway were rescinded.

The squadron transferred to Sheerness on 14 November 1914 to guard against a possible German invasion. While there HMS London was present when HMS Bulwark exploded and London’s crew joined in the attempts to rescue survivors. The enquiry into the explosion was carried out aboard HMS London. The squadron returned to Portland on 30 December 1914.

On 19 March 1915, London was transferred to the Dardanelles for service in the Dardanelles Campaign. She joined the British Dardanelles Squadron at Lemnos on 23 March 1915, and supported the main landings at Gaba Tepe and Anzac Cove on 25 April 1915.

London, along with battleships HMS Implacable, HMS Queen, and HMS Prince of Wales, was transferred to the 2nd Detached Squadron, organised to reinforce the Italian Navy in the Adriatic Sea when Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary. She was based at Taranto, Italy, and underwent a refit at Gibraltar in October 1915 during her Adriatic service.

In October 1916, London returned to the United Kingdom, paid off at Devonport Dockyard to provide crews for antisubmarine vessels, and was laid up. While inactive, she underwent a refit in 1916–1917.

In February 1918, London moved to Rosyth and began conversion to a minelayer. The conversion included removal of all four of her 12-inch guns and her antitorpedo nets, replacement of her after main-battery turret with a 6-inch (152-mm) gun, and installation of minelaying equipment on her quarterdeck, including rails for 240 mines, and of a canvas screen to conceal the entire quarterdeck from external view. The conversion was completed in April 1918, and on 18 May 1918 London recommissioned at Rosyth for service in the Grand Fleet’s 1st Minelaying Squadron. Before the war ended on 11 November 1918, London had laid 2,640 mines in the Northern Mine Barrage.

In January 1919, London was reduced to reserve at Devonport as a depot ship. As part of a post-war fleet organisation, she was assigned to the 3rd Fleet there. London was placed on the disposal list at Devonport in January 1920, and on the sale list on 31 March 1920. She was sold for scrapping to Stanlee Shipbreaking Company on 4 June 1920. She was resold to Slough Trading Company, then again resold to a German firm. She was towed to Germany for scrapping in April 1922.

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