This week’s postcard is of the ill fated King George V class dreadnought HMS Audacious:
HMS Audacious had been launched in 1912 and comissioned in 1913 and was one of the most advanced warships in the fleet when World War I broke out. She displaced 25,000 tons, was armed with ten 13.5 inch guns and carried a crew of 860.
On 27th October 1914 Audacious was part of the 2nd Battle Squadron that was ordered to carry out firing practice off Donegal. At about 8.45 in the morning the crew of Audacious felt a dull thud and the ship closed watertight doors and hatches as it became clear that someting had hit the battleship. Although initially thought to be a torpedo, it was actually a German mine. By 09:00 all water tight doors had been sealed, but it was becoming clear that the ship had been badly damaged. She left the fleet and headed for Lough Swilly at 9 knots, although electrical power soon failed. On examination it became apparent that the ship had been hit just forward of the aft engine room bulkhead and multiple compartments had been flooded. By 10.00 there was five feet of water in the engine room and by 11:00 all power was lost.
All non essential personnel were taken off and transferred to the Liverpool, a cruiser, and a number of destroyers that had come to help the stricken battleship. The SS Olympic then took the battleship in tow but as the helm of Audacious was not responsive this ended in the tow parting. Two further attempts were made to tow the ship and by 17:00 with it becoming dark, all but 50 volunteers were taken off Audacious. At 18.15 it was clear that she was a lost cause and all remaining crew were taken off. The ship finally rose up at the bows and turned turtle at 20.45. The hull remained afloat until 21:00 hours when an explosion tore the ship apart and she sank beneath the waves.
Happily no one was killed in the incident, but it was a huge embaressment to the Admiralty who suppressed any news of the loss to prevent the Germans taking advantage of the loss to the fleet- official acknowledgement only came on 14th November 1918.