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HMS Commonwealth in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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HMS Commonwealth

1st July 1914 HMS Commonwealth  

HMS Commonwealth

HMS Commonwealth was built at Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company at Govan. She was laid down on 17 June 1902, launched on 13 May 1903, and completed in March 1905.

HMS Commonwealth, was a King Edward VII-class battleship of the British 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 the Commonwealth of Australia. After commissioning in 1905, she served with the Atlantic Fleet until she was involved in a collision with HMS Albemarle in early 1907. While being repaired, she was transferred into what would become known as the Home Fleet. Following a reorganisation of the fleet in 1912, she, along with her King Edward VII-class sister ships formed the 3rd Battle Squadron, which served in the Mediterranean.

When World War I broke out, the 3rd Battle Squadron was assigned to the Grand Fleet, with Commonwealth conducting operations around Scotland and the North Sea as part of the Northern Patrol. In 1916, the squadron was detached to the Nore Command. In 1917, the Commonwealth was updated, the only ship of her class to receive technology equivalent to that of the dreadnoughts. She ended the war as a gunnery training ship, continuing in this role until February 1921, at which time she was decommissioned and disposed of.

Upon completion, HMS Commonwealth was delivered to Portsmouth Dockyard on 14 March 1905, where she was placed in reserve. She went into full commission on 9 May 1905 at Devonport Dockyard for service in the Atlantic Fleet. She collided with battleship HMS Albemarle near Lagos on 11 February 1907, sustaining hull and bulkhead damage. She began repairs at Devonport Dockyard later that month.

While under repair, Commonwealth transferred to the Channel Fleet in March 1907, recommissioning for actual service with that fleet on 28 May 1907 after completion of her repairs. She suffered another mishap in August 1907 when she ran aground. Under a fleet reorganization on 24 March 1909, the Channel Fleet became the 2nd Division, Home Fleet, and Commonwealth became a Home Fleet unit in that division. She underwent a refit at Devonport from October 1910 to June 1911.

Under a fleet reorganization in May 1912, Commonwealth and all seven of her sisters of the King Edward VII class (Africa, Britannia, Dominion, Hibernia, Hindustan, King Edward VII, and Zealandia) were assigned to form the 3rd Battle Squadron, assigned to the Home Fleet. 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 an occupation of Scutari. The squadron returned to the United Kingdom in 1913 and rejoined the Home Fleet on 27 June 1913

World War I

Upon the outbreak of World War I, the 3rd Battle Squadron was assigned to the Grand Fleet. It was used to supplement the Grand Fleet's cruisers on the Northern Patrol. 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.

Commonwealth served in the Grand Fleet until April 1916. She underwent a refit from December 1914 to February 1915. As of 1 July 1915, she was 2nd flagship of the 3rd Battle Squadron for the rest of the year. 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.

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. Commonwealth remained there with the squadron until August 1917.

Gunnery training ship

Commonwealth left the 3rd Battle Squadron in August 1917 and paid off to undergo an extensive refit at Portsmouth Dockyard, during which she became the only King Edward VII-class ship fitted with updated features common among dreadnoughts, including torpedo bulges, a tripod foremast, and a director and fire control system; she also had her 6-inch (152-mm) gun batteries removed and four 6-inch (152-mm) guns installed one deck higher. When her refit was completed in April 1918, she was in effect the most advanced predreadnought battleship in the world. She recommissioned on 16 April 1918 for service on the Northern Patrol, then transferred to the Grand Fleet on 21 August 1918, where she made full use of her updated equipment in service as a seagoing gunnery training ship based at Invergordon. The last seagoing British predreadnought still armed with her guns, she continued in this service after World War I ended, training crews in the use of all weapons used on the modern dreadnought battleships.


After three years of this service as a training ship, Commonwealth paid off in February 1921. She was placed on the disposal list at Portsmouth Dockyard in April 1921 and was sold to Slough Trading Company for scrapping on 18 November 1921. She then was resold to German scrappers and towed to Germany to be broken up.

John Doran

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