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HMS King Edward VII in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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- HMS King Edward VII during the Great War -


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HMS King Edward VII



   

HMS King Edward VII

HMS King Edward VII was laid down at Devonport Dockyard on 8 March 1902. She was launched by King Edward VII on 23 July 1903, and completed in February 1905. Named after King Edward VII, was the lead ship of her class of Royal Navy pre-dreadnought battleships. King Edward VII consented to having King Edward VII carry his name on the condition that she always serve as a flagship. The Royal Navy honoured this wish throughout her career. She was commissioned in 1905, and entered service with the Atlantic Fleet as Flagship, Commander-in-chief (by request of the King, she was always to serve as a Flagship). Rendered obsolete in 1906 with the commissioning of the revolutionary Dreadnought, she underwent a refit in 1907, following which she was assigned to the Channel Fleet and then to the Home Fleet. In 1912, she, together with her sister ships, formed the 3rd Battle Squadron.

At the outbreak of the Great War, the 3rd Battle Squadron was assigned to the Grand Fleet and based at Rosyth, with King Edward VII continuing her service as squadron flagship. The squadron 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. The squadron returned to the Grand Fleet on 13 November, although King Edward VII remained behind temporarily, not returning to the Grand Fleet until 30 November 1914.

King Edward VII served in the Grand Fleet until her loss in January 1916. During sweeps by the fleet, she and her sisters 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 6 January 1916, King Edward VII having transferred her flag temporarily departed Scapa Flow at 07:12 on a voyage around the northern coast of Scotland to Belfast, where she was scheduled to undergo a refit. At 1047, she struck a mine that had been laid by the German auxiliary cruiser SMS Mwe off Cape Wrath. The explosion occurred under the starboard engine room, and King Edward VII listed 8 to starboard. Her commanding officer Captain Maclachlan ordered her helm put over to starboard to close the coast and beach the ship if necessary, but the helm jammed hard to starboard and the engine rooms quickly flooded, stopping the engines. Counterflooding reduced her list to 5.

Signals to the passing collier Princess Melita induced her to close with King Edward VII and attempt to tow the battleship; soon, flotilla leader Kempfenfelt also arrived and joined the tow attempt. Towing began at 14:15, but King Edward VII settled deeper in the water and took on a 15 list in a rising sea and strong winds and proved unmanageable. Princess Melita's towline parted at 1440, after which Captain Maclachlan ordered Kempfenfelt to slip her tow as well. With flooding continuing and darkness approaching, Captain Maclachlan ordered King Edward VII abandoned. The destroyer Musketeer came alongside at 14:45, and she and destroyers Fortune and Marne, took off the crew with the loss of only one life (a man fell between the battleship and one of the rescue vessels), the last man off being Captain Maclachlan, who boarded destroyer Nessus at 16:10. Fortune, Marne, and Musketeer departed to take the battleship's crew to port, while Nessus stayed on the scene until 1720 with tugs that had arrived to assist. After Nessus departed, the tugs continued to stand by, and saw King Edward VII capsize at 2010 and sink around nine hours after the explosion.

At the time it was not clear whether King Edward VII had hit a naval mine or a been torpedoed. The presence of the minefield was determined from an examination of German records after the war.

Divers first visited the wreck of King Edward VII, in 377 feet (115 meters) of water, in April 1997.

John Doran


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HMS King Edward VII

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