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

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HMS Monarch


HMS Monarch

HMS Monarch was an Orion-class battleship of the Royal Navy these were the first battleships in the Royal Navy to feature an all-big-gun armament on the centre line. HMS Monarch, was bult by Armstrong, Elswick, at a cost of £1,888,736. She was laid down on 1 April 1910, launched on 30 March 1911 and was commissioned in February 1912. She had a displacement of 22,000 long tons (22,000 t). Length: 581 ft (177 m), Beam: 88 ft 7 in (27.00 m), Draught: 24 ft 6 in (7.47 m) Propelled by 4 shafts, powered by steam turbines, fed by 18 boilers, giving 27,000 hp (20 MW) she had a top speed of 21 kn (39 km/h)Her Crew Complement was 750–1,100 officers and ratings. Armament consisted of 10 x BL 13.5-inch (342.9 mm) Mk V guns, 16 x BL 4-inch (101.6 mm) Mk VII guns and 3 x 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes (submerged). On her commissioning in Feb 1912, Monarch was the second of the Orion class to be completed, she was followed by the HMS Thunderer in June and HMS Conqueror in November of the same year, together they formed the second division of the 2nd Battle Squadron. Pre-war their lives were typical of any other major warship in the British fleet with fleet manoeuvres and battle practice.

Early in World War I, Monarch was unsuccessfully attacked by the German submarine U-15, on 8 August 1914 and off the Fair Isle channel, U-15, an early gasoline engined boat, was sighted on the surface by the cruiser HMS Birmingham, after Birmingham opened fire the submarine commenced diving, the cruiser then rammed the submarine which was lost with all 25 of her men, it was U-15's first and last patrol.

On 27 December 1914 Monarch rammed HMS Conqueror suffering moderate damage to her bow, she received temporary repairs at Scapa Flow before proceeding to Devonport for full repairs, she rejoined her sister-ships on 20 January 1915, HMS Conqueror was also seriously damaged in this collision. At the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916 all four of the Orion-class ships were present under the leadership of Rear Admiral Arthur Leveson flying his flag in the Orion; his CO was Captain O. Backhouse. Monarch was commanded by Captain G.H. Borret. Monarch's first action at Jutland came at 1833 when she sighted five German battleships, three König and two Kaiser-class ships. She opened with Armour Piercing Capped shells at the leading König-class ship, but could only fire two salvoes before the König ships disappeared. She then fired a further salvo at the leading Kaiser-class ship. Although claiming a ‘straddle’ on the leading König, she actually scored one hit on SMS König herself. This 13.5" shell hit the 6.75" casemate side armour in way of Number 1 port 5.9" gun, the shell burst on the armour blowing a hole some three by two feet in size. Most of the blast went downwards, blowing a ten foot square hole in the 1.5" thick armoured upper-deck; the deck was also driven down over a large area. Several charges for the 5.9" gun were ignited and burnt including those in the hoists to Number 14 magazine, but the fires did not penetrate the magazine. The crew of the gun had a lucky escape as an earlier nearby hit had forced them to evacuate the gun-house due to gas from the explosion and so no injuries were incurred. The gun however whilst largely undamaged had its sights and control cables destroyed. In 1914 Monarch sighted the German battlecruiser Lützow and opened on her with five salvos of Armour Piercing Capped shells at a range of 17,300 yards increasing to 18,500 yards; straddles were claimed but no hits before the target was lost in smoke and spray. There were five hits on the Lützow at this time and they could only have been fired by either the Orion or the Monarch. Lützow was in serious trouble and was only saved from further serious damage by the actions of her escorting destroyers in making smoke and shielding her from view. This was effectively the end of the battle for the Orion class as the German high seas fleet was in retreat to the south under cover of smoke and a torpedo attack by their destroyers which for a while had the British fleet turned away to the North to avoid the torpedoes. In total Monarch fired 53 rounds of 13.5" shell all of which were Armour Piercing Capped shells. Like the rest of her sister ships she did not use her 4" secondary batteries, and also like the rest of her sister ships she received no damage or injuries. After the Battle of Jutland the German High Seas put in very few appearances on the North sea so life for the British fleet became mainly sweeps and patrols of the North Sea.

As a result of the Washington Naval Convention she was decommissioned in 1921. On 14 June 1924, Monarch was assigned her final role, that of target ship. She was decommissioned and stripped of anything valuable including scrap metals at Portsmouth Dockyard. She was then towed out by dockyard tugs into Hurd's Deep in the English Channel approximately 50 miles (93 km) south of the Isles of Scilly and on 21 January 1925 was attacked by a wave of Royal Air Force bombers, which scored several hits; this was followed by the C-class light cruisers HMS Caledon, HMS Calliope, HMS Carysfort, and HMS Curacoa firing shells of 6-inch (152-mm) caliber, and the V and W-class destroyer HMS Vectis, using her guns of 4-inch (102-mm) calibre.

Following this exercise, the battlecruisers HMS Hood and HMS Repulse and the five Revenge-class battleships HMS Ramillies, HMS Resolution, HMS Revenge, HMS Royal Oak, and HMS Royal Sovereign commenced firing at her with their 15-inch (381-mm) guns. The number of hits on Monarch is unknown, but after nine hours of shelling she finally sank at 2200 after a final hit by Revenge.

John Doran

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