HMS Albemarle (1901)

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HMS Albemarle
Career (United Kingdom) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Albemarle
Namesake: George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle.
Builder: Chatham Dockyard
Cost: £1,078,395[1]
Laid down: 8 January 1900
Launched: 5 March 1901
Completed: November 1903
Commissioned: 12 November 1903
Decommissioned: April 1919
Nickname: The Duncan-class battleships were informally called "The Admirals"[1]
Fate: Sold for scrapping 19 November 1919; scrapped 1920
Notes: Became accommodation ship in reserve 1917
General characteristics
Class and type: Duncan class
Type: Predreadnought battleship
Displacement: 13,270 to 13,745 tons load
14,900 to 15,200 tons deep[2]
Length: 432 ft (132 m)
Beam: 75 ft 6 in (23.01 m)
Draught: 25 ft 9 in (7.85 m)
Installed power: 18,000 ihp
Propulsion: 24 Belleville water tube boilers
4-cylinder triple expansion
2 shafts[2]
Speed: 19 knots (35 km/h)
Range: 7,000 nautical miles (12,964 km) at 10 knots (18.5 km/h)
Complement: 720

4 × BL 12-inch (304.8 mm) 40-caliber Mk IX guns[3]
12 × BL 6-inch (152-mm) 45-caliber Mk VII guns[4]
10 × 12-pounder guns
6 x 3-pounder guns
2 x machine guns

4 × 18-inch (450-mm) torpedo tubes (submerged)[2]
Armour: Belt: 7 in (178 mm)
Bulkheads: 11 in-7 in (279 mm-178 mm)
Decks: 2 in- 1 in (51 mm-25.4mm)
Gun houses: 10 in-8 in (254 mm-203 mm)
Barbettes: 11 in-4 in (279 mm-102 mm)
Casemates: 6 in (152 mm)
Conning tower: 12 in (356 mm) [2]

HMS Albemarle was a pre-Dreadnought Duncan-class battleship of the Royal Navy, named after George Monck, 1st Duke of Albemarle.

Technical Description

HMS Albemarle was laid down on 8 January 1900 [2] at Chatham Dockyard, launched on 5 March 1901, and completed in November 1903.[1]

Albemarle and her five sisters of the Duncan-class were ordered in response to large French and Russian building programs,[2] including an emphasis on fast battleships in the Russian program;[5] they were designed as smaller, more lightly armored, and faster versions of the preceding Formidable class.[2] As it turned out, the Russian ships were not as heavily armed as initially feared, and the Duncans proved to be quite superior in their balance of speed, firepower, and protection.[5] Although they were designed before the ships of the London subclass of the Formidable class, the first two Londons were laid down before the first Duncan.[2]

Armor layout was similar to that of London, with reduced thickness in the barbettes and belt.[2]

Albemarle and her sisters had machinery of 3,000 more indicated horsepower than the Formidables and Londons and were the first British battleships with 4-cylinder triple-expansion engines. They also had a modified hull form to improve speed. Albemarle and her sister ships had a reputation as good steamers, with a designed speed of 19 knots (35 km/h) and an operational speed of 18 knots (33 km/h),[2] good steering at all speeds, and an easy roll. They were the fastest battleships in the Royal Navy when completed, and the fastest predreadnoughts ever built other than the Swiftsure-class HMS Swiftsure and HMS Triumph.[6] Albemarle herself was viewed as the best steamer under service conditions among the Duncans.[2]

Albemarle and her sisters had the same armament as and a smaller displacement than the Formidables and Londons.[2]

Like all predreadnoughts, Albemarle was outclassed by the dreadnought battleships that began to appear in 1906, but she nonetheless continued to perform front-line duties up through the early part of World War I.

Operational history

HMS Albemarle commissioned at Chatham Dockyard on 12 November 1903 for service as Flag extra, Rear Admiral, in the Mediterranean Fleet. In February 1905 she transferred to the Channel Fleet to serve as 2nd Flagship. She transferred to the Atlantic Fleet on 31 January 1907, serving as 2nd Flagship there as well. She collided with battleship HMS Commonwealth on 11 February 1907, suffering minor bow damage.[7] She became Flagship, Rear Admiral, at Gibraltar in January 1909[8] and underwent a refit at Malta from May through August 1909. Her Atlantic Fleet service ended in February 1910.[7]

On 25 February 1910, Albemarle recommissioned for service in the 3rd Division, Home Fleet, at Portsmouth. She paid off at Portsmouth Dockyard for a refit on 30 October 1911; the refit lasted from January to December 1912.[7]

Her refit complete, Albemarle recommissioned at Portsmouth to serve in the 4th Battle Squadron in the First Fleet there. On 15 May 1913, was reduced to a nucleus crew and assigned to the 6th Battle Squadron, Second Fleet, to serve as a gunnery training ship.[7]

When World War I began in August 1914, plans originally called for Albemarle and battleships Agamemnon, Cornwallis, Duncan, Exmouth, Russell, and Vengeance to form the 6th Battle Squadron and serve in the Channel Fleet, where it was to patrol the English Channel and cover the movement of the British Expeditionary Force to France. However, plans also existed for the 6th Battle Squadron to be assigned to the Grand Fleet, and, when the war began, the Commander-in-Chief, Grand Fleet, Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, requested that Albemarle and her four surviving sister ships of the Duncan class (Cornwallis, Duncan, Exmouth, and Russell) be assigned to the 3rd Battle Squadron in the Grand Fleet for patrol duties to make up for the Grand Fleet's shortage of cruisers. Accordingly, the 6th Battle Squadron was abolished temporarily, and Albemarle joined the 3rd Battle Squadron at Scapa Flow on 8 August 1914, and worked with Grand Fleet cruisers on the Northern Patrol.[9]

Albemarle and her four Duncan-class sisters, as well as the battleships of the King Edward VII class, temporarily were transferred to the Channel Fleet on 2 November 1914 to reinforce that fleet in the face of German Navy activity in the Channel Fleet's area. On 13 November 1914, the King Edward VII class ships returned to the Grand Fleet, but Albemarle and the other Duncans stayed in the Channel Fleet, where they reconstituted the 6th Battle Squadron on 14 November 1914. This squadron was given a mission of bombarding German submarine bases on the coast of Belgium, and was based at Portland, although it transferred to Dover immediately on 14 November 1914. However, due a lack of antisubmarine defenses at Dover, the squadron returned to Portland on 19 November 1914.[10]

The 6th Battle Squadron returned to Dover in December 1914, then transferred to Sheerness on 30 December 1914 to relieve the 5th Battle Squadron there in guarding against a German invasion of the United Kingdom.[11]

Between January and May 1915, the 6th Battle Squadron was dispersed. Albemarle left the squadron in April 1915 and rejoined the 3rd Battle Squadron in the Grand Fleet. She underwent a refit at Chatham Dockyard in October 1915.[10]

In November 1915, Albemarle was ordered to move to the Mediterranean with a division of the 3rd Battle Squadron that also included battleships Hibernia (the flagship), Zealandia, and Russell. The ships left Rosyth on 6 November 1915, but encountered extremely heavy weather that night in the Pentland Firth.[12] Albemarle, heavily loaded with spare ammunition,[8] suffered severe damage; her forebridge and the personnel on it were washed overboard and her conning tower and superstructure were badly damaged. She was forced to return for repairs; upon their completion in December 1915 she was ordered to rejoin the Grand Fleet, and thus became the only Duncan-class ship (other than Montagu, which had been wrecked before the war) with no wartime Mediterranean service.[10]

In January 1916, Albemarle was detached from the Grand Fleet to serve in North Russia at Murmansk as guard ship and as an icebreaker in the approaches to Arkhangelsk. At Murmansk, she also served as flagship of Senior Naval Officer, Murmansk.[13]

Albemarle returned to the United Kingdom in September 1916, paying off at Portsmouth to provide crews for antisubmarine vessels. She began a refit at Liverpool in October 1916, and upon its completion in March 1917 she went into reserve at Devonport Dockyard;[10] her main-deck casemate 6-inch (152-mm) guns were removed and replaced with four 6-inch (152-mm) guns on her battery deck between September 1916 and May 1917.[8] She was in reserve until April 1919, used as an overflow accommodation ship for the naval barracks at Devonport, and was attached to the Gunnery School in 1919.[10]

Albemarle was placed on the disposal list in April 1919 and on the sale list in August 1919. She was sold for scrapping to Cohen Shipbeaking Company on 19 November 1919 and arrived at Swansea for scrapping in April 1920.[10]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Burt 1988, p. 198.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860-1905 1979, p. 37.
  3. Tony DiGiulian, British 12"/40 (30.5 cm) Mark IX
  4. Tony DiGiulian, British 6"/45 (15.2 cm) BL Mark VII
  5. 5.0 5.1 Gibbons 1983, p. 159
  6. Burt 1988, p. 202
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Burt 1988, p. 211.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921 1985, p. 8.
  9. Burt 1988, pp. 211-212.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 Burt 1988, p. 212.
  11. Burt 1988, pp. 170, 212.
  12. Burt 1988, p. 212., but according to Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921 1985, p. 8., this damage occurred on 11 November 1915
  13. Burt 1988, p. 212.; Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906-1921 1985, p. 8.


  • Burt, R. A. British Battleships 1889-1904. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1988. ISBN 0870210610.
  • Chesneau, Roger, and Eugene M. Kolesnik, eds. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships, 1860-1905. New York: Mayflower Books, Inc., 1979. ISBN 0831703024.
  • Gibbons, Tony. The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers: A Technical Directory of All the World's Capital Ships From 1860 to the Present Day. London: Salamander Books Ltd., 1983.
  • Gray, Randal, Ed. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906-1921. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1985. ISBN 0870219073.