HMS Royal Oak (1892)

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Royal Oak in 1897
HMS Royal Oak in 1897.
Career (United Kingdom) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Royal Oak
Namesake: The Royal Oak
Builder: Cammell Laird, Birkenhead
Cost: £977,996
Laid down: 29 May 1890
Launched: 5 November 1892
Completed: June 1894
Commissioned: 14 January 1896
Decommissioned: December 1911
Nickname: The Royal Sovereign-class battleships were nicknamed the "Rolling Ressies"[1]
Fate: Sold for scrapping 14 January 1914
General characteristics
Displacement: 14,190 t; 15,580 t full load
Length: 410 ft 5 in (125.10 m) oa
Beam: 75 ft (23 m)
Draught: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
Propulsion: Twin coal-fired Humphreys & Tennant 3-cylinder triple-expansion steam engines, two screws; 9000ihp
Speed: 15.7 knots max
Complement: 712

4 × BL 13.5-inch (342.9 mm) guns
10 × QF 6-inch (152.4 mm) guns (10 × 1)
10 × 6 pdr (10 × 1)
12 × 3 pdr (12 × 1)

6 × 18 in Torpedo Tubes (4 above water, 2 underwater)
Armour: Belt 18 in (457 mm) compound
Deck 3 in (76 mm)
Turret 17 in (432 mm)

HMS Royal Oak was a pre-dreadnought Royal Navy battleship of the seven-ship Royal Sovereign class.

Technical Characteristics

Royal Oak was ordered under the Naval Defence Act Programme of 7 March 1889[2] and built by Cammell Laird at Birkenhead at a cost of £977,996. She was launched on 5 November 1892. She arrived at Portsmouth on 29 October 1893 for fitting out for trials and completed trials in June 1894.[2]

Royal Oak was the only ship of the Royal Sovereign class not fitted with steam pipes abaft her funnels.[3] She displaced 14,150 tons and was 380 feet (115.8 m)long with a beam of 75 feet (22.9 m) and a draught of 27 feet 6 inches (8.4 m). She produced 13,000 horsepower (9,700 kW) and could make 18.2 knots (33.7 km/h). At full strength she carried a compliment of over seven hundred.

At the time of their completion, she and her sisters were perhaps the best all round battleships in the world. Their greater freeboard enhanced their seagoing capabilities, enabling them to engage the enemy in rougher seas than previous designs, an important consideration in the North Sea and North Atlantic; however, they tended to roll heavily in certain conditions, and after HMS Resolution rolled badly in heavy seas in 1893 they were nicknamed the "Rolling Ressies," which stuck even though the problem was quickly corrected by the fitting of bilge keels. The ships were also faster and better armoured than their predecessors and carried a potent secondary armament but these features inevitably increased their weight, with previous battleships seldom topping 10,000 tonnes. [2]

Her main armament consisted of four 13.5-inch (343-mm) guns in two barbettes with a secondary set of ten 6-inch (152-mm) guns. She also sported an array of smaller guns and seven 18-inch (457-mm) torpedo tubes. She had a partial belt of 18-inch- (457-mm-) thick steel.

Operational history

Royal Oak commissioned on 14 January 1896 for service in the Particular Service Squadron, which was soon renamed the Flying Squadron. When the squadron disbanded on 25 November 1896, she was reduced to Fleet Reserve at Portsmouth.[2]

She recommissioned at Portsmouth on 9 March 1897 for service in the Mediterranean Fleet, where she was to relieve battleship HMS Collingwood. She departed Portsmouth on 24 March 1897, and arrived at Malta on 5 April 1897. On 31 March 1899, she recommissioned at Malta for further Mediterranean Fleet service. On 7 June 1902, Royal Oak paid off and was relieved by battleship HMS Bulwark.[2]

Royal Oak departed the Mediterranean, arriving at Portsmouth on 6 June 1902.[4] She soon moved to Chatham for a refit.[2]

On 16 February 1903, Royal Oak commissioned at Portsmouth for service in the Home Fleet. She relieved battleship HMS Nile and received Nile's nucleus crew. In the summer of 1903, she participated in combined exercises in the Atlantic involving the Home Fleet, Channel Fleet, Mediterranean Fleet, and Cruiser Squadron.[5]

In April 1904, while operating with the Home Fleet off the Scilly Isles, Royal Oak and her sister ship HMS Revenge struck a sunken wreck and suffered bottom damage. On 9 May 1904, Royal Oak became flagship of the Home Fleet's second-in-command, relieving her sister ship HMS Empress of India in that role. Royal Oak took part in annual maneuvers in July and August 1904.[6]

On 7 March 1905, Royal Oak paid off at Portsmouth into the Chatham Reserve, and her crew transferred to battleship HMS Caesar. On 8 March 1905, Royal Oak recommissioned with a nucleus crew for service in the Sheerness-Chatham Division of the Fleet in Commission in Reserve at Home. While she was under refit at Chatham, an explosion on board Royal Oak killed one workman and injured three others on 11 May 1905.[6]

In July 1905, Royal Oak participated in Reserve Fleet manoeuvres. These completed, she transferred her crew to battleship HMS Ocean, then recommissioned with a new nucleus crew to serve as an emergency reserve ship at Chatham.[6]

As a unit of the First Division of the Blue Fleet, Royal Oak took part in annual maneuvers off the coast of Portugal and in the eastern Atlantic from 12 June 1906 to 2 July 1906. On 1 January 1907, she recommissioned in reserve at Devonport with a nucleus crew.[6]

In April 1909 Royal Oak and the other reserve ships with nucleus crews at Devonport were formed into the 4th Division of the Home Fleet. In June 1911 she relieved her sister ship HMS Ramillies as Parent Ship of the division, and was in turn relieved of this duty by her sister ship HMS Empress of India in November 1911.[6]

Impressive as they were upon their completion, ships such as Royal Oak were entirely outclassed by the new dreadnoughts that began to appear in 1906. Royal Oak paid off into Material Reserve in December 1911. She was towed to the Motherbank by battleship HMS Bellerophon in August 1912 and was sold for scrap on 14 January 1914.[2]

During her career, Royal Oak was commanded by Captain Burges Watson among others.


  1. Burt, p. 66
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Burt, p. 81
  3. HMS Royal Oak
  4. Burt, p. 81. Note that this date must be in error, as it would require Royal Oak to arrive in Portsmouth the day before she was relieved in the Mediterranean. A possible correct date could be 16 June 1902.
  5. Burt, p. 81-82
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Burt, p. 82


  • Burt, R.A. British Battleships 1889-1904. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1988. ISBN 0870210610.

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