HMS Formidable

On 31st December 1914 [New Years Eve] HMS Formidable was in a line of a Fleet engaging in gunnery practice off the Devon coast, with of crew of 780 men. The seas were heavy and the water foul. Six battleships and two cruisers were sailing through Lyme Bay. HMS Formidable developed engine trouble and was the last in the line. Unknown to the Navy the fleet was being shadowed by a German submarine. At 02.20 am on 1 January 1915 a torpedo from U-24 struck the number one boiler port side. It was thought that HMS Formidable might be saved by reaching the coast but at 02.40 she started to list by 20 degrees to the starboard and Captain Noel Loxley gave the order to abandon ship. The darkness and bad weather meant getting into the life boats was difficult and some were thrown into the water upside down.

At about 3.05 am HMS Formidable was struck by a second torpedo on the starboard side. The sea was swelling to 30ft (9.1 m) and boats struggled to collect the men. One launch managed to pick up 80 men as the weather deteriorated further.

By 4.45 am HMS Formidable appeared to be about to capsize and a few minutes later the ship rolled over throwing many men into the water. In minutes the ship sank. Captain Loxley remained on the Bridge along with his fox terrier Bruce. They and 546 Officers and 780 men lost their lives.

The nation was in shock that the ship had sunk within home waters, with such a high loss of lives. Many families waited to hear about rescue vessels, but few were saved.

Men with Lewisham connections who died while serving on HMS Formidable:

Details of the sinking of HMS Formidable From Gordon Brown of the Old Bancroftian Society

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