June 22, 1893: HMS Camperdown and HMS Victoria collide near Tripoli, Lebanon. Victoria was a Victoria-class battleship launched on April 9, 1887. She was 340 feet long and 70 feet wide at the beam. Her displacement was 11,200 tons. Camperdown was an Admiral-class battleship launched on November 24, 2885. She was 330 feet long and 68.5 feet wide at the beam. Her displacement was 10,800 tons. Both ships were operated by the British Royal Navy. The Admiral class was preceded by the Colossus class and replaced by the Victoria class. There were six ships in the Admiral class while there were only two of the Victoria class. Trafalgar class came next. All the ships were powered by steam engines.
The Royal Navy had a huge presence in the Mediterranean Sea during this period of time. It was a vital route for trade with India and Britain felt compelled to defend passage from against French and Italian fleets. On this day, with most of the fleet participating in annual summer exercises, there were 11 ironclads which included 8 battleships and 3 large cruisers near Tripoli. Vice-Admiral Sir George Tryon was in charge of the British Mediterranean Fleet. He was aboard the Victoria on this day. It was his belief that the best way to keep crews efficient was by continuous fleet evolutions. Since this was before the use of wireless communication, movements were signaled by flags, semaphore, and signal lamp. Tyron had earned a reputation for daring as well as being proficient at handling ships.
He was known for his use of a new system of maneuvers whereby only a few simple signals could be used for complex movement. The system needed all ship captains to use initiative, something blunted after years of peace. Tryon was known for being taciturn and used limited communication as a training method. This forced his captains to think quickly. Tryon and Victoria were at the head of one column of six ships and traveling at 8 knots. Rear-Admiral Albert Markham was in the lead ship of the second column, Camperdown. The two had broken with tradition and Markham had been apprised of Tryon’s intention of anchoring the fleet in close formation. While under discussion, others under Tryon’s command noted the close quarters were too close. He was not swayed.
As they practiced their maneuver, the two lead ships collided with Camperdown ramming the starboard side of the Victoria about 12 feet below the waterline and penetrating about 9 feet into the other ship. Camperdown reversed engines, which allowed more water to pour in. Two minutes after colliding the ships were separate again. This left a 100 square foot hole in the ship. The shore was five miles distant and Tyron headed toward it. Other ships launched rescue boats. Five minutes after the collision the bow had already sunk. Eight minutes later, water was lapping the main deck. Thirteen minutes after, the ship rotated to starboard and then slipped under the water. Rescue efforts managed to save 357 crew, but 358, including Tryon, died.
The Royal Navy of England hath ever been its greatest defense and ornament; it is its ancient and natural strength; the floating bulwark of the island. – William Blackstone
I’m a huge fan of the Navy. My father was a Naval historian, and I’ve been studying Naval battles forever. – Peter Berg
There were gentlemen and there were seamen in the navy of Charles the Second. But the seamen were not gentlemen; and the gentlemen were not seamen. – Thomas Babington Macaulay
The head of a ship however has not always an immediate relation to her name, at least in the British navy. – William Falconer
Also on this day: Deke – In 1844, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity was founded.
No Fun – In 1918, the worst circus train wreck took place.
Burn, Baby, Burn – In 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught fire.
Sweden – In 1906, Sweden adopted a new/old national flag.
In the House – In 1633, Galileo was put under house arrest.