Saturday, 9 April 2011

H.M.S. Victoria's Dreadful Mistake.

HMS Victoria's Last Moments
In the year of 1893, naval command of the British Mediterranean fleet belonged to Vice Admiral Sir George Tryon - a strict and very disciplined man. In the June month of this year he was leading a squadron of ships in two columns off of Tripoli along the coast of Lebanon.

His fleet travelled in two columns cruising parallel to one another. Tryon was aboard his flagship H.M.S. Victoria and led the first column of six ships and his deputy, leading the second column of five ships, was Rear Admiral Albert Hastings Markham aboard H.M.S. Camperdown.


Tryon ordered a manoeuvre where upon both columns turned inwards and around at 180 degrees. A move that other officers thought brought the two columns dangerously close together. A couple of them carefully tried to point out the fact, but Tryon brusquely insisted upon his order being carried out.

In the second division of five ships, Markham held back flagging confirmation because he was unsure if he had received the correct order. However, he soon received, by semaphore, a rebuke 'What are you waiting for?' This was public and other members of his crew would have witnessed this.

Markham executed the order and H.M.S. Camperdown began the turn as H.M.S. Victoria also turned. Both the ironclads were heading towards each other on a collision course - each vessel needed more manoeuvrability to fall at way with each other on a parallel course in the opposite direction.

As each ship drew closer, other crewmen aboard Victoria and Camperdown expected Tryon to issue a last moment order but none came.

Markham's ship, HMS Camperdown had a ram that smashed into Victoria's hull - twelve feet below the waterline. The shear catastrophe of what had happened was still lost on many of HMS Victoria's crew. They began to assemble on the deck to await orders as the doomed ship began to take in water and list.

Tryon realised his dreadful mistake and finally gave the order for his crew to abandon ship. Those on deck went into the sea, but others trapped below were unable to get out of the sinking ship in time. Among the survivors that got off of the HMS Victoria was second in command John Jellicoe who would later be Commander in Chief at the battle of Jutland.

Vice Admiral Sir George Tryon realised that the entire disaster was his fault and could not leave his post knowing that many of his crew could not get off of HMS Victoria in time. He went down with his ship and was among the 358 crew that lost their lives in the tragedy at sea.

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