Battle of May Island

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Submarines sink during fleet exercise in 1918

The Battle of May Island occurred off the Isle of May at the entrance to the Firth of Forth on the night of 31st January 1918. An 18 ship force of battleships, battle cruisers, heavy and light cruisers, and eight K class submarines, with a destroyer escort, made their way to a rendezvous in the North Sea with a much larger force from Scapa Flow in order to conduct fleet exercises. Since it was wartime, radio silence was absolute and every warship was totally blacked out except for a dimmed white light at the stern.

The cruiser, HMS Courageous, was in the lead. Astern of her was the light cruiser ‘Ithuriel', leading K11, K17, K14, K12 and K22. Behind the first flotilla of submarines came 4 huge battlecruisers with their destroyer screen, and then another light cruiser ‘HMS Fearless' leading four more submarines, K4, K3, K6 and K7. Bringing up the rear were three battleships with more destroyers.

HMS K14, K12 and K22 (RNSM)
HMS K14, K12 and K22 (RNSM)

Article Highlights

  • Introduction

  • The collision

  • Sinking of K17 and K4

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North Sea Campaign

The Baltic Campaign

Dardanelles Campaign


Developments in design

Battle of May Island

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