Learn about the famous Royal Naval Vessel the HMS Iron Duke

The HMS Iron Duke was a Royal Navy dreadnought battleship named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. Portsmouth Dockyard was the one who constructed the ship, and her keel was laid in January 1912.

It was launched 10 months later and commissioned into the Home Fleet as the fleet flagship in March 1914. On November 25, 1913, she conducted sea trials after finishing fitting-out work. After completing her trials, the ship was delivered to the Home Fleet in March 1914. She was Admiral Sir George Callaghan’s flagship in the Home Fleet.

Iron Duke in November 1913

HMS Iron Duke Construction

It was built by Portsmouth Dockyard. The construction started on January 12, 1912.


The four Iron Duke-class battleships were ordered in the 1911 construction program as a gradual improvement over the earlier King George V class. The main difference between the two designs was the replacement of a bigger battery in the newer vessels.

Iron Duke is 622 feet 9 inches long overall, with a beam of 90 feet and a draught of 29 feet 6 inches on average. She had a design displacement of 25,000 long tons and a maximum displacement of 29,560 long tons at full load. Her propulsion system included four Parsons steam turbines and eighteen Babcock & Wilcox boilers.

The engines produced 29,000 shaft horsepower and a peak speed of 21.25 kn. At a more economical 10 knots, her cruising radius was 7,800 nautical miles. She had a main battery of ten 13.5-inch guns and a top speed of 21.25 knots. 

Military weapons, equipment, armor and crew

Iron Duke used to have a crew of 995 officers and ratings, which increased to 1,022 throughout the war. Iron Duke was equipped with ten BL 13.5-inch Mk V naval cannons positioned in five twin gun turrets as its primary battery.

They were positioned in two super firing pairs, one front and one rear; the fifth turret was placed amidships, between both the funnels and the rear superstructure. A secondary battery of twelve BL 6-inch Mk VII guns offered close-range defense against torpedo boats.

A pair of QF 3-inch 20 cwt anti-aircraft guns and four 47 mm 3-pounder guns were also installed on the ship. Iron Duke was guarded by a main armored belt 12 inches thick over the ship’s ammunition storage, engine and boiler rooms, and lowered to 4 inches in the bow and stern.

Its deck was 2.5 inches thick in the center of the ship and 1 inch thick elsewhere. The main battery turret faces were 11 in thick, and the turrets were supported by barbettes that were 10 in thick.

HMS Iron Duke in World War I

The Home Fleet was reorganized as the Grand Fleet in August 1914, after the commencement of World War I; Iron Duke remained the fleet’s flagship, now under Admiral Sir John Jellicoe. The Grand Fleet performed a futile sweep in the southern half of the North Sea on the evening of November 22, 1914, with Iron Duke standing with the main body in support of Vice Admiral David Beatty’s 1st Battlecruiser Squadron. 

During the German raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby on 16 December 1914, Iron Duke and the majority of the fleet initially remained in port, however the 3rd Battle Squadron was ordered to support British forces stationed in the area.

Battle of Jutland 

Iron Duke was the 9th ship in the British line on the day of the fight, sailing with the 4th Battle Squadron. The afternoon combat was mostly fought by British and German battlecruiser units, but by 18:00, the Grand Fleet had arrived.

Two large-caliber shells landed near Iron Duke but did not do any damage. Fifteen minutes later, Iron Duke had drawn to effective shooting and engaged the dreadnought SMS König in assault. The first shot of the Iron Duke was missed, but the following three were on target; the ship’s armament recorded at least six strikes on the German battleship.

At 19:11, Iron Duke launched a secondary battery attack on the disabled cruiser and adjacent destroyers from a range of 9,000 to 10,000 yards. The Iron Duke’s troops reported to have sunk one of the ships and hit another, but they had completely missed their targets.

The High Seas Fleet disengaged after the German destroyer attack, and Iron Duke as well as the rest of the Grand Fleet saw no further action in the battle. Iron Duke returned at Scapa Flow about 11:30. Iron Duke had fired ninety rounds from her main battery and fifty shots from her secondary guns all throughout battle.

HMS Iron Duke in World War II

During WWII, she served as a base ship and a floating anti-aircraft station at Scapa Flow. Her secondary guns had been dismantled and utilized to defend the base’s coastline. Four Junkers Ju 88 medium bombers attacked Scapa Flow on October 17, 1939, and damaged Iron Duke with several bad encounters.

After a few attacks, the ship was rebuilt and returned to action as a harbor ship for the duration of the war, but she remained beached. Iron Duke was still beached in Scapa Flow when she was sold for dismantling to Metal Industries in March 1946.

Wrapping it up

The HMS Iron Duke was opened to the public and it was exhibited at t the National Armed Forces Day in Liverpool which ran from 24–25 June 2017. By far, the Iron Duke had seen numerous battles and remained a tough fighting ship throughout the war. 

Despite the fact that it had a lot of experience, they opted to sell and dismantle it. The ship’s bell is on exhibit at Winchester Cathedral. A few of the ship’s boards were utilized to make commemorative souvenirs, which were often accompanied by a plaque stating their origin.