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HMS Bulwark belonged to a sub-class of the Formidable-class of pre-dreadnought battleships of the Royal Navy known as the London class. Entering service with the Royal Navy in 1902, she sailed with the Mediterranean Fleet until 1907. She then served with the Home Fleet, for a time under Captain Robert Falcon Scott. After a refit in 1912, she was assigned to the 5th Battle Squadron.
Following the outbreak of the First World War, Bulwark, along with the rest of the squadron was attached to the Channel Fleet, conducting patrols in the English Channel. On 26 November 1914, while anchored near Sheerness, she was destroyed by a large internal explosion with the loss of 736 men. Two of the 14 survivors died later in hospital. The explosion was likely to have been caused by the overheating of cordite charges that had been placed adjacent to a boiler room bulkhead.
1899 Refrigeration plant to be fitted on the ship
"ON Wednesday the first-class batttleship Bulwark was launched from Devonport Dockyard. She is one of three vessels known as the Venerable class. Her length between perpendiculars is 400ft., her extreme breadth is 75ft., her draught forward is 26ft. 3in., and aft 27ft. 3m., and when equipped for sea, her displacement will be 15,000 tons. She will have two complete sets of vertical engines, made by Hawthorn, Leslie, and Co., of Newcastle-on-Tyne. The cylinders are 32.5in., 51.5in., and 84in diameter, with a stroke of 51in. They will be placed in separate engine-rooms. Each set is to be capable of developing 7500-horse power, and the ship's speed, with full power, is to be 18 knots an hour, with 108 revolutions per minute. Steam is to be supplied by twenty Belleville boilers. Her armament will consist of four 12in. breech-loading guns in two barbettes, sixteen 12-pounder 12 cwt. quick-firing guns, six 3-pounder Hotchkiss quick-firing guns, one 12-pounder 8 cwt. boat gun, one 12-pounder 8 cwt. field gun, eight 0·45in. Maxim guns, and four submerged torpedo tubes. Her complement of officers and men will number 778. The Bulwark was commenced on March 20th last, and since then 5450 tons of material have been worked into the structure. This creates a launching time record and a weight record for the period under construction."
"We deeply regret to have to report that in the House of Commons yesterday Mr. Churchill announced that the battleship Bulwark blew up at Sheerness at 7.53 in the morning. The Vice and Rear Admiral who were present are convinced that it was an internal magazine explosion which rent the ship asunder. There was no great upheaval of water and the ship had entirely disappeared when the smoke had cleared away. An inquiry is to be held today, Friday. The complement of the vessel was normally 750 men; only twelve lives were saved. The Bulwark was a pro-Dreadnought battleship, completed in 1902. She carried four 12in. 40-calibre guns and twelve 6in. guns; had a 9in. belt amidships and a 6in. belt at the bow. Her sisters are the HMS London and HMS Venerable. Her displacement was 15,000 tons, her water line length 411ft., her beam 75ft., and her draught 29ft. Her speed was about 18 knots. She had twin screws driven by three-cylinder engines, and her boilers were of the Bellevilla type. She cost about one million pounds sterling to build. Although a crack ship of her time, her loss only removes from the Navy another obsolescent vessel, but it is none the less to be very deeply deplored, if only because of the great toll of valuable lives."
"IN connection with the loss of the battleship Bulwark, which blow up at Sheerness Harbour on the morning of November 26th, the following official finding of the Court of Inquiry appointed to inquire into the circumstances of the disaster has been circulated :-It is clear from the evidence which has been produced that the explosion which caused tho loss of the ship was due to an accidental ignition of ammunition on board the ship. There is no evidence to support a suggestion that the explosion was due either to treachery on board the ship or to an act of the enemy". From The Engineer 1914/12/18.