The Strange Story of Britain’s Phantom Battleship
The HMS Audacious sank in 1914 but kept on sailing throughout most of the War as a phantom ship.
The HMS Audacious was a British battleship. It was launched in 1913 and had seen only about a year of active service, when world war 1 began. As part of a plan to get the fleet ready for combat, the Audacious and several other ships sailed to a position off of the coast of Ireland to conduct gunnery practice. Unfortunately the ship struck a German sea mine and began taking on water.
The Audacious attempted to steam towards land in order to beach itself so that it could later be refloated and repaired, but water flooded the engine rooms and stopped the ship. Other warships were dispatched to tow the battleship to shore but they did not arrive in time.
The ship sank October 27, 1914. It never saw action. But that did not stop the HMS Audacious from continuing to sail the seas for most of the War.
The loss of this newly built battleship was considered such a blow to the navy, that the Admiralty decided to keep it secret in order to deceive the Germans about the navy’s strength. For most of the rest of the war, the Audacious was listed on official reports and charts as participating in fictitious maneuvers and missions. The truth about the sinking of the Audacious was not officially revealed until three years later, in 1917.
This photograph shows the battleship sinking. It was taken from the deck of the Olympic, Titanic’s sister ship. The Olympic was one of the ships dispatched to rescue survivors.