Book Review – ‘’Formidable’: A true story of disaster and courage’ by Robert J. C. Mowat

By Robert J. C. Mowat, published November 2020


In the opening hours of 1915 the pre-Dreadnought battleship HMS Formidable was lost to torpedo attacks by the German submarine U-24 while off Portland Bill. A clear parallel to the loss of HMS Royal Oak 24 years later, it is of comparable significance. The sinking, however, has apparently not previously been the subject of specific scholarly study, but this book does much to remedy the deficiency, taking an unusual but significant approach to a story which has many heroes but few villains.

Little is said about the ship, which is not described in detail (either in service or as a wreck), although both her delayed completion (on account of labour disputes and insolvency among the contractors) and premature obsolescence (on account of the advent of true dreadnoughts) are noted.

It is apparent near the start that this book is less about the ship than about her officers and crew, with the happy result that it adds significantly to the published historical evidence for the contemporary use of reservists and reserve warships. The author follows two approaches: first, the specific study of named individuals, and second, the general perception of the loss as represented by funerals and memorials …

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Filed under: WW1 | English Channel | Twentieth Century
Subjects include: Battles & Tactics | Navies | Submarines

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