“Damned nuisance missing cricket week” World War One at Sea Begins



Battleships of the Royal Navy’s Grand Fleet steaming in-line-ahead, Atlantic Ocean, circa 1914

(photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)



“Damned nuisance missing cricket week,” wrote one Royal Navy officer in his diary, upon hearing of the British Navy’s mobilization orders.


Battleship HMS Iron Duke

battleship HMS Iron Duke, Flagship of the Grand Fleet

Official Royal Navy information:

HMS Iron Duke, 1912

Crew: 995-1,022
Length: 189.8m (622ft)
Speed: 21 knots
Weapons: 10 x BL 13.5in Mk V guns in five turrets; 12x 6in Mk VII guns; 2 x QF 3in anti-aircraft guns; 4 x 3lb guns; 4 x 21in torpedo tubes
Sensors: Mk1 eyeball, Dreyer fire control table
Armour: 2.5in-12in thick
Decoys: none
Aircraft: none

From the official site of the Royal Navy:

“In action, the battleship looked to her five twin turrets of 13.5in guns to deal the enemy a mortal blow.In theory, Iron Duke’s gunners could hit a target 13 miles away.Propelled out of a 50ft barrel at nearly 2,500 feet per second (1,700 miles an hour, more than twice the speed of sound) each shell weighed 1,400lbs – designed either to pierce armour or cause carnage with high explosive.


For all the distance and destruction, however, the Iron Duke of Jutland relied on the aim of the gunnery officer and his Mk1 eyeball, assisted by a fire control table. There were no sensors, no radar, no laser targeting.

Across the Grand Fleet, only one in 50 shells hit their targets during the battle.

Iron Duke’s gunnery was better than most. She fired 90 13.5in shells, mostly during an intense five-minute period when severe damage was inflicted upon the German battleship SMS König.”

above from the Royal Navy history of HMS Iron Duke


According to the Royal Navy, the ship takes its name from the 1st Duke of Wellington – the legendary ‘iron duke’ – who defeated Napoleon at Waterloo, among his many victories. The ship’s motto, Virtutis fortuna comes (fortune accompanies valour), is taken from the 33rd Regiment of Foot. In 1853, a year after his death, Queen Victoria ordered that the regiment’s title be changed to the 33rd (or The Duke of Wellington’s) Regiment.



Mobilizing the Royal Navy for war was ordered by the following signal:

Most Secret Naval Message of 4 August 1914 From Admiralty to senior Royal Navy Officers.

“Commence Hostilities Against Germany”


It was a ‘damned nuisance.’ Unfortunately, it would go on and on for a terrible four years, destroying much of Western Europe in the process.



Source of “damned nuisance” quote:

The Rules of the Game: Jutland and British Naval Command by Andrew Gordon.

This book was recommended to me by several people whose knowledge of naval history I have great respect for. I read it, twice, it was so fascinating and filled with information I did not know.

If you have an interest in the Royal Navy and how the culture of that navy in the 20th Century in both world wars came to be then I commend this book to you without reservation.

Other information is from the official site of the British Royal Navy.


Below, the latest ship of the Royal Navy named after the 1st Duke of Wellington. This is a type 23 frigate and remains on active service.


Frigate HMS Iron Duke

British frigate HMS Iron Duke at sea circa 2010

(official UK Ministry of Defence photo)


British frigate HMS Iron Duke at sea off the coast of Jersey

(official UK Ministry of Defence photo)

The seaboat of Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke comes alongside a speed boat suspected of smuggling drugs in the Caribbean. The vessel was boarded and searched and a large haul of contraband was seized. Royal Navy Frigate HMS Iron Duke seized approximately three-quarters of a tonne of cocaine possibly destined for the streets of Europe and the UK. The drugs, with an estimated UK wholesale value of over £33 million, were seized in a night time operation off the coast of South America. At street level the cocaine is heavily adulterated, substantially raising the criminal profits, therefore this seizure represents a serious financial loss to the drug barons and dealers throughout the chain. On patrol in the Caribbean, the Portsmouth-based warship HMS Iron Duke’s primary task is to reassure and assist the UK Overseas Territories during the hurricane season. As well as this core role, the Type 23 frigate conducts counter drugs operations as part of a multi-national task force
The seaboat of Type 23 frigate HMS Iron Duke comes alongside a speed boat suspected of smuggling drugs in the Caribbean.
The vessel was boarded and searched and a large haul of contraband was seized.

(official UK Ministry of Defence photo)


HMS Iron Duke alongside in Cape Town Victoria Waterfront August 2014

(official UK Ministry of Defence photo)

Published by

Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

Leave a Reply