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HMS Campania

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HMS Campania, pd wp
HMS Campania

HMS Campania was a World War I aircraft carrier lost during a storm off Burntisland in the Firth of forth in 1918, and now a designated wreck lying on the seabed approximately one mile south of the harbour.

The former Cunard liner RMS Campania was built in 1893, and acquired by the Admiralty in April 1915, converted into an aircraft carrier and commissioned HMS Campania in April 1916. Built with 5-cylinder triple expansion engines capable of producing 28,000 hp, Campania was capable of speeds of up to 22 knots. After conversion the ship mounted six 4.7-inch guns, one 3-inch anti-aircraft gun, was capaable of carrying ten aircraft - Sopwith Pup biplane fighters, and a complement of around 600 crew members. In 1916 the fore funnel was divided, permitting a longer flying-off deck of 160 feet to be installed at the bow.

The sinking

HMS Campania sinking, pd wp
HMS Campania sinking

On the morning of November 5, 1918, Campania was anchored off Burntisland, along with a number of other vessels, when a Force 10 gale developed quickly. The ship dragged anchor, colliding with the battleship HMS Royal Oak and scraping along the battlecruiser HMS Glorious. Campania's hull was breached, the engine room began to flood and the ship began to settle by the stern. Her crew was rescued with no loss of life. The boilers were reported to have exploded, and five hours after the initial damage the ship sank 27 metres to the seabed, broken into two parts. A Naval Board of Enquiry into the incident held Campania’s watch officer largely responsible for the loss, citing specifically the failure to drop a second anchor once the ship had started to drift.

The superstructure was reduced in height to prevent it becoming a hazard to shipping, and the wreck was designated as a site of historic importance in 2001, under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, making it an offence to dive the remains without a licence.

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