Shonas Wrecks - HMS Empress of India

This page is an entry in Shonas Wreck Guide.

HMS Empress of India at anchor

HMS EMPRESS OF INDIA (Royal Sovereign Class battleship)

Type: Royal Sovereign class battleship
Builders: Chatham Dockyard - Chatham
Launched: 1891
Dim: 380ft x 75ft
Tonnage: 15,585gt
Engines: Steam Turbine x 4
Arm: four 13.5" guns, ten 6" broadside guns, sixteeen 6-pounder guns
Fate: Sunk on the 4th November 1913 as a target for gunnery practice towards the west side of Lyme Bay.


HMS Empress of India was a product of the Naval Defence act of March 1889 and followed the design of the Royal Sovereign Class of Battleship, with the same compartmentation, armour and armaments distribution.

During her active life, a young officer by the name of Robert Falcon Scott was appointed as a Torpedo Lieutenant. He served on her during the 1896/1897 period, although his appointment lasted for less than one year. This officer was later to become famous as an explorer, eventually sailing to the antarctic in the 'Discovery' and perishing there.

Scott of the Antarctic
Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912)

Before the outbreak of World War One, in November, 1913, the 'Empress' was towed to a position in the middle of Lyme Bay, Dorset, and used as a gunnery target. Apparently, non too successfully, as the first salvo hit her below the waterline, and she sank, turning turtle as she went down.

Stern view of HMS Empress of India in drydock

Today, the empress lies in approx 50m of water, 14 miles South of Westbay in Dorset. She lies totally upside-down with her massive flat bottom looking like a bit of seabed at 33m. She lies with he bow pointing to the South, and he stern to the North. She is buried into the soft mud to the level of her broadside guns which can still be seen poking out of the gunports ready for action. At her stern some savlage work is evident, but the remains of the stern forms a massive overhang which is easy to swim under in poor vis. Her massive propellor shafts and 'A' frames make an interesting feature on the ascent, although her props are long gone.