This Week in Maritime History

January 1, 1915
British Battleship Is Torpedoed by German Sub

Five Hundred and forty seven men were killed when the German submarine U-24 torpedoed the British HMS battleship FORMIDABLE (pictured) in the English Channel. The pre-dreadnaught battleship along with the other ships from the 5th Battle Squadron were conducting drills when the German sub attacked.

With the first torpedo, the FORMIDABLE began taking on water and severely listing, a second torpedo caused the vessel to capsize and quickly sink. She was the second British ship to be sunk by enemy fire during WWI.


January 3, 1945
Admiral Chester Nimitz Placed in Command of U.S. Naval Forces

Adm. Chester Nimitz was placed in command of all U.S. Naval forces in the Pacific Fleet (CinCPac) during WWII in preparation for attacks on Japan. Chester William Nimitz, a five-star admiral was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and served as chief of staff to the commander of the Atlantic submarine force during WWI. He and MacArthur, who one the same day was placed in command of ground forces, accepted surrender by Japan on September 2, 1945 onboard the USS MISSOURI.

Adm. Nimitz served as Chief of Naval Operations from 1945 to 1947 and was the United State’s last surviving Fleet Admiral.


January 9, 1861
STAR OF THE WEST Fired Upon by Cadets from The Citadel

As the union merchant steamship, STAR OF THE WEST, entered Charleston Harbor she was fired upon by cadets from The Citadel who were stationed on Morris Island. A warning shot fired across the bow of the ship caused the vessel to leave the harbor and abandon her mission to resupply Fort Sumter. The incident, occurring just before the start of the civil war are widely considered the first shots between the north and the south.


January 9, 1972
Former RMS QUEEN ELIZABETH Sinks After Onboard Fire

On January 8, 1972 a fire broke out onboard the ship, SEAWISE UNIVERSITY, formerly known as the RMS QUEEN ELIZABETH, in Hong Kong. After nearly two days of fighting the fire the ship capsized and sunk. No one was killed in the sinking.

The RMS QUEEN ELIZABETH was built in the mid 1930’s by John Brown and Company in Clydebank, Scotland for her England based owner Cunard Lines. At the time of her completion she was the largest passenger liner in the world. During WWII she was used to transport troops. In 1946 she finally began serving in her intended role, transporting passengers to and from Southampton to New York.

In 1968 she was sold to a Hong Kong businessman. It was during her conversion and refurbishment that she caught fire in Hong Kong harbor.