Naval warship design was rewritten with the arrival of HMS Dreadnought in 1906 for the British Royal Navy. This supremacy on the water continued into World War 1 (1914-1918) as the service remained one of the more potent fighting forces on the planet. Before entering into Total War, a slew of other vessels arrived to strengthen British firepower at sea and this included HMS Audacious.
HMS Audacious was a battleship of the King George V-class which numbered four-strong. She was the third behind HMS King George V and HMS Centurion and arrived before HMS Ajax. The vessels were adopted to replace the aging Orion-class battleships, another four-strong group that were built as "super-dreadnoughts".
Super-dreadnoughts represented an evolution of the dreadnought fighting types appearing no more than six years prior. The Orion-class marked the first super-dreadnoughts to enter service in the British Navy and a 2,000 increase in displacement marked the primary difference when compared to typical dreadnought warships of the period. Additionally, the ships carried 13.5" main gun batteries and all of the guns were arranged along centerline - offering a considerable broadside shot.
HMS Audacious was completed with a length of 598 feet, a beam of 89 feet and a draught of 28 feet. Displacement was 23,400 tons (long) and power served through 4 x Parsons turbines driving 4 x shafts under stern. Maximum speed in ideal conditions reached 21 knots. A typical crew complement numbered 900 men. Her armament suite was led by the primary battery made up of 10 x 13.5" Mk V series guns. This was supported by 16 x 4" BL Mk VII guns as well as 3 x 21" (533mm) torpedo tubes.
The ship was ordered in 1910 as part of the British shipbuilding program leading up to World War 1 and constructed by Cammell Laird Limited of Birkenhead, Merseyside. Her keel was laid down during March 1911 and she was launched on September 14th, 1912, formally commissioned in August of 1913. Audacious and Ajax were both given larger tripod masts form the start, King George V and Centurion revised from a pole-type foremast only later. While there were many similarities to the preceding Orion-class battleships, the King George V-class featured foremasts situated ahead of the foremost smoke funnel. Two smoke funnels were featured on the class' profile in all. The ten main guns were set across five primary turrets - two along the forecastle, one amidships and the remaining two towards the stern. This arrangement gave the first two and last two turrets relatively clear firing arcs when compared to the midships mounting - which had to contend with the forward and aft superstructures as well as the smoke funnels.
In terms of protection, armor on Audacious was kept in accordance with preceding British designs which focused more on speed and thus beams (widths) were constrained which weakened protection at the belt and hull against underwater threats such as torpedoes. Up to 12" protected the lower belt.
Her first service call came with assignment to the 2nd Battle Squadron in October of 1913 and it was in this position that she remained when World War 1 began in July of 1914. She then joined her sisters and several other warships for gunnery training off the Irish coast in October. It was here, on October 27th, 1914, that she caught a German naval mine under her hull which caused considerable flooding, forcing a list to port - made all the more perilous by high seas present. Her speed slowed to a crawl as only her starboard engine remained in play until flooding knocked out all propulsion. Her captain was under the suspicion that the warship had been attacked by an enemy submarine and took appropriate action - however, this caused her more powerful accompanying ships to keep their distance for fear of falling under the same threat.
Lesser warships and civilian-minded vessels came to her aid as the abandonment order was given. The ship, now emptied, rolled over and sunk - but not before her B-magazine caused an explosion, its debris killing a sailor aboard HMS Liverpool - rather amazingly the only recorded death of the entire event. The ship's loss was kept secret by the British government for as long as possible though the German's registered her fate as soon as November and updated their lists accordingly. Her loss was not officially revealed to the British public until November 14th, 1918 - after the war had ended for the Armistice was signed days prior on the 11th.
Her hulk still remains underwater to this day (2015).