Masquerade Battle Fleet

by Cliff McMullen (
(c) Cliff McMullen, 2001

During World War I the Royal Navy decided to convert a select number of merchant ships, particularly ocean liners, into imitation capital ships. Fourteen ships in total were selected for the task, each re-modelled individually with mock turrets, guns and other sham devices made of wood and canvas, and specially ballasted, to enable them to masquerade as the capital ships of the Grand Fleet. Just how successful these dummy battleships and battlecruisers were is not known. The objective behind the subterfuge was to confuse the enemy over fleet dispositions as well as to mislead them as to the actual total fleet strength. Only the Merion, disguised as the battlecruiser, HMS Tiger, was lost during the war, while in support of the Dardanelles Campaign, in the Aegean Sea by UB8 on 30 May 1915. Of the other thirteen, two were expended as blockships ( such as the Oruba as HMS Orion ) and the other eleven diverted to other duties by the beginning of 1916.

Source: Liners In Battledress by David Williams - Vanwell Publishing Ltd. c-1989.

Ships Involved :

City of Oxford ( Ellerman ) as HMS St. Vincent
Michigan ( Warren ) as HMS Collingwood
Montezuma ( Canadian Pacific ) as HMS Iron Duke
Ruthenia ( Canadian Pacific ) as HMS King George V
Tyrolia ( Canadian Pacific ) as HMS Centurian
Oruba ( Orient ) as HMS Orion
Mount Royal ( Canadian Pacific ) as HMS Marlborough
Montcalm ( Canadian Pacific ) as HMS Audacious
Princess ( ex- Kronprinzessin Cecilie ) as HMS Ajax ( Hamburg Amerika )
Perthshire ( Federal SN ) as HMS Vanguard
Cevic ( White Star ) as HMS Queen Mary
Manipur ( Brocklebank ) as HMS Indomitable
Patrician ( Harrison ) as HMS Invincible
Merion ( American ) as HMS Tiger
Last Updated: 24 December, 2001.
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