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Museum at Home > The Formidable Boot

This boot was donated to the museum in 1938 by Mrs Gordon, who is reputed to have been the daughter or granddaughter of one of the Formidable survivors.

HMS Formidable was a battleship, originally launched in 1898, she served from 1908 and was considered to be one of the most powerful vessels in the British Navy.

On Thursday 31st December 1914, the Formidable was undertaking firing exercises off the south coast of Devon. Unknown to them, they had been spotted by a German U-boat and at 2.20am, New Year’s Day 1915, she was struck by a torpedo and immediately began to take on water, a second torpedo struck just after 3am, sealing Formidable’s fate.

Of the 780 strong crew only 233 survived. Some survivors were picked up at sea, 2 boats managed to row to shore, but many men died of exposure before they could be rescued. A pinnace, one of the ships lifeboats, was holed and badly damaged, the 71 men on board desperately bailed with boots, caps and even a blanket, anything that came to hand. This boat eventually came ashore on the beach at Lyme Regis after 22 hours at sea.

Of the 71 men who scrambled into lifeboat, only 48 survived. The survivors were taken to the Pilot Boat Inn and the dead were laid out in the cellar. The landlord’s dog, Lassie, came into the cellar and sat next to the body of a young seaman (W.S. Cowan) keeping him warm and licking his face. After sometime, the sailor remarkably revived, he was quickly taken to hospital and Lassie was duly applauded and awarded with a silver collar and a medal. The sinking of the Formidable was a shocking incident and lived long in the memories of Lyme people.

The boot is a heavy leather boot with a hobnailed leather sole with some additional iron studs. It is not a typical Royal Navy sea boot, it could be the boot of a Royal Marine soldier, or possibly a boot used by a coal trimmer, or even a workman’s or farmer’s boot. It is in fair condition, but there are no surviving markings – military, naval, maker’s, owner’s or sizing, nor any salty residue.

What do you think – could it be a boot from the Formidable?

For more information about the sinking of the Formidable: https://forgottenwrecks.maritimearchaeologytrust.org/wrecks-and-sites/explore-the-wrecks/articles/hms-formidable

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