|Builders:||Cammel Laird; J & G Thomson, Clydebank; Chatham Dockyard; Pembroke Dockyard; Portsmouth Dockyard|
|Preceded by:||HMS Renown|
|Succeeded by:||Canopus class|
|Built:||March 1895 – April 1898|
|In commission:||December 1895 – November 1921|
|Displacement:||14,900 tons (16,000 tons) full load|
|Length:||413 ft (126 m)|
|Beam:||75 ft (23 m)|
|Draught:||27.5 ft (8.4 m)|
|Propulsion:||Water tube boilers, triple-expansion steam engines, 2 screws|
17 knots (31 km/h) (designed)|
17.6 knots (32.6 km/h)–18.7 knots (34.6 km/h) on trials
|Range:||4,700 nautical miles (8,700 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h)|
The Majestic class was a class of pre-dreadnought battleships, built under the Spencer Programme (named after the First Lord of the Admiralty, John Poyntz Spencer, 5th Earl Spencer) of 8 December 1893, that sought to counter the growing naval strength of France and the Russian Empire. With nine units commissioned, they were the largest class of battleships in history in terms of the number of member ships. This class was designed by Sir William White.
When the lead ship, Majestic, was launched in 1895, at 421 ft (128 m) long and with a full-load displacement of 16,000 tons, she was the largest battleship ever built at the time. The Majestics were considered good seaboats with an easy roll and good steamers, although they suffered from high fuel consumption. They began life as coal-burners, but HMS Mars in 1905–1906 became the first battleship converted to oil-burning, and the rest were similarly converted by 1907–1908. The class was the last to have side-by-side funnels, with successor battleship classes having funnels in a line.
Except for Caesar, Hannibal, and Illustrious, they had a new design in which the bridge was mounted around the base of the foremast behind the conning tower to prevent a battle-damaged bridge from collapsing around the tower. Although the earlier ships had pear-shaped barbettes and fixed loading positions for the main guns, Caesar and Illustrious had circular barbettes and all-around loading for their main guns, which established the pattern for future classes.
Although Harvey armour had been used on battleship HMS Renown of the Centurion class, in the Majestics it was used in an entire class of British battleships for the first time. It allowed equal protection with less cost in weight compared to previous types of armour, allowing the Majestic class to have a deeper and lighter belt than previous battleships without any loss in protection.
The Majestics were given a new gun, the 46-ton BL 12 inch (305 mm) Mk VIII /35 gun. They were the first new British battleships to mount a 12 inch main battery since the 1880s. The new gun was a significant improvement on the 13.5 inch (343 mm) gun which had been fitted on the Admiral and Royal Sovereign classes that preceded the Majestics, and was lighter. This saving in weight allowed the Majestic class to carry a secondary battery of twelve 6 inch (152 mm) 40-calibre guns, a larger secondary armament than in previous classes.
The Majestics were to be a benchmark for successor pre-dreadnoughts. While the preceding Royal Sovereign-class battleships had revolutionized and stabilised British battleship design by introducing the high-freeboard battleship with four main-battery guns in twin mountings in barbettes fore and aft, it was the Majestics that settled on the 12 inch (305 mm) main battery and began the practice of mounting armoured gunhouses over the barbettes; these gunhouses, although very different from the old-style, heavy, circular gun turrets that preceded them, would themselves become known as "turrets" and became the standard on warships worldwide.
More directly, the Majestic design itself also was adapted by the Imperial Japanese Navy for its own Shikishima-class pre-dreadnoughts, as well as Mikasa, which was largely based on the Shikishimas.
The Majestics served in home waters and the Mediterranean (and Victorious served briefly on the China Station) from their introduction in the 1890s until World War I began in August 1914. Like all pre-dreadnoughts, the Majestics were effectively made obsolete by the introduction of Dreadnought in 1906, and by the beginning of World War I, they were (with the exception of the Royal Sovereign class battleship HMS Revenge), the oldest and least effective battleships in service in the Royal Navy. Majestic and Prince George saw active service early in the war, Majestic bombarding German positions in Belgium in 1914 and both ships in action against Ottoman forts and shore batteries in the Dardanelles Campaign in 1915–1916, during which Majestic became the only ship of the class to be lost. The rest of the ships spent the early months or years of the war on guard ship duties before being disarmed for subsidiary service as troopships, depot ships, and ammunition ships during the war's later years and the immediate post-war period, although Caesar survived in battleship form as a guardship until 1918. All surviving ships were scrapped between 1919 and 1923.
Ships in class
Caesar served in the Channel Fleet in 1898, the Mediterranean Fleet 1898–1903, the Channel and Atlantic Fleets 1904–1907, and the Home Fleet 1907–1914. Her early World War I service was in the Channel Fleet August–December 1914, after which she served as guard ship at Gibraltar December 1914 – July 1915, as guard ship at Bermuda 1915–1918, and as a depot ship in the Mediterranean 1918–1919 and in the Black Sea in 1919–1920, where she supported Royal Navy forces operating against Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War. She was the last British pre-dreadnought to serve as a flagship, and the last one to serve overseas. She was sold for scrapping in 1921.
Hannibal served in the Channel Fleet and Atlantic Fleet 1898–1905, and in 1907, and in the Home Fleet 1907–1914. She served as a guard ship on the British coast and at Scapa Flow in 1914 and early 1915, then as a mostly disarmed troopship in the Dardanelles campaign in 1915, and finally as a depot ship in Egypt 1915–1919 before being scrapped in 1920.
Illustrious served in the Mediterranean Fleet 1898–1904, the Channel Fleet and Atlantic Fleet 1904–1908, and the Home Fleet 1908–1914. She served as guard ship along the British coast 1914–1915, then as a disarmed ammunition ship 1916–1919. She was scrapped in 1920.
Jupiter served in the Channel Fleet and Atlantic Fleet 1897–1908 and the Home Fleet 1908–1914. Her early World War I service was in the Channel Fleet in the autumn of 1914, then as a guard ship on the British coast. She served as an icebreaker at Arkhangelsk in the winter and spring of 1915, becoming the first ship ever to arrive there in winter. She served in the Mediterranean and Red Sea 1915–1916, then lingered in subsidiary duties in home waters while decommissioned before being scrapped in 1920.
Magnificent served in the Channel Fleet and Atlantic Fleet 1895–1906, then with the Home Fleet 1907–1914. Her early World War I service was as a guard ship along the British coast and at Scapa Flow in 1914–1915, after which she was mostly disarmed for use as a troopship in the Dardanelles campaign 1915–1916. She was laid up 1916–1918, after which she served in home waters as an ammunition ship from 1918 to 1921, when she was sold for scrapping.
Majestic served in the Channel Fleet and Atlantic Fleet 1895–1907, then in the Home Fleet 1907–1914. Her early World War I service was in the Channel Fleet August–November 1914, as a guard ship on the British coast November–December 1914, and in the Dover Patrol December 1914 – February 1915; during the latter service she bombarded German positions in Belgium. She served in the Dardanelles Campaign February–May 1915, seeing much service in action against Ottoman Turkish forts and shore batteries before being sunk on 27 May 1915 by the German submarine U-21 while stationed off Cape Helles with the loss of 40 of her crew.
Mars served in the Channel Fleet and Atlantic Fleet 1897–1907 (becoming the first battleship converted to burn fuel oil in 1905–1906) and served in the Home Fleet 1907–1914. She served as a guard ship on the British coast in 1914–1915, then as a mostly disarmed troopship in the Dardanelles campaign 1915–1916 and as a depot ship in home waters 1916–1920 before being sold for scrapping in 1921.
HMS Prince George
Prince George served in the Channel Fleet and Atlantic Fleet 1896–1907 and in the Home Fleet 1907–1914. After the outbreak of World War I, she served in the Channel Fleet August 1914 – February 1915, then in the Dardanelles Campaign in 1915–1916, where she engaged Ottoman shore batteries on several occasions and survived a dud torpedo hit. She was laid up in home waters 1916–1918, then served as a destroyer depot ship there 1918–1920, briefly being renamed Victorious II before reverting to her original name. She was sold for scrapping in 1921. During the voyage to the breakers yard in Germany, the ship was left by her two tugs, and dropped anchor near a Dutch light-ship. The anchors slipped in a storm and the Prince George was wrecked on the Dutch coast. The wreck still lies about fifty meters due west of breakwater number 24 at Camperduin. The battleship is still clearly visible from the shore as her superstructure protudes from the waves.
Victorious served in the Mediterranean Fleet 1897–1898 and 1900–1903, on the China Station 1898–1900, in the Channel Fleet and Atlantic Fleet 1904–1906, and the Home Fleet 1907–1914. She served as a guard ship on the British coast in 1914 and early 1915. She then served as a disarmed repair ship at Scapa Flow 1916–1920, after which she was renamed Indus II before being scrapped in 1923.
- Gibbons, p. 136
- Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 36
- Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 34
- Gibbons, p. 137
- Gibbons, p. 137; Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 35
- Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 221.
- Burt, pp. 134, 136; Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921, p. 7
- Burt, p. 132–133
- Burt, pp. 134, 136
- Burt, p. 134
- Burt, p. 131–132
- Burt, p. 130–131
- Burt, p. 133–134
- Burt, p. 133
- Burt, p. 136
- Burt, R. A. (1988). British Battleships 1889–1904. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-061-0.
- Chesneau, Roger; Kolesnik, Eugene M., eds (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. Greenwich, UK: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-8317-0302-4.
- Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Seaforth. ISBN 978-1-84832-100-7.
- Gibbons, Tony. The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers: A Technical Directory of All the World's Capital Ships From 1860 to the Present Day. London: Salamander Books Ltd., 1983.
- Gray, Randal, Ed. Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1985. ISBN 0-87021-907-3.
- Parkes, Oscar (1990 (reprint of the 1957 edition)). British Battleships. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-075-4.
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