Majestic class battleships

Majestic class battleships

The Majestic class pre-dreadnoughts were the oldest British battleships to see active service at sea during the First World War (one example of the earlier Royal Sovereign class, HMS Revenge, was used as a coastal bombardment ship, but not as a battleship).

The nine strong Majestic class was the largest class of battleships ever build, one bigger than the eight-strong King Edward VII class of 1892-1907. It was built under the “Spencer Programme” of 1893, agreed by Parliament after the entire Board of Admiralty threatened to resign. The nine Majestic class ships were followed by another twenty very similar ships in the Canopus, Formidable, London and Duncan classes. In comparison the United States began work on six Iowa class battleships, completing only four of them (all of these figures are dwarfed by the twenty four members of the American Essex class of aircraft carriers, at 34,811 tons fully loaded each twice the size of a Majestic class ship!)

They were only the second large class of pre-dreadnoughts built for the Royal Navy. This type of battleship carried four main guns, in two twin turrets, one fore and one aft, with secondary and tertiary guns carried on the sides. Compared to the later dreadnoughts they often appear to be bulky ships, mostly due to the upper works required to carry that secondary armament.

The Majestic class were the first British battleships to feature the wire wound 12in guns that would become the standard armament on British battleships for twelve classes, before being replaced by 13.5in guns on the Orion class dreadnoughts of 1911-1912. These 12in guns replaced the earlier 13.5in guns used on the Royal Sovereign and earlier classes. The new guns fired lighter shells, but were generally faster firing and more accurate.

The Majestic class ships were the first British battleships to feature gun turrets as they would later be understood. Earlier “true” turrets effectively placed the guns on a turntable mounted on the deck and protected by armour. These turrets produced top-heavy ships with an unacceptable low freeboard, and were not a great success.

They were generally replaced by barbettes. In this system the turning mechanism was placed below the decks with the gun barrel mounted on the roof of the barbette. This system lowered the centre of gravity of the gun mechanism, but in early models the gun itself was unprotected (as on the Royal Sovereign class battleships). The next step was to provide armoured gun houses. On the Centurion class of battleships this had taken the form of an armoured shield, with an open back. Finally, on the Majestic class ships the gun house was entirely enclosed, producing a similar visual effect to the earlier turrets. Unsurprisingly these barbettes with armoured gun houses soon became known as turrets.

The Majestic class also featured a second important innovation in the development of the later turret. On the first seven ships of the class the barbette had been pear-shaped. The gun could be loaded from a fixed position in the tip of the pear, or from a limited supply of pre-prepared ammunition stored close to the gun. Once the pre-prepared ammunition was exhausted, the guns would have to be returned to their home position (pointing either fore or aft) before they could be reloaded, massively reducing the possible rate of fire.

On the last two members of this class (HMS Caesar and HMS Illustrious)the pear shaped barbette was replaced by a circular barbette combined with a new gun mounting that allowed the guns to be loaded from any position. This type of gun turret would become a standard feature on the vast majority of battleships built over the next sixty years. As a result the rate of fire was increased from a salve every 90 seconds in the Majestic to one every 72 seconds in Caesar.

Harvey steel was used for the armour, providing an increase in protection of around 15-20% on the nickel-steel armour used in previous ships.

All nine Majestic class battleships survived to see some active service during the First World War, in some cases have rather more interesting wars than their more illustrious dreadnought successors, most of which spent the entire war at Scapa Flow waiting for the next big battle. At the start of the war it had been planned to form the entire class into the 7th Battle Squadron, part of the Channel Fleet, but only two of the class ever served with that squadron, the rest being detached to perform other duties.

For most of the class that active career only lasted in 1915. Hannibal, Illustrious, Magnificent, Mars and Victorious began the war as guard ships, before all but Illustrious were disarmed in 1915 to provide 12in guns for the new Lord Clive class monitors. HMS Caesar was allocated to the 8th Battle Squadron in the Channel Fleet in August 1914, before spending 1915-1918 on the North American and West Indies station. In 1918 she was sent to the Mediterranean, and was part of the fleet sent through the Dardanelles at the end of the war. HMS Jupiter had a spell as a guard ship, before being sent to Archangel to act as an icebreaker, a role she was clearly well suited to perform – when she arrived at Archangel in February 1915 she set a record as the earliest ship to reach the ice-bound port.

HMS Majestic and HMS Prince George were both sent to the Dardanelles in early 1915 to act as “mine-bumpers” during the early naval operations. Majestic was the only member of the class to be lost in action. On 26 May 1915 she was selected as the flagship of Admiral Nicholson, and on the very next day was torpedoed by U-21, sinking in only 7 minutes, but with a surprisingly low loss of life. HMS Prince George survived to cover the evacuation of Gallipoli in early 1916 before being paid off to act as a support ship.

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

16kts natural draught
17kts forced draught


Armour – belt


- bulkheads


- barbettes


- gun houses


- casemates


- conning tower


- deck





Four 12in guns
Twelve 6in quick firing guns
Sixteen 12pdr quick firing guns
Twelve 2pdr quick firing guns
Five 18in torpedo tubes, four submerged

Crew complement







HMS Caesar
HMS Hannibal
HMS Illustrious
HMS Jupiter
HMS Majestic
HMS Magnificent
HMS Mars
HMS Prince George
HMS Victorious

Books on the First World War |Subject Index: First World War

WW1 British Battleships

Overview poster of British Capital Ships in WW1, including projects (light grey)

British Battleships of WW1 comprised three types of vessels: Dreadnoughts, 21 of them which made the meaty bulk of the Royal Navy, 12 Battlecruisers, and 51 pre-dreadnoughts. They were basically a deterrence force stockpiled in the firth of Forth to block any move in the Atlantic from the Kaiserliches Marine.
Battlecruisers were the cavalry, able to probe deep into the north sea or catch enemy battlecruisers, while pre-dreadnoughts were either in additional reserve in Scotland, or spread throughout the Empire, fighting in less contested theatres of operation such as the Mediterranean, Africa, the Falklands or the Indian Ocean and the Far east.

The Grand fleet at Scapa Flow

It should be recalled two facts:
1-The Royal Navy prior to 1914 still clung to a 70+ years old doctrine: Having twice as much firepower than the next two world’s best navies combined.
2-The opposing naval strength in 1914, with a small and trapped Austro-Hungarian Navy* and smaller Turkish Ottoman Navy soon trapped in the black sea, there was only the German Empire which was of some concern.
*Which in addition, thanks to a gentleman’s agreement between France and UK, left the Mediterranean to the French fleet.

This picture in the end should have left the bulk of this capital ship force logically placed where it should for any move of the Kaiser’s Hochseeflotte. But Hipper never really succeed in drawing these forces to a screen of torpedo carriers in ambush in order to reduce the Grand Fleet, before any decisive clash in the high sea. Instead, battlecruisers and lighter ships were nearly constantly in action whereas lumbering dreadnoughts made very few sorties during the war, with the exception of the battle of Jutland, which remained indecisive.

Spithead naval review of 1897

Built for prestige or necessity, both immense, modern battle-fleets of Albion and Germania almost never fought. And both played their deterrence role to the full until the major opponent, Germany, saw her undefeated and largely untested capital fleet interned, scuttled, and as for the draconian Versailles Treaty, never to be reconstructed again.

This left the Royal Navy with an immense obsolescent fleet of battleships in 1918, 80 of them, virtually useless in the interwar world. The Empire could be defended by heavy cruisers and budget cuts plus the Washington treaty led this steel mass back to the scrapyard, until it was down to the last ones, the Queen Elisabeth and Resolution classes, which took the brunt of the action during WW2. It happened as the picture was much more challenging: With only 23 battleships and France out of the picture in 1940, the Royal Navy stood alone against former allies of the great war, Italy in the Mediterranean and Japan in Asia, and a Kriegsmarine which still posed a serious threat.

This does not prevented the admiralty to search for follows-up on her designs. In 1913 she introduced the oil-fired super-dreadnought with the Queen Elisabeth class, faster and better armed, but still in line with previous development, when it appeared the frontier between battlecruisers and dreadnought were started to blend, as shown by the Admiral class, cut short to the Hood. In this context, the Nelsons were an interesting, derogatory (to Washington) proposition. Not yet fast battleships, but no longer dreadnoughts.

A general view of Line B with the battleships at anchor during the Royal Naval Review at Spithead

Speed and Luxury

For wealthy Americans, travel in Europe was a mark of status. In the early 1900s, passenger ships catered to these customers by providing extravagant spaces at sea on a par with fine hotels and restaurants. Britain, Germany, and France competed to create showpiece &ldquoships of state,&rdquo and new steamers appeared every few years that could lay claim to being more spacious, more luxurious, swifter, and safer than anything that had sailed before.

British passenger liner Mauretania

Built at Newcastle, England, 1907

Passenger capacity as built: 563 first class, 464 second, 1,138 third & steerage

Gift of Franklin D. Roosevelt

The Mauretania

The Mauretania was built for speed&mdashto recapture the prize for the fastest Atlantic crossing, called the Blue Riband. The ship boasted the first steam-turbine engines on a passenger liner. But the Mauretania was luxurious and versatile as well as fast. The British government also insisted that the vessel be capable of conversion into an armed warship. In September 1909, the Mauretania won the Blue Riband with an average speed of 26.06 knots (30 mph). The record stood for 20 years.

Arriving in England

Mauretania passengers from America land by tender at Plymouth, England, 1925.

Courtesy of Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Games at Sea

Passengers traveling on the Mauretania in second class enjoy games in mid-ocean, 1911.

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Style Afloat

English architect and landscape designer Harold A. Peto planned the Mauretania’s interiors. Typical of ocean-going style at the time, he treated the ship’s most elaborate spaces in a mixture of historic styles that matched the look of fashionable hotels, clubs, and apartment houses. The ship’s builders hired 300 woodworkers from Palestine for two years to carve the ship’s decoration.

Smoking Room

This smoking room evoked a late-Renaissance Italian palazzo. Men traveling in first class retired to this room after dinner to drink, talk, and play games.

Dining Saloons

The first-class dining saloon was inspired by mid-16th century French châteaux. Above its oak splendor rose a dome dotted with the signs of the zodiac. The same space in third class was simple and utilitarian. Both spaces had communal tables and swivel chairs, holdovers from the 1800s.

Luncheon menu from the Lusitania, the Mauretania’s sister ship, 1908

The Black Gang

Coal-fired steamships like the Mauretania stayed on schedule only through the backbreaking labor of the boiler-room crew. The &ldquoblack gang&rdquo included trimmers, who shifted coal inside the bunkers coal-passers, who brought it by the barrowful to each boiler and firemen, who worked the fires. Stoking and tending the furnaces took considerable skill.

It was also relentless, dangerous, hellishly hot, and amazingly dirty work.

The stokehold of a steamship

From J. D. Jerrold Kelley’s The Ship's Company and Other Sea People, 1896

Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Cunard Line advertising graphic, 1907

Stokers shoveled between 850 and 1,000 tons of coal a day to keep the Mauretania moving at speeds of 20 to 25 knots (23–28.8 mph).

Seagoing tourists

New immigration laws dramatically cut the flow of immigrants to the United States in the 1920s. Facing a devastating loss of income, steamship companies converted their steerage spaces into low-cost cabins marketed to middle-class tourists and business travelers. Steamship lines also began to experiment with cruising&mdashsending their ships on leisure trips to scenic spots around the world. The Mauretania made 54 cruises between 1923 and 1934.

White Star Line brochure highlighting the amenities of the new &ldquotourist third cabin&rdquo accommodations, 1920s

&ldquoAnd She Sails the Ocean Blue&rdquo

Cunard Line cruise brochure, 1934

The Mauretania’s first-class lounge

Skylight and Plaster Panels from R.M.S. Majestic

Ocean liner skylights (lanterns) brought filtered daylight into various interior spaces of the ship, adding elegance to dining areas, libraries, and lounges. The skylight above was one of several installed in the White Star Liner Majestic.

These plaster panels decorated the first-class dining saloon on the Majestic. They depict early vessels and naval battles. When the Majestic was broken up in 1914, the shipbreakers installed the panels under this skylight in their boardroom.

First-class dining saloon on R.M.S. Majestic, 1890s

Photograph by Underwood and Underwood

Courtesy of Paul Louden-Brown&mdashWhite Star Line Archive



A Farragut-Class Battle Cruiser

The Federal Navy and Imperial Navy utilize unique Capital Ships primarily designed for combat and fleet coordination called Battlecruisers. They are capable of transporting and deploying squadrons of smaller ships and Ship-Launched Fighters.

The Farragut-Class Battle Cruiser is the mainstay Battlecruiser of the Federation. Heavily armed with classified weaponry, the Farragut stretches over two kilometers long. The backbone of the Federal Navy, it also forms the central core of the Federation Intervention fleet.

A Majestic-Class Interdictor

The Majestic-Class Interdictor is the Empire's Battlecruiser. It has an array of weaponry including Modular Interceptor Guns and Railguns. It is slightly under two kilometers long. Although less heavily-armed than the Federation's Farragut, it is also designed to project soft-power through diplomacy and features a rotating ring capable of simulating gravity.


The Gnosis, a Flight Operations Carrier Megaship

Civilian-operated Capital Ships are generally classified as Megaships. There are many subtypes that fill a variety of specific roles. The three main types are Bulk Cruisers, which are used for anything from freight transportation to prisoner incarceration, Flight Operations Carriers, which feature five Landing Pads, and Generation Ships, which are antiquated, pre-Hyperdrive vessels once used to transport interstellar colonists at sublight speeds.

Fleet Carrier

Fleet Carriers are Capital Ships with Landing Pads that can accommodate smaller vessels. They can be purchased and operated by Pilots Federation-licensed pilots, who are responsible for commanding and paying the crew. The only existing Fleet Carrier model is the Drake-Class Carrier, a product of the Brewer Corporation.

The Iowa Class: The U.S. Battleships That Were So Powerful They Were Unretired 3 Times

The Second World War marked the end of the Age of Battleships. Aircraft carriers, with their flexible, long range striking power made battlewagons obsolete in a matter of months. American battleships, once expected to fight a decisive battle in the Pacific that would halt the Japanese Empire, were instead relegated to providing artillery support for island-hopping campaigns. Yet after the war America’s battleships would return, again and again, to do the one thing only battleships could do: bring the biggest guns around to bear on the enemy.

The U.S. Navy ended World War II with twenty-three battleships of all types. By 1947, the Navy had shrunk to peacetime levels that preserved half of the number of wartime aircraft carriers but cut the number of battleships on active duty to just four. Of the four remaining ships, all were members of the latest—and last—run of battleships, the Iowa class: Iowa, New Jersey, Missouri and Wisconsin. By the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, only one battleship, Missouri, remained on active duty.

On June 25, 1950, the forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, backed by the Soviet Union, invaded pro-American South Korea. The invasion triggered an intervention by the United States, and USS Missouri was sent to provide support for American forces. Although Missouri did not directly participate in the amphibious landing at Inchon, it did support the landing by bombarding nearby Samcheok, South Korea, in order to convince North Korean forces the invasion would take place there instead. Afterwards, Missouri traveled to the port of Busan, where it became the flagship of Vice Adm. A. D. Struble, Commander, Seventh Fleet.

Missouri continued to support the UN offensive into North Korea along the peninsula’s east coast, conducting bombardment missions in late October 1950 in the Chongjin, Tanchon and Wonsan areas. Afterwards, it used its vast number of antiaircraft guns, consisting of twenty five-inch guns, eighty forty-millimeter guns and forty-nine twenty-millimeter guns, to protect U.S. carriers from air attack. In December, after the Chinese entry into the war, Missouri provided naval gunfire cover for the U.S. Army’s X Corps, which, along with the First Marine Division, was evacuated by sea from Hunguam.

The Chinese intervention, and the realization that the Korean conflict would not be a short war, prompted the Navy to reactivate the remaining three Iowa-class battleships. New Jersey was activated on November 21, 1950 Wisconsin on March 3, 1950 and Iowa itself was reactivated on August 25, 1951. For the remainder of the war, the four battleships served in the naval gunfire support role, providing direct artillery support for ground troops, bombardment of specific enemy targets, and harassment and interdiction fire against enemy supply lines. Although the range of their sixteen-inch guns limited the battleships to targets within twenty miles of the Korean coastline, operating from both coasts that still put a quarter of the country under their guns.

The Korean War ended in 1953, but the U.S. Navy, fearing a return to hostilities, did not immediately send its battleships back to mothballs. Missouri was decommissioned in 1955, followed by New Jersey in 1957, and finally Ohio and Wisconsin in 1958.

In 1967, faced with rising tactical aircraft losses in the Vietnam War, the United States recommissioned USS New Jersey to provide firepower that didn’t risk losing pilots. By September 30, 1968, New Jersey was back in action, shelling North Vietnamese Army forces near the North/South Vietnam Demilitarized Zone. The battleship shelled coastal targets located by spotter aircraft from the aircraft carrier USS America, and supported the First and Third Marine Divisions. New Jersey’s Vietnam service would prove short, however, as the ship was decommissioned again the following year.

The 1980 election of President Ronald Reagan, who had run on the promise of a six-hundred-ship U.S. Navy, proved an opportunity to reactivate the four Iowa-class battleships yet again. All four Iowa-class battleships were upgraded with new combat systems, deleting many of the smaller five-inch guns, in order to accommodate sixteen Harpoon antiship missiles, thirty-two Tomahawk cruise missiles, and four Phalanx CIWS close-in weapon systems. Each ship retained its nine sixteen-inch guns—the new, modern Navy had no naval guns over five inches in diameter, and the big guns of the battleships would prove invaluable in the event of an amphibious landing.

The first ship to be reactivated—for the third time—was New Jersey. Returned to service in December 1982, within nine months it was back in action, supporting U.S. Marines acting as peacekeepers in Beirut, Lebanon. The 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut killed 241 peacekeepers. In retaliation New Jersey conducted two naval fire missions against Druze and Syrian forces in the region believed responsible for the attack. In 1987, Missouri and Iowa participated in Operation Earnest Will, the escorting of reflagged Kuwaiti tankers to protect them from Iranian attacks.

The battleships also conducted Cold War–oriented missions. In 1986, New Jersey became the first American battleship to enter the Sea of Okhotsk, considered the Soviet Union’s backyard and a bastion for the Soviet Navy’s ballistic-missile submarines.

By the late 1980s the Soviet Union was visibly on the decline, and starting in 1989 the Navy made plans to retire the battleships yet again. On August 2, 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded and occupied Kuwait, and in response a massive American sea, air and land force was sent to defend Saudi Arabia. While Iowa and New Jersey were in the process of being decommissioned, Missouri and Wisconsin were deployed to the Persian Gulf. During Operation Desert Storm, the campaign to liberate Kuwait, both battleships fired Tomahawk missiles at Iraqi targets and bombarded Iraqi ground forces. As the Missouri did during the Korean War, both battlewagons conducted naval fire missions to convince Iraqi forces an amphibious assault was imminent, tying up thousands of Iraqi Army forces that were forced to defend the coastline.

By 1992, all four battleships were again deactivated, and today they are museum ships in Hawaii, California, Virginia and New Jersey. Although there are frequent calls to return them to service, that seems unlikely: although their big guns are still useful, the ships require nearly two thousand crew each, making them expensive to operate. While theoretically possible to modernize and automate them, no serious study has been performed in how to adopt them to modern warfare. The four legendary ships Iowa, New Jersey, Missouri and Wisconsin will likely remain museums as long as they are afloat.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

Operational History

On February 12, 1942, two months after its commissioning, Yamato became the flagship of the Japanese Combined Fleet led by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. That May, Yamato sailed as part of Yamamoto's Main Body in support of the attack on Midway. Following the Japanese defeat at the Battle of Midway, the battleship moved to the anchorage at Truk Atoll arriving in August 1942.

The ship remained at Truk for much of the next year largely due to its slow speed, high fuel consumption, and a lack of ammunition for shore bombardment. In May 1943, Yamato sailed to Kure and had its secondary armament altered and new Type-22 search radars added. Returning to Truk that December, Yamato was damaged by a torpedo from USS Skate en route.

After repairs were completed in April 1944, Yamato joined the fleet during the Battle of the Philippine Sea that June. During the Japanese defeat, the battleship served as an escort in Vice Admiral Jisaburo Ozawa's Mobile Fleet. In October, Yamato fired its main guns for the first time in battle during the American victory at Leyte Gulf. Though hit by two bombs in the Sibuyan Sea, the battleship aided in sinking an escort carrier and several destroyers off Samar. The following month, Yamato returned to Japan to have its anti-aircraft armament further enhanced.

After this upgrade was completed, Yamato was attacked by US aircraft with little effect while sailing in the Inland Sea on March 19, 1945. With the Allied invasion of Okinawa on April 1, 1945, Japanese planners devised Operation Ten-Go. Essentially a suicide mission, they directed Vice Admiral Seiichi Ito to sail Yamato south and attack the Allied invasion fleet before beaching itself on Okinawa as a massive gun battery. Once the ship was destroyed, the crew was to join the island's defenders.

Graf Spee

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Graf Spee, in full Admiral Graf von Spee, German pocket battleship of 10,000 tons launched in 1936. The Graf Spee was more heavily gunned than any cruiser and had a top speed of 25 knots and an endurance of 12,500 miles (20,000 km).

After sinking several merchant ships in the Atlantic, the Graf Spee was sighted on Dec. 13, 1939, off the Río de la Plata estuary by a British search group consisting of the cruisers Exeter, Ajax, and Achilles, commanded by Commodore H. Harwood. At 6:14 am Harwood’s three ships attacked, but in a little more than an hour the Graf Spee had damaged the Exeter and driven off the other two cruisers. The Graf Spee then made off in the direction of Montevideo, Uruguay, where its commander, Captain Hans Langsdorff, obtained permission to stay for four days to repair damage. The British devoted the period to intense diplomatic and intelligence activity in order to keep the Graf Spee in harbour while they brought up heavy reinforcements. On December 17, however, when the Graf Spee put to sea again, only the Cumberland had arrived to reinforce the Ajax and the Achilles. The fight that the British had anticipated never took place: Captain Langsdorff, believing that a superior force awaited him, had his crew scuttle their ship three days later Langsdorff shot himself.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.


Design work began on what became the Canopus class in March 1895, when William Henry White, the Director of Naval Construction, presented the design for the Japanese Fuji-class battleships then being built in Britain to the Board of Admiralty. These ships, which were based on the British Royal Sovereign class, represented a marked increase in Japanese naval power in East Asia, and White argued that more powerful battleships would be required on the China Station to counter them. He also suggested that the new design be capable of transiting the Suez Canal to reduce transit time between Europe and Asia. The Board concurred, and on 13 May again met White to provide their requirements for the new ships. Two days later, White relayed the parameters for the ships to his staff, along with instructions to prepare a suitable design as quickly as possible. The new ships were to have a freeboard equal to that of the battleship HMS Centurion, the same main battery as the preceding Majestic-class battleships, a secondary battery of ten 6-inch (152 mm) guns, the speed and fuel capacity as the second-class battleship Renown, and an armoured belt that was 6 inches thick. [1]

White and his staff prepared a preliminary design sketch on 23 May, which they submitted to the Admiralty. This vessel was to carry the specified battery of four 12-inch (300 mm) guns and ten 6-inch guns on a displacement of 13,250 tonnes (13,040 long tons). Speed was to be 18 knots (33 km/h 21 mph) from 12,500 indicated horsepower (9,300 kW). Further work to refine the design continued, and three variants were created: "A", "B", and "C". "A" reduced displacement slightly to 13,000 tonnes (13,000 long tons 14,000 short tons), but kept the same armament and speed. "B" was broadly similar to the original design, but added two 6-inch guns, and "C" was slightly smaller, along the lines of "A", but its secondary battery consisted of eight 6-inch guns and eight 4-inch (100 mm) guns. The three variants were submitted to the Admiralty in early October on the 9th, the Board sent its reply to White, instructing him to prepare a new design that combined the armour layout of "A" and "B" with the secondary battery of "B". [1]

Design work continued for almost a year before the final version was approved on 2 September 1896. By this time, the Board had decided to adopt new water-tube boilers after they had been successfully tested aboard the torpedo gunboat Sharpshooter. The armour layout was further revised, with the final version discarding the thinner side armour above the belt, along with the aft strake of armour the main and secondary guns also had their armour protection reduced. These reductions were used to increase the thickness of the forward strake and the main deck and to place four of the secondary guns in armoured casemates. Though the thickness of the armour layout was much reduced compared to the preceding Majestic class, the adoption of new Krupp steel in place of the Harvey steel allowed for only a modest decrease in protection. [2] [3]

Six vessels, rated as first-class battleships, were authorized to be built to the new design in the 1896 and 1897 estimates. Though the armour scheme was not as weak as it appeared on paper, the Royal Navy was not pleased with the reduction in defensive power. White's department regarded them as second-class battleships, and they were indeed classified as "improved Renowns" in the 1896 estimates. Nevertheless, they matched the Fujis they were intended to counter, and they represented the maximum offensive and defensive capabilities possible on the displacement and draught restrictions imposed by the Admiralty. They proved more than capable of performing the task for which they had been built on the China Station. [4]

General characteristics Edit

The ships of the Canopus class were 390 feet 3.5 inches (118.961 m) long between perpendiculars and 421 ft 6 in (128.47 m) long overall, with a beam of 74 ft (23 m). They had a draft of 26 ft 2 in (7.98 m) normally and up to 30 feet (9.1 m) fully loaded. They displaced 13,150 long tons (13,360 t) normally and up to 14,300 long tons (14,500 t) at full load. The ships were fitted with two masts, each with one fighting top carrying several of the light guns and one searchlight. Four other searchlights were mounted on the bridges. [5] [6]

Their crew numbered 682 officers and ratings on completion, but the number varied throughout the ships' careers. For example, by 1904, Goliath ' s crew had increased to 737 and Albion had a crew of 752, which included an admiral's staff. While serving as a gunnery training ship in 1912, Vengeance had a crew of just 400, while Albion was reduced to 371 officers and sailors as a guard ship in 1916. Each ship carried a number of small boats, including two steam pinnaces and one sail pinnace, one steam launch, three cutters, one galley, one whaler, three gigs, two dinghies, and one raft. [7]

Propulsion Edit

The Canopus-class ships were powered by a pair of 3-cylinder triple-expansion engines that drove a pair of inward-turning screw propellers, with steam provided by twenty Belleville boilers. They were the first British battleships with water-tube boilers, which generated more power at less expense in weight compared with the fire-tube boilers used in previous ships. The new boilers led to the adoption of two fore-and-aft funnels, rather than the side-by-side funnel arrangement used in many previous British battleships. The Canopus-class ships proved to be good steamers, with a high speed for battleships of their time—18 knots (33 km/h 21 mph) from 13,500 indicated horsepower (10,100 kW)—a full two knots faster than the Majestics. The increase in speed came primarily from the water-tube boilers, which produced an extra 1,500 ihp (1,100 kW) compared to the older fire-tube boilers of the Majestics. The inward-turning screws also provided an increase in speed, since they could be operated at higher revolutions than the outward-turning screws used in earlier ships. [8] [9]

Each ship had a fuel capacity of 900 long tons (910 t) of coal under normal conditions, but additional spaces could be used to double capacity, for 1,800 long tons (1,829 t) during wartime. The ships burned 52 long tons (53 t) of coal steaming at 8 knots (15 km/h 9.2 mph) for 24 hours and up to 336 long tons (341 t) at full speed every 24 hours. The Canopuses were able to reach 5,320 mi (8,560 km) at an economical cruising speed of 10 kn (19 km/h 12 mph) with a full load of coal. While steaming at 16.5 knots (30.6 km/h 19.0 mph), the range fell significantly to 2,590 nmi (4,800 km 2,980 mi). [7]

Though the water-tube boilers significantly increased performance, they were plagued with problems throughout the ships' careers. Ocean ' s boiler condenser tubes leaked badly until a refit in 1902–1903 corrected the problem. Vengeance similarly suffered throughout her service life, which reduced the efficiency of her engines. The inward-turning screws also caused problems in service, as they made steering difficult at low speed or when steaming in reverse the arrangement proved to be unpopular with crews as a result. Regardless, the Royal Navy retained inward-turning screws in all future pre-dreadnought battleships, before returning to outward-turning propellers for Dreadnought in 1906. [10]

Armament Edit

The ships of the Canopus class had four 12-inch (305 mm) 35-calibre guns mounted in twin-gun turrets fore and aft these guns were mounted in circular barbettes that allowed all-around loading, although at a fixed elevation. Canopus carried her guns in BIII mountings, the same used in the last two Majestic-class ships, while the next four vessels used the newer BIV mounts, and Vengeance used newer-still BV mountings. The BIII mounts featured a deck that interrupted the shell and propellant hoists to prevent the flash fire from an explosion in the turret from easily reaching down to the magazines, which could produce a catastrophic explosion. The BIV mounts eliminated this deck to allow for faster ammunition handling, but the designers realized the greatly increased risk this entailed, and so restored the deck with the BV mounts. To improve shell handling speed, a new turret was developed by Vickers for Vengeance that allowed for reloading the guns at all elevations, which eliminated the need to return to the fixed loading elevation, improving her rate of fire significantly. [5] [11]

The ships also mounted a secondary battery of twelve 6-inch 40-calibre guns mounted in casemates, in addition to ten 12-pounder guns and six 3-pounder guns for defence against torpedo boats. [5] Eight of the 6-inch guns were mounted in the main deck, which placed them too low to give them a good field of fire, though the other four guns, mount a deck higher, did not suffer from the same problem. [12] As was customary for battleships of the period, they were also equipped with four 18-inch (457 mm) torpedo tubes submerged in the hull, [5] two on each broadside near the forward and aft barbette. A fifth tube had been planned at the ship's stern, above the water, but it was eliminated during construction. This was likely done because the above-water tubes could not be adequately protected, and if a torpedo exploded while it was still in the tube, it could have done serious damage to the ship. [13]

Armour Edit

To save weight, Canopus carried less armour than the Majestics—6 inches in the belt compared to 9 in (229 mm)—although the change from Harvey armour in the Majestics to Krupp armour in Canopus meant that the loss in protection was not as great as it might have been, Krupp armour having 30 percent greater protective value at a given weight than its Harvey equivalent. Though it was thinner, it was more comprehensive the Canopus class was the first British capital ship to return to a full-length armoured belt since Dreadnought, launched in 1875. To save weight, the belt was reduced to 2 inches (51 mm) at either end of the ship. As with the belt, the other armour used to protect the ships could also be thinner the bulkheads on either end of the belt were 6 to 10 in (152 to 254 mm) thick. [8] [14]

They were fitted with two armoured decks, 1 and 2 in (25 and 51 mm) thick, respectively, both of which were Harvey steel. This was the first time a second armour deck was installed in a British warship. At the time the design was being prepared, rumours circulated that the French intended to equip their newest battleships with howitzers, which fired shells at high angles this would allow them to hit British ships with plunging fire, avoiding the ships' heavy belt armour. The French did not place howitzers on any of their new ships, but the adoption of two armour decks was continued in British practice until the Nelson-class battleships of the 1920s. [8] [15]

The main battery turrets were 8 in (203 mm) thick with 2 in thick roofs, atop 10 to 12 in barbettes. The barbettes reduced to 6 in behind the belt. Not all sections of the ships received the Krupp steel the casemate battery was protected with 6 in of Harvey steel on the fronts, and 2 in on the sides and the rears. Their forward conning towers received Harvey steel for their sides that were 12 in thick, while the aft conning towers had only 3 in (76 mm) sides. [16]

The thinner armour layout of the ships came under intense criticism while they were being built, particularly in the press. White publicly defended the design, pointing out that recent experience between Chinese and Japanese warships at the Battle of the Yalu River demonstrated that armour proved to be more effective in protecting ships than proving ground tests would indicate, and the advances in armour technology warranted the reduction in service of saving weight for better weapons. [17]

Construction data
Ship Builder [7] Laid down [7] Launched [7] Completed [7] Fate [5]
Canopus HM Dockyard, Portsmouth 4 January 1897 12 October 1897 5 December 1899 Broken up, 1920
Glory Laird Brothers, Birkenhead 1 December 1896 11 March 1899 October 1900 Broken up, 1922
Albion Thames Iron Works, London 3 December 1896 21 June 1898 June 1901 Broken up, 1919
Ocean HM Dockyard, Devonport 15 December 1897 5 July 1898 February 1900 Struck mine and sank, 18 March 1915
Goliath HM Dockyard, Chatham 4 January 1897 23 March 1898 March 1900 Torpedoed and sank, 15 May 1915
Vengeance Vickers, Barrow 23 August 1898 25 July 1899 April 1902 Broken up, 1921

Pre-war Edit

The ships of the class spent much of their peacetime career abroad. Canopus spent her early career in the Mediterranean Fleet, while Goliath went to the China Station in 1900. Glory, Albion, and Ocean joined Goliath from 1901 to 1905, and Vengeance and Canopus was sent to join them in 1902 and 1905, respectively. In September 1902, Ocean was damaged by a typhoon. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance signed in 1905 allowed Britain to withdraw much of her East Asian naval strength, and the Canopus-class ships were recalled to European waters. On their return to Britain, most of them served brief stints with the Channel Fleet and then the Home Fleet and the Atlantic Fleet between 1905 and 1907. During this period, the ships also underwent major overhauls after their extended periods of service overseas. Goliath instead went to the Mediterranean Fleet from 1903 to 1906, followed by periods with the Channel Fleet and Home Fleet in 1906 and 1907, respectively. [18]

Canopus, Glory, Ocean, and Goliath were sent to the Mediterranean Fleet in 1908, where they remained until the end of the decade. On 13 June 1908, Vengeance was damaged in a collision with the merchant ship SS Begore Head at Portsmouth she was involved in another collision on 29 November 1910 with the merchant vessel SS Biter. Several of the ships, including Canopus and Glory were reduced to reserve status on their return to Britain, where they remained until the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914. Ocean, meanwhile, again served with the Home Fleet but saw little activity until the outbreak of war. Vengeance, for her part, served in secondary roles from 1908, including as a tender and a gunnery training ship. In 1913, she was transferred to the 6th Battle Squadron of the Second Fleet. [18]

World War I Edit

At the beginning of the First World War, the ships of the Canopus class were mobilised for service with the 8th Battle Squadron. Canopus was quickly sent to the South America Station, where she patrolled for German commerce raiders. She was involved in the search for the German East Asia Squadron of Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee. Too slow to follow Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock's cruisers, she missed the Battle of Coronel in November 1914, where Cradock was defeated. Moored at Port Stanley as a defensive battery, she fired the first shots of the Battle of the Falklands in December, which led Spee to break off the attack before being chased down and destroyed by Admiral Doveton Sturdee's battlecruisers. [18] [19]

At the start of the conflict, Ocean was stationed in Ireland to support a cruiser squadron, but in October she was transferred to the East Indies Station to protect troopship convoys from India. Goliath initially served as a guard ship in Loch Ewe, one of the harbors used by the Grand Fleet, before escorting the crossing of British troops to Belgium in late August. She then took part in operations against German East Africa, participating in the blockade of the German light cruiser SMS Königsberg in the Rufiji River. In October 1914, Glory was transferred to the North America and West Indies Station, where she served as the squadron flagship. In late 1914, Ocean participated in an attack on Basra before being transferred to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal, where she joined Vengeance, which had been there since November. Albion was sent to the Atlantic to help defend against the possibility of German warships breaking out of the North Sea. In December and January 1915, she supported operations against German Southwest Africa. [18]

Dardanelles campaign Edit

Canopus, Albion, Ocean, and Vengeance were transferred to the Mediterranean in early 1915 for the Dardanelles Campaign. They participated in major attacks on the Ottoman coastal fortifications defending the Dardanelles in March 1915, but the British and French fleets proved incapable of forcing the straits. These included major attacks on 18 March that saw the loss of one French and two British battleships—one of which was Ocean—to Ottoman naval mines. Ocean had been attempting to rescue the crew from the battleship HMS Irresistible, which had also struck a mine, when she too was mined and sank. Most of her crew was able to evacuate to nearby destroyers. The surviving ships were repeatedly damaged by Ottoman coastal guns during these operations, but none seriously so. Allied infantry landed in April, beginning the Gallipoli campaign, and Canopus continued to bombard Ottoman positions to support them. These operations included the First Battle of Krithia and helping defeat Ottoman counter-attacks. On 13 May 1915 Goliath was sunk in Morto Bay off Cape Helles by three torpedoes from the Ottoman destroyer Muâvenet-i Millîye. Out of her crew of 750, 570 were killed in the sinking. In June 1915, Glory was reassigned to the Mediterranean to join her sisters in the campaign, though she saw little action during that time, as her crew was needed ashore to support the troops fighting on the peninsula. [20] [21]

Later careers Edit

In October 1915, Albion was transferred to Salonika to support the Allied operations against Bulgaria through then-neutral Greece, but she saw no further action. She was transferred back to Ireland in April 1916 for service as a guard ship, a role she filled until October 1918, when she was reduced to a barracks ship. After the Gallipoli campaign ended with the withdrawal of Allied forces in January 1916, Canopus patrolled the eastern Mediterranean, but saw no further action. She was removed from service in April 1916 and was converted into a barracks ship in early 1918. In August 1916, Glory was sent to Murmansk, Russia, to support Britain's ally by keeping the vital port open for supplies being sent for the Eastern Front. There, she served as the flagship of the British North Russia Squadron. Worn out from operations off Gallipoli, Vengeance returned to Britain for a refit. She was recommissioned in December 1915 for service in East Africa, during which she supported the capture of Dar es Salaam in German East Africa. She returned to Britain again in 1917 and was decommissioned, thereafter serving in subsidiary roles until 1921. [18]

After the war, the Royal Navy began discarding the ships. Albion was sold for scrap in December 1919 and broken up the following year, as was Canopus. Glory returned to Britain in 1919, was decommissioned, and was renamed HMS Crescent in 1920, before ultimately being sold to ship breakers in December 1922. Vengeance was sold for scrap in 1921 and broken up the next year. [18]

Nazi Germany's Battleship Bismarck vs. America's Iowa Class: Who Wins?

Despite the vast scope of the Second World War, the navies of the United States and Nazi Germany fought few, if any, direct surface engagements. By the time of America’s entry into the war the Royal Navy had already sunk or neutralized the lion’s share of Hitler’s Kriegsmarine, with only Hitler’s U-boats remaining a substantial German threat.

But what if the UK’s Royal Navy hadn’t been as successful as it was, and the U.S. was forced to hunt down the German Navy’s major surface combatants? What if the Iowa-class fast battleships had been sortied into the Atlantic to square off against their counterparts, the Bismarck-class battleships?

The Bismarck-class battleships were the largest surface ships built by Germany before and during the Second World War. Germany had been prohibited by the Treaty of Versailles to build warships over 10,000 tons, but the Anglo-German Naval Treaty of 1935 implicitly allowed them—though the German Navy was not to exceed thirty five percent the size of the Royal Navy.

With that restriction out of the way, Germany immediately began construction on the Bismarck-class battleships. Two ships, the Bismarck and Tirpitz, were planned. The ships were 821 feet long and displaced up to 50,000 tons fully loaded. Twelve high-pressure boilers powered three turbines, giving the ship a top speed of 30.1 knots. Three FuMo-23 search radars could detect surface targets at more than thirteen miles.

The Bismarck class had eight fifteen-inch guns, each capable of hurling an armor piercing, capped round up to 21.75 miles. The 1,764-pound killer shell traveled at 2,960 feet per second out the bore, faster than the bullet of a high-powered rifle. At 11 miles, it could penetrate 16.5 inches of armor, or roughly to the horizon at sea level, although it could theoretically hit targets much further.

Both battleships were heavily protected, with 12.5 inches of steel at the main belt, 8.7 inch armored bulkheads, and 14.1 inches of armor on the main gun turrets. The eight guns were installed in four turrets of two guns each. This spread the battleship’s main armament out among more protected turrets, increasing their survivability in a gunfight.

Overall, the Bismarck class was an impressive combination of firepower, speed, and protection.

The Iowa-class battleships were the most powerful battleships built for the U.S. Navy. Four ships: Iowa, New Jersey, Missouri, and Wisconsin were built. Each was approximately 861 feet long and weighed 52,000 tons. Eight water boilers connected to General Electric steam turbines propelled the battleships along at a speedy 32.5-knot maximum speed.

Iowa had nine sixteen-inch guns. Each Mark 7 gun could launch a 2,700 pound armor piercing shell 11.36 miles to penetrate 20 inches of steel plate—and even farther to a lesser penetration. In addition to search radar, the Iowas had Mk 13 fire control radars, allowing them to engage targets at extreme ranges and at night. The Mk 13 had a theoretical range out to 45 miles, and could even spot where the Iowa’s errant rounds landed, making aiming corrections much easier.

The Iowas too were heavily armored, with 12.1 inches at the main belt, 11.3-inch bulkheads, and an amazing 19.7 inches of armor on the main turrets. The ship’s vital combat information center and ammunition magazines were buried deep in their armored hulls.

Now, on to the battle. It’s 1942, and the new American battleship Iowa has been rushed into service to hunt the Bismarck. Bismarck, her sister ship Tirpitz, and other large German combatants have made the Atlantic too dangerous to send convoys across, something the United Kingdom desperately needs.

A fast battleship designed to operate alongside aircraft carriers, Iowa can cover a lot of ocean. Operating alone, she detects Bismarck—also operating alone. The duel is on.

Despite the Bismarck’s well-trained crew, good design and powerful weapons, Iowa has one technological innovation the German battlewagon doesn’t: radar-directed main guns. Iowa can fire much more accurately at longer distance targets. This allows Iowa to “out-stick” the Bismarck, which must close to within visual range for its fire control systems and procedures to work effectively. While Bismarck would avoid a nighttime duel, Iowa would welcome it—and its 2.5-knot advantage in speed means it can force a night battle if it wants to, chasing Bismarck down before sunrise.

Iowa’s combination of the Mk 13 fire control radar and Mk 7 shells means it can fire first, hit first, and hurt first. While Bismarck’s armor protection and distributed firepower could help ensure it lasts long enough above the waves to damage Iowa, it’s unlikely could save itself, damaging the American battleship enough to make it break off the attack.

The larger context of the battle—the U.S. Navy being forced to take on the German Navy—would have had serious repercussions for the Pacific theater. Germany was, after all, considered the primary threat, with Japan second and Italy third. A more powerful German Navy (or weaker Royal Navy) would have had second order consequences for the Pacific, delaying the Solomons campaign, including the invasion of Guadalcanal, the Battle of the Coral Sea, and even the Battle of Midway.

U.S. Navy planners in the Pacific, still overestimating the value of battleships, could have been less daring in their absence and fought a holding action until late 1942 or 1943. Had things been different we might think of America’s initial war against the Axis as taking place in the Atlantic and not the Pacific, the Marines hitting the beach in Iceland and not Guadalcanal, and the cataclysmic battle between the battleships Bismarck and Iowa.

Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and the Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch. You can follow him on Twitter: @KyleMizokami.

Class variations [ edit | edit source ]

Subclasses [ edit | edit source ]

In the early 25th century, the Ambassador-class heavy cruiser was available in three variants: support cruiser, retrofit and fleet retrofit. Differences among the subclasses were equipment, hull durability and power levels. Basic Ambassadors were cruisers commanded by officers with the rank of commander or higher. Retrofits were available to Starfleet officers with the rank of admiral. The fleet variant required support by a Federation fleet to be obtained. The fleet retrofit included the Yamaguchi-subclass. The components saucer, hull, neck, pylons and nacelles were interchangeable between Ambassador- and Yamaguchi-class starships. (ST video game: Star Trek Online)

Livery [ edit | edit source ]

By 2409, a total of seven basic livery designs were available to choose from, which could be modified further. These options were known as: Types 1-5, and Fleet and Veteran. (STO mission: "Temporal Ambassador")

In addition, the installation of shields from specific factions modified the hull appearance, including shields from the Reman Resistance, the Breen Confederacy and the Dominion. (STO missions: "Coliseum", "Cold Storage", "Boldly They Rode")

Watch the video: HMS Revenge - Guide 120 (January 2022).