HMS Majestic. (1895 - 1921)
Majestic Class - pre-dreadnought Battleships.
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.
- Ships in Majestic Class
- Prince George
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.
World War 1 Service
HMS 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.