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HMS Magnificent in the Great War - The Wartime Memories Project -

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HMS Magnificent



1st July 1914 HMS Magnificent  

HMS Magnificent

HMS Magnificent. (1895 - 1922)

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

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 19051906 became the first battleship converted to oil-burning, and the rest were similarly converted by 19071908. 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,[6] as well as Mikasa, which was largely based on the Shikishimas.

World War 1 Service

During a precautionary mobilization of the fleet immediately prior to the outbreak of World War I, Magnificent and her sister ships Hannibal, Mars, and Victorious on 27 July 1914 formed the 9th Battle Squadron, subordinate to the Admiral of Patrols and stationed at the Humber. Magnificent served as guard ship at the Humber. World War I began while she was stationed there. On 7 August 1914, the 9th Battle Squadron was dissolved, and Magnificent and Hannibal transferred to Scapa Flow to reinforce the defences of the anchorage of the Grand Fleet there, becoming a guard ship at Scapa Flow. The Majestic-class ships were by then the oldest and least effective battleships in service in the Royal Navy. The first-class protected cruiser Crescent relieved Magnificent of guard ship duty on 16 February 1915, at which point Magnificent was paid off.

Later in February 1915, Magnificent arrived at Belfast to be disarmed. In March and April 1915, all of her 12-inch guns and all except for four of her 6-inch guns were removed. Her 12-inch guns were taken to arm the new Lord Clive-class monitors General Craufurd and Prince Eugene. After she was disarmed, Magnificent was laid up at Loch Goil in April 1915. On 9 September 1915, Magnificent was recommissioned to serve along with her similarly disarmed sister ships Hannibal and Mars as a troopship for the Dardanelles campaign. The three former battleships departed the United Kingdom on this duty on 22 September 1915, arriving at Mudros on 7 October 1915. On 18 December 1915 and 19 December 1915, Magnificent took part in the evacuation of Allied troops from Suvla Bay. She departed the Dardanelles in February 1916 after the conclusion of the campaign and returned to England, where she was paid off at Devonport on 3 March 1916.

Magnificent remained at Devonport until August 1917, serving as an overflow ship. In August 1917, she began a refit at Harland & Wolff in Belfast for conversion to an ammunition ship. When her refit was completed in October 1918, she was transferred to Rosyth for service as an ammunition store ship. Magnificent was placed on the disposal list on 4 February 1920, but continued to serve as an ammunition store ship at Rosyth until April 1921. She was sold for scrapping on 9 May 1921. Scrapping began at Inverkeithing the following year.

John Doran


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