HMS Caesar (1896)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Caesar.
HMS Caesar.jpg
HMS Caesar
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Caesar
Namesake: Julius Caesar
Builder: Portsmouth Dockyard
Laid down: 25 March 1895
Launched: 2 September 1896
Completed: January 1898[1]
Commissioned: 13 January 1898[2]
Decommissioned: 23 April 1920[3]
Fate: Sold for scrapping, 8 November 1921[4]
Notes: Converted to depot ship September–October 1918
General characteristics
Class & type: Majestic-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 14,900 tons normal, 16,000 tons full load
Length: 421 ft (128 m) loa, 390 ft (120 m) lbp
Beam: 75 ft (23 m)
Draught: 27 ft (8.2 m)
Propulsion: Water tube boilers, 2 × vertical triple expansion engines, 2 shafts, 12,000 ihp (8,900 kW)
Speed: 17.5 knots
Range: 4,700 nautical miles (8,700 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h)[5]
Capacity: 2,000 tons coal
Complement: 670
Armament: 4 × BL 12-inch (305 mm) Mk VIII guns[6] (2 × 2)

12 × QF 6-inch (152 mm) 40-calibre guns[6] (12×1)
16 × 12-pounder quick-firing guns[7]
12 × 2-pounder quick-firing guns[7]

5 × 18-inch (450-mm) torpedo tubes (4 submerged, 1 above water)
The starboard 12-inch (305 mm) Mark VIII gun of one of Caesar '​s turrets. The gun '​s breech is closed.

HMS Caesar was a Majestic-class pre-dreadnought battleship of the Royal Navy, named after the Roman military and political leader Julius Caesar. Commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1898, she served with the Mediterranean Fleet after a brief stint in the Channel Fleet. In 1905, she resumed service with a now re-organised Channel Fleet and was also part of the Atlantic Fleet for a time. In the service of the Home Fleet from 1907, she was placed in reserve in 1912.

Following the outbreak of World War I, Caesar returned to the Channel Fleet before being transferred to the North America and West Indies Station in 1915 after a brief spell as a guard ship at Gibraltar. From 1918 to 1919 she served as a depot ship, firstly in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas and then the Black Sea, in support of naval operations against the Bolsheviks. In this latter role, she was the last of the pre-dreadnought battleships to see service outside the United Kingdom. Returning to England in 1920, she was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1921.

Technical description[edit]

HMS Caesar was laid down at Portsmouth Dockyard on 25 March 1895 and launched on 2 September 1896. She was completed in January 1898.[1]

When the lead ship of her class, HMS 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.[7] Caesar began life as a coal-burner, but all the Majestics were converted to burn fuel oil by 1907–1908.[8] Caesar had side-by-side funnels, the Majestics being the last British battleships to their funnels arranged in this way.

Although the earlier ships of the Majestic class 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,[7] which established the pattern for future classes.[8]

Caesar and the other Majestic-class ships had 9 inches (230 mm) of Harvey armour, which allowed equal protection with less cost in weight compared to previous types of armour. This allowed Caesar and her sisters to have a deeper and lighter belt than previous battleships without any loss in protection.[8] She was divided into 150 watertight compartments.

The Majestics boasted a new gun, the 46-ton 12-inch (305-mm) 35-caliber Mk VIII, the first new British battleships to mount a 12-inch (305-mm) main battery since the 1880s. One hundred thirteen miles (182 km) of wire were wrapped around each gun barrel, and each gun took nine months to manufacture. Caesar carried four such guns in two barbettes (one forward and one aft) with up to 400 rounds for each. The new gun, which would be the standard main armament of British battleships for sixteen years, 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.[7] and was lighter. This saving in weight allowed Caesar to carry a secondary battery of twelve 6-inch (152-mm) 40-caliber guns, a larger secondary armament than in previous classes.[9] She also had four submerged torpedo tubes in the bow and one above water in the stern.

Operational history[edit]

Pre-World War I[edit]

HMS Caesar commissioned at Portsmouth on 13 January 1898 to serve in the Mediterranean Fleet. Before leaving for the Mediterranean, she was attached temporarily to the Channel Fleet to serve in home waters.[4]

In May 1898, Caesar departed the United Kingdom for her Mediterranean service, undergoing a refit at Malta in 1900–1901. Captain George Callaghan was appointed in command 21 December 1901,[10] succeeding Captain John Ferris. She ended her Mediterranean service in October 1903, paying off at Portsmouth on 6 October 1903 to begin a refit.[2]

Her refit completed, Caesar commissioned at Portsmouth on 2 February 1904 to relieve her sister ship HMS Majestic as flagship of the Channel Fleet. When the Channel Fleet became the Atlantic Fleet as a result of a reorganisation on 1 January 1905, Caesar became flagship of the Atlantic Fleet. She was relieved of this duty in March 1905, becoming 2nd Flagship of the new Channel Fleet (which had been the Home Fleet prior to the reorganisation).[2]

On 3 June 1905, Caesar collided with and sank the barque Afghanistan off Dungeness, suffering significant damage; her bridge wings were carried away and the boats, davits, and net booms on her port side were badly damaged. Caesar was refitted at Devonport to repair the damage.[11]

Caesar became Flagship, Rear Admiral, Home Fleet, in December 1905.[12] She was relieved of this duty in February 1907 and transferred back to the Atlantic Fleet to become its temporary flagship.[12] She served in this role until May 1907.[4]

On 27 May 1907, Caesar recommissioned for service in the Devonport Division of the new Home Fleet, which had been formed in January 1907. During this service she underwent a refit at Devonport in 1907–1908.[4]

In May 1909, Caesar transferred to the Nore, temporarily serving as the flagship of Vice Admiral, 3rd and 4th Divisions, Home Fleet. In April 1911 she transferred to Devonport to serve in the 3rd Division, Home Fleet.[12]

On 16 January 1911, Caesar was rammed in fog by the barque Excelsior at Sheerness, suffering no serious damage.[4] In March 1912, Caesar was placed in commissioned reserve with a nucleus crew as part of the 4th Division, Home Fleet.[12]

World War I[edit]

At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Caesar was brought back into full commission[12] and transferred to the 7th Battle Squadron of the Channel Fleet; the squadron was charged with the defence of the English Channel. During this service she helped in transporting the Plymouth Marine Division from Plymouth to Ostend, Belgium, and covered the passage of the British Expeditionary Force from England to France in September 1914.[4]

In December 1914, Caesar was detached from the 7th Battle Squadron and transferred to Gibraltar to serve as guard ship and gunnery training ship there. In July 1915, she transferred to the North America and West Indies Station,[12] serving as guard ship and gunnery training ship at Bermuda[4] and patrolling the Atlantic.[12] She also spent time in Halifax during 1916.

Her North America and West Indies Station service ended in September 1918, when Caesar was transferred to relieve HMS Andromache (the old second-class cruiser and former minelayer HMS Latona) as flagship of the Senior Naval Officer, British Adriatic Squadron, at Corfu, the last British predreadnought to serve as a flagship. In September 1918, Caesar went to Malta for refit as a depot ship, during which she was equipped with repair shops and with leisure facilities such as recreation rooms and reading rooms. This conversion completed, she took up duties in October 1918 at Mudros as depot ship for the British Aegean Squadron.

Post-World War I[edit]

In January 1919 she was transferred to Port Said, Egypt, for service as a depot ship there.

In June 1919, Caesar transited the Dardanelles and transferred to the Black Sea, where she served as a depot ship for British naval forces operating against the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution. In this service she became the last British pre-dreadnought to serve operationally overseas.[4]

Decommissioning and disposal[edit]

Caesar returned to the United Kingdom in March 1920, paid off at Devonport on 23 April 1920, and was placed on the disposal list. She was sold to a British firm for scrapping on 8 November 1921, then resold to a German firm in July 1922 and towed from Devonport to Germany to be scrapped.[4]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b Burt, p. 114
  2. ^ a b c Burt, p. 132
  3. ^ Bur, p. 133
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Burt, p. 133
  5. ^ Gibbons, p. 136
  6. ^ a b Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 36
  7. ^ a b c d e Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 34
  8. ^ a b c Gibbons, p. 137
  9. ^ Gibbons, p. 137; Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905, p. 34
  10. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence" The Times (London). Tuesday, 24 December 1901. (36646), p. 8.
  11. ^ Burt, pp. 132–133
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1906–1921, p. 7

Bibliography[edit]

  • Burt, R. A. British Battleship 1889–1904. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1988. ISBN 0-87021-061-0.
  • Chesneau, Roger, and Eugene M. Kolesnik, eds., Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905, (Conway Maritime Press, London, 1979), ISBN 0-85177-133-5.
  • Dittmar, F. J. & Colledge, J. J., "British Warships 1914–1919", (Ian Allen, London, 1972), ISBN 0-7110-0380-7.
  • 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.