HMS Mars (1896)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Mars.
HMS Mars (1896) at Coronation Fleet Review 16 August 1902.jpg
HMS Mars at the Coronation Fleet Review on 16 August 1902
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Mars
Namesake: Mars, the Roman god of war
Builder: Laird Brothers, Birkenhead
Laid down: 2 June 1894[1]
Launched: 30 March 1896[1]
Completed: June 1897
Commissioned: 8 June 1897[2]
Decommissioned: 7 July 1920[3]
Fate: Sold for scrapping 9 May 1921
Notes: Disarmed and converted to troopship 1915; converted to harbor depot ship 1916[3]
General characteristics
Class and type: Majestic-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 14,900 tons
Length: 390 ft (120 m)
Beam: 75 ft (23 m)
Draught: 27 ft (8.2 m)
Propulsion: oil and coal, triple expansion, 10,000 hp (7.5 MW)
Speed: 13 knots (24 km/h)
Endurance: 4,700 nautical miles (8,695 km) at 10 knots (18.5 km/h)[4]
Complement: 675
  • Harvey steel
  • Side belt 9 inches (229 mm)
  • Upper belt 6 inches (152 mm)
  • Bulkheads 14-12 inches (356-305 mm)
  • Barbettes 14 inches (356 mm)
  • Gun houses 10 inches (254 mm)
  • Casemates 6 inches (152 mm)
  • Conning tower 14 inches (356 mm)
  • Deck 4-2.5 inches (102-63.5 mm)

HMS Mars was a Royal Navy pre-dreadnought battleship of the Majestic class.

Technical characteristics[edit]

Engines of HMS Mars.

HMS Mars was laid down by Laird Brothers at Birkenhead on 2 June 1894 and launched on 3 March 1896.[1] Labor troubles delayed the delivery of her machinery, and she was not completed until June 1897.[6]

When the lead ship of the 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] Mars began life as a coal-burner, but in 1905–1906 became the first battleship converted to burn fuel oil.[8] Mars and her sisters were the last British battleships to have side-by-side funnels, successor classes having funnels in a line.

Mars 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. Mars and six of her sisters had pear-shaped barbettes and fixed loading positions for the main guns, although her sisters Caesar and Illustrious had circular barbettes and all-around loading for their main guns,[7] which established the pattern for future classes.[8]

Mars and the other Majestic-class ships had 9 inches (229 mm) of Harvey armor, which allowed equal protection with less cost in weight compared to previous types of armor. This allowed the Mars 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,[5] 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. Mars 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 Mars to carry a secondary battery of twelve 6-inch (152-mm) 40-caliber[5] guns, a larger secondary armament than in previous classes.[8] 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 Mars commissioned on 8 June 1897 for service with the Channel Fleet. She was present at the Fleet Review at Spithead for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria on 26 June 1897.[3] She suffered a serious accident in April 1902 when one of her forward 12-inch (305-mm) guns was fired before the breech was closed, killing two officers and nine enlisted men, injuring seven, and wrecking the forward main battery turret.[9] She was at the Coronation Fleet Review for King Edward VII on 16 August 1902.[3]

On 16 August 1904, Mars began a refit at Portsmouth. During her refit, the Channel Fleet became a new Atlantic Fleet in a reorganization on 1 January 1905, she became a unit of the Atlantic Fleet. Her refit was completed in March 1905. Her Atlantic Fleet service ended on 31 March 1906, when she commissioned into the Reserve at Portsmouth.[2]

Mars recommissioned at Portsmouth for service in the new Channel Fleet on 31 October 1906. This service ended when she paid off at Portsmouth on 4 March 1907.[2]

Mars recommissioned on 5 March 1907 for service in the Devonport Division of the new Home Fleet which had been organized in January 1907, and was based at Devonport. During this service, she underwent refits in 1908–1909 and 1911–1912.[2][10] By July 1914, she was in the 4th Division, Home Fleet.[10]

World War I[edit]

As battleship[edit]

With war appearing to be imminent, the Royal Navy undertook a precautionary mobilization on 27 July 1914. As part of this, Mars and her sister ships HMS Hannibal, HMS Magnificent, and HMS Victorious formed the 9th Battle Squadron, which was based in the Humber under the Admiral of Patrols. Mars was serving as a guard ship at the Humber when World War I began in August 1914, and continued in that duty after the 9th Battle Squadron was dissolved on 7 August 1914.[2]

Mars was transferred to the Dover Patrol on 9 December 1914, and was based at Dover briefly before moving to Portland on 11 December 1914. She was based at Portland until February 1915.[2]

The Majestic-class ships were by then the oldest and least effective battleships in service in the Royal Navy. In February 1915, Mars transferred to Belfast, where she paid off on 15 February 1915. In March and April 1915 she was disarmed there by Harland and Wolff, retaining only four of her 6-inch (152-mm) guns and some lighter guns; her 12-inch (305-mm) guns were taken to arm the new Lord Clive-class monitors HMS Earl of Peterborough and HMS Sir Thomas Picton.[10] After that, she was laid up in Loch Goil in April 1915.[11]

Mars with 12-inch (305-mm) guns removed, 1915–1916

As troopship[edit]

In September 1915, Mars recommissioned to serve as a troopship in the Dardanelles campaign. Mars and her similarly disarmed sister ships Hannibal and Magnificent, also acting as troopships, arrived at Mudros on 5 October 1915. At the Dardanelles, Mars took part in the evacuation of Allied troops from Anzac Cove on 8 December 1915 and 9 December 1915 and from West Beach at Cape Helles on 8 January 1916 and 9 January 1916. During the West Beach evacuation, Mars was covered by what had once been her 12-inch (305-mm) guns, now mounted on monitor Sir Thomas Picton.[3]

Decommissioning and subsidiary duties[edit]

Mars returned to Devonport in February 1916, then paid off at Chatham, where she underwent a refit for conversion to a harbor depot ship. She recommissioned as a harbor depot ship on 1 September 1916, and served in this capacity at Invergordon until July 1920.[3]


Mars was placed on the sale list at Invergordon on 7 July 1920. She was sold for scrapping on 9 May 1921 and left Invergordon for scrapping at Briton Ferry in November 1921.[3]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Burt, p. 114.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Burt, p. 133.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Burt, p. 134.
  4. ^ Gibbons, p. 136.
  5. ^ a b c d Chesneau & Kolesnik, p. 36.
  6. ^ Burt, p. 114, 133.
  7. ^ a b c Chesneau & Kolesnik, p. 34.
  8. ^ a b c d Gibbons, p. 137.
  9. ^ Burt, p. 122.
  10. ^ a b c Gardiner & Gray, p. 7.
  11. ^ Burt, p. 133–134.


  • Burt, R. A. (1988). British Battleships 1889–1904. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-061-7. 
  • Chesneau, Roger; Kolesnik, Eugene M., eds. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905. London, UK: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-85177-133-5. 
  • Gardiner, Robert; Gray, Randal, eds. (1985). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 978-0-87021-907-8. OCLC 12119866. 
  • Gibbons, Tony (1983). The Complete Encyclopedia of Battleships and Battlecruisers: A Technical Directory of All the World's Capital Ships From 1860 to the Present Day. London, UK: Salamander Books. ISBN 978-0-86101-142-1. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Dittmar, F. J.; Colledge, J. J. (1972). British Warships 1914–1919. London, UK: Ian Allen. ISBN 978-0-7110-0380-4. 
  • Pears, Randolph (1979) [1957]. British Battleships 1892–1957: The Great Days of the Fleets. London, UK: G. Cave Associates. ISBN 978-0-906223-14-7. OCLC 562663975.