HMS Centurion (1892)

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For other ships with the same name, see HMS Centurion.
Name: HMS Centurion
Builder: Portsmouth Dockyard
Laid down: 30 March 1890
Launched: 3 August 1892
  • Completed for trials September 1893
  • Trials completed February 1894
Commissioned: 14 February 1894
Decommissioned: 1 April 1909
Fate: Sold for scrapping 12 July 1910
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: Centurion-class battleship
Displacement: 10,500 tons
Length: 360 ft (110 m) p/p
Beam: 70 ft (21 m)
Draught: 25 ft 6 in (7.77 m)
Propulsion: 2 shaft Greenock Foundry Triple Expansion, 9,000 ihp (6,700 kW)
Speed: 17 knots (31 km/h)
Complement: 620
  • Belt: 9–12 in (229–305 mm)
  • Upper Belt: 4 in (102 mm)
  • Bulkheads: 8 in (203 mm)
  • Decks: 2–2.5 in (51–64 mm)
  • Conning tower: 12 in (305 mm)
  • Barbettes: 5–9 in (127–229 mm)
  • Gunhouses: 6 in (152 mm)
  • Casemates: 6 in (152 mm)

HMS Centurion was a predreadnought second-class battleship of the Royal Navy. She was part of the two-ship Centurion class, designed for long-range patrolling of the United Kingdom's far-flung empire. She entered service with the Royal Navy in 1894, and was assigned to the China Station as its flagship. She supported Allied operations during the Boxer Rebellion and, apart from a period of refitting and rearming at Portsmouth from 1901 to 1903, remained in the Far East until 1905. Returning to England, she was part of the Home Fleet until 1909, at which time, outclassed by the dreadnought class of ships which began appearing from 1906, she was decommissioned and put up for sale for scrap.

Technical characteristics[edit]

HMS Centurion was laid down on 30 March 1890, launched on 3 August 1892, and completed for trials in September 1893. She commenced trials on 19 September 1893 and completed them in February 1894.[2]

She displaced 10,500 tons, was 360 feet (110 m) in length and carried a complement of 620 officers and men. Her twin engines produced 13,000 ihp.

She was armed with four 10-inch (250 mm) guns in two barbettes, had a 6-inch (150 mm) secondary armament and three torpedo tubes. She was protected by a 12-inch (300 mm) belt of compound armour, closed with 8-inch (200 mm) bulkheads. She stored 1,125 tons of coal, giving her a range of 6,000 nautical miles (11,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h).

Operational history[edit]

HMS Centurion commissioned at Portsmouth on 14 February 1894 for service on the China Station. She departed the United Kingdom on 2 March 1894, arriving at Port Said, Egypt, on 15 March 1894 and at Singapore on 11 April 1894. At Singapore, she rendezvoused with armoured cruiser HMS Imperieuse and relieved her as flagship of the China Station. She then proceeded to Hong Kong, arriving there on 21 April 1894.[3]

In June 1896, Centurion grounded on a sandbank at Shimonoseki, Japan, without damage. On 1 April 1897 she recommissioned at Hong Kong to continue her service as Flagship, China Station.[4] From December 1897, she was the flagship of Admiral Sir Edward Seymour.

Captain J. R. Jellicoe (the later Admiral Jellicoe of World War I), in command of the Centurion on the China Station (depicted on a contemporary cigarette card).

Between 1897 and 1900, Centurion was actively engaged in Allied operations in northern China during the Boxer Rebellion. On 31 May 1900, she put landing parties ashore which joined other forces in storming the Taku forts and in relieving the foreign legations at Tientsin.[4]

On 10 April 1901, while at Shanghai, she parted her mooring cables during a storm and drifted across the bows of battleship HMS Glory. Glory's bow punched a hole in Centurion's hull below the waterline, but the damage was not serious and was repaired at Hong Kong.[4]

Centurion ended her China Station service in June 1901. Glory relieved Centurion as flagship on 10 June 1901. Centurion departed Hong Kong on 3 July 1901 and arrived at Portsmouth on 19 August 1901, where she was welcomed by the local Commander-in-Chief and thousands of people lining the beach and pier.[5] Admiral Seymour struck his flag on 21 August 1901,[6] and after a month Centurion paid off into reserve there on 19 September 1901.[7][4]

Centurion underwent a reconstruction at Portsmouth, including a partial rearmament, between September 1901 and November 1903. On 3 November 1903 she commissioned there for another period of service on the China Station. Departing Portsmouth on 10 November 1903, she called at Malta on 17 November 1903, at Port Said on 25 November 1903, at Aden on 6 December 1903, at Colombo, Ceylon, on 15 December 1903, and at Singapore on 27 December 1903 before arriving at Hong Kong on 31 December 1903.[4]

In 1905, the United Kingdom and Japan ratified a treaty of alliance, reducing the need for a large Royal Navy presence on the China Station. The British squadron there was reduced, and all its battleships were withdrawn. Accordingly, on 7 June 1905, Centurion, in company with battleship HMS Ocean, departed Hong Kong. At Singapore, they rendezoused with battleships HMS Albion and HMS Vengeance. The four battleships departed Singapore on 20 June 1905 and steamed in company to Plymouth, where they arrived on 2 August 1905.[4]

HMS Centurion, by W. Fred Mitchell, 1904

Centurion paid off at Portsmouth on 25 August 1905. She recommissioned on 26 August 1905 with a nucleus crew as a unit of the Portsmouth Division of the Reserve Fleet. She participated in combined exercises of the Reserve Fleet, Atlantic Fleet, and Channel Fleet in June 1906.[8]

On 24 May 1907, Centurion transferred her crew to battleship HMS Exmouth. On 25 May 1907, she recommissioned with a new nucleus crew to serve as a special service vessel with the Portsmouth Division of the Home Fleet.[3] By April 1909, she was part of the 4th Division, Home Fleet, at Portsmouth.[1]

Impressive as they were upon their completion, ships such as Centurion were entirely outclassed by the new dreadnoughts that began to appear in 1906. Centurion paid off at Portsmouth on 1 April 1909 and was placed on the sale list. By the end of June 1909 she was anchored at the Motherbank, awaiting disposal. She was sold for scrapping on 12 July 1910, and arrived at Thos W Ward, Morecambe for scrapping on 4 September 1910.[3]


  1. ^ a b Chesneau, Koleśnik & Campbell 1979, p. 33.
  2. ^ Burt, p. pp 94, 97
  3. ^ a b c Burt, p. 98
  4. ^ a b c d e f Burt, p. 97
  5. ^ "Admiral Seymour´s return". The Times (36538). London. 20 August 1901. p. 4. 
  6. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times (36540). London. 22 August 1901. p. 4. 
  7. ^ "Naval & military intelligence". The Times (36565). London. 20 September 1901. p. 8. 
  8. ^ Burt, pp. 97–98


  • Burt, R. A. British Battleships 1889–1904. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1988. ISBN 0-87021-061-0.
  • Chesneau, Roger; Koleśnik, Eugène M.; Campbell, N.J.M. (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-133-5. 
  • Gray, Randal, ed., Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships, 1906–1921, Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1985. ISBN 0-87021-907-3.
  • Pears, Randolph. (1979). British Battleships 1892–1957: The great days of the fleets. G. Cave Associates. ISBN 978-0-906223-14-7