HMS Mars

Home ] Up ] HMS Magnificent ] HMS Majestic ] HMS Illustrious ] [ HMS Mars ] HMS Prince George ] HMS Jupiter ] HMS Hannibal ] HMS Caesar ] HMS Victorious ]

HMS Mars of the Majestic Class battleships. Mars served with the Channel Fleet in the winter of 1906 and again in 1907. At the outbreak of WW1 she served with the 4th Division of the Home Fleet. Mars then served as a guardship in the Humber in August 1914. With her turrets removed at Belfast she became a transport ship and covered the evacuations of Anzac and Cape Helles in January 1916. HMS Mars was finally sold for breaking May 1921.

Armament: four 12 inch guns, twelve 6 inch guns, sixteen 12 pdr guns, twelve 3 pdr guns, 2 maxims, two 2pdr boat guns and five torpedo tubes.   Displacement: 14,900 tons.   Speed: 16.5 knots.   Complement: 757.

HMS MARS 30TH MARCH 1896 SOLD FOR B/U 9TH MAY 1921

HMS Mars at the Fitting-out Wharf of Laird's at Birkenhead.

The private firm of Messrs Laird Bros at Birkenhead had the highest reputation for the vessels of war they produced. These included, among others, the iron frigate Birkenhead, the world-famous cruiser Alabama, the old battleships Agincourt and Vanguard, the historic armour-clad turret ship Huascar and so on down to the first class battleship Royal Oak, the Mars and the Glory. Hardly any other private firm attained greater eminence and the distinguished services it rendered to Naval architecture were recognised not only by the British Government but by foreign governments. The Birkenhead works covered an area of 22 acres in 1897,  and the special feature was their series of graving docks for repair and construction of vessels of every size, equipped with powerful steam cranes and ever other convenience, while alongside the fitting-out wharf the largest battleship can lie- as many during construction did- at all states of the tide. In addition there were extensive modern engine shops and boiler works.

HMS Mars, 1897.

Click here for photo purchasing options

HMS Mars.

HMS Mars launched 30th March 1896. After 8 years service, she was commissioned into the reserve at Portsmouth and reentered service with the Channel Fleet in the winter of 1906 and again March - May 1907. Between 1908-1912 HMS Mars had 2 refits, and was in the 4th Division of the Home Fleet at the outbreak of world war one. During August 1914 she was sent to the Humber as a guard ship. In February 1915, HMS Mars had her 12 inch turrets removed at Belfast (these turrets were installed in the monitors Earl of Peterborough and Sir Thomas Pickton) after which HMS Mars became a transport ship and covered the evacuations of Anzac and Cape Helles in January 1916. On arrival back to Britain she became a depot ship at Invergordon and finally sold for breaking May 1921.

Click here for photo purchasing options

HMS Mars, 1897

Click here for photo purchasing options

HMS Mars.

Click here for photo purchasing options

The Barbette of HMS Mars.

HMS Mars.

Click here for photo purchasing options

The "Cabinet" of HMS Mars, 1898

The Officers of Mars, c.1898.

HMS Mars launched 30th March 1896. After 8 years service, she was commissioned into the reserve at Portsmouth and reentered service with the Channel Fleet in the winter of 1906 and again March - May 1907. Between 1908-1912 HMS Mars had 2 refits, and was in the 4th Division of the Home Fleet at the outbreak of world war one. During August 1914 she was sent to the Humber as a guard ship. In February 1915, HMS Mars had her 12 inch turrets removed at Belfast (these turrets were installed in the monitors Earl of Peterborough and Sir Thomas Pickton) after which HMS Mars became a transport ship and covered the evacuations of Anzac and Cape Helles in January 1916. On arrival back to Britain she became a depot ship at Invergordon and finally sold for breaking May 1921.

Captain Henry J May and the officers of HMS Mars c.1900.

HMS Mars.

Click here for photo purchasing options

Gun Explosion on Board HMS Mars
Information on the incident taken from the Army & Navy Illustrated April 1902.

The Channel Squadron were carrying out the usual target practice, each ship firing at a target towed past her by another ship. The Mars had completed her practice, except for the guns in the fore turret. With these guns several misfires had occurred, and the order was given to change the main electric circuit for the spare or auxiliary one. What followed afterwards is not quite clear, the version that follows is the one generally accepted by the Naval establishment pending the result of the enquiry. The charge of cordite in the gun was probably a half-charge. The Mars gun is a 12 n wire-wound breech-loading weapon, and the projectile is rammed home by a hydraulic rammer. On the base of the projectile is a soft metal ring, which cuts into the rifling of the gun and makes the shell an airtight fit in the bore. The half-charge of cordite is now inserted in a bag. This bag, since it only fills half the chamber of the gun, should be entered carefully, so that it shall touch the breech-block when the latter is closed, and be close up against the ignition tube. This is possibly one mistake that was made - namely, that the charge entered too far into the gun and may have been a foot or more away from the breech-block and ignition tube. Now on the breech being closed the charge is in a practically airtight chamber, sealed at one end by the projectile and at the other by the breech-block. The order to fire was now given, and the tube was exploded. The flash of it, however, was only enough to cause the bag containing the cordite to smoulder slightly, there not being  sufficient oxygen in the chamber to give this small flame a chance of spreading. A pause as directed by the drill book, was now presumable waited, and then came the order to open the breech. Directly the breech was unlocked and the outside air entered the chamber, the smouldering flame revived and the charge exploded, with terrible results for the occupants of the turret. Lieutenant Bourne and Lieutenant Miller were the two officers killed, with another six men killed in the incident.

The Fore Barbette

The accident occurred with the left or port gun.

The Cordite Charges

The charge is made up in four parts, each weighing 41 lbs 13 oz, making a total of 167.25 lbs for the full charge.

Funeral of the Eight Victims at Queenstown

The steam launch of the Mars towing the barge with the bodies on board to the Naval pier.

Last Honours to Dead Comrades

Bluejackets and marines presenting arms as the coffins pass on the way to the biers.

HMS Mars, 1919.

Click here for photo purchasing options

HMS Mars

Click here for photo purchasing options