HMS Illustrious

HMS Illustrious was a Majestic class pre-dreadnought used as a guardship early in the First World War. In the original pre-war mobilisation plan the entire class was to form the 7th Battle Squadron of the Channel Fleet. The role of the Illustrious changed twice in August 1914. At the start of the war a nearly completed Turkish dreadnought was seized, and taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Erin. It was planned to pay off the Illustrious so that her experienced skeleton crew could be used to form the nucleus of the crew of the Erin. This plan was almost immediately cancelled when Admiral Jellicoe was forced to move the fleet from Scapa Flow to Loch Ewe on the west coast of Scotland while the defences of Scapa were improved. HMS Illustrious was moved to Loch Ewe to act as a guardship.

Plans of Majestic Class Battleships
Plans of
Majestic Class Battleships

By November she was no longer needed at Loch Ewe, and was moved to the Tyne, to guard the naval repair base. In December she was on the Humber, under the command of Admiral Ballard, Admiral of Patrols. In May 1915 she moved even further south, joining the Channel Fleet.

In 1916 her active career ended when she was disarmed and moved to the Tyne to act as an ammunition ship. The next year she moved back south to perform the same role at Portsmouth, remaining there for the rest of the war.

HMS Illustrious before 1904
HMS Illustrious before 1904

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

16kts natural draught
17kts forced draught

Armour – belt


 - bulkheads


 - barbettes


 - gun houses


 - casemates


 - conning tower


 - deck





Four 12in guns
Twelve 6in quick firing guns
Sixteen 12pdr quick firing guns
Twelve 2pdr quick firing guns
Five 18in torpedo tubes, four submerged

Crew complement



17 September 1896


April 1898

Sold for break up



J. E. Drummond

British Battleships 1889-1904 New Revised Edition, R A Burt. Magnificent study of the Royal Navy's pre-dreadnought battleships, amongst the most powerful ships in the world when built, but seen as obsolete by the outbreak of war in 1914. Traces the development of the 'classic' pre-dreadnought design and the slow increase in the power of the secondary armament, leading up to the all-big gun ships that followed. [read full review]
cover cover cover

Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (29 October 2007), HMS Illustrious ,

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