Queen Mary

HMS Queen Mary was a British battlecruiser based on the Lion class, but with significant internal changes. Her external appearance was very similar to the earlier ships, but internally she had more powerful engines and used heavier, more accurate shells. She retained the main flaws of the Lion class ships – the central 13.5in turret was badly sited, between the second and third funnels, despite their being space for it to have been placed behind the third turret, as on the contemporary Orion class battleships.

Plans of Lion Class Battlecruisers
Plans of
Lion Class

As with all battlecruisers, she had weak armour, protection having been sacrificed for speed, meaning that she would be vulnerable to 12in shell fire. While earlier German battlecruisers were armed with 11.1in shells, SMS Derfflinger, completed in November 1914, and her successors, carried at least 12in guns. The flaw did not lie in the design of the Queen Mary, but in the basic concept of the battlecruiser. By the time HMS Queen Mary was launched, the Admiralty had realised that these ships were not suited to any of the jobs they were likely to be asked to perform, being too expensive to produce in large enough numbers to use as conventional cruisers, and too vulnerable for the main battle fleet. Only one more battlecruiser, HMS Tiger, would be laid down before the start of the First World War.   

The Queen Mary joined the 1st Cruiser Squadron in September 1913. In January 1914 it was renamed the 1st Battle Cruiser Squadron, before in August joining the Grand Fleet. In that capacity she was present at the battle of Heligoland Bight (28 August 1914), but missed Dogger Bank while undergoing a refit.

The Queen Mary came under heavy German shell fire on the first day of the battle of Jutland. She was hit by three 12in shells from SMS Derfflinger. Two hit “Q” turret, causing limited damage, but the third hit the front of the ship, close to “A” and “B” turrets. Each turret was linked to its own magazine, both of which exploded. A third explosion quickly followed, and 38 minutes after the start of the battle the Queen Mary sank with the loss of 1,266 men. Her losses was caused either by the poor cordite management on British ships at Jutland or by the weakness of her armour, which may have resulted in direct shell damage to a magazine. 

Displacement (loaded)

31,650t deep load

Top Speed



5,610 nautical miles at 10kts

Armour - deck


 - belt


 - bulkheads


 - barbettes


 - turret faces


 - conning town



703ft 6in


Eight 13.5in, 34 calibre, Mk V guns
Sixteen 4in, 50 calibre Mk VII guns
Four 3pdr
Two 21in submerged torpedo tubes (beam)

Crew complement



20 March 1912


August 1913


31 May 1916

British and German Battlecruisers - Their Development and Operations, Michele Cosentino & Ruggero Stanglini. A useful volume that covers the development, design and construction of British and German battlecruisers, their wartime deployments and both side's plans for the next generation of battlecruisers, of which only HMS Hood was ever completed. Having all of this material in a single volume gives a much better overview of the two Navy's battlecruisers, their advantages and flaws, and their performance in and out of battle. Concludes with a look at other nation's battlecruisers and battlecruiser designs [read full review]
cover cover cover

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

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (13 September 2007), Queen Mary , http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_HMS_Queen_Mary.html

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