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Naval Warfare

HMS Canopus (1899)

Predreadnought Battleship [ 1899 ]

HMS Canopus led the six-strong Canopus-class of pre-Dreadnought battleships heading into World War 1.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 05/10/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

To counter the growing naval threat from both the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan to its interests in the Pacific, the British Royal Navy took to establishing an all-new class of fighting ships specifically for this theater of operations. This became the Canopus-class which numbered six-strong and designed for the rigors of far-off operations from home. The class was led by HMS Canopus and the lead-ship was eventually joined by sisters Glory, Albion, Ocean, Goliath, and Vengeance. Ocean and Goliath was both lost in action during the fighting of World War 1 in March and May, respectively of 1915.

The class were classified as pre-dreadnought warships upon the arrival of HMS Dreadnought in 1906. Pre-dreadnoughts succeeded ironclads but, themselves, were succeeded by dreadnought types thereafter due to lacking the latter's key qualities - a uniform main battery of guns and a steam-based turbine propulsion scheme. The Canopus-class became one of the final classes of pre-dreadnought warships to be completed anywhere in the world.

HMS Canopus was ordered in 1896 and its namesake originated from the Egyptian coastal town. Her keel was laid down on January 4th, 1897 by Portsmouth Dockyard and she was launched to sea on October 12th of that year. On December 5th, 1899 she was completed and formally commissioned into service with the Royal Navy.

The battleship displaced 14,500 tons short and held a running length of 431 feet, a beam measuring 74 feet, and a draught down to 26 feet. Power was from 2 x Vertical triple expansion steam engines fed by water tube boiler units developing 15,400 horsepower to drive 2 x Shafts astern. The vessel made headway at 18 knots. The Canopus-class were the first British battleship-type warships to rely on caol-fed water tube boilers - the main benefits being enhanced economy and power output when compared to contemporary options.

Aboard was a complement of some 750 personnel. The warship used a two-masted arrangement with the twin smoke funnels featured at midships. Armor protection reached 6" at the belt with 12" at each barbette and 6" at the casemates. The decks were protected in up to 2" of armor and the conning tower sat behind a stout 12" protection level.

The primary battery involved 4 x 12" (305mm) BL /35 caliber Mk VIII guns in two twin-gunned turrets backed by 12 x 6" (152mm) /40 caliber QF guns in single-gunned emplacements. Beyond this were 10 x 12-pounder (76mm) quick-firing guns and 6 x 3-pounder guns. Rounding out the armament suite were 4 x 18" (460mm) torpedo launchers. The main guns were held in two turrets, one situated fore and the other aft, with the smaller-caliber guns positioned about the hull superstructure.

HMS Canopus saw her major action during World War 1 (1914-1918) when she began service at the Falkland Islands. Her primary mission was to thwart German commerce raiders operating in the region. She took on a search for Vice Admiral Maximilian von Spee's cruiser squadron during actions in December 1914 and, while berthed at Port Stanley, she fired the first shots of the Battle of the Falklands (December 8th, 1914) against the foe. The battle ended as a critical British victory for von Spee's German East Asia Squadron was utterly destroyed with little loss to the Royal Navy.

In the early part of 1915, she was relocated to the Mediterranean Theater where she took part in the Dardanelles Campaign alongside French and Russian forces against a combined Ottoman, German, and Austrian-Hungarian element. The Ottoman victory in the campaign kept the attackers at bay - the Gallipoli Campaign forcing an Allied withdrawal by January of 1916. From then on, her days grew quieter as the warship was kept on station in the Mediterranean for the time being. In April of 1916, she was withdrawn and reworked as a barracks ship before the end of the war - which arrived with the Armistice of November 1918. Through it all, HMS Canopus sustained no wartime damage - her only such incident was a pre-war event in August 1904 when she was run into by the battleship Barfleur in Mounts Bay during maneuvers.

With her services no longer required in the post-World War 1 period, HMS Canopus was stripped of her usefulness and ultimately sold for scrapping on February 18th, 1920.©MilitaryFactory.com
Note: The above text is EXCLUSIVE to the site www.MilitaryFactory.com. It is the product of many hours of research and work made possible with the help of contributors, veterans, insiders, and topic specialists. If you happen upon this text anywhere else on the internet or in print, please let us know at MilitaryFactory AT gmail DOT com so that we may take appropriate action against the offender / offending site and continue to protect this original work.


Service Year

United Kingdom national flag graphic
United Kingdom

Destroyed, Scrapped.


HMS Canopus; HMS Albion; HMS Glory; HMS Goliath; HMS Ocean; HMS Vengeance

National flag of the United Kingdom United Kingdom
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
Offshore Bombardment
Offshore bombardment / attack of surface targets / areas primarily through onboard ballistic weaponry.
Offshore strike of surface targets primarily through onboard missile / rocket weaponry.
Maritime Patrol
Active patroling of vital waterways and maritime areas; can also serve as local deterrence against airborne and seaborne threats.
Airspace Denial / Deterrence
Neutralization or deterrence of airborne elements through onboard ballistic of missile weaponry.
Fleet Support
Serving in support (either firepower or material) of the main surface fleet in Blue Water environments.
Flag Ship / Capital Ship
Serving in the fleet Flag Ship role or Capital Ship in older warship designs / terminology.

431.0 ft
131.37 m
74.0 ft
22.56 m
26.0 ft
7.92 m

Installed Power: Water tube boilers feeding 2 x Vertical triple expansion steam engines developing 15,400 horsepower driving 2 x shafts astern.
Surface Speed
18.0 kts
(20.7 mph)
8,003 nm
(9,210 mi | 14,822 km)

kts = knots | mph = miles-per-hour | nm = nautical miles | mi = miles | km = kilometers

1 kts = 1.15 mph | 1 nm = 1.15 mi | 1 nm = 1.85 km
4 x 12" BL (305mm) /35 Mk VIII main guns in two twin-gunned primary turrets (one fore, one aft).
12 x 6" (152mm) QF /40 secondary guns in single-gunned mountings.
10 x 12-pounder (76mm) Quick-Firing tertiary guns in single-gunned mountings.
6 x 3-pounder guns in single-gunned emplacements.
4 x 18" (450mm) torpedo tubes.

Supported Types

Graphical image of a historical warship turreted main gun armament
Graphical image of an aircraft aerial torpedo

(Not all weapon types may be represented in the showcase above)

Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War period
Military lapel ribbon for early warship designs
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2

Ribbon graphics not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective naval campaigns / operations / periods.

Images Gallery

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Image of the HMS Canopus (1899)
Image from the Public Domain; drawing by Fred T. Jane.

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