HMS Mars 1897

Victorian Battleship (You can also see HMS Pelorus)

HMS Mars August 1897

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HMS Mars was one of nine ships that made up the 'Majestic' class, the largest class of Battleships ever built. Designed by Sir William White, they are also considered by many to be the best-looking battleships ever to take to the sea.

This 1/96th scale model of 'Mars' shows her as she appeared in August, 1897, immediately after Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee review.

The ship is painted in 'Ordinary' Victorian colours of Black hull and white superstructure with buff funnels and masts. These colours, common to most navies at the the time, would soon be lost to the overall grey of warships ever since. But at the end of the nineteenth century, the Royal Navy had maintained peace upon the seas for more than 80 years and had few enemies to fear and therefore no need of camoflage.

Although 'Mars' and her sisters never engaged in action with enemy battleships, they were effective designs. In many ways they were as revolutionary as the 'Dreadnought' was to be, having excellent sea keeping with high freeboard, main aramament on the centreline in turrets, a high speed for the time of 17 knots and adequate armour protection. They were the last ships built to counter the French and would have been an adequate match for any foreign navy.

Today, the only surviving British battleship is the remarkable HMS Warrior of 1850. But surprisingly, a ship very similar to 'Mars' and her sisters does still exist in Japan. This is the 'Mikasa', admiral Togo's flagship at the battle of Tsushima, built on the Tyne in 1902 and now preserved as a national monument.

While 'Mars' and her sisters are long gone, memories of these superb vessels live on in black and white photographs and original builder's models. There is no known model of Mars on public display in the UK and so the choice of the prototype for this model was simple. In addition, 'Mars' herself was remembered quite recently in a remarkable ceremony that marked the restoration by members of the Irish Naval Serice of the graves of some of her men who are buried in the Irish republic at Cobh.

The model is based on the popular Deans Marine kit but with a largely scratch built superstructure to represent the ship as it appeared in 1897. In particular, the mainmast is shown running through the bridge rather than abaft it as in later ships. Mars carries 18 boats, including 2 steam pinnaces and with a little poetic licence (she was never a flagship) an Admiral's barge.

Mar boat deck

Power is provided by two car heater motors and 12v 12Ah gel cell batteries which give a seemingly unlimited sailing time. The model has a good turn of speed and throws up a bow wave that resembles that of the real ship in the few surviving photographs of these ships at sea.

HMS Mars

HMS Mars with the 1/32 scale steam pinnace alongside.