The Battlecruiser HMS Queen Mary

The HMS Queen Mary with deployed torpedo nets. Its structure of hundreds of chained rings can be seen in the close-up. Visualization 3D Stefan Dramiński

After the trials had been completed, the ship fully equipped and minor defects removed, the commissioning ceremony of the new battlecruiser took place at the Portsmouth Royal Navy Base on 4 September 1913. On that day Queen Mary left the shipyard, formally joined the Royal Navy and was assigned to the First Battlecruiser Squadron. After the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Queen Mary, along with the entire First Squadron, was assigned to the Grand Fleet, formed shortly before the war and made of the latest British battleships.
The Grand Fleet began its operations at the beginning of August 1914. Its main task was to protect shipping in the North Sea and gaining supremacy on these waters in the face of the mighty fleet of Kaiser’s Germany. The baptism of fire for Queen Mary and especially her gunners came with the first major encounter with the warships of the Kaiserlischemarine, the Battle of Heligoland Bight.
The squadron of the battlecruisers, under the command of acting Vice-Admiral Beatty, was intended to support the light cruisers and destroyers of the Royal Navy commanded by Commodore Tyrwhitt, operating close to the German fleet bases at Wilhelmshaven, Bremerhaven and Cuxhaven. Eight cruisers and two flotillas of destroyers were attacked by superior German forces. Although the German ships outnumbered the British, they lacked heavy units which gave Beatty’s task force  considerable advantage. The clash was a huge victory for the Royal Navy. The British losses were: one light cruiser damaged (HMS Arethusa) and a total of 35 killed. The Germans lost 712 killed and 336 captured. The light German cruisers SMS Mainz, SMS Cöln and SMS Ariadne were sunk. Queen Mary was the third ship in Beatty’s formation, behind the flagship HMS Lion and HMS Princess Royal - second in formation. Her gunners contributed largely to the sinking of the German cruiser Ariadne.

The stern. At the edge of the deck there is the sloping hawse hole of the aft anchor. The ship’s name, painted on the side with capital letters, was behind the gallery railing and could only be seen from a short distance.  Visualization 3D Stefan Dramiński


On 13 October, Captain Hall was replaced as the commanding officer of Queen Mary by Captain Cecil I. Prowse. In December, Vice-Admiral Beatty’s squadron had another chance to engage German ships. On 16 December 1914, 1st Scouting Group commanded by Rear-Admiral Franz von Hipper approached the British coast at Yorkshire County and fired their heavy guns at harbour towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby. Unfortunately the opportunity to wage battle against the German ships was lost. Because of navigational mistakes, Beatty’s task force did not intercept the fleeing German units which managed to return to their base safely.
Upon her arrival to the base, Queen Mary was docked and underwent some repairs. At that time, all four Hotchkiss salutation guns were removed and replaced by two anti aircraft guns –  76 mm L/20 cwt Mk 1 on HA Mk II mount and 57 mm (6-pounder) HA Mk Ic Hotchkiss.
While being overhauled between 1914 and 1915, Queen Mary could not share the battlecruisers Squadron’s spectacular success that was achieved on 24 January 1915 on the waters of Dogger Bank. Vice-Admiral Beatty’s 1st Squadron (Lion, Princess Royal, Tiger, New Zeland and Indomitable) clashed with the Hochseeflotte battlecruiser squadron (Derfflinger, Moltke, Seydlitz and Blücher). The artillery engagement was a defeat for Rear-Admiral Hipper’s task force. Derfflinger was damaged by a single 343 mm shell, the cruiser Seydlitz received three hits and Blücher was sunk. On the British side, Beatty’s flagship – the battlecruiser Lion was damaged and put out of action. One can only speculate if Queen Mary’s participation in the Battle of Dogger Bank would have contributed to higher German losses as her gunners’ exceptional performance was famous in the Grand Fleet.
After the defeat at Dogger Bank, the Hochseeflotte command was not eager to send its heavy warships to the North Sea nor other areas controlled by the Grand Fleet for fear of encountering its mighty battlecruiser armada. Their concerns were caused by the possibility of losing modern battlecruisers and dreadnoughts so valuable to Germany. The initiative was taken over by the U-Boots whose success rate started to rise.
Meanwhile, throughout the whole of 1915, tens of  battlecruisers and dreadnoughts of the Grand Fleet were forced to unusual idleness. The inactivity was interrupted by fleet manoeuvres and artillery exercises during which Queen Mary’s gunners proved their superiority and turned their ship into the most fire effective battlecruiser of the Grand Fleet.
At the beginning of 1916, the ship underwent modification of the foremast tripod. The strengthening of the structure did not affect the appearance of the ship but significantly increased  damage resistance of the construction of the command tower and fire control posts at the top of the mast.