Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper
Royal Navy obituary in the Times newspaper

The Royal NavyObituaries

The following obituary for Edward James Reed appeared in the Times newspaper.

Obituary in the Times newspaper
1 December 1906


We regret to announce the death of Sir Edward Reed, the well-known naval architect, which occurred from heart failure early yesterday morning at his London residence, Savoy Court, Strand. He had been ill for about a fortnight, but there was every hope that he would recover. On Thursday, however, he had a relapse.
Edward James Reed was born at Sheerness on September 20, 1830, and after serving his apprenticeship with a shipwright entered the School of Mathematics and Naval Construction at Portsmouth. Leaving in 1852, he obtained a position in Sheerness Dockyard, but resigned on account of a dispute with the authorities, and then occupied himself with technical journalism, among other things editing the Mechanic's Magazine. In 1860 he became first secretary of the newly-founded Institution of Naval Architects, and in 1863 was appointed Chief Constructor of the Navy.
At the time when he assumed this office the art of constructing ships of war was in a transition stage, and he did much to mould it on the lines along which it subsequently developed. The superiority of iron over wood as the material for the hulls had barely been established - of 11 ironclads ordered for the Navy in 1861, five were of wood - and the methods in which it was employed were largely modelled on those practised with wood. Reed was quite clear as to the advantages of iron, and in the "bracket- frame" system of construction, first adopted for the Bellerophon (1865), he introduced a more effective method of utilizing its special qualities. Realizing that the ships should be able to fight their guns in all weathers, he made them stand well out of the water, and aimed at making them as steady as possible in order to secure a good gun platform; and by reducing their length he strove to remedy the defect of unhandiness and lack of manoeuvring power which had been urged against the earlier ironclads. In regard to armour, the necessity for which was pretty generally recognized, when his term of office began, as the result of experience gained in the Crimean war, he adopted the principle that the vital parts - boilers, engines, magazines, rudder and steering gear - in addition to the heavy-gun positions, should be adequately protected. In the Warrior, our first sea-going ironclad, begun in 1859, there was a central citadel, 213ft. long, which was provided with 4½in. armour, but the rest of the ship, which was in all 380ft. in length, was unprotected against injury from shot and shell. To remedy this weakness he advocated and used in his ships an armour belt extending the whole length at the water-line. He was in favour of a small number of heavy guns, powerful enough to penetrate the armour of any enemy, and so mounted as to permit of all-round fire and of concentration so far as possible on any required point. The turret system, the advantages of which were urged with great vigour and persistence during the time he was at the Admiralty, he viewed with modified approval. He admitted its great inherent merits in enabling big guns to be trained smoothly and easily through large arcs, but at the same time he saw various drawbacks, as, for instance, that it could not well be combined with rigging, that it involved, gun for gun, about double as much armour as the broadside system, and that simultaneous fire was limited to two directions only. In 1869 he expressed the opinion that, if any mistake had been made with reference to the introduction of turret-ships, and especially of monitors, into the British Navy, it had consisted in adopting them too rapidly rather than too slowly; indeed, it was his attitude towards turret-ships that led to his resignation in 1870. The Devastation, begun in 1869, embodied his idea of the best results obtainable on the turret plan. In her he solved the problem presented by the rigging by dispensing with sails altogether, and she was thus the first British sea-going battleship that relied solely on steam. Her sides, protected with 12in. armour, rose only 4½ft. above the water, but amidships there was raised a breastwork or redoubt, about 150ft. long, with two turrets on the central line, each containing a pair of 35-ton guns, which thus stood some 14ft. above the sea. The fire of all of them could be concentrated over a large part of the horizon, but only two of them were available right ahead or right astern. After the Captain, which represented Captain Cowper Coles's idea of a turret-ship, had foundered in the Bay of Biscay, in 1870, doubts arose as to the stability of other ironclads, but the Committee on Designs for Ships of War, which was appointed to inquire into the question, reported that there was nothing to fear in the case of the Devastation. Reed, indeed, was fully alive to the danger of deficient stability, and, before the Captain disaster, had indicated his misgivings in regard to the safety of ships of her kind.
Reed left the Admiralty in 1870. During his seven years' service the Navy had been increased by some 40 iron armourclads, in addition to cruisers and other vessels, and subsequently, in the course of his practice as a naval architect, he was responsible for many other war vessels. For Brazil, in 1872, he designed the Independencia, which, in 1878, was purchased by the British Government and called the Neptune. For Germany he planned the Kaiser and Deutschland, cruisers of about 7,600 tons, both of which were built at Samuda's yard on the Thames, the latter being completed in 1875; and three cruisers for Japan a little later. For Chile he produced the cruising armourclads Almirante Cochrane and Blanco-Encalada, which were launched in 1874 and 1875, and it was at the behest of the same Power that more than a quarter of a century afterwards he designed the Libertad and the Constitucion, battleships, which were launched by the firms of Vickers, Sons, and Maxim and Armstrong, Whitworth, and Co. at the beginning of 1903, and which now form part of the British Navy as the Triumph and Swiftsure. These last two names recall an earlier triumph of Sir Edward Reed's. In 1867, when the agitation in favour of turret-ships was in full vigour, designs were invited by the Board of Admiralty for either a broadside or a turret-ship which was to fulfil specified conditions as to draught, displacement, and speed, was to have all-round fire, and was to command every point of the horizon with at least one gun, protected by armour. Various designs were submitted, but the one sent in by Reed was finally preferred by the Board of Admiralty, and two of these ships that were built in accordance with it were called the Triumph and Swiftsure.
Sir Edward Reed entered Parliament as Liberal member for the Pembroke Boroughs in 1874, and at the general election of 1880 was returned for Cardiff District. This seat he retained until 1895, and he was again returned for it in 1900, but did not seek re-election in 1905. He was a Lord of the Treasury in Mr. Gladstone's Administration of 1886. He was made a K.C.B. in 1880, and in addition held several foreign orders and decorations. The Royal Society elected him a Fellow in 1878. He was the author of a considerable number of books, including “Shipbuilding in Iron and Steel " (1869); "Our Ironclad Ships" (1869), which was largely a vindication of his policy as Chief Constructor; "The Stability of Ships" (1884); "Modern Ships of War" (1885), with Admiral Simpson; "Letters from Russia in 1873" (1876); "Japan" (1880),the result of a visit paid to that country at the invitation of the Government in 1878; "Fort Minster, M.P." (1885); and "Poems" (1902). He was also a frequent contributor to The Times of letters upon a variety of subjects. He married, in 1851, Rosetta, daughter of Nathaniel Barnaby and sister of Sir Nathaniel Barnaby, his successor as Director of Naval Construction at the Admiralty. His son, Mr. E.T. Reed, is well known to readers of Punch.

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