|Name||Ganges (launched as Minotaur, 1863)||Explanation|
|Type||Broadside ironclad frigate|
|Launched||12 December 1863|
|Note||Laid down as Elephant.|
1904 = Boscawen t.s.
1906 = Ganges.
1908 Ganges II
|Snippets concerning this vessels career|
|6 April 1867|
- 25 October 1870
|Commanded by Captain James Graham Goodenough, Channel squadron|
|8 October 1870|
- 7 September 1871
|Commanded by Captain Richard Wells, flagship of Vice-Admiral George Greville Wellesley, Commander-in-Chief of the Channel squadron|
|6 September 1871||Commanded by Captain Robert Gibson, flagship of Rear-Admiral Geoffrey Thomas Phipps Hornby, Channel squadron|
|6 August 1875|
- 9 August 1877
|Commanded by Captain Lord Walter Talbot Kerr, flagship of Rear-Admiral Frederick Beauchamp Paget Seymour, Channel squadron|
|8 June 1885|
- 22 July 1885
|Commanded by Captain John Arbuthnot Fisher, evolutionary squadron|
|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|Tu 3 December 1861|
|Fr 21 February 1862||It is a matter of much surprise and comment in naval circles to find that no sum has been apportioned in the Naval Estimates for 1862-3 for the commencement of the long talked of increase in the dock and basin accommodation of Portsmouth dockyard. Under these Estimates immense sums will be spent on works in the dockyard which, when completed, will be found useless. Of this class will be the north inlet, or No. 11 dock, the total Estimate for which is 77,160l., but which, like No. 10, now occupied by the Black Prince, will possibly exceed the original Estimate by some 21,000l., the extension of No. 8 dock at a cost of 19,292l., and the deepening the present steam basin - a work often begun and as often only partially completed owing to the scarcity of dock and basin room in the yard. The north inlet dock may be constructed, No. 8 extended, and the bottom of the steam basin this time excavated, but when all is done there will be no depth of water at their entrances. In the plans for the north inlet dock is shown an outline of the Achilles midship section, but should that ship ever become a reality she will never get inside the north inlet unless the latter has deeper water approaches given to it. This new dock (which has been commenced by the contractor) is to be 426 feet in length, 99 feet in width from coping to coping, 33 feet in depth from coping to entrance invert, and with a depth of water at spring tides of only 28 feet 6 inches. This depth of water might, however, be found sufficient in the majority of cases if the dock was in an accessible position, which, as already stated, it is not. It is unfortunate that works should be executed in such positions, as plan after plan has been prepared and submitted to the Admiralty for the creation of a new steam basin and docks at the north part of the harbour, adjoining the dockyard, where basins and docks of any extent could be created at very little cost, and adjoining the present steam basin and factory. Another provision in the Estimates relating to Portsmouth is equally useless and objectionable:-12,000l. is set down for dredging the harbour and its channel of entrance, in addition to the thousands that have been spent upon the same object during the few past years. A series of groynes, costing but little more than has been paid for one year's dredging, would confine the ebb tide to the channel proper, and more effectually deepen the channel and remove the mud from the bed of the harbour by doing away with the existing eddies than any process of dredging that engineering skill may devise, and would render Portsmouth harbour capable of receiving or sending from within our largest men of war. The patching up of old docks and the completion of others in situations where they can never be of service to our Warriors and Minotaurs, and the dredging of a harbour, an operation often to be repeated, instead of at once applying effectual remedies, can never render Portsmouth harbour equal to the service required from it for the accommodation of our first-class ships. Twenty years ago Portsmouth supplied all that could be desired for the building, outfit, repair, and reception when afloat of our fleets, but now our ships have outgrown our docks and harbours. If the intention of the authorities be not to extend Portsmouth dockyard and improve its harbour and entrance channel, why are those endless lines of defence being constructed, the outer circle of which is nine miles in diameter? In Portsmouth dockyard all is puny and insignificant as compared with our present wants, and the occupation of one dock stays the work of the port. If Portsmouth dockyard is to remain in its present state, why all this costly expenditure to defend an establishment, which, if continued in its present state, would, in the event of an action in the channel, be brought to a dead lock for want of the common resources which would be required for the quick repair of an iron steam fleet? The dock question has been discussed more than once during the past year, and cannot be much longer delayed. There must be additional docks formed, whether their site be Portsmouth, Hamble, Portland, or any other part of our south coast. The existence of iron ships is not a more imperative necessity.|
|We 9 April 1862||The Board of Admiralty, composed of the Duke of Somerset, Vice-Admiral the Hon. Sir F.W. Grey, K.C.B., Capt. Charles Frederick, Capt. the Hon. J.R. Drummond, C.B., and Rear-Admiral Lord Clarence Paget, C.B., the Secretary, went yesterday morning to witness some experimeats with large guns at Shoeburyness.|
In addition to the iron frigate Achilles, 50, 6,079 tons, 1,250-horse power, building at Chatham dockyard, the following squadron of iron vessels are now under construction by private firms for the Admiralty, several of which are in a very advanced state - viz., the Agincourt, 50, 6,621 tons, 1,250-horse power, building at Birkenhead; the Northumberland, 50, 6,621 tons, 1,250-horse power, and the Valiant, 32, 4,063 tons, 800-horse power, building at Millwall; the Minotaur, 50, 6,621 tons, 1,250-horse power, and the Orontes, 3, 2,812 tons, 500-horse power, building at Blackwall; and the Hector, 32, 4,063 tons, 800-horse power, building at Glasgow. The following iron-plated frigates are now building at the several Royal dockyards, the whole of which are intended to be afloat during the present year - viz., the Caledonia, 50, 4,045 tons, 800-horse power, at Woolwich; the Ocean, 50, 4,045 tons, 1,000-horse power, at Devonport; the Prince Consort, 50, 4,045 tons, 1,000-horse power, at Pembroke; the Royal Oak, 50, 3,716 tons, 1,000-horse power, at Chatham; and the Royal Alfred, 50, 3,716 tons, 800-horse power, at Portsmouth. in addition to the above there are no fewer than 31 line-of-battle ships and other screw steamers now on the stocks at the several dockyards, most of which are admirably adapted for conversion into shield ships, on Captain Coles's principle. Of these the Bulwark, 91 [laid down in 1859, suspended in 1861 and finally cancelled in 1873], at Chatham; the Repulse, 91, at Woolwich; the Robust, 91 [laid down in 1859, suspended in 1861 and finally cancelled in 1872], at Devonport; and the Zealous, 91, at Pembroke, are all in a very advanced state, requiring only a comparatively small outlay to plate them with iron. There are also three first-class 51-gun figates also building - viz., the Belvidera [laid down in 1860 and cancelled in 1864] at Chatham, the Tweed [laid down 1860 and cancelled in 1864] at Pembroke, and the Dryad at Portsmouth, - which are admirably adapted for conversion into armour-plated ships. They would not require the removal of any decks, as would be the case with line-of-battle ships, but would only have to be lengthened and strengthened to enable them to bear the increased weight which would be placed on them. Of the other vessels in progress several are intended to carry 22 guns and upwards. If completed as iron-cased steamers they would be larger and of greater tonnage than either the Monitor or Merrimac. The whole of the hands have been removed from the wooden ships building at the several dockyards, and are now employed on the iron-cased frigates under construction, five of which will be afloat by the end of the present year.
|Th 10 April 1862|
|Ma 11 August 1862|
|Th 19 November 1863|
|Sa 12 November 1864||The following is the list of the vessels of the Royal navy which will be armed, and are now being armed, with the new description of 300-pounder and other guns in course of issue. The figures after each vessel specify the number of guns of the description mentioned she will carry. To mount the 12-ton 300-pounders:- Bellerophon, 10; Royal Sovereign, 5; Minotaur, 4; Scorpion, 4; Wiveren, 4; Prince Albert, 4; Agincourt, 4; and Northumberland, 4. To be armed with the 6½-ton guns:- The Achilles, 20; Black Prince, 20; Warrior, 20; Lord Warden, 20; Lord Clyde, 20; Royal Oak, 20; Prince Consort, 20; Royal Alfred, 20; Caledonia, 20; Ocean, 20; Minotaur, 18 ; Agincourt, 18; Valiant, 16; Zealous, 16; Hector, 16; Defence, 10; Resistance, 10; Endymion, 6; Mersey, 4; Orlando, 4, Pallas, 4; Favourite, 4; Research, 4; Enterprise, 4; Amazon, 2; Viper, 2; and Vixen, 2. To mount the 64-pounder muzzle-loader:- The Bristol, 12; Melpomene, 12; Liverpool, 12; Severn, 12; Arethusa, 12; Phoebe, 12;. Shannon, 12; Octavia, 12; Constance, 12; Sutlej, 12; Undaunted, 12; Impérieuse, 12; Aurora, 12; Leander, 12; Bacchante, 12; Emerald, 12; Phaeton, 12: Narcissus, 12; Forte, 12; Euryalus, 12; Topaz, 12; Newcastle, 12; Liffey, 12; Immortalité, 12; Glasgow, 12; Clio, 8, North Star, 8 [laid down 1860, cancelled 1865]; Racoon, 8; Challenge[r], 8; and Menai, 8 [laid down 1860, cancelled 1864]. The following will be supplied with the 64-pounder breech-loaders:- The Scout, 8; Rattlesnake, 8; Cadmus, 8; Scylla, 8; Barossa, 8; Jason, 8; Charybdis, 8; Wolverine, 8; Pylades, 8; Orestes, 8; Pearl, 8; Pelorus, 8; Satellite, 8; Acheron, 4 [laid down 1861, cancelled 1863]; Shearwater, 4; Valorous, 4; Furious, 4; Bittern, 4 [laid down 1861, cancelled 1863]; Magicienne, 4; and Columbine, 4. A supply of the 6½-ton smooth-bore 100-pounder wrought iron guns has already been received at Chatham, and it is understood that the first supply of the 300-pounder rifled 12-ton Armstrong gun may shortly be expected at the Ordnance wharf.|
|Th 24 August 1865|
THE VISIT OF THE FRENCH FLEET TO PORTSMOUTH.The preparation for the entertainments to be given by the naval, civil, and military authorities at Portsmouth to the officers of the French fleet progresses very satisfactorily. The ballroom in course of construction, under the supervision of the superintending civil engineer of the dockyard, in the quadrangle of the Royal Naval College, is already partially floored and roofed in, and will be handed over to the upholsterers and decorators on the 26th inst. - that is, three days before the arrival of the fleets at Spithead from Brest, so that ample time will remain to complete all the details. The approaches to the Naval College are exceedingly good, with a wide semicircular drive for the arrival and departure of carriages. The entrance hall of the College is very spacious, and will, when properly decorated, form a most appropriate vestibule to the ballroom. The latter is being constructed, as we have already stated, in the quadrangle of the College, and is 107ft. in length by 55ft. in breadth, clear of all the upright timbers. Its height is 20ft. to the plates of the roof and 36ft. to its apex. Right and left of the ballroom from the entrance the supper tables will be arranged in the College rooms, access being gained to the latter from the ballroom by temporary broad flights of steps. At the opposite end of the ballroom to the entrance a temporary opening has been made into the College gymnasium, which will be elegantly decorated and fitted with refreshment buffets. The ballroom itself will be made to represent a vast tent, whose roof and walls are composed of the tricolour of France. The apex of the roof of this tent, and the plate line, will be marked with a gold cable four inches in diameter, to relieve the somewhat monotonous outline which would otherwise predominate. Banks of shrubs and flowering plants will be placed round the base of the hall and its approaches, while rich trophies of arms and flags will decorate the walls. Seven devices in gas will also occupy positions on the walls, and 40 candelabra of four wax lights each have also been provided for the same purpose. From the roof of the hall will hang massive chandeliers with wax lights. The orchestra is set back from the ballroom, and will not, therefore, detract from the space given. It will be a noble room; but still, with even its unusual size, the question remains, is it sufficiently large for the occasion? We ourselves doubt it, for accommodation should have been provided for thousands where it is now only being provided for hundreds. There is every probability of the "crush" at the Admiralty Ball at Portsmouth being greater even than that recently experienced at the ball given in honour of our flag at the Hôtel de Ville, Cherbourg.
On board Her Majesty's ships in Portsmouth Harbour all are eager to do a something, no matter how trifling, that may render any chance visit of their French brethren one of mutual and hearty good feeling, On board the Duke of Wellington there are, as yet, none of those extraordinary arrangements visible by which her decks will be transformed from their grim sternness of the present to the dazzling splendour they are intended to assume. Although not visible on board, however, all necessary provisions are made, and under the energetic direction of Capt. Seccombe, who bears a wonderful reputation for taste and general management in such matters, the final issue of the arrangements on board the Duke is certain to be successful. It has been suggested by some fastidious people that a ship bearing some other name than that of the military opponent of the Great Napoleon might have been selected by our Admiralty for the occasion. This, however, is sheer nonsense. Old rivalries in arms are now forgotten by both nations, or only remembered as so many pages in history which two peoples, formerly endeavouring to the uttermost to destroy each other, may now study together and with mutual benefit. Besides, is not the ship an old companion in arms of the Imperial navy, carrying as she did the flag of a British admiral in company with one bearing the tricolour of an admiral of France on the waters of the Baltic Sea? On board no ship here or elsewhere will the officers of the French navy receive a heartier welcome than on board the Duke of Wellington. Turning to the military portion of the coming fêtes, and which will necessarily be restricted, owing to the limited stay of the fleets at Spithead, if for no other cause, every precaution is being taken to render whatever manoeuvres may be decided upon by the authorities as effective as possible. Amid all this note of preparation and bustle in the naval and military camps, the civil element is not silent. A working committee, with the Mayor, Mr. R.W. Ford, at its head, is energetically employed in making complete the preparations of the citizens for the entertainment of our honoured guests. Nearly 1,500l. has already been sent in to the committee to meet the necessary expenses, but a total of 2,000l. is required for the purpose, which, however, will no doubt in good time be forthcoming. It is a most gratifying proof of the good feeling entertained by all classes to read in the subscription list the names of many county families and others living at a distance from Portsmouth. Their money has been handed in no doubt from a feeling that the entertainment of the officers of the French fleet at Portsmouth is a national rather than a local question, and that too great honour could not well be done to the guests of the occasion.
The "Governor's Green" where the civic entertainments will be given, is, as its name implies, a large and nearly square plot of green sward, and is admirably situate for the purpose. It is in close contiguity to the main street of the town, and has unusually wide approaches for entrance and exit. On two sides it is bounded by the sea face of the town ramparts, and on the others by the garrison church, monastery wall, railways, &c. The entrance to the Green from the Grand Parade will be under a triumphal arch, which, if only executed as designed, will produce a striking effect and be a credit to all concerned. Triumphal arches are, however, generally speaking, very ticklish matters to deal with. They may turn out exceedingly well, or they may prove to be excessively ridiculous, and it would therefore be unwise to venture on any prophecy relative to the one at Portsmouth. The triumphal arch passed through, the Governor's Green is fairly entered upon, and in the immediate front and on the right of the visitor, under the elm trees, on the fortifications, and by the line of railings alluded to, will be lofty poles, with bannerets, connected with festoons of evergreens and lit up by night with gas in opaque shades. On the left of the entrance are the buildings and marquees in which the entertainments, consisting of a déjeuner, promenade concert, and ball, will take place. A decorated porch of entrance leads into the first hall or apartment, circular in form, and 80ft. in diameter. From this an ante-room leads to another apartment, 140ft. in length by 40ft. in breadth. This latter is but a continuation of the main apartment in which the déjeuner will be given, a permanent building 100ft. in length by 50ft in breadth, presenting a broad vista of 240ft. in length. All will be brilliantly illuminated with gas, and decorated with choice flowering plants, evergreens, arms, and flag trophies, &c. The committee have ample space to work upon, even for the display of all the art enthusiasm available in or around Portsmouth, and there can be no doubt that all the ornamentation will be effective, in good taste, and to the entire satisfaction of both friends and guests.
The programme, so far as it has been settled at present between Admirals Drummond and Eden at the Admiralty — the two official lords on duty in town — and Admiral Sir Michael Seymour at Portsmouth, has been somewhat modified since Tuesday last, and until the Duke of Somerset and the lords now at Brest return to Portsmouth the programme will remain subject to still further modifications. At present the intentions of the Admiralty, so far as they can be ascertained, are to give a dinner on board the Duke of Wellington on the evening of the 29th, the night of the arrival of the fleet. On the following day a dinner to about 100 will be given in the ball-room of the Royal Naval College. On the next day, the 31st, a review of the troops will take place on Southsea-common in the morning, and in the afternoon and evening the civic authorities and inhabitants will entertain the French Minister of Marine and officers of the French fleet in the Governor's Green. On the 1st of September Sir Michael Seymour gives a private dinner at the Admiralty-house, and the ball and supper take place afterwards at the Naval College. Beyond this nothing definitive is known. With the Duke of Somerset and Lord Clarence Paget at the end of one set of telegraphic wires at Brest, the two lords at the Admiralty who are supposed to have the sole arrangement of the coming festivities, and with Sir Michael Seymour as the target for both parties to fire their messages at, it is impossible to say what may be the precise length or breadth of the ultimate official programme. The dockyard, arsenal, and other public establishments will, as is usual with us, be open to the inspection of the French officers every day of their stay at the port, and some return in this respect will, therefore, be made for the extraordinary courtesy and kindness shown to English officers and civilians when going over Cherbourg dockyard during the recent visit of the fleets there. The dockyard of Portsmouth could almost be stowed away in one of the basins of Cherbourg yard, and therefore, if judged by its area only, must appear contemptibly small in the eyes of Frenchmen. The stores and workshops of Portsmouth yard are all pigmies, also, compared with those of Cherbourg; but the machinery in the factory of Portsmouth yard is immeasurably superior in every respect to that in Cherbourg yard, as are also the steamhammer and forges of the smithery. The new foundry, also, is worthy of our reputation as a people that are "workers in metal;" and the pattern shop is unrivalled in any country for its collection of engineering patterns. Of iron ships there are a few that may well pass muster — the ironcased frigate Royal Alfred, fitting for carrying, 12-ton guns on her broadside; the Valiant, iron frigate, in No. 10 dock, completing for commission; the Wivern and Scorpion, Captains H. Burgoyne, V.C., and Commerell, V.C., both double-turreted ships, and each fitted to carry four 12-ton guns, at a maximum draught of water of 12ft.; the Helicon, paddle despatch-vessel, in the bow of which the officers of the Magenta and Solferino may recognise the "beak" of their own ships; the Mersey, wooden frigate, the largest and finest of her class ever constructed; and lastly, though not least important, the iron frigate Minotaur, with her beautiful hull and machinery and most abominable style of rig. To the officers of the French fleet this ship, as she now lies in dock, will be an object of great interest, and the dock also in which she lies, the only dock we have fit to show a stranger, exhibits itself also at the same time under the best possible conditions in having on its blocks one of the largest ironclads in the world. Although, therefore, Portsmouth yard is small and ill-arranged, it yet contains ships and material which will interest our visitors, and upon which we shall be glad to receive their criticism while endeavouring to return the courtesy they themselves have exhibited to us under similar circumstances.
|Tu 12 December 1865||We are gradually approaching a question of vital importance to the efficiency of the Navy. Our ironclad fleet has recently been strengthened by successive additions, exhibiting an enormous increase of defensive power, until at length we possess a vessel which may be expected to resist even a shot of 600lb. The Hercules, one of Mr. Reed's ships, is completely proof against a 300-pounder, and will be so plated along her water-line as to repel a ball of twice that weight. All this time, however, we have made little or no advance in the way of offensive armament. Even the 300-pounder gun is not actually received into the service, so that our progress is on the side of the ships alone. For this there are good reasons. We can make ships carry armour more easily than we can make them carry cannon. The sides of a man-of-war are now as thick as the walls of a feudal castle, and yet the vessels are as fleet and buoyant as ever; but when it comes to mounting heavy guns upon these batteries we soon find ourselves checked. It was thought a few years ago that the 68-pounder was about the heaviest piece that could be successfully carried and worked in a ship's broadside. This gun weighed 95 cwt., or about 10,000lb., and the Americans are still of opinion that a gun of 12,000lb. represents the maximum of size admissible under such circumstances. Of course, they have far heavier guns in use, but they carry them in turrets, and so, it is said, must we. This proposal, however, opens another question. It is proved that very heavy cannon, can be worked in turrets, but it is not proved that turret ships can be made seaworthy or commodious vessels. Moreover, we have got some magnificent ironclads constructed on the broadside principle, and if these cannot, by some means or other, be made to carry batteries of effective strength, they must either be reconstructed or be lost to the service altogether. So it becomes of infinite importance to ascertain by practical experiment whether guns above a certain weight can or cannot be carried in our first-rate ironclads, and what are the limits imposed upon us in this arrangement. Great professional authorities have asserted that any gun which can be carried in a turret can be carried in a broadside, but the contrary opinion has also been strongly defended, and is very widely entertained. Nothing, it is obvious, can solve this question but experiment, and the experiment, we are glad to say, will commence this morning.|
The Minotaur is, or, at any rate, is intended to be one of our finest ironclads. She was designed as an improvement on the Warrior herself, and it happens that she may be soon, beautifully modelled, in the South Kensington Museum. But it is still a question whether this noble ship can carry such guns as would be required to render her battery effective, and, accordingly she will put to sea to-day to make trial of her capacities. A Report which we publish in another column will explain the conditions of her trip. She takes out three guns of the new pattern, each weighing 12 tons, and throwing a 300lb. shot, and each of those pieces is mounted on an experimental carriage. The trial, therefore, will be competitive in one sense — that is to say, each carriage will be carefully tested, and the advantages or disadvantages of the several patterns will be compared and balanced. But it cannot be dissembled that the experiment will have another and a more comprehensive aspect. It is possible that the Report may be unfavourable to all the patterns together, and that the capacity of a man-of-war to carry 300-pounders in broadside may be left doubtful still. In that event we shall find ourselves in a strange dilemma, for it will appear as if really good ships and really good guns are not to be obtained at once, and as if we must sacrifice either the vessel to the armament or the armament to the vessel.
That these new 12-ton guns can be carried in turrets is beyond a doubt, but then it has never been ascertained whether turret ships can be made good seagoing vessels. We have reason to believe, on the other hand, that the Minotaur is as good a vessel as an ironclad can be, but then we do not know that she can carry 12-ton guns. If she fails to do so, we shall have to invert the experiment, and send out a turret ship to see whether she is seaworthy and habitable. The Americans have furnished no information on this point, unless, indeed, the fact itself may be thought to convey some intelligence. They have a large fleet of ironclads, built almost exclusively on the turret principle, but not one of these vessels have they ventured to send to sea. Only just now have they decided on making the attempt with the latest and most satisfactory of their specimens. The Monadnock was the last Monitor launched, and so pleased was Admiral Porter with her performance that he declared he could take her across the Atlantic. She is now selected to accompany three wooden frigates to the Pacific, and there reinforce the United States' squadron in those waters, so that we may, perhaps, learn something from the history of her cruise. With this exception, however, the Americans have allowed it to be inferred that their turret ships are floating batteries, but nothing more.
Many — indeed, most — American ships carry 8-ton, or, as they are called, 11-inch guns, but they are mounted on pivots. This was the gun with which the Kearsarge sank the Alabama, and which did such good service in other actions of the war. We could mount such guns on pivots too, but that principle would only bring us round to the turret in the end, for a turret gun is a pivot gun protected. The truth is, the artillerists have overtaken the naval architects, for they have been allowed more unbounded scope for their designs. In guns, we have got to a 600-pounder; in ships, we have not got beyond a broadside vessel. Mr. Reed has produced several novelties, and with at least the merit of despatch. He is of opinion, too, we believe, that his ships can carry these new guns, but that has not yet been proved. What ought to have been proved long ago, but is still left uncertain, is whether a kind of vessel which we know can carry cannon of any weight can also lodge a crew comfortably, and be in all respects a safe and commodious cruiser. It is possible, certainly, that the Minotaur may relieve us from the trouble of instituting this inquiry, by demonstrating the capacities of a broadside vessel to do all that is necessary; but in a matter so important we might as well have had the two strings to our bow. As it is, the qualifications required to make a really good man-of-war are divided between two classes of vessels. The Minotaur represents a fine seagoing ship; the Royal Sovereign represents a formidable floating battery. We are now going to try whether the Minotaur cannot be made to carry the Royal Sovereign's guns; but we ought also to have tried whether a Royal Sovereign could not be built with the seagoing capacities of the Minotaur.
It must not be forgotten that this ship which is now to be thus tested represents the first and most powerful class of our new fleet. The powers of Mr. Reed's vessels remain still to be shown, but at present the Minotaur herself, the Agincourt, the Northumberland, the Achilles, the Black Prince, and the Warrior are our six first-rates. These are the specimens in which our ironclad fleet surpasses the fleets of other countries, and it is, therefore, of no slight importance to discover, if possible, some method of arming them with the most powerful guns known. The experiments now to be commenced will illustrate the question for us, though they will not exactly decide it. It will be discouraging if the results tell against all the gun-carriages alike, but still the resources of our inventors may not have been exhausted in those three models. All we know at present is that before our best ships can carry the best guns some new mechanism must be devised. The approaching experiments will represent the first essays in this direction, but, whatever the result, we should be very sorry to regard them as the last.
|Tu 12 December 1865|
HER MAJESTY’S SHIP MINOTAUR.The iron frigate Minotaur, 6,621 tons, 1,250-horse power, Master Frank Inglis, under the command pro tem, of Captain F.A. Herbert, and manned by the crew of the Royal Sovereign, with supernumeraries from the Steam Reserve, went out of Portsmouth harbour yesterday afternoon and anchored at Spithead, where she will take in her ammunition and be swung to ascertain the deviation of her compass prior to starting for Portland on her trials of competitive 12-ton broadside gun carriages. The trials will be under the direction and superintendence of Captain A.C. Key, C.B., commanding Her Majesty’s gunnery ship Excellent. Portland roads will be made the anchorage ground on her return from each day's trial until their conclusion, when she will return to Spithead and await further orders from the Admiralty. The trials were originally intended to have been made with four carriages and slides; but one, designed by Sir William. Armstrong, not having been yet been received from Elswick, they will be confined to the following three:—
1. The Admiralty wooden pattern carriage and slide, fitted with eccentric rollers and other improvements suggested by Captain Key. The training gear is that of Mr. Cunningham ("Patent-topsail Cunningham," as he is termed in the Navy), and is precisely similar in every respect to the training gear fitted to the 12-ton broadside gun-carriage on board the Excellent, when it is spoken of as the most simple and yet efficient means of training heavy guns yet devised. It consists of a single port chain made fast on each side of the rear end of the slide, and leading thence by two single blocks on each side of the gun and its carriage, by the waterways to a crab winch fixed on the deck, entirely out of the way of the guns crew in working their gun in rapid firing, and also from its position not liable to injury from concussion on the ship's side being struck by an enemy's shot.
The weight of the carriage is 39 cwt. 2 qrs. 4 lb.; the weight of the slide, 38 cwt. 2 qrs. 8 lb. — total weight of carriage and slide, 78 cwt. 0 qrs. 12 lb.
The principal, or, perhaps, more correctly speaking, the only recommendation this carriage possesses is its antiquity. Its objectionable features are the absence of an easily worked running in and out gear, and the presence of all the inherent defects and weaknesses of a wooden gun-carriage when applied to mounting ordnance of such exceptional weight as guns of 12 tons. Captain Key's improvements have, however, so effectually reformed the character and power of the carriage and its slide that it will now act as a most excellent test for comparison with the results obtained by the new pattern iron carriages and their slides.
2. The Woolwich Arsenal, or Colonel Shaw’s iron carriage and slide. This carriage has single sides, strengthened with its iron framing. The compressor is a large iron clamp athwart the bottom of the carriage, and grasping the flanges of the slide. The gun’s running in and out gear is a flat endless chain, working over tooth-wheels at each end of the slide, worked by small hand-wheel levers at the rear of the slide. The slide is constructed of double T-iron. The training gear has been fitted under the superintendence of Mr. W. Lynn, assistant to Mr. Murray, the Superintending Engineer of Portsmouth dockyard. It consists of a cast-iron bracket fitted with a chain pinion, and fixed on the ship's side midway between the gunports. Upon the under side of the deck, directly below this bracket between the ship's beams, a transverse piece of shafting is fixed, having a chain wheel on one end and a bevel wheel on the other, the motion to the shafting being given by means of an endless chain between the chain wheels on the bracket on the gun-deck and the similar wheel on the transverse shafting below. The bevel wheel at the other or inner end of the transverse shafting gears with a similar wheel upon a short upright spindle which passes through the deck, and there is capped by a small chain wheel. Round this wheel an endless chain passes, attached to the slide of the gun-carriage, and to a single block on the opposite side of the carriage. The weight of the carriage is 34 cwt, 0 qrs. 2 lb.; the weight of the slide, 43 cwt. 3 qrs. 18 lb.; total weight, 77 cwt. 3 qrs. 20 lb. The main features of recommendation of this carriage and slide are lightness combined with strength, the acknowledged correctness of the principle on which it has been built, and the ease with which all its parts can be got at and repaired in the event of temporary injury during action without the delay of dismounting the gun. Its features of weakness are — a possible too great lightness of metal to stand without damage the shock from the discharge of a 12-ton rifled gun, a faulty application of the compressors, and an absolute want of leverage power over the running in and out gear from a want of larger pinions and wheel levers. All this would be remedial in another carriage built on the same principle.
3. Iron carriage and slide designed by and made under the superintendence of Commander Scott, Her Majesty's ship Research. This carriage has double, or box girder, sides of immense strength, and is filled in with wood to absorb the vibration of the iron if struck by the enemy's shot. The gun is run in and out by endless chains, similar to Colonel Shaw's carriage, worked by powerful pinions and hand-wheel levers, holding great control over the gun. The compressors are composed of three tapered balks of timber lying parallel with each other in the bed of the slide. From the bottom of the carriage four iron plates descend and fit in between these balks; through the sides of the carriage and through the upper edges of these plates are fixed right and left-handed screw levers, worked by wheel levers on each side, the whole forming a fourfold compressor of tremendous power. The slide is of equal strength and massiveness with the carriage. It is built on the box-girder principle, and traverses on raised metal racers, with hollow-soled trucks on Colonel Colquhoun's plan. The training gear forms part of the carriage and slide; a longitudinal shaft running under the slide is fitted with pinions at either end, and works in a rack-way upon the deck next the fore-and-after racers. The gun runs in and out and trains, apparently, with great facility. Another means of training is fitted to this gun, which, however, is only a copy of Mr. Cunningham's plan. The weight of the carriage is 2 tons 6 cwt, and of the slide, 3 tons 12 cwt., giving a total weight of 5 tons 18 cwt.
The chief apparent recommendations of Commander Scott's carriage and slide are the ease with which all its parts can be worked, and its evident ability to carry its gun and withstand the shock of its discharge. Its objectionable features in its present form are its evident cost of manufacture, weight of metal, and the objectionable metal rackway laid down on the ship's deck next to the raised metal racers. All these objections are, of course, removable in any second carriage and slide made on the same plan.
The forthcoming trials on board the Minotaur are of the highest importance. If our ironclads can, by the mechanical aid of improved carriages, carry guns of 12-tons' weight on their broadsides, they will not only do what the ships of no other naval Power have yet attempted, but also what some of the moat distinguished officers in the American navy have but just declared, as the result of their recent experience, to be altogether impracticable. In the "Report of the Secretary of the United States' Navy in relation to Armoured Vessels," printed by order of Congress, and containing all the official reports and documents on the subject received by Mr. Gideon Welles up to March 30, 1864, Rear-Admiral Goldsworthy, the officer quoted, says, in his "Opinion of Ironclads," sent in to Mr. Secretary Welles, and dated March 24, 1864,—
"According to my impressions, a gun of 12,000lb., fired with a normal charge of 21lb. of powder, is about the heaviest that can be used to advantage in the broadside ports of any vessel whatever."
After recommending that a gun of this weight should be made and fully tested and reported on, the Rear-Admiral adds:—
"I am fully aware that the New Ironsides has now on board still heavier guns and of larger calibre, carried broadside-wise — guns of 16,000lb. in weight and 11 inches in calibre — but I am not aware that either they or their carriages, which occupy, unavoidably so much space, have been subjected continuously, in action or at sea, to the effect of the use of solid shot, with charges of powder approaching one-fourth the weight of the projectiles. The test, no doubt, would prove palpably excessive in many respects. In all the actions of this vessel off Charleston, the rule with her, as I understand, was loaded shells with corresponding charges; and if she ever has resorted to solid shot with a large increase of charge, I am uninformed of the fact."
Our own opinion on this subject is very well expressed by Captain A.C. Key, in his official Report to the Admiralty on the smooth water trials conducted by him of the turrets and guns of the Royal Sovereign, and dated July 11, 1865. Captain Key says, at page 3 of his Report:—
"No practical reasons exist why a heavy gun should not be worked on a broadside with the same security as in a turret, and I am satisfied that there is no difference in this respect."
Captain Key at the time was writing of 12-ton guns, and he here appears to accept this as the maximum weight of the gun to be fought through a ship's broadside port — that is a gun weighing 26,880lb., in contradistinction to Admiral Goldsworthy's opinion that 12,000lb. must be the maximum weight. The American Admiral, no doubt, meant his gun to be fought under extreme conditions of weather and the ship's motion, and, unless the Minotaur be subjected to these conditions during her trials of these new iron carriages, her cruise will prove valueless, and American opinion, in the main, be found correct. Whatever may be the final results of the apparently interminable "Battle of the Guns," the Admiralty by their selection of the 12-ton coil-built gun have made that weapon, for the present, the maximum of size and calibre for the broadside armament of the iron-clad ships of Her Majesty’s navy, should the Minotaur's cruise prove the soundness of Captain Key's opinion. In their incomplete state, as smoothbores of 10·5-inch calibre, five of these guns have been now for some time in the turrets of the Royal Sovereign, four in those of the Scorpion, three on board the Minotaur for trials of carriages, and there are also understood to br somewhere about 200 more at Woolwich waiting the 9-inch rifled steel tubes with which it has been determined to fit them. One rifled gun of the same weight, imperfect however in some part of its bore, is also on board the gunnery ship Excellent for drill purposes. When a sufficient number of the guns at Woolwich have received their steel tubes they will be exchanged for their smoothbore brethren at present on board the Royal Sovereign, Scorpion, and Minotaur, and the formal entry of the gun as part armament of Her Majesty’s navy may then be considered to have been effected. Turret ships, such as we have even at present, can certainly carry and work a much heavier gun than one of 12 tons, and will doubtless receive them when we can procure them. Our present difficulty lies in providing carriages fitted with such mechanical aids as shall enable us to mount and fight such guns efficiently through broadside ports, and to meet this several inventors have come forward with carriages and their slides, and gear for running the gun in and out under sufficient control and all the conditions of the ship's movements at sea, for training quickly and steadily to any given angle, and for elevation, depression, &c. Preliminary trials have been made with both iron and modern carriages on board the Research and Minotaur, and valuable data have been deduced; but the first of a series of really comprehensive, competitive trials will commence on board the Minotaur, under Captain Key's direction, during the present week, in the generally rough waters off the Bill of Portland.
|We 13 December 1865||The Minotaur, iron frigate, Capt. A. Herbert, pro tem., is ordered by the Admiralty to remain at Portsmouth until a change in the weather offers a fitting opportunity for a satisfactory trial of the 12-ton broadside gun-carriages she has on board. At present the barometer is steady at an unusual height, with the wind at N.E., and perfectly smooth water along the English land in the Channel. Under such circumstances there can be no prospect of the Minotaur meeting with weather sufficiently rough for the requisite trials in the Channel, and to trust her out of its limits would not be prudent in her present condition. Tn the meantime, therefore, unless fresh orders are given, the frigate will watch for the desired Channel gale from her moorings in Portsmouth harbour.|
|Fr 15 December 1865|
Sir,- I have read with much interest your leading article of the 12th inst. upon the coming trials of the Minotaur to try working the first 12-ton guns that have been carried outside the Isle of Wight in a broadside ship. I agree with you that this is a subject of momentous importance to the country, and sincerely hope that the experiments may prove sufficiently satisfactory to utilize these ships and save our pockets.
But in a question of so much importance we must not content ourselves with a 6,000-ton ship merely carrying to sea these 12-ton guns, but we must be thoroughly satisfied that, under all and the most disadvantageous circumstances, those guns can be efficiently fought at sea. I have no doubt that 12-ton guns can be carried by 6,000-ton ships, loaded, fired, and run in and out by using appliances similar to those I have so successfully used for turret guns, but modified to meet the requirements of the broadside gun, to which I have offered to fit my appliances.
When comparing the turret and broadside system, I must ask your readers to bear in mind that carrying a 12-ton gun in a 6,000-ton ship is one thing, but fighting it effectually in all classes of vessels is another.
It will be found, by reference to my former letters and publications, that the great merit claimed for my inventions is the power of carrying and fighting efficiently the heaviest ordnance on a minimum tonnage with a maximum speed. Truly, you remark that no real sea-going turret-ship has yet been built.
The Royal Sovereign, although she could go wherever her coal could carry her, and lodges her crew most comfortably, is not one, and I can only regret that my endeavours to persuade the Admiralty to build one sea-going experimental ship to compete with Mr. Reed's numerous ones should have hitherto failed. It has to be remarked that the Scorpion and Wivern, although not designed by Messrs. Laird, Brothers, for sea-going cruisers, but built for a special purpose, have proved themselves, beyond all expectations, very good sea boats - the Scorpion having worked her guns and made excellent practice when steaming full speed round a target in a seaway, and I believe that if the improvements proposed by Captains Commerell and Burgoyne for those two little vessels are completed we shall possess two of the most formidable and comfortable sea-going ironclads in the world, considering their tonnage and light draught of water. I can only regret that Captain Burgoyne, who has so thoroughly gone into the matter, and whose proposals are most valuable, should be sent off to the West Indies, instead of being allowed to carry them out.
Again, referring to the minimum tonnage, it must be remembered that these vessels are under 1,900 tons, drawing only 16ft. 4in. water, with an offensive broadside of four 300-pounders, against the Minotaur of 6,000 tons, 27ft. draught of water, but only carrying four, or a broadside of two, 300-pounders, besides her smaller guns. I feel confident that if either of these little vessels with their present captains (curiously, both V.C.'s), and their crews of only 170, all told, were to meet this Minotaur with her 700 men, they would not hesitate to engage her, and if in a seaway with a certainty of making the Minotaur haul down her colours or sinking her.
In the first place, the Scorpion or Wivern would bring four 300-pounders to bear against her two on each broadside; but mark, the Minotaur represents a target of 8,800 square feet, with numerous open port-holes, while these little vessels' hull proper (for their poops and forecastles may be knocked away without interfering with their fighting powers) present a target of only 1,140 square feet; and, remember, a shot between wind and water will sink her as readily as the Scorpion or Wivern. And this is not all. The gunners in one case have to look through a contracted port, so filled up by the gun that when the ship is rolling and firing against a moving object it would be almost impossible to get a shot; while the captain of the turret has a clear range of vision above all, to take advantage of the other ship's roll, besides a much larger range of training for the guns, enabling these vessels to place themselves in the best position for steadiness, with regard to the sea, when the Minotaur, to bring one of her large guns to bear at all, might be obliged to place herself broadside on to the swell, when her rolling might prevent her working her guns, or, at all events, give her comparatively diminutive adversary an undeniable and fatal advantage.
It may be said these vessels are inferior to the Minotaur in speed; truly, so they are; but as they can bring four heavy guns to bear against the Minotaur's two, they would not wish to run away; and the Minotaur's speed would not avail her unless she wished to do so. Here, again, let me ask impartial judges to bear with me while I explain the advantages inherent to the turret principle for speed. Now, to carry even 12-ton guns at all on the broadside, entailing one on each side, you cannot do with less than 60 feet beam, and as high speed can only be obtained by a certain proportion of length to beam, you then, as in the case of the Minotaur, must have a vessel 400 feet long and 6,000 tons burden, while the Scorpion and Wivern, with only 40 feet beam and 228 feet in length, carry and fight the 12-ton gun with ease; so, to give those vessels the same proportion of breadth to length for speed as the Minotaur, you need to lengthen them only 38 feet; but, mark, their beam is sufficient to work turrets carrying 600-pounders. Fancy, then, a vessel only 264 feet long carrying four 600-pounders against these monsters, carrying only two 12-ton guns of a side.
The Monadnoc, we hear, is going to the Pacific, and although I do not admit that the American turret system can be compared with mine for sea-going purposes, let me ask what vessels have we out there that can cope with her in open fight with her 15-inch guns and low sides? Wherever these Monitors manage to get, we should have vessels of equal fighting powers that can be sent to meet them; and for this reason I have so long and so earnestly tried to persuade their Lordships to build one experimental sea-going turretship, from which in case the time ever should come that we want them we may have learnt what vessels are best adapted and most economical, not only to carry but to fight the heaviest ordnance in any part of the world where England's honour and trade have to be protected.
In conclusion, let me ask why should we build vessels of 6,000 tons to carry broadside guns when turret ships of half the size can do the work?
I have the honour to be, your obedient servant,
Cowper P. Coles.
Madeira Villa, Ventnor, Dec. 13.
|Tu 2 January 1866||The Minotaur iron frigate had her fires lit yesterday morning, preparatory to steaming out of Portsmouth harbour for Spithead and Portland, on her experimental gun-carriage testing cruise. Suddenly, however, on the steam reaching about 12lb. pressure in the boilers, one of the condensers was discovered to be seriously cracked. Steam was then let down, and, for some days at least, the Minotaur cruise must be deferred. Let the damage be less or greater than is now anticipated, it is not improbable that the Minotaur may not now be despatched on this cruise at all, as with the accident to one condenser an examination will necessarily follow into the condition of both, and this may lead to the substitution of another vessel, especially as there happens to be a very suitable one available in the Bellerophon, Capt. E. Tatham, ordered round to Portsmouth from the Medway to complete her trials of speed at the measured mile in Stoke's Bay. The accident to the Minotaur's condenser is just one of those accidents likely to occur to a ship's machinery which no ordinary precautions would apparently have prevented, and for which, therefore, no person or department can now well be blamed. In addition to the three 12½-ton guns mounted on their competitive carriages the Minotaur has also received since our notice of the ship, with the guns and carriages, in The Times of the 12th ult., one 6½-ton 7in. rifled wrought-iron muzzle-loading gun, mounted on a wooden carriage and slide of the ordinary Admiralty pattern, for experimental firing. A report upon it will be drawn up by Capt. A.C. Key, C.B., altogether independent of his report on the competitive 12½-ton competitive gun carriages. This 6½-ton gun is the weapon known a short time since as the Frederick gun, we presume as a compliment to Rear-Admiral Frederick. It is, however, in fact, the Woolwich manufactured wrought-iron coil gun fitted with a seven-inch steel tube, rifled on what is known as the Woolwich system. It has been adopted by the Admiralty as the gun of minimum calibre for the broadsides of our ironclads under the new system of armament, as the 12½-ton gun is at present fixed upon as the maximum weight for broadsides. In accordance with these arrangements the Warrior will carry 32 of the 6½-ton guns, but none of the 12½-ton guns; the Royal Alfred her formidable complement of ten of 12½ tons and four of 12½ [sic; I assume this should be '6½'] tons. The Minotaur, according to present arrangements, will only carry four of the 12½-ton guns on her broadsides, the remainder of her armament being composed of the 6½-ton guns. This apparent disproportion between the armaments of the converted wooden ship Royal Alfred and the massively iron-built Minotaur is owing to the fact that the broadside ports of the latter are only built to carry four of the larger guns, the remainder having been constructed for the smaller, and a reconstruction of the ports could only now be effected at immense cost and sacrifice of time.|
|We 10 January 1866||The iron frigate Minotaur will have the defect in her condenser repaired by the workmen of the steam factory department of Portsmouth Dockyard by the end of the present week. As at present contemplated, therefore, the original arrangements for the first series of trials in the Channel with the now competitive l2½-ton gun-carriages will be carried out with this frigate; at the same time it is most probable the trials will be continued in other ships — vessels of smaller tonnage than the Minotaur, such as the Bellerophon and Royal Alfred. These two latter would be much more suitable vessels for the purpose than the Minotaur, having been built or converted with the ports of their central batteries specially framed and fitted for 12½-ton guns, and being of much less bulk of hull, would obtain a greater "roll" when under trial in the Channel. The Minotaur is too large a vessel to give a roll equal to that obtained by the Royal Sovereign when last under trial by Capt. A.C. Key, C.B. — 10 degrees each way, unless under exceptional attendant circumstances of wind and weather.|
|Th 18 January 1866||The iron frigate Minotaur, Capt. F.A. Herbert, of the turret ship Royal Sovereign, in provisional command, weighed her anchor at Spithead at 9 a.m. yesterday, and proceeded out south of Dunnose, Isle of Wight, on her first day's trial of her three 12½-ton guns, and their broadside competitive pattern carriages, under the supervision and direction of Capt. A.C. Key, C.B., commanding the gunnery ship Excellent. The Minotaur returned to Spithead and re-anchored there shortly before sunset.|
|Fr 19 January 1866||The Minotaur, iron frigate, Captain F.A. Herbert, embarked Capt. A.C. Key, C.B., and staff at Spithead early yesterday morning, and made a second trip into the Channel, south of the Isle of Wight, to make trial of the 12½-ton gun and carriages she has on board. The water was found much too smooth, as on the previous day, for the great ship to attain the desired motion. She anchored again at Spithead in the course of the afternoon.|
|Sa 20 January 1866||The iron frigate Minotaur steamed into Portsmouth harbour yesterday at high water from Spithead, and was berthed alongside the dockyard. She is ordered to receive on board a 12½-ton 9-inch rifled gun — the "Woolwich gun," as it is now generally termed, from its system of rifling — and its carriage, which will be mounted on the fourth main deck central gunport, which has been constructed in the Minotaur's main deck battery for this description of ordnance. The port and deck fittings for the gun and its carriage and slide have yet to be prepared, and this will necessarily occupy several days. When this has been completed, the ship, according to the present arrangements of the Admiralty, will sail from Portsmouth for Portland, and in her subsequent trials from that anchorage her course will be extended sufficiently far westward to insure her meeting with waves large enough to give her the desired lateral motion, or "roll" — from 14 to 16 degrees each way. This will at once and definitively settle the disputed question as to the possibility of efficiently working 12½-ton guns on a ship's broadside in a considerable seaway, and also define the exact merits and demerits of their present competitive gun carriages and slides, their compressors, running in and out gear, training gear, and other points of detail. What trials have taken place on board the Minotaur on her two cruises south of the Isle of Wight, on Wednesday and Thursday, the 17th and 18th inst., have been confined to three gun carriages and their slides — Commander R. Scott's, iron; the Woolwich Arsenal, iron; and the wooden Admiralty pattern carriage improved according to the suggestions of Captain A.C. Key, C.B. The trials, however, were really so limited, owing to the ship's hull being so large, and hence slightly affected by what sea there was found in the Channel south of Dunnose, that we may discard any consideration of what has been so far done with the wooden carriage and its slide, and make only a very few, and necessarily very brief, remarks upon the two iron carriages and their slides. On the Wednesday there was a moderately fresh breeze near the land in the Channel, but no waves of sufficient volume to materially affect the ship's steadiness could be met with either close in with the land or off in the main tide-way. The maximum roll attained by the ship was only 8 deg. each way. On the following day the weather was very squally in the morning, with the wind, as on the previous day, from the S.W. (the south cone cautioning signal being up), and it freshened considerably in the afternoon. The Minotaur was really less fortunate on this second than on her first search for big waves, as she only succeeded in giving her sides a maximum roll of about 4 degrees each way. Any reliable comparative results were, therefore, out of the question, beyond these somewhat general observations, that Commander Scott's iron carriage and slide worked remarkably well, and proved the excellence of its mechanical fittings as turned out of hand by the engineering staff of Woolwich dockyard, or whichever department of that yard or arsenal may have done the work. The Woolwich Arsenal iron carriage and slide, which appears to be wonderfully rough in appliances and general finish in comparison with the carriage and slide on Commander Scott's plan, has so far proved itself good and serviceable. It is simple, and consists of few parts, but it had serious defects in its general arrangement. Any further comparison between the two would at the present time be premature. Speaking of all three carriages and their slides, however, it may safely be observed that there is not a single new mechanical contrivance about either of them. Some very rapid firing was made from the guns mounted on both these carriages and slides on Commander Scott's and the Arsenal plan on Wednesday and also on Thursday, but especially on the latter day, Rapid firing means necessarily also ease of working, but this fact most be taken only for what it is worth in considering that the ship was only attaining a maximum roll at the time of 4 degrees. Whatever may be done on board small ships, it may be considered now so far certain that on board the Minotaur, with well-trained gun's crews, a 12½ ton-gun, mounted and worked with our present mechanical appliances, as adapted to the carriages and slides on board the Minotaur, may be handled on the broadside with much greater facility and ease than was the old 112 cwt. 68-pounder gun on a pivot on board our paddle-steamers 20 years ago. The former throws a rifled projectile of 225lb. weight, and the latter a spherical one of 68lb. What can be really done with the 12½-ton gun in rough weather the forthcoming cruise of the Minotaur must decide. The rifled 9in. gun for the Minotaur arrived at Portsmouth, from Woolwich in the Dee steam storeship on Thursday.|
|We 24 January 1866||The iron screw frigate Minotaur, Capt. F.A. Herbert, manned by the officers and crew of the Royal Sovereign, with seamen gunners from Her Majesty's ship Excellent, and engineers and stokers from the Steam Reserve, steamed out of Portsmouth harbour yesterday at high water, and anchored at Spithead. Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, G.C.B., Port Admiral and Naval Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, went out to Spithead in the ship, and, after she had been brought to an anchor, returned ashore in his steam yacht, the Fire Queen, Staff Commander Paul. According to the arrangements at the time of the Minotaur leaving Portsmouth harbour yesterday, she will sail from Spithead at an early hour on Thursday morning. Capt. A.C. Key, C.B., commanding Her Majesty's ship Excellent, with his staff, previously embarked to conduct the experiments with the 12½-ton guns and their carriages now on board the ship, with the different mechanical appliances fitted to the latter for running the guns in and out, training, compressing the recoil, &c. If the weather is found sufficiently rough in the Channel off the Isle of Wight the trials will be made there, but, if not, the ship will proceed to Portland, and carry out the contemplated trials in the "race" off Portland Bill, or further westward, if necessary, according to the state of the sea. The main conditions attending the trials of the 12½-ton guns on the Minotaur's broadside to be sought for are that the ship should attain as near an extent of roll as may be possible to that attained by the Royal Sovereign when trying the same description of guns in her central turrets - 16 deg. In the recent limited cruises of the Minotaur off the Isle of Wight the ship had on board three 12½-ton guns - one mounted on Commander Scott's iron-box girder-built slide and carriage, the second on the Woolwich Arsenal H iron slide and its iron carriage, and the third on the Admiralty pattern wooden slide and carriage, fitted with eccentric movement rollers and other improvements, as suggested to the Admiralty by Capt. A.C. Key. All three of these guns were smoothbores of 10·5 inch calibre, and all three, with the same slides and carriages, she takes to sea with her again on this occasion. The Arsenal iron carriage is now fitted with an improvement in the compressor, having a much quicker action than the former one. The fourth gun taken out on her cruise by the ship on this occasion is also a 12½ -ton gun, but it is rifled on the Woolwich plan, with six shallow grooves, on a Firth's steel tube, having a diameter of nine inches. This gun is mounted on a wooden slide and carriage similar to that with Capt. Key's improvements. It is not at all probable that the results of the trials will be favourable to the wooden carriages in comparison with the two iron ones. This makes it the more to be regretted that the iron carriage and its slide now being manufactured by the Elswick Company from the designs of Sir William Armstrong have not been completed in time to be sent on board the Minotaur to mount the rifled gun she takes out with her for trial. In justice to Commander Scott we are bound to state that his iron carriage and slide, which mounts one of the 10·5-inch smooth-bore guns, has so far answered admirably under fire. In the smooth-water trials that have been made - no rough water trials having yet been carried out for want of a fitting opportunity - the gun has been worked with the ease and regularity of clockwork. The gun, with its carriage and slide, is held in position on the ship's deck most effectually by the hollow-soled slide-rollers working over the massive raised metal racers without the aid of the embrasure pivot, and the compressors have been found fully equal to check the gun at any desired length of recoil, with single or double charges. It delivers a very rapid fire, 12 rounds having been discharged on the last day the Minotaur was off the Wight in six minutes and 35 seconds. On that day also its compressors came out of their trial with great credit. The gun was being fired double shotted with 40lb. powder charges. On the first round being fired it recoiled 4ft. 5in. on the slide. Nos. 3 and 4 of the gun's crew, who were loaders, asked for more room for loading the gun in the next round, and the adjusting screw of the compressors was slackened up accordingly by direction of the captain of the gun. On the gun being again fired, she recoiled 5ft. 6in. This was rather more than the loaders required, and a half turn was given the opposite way again to the compressor wheel, when the gun, on its third round, recoiled 5ft., which was found to be just the distance required. We mention this incident thus particularly as best illustrating the ease with which the compressors of Capt. Scott's carriage are adjusted, and the power they hold over the movement of the gun, and at the same time take the opportunity of remarking that the compressors may even now be very much improved by rendering them self-acting. There are many parts of this carriage and its slide, or rather of their fittings, which may be very much simplified, this opinion being one which Capt. Scott appears to share. For instance, there is the elevating screw. It works admirably in giving the gun quick elevation and depression at moderate angles, but it appears in its present arrangement, with its rigid vertical screw, to be somewhat unsuited to extreme elevations of the gun in firing. This, however, yet remains, for actual proof, and at the same time it must be confessed that, in all probability, but few opportunities will be taken of firing the 12½-ton guns of any ironclad's main deck batteries at extreme elevations, owing to the confined nature of the gunports. Objections have been raised to the observation made in our Naval Intelligence of the 20th inst., that in all three gun carriages and their slides then on board the Minotaur "there was not a single new mechanical contrivance or idea." There now seems no reason for modifying this statement. The guns, in each instance, are carried on their carriages as in years past, and the carriages themselves run on the same form of slides. Two of the carriages are certainly made of iron, in lieu of wood, but this change of material in a body keeping the old form cannot be termed "a new" mechanical idea. With regard to the fittings of the gun carriages and their slides; endless chains, eccentric motions, friction compressors, and other arrangements of a like nature, cannot be termed "new." They are simply mechanical forms of power in daily use in all parts of the world, but in the present case are for the first time applied in their new arrangements to the working of heavy guns on a ship's broadside - adaptations of sound principles, and adapted, too, in a most ingenious manner. The Minotaur will be swung to-day at Spithead to ascertain the deviation of her compass, preparatory to leaving to-morrow on her cruise, which, if she completes the trials of the guns and their carriages, as at present intended, may possibly be a somewhat lengthened one.|
|Ma 5 February 1866||A falling barometer and a stiff southerly gale in the Channel during Thursday night offered another chance for the trials of the 12½-ton guns and their carriages on board the Minotaur on the succeeding day, Friday. As soon as the atmosphere cleared sufficiently to admit of objects being seen within moderate distance of the ship, she weighed her anchor at Spithead, and, with Capt. A.C. Key and staff on board, steamed out to the southward in search of rough water. A sea heavy for the Channel was soon fallen in with but, as on previous occasions, the ship was found much too large to be strongly influenced by it, and her utmost motion when she lay in the "trough" was not quite ten degrees. Rolling thus, at what may be fairly termed a maximum swing of nine degrees each way, the motion of the ship was easy and regular, and without that sudden lurching movement which has been sought for by the ship on her trips, but which she seems destined never to fall in with. The Minotaur is, in fact, as we have stated before, a ship of too large a tonnage for the present trial. A Channel sea produces but slight effect upon her, and a cruise into the Bay of Biscay she is not in a fit state yet to enter upon, nor could Capt. Key spare from his other duties the necessary time for such a trial. A continued gale entering the Channel from the Atlantic may occur and bring with it such a sea south of the Isle of Wight as may yet supply the necessary conditions, and if such an opportunity does occur we may depend upon its being taken due advantage of. It is, however, considered that enough has been done already to demonstrate satisfactorily to the most sceptical the possibility of working 12½-ton guns on a ship's broadside whenever a ship's gunports can be opened at sea. This is of the gravest importance, but it is the opinion entertained by Capt. Key and his officers, and all who have conducted or witnessed the trials of the guns so far as they have yet gone. It is also an opinion that will be confirmed in its soundness by the introduction of improved mechanical aids in mounting and working the guns, for, if with the present crude ideas in that direction now being developed by practice on board the Minotaur so much has already been achieved, it may very confidently be presumed that with these same ideas perfected, or possibly superseded altogether, by new and better forms, 12½-ton guns will in future be worked as securely and fired as rapidly on the broadsides of our ironclads as were the 6-inch and 8-inch guns on the broadsides of our earliest wooden built screw frigates, before iron-planked frigates were thought of. From the results of the experimental firing on board the Minotaur on Friday no other opinion could indeed be entertained even if all consideration of what had been done previously was discarded for the time being. What practice took place was made from the gun mounted on Commander Scott's iron carriage and slide, and the gun mounted on the Admiralty pattern wooden carriage and slide, the latter fitted with eccentric rollers, &c., on Capt. A.C. Key's plan, and with Cunningham's running in and training chain and winch. The guns were held, in both instances, under perfect control, under greater control, indeed, than the old 8-inch or 32-pounders, as usually mounted and worked, would have been under similar circumstances. Up to the present time nothing more need be said about the competitive gun carriages and their fittings on board the Minotaur than that the iron box-girder carriage and slide has a very great advantage over the only rival it can be said to have at present on board - the iron carriage and slide from Woolwich arsenal. This is due to its very superior finish, and is the more remarkable as the former was made in the factory of the dockyard and the latter in Woolwich arsenal. The running-in gear and the compressors fitted to this gun have thus far answered admirably, but the training gear wants simplification. The Cunningham training and running-in chain gear is simple, and there is no loss of force by friction; but it also is open to improvement in some of its details. A part of the chain gave way on Friday, but the damage was merely temporary. From the confined space between the ports on the Minotaur's main deck, where the 12½-ton guns are mounted, there is not room for working efficiently proper chain training gear such as Mr. Cunningham's, or, indeed, the triple descriptions of training gears fitted to the Scott gun, but with a greater space between the guns, which must be given where they are permanently carried, the training of the guns in rapid firing from one extreme angle to the opposite will be carried out with much greater care, regularity, and rapidity than it can be at present on board the Minotaur. The 12½-ton gun has become so associated with the turret principle of shipbuilding, from the fact of the Royal Sovereign carrying that description of gun, for want of a heavier weapon, in her turrets, that some may imagine if we succeed in carrying and fighting this description of ordnance on the broadsides of our ironclads at sea there will be then no need of turret-ships. No idea could well be more fallacious. Whatever the weight of the gun may be which will be carried as a broadside gun on board ships of war, all our experience goes to prove that a turret-built ship constructed on the same lines would carry guns in her turrets of treble the weight, yet necessarily fewer in number. The Minotaur returned to Spithead from the Channel on Friday evening, and remains anchored there in readiness for further experiments.|
|Th 8 February 1866||The Minotaur, iron frigate, weighed her anchor at Spithead on Tuesday morning, and, steaming outside, off the east end of the Isle of Wight, made practice from her 12½-ton guns, returning again to Spithead in the afternoon.|
|Fr 9 February 1866||The Minotaur, ironclad, Capt. Herbert (pro tem.), has been continuing her trials up to yesterday, at the conclusion of which she went into Portsmouth harbour, and was placed alongside the new jetty at the dockyard.|
|Ma 26 February 1866||The Gun-Carriage Competition.-Although we dissented from the employment of any one officer to decide upon the best means of mounting our heavy guns In broadside ships, the expenditure necessary to prepare so valuable a vessel as the Minotaur for the trials of the four competitive plans seemed to us justifiable, believing as we did that these trials would be conducted at the mouth of the Channel in a sufficiently heavy sea, and at the same time to try the vessel's ability to carry and fight the heavy guns proposed for her new armament under every circumstance of wind and weather. Although disappointed in these reasonable hopes, it is said that the trials prove that of the four plans tried Commander Scott's has alone been equal to the task of holding both gun-carriage and slide securely, and of enabling its crew to work their gun with quickness and safety. This is, however, a great step; and, having got so far through the experiments (obtaining comparative data), which only need for completion the trial of Sir W. Armstrong's carriage against Commander Scott, we hear there is a proposal to delay the competition, by removing the guns and fittings to some other smaller vessel, under consideration, which, if carried out, must have the effect of nullifying what has been already effected at such considerable cost, and of indefinitely postponing the rational issue of the trials - viz., the obtaining the very best broadside gun-carriage. But we still hope the experiments will be at once pushed to their legitimate issue, and finally finished in Her Majesty's ship Minotaur, in the presence of those who are responsible to the country for their due completion. - Army and Navy Gazette.|
|We 28 February 1866||Orders have been received at Portsmouth dockyard by the Admiralty to complete the iron frigate Minotaur in her fittings for commission, irrespective of any future trials of the competitive gun-carriages, provision for which has been otherwise arranged. These future arrangements for the trials of the gun-carriages are understood to be the substitution of the Bellerophon for the Minotaur, and the Admiralty, in this change of ship, appear to have been guided by sound common-sense views in the endeavour to render the results of such important competitive trials as complete and exhaustive as may be possible. The Minotaur with her enormous bulk of hull - upwards of 6,600 tons - could never be given on any one of her recent trips into the Channel any motion exceeding an easy lateral swing of 10 degrees each way, which is useless for proving the comparative merits of broadside gun-carriages and their slides intended to mount 12½-ton guns It was found impossible to attain the necessary degree of quick lurching motion with the Minotaur in mere Channel waves, but with the Bellerophon - a vessel nearly 2,400 tons less in the size of her hull - it may be attained. The question will then be settled beyond possibility of doubt or cavil. There are also other reasons in favour of the trials being completed in the Bellerophon rather than in the Minotaur. The latter vessel is greatly deficient in space between the only ports she has fitted for fighting 12½-ton guns through, and she is also somewhat deficient in height between decks and elevation of her ports for such ordnance The Bellerophon has none of these defects. On the contrary, her battery and its ports have been expressly built and fitted for working the guns, and afford ample space for a trial of any mechanical appliances fitted for working them. She is also fitted with training gear designed by Mr. E.J. Reed, Chief Constructor of the Navy, which possesses the great advantage of being all fixed and worked on the deck below the battery, and therefore secure from danger in action, as well as not encumbering the gun deck. It also possesses the serious disadvantages of being very complicated in its parts, of great weight, and excessively costly, looking at it in relation to the simple end for which It has been designed; the training of heavy ordnance being the least of the difficulties that have to be met with and overcome in its adoption on the broadsides of our ships of war. Mr. Reed's plan being fitted, however, on board the Bellerophon will now have to stand its competitive trial with Commander Scott's gear as fitted to his carriage, with Mr. Lynn's gear as fitted to the Woolwich carriage, and with the gear of Mr. Cunningham as fitted to the Admiralty pattern wooden carriage. The iron carriage of one of the guns on board the Minotaur, and which was constructed in the Woolwich Arsenal, has been returned to Woolwich from the ship to be fitted with a different system of compressors, and when completed will be sent back to Portsmouth for trial in the Bellerophon. Sir William Armstrong's iron carriage, which has been manufactured at Elswick, is also expected to arrive at Portsmouth during the present week, and will enter the lists against the other carriages in the trials on board the Bellerophon. This carriage from Elswick is spoken of very favourably from its appearance, but any peculiar features of construction it may possess will be seen in a truer light when it stands on the deck of the Bellerophon in company with its rivals -- the Scott and the Woolwich Arsenal iron carriages and the Admiralty pattern wooden carriage. There can be no disputing the fact that with the cruises of the Bellerophon will commence the real trials of the iron gun carriages, the Elswick carriage only then entering upon the scene, and the Woolwich carriage having been virtually disabled on board the Minotaur by the inefficiency of the compressors. The trials will be of the highest importance, and their results will be watched with eager interest by all who study and value the efficiency of the Navy. For the fulness and impartiality with which they will be conducted the professional standing and reputation of the officer intrusted with their supervision - Capt. Astley Cooper Key, C.B., Governor of the Royal Naval College, and commanding the gunnery ship Excellent - are ample surety.|
|Fr 9 March 1866||The Minotaur, screw, iron frigate, Master Frank Inglis, is having her outfit continued alongside Portsmouth dockyard. The coal bunkers of the ship are being filed up to their full capacity; the cupola furnace has been taken out of the ship and an auxiliary steam boiler shipped and fixed in the space vacated by the cupola, and a stern gallery is being constructed round the line of the stern windows of the admirals cabin. The Minotaur is nearly three months ahead of the Agincourt in her outfit, and it is, therefore, not unlikely that she may finally be selected as the flagship of the present Secretary of the Admiralty [Lord Clarence Edward Paget] on his assuming the command of Her Majesty's ships in the Mediterranean. The Minotaur and Agincourt, when armed with the new seven and nine inch rifled guns, will be unrivalled in speed and power of attack and defence among the broadside gunships of war of all nations.|
|Th 29 March 1866||On Tuesday evening Mr. E.J. Reed, the Chief Constructor of the Navy, delivered a public lecture, by invitation of the committee of management, at the Mechanics' Institute, Chatham, on "The Construction of Ships to resist Shot and Shell." Besides the members of the institute and general public a large number of the principal naval and military officers connected with the port and garrison were present. After some introductory observations Mr. Reed proceeded to explain the manner in which the sides of the earliest of the vessels composing the ironclad squadron were constructed to enable them to resist the passage of shot and shell, instancing successively the Warrior, Minotaur, Lord Warden, and Bellerophon, each representing a different type of the iron-plated squadron. With regard to the trials which had taken place at Shoeburyness to test the resisting powers of targets constructed on the principle of the vessels named, it had recently been urged at a scientific meeting that the tests hitherto insisted upon were far too severe, the targets being subjected systematically to trials which would never be equalled in actual warfare, where the firing would be irregular, at greater distances, and with various degrees of obliquity. The Admiralty had, however, considered it the wisest course to find out the worst effects which could possibly be produced upon their ships, and in this respect they had acted most judiciously, while the results would prove that our officers and men would, in time of war, have the greatest confidence in their ships, and go into action with a degree of daring fully equal to that which in other times and under other circumstances won us the naval honour and renown we had so long enjoyed. After alluding to the form of construction of the Warrior, in which were embodied two subordinate but nevertheless important components — viz, the double skin plating above and below the line of ports and the external stringers upon the iron frames below the ports — Mr. Reed described the construction of the Minotaur, and the surprising nature of the results obtained in the experimental trials made on the Minotaur target, which differed from the Warrior mainly in the reduction of the wood backing, with an increase of equivalent weight in the armour. A single layer of 9-inch teak, with armour of 5½ inches thickness, formed its component parts, the frames and skin plating remaining about the same. For a long time it was supposed that this target had proved much inferior to that of the Warrior. while the departure from the system adopted in the Warrior was repeatedly condemned. Subsequently, however, the important fact was discovered that the wrong powder had been used in the trials against the Minotaur target, it having been ascertained that what was known as 2 A powder had been used with two out of the three rounds of 150lb. cast-iron spherical shot fired from the 10½-inch gun at the target, the effect of which was found to be to raise the striking velocity of the shot from 1,620 feet to 1,744 feet per second. This circumstance consequently invalidated all the comparisons which were made at the time of, and after, the trial, subsequent trials having proved the Minotaur, Agincourt, and Northumberland to possess far greater strength than had been at first supposed. Mr. Reed then passed on to consider the Bellerophon and the experiments made on the Bellerophon target, the principal feature in which consisted in extending throughout its entire structure the double skin plating and the external stringers previously introduced. By their adoption many important advantages were secured, the combined horizontal and vertical 10-inch frames, connected by the double skin of three quarter inch iron, constituting an enormously strong and rigid structure. After alluding to a variety of details connected with the Bellerophon and the leading features which rendered her superior to any of the ironclads which preceded her, Mr. Reed next gave some interesting details respecting the Lord Warden, and the improvements made in her construction. The most striking of these was the device of solidifying the frame in the wake of the armour, the chief advantage being that the frame of the ship was thus rendered solid, and the inside of the vessel fitted with a thickness of 2 feet 7 inches of solid timber behind the 4½-inch armour plating. Another important feature introduced in the Lord Warden and the Lord Clyde was the additional 1½ inch of iron placed between the frame and the outer planking of the ship, to prevent the passage of shell — the most important thing to guard against in the case of a wooden armour-plated vessel. Such a contingency was not thought possible at the time the Warrior was designed, but the improvements effected by Mr. Whitworth and Sir W. Armstrong demonstrated most clearly that shells could be made to penetrate the iron armour of armoured ships. It was therefore decided to give the sides an additional thickness of iron plating, and the results of the experimental trials subsequently made proved the soundness of the principle, the shells fired against the targets so constructed failing to pass through them. A similar plan was also to be adopted in the construction of the Hercules, which would carry a thickness of nine inches of armour-plating for several feet above the water-line, with a backing of teak varying from 12 inches to 16 inches. The Hercules would, however, be rendered still more capable to resist the passage of shot and shell through her sides by the addition of a double wood backing, supported by a second series of frames and skin plates The result of the improvements in the construction of the Hercules had been fully anticipated in the experimental trials recently made on the Hercules target at Shoeburyness, where it was only penetrated by two 600-pounder projectiles, each fired with 100lb. charges, both missiles striking upon the same spot, leaving no doubt whatever that the Hercules herself would be proof against any shot fired from any gun in the world. Mr. Reed, before terminating his address, briefly described the Monarch, double turret ship, about being commenced at Chatham Dockyard, and concluded by describing the several experiments made at Shoeburyness on the various descriptions of armour-plates and targets, the particulars of which have been given on various occasions in The Times.|
|Fr 14 February 1868||OUR IRON-CLAD FLEET. — A return likely to be called for annually has been laid before Parliament, giving an account of our iron-clad fleet built, building, or ordered. The return, which is dated the 30th of August, 1867, contains a list of 31 ships then completed, 13 of them wholly armour-clad, and 18 partially. They are: — The Black Prince, 32 guns; Warrior, 32; Defence, 16; Resistance, 16; Achilles, 26; Hector, 18: Valiant, 18; Minotaur, 26; Agincourt, 26; Northumberland, 26; Royal Oak, 24; Prince Consort, 24; Caledonia, 24; Ocean, 24; Royal Alfred 18; Zealous, 20; Bellerophon, 15; Lord Clyde, 24; Lord Warden, 18; Penelope, 11; Pallas, 8; Favourite, 10; Research, 4; Enterprise, 4; Waterwitch, 2; Vixen, 2; Viper, 2; Royal Sovereign, 5; Prince Albert, 4; Scorpion, 4; Wivern, 4. Twenty-one of these ships are of more than 3,000 tons each. Six other ships were at the date of this return building; two to be wholly armour-clad, and four partially; the Hercules, just launched; the Monarch, 6 guns, to be launched in June; the Captain, 6, the Repulse, 12, to be launched in April; the Audacious, 14, in December; and the Invincible, 14, in March, 1869. All these six ships exceed 3,700 tons. Another, the Bellona, is ordered [and apparently later cancelled]. Lastly, there are the four wholly armour-clad batteries launched in 1855 and 1856, the Erebus, Terror, Thunderbolt, and Thunder; the three first of 16 guns, and the last 14, their tonnage ranging from 1,469 to 1,973. The first cost of the 31 iron-clad ships completed amounted in the whole to 7,284,294l. This includes fittings, but the accounts for some of the latter ships are not yet closed, and this sum does not include incidental and establishment charges. These last indirect charges, calculated in accordance with the recommendation of the Committee on Dockyard Manufactures, add about 35 per cent. to the gross direct charges for labour and materials expended upon each ship in the financial year 1864-65, about 51 per cent. for 1865-66, and the year 1866-67 is for the present estimated to show the same ratio of 51 per cent. These indirect charges have amounted, on the Bellerophon, to no less than 114,372l.; Lord Warden, 104.292l., with a further addition to follow: Royal Alfred, 69,999l., also liable to some addition; Lord Clyde, 66,964l.; Pallas, 61,076l. The most costly of the ships have been the Minotaur, 450,774l.; the Agincourt, 446,048l., both of them with unsettled claims for extra payment; the Northumberland, 433,130l., with the accounts not yet closed; the Achilles, 444,590l.; and the Hercules, estimated at 401,000l. Further sums have to be added to the cost of these ships for dockyard, incidental, and establishment charges.|
|Sa 28 November 1868||That portion of the Channel Squadron which left Plymouth Sound on Thursday for Lisbon, consisted of the Minotaur, Defence, Penelope, Bellerophon, and Northumberland. The Warrior shipped her powder yesterday (Friday), and will follow shortly. The Helicon and Pigeon will probably leave to-day with despatches for the Admirals.|
|Tu 1 December 1868||Her Majesty’s ship Helicon will sail from Devonport tomorrow morning, and will convey despatches for the Channel Squadron, consisting of the Minotaur, Bellerophon, Penelope, Northumberland, Defence, and Pallas.|
|Fr 26 March 1869|
THE CHANNEL SQUADRON.
A report from Rear-Admiral Warden on the cruise of the Channel Squadron in June last has been laid before the House of Commons. The weather was too exceptionally fine to be favourable to the development of the qualities of the ships under trial. The squadron comprised eight ships. Rear-Admiral Warden reports.—
|Th 8 April 1869||The Navy Estimates have now been all voted, and the moral of the whole discussion appears to be that in shipbuilding, as in every other matter, there is no such thing as finality. It seems but a few days — it is less than twenty years — since we heard of the launch of the French steamship Napoléon. That politic innovation of our powerful neighbour sealed the death-warrant of the sailing man-of-war. It seems but yesterday — it is just eleven years — since we heard that the French were constructing four ironclad frigates. From that day to this it has been one breathless struggle among our naval architects to adapt to the conditions of modern warfare the ancient type of broadside cruiser. The American War introduced to the seas a still greater novelty. Just as the necessity of carrying plates of iron over the side of a fighting ship, in order to exclude the terrible projectiles of modern science, forced us to banish from the service the beautiful old three-decker with her 120 guns, so, again, the increasing power of rifled and unrifled artillery moved our ingenious brethren beyond the Atlantic to lower still further — even to the water's edge — the sides of their armoured vessels. It was a wrench to the minds of sailors to accept as inevitable the new motive power and wall of defence which steam and armour-plating have supplied to our men-of-war. But how much greater is the dislocation of old ideas and associations if we are to banish from the line-of-battle ship masts and sails and fixed portholes altogether, reducing to a minimum the ship's side which has to be armoured, and placing amidships a few big guns in revolving turrets, which will sweep round the compass in search of the enemy, and never expose their portholes to the fire of his breech-loading small arms except when the revolving gun is ready to fire too! Is this the last result of modern science? Is this the conclusion to which experiment has driven us? If so it be, away with sentiment and idle lamentation. As wisely deplore, with the popinjay lord who moved the wrath of Hotspur [in Shakespeare's 'Henry IV Part 1'], the introduction of "villainous saltpetre" as grieve over the final departure from the Naval Service of the poetry of form and all the giddy pleasure of the eyes. "The old order changeth, yielding place to new." There is no finality in war. We are about to build such vessels as the British Navy has never seen. The House of Commons has voted the money, in spite of Mr. Corry's opposition, by a majority of three to one, and nothing remains for our constructors but to hurry the experiment to a conclusion.|
Let no man think that, in any arguments or comments of ours which may have contributed to this result, we have been unjust to our naval architects. We know well the difficulties with which they have contended, and we rejoice to acknowledge that in several instances, and notably in Her Majesty’s ships Achilles, Minotaur, Bellerophon, and Hercules, they have attained a surprising amount of success. No one deplores more than we can do the necessity, if it be a necessity, that the most powerful class of our men-of-war should be forced to rely for motive power on steam alone. Obviously it will add largely to the cost of their maintenance in commission, and set limits to the services to which they can be applied. But, if the power of modern artillery is so far increased that the armour carried by these formidable and costly vessels will not exclude the shells which in the day of trial would certainly destroy their crews and burn or sink their hulls; if the power of the guns is still on the increase, and new metals and forms of construction may possibly add to their deadly effect, at the same time that it is impossible, without increasing the size of broadside ships beyond all reasonable proportions, to clothe them with iron-plating of sufficient defensive power, — there is but one conclusion. We must choose another type to carry the necessary armour. We must give to these warlike engines, the enormous cost of which, even in a wealthy Empire, must set some bounds to their number, defensive properties corresponding in some degree to their offensive force. We cannot trust the fortunes of England to ships which an hour's fighting may destroy, if there is a stronger type of fighting vessel, and other nations are likely to possess it.
All shipbuilding is a compromise. In merchantmen speed must be sacrificed to stowage, or stowage sacrificed to speed. If time be an object, it is gained by the addition of steam power, but the weight of the engine and its fuel is so much taken away from the cargo the ship can carry. In a man-of-war the problem is more complicated, in proportion as steadiness of platform for the firing of rifled cannon, and strength of armour as a protection to the sides, become necessary elements in the construction. The form which is the best adapted for speed is that which, by its length, needs the greatest weight of armour; and if, with Mr. Reed, we deliberately choose the slower form of hull, the balance must be redressed by the employment of more powerful engines, which weigh several hundred tons more, and so detract from the weight of coal and armour which the ship can carry. Again, the carrying of armour on the side of the ship aggravates largely her rolling propensities, and this at the very time when we wish, above all things, to secure a higher measure of steadiness than sufficed in the days of Nelson. Guns of precision need a steady platform for precise firing; the same guns necessitate that armour-plating which makes the broadside ship more unsteady than before. It is in the vortex of these conflicting elements that our naval constructors have whirled around. The wonder is, not that they have done so little, but that they have succeeded in doing so much. They have attempted the impossible. A steady broadside ship of moderate dimensions, carrying powerful guns well out of water, and clad in armour which shells from similar guns will not be able to pierce, with a high rate of speed and coal enough for an ocean passage, is an impossibility; and the sooner this truth is recognized the better it will be.
Mr. Childers is acting boldly and wisely in attempting the solution of a difficult problem. Can we, by a radical change in the form of hull, secure in a large degree what hitherto our ironclads have failed to attain? He would be a bold man who would predict with assured confidence the success of the experiment. But there is abundant evidence to justify the trial, and much ground for hope of its ultimate success. The only nations which have tried the experiment at all before us are the United States and Russia, and both of them believe in its feasibility. The Americans, since the conclusion of their great war, have reduced their naval expenditure to such a point that they can indulge no longer in experimental shipbuilding. With an annual outlay of 3,500,000l. sterling for the entire Naval Service, the construction of ironclads and the maintenance of foreign squadrons are together incompatible. They are leaving to European Powers the complete solution of the difficulty; but during the continuance of the war they applied themselves to it with their characteristic energy and accessibility to new ideas. They laid down at least ten distinct classes of turret-vessels with low freeboard — that is, with sides rising above the waterline not more than one or two feet — ranging in size from the Sandusky class, of 450 tons, to the Dictator, of 3,250 tons. The larger craft were intended for ocean service, but have never been tried; we believe they are still unfinished. The smaller were intended for coast service only, but two of these, the Monadnock and Miantonomoh, have respectively rounded Cape Horn and crossed the Atlantic, and the general opinion of American seamen who have tried them is strongly in their favour. But it must always be remembered that these ships were not intended for ocean service. Their tonnage was not, as Mr. Childers is reported to have said, 3,300 tons, but 1,564 tons. They are far smaller than any seagoing ironclad we have afloat. The Pallas of our Navy is 2,372 tons, and the Penelope 2,998 tons, and these are the smallest of our broadside ironclads with any pretensions to cruise at sea. Our sailors have yet to learn the buoyant and steady properties of the low-lying vessel which carries her guns on a platform amidships. The Russians and Americans, so far as they have tried the experiment, assure us that much has yet to be learnt, while that which has been learnt surpasses all expectation. It would be anticipated that the sea would wash over a platform lying so low. It is found, on the contrary, that though the wave often laps over the side, the ship immediately rises to it, and the water rarely reaches the turret. During the attack on Fort Sumter in the American War, while the transports from stress of weather had often to run for safety, the Monitors lay like ducks upon the water, dry and seaworthy, and were never disabled from firing their guns. The ships we are about to construct [Devastation, Thunderer] are not to lie so low. They are to be of 4,400 tons, and to have a freeboard of four and a half feet. They are to carry two turrets, each covered with 14-inch armour, and their sides will be covered with 12-inch armour. Their guns will be the most powerful afloat, and they will have no masts or rigging to interfere with their fire. Our strongest broadside ships, the Hercules and the Bellerophon, exhaust their coal at full speed in less than three days. The new ships are designed to steam at full speed for ten days, so that they may lie in port, awaiting, if so it be, the declaration of war, and steam at a moment's notice in any weather direct to their destination. The crew of the new ships will be so small that we shall save in men if we spend in coal, and there will be an upper deck between if not above the turrets, on which the crew will move secure and dry. For defensive and offensive power such ships must be unrivalled; we trust that time will prove their performance on the ocean, in steadiness and capability for lengthened voyages, to be all or more than their projectors anticipate.
|Ma 23 August 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, PLYMOUTH SOUND, Aug 22.Mr. Childers, First Lord of the Admiralty, with Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Dacres, K.C.B., First Sea Lord, accompanied by their staff officers, secretaries, &c., will sail from England to-morrow with a fleet which, although it may be looked upon as small in point of numbers, will stand unrivalled by any fleet previously assembled for ocean service in all that relates to the speed of the ships under all grades of steaming, power of guns, or thickness of armour-plating — in the latter sense, of course, excepting the unarmoured flying frigate of the British navy, the Inconstant. This fleet is composed of: —
1. Agincourt, 28 guns, 6,121 tons, armoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship, of 1,350-horse power (nominal), Captain Hugh T. Burgoyne, V.C., C.B, Admiralty flagship.
2. Minotaur, 34 guns, 6,621 tons, armoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship, of 1,350-horse power (nominal), Captain James G. Goodenough, carrying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas M.C. Symonds, K.C.B., the Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet of 1869, in the absence of the Admiralty ensign.
3. Northumberland, 28 guns, 6,621 tons, armoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship, of 1,350-horse power (nominal), Captain Charles H. May.
4. Hercules, 14 guns, 5,234 tons, armoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship, of 1,200-horse power (nominal), Captain Lord Gilford.
5. Bellerophon, 14 guns, 4,270 tons, armoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship, of 1,000-horse power (nominal), Captain Francis Marten.
6. Monarch, 7 guns, 5,102 tons, armoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship (double turret), of 1,100-horse power (nominal), Captain John B. Commerell, V.C., C.B.
7. Inconstant, 17 guns, 4,066 tons, unarmoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship, of 1,000-horse power (nominal), Captain Elphinstone D'O. D'A. Aplin.I have included the Monarch simply because her name is on the list of ships at the Admiralty that are to start under the Admiralty flag from here with their Lordships, but I believe the defects existing in her gun-carriages, brought to light during her recent cruise and experimental firing in the Channel, are of so grave a nature that she is not likely to sail with the fleet hence, although she may possibly join afterwards at Lisbon. A good deal has been said on both sides respecting the experimental firing from the 25-ton guns in the Monarch's turrets during her cruise, and all, or nearly all, the statements made have been remarkable for the extreme opinions expressed. I have no doubt whatever myself, speaking with some knowledge of such matters, that the exact truth will be found to lie between the two extremes and, as in most other instances in daily life, "impulsiveness of nature" must bear whatever blame may be due. An error of judgment certainly appears to have been committed, if only in a slight degree, but then it must be taken into consideration that this is the first occasion on which guns weighing each 25 tons, rifled also, and firing immense charges, have been fired on board a vessel at sea. It is to be hoped the Monarch, if she does not join the fleet here, will do so as early as may be possible during the coming cruise. She is expected to prove, and doubtless will prove, a most formidable ship of war; but she is an entirely new type of vessel if looked upon simply as an ocean-going turret-ship. She has, however other points of interest connected with her build and efficiency. She represents the "high freeboard principle," a principle on which many people — and people who ought to be able to give an opinion of undoubted soundness — do not hang their faith, and she carries guns in her turrets relative to the working of which at sea under the condition of a deep and rapidly-changing inclination of the ship's deck it is desirable something reliable should be known. I have mentioned the power of the guns mounted by the several ships of the fleet, the thickness of the ships' armour-plating, and the speed of the ships, under steam. On all these points the ships may be fairly said to be in advance of the age in comparison with the navy of any other country. The three sister ships — the great five-masted craft — the Agincourt, the Minotaur, and the Northumberland, carry each 12-ton 7-inch muzzle-loading rifled guns on four broadside ports amidships, while the remainder of their armament consists of 6½-ton 7-inch guns of the same description in manufacture and rifling. All three have 5½-inch plating on a good serviceable backing of teak, and iron framing with an inner iron skin. The Bellerophon carries a magnificent battery of ten 12-ton guns on her main deck behind 6-inch plating, improved upon that of the Agincourt, Minotaur, and Northumberland; but it must be stated at the same time that her upper deck is hampered with an enormous and useless iron tower, and she is also deficient in steam power. The Hercules has on her main deck an unrivalled battery of 18-ton muzzle-loading rifled guns, and has also most undoubtedly the thickest, heaviest, and toughest skin of all the broadside ironclads afloat in Europe or America, and that is tantamount to saying in the world. The Monarch is our latest investment in iron-clad ships of war. She has a skin even much thicker, heavier, and tougher that the Hercules has, while the difference in the gun power of the two ships is, of course, as 25 to 18 in favour of the turret-ship. The Inconstant is the flying unarmoured screw frigate of the British navy. She is built entirely of iron, but floating in an outer shell of wood, on which is a skin of copper sheathing to enable her to keep the sea as long as any ordinarily wood-built ship. Although without armour, she carries 12-ton guns, and her speed under steam, at all grades of expansion, is superior to that of any other war ship afloat. She has been, in fact, specially constructed to carry extraordinary gun power combined with exceptional powers of speed, both for attack and for flight. The speed of the Monarch is, next to that of the Inconstant, the greatest of all the ships of the British navy. Next come the Hercules and Bellerophon, and close upon them the Agincourt, Minotaur, and Northumberland. The Inconstant — the fastest ship — averaged 16ˑ7 knots over the measured mile in six runs made continuously and without the engines stopping. The slowest of the fleet — the five-masted class — average 13ˑ5 knots. The aggregate amount of tonnage, nominal horse-power of engines, and number of guns represented by the seven ships are 38,137 tons, 8,350 nominal horse-power of engines, and 141 guns. The fleet is somewhat remarkable in its constitution in the presence of the three five-masted ships, it being the first instance of three such vessels having met and sailed in company in a fleet. It is also remarkable that the Agincourt, after doing duty as Admiralty flagship during the cruise of the Reserve Fleet, and having been again selected as their Lordships' flagship for the present cruise, should have but one soul on board among her present officers and crew who served on the last cruise. Mr james Patterson, the chief engineer of the ship, is the only one on board who can claim the honour of having previously done duty in the Agincourt under the Admiralty flag.
The Agincourt, Minotaur Northumberland, Hercules, and Bellerophon are lying in the Sound, coaled and ready for sailing. The Inconstant is hourly expected to join from Spithead. The Agincourt was docked at Keyham on Thursday, was undocked again on Friday, and the same evening towed out by three steam tugs to the Sound, where her coaling was completed by 5 o'clock yesterday morning — a large amount of work executed in a very abort period of time, and very much to the credit of the dockyard officials here. Yesterday, the President and members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, who had arrived at Devonport by a special train from Exeter, together with a large number of excursionists, embarked from the dockyard on board a Government steamer and visited the ships lying in the Sound.
Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Dacres, the First Sea Lord, with Captain Beauchamp Seymour, private secretary to Mr. Childers, and Captain G.0. Willes, has arrived at Devonport, from London, to complete arrangements for the sailing of the fleet tomorrow. Mr. Childers will arrive in Devonport from town to-morrow afternoon, and immediately embark on board the Agincourt. So far as arrangements stand at present, the Minotaur, Northumberland, Hercules, Bellerophon, Inconstant, and Monarch, if she joins, will weigh their anchors early in the afternoon of to-morrow, and proceed to sea, the Agincourt remaining in the Sound until Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres and their suite have embarked on board of her, when she will join the fleet somewhere in the vicinity of the Eddystone Light Tower. The first port made by the fleet after leaving Plymouth Sound will be Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean feet, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir A. Milne, K.C.B., will join, and the combined fleets then proceed on their cruise. Madeira will most probably be the next place of call, but this will depend upon after circumstances. At the termination of the cruise the combined fleet will anchor in the Tagus, and, it is expected, will remain anchored off Lisbon two or three days. On leaving the Tagus again Vice-Admiral Milne's fleet will return to Gibraltar and the Mediterranean, and the ships that are now in Plymouth Sound will sail for Queenstown, where they will arrive about the 27th of September.
|Tu 24 August 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, PLYMOUTH SOUND. Monday, NoonPlymouth Sound was never before so well defended as it was this morning, when the sun, breaking through the mists which hung thickly over land and sea, shone down upon eleven magnificent ironclads anchored under the lee of the breakwater. The Monarch and Inconstant had joined during the night from Spithead, making the number of ships to sail this afternoon under the Admiralty ensign seven in all, and fortunately giving the fleet the company of our first and as yet untried seagoing turret-ship Monarch. The Black Prince entered the Sound yesterday afternoon from Bermuda, having left there on the 31st ult., and the Warrior anchored here last night from Spithead; neither of these vessels, however, will take part in the coming cruise. The Warrior would have joined had it been considered possible to get her ready in time on her arrival from Bermuda, but this anticipated cause of delay, although it has been got over, has now been supplemented by another in a change in her command, and our first and still handsome and formidable ironclad will not, therefore, join in the cruise. This is to be regretted, as it leaves a gap in this division of the combined fleet at sea previous to joining the Mediterranean division. With the Warrior in company, two lines or divisions equal in numbers could have been formed, but under the present conditions one division must necessarily be of four and the other of three ships.
Vice-Admiral Sir T.M.C. Symonds, K.C.B., commanding the Channel Fleet, hoisted his flag at 8 o'clock this morning on board his flagship, the Minotaur, Captain James G. Goodenough, on his return from short leave.
An official notice has been issued that letters from England will find the combined fleets at Gibraltar from the 1st to the 4th of September, both dates inclusive, and at Lisbon on the 13th.
The ships which sail to-day from England will arrive at Queenstown on the 27th of September.
The arrangements for the ships of the Channel Squadron to weigh this afternoon and proceed outside to wait for the Agincourt remain unaltered, and they are expected to leave the Sound about 5 p.m. Mr. Childers will arrive at Devonport from London by the 5 p.m. train, and go on board the Agincourt about 6 p.m., when she will immediately leave the Sound and join the other ships outside. By midnight the whole will be well off the land, and steering a course to clear Ushant, en route for Gibraltar.
PLYMOUTH, Monday Evening.At noon to-day most of the ships in the Sound belonging to the Channel Squadron weighed one anchor, took in all boats, and got up steam.
At 4 30 p.m. the Minotaur started from the centre of the Squadron under steam only. Wind, S.S.W., light; weather, fine ; tide, first quarter's flood.
The Minotaur was followed by the Bellerophon and Hercules. The Northumberland, being the easternmost ship, had to wait until the others were clear, and left at 4 50 p.m.
The Inconstant started at 5 and the Monarch at 5 30 p.m.
Mr. Childers, the First Lord, who came down by the South Devon Railway, went on board the steam tender Princess Alice, at Millbay, at 6 p.m., under a salute of 19 guns from the flagship Royal Adelaide, Captain Preedy, in Hamoaze.
Within 15 minutes his Lordship left the tender, and proceeded in the Port Admiral's barge to the Agincourt, on board which lie was received with yards manned.
The Admiralty flag was then hoisted at her mainmast, and was saluted by the Plymouth Citadel and by the Monarch, which hove to off the Rame Head, outside the harbour.
At 6 30 p.m. the Agincourt returned the salutes, and at 7 followed the other ships for Gibraltar.
The Warrior and the Black Prince are the only ships of war now left in the Sound.
|Tu 7 September 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, GIBRALTAR BAY, Aug. 31.In my first letter, dated from Plymouth Sound, I observe an error which requires correction before referring to subsequent events connected with the cruise. I appear to have stated, in referring to the Iron tower on the upper deck of the Bellerophon, "and she is also deficient in steam power;" what I Intended to have said was, “and is also deficient in gun power," to convey the opinion that the weight of the iron tower would be more advantageously employed in the form of guns on the same deck.
The First Lord of the Admiralty, on embarking on board the Agincourt, in Plymouth Sound, on the evening of Monday, the 23d of August, was accompanied by the Senior Sea Lord of the Admiralty, Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Colpoys Dacres, K.C.B.; Captain F. Beauchamp Seymour, C.B., A.D.C. to the Queen, private secretary to the First Lord; Captain George Ommanny Willes, C.B., Captain of the Fleet; and Paymaster Richard Munday, secretary to their lordships during the cruise. The fleet was thus commanded by the Admiralty, and not personally by any one individual, Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas M.C. Symonds, the Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Squadron, flying his flag on board the Minotaur as second in command. The appointment of Captain Willes to the post of Captain of the Fleet was an imperative necessity, and the selection has been a good one. During the cruise of the Reserve Fleet Admiral Key was the Admiralty executive officer, but on the present occasion there is no Admiral on board the flagship of their lordships, excepting Admiral Dacres and hence arose the necessity for the appointment of a Captain of the Fleet. Captain Willes is one of our best steam officers, no one stands higher in other professional qualifications, and at the same time he possesses an untiring energy which eminently fits him for the onerous post to which he has been appointed.
After leaving Plymouth Sound and overtaking the other ships off the Eddystone the Agincourt took her station at the head of the weather or starboard line of ships, the Minotaur at the head of the lee line, and the fleet entered upon its cruise under low boiler power, steaming five knots only, and steering a S.W. three-quarters W. course, in the following order:—
WEATHER DIVISION.— 1. Agincourt, Admiralty flag. 2. Monarch. 3. Hercules 4. Inconstant.
LEE DIVISION.— 1. Minotaur, flag of Vice-Admiral Sir T. Symonds, second in command. 2. Northumberland. 3. Bellerophon.
The night was fine and bright, with perfectly smooth water. Up to midnight there was a good deal of signalling between the Agincourt and the other ships with Colomb's flash-light signals, and each ship carried permanent white lights aloft on her spars in addition to the red and green lights on her bows.
At 6 o'clock on the following morning a nice breeze came up from about S.E. by E., at a force of 3 to 4, and all plain sail was put on the ships to royals. This afforded a first opportunity of seeing the Hercules, Monarch, and Inconstant together and in company with other ships under sail. No ships could possibly have looked handsomer or more effective under sail alone, and certainly for the first time since the introduction of ironclads into the British Navy two of those vessels and an unarmoured iron-built consort were as picturesque and efficient looking aloft as ever were three of the smartest of our wooden liners or frigates. Each of these three ships appeared to feel and spring to the pressure of her sails, although there was but a pleasant and, indeed, a light summer's breeze. A glance round at all the ships of the fleet at once disclosed the cause of this evident superiority. The Monarch, Hercules, and Inconstant carry masts and sails fully in proportion to their displacement, while all the other ships in the fleet are short of sail power. The Bellerophon when first she was brought out was fitted with a large increase of sail power upon that of all the previous ironclads, and the Monarch, Hercules, and Inconstant are a still further improvement upon her, and a wise return to old principles as to sail-propelling power to sea-going steamships of war, armoured or unarmoured. During the forenoon the fleet suddenly sailed into a dense bank of fog and the fog-horns succeeded the ordinary flags. The signals were perfectly conveyed and read off by the long and short durations of the sounds, but the effect upon the ear was very much like cattle bleating on a mountain side. The bank was of no great extent, and the ships soon emerged from it again into the bright sunshine and sailed on over an almost waveless sea, with scarcely more perceptible motion on their decks than is to be found on the floor of a drawing-room ashore. Evolutions under steam followed during the day, all of which were interesting, and the majority of them very fairly executed. It was, however, the first day all the ships had worked together in these manoeuvres, and a second day's drill at the same work might be expected to improve the appearance of the ships when thus wheeling and pirouetting under steam, by giving confidence to the officers in charge, in letting them see what the ships could do, comparatively with each other, under such circumstances.
The position of the ships at noon was 35 miles off Ushant, with the wind on the port quarter at a force of about four, at which it continued throughout the day. The revolutions of the engines of the ships were reduced in each instance so as to keep the speed of the fleet down to five knots per hour, but with the freshening of the breeze at times during the day to sometimes nearer five than four the ships averaged a speed of six knots between 11 a.m. and sunset. Some distance of the ground to be travelled over between the Channel and Gibraltar was, however, necessarily lost in the evolutions. About 6 p.m. sail was shortened and furled, and the ships put under steam alone at five knots. So fine was the weather that at 7 30 p.m. Vice-Admiral Symonds, with his flag-lieutenant, from the Minotaur, Captain Commerell from the Monarch, and Captain May from the Northumberland, boarded the Agincourt in their boats, by invitation, and dined with their Lordships, returning to their ships by their boats again between 9 and 10 o'clock. There was no risk in the visit. The sea was quite smooth, and a brilliant moon lit the way for the boats between the ships. As an historical reminiscence, I may mention that the heir of the great Lord St. Vincent lost his life as nearly as possible about the same spot years ago when paying a similar visit. He had been dining with his Admiral on board the flagship, and after dinner left in his own boat for his ship. The boat never reached the ship, nor was anything ever heard of her after leaving the flagship.
After the Admiralty guests left the Agincourt the ships were all put under easy sail and low steam for the night. At daylight on Wednesday morning all sail was made on the ships, and steam let down with engines stopped as each vessel was found to overrun her station upon her leader. The course being steered across the edge of the Bay brought the north-easterly breeze, which was steady at about well aft on each ship's port quarter, and all soon had starboard studding sails set alow and aloft. The Inconstant very soon began to spare her sails to the rest of the fleet, and the Monarch followed her example, until both these beautiful craft had reduced canvas to their three topsails. At 9 30 a.m. a general signal was made to chase ahead until 1 p.m., and then to chase back into stations astern of the two flagships, with screws disconnected.
The Monarch and Inconstant very soon sailed out to the front of the fleet, and stood on together in distinct positions from all the other ships in a spirit of rivalry, although there could be a very small chance for the heavily-armoured turret-ship against the lighter-weighted and unarmoured Inconstant. The Hercules took third position, but was recalled, so that the chase may be said to have been confined to the turret-ship and the Inconstant. At 1 15 p.m. both hauled to the wind to resume their stations in the weather column, astern of the Agincourt, the Inconstant at the time having a tremendous lead of the Monarch, but the latter having beaten the other ironclads of the fleet nearly half as much as the Inconstant had beaten her. When recalled from chasing, the Inconstant had distanced the Monarch 5½ miles. The Monarch was much delayed at the start by the great length of time it took to disconnect her screw. In reaching back closehauled towards the fleet the inclination of each to leeward was signalled to the Agincourt as — Monarch, 4 deg., Inconstant, 10 deg.
The breeze had then freshened to a fair whole sail strength for vessels hauled close to. In tacking to rejoin and fall into their positions in column again, the Monarch was 4 minutes 17 seconds going about, and the Inconstant 8 minutes 10 seconds.
The position of the fleet at noon was lat. 47 6 N., long. 7 41 W., Cape Finisterre S. 17 W., 263 miles. About an hour after noon the course of the ships was altered to S.W. by S.½W., which would haul the ships in more for the land, and direct for Cape Finisterre, from the large western offing they had gained. The fleet went to general quarters in the forenoon, and all newly joined men were put through a series of drills in the afternoon. There was sail drill in the after part of the day, after which the port column of ships steamed through the starboard column in the intervening spaces between the ships and reformed column to starboard of the line led by the Agincourt. The ships continued their course through the night under steam alone at the regulated speed of five knots. During the first and middle watch experimental drill signalling was carried on between the Agincourt and other ships with Colomb's flash lights, the Inconstant ranging up on the Agincourt's port beam to signal to test her signalmen, the frigate having been only 13 days in commission. The Monarch's men were next tested in the signals, and, after that, other ships were brushed up in a like manner. The Colomb, or Colomb-Bolton, system of flashing light signals for night signalling is so simple, certain in its action, and so admirably meets all the requirements for rapid and free communication between ships by night at sea that, like many other things established by their own simplicity and efficiency, we can only wonder it was not adopted long ago. It is simply — as, indeed, has been explained in The Times on more than one previous occasion — an adaptation of Morse's printing telegraph system, and by the short or long flashes of light, and their position to each other, messages are conveyed to the eye as certainly as the telegraph instrument prints them off upon the tape. Day signals on the same principle can be conveyed by semaphore arms, collapsing cones or drums, or by any visible object, no matter what its form, exhibited for long and short periods of time, or even by jets of steam. In a fog the same method of signalling is carried out by sound, with the fog horn. The Colomb system has been strongly opposed by many old naval officers, and has still its opponents among distinguished officers on and off the active list, who would fain preserve the old and cumbrous form of signalling to the navy simply because they have a rooted dislike of all "innovations." Thanks, however, to the firmness of Sir Sydney Dacres, the Colomb system has now been officially established as the signal system of the British navy, and every boys' training ship is now supplied with a set of lamps and apparatus to instruct fully in their use, the future seamen of our fleets. On the following morning Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres, accompanied by Captain F.B. Seymour, embarked, in the Admiralty barge from the Agincourt, and boarded the Monarch turret-ship, where they spent the greater part of the day in inspecting her. Four rounds were fired from one of her turrets, two being fired singly and two simultaneously from her monster 25-ton guns — the first occasion on which two guns in one turret had been fired on board of her. The other turret is hors de combat, owing to the damage sustained by the machinery fitted to the carriages of the guns, and is likely to remain so for some time beyond the end of the present voyage, although a number of workmen belonging to the Steam Factory Department of Portsmouth Dockyard were brought to sea in the ship, in the hope that they would be able to repair the damage to the carriages. The machinery fitted for working the turret guns of the Monarch is very beautiful, but is very complicated, occupies a great deal of space in the turret, is liable to complete derangement, as in the present instance, from injury to any one of its many parts, and it therefore becomes a question of grave import whether in any other gun or carriage gear to our turret ships some simple and more reliably lasting means may not be devised than has been employed in the case of the Monarch. The gun carriages for the turrets of the Captain have yet to be supplied to her, the details of their working gear being dependent upon the results of the trials of the Monarch's carriages. This is so far unfortunate that the Captain's carriages now wait, as the breakdown of the Monarch's "stops the way." During the time their lordships were on board the Monarch she was detached from the fleet, and the remainder of the ships were put through a series of evolutions under steam, the most strikingly effective of which, in a military sense, was an advance in line abreast against a supposed enemy's fleet, and a change of formation to two quarter columns, en echelon, each ship turning four points to starboard on the quarter of her leader, on engaging. The position of the fleet at noon was lat. 45 6 N., long. 8 56 W., Cape Finisterre S. 5 W. 135 miles. Since passing Cape Ushant, and entering upon the confines of the Bay of Biscay, the weather had been singularly fine and favourable for the passage of the ships, at the moderate rate of speed laid down for them, between Ushant and Finisterre. The moderate north-easterly breeze which helped them, with their low rate of steaming, to clear the chops of the Channel, accompanied them across the bay until Wednesday night, breaking up the summits of the long roll prevailing on the edge of the bay into millions of foaming wavelets, coruscating with light and colour in the brilliant sunshine. Thursday was a day of a different character, although the sea was quiet to an almost unnatural degree. There were calms, fog, light airs from the southward, rain showers, and occasional glints of sunshine, alternating throughout the day, and under all the sea lay with scarcely a ripple disturbing its surface or a pulsation from its depths to break its flatness. On Friday morning the fleet was nearing the land under Finisterre in a thick fog, and the unmelodious foghorn was again brought into use to ascertain the positions and bearings of the ships from each other. A partial lift in the fog about 9 a.m. brought all the ships within sight, when, their formation being necessarily found rather irregular, columns of divisions astern of the two flagships were reformed. The weather cleared as the sun gained strength, with the exception of a thick haze which hung on the horizon. A number of vessels hove in sight between the fleet and Cape Finisterre, which the fleet was now rapidly closing, and among others a beautiful fruit schooner, the Madelina, of Llanelly, steering N.E., which with all sail set to her fore royal and starboard studding sails passed close on the port beam of the Agincourt and dipped her royal in honour of the Admiralty ensign flying at the frigate's main. At noon the position of the fleet was in lat. 43 15 N., long. 9 36 W., Cape Finisterre being 15 miles on the port beam, and the Burlings bearing south, distant 230 miles. At 1 p.m. the course was altered to south by west, and at 5 p.m. to a couple of points or so further to the southward. At noon navigating officers who had faith in their vision saw through the curtain of fog on the port beam the shadow of the land between Capes Ortegal and Finisterre, but others who had not such faith in their own powers saw only fog. At 11 p.m., however, the light on the island of Bayona, off Vigo, was sparkling brilliantly on the port hand, and at 9 o'clock on the following (Saturday) morning the peaks of the mountainous range near the mouth of the Minho river stood sharply defined above the banks of summer morning haze which clothed the lower lands and the sea as the ships steamed slowly along in two columns parallel with the coast line. A few airs from the southward gradually increased to a light breeze that cleared off the base from the face of the coast line, disclosing a high range of land, from the slopes of which peeped out straggling villages, and occasionally villa residences embowered in foliage. The course of the ships was kept in close for Oporto Bay, and at 1 p.m. the fleet was led in one grand line through the Bay, within a mile and a half of the bar at the river's mouth, by the Agincourt, with the Admiralty ensign at her main royal mast head, and Oporto, "the Queen of the Douro," came in full view from the fleet, in the full blaze of the midday sun. If Oporto looked picturesque from the fleet the latter must have appeared equally so from the shore, and, judging from the numbers of people who thronged every point from which a view of the ships could be obtained, its passage through the bay must have caused some little excitement. The telegraph station at the north-east end of the bay signalled the fleet, with the Commercial Code of signals, "Where from?" and "How many days?" to which the Agincourt replied, "Plymouth, five days." "All well." On steering out from Oporto Bay, a wider berth was given the land, and the wind coming out on the ships' starboard beam, all plain sail was made on them as they steamed at their slowest rate along the coast for the Burlings. There were the usual drills on board the different ships during the day, but it being Saturday, shortening sails to topsail was substituted for the usual evening drill after the men’s supper-time. (The pipe for supper is given at 4 30 p.m.) This done, the watch was called and work considered done, until all hands were called on the following morning, except by the watch on deck.
On Sunday morning the fleet, in two lines, under sail and low steam to six-knot speed, were passing through the narrow channel between the rocky islands of the Burlings and Cape Carvoceiro and Light on the mainland, the town of Peniche and its numerous windmills forming a conspicuous feature on the port hand of the fleet, after getting clear of Carvoceiro. The weather was lovely, the light and fair breeze which had filled the ships' sails since their departure from Plymouth Sound, with a few intervals of calms, continuing, and the sea retaining its extraordinary smoothness — a state of wind and sea admirably suitable for a sailing and rowing regatta by Thames wherries. From Cape Carvoceiro to Cape Roca (the rock of Lisbon) the ships steered on a line within a mile of the shore, and in the clear beauty of the morning there were seen, with microscopic distinctness, the dark metallic-looking cliffs on the shore with sweeps of sandy beach, including the "Praia Formosa," or "Beautiful Beach," so named by the Portuguese for its shelving sands, and the bay of Ponte Novo, where Wellington landed with his troops, and afterwards fought the battle of Vimiera almost within sight of his landing place; the west end of the lines of Torres Vedras, which stretch across the peninsula to Villa Franca; the enormous marble built Mafra, combining palace, convent, and church under one roof, erected in pious gratitude by a King for the birth of a son, and raising the position of the poorest convent in Portugal to that of the richest. As the rock of Lisbon was neared the Cintra mountains towered above the Cape in dark grandeur, with the Royal Palace of Penha, the residence of Dom Fernando, perched on their loftiest peak, and the charming village of Cintra hanging on its slopes below. At noon the fleet was off Cape Roca, and soon afterwards the Tagus lay open on the port beam, but necessarily at some distance, as the course was being kept straight from Roca for Cape Espichel, and the tower of Belem, with the Royal Palace and the dome of the Estrella Cathedral, showed distinctly above all other buildings. A small but very fast and handsome little steamer, the Lusitano, came out from under the land, and ranging up alongside the Agincourt, dipped her flag to the British ensign. Divine service was performed on board the several ships and the day kept as a day of rest so far as was possible on board ship at sea. On board this ship the Rev. J.G. Macdona, chaplain of the ship and Admiralty chaplain pro tem., officiated at the morning and afternoon services, selecting as the text for his discourse in the morning the parable of the Prodigal Son. Cape Espichel was passed by the ships during the evening and a course taken thence to Cape St. Vincent.
Yesterday morning broke with very thick weather, and the Inconstant at 5 a.m. was sent in towards the land to ascertain its position, soon making it and signalling Cape St. Vincent to bear E. ¾ N. from her, at a distance of about 10 miles, and the ships were then kept on a course for Gibraltar Straits, over the 153 miles of water lying between Capes St. Vincent and Trafalgar. The Hercules ranged up alongside the Agincourt to signal about 9 a.m., and Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres, accompanied by Captain F.B. Seymour, boarded her in one of the flagship's cutters, and spent the morning on board inspecting her general arrangements between decks, and witnessing some shot practice from her 18-ton guns. Steam evolutions were made with the other ships during the time their Lordships were on board the Hercules; but, like all others made during the voyage out, they call for no particular notice from me here, being, as they are, merely preliminary to the more important evolutions that will be made by the combined fleets during the next portion of the cruise between Gibraltar and Lisbon. These preliminary exercises have been very necessary previous to joining the Mediterranean ships, as three of the ships of this Division — the Agincourt, Monarch, and Inconstant — are all newly commissioned ships. All the movements, however, have been very fairly performed, as have also the drills aloft in furling and making sail, sending down and aloft again topgallant masts and upper yards. With reference to these latter drills the subjoined order has been posted on board this ship: —
"Her Majesty's Ship Agincourt, at Sea, Aug. 27.
“Sir Sydney Dacres has expressed to me his satisfaction with the smartness and silence with which the evolutions have been performed this evening, and considers the activity displayed most creditable to a ship so short a time in commission. (Signed)
"H.T. BURGOYNE, Captain.
"To the Commander, Officers, and Crew of Her Majesty's Ship Agincourt."
As the ships left Cape St. Vincent astern they met with true Mediterranean weather at this season of the year in the vicinity of the Rock — an intensely sultry morning, with very little wind and occasional heavy falls of rain, This was succeeded by the wind coming out freshly from the southward, and, for the first time since leaving England, the ships had to steam against a head wind, with upper yards sent down on deck, topgallant masts housed, and lower yards pointed to the wind. At noon the ships, steaming six knots, were 165 miles from Gibraltar Bay. The Monarch soon after noon dropped astern of the other ships, with her engines stopped, to repack glands, and was signalled to follow us to Gibraltar Bay when able to steam again.
This morning a thick vapour hung over the land and completely hid the outline of the coast until nearly 9 a.m., when it cleared off, and at 11 a.m. the ships in two columns were steaming into the Straits with Cape Spartel and the African coast on the starboard hand, and the European land at a little further distance off on the port hand. Soon after 2 p.m. the fleet passed through the narrow part of the Straits between Tarifa and the Morocco coast, and at 4 30 p.m. the Agincourt and Minotaur, as leaders of the two columns, dropped their anchors in the Bay of Gibraltar, where they found at anchor the Mediterranean division of ships, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Milne, K.C.B., which will form part of the combined fleet in the coming cruise between Gibraltar and Lisbon.
The present sick list of the Channel ships is at the following low rate from returns made officially up to this morning:— Agincourt, officers, men, and boys, 12; Monarch, 15; Hercules, 13; Inconstant, 14; Minotaur, 17; Northumberland, 16; Bellerophon, 12; giving a total of only 102 out of 4,832 souls on board the ships.
As the fleet entered the bay Vice-Admiral Sir A. Milne, in his steam yacht tender the Psyche boarded the Agincourt, and welcomed the arrival of Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres in the waters comprised in his command, the Lord Warden, Sir A Milne's flagship, at anchor in the bay, at the same time saluting the Admiralty ensign at the main royal of the Agincourt, the compliment being duly returned by the latter ship to the flag of Sir A. Milne flying on board the Lord Warden. Salutes were also exchanged between the Agincourt and the garrison.
|We 8 September 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, GIBRALTAR BAY, Thursday, Sept. 2.Signal has been made to the combined Fleet to prepare to sail from here at daylight in the morning, and the coaling of the ships will be completed this afternoon.
The Monarch, which was left by the Channel Fleet outside the Straits repacking glands, to prevent an escape of steam, arrived in the Bay early on the morning yesterday, after the arrival of the other ships. The composition of the combined Fleet that sails in the morning on a ten days' cruise of exercise between the Rock and the Tagus is a matter of considerable interest, and I therefore append a return of all the most important particulars relating to the ships, number of officers and men serving on board, armaments, &c. —
CHANNEL DIVISION.Agincourt, Admiralty flagship, 6,621 tons, 1,350-horse-power, 4 12-ton 9-inch and 24 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 700 officers and crew, 700 tons coal stowage.
Minotaur, flag of Vice-Admiral Sir T. Symonds, 6,621 tons, 1,350-horse-power, 4 12-ton 9-inch and 24 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 705 officers and crew, 720 tons coal stowage.
Northumberland, 6,621 tons, 1,350-horse-power, 4 12-ton 9-inch and 22 9-ton 8-inch guns, 706 officers and crew, 714 tons coal stowage.
Hercules, 5,234 tons, 1,200-horse-power, 8 18-ton 10-inch, 2 12-ton 9-inch, and 4 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 650 officers and crew, 600 tons coal stowage.
Monarch, 5,102 tons, 1,100-horse-power, 4 25-ton 12-inch and 3 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 525 officers and crew, 600 tons coal stowage.
Bellerophon, 4,270 tons, 1,000-horse-power, 10 12-ton 9-inch and 5 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 538 officers and crow, 500 tons coal stowage.
Inconstant, 4,066 tons, 1,000-horse-power, 10 12-ton 9-inch and 6 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 600 officers and crew, 600 tons coal stowage.
MEDITERRANEAN DIVISION.Lord Warden, flag of Vice-Admiral Sir A, Milne, 4,080 tons, 1,000-horse-power, 2 12-ton 9-inch, 14 9-ton 8-inch, and 2 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 692 officers and crow, 6OO tons coal stowage.
Caledonia, 4,125 tons, 1,000-horse-power, 4 9-ton 8-inch and 20 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 631 officers and crew, 599 tons coal stowage.
Royal Oak, 4,056 tons, 800-horse-power, 4 9-ton 8-inch and 20 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 666 officers and crew, 540 tons coal stowage.
Prince Consort, 4,045 tons, 1,000-horse-power, 4 9-ton 8-inch and 20 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 650 officers and crew, 561 tons coal stowage.
Pallas, 2,372 tons, 600-horse-power, 4 9-ton 8-inch, 2 64-pounder 64cwt., and 2 40-pounder guns, 290 officers and crew, 250 tons coal stowage.
Enterprise, 993 tons,160-horse-power, 4 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 144 officers and crew, 103 tons coal stowage.
Cruiser, 752 tons, 60-horse-power, 1 6½-ton 7-inch gun and 4 64-pounders, 186 officers and crew, 65 tons coal stowage.
Psyche, 835 tons, 250-horse-power, 2 signal guns, 50 officers and crew, 218 tons coal stowage.
The Fleet is thus composed of six armour-plated iron-built ships, six armour-plated wood-built ships, one unarmoured iron-built frigate, one unarmoured wood-built sloop, and one paddlewheel despatch steamer, manned by 8,121 officers and men, armed with 233 armour-piercing, muzzle-loading rifled guns (the light 64-pounder and other guns not possessing armour penetration in the Fleet I have not included in this number), propelled by a gross nominal engine-power of 13,220-horse.
The stay of the Fleet here since the Channel Division joined on Tuesday afternoon will have been but a short one, but a good deal will have been done in the time by the First Lords. On Tuesday evening their Lordships entertained Sir Alexander Milne and his personal Staff and officers of the Fleet at dinner on board here, and yesterday evening Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Airey and the officers of his personal Staff dined on board with their Lordships. As early as half-past 6 yesterday morning the Admiralty barge had left the Agincourt, conveying Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres to the dockyard and coaling jetty at the New Mole, where some time was spent in an examination of the existing arrangements of the works in progress there. On returning from the dockyard a visit was paid to Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Milne on board his flagship, the Lord Warden, and afterwards their Lordships went on board each of the ships of the Mediterranean Division under the gallant Admiral's command. It is enough to say at present with regard to the Mediterranean ships, that the magnificent order they are in deservedly elicited the warmest expressions of admiration from their Lordships. In the afternoon the official Admiralty visit was made to the Governor of Gibraltar at his summer residence, the Cottage, at Europa. On their Lordships landing from their barge at the new Mole the battery at the head of the Mole fired a salute of 19 guns, and a guard of honour of the 13th Light Infantry, with the regimental band and colours, was drawn up to receive them. From the Mole the carriages of his Excellency conveyed his distinguished visitors to the Cottage. This morning by half-past 7 the Psyche, with the Lords of the Admiralty, accompanied by Sir Richard Airey and Staff, crossed to Tangiers, and were received at the Legation by the Foreign Minister of Morocco, introduced by Sir John D. Hay, afterwards returning the Minister’s visit at his palace. This evening Sir Richard Airey gives a grand dinner on shore to the Admiralty Lords and the Admirals commanding the two Divisions, to which a large party of officers, naval and military, are invited to meet them.
The weather is intensely hot here. Yesterday was stated to have been the warmest day experienced at the Rock during the present summer. In the shade the thermometers ranged to 98 deg., and the heat on the upper slopes of the Rock, in the almost entire absence of wind, must have been terrific. Notwithstanding this extraordinary heat, however, parties of officers from the fleet scaled the Rock — Englishmen-like, of course, at noon day — and took their luncheon of Huntly and Palmers biscuits, Stilton cheese, and Burton beer at the signal station 1,265 feet above sea level. By way also, I suppose, of continuing such extreme bodily exercise in exceptionally hot weather, the officers of the Royal Oak this afternoon play the officers of the 74th Highlanders a game of cricket on the flat shelterless plain on the north front, adjoining the neutral ground.
The Peninsular and Oriental Company’s screw steamship Tanjore arrived here last night at 7 p.m. from Southampton, with the mails, and resumed her voyage again this morning for Malta.
A French screw corvette arrived in the Bay this morning from Tangiers.
There is a great scarcity of water on the Rock at the present time, all the tanks with one exception being dry. Water is being drawn from the wells on the north front, and at the Ragged Staff landing place in the garrison, but at both places the water is quite brackish. The fall of rain on the Rock since the 11th of August has been only 0·250in. Water is always a luxury at Gibraltar, and in many cases an expensive one, as l am informed that in many instances officers stationed here with families have paid as much as 30l. in one year for this very necessary article procured from the water-carriers, beyond the quantity allowed by the garrison regulations. In about 50 days’ time there will be no water on the Rock available for the garrison or the inhabitants, unless rain should fall in the meantime. There is, however, a reasonable probability of rain before the present limited supply is quite exhausted.
|Sa 18 September 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.
HER MAJESTY'S SHIP AGINCOURT, LISBON, Sept. 13.The combined fleet, led by the Agincourt, Admiralty flagship, arrived here this morning, as you will have learnt by my telegram despatched from here on the fleet anchoring, from Gibraltar after a passage of unusually fine weather, and a busy week of drills, under both sail and steam. On Thursday morning at daylight the fleet will again leave the Tagus, the Mediterranean division returning to its station, and the Channel division proceeding to Queenstown.
To resume my notes of the cruise. By daybreak on the morning of Friday, the 3d of September, the officers and crews on board the ships of the combined Mediterranean and Channel fleets in Gibraltar Bay were busily engaged in getting steam up in the boilers, unmooring and shortening in cables, and making other necessary preparations for proceeding to sea. At 8 a.m., flag-hoist time, parting salutes were exchanged between the Agincourt and the Gibraltar batteries, and immediately afterwards the ships weighed their anchors, with the exception of the Inconstant and Psyche, and steamed out of the bay in three grand divisions, the Agincourt leading the weather line, the Lord Warden the centre, and the Minotaur the lee line.
The Lords of the Admiralty had issued on the previous day a letter of instructions to the fleet relative to the order of sailing to be observed during the cruise between Gibraltar and Lisbon, the chief points in which were to the following effect:—
"1. Order op Sailing in Two Columns
The Cruiser to be on the beam of the Agincourt, and the Enterprise four or eight cables, as signalled, astern of the Agincourt, Cruiser and Enterprise to repeat signals.
"3. Whenever a course is ordered to be steered, the Cruiser, as the only wooden unarmoured ship in the fleet, is to watch most carefully the actual magnetic course steered.
"4. Vice-Admirals Sir Alexander Milne and Sir T.M. Symonds to regulate the movements of the several ships in their respective divisions, and carry out the detail of arrangements thereof, but in all evolutions the motions of the Agincourt to be followed."
Their Lordships observed, in conclusion, that, being desirous of personally testing the notes and additions made to various signals by Admirals of the Channel Squadron, and which have been used by their Lordships since leaving Plymouth Sound, they request that Sir Alexander Milne will cause the signal books of the ships under his immediate orders to be corrected from a copy sent to him from the Agincourt, and their Lordships at the end of the present cruise will be glad to have his opinion of the desirability of revising the books accordingly.
The fleet, therefore, sailed out of the bay in the order laid down in the second clause of the instructions, but the Inconstant was absent from her place in the weather division, having split the starboard valve box over her boilers in getting up steam in the morning, and remained behind to repair the damage, her place in the meantime being taken by the Enterprise. The Psyche also remained at the Rock to bring on despatches and mails.
A hot easterly breeze, at a force of nearly 6, prevailed when the ships left the Bay of Gibraltar, and covered the peaks of the rock and the mountains on the European and African coasts with dense masses of vapour. A southerly course was steered until the lee division was well clear of the Pearl Rock, when helms were ported, all plain sail made to royals, and the ships bore away through the Straits of Gibraltar to the westward, each under a cloud of canvas and reduced revolutions of the engines, the Agincourt's division taking the Morocco side of the Straits, the Minotaur's the Spanish side, and the Lord Warden's a central line. The Cruiser soon got out her studding sails on the port side to assist her scant steam power in keeping her position on the Agincourt's beam, and her appearance drew the remark from an officer on the flagship poop, "The Cruiser was certainly very pretty and — very useless." After passing Tarifa Point the fleet stood over to the Morocco shore, and on opening Tangier Bay and town clear of Point Malabata, the second and third divisions shortened sail and remained in view from the town, while the Agincourt led her division in a sweep round the bay until opposite the town, when her helm was put down, and, as she swung her head up to starboard and off from the land again, the crimson flag of Morocco was run up to her main royal masthead and saluted by her upper deck battery with 21 guns, the Castle of Tangier, in reply, hoisting the British ensign, and saluting from its batteries — taking the entire round of the ramparts for the fire — with 22 guns. Again the Agincourt's guns opened in salute, this time with 17 guns, in honour of the Governor, and again the guns of the Castle roared out their courteous reply, this time as before with one gun in excess, with 18 rounds. The town of Tangier, built in tiers of white buildings on the side of steep rising ground from the sea shore, with the flags of the several European Consulates streaming out in the fresh breeze, the bold background of mountains, with the glistening waters of the bay, all lit by the hot afternoon's sun, presented a very striking appearance. The visit of the fleet, brief as it was, was undoubtedly a piece of good diplomacy. On the occasion of the private visit paid to the town on the previous day by Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres, every honour and courtesy was accorded to them that the Moorish authorities could possibly command. The Castle fired a salute in their honour on their landing from the Psyche, and on their arrival at the British Legation the Minister for Foreign Affairs, attended by the Pashas of the provinces and accompanied by a number of officers of rank, waited upon their Lordships, and were introduced by the British Minister, Sir J. Drummond Hay, After the return visit had been paid to the Minister at his palace, horses were provided for the use of their Lordships, Sir Richard Airey, Governor of Gibraltar, and the several officers of the naval and military Staffs who had crossed over in the Psyche, and the various objects of interest in the town and neighbourhood visited and explained by the Moorish officers in attendance. For the fuller initiation of their distinguished visitors into the mysteries and customs of Oriental life, a veritable "snake charmer" was produced with a number of the reptiles, which he exhibited in the usual manner, and wound up his performance by tightly binding up his right arm above the elbow, and then selecting one of the most hideous looking of the creatures, he teased it into such fury that it at length fastened on the charmer's fore arm and drew blood freely.
After the salutes had been completed between the Agincourt and the Castle, the flagship led her division again out of the bay, and rejoined the fleets outside, the ships then resuming their course westward, the Agincourt’s ensign dipping in reply to the same form of courtesy from the Union Jack seen flying over the country residence of the British Minister, on the slopes of the Indios Mountain, about three miles west of the entrance to Tangier Bay.
Cape Spartel was soon afterwards left astern, and the fleet steered on a north-westerly course in the direction of Cape St. Vincent, under easy sail for the night, commencing its homeward, as it did its outward voyage, with a fair wind, and weather of extraordinary fineness, but, at the same time, it must be confessed, of extraordinary heat.
The Inconstant joined the fleet on the following morning from Gibraltar, and took her place in the weather divisional column; the Enterprise falling out and joining the Cruiser on the Agincourt's weather quarter. The day was entirely devoted to steam evolutions, at five-knot speed, with steam in the boilers available for six knots. Many of the evolutions were very well performed by the three columns of ships, but some of them were admitted to have been as ill done, distances and bearings not being well kept in many instances, nor signals closely obeyed. It was the first day's practice in steam evolutions of the combined Mediterranean and Channel Fleets, and possibly any errors committed were entirely owing to a want of practice in manoeuvring ships of very different lengths together, and to a want of perspicuity in the wording of many of the signals taken from the evolutionary portion of the navy signal books when considered in their relation to the previous manoeuvre. The evolutions, which lasted about seven hours, comprised from an order of sailing in three divisional columns—
"2d and 3d divisions wheel to port and form single column on the 1st division.
"Form columns of divisions in line ahead, wheeling to starboard.”
In this manœuvre the 3d division held its course, while the 1st and 2d divisions, wheeling first to starboard and then to port, completed the diagram on the weather of the 3d division.
"Form columns of subdivisions in line ahead, retreating to starboard. (Exceedingly well executed.)
"Form columns in quarter line four points abaft the port beam of leaders. (Failed.)
"Form columns in line ahead, wheeling to starboard. (Signal misunderstood.)
"Form columns of sub-divisions, &c., a repetition of the signal previous to the last. (Failed.)
"Form columns of divisions in line ahead, wheeling to starboard. (Very smartly done).
"Form in single columns in line ahead, the starboard wing column wheeling to starboard and leading, and the port wing column wheeling to port and forming astern of centre column."
The other movements would occupy too much of your space to describe, but there was one which is worth a brief notice. From a single column in line astern of the Agincourt, signal was made to "invert the column in succession from van to rear, passing the leading ship of the column on the starboard side." In carrying out this evolution, therefore, each ship in the fleet passed in full view of the Admiralty, from the poop of the Agincourt. in what I can only describe as a "march in slow time," and every part of her appearance and equipment on the upper deck, aloft, and about the exterior of her hull could be closely seen and criticized. There was no apparent fault to be seen, and a more magnificent spectacle could not well be imagined on a calm day at sea as the 12 ironclads, with the unarmoured clipper Inconstant and the Cruiser, passed by in a stately procession. About 5 p.m. the light airs of wind which had prevailed during the day had increased to a nice steady summer evening's breeze, and signal was made to "make all plain sail and come to the wind on the starboard tack." Time was taken as follows, but it was evident that in some of the ships there were special means taken in securing topsails when furling for quickly casting them adrift again when making sail for drill purposes that gave them a most unfair advantage over other ships that furled their sails honestly:—
Monarch, Cruiser, and Enterprise were not timed.
The Royal Oak and Prince Consort were ordered to furl and loose again. Their time in each instance was:—
During the night the wind became variable in both strength and direction, and topgallant sails and royals were taken in and the course altered to meet the position of the wind, fires being "banked" to signal. In the early morning the centre column, composed of Mediterranean ships, led by the Lord Warden, was seen to be entirely out of its position, with the rearmost ship of the column, the Royal Oak, nearly hull down on the horizon. This was partially remedied by 8 a.m. The Caledonia, when the fleet was in the Straits of Gibraltar, on Friday afternoon, had signalled, in answer to the Lord Warden, that she had 88 of her crew on the sick-list, and this number, alarming as it was by its enormous excess over the average, was now increased to 109. Influenza is said to be the chief feature of the epidemic on board, with some cases of low fever; but, whatever may be the real nature of the sickness, its cause should be ascertained. The officers and crew of the Caledonia only left England in May last to join their ship at Malta, and yet, now that the ship is at sea and on a most important cruise, one-fifth of her hands are disabled by sickness. It would be manifestly impossible that such an occurrence should pass over without some inquiry.
The day being Sunday, Divine service was performed on board the several ships of the fleet in the morning and afternoon, together with voluntary services in the evening. The three services on board the Agincourt wore attended by the Lords of the Admiralty, Commodore George O. Willes, Captain of the Fleet, and other officers of the Admiralty staff. With a moderate breeze, and close hauled to it, the fleet, under easy sail, stood on for the night on a course W. by N.
|Sa 18 September 1869|
|On the following morning, Monday, September 6, the ships in Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Milne's division were again found to be all out of position, and it took some time to get them in their right places again. Signal was given to chase to windward, and at 8 a.m. the start was made, the formation of the fleet at the time being in three columns, at about 5½ cables' distance apart, and four cables’ distance between each ship in the lines of divisions. The Agincourt, Monarch, Hercules, and Inconstant, as the first division, held the weather position; the second line, 5½ cables to leeward, comprising the Lord Warden, Royal Oak, Caledonia, and Prince Consort; and the third, or lee line, the Minotaur, Northumberland, Bellerophon, and Pallas. The Enterprise had been sent away to windward an hour before the start, and the Cruiser was directed to close on the weather of the Inconstant as a "test" vessel — in a certain degree — of the speed of the unarmoured frigate. The ships started close hauled, with the wind at a moderate royal breeze, and a short lumpish swell running. All carried plain sail to royals, and the Royal Oak and Monarch soon got up a main-topmast staysail. The Inconstant had her screw hoisted up, but the others carried theirs down with permission to "disconnect." Soon after the start the little Cruiser danced past the weather quarter of the Agincourt, with the Inconstant in pursuit at about a cable's length astern, and a hail of "Well done Cruiser!" was given her from the poop of the flagship. The Monarch and Hercules, with the great weight of their hulls, appeared unable to do anything in the moderate breeze and against the short jump of the sea, and sailed absolutely to leeward of their leader. The Royal Oak sailed well full, came out to windward of her line in great style, sailed through the lee of the Agincourt, and shot out to windward across her bows. The Caledonia and Prince Consort followed the Royal Oak out to windward, while their leader, the Lord Warden, fell away rapidly to leeward of everything. The Minotaur sailed equally well with the Royal Oak, and drew triflingly upon the Agincourt; but the Northumberland was nearly as sluggish as the Lord Warden. The Pallas and Bellerophon were the two best, so far, of the Minotaur's division; but they were outpaced even thus early by the oldest of our ironclads, the Royal Oak, Prince Consort, and Caledonia. Half-an-hour after the start the Inconstant passed the Cruiser to windward and took the lead of the fleet. At 10 o'clock, in answer to signal, the inclination of each ship was given as—|
Nine degrees of inclination by the Inconstant in so moderate a breeze would seem to indicate that she is much too crank, her present trim possibly being the cause. At 11 a.m. the fleet tacked together to starboard, the time occupied in the evolution by each ship being—
The Royal Oak and Cruiser were not correctly timed.
The weatherly positions of the ships after tacking were:-
Immediately after tacking the Caledonia carried away het mizen royal mast, main and fore topgallant masts close to the topmast heads, in a heavy lurch made to leeward. The mizzen royal mast with its yard and sail, went first followed in about fifteen seconds by the mail topgallant mast, and then the fore, at about the same distance of time. As the wreck hung over to leaward the ends of the yards tore great gaping holes in the fore and main topsails, and by this time the poor Caledonia was a "sight" for the fleet. Her topmen were aloft almost before the last spar went and so energetically was the wreckage cleared away and new spars sent aloft and fitted, that by half-past 3 in the afternoon the frigate was making sail to royals again on all three masts. It was very effective as a mere spectacle to lookers-on, and very expensive also without doubt. Fortunately, no one on board, aloft or on deck, received the slightest injury. At 2 p.m. the fleet tacked, the Monarch missing stays twice, and being at length compelled to wear to get her head round, stood on until 6 o'clock, when the chase was discontinued. The ships then wore round, and the three divisional columns were re-formed for the night. In wearing round the Hercules for more than half an hour refused to answer her helm, and lay with her head yawing about and looking in all directions but the right one. This action of the Hercules in refusing to wear, with that of the Monarch's in refusing to stay, was looked upon as of so grave a character that, by direction of Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres, both ships were signalled to send in written reports on the subject. The Monarch signalled:—
"Our balanced rudder was the cause of the ship missing stays, and is also the cause of her not going to windward. Ship carries on the port tack from 15 to 20 deg., and on the starboard tack from 9 to 10 deg. of weather helm."
Angles were taken from the Agincourt by her Staff-Commander, at the start and at the finish, and the subjoined measurements will give the exact conditions and results of the trial. At the start, at 8 a.m.:—
At the conclusion of the trial, at 5 p.m.:—
The next day, Tuesday, September 7, was also devoted to sailing. The disappointing character of the results of the previous day's sailing, more especially as regarded the Hercules and Monarch, determined their Lordships to start the Inconstant, Monarch, Hercules, and Cruiser together from the fleet in a run over a certain distance to leeward, and thence to beat back to the fleet to windward. The Royal Oak was selected as the mark ship, and by 8 a.m. was hove to seven miles dead to leeward from the fleet, which also lay hove to in its windward position. At 40 minutes past 8 the four ships were started from the Agincourt, their instructions being to pass round the stem of the Royal Oak, and then make their way again back to the Agincourt, carrying all possible sail out and in. The Royal Oak on the last of the four ships passing round her was to fill and join in the chase back to windward. The wind was at a force of five at the start, a good royal breeze, and a moderately long swell was running. The Cruiser, Hercules, and Monarch were pretty close together at the start, but the Inconstant was about six cables astern of the others.
The Hercules led out from the Agincourt, with Monarch second, but the little Cruiser soon slipped past the two huge ironclads, and, with studding sails set alow and aloft, skimmed along for the "Oak" before the wind and roll of the sea in gallant style, the other three quickly getting out their studding sails. The Inconstant drew rapidly upon the Monarch and Hercules, passed them in half an hour after the start, and then took up the trail of the Cruiser. This work was not so easy for her, however, as it had proved with the Monarch and Hercules, and the run out to leeward was well advanced before she succeeded in passing her. On nearing the Royal Oak each ship took in her studding sails, and afterwards luffed round the ship in the subjoined order and times:—
The time occupied by each ship, therefore, in running over the seven miles was,—
After all had luffed past her, the Royal Oak filled her sails, and joined the chase back to windward, and was before long on the weather of both the Monarch and Hercules. All kept their reach for some time after luffing to the wind, and then, going about on the starboard tact, stood on towards the fleet. The Inconstant fetched into the finishing point for the race close under the Agincourt's stern, and the Cruiser fetched in just 2½ miles to leeward of that. The Royal Oak fetched in nearly as far to windward as the Cruiser, but the Monarch and Hercules were so far to leeward that signal was made at 4 p.m. to discontinue the chase, and angles were taken from the Agincourt to ascertain their then exact position. The Inconstant finished under the flagship's stern at 14 minutes past 2 p.m., and the Cruiser, with a hail to the flagship of "There was too much sea for us," at 5 minutes past 3. These times made the Inconstant 3 hours 59 minutes and 13 seconds beating up over the seven miles to windward, and the Cruiser 4 hours 48 minutes and 25 seconds. During the latter part of the time the wind fell to about 4, and the swell subsided in a proportionate ratio. The Inconstant and Cruiser sailed with their screws hoisted up, but the other three vessels had their screws down. The measurements taken after the Cruiser passed under the Agincourt's stern, allowance having been, made for the drift and fore-reaching of the flagship, placed the Royal Oak, Hercules, and Monarch to leeward of the Agincourt at the subjoined distances:-
Royal Oak, 2 miles 7 cables; Hercules, 3 miles 1 cable; Monarch, 4 miles 1 cable.
When the chase was discontinued, the weather ships bore up, and the fleet was reformed in three columns of divisions for the night, the general work of the day being closed with shifting topsails - which was accomplished by
The time occupied in shifting topsails at sea is looked upon as a test of the smartness of a ship's crew in their work aloft, but time must always be considered in relation to the date of the ship's commission and the number of leading and able seamen on board the respective ships. The Agincourt, Hercules, Monarch, and Inconstant are newly commissioned ships, and officers and crews not yet working well together, cannot, therefore, be expected to compete in any work aloft with ships that have been some time in commission, and where such drill is a daily practice, such as the Lord Warden, Minotaur, Royal Oak, or Pallas. The composition of the crews is, perhaps, of greater importance, and I find from a return made by signal to this ship that the numbers of leading and able seamen — the men who do the work aloft — on board the ships of the fleet (excepting the Cruiser, which was detached from the fleet at the time the signal was made) are as follows:-
At sunset the fleet was placed under topsails, topgallant sails, and fore courses, and hauled up on the wind for Cape St. Mary for the night, to secure smooth water for steam evolutions ordered to be carried out during the two following days. The next morning brought nearly a calm and a perfectly smooth sea, and the course of the fleet was so steered during the evolutions that ensued that by noon the ships were in the bight of water between the Capes of St. Vincent and St. Mary. At 2 p.m. the American screw frigate Juanita, bound for Gibraltar, passed inshore of the fleet, and exchanged salutes with the Agincourt. At the same time the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s mail steamship Poonah, from Southampton, bore down upon the fleet from Cape St. Vincent, with the signal flying from her masthead, "Mail bags for the fleet," and, ranging up alongside the Agincourt, sent on board the Admiralty mail bag, with one also for each other of the ships in the fleet. Her passengers were evidently all on deck, and gazing over her bulwarks with the deepest interest and astonishment at the imposing yet eccentric war dances of the great fleet.
The evolutions were made at six-knot speed in the morning, but in the afternoon the rate of speed was reduced to five knots. This was the first occasion on which steam had been used since clearing the Straits of Gibraltar on the previous Saturday evening, fires having been kept banked and sail only used. The Bellerophon broke the spindle of her escape valve during the evolutions and fell out of the column to which she belonged for a time, to repair the damage, rejoining afterwards; and the Cruiser, being unable to keep any position with the other ships when under steam, was despatched to the rendezvous appointed for the Pallas on her arrival from Gibraltar, 20 miles off Cape St. Vincent. The night drill, before calling the watch, was on this occasion shifting fore courses. The next morning was more brilliantly clear than the preceding one, and Cape St. Vincent, with the Serra de Monchique mountains in the background, loomed up with extraordinary distinctness on the starboard hand. Light north westerly airs, just of sufficient strength to blow out the signal flags, prevailed, and the state of both wind and sea, in fact, was admirably suited for the work the fleet had before it — another long day's drill in steam manœuvres. These, like those of the previous day, require no detailed notice. All that may be said of them is, that the fleet looked magnificently warlike in many of the figures made, and the general execution of them was a great improvement on the first day's practice after leaving Gibraltar; but, on the other hand, considerable confusion, to say the least, was exhibited in some of them.
Vice-Admirals Sir A. Milne and Sir T.M. Symonds, with several of the officers commanding ships in their divisions, and the commanders of the Minotaur and Lord Warden, dined by invitation with the Lords of the Admiralty on board the Agincourt. At 10 p.m., almost before the two vice-admirals could have regained the deck of their flagship on returning from the Agincourt, the latter hoisted four vertical lights at the after-peak, and fired a rocket as a signal for the fleet to go to general night quarters and engage. The Hercules fired the first gun, and the engagement soon be came general. For a short time each ship was intensely illuminated over every part of her hull, spars, and rigging. The fire from so many guns, however, soon covered the fleet in dense masses of smoke, and these, flame-fringed and pierced with long tongues of fire, were all that could then be seen of the action, which was thenceforward fought out to the end by each ship firing into the smoke around her as rapidly as possible. How steam tactics would have fared under such circumstances it would be difficult to say. A second rocket from the Agincourt brought the action to an end; magazines were closed, guns secured, hammocks again piped down, the watch called, and the fleet resumed its ordinary quietude for the night.
|Sa 18 September 1869|
|Friday, the 10th, was a great day with the fleet at target practice. The ships were spread out over a large space, and each sending out targets, made practice from her main deck ordnance, with rifle practice from the marines on the forecastle. With the ships at such distances from each other, I could see nothing of the shooting beyond that from this ship. Here the firing was exceedingly good, except when the ship got the roll of the sea abeam, and then the unsteadiness of her deck necessarily caused the shooting to became as wild as it had previously been true. There was only just such a breeze as any vessel might beat up to windward against under her royals, and a moderately long swell rolled in from the westward, such as might be looked for in the finest of weather at sea, and yet, under these not very unfavourable conditions, here was a fleet of ships with their broadside guns rendered innocuous each time they got the swell of the sea on their beam, The great disadvantage of broadside-mounted as compared with turret guns was fully brought out, even on so fine a day, and there can be no manner of doubt that had the Monarch been an enemy, with her turrets and four 25-ton guns in working order, she could have steamed down on the fleet from her windward position and have sunk fully one-half of the ships before her own fire could have been silenced by her being sunk or blown up in her turn.|
The Psyche joined the fleet in the morning from Gibraltar, and returned there again in the afternoon with despatches and mailbags for the homeward bound Peninsular and Oriental Company's steamer. The Cruiser also rejoined the fleet from her cruising ground under Cape St. Vincent.
The drills of the combined fleet at sea terminated with the target practice of Friday, the 9th inst. During Saturday and yesterday the ships lay on and off the land, in three divisions, under easy canvas, and close hauled to light northerly winds, between Capes Espichel and Roca, and occasionally heaving within sight from the mouth of the Tagus, A longish swell prevailed at times, and under its influence, combined with the lightness of the wind and the low rate of speed at which the ships were moving through the water, — from two to 2½ knots per hour, — the "rollers" of the fleet, the Royal Oak, Pallas, Caledonia, and Lord Warden, performed, with closed ports, some most extraordinary antics, The Royal Oak and Pallas at times nearly rolling their garboard strakes out of the water. The three great five-masted ships, with the Monarch, Hercules, and the Inconstant, at the same time rode the swells as steadily as seagulls.
At daylight this morning the fleet bore up for the Tagus, and crossed the bar outside at 7 a.m., and soon afterwards entered the Tagus in two grand lines, with the Agincourt leading in the centre, the lines being three cables apart, and the ships in line a cable and a half from each other. Sweeping slowly up to the anchorage off the city thus under the full glow of the morning sun, the spectacle, as the fleet opened round Belem Castle, must have been one of unprecedented beauty and grandeur from the shore. Salutes were exchanged during the run up the channel below the Belem Tower between the Agincourt and the forts on shore in honour of the Portuguese and British national ensigns, and also with an American frigate lying at the river anchorage. About half-past 9 the ships dropped their anchors simultaneously abreast of Alameda, and the most powerful iron-clad fleet in the world lay in quiet and imposing array a short rifle-shot distance from the principal squares and streets of the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal.
CONCLUSIONS.The more salient facts so far established by the present cruise are, in my opinion,—
1. That the efficiency of the Channel and Mediterranean Squadrons in steam evolutions — if their performances in that respect under the Admiralty flag represents their true maximum — is not at all commensurate with the cost of their annual practice in the two items alone of coals and wear and tear of machinery.
This may possibly be explained, or rather attempted to be explained, by saying that the two squadrons would manoeuvre better alone, or if only one Admiral was present and in command. Such an excuse would possibly not be accepted by the public if it even settled the question at headquarters. The same laws of obedience and loyalty of service govern commanding officers to an equal extent as the seaman and marine.
2. The dangerously defective action, under certain conditions of wind and sea, or amount of helm given, of the balance-rudder principle.
3. The superiority in sailing to windward of the oldest over the latest produced of our ironclads. This position of affairs may, however, be reversed under the altered conditions of a stiff breeze.
4. The steadiest ironclad ships under steam or sail in the two squadrons are the Agincourt, Minotaur, Northumberland, Hercules, and Monarch. The most unsteady of all are the — 1, Pallas; 2, Royal Oak; 3, Caledonia; 4, Lord Warden; 5, Prince Consort, in the order as numbered. The ship having the greatest inclination under sail is the Inconstant, but this defect, if it is considered one of great moment, can easily be rectified. With regard to the speed under sail alone of this handsome frigate no reliable inferences can be drawn from any comparison with other ships in the two days' trials, nor yet with the "test" vessel, the Cruiser, the latter being now an old craft, possessing no power under sail, and never having possessed any reputation in her palmiest days for speed except of the most moderate character. The only measure that can yet be taken of her speed under sail is in the figures given with the second day’s sailing — in the total distance beat over by her to windward from the time of rounding the Royal Oak and the time she occupied in doing the work. It is the intention of their Lordships to give her a further trial previous to the Channel division of the fleet reaching Queenstown, and for this purpose the Warrior is ordered to lie off Corunna about the 20th inst. The Warrior, however, with her now heavier armament and stores on board, floats about 12 inches (mean) deeper in the water than she did with her original armament, She was never so fast as to approach the present believed speed of the Inconstant, and probabilities are that the latter will sail away from her hand over hand.
5. The undoubted great superiority of the turret over the broadside principle in maintaining a continuous fire in a rolling sea.
The First Lord has signified his intention by signal to the fleet to give a cup to be rowed for by gunroom officers belonging to the ships of the Mediterranean and Channel squadrons, in service boats, in some boat races which it is contemplated to hold on the Tagus, on Wednesday, the 15th inst.
In conclusion of my present letter I wish to state that during this cruise the First Lord is making himself acquainted with numberless important matters connected with the ships, their organization, crews, and armaments, to an extent that 50 years' continuous rule at Whitehall would never have given him, and at the same time gaining his knowledge free from that strong professional prejudice which blights the greater number of opinions tendered by the colleagues of a Civil First Lord, when given within the magic precincts of the four walls of the ancient Board-room.
The condition of the sick on board the Caledonia is improving, her total number on the sick list in the last return having been reduced to 72 from 109 as given previously. The returns of sick in the fleet yesterday was made as follows:-
Total sick in the fleet 317, out of 8,077.
|Ma 20 September 1869||The Squadrons combined under the Admiralty Flag have now completed their Cruise, and our columns have already informed the public of the manoeuvres attempted and the success supposed to have been attained. It is not for landsmen to say whether the evolutions described were intricate or otherwise, or whether more or less might reasonably have been expected in the performances reported; but there is a certain point of vital importance to be explained and considered before any opinion is formed. Our narrative of the Cruise relates how, after the junction of the Mediterranean and Channel Squadrons at Gibraltar, the combined Fleet left the Bay in three lines, composed of four ships each; but what the reader must now understand is that these twelve ships comprised no less than eight distinct classes of vessels, differing in model, construction, tonnage, steampower, and armament. Three of the ironclads — the Agincourt, Minotaur, and Northumberland — were sister ships, well adapted for manoeuvring together; three others — the Royal Oak, Prince Consort, and Caledonia — were also of one pattern; but each vessel of the remaining six represented a class of its own. Some have their hulls of wood, some of iron; some are wholly iron-plated, some partially; while in burden they vary from 6,000 tons to 2,000, and in horsepower from 1,200 to 600. It is obvious that a Fleet so constituted must have considerable difficulty in manoeuvring, and the fact is all the more notable because the French have foreseen this difficulty, and provided against it in their system of shipbuilding. They have no ironclads equal to the best of ours, but their vessels have been built in classes expressly for the purpose of enabling them to manoeuvre together. They could send to sea two or three Squadrons of seven or eight ships each perfectly homogeneous in composition, so that each vessel could do just as much as its neighbour, and no more. We have never adopted this view, or, rather, we have never arrived at the point where its adoption would appear advisable. All our ships have been experimental ships, and we have postponed our selection of a model until we could determine what model to choose. In the vessels now on the stocks there is more uniformity; but the very report before us contains proof sufficient that we have not got a perfect pattern yet.|
To this consideration, of itself sufficient to affect the whole question, we must now add others. Manoeuvres require practice, and this Admiralty Cruise is about the first piece of such practice ever attempted. Again, the Signal-book of the Navy, owing, doubtless, to the same want of experience, is so defective that the orders given from the flagships cannot always be understood. Thus, in the first day's exercises, we are told that of five manoeuvres prescribed by signal two were well executed, one could not be comprehended, and two failed altogether. That was not a satisfactory conclusion, and though some improvement was shown a day or two afterwards, the misadventures were still considerable. It seems, indeed, to have been imagined that the performances of the Fleet were not, upon the whole, so good as even the limited practice of the separate Squadrons might have led us to anticipate. A Cruise of a powerful Fleet under the Admiralty Flag is a novelty; but, still, the Mediterranean and Channel Squadrons have each some practice of their own, as the annual bills for coal and machinery sufficiently testify. On the other hand, four out of the twelve ships were newly-commissioned. so that the crews were necessarily less efficient than they would otherwise have been. One more suggestion naturally arises from the descriptions of the report. It has been imagined that the introduction of steampower would render naval tactics of extreme importance in any future engagements, but when on one occasion the ships were ordered to go into action it was found that a few minutes sufficed to envelope the whole Fleet in so dense a cloud of smoke that signals were no longer visible, and all that any vessel could do was to fire as rapidly as possible into the darkness around her.
If we turn from these combined manoeuvres to the performances of single ships, we shall obtain more conclusive information; indeed, on a certain point the report is singularly impressive. The Fleet contained one, and only one, specimen of the turret ship, all the rest being broadside vessels. Now, one day the order was given for target practice, under conditions which our correspondent carefully describes:— "There was only just such a breeze as any vessel might beat up to windward against under her royals, and a moderately long swell rolled in from the westward, such as might be looked for in the finest weather at sea." Nevertheless, this ordinary swell sufficed to render the broadside guns of the Squadron almost useless. The ships rolled so heavily that the firing was utterly wild whenever they got the sea on their beam, and the conclusion is expressed in the following words:— "There can be no manner of doubt that had the Monarch been an enemy, with her turrets and four 25-ton guns in working order, she could have steamed down on the Fleet from her windward position, and have sunk fully one half of the ships before her own fire could have been silenced by her being sunk or blown up in her turn." The simple explanation of this is that the Monarch, though not a genuine specimen of the turret-ship, does carry her guns in turrets or turntables on the upper deck, instead of carrying them in her broadside, and was therefore able to work them without impediment from the swell. A real turret-ship — that is to say, a vessel lying much lower in the water than the Monarch — would have had a still steadier platform for her guns; but then it is impossible to say what disadvantages might not have been found to counterbalance this superiority. It can be laid down with something like certainty that a turret vessel will roll far less, and furnish a far better gun platform, than a broadside vessel, but whether she would be as habitable and as seaworthy is not so clear. It is plain, however, that if the Monarch can work her guns as she was presumed to do, and is in other respects as good a ship as the report represents her, she must combine the recommendations of the two models in no inconsiderable degree.
When the reader sees that the Royal Oak, Prince Consort, and Caledonia outstripped in sailing the best of our ironclads, he should remember that these, in fact, are old sailing vessels — that is to say, old wooden men-of-war converted for a special purpose and emergency. When the system of iron-plating was first introduced Lord Palmerston discerned that something must be done for present security while the new Fleet was in process of construction, and he suggested, therefore, that five ships of the line should be covered with iron plates as expeditiously as possible. The ships abovenamed are three of these vessels, and not only are they still effective, but they have certain good qualities, though steadiness, it appears, is not among them. Yet, as two ships of modern construction proved no less unsteady, the fault is not peculiar to the makeshifts, while as to another incident recorded it is probably due to casualty alone. The Caledonia, in this short cruise, had one-fifth of her crew disabled by sickness, a fact which ought to be explained, and which, of course, will not be left without investigation. For one piece of very desirable information we have still to wait. The Channel Squadron contained a specimen of a ship without any armour at all — the Inconstant frigate, a vessel designed to do her work by the combined agencies of heavy armament and extraordinary speed. As there was no vessel, however, in the Fleet against which she could be fairly tested, no experience of her capabilities has yet been obtained; but it is intended to give her an opportunity of display on the return of the Squadron to Queenstown in the course of this week. Such are the general results of the Experimental Cruise, and, in reviewing them, we involuntarily recall the observation with which the accounts of certain military manoeuvres were recently closed. The Prussian army, we were told, is never allowed to overlook any discovered weakness or imperfection. Its commanders and authorities are incessantly on the watch for any hint of possible improvement suggested either by their own experience or the experience of others, and thus the standard of efficiency is constantly raised. The British Navy could not do better than follow the example.
|Tu 21 September 1869|
The CRUISE of the LORDS of the ADMIRALTY.
HER MAJESTY’S SHIP AGINCOURT, LISBON, Sept. 15.The sailing orders for the fleet are for to-morrow, but it is just possible, so far as can be ascertained at the moment of writing, that, instead of making the start at daylight, as was anticipated on the day of arrival here, it will be evening before the fleet is clear of the Tagus. This will be a much better arrangement than if it were determined to clear the fleet of the Tagus early in the morning; as the work of unmooring ship and getting generally ready for sea wilt be done during daylight, and without keeping the crews needlessly out of their hammocks.
This afternoon His Majesty the King of Portugal paid a visit to the fleet. His Majesty, who wore a naval uniform, and was accompanied by Vice-Admiral the Visconde de Praya Grande, his aides-de-camp, and other officers, embarked from the Arsenal Stairs about 3 p.m., in his state barge, under a salute from the Portuguese ships of war lying in the inner anchorage, the British fleet and American squadron manning yards, and hoisting the Portuguese flag at the main. On reaching the deck of' the Agincourt the King was received by the Lords of the Admiralty, the Hon. Mr, Childers and Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Dacres, in their official uniforms, the Secretary of the British Legation at Lisbon (in the absence of Sir Charles Murray), Vice-Admirals Sir Alexander Milne and Sir T.M. Symonds, and the captains of ships under the Admiralty command. A guard of honour of Royal Marines was drawn up on the ship's quarterdeck, under the command of Captain Mabeans, Royal Marine Light Infantry, and Lieutenants Montgomery and Denney; and all the officers, as in all the other ships of the fleet, wore full dress. On the Royal standard of Portugal being transferred from the state barge to the Agincourt the entire British fleet, with the American and Portuguese ships of war, fired a Royal salute, covering the waters of the Tagus with dense clouds of smoke and bringing out the detonations, a thousand times repeated, from the high lands on either side of the river's bank. Upwards of half an hour was spent in looking over the flagship, after which His Majesty, accompanied by the Lords of the Admiralty, re-embarked in the state barge and went on board the Lord Warden, flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir A. Milne; the Minotaur, flagship of Sir T.M.C. Symonds; and the Monarch turret-ship, from all receiving the full honours due to Royalty. On board the Monarch the King remained a considerable time, inspecting the turrets and the means of revolving them, by hand and steam power, and the working of the guns. On leaving the Monarch, His Majesty expressed to the Lords of the Admiralty the great pleasure his visit to so large and powerful a fleet had afforded him. On re-embarking in his state barge and leaving the ships, after a visit extending over three hours, the fleet again, manned yards and the Portuguese ships supplemented the honours already rendered to their Sovereign by firing another salute.
The boat races between the gigs of the combined fleet of the Channel and Mediterranean divisions for the Cup given by the First Lord, manned by gunroom officers, and the cutters of the Fleet, manned by seamen, for prizes in money, followed upon the King's departure, and were concluded by sunset. The cup was won by the officers' gig of the Minotaur, the Hercules' gig coming in second, and the Agincourt's third. The Hercules' came in 23 seconds astern of the Minotaur's, and the Agincourt's 28 seconds. It was a well-pulled race throughout, although, perhaps, with some lack of judgment in the pace, necessarily so on the part of crews untrained and not accustomed to row together. The first three boats in for the cutters' prizes were— 1, the Prince Consort's; 2, the Bellerophon's; 3, the Northumberland's.
10 p.m.The movements of fleets are variable as the wind. It is now understood that the ships will leave the Tagus early in the morning, and, therefore, to insure saving the post, I am compelled to bring this brief letter to a close, rather than trust further to the doctrine of chances. On Tuesday (yesterday) the boats of the fleet were manned and armed, the flotilla numbering 81 in all, and exercised under both sail and oars. Small stores of all kinds were also transferred from the ships of the Channel to those of the Mediterranean division.
The Bellerophon has been transferred to the Mediterranean from the Channel division, and will, therefore, sail under Sir A. Milne's flag for Gibraltar and Malta. The Pallas, relieved by the Bellerophon, goes to England with the Channel ships to be paid out of commission. She, with the Monarch, will part company with the other ships on arriving off Ushant, and both are to proceed thence direct to Spithead.
The Agincourt is expected to proceed to Pembroke with the Lords of the Admiralty from Queenstown. After her arrival at the former port from Ireland, and their lordships have inspected the dockyard and naval establishment there, the Admiralty flag will be hauled down, and the flag of Rear-Admiral Chads hoisted on board, as second in command of the Channel Fleet.
The Hercules will most probably refit, after her duties with the Lords of the Admiralty have been completed, at Queenstown, for service in the Mediterranean.
The foreign ships of war anchored off Lisbon besides the British Fleet are the U.S. sailing frigate Sabine and screw corvette Juanita. The Sabine is an old sailing frigate of the U.S. Navy, and is now cruising as a training ship for second class naval cadets, under the command of Captain Walker, who sails under a kind of roving commission. She is of 1,756 tons, and is armed with 24 9in. Dahlgren guns on her main deck, with ten 32-pounder guns, and two 200-pounder Parrott rifles on the upper deck. The Juanita is a screw corvette of 1,200 tons, well masted, and is just out from the States, after a rather quick passage under sail. She is manned with 240 officers and men, and is armed with one Dahlgren 11in. pivot gun, seven 9in. Dahlgrens on the broadside, and one Parrott 60-pounder rifle as a pivot. Both are wooden built unarmoured vessels.
A large number of people from the shore have visited the fleet during its brief stay here, and have been received on board all the ships with the greatest courtesy.
|Ma 27 September 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.
HER MAJESTY’S SHIP AGINCOURT, 30 MILES SOUTH OF CAPE CLEAR, Sept. 24.One of the latest official acts of a Vice-Admiral commanding a division of the combined Fleet previous to its sailing from Lisbon was on the occasion of the King's visit to the Fleet, when the gallant officer, who must have been in a chronic state of "protest" signalled to the Agincourt, "I think it unsafe to man the upper yards!" Of course, the upper yards were manned with all the others, but what could have induced a British Vice-Admiral to hoist such a signal with ships lying at anchor in perfectly smooth water must for ever remain a mystery which no one can ever possibly understand.
In pleasing contradistinction to this were the last official acts of the Lords of the Admiralty themselves previous to the Fleet leaving Lisbon, in a visit paid by them, during the time the Fleet were preparing to weigh their anchors, to the Royal British Naval Hospital on shore. Their Lordships, accompanied by Surgeon E.O. O'Brien, of the Agincourt, and Flag-Lieutenant the Hon. E.S. Dawson, left their flagship at 7 o'clock on the morning of Thursday, the 16th inst., for the hospital, where they spent nearly a couple of hours in its inspection, and on leaving expressed their perfect satisfaction with the existing arrangements. The hospital consists of a couple of large houses thrown into one, with a spacious garden extending from the back of the building towards the banks of the Tagus, and commanding extensive views — on the one side of the seacoast as far as Cape Roca, and of the Cintra mountains and intervening country, with the northern suburbs of Lisbon. On the other side, the view extends over the city of Lisbon and the Tagus, with the curious cone-shaped hills on its southern bank, crowded with the ruins of Moorish fortifications, and its scattered villages. The hospital was founded some years ago by the British Admiralty purchasing the property on the recommendation of Sir Sydney Dacres. At the time of their Lordships' visit there were only two patients in the hospital, but when the British fleet is wintering in Lisbon harbour there are often as many as 50 patients. The establishment appears to be very economically conducted, the entire permanent staff consisting only of one naval assistant-surgeon, one storekeeper and clerk, one cook, and a labourer. When sick seamen are sent to the hospital from one of Her Majesty’s ships seamen nurses are also sent with them. Sixty beds are altogether ordinarily available.
Immediately after their Lordships' return from their visit to the hospital signal was made to "weigh," and about half-past 10 the Agincourt was leading the Fleet out from the Tagus in two grand columns at slow speed past the King's Summer Palace at Belem, on the central verandah of which the King stood waving his farewell to the Fleet. The guns of the Admiralty flagship gave a Royal salute of 21 guns, the Castle of Belem returned the compliment, and the ships then formed in single line and increased the speed of their engines to cross the "bar" outside the Bugio fort and between the Cachopo shoals. After getting well outside the bar the Fleet was formed in three columns of divisions, and steered on a north-westerly course. The black boulder-strewn mountains of Cintra stretching inland from Cape Roca were soon brought on the starboard beam, and as the Cape was closed upon by the ships a fresh breeze met them, with a head-sea of sufficient strength thoroughly to wash the dust of Lisbon from off their bows. Sail was then made, and steam only used for the night sufficient to prevent their dropping over to leeward. A marine invalid, sent on board the Pallas from the Royal Oak for passage to England, died during the day, and that most solemn of all religious services, a burial at sea, was performed in the evening.
The wind and sea both fell during the night, and the next morning bringing back a return of the old brilliantly fine weather, a light wind, and a smooth sea, advantage was taken of the opportunity for a last day's grand drill in steam evolutions by the Fleet, it having been decided that the Mediterranean division should part company in the evening, and return to its station, the Cruiser at the same time being detached from the Fleet, and ordered to make the best of her way to the Rock of Gibraltar, in advance of Vice-Admiral Sir A. Milne's squadron. The signal "Prepare for action," preceding the steam evolutions, having been given, all the ships struck topgallant masts and upper yards, and ran in their jib-booms and bowsprits in readiness to "ram," as opportunities offered during the engagement, and then beat to general quarters. In getting in the jibboom on board this ship an accident occurred to one of the boatswain's mates, which in the most favourable form of anticipated results will most probably cripple the man for the remainder of his life. He was standing on the heel of the bowsprit, directing some work going on aloft, when the boom came in along the bowsprit with a sudden surge and jammed the man's feet between its heel and the roller on the heel of the bowsprit. The right foot acted as a buffer to the left, and consequently sustained the greater injury. The main bones were not broken, but the ankle-joint was forced open, and all the ligaments were divided. No examination of the small bones of the foot could be made, owing to the nature of the injury.
The steam evolutions were commenced about 10 a.m., and lasted, with one hour's interval, until 5 p.m., and comprised:—
Column in line on port beam of leader.
Course altered together eight points to starboard.
Course altered together to E.N.E.
Course altered together to N.N.E.
Single column in line abreast.
Columns of divisions in line ahead.
Single column in line ahead.
Columns of divisions in line abreast.
Columns in quarter-line on starboard wing ship.
Columns in line abreast, changing to subdivisions.
Single column in line abreast.
Columns of subdivisions inline ahead.
Columns in quarter-line, four points abaft starboard beam of leaders.
The last formation made was three columns of divisions inline ahead. This brought the Mediterranean ships — Lord Warden, Prince Consort, Caledonia, Royal Oak, Bellerophon, and Enterprise in one line in the centre, and signal was now made to part company, the Agincourt making "Farewell. The pleasure of your company with this squadron has been great." The Lord Warden, in reply, signalled, "Admiral returns thanks in name of the Mediterranean Squadron, and wishes you a pleasant passage." The guns of the Lord Warden then fired a salute of 19 guns to the Admiralty flag at the main of the Agincourt, which was returned by the Admiralty flagship with 15, and the Mediterranean division, led by Sir Alexander Milne's flagship, steamed out from its position between the starboard and port columns, each ship as she got out ahead of the Agincourt porting her helm and reversing her course round the latter ship's bows. It was a very stately and effective mode of departure, and, as a steam evolution simply, was the best executed of all by the Mediterranean ships since they had formed a division in the fleet. A few hours more and the Channel and Mediterranean squadrons were each out of sight of the other as the one steered north and the other south. The sea which was, as already stated, unusually smooth at the commencement of the evolutionary drills, got up a long westerly swell as the day wore on, which more or less affected all the ships, and developed their rolling propensities in good style. The maximum heel of each ship was signalled just previous to the departure of the Mediterranean squadron, but in many cases the figure given was so absurd that the return became more than valueless — it was mischievous. For instance, while the Minotaur, as one of the steadiest ships in the fleet, signalled correctly that she rolled 20 deg., another ship, which rolled considerably more than she had done, signalled her maximum amount of heel as 3 deg.! The Monarch turret-ship rolled much less than any other ship in the fleet. In fact, from 3 deg. to 4 deg. each way in the heaviest beam swell she caught was about the most she would roll, and in this way she again showed her great superiority as a gun-platform over the broadside ships.
During the time the evolutions were going on, after the westerly swell set in, the Agincourt, Minotaur, and Northumberland rolled very evenly together at eight rolls per minute, the Bellerophon, Royal Oak, Caledonia, Prince Consort, Pallas, and Lord Warden rolling much deeper and quicker. The Inconstant, next to the Monarch, was the steadiest ship in the fleet, and the Hercules took rank with the three five-masted ships. The swell, however, was towards the close of the afternoon very uneven in its character, and some very extraordinary effects were produced. The Bellerophon, as an instance, at times rolled much more than even the Royal Oak or the Pallas; and the Agincourt. immediately after the Mediterranean ships had parted company, suddenly fell into such unsteady ways as to roll 22 deg. to port and 20 deg. to starboard in a series of continuous swings, taking in the water liberally through her main deck and stern gunports, and doing this at a time when the Minotaur and Northumberland, at some five or six cables' distance on her weather beam, were lying comparatively motionless. Such uneasy motions of the sea could only be due to some gale past or to come, or, as presaging a change of wind. It proved to be the latter, for during the succeeding night the light wind veered gradually round to the south-west, and in the first watch on Saturday morning all plain sail was made, and the ships were steering with a fair wind for the appointed rendezvous, to meet the Helicon, with mails from England, 20 miles west of Cape Finisterre. It had been arranged that the Warrior should meet the fleet off Corunna, in order to give the Inconstant a trial of sailing with her, but it had now became known that the fine old frigate would be unable to join the squadron until its arrival at Pembroke from Queenstown, owing to some delay in docking her at Portsmouth. At noon on Friday the ships were 220 miles distant from the rendezvous, and on Saturday at noon 100 miles. Saturday on board the several ships was, as usual, a general cleaning-up day, and nothing of special interest occurred as the ships held their course for the rendezvous before the south-westerly breeze. During the night rain fell heavily, and the wind falling very light early the next morning, Sunday, the screws were set going. At 9 o’clock in the forenoon the rendezvous was reached, Cape Finisterre with its light-tower looming above the morning haze on the starboard beam, and a sharp look-out was kept for the smart little Helicon, which soon afterwards hove in sight and delivered her despatches and mails on board the Agincourt by 1 p.m. She brought news of rough weather in the English Channel, and had up to that morning been steaming against a strong south-westerly wind.
It had been arranged that morning that on the following day (Monday) the ships should run into Corunna Bay and anchor there for the day, to give an opportunity for a visit being paid to the Spanish Dockyard and Arsenal at Ferrol; but this intention was balked in its execution by a sudden change in the weather, which led up to as pretty a gale, although a brief one, as any one might wish to see on the skirts of the Bay of Biscay. The barometer, which at noon was at 30·09, fell rapidly during the afternoon, and as it fell the wind and sea rose, a lurid blackness gathered on the horizon, and it soon became evident that rough work was at hand. The intention to go into Corunna was at once, under these new conditions, given up, and signal made to steer a north-easterly course, with directions to the Pallas to make the best of her way to Plymouth Sound. The wind grew into a gale during the night, and at daylight the next morning the scene was grand as the ships scudded along under close-reefed topsails and fore courses, with the wind lashing the sea into great ridges of broken water, the crests of which were blown away in gray masses furiously to leeward. At 11 a.m. the barometer was down to 29·27, the wind blowing excessively hard, and especially so in the squalls. It was impossible to see exactly what other ships than this were doing, but the Monarch, Hercules, and Inconstant appeared to be steering very wildly. All had quite enough to do. The Agincourt had 50 men employed in steering her, 14 at the wheel and the remainder at the relieving tackles, and even then at times she was almost unmanageable, taking charge of her wheel once and throwing one of the men up against the beams under the poop, and cutting a gash in his forehead of some inches in length, but fortunately without any material injury to the bone. The straps of the relieving tackle were carried away three times, and one bolt was drawn during the fore part of the day, the ship’s ordinary measure of rolling being about 22 deg. each way. At 10 30 a.m. she took a sea aboard that burst open the garboard strakes of the first cutter hanging at the davits on her starboard quarter, and then, swinging through an arc of quite 50 deg., sent everything movable, on or between decks, flying. Men were on their backs in a moment and sliding away at a great pace for the lee scuppers. In the officers’ cabins the furniture and fittings, not thoroughly secured, were shot out of their places and dashed against each other to their common destruction. In the wardroom mess the chairs flew wildly from side to side, the long table broke loose from its deck fastenings and doubled up in a broken arch amid the general wreck, and the few officers off duty and in the room at the time had to cling with all their strength to the iron columns supporting the deck above, and kick out furiously at the passing chairs to prevent their own legs being broken by them. The wind about this time backed the ship off from her course five points, split her foretopmast staysail, and, coming out at N.N.W., jammed the ships over to a leeward position in the bay. About 1 p.m. the mizen topsail was taken in, and the ship became afterwards a little more manageable than she had been during the preceding part of the day. The Helicon, in obedience to signal, parted company with the flagship and steamed away at her best against the gale for Queenstown, with orders to look out for the fleet, on the weather moderating after her arrival at Queenstown, with the Enchantress, 30 miles south of Cape Clear. During the after part of the day the wind lost a good deal of the violence it had exhibited in squalls during the previous part of the gale, and about 4 p.m. the clouds overhead opened for a couple of minutes, enabling the navigating officers to take observations and fix the exact positions of the ships. With the wind northing the barometer rose again, and at 9 p.m. it had reached the point it originally fell from when first indicating the gale — 30·09. This ship, with the Minotaur and Northumberland, kept well together, but at sunset the Monarch was only just distinguishable astern of them, and the Hercules, with the Inconstant, was altogether out of sight.
Dinner was a great difficulty, no doubt, on board all the ships in the evening, for although the wind gave indications of blowing itself rapidly out, now that it had got to the northward, there was a heavy broken sea running, in which the ships were rolling deeply. Here, in the wardroom mess, the dislocated table was brought into joint again, ballasted with "puddings" 20 feet long, and a many-stringed "fiddle," and dinner was eventually managed, notwithstanding the violent plunges and rollings of the great ship. Numbers of the men, during the time the gale had already lasted, had suddenly found themselves thrown on their beam ends on the deck, but all had escaped with slight bruises except in the instance of the man referred to at the wheel, and that of a marine who met with a most extraordinary bit of experience. A capstan bar got adrift from its place between the maindeck beams, and, striking the marine with great force on the back of his head, actually broke itself into two pieces. One of those next struck an arm rack, smashed it up and liberated the arms, a cutlass sent adrift sticking its point into the marine's foot before he could comprehend what was the matter with his head. On being examined by the surgeon it was found that his skull was not broken, and that a piece of ordinary sticking plaster was all that would be required for its cure! His foot will take a little longer to heal.
The wind blew heavily from N.N.W. and N. all the next night, and the ships rolled very much, the Agincourt washing away her port life-buoy. On Tuesday morning the wind had moderated further, and down to a steady breeze from W.N.W., with the sea rapidly smoothing down, and the ships began to unfold their wings again (the Monarch had re-taken her station in the weather division), and under increased sail, with their screws moving at slow speeds, worked up to windward again for Cape Clear from their leeward position in the bay. In answer to signals from the Agincourt, the Monarch and Minotaur replied that they had sustained no injury from the gale, but the Northumberland's answer, unfortunately, was very different. Two of her seamen had been lost overboard. She had also sustained some damage to boats and boats' davits, but such matters become insignificant before the fact of the loss of life. The Hercules rejoined the fleet soon after noon on Tuesday, completely crippled aloft by the gale. She had sprung her foretopmast head, split fore and aft trysails, sprung main gaff, carried away spanker gaff and mainstay, and washed away the hand lead platform and stem hawse-pipe plugs. In answer to signal she replied that during the gale the fore part of her rudder was "locked," but that it was found impossible to steer the ship under the easy sail required to keep station. (The Hercules, Inconstant, and Monarch are all fitted with rudders on the balance principle, but the Hercules' rudder is jointed near the pivot, and with the fore part locked it assumes the action of an ordinary rudder. The rudders of the Monarch and Inconstant, on the contrary, are not jointed.) At noon on Tuesday the position of the Agincourt and ships in company was lat. 46 5 N., long. 7 18 W. The weather continued fine, and the sea smoothed down to a perfect calm, the wind veering out to S.W. again, and giving the ships a free course. As no signs of the Inconstant were yet visible the ships spread out over a line from E. to W., about 18 miles in length, to look out for her, and stand in for sighting Ushant, at noon making lat. 47 25 N., and long. 6 29 W. At sunset sail was shortened to topsails for the night, but at daylight the next morning, Thursday, sail was again made to royals, and as there was still a fair and moderate whole-sail breeze, the engines were stopped, and the ships held on under canvas alone. At 8 a.m. Ushant bore E. ¾ S., distant 22 miles, and, as no Inconstant was yet in sight, the Hercules was detached from the other ships with instructions to cruise off the Cape until 4 p.m. the next day, Friday, if not falling in with the missing frigate before, and then follow on to Cape Clear and Queenstown. The Agincourt, Minotaur, Northumberland, and Monarch, from Ushant, took a course for the rendezvous off Cape Clear, under all plain sail to topgallant sails, with a steady and fair wind. At 5 p.m. a thick fog set in and continued through the night and until 5 p.m. to-day, when the fleet had reached its rendezvous, 80 miles south of Cape Clear. The fog now suddenly lifting disclosed the Helicon again true to her trust, close aboard the Agincourt.
6 p.m.The Helicon leaves the fleet again at once for Queenstown, and I have therefore barely time to close this letter and send it by her.
The Inconstant has not yet been seen, but no fears are entertained for her safety. She was last seen by the Monarch at 5 p.m. on Monday last, the day of the gale, and she was then running under her foretopsail to leeward. The conclusion I arrive at, although, of course, all the time she may be close to us somewhere in the thick fog, is that she met with some damage to her backstays or spars during the gale, and bore up for Corunna to make all secure.
We lay off here until daylight on Monday, when we go into Queenstown, and the Lords open the new dock.
|We 29 September 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, QUEENSTOWN ROADS, Monday, Sept. 27, 8 a.m.After the Helicon left this ship and her three consorts at the rendezvous 30 miles south of Cape Clear on Friday last, on her return to Queenstown, the fog which had prevailed along the coast cleared off, and was succeeded by a strong wind and a nasty tumble of a sea, in which the four ships occasionally rolled and pitched to perfection. The monotony of the cruise, after the gale of the 20th, up to the time of reaching the rendezvous, had been sufficiently tiresome, and it only required this additional experience of an Irish swell off the stormy Cape, during a 40 hours' standing off and on under small canvas, to make every one on board the several ships begin to wish the cruise at an end. As, however, Monday morning was the time appointed for the ships to enter Queenstown harbour, there was nothing left for grumblers but a proper resignation to their fate, and an opportunity of appreciating the method of passing a couple of days at sea in "using up" time. Being now in the direct track of ships bound for the Channel, a number of vessels of various rigs were in sight on Saturday morning, and the bark Jessie Jamieson made her number with the commercial code of signals. At noon, there being no appearance of the Inconstant, the Monarch was directed to steam in and make the land, to ascertain if the frigate was anywhere inshore of the squadron. The Enchantress, Admiralty yacht, Staff Commander Petley, arrived at the rendezvous about 2 p.m. from Devonport, with Admiralty despatches and mails, which were with some difficulty got aboard, after which she was sent on to Queenstown. At 6 p.m. the Monarch rejoined, after having sighted the Fastnet-rock Light and the Cape, without seeing anything of the Inconstant. The state of affairs now began to look serious, as the papers brought by the Enchantress contained no notice of the frigate’s arrival at Corunna or Ferrol; but anxiety was happily dispelled yesterday morning at daylight, by the frigate being found in company with the squadron. The reason of her absence was soon ascertained, her reply to the Agincourt's signal of inquiry being:—
"Both tillers carried away together on Monday, the 20th, at 1 p.m. Have fitted very good temporary tiller, besides steering by rudder pendants.
"Saw large ship, looking like Hercules, yesterday, at 6 p.m., Cape Clear, hearing south, and distant 20 miles."
In answer to another signal, this time made by the Minotaur, the Inconstant replied:—
"Rudder acts well. First tiller broken was defective. Second broken by concussion against chock of the afterbracket frame amidships. All working well now."
At the time, therefore, when the Monarch saw the Inconstant running off to leeward at 2 p.m. on the 20th (the day of the gale), she must have been compelled to run before the wind from her inability to steer by the loss of her tillers. The highest credit is due to Captain Aplin and his officers for the manner in which they met the disaster without going into port; at the same time it was a most fortunate circumstance that the gale so soon subsided. Had it lasted four or five days, a not unreasonable supposition at this season of the year, the safety of the frigate would have been seriously imperilled. During the forenoon the Inconstant received orders to proceed direct to Pembroke to repair damages and fill up with coal in readiness for the next cruise of the Channel Squadron, which will probably commence about the 8th or 9th proximo.
At noon the Agincourt and her three consorts in company bore away from the rendezvous off Cape Clear for the Old Head of Kinsale, bearing about north, and distant 50 miles, with yards nearly square, to gain an inshore position from which to enter Queenstown roads and harbour directly after high water this morning. Before leaving the rendezvous the Minotaur ranged up close on the starboard quarter of the Agincourt to receive from her the mailbag which had been sent on board for her from the Enchantress. Clewing up her topsails, Sir Thomas Symonds' flag-ship steered close in upon the Admiralty flagship's lee quarter, and, having received her mail on board, ported her helm, and, with topsail-sheets flattened in, stood away again and off to her position at the head of the lee line in gallant style. The manœuvre was exceedingly well done, and quite worthy the reputation of a ship which is acknowledged by all to be one of the smartest and best disciplined in Her Majesty's Navy. At 8 p.m. the lights of Kinsale were broad on the port beam, and sail was shortened to topsails for the night, the ships shortly afterwards tacking off from the land until daylight.
This morning the Hercules rejoined the squadron on her return from off Ushant on her detached duty to look after the Inconstant. The squadron was off the entrance to Queenstown harbour at 6 a.m., waiting for high water to enter and enable the Agincourt to cross the bar to the inner anchorage, when the Enchantress came out and communicated with this ship. As she returns into Queenstown immediately, to save the morning out mail I shall close this letter and forward it by her. The weather is beautifully fine, and the sea along the coast as smooth as a mill stream.
The Serapis is in sight, steering in for Queenstown.
|Ma 4 October 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, QUEENSTOWN, Wednesday, Sept. 29.The arrival of the Fleet here on Monday, with the presence of the turret-ship Scorpion, Captain G.A.C. Brooker, in the inner harbour, gave the Admiralty Lords an opportunity for placing matters in a definite footing relative to the future proceedings of that vessel, of which they availed them selves immediately upon the Agincourt taking up her present moorings. The First Sea Lord, Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Dacres, with Commodore G.O. Willes, Captain of the Fleet, and Captain Hugh T. Burgoyne, V.C., Admiralty Flag Captain, went on board the Scorpion on Monday afternoon, and after having thoroughly inspected her and made their report an order was issued for the Scorpion to prepare to sail for Bermuda, convoyed by the paddle steam frigate Terrible, on the first favourable opportunity after the return of the latter vessel to Queenstown from Devonport.
The same afternoon their lordships landed on Haulbowline Island, and inspected there the Naval Hospital, to which the sick from the several ships had been removed, the various naval stores on the island, and the site for the new dock, the "foundation stone" of which was laid to-day by his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant. In the evening their lordships entertained at dinner on board their flagship Vice-Admiral Sir T.C. Symonds, K.C.B., commanding the Channel Squadron; Rear-Admiral F. Warden, C.B., commanding the Queenstown Naval Station, and officers commanding Her Majesty's ships, &c.
His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant and the Countess Spencer, accompanied by their suite, passed through Cork between 2 and 3 p.m., on their way to Foto, the seat of Mr. Smith-Barry, near Queenstown, where his Excellency had accepted the invitation of Mr. Barry to stay during the festivities in Cork and Queenstown consequent upon the inauguration of the Admiralty docks at Haulbowline. At the Cork railway station Lord Fermoy introduced Earl Spencer to the Deputy Lieutenants of the county and the municipal authorities of the city of Cork, the latter presenting an address, to which Earl Spencer returned a very judiciously-phrased reply.
The weather on the day of the ships entry into Queenstown Harbour was so extraordinarily fine for the end of September as even to astonish the residents of Queenstown and Cork. When the morning's usual fog had cleared from off the water and the valleys between the adjacent high lands, the sun came out brilliantly, and scarcely a breath of wind or ripple upon the water was perceptible to dispel the pleasant illusion available to all of the existence of a magnificent midsummer morning. The next daybreak was a very different affair. Rain fell heavily the greater part of the night, and in the morning a strong gale, south westerly, of wind and rain was raging, and isolating, in all reasonable sense, the fleet from the shore. In the very height of the storm, however, a deputation from the Queenstown municipal authorities, consisting of Mr. Daniel Cahill, chairman of the Town Commissioners, and other gentlemen, arrived on board the Agincourt, and were introduced by Captain B.F. Seymour to the First Lord and Sir Sydney Dacres, to whom Mr. Cahill, on behalf of the residents of Queenstown, presented the following address:—
“To the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.
"My Lords,— We, the Town Commissioners of Queenstown, hail with sentiments of the liveliest satisfaction your lordships' visit to our port.
"The presence of Her Majesty’s fleet would at any time afford us much gratification, but the object of your lordships' presence in our harbour on this occasion — the inauguration of the Government docks — is to us a source of pride and pleasure; and we trust that this Imperial work may be shortly available for the repairs and equipment of Her Majesty's ships, whether disabled by the casualties of war or from any other cause.
"To this end we would respectfully urge on your lordships the expediency of employing more free labour, and thus expediting the completion of a work which has been so anxiously looked forward to, not only by the inhabitants of this locality but by the entire Irish people.
"Signed on behalf of the Commissioners,
"Daniel Cahill, Chairman.
"James Ahern, Secretary."
The several members of the deputation were invited by Mr. Childers to add any observation they wished to make on the subject referred to in the address. They impressed upon the Lords the expectation which had been held out ever since the time of the Union that a Royal dock would be constructed in Cork Harbour, which, they observed, from its peculiar advantages, ought to be a more important naval station than it now is; and expressed a hope that, considering the time which had elapsed since it was decided to construct a Royal dock here, the views then expressed and put forward as to giving employment to the people and spending money in Ireland, more rapid progress would be made with the works than had hitherto been. Mr. Childers, speaking as First Lord of the Admiralty, replied, and in the course of his observations said it was the interest of the Admiralty as well as that of the people of Queenstown to have the dock completed as soon as possible for the use of the navy. They should, however, consider at the same time the amount which should be expended, not only here, but upon public works generally in the kingdom. He found, on reference to the Estimates, that the present expenditure in a year upon the works in Cork Harbour represented about two-fifteenths of the whole sum originally estimated for the dock. That was about the same proportionate rate of expenditure as was going on at Chatham, and was even greater than the proportion now being expended on the works at Portsmouth. In justifying the Estimates to the House of Commons, he had to have regard to that consideration and many others. Further, that it was necessary in all public works not to use undue haste, and he should have to take the professional advice of Colonel Clarke before holding out any expectations that greater progress could be made consistently with the proper execution of the engineering operations. Mr. Seymour said the inhabitants of Queenstown had laid out a great deal of money in the expectation that the Royal docks would be completed at an early date. Mr. Childers said nothing had struck him more when arriving here the other day than the marked improvement which he noticed in everything connected with Queenstown. He remembered it a comparatively ill-built, badly-lighted, badly-drained, and insignificant town, whereas it was now as well-conditioned and as handsome as any town on the coast of England. His Lordship concluded by assuring the deputation that their representations should receive consideration. The deputation then returned to Queenstown.
In consequence of the severity of the weather the Lords of the Admiralty deferred their visit to the Queenstown Royal Sailors' Home.
In the evening his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant and the Lords of the Admiralty were entertained at a grand banquet, given by the Corporation Harbour Commissioners and citizens of Cork, at the Imperial Hotel, Cork. Covers were laid for 250 guests, and the entire affair was a splendid success.
Thursday Morning.The Agincourt leaves the inner harbour at 10 a.m., and joins the Channel Squadron in the outer roads, from which all sail for Pembroke about 5 p.m. In unmooring this ship this morning the capstan overpowered the men at the bars; and three of the men were severely hurt on their heads and arms. One has been sent to the hospital at Haulbowline with his arm broken and a severe gash in his head. The others remain on board under the charge of Dr. O’Brien.
H.M.S. Agincourt, PEMBROKE, Friday, Oct. 1.Yesterday morning about 10 o’clock the Agincourt cast loose from her moorings in the inner anchorage at Queenstown, and steamed out to the man-of-war anchorage in the outer roads, where she dropped her anchor outside the rest of the ships preparatory to sailing for Pembroke in the evening.
At 7 p.m. yesterday the ships had weighed their anchors and were steaming out from Queenstown roads for the Channel and Pembroke. On getting clear of the land the Monarch was detached from the Squadron and ordered to proceed on direct to Portsmouth at five-knot speed. The Agincourt, with the Enchantress in company, also left the Squadron and started on ahead for Pembroke at eight-knot speed. The Minotaur, Northumberland, and Hercules, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Symonds, K.C.B., followed at economical rate of steaming to arrive at Pembroke this afternoon. Colonel Clarke, R.E., Admiralty Director of Works, who had joined their Lordships officially on the previous day on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of the new docks at Haulbowline Island, accompanied their Lordships in the Agincourt.
The Indian troop relief screw transport Serapis, Captain J. Soady, left Queenstown at the same time as the Squadron, bound to Alexandria with troops on board for India.
The Agincourt and the Enchantress passed through the entrance into Milford Haven this morning about half-past 7, and soon afterwards brought up off the dockyard here. The Minotaur, Northumberland, and Hercules arrived during the afternoon, as had been arranged. On the arrival of the Agincourt in the harbour, their Lordships were joined on board by Rear-Admiral Sir R.S. Robinson, K.C.B., Controller of the Navy, and the afternoon was devoted to an official inspection of the dockyard and other naval establishments, the ships building, and the works in hand in Colonel Clarke's department, in the evening their Lordships gave their official dinner on board the Agincourt to flag officers and captains.
The Admiralty ensign was hauled down from the main of the Agincourt, where it had done 39 days' duty, at sunset and transferred to the Enchantress, thus bringing the cruise of the Lords of the Admiralty with the Mediterranean and Channel Fleets for 1869 to an end.
The First Lord, with Admiral Robinson, Captain F.B. Seymour, C.B., Private Secretary, and Mr. R. Munday, Admiralty Secretary, leave here to- morrow in the Enchantress for Devonport, where the usual annual inspection will be made of the dockyard there. Sir Sidney Dacres and Commander Willes return to London from here to-morrow. Flag-Lieutenant Hon. E. S. Dawson returns from Pembroke to his duties at Queenstown as Flag-Lieutenant to Rear-Admiral Warden, but will most probably very shortly receive his promotion to Commander's rank. Mr. R. Munday, who has been Acting Secretary to the Admiralty during the cruise, will, on the 23d inst., be appointed Secretary to Admiral Codrington on the appointment of that officer to the Naval Command-in-Chief at Devonport.
Rear-Admiral Chads visited the Agincourt to-day, and to-morrow morning will hoist his flag on board as second in command of the Channel Fleet.
The ships are ordered to fill up with coal and other requisite stores, and will sail about the 10th inst. on a cruise, possibly to Madeira and back, the present intentions of the Admiralty being understood to be that the Fleet shall be in England at Christmas, and the men paid up their wages at the commencement of the New Year in a home port, so that the money paid may have a better chance of reaching the men's wives and families than it would if paid in a foreign port.
The coals burnt during the entire cruise, except one day's consumption by the combined fleet, after leaving Lisbon, and one day's return from the Monarch, will be found in the subjoined returns:—
Plymouth to Gibraltar.— Agincourt, 177 tons 12 cwt.; Monarch, 138 tons 5 cwt.; Hercules, 99 tons 16 cwt.; Inconstant, 89 tons 15 cwt.; Minotaur, 188 tons 16 cwt.; Northumberland, 180 tons 6 cwt.; Bellerophon, 123 tons 19 cwt.; total, 993 tons 9 cwt.
Gibraltar to Lisbon.— Agincourt, 142 tons 11 cwt.; Monarch, 156 tons; Hercules, 84 tons 13 cwt.; Inconstant, 66 tons; Lord Warden, 115 tons 12 cwt.; Royal Oak, 123 tons 11 cwt.; Caledonia, 130 tons 14 cwt.; Prince Consort, 137 tons 14 cwt.; Minotaur, 167 tons 12 cwt.; Northumberland, 158 tons; Bellerophon, 111 tons 18 cwt.; Pallas, 86 tons 15 cwt.; Enterprise, 40 tons; total, 1,521 tons.
Lisbon to Queenstown.— Agincourt, 225 tons 16 cwt.; Minotaur, 248 tons 16 cwt.; Northumberland, 241 tons 4 cwt.; Monarch, 204 tons; Hercules, 113 tons; total, 1,032 tons 16 cwt.
Total Coals Burnt.— Plymouth to Gibraltar, 998 tons 9 cwt.; Gibraltar to Lisbon, 1,521 tons; Lisbon to Queenstown, 1,032 tons 16 cwt.; total, 3,552 tons 5 cwt.
I cannot close this, my last, letter from the Agincourt without expressing my best thanks to Captain Burgoyne and all his officers, and especially my messmates in the ward-room, for the great kindness and courtesy I have received at their hands during the cruise. On any future occasion of the kind in which I may be engaged I can only hope that I may meet with as thorough a set of gentlemen as it has been my good fortune to have met on the present occasion on board the Agincourt.
|We 3 August 1870||The armoured iron broadside frigates Minotaur, 34 guns, 1,350-horse power, Captain J.G. Goodenough, bearing the flag of the Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Squadron, Vice-Admiral Sir Reginald Hastings Yelverton, K.C.B.; the Hercules, 14 guns, 1,200-horse power, Captain Lord Gilford; and the armoured iron turret frigate Captain, 6 guns, 900-horse power, Captain Hugh T. Burgoyne, V.C., have gone out of Portsmouth harbour and anchored at Spithead, preparatory to proceeding to sea.|
|Ma 8 August 1870||The Portsmouth and Plymouth divisions of the Channel Fleet met in the Channel off Plymouth at 3 p.m. on Friday. The ships formed in two columns and proceeded at 4 p.m. for Gibraltar in the following order:— Starboard division, Minotaur, Northumberland, Inconstant, and Warrior; port division, Hercules, Agincourt, and Captain.|
The Monarch, 6, turret frigate, Capt. John Commerell, V.C., C.B., sailed from Spithead on Saturday evening to join the Channel Squadron at its rendezvous to the westward. The Monarch steamed out south-east from Spithead to try the working of the hydraulic buffers fitted to the gun slide for taking up the recoil of her 25-ton guns. Six rounds were fired from each gun, two being service charges with shot and four battering charges. The absorption of the recoil by the buffers was less than had been anticipated, which was attributed to the size of the holes in the pistons, which will have to be altered on the first opportunity that may offer by the return of the ship into port. The elevating gear of two of the guns was found after the firing to be broken, and although an artificer, on behalf of Captain Scott, has proceeded to sea in the ship, it is considered doubtful whether the gear can he put in working order on board the ship. After the trial the Monarch returned to Spithead to receive on board a quantity of shell from the gunwharf at Portsmouth, ordered by telegram for conveyance to the Agincourt and Northumberland, owing to there having been no projectiles of that description in store at Devonport when those ships left there.
|Ma 8 August 1870|
THE SHIPS MONARCH AND CAPTAIN.Papers relating to the trials of these two turret-ships after joining the Channel Squadron in May have been laid before the House of Commons. Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Symonds made on the 4th of June a general report upon their performance. He says that both ships are very easy in a seaway, and can use their guns in any sea equal to that met with during the cruise, in which the force of wind varied from 5 to 8; in fact, in any sea in which an action is likely to be fought. They both rise in a satisfactory manner to the sea. Both ships, he says, are capable of fighting their guns in as rough weather as an action would be fought in. But he observes that the forecastles interfere with the most important and best fire — viz., right ahead and bow fire; and the poop of the Captain interferes with the file astern also. The Admiral adds that both ships are unfit to cruise in squadrons under sail alone. With the amount of canvas spread they are bad sailing ships, while the masts, are so large as to interfere materially with their efficiency as steamers and fighting ships. He cannot report that they will wear and stay with certainty without steam, but he has hardly had enough experience of the wearing of the Captain. The Monarch is reported as having, on one occasion, taken three hours to wear;— "this occurred since leaving England, this time, on the 20th of May. 1870." The single screw of the Monarch does not much affect her sailing when placed vertically, but Captain Commerell believes it to have been the cause of her taking so long to wear. The double screws of the Captain materially affect her sailing, particularly as at present they do not revolve when disconnected. In a trial of sailing with the Monarch, with the screw of the latter connected (the Monarch could not disconnect her screw on this occasion), and when the two ships were consequently on more even terms, the Captain appeared to have the superiority in sailing. The ships were to be tested by exercise daily in various positions with a view of ascertaining whether the heavy guns can be satisfactorily worked, and information was to be supplied as to the state of the sea, the wind, and whether the guns can be cast loose or not; Sir T. Symonds reports that this instruction has been observed with wind of force from 5 to 8, and in the sea caused by a treble-reefed topsail breeze, and no inconvenience found, except that the Monarch cannot turn her turret by steam when heeling over 9 deg. The guns can be cast loose and used in any weather equal to that met with during the cruise, or any weather in which an action would be fought. The heaviest weather experienced during the cruise was on the night of the 29th of May, when the ships of the squadron were under close-reefed topsails; during the following day both ships were very steady. In answer to a signal at 11 p.m., May 29, the Captain replied, "Ship behaves very well; could fight her guns." The average number of rolls per minute of the Captain and Minotaur was observed on the 30th of May:— Captain, 9; Minotaur, 7.8; mean number of degrees — Captain, 3.7; Minotaur, 3.3; maximum inclination — Captain, 9 deg.; Minotaur, 8 deg. Sir T. Symonds proceeds to give a detailed report on each of the ships, Monarch and Captain, with fuller particulars. The reports have been considered by Vice-Admiral Sir R.S. Robinson, the Controller, who observes that all points of detailed fitting adverted to, not depending on construction and design, are being attended to. He notices that Sir T. Symonds says the Captain "is a most formidable ship, and could, he believes, by her superior armament, destroy all the broadside ships of the squadron in detail;” and adds that if his remarks imply the same thing of the Monarch, both ships have so far fulfilled one of the objects for which they were designed, and the weak points noticed with respect to their armament, forecastle, absence of all-round fire, exposure to plunging fire, and other defective details, need not be further considered at present. Sir R.S. Robinson further observes that the liability to mischief from plunging fire is the weak point in all ironclads, and probably nothing but an actual sea-fight will show how far the precautions taken in these ships to deflect this fire or resist it are efficacious. Both ships were designed to be good sea-going cruisers. Sir R.S. Robinson cannot think that Sir T. Symonds has done them justice in this respect, and says, "If the Captain sails better than the Monarch, as Sir Thomas Symonds deduces from the result of one trial, she does not deserve the character the Admiral has given her of a bad sailor and not sailing commonly well." Sir R.S. Robinson cites the good accounts received of the passages of the Monarch across the Atlantic, and goes on to say, "An eye-witness, not on board the Monarch, describing a recent trial of the Monarch with the Inconstant, Volage, and Captain, says that she can carry a press of sail, beat to windward by tacking, and actually in a fresh breeze beat the Inconstant and Volage, who were obliged to wear, after losing a great deal of time in missing stays. The Monarch stays with remarkable certainty, and has not missed stays during the cruise, and though it appears the Captain did so once; it seems a hasty conclusion from such an occurrence, to say, as Sir Thomas Symonds does, that the Captain cannot stay with certainty." It is expected that the Monarch's wearing badly will be remedied. "The stowage of both turret-ships is hardly noticed by the Admiral; it is, however, an important part of the qualities of a sea-going cruiser." Both admirals think the turret arrangements of the Captain superior to these of the Monarch; and Sir R.S. Robinson states that they will be in great measure adopted in our new ships. The failure to turn the Monarch's turret when heeling 9 deg., is explained by the fact that steam was not taken from the boiler intended to be used for this purpose, but from another boiler in which steam happened to be up, but in which the pressure was insufficient. Sir T. Symonds gives it as his opinion that the low freeboard of the Captain does not in any way inconvenience the turrets in a seaway, and he says he has not found the height of wave interfere with the efficiency of the fire of her turret guns, though considerable quantities of water came over the upper deck; a target was struck at 1,000 yards, and shot were dropped 1,000 yards to windward in a sea corresponding to a treble-reefed topsail breeze. But Sir R.S. Robinson observes that this could only be when the ship was upright on the top of a wave, selecting that moment to fire without aim; and when the crests of the waves interfere with the ship's firing her guns, she must incur some disadvantage from her hurricane deck, spars, &c., being visible to an enemy whose guns are higher than hers, the lowness of free-board exposing her to serious risk from plunging fire through the decks. After a lengthened trial of the Captain, firing in a seaway and strong breeze Sir T. Symonds says he considers that she showed herself buoyant and successful in every way. The Admiralty have laid all these papers before Parliament, but reserve their judgement on the respective merits of the two ships, and on many points raised in the papers, until the results of the trials, which are as yet far from complete, are reported to them.
|Ma 8 August 1870||The Reports of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Matthew Charles Symonds upon the Trials of Her Majesty’s ships Monarch and Captain, to which so many people have been looking forward with interest, have at length been published, and will well repay perusal. No such terse and practical Reports, so far as we can remember, have for a long time been laid before Parliament. Admiral Symonds points out drawbacks in either vessel, but is quick to recognize the superiority of both to all the broadsides under his command. Both ships, he says, are "very easy in a seaway, and can use their guns in any sea in which an action is likely to be fought." Instructed to watch carefully "the effect of a sea combined with force of double reefed topsail breeze on the ship with low freeboard, whether there would be a liability of the height of the wave interfering with the efficiency of the fire of the 12-inch guns of the Captain," he reports that "the ship of low freeboard has shown no failing on this point; . . . they hit a target (a small cask and flag) distant 1,000 yards to windward (at the third shot); and in a treble-reefed topsail breeze and sea, shot were dropped 1,000 yards to windward, the sea not interfering in any way." After a heavy gale on the night of the 29th of May "both ships were very steady;" on the 2d of June, in a long heavy swell from N.W., when the greatest rolling of the Warrior was 10 degrees, the greatest rolling of the Monarch was five, and of the Captain less than four degrees. On the 25th of May, when "the Minotaur's main deck was wet throughout by the sea entering the weather ports, and a great spray wet the poop" of the flagship, the turrets of the Captain were not in any way inconvenienced. Her hurricane deck was dry, although the sea washed freely over her main deck, "but in a far less degree than I anticipated." The Admiral recommends the Monarch to be altered by the removal of the forecastle, the bow guns, and their protecting ironplated bulkhead — on which, by the by, Mr. Reed, in his letter published by us to-day, particularly plumes himself — and then "the Monarch would have no equal among present ships of war;" and his verdict on the other vessel, as she now floats, without alteration, is, — "The Captain is a most formidable ship, and could, I believe, by her superior armament, destroy all the broadside ships of this squadron in detail." This sentence of the Admiral, who has never been known as a partisan of turret-ships, — whatever Mr. Reed may now think fit to assert in this respect, completely confirms the opinion of our Special Correspondent, who last year accompanied the combined squadrons under the Admiralty flag and startled the public mind by writing, — "There can be no manner of doubt that had the Monarch been an enemy, with her turret and four 25-ton guns in working order, she could have steamed down on the fleet from her windward position, and have sunk fully one-half of the ships before her own fire could have been silenced by her being sunk or blown up in turn.”|
Such is the pith and substance of the Reports which have just been published. The reflections to which they give rise are very mixed, but we are sure the public, who are often puzzled by the disputes of rival inventors, but always ready to do justice to perseverance and successful ingenuity, will be prompt to recognize the merits of Captain Cowper Coles, whose efforts have at length been crowned with such indisputable success. In October, 1861, when we were commencing our broadside ironclad fleet, Captain Coles wrote to the Admiralty as follows: — "I will undertake to prove that on my principle a vessel shall be built nearly 100 feet shorter than the Warrior, and in all respects equal to her, with one exception — that I will guarantee to disable and capture her in an hour. She shall draw four feet less water, require only half her crew, and cost the country for building at least 100,000l. less." In season and out of season he has ever since maintained the same pretensions. In 1865 he obtained an Admiralty Committee to consider his challenge, and it was in consequence of the Report of that Committee that it was determined to build the Monarch. Captain Coles protested against the lofty freeboard which the Admiralty Constructors designed for her. He declared that it was of the essence of his invention that by concentrating the armament in turrets amidships a high freeboard might be dispensed with, to the great advantage of the ship, both offensively and defensively. He obtained at the close of 1866 permission to design a ship after his own idea, in conjunction with Messrs. Laird, of Birkenhead, and the Captain is the offspring of their united ingenuity. Every one at Whitehall declared that a ship with so low a freeboard would be swamped by the sea and unable to use her guns. The Captain was tried under all the disadvantages of a raw crew within a fortnight after she was commissioned, was tested by a most experienced Admiral in rougher weather than most actions have been fought in, and the result is given in the Reports from which we have quoted above. Seldom has it been given to an inventor to reap in his lifetime so gratifying and complete a success. The two ships which carry off the palm in our Navy are the two which represent the invention of Captain Coles; and it is easy to gather from the Reports of Admiral Symonds which of them, as he thinks, embodies the preferable type. There have been two eminent naval designers in Europe during the last ten years — M. Dupuy de Lôme, the advocate of broadsides, an eminent French engineer but no sailor, and Captain Coles, of our own Navy, the advocate of a rival system.
The Controller of our Navy proclaimed himself in 1865 a follower of the French designer. and he and Mr. Reed, in more than official antagonism, have for years opposed Captain Coles with an animus which is signally shown in the letter which we publish to-day. If it were wise or patriotic, we could point out hundreds of weak points in all the ships which Mr. Reed, with unlimited scope and skilled assistance, has added to the British Navy. We prefer to listen to the Admirals who command our squadrons — whether "sailing Admirals" or not, as Mr. Reed politely terms them — and rejoice that at length Mr. Reed, who is no sailor, is prohibited, as he tells us, from publishing controversial Minutes in defence of his own ships against the strictures of the recognized professional judges. He trumps up the old story that a shot fired with depression might stop the revolution of the turret. The experiment was tried with the guns of the Bellerophon at short range against the turrets of the Royal Sovereign, and the fear was shown to be groundless. Moreover, in action, when ships are moving and rolling from one side to another, it is no such safe or easy matter, as any artillerist will tell us, to fire a large gun with anything like the requisite depression. Mr. Reed exhibits in his letter all the disappointment of defeat. It is, indeed, no very pleasing reflection at the present moment that of the 40 ironclads which Mr. Childers lately mentioned only four are of the English type, which is now confessed to be the stronger and the better.
There is one point of great importance upon which the Admiral in command expresses himself with some doubt and hesitation. Are not the advantages of masts and sails too dearly purchased by the impediments they offer to an all-round fire from the turrets, and by the risks of accident or burning which attach to them in action? He admits that with the Captain as she is "he has never seen such a range of training before, and that the perfect clearance of her 600-pounder guns for action from a training of 60 degrees forward to 60 degrees aft is very satisfactory, particularly when compared with the 30 degrees of the 9-inch 250-pounder guns of the broadside ships." She has since extended her range of firing from 82 degrees forward to 80 degrees aft; but even so she does not meet the ideal of the Admiral, who is anxious to be able to fire right ahead with the turret guns, seeing that "attack in future actions will generally be end-on right ahead, the exposure of broadside or quarter to ramming being suicidal." The class of ships introduced by Mr. Childers, of the Devastation and Fury [renamed Dreadnought prior to launch] type, carrying on a low freeboard without masts or sails the heaviest ordnance invented, will undoubtedly for heavy fighting in line of battle have advantages to which no sea-going cruiser like the Captain or Monarch can pretend. But the British Navy will always require sea-going cruisers, and for that purpose it seems to be now admitted that both the Monarch and the Captain are far preferable to the Hercules or the Sultan. To us it appears that the Captain, which in all other respects is the equal of the Monarch, and which carries more and thicker armour, and can be cleared for action in five minutes, while the Monarch takes an hour and a half, is a ship unequalled up to the present date for the purposes of war by anything afloat, and well deserves to be repeated, with such improvements as can be suggested by the ingenuity of Captain Coles.
|Fr 2 September 1870||Our Malta correspondent, writes under date of Valetta, August 26:—|
"By the arrival of the Peninsular and Oriental Company's packet Nyanza on the 21st inst, intelligence has been received of the Mediterranean Squadron under the command of Admiral Sir Alexander Milne, K.C.B., to the 17th inst. The squadron, consisting of the Lord Warden, Caledonia, Royal Oak, Prince Consort, Bellerophon, and Columbine, arrived at Gibraltar on the 12th inst., and completed with coal on the same day. The Lord Warden and Caledonia, being finished coaling, put off from the Mole and moored in the inner anchorage. On coming to an anchor off the New Mole a slight collision occurred between the Prince Consort and Bellerophon. The former touched the quarter of the latter, caring away the quarter davits of the Bellerophon and snapping off her own jibboom. Early on the morning of Monday, the 15th inst., the Channel squadron was sighted from the Gibraltar signal-staff, and soon afterwards made its appearances coming round the point under sail; then furling sails it steamed into the anchorage off the New Mole. The squadron consisted of the Minotaur, bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Hastings Yelverton, K.C.B.; Agincourt, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Henry Chads; Northumberland, Monarch, Hercules, Inconstant, Captain, and Warrior. By noon on the 17th all the ships had completed coaling, and were ready for sea. The combined Mediterranean and Channel Squadrons, under the supreme command of Admiral Sir Alexander Milne, were expected to put to sea on the 19th for the long talked-of cruise. There were at Gibraltar besides the above-mentioned ships, the Bristol, training vessel, Captain T.W. Wilson; the Trinculo and Porcupine Staff Captain Calver. The latter vessel proceeded into the Mediterranean on the 16th inst. to prosecute a survey of the sea-bottom, in the interests of science. She may soon be expected at Malta. The Bristol was to join the combined squadrons during the cruise. When the Mediterranean squadron was off Algiers on the 8th inst., the Psyche proceeded into that port, rejoining the Flag the same night. She went on to Gibraltar on the following day, and again met the Commander-in-Chief on the 11th inst., with the mails. His Excellency the Governor of Gibraltar has been pleased to allow the gates of the fortress to he opened, when required during the night, for the use of officers of the various ships — a privilege hitherto not conceded, but one which is fully appreciated by the whole squadron. The following is a list of the appointments and charges made since my last letter … [omitted] … Her Majesty’s ironclad ship Defence, 16, Capt. Nowel Salmon, V.C., was unexpectedly ordered off by telegraph on the 20th inst. Her destination was kept secret, but is variously rumoured to be Tunis, Palermo, and Gibraltar. I think that it is not impossible she has gone to Civita Vecchia, for the protection of British residents at Rome, and to offer a refuge to His Holiness the Pope end his Ministers, should the course of events render such protection desirable or necessary. Her Majesty's despatch vessel, Antelope, 3, Lieut.-Commander J. Buchanan, arrived here on the 25th inst. from Constantinople, seven days. The surveying schooner Azov, Lieut.-Commander Moore, which had gone out on hydrographic science, has returned into port."
|Tu 6 September 1870||The [merchant ship] Hecla passed the combined Mediterranean and Channel squadrons at daybreak on the 20th inst., off Cape St. Maria, the western extremity of the Gulf of Cadiz. These squadrons, in two divisions, had left Gibraltar on the preceding day. The port division consisted of the Minotaur, Northumberland, Monarch, Hercules, Agincourt, Inconstant, and Warrior; the starboard, of the Lord Warden, Royal Oak, Captain, Bellerophon, Caledonia, Prince Consort, and Bristol. The Columbine and Trinculo also accompanied the squadrons on the extreme right.|
|Sa 17 September 1870||A portion of the Channel Fleet arrived in the Portland Roads at noon on Thursday. The squadron consisted of the following armour-plated ships Agincourt (Admiral Shadd [should be Chads]), Minotaur (bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Yelverton), Northumberland, Warrior, and Hercules. These ships have just returned from their cruise on the coast of Spain. On rounding the Breakwater they were greeted with the usual salute from the training ship Boscawen, stationed at Portland. The fleet left Vigo on Saturday afternoon last, and had a very good voyage, though strong head winds prevailed up to Tuesday. On that day, when about 50 miles off Ushant, they met with the despatch boat Helicon, bringing letters and despatches. As might be expected, the most acute sorrow is felt throughout the fleet for the fate of comrades in the Captain. The men have neglected their wonted amusements and recreations, and it was not until Tuesday that the performances of the ships' bands were resumed. After the lamentable occurrence, Admiral Milne signalled to the different ships inquiring if the officers and men would devote a day's pay to the relief of the widows and orphans of the poor fellows who had perished on the disastrous morning of the 7th. The reply was hearty and unanimous, as might have been expected from British sailors. It is the general opinion of the fleet that the sails of the Captain should not have been set during the squally weather that prevailed when she met her sad end. It is stated that the sea was not exceedingly rough, and that several ships scarcely rolled at all. When the discovery was made that the Captain was missing, not the least apprehension was entertained that she had foundered, the supposition being that she had been able to run before the wind and would eventually rejoin the squadron. It could hardly be surmised that so gallant a craft could succumb to a gale of wind, and the fact was not realized until after the Warrior fell in with portions of wreck. Hope was not altogether abandoned until the Psyche signalled off Vigo that she had picked up two of the Captain's cutters, bottom upwards. The disaster is painfully recalled to us by the arrival at Weymouth of large piles of letters and papers for the officers and crew of the Captain. These have necessarily been forwarded to the Dead Letter-office.|
|Ma 12 July 1880||It is proposed to pay off and lay up, after repair, at Devonport, during the present year the Achilles and Agincourt, now with the Channel Squadron, the Condor and Flamingo, now in the Mediterranean, but commissioned for special service in the Black Sea, the Wild Swan, from the East Indies, and the Modeste, Swinger, Sylvia, Hornet, and Midge from the China station. The two latter will pay off at Hongkong and be navigated home by a supernumerary crew is consequence of the majority of their officers and men having volunteered for other service upon the station. The Wivern will also pay off at Hongkong, but will remain as reserve drill ship upon that station. The Devonport reserve contingent will also be strengthened by the return of the Forward from the south-east coast of America, the Griffon from North America and the West Indies, and the Pelican, Penguin, and Shannon from the Pacific. Portsmouth will receive the Minotaur from the Mediterranean, and will be intrusted with her alteration and repair, for which £100,000 will be required, the Swallow and the Elk from the south-east coast of America, the Plover from North America, and the Hector, now Coastguard ship at Southampton. The Fawn, surveying vessel in the Sea of Marmora, having made a fairly accurate sketch of the bed of that sea during the three years she has been engaged on that duty, will return to Chatham to pay off and lay up, as also will the Téméraire from the Mediterranean, and the Tourmaline from the North American coast. Sheerness will have the repairing and charge of the Helicon from the Mediterranean, the Blanche from North America and the West Indies, the Osprey from the Pacific, and the Ruby, Spartan, and Vulture from the East Indies. During the year the Enchantress, the Orontes, the Jackal, the Orwell, and the Foxhound are to be re-commissioned, the latter at Hongkong.|