The Times newspaper on armoured RN ships
The Times newspaper on armoured RN ships

Royal NavyFleets
Royal NavyFleets

In the 1860s rapid developments in technology resulted in the rapid replacement of traditional wooden-hulled warships by, firstly, iron-cased wooden-hulled ships and then by armoured ships with an iron hull. These developments were extensively reported and commented on in the columns of The Times newspaper, often revealing a surprising level of technical details.

Extracts from the Times newspaper
Sa 22 September 1860


Sir,— As a statement of the following facts may assist to bring the public mind to a safe decision on the question of that great change in the material and character of future war-ships so ably mooted in your article of the 10th inst., recently received here, I beg to offer them for insertion in The Times, if considered of sufficient importance. There are now before me all the data and observations, taken on the spot for my own professional information, of the several trials made off Shoeburyness since January, 1859, to penetrate the sides of the floating battery Trusty, built in 1855 for the purposes of the Russian war, with a scantling of 25 inches of oak timber, covered with 4-inch iron plates. This vessel was prepared for being fired at in the beginning of 1857, and, had the experiments been then carried out, our present state of "indecision" would most probably have been avoided; for at that time no rifled cannon of any power had been produced, and we now know that at the distance then intended of 450 yards the spherical shot of the heaviest smooth-bored gun must have been found quite powerless to enter the ship.
It was not, however, until January, 1859, that the first attempt was made to penetrate the Trusty's side, the gun used being Sir W. Armstrong's rifled 32-pounder, which had given the surprising range of 9,200 yards. Fourteen shot in all were fired, with charges of 61b., and at distances varying from 450 yards to about 20 yards, the material of the shot being cast iron, wrought iron, and steel. Of these latter two stuck into the side, between the joints of the plates, projecting externally 6 inches and 2 inches respectively, and indentations with some cracks were likewise produced on the plates by the other shots; but the gun was evidently powerless to injure seriously the complete protection of the side.
In September, 1859, attempts for two successive days were again made to penetrate the side with Sir William Armstrong's rifled 80-pounder, which, with a 12lb. charge, had also thrown its shot more than 9,000 yards. The first day's distance was 400 yards, at which 10 shots in all were fired, only three of which, however, took effect so as to give proof of the combined resistance of the side; but this, to the surprise of every one, was found to be so practically complete that it was judged necessary to reduce the distance for firing on the second day to 200 yards. At this range 11 shots in all were fired, some of them of 100lb. weight and of hardened steel, but even with these no entry could be effected. One 80lb. steel shot did, however, succeed in entering the ship. Its immediate predecessor had struck a joint of the plates, and opened at three-quarters of an Inch. On this opening the shot in question struck fair, and within two inches of the former shot, which, besides opening the joint, had also shattered the timber; but, although thus assisted, the force of the shot on entering was so expended that it only reached half-way across the deck, throwing before it, however, a formidable splinter of iron; and this single violation of the protection of the Trusty's side was the only result of the 14 shots which in the two days took effect upon her plates.
At the trial made in June last with Mr. Whitworth's rifled 80-pounder I was not present, but have since carefully examined the effects then produced, and found that of the three shots which took effect on the side one only entered the ship. It received no assistance from the effects of any previous shot, but where it struck outside the plate was unsound, and where it entered inside the timber was rotten; and, though a greater power of penetration was here exhibited than in the case of the Armstrong shot, yet, like it, it entered the ship in a spent state, and reached no more than half-way across the deck. Twelve and thirteen pound charges were used on this occasion, the shot being of carefully prepared steel; but, as in the previous trials, no shells were fired, it having been judged useless to do so where solid steel had been so completely foiled.
Excluding, then, altogether the attempt with the 32-pounder, we have thus 17 shots, of from 80lb. to 100lb. weight, made of special material, of special form and temper, fired with the heaviest charges the guns will bear, as far as practicable at right angles, within the shortest safe distance, from the two most powerful pieces of artillery ever yet produced, and the ship's side thus subjected to proof has been penetrated twice. The side which has exhibited this power of protection is one of the first of its description ever constructed. Its outer lining of iron is slighter than that since manufactured; the plates of which it is composed are much smaller; and, instead of being firmly bolted upon the timber beneath them, they were found to be loose, owing to the shrinkage of the wood since the ship was built. When struck near their edges these plates were more or less injured and broken, when near their centres more or less indented and cracked; but the iron splinter which went in with the Armstrong shot was the only mischievous one of any sort which the whole 17 shots produced, and both that shot itself and the Whitworth would have been perfectly harmless to any one on the other side of the deck opposite where they entered. With every advantage, therefore, on the side of the guns to an extent which could never occur in action, these results may, I think, be safely accepted as conclusive proof that, in the terms of your article,— "British manufacturers can, indeed, produce plates of iron capable of affording such protection to the sides of British ships that the best of even British guns cannot penetrate them."
But it will be asked, with such results as these for now a year before us, whence has arisen that "indecision" which, as your article observes, has hitherto characterized our own adoption of this invention, and which still seems to delay its progress?
The only reply is, I believe, to be found in the fact that, simultaneously with the experiments at Shoeburyness, other experiments have been taking place at Portsmouth which have furnished results of a totally different nature. Month after month for far more than a year the public has been informed, in general and in detail, of the entire destruction of armour plates of all descriptions and of almost all thicknesses, effected, not by any new and powerful rifled cannon, but by the old smooth-bored gun of heavy calibre, with its limited range of some 4,000 yards. And although, as you observe, "it is impossible for us to balance our own experiments in this matter against those of the French, inasmuch as we cannot be sure that the conditions were equal," yet it may be well to apply this process to our own two sets of experiments, if only to remove the perplexity caused by the great discrepancy they present; and we shall then readily perceive that the difference in the essential conditions under which they have been respectively made will fully account for the opposite deductions they admit of. The side of the Trusty, as before stated, was built but five years since for the express purpose of sustaining the shock it has shown itself so well able to bear. The sides of the Alfred, the Undaunted, and Sirius, experimented upon at Portsmouth, were built nearer 50 years ago, with a strength of scantling and with fastenings totally unfitted even then to undergo that hammer-and-anvil process of hanging heavy plates upon them to be attacked with the heaviest guns, and under which plates and timbering have both inevitably succumbed when the operation has been performed, after "old age" had of itself already brought these ships to the verge of the breaking-up dock. Why experiments of such a nature were made under such conditions at all I presume neither to know nor inquire; but I cannot doubt that their necessary results have had the natural effect of inducing that doubt and indecision in the public, if not, the official, mind, which it might have seemed so desirable to avoid In a matter so serious and new, and in which only the most practical experiments possible could be expected to afford a safe guidance. But, whatever may have been the especial object of these Portsmouth experiments, we may be assured that whenever British armour-ships may have to contend with those of other nations the timbering which supports their plates will be found, not of the same age and weakness as that of the old ships named, but on the same scale of strength as that of the Trusty; as witness the 24-inch scantling of the Normandie, now receiving her plates in the basin of Cherbourg.
Thus, within a period of 10 years, has the march of human progress twice overtaken with serious change the status of British naval affairs; and, while our requisite force of screw ships of the line is yet far from complete, we find ourselves unavoidably launched into the most complete revolution in the character and construction of ships of war ever yet known. No ship of wood, of whatever size or force, can be expected to contend with the modern projectiles of conical and spherical shot, shells, and molten iron, against even a single-decked ship with sides as impenetrable as those of the Trusty. Even at 200 yards we have seen that favourable accident alone enables such sides to be pierced at all; with sufficient steam speed to enable a fighting distance of 1,000 yards to be maintained, such ships must prove "invulnerable" (except through their portholes) to any gun yet known, while capable themselves of the most effective use of their powers of destruction against any opponent of wood; and the "reconstruction" of the line-of-battle portion of our fleet has, indeed, become an imperious necessity. Nor is our present position that alone of having been surprised into the numerical inferiority which your article places before us, but this time we have lost our usual priority in practical experience too; for, while our own first armour frigate will require still come considerable time before she can be launched, the Gloire appears to be in full course of realizing established data for the future management and improvement of the similar structures of our great neighbour. Doubtless, the superiority in resources of money, material, and skilled labour to meet the occasion are all on our side, and it had been well if such considerations had weighed with our Administrators during those indications of the approaching crisis which were evident to so many, so as to have urged them to secure to ourselves the lead in this great change and this new rivalry. As it is, however the "stern-chase" can be no longer delayed; and if it be wisely and energetically prosecuted, with that united effort which the talent and great practical experience in iron constructions of this country enables us to call forth, every allowance will, no doubt, be made for any over-reluctance which may have been shown to enter on that increase of naval outlay which must now be encountered before England's requisite superiority in the new description of war-ship can be established.
I remain. Sir. yours. &c.,
E.P. Halstead., Captain, R.N., lately commanding the Steam Reserve Fleet in the Medway.
Talladh-a-Bheithe, Perthshire, Sept. 17.
Sa 22 September 1860A letter which we insert this morning from an able correspondent will furnish the public with some authentic information on a subject of the highest importance to our national security — viz. the success or failure of the new scheme for casing ships of war in iron. Our former remarks on the question will have explained the position in which it now stands. In the main it was a question of experiment only, and yet, by some strange divergence of induction, British and French authorities had arrived at conclusions diametrically opposed to each other. The French had satisfied themselves of the utility of the invention, had discontinued the construction of wooden line of battle ships, had put ten iron-cased frigates on the stocks, and had actually launched two of them. We, on the other hand, had, indeed, put out four of the new men-of-war to contract, but we had not regarded the case as in any way urgent, and had still concentrated our principal efforts upon screw two-deckers, exactly as before. This policy, too, seemed to derive a certain warrant from the results of experiment, for we were assured day after day that no plates of iron producible by our manufacturers had been found capable of resisting the effects of our guns. Naturally, therefore, we imagined that the French, to say the least, had been precipitate, and that, whatever might be the conclusion finally established, invulnerable ships had not become a reality up to the present moment.
These impressions, however, will be most materially modified by the statements contained in Captain Halstead's letter. From that communication it appears not only that a ship's side has been found practically impenetrable when battered at short range by the most powerful rifled ordnance, but that the discovery was made twelve months ago, so that, unless the conclusion was to be corrected by other evidence, we should by this time have had our iron-sheathed frigates afloat exactly like our neighbours. Nothing can be more instructive than the results of the Shoeburyness experiments, as here detailed. The vessel taken as a target was the floating battery Trusty, built for the express purpose of offering the greatest resistance to shot some five years ago. She was the earliest type, in fact, of the new invention — the very class of ship which the French naval architects have since developed into the Gloire. In 1857 she was "prepared for being fired at," or, in other words, as we presume, she was cased in the strongest armour which could be manufactured at that time. The sheathing, in all probability, was by no means so strong as could be manufactured now, and yet it repelled 80lb. shot from Armstrong and Whitworth guns. We need not recapitulate the results which our correspondent so perspicuously details. It is quite sufficient to observe that with every condition in favour of the attack it proved virtually ineffectual against the defence. Twice only in 17 shots could the new artillery penetrate the old floating battery, although each of these shots was fired under advantages which could rarely be reckoned upon in actual conflict.
This seems decisive; but there are two or three questions still suggesting themselves for consideration, and the subject is so vitally important that not a single point should be blinked. Were these rifled cannon really the most formidable weapons that could have been employed in the experiment? Admitting their extraordinary powers of range and accuracy, were the shots which they threw at point blank range more likely to be destructive under the circumstances of the case than heavy spherical shot from a smooth-bored gun? We have heard that a 68lb. ball fired from one of the long 95cwt. guns will, at a range, say, of 200 yards, produce more effect on an iron-plate target than the elongated bolt of an Armstrong or Whitworth cannon. This, indeed, may possibly be alleged as an explanation of the strange discrepancy between the experiments at Portsmouth and those at Shoeburyness. At the former place the smooth-bored 68-pounder was tried against what our correspondent describes as weak and worthless targets; at the latter a target thoroughly well constructed was battered only by rifled guns. Perhaps, therefore, there is still some room for uncertainty, though it is natural to ask why so very obvious a course as bringing the strongest target to the test of the most destructive shot was not thought of by those who conducted our experiments. A second question arises from certain special results discovered during these trials. It was found that though one or two shots might be repelled by the iron sheathing, yet when this sheathing was finally penetrated, as at Portsmouth almost invariably occurred, the destruction produced was infinitely greater than would have been the case on board a wooden vessel. The first shot or two, perhaps even the first broadside, might rattle harmlessly against the ship's armour; but the next would create such tremendous havoc that the temporary impunity would have been dearly purchased. When the side of an iron-cased frigate was once smashed, all on board, it was said, were doomed. This is evidently a point of great consequence. Captain Halstead, it will be seen, actually claims an advantage for iron-sheathed vessels on this very score; but here, again, he is speaking of bolts, and not of cannon balls.
We can only add that points like these, which a week's experiments, properly conducted, would suffice to decide, should never have been left thus in doubt. For ourselves, we conceive that upon the whole evidence now before us there is reason for believing iron-cased ships to be, if not a perfect, at any rate a most important invention. We suspect that, though the Gloire may not be absolutely invulnerable, she would be found possessed of such advantages as would justify our neighbours in thus closing with the now theory. Possibly our authorities might be able to show that no iron plates have yet been proof against the effects of artillery continuously tried, though, as they seem never to have tested the best targets with the best guns, we cannot feel any certainty even on this point. It appears, however, quite plain that, though this marine armour may not be impenetrable to the last, it is impenetrable for a good while, and, at certain distances, altogether so. Is not this an advantage worth securing? A frigate invulnerable at 600 yards, and proof against at least one broadside at a third of that distance, would surely overpower an antagonist possessed of no such protection. We think it highly probable that the best iron plates yet manufactured might be penetrated sooner or later, and under given conditions, by heavy shot, but if that result could be averted for a certain time it would clearly be so much gain. If the French, in short, have not proved that a ship can be made invulnerable, they have proved that a ship can be made far less vulnerable than other ships without any material sacrifice of mobility or speed; and if that example Is lost upon us it will go hard with England.
We do sincerely trust, therefore, that all this evidence may have produced its effect upon our Board of Admiralty during their recent survey of the dockyards of the kingdom. If the case be but fairly grappled with there is nothing in it which should give us any uneasiness; indeed, the more naval architecture is brought within the sphere of mechanical science the more certain would be our national superiority. We excel the French both in material and manufacture. We have the best iron and the greatest resources for working it. We have the best engineers and the best machines. We have also the best coal, so that, what with fuel and engines together, we ought always to insure general superiority in speed. It is only in one respect, unhappily an important one, that we are surpassed by the French. They go to work with judgment, promptitude, and decision. They allow no obstructions to stand in the way of approved reforms. They satisfy themselves of facts, and then apply their conclusions with a single-mindedness and determination which infallibly sends them ahead. They did so with screw two-deckers, and left us to strain our immense resources in overtaking them. Hardly had we done so when they strike out a new line; but it will be unpardonable this time if we are allowed to fall so seriously into arrear.
We 3 October 1860


Sir, — The consideration of our present means of naval attack and defence involves questions of pressing importance, and in the hope of rendering some assistance in forming correct conclusions I offer a few observations upon the subject.
While I agree with much that was contained in the letter addressed to you by Captain Halsted, I think that his opinions are based chiefly on those trials at which he was present, when the armour plates were successful in repelling cannon shot. As I have only been present at trials where the projectiles have invariably peretrated the armourplates, I have arrived at a different general conclusion.
Captain Halsted appears to have made a mistake in applying the results of the experiments which he witnessed to others at which he was not present. Having stated that at 400 yards the Armstrong gun failed to make an impression on the Trusty, he concludes that the Whitworth 80-pounder would not succeed at a like range; whereas the fact is that in October, 1858, my 68lb. projectile, fired from a distance of 450 yards, penetrated through the 4-inch armour plate and the sides of the Alfred and entered into the ship.
For a statement of what were really the results of the trials of my 80-pounder against the Trusty in May last I would refer to the account given in The Times of May 28, written, I believe, by your "own correspondent," who witnessed them.
The Carnation gunboat, from which the gun was fired, was anchored at the short range of 200 yards, because it was blowing "half a gale," and the rolling of the boat rendered it difficult and unsafe to take aim from a greater distance, — unsafe for this reason. It had been proved, by experiments made on board the Excellent in December, 1857, that my flat-fronted projectiles passed through 30 feet of water and still retained great penetrating power. When I made a request to be allowed to fire at the Trusty's armour plate below her water line my proposition was declined, and it was not thought advisable, considering the rough state of the weather, to run the risk of the experiment being involuntarily tried by an accidental low shot of the gunner, who was one of the Excellent's best marksmen.
In Captain Halsted's letter he speaks of "only three Whitworth shots taking effect" on the Trusty's side. He omits mention of another shot which struck a sound plate fixed over a porthole and strengthened at the back with beams of solid timber, of such thickness and so firmly fastened with large iron bolts that it formed apparently the strongest part of the ship's side. This shot "pierced through the centre of a plate and into the main deck of the ship, driving before it a mass of splinters and an immense iron bolt, which, from the position in which it was found among the fragments of wood on the main deck, had evidently been dashed through and whirled about with a force only inferior to that of the projectile itself." (Vide The Times, May 28.)
Only five shots in all were fired from my gun on the occasion referred to; of these one shot, owing to the rolling of the gunboat, went over the Trusty; four hit her sides, and every one of them went through her plates. Two, which struck directly "end on," entered into the ship; two, which struck obliquely, after penetrating through the armourplate, buried themselves in the ship's side. I will not here dwell on what would have been the effect had the rear ends of these projectiles been made as shells, which I certainly believe may be done without destroying their penetrating power.
If it be asked why only five shots were fired from my gun, the answer is simply that the experiments were made at the request and in the presence of the Lords of the Admiralty. They, with the First Lord himself, went on board the Trusty and personally examined the effects of the shots. As all that hit the plates went through them the results were considered conclusive, and more experiments being then deemed unnecessary, they were ordered to be discontinued.
There is no doubt but that ships may be built which are proof against ordinary shot, but my experience leads me to believe that the penetration of armour plates is a question of firing against them a projectile under the proper combined conditions; these are, that it shall be of the proper shape, material, and weight, and have the requisite velocity. A flat-fronted projectile of properly hardened material, and weighing less than an ounce, fired from one of my ordinary rifles, will penetrate wrought-iron plates 6-10ths of an inch thick. Again, plates 4 inches thick are penetrated by the 80lb. projectiles, and I have no doubt but that 6-inch plates would be penetrated by heavier projectiles with a more powerful gun. Increased thickness of plate, then, is to be overcome by increased power of gun; and the question is, in which case will the capability of increase sooner reach its limits?
Ships which are hampered by the weight of enormous plates are so overburdened that they are unfit to carry a broadside of guns heavy enough to penetrate the armour of vessels plated similarly to themselves.
Again, a ship constructed to carry very thick plates cannot be driven at the high speed which must hereafter give the superiority in naval warfare.
There yet remains the consideration of cost. It is true that the richest nation can best endure the drain of costly equipments, and therefore cheap warfare would be a disadvantage; but it is also true that naval casualties and mishaps must be calculated upon, and it would be bad policy to concentrate too large an outlay upon a single vessel.
It will be for naval authorities to consider the position in which the large heavily-plated yet still vulnerable ship would be placed if attacked by several smaller and far swifter vessels, each carrying a few powerful guns, and able to choose its distance for striking an enemy which presents so large a target. What would be the result of firing flat-fronted shots at her plates below the waterline, or of their concentrated fire directed upon the axis of her screw — a mark that might be hit at a considerable distance?
The plan of warding off shot by protecting armour bas been often resorted to, but the means of attack have continually proved the vulnerability of the armour and driven it out of use. It has to be shown whether this will be the case with our ships of war, and I fully concur in the opinion expressed in your paper, that the best and speediest mode of arriving at a right decision is to give full publicity to the results of properly conducted experiments.
I remain, Sir, yours very obediently,
Joseph WhitworthExternal link, Manchester, Sept. 28.
Th 4 October 1860


Sir,— May I venture to crave sufficient space in your valuable columns for a few further remarks on the above subject, which some of the observations contained in your article of the 22d inst., and in some subsequent correspondence, lead me to believe may prove useful?
1. The "preparation of the Trusty," referred to in my former letter, consisted in filling in the portholes with timber and iron plating, of the same thickness as that of the side, in the vicinity of where the ship was to be fired at, so as to prevent the profitless mischief of shot finding entrance at the Ports.
2. Nothing could have been easier than to prove the comparative effect of the heavy 68-pounder smooth-bored gun against the sides of the Trusty at the Shoeburyness trials, inasmuch as this gun constituted the permanent armament of the gunboat from which the firing took place on that occasion, and it was by no means requisite to remove it in order to make room for the rifled 80-pounder. The reason why it was not used I therefore conclude to be that it was thought useless to do so. A solid 68lb. spherical shot of wrought iron, carefully lathed so as to have the smallest possible windage, was, I am aware, driven from this gun through the plated side of the old Alfred at Portsmouth from a distance of 20 yards; but no shot from this gun has, as I believe, ever yet succeeded in entering a ship with a side of combined timber and plating especially constructed to resist it; and if in any single case this has, indeed, been done, the conditions have been, I doubt not, quite exceptional, in point of range and other circumstances, as those by means of which the rifled "bolt" succeeded. The superior "smashing power" claimed for this gun is said to reside in the greater initial velocity of its shot, a superiority which, even if admitted, is in name and nature essentially ephemeral, and from the range usually adopted at experiments, a distance of 200 yards, seems to be the limit assigned by its advocates for its existence at all. But 2,000 yards is a perfectly effective distance for shot, shell, and carcases of molten iron, directed against the sides of a ship of wood; and if such a ship should indeed succeed in reaching, undamaged, the above smaller distance from her iron-sided opponent, the signal disparity between the two would only become the more obvious and decisive where every shot on both sides must equally strike, but not at all equally "strike home." If a proportion of only one-half of the British shots which decided the close fights of the Nile and Trafalgar had done no more mischief than that of sticking in the sides of the French ships, history must have had to record very different results from those which now adorn her pages in respect to those battles.
2. Perhaps the most practical mode in which to submit to public judgment the moot question of the effect of "ordinary" broadsides will be thus. Out of the 17 effective shots so deliberately fired at the sides of the Trusty, is it to be expected that a larger proportion than two would have entered the ship if the whole number had been fired at once, with the necessarily more promiscuous and uncertain aim of a broadside? Those who entertain such an expectation will perhaps furnish the public with the reason why.
4. With respect to concentrated broadsides, no person can, I think, be found who has ever witnessed the serious practice of this mode of attack between any two ships. Concentrated broadsides, and "divisions" of broadsides, for which all our ships are prepared, have, I am well aware, been delivered against targets by well practised crews with formidable accuracy; but in all such cases favourable circumstances have been chosen, the focal distance has been carefully ascertained, and the firing has been all on one side. Nevertheless It has been seriously proposed to concentrate the entire broadside of a 90-gun ship on some given portion of the side of an ironclad ship, and thus endeavour to dispose of the whole question raised by that very disagreeable Gloire, by sending one of her representatives to the bottom — a result which I am bound to admit, under certain conditions, might be practicable. But, besides determining the exact distance, it would require in this case that the ship firing, and the ship to be fired at, should both be fixed in immovable "rests" similar in principle to that provided by Mr. Whitworth for Her Majesty's "coup de grace" at Wimbledon. And instead of trusting to the perfectly simultaneous "pull" of the 45 "trigger-lines," of the 45 seamen gunners distributed over the three decks of a ship 250 feet long, it would also require each gun to be provided with its own voltaic apparatus, and the combined wires to be placed in the hands of a single operator. With the tail of the bird thus properly prepared the proposed "concentration" of "salt" might no doubt be effectually applied. Finally, having now fulfilled what I have conscientiously regarded as a paramount public duty, viz., to submit for general consideration on a subject of the gravest national importance such information of a relevant nature as the course of my professional duties has brought before me, I have now only to render to yourself, Sir, my sincere thanks for the very liberal opportunity afforded me for so doing, and to add that, except for any necessary purpose of explanation, it is my intention not to be led into any public controversy on either the facts or opinions I have thus felt it my duty to state.
I beg to remain. Sir, your obedient E.P. Halsted, Captain R.N.,
Tallaah-a-Bhiethé, Perthshlre, Sept. 29.
We 10 October 1860


Sir,— Every Englishman who has read your columns containing the interesting communications on iron-plated ships must have been struck with their vast importance. No greater testimony of the value can be adduced than the instantaneous effect produced by them in the official regions of Whitehall. No sooner had your notices appeared than there was running and rushing to and fro at Whitehall, and now, as if by magic, the world is told that another steel-plated vessel is ordered to be laid down. It is to be 400 feet long, and calculated to carry an armament of surpassingly destructive power, &c. If I am correctly informed, this vessel is to embrace all the defects as well as the advantages of the former iron-plated vessels — that is to say, of the Black Prince and Warrior class. The new vessel is, in point of fact, to be nearly the exact copy of prior forms. To be precise, let me indicate the nature of these defects, premising that the question of the routine of the attack and defence of these kind of vessels has been so ably discussed in your columns that further comment at my hands is unnecessary.
Permit me to specify certain grave defects of construction in iron-clad ships as hitherto made — defects which it is the present intention of the Admiralty to repeat in the build of the new vessel.
All the iron plates hitherto employed in defending the sides of ships have been secured in position by a series of bolts and nuts fitting into corresponding perforations drilled through the iron plates as well as the wooden or iron hull of the ship itself. Some of the bolts are as much as 20 to 24 inches long by 2 inches diameter, and have either a square or conical head at one end and double nuts at the other. On the impact of the shot — be it either of the 68-pounder round or any of the various kinds of elongated projectiles — if the plate, in a large number of instances, be not perforated the bolts are nevertheless driven inboard with very destructive effect. Having myself been present at many of these trials I can testify to the grave nature of the casualties to be apprehended unless the proper steps be taken to remedy this defect.
At this particular stage I wish to point out in what manner the influence of the press might be brought to bear for the national advantage.
As soon as this defect was duly ascertained and acknowledged by the authorities, thinking men were devising means to overcome the evil. To my own knowledge plans were submitted in the latter part of last year to the Admiralty Board, plans which, in the opinion of that Board, completely obviated the grave defects before mentioned. Of my own knowledge, too, I can state that the only reason urged why the ships then building should not be so constructed was, that the contracts, embracing old principles, were already made, and that my Lords could not then interfere with the execution of such contracts without great inconvenience to the public service. However difficult it may be for the public to credit the announcement, it is still a fact that notwithstanding the approval of the new plan by the Admiralty, and the evidence of their own committee, the old system is about to be repeated.
The defects of the present method of fixing iron plating are these :—1. When struck by shot, the bolts are either driven inboard or broken, or the plates are cracked from hole to hole; if the plate struck be not broken it curls up at the corners and edges. 2. In a seaway it is next to impossible, from the vast number of bolt-holes passing trough the hull and plates, to keep the vessel watertight. In spite of every precaution caulking does not perfectly keep out the water, and in anything like heavy weather the vessel leaks like a sieve.
I have the honour to be, Sir, Your very obedient servant,
PIONEER, London, Oct. 8.
Sa 13 October 1860The question of iron-cased ships may be said to have been practically decided by the discussion which it has received in our columns. Two great facts appear now to be established. The first of these is, that all iron plates can be penetrated, under certain conditions, by shot, and therefore that no vessel, however thus protected, can be pronounced invulnerable. The second is, that the requisite conditions are difficult of attainment, and therefore that an iron-clad vessel would possess a decisive advantage over an unprotected antagonist. We consider these results as established not only because they have been affirmed and explained by correspondents of unimpeachable authority, but because they have met with no refutation. Witnesses in abundance, both professional and independent, have testified to the reality and importance of the new invention, but there has been no direct denial of its merits. Mr. Whitworth has naturally made a stand for the honour of his guns. The Gloire, in short, is not an invulnerable frigate, but, as she is probably proof against all shell and a good many shot, few wooden frigates could encounter her on equal terms. We shall be excused, we hope, for reminding the reader that this is precisely the conclusion which we ourselves submitted to the public.
Now succeeds, however, the important consideration of the measures to be adopted and the expense to be incurred in consequence of this new discovery. The bare announcement of a fresh "reconstruction of our Navy," especially on such costly terms, is enough to fill the nation with alarm. We have but just emerged from the flood of extravagance ensuing upon a sudden panic. We have succeeded by incredible efforts in almost doubling the strength of our marine since the beginning of 1858, and the British fleet has at length been brought into a condition befitting our resources and our position. Is all this ground to be lost, and have we another up-hill fight to go through before our Navy can again become what it should be? We think we can reassure the public mind on these points. We see nothing very formidable before us in the way either of expense or difficulty. All our wooden ships have not become useless, and, though we shall certainly want some iron-cased vessels, our wants in this respect are not so great but what they can be supplied in good time and without extraordinary charge.
The measure of our obligations is derived, of course, from the proceedings of the French. Nobody attempts to blink or disguise that fact, so we have first to consider what the French have done. They have taken the initiative, much to their credit, in constructing men-of-war upon an entirely new model, and have left us, as on many former occasions, with the duty of following in their steps. Fortunately, however, they have not yet got very far ahead. This time, if we do but bestir ourselves, we need have no great difficulty in recovering our place. The French have laid down ten iron-cased frigates; they have launched two, and of these one, at least, is a complete success. Perhaps the Normandie is less of a failure than has been reported, but, at any rate, France has only two of the new fabrics afloat, and eight on the stocks. We have on the stocks four such vessels, two of which were ordered by Lord Derby's Government nearly three years ago. When these are launched - and we hope the event may be expedited - we shall at once be a match for our neighbours in frigates afloat, and, though they will still have the start of us in the numbers on hand, it will not cost us much to overtake them. In material, in machinery, and in all the conditions favourable to such manufactures we possess infinite advantages. The Gloire herself would have been a better vessel if built in England. Good as she is, she merely represents the best that could be done in France.
Much alarm, however, has been created by the inevitable costliness ascribed to these fabrics. To a certain extent, no doubt, the current impressions are correct; but we hope something remains to be abated on this score, and we shall presently show that there are considerations on the other side. General Peel stated at Huntingdon last week that the two vessels bespoken by Sir John Pakington, and now in process of construction, would cost "no less than a million of money - 500,000l. each." That is certainly a prodigious sum. The Duke of Wellington, one of our largest three-deckers, cost but 170,000l., and the Orlando, our finest and most expensive frigate, only 100,000l. Bat we really do not understand how General Peel's figures were obtained, unless the work has grown wonderfully under the hand. We remember no such demand as 1,000,000l. for these purposes in the Navy Estimates of 1859. There is an item, certainly, for "ships to be built by contract," but it is only 252,000l. We were very well aware that the cost of an iron-cased frigate would be largely in excess of the old standard, especially if reckoned by the number of guns. The old computation, for instance, 30 years ago, gave 1,000l. per gun as the average cost of a vessel of war; this was raised by the modern system of screw propulsion to 2,000l., and the iron-cased frigate, it was said, would cost 4,000l. These results, however, were produced not merely by the expensiveness of the ship, but by the comparatively small number of guns carried by the new description of vessel. The Warrior and the Black Prince mount but 36 guns each, though of enormous power, and consequently their cost appears larger than if they carried 60 or 70 pieces of smaller calibre. Assuming, however, that iron-cased frigates can be constructed for 130,000l. each, which was what we imagined, they are neither extravagant nor unfavourable bargains. They cost more than a wooden frigate, no doubt, but less than a wooden two-decker, whereas they are more powerful, we are assured, than even the latter class of vessel. If, therefore, we obtain for 130,000l., or even 150,000l., a ship more effective than those for which we have hitherto paid 160,000l. or 170,000l., we are clearly no losers, not to mention that the 36-gun vessel can probably be worked with fewer hands than the old 91.
Lastly, let it never be forgotten that without submitting to any fresh burdens, or embarking on any fresh outlay, we have at our present rate of expenditure a good million a-year to spend on new ships of such models as may from time to time be preferred. We insist upon this point because it is here that all our embarrassments have been incurred. If the products of our dockyards for any given year had been invariably brought up to the highest mark of the period, whatever that might have been, we should have escaped all our perplexities and panics. The mischief has lain in the fact that we always clung too long to obsolete models, and thus lavished upon fabrics which were presently to prove useless the labour and funds which would have supplied us with specimens of the best current patterns. What caused us such trouble in 1858 was, that whereas at that time the screw two-decker was the most approved model of a line-of-battle ship, we, from various causes, had got into such arrears in the construction of these vessels that France was actually ahead of us, and the most extraordinary exertions were required before we could recover our place. It might be the same in 1862, if we again neglected the new pattern, and adhered to the old one; but we trust the alarm has now been sounded in time. Had our authorities shown but a little more decision, there would have been no alarm at all. During the last 12 months 20 vessels, at least, have probably been laid down in our various dockyards, and if half, or even a third of these, had been iron-cased frigates, we should have been as forward as France. The one condition, in short, of security as well as economy in these matters is to take each new invention in time, and work it out with the funds of the year. This expedient would always keep us harmless. If the discovery proved ultimately ineffective, we should have lost but little; if it was found really successful, we should be abreast of the world. But if, through the obtuseness or obstructiveness of the official mind, we neglect every invention till it has been recognized and adopted by others, we always occupy a position of danger, until we awake at last in a state of panic. We trust, however, that we shall escape that fate n the present occasion. Five years hence nobody can say what might be our condition, but, as it is, there is no great harm done. What is needed now is not the "reconstruction of our Navy," but simply the construction of a few iron-clad vessels in the place of as many wooden ones.
Fr 26 October 1860The course of the discussion upon ironcased ships has confirmed in every material particular the conclusions which we submitted to the public respecting the new invention. The Gloire is neither more nor less of a success than we conjectured, nor will the discovery, as far as we can see at present, impose upon us the obligation of "reconstructing our navy," although it will give a new character to future line-of-battle ships. An iron-sheathed frigate is not absolutely invulnerable, but it would be practically so in any ordinary conflict with a wooden one. It will not cost quite half a million, but it will surpass in expensiveness any model yet known. In short, iron plates will be brought into use against the effects of artillery, and probably on land as well as at sea, but what particular forms the invention may take must for some time be a matter of uncertainty. At present we have one great point fully established, and one left in obscurity still. We know that for all practical purposes a ship can be effectually protected by iron plating, but we do not yet know how far this ponderous armour may be compatible with the sailing or steaming qualities of the vessel.
The first of these points has now been admitted by almost all our correspondents, and acknowledged by every statesman who has introduced the subject into his vacation speeches. We may leave it, in fact, as conclusively settled, and proceed at once to the consideration of the second point, which involves far greater difficulties. Since the publication of our last remarks upon the question it has been reported that the Gloire herself, all perfect as she was thought, has proved a failure as a seagoing vessel. We cannot vouch for the accuracy of the statement, but, even if it should be true, it would not reflect any discredit upon the architect. The Gloire was never intended to go to sea. The description given of her by the French themselves represented her in express terms as designed for home service only. "Her rig and equipment," said the Moniteur de la Flotte, "'indicate that the vessel is not intended to go to a distance from our ports, but that she is made for operations in the seas where henceforth the great differences of European policy will be settled." In other words, she was meant for Channel fighting, and, if such vessels were wanted in the Mediterranean, they could, of course, be launched from Mediterranean ports. The Gloire, therefore, though far more moveable than the old floating battery, was, as we remarked, very like a battery still. It seems doubtful whether her speed was not overestimated when she was credited with 13 knots an hour, but, at any rate, she could spin along far more nimbly than the Trusty, and be managed with far greater ease. The only question is whether she cannot be improved upon. We must build Gloires, beyond doubt, if we can build nothing better, but cannot we outstrip our rivals? The French have certainly earned the credit of a first invention, and have turned out a respectable iron-cased frigate before we could show any such fabric; but it will only be in accordance with precedent if we improve upon the pattern, and such, we think, seems a probable event. Indeed, if our neighbours have laid down ten Gloires at once with the conviction that the model could never be mended, they have acted on British rather than French principles of naval administration, and it will be our turn to take advantage of their experiments.
The Gloire is a straight-sided vessel like an ordinary frigate, whereas in the form to be given to the sides of these craft is involved a preliminary question of the highest importance. The armour now known as Jone's angular plating slopes away from the water's edge at such an angle that no shot could strike it perpendicularly, except from a vessel of lofty build lying close alongside. By this expedient for evading as well as resisting the impact of a projectile it has been found possible to dispense with a certain proportion of strength, and consequently of weight in the metal of the armour, so that the vessel escapes so much of the encumbrance. The masts, again, and tophamper are materially reduced from the ordinary scale in the construction of the Gloire; but it seems to be doubted whether in more approved models for the new vessels such appendages need be employed at all. Wherever there are masts they may be shot overboard, and wherever they are shot overboard the screw may be fouled, and the vessel rendered helpless. A steam frigate on Jones's model would be all but invisible on the water, and would not only present no vulnerable point to a hostile shot, but would scarcely offer any mark at all. She ought to blow a Gloire into chips as certainly as a Gloire would demolish an old Fisgard or Arethusa. On the other hand, it is said that she would herself be exposed to a singular species of peril. Our readers have seen what Admiral Sartorius could say for his steam-ram. We will not enter upon that controversy at present, but we have heard it surmised that, whatever a steam-ram might do in ordinary cases, she could hardly fail of running down one of these angularly-decked vessels, but would go over her slopes as smoothly as boys down a slide.
Another point concerns the dimensions to be given to the new vessels. We are building four, or, including the specimen just ordered to be laid down at Chatham, five. Three of these are of enormous magnitude, and the one last bespoken will be the largest of all. We are proceeding, therefore, on the same principles which determined our construction of the old line-of-battle ships, and perhaps not unreasonably. Still, there will always be the question whether a small vessel, presenting only a small mark, and requiring only a small crew, may not be preferable to a vessel offering a larger surface to shot and locking up some 800 men. To be sure, when all vessels are invulnerable or invisible alike this point of comparison may disappear, but we have not reached that consummation yet. However, what we wish to remark is, that the Gloire is neither the one thing nor the other. If the prize is to be won by strength and size, neither she nor any one of her nine sisters could show against the Warrior; if it is to be decided by invisibility and nimbleness, she would be no match for little iron-plated gunboats.
We may further observe that perhaps a partial application of the new invention may be found serviceable. It seems to be admitted that, though very strong and ponderous plates are required to resist heavy shot from rifled guns, a shell might be repelled by a much weaker plate. We are also assured that shells are infinitely the most destructive implements of modern warfare, and that if they can but be kept out of a ship the damage done by shot would be comparatively insignificant. Putting these facts together, it seems natural to presume that even If a vessel be not rendered shotproof, she might at least be made shell-proof, and that this might be done without much impediment to her seagoing qualities, or any great addition to her cost. It is perfectIy evident that, according to the present state of the case, iron-cased ships will be calculated for home service only; indeed, our largest line-of-battle ships, as it is, have seldom been sent to any great distance from home. No three-decker ever yet went round the Cape, and no iron-sided Colossus is likely to take that voyage. It follows, therefore, that our foreign and colonial service must still be performed by old-fashioned vessels, but it does not follow that these vessels may not be rendered less vulnerable than they are by a judicious application of iron-plating. Perhaps, as the lightest craft carry a single heavy gun, so the most nimble cruiser may have her cuirass to suit.
We can only repeat, in conclusion, that what we suggested in the way of reassurance has been entirely borne out by the revelations of the controversy. The new ships are likely to be more expensive than was originally supposed, aid the richest nation will therefore have an advantage in constructing them. On this point we can add some authentic information. We believe the actual cost of the largest class of iron-cased ships will be about 350,000l., or, according to the old method of reckoning, 10,000l. a gun. This is a prodigious charge — in fact, it is double that of our finest three-deckers. Iron, however, will not decay like wood, and — what is of far greater importance — 36 guns can be worked with less than half the crew required for 130. An element, again, of the greatest consequence in the question is that of speed, and it is beyond any doubt that we can manufacture the best engines, and that we possess the most valuable fuel. To be brief, we must needs conclude that our old naval superiority has been kept absolutely within our grasp by a discovery which gives us every point in our favour. The new invention offers the sovereignty of the seas to the nation which can work best in iron, provide the best engineers, and supply the largest funds for keeping batteries afloat. If any nation can beat us in a race so regulated we shall richly deserve our defeat.
Th 9 May 1861


This noble frigate is now jointly in the hands of the builders and the workmen of the Admiralty, both of whom are doing their best to push her forward so as to have her ready for commission by the end of July. Since her launch a great deal has been done, and from though present date almost as much remains to be done before she will be ready to receive the pennant. All the armour plates, except the upper row on the starboard side, have been bolted on, and this partial completion of her sea-going equipment has made a most material difference in her appearance. She is considerably deeper in the water, and has rather a marked list to port, in consequence of more of the plates being in their places on that side than on the starboard. Quiet as are the waters of the Victoria Dock, the Warrior has, nevertheless, already given several unmistakable indications of being rather top-heavy in her present trim, and an armour plate more or less affixed to either side makes an important alteration in her seat on the water. Of course, when ballasted, with all her coals, stores, and water in, her crankness will be reduced to the minimum for a ship of her class. But, on the other hand, if ever the Warrior burns all her coals out, and has to return to port in heavy weather, she is likely to be, to say the least, almost dangerously top-heavy. Captain Ford, of the Thames Ironworks, when building the vessel, proposed a plan to the Admiralty to diminish this tendency to rolling, by filling in between the hollow skins of the ship with water as the coals were consumed. The plan was rejected for the Warrior, but has since been adopted by the new Surveyor of the Navy for the mythical Achilles, which rumour says is always about to be built at Chatham, but with which as yet no manner of progress has been made. The lower masts, topmasts, and topgallantmasts of the Warrior are already up. Viewed from outside the vessel, where the eye can take in the whole of her colossal though fine proportions, these spars appear ridiculously disproportioned to the vast bulk of the ship. They are the masts of a 90-gun vessel notwithstanding, though it is difficult to credit it till the visitor stands close alongside them. The traditional three masts, however, will never do much for this vessel under sail, and, if it is contemplated that she will ever have to depend on her sailing qualities, she should have been given four. Most of the lower deck arrangements, as far as the hull is concerned, are now nearly completed, and one can form a pretty fair idea of what sort of a ship she will be for internal accommodation when at sea. She is, of course, of the most roomy dimensions, though we doubt that in times of peace she will ever be a popular vessel with either officers or men as compared with frigates like the Ariadne or Galatea. In the Warrior, even the little scuttles through which in fair weather officers on the lower deck receive their small modicum of fresh air and hazy daylight are omitted. An armour plate admits of no scuttle or aperture of any kind, so that all within the iron casing below the main deck is as dark as pitch. In times of peace living always by candlelight in a ship that will surely roll awfully will, not unnaturally, be regarded as uncomfortable, though in war time the reflection that all on board are quite sheltered from shot and shell will more than counterbalance these little drawbacks. Even the main deck of the Warrior is now very dim, since the Admiralty have wisely determined to narrow the width of the portholes to 30 inches, instead of 50. The armament of the vessel has at last been definitely fixed, and we think our naval readers will hear with surprise that it has been determined to give her only six Armstrong guns — viz., two 100-pounder pivot guns and four light 40-pounders, two for each broadside. The rest of the armament will consist of 36 common 68-pounder guns of 95 cwt. each. Strange to say, also, all the Armstrong ordnance are on the spar deck, and therefore entirely unprotected by armourplating of any kind, while the common guns are under cover. if the whole vessel was armed with breech-loading 100-pounders, the armament would then be lighter than the present comparatively inefficient guns by nearly 50 tons. The fore and aft bulkheads which are to shut off the stem and stern, not coated with armour, are now also finished. An examination of them will give the visitor the best idea of the immense solidity of the vessel's sides, of which they are the exact counterparts, except in having only 10 inches of teak backing, instead of 20. They shut in the whole extent of the midships portion of the ship, from the keel to the upper deck. Both on the main and lower deck small doors of communication are cut through these bulkheads on the port and starboard sides. These, when necessary, can be closed by doors covered with 4½-inch armour plates, turning on the most massive hinges, and filling in the doorway so as to be perfectly watertight. In the engine-room everything is complete and in perfect order. All that now remains to be done down there is the erection of a cupola furnace for melting iron and filling the hollow shells with the liquid metal. Three or four such shells sent against a wooden adversary would set her in a blaze from stem to stern in ten minutes; whereas supposing such a projectile to get down a hatchway onto the main deck of the Warrior, it would be as harmless as on a stone pavement, for the decks are of wrought iron. With all the haste that may be made by the Admiralty (and the long delay in completing this vessel is due only to the Admiralty, and not to the contractors), it is likely to be well on to the end of the year before the Warrior can rank among our available defences. By that time the Emperor of the French will have at least 10, if not 12, iron frigates afloat, of which five, it is expected, will be actually in commission. The apparent supineness of the Admiralty, therefore, in not building more ships of the Warrior class seems inexplicable, and their apathy becomes almost a subject for alarm when we recollect that France is such a long way ahead, and that, even with all our manufacturing resources, it is almost impossible to build one of these iron frigates in less than 18 months. With the most lavish expenditure, and with all the aids our private yards could give the Government, it would be impossible, even supposing them to build no more, to be on an equality with our neighbours in this matter in less time than two years. The excuse of the Admiralty is, that they must wait till they have tried the Warrior and Black Prince. But how can the real efficiency of these ships ever be tested, except by actual warfare? In all else they are known, as far as our present knowledge of such matters goes, to be as near perfection as they well can be. No doubt, future vessels will be built a thousand tons larger, to enable them to carry armour plates from end to end, and 500 tons more coal. Beyond this slight development of principle, even the private builders can suggest no improvement, yet the Admiralty still wait and wait, and lose their present and only opportunity day by day. Our navy may really be said to possess only two efficient iron frigates, for the Resistance and the Defence were a compromise. The expense of vessels like the Warrior was thought too great, and so, as the Admiralty wanted to have more to show for their money, they determined on building two cheap and inefficient vessels instead of one good and dear one. Then, the Warrior and Black Prince are never to be used as steam rams, though they will have great speed, while the two steam rams are so deficient on this vital point that it is said they will not be able to run down a sand barge if they have first to overtake her. In all we have actually four iron ships launched, two frigates and two steam rams, with two more building, which are neither one thing nor the other. So completely does the prestige of success in this class of shipbuilding now attach to France that the Russians are having two large iron frigates built there. So also are two building for the King of Italy and two for Spain. The latter Power is also having a sister ship to the Ariadne built in England, and likewise a sister vessel to our Orlando. The Achilles, which it is always said is about to be commenced at Chatham, has been put off so often that even the two new vessels just ordered at Glasgow and Millwall are likely to be afloat before she is well begun.
Th 13 June 1861In the matter of ironcased ships the French Admiralty has taken one line, and our Admiralty has taken the other. The French have convinced themselves that ironcased frigates will supersede all other vessels as fighting ships, and they are building a new navy, therefore, as fast as they can do it. The Duke of Somerset did not pretend to deny that what was recently stated in the House of Commons was true. France has so many ironsides in hand, and is making such exertions to complete them, that in a year's time or so she will have a fleet of some six-and-twenty armour-plated vessels — a force equal even in mere numbers to our Mediterranean and Channel squadrons together. The Italians, too, and the Spaniards are each preparing their ironcased vessels, and it is, of course, possible that Spain and Italy may be in alliance with France. All this while we have only seven ironplated frigates in hand; so that, for the moment, if these vessels are really such impregnable fabrics as they are said to be, we are clearly behindhand, and might be taken at a disadvantage. That, in fact, was the argument of Sir John Pakington's speech the other day. He looked at the case from this point of view, and urged our Admiralty to protect the country by immediate exertions of some kind or other. That there was something in the matter, thus considered, is plain from the intentions which Lord Clearance Paget announced; but there is also a really strong case on the other side, and the Duke of Somerset's statement brought it out very forcibly.
The French, it is true, are building all these vessels, but they are building them very indifferently. Our Admiralty can see all their mistakes as they go on. It seems as certain as possible that in twelve months time their models will be utterly superseded. The Achilles, for instance, will probably be as far in advance of the Gloire as the Gloire was in advance of an old sailing frigate. Even with our present experience we are a long way ahead of the French — not, indeed, in results, but in ideas. For example, the Duke observed, that if it should be advisable to make defensive preparations of some sort without loss of time, we could do so very easily by finishing off as ironsides some fabrics which had been commenced as wooden two-deckers. "I do not think," continued his Grace, "that they will be very efficient; but these ships will be at least as good as the French." In other words, our very makeshifts will be as effective as the best productions of our neighbours; and this, we dare say, is true enough. Not that the French are incapable of turning out good vessels; they are among the best shipbuilders in the world, but they are in such a hurry to "reconstruct" their fleet, and the true theory of these new vessels is as yet so imperfectly apprehended, that the results must from the very nature of things be imperfect too. All this is so very clear, and in this respect we are so completely on the safe side, that the only question is as to the security of the country during the "infancy" of the new science. What should we do, for instance, in the event of war, if an enemy could meet our half-dozen ironsides with a fleet three times as strong? To this it is briefly replied that orders have actually been given for the immediate completion of five of the makeshift vessels described above, and if these are at least as good as any others afloat, while our six or seven originals are far better, we could not be taken at any great disadvantage. Moreover, we could push that system of conversion to almost any extent. If there was any "pressure," we could cut down our three-deckers, plate them with iron, and send them out to keep the seas till we had got better vessels built. But the Duke had another argument also, and a most important one it was.
We have assumed throughout that these ironcased frigates are really or practically invulnerable; at any rate, that they are so much less vulnerable than other ships as to possess an incontestable superiority. But it happens that within the last few days this supposed impregnability has been brought seriously into question. "I now find," said the Duke, alluding to very recent experiments, "that Sir William Armstrong's guns have fired through eight-inch iron with the greatest facility." In point of fact, an Armstrong bolt of about 110lb. weight was sent through and through a target not only stronger than the sides of any French ship, but stronger than those of the Warrior herself. We should like to know all the conditions of the experiment before founding a conclusion upon it, but, if all is true that is reported, the science of attack has once more become superior to the science of defence, and ironsides are comparatively worthless. Our fleet of gunboats, if each vessel carried a 100lb. Armstrong gun, would be a match for all the iron navies of Europe. Government, indeed, has been proceeding upon this calculation, and has been serving out these tremendous engines to the ships of our fleet, so that if for the moment they should be inferior in powers of defence they might be superior in powers of attack.
All this, however, does really show the extreme difficulty of the problem, and goes far to justify the hesitation which our Admiralty has shown. The Duke of Somerset admitted with perfect candour that Government got perplexed by its own experiments. The more they try the more they are puzzled. First it is found that armour plates if strong enough to resist a shot are too heavy for the vessel to carry. Then, when a new ship has been laid down with flotation enough to carry thicker plates, it is found that plates of the new thickness can be pierced by a new projectile, and so are no longer to be relied upon. In fact, one of our departments is working against another, and each gets the upper hand in turn. In the Victoria Dock lies the redoubtable Warrior, on which all the resources of the Admiralty are concentrated, so that she may take the water proof against attack. Just across the river stands the Royal Gun Factory, where all the science and organization of masterminds are employed in manufacturing engines for the destruction of such vessels as the Warrior and her kind. As soon as we have succeeded in one place, we succeed again in the other, and the second success destroys the first. The French are only carrying out one idea; we are elaborating two. They are building ironsides as fast as they can; we are experimenting upon ironsides, and at the same time developing new powers of artillery. It is because we learn so clearly what a gun can do that we are puzzled over the armour by which a gun can be opposed, and at length, just now, instead of precipitately building ironsides, we are supplying our old ships with new 100-pounders. The Duke of Somerset's explanation was not only very interesting, but exceedingly frank, and it is impossible to deny, after what has now been said, that the problem before our authorities is enough to perplex them. We can only trust that during this period of transition they will never allow our actual means of protection to sink below a safe standard.
We 7 August 1861


To-morrow, for the first time, the Warrior will be on her way under steam down the river. This trip will not be a very long one — no longer, in fact, than that of moving down from the Victoria Docks to Greenhithe; but short as it is we hail it with satisfaction, as the commencement of the two or three preliminary cruises which she must make before she really ranks among our effective defences, of which, of this kind at least, we are just now so much in need. A very large amount of work has still to be done on board, which, with a ship of less colossal dimensions, would be completed before she left the docks at all. In the case of the Warrior, however, this cannot be done, as she already draws within two feet of the depth of water of the docks themselves, and deeper than this it is not considered prudent to have her in case of any accidental accumulation of sand interfering with her getting away easily. She now draws 22 feet forward and 23 by the stern. Her guns, coals, provisions, and other heavy stores still to go on board, will bring her down about four or four and a half feet more; but nothing further will be added to her present weights till she is moored lower down the river. To-morrow, therefore, soon after 1 o'clock, she starts for Greenhithe. Four tugs will attend to assist in turning, &c., if necessary, and the Warrior will herself be under steam, so that the chances of casualties in the way of her taking the ground at any point are almost out of the question. At Greenhithe she will most probably remain during the rest of the present month, swinging to adjust compasses, and taking in her heavy stores and armament. The latter, with the exception of two 100-pounder Armstrongs on the upper dock, will, for the present, at least, consist entirely of solid smooth bore 68-pounders of 95 cwt. What is the reason of thus arming her even temporarily we cannot say but it is certain that during her first cruise she will carry no other guns. But even this armament will suffice to make her the most formidable ship afloat, for the 68-pounder is still preferred by many to the 100-pounder Armstrong, with which it is undoubtedly equally efficient at short ranges of from 400 to 500 yards. Eventually, however, though very likely not before the close of the year, all her portholes will be filled with 100-pounders, save only the two foremost on the upper deck, which will be defended by 40-pounder Armstrongs. But long before this final change is made, the Admiralty will have ascertained, to the value of each fibre of iron, the exact amount of Resistance her broadside will offer to either 68 or 100-pounders. The experiments at Shoeburyness, of which we are always hearing so much, have hitherto been almost exclusively conducted against fancy targets, the like of which we must never expect to see on any ship's side. Now, however, the Admiralty are going to try the effect of shot and shell on a broadside manufactured like the Warrior. For this purpose the Thames Ironworks are building a target 20 feet long by 10 high, with one porthole in the centre, of precisely the same description of plates, teak, and all other materials as the Warrior itself. This will be sent to Shoeburyness in the course of five or six weeks, and will then be pounded at till destroyed, when the country and the Government will know exactly how much or how little the present class of iron ships can be depended on. From Greenhithe the Warrior will, early next month, go round under steam to Portsmouth. This will be her first real trip, for of course when dropping down the river to-morrow there will be no opportunity of judging how she either steers or steams. Even the run round to Portsmouth, unless the weather proves very heavy, will give no fair specimen of her powers, as the large iron launching cleats are still fastened to her bottom, which is also supposed to be very foul. She will be docked at Portsmouth for three or four days, to got rid of these impediments, and then, probably in the beginning of October, stand out for a regular trial trip in the Bay of Biscay, where her sea-going qualities will be tested with the severest impartiality. Before all this comes to pass, however, a great deal of work has to be done to her internally. There are nearly 1,000 hands employed upon her now in completing the cabins and fittings up between decks, and though each day shows marked advances towards the finish, more than enough, nevertheless, remains to do to show that it is very unlikely she will be able to start for Portsmouth before the 5th or 6th of next month at soonest. The arrangements for working the tiller we venture, with the utmost deference, to think are exceedingly complicated. She can be steered alike from the upper, main, and lower deck, but it seems almost an open question if, with the utmost number of men they are able to put at the wheels, they will ever have sufficient power to get the helm over more than 15 or 18 degrees. The difficulty which is likely to be experienced in this respect would certainly seem to call for the introduction of Mr. Humphry's beautiful little machine, by which the helm can be forced hard over in three or four seconds by the irresistible might of hydraulic pressure. With this simple apparatus, which works so admirably in the Mooltan and other ships, one man would be ample to turn the Warrior in any direction, though of course the usual tiller ropes could be kept on in case of anything happening to the machine itself. Workmen just now are busily engaged in building a shot-proof tower, or rifle chamber, in the centre of the spar deck, just forward of the mainmast. This tower is apparently being built because La Gloire and most of the French ships have a similar iron martello on their upper decks also. That in the Warrior is oval-shaped, being about 12 feet long by 8 wide, and a little over 7 feet high. It is built of double teak, lined with iron, and will be coated all over its sides and roof with 4½-inch iron plates, exactly similar to the Warrior's broadside. At about 6 feet from the ground a series of small apertures, of some 6 inches diameter, will be pierced, for the men to fire through. The theory of this tower is, that the Warrior when fully laden will be little more than a frigate's height from the water, and in engaging a large ship (say a French three-decker, with its usual crowd of guns on the spar deck) the enemy would be able to fire right down on to the deck of the Warrior, and clear it of every living soul. The tower on deck is capable of holding at least eight men, who have two small openings through which they can communicate with the crew below, and up which loaded rifles can be passed for them to fire through the loopholes as fast as possible. The fire of these eight marksmen continually supplied with loaded rifles, and sending their bullets through the enemy's ports, would be enough, it is estimated, to keep down the fire of eight or ten guns, while in case of an attempt to carry by boarding, they would, of course, be able to inflict a murderous slaughter on the assailants scattered over the vast expanse of deck and utterly exposed. One tower, however, seems scarcely enough for all this, and the efforts of it defenders to be thoroughly efficient should be seconded by a few marksmen well sheltered in the fore, main, and mizen tops. One cupola melting furnace has been erected in the forward stoke-hole for melting iron to fill shells with. A full charge in this of, say, six tons would supply molten iron for upwards of 500 missiles. A half dozen such shots lodging between the timbers of a wooden ship would set her ablaze from stem to stern in ten minutes. Against an iron vessel they would of course be harmless. With a vessel of such peculiar construction as the Warrior, nothing appeared so difficult of accomplishment as securing a perfect system of ventilation through her dark iron-bound decks. This all-important matter has now, we are glad to say, been brought to almost complete perfection, and either in action or out of it the Warrior will be one of the best ventilated ships afloat. The draught of air is secured by means of two large metal pipes, which pass through the entire length of the vessel from stem to stern. In addition to the natural draught through these, the air, whenever it is necessary, can be driven through them at a prodigious velocity by fans worked by a 30-horse power auxiliary engine. These pipes ventilate all the coal bunkers, and keep a constant passage of air through the 'tween decks, and ordinary canvas hose pipes screwed into the sides of the pipe convey strong currents to any portion of the ship, just as so much water would be conveyed. When in action a powerful draught of air can be sent by the fanners through all the pipes and coal bunkers. The latter, of course, communicate directly with the coal shoots on the main deck, the covers of which being taken off will allow a great stream of air to rise almost between each gun amidships. The smoke, therefore, of the guns will be, it is hoped, driven out through the ventilators over the portholes. But for some such arrangement as this, with the very narrow portholes of the Warrior and the quantity of smoke generated by the firing of breech loaders, her main deck would be little short of suffocating during an engagement. The stoke-holes, it is anticipated, will be very cool, but the engine-room not so much so. It is very likely, therefore, that the latter will be fitted with down and upcast airshafts which will do all that is necessary in respect of ventilation. The designs for the six new ironsides the Admiralty are about to build have not yet been made known publicly, Official rumour says that they are to be 40 feet longer, three feet wider beam, and with a flatter floor than either the Warrior or Black Prince. They are to be of 7,500 tons, instead of 6,500, and this additional thousand tons and greater midship section will enable them to carry armour-plates over all, from stem to stern. They will have no beak of any kind, but will be almost as straight at bow and stern as the little river steamers. The stem, however, though rising at a right angle from the water, will be as sharp and fine as the edge of a wedge. We do most sincerely hope that the official incubation of these schemes is nearly over, and that they will soon resolve themselves into something more tangible than Admiralty on dits. If all six had their keels laid and were fast progressing, we should still have done very little to diminish the immense distance by which France has outstripped us in respect of these vessels. She can show 15 — some quite, and some almost ready — against the Warrior, to be ready in October, Black Prince, Defence, and Resistance, to be ready in December, and two which have just begun building. As for the Achilles at Chatham, it is even more mythical than its redoubtable namesake. It has been building, we are told, for more than a year; yet it is only within the last few days that some of the keel plates were laid. The Admiralty have had warnings enough given them by this country with regard to iron ships; but all our warnings have been as nothing compared with the unmistakable monitions they have had in the preparations of France. Yesterday the Thames Ironworks received an order for an iron steam ram for the Russian Government. The vessel is to be 3,500 tons, and to carry a heavy armament of 40 guns. She is to have a most prononcé "beak" projecting under water more than 20 feet in advance of the apparent bows. If this ship attains the high rate of speed for which she is built she will be an overmatch for a whole Channel squadron of ordinary wooden ships.
We 4 September 1861


At the close of the Session the Admiralty got a snug vote of 2,500,000l. for new iron frigates, which, in round numbers, is just the price of five of these costly vessels, according to the new scale of dimensions on which they are in future to be built. Having got the money, the authorities issued their plans, and called upon the leading firms for tenders. These tenders were duly sent in to Somerset-house on Saturday, and yesterday it was notified to Mr. Mare, of Millwall, Mr. Laird, of Birkenhead, and to the Thames Iron Works, where the Warrior was built, that their offers were accepted, and that they were to commence the construction of the vessels forthwith. On the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread, we suppose we must be satisfied with this small addition to our iron defences, though we must own we should have been infinitely better pleased if the Admiralty had taken heart of grace and ordered the five outright, especially as they have the money, and that it will take at least two years to complete each vessel. It is, indeed, rumoured that five or six months hence orders will be given for the remaining two frigates, but this is hardly a satisfactory explanation, if they are meant to be built at all, for simply deferring their construction for so long a period. The standard of excellence was thought to have been attained when the fine lines, ample dimensions, and immense defensive armour of the Warrior and Black Prince were finally decided upon. Very little more than two years have elapsed since these matters were all fixed, yet even in that short time the science of building invulnerable vessels has rapidly developed itself, for in several most important particulars the new ships will differ very much from the Warrior class, on which it is hoped and expected they will be an immense improvement. The Defence and Resistance, ugly and clumsy as they undoubtedly are, are nevertheless as great an improvement upon the floating batteries as the Warrior and Black Prince in turn improved upon them. If the three intended ships only again improve as much on the Warrior, it will show that we are advancing with very rapid strides towards perfection in the manufacture of these colossal engines of modern warfare.
In three most important points the proposed vessels will be great improvements. In the first place, each will be built to carry 60 guns; secondly, they will not only be as fast and handsome as the Warrior, but they also are to be specially built to be used as steam rams, having their bows beneath the water projecting far in advance of the apparent bows above; and, lastly, by the addition of some 700 tons to their size each will be able to carry a complete coating of armour from end to end, so that every part of the ship will be as invulnerable as masses of iron and beams of teak can make it.
The length of the new ships is to be 400 feet on the low water line; breadth extreme, 59ft. 4in.; depth, 21ft. below the gun-deck; and tonnage, 6,815. The length of the Warrior class is 380 feet, breadth 58 feet, and tonnage 6,170. The breadth of deck, however, in the proposed frigates will not be greater than the Warrior, as the Admiralty have most wisely decided on giving the sides of the new vessels a greater incline towards the deck. Thus the slope of the Warrior's sides inwards from the water's edge, or the "tumble home," as it is termed, is at an incline of about one foot in 13, whereas in the ships to be built it will be at an incline of one in eight and a half feet, which, of course, not only increases the chances of the shot glancing off, but has the more important advantage of getting the weight more to the centre, and diminishing the tendency to roll. In the same way the floors of all the ships are to be made fuller and flatter, which will give them increased stability in a seaway, while from the extreme fineness of the lines fore and aft even the great speed of the Warrior will, it is said, be exceeded by at least half a knot an hour. The engines of all are to be 1,250-horse power, and are to be made by Penn and Sons, and the increase of tonnage will allow them to carry coals for from 11 to 12 days full steaming, instead of nine days, which is all the bunkers of either the Warrior or Black Prince can stow. The plates of the new vessels are to be larger and thicker than the Warrior's. The broadside of the latter is coated with 4½ inches of iron, 22 inches of teak, with half an inch of iron inside that again. The new ships are to have 5½ inches of iron, 11 inches of teak, and half an inch of iron (the skin of the ship) inside all. The Admiralty, however, reserve to themselves the right of altering this part of the plan, and substituting plates of 6½ inches thick and doing away with the teak altogether. But no decision will be arrived at on this point until some important experiments, which are about to be made at Shoeburyness, have been concluded, and proved that the change will be for the better. As it is at present arranged, even with the 5½-inch plates, it will require nearly 2,000 tons of armour to cover the new ships, while the entire weight of the plates on the Warrior is only 950. It is this increased number, size, and thickness of the wrought-iron plates which adds so much to the cost of the new ships. Up to the present the cost of the Warrior in hull, engines, and rigging has amounted to no less a sum than 360,000l. With all her stores, fittings, and guns onboard, when ready for sea she will have cost from first to last rather over 400,000l. The new vessels, for their hull, engines, and rigging alone, will require an outlay of no less than 430,000l., so that at the lowest estimate each vessel is certain to swallow up upwards of half a million sterling before it is fairly at sea. These are large items certainly, but when the question is fairly viewed even the sternest of economists will be inclined to admit that the country will have got value for its money, for the three ships will be, beyond all comparison, the finest of their kind in the world. The shape of the bows in order to fit them for the discharge of their tremendously destructive duties as steam-rams is to be very peculiar. Viewed in outline, the profile of the stem will present the curved line that a swan makes when swimming. The breast or beak is thus below the water-line, and projects some 20ft. at least in advance of what seems to be the bows above. Thus, the long overhanging weight which the false cutwater of the Warrior necessitates is entirely done away with, and the bows are water-borne for some 20ft. at least before any weight comes upon them. A space of 30ft. long by 9ft. deep of these ostensible bows is without armour plates, and only defended from the spar deck line upwards with teak bulwarks, which can be lowered down like the bulwarks of ordinary gunboats. Inside this slight defence, however, comes a semi-circular shield of armour plates 7 ft. high, and spreading completely across the vessel from side to side. In this there will be portholes for two immense Armstrong guns. On the main deck below will be a similar shield, reaching up to the iron spar deck, but no guns will be on this, as it is simply intended to protect the crew from a raking fire. By these means no top-heavy weight is incurred at the bows, as the semi-circular shields are more than 40ft. within the waterborne line of the vessel forward. The bowsprit will be of iron, and we believe it is intended to make it with a powerful hinge, where it springs from the deck, so that before going into action it can be turned backwards and inwards, that there may be nothing to deaden the force with which the ships will strike when the occasion offers to use them against a foe as steam-rams. As far as is yet known the Admiralty still cling to the conventional three wooden masts and square rig, which is about as unsuitable for these ships as the full uniform of a Lifeguardsman would be to a swimmer. The wooden masts are not only easy to be shot away, but are perfectly certain to break away the very first time an attempt is made to use the vessels in running others down. It is very possible that with the present form of square rig the masts, even if made of wrought iron, would do the same too. But iron masts at least have this advantage, that they could not be shot away, and even when they went overboard would sink alongside like a deep-sea lead and prevent all chance of the screw being fouled by the mass of cordage they drag after them. The wooden masts of the Warrior can not only be easily shot down, but would be certain, as they drifted and floated astern, to foul the screw and cripple the whole ship in two minutes afterwards. These iron vessels are so special and peculiar both as regards their construction and intended uses that a special rig should be designed for them. Three masts, it is confessed, will not spread sufficient canvas to enable these monsters to beat off a lee shore in a gale. Yet somehow a fourth mast is objected to as an innovation, as if all these iron frigates were not the most stupendous innovations that naval men have welcomed since the introduction of steam. When our line-of-battle ships were only 150 ft. long three masts were crammed into them, and now that we are building them 400ft. long only three masts are allowed. The Defence and Resistance, however, have iron masts, but the Warrior and Black Prince, which need them ten times more, have wooden spars. On all the new ships there is to be an iron tower on the spar deck, crenelated for musketry, in case of an enemy boarding. It is rumoured that the noble Secretary to the Admiralty got this hint from a visit to the French iron frigate Invincible, building at Toulon. It is capable of improvement, however, if, in addition to the loopholes for rifles, two small ports are cut at the base for short carronades, which, with a single charge of canister, would do more to sweep the decks than the fire of a dozen riflemen. The sterns of the new vessels will be what is called "pink" sterns, that is, instead of being round and full, like that of the Warrior, will come to a fine wedge-shaped point, almost similar the bows of a fast-going iron packet. By adopting this shape the number of armour plates required to coat it is reduced by at least a third, while the angle will be such that all shots must glance, unless fired point blank at the broadside. The internal subdivisions as to water-tight compartments, &c., will be almost precisely similar to those of the Warrior. The main decks are to be armed with 36 100-pounder Armstrongs, and the spar deck with 21 guns of a similar calibre. Two forward guns through the shield we have already mentioned will, it is said, be 200-pounders, and so also will the pivot-gun at the stern. In the meantime the Achilles, which it has been stated over and over again that the Government are building at Chatham, remains almost as much a myth as ever, so far as actual progress is concerned. Even the keel is not yet laid. There are two line-of-battleships at Chatham which have been altered and strengthened so as to bear coating with armour plates, and there are two others at Portsmouth which are to be similarly converted, but it will probably be a long time before any of these are afloat. Even the Warrior, which is fitting at Greenhithe, is not likely to be ready to go round to Portsmouth before the end of this month, and when there she must be many days in dock before she can really be said to be fit to proceed to sea. None of the other vessels nominally finished will be ready this year at all.
In the course of another fortnight or three weeks the public will learn, from the result of actual experiments at Shoeburyness, the precise amount of Resistance which the vessels of the Warrior class may be expected to offer to the cannonade of an enemy. Hitherto the iron-plate commission at Shoeburyness have conducted their experiments against what we may call theoretical or fancy targets. Certainly, in nine cases out of ten, the targets fired at were very different in their method of construction from the broadside of any of our iron ships, either as they are now built or are ever likely to be. The Commissioners, however, have now ordered the Thames lronworks to build a target 20 feet by 10, to be a precise facsimile of the Warrior's broadside. This has just been completed at Blackwall, and will be sent down to Shoeburyness in the course of a week or so. When fixed on the practice ground there it will be fired at until it is completely destroyed, but, if appearances are to be trusted, it will take a great deal of hammering to make any serious impression on it. In any case the defensive value of the Warrior and others like her will be ascertained to a single shot. Perhaps the public may wonder why an experiment so conclusive and so easily made was never thought of till the ships were quite finished, when blunders (if any have been made) are of course now irrevocable. In the Thames Ironworks are also lying the masts for the Defence. These are splendid samples of wrought-iron work. Each is 115 feet long by 32 inches wide, and though only a ton heavier than a wooden spar of the same size, are more than 10 times as strong. So also at the same yard is an iron spar of 120 feet by 2 feet diameter at the base, which has been made for a flagstaff for the Victoria Tower of the new Houses of Parliament. This huge flagstaff is built up of boilerplate half an inch thick, with six wrought-iron T-shaped ribs passing along its entire length. Its weight is rather over 10 tons, and the summit of the pole is surmounted with a gilt copper crown, almost large enough for a small party to dine in. This staff is to fly a standard of proportionate size - namely, about 15 yards wide by 40 long. When one sees of what size and strength these iron poles can be made, it appears more to be regretted than ever that the Warrior and Black Prince are not fitted with them. The wooden ones the former ship has now got are too large for the men to handle easily, though much too weak and slight for the strain and shock they will have to bear if ever Captain Cochrane has to charge an enemy and run him down. In all other respects the Warrior is perfectly qualified to cut through a three-decker down to the very keel.
Fr 29 November 1861


When the Emperor of the French first began building his iron fleet it was thought by many shrewd observers in this country that he made rather a false step in the attempt to secure preponderance for his navy by the use of the new material, for that, from the immense resources of our great private yards, and our unquestioned superiority in all relating to ironwork, it would be seen that England could turn out six such ships quicker, better, and cheaper than three could be built in France. Not more than three years have elapsed since that time, and already the prediction is fulfilled. It reflects no ordinary credit on the skill of our manufacturers and naval architects that they have even now overtaken the long start France had of us in this respect; that while the French dockyards are still feeling their way, experimenting on kinds of plates and forms of ships, and turning out a succession of almost failures at prodigious cost, we have already sent afloat two of the finest, fastest, and most invulnerable ships in the world. It is a very general but a very great error, however, to suppose that all our iron frigates are Warriors and Black Princes. We did not jump at once to perfection, and all our ironsides, except the two we have named, represent more or less strongly the successive stages of failure through which we have passed to success. The Resistance and Defence are neither steam rams nor iron frigates. Unwieldy in form and slow in speed, they can never be safely used for more than floating batteries. Fortunately, however, they are built entirely of iron, instead of, like the first floating batteries, iron over oak, and the Defence and Resistance, therefore, are likely to be as strong a century hence as they are now, while the batteries built in 1855 are some of them already broken up, and all the rest rotten. The Hector and Valiant, now building at Westwood and Bailie's and Napier's, are as great improvements on the Defence and Resistance as the Warrior and Black Prince have been improvements upon them all. To take a single instance of the rapidity with which science and engineering skill are developing to the utmost the powers of these tremendous ships, let us look at the Warrior and Black Prince. These are sister ships, alike to a rivet, and on the trial cruise of the first named she attained, and with wind and steam maintained, a speed of 17¼ knots an hour, or 20 statute miles — very nearly the speed of a Parliamentary train. Yet, from the experience of the Warrior, it is said that Mr. Penn already sees where he may introduce such modifications into the engines of the Black Prince as will give her nearly half a knot an hour more speed than her great sister. But even with these results, which surpass the most sanguine expectation, we are not content to stand still. The four improved Warriors ordered and now building — the Achilles, at Chatham, the Minotaur, at the Thames Ironworks, the Captain, at Mr. Laird's, and the Northumberland, at Mr. Mare's — are each and all of them to be larger, longer, stronger, and swifter than any that have gone before. In fact, when we look back on our brief but vigorous competition with the French, we find that our first attempts at iron ships were in many important particulars below the standard from which the French started with La Gloire. But the difference is that the French have adhered to their standard, while we have constantly striven for improvements and more improvements; and the result is that, so far as our present knowledge goes, we have attained perfection, while our neighbours are comparatively still drudging at the bottom of the form. That this statement of the merits of the two countries in iron ships is perfectly well founded we think we can show. Only a few weeks since one or two of our most eminent shipbuilders, thoroughly conversant with ironsides, visited some of the French dockyards to see what was doing there. They were allowed to inspect some of the iron-clad frigates building, all the works connected with which were advancing much more slowly than tlhey had been led to expect. Those which they inspected were merely wooden ships plated, or to be plated, with apparently little, if at all, more than three-inch iron. They were mostly vessels of from 3,000 to 3,500 tons; in fact, frigates and two-deckers cut down and much strengthened in their scantling, to enable them to carry armour from end to end. From the want of great tonnage, a flat floor, and large displacement, it was evident that they would be so immersed by the weight of their armour as to bring their portsills all dangerously near the water, and render their guns all but useless in a seaway. Nor is this their only fault, for their wooden frames not having the strength of our iron vessels, which are as rigid as bolts, work so much when steaming in a seaway as almost to work them to pieces, and make docking and fresh caulking necessary after every gale. But the worst of all their defects is that the iron and the oak do not go well together, and we may infer, from the causes being alike in both cases, that the framework of the French ships will rot as quickly as our own floating batteries did — that is to say, within some eight or ten years. These defects are very well known to the Admiralties of other Governments besides our own, and the result is that the Continental Powers are coming here to have their iron frigates built, instead of going to France, and thus, through the medium of our private firms, encouraging still further the monopoly we have almost gained in the manufacture of these great ships of war. Iron war vessels, of various sizes and thickness of armour, are now building on the Thames for the Russian, Danish, and Peruvian Governments, and it is said that in a short time Spain intends to order two frigates of the same class. If anything were needed to show that the French are still at a loss to make really good armour plates, it would be found in the recent offer of the authorities at Toulon to the Thames Ironworks. When the great experiments at Shoeburyness against the Warrior target, and to which we shall refer presently, had proved that the plates and the side of the ship generally were practically invulnerable to the fire of artillery, no matter how concentrated, the Thames Company were offered their own terms to manufacture 1,000 tons of similar plates for the dockyard at Toulon. This proposition the Thames Company declined, alleging, truly, that they had already as many orders of the kind in hand for our Government as they could compass. Had only one or two plates been ordered, it would have meant nothing more than that the French were about to experiment on them as we had done ourselves. But with the Protectionist leanings of French dockyard officials, it is not too much to presume that after the trial at Shoeburyness they must have known that their own armour plates were vastly inferior to the Warrior's when they went the extreme length of trying to get for themselves no less than a thousand tons of such plates from an English firm. The experiments upon the target, the success of which was so unequivocally endorsed by our neighbours, took place at Shoeburyness, in the presence of the Lords of the Admiralty and a large number of naval and military officers, scientific gentlemen, and others. The target was a perfect section of the Warrior's broadside, 20 feet long and 10 high, made by the Thames Iron Company, of exactly the same materials as the Warrior itself. This was erected at 200 yards' distance from a battery of six guns — two solid 68-pounders, three of Armstrong's 100-pounders, and one 120-pounder shunt gun. Every one knew before the experiments commenced that such a target would stand an immense amount of pounding, and the chief curiosity was evinced to see how the teak backing would support the plates, and, above all, how the rivets in the ribs would resist the tremendous concussion. No one, however, was prepared for the astounding success of the result that did ensue, and which showed itself at the close of the experiments, during which the target was subjected to every conceivable ordeal of artillery practice, yet survived comparatively uninjured, and, practically as invulnerable as ever. The guns were fired in volleys of threes, and fours, and sixes simultaneously. Their shots were concentrated upon white spots painted on what were supposed to be the parts most likely to yield. On these the fire of the most tremendous missiles — 100-pounders, 120-pounders, and even 200-pounder bolts — were directed, with a force and weight that seemed irresistible; but in vain. The shot flew off in ragged splinters, hissing through the air, the iron plates became almost red-hot under the tremendous strokes, and the whole target rang like a huge gong, but nothing more. As a rule, the 68-pounders left their mark in massive dents more deeply than the 100-pounder Armstrongs, but the live percussion shell of either did little more than discolour the plates with the smoke of their impotent explosions. Two discharges, each of three 200lb. cast-iron bolts, were fired in succession at two different spots, but, though, of course the plates had been often struck before in the same places, the additional injury was comparatively trifling. A grand final salvo was given with all the six guns, trained three on each of the already battered spots. As the guns were loaded each with 16lb. of powder, this volley, in fact was equal to a 600lb. shot fired at the target with 100lb. of powder. The effect of the tremendous trial was to make a gap on one side of the target about 15 inches long, and five deep, driving the iron, in fact, almost into the teak. Some bolts of the plates were also loosened, and the plates themselves began to crack under their long ordeal. Yet, strange to say, even under this the strong teak backing was still undisturbed, and not even the paint on the rivets had started. In fact, as representing the side of a ship, she would still have been perfectly water-tight and uninjured. The tonguing and grooving by which the edges of the plates are dovetailed into each other had given way, as we always maintained it would, and some of the plates themselves had started outwards as much as an inch and a half. But the target, as a target, was as good as ever. There is only one possible condition in which the Warrior could be placed to be exposed to a concentrated fire as severe as that to which her section was subjected at Shoeburyness, and that would be if she stranded within 200 yards of the guns of a powerful fortress. Even then, in such a last extremity, we are very much inclined to believe the Warrior would be quite as formidable to the fort as the fort to her.
The practical result of this grand experiment has been to show that nothing is gained by backing up the armour plates with such a tremendous thickness of teak as 20 inches. It is found that practically 10 inches will do as well as 20, and that the saving thus effected in the reduction of weight will allow another inch thickness of iron to be used in the plates themselves. Thus the "improved Warriors," now building,, instead of 4½ inches of armour and 20 inches of teak, are to have 10 inches of teak and 5½ of iron — an addition to the metal covering which is really unnecessary, as they are already invulnerable, in the most perfect and literal sense of the term, to al the efforts of artillery. Before speaking of the intended Warriors, however, we must refer for a moment to those we have got. In their construction, the Admiralty very wisely abandoned mere routine, except on two points, where it was rigidly adhered to — in the rig and the number of the crew; and it is exactly in these two points that the Warrior is deficient. Routine persists in considering this tremendous vessel — larger than three line-of-battle ships, and a match for half a dozen — as an ordinary frigate, and so she has only an ordinary frigate's crew of 600 men. Had she been a vessel of the Hero class — that is to say, nearly two-thirds smaller — she would have been manned with 850 or 900 men; but being more than double the size of the largest three-decker in the navy, she gets 600. Every one knows how this grievous disparity tells on the crew; how, no matter what the weather or the hour, all hands must be on deck to perform manoeuvres which the watch of a line-of-battle ship can do with ease. In fact, the Warrior has more than a line-of-battle ship's sails and spars, with less than half the number of men to handle them that are considered absolutely necessary in a ship of 3,000 tons instead of 7,000. All hands would be a whole day holystoning the Warrior's deck, and it will not keep clean an hour longer than a smaller vessel's. In short, unless the Admiralty want to make these ships unpopular with the sailors, by exacting from their crews an amount of work out of all proportion to their number, they will allow them the crew which their size and importance require. With regard to the rig, all practical shipbuilders were most strongly of opinion that she ought to have had a fourth mast, and the late experimental cruises of the Warrior have proved the correctness of their judgment. Her mainmast is so far aft that the power exerted by her sails is most disadvantageously placed, and the result, it is said, is that the Warrior is rather unmanageable under canvas alone. We believe that these facts are so well known to the Admiralty that a special rig, giving them four masts and more fore and aft sails, will be adopted for the ships now building.
Tu 3 December 1861


In the article on this subject which appeared in our columns last week we stated that it was a great error to suppose that all our built ironsides were like the Warrior. We venture now to point out another error which is also very general - namely, that of estimating the whole of our iron frigates, whether building or built, as an already effective fleet. Now, the fact is that at least 20 months from the present date must elapse before four of our finest vessels - the Minotaur, the Achilles, the Captain, and the Northumberland, are even afloat; and we learn from the experience of the Warrior that, even using the greatest speed in equipment, it would be at least six months from that time before they could be ready for commission. The truth is that our iron fleet is much deficient in numbers as compared with that of the French. The great size and enormous massiveness of our vessels render the building of them a very slow process. It is the knowledge of this that makes us anxious to see more of them in hand, and we should hear with unmixed satisfaction that the Admiralty had carried out the intention they expressed this autumn of calling for tenders for the construction of three more, in addition to those now building. The four really iron ships now being constructed (for we do not include in this category either the Bulwark [laid down in 1859, suspended in 1861 and finally cancelled in 1873] or the Royal Oak at Chatham, which are merely wooden two-deckers cut down to be plated with iron, on the French system) are what are called the "improved Warriors," whose names we have already given. Every improvement which it is now seen that the Warrior requires these ships will possess, while, on the other hand, they will be free from all her defects, especially that most important one of construction, which leaves the stem and stern vulnerable to shot. The new ships will be coated with armour from end to end. At every point they will offer to the fire of an enemy plates of wrought iron not less than 5½ inches thick, backed up with 10 inches of teak, with half an inch of iron (the skin of the ship) inside all. After the complete success of the trials at the Warrior target, the propriety of adding to the weight of the armour-plates by increasing their thickness an inch is strongly disputed by some of the highest authorities. For every purpose of warfare the Warrior is practically invulnerable, and it is contended that by still further adding to the weight of the plates no additional protection is gained, and a great deal may be lost in the efficiency of the vessels by rendering them dangerously unwieldy in rough weather. The Warrior's plates of 4½ inches weigh 950 tons, but to cover the new larger ships from end to end with plates of 5½ inches will require no less than 2,000 tons of metal - an enormous mass of dead weight for a ship to carry in addition to her ponderous engines, stores, guns, shot, and shell. It is this increased number, size, and thickness of the plates that add such a heavy item to the cost of each of the new vessels, which require for their hull, engines, and rigging alone an outlay of nearly 450,000l. The Warrior up to the present time has cost rather over 400,000l., and her successors, before they are at sea, will cost nearly 600,000l. These are large items, but it may be truly said that the country gets value for its money, and the first outlay is the last, for the hulls of these tremendous vessels ought to be as good two or three centuries hence as they are now.
The new ships are not only to be steam frigates, but steam rams also, for their bows project beneath the water far in advance of the apparent bows above. The bows, in fact, are formed like the outline of a swan's breast, according to the plan first suggested in the Warrior by Captain Ford. The length of the Warrior is 380 feet, breadth 58, and her tonnage 6,170. The new ships are 400 feet long, 59½ broad, and with a tonnage of 6,815. The increase of breadth in the new ships will, however, be almost entirely under the water line; and by this means, and by giving them a slightly flatter floor, their displacement is nearly 1,000 tons greater than the Warrior. This, as the decks are not wider, also increases the slope of the sides inwards from the water's edge, which, in the Warrior, is at an incline of about 1 in 13 feet, but in the new ships will be at an incline of 1 in 8½ feet. This not only almost doubles the chance of the shot glancing, but has the still more important advantage of getting the weight more to the centre and diminishing the tendency to roll. The power of the Warrior is 1,250 nominal; that of the new ships has not yet been decided on, though engineers say it is a point which admits of very little doubt. If the high speed of the Warrior is to be maintained the new ships should have an increase of power in proportion to the increased weight and bulk of the mass to be moved. Bearing in mind that they will have a greater displacement and greater midship section than the Warrior, 1,500-horse power is considered the minimum of what they ought to have to do their 17 knots. No economy will be so false as that which reduces the speed of these noble vessels. The arrangement of the bows in order to fit them for the discharge of their tremendously destructive duties as steam rams is very peculiar. The "beak" is below the water line, and projects, as we have said, at least 20 feet in advance of what seem to be the bows above. Thus the long overhanging weight which the false cutwater of the Warrior necessitated in order to conceal her beak, which is above water, is entirely done away with, and the bows are water-borne for some 20 feet at least before any weight comes upon them. A space of 30 feet long by 9 feet deep of these seeming bows is left without armour plates, and only defended from the spar deck line upwards by teak bulwarks, which lower down like the bulwarks of the little gunboats. But inside this slight defence comes a semi-circular shield of armour, 7 feet high and 5½ inches thick, and spreading completely across the bows of the vessel before the foremast, from side to side. In this there are to be portholes for two immense Armstrong guns. On. the main deck below is another similar shield, reaching up to the iron spar deck, but without guns, as it is simply intended to cover the crew against the chance of a raking fire. By this arrangement the most complete protection is given to the men both on the spar and main deck, yet without incurring any top-heavy weight forward, as the shields are both within the water-borne line of the hull by at least 40 feet. The bowsprits of all are to be of iron fitted with a powerful hinge where they spring from the, deck, so that before going into action they can be turned backwards and inwards, that there may be nothing to deaden the force with which the ships will strike when the occasion offers to use them as steam rams against the enemy. There appears to be very little doubt but that all these vessels will have four masts specially designed to carry more fore and aft canvass. Even the short cruises of the Warrior have shown that the conventional three wooden masts and square rig are as unsuitable for these ships as armour plates would be on a Holyhead packet. But, above all things, whatever the number of the masts, it is of the last consequence that all should be of wrought iron. Wooden masts are not only easily shot away, but are perfectly certain to go by the board on the very first attempt to use the vessels for one of the purposes for which they are specially built - namely, as steam rams. It is very possible that in this last case the iron masts might do the same too, especially if square rigged; but they have this immense advantage over timber, that they could not be shot away, and that if they went overboard from other causes they would tear themselves clear, and go down alongside like a deep sea lead. Wooden ones would, of course, float; drift astern, and to a certainty, foul the screw with the wreck of cordage. No officer in either service was more alive to the imminence of the dangers which must thus arise from this cause from the use of wooden masts than the late Sir Howard Douglas, and as iron masts are as light, much cheaper, and ten times more durable than wood, every steamship in the service whether of wood or iron, should be fitted with them. In the choice of names for our ironsides the Admiralty do not seem lately to have been particularly happy. Twice they have altered the names of those now building. We hope neither the Achilles nor the Captain are to be rechristened, though we have not the least objection to another improvement on the names of the other two. The Iron Duke would be a far more appropriate name than the Minotaur, and an Inkermann infinitely more suggestive than the Northumberland. The sterns of all these new ships will be what is called "pink" sterns - that is, instead of being round and full, like the Warrior and Black Prince, terminating in a fine wedge-shaped point, almost similar to the bows of a fastgoing steamer.
By adopting this method of construction the number of armour plates required to cover it is reduced by rather more than a third, while the angle presented will be such that all shots must glance unless fired point blank at the broadside. All the internal subdivisions as to water-tight compartments, &c., will be precisely similar to those of the Warrior, and the same effectual protection is given to the magazines by casing them round with the coal and water tanks. The armament for each vessel is to be 36 100-pounder Armstrongs on the main deck, and on the spar deck 21 guns of the same enormous calibre. The two forward guns through the semi-circular shield we have already described are to be 200-pounders, with a pivot gun of the same size in the stern. They will thus be enabled at a single broadside to throw a ton and a half of shot and shell to a distance of nearly five miles if necessary.
In addition to these four vessels now building the Admiralty are preparing at Chatham to coat the Bulwark and Royal Oak with iron plates on the French plan. Both these vessels were intended as 90-gun ships, but have had their dimensions altered and their scantling increased, to enable them to carry 4½-inch armour plates. It is admitted that these ships are only makeshifts which the Admiralty were compelled to adopt to keep pace with the superiority of numbers which the French navy had in vessels of this kind. Like all hurried makeshifts, however, both these frigates will be costly, and comparatively inefficient. In the previous article on this subject we stated how it was now found in the French navy that vessels built on this system (and they have none others) were practically almost useless as seagoing frigates. In our own navy it has for sometime been known that woodwork, no matter of what strength, is unequal to sustain the long continued vibrations of the screw, when driven with a power and velocity which are necessary to the maintenance of the high speed our war vessels are admitted to possess. It was only the other day that the Emerald, a new 50-gun frigate, was compelled to return to port for caulking and repairs, rendered necessary by her having to steam against a head sea and hold her own in a fierce gale. It is easy to see how enormously this vibration is increased with the additional weight of armour plates, which make the timbers work so much that docking and caulking are necessary after every trip. From this cause alone La Gloire, the boast and pride of the French Navy, is now openly admitted to be all but unseaworthy. Our Admiralty cannot surely expect a different result for their ships built on the same manner. It is but poor consolation to know that these vessels are only makeshifts, and that no more are to be built, as the money that will be spent on them is almost thrown away. Ten years are the longest time even the most sanguine give them before the oak rots away under the iron.
It may not be out of place here to notice briefly what other Governments besides the French are doing towards reconstructing their navies. The Danish Government ridicule the idea of 5½ inch plates, and say very truly that, as 2½ inches will keep out any shell, they do not care for the solid shot. They are, accordingly, having two very fine gunboats, of great speed and heavy armament, built here on this principle. The Russians are building here a very fine frigate of 30 guns, and 3,500 tons, on a model somewhat similar to the Warrior, and to be coated from end to end with 4-inch iron-plates. Orders for other vessels of this class are expected. The Peruvian Government is building small ironplated gunboats here, and, in addition to some fine wooden frigates building for the Spanish Government on the Thames, instructions to build iron frigates for the same Power are daily looked for. The Federal Government are building three gunboats to be plated with three-inch iron, and one most peculiar sub-marine boat, called "Stevens's BatteryExternal link," which only shows its six heavy guns on a slight iron ridge just above the water. A full account of this extraordinary vessel, which is now being hurried forward by the Federal Government, and will probably be ready in a month or two, has already been forwarded to our Admiralty. The Confederate Government is coating, or endeavouring to coat, the Merrimac, 50, and the Mississippi, 13, the two vessels which they seized in the Norfolk Navy-yard, with four-inch iron plates, and King Victor Emmanuel is having two wooden-plated frigates of 3,000 tons each constructed on the French plan in France. It is not too much to say, however, that as yet nothing has been designed or attempted which at all approaches the standard of the English iron-clad frigates. The cause for regret is that we have so few of them, and that, in spite of the generosity of Parliament on this subject, the Admiralty are still so timid about ordering more.
Th 10 April 1862


While all Europe is just now ringing with surprise and almost consternation at the practical results of the great naval duel between the Merrimac and the Monitor, we have to-day to record still more important experiences, which are the very opposite of those elicited by the contest in Hampton-roads. In brief, some experiments were tried at Shoeburyness, on Tuesday afternoon, with a new gun, of large size and great calibre, which showed at every discharge that our best and hitherto considered invulnerable forms of ironsides were, so to speak, almost as easily penetrated by its shot as if the targets had been of timber! We may well pause and reflect upon the astounding nature of this discovery that, after all our labour and all our expense, after having made beyond comparison the finest and strongest iron frigate in the world, we now find that, opposed to a large muzzle-loading gun, the best of our ironsides can be as easily riddled and sunk as wooden sailing vessels. This discovery was only made on Tuesday afternoon last; and, in order that our readers may perfectly understand the experiments which led to it, and the position in which our iron frigates now stand with regard to those of other Powers, a short explanation is necessary. That it may be an explanation to all, we shall avoid, as far as possible, the use of technical terms.
For the last two or three years there has been a keen and wholesome rivalry between the War-office and the Admiralty - the former striving to devise irresistible artillery, the latter to build invulnerable ships. In the course of this emulation an immense variety of experiments has been tried at Shoeburyness upon every conceivable form of target, and upon every possible combination of iron, iron and wood, iron and indiarubber, iron and wire, and iron and hemp. Not only have the inventions of every eminent engineer been tried at Shoeburyness, but sections of the ships which foreign Powers were building have also been tested. It may surprise our readers to learn that even the construction of the Monitor has not escaped the vigilance of our Government. A section of it has been erected and fired at at Shoeburyness, and proved to be as vulnerable almost as timber, even to our commonest muzzle-loading guns. Even now, that no chance may be neglected, a target is being made of railway bars dovetailed and rivetted together in the same ingenious manner as the coating of the Merrimac, and this also will be tried in a few days, and beyond a doubt with much the same results as attended the trials at the Monitor target. The practical result of all these experiments has been, that the War-office has brought to perfection the Armstrong guns, which, as rifled and breechloading ordnance, are the best in the world, while, on the other hand, the Admiralty has succeeded in turning out, not only the fastest, but the least vulnerable ships afloat.
It will doubtless be in the recollection of our readers how a short time since a target, 20 feet long by 10 feet wide, and made exactly of the same materials and strength as the Warrior's broadside, was erected to be tested at Shoeburyness. During the whole of one day and part of a second it was subjected to the most tremendous proof. Solid 68's, 100-pounders, and 200-pounders were fired at it singly and in salvoes of three and six guns at a time, but all in vain. The concentrated volleys flew off in a hail of iron splinters. The target rang, grew almost redhot in parts, but no missile passed beyond its iron armour. The Warrior, therefore, and her sister ships were justly deemed invulnerable, and the War-office had for the time to admit that the Admiralty had constructed a vessel which practically they could not injure. But the victory has not remained with them for long. During the course of all the experiments at Shoeburyness it has been noticed that the injury inflicted upon the iron plates by the old smooth-bore 68-pounder was greater than that effected by the shot from the rifled Armstrong 110-pounder. The cause of this apparent superiority of the old gun was due to the heavier charge of powder, and therefore to the initial velocity, or, in plain terms, the speed with which the old spherical missile left the mouth of the cannon. With the Armstrong guns the velocity of the shot is from 1,150 feet to 1,200 feet per second. With the old smooth-bore muzzle-loaders the velocity is, as nearly as possible, at the rate of 1,600 feet per second, or more than one fourth greater. But the important difference between the two kinds of ordnance is, that the old smooth-bore gun after 500 yards loses its velocity, owing to the resistance of the air, with alarming rapidity, till at 3,000 yards it touches the ground, while, on the other hand, the conical form of the Armstrong shot, and the rotatory motion communicated to it by the rifling, enable it to maintain almost its initial velocity over a flight of 7,000 yards, or even more. Thus it is that if the Armstrong and the old smooth-bore gun are fired at the same instant, the shot from the latter is instantly ahead of the rifled projectile, but at 700 yards their velocities are the same, at 1,200 yards or so the rifled shot is ahead, and at 2,500 or 3,000 the old shot has made its first graze against the earth, while the Armstrong is still in mid career, and can strike with four times the force of the 68. But when firing at the iron targets at short distances the massive shot, one travelling 1,600 feet a second and the other 1,200, have each to be stopped dead in the fractional part of a second, and it therefore followed, as a matter of course, that the projectile going the fastest inflicted a damage exactly in proportion to the velocity of its flight and the charge with which it was propelled. At close point-blank ranges, therefore, the old smooth-bore 68-pounder was, weight for weight, more destructive to iron plates than the 110-pounder Armstrong.
It has, therefore, been thought that wrought-iron guns of large calibre and strong enough to stand the heaviest shot and heaviest charges would, at close range, easily penetrate any thickness of iron plates that a vessel could safely venture to sea with, and the experiments of Tuesday afternoon proved the truth of the conjecture. Sir William ArmstrongExternal link has made a 300-pounder on his own admirable principle of wrought-iron coils. This gun is about 14 feet in length, its weight is 12 tons, and its diameter at the muzzle 10½ inches. It has not been rifled, and therefore during the experiments of Tuesday it only threw round solid shot of 1561b. weight. If rifled for the Armstrong shot, which is about two and a half times the length of its diameter, it would be a 300-pounder. This gun, unrifled and with plain solid shot, was tried against that great champion of heavy weights which has hitherto come off victorious in all encounters - the redoubtable Warrior target. His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Somerset, the Duke of Sutherland, Lord Clarence Paget, Admiral Grey, Commodore Drummond, Captain Sir J.D. Hay, Captain Hewlett, Captain Yelverton, Mr. Fairbairn, sen., Mr. Laird, Mr. Samuda, Sir William Armstrong, and other noblemen and gentlemen connected with, the War-office and Admiralty, or interested in the success of artillery or iron ships, were present ; though, on the whole, the attendance was small, and the experiments were conducted with unusual privacy. The great interest was concentrated on the effect of the first shot. With the high speed which our Warriors are known to possess, and therefore the quickness with which they can steam past batteries or iron ships, it was reasoned, with perfect truth, that it was near to impossible in a running fight that they could be hit twice in the same place. If the target kept out one shot, there was every hope of a ship keeping out all. The first shot, a 115-pounder, was fired with a charge of 40lb. of powder, at a distance of 200 yards. This solved all doubts. With an indescribable crash that mingled fearfully with the report of the gun, the shot struck upon a comparatively uninjured plate, shattering the iron mass before it into little crumbs of metal, splintering the teak into fibres literally as small as pins, and, though not passing quite through the side, yet bulging and rending the inner skin of the ship in a way that would have rendered it almost impossible to stop the leakage. The second shot (still with a 401b. charge) struck close by the side of the first, making the previous damage tenfold worse, if possible. To those who did not actually see the experiments it would be difficult to describe the manner in which the iron opposite the missile was broken into minute fragments like glass; how the teak was so utterly disintegrated, that it more resembled tangles of fine twine than even the remains of woodwork and how, above all, the inner iron skin was ripped into gaps like torn paper. These two shots were quite conclusive as to the power of the gun. Had they struck an iron frigate at the water line, no means could have prevented her from sinking in half an hour. Still, however, the shot had not gone completely through the side, which it was the great object of the experiments to accomplish. The charge of powder was, therefore, increased from 40lb. to 50b., and the gun levelled at the uppermost plate of the target, which had been left untouched in previous tests. On this plate a white spot was painted to guide the artillerymen, and so true was their aim, - so exactly was the centre of the mark struck, - that every vestige of the paint was obliterated. With this increased charge the shot passed, not only through armour plate, teak, and inner skin, but buried itself in the massive timbers that support the target, and even loosened the blocks of granite by which the whole is backed up. Had it been the side of the Warrior against which this missile was directed, it would not only have gone through the side, but nearly through the opposite side as well. Another white mark was then made on the lowest plate of the target, and again the artillerymen hit it with the same marvellous precision and with the same result. The shot went through everything, and even the fondest believers in the invulnerability of our present ironsides were obliged to confess that against such artillery, at such ranges, their plates and sides were almost as penetrable as wooden ships are now to the plain old-fashioned long 32's. Of course after such decisive results, no further experiments were tried; indeed, they could not be, as the 156-pounder evidently thought it had done enough work for the day, and at the last discharge recoiled so much as to get off its wooden platform and imbed the hind wheels of its carriage in the stiff yet watery clay, for the production of which in the largest quantities at the shortest notice Shoeburyness stands unrivalled. But quite enough had been accomplished, and Admiralty officials and armour shipbuilders could only admit to each other in a kind of confidential dismay, that artillery had at last proved too much for them, and that if invulnerable ships were to be constructed they must begin de novo. It was clear to all that the Warrior would not stand the least chance against the new gun, even unrifled.
The Warrior, Black Prince, Defence, and Resistance - the only four armour frigates which we have yet afloat - are coated with 4½ inch plates of iron, with two layers of 10-inch teak beams placed transversely, and with an inner skin of wrought iron nearly an inch thick. It was against this powerful combination of materials that the 150-pounder gun was tried on Tuesday with such complete success. The new frigates building, the Achilles, Hector, Valiant, Agincourt, Northumberland, and Minotaur, are all to be coated with 5½-inch iron plates, with 10 inches of teak, and the same inner skin of wrought iron. In these it is hoped that reducing the teak backing and increasing the armour plate will add to the strength of the ship; but long, very long before these vessels are launched the present 156-pounder will be rifled to throw a 300-pounder flat-headed shot, against which not six or even eight inches of armour may be able to offer resistance at short ranges. What, in fact, is to be done when we are at the same time exerting our efforts and spending our money to construct indestructible ships and invent irresistible guns? The guns must carry the day. We have nearly reached the limits of the thickness of iron plates which sea-going vessels can carry with safety. There is practically no limit to the size of the coiled wrought-iron gun. Today a 156-pounder wins - a month hence and the same gun will be a rifled 300-pounder, and a 600-pounder may he ready before Midsummer; but with thicker than six-inch armour plates no sea-going vessel can be coated. The Americans are now making two wrought-iron guns, unrifled, each to throw an eleven-hundred pound shot. When we get such results with a plain 156-pounder, what may not the Federals expect to accomplish with gigantic ordnance of this description? Armour plates a foot thick would be destroyed by the blow of a wrought-iron eleven hundred pound shot fired at short range.
At the conclusion of these trials some experiments were made against Mr. Fairbairn's iron target, which failed so signally on the last occasion. Since then the armour plates have been bedded on hemp and indiaruibber, and the effect of this soft medium in diminishing the force of the concussion upon the iron ribs beyond the plates enabled it to stand much better. But the general feeling seemed to be that some kind of timber backing to the plates was indispensable. The most interesting portion of this experiment was when the Armstrong 200-pounder was fired with a 10lb. Charge - an almost exact equivalent in force to the American Dahlgren 180-pounder fired with a 12lb. charge. Beyond dinting them these missiles produced very little effect upon the plates. Heavy charges of powder and high velocity of shot are evidently the requisites for the destruction of iron frigates. We have made the first step towards demolishing our own work in the experiments of Tuesday. Before this year is out it will be so advanced that, though we ourselves may not have invulnerable ships - as, indeed, no nation can - we shall, at least, be in possession of ordnance which will destroy iron frigates with almost as much facility as wooden ones.
The really terrible effect of the Armstrong gun and shell is best shown on the wooden section of a line-of-battle ship which has been fired at at Shoeburyness. The effects of the shell as shown in the "tween decks" of this target are really something awful to look at. Against such shells wooden vessels are, in fact, no more protection than basket work, though happily the iron frigates can keep out these most terrible of all missiles. What next form and strength of "Warriors" we can devise remains to be seen. But, whatever it is, our readers may depend upon it a gun will be found to beat it, and, in fact, no weapon of offence or defence seems left to us now so efficient as a large armour-clad and very swift steam ram.
Th 7 August 1862


Sir, — In the recent discussions which have taken place on this subject in both Houses of Parliament and in your own columns, I have been made responsible both for certain statements which I accept and for some which I have not made. As the subject which these statements concern must form the topic of continuous public discussion, and lead to serious action also, I beg leave to state precisely some of the data for such discussion.
The statement I make is that since the efficiency of iron armour ships became practically established by experience our Admiralty have expended on the matériel of the navy in our dockyards 30 millions, and that nearly the whole of this has been expended on combustible wooden ships, known to be useless as engines of war, and proved to be untenable against horizontal shell fire. The accusation I make against the Duke of Somerset is that, even since the inauguration of an iron armour fleet by his predecessors in office, he has wasted 12 millions, which might have produced us now a fleet of 20 Warriors, without increasing the ordinary expenses of the navy; and I assert that we have now only two iron-plated ships possessing the requisites of high speed, capacity for a long voyage, fine seagoing qualities, along with heavy shot-proof armour and that for the good qualities of these ships none of the merit is due to the Duke of Somerset or his Admiralty. These are the facts.
Two replies have been given in Parliament to this accusation. His Grace replies for the Admiralty, as recorded in The Times of July 26, by recounting the difficulties which attend the building of iron ships, his ignorance of what it is best to build, the advice which he receives from and the discord among those he consults, and (appalling fact!) that, instead of applying the money appropriated to building a fleet to that purpose, he is at the present moment building no fleet at all, but "ten or twelve different kinds of iron-plated ships, — different sizes, and different forms of vessels" — in short, on mere heterogeneous experiments, made in the hope that something will turn up which may be of use as an iron-plated vessel. A well-balanced fleet, therefore, of similar and equal vessels capable of co-operation is nowhere.
The second reply, by Lord Clarence Paget, in The Times of the 2d of August, is that "We had 19 iron-plated ships" and then he recants his statement of fact by substituting the prophecy "or would have very soon." When he said so he must have known that we had not 19 iron-plated ships; he must have known we had only two effective and two more ineffective ones, and that when he said "very soon," he meant some time in the year 1864. Such are the only two replies which have been given to my statements, and they leave the matter exactly as I have stated it.
To sum up the accusation I make against his Grace and his Admiralty concisely and in the manner best capable of refutation, I beg to put it in the following form: —
1. I accuse his Grace of having expended in three years 12 millions of money on the matériel of the navy without having given us our navy.
2. I assert that, by a wise and timely economy, and following up the initiative which had been taken before he came into office, he could have provided by this year, 1862, a fleet of 20 Warriors.
3. I accuse him of gross waste of public money in having spent on timber and timber ships the millions which were wanted for iron ships. His only excuse is, that he didn't know what kind of iron ships to build. I answer, that he did know what kind of wooden ships not to build; and I say it is no answer to my accusation of waste of money to say that he was waiting to see what sort of iron ship would turn up. I accuse him, therefore, while waiting for the best, of deliberately expending the money upon the worst.
To sum up, I admit that his Grace did not, as he said, know how to spend his 12 millions advantageously for the country; but I assert that it was palpably his duty, and certainly for the benefit of the country, in his state of vacillation and hesitation, to have saved the 12 millions. Had he saved the money he did not know how to expend, he would have saved the chief of his Administration much of the trouble and danger into which he has brought the Government of Lord Palmerston by a course of official incompetence manifested at a critical moment when the nation was in want of firmness, knowledge, and administrative capacity of a high order, to give direction and force to the revolution in naval construction and naval tactics which the improvements of modern artillery and the inventions of modern science have rendered inevitable.
I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient servant.
J. Scott Russell
20, Great George-street, Westminster, Aug. 6.
Ma 11 August 1862


Sir, - As it would be a great pity for the public to suppose that all persons who have watched the progress of iron-cased ships in this country concur in the opinions expressed by Mr. Scott Russell in The Times of yesterday, I take the liberty of requesting you to afford me space for a few considerations of a somewhat contrary tendency. I very much regret the necessity of opposing myself thus publicly to Mr. Scott Russell, whom I have great cause to esteem; but the remarks which I have from time to time published upon the state of our navy have met with so kindly a reception in The Times and elsewhere that I feel myself pledged, in a certain sense, to contribute such facts as I may have knowledge of concerning the questions raised in Mr. Scott Russell's letter.
I shall not for a moment think of rebutting those personal accusations against the Duke of Somerset and his colleagues which Mr. Scott Russell repeats so confidently, because it is no business of mine to vindicate the characters of those noblemen and gentlemen, and also because it is never necessary, in my opinion, to defend any body of English gentlemen whatever against accusations which imply that they are imbeciles, or traitors, or both. I pass at once, therefore, to other matters.
I will first, if you please, deal with the statement that at the present moment the Admiralty are building no iron-cased fleet. It is not always easy to fix precisely the sense in which this word "fleet" is employed, but the context shows that Mr. Scott Russell means by it a number of "similar and equal vessels capable of co-operation," and these, he says, the Admiralty are not building. In support of this assertion he cites a recent speech of the Duke of Somerset, in which his Grace said, - "We have at the present moment building at least 10 or 12 different kinds of iron-plated ships, different sizes and different forms of vessels, in order that we may arrive at one which will be a good vessel without being a very costly one." From this strictly accurate statement Mr. Scott Russell draws the inference that his Grace is "building no fleet at all," and even puts that assertion into the mouth of the First Lord himself.
Now, it can be shown to the satisfaction of any dispassionate person that this inference is quite erroneous. The very opposite of it is, in fact, true; for, while varying the character of individual vessels in several minor respects, with the judicious object which his Grace mentioned, the Admiralty have manifestly kept in view in the most careful manner the very thing which they are here charged with neglecting, and have, notwithstanding these minor variations, arranged the sizes and speeds of their large vessels expressly in order that they may be fit to co-operate advantageously in fleets. I can show this, I believe, to the complete satisfaction of yourself, Sir, and of the public.
The first fleet which they are preparing will consist of six of the largest and most powerful iron-cased ships in the world,-viz., the Warrior, Black Prince, Achilles, Northumberland, Minotaur, and Agincourt. The whole of these ships are intended to steam at speed of 14 knots an hour, a speed to which, I believe, every one of them will attain, end which is unequalled by any other iron-cased ships in the world. The only important differences between these vessels consist in certain variations in the extent of the armour with which they are to be plated. The Warrior and Black Prince are plated partially; the Northumberland, Minotaur, and Agincourt will be completely covered, and the Achilles will be like the Warrior, but further protected between wind and water with the belt which I have had the honour to introduce. In order to meet these changes, the dimensions of the vessels have also been correspondingly varied, for the very purpose of securing a uniform speed in all, that the whole might act together as one colossal fleet.
If it should be objected that in this fleet there are but six ships, I answer that six such ships are enough to form a fleet. At the most moderate estimate they will cost more than two millions sterling, and therefore, in money value, no less than in offensive and defensive powers, will be equivalent to 20 of our old 100 gun line-of-battle ships. It is easy to say there ought to be a much larger number of such vessels, and that is a subject upon which different opinions may fairly be held; but in my humble judgment it would be wrong to swell the taxation of the country, especially at a time like this, for the mere purpose of "bloating" our armaments to that extent. We have next in progress a second set of no less than nine iron-cased ships, all capable of co-operating together as a fleet, because they are each of about 4,000 tons burden, and each steam at from 11½ to 12½ knots. Of these five are being built of timber (like most of the French vessels), and then plated with iron, while the remaining four are to be of iron throughout. The five plated timber ships are the Prince Consort, the Royal Alfred, the Royal Oak, the Ocean, and the Caledonia, all of which will steam from 12 to 12½ knots. When we consider that they are to be plated all over from stem to stern, and will therefore each carry a large number of protected guns, we might without exaggeration consider that of themselves they are not unworthy to be called a formidable fleet. But there is not the shadow of a reason why we should not join with them the iron ships Hector and Valiant, which are as nearly as possible of the same tonnage, and which are expected to steam at just the same rate. The remaining two of the nine vessels are the Defence and the Resistance, each of which is of 3,700 tons burden, and have actually steamed at 11½ knots. So that here we have another splendid fleet of nine - or, to say the least, of seven - well-matched vessels all much more nearly equal than those which composed our fleet during the wars, and all undoubtedly capable of co-operating in the most reliable and perfect manner. What can possibly be meant by saying, under these circumstances, that we are "building no fleet at all" I am wholly and utterly unable to conjecture.
With regard to the Defence and the Resistance, a most singular error has obtained currency. In his pamphlet on The Fleet of the Future Mr. Scott Russell gives an imaginary conversation between Lord Clarence Paget and the constructors of the navy, with the view of showing how the designs of these vessels were originated - a conversation which is intended apparently to reflect exclusively upon the Secretary to the Admiralty, but which seems to me to indicate so poor a spirit, and such very attenuated conversational powers on the part of the constructors that, if I were they, I certainly should not thank the author for his representation. I am sure Mr. Scott Russell is not fair to those gentlemen when, in answer to a request from Lord Clarence Paget, he makes them "humbly" say, or rather ejaculate - "My Lord, I am sorry, but, if you please, it can't be done." I am certain this is not the language of real life, but imaginary conversation with a vengeance.
But to return to the vessels. Mr. Scott Russell does them great injustice when he says they are no better than "what are technically called mere tubs." It is true that they are very imperfectly protected; that their ports are comparatively low; and that their speed is less than 12 knots. But this is all that can be said against them. As regards their lines, they are really most excellently formed vessels; and it seems to me a great exaggeration to pronounce a ship with ports seven feet above the water capable of steaming at what many consider a very good speed, and formed so as to behave admirably in a sea-way, a "mere tub." I deny altogether that a ship of this kind is what we technically understand by that expressive phrase. It seems to have satisfied Sir Morton Peto, however, for in his speech in the House of Commons on the 1st of the month he spoke of these ships as "two of the veriest tubs imaginable," and so gave Lord Clarence an opportunity of telling him truthfully that he did not understand what he was talking about.
I do not think I need extend these remarks upon Mr. Scott Russell's letter any further, except to say that I agree with him in believing that we have wasted money in building so many unprotected wooden ships. Even on this subject, however, much might be said in mitigation of a harsh judgment. We must remember that the Board of Admiralty are compelled to rely greatly upon their professional advisers, and professional shipbuilders are only just now awakening to the fact that we can build small iron-cased vessels as well as large. I was myself told, only three months ago, by naval constructors in high positions - and very able naval constructors, too - that the thing was impossible. Fortunately, however, it is not only possible, but practicable, and even easy.
I do not feel at liberty to speak more fully upon this point at present; but I have succeeded very recently in demonstrating that even without the single experimental feature introduced into the Enterprise (the erection of an iron topside upon a wooden bottom) we can build corvettes, sloops, and even gunboats, either of wood or of iron, protected with iron armour of the usual kind; and not partially, or imperfectly protected, either, but absolutely coated all over from end to end. This is a result so satisfactory and so momentous that, until it was actually secured, I scarcely hoped to see it accomplished. The effect of it will be to sweep away at a stroke the necessity for making our iron-cased ships so extravagantly large and costly, and to enable us to send our flag all over the globe in shot-proof vessels of all sizes, as perfectly adapted to our various necessities as our wooden fleets ever were.
I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant, E.J. Reed.
London, Aug. 8.
Th 19 November 1863When the Chief Constructor of the Navy addresses a select assembly on the special subjects of his profession it is certain that the interest taken in his communications will extend far beyond his immediate audience. What the inhabitants of Greenwich heard on Tuesday evening the public at large will desire to know, and we charge ourselves accordingly with the exposition of Mr. Reed's views on War Ships and Shipbuilding for the benefit of the country. These views were expressed at the Greenwich Institution with much perspicuity and very little reserve, so that the reader may learn exactly what we are doing in our dockyards on authority which is not to be impeached.
The successive "reconstructions" of our Navy have been occasioned by successive discoveries in the application of steam power, the science of artillery, and the availability of iron armour for the protection or floating vessels. Steam compelled the change from sails to paddles, and from paddles to screws. Just now the twin screw is talked of as introducing us to another phase of the invention, but Mr. Reed does not regard this device as likely to have very extensive consequences. The double screw, will be useful, he says, in vessels of light draught, but, where the draugtht of water is sufficient, a single screw of a given diameter is more effective as a propeller than two screws of greater diameter together. A ship, for instance, with a 15-feet screw would be faster than another with two screws of ten feet each; nor does our Chief Constructor believe that even the turning power of the double screw will be found to surpass that obtainable from a single screw under judicious development. Steam, therefore, even if still "in its infancy," does not threaten us with any new revolution at present. On the contrary, it is likely to be brought more conveniently under control by an anticipated economy in the use of fuel. Of guns Mr. Reed cannot be expected to say much. This subject is only incidentally connected with his department, and we shall have conveyed his views on the matter when we state that he sees no impediment to the employment of far heavier ordnance in a ship's battery than is used at present, and that he believes these guns, however ponderous they may be, can he carried in broadside ports without recourse to the invention of turrets. When our artillerists have produced the proper gun Mr. Reed will be ready to mount and work it without any innovation on the natural characteristics of good sea-going vessels.
Steam and ordnance being thus disposed of, we now come to the great question of our future fleet; and we shall best introduce our ships in prospect by a brief classification of our ships in possession. We have actually got the Warrior and Black Prince of the first class, with the Achilles, the Agincourt, the Minotaur, and the Northumberland in various stages of progress. We have then got the Defence and the Resistance, shorter, smaller, and slower vessels than those of the former class, and the Hector and the Valiant, of a class intermediate. These are all iron-built ships. Then we have five vessels converted from timber ships of the line into Ironclads by the addition of armour - the Royal Oak, the Prince Consort, and the Caledonia afloat, and the Ocean and the Prince Alfred to follow. We are also constructing one ship and converting another on the cupola or turret principle and with these specimens the catalogue is complete. We have now to report the opinion of the Chief Constructor on these various models, and to describe the improvements which he represents as in contemplation. Let us first mention that he confirms the suspicion which we recently expressed, and announces distinctly that these two turret or cupola ships are not designed for sea service, but are now proceeded with simply as coast-going vessels or floating batteries, available only for the limited duties performed by the American Monitors. We add no comment on this point at present, but confine ourselves to the statement of the fact. As regard the rest, Mr. Reed informs us that in all our first rate Ironclads we have committed a mistake. The Warrior and her consorts are swift, strong, and powerful vessels, formidable to an enemy, and creditable to ourselves as beginners; but they are all too long. The ordinary reader will hardly believe, at first sight, in the importance of this fact, or be prepared to recognize what Mr Reed describes as a great "discovery." Yet it does import a great deal. The excessive length of these vessels makes them difficult to steer and hard to manage; while the increased cost which it entails is really incredible. Mr. Reed assures us that the curtailment of 100 feet from the Warrior's length would have saved 100,0001. in the expense of the ship, besides relieving us from the heavy incidental charges which the enlargement of our docks must occasion. He assures us also that this great length was not required, and that it was accepted solely under the mistaken impression that the desired speed could not be obtained without it, whereas the truth is that a shorter vessel could be propelled just as rapidly. The new policy, therefore, of the Admiralty will consist in making our first-rate Ironclads shorter, handier, and cheaper, and that is Mr. Reed's first disclosure.
He next gives us a very distinct opinion on the controversy between wood and iron, and, without pretending to absolute dogmatism, evidently places wood on a level with iron for the framework of a ship of war. He considers, and indeed asserts, that the Royal Oak is as good a vessel as the Warrior, and thus ranks our five converted ships with our original Ironclads. At this point of his discourse he could not, of course, omit a reference to the distress of the Prince Consort in the late storm, and he tells us, on the best authority, that she not only never leaked or strained at all, but that she rode out the gale with less damage to her structure than would have been suffered by any old-fashioned timber vessel. It happened that her bow port was stove in, and that in her heavy rolling she shipped a good deal of sea over all. The water thus admitted to her decks found its way to the hold and caused her distress, but there -was no straining of the fabric whatever. Mr. Reed proceeds even to ask why there should have been, and informs us that the centre of gravity is actually lower in an iron-cased frigate than in an old two-decker with all her guns and top hamper. So he roundly maintains that there is no argument against the employment of wooden frames which should exclude them from use. There may, he admits, be a greater structural strength obtainable from iron, bat not necessarily a greater durability. Iron rivets, as we have lately seen, are as apt to be corroded as wood is to decay, besides which wooden bottoms are so plainly superior to iron bottoms in one important respect that the latter can only be effectually sheathed by the interposition of a wooden skin.
Then comes the programme of novelties, and here the Chief Constructor has agreeable news to announce. The two vessels built after his own designs, the Enterprise and the Research, will, he tells us, be ready in a few weeks, and that they were not ready earlier has been the fault, he says, not of any dockyard authorities, but of private contractors, who failed in the supply of the requisite materials at the proper time. These ships, it will be remembered, are intended to prove that armour-plating can be effectually applied to the smaller classes of sea-going vessels, so that heavy guns may be carried to any part of the world by iron-cased cruisers. But Mr. Reed adds something more. Adverting to the speech of Mr. Laird at Birkenhead, he says, "I state with the most absolute fearlessness and confidence that the Admiralty are now building a corvette from which neither the Alabama nor the Florida could hope to escape, and with which the two together could not hope to contend for a single hour." Thus, our private shipbuilders are at last boldly challenged by our dockyard authorities, and the trial cannot be far distant. In condensing what was a long as well as an elaborate address for the use of the public, we have left ourselves but little room for comment. We will only add, therefore, that we seem to have been pursued by our usual fortune in discovering that the Warrior ought to have been 100 feet shorter and 100,000l. cheaper only when we have built two more ships like her, and contracted for three others rather longer and dearer still; that it will be some compensation for us if our converted ironclads are really as good as our originals; and that we look with some impatience, and the utmost interest, for that floating phenomenon which is to whitewash the Admiralty and carry off the championship from Birkenhead.
Ma 1 February 1864


Though Mr. Reed has concentrated all his efforts as a naval constructor on his special vessels, the Bellerophon and Pallas, and on his improvements on the Royal Oak class of heavy armour-frigates, as exemplified in the power and dimensions of the Lord Warden and the Lord Clyde, yet these four are by no means the most original of his designs. For the most part, they are only great improvements or developments of our first ideas of armour-ships. The developments are great, the improvements we are willing to admit are of essential importance; but the germ of the ideas on which they are founded existed in all our navy yards and in most of our private yards too. Any private firm can now design and build a frigate of the Warrior class, and we know from the experience of the Achilles at Chatham that private firms can build them very much more quickly than Government yards, which are only beginning their apprenticeship at iron ship-building. But what no private yard offered to do, and what it was thought almost impossible to accomplish, is that which Mr. Reed has actually performed in building and coating with 4½-inch armour wooden sloops no larger than the collier barks which crowd the pool below London-bridge. The difficulty thus overcome is very much greater than it seems, as a few words will show. As soon as the necessity for armour-ships was admitted in England after the launch of La Gloire, it was evident that a certain height of plating, varying from 16ft. to 21ft., would be necessary in most classes of vessels, and that if this protection was to extend the whole length of the hull, then seaworthiness and swiftness could only be secured in vessels of the very largest description. But, by shortening the battery and confining the guns to the centre of the ship, the extraordinary weights and dimensions could be reduced, and such ease given to the stem and stern as would add greatly to the buoyancy of the whole hull. As these ships, however, would have to endure heavy weather, and, in case of war, very heavy fighting too, it was necessary to consider what their condition would be with their unplated ends waterlogged, and to make the length of the protected part in the centre sufficient to bear up the stem and stern when their own buoyancy was destroyed. Upon this principle the Warrior, Black Prince, Defence, and Resistance were designed; but the two latter, though more than double the tonnage of Nelson's Victory, were found to be the smallest which would satisfy these conditions. If, therefore, smaller seagoing vessels were to receive the protection of iron armour, it was evident that even the system, partial as it was, must be given up. The iron wall required for the safety of the guns and gunners must be reduced in length, and the safety of the lower part of the hull near the water-line provided for by a simple armour-belt from five to seven feet wide, so disposed as to protect the machinery and all beneath it, the high or gun wall of the battery being shortened by only containing the smallest number of guns, but all of the very heaviest calibre used in war. The attempt to fulfil all these conflicting conditions has been made by Mr. Reed in the Enterprise, the smallest class of seagoing vessels of war, the sloop which is to be plated with the same armour as that which covers the Warrior - 4½ inches. This vessel, which will be launched early next month, is of only 950 tons builders' measurement, and was intended to carry 17 32-pounder guns. This number of guns was at once reduced to four, and the number of the crew from 165 to 100. This great reduction in the number of guns does not necessarily imply a reduction in the weight of metal thrown in a broadside, as the guns will be very much larger. The guns actually to be mounted in this ship are 110-pounders, throwing a broadside of 220lb., but guns may be carried which would equal in weight of metal thrown the original broadside of the 17-gun sloop, and would, of course, be far more destructive in their action. But, in thus transforming a small l7-gun wooden sloop into a 4-gun ironcased sloop, a sacrifice of speed was inevitable. The weight of propelling machinery was reduced 25 tons, while the weight of ship to be propelled was increased 200 tons. The speed lost will be from half a knot to a knot. The speed of the Enterprise under steam alone will be, it is hoped, between 9 and 9½ knots, or a little over 10 miles per hour.
In order to secure seaworthiness for this little vessel it was most desirable to keep the extremities light and buoyant. The concentration of the battery had already done much towards this end. Still further to promote it special bow and stern chase guns were dispensed with, and arrangements were made by which the guns from the protected battery in the centre were rendered capable of firing within 12 degrees of the course of the vessel, both ahead and astern. Under these circumstances it became possible to reduce the amount of material in the frame and other portions of the structure of the ship before and abaft the battery. The reduction thus effected will, it is believed, render the ship lively in a seaway and ready in obeying her helm. So far as the preceding description is concerned, the hull of the ship might have been constructed entirely of wood, as that of the Research, recently launched at Pembroke, actually is; but it was decided that the unwalled portions of the Enterprise above the waterline should be built of iron. The introduction of iron into the hull of a wooden craft gave a still further opportunity for lightening the ship, as steel will do in ships of iron. It rendered it possible to leave the space between decks forward and aft unplated, as the materials of construction were, of course, incombustible. Instead, therefore, of carrying up the iron wall or belt to the roof of this space, it was only necessary to carry it to its floor, care being taken to lift the floor well above the water-line. This arrangement brings the roofs of the fore and aft 'tween deck spaces above the floor of the battery, or the gun platform. They are, in fact, just so much above the gun platform as will allow the chase guns to fire over them clearly and well. In respect, therefore, to the arrangement of the decks the Research and Enterprise differ. The difference affects very sensibly the amount of armour required for the vessel. In the Research for every 100 tons of material in the hull 40 tons of armour are required, while in the Enterprise there are only 25 tons.
On this account the Research requires and has a heavier frame, and is, with only the same powers of offence and defence, a larger and much more costly ship. Since, also, the greater part of the extra weight of armour in the Research lies towards the extremities of the ship, she will be less lively and handy than the Enterprise, and the fact that the 'tween deck space is left uncased in this latter ship gives her a further advantage over the Research in lighting and ventilating the space.
The set-off to these many manifest advantages is the novel and untried, and, therefore, to a certain extent, somewhat doubtful nature of the connexion between the upper and lower hulls, and the almost dangerous nearness of the lower part of the unprotected ship to the water-line. Neither of these points, however, involves the safety of the ship, or her warlike efficiency, and should trouble arise from either cause, which there is no great reason at present to anticipate, it will be confined to temporary personal inconvenience to the crew on the berthing-deck.
In order to complete the description of the powers of offence and defence possessed by the ship it is necessary to state that the shot-proof bulkheads crossing the deck, and extending from the water-line to the roof of the battery, are loopholed for musketry, both over the upper deck and between decks, so that should the vessel be boarded the boarders can effect a lodgment in no part of the ship outside the battery, either on deck or below, without being exposed to constant fire from within the battery. During action the 'tween decks, which will be the ordinary berthing place for men and officers, will be quite deserted, the whole of them being within the walls, either in the battery, or immediately below it, under the armour belt. For the purpose of bringing the whole of the lower part of the ship into communication with the battery when in action, and to secure perfect ventilation, a wide central passage runs entirely through the ship below the lower deck, and, as all the hatchways on this deck are closed in during action, large ventilating hoods are fitted for down draughts at both extremities through the deck, and a current of air is established by the furnaces and by Schiele's blast-fan, the space round the funnel forming a double upcast shaft.
The central passage commences forward, at the fore platform, and, passing between store-rooms on either side for sails, provisions, water, chain, and coals, opens into the stokehold. Between the stokehold and the engine-room and immediately below the battery are the magazine and shellroom. The passage is continued between these through the engine-room onwards, both above, and below the roof of the shaft alley, to the extreme after end of the ship, all the storerooms both forward and aft communicating with it. In some cases, as in the provision and water spaces forward, the ordinary bulkheads are dispensed with altogether, and stanchions are substituted, and where this arrangement was undesirable, iron gratings are made in the upper part of the partition.
In order still further to provide for efficient ventilation, and particularly with a view to the preservation of the frame of the ship, a passage is left along the wings on each side and beneath the flooring of the several divisions. There is thus scarcely a foot of the frame of the ship which is not in direct communication with the central passage, and acted upon either by the draught of the furnaces or by the Schiele's fan. Directly below the battery, and over the magazine and shell-room, is a large platform to be used as a cockpit, communicating by a covered passage through the engine-room with an after cockpit and dispensary.
The dimensions of this miniature ironclad are only 180ft. long by 36ft. wide, her engines are to be of 160-horse power and her speed is estimated at nine knots. Though an experimental vessel, the success of the Enterprise has been secured by the admirable seagoing performance of the Research, another ship of much the same class, only 200 tons larger, which made a successful passage round from Milford to the Thames. This little corvette carries five inches of armour, and in the run round to the river, though the weather was very rough, she often steamed 10 knots, rolled easily and not deeply, turned a full circle in 4 min. 8 sec. in five times her own length, is well ventilated, buoyant, and, when equipped for sea, will draw only 14ft. of water. In our description of this vessel on Friday we stated that "she carried a broadside of guns equal in weight to those of the renowned Warrior." But this, as our readers must, of course, have seen, was an error, and should have been "carried a broadside of guns each equal in weight to the heaviest of those of the renowned Warrior." So far, however, she has established all the principles which her designer put forward when he began to modify her form from what she was originally intended to be - a wooden screw corvette. We cannot help thinking, nevertheless, that Mr. Reed would have been more successful in the matter of speed had the lines of these vessels been from the outset of his own designing. If the Admiralty have any consideration for our pockets, they will at once give up the false economy of endeavouring to coat wooden frigates in frame with iron - of trying, in fact, to adapt and work up old materials into a new purpose for which they were never intended. It makes but a bad compromise, such adapted vessels, after all, costing very little less than new, but being infinitely worse. The French have for the first time last autumn begun building two frigates which, like our Warriors and Minotaurs, are to be wholly of iron from end to end. They have tried plating wooden frigates with iron, and, not finding them answer, have come back to the point at which we commenced, and begun building of iron only. With their costly experience before us, how can our Admiralty hope to be more successful with iron-plated wooden frigates? As a fact, however, they do not hope to be entirely successful, but only to make less conspicuous failures than our French neighbours have done in La Gloire. The Lord Warden and Lord Clyde, which are to be built of wooden frames from Mr. Reed's design, will be magnificent vessels as far as size and speed, and for a time, perhaps, as far as strength is concerned. Each of these ships is to be of 4,000 tons, 1,000-horse power, and each is to carry two 300-pounders, and 30 100-pounders, cased in with 5 inches of iron. But, for the nominal saving of 10,000l., effected by building their frames of wood, which rots at once under the iron, the country will eventually have to pay some 200,000l., in the speedy decay of the ships and the consequent early necessity of replacing them with others. We need no stronger proof of their real cost than is to be found in the fact that the French, who were the foremost supporters of this system of building, now intend to give it up, and in future build of iron only.
It is very gratifying to our enterprise and manufacturing skill to know that, after the start which our neighbours got of us in the launch of La Gloire and La Normandie, we are now ahead of the French in the number of ships afloat, the number launched and fitting, and in the number building, while in the still more important particulars of strength, size, and speed the French possess no ships whatever that can be even named in comparison with those of the Warrior or Minotaur class of frigates. Up to the present the list of the iron navies of the two countries built or building is as follows: -

Armour-clad ships now afloat:-
Black Prince.
Royal Oak.
Prince Consort.
La Gloire
Recently launched and fitting
Nearly ready for launching
Royal Alfred
Royal Sovereign
Prince Albert
Building in various stages
Lord Clyde.
Lord Warden.

Thus, then, we have ten iron frigates afloat as against six of the French; three launched and fitting as against two of the French; six nearly ready for launching against two nearly ready for launching in France; and five in various stages of building, while the French have six in the same condition - a total in all of 24 English iron frigates against only 16 belonging to France. In making this comparison, however, it should in fairness be borne in mind that of the six French frigates building not one is less than half finished, while some of ours returned as building, such as the Bellerophon, Lord Warden, and Lord Clyde have in fact, only just been commenced. On the other hand, it is believed that the French Marine intend to commence no new vessels this year; while it in to be hoped that at least two more on the plan of the Bellerophon will be begun in this country.
Everything of importance connected with the French ironclad vessels is, as a general rule, as well known to our Admiralty as to the Minister of Marine in Paris, and the substance of all the knowledge that has reached this country has only tended to confirm the belief that, both in a military and in a mechanical point of view, we took the right course in turning out vessels of the Minotaur and Warrior class. To this day they have never been equalled or even approached. The Solferino and Magenta, two-decked iron frigates, are both slow and weak; compared with any of the ships of this class, which are strong and swift enough to overrun a fleet, and carry armaments heavy enough to disregard almost any kind of fortifications.
In the list of French armour-ships which we have given, all, whether building or built, with the exception of the two first-named, are frigates or heavy corvettes, carrying from 16 to 40 guns. The Solferino and Magenta only are two-deckers of the class which in the old time used to be called double-banked frigates. They are each rated as 80-gun ships, but, in reality, carry less, having only 64. All these ships are ordinary wooden vessels of war, covered with armour-plating, and in the earlier frigates so covered without the slightest attempt to adapt their form to their new casing. Their scantling (that is, the thickness of timber behind the plating) is not, as has been often stated, as much as 5ft. thick, but is neither more nor less than the thickness of ordinary men-of-war - that is, from 2ft. in frigates to 2½ft. in the Solferino and Magenta. The armour-plates are shorter than ours, and are as nearly as possible about 4¾in. thick. None have grooved edges to tongue into each other, and each plate is fastened with 11 screws into the timber. The result of the recent experimental rough-weather cruise of the Solferino, Magenta, Invincible, Couronne, and Normandie gave some curious and rather unexpected results. The Solferino and Magenta two-deckers proved as steady as rocks while the Couronne and Normandie were rolling dreadfully, and the latter made such bad weather of it and shipped so much water as to put out her fires, and there is little doubt but that she would have foundered outright had not the weather moderated sufficiently to enable her to gain a port. Before she was trusted out again, 100 tons of cables were fastened along each side of her upper deck, which had the effect of steadying her much, though she was still found to roll so quickly and uneasily as to render it almost impossible for her to cast loose her guns in the slightest seaway. The Couronne laboured heavily, but did nothing like this. The Invincible was the best of the frigates, and the Solferino was the fastest of the whole squadron, doing 10½ knots, when the Normandie and Couronne were short of six knots. Singularly enough, the Solferino and Magenta, though sister ships, alike to a plank and rivet, and with the same engines and stowage, gave very different results as to speed, the Solferino doing 10½ knots and the Magenta barely 7. The difference is, perhaps, to be ascribed to their engines, which are said to be bad in the latter ship. Both, however, were remarkably steady, except with the wind on the quarter, when they became uneasy while the rest of the frigates were quiet. The Invincible was next to the Solferino in speed, and nearly equal to her in steadiness. On the whole, on a comparison of the ironclad fleets of the two countries, we have every reason to feel proud of our own, and - what is better than feeling proud - to feel secure while we have got them.
Fr 27 May 1864A Return just obtained from the Admiralty will inform naval men, shipbuilders, and the public in general of some facts which it much concerns them all to know. It is an account in a concise and intelligible form of all the "Iron-plated Ships and Batteries built or building" up to this time for the Royal Navy, and it specifies not only their tonnage, armaments, and design, but also their cost and the history of their construction. By the aid of this table cupolas and turrets may be compared with broadsides, wholly-plated with partially-plated ships, first-rates with third-rates, and private establishments with the Royal dockyards. Another brief Return completes the information thus communicated by a very significant and impressive supplement. It tells us of all the vessels not armour-plated which are in course of construction for the Navy at this moment; so that we may measure the preponderance of the new system not only by its own progress, but by the decay of its ancient rival. This part of the story can be told so shortly that we may as well dismiss it at once. There is next to nothing in hand of this kind. The Endymion, a 22-gun ship, and four smaller vessels, representing, we presume, as many swift cruisers with light armaments, constitute all the work of this sort now going on. The energies of the Admiralty and the resources of the State are concentrated on iron-plated vessels, almost to the extinction of wooden shipbuilding.
What then, is the actual condition, and what the prospects of the Fleet which now absorbs our attention and our expenditure? The first thing that strikes us is the variety of specimens comprised, showing more clearly than anything else could show the state of transition in which we still remain. We have not yet accepted as perfect or satisfactory any pattern, model, or design of hull, dimensions, or armament. This gives a kind of composite appearance to our Fleet, but it has saved us, at any rate, from the mistake committed by the Americans in building a whole squadron of Monitors on the impulse of the moment. At the present time we have, exclusive of "floating batteries," sixteen iron-plated men-of-war actually afloat. This, at least, is the statement of the Return, but we can add one to the number, for on the 23d inst., the very day fixed for the event, the Prince Albert was launched, so that our Ironsides are already not sixteen, but seventeen. To these will be added before the close, and, indeed, before the middle of next year, ten more, making an aggregate of 27. If we choose to include the floating batteries constructed or designed during the Crimean war, we shall raise the entire strength of our iron-clad fleet to 34 vessels of all rates.
It will soon be desirable to devise some new system of rating in the place of that which the new system of naval architecture and armament has rendered inapplicable. We can no longer measure the offensive powers of a ship by the number of her guns. A "first-rate" of the old school, with her triple batteries and her 130 guns, might be blown out of water in ten minutes, according to our present ideas, by such a vessel, for instance, as the Prince Albert, of four guns, just launched, or the Pallas, of six guns, to be launched at Christmas. These half-dozen guns, in fact, might throw a heavier mass of metal than the broadside of the largest three-decker, so that the principle will not apply, and the standard is unavailable. Practically, however, we may consider that the Warrior, though denominated a "frigate," and carrying only 40 guns, represents the first-rate under the new system, and of those vessels we may say that ten are now afloat. They differ from each other in a variety of respects, but they are all more or less completely cased in iron, and all carry from 35 to 41 guns, except where the armament is concentrated under shields or in turrets. We have, then, two. ships, the Hector and the Valiant, which we may describe as second-rates, and three more which can be classed as third-rates. This makes fifteen, and the full tale of seventeen afloat is completed by Mr. Reed's small ironclads, the Research and the Enterprise. Of the ten to be shortly added to this list, as many as six are first-rates, two are very powerful vessels, and two of small dimensions. As regards the controversy between wood and iron, we may briefly observe that until Mr. Reed's designs were introduced into the Navy we always built of iron where we could, and where we started from the beginning, but adopted wood in certain instances for the sake of expedition as well as of economy. Thus, of our sixteen first-rates built or building, eight are of iron throughout, and six represent timber frames plated with iron. The other two, the Lord Clyde and the Lord Warden upon Mr. Reed's designs, have wooden hulls; but our Chief Constructor has not confined his experiments to either material exclusively, for his Bellerophon is of iron; and while one of his small specimens is of iron the other is of wood and iron combined. Captain Coles, too, as far as material goes, has the advantage of both chances, for one of his vessels is built of iron and the other of wood. Upon the whole, we may say that iron was recognized as decidedly best wherever a free choice lay before us until Mr. Reed came in, and that he seems to be of opinion that more may be made of wood than was previously imagined.
The interesting question of relative cost is not quite so easily answered. What with the incompleteness of work and the imperfection of accounts, we cannot always get at good materials for comparison, for it must be understood that, though we have described certain vessels as actually afloat, that by no means implies that they are fully completed for sea, or that the expenditure upon them is at an end. However, if we take the Warrior, which was built in a private yard, and compare her with the Achilles of the same rate constructed at Chatham, but, unfortunately, "not complete," we shall find that the former cost 360,995l., and the latter 321,875l., so that in the end, perhaps, there will be little difference between them. If, again, we take one of the ships converted into ironclads by the addition of armour plate to wooden frames already standing, such as the Royal Oak, we find its actual cost to be 259,658l., and therefore, if the Royal Oak is really as effective a man-of-war as the Warrior, we have saved a good 100,000l. by our bargain. Mr. Reed's designs, too, show a clear economy of cost. His Bellerophon, expected to be one of the most powerful vessels in the Navy, is estimated to cost only 284,820l., but this, it must be remembered, is estimate only. Still, though we confess that no decisive evidence is obtainable from the paper before us, we are disposed to infer that the work of the Royal dockyards will not be found more expensive than that of private establishments.
Tu 25 October 1864Our Naval Intelligence will have apprised the public that if the fleet of the future is still but obscurely developed in its character and armament, the Iron-clad Navy of this country is beginning to assume imposing proportions. We could now send to sea a very powerful squadron of the new vessels, heterogeneous in its composition, no doubt, but constituted, nevertheless, of ships which, as far as we can judge, are not surpassed by any ships afloat, and which, we must needs suppose, contain among them some satisfactory models. We began with the Warrior and Black Prince, and so successful were these experiments considered that four more specimens of the same class, the Minotaur, the Agincourt, the Northumberland, and the Achilles, were promptly ordered. Of these the Achilles has now put to sea, making our new first-rates three in number. The Hector and the Valiant, the Defence and the Resistance formed two other pairs of experimental vessels; but though they are all serviceable ships they have not been copied. Then came a class of makeshifts, or of what, in comparison with our first-rate Ironclads, might be so considered. As we possessed several fine timber ships in frame it was resolved to case some of these in iron for enrolment in the new Navy, and four or five of these specimens have now been sent to sea with considerable success. At the same time two turret or cupola ships were taken in hand, and one of these, the Royal Sovereign, has actually been commissioned for a short time. In this class also we may include the two famous steam rams which caused so much trouble in the Mersey, and which are now known as Her Majesty's cupola ships Scorpion and Wyvern. Lastly, Mr. Reed, the Chief Constructor of the Navy, has designed certain vessels of various rates after plans of his own, and two of these ships, the Enterprise and Research, are in commission already. Altogether, therefore, we have some sixteen iron-cased vessels ready for service, three fourths of that number being ships specially constructed on what were deemed the most promising or desirable models. As this force could in case of need be rapidly augmented from vessels approaching completion, it will be seen that our ironclad fleet has received important developments, but if we proceed to inquire into the comparative merits of the various specimens afloat we shall find that little progress has been made towards agreement or decision.
It cannot be said that we were either precipitate or premature in ordering four new vessels on the general model of the Warrior. That ship was so genuine a success that it really seemed as if we could do no better, and if the other vessels of this pattern could but have been launched within twelve months after they had been bespoken, all the conditions of the case would have been satisfied, for we should have got a fine squadron of what were regarded at the time as the best models conceivable. Unfortunately, these ships have been so long in hand that they may possibly be superseded before they are well finished, though it is but right to say that no new specimen has yet established its superiority to the model on which they have been built. Mr. Reed's new vessels will at least have this advantage, that they will be used while the fashion is in. What success may attend them we are not concerned to predict, though the Enterprise appears to be spoken of by her own officers as a good sea-boat and an easy and handy ship; but, at any rate, we shall get the benefit of these experiments before the idea has been rendered obsolete by the progress of discovery. In a science which is always advancing the best invention may be good only for a time, and it has been the besetting fault of our Admiralty that they never adopted a model or an improvement until some new improvement or model had deprived the proceeding of its utility. Mr. Reed has avoided this mistake. We shall know what the Bellerophon is good for before the Bellerophon has been put out of fashion by some yet unknown rival, and if the Enterprise deserves to succeed, she will have a timely chance of succeeding.
These vessels, however, are not very great innovations on previous models. Mr. Reed, we believe, proposed to himself two principal objects: first, to improve upon the Warrior model by turning out a frigate equally powerful, but handier and cheaper; and next, to construct iron-clad ships of small tonnage for ocean service. The Bellerophon will represent the former of these experiments; the Enterprise and Research represent the latter. But in the meantime here is this awkward question of the cupola or turret principle, rendered more awkward than ever by the proceedings of the Admiralty in the case of the Royal Sovereign. Captain Coles, the designer of this vessel, maintains that, imperfectly as the trial has been conducted, he has established his proposition that turrets and guns can be made perfectly manageable in a seaway. He even goes further, and asserts not only that turret ships carry their armaments as easily as other ships, but that no vessels of small tonnage can be constructed to carry heavy guns efficiently except on this very principle. In short, he competes with Mr. Reed at this point, and having established, as he alleges, the general merits of the turret system, claims a special superiority for it in the case of small sea-going cruisers. Now, here is a principle entirely new and distinct, commending itself to notice, if not demanding approval; and yet our authorities have curtailed the very experiment by which its merits might have been at least partially tested. We observed long ago that it was a case for experiment alone. At first sight the invention may seem unpromising. It is obvious to imagine that a turret ship would be neither safe nor commodious, and we know that in America the Monitors have proved actually unsafe, and that Admiral Farragut prefers to hoist his flag in an old wooden frigate. But Captain Coles always expressly declared that his model would not be liable to the same objections, and he now claims to have substantiated his words as far as the experiment has gone. The Scorpion and the Wyvern, it is true, have still to be tried; but even these vessels, it must be remembered, were constructed for a special purpose, so that the results as measured by their performances may be inconclusive after all. The controversy, however, is a most important one, and, as the advocates of the rival systems claim for their respective principles a superiority not only in efficiency but in economy, it concerns the public interests that the trial between them should be both full and fair.
It happens rather singularly that on the present occasion we can derive very little information from the proceedings of foreign countries. France is no longer showing us the way in shipbuilding. America is building her ships for a purpose so special and peculiar that we can take no lesson from them. Russia, we believe, has adopted the model of the Monitors with more or less improvement for her Ironclads, but in her case also the service anticipated from these ships is probably limited to Russian waters. We are left this time to teach the rest of the world what is the best model for a new man-of-war. Perhaps our fleet already contains the germ of the discovery, though glimpses have been given of some remarkable inventions yet to come, and we are still in doubt whether a small swift vessel, with a single gun or two, may not be a better pattern than a heavy frigate, however constructed. It is satisfactory, however, to reflect that we have at any rate not been surpassed in discovery by any other State, and that if our Iron-clads are not yet the best that can be designed, they are certainly as good as any others afloat.
Tu 12 December 1865


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 CunninghamExternal link," 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.
Ma 1 January 1866It is strange evidence of the stage at which Naval Architecture has arrived that we should now be hotly debating whether our men-of-war ought to be floating citadels or floating towers. Yet that is the present state of the question, and let no reader imagine that the difference between the two systems is slight. All the correspondence that has been seen, and much that has not been seen, in our recent impressions turned upon this point of contention. Nobody is quite satisfied with things as they are, but there are two parties contending for the honour of introducing improvement. That is how the case stands, and the position is in many respects remarkable. For a wonder, we are taking a point of departure, not from failure, but from success. The original design for a first-rate ironclad is represented in the vessels of which we have lately given some account - the Minotaur and the Agincourt; and more splendid ships than these it is impossible to imagine. For speed, strength, shapeliness, and convenience they are not to be matched by any ironclads afloat. They are as fast as a Holyhead packet, they are as beautiful to look at as the smartest frigate in the fleet, and the strength and finish of their armour could hardly be surpassed. Then, why not rest at this point, and be thankful too? For many reasons. The Minotaur is a magnificent ship beyond a question, but she is of 6,000 tons burden, she is 400 feet long, she wants a crew of 700 men, she costs a mint of money, and she was a terribly long time building. There is enough to set us inquiring for a smaller, cheaper, handier, and more practicable class of vessels, and another reason stronger than all, remains still to come. When the Warrior, the model of these first-rates, was first designed, nobody supposed that a ship's guns would ever be carried except in broadside, and nobody believed that a gun above five tons in weight would ever be wanted or could ever be worked at all. But by the time we had got from the Warrior and Black Prince to the Minotaur and Agincourt it was certain that 12-ton guns would be introduced into the service, and not improbable that guns of twice that weight would follow. Could these guns be carried in ships of this otherwise successful model? That question cannot be positively answered, for the Minotaur is only just now going to sea with some 12-ton guns to make the trial; but the case appears, at any rate, so doubtful that rival inventors have been racking their brains for new designs more directly adapted to the prospects of modern warfare. The two most prominent of these projects are the "citadel," adopted by Mr. Reed, and the "tower," or turret, advocated by Captain Coles.
Mr. Reed is the Chief Constructor of the Navy, and he enjoys the advantage, a perfectly legitimate one, of being able to give effect to his own inventions. He has hitherto retained, as it was natural he should do, the principle actually established, and has designed his new ships as broadside vessels. Their armaments, however, he has contracted into central batteries, or, as they have been disparagingly styled, "square boxes," protected with armour of unprecedented strength, and capable of mounting the heaviest guns yet introduced. His ships will carry 300-pounders, and he expects, we believe, that they would be able to carry 600-pounders. They are shorter, handier, cheaper and more manageable than the Minotaur and her sisters, and they have been built with unexampled despatch. It is too early yet to pronounce decisively on their general success, but they are said to be very commodious and seaworthy, and to carry their batteries without difficulty. Two of the latest specimens, the Pallas and the Bellerophon, have failed to show the anticipated speed, but we are bound to add that in our opinion they cannot be said, as far as any proof has been given, to have failed otherwise. Some of the smaller specimens have been very good sailers, and Mr. Reed has at least one merit which may be considered unique in its way. We will leave it still debatable whether his vessels are successful or not, but, such as they are, he has produced them without delay for immediate service, instead of keeping them on hand till their very fashion had gone out. He said he would produce ships which should be as efficient as our original first-rates, and still more manageable, for less money and in far less time, and this, to all appearance, he has done.
But the advocates of the turret principle will not allow that broadside armaments can be admissible under any circumstances in the fleet of the future. They argue that though a 12-ton gun or 300-pounder may, perhaps, be carried or, in moderately fine weather, even worked in the broadside of a man-of-war, a rough sea would render the battery useless. They say that the ports must either be so wide as to admit hostile shot, or so narrow as to spoil the aim of the gunner. They remark that even these 300-pounders may be superseded in a few months by 600-pounders, and that then the broadside armament will be more impracticable than ever. Further, they point to the large surface exposed by a broadside vessel to an enemy's guns. These ships must have a certain breadth of beam to enable them to carry their batteries, and a certain proportionate length to insure their speed. The result is a vessel like the Warrior or the Minotaur representing practically a target of nearly 9,000 square feet; whereas an armament of equal power could be carried on the turret principle in a vessel exposing a surface of only 1,100 square feet. Thus, according to this argument, there is an enormous waste of money and material with only a partial and imperfect return. Even Mr. Reed's improved models are still unnecessarily large and cumbrous. The Bellerophon is 80 feet shorter and 1,800 tons lighter than the Warrior, but still she is a long, heavy vessel, when compared, for instance, with the Wyvern turret-ship, of some 1,900 tons burden and 220 feet in length. Yet the Wyvern would carry the most ponderous cannon known, and, what is more, would work them in any sea. Against all these recommendations, which are not unwarranted, there is, of course, something to be advanced. The turret system is so new that its practical utility has yet to be proved. No real sea-going turret ship has yet been built, and it is uncertain whether the principle is actually compatible with certain qualifications indispensably required in a good serviceable cruiser.
We do not hesitate to subjoin our own judgment on this acrimonious controversy. We think the Admiralty wrong on one point only - that of allowing the turret principle to remain virtually untested to the present day. We consider the Chief Constructor of the Navy justified in not deserting broadsides for turrets at the present stage of the question. What his "citadels" may actually do we must leave to time to show, but we have no fault to find with the principle of his designs. We can go a step further, and say that in our opinion such experience as we possess is not very favourable to the turret system. No bigger mistake than the Americans have made in their Monitors was ever made by a British Admiralty, and that is saying a good deal. But here are these broad facts before us, - that whereas guns are getting heavier and heavier, turrets can carry any weight, and that though the Americans have not built a good turret-ship, we have an architect who declares that he can. That architect's proposals have never been put into execution. We do not say that the fault was all on one side in this matter, but as the question was exceedingly important, and as Captain Coles had more than made his words good as far as he had gone, we regret that any conditions, even if a little unreasonable, should have been allowed to stand in the way of a fair experiment. The case is all the harder when it is remembered, how many experiments we have permitted with less justification. Even if Captain Coles's pet vessel had turned out the veriest blunder afloat, that would have been nothing worse than has happened in our dockyards a thousand times over. It is competent to any one to consider the turret principle unpromising, but as its pretensions were really considerable, as they could be refuted by nothing but experiment, and as we had an officer of known ability ready and anxious to make that experiment on the instant, the challenge should have been accepted without any squabble about terms. To the omission we owe all the controversy which a most interesting and yet insoluble question has naturally provoked.
Tu 2 January 1866The 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.
Th 29 March 1866On 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.
We 18 July 1866After repeated experiments with the newly-introduced wrought-iron gun carriage and platform, made on the Woolwich Arsenal design, an order was granted by the War Department for the manufacture on that principle of 32 carriages and platforms to serve that number of 9-inch and 7-inch guns, to supply a demand from Halifax. The order is now complete, and will be shipped from Woolwich shortly for its destination. The advantages of employing wrought-iron in the place of wood are stated to be that it is less likely to splinter when struck by an enemy's shot; that the carriages for heavy guns are lighter than those of wood, and that a constant supply of the necessary material can always be obtained from the Thames Iron-works and other establishments at hand. A difficulty has been frequently experienced in purchasing well-seasoned wood. The mechanical arrangements for depressing and elevating the gun, fitted to the more solid material, are also less liable to derangement and become less affected by the severity of the weather. The Royal carriage department officials have now received instructions to commence, on an extensive scale, the construction of wrought-iron carriages to furnish the whole of Her Majesty's ships of the fleet. The establishment will be increased for that purpose, and the work will be urged on as speedily as possible. The forgemen and others have commenced working over time, but, in consequence of the great heat, the working hours have been reduced. The Ordnance Select Committee of Woolwich Arsenal have recommended that the principle on which the new carriages are to be built shall not be confined exclusively to the Arsenal system, but shall embrace portions of other inventors' methods. The elevating and depressing apparatus will be on Sir William Armstrong's principle, the running-out gear on that of Capt. Scott, and the general construction of the carriages on that of the Royal Arsenal. As the work progresses the carriages are to be issued to the whole of the ships in commission, so as not to interfere materially with existing arrangements.
Ma 20 May 1867On Friday Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney C. Dacres, K.C.B., First Sea Lord of the Admiralty; Rear-Admiral Spencer Robinson, Controller of the Navy; Rear-Admiral Astley Cooper Key, C.B., Director-General of Naval Ordnance, and other officials of the Board of Admiralty, arrived at Chatham on a visit of inspection to the dockyard and naval establishments. The members of the Board were received on their arrival by Capt. W. Houston Stewart, C.B., superintendent of the dockyard, and other officials, and proceeded to the dockyard offices, where they were engaged in the transaction of official business. The principal object of the visit of the members of the Board was to inspect the model and witness the actual working of an invention by Capt. R.A.E. Scott, late of the Research, for enabling the heaviest description of naval ordnance to be worked at the broadside by means of machinery of a very simple description. Soon after the arrival of their Lordships at the dockyard they proceeded to the mould-loft, where the gun and its machinery lad been previously deposited, Capt. Scott being in attendance to superintend the working and explain the principle of the invention. The leading advantages of Capt. Scott's invention are the increased facilities obtained for swinging the gun rapidly through widely different angles on a turn-table of such moderate dimensions as not to interfere with the ordinary construction of a ship, while the extra gear thus required can be fitted to the heaviest guns, in both ships and fortresses, at very trifling cost. The model experimented with on Friday in Chatham Dockyard represents one of the new pattern 10-inch 18-ton rifled guns about to be manufactured expressly for the ironclad frigate Hercules, constructed to a quarter scale, the turn-table for working the gun being placed on a model of the forepart of the battery of the Hercules, Capt. Scott designing the turn-table to be applied in moving the foremost and aftermost guns of the battery from the broadside to the bowports and quarterports, and vice versâ. As far back as last summer the Lords of the Admiralty were so satisfied with the advantages possessed by the invention that they came to the decision of having it fitted on the Hercules, but as that vessel was not then in a sufficiently forward state, it was considered desirable to apply the experience gained in the Channel squadron to the improvement of the turn-table principle. The experiments made on Friday in the presence of the members of the Board of Admiralty were in all respects satisfactory, the gun having been repeatedly shifted from port to port, by means of its own machinery, by three men, and secured ready for firing, in periods varying from 20 seconds to 35 seconds, while it was stated yesterday by Captain Scott that the gun fitted with this invention can be discharged on the broadside, loaded, and shifted in readiness for firing on the bow or quarter in the short space of one minute. The machinery required for shifting the gun is exceedingly simple. In pointing the gun the appliances brought into requisition are independent of the turn-table, and consist of a rack upon the deck, into which a pinion works, a portion of the rack and of the rear-racer being laid upon the turn-table corresponding with the rack and racers laid down upon the deck. To facilitate the operation of working the large 18-ton guns of the Hercules some new appliances have been substituted for those hitherto in use with the 12-ton gun carriages. The chief of these are a compressor, which is entirely self-acting, so that in case of the crew leaving their hold the gun is at once set fast, a new means of clutching the running in and out gear, and other minor appliances, the object aimed at by Capt. Scott, as he explained to the Board, being that in case of the crew being struck down in action the gun will remain fixed, which operation was at the time being carried out After inspecting the turn-table and machinery the members of the Board examined the model of the slide which Capt. Scott proposes for the 18-ton gun. This has a Bessemer steel web on the top, wrought iron flanges bolted through to the web, or T-plate, and a wrought iron web bottom. The slide is deep in the middle and shallow at the ends, so as to allow the trucks to be placed under the slide, and is stated to combine a great amount of strength with a comparatively small quantity of material. After making a lengthened inspection of the model, and witnessing the working of the gun, the members of the Board inspected the new turret-ship Monarch, the ironclad frigate Hercules, the composite twin-screw steamers Beacon and Blanche, and the other vessels building at the dockyard. In the afternoon a lengthened visit was paid to the extension works at the eastern end of the yard for the enlargement of the dockyard.
Fr 14 February 1868OUR 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.
Th 24 September 1868Why do we cover the sides of our fighting ships with armour at all? Why will not the ships of war with which Nelson won our battles do for us still? Because shells have taken the place of solid shot, and iron rams have been substituted for wooden prows, and we learnt at Sebastopol and in the American war the helplessness of wooden vessels against these terrible contrivances of destruction. In Hampton Roads one ram from the iron prow of the Merrimac, followed by a single broadside, reduced the Cumberland to an instant wreck: a few minutes more, and the Congress, one of the finest American frigates, was burnt and destroyed by the same Merrimac's shells. At the bombardment of Fort Fisher, while the Monitors were firing and being hit with little intermission, the Minnesota one day steamed beautifully in, to show the devoted fort what a wooden frigate still could do. One shell from the single Armstrong 100-pounder which the Confederates possessed was carefully planted under her fore-channels, and "the giant reeled out of the fight." Yet the Montauk, off Fort Sumter, was struck 214 times, and the Weehawken 187 times, almost entirely by 10-inch projectiles, without receiving any serious damage. The Russian war taught us the weakness of wooden ships; the special lesson of the American war was the strength of well-constructed Ironclads.
Why, then, do we not plate our ships with sufficient amour, and have done with all the difficulty caused by shells and rams? Because a ship of given dimensions will not float if it exceed a given weight. In a ship of 3,700 tons measurement the displacement is about 6,000 tons, and this is the necessary limit to its weight. The hull itself of such a ship will weigh about 2,500 tons; to be of service as an ocean steamer she ought to carry 1,000 tons of coal. The water, stores, masts, rigging, boats, anchors, armament, and engines cannot be put at less than 2,000 tons more; and this leaves for the armour plating a margin of only 500 tons. But a ship of this class, constructed on the broadside type, will be 300 feet in length, and rise 18 feet above the water line, and will in her rolling in a moderato sea, in which a turret vessel will be steady, expose at least 10 feet of the hull below the water line. The area, therefore, which ought to be plated in such a ship, will be 28 feet high and 300 feet long; and if any of our readers are curious in calculation, and will assume a square foot of iron one inch thick to weigh 40lb., they will easily ascertain that to plate both the sides we must add a weight of 300 tuns for every inch of the armour's thickness. The problem of armour plating is, therefore, less simple than we might wish it to be. We must either have ships of greater displacement, like those of Mr. Watts, which will be larger, more costly, and require special docks and harbours to lie in; or we must, with Mr. Reed, deprive the ship of its proper complement of stores and coal, and even then be content to patch the sides, instead of covering them with armour; or we must, by some radical change in the form of the vessel, like that of the American Monitors, reduce the area which has to be plated to one-fifth or one-sixth of its present extent.
And here we may remind our readers of the history of our ironclad fleet. Up to the year 1863 Mr. Watts was Chief Constructor of the Navy, and it was he who designed the Warrior, Black Prince, and Achilles, and their successors, the Agincourt, Minotaur, and Northumberland, which carry 4½ inches of armour over the whole or the greater portion of the vessel. He maintained that it was necessary to make our Ironclads 400 feet long, and give them displacement in proportion, in order to provide the requisite steadiness as well as coal-carrying power. That thickness of armour sufficed at the time. The 68-pounder was then the most powerful gun in our service, but was unable at 200 yards to indent the Warrior target more than an inch and a half, making a mark in the iron something like an ordinary saucer. With steel shot it did little more. The 7-inch Armstrong breech-loader and the 9-inch Somerset smooth-bore failed to penetrate the same target. The ships of great displacement seemed equal to the exigencies of the day, and there are officers, like Admiral Warden, who still prefer them to anything we have afloat. Great objection was, however, felt to these colossal ships. Mr. Reed gave expression to the feeling, and declared that size and length were of no value in ships except for speed, and were not necessary for that. He was substituted for Mr. Watts, and introduced the patching system, building smaller ships, providing them with heavier engines and less coal, concentrating all the battery in a square box in the middle of the ship, and partially covering that battery with six-inch armour, to meet the improved artillery of 1864 and 1865. Up to the year 1866 it appeared as though from a defensive point of view his ships would be as successful as the others; and offensively they had one advantage - their greater shortness made them handier in steering. But it was found that these smaller ships, with their heavy patches of vertical armour and guns of increasing ponderousness, rolled so much at sea as to be rarely able to fire their guns, and never with the requisite precision. And, to make matters worse, in the autumn of 1866 Major Palliser’s chilled shot and shell did for the first time what iron and steel had hitherto failed to accomplish, and penetrated with ease and certainty any plate of iron with any backing, provided only that the calibre of the rifled gun from which they were fired exceeded by one inch the thickness of the armour plating. We have now 9-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch rifled guns. Our gun factories are eager to manufacture 15-inch rifled guns, and all that Mr. Reed can do is to concentrate his crew in a weakly armoured central battery, which cannot exclude even the 7-inch shell, and patch the waterline for a short distance with 8 or 9 inches of armour, and this in a ship which roles so greatly that the battery can be rarely fired from, and the waterline belt is almost always elevated or depressed above or below the real water-line.
It is impossible in the limits which our columns prescribe to point out the many defects of Mr. Reed's system. But it is easy to show how much of the difficulty is overcome by the adoption of the rival system. A turret vessel, whose side rises only two feet above the water-line, will cross in safety, as we showed not long ago, the stormiest waters of the Atlantic or Pacific. It will very rarely roll more than six degrees, or expose more than three feet of its hull. Where the broadside, therefore, must plate 18 feet above and 10 feet below the water-lire, the turret ship is equally protected with armour two feet above and three feet below. Its area of vertical plating is therefore little more than one-sixth of the other, and it can carry 11 inches where the broadside can only carry two. Even adding the weight of the turrets, it maybe confidently stated that the Monitor system admits of complete armour five times as thick as the rival system. Add to this that the low vertical side becomes almost impossible for the enemy to hit, and that the curved surface of the turret adds largely to its powers of resistance. It presents, too, no fixed portholes through which the breech-loading rifles of the enemy's Marines can play; and in future naval warfare we may be sure these rifles will play a conspicuous part. But the offensive power of the turret system is even more remarkable. Its great steadiness of platform enables the heaviest guns to be fired with precision; and those who have seen the manoeuvring of a Monitor round a broadside vessel speak of the strange fascination with which, wherever the Monitor goes, the two portholes of her revolving turrets seem to follow the broadside, like the eyes of a full-face portrait as you walk about a room. Handiness of steering is of less value in a turret ship, but a low freeboard reduces greatly the resistance of a ship to its steerage; whichever way the ship may be rolling the turret ship may be placed “head on,” the position of greatest steadiness, and still with her guns command any point of the compass; she might, for purposes of stowage, be built 500 feet long, and still manoeuvre with her turrets as she steered straight through the enemy's fleet. But we are committed to the opposite theory. We failed to see or would not seize the opportunity presented in 1866 of receding from a false position. The emergency is far more serious now than it was in 1863. Then the only fault of our Ironclads was their inconvenient size; the fault now is their weakness and unsteadiness.
Fr 26 March 1869


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.—
"Of all these the Bellerophon is the readiest and most easily handled under steam, and she has the most powerful battery under the thickest armour. Under sail she is slow and stows a small quantity of fuel, but is very economical in expenditure. Her principal defects as a fighting ship I consider to be, that the guns in her battery are placed too close together; the absence of upper deck armament, and the want of fire in the line of keel, under armour, as well as the inefficiency of the bow-gun, which is on the main deck. I do not believe that in chase of an enemy's ship she could, by any possibility, fire her bow-gun, the projecting bow helping the sea to roll up to, in, and on her main deck, flooding it and compelling the closing of the port. On one occasion, 30th of June, when steaming head to wind 5½ knots (force of wind 6), in reply to the signal, "Can you fight bow-gun?" the answer was "Yes, with closing the port occasionally." The absence of upper deck armament is, I presume, to be accounted for by the fact that the ship, as originally designed, was not intended to have any upper deck, and as is was an afterthought, it was not prepared to carry guns.
“The next class to be noticed is the Prince Consort and Royal Oak. They were built to serve a particular purpose, at what was considered a critical period. They were generally viewed as a makeshift, and being merely wooden line-of-battle ships cut down and armoured, they are not likely to be repeated. Nevertheless they have good qualities; they are armoured throughout, are powerful ships, handy under steam, from being short with good speed, and do sufficiently well under sail. Their consumption of fuel is very great. They roll very much, and so deeply that I am of opinion, now that ironclad ships are taking the place of wooden line-of-battle ships, it is worthy of all consideration whether it is not advisable to make them coastguard ships after putting them in a state of thorough repair in every respect; they might then last for years. Under existing circumstances, if they are much at sea, it is not to be expected that they will be worth repair at the expiration of their present commission.
"I now come to the Defence and Pallas. The former is a very handy ship under sail, especially with her screw raised, is very economical in her expenditure of fuel, but an indifferent performer under steam. A proof of it may be found in the fact that on the 30th of June, when practising evolutions, force of wind 5, squadron steaming 5½ knots, head to wind with a slight easterly swell, when she lost her station some little distance, she was utterly unable to regain it, although she was making 54 revolutions by signal. On her trial at the measured mile, in March, 1862, 62 revolutions gave her a speed of nine knots, according to the official record. In fact, she never did get into her place, and the evolution was not completed. As the experiments now taking place on board the Pallas are to be made the subject of special report, I need not further advert to them in this place, nor do I think it necessary to say more about that ship, as her qualities are sufficiently well known; and I do not suppose there is the least probability of a second ship of the same class being ever built.
"The Minotaur, the Achilles, and the Warrior are three very noble ships. The last named, however, I look upon as the least valuable of the three — her unarmoured ends, exposure of steering wheel, her rolling propensities (as compared with the other two), are defects which are not compensated for by any good qualities superior to theirs. The first and second, notwithstanding their great length, which of necessity carries with it some disadvantages, have many great qualities. They steam at high speed; the Achilles is, under sail, everything that could be expected in an armoured ship unable to raise her screw; and no doubt the Minotaur would do equally well if she were masted in the same way, which I consider she ought to be the first favourable opportunity. The Minotaur is more heavily armed than the Achilles, having four 12-ton 9-inch guns on the main deck, and two 6½-ton guns on the upper deck, which fire in a line with the keel, under the protection of armour, being the only ship in the squadron which possesses this advantage, and is armoured throughout, having 5½ inch plates, tapering to 3½in. These are great advantages over a ship in other respects so nearly alike, but in the great and all-important point of the capacity for fighting their guns, they are both alike, rolling as nearly as possible to the same extent, which is a minimum as compared with other ships; and in this respect of steadiness of platform upon which to fight their guns, I believe they stand out unrivalled and unsurpassed by any ship which has ever been built. Believing as I do, that this invaluable property of steadiness is due to the form of the ships, and the proper distribution of the weights on board them, and not to be attributed to their great length, this question has constantly forced itself on my mind — viz., it is not possible to build a broadside-ship, heavily armed, adequately protected, of such a length as to secure sufficient speed, and to be at the same time a handy ship, and of such a shape and form as to roll as little as the Minotaur and Achilles? Unless this question can be answered positively in negative, I have a full conviction that it ought to be attempted, so long as broadside-ships continue the most important and formidable part of our navy.
"My own idea of the proper theory of ironclad ships is this, that they should always be built of iron, be armoured throughout, be as heavily armed as possible, and possess bow and stern fire, at least to the same extent as the Lord Warden and Lord Clyde. Perhaps the time has arrived when the enormous increase in the power of artillery, and the increased weight and thickness of the armour-plates, which have become necessary to resist the projectiles now in use, render the carrying out of this theory of ironclad ships impracticable. If this be so it would seem to follow that if guns are to be used of such a weight that the whole length of the broadside cannot be made use of to carry them, and the space which they occupy is too great to admit of their being protected by a thickness of armour capable of resisting the shot which will be brought against them, it seems to follow, I say, that the turret-ship is a necessity. Guns of any weight can be placed in turrets, armour of almost any thickness can be carried round them, and it will then only be necessary to protect the water-line with a belt, as heavy and as thick as the ship can bear. These conditions carried out, it remains, of course, that the turret-ship should be constructed so that she should be a habitable and comfortable ship for the officers and men, with a sufficiency of sail power to enable her to meet the varied requirements which are usually made on a British man-of-war. The question again naturally arises. Is it impossible to build such a ship? The conditions above-stated, which seem to render a resort to turret-ships inevitable, seem also to point out that, in the broadside-ship, armour-plating will eventually have to be given up everywhere, except at the water-line and at the bow and stern, to protect guns firing in a line with the keel. In ships built completely of iron with guns as heavy as they are capable of carrying, protection must be reduced to a minimum, and shot and shell be allowed to find their way through and through the iron fabric, perhaps with less damage to ship and life than if they had been checked in their progress by armour-plating.
The subject of 'ramming' I approach with great diffidence. It is one which exists principally in the region of speculation. I am not one of those who think that in the next naval war ramming will rank before artillery as a mode of attack; but I believe firmly that it will play a very important and formidable part in all future engagements. Possibly some naval actions will be decided by the independent and energetic action of some individual captain seizing the fortunate moment and the right opportunity for running his enemy down at a high speed. It is as clear as anything can be that so long as a ship has good way on her, and a good command of steam to increase her steam at pleasure, that ship cannot be what is called 'rammed'; she cannot even be struck to any purpose so long as she has room and is properly handled. The use of ships as rams, it appears to me, will only be called into play after an action has commenced, when ships, of necessity, are reduced to a low rate of speed, probably their lowest. I therefore apprehend that it would be consistent with prudence and good tactics always, when going into action to hold in reserve a portion of the squadron or fleet (and that whether the force was large or small, whether the enemy were numerically superior or otherwise) to act as rams; and when the action had commenced, and noise and smoke and fire were doing their work, the reserve to be brought into play to act independently, as circumstances might require. For this purpose ships must be made capable of playing their part, and strengthened on purpose to perform such duty, and the form of bow which I believe best calculated to deal the hardest blow, and carry with it the greatest amount of destruction, is the straight upright stem of the Achilles or the slightly curved one of the Minotaur, rather than the projecting prow of the Bellerophon and others of a similar form. The result of the experience gained when the Amazon 'rammed' a small steamer in the channel is not encouraging. I believe also on this subject, as well as on very many others connected with naval warfare, that the first great action at sea between ironclad squadrons or fleets will dissipate and cast to the winds many of our preconceived opinions and theories, disturb many of our prejudices, and throw an entirely new light on the whole subject."

Th 1 April 1869


On Saturday morning Messrs. Laird Brothers, Birkenhead, launched, from their large dry dock the armour-plated twin-screw turret-ship Captain, built by them from the design of Captain Coles, R.N., C.B., as the representative ship of his turret system. The christening was performed by Mrs. John Laird, wife of one of the partners, in the presence of Mr. Childers, M.P., First Lord of the Admiralty (who came down specially to witness the ceremony); Captain Seymour, R.N., private secretary to the First Lord; Admiral Hornby and a party from KnowsleyExternal link; Captain Turnour, R.N., of Her Majesty's ship Donegal; Captain H.T. Burgoyne, R.N. V.C., who has been appointed to the command of the Captain, and has been for some weeks in Birkenhead superintending her fittings; Mr. John Laird, M.P., and party; Mr. F.R. Barne, Assistant Constructor of the Navy; Mr. James Luke, of the Admiralty; Mr. Siemens, C.B., of London; and Mr. Carl Siemens, of Berlin. Captain Coles, R.N., C.B., was prevented by ill-health from being present. There were also present a large number of spectators. A few minutes before 10 the notice to start was given to the tugs which had the Captain in tow, and it moved slowly and steadily out into the river, amid the cheers of the assembly and the strains of the band in attendance. Before this Mr. Childers and party made a complete survey of the vessel, and saw the turrets worked both by steam-power and by hand. The engines of the Captain were all on board and completely fitted, and steam was got up before she left the dock. She was at once towed down to the northern entrances of the Birkenhead Docks and taken into the Alfred Dock, where her fittings will be completed.
A brief notice of the circumstances under which the Captain has been built, and a description of her hull, machinery, fittings, and armament, will doubtless prove interesting in connexion with the launch. We may, therefore, state that in the spring of the year 1866 the great question of the adoption of the turret system for our future navy was prominently before the public, and in consequence of the many discussions on the subject it was decided by the Admiralty to give Captain Coles an opportunity of carrying out his views of what an efficient sea-going cruiser on the turret principle should be. He had placed before him the names of several of the most eminent shipbuilding firms in the country, and he was instructed by the Admiralty to select from among them a firm with whom he would be disposed to enter into the question, and prepare a design to be submitted to their lordships. Looking to the fact that Messrs. Laird at that time had considerable experience in the designing and building of turret ships for foreign Governments, and to their reputation as builders, he selected them to join him in the work. The general outline of what was required having been agreed upon with the Admiralty, Messrs. Laird and Captain Coles prepared a design and specification of a ship which was submitted to the Admiralty in July, 1866. as representing the type of vessels suited to carry out the object in view. The design was approved, and in February, 1867, a contract was entered into for her construction in accordance with the design. According to this contract the ship was to be ready by the 31st of this month to leave Birkenhead for the dockyard, where it was intended that she should receive her rigging and be otherwise prepared for service. It is satisfactory to find the ship has been safely un-docked with her machinery on board, ready for steam, with her general fitting far advanced towards completion, and her masts prepared to be put into place as soon as she can be moored under the masting crane in the Birkenhead Dock. The Admiralty have now decided to have the rigging fitted at Birkenhead, and the internal arrangements will all be completed while the work is in progress, and the ship be made ready in all respects for sea and for receiving her armament. The principal dimensions of the Captain are as follows:— Length over all, 335ft.; ditto between perpendiculars, 320ft.; breadth extreme, 53ft. 3in.; tonnage, 4,272 tons; draught of water abaft, 23ft. 6in.; ditto forward, 22ft. 6in.; height of freeboard or upper deck gunwale above water line, 8ft. ; height of portsill in turrets above water line, 10ft.
There are two separate pairs of double trunk engines, each pair driving a separate screw-propeller 17ft. in diameter. The collective nominal power is 900-horse power, and the indicated horse power will not be less than 5,400. There are surface condensers, jacketed cylinders, and appliances for economizing fuel. The four cylinders have each an effective diameter of 80in., with a stroke of 3ft. 3in. The steam is supplied from eight boilers, having 28 furnaces. The hull of the ship is wholly protected by armour from 5ft. below the water line to the upper deck gunwale right fore and aft, thus affording complete protection, not only to the midship part of the ship, where the machinery and turrets are placed, but also to the quarters for officers and men. The thickness of armour opposite the turrets is 8in., and on the remainder of the midship portion 7in., slightly reduced towards the ends. These plates rest on a backing of East India teal: 12in. thick, through which they are bolted to the skin of the ship, which is 1½in. thick (formed of two ¾in. plates, the whole supported by massive framework 10in. deep. This backing is further supported by longitudinal girders 10in. deep. The upper deck at the level of the top of the armour is covered with iron l½in. thick for the length of the turret spaces, and with one inch over the remainder, supported by iron beams 14in. deep, and covered with teak 6in. thick. The general construction of the hull of the ship is similar to that of other large armour-clad ships built for Her Majesty's navy, and combines a complete arrangement of water-tight double-bottom, wing passage, and other bulk beads. The fore-end, especially, is made of enormous strength, and terminates in a massive wrought-iron stem, formed as a ram for running into an enemy's ship. The armament is to consist of six guns, four of which are to be carried in the turrets and two on the upper deck. The guns in the turrets are to be 600-pounder 25-ton guns; those on the upper deck, at the fore and after end, are to be 100-pounder 6½-ton chase guns. The turrets, two in number, each carrying two 600-pounder 25-ton guns, project through circular openings in the upper deck. That part exposed to shot is covered with armour-plates 10in. thick about the ports, and for one-third the circumference, and with plates 9in. thick for the remainder; while the lower part and all the gearing is protected by the 8-inch armour on the sides of the hull. The height of the centre of metal of the guns is 12ft. above the water line, which will admit of them being fought at sea in very heavy weather; and they will have an arc of training from the foremost turret of 154 deg., and from the after turret of 156 deg. The turrets are each 27ft. external and 22ft. 6in. internal diameter. The lower part below the armour shelf is constructed in a cellular form, large openings being left for entrance and for passing in ammunition; these openings serve also to ventilate and light the lower decks. The turrets are supported by strong girder on the lower deck, and revolve on a series of cast-iron rollers, being kept in position by a solid wrought-iron central spindle, securely fixed in the deck and carried down to the orlop deck, and are fitted with a complete system of hand-turning gear in addition to the steam gear. This steam gear is worked by a separate pair of engines for each turret placed on the orlop deck below the turret, where they are thoroughly protected from any chance of injury. The gear for starting these engines is so arranged that it may be worked either on the lower deck outside the turret, or by a system of rods led up through the central spindle to the sighting platform, by the captain of the turret himself, who can thus take aim and direct the guns in the turret. The advantages of a poop and forecastle for a sea-going ship as adding to comfort when steaming with its head to the wind, and affording a certain amount of additional accommodation for officers and crew, have led to their adoption in this ship, and with but little obstruction to the training of the guns, as will be seen by reference to the angles of training given for each turret. The poop and forecastle are connected by a centre spar deck, 26 feet wide, which runs over the turrets, giving free communication from one end of the ship to the other, in all weathers; and the area of this deck will be sufficient to admit of the whole working and manoeuvring of the ship. The hatchways round the funnel and amidships are of iron, forming a support to this deck and supplying a system of ventilation. In order to enable the spar deck to resist the concussion from the explosion of the guns when fired beneath it, It has been framed of iron, the part over the turrets where it is necessarily unsupported being carried by deep fore and aft girders, which will be used as hammock nettings, and the whole of the underside of the beams being plated over with steel plates. Arrangements are made on the spar deck, forecastle, and poop for the storage of boats, anchors, &c., and there is a complete fixed bulwark 3ft. 6in. and 4ft. high all round. The space thus provided for working the ship leaves the upper deck clear from the poop to the forecastle for the training of the turret guns, one of which can be fired from within six degrees of the line of the keel forward, to six degrees of the line of keel aft. the only obstacle being the foot of the main tripod, which occupies but little space. It has not been considered requisite to fit hinged iron bulwarks (which have hitherto been a source of trouble in turret-ships) at the level of this deck, as it is not necessary that any men should be upon it when at sea, and the only protection is therefore by means of light iron stanchions, with wire rope, which can be lowered down into the hollow water-way when preparing for action. The Captain is fully rigged as a ship, The lower masts, which are of iron, are on the tripod system of Captain Coles, and are so arranged that the tripods of the foremast and mizzenmast come into the forecastle and poop, and the upper rigging is attached to the spar deck, above range of fire. There is therefore no obstruction to the training of the guns, except from the foot of the main tripod. In this way one great objection to the turret system for sea-going full-rigged ships is avoided — that of either having the fire of the guns masked for the whole length of the rigging, or risking the safety of the masts by letting go all but one or two shrouds is avoided. The internal fittings of the ship, though far advanced, are not yet complete; but it may generally be said that the space under the poop and forecastle, and between the upper and lower decks, is appropriated to the accommodation for officers and crew. The two turret spaces are particularly roomy. In the centre part a large space is bulkheaded off so as to be used as a supplementary coal bunker, holding about 200 tons of coal, in addition to the 600 tons which are to be stored in the regular bunkers. This will be a most valuable addition to the steaming power of the ship. Below the lower deck are the magazines, shell-rooms, water-tanks, provision-rooms, and all the store-rooms, in addition to the engines, boilers, and coal bunkers. The magazines and shell-rooms are very conveniently arranged, there being two of each, one below each turret, so that the shot and shell may be hoisted direct into the turret spaces.
The Messrs. Laird have several vessels on hand, in addition to the Captain, the most important of which is in No. 5 dock, Her Majesty’s ironclad ship Vanguard, of 3,774 tons, one of the latest class of broadside ships, which is now in a forward state, with teak backing fitted and many of her armour-plates in place. The engines for the Vanguard, of 800-horse power, as well as those for Her Majesty’s ship Glatton, building at Chatham, of 500-horse power, are also is course of construction at these works, and the former are fully erected in the shop.
Th 8 April 1869The 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 NapoléonExternal link. 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 SanduskyExternal link class, of 450 tons, to the DictatorExternal link, 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 MonadnockExternal link and MiantonomohExternal link, 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 12 April 1869The building of the new Turret Ships has elicited a discussion in the House of Lords, as might fairly be anticipated in a Chamber which contains so many ex-First Lords of the Admiralty. The Duke of Somerset, like Mr. Corry, is surprised that the very same officials who guided his policy in the matter of shipbuilding when he presided at Whitehall are now tendering to Mr. Childers advice which appears to be in direct contradiction to that which they gave before. We can sympathize with the Duke of Somerset and Mr. Corry in their natural feeling of astonishment, but the explanation is to be found in the change of circumstances which the Controller and Chief Constructor of the Navy have, perhaps too tardily and reluctantly, been compelled at length to recognize. The Duke of Somerset does not appear to have closely followed the progress of events since he resigned office. He tells us that, "at the time that he left the Admiralty, practically the largest gun for the use of the Navy was the 12-ton gun, and what changes and improvements had since been made he did not know." It is to the changes and improvements which have been recently made, and are still being made, in guns that we have to attribute the necessity for an important modification in the form of our armour-plated ships. So long as the 12-ton gun of 9-inch calibre was the largest gun that was likely to be carried afloat there were some grounds for maintaining that a broadside ship, carrying 6-inch armour over the battery, and a "strake" or strip of 9-inch armour along the water line, might, by skilful handling, and on the assumption that the sea would not cause the ship to roll, avoid destruction from the shells discharged from the largest cannon she was likely to meet. It is true that if the 9-inch gun were fired in a direct line against the 6-inch plating which protects the battery of the Hercules — our strongest broadside ironclad — the plating would be inadequate to exclude a Palliser shell. Experiments have even shown that such a shell, discharged from such a gun, will pass through 8-inch armour with the usual backing of wood. But the 9-inch gun no longer represents the most powerful cannon which our ironclads will have to encounter. We have already in existence 18-ton guns of 10-inch calibre, and 25-ton guns of 12-inch calibre, and it is proposed to make still larger guns of 13 and 15 inch calibre. The problem, then, has altered materially since the Duke of Somerset left the Admiralty. Our naval architects have stretched to the utmost the armour-bearing properties of a broadside man-of war in placing over the water line of the Hercules the 9-inch armour, and over her battery the 6-inch armour; and it is beyond their skill, without largely increasing the size of our future broadside ships, to give to them a protection of iron corresponding in any degree to the constantly augmenting force of the attack. Are we then, with the Duke of Somerset, to spend half a million of money upon a ship of war and send her off to sea with an armament of these heavy guns, when we know by experiment that her sides will be incapable of excluding the shells from the enemy's guns, and that a single shell would very probably send her to the bottom of the ocean?
The Duke of Somerset selects, indeed, the weak point of the low-lying Turret Ship, when he speaks of the want of accommodation it affords to the crew; but, as we pointed out on Thursday last, all shipbuilding is a compromise, and if we are compelled to choose between discomfort for the crew and insecurity in action, the former, though evil, is the lesser evil of the two. If a ship of the kind proposed cannot be made to afford proper comfort and what the Americans call "habitability" to the officers and men on board, it will probably follow that such ships will not be largely employed as cruisers in time of peace. But we deny that this incapacity of adaptation to the ordinary purposes of a man-of-war has been ascertained as yet by the test of experience. The Duke of Somerset and Mr. Corry have quoted some unnamed witnesses to prove that the MiantonomohExternal link does not possess proper accommodation for the crew. We prefer to rely upon the official Reports presented to the President of the United States, and laid before Congress. Mr. Gideon Welles, the Secretary of the Navy, in his Report of December 2, 1867, sums up the experiences of the Monadnock and Miantonomoh in the following terms:— "These vessels encountered every variety of weather, and under all circumstances proved themselves to be staunch, reliable sea-going ships. The Monitor type of vessel had been constructed primarily for harbour defence, and it was not contemplated that they would do more than move from port to port on our own coasts. These voyages demonstrate their ability to go to any part of the world, and it is believed by experienced naval officers that with slight modifications above the waterline, in no way interfering with their efficiency in action, they will safely make the longest and most difficult voyages without convoy. Steam, turreted ironclads, and 15-inch guns have revolutionized naval warfare; and foreign Governments, becoming sensible of this great change, are slowly but surely coming to the conclusion that turreted vessels and heavy ordnance are essential parts of an efficient fighting navy." Such was the opinion of the American Minister who in the time of their great war occupied a position corresponding to our First Lord of the Admiralty, and actually tried the Turret Vessels which the Duke of Somerset’s Board did so much to discourage. Before we leave the subject we may usefully quote from the Report made to the Navy Department by Captain Murray, the officer in command of the United States' steamer Augusta, which acted as convoy to the Miantonomoh in her cruise to Europe and back of 17,767 miles, commencing at Washington in April, 1866, and ending at Philadelphia in July, 1867. "At 6 p.m. we anchored off the Navy Yard, Philadelphia, the crews of both ships being in excellent health, and the vessels themselves in such a condition as to be readily enabled to repeat the service just performed."
It thus appears that the Secretary of the United States' Navy and the Captain in charge both speak in very different terms of the Miantonomoh from those employed by the Duke of Somerset and Mr. Corry. But it must be observed that the Miantonomoh was only one-third of the tonnage of our proposed new Turret Ships, and had none of the conveniences which our naval architects have devised to remedy the deficiencies of that early experiment in the Monitor style of Turret-Vessel. There seems to be no reason whatever why a "hurricane deck," such as is familiar to the frequenters of our Transatlantic steamers, should not be carried over the turrets for a large part of the ship's length, or why the necessary means of ventilation should not be found in the portion of the ship which lies between the turrets as readily as in a broadside man-of-war. Captain Coles, indeed, proposes to plant the turrets at a considerable distance apart, and erect between them a wooden deck-house which would probably be removed in action, but in time of peace would furnish the crew with an amount of airy comfort not attainable in the ordinary broadside ironclad. We may safely leave to our Naval Constructors, now that the Board of Admiralty no longer throws cold water on the experiment, the task of meeting the exigencies of health and comfort. In the meantime we may remind our readers that the assumption made at the commencement of this article, that the broadside ironclad can ever hope to find a sea so calm that she will not roll, is contrary to all experience. The Reports of the Channel Squadron, just published, relate, as they inform us, to weather of exceptional calmness; but, even so, the ironclads often rolled to such an extent that the unplated hull below the armour would have been exposed to an enemy's fire. In the cruise of 1867, when the weather was "singularly fine," the Channel Fleet spent eight days in the voyage from Queenstown to Lisbon. During that time the Achilles and the Minotaur were the only ships which could keep their ports always open. The Bellerophon was the next best, and could always fight her guns, though during three days most of her ports were closed; the Warrior and Lord Warden had to close all or some of their ports during four or five days; and the Lord Clyde during five out of the eight days had to close her ports, and could not fight her guns at all. When we add that none of these ships carry armour more than a few feet below the water line, and that the armour they do carry is inadequate to resist the increasing power of rifled artillery, we have said enough to justify the change of policy in the building of line-of-battle ships, and we are surprised the Duke of Somerset and Mr. Corry should wish us to recur to the costly experiments they themselves conducted to so unsatisfactory a conclusion.
(various)The 1869 joint cruise of the Channel and Mediterranean Fleets
Ma 14 February 1870


There are few subjects on which a popular book, written by a master hand, was more wanted than that of ironclad ships of war. Englishmen are justly proud of their ships, and are, perhaps, prepared to spend more money upon them than on any other national object that could be named; yet it is marvellous how little is really known about them, or even about their cost. Mr. Reed's book is doubly welcome — first, because it is full of interesting popular intelligence as to what our ironclads are actually and comparatively, and, secondly, because he shows plainly enough how small a proportion of the Naval Estimates is really devoted to the building of these new wonders of the world.
The Monarch, our latest launched great war-ship, when in fighting order burdens the ocean with a ponderous bulk weighing more than 8,500 tons. Her armour-plates are ten inches thick on the turrets, seven inches and six inches thick on her sides. Her guns weigh 25 tons each. They throw shot weighing 600lb., with an initial velocity of 1,212ft. per second, and any one of them strikes a blow the energy of which, at 1,000 yards from the muzzle, if otherwise employed, would be sufficient to raise a weight of 5,165 tons (considerably more than half the weight of the whole ship, armament and all) to the height of one foot. This tremendous structure has been driven through the sea at the rate of nearly 17½ English miles per hour. But as far as strength is concerned the Monarch will be left far behind by the ships now building in British dockyards, for the Devastation and Thunderer turret-ships are to carry 14, 12, and 10in. armourplates, in front of guns weighing 35 tons each, and the Rupert and Hotspur, specially designed as rams, are almost as strong. Nor is this at all the limit of possibility. Mr. Reed long ago designed a ship to carry 15in. armour-plates on her sides, 18in. on her turrets, and he speaks in his introduction of guns being superseded as a means of attack by ships capable of striking in various directions. The cost of ironclad shipbuilding in England during the past ten years has been, in round numbers, 10 millions, while the total Naval Estimates during the same period have amounted to nearly 117,000,000l. The number of ironclads built or being built amounts to 47.
Such is the actual state of our ironclad fleet, and such its cost to the nation. We will now attempt an estimate of its condition compared with that of other Maritime Powers, and try to ascertain what sort of progress has been made since the earliest British models were designed. Some of our facts will not be found in Mr. Reed's book, but they are all taken from authentic sources.
The two great rivals of England upon the sea are France and America. The French began with the Gloire class, with armour about 4½in. thick upon ordinary wooden hulls. The same thickness of armour as the Warrior is carried by the iron-built frigate Couronne. The Flandre, with her class, and the ram Taureau carry plates not quite 6in. thick on wooden hulls. The second-rates of the Alma class have 5 8-10in. armour at the water line, and 4 8-10in. and 4in. on other parts of the hull. Their best vessels are of the Marengo class. They have 5 8-10in. armour at the water line, and 6 1-5in. and 4in. on other parts. They carry their 14-ton guns in high towers lifted far above the sea, but not themselves movable. These towers are open at the top, and the gunners are exposed to shrapnel fire and to the effect of musketry from the rigging of an adversary. In strength of armour, in power of artillery fire, and in speed these frigates are much inferior to the Hercules. The Imperial Navy has further certain rams for coast defence only, carrying 8 2-10in. and 7in armour. We may grumble occasionally in England when some slight mischance tells us that our naval guns have not yet reached absolute perfection, but the French are very far behind us indeed. Their cast-iron breechloaders are weak and slow in firing. Secrets of this nature are usually well kept in France, but the effect of their secret system has only been to deceive their own junior officers, and postpone the day of final discovery. An English scientific artillerist knows without asking questions that the French naval guns must be, from their form and material, very much inferior to our own, nor can the facts of the case be always kept concealed. A well-informed writer in the Revue Moderne for December, 1868, shows that our 9in. 12-ton gun is better than all the artillery of France, and his conclusion is, — "It must then be confessed, whatever it may cost us, that in an engagement where the artillery would be called upon to play a decisive part, a French squadron would be almost powerless against an English squadron of similar force." Nothing more is necessary than to say that we entirely agree with the writer.
Still better information has lately crossed the Atlantic from America, in the shape of a Report from Mr. Robeson, Secretary of the United States' Navy. Not only has the Minister to regret a deterioration and a paucity of seamen, but his opinion regarding the state of the ironclad fleet is only equalled in its humility by that of a Select Committee of Congress upon American Ordnance. He states distinctly that, "in the event of a war our ships would be uselessly sacrificed, or obliged to find safety in neutral ports, or, abandoning the sea and leaving our commerce to its fate, to seek on our shores the protection of our Monitors and forts." He says that the Monitors are steam batteries, not sea-going cruisers. One or two successful experiments have been made showing the capacity of some Monitors for a sea voyage, "under favourable circumstances, but they could not be used with advantage as cruisers on foreign stations; they are valuable for auxiliary defence on our own shores, but should not be relied upon beyond them." He proposes to build ten ships impervious to the heaviest ordnance afloat, and carrying broadside batteries of heavy guns. But what guns?
The Report of a "Joint Committee on Ordnance," presented to the Senate of the United States in February, 1869, now lies before us.
It is entirely condemnatory both of the American system of large smooth bores, and of the material and manufacture of the guns. It has been our fortune to criticize the American system of ordnance on more than one occasion. The 15in. Rodman was shown to be a failure during the experiments against the Plymouth Breakwater target, but nothing that we have ever said has been so strong as the report from which we quote. When we read that "in the attack on Fort Fisher all the Parrott guns in the fleet burst, according to the report of Admiral Porter," and that "by the bursting of five of these guns at the first bombardment 45 persons were killed and wounded, while only 11 were killed or wounded by the projectiles from the enemy's guns during the attack," we cannot be surprised at the committee's recommendations that no more heavy guns should be purchased until the manufacturers have learnt how to make them, or at the chagrin with which they find themselves compelled to state that "the United States is in the position to-day of a nation having a vast coast line to defend, and a large navy, without a single rifled gun of large calibre, and a corps of ordnance officers who have thus far failed to discover a remedy for the failure of the guns, or to master the rudiments of the science m which they have been trained at the public expense." And that there may be no mistake as to their preference for rifled guns rather than for smooth bores, they remark a little further on: — "To return to smooth bores, throwing huge spherical masses of iron with low velocities, is to disregard all modern progress in the science of gunnery, and to go back to the arms in use two centuries ago."
Mr. Reed has given his readers an excellent opportunity for comparing the defensive powers of English and American ironclads by placing side by side drawings of them, which are so simple and suggestive as to need hardly any explanation. We are inclined to be cautious in accepting the rule of resistance varying as the squares of the thicknesses for all sizes of iron plates. It is probable that the 10in. and 12in. plates, now manufactured in large quantities, hardly come up to the strength arrived at by calculation according to the empirical rule; but, on the other hand, the action of large shells on laminated structures may be more destructive than is generally supposed. It is unfortunate that no experiments have been made to show the sort of effect produced by the new guns and projectiles upon American targets. A small amount of uncertainty upon these points still exists, but not enough to leave any doubt as to the enormous superiority of the belt round the Hercules, or the whole side of the Thunderer, over the strongest targets yet turned out of American dockyards — and the contrast is still more striking if we think of ships as not always set upon a "painted ocean," but as, more frequently than not, rolling lazily in a swelling and falling flood, and heaving up their glistening sides so as to expose some feet of the surface that is said to be under the water-line. The bottom of an ironclad, like the belly of a reptile, must always be weak to resist penetration, bat there is a vast difference between the depth to which the strong side armour is carried in different models. In the Kalamazoo class of Monitors — the strongest of all American ships — the lower edge of the lowest block of iron backing is but 18in. below the water, and at 2ft. 9in. below the water the plating is but 3in. thick. The case of the Dictator is still worse. A roll of only 2½ft. will expose a long strip protected by only two 1in. plates, and if she but lean over another six inches there is nothing stronger than 1in. iron between her interior at a vital part and the rushing attack of the projectile. The English ships, on the contrary, are strongly plated down to about 6ft. below the water line. The speed of the American Monitors is very small. Altogether, it is clear that the type of ships now being built in England to carry the heaviest guns in turrets are superior, and that to a vital extent, to the best and latest American Monitors in strength and speed, and so far superior in armament that comparison would be ridiculous. Let us not, however, rest content with what has been done. The Monitors first produced were eminently creditable to their authors, and the Americans are not a people to sit down contented with such a state of things when once they have discovered their position. We shall be much surprised if the broadside ships which they are about to build will not be stronger than anything now upon the ocean. They have all our experience to begin upon, and it must be the business of our naval designers to take care that the British fleet may never meet at sea a single ship so powerful as to be practically impregnable.
We have shown that the actual expenditure upon ironclads during the past ten years has been at the rate of 1,000,000l. per annum. We will now examine the cost of later vessels in comparison with those of the first models. It is well known that the great innovation of Mr. Reed was to reduce the length of the ships, and yet give them the same speed and buoyancy by improvements in their shape and structural design. A fine and narrow bow and stern hanging over the water cannot support their own weight. Mr. Reed has substituted what is called the U bow for that of the V form, thereby gaining buoyancy without loss of speed. The introduction of rifled guns of great power enabled him to concentrate the battery, even without using turrets, though in the later ships we find protected guns on deck both in the bow and stern. Step by step — adopting one scientific discovery after another — he has succeeded in lightening most materially the hulls of his vessels, even while adding greatly to their strength, and without decreasing the weights carried, — nay, sometimes increasing them.
In his chapter on the "Structure of the Ironclads," the author explains how he has added strength to the hulls of his ships by building them with double bottoms and bracket frames. The Bellerophon and her successors do not depend for their safety on one thin shell of iron or wood between the hungry sea and the life of the ship, with her precious burden of men and guns. For the thin and fragile iron belly skin of the Warrior has been substituted in Mr. Reed's ships a double cellular structure, light and strong as the Menai bridge. Even the Warrior has such an arrangement of iron under her heavy engines and boilers, but the new floating guardians of England have no place in their bodies so weak or faulty in construction but that they might be torn by sharp rocks or wounded by a glancing missile, and yet float securely and fight on. The Great Eastern actually experienced the value of the cellular construction, for she once struck on a rock, tore away enough of her outer skin to let death through, but was saved by the inner skin, and the damage was so localized by the cellular tissue that she continued her voyage without difficulty or danger. We should expect this elaborate structure to involve heavy and expensive hulls, and so it would, only that much thought and labour has enabled Mr. Reed to save unnecessary weight in other parts of the ship and distribute the metal to such good purpose that the proportion borne by the weight of the hull or carrying part of the vessel to that of the weights carried is continually diminishing as ship after ship is designed.
In the ironclad wooden ships the weight of the hull and the weights carried by it were about equal. In the first iron ships clad in armour the weight of the hull generally exceeded the weights carried, and that to a very considerable extent. In the Black Prince this excess was about 700 tons, in the Defence about 1,000 tons, in the Achilles more than 500 tons. In the Minotaur we find the first steps made towards improvement. Her hull carries weights exceeding its own by 190 tons. The Bellerophon — first of the "bracket frame" or cellular-built ships, with strong framing and plating and double skin, was yet capable of carrying 150 tons more than the weight of her hull, though she is a much smaller ship than the Minotaur. As we pass on to the later models we find the Sultan — a broadside ship — with a hull weighing 1,082 tons less than that of the Minotaur, yet carrying a weight of armour, artillery, men, rigging, and stores nearly 900 tons greater than that of her own hull. The Monarch's hull weighs still less, yet she carries an excess of more than 950 tons. The progress has been considerable, for the Monarch, with a hull of nearly the same weight as the Bellerophon's, carries 834 tons more than the Bellerophon carries. It is evident that there are here the elements of a vast economy. If the displacement of two ships be the same and several hundreds of tons are saved in the hull of one of them, the armour, armament, and equipment, or all three together, may be increased, and the ship become much more powerful than her rival; and on the other hand, if the armament, &c., is to remain the same, the weight, and therefore cost, of the hull will be much less in the newer model.
Let us see how this affects the cost of Mr. Reed's ships. Take the cases of the Black Prince and Bellerophon. The Black Prince has a hull weighing about 5,200 tons, and carries less than 1,000 tons of armour. The hull of the Bellerophon weighs less than 3,900 tons, but she carries nearly 1,100 tons of armour. Had no improvements been made in the Bellerophon, and the proportion between hull and armour remained as it is in the Black Prince, the Bellerophon's hull must have been about 1,970 tons or 50 per cent. heavier than it is. We will take the extra cost at the rate of 45l. per ton, a very moderate estimate, and we have the startling economy of more than 88,500l. We are not here concerned with questions of Royal Dockyards or Admiralty management, only with Mr. Reed's designs and his improvements, the proportions and structural arrangements of ships.
From similar calculations we find that, taking groups of ships together and comparing them, the Warrior, Black Prince, and Achilles carry 3,150 tons of armour on hulls weighing 15,800 tons, while the Hercules, Sultan, Penelope, and Monarch carry altogether nearly 4,900 tons of armour on hulls weighing about 14,600 tons — to say nothing of the extraordinary increase of artillery power in the latter ships. Calculating as before, the saving will be about 442,800l., or about 65 per cent. on the cost of the hulls. The four ships of the Invincible class carry about 3,700 tons of armour on hulls weighing a little more than 11,300 tons, while four older ships of about the same size — the Defence, Resistance, Hector, and Valiant — carry only about 3,000 tons of armour on hulls of 14,900 tons. The eonomy here is about 60 per cent. in weight of hulls, and the money saving more than 306,000l. If we were to take the last models — the Thunderer, &c. — and compare them with the strongest and finest of the old ironclads, the difference would be even greater and the saving something really enormous. Indeed, it would at first sight appear almost incredible, yet not more so than the possibility of building and arming the Thunderer, the Glatton, the Devastation, the Hotspur, and the Rupert would have appeared to the engineers and naval architects of but eight years ago. We refer our readers to a little book published in 1867, called European Armaments in 1867 (London: Chapman and Hall) for a sketch of the opinions held by the distinguished members of the Institute of Civil Engineers in 1862. At that time it appeared to be doubtful whether iron plate as thick as six inches could be made or carried by ships, and the idea of making armour to resist a 600lb. shot seemed absurd. In 1867 the Hercules was not launched, and in 1870 we are building ships to carry armour 14in. thick on the turrets, 12in. on the sides. In 1862, Admiral Halstead supposed that the 68-pounder smoothbore of less than five tons would be the gun of the future. In 1870 we are designing ships to carry 30-ton rifled guns. If the size of the vessels had increased in proportion to their armament and armour, who can say into what extravagancies the country might have been carried?
We find in the book just quoted a list of British and French ironclads, giving the most important details concerning them, and it seems worthwhile to complete the list to the present day for the benefit of those who may chance to possess copies. The backing of the Penelope as actually built is 10in. and 11in.; her speed attained is 12·76 knots. The Hercules should have been called partially armoured, and she has attained a speed of 14·7 knots. The Monarch also exceeded her estimated speed and arrived at 14·93 knots. She carries four 25-ton guns and three of 6½-tons. The following list includes all the new ironclads built or in process of building:—


Sultan. — Same as Hercules, except in having an additional armoured battery on the upper deck, commanding all round fire.
Audacious. — Partially armoured with deep belt. Two batteries amidships, one above the other, the upper commanding all round fire; 8-in. to 6-in. plates; 10-in. backing; 1¼-in. skin. Speed, 13½ knots (estimated). Bottom sheathed with zinc. Armament, ten 12-ton guns and four 64-pounders.
Invincible, Iron Duke, and Vanguard. — Same as Audacious, but no sheathing on bottom.
"Swiftsure and Triumph. — Same as Audacious, but with wood sheathing and copper on bottom.


"Glatton. — Low sided, with an armoured breastwork above for protecting the base of turret, engines, boilers, &c. One turret only. Upper-deck armoured; 14, 12, and 10-in. armour on turret and sides — 3-in. to 1½-in. on deck; 20-in. to 15-in. backing; 2-in. to 1¼-in. skin. Ram bow. Has a flying deck high out of the water for stowing boats, and for resort in rough weather. Speed, 9¾ knots (estimated). Armament, two 25-ton guns in one turret.
"Devastation. — Low sided, with an armoured breastwork above, as in Glatton. Forecastle forward, the guns firing over. Two turrets. Upper deck armoured. Can go to sea and carries sufficient coal, provisions, and stores for a voyage to the Mediterranean and back, or to America. Fourteen, 12, and 10-in, plates on turrets and sides; 3-in. to 1¾-in. plates on deck; 18-in. to 16-in. backing; 1½-in. skin. Flying deck like the Glatton. Ram bow, Port sill 13½ft, above the water, Speed, 12½ knots (estimated). Armament, four 35-ton guns in turrets.
"Thunderer, same as Devastation.


"Hotspur. — Bullt specially for ramming, and very strongly constructed. The bow is armour-plated for a considerable distance under water to prevent its being injured in striking. Has a fixed battery and breastwork amidships, the latter protecting the engines, boilers, wheel, &c. The side is protected by a belt, at the top of which is an armoured deck. The breastwork and upper deck extend above this; 11-in. and 8-in. plates on sides, breastwork, and battery; 3-in. to 2-in. plates on deck; 15-in. to 12-in. backing; 1¼-in, skin, Port sill 10ft. above the water. Carries a light rig, and is intended to accompany a fleet, Speed, 12 knots (estimated). Armament, one 25-ton gun in fixed battery, and one 64-pounder.
"Rupert. — Same in principle as Hotspur, except in having a movable turret instead of a fixed battery, and the addition of a flying deck high out of the water. The armour of the turret is 14in. and 12in.; that on the breastwork and sides 12in., 11in., and 9in. Armament — two 18-ton guns in turret, and one 64-pounder."

We regret that we cannot follow Mr. Reed through his interesting essays on the various disputed points regarding the sailing, steaming, and rolling of the ironclads, the conversion of wooden ships, and the qualities of turret-ships and rams. His book is written in a simple and interesting style. We can commend it heartily to all those who desire to study for themselves what has been done by England of late years to retain her supremacy on the seas.

*Our Ironclad Ships; their qualities, performance, and cost, with chapters on Turret-ships, Ironclad Rams, %amp;c. By E.J. Reed, C.B., Chief Constructor of the Navy. London, John Murray, Albemarle-street, 1869.

We 3 August 1870


Sir,— Despite of Mr. HammondExternal link’s assurances to Lord GranvilleExternal link on the date he assumed office of the satisfactory state of our foreign affairs, we have to-day a European warExternal link of no ordinary dimensions, and a massacre of Christians in ChinaExternal link which will have to be accounted for at an early date. The sword in both cases will have to come to the rescue of diplomacy. Is it not time to see whether we are prepared for such emergencies as may arise? Our army, with its contingents of sepoys, native levies, and Volunteers at home and abroad, will, we may hope, be equal to the defence of our coasts at home and in the colonies, — no babe’s play either against the steamship and rifled cannon of an enterprising foe. Defence may thus be our policy as well as need in a military sense, but it will not do for the navy. If we are unable to maintain our maritime supremacy, we are lost. We must, in war as in peace, keep open our highways to every part of the world; our very existence depends on this. Fail in that respect, and a greater catastrophe will befall our Empire than ever happened to Holland or to Spain. We shall when the storm passes over, in such case, go back to the position from which we emerged in the Elizabethan Age.
It was then the wise policy was adopted — that to be a great maritime nation, the home of civil and religious liberty, exposed to the sudden attack of great military despotisms, we should, when threatened, be ready to assume the aggressive, and scotch or cripple an armada before it left an enemy's port. What was sound policy then is still more so to-day.
Now, I firmly believe that so far as keeping the seas open to our commerce and defying all comers on blue water to the gage of battle, Great Britain was never so fit or so formidable as she is to-day, but I dispute our possessing to-day, any more than we did in 1854, sufficient ships capable of breaking into an enemy's ports, "singeing the King of Spain's beard," as Drake called it, ripping up ports and shipping, and generally deranging well-planned schemes of descents upon our own or our colonial coasts. It is too late, as Germany now knows to her cost, to improvise these modern engines of warfare after hostilities have commenced.
Impressed, from what I saw of the Crimean War, with the necessity for England possessing means of assaulting Sebastopols without the aid of a French host, and at a less cost than 80 millions sterling, I became convinced, after five years careful study of the subject, that there was but one way to achieve this end, — viz., to substitute the ironclad for the line-of-battle ship, and to urge a perfect change in the form of our ships and the position of the armaments. In 1860 I gave my adhesion to Captain Coles's invention of the turrets, and then, with the experience of the American Civil War before us, we both advocated the turret on the low freeboard principle as the true ship for us to possess for such heavy and close-fighting as England needs for action in line-of-battle. and breaking into an enemy's ports.
Well, Sir, ten years have now passed, the turret principle is acknowledged to be the true one for handling great rifled guns in a seaway; it affords a steadiness of gun platform as remarkable as it is advantageous, and any tyro can see the superiority for defence the hull must offer if covered everywhere with armour instead of being cut into patches by port-holes, as in the broadside ironclads. One would suppose that the advocates of a system which, after several trials, had established these points, despite of the almost criminal opposition of those who should have been less prejudiced, as the rulers of a progressive profession, might now expect some recognition of the soundness of their views, and that Captain Cowper Coles, as the inventor, might, at any rate, rest on his laurels after so many years of anxiety. Yet, it is not so. Such men as Admiral Sir Spencer Robinson never acknowledge they are wrong and others are right. The Controller of the Navy dreads lest we should proceed to prove the melancholy waste of public money, to which he has been a party, in one crank and another, to produce something as good as Captain Coles's ship without frankly adopting the turret principle. He takes a turret, therefore, or rather two, and sticks them on a lofty side, naturally weak in armour, and offering a huge target, and insists that that is the right form of turret-ship. "The man who built that ship, Sir," said a gallant American officer to me, when looking at the Monarch, "had turret on the brain." Captain Coles says "she is a burlesque," and I look upon her as a mere dodge to stay progress, and do not hesitate to say so. Mr. Childers may desire to make things pleasant at Whitehall by giving Sir Spencer Robinson some more smoke under which he may retreat to a new position; it is useless our objecting, but we have waited patiently long enough, and it is time to speak out. I say all has been proved which the advocates of the turret and low freeboard system asserted years ago, and that the safety of the State needs that there should be no longer any delay in providing our navy with at least a dozen turret-ships of moderate size and draught of water, capable of carrying the heaviest cannon. I suggested this years ago, officially, when in command of the Royal Sovereign. We might have done it well and cheaply. I was not listened to, because I believe Sir Frederick Grey and Sir Spencer Robinson thought they could then shunt a description of war ship, the value of which they were incapable of appreciating. They were wrong, Captain Coles and I were right. Turret and low sides and small target areas have triumphed in spite of ignorance and red tape, and I am glad to see that in a recent article you justly give publicity to these important facts — facts which are of national importance, and must not be allowed to be pigeon-holed to suit anyone's feelings. More than this, I appeal to you to insist on our Navy being at once reinforced by at least a dozen of these formidable low-sided turret-ships constructed under Captain Cowper Coles's supervision, and that the ignorance of a department be not permitted to produce more burlesques of a sound principle. Had Prussia to-day six such ships as the razed Royal Sovereign instead of her much-belauded Kron Prinz, it would be an evil hour for the proudest ships of the French fleet if they were caught some breezy day this autumn off the Elbe or in the Baltic. All I urge is, do not let us be left as unprepared when our hour of trial comes.
Yours faithfully,
London, Aug. 1.
Sherard Osborn, Captain.
Ma 8 August 1870


Sir, — In The Times of Wednesday is a letter on our ironclad navy by Captain Sherard Osborn, R.N., presenting one side of the subject. Permit me to present the other side to view.
I understand the letter in question to imply two things — first, that we are deficient of turret-vessels well adapted for breaking into the ports and harbours of an enemy; and, secondly, that Captain Coles has now proved by the performances of his ship the Captain that throughout the long controversy upon turret-ships he has been right, and the Admiralty and its officers wrong. The officer who is supposed to have been most opposed to the turret system, and to be most prejudiced against it still, is Sir Spencer Robinson, the Controller of the Navy. As this distinguished officer has quite recently agreed to remain at his post in deference to the strongly-expressed wishes, not only of Mr. Childers and Mr. Baxter, but of the Prime Minister likewise, it is of national importance that the facts of the case should be known.
Now, concerning the first point I freely admit that we are deficient of low freeboard turret-ships of moderate draught of water, well adapted for breaking into ports and harbours, and the reason is that successive Boards of Admiralty have preferred to build sea-going cruising ironclads with the money voted by Parliament, and so to bring about that result which Captain Osborn so eloquently expresses when he says that, "So far as keeping the sea open to our commerce, and defying all comers in blue water to the gage of battle, Great Britain was never so fit or formidable as she is to-day."
The preference of successive naval administrations for sea-going ships may be right or wrong, but what I am prepared to state is, that the one high officer who has looked to the other necessity of the service more than any other person is Sir Spencer Robinson. I well remember that in 1866, for example, in a general outline of the wants of the Navy which he drew up and presented to the Board of Admiralty, he strongly recommended the speedy construction of light draught turret ironclads for the attack of shipping in an enemy's harbour, and at several other times he has done the same, and, year after year, acting under his directions, I took the greatest possible pains to design such vessels. I know the contrary is generally believed, but that is only one of the perpetually-recurring instances in which outside persons, in the absence of official information, do great injustice to the servants of the Crown and the country. I repeat that we are deficient of ships adapted for attacking the ports of an enemy only because the highest and most responsible authorities have from time to time given the preference to sea-going ships. It is wholly a mistake to suppose that it is because either the Controller or myself was opposed to the building of turret-ships. We have built many, and for years past wo have been advocating the building of many more, as the Admiralty records amply attest; and if we have made any mistake in this respect it has been in showing too great readiness to adopt a system of which even yet we have had absolutely no experience in action, and which many experienced officers view with the greatest distrust.
I come now to the assumption that the turret-ship Captain has proved Captain Coles right and the Controller of the Navy and myself wrong, and I state with the utmost confidence that the Captain proves precisely the contrary, for she is in flat and open contradiction of all the crude ideas and early contentions of Captain Coles, and is a vindication of what the Admiralty have always believed and acted upon. I appeal to all who have watched the progress of this turret question when I ask whether the cruising turret-ships, which in the early days of the controversy and for several years afterwards were urged upon us for adoption, were not to possess the following qualities:—To be small although very fast, to have a freeboard of only two or three feet, to present a very small target to the enemy, and to have an all-round fire? But is the Captain small? No; she is a 4,200 ton deep-draught frigate, or twice the size which Captain Coles at first wished her to be, and the very size which I vainly advised him to adopt years before. Has she a Monitor’s freeboard? No; her side is 6ft. high, and would have been 8ft. but for an alarming blunder in calculation — the worst that I have ever known. Does she present a very small target to the enemy? No; every one who has seen her at Spithead during the last few days must have noticed that she stands up as high and as big as any broadside ship of her tonnage, and has the terrible disadvantage that much of this large size of target is due to a mere mass of unarmoured houses, casings, decks, and hammock boxes piled up before, between, abaft, and over the turrets, contributing nothing to her resisting or fighting powers, but threatening to bury the turrets and guns with rubbish in the hour of action. Has she an all-round fire? No; let the world be told that this perfect type of turret ship, according to Captain Coles's views — this pattern of warlike power and efficiency — is the only ironclad ship built of late years for the British navy which cannot fire a gun ahead or astern from, behind armour! If I had designed and the Admiralty had built such a ship from my design, Captain Coles would have been the first to denounce her as a burlesque upon his system; and she undoubtedly is the direct opposite of all that he once advocated.
It is right that the public should see this side of the picture, especially as we are to have "Captain Coles's supervision" put forward as the one thing needful. Such a challenge as has been made on this point compels me to say what I had much rather had remained unsaid. Captain Coles has "supervised" the Captain, and has had his way absolutely, and the consequence is what I have already mentioned — namely, the very worst failure in a ship to fulfil her design that I have ever known. The Americans made some great mistakes in the hurry of their building during the war, but they never miscalculated to the extent of 800 or 900 tons. The only parallel to this case of the Captain (which is 800 to 900 tons too heavy, and floats two feet deeper than was intended) occurred in a design which Captain Coles himself sent in to the Admiralty two or three years ago, and which was wrongly calculated by 1,000 or 1,200 tons (I forget which), so that the ship — if we had been improvident enough to let her be built — would have had the whole of her armour below water! I know the attempt is made to put the blame of the Captain's failure in this respect upon Messrs. Laird Brothers, but these gentlemen never made such a mistake apart from Captain Coles. and we may at least ask what was the value of his "supervision" in the matter? Nor is this the only mistake in the Captain. She is a failure upon another vital point, for whereas Captain Coles publicly promised at the United Service Institution that she should carry about 1,100 tons of coal, she can only take about 500 or 600 tons with her other stores onboard, even although immersed much below her load line, and the upper coal bunkers have been removed from the ship.
It is satisfactory to know that in spite of those drawbacks the Captain has proved capable of going to sea, and has fought her guns when there was no enemy to attack her. It is quite likely, and much to be hoped, that she may also do good service if need be in time of war; but I cannot conceal from myself that she is open to the risk of being disabled almost as soon as she enters an action, not only from the ruins of her huge overturret deck, hammock boxes, &c., but also from the still more serious liability of having her turrets set fast by the plunging fire of broadside ships. It is this liability that has always made me adverse to placing the turrets as low down as the Captain's. A shot fired with depression and striking the junction of her turret with the low deck is absolutely sure to stop the revolution of the turret; and this is why that junction has been placed high in the Monarch, the Cerberus, the Magdala, the Devastation, the Thunderer, the Fury [renamed Dreadnought prior to launch], and all the other turret ships of my design.
With reference to Admiral Symond's Report, just published, allow me to say that I addressed a Minute to the Admiralty some weeks ago in which I proved Admiral Symonds to be entirely wrong in his notions about the Captain being capable of destroying the other ships, some of which have much thicker armour than hers, in combination with guns that can pierce her sides; but this Minute has not been published, on the ground, I presume, that the Admiral's own condemnation of the Captain as a sea-going cruiser, for other reasons, was deemed a sufficient answer to that assumption. Certainly, the opinion he expressed was in direct conflict with that of naval men every whit as able and experienced as himself, and not committed, as he is, to turret-ship schemes of their own.
In conclusion, permit me to refer to a very able article which appeared in The Times a few days ago upon the use of Rams in action. That article, if it has its just weight with naval men, will do great good, for it will press upon them the extreme importance of using the Ram as their greatest weapon in action. We may discuss turrets and broadsides as we will, nor ought we to spare any means of carrying the best guns in the most efficient manner; but, as you suggested in that article, it is the Ram — and with it the "sea torpedo" — that will henceforth work the greatest destruction in a naval action, and I am thankful beyond measure that for the last seven years we have laboured earnestly and successfully (in spite of mere sailing Admirals) to give to our steam ironclads that great and priceless quality of "handiness" which will enable them to use both these weapons with the greatest effect.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,
23, Pall-mall, London, Aug. 5.
E.J. Reed.
Ma 8 August 1870The 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


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 1870The 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.
We 17 August 1870The condition of our Harbour Defences is beginning, somewhat tardily, to attract the attention of the public. Two years ago, when there was ample time for preparation, we repeatedly urged upon the Government the construction of a suitable class of armed vessels for the purpose. We then pointed out, with wearisome iteration, that during the six preceding years we had spent on the mere maintenance in reserve of a fleet of wooden two-deckers and three-deckers the exact sum — two millions sterling — which had been estimated somewhat extravagantly by a Committee on Harbour Defences to be required for the conversion of twenty of these vessels into plated turret-ships, after the fashion of the Royal Sovereign. (On the 22d of May, 1869, we published in our columns a letter from Sir William Armstrong depicting the danger to the port of Liverpool, or any other commercial harbour, from the intrusion of an enemy's ironclad. As he forcibly told us, "masses of merchant ships closely packed in docks, and large stacks of warehouses containing merchandise worth millions, are objects upon which the powerful shells of modern artillery would produce terrible effect." His remedy was the multiplication of those clever little gunboats — which are, indeed, floating gun-carriages for one big gun, and little more – invented by his partner, Mr. George Rendel, which have been since adopted by the Admiralty for the 10-inch gun. Give us, he said, but a hundred such, and our harbours may defy the world. Captain Moncrieff, whose ingenious apparatus for land defence has been much approved, is trying to extend his domain over the waters too, and has a gun-vessel designed upon his own principles for the purpose of Harbour Defence. At length, too, the Mersey Dock Board is waking up to a sense of its situation, and resolving that "the defenceless state of this port is a matter which demands," not their own attention, as might have been supposed, but "the serious consideration of the Government." We think so too, but Government helps those who know their mind most clearly, and show a readiness to help themselves; and we regret that, when wiser men were pointing out their need of help, the influential merchants of Liverpool and other commercial ports did nothing to second the efforts that were made on their behalf.
If any one supposes that, in the event of our being engaged in war with an enterprising and maritime Power, the tempting stores of shipping and wealth which are treasured up all round our coasts would be spared, from a high sense of Christian feeling or international morality on the part of our foe, he must be a singularly sanguine man. A conflagration in the Mersey Docks would be worth the winning of a pitched battle to any enemy who had the requisite audacity to achieve it. If the Mersey Dock Board desire to secure themselves against the possibility of such an outrage, they will do well to bring their ideas somewhat more definitely to a point, or we fear that, between the rivalry of land fortifications and armoured or unarmoured gun-carriages and the different descriptions of torpedoes, the Government will suffer them to fall gently to the ground. There was an old fable, which one of the Greek tragedians found current in his day, of a pitcher which had been knocked over, with the usual consequences. "If," said the Greek housewife, "you would only give up wailing and calling on the Gods to consider seriously your compound fracture, and just join yourself together again with a little glue, you would be a far more useful pitcher." Will the Mersey Dock authorities pardon us for recalling to their memories this trite old apologue, and suggesting to them that they would act a wiser part if they called upon the Government for something more tangible than "serious consideration?" Torpedoes may, perhaps, be a fitting mode of defending harbours, but we suspect that, like the Mitrailleurs, their terrors are exaggerated. They require skilled engineers or artillerymen for their management, and, at any rate, fixed torpedoes would be ugly friends in a commercial port. Fortifications are costly and slow to erect, we have already more than we know how to man, and recent experience has done little to increase their popularity. If anything is to be done to make our mercantile friends at Liverpool sleep more securely in their beds, we suspect that recourse must be had to small unarmoured gunboats and armoured floating batteries.
On behalf of the unarmoured gunboats, it is argued that a few weeks would suffice for their construction, that a hundred of them might be provided for the cost of two ironclad frigates, that they might carry each one gun as heavy as any frigate could bring against them, and that if one were sunk there might be others dotted about ready to take up and continue the fire. The delay in building ironclads consists in the rolling and procuring the requisite iron plates, and thus the invention of Mr. Rendel is the readiest mode of extemporizing a harbour defence. On the other hand, it is an old maxim of warfare that the best mode of defence is meeting by an offensive movement the intended attack, and a ship which cannot leave the harbour to meet the enemy before he enters it is inferior to a ship which is able to engage the enemy before he is "within the gates." Moreover, one of the most formidable engines of modern warfare is the power of "ramming,” and the gunboat could not pretend to this. We take it that if Drake himself were again alive and minded to "singe the King of Spain’s beard " by entering his ports and destroying his commerce, after the manner described the other day in his letter to us by Captain Sherard Osborn, he would be more deterred by the presence in the menaced port of one Royal Sovereign than of a dozen gunboats Now, if the Navy List is to be relied upon as in any sense a record of our floating strength, we have at the present moment among our ships no less than 22 wooden men-of-war, with engines on board of from 500 to 1,000-horse power, of which four — the Howe, Marlborough, Royal Albert, and Victoria — are three-deckers, and the rest two-deckers. Most of them are of comparatively regent construction, and must be suitable for Harbour Defence, if cut down, properly protected, and supplied with four or more of the heaviest guns in turrets, after the manner of the Royal Sovereign. Among them is the Frederick William, about the cost of which so fierce a battle raged some three years since. She has already, we believe, been twice converted, and might surely stand converting again. We are aware that the Controller of the Navy has depicted in no flattering colours the condition of these ships; but they would not be wanted for the wear and tear of ocean service, or require to be often driven at full speed, and a ship must be fit for nothing but breaking up if she cannot stand the amount of active service which the Royal Sovereign has endured during the last six years. We might obtain six such vessels for coast defence at the cost of one ship of the Fury class [renamed Dreadnought prior to launch] which we are now building for coast attack, and with six such powerful champions we might leave in peace an equal number of our commercial harbours, and send our active fleet on any quest of distant battle which the exigencies of the day might demand. We have, indeed, as Mr. Reed says, been lavishing all our efforts on the construction of ocean cruisers; but we have omitted one, and that not the least important, preparation for offensive movement abroad — namely, adequate security at home. If we have not provided for our Harbour Defences, our other naval strength will in the day of trial be paralyzed by having to keep watch and ward on our coasts; and, therefore, we would urge that the "serious consideration" which the Mersey Dock Board require from the Government should wear the double aspect of converting into ironclad turret-ships some of our useless wooden two-deckers, and supplying an auxiliary force of gunboats.


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