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HMS Agincourt (1865)
|► The Royal Navy||Browse mid-Victorian RN vessels: A; B; C; D; E - F; G - H; I - L; M; N - P; Q - R; S; T - U; V - Z; ??|
|Type||Broadside ironclad frigate|
|Launched||27 March 1865|
|Builders measure||6638 tons|
|Note||Laid down as Captain.|
1904 = Boscawen III.
1906 = Ganges II.
1908 = C109 c.h.
|Snippets concerning this vessels career|
|22 February 1870|
- 31 August 1871
|Commanded by Captain Henry Hamilton Beamish, flagship of Henry Chads on the Channel squadron station, until he was superseded for allowing Agincourt to take the ground|
|(7 August 1872)||Commanded by Captain Edward Stanley Adeane, flagship of Rear-Admiral Reginald John James George Macdonald, Channel squadron, flagship of the second in command|
|1 October 1874|
- 5 August 1875
|Commanded by Captain Lord Walter Talbot Kerr, flagship of Rear-Admiral Frederick Beauchamp Paget Seymour, Channel squadron|
|10 June 1877||Commanded by Richard Wells, flagship of John Edmund Commerell on the Mediterranean station|
|16 August 1880||Commanded by Elibank Harley Murray, flagship of Hon Henry Carr Glyn, Second in command of the Channel squadron|
|Commanded by Captain Charles Thomas Montague Douglas Scott, Channel squadron|
|17 May 1885||Commanded by Frederick Charles Bryan Robinson, flagship of Rear-Admiral William Henry Whyte on the Channel squadron|
|1904||Renamed Boscawen III|
|1906||Renamed Ganges II|
|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|We 9 April 1862||The Board of Admiralty, composed of the Duke of Somerset, Vice-Admiral the Hon. Sir F.W. Grey, K.C.B., Capt. Charles Frederick, Capt. the Hon. J.R. Drummond, C.B., and Rear-Admiral Lord Clarence Paget, C.B., the Secretary, went yesterday morning to witness some experimeats with large guns at Shoeburyness.|
In addition to the iron frigate Achilles, 50, 6,079 tons, 1,250-horse power, building at Chatham dockyard, the following squadron of iron vessels are now under construction by private firms for the Admiralty, several of which are in a very advanced state - viz., the Agincourt, 50, 6,621 tons, 1,250-horse power, building at Birkenhead; the Northumberland, 50, 6,621 tons, 1,250-horse power, and the Valiant, 32, 4,063 tons, 800-horse power, building at Millwall; the Minotaur, 50, 6,621 tons, 1,250-horse power, and the Orontes, 3, 2,812 tons, 500-horse power, building at Blackwall; and the Hector, 32, 4,063 tons, 800-horse power, building at Glasgow. The following iron-plated frigates are now building at the several Royal dockyards, the whole of which are intended to be afloat during the present year - viz., the Caledonia, 50, 4,045 tons, 800-horse power, at Woolwich; the Ocean, 50, 4,045 tons, 1,000-horse power, at Devonport; the Prince Consort, 50, 4,045 tons, 1,000-horse power, at Pembroke; the Royal Oak, 50, 3,716 tons, 1,000-horse power, at Chatham; and the Royal Alfred, 50, 3,716 tons, 800-horse power, at Portsmouth. in addition to the above there are no fewer than 31 line-of-battle ships and other screw steamers now on the stocks at the several dockyards, most of which are admirably adapted for conversion into shield ships, on Captain Coles's principle. Of these the Bulwark, 91 [laid down in 1859, suspended in 1861 and finally cancelled in 1873], at Chatham; the Repulse, 91, at Woolwich; the Robust, 91 [laid down in 1859, suspended in 1861 and finally cancelled in 1872], at Devonport; and the Zealous, 91, at Pembroke, are all in a very advanced state, requiring only a comparatively small outlay to plate them with iron. There are also three first-class 51-gun figates also building - viz., the Belvidera [laid down in 1860 and cancelled in 1864] at Chatham, the Tweed [laid down 1860 and cancelled in 1864] at Pembroke, and the Dryad at Portsmouth, - which are admirably adapted for conversion into armour-plated ships. They would not require the removal of any decks, as would be the case with line-of-battle ships, but would only have to be lengthened and strengthened to enable them to bear the increased weight which would be placed on them. Of the other vessels in progress several are intended to carry 22 guns and upwards. If completed as iron-cased steamers they would be larger and of greater tonnage than either the Monitor or Merrimac. The whole of the hands have been removed from the wooden ships building at the several dockyards, and are now employed on the iron-cased frigates under construction, five of which will be afloat by the end of the present year.
|Th 10 April 1862||'Important Experiments At Shoeburyness'.|
|Ma 11 August 1862||'Our Iron-Cased Fleets'.|
|Sa 11 April 1863|
Iron v. Wood.
The following correspondence has passed between Messrs. Laird of Birkenhead and the Admiralty."To Admiral Robinson, R.N. Controller of the Navy.
" Sir,- In the statement relating to iron and wood, and the relative cost of these materials in the construction of ships for Her Majesty's Navy, signed by you and ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, on the 3d of March, 1863, we have observed with regret the following assertion, - 'That among other difficulties which present themselves are, -1st, the general slovenliness of the work performed by iron shipbuilders, rendering the presence of an Admiralty inspector necessary on the premises wherever the contract ships are building, and leading to many difficulties between the contractors and the Admiralty; and 2d, the great temptations that beset the contractor, owing to the cost and difficulty of procuring good iron, to use an inferior and cheaper article.' We believe that a statement of this nature, proceeding as it does from so high an authority, tends very seriously to injure the credit of the contractors in this country, and also to shake the confidence which foreign Governments and foreign mercantile houses have hitherto reposed in the good faith and skill of the shipbuilders and engineers of this country. Among some three hundred vessels built by our firm in the last 32 years for service, in different parts of the world, we have completed by contract more than 40 vessels for Her Majesty's navy, and between 30 and 40 for the Hon. East India Company; and have now in course of construction the Orontes, a troopship of 2,850 tons, and the Agincourt, an iron-cased ship of 6,750 tons. We know that the work executed by us under the contracts for these vessels has invariably been satisfactory. We were told in a letter from the Admiralty, dated the 7th of November, 1862, relating to the progress made with the Agincourt, 'That they have great satisfaction in stating that they have received from the overseer and inspecting officer of this department assurances that the work has been admirably performed, and that all your arrangements manifest a desire to push on the work and execute it in the most perfect manner.' We therefore beg that you will inform us if it is your intention to attribute to us a system of carrying on work and executing contracts which is open to such grave charges as are enumerated in the paragraphs we have quoted. There is so great a difference of opinion between the contractors and the Government as to the cause of the delays that have taken place in completing the ships already built, or in the progress made with the ships in course of construction, that we do not intend to enter upon this question now; but we feel that some explanation is due to us on the points named, affecting as they do, not only our past but present engagements with Her Majesty's Government and other parties.
"We are Sir, your obedient servants,
"Birkenhead Ironworks, Birkenhead, March 13." "To Messrs. Laird Brothers, Birkenhead.
"Gentlemen,- My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having had under their consideration your letter of the 13th inst., addressed to the Controller of the Navy, in regard to 'the statement laid before Parliament relating to iron and wood, and the relative cost of these materials in the construction of ships for Her Majesty's navy,' I am commanded by their Lordships to acquaint you that the objections therein urged to the construction of Her Majesty's ships in merchant yards, as compared with the Royal dockyards, are of a general nature, and were in no way intended to injure the shipbuilding firms employed by the Admiralty but rather to show, from the results of experience, the difficulties which obtain in exercising control over the work, and a due supervision of materials and workmanship when ships are built in private yards. My Lords desire me to observe that the work you have hitherto performed on the Agincourt and Orontes is reported to be of excellent quality throughout; and they have every reason to believe that, although you will be very much longer in completing these ships than the time specified in the contracts, the quality of the work will be unexceptionally good.- I am, gentlemen, your obedient servant,
|Th 19 November 1863||When the Chief Constructor of the Navy …|
|Sa 12 November 1864||The following is the list of the vessels of the Royal navy which will be armed, and are now being armed, with the new description of 300-pounder and other guns in course of issue. The figures after each vessel specify the number of guns of the description mentioned she will carry. To mount the 12-ton 300-pounders:- Bellerophon, 10; Royal Sovereign, 5; Minotaur, 4; Scorpion, 4; Wiveren, 4; Prince Albert, 4; Agincourt, 4; and Northumberland, 4. To be armed with the 6½-ton guns:- The Achilles, 20; Black Prince, 20; Warrior, 20; Lord Warden, 20; Lord Clyde, 20; Royal Oak, 20; Prince Consort, 20; Royal Alfred, 20; Caledonia, 20; Ocean, 20; Minotaur, 18 ; Agincourt, 18; Valiant, 16; Zealous, 16; Hector, 16; Defence, 10; Resistance, 10; Endymion, 6; Mersey, 4; Orlando, 4, Pallas, 4; Favourite, 4; Research, 4; Enterprise, 4; Amazon, 2; Viper, 2; and Vixen, 2. To mount the 64-pounder muzzle-loader:- The Bristol, 12; Melpomene, 12; Liverpool, 12; Severn, 12; Arethusa, 12; Phoebe, 12;. Shannon, 12; Octavia, 12; Constance, 12; Sutlej, 12; Undaunted, 12; Impérieuse, 12; Aurora, 12; Leander, 12; Bacchante, 12; Emerald, 12; Phaeton, 12: Narcissus, 12; Forte, 12; Euryalus, 12; Topaz, 12; Newcastle, 12; Liffey, 12; Immortalité, 12; Glasgow, 12; Clio, 8, North Star, 8 [laid down 1860, cancelled 1865]; Racoon, 8; Challenge[r], 8; and Menai, 8 [laid down 1860, cancelled 1864]. The following will be supplied with the 64-pounder breech-loaders:- The Scout, 8; Rattlesnake, 8; Cadmus, 8; Scylla, 8; Barossa, 8; Jason, 8; Charybdis, 8; Wolverine, 8; Pylades, 8; Orestes, 8; Pearl, 8; Pelorus, 8; Satellite, 8; Acheron, 4 [laid down 1861, cancelled 1863]; Shearwater, 4; Valorous, 4; Furious, 4; Bittern, 4 [laid down 1861, cancelled 1863]; Magicienne, 4; and Columbine, 4. A supply of the 6½-ton smooth-bore 100-pounder wrought iron guns has already been received at Chatham, and it is understood that the first supply of the 300-pounder rifled 12-ton Armstrong gun may shortly be expected at the Ordnance wharf.|
|Tu 12 December 1865||We are gradually approaching a question of vital importance to the efficiency of the Navy. Our ironclad fleet has recently been strengthened by successive additions, exhibiting an enormous increase of defensive power, until at length we possess a vessel which may be expected to resist even a shot of 600lb. The Hercules, one of Mr. Reed's ships, is completely proof against a 300-pounder, and will be so plated along her water-line as to repel a ball of twice that weight. All this time, however, we have made little or no advance in the way of offensive armament. Even the 300-pounder gun is not actually received into the service, so that our progress is on the side of the ships alone. For this there are good reasons. We can make ships carry armour more easily than we can make them carry cannon. The sides of a man-of-war are now as thick as the walls of a feudal castle, and yet the vessels are as fleet and buoyant as ever; but when it comes to mounting heavy guns upon these batteries we soon find ourselves checked. It was thought a few years ago that the 68-pounder was about the heaviest piece that could be successfully carried and worked in a ship's broadside. This gun weighed 95 cwt., or about 10,000lb., and the Americans are still of opinion that a gun of 12,000lb. represents the maximum of size admissible under such circumstances. Of course, they have far heavier guns in use, but they carry them in turrets, and so, it is said, must we. This proposal, however, opens another question. It is proved that very heavy cannon, can be worked in turrets, but it is not proved that turret ships can be made seaworthy or commodious vessels. Moreover, we have got some magnificent ironclads constructed on the broadside principle, and if these cannot, by some means or other, be made to carry batteries of effective strength, they must either be reconstructed or be lost to the service altogether. So it becomes of infinite importance to ascertain by practical experiment whether guns above a certain weight can or cannot be carried in our first-rate ironclads, and what are the limits imposed upon us in this arrangement. Great professional authorities have asserted that any gun which can be carried in a turret can be carried in a broadside, but the contrary opinion has also been strongly defended, and is very widely entertained. Nothing, it is obvious, can solve this question but experiment, and the experiment, we are glad to say, will commence this morning.|
The Minotaur is, or, at any rate, is intended to be one of our finest ironclads. She was designed as an improvement on the Warrior herself, and it happens that she may be soon, beautifully modelled, in the South Kensington Museum. But it is still a question whether this noble ship can carry such guns as would be required to render her battery effective, and, accordingly she will put to sea to-day to make trial of her capacities. A Report which we publish in another column will explain the conditions of her trip. She takes out three guns of the new pattern, each weighing 12 tons, and throwing a 300lb. shot, and each of those pieces is mounted on an experimental carriage. The trial, therefore, will be competitive in one sense — that is to say, each carriage will be carefully tested, and the advantages or disadvantages of the several patterns will be compared and balanced. But it cannot be dissembled that the experiment will have another and a more comprehensive aspect. It is possible that the Report may be unfavourable to all the patterns together, and that the capacity of a man-of-war to carry 300-pounders in broadside may be left doubtful still. In that event we shall find ourselves in a strange dilemma, for it will appear as if really good ships and really good guns are not to be obtained at once, and as if we must sacrifice either the vessel to the armament or the armament to the vessel.
That these new 12-ton guns can be carried in turrets is beyond a doubt, but then it has never been ascertained whether turret ships can be made good seagoing vessels. We have reason to believe, on the other hand, that the Minotaur is as good a vessel as an ironclad can be, but then we do not know that she can carry 12-ton guns. If she fails to do so, we shall have to invert the experiment, and send out a turret ship to see whether she is seaworthy and habitable. The Americans have furnished no information on this point, unless, indeed, the fact itself may be thought to convey some intelligence. They have a large fleet of ironclads, built almost exclusively on the turret principle, but not one of these vessels have they ventured to send to sea. Only just now have they decided on making the attempt with the latest and most satisfactory of their specimens. The Monadnock was the last Monitor launched, and so pleased was Admiral Porter with her performance that he declared he could take her across the Atlantic. She is now selected to accompany three wooden frigates to the Pacific, and there reinforce the United States' squadron in those waters, so that we may, perhaps, learn something from the history of her cruise. With this exception, however, the Americans have allowed it to be inferred that their turret ships are floating batteries, but nothing more.
Many — indeed, most — American ships carry 8-ton, or, as they are called, 11-inch guns, but they are mounted on pivots. This was the gun with which the Kearsarge sank the Alabama, and which did such good service in other actions of the war. We could mount such guns on pivots too, but that principle would only bring us round to the turret in the end, for a turret gun is a pivot gun protected. The truth is, the artillerists have overtaken the naval architects, for they have been allowed more unbounded scope for their designs. In guns, we have got to a 600-pounder; in ships, we have not got beyond a broadside vessel. Mr. Reed has produced several novelties, and with at least the merit of despatch. He is of opinion, too, we believe, that his ships can carry these new guns, but that has not yet been proved. What ought to have been proved long ago, but is still left uncertain, is whether a kind of vessel which we know can carry cannon of any weight can also lodge a crew comfortably, and be in all respects a safe and commodious cruiser. It is possible, certainly, that the Minotaur may relieve us from the trouble of instituting this inquiry, by demonstrating the capacities of a broadside vessel to do all that is necessary; but in a matter so important we might as well have had the two strings to our bow. As it is, the qualifications required to make a really good man-of-war are divided between two classes of vessels. The Minotaur represents a fine seagoing ship; the Royal Sovereign represents a formidable floating battery. We are now going to try whether the Minotaur cannot be made to carry the Royal Sovereign's guns; but we ought also to have tried whether a Royal Sovereign could not be built with the seagoing capacities of the Minotaur.
It must not be forgotten that this ship which is now to be thus tested represents the first and most powerful class of our new fleet. The powers of Mr. Reed's vessels remain still to be shown, but at present the Minotaur herself, the Agincourt, the Northumberland, the Achilles, the Black Prince, and the Warrior are our six first-rates. These are the specimens in which our ironclad fleet surpasses the fleets of other countries, and it is, therefore, of no slight importance to discover, if possible, some method of arming them with the most powerful guns known. The experiments now to be commenced will illustrate the question for us, though they will not exactly decide it. It will be discouraging if the results tell against all the gun-carriages alike, but still the resources of our inventors may not have been exhausted in those three models. All we know at present is that before our best ships can carry the best guns some new mechanism must be devised. The approaching experiments will represent the first essays in this direction, but, whatever the result, we should be very sorry to regard them as the last.
|Fr 14 February 1868||OUR IRON-CLAD FLEET. — A return likely to be called for annually has been laid before Parliament, giving an account of our iron-clad fleet built, building, or ordered. The return, which is dated the 30th of August, 1867, contains a list of 31 ships then completed, 13 of them wholly armour-clad, and 18 partially. They are: — The Black Prince, 32 guns; Warrior, 32; Defence, 16; Resistance, 16; Achilles, 26; Hector, 18: Valiant, 18; Minotaur, 26; Agincourt, 26; Northumberland, 26; Royal Oak, 24; Prince Consort, 24; Caledonia, 24; Ocean, 24; Royal Alfred 18; Zealous, 20; Bellerophon, 15; Lord Clyde, 24; Lord Warden, 18; Penelope, 11; Pallas, 8; Favourite, 10; Research, 4; Enterprise, 4; Waterwitch, 2; Vixen, 2; Viper, 2; Royal Sovereign, 5; Prince Albert, 4; Scorpion, 4; Wivern, 4. Twenty-one of these ships are of more than 3,000 tons each. Six other ships were at the date of this return building; two to be wholly armour-clad, and four partially; the Hercules, just launched; the Monarch, 6 guns, to be launched in June; the Captain, 6, the Repulse, 12, to be launched in April; the Audacious, 14, in December; and the Invincible, 14, in March, 1869. All these six ships exceed 3,700 tons. Another, the Bellona, is ordered [and apparently later cancelled]. Lastly, there are the four wholly armour-clad batteries launched in 1855 and 1856, the Erebus, Terror, Thunderbolt, and Thunder; the three first of 16 guns, and the last 14, their tonnage ranging from 1,469 to 1,973. The first cost of the 31 iron-clad ships completed amounted in the whole to 7,284,294l. This includes fittings, but the accounts for some of the latter ships are not yet closed, and this sum does not include incidental and establishment charges. These last indirect charges, calculated in accordance with the recommendation of the Committee on Dockyard Manufactures, add about 35 per cent. to the gross direct charges for labour and materials expended upon each ship in the financial year 1864-65, about 51 per cent. for 1865-66, and the year 1866-67 is for the present estimated to show the same ratio of 51 per cent. These indirect charges have amounted, on the Bellerophon, to no less than 114,372l.; Lord Warden, 104.292l., with a further addition to follow: Royal Alfred, 69,999l., also liable to some addition; Lord Clyde, 66,964l.; Pallas, 61,076l. The most costly of the ships have been the Minotaur, 450,774l.; the Agincourt, 446,048l., both of them with unsettled claims for extra payment; the Northumberland, 433,130l., with the accounts not yet closed; the Achilles, 444,590l.; and the Hercules, estimated at 401,000l. Further sums have to be added to the cost of these ships for dockyard, incidental, and establishment charges.|
|Fr 2 September 1870||Our Malta correspondent, writes under date of Valetta, August 26:-|
"By the arrival of the Peninsular and Oriental Company's packet Nyanza on the 21st inst, intelligence has been received of the Mediterranean Squadron under the command of Admiral Sir Alexander Milne, K.C.B., to the 17th inst. The squadron, consisting of the Lord Warden, Caledonia, Royal Oak, Prince Consort, Bellerophon, and Columbine, arrived at Gibraltar on the 12th inst., and completed with coal on the same day. The Lord Warden and Caledonia, being finished coaling, put off from the Mole and moored in the inner anchorage. On coming to an anchor off the New Mole a slight collision occurred between the Prince Consort and Bellerophon. The former touched the quarter of the latter, caring away the quarter davits of the Bellerophon and snapping off her own jibboom. Early on the morning of Monday, the 15th inst., the Channel squadron was sighted from the Gibraltar signal-staff, and soon afterwards made its appearances coming round the point under sail; then furling sails it steamed into the anchorage off the New Mole. The squadron consisted of the Minotaur, bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Hastings Yelverton, K.C.B..; Agincourt, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Henry Chads; Northumberland, Monarch, Hercules, Inconstant, Captain, and Warrior. By noon on the 17th all the ships had completed coaling, and were ready for sea. The combined Mediterranean and Channel Squadrons, under the supreme command of Admiral Sir Alexander Milne, were expected to put to sea on the 19th for the long talked-of cruise. There were at Gibraltar besides the above-mentioned ships, the Bristol, training vessel, Captain T.W. Wilson; the Trinculo and Porcupine Staff Captain Calver. The latter vessel proceeded into the Mediterranean on the 16th inst. to prosecute a survey of the sea-bottom, in the interests of science. She may soon be expected at Malta. The Bristol was to join the combined squadrons during the cruise. When the Mediterranean squadron was off Algiers on the 8th inst., the Psyche proceeded into that port, rejoining the Flag the same night. She went on to Gibraltar on the following day, and again met the Commander-in-Chief on the 11th inst., with the mails. His Excellency the Governor of Gibraltar has been pleased to allow the gates of the fortress to he opened, when required during the night, for the use of officers of the various ships - a privilege hitherto not conceded, but one which is fully appreciated by the whole squadron. The following is a list of the appointments and charges made since my last letter … [omitted] … Her Majesty’s ironclad ship Defence, 16, Capt. Nowel Salmon, V.C., was unexpectedly ordered off by telegraph on the 20th inst. Her destination was kept secret, but is variously rumoured to be Tunis, Palermo, and Gibraltar. I think that it is not impossible she has gone to Civita Vecchia, for the protection of British residents at Rome, and to offer a refuge to His Holiness the Pope end his Ministers, should the course of events render such protection desirable or necessary. Her Majesty's despatch vessel, Antelope, 3, Lieut.-Commander J. Buchanan, arrived here on the 25th inst. from Constantinople, seven days. The surveying schooner Azov, Lieut.- Commander Moore, which had gone out on hydrographic science, has returned into port."
|We 9 August 1871||The Court-Martial on the officers of the Agincourt was brought to a close yesterday, after an inquiry of ten days. Captain BEAMISH and Staff-Commander KNIGHT have been severely reprimanded, and Lieutenant BELL has been admonished to be more careful for the future. We can hardly suppose that our readers have accurately followed the evidence given at this trial, which, indeed, cannot be completely understood, except by those conversant with the sea. But its general tenour is not difficult to seize. The testimony of a variety of witnesses confirms the unfavourable opinions which were formed on the first news of the event. There are certain mischances which carry condemnation with them, and among them is such an event as the stranding of the Agincourt on the Pearl Rock. It was 9 o'clock on a fine summer morning, the 1st of July, the sun shone brightly, the breeze was light, when six ships of the Channel Squadron left their anchorage in Gibraltar Bay to steam towards the Atlantic. Within two hours the Agincourt, an immense ironclad of 6,621 tons burden, had been run upon a rock at the southwest corner of the Bay, and, but for the exertions of the Captain and crew of the Hercules, another ship of the Squadron, it would have become a total wreck. By immense exertions the Agincourt was saved, but for three days the fate of the vessel hung in suspense, and a few hours of bad weather might have destroyed her.|
A defence in such a case is almost hopeless. The Pearl Rock is perfectly well known, and minute directions have been given for keeping clear of it. At night the lighthouse gives the necessary indications; by day every person in charge of a vessel can, by paying attention to the proper bearings, keep clear of danger. What are Captains and Lieutenants for but to attend to such things? An undermanned merchant ship left in charge of an ignorant second mate might be expected to come to some such misfortune, but surely not a well-ordered QUEEN'S ship, with a whole staff of officers assigned to her, with an Admiral on board, and another Admiral exercising supreme command within signalling distance? If there is to be responsibility at all in the Navy, if the lives of seamen and the enormously valuable national property which these ironclads represent are to have security, such an occurrence as this could not be passed over. The officers may be gallant and zealous, they may have behaved well after the ship had struck, and thus have half redeemed their fault, but the Admiralty could not do less than send them, before a Court-Martial; and the Court, considering the facts, could not do less than condemn them.That there was negligence can, unfortunately, not be doubted. The only question is on whom the blame should chiefly rest. The persons concerned are primarily Captain BEAMISH, Staff-Commander KNIGHT, and Lieutenant BELL, who had the immediate direction of the ship. Then come the two Admirals, Admiral WELLESLEY being largely responsible, as under his directions the whole Squadron was moving. It does not follow that because one class of these is guilty the others are innocent. In the first place, nothing can relieve the Captain of a ship from his responsibility in navigation. In fighting it may be different; the Admiral may command him to lay his ship alongside a battery when to do so is certain destruction. But a Captain cannot be excused for running his ship on rock out of deference to a signal from the flagship obviously given with lack of proper knowledge. This opinion was given in the strongest terms by Rear-Admiral WILMOT. He was asked whether a Captain in a fleet, unless he had a moral conviction amounting to positive certainty that his ship was running into danger, ought to haul out of the line or make a signal to that effect. Admiral WILMOT replied: - "If he had any doubt whatever that his ship was in the neighbourhood of danger, it would be his duty to haul out of the line if necessary, and to signal to the Commander-in-Chief or to the senior officer the reason for doing so. I speak of dangers which could not otherwise be avoided." This being the case, the question was whether Captain BEAMISH and the other officers inculpated had taken due care to ascertain the position of the ship with respect to the rock, and to direct her course accordingly. On this point the evidence is too voluminous even for the shortest summary, but the opinion that there was negligence is not that of subordinates alone, or of persons unconnected with the service. We again quote Admiral WILMOT, who certainly has no interest in showing that his ship was badly handled. Being asked whether he agreed with a witness who had stated that proper precautions had not been taken by the officer in charge of the deck for passing so well-known and dangerous a shoal as the Pearl Rock, and also what his own impression was on the subject, the Admiral answered, "Simply that the ship struck, when I am of opinion that if greater attention and greater decision had been shown by those in charge, and if the navigation of the ship had been more at liberty, she would not have struck." The Court by its decision shows that it took this view. The defence of the Captain and of Staff-Commander KNIGHT is laid before the public this morning, and everyone may judge how far their conclusions are borne out by the evidence. Captain BEAMISH states that, though both he and Staff-Commander KNIGHT thought, when the signal to steer W.S.W. was made, that this course was unusually close, yet, as the marks were always kept well open, he had at no time the slightest apprehension of danger, but expected to pass at a safe distance from the Pearl Rock; "Closer, undoubtedly, than he should have gone had the Agincourt been a single ship, but not sufficiently close to justify him in hauling out of line," or in reporting to Admiral WILMOT; that he considered the ships of the; starboard division were being led into danger. Thus it is plain that both Captain BEAMISH and Staff Commander KNIGHT did actually make a most grievous error in judgment; and yet so easy were they on the subject that Captain BEAMISH actually left the deck a few minutes before the accident, and was in the act of coming out of his cabin to return to the bridge when the ship struck. Staff-Commander KNIGHT firmly denies the charge of negligence. "He would assert that he was most watchfully and minutely attending to the navigation of the ship; and he attributed the stranding of the Agincourt to one cause only - the misdirection so unfortunately given in the sailing directions." With respect to the officers who have been put on their trial, it may be taken that the Court has done its duty. But we have no hesitation in saying that the signals by which the starboard line was directed from the Minotaur, and which were the prime cause of the disaster, should now form the subject of inquiry.
|Th 10 August 1871|
THE RESCUE OF THE AGINCOURT.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.
Sir, — The ship ran on the Pearl Rock at 10 50a.m. on Saturday, July 1. The following sextant angles were taken from the bridge immediately over the spot on which she was pivoted:- Centre of Carnaro Tower to east-end of Palomas Island 32 deg. 38 sec.; east end of Palomas Island to Frayle Tower, 54 deg. 59 sec.; centre of Carnaro Tower to Europa lighthouse, 55 deg.
At first she was only supposed to rest on a ledge of rocks from the keel to the first bilge piece on the starboard side under the second mast. The length of this rock in a fore and aft direction was 24 feet, and on every side it was steep. A subsequent examination discovered the second and more dangerous rock immediately under the aft cylinder in the engine-room. It consisted of three pinnacles.
A piece which the diver brought up showed the rock to be composed of a hard blue stone, and the surface when fractured was quite lustrous. Probably no ship was ever stranded in a more dangerous position, or in one which so severely tested her wonderful strength. It was fortunate that the section on which she rested was the strongest in the ship, as the sleepers of the engines, the keel, and bilge pieces all helped to sustain the enormous pressure. I did not go on board until Saturday evening. I am unable, therefore, to give any account of the first attempt to pull her off, except that the lower cable which they tried to pass to the Hercules took charge and upset the launch of the Monarch. The current at this time appeared to be flowing past the Agincourt at the rate of four or five miles per hour, and was swirling round in large eddies. No boat could stem it, and the whole of the pulling launches had to be towed up. The wind had been easterly for several preceding days, and the change to the south-west, joined to the influence of a full moon, probably caused this great increase in the velocity of the current.
The Hercules succeeded in taking the end of a hemp cable on hoard, but it carried away before she had swung end on.
Sunday, July 2. - At high water went astern with the engines, but she only slewed her head a little towards the land, and rolled slowly through small arcs.
At day light the wind was south-west, and it gradually increased in strength, as the sun rose, until the force was 6 or 7. Several lighters came off, but it was blowing too hard to put any to windward; those to leeward were filled with provisions, shot, and shell On sounding round the ship at low water the least water found was 24 feet, although she was served three feet forward. Worked steadily throughout the day and night at throwing the coals overboard where the water was deep, and it varied all around, except on the 24 feet patch, from 5 to 9 fathoms.
At sunset the wind fell, And the Warrior's party laid out a bower anchor on the port bow, with an 18-inch cable fast to it. This was taken in through the chock abreast of the fore rigging, and led to the steam capstan; but it came home when the strain was put on it.
The Hercules had in the morning made a running moor astern of the Agincourt, dropping the second anchor close to the stern. A chain stream cable was passed from the quarter chocks of the Agincourt on the maindeck to the hawser of the Hercules, and shackled to her distant bower. When all was ready the Hercules knocked the slip off, weighed her remaining anchor, and steamed out of the way. The end of the iron sheet cable baring been passed round the steam capstan was brought aft and shackled to the bower cable of the Hercules after the stream had brought the end inboard. When the cable was taut, 6½ shackles (81 fathoms) were out. Both capstans were now manned, and heavy purchases applied to assist the steam capstan; the anchor came home immediately, and after heaving in to 5½ shackles (68 fathoms) the cable was secured as it might have assisted the ship if an easterly wind had set in.
At high water made sail and set on the engines at 46 revolutions. The ship shifted the position of her head a point inshore, and many thought she was afloat, but the transit marks on shore remained the same. When the water began to fall the engines were stopped, and it now became evident that the ship was hanging amidships.
Monday, July 3. - The diver discovered the rocks under the engine-room, and this explained the cause of the ship's hanging after she was apparently afloat.
At 8 a.m. a number of rollers suddenly came up from the south-west, and the ship, although served 5ft. forward, rose and fell sensibly. Shortly afterwards water was heard rushing into the double bottom under the port after cylinder, and the inside skin bowed upwards under the great strain. In a few minutes the double bottom under this compartment was full and a slight leak was visible in the inner skin. Heavier timber was placed across the inside plating and shored up to the cylinders. In a few minutes a leak was reported in the slop and bread rooms, which are only separated by a wooden bulkhead. The water rose rapidly, and beds and bread were floating about. The Downton 7-inch pumps were set going and five rivets were knocked out of the water-tight bulkhead to allow the water to flow into the engine room. The main engine was disconnected, the bilge injection turned on, and the shaft turned occasionally at the rite of 12 revolutions per minute, which easily cleared the engine-room. The slop room was a more difficult undertaking, as the pumps at full swing, aided by the five rivet holes, took 14 hours to effect it. Once the water obtained a height of 12 feet. I may mention an anecdote which came under my personal observation at this time. Several of the men were swimming among the loose bales and slinging them. When all were cleared out I asked a man who was swimming what water he had. Elevating both hands over his head be plunged down perpendicularly until his fingers disappeared, and on coming to the surface called out "No bottom."
In the interval shores and strengthening pieces had been made to secure the hatches of these compartments, as the combings were two feet below the level of the water outside. When the water was cleared out the carpenters cut away the lining of the skin and bulkhead, and reaching the sluice valve they found it would not close and water came through the next department. A wooden plug secured this and the ship was tight once more.
Two bower and one sheet anchor, one bower cable, 19 six-ton guns, slides and carriages, all the boats' guns, the remainder of the powder and shell, all the spare sails and a great amount of small articles were put into lighters and towed on shore.
Tuesday, July 4. - At daylight the wind came up fresh from the E.N.E., force 4; at noon, east, force 3 to 4. The current, which during the whole time the ship had been ashore had been constantly running to the eastward, turned at low water for a short time to the westward, and reduced its velocity from four or more knots per hour to two at the height of the flood. Two 12-ton guns were hoisted out and the coals thrown overboard or into lighters, as convenient.
The Hercules weighed anchor and let it go square off the starboard quarter distant one cable, and slewed her stern towards the Agincourt with a Manilla six-inch hawser. A stream cable was laid out and passed in through her starboard stern pipe. To this her bower cable was shackled on and then hove in by the Agincourt and treble bitted. A second bower cable was passed in through the other stern pipe and secured in a similar manner.
The Spanish paddle steamer of war Linias was sent square of the quarter with two six-inch hawsers. The Lion Belge (tug) had a third hawser from the same bitts, and was also sent square off. The Redpole and the Adelia (tugs) were on the port side. At low water the ship was served to 19 feet forward and 27 feet aft, On this day it was high water by our tide-tables at 3 53 p.m. and by the Sailing Directions at 3 20 p.m.
At a few minutes before 3 p.m. the ship's head swung to the westward, thus leaving her suspended on one point. The draught of water before she commenced to swing was 23 feet forward and 23 feet aft.
At 3 5 p.m. the ships were hailed to go ahead. The Spanish man-of-war set on full speed, and when the hawsers tautened her port towing bollard flew 20 feet into the air. The Hercules gathered way slowly, and as the chain cables tautened the strain was tremendous. Imperceptibly the ship slid off the rock and was towed into Getares Bay, as the engines had been set on to clear out the water from the double bottom up to the time she floated. When this had been effected the screw was connected, but it was unfortunately fouled by both the towing cables as she closed on the Hercules.
The Agincourt is one of only two iron ships which have ever come off the Pearl Rock, and it his solved a problem successfully which had been deemed impracticable - viz., that if an ironclad of this sort got on shore it would be impossible to get her off. The other was the Liverpool steamer Lydia, which cleared out 600 tons of cargo in 24 hours, and being thus lightened floated off.
From the collated reports of various divers the damage to the bottom does not appear to be of a serious nature. On the starboard side, where she rested on the ledge, a piece of the inner bilge keel is broken off or rolled up, but the underlying plates are sound. On the port side a butt is opened slightly for about two feet, and the adjoining plate is bulged in and cracked across in an irregular manner. A knife may be inserted in some part of this crack, and the remainder is closed at the edges. The keel plates where they rested on the pinnacle are arched a little upwards, but no flaws can be discovered.
I cannot conclude this short description without again expressing my admiration of her wonderful strength and faultless workmanship - qualities which, it may be truly said, have saved us from a national disaster; and I may further add that none but an English-built ship would have escaped destruction under similar circumstances. Whatever errors may have been committed in allowing the Agincourt to run on the Pearl Rock, there were none in getting her off, and it will be gratifying to the pride of English seamen to learn that their brethren effected it with the ordinary resources of the ships present. Although the guns, which weighed from 6½ to 12½ tons each, anchors weighing seven tons each, and other weighty articles were hoisted over the side into lighters, and 2⅜-inch cables laid out from ship to ship, only one man was injured by accidentally falling into a boat alongside, and as Admiral Wellesley feelingly remarked in his general order to the fleet, - "We all wish him a speedy recovery."
The conduct of the officers, seamen, and marines of the squadron made one feel proud of his country. Many worked unceasingly for 36 hours, and when relieved threw themselves down where they worked to snatch a short sleep as they best might, so thoroughly were they exhausted. Throughout the four days no murmur escaped their lips, and when the water was gaining on the pumps in the slop and bread rooms, and men were swimming in them, they worked on as bravely as ever. The Hercules was splendidly handled, and her captain was thanked in general orders.Your obedient servant,