HMS Volage (1869)
HMS Volage (1869)

Royal NavyVessels

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NameVolage (1869)Explanation
Launched27 February 1869
Builders measure 
Displacement3080 tons
Ships bookADM 135/502
NoteOrdered as Cerberus
Snippets concerning this vessels career
15 March 1870
- 1 December 1870
Commanded (from commissioning at Portsmouth) by Captain Francis William Sullivan, Channel squadron
1 December 1870Commanded by Captain Michael Culme-Seymour, Channel squadron
6 July 1874
- 23 June 1877
Commanded by Captain Henry Fairfax, south-east coast of America (senior officer)
24 June 1877
- 16 May 1879
Commanded by Captain Richard Carter
21 September 1885
- 5 June 1889
Commanded by Captain Charles Johnstone, cruiser squadron
Extracts from the Times newspaper
Th 17 March 1870The Volage, unarmoured iron-built screw corvette, 2,322 tons, 600-horse power (nominal) of engines, was commissioned at Portsmouth on Tuesday, for foreign service, by Capt. Francis W. Sullivan, C.B. The Volage is a 15-knot ship over the measured mile, but her light armament of six 6½-ton and two 64-pounder guns is not at all in proportion to her tonnage and engine power or her cost of production when ready for sea, and her after maintenance in commission.
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.

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