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HMS Royal Sovereign (1857)

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NameRoyal SovereignExplanation
Type1st rate TypeThree-decker
Launched25 April 1857 Converted to screwon the stocks
HullWooden Length241 feet
PropulsionScrew Men1100
Builders measure3765 tons   
Displacement6071 tons   
Guns131   
Fate1885 Last in commission-
Class  Class (as screw)Duke of Wellington
Ships bookADM 135/409   
Career
DateEvent
 Never fitted for sea as unarmoured ship.
25 April 1857Launched at Portsmouth Dockyard.
8 March 1864Convertion to ironclad turret ship, 4 turrets (5 guns), completed.
6 July 1864
- 14 October 1864
Commanded (from commissioning at Portsmouth) by Captain Sherard Osborn, Channel squadron
15 October 1864Tender to Excellent
(1 July 1865)
- 9 October 1866
Commanded (until paying off at Portsmouth) by Captain Frederick Anstruther Herbert, Channel squadron
9 October 1866Tender to Excellent
3 September 1869Paid off
May 1885Sold for breaking up
Extracts from the Times newspaper
DateExtract
Tu 11 September 1860The following vessels comprise the four classes of the steam reserve at Portsmouth, the list corrected to this date :-
First Class.- Duke of Wellington, 131 guns, 700 horsepower; Princess Royal, 91 guns, 400 horse-power; Shannon, 51 guns, 600 horse-power ; Immortalité, 51 guns, 600 horse-power; Volcano, 6 guns, 140 horse-power; Philomel, 6 guns, 80 horse-power; and gunboats Brazen, Beaver, Snapper, Traveller, Grinder, and Blazer, of two guns each, and 60 horse-power.
Second Class.- Royal Sovereign, 131 guns, 800 horse-power; Victoria, 121 guns, 1,000 horse-power; Prince of Wales, 131 guns, 800 horse-power ; Duncan, 101 guns, 800 horse-power; Nelson, 91 guns, 500 horse-power; the Sutlej, 51 guns, 500 horse-power ; the Harrier, 17 guns, 100 horse-power; the Rinaldo, 17 guns, 200 horse-power; the Medea, 6 guns, 350 horse-power; the Stromboli, 6 guns, 280 horse-power; the Coquette, 6 guns, 200 horse-power; and the gunboats Cracker, Fancy, Swinger, Pincher, and Badger, of 60 horse-power each, and 2 guns.
Third Class.- The Tribune, 31 guns, 300 horse-power; the Rosamond, 6 guns, 280-horse power; the Vigilant, 4 guns, 200 horse-power; the Vulture, 6 guns, 470 horse-power; the Cygnet, 5 guns, 80 horse-power; and the gunboats Cheerful, Rambler, Pet, Daisy, Angler, Chub, Ant, Pert, and Decoy, of two guns each and 21 horse-power.
4th Class.- The screw transport Fox, 200 horse-power; the Erebus, 16 guns, 200 horse-power; the Meteor, 14 guns, 150 horse-power; and the Glatton, 14 guns, 150 horse-power.

The foregoing - not including the gunboats and mortar vessels in Haslar-yard - consist of seven line-of-battle ships, four frigates, two corvettes, nine sloops, three floating batteries, 20 gunboats, and one troop steamer. They give a total force of 1,150 guns, propelled by 11,420 horse-power (nominal). The Fox steam troopship is given in this return as not carrying any guns, but in the official Navy List she still carried "42" attached to her name.

Sa 26 March 1864Captain Sherard Osborn has been appointed to the command of the Royal Sovereign cupola ship.
Th 7 July 1864The Royal Sovereign, 5-gun turret-ship, will have her pennant of commission hoisted this morning at Portsmouth, by Captain Sherard Osborn, C.B. The Duke of Somerset and Admiral Sir Frederick Grey are expected to arrive at Portsmouth during the day, from the Admiralty, for the purpose of inspecting the ship now that she is in commission and ready for active service. Yesterday Rear-Admiral the Hon. James R. Drummond, C.B., the Fourth Lord of the Admiralty, visited the Royal Sovereign. During his stay on board he entered one of the turrets, which was manned for the occasion, and assumed the office of director. Under his direction the 12-ton gun was elevated and depressed, and the turret was turned round. The facility with which the whole was done evidently afforded the Admiral considerable pleasure. The ship's funnel has been lengthened 12 feet to improve the draught of her furnaces. The trial of her guns and turrets outside the harbour is looked forward to with great interest. If the Admiralty decide upon trying the guns with full 50-pound charges of powder and shot, the results will be really valuable as fully testing both the guns and the turret principle. If, however, only blank charges are fired, or 40-pound charges with shot, the results will be valueless.
Fr 22 July 1864The Royal Sovereign, 5, iron-cased turret ship, Capt. Sherard Osborn, C.B., was swung under steam yesterday in Portsmouth harbour, to ascertain the deviation of her compasses. According to existing arrangements, she will go out of harbour on Monday and anchor at Spithead, to complete her ammunition before sailing on her experimental cruise. Rear-Admiral R.S. Robinson, Controller of the Navy, visited the ship on Wednesday.
Ma 25 July 1864The Royal Sovereign, 5, iron-cased turret-ship, Capt. Sherard Osborn, C.B., was officially inspected in Portsmouth harbour, on commission, by Vice-Admiral Sir M. Seymour, G.C.B., Naval Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth. She will go out of Portsmouth harbour this morning, and, according to pre-existing arrangements, proceed to off Osborne, where Her Majesty has announced her intention of paying a visit to the ship. On Tuesday, most probably, the Royal Sovereign will anchor in St. Helen's Roads, preparatory to commencing her trial cruise.
Th 28 July 1864

The Royal Sovereign.

The turret-ship Royal Sovereign, Captain Sherard Osborn, C.B., yesterday completed her first course of two days' experimental firing from her 12-ton turret-guns in St. Helen's Roads (a man-of-war anchorage situated in the comparatively clear water off Bembridge Point, at the east end of the Isle of Wight, and about 6½ miles south of the entrance to Portsmouth harbour), with blank cartridge in the first instance, as a preliminary round of drill for the guns' crews, and afterwards with shot, with full and distant charges of powder, the full charge consisting of 35lb. and the distant charge of 40lb. The guns were fired at different angles over the vessel's deck, and also at different degrees of elevation. In fact, during these two days' trials everything has been done that could possibly be done to test the guns in their working and the effects they might be expected to produce when fired on the vessel, or her upper deck and its fittings. Strong prophecies have been uttered at times relative to the damaging effects shotted guns when fired from the Royal Sovereign's turrets must produce upon the wooden planking of the ship's upper deck, and the immense amount of concussion which must be experienced in the turrets and on the deck, on which the turrets rest, and the fittings of the officers' cabins, &c. It has been asserted, further, by many that a few discharges from these guns at any lengthened angle along the ship's deck, and with the guns depressed, to strike an object at short range, must, as a matter of necessity, rip up the planking of her deck and commit no end of other damage; that the men would not be able to stay inside the turrets for any length of time when working the guns, owing to the amount of concussion which must be felt; and, finally that the turrets would become filled with smoke, and the men inside would therefore be in danger of suffocation.
It is, therefore, satisfactory to be able to state, as the results of the two days' firing, that no disaster of the kind predicted has occurred, nor is it at all likely to occur. The guns have been fired singly and in broadsides at all possible angles and degrees of depression, and the result of the two days' amount of damage is - half-a-dozen panes of glass in the Captain's cabin skylight broken, and those parts of the leather flaps whlch surround the turrets at their junction with the upper deck scorched by the flame of the gun's discharge. To remedy these two slight matters only require that the panes of glass in the cabin skylights shall be put in rather differently to the ordinary dockyard fashion, and that the leather flaps of the turrets under the muzzles of the guns must be fitted, or rather covered, in those parts, with flush coverings of boiler-plate. Throughout the whole length and breadth of the ship's upper decks not a sign exists, however small, of even the pitch between the seams having been started. As to the 'tween decks, the china and glass in the steward's pantries, which are merely hung up in the ordinary way, have suffered no damage whatever, neither have the glazed engravings and other pictures hung up in Captain Osborn's cabin. As a further proof of the steadiness of the ship in all her parts under the fire of her guns, it may be mentioned that the paymaster's office on board in abreast the fourth turret, and yesterday, when the gun was firing shot with 40lb charges of powder directly over the heads of the clerks employed in the office, those gentlemen could be seen busily continuing their writing in the most unconcerned manner possible. With regard to the inside of the turrets, there was less concussion experienced there than in any other part of the ship, and at the same time the smoke which entered each time the gun was discharged was very trifling indeed.
The guns work remarkably easily, and the turrets revolve also with the most perfect ease and nicety. The same men were employed working the guns in the turrets seven hours each day, and it was impossible not to notice the great interest they took in their duties, and with what coolness they went about them. On Tuesday a large number of rounds were fired with blank cartridge to accustom the men at first, as we said before, to their work. Afterwards 20lb, 35lb., and 40lb. charges were fired with shot at different angles and elevations. Yesterday 50 rounds were fired at different angles and elevations with shot and 35lb. and 40lb. charges, the day's firing being brought to a close by a concentrated fire from the four turrets, at the mark - a square foot of white bunting on a slight staff, at 1,000 yards' distance. When the smoke cleared away the flag and its staff were found to be also gone.
This morning the ship will make a three hours' cruise outside the Isle of Wight, and afterwards go down to Osborne, where Her Majesty will go on board, the Royal visit, which had been originally fixed for Monday last, having been deferred until to-day.
Th 6 October 1864THE ROYAL SOVEREIGN - In justification of the extraordinary determination taken by the Lords of the Admiralty in regard to this ship, we are informed that the Royal Sovereign was never intended for a sea-going ship. She is a floating battery for harbour defence, capable of being sent to any port in the Channel; but not adapted to cruise with a squadron. She has no masts and her decks are too low for a seagoing ship of her tonnage. To try her, therefore, with the ships of the Channel Squadron would have been of no practical use. She was sent to Portland as a convenient place for trying her turrets and guns and her behaviour in a moderate seaway. After these trials had been in progress for some time the destruction of her hawsepipe by an accidental shot left her with only one anchor, and for the safety of the ship it was necessary to bring her back to a dockyard. Captain Osborn then sent up a list of defects and alterations, which were ordered to be carefully examined, and, as they would require a considerable time to make good, no advantage would be gained by keeping the ship in commission with a large number of officers and men, with the winter approaching. It was therefore determined to attach the ship to the Excellent as a tender keeping Captain Osborn, the First-Lieutenant, and a sufficient number of men on board to carry on the further experiments with the turrets and guns that might be desirable, and also to have the assistance of Captain Key and the officers and men of the Excellent in carrying out those experiments.
Fr 7 October 1864

The Royal Sovereign.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.

Sir, -The explanatory statement which appears In The Times of this morning in justification of the extraordinary determination taken by the Lords of the Admiralty in regard to the Royal Sovereign is calculated to mislead the public mind altogether on the subject unless corrected. The most important part of this statement is to the effect that on the return of the Royal Sovereign from her last cruise, at the end of September, Captain Osborn sent up to the Admiralty a list of defects and alterations which were carefully examined, and, as they would require a considerable time to make good, no advantage would be obtained by keeping the ship in commission with a large number of officers and men on board, with the winter approaching. This official statement is contrary to the facts. Captain Osborn sent in this list of defects and alterations to the Admiralty at the close of his experimental firing with the ships guns in St. Helen's Roads at the end of July last. The inference attempted to be drawn, therefore, that the Royal Sovereign is now to be put out of commission because of the extent of a list of defects and alterations just sent in to the Admiralty falls to the ground. The list sent in by Captain Osborn would have been made light work of in a private yard, but only a few unimportant matters were allowed to be taken in hand at Portsmouth dockyard; the really important ones were left untouched, and Captain Osborn and his ship were driven off to Portland out of the sight and reach of an obtrusive public, who began to manifest considerable interest in the new method of mounting and working monster ordnance on board ship. Time was wasted in plastering the patent Whitehall belt on the Royal Sovereign's sides, at some two or three thousands of pounds sterling expense; but time could not be given to carry out necessary and important alterations and repairs.
Another part of the explanatory paragraph terms the Royal Sovereign a "floating battery," not adapted to cruise with a squadron, with no masts, and decks too low for a sea-going ship, and therefore to have tried her with the ships of the Channel squadron would have been of no "practical use." Now, with regard to the term "floating battery," that has a very indefinite sense. I believe the Royal Sovereign to be a floating battery certainly, not one such as the war with Russia created, but a battery that would steam through a gale on fully equal terms with such vessels as the Defence and Resistance, and would fight her central guns under such conditions of wind and sea that the two vessels named dare not cast their main deck broadside guns loose in. Opinions are, of course, divided on this very point, the "broadside" and "central" gun principles having both their advocates; but it is this important matter that could have been effectually decided by a trial of the Royal Sovereign with the ships of the Channel Fleet, and such a course, therefore, must have been attended with some "practical use."
I am, Sir, Your obedient servant,
YOUR PORTSMOUTH CORRESPONDENT.
Oct 6.
Sa 8 October 1864Our readers have not had long to wait for an explanation of the proceedings in the case of the Royal Sovereign turret-ship, but the sufficiency of this explanation as submitted to the public is what now remains to be estimated. We had represented it as an unaccountable proceeding that the Royal Sovereign, being the single turret-ship in the British Navy, newly launched, newly commissioned, and newly sent to sea, should suddenly be paid off, and placed out of sight in the Steam Reserve exactly at the minute when the greatest interest was taken in her performances. We said that this vessel offered us the first real opportunity of testing the merits of the turret system, that public curiosity had been much excited by her partial success, and that the gratuitous interruption of so important an experiment appeared a most extraordinary measure. In reply to these remarks it is now stated that the Royal Sovereign was never intended to go to sea at all; that she was built merely as a floating battery for harbour defence, that her want of masts and the lowness of her decks disqualify her for the navigation of the open sea; that she was sent to Portland as a convenient place for trying her guns; and that as after this trial she required considerable alterations and additions, it was thought that no advantage would be gained by keeping the ship in commission with the winter approaching while the necessary work was executed.
Now, on these statements we can only observe, that if they contain a complete history of the facts the public must have lain under great misapprehension for some time past. It was generally believed that the Royal Sovereign was as fairly an experimental vessel as the Achilles or the Research, and if we were to be told tomorrow that the Minotaur and the Bellerophon were never intended to go to sea, the intelligence would not be more surprising than this information about the Royal Sovereign. It is perfectly true that Captain Coles, the designer of those turret or shield ships, professed his readiness to build vessels of two classes - either shotproof rafts for harbour defences, or seagoing frigates and line-of-battle ships. But did Captain Coles himself understand that when a trial of his system was at length permitted in the Royal Sovereign the product was to be merely a floating battery for coast service, and not a seagoing man of-war? Was it as a shot-proof raft that Captain Sherard Osborn took the vessel under his command? Was it understood that when she went to Portland it was merely to get a convenient range for her guns, and to have a little practice before being laid up? If these were the ideas entertained from the beginning, we can but say that the public were mistaken, and that what it was commonly supposed the Admiralty were doing has never been done at all.
If our naval authorities simply designed to build a floating battery on Captain Coles's system, they began that system at the wrong end. This was the least valuable of the proposed experiments, and the one, moreover, in which evidence was least required. Nobody doubted that a turret-vessel might serve well enough for a guardship, but Captain Coles, besides offering to produce this, had offered to produce something very much better. He declared that upon his principle he could build a vessel 100 feet shorter than the Warrior, drawing less water, requiring only half the crew to man her, and costing 100,000l. less. With this smaller, cheaper, and handier vessel he asserted that he could disable and capture the Warrior in an hour. Be it understood that we are not professing our own faith in these principles. We are not called upon either to believe or disbelieve the assertions. We only say that if the proposals of the inventor were deemed, as they were deemed, worthy of trial, it was an extraordinary proceeding to select the least doubtful and least important proposal for the experiment. If the Royal Sovereign was not constructed as a seagoing shield-ship, but merely as a floating battery, then Captain Coles's system has in reality received no trial at all, and a new experiment should be commenced in which the Admiralty, the inventor, and the public may understand each other better.
Again, when it is alleged that the peculiar configuration of the Royal Sovereign renders her unfit for a sea voyage, the argument amounts simply to an assertion that no turret-ship can go to sea; which is begging the very question at issue. What everybody understood and expected was that the Royal Sovereign was constructed for the express purpose of proving whether such assumptions were sound or unsound. No doubt, there is a strong and not altogether unreasonable suspicion that turret-ships can never be good, safe, weatherly vessels. We have ourselves admitted that no turret-ship has proved a good sea-boat yet, and we can hardly deny that the presumption at first sight is against such a model. But what the country believed was that Captain Coles, on his part, undertook to disprove these presumptions, and the Admiralty, on their part, undertook to give him a fair trial. Captain Coles has not only declared on many occasions that his turret or shield ships would, notwithstanding the lowness of their decks, and other novelties of construction, be good seaworthy vessels, but he has supported this theory by elaborate arguments before scientific audiences. He asserted, before a meeting at which an ex-First Lord of the Admiralty presided, that ships built on his model would not only carry heavier guns and be more impregnable to shot than broadside vessels, but would be better sailers, admit of better handling, and give better ventilation and better comfort to the crew. These were bold assertions, no doubt, especially as proceeding from one who had no professional acquaintance with shipbuilding, but they did not want for backers, and when the Admiralty at last consented to allow a three-decker to be converted on Captain Coles's principle all the world supposed that the captain's pledges were to be brought to the test of actual trial.
Of course, there is a division of opinion on this question, but that is all the more reason for settling the dispute by experiment; nor can we omit to remark that such trials as were actually made of the Royal Sovereign proved favourable to the principle on which she was built. That principle has its advocates in professional circles, and we are distinctly assured not only that the guns of a turret-ship can be conveniently worked, but that they could be worked to good purpose in such weather as would reduce broadside batteries to silence. It appeared, in short, to the public as if the experimental frigate was performing unexpectedly well when her performances were abruptly cut short. We are now told that she was not an experimental frigate at all, but only a floating battery, which had been sent as far as Portland for gun practice. In that case, we can but repeat that our authorities, while they have been making much ado about nothing, have left a most important experiment altogether untried. It could hardly have required the conversion of a fine three-decker, the employment of a distinguished commander, and the adoption of a new principle of armament, to make a vessel fit to be paddled about a harbour as a shot-proof raft. It required all these things, and perhaps more, to test a system which might be either a great mistake or a great discovery; but our officials appear to have expended all their pains upon the unimportant purpose. This, at least, is the only conclusion to be drawn from the explanation now put forward. A novel specimen of naval architecture, long expected and much discussed, has at last been constructed and commissioned in the capacity, as everybody imagined, of a seagoing ship. She is now, however, described as a mere floating battery, and so we are left to understand that the experiment which was really of consequence has never been attempted at all.
Sa 12 November 1864The following is the list of the vessels of the Royal navy which will be armed, and are now being armed, with the new description of 300-pounder and other guns in course of issue. The figures after each vessel specify the number of guns of the description mentioned she will carry. To mount the 12-ton 300-pounders:- Bellerophon, 10; Royal Sovereign, 5; Minotaur, 4; Scorpion, 4; Wiveren, 4; Prince Albert, 4; Agincourt, 4; and Northumberland, 4. To be armed with the 6½-ton guns:- The Achilles, 20; Black Prince, 20; Warrior, 20; Lord Warden, 20; Lord Clyde, 20; Royal Oak, 20; Prince Consort, 20; Royal Alfred, 20; Caledonia, 20; Ocean, 20; Minotaur, 18 ; Agincourt, 18; Valiant, 16; Zealous, 16; Hector, 16; Defence, 10; Resistance, 10; Endymion, 6; Mersey, 4; Orlando, 4, Pallas, 4; Favourite, 4; Research, 4; Enterprise, 4; Amazon, 2; Viper, 2; and Vixen, 2. To mount the 64-pounder muzzle-loader:- The Bristol, 12; Melpomene, 12; Liverpool, 12; Severn, 12; Arethusa, 12; Phoebe, 12;. Shannon, 12; Octavia, 12; Constance, 12; Sutlej, 12; Undaunted, 12; Impérieuse, 12; Aurora, 12; Leander, 12; Bacchante, 12; Emerald, 12; Phaeton, 12: Narcissus, 12; Forte, 12; Euryalus, 12; Topaz, 12; Newcastle, 12; Liffey, 12; Immortalité, 12; Glasgow, 12; Clio, 8, North Star, 8 [laid down 1860, cancelled 1865]; Racoon, 8; Challenge[r], 8; and Menai, 8 [laid down 1860, cancelled 1864]. The following will be supplied with the 64-pounder breech-loaders:- The Scout, 8; Rattlesnake, 8; Cadmus, 8; Scylla, 8; Barossa, 8; Jason, 8; Charybdis, 8; Wolverine, 8; Pylades, 8; Orestes, 8; Pearl, 8; Pelorus, 8; Satellite, 8; Acheron, 4 [laid down 1861, cancelled 1863]; Shearwater, 4; Valorous, 4; Furious, 4; Bittern, 4 [laid down 1861, cancelled 1863]; Magicienne, 4; and Columbine, 4. A supply of the 6½-ton smooth-bore 100-pounder wrought iron guns has already been received at Chatham, and it is understood that the first supply of the 300-pounder rifled 12-ton Armstrong gun may shortly be expected at the Ordnance wharf.
Th 1 December 1864Capt. Sherard Osborn, C.B., yesterday went on board his ship, the Royal Sovereign, at Portsmouth, for the last time as her commanding officer, Capt. Osborn resigning his command of the ship this morning on the completion of his captain's service in sea time entitling him to flag rank on the active list. The Royal Sovereign maintains a present complement of 104 officers and men, comprising one senior lieutenant, one surgeon, one paymaster, one chief engineer and three assistants, three warrant officers, and 94 seamen, marines, and stokers. Her books and accounts are kept on board and entirely separate from those of the ship (Excellent) to which she has been formally attached as a tender temporarily for experimental purposes; and, in fact, the appointment of a captain and a certain number of officers and men to fill up her complement would render her competent to cross the Channel at a day's notice on active service. Various and modified orders have been issued from the Admiralty respecting the ship, but she now appears to be held in hand for any possibly unforeseen contingency as readily as is possible under the circumstances. The alterations on board are in accordance with the suggestions contained in Capt. Osborn's final report on the ship, which was drawn up by that officer and forwarded to the Admiralty at the termination of the ship's period of active commission.
Fr 17 March 1865Admirals Sir Frederick Grey and R.S. Robinson, with other members of the Board of Admiralty, are expected to arrive at Portsmouth this morning and visit that portion of our ironclad fleet now lying at Spithead and in Portsmouth harbour, and a few hours cruise may possibly be taken by them off the Isle of Wight. The ships now lying at Spithead comprise the iron frigate Achilles, 20 guns, 1,250-horse power, Capt. E.W. Vansittart; the Black Prince, 40 guns, 1,250-horse power, Capt. Lord Frederick Kerr; the Royal Sovereign, 5, iron-cased turret ship, Capt. A.C. Key, C.B., temporary (of Her Majesty's ship Excellent); the Liverpool, 34, wooden frigate, 600-horse power, Capt. R. Lambert; and the Niger, 10, screw corvette, 400-horse power, Capt. Byng. The Royal Sovereign steamed out of Portsmouth harbour to Spithead yesterday morning, where she anchored near the other vessels lying there. The Edgar, a wooden screw liner, is in Portsmouth harbour fitting for her Lisbon voyage; and the Hector, iron frigate, Capt. G.W. Preedy, is also there.
The iron frigate Achilles, 20 guns, 1,250-horse power, of engines, Capt. E.W. Vansittart, made her final trial over the measured knot course in Stokes Bay, near Portsmouth, on Tuesday, with her new four-bladed propeller, which has recently been supplied to her at Devonport. The ship drew 25ft. 11in. Forward and 26ft. 11in. aft. She was supplied with "Royal Yacht" coal for the trial. This is of the kind known as Nixon's Aberdare, from the 4ft. lower seam, and from its superior quality was supplied to the Warrior on the day of her trial. The Achilles' new screw was of the same diameter and pitch as the one she broke during her last trial over the course in Stokes Bay. Plenty of steam was generated, and the results of the trial may be stated to be as follows: - Mean speed of the ship in six runs over the mile with full boiler power, 14·322 knots; mean speed in four runs with half boiler power, 12·049 knots; indicated horse power of the engines, as developed on the indicator diagrams, 5,724; pressure of steam in boilers, 26·16lb.; pressure of steam in cylinders, 25·34lb. The speed of our three largest ironclads that have yet been placed under trial is relatively thus:- Warrior, full power, 14·354 knots; Achilles, ditto, 14·322; Black Prince, ditto, 13·584. According to these figures, therefore, the Warrior still maintains her position as the fastest ship in Her Majesty's navy by about 32 thousandths of a knot in excess of the Achilles' speed. The hull of the Achilles has a mean immersion of about 3in. in excess of the hull of the Warrior, and this excess will fully account for the slight difference in speed between the two ships. Both vessels have engines made from the same patterns by Messrs. John Penn and Sons, and the detailed working out of the trials gives an astonishing similarity in the results attained by the power exerted by the engines in comparison with the area of each ship's midship section.
Sa 18 March 1865Yesterday morning, in accordance with previously understood arrangements, the majority of the members of the Board of Admiralty arrived at Portsmouth from London, and embarking on board the Royal Sovereign turret ship, at Spithead, took a short cruise in the Channel, south of the Isle of Wight, accompanied by Her Majesty's ships then lying at Spithead, and witnessed some evolutions under steam and gunnery. The fleet at Spithead, which consisted of the Achilles, Black Prince, and Defence iron-clad broadside-gun frigates, the Royal Sovereign iron-cased turret ship, and the Liverpool, latest improved class of wooden screw frigate, had steam up and cables hove in shortly after 9 a.m., in readiness for their Lordships' arrival. The wind was moderate from S.S.E., with the barometer steady at 30·3. At half past 10 the Fire Queen steam yacht was seen from on board the ships of the fleet to be coming from between the points of Portsmouth harbour to Spithead with the flag of Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, G.C.B, the Naval Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, flying from her main, and very shortly the party on board of her were transferred from the Fire Queen to the Royal Sovereign, consisting of Admirals Sir Frederick Grey, Drummond, Eden, Frederick, and Fanshawe; with Mr. Romaine, C.B., and Capt. Hall, R.N., secretary to the Duke of Somerset (from the Admiralty); accompanied by Admirals Sir Michael Seymour, G.C.B., Sydney Colpoys Dacres, C.B., and George Elliot, Capts. Caldwell, C.B., Preedy, C.B., F. Scott, C.B. and Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, and a number of other naval officers out of uniform, and also by Capt. Pigeaud, Naval Attaché to the Imperial French Embassy in London. Capt. Astley C. Key, C.B., of Her Majesty's ship Excellent, received the members of the Admiralty and the officers by whom they were accompanied on the deck of the Royal Sovereign, as her commander pro tem. The anchors of the fleet were soon afterwards weighed, and the ships steamed slowly out by the eastern channel as they secured their anchors, the Royal Sovereign leading, as the flagship of the Admiral commanding; the four-masted Achilles came next, the Black Prince third, the Defence fourth, and the Liverpool last. The Lords of the Admiralty present had, therefore, for their immediate personal observation under steam three distinct classes of our broadside gun ironclads, our most powerful turret ship, and the latest improved model of the 34-gun wooden frigate. The ships continued on their course, with the steam tender yachts Fire Queen and Sprightly in attendance on the port beam of the line, until 20 minutes past noon; when the headland of Dunnose opened out well on the starboard beam of the fleet, and the course was changed from S. and by W. to W, so as to bring the wind and sea abeam and get as much roll as was possible out of the turret ship while working her turrets and guns. There was found, however, to be neither wind nor sea enough to effect her, placed as she was, in the slightest degree, and the direction of the course was therefore again changed by signal to W. and by S. to some distance further off the land. There the breeze freshened a little, with a somewhat heavier sea. The Royal Sovereign's speed was slowed, her crew beat to quarters, turrets were manned, upper deck bulwarks thrown down, and other preparations made for action, and all being ready the turrets were turned by that portion of the crew at the winch handles below, and the guns sighted and laid in various directions to exhibit the turrets' capabilities of revolving and the time occupied in laying the guns in various directions. There was nothing new or particularly interesting in any of these proceedings, excepting the fact that the work necessarily took a longer time in each instance than it did on similar occasions of trial when the ship was in commission under Capt. Osborn's command. This was owing to the fact that the greater part of the men yesterday (who had been lent from the Excellent) had never before been engaged in working turrets and their guns. While the Royal Sovereign was lying thus the four broadside ships steamed past and close alongside her in line, and it was evident that had they been in reality approaching the ship in this manner as enemies every ship would have been sunk by the guns of the turret ship before they could have brought their broadside guns to bear upon her deck or turrets. The Achilles was a strong illustration in point, as she steamed up for the Royal Sovereign's port quarter with only eight guns in battery on either side of her hull, the foremost guns being on a line with her forward funnel. It was also remarkable that all the ironclads exhibited a greater lateral motion, or "roll" than the Royal Sovereign under full steam, and that while the Defence plunged her bows into the water and threw a wave up to her hawsepipes the Liverpool rode with greater ease than any of the others. There was a want of both wind and sea to test satisfactorily, as a matter of comparison, the working of the different ships' guns in a roll of a seaway, for no roll to speak of existed, and preparations were therefore made for target firing, the Royal Sovereign commencing from her three foremost turrets at 1,800 yards' range, with 150lb. round shot and 40lb. charges of powder, firing to starboard; and then with circling round the target and firing from the same guns at short range. Guns, turrets, and fittings worked with ease, and the concussion felt on the ship's upper deck was generally allowed to be less than the concussion ordinarily felt on a ship's main gun deck from the firing of ordinary 68 or 100 pounders. The Lords of the Admiralty present and the officers accompanying them were on the ship's upper deck during the time of the firing, some being on the platform round the funnel casing, and others walking the deck itself on the leeward side from the fire. The practice from the turret ship having been brought to a conclusion signal was made to the fleet to close on the Admiral and open fire from their port batteries on the target at 600 yards as they steamed past. The Royal Sovereign led off with two shots from her foremost turret guns, and was followed by the Achilles from her 9·22-inch or 100-pounder smooth bore coil built guns, and the other ships by their mixed batteries as they came up. The effect was magnificent, and the Lords of the Admiralty saw much to suggest reflection in the brilliant scene before them. There was a costly squadron of five ships, each perhaps superior as a ship to all others of the same class in foreign navies, and yet only one of these carried guns that would even under the most favourable circumstances pierce any one of the other's sides. If, however, the naval display of yesterday was intended to settle any of the disputes in the contest of "turret versus broadside ships' batteries," an old partly plated hulk or target would have afforded more satisfactory results. The target fired at was a small "pole" target, sent afloat with a flag on the top of the pole, and it is remarkable that it was not hit in any instance by the fire of the fleet. After the firing had been brought to a conclusion the fleet returned to Spithead in the order they left, and again anchored there. The Lords of the Admiralty, on leaving the Royal Sovereign, took the opportunity of visiting the other ships as they came to an anchor. On returning to Portsmouth their Lordships visited the Malacca and other ships in the harbour, and afterwards dined at Hirst's Portland Hotel, Southsea.
The Royal Sovereign is ordered to undergo an ordeal of some 12 or 14 days' experimental work outside the Isle of Wight under the direction of Capt. A. C. Key, C.B., of Her Majesty's ship Excellent, when her gunnery capabilities will be fully and practically developed under every possible condition. As on this officer's report must depend in a great measure the matured opinion of the Admiralty respecting the turret principle, it is satisfactory to hear it remarked on all sides that the conduct of such an important matter could not have been placed in more able or impartial hands.
A. patented compass, the invention of Commander Arthur, of Her Majesty's ship Excellent, was tried on board the Royal Sovereign during the cruise, and attracted much attention from several of the Lords and the officers on board. It is for registering a ship's course at sea on lined and prepared paper, working on a cylinder by clockwork, the direction of the ship's head being taken and marked by an indicator pencil every two minutes and a half. It can be placed in any part of the ship where there is no local attraction, and does not require being placed with the ship's compass.
(various)this gets replaced
Tu 12 December 1865We 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 MonadnockExternal link 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 AlabamaExternal link, and which did such good service in other actions of the war. We could mount such guns on pivots too, but that principle would only bring us round to the turret in the end, for a turret gun is a pivot gun protected. The truth is, the artillerists have overtaken the naval architects, for they have been allowed more unbounded scope for their designs. In guns, we have got to a 600-pounder; in ships, we have not got beyond a broadside vessel. Mr. Reed has produced several novelties, and with at least the merit of despatch. He is of opinion, too, we believe, that his ships can carry these new guns, but that has not yet been proved. What ought to have been proved long ago, but is still left uncertain, is whether a kind of vessel which we know can carry cannon of any weight can also lodge a crew comfortably, and be in all respects a safe and commodious cruiser. It is possible, certainly, that the Minotaur may relieve us from the trouble of instituting this inquiry, by demonstrating the capacities of a broadside vessel to do all that is necessary; but in a matter so important we might as well have had the two strings to our bow. As it is, the qualifications required to make a really good man-of-war are divided between two classes of vessels. The Minotaur represents a fine seagoing ship; the Royal Sovereign represents a formidable floating battery. We are now going to try whether the Minotaur cannot be made to carry the Royal Sovereign's guns; but we ought also to have tried whether a Royal Sovereign could not be built with the seagoing capacities of the Minotaur.
It must not be forgotten that this ship which is now to be thus tested represents the first and most powerful class of our new fleet. The powers of Mr. Reed's vessels remain still to be shown, but at present the Minotaur herself, the Agincourt, the Northumberland, the Achilles, the Black Prince, and the Warrior are our six first-rates. These are the specimens in which our ironclad fleet surpasses the fleets of other countries, and it is, therefore, of no slight importance to discover, if possible, some method of arming them with the most powerful guns known. The experiments now to be commenced will illustrate the question for us, though they will not exactly decide it. It will be discouraging if the results tell against all the gun-carriages alike, but still the resources of our inventors may not have been exhausted in those three models. All we know at present is that before our best ships can carry the best guns some new mechanism must be devised. The approaching experiments will represent the first essays in this direction, but, whatever the result, we should be very sorry to regard them as the last.
Tu 12 December 1865

HER MAJESTY’S SHIP MINOTAUR.

The iron frigate Minotaur, 6,621 tons, 1,250-horse power, Master Frank Inglis, under the command pro tem, of Captain F.A. Herbert, and manned by the crew of the Royal Sovereign, with supernumeraries from the Steam Reserve, went out of Portsmouth harbour yesterday afternoon and anchored at Spithead, where she will take in her ammunition and be swung to ascertain the deviation of her compass prior to starting for Portland on her trials of competitive 12-ton broadside gun carriages. The trials will be under the direction and superintendence of Captain A.C. Key, C.B., commanding Her Majesty’s gunnery ship Excellent. Portland roads will be made the anchorage ground on her return from each day's trial until their conclusion, when she will return to Spithead and await further orders from the Admiralty. The trials were originally intended to have been made with four carriages and slides; but one, designed by Sir William. Armstrong, not having been yet been received from Elswick, they will be confined to the following three:—
1. The Admiralty wooden pattern carriage and slide, fitted with eccentric rollers and other improvements suggested by Captain Key. The training gear is that of Mr. Cunningham ("Patent-topsail 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.
Fr 15 December 1865

THE MINOTAUR.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES.


Sir,- I have read with much interest your leading article of the 12th inst. upon the coming trials of the Minotaur to try working the first 12-ton guns that have been carried outside the Isle of Wight in a broadside ship. I agree with you that this is a subject of momentous importance to the country, and sincerely hope that the experiments may prove sufficiently satisfactory to utilize these ships and save our pockets.
But in a question of so much importance we must not content ourselves with a 6,000-ton ship merely carrying to sea these 12-ton guns, but we must be thoroughly satisfied that, under all and the most disadvantageous circumstances, those guns can be efficiently fought at sea. I have no doubt that 12-ton guns can be carried by 6,000-ton ships, loaded, fired, and run in and out by using appliances similar to those I have so successfully used for turret guns, but modified to meet the requirements of the broadside gun, to which I have offered to fit my appliances.
When comparing the turret and broadside system, I must ask your readers to bear in mind that carrying a 12-ton gun in a 6,000-ton ship is one thing, but fighting it effectually in all classes of vessels is another.
It will be found, by reference to my former letters and publications, that the great merit claimed for my inventions is the power of carrying and fighting efficiently the heaviest ordnance on a minimum tonnage with a maximum speed. Truly, you remark that no real sea-going turret-ship has yet been built.
The Royal Sovereign, although she could go wherever her coal could carry her, and lodges her crew most comfortably, is not one, and I can only regret that my endeavours to persuade the Admiralty to build one sea-going experimental ship to compete with Mr. Reed's numerous ones should have hitherto failed. It has to be remarked that the Scorpion and Wivern, although not designed by Messrs. Laird, Brothers, for sea-going cruisers, but built for a special purpose, have proved themselves, beyond all expectations, very good sea boats - the Scorpion having worked her guns and made excellent practice when steaming full speed round a target in a seaway, and I believe that if the improvements proposed by Captains Commerell and Burgoyne for those two little vessels are completed we shall possess two of the most formidable and comfortable sea-going ironclads in the world, considering their tonnage and light draught of water. I can only regret that Captain Burgoyne, who has so thoroughly gone into the matter, and whose proposals are most valuable, should be sent off to the West Indies, instead of being allowed to carry them out.
Again, referring to the minimum tonnage, it must be remembered that these vessels are under 1,900 tons, drawing only 16ft. 4in. water, with an offensive broadside of four 300-pounders, against the Minotaur of 6,000 tons, 27ft. draught of water, but only carrying four, or a broadside of two, 300-pounders, besides her smaller guns. I feel confident that if either of these little vessels with their present captains (curiously, both V.C.'s), and their crews of only 170, all told, were to meet this Minotaur with her 700 men, they would not hesitate to engage her, and if in a seaway with a certainty of making the Minotaur haul down her colours or sinking her.
In the first place, the Scorpion or Wivern would bring four 300-pounders to bear against her two on each broadside; but mark, the Minotaur represents a target of 8,800 square feet, with numerous open port-holes, while these little vessels' hull proper (for their poops and forecastles may be knocked away without interfering with their fighting powers) present a target of only 1,140 square feet; and, remember, a shot between wind and water will sink her as readily as the Scorpion or Wivern. And this is not all. The gunners in one case have to look through a contracted port, so filled up by the gun that when the ship is rolling and firing against a moving object it would be almost impossible to get a shot; while the captain of the turret has a clear range of vision above all, to take advantage of the other ship's roll, besides a much larger range of training for the guns, enabling these vessels to place themselves in the best position for steadiness, with regard to the sea, when the Minotaur, to bring one of her large guns to bear at all, might be obliged to place herself broadside on to the swell, when her rolling might prevent her working her guns, or, at all events, give her comparatively diminutive adversary an undeniable and fatal advantage.
It may be said these vessels are inferior to the Minotaur in speed; truly, so they are; but as they can bring four heavy guns to bear against the Minotaur's two, they would not wish to run away; and the Minotaur's speed would not avail her unless she wished to do so. Here, again, let me ask impartial judges to bear with me while I explain the advantages inherent to the turret principle for speed. Now, to carry even 12-ton guns at all on the broadside, entailing one on each side, you cannot do with less than 60 feet beam, and as high speed can only be obtained by a certain proportion of length to beam, you then, as in the case of the Minotaur, must have a vessel 400 feet long and 6,000 tons burden, while the Scorpion and Wivern, with only 40 feet beam and 228 feet in length, carry and fight the 12-ton gun with ease; so, to give those vessels the same proportion of breadth to length for speed as the Minotaur, you need to lengthen them only 38 feet; but, mark, their beam is sufficient to work turrets carrying 600-pounders. Fancy, then, a vessel only 264 feet long carrying four 600-pounders against these monsters, carrying only two 12-ton guns of a side.
The MonadnocExternal link, we hear, is going to the Pacific, and although I do not admit that the American turret system can be compared with mine for sea-going purposes, let me ask what vessels have we out there that can cope with her in open fight with her 15-inch guns and low sides? Wherever these Monitors manage to get, we should have vessels of equal fighting powers that can be sent to meet them; and for this reason I have so long and so earnestly tried to persuade their Lordships to build one experimental sea-going turretship, from which in case the time ever should come that we want them we may have learnt what vessels are best adapted and most economical, not only to carry but to fight the heaviest ordnance in any part of the world where England's honour and trade have to be protected.
In conclusion, let me ask why should we build vessels of 6,000 tons to carry broadside guns when turret ships of half the size can do the work?
I have the honour to be, your obedient servant,
Cowper P. Coles.
Madeira Villa, Ventnor, Dec. 13.
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 1 April 1869The Royal Sovereign, turret-ship, Capt. A.A. Hood, C.B., arrived at Spithead at 7 p.m. on Tuesday from Dover, and yesterday morning went into Portsmouth Harbour to take up her usual moorings, and transfer her officers and crew back to the gunnery ship Excellent. The Royal Sovereign was officered and manned from the Excellent on Wednesday, the 24th inst., Capt. Hood hoisting his broad pendant on board pro tem., as commanding officer of the Review Squadron. The turret-ship left Spithead the next morning at 7 o'clock under steam, the smaller craft having started some hours before. At about 2 p.m. the Stork gunboat was sighted under Beachy Head, utterly unable to steam against a strong north-easterly breeze which had sprung up, and with a signal flying asking for assistance. The Royal Sovereign soon had the Stork secured to her stern, by stout hawsers, and steamed on for Dover, where both anchored the next morning. No land was seen during the night or the early part of the morning owing to the thickness of the weather, until a sudden rift in the fog enabled the officers of the watch to discern the light on the Foreland on the turret-ship's port bow, when the Stork was cast off and both, vessels ran in to an anchorage berth off Dover. The floating steam gun-carriage Staunch, which had left Portsmouth on Wednesday evening, was safely navigated round by Lieut. Hall (Her Majesty's ship Excellent) into the inner harbour at Dover before the stormy weather came on. Friday afternoon, off Dover, was fine, and nothing of importance occurred connected with the squadron; but on Saturday the wind sprung up strong from the N.E., and continued increasing in strength, until it culminated in the gale of Sunday night and the early part of Monday morning. The small vessels of the squadron took shelter in the inner harbour, but those in the outer roadstead were exposed to the full violence of the long heavy seas which rolled round the Foreland from the North Sea. The Royal Sovereign rolled heavily, and for a time dragged her anchors, but steam being up, her screw was set working sufficiently to take the greater part of the strain off the cables, and thenceforward the heavy, broad-beamed, old craft rode out the weather bravely. The vessel, however, in her then exposed position, in one of the most unreliable anchorages on the coasts of the United Kingdom, required unremitting care and attention, and as no protection can be found on the upper deck from the violence of the weather or the tons of water that "skeet" over her fore and aft, under such circumstances officers and men suffered considerably during the night and the early part of the following day. At 3 p.m. the anchor was weighed and the ship took part in the attack upon the Dover defences, 55 rounds being fired from her turret-guns. The conduct of the officer commanding the late training brig Ferret, Lieutenant Carré, after his vessel broke adrift from the Admiralty buoy and struck on the pier, is spoken of in the highest terms by officers and others who witnessed the wreck. He is stated to have given his orders from the deck of his stranded vessel as deliberately as if he were carrying on the usual evening drill, and this exhibition of cool execution of duty under such unexpectedly trying circumstances did more than anything else possibly could to allay the terror of the boys on board, nit one of whom had ever been at sea before. When the Ferret first went in alongside the pier her hammock netting on the rise of the waves would be above the level of the pier, and on the fall of the sea the latter would be touched by the brig's yardarm. This fact will tell what difficulty there must have been in getting the 86 boys and the 27 seamen and officers out of the brig. All were fortunately got out safe, and were taken round to Portsmouth from Dover in the Royal Sovereign.
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.
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