The 1844 Experimental Squadron
The 1844 Experimental Squadron

Royal NavyFleetsExperimental squadrons1845
Royal NavyFleetsExperimental squadrons

In 1844 separate cruises pitted Symonds' brigs and ships of the line against other designs. The brig squadron, that sailed from Portsmouth on 22 October and returned on 6 December, was commanded by Captain A.L. Corry in the paddle-steamer Firebrand and was made up of Flying Fish and Pantaloon, designed by Symonds, Mutine, Osprey, Espiegle, Waterwitch, Daring, modern vessels by other designers, and the elderly Cruizer. The squadron of ships of the line, commanded by Rear-admiral William Bowles contained Symonds' Queen (three-decker) and Albion (two-decker), and the earlier St Vincent and Caledonia (three-deckers). Queen, St Vincent and Caledonia left Portsmouth the day after the brigs, fell in with Albion after briefly calling at Lisbon on 3 November, and returned to Portsmouth on 27 November.

The following extracts from (generally the Naval Intelligence column of) the Times newspaper refer to the activities of the 1844 Experimental Squadron.

Extracts from the Times newspaper
Ma 29 April 1844



The whole of the new class 12-gun brigs are now off the stocks, and are being brought forward for commission with all possible despatch. The following table shows the exact dimensions of each brig:-

 Ft. in.Ft. in.Ft. in.Ft. in.Ft. in.
Length between
104 0101 0103 1101 11½104 0
Length of keel
for tonnage
83 1¾80 6¼81 881 283 7¾
Breadth, extreme31 431 1032 4½31 1131 9½
Breadth for tonnage31 031 632 0½31 631 6½
Breadth moulded30 631 031 6½31 031 0½
Depth in hold15 213 614 313 713 1¼
Burden in tons425 3/94424 91/94444 76/94428 36/94422 57/94
The object in building the above five brigs appears to have been to produce a class of vessels superior to the old thing of 10 guns, and at the same time to illustrate the comparative merits of the different principles which their respective constructors hold in the science of naval architecture.
Ma 27 May 1844


The Board of Admiralty have decided that in the forthcoming trial of the new class 12 gun brigs no advantages shall be conferred upon any particular brig, so as to render her in any way superior to her compeers in point of sailing: consequently not even a gun will be allowed to be removed from its proper station, the object of their Lordships being to ascertain the qualifications of the squadron in carrying their armament, provisions, spars, &c., as well as their respective merits with regard to speed. They are all to be manned, armed, watered, stored, provisioned, and rigged alike, and not at the caprice of their several commanders; notwithstanding which, we can assert upon good authority, that the Daring is to have 10 tons more ballast, (having 50 tons already aboard) when the Flying Fish has only 16, and the Osprey 25 tons.
Sa 15 June 1844


The Pantaloon, 10, is being rapidly proceeded with for recommission, to compete with the new class 12-gun brig squadron: as also the Waterwitch, now building Mr. White, of Cowes, which is reported ready for launching on Saturday next, when she will be sent here to be rigged.
Ma 22 July 1844


The Mutine, Espiegle, Daring, Osprey, and Flying-Fish, new class experimental 12-gun brigs, are expected to be commissioned daily. The following officers are reported as most likely to commission them: Commanders, R. Harris, 1841; J.A. Gordon, 1842; Matson, H.J.,1843; W.S. Cooper, 1843, late of the Inconstant; and J.F. Birch, 1842; Captain Lowry Corry, C.B., is confidently named as the commander to command the squadron in the Firebrand.
Ma 12 August 1844


The 12-gun new class experimental brigs at this port are still uncommissioned. Numbers of fine able seamen and petty officers are waiting, and have been for months, to join the squadron, and will not enter a larger ship. Complaints are loud and deep against such dilatory folly on the part of the Admiralty.
Ma 9 September 1844



The commissions for the brigs forming the experimental squadron at this port arrived this morning, and also the commission for that fine steam-frigate the Firebrand.

The following are the appointments:-
The Firebrand, 6, Captain A.L. Corry.
The Daring, 12, Commander Henry J. Matson.
The Osprey, 12, Commander Frederick Patten.
The Flying Fish, 12, Commander Robert Harris.
The Waterwitch, 10, Commander Thomas F. Birch.
The Pantaloon, 10, Lieutenant Edmund Wilson, acting Commander.
The above commissions all bear date the 7th of September instant.

Sa 14 September 1844


The manning of the brigs forming the experimental squadron at Portsmouth proceeds very briskly; seamen are entering fast. The pendant was hoisted on the Waterwitch and Daring on Monday, and the latter entered her complement before sunset. These two brigs having the start, their commanders being on the spot, have entered some prime hands. The Daring might have entered many more than her complement on Monday, such was the avidity displayed to sail in her. This is looked upon as promising success in the trial cruise. The pendants of the Flying Fish and Firebrand seam frigate were hoisted on Tuesday, and the Osprey's was hoisted on Wednesday. The walls of Portsmouth and Portsea, and the windows of numerous public houses, now exhibit placards advertising for seamen for the squadron. Several of the recently entered riggers have been entered for the brigs. The Flying Fish entered half her complement on Tuesday. The Pantaloon, 10, did not exhibit her pendant until 12 o'clock on Wednesday; she has consequently not entered many hands. The complements of the vessels thus opportunely commissioned will be the Firebrand, 170; the Daring, Osprey, and Flying Fish, new class 12-gun brigs, 110 each; and the Pantaloon and Waterwitch, 10 guns each, 80.

The Daring, 12, Commander Matson, was removed on Tuesday from the basin to the Dryad receiving hulk down the harbour, as was also the Waterwitch, 10, Commander Thomas Francis Birch, alongside the Topaze receiving hulk.


The Mutine, new class 12-gun brig, was commissioned on Monday by Commander R.B. Crawford (1842) at Chatham.
The Espiegle, 12, experimental brig, was commissioned on Monday, at Chatham, by Commander T.P. Thompson (1841).
The Cruiser, 16, Commander E.G. Fanshawe (1841), was commissioned on Monday at Chatham.
The three experimental gun-brigs fitted at this port - the Mutine, Espiegle, and The Cruiser - and which were commissioned on the 10th inst., were ordered to sail on Monday nest, the 16th inst., for Portsmouth to join the other brigs which are to form the experimental squadron... The average crew of each ship at present consists of about 50 men. The full complement will be made up at Portsmouth.

Ma 16 September 1844


There is one circumstance connected with the manning the experimental brigs at this port which is far from creditable to the officers commissioning them; it is this - at the bottom of one or two of the placards advertising for seamen and petty officers are these words, "None but the best need apply." Now, the "best" in this instance means the well clothed, well fed, and well looking fellow. We protest against such unmanly and unfeeling conduct as the above restriction exhibits on the part of the officers of the brigs referred to. If they have the common use of their eyesight, they cannot fail to have perceived that inconsequence of the shameful delay in commissioning the experimental squadron, hundreds of the "best" seamen have been in a starving condition; they have parted with their clothes and everything else convertible into money to enable them to subsist until the Admiralty thought proper to be awakened by the voice of public opinion from the stupor into which they had fallen, and the honest tars are now turned back and insulted with "None but the best need apply." We are glad, however, to observe, that the "best" officers have not the insulting sentence on their placards, and are entering fine men and good seamen much faster than the officers referred to. About the 20th it is expected the squadron will be ready for sea.
Ma 23 September 1844


The experimental squadron is not yet ready for sea, although we expected it would have been by the 20th; but the truth of what we stated a few weeks ago is now proved - seamen are not so plentiful as supposed, and numbers, tired of waiting for the brigs to be commissioned, really have left the port for other places and employment. Tenders are daily arriving with hands from other ports, and vessels sent from this and other ports to convey seamen. This would not have been the case had the brigs been commissioned when ready, and hundreds of the finest and best hands would have been secured to the service. We stated last week that the Daring entered her complement, and could have entered many more on the day she hoisted her pendant. This has been seized upon (as we expected it would be), as corroboratory of the statements made in certain daily and weekly "sources of information" upon the present efficient state of our naval force. It is, in fact, however, corroborative of no such allegation, but merely proves this, that the Daring and Waterwitch, being the first of the squadron commissioned, had a rush made to enter for them, and the former having a very excellent commander and a very "winning" look, was manned, and to spare, before her sister had half her complement on her books, and before the other vessel of the squadron had entered a single hand.
Fr 27 September 1844


The experimental squadron is not yet ready, not do we expect, from appearances this morning, thai it will be yet for several days. The brigs are still incomplete in many departments, and the umpire's vessel, the Firebrand, very backward in her equipment indeed. The Pantaloon is the only brig belonging to the squadron at this port which has bent sails.
Ma 30 September 1844


The new experimental brigs are each to enter five more able seamen than their originally contemplated complement (110); these however, we believe, will be in lieu of 10 boys in each brig, who will be returned to the Victory.
Th 17 October 1844


The line of battle ships St. Vincent, 120, Captain Rowley, flag of Admiral Sir Charles Rowley, Bart.; Caledonia, 120, Captain Milne; and Queen, 110, Captain Martin, will leave Spithead in a few days for a short cruise, and, together with the Albion, 90, Commodore Lockyer, if they can fall in with her, try their sailing qualities. Rear-Admiral Bowles, C.B., will vacate his seat at the Admiralty for the time, and hoist his flag (blue, at the mizen) on board the St. Vincent, as Commander-in-chief of the squadron. Captain Rowley will not go out in his ship, the St. Vincent, on this cruise, but will remain ashore to assist hit gallant father in the flag duties of the port, the very precarious health of Sir Charles rendering assistance in his office necessary. We are not aware whether the experimental brigs will join the squadron or form one of themselves; we should imagine the latter.
Ma 21 October 1844


The Firebrand, 8, steam-frigate, Captain Corry, and the brigs forming the experimental squadron, together with the St. Vincent, 120, the Caledonia, 120, and the Queen, 110, are expected to leave Spithead to-morrow, after the departure of Her Majesty and Prince Albert, on their cruise of exercise and experiment, it is reported, between the coast of Portugal and. the Western Islands. If the Albion, 90, Commodore Lockyer, should be fallen in with she will join the squadron; the whole under the command of Rear-Admiral W. Bowles, C.B., who hoisted his flag (blue at the mizen) yesterday morning on board the Caledonia, and saluted that of Admiral Sir Charles Rowley by 16 guns, which the St. Vincent replied to by 11 guns. This appointment, we believe, will not interfere with the retention of the seat of the gallant Rear-Admiral at the Admiralty Board. All captains and commanders on the half-pay list desirous of witnessing the experimental trial sailings may join either of the above three-deckers and be victualled on the ship's establishment for the cruise (two or three months) by Admiralty order.
Fr 25 October 1844


The Firebrand, 8, steam-frigate. Captain A.L. Corry, with the brigs Daring, 12, Commander Matson; Mutine, 12, Commander Crawford; Espiegle, 12, Commander Thompson; Osprey,12, Commmander Patten; Flyingfish, 12, Commander Harris; Pantaloon, 10, Commander Wilson; Waterwitch, 10, Commander Birch; and Cruiser, 16, Commander Fanshawe; forming the experimental squadron, got under way, and left Spithead at 7 o'clock yesterday morning. The weather was very thick and foggy.

The line-of-battle ship St. Vincent, 120, Captain the Right Hon. the Earl of Hardwicke (who arrived from London late last night, and embarked at half-past 5 o'clock this morning, superseding Captain Sir Charles Sullivan, recently appointed to this noble ship); Caledonia, 120, Captain Milne, flag of Rear-Admiral W. Bowles, C.B., Commander-in-chief of the squadron; and Queen, 110, Captain Martin, got under way this morning at 6 o'clock, and left Spithead with a N.N.E. wind. The Queen was the first under way. The weather was very thick and foggy, so dense that the splendid sight of the three ships under way was invisible from the shore. After the line-of-battle ships had sailed some hours, at about half-past 10, despatches were received from the Admiralty, containing orders for the Commander-in-Chief, Rear-Admiral W. Bowles, consequently the Comet steamer sloop, Lieutenant Commander Pretyman, was put in requisition, and started after the squadron, full steam, with the said despatches.
Ma 18 November 1844


The Experimental Squadron, - Letters to the 31st ult,, at which date the squadron was in lat. 49 N. and long. 9.20 W., all well, state that in consequence of the prevalence of foul weather no satisfactory trial had taken place.
We 27 November 1844


The St. Vincent, 120, Captain the Right Hon. the Earl of Hardwicke, arrived this day at noon, and brought up at Spithead, where she saluted the Commander-in-chief, Sir C. Rowley, with 17 guns. The St. Vincent beat her two three-decked competitors, the Queen and Caledonia, in the late cruise, which lasted 34 days. The squadron did not fall in with the Albion, 90, Captain Lockyer, until two or three days after touching at Lisbon, when the four ships sailed in company to within about 80 miles of Madeira. They experienced very heavy gales during the early part of this month, but latterly the weather was fine. The trial has fully proved the great inefficiency of Sir W. Symond's (the Surveyor of the Navy) ship Queen, which has been beaten by long odds upon every tack. The St.Vincent weathered upon the Albion, but the latter, carrying more canvas, carried off the palm. The Albion parted company with the rest of the squadron, and made for Lisbon on the 20th inst.
Fr 6 December 1844


The following reasons are given why the Albion, 90, and Queen, 110, should have beaten the St. Vincent, 120, and Caledonia, 120, in the late trial cruise:- Because the Albion is a new ship, fresh off the slips, only two years old, recently out of dock; her timbers and planking have not yet had time to get saturated with water, consequently are comparatively light and buoyant. It is a well-ascertained fact that all vessels, from a boat to a first-rate ship, always sail better when new and fresh put into the water than when they get old. The Queen has the same advantage, though not in such a great degree as the Albion, she being but four years old, whereas the St. Vincent has been built 29 years, and the Caledonia 36 years. Because the Albion, being recently out of dock, had clean copper. The Queen is also clean, having been in dock at Portsmouth early in the spring of this year; whereas the St. Vincent has not been in dock for four years, and as she has been lying in Portsmouth harbour nearly that time, no doubt her bottom is foul with both grass and barnacles. With respect to the Albion, because all two-deckers should beat in sailing all three-decked ships (particularly on a wind) in the same ratio that frigates generally beat two-decked ships, and because the Albion spreads a much greater quantity of canvass than either of the other ships. We are not certain that either the Albion or the St. Vincent are fast ships; the four have only tried their qualities relatively with each other. It is well understood that the Fox frigate beat the Albion most decidedly a short time since, and we regret that some known fast ship was not sent out to test the sailing of these untried ships. The Caledonia has always been a "slow coach" since her thorough repair in 1830. We remember her the finest and fastest ship in the British navy. In 1813 and 1814 she carried the flag of Admiral Sir E. Pellew, afterwards Lord Exmouth, Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean fleet, which consisted of 9 three-deckers and 20 two-deckers. The Caledonia was the largest and best ship of that large fleet, sailing well, and working like a cutter; excepting the Boyne, three-decker, and 4 or 5 of the two-decked ships, she beat all the other ships on all points of sailing, and for working no ships came near her. In 1830 she had a thorough repair, and although Lord Exmouth was most decidedly opposed to it, this ship was thrown out on each side 14 inches. It was expected this increase of beam would make her more buoyant; but it had the contrary effect, as she increased her immersion on being put into the water some four or five inches, and the result has been, she has never been a fast ship since, although said to be a good ship in a sea, and weatherly in heavy breezes, and possessing many good qualities as a man-of-war. No one can forget the outrageous puffs about the Queen on her Mediterranean cruises- in one of them this year she "was the most manageable and easy ship" her captain had met with; but "she had been purposely kept light, her water-casks were not filled, and she was rather short of three months provisions" when she started. This was her trial with the surveyor's frigate Vernon, when it was trumpeted forth to the world that additional "laurels had been, added to the surveyor's brow" by the Queen beating the Vernon, which was stated to be "the fastest frigate in the service." Now if the Queen, by beating this frigate, conferred so much honour on Sir W. Symonds, what degree of mortal praise is due to the venerable constructor of the St. Vincent, which vessel has proved so superior to the Queen? And, allowing the Albion the credit of outsailing the three-deckers, it may be asked how shall we estimate the sailing qualities of the Vernon, "the fastest frigate in the service," when we find that the old Fox, 42, frigate, beat the Albion, that ship having beat the three-deckers, among them the Queen, which ship was said to be superior in sailing to the Vernon?- Sun.

Tu 10 December 1844


The experimental brig squadron, comprising the Firebrand, steam-frigate, 8, Captain A.L. Corry, commanding the squadron; Daring, 12, Commander Matson.; Osprey, 12, Commander Patten; Mutine, 12, Commander Crawford; Espiegle, 12, Commander Thompson; Flying Fish, 12, Commander Harris; Waterwitch, 8, Commander T. Francis Birch; Cruiser, 16, Commander Fanshawe; and Pantaloon, 8, Commander (acting) Wilson, arrived in the Sound about noon on Friday, and in the order above written. The sailing qualities of the vessels forming this squadron being one of deep interest; especially to professional men, it may be as well to again give the names of their constructors :-
The Daring, built by Mr. White, of Cowes.
The Osprey, by Mr. Blake, late master-shipwright of Portsmouth Dockyard.
The Mutine, by Mr. Fincham, late master-shipwright of Chatham, and now of Portsmouth Dockyard.
The Espiegle, by Messrs. Chatfield, Ried, and Creuze, the Committee of Naval Architecture.
The Flying Fish, Sir William Symonds, Surveyor of the Navy.
The Waterwitch, by Mr. White, of Cowes.
The Cruiser, an old 16; her constructor's name we withhold, being dead-beaten upon every tack.
The Pantaloon, by the Surveyor of the Navy.

We decline entering into detail in describing the individual sailing qualities of each brig; we leave that to the professional prints, as it would occupy more space than we could devote to such matters, and would be devoid of interest to the general reader. From all the reports which have reached us, we glean for certainty that the Daring has beaten her competitors by very long odds, although not upon every tack. Suffice it, however, she has beaten them, and the Surveyor of the Navy is again vanquished.

In saying even this little, however, one important fact should be borne in mind- viz., that Mr. White having departed from the lines laid down by the Admiralty for him to construct his brig (the Daring) upon by placing his foremast three or four feet farther aft than allowed, it required 61 (we will not swear to the number, but we believe the above to be correct) yards more canvass to be put into her fore-course; and this, we contend, may have given her the superiority in sailing. We are informed the Daring showed to most advantage when working to windward under treble-reefed topsails, with a very stiff breeze blowing - no wonder. It will be fresh in the memory of our naval readers that we prognosticated the victory of the Daring a day or two after she hoisted the pendant, and gave our reasons, which have proved correct.

(From the Plymouth Times.)

The splendid experimental little fleet, with the Firebrand steamer, Commodore Corry, arrived here on Friday, at about 11 a.m. A very intense interest has been excited in the naval world relative to the merits of these vessels. We must wait for the official report, and the analysis of the various diagrams of sailing, before any minute detail can be with justice entered upon. We are, however, enabled to state, on good and sufficient authority, one or two of the principal facts relative to the trial of these brigs.

First, it is allowed that the Daring, constructed by the celebrated yacht builder, at Cowes, Mr. White, with the wind before the beam, had a decided superiority over all the others; even the Flying Fish, the production of the Surveyor of the Navy, has been outdone. With the wind abaft the beam, the Daring has not any particular advantage, being frequently inferior to L'Espiegle, Mutine, and Flying Fish.

Second, it is allowed that the contention for the next place with the wind before the beam, was between L'Espiegle, Waterwitch, and Flying Fish; when the diagrams are examined, they will probably be in the order above named.

We have now merely time to remark that L'Espiegle was constructed by three of the gentlemen of the School of Naval Architecture, who were said by Lord Minto, in Parliament, to have "failed in the science they professed," and who have been otherwise so illiberally and unjustly dealt with by the late Government. Well, this brig has proved herself at least as good in sailing qualities as the last of the surveyor's productions, after 12 years' experimenting, at an enormous cost to the country: and, in other qualities, she is said to be equal, if not superior, to any in the fleet. She frequently, in the course of the trials, had the advantage in point of sailing. She has come in, after a most laborious cruise and very bad weather, without the least damage. Her captain says, she is the easiest ship in a sea possible, that he is quite ready, without any refit, to sail round the world in her. Her stowage for stores, water, and provisions is ample and complete; and she swims in the water to within an inch or less of the line calculated when ready for sea. So much for the assertion of my lord Minto, that these gentlemen had "failed in the science they professed," advisedly said, as an excuse for the greatest tyranny and injustice, amounting to despotism, to be found in any department of the public service in the worst of times.

It is with regret we have heard several statements of the sailing qualities of these vessels totally at variance with the facts. A naval officer at Portsmouth gave, on authority from London, that the Flying Fish had beaten all the other brigs, except on one occasion, when the Daring was first; that the Pantaloon was next; then the Waterwitch, Osprey, and Mutine; and last of all, L'Espiegle; this we now know to be altogether an invention somewhere; but in spite of the attempts already commenced even in this place to puff the Flying Fish, the is certainly not better, if so good a vessel, in any sense, as L'Espiegle. But then L'Espiegle was the production of the School of Naval Architecture, and the authorities at Somerset-house have all along endeavoured to keep this brig in the background by report, or otherwise they avoid speaking or her at all. In spite of orders to the contrary, we knew that a letter was sent to Somerset-house, from the Flying Fish, stating that the Daring was only first in strong winds; that the "Mutine stuck close to the Flying Fish;" but not a word about the Espiegle, which always stuck closer, and was often before her.
Ma 20 October 1845


"Copy of a Report from Rear-admiral BOWLES, C.B., to the Secretary of the Admiralty, of the trials of sailing between Her Majesty's ships Queen, Caledonia, St. Vincent, and Albion.

"Caledonia, at Sea: in lat. 46°19' N., long. 12° W.,20th November, 1844.

"Sir,- I have to request you will inform their Lordships that, in obedience to their orders of the 18th ult., I proceeded to sea on the 23d ult., and on the 3d instant arrived off the Bar of Lisbon, where, having ascertained that Her Majesty's ship Albion was not in the Tagus, I stood to the westward; and on the 6th inst. fell in with her off the rock. For some days afterwards the wind was strong on shore, and it was with some difficulty I gained a sufficient offing to enable me to commence those trials of the Albion's sailing, about which I knew their Lordships, felt most anxiety; and it is with much pleasure I can report that, after a most careful observation of her qualities on every point, I am fully convinced she is a very fast sailing ship, very stiff under canvass, and working remarkably well; and, although from the extreme fine and settled weather which has prevailed during the last fortnight, I am not enabled to state how she behaves under low sail and in blowing weather, I feel no doubt, from what I observed, that her superiority under such circumstances would be much more apparent and decided; and that l have in fact, seen her tried to the greatest disadvantage.
"It would naturally have been more satisfactory if ships of her own class, and of known good character, could have been tried against her; and, although I feel very confident of the result; I am nevertheless induced to recommend that the first favourable opportunity may be taken of doing so.
"With respect to the Queen, her sailing was inferior to that of this ship for the first three days after leaving Spithead, but it gradually improved afterwards, and I consider her now equal to the Caledonia by the wind, and superior going free under all common circumstances. Both are, however considerably slower than the St. Vincent, which ship has shown a decided superiority on all occasions.
"The Queen's great defect seems to be an apparent want of sufficient power in the rudder, which occasions her to carry a slack helm; and under low and easy sail to be kept to the wind with difficulty. It is impossible to decide whether this arises from the rudder itself being too small, or from any other cause which may be remediable by an alteration in the stowage, or the position of the masts. There are three experienced officers in the squadron, the commander of this ship, the late master of the fleet in the Mediterranean, and the master of the Albion, who all agree in expressing their surprise at the change which has taken place for the worse, and fully confirm the testimony borne by the commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, as well as by other officers, as to her former good qualities; but as it is obvious that nothing can be done at sea to improve her, and as this slackness in her steering might compromise her safety in any difficult situation, I have thought it most advisable to return to England before the full expiration of the period specified in their Lordships' orders, and am now on my way to Plymouth Sound, having directed the Queen and St. Vincent, in the event of separation in the Channel, to proceed to Sheerness and Spithead.
"Sir William Symonds will lay before their Lordships his opinions and suggestions with respect to the necessary alterations in the Queen; and I will, therefore, only add, that, considering the defect principally complained of is her slackness of helm, it is very remarkable how well she stays under difficult circumstances; and I was particularly struck by observing her tacked yesterday against a heavy head swell, when she and the Albion, without hauling down their jibs, came round with perfect ease, while this ship and the St. Vincent were (with their head sails down), nearly double the time in stays.
"The stability of the Queen and Albion has been on all occasions very remarkable; and their inclination was always one-half less than that of the Caledonia or St. Vincent, the heel being from 3° to 3½°, and in the other 7°. It is very obvious, therefore, that these ships will carry their ports up and fight their guns with much greater facility; and I have no doubt they will always be found able to carry a reef more out of the courses and topsails on an emergency.
"The constant attention to these trials of sailing, which I naturally felt to be the most important object, and the consequent necessity of keeping the rigging well up and in good order, have prevented me, during these short days, from devoting as much time as I should otherwise have done to the various evolutions specified in their Lordships' instructions; but there has been much useful exercise in the order of sailing and in line of battle, as well as in wearing at night by signal; and l have had every reason to be satisfied with the good order and efficiency of the squadron; and the accuracy of our target practice was highly creditable, the St. Vincent having sunk two casks, and this ship and the Queen one each, at a distance of about 800 yards.
"I have endeavoured in the preceding observations to answer as fully and distinctly as possible all their Lordships' questions with respect to the qualities of the four ships under my command; and it is only further necessary to explain that the very unusual and uninterrupted fine weather which has prevailed since I left the coast of Portugal, and which still continues (the ships having never had more than one reef in the topsails), prevents my reporting more fully on their qualities in blowing weather. We had some strong breezes on our passage to Lisbon, but they came on suddenly, and moderated again quickly, so that there was no opportunity for any lengthened comparison.
"I will therefore only further add, with respect to the Queen, that I consider her as only labouring under some temporary disadvantage; and I shall be much surprised and disappointed if, after some trifling and inexpensive alterations, she is not found to be (at least) a very fair sailing and powerful ship.

"I am, &c.,
WILLIAM BOWLES, Rear-Admiral."


"Her Majesty's Steam-vessel Firebrand, Plymouth Sound, Dec. 9th, 1844.

"Sir,- The experimental squadron placed under my command by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, having on the 29th of October arrived in latitude 49° N, longitude 10° W., I deemed it a good position for the execution of their Lordships' orders (dated 18th October. 1844), the English and Irish Channels being open to the N.E., the Bay of Biscay to the S.E., and the Atlantic Ocean to the N.W., W., and S.W. I therefore commenced the series of trials, but having in consequence of the hazy weather been unsuccessful in obtaining any result to the 2d and 3d of November, I was induced to move from the bank of soundings further to the southward m search of clearer weather. In making my report I considered it advisable to disembarrass it from all movements of the Firebrand, and the log, which is forwarded herewith, will inform their Lordships of her proceedings.
"Having given in a tabular form the distance in yards gained by one vessel over another, I have placed it, with the description of the trial on the face of the diagram, which will thus at the same moment exhibit the commencement, the end, and the result of each contest. I have also caused various returns to be made from the squadron, which I forward in a condensed form, and to all of which I particularly desire to draw their Lordships attention.
"A summary of the result of the trials is naturally divided into those which took place 'on' and 'off' the wind. There were in all 14 trials, eight of which were 'on' and six 'off' the wind. Of the eight 'on a wind,' two of them, viz. Nos. 2 and 3, are excluded from the present classification in consequence of thick hazy weather at their conclusion having rendered abortive every attempt to obtain the correct distance of the different vessels. They are therefore of use only as substantiating the conclusions which are deduced from the results of the other trials. The remaining six may be thus divided: three with moderate or light breezes, and three with strong breezes or squally weather. With respect to the other six trials which took place 'off the wind,' they are classed under the three heads, 'wind abeam,' abaft the beam,' and 'right aft,' the two trials having taken place with the wind in each of those directions.
"In the trials 'on a wind,' Nos. 1, 4, and 7 are those in which the wind was either light or moderate. In the first of these (No. 1) the Espiegle and Mutine did not take a part, being absent. In that of the fourth, the Daring did not participate, and the Pantaloon was not present at the seventh.
"In the trial No. l, with the water smooth and a long swell, the Flying Fish had the greatest advantage; the Osprey and Daring slightly differing from each other, coming next; but in the trial No. 7, when the wind was similar, but where instead of smooth water there was a cross head sea, the Daring was the most weatherly, the Flying Fish and Espiegle coming after her, being followed, but at some distance, by the Mutine and Osprey. From the results of these two trials with the same weather, but with the sea coming in a different direction, it may safely be deduced that the Daring with a head sea is the superior vessel; and this is really remarkably confirmed by examining the details of the trial No. 7, where it appears that for three hours, when on the tack, with a following sea, there was comparatively but little difference between the Flying Fish, Espiegle, and Daring; but that afterwards, when the signal to tack had been made, and they were brought to bow the sea, the advantage was chiefly gained, which in two hours gave the Daring so great a superiority over the other two.
"With respect to the Espiegle and Flying Fish, the former on the 4th trial beat the latter; but in the 7th, the order was reversed by the latter weathering the former. It therefore appears that on a wind, in moderate weather, there is no very material difference between them, though whatever superiority does exist, rests with the Flying Fish. As regards the Mutine and Osprey, they (notwithstanding the latter had a slight superiority over the Daring in the first trial) may be considered as beaten vessels (the former, however, having a decided advantage over the latter), and any further comparison between them is unnecessary beyond what the diagrams and tables afford, in which the gain and loss of each vessel is minutely given in yards.
"With respect to the Cruiser, except in the 4th trial, she was considerable beaten by all, and even in that she had only a slight advantage over the Pantaloon and Osprey. The Waterwitch had an advantage over the Pantaloon in the only two of these three trials in which they were both present, and in the 4th, in particular, it was very decided. These were the trials close-hauled, with light or moderate winds. The other three with strong breezes or squally weather were the 6th, 11th, and 13th, in all of which the Daring obtained a marked and decided superiority over all the squadron. In the 6th trial the Flying Fish and Waterwitch were about equal, and are placed next to the Daring, and in the 11th the former vessel, and in the 13th the latter, are also placed as second.
"It will be seen by referring to the tables attached to the diagrams, that in the 11th trial the Flying Fish beat the Waterwitch very considerably, but that in the 13th trial the order was reversed, the latter beating the former equally as much, as she was before beaten, which proves the Flying Fish on a wind, in smooth water, to be the superior vessel of the two, but that with a head-sea and strong wind an equal superiority must be awarded to the Waterwitch.
"In the 6th trial the Mutine came next, and in the 11th and 13th the Espiegle, which vessel had, in the latter trial in particular, a very decided advantage over de Mutine and remainder of the squadron, the relative positions of which are seen by referring to the diagram.
"In the trials with the 'wind abeam', it will be seen by turning to the tables of the 8th and 14th, that in both of them the Daring was the leading vessel, the position of second having been occupied by the Flying Fish in the former, and the Espiegle in the latter; the Mutine being fourth in the 8th and third in the 14th, and having in the last mentioned trial beaten the Flying Fish, but only 135 yards. With the wind 'abaft the beam,' the 9th and 10th trials place the Daring in the one, and the Espiegle in the other, as first. In the former trial the Espiegle occupied the second place, and in the latter, the Mutine, Flying Fish being third in both.Waterwitch was the last in the 9th, and Daring in the 10th. The Pantaloon did not take a part in these two trial, having been excluded for the reasons assigned in the diagram.
"In the 5th and 12th trials which took place before the wind, the Flying Fish and the Pantaloon were the two first, the Daring being second in the one, and Cruiser in the other, the Espiegle and Waterwitch occupying the two last places in both.
"This concludes a comparison of the sailing qualities of the squadron, as arranged under each of the heads.
"Their capabilities for firing guns is shown by the reports of observations, which give the degrees of inclination at different periods during each of the trials. Whilst alluding to the inclination, I must state that I could not help remarking the extreme stiffness of the Espiegle when compared with the other vessels; which must give her a great advantage when firing her guns.
"The Pantaloon as compared with the Waterwitch, her more immediate competitor, from the similarity of their size, must be considered as inferior excepting on the one point of running before the wind in light or moderate weather, on which point she had, as will be seen by the tables, an advantage over most of the squadron.

"I have, &c.,
"ARMAR. L. CORRY, Captain."

Tu 21 October 1845In endeavouring to form a just estimate of the merits of the ships which constitute the experimental squadron we have found considerable difficulty, from the constant contradiction as to facts, and the variety of opinions which the subject has elicited. The comparative capabilities of the vessels must be tested at sea, and there are many circumstances which can only come under the observation of those on board during a trial cruise that may be of material importance in judging of a ship's qualities.

Perplexed by the contrariety of opinions, we have sought in the official reports some accurate data on which we can judge of the capabilities shown by the experimental ships during the recent trial cruises. The result is very different from what we had been led to expect, for so much has been said against Sir WILLIAM SYMONDS'S ships, the Albion and Queen, that we were prepared to find them cutting a very contemptible figure in the official documents. So far from this being the case, they are pronounced in the report by Admiral BOWLES, of his cruise about this time last year, to be superior in many respects to the Caledonia and St. Vincent, the stability of the two former being on all occasions very remarkable. This stability, so distinctly alluded to in the Admiral's report, is quite at variance with the rumour that the Albion "rolled so much in the last cruise that the decanters were jerked out of their stand on the cabin table." Admiral BOWLES, however, seems very properly to have regarded the guns more than the glasses, and we must confess that in a heavy sea we do not think the character of a ship is much compromised by a decanter rolling off a table. The Admiral states in his report that the Queen and Albion are remarkable for their stability, and will, therefore, carry their ports up and fight their guns with greater facility than the Caledonia and St. Vincent The Albion can well afford to sacrifice her decanters, if she can make effective use of her guns, which it seems she is better calculated to achieve than some of her competitors. The chief objection which could then be urged against the two ships of Sir WILLIAM SYMONDS arose from the difficulty of finding out what was really required to render them as serviceable as they might be from their stability and powers of sailing, if their one or two comparatively trifling defects were remedied. Admiral BOWLES said, that "the fault of the Queen is an apparent want of power in the rudder, which occasions her to carry a slack helm, and, under low and easy sail, to be kept to the wind with difficulty." One would believe that a defect in the rudder of a ship might soon be remedied, but the Admiral declared his utter inability to say what the fault proceeded from. The Queen is adapted for a larger crew than the three other experimental vessels we have named, she is a finer and nobler ship, is acknowledged to have wonderful stability and to be peculiarly calculated for working her guns with effect; yet all these advantages were almost thrown away on account of "some defect in the rudder." We have heard of spoiling the ship for a hap'orth of tar, and this seems a literal illustration of the principle, for here was the Queen, one of the finest vessels in the service, rendered comparatively impracticable because her rudder wanted looking to. The mystery which Admiral BOWLES was unable to solve has apparently been since fathomed, for the recent report of Admiral PYM pronounces the Queen to be the best ship in the squadron. The second place is assigned to the Albion conjointly with the Rodney, but the two first-named vessels - the Queen and the Albion - are particularly specified as being easy in all the trials; and with as great a press of sail as could well be carried against a heavy head sea, they were remarkable for never straining anything.

We find ourselves a little puzzled by the report when attempting to come to any decision on the respective merits of the experimental brigs, for the commander of each seems so satisfied with the performance of his own, that he claims either expressly or by implication the first rank for it. Taking, however, an average of all the facts and opinions of the commanders of the brigs, and looking to what is perhaps entitled to more weight, - the report of Captain CORRY, of the Firebrand steam-ship, - we are inclined to think that the Flying Fish, constructed by Sir WILLIAM SYMONDS, has a majority of advantages over its competitors. In the rate of sailing, both off the wind and on a wind, there was a very considerable difference in her favour, and, though the Daring appears to be the best with a head sea, the former is altogether superior in smooth water. The Mutine and the Osprey are pronounced to be beaten vessels, though Commander CRAWFORD, of the former, expresses his gratification at her behaviour, and his confidence as to what she will do on a second trial. The Pantaloon and Waterwitch are evidently weak in their rigging, and were full of disasters during the trial cruise -one lurching her main-top-gallant over her side, the top-gallant of the other pitching into her fore-top, and the masts having gone short off at the cap in both vessels.

On looking calmly and without prejudice over the reports on the trial cruises of the experimental squadron, we think it only fair to Sir WILLIAM SYMONDS to say that the popular clamour which has been got up against him is not justified by the facts as they appear in the official documents. All his vessels - with the exception of the Pantaloon - are said to be distinguished by some superior qualities, and the testimony given to their merits in the Parliamentary papers is fully borne out by Admiral PYM'S report of the last cruise, as well as by the general tone in which they are spoken of in official quarters.


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