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HMS Warrior

The iron clad frigate HMS Warrior, launched in 1860, was built for the Royal Navy as one of it’s first ‘Warrior Class’ steam powered iron clad vessels. Along with her sister ship HMS Black Prince, HMS Warrior was built in response to Queen Victoria's concern that the Royal Navy lacked the ships to counter the threat of the ships that France was building, which included the world’s first deep sea ironclad ship ‘La Goire’ and her two sister ships.

HMS Warrior

HMS Warrior Service
When built, HMS Warrior was so advanced that all other warships, including La Goire, were effectively obsolete, however, HMS Warrior was seen as a deterrent and never fired her guns in anger. HMS Warrior spent much of her later service as a coastguard ship before ending her ocean going service when it was discovered that her masts were rotten and uneconomical to repair.

HMS Warrior Later Years
She served as a floating school for the navy before being converted into an oil pontoon. In 1979 HMS Warrior was handed over to Maritime Trust for restoration and in 1987 returned to Portsmouth as a fully restored ship. HMS Warrior is currently on display in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Why Was HMS Warrior built?
In the middle of the 19th century the French shipbuilding programme had risen to an aggressive level and, as a part of this programme, French naval architect Stanislas Charles Henri Dupuy de Lome had designed the world’s first iron-clad warship ‘La Gloire'. The First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir John Somerset Pakington, responded by commissioning a design for a ship that would be far superior and deter the French from challenging Britain at sea. This ship would be HMS Warrior.

HMS Warrior Design
The radical design of HMS Warrior was conceived by the Chief Constructor to the Navy, Isaac Watts, and Chief Engineer Thomas Lloyd. The centre of their design was an armored box or citadel inside which the engine, boiler and main guns would be accommodated. The walls of this box consist of 18 inches of teak clad with 4½ inches of wrought iron plate, and would gain additional protection from the hull.

HMS Warrior Hull Design
In an effort to reduce time and risk, the hull of HMS Warrior, designed by Isaac Watts and Chief Engineer Thomas Lloyd, was copied from the hull design of the existing wooden frigate HMS Mersey. Ships with this configuration of guns and armor are classified as Broadside Ironclads.

HMS Warrior Hull Construction
The hull of HMS Warrior consisted of 1 inch thick plates of wrought iron and, for the first ever time in a warship, contained watertight compartments to restrict the spread of water inside the vessel. HMS Warrior also had a double bottom beneath the boiler and engine rooms.

Where was HMS Warrior built?
With the Royal Dockyards at Chatham and Portsmouth being ill equipped to deal with the construction of iron hulls, the work went out to tender. The contract to construct HMS Warrior was won by the Thames Iron Works in Blackwall, London. HMS Warrior was laid down in the summer of 1859.

Difficulties During the Build of HMS Warrior
The original completion timescale for HMS Warrior was estimated to be nine months, however progress was hampered by delays and one of the coldest winters in 50 years. The  cost of building HMS Warrior was £357,000, which would have taken Thames Iron Works into bankruptcy had the Government not awarded them the additional amount of £50,000.

When was HMS Warrior Launched?
HMS Warrior was finally launched on December 29, 1860, and named by Sir John Pakington. The launch hadn’t been without it’s problems as, despite braziers being lit the previous night, HMS Warrior had frozen to the slipway. Tugs, hydraulic rams, and rocking by hundreds of men eventually freed the ship to the cheers of the spectators.

Where was HMS Warrior Fitted Out?
After her launch, HMS Warrior was taken to Victoria Docks to be fitted out with 202 armor plates weighing in at 960 tons. She was also fitted with her masts and rigging, including 25 miles of rope, all of which had been transported from Chatham Dockyard where it had been made.

HMS Warrior at Greenhithe
A week after being commissioned, on August 1, 1861, HMS Warrior left Victoria Docks under her own power and moved along the Thames to Greenhithe, where she continued to be fitted and received her armament. HMS Warrior was famously visited by the author Charles Dickens while docked at Greenhithe.

HMS Warrior Armament
There were two types of gun aboard HMS Warrior. Twenty six Whitworth smoothbore 68 pound muzzle loading guns weighing 6 tons each (including the elm carriage), ten Armstrong 110 pound breech loading guns weighing 4.1 tons each, and four 40 pound guns. Both the 68 and 110 pounders required a team of 18 men. With the fitting out complete, HMS Warrior left the River Thames on September 19, 1861, and headed for Portsmouth. The first Captain of HMS Warrior was the Honorable Arthur Cochrane.

HMS Warrior Shells
The shells used in the guns aboard HMS Warrior would be filled with various materials including grape shot (small shot), larger metal pieces (shrapnel) and molten metal which would be produced from a furnace in the boiler room.

Use of Martin Shells on HMS Warrior
Where molten metal shells were used, they would be fired into a ship's wooden hull with enough power to lodge them in the wood. After a while, the molten metal would melt the shell casing and pour onto the wood setting the ship alight. These liquid metal shells were known as 'Martin Shells' and would only have been fired by the four guns on the battery deck next to the forward bulkhead.

HMS Warrior Trials and First Commission
At the time of her completion, HMS Warrior was the fastest and most powerful warship in the world, her advanced design making all other warships obsolete. Following initial sea trials, several minor modifications were made and HMS Warrior with her crew of 706 commenced service with the Channel Squadron. Her early duties included making voyages to Gibraltar and Lisbon as well as patrolling coastal waters.

Noteworthy Crew on HMS Warrior
John Arbuthnot 'Jacky' Fisher was appointed Gunnery Lieutenant to HMS Warrior in March 1863. In 1904, Jacky Fisher became First Sea Lord, and in 1905 he chaired the Committee on Designs which produced the basic design for the first modern battleship, HMS Dreadnought.

HMS Warrior 1864 Refit
When her initial commission ended in 1864, HMS Warrior spent two years in dock being refitted. Part of this refit included the replacement of the Armstrong 110 pound guns which has been found to overheat leading to the possibility of the breech block being blown out of the barrel. Most of the replaced Armstrong guns were sold to the Confederate Americans for use against the Union in the American Civil War.

Queen Victoria Visits HMS Warrior
Towards the end of 1867, HMS Warrior was posted to Osborne Bay, on the north east coast of the Isle of Wight, to guard Queen Victoria at Osborne House. Intelligence had been received suggesting that, while the Fenian Rising against British Rule in Ireland was in progress, Queen Victoria may be under threat from Irish Nationalists. During this period of guard duty, Queen Victoria made an informal visit to HMS Warrior.

HMS Warrior 1871 Refit
HMS Warrior spent another four years with the Channel Squadron before requiring a second refit in 1871. This time she spent four years in port and underwent some major changes including renewal of her boilers, installation of a steam capstan, the addition of a poop deck. Her masts, decks and rigging had also been renewed. By this time she was becoming obsolete as her design had been copied and improved over the ten years since her introduction.

HMS Warrior at Portland Harbour
HMS Warrior went back into service in 1874, and having been passed over as flagship of the Admiral commanding the Mediterranean squadron, she spent much of the following six years moored at Portland Harbour. By the middle of 1881, HMS Warrior was based at Greenock, Scotland, where she remained until 1883 when her sea going service was ended by the discovery of rot in her main and foremasts.

HMS Warrior as Vernon III
With her masts and armament removed, HMS Warrior deteriorated in a part of Portsmouth known as ’Rotten Row’. She was renamed Vernon III and served the Navy’s HMS Vernon torpedo training school, supplying steam and electricity to other nearby hulks. HMS Warrior was put up for sale in 1924.

HMS Warrior as Oil Fuel Hulk C77
HMS Warrior wasn’t purchased so, in 1929, the Royal Navy took her to Pembroke Dock, Milford Haven in Wales, where she was renamed Oil Fuel Hulk C77 and used as a floating oil jetty for fifty years. During this period, HMS Warrior was regularly maintained and her hull kept intact.

HMS Warrior Transfer of Ownership
In 1978 it was announced that HMS Warrior would no longer be needed as the oil depot was closing. In 1979 HMS Warrior was handed over to the Maritime Trust with the agreement that the Manifold Trust would provide the estimated £4M to £8M necessary to restore her.

HMS Warrior is Towed to Hartlepool
In August 1979, HMS Warrior was towed to Hartlepool’s Coal Dock where restoration commenced on one of the largest maritime restoration projects ever undertaken. It was decided to restore HMS Warrior to as near her 1862 condition as was possible.

Removal of Additions to HMS Warrior
The first couple of years of the restoration were devoted to the removal of items that had been added since 1862, including the poop deck and around 200 tons of concrete decking.

Restoration of HMS Warrior
Following intensive research, HMS Warrior was gradually restored using drawings, documents and physical evidence to position the restored items.

HMS Warrior Replica Items
Some items on HMS Warrior proved to costly to restore or replace  so replicas were made. These included fiberglass replica guns, molded from originals obtained from the Woolwich Rotunda Artillery Museum and the State of Jersey, and replica engines, boilers and other machinery.

HMS Warrior Replacement Masts
It wasn't practical to replace the lower masts of HMS Warrior in wood, so they were replaced with masts made from cut and shaped steel tube. A ladder was built inside each one to allow for access to the mast platforms.

The Figurehead of HMS Warrior
The replacement figurehead was carved using photographs of the original, and appeared at the 1982 London International Boat Show while still being carved. It was completed in in 1983 and appeared on BBC’s Blue Peter before being displayed at the main gate of Portsmouth Royal Dockyard. On February 6, 1985, it was finally put in place on HMS Warrior.

Return of HMS Warrior to Portsmouth
Leaving Hartlepool on June 12, 1987, HMS Warrior returned to Portsmouth where she arrived on June 16. HMS Warrior entered her permanent birth that evening and is now displayed as one of the ships of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Other ships exhibited include HMS Victory and King Henry VIII’s Mary Rose. HMS Warrior is the sole survivor of the 45 iron hulls (known as the 'Black Battlefleet') to be built for the Royal Navy.

HMS Warrior Specifications:
Class and Type:
Warrior Class Armoured Frigate Complement: 706
Displacement: 9,137 tons Length: 420ft (128m) Beam: 58ft 4ins (17.8m) Draft: 26ft 10ins (8.2m)
Power: 5,772 ihp, 10 boilers Propulsion: 1 trunk steam engine, 1 shaft Speed: 14 knots Range: 2100 nautical miles
Armament: 26 x 68 pound muzzle loading guns - 10 x Armstrong 110 pound breech loading guns - 4 x 40 pound guns
Armour: Belt 4½ins (114m) - Bulkheads 4½ins (114m)

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Published 2018

Global Anchor Limited

Modified 2018

By James Drake

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