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The Times newspaper on armoured RN ships
In the 1860s rapid developments in technology resulted in the rapid replacement of traditional wooden-hulled warships by, firstly, iron-cased wooden-hulled ships and then by armoured ships with an iron hull. These developments were extensively reported and commented on in the columns of the Times newspaper, often revealing a surprising level of technical details.
|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|Sa 22 September 1860|
Iron-Cased Ships.Sir,- As a statement of the following facts may assist to bring the public mind to a safe decision on the question of that great change in the material and character of future war-ships so ably mooted in your article of the 10th inst., recently received here, I beg to offer them for insertion in The Times, if considered of sufficient importance. There are now before me all the data and observations, taken on the spot for my own professional information, of the several trials made off Shoeburyness since January, 1859, to penetrate the sides of the floating battery Trusty, built in 1855 for the purposes of the Russian war, with a scantling of 25 inches of oak timber, covered with 4-inch iron plates. This vessel was prepared for being fired at in the beginning of 1857, and, had the experiments been then carried out, our present state of "indecision" would most probably have been avoided; for at that time no rifled cannon of any power had been produced, and we now know that at the distance then intended of 450 yards the spherical shot of the heaviest smooth-bored gun must have been found quite powerless to enter the ship.
It was not, however, until January, 1859, that the first attempt was made to penetrate the Trusty's side, the gun used being Sir W. Armstrong's rifled 32-pounder, which had given the surprising range of 9,200 yards. Fourteen shot in all were fired, with charges of 61b., and at distances varying from 450 yards to about 20 yards, the material of the shot being cast iron, wrought iron, and steel. Of these latter two stuck into the side, between the joints of the plates, projecting externally 6 inches and 2 inches respectively, and indentations with some cracks were likewise produced on the plates by the other shots; but the gun was evidently powerless to injure seriously the complete protection of the side.
In September, 1859, attempts for two successive days were again made to penetrate the side with Sir William Armstrong's rifled 80-pounder, which, with a 12lb. charge, had also thrown its shot more than 9,000 yards. The first day's distance was 400 yards, at which 10 shots in all were fired, only three of which, however, took effect so as to give proof of the combined resistance of the side; but this, to the surprise of every one, was found to be so practically complete that it was judged necessary to reduce the distance for firing on the second day to 200 yards. At this range 11 shots in all were fired, some of them of 100lb. weight and of hardened steel, but even with these no entry could be effected. One 80lb. steel shot did, however, succeed in entering the ship. Its immediate predecessor had struck a joint of the plates, and opened at three-quarters of an Inch. On this opening the shot in question struck fair, and within two inches of the former shot, which, besides opening the joint, had also shattered the timber; but, although thus assisted, the force of the shot on entering was so expended that it only reached half-way across the deck, throwing before it, however, a formidable splinter of iron; and this single violation of the protection of the Trusty's side was the only result of the 14 shots which in the two days took effect upon her plates.
At the trial made in June last with Mr. Whitworth's rifled 80-pounder I was not present, but have since carefully examined the effects then produced, and found that of the three shots which took effect on the side one only entered the ship. It received no assistance from the effects of any previous shot, but where it struck outside the plate was unsound, and where it entered inside the timber was rotten; and, though a greater power of penetration was here exhibited than in the case of the Armstrong shot, yet, like it, it entered the ship in a spent state, and reached no more than half-way across the deck. Twelve and thirteen pound charges were used on this occasion, the shot being of carefully prepared steel; but, as in the previous trials, no shells were fired, it having been judged useless to do so where solid steel had been so completely foiled.
Excluding, then, altogether the attempt with the 32-pounder, we have thus 17 shots, of from 80lb. to 100lb. weight, made of special material, of special form and temper, fired with the heaviest charges the guns will bear, as far as practicable at right angles, within the shortest safe distance, from the two most powerful pieces of artillery ever yet produced, and the ship's side thus subjected to proof has been penetrated twice. The side which has exhibited this power of protection is one of the first of its description ever constructed. Its outer lining of iron is slighter than that since manufactured; the plates of which it is composed are much smaller; and, instead of being firmly bolted upon the timber beneath them, they were found to be loose, owing to the shrinkage of the wood since the ship was built. When struck near their edges these plates were more or less injured and broken, when near their centres more or less indented and cracked; but the iron splinter which went in with the Armstrong shot was the only mischievous one of any sort which the whole 17 shots produced, and both that shot itself and the Whitworth would have been perfectly harmless to any one on the other side of the deck opposite where they entered. With every advantage, therefore, on the side of the guns to an extent which could never occur in action, these results may, I think, be safely accepted as conclusive proof that, in the terms of your article,- "British manufacturers can, indeed, produce plates of iron capable of affording such protection to the sides of British ships that the best of even British guns cannot penetrate them."
But it will be asked, with such results as these for now a year before us, whence has arisen that "indecision" which, as your article observes, has hitherto characterized our own adoption of this invention, and which still seems to delay its progress?
The only reply is, I believe, to be found in the fact that, simultaneously with the experiments at Shoeburyness, other experiments have been taking place at Portsmouth which have furnished results of a totally different nature. Month after month for far more than a year the public has been informed, in general and in detail, of the entire destruction of armour plates of all descriptions and of almost all thicknesses, effected, not by any new and powerful rifled cannon, but by the old smooth-bored gun of heavy calibre, with its limited range of some 4,000 yards. And although, as you observe, "it is impossible for us to balance our own experiments in this matter against those of the French, inasmuch as we cannot be sure that the conditions were equal," yet it may be well to apply this process to our own two sets of experiments, if only to remove the perplexity caused by the great discrepancy they present; and we shall then readily perceive that the difference in the essential conditions under which they have been respectively made will fully account for the opposite deductions they admit of. The side of the Trusty, as before stated, was built but five years since for the express purpose of sustaining the shock it has shown itself so well able to bear. The sides of the Alfred, the Undaunted, and Sirius, experimented upon at Portsmouth, were built nearer 50 years ago, with a strength of scantling and with fastenings totally unfitted even then to undergo that hammer-and-anvil process of hanging heavy plates upon them to be attacked with the heaviest guns, and under which plates and timbering have both inevitably succumbed when the operation has been performed, after "old age" had of itself already brought these ships to the verge of the breaking-up dock. Why experiments of such a nature were made under such conditions at all I presume neither to know nor inquire; but I cannot doubt that their necessary results have had the natural effect of inducing that doubt and indecision in the public, if not, the official, mind, which it might have seemed so desirable to avoid In a matter so serious and new, and in which only the most practical experiments possible could be expected to afford a safe guidance. But, whatever may have been the especial object of these Portsmouth experiments, we may be assured that whenever British armour-ships may have to contend with those of other nations the timbering which supports their plates will be found, not of the same age and weakness as that of the old ships named, but on the same scale of strength as that of the Trusty; as witness the 24-inch scantling of the Normandie, now receiving her plates in the basin of Cherbourg.
Thus, within a period of 10 years, has the march of human progress twice overtaken with serious change the status of British naval affairs; and, while our requisite force of screw ships of the line is yet far from complete, we find ourselves unavoidably launched into the most complete revolution in the character and construction of ships of war ever yet known. No ship of wood, of whatever size or force, can be expected to contend with the modern projectiles of conical and spherical shot, shells, and molten iron, against even a single-decked ship with sides as impenetrable as those of the Trusty. Even at 200 yards we have seen that favourable accident alone enables such sides to be pierced at all; with sufficient steam speed to enable a fighting distance of 1,000 yards to be maintained, such ships must prove "invulnerable" (except through their portholes) to any gun yet known, while capable themselves of the most effective use of their powers of destruction against any opponent of wood; and the "reconstruction" of the line-of-battle portion of our fleet has, indeed, become an imperious necessity. Nor is our present position that alone of having been surprised into the numerical inferiority which your article places before us, but this time we have lost our usual priority in practical experience too; for, while our own first armour frigate will require still come considerable time before she can be launched, the Gloire appears to be in full course of realizing established data for the future management and improvement of the similar structures of our great neighbour. Doubtless, the superiority in resources of money, material, and skilled labour to meet the occasion are all on our side, and it had been well if such considerations had weighed with our Administrators during those indications of the approaching crisis which were evident to so many, so as to have urged them to secure to ourselves the lead in this great change and this new rivalry. As it is, however the "stern-chase" can be no longer delayed; and if it be wisely and energetically prosecuted, with that united effort which the talent and great practical experience in iron constructions of this country enables us to call forth, every allowance will, no doubt, be made for any over-reluctance which may have been shown to enter on that increase of naval outlay which must now be encountered before England's requisite superiority in the new description of war-ship can be established.
I remain. Sir. yours. &c.,
E.P. Halstead., Captain, R.N., lately commanding the Steam Reserve Fleet in the Medway.
Talladh-a-Bheithe, Perthshire, Sept. 17.
|Sa 22 September 1860||A letter which we insert this morning from an able correspondent will furnish the public with some authentic information on a subject of the highest importance to our national security - viz. the success or failure of the new scheme for casing ships of war in iron. Our former remarks on the question will have explained the position in which it now stands. In the main it was a question of experiment only, and yet, by some strange divergence of induction, British and French authorities had arrived at conclusions diametrically opposed to each other. The French had satisfied themselves of the utility of the invention, had discontinued the construction of wooden line of battle ships, had put ten iron-cased frigates on the stocks, and had actually launched two of them. We, on the other hand, had, indeed, put out four of the new men-of-war to contract, but we had not regarded the case as in any way urgent, and had still concentrated our principal efforts upon screw two-deckers, exactly as before. This policy, too, seemed to derive a certain warrant from the results of experiment, for we were assured day after day that no plates of iron producible by our manufacturers had been found capable of resisting the effects of our guns. Naturally, therefore, we imagined that the French, to say the least, had been precipitate, and that, whatever might be the conclusion finally established, invulnerable ships had not become a reality up to the present moment.|
These impressions, however, will be most materially modified by the statements contained in Captain Halstead's letter. From that communication it appears not only that a ship's side has been found practically impenetrable when battered at short range by the most powerful rifled ordnance, but that the discovery was made twelve months ago, so that, unless the conclusion was to be corrected by other evidence, we should by this time have had our iron-sheathed frigates afloat exactly like our neighbours. Nothing can be more instructive than the results of the Shoeburyness experiments, as here detailed. The vessel taken as a target was the floating battery Trusty, built for the express purpose of offering the greatest resistance to shot some five years ago. She was the earliest type, in fact, of the new invention - the very class of ship which the French naval architects have since developed into the Gloire. In 1857 she was "prepared for being fired at," or, in other words, as we presume, she was cased in the strongest armour which could be manufactured at that time. The sheathing, in all probability, was by no means so strong as could be manufactured now, and yet it repelled 80lb. shot from Armstrong and Whitworth guns. We need not recapitulate the results which our correspondent so perspicuously details. It is quite sufficient to observe that with every condition in favour of the attack it proved virtually ineffectual against the defence. Twice only in 17 shots could the new artillery penetrate the old floating battery, although each of these shots was fired under advantages which could rarely be reckoned upon in actual conflict.
This seems decisive; but there are two or three questions still suggesting themselves for consideration, and the subject is so vitally important that not a single point should be blinked. Were these rifled cannon really the most formidable weapons that could have been employed in the experiment? Admitting their extraordinary powers of range and accuracy, were the shots which they threw at point blank range more likely to be destructive under the circumstances of the case than heavy spherical shot from a smooth-bored gun? We have heard that a 68lb. ball fired from one of the long 95cwt. guns will, at a range, say, of 200 yards, produce more effect on an iron-plate target than the elongated bolt of an Armstrong or Whitworth cannon. This, indeed, may possibly be alleged as an explanation of the strange discrepancy between the experiments at Portsmouth and those at Shoeburyness. At the former place the smooth-bored 68-pounder was tried against what our correspondent describes as weak and worthless targets; at the latter a target thoroughly well constructed was battered only by rifled guns. Perhaps, therefore, there is still some room for uncertainty, though it is natural to ask why so very obvious a course as bringing the strongest target to the test of the most destructive shot was not thought of by those who conducted our experiments. A second question arises from certain special results discovered during these trials. It was found that though one or two shots might be repelled by the iron sheathing, yet when this sheathing was finally penetrated, as at Portsmouth almost invariably occurred, the destruction produced was infinitely greater than would have been the case on board a wooden vessel. The first shot or two, perhaps even the first broadside, might rattle harmlessly against the ship's armour; but the next would create such tremendous havoc that the temporary impunity would have been dearly purchased. When the side of an iron-cased frigate was once smashed, all on board, it was said, were doomed. This is evidently a point of great consequence. Captain Halstead, it will be seen, actually claims an advantage for iron-sheathed vessels on this very score; but here, again, he is speaking of bolts, and not of cannon balls.
We can only add that points like these, which a week's experiments, properly conducted, would suffice to decide, should never have been left thus in doubt. For ourselves, we conceive that upon the whole evidence now before us there is reason for believing iron-cased ships to be, if not a perfect, at any rate a most important invention. We suspect that, though the Gloire may not be absolutely invulnerable, she would be found possessed of such advantages as would justify our neighbours in thus closing with the now theory. Possibly our authorities might be able to show that no iron plates have yet been proof against the effects of artillery continuously tried, though, as they seem never to have tested the best targets with the best guns, we cannot feel any certainty even on this point. It appears, however, quite plain that, though this marine armour may not be impenetrable to the last, it is impenetrable for a good while, and, at certain distances, altogether so. Is not this an advantage worth securing? A frigate invulnerable at 600 yards, and proof against at least one broadside at a third of that distance, would surely overpower an antagonist possessed of no such protection. We think it highly probable that the best iron plates yet manufactured might be penetrated sooner or later, and under given conditions, by heavy shot, but if that result could be averted for a certain time it would clearly be so much gain. If the French, in short, have not proved that a ship can be made invulnerable, they have proved that a ship can be made far less vulnerable than other ships without any material sacrifice of mobility or speed; and if that example Is lost upon us it will go hard with England.
We do sincerely trust, therefore, that all this evidence may have produced its effect upon our Board of Admiralty during their recent survey of the dockyards of the kingdom. If the case be but fairly grappled with there is nothing in it which should give us any uneasiness; indeed, the more naval architecture is brought within the sphere of mechanical science the more certain would be our national superiority. We excel the French both in material and manufacture. We have the best iron and the greatest resources for working it. We have the best engineers and the best machines. We have also the best coal, so that, what with fuel and engines together, we ought always to insure general superiority in speed. It is only in one respect, unhappily an important one, that we are surpassed by the French. They go to work with judgment, promptitude, and decision. They allow no obstructions to stand in the way of approved reforms. They satisfy themselves of facts, and then apply their conclusions with a single-mindedness and determination which infallibly sends them ahead. They did so with screw two-deckers, and left us to strain our immense resources in overtaking them. Hardly had we done so when they strike out a new line; but it will be unpardonable this time if we are allowed to fall so seriously into arrear.
|We 3 October 1860|
Iron-Cased Ships Of War.
While I agree with much that was contained in the letter addressed to you by Captain Halsted, I think that his opinions are based chiefly on those trials at which he was present, when the armour plates were successful in repelling cannon shot. As I have only been present at trials where the projectiles have invariably peretrated the armourplates, I have arrived at a different general conclusion.
Captain Halsted appears to have made a mistake in applying the results of the experiments which he witnessed to others at which he was not present. Having stated that at 400 yards the Armstrong gun failed to make an impression on the Trusty, he concludes that the Whitworth 80-pounder would not succeed at a like range; whereas the fact is that in October, 1858, my 68lb. projectile, fired from a distance of 450 yards, penetrated through the 4-inch armour plate and the sides of the Alfred and entered into the ship.
For a statement of what were really the results of the trials of my 80-pounder against the Trusty in May last I would refer to the account given in The Times of May 28, written, I believe, by your "own correspondent," who witnessed them.
The Carnation gunboat, from which the gun was fired, was anchored at the short range of 200 yards, because it was blowing "half a gale," and the rolling of the boat rendered it difficult and unsafe to take aim from a greater distance, - unsafe for this reason. It had been proved, by experiments made on board the Excellent in December, 1857, that my flat-fronted projectiles passed through 30 feet of water and still retained great penetrating power. When I made a request to be allowed to fire at the Trusty's armour plate below her water line my proposition was declined, and it was not thought advisable, considering the rough state of the weather, to run the risk of the experiment being involuntarily tried by an accidental low shot of the gunner, who was one of the Excellent's best marksmen.
In Captain Halsted's letter he speaks of "only three Whitworth shots taking effect" on the Trusty's side. He omits mention of another shot which struck a sound plate fixed over a porthole and strengthened at the back with beams of solid timber, of such thickness and so firmly fastened with large iron bolts that it formed apparently the strongest part of the ship's side. This shot "pierced through the centre of a plate and into the main deck of the ship, driving before it a mass of splinters and an immense iron bolt, which, from the position in which it was found among the fragments of wood on the main deck, had evidently been dashed through and whirled about with a force only inferior to that of the projectile itself." (Vide The Times, May 28.)
Only five shots in all were fired from my gun on the occasion referred to; of these one shot, owing to the rolling of the gunboat, went over the Trusty; four hit her sides, and every one of them went through her plates. Two, which struck directly "end on," entered into the ship; two, which struck obliquely, after penetrating through the armourplate, buried themselves in the ship's side. I will not here dwell on what would have been the effect had the rear ends of these projectiles been made as shells, which I certainly believe may be done without destroying their penetrating power.
If it be asked why only five shots were fired from my gun, the answer is simply that the experiments were made at the request and in the presence of the Lords of the Admiralty. They, with the First Lord himself, went on board the Trusty and personally examined the effects of the shots. As all that hit the plates went through them the results were considered conclusive, and more experiments being then deemed unnecessary, they were ordered to be discontinued.
There is no doubt but that ships may be built which are proof against ordinary shot, but my experience leads me to believe that the penetration of armour plates is a question of firing against them a projectile under the proper combined conditions; these are, that it shall be of the proper shape, material, and weight, and have the requisite velocity. A flat-fronted projectile of properly hardened material, and weighing less than an ounce, fired from one of my ordinary rifles, will penetrate wrought-iron plates 6-10ths of an inch thick. Again, plates 4 inches thick are penetrated by the 80lb. projectiles, and I have no doubt but that 6-inch plates would be penetrated by heavier projectiles with a more powerful gun. Increased thickness of plate, then, is to be overcome by increased power of gun; and the question is, in which case will the capability of increase sooner reach its limits?
Ships which are hampered by the weight of enormous plates are so overburdened that they are unfit to carry a broadside of guns heavy enough to penetrate the armour of vessels plated similarly to themselves.
Again, a ship constructed to carry very thick plates cannot be driven at the high speed which must hereafter give the superiority in naval warfare.
There yet remains the consideration of cost. It is true that the richest nation can best endure the drain of costly equipments, and therefore cheap warfare would be a disadvantage; but it is also true that naval casualties and mishaps must be calculated upon, and it would be bad policy to concentrate too large an outlay upon a single vessel.
It will be for naval authorities to consider the position in which the large heavily-plated yet still vulnerable ship would be placed if attacked by several smaller and far swifter vessels, each carrying a few powerful guns, and able to choose its distance for striking an enemy which presents so large a target. What would be the result of firing flat-fronted shots at her plates below the waterline, or of their concentrated fire directed upon the axis of her screw - a mark that might be hit at a considerable distance?
The plan of warding off shot by protecting armour bas been often resorted to, but the means of attack have continually proved the vulnerability of the armour and driven it out of use. It has to be shown whether this will be the case with our ships of war, and I fully concur in the opinion expressed in your paper, that the best and speediest mode of arriving at a right decision is to give full publicity to the results of properly conducted experiments.
I remain, Sir, yours very obediently,
Joseph Whitworth, Manchester, Sept. 28.
|Th 4 October 1860|
1. The "preparation of the Trusty," referred to in my former letter, consisted in filling in the portholes with timber and iron plating, of the same thickness as that of the side, in the vicinity of where the ship was to be fired at, so as to prevent the profitless mischief of shot finding entrance at the Ports.
2. Nothing could have been easier than to prove the comparative effect of the heavy 68-pounder smooth-bored gun against the sides of the Trusty at the Shoeburyness trials, inasmuch as this gun constituted the permanent armament of the gunboat from which the firing took place on that occasion, and it was by no means requisite to remove it in order to make room for the rifled 80-pounder. The reason why it was not used I therefore conclude to be that it was thought useless to do so. A solid 68lb. spherical shot of wrought iron, carefully lathed so as to have the smallest possible windage, was, I am aware, driven from this gun through the plated side of the old Alfred at Portsmouth from a distance of 20 yards; but no shot from this gun has, as I believe, ever yet succeeded in entering a ship with a side of combined timber and plating especially constructed to resist it; and if in any single case this has, indeed, been done, the conditions have been, I doubt not, quite exceptional, in point of range and other circumstances, as those by means of which the rifled "bolt" succeeded. The superior "smashing power" claimed for this gun is said to reside in the greater initial velocity of its shot, a superiority which, even if admitted, is in name and nature essentially ephemeral, and from the range usually adopted at experiments, a distance of 200 yards, seems to be the limit assigned by its advocates for its existence at all. But 2,000 yards is a perfectly effective distance for shot, shell, and carcases of molten iron, directed against the sides of a ship of wood; and if such a ship should indeed succeed in reaching, undamaged, the above smaller distance from her iron-sided opponent, the signal disparity between the two would only become the more obvious and decisive where every shot on both sides must equally strike, but not at all equally "strike home." If a proportion of only one-half of the British shots which decided the close fights of the Nile and Trafalgar had done no more mischief than that of sticking in the sides of the French ships, history must have had to record very different results from those which now adorn her pages in respect to those battles.
2. Perhaps the most practical mode in which to submit to public judgment the moot question of the effect of "ordinary" broadsides will be thus. Out of the 17 effective shots so deliberately fired at the sides of the Trusty, is it to be expected that a larger proportion than two would have entered the ship if the whole number had been fired at once, with the necessarily more promiscuous and uncertain aim of a broadside? Those who entertain such an expectation will perhaps furnish the public with the reason why.
4. With respect to concentrated broadsides, no person can, I think, be found who has ever witnessed the serious practice of this mode of attack between any two ships. Concentrated broadsides, and "divisions" of broadsides, for which all our ships are prepared, have, I am well aware, been delivered against targets by well practised crews with formidable accuracy; but in all such cases favourable circumstances have been chosen, the focal distance has been carefully ascertained, and the firing has been all on one side. Nevertheless It has been seriously proposed to concentrate the entire broadside of a 90-gun ship on some given portion of the side of an ironclad ship, and thus endeavour to dispose of the whole question raised by that very disagreeable Gloire, by sending one of her representatives to the bottom - a result which I am bound to admit, under certain conditions, might be practicable. But, besides determining the exact distance, it would require in this case that the ship firing, and the ship to be fired at, should both be fixed in immovable "rests" similar in principle to that provided by Mr. Whitworth for Her Majesty's "coup de grace" at Wimbledon. And instead of trusting to the perfectly simultaneous "pull" of the 45 "trigger-lines," of the 45 seamen gunners distributed over the three decks of a ship 250 feet long, it would also require each gun to be provided with its own voltaic apparatus, and the combined wires to be placed in the hands of a single operator. With the tail of the bird thus properly prepared the proposed "concentration" of "salt" might no doubt be effectually applied. Finally, having now fulfilled what I have conscientiously regarded as a paramount public duty, viz., to submit for general consideration on a subject of the gravest national importance such information of a relevant nature as the course of my professional duties has brought before me, I have now only to render to yourself, Sir, my sincere thanks for the very liberal opportunity afforded me for so doing, and to add that, except for any necessary purpose of explanation, it is my intention not to be led into any public controversy on either the facts or opinions I have thus felt it my duty to state.
I beg to remain. Sir, your obedient E.P. Halsted, Captain R.N.,
Tallaah-a-Bhiethé, Perthshlre, Sept. 29.
|We 10 October 1860|
Iron plated ships.
Permit me to specify certain grave defects of construction in iron-clad ships as hitherto made - defects which it is the present intention of the Admiralty to repeat in the build of the new vessel.
All the iron plates hitherto employed in defending the sides of ships have been secured in position by a series of bolts and nuts fitting into corresponding perforations drilled through the iron plates as well as the wooden or iron hull of the ship itself. Some of the bolts are as much as 20 to 24 inches long by 2 inches diameter, and have either a square or conical head at one end and double nuts at the other. On the impact of the shot - be it either of the 68-pounder round or any of the various kinds of elongated projectiles - if the plate, in a large number of instances, be not perforated the bolts are nevertheless driven inboard with very destructive effect. Having myself been present at many of these trials I can testify to the grave nature of the casualties to be apprehended unless the proper steps be taken to remedy this defect.
At this particular stage I wish to point out in what manner the influence of the press might be brought to bear for the national advantage.
As soon as this defect was duly ascertained and acknowledged by the authorities, thinking men were devising means to overcome the evil. To my own knowledge plans were submitted in the latter part of last year to the Admiralty Board, plans which, in the opinion of that Board, completely obviated the grave defects before mentioned. Of my own knowledge, too, I can state that the only reason urged why the ships then building should not be so constructed was, that the contracts, embracing old principles, were already made, and that my Lords could not then interfere with the execution of such contracts without great inconvenience to the public service. However difficult it may be for the public to credit the announcement, it is still a fact that notwithstanding the approval of the new plan by the Admiralty, and the evidence of their own committee, the old system is about to be repeated.
The defects of the present method of fixing iron plating are these :-1. When struck by shot, the bolts are either driven inboard or broken, or the plates are cracked from hole to hole; if the plate struck be not broken it curls up at the corners and edges. 2. In a seaway it is next to impossible, from the vast number of bolt-holes passing trough the hull and plates, to keep the vessel watertight. In spite of every precaution caulking does not perfectly keep out the water, and in anything like heavy weather the vessel leaks like a sieve.
I have the honour to be, Sir, Your very obedient servant,
PIONEER, London, Oct. 8.
|Sa 13 October 1860||The question of iron-cased ships may be said to have been practically decided by the discussion which it has received in our columns. Two great facts appear now to be established. The first of these is, that all iron plates can be penetrated, under certain conditions, by shot, and therefore that no vessel, however thus protected, can be pronounced invulnerable. The second is, that the requisite conditions are difficult of attainment, and therefore that an iron-clad vessel would possess a decisive advantage over an unprotected antagonist. We consider these results as established not only because they have been affirmed and explained by correspondents of unimpeachable authority, but because they have met with no refutation. Witnesses in abundance, both professional and independent, have testified to the reality and importance of the new invention, but there has been no direct denial of its merits. Mr. Whitworth has naturally made a stand for the honour of his guns. The Gloire, in short, is not an invulnerable frigate, but, as she is probably proof against all shell and a good many shot, few wooden frigates could encounter her on equal terms. We shall be excused, we hope, for reminding the reader that this is precisely the conclusion which we ourselves submitted to the public.|
Now succeeds, however, the important consideration of the measures to be adopted and the expense to be incurred in consequence of this new discovery. The bare announcement of a fresh "reconstruction of our Navy," especially on such costly terms, is enough to fill the nation with alarm. We have but just emerged from the flood of extravagance ensuing upon a sudden panic. We have succeeded by incredible efforts in almost doubling the strength of our marine since the beginning of 1858, and the British fleet has at length been brought into a condition befitting our resources and our position. Is all this ground to be lost, and have we another up-hill fight to go through before our Navy can again become what it should be? We think we can reassure the public mind on these points. We see nothing very formidable before us in the way either of expense or difficulty. All our wooden ships have not become useless, and, though we shall certainly want some iron-cased vessels, our wants in this respect are not so great but what they can be supplied in good time and without extraordinary charge.
The measure of our obligations is derived, of course, from the proceedings of the French. Nobody attempts to blink or disguise that fact, so we have first to consider what the French have done. They have taken the initiative, much to their credit, in constructing men-of-war upon an entirely new model, and have left us, as on many former occasions, with the duty of following in their steps. Fortunately, however, they have not yet got very far ahead. This time, if we do but bestir ourselves, we need have no great difficulty in recovering our place. The French have laid down ten iron-cased frigates; they have launched two, and of these one, at least, is a complete success. Perhaps the Normandie is less of a failure than has been reported, but, at any rate, France has only two of the new fabrics afloat, and eight on the stocks. We have on the stocks four such vessels, two of which were ordered by Lord Derby's Government nearly three years ago. When these are launched - and we hope the event may be expedited - we shall at once be a match for our neighbours in frigates afloat, and, though they will still have the start of us in the numbers on hand, it will not cost us much to overtake them. In material, in machinery, and in all the conditions favourable to such manufactures we possess infinite advantages. The Gloire herself would have been a better vessel if built in England. Good as she is, she merely represents the best that could be done in France.
Much alarm, however, has been created by the inevitable costliness ascribed to these fabrics. To a certain extent, no doubt, the current impressions are correct; but we hope something remains to be abated on this score, and we shall presently show that there are considerations on the other side. General Peel stated at Huntingdon last week that the two vessels bespoken by Sir John Pakington, and now in process of construction, would cost "no less than a million of money - 500,000l. each." That is certainly a prodigious sum. The Duke of Wellington, one of our largest three-deckers, cost but 170,000l., and the Orlando, our finest and most expensive frigate, only 100,000l. Bat we really do not understand how General Peel's figures were obtained, unless the work has grown wonderfully under the hand. We remember no such demand as 1,000,000l. for these purposes in the Navy Estimates of 1859. There is an item, certainly, for "ships to be built by contract," but it is only 252,000l. We were very well aware that the cost of an iron-cased frigate would be largely in excess of the old standard, especially if reckoned by the number of guns. The old computation, for instance, 30 years ago, gave 1,000l. per gun as the average cost of a vessel of war; this was raised by the modern system of screw propulsion to 2,000l., and the iron-cased frigate, it was said, would cost 4,000l. These results, however, were produced not merely by the expensiveness of the ship, but by the comparatively small number of guns carried by the new description of vessel. The Warrior and the Black Prince mount but 36 guns each, though of enormous power, and consequently their cost appears larger than if they carried 60 or 70 pieces of smaller calibre. Assuming, however, that iron-cased frigates can be constructed for 130,000l. each, which was what we imagined, they are neither extravagant nor unfavourable bargains. They cost more than a wooden frigate, no doubt, but less than a wooden two-decker, whereas they are more powerful, we are assured, than even the latter class of vessel. If, therefore, we obtain for 130,000l., or even 150,000l., a ship more effective than those for which we have hitherto paid 160,000l. or 170,000l., we are clearly no losers, not to mention that the 36-gun vessel can probably be worked with fewer hands than the old 91.
Lastly, let it never be forgotten that without submitting to any fresh burdens, or embarking on any fresh outlay, we have at our present rate of expenditure a good million a-year to spend on new ships of such models as may from time to time be preferred. We insist upon this point because it is here that all our embarrassments have been incurred. If the products of our dockyards for any given year had been invariably brought up to the highest mark of the period, whatever that might have been, we should have escaped all our perplexities and panics. The mischief has lain in the fact that we always clung too long to obsolete models, and thus lavished upon fabrics which were presently to prove useless the labour and funds which would have supplied us with specimens of the best current patterns. What caused us such trouble in 1858 was, that whereas at that time the screw two-decker was the most approved model of a line-of-battle ship, we, from various causes, had got into such arrears in the construction of these vessels that France was actually ahead of us, and the most extraordinary exertions were required before we could recover our place. It might be the same in 1862, if we again neglected the new pattern, and adhered to the old one; but we trust the alarm has now been sounded in time. Had our authorities shown but a little more decision, there would have been no alarm at all. During the last 12 months 20 vessels, at least, have probably been laid down in our various dockyards, and if half, or even a third of these, had been iron-cased frigates, we should have been as forward as France. The one condition, in short, of security as well as economy in these matters is to take each new invention in time, and work it out with the funds of the year. This expedient would always keep us harmless. If the discovery proved ultimately ineffective, we should have lost but little; if it was found really successful, we should be abreast of the world. But if, through the obtuseness or obstructiveness of the official mind, we neglect every invention till it has been recognized and adopted by others, we always occupy a position of danger, until we awake at last in a state of panic. We trust, however, that we shall escape that fate n the present occasion. Five years hence nobody can say what might be our condition, but, as it is, there is no great harm done. What is needed now is not the "reconstruction of our Navy," but simply the construction of a few iron-clad vessels in the place of as many wooden ones.
|Fr 26 October 1860||The course of the discussion upon ironcased ships has confirmed in every material particular the conclusions which we submitted to the public respecting the new invention. The Gloire is neither more nor less of a success than we conjectured, nor will the discovery, as far as we can see at present, impose upon us the obligation of "reconstructing our navy," although it will give a new character to future line-of-battle ships. An iron-sheathed frigate is not absolutely invulnerable, but it would be practically so in any ordinary conflict with a wooden one. It will not cost quite half a million, but it will surpass in expensiveness any model yet known. In short, iron plates will be brought into use against the effects of artillery, and probably on land as well as at sea, but what particular forms the invention may take must for some time be a matter of uncertainty. At present we have one great point fully established, and one left in obscurity still. We know that for all practical purposes a ship can be effectually protected by iron plating, but we do not yet know how far this ponderous armour may be compatible with the sailing or steaming qualities of the vessel. |
The first of these points has now been admitted by almost all our correspondents, and acknowledged by every statesman who has introduced the subject into his vacation speeches. We may leave it, in fact, as conclusively settled, and proceed at once to the consideration of the second point, which involves far greater difficulties. Since the publication of our last remarks upon the question it has been reported that the Gloire herself, all perfect as she was thought, has proved a failure as a seagoing vessel. We cannot vouch for the accuracy of the statement, but, even if it should be true, it would not reflect any discredit upon the architect. The Gloire was never intended to go to sea. The description given of her by the French themselves represented her in express terms as designed for home service only. "Her rig and equipment," said the Moniteur de la Flotte, "'indicate that the vessel is not intended to go to a distance from our ports, but that she is made for operations in the seas where henceforth the great differences of European policy will be settled." In other words, she was meant for Channel fighting, and, if such vessels were wanted in the Mediterranean, they could, of course, be launched from Mediterranean ports. The Gloire, therefore, though far more moveable than the old floating battery, was, as we remarked, very like a battery still. It seems doubtful whether her speed was not overestimated when she was credited with 13 knots an hour, but, at any rate, she could spin along far more nimbly than the Trusty, and be managed with far greater ease. The only question is whether she cannot be improved upon. We must build Gloires, beyond doubt, if we can build nothing better, but cannot we outstrip our rivals? The French have certainly earned the credit of a first invention, and have turned out a respectable iron-cased frigate before we could show any such fabric; but it will only be in accordance with precedent if we improve upon the pattern, and such, we think, seems a probable event. Indeed, if our neighbours have laid down ten Gloires at once with the conviction that the model could never be mended, they have acted on British rather than French principles of naval administration, and it will be our turn to take advantage of their experiments.
The Gloire is a straight-sided vessel like an ordinary frigate, whereas in the form to be given to the sides of these craft is involved a preliminary question of the highest importance. The armour now known as Jone's angular plating slopes away from the water's edge at such an angle that no shot could strike it perpendicularly, except from a vessel of lofty build lying close alongside. By this expedient for evading as well as resisting the impact of a projectile it has been found possible to dispense with a certain proportion of strength, and consequently of weight in the metal of the armour, so that the vessel escapes so much of the encumbrance. The masts, again, and tophamper are materially reduced from the ordinary scale in the construction of the Gloire; but it seems to be doubted whether in more approved models for the new vessels such appendages need be employed at all. Wherever there are masts they may be shot overboard, and wherever they are shot overboard the screw may be fouled, and the vessel rendered helpless. A steam frigate on Jones's model would be all but invisible on the water, and would not only present no vulnerable point to a hostile shot, but would scarcely offer any mark at all. She ought to blow a Gloire into chips as certainly as a Gloire would demolish an old Fisgard or Arethusa. On the other hand, it is said that she would herself be exposed to a singular species of peril. Our readers have seen what Admiral Sartorius could say for his steam-ram. We will not enter upon that controversy at present, but we have heard it surmised that, whatever a steam-ram might do in ordinary cases, she could hardly fail of running down one of these angularly-decked vessels, but would go over her slopes as smoothly as boys down a slide.
Another point concerns the dimensions to be given to the new vessels. We are building four, or, including the specimen just ordered to be laid down at Chatham, five. Three of these are of enormous magnitude, and the one last bespoken will be the largest of all. We are proceeding, therefore, on the same principles which determined our construction of the old line-of-battle ships, and perhaps not unreasonably. Still, there will always be the question whether a small vessel, presenting only a small mark, and requiring only a small crew, may not be preferable to a vessel offering a larger surface to shot and locking up some 800 men. To be sure, when all vessels are invulnerable or invisible alike this point of comparison may disappear, but we have not reached that consummation yet. However, what we wish to remark is, that the Gloire is neither the one thing nor the other. If the prize is to be won by strength and size, neither she nor any one of her nine sisters could show against the Warrior; if it is to be decided by invisibility and nimbleness, she would be no match for little iron-plated gunboats.
We may further observe that perhaps a partial application of the new invention may be found serviceable. It seems to be admitted that, though very strong and ponderous plates are required to resist heavy shot from rifled guns, a shell might be repelled by a much weaker plate. We are also assured that shells are infinitely the most destructive implements of modern warfare, and that if they can but be kept out of a ship the damage done by shot would be comparatively insignificant. Putting these facts together, it seems natural to presume that even If a vessel be not rendered shotproof, she might at least be made shell-proof, and that this might be done without much impediment to her seagoing qualities, or any great addition to her cost. It is perfectIy evident that, according to the present state of the case, iron-cased ships will be calculated for home service only; indeed, our largest line-of-battle ships, as it is, have seldom been sent to any great distance from home. No three-decker ever yet went round the Cape, and no iron-sided Colossus is likely to take that voyage. It follows, therefore, that our foreign and colonial service must still be performed by old-fashioned vessels, but it does not follow that these vessels may not be rendered less vulnerable than they are by a judicious application of iron-plating. Perhaps, as the lightest craft carry a single heavy gun, so the most nimble cruiser may have her cuirass to suit.
We can only repeat, in conclusion, that what we suggested in the way of reassurance has been entirely borne out by the revelations of the controversy. The new ships are likely to be more expensive than was originally supposed, aid the richest nation will therefore have an advantage in constructing them. On this point we can add some authentic information. We believe the actual cost of the largest class of iron-cased ships will be about 350,000l., or, according to the old method of reckoning, 10,000l. a gun. This is a prodigious charge - in fact, it is double that of our finest three-deckers. Iron, however, will not decay like wood, and - what is of far greater importance - 36 guns can be worked with less than half the crew required for 130. An element, again, of the greatest consequence in the question is that of speed, and it is beyond any doubt that we can manufacture the best engines, and that we possess the most valuable fuel. To be brief, we must needs conclude that our old naval superiority has been kept absolutely within our grasp by a discovery which gives us every point in our favour. The new invention offers the sovereignty of the seas to the nation which can work best in iron, provide the best engineers, and supply the largest funds for keeping batteries afloat. If any nation can beat us in a race so regulated we shall richly deserve our defeat.
|Th 9 May 1861|
The Warrior.This noble frigate is now jointly in the hands of the builders and the workmen of the Admiralty, both of whom are doing their best to push her forward so as to have her ready for commission by the end of July. Since her launch a great deal has been done, and from though present date almost as much remains to be done before she will be ready to receive the pennant. All the armour plates, except the upper row on the starboard side, have been bolted on, and this partial completion of her sea-going equipment has made a most material difference in her appearance. She is considerably deeper in the water, and has rather a marked list to port, in consequence of more of the plates being in their places on that side than on the starboard. Quiet as are the waters of the Victoria Dock, the Warrior has, nevertheless, already given several unmistakable indications of being rather top-heavy in her present trim, and an armour plate more or less affixed to either side makes an important alteration in her seat on the water. Of course, when ballasted, with all her coals, stores, and water in, her crankness will be reduced to the minimum for a ship of her class. But, on the other hand, if ever the Warrior burns all her coals out, and has to return to port in heavy weather, she is likely to be, to say the least, almost dangerously top-heavy. Captain Ford, of the Thames Ironworks, when building the vessel, proposed a plan to the Admiralty to diminish this tendency to rolling, by filling in between the hollow skins of the ship with water as the coals were consumed. The plan was rejected for the Warrior, but has since been adopted by the new Surveyor of the Navy for the mythical Achilles, which rumour says is always about to be built at Chatham, but with which as yet no manner of progress has been made. The lower masts, topmasts, and topgallantmasts of the Warrior are already up. Viewed from outside the vessel, where the eye can take in the whole of her colossal though fine proportions, these spars appear ridiculously disproportioned to the vast bulk of the ship. They are the masts of a 90-gun vessel notwithstanding, though it is difficult to credit it till the visitor stands close alongside them. The traditional three masts, however, will never do much for this vessel under sail, and, if it is contemplated that she will ever have to depend on her sailing qualities, she should have been given four. Most of the lower deck arrangements, as far as the hull is concerned, are now nearly completed, and one can form a pretty fair idea of what sort of a ship she will be for internal accommodation when at sea. She is, of course, of the most roomy dimensions, though we doubt that in times of peace she will ever be a popular vessel with either officers or men as compared with frigates like the Ariadne or Galatea. In the Warrior, even the little scuttles through which in fair weather officers on the lower deck receive their small modicum of fresh air and hazy daylight are omitted. An armour plate admits of no scuttle or aperture of any kind, so that all within the iron casing below the main deck is as dark as pitch. In times of peace living always by candlelight in a ship that will surely roll awfully will, not unnaturally, be regarded as uncomfortable, though in war time the reflection that all on board are quite sheltered from shot and shell will more than counterbalance these little drawbacks. Even the main deck of the Warrior is now very dim, since the Admiralty have wisely determined to narrow the width of the portholes to 30 inches, instead of 50. The armament of the vessel has at last been definitely fixed, and we think our naval readers will hear with surprise that it has been determined to give her only six Armstrong guns - viz., two 100-pounder pivot guns and four light 40-pounders, two for each broadside. The rest of the armament will consist of 36 common 68-pounder guns of 95 cwt. each. Strange to say, also, all the Armstrong ordnance are on the spar deck, and therefore entirely unprotected by armourplating of any kind, while the common guns are under cover. if the whole vessel was armed with breech-loading 100-pounders, the armament would then be lighter than the present comparatively inefficient guns by nearly 50 tons. The fore and aft bulkheads which are to shut off the stem and stern, not coated with armour, are now also finished. An examination of them will give the visitor the best idea of the immense solidity of the vessel's sides, of which they are the exact counterparts, except in having only 10 inches of teak backing, instead of 20. They shut in the whole extent of the midships portion of the ship, from the keel to the upper deck. Both on the main and lower deck small doors of communication are cut through these bulkheads on the port and starboard sides. These, when necessary, can be closed by doors covered with 4½-inch armour plates, turning on the most massive hinges, and filling in the doorway so as to be perfectly watertight. In the engine-room everything is complete and in perfect order. All that now remains to be done down there is the erection of a cupola furnace for melting iron and filling the hollow shells with the liquid metal. Three or four such shells sent against a wooden adversary would set her in a blaze from stem to stern in ten minutes; whereas supposing such a projectile to get down a hatchway onto the main deck of the Warrior, it would be as harmless as on a stone pavement, for the decks are of wrought iron. With all the haste that may be made by the Admiralty (and the long delay in completing this vessel is due only to the Admiralty, and not to the contractors), it is likely to be well on to the end of the year before the Warrior can rank among our available defences. By that time the Emperor of the French will have at least 10, if not 12, iron frigates afloat, of which five, it is expected, will be actually in commission. The apparent supineness of the Admiralty, therefore, in not building more ships of the Warrior class seems inexplicable, and their apathy becomes almost a subject for alarm when we recollect that France is such a long way ahead, and that, even with all our manufacturing resources, it is almost impossible to build one of these iron frigates in less than 18 months. With the most lavish expenditure, and with all the aids our private yards could give the Government, it would be impossible, even supposing them to build no more, to be on an equality with our neighbours in this matter in less time than two years. The excuse of the Admiralty is, that they must wait till they have tried the Warrior and Black Prince. But how can the real efficiency of these ships ever be tested, except by actual warfare? In all else they are known, as far as our present knowledge of such matters goes, to be as near perfection as they well can be. No doubt, future vessels will be built a thousand tons larger, to enable them to carry armour plates from end to end, and 500 tons more coal. Beyond this slight development of principle, even the private builders can suggest no improvement, yet the Admiralty still wait and wait, and lose their present and only opportunity day by day. Our navy may really be said to possess only two efficient iron frigates, for the Resistance and the Defence were a compromise. The expense of vessels like the Warrior was thought too great, and so, as the Admiralty wanted to have more to show for their money, they determined on building two cheap and inefficient vessels instead of one good and dear one. Then, the Warrior and Black Prince are never to be used as steam rams, though they will have great speed, while the two steam rams are so deficient on this vital point that it is said they will not be able to run down a sand barge if they have first to overtake her. In all we have actually four iron ships launched, two frigates and two steam rams, with two more building, which are neither one thing nor the other. So completely does the prestige of success in this class of shipbuilding now attach to France that the Russians are having two large iron frigates built there. So also are two building for the King of Italy and two for Spain. The latter Power is also having a sister ship to the Ariadne built in England, and likewise a sister vessel to our Orlando. The Achilles, which it is always said is about to be commenced at Chatham, has been put off so often that even the two new vessels just ordered at Glasgow and Millwall are likely to be afloat before she is well begun.
|Th 13 June 1861||In the matter of ironcased ships the French Admiralty has taken one line, and our Admiralty has taken the other. The French have convinced themselves that ironcased frigates will supersede all other vessels as fighting ships, and they are building a new navy, therefore, as fast as they can do it. The Duke of Somerset did not pretend to deny that what was recently stated in the House of Commons was true. France has so many ironsides in hand, and is making such exertions to complete them, that in a year's time or so she will have a fleet of some six-and-twenty armour-plated vessels - a force equal even in mere numbers to our Mediterranean and Channel squadrons together. The Italians, too, and the Spaniards are each preparing their ironcased vessels, and it is, of course, possible that Spain and Italy may be in alliance with France. All this while we have only seven ironplated frigates in hand; so that, for the moment, if these vessels are really such impregnable fabrics as they are said to be, we are clearly behindhand, and might be taken at a disadvantage. That, in fact, was the argument of Sir John Pakington's speech the other day. He looked at the case from this point of view, and urged our Admiralty to protect the country by immediate exertions of some kind or other. That there was something in the matter, thus considered, is plain from the intentions which Lord Clearance Paget announced; but there is also a really strong case on the other side, and the Duke of Somerset's statement brought it out very forcibly. |
The French, it is true, are building all these vessels, but they are building them very indifferently. Our Admiralty can see all their mistakes as they go on. It seems as certain as possible that in twelve months time their models will be utterly superseded. The Achilles, for instance, will probably be as far in advance of the Gloire as the Gloire was in advance of an old sailing frigate. Even with our present experience we are a long way ahead of the French - not, indeed, in results, but in ideas. For example, the Duke observed, that if it should be advisable to make defensive preparations of some sort without loss of time, we could do so very easily by finishing off as ironsides some fabrics which had been commenced as wooden two-deckers. "I do not think," continued his Grace, "that they will be very efficient; but these ships will be at least as good as the French." In other words, our very makeshifts will be as effective as the best productions of our neighbours; and this, we dare say, is true enough. Not that the French are incapable of turning out good vessels; they are among the best shipbuilders in the world, but they are in such a hurry to "reconstruct" their fleet, and the true theory of these new vessels is as yet so imperfectly apprehended, that the results must from the very nature of things be imperfect too. All this is so very clear, and in this respect we are so completely on the safe side, that the only question is as to the security of the country during the "infancy" of the new science. What should we do, for instance, in the event of war, if an enemy could meet our half-dozen ironsides with a fleet three times as strong? To this it is briefly replied that orders have actually been given for the immediate completion of five of the makeshift vessels described above, and if these are at least as good as any others afloat, while our six or seven originals are far better, we could not be taken at any great disadvantage. Moreover, we could push that system of conversion to almost any extent. If there was any "pressure," we could cut down our three-deckers, plate them with iron, and send them out to keep the seas till we had got better vessels built. But the Duke had another argument also, and a most important one it was.
We have assumed throughout that these ironcased frigates are really or practically invulnerable; at any rate, that they are so much less vulnerable than other ships as to possess an incontestable superiority. But it happens that within the last few days this supposed impregnability has been brought seriously into question. "I now find," said the Duke, alluding to very recent experiments, "that Sir William Armstrong's guns have fired through eight-inch iron with the greatest facility." In point of fact, an Armstrong bolt of about 110lb. weight was sent through and through a target not only stronger than the sides of any French ship, but stronger than those of the Warrior herself. We should like to know all the conditions of the experiment before founding a conclusion upon it, but, if all is true that is reported, the science of attack has once more become superior to the science of defence, and ironsides are comparatively worthless. Our fleet of gunboats, if each vessel carried a 100lb. Armstrong gun, would be a match for all the iron navies of Europe. Government, indeed, has been proceeding upon this calculation, and has been serving out these tremendous engines to the ships of our fleet, so that if for the moment they should be inferior in powers of defence they might be superior in powers of attack.
All this, however, does really show the extreme difficulty of the problem, and goes far to justify the hesitation which our Admiralty has shown. The Duke of Somerset admitted with perfect candour that Government got perplexed by its own experiments. The more they try the more they are puzzled. First it is found that armour plates if strong enough to resist a shot are too heavy for the vessel to carry. Then, when a new ship has been laid down with flotation enough to carry thicker plates, it is found that plates of the new thickness can be pierced by a new projectile, and so are no longer to be relied upon. In fact, one of our departments is working against another, and each gets the upper hand in turn. In the Victoria Dock lies the redoubtable Warrior, on which all the resources of the Admiralty are concentrated, so that she may take the water proof against attack. Just across the river stands the Royal Gun Factory, where all the science and organization of masterminds are employed in manufacturing engines for the destruction of such vessels as the Warrior and her kind. As soon as we have succeeded in one place, we succeed again in the other, and the second success destroys the first. The French are only carrying out one idea; we are elaborating two. They are building ironsides as fast as they can; we are experimenting upon ironsides, and at the same time developing new powers of artillery. It is because we learn so clearly what a gun can do that we are puzzled over the armour by which a gun can be opposed, and at length, just now, instead of precipitately building ironsides, we are supplying our old ships with new 100-pounders. The Duke of Somerset's explanation was not only very interesting, but exceedingly frank, and it is impossible to deny, after what has now been said, that the problem before our authorities is enough to perplex them. We can only trust that during this period of transition they will never allow our actual means of protection to sink below a safe standard.
|We 7 August 1861|
The Warrior.To-morrow, for the first time, the Warrior will be on her way under steam down the river. This trip will not be a very long one - no longer, in fact, than that of moving down from the Victoria Docks to Greenhithe; but short as it is we hail it with satisfaction, as the commencement of the two or three preliminary cruises which she must make before she really ranks among our effective defences, of which, of this kind at least, we are just now so much in need. A very large amount of work has still to be done on board, which, with a ship of less colossal dimensions, would be completed before she left the docks at all. In the case of the Warrior, however, this cannot be done, as she already draws within two feet of the depth of water of the docks themselves, and deeper than this it is not considered prudent to have her in case of any accidental accumulation of sand interfering with her getting away easily. She now draws 22 feet forward and 23 by the stern. Her guns, coals, provisions, and other heavy stores still to go on board, will bring her down about four or four and a half feet more; but nothing further will be added to her present weights till she is moored lower down the river. To-morrow, therefore, soon after 1 o'clock, she starts for Greenhithe. Four tugs will attend to assist in turning, &c., if necessary, and the Warrior will herself be under steam, so that the chances of casualties in the way of her taking the ground at any point are almost out of the question. At Greenhithe she will most probably remain during the rest of the present month, swinging to adjust compasses, and taking in her heavy stores and armament. The latter, with the exception of two 100-pounder Armstrongs on the upper dock, will, for the present, at least, consist entirely of solid smooth bore 68-pounders of 95 cwt. What is the reason of thus arming her even temporarily we cannot say but it is certain that during her first cruise she will carry no other guns. But even this armament will suffice to make her the most formidable ship afloat, for the 68-pounder is still preferred by many to the 100-pounder Armstrong, with which it is undoubtedly equally efficient at short ranges of from 400 to 500 yards. Eventually, however, though very likely not before the close of the year, all her portholes will be filled with 100-pounders, save only the two foremost on the upper deck, which will be defended by 40-pounder Armstrongs. But long before this final change is made, the Admiralty will have ascertained, to the value of each fibre of iron, the exact amount of Resistance her broadside will offer to either 68 or 100-pounders. The experiments at Shoeburyness, of which we are always hearing so much, have hitherto been almost exclusively conducted against fancy targets, the like of which we must never expect to see on any ship's side. Now, however, the Admiralty are going to try the effect of shot and shell on a broadside manufactured like the Warrior. For this purpose the Thames Ironworks are building a target 20 feet long by 10 high, with one porthole in the centre, of precisely the same description of plates, teak, and all other materials as the Warrior itself. This will be sent to Shoeburyness in the course of five or six weeks, and will then be pounded at till destroyed, when the country and the Government will know exactly how much or how little the present class of iron ships can be depended on. From Greenhithe the Warrior will, early next month, go round under steam to Portsmouth. This will be her first real trip, for of course when dropping down the river to-morrow there will be no opportunity of judging how she either steers or steams. Even the run round to Portsmouth, unless the weather proves very heavy, will give no fair specimen of her powers, as the large iron launching cleats are still fastened to her bottom, which is also supposed to be very foul. She will be docked at Portsmouth for three or four days, to got rid of these impediments, and then, probably in the beginning of October, stand out for a regular trial trip in the Bay of Biscay, where her sea-going qualities will be tested with the severest impartiality. Before all this comes to pass, however, a great deal of work has to be done to her internally. There are nearly 1,000 hands employed upon her now in completing the cabins and fittings up between decks, and though each day shows marked advances towards the finish, more than enough, nevertheless, remains to do to show that it is very unlikely she will be able to start for Portsmouth before the 5th or 6th of next month at soonest. The arrangements for working the tiller we venture, with the utmost deference, to think are exceedingly complicated. She can be steered alike from the upper, main, and lower deck, but it seems almost an open question if, with the utmost number of men they are able to put at the wheels, they will ever have sufficient power to get the helm over more than 15 or 18 degrees. The difficulty which is likely to be experienced in this respect would certainly seem to call for the introduction of Mr. Humphry's beautiful little machine, by which the helm can be forced hard over in three or four seconds by the irresistible might of hydraulic pressure. With this simple apparatus, which works so admirably in the Mooltan and other ships, one man would be ample to turn the Warrior in any direction, though of course the usual tiller ropes could be kept on in case of anything happening to the machine itself. Workmen just now are busily engaged in building a shot-proof tower, or rifle chamber, in the centre of the spar deck, just forward of the mainmast. This tower is apparently being built because La Gloire and most of the French ships have a similar iron martello on their upper decks also. That in the Warrior is oval-shaped, being about 12 feet long by 8 wide, and a little over 7 feet high. It is built of double teak, lined with iron, and will be coated all over its sides and roof with 4½-inch iron plates, exactly similar to the Warrior's broadside. At about 6 feet from the ground a series of small apertures, of some 6 inches diameter, will be pierced, for the men to fire through. The theory of this tower is, that the Warrior when fully laden will be little more than a frigate's height from the water, and in engaging a large ship (say a French three-decker, with its usual crowd of guns on the spar deck) the enemy would be able to fire right down on to the deck of the Warrior, and clear it of every living soul. The tower on deck is capable of holding at least eight men, who have two small openings through which they can communicate with the crew below, and up which loaded rifles can be passed for them to fire through the loopholes as fast as possible. The fire of these eight marksmen continually supplied with loaded rifles, and sending their bullets through the enemy's ports, would be enough, it is estimated, to keep down the fire of eight or ten guns, while in case of an attempt to carry by boarding, they would, of course, be able to inflict a murderous slaughter on the assailants scattered over the vast expanse of deck and utterly exposed. One tower, however, seems scarcely enough for all this, and the efforts of it defenders to be thoroughly efficient should be seconded by a few marksmen well sheltered in the fore, main, and mizen tops. One cupola melting furnace has been erected in the forward stoke-hole for melting iron to fill shells with. A full charge in this of, say, six tons would supply molten iron for upwards of 500 missiles. A half dozen such shots lodging between the timbers of a wooden ship would set her ablaze from stem to stern in ten minutes. Against an iron vessel they would of course be harmless. With a vessel of such peculiar construction as the Warrior, nothing appeared so difficult of accomplishment as securing a perfect system of ventilation through her dark iron-bound decks. This all-important matter has now, we are glad to say, been brought to almost complete perfection, and either in action or out of it the Warrior will be one of the best ventilated ships afloat. The draught of air is secured by means of two large metal pipes, which pass through the entire length of the vessel from stem to stern. In addition to the natural draught through these, the air, whenever it is necessary, can be driven through them at a prodigious velocity by fans worked by a 30-horse power auxiliary engine. These pipes ventilate all the coal bunkers, and keep a constant passage of air through the 'tween decks, and ordinary canvas hose pipes screwed into the sides of the pipe convey strong currents to any portion of the ship, just as so much water would be conveyed. When in action a powerful draught of air can be sent by the fanners through all the pipes and coal bunkers. The latter, of course, communicate directly with the coal shoots on the main deck, the covers of which being taken off will allow a great stream of air to rise almost between each gun amidships. The smoke, therefore, of the guns will be, it is hoped, driven out through the ventilators over the portholes. But for some such arrangement as this, with the very narrow portholes of the Warrior and the quantity of smoke generated by the firing of breech loaders, her main deck would be little short of suffocating during an engagement. The stoke-holes, it is anticipated, will be very cool, but the engine-room not so much so. It is very likely, therefore, that the latter will be fitted with down and upcast airshafts which will do all that is necessary in respect of ventilation. The designs for the six new ironsides the Admiralty are about to build have not yet been made known publicly, Official rumour says that they are to be 40 feet longer, three feet wider beam, and with a flatter floor than either the Warrior or Black Prince. They are to be of 7,500 tons, instead of 6,500, and this additional thousand tons and greater midship section will enable them to carry armour-plates over all, from stem to stern. They will have no beak of any kind, but will be almost as straight at bow and stern as the little river steamers. The stem, however, though rising at a right angle from the water, will be as sharp and fine as the edge of a wedge. We do most sincerely hope that the official incubation of these schemes is nearly over, and that they will soon resolve themselves into something more tangible than Admiralty on dits. If all six had their keels laid and were fast progressing, we should still have done very little to diminish the immense distance by which France has outstripped us in respect of these vessels. She can show 15 - some quite, and some almost ready - against the Warrior, to be ready in October, Black Prince, Defence, and Resistance, to be ready in December, and two which have just begun building. As for the Achilles at Chatham, it is even more mythical than its redoubtable namesake. It has been building, we are told, for more than a year; yet it is only within the last few days that some of the keel plates were laid. The Admiralty have had warnings enough given them by this country with regard to iron ships; but all our warnings have been as nothing compared with the unmistakable monitions they have had in the preparations of France. Yesterday the Thames Ironworks received an order for an iron steam ram for the Russian Government. The vessel is to be 3,500 tons, and to carry a heavy armament of 40 guns. She is to have a most prononcé "beak" projecting under water more than 20 feet in advance of the apparent bows. If this ship attains the high rate of speed for which she is built she will be an overmatch for a whole Channel squadron of ordinary wooden ships.
|We 4 September 1861|
The Proposed New Iron Frigates.At the close of the Session the Admiralty got a snug vote of 2,500,000l. for new iron frigates, which, in round numbers, is just the price of five of these costly vessels, according to the new scale of dimensions on which they are in future to be built. Having got the money, the authorities issued their plans, and called upon the leading firms for tenders. These tenders were duly sent in to Somerset-house on Saturday, and yesterday it was notified to Mr. Mare, of Millwall, Mr. Laird, of Birkenhead, and to the Thames Iron Works, where the Warrior was built, that their offers were accepted, and that they were to commence the construction of the vessels forthwith. On the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread, we suppose we must be satisfied with this small addition to our iron defences, though we must own we should have been infinitely better pleased if the Admiralty had taken heart of grace and ordered the five outright, especially as they have the money, and that it will take at least two years to complete each vessel. It is, indeed, rumoured that five or six months hence orders will be given for the remaining two frigates, but this is hardly a satisfactory explanation, if they are meant to be built at all, for simply deferring their construction for so long a period. The standard of excellence was thought to have been attained when the fine lines, ample dimensions, and immense defensive armour of the Warrior and Black Prince were finally decided upon. Very little more than two years have elapsed since these matters were all fixed, yet even in that short time the science of building invulnerable vessels has rapidly developed itself, for in several most important particulars the new ships will differ very much from the Warrior class, on which it is hoped and expected they will be an immense improvement. The Defence and Resistance, ugly and clumsy as they undoubtedly are, are nevertheless as great an improvement upon the floating batteries as the Warrior and Black Prince in turn improved upon them. If the three intended ships only again improve as much on the Warrior, it will show that we are advancing with very rapid strides towards perfection in the manufacture of these colossal engines of modern warfare.
In three most important points the proposed vessels will be great improvements. In the first place, each will be built to carry 60 guns; secondly, they will not only be as fast and handsome as the Warrior, but they also are to be specially built to be used as steam rams, having their bows beneath the water projecting far in advance of the apparent bows above; and, lastly, by the addition of some 700 tons to their size each will be able to carry a complete coating of armour from end to end, so that every part of the ship will be as invulnerable as masses of iron and beams of teak can make it.
The length of the new ships is to be 400 feet on the low water line; breadth extreme, 59ft. 4in.; depth, 21ft. below the gun-deck; and tonnage, 6,815. The length of the Warrior class is 380 feet, breadth 58 feet, and tonnage 6,170. The breadth of deck, however, in the proposed frigates will not be greater than the Warrior, as the Admiralty have most wisely decided on giving the sides of the new vessels a greater incline towards the deck. Thus the slope of the Warrior's sides inwards from the water's edge, or the "tumble home," as it is termed, is at an incline of about one foot in 13, whereas in the ships to be built it will be at an incline of one in eight and a half feet, which, of course, not only increases the chances of the shot glancing off, but has the more important advantage of getting the weight more to the centre, and diminishing the tendency to roll. In the same way the floors of all the ships are to be made fuller and flatter, which will give them increased stability in a seaway, while from the extreme fineness of the lines fore and aft even the great speed of the Warrior will, it is said, be exceeded by at least half a knot an hour. The engines of all are to be 1,250-horse power, and are to be made by Penn and Sons, and the increase of tonnage will allow them to carry coals for from 11 to 12 days full steaming, instead of nine days, which is all the bunkers of either the Warrior or Black Prince can stow. The plates of the new vessels are to be larger and thicker than the Warrior's. The broadside of the latter is coated with 4½ inches of iron, 22 inches of teak, with half an inch of iron inside that again. The new ships are to have 5½ inches of iron, 11 inches of teak, and half an inch of iron (the skin of the ship) inside all. The Admiralty, however, reserve to themselves the right of altering this part of the plan, and substituting plates of 6½ inches thick and doing away with the teak altogether. But no decision will be arrived at on this point until some important experiments, which are about to be made at Shoeburyness, have been concluded, and proved that the change will be for the better. As it is at present arranged, even with the 5½-inch plates, it will require nearly 2,000 tons of armour to cover the new ships, while the entire weight of the plates on the Warrior is only 950. It is this increased number, size, and thickness of the wrought-iron plates which adds so much to the cost of the new ships. Up to the present the cost of the Warrior in hull, engines, and rigging has amounted to no less a sum than 360,000l. With all her stores, fittings, and guns onboard, when ready for sea she will have cost from first to last rather over 400,000l. The new vessels, for their hull, engines, and rigging alone, will require an outlay of no less than 430,000l., so that at the lowest estimate each vessel is certain to swallow up upwards of half a million sterling before it is fairly at sea. These are large items certainly, but when the question is fairly viewed even the sternest of economists will be inclined to admit that the country will have got value for its money, for the three ships will be, beyond all comparison, the finest of their kind in the world. The shape of the bows in order to fit them for the discharge of their tremendously destructive duties as steam-rams is to be very peculiar. Viewed in outline, the profile of the stem will present the curved line that a swan makes when swimming. The breast or beak is thus below the water-line, and projects some 20ft. at least in advance of what seems to be the bows above. Thus, the long overhanging weight which the false cutwater of the Warrior necessitates is entirely done away with, and the bows are water-borne for some 20ft. at least before any weight comes upon them. A space of 30ft. long by 9ft. deep of these ostensible bows is without armour plates, and only defended from the spar deck line upwards with teak bulwarks, which can be lowered down like the bulwarks of ordinary gunboats. Inside this slight defence, however, comes a semi-circular shield of armour plates 7 ft. high, and spreading completely across the vessel from side to side. In this there will be portholes for two immense Armstrong guns. On the main deck below will be a similar shield, reaching up to the iron spar deck, but no guns will be on this, as it is simply intended to protect the crew from a raking fire. By these means no top-heavy weight is incurred at the bows, as the semi-circular shields are more than 40ft. within the waterborne line of the vessel forward. The bowsprit will be of iron, and we believe it is intended to make it with a powerful hinge, where it springs from the deck, so that before going into action it can be turned backwards and inwards, that there may be nothing to deaden the force with which the ships will strike when the occasion offers to use them against a foe as steam-rams. As far as is yet known the Admiralty still cling to the conventional three wooden masts and square rig, which is about as unsuitable for these ships as the full uniform of a Lifeguardsman would be to a swimmer. The wooden masts are not only easy to be shot away, but are perfectly certain to break away the very first time an attempt is made to use the vessels in running others down. It is very possible that with the present form of square rig the masts, even if made of wrought iron, would do the same too. But iron masts at least have this advantage, that they could not be shot away, and even when they went overboard would sink alongside like a deep-sea lead and prevent all chance of the screw being fouled by the mass of cordage they drag after them. The wooden masts of the Warrior can not only be easily shot down, but would be certain, as they drifted and floated astern, to foul the screw and cripple the whole ship in two minutes afterwards. These iron vessels are so special and peculiar both as regards their construction and intended uses that a special rig should be designed for them. Three masts, it is confessed, will not spread sufficient canvas to enable these monsters to beat off a lee shore in a gale. Yet somehow a fourth mast is objected to as an innovation, as if all these iron frigates were not the most stupendous innovations that naval men have welcomed since the introduction of steam. When our line-of-battle ships were only 150 ft. long three masts were crammed into them, and now that we are building them 400ft. long only three masts are allowed. The Defence and Resistance, however, have iron masts, but the Warrior and Black Prince, which need them ten times more, have wooden spars. On all the new ships there is to be an iron tower on the spar deck, crenelated for musketry, in case of an enemy boarding. It is rumoured that the noble Secretary to the Admiralty got this hint from a visit to the French iron frigate Invincible, building at Toulon. It is capable of improvement, however, if, in addition to the loopholes for rifles, two small ports are cut at the base for short carronades, which, with a single charge of canister, would do more to sweep the decks than the fire of a dozen riflemen. The sterns of the new vessels will be what is called "pink" sterns, that is, instead of being round and full, like that of the Warrior, will come to a fine wedge-shaped point, almost similar the bows of a fast-going iron packet. By adopting this shape the number of armour plates required to coat it is reduced by at least a third, while the angle will be such that all shots must glance, unless fired point blank at the broadside. The internal subdivisions as to water-tight compartments, &c., will be almost precisely similar to those of the Warrior. The main decks are to be armed with 36 100-pounder Armstrongs, and the spar deck with 21 guns of a similar calibre. Two forward guns through the shield we have already mentioned will, it is said, be 200-pounders, and so also will the pivot-gun at the stern. In the meantime the Achilles, which it has been stated over and over again that the Government are building at Chatham, remains almost as much a myth as ever, so far as actual progress is concerned. Even the keel is not yet laid. There are two line-of-battleships at Chatham which have been altered and strengthened so as to bear coating with armour plates, and there are two others at Portsmouth which are to be similarly converted, but it will probably be a long time before any of these are afloat. Even the Warrior, which is fitting at Greenhithe, is not likely to be ready to go round to Portsmouth before the end of this month, and when there she must be many days in dock before she can really be said to be fit to proceed to sea. None of the other vessels nominally finished will be ready this year at all.
In the course of another fortnight or three weeks the public will learn, from the result of actual experiments at Shoeburyness, the precise amount of Resistance which the vessels of the Warrior class may be expected to offer to the cannonade of an enemy. Hitherto the iron-plate commission at Shoeburyness have conducted their experiments against what we may call theoretical or fancy targets. Certainly, in nine cases out of ten, the targets fired at were very different in their method of construction from the broadside of any of our iron ships, either as they are now built or are ever likely to be. The Commissioners, however, have now ordered the Thames lronworks to build a target 20 feet by 10, to be a precise facsimile of the Warrior's broadside. This has just been completed at Blackwall, and will be sent down to Shoeburyness in the course of a week or so. When fixed on the practice ground there it will be fired at until it is completely destroyed, but, if appearances are to be trusted, it will take a great deal of hammering to make any serious impression on it. In any case the defensive value of the Warrior and others like her will be ascertained to a single shot. Perhaps the public may wonder why an experiment so conclusive and so easily made was never thought of till the ships were quite finished, when blunders (if any have been made) are of course now irrevocable. In the Thames Ironworks are also lying the masts for the Defence. These are splendid samples of wrought-iron work. Each is 115 feet long by 32 inches wide, and though only a ton heavier than a wooden spar of the same size, are more than 10 times as strong. So also at the same yard is an iron spar of 120 feet by 2 feet diameter at the base, which has been made for a flagstaff for the Victoria Tower of the new Houses of Parliament. This huge flagstaff is built up of boilerplate half an inch thick, with six wrought-iron T-shaped ribs passing along its entire length. Its weight is rather over 10 tons, and the summit of the pole is surmounted with a gilt copper crown, almost large enough for a small party to dine in. This staff is to fly a standard of proportionate size - namely, about 15 yards wide by 40 long. When one sees of what size and strength these iron poles can be made, it appears more to be regretted than ever that the Warrior and Black Prince are not fitted with them. The wooden ones the former ship has now got are too large for the men to handle easily, though much too weak and slight for the strain and shock they will have to bear if ever Captain Cochrane has to charge an enemy and run him down. In all other respects the Warrior is perfectly qualified to cut through a three-decker down to the very keel.
|Fr 29 November 1861|
Our Iron-Clad Frigates.When the Emperor of the French first began building his iron fleet it was thought by many shrewd observers in this country that he made rather a false step in the attempt to secure preponderance for his navy by the use of the new material, for that, from the immense resources of our great private yards, and our unquestioned superiority in all relating to ironwork, it would be seen that England could turn out six such ships quicker, better, and cheaper than three could be built in France. Not more than three years have elapsed since that time, and already the prediction is fulfilled. It reflects no ordinary credit on the skill of our manufacturers and naval architects that they have even now overtaken the long start France had of us in this respect; that while the French dockyards are still feeling their way, experimenting on kinds of plates and forms of ships, and turning out a succession of almost failures at prodigious cost, we have already sent afloat two of the finest, fastest, and most invulnerable ships in the world. It is a very general but a very great error, however, to suppose that all our iron frigates are Warriors and Black Princes. We did not jump at once to perfection, and all our ironsides, except the two we have named, represent more or less strongly the successive stages of failure through which we have passed to success. The Resistance and Defence are neither steam rams nor iron frigates. Unwieldy in form and slow in speed, they can never be safely used for more than floating batteries. Fortunately, however, they are built entirely of iron, instead of, like the first floating batteries, iron over oak, and the Defence and Resistance, therefore, are likely to be as strong a century hence as they are now, while the batteries built in 1855 are some of them already broken up, and all the rest rotten. The Hector and Valiant, now building at Westwood and Bailie's and Napier's, are as great improvements on the Defence and Resistance as the Warrior and Black Prince have been improvements upon them all. To take a single instance of the rapidity with which science and engineering skill are developing to the utmost the powers of these tremendous ships, let us look at the Warrior and Black Prince. These are sister ships, alike to a rivet, and on the trial cruise of the first named she attained, and with wind and steam maintained, a speed of 17¼ knots an hour, or 20 statute miles - very nearly the speed of a Parliamentary train. Yet, from the experience of the Warrior, it is said that Mr. Penn already sees where he may introduce such modifications into the engines of the Black Prince as will give her nearly half a knot an hour more speed than her great sister. But even with these results, which surpass the most sanguine expectation, we are not content to stand still. The four improved Warriors ordered and now building - the Achilles, at Chatham, the Minotaur, at the Thames Ironworks, the Captain, at Mr. Laird's, and the Northumberland, at Mr. Mare's - are each and all of them to be larger, longer, stronger, and swifter than any that have gone before. In fact, when we look back on our brief but vigorous competition with the French, we find that our first attempts at iron ships were in many important particulars below the standard from which the French started with La Gloire. But the difference is that the French have adhered to their standard, while we have constantly striven for improvements and more improvements; and the result is that, so far as our present knowledge goes, we have attained perfection, while our neighbours are comparatively still drudging at the bottom of the form. That this statement of the merits of the two countries in iron ships is perfectly well founded we think we can show. Only a few weeks since one or two of our most eminent shipbuilders, thoroughly conversant with ironsides, visited some of the French dockyards to see what was doing there. They were allowed to inspect some of the iron-clad frigates building, all the works connected with which were advancing much more slowly than tlhey had been led to expect. Those which they inspected were merely wooden ships plated, or to be plated, with apparently little, if at all, more than three-inch iron. They were mostly vessels of from 3,000 to 3,500 tons; in fact, frigates and two-deckers cut down and much strengthened in their scantling, to enable them to carry armour from end to end. From the want of great tonnage, a flat floor, and large displacement, it was evident that they would be so immersed by the weight of their armour as to bring their portsills all dangerously near the water, and render their guns all but useless in a seaway. Nor is this their only fault, for their wooden frames not having the strength of our iron vessels, which are as rigid as bolts, work so much when steaming in a seaway as almost to work them to pieces, and make docking and fresh caulking necessary after every gale. But the worst of all their defects is that the iron and the oak do not go well together, and we may infer, from the causes being alike in both cases, that the framework of the French ships will rot as quickly as our own floating batteries did - that is to say, within some eight or ten years. These defects are very well known to the Admiralties of other Governments besides our own, and the result is that the Continental Powers are coming here to have their iron frigates built, instead of going to France, and thus, through the medium of our private firms, encouraging still further the monopoly we have almost gained in the manufacture of these great ships of war. Iron war vessels, of various sizes and thickness of armour, are now building on the Thames for the Russian, Danish, and Peruvian Governments, and it is said that in a short time Spain intends to order two frigates of the same class. If anything were needed to show that the French are still at a loss to make really good armour plates, it would be found in the recent offer of the authorities at Toulon to the Thames Ironworks. When the great experiments at Shoeburyness against the Warrior target, and to which we shall refer presently, had proved that the plates and the side of the ship generally were practically invulnerable to the fire of artillery, no matter how concentrated, the Thames Company were offered their own terms to manufacture 1,000 tons of similar plates for the dockyard at Toulon. This proposition the Thames Company declined, alleging, truly, that they had already as many orders of the kind in hand for our Government as they could compass. Had only one or two plates been ordered, it would have meant nothing more than that the French were about to experiment on them as we had done ourselves. But with the Protectionist leanings of French dockyard officials, it is not too much to presume that after the trial at Shoeburyness they must have known that their own armour plates were vastly inferior to the Warrior's when they went the extreme length of trying to get for themselves no less than a thousand tons of such plates from an English firm. The experiments upon the target, the success of which was so unequivocally endorsed by our neighbours, took place at Shoeburyness, in the presence of the Lords of the Admiralty and a large number of naval and military officers, scientific gentlemen, and others. The target was a perfect section of the Warrior's broadside, 20 feet long and 10 high, made by the Thames Iron Company, of exactly the same materials as the Warrior itself. This was erected at 200 yards' distance from a battery of six guns - two solid 68-pounders, three of Armstrong's 100-pounders, and one 120-pounder shunt gun. Every one knew before the experiments commenced that such a target would stand an immense amount of pounding, and the chief curiosity was evinced to see how the teak backing would support the plates, and, above all, how the rivets in the ribs would resist the tremendous concussion. No one, however, was prepared for the astounding success of the result that did ensue, and which showed itself at the close of the experiments, during which the target was subjected to every conceivable ordeal of artillery practice, yet survived comparatively uninjured, and, practically as invulnerable as ever. The guns were fired in volleys of threes, and fours, and sixes simultaneously. Their shots were concentrated upon white spots painted on what were supposed to be the parts most likely to yield. On these the fire of the most tremendous nissiles - 100-pounders, 120-pounders, and even 200-pounder bolts - were directed, with a force and weight that seemed irresistible; but in vain. The shot flew off in ragged splinters, hissing through the air, the iron plates became almost red-hot under the tremendous strokes, and the whole target rang like a huge gong, but nothing more. As a rule, the 68-pounders left their mark in massive dents more deeply than the 100-pounder Armstrongs, but the live percussion shell of either did little more than discolour the plates with the smoke of their impotent explosions. Two discharges, each of three 200lb. cast-iron bolts, were fired in succession at two different spots, but, though, of course the plates had been often struck before in the same places, the additional injury was comparatively trifling. A grand final salvo was given with all the six guns, trained three on each of the already battered spots. As the guns were loaded each with 16lb. of powder, this volley, in fact was equal to a 600lb. shot fired at the target with 100lb. of powder. The effect of the tremendous trial was to make a gap on one side of the target about 15 inches long, and five deep, driving the iron, in fact, almost into the teak. Some bolts of the plates were also loosened, and the plates themselves began to crack under their long ordeal. Yet, strange to say, even under this the strong teak backing was still undisturbed, and not even the paint on the rivets had started. In fact, as representing the side of a ship, she would still have been perfectly water-tight and uninjured. The tonguing and grooving by which the edges of the plates are dovetailed into each other had given way, as we always maintained it would, and some of the plates themselves had started outwards as much as an inch and a half. But the target, as a target, was as good as ever. There is only one possible condition in which the Warrior could be placed to be exposed to a concentrated fire as severe as that to which her section was subjected at Shoeburyness, and that would be if she stranded within 200 yards of the guns of a powerful fortress. Even then, in such a last extremity, we are very much inclined to believe the Warrior would be quite as formidable to the fort as the fort to her.
The practical result of this grand experiment has been to show that nothing is gained by backing up the armour plates with such a tremendous thickness of teak as 20 inches. It is found that practically 10 inches will do as well as 20, and that the saving thus effected in the reduction of weight will allow another inch thickness of iron to be used in the plates themselves. Thus the "improved Warriors," now building,, instead of 4½ inches of armour and 20 inches of teak, are to have 10 inches of teak and 5½ of iron - an addition to the metal covering which is really unnecessary, as they are already invulnerable, in the most perfect and literal sense of the term, to al the efforts of artillery. Before speaking of the intended Warriors, however, we must refer for a moment to those we have got. In their construction, the Admiralty very wisely abandoned mere routine, except on two points, where it was rigidly adhered to - in the rig and the number of the crew; and it is exactly in these two points that the Warrior is deficient. Routine persists in considering this tremendous vessel - larger than three line-of-battle ships, and a match for half a dozen - as an ordinary frigate, and so she has only an ordinary frigate's crew of 600 men. Had she been a vessel of the Hero class - that is to say, nearly two-thirds smaller - she would have been manned with 850 or 900 men; but being more than double the size of the largest three-decker in the navy, she gets 600. Every one knows how this grievous disparity tells on the crew; how, no matter what the weather or the hour, all hands must be on deck to perform manoeuvres which the watch of a line-of-battle ship can do with ease. In fact, the Warrior has more than a line-of-battle ship's sails and spars, with less than half the number of men to handle them that are considered absolutely necessary in a ship of 3,000 tons instead of 7,000. All hands would be a whole day holystoning the Warrior's deck, and it will not keep clean an hour longer than a smaller vessel's. In short, unless the Admiralty want to make these ships unpopular with the sailors, by exacting from their crews an amount of work out of all proportion to their number, they will allow them the crew which their size and importance require. With regard to the rig, all practical shipbuilders were most strongly of opinion that she ought to have had a fourth mast, and the late experimental cruises of the Warrior have proved the correctness of their judgment. Her mainmast is so far aft that the power exerted by her sails is most disadvantageously placed, and the result, it is said, is that the Warrior is rather unmanageable under canvas alone. We believe that these facts are so well known to the Admiralty that a special rig, giving them four masts and more fore and aft sails, will be adopted for the ships now building.
|Tu 3 December 1861|
Our Iron-Clad Frigates.In the article on this subject which appeared in our columns last week we stated that it was a great error to suppose that all our built ironsides were like the Warrior. We venture now to point out another error which is also very general - namely, that of estimating the whole of our iron frigates, whether building or built, as an already effective fleet. Now, the fact is that at least 20 months from the present date must elapse before four of our finest vessels - the Minotaur, the Achilles, the Captain, and the Northumberland, are even afloat; and we learn from the experience of the Warrior that, even using the greatest speed in equipment, it would be at least six months from that time before they could be ready for commission. The truth is that our iron fleet is much deficient in numbers as compared with that of the French. The great size and enormous massiveness of our vessels render the building of them a very slow process. It is the knowledge of this that makes us anxious to see more of them in hand, and we should hear with unmixed satisfaction that the Admiralty had carried out the intention they expressed this autumn of calling for tenders for the construction of three more, in addition to those now building. The four really iron ships now being constructed (for we do not include in this category either the Bulwark [laid down in 1859, suspended in 1861 and finally cancelled in 1873] or the Royal Oak at Chatham, which are merely wooden two-deckers cut down to be plated with iron, on the French system) are what are called the "improved Warriors," whose names we have already given. Every improvement which it is now seen that the Warrior requires these ships will possess, while, on the other hand, they will be free from all her defects, especially that most important one of construction, which leaves the stem and stern vulnerable to shot. The new ships will be coated with armour from end to end. At every point they will offer to the fire of an enemy plates of wrought iron not less than 5½ inches thick, backed up with 10 inches of teak, with half an inch of iron (the skin of the ship) inside all. After the complete success of the trials at the Warrior target, the propriety of adding to the weight of the armour-plates by increasing their thickness an inch is strongly disputed by some of the highest authorities. For every purpose of warfare the Warrior is practically invulnerable, and it is contended that by still further adding to the weight of the plates no additional protection is gained, and a great deal may be lost in the efficiency of the vessels by rendering them dangerously unwieldy in rough weather. The Warrior's plates of 4½ inches weigh 950 tons, but to cover the new larger ships from end to end with plates of 5½ inches will require no less than 2,000 tons of metal - an enormous mass of dead weight for a ship to carry in addition to her ponderous engines, stores, guns, shot, and shell. It is this increased number, size, and thickness of the plates that add such a heavy item to the cost of each of the new vessels, which require for their hull, engines, and rigging alone an outlay of nearly 450,000l. The Warrior up to the present time has cost rather over 400,000l., and her successors, before they are at sea, will cost nearly 600,000l. These are large items, but it may be truly said that the country gets value for its money, and the first outlay is the last, for the hulls of these tremendous vessels ought to be as good two or three centuries hence as they are now.
The new ships are not only to be steam frigates, but steam rams also, for their bows project beneath the water far in advance of the apparent bows above. The bows, in fact, are formed like the outline of a swan's breast, according to the plan first suggested in the Warrior by Captain Ford. The length of the Warrior is 380 feet, breadth 58, and her tonnage 6,170. The new ships are 400 feet long, 59½ broad, and with a tonnage of 6,815. The increase of breadth in the new ships will, however, be almost entirely under the water line; and by this means, and by giving them a slightly flatter floor, their displacement is nearly 1,000 tons greater than the Warrior. This, as the decks are not wider, also increases the slope of the sides inwards from the water's edge, which, in the Warrior, is at an incline of about 1 in 13 feet, but in the new ships will be at an incline of 1 in 8½ feet. This not only almost doubles the chance of the shot glancing, but has the still more important advantage of getting the weight more to the centre and diminishing the tendency to roll. The power of the Warrior is 1,250 nominal; that of the new ships has not yet been decided on, though engineers say it is a point which admits of very little doubt. If the high speed of the Warrior is to be maintained the new ships should have an increase of power in proportion to the increased weight and bulk of the mass to be moved. Bearing in mind that they will have a greater displacement and greater midship section than the Warrior, 1,500-horse power is considered the minimum of what they ought to have to do their 17 knots. No economy will be so false as that which reduces the speed of these noble vessels. The arrangement of the bows in order to fit them for the discharge of their tremendously destructive duties as steam rams is very peculiar. The "beak" is below the water line, and projects, as we have said, at least 20 feet in advance of what seem to be the bows above. Thus the long overhanging weight which the false cutwater of the Warrior necessitated in order to conceal her beak, which is above water, is entirely done away with, and the bows are water-borne for some 20 feet at least before any weight comes upon them. A space of 30 feet long by 9 feet deep of these seeming bows is left without armour plates, and only defended from the spar deck line upwards by teak bulwarks, which lower down like the bulwarks of the little gunboats. But inside this slight defence comes a semi-circular shield of armour, 7 feet high and 5½ inches thick, and spreading completely across the bows of the vessel before the foremast, from side to side. In this there are to be portholes for two immense Armstrong guns. On. the main deck below is another similar shield, reaching up to the iron spar deck, but without guns, as it is simply intended to cover the crew against the chance of a raking fire. By this arrangement the most complete protection is given to the men both on the spar and main deck, yet without incurring any top-heavy weight forward, as the shields are both within the water-borne line of the hull by at least 40 feet. The bowsprits of all are to be of iron fitted with a powerful hinge where they spring from the, deck, so that before going into action they can be turned backwards and inwards, that there may be nothing to deaden the force with which the ships will strike when the occasion offers to use them as steam rams against the enemy. There appears to be very little doubt but that all these vessels will have four masts specially designed to carry more fore and aft canvass. Even the short cruises of the Warrior have shown that the conventional three wooden masts and square rig are as unsuitable for these ships as armour plates would be on a Holyhead packet. But, above all things, whatever the number of the masts, it is of the last consequence that all should be of wrought iron. Wooden masts are not only easily shot away, but are perfectly certain to go by the board on the very first attempt to use the vessels for one of the purposes for which they are specially built - namely, as steam rams. It is very possible that in this last case the iron masts might do the same too, especially if square rigged; but they have this immense advantage over timber, that they could not be shot away, and that if they went overboard from other causes they would tear themselves clear, and go down alongside like a deep sea lead. Wooden ones would, of course, float; drift astern, and to a certainty, foul the screw with the wreck of cordage. No officer in either service was more alive to the imminence of the dangers which must thus arise from this cause from the use of wooden masts than the late Sir Howard Douglas, and as iron masts are as light, much cheaper, and ten times more durable than wood, every steamship in the service whether of wood or iron, should be fitted with them. In the choice of names for our ironsides the Admiralty do not seem lately to have been particularly happy. Twice they have altered the names of those now building. We hope neither the Achilles nor the Captain are to be rechristened, though we have not the least objection to another improvement on the names of the other two. The Iron Duke would be a far more appropriate name than the Minotaur, and an Inkermann infinitely more suggestive than the Northumberland. The sterns of all these new ships will be what is called "pink" sterns - that is, instead of being round and full, like the Warrior and Black Prince, terminating in a fine wedge-shaped point, almost similar to the bows of a fastgoing steamer.
By adopting this method of construction the number of armour plates required to cover it is reduced by rather more than a third, while the angle presented will be such that all shots must glance unless fired point blank at the broadside. All the internal subdivisions as to water-tight compartments, &c., will be precisely similar to those of the Warrior, and the same effectual protection is given to the magazines by casing them round with the coal and water tanks. The armament for each vessel is to be 36 100-pounder Armstrongs on the main deck, and on the spar deck 21 guns of the same enormous calibre. The two forward guns through the semi-circular shield we have already described are to be 200-pounders, with a pivot gun of the same size in the stern. They will thus be enabled at a single broadside to throw a ton and a half of shot and shell to a distance of nearly five miles if necessary.
In addition to these four vessels now building the Admiralty are preparing at Chatham to coat the Bulwark and Royal Oak with iron plates on the French plan. Both these vessels were intended as 90-gun ships, but have had their dimensions altered and their scantling increased, to enable them to carry 4½-inch armour plates. It is admitted that these ships are only makeshifts which the Admiralty were compelled to adopt to keep pace with the superiority of numbers which the French navy had in vessels of this kind. Like all hurried makeshifts, however, both these frigates will be costly, and comparatively inefficient. In the previous article on this subject we stated how it was now found in the French navy that vessels built on this system (and they have none others) were practically almost useless as seagoing frigates. In our own navy it has for sometime been known that woodwork, no matter of what strength, is unequal to sustain the long continued vibrations of the screw, when driven with a power and velocity which are necessary to the maintenance of the high speed our war vessels are admitted to possess. It was only the other day that the Emerald, a new 50-gun frigate, was compelled to return to port for caulking and repairs, rendered necessary by her having to steam against a head sea and hold her own in a fierce gale. It is easy to see how enormously this vibration is increased with the additional weight of armour plates, which make the timbers work so much that docking and caulking are necessary after every trip. From this cause alone La Gloire, the boast and pride of the French Navy, is now openly admitted to be all but unseaworthy. Our Admiralty cannot surely expect a different result for their ships built on the same manner. It is but poor consolation to know that these vessels are only makeshifts, and that no more are to be built, as the money that will be spent on them is almost thrown away. Ten years are the longest time even the most sanguine give them before the oak rots away under the iron.
It may not be out of place here to notice briefly what other Governments besides the French are doing towards reconstructing their navies. The Danish Government ridicule the idea of 5½ inch plates, and say very truly that, as 2½ inches will keep out any shell, they do not care for the solid shot. They are, accordingly, having two very fine gunboats, of great speed and heavy armament, built here on this principle. The Russians are building here a very fine frigate of 30 guns, and 3,500 tons, on a model somewhat similar to the Warrior, and to be coated from end to end with 4-inch iron-plates. Orders for other vessels of this class are expected. The Peruvian Government is building small ironplated gunboats here, and, in addition to some fine wooden frigates building for the Spanish Government on the Thames, instructions to build iron frigates for the same Power are daily looked for. The Federal Government are building three gunboats to be plated with three-inch iron, and one most peculiar sub-marine boat, called "Stevens's Battery," which only shows its six heavy guns on a slight iron ridge just above the water. A full account of this extraordinary vessel, which is now being hurried forward by the Federal Government, and will probably be ready in a month or two, has already been forwarded to our Admiralty. The Confederate Government is coating, or endeavouring to coat, the Merrimac, 50, and the Mississippi, 13, the two vessels which they seized in the Norfolk Navy-yard, with four-inch iron plates, and King Victor Emmanuel is having two wooden-plated frigates of 3,000 tons each constructed on the French plan in France. It is not too much to say, however, that as yet nothing has been designed or attempted which at all approaches the standard of the English iron-clad frigates. The cause for regret is that we have so few of them, and that, in spite of the generosity of Parliament on this subject, the Admiralty are still so timid about ordering more.
|Th 10 April 1862|
Important Experiments At Shoeburyness.While all Europe is just now ringing with surprise and almost consternation at the practical results of the great naval duel between the Merrimac and the Monitor, we have to-day to record still more important experiences, which are the very opposite of those elicited by the contest in Hampton-roads. In brief, some experiments were tried at Shoeburyness, on Tuesday afternoon, with a new gun, of large size and great calibre, which showed at every discharge that our best and hitherto considered invulnerable forms of ironsides were, so to speak, almost as easily penetrated by its shot as if the targets had been of timber! We may well pause and reflect upon the astounding nature of this discovery that, after all our labour and all our expense, after having made beyond comparison the finest and strongest iron frigate in the world, we now find that, opposed to a large muzzle-loading gun, the best of our ironsides can be as easily riddled and sunk as wooden sailing vessels. This discovery was only made on Tuesday afternoon last; and, in order that our readers may perfectly understand the experiments which led to it, and the position in which our iron frigates now stand with regard to those of other Powers, a short explanation is necessary. That it may be an explanation to all, we shall avoid, as far as possible, the use of technical terms.
For the last two or three years there has been a keen and wholesome rivalry between the War-office and the Admiralty - the former striving to devise irresistible artillery, the latter to build invulnerable ships. In the course of this emulation an immense variety of experiments has been tried at Shoeburyness upon every conceivable form of target, and upon every possible combination of iron, iron and wood, iron and indiarubber, iron and wire, and iron and hemp. Not only have the inventions of every eminent engineer been tried at Shoeburyness, but sections of the ships which foreign Powers were building have also been tested. It may surprise our readers to learn that even the construction of the Monitor has not escaped the vigilance of our Government. A section of it has been erected and fired at at Shoeburyness, and proved to be as vulnerable almost as timber, even to our commonest muzzle-loading guns. Even now, that no chance may be neglected, a target is being made of railway bars dovetailed and rivetted together in the same ingenious manner as the coating of the Merrimac, and this also will be tried in a few days, and beyond a doubt with much the same results as attended the trials at the Monitor target. The practical result of all these experiments has been, that the War-office has brought to perfection the Armstrong guns, which, as rifled and breechloading ordnance, are the best in the world, while, on the other hand, the Admiralty has succeeded in turning out, not only the fastest, but the least vulnerable ships afloat.
It will doubtless be in the recollection of our readers how a short time since a target, 20 feet long by 10 feet wide, and made exactly of the same materials and strength as the Warrior's broadside, was erected to be tested at Shoeburyness. During the whole of one day and part of a second it was subjected to the most tremendous proof. Solid 68's, 100-pounders, and 200-pounders were fired at it singly and in salvoes of three and six guns at a time, but all in vain. The concentrated volleys flew off in a hail of iron splinters. The target rang, grew almost redhot in parts, but no missile passed beyond its iron armour. The Warrior, therefore, and her sister ships were justly deemed invulnerable, and the War-office had for the time to admit that the Admiralty had constructed a vessel which practically they could not injure. But the victory has not remained with them for long. During the course of all the experiments at Shoeburyness it has been noticed that the injury inflicted upon the iron plates by the old smooth-bore 68-pounder was greater than that effected by the shot from the rifled Armstrong 110-pounder. The cause of this apparent superiority of the old gun was due to the heavier charge of powder, and therefore to the initial velocity, or, in plain terms, the speed with which the old spherical missile left the mouth of the cannon. With the Armstrong guns the velocity of the shot is from 1,150 feet to 1,200 feet per second. With the old smooth-bore muzzle-loaders the velocity is, as nearly as possible, at the rate of 1,600 feet per second, or more than one fourth greater. But the important difference between the two kinds of ordnance is, that the old smooth-bore gun after 500 yards loses its velocity, owing to the resistance of the air, with alarming rapidity, till at 3,000 yards it touches the ground, while, on the other hand, the conical form of the Armstrong shot, and the rotatory motion communicated to it by the rifling, enable it to maintain almost its initial velocity over a flight of 7,000 yards, or even more. Thus it is that if the Armstrong and the old smooth-bore gun are fired at the same instant, the shot from the latter is instantly ahead of the rifled projectile, but at 700 yards their velocities are the same, at 1,200 yards or so the rifled shot is ahead, and at 2,500 or 3,000 the old shot has made its first graze against the earth, while the Armstrong is still in mid career, and can strike with four times the force of the 68. But when firing at the iron targets at short distances the massive shot, one travelling 1,600 feet a second and the other 1,200, have each to be stopped dead in the fractional part of a second, and it therefore followed, as a matter of course, that the projectile going the fastest inflicted a damage exactly in proportion to the velocity of its flight and the charge with which it was propelled. At close point-blank ranges, therefore, the old smooth-bore 68-pounder was, weight for weight, more destructive to iron plates than the 110-pounder Armstrong.
It has, therefore, been thought that wrought-iron guns of large calibre and strong enough to stand the heaviest shot and heaviest charges would, at close range, easily penetrate any thickness of iron plates that a vessel could safely venture to sea with, and the experiments of Tuesday afternoon proved the truth of the conjecture. Sir William Armstrong has made a 300-pounder on his own admirable principle of wrought-iron coils. This gun is about 14 feet in length, its weight is 12 tons, and its diameter at the muzzle 10½ inches. It has not been rifled, and therefore during the experiments of Tuesday it only threw round solid shot of 1561b. weight. If rifled for the Armstrong shot, which is about two and a half times the length of its diameter, it would be a 300-pounder. This gun, unrifled and with plain solid shot, was tried against that great champion of heavy weights which has hitherto come off victorious in all encounters - the redoubtable Warrior target. His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, the Duke of Somerset, the Duke of Sutherland, Lord Clarence Paget, Admiral Grey, Commodore Drummond, Captain Sir J.D. Hay, Captain Hewlett, Captain Yelverton, Mr. Fairbairn, sen., Mr. Laird, Mr. Samuda, Sir William Armstrong, and other noblemen and gentlemen connected with, the War-office and Admiralty, or interested in the success of artillery or iron ships, were present ; though, on the whole, the attendance was small, and the experiments were conducted with unusual privacy. The great interest was concentrated on the effect of the first shot. With the high speed which our Warriors are known to possess, and therefore the quickness with which they can steam past batteries or iron ships, it was reasoned, with perfect truth, that it was near to impossible in a running fight that they could be hit twice in the same place. If the target kept out one shot, there was every hope of a ship keeping out all. The first shot, a 115-pounder, was fired with a charge of 40lb. of powder, at a distance of 200 yards. This solved all doubts. With an indescribable crash that mingled fearfully with the report of the gun, the shot struck upon a comparatively uninjured plate, shattering the iron mass before it into little crumbs of metal, splintering the teak into fibres literally as small as pins, and, though not passing quite through the side, yet bulging and rending the inner skin of the ship in a way that would have rendered it almost impossible to stop the leakage. The second shot (still with a 401b. charge) struck close by the side of the first, making the previous damage tenfold worse, if possible. To those who did not actually see the experiments it would be difficult to describe the manner in which the iron opposite the missile was broken into minute fragments like glass; how the teak was so utterly disintegrated, that it more resembled tangles of fine twine than even the remains of woodwork and how, above all, the inner iron skin was ripped into gaps like torn paper. These two shots were quite conclusive as to the power of the gun. Had they struck an iron frigate at the water line, no means could have prevented her from sinking in half an hour. Still, however, the shot had not gone completely through the side, which it was the great object of the experiments to accomplish. The charge of powder was, therefore, increased from 40lb. to 50b., and the gun levelled at the uppermost plate of the target, which had been left untouched in previous tests. On this plate a white spot was painted to guide the artillerymen, and so true was their aim, - so exactly was the centre of the mark struck, - that every vestige of the paint was obliterated. With this increased charge the shot passed, not only through armour plate, teak, and inner skin, but buried itself in the massive timbers that support the target, and even loosened the blocks of granite by which the whole is backed up. Had it been the side of the Warrior against which this missile was directed, it would not only have gone through the side, but nearly through the opposite side as well. Another white mark was then made on the lowest plate of the target, and again the artillerymen hit it with the same marvellous precision and with the same result. The shot went through everything, and even the fondest believers in the invulnerability of our present ironsides were obliged to confess that against such artillery, at such ranges, their plates and sides were almost as penetrable as wooden ships are now to the plain old-fashioned long 32's. Of course after such decisive results, no further experiments were tried; indeed, they could not be, as the 156-pounder evidently thought it had done enough work for the day, and at the last discharge recoiled so much as to get off its wooden platform and imbed the hind wheels of its carriage in the stiff yet watery clay, for the production of which in the largest quantities at the shortest notice Shoeburyness stands unrivalled. But quite enough had been accomplished, and Admiralty officials and armour shipbuilders could only admit to each other in a kind of confidential dismay, that artillery had at last proved too much for them, and that if invulnerable ships were to be constructed they must begin de novo. It was clear to all that the Warrior would not stand the least chance against the new gun, even unrifled.
The Warrior, Black Prince, Defence, and Resistance - the only four armour frigates which we have yet afloat - are coated with 4½ inch plates of iron, with two layers of 10-inch teak beams placed transversely, and with an inner skin of wrought iron nearly an inch thick. It was against this powerful combination of materials that the 150-pounder gun was tried on Tuesday with such complete success. The new frigates building, the Achilles, Hector, Valiant, Agincourt, Northumberland, and Minotaur, are all to be coated with 5½-inch iron plates, with 10 inches of teak, and the same inner skin of wrought iron. In these it is hoped that reducing the teak backing and increasing the armour plate will add to the strength of the ship; but long, very long before these vessels are launched the present 156-pounder will be rifled to throw a 300-pounder flat-headed shot, against which not six or even eight inches of armour may be able to offer resistance at short ranges. What, in fact, is to be done when we are at the same time exerting our efforts and spending our money to construct indestructible ships and invent irresistible guns? The guns must carry the day. We have nearly reached the limits of the thickness of iron plates which sea-going vessels can carry with safety. There is practically no limit to the size of the coiled wrought-iron gun. Today a 156-pounder wins - a month hence and the same gun will be a rifled 300-pounder, and a 600-pounder may he ready before Midsummer; but with thicker than six-inch armour plates no sea-going vessel can be coated. The Americans are now making two wrought-iron guns, unrifled, each to throw an eleven-hundred pound shot. When we get such results with a plain 156-pounder, what may not the Federals expect to accomplish with gigantic ordnance of this description? Armour plates a foot thick would be destroyed by the blow of a wrought-iron eleven hundred pound shot fired at short range.
At the conclusion of these trials some experiments were made against Mr. Fairbairn's iron target, which failed so signally on the last occasion. Since then the armour plates have been bedded on hemp and indiaruibber, and the effect of this soft medium in diminishing the force of the concussion upon the iron ribs beyond the plates enabled it to stand much better. But the general feeling seemed to be that some kind of timber backing to the plates was indispensable. The most interesting portion of this experiment was when the Armstrong 200-pounder was fired with a 10lb. Charge - an almost exact equivalent in force to the American Dahlgren 180-pounder fired with a 12lb. charge. Beyond dinting them these missiles produced very little effect upon the plates. Heavy charges of powder and high velocity of shot are evidently the requisites for the destruction of iron frigates. We have made the first step towards demolishing our own work in the experiments of Tuesday. Before this year is out it will be so advanced that, though we ourselves may not have invulnerable ships - as, indeed, no nation can - we shall, at least, be in possession of ordnance which will destroy iron frigates with almost as much facility as wooden ones.
The really terrible effect of the Armstrong gun and shell is best shown on the wooden section of a line-of-battle ship which has been fired at at Shoeburyness. The effects of the shell as shown in the "tween decks" of this target are really something awful to look at. Against such shells wooden vessels are, in fact, no more protection than basket work, though happily the iron frigates can keep out these most terrible of all missiles. What next form and strength of "Warriors" we can devise remains to be seen. But, whatever it is, our readers may depend upon it a gun will be found to beat it, and, in fact, no weapon of offence or defence seems left to us now so efficient as a large armour-clad and very swift steam ram.
|Th 7 August 1862|
The statement I make is that since the efficiency of iron armour ships became practically established by experience our Admiralty have expended on the matériel of the navy in our dockyards 30 millions, and that nearly the whole of this has been expended on combustible wooden ships, known to be useless as engines of war, and proved to be untenable against horizontal shell fire. The accusation I make against the Duke of Somerset is that, even since the inauguration of an iron armour fleet by his predecessors in office, he has wasted 12 millions, which might have produced us now a fleet of 20 Warriors, without increasing the ordinary expenses of the navy; and I assert that we have now only two iron-plated ships possessing the requisites of high speed, capacity for a long voyage, fine seagoing qualities, along with heavy shot-proof armour and that for the good qualities of these ships none of the merit is due to the Duke of Somerset or his Admiralty. These are the facts.
Two replies have been given in Parliament to this accusation. His Grace replies for the Admiralty, as recorded in The Times of July 26, by recounting the difficulties which attend the building of iron ships, his ignorance of what it is best to build, the advice which he receives from and the discord among those he consults, and (appalling fact!) that, instead of applying the money appropriated to building a fleet to that purpose, he is at the present moment building no fleet at all, but "ten or twelve different kinds of iron-plated ships, - different sizes, and different forms of vessels" - in short, on mere heterogeneous experiments, made in the hope that something will turn up which may be of use as an iron-plated vessel. A well-balanced fleet, therefore, of similar and equal vessels capable of co-operation is nowhere.
The second reply, by Lord Clarence Paget, in The Times of the 2d of August, is that "We had 19 iron-plated ships" and then he recants his statement of fact by substituting the prophecy "or would have very soon." When he said so he must have known that we had not 19 iron-plated ships; he must have known we had only two effective and two more ineffective ones, and that when he said "very soon," he meant some time in the year 1864. Such are the only two replies which have been given to my statements, and they leave the matter exactly as I have stated it.
To sum up the accusation I make against his Grace and his Admiralty concisely and in the manner best capable of refutation, I beg to put it in the following form: -
1. I accuse his Grace of having expended in three years 12 millions of money on the matériel of the navy without having given us our navy.
2. I assert that, by a wise and timely economy, and following up the initiative which had been taken before he came into office, he could have provided by this year, 1862, a fleet of 20 Warriors.
3. I accuse him of gross waste of public money in having spent on timber and timber ships the millions which were wanted for iron ships. His only excuse is, that he didn't know what kind of iron ships to build. I answer, that he did know what kind of wooden ships not to build; and I say it is no answer to my accusation of waste of money to say that he was waiting to see what sort of iron ship would turn up. I accuse him, therefore, while waiting for the best, of deliberately expending the money upon the worst.
To sum up, I admit that his Grace did not, as he said, know how to spend his 12 millions advantageously for the country; but I assert that it was palpably his duty, and certainly for the benefit of the country, in his state of vacillation and hesitation, to have saved the 12 millions. Had he saved the money he did not know how to expend, he would have saved the chief of his Administration much of the trouble and danger into which he has brought the Government of Lord Palmerston by a course of official incompetence manifested at a critical moment when the nation was in want of firmness, knowledge, and administrative capacity of a high order, to give direction and force to the revolution in naval construction and naval tactics which the improvements of modern artillery and the inventions of modern science have rendered inevitable.
I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient servant.
J. Scott Russell
20, Great George-street, Westminster, Aug. 6.
|Ma 11 August 1862|
Our Iron-Cased Fleets.
I shall not for a moment think of rebutting those personal accusations against the Duke of Somerset and his colleagues which Mr. Scott Russell repeats so confidently, because it is no business of mine to vindicate the characters of those noblemen and gentlemen, and also because it is never necessary, in my opinion, to defend any body of English gentlemen whatever against accusations which imply that they are imbeciles, or traitors, or both. I pass at once, therefore, to other matters.
I will first, if you please, deal with the statement that at the present moment the Admiralty are building no iron-cased fleet. It is not always easy to fix precisely the sense in which this word "fleet" is employed, but the context shows that Mr. Scott Russell means by it a number of "similar and equal vessels capable of co-operation," and these, he says, the Admiralty are not building. In support of this assertion he cites a recent speech of the Duke of Somerset, in which his Grace said, - "We have at the present moment building at least 10 or 12 different kinds of iron-plated ships, different sizes and different forms of vessels, in order that we may arrive at one which will be a good vessel without being a very costly one." From this strictly accurate statement Mr. Scott Russell draws the inference that his Grace is "building no fleet at all," and even puts that assertion into the mouth of the First Lord himself.
Now, it can be shown to the satisfaction of any dispassionate person that this inference is quite erroneous. The very opposite of it is, in fact, true; for, while varying the character of individual vessels in several minor respects, with the judicious object which his Grace mentioned, the Admiralty have manifestly kept in view in the most careful manner the very thing which they are here charged with neglecting, and have, notwithstanding these minor variations, arranged the sizes and speeds of their large vessels expressly in order that they may be fit to co-operate advantageously in fleets. I can show this, I believe, to the complete satisfaction of yourself, Sir, and of the public.
The first fleet which they are preparing will consist of six of the largest and most powerful iron-cased ships in the world,-viz., the Warrior, Black Prince, Achilles, Northumberland, Minotaur, and Agincourt. The whole of these ships are intended to steam at speed of 14 knots an hour, a speed to which, I believe, every one of them will attain, end which is unequalled by any other iron-cased ships in the world. The only important differences between these vessels consist in certain variations in the extent of the armour with which they are to be plated. The Warrior and Black Prince are plated partially; the Northumberland, Minotaur, and Agincourt will be completely covered, and the Achilles will be like the Warrior, but further protected between wind and water with the belt which I have had the honour to introduce. In order to meet these changes, the dimensions of the vessels have also been correspondingly varied, for the very purpose of securing a uniform speed in all, that the whole might act together as one colossal fleet.
If it should be objected that in this fleet there are but six ships, I answer that six such ships are enough to form a fleet. At the most moderate estimate they will cost more than two millions sterling, and therefore, in money value, no less than in offensive and defensive powers, will be equivalent to 20 of our old 100 gun line-of-battle ships. It is easy to say there ought to be a much larger number of such vessels, and that is a subject upon which different opinions may fairly be held; but in my humble judgment it would be wrong to swell the taxation of the country, especially at a time like this, for the mere purpose of "bloating" our armaments to that extent. We have next in progress a second set of no less than nine iron-cased ships, all capable of co-operating together as a fleet, because they are each of about 4,000 tons burden, and each steam at from 11½ to 12½ knots. Of these five are being built of timber (like most of the French vessels), and then plated with iron, while the remaining four are to be of iron throughout. The five plated timber ships are the Prince Consort, the Royal Alfred, the Royal Oak, the Ocean, and the Caledonia, all of which will steam from 12 to 12½ knots. When we consider that they are to be plated all over from stem to stern, and will therefore each carry a large number of protected guns, we might without exaggeration consider that of themselves they are not unworthy to be called a formidable fleet. But there is not the shadow of a reason why we should not join with them the iron ships Hector and Valiant, which are as nearly as possible of the same tonnage, and which are expected to steam at just the same rate. The remaining two of the nine vessels are the Defence and the Resistance, each of which is of 3,700 tons burden, and have actually steamed at 11½ knots. So that here we have another splendid fleet of nine - or, to say the least, of seven - well-matched vessels all much more nearly equal than those which composed our fleet during the wars, and all undoubtedly capable of co-operating in the most reliable and perfect manner. What can possibly be meant by saying, under these circumstances, that we are "building no fleet at all" I am wholly and utterly unable to conjecture.
With regard to the Defence and the Resistance, a most singular error has obtained currency. In his pamphlet on The Fleet of the Future Mr. Scott Russell gives an imaginary conversation between Lord Clarence Paget and the constructors of the navy, with the view of showing how the designs of these vessels were originated - a conversation which is intended apparently to reflect exclusively upon the Secretary to the Admiralty, but which seems to me to indicate so poor a spirit, and such very attenuated conversational powers on the part of the constructors that, if I were they, I certainly should not thank the author for his representation. I am sure Mr. Scott Russell is not fair to those gentlemen when, in answer to a request from Lord Clarence Paget, he makes them "humbly" say, or rather ejaculate - "My Lord, I am sorry, but, if you please, it can't be done." I am certain this is not the language of real life, but imaginary conversation with a vengeance.
But to return to the vessels. Mr. Scott Russell does them great injustice when he says they are no better than "what are technically called mere tubs." It is true that they are very imperfectly protected; that their ports are comparatively low; and that their speed is less than 12 knots. But this is all that can be said against them. As regards their lines, they are really most excellently formed vessels; and it seems to me a great exaggeration to pronounce a ship with ports seven feet above the water capable of steaming at what many consider a very good speed, and formed so as to behave admirably in a sea-way, a "mere tub." I deny altogether that a ship of this kind is what we technically understand by that expressive phrase. It seems to have satisfied Sir Morton Peto, however, for in his speech in the House of Commons on the 1st of the month he spoke of these ships as "two of the veriest tubs imaginable," and so gave Lord Clarence an opportunity of telling him truthfully that he did not understand what he was talking about.
I do not think I need extend these remarks upon Mr. Scott Russell's letter any further, except to say that I agree with him in believing that we have wasted money in building so many unprotected wooden ships. Even on this subject, however, much might be said in mitigation of a harsh judgment. We must remember that the Board of Admiralty are compelled to rely greatly upon their professional advisers, and professional shipbuilders are only just now awakening to the fact that we can build small iron-cased vessels as well as large. I was myself told, only three months ago, by naval constructors in high positions - and very able naval constructors, too - that the thing was impossible. Fortunately, however, it is not only possible, but practicable, and even easy.
I do not feel at liberty to speak more fully upon this point at present; but I have succeeded very recently in demonstrating that even without the single experimental feature introduced into the Enterprise (the erection of an iron topside upon a wooden bottom) we can build corvettes, sloops, and even gunboats, either of wood or of iron, protected with iron armour of the usual kind; and not partially, or imperfectly protected, either, but absolutely coated all over from end to end. This is a result so satisfactory and so momentous that, until it was actually secured, I scarcely hoped to see it accomplished. The effect of it will be to sweep away at a stroke the necessity for making our iron-cased ships so extravagantly large and costly, and to enable us to send our flag all over the globe in shot-proof vessels of all sizes, as perfectly adapted to our various necessities as our wooden fleets ever were.
I have the honour to be, Sir, your obedient servant, E.J. Reed.
London, Aug. 8.
|Th 19 November 1863||When the Chief Constructor of the Navy addresses a select assembly on the special subjects of his profession it is certain that the interest taken in his communications will extend far beyond his immediate audience. What the inhabitants of Greenwich heard on Tuesday evening the public at large will desire to know, and we charge ourselves accordingly with the exposition of Mr. Reed's views on War Ships and Shipbuilding for the benefit of the country. These views were expressed at the Greenwich Institution with much perspicuity and very little reserve, so that the reader may learn exactly what we are doing in our dockyards on authority which is not to be impeached.|
The successive "reconstructions" of our Navy have been occasioned by successive discoveries in the application of steam power, the science of artillery, and the availability of iron armour for the protection or floating vessels. Steam compelled the change from sails to paddles, and from paddles to screws. Just now the twin screw is talked of as introducing us to another phase of the invention, but Mr. Reed does not regard this device as likely to have very extensive consequences. The double screw, will be useful, he says, in vessels of light draught, but, where the draugtht of water is sufficient, a single screw of a given diameter is more effective as a propeller than two screws of greater diameter together. A ship, for instance, with a 15-feet screw would be faster than another with two screws of ten feet each; nor does our Chief Constructor believe that even the turning power of the double screw will be found to surpass that obtainable from a single screw under judicious development. Steam, therefore, even if still "in its infancy," does not threaten us with any new revolution at present. On the contrary, it is likely to be brought more conveniently under control by an anticipated economy in the use of fuel. Of guns Mr. Reed cannot be expected to say much. This subject is only incidentally connected with his department, and we shall have conveyed his views on the matter when we state that he sees no impediment to the employment of far heavier ordnance in a ship's battery than is used at present, and that he believes these guns, however ponderous they may be, can he carried in broadside ports without recourse to the invention of turrets. When our artillerists have produced the proper gun Mr. Reed will be ready to mount and work it without any innovation on the natural characteristics of good sea-going vessels.
Steam and ordnance being thus disposed of, we now come to the great question of our future fleet; and we shall best introduce our ships in prospect by a brief classification of our ships in possession. We have actually got the Warrior and Black Prince of the first class, with the Achilles, the Agincourt, the Minotaur, and the Northumberland in various stages of progress. We have then got the Defence and the Resistance, shorter, smaller, and slower vessels than those of the former class, and the Hector and the Valiant, of a class intermediate. These are all iron-built ships. Then we have five vessels converted from timber ships of the line into Ironclads by the addition of armour - the Royal Oak, the Prince Consort, and the Caledonia afloat, and the Ocean and the Prince Alfred to follow. We are also constructing one ship and converting another on the cupola or turret principle and with these specimens the catalogue is complete. We have now to report the opinion of the Chief Constructor on these various models, and to describe the improvements which he represents as in contemplation. Let us first mention that he confirms the suspicion which we recently expressed, and announces distinctly that these two turret or cupola ships are not designed for sea service, but are now proceeded with simply as coast-going vessels or floating batteries, available only for the limited duties performed by the American Monitors. We add no comment on this point at present, but confine ourselves to the statement of the fact. As regard the rest, Mr. Reed informs us that in all our first rate Ironclads we have committed a mistake. The Warrior and her consorts are swift, strong, and powerful vessels, formidable to an enemy, and creditable to ourselves as beginners; but they are all too long. The ordinary reader will hardly believe, at first sight, in the importance of this fact, or be prepared to recognize what Mr Reed describes as a great "discovery." Yet it does import a great deal. The excessive length of these vessels makes them difficult to steer and hard to manage; while the increased cost which it entails is really incredible. Mr. Reed assures us that the curtailment of 100 feet from the Warrior's length would have saved 100,0001. in the expense of the ship, besides relieving us from the heavy incidental charges which the enlargement of our docks must occasion. He assures us also that this great length was not required, and that it was accepted solely under the mistaken impression that the desired speed could not be obtained without it, whereas the truth is that a shorter vessel could be propelled just as rapidly. The new policy, therefore, of the Admiralty will consist in making our first-rate Ironclads shorter, handier, and cheaper, and that is Mr. Reed's first disclosure.
He next gives us a very distinct opinion on the controversy between wood and iron, and, without pretending to absolute dogmatism, evidently places wood on a level with iron for the framework of a ship of war. He considers, and indeed asserts, that the Royal Oak is as good a vessel as the Warrior, and thus ranks our five converted ships with our original Ironclads. At this point of his discourse he could not, of course, omit a reference to the distress of the Prince Consort in the late storm, and he tells us, on the best authority, that she not only never leaked or strained at all, but that she rode out the gale with less damage to her structure than would have been suffered by any old-fashioned timber vessel. It happened that her bow port was stove in, and that in her heavy rolling she shipped a good deal of sea over all. The water thus admitted to her decks found its way to the hold and caused her distress, but there -was no straining of the fabric whatever. Mr. Reed proceeds even to ask why there should have been, and informs us that the centre of gravity is actually lower in an iron-cased frigate than in an old two-decker with all her guns and top hamper. So he roundly maintains that there is no argument against the employment of wooden frames which should exclude them from use. There may, he admits, be a greater structural strength obtainable from iron, bat not necessarily a greater durability. Iron rivets, as we have lately seen, are as apt to be corroded as wood is to decay, besides which wooden bottoms are so plainly superior to iron bottoms in one important respect that the latter can only be effectually sheathed by the interposition of a wooden skin.
Then comes the programme of novelties, and here the Chief Constructor has agreeable news to announce. The two vessels built after his own designs, the Enterprise and the Research, will, he tells us, be ready in a few weeks, and that they were not ready earlier has been the fault, he says, not of any dockyard authorities, but of private contractors, who failed in the supply of the requisite materials at the proper time. These ships, it will be remembered, are intended to prove that armour-plating can be effectually applied to the smaller classes of sea-going vessels, so that heavy guns may be carried to any part of the world by iron-cased cruisers. But Mr. Reed adds something more. Adverting to the speech of Mr. Laird at Birkenhead, he says, "I state with the most absolute fearlessness and confidence that the Admiralty are now building a corvette from which neither the Alabama nor the Florida could hope to escape, and with which the two together could not hope to contend for a single hour." Thus, our private shipbuilders are at last boldly challenged by our dockyard authorities, and the trial cannot be far distant. In condensing what was a long as well as an elaborate address for the use of the public, we have left ourselves but little room for comment. We will only add, therefore, that we seem to have been pursued by our usual fortune in discovering that the Warrior ought to have been 100 feet shorter and 100,000l. cheaper only when we have built two more ships like her, and contracted for three others rather longer and dearer still; that it will be some compensation for us if our converted ironclads are really as good as our originals; and that we look with some impatience, and the utmost interest, for that floating phenomenon which is to whitewash the Admiralty and carry off the championship from Birkenhead.
|Ma 1 February 1864|
PROPOSED NEW IRONCLADS.Though Mr. Reed has concentrated all his efforts as a naval constructor on his special vessels, the Bellerophon and Pallas, and on his improvements on the Royal Oak class of heavy armour-frigates, as exemplified in the power and dimensions of the Lord Warden and the Lord Clyde, yet these four are by no means the most original of his designs. For the most part, they are only great improvements or developments of our first ideas of armour-ships. The developments are great, the improvements we are willing to admit are of essential importance; but the germ of the ideas on which they are founded existed in all our navy yards and in most of our private yards too. Any private firm can now design and build a frigate of the Warrior class, and we know from the experience of the Achilles at Chatham that private firms can build them very much more quickly than Government yards, which are only beginning their apprenticeship at iron ship-building. But what no private yard offered to do, and what it was thought almost impossible to accomplish, is that which Mr. Reed has actually performed in building and coating with 4½-inch armour wooden sloops no larger than the collier barks which crowd the pool below London-bridge. The difficulty thus overcome is very much greater than it seems, as a few words will show. As soon as the necessity for armour-ships was admitted in England after the launch of La Gloire, it was evident that a certain height of plating, varying from 16ft. to 21ft., would be necessary in most classes of vessels, and that if this protection was to extend the whole length of the hull, then seaworthiness and swiftness could only be secured in vessels of the very largest description. But, by shortening the battery and confining the guns to the centre of the ship, the extraordinary weights and dimensions could be reduced, and such ease given to the stem and stern as would add greatly to the buoyancy of the whole hull. As these ships, however, would have to endure heavy weather, and, in case of war, very heavy fighting too, it was necessary to consider what their condition would be with their unplated ends waterlogged, and to make the length of the protected part in the centre sufficient to bear up the stem and stern when their own buoyancy was destroyed. Upon this principle the Warrior, Black Prince, Defence, and Resistance were designed; but the two latter, though more than double the tonnage of Nelson's Victory, were found to be the smallest which would satisfy these conditions. If, therefore, smaller seagoing vessels were to receive the protection of iron armour, it was evident that even the system, partial as it was, must be given up. The iron wall required for the safety of the guns and gunners must be reduced in length, and the safety of the lower part of the hull near the water-line provided for by a simple armour-belt from five to seven feet wide, so disposed as to protect the machinery and all beneath it, the high or gun wall of the battery being shortened by only containing the smallest number of guns, but all of the very heaviest calibre used in war. The attempt to fulfil all these conflicting conditions has been made by Mr. Reed in the Enterprise, the smallest class of seagoing vessels of war, the sloop which is to be plated with the same armour as that which covers the Warrior - 4½ inches. This vessel, which will be launched early next month, is of only 950 tons builders' measurement, and was intended to carry 17 32-pounder guns. This number of guns was at once reduced to four, and the number of the crew from 165 to 100. This great reduction in the number of guns does not necessarily imply a reduction in the weight of metal thrown in a broadside, as the guns will be very much larger. The guns actually to be mounted in this ship are 110-pounders, throwing a broadside of 220lb., but guns may be carried which would equal in weight of metal thrown the original broadside of the 17-gun sloop, and would, of course, be far more destructive in their action. But, in thus transforming a small l7-gun wooden sloop into a 4-gun ironcased sloop, a sacrifice of speed was inevitable. The weight of propelling machinery was reduced 25 tons, while the weight of ship to be propelled was increased 200 tons. The speed lost will be from half a knot to a knot. The speed of the Enterprise under steam alone will be, it is hoped, between 9 and 9½ knots, or a little over 10 miles per hour.
In order to secure seaworthiness for this little vessel it was most desirable to keep the extremities light and buoyant. The concentration of the battery had already done much towards this end. Still further to promote it special bow and stern chase guns were dispensed with, and arrangements were made by which the guns from the protected battery in the centre were rendered capable of firing within 12 degrees of the course of the vessel, both ahead and astern. Under these circumstances it became possible to reduce the amount of material in the frame and other portions of the structure of the ship before and abaft the battery. The reduction thus effected will, it is believed, render the ship lively in a seaway and ready in obeying her helm. So far as the preceding description is concerned, the hull of the ship might have been constructed entirely of wood, as that of the Research, recently launched at Pembroke, actually is; but it was decided that the unwalled portions of the Enterprise above the waterline should be built of iron. The introduction of iron into the hull of a wooden craft gave a still further opportunity for lightening the ship, as steel will do in ships of iron. It rendered it possible to leave the space between decks forward and aft unplated, as the materials of construction were, of course, incombustible. Instead, therefore, of carrying up the iron wall or belt to the roof of this space, it was only necessary to carry it to its floor, care being taken to lift the floor well above the water-line. This arrangement brings the roofs of the fore and aft 'tween deck spaces above the floor of the battery, or the gun platform. They are, in fact, just so much above the gun platform as will allow the chase guns to fire over them clearly and well. In respect, therefore, to the arrangement of the decks the Research and Enterprise differ. The difference affects very sensibly the amount of armour required for the vessel. In the Research for every 100 tons of material in the hull 40 tons of armour are required, while in the Enterprise there are only 25 tons.
On this account the Research requires and has a heavier frame, and is, with only the same powers of offence and defence, a larger and much more costly ship. Since, also, the greater part of the extra weight of armour in the Research lies towards the extremities of the ship, she will be less lively and handy than the Enterprise, and the fact that the 'tween deck space is left uncased in this latter ship gives her a further advantage over the Research in lighting and ventilating the space.
The set-off to these many manifest advantages is the novel and untried, and, therefore, to a certain extent, somewhat doubtful nature of the connexion between the upper and lower hulls, and the almost dangerous nearness of the lower part of the unprotected ship to the water-line. Neither of these points, however, involves the safety of the ship, or her warlike efficiency, and should trouble arise from either cause, which there is no great reason at present to anticipate, it will be confined to temporary personal inconvenience to the crew on the berthing-deck.
In order to complete the description of the powers of offence and defence possessed by the ship it is necessary to state that the shot-proof bulkheads crossing the deck, and extending from the water-line to the roof of the battery, are loopholed for musketry, both over the upper deck and between decks, so that should the vessel be boarded the boarders can effect a lodgment in no part of the ship outside the battery, either on deck or below, without being exposed to constant fire from within the battery. During action the 'tween decks, which will be the ordinary berthing place for men and officers, will be quite deserted, the whole of them being within the walls, either in the battery, or immediately below it, under the armour belt. For the purpose of bringing the whole of the lower part of the ship into communication with the battery when in action, and to secure perfect ventilation, a wide central passage runs entirely through the ship below the lower deck, and, as all the hatchways on this deck are closed in during action, large ventilating hoods are fitted for down draughts at both extremities through the deck, and a current of air is established by the furnaces and by Schiele's blast-fan, the space round the funnel forming a double upcast shaft.
The central passage commences forward, at the fore platform, and, passing between store-rooms on either side for sails, provisions, water, chain, and coals, opens into the stokehold. Between the stokehold and the engine-room and immediately below the battery are the magazine and shellroom. The passage is continued between these through the engine-room onwards, both above, and below the roof of the shaft alley, to the extreme after end of the ship, all the storerooms both forward and aft communicating with it. In some cases, as in the provision and water spaces forward, the ordinary bulkheads are dispensed with altogether, and stanchions are substituted, and where this arrangement was undesirable, iron gratings are made in the upper part of the partition.
In order still further to provide for efficient ventilation, and particularly with a view to the preservation of the frame of the ship, a passage is left along the wings on each side and beneath the flooring of the several divisions. There is thus scarcely a foot of the frame of the ship which is not in direct communication with the central passage, and acted upon either by the draught of the furnaces or by the Schiele's fan. Directly below the battery, and over the magazine and shell-room, is a large platform to be used as a cockpit, communicating by a covered passage through the engine-room with an after cockpit and dispensary.
The dimensions of this miniature ironclad are only 180ft. long by 36ft. wide, her engines are to be of 160-horse power and her speed is estimated at nine knots. Though an experimental vessel, the success of the Enterprise has been secured by the admirable seagoing performance of the Research, another ship of much the same class, only 200 tons larger, which made a successful passage round from Milford to the Thames. This little corvette carries five inches of armour, and in the run round to the river, though the weather was very rough, she often steamed 10 knots, rolled easily and not deeply, turned a full circle in 4 min. 8 sec. in five times her own length, is well ventilated, buoyant, and, when equipped for sea, will draw only 14ft. of water. In our description of this vessel on Friday we stated that "she carried a broadside of guns equal in weight to those of the renowned Warrior." But this, as our readers must, of course, have seen, was an error, and should have been "carried a broadside of guns each equal in weight to the heaviest of those of the renowned Warrior." So far, however, she has established all the principles which her designer put forward when he began to modify her form from what she was originally intended to be - a wooden screw corvette. We cannot help thinking, nevertheless, that Mr. Reed would have been more successful in the matter of speed had the lines of these vessels been from the outset of his own designing. If the Admiralty have any consideration for our pockets, they will at once give up the false economy of endeavouring to coat wooden frigates in frame with iron - of trying, in fact, to adapt and work up old materials into a new purpose for which they were never intended. It makes but a bad compromise, such adapted vessels, after all, costing very little less than new, but being infinitely worse. The French have for the first time last autumn begun building two frigates which, like our Warriors and Minotaurs, are to be wholly of iron from end to end. They have tried plating wooden frigates with iron, and, not finding them answer, have come back to the point at which we commenced, and begun building of iron only. With their costly experience before us, how can our Admiralty hope to be more successful with iron-plated wooden frigates? As a fact, however, they do not hope to be entirely successful, but only to make less conspicuous failures than our French neighbours have done in La Gloire. The Lord Warden and Lord Clyde, which are to be built of wooden frames from Mr. Reed's design, will be magnificent vessels as far as size and speed, and for a time, perhaps, as far as strength is concerned. Each of these ships is to be of 4,000 tons, 1,000-horse power, and each is to carry two 300-pounders, and 30 100-pounders, cased in with 5 inches of iron. But, for the nominal saving of 10,000l., effected by building their frames of wood, which rots at once under the iron, the country will eventually have to pay some 200,000l., in the speedy decay of the ships and the consequent early necessity of replacing them with others. We need no stronger proof of their real cost than is to be found in the fact that the French, who were the foremost supporters of this system of building, now intend to give it up, and in future build of iron only.
It is very gratifying to our enterprise and manufacturing skill to know that, after the start which our neighbours got of us in the launch of La Gloire and La Normandie, we are now ahead of the French in the number of ships afloat, the number launched and fitting, and in the number building, while in the still more important particulars of strength, size, and speed the French possess no ships whatever that can be even named in comparison with those of the Warrior or Minotaur class of frigates. Up to the present the list of the iron navies of the two countries built or building is as follows: -
Thus, then, we have ten iron frigates afloat as against six of the French; three launched and fitting as against two of the French; six nearly ready for launching against two nearly ready for launching in France; and five in various stages of building, while the French have six in the same condition - a total in all of 24 English iron frigates against only 16 belonging to France. In making this comparison, however, it should in fairness be borne in mind that of the six French frigates building not one is less than half finished, while some of ours returned as building, such as the Bellerophon, Lord Warden, and Lord Clyde have in fact, only just been commenced. On the other hand, it is believed that the French Marine intend to commence no new vessels this year; while it in to be hoped that at least two more on the plan of the Bellerophon will be begun in this country.
Everything of importance connected with the French ironclad vessels is, as a general rule, as well known to our Admiralty as to the Minister of Marine in Paris, and the substance of all the knowledge that has reached this country has only tended to confirm the belief that, both in a military and in a mechanical point of view, we took the right course in turning out vessels of the Minotaur and Warrior class. To this day they have never been equalled or even approached. The Solferino and Magenta, two-decked iron frigates, are both slow and weak; compared with any of the ships of this class, which are strong and swift enough to overrun a fleet, and carry armaments heavy enough to disregard almost any kind of fortifications.
In the list of French armour-ships which we have given, all, whether building or built, with the exception of the two first-named, are frigates or heavy corvettes, carrying from 16 to 40 guns. The Solferino and Magenta only are two-deckers of the class which in the old time used to be called double-banked frigates. They are each rated as 80-gun ships, but, in reality, carry less, having only 64. All these ships are ordinary wooden vessels of war, covered with armour-plating, and in the earlier frigates so covered without the slightest attempt to adapt their form to their new casing. Their scantling (that is, the thickness of timber behind the plating) is not, as has been often stated, as much as 5ft. thick, but is neither more nor less than the thickness of ordinary men-of-war - that is, from 2ft. in frigates to 2½ft. in the Solferino and Magenta. The armour-plates are shorter than ours, and are as nearly as possible about 4¾in. thick. None have grooved edges to tongue into each other, and each plate is fastened with 11 screws into the timber. The result of the recent experimental rough-weather cruise of the Solferino, Magenta, Invincible, Couronne, and Normandie gave some curious and rather unexpected results. The Solferino and Magenta two-deckers proved as steady as rocks while the Couronne and Normandie were rolling dreadfully, and the latter made such bad weather of it and shipped so much water as to put out her fires, and there is little doubt but that she would have foundered outright had not the weather moderated sufficiently to enable her to gain a port. Before she was trusted out again, 100 tons of cables were fastened along each side of her upper deck, which had the effect of steadying her much, though she was still found to roll so quickly and uneasily as to render it almost impossible for her to cast loose her guns in the slightest seaway. The Couronne laboured heavily, but did nothing like this. The Invincible was the best of the frigates, and the Solferino was the fastest of the whole squadron, doing 10½ knots, when the Normandie and Couronne were short of six knots. Singularly enough, the Solferino and Magenta, though sister ships, alike to a plank and rivet, and with the same engines and stowage, gave very different results as to speed, the Solferino doing 10½ knots and the Magenta barely 7. The difference is, perhaps, to be ascribed to their engines, which are said to be bad in the latter ship. Both, however, were remarkably steady, except with the wind on the quarter, when they became uneasy while the rest of the frigates were quiet. The Invincible was next to the Solferino in speed, and nearly equal to her in steadiness. On the whole, on a comparison of the ironclad fleets of the two countries, we have every reason to feel proud of our own, and - what is better than feeling proud - to feel secure while we have got them.
|Fr 27 May 1864||A Return just obtained from the Admiralty will inform naval men, shipbuilders, and the public in general of some facts which it much concerns them all to know. It is an account in a concise and intelligible form of all the "Iron-plated Ships and Batteries built or building" up to this time for the Royal Navy, and it specifies not only their tonnage, armaments, and design, but also their cost and the history of their construction. By the aid of this table cupolas and turrets may be compared with broadsides, wholly-plated with partially-plated ships, first-rates with third-rates, and private establishments with the Royal dockyards. Another brief Return completes the information thus communicated by a very significant and impressive supplement. It tells us of all the vessels not armour-plated which are in course of construction for the Navy at this moment; so that we may measure the preponderance of the new system not only by its own progress, but by the decay of its ancient rival. This part of the story can be told so shortly that we may as well dismiss it at once. There is next to nothing in hand of this kind. The Endymion, a 22-gun ship, and four smaller vessels, representing, we presume, as many swift cruisers with light armaments, constitute all the work of this sort now going on. The energies of the Admiralty and the resources of the State are concentrated on iron-plated vessels, almost to the extinction of wooden shipbuilding.|
What then, is the actual condition, and what the prospects of the Fleet which now absorbs our attention and our expenditure? The first thing that strikes us is the variety of specimens comprised, showing more clearly than anything else could show the state of transition in which we still remain. We have not yet accepted as perfect or satisfactory any pattern, model, or design of hull, dimensions, or armament. This gives a kind of composite appearance to our Fleet, but it has saved us, at any rate, from the mistake committed by the Americans in building a whole squadron of Monitors on the impulse of the moment. At the present time we have, exclusive of "floating batteries," sixteen iron-plated men-of-war actually afloat. This, at least, is the statement of the Return, but we can add one to the number, for on the 23d inst., the very day fixed for the event, the Prince Albert was launched, so that our Ironsides are already not sixteen, but seventeen. To these will be added before the close, and, indeed, before the middle of next year, ten more, making an aggregate of 27. If we choose to include the floating batteries constructed or designed during the Crimean war, we shall raise the entire strength of our iron-clad fleet to 34 vessels of all rates.
It will soon be desirable to devise some new system of rating in the place of that which the new system of naval architecture and armament has rendered inapplicable. We can no longer measure the offensive powers of a ship by the number of her guns. A "first-rate" of the old school, with her triple batteries and her 130 guns, might be blown out of water in ten minutes, according to our present ideas, by such a vessel, for instance, as the Prince Albert, of four guns, just launched, or the Pallas, of six guns, to be launched at Christmas. These half-dozen guns, in fact, might throw a heavier mass of metal than the broadside of the largest three-decker, so that the principle will not apply, and the standard is unavailable. Practically, however, we may consider that the Warrior, though denominated a "frigate," and carrying only 40 guns, represents the first-rate under the new system, and of those vessels we may say that ten are now afloat. They differ from each other in a variety of respects, but they are all more or less completely cased in iron, and all carry from 35 to 41 guns, except where the armament is concentrated under shields or in turrets. We have, then, two. ships, the Hector and the Valiant, which we may describe as second-rates, and three more which can be classed as third-rates. This makes fifteen, and the full tale of seventeen afloat is completed by Mr. Reed's small ironclads, the Research and the Enterprise. Of the ten to be shortly added to this list, as many as six are first-rates, two are very powerful vessels, and two of small dimensions. As regards the controversy between wood and iron, we may briefly observe that until Mr. Reed's designs were introduced into the Navy we always built of iron where we could, and where we started from the beginning, but adopted wood in certain instances for the sake of expedition as well as of economy. Thus, of our sixteen first-rates built or building, eight are of iron throughout, and six represent timber frames plated with iron. The other two, the Lord Clyde and the Lord Warden upon Mr. Reed's designs, have wooden hulls; but our Chief Constructor has not confined his experiments to either material exclusively, for his Bellerophon is of iron; and while one of his small specimens is of iron the other is of wood and iron combined. Captain Coles, too, as far as material goes, has the advantage of both chances, for one of his vessels is built of iron and the other of wood. Upon the whole, we may say that iron was recognized as decidedly best wherever a free choice lay before us until Mr. Reed came in, and that he seems to be of opinion that more may be made of wood than was previously imagined.
The interesting question of relative cost is not quite so easily answered. What with the incompleteness of work and the imperfection of accounts, we cannot always get at good materials for comparison, for it must be understood that, though we have described certain vessels as actually afloat, that by no means implies that they are fully completed for sea, or that the expenditure upon them is at an end. However, if we take the Warrior, which was built in a private yard, and compare her with the Achilles of the same rate constructed at Chatham, but, unfortunately, "not complete," we shall find that the former cost 360,995l., and the latter 321,875l., so that in the end, perhaps, there will be little difference between them. If, again, we take one of the ships converted into ironclads by the addition of armour plate to wooden frames already standing, such as the Royal Oak, we find its actual cost to be 259,658l., and therefore, if the Royal Oak is really as effective a man-of-war as the Warrior, we have saved a good 100,000l. by our bargain. Mr. Reed's designs, too, show a clear economy of cost. His Bellerophon, expected to be one of the most powerful vessels in the Navy, is estimated to cost only 284,820l., but this, it must be remembered, is estimate only. Still, though we confess that no decisive evidence is obtainable from the paper before us, we are disposed to infer that the work of the Royal dockyards will not be found more expensive than that of private establishments.
|Tu 25 October 1864||Our Naval Intelligence will have apprised the public that if the fleet of the future is still but obscurely developed in its character and armament, the Iron-clad Navy of this country is beginning to assume imposing proportions. We could now send to sea a very powerful squadron of the new vessels, heterogeneous in its composition, no doubt, but constituted, nevertheless, of ships which, as far as we can judge, are not surpassed by any ships afloat, and which, we must needs suppose, contain among them some satisfactory models. We began with the Warrior and Black Prince, and so successful were these experiments considered that four more specimens of the same class, the Minotaur, the Agincourt, the Northumberland, and the Achilles, were promptly ordered. Of these the Achilles has now put to sea, making our new first-rates three in number. The Hector and the Valiant, the Defence and the Resistance formed two other pairs of experimental vessels; but though they are all serviceable ships they have not been copied. Then came a class of makeshifts, or of what, in comparison with our first-rate Ironclads, might be so considered. As we possessed several fine timber ships in frame it was resolved to case some of these in iron for enrolment in the new Navy, and four or five of these specimens have now been sent to sea with considerable success. At the same time two turret or cupola ships were taken in hand, and one of these, the Royal Sovereign, has actually been commissioned for a short time. In this class also we may include the two famous steam rams which caused so much trouble in the Mersey, and which are now known as Her Majesty's cupola ships Scorpion and Wyvern. Lastly, Mr. Reed, the Chief Constructor of the Navy, has designed certain vessels of various rates after plans of his own, and two of these ships, the Enterprise and Research, are in commission already. Altogether, therefore, we have some sixteen iron-cased vessels ready for service, three fourths of that number being ships specially constructed on what were deemed the most promising or desirable models. As this force could in case of need be rapidly augmented from vessels approaching completion, it will be seen that our ironclad fleet has received important developments, but if we proceed to inquire into the comparative merits of the various specimens afloat we shall find that little progress has been made towards agreement or decision.|
It cannot be said that we were either precipitate or premature in ordering four new vessels on the general model of the Warrior. That ship was so genuine a success that it really seemed as if we could do no better, and if the other vessels of this pattern could but have been launched within twelve months after they had been bespoken, all the conditions of the case would have been satisfied, for we should have got a fine squadron of what were regarded at the time as the best models conceivable. Unfortunately, these ships have been so long in hand that they may possibly be superseded before they are well finished, though it is but right to say that no new specimen has yet established its superiority to the model on which they have been built. Mr. Reed's new vessels will at least have this advantage, that they will be used while the fashion is in. What success may attend them we are not concerned to predict, though the Enterprise appears to be spoken of by her own officers as a good sea-boat and an easy and handy ship; but, at any rate, we shall get the benefit of these experiments before the idea has been rendered obsolete by the progress of discovery. In a science which is always advancing the best invention may be good only for a time, and it has been the besetting fault of our Admiralty that they never adopted a model or an improvement until some new improvement or model had deprived the proceeding of its utility. Mr. Reed has avoided this mistake. We shall know what the Bellerophon is good for before the Bellerophon has been put out of fashion by some yet unknown rival, and if the Enterprise deserves to succeed, she will have a timely chance of succeeding.
These vessels, however, are not very great innovations on previous models. Mr. Reed, we believe, proposed to himself two principal objects: first, to improve upon the Warrior model by turning out a frigate equally powerful, but handier and cheaper; and next, to construct iron-clad ships of small tonnage for ocean service. The Bellerophon will represent the former of these experiments; the Enterprise and Research represent the latter. But in the meantime here is this awkward question of the cupola or turret principle, rendered more awkward than ever by the proceedings of the Admiralty in the case of the Royal Sovereign. Captain Coles, the designer of this vessel, maintains that, imperfectly as the trial has been conducted, he has established his proposition that turrets and guns can be made perfectly manageable in a seaway. He even goes further, and asserts not only that turret ships carry their armaments as easily as other ships, but that no vessels of small tonnage can be constructed to carry heavy guns efficiently except on this very principle. In short, he competes with Mr. Reed at this point, and having established, as he alleges, the general merits of the turret system, claims a special superiority for it in the case of small sea-going cruisers. Now, here is a principle entirely new and distinct, commending itself to notice, if not demanding approval; and yet our authorities have curtailed the very experiment by which its merits might have been at least partially tested. We observed long ago that it was a case for experiment alone. At first sight the invention may seem unpromising. It is obvious to imagine that a turret ship would be neither safe nor commodious, and we know that in America the Monitors have proved actually unsafe, and that Admiral Farragut prefers to hoist his flag in an old wooden frigate. But Captain Coles always expressly declared that his model would not be liable to the same objections, and he now claims to have substantiated his words as far as the experiment has gone. The Scorpion and the Wyvern, it is true, have still to be tried; but even these vessels, it must be remembered, were constructed for a special purpose, so that the results as measured by their performances may be inconclusive after all. The controversy, however, is a most important one, and, as the advocates of the rival systems claim for their respective principles a superiority not only in efficiency but in economy, it concerns the public interests that the trial between them should be both full and fair.
It happens rather singularly that on the present occasion we can derive very little information from the proceedings of foreign countries. France is no longer showing us the way in shipbuilding. America is building her ships for a purpose so special and peculiar that we can take no lesson from them. Russia, we believe, has adopted the model of the Monitors with more or less improvement for her Ironclads, but in her case also the service anticipated from these ships is probably limited to Russian waters. We are left this time to teach the rest of the world what is the best model for a new man-of-war. Perhaps our fleet already contains the germ of the discovery, though glimpses have been given of some remarkable inventions yet to come, and we are still in doubt whether a small swift vessel, with a single gun or two, may not be a better pattern than a heavy frigate, however constructed. It is satisfactory, however, to reflect that we have at any rate not been surpassed in discovery by any other State, and that if our Iron-clads are not yet the best that can be designed, they are certainly as good as any others afloat.