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The Experimental Squadrons of 1844 - 1846

The Royal NavyExperimental squadrons 1845 (2/3) - 1846 (1/3)

Extracts from the Times newspaper
Ma 22 September 1845



The Reporter brings some additional particulars of the probable movements of the fleet:-

"It is expected that the fleet will leave this harbour on Saturday, and that its destination will be Plymouth, where probably the Queen will remain as guard-ship; the other vessels of the squadron, whose sailing powers have not been sufficiently tested, proceeding after a short time upon their cruise. Since the fleet commenced their experimental voyage they have not had what seamen would term a gale of wind; but, as in the months of October and November strong winds generally prevail, a favourable opportunity will probably present itself of ascertaining the respective sailing powers of the several ships."


The Cork Examiner of yesterday thus announces the departure from Cove, on Thursday, of the experimental squadron:-

"At an early hour all intercourse with the fleet ceased, orders having been issued not to allow any boats alongside. Immediately after dinner signals were seen passing from the Admiral's ship, the St. Vincent, and shortly after the signal for sailing was given, when instantly all on board the ships was life and activity. We were considerably struck with the rapidity with which the sailing orders were obeyed, particularly on board the Albion; for scarcely had 20 minutes elapsed from the moment the signal was hoisted on board the St. Vincent than she was under weigh - she was followed by the Canopus, after which came the Queen; this stately vessel got under weigh in capital style, and made great way out of the harbour. We perceived that before the Albion had well got outside the harbour the Queen overhauled her; we were considerably struck with the superior sailing qualities of the Queen, while going out of the harbour. Next came the Trafalgar, and close in her wake followed the Superb. The former shot ahead of the latter in great style. The next in order of sailing was the Rodney, which glided beautifully out of the harbour. The seventh ship was the Admiral's, the St. Vincent. A longer period of time had elapsed between her sailing and that of the Rodney than occurred between any of the shipsthat preceded her. However, when she got under weigh her quick sailing was much admired. She had a good deal of sail set, and being nearest to shore had the longest course to run out of the harbour; her large size (she now being the only remaining three-decker) was apparently magnified. In company with the St. Vincent were the Rattler and Stromboli steamers; the former sailed, and the latter of course steamed out of the harbour. The only ship now in port was the Vanguard. For some time many were doubtful whether she would sail with the squadron, so disproportioned was the length of distance between her and the St. Vincent. She remained a considerable time without apparently showing an indication of sailing; at length her ample sheets were allowed to kiss the breeze, up went the jib, and off she went in the course taken by those which had preceded her. The fleet had scarcely passed the forts when it began to rain, accompanied by a partial fog; the ships were in consequence invisible for some time; this, however, soon passed off, and again the fleet was discerned just as they emerged into the broad blue trough of the Atlantic, steering S.E. by S. It is scarcely possible to conceive how deserted our fine harbour looks just now. The only ships at present in port are the Crocodile and Tartarus. The order for sailing was sudden and most unexpected, so much so that several officers were left behind in Cork, and will have to join their several ships at Plymouth, where the adjourned court-martial is to be held on Mr. Lee, of the Stromboli steamer."

Tu 23 September 1845


The Experimental Squadron arrived here before daylight on Saturday morning, the St. Vincent leading, attended by the Rattler and Stromboli steamers. The St. Vincent saluted the flag of Admiral Sir John West, Commander-in-Chief; and the Urania (Neapolitan frigate) saluted the flag of Rear Admiral Parker (who continues very unwell).

The Commander-in-Chief, Sir John West, struck his flag (blue at the main) on board the Sylph tender, at half-past 10 o'clock on Saturday morning, and hoisted it on board the Queen, 110 - his intended flag-ship.

Admiral Parker struck his flag, as Commander-in-Chief of the Experimental Squadron, at sunset on Saturday evening; and Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Pym took up the command, hoisting his flag (red at the mizen) on board the St. Vincent.

During the absence of Rear-Admiral Pym in command of the squadron, the duties of Superintendent of Devonport Dockyard will be conducted by Mr. Lonsdale, Master-Attendant.

The defects of the experimental squadron have been "reported," and are being repaired as expeditiously as possible, in order to get the ships to sea again without delay.

Rear Admiral Hyde Parker has left in the Rattler steam-sloop, Commander Smith, for the seat of his duties, the dockyard, Portsmouth.
We 24 September 1845


The fleet experienced some heavy weather in Plymouth Sound on Saturday afternoon, in consequence of which, on a signal given from the flag ship, the topgallant masts of the whole were lowered. This arrangement, which was executed in less than two minutes and a half, gave the ships a very sombre appearance. On Sunday their number was increased by the arrival of the bark Scylla, 16, Commander Robert Sharpe, after a rough passage of 16 days, from Halifax, with loss of a quarter boat, and other damage. On Monday, the weather being fine, all the fleet loosed sails to dry. At mid-day Admiral Sir Hyde Parker left for Portsmouth in the Rattler steamer. Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Pym then shifted his flag, as Admiral-Superintendent of the Dockyard, from the Caledonia, in Hamoaze, to the St. Vincent, red at the mizzen, as Admiral of the fleet; The new Admiral's flag will be saluted when the ships put to sea. The Port-Admiral, Sir John West, immediately after removed his flag from the Queen to the Caledonia. It is expected that Admiral Pym will join the St. Vincent on Tuesday. The fleet are moored in a very favourable position, at some distance inside the breakwater. The flag-ship lies to the eastward towards Bovisand; next her is the Rodney; then the Albion, Trafalgar, Queen, Superb, Vanguard, and the Canopus, which is anchored off the west arm of the breakwater, and is consequently nearest Cawsand-bay. The steamers Bloodhound and Jackal have been in the Sound during the day. The Albion is to be relieved of 30 tons of ballast; she snapped a chain cable when mooring on Saturday morning. The Vanguard has received from the dockyard some spare topmasts, having lost four during the late cruise. She is to be restowed, in order to regain, if possible, the good name she possessed in the Mediterranean. The stowage of the Trafalgar has been admired here for its advantages in case of an engagement.

Fr 26 September 1845



The men-of-war continue with the greatest expedition to take in provisions and water for their second cruise. The Superb has two lighters on her starboard, and one on her larboard side, depositing stores from the Royal William Victualling Yard. The defects in the shipping have been made good in less time than was anticipated; but the proposed examination of the bottoms of the Albion and Vanguard will be deferred until their return. In the hurry of departure from Cork several of the officers of the Rodney were left behind; and such is the discipline observed, that the destination and time of departure of the fleet appear to be as little known to the officers of the ships as to the most ordinary seaman on board; but there is no doubt that the fleet will remain until Saturday or Sunday, as the Court-martial on Lieutenant Leigh will not be over until that time, and Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Pym is appointed to preside. We believe there has been an endeavour to postpone the trial until Saturday; however, no delay will take place, as the Court will meet to-morrow (Thursday) at 10. Commander J.M. Potbury, Flag-Lieutenant to the Admiral Superintendent of the Dockyard, accompanies that gallant officer in his new command.

Ma 29 September 1845



The ships forming the experimental squadron were expected to have completed their refit, and been reported ready for sea again on Friday morning. Vanguard's defects were greater and more numerous than any other ship; she has had her weights shifted, her tanks taken out of the after hold, and 270 tons of water stowed in the main hold. The Superb's trim has been similarly changed. The Albion has had 30 tons of ballast taken out and sent ashore for the alleged purpose of raising her centre of gravity, thereby rendering, if possible, her motion easier, although we are inclined to think an addition to her ballast, instead of a diminution of it, would have been more likely to effect the consummation so devoutly to be wished. The Rodney has had but few defects to make good, and we believe the old Canopus none at all. On Friday morning the squadron sent up topgallant and royal yards, and rove their studdingsail gear all ready for starting. We are informed the squadron will communicate weekly with this port, but we are inclined to doubt the report.

The following tables show the time occupied by the various ships of the squadron in performing the only manoeuvres of importance during the last cruise:-

Shifting Topsailyards on the 11th of August, 1845.

Ships' NamesTime with Fore
Time with Main
Time with Mizen
St. Vincent365666
Vanguard59Spare one

Shifting Topgallantmasts on the 21th of August, 1845, with Royals set.

Ships' NamesTime with Fore
Time with Main
Time with Mizen
St. Vincent655771

Second time of shifting Topgallantmasts on the 21th of August, 1845; the time of each being taken from the time the signal was hauled down to the time the royals were hoisted.

Ships' NamesTime with Fore
Time with Main
Time with Mizen
St. Vincent344337

It will clearly be seen by the above which ship has the smartest crew. That the Trafalgar should have such a crew is not surprising, considering the men have been well drilled by their present captain in three first-rates in succession- the Camperdown, Queen, and Trafalgar. Of the ships last commissioned the Vanguard is smartest. The other ships have nearly all new crews, at present unaccustomed (except Albion's) to the duties of seamen, the vessels not having been in commission more than eight months; their tardiness is therefore, excusable.

Tu 30 September 1845


The Superb, 80, Captain Corry, which arrived yesterday from Plymouth, has come to be fresh coppered and recaulked and retrimmed, prior to rejoining the experimental squadron, which sailed yesteray morning on their winter cruise.
Sa 4 October 1845


The Superb, 80, Captain Corry, was undocked to-day. She has had about 600 hands employed upon her. Her copper was entirely stripped off, and her bottom partially recaulked, not for any leakage, but for "nothing," as her bottom was very sound and clean, as was her copper, She has been entirely newly coppered. What all this expense has been incurred about (upwards of 1,000l) we believe even her gallant and efficient captain does not know. It is a freak of the Navy-office, we presume. One circumstance, however, connected with this ship, reflects the very highest credit upon the artizans employed upon her; the entire process of stripping the copper off the bottom, re-caulking, and recoppering the vessel with new metal, only occupied a space of time not exceeding 18 hours.
Fr 10 October 1845


The Superb, 80, Captain Corry, having reshipped her ammunition, and stores, &c., got under way from Spithead yesterday afternoon, but on getting outside the Nab a squall threatened, when she put up her helm and ran back to the anchorage at Spithead. She sailed this morning with despatches and letters for the experimental squadron.
Ma 13 October 1845


The experimental squadron, under command of Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Pym, Red at the mizen, entered Plymouth Sound on Friday night, and dropped anchor in the following order:- The Rodney, 92, Captain Collier, off the eastern arm of the breakwater, towards Staddon-heights; the flag-ship, the St. Vincent, 120, Captain Rowley, next; then the Albion, 92, Captain. N. Lockyer; the.Canopus, 84, Captain Moresby; the Queen, 110, Captain Sir Baldwin Walker; the Trafalgar, 120, Captain Martin; the Vanguard, 80, Captain Willis; and the brig Daring, 12, Commander Matson, which two last vessels lay off the western arm of the breakwater, towards Mount Edgcumbe. The Heroine l0-gun brig, is also in the Sound.During the second trip, which commenced Sunday, the 28th ult., the fleet have not experienced any weather sufficiently severe to test their sailing qualities under such circumstances. The same conflicting opinions as to their several qualities are still entertained by officers from different ships; but the following remarks are from a good practical and disinterested authority. The Queen, 110, is the best three-decked ship under almost any circumstances the only exception being in very heavy weather when she is beaten by the Trafalgar, 120. The Queen is always ahead when going free, and it is stated that the highest authority in the fleet speaks of her in the best terms. The Trafalgar, 120, is much improved since last in harbour; in very heavy weather she takes the lead, and during the last trip has thus been twice at the head of the fleet. The Rodney, 92, is superior to any of the two-deckers, and occasionally beats the whole squadron, except the Queen when going free. She is a good foul weather ship. The Albion, 92, which had 50 tons of ballast taken out of her when in Plymouth Sound about a fortnight since, has thereby damaged her sailing qualities, and has thus lost the relative position she previously held in the fleet. The Canopus, 84, still holds her place, and the Vanguard, 80, has this trip done better than in the former. The Daring brig, 12, is, from her small, tonnage and canvass, always left behind, except when on a wind under storm stay sails, in which case she drifts less, and is consequently ahead, followed by the Rodney, Queen, Albion, and the rest.

Tu 14 October 1845


We have been favoured by the same correspondent to whom we were indebted for the very full and correct information we published of the first trial cruise, with a similar report of the events and results of the cruise which terminated at Plymouth on Saturday last.

The arrangement of the tables is the same as in the former report.

The first table, which contains the angle subtended by the mastheads of the respective ships, as also their particular bearings at the commencement and at the conclusion of each trial, furnishes elements sufficient for those among our professional readers who may have leisure to construct their own diagrams; while the table of results affords to the uninitiated at one view the advantages that each ship had over the others. For instance, in trial No. 1 the Rodney stands first; if the eye be carried along the line horizontally it will be found that the name of the Vanguard follows, marked 441; that is, the Rodney had the advantage of the Vanguard by 441 fathoms. Again, the Rodney beats the Canopus by 502 fathoms; and the Vanguard beats the Canopus by 121 fathoms.

The mile is made up of 1,010 of these fathoms; 101 fathoms are taken as a cable's length; and 10 cables are considered a mile.

The degrees under the heading "Inclination," in the table of results, show the heel of the ships, and from them the relative stability of the vessels is ascertained :-.

No. I.
OCTOBER 2, 1845.
(Wind considered as S.S.W.)

[table of bearings omitted]

Inclination at
8h. 50m. A.m.
Ships' NamesVanguardCanopus 
Rodney441562Distances herein set down are
calculated from a a line drawn
at right angles to the wind

At 6 h. 20 m. a.m. the squadron was much scattered, and signal was made to Vanguard, Canopus, and Rodney, to regain their stations. Rodney was rather slack, and her memory was refreshed by another signal to look out on the Admiral's weatherbow. At 8h. 30m., however, neither of the three ships were in their stations, and the Admiral appearing determined on saving the day, started them at 8h. 40m. A.m. The trial to be by the wind, then at S.S.W., blowing 5. Bearings and distances already given. The sail carried was as under:-
Rodney- Double-reefed topsails, topgallantsails, courses, jib, and spanker.
Vanguard- Double-reefed topsails, topgallantsails, courses, jib, and spanker.
Canopus- Double-reefed topsails, topgallantsails, courses, jib and spanker; and foretopmast-staysail.
At 1h. 20m. The trial terminated, there being every appearance of an approaching gale; the glass falling, sea rising, and the clouds wearing a threatening aspect. Topgallant yards were sent on deck, courses reefed, fore and mizen topsails close-reefed, and three reefs taken in the maintopsail, thus making snug for the night.

No. II.
OCTOBER 3, 1845.
Trial of sailing on a wind.
Forenoon Trial, No. 1.-(Wind considered at W. ½ N.)

[table of bearings omitted]

Inclination at
8h. 50m. A.m.
Ships' NamesAlbionQueenTrafalgarCanopusRodneySt. VincentVanguard
Not madeDaring4080419146585092543355135969
St. Vincent-------

No. II.
OCTOBER 3, 1845.
Trial of sailing on a wind.
Afternoon Trial, No. 2.-(Wind considered at W.N.W.)

[table of bearings omitted]

InclinationShips' NamesRodneyAlbionVanguardQueenSt. Vincent
None taken
for the
St. Vincent-----

Distances herein set down, are calculated from a line drawn at right angles to the wind.

At daylight signal was made to prepare to try rate of sailing, the wind at W. ½ N., the force of wind good 8, and a full proportion of sea up about three points on the bow. At 8 30 a.m. signal was made to make all possible sail, but whether the point of sailing was to be by the wind or free, was not signalized. This omission, so far as Canopus was concerned, rendered the trial almost useless. The ships, generally speaking, started pretty much under the same sail - namely, single-reefed courses, close-reefed fore and mizen, and treble-reefed main topsails, inner jib and mizen instead of spanker, topgallant yards on deck, and masts housed. Preventer braces and relieving tackles were rove and hooked. St. Vincent was ordered to be kept S. by W., and Canopus very properly followed the Admiral's motions; the rest of the squadron, however, kept close to the wind. For an hour things continued in this way, when St. Vincent was hauled to the wind, and Canopus followed her leader. At 11 a.m. signal was made to Queen, Trafalgar, and Albion to close round Rodney, and try their rate of sailing. At this time the angles were taken, and gave the result as marked under "Forenoon Trial." Now, when it is considered that for an hour Canopus was running free, and that the trial only lasted 2 1/4 hours, where would Canopus have been had she kept close to the wind at starting? Justice requires that she should have a better place. At 1 o'clock p.m. St. Vincent, Queen Trafalgar, Albion, Rodney, and Vanguard were pretty close together, the five latter to windward of the Admiral, when a beautiful start took place, the sail carried by each ship being one reef of topsails more than at the start in the forenoon. The wind was at W.N.W., and still considered to be a good 8, the sea about the same. The reason of Canopus not being in this race arose from the circumstance of her not having been recalled, while Vanguard, carrying away her weather maintopsail sheet, and taking an hour and a half to get her maintopsail set again, found herself just in the midst of the starting squadron. This trial continued till 3 p.m., when the result was as before stated. Here it will be necessary to state that during the first trial Queen got her hammocks down, without having asked permission, and that when Trafalgar found she was to have a second trial, she asked permission to do the same. Can it be that to this change the great difference is owing as to her position at the end of the second race? Of the three-deck ships, Trafalgar appeared to pitch heaviest. Of the two-deck ships, Rodney and Canopus appeared to be the easiest. I do not think cither of the ships could have fought her lower deck guns.

No. III.
OCTOBER 7, 1845.
Trial of sailing on a wind.
(Wind considered at N.W. ¼ W.)

[table of bearings omitted]

Inclination at
10 45 a.m.
Ships' NamesVanguardCanopusAlbionTrafalgarQueen

Distances herein set down are calculated from a line drawn at right angles to the wind.

At daylight this morning Queen, Trafalgar, Canopus, Albion, and Rodney were discovered far to windward, say front 4 to 6 miles, and Vanguard as far to leeward of the flag-ship. It had continued to blow heavy during the night, and to assign a cause for the relative position of the ships, it is necessary to state, that the ships seen to windward were all under a close reefed maintopsail, which it is not too much to presume had been carried by them throughout the night, and that Vanguard to leeward when first seen, was under the same sail as the flag-ship - namely, all topsails and courses furled, forestay and maintopsail only set. Vanguard, even with this explanation, does not make a very good figure in the account. At 7h. A.m. signal was made to prepare to try rate of sailing; and, extraordinary as it may appear, it was not until past 10 o'clock that the ships got in anything like a position to start. Signal after signal was made to get them to the starting-place, although Vanguard, the ship they were ordered to close, was so much to leeward. At 10h. 10m. A.m. (the Admiral's patience being apparently exhausted), the signal was made to be off, the wind blowing then from N. W. by N., force of wind 7, sail carried generally being double-reefed topsails, whole courses, inner jib and mizen. Just before starting Queen carried away the slings of her mainyard, so taking 20 minutes to get that all right again, between the first signal and start there were 3 hours. In this trial Queen and Trafalgar, Rodney and Albion, and Canopus and Vanguard, may be taken as matched, although all are included in the general result. Queen and Trafalgar had topgallant masts on deck, Rodney and Albion had theirs fidded, Canopus and Vanguard with topgallant masts housed. Now, here was a medley, and for angles the topmast cross trees were taken, deducting 43 feet from the respective mast-heads. The wind gradually fell from 7 to 5, veering a point or more to the westward. Queen and Trafalgar, after shaking out all reefs, found themselves bothered about their topgallant masts, but fid them they must, and Queen led the way, lowering one topsail at a time. Trafalgar followed the example, but although generally the smartest ship in the squadron at manoeuvring, Trafalgar was unreasonably long in this. The result was as above given; both ships had their hammocks down.

No. IV.
OCTOBER 8, 1845.
Trial of sailing on a wind.
(Wind considered as N. 51° 36' W.)

[table of bearings omitted]

Inclination at
9h. 55m. a.m.
Ships' NamesCanopusQueenVanguard

A trial of four ships only, wind variable, from N.W. by W. to N.W. half N. Force of wind from 6 to 5. The lee division with Queen to try against each other; the sail generally carried was double-reefed topsails, whole courses, fore and main topgallant sails, jib and double-reefed spanker. The swell on the bow rather considerable. No great interest was excited as to this trial, for 2 and 3 to 1 were offered before starting as to the ships coming in as they did. Rodney, however, managed to get rid of a fore topgallant yard, and Canopus of a jib. Not anything else occurred of greater moment.

The Times, 15 October 1845


PLYMOUTH, Oct. 13.

Her Majesty's ship Vanguard, 80, Captain Willis, hoisted the blue peter yesterday afternoon, fired a gun before sunset, and started at daylight this morning for Portsmouth, where she will be docked. At 10 o'clock in the forenoon, wind S.S.E., fresh breeze, she was still in sight. Her captain of marines, surgeon, several officers, and about 120 of her hands were left behind - so unexpected was her departure.

The Albion, 90, Captain N. Lockyer, which had 30 tons of ballast taken out of her when last here, is to have that quantity restored, with an additional amount.

It is rumoured that the three-deckers will not go to sea again for the purpose of testing their relative sailing qualities, but that the next trial will be confined to the Rodney, Canopus, Albion, and Superb.

The report of Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Pym was forwarded to the Admiralty on Saturday last.


The Vanguard, 80, Captain Willes, arrived at Spithead this morning from Plymouth. She saluted the flag of Admiral Sir Charles Ogle, the Commander-in-Chief, with 17 guns. She is, it is said, to be docked and examined as the Superb has been.

We 15 October 1845

PLYMOUTH, Oct. 13.

Her Majesty's ship Vanguard, 80, Captain Willis, hoisted the blue peter yesterday afternoon, fired a gun before sunset, and started at daylight this morning for Portsmouth, where she will be docked. At 10 o'clock in the forenoon, wind S.S.E., fresh breeze, she was still in sight. Her captain of marines, surgeon, several officers, and about 120 of her hands were left behind - so unexpected was her departure.

The Albion, 90, Captain N. Lockyer, which had 30 tons of ballast taken out of her when last here, is to have that quantity restored, with an additional amount.

It is rumoured that the three-deckers will not go to sea again for the purpose of testing their relative sailing qualities, but that the next trial will be confined to the Rodney, Canopus, Albion, and Superb.

The report of Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Pym was forwarded to the Admiralty on Saturday last.


The Vanguard, 80, Captain Willes, arrived at Spithead this morning from Plymouth. She saluted the flag of Admiral Sir Charles Ogle, the Commander-in-Chief, with 17 guns. She is, it is said, to be docked and examined as the Superb has been.
We 15 October 1845


The following have been forwarded to us as copies of Mr. Corry's letter to the Surveyor of the Navy, and Sir S. Pym's report of the performances of the several ships of the experimental squadron in the last trial cruise :-

"Admiralty, Oct. 13, 1845.
"To the Surveyor of the Navy,
"Sir,- Herewith you will receive a copy of a letter from Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Pym, dated the 10th inst., reporting the return of the experimental squadron of line-of-battle ships to Plymouth, and the result of their trial.
"By command of their Lordships,

"'St Vincent, in Plymouth-sound, Oct. 10, 1845.
"'Sir,- I have the honour to forward to you, for the information of my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, the diagrams of the trials of sailing of Her Majesty's squadron under my command, and other documents mentioned in the enclosed schedule. In addition to which, a good trial was commenced on the 1st inst. by the Queen, Canopus, Albion, and Vanguard, in chase of the Daring, under all plain sail, and part topmast and topgallant studding-sails; but the fog, which came on three hours after, prevented angles being taken to ascertain the exact result. The Queen, however, gained on her.
"'You will be pleased to acquaint their Lordships that we have had some splendid trials with as heavy a press of sail as could well be carried. One beginning with close-reefed topsails and reefed courses, topgallant masts struck; the next under treble-reefed topsails, and another under double-reefed topsails; and all these against a heavy head sea.
"'In the latter on the 7th inst., the day after the heaviest gale, the Rodney beat the whole fleet.
"'Nothing could be more easy in all the trials than the Queen and Albion, who never appeared to strain, anything; indeed, all the squadron proved themselves such fine ships as to be incapable of being distressed by press of sail, except the St. Vincent.
"'Being perfectly satisfied with the result of the trials, that the Queen is the best ship, the Albion andRodney next, Canopus and Vanguard much alike Trafalgar weatherly, but slow; St. Vincent leewardy and crank; and as the weather appeared to set in fine, and not deeming that any further trial would benefit the service, I therefore bore up on the 9th inst. for this anchorage, which I reached with the squadron under my command this day, at 7 15 p.m.
"'I beg to remark, for their Lordships' information, that all the captains deserve the greatest credit for the seamanlike manner in which they made sail, blowing in the way it did, on the above-mentioned occasions.
"'I have, &c.,
"'S. PYM, Rear-Admiral.
"'To the Right Hon. Henry T.L. Corry, M.P.'"

Sa 18 October 1845


There appears to be a disinclination on the part of some of the commanders to report the defects which occurred during the last cruise. This system deters them from applying at the dockyard for new spars and other stores of an important description, but where an exchange is permitted, such as the delivery of new canvass for canvass very little worn, less hesitation is observed, as these exchanges do not tell against the character of the ship. It is understood that the Albion, after the next trip, will go to Sheerness, there to have the same alterations made as the Queen, viz., the gripe of the bow altered, and the stern-post altered and widened, On board the Albion, on one occasion, during the last cruise, so much did she roll, that the decanters were jerked out of the stand while on the cabin table. In one of the trials, the Rodney lost her foretopgallantyard; and such was the activity on board, that the spar was set again, and the ship thus retained the lead of the fleet. Commander Matson, of the Daring, has a week's leave of absence; it is not, therefore, provable that this brig will go out again with the squadron.

The seamen generally belonging to the fleet do not like the amount of duty requisite in carrying out the experiments. One hundred and twenty odd, officers and men, were left or stayed behind the Vanguard, when she sailed for Portsmouth on Monday. Forty hands belonging to the Rodney deserted from that ship on the eve of her departure for her second cruise. They have just been captured, and conveyed on board. Yesterday there was a disturbance on board the Albion during the absence of Captain N. Lockyer. The signal flag,- ''No liberty", for the men, was flying, notwithstanding which, some applied for leave, which was of course refused by the officer in command. This refusal induced restiveness on the part of the crew, and, in consequence, some 10 or more were put in irons. The men belonging to the whole fleet complain of restricted "liberty."
Ma 20 October 1845The fleet continues in the Sound, and there is no indication of an immediate movement. The present state of affairs in the River Plate

[where an Anglo-French fleet had intervened to prevent an Argentine conquest of Uruguay] and at the island, of Madagascar [where another Anglo-French force had attacked the capital, Tamatava, after the Queen, Ranavalona, had anounced that all foreigners there must be naturalised] may induce the Admiralty to alter their intention in the disposal of the ships, and, at the least, prevent their being sent to any distant cruising-ground.

This afternoon Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Pym, G.C.B., the Admiral of the Fleet, in company with Sir John West, Port-Admiral, in the Sylph cutter, visited Her Majesty's ship Rodney, 92, Captain Collier.

A spirit of discontent prevails on board the ships, in consequence of the restrictions placed on the liberty of the men. The disaffection thus produced is reported to have been manifested by various acts on board the flag-ship, St. Vincent, 120, Captain R.F. Rowley; the Trafalgar, 120, Captain Martin, and the Albion, 92, Captain Lockyer. To give specific particulars on this subject is very difficult. The officers and men belonging to all the ships are chary of imparting information as to their sailing qualities; or interior economy, under general circumstances; but in the present case, when a question of discipline is raised,, the few who come ashore from the disaffected ships are still more cautious.

The disaffection of the crew of the St. Vincent is of a very minor character. On board the Trafalgar it is stated that insubordination has manifested itself in the partial destruction of some of her sails, by cutting them. But it is on board the Albion that the most unfortunate irregularities have occurred. It appears that on Tuesday last, the 14th instant, one of the watches had permission to go ashore, but did not return on the Wednesday within the limited time. In consequence of their remaining ashore Commander Chambers, the officer in command, would not permit a second watch to leave the ship, such permission being contrary to general orders. The men urged their suit upon Commander Chambers after his dinner hour; and the commanding officer being thus importuned, gave a peremptory denial. At nightfall the men were, as usual, ordered to their hammocks; some refused compliance, and commenced throwing their pipkins and other earthen utensils at each other, and, it is said, at the officers. In consequence of this breach of discipline they were piped up and down during the night, and in the morning ordered "hammock drill." They, however, threw their hammocks on the deck, and ten were immediately placed in irons. It is further reported, that during the week the rigging of the Albion has been cut, and the breeching of some of her guns loosed. The men in confinement will be tried, by court-martial, and in all probability transported. Captain Lockyer is greatly esteemed by his crew; Commander Chambers, whether deservedly or otherwise, is not regarded so favourably. There is little doubt that the conduct of the men has been reprehensible, but whether the prevention of their going ashore, or receiving their wives aboard, and the suppression of their smoking and other privileges (at a period when the duty of the fleet is of a heavy character), are punishments of too severe a description, is a subject for consideration.
Th 23 October 1845This morning, at 10 o'clock, Her Majesty's ship Canopus, 84, Captain Moresby, C.B. (17th June, 1814), Commodore; the Albion, 92, Captain N. Lockyer; Rodney, 92, Captain Collier; and Superb, 80, Captain Corry, got under way in Plymouth Sound, and proceeded outside the. Breakwater, where they lay to for some time. These ships were subsequently joined by the brig Daring, 12, Commander H.J. Matson, and the Rattler steamer, and about 1 o'clock the whole fleet proceeded down Channel with a spanking breeze from the north, the wind having veered to that point from north-west in the morning. They carry the red ensign, which signifies that they are under the especial orders of the Lords of the Admiralty.
We 22 October 1845The two deckers, Canopus, 84, Captain Moresby, C. B., Albion, 92, Captain N. Lockyer, Rodney, 92, Captain Collier, and Superb, 80, Captain Corry, will shortly go to sea for a six weeks' cruise, and will most likely visit the Mediterranean. Captain Moresby, of the Canopus, is appointed Commodore.
Th 23 October 1845


This morning, at 10 o'clock, Her Majesty's ship Canopus, 84, Captain Moresby, C.B., (17th June, 1814), Commodore; the Albion, 92, Captain N. Lockyer; Rodney, 92, Captain Collier; and Superb, 80, Captain Corry, got under way in Plymouth Sound, and proceeded outside the. Breakwater, where they lay to for some time. These ships were subsequently joined by the brig Daring, 12, Commander H.J. Matson, and the Rattler steamer, and about 1 o'clock the whole fleet proceeded down Channel with a spanking breeze from the north, the wind having veered to that point from north-west in the morning. They carry the red ensign, which signifies that they are under the especial orders of the Lords of the Admiralty.

The only ship now left in Plymouth which belonged to the the fine fleet composing the Experimental Squadron, is her Majesty's ship the Queen, 110, Captain Sir Baldwin Walker. She has discharged her gunpowder, and is now quietly moored in the Sound, bearing the flag of Sir John West, the gallant Port Admiral of this harbour.
Ma 27 October 1845


It is currently reported here that the squadron of two deckers, under the command of Commodore Moresby, in the Canopus, has gone to Tangier direct.
Sa 1 November 1845Her Majesty's steamer Rattler, Commander Schomberg [sic], arrived at Plymouth this morning. She left this port on the 21st inst. With the cruisers, and brings dispatches from Commodore Moresby, and only waits to receive stores and letters, when she will immediately return to the fleet. It is said that in this trial the Superb, 80, Captain Corry, has proved the fastest sailing ship; the Canopus, 84, Captain Moresby, C.B., second; then the Rodney, 92, Captain Collier; and the Albion, 92, Captain M. Lockyer, last, excepting in light winds.


The following is the copy of a letter from an officer.

"Superb, Oct. 27. Lat. 47.40., Long. 9.50.

"It is with the greatest pleasure I can now give you a pleasing account of the performances of the Superb, and send a brief account of three days' trial we have had. She is eight inches by the stern ; ship very easy.
"Captain Cory is much pleased with the ship, and makes but little doubt we shall continue the superiority we have hitherto shown.
"The Rattler will leave to-morrow for England, but we suppose this will be the last communication to her.
"Believe me, yours, very truly-"

First Day, Oct. 21. - A trial of four hours, 1.15 to 5.15 p.m. Distance run, 36 miles; rate of going, 9 knots; wind a-beam; steady for all the ships; course, W. by S.; wind, N. by E. Should have beaten Canopus more had we not been ordered to pass to leeward of her.

Beat in yards1,4002,1002,6003,400

Second Trial, Oct. 23.- A trial of seven hours, 8.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. Distance run, 74 miles; rate of going, 10.4; excess of speed, 11.4; wind, four points on the quarter to two points abaft the beam; course, W. and W. by S.; royals and all port studding sails; three ships carried away foretopmast studding sail boom.

Beat in yards1,4001,9003 miles5 miles

Oct. 22.- Rattler towed Superb to windward at the rate of 4.2 for two hours; squadron going 5.4 by the wind.

Oct. 24.- Rattler towed Rodney to windward at the rate of 3.2; Superb going 5.2, by the wind. Same day she towed the Albion when less wind at the rate of 4.2.

Oct. 25.- Third trial of sailing by the wind, six hours, 9.15 a.m. to 3.15 p.m.; rate of going, 6 to 9 knots; wind steady, at E.N.E.. Canopus in tow of Rattler, at the rate of 2.6 in wind's eye; all plain sail set; water smooth.

Beat in yards
to windward.
3,4004,100In tow of Rattler
Looking out
to windward
Inclination 3 to 5½Inclination 5 to 7Inclination 3 to 4½  
Ma 3 November 1845


The Vanguard, 80, Captain Willes, sailed this morning from Spithead to join the experimental squadron; on finding which, Captain Willes will hoist a broad pendant as Commodore (being senior officer), and take the command. The Vanguard's draught of water in her new trim is 23 feet 8 inches fore, and 24 feet aft. She has 12 weeks' salt provisions and 16 weeks of every other kind on board; 362 tuns of water, 128 tons of shot and shell, and 38 tons of powder; being a total weight of 1,564 tons, 300 tons lighter than in her old trim.
Fr 21 November 1845


Extract of a letter from Her Majesty's ship Superb :-

"At Sea.

"Oct 27.- Wind southerly. Long swell from northward.

 Extreme rolling.
Rodney7 to port9 to starboard
Albion13 -15 -
Superb10 -9 -

"Oct. 29.- Wind S.W. by S. One point before the beam, Swell from the S.E. Course, S.E., all plain sail set. Rate of sailing, 5 to 6 knots.

Superb beatCanopus1,200 yards
-Albion4,520 yards
-Rodney4,860 yards
"Between 1h. 50m. and 2h. 50m. p.m.
"Superb gained on Canopus 2,300 yards.

"Nov. 3.
Superb beatCanopus1,115 yards
-Rodney1,300 yards
-Albion3,650 yards

"The latter ship rolls most fearfully.

"We stay out another month, and then to Plymouth to be laid up for the winter there or at Portsmouth; but the fleet should have month and month about in the winter, and a month at sea and 14 days in harbour in the summer, and then, and not otherwise, you will have an efficient fleet; for four months in a vagabond English outport demoralizes all things, animate and inanimate."

Fr 5 December 1845


The experimental squadron, with the red ensign of the Lords of the Admiralty, under the command of Commodore Willis [should be Willes], came into Plymouth Sound between 12 and 1 o'clock to-day.

In the Channel it is blowing a heavy gale from the westward, and the ships were under close-reefed topsails. The Vanguard, 80, Captain Willis, entered the harbour first; then the Albion, 90, Captain N. Lockyer; the Rodney, 90, Captain Collier; the Canopus, 84, Captain Moresby, C.B.; and, last, the Superb, 80, Captain Corry. These ships, with the Queen, 110, Sir B. Walker, and the President, 50 (bound to the Cape), give a very imposing appearance to the Sound, where also still remain at anchor the Russian man-of-war Ingermanland, 80, Captain Moffitt, and the corvette Vaarschafsky, 30, Captain Glassenap.
Th 28 May 1846Sir Charles Napier has obtained a return, which was yesterday made public, giving an account of the weights, draught of water, &c., of the Experimental Squadron on the second and third cruize. Viscount Ingestre has recently procured a return respecting the Experimental Squadron on the three cruizes. The present document shows the weights, draught of water, &c., of the squadron on the second and third cruize, similar to the return of the first cruize; the greatest inclination of each ship when carrying sail, and the greatest number of degrees each ship rolled, and the number of spars sprang and carried away during the cruizes; their defects on returning into port, and the expense of making the defects good. The expense of making good the defects of the ship St. Vincent was 126l. 12s. 2d., and 4l. Some defects in the same ship are not yet taken in hand. The defects in the ship Trafalgar amounted to 104l. 7s. 1d. and 143l. 18s. 10d.; to the Queen, 80l. 14s. 9d. and 67l. 15s. 8d.; to the Albion, 251l. 19s. 5d., 20l. 11s., and 518l. 2s. 8d.; to the Rodney, 236l. 19s. 11d., 28l. 5s. 8d., and 947l. 18s. 2d.; to the Vanguard, 411l. 19s. 10d., 2,006l. 15s. 7d., and 483l. 7s. 3d.; to the Superb, 54l. 19s. 7d., 1,253l. 19s. 7d., 70l. 14s. 11d., and 1,101l. 9s. 3d.; to the Canopus, 127l. 1s. 6d., 30l .7s. 11d., and 936l. 10s. 4d.; to the Daring 18s. 6d. and 402l. 16s. 7d.: and to the Rattler, 227l. 5s., 44l. 2s. 2d., and 1,600l. 15s. The return extends to 13 pages.
Th 28 May 1846


The long looked for report of Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker (accompanied by reports from the captains of the respective ships), upon the performances of the various ships under his command, comprising the experimental squadron of 1845, has at length been printed and published. The surprise and discomfiture of the detractors of the Surveyor of the Navy must necessarily be great on perusing this report, inasmuch as it establishes the complete success of his ships.

Placing that faith in the document before us which as a Parliamentary return it is entitled to, we find Admiral Parker's report agrees with all the succeeding ones in awarding the palm to the Surveyor's ships. Knowing as we do the antipathy Rear-Admiral Parker was supposed to entertain for the productions of Sir William Symonds, we are not surprised at the report being unaccompanied by any "opinion" from the gallant Commander-in-Chief; but we regret the circumstance, as it compels us to take the report merely as we find it; consequently we can only give the result of the trials of sailing or speed, without reference to the other essential qualities of a ship as an efficient man of war; but as all the trials were copiously reported in The Times in the very figures used in the return, and some nine months before the returns appeared, we shall only now touch upon that part of the document before us having reference to the trials which took place under the superintendence of Rear-Admiral Parker, the report of which has been hitherto withheld. In a word, then, the Queen is declared to have been the best of the three-deckers, and the Albion and Canopus the best of the two-deckers, in the 16 trials which took place under Rear-Admiral Parker's command.

We subjoin a selection from the reports of the respective captains of the ships upon their qualifications:-

The Trafalgar, 120, Captain Martin. - "She carries her lower deck ports longer open than any other ship in the squadron, except the Rodney, and her rolling and pitching being less than theirs, her capability of effectively using all her batteries is proportionally increased. Being extremely weatherly, having great power of using her lower deck guns, being very easy, and consequently having little wear and tear, good stowage, and ample room on her decks, are the Trafalgar's good points. I believe her defects would be corrected in a very great degree if her masts were placed further aft."

The St. Vincent, 120, Captain Rowley. - "The St. Vincent is decidedly a leeward ship in comparison with the rest of the squadron. She rolls deep, but easily, and does not jerk or strain anything. I should say she rolled during the late trial quite equal to the Albion and Canopus, In very light airs before the wind, the St. Vincent would run away from the whole squadron, - except the Queen. My opinion of the Trafalgar is, that she is very weatherly ship, and particularly in bad weather, but the other ships all fore-reached her. The Queen always appeared to me to be a remarkably fine man-of-war on all points. In all moderate weather, whether on a wind, going free, or before the wind, she has no competitor, the Albion being the next ship to her. With the Queen, Albion, Rodney, and Canopus, the St. Vincent had no chance. In strong breezes and a heavy head sea the Queen also proved herself a very fine ship, standing up remarkably well under a heavy press of sail, and appearing to pitch easily. The Queen is certainly much stiffer under a press of sail than the Trafalgar or any of the squadron, the Albion excepted. The Albion's superiority over the other two-decked ships, and particularly the Rodney, a ship of her own class, consists chiefly in her being much stiffer under a heavy press of sail. In strong breezes on a wind, I did not perceive much difference between them, except on one occasion, when the sea was right ahead, the Rodney beat the whole squadron and appeared much easier than the Albion. In moderate weather and smooth water the Albion is the fastest ship, and off the wind will always beat the Rodney. Before the wind and in a heavy swell, the Rodney would fight her lower-deck guns better, and with more safety, than the Albion. The Vanguard was certainly very much improved from what she was during the preceding cruize, and, considering how very light she was, surprisingly stiff under a press of canvass. I could not perceive much difference between her and Canopus on a wind, but off the wind Canopus was certainly the fastest ship, although she appeared much more crank under a press of canvass than the other ships, heeling more with two reefs in her topsails than the Queen and Vanguard with one. She is not so weatherly as either the Albion or Rodney, but fore-reaches considerably. Under easy sail I should say she was steadier than any of the other two-decked ships. I have only to add that I have come to this conclusion upon the relative merits of the several ships after the most careful and attentive watching during the late cruise."

The Queen, 110, Captain Sir B. Walker. - "I consider the Queen to be a most magnificent man-of-war, in every respect superior to the St. Vincent or Trafalgar, or any ship I ever served in; she is fast, and had on the whole a decided advantage in sailing over every other ship of the squadron. She is very stiff, very weatherly, rolls and pitches very easily and without straining; she steers and works remarkably well; her spacious decks are well adapted for working the guns, as well as for the comfort and health of the officers and crew. She can stow under hatches seven months' provisions of all species for her war complement, and would, if the hold was properly stowed, carry at least 550 tuns of water, and, in my humble opinion, she is the finest ship in the world."

The Albion, 90, Captain Lockyer. - "I beg leave to state that the Albion's behaviour during the late trial cruise proved herself to be a good seaboat during the heavy gales; when under a close-reefed maintopsail, foretopsail, and maintrysail, her motion was remarkably easy in the heavy sea that was then running, and I am fully persuaded no ship could behave better. In comparison with other ships which were all near us at times, I consider her behaviour equally as good as any of them, and they all appeared to roll equally as deep, though I think she rolls rather quicker than the St. Vincent, Queen, Trafalgar, or Rodney; this perhaps is owing to the want of ballast. Her pitching motion is remarkably easy, and apparently less than other ships. With respect to the other ships of the squadron, I consider the Queen to be by far superior of her class, on all points, either in fine or bad weather. The Trafalgar is rather a more weatherly ship in bad weather; but no sailer either on or off the wind. The Canopus is equally as quick in her motion as the Albion in a sea-way; she is also crank, as is the Rodney, which is a great advantage the Albion possesses over every ship in the squadron."

The Canopus, 84, Captain Moresby. - "In keeping station in order of sailing under easy or moderate sail, the Canopus had much the superiority. In reference to the whole squadron combined, the St. Vincent, in blowing weather or in strong breezes, showed a great leeward propensity; the Queen, as compared with the last cruise, fell into a doubtful comparison with Rodney, Albion, and Canopus. The Trafalgar maintained her extraordinary weatherly qualities, with want of speed. The Albion, I thought, did not do as well as the first cruise. The stability of the Queen, Albion, and Vanguard, as compared with the St. Vincent, Canopus, Rodney, and Trafalgar, was very apparent. In chasing by the wind in such weather as we encountered during the late cruise, my opinion is that an admiral, having his flag on board the Queen, would have found Rodney his leading ship, Canopus next, then Albion, Vanguard, and St. Vincent, Trafalgar hanging to windward, and picked up on crossing tacks."

The Rodney, 92, Captain Collier. - "In the trials by the wind during the last cruise, all of which were in good breezes, always with a considerable swell, and sometimes against a head sea, the Rodney had the advantage of the whole squadron on the 3d, with the Queen, Albion, Trafalgar, and Vanguard, against a head sea; the Rodney weathered considerably on the Queen and Vanguard, and also on Albion and Trafalgar, but not so much. On the 6th a gale from the north-west came on about sunset, and under a close-reefed maintopsail, fore-staysail, and main-trysail, the Rodney in 12 hours weathered 15 or 16 miles on St. Vincent and Vanguard, and considerably on all the rest of the squadron, but less than any on Trafalgar. The Canopus, from her place in the line, has generally been nearest us. I consider her, under the weather spoken, the next best ship to the Rodney; the Trafalgar, although weatherly, is not so much so as the Rodney, and slower, I consider the Queen the fastest ship both by and off the wind in fine weather."

The Vanguard, 80, Captain Willes. - "Queen, perfect in all points. Albion, the same, except she appears to have a quick rolling motion in a moderate swell, and to roll deep in heavy weather and before the wind. Rodney, a fine bold man of war; carries her ports well, even with a large quantity of provisions, and water on board. Sails well, is generally weatherly, stands well up to her canvas, and is remarkable for her easy motion in a head sea, bat is slow in stays. The Canopus, fast when it does not over-blow, is apparently not so stiff under canvas as other ships of the squadron; does not stay well in a heavy sea, but still a fine man-of-war. Trafalgar, stiff and weatherly, but by no means fast; requires a strong wind to make her keep company well with the other ships, and appears to pitch much. The St. Vincent sails well in light winds and smooth water, is leewardly and crank when it blows hard, but apparently very easy. The Vanguard, a noble man-of-war, carrying her lower deck guns a good height out of the water; stows well, considering her magazine occupies the principal part of the main hold; is best calculated for heavy weight, and which is required lower down. I consider her superior and faster than any ship in the experimental squadron. She sails better the last cruise than the first in consequence of raking the main and mizen-masts much aft, and borrowing weights from their proper places to counteract the loss of ballast from the lower part of the hold. I feel confident, that if properly stowed and ballasted, in sailing and working she would be equal, if not superior, to any ship of the squadron."

The Superb, 80, Captain Correy. - "In the trials which have taken place 'off the wind,' the Superb, on each occasion, beat all the squadron," &c.


The Royal NavyExperimental squadrons 1845 (2/3) - 1846 (1/3)

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