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The 1869 cruise of the Channel and Mediterranean Fleets
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In 1869 the First Lord of the Admiralty, Hugh Culling Eardley Childers, and the First Naval Lord, Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Colpoys Dacres, witnessed a short cruise of the combined Channel and Mediterranean fleets; a correspondent of The Times newspaper followed this cruise from the Admiralty flagship, HMS Agincourt.
|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|Ma 23 August 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, PLYMOUTH SOUND, Aug 22.Mr. Childers, First Lord of the Admiralty, with Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Dacres, K.C.B., First Sea Lord, accompanied by their staff officers, secretaries, &c., will sail from England to-morrow with a fleet which, although it may be looked upon as small in point of numbers, will stand unrivalled by any fleet previously assembled for ocean service in all that relates to the speed of the ships under all grades of steaming, power of guns, or thickness of armour-plating — in the latter sense, of course, excepting the unarmoured flying frigate of the British navy, the Inconstant. This fleet is composed of: —
1. Agincourt, 28 guns, 6,121 tons, armoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship, of 1,350-horse power (nominal), Captain Hugh T. Burgoyne, V.C., C.B, Admiralty flagship.
2. Minotaur, 34 guns, 6,621 tons, armoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship, of 1,350-horse power (nominal), Captain James G. Goodenough, carrying the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas M.C. Symonds, K.C.B., the Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet of 1869, in the absence of the Admiralty ensign.
3. Northumberland, 28 guns, 6,621 tons, armoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship, of 1,350-horse power (nominal), Captain Charles H. May.
4. Hercules, 14 guns, 5,234 tons, armoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship, of 1,200-horse power (nominal), Captain Lord Gilford.
5. Bellerophon, 14 guns, 4,270 tons, armoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship, of 1,000-horse power (nominal), Captain Francis Marten.
6. Monarch, 7 guns, 5,102 tons, armoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship (double turret), of 1,100-horse power (nominal), Captain John B. Commerell, V.C., C.B.
7. Inconstant, 17 guns, 4,066 tons, unarmoured, iron-built, screw-engined ship, of 1,000-horse power (nominal), Captain Elphinstone D'O. D'A. Aplin.I have included the Monarch simply because her name is on the list of ships at the Admiralty that are to start under the Admiralty flag from here with their Lordships, but I believe the defects existing in her gun-carriages, brought to light during her recent cruise and experimental firing in the Channel, are of so grave a nature that she is not likely to sail with the fleet hence, although she may possibly join afterwards at Lisbon. A good deal has been said on both sides respecting the experimental firing from the 25-ton guns in the Monarch's turrets during her cruise, and all, or nearly all, the statements made have been remarkable for the extreme opinions expressed. I have no doubt whatever myself, speaking with some knowledge of such matters, that the exact truth will be found to lie between the two extremes and, as in most other instances in daily life, "impulsiveness of nature" must bear whatever blame may be due. An error of judgment certainly appears to have been committed, if only in a slight degree, but then it must be taken into consideration that this is the first occasion on which guns weighing each 25 tons, rifled also, and firing immense charges, have been fired on board a vessel at sea. It is to be hoped the Monarch, if she does not join the fleet here, will do so as early as may be possible during the coming cruise. She is expected to prove, and doubtless will prove, a most formidable ship of war; but she is an entirely new type of vessel if looked upon simply as an ocean-going turret-ship. She has, however other points of interest connected with her build and efficiency. She represents the "high freeboard principle," a principle on which many people — and people who ought to be able to give an opinion of undoubted soundness — do not hang their faith, and she carries guns in her turrets relative to the working of which at sea under the condition of a deep and rapidly-changing inclination of the ship's deck it is desirable something reliable should be known. I have mentioned the power of the guns mounted by the several ships of the fleet, the thickness of the ships' armour-plating, and the speed of the ships, under steam. On all these points the ships may be fairly said to be in advance of the age in comparison with the navy of any other country. The three sister ships — the great five-masted craft — the Agincourt, the Minotaur, and the Northumberland, carry each 12-ton 7-inch muzzle-loading rifled guns on four broadside ports amidships, while the remainder of their armament consists of 6½-ton 7-inch guns of the same description in manufacture and rifling. All three have 5½-inch plating on a good serviceable backing of teak, and iron framing with an inner iron skin. The Bellerophon carries a magnificent battery of ten 12-ton guns on her main deck behind 6-inch plating, improved upon that of the Agincourt, Minotaur, and Northumberland; but it must be stated at the same time that her upper deck is hampered with an enormous and useless iron tower, and she is also deficient in steam power. The Hercules has on her main deck an unrivalled battery of 18-ton muzzle-loading rifled guns, and has also most undoubtedly the thickest, heaviest, and toughest skin of all the broadside ironclads afloat in Europe or America, and that is tantamount to saying in the world. The Monarch is our latest investment in iron-clad ships of war. She has a skin even much thicker, heavier, and tougher that the Hercules has, while the difference in the gun power of the two ships is, of course, as 25 to 18 in favour of the turret-ship. The Inconstant is the flying unarmoured screw frigate of the British navy. She is built entirely of iron, but floating in an outer shell of wood, on which is a skin of copper sheathing to enable her to keep the sea as long as any ordinarily wood-built ship. Although without armour, she carries 12-ton guns, and her speed under steam, at all grades of expansion, is superior to that of any other war ship afloat. She has been, in fact, specially constructed to carry extraordinary gun power combined with exceptional powers of speed, both for attack and for flight. The speed of the Monarch is, next to that of the Inconstant, the greatest of all the ships of the British navy. Next come the Hercules and Bellerophon, and close upon them the Agincourt, Minotaur, and Northumberland. The Inconstant — the fastest ship — averaged 16?7 knots over the measured mile in six runs made continuously and without the engines stopping. The slowest of the fleet — the five-masted class — average 13?5 knots. The aggregate amount of tonnage, nominal horse-power of engines, and number of guns represented by the seven ships are 38,137 tons, 8,350 nominal horse-power of engines, and 141 guns. The fleet is somewhat remarkable in its constitution in the presence of the three five-masted ships, it being the first instance of three such vessels having met and sailed in company in a fleet. It is also remarkable that the Agincourt, after doing duty as Admiralty flagship during the cruise of the Reserve Fleet, and having been again selected as their Lordships' flagship for the present cruise, should have but one soul on board among her present officers and crew who served on the last cruise. Mr james Patterson, the chief engineer of the ship, is the only one on board who can claim the honour of having previously done duty in the Agincourt under the Admiralty flag.
The Agincourt, Minotaur Northumberland, Hercules, and Bellerophon are lying in the Sound, coaled and ready for sailing. The Inconstant is hourly expected to join from Spithead. The Agincourt was docked at Keyham on Thursday, was undocked again on Friday, and the same evening towed out by three steam tugs to the Sound, where her coaling was completed by 5 o'clock yesterday morning — a large amount of work executed in a very abort period of time, and very much to the credit of the dockyard officials here. Yesterday, the President and members of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, who had arrived at Devonport by a special train from Exeter, together with a large number of excursionists, embarked from the dockyard on board a Government steamer and visited the ships lying in the Sound.
Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Dacres, the First Sea Lord, with Captain Beauchamp Seymour, private secretary to Mr. Childers, and Captain G.0. Willes, has arrived at Devonport, from London, to complete arrangements for the sailing of the fleet tomorrow. Mr. Childers will arrive in Devonport from town to-morrow afternoon, and immediately embark on board the Agincourt. So far as arrangements stand at present, the Minotaur, Northumberland, Hercules, Bellerophon, Inconstant, and Monarch, if she joins, will weigh their anchors early in the afternoon of to-morrow, and proceed to sea, the Agincourt remaining in the Sound until Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres and their suite have embarked on board of her, when she will join the fleet somewhere in the vicinity of the Eddystone Light Tower. The first port made by the fleet after leaving Plymouth Sound will be Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean feet, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir A. Milne, K.C.B., will join, and the combined fleets then proceed on their cruise. Madeira will most probably be the next place of call, but this will depend upon after circumstances. At the termination of the cruise the combined fleet will anchor in the Tagus, and, it is expected, will remain anchored off Lisbon two or three days. On leaving the Tagus again Vice-Admiral Milne's fleet will return to Gibraltar and the Mediterranean, and the ships that are now in Plymouth Sound will sail for Queenstown, where they will arrive about the 27th of September.
|Tu 24 August 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, PLYMOUTH SOUND. Monday, NoonPlymouth Sound was never before so well defended as it was this morning, when the sun, breaking through the mists which hung thickly over land and sea, shone down upon eleven magnificent ironclads anchored under the lee of the breakwater. The Monarch and Inconstant had joined during the night from Spithead, making the number of ships to sail this afternoon under the Admiralty ensign seven in all, and fortunately giving the fleet the company of our first and as yet untried seagoing turret-ship Monarch. The Black Prince entered the Sound yesterday afternoon from Bermuda, having left there on the 31st ult., and the Warrior anchored here last night from Spithead; neither of these vessels, however, will take part in the coming cruise. The Warrior would have joined had it been considered possible to get her ready in time on her arrival from Bermuda, but this anticipated cause of delay, although it has been got over, has now been supplemented by another in a change in her command, and our first and still handsome and formidable ironclad will not, therefore, join in the cruise. This is to be regretted, as it leaves a gap in this division of the combined fleet at sea previous to joining the Mediterranean division. With the Warrior in company, two lines or divisions equal in numbers could have been formed, but under the present conditions one division must necessarily be of four and the other of three ships.
Vice-Admiral Sir T.M.C. Symonds, K.C.B., commanding the Channel Fleet, hoisted his flag at 8 o'clock this morning on board his flagship, the Minotaur, Captain James G. Goodenough, on his return from short leave.
An official notice has been issued that letters from England will find the combined fleets at Gibraltar from the 1st to the 4th of September, both dates inclusive, and at Lisbon on the 13th.
The ships which sail to-day from England will arrive at Queenstown on the 27th of September.
The arrangements for the ships of the Channel Squadron to weigh this afternoon and proceed outside to wait for the Agincourt remain unaltered, and they are expected to leave the Sound about 5 p.m. Mr. Childers will arrive at Devonport from London by the 5 p.m. train, and go on board the Agincourt about 6 p.m., when she will immediately leave the Sound and join the other ships outside. By midnight the whole will be well off the land, and steering a course to clear Ushant, en route for Gibraltar.
At noon to-day most of the ships in the Sound belonging to the Channel Squadron weighed one anchor, took in all boats, and got up steam.
|Ma 30 August 1869||The Cruise of the Ironclads.—We are enabled to contradict in the most decided manner the rumour which is afloat that Mrs. Childers and family are embarked on board the Agincourt. The comforts of the First Lord of the Admiralty would, doubtless, not have been lessened by the presence of his "belongings" during the cruise he has undertaken with a view of increasing the efficiency of the officers and seamen of our two principal squadrons, but he is too desirous of inculcating discipline by showing that, if he forbids admirals and captains to take their wives to sea, he is himself ready to set a good example. Mr. Childers is accompanied by his son, who, we believe, will be the guest of Captain Burgoyne. We have reason to believe that the rules of the service will be thoroughly maintained by the First Lord, and there is no likelihood, while he is in power, of any relaxation occurring. — Army and Navy Gazette.|
|Tu 7 September 1869||The following is the letter of our Malta correspondent, dated Valetta, August 31?|
"A mail leaves to-day for England, viâ Messina, and I avail myself of this opportunity to give you the last news of the Mediterranean Squadron, received this morning, and dated Gibraltar, August 26. After leaving Naples on the 6th, the squadron made sail for Marseilles, and were caught on the morning of the 10th off the north end of Corsica, by a heavy westerly gale, which induced them to anchor under the lee of the land for two days. When the weather moderated on the 12th, they again weighed and proceeded under steam for Marseilles, where they anchored at 11 30 p.m. of the 13th. The squadron dressed ship and fired a Royal salute on the 15th in honour of the Emperor's fête-day, and sailed on the evening of the 16th for Gibraltar, leaving Lady Milne and daughters at Marseilles. Sir Alexander Milne, with the ironclads Lord Warden (flagship), Royal Oak, and Prince Consort, arrived at Gibraltar on the evening of the 22d, having exercised these ships on the way at steam tactics, firing at a target, &c. The Pallas and Wizard were awaiting their arrival, and the Enterprise joined them from Cadiz on the 26th, just before the departure of the mail for Malta. The Caledonia arrived at Gibraltar on the morning of the 25th with mails, &c., from Malta; all well. The Cruiser and Psyche were daily expected. The whole of the ships were coaling and provisioning preparatory to cruising with the Channel Squadron. The Agincourt was expected at Gibraltar on the 1st of September, with the Lords of the Admiralty on board, and it was expected that the Mediterranean Squadron would leave in company on the 4th, for the long-contemplated cruise…
|Tu 7 September 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, GIBRALTAR BAY, Aug. 31.In my first letter, dated from Plymouth Sound, I observe an error which requires correction before referring to subsequent events connected with the cruise. I appear to have stated, in referring to the Iron tower on the upper deck of the Bellerophon, "and she is also deficient in steam power;" what I Intended to have said was, “and is also deficient in gun power," to convey the opinion that the weight of the iron tower would be more advantageously employed in the form of guns on the same deck.
The First Lord of the Admiralty, on embarking on board the Agincourt, in Plymouth Sound, on the evening of Monday, the 23d of August, was accompanied by the Senior Sea Lord of the Admiralty, Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Colpoys Dacres, K.C.B.; Captain F. Beauchamp Seymour, C.B., A.D.C. to the Queen, private secretary to the First Lord; Captain George Ommanny Willes, C.B., Captain of the Fleet; and Paymaster Richard Munday, secretary to their lordships during the cruise. The fleet was thus commanded by the Admiralty, and not personally by any one individual, Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas M.C. Symonds, the Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Squadron, flying his flag on board the Minotaur as second in command. The appointment of Captain Willes to the post of Captain of the Fleet was an imperative necessity, and the selection has been a good one. During the cruise of the Reserve Fleet Admiral Key was the Admiralty executive officer, but on the present occasion there is no Admiral on board the flagship of their lordships, excepting Admiral Dacres and hence arose the necessity for the appointment of a Captain of the Fleet. Captain Willes is one of our best steam officers, no one stands higher in other professional qualifications, and at the same time he possesses an untiring energy which eminently fits him for the onerous post to which he has been appointed.
After leaving Plymouth Sound and overtaking the other ships off the Eddystone the Agincourt took her station at the head of the weather or starboard line of ships, the Minotaur at the head of the lee line, and the fleet entered upon its cruise under low boiler power, steaming five knots only, and steering a S.W. three-quarters W. course, in the following order:?
WEATHER DIVISION.? 1. Agincourt, Admiralty flag. 2. Monarch. 3. Hercules 4. Inconstant.
LEE DIVISION ?1. Minotaur, flag of Vice-Admiral Sir T. Symonds, second in command. 2. Northumberland. 3. Bellerophon.
The night was fine and bright, with perfectly smooth water. Up to midnight there was a good deal of signalling between the Agincourt and the other ships with Colomb's flash-light signals, and each ship carried permanent white lights aloft on her spars in addition to the red and green lights on her bows.
At 6 o'clock on the following morning a nice breeze came up from about S.E. by E., at a force of 3 to 4, and all plain sail was put on the ships to royals. This afforded a first opportunity of seeing the Hercules, Monarch, and Inconstant together and in company with other ships under sail. No ships could possibly have looked handsomer or more effective under sail alone, and certainly for the first time since the introduction of ironclads into the British Navy two of those vessels and an unarmoured iron-built consort were as picturesque and efficient looking aloft as ever were three of the smartest of our wooden liners or frigates. Each of these three ships appeared to feel and spring to the pressure of her sails, although there was but a pleasant and, indeed, a light summer's breeze. A glance round at all the ships of the fleet at once disclosed the cause of this evident superiority. The Monarch, Hercules, and Inconstant carry masts and sails fully in proportion to their displacement, while all the other ships in the fleet are short of sail power. The Bellerophon when first she was brought out was fitted with a large increase of sail power upon that of all the previous ironclads, and the Monarch, Hercules, and Inconstant are a still further improvement upon her, and a wise return to old principles as to sail-propelling power to sea-going steamships of war, armoured or unarmoured. During the forenoon the fleet suddenly sailed into a dense bank of fog and the fog-horns succeeded the ordinary flags. The signals were perfectly conveyed and read off by the long and short durations of the sounds, but the effect upon the ear was very much like cattle bleating on a mountain side. The bank was of no great extent, and the ships soon emerged from it again into the bright sunshine and sailed on over an almost waveless sea, with scarcely more perceptible motion on their decks than is to be found on the floor of a drawing-room ashore. Evolutions under steam followed during the day, all of which were interesting, and the majority of them very fairly executed. It was, however, the first day all the ships had worked together in these manoeuvres, and a second day's drill at the same work might be expected to improve the appearance of the ships when thus wheeling and pirouetting under steam, by giving confidence to the officers in charge, in letting them see what the ships could do, comparatively with each other, under such circumstances.
The position of the ships at noon was 35 miles off Ushant, with the wind on the port quarter at a force of about four, at which it continued throughout the day. The revolutions of the engines of the ships were reduced in each instance so as to keep the speed of the fleet down to five knots per hour, but with the freshening of the breeze at times during the day to sometimes nearer five than four the ships averaged a speed of six knots between 11 a.m. and sunset. Some distance of the ground to be travelled over between the Channel and Gibraltar was, however, necessarily lost in the evolutions. About 6 p.m. sail was shortened and furled, and the ships put under steam alone at five knots. So fine was the weather that at 7 30 p.m. Vice-Admiral Symonds, with his flag-lieutenant, from the Minotaur, Captain Commerell from the Monarch, and Captain May from the Northumberland, boarded the Agincourt in their boats, by invitation, and dined with their Lordships, returning to their ships by their boats again between 9 and 10 o'clock. There was no risk in the visit. The sea was quite smooth, and a brilliant moon lit the way for the boats between the ships. As an historical reminiscence, I may mention that the heir of the great Lord St. Vincent lost his life as nearly as possible about the same spot years ago when paying a similar visit. He had been dining with his Admiral on board the flagship, and after dinner left in his own boat for his ship. The boat never reached the ship, nor was anything ever heard of her after leaving the flagship.
After the Admiralty guests left the Agincourt the ships were all put under easy sail and low steam for the night. At daylight on Wednesday morning all sail was made on the ships, and steam let down with engines stopped as each vessel was found to overrun her station upon her leader. The course being steered across the edge of the Bay brought the north-easterly breeze, which was steady at about well aft on each ship's port quarter, and all soon had starboard studding sails set alow and aloft. The Inconstant very soon began to spare her sails to the rest of the fleet, and the Monarch followed her example, until both these beautiful craft had reduced canvas to their three topsails. At 9 30 a.m. a general signal was made to chase ahead until 1 p.m., and then to chase back into stations astern of the two flagships, with screws disconnected.
The Monarch and Inconstant very soon sailed out to the front of the fleet, and stood on together in distinct positions from all the other ships in a spirit of rivalry, although there could be a very small chance for the heavily-armoured turret-ship against the lighter-weighted and unarmoured Inconstant. The Hercules took third position, but was recalled, so that the chase may be said to have been confined to the turret-ship and the Inconstant. At 1 15 p.m. both hauled to the wind to resume their stations in the weather column, astern of the Agincourt, the Inconstant at the time having a tremendous lead of the Monarch, but the latter having beaten the other ironclads of the fleet nearly half as much as the Inconstant had beaten her. When recalled from chasing, the Inconstant had distanced the Monarch 5½ miles. The Monarch was much delayed at the start by the great length of time it took to disconnect her screw. In reaching back closehauled towards the fleet the inclination of each to leeward was signalled to the Agincourt as ? Monarch, 4 deg., Inconstant, 10 deg.
The breeze had then freshened to a fair whole sail strength for vessels hauled close to. In tacking to rejoin and fall into their positions in column again, the Monarch was 4 minutes 17 seconds going about, and the Inconstant 8 minutes 10 seconds.
The position of the fleet at noon was lat. 47 6 N., long. 7 41 W., Cape Finisterre S. 17 W., 263 miles. About an hour after noon the course of the ships was altered to S.W. by S.½W., which would haul the ships in more for the land, and direct for Cape Finisterre, from the large western offing they had gained. The fleet went to general quarters in the forenoon, and all newly joined men were put through a series of drills in the afternoon. There was sail drill in the after part of the day, after which the port column of ships steamed through the starboard column in the intervening spaces between the ships and reformed column to starboard of the line led by the Agincourt. The ships continued their course through the night under steam alone at the regulated speed of five knots. During the first and middle watch experimental drill signalling was carried on between the Agincourt and other ships with Colomb's flash lights, the Inconstant ranging up on the Agincourt's port beam to signal to test her signalmen, the frigate having been only 13 days in commission. The Monarch's men were next tested in the signals, and, after that, other ships were brushed up in a like manner. The Colomb, or Colomb-Bolton, system of flashing light signals for night signalling is so simple, certain in its action, and so admirably meets all the requirements for rapid and free communication between ships by night at sea that, like many other things established by their own simplicity and efficiency, we can only wonder it was not adopted long ago. It is simply ? as, indeed, has been explained in The Times on more than one previous occasion ? an adaptation of Morse's printing telegraph system, and by the short or long flashes of light, and their position to each other, messages are conveyed to the eye as certainly as the telegraph instrument prints them off upon the tape. Day signals on the same principle can be conveyed by semaphore arms, collapsing cones or drums, or by any visible object, no matter what its form, exhibited for long and short periods of time, or even by jets of steam. In a fog the same method of signalling is carried out by sound, with the fog horn. The Colomb system has been strongly opposed by many old naval officers, and has still its opponents among distinguished officers on and off the active list, who would fain preserve the old and cumbrous form of signalling to the navy simply because they have a rooted dislike of all "innovations." Thanks, however, to the firmness of Sir Sydney Dacres, the Colomb system has now been officially established as the signal system of the British navy, and every boys' training ship is now supplied with a set of lamps and apparatus to instruct fully in their use, the future seamen of our fleets. On the following morning Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres, accompanied by Captain F.B. Seymour, embarked, in the Admiralty barge from the Agincourt, and boarded the Monarch turret-ship, where they spent the greater part of the day in inspecting her. Four rounds were fired from one of her turrets, two being fired singly and two simultaneously from her monster 25-ton guns ? the first occasion on which two guns in one turret had been fired on board of her. The other turret is hors de combat, owing to the damage sustained by the machinery fitted to the carriages of the guns, and is likely to remain so for some time beyond the end of the present voyage, although a number of workmen belonging to the Steam Factory Department of Portsmouth Dockyard were brought to sea in the ship, in the hope that they would be able to repair the damage to the carriages. The machinery fitted for working the turret guns of the Monarch is very beautiful, but is very complicated, occupies a great deal of space in the turret, is liable to complete derangement, as in the present instance, from injury to any one of its many parts, and it therefore becomes a question of grave import whether in any other gun or carriage gear to our turret ships some simple and more reliably lasting means may not be devised than has been employed in the case of the Monarch. The gun carriages for the turrets of the Captain have yet to be supplied to her, the details of their working gear being dependent upon the results of the trials of the Monarch's carriages. This is so far unfortunate that the Captain's carriages now wait, as the breakdown of the Monarch's "stops the way." During the time their lordships were on board the Monarch she was detached from the fleet, and the remainder of the ships were put through a series of evolutions under steam, the most strikingly effective of which, in a military sense, was an advance in line abreast against a supposed enemy's fleet, and a change of formation to two quarter columns, en echelon, each ship turning four points to starboard on the quarter of her leader, on engaging. The position of the fleet at noon was lat. 45 6 N., long. 8 56 W., Cape Finisterre S. 5 W. 135 miles. Since passing Cape Ushant, and entering upon the confines of the Bay of Biscay, the weather had been singularly fine and favourable for the passage of the ships, at the moderate rate of speed laid down for them, between Ushant and Finisterre. The moderate north-easterly breeze which helped them, with their low rate of steaming, to clear the chops of the Channel, accompanied them across the bay until Wednesday night, breaking up the summits of the long roll prevailing on the edge of the bay into millions of foaming wavelets, coruscating with light and colour in the brilliant sunshine. Thursday was a day of a different character, although the sea was quiet to an almost unnatural degree. There were calms, fog, light airs from the southward, rain showers, and occasional glints of sunshine, alternating throughout the day, and under all the sea lay with scarcely a ripple disturbing its surface or a pulsation from its depths to break its flatness. On Friday morning the fleet was nearing the land under Finisterre in a thick fog, and the unmelodious foghorn was again brought into use to ascertain the positions and bearings of the ships from each other. A partial lift in the fog about 9 a.m. brought all the ships within sight, when, their formation being necessarily found rather irregular, columns of divisions astern of the two flagships were reformed. The weather cleared as the sun gained strength, with the exception of a thick haze which hung on the horizon. A number of vessels hove in sight between the fleet and Cape Finisterre, which the fleet was now rapidly closing, and among others a beautiful fruit schooner, the Madelina, of Llanelly, steering N.E., which with all sail set to her fore royal and starboard studding sails passed close on the port beam of the Agincourt and dipped her royal in honour of the Admiralty ensign flying at the frigate's main. At noon the position of the fleet was in lat. 43 15 N., long. 9 36 W., Cape Finisterre being 15 miles on the port beam, and the Burlings bearing south, distant 230 miles. At 1 p.m. the course was altered to south by west, and at 5 p.m. to a couple of points or so further to the southward. At noon navigating officers who had faith in their vision saw through the curtain of fog on the port beam the shadow of the land between Capes Ortegal and Finisterre, but others who had not such faith in their own powers saw only fog. At 11 p.m., however, the light on the island of Bayona, off Vigo, was sparkling brilliantly on the port hand, and at 9 o'clock on the following (Saturday) morning the peaks of the mountainous range near the mouth of the Minho river stood sharply defined above the banks of summer morning haze which clothed the lower lands and the sea as the ships steamed slowly along in two columns parallel with the coast line. A few airs from the southward gradually increased to a light breeze that cleared off the base from the face of the coast line, disclosing a high range of land, from the slopes of which peeped out straggling villages, and occasionally villa residences embowered in foliage. The course of the ships was kept in close for Oporto Bay, and at 1 p.m. the fleet was led in one grand line through the Bay, within a mile and a half of the bar at the river's mouth, by the Agincourt, with the Admiralty ensign at her main royal mast head, and Oporto, "the Queen of the Douro," came in full view from the fleet, in the full blaze of the midday sun. If Oporto looked picturesque from the fleet the latter must have appeared equally so from the shore, and, judging from the numbers of people who thronged every point from which a view of the ships could be obtained, its passage through the bay must have caused some little excitement. The telegraph station at the north-east end of the bay signalled the fleet, with the Commercial Code of signals, "Where from?" and "How many days?" to which the Agincourt replied, "Plymouth, five days." "All well." On steering out from Oporto Bay, a wider berth was given the land, and the wind coming out on the ships' starboard beam, all plain sail was made on them as they steamed at their slowest rate along the coast for the Burlings. There were the usual drills on board the different ships during the day, but it being Saturday, shortening sails to topsail was substituted for the usual evening drill after the men’s supper-time. (The pipe for supper is given at 4 30 p.m.) This done, the watch was called and work considered done, until all hands were called on the following morning, except by the watch on deck.
On Sunday morning the fleet, in two lines, under sail and low steam to six-knot speed, were passing through the narrow channel between the rocky islands of the Burlings and Cape Carvoceiro and Light on the mainland, the town of Peniche and its numerous windmills forming a conspicuous feature on the port hand of the fleet, after getting clear of Carvoceiro. The weather was lovely, the light and fair breeze which had filled the ships' sails since their departure from Plymouth Sound, with a few intervals of calms, continuing, and the sea retaining its extraordinary smoothness ? a state of wind and sea admirably suitable for a sailing and rowing regatta by Thames wherries. From Cape Carvoceiro to Cape Roca (the rock of Lisbon) the ships steered on a line within a mile of the shore, and in the clear beauty of the morning there were seen, with microscopic distinctness, the dark metallic-looking cliffs on the shore with sweeps of sandy beach, including the "Praia Formosa," or "Beautiful Beach," so named by the Portuguese for its shelving sands, and the bay of Ponte Novo, where Wellington landed with his troops, and afterwards fought the battle of Vimiera almost within sight of his landing place; the west end of the lines of Torres Vedras, which stretch across the peninsula to Villa Franca; the enormous marble built Mafra, combining palace, convent, and church under one roof, erected in pious gratitude by a King for the birth of a son, and raising the position of the poorest convent in Portugal to that of the richest. As the rock of Lisbon was neared the Cintra mountains towered above the Cape in dark grandeur, with the Royal Palace of Penha, the residence of Dom Fernando, perched on their loftiest peak, and the charming village of Cintra hanging on its slopes below. At noon the fleet was off Cape Roca, and soon afterwards the Tagus lay open on the port beam, but necessarily at some distance, as the course was being kept straight from Roca for Cape Espichel, and the tower of Belem, with the Royal Palace and the dome of the Estrella Cathedral, showed distinctly above all other buildings. A small but very fast and handsome little steamer, the Lusitano, came out from under the land, and ranging up alongside the Agincourt, dipped her flag to the British ensign. Divine service was performed on board the several ships and the day kept as a day of rest so far as was possible on board ship at sea. On board this ship the Rev. J.G. Macdona, chaplain of the ship and Admiralty chaplain pro tem., officiated at the morning and afternoon services, selecting as the text for his discourse in the morning the parable of the Prodigal Son. Cape Espichel was passed by the ships during the evening and a course taken thence to Cape St. Vincent.
Yesterday morning broke with very thick weather, and the Inconstant at 5 a.m. was sent in towards the land to ascertain its position, soon making it and signalling Cape St. Vincent to bear E. ¾ N. from her, at a distance of about 10 miles, and the ships were then kept on a course for Gibraltar Straits, over the 153 miles of water lying between Capes St. Vincent and Trafalgar. The Hercules ranged up alongside the Agincourt to signal about 9 a.m., and Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres, accompanied by Captain F.B. Seymour, boarded her in one of the flagship's cutters, and spent the morning on board inspecting her general arrangements between decks, and witnessing some shot practice from her 18-ton guns. Steam evolutions were made with the other ships during the time their Lordships were on board the Hercules; but, like all others made during the voyage out, they call for no particular notice from me here, being, as they are, merely preliminary to the more important evolutions that will be made by the combined fleets during the next portion of the cruise between Gibraltar and Lisbon. These preliminary exercises have been very necessary previous to joining the Mediterranean ships, as three of the ships of this Division ? the Agincourt, Monarch, and Inconstant ? are all newly commissioned ships. All the movements, however, have been very fairly performed, as have also the drills aloft in furling and making sail, sending down and aloft again topgallant masts and upper yards. With reference to these latter drills the subjoined order has been posted on board this ship: ?
"Her Majesty's Ship Agincourt, at Sea, Aug. 27.
“Sir Sydney Dacres has expressed to me his satisfaction with the smartness and silence with which the evolutions have been performed this evening, and considers the activity displayed most creditable to a ship so short a time in commission. (Signed)
"H.T. BURGOYNE, Captain.
"To the Commander, Officers, and Crew of Her Majesty's Ship Agincourt."
As the ships left Cape St. Vincent astern they met with true Mediterranean weather at this season of the year in the vicinity of the Rock ? an intensely sultry morning, with very little wind and occasional heavy falls of rain, This was succeeded by the wind coming out freshly from the southward, and, for the first time since leaving England, the ships had to steam against a head wind, with upper yards sent down on deck, topgallant masts housed, and lower yards pointed to the wind. At noon the ships, steaming six knots, were 165 miles from Gibraltar Bay. The Monarch soon after noon dropped astern of the other ships, with her engines stopped, to repack glands, and was signalled to follow us to Gibraltar Bay when able to steam again.
This morning a thick vapour hung over the land and completely hid the outline of the coast until nearly 9 a.m., when it cleared off, and at 11 a.m. the ships in two columns were steaming into the Straits with Cape Spartel and the African coast on the starboard hand, and the European land at a little further distance off on the port hand. Soon after 2 p.m. the fleet passed through the narrow part of the Straits between Tarifa and the Morocco coast, and at 4 30 p.m. the Agincourt and Minotaur, as leaders of the two columns, dropped their anchors in the Bay of Gibraltar, where they found at anchor the Mediterranean division of ships, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Milne, K.C.B., which will form part of the combined fleet in the coming cruise between Gibraltar and Lisbon.
The present sick list of the Channel ships is at the following low rate from returns made officially up to this morning:? Agincourt, officers, men, and boys, 12; Monarch, 15; Hercules, 13; Inconstant, 14; Minotaur, 17; Northumberland, 16; Bellerophon, 12; giving a total of only 102 out of 4,832 souls on board the ships.
As the fleet entered the bay Vice-Admiral Sir A. Milne, in his steam yacht tender the Psyche boarded the Agincourt, and welcomed the arrival of Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres in the waters comprised in his command, the Lord Warden, Sir A Milne's flagship, at anchor in the bay, at the same time saluting the Admiralty ensign at the main royal of the Agincourt, the compliment being duly returned by the latter ship to the flag of Sir A. Milne flying on board the Lord Warden. Salutes were also exchanged between the Agincourt and the garrison.
|We 8 September 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, GIBRALTAR BAY, Thursday, Sept. 2.Signal has been made to the combined Fleet to prepare to sail from here at daylight in the morning, and the coaling of the ships will be completed this afternoon.
The Monarch, which was left by the Channel Fleet outside the Straits repacking glands, to prevent an escape of steam, arrived in the Bay early on the morning yesterday, after the arrival of the other ships. The composition of the combined Fleet that sails in the morning on a ten days' cruise of exercise between the Rock and the Tagus is a matter of considerable interest, and I therefore append a return of all the most important particulars relating to the ships, number of officers and men serving on board, armaments, &c. —
CHANNEL DIVISION.Agincourt, Admiralty flagship, 6,621 tons, 1,350-horse-power, 4 12-ton 9-inch and 24 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 700 officers and crew, 700 tons coal stowage.
Minotaur, flag of Vice-Admiral Sir T. Symonds, 6,621 tons, 1,350-horse-power, 4 12-ton 9-inch and 24 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 705 officers and crew, 720 tons coal stowage.
Northumberland, 6,621 tons, 1,350-horse-power, 4 12-ton 9-inch and 22 9-ton 8-inch guns, 706 officers and crew, 714 tons coal stowage.
Hercules, 5,234 tons, 1,200-horse-power, 8 18-ton 10-inch, 2 12-ton 9-inch, and 4 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 650 officers and crew, 600 tons coal stowage.
Monarch, 5,102 tons, 1,100-horse-power, 4 25-ton 12-inch and 3 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 525 officers and crew, 600 tons coal stowage.
Bellerophon, 4,270 tons, 1,000-horse-power, 10 12-ton 9-inch and 5 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 538 officers and crow, 500 tons coal stowage.
Inconstant, 4,066 tons, 1,000-horse-power, 10 12-ton 9-inch and 6 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 600 officers and crew, 600 tons coal stowage.
MEDITERRANEAN DIVISION.Lord Warden, flag of Vice-Admiral Sir A, Milne, 4,080 tons, 1,000-horse-power, 2 12-ton 9-inch, 14 9-ton 8-inch, and 2 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 692 officers and crow, 6OO tons coal stowage.
Caledonia, 4,125 tons, 1,000-horse-power, 4 9-ton 8-inch and 20 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 631 officers and crew, 599 tons coal stowage.
Royal Oak, 4,056 tons, 800-horse-power, 4 9-ton 8-inch and 20 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 666 officers and crew, 540 tons coal stowage.
Prince Consort, 4,045 tons, 1,000-horse-power, 4 9-ton 8-inch and 20 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 650 officers and crew, 561 tons coal stowage.
Pallas, 2,372 tons, 600-horse-power, 4 9-ton 8-inch, 2 64-pounder 64cwt., and 2 40-pounder guns, 290 officers and crew, 250 tons coal stowage.
Enterprise, 993 tons,160-horse-power, 4 6½-ton 7-inch guns, 144 officers and crew, 103 tons coal stowage.
Cruiser, 752 tons, 60-horse-power, 1 6½-ton 7-inch gun and 4 64-pounders, 186 officers and crew, 65 tons coal stowage.
Psyche, 835 tons, 250-horse-power, 2 signal guns, 50 officers and crew, 218 tons coal stowage.
The Fleet is thus composed of six armour-plated iron-built ships, six armour-plated wood-built ships, one unarmoured iron-built frigate, one unarmoured wood-built sloop, and one paddlewheel despatch steamer, manned by 8,121 officers and men, armed with 233 armour-piercing, muzzle-loading rifled guns (the light 64-pounder and other guns not possessing armour penetration in the Fleet I have not included in this number), propelled by a gross nominal engine-power of 13,220-horse.
The stay of the Fleet here since the Channel Division joined on Tuesday afternoon will have been but a short one, but a good deal will have been done in the time by the First Lords. On Tuesday evening their Lordships entertained Sir Alexander Milne and his personal Staff and officers of the Fleet at dinner on board here, and yesterday evening Lieutenant-General Sir Richard Airey and the officers of his personal Staff dined on board with their Lordships. As early as half-past 6 yesterday morning the Admiralty barge had left the Agincourt, conveying Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres to the dockyard and coaling jetty at the New Mole, where some time was spent in an examination of the existing arrangements of the works in progress there. On returning from the dockyard a visit was paid to Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Milne on board his flagship, the Lord Warden, and afterwards their Lordships went on board each of the ships of the Mediterranean Division under the gallant Admiral's command. It is enough to say at present with regard to the Mediterranean ships, that the magnificent order they are in deservedly elicited the warmest expressions of admiration from their Lordships. In the afternoon the official Admiralty visit was made to the Governor of Gibraltar at his summer residence, the Cottage, at Europa. On their Lordships landing from their barge at the new Mole the battery at the head of the Mole fired a salute of 19 guns, and a guard of honour of the 13th Light Infantry, with the regimental band and colours, was drawn up to receive them. From the Mole the carriages of his Excellency conveyed his distinguished visitors to the Cottage. This morning by half-past 7 the Psyche, with the Lords of the Admiralty, accompanied by Sir Richard Airey and Staff, crossed to Tangiers, and were received at the Legation by the Foreign Minister of Morocco, introduced by Sir John D. Hay, afterwards returning the Minister’s visit at his palace. This evening Sir Richard Airey gives a grand dinner on shore to the Admiralty Lords and the Admirals commanding the two Divisions, to which a large party of officers, naval and military, are invited to meet them.
The weather is intensely hot here. Yesterday was stated to have been the warmest day experienced at the Rock during the present summer. In the shade the thermometers ranged to 98 deg., and the heat on the upper slopes of the Rock, in the almost entire absence of wind, must have been terrific. Notwithstanding this extraordinary heat, however, parties of officers from the fleet scaled the Rock — Englishmen-like, of course, at noon day — and took their luncheon of Huntly and Palmers biscuits, Stilton cheese, and Burton beer at the signal station 1,265 feet above sea level. By way also, I suppose, of continuing such extreme bodily exercise in exceptionally hot weather, the officers of the Royal Oak this afternoon play the officers of the 74th Highlanders a game of cricket on the flat shelterless plain on the north front, adjoining the neutral ground.
The Peninsular and Oriental Company’s screw steamship Tanjore arrived here last night at 7 p.m. from Southampton, with the mails, and resumed her voyage again this morning for Malta.
A French screw corvette arrived in the Bay this morning from Tangiers.
There is a great scarcity of water on the Rock at the present time, all the tanks with one exception being dry. Water is being drawn from the wells on the north front, and at the Ragged Staff landing place in the garrison, but at both places the water is quite brackish. The fall of rain on the Rock since the 11th of August has been only 0·250in. Water is always a luxury at Gibraltar, and in many cases an expensive one, as l am informed that in many instances officers stationed here with families have paid as much as 30l. in one year for this very necessary article procured from the water-carriers, beyond the quantity allowed by the garrison regulations. In about 50 days’ time there will be no water on the Rock available for the garrison or the inhabitants, unless rain should fall in the meantime. There is, however, a reasonable probability of rain before the present limited supply is quite exhausted.
|Sa 18 September 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.
HER MAJESTY'S SHIP AGINCOURT, LISBON, Sept. 13.The combined fleet, led by the Agincourt, Admiralty flagship, arrived here this morning, as you will have learnt by my telegram despatched from here on the fleet anchoring, from Gibraltar after a passage of unusually fine weather, and a busy week of drills, under both sail and steam. On Thursday morning at daylight the fleet will again leave the Tagus, the Mediterranean division returning to its station, and the Channel division proceeding to Queenstown.
To resume my notes of the cruise. By daybreak on the morning of Friday, the 3d of September, the officers and crews on board the ships of the combined Mediterranean and Channel fleets in Gibraltar Bay were busily engaged in getting steam up in the boilers, unmooring and shortening in cables, and making other necessary preparations for proceeding to sea. At 8 a.m., flag-hoist time, parting salutes were exchanged between the Agincourt and the Gibraltar batteries, and immediately afterwards the ships weighed their anchors, with the exception of the Inconstant and Psyche, and steamed out of the bay in three grand divisions, the Agincourt leading the weather line, the Lord Warden the centre, and the Minotaur the lee line.
The Lords of the Admiralty had issued on the previous day a letter of instructions to the fleet relative to the order of sailing to be observed during the cruise between Gibraltar and Lisbon, the chief points in which were to the following effect:—
"1. Order op Sailing in Two Columns
Monarch, Cruiser, and Enterprise were not timed.
The Royal Oak and Prince Consort were ordered to furl and loose again. Their time in each instance was:—
During the night the wind became variable in both strength and direction, and topgallant sails and royals were taken in and the course altered to meet the position of the wind, fires being "banked" to signal. In the early morning the centre column, composed of Mediterranean ships, led by the Lord Warden, was seen to be entirely out of its position, with the rearmost ship of the column, the Royal Oak, nearly hull down on the horizon. This was partially remedied by 8 a.m. The Caledonia, when the fleet was in the Straits of Gibraltar, on Friday afternoon, had signalled, in answer to the Lord Warden, that she had 88 of her crew on the sick-list, and this number, alarming as it was by its enormous excess over the average, was now increased to 109. Influenza is said to be the chief feature of the epidemic on board, with some cases of low fever; but, whatever may be the real nature of the sickness, its cause should be ascertained. The officers and crew of the Caledonia only left England in May last to join their ship at Malta, and yet, now that the ship is at sea and on a most important cruise, one-fifth of her hands are disabled by sickness. It would be manifestly impossible that such an occurrence should pass over without some inquiry.
The day being Sunday, Divine service was performed on board the several ships of the fleet in the morning and afternoon, together with voluntary services in the evening. The three services on board the Agincourt wore attended by the Lords of the Admiralty, Commodore George O. Willes, Captain of the Fleet, and other officers of the Admiralty staff. With a moderate breeze, and close hauled to it, the fleet, under easy sail, stood on for the night on a course W. by N.
|Sa 18 September 1869|
|On the following morning, Monday, September 6, the ships in Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Milne's division were again found to be all out of position, and it took some time to get them in their right places again. Signal was given to chase to windward, and at 8 a.m. the start was made, the formation of the fleet at the time being in three columns, at about 5½ cables' distance apart, and four cables’ distance between each ship in the lines of divisions. The Agincourt, Monarch, Hercules, and Inconstant, as the first division, held the weather position; the second line, 5½ cables to leeward, comprising the Lord Warden, Royal Oak, Caledonia, and Prince Consort; and the third, or lee line, the Minotaur, Northumberland, Bellerophon, and Pallas. The Enterprise had been sent away to windward an hour before the start, and the Cruiser was directed to close on the weather of the Inconstant as a "test" vessel — in a certain degree — of the speed of the unarmoured frigate. The ships started close hauled, with the wind at a moderate royal breeze, and a short lumpish swell running. All carried plain sail to royals, and the Royal Oak and Monarch soon got up a main-topmast staysail. The Inconstant had her screw hoisted up, but the others carried theirs down with permission to "disconnect." Soon after the start the little Cruiser danced past the weather quarter of the Agincourt, with the Inconstant in pursuit at about a cable's length astern, and a hail of "Well done Cruiser!" was given her from the poop of the flagship. The Monarch and Hercules, with the great weight of their hulls, appeared unable to do anything in the moderate breeze and against the short jump of the sea, and sailed absolutely to leeward of their leader. The Royal Oak sailed well full, came out to windward of her line in great style, sailed through the lee of the Agincourt, and shot out to windward across her bows. The Caledonia and Prince Consort followed the Royal Oak out to windward, while their leader, the Lord Warden, fell away rapidly to leeward of everything. The Minotaur sailed equally well with the Royal Oak, and drew triflingly upon the Agincourt; but the Northumberland was nearly as sluggish as the Lord Warden. The Pallas and Bellerophon were the two best, so far, of the Minotaur's division; but they were outpaced even thus early by the oldest of our ironclads, the Royal Oak, Prince Consort, and Caledonia. Half-an-hour after the start the Inconstant passed the Cruiser to windward and took the lead of the fleet. At 10 o'clock, in answer to signal, the inclination of each ship was given as—|
Nine degrees of inclination by the Inconstant in so moderate a breeze would seem to indicate that she is much too crank, her present trim possibly being the cause. At 11 a.m. the fleet tacked together to starboard, the time occupied in the evolution by each ship being—
The Royal Oak and Cruiser were not correctly timed.
The weatherly positions of the ships after tacking were:-
Immediately after tacking the Caledonia carried away het mizen royal mast, main and fore topgallant masts close to the topmast heads, in a heavy lurch made to leeward. The mizzen royal mast with its yard and sail, went first followed in about fifteen seconds by the mail topgallant mast, and then the fore, at about the same distance of time. As the wreck hung over to leaward the ends of the yards tore great gaping holes in the fore and main topsails, and by this time the poor Caledonia was a "sight" for the fleet. Her topmen were aloft almost before the last spar went and so energetically was the wreckage cleared away and new spars sent aloft and fitted, that by half-past 3 in the afternoon the frigate was making sail to royals again on all three masts. It was very effective as a mere spectacle to lookers-on, and very expensive also without doubt. Fortunately, no one on board, aloft or on deck, received the slightest injury. At 2 p.m. the fleet tacked, the Monarch missing stays twice, and being at length compelled to wear to get her head round, stood on until 6 o'clock, when the chase was discontinued. The ships then wore round, and the three divisional columns were re-formed for the night. In wearing round the Hercules for more than half an hour refused to answer her helm, and lay with her head yawing about and looking in all directions but the right one. This action of the Hercules in refusing to wear, with that of the Monarch's in refusing to stay, was looked upon as of so grave a character that, by direction of Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres, both ships were signalled to send in written reports on the subject. The Monarch signalled:—
"Our balanced rudder was the cause of the ship missing stays, and is also the cause of her not going to windward. Ship carries on the port tack from 15 to 20 deg., and on the starboard tack from 9 to 10 deg. of weather helm."
Angles were taken from the Agincourt by her Staff-Commander, at the start and at the finish, and the subjoined measurements will give the exact conditions and results of the trial. At the start, at 8 a.m.:—
At the conclusion of the trial, at 5 p.m.:—
The next day, Tuesday, September 7, was also devoted to sailing. The disappointing character of the results of the previous day's sailing, more especially as regarded the Hercules and Monarch, determined their Lordships to start the Inconstant, Monarch, Hercules, and Cruiser together from the fleet in a run over a certain distance to leeward, and thence to beat back to the fleet to windward. The Royal Oak was selected as the mark ship, and by 8 a.m. was hove to seven miles dead to leeward from the fleet, which also lay hove to in its windward position. At 40 minutes past 8 the four ships were started from the Agincourt, their instructions being to pass round the stem of the Royal Oak, and then make their way again back to the Agincourt, carrying all possible sail out and in. The Royal Oak on the last of the four ships passing round her was to fill and join in the chase back to windward. The wind was at a force of five at the start, a good royal breeze, and a moderately long swell was running. The Cruiser, Hercules, and Monarch were pretty close together at the start, but the Inconstant was about six cables astern of the others.
The Hercules led out from the Agincourt, with Monarch second, but the little Cruiser soon slipped past the two huge ironclads, and, with studding sails set alow and aloft, skimmed along for the "Oak" before the wind and roll of the sea in gallant style, the other three quickly getting out their studding sails. The Inconstant drew rapidly upon the Monarch and Hercules, passed them in half an hour after the start, and then took up the trail of the Cruiser. This work was not so easy for her, however, as it had proved with the Monarch and Hercules, and the run out to leeward was well advanced before she succeeded in passing her. On nearing the Royal Oak each ship took in her studding sails, and afterwards luffed round the ship in the subjoined order and times:—
The time occupied by each ship, therefore, in running over the seven miles was,—
After all had luffed past her, the Royal Oak filled her sails, and joined the chase back to windward, and was before long on the weather of both the Monarch and Hercules. All kept their reach for some time after luffing to the wind, and then, going about on the starboard tact, stood on towards the fleet. The Inconstant fetched into the finishing point for the race close under the Agincourt's stern, and the Cruiser fetched in just 2½ miles to leeward of that. The Royal Oak fetched in nearly as far to windward as the Cruiser, but the Monarch and Hercules were so far to leeward that signal was made at 4 p.m. to discontinue the chase, and angles were taken from the Agincourt to ascertain their then exact position. The Inconstant finished under the flagship's stern at 14 minutes past 2 p.m., and the Cruiser, with a hail to the flagship of "There was too much sea for us," at 5 minutes past 3. These times made the Inconstant 3 hours 59 minutes and 13 seconds beating up over the seven miles to windward, and the Cruiser 4 hours 48 minutes and 25 seconds. During the latter part of the time the wind fell to about 4, and the swell subsided in a proportionate ratio. The Inconstant and Cruiser sailed with their screws hoisted up, but the other three vessels had their screws down. The measurements taken after the Cruiser passed under the Agincourt's stern, allowance having been, made for the drift and fore-reaching of the flagship, placed the Royal Oak, Hercules, and Monarch to leeward of the Agincourt at the subjoined distances:-
Royal Oak, 2 miles 7 cables; Hercules, 3 miles 1 cable; Monarch, 4 miles 1 cable.
When the chase was discontinued, the weather ships bore up, and the fleet was reformed in three columns of divisions for the night, the general work of the day being closed with shifting topsails - which was accomplished by
The time occupied in shifting topsails at sea is looked upon as a test of the smartness of a ship's crew in their work aloft, but time must always be considered in relation to the date of the ship's commission and the number of leading and able seamen on board the respective ships. The Agincourt, Hercules, Monarch, and Inconstant are newly commissioned ships, and officers and crews not yet working well together, cannot, therefore, be expected to compete in any work aloft with ships that have been some time in commission, and where such drill is a daily practice, such as the Lord Warden, Minotaur, Royal Oak, or Pallas. The composition of the crews is, perhaps, of greater importance, and I find from a return made by signal to this ship that the numbers of leading and able seamen — the men who do the work aloft — on board the ships of the fleet (excepting the Cruiser, which was detached from the fleet at the time the signal was made) are as follows:-
At sunset the fleet was placed under topsails, topgallant sails, and fore courses, and hauled up on the wind for Cape St. Mary for the night, to secure smooth water for steam evolutions ordered to be carried out during the two following days. The next morning brought nearly a calm and a perfectly smooth sea, and the course of the fleet was so steered during the evolutions that ensued that by noon the ships were in the bight of water between the Capes of St. Vincent and St. Mary. At 2 p.m. the American screw frigate Juanita, bound for Gibraltar, passed inshore of the fleet, and exchanged salutes with the Agincourt. At the same time the Peninsular and Oriental Company’s mail steamship Poonah, from Southampton, bore down upon the fleet from Cape St. Vincent, with the signal flying from her masthead, "Mail bags for the fleet," and, ranging up alongside the Agincourt, sent on board the Admiralty mail bag, with one also for each other of the ships in the fleet. Her passengers were evidently all on deck, and gazing over her bulwarks with the deepest interest and astonishment at the imposing yet eccentric war dances of the great fleet.
The evolutions were made at six-knot speed in the morning, but in the afternoon the rate of speed was reduced to five knots. This was the first occasion on which steam had been used since clearing the Straits of Gibraltar on the previous Saturday evening, fires having been kept banked and sail only used. The Bellerophon broke the spindle of her escape valve during the evolutions and fell out of the column to which she belonged for a time, to repair the damage, rejoining afterwards; and the Cruiser, being unable to keep any position with the other ships when under steam, was despatched to the rendezvous appointed for the Pallas on her arrival from Gibraltar, 20 miles off Cape St. Vincent. The night drill, before calling the watch, was on this occasion shifting fore courses. The next morning was more brilliantly clear than the preceding one, and Cape St. Vincent, with the Serra de Monchique mountains in the background, loomed up with extraordinary distinctness on the starboard hand. Light north westerly airs, just of sufficient strength to blow out the signal flags, prevailed, and the state of both wind and sea, in fact, was admirably suited for the work the fleet had before it — another long day's drill in steam manœuvres. These, like those of the previous day, require no detailed notice. All that may be said of them is, that the fleet looked magnificently warlike in many of the figures made, and the general execution of them was a great improvement on the first day's practice after leaving Gibraltar; but, on the other hand, considerable confusion, to say the least, was exhibited in some of them.
Vice-Admirals Sir A. Milne and Sir T.M. Symonds, with several of the officers commanding ships in their divisions, and the commanders of the Minotaur and Lord Warden, dined by invitation with the Lords of the Admiralty on board the Agincourt. At 10 p.m., almost before the two vice-admirals could have regained the deck of their flagship on returning from the Agincourt, the latter hoisted four vertical lights at the after-peak, and fired a rocket as a signal for the fleet to go to general night quarters and engage. The Hercules fired the first gun, and the engagement soon be came general. For a short time each ship was intensely illuminated over every part of her hull, spars, and rigging. The fire from so many guns, however, soon covered the fleet in dense masses of smoke, and these, flame-fringed and pierced with long tongues of fire, were all that could then be seen of the action, which was thenceforward fought out to the end by each ship firing into the smoke around her as rapidly as possible. How steam tactics would have fared under such circumstances it would be difficult to say. A second rocket from the Agincourt brought the action to an end; magazines were closed, guns secured, hammocks again piped down, the watch called, and the fleet resumed its ordinary quietude for the night.
|Sa 18 September 1869|
|Friday, the 10th, was a great day with the fleet at target practice. The ships were spread out over a large space, and each sending out targets, made practice from her main deck ordnance, with rifle practice from the marines on the forecastle. With the ships at such distances from each other, I could see nothing of the shooting beyond that from this ship. Here the firing was exceedingly good, except when the ship got the roll of the sea abeam, and then the unsteadiness of her deck necessarily caused the shooting to became as wild as it had previously been true. There was only just such a breeze as any vessel might beat up to windward against under her royals, and a moderately long swell rolled in from the westward, such as might be looked for in the finest of weather at sea, and yet, under these not very unfavourable conditions, here was a fleet of ships with their broadside guns rendered innocuous each time they got the swell of the sea on their beam, The great disadvantage of broadside-mounted as compared with turret guns was fully brought out, even on so fine a day, and there can be no manner of doubt that had the Monarch been an enemy, with her turrets and four 25-ton guns in working order, she could have steamed down on the fleet from her windward position and have sunk fully one-half of the ships before her own fire could have been silenced by her being sunk or blown up in her turn.|
The Psyche joined the fleet in the morning from Gibraltar, and returned there again in the afternoon with despatches and mailbags for the homeward bound Peninsular and Oriental Company's steamer. The Cruiser also rejoined the fleet from her cruising ground under Cape St. Vincent.
The drills of the combined fleet at sea terminated with the target practice of Friday, the 9th inst. During Saturday and yesterday the ships lay on and off the land, in three divisions, under easy canvas, and close hauled to light northerly winds, between Capes Espichel and Roca, and occasionally heaving within sight from the mouth of the Tagus, A longish swell prevailed at times, and under its influence, combined with the lightness of the wind and the low rate of speed at which the ships were moving through the water, — from two to 2½ knots per hour, — the "rollers" of the fleet, the Royal Oak, Pallas, Caledonia, and Lord Warden, performed, with closed ports, some most extraordinary antics, The Royal Oak and Pallas at times nearly rolling their garboard strakes out of the water. The three great five-masted ships, with the Monarch, Hercules, and the Inconstant, at the same time rode the swells as steadily as seagulls.
At daylight this morning the fleet bore up for the Tagus, and crossed the bar outside at 7 a.m., and soon afterwards entered the Tagus in two grand lines, with the Agincourt leading in the centre, the lines being three cables apart, and the ships in line a cable and a half from each other. Sweeping slowly up to the anchorage off the city thus under the full glow of the morning sun, the spectacle, as the fleet opened round Belem Castle, must have been one of unprecedented beauty and grandeur from the shore. Salutes were exchanged during the run up the channel below the Belem Tower between the Agincourt and the forts on shore in honour of the Portuguese and British national ensigns, and also with an American frigate lying at the river anchorage. About half-past 9 the ships dropped their anchors simultaneously abreast of Alameda, and the most powerful iron-clad fleet in the world lay in quiet and imposing array a short rifle-shot distance from the principal squares and streets of the capital of the Kingdom of Portugal.
CONCLUSIONS.The more salient facts so far established by the present cruise are, in my opinion,—
1. That the efficiency of the Channel and Mediterranean Squadrons in steam evolutions — if their performances in that respect under the Admiralty flag represents their true maximum — is not at all commensurate with the cost of their annual practice in the two items alone of coals and wear and tear of machinery.
This may possibly be explained, or rather attempted to be explained, by saying that the two squadrons would manoeuvre better alone, or if only one Admiral was present and in command. Such an excuse would possibly not be accepted by the public if it even settled the question at headquarters. The same laws of obedience and loyalty of service govern commanding officers to an equal extent as the seaman and marine.
2. The dangerously defective action, under certain conditions of wind and sea, or amount of helm given, of the balance-rudder principle.
3. The superiority in sailing to windward of the oldest over the latest produced of our ironclads. This position of affairs may, however, be reversed under the altered conditions of a stiff breeze.
4. The steadiest ironclad ships under steam or sail in the two squadrons are the Agincourt, Minotaur, Northumberland, Hercules, and Monarch. The most unsteady of all are the — 1, Pallas; 2, Royal Oak; 3, Caledonia; 4, Lord Warden; 5, Prince Consort, in the order as numbered. The ship having the greatest inclination under sail is the Inconstant, but this defect, if it is considered one of great moment, can easily be rectified. With regard to the speed under sail alone of this handsome frigate no reliable inferences can be drawn from any comparison with other ships in the two days' trials, nor yet with the "test" vessel, the Cruiser, the latter being now an old craft, possessing no power under sail, and never having possessed any reputation in her palmiest days for speed except of the most moderate character. The only measure that can yet be taken of her speed under sail is in the figures given with the second day’s sailing — in the total distance beat over by her to windward from the time of rounding the Royal Oak and the time she occupied in doing the work. It is the intention of their Lordships to give her a further trial previous to the Channel division of the fleet reaching Queenstown, and for this purpose the Warrior is ordered to lie off Corunna about the 20th inst. The Warrior, however, with her now heavier armament and stores on board, floats about 12 inches (mean) deeper in the water than she did with her original armament, She was never so fast as to approach the present believed speed of the Inconstant, and probabilities are that the latter will sail away from her hand over hand.
5. The undoubted great superiority of the turret over the broadside principle in maintaining a continuous fire in a rolling sea.
The First Lord has signified his intention by signal to the fleet to give a cup to be rowed for by gunroom officers belonging to the ships of the Mediterranean and Channel squadrons, in service boats, in some boat races which it is contemplated to hold on the Tagus, on Wednesday, the 15th inst.
In conclusion of my present letter I wish to state that during this cruise the First Lord is making himself acquainted with numberless important matters connected with the ships, their organization, crews, and armaments, to an extent that 50 years' continuous rule at Whitehall would never have given him, and at the same time gaining his knowledge free from that strong professional prejudice which blights the greater number of opinions tendered by the colleagues of a Civil First Lord, when given within the magic precincts of the four walls of the ancient Board-room.
The condition of the sick on board the Caledonia is improving, her total number on the sick list in the last return having been reduced to 72 from 109 as given previously. The returns of sick in the fleet yesterday was made as follows:-
Total sick in the fleet 317, out of 8,077.
|Ma 20 September 1869||The Squadrons combined under the Admiralty Flag have now completed their Cruise, and our columns have already informed the public of the manoeuvres attempted and the success supposed to have been attained. It is not for landsmen to say whether the evolutions described were intricate or otherwise, or whether more or less might reasonably have been expected in the performances reported; but there is a certain point of vital importance to be explained and considered before any opinion is formed. Our narrative of the Cruise relates how, after the junction of the Mediterranean and Channel Squadrons at Gibraltar, the combined Fleet left the Bay in three lines, composed of four ships each; but what the reader must now understand is that these twelve ships comprised no less than eight distinct classes of vessels, differing in model, construction, tonnage, steampower, and armament. Three of the ironclads — the Agincourt, Minotaur, and Northumberland — were sister ships, well adapted for manoeuvring together; three others — the Royal Oak, Prince Consort, and Caledonia — were also of one pattern; but each vessel of the remaining six represented a class of its own. Some have their hulls of wood, some of iron; some are wholly iron-plated, some partially; while in burden they vary from 6,000 tons to 2,000, and in horsepower from 1,200 to 600. It is obvious that a Fleet so constituted must have considerable difficulty in manoeuvring, and the fact is all the more notable because the French have foreseen this difficulty, and provided against it in their system of shipbuilding. They have no ironclads equal to the best of ours, but their vessels have been built in classes expressly for the purpose of enabling them to manoeuvre together. They could send to sea two or three Squadrons of seven or eight ships each perfectly homogeneous in composition, so that each vessel could do just as much as its neighbour, and no more. We have never adopted this view, or, rather, we have never arrived at the point where its adoption would appear advisable. All our ships have been experimental ships, and we have postponed our selection of a model until we could determine what model to choose. In the vessels now on the stocks there is more uniformity; but the very report before us contains proof sufficient that we have not got a perfect pattern yet.|
To this consideration, of itself sufficient to affect the whole question, we must now add others. Manoeuvres require practice, and this Admiralty Cruise is about the first piece of such practice ever attempted. Again, the Signal-book of the Navy, owing, doubtless, to the same want of experience, is so defective that the orders given from the flagships cannot always be understood. Thus, in the first day's exercises, we are told that of five manoeuvres prescribed by signal two were well executed, one could not be comprehended, and two failed altogether. That was not a satisfactory conclusion, and though some improvement was shown a day or two afterwards, the misadventures were still considerable. It seems, indeed, to have been imagined that the performances of the Fleet were not, upon the whole, so good as even the limited practice of the separate Squadrons might have led us to anticipate. A Cruise of a powerful Fleet under the Admiralty Flag is a novelty; but, still, the Mediterranean and Channel Squadrons have each some practice of their own, as the annual bills for coal and machinery sufficiently testify. On the other hand, four out of the twelve ships were newly-commissioned. so that the crews were necessarily less efficient than they would otherwise have been. One more suggestion naturally arises from the descriptions of the report. It has been imagined that the introduction of steampower would render naval tactics of extreme importance in any future engagements, but when on one occasion the ships were ordered to go into action it was found that a few minutes sufficed to envelope the whole Fleet in so dense a cloud of smoke that signals were no longer visible, and all that any vessel could do was to fire as rapidly as possible into the darkness around her.
If we turn from these combined manoeuvres to the performances of single ships, we shall obtain more conclusive information; indeed, on a certain point the report is singularly impressive. The Fleet contained one, and only one, specimen of the turret ship, all the rest being broadside vessels. Now, one day the order was given for target practice, under conditions which our correspondent carefully describes:— "There was only just such a breeze as any vessel might beat up to windward against under her royals, and a moderately long swell rolled in from the westward, such as might be looked for in the finest weather at sea." Nevertheless, this ordinary swell sufficed to render the broadside guns of the Squadron almost useless. The ships rolled so heavily that the firing was utterly wild whenever they got the sea on their beam, and the conclusion is expressed in the following words:— "There can be no manner of doubt that had the Monarch been an enemy, with her turrets and four 25-ton guns in working order, she could have steamed down on the Fleet from her windward position, and have sunk fully one half of the ships before her own fire could have been silenced by her being sunk or blown up in her turn." The simple explanation of this is that the Monarch, though not a genuine specimen of the turret-ship, does carry her guns in turrets or turntables on the upper deck, instead of carrying them in her broadside, and was therefore able to work them without impediment from the swell. A real turret-ship — that is to say, a vessel lying much lower in the water than the Monarch — would have had a still steadier platform for her guns; but then it is impossible to say what disadvantages might not have been found to counterbalance this superiority. It can be laid down with something like certainty that a turret vessel will roll far less, and furnish a far better gun platform, than a broadside vessel, but whether she would be as habitable and as seaworthy is not so clear. It is plain, however, that if the Monarch can work her guns as she was presumed to do, and is in other respects as good a ship as the report represents her, she must combine the recommendations of the two models in no inconsiderable degree.
When the reader sees that the Royal Oak, Prince Consort, and Caledonia outstripped in sailing the best of our ironclads, he should remember that these, in fact, are old sailing vessels — that is to say, old wooden men-of-war converted for a special purpose and emergency. When the system of iron-plating was first introduced Lord Palmerston discerned that something must be done for present security while the new Fleet was in process of construction, and he suggested, therefore, that five ships of the line should be covered with iron plates as expeditiously as possible. The ships abovenamed are three of these vessels, and not only are they still effective, but they have certain good qualities, though steadiness, it appears, is not among them. Yet, as two ships of modern construction proved no less unsteady, the fault is not peculiar to the makeshifts, while as to another incident recorded it is probably due to casualty alone. The Caledonia, in this short cruise, had one-fifth of her crew disabled by sickness, a fact which ought to be explained, and which, of course, will not be left without investigation. For one piece of very desirable information we have still to wait. The Channel Squadron contained a specimen of a ship without any armour at all — the Inconstant frigate, a vessel designed to do her work by the combined agencies of heavy armament and extraordinary speed. As there was no vessel, however, in the Fleet against which she could be fairly tested, no experience of her capabilities has yet been obtained; but it is intended to give her an opportunity of display on the return of the Squadron to Queenstown in the course of this week. Such are the general results of the Experimental Cruise, and, in reviewing them, we involuntarily recall the observation with which the accounts of certain military manoeuvres were recently closed. The Prussian army, we were told, is never allowed to overlook any discovered weakness or imperfection. Its commanders and authorities are incessantly on the watch for any hint of possible improvement suggested either by their own experience or the experience of others, and thus the standard of efficiency is constantly raised. The British Navy could not do better than follow the example.
|Tu 21 September 1869|
The CRUISE of the LORDS of the ADMIRALTY.
HER MAJESTY’S SHIP AGINCOURT, LISBON, Sept. 15.The sailing orders for the fleet are for to-morrow, but it is just possible, so far as can be ascertained at the moment of writing, that, instead of making the start at daylight, as was anticipated on the day of arrival here, it will be evening before the fleet is clear of the Tagus. This will be a much better arrangement than if it were determined to clear the fleet of the Tagus early in the morning; as the work of unmooring ship and getting generally ready for sea wilt be done during daylight, and without keeping the crews needlessly out of their hammocks.
This afternoon His Majesty the King of Portugal paid a visit to the fleet. His Majesty, who wore a naval uniform, and was accompanied by Vice-Admiral the Visconde de Praya Grande, his aides-de-camp, and other officers, embarked from the Arsenal Stairs about 3 p.m., in his state barge, under a salute from the Portuguese ships of war lying in the inner anchorage, the British fleet and American squadron manning yards, and hoisting the Portuguese flag at the main. On reaching the deck of' the Agincourt the King was received by the Lords of the Admiralty, the Hon. Mr, Childers and Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Dacres, in their official uniforms, the Secretary of the British Legation at Lisbon (in the absence of Sir Charles Murray), Vice-Admirals Sir Alexander Milne and Sir T.M. Symonds, and the captains of ships under the Admiralty command. A guard of honour of Royal Marines was drawn up on the ship's quarterdeck, under the command of Captain Mabeans, Royal Marine Light Infantry, and Lieutenants Montgomery and Denney; and all the officers, as in all the other ships of the fleet, wore full dress. On the Royal standard of Portugal being transferred from the state barge to the Agincourt the entire British fleet, with the American and Portuguese ships of war, fired a Royal salute, covering the waters of the Tagus with dense clouds of smoke and bringing out the detonations, a thousand times repeated, from the high lands on either side of the river's bank. Upwards of half an hour was spent in looking over the flagship, after which His Majesty, accompanied by the Lords of the Admiralty, re-embarked in the state barge and went on board the Lord Warden, flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir A. Milne; the Minotaur, flagship of Sir T.M.C. Symonds; and the Monarch turret-ship, from all receiving the full honours due to Royalty. On board the Monarch the King remained a considerable time, inspecting the turrets and the means of revolving them, by hand and steam power, and the working of the guns. On leaving the Monarch, His Majesty expressed to the Lords of the Admiralty the great pleasure his visit to so large and powerful a fleet had afforded him. On re-embarking in his state barge and leaving the ships, after a visit extending over three hours, the fleet again, manned yards and the Portuguese ships supplemented the honours already rendered to their Sovereign by firing another salute.
The boat races between the gigs of the combined fleet of the Channel and Mediterranean divisions for the Cup given by the First Lord, manned by gunroom officers, and the cutters of the Fleet, manned by seamen, for prizes in money, followed upon the King's departure, and were concluded by sunset. The cup was won by the officers' gig of the Minotaur, the Hercules' gig coming in second, and the Agincourt's third. The Hercules' came in 23 seconds astern of the Minotaur's, and the Agincourt's 28 seconds. It was a well-pulled race throughout, although, perhaps, with some lack of judgment in the pace, necessarily so on the part of crews untrained and not accustomed to row together. The first three boats in for the cutters' prizes were— 1, the Prince Consort's; 2, the Bellerophon's; 3, the Northumberland's.
10 p.m.The movements of fleets are variable as the wind. It is now understood that the ships will leave the Tagus early in the morning, and, therefore, to insure saving the post, I am compelled to bring this brief letter to a close, rather than trust further to the doctrine of chances. On Tuesday (yesterday) the boats of the fleet were manned and armed, the flotilla numbering 81 in all, and exercised under both sail and oars. Small stores of all kinds were also transferred from the ships of the Channel to those of the Mediterranean division.
The Bellerophon has been transferred to the Mediterranean from the Channel division, and will, therefore, sail under Sir A. Milne's flag for Gibraltar and Malta. The Pallas, relieved by the Bellerophon, goes to England with the Channel ships to be paid out of commission. She, with the Monarch, will part company with the other ships on arriving off Ushant, and both are to proceed thence direct to Spithead.
The Agincourt is expected to proceed to Pembroke with the Lords of the Admiralty from Queenstown. After her arrival at the former port from Ireland, and their lordships have inspected the dockyard and naval establishment there, the Admiralty flag will be hauled down, and the flag of Rear-Admiral Chads hoisted on board, as second in command of the Channel Fleet.
The Hercules will most probably refit, after her duties with the Lords of the Admiralty have been completed, at Queenstown, for service in the Mediterranean.
The foreign ships of war anchored off Lisbon besides the British Fleet are the U.S. sailing frigate Sabine and screw corvette Juanita. The Sabine is an old sailing frigate of the U.S. Navy, and is now cruising as a training ship for second class naval cadets, under the command of Captain Walker, who sails under a kind of roving commission. She is of 1,756 tons, and is armed with 24 9in. Dahlgren guns on her main deck, with ten 32-pounder guns, and two 200-pounder Parrott rifles on the upper deck. The Juanita is a screw corvette of 1,200 tons, well masted, and is just out from the States, after a rather quick passage under sail. She is manned with 240 officers and men, and is armed with one Dahlgren 11in. pivot gun, seven 9in. Dahlgrens on the broadside, and one Parrott 60-pounder rifle as a pivot. Both are wooden built unarmoured vessels.
A large number of people from the shore have visited the fleet during its brief stay here, and have been received on board all the ships with the greatest courtesy.
|Ma 27 September 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.
HER MAJESTY’S SHIP AGINCOURT, 30 MILES SOUTH OF CAPE CLEAR, Sept. 24.One of the latest official acts of a Vice-Admiral commanding a division of the combined Fleet previous to its sailing from Lisbon was on the occasion of the King's visit to the Fleet, when the gallant officer, who must have been in a chronic state of "protest" signalled to the Agincourt, "I think it unsafe to man the upper yards!" Of course, the upper yards were manned with all the others, but what could have induced a British Vice-Admiral to hoist such a signal with ships lying at anchor in perfectly smooth water must for ever remain a mystery which no one can ever possibly understand.
In pleasing contradistinction to this were the last official acts of the Lords of the Admiralty themselves previous to the Fleet leaving Lisbon, in a visit paid by them, during the time the Fleet were preparing to weigh their anchors, to the Royal British Naval Hospital on shore. Their Lordships, accompanied by Surgeon E.O. O'Brien, of the Agincourt, and Flag-Lieutenant the Hon. E.S. Dawson, left their flagship at 7 o'clock on the morning of Thursday, the 16th inst., for the hospital, where they spent nearly a couple of hours in its inspection, and on leaving expressed their perfect satisfaction with the existing arrangements. The hospital consists of a couple of large houses thrown into one, with a spacious garden extending from the back of the building towards the banks of the Tagus, and commanding extensive views — on the one side of the seacoast as far as Cape Roca, and of the Cintra mountains and intervening country, with the northern suburbs of Lisbon. On the other side, the view extends over the city of Lisbon and the Tagus, with the curious cone-shaped hills on its southern bank, crowded with the ruins of Moorish fortifications, and its scattered villages. The hospital was founded some years ago by the British Admiralty purchasing the property on the recommendation of Sir Sydney Dacres. At the time of their Lordships' visit there were only two patients in the hospital, but when the British fleet is wintering in Lisbon harbour there are often as many as 50 patients. The establishment appears to be very economically conducted, the entire permanent staff consisting only of one naval assistant-surgeon, one storekeeper and clerk, one cook, and a labourer. When sick seamen are sent to the hospital from one of Her Majesty’s ships seamen nurses are also sent with them. Sixty beds are altogether ordinarily available.
Immediately after their Lordships' return from their visit to the hospital signal was made to "weigh," and about half-past 10 the Agincourt was leading the Fleet out from the Tagus in two grand columns at slow speed past the King's Summer Palace at Belem, on the central verandah of which the King stood waving his farewell to the Fleet. The guns of the Admiralty flagship gave a Royal salute of 21 guns, the Castle of Belem returned the compliment, and the ships then formed in single line and increased the speed of their engines to cross the "bar" outside the Bugio fort and between the Cachopo shoals. After getting well outside the bar the Fleet was formed in three columns of divisions, and steered on a north-westerly course. The black boulder-strewn mountains of Cintra stretching inland from Cape Roca were soon brought on the starboard beam, and as the Cape was closed upon by the ships a fresh breeze met them, with a head-sea of sufficient strength thoroughly to wash the dust of Lisbon from off their bows. Sail was then made, and steam only used for the night sufficient to prevent their dropping over to leeward. A marine invalid, sent on board the Pallas from the Royal Oak for passage to England, died during the day, and that most solemn of all religious services, a burial at sea, was performed in the evening.
The wind and sea both fell during the night, and the next morning bringing back a return of the old brilliantly fine weather, a light wind, and a smooth sea, advantage was taken of the opportunity for a last day's grand drill in steam evolutions by the Fleet, it having been decided that the Mediterranean division should part company in the evening, and return to its station, the Cruiser at the same time being detached from the Fleet, and ordered to make the best of her way to the Rock of Gibraltar, in advance of Vice-Admiral Sir A. Milne's squadron. The signal "Prepare for action," preceding the steam evolutions, having been given, all the ships struck topgallant masts and upper yards, and ran in their jib-booms and bowsprits in readiness to "ram," as opportunities offered during the engagement, and then beat to general quarters. In getting in the jibboom on board this ship an accident occurred to one of the boatswain's mates, which in the most favourable form of anticipated results will most probably cripple the man for the remainder of his life. He was standing on the heel of the bowsprit, directing some work going on aloft, when the boom came in along the bowsprit with a sudden surge and jammed the man's feet between its heel and the roller on the heel of the bowsprit. The right foot acted as a buffer to the left, and consequently sustained the greater injury. The main bones were not broken, but the ankle-joint was forced open, and all the ligaments were divided. No examination of the small bones of the foot could be made, owing to the nature of the injury.
The steam evolutions were commenced about 10 a.m., and lasted, with one hour's interval, until 5 p.m., and comprised:—
Column in line on port beam of leader.
Course altered together eight points to starboard.
Course altered together to E.N.E.
Course altered together to N.N.E.
Single column in line abreast.
Columns of divisions in line ahead.
Single column in line ahead.
Columns of divisions in line abreast.
Columns in quarter-line on starboard wing ship.
Columns in line abreast, changing to subdivisions.
Single column in line abreast.
Columns of subdivisions inline ahead.
Columns in quarter-line, four points abaft starboard beam of leaders.
The last formation made was three columns of divisions inline ahead. This brought the Mediterranean ships — Lord Warden, Prince Consort, Caledonia, Royal Oak, Bellerophon, and Enterprise in one line in the centre, and signal was now made to part company, the Agincourt making "Farewell. The pleasure of your company with this squadron has been great." The Lord Warden, in reply, signalled, "Admiral returns thanks in name of the Mediterranean Squadron, and wishes you a pleasant passage." The guns of the Lord Warden then fired a salute of 19 guns to the Admiralty flag at the main of the Agincourt, which was returned by the Admiralty flagship with 15, and the Mediterranean division, led by Sir Alexander Milne's flagship, steamed out from its position between the starboard and port columns, each ship as she got out ahead of the Agincourt porting her helm and reversing her course round the latter ship's bows. It was a very stately and effective mode of departure, and, as a steam evolution simply, was the best executed of all by the Mediterranean ships since they had formed a division in the fleet. A few hours more and the Channel and Mediterranean squadrons were each out of sight of the other as the one steered north and the other south. The sea which was, as already stated, unusually smooth at the commencement of the evolutionary drills, got up a long westerly swell as the day wore on, which more or less affected all the ships, and developed their rolling propensities in good style. The maximum heel of each ship was signalled just previous to the departure of the Mediterranean squadron, but in many cases the figure given was so absurd that the return became more than valueless — it was mischievous. For instance, while the Minotaur, as one of the steadiest ships in the fleet, signalled correctly that she rolled 20 deg., another ship, which rolled considerably more than she had done, signalled her maximum amount of heel as 3 deg.! The Monarch turret-ship rolled much less than any other ship in the fleet. In fact, from 3 deg. to 4 deg. each way in the heaviest beam swell she caught was about the most she would roll, and in this way she again showed her great superiority as a gun-platform over the broadside ships.
During the time the evolutions were going on, after the westerly swell set in, the Agincourt, Minotaur, and Northumberland rolled very evenly together at eight rolls per minute, the Bellerophon, Royal Oak, Caledonia, Prince Consort, Pallas, and Lord Warden rolling much deeper and quicker. The Inconstant, next to the Monarch, was the steadiest ship in the fleet, and the Hercules took rank with the three five-masted ships. The swell, however, was towards the close of the afternoon very uneven in its character, and some very extraordinary effects were produced. The Bellerophon, as an instance, at times rolled much more than even the Royal Oak or the Pallas; and the Agincourt. immediately after the Mediterranean ships had parted company, suddenly fell into such unsteady ways as to roll 22 deg. to port and 20 deg. to starboard in a series of continuous swings, taking in the water liberally through her main deck and stern gunports, and doing this at a time when the Minotaur and Northumberland, at some five or six cables' distance on her weather beam, were lying comparatively motionless. Such uneasy motions of the sea could only be due to some gale past or to come, or, as presaging a change of wind. It proved to be the latter, for during the succeeding night the light wind veered gradually round to the south-west, and in the first watch on Saturday morning all plain sail was made, and the ships were steering with a fair wind for the appointed rendezvous, to meet the Helicon, with mails from England, 20 miles west of Cape Finisterre. It had been arranged that the Warrior should meet the fleet off Corunna, in order to give the Inconstant a trial of sailing with her, but it had now became known that the fine old frigate would be unable to join the squadron until its arrival at Pembroke from Queenstown, owing to some delay in docking her at Portsmouth. At noon on Friday the ships were 220 miles distant from the rendezvous, and on Saturday at noon 100 miles. Saturday on board the several ships was, as usual, a general cleaning-up day, and nothing of special interest occurred as the ships held their course for the rendezvous before the south-westerly breeze. During the night rain fell heavily, and the wind falling very light early the next morning, Sunday, the screws were set going. At 9 o’clock in the forenoon the rendezvous was reached, Cape Finisterre with its light-tower looming above the morning haze on the starboard beam, and a sharp look-out was kept for the smart little Helicon, which soon afterwards hove in sight and delivered her despatches and mails on board the Agincourt by 1 p.m. She brought news of rough weather in the English Channel, and had up to that morning been steaming against a strong south-westerly wind.
It had been arranged that morning that on the following day (Monday) the ships should run into Corunna Bay and anchor there for the day, to give an opportunity for a visit being paid to the Spanish Dockyard and Arsenal at Ferrol; but this intention was balked in its execution by a sudden change in the weather, which led up to as pretty a gale, although a brief one, as any one might wish to see on the skirts of the Bay of Biscay. The barometer, which at noon was at 30·09, fell rapidly during the afternoon, and as it fell the wind and sea rose, a lurid blackness gathered on the horizon, and it soon became evident that rough work was at hand. The intention to go into Corunna was at once, under these new conditions, given up, and signal made to steer a north-easterly course, with directions to the Pallas to make the best of her way to Plymouth Sound. The wind grew into a gale during the night, and at daylight the next morning the scene was grand as the ships scudded along under close-reefed topsails and fore courses, with the wind lashing the sea into great ridges of broken water, the crests of which were blown away in gray masses furiously to leeward. At 11 a.m. the barometer was down to 29·27, the wind blowing excessively hard, and especially so in the squalls. It was impossible to see exactly what other ships than this were doing, but the Monarch, Hercules, and Inconstant appeared to be steering very wildly. All had quite enough to do. The Agincourt had 50 men employed in steering her, 14 at the wheel and the remainder at the relieving tackles, and even then at times she was almost unmanageable, taking charge of her wheel once and throwing one of the men up against the beams under the poop, and cutting a gash in his forehead of some inches in length, but fortunately without any material injury to the bone. The straps of the relieving tackle were carried away three times, and one bolt was drawn during the fore part of the day, the ship’s ordinary measure of rolling being about 22 deg. each way. At 10 30 a.m. she took a sea aboard that burst open the garboard strakes of the first cutter hanging at the davits on her starboard quarter, and then, swinging through an arc of quite 50 deg., sent everything movable, on or between decks, flying. Men were on their backs in a moment and sliding away at a great pace for the lee scuppers. In the officers’ cabins the furniture and fittings, not thoroughly secured, were shot out of their places and dashed against each other to their common destruction. In the wardroom mess the chairs flew wildly from side to side, the long table broke loose from its deck fastenings and doubled up in a broken arch amid the general wreck, and the few officers off duty and in the room at the time had to cling with all their strength to the iron columns supporting the deck above, and kick out furiously at the passing chairs to prevent their own legs being broken by them. The wind about this time backed the ship off from her course five points, split her foretopmast staysail, and, coming out at N.N.W., jammed the ships over to a leeward position in the bay. About 1 p.m. the mizen topsail was taken in, and the ship became afterwards a little more manageable than she had been during the preceding part of the day. The Helicon, in obedience to signal, parted company with the flagship and steamed away at her best against the gale for Queenstown, with orders to look out for the fleet, on the weather moderating after her arrival at Queenstown, with the Enchantress, 30 miles south of Cape Clear. During the after part of the day the wind lost a good deal of the violence it had exhibited in squalls during the previous part of the gale, and about 4 p.m. the clouds overhead opened for a couple of minutes, enabling the navigating officers to take observations and fix the exact positions of the ships. With the wind northing the barometer rose again, and at 9 p.m. it had reached the point it originally fell from when first indicating the gale — 30·09. This ship, with the Minotaur and Northumberland, kept well together, but at sunset the Monarch was only just distinguishable astern of them, and the Hercules, with the Inconstant, was altogether out of sight.
Dinner was a great difficulty, no doubt, on board all the ships in the evening, for although the wind gave indications of blowing itself rapidly out, now that it had got to the northward, there was a heavy broken sea running, in which the ships were rolling deeply. Here, in the wardroom mess, the dislocated table was brought into joint again, ballasted with "puddings" 20 feet long, and a many-stringed "fiddle," and dinner was eventually managed, notwithstanding the violent plunges and rollings of the great ship. Numbers of the men, during the time the gale had already lasted, had suddenly found themselves thrown on their beam ends on the deck, but all had escaped with slight bruises except in the instance of the man referred to at the wheel, and that of a marine who met with a most extraordinary bit of experience. A capstan bar got adrift from its place between the maindeck beams, and, striking the marine with great force on the back of his head, actually broke itself into two pieces. One of those next struck an arm rack, smashed it up and liberated the arms, a cutlass sent adrift sticking its point into the marine's foot before he could comprehend what was the matter with his head. On being examined by the surgeon it was found that his skull was not broken, and that a piece of ordinary sticking plaster was all that would be required for its cure! His foot will take a little longer to heal.
The wind blew heavily from N.N.W. and N. all the next night, and the ships rolled very much, the Agincourt washing away her port life-buoy. On Tuesday morning the wind had moderated further, and down to a steady breeze from W.N.W., with the sea rapidly smoothing down, and the ships began to unfold their wings again (the Monarch had re-taken her station in the weather division), and under increased sail, with their screws moving at slow speeds, worked up to windward again for Cape Clear from their leeward position in the bay. In answer to signals from the Agincourt, the Monarch and Minotaur replied that they had sustained no injury from the gale, but the Northumberland's answer, unfortunately, was very different. Two of her seamen had been lost overboard. She had also sustained some damage to boats and boats' davits, but such matters become insignificant before the fact of the loss of life. The Hercules rejoined the fleet soon after noon on Tuesday, completely crippled aloft by the gale. She had sprung her foretopmast head, split fore and aft trysails, sprung main gaff, carried away spanker gaff and mainstay, and washed away the hand lead platform and stem hawse-pipe plugs. In answer to signal she replied that during the gale the fore part of her rudder was "locked," but that it was found impossible to steer the ship under the easy sail required to keep station. (The Hercules, Inconstant, and Monarch are all fitted with rudders on the balance principle, but the Hercules' rudder is jointed near the pivot, and with the fore part locked it assumes the action of an ordinary rudder. The rudders of the Monarch and Inconstant, on the contrary, are not jointed.) At noon on Tuesday the position of the Agincourt and ships in company was lat. 46 5 N., long. 7 18 W. The weather continued fine, and the sea smoothed down to a perfect calm, the wind veering out to S.W. again, and giving the ships a free course. As no signs of the Inconstant were yet visible the ships spread out over a line from E. to W., about 18 miles in length, to look out for her, and stand in for sighting Ushant, at noon making lat. 47 25 N., and long. 6 29 W. At sunset sail was shortened to topsails for the night, but at daylight the next morning, Thursday, sail was again made to royals, and as there was still a fair and moderate whole-sail breeze, the engines were stopped, and the ships held on under canvas alone. At 8 a.m. Ushant bore E. ¾ S., distant 22 miles, and, as no Inconstant was yet in sight, the Hercules was detached from the other ships with instructions to cruise off the Cape until 4 p.m. the next day, Friday, if not falling in with the missing frigate before, and then follow on to Cape Clear and Queenstown. The Agincourt, Minotaur, Northumberland, and Monarch, from Ushant, took a course for the rendezvous off Cape Clear, under all plain sail to topgallant sails, with a steady and fair wind. At 5 p.m. a thick fog set in and continued through the night and until 5 p.m. to-day, when the fleet had reached its rendezvous, 80 miles south of Cape Clear. The fog now suddenly lifting disclosed the Helicon again true to her trust, close aboard the Agincourt.
6 p.m.The Helicon leaves the fleet again at once for Queenstown, and I have therefore barely time to close this letter and send it by her.
The Inconstant has not yet been seen, but no fears are entertained for her safety. She was last seen by the Monarch at 5 p.m. on Monday last, the day of the gale, and she was then running under her foretopsail to leeward. The conclusion I arrive at, although, of course, all the time she may be close to us somewhere in the thick fog, is that she met with some damage to her backstays or spars during the gale, and bore up for Corunna to make all secure.
We lay off here until daylight on Monday, when we go into Queenstown, and the Lords open the new dock.
|Tu 28 September 1869||Another letter from our Correspondent with the Admiralty Squadron brings the history of the cruise almost to its termination. The Mediterranean and Channel Fleets parted company on the 16th inst. after some final evolutions, and the work of the ships would have been pretty well ended but for the incidents of the gale, which caught the Channel Squadron in the skirts of the Bay of Biscay. From the report of the results which we yesterday published one conclusion, at any rate, may be drawn, and that is that broadside Ironclads are good, seaworthy ships. These vessels weathered the storm as well as any old two-deckers could have done, and, indeed, the only ship of which there was no account at the time is the unarmoured frigate, though it now appears that she was disabled in the gale by damage to her tiller, and has been sent to Pembroke to refit. Of the rest, three, including the turret ship, had suffered no injury from the tempest, but the Hercules had been crippled "aloft," and the Northumberland, unfortunately, had lost two men overboard. Some difficulty in steering appears to have been experienced by the ships which were fitted with "balanced" rudders, and inquiries, no doubt, will be directed to the fact.
We observed in some recent remarks on this subject that one of the most important questions of naval architecture and armament would receive but little illustration from this experimental cruise. It seems impossible with our present information to come to any decisive conclusion respecting the relative advantages or disadvantages of broadside and turret vessels, and yet there is no question with more momentous bearings on our future policy. Each of these models has its recommendations, and each its drawbacks, as late examples have sufficiently shown. The only ship in the combined Fleets partaking of the turret character was the Monarch, and she was by no means a turret ship of the genuine stamp. Perhaps we may as well explain that a turret ship, as originally invented and designed, was a submerged vessel - a vessel, in fact, without any visible broadside whatever. Necessarily such a craft would be almost impregnable, as offering no mark for an enemy's shot, but she would also be without any power of offence, as having no ports for guns. It was then that the turret was devised to obviate this deficiency, and in this iron tower, which was made to revolve by machinery, the guns were mounted. Of course, the turret itself was exposed to shot, but it was made of great strength, and competent to resist any ordnance known at the time. By this ingenious combination of offensive and defensive capacities, a very powerful fighting ship was, beyond doubt, produced, and to this day it must be conceded that for the mere purposes of action a turret vessel is the best model. But these strange ships proved to be scarcely habitable and seldom seaworthy; they had little speed, and they seemed, after all, little better than floating batteries. Many improvements have since been introduced, but our readers probably saw last week that the crew of one of Her Majesty’s ships - the Scorpion - had presented a respectful remonstrance against going to sea in her. Now, this Scorpion is a real turret vessel. She is one of the two steam Rams built in the Mersey for the Confederate States, and ultimately purchased for the Royal Navy. If she had been sent to sea with the Channel Squadron, we should have had some authentic, but perhaps unpleasant, evidence of the behaviour of such vessels in a storm, whereas at present we are left to draw our conclusions from the imperfect example of the Monarch. The Monarch did well. She rode out the gale with perfect safety, and it was found that in rough weather she was by far the steadiest vessel it the whole Fleet. Here, therefore, we have on one hand a ship constructed partially on the turret model and showing excellent qualities, and on the other a genuine turret ship regarded as so plainly unseaworthy that a protest is lodged against her leaving harbour.|
The reader will have remarked the pains taken in ascertaining, not quite successfully, the "rolling" of the several vessels in the Fleet, and these observations were, in fact, directed towards the very question involved in the controversy abovementioned. A man-of-war is in one sense simply a floating gun-carriage. It is true the carriage in this case has to carry not only the gun, but the gunners; and not only to float, but to swim well and rapidly. Nevertheless it is of the last importance that the guns should be so carried as to be available for use with the fewest possible drawbacks; and when a vessel "rolls" beyond a certain extent her guns are for the moment of no use at all. No aim can be taken at any distant object, and even if the guns can be loaded and fired, which is not always the case, the firing would be so wild as to be utterly harmless. Now, a real turret ship hardly rolls at all, while a ship with broadside guns and a high freeboard can hardly do otherwise. The Monarch does show a broadside, though a low one, and on that account she rolled less than any vessel in the Squadron. Very possibly the Scorpion might have rolled even less than the Monarch, but if she is not fit to cross the Atlantic she might have fared ill the other day in the Bay of Biscay, and so we become entangled in the question of balance between merits and demerits. On one side there is a fighting ship which, if she will but lodge her crew and swim, will beat any other, and in rough weather any dozen others; on the other we have a ship which will certainly swim and keep the sea admirably, but which may be as helpless as a Thames steamer for fighting purposes in the first gale of wind.
We are disposed to think, upon the whole, that the chief lesson to be drawn from the cruise is the superiority of the Monarch pattern to any other represented in the Squadron. In most ordinary qualities she was as good as any other ship; in steadiness she was far better. It will not have been forgotten that on one occasion she was described as the only effective vessel in the entire Fleet, and that under circumstances by no means exceptional or improbable. A very moderate swell in fine weather sufficed to set the broadside vessels rolling so heavily that not one of them could have fought her guns, while the Monarch sat steadily on the water, and could, it is said, have steamed up at her pleasure and sent half the Squadron to the bottom. This enormous superiority, being unqualified, as far as we are informed, by any material disadvantage, would appear almost to settle the question between her type and that of the Bellerophon or Agincourt; but then another question succeeds. Suppose a vessel with a still lower freeboard - that is to say, still more submerged than the Monarch - could be made equally seaworthy, might not she, in a still heavier gale, have just the same advantage over the Monarch that the Monarch had over the rest of this Admiralty Fleet? She owed her superiority entirely to the element or principle of the turret introduced into her construction; what if that principle could be introduced further, and with as much success? If the experiment were attempted, what should we obtain? Should we get an improved Monarch, fit to knock all our broadsides to pieces, and even the Monarch herself; or should we get another Scorpion, very powerful for offensive purposes, but unfit to go to sea at all? That, in a few words, as illustrated by actual examples, is the great question now before the Admiralty and the country, and we have directed attention to it especially because there is really no other question in naval matters on which so much depends.
|We 29 September 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, QUEENSTOWN ROADS, Monday, Sept. 27, 8 a.m.After the Helicon left this ship and her three consorts at the rendezvous 30 miles south of Cape Clear on Friday last, on her return to Queenstown, the fog which had prevailed along the coast cleared off, and was succeeded by a strong wind and a nasty tumble of a sea, in which the four ships occasionally rolled and pitched to perfection. The monotony of the cruise, after the gale of the 20th, up to the time of reaching the rendezvous, had been sufficiently tiresome, and it only required this additional experience of an Irish swell off the stormy Cape, during a 40 hours' standing off and on under small canvas, to make every one on board the several ships begin to wish the cruise at an end. As, however, Monday morning was the time appointed for the ships to enter Queenstown harbour, there was nothing left for grumblers but a proper resignation to their fate, and an opportunity of appreciating the method of passing a couple of days at sea in "using up" time. Being now in the direct track of ships bound for the Channel, a number of vessels of various rigs were in sight on Saturday morning, and the bark Jessie Jamieson made her number with the commercial code of signals. At noon, there being no appearance of the Inconstant, the Monarch was directed to steam in and make the land, to ascertain if the frigate was anywhere inshore of the squadron. The Enchantress, Admiralty yacht, Staff Commander Petley, arrived at the rendezvous about 2 p.m. from Devonport, with Admiralty despatches and mails, which were with some difficulty got aboard, after which she was sent on to Queenstown. At 6 p.m. the Monarch rejoined, after having sighted the Fastnet-rock Light and the Cape, without seeing anything of the Inconstant. The state of affairs now began to look serious, as the papers brought by the Enchantress contained no notice of the frigate’s arrival at Corunna or Ferrol; but anxiety was happily dispelled yesterday morning at daylight, by the frigate being found in company with the squadron. The reason of her absence was soon ascertained, her reply to the Agincourt's signal of inquiry being:—
"Both tillers carried away together on Monday, the 20th, at 1 p.m. Have fitted very good temporary tiller, besides steering by rudder pendants.
"Saw large ship, looking like Hercules, yesterday, at 6 p.m., Cape Clear, hearing south, and distant 20 miles."
In answer to another signal, this time made by the Minotaur, the Inconstant replied:—
"Rudder acts well. First tiller broken was defective. Second broken by concussion against chock of the afterbracket frame amidships. All working well now."
At the time, therefore, when the Monarch saw the Inconstant running off to leeward at 2 p.m. on the 20th (the day of the gale), she must have been compelled to run before the wind from her inability to steer by the loss of her tillers. The highest credit is due to Captain Aplin and his officers for the manner in which they met the disaster without going into port; at the same time it was a most fortunate circumstance that the gale so soon subsided. Had it lasted four or five days, a not unreasonable supposition at this season of the year, the safety of the frigate would have been seriously imperilled. During the forenoon the Inconstant received orders to proceed direct to Pembroke to repair damages and fill up with coal in readiness for the next cruise of the Channel Squadron, which will probably commence about the 8th or 9th proximo.
At noon the Agincourt and her three consorts in company bore away from the rendezvous off Cape Clear for the Old Head of Kinsale, bearing about north, and distant 50 miles, with yards nearly square, to gain an inshore position from which to enter Queenstown roads and harbour directly after high water this morning. Before leaving the rendezvous the Minotaur ranged up close on the starboard quarter of the Agincourt to receive from her the mailbag which had been sent on board for her from the Enchantress. Clewing up her topsails, Sir Thomas Symonds' flag-ship steered close in upon the Admiralty flagship's lee quarter, and, having received her mail on board, ported her helm, and, with topsail-sheets flattened in, stood away again and off to her position at the head of the lee line in gallant style. The manœuvre was exceedingly well done, and quite worthy the reputation of a ship which is acknowledged by all to be one of the smartest and best disciplined in Her Majesty's Navy. At 8 p.m. the lights of Kinsale were broad on the port beam, and sail was shortened to topsails for the night, the ships shortly afterwards tacking off from the land until daylight.
This morning the Hercules rejoined the squadron on her return from off Ushant on her detached duty to look after the Inconstant. The squadron was off the entrance to Queenstown harbour at 6 a.m., waiting for high water to enter and enable the Agincourt to cross the bar to the inner anchorage, when the Enchantress came out and communicated with this ship. As she returns into Queenstown immediately, to save the morning out mail I shall close this letter and forward it by her. The weather is beautifully fine, and the sea along the coast as smooth as a mill stream.
The Serapis is in sight, steering in for Queenstown.
|Sa 2 October 1869||Rear-Admiral Henry Chads was yesterday appointed second in command of the Channel squadron, hoisting his flag in the Agincourt.|
Capt. Henry Carr Glyn is appointed to the Agincourt as flag captain to Rear-Admiral Chads.
|Ma 4 October 1869|
THE CRUISE OF THE LORDS OF THE ADMIRALTY.
H.M.S. AGINCOURT, QUEENSTOWN, Wednesday, Sept. 29.The arrival of the Fleet here on Monday, with the presence of the turret-ship Scorpion, Captain G.A.C. Brooker, in the inner harbour, gave the Admiralty Lords an opportunity for placing matters in a definite footing relative to the future proceedings of that vessel, of which they availed them selves immediately upon the Agincourt taking up her present moorings. The First Sea Lord, Vice-Admiral Sir Sydney Dacres, with Commodore G.O. Willes, Captain of the Fleet, and Captain Hugh T. Burgoyne, V.C., Admiralty Flag Captain, went on board the Scorpion on Monday afternoon, and after having thoroughly inspected her and made their report an order was issued for the Scorpion to prepare to sail for Bermuda, convoyed by the paddle steam frigate Terrible, on the first favourable opportunity after the return of the latter vessel to Queenstown from Devonport.
The same afternoon their lordships landed on Haulbowline Island, and inspected there the Naval Hospital, to which the sick from the several ships had been removed, the various naval stores on the island, and the site for the new dock, the "foundation stone" of which was laid to-day by his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant. In the evening their lordships entertained at dinner on board their flagship Vice-Admiral Sir T.C. Symonds, K.C.B., commanding the Channel Squadron; Rear-Admiral F. Warden, C.B., commanding the Queenstown Naval Station, and officers commanding Her Majesty's ships, &c.
His Excellency the Lord Lieutenant and the Countess Spencer, accompanied by their suite, passed through Cork between 2 and 3 p.m., on their way to Foto, the seat of Mr. Smith-Barry, near Queenstown, where his Excellency had accepted the invitation of Mr. Barry to stay during the festivities in Cork and Queenstown consequent upon the inauguration of the Admiralty docks at Haulbowline. At the Cork railway station Lord Fermoy introduced Earl Spencer to the Deputy Lieutenants of the county and the municipal authorities of the city of Cork, the latter presenting an address, to which Earl Spencer returned a very judiciously-phrased reply.
The weather on the day of the ships entry into Queenstown Harbour was so extraordinarily fine for the end of September as even to astonish the residents of Queenstown and Cork. When the morning's usual fog had cleared from off the water and the valleys between the adjacent high lands, the sun came out brilliantly, and scarcely a breath of wind or ripple upon the water was perceptible to dispel the pleasant illusion available to all of the existence of a magnificent midsummer morning. The next daybreak was a very different affair. Rain fell heavily the greater part of the night, and in the morning a strong gale, south westerly, of wind and rain was raging, and isolating, in all reasonable sense, the fleet from the shore. In the very height of the storm, however, a deputation from the Queenstown municipal authorities, consisting of Mr. Daniel Cahill, chairman of the Town Commissioners, and other gentlemen, arrived on board the Agincourt, and were introduced by Captain B.F. Seymour to the First Lord and Sir Sydney Dacres, to whom Mr. Cahill, on behalf of the residents of Queenstown, presented the following address:—
“To the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.
"My Lords,— We, the Town Commissioners of Queenstown, hail with sentiments of the liveliest satisfaction your lordships' visit to our port.
"The presence of Her Majesty’s fleet would at any time afford us much gratification, but the object of your lordships' presence in our harbour on this occasion — the inauguration of the Government docks — is to us a source of pride and pleasure; and we trust that this Imperial work may be shortly available for the repairs and equipment of Her Majesty's ships, whether disabled by the casualties of war or from any other cause.
"To this end we would respectfully urge on your lordships the expediency of employing more free labour, and thus expediting the completion of a work which has been so anxiously looked forward to, not only by the inhabitants of this locality but by the entire Irish people.
"Signed on behalf of the Commissioners,
"Daniel Cahill, Chairman.
"James Ahern, Secretary."
The several members of the deputation were invited by Mr. Childers to add any observation they wished to make on the subject referred to in the address. They impressed upon the Lords the expectation which had been held out ever since the time of the Union that a Royal dock would be constructed in Cork Harbour, which, they observed, from its peculiar advantages, ought to be a more important naval station than it now is; and expressed a hope that, considering the time which had elapsed since it was decided to construct a Royal dock here, the views then expressed and put forward as to giving employment to the people and spending money in Ireland, more rapid progress would be made with the works than had hitherto been. Mr. Childers, speaking as First Lord of the Admiralty, replied, and in the course of his observations said it was the interest of the Admiralty as well as that of the people of Queenstown to have the dock completed as soon as possible for the use of the navy. They should, however, consider at the same time the amount which should be expended, not only here, but upon public works generally in the kingdom. He found, on reference to the Estimates, that the present expenditure in a year upon the works in Cork Harbour represented about two-fifteenths of the whole sum originally estimated for the dock. That was about the same proportionate rate of expenditure as was going on at Chatham, and was even greater than the proportion now being expended on the works at Portsmouth. In justifying the Estimates to the House of Commons, he had to have regard to that consideration and many others. Further, that it was necessary in all public works not to use undue haste, and he should have to take the professional advice of Colonel Clarke before holding out any expectations that greater progress could be made consistently with the proper execution of the engineering operations. Mr. Seymour said the inhabitants of Queenstown had laid out a great deal of money in the expectation that the Royal docks would be completed at an early date. Mr. Childers said nothing had struck him more when arriving here the other day than the marked improvement which he noticed in everything connected with Queenstown. He remembered it a comparatively ill-built, badly-lighted, badly-drained, and insignificant town, whereas it was now as well-conditioned and as handsome as any town on the coast of England. His Lordship concluded by assuring the deputation that their representations should receive consideration. The deputation then returned to Queenstown.
In consequence of the severity of the weather the Lords of the Admiralty deferred their visit to the Queenstown Royal Sailors' Home.
In the evening his Excellency the Lord Lieutenant and the Lords of the Admiralty were entertained at a grand banquet, given by the Corporation Harbour Commissioners and citizens of Cork, at the Imperial Hotel, Cork. Covers were laid for 250 guests, and the entire affair was a splendid success.
Thursday Morning.The Agincourt leaves the inner harbour at 10 a.m., and joins the Channel Squadron in the outer roads, from which all sail for Pembroke about 5 p.m. In unmooring this ship this morning the capstan overpowered the men at the bars; and three of the men were severely hurt on their heads and arms. One has been sent to the hospital at Haulbowline with his arm broken and a severe gash in his head. The others remain on board under the charge of Dr. O’Brien.
H.M.S. Agincourt, PEMBROKE, Friday, Oct. 1.Yesterday morning about 10 o’clock the Agincourt cast loose from her moorings in the inner anchorage at Queenstown, and steamed out to the man-of-war anchorage in the outer roads, where she dropped her anchor outside the rest of the ships preparatory to sailing for Pembroke in the evening.
At 7 p.m. yesterday the ships had weighed their anchors and were steaming out from Queenstown roads for the Channel and Pembroke. On getting clear of the land the Monarch was detached from the Squadron and ordered to proceed on direct to Portsmouth at five-knot speed. The Agincourt, with the Enchantress in company, also left the Squadron and started on ahead for Pembroke at eight-knot speed. The Minotaur, Northumberland, and Hercules, under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Symonds, K.C.B., followed at economical rate of steaming to arrive at Pembroke this afternoon. Colonel Clarke, R.E., Admiralty Director of Works, who had joined their Lordships officially on the previous day on the occasion of laying the foundation stone of the new docks at Haulbowline Island, accompanied their Lordships in the Agincourt.
The Indian troop relief screw transport Serapis, Captain J. Soady, left Queenstown at the same time as the Squadron, bound to Alexandria with troops on board for India.
The Agincourt and the Enchantress passed through the entrance into Milford Haven this morning about half-past 7, and soon afterwards brought up off the dockyard here. The Minotaur, Northumberland, and Hercules arrived during the afternoon, as had been arranged. On the arrival of the Agincourt in the harbour, their Lordships were joined on board by Rear-Admiral Sir R.S. Robinson, K.C.B., Controller of the Navy, and the afternoon was devoted to an official inspection of the dockyard and other naval establishments, the ships building, and the works in hand in Colonel Clarke's department, in the evening their Lordships gave their official dinner on board the Agincourt to flag officers and captains.
The Admiralty ensign was hauled down from the main of the Agincourt, where it had done 39 days' duty, at sunset and transferred to the Enchantress, thus bringing the cruise of the Lords of the Admiralty with the Mediterranean and Channel Fleets for 1869 to an end.
The First Lord, with Admiral Robinson, Captain F.B. Seymour, C.B., Private Secretary, and Mr. R. Munday, Admiralty Secretary, leave here to- morrow in the Enchantress for Devonport, where the usual annual inspection will be made of the dockyard there. Sir Sidney Dacres and Commander Willes return to London from here to-morrow. Flag-Lieutenant Hon. E. S. Dawson returns from Pembroke to his duties at Queenstown as Flag-Lieutenant to Rear-Admiral Warden, but will most probably very shortly receive his promotion to Commander's rank. Mr. R. Munday, who has been Acting Secretary to the Admiralty during the cruise, will, on the 23d inst., be appointed Secretary to Admiral Codrington on the appointment of that officer to the Naval Command-in-Chief at Devonport.
Rear-Admiral Chads visited the Agincourt to-day, and to-morrow morning will hoist his flag on board as second in command of the Channel Fleet.
The ships are ordered to fill up with coal and other requisite stores, and will sail about the 10th inst. on a cruise, possibly to Madeira and back, the present intentions of the Admiralty being understood to be that the Fleet shall be in England at Christmas, and the men paid up their wages at the commencement of the New Year in a home port, so that the money paid may have a better chance of reaching the men's wives and families than it would if paid in a foreign port.
The coals burnt during the entire cruise, except one day's consumption by the combined fleet, after leaving Lisbon, and one day's return from the Monarch, will be found in the subjoined returns:—
Plymouth to Gibraltar.— Agincourt, 177 tons 12 cwt.; Monarch, 138 tons 5 cwt.; Hercules, 99 tons 16 cwt.; Inconstant, 89 tons 15 cwt.; Minotaur, 188 tons 16 cwt.; Northumberland, 180 tons 6 cwt.; Bellerophon, 123 tons 19 cwt.; total, 993 tons 9 cwt.
Gibraltar to Lisbon.— Agincourt, 142 tons 11 cwt.; Monarch, 156 tons; Hercules, 84 tons 13 cwt.; Inconstant, 66 tons; Lord Warden, 115 tons 12 cwt.; Royal Oak, 123 tons 11 cwt.; Caledonia, 130 tons 14 cwt.; Prince Consort, 137 tons 14 cwt.; Minotaur, 167 tons 12 cwt.; Northumberland, 158 tons; Bellerophon, 111 tons 18 cwt.; Pallas, 86 tons 15 cwt.; Enterprise, 40 tons; total, 1,521 tons.
Lisbon to Queenstown.— Agincourt, 225 tons 16 cwt.; Minotaur, 248 tons 16 cwt.; Northumberland, 241 tons 4 cwt.; Monarch, 204 tons; Hercules, 113 tons; total, 1,032 tons 16 cwt.
Total Coals Burnt.— Plymouth to Gibraltar, 998 tons 9 cwt.; Gibraltar to Lisbon, 1,521 tons; Lisbon to Queenstown, 1,032 tons 16 cwt.; total, 3,552 tons 5 cwt.
I cannot close this, my last, letter from the Agincourt without expressing my best thanks to Captain Burgoyne and all his officers, and especially my messmates in the ward-room, for the great kindness and courtesy I have received at their hands during the cruise. On any future occasion of the kind in which I may be engaged I can only hope that I may meet with as thorough a set of gentlemen as it has been my good fortune to have met on the present occasion on board the Agincourt.
|Th 17 March 1870|
EXPERIMENTAL CRUISE OF THE CHANNEL AND MEDITERRANEAN SQUADRONS.A return has just been presented to Parliament of "Reports of the Performances of the Ships of the combined Channel and Mediterranean Squadrons during their Cruise between August 23 and October 2, 1869.” The Reports are contributed respectively by the Captain of the Fleet [George Ommanny Willes ] and the Controller of the Navy [Robert Spencer Robinson], and, a few of the captains attached to the squadron, and are accompanied by a Minute from the Admiralty Board. Their contents are highly satisfactory except as regards one point, but this is of considerable importance. The Lords of the Admiralty declare themselves "strongly impressed by the evident inexperience in fleet sailing and other professional duties at sea exhibited by many officers." This, for high official language, is tolerably plain speaking, but still it will, perhaps, appear rather mild than otherwise to those of our readers who happen to have heard through private sources in what condition some of the ships were found at the commencement of the cruise. It was decidedly a startling discovery that this or that fine vessel, built and equipped according to the latest improvements, and helping with a few others like her to make the British Navy look, on paper, the most powerful in the world, might on a sudden emergency have failed signally simply because her officers did not know how to handle her. The discovery might, too, have come at an awkward moment but for the experiment of the cruise, which, on this ground alone, therefore, may be considered well worth all its cost. The chief practical conclusion which the Admiralty Board deduce from the experiment is, "the absolute necessity of keeping Her Majesty's fleets and ships more at sea, and especially out of the home ports." They propose to keep the Channel and Mediterranean fleets constantly cruising, to detach annually a "squadron of evolution," and to adopt a system of frequently exchanging officers and men between sea-going and reserve ships. These certainly appear the right sort of practical remedies for the professional "inexperience" complained of, and we can only trust they will be vigorously applied, even if they cost money, since the evil is too serious to be trifled with. But the Board hope, by reducing the present redundant supply of naval officers, to create funds for keeping the rest more constantly at sea on full pay.
The combined squadrons formed a powerful force of 12 ironclads, their officers and crews amounting to over 8,000 persons. The squadrons were at sea together 13 days, and as there were ships enough to form in three columns they had every opportunity for practising the formations necessary with a large fleet in time of war. These 13 days were nearly all passed in trials of speed under sail (there were, for various reasons, no trials of speed under steam), or in target practice, or in evolutions under steam, while at night frequent experiments were made with Commander Colomb's flashing signals. Very strong testimony is borne to the value of these signals by the Captain of the Fleet, who records that with skilled signalmen they enable communication to be kept up freely among a large number of vessels, and the Board of Admiralty are about to organize a regular corps of signalmen, with the view of introducing Commander Colomb's system into general use throughout the Navy. The squadrons experienced when together singularly smooth weather, but just as they were parting a sudden swell fortunately gave an opportunity of testing pretty accurately by the oscillations of the several ships the relative degrees of steadiness of their platforms. The result was that the Hercules, Monarch, and Inconstant showed 6 to 7 oscillations a minute; the Agincourt, Minotaur, and Northumberland, 8 to 9; the Bellerophon, 8½ to 9½; the Prince Consort, 11 to 12; the Lord Warden, Royal Oak, and Caledonia, 12 to 13; the Pallas, 13 to 14. Steadiness of platform, it need scarcely be said, is one of the most important considerations in a man-of-war, and it is worthy of remark that the ships which showed fewest oscillations are of recent design. The Monarch is described by the Controller of the Navy as a ship of an entirely new class, "the only true sea-going turret-ship produced as yet by any Navy." A peculiar interest attaches, therefore, to her performances, and it is satisfactory to find them, on the whole, extremely good. ln addition to the steadiness of platform, already noted, she is remarkable for her ease, comfort, and dryness. During a gale to which one of the squadron was subsequently exposed she shipped no water whatever, and did not strain a rope-yarn, while her guns - her turret-armament makes her one of the most formidable ironclads in existence - could have been "fought to windward or leeward with the same ease as at Spithead." Her speed also exceeds that of any ironclad yet built. On the other hand, her steering under sail with a balanced rudder is not satisfactory, and her turrets are too small for the guns and wanting proper ventilation to allow the smoke to escape after a discharge.
We have drawn attention to the fact that she is of recent design, as this fact is connected with an important question upon which the experimental cruise has thrown valuable light. It may be remembered that when Admiral Warden's reports were laid before Parliament in 1868 they gave the public the very unwelcome information that ships of recent design were, in his opinion, inferior in certain important respects to ships of an earlier date. Both the classes to which the Admiral referred were represented in the recent cruise, and an opportunity was thus given for comparing the performances of their respective representatives. The conclusion arrived at is directly opposed to Admiral Warden's view. The Controller of the Navy declares that, according to the reports forwarded by the Captain of the Fleet and Vice Admiral Sir F. [? T.M.C.] Symonds, "the ships of recent design have exhibited an incontestable superiority over the ships of older design." Three ironclads of the Minotaur class, designed by the late constructive department of the Admiralty, and three ironclads of the latest design by the present Chief Constructor of the Navy took part in the cruise. The former showed, indeed, admirable steadiness of platform, safety and comfort in a gale of wind, speed under steam, and economy of fuel. But their sailing qualities were indifferent and their unhandiness in steering and turning such as might have been expected from their great length. They are, we may explain, from 60 to 100 feet longer than the ships of later design. They are inferior, too, to the latter in the amount of armour-plating they can carry, and in the power of their artillery, while "the extreme fineness of their fore and aft bodies, even with the limited armour-plating they carry, occasions the plunging and washing away of their light hull fittings." The Bellerophon, on the other hand, a ship of recent design, with practically the same speed and nearly the same steadiness of platform, shows incomparably more handiness under steam, far greater strength of armour-plating, and a more formidable battery. She is also much cheaper. The "reduced proportion of length to breadth" in her class, and the introduction of the "bracket frame system of construction," are declared to have effected a saving which may already be estimated as largely exceeding one million, and which can be carried still further. If this calculation be correct, the cruise has furnished satisfactory proofs that we are at length beginning to secure both economy and efficiency in the construction of our Navy.