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HMS Captain (1869)
|► The Royal Navy||Browse mid-Victorian RN vessels: A; B; C; D; E - F; G - H; I - L; M; N - P; Q - R; S; T - U; V - Z; ??|
|Launched||27 March 1869|
|Builders measure||4272 tons|
|Note||Ships book ADM 136/3.|
1870.09.07 capsized in storm off Cape Finisterre
|Snippets concerning this vessels career|
|30 April 1870|
- 7 September 1870
|Commanded by Captain Hugh Talbot Burgoyne, until the ship capsized in a gale whilst cruising off of Cape Finisterre, with the loss of about 480 lives|
|Extracts from the Times newspaper|
|Tu 3 December 1861||'Our Iron-Clad Frigates'.|
|Fr 14 February 1868||OUR IRON-CLAD FLEET. — A return likely to be called for annually has been laid before Parliament, giving an account of our iron-clad fleet built, building, or ordered. The return, which is dated the 30th of August, 1867, contains a list of 31 ships then completed, 13 of them wholly armour-clad, and 18 partially. They are: — The Black Prince, 32 guns; Warrior, 32; Defence, 16; Resistance, 16; Achilles, 26; Hector, 18: Valiant, 18; Minotaur, 26; Agincourt, 26; Northumberland, 26; Royal Oak, 24; Prince Consort, 24; Caledonia, 24; Ocean, 24; Royal Alfred 18; Zealous, 20; Bellerophon, 15; Lord Clyde, 24; Lord Warden, 18; Penelope, 11; Pallas, 8; Favourite, 10; Research, 4; Enterprise, 4; Waterwitch, 2; Vixen, 2; Viper, 2; Royal Sovereign, 5; Prince Albert, 4; Scorpion, 4; Wivern, 4. Twenty-one of these ships are of more than 3,000 tons each. Six other ships were at the date of this return building; two to be wholly armour-clad, and four partially; the Hercules, just launched; the Monarch, 6 guns, to be launched in June; the Captain, 6, the Repulse, 12, to be launched in April; the Audacious, 14, in December; and the Invincible, 14, in March, 1869. All these six ships exceed 3,700 tons. Another, the Bellona, is ordered [and apparently later cancelled]. Lastly, there are the four wholly armour-clad batteries launched in 1855 and 1856, the Erebus, Terror, Thunderbolt, and Thunder; the three first of 16 guns, and the last 14, their tonnage ranging from 1,469 to 1,973. The first cost of the 31 iron-clad ships completed amounted in the whole to 7,284,294l. This includes fittings, but the accounts for some of the latter ships are not yet closed, and this sum does not include incidental and establishment charges. These last indirect charges, calculated in accordance with the recommendation of the Committee on Dockyard Manufactures, add about 35 per cent. to the gross direct charges for labour and materials expended upon each ship in the financial year 1864-65, about 51 per cent. for 1865-66, and the year 1866-67 is for the present estimated to show the same ratio of 51 per cent. These indirect charges have amounted, on the Bellerophon, to no less than 114,372l.; Lord Warden, 104.292l., with a further addition to follow: Royal Alfred, 69,999l., also liable to some addition; Lord Clyde, 66,964l.; Pallas, 61,076l. The most costly of the ships have been the Minotaur, 450,774l.; the Agincourt, 446,048l., both of them with unsettled claims for extra payment; the Northumberland, 433,130l., with the accounts not yet closed; the Achilles, 444,590l.; and the Hercules, estimated at 401,000l. Further sums have to be added to the cost of these ships for dockyard, incidental, and establishment charges.|
|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.
|Ma 8 August 1870||The Reports of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Matthew Charles Symonds upon the Trials of Her Majesty’s ships Monarch and Captain, to which so many people have been looking forward with interest, have at length been published, and will well repay perusal. No such terse and practical Reports, so far as we can remember, have for a long time been laid before Parliament. Admiral Symonds points out drawbacks in either vessel, but is quick to recognize the superiority of both to all the broadsides under his command. Both ships, he says, are "very easy in a seaway, and can use their guns in any sea in which an action is likely to be fought." Instructed to watch carefully "the effect of a sea combined with force of double reefed topsail breeze on the ship with low freeboard, whether there would be a liability of the height of the wave interfering with the efficiency of the fire of the 12-inch guns of the Captain," he reports that "the ship of low freeboard has shown no failing on this point; . . . they hit a target (a small cask and flag) distant 1,000 yards to windward (at the third shot); and in a treble-reefed topsail breeze and sea, shot were dropped 1,000 yards to windward, the sea not interfering in any way." After a heavy gale on the night of the 29th of May "both ships were very steady;" on the 2d of June, in a long heavy swell from N.W., when the greatest rolling of the Warrior was 10 degrees, the greatest rolling of the Monarch was five, and of the Captain less than four degrees. On the 25th of May, when "the Minotaur's main deck was wet throughout by the sea entering the weather ports, and a great spray wet the poop" of the flagship, the turrets of the Captain were not in any way inconvenienced. Her hurricane deck was dry, although the sea washed freely over her main deck, "but in a far less degree than I anticipated." The Admiral recommends the Monarch to be altered by the removal of the forecastle, the bow guns, and their protecting ironplated bulkhead — on which, by the by, Mr. Reed, in his letter published by us to-day, particularly plumes himself — and then "the Monarch would have no equal among present ships of war;" and his verdict on the other vessel, as she now floats, without alteration, is, — "The Captain is a most formidable ship, and could, I believe, by her superior armament, destroy all the broadside ships of this squadron in detail." This sentence of the Admiral, who has never been known as a partisan of turret-ships, — whatever Mr. Reed may now think fit to assert in this respect, completely confirms the opinion of our Special Correspondent, who last year accompanied the combined squadrons under the Admiralty flag and startled the public mind by writing, — "There can be no manner of doubt that had the Monarch been an enemy, with her turret 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 turn.”|
Such is the pith and substance of the Reports which have just been published. The reflections to which they give rise are very mixed, but we are sure the public, who are often puzzled by the disputes of rival inventors, but always ready to do justice to perseverance and successful ingenuity, will be prompt to recognize the merits of Captain Cowper Coles, whose efforts have at length been crowned with such indisputable success. In October, 1861, when we were commencing our broadside ironclad fleet, Captain Coles wrote to the Admiralty as follows: — "I will undertake to prove that on my principle a vessel shall be built nearly 100 feet shorter than the Warrior, and in all respects equal to her, with one exception — that I will guarantee to disable and capture her in an hour. She shall draw four feet less water, require only half her crew, and cost the country for building at least 100,000l. less." In season and out of season he has ever since maintained the same pretensions. In 1865 he obtained an Admiralty Committee to consider his challenge, and it was in consequence of the Report of that Committee that it was determined to build the Monarch. Captain Coles protested against the lofty freeboard which the Admiralty Constructors designed for her. He declared that it was of the essence of his invention that by concentrating the armament in turrets amidships a high freeboard might be dispensed with, to the great advantage of the ship, both offensively and defensively. He obtained at the close of 1866 permission to design a ship after his own idea, in conjunction with Messrs. Laird, of Birkenhead, and the Captain is the offspring of their united ingenuity. Every one at Whitehall declared that a ship with so low a freeboard would be swamped by the sea and unable to use her guns. The Captain was tried under all the disadvantages of a raw crew within a fortnight after she was commissioned, was tested by a most experienced Admiral in rougher weather than most actions have been fought in, and the result is given in the Reports from which we have quoted above. Seldom has it been given to an inventor to reap in his lifetime so gratifying and complete a success. The two ships which carry off the palm in our Navy are the two which represent the invention of Captain Coles; and it is easy to gather from the Reports of Admiral Symonds which of them, as he thinks, embodies the preferable type. There have been two eminent naval designers in Europe during the last ten years — M. Dupuy de Lôme, the advocate of broadsides, an eminent French engineer but no sailor, and Captain Coles, of our own Navy, the advocate of a rival system.
The Controller of our Navy proclaimed himself in 1865 a follower of the French designer. and he and Mr. Reed, in more than official antagonism, have for years opposed Captain Coles with an animus which is signally shown in the letter which we publish to-day. If it were wise or patriotic, we could point out hundreds of weak points in all the ships which Mr. Reed, with unlimited scope and skilled assistance, has added to the British Navy. We prefer to listen to the Admirals who command our squadrons — whether "sailing Admirals" or not, as Mr. Reed politely terms them — and rejoice that at length Mr. Reed, who is no sailor, is prohibited, as he tells us, from publishing controversial Minutes in defence of his own ships against the strictures of the recognized professional judges. He trumps up the old story that a shot fired with depression might stop the revolution of the turret. The experiment was tried with the guns of the Bellerophon at short range against the turrets of the Royal Sovereign, and the fear was shown to be groundless. Moreover, in action, when ships are moving and rolling from one side to another, it is no such safe or easy matter, as any artillerist will tell us, to fire a large gun with anything like the requisite depression. Mr. Reed exhibits in his letter all the disappointment of defeat. It is, indeed, no very pleasing reflection at the present moment that of the 40 ironclads which Mr. Childers lately mentioned only four are of the English type, which is now confessed to be the stronger and the better.
There is one point of great importance upon which the Admiral in command expresses himself with some doubt and hesitation. Are not the advantages of masts and sails too dearly purchased by the impediments they offer to an all-round fire from the turrets, and by the risks of accident or burning which attach to them in action? He admits that with the Captain as she is "he has never seen such a range of training before, and that the perfect clearance of her 600-pounder guns for action from a training of 60 degrees forward to 60 degrees aft is very satisfactory, particularly when compared with the 30 degrees of the 9-inch 250-pounder guns of the broadside ships." She has since extended her range of firing from 82 degrees forward to 80 degrees aft; but even so she does not meet the ideal of the Admiral, who is anxious to be able to fire right ahead with the turret guns, seeing that "attack in future actions will generally be end-on right ahead, the exposure of broadside or quarter to ramming being suicidal." The class of ships introduced by Mr. Childers, of the Devastation and Fury [renamed Dreadnought prior to launch] type, carrying on a low freeboard without masts or sails the heaviest ordnance invented, will undoubtedly for heavy fighting in line of battle have advantages to which no sea-going cruiser like the Captain or Monarch can pretend. But the British Navy will always require sea-going cruisers, and for that purpose it seems to be now admitted that both the Monarch and the Captain are far preferable to the Hercules or the Sultan. To us it appears that the Captain, which in all other respects is the equal of the Monarch, and which carries more and thicker armour, and can be cleared for action in five minutes, while the Monarch takes an hour and a half, is a ship unequalled up to the present date for the purposes of war by anything afloat, and well deserves to be repeated, with such improvements as can be suggested by the ingenuity of Captain Coles.
|Fr 2 September 1870||Our Malta correspondent, writes under date of Valetta, August 26:-|
"By the arrival of the Peninsular and Oriental Company's packet Nyanza on the 21st inst, intelligence has been received of the Mediterranean Squadron under the command of Admiral Sir Alexander Milne, K.C.B., to the 17th inst. The squadron, consisting of the Lord Warden, Caledonia, Royal Oak, Prince Consort, Bellerophon, and Columbine, arrived at Gibraltar on the 12th inst., and completed with coal on the same day. The Lord Warden and Caledonia, being finished coaling, put off from the Mole and moored in the inner anchorage. On coming to an anchor off the New Mole a slight collision occurred between the Prince Consort and Bellerophon. The former touched the quarter of the latter, caring away the quarter davits of the Bellerophon and snapping off her own jibboom. Early on the morning of Monday, the 15th inst., the Channel squadron was sighted from the Gibraltar signal-staff, and soon afterwards made its appearances coming round the point under sail; then furling sails it steamed into the anchorage off the New Mole. The squadron consisted of the Minotaur, bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Hastings Yelverton, K.C.B..; Agincourt, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Henry Chads; Northumberland, Monarch, Hercules, Inconstant, Captain, and Warrior. By noon on the 17th all the ships had completed coaling, and were ready for sea. The combined Mediterranean and Channel Squadrons, under the supreme command of Admiral Sir Alexander Milne, were expected to put to sea on the 19th for the long talked-of cruise. There were at Gibraltar besides the above-mentioned ships, the Bristol, training vessel, Captain T.W. Wilson; the Trinculo and Porcupine Staff Captain Calver. The latter vessel proceeded into the Mediterranean on the 16th inst. to prosecute a survey of the sea-bottom, in the interests of science. She may soon be expected at Malta. The Bristol was to join the combined squadrons during the cruise. When the Mediterranean squadron was off Algiers on the 8th inst., the Psyche proceeded into that port, rejoining the Flag the same night. She went on to Gibraltar on the following day, and again met the Commander-in-Chief on the 11th inst., with the mails. His Excellency the Governor of Gibraltar has been pleased to allow the gates of the fortress to he opened, when required during the night, for the use of officers of the various ships - a privilege hitherto not conceded, but one which is fully appreciated by the whole squadron. The following is a list of the appointments and charges made since my last letter … [omitted] … Her Majesty’s ironclad ship Defence, 16, Capt. Nowel Salmon, V.C., was unexpectedly ordered off by telegraph on the 20th inst. Her destination was kept secret, but is variously rumoured to be Tunis, Palermo, and Gibraltar. I think that it is not impossible she has gone to Civita Vecchia, for the protection of British residents at Rome, and to offer a refuge to His Holiness the Pope end his Ministers, should the course of events render such protection desirable or necessary. Her Majesty's despatch vessel, Antelope, 3, Lieut.-Commander J. Buchanan, arrived here on the 25th inst. from Constantinople, seven days. The surveying schooner Azov, Lieut.- Commander Moore, which had gone out on hydrographic science, has returned into port."