|Central battery ironclad sloop
|9 February 1864
|Laid down as Circassian, Camelion class wooden screw sloop
|Snippets concerning this vessels career
|26 March 1864
- September 1866
|Commanded (from commissioning at Deptford) by Commander Charles John Rowley, Channel squadron, then Mediterranean
|7 July 1866
|Commanded by Commander George Stanley Bosanquet, Mediterranean
|11 April 1870
- 30 August 1871
|Commanded (until paying off at Sheerness) by Commander George Digby Morant, Mediterranean
|Extracts from the Times newspaper
|Ma 11 August 1862
|Th 19 November 1863
|Fr 5 August 1864
|The first of the 100-pounder 6¼ smooth-bore guns has been received from the Royal gun factory for the ironclad frigates Research, 4, 200-horse power, and the Enterprise, 4, 160-horse power. The armament for the iron frigate Achilles, 1,250-horse power, which is to be furnished exclusively with the same description of gun, is daily expected at Chatham. Notwithstanding the disparaging statements which have been made as to the alleged smallness of the battery in the Research and the Enterprise, both those vessels now carry the largest guns of any ship in Her Majesty's service, with, of course, the single exception of the Royal Sovereign, which is some four times their size. Were the guns on board the Enterprise and the Research worked by other than manual labour not the slightest complaint would be raised as to the smallness of the batteries in each of those vessels. In the opinion of all officers whose views on the subject are worthy of consideration the present mode of working large guns by the old system of tackles and handspikes is a disgrace to the age, and, unless some simple and easily workable mechanical arrangement can be adapted for the monster 12-ton and 15-ton 300-pounder and other guns with which it Is intended to arm our future ironclad vessels of war, it is believed that the working of these guns will prove a practical impossibility.
|Sa 12 November 1864
|The following is the list of the vessels of the Royal navy which will be armed, and are now being armed, with the new description of 300-pounder and other guns in course of issue. The figures after each vessel specify the number of guns of the description mentioned she will carry. To mount the 12-ton 300-pounders:- Bellerophon, 10; Royal Sovereign, 5; Minotaur, 4; Scorpion, 4; Wiveren, 4; Prince Albert, 4; Agincourt, 4; and Northumberland, 4. To be armed with the 6½-ton guns:- The Achilles, 20; Black Prince, 20; Warrior, 20; Lord Warden, 20; Lord Clyde, 20; Royal Oak, 20; Prince Consort, 20; Royal Alfred, 20; Caledonia, 20; Ocean, 20; Minotaur, 18 ; Agincourt, 18; Valiant, 16; Zealous, 16; Hector, 16; Defence, 10; Resistance, 10; Endymion, 6; Mersey, 4; Orlando, 4, Pallas, 4; Favourite, 4; Research, 4; Enterprise, 4; Amazon, 2; Viper, 2; and Vixen, 2. To mount the 64-pounder muzzle-loader:- The Bristol, 12; Melpomene, 12; Liverpool, 12; Severn, 12; Arethusa, 12; Phoebe, 12;. Shannon, 12; Octavia, 12; Constance, 12; Sutlej, 12; Undaunted, 12; Impérieuse, 12; Aurora, 12; Leander, 12; Bacchante, 12; Emerald, 12; Phaeton, 12: Narcissus, 12; Forte, 12; Euryalus, 12; Topaz, 12; Newcastle, 12; Liffey, 12; Immortalité, 12; Glasgow, 12; Clio, 8, North Star, 8 [laid down 1860, cancelled 1865]; Racoon, 8; Challenge[r], 8; and Menai, 8 [laid down 1860, cancelled 1864]. The following will be supplied with the 64-pounder breech-loaders:- The Scout, 8; Rattlesnake, 8; Cadmus, 8; Scylla, 8; Barossa, 8; Jason, 8; Charybdis, 8; Wolverine, 8; Pylades, 8; Orestes, 8; Pearl, 8; Pelorus, 8; Satellite, 8; Acheron, 4 [laid down 1861, cancelled 1863]; Shearwater, 4; Valorous, 4; Furious, 4; Bittern, 4 [laid down 1861, cancelled 1863]; Magicienne, 4; and Columbine, 4. A supply of the 6½-ton smooth-bore 100-pounder wrought iron guns has already been received at Chatham, and it is understood that the first supply of the 300-pounder rifled 12-ton Armstrong gun may shortly be expected at the Ordnance wharf.
|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 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…
|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
The Cruiser to be on the beam of the Agincourt, and the Enterprise four or eight cables, as signalled, astern of the Agincourt, Cruiser and Enterprise to repeat signals.
"3. Whenever a course is ordered to be steered, the Cruiser, as the only wooden unarmoured ship in the fleet, is to watch most carefully the actual magnetic course steered.
"4. Vice-Admirals Sir Alexander Milne and Sir T.M. Symonds to regulate the movements of the several ships in their respective divisions, and carry out the detail of arrangements thereof, but in all evolutions the motions of the Agincourt to be followed."
Their Lordships observed, in conclusion, that, being desirous of personally testing the notes and additions made to various signals by Admirals of the Channel Squadron, and which have been used by their Lordships since leaving Plymouth Sound, they request that Sir Alexander Milne will cause the signal books of the ships under his immediate orders to be corrected from a copy sent to him from the Agincourt, and their Lordships at the end of the present cruise will be glad to have his opinion of the desirability of revising the books accordingly.
The fleet, therefore, sailed out of the bay in the order laid down in the second clause of the instructions, but the Inconstant was absent from her place in the weather division, having split the starboard valve box over her boilers in getting up steam in the morning, and remained behind to repair the damage, her place in the meantime being taken by the Enterprise. The Psyche also remained at the Rock to bring on despatches and mails.
A hot easterly breeze, at a force of nearly 6, prevailed when the ships left the Bay of Gibraltar, and covered the peaks of the rock and the mountains on the European and African coasts with dense masses of vapour. A southerly course was steered until the lee division was well clear of the Pearl Rock, when helms were ported, all plain sail made to royals, and the ships bore away through the Straits of Gibraltar to the westward, each under a cloud of canvas and reduced revolutions of the engines, the Agincourt's division taking the Morocco side of the Straits, the Minotaur's the Spanish side, and the Lord Warden's a central line. The Cruiser soon got out her studding sails on the port side to assist her scant steam power in keeping her position on the Agincourt's beam, and her appearance drew the remark from an officer on the flagship poop, "The Cruiser was certainly very pretty and — very useless." After passing Tarifa Point the fleet stood over to the Morocco shore, and on opening Tangier Bay and town clear of Point Malabata, the second and third divisions shortened sail and remained in view from the town, while the Agincourt led her division in a sweep round the bay until opposite the town, when her helm was put down, and, as she swung her head up to starboard and off from the land again, the crimson flag of Morocco was run up to her main royal masthead and saluted by her upper deck battery with 21 guns, the Castle of Tangier, in reply, hoisting the British ensign, and saluting from its batteries — taking the entire round of the ramparts for the fire — with 22 guns. Again the Agincourt's guns opened in salute, this time with 17 guns, in honour of the Governor, and again the guns of the Castle roared out their courteous reply, this time as before with one gun in excess, with 18 rounds. The town of Tangier, built in tiers of white buildings on the side of steep rising ground from the sea shore, with the flags of the several European Consulates streaming out in the fresh breeze, the bold background of mountains, with the glistening waters of the bay, all lit by the hot afternoon's sun, presented a very striking appearance. The visit of the fleet, brief as it was, was undoubtedly a piece of good diplomacy. On the occasion of the private visit paid to the town on the previous day by Mr. Childers and Sir Sydney Dacres, every honour and courtesy was accorded to them that the Moorish authorities could possibly command. The Castle fired a salute in their honour on their landing from the Psyche, and on their arrival at the British Legation the Minister for Foreign Affairs, attended by the Pashas of the provinces and accompanied by a number of officers of rank, waited upon their Lordships, and were introduced by the British Minister, Sir J. Drummond Hay, After the return visit had been paid to the Minister at his palace, horses were provided for the use of their Lordships, Sir Richard Airey, Governor of Gibraltar, and the several officers of the naval and military Staffs who had crossed over in the Psyche, and the various objects of interest in the town and neighbourhood visited and explained by the Moorish officers in attendance. For the fuller initiation of their distinguished visitors into the mysteries and customs of Oriental life, a veritable "snake charmer" was produced with a number of the reptiles, which he exhibited in the usual manner, and wound up his performance by tightly binding up his right arm above the elbow, and then selecting one of the most hideous looking of the creatures, he teased it into such fury that it at length fastened on the charmer's fore arm and drew blood freely.
After the salutes had been completed between the Agincourt and the Castle, the flagship led her division again out of the bay, and rejoined the fleets outside, the ships then resuming their course westward, the Agincourt’s ensign dipping in reply to the same form of courtesy from the Union Jack seen flying over the country residence of the British Minister, on the slopes of the Indios Mountain, about three miles west of the entrance to Tangier Bay.
Cape Spartel was soon afterwards left astern, and the fleet steered on a north-westerly course in the direction of Cape St. Vincent, under easy sail for the night, commencing its homeward, as it did its outward voyage, with a fair wind, and weather of extraordinary fineness, but, at the same time, it must be confessed, of extraordinary heat.
The Inconstant joined the fleet on the following morning from Gibraltar, and took her place in the weather divisional column; the Enterprise falling out and joining the Cruiser on the Agincourt's weather quarter. The day was entirely devoted to steam evolutions, at five-knot speed, with steam in the boilers available for six knots. Many of the evolutions were very well performed by the three columns of ships, but some of them were admitted to have been as ill done, distances and bearings not being well kept in many instances, nor signals closely obeyed. It was the first day's practice in steam evolutions of the combined Mediterranean and Channel Fleets, and possibly any errors committed were entirely owing to a want of practice in manoeuvring ships of very different lengths together, and to a want of perspicuity in the wording of many of the signals taken from the evolutionary portion of the navy signal books when considered in their relation to the previous manoeuvre. The evolutions, which lasted about seven hours, comprised from an order of sailing in three divisional columns—
"2d and 3d divisions wheel to port and form single column on the 1st division.
"Form columns of divisions in line ahead, wheeling to starboard.”
In this manœuvre the 3d division held its course, while the 1st and 2d divisions, wheeling first to starboard and then to port, completed the diagram on the weather of the 3d division.
"Form columns of subdivisions in line ahead, retreating to starboard. (Exceedingly well executed.)
"Form columns in quarter line four points abaft the port beam of leaders. (Failed.)
"Form columns in line ahead, wheeling to starboard. (Signal misunderstood.)
"Form columns of sub-divisions, &c., a repetition of the signal previous to the last. (Failed.)
"Form columns of divisions in line ahead, wheeling to starboard. (Very smartly done).
"Form in single columns in line ahead, the starboard wing column wheeling to starboard and leading, and the port wing column wheeling to port and forming astern of centre column."
The other movements would occupy too much of your space to describe, but there was one which is worth a brief notice. From a single column in line astern of the Agincourt, signal was made to "invert the column in succession from van to rear, passing the leading ship of the column on the starboard side." In carrying out this evolution, therefore, each ship in the fleet passed in full view of the Admiralty, from the poop of the Agincourt. in what I can only describe as a "march in slow time," and every part of her appearance and equipment on the upper deck, aloft, and about the exterior of her hull could be closely seen and criticized. There was no apparent fault to be seen, and a more magnificent spectacle could not well be imagined on a calm day at sea as the 12 ironclads, with the unarmoured clipper Inconstant and the Cruiser, passed by in a stately procession. About 5 p.m. the light airs of wind which had prevailed during the day had increased to a nice steady summer evening's breeze, and signal was made to "make all plain sail and come to the wind on the starboard tack." Time was taken as follows, but it was evident that in some of the ships there were special means taken in securing topsails when furling for quickly casting them adrift again when making sail for drill purposes that gave them a most unfair advantage over other ships that furled their sails honestly:—
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:-
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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 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.
|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.