|Sa 18 March 1865||Yesterday morning, in accordance with previously understood arrangements, the majority of the members of the Board of Admiralty arrived at Portsmouth from London, and embarking on board the Royal Sovereign turret ship, at Spithead, took a short cruise in the Channel, south of the Isle of Wight, accompanied by Her Majesty's ships then lying at Spithead, and witnessed some evolutions under steam and gunnery. The fleet at Spithead, which consisted of the Achilles, Black Prince, and Defence iron-clad broadside-gun frigates, the Royal Sovereign iron-cased turret ship, and the Liverpool, latest improved class of wooden screw frigate, had steam up and cables hove in shortly after 9 a.m., in readiness for their Lordships' arrival. The wind was moderate from S.S.E., with the barometer steady at 30·3. At half past 10 the Fire Queen steam yacht was seen from on board the ships of the fleet to be coming from between the points of Portsmouth harbour to Spithead with the flag of Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, G.C.B, the Naval Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth, flying from her main, and very shortly the party on board of her were transferred from the Fire Queen to the Royal Sovereign, consisting of Admirals Sir Frederick Grey, Drummond, Eden, Frederick, and Fanshawe; with Mr. Romaine, C.B., and Capt. Hall, R.N., secretary to the Duke of Somerset (from the Admiralty); accompanied by Admirals Sir Michael Seymour, G.C.B., Sydney Colpoys Dacres, C.B., and George Elliot, Capts. Caldwell, C.B., Preedy, C.B., F. Scott, C.B. and Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, and a number of other naval officers out of uniform, and also by Capt. Pigeaud, Naval Attaché to the Imperial French Embassy in London. Capt. Astley C. Key, C.B., of Her Majesty's ship Excellent, received the members of the Admiralty and the officers by whom they were accompanied on the deck of the Royal Sovereign, as her commander pro tem. The anchors of the fleet were soon afterwards weighed, and the ships steamed slowly out by the eastern channel as they secured their anchors, the Royal Sovereign leading, as the flagship of the Admiral commanding; the four-masted Achilles came next, the Black Prince third, the Defence fourth, and the Liverpool last. The Lords of the Admiralty present had, therefore, for their immediate personal observation under steam three distinct classes of our broadside gun ironclads, our most powerful turret ship, and the latest improved model of the 34-gun wooden frigate. The ships continued on their course, with the steam tender yachts Fire Queen and Sprightly in attendance on the port beam of the line, until 20 minutes past noon; when the headland of Dunnose opened out well on the starboard beam of the fleet, and the course was changed from S. and by W. to W, so as to bring the wind and sea abeam and get as much roll as was possible out of the turret ship while working her turrets and guns. There was found, however, to be neither wind nor sea enough to effect her, placed as she was, in the slightest degree, and the direction of the course was therefore again changed by signal to W. and by S. to some distance further off the land. There the breeze freshened a little, with a somewhat heavier sea. The Royal Sovereign's speed was slowed, her crew beat to quarters, turrets were manned, upper deck bulwarks thrown down, and other preparations made for action, and all being ready the turrets were turned by that portion of the crew at the winch handles below, and the guns sighted and laid in various directions to exhibit the turrets' capabilities of revolving and the time occupied in laying the guns in various directions. There was nothing new or particularly interesting in any of these proceedings, excepting the fact that the work necessarily took a longer time in each instance than it did on similar occasions of trial when the ship was in commission under Capt. Osborn's command. This was owing to the fact that the greater part of the men yesterday (who had been lent from the Excellent) had never before been engaged in working turrets and their guns. While the Royal Sovereign was lying thus the four broadside ships steamed past and close alongside her in line, and it was evident that had they been in reality approaching the ship in this manner as enemies every ship would have been sunk by the guns of the turret ship before they could have brought their broadside guns to bear upon her deck or turrets. The Achilles was a strong illustration in point, as she steamed up for the Royal Sovereign's port quarter with only eight guns in battery on either side of her hull, the foremost guns being on a line with her forward funnel. It was also remarkable that all the ironclads exhibited a greater lateral motion, or "roll" than the Royal Sovereign under full steam, and that while the Defence plunged her bows into the water and threw a wave up to her hawsepipes the Liverpool rode with greater ease than any of the others. There was a want of both wind and sea to test satisfactorily, as a matter of comparison, the working of the different ships' guns in a roll of a seaway, for no roll to speak of existed, and preparations were therefore made for target firing, the Royal Sovereign commencing from her three foremost turrets at 1,800 yards' range, with 150lb. round shot and 40lb. charges of powder, firing to starboard; and then with circling round the target and firing from the same guns at short range. Guns, turrets, and fittings worked with ease, and the concussion felt on the ship's upper deck was generally allowed to be less than the concussion ordinarily felt on a ship's main gun deck from the firing of ordinary 68 or 100 pounders. The Lords of the Admiralty present and the officers accompanying them were on the ship's upper deck during the time of the firing, some being on the platform round the funnel casing, and others walking the deck itself on the leeward side from the fire. The practice from the turret ship having been brought to a conclusion signal was made to the fleet to close on the Admiral and open fire from their port batteries on the target at 600 yards as they steamed past. The Royal Sovereign led off with two shots from her foremost turret guns, and was followed by the Achilles from her 9·22-inch or 100-pounder smooth bore coil built guns, and the other ships by their mixed batteries as they came up. The effect was magnificent, and the Lords of the Admiralty saw much to suggest reflection in the brilliant scene before them. There was a costly squadron of five ships, each perhaps superior as a ship to all others of the same class in foreign navies, and yet only one of these carried guns that would even under the most favourable circumstances pierce any one of the other's sides. If, however, the naval display of yesterday was intended to settle any of the disputes in the contest of "turret versus broadside ships' batteries," an old partly plated hulk or target would have afforded more satisfactory results. The target fired at was a small "pole" target, sent afloat with a flag on the top of the pole, and it is remarkable that it was not hit in any instance by the fire of the fleet. After the firing had been brought to a conclusion the fleet returned to Spithead in the order they left, and again anchored there. The Lords of the Admiralty, on leaving the Royal Sovereign, took the opportunity of visiting the other ships as they came to an anchor. On returning to Portsmouth their Lordships visited the Malacca and other ships in the harbour, and afterwards dined at Hirst's Portland Hotel, Southsea.|
The Royal Sovereign is ordered to undergo an ordeal of some 12 or 14 days' experimental work outside the Isle of Wight under the direction of Capt. A. C. Key, C.B., of Her Majesty's ship Excellent, when her gunnery capabilities will be fully and practically developed under every possible condition. As on this officer's report must depend in a great measure the matured opinion of the Admiralty respecting the turret principle, it is satisfactory to hear it remarked on all sides that the conduct of such an important matter could not have been placed in more able or impartial hands.
A. patented compass, the invention of Commander Arthur, of Her Majesty's ship Excellent, was tried on board the Royal Sovereign during the cruise, and attracted much attention from several of the Lords and the officers on board. It is for registering a ship's course at sea on lined and prepared paper, working on a cylinder by clockwork, the direction of the ship's head being taken and marked by an indicator pencil every two minutes and a half. It can be placed in any part of the ship where there is no local attraction, and does not require being placed with the ship's compass.