'Visited the Warrior....The Warrior is a marvel of modern naval architecture, and for a first experiment
may be pronounced a success. She is a monstrous, impregnable floating fortress, and will work a
revolution in shipbuilding. Wooden ships, as battleships, must go out of use. With this single ship
I could destroy the entire Yankee fleet blockading our coast.'
Raphael Semmes, Captain of the Confederate Raiders CSS Sumpter and CSS Alabama
Warrior holds a unique place in British maritime history being the first of the Royal Navy's ironclad warships built in response to the French La Gloire, the first ironclad warship, and was the first iron-hulled ocean-going ironclad in the world. She was the idea of Admiral Baldwin Walker, Surveyor of the Navy, and was designed by Isaac Watts. The design allowed for the telescopic funnels to be lowered by hand-crank to be almost flush with the deck when not in use so reducing interference with the deployment and operation of her fore and main courses. Warrior's 24 ton propeller (or according to another source a 10 ton, 23 foot Griffith's propeller) induced a massive amount of drag when not in use and for efficient sailing the propeller commonly known as 'old windy' and that 'great ruddy twindler' could be raised out the water and stowed in an overlying shaft; this required the use of around 600 of her crewmen. A quarterdeck capstan hoisted the anchors, which needed 90 men to operate, with another ten or twenty needed below decks for when the 'shorten in' order was given.
The engine room and the main gun-deck were surrounded by an iron box, or 'citadel'. The citadel was 210 feet long and armoured by 4½ inches (11cm) of tongue and grooved wrought iron plate over 18 inches (46cm) of teak, this at the time made it impervious to any seagoing artillery. Each armor plate was 15 feet x 3 feet and weighed four tons. The fore and aft ends of the ship were comprised of 35 watertight compartments, new to any such warship, with a double bottom for 240 feet of her length.
She would be armed with some of the new breech-loading type guns. Breech-loaders were easier to operate as the loading took place at the rear, through the breech. The rifling around the inside of the barrel improved range and accuracy.
Warrior only carried 850 tons of coal, this was only enough for 1,500 miles at six to seven knots. These limited coal stores encouraged the use of sail and discouraged the unnecessary use of steam during a voyage confining her engine to maneuver against headwinds. Refueling involved the whole ships company and required two days to complete. This was a laborious, dirty and at times hazardous activity, plus an enormous time to clean the ship afterwards.
While advanced in some ways and although well known for her great strength and speed she was in fact very unresponsive to steering commands. Despite all the new advances her steering owed more to the technology of the Napoleonic era, being a simple manual system of ropes and pulleys, making her difficult to handle and very unresponsive to commands. This contributed to several accidents during her life.
A French decision to build only ironclads led to a similar decision in London. Foreign navies soon imitated her advanced features, and armour-plated look-alikes were soon rolling down many dockyard slipways. Major advances in ship design during the 1860's, especially from America with its turreted ships, ensured that the Warrior’s reign as ‘ruler of the seas’ was destined to be very short lived and she was overtaken by more advanced vessels. In England in 1866 HMS Captain, the first ocean-going turret ship. In 1871 HMS Devastation, the first ocean-going mastless battleship.
sister ship HMS Black Prince
armour 4½ inches (11cm) iron backed by 18 inches (46cm) teak, but covering her amidships 80feet (23.4m) of her hull each end was unprotected.
displacement 9210 tons
length 420 feet (128m)
beam 58 feet (18m)
draught 26 feet (8m)
figurehead 6 feet (2m)
speed 14 knots steam, 13 knots sail, 17½ knots combined
machinery Penn horizontal trunk steam engine, 5267 HP; single shaft
coal capacity 850 tons
armour 114mm (4.5 inch) belt over 18 inch wood on an 5/8 inch iron hull
armament 26 x 68pdr (31kg) smooth-bore muzzle-loaders, range 2,500 yards (2,300m)
8 x 110pdr (50kg) Armstrong rifled breech-loaders, range 4,500 yards (4150m)
4 x 70pdr (32kg) (40pdrs?) Armstrong rifled breech-loaders
builder Thames Ironworks, Blackwall, England
crew 705 42 officers
3 warrant officers
455 seaman and boys
3 Royal Marine officers
6 Royal Marine NCOs
118 Royal Marine artillerymen
2 chief engineers
66 stokers and trimmers
The keel was laid down at the Thames Ironworks and Ship Building Company, Blackwall, London, withcrowds of onlookers gathered to view the construction. Downstream from here the engines and boilers were built at Penn's of Greenwich.
The winter of 1860-1 was the coldest for 50 years and at her launching on 29 December 1860 she froze to the slipway. Tugs were attached and hundreds of men ran from side to side on her upper deck, trying to rock her free. After 20 minutes they were successful and she was launched by the First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir John Pakington, and given the name Warrior after a reknown ship-of-the-line of that name that had recently been broken up. When launched the hull was towed downstream to be fitted out at Victoria Dock.
On the 1 August 1861 The Hon Arthur A Cochrane, son of the Earl of Dundonald, became her captain. After her sea trials she underwent minor modifications. She was assigned to the Channel Feet, as the only dry dock large enough to take her was in Britain. During her first commission Warrior made a tour of Britain and sailed as far as Lisbon and Gibraltar, where she was visited by Raphael Semmes. Most of her seagoing service was guarding the shores of Britain and the eastern Atlantic against potential maritime threats from the French fleet at Cherbourg. For a short period in 1867 she relieved Black Prince in Ireland as the Flag Ship of the Queenstown Division of Coast Guards. Then back to the Channel Fleet this duty was enlivened by a collision with HMS Royal Oak on 14 August 1868 this duty was interrupted in mid-1869 when she and Black Prince towed a large floating dry dock from the Azores to Bermuda.
Due to the advances in ship design and weaponry her guns were upgraded during a refit in 1864-67 and continued to received various upgrades and modifications between 1872-75. In 1872 she was refitted with a steam capstan. On 1 April 1875 she was re-commissioned as a ship of the First Reserve. Here she remained until de-commissioned on 31 May 1883. During this time she make summer cruises from Gibraltar to the Baltic and received occasional temporary assignments with the Channel Fleet.
On 14 May 1883 she sailed into Portsmouth for the last time in her life under her own power. Here her engines, boilers, and guns were stripped out. She was now towed to 'Rotten Row', the tidal stream of Fareham Creek and left to slowly decay.
Languishing here for some years she was towed out on 16 July 1902, refitted, and became the storage and depot ship for a flotilla of small torpedo boats based at Portsmouth Two years later she was converted to act as a storage and depot ship, named Vernon III, and became part of the Royal Navies floating torpedo school and was moored in Porchester Creek.
The torpedo school moved ashore on 31 March 1924 and by the 31 May she was no longer needed. Offered for sale, but with the low price of scrap, there were no offers she was once again in 'Rotten Row'. As the hull was still in excellent condition some years later she was finally towed to Milford Haven, arriving on 16 March 1929, and converted into a floating oil jetty, named Oil Fuel Hulk C77.
And so for the next 50 years she preformed this undignified task. During her short careerWarrior sailed some 90,000 miles but without ever having seeing an enemy ship and having never firing a shot in anger. In the final years of her service life she had spent most of the time in port only emerging to fire her yearly ammunition allowance. During WW II her name was given to a Canadian Aircraft-Carrier and with the breaking up of HMS Vanguard in 1960 could be called the last surviving British battleship.
ordered 11 May 1859
keel laid 25 May 1859
launched 29 December 1860
commissioned HMS Warrior at Portsmouth 1 August 1861
entered the reserves 1 April 1875
decommissioned 31 May 1883
named Vernon III ? December 1904
decommissioned 31 March 1924
named Oil Fuel hulk C77 16 March 1929
left for restoration at Hartlepool 12 August 1979
returned as floating museum to Portsmouth 16 June 1987
As the only example of 45 iron hulls built between 1861 and 1877 to survive her value as a historic relic was recognized. People were interest in preserving and restoring theWarrior to her former glory and to see her as a floating museum since 1967. With the closure of the oil depot the Maritime Trust agreed to underwrite the cost of restoration estimated between £4 and £8 million.
On the 12 August 1979 she was towed to Hartlepool for the work. The 140 strong work force had an difficult task as while the hull was sound the rest of the ship was in terrible condition. While some of the work would be restoration much would also be rebuilding.
To accomplish this everything was photographed, logged and then stored. An immense amount of research was done so as to get everything correct. To help in this they had the ships plans and luckily enough one of the midshipmen who had sailed on her, 14 year old Henry Murray, had kept a journal with detailed plans of the decks and where everything was.
After removing over 80 tons of debris, much of it a thick layer concrete on the deck, restoration began. In 1981 Warrior was given a new upper deck of Victorian timbers taken from the floors of a demolished Bradford warehouse, although some of the timber is original, as is most of the lower deck timber. (Work is under way at the moment, 2003, with much of the upper deck having been taken up for repair and recaulking).
Years were spent stripping the up to 120 layers of paint, rebuilding the engine and boiler rooms and repainting them. Luckily enough some guns of the type first fitted were found and fibre glass replicas made. (When gun drill is performed for the public this causes a little trouble due to them being much lighter than the original weapons).
In 1984 the ship could once again boasted of having her masts. With the addition of ropes, hammocks, mess tins and even the captain's picture she once again looked a warship. With the addition of her 2-banded Enfield rifled muskets, the cutlasses and the pistols she was once again the ship of old.
In 1985 her new figurehead, an imposing Greek warrior holding a shield and sword was added, the original had survived until 1963. This is made fabricated from fiberglass and resin and then hand painted. While light in weight, sturdy, and durable it looks real and feel of real carved and painted wood.
On 16 June 1987, surrounded by a flotilla of smaller ships, Warrior was towed to Portsmouth and now proudly rests, not in a dry dock, but still afloat in the water, just a few hundred yards from both HMS Victory and Mary Rose. and is on permanent public display.
At times during the year HMS Warrior is taken over by the Alabama Crew.