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HMS Duke of Wellington First-Rate Ship of the Line (1852)

Authored By Staff Writer | Last Updated: 8/27/2013

HMS Duke of Wellington began her career as a sail-powered ship, turning over to steam power shortly thereafter.

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HMS Duke of Wellington was a hybrid ship of sorts, initially operating under sail power but eventually giving way to the advent of steam propulsion with the addition of reciprocating piston engines some short years after launch. She appeared at a time when there was a definitive shift in the "art" of naval warfare, a time when vessels were no longer required to carry hundreds of cannon to be a force but would instead rely on a careful selection of appropriate armament conducive to the new way of war. Unfortunately for the Duke of Wellington, her design was all but obsolete by this time and, originating from an era of ages past, she was done in by her mish-mash of conflicting technologies.

The profile of HMS Duke of Wellington was originally dominated by her three main sail masts. This was later augmented to support a smoke stack amidships after 1852. When operating under engine propulsion, the vessel would still utilize her sails in a conventional fashion while a top speed of just over 10 knots could be achieved in ideal conditions. Her primary armament consisted of 10 x 8" main guns and this was supplemented by a mix of smaller caliber weaponry in the form of some 121 other cannon.

HMS Duke of Wellington began construction in 1849 at Pembroke Dock and was launched by 1852. As war with France seemed all the more unavoidable, the decision was made to refit the vessel with steam engines, effectively creating a "hybrid" design covering two distinct ages of naval history. It would be at least another 30 years before other navies of the world would completely abandon sails altogether in favor of machinery propulsion so the idea of hybrid ship designs were quite commonplace in the latter part of the century. HMS Duke of Wellington was commonly known as the most powerful warship in the world for a few short years, that title eventually falling to the Bretagne of much-hated France by 1855. In 1963, Wellington served at Portsmouth before being broken up by 1909.

Once in service, HMS Duke of Wellington operated as nothing more than a ceremonial ship. Though her sailing characteristics were regarded as highly favorable, the addition of the engines did nothing to compliment her original "wood-and-sail" design and - as might be expected - actually worsened the vessels overall strength and capabilities.

The sister ships of Duke of Wellington became HMS Marlborough, HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Royal Sovereign. These vessels were modified appropriately when under construction as opposed to HMS Duke of Wellington - which saw refitting after being launched.

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Specifications for the
HMS Duke of Wellington
First-Rate Ship of the Line


Country of Origin: United Kingdom
Initial Year of Service: 1852
Operators: United Kingdom


Crew: 970


Length: 240ft (73.15m)
Beam: 60ft (18.29m)
Draught: 25ft (7.62m)
Displacement: 6,071tons


Machinery: 3 x sail masts (until 1852) 1 x single screw compound engines delivering 900hp (post-1852).

Surface Speed: 10kts (12mph)
Range: Essentially Unlimited


Armament:
10 x 8" guns main guns
121 x smaller caliber cannons


Ship Class: First-Rate Ship of the Line
Number-in-Class: 4
Ships-in-Class: HMS Duke of Wellington; HMS Marlborough; HMS Prince of Wales; HMS Royal Sovereign