HMS Warrior Three-Masted Ironclad Battleship
HMS Warrior was constructed for the British Royal Navy in response to growing French power on the high seas.
Authored By JR Potts, AUS 173d AB; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
After 1815, the British Royal Navy took on the role of "World's Policeman" by - with some help from American Navy ships like the USS Yorktown - targeting piracy and attempting to subdue the slave trade. Despite the alliance during the Crimean War (1853-1856) against the Russian Empire, the British and French were no longer on such terms due to a growing naval race between the two nations. The French Navy took the lead with a new design and built the "La Gloire" - the first ocean-going ironclad battleship in the world. As soon as she was laid down in April of 1858, the British Navy recognized that all of their unarmored wooden battleships-of-the-line were obsolete. The British, therefore, held little choice in building ironclads all their own. The race was on while 2,000 British shipbuilders worked day and night on the Royal Navy's counter to the French La Gloire - threatening to dominate British sea power. On August 1st, 1861, the first of the Royal Navy's iron-hulled, ocean-going warships - HMS Warrior - was commissioned and became the largest and most powerful warship in the world. The French battleship La Gloire was only half her size and was under-gunned in comparison. To the dismay of the French, it was now the famous La Gloire that became obsolete.
HMS Warrior and her sister ship, HMS Black Prince, when built were the most powerful warships in the world due to their balance of armor and speed, the latter through a hybrid propulsion arrangement of steam and sail, capable of reaching 17.5 knots. This quality made the class the fastest ships of the day. Interestingly enough, the British Admiralty classified her ships by the armament placed onboard and thusly HMS Warrior was listed as a Third-Rate Frigate despite many considering her an Ironclad. Frigates would normally carry a crew of 300 personnel while the HSM Warrior was crewed by approximately 700 officers - both men and boys. 600 sailors lived in one long stable gun deck that was divided into thirty-four messes, each with eighteen men housed into the space between two guns. The cramped space had a table top that could be placed on top of the two cannon to become an ad hoc mess table during mealtimes. At night, the men hung in their hammocks above the cannon while the boys slept on the deck between the guns. The officers had individual cabins and the captain's cabin was, of course, finely furnished resembling something of a Victorian drawing room at sea. The Wardroom mess table would be set with silver, crystal and fine bone china.
The bow and stern of HMS Warrior were unprotected but amidships she fielded an iron belt of 4.5 inches (114mm) which was supported by up to eighteen inches of teak wood. Bolted iron armor plates to the side of the curved hull forced blacksmith's to bend and shape each plate which measured 3x12 feet. The plates were set in their place through a "tongue-and-groove" fashion in order to closely fit atop the available surface of the hull. In all, some 202 armor plates had to be put onto the ship, the protection adding some 960 tons of weight to the vessel. All the plates were fitted over 2 x 9-inch thick (230mm) layers of teak wood laid on top of each other. The armor was then bolted through the cannon-ball-absorbing, 18-inch teak into the hull having a total thickness of two feet.
HMS Warrior showcased a main battery of 26 x 68-pounder (7-inch, 178 mm) RML - Rifle Muzzle Loading - guns, 13 guns each along both port and starboard sides. The original design called for 40 such guns to be fitted but this was reduced prior to service. The 68-pounder had an effective range of 3,000 yards (2,700 meters), a distance that the 68lb (31kg) solid shot projectile would cover in 15 seconds. The 68-pounder cannon could fire a number of muzzle-loaded projectiles: solid shot, solid iron balls, explosive shells (hollowed iron balls filled with gunpowder to fragment the ball on impact) and grapeshot (a mass of small metal balls packed within a canvas bag). Case shot was filled with nails, scrap iron or lead wire and used effectively against enemy sailors or marines in the rigging at close ranges. Molten iron shells were filled with molten iron and used to set fires aboard wooden ships. 10 x 7-inch Armstrong RBL guns were then added prior to service entry. 2 x 20-pounder cannons were also fielded as was a single 12-pounder gun. A 6-pounder brass gun was retained for gunnery training at sea.