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Naval Warfare

HMS Belleisle (Peik-i-Sheref)

Ironclad Battleship [ 1878 ]

Originally planned for the Ottoman Empire, HMS Belleisle was claimed by the British Royal Navy and served into the early 1900s.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 03/15/2017 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

As Britain remained a neutral party during the war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire (the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, a Russian victory), it could not deliver two warships ordered by the Ottomans. The Royal Navy thusly moved in to purchase the pair and they became HMS Belleisle and HMS Orion - the Belleisle-class numbering two. HMS Belleisle, originally laid down as "Peik-i-Sheref" in 1874 by Samuda Bros. at Cubitt Town, London, was launched on February 12th, 1876 and formally commissioned on July 2nd, 1878.

Her original design approach called for her to have a primary battery of 10" guns but this was later reworked to support 12" guns instead - all to be held along a central battery design arrangement. Belleisle, in fact, became the last central battery warship of the Royal Navy. Her operational range (under machinery power) was improved some by expansion of her onboard coal stores while more cabin space was allotted for the crew. In addition to this, torpedo launchers were installed to help make her a better fighting ship worthy of the Royal Navy flag.

As completed HMS Belleisle carried 4 x 12" (305mm) main guns (muzzle-loading rifled types), 4 x 20-pounder guns (breech-loading), and 2 x torpedo "carriages". Despite the outgoing nature of using rams on warships, HMS Belleisle's bow was fitted with such an implement. Her armor protection included up to 12" at the belt (full-length of the run), 9" along her conning tower and up to 3" of thickness at the decks. She displaced 4,870 tons, held a length of 245 feet, a beam of 52 feet, and a draught of 21 feet. Power was from coal-fed Maudslay horizontal engine driving two shafts through 4,040 horsepower output at speeds up to 12 knots. Beyond her machinery, Belleisle also carried masted sails (square rig arrangement) which was typical of warship designs appearing in the latter half of the 1800s - a mixed propulsion scheme of sorts that saw the sails supplement the power being supplied by the machinery. Her crew numbered 249 officers and sailors. A short funnel completed her rather simple twin-masted profile.

Before her end ultimately came, some slight changes altered her profile - her smoke funnel was lengthened in 1879 and her sailing rigging removed.

Following her commissioning, HMS Belleisle served as part of the local guard near Kingstown for over a year and undertook several firing exercises during that period. The design was found to showcase rather poor sea-keeping qualities and made the rest of her service life as a coastal defense vessel. The ship was refitted at Devonport - to which torpedo nets and light-caliber guns were added - and she went on to lead a rather uneventful career that eventually saw her reach reserve status in 1893. After 1900 she was modified to serve as a target ship for gunnery drills. Having survived this drubbing, HMS Belleisle was then moved to Portsmouth when she served the role of weapons test platform.

During one particular torpedo damage test - evaluating the use of cellulose to seal damage along a ship's hull - HMS Belleisle took on water and sank where she lay. Raised in late 1903, she was stripped of her usefulness and sold off to Germany where she was ultimately scrapped in 1904.©MilitaryFactory.com
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United Kingdom
Operators National flag of the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
National Origin
Hull Class
HMS Belleisle; HMS Orion

Offshore Bombardment
Offshore bombardment / attack of surface targets / areas primarily through onboard ballistic weaponry.
Offshore strike of surface targets primarily through onboard missile / rocket weaponry.
Maritime Patrol
Active patroling of vital waterways and maritime areas; can also serve as local deterrence against airborne and seaborne threats.
Airspace Denial / Deterrence
Neutralization or deterrence of airborne elements through onboard ballistic of missile weaponry.
Fleet Support
Serving in support (either firepower or material) of the main surface fleet in Blue Water environments.
Flag Ship / Capital Ship
Serving in the fleet Flag Ship role or Capital Ship in older warship designs / terminology.

200.0 feet
(60.96 meters)
33.0 feet
(10.06 meters)
16.0 feet
(4.88 meters)

1 x Maudslay horizontal compound engine developing 4,040 horsepower to 2 x shafts; Sails across two masts.
13.0 knots
(15.0 mph)
Surface Speed
Essentially Unlimited

1 knot = 1.15 mph; 1 nm = 1.15 mile; 1 nm = 1.85 km

4 x 305mm (12") muzzle-loading rifled cannons
4 x 20-pdr breech-loading cannons
2 x Torpedo carriages


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Image of the HMS Belleisle (Peik-i-Sheref)
Image from the Public Domain.

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