Barbette system combined with broadside
Having thus detailed the changes by which the stately three-decker of 1850 was transformed into the massive ironclad structure of twenty years later, it is desirable here to give an account of the ﬁrst action between two ﬂeets containing this new type of battle ship. In the short but decisive war between the combined forces of Prussia and Italy against Austria, in 1866, the issue could not depend upon any naval operations that might be undertaken, and the decisive victory of Sadowa overshadowed to a great extent the sea ﬁght off Lissa and the many lessons to be derived from it. Even in naval circles there was not that keen scrutiny into cause and effect which might have been anticipated when constructions based largely upon theoretical consi" ations had thus been brought to the test of actual conﬂict.
Yet no naval incident of such importance had occurred Since the battle of Trafalgar. The American Civil War had been signalised by gallant encounters between single ships, and interesting as well as instructive assaults upon land defences. The Crimean War had shown that even when denied the opportunity of meeting an enemy at sea a powerful navy can enable operations on land to be undertaken and sustained which otherwise were impracticable. But since 1805 no hostile ﬂeets had met, and when we consider the nature of the naval forces engaged at Lissa, the strategy displayed , and the tactics adopted, this action is worthy of the closest attention. I shall deal very brieﬂy with the composition of the forces engaged. Nearly all nations had followed the example of France and this country in reconstituting their ﬂeets, so that in 1866 Italy was able to muster twelve ironclads, varying in size from 5800 tons to .2000 tons. According to dimensions, they were protected with 515, 4:}, or 4-in. iron plates. The armament was in most cases a combination of riﬂed and smooth bore ordnance, mounted on the broadside system. Besides these ironclads there were several wooden frigates and smaller vessels. In command was Admiral Persano, a man who had seen much service, though without war experience.
The Austrian ﬂeet was less powerful in ironclads, of which there were only seven, varying from 5200 tons to 3000 tons. Their armour ranged from 4} to 5-in. plates. The guns of this squadron were decidedly inferior to their opponents, consisting for the most part of smooth bore 48-pounders, though ﬁve of the ironclads had riﬂed ordnance in addition. Besides these there was a wooden screw line-of—battle ship, the ‘ Kaiser,’ with several other wooden frigates and smaller vessels. In command was Admiral Tegethoff, an ofﬁcer of distinction, who had commanded an Austrian Squadron in the Danish War of 1864, and taken part in an action off Heligoland, between two small squadrons, which was without decisive result.
When hostilities commenced, Tegethoff made a demonstration on the Italian coast, but was unable to meet any portion of the Italian ﬂeet, and returned to Fasano. This appears to have caused considerable ex~ citement in Italy. The navy recently created was held in great esteem, and known to be, both in the number and equipment of its vessels, superior to that of the enemy. It was doubted whether an Austrian Squadron would venture to encounter it at sea under such disadvantages . This only can account, to my mind, for the course taken. Persano was urged to some striking feat of arms, and the attack on Lissa was organised. What can be thought of such strategy? No indication had been given that he had such a command of the sea as to permit him to take no account of the enemy’s squadron. Proof had been afforded that the Austrian commander was a man who would be troublesome if not disposed of. His force must be sought out and fought, or blockaded. Persano’s ﬁrst duty was to follow the Austrian ﬂeet. Such was his numerical superiority that he might have detailed a portion of his force for this duty while the remainder carried out some other operation.
But he disregarded all the experience which has shown that naval supremacy must ﬁrst be obtained before territorial attack is justiﬁable, and he embarked upon an undertaking which only added one more lesson to the many history affords on this head.
Persano left Ancona, on the 16th of July 1866, with nearly thirty vessels, of which eleven were ironclads, and steered for the small island of Lissa on the Austrian coast. The principal port was San Giorgio, where fairly strong batteries skilfully handled might be expected to give hostile ships a warm reception. A short distance off was another harbour, Carobert, and on the other side of the island were the bay and town of Comissa. Neither of these places had any defences to speak of. The plan of Admiral Persano was to attack the batteries of San Giorgio, and when these had been silenced to land a body of troops sufﬁcient to overcome the garrison and occupy the island. An alternative plan would have been to land his own force at any convenient place, under cover of his ships, and take San Giorgio in rear—as we had done at Bomarsund—keeping his squadron ready and uninjured to meet the enemy at sea. But he started without his troops, which were to follow the next day, convoyed by an ironclad and three wooden vessels—another error, as they were thus liable to be cut off by an Austrian Squadron before reaching their destination.
Arriving at San Giorgio, on the morning of the 18th, the ships shortly after opened a heavy ﬁre on the batteries, which was returned, and the action continued throughout that day. Night brought about a cessation of the cannonade, but the land defence was not overcome. The next day the troops arrived to the number of about 2000, and preparations to land were then made. The disembarkation was to be at Carobert. Two ironclads were sent to make a diversion at Comissa, four others were to endeavour to enter the harbour of San Giorgio, while the remaining ships covered the landing. This was on the 19th. But the naval attack on San Giorigo did not succeed, and the detachment detailed for it withdrew , having sustained considerable injury and loss. The disembarkation was postponed for that day.
In the meantime where was Tegethoff? He had heard of the intended attack on Lissa while at Fasano, but distrusted its reality until, on the 19th, he received news which cleared away his doubt on the matter. He therefore sailed with his whole squadron that afternoon, bent on attacking the enemy and frustrating his purpose. \Vhether Persano heard that night of his departure I do not know, but on the morning of the 20th he prepared to renew the attack and land his troops, as if deeming no interference possible. At eight A.M., however, one of his look—out vessels signalled ‘suspiciotIs ﬂeet in sight.’ And what a condition he was in to meet even a less powerful squadron than his own. He had materially contributed to put the two ﬂeets on an equality. One of his ironclads had been so knocked about the day before that she was practically useless, two others were out of reach, making a diversion elsewhere, and his unarmoured vessels were encumbered with the landing appliances, and unable to cope effectively with the Austrian vessels of the same nature. Persano hastily collected his uninjured ironclads and advanced to meet Tegethoff, whose squadron was now plainly visible.
The ﬁghting formation he adopted was single line ahead, so that his squadron presented a long line extending over 2 miles. The Austrian squadron bore down in three divisions, each forming an obtuse angle and composed of seven ships. The divisions were about 1000 yards astern of each other. Tegethoff led in the ‘Ferdinand Max.’ This formation was more compact than the single line, but one difﬁcult to maintain when the opposing forces came in contact. To bring this about, however, was the ﬁrst aim of the leader, and after that the result must mainly depend on his subordinates. At about half-past ten Persano, who was in the ‘Ré d’Italia,’ stopped her and went on board the ‘Affondatore.’ To do this at such a moment indicates a sudden decision not made known to his followers. The ‘ Ré d’Italia’ was fourth ship in the line, consequently those in rear had to reduce speed, thus increasing the distance between them and the three leading ships. Tegethoff’s order to his squadron was to rush at and sink the enemy. He was then bearing down on the port bow of the Italian line. When about 1000 yards distant the leading vessels of the Italian Squadron opened ﬁre, which was not returned until Tegethoff’s leading division had arrived within about 300 yards; but little damage was done on either side.
Whether smoke now obscured both squadrons or an alteration of course was inadvisable at the last moment is uncertain, but it happened that the whole of the Austrian vessels passed through the gap between the third and fourth ships of the Italian line without contact. The ﬁght now became a melee. The Austrian division of wooden ships bore down to attack the Italian unarmoured vessels that had remained behind, but was intercepted and engaged by the rear Italian ironclads. The ‘Kaiser’ was attacked by the ‘Affondatore,’ who tried to ram, but failed. Then another ironclad, the ‘Portogallo,’ made for the ‘Kaiser,’ whose captain, to cover his smaller wooden consorts, decided to ram the newcomer. He succeeded in striking her on the port side, sustaining severe injury to his own ship without greatly damaging the ‘Portogallo.’ Being now almost disabled, the ‘ Kaiser,’ followed by most of the Austrian wooden ships, made for San Giorgio. Though all had suffered more or less severely, they had held their own against a portion of the Italian ironclads, leaving the remainder to be dealt with by their own.
Tegethoff had meanwhile attacked the Italian centre, and a hot engagement ensued. The ‘Ré d’Italia’ had her rudder damaged, and being observed by Tegethoff in this condition, he directed the ‘Ferdinand Max’ to be steered at her. The ‘Ré d’Italia’ endeavoured to avoid the assault, but did an unwise thing by ﬁrst going ahead and then astern. She thus had little movement at the instant the ‘Ferdinand Max’ struck her on the port side at full speed. The shock was tremendous on board the ‘Max,’ but by going astern with the engines she extricated her stem from the hole made in the illfated ‘Ré d’Italia.’ That vessel had heeled over to the blow, then rolled to port, and almost immediately sank, taking down most of her crew. Another Italian ironclad , the ‘ Palestro,’ had been set on ﬁre by a shell, and blew up afterwards. Several single ﬁghts had taken place between other ships, but without decisive result. One is struck by the opportunities for ramming this action afforded, the many instances in which it was attempted, and the number of failures to strike that took place. The battle was practically over soon after noon.
The Italian Squadron withdrew, and Tegethoff went into San Giorgio, which he had thus saved. The number of killed and wounded in his ships was about 200, while the Italians lost over 700 men, principally by the sinking of the ‘Ré d’Italia.’ Besides this vessel they had lost another ironclad, the ‘Palestro,’ while the Austrian Squadron was intact. The ‘Kaiser’ was most injured, but forty-eight hours sufﬁced to put her in a seaworthy condition. Whatever errors he may have committed previously, when once the action began, Persano fought gallantly. His ship, the ‘Affondatore,’ was in the thickest of the ﬁght, though he failed to ram any of his opponents. Even when his squadron was much scattered, Persano signalled to attack again, and made for the Austrian vessels. But his ships were in some cases too distant to join in time, the opportunity passed away, and the attack was not made. Though his force was reduced by two ironclads, he was still superior in numbers. The preceding attack on Lissa, coupled with this action at sea, had so told on the crews that the Italian commander molested his adversary no further. Tegethoff having gained his object was not likely to assume the offensive.
On the Austrian side only the wooden vessels suffered to any considerable extent from the enormous quantity of shell and shot discharged during that day. This was due to inaccuracy, in the first place, and, secondly, to the protection of 4%“In- iron plating. The Italian ﬁre was exceedingly wild; broadsides at close quarters missed their object, and I have heard it stated that often guns were ﬁred Without projectiles. This showed a most inefﬁcient control of the ﬁre on the part of the ofﬁcers, and it is a matter which should receive the greatest attention in all navies. Much is written about the ﬁre discipline of armies in the ﬁeld, but no less important is this supervision in a naval action. One thing is wanting to complete the valuable experience gained on that day and make it applicable to the present time. No locomotive torpedoes were used, this arm as a naval weapon not having been then introduced.
Whether, after the line was broken and the ships were all mixed up together, it would not have been as dangerous to friend as to foe may well be questioned; but small vessels specially armed in this way would have had good opportunities of gliding in under cover of the smoke and dealing deadly blows to partially disabled ships. Time was everything to Tegethoff, and hence it is difﬁcult to say what effect torpedoes would have had upon his tactics. We can only deal with matters as they were; and we have suﬂicient material for reﬂection both in the strategy preceding the action and the manner in which two modern ﬂeets ﬁrst met in war.
While we were thus developing side by side the broadside and turret systems of mounting guns behind armour our neighbours the French had proceeded on somewhat different lines. At ﬁrst, like ourselves, they had adopted the broadside system, and then the central battery, but with the latter and above it they usually placed a few guns on barbette on each side. This principle was continued as guns increased in weight until the combination became impossible. Then, rejecting the turret except for coast defence vessels, they mounted all the heavy guns en oarbette. Even now considerable difference of opinion exists as to the relative advantages of the two systems, as may be observed from the fact. that of late years the French have adopted the turret system for their sea-going battle ships. This is one of the problems that only such a practical test as war can solve. The barbette system consists of a thick inclined wall of armour, usually pear-shaped, built into the ship, enclosing a turntable, which carries the gun, and is high enough to permit the latter to ﬁre freely over the wall in any direction as the turntable revolves. Therefore only the apparatus for manipulating the gun is protected, and the piece itself is exposed throughout its length to hostile ﬁre. With the revolving turret protection is afforded to a greater portion of the gun, because the height of the wall is greater, and the gun points through an embrasure.
With short ordnance there was little exposed even at the moment of ﬁring, and after discharge rotation of the turret took the guns out of danger. It was this peculiarity of the turret system which gave the ‘ Monitor’ such an advantage over the ‘ Merrimac.’ As the ofﬁcers of the latter said, the ‘ Monitor’s ’ guns were ﬁred and the turret revolved so quickly that they had not a chance of getting a fair shot at them. But when guns were given great length, and slender muzzles which might be disabled by small projectiles, the advantage in this respect was lessened. Moreover, the turret involved additional weight, while the barbette permitted a higher position for the gun, which at sea is a considerable advantage. When a gun is not many feet above the water there is a liability of projectiles striking crests of waves near the ship and being deﬂected from the path required. This has been observed at target practice from some of our turret ships in rough weather.
Though circumstances inclined us to the turret, we tentatively gave one ship—the ‘Temeraire’—a barbette at each end. These were pear-shaped redoubts, but differed from those now constructed, because their dimensions were such as to allow the gun mounted within to recoil down after ﬁring behind the walls, and thus disappear during the process of reloading. This
necessitated a larger enclosure, and the gain was considered so small as against the extra weight entailed that this disappearing principle has not been repeated in ships, though it is coming into greater favour for land defences.
But a further consideration brought about a modiﬁcation not only in the method of carrying the heavy guns which the genius and enthusiasm 'of artillerists had pressed upon us, but also in the composition of the armament itself. The inevitable result of contracting'the thickest armour to a comparatively small area on the side of a ship was that the remainder of a hull could be effectually penetrated by less powerful ordnance. Much damage could be done by light shells to the unprotected parts. It might be more proﬁtable to disregard the 24-in. armour of the ‘ Inﬂexible ’ and endeavour to disable the ship by attacking the much larger portion without protection. Numerous light guns would be useful for this purpose, and the French for some time had been in the habit of associating with the heaviest guns an auxiliary armament of lighter ordnance, mounted on the broadside. The latest phase was to be a combination 0f the barbette and broadside systems. A series of vessels were constructed, now well known as the ‘Admiral’ class, because each bears the name of a distinguished British admiral, which varied in size from 9500 to 10,600 tons. All are constructed with a pear-shaped barbette at each end, for one or two heavy guns, and between the barbettes a broadside battery of 6-in. guns. The armour at the water line is 18 in. extreme thickness, and of compound manufacture. It does not extend to the ends, which are protected with a steel deck. Absence of armour here and over the battery gives an opportunity for critics to deny that such vessels are efﬁcient as battle ships. On the other hand, their speed is higher considerably—I6 knots—than any previous vessels, and they carry a large supply of coal. They differ chieﬂy in the heavy armament . The smallest, the ‘Collingwood,’ carries four 45-ton guns, the ‘ Howe’ four 67-ton, and the ‘ Benbow’ two 110-ton guns. Probably naval opinion would incline to the ‘Collingwood’s’ armament for all ships of this size, with perhaps an addition to the auxiliary ordnance. There might also be a preference for a reduction in thickness of armour, and a corresponding increase in the extent of water line covered by it. But of vessels that can steam fast and hit hard it is easy to be hypercritical.
Another inducement to supplement the necessarily few heavy guns with an auxiliary armament had gradually been assuming great importance, and that was the necessity of meeting the attack of torpedo boats It was evident that neither an 80-ton nor a 6-in. gun would be the best weapon to stop the advance of a small craft capable of covering a mile of water in three minutes. One round from a heavy gun at such a mark was as much as could be anticipated, while under cover of the cloud of smoke the boat, if intact, had an excellent opportunity for effecting her purpose. Numerous guns of just sufﬁcient power to penetrate the boiler, or smash the machinery of a torpedo boat, would therefore be most effectual in neutralising such an attack. Hence the development of machine and quick-ﬁring guns throwing projectiles of from I to 12 lbs. The armament , therefore, of the modern ship is composed of a few heavy guns, a secondary battery of ordnance of moderate calibre, and numerous machine and quickﬁring guns. All this entails a great weight of ammunition , so that if required to be combined with extensive armour protection, great speed, and a large coal supply, we are forced into a Ship of huge dimensions. Conﬁning our attention at present to the barbette system, let us see to what stage we had arrived in this type of battle ship between 1880 and 1888, when dimensions were moderate.
In the ‘Benbow’ we have a ship of 10,600 tons, in which the principal armament is a single gun of 110 tons at each end, and ten guns of 5 tons on the broadside . She has 18 in. of compound armour covering the central portion of the water line, but the broadside guns, as well as the ends of the vessel, are unprotected with armour on the side. It was freely asserted that for this reason such vessels were liable to be disabled by vessels with numerous light guns before perhaps their own ponderous ordnance could neutralise the attack. The explosion of a number of even small shell at the water line would, it was urged, admit sufﬁcient water to ime pair the speed and manoeuvring qualities of the ship, though not necessarily to overcome her buoyancy.
Again, all nations were seeking some more powerful explosive than powder as a bursting charge for shells. To get these projectiles through steel without breaking, their walls must be thick. Consequently the interior capacity is reduced, and the amount of powder such shells can contain is only sufﬁcient to just open the iron case, or may not even do that. We want, however, the shell to be fractured with violence into numerous pieces, each acting as a separate projectile, and for this a more energetic explosive is required. Many exist, but the diﬂiculty hitherto had been to obtain one which, with great power, will combine safety in handling and withstand the great concussion of the enormous powder charges now ﬁred in guns. Experiments in different countries demonstrated that this difﬁculty could be overcome , and that such shells are terribly destructive when exploded inside a ship. Thus the old idea of protecting crews from such effects again came to the front. All these moderate sized guns and their workers must ﬁght behind armour of some sort, and not be left entirely unprotected. There was also a demand for more of such guns to supplement the principal armament. Nothing was to be given up, but a good deal more was asked for.
The naval architect was willing to provide it, but said that all this could not be done under a displacement of 14,000 tons. Thus when a large increase to the navy was sanctioned in 1889, and it was decided to at once lay down ten battle ships, of which eight were to be of the ﬁrst class, it was perhaps not unnatural that we should endeavour to embody in these all the varied demands for powerful armament, extended protection, great speed, and prolonged endurance at sea, only to be given in mastless ships by a large coal supply. As regards the ﬁrst item, a feeling that we had exceeded the limit of usefulness in guns of such weight as I 10 tons, and the restriction thereby imposed as to number, led to a more moderate calibre being adopted for the principal armament. The 67-ton gun had been tried, and found satisfactory in some ships of the ‘ Admiral’ class, so it was selected for the new vessels. Naval opinion inclined to a gun of about 50 tons weight and 12-in. calibre as powerful enough and requiring less complicated machinery for its manipulation ; but such a weapon was not then in existence, whereas the 67-ton 13§-in. gun had been worked out in all its details of ammunition and mounting. In fact, after being in an experimental stage as regards ironclad construction for thirty years, during which many types held popular favour for a time, we had at the beginning of 1889 arrived at some deﬁnite principles to guide us, not only as regards armament, but also as to other points essential to a ﬁrstclass battle ship of to-day. These as laid down by the Admiralty were as follows :—
Four heavy guns placed in two protected stations a considerable distance apart: hence at the ends of the ship. All four guns to ﬁre on each broadside, and each pair to have an arc of training of about 100 degrees of both sides of line of keel. That they were to be mounted en barbette as more suitable for sea-going purposes than the turret system. These guns to be of the 13§-in. 67-ton pattern, ﬁring a projectile of 1250 lbs. weight with a powder charge of 630 lbs. No shield was then considered necessary for these guns, the arrangements for loading, etc., being inside the barbette. The auxiliary or secondary armament to consist of ten 6-in. loo-pounder quick-ﬁring guns, a portion to be placed in a central battery between the heavy gun stations, but to secure a wide distribution of these guns they were to be mounted on two decks, four being located on the spar deck above the central battery; The smaller guns, consisting of sixteen 6-pounder and twelve 3-pounder quick ﬁrers as well as eight riﬂecalibre machine guns, to be distributed from bow to stern on the upper works and in the ﬁghting tops. The torpedo equipment to be a submerged tube on each broadside and ﬁve above water tubes.
As regards armour, this was to be (I) a belt 8% ft. broad at the water line, extending over two-thirds of the length of the vessel with a maximum thickness of 18 in. It may be mentioned here that hardened steel armour on the Harvey or Krupp process was not then available, and these vessels have compound plates of a thickness adopted for preceding ships. There are armoured bulkheads across the ship at the ends of the belt. (2) The ends of the vessel where the belt leaves off are protected by an under water steel deck 2% in. thick, while above the belt is an armoured deck 3 in. thick, thus giving thin horizontal armour throughout the length. (3) Above the belt amidships, which is 3 ft. above the water line, the side to have 4-in. armour carried up 6 ft., making, with the inner skin—I in. thick—5 in. of armour for this portion. This constitutes the protection of the hull against projectiles, and there remains the similar provision for the armament.
It is obvious that if a heavy shell can penetrate the side, and explode under the barbettes, the heavy guns they contain will probably be put out of action. To guard against this, these stations have an armoured pearshaped redoubt 17 in thick, going up from the protective deck, and meeting the walls of the barbette, which are themselves 18 in. thick. Thus the two stations are strong independent forts, with their ammunition supply and hydraulic apparatus within, and so constructed that no single shell, however powerful, could disable both positions. The four 6-in. guns on the battery deck are protected in a novel manner. Instead of carrying the side armour up higher than stated, as in the early broadside ironclads, each gun is placed in a room or casemate, the iron walls of which are 6 in. thick, in which all the operations of loading and ﬁring the guns are carried out. Thus a shell entering the side of the ship above the 5-in. armour, and exploding, would have no effect upon these guns, while a shell penetrating a casemate and exploding could not put more than one gun out of action. The other six 6-in. guns placed above on the upper deck are only protected by stout shields, it being obvious that the great weight of a casemate would not be permissible in such a position .
Finally, as to protection against under-water attack ; the blow of a ram or the explosion of a torpedo. Against the ram there is only the sub-division of the hull below the water line into as many water-tight compartments as possible, that when a hole is made the incoming water may be kept from extending forward and aft until the ship sinks. There must be access in and out as well as through these compartments for the ordinary work of the ship, so they are ﬁtted with doors also to be water tight when closed. The danger is that they may be left open too long and in case of a collision at night the work may be carelessly done. If properly carried out sinking is averted. Thus the Admiralty Minute after the ‘Victoria’ disaster stated—‘ The question remains, what would probably have happened if all the doors, hatches, etc., had been closed in the “Victoria” before the collision took place. Investigation shows that while the loss of buoyancy must in that case have been considerable, yet making all the allowance for probable damage the ship would have remained aﬂoat and under control and able to make port under her own steam.’ Rapid sinking, if water is allowed free access below, is inherent to structures built of steel and carrying enormous weights of the same material. The provision of water-tight compartments equally applies in case of a torpedo striking the ship, but in addition there are arrangements for surrounding the ship with strong wire nets some distance from the hull, by means of projecting spars, which are intended to stop the torpedo at a safe distance.
As regards speed, it had become evident that the ability to rapidly concentrate on a given point, or overtake an enemy’s ﬂeet, was very important, so that while the new ships were to have much increased powers of offence and defence over the ‘ Admiral’ class, they should have equal, if not superior speed. To drive a ﬂoating weight of 14,000 tons through the water obviously requires powerful machinery, and as it was considered desirable that these vessels should have a speed of 16 knots without pressing the engines, and under ordinary atmospheric draught for the ﬁres, while with forced or artiﬁcial draught the speed should be capable of being increased to 17% knots, boilers and engines were provided equal to the development under the latter condition of 13,000 horse-power. When we remember that the ‘Warrior’ had a single engine of 5000 horse-power, which propelled her at I4 knots, it can be realised what a vast increase of power is required to obtain the additional 31} knots, notwithstanding the great improvement in steam propulsion since that time. In the ‘ Collingwood,’ a vessel only slightly larger than the ‘Warrior,’ the horse-power had practically to be doubled to pass from 14 to 17 knots.
At moderate speeds modern marine engines are economical in coal consumption, but beyond a certain rate the fuel rapidly disappears. A large supply is therefore essential, and in these ships the normal supply is ﬁxed at 900 tons, but space is provided to stow double that amount. The drain on the coal for work unconnected with propelling the ship is now a serious matter. Numerous small engines are continually going for driving electric light apparatus, ventilating fans, hydraulic machinery, and other services, so that practically one boiler is always in use. Then there is the coal used in cooking and distilling fresh water, swelling the amount expended in these auxiliary purposes, so that even when lying at anchor the stock of fuel diminishes at no inconsiderable rate. Thus, in time of war, when high speed will have to be maintained for considerable periods, the state of the bunkers must remain a constant anxiety, and coal becomes as precious as water in the old days. These form the principal characteristics of the ‘ Royal Sovereign ’ class, the others being ‘Ramillies,’ ‘Repulse,’ ‘Resolution,’ ‘Revenge,’ ‘ Royal Oak,’ ‘ Empress of India ’ and ‘ Hood.’ All are exactly alike, except the last named, which has her principal armament in turrets instead of barbettes.
The result of the demand for improved offence, defence and mobility has raised the dimensions from 10,600 tons in the ‘Benbow’ to 14,150 tons, involving a length of 380 ft. instead of 330 ft., and 6 ft. more beam. Out of the total weight of ship, 4550 tons have been allotted to defence in armour and backing, or not far off onethird of the total weight. It is interesting to trace the changes in this respect since our ﬁrst ironclad. The ‘Warrior,’ when completed for sea in 1861, was 8820 tons, of which the armour and backing weighed 1350 tons, or less than one-sixth of total weight. Coming to the ‘Monarch,’ we ﬁnd 1600 tons given to defence out of 8100 tons, or practically a ﬁfth. Later, in the ‘ Alexandra,’ the defence absorbs 2350 tons out of 9500, or approximately a fourth, while in the ‘ Dreadnought’ we ﬁnd the weight of armour and backing amounting to no less than 3600 tons out of the total 10,800, or onethird . In the ‘ Inﬂexible,’ it is 3550 out of 11,500, aslight reduction in the proportion, but it remained practically at a third up to the completion of the ‘ Royal Sovereign ’ class. The explanation of this steady increase to the defence is that while the gun made rapid strides in power, the ability of the armour to resist its effects by improved material stood still, and hence the only course was to add to its thickness. This necessity, moreover, compelled the ship designer to limit the area over which such massive armour could be placed, thus departing from the original idea of ironclads, which was to prevent shell entering ships and setting them on ﬁre, as well as decimating the crews. Fortunately we now have armour of such improved material that we can revert to the moderate thicknesses which characterised the defensive qualities of our early ironclads without danger of its being overcome by the shells of to-day.
We may carry the comparison between the ‘ Warrior ’ and ‘Royal Sovereign’ one step further. The cost of the former was £360,000, while the latter represents an outlay of £980,000. This means that in 1859 we built an ironclad at £40 per ton, while in 1889 a ﬁrst-class battle ship could not be produced under £62 a ton.‘ Under these circumstances the country must expect naval estimates in proportion. But to realise the immense changes in our ﬂeet during such a brief period as forty years, consider that it was only in 1848 the last ‘ Royal Sovereign’ was laid down as a sailing wooden three deck. Completed in 1857, at a cost of about ,5 120,000, she was never commissioned, but cut down in 1862. as already mentioned, and converted into a turret ship. The present ‘Royal Sovereign’ and her sisters are splendid vessels which do their designer, Sir William White, Chief Constructor of the Navy, great credit, and he is justly proud of them.
In a paper read before the Institution of Naval Architects in 1889, he said of these ships—‘ They will form a squadron of identical character and qualities, capable of proceeding and manoeuvring together. Taken as a group they will certainly be able easily to overtake any enemy’s ﬂeet, and what is equally important they will, under the new programme, be associated with a number of very swift cruisers and torpedo gunboats, thus constituting a force complete in all respects and of unrivalled power as well as speed.’ There is one other point about these ships which deserves mention. In former ironclads, notably the ‘ Admiral ’ class, the designed weight had been exceeded during construction, with a consequence of deeper immersion on completion. This led to the top of the armour belt being nearly on a level with the water line when the coal bunkers were full, instead of being 2 ft. above it, thus laying bare an important part to the free entry of projectiles. Nor had it been easy to resist the pleas put forward during construction—then by no means rapid—by enthusiastic ofﬁcers for an improved pattern of gun just come out, or a new torpedo lately devised of more powerful nature, and other inventions, all involving more weight than existing weapons and devices.
In the ‘Royal Sovereign’ class, 500 tons had been allowed for contingencies of this nature, and it was called the board margin, for none of it could be appropriated for extra guns, or ammunition, etc., without sanction of My Lords. If not drawn upon it was available for additional coal, extra bunker accommodation being provided. Owing to this excellent safeguard , the weight of ship or displacement was not exceeded, and on completion the ‘Royal Sovereign’ showed a marked improvement on the ‘Benbow’ in respect to free board. The increased height of this enables her to steam against a sea without burying the bow under a mass of water.
I have dwelt rather fully upon these ﬁrst-class battle ships of I889, because not only do they differ from all preceding types, but also because those which came after and are with us now do not materially differ from them. If, considering the risks of under-water attack, they seem unduly large and costly, it must be remembered that the demand is ever for greater efﬁciency in all points, and that we had not then found the antidote to those steel projectiles from modern guns in’equally hard armour. We still sought refuge in quantity not quality.