Warrior Class (1861) BB

Warrior and her sister ship the Black Prince were the first British Ironclads to be ordered and marked the start of the greatest change in Naval warfare in over three hundred years. The basic design was for a ship which could catch and overwhelm any other warship in existence.

The change from sail to powered ships, the change from smooth bore muzzle loaders to rifled breech loaders, the change from many guns firing broadsides to turreted main armaments mounted on the centreline, the change from effective engagement ranges of 400 yards to 16,000 yards.

In 1850 a ship of the line was virtually unchanged from one which fought at Trafalgar, and would have been recognisable to anyone of Drake's era. 
By 1906 when Dreadnought was completed the pattern had been established of having an all big gun main armament, mounted in turrets on the centreline. 

Warrior's overall lines resembled that of a powered steam frigate, but she was considerably longer. The length was dictated by the requirement for a single gun deck to house her 40 guns. To this was added bow and stern profiles of a length needed to give her the required speed . So they were the longest ships ever built for the Royal Navy up to that time. So long that there were only two dry docks in Britain at that time able to accommodate them.

Both ships had three masts and were fully rigged as sailing ships. Sail was in fact required for cruising and for areas where coal was not readily available. However they were designed to be fought under steam power.

They were still very manpower intensive as hoisting of sails, weighing anchor, hoisting boats etc, and steering was done by hand. This mead altering course a slow and laborious business. 

As sailing ships they were fast for their time and also had good performance under steam. In fact for being such an innovative design they were remarkably successful.

The reason the Royal Navy undertook such a radical design was in reaction to French developments in the fields of Gunnery; rifling, and armour; iron plating wooden hulls. Advances which were embodied in the design of the French first ironclad, La Gloire in 1858.


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This page last edited - 16 September, 2012.

Copyright Ian M King, except where otherwise indicated.