Hans Busk wrote a book entitled “Navies of the World” in 1859. This book was reprinted twice, in the 1950’s and as a facsimile of the original in 1974. It provides possibly one of the best discussions and descriptions of early modern navies, covering as it does the navies in transition from the wooden wall, the ship of the line with a number of broadside cannons to the turreted vessels of the 20th Century. Angus McLellan has provided a summary of the contents of the book and this summary is presented across a number of parts. Note that the Downloads Section of Thomo’s Hole has ALL the parts combined into two PDF files.
This part then is the first part that deals with the Navy of Great Britain circa 1859. The Queen of the Seas. A second part deals with the rest of the vessels.
Hans Busk’s “Navies of the World” was based on the world naval situation in 1859, or on those parts of it that Busk thought would help his case for an even bigger Royal Navy, official support for the volunteer movement and an enlarged Militia. The first two did happen, but it’s unlikely that Busk deserves blame or credit for this turn of events.
If there are any obvious errors, or things that don’t make any sense, please don’t hesitate to ask or to let me know and I’ll pass your comments and questions on to Angus.
According to a statement made to Parliament, on the first day of 1863 the Royal Navy had some 1,014 ships in total of which 790 had fewer than 20 guns. As at 1st January, 1859, Busk gives the number of ships in commission, their crews and guns as follows.
|East Indies, China & Australia||49||389||5051|
|Cape of Good Hope||8||104||1239|
|West Coast of Africa||18||100||1885|
|North America & West Indies||21||320||3470|
|Plymouth, Portsmouth, Sheerness, Woolwich, Cork & Pembroke Dock||45||979||7958|
|Coast Guard Service||26||623||3612|
|Surveying Service, Packet Service, Yachts, Fitting Out, Ordered Home||21||458||5265|
|Flag Officers & Retinue, Supernumaries & Kroomen||1244|
|Marines in China||1813|
|Marines on Shore in England||6282|
The East Indies station was much larger than usual as a result of the war with China. Under normal circumstances the main fleet was deployed on the Mediterranean station. The Channel Squadron, although not large in numbers of ships, was relatively powerful as it was usually limited to battleships, frigates and corvettes.
All tonnages are tons burthen (builders old measurement) unless noted otherwise, all horse power nominal. The Admiralty did not adopt displacement tonnage until 1873 after considering the adoption of Moorsom Rule (Gross Register) tonnage instead. The original order of ships in Busk’s lists has been changed so an attempt to group ships of the same class together and to include ships under construction or converting at the appropriate place. The list is quite long enough without having to look in multiple places.
The Royal Navy as at April 1859
|Screw Ships of the Line Three-deckers (* building or converting)|
|Duke of Wellington||1852||700||131||3771||10.130||Portsmouth|
|*Prince of Wales||1860||800||131||3994||–|
|Royal Albert||1854||500||121||3726||10.000||Channel Sqdn|
All except Victoria and Howe were laid down as sailing ships.
All ships are in Lambert’s “Battleships in Transition” while his “Last Sailing Battlefleet” gives a great deal of information on the development of the battlefleet before steam, most of which is relevant through the early 1860s. These ships required large crews, 1000 men and more, and were expensive, Victoria cost over 150,000 pounds (about 750,000 dollars). The advantages of battery height and concentrated firepower in battle were felt to be worth the cost by all three Surveyors after the Napoleonic Wars and by the great majority of sea officers.
Details from Lambert for the pre-ironclad steam battlefleet are on Bob Cordery’s website under Victorian & Edwardian Military Miscellany at http://www.colonialwargames.org.uk/. This includes all three- and two-decker battleships, all blockships and the frigates Mersey & Orlando. It seems pointless to repeat them here.
Royal Sovereign was ordered converted to a turret ship based on Captain Coles’ ideas, modified by Isaac Watts to make them practicable, in April 1862. A number of senior officers favoured carrying out many more such conversions. But converting Royal Sovereign had been expensive at £180,000 (900,000 gold US dollars) and the experiment was not repeated.
|Two-deckers (* building or converting)|
|St Jean d’Acre||1853||600||101||3200||11.190||Channel Sqdn|
Ships from Orion downwards on the list were converted from sailing ships after launch or while under construction. Tonnages of 3249 for Queen and 3241 for Frederick William, ex Royal William, are as 110 gun sailing 1st rates, post conversion tonnages would likely be 2700 to 2900 tons burthen.
HMS Waterloo was renamed Conqueror after the original Conqueror was wrecked at the end of 1861. Many of these ships were never commissioned. HMS Nile, later Conway, almost survived into the age of colour TV. She was wrecked when her tow parted in the Menai Strait in April 1953. Bombay was about the last ship converted, rather later than expected. The ship originally selected was HMS Powerful. On being opened up for converion Powerful was found to be in poor condition and
Bombay was substituted. Several other ships might have been converted had the ironclad battlefleet not replaced the wooden one, most obviously the other 84 gun sailing 2-deckers. Bombay was lengthened from 194′ oa, 160′ kl to 234′ oa, 198′ kl gaining around 500 tons burthen in the process.
Bulwark was intended to be the lead ship of a class of twelve based on previous 101 gun ships. Three ships, Pitt, Kent and Blake, were cancelled in 1863 without having been laid down, Bulwark and Robust remained on the stocks until 1872 but were never completed. The remaining ships – Triumph (renamed Prince Consort), Ocean, Caledonia, Royal Oak, Zealous, Royal Alfred & Repulse – were armoured while under construction.
Senior sea officers felt that Walker’s regulation armaments were excessive. The damage to the upperworks of HMS Agamemnon and the French steam battleship Ville de Paris at Sevastopol in particular had convinced many that guns on the upper deck were very vulnerable to shell fire and should be reduced. Upper deck armaments were cut during the 1860s so that Bombay carried about 65 guns rather than 81 in 1864 and Victoria carried 102 rather than 121 in 1866.
Armaments before 1862 would be as given by Lambert although many ships mounted two 68-pr pivot guns rather than the one listed. In many ships 2 68-pr and 6 32-pr guns on the upper deck were landed and 2 110-pr and 2 40-pr Armstrongs put in their place. Nile in May 1862 had 78 guns of which 16 were Armstrongs, 2 110-pr, 4 70-pr and 10 40-pr. The other 62 guns were a mix of 32-pr 56cwt and 8-inch 65cwt pieces.
|Screw Coast-Guard Block Ships (all converted to steam after launch)|
These ships are detailed in Lambert’s “Battleships in Transition”.. The first four ships were extremely cramped. The last five were basic conversions produced during the Crimean War. To leave more room without an expensive conversion, they were fitted with larger versions of the high pressure, compact and light but high maintenance engines used in gun boats. Their masts, spars and ground tackle were provided from whatever second hand material happened to be in store.
These ships were part of the Coast Guard Service dispersed around major ports. Ajax had 28 32-pr 56cwt on the gun deck, 26 8-inch 52cwt on the main deck and 2 68-pr 95cwt and 4 10-inch 67cwt on the upper deck. The later conversions carried 24 32-pr 56cwt and 4 8-inch 65cwt on the gun deck, 26 32-pr 50cwt on the main deck and 2 68-pr 95cwt and 4 10-inch 85cwt on the upper deck. The screw frigates Arrogant and Termagant were probably serving with the Coast Guard at this time. Each of these block ships or frigates had one or more gunboats and a number of cruising and watch vessels as tenders. The gun boats were the screw gun boats described later.
Coast Guard cruisers and watch vessels are rather mysterious. They included old Cherokee class brig sloops, Icarus being a cruiser and Cadmus a watch vessel, of around 235bm, 90′ x 25′, originally armed with 8 18-pr and 2 6-pr. Other Cherokee class sloops were serving with the Excise in 1859, some being passed on to the Coast Guard later. Larger Cruizer class brig sloops such as Pelican were around 385bm, 101′ x 31′, 16 32-pr carronades and 2 6-pr guns. The old frigate Amphritite of the Leda class, see under Sailing Frigates for details, was probably a cruiser. Other ships included the more recent Star class packet brigs Star and Philomel, see sailing brigs for details, the packet brig Pandora and brig Britomart. Britomart was 330bm, 93′ x 29′ x 13′ depth of hold and rated at 8 guns.
|Screw Frigates (* building, **begun after April 1859)|
For other data, as follows:
- Mersey & Orlando
- displacement 5640 tons, 336′ oa x 52′, 28 10″ & 12 68-pr.
- Ariadne & Galatea
- displacement 4400-4600 tons, 280′ oa x 50′, 24 10″ & 2 68-pr.
- Doris & Diadem
- displacement 3700-3900 tons, 280′ oa x 48′, 20 10″ & 10 32-pr.
- Immortalite, Newcastle, Undaunted, Bristol & Glasgow
- displacement c4000 tons, 250-251′ oa x 50′, 30 8″, 20 32-pr & 1 68-pr.
- Aurora & Narcissus
- displacement 3500 tons, 227′ oa x 51′, 10 8″, 40 32-pr, 1 68-pr.
- displacement 3200 tons, 240′ oa x 48′, 10 8″, 40 32-pr & 1 68-pr.
- displacement 3500 tons, 237′ dk, 202′ kl x c50′ x 16’8″ depth of hold, 30 8″, 20 32-pr & 1 68-pr.
- Severn, Bacchante, Liffey, Shannon
- displacement 3600-3700 tons, c240′ oa x 48′, 28 8″, 22 32-pr & 1 68-pr.
- Topaze, Liffey
- displacement 3900 tons, c250′ oa x c50′, 30 8″, 20 32-pr & 1 68-pr.
- Imperieuse, Forte, Euryalus & Chesapeake
- displacement 3100-3400 tons, c212′ x 50′, 28 8″ & 22 32-pr.
- displacement 2565 tons, 200′ x 45′, 32 32-pr, 12 8″ & 2 68-pr.
- displacement 2025 tons, 177′ x 43′, 6 8″, 14 32-pr, 4 10″ & 2 68-pr.
- Tribune & Curacao
- displacement c2250 tons, 192′ (dk or wl) x 43′, unknown armament.
- displacement 2650 tons, 210′ x 40′, 18 32-pr, 4 10″& 2 68-pr.
- Sutlej & Octavia
- displacement c3800 tons, 252-254′ oa x 52-54′, 28 10″ & 22 32-pr.
- Arethusa & Constance
- displacment c3750 tons, 252-254′ oa x 53′, 10 8″ & 40 32-pr.
- no post-conversion data except tonnage.
- no data except displacement 2400 tons, may have been begun as a paddle frigate.
- no data except tonnage.
Leander and Liverpool are missing from Conways. Apart from the frigates Ister, Dartmouth, Blond and Astraea mentioned in Conways as cancelled, at least five more ships of the Immortalite type were ordered, of which Dryad was certainly begun and Belvedira may have been. Those cancelled before laying down included Briton, Bucephalus and Barham.
As with the battlefleet, and for the same reasons, frigate upper deck armaments were reduced in the 1860s. By 1862, Mersey and Orlando were reduced to 40 guns including 4 110-pr and 4 smaller Armstrong guns and Immortalite was reduced to 35 guns, 13 of them Armstrongs.
With the exception of Amphion, cramped and underpowered, and Mersey & Orlando, too expensive to run with a crew of 600 men and without a clear purpose apart from being larger that the USN’s equally flawed Merrimack class frigates, these were generally successful designs. All British screw frigates were essentially auxiliary steamers with lifting screws and sail as the main means of propulsion.
|Screw Corvettes (* building)|
Tartar and Cossack had been ordered by the Imperial Russian Navy in Britain and were seized on the outbreak of the Crimean War.
The corvettes of the Jason class detailed by Conways were little different from the previous 400 NHP corvettes measuring 2300-2400 tons diplacement, 225′ x 41′ x 19′, armament 20 32-pr and 1 68-pr or 110-pr. As with frigates, there were cancellations of corvettes and Favorite became a small and unsuccessful armoured ship. After the Jasons, few more large wooden corvettes were built, and none before the 1870s. Challenger was 200′ long (presumably on the waterline) and 2290 tons displacement, speed 11 knots. Cadmus was 2216 tons displacement, Pearl 2187, Clio 2350 & Pelorus 2330 tons.
For pre-Cadmus class sloops, the differences were not large. Pylades was armed with 1 10-inch pivot and 20 8-inch guns when new. She measured 1991 displacement tons, 193′ long on deck, 38’5″ beam and 19’7″ draft. Her reported best speed was 12.6 knots. Esk and Highflyer were a foot shorter, displaced 90 tons less and carried the same armament.
Malacca, Miranda and Brisk were reclassed as corvettes by 1862 and Conways says Encounter, Archer and Wasp were also reclassed. Malacca was built at Moulmein in Burma and is detailed in Conways as the Japanese Tsukuba, 1947 tons normal displacement, 192’6″ wl, 198′ oa x 34’9″ x 18′.
The Cameleon class are detailed in Conways, 1300-1400 tons displacement, 185′ x 33’2″ x 14’8″ with 12 32-pdr and 5 40-pdr guns. Cameleon was to have been a sister to Greyhound & Mutine but was lengthened by 12 feet. Several ships of the Cameleon class were cancelled including Imogene and Harlequin. Trent and Circassian became small, cramped and unsuccessful ironclads as Research and Enterprise.
An early screw sloop was HMS Cruizer of 160′ long on deck, 1073 tons displacement and armed with 17 32-pr guns. It seems logical to assume that Greyhound, Mutine and, as designed, Cameleon, were also fitted for 17 32-pr guns.
The six 160 NHP sloops of the Arrow class are usually described as gun vessels. These were 160′ x 24’4″ x 11’8″ max and were originally armed with 2 68-pr 95cwt Lancaster guns and 4 12-pr howitzers. The elliptical bore “rifled” Lancaster gun was a failure and these would have been replaced by normal 68-pr 95cwt guns. The 100 NHP Rifleman was about 150′ x 27′ and also classed as a gun vessel.
|Paddle-Wheel Steam Frigates, Corvettes, Sloops and Tugs|
First class paddle frigates and those second class ones with a main deck battery. In spite of the frigate designation most were barque rigged. Paddle steamers spent more time under steam, or steam and sail, than as sailing ships. In general, they were fairly poor as sailing ships.
As built, Terrible had four funnels and the four boilers produced much more steam than the engines could use. Two funnels and two boilers were removed with no loss of speed. In 1862, Terrible was armed with 5 110-pr 82cwt RBL pivots and 2 68-pr 95cwt guns on the upper deck and 4 110-pr 82cwt RBL and 10 8-inch 65cwt on the main deck. Retribution carried 18 32-pr 50cwt on the main deck and 1 68-pr 95cwt and 9 8-inch 65cwt on the upper deck. Around 1859, Valorous and Magicienne were armed with 10 32-pr 50cwt guns on the main deck and 4 more 32-pr 50cwt and 2 10-inch 84cwt pivots on the upper deck. Other ships were armed in similar fashions.
Penelope was an unusual (unique?) paddle frigate converted from sail. John Edye’s calculations were flawed and she was overweight with the main deck port sills only 5′ above the water but was other than this she was largely successful. She was originally a Leda class sailing frigate (see Sailing Frigates for details) with the midbody lengthened by 65′. Before conversion she displaced 1468 tons, planned to be 2549 tons after conversion but overweight at 2766 tons, 1044 tons of which was coal and machinery and 1293 tons the hull. Her first armament was 2 42-pr 84cwt guns and 10 42-pr 22cwt carronades on the main deck and 10 8″ 65cwt on the upper deck. In 1856 she carried 10 8″ 65cwt on the main deck and 4 8″ 52cwt and 2 10″ 84cwt pivot guns on the upper deck. In the early 1860s she was armed with 8 32-pr 50cwt on the main deck and 2 110-pr 82cwt RBL and 4 64-pr 71cwt RML on the upper deck. Edye proposed converting up to 30 more Leda class and similar frigates to paddle propulsion on the same lines but the development of screw propulsion made this unnecessary.
Second class paddle frigates without main deck batteries. Armament was usually 2 68-pr 95cwt pivot guns and 4 10-inch 65cwt or 84cwt with 110-pr 82cwt RBL guns replacing 68-pr guns by 1861-1862.
|Volcano (fact)||1836||140||3||720||–||East Indies|
The details of all of these vessels are to be found in Brown’s “Paddle Warships”. Some were iron hulled. By the standards applied to sailing ships, many were not effective as warships, nor had they ever been. They were all useful for towing, transporting, scouting and carrying despatches and were important, even vital, to the operation of the navy.
Barracouta was an example of an “effective” sloop armed with 1 68-pr 95cwt pivot and 1 10-inch 84cwt pivot plus 4 32-pr 42cwt guns. Some ships had two 10-inch pivots but none had 2 68-pr guns. Spitfire had a 32-pr 50cwt pivot gun and 4 32-pr 25cwt guns. Lizard had only a single 32-pr 17cwt carronade.
Recruit and Weser were double-ended paddle gun vessels with 8 inches of teak backing behind the iron hull. They were originally ordered by the Prussian Navy and exchanged for a sailing frigate during the Crimean War when the British urgently needed shallow draft vessels. They were armed with 4 32-pr 56cwt guns and 2 12-pr 10cwt field howitzers, although in wartime they might have reverted to their earlier armament of 4 8-inch 65cwt and 2 32-pr 25cwt.
Volcano served as a steam factory ship in the China campaign repairing the temperamental high pressure machinery fitted in gun boats.
The quoted speed of 16 knots for Caradoc is an exagerration. Her half sister Banshee (see Paddle-Wheel Tenders) did make just over 16 knots on the measured mile, but Caradoc was the slower ship. Caradoc, Prince Alice, Dover, Merlin, Medina and Medusa were ex-Post Office packets used as despatch boats and ferries, and their armament would be limited to carronades or small guns.
A new class of six paddle despatch vessels were begun in 1861. The Helicon class were about 835 tons burthen, 985 tons displacement, 220′ x 28’2″ x 10’6″ loaded. Their 250 NHP engines produced between 1300 and 1800 ihp and they had trial speeds of 13 or 14 knots. Their designed armament was 2 20-pr 15cwt guns. At least one other paddle vessel was built in the 1860s, the strange iron turret stern-wheel ship Pioneer, built in Sydney for the Maori Wars. The turrets mounted 12-pr 8cwt RBL guns and some reports say she was armoured. She is reported as 295 tons burthen, 153′ oa x 20′ with a speed of about 9 knots.
Some of these tugs served into the 1860s and 1870s including the very early paddle steamers Comet and Pigmy. Monkey had been a very early packet steamer, older than listed by Busk, originally called Lightning, then Royal Sovereign, then Sovereign and finally Monkey when in naval service.
|Name||When Built||Horse Power||Guns||Tonnage||Trial Speed||Station|
|Screw Gun Vessels (see also Screw Sloops)|
The Philomel class are listed in Conways as 570 displacement tons, 145′ x 25′ x 11-12′, 1 68-pr or 110-pr, 2 24-pr howitzers and 2 20-pr. Vigilant and her sisters were about 181′ long and 28’6″ beam, displacement around 850 tons, probably armed with 2 68-pr and 2 smaller guns when new, later with 1 110-pr, 1 68-pr and 2 20-pr. The larger Intrepids were reported as 201′ long between perpendiculars, 30’3″ beam, 14’6″ draft and about 1040 tons displacement with 2 pivots and 4 broadside guns.
|Name||When Built||Horse Power||Guns||Tonnage||Trial Speed||Station|
|Screw Mortar Ships|
Originally frigate block ships for Coast Guard service. Reputedly when armed and stored for sea, and with the engines filling the hold, there was no room left for any coal. Apart from the space problem, they were quite well liked in spite of being ugly ships, so their armament was reduced to save weight and space and reduce the crew required. In service as a screw frigate Horatio carried 18 8-inch guns on the main deck and 4 10-inch guns on the upper deck.
When the Crimean War began, the British found they were short of mortar vessels. The frigate block ships and the small screw frigate Fox were proposed as screw mortar frigates. Fox became a transport instead and is listed there. Horatio, the only one to be commissioned as a mortar frigate, carried 2 68-pr 95cwt on the upper deck with 8 32-pr 42cwt guns and 2 13-inch mortars on the main deck.
|Name||When Built||Horse Power||Guns||Tonnage||Trial Speed||Station|
|Screw Floating Batteries|
Armoured boxes built to attack Russian fortresses like the French batteries. The original design was French.
The first three listed were built with iron hulls, the rest wood. They were armed with 68-pr 95cwt guns. Dimensions were 172’6″ x 45’2″ x 8’8″ for the 1855 ships, 157’10” x 44′ x 6′ for Aetna and 186′ x 48’6″ x 8’10” for the three iron ships. The iron ships were more ship like and seaworthy but all were towed over any distance. The armour on these ships was of poor quality compared to later material, too hard and brittle, and was reported to be thinner than the 4 inches called for.
These ships served as guard ships, floating experimental targets to test armouring schemes and, in the case of HMS Trusty, as test ship for Captain Coles’ armoured cupolas. The cupola differed from later turrets only in having sloped sides. The one tested aboard Trusty in September 1861 had been ordered in 1859 by Scott Russell and was completed at Woolwich. It mounted a 40-pr Armstrong gun. The sides were sloped at around 45 degrees, measuring about 15 feet across at the base and around 6 feet at the roof covered with four and a half inches of iron, tongued and grooved, doubled around the gun port. The turret stood up fairly well to 5 hits from 100-pr shot with 5lb charges and 26 hits (from 34 shots fired, this in a calm against a stationary target) with 12lb charges and finally to 4 68-pr shot with 16lb charges. Two rounds broke in the gun port and would have caused heavy casualties to the crew.
A wooden model of a larger cupola, mounting 2 100-pr Armstrong guns, was tested aboard the old sloop Hazard in February, March and June 1862 and worked well. Between times, in January 1862, £ 120,000 was added to the estimates to cover work on an iron armoured cupola ship which would enter service as HMS Prince Albert.
|Name||When Built||Horse Power||Guns||Tonnage||Trial Speed||Station|
Dee was a wooden paddle steamer, formerly a 2nd class sloop. Fox was small and cramped screw frigate conversion which had been considered as a mortar frigate but became a transport instead.
The remaining ships were large screw steamers. Perseverance was a former Russian steamer seized while under construction. Simoom, Megaera and Vulcan had been ordered as iron screw frigates. While they were being built the Admiralty had second thoughts about iron hulls for unarmoured warships. Tests were not favourable so these ships, along with Greenock, sold in 1852, and the iron paddle frigate Birkenhead, wrecked in 1852, became transports.
Simoom displaced 2920 tons and measured 246′ x 41′ x 17’6″, Megaera was 2025 tons displacement and 207′ x 37’10” x 16′, while Vulcan had a displacement of 2474 tons and measured 220′ x 41’5″ x 17’6″. As a frigate, Simoom would have carried 12 long 32-pr guns on the main deck with 4 32-pr and 2 68-pr guns on the upper deck and would have had a speed of about 12 knots. All of the iron frigates had their engines replaced by smaller ones to increase carrying capacity and endurance. After spending some years in store, the original engines were reused, Simoom’s for Duke of Wellington, Vulcan’s for James Watt, Greenock’s for Hannibal and Megaera’s for Algiers