Warrior under construction

The hull of the Warrior under construction
at the Thames Ironworks, Blackwall in
the autumn of 1859.
© HMS Warrior 1860


Engineering the Warrior

In 1858 Prince Albert visited the docks at Cherbourg. He was not happy with what he saw. In fact, he returned to England hopping mad because the French appeared to be so far ahead in naval technology and preparations for the war with Britain that everyone thought was looming. 

His anger spurred the Admiralty into action and HMS Warrior was their response. The brainchild of Admiral Baldwin Walker, Controller of the Navy, Warrior was designed by Isaac Watts, the Navy’s Chief Constructor. He drew on Brunel’s earlier work with iron ships to construct the most powerful warship of her day.

Warrior wasn’t just powerful, she was innovative too. She was equipped with a steam powered propellor as well as sails and when the propellor wasn’t needed it could be lifted out of the water. The funnels from the boilers were telescopic and could be cranked down into the hull to keep out of the way of the sails.


Warrior in the 1860s

HMS Warrior in the mid 1860s

Sunset Warrior
The Warrior is now on public display
in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
© HMS Warrior 1860

Watts’ greatest innovation was the inclusion of a citadel.  This was a huge armoured box which protected the guns. Sealed by watertight bulkheads at each end it was constructed from 11 cm wrought iron plate, bolted to an incredible 46 cm of solid teak mounted on the 1.6 cm plating of the ship’s hull.  In tests the most powerful guns of the day were unable to pierce this armour, even at point blank range!

As an example of a steam powered warship, the Warrior is without comparison.  Even today, wandering around her dark boiler room and marveling at the scale of the engineering involved you can’t help thinking that Brunel would have approved.

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