On my first visit to Portsmouth in April 2013, the first ship I saw was HMS Warrior. You cannot really miss her because she is berthed almost parallel to the station.
I remember reading about her preservation in the old days before Ships Monthly was priced out of our reach by the CNA. I never expected way back then that I would be seeing this ship in real life. The best description I could give when I first saw her was: “larger than life” because she is so much bigger than I expected. I visited her on 28 April 2013, along with HMS Victory. The weather was grey and did not do this ship justice. Maybe it is time I paid her a return visit?
There is no doubt that she was a ship from a different era altogether. If anything she was a ground breaker, and when she entered service there must have been many people who sat up and realised that she was the future, albeit for a short period.
The upper decks are much more spacious than I expected, and I think this is why I was so surprised at her size, although the only ship that could be a close parallel to her would be the SS Great Britain.
However, compared to HMS Victory she is light years ahead. Victory was small and cramped, he is large and spacious, and probably the crew was much smaller too. Although she would have to carry a new breed of sailor for her engineering department.
Her gun decks still had not changed much since the old wooden walls though. Lines of guns that would be run out of gunports in the sides. Although the guns were probably a bit more accurate than the canon used on the Victory. Even her galley was an improvement, although it was probably still coal or wood fired.
It is interesting to note that the stove is resting on a brick laid deck. Fire was a major concern on board ship, and when you have wooden decks the risk is even greater. However, Warrior was not destroyed by fire, she became obsolete, and she has survived all those who came after her.
The officers country was aft, and the standards were much higher here than that of the crew areas. But that has always been a feature of ships, and Warrior was no exception.
Actually she does have that windowed stern gallery that seemed to have survived the transition between wooden wall and iron hull.
Of course probably the worst place to be on a ship like this would have been the stokehold, feeding coal into the furnaces.
And I am sure that if anybody that had served on her had seen the pristine boiler room today they would have collapsed in fits of laughter. It was a hot, dirty, steamy and badly lit place to spend your working day, with back breaking labour just added in to make you miserable.
The two cylinder trunk steam engine is not an easy thing to see or photograph in its entirety, and that is probably true for most ships that I have visited. Marine steam engines are big, and Warrior had a large plant too. I would have really liked to see more of this engine, but I am afraid that was something I did not achieve.
Being a warship meant that she carried not only large caliber weapons, but small calibre and rifle calibre too, I expect she even had a detachment of Marines. Certainly there were rifles to hand.
And of course there was naval issue rum, probably one of the highlights of any sailor’s day.
HMS Warrior carried a formidable armament, and there were early breech loading guns on board. Yet, It doubt if she ever fired these guns in anger. It must however have been very interesting to watch gun drill with a large breech loader like the one above. Of course large calibre weapons also needed supplies of powder and shot, and a fire in a magazine would usually doom the ship.
I seem to recall that this was part of the powder magazine, with all the attendant risks associated with it.
Warrior was unique in that she could either be sail or screw driven (of both at the same time), and she had a propeller that could be raised when not required. It also gave her an additional edge in range, although how often sails were used is questionable. There were proponents of sail and proponents of steam, and at the end of the day steam won the race, and warships with multiple masts and yards were on their last legs.
I have no doubt that she must have been considered somewhat of a novelty to those drafted to serve on her, although how she would have performed against a similar opponent would have been very interesting. She was a formidable vessel, but only until the next design comes along.
Her restoration was quite an achievement, and she is in a magnificent condition, and really worth visiting. My only gripe was probably that I was not able to appreciate her engine better, but I do understand the limitations on displaying something like that.
It was soon time to leave this beaut behind and head off elsewhere, I had seen her, but she definitely needs another visit to fully appreciate her. Besides, I never found the heads!