HMS Warrior 1860: One of the Most Famous British Warships
On 11 September 2010 I visited HMS Warrior 1860 for first time during my trip to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
Brief history about HMS Warrior 1860:
HMS Warrior 1860 was built to counter French developments in naval shipbuilding in the late 19th century. When it was launched on the Thames in London, in 1860, it was largest, fastest and most powerful warship in the world. No warship received more attention. It had a profound effect on naval architecture and is one of the most famous British warships.
As the world’s first iron-hulled, armoured warship powered by steam and constructed of wrought iron, it became the ultimate deterrent, although it never once fired a shot in anger. However it did have 11 years active service. Later Warrior’s hull was used for a number of undignified roles from depot ship and floating workshop to an oil jetty. In 1979 it was towed to Hartlepool to be restored to its original condition. That said it cost £8 million, the most complex and costly ship restoration ever attempted.
What did I see:
My first impression on HMS Warrior is that the ship is really huge. From a distance I saw a black giant ship parking on the harbour.
When I was onboard I was surprised with the spaciousness of the Upper Deck. Walking from one side to the other side I felt like on a busy street. So many things to see and the views are so beautiful, last but not least you can see how it would have been when it was a warship.
It was my first experience with a warship, so everything was new and interesting to me. I burned with curiosity over what was inside the ship. There are four decks: upper deck, main/gun deck, lower deck and boiler & engine rooms.
On the upper deck you can see the 26-ton propeller which could be raised via a well in the stern. This operation may well have required up to 400 of the crew to achieve. On the main/gun deck, the heart of the ship, you can see over 30 guns enclosed within the armoured citadel. I was told only 2 guns among them are original, however I didn’t have enough time to figure out. 36 messes for 655 men or ratings were arranged between the guns. Approximately 18 men were detailed to each mess, where they ate, slept and relaxed. In the centre there was a galley where food were prepared for all the crew, including the officer. Walking forward to the back of the deck, first I came across the Master’s cabin, who was in charge of sailing and navigation. Next it is Captain’s cabins. Warrior’s first captain was the Honourable Arthur Cochrane. I saw his day cabin which is furnished in the style of a drawing room of the period, sleeping quarters, his own toilet and a walking area. The cabin on the other side belonged to the Commander who was the Captain’s number two and responsible for the ship’s fighting ability and appearance. The lower deck which is full of the tag of the sea air was mainly used for the crew and other lower officers as a central dinning and relaxation area. There are two parts of the deck were more interesting to me. One is the cells that was used for seamen who committed serious crimes, such as absence over leave, sleeping on watch, etc; another one is the issue room that was for issuing each sailor’s food allowance on. The boiler & engine room is in the lowest deck. As I mentioned earlier HMS Warrior 1860 was a pioneer steam ship, so you can see many boilers at either side of the hull. However the work condition here was really dreadful. Warrior’s stokers and trimmers would spend hours each day shovelling coal and ash by hand in the temperatures that could reach over 48.9 degC. It reminded me of a film named The Legend Of 1900. Luckily they got paid 25% more than able seamen.
It’s not really need to explain how to get it. As soon as you get close to Portsmouth you will easy to find the “Historic Dockyard” sign, home to the Warrior. Then you would not miss it. A ticket will need to be purchased from the Dockyard Visitor Centre. You can buy a single attraction ticket or all inclusive ticket that provides you unlimited access to the Warrior for a whole year, as well as a single visit to HMS Victory, and the Mary Rose, etc. Soundalive audio guide is also available. There is a stair lift from the Upper Deck to the Main Gun Deck.
Although I don’t know much about British naval history as well as any warship, I still felt it’s an interesting experience and really enjoyed it. In my inexperienced opinion HMS Warrior 1860 is a must see attraction when you do visit Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.