HMS Devastation (1871)

HMS Devastation (1871)

HMS "Devastation" was the first of two "Devastation"-class mastless turret ships built for the British Royal Navy. This was the first class of ocean-going capital ship that did not carry sails, and the first whose entire main armament was mounted on top of the hull rather than inside it. For their first fifteen years, they were the most powerful warships in the world.

"Devastation" was built in the 1870s, a time in which steam power was well established among the world's larger naval powers. However, most ships built at this time were equipped not only with a steam engine but also with masts for auxiliary power. The presence of masts also led to a tendency to mount gun turrets as broadsides. "Devastation", designed by Sir Edward J. Reed, represented a change from this pattern when she was built without masts and when her primary armament, two turrets each with two 12-inch (305 mm) muzzle-loading guns, was placed on the top of the hull, allowing each turret a 280 degree arc of fire. The ship could attain a speed of 13.84 knots (25.6 km/h) and had a range of 5,500 nautical miles (8,850 km), each of which was considered good at the time. In 1891, the 12-inch guns were replaced with 10-inch breech-loading guns and she was refitted with new engines.

She was deployed to serve in the waters of the United Kingdom and the Mediterranean Sea. Later, she was refitted again and assigned to the First Reserve Fleet based in Scotland. The ship was broken up in 1908.

Popular Culture

HMS "Devastation" is familiar as the ship depicted on "England's Glory" matchboxes.


* Roger Chesneau and Eugene M. Kolesnik, ed., "Conway's All The Worlds Fighting Ships, 1860-1905", (Conway Maritime Press, London, 1979), ISBN 0-85177-133-5

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