HMS Alexandra (1875)

HMS Alexandra (1875)

HMS "Alexandra" was a broadside ironclad of the Victorian Royal Navy. She was the most successful battleship of her type, but, because of the development of turret-mounted naval artillery, was obsolete by the time of her completion.

At the time of her design the Board of Admiralty were at loggerheads amongst themselves as regards the provision of sails in their contemporary warships; steam engine design had advanced to the point where ships could cross the Atlantic under steam power alone, but centuries of tradition had left an ingrained emotional attachment to sails in a small but influential number of the senior members of the naval hierarchy. This minority succeeded in convincing the Board to design "Alexandra" as a rigged broadside vessel.

She was the last of a long series of progressive steps in the development of vessels of her type, and as the militarily most effective of all of the broadside ironclads, it is ironic that she was designed by Nathaniel Barnaby, who was one of the earliest and most effective proponents of the virtues of turret-mounted artillery.Fact|date=March 2008

Her armament was disposed in a central box-battery, with heavy guns deployed both on the main and on the upper deck. Recognising the increasing importance of axial fire, Barnaby arranged the artillery so that, by firing through embrasures, there was the capability of deploying four heavy guns to fire dead ahead, and two astern; all guns could if required fire on the broadside.

"Alexandra" was the last British battleship to carry her main armament wholly below decks; she was one of only two British ships to mount guns of convert|11|in|mm|sing=on calibre, the other being HMS "Temeraire".

She was the first British warship to be powered by vertical compound engines, carrying cylindrical high-pressure boilers with a working pressure of 60 pounds-force per square inch, as compared to rectangular boilers working at 30 lbf/in² pressure mounted in earlier ships. Twelve boilers were set back to back on either side of a longitudinal bulkhead; each engine drove an outward rotating screw of some convert|21|ft|m|0 in diameter. A pair of auxiliary engines, each of 600 I.H.P., were fitted to turn the screws while the ship was proceeding under sail. These engines could, if required, propel the ship at a speed of convert|14.5|kn|km/h|1. At the time of her completion "Alexandra" was the fastest battleship afloat.

It had been intended to call the ship "HMS Superb", but the name was changed at her launching, which was undertaken by Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, who was later Queen Alexandra. She was the first British ironclad to be launched by a member of the Royal Family; the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, the Duke and Duchess of Teck and the Duke of Cambridge were also present.

ervice history

She was commissioned at Chatham on 2 January 1877 as flagship, Mediterranean Fleet, and held this position continuously until 1889. She was the flagship of Admiral Hornby in his passage through the Dardanelles during the Russian war scare of 1878. She ran aground in bad weather at the narrowest part of the straight; she was towed off by HMS "Sultan" in time to lead the squadron to Constaninople. She was present at the bombardment of Alexandria in 1882; in this action the Admiral's flag was shifted to HMS "Invincible", as she was of shallower draught and could sail closer to shore. In 1886, the Duke of Edinburgh hoisted his flag on board, and the Prince of Wales, later King George V, joined as a lieutenant. She paid off in 1889 for modernisation.In 1891, she was flagship of the reserve at Portland, and remained so until 1901. Her last sea-time was as flagship of the "B" fleet in the manoevres of 1900. In 1903 she became a mechanical training ship, and she was sold in 1908.


Oscar Parkes "British Battleships" ISBN 0-85052-604-3

Conway "All the World's Fighting Ships" ISBN 0-85177-133-5

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