The fastest, largest and most powerful warship in the world when she was launched. Such was her reputation that enemy fleets were intimidated by her obvious supremacy and deterred from attacking Britain at sea - yet she never fired a shot in anger.
HMS Warrior 1860 was Britain’s first iron-hulled, armoured warship and the pride of Queen Victoria’s Fleet. On her first voyage, HMS Warrior caused a sensation; people crowded to see her and she was considered invincible. The combination of iron sides, which offered protection from the exploding shells and the ability to carry large guns, changed the nature of marine warfare.
A tour of HMS Warrior 1860 will give you a clear indication of why the warship earned its formidable reputation. She was built to protect the nation’s supremacy at sea following the launch of the iron-clad warship La Gloire by the French in 1859. The Royal Navy was determined to design a ship that would be regarded as invincible, and would deter France. She would have speed, armament and size on her side – in fact, when she was built she was 60% larger than La Gloire.
It’s ironic that having become the ultimate deterrent against attack, HMS Warrior’s life as a warship was short-lived. She was soon replaced by faster designs, with bigger guns and even thicker armour, and in 1871 was downgraded to coastguard and reserve services.
A few years later, it was decided that her rotten fore and main masts were not worth the cost of repair, and HMS Warrior was placed in the reserve. She was put up for sale as scrap in 1924, but no buyer could be found, and five years later she was converted into a floating oil pontoon at Pembroke Dock. When the oil depot closed in 1978, HMS Warrior was passed on to the Maritime Trust and was towed 800 miles to Hartlepool where the world’s largest maritime restoration project ever undertaken began.
After eight years of rebuilding, on the afternoon of Friday 12th June 1987, HMS Warrior was pulled by tugs from her moorings to begin the four-day journey back to Portsmouth, where she now provides a valuable insight into what life was like onboard an elite warship from the Victorian era.