7. Guide to Iron Ships

It was time to beef up our ships' defences


WarriorBoats have been around for thousands of years and in this new series – Sean’s Ultimate Ship, we’re going to be looking at some of the most amazing ones!

It’s the 1800s, Britain has ruled the waves since Queen Victoria came to the throne. Wooden sailing ships were on the decline, making way for new designs and innovations such as the paddle steamer, the Great Western, and the iron-hulled, screw driven SS Great Britain.

But the Admiralty had grown complacent about Britain’s command of the seas. Whilst steam engines had been installed in some wooden Navy ships, and some smaller ships had been constructed with new propulsion or iron hulls, it was a shock when in 1858 the French started building ‘La Gloire’, the first armoured wooden-hulled ship.  The French had originally planned to replace their whole fleet with iron hulls, but they couldn’t make enough iron. Instead, they clad many of their wooden ships with iron up to 5 inches thick.

This news struck alarm in Britain and the Admirals recognised that the safety of the country depended on bettering the French threat as soon as possible.  So new iron-hulled ships were built. The first ironclad was called ‘Warrior’ and it was one of the the fastest, largest, strongest and most powerful warships in the world.  It also confirmed Britain’s place as the ruler of the waves.

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