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"Turret versus Broadside: An Anatomy of British Naval" Topic

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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2021 8:57 p.m. PST

…Prestige, Revolution and Disaster, 1860-1870

"On the 150th anniversary of the capsizing of Britain's low-freeboard yet fully-masted ironclad HMS Captain, this widely researched, intensive analysis of the great ‘turret vs. broadside' debate sheds new light on how the most well-funded and professional navy in the world at the height of its power could nevertheless build an ‘inherently unstable' capital ship.

Utilizing an impressive array of government reports, contemporary periodicals, and unpublished personal papers, this definitive study crucially provides for the first time both a long-term and international context. The 1860s was a pivotal decade in the evolution of British national identity as well as warship design, nor were these two elements mutually exclusive. 1860 began gloriously with the launch of Britain's first ocean-going ironclad, HMS Warrior, but 1870 ended badly with the Captain. Along the way, British public and political faith in the supremacy of the Royal Navy was not reaffirmed as some histories suggest, but wavered. The growing emphasis upon new technologies including ever heavier guns and thicker armor plating for men-of-war was not ‘decisive' but divisive, as pressure mounted to somehow combine the range of Warrior with the unique protection and hitting power of American monitor-ironclads of the Civil War. As the geopolitical debate over rival ironclad proposals intensified, aggressively-minded Prime Minister Lord Palmerston gradually adopted a non-interventionist foreign policy which surprised his contemporaries. Turret vs. Broadside traces the previously unexplored connection between an increasingly schizophrenic Admiralty for and against the Captain, for example, and saber-rattling mid-Victorians sinking into an era of ‘Splendid Isolation'."


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NotNelson06 Jan 2021 2:08 a.m. PST

I must admit I'm getting fed up with the constant stream of books and articles criticising the Royal Navy. There are other navies and the vast majority of them were worse, lost more and made more mistakes. Why isn't there some balance? Is this just petty jealousy or is it as simple as the Royal Navy being better documented so it's easier to find material?

GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Jan 2021 3:39 a.m. PST

Politicians rarely had much to contribute to any rational debate on naval design and the general public even less. I can't see why anyone with an interest in naval design would find this useful.

It has all probably been said before in better books by better authors and put in a more appropriate context too.

This was an 'interesting' era for any navy and almost all failed miserably to produce effective warships once the broadside had been made obsolete by heavier guns & armour. Even without hindsight it is quite clear that the superiority of the RN was retained intact throughout the decade in question.

Mr Astrolabe06 Jan 2021 4:38 a.m. PST

The worlds largest navy, helping hold together a huge complex empire with a truly global projection whilst simultaneously trialing the most the most cutting edge technologies – I would be amazed if there weren't disagreements & bumps in the road. Why this is presented as some sort of revelation is the only surprising thing to me.

Blutarski06 Jan 2021 12:36 p.m. PST

HMS Captain was, in essence, a fairly radical experimental design that was a good step beyond conventional 19th century principles of naval architecture as understood at the time. The ship proved a failure at sea, but how much of that failure was attributable to its basic design concept and how much to the grossly overweight state of the ship as launched remains a fair question.


GildasFacit Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Jan 2021 2:31 p.m. PST

The original concept of Captain did not include a full square rig nor did it envisage using her as a troopship. The changes were made in spite of clear proof that her stability was compromised.

It is like they say – a camel is a horse designed by a committee.

Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP07 Jan 2021 11:52 a.m. PST



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