Many happy returns as HMS Warrior turns 150

NICE CAKE From left, Richard Searle, Jane Searle, Sally Coombes and Ross Adamson celebrate Warrior's birthday.     Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (112688-1)
NICE CAKE From left, Richard Searle, Jane Searle, Sally Coombes and Ross Adamson celebrate Warrior's birthday. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (112688-1)
Arrival of new aircraft carrier 
HMS Queen Elizabeth at Portsmouth Naval 
Base.

Picture: Neil Marshall

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THE Royal Navy’s revolutionary warship HMS Warrior is 150 years old today.

The steam-powered warship – on display in Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – never fired a shot in anger but she struck fear into the hearts of our enemies and changed naval warfare forever.

Arguably the navy’s first modern warship, Warrior was the biggest and most powerful fighting ship in the world when she was commissioned into the navy on Thursday August 1, 1861.

Armour-plated and boasting a broadside of 17 heavy guns, she far outclassed her iron-clad French rival La Gloire, delivering a blow to Napoleon III’s challenge to British naval supremacy.

Celebrations are being held onboard today to mark her 150th year. David Philp, a historian at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard said: ‘When Warrior came along, she changed everything.

‘She was the first of her kind in the world and it’s really special she is still here with us after all these years.’

It was the Warrior’s devastating power that ironically led to her early downfall.

She sparked a fierce shipbuilding race between European nations which moved at such a rate that she had become outdated after just 10 years. Despite three refits, she was withdrawn from front-line service in 1882.

Five years later, the once-proud Warrior was anchored far out in the Solent, too dilapidated for public display.

While many warships were sold for scrap after the First World War, Warrior survived as a floating workshop in Portsmouth until 1923. She was put up for sale in 1925 but there were no takers as demand for scrap metal had dwindled.

Instead, she was converted into a mooring hulk for oil tankers at Pembroke Dock and remained in her final naval role at Llanion Oil Fuel Depot for another 50 years until the government gave her to the Maritime Trust in 1979.

A £10m restoration project was born and Warrior finally returned to Portsmouth in 1987 as a museum ship – joining other naval greats the Mary Rose and HMS Victory in attracting 500,000 visitors to the city every year.

Mr Philp said: ‘Warrior is still as important as ever. She is the bridge between Victory and the modern navy.’