To see HMS Warrior is to get a glimpse of British Imperial power at its best. This was a vessel that was the most impressive in the world during its day. It even featured a dual power source. However, it was a riches to rags story as the ship’s position as the prize of the Royal Navy was short lived. Originally part of Queen Victoria’s fleet, HMS Warrior was launched in 1860. She was the largest and most powerful ship of her day and was powered by both steam and sail. She was built in response to the threat from the French who were building ships at an aggressive rate including, the first iron-clad warship, La Gloire. First Lord of the Admiralty, Sir John Somerset Pakington, was concerned about the threat to the supremacy of the Royal Navy and set about building a ship that would outdo the French.
When she was commissioned by Captain, the Honourable, Arthur Auckland Leopold Pedro Cochrane, in 1861 she was the largest warship in the world weighing 9,210 tons and thus 60% larger than the La Gloire. She was quickly deployed and by June 1862 HMS Warrior was patrolling coastal waters and sailing to Lisbon and Gibraltar on active service as part of the Channel Squadron, defending the area against the French.
Sadly, her supremacy was short lived and by 1864, she had been overtaken by faster more powerful ships with better armour and bigger guns. Warrior carried on in active service for another seven years but was finally downgraded in 1871 to coastguard and reserve services only. Sadly, she was no longer considered suitable for defence.
By May 1883, she had fallen into disrepair and the masts that once held the majestic sails of this British warship were rotten and not considered worth repairing. Her days in service were now numbered and in 1904 she was converted into a floating naval school and was given the new name of Vernon III.
In 1924, Vernon III was offered up for scrap but no buyer could be found and in March 1929 she sailed out of Portsmouth on her way to Pembroke Dock where she was once again renamed as Oil Fuel Hulk C77 and was used as a floating oil pontoon.
By 1978, she was the only survivor of the ‘Black Battlefleet,’ the 45 iron hulls built between 1861 and 1877 for the Royal Navy. In 1979, she was donated to the Maritime Trust. A dedicated team then took eight years to complete her restoration. The ship was returned to its original condition with any parts that were beyond restoration recreated to the exact specification.
In 1987, HMS Warrior returned to Portsmouth this time with her sails proud. She docked in her final resting place fully restored in all her glory with her original name rightfully displayed.
HMS Warrior is now a museum ship and is listed as part of the ‘National Historic Fleet.’ The museum is open most days to visitors but on occasions some exhibits might have restricted access. Access on-board is good and staff are happy to assist where needed. However, for people using wheelchairs the museum advises contacting them first as they can advise on the best time of day to visit.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Main Road, Southbourne
Hampshire, England, PO10 8JH
+44 (0)1243 373 202
- Address: Victory Gate, HM Naval Base, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom, PO1 3QX
- GPS: 50.79821667,-1.109336111
- Phone: 0044 (0)2392 778 600
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: PO1 3QX
- Entrance Fees: Yes
- Disabled Access: Wheelchair access - Phone in advance.
- Visibility from Road: Excellent (from Station Approach)
- Image Credits: Header Image: Pawel Nawrot