Red ensign HMS Warrior: Ship's wheel
HMS Warrior: the ship's wheel - Photo: © Peter Milford

HMS Warrior (1860)

The Upper Deck

The upper deck on Warrior is large - an unbroken level deck of 380 feet (116m) in length and 58 feet (18m) in width (beam). Unlike previous designs, she has no raised poop or quarterdeck and no raised forecastle (fo'csle). She has a rudimentary bridge and an armoured conning tower to control of the ship in action. From the upper deck the seamanship evolutions were controlled - setting and trimming sails, steering, navigating and controlling the ship. The upper deck is the province of the seamen.
Upper deck looking aft
The upperdeck looking aft from the forward bridge, port side: Photo © Peter Milford
Warrior has two bridges - thin walkways stretching across the beam of the ship - one forward between the fore and main masts and one aft, between the main and mizzen masts. The bridges are unprotected and completely open - a long way from the air-conditioned remote-control of a modern ship's bridge. Warrior was navigated from the forward bridge - and controlled in action from the after bridge by the Captain and senior officers. Orders were passed by mechanical telegraphs (to the engine room) and voice-pipes. An armoured conning tower on the upper deck level just behind and below the after bridge provided for protection for the Captain in the event of close action (entrance to the armoured tower is from below) - there are holes in the thick iron plate to observe the action).

Flag hoist
Crew hoisting flags: Photo © Peter Milford
Flag locker
Flag locker: Photo © Peter Eastland

The open decks give plenty of space to move around. Here, the modern crew are bending signal flags to the main halyards before hauling the flags to the main yard-arm. Signalling by flags was the only method of communicating between ships at sea - with complex codes and abbreviations to reduce the number of flags to be flown at any time. A number of small guns line the upper deck - more for signalling and saluting than any real action as the main armament is immediately below in the armoured citadel of the main deck.

Ship's wheel
Ship's wheel: Photo © Peter Milford
After bridge compass:
Photo © Peter Eastland

Some of the 8 compasses on board. Many problems were experienced due to the deviation caused by the iron hull. The deviation was compensated by tests in harbour - swinging the compass - and making allowances for the known deviation.

Warrior's steering was under the control of the helm - controlled by two wheels, one on the upper deck aft and one directly below on the main deck. Each wheel has space for eight men - in rough conditions the helm would be manned by 16 men, 8 on each deck, who would struggle to hold the ship on course. The wheel must turn through six complete turns to swing the rudder from hard-a-port (full port rudder) to hard-a-starboard. Rope is wound around the wheel drum and passes through the deck to the wheel below. Cables then run along the maindeck deckhead to the rudder yoke behind the Captain's cabin. Warrior was notoriously difficult to steer and unresponsive to the helm. This was due to the rudder being too small for the length and displacement of the ship - meaning that Warrior had to be handled carefully and with considerable planning. On at least two occasions she was involved in collisions with other vessels - in one instance leaving her figurehead on the quarterdeck of Royal Oak.

There are two compasses mounted ahead of the wheel - in Evans pillar binnacles. The compasses are mounted in gimbals and are placed to be easily watched by the Quartermaster at the front of the wheel. A rudder indicator on the front of the wheel axle indicates the angle of the rudder to the ship's keel - the indicator shows the wheel a-mid'ships

Upper deck forward - the fo'csle
Upper deck forward - the fo'csle: Photo © Peter Milford
Warrior mounts the Armstrong 110 pdr breech loading guns fore and aft - one forward on the forecastle (fo'csle) and one aft on the quarterdeck. These heavy guns provide some fire power ahead and astern, acting as chasers. The fo'csle mounting could not fire dead ahead from its centre line position (as above) as it would hit the bowsprit. The thick brass tracks laid on the deck allow the gun mounting to be set to either port or starboard, and trained to fire over the bulwarks. The after gun has a similar mounting track and could be used to fire to either quarter or astern.

The bowsprit reaches ahead of the fo'csle. Clambering through the fairleads on either side of the bow reaches the heads, the ship's toilets. These were little more than bench seats above the flare of the bow - with 5 holes in each bench. Underway, these facilities would be extremely cold and wet. Later additions provided more sheltered compartments at the side of the ship!

Upper deck forward - the figurehead
The figurehead: Photo © Peter Milford
Engine room air scoops
Lower deck ventilators: Photo: © Peter Eastland
Masts and Funnels
Masts and funnels: Photo: © Peter Milford
The upper deck shows much of the Royal Navy in transition. Here are the masts, yards, rigging and fighting tops of an earlier era. Here too are the ventilation scoops and funnels of the mechanical age. The funnels are telescopic and can be retracted, lowered by means of hand operated cranks, to take them out of the way of the sails. The ventilators direct draughts of air down to the heat of the boiler room. The design harks backwards to the Nelson era yet shows glimpses of the future. The fighting tops were by now (1860) almost irrelevant. The heavier armament of the main gun deck is designed to blast an enemy long before he can come within the small arms range of marines in the fighting tops. The high sided bulwarks are intended to repel potential boarders - but no ship should have been able to come close enough to such a powerful armoured warship as HMS Warrior.

Warrior was designed to fight the battles of the previous century - but steam and iron had made changes that had yet to be appreciated. Two years later, Monitor was to shake the designers and tacticians alike.....

The Upper Deck - Under sail - The Maindeck - Armament - The engines and boiler room
The Captain's cabin - The Wardroom and Officer's cabins - Food on Warrior
Raising the anchor - HMS Warrior - facts and figures - Warrior - a short history
Return to Warrior tour home page

Page creation: July 1998
© Copyright St Vincent College

Prepared by staff and students at St Vincent College for HMS Warrior (1860)