Preserved ironclads and old steam warships: My ‘bucket list’

There is every chance that I will never manage to see all of the preserved warships on my ‘bucket list’ … but there is no reason why I cannot share some photographs of them with my regular blog readers.

Georgios Averof (Palaio Faliro, Greece)

Mikasa (Yokosuka, Japan)

Huascar (Talcahuano, Chile)

Ting Yuen/Dingyuan (Weihai, China)

HMS Caroline (Belfast, Northern Ireland)

HMS M33 (Portsmouth, Hampshire)

USS Olympia (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

Please note that all the photographs shown above were downloaded from the Wikimedia Commons website. The copyright (where applicable) remains with the originators of the images.

Preserved ironclads and old steam warships: HSwMS Sölve

In 2008 I had the opportunity to visit the Maritiman Marine Museum in Göteborg, Sweden, and whilst I was there I made a special effort to photograph the Swedish monitor, HSwMS Sölve.

It is hardly surprising that John Ericsson – the designer of the original turreted ironclad USS Monitor – was able to persuade his homeland to adopt this type of warship. The Royal Swedish Navy’s main task was coastal defence, and the monitor-type of ship was ideal for this role.

HSwMS Sölve was one of a class of ironclad monitors – her sisters were the Hildur, Gerda, Ulf, Björn, Bersek, and Folke – that were built for the Royal Swedish Navy in the 1870s. Sölve and her sisters were designed by Ericsson and d’Ailly and built by Motala, Norrkoping. Sölve was withdrawn from service in 1919, and in 1921 she was converted into an oil barge. When her useful life was over Sölve was not scrapped; instead she was donated by her owners to the Maritiman Marine Museum, where she is currently being restored.

The Sölve’s characteristics:

  • Displacement: 460 tons
  • Length: 130′ 6″
  • Beam: 26′ 4″
  • Draught: 8′ 10″
  • Propulsion:
    • 2-cylinder horizontal engines (155 ihp) driving 2 propellers
    • 2 boilers
  • Speed: 8 knots
  • Complement: 48
  • Armament (when built):
    • 1 x 240mm BLR
  • Armour:
    • Belt: 3 inches
    • Turret: 16.5 inches
    • Conning Tower: 10 inches
    • Deck: ¾ inch

In 2008 HSwMS Sölve was moored next to an island near the museum, and looked like this:

Preserved ironclads and old steam warships: HNLMS Buffel: A photographic tour

The following photographs of HNLMS Buffel show that her design was both a mixture of the ancient (the gilded gallery at the stern and ornate bow decoration) and the modern (her turret and iron construction).

Preserved ironclads and old steam warships: HNLMS Buffel

In 2005 I visited Rotterdam, and whilst I was there I had the opportunity to spend some time at the Maritiem Museum Rotterdam (Rotterdam Maritime Museum). At the time one of its major exhibits was HNLMS Buffel.

Buffel was one of a class of ironclad rams – her sister was the Guinea – that were built for the Royal Netherlands Navy in the late 1860s. She was designed and built on the banks of the River Clyde by Robert Napier and Sons, shipbuilders. Buffel served until 1894, when she was withdrawn from service and became a training ship and then an accommodation ship. In the latter role she was not decommissioned until 1973!

When she was decommissioned Buffel was sold to the City of Rotterdam to be used as an exhibit at the Maritiem Museum Rotterdam, but the rising cost of keeping her in good condition has meant that she has now been transferred to the small City of Hellevoetsluis in the western Netherlands.

The Buffel‘s characteristics (as completed):

  • Displacement: 2,402 tons
  • Length: 195 foot 10 inches
  • Beam: 40 foot
  • Draught: 16 foot 9 inches
  • Propulsion:
    • 2 Napier compound engines (2,000 ihp) driving 2 propellers
    • Steam provided by 4 boilers
  • Speed: 11.2 knots
  • Complement: 159
  • Armament:
    • 2 × 9-inch Armstrong MLR Guns
    • 4 x 30 pounder ML Guns
  • Armour:
    • Belt: 3 to 6 inches
    • Gun Turrets: 8 to 11 inches
    • Deck: ¾ to 1 inch

Preserved ironclads and old steam warships

For some reason I have always been fascinated by ironclads and other early steam warships, and whenever the opportunity arises during my travels, I will visit any preserved warships that are nearby.

So far I have managed to see:

  • HMS Warrior (Portsmouth, Hampshire)
  • HMS Gannet (Chatham, Kent)
  • HNLMS Buffel (Rotterdam, Netherlands)
  • HSwMS Sölve (Göteborg, Sweden)
  • Aurora (St Peterburg, Russia)

There are other preserved warships that I would love to visit if the opportunity ever arises:

  • Georgios Averof (Palaio Faliro, Greece)
  • Mikasa (Yokosuka, Japan)
  • Huascar (Talcahuano, Chile)
  • Ting Yuen/Dingyuan (Weihai, China) [Not actually a preserved ship but a reconstruction built to the original ship’s plans]
  • HMS Caroline (Belfast, Northern Ireland)
  • HMS M33 (Portsmouth, Hampshire)
  • USS Olympia (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)


One comment in Richard Brooks’s book THE KNIGHT WHO SAVED ENGLAND piqued my interest. He referred to the use of new chequered cloths from the calculation of taxes, and that this was the derivation of the word ‘exchequer’.

I did a bit of research and discovered that the cloths were used to cover a special table that had raised sides so that things could not fall off. The stripes that made up the chequer pattern were about the width of a hand, and counters were placed at the top of the down stripes (or columns) to indicate whether the column contained pounds, shilling, or pence. The chequered cloth was then used to calculate and tally the taxes that were collected … almost like an analogue version of a modern computer spreadsheet! When everything was complete, the cloth was cleared and the calculations were ex-chequer (i.e. off the chequered cloth).

An interesting and inconsequential little bit of historical information that I hope amused my regular blog readers.

The Knight Who Saved England

I must admit to something … and that is that English history prior to the English Civil War has never been of great interest to me. That is not to say that I know nothing about it; it is just that it never really fired my imagination, and the history books that I had to read were always rather boring. Interestingly enough I always enjoyed watching Shakespeare’s historical plays, mainly because they did something that I feel is very important; they are great STORIES rather than worthy HISTORIES.

When I was sent a copy of Richard Brook’s THE KNIGHT WHO SAVED ENGLAND: WILLIAM MARSHAL AND THE FRENCH INVASION, 1217 (Osprey Publishing [2014] ISBN 978 1 84908 550 2) I approached reading it with somewhat mixed thoughts. Firstly I had never heard of William Marshal or the French Invasion of 1217, so it probably wasn’t a very important topic to write about. Secondly it was about a period of history that had never really interested me because it was boring. Thirdly my understanding of the warfare of the period was that it was usually two lines of mounted knights charging each other and engaging in melee combat.

I was wrong on all three counts, and having read Richard’s book I can thoroughly recommend it.

The book covers the seventy odd years of William Marshal’s life (1147 [approximately] to 1219), during which he rose from being the younger son of a poor knight to becoming 1st Earl of Pembroke and the regent for Henry III. He loyally served four Kings of England during his life (Henry II, Richard I, John, and Henry III) and became one of the leading magnates of the kingdom. He was a renowned fighter, and during his period as regent he commanded Henry III’s armies against Prince Louis of France and the rebel barons, and despite his age he lead the charge at the decisive Battle of Lincoln.

William was also a statesman who had the sense to know how to achieve lasting results. This is evidenced by the negotiations he conducted at the end of the war with France. In order to secure peace and stability for his young king, William set very generous of the terms to Prince Louis and the rebel barons.

The book is divided into eight chapters:

  1. Angevin Inheritance
  2. Finest Knight
  3. Before the Longbow
  4. King John and the Dauphin
  5. William’s War
  6. Lincoln Fair
  7. The Battle of Sandwich and the Treaty of Kingston
  8. Nunc Dimittis

Richard’s style of writing is an interesting one in that the book reads like a novel in places whilst at the same time as being full of academic references. Once I started a chapter, I found it difficult to put down until I had read to the end. He also varies his style to suit the topic. Therefore the chapter that deals with the Angevin Inheritance reads like an historical novel whereas the one that covers William’s training and career as a knight is more like a traditional military history book.

Incidentally, this latter chapter completely changed my ideas about the type of fighting that took place during this era. For example, I had no idea that the early tournaments were more like modern Formula 1 motor racing (i.e. tournaments were fought by teams of knights that were often trained together to fight together for personal financial reward on a well-known circuit of tournament sites across Europe) than Hollywood’s portrayal of chivalric activity at a tourney. Likewise I had little idea that most of the fighting that took place were sieges, raids, or ambushes, and that pitched battles were the very rare exception rather than the rule.

From a wargamers point-of-view this book contains lots of information that can be used on all sorts of levels. There are ideas for campaigns that could be fought either as conventional map games where the battles are fought out on the tabletop, as committee games, or as large-scale Matrix Games. For someone looking for a more typical figure game that they might want to set up at a wargames club or as a demonstration game at a wargames show, the description of the Battle of Lincoln provides lots of potential ideas, with mounted knights charging in line abreast down narrow city streets and local people grabbing anything that they could use as a weapon to join in the fray.

I am very pleased that I was given this book to read … and I am sure that other readers will also enjoy reading it.

Another batch of eBay purchases

Late yesterday afternoon the Royal Mail delivered my latest batch of eBay purchases. Its arrival lifted my spirits somewhat, and it took all my self-control not to immediately rip the parcel open and write a blog entry about the contents … but in line with my recent resolution to try to restrict myself to writing one blog entry per day, I resisted the temptation!

The parcel contained quite a few packs of Del Prado pre-painted 25/28mm-scale Napoleonic wargames figures:

These additional figures will enhance my existing collection quite considerably … and are yet another reason why I really must get them all varnished and based so that I can start using them.

Is that a whimper that I can hear?

I woke up this morning feeling much better. For the first time in what seems like a long time I had a really good night’s sleep … and my permanent headache is now just a dull echo of its former intensity. My other symptoms have also almost gone, and I know that I am coming out of this latest depressive episode.

I think it is safe to say that the black dog is now just whimpering … and as long as I am careful and take things easy, I should be back to normal very soon.

Please can I thank everyone who has been so supportive over the past few days. It has really helped me to overcome what was a particularly bad period. In retrospect I can see that my decision not to go to SALUTE was probably a good one, as I was already beginning to experience the symptoms in the days running up to it. At the time I just put it down to tiredness … but there was obviously a deeper underlying cause.

One thing I have learnt over the past few days is that I can survive without having to blog, and that I probably need to ease up on the number of entries that I write. On some days recently I was blogging up to three times per day, which in retrospect sounds a bit obsessive and unnecessary. As a result I am going to take things easy for the next week or so. This will not be too difficult as it is Easter and my wife and I will be taking a bit of a break. We could certainly do with it as all the work clearing and then redecorating and renovating our conservatory seemed to drain both of us.

The black dog is still barking!

I would like to thank everyone for the support they have given me over recent days. It has really helped lift my spirits.

I don’t seem to be moving out of this episode of depression as quickly as I had hoped, but I am coping  better now than I was a couple of days ago. I hope to be back to normal very soon … and when I am I will begin blogging and wargaming again.

The black dog is still barking … but not as long or as loudly as it was.