Saturday, 18 April 2009

Chatham visit

Chatham Dockyard was established in the 1590's as a repair and building facility for the Royal Navy. It closed as a Naval Base and Dockyard in 1984 and is now a museum, home to a fascinating collection of ships and artifacts. Well worth the effort to visit it.

HMS Gannet
HMS Gannet is an interesting little ship, a survivor by accident almost from the Victorian navy. She has a composite hull, wooden planks on iron or steel frames, with a steam compound engine driving a single screw which could be disconnected and hauled into a housing under her stern when under sail alone. Under power she could achieve a steady 14 knots, under sail, somewhat less. Three boilers supplied steam to her engine and these required a long heating time to raise sufficient pressure. Unlike modern boilers, they were simply large tanks with a fire box beneath with a number of tubes taking hot gas and smoke through the water to discharge into the funnel. Modern boilers reverse this with the water in tubes and the heat around them.

Her armament was four 4 inch guns in raised positions (They can be seen on the fo'c's'le and poop with their splinter shields), a pair of Nordenfledt Quick firing guns and a large Muzzle Loading Rifled 64 pdr hidden beneath the fo'c's'le and firing throught the ports on either bow.

Breech-loading 4 inch gun

Muzzle Loading 64 Pdr Rifled gun, one of the gun ports is visible over the breech.

Nordenfeldt Quick Firing Mounting.

The Gannet spent most of her active service in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea suppressing slavery. Here she was engaged in a number of local battles and one of her officers was "murdered" and several of her seaman killed by slavers during raids. The ship took her revenge in due course and many slavers found themselves in irons, their ships sunk and their "cargo" returned to freedom.

Ironically she survives because by the time she returned to the UK after her deployment she was obsolete and was relegated to the role of training ship and then accomodation ship. Finally she was "lent" to the Maritime Society as a School ship becoming the TS Worcester, a role she held until the school closed in 1968. When she was recognised and her value realised, she was preserved and has undergone a lengthy restoration to bring her back to the state she would have been in in her slave patrol days. Still minus her engine and boilers and much of her internal furnishings, she is still well worth the visit.

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