HMS Agincourt (1865)

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HMS Agincourt
Career RN Ensign
Laid down: 30 October 1861
Launched: 27 March 1865
Completed: 1 June 1867
Fate: Broken up 1960
General characteristics
Class and type: Minotaur class battleship
Displacement: 10,800 tons
Draught: 27 ft (8.2 m)
Propulsion: One-shaft Maudslay return connecting-rod
6,700 IHP
Speed: 14.8 knots (27.4 km/h)
Complement: 705 nominal, 800 actual

4 × 9 inch muzzle-loading rifles
24 × 7 inch muzzle-loading rifles
17 × 9 inch muzzle-loading rifles

2 × 20-pounder smoothbore cannon
Armour: 5 inch (127 mm) belt with 10 inch (254 mm) teak backing

HMS Agincourt was one of three Minotaur class ironclads, the sistership of HMS Minotaur and a near sister to HMS Northumberland. She was a fully rigged ship with a steam engine and an armoured iron hull and was launched in 1865.


Agincourt's original name when laid down at Birkenhead was HMS Captain. Construction proceeded well and, with her name changed to Agincourt, she was launched and floated out of dry dock in March 1865.

Service history

She was commissioned in June 1868, her first assigned task being the towing of a floating dock from England to Madeira, in company with her near sister HMS Northumberland.

Channel Fleet

After successfully bringing the dock to Madeira, Agincourt worked up and joined the battle fleet. Her immense size and power earned her pride of place in the squadrons to which she was attached, and she was almost always taken up as a flagship by the presiding admirals. From 1869 to 1873 she wore the flag of the Admiral second-in-command of the Channel Fleet, with her sister Minotaur serving as the Fleet's flagship.

1871 grounding on Pearl Rock

It was during this assignment that she suffered a near-catastrophe when, in 1871, she grounded at Pearl Rock, near Gibraltar, and nearly sank. The squadron was commanded by Admiral Wellesly from his flagship Minotaur with second in command Rear Admiral Eardley Wilmot onboard Agincourt. The squadron had been ordered to conserve coal, so was steaming at only six knots through the Gibraltar straights on a clear calm day, still within sight of the fortress. The current locally runs at four knots, so the ship was making little headway and most of the officers had gone below. What was not appreciated was that the current was also pushing the ships sideways; Agincourt grounded on the Pearl Rock so gently that it was hardly felt by the crew. She was leading one line of ships, so that Warrior next behind nearly ran into her.[1]

Anchors were laid out and attempts made to move the ship by hauling against them. This failed so then lighters from the dockyard and ship's boats set about removing everything mobile to lighten the ship. The next day, again an attempt was made to haul Agincourt off the rocks, and again it failed. Now the guns were removed, and on the following day HMS Inconstant was ordered to tow her off the rocks. The captain was unable to get close enough for a clear tow, and this attempt failed also. The matter was now becoming of some concern, because should the weather worsen Agincourt would likely be broken up on the rocks. Coal was jettisoned to reduce weight. On the fourth day HMS Hercules commanded by Lord Gilford was ordered to attempt a tow. He set anchors and then backed his ship so that it was stern to stern with Agincourt. Two chains could now be attached each taking equal strain. Using the engines and hauling on the anchors, Agincourt came free. That night an Atlantic swell came through the straights, which would have destroyed the ship.[2]

The squadron returned to England, where both admirals and Agincourt's captain were replaced. Sir Geoffrey Hornby now took command of the squadron, with Rear-Admiral Frederick Campbell as his second in command on the now repaired Agincourt. In September 1871 Captain J.O Hopkins was appointed the new commander of Agincourt, with Commander Charles Penrose Fitzgerald as her second in command (newly promoted from being first Lieutenant onboard Hercules). [3] Hopkins later commented: 'We turned the Agincourt from the noisiest and the worst disciplined ship in the squadron into the quietest and the smartest; and a few months after we commissioned we went out to the Mediterranean for the Lord Clyde court-martial, and beat the whole Mediterranean fleet in their drills and exercises, which was a great triumph'.[4]

1873-1875 Channel fleet flagship

Agincourt flew the second-in-command's flag until 1873, when her sister Minotaur was taken in hand for a refit, and for the next two years she served as flagship in the Channel, relinquishing that role in 1875 when Minotaur rejoined the fleet.

1875-1877 Re-armament

After another two years' good service, Agincourt was paid off in 1875 for re-armament, trading her outdated muzzle loading guns for new breach-loading ones. The following year, with her new armament, she became part of the Particular Service Squadron which passed through the Dardanelles under the command of Admiral Hornby during the war scare with Russia over their advance towards Constantinople. After those tensions faded, Agincourt returned to the Channel, where she served as second flag until 1889. That year she was again paid off and was subsequently held in reserve at Portsmouth until 1893, when she was transferred to Portland for use as a training ship. During her active career Agincourt was the flagship of no less than fifteen admirals, some of whom were among the most notable figures of Victorian naval history.

Later years as Boscawen III and Ganges II

Agincourt, now renamed Boscawen III, would serve twelve years at Portland. In 1905 she was moved to Harwich and renamed once again, this time to Ganges II. After four years at Harwich, Ganges II made her final journey, to Sheerness, in 1909. After her arrival at Sheerness the old ship was systematically stripped, and converted into a coal hulk known simply as C.109, much like HMS Warrior's career as an oil jetty at Pembroke. Unlike Warrior, however, Agincourt was not destined to be rescued and restored to her former glory; after five ignominious decades as what Oscar Parkes called "a grimy, dilapidated and incredibly shrunken relic" of her former self, she was scrapped in 1960.


  1. Fitzgerald p. 209
  2. Fitzgerald p. 209-302
  3. Fitzgerald p. 302-305
  4. Fitzgerald p. 306


  • Oscar Parkes British Battleships ISBN 0-85052-604-3
  • Conway Maritime Press All the World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905 ISBN 0-85177-133-5
  • rear admiral C. C. Penrose Fitzgerald (1913). Memories of the Sea. London: Edward Arnold. 

External links

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