HMS Gannet (1878)

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HMS Gannet
HMS Gannet in her dock in Chatham, 2005
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Gannet
Builder: Sheerness Royal Dockyard
Cost: Hull £39,581, machinery £12,889[1]
Laid down: 1877
Launched: 31 August 1878
Commissioned: 17 April 1879
Fate: Training ship in 1903
Renamed President
Loaned To C B Fry as a training ship in 1913
Preserved at Chatham in 1987
General characteristics
Class and type: Doterel-class screw composite sloop[1]
Displacement: 1,130 tons[2]
Length: 170 ft (52 m)[2]
Beam: 36 ft (11 m)[2]
Draught: 15 ft 9 in (4.80 m)[1]
Installed power: 1,107 indicated horsepower
  • Two-cylinder horizontal compound-expansion steam engine
  • Three cylindrical boilers
  • Single 13 ft (4.0 m) screw
Sail plan: Barque Rigged
Speed: 11.5 kn (21.3 km/h)[1]
Range: 1,480 nmi (2,740 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h)[1]
Complement: 140
  • Two 7-inch (90cwt) muzzle-loading rifled guns
  • Four 64-pound guns
  • Four machine guns
  • One light gun

HMS Gannet was a Royal Navy Doterel-class screw sloop launched on 31 August 1878. She became a training ship in the Thames in 1903, and was then lent as a training ship for boys in the Hamble from 1913. She was preserved in 1987 and forms part of the Core Collection of the UK's National Historic Fleet.


The Doterel class were a development of the Osprey-class sloops and were of composite construction, with wooden hulls over an iron frame. The original 1874 design by the Chief Constructor, William Henry White was revised in 1877 by Sir Nathaniel Barnaby and nine were ordered. Of 1,130 tons displacement and approximately 1,100 indicated horsepower, they were capable of approximately 11 knots and were armed with two 7" muzzle loading rifled guns on pivoting mounts, and four 64-pound guns (two on pivoting mounts, and two broadside). They had a crew complement of approximately 140 men.


Gannet was laid down at Sheerness Royal Dockyard in 1877 and launched on 31 August 1878.[1] She was commissioned on 17 April 1879,[1] and was classified as both a sloop of war and as a colonial cruiser. She was capable of attaining nearly 12 knots under full steam or 15 knots under sail.


The primary purpose of ships of the Gannet's class was to maintain British naval dominance through trade protection, anti-slavery, and long term surveying.

Shadowing the War of the Pacific

From the time of launching until 1883, the Gannet was assigned to the Pacific Ocean under Admiral De Horsey and spent much time shadowing the events of the War of the Pacific. In 1883 the ship returned to Sheerness and underwent a two year refit.

The Mediterranean and the Mahdist War

After the refit was complete, the Gannet was assigned to the Mediterranean as an anti-slaver. On 11 September 1888, she was ordered to relieve HMS Dolphin at the besieged port of Suakin, Sudan where she engaged anti-Anglo-Egyptian forces led by Osman Digna for nearly a month. After the battle, the Gannet was assigned to perform surveying work throughout the Mediterranean, and then hydrographic work in the Red Sea until she returned to Sheerness and was decommissioned on 16 March 1895.

Harbour service

After four months of being out of commission, in December 1895 the Gannet was transferred to harbour service in Chatham where she remained until 1900 when she was placed on the list of non-effective vessels. In the autumn of 1900, the Gannet was leased to the South Eastern & Chatham Railway Company as an accommodation hulk at Port Victoria railway station on the Isle of Grain.[3]

Training ship President

In 1903 Gannet was ordered to relieve HMS President, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve drill ship, and underwent major alterations to convert her into a drill ship. Renamed HMS President, she took up her new duties as the Headquarters ship of the London Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in the South West India Docks in June 1903. In 1909 the ship was renamed President II and in the spring of 1911, was relieved by HMS Buzzard, again finding herself on the list of non-effective vessels.

Training ship on the Hamble

In 1913 Gannet was loaned to C. B. Fry, and was stationed in the River Hamble, and became a dormitory ship for the Training Ship Mercury (where she retained her name President). The school took young boys who otherwise might not have many options in life, and trained them to join the Royal Navy. The ship served in this capacity until 1968 when the school was closed.

File:HMS Gannet (1878) in 1914.jpg
President (ex-Gannet) as the dormitory to Training Ship Mercury, moored in the Hamble
File:Chatham Gannet1878-001.JPG
Gannet in her dock at Chatham


Reverting to Royal Navy stewardship, it was decided to turn the ship over to the Maritime Trust so she could be restored. In 1987 the Chatham Historic Dockyard chartered Gannet from the Maritime Trust and started a restoration program, with the goal of returning the ship to its 1888 appearance — the only time she saw naval combat. In 1994 ownership of the vessel was passed to the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, where, listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, Core Collection, she remains today on display as a museum ship.

In the news, March 2009

The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Gordon Brown, on his first visit to President Barack Obama in the White House in March 2009, reportedly gave the President a gift of a pen holder made from the wood of the Gannet, presumably referencing her role in Victorian anti-slavery efforts. This gift was reciprocated with 25 DVDs of classic US feature films. [4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Winfield, Rif; Lyon, David (2003). The Sail and Steam Navy List, 1815-1889. Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1861760326. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Naval Sloops at". Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  3. "Disused Stations". Subterranea Britannica. 
  4. "Should Michelle Cover Up?" by Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, March 7, 2009 (in print on 3/8/09, p. WK10 of the NY edition). Retrieved 3/8/09.

See also

External links