HMS Thunderer (1872)

From SpottingWorld, the Hub for the SpottingWorld network...
Career Royal Navy Ensign
Class and type: Devastation-class battleship
Name: HMS Thunderer
Builder: Pembroke Dockyard
Laid down: 26 June 1869
Launched: 25 March 1872
Commissioned: 26 May 1877
Decommissioned: 1909
Fate: Sold for scrapping July 1909 to T.W. Ward, Inverkeithing, United Kingdom
General characteristics

9,180 long tons (9,330 t) standard

13,000 long tons (13,000 t) maximum
Length: 285 ft (87 m)
Beam: 62 ft 3 in (18.97 m)
Draught: 27 ft 6 in (8.38 m)
Propulsion: As built: 2 cylinder Humphreys and Tennant engines, 8 rectangular 30 psi (210 kPa) boilers, 6,270 ihp (4,680 kW) = 13.4 kn (24.8 km/h)
(1890) Triple Expansion engines, cylindrical boilers
Speed: 14 kn (26 km/h) maximum (following 1890 modernisation)
Complement: 410

As built : 2 x 38 ton 12 inch (305 mm) muzzle loading rifles (forward turret)[1]
2 x 35 ton 12 inch muzzle loading rifles (aft turret)[1]

From 1890 : Four BL 10-inch (254.0 mm) guns, six 6 pounder (2.7 kg), eight 3 pounders. Two 14 in Torpedo Launchers added 1881.
Armour: 10 to 12 in (254 to 305 mm) belt

HMS Thunderer was a British Royal Navy Devastation-class battleship.

Thunder was an ironclad turret ship designed by Edward James Reed with revolving turrets, launched in 1872. The new innovations introduced on these ships led to them being regarded with some suspicion, and this was partly justified when two unfortunate incidents clouded the initial success of the design.

On 14 July 1876 shortly after completion she suffered a disastrous boiler explosion which killed 45 people when one of her eight 30 pound per square inch (210 kPa) box boilers burst as she proceeded from Portsmouth Harbour to Stokes Bay to carry out a full power trial.[2]

The explosion killed 15 people instantly, including her captain who was in the boiler room at the time and injured around 70 others, of whom 30 later died. The reason for the explosion was that the pressure gauge was broken and the safety valves had seized through corrosion.[2] The boiler explosion signalled the end of box boilers in favour of the Scotch cylindrical type, and it led directly to the writing of the first official Steam Manual in 1879.

File:HMS Thunderer burst RML 12 inch gun diagram.jpg
Diagrams showing how the gun burst

She suffered another serious accident in January 1879 when the left 12-inch (305 mm) gun in the forward turret[1] exploded during practice firing in the Sea of Marmora killing 11 and injuring a further 35. The reason for this accident was that the muzzle-loading gun had been double loaded following a misfire, and was a major reason for the Royal Navy changing to breech loading guns. It led to improved loading and handling procedures, and Thunderer herself was re-equipped with long-calibre 10" breech-loaders, and settled down in her old age to become a favourite of the Fleet: King George V served in her for a while as Lieutenant Prince George of Wales. With her broad beam she was a fine gun-platform, and the phrase "As steady as the old Thunderer" was high praise for any newcomer to the Navy.

She was refitted in 1881 and equipped with triple expansion engines, which roughly halved her coal consumption at 80% power (and thus doubled her range), paving the way for the widespread introduction of these engines in the Royal Navy.

Further extensive modifications were carried out in 1890-1892.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Brassey 1882, pages 81-85
  2. 2.0 2.1 McEwen, Alan (2009). Historic Steam Boiler Explosions. Sledgehammer Engineering Press. ISBN 978-0-9532725-2-5.