HMS Trafalgar (1887)

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HMS Trafalgar
Career (UK) RN Ensign
Name: HMS Trafalgar
Builder: Portsmouth Dockyard
Laid down: 18 January 1886
Launched: 27 March 1888
Commissioned: 2 April 1890
Fate: Sold for scrapping 9 April 1912
General characteristics
Class and type: Trafalgar class battleship
Displacement: 12,590 tons
Length: 345 feet (105 m) p/p
Beam: 73 feet (22 m)
Draught: 28 feet 6 inches (8.69 m)
Propulsion: 2-shaft Humphries triple expansion
7,500 ihp normal draught, 12,102 ihp (9,024 kW) forced draught
Speed: 15.1 knots (28.0 km/h) normal draught
17.2 knots (31.9 km/h) forced draught
Complement: 577
Armament: 4 × BL 13.5-inch (342.9 mm) guns
6 × QF 4.7-inch (120-mm) guns
8 × 6-pounders
9 × 3-pounders
6 × torpedo tubes
Armour: Belt: 20 inches amidships, 14 inches at ends
Lower belt: 8 inches amidships, 6 inches at ends
Forward bulkhead: 16 inches
After bulkhead: 14 inches
Citadel: 18 inches to 16 inches (410 mm)
Turrets: 18 inches
Conning tower: 14 inches
Battery bulkheads: 5 inches
Battery screen: 4 inches
Deck: 3 inches
Service record
Part of: Mediterranean Fleet (1890-1897)
Portsmouth guardship (1898-1902)
Home Fleet (1909-1911)

HMS Trafalgar was one of two Trafalgar class battleships, the other being HMS Nile. They were designed to be improved versions of the Admiral and Victoria classes, having a greater displacement to allow for improved protection. However they sacrificed a full armoured belt for greater thickness amidships in a partial belt.

As originally designed, Trafalgar was to have displaced 11,940 tons, and carried a secondary armament of ten guns of 5 inches (130 mm) calibre, disposed in the broadside battery. Changes made during construction however, led to an increase in displacement to 12,590 tons; this led to the ships draught being increased by 12 inches (300 mm) from the initial design, and 18 inches (460 mm) with full bunkers. This in turn led to the main belt being immersed to a deeper level than had been intended, with a potential decrease in defensive effect in combat.

In October 1896 the secondary battery of 4.7-inch (120 mm) guns was replaced by a more powerful battery of six 6-inch (150 mm) quick firers.

The main artillery, while situated at a militarily effective height of 14 feet (4.3 m) above sea level, were only 42 inches (1,100 mm) above the deck. It was thought possible that firing along the keel line might cause structural damage; tests requested by the Chief Constructor, however, showed the potential damage to be minimal.

As compared to HMS Sans Pareil the under-water hull form was finer, with a larger rudder. together with the reduced freeboard as compared to earlier ships this had a significantly adverse effect on her handling; as she spent her active service in relatively calm water in the Mediterranean, this defect was of minimal importance.

Service history

She was completed, except for her main armament, in only three years and three months. The delay in the production of her guns meant that she was not commissioned, as second flagship Mediterranean Fleet until 2 April 1890. She served in this position until October 1897, when she paid off at Portsmouth, and where she remained as guardship until August 1902. She remained thereafter in reserve until 1907, when she went to Sheerness to serve as a drill ship for crews of turrets and of submerged torpdo tubes. In April 1909 she reverted to active service with the fourth division of the Home Fleet, based at the Nore. She was sold on 9 March 1911.

External links


  • K. McBride, Nile and Trafalgar, The Last British Ironclads, in Warship 2000-2001, Conways Maritime Press
  • D. K. Brown, Warrior to Dreadnought, Warship Development 1860-1906, ISBN 1-84067-529-2
  • Oscar Parkes, British Battleships ISBN 0-85052-604-3
  • Conway, All the World's Fighting Ships ISBN 0-85177-133-5

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