HMS Vanguard (1870)

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HMS Vanguard
HMS Vanguard
Career (UK) RN Ensign
Name: HMS Vanguard
Builder: Laird, Son & Co., Birkenhead
Laid down: 21 October 1867
Launched: 3 January 1870
Commissioned: 28 September 1870
Fate: Sunk in accident on 1 September 1875
General characteristics
Class and type: Audacious-class ironclad battleship
Displacement: 6,034 long tons (6,131 t)
Length: 342 ft 3 in (104.32 m)
Beam: 54 ft (16 m)
Draught: 23 ft 2 in (7.06 m)
Installed power: 4,830 ihp (3,600 kW)
Propulsion: 2 × coal-fired Ravenhill reciprocating steam engines
6 × boilers
2 × shafts
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Speed: 13 kn (15 mph; 24 km/h)
Complement: 450
Armament: 10 × 9 in (230 mm), 12-ton RML guns, 4 × 6 in (150 mm), 64 pdr (29 kg) RML 'chaser' guns (two at bow and two at stern), 6 × 20 pdr (9.1 kg) guns, bow ram
  • Belt: 6–8 in (15–20 cm)
  • Battery: 4–6 in (10–15 cm)
  • Bulkheads: 4–5 in (10–13 cm)
Notes: Armour is iron plating with teak backing.
Service record
Part of: First Reserve Squadron 1870-1875

The eighth HMS Vanguard of the British Royal Navy was an Audacious-class central-battery ironclad battleship, launched in 1870.

Vanguard — under the command of Captain Richard Dawkins, sailed out of Kingstown (now Dún Laoghaire) harbour on 27 August 1875 in company with three other ironclads, Warrior, Hector and Iron Duke. The ships were part of the First Reserve Squadron and were on a summer cruise around the Irish coast. The squadron — under the command of Admiral Tarleton, was en route to Queenstown (Cobh), County Cork where the cruise would finish. As they passed the Kish lightship, a heavy fog came down which restricted visibility to less than a ship's length.

Vanguard's sister ship — Iron Duke — noticed she was drifting off course and began returning to her proper station. A problem with her steam plant meant that her foghorn was inoperable, and could not be used to alert the other vessels of her position or course.

At about 12:50, a look-out on Vanguard spotted a sailing ship directly ahead. As Vanguard turned to avoid it, Iron Duke appeared out of the fog on her port side less than 40 yd (37 m) away. Collision was unavoidable. Iron Duke's underwater ram tore open Vanguard's hull near her boilers.

Iron Duke freed herself after a few minutes, sustaining only minor damage. Vanguard, however, was sinking. Her pumps could move water at a rate of 3,000 lb/min (23 kg/s) but the flooding exceeded 50 long tons per minute (847 kg/s). The pumps were powered by the engines, which shut down ten minutes after the collision when the engine room flooded.

Vanguard and Iron Duke both launched all boats. The abandonment was completed in good order with Captain Dawkins the last of the 360 crew aboard to leave and the only casualty was his dog which was lost. Warrior and Hector sailed on in the fog and only learned of the sinking upon reaching Queenstown.

Seventy minutes after the collision, Vanguard rested on the seabed 165 ft (50 m) deep. The tips of her masts were still visible above the surface. The Admiralty was confident that the ship could be raised and diving operations started, but were soon abandoned.

Captain Dawkins was blamed at the court martial for not doing enough to save his vessel following the collision, and never received command of another vessel. Contemporary popular opinion, however, was sympathetic towards him.

The wreck was rediscovered in 1985 and lies in 148–165 ft (45–50 m) of water. The wreck is protected under the Irish National Monument Act, and a licence from the National Monuments Service is required to dive it.


  • Roger Chesneau and Eugene M. Kolesnik, ed., Conway's All The Worlds Fighting Ships, 1860-1905, (Conway Maritime Press, London, 1979), ISBN 0-85177-133-5

es:HMS Vanguard (1869)