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HMS Alexandra 

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Pre Dreadnought Battleship HMS Alexandra. In 1878 the Alexandra was commanded by Captain Robert Fitzroy through the Dardanelles to Constantinople and although grounded was refloated without damage. In 1882 HMS Alexandra took part in the bombardment of Alexandria under Captain Charles Hotham. Marines from the Alexandra joined the army at Kassassin and Tel-el-Kebir. She also saw service on the Nile. King George 5th served as a lieutenant aboard the Alexandra during 1887-88.

Displacement:  9,90tons.    Horse power: 8,610.    Length: 325 ft.    Beam: 64 ft.    Draught: 26 ft.    Armament: 12 guns.    Speed 15 knots.    Complement: .


HMS Alexandra, 1877.

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HMS Alexandra.

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HMS Alexandra, 1877.

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HMS Alexandra, 1877.

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HMS Alexandra

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In 1878 the Alexandra commanded by Captain Robert Fitzroy and flying the flag of Vice-Admiral Geoffrey Hornby, was at the head of six ships which cleared for action and proceeded through the Dardanelles to Constantinople to protect British interests during the conflict between Russia and Turkey. The Turks did not obstruct the passage of the ships, and no fighting took place. During the entry the Alexandra took the ground, but was got off without damage, and she was told off to attack the heavy 50 ton gun at the entrance if there had been any fighting. It was fortunate that the Turks did not fire, for it might have been impossible to save the stranded flagship. The Sultan which, appropriately enough, was commanded by Captain His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, K.G., turned back and gave such assistance as was necessary, to enable the Alexandra to be promptly refloated. Vice-Admiral Hornby was awarded with a KCB for his tactful management of the situation.

In July 1882 the Alexandra, commanded by Captain Charles Frederick Hotham, and flying the flag of Admiral Sir Frederick Beauchamp Seymour, lay at Alexandra at the head of a fleet of 14 ships. On July 11th the Alexandra fired the first shot of the bombardment of Alexandria at 7 am, the Egyptians having refused to surrender the forts. Owing to the flagship's draught of water, Sir Beauchamp Seymour had temporarily transferred his flag to the Invincible, but the Alexandra was stationed 1500 yards from Lighthouse Fort. All ships were cleared for action, topgallantmasts being struck and bowsprits rigged in. By 7.10 am all ships were engaged, and all the forts that could bring their guns to bear replied with vigour. By 5pm all guns ashore had been silenced, and the fleet ceased bombarding at 5.30 pm. The Alexandra received a 10 inch shell through an unarmoured portion of her side, which lodged on the main deck with the fuse burning. Gunner Israel Harding flung some water over it, and then picked up the shell and immersed it in a tub of water. For this act he was promoted to chief gunner and received the Victoria Cross. The British casualties were 5 killed and 28 wounded, to which the Alexandra contributed 1 killed and 3 wounded. The Egyptian loss has never been properly ascertained, but it is believed to have been about 150 killed and 400 wounded out of the 2000 men engaged in working the forts. The Alexandra had 24 hits from shot or shell outside her armour, and was struck in all about 60 times.

The men from the Alexandra then assisted in the occupation and policing of the town. Midshipman D R DeChair of this ship, while carrying despatches between Ras et Tin and Ramleh, lost his way, and fell into the hands of the rebels. He was well treated by Arabi Pasha, but was not liberated until the British Army occupied Cairo.

On 5th August the Alexandra contributed to a Naval Brigade which left Alexandria in the armoured train commanded by Captain John Fisher, of the Inflexible. Admiral Sir Beauchamp Seymour and Flag-Lieutenant the Hon. Hedworth Lambton accompanied the Brigade. The marines were de-trained about 800 yards from from Mehallet Junction, and, assisted by a 40 pounder Armstrong gun, quickly dislodged the enemy. During the evening the Brigade was exposed to a galling fire, but the marines behaved with great gallantry and bore the brunt of the attack. The casualties in this affair were 1 marine killed and 12 wounded, and 1 seaman killed and 4 wounded. The Naval Brigade were then recalled to their ships.

In August the Alexandra's marines assisted in the seizure and control of the Suez Canal. 

In September the Alexandra contributed men and machine guns to a Naval Brigade - 250 strong- under Captain Robert Fitzroy, of the Orion, which joined the army at Kassassin commanded by General Sir Garnet Wolseley. On September 13th the army met the enemy at Tel-el-Kebir, and defeated them with great slaughter. The marines attacked the Tel-el-Kebir lines with great courage, engaged the enemy at hand-grips, and carried the position. The Arabs broke and fled, and were pursued for 4 miles. The marines lost 2 officers, 1 NCO, and 10 men killed and 4 officers and 43 men wounded. Lieutenant Wyatt Rawson RN, who was Naval ADC to Sir Garnet Wolseley, was mortally wounded. A few days later the Naval Brigade were withdrawn to their ships.

In 1885 the Alexandra contributed to a Naval Brigade which operated on the Nile under Captain Lord Charles Beresford and took part in the battles of Abu Klea, Metemmeh and Wad-Habeshi, and in the relief of Sir Charles Wilson.

Admiral Sir Beauchamp was raised to the peerage as Baron Alcester and Captain C F Hotham rewarded with a CB for their services.

From May 20th 1887 to July 1st 1887, and from April 21st 1888 to November 5th 1888, HRH Prince George of Wales, later to become His Most Gracious Majesty King George the Fifth, served in this ship as a lieutenant.

In 1890 the Alexandra was reconstructed, and re-rigged with fighting tops, but she saw no more active service. In 1908 the Alexandra was sold at Devonport.

Extracted from "The King's Ships" 1915 by Leckie

In the Petty Officers Reading Room in the Alexandra

The Petty Officers on board ship performed duties that correspond roughly to the duties performed by non-commissioned officers in the Army during 1896. They were supplied by the Admiralty with a number of newspapers and periodicals, and the reading room was a place on board set apart out of working hours for their use - sometimes cut off by a canvas screen - where the petty officers could "recreate" generally, apart from the rest of the ship's company. Backgammon, draughts, chess and games at cards were allowed with the proviso that there was no gambling.

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Jack in his Watch Below on Board the Alexandra

Here we see Jack turned in for the night. In the 1890's a sailor slept where he lived and had his meals, clearing a space to sling his hammock in by removing the mess tables and gear used by day out of the way and securing them overhead. To the landsman a hammock was not the easiest to get into, without risk of overleaping oneself and coming down on deck on the other side. Grave consequences might well ensue from a cutting down of the lashings at the head of a sleeper, a not infrequent way among the midshipmen of the old days of paying off scores.

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HMS Alexandra, January, 1897

HMS Alexandra

Captain W H Pigott in his Cabin, 1896

The Company of the Alexandra at Portland

The company of the second-class battleship Alexandra - the Duke of Edinburgh's old flagship in the Mediterranean - assembled in the waist of the vessel. The officers are seen on the port gangway, at the side of the ship, which forms a means of communication fore and aft. In our photograph, the "Red" Marines (Light Infantry) are seen to starboard, and the "Blue" Marines (Artillery) to port, with the bluejackets massed in port and starboard watches, and a number of the petty officers of the Alexandra. The Alexandra was stationed at Portland in 1896 to act as flagship of the First Reserve or coastguard ships. As a coastguard ship she was manned below the level of seagoing complement, the ship's full strength being provided under the mobilization scheme by the addition of drafts of coastguardsmen from the stations nearest Portland and the Naval Reserve men drawn from the neighbouring districts.

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In the Battery of the Alexandra 1896

The photograph shows one of the 22 ton breech loading guns forming part of the upper central battery of the Alexandra battleship, "cast loose" for action and about to be fired. This is the scene which one would see if a hostile ship came within range of the Alexandra's guns. The Captain of the gun is shown with outstretched lanyard in hand waiting for the order to "commence firing". Behind him are men of the gun detachment; one with a sponge for wiping out the bore of the gun after the round was fired, and another, with a fresh cartridge in its leather case ready for use. The Alexandra was constructed with two central batteries one above the other; the upper mounted four 22 ton breech loading guns and the lower mounted eight 18 ton muzzle loaders, a combination of heavy armament not found on any other British battleship at the time (1896).

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