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 HMS Royal Sovereign of the Royal Sovereign Class of battleship. Sister ships HMS Empress of India, HMS Ramillies, HMS Repulse, HMS Resolution, HMS Revenge and HMS Royal Oak. HMS Royal Sovereign, launched 26th February 1891, she served in both the Home and Channel Fleets but after 1900 she served in home waters and finally scrapped 7th October 1913.

The Royal Sovereign as a steel armoured battleship of the Naval Defence Act  Programme completed for sea in 1892. She was built at Portsmouth Dockyard and engined by Messrs. Humphrys & Tennant. Royal Sovereign was at one time flagship of the Channel Squadron. She was last commissioned in December 1895 by Captain Reginald F H Henderson C.B.

Displacement: 14,150 tons.    Length: 380 ft.    Beam: 75ft.   Horse power: 13,312.   Draught: 27' 6".    Speed: 18 knots.    Armament: four 67 ton guns in armoured barbettes.     Armour: 18 inch thick

HMS Royal Sovereign, with HMS Royal Oak, laid up c.1910.

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HMS Royal Sovereign, 1892.

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HMS Royal Sovereign, January, 1894

HMS Royal Sovereign.

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Stropping a Block on board HMS Royal Sovereign

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Some crew of HMS Royal Sovereign, January, 1894

HMS Royal Sovereign.

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HMS Royal Sovereign, 1892

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A group of executive officers on HMS Royal Sovereign, 1895.

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The Vulcan, Royal Sovereign and Thetis at Plataea Harbour c.1900.

For a considerable portion of the year the Mediterranean Fleet cruised eastward. This work was not well liked as it did not present the social amenities found at Malta or some of the other Italian and Spanish ports, and after all life on board was sufficiently monotonous in 1900 for a little excitement to be needed. Greece was friendly to Great Britain and allowed the navy to make limited use of her ports and islands. Here torpedoes were run and gun practise was carried out. The British ships shown at anchor above are in the small port of Plataea.

Looking Forward on board the Royal Sovereign.

Photograph taken on board HMS Royal Sovereign from the fore bridge while at Spithead in November 1885 just before the ship put to sea for her last cruise as flagship to the Channel Squadron. Shows the two 67 ton guns of the ship mounted in the forward barbette. Two similar guns are mounted in a similar barbette aft, the two pairs forming together the principal armament of the ship. The barbettes themselves are protected with 17 inch steel-faced armour, and the guns will throw huge projectiles 13.5 inches in diameter through 18 inches of iron, yet they are loaded, trained and fired with the greatest of ease.

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HMS Royal Sovereign Hoisting the Steam Pinnace.

Photograph taken on board Royal Sovereign looking aft while at Spithead just before she left for the winter cruise of the Channel Squadron off the South West coast of Ireland. She is at anchor with another battleship of the Channel Squadron her sister ship the Resolution close astern. The picket-boat has already been hoisted in and secured, and the pinnace is in the act of being swung inboard to be secured, under the direction of the Commander, who is on the after bridge carrying on the duty.

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On the Forecastle of HMS Royal Sovereign.

A ship's company is divided, broadly speaking, into two watches (each of which is of course further dived for duty), and the men go on leave when in port in turn, watch by watch. The watch on board Royal Sovereign when at Portsmouth in November 1894 is shown in the photograph- upwards of 300 and odd men of all ratings, bluejackets, stokers and marines. The whole forecastle including the lofty barbette and the two giant 67 ton guns is shown covered and entirely hidden by the men, the camera being placed for the occasion by the cable bollards which appear in the foreground of the photograph.

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Pay Day on board the Royal Sovereign (1885)

The pay chest on the table comprises several rows of drawers divided into compartment to hold separately the money due to each man.  The money is placed in the compartments in the Paymasters office below, and the chest then brought on deck where it is paid out in the presence of an executive officer.  The Paymaster is shown paying a bluejacket with the Commander of the ship on his right, while the Master-at-Arms stands by to check the names of the men.  Jack sweeps his money into his cap in the way a sailor has taken his pay ever since the time of Samuel Pepys.  The British bluejacket of today is a thrifty soul, and seldom fails to remit a portion of his pay to the old folk at home or to have a little nest egg in the savings bank.

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Officers of the Royal Sovereign

These are the officers who served with Lord Walter Kerr in the Royal Sovereign during her final cruise in November and December as senior flagship of the Channel Squadron, who with the Admiral turned over to the newer Majestic, the Royal Sovereign's successor as flagship. All ranks and branches of officers - executive, engineer, accountant and marine are represented. Captain Arthur Barrow being shown in the centre, distinguishable by the four rings of distinction lace on his cuffs and aiguilettes which he wears as flag captain. The other officer wearing aiguilettes is Lord Walter Kerrs secretary Mr Hume.

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HMS Royal Sovereign of the Channel Squadron - 1896

The Royal Sovereign is a steel armoured battleship of the Naval Defence Act Programme and was completed for sea in 1892. She was built at Portsmouth Dockyard, and engined by Messrs. Humphrys & Tennant.  Her displacement is 14,150 tons; I.H.P. 13,312.  Length 380ft. Beam, 75ft. Maximum draught 27ft 6ins.  She carries as her pricipal armament four 67-ton guns in two armoured barbettes, and has a partial belt of armour of 18ins. maximum thickness.  Her speed is 18 knots.  The Royal Sovereign was at one time flagship of the Channel Squadron.  She was last commissioned in December 1895 by Captain Reginald F H Henderson, C. B.

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Issuing Grog on Board the Royal Sovereign (1895)

The sailors rum is drawn from the spirit store in presence of an officer at seven bells (11.30 am), put into a breaker and taken on deck, where it remains under a sentry until, at half past twelve, it is mixed in a grog tub, with two or three parts of water and then served out.  Half a gill of rum is allowed to each man.  Teetotalers are allowed compensation - the money value of the rum, or its equivalent in cocoa and sugar.

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The Royal Sovereign photographed at the Royal Review of 1902. She was the flagship of Admiral Sir Charles Hotham who was Admiral Commander-in-Chief at Spithead during this time.

After the royal yacht had passed through the lines of ships she weighed anchor opposite the Royal Sovereign. Picture shows crew giving three cheers for the King.

Crew of the Royal Sovereign showing their winners cup - the Heavy Gun Trophy.

Left to right - Back: W Triance, H Wilson, M McDonald, W Huston, E Smith, C Gooch, W Henley.

Middle: F Garrett, D McDonald, H Payne, Mr Raven, Mr McClintock, C Zimmer, J Fisher, S Carter. 

Front: H Grant, M Tallack, H Pilgrim, Mr Northcott.

Navy Pistol experts from the Royal Sovereign, winners of the Barfleur Challenge Cup in 1902.

The Gun Catastrophe In The “Royal Sovereign.”

           Since the historic explosion on board the “Thunderer,” when a 38-ton turret-gun burst, killing twelve and wounding thirty-eight men, there has been no disaster of a similar character in the Royal Navy to equal the terrible accident that has cast a deep gloom over the squadron on the Mediterranean station.  In action men know that when they stand to their guns their lives are in the hands of their Creator, but the shock is terrible when the decks are strewn with dead and dying by an accident occurring in time of peace.  In loss of life the disaster has a terrible roll of one officer and five men, whilst two other officers, a warrant officer, and sixteen seamen and marines were more or less seriously injured.  The accident took place during firing exercise in the neighbourhood of Platea, where the ships of the Mediterranean Squadron go for torpedo practice.  The vessel was on her way to Malta, where she has since arrived, and the injured have been sent to hospital.  The catastrophe in some of its features will remind our readers of the one at Newport in the Isle of Wight last June, when a company of Royal Garrison Artillery were engaged at target practice.  The charge that caused this disaster was that of a 12-pounder quick-fire, a much less powerful weapon than a 6-inch gun of the “Royal Sovereign,” and with correspondingly smaller damage, but the accident- the worst that can happen, except perhaps the actual bursting of the gun-resulted in the death of an officer and three men, and more or less serious injury to five others.  There is, moreover, about these sad events a similar cause of mournful pride, in that nothing could of exceeded the exemplary bearing of both officers and men at one time of, and after, the accident.

           Captain Spurway, who was killed, joined the “Blue Marines” in July 1893, and was promoted Captain just five years later, and joined the “Royal Sovereign” a few months after.  His death will throw many in the West Country into mourning, for he comes of a Devonshire family that has been established at Bampton for many centuries.  He was only twenty-seven, and his death is the sadder in that he leaves a widow, to whom he was only married last year at Valetta.  The double page illustration of the combined Channel and Mediterranean Squadrons possesses a pathetic interest, for it is reproduced from the last photograph that this journal received from the deceased officer, who not unfrequently contributed pictorially to its pages.  The photograph was taken during the recent combined manoeuvres of the Channel and Mediterranean Squadrons, and on the day of the sailing regatta for the boats of the fleet.  The ships on the page to the right hand are those of the Channel Squadron, with the exception of the one on the left, which is the “Ramillies,” Lord Charles Beresford’s flag ship (second in command if the Mediterranean); and on the left page are the two lines of the Mediterranean Squadron.  The centre ship in this picture is Sir John Fisher’s flag-ship (Commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean).  In the right page picture the flagships, other than the “Ramillies,” are the “Majestic” and “Magnificent,” the flagships respectively of Vice-Admiral Wilson and Rear-Admiral Sir W.A.D. Aclaud (Commander-in-chief and second in command of the Channel).

Upper Deck Battery on HMS Royal Sovereign (1901).

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HMS Royal Sovereign (1901).

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Captain H W Spurway R.M.A.

Killed by the gun accident with 5 other men.

           The officer who was most seriously injured in the accident was the commander of the “Royal Sovereign,” Sir R. K. Arbuthnot , a scotch baronet.  He entered the service in 1877, was promoted Lieutenant from the Royal yacht in 1885, and became commander in 1897.  He is a gunnery officer of high attainments, and was promoted to his present rank from the position of first lieutenant of the “Cambridge,” the gunnery school at Devonport.  The other officer, who was injured less severely, was Lieutenant James, whose family belongs to Cumberland.  He entered the service in 1893, was promoted lieutenant last June, and only joined the “Royal Sovereign” last September.

           Mr. Raven, who luckily escaped with light injuries, was the gunner of the “Royal Sovereign.”  He obtained his warrant rank in 1895, and had been serving over two years in the “Royal Sovereign,” which ship is now in commission for the second time in the Mediterranean.  Her present commission dates from May 13, 1899, and her complement have won the fine array of cups her illustrated.  The lower one in the centre is the “Barfleur” Revolver Cup, won by the officers of the “Royal Sovereign,” both in 1900 and 1901.  The one above it is a Blue jacket’s Cup, won at this year’s regatta.  The two on the right are also this years trophies, the upper one having been won at volley-firing by the ships marines team at the Pembroke rifle meeting, the lower, the Commander-in-Chief’s Cup, was won at the Royal Naval Sports.  The upper cup on the left is the “Undaunted” Cup, a gunnery trophy won this year, and that below it is the Middle Weight Boxing Championship Cup, won in 1900.  Prior going to the Mediterranean the “Royal Sovereign” was flag-ship of the channel squadron, and she is a ship of special interest, for her building was a record for rapidity, and she was the first to be completed of the ten battle-ships that formed the main feature of the Naval Defence Act of 1889.  The main armament of this fine vessel consists of two pairs of 13’5 inch guns, mounted fore and aft on barbettes, and between the barbettes a secondary battery of ten 6-inch quick firers.  She and her sisters were the earliest ships to carry quick firers of this calibre, and it was to one of these guns that the disaster happened.  These guns are used with a charge of 13-lb. 4-oz. Of cordite, enclosed in a brass cartridge-case, which obviates the use of an obturator, or gas check, on the breech-piece a fact which would tend to make the accident all he more serious, as, in addition to the charge, and probably the mechanism, being blown to the rear, there would also be the heavy metallic cartridge-case, which would become a death-dealing projectile.  Some ten years ago a somewhat similar accident occurred to a gun of the same calibre, but of the old non quick-firing pattern, on board the cruiser “Cordelia,” then on duty on the Australian station.

           In this case the gun itself burst, and that, unfortunately, in the most deadly manner, for the burst took place at the breech, with the result that the breech-block and huge fragments of the gun and carriage were hurled across the deck, instead of the major force of the explosion operating outboard, as would have been the case had the gun yielded near the muzzle.

           In this case, also, the terrible nature of the disaster paralleled that on board the “Royal Sovereign,” for six poor fellows were killed on the spot, and thirteen others more or less seriously injured.  Accidents of this character have, however, been of the rarest in the British Navy, and our blue jackets have never had any reason to mistrust the weapons they will have to stand behind and trust in when they are called upon to meet the foe.       

Extract from "The Navy & Army Illustrated"

 

HMS Royal Sovereign by W Fred Mitchell. (P)


HMS Royal Sovereign by W Fred Mitchell. (P)

Item Code : ANTN0033HMS Royal Sovereign by W Fred Mitchell. (P) - Editions Available
TYPEDESCRIPTIONSIZESIGNATURESOFFERSPRICEPURCHASING
ANTIQUE
CHROMOLITHOGRAPH
Original chromolithograph published c.1890.
Full Item Details
Size 9 inches x 6.5 inches (24cm x 19cm)none£110.00

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