The turret ship HMS 'Captain'
A portrait showing the experimental twin screw Royal Naval battleship HMS 'Captain'. She is shown amongst the British fleet, probably off Gibraltar which can be seen in the background. She was designed and built by Captain Cowper Phipps Coles with revolutionary turret guns and deliberately low freeboard. The 'Captain' was laid down at Cammell Laird, Birkenhead in 1867 and launched in 1869. She was commissioned in April 1870, and commanded by Captain Hugh Talbot Burgoyne. Insufficient supervision of weights during the building meant that the 'Captain' was much heavier than planned. The centre of gravity of the vessel also rose by about ten inches during construction rendering the vessel unsafe. Concerns expressed over her instability were overruled during her trials. She rolled over in a gale and capsized during trials in the Bay of Biscay on 7 September 1870. The capsizing occurred during a storm, described by those on traditional ships in the same fleet as unexceptional. In one of the British Royal Navy's greatest peacetime losses, there were only 18 survivors out of a crew of over 500. This tragedy created a public outcry and nationwide sympathy for the bereaved. The most tangible memorial to the disaster today comprises two large plaques in St Paul's Cathedral in London, one giving the official account of the disaster, with a list of the ship's officers, and the other listing the seamen, Royal Marines and boys who died.
- Image reference: BHC3771
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
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