HMS WARRIOR was built in 1860 for the Royal Navy and she remained in Admiralty ownership until 1923. Her active service lasted 22 years; for the first six years she was in full commission, and for the next eight she was a first line reserve. She entered Portsmouth for the last time under her own steam in 1883 and remained there until she was paid off.
Between May 1901 and July 1902 HMS WARRIOR was used as a hulk for torpedo stores, but in 1902 she was fitted out as a depot ship for the Portsmouth Destroyer Flotilla of small torpedo boats. She flew the pennant of the Flotilla Captain as his flagship.
Between April 1904 and September 1923 HMS WARRIOR served as the floating workshop and powerhouse for HMS VERNON, the Royal Navy’s floating Torpedo Training School. This consisted of three ships in line connected by aerial walkways. HMS WARRIOR was located in the middle, and supplied steam and electricity to the other hulks. Her engines and boilers were removed and modern watertube boilers were installed to provide the power needed in her new role. Her boiler room was used as a machine shop.
HMS WARRIOR’s First World War story illustrates how the Navy made full use of all its available resources. The wooden steam battleships MARLBOROUGH of 120 guns and DONEGAL of 100 guns were the other two vessels making up HMS VERNON. DONEGAL served as an instructional ship with lecture rooms, whilst MARLBOROUGH served as the living and accommodation ship. HMS VERNON became a conspicuous feature of the Portsmouth harbour during this period. During the War the name HMS WARRIOR was taken for a new armoured cruiser, which was sunk at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. DONEGAL was renamed VERNON I, MARLBOROUGH was renamed VERNON II, and WARRIOR was renamed VERNON III. WARRIOR resumed her original name in October 1923.
The need to train large numbers of sailors in torpedo warfare in the early years of the war meant that HMS VERNON operated at bursting point; thousands of cadets passed through. Additional resources were required to keep up with the demands placed upon her. In 1916 the Second Class Cruiser HMS FORTE was moored alongside VERNON III for use as offices and additional living accommodation; and between 1916 and 1923 a number of submarines and a barrage vessel were attached to the School to assist with the power supply.
Many illustrious sailors served on WARRIOR over the years, including Admiral of the Fleet Lord Jackie Fisher, who served on WARRIOR as a gunnery lieutenant between 1863 and 1864. Sir Henry Jackson, who went on to replace Fisher as Admiral of the Fleet in 1915, attended HMS VERNON in 1881 (before WARRIOR joined her). After qualifying as a torpedo officer, he joined the directing staff there. Jackson was a pioneer of ship-to-ship wireless technology; he was the first to demonstrate continuous communication with another vessel up to three miles away.
Daily life on board HMS VERNON has been recorded by a number of those who served on her. One such was John Hanley, who was a British trainee electrical artificer on HMS VERNON at Portsmouth between 1918 and 1921. In a recorded interview for the Imperial War Museum he described the daily routine of the VERNON trainees. They were turned out of their hammocks at 6.30am, got dressed and went for breakfast at 8am, and at 8.30am they were mustered on the quarterdeck of HMS WARRIOR for prayers, after which they did exercises on deck before going off to their respective workshops or classes.
Where is she now?
HMS WARRIOR was paid off in 1924 and put up for sale as scrap. But no buyer could be found, and in 1929 she left Portsmouth to be taken to Pembroke Dock to be converted into a floating oil pontoon, where she remained for the next fifty years as Oil Fuel Hulk C77. A campaign to restore her began in 1967 and she was handed to the Maritime Trust in 1979.
HMS WARRIOR 1860 is now well established as a key tourist attraction in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and she is a major landmark in the City of Portsmouth.
Dulake, Robin (1987) HMS Warrior: Britain's First Ironclad.
Hanley, John Ernest (1989) Imperial War Museum interview (sound) recorded 01-09-1989
IWM Production company, Ref. No. 10926/5.
Lambert, Andrew (1987) Restoring the World's First Ironclad.
Sayer, G.B. (1930) HMS VERNON: A History.
Wells, John (1987) The Immortal Warrior - Britain's First and Last Battleship.