The Royal Navy, Ruler of the Seas

From Sail to Steam

French Ship Brings Sudden Turmoil

The ironclad La Gloire, Marine française, 1859

Caption: The ironclad La Gloire, Marine française, 1859

The first armour-plated ship in the world appeared in 1859; it was the French warship La Gloire, a 5,600ton colossus packed with cannon, its wooden hull completely covered in 10 to 12-centimetre-thick iron plate. The Royal Navy was thus instantly outmoded, which caused keen reaction in England and in Canada and contributed powerfully to the Volunteer Movement. The Admiralty responded immediately by ordering armour-plated vessels from the shipyards, and in 1860 the HMS Warrior was launched. This British ship, which drew 9,000 tons, had a hull made completely of iron and armour covered more than half its surface.

Additional Images

Gun deck of HMS Warrior, 1860s
Broadside ironclad HMS Warrior