Royal Navy Warships - Steam 1892-1917

For 400 years, until the Treaty of Washington in 1922, the navies of England then Britain held dominion over the oceans of the world. With the destruction of the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar in 1805 Britain really did rule the waves until Kaiser Wilhelm’s rearming nearly a century later. But this history had led to complacency and there was little renewal or invention in naval affairs during most of the 19th century. The development of vessels built of iron and powered by steam was anathema to the Admiralty until 1858 when the Germans (ironically) warned the British about France’s naval building programme (the Gloire et al). The first iron warship built in Britain was the 40-gun warrior delivered to the Navy in 1861 after Queen Victoria had asked the Admiralty if the Navy was adequate for the tasks ahead. Gladstone was, as today, not the first Prime Minister to oversee extensive cutbacks in military expenditure. Disraeli succeeded him in 1874 but still failed to make up for earlier deficiencies. Finally, when in 1889, it was discovered that France had almost reached navy parity, Britain woke from its sleep and in 1889 Parliament passed the Naval Defence Act making £21,500,000 available for the purpose of building new ships.

The prints measure 44.5 cm wide x 35.5 cm high (17″ x 14″). Minor variation in size is possible based on the actual guillotine cut made by the printer nearly 50 years ago. Shown here are photographs which have been carefully corrected to remove most distortion. Published in 1971 by © Hugh Evelyn Limited, London; drawn by Martin Holbrook.

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