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HMS Swiftsure (1870)
HMS Swiftsure (1870)
HMS Swiftsure sometime after she was converted to barque rig during an 1879-1881 refit.
Career Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Name: Swiftsure (1872-1901)
Orontes (1901-1908)
Builder: Palmers Shipbuilding and Iron Company, Jarrow
Laid down: August 31, 1868
Launched: June 15, 1870
Completed: June 27, 1872
Fate: Sold for scrapping, November 1908
General characteristics
Class & type: Swiftsure class battleship
Displacement: 6,910 long tons (7,020 t)
Length: 280 ft (85 m)
Beam: 55 ft (17 m)
Draught: 24 ft 5 in (7.44 m) light
26 ft 1 in (7.95 m) deep load
Propulsion: One-shaft Maudslay 2-cylinder HRCR
6 boilers
4,910 ihp
Sail plan: Ship-rigged, sail area 41,900 sq ft (3,890 m2)
Speed: 13.75 knots (15.82 mph; 25.47 km/h) under power
Complement: 450

• 10 × 9-inch (229 mm) muzzle-loading rifles
• 4 × 6-inch (150 mm) muzzle-loading rifles

• 6 × 20-pounder saluting cannon
Armour: Belt: 6–8 inches (150–200 mm)
Battery: 4–6 inches (100–150 mm)
Bulkheads: 4–5 inches (100–130 mm)

HMS Swiftsure was the lead ship of the Swiftsure class battleships built in the late Victorian era. Her sister-ship was HMS Triumph.

Service historyEdit

She was commissioned at Devonport in 1871, initially for trials with the Channel Fleet. She was found to be almost unbeatable as a performer under sail, being bested only by the wooden-hulled frigate Aurora. She relieved Defence in the Dardanelles in 1872, and remained in the Mediterranean until 1878. She paid off at Devonport and was given an extensive refit; being given a barque rig, torpedo equipment, a supplementary armament of 25-pounder breech loaders, and Admiral's Quarters to enable her to relieve Triumph as Pacific Station flagship, which she did from 1882 to 1885. She received new boilers at Devonport, and was then held in reserve until a second spell as Pacific flag from April 1888 until October 1890. She served thereafter in the reserve; in 1901 she became a stores hulk under the new name of Orontes. She was sold in 1908.

In the annual manoeuvres of 1893, Swiftsure asked permission from the Admiral to spread sail, as her engines were inadequate to generate the power required to produce the speed ordered. This was the last occasion in which a British battleship spread sail while travelling in company with a fleet at sea.


  • Oscar Parkes British Battleships, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 1990. ISBN 0-85052-604-3
  • Conway's All The World's Fighting Ships 1860-1905, Conway Maritime Press, 1979. ISBN 0-85177-133-5

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