Attempted launch of the ironclad frigate Northumberland at Millwall

H. M. torpedo gun-boat Rattlesnake. 1887. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

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The Rattlesnake, torpedo gun-boat, built and engined by Messrs. Laird Brothers at Birkenhead, has just made a contractors' three hours full-power trial of her machinery at Portsmouth, previous to being received by the Admiralty. She is of 450 tons displacement, and is the first of her class. Hence the interest which attaches to her performances under way. These gun-boats are both faster and more formidable than anything of the gun-boat class yet designed, and are expected to prove an effective check to the operations of torpedo-boats in war. The Rattlesnake is 200 ft. between perpendiculars, with a beam of 23 ft. and a depth of hold of 13 ft. She is built entirely of steel, and is fitted with a half-poop and forecastle, and a conning-tower with a conning bridge erected over it. In speed she equals the first-class torpedo-boats; while, as she stands well out of the water, and has good accommodation between decks, she is vastly superior in seaworthiness, ability to keep the sea, and comfort for the crew. Her firepower is also greater. In addition to one torpedo tube through the bow, and another through the stern in a fore-and-aft line, and one on each broadside forward capable of training through 90 degrees, she will mount a 4-inch 25 cwt. central pivot breechloader, capable of penetrating 8 in. of armour. This makes her a formidable antagonist to all but heavily protected ships of war. The gun is surrounded by a steel screen attached to the carriage for the defence of the gunner against machine-guns and rifle fire. She carries six threepounder Hotchkiss quick-firing guns. Above the bridge an electric search-light is fitted. The final trials for speed were made on Wednesday, the 12th inst., Mr. H. H. Laird being present as a representative of the contractors' firm, and Mr. R. R. Bevis, jun., in charge of the engines. Several runs were made over the measured mile in Stokes Bay, when a mean speed of 19 knots was obtained. The maximum horse-power developed was 3100, the result of the complete run giving a mean collective power of 2860 horses, or 160 in excess of the contract, with an average of 322 revolutions. During one of the trials the steam steering gear was tested, when it was found that the helm could be put hard over from hard over in twenty seconds. The craft behaved very well in spite of the weather, though the sea broke over her in clouds of spray. With her bunker capacity the Rattlesnake is capable of steaming, at eleven knots, 2800 miles, or a little more than the distance between Liverpool and New York. The Rattlesnake will row be brought forward for early commissioning.


“The torpedo gun-boat Rattlesnake.” Illustrated London News (26 Fenruary 1887): 222-23. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 16 January 2016.]

Last modified 15 January 2016