Support the project with paypal

DEVASTATION turret ships (2, 1873 - 1877)


Devastation as completed




Yard No


Laid down




Devastation     Portsmouth DYd 12.11.1869 12.7.1871 19.4.1873 sold to BU 5.1908
Thunderer   183 Pembroke DYd 26.6.1869 25.3.1872 26.5.1877 sold to BU 9.1909

Technical data

Displacement normal, t

Devastation: 9387

Thunderer: 9390

Displacement full, t 
Length, m

86.9 pp 93.6 oa

Breadth, m


Draught, m


No of shafts



Devastation: 2 2-cyl HSE trunk, 8 rectangular boilers

Thunderer: 2 2-cyl HSE direct-action, 8 rectangular boilers

Power, h. p.

Devastation: 6640

Thunderer: 6270

Max speed, kts

Devastation: 13.8

Thunderer: 13.4

Fuel, t

coal 1600

Endurance, nm(kts)4700(10)
Armour, mm

iron; belt: 305 - 216 with 457 - 406mm wood backing, bulkheads: 152 - 127, breastwork: 305 - 254, turrets: 356 - 254, decks: 76 - 51, CT: 229 - 152


Devastation: 2 x 2 - 305/12 MLR Mk II

Thunderer: 1 x 2 - 305/17 38t MLR Mk I, 1 x 2 - 305/12 MLR Mk II




<i>Devastation </i>as completed
Devastation as completed
<i>Devastation </i>after modernization
Devastation after modernization

Project history

Designed by Reed in 1868, these were revolutionary ships that provided the basic pattern for future battleships, being the first mastless, sea-going turret ships. Basically they were enlarged versions of breastwork monitors of Cerberus class but with armour, armament, speed and endurance increased to that required in an ocean-going ship. They aroused much controversy and, particularly after the loss of Captain, were the subject of strong public distrust. As a result of the deliberations of the Committee on Designs, some alterations were made which included raising the freeboard amidships by adding an unarmoured structure to the same height as the central breastwork. This was intended to improve stability, but Reed, who had by this time left the Admiralty, disliked the addition as it was vulnerable to gunfire, although it did provide additional, and much needed, accommodation. So strong was the public dislike of the design that construction of Thunderer was held up pending the results of trials of lead ship.

Freeboard was 3.3m amidships, 2.6m fwd and 1.2m aft. Substantial watertight sub-division included 68 compartments in the hold and 36 in the double bottom and wings.

Devastation proved successful on trials, being a steady gun platform and a good steamer. Although her forecastle was subject to being washed down in a seaway, she was a good seaboat and rolled and pitched less than many broadside ironclads. She generally remained dry amidships and heavy weather did not affect her fighting ability except for her low freeboard fwd limiting her speed.

Thunderer was completed to the same design as Devastation but had 38t 305mm guns in fwd turret instead of 35t. The 38t gun was normally of 318mm cal and Thunderer was the only ship carried such 38t 305mm guns. Her fwd turret was also the first to have hydraulic loading gear. A boiler explosion in July 1876, caused by faulty safety valves, resulted in further delay in her completion.

Ship protection

Waterline belt was in two strakes of 2.9m total depth and extended from the main deck to 1.7m below the wl. The upper strake, from fore turret to stern, was 305mm amidships and 229mm aft, and the lower strake, over the hull length, was 254mm amidships and 216mm at the ends. The breastwork was 305mm in way of the turrets and 254mm amidships, the turret faces were 356mm and their 254mm walls were made up in two thicknesses, both with wood backing. A 76mm deck was provided over the belt and 51mm deck over the breastwork. The CT was positioned between the funnels on the flying deck. The magazines were protected from raking fire by a 152mm bulkhead fwd and 127mm bulkhead aft. The upper section of forecastle as unarmoured to restrict any tendency to pitch by reducing weight on bows.


1879, Devastation; 1881, Thunderer: ventilation was improved, fighting top was added; + 8 x 1 - 11.4/87, 2 - 356 TT

1890, Thunderer: was re-engined and re-boilered (2 VTE, 8 cylindrical boilers, 7000hp, 14kts, ~9000(10)nm); - 1 x 2 - 305/17, 1 x 2 - 305/12; + 2 x 2 - 254/32 BL Mk I, 6 x 1 - 57/40 6pdr Hotchkiss Mk I, 8 x 1 - 47/40 3pdr Hotchkiss Mk I

1892, Devastation: was re-engined and re-boilered (2 VTE, 8 cylindrical boilers, 7000hp, 14kts, ~9000(10)nm); - 2 x 2 - 305/12; + 2 x 2 - 254/32 BL Mk II, 6 x 1 - 57/40 6pdr Hotchkiss Mk I, 8 x 1 - 47/40 3pdr Hotchkiss Mk I

Naval service

Devastation was in reserve since 1902, stricken from Effective List in 1907. Thunderer was in reserve since 1900 and stricken from Effective List in 1907.

Thanks to Wolfgang Stöhr for additional information on this page.