HMS Raleigh was an unarmoured iron or "sheathed"-masted frigate completed in 1874. She was one of a series of three designed by Sir Edward Reed. The other two iron-hulled frigates of independent design were HMS Inconstant and HMS Shah. The Controller originally intended to build six of these big frigates, but only three were ordered in view of their high cost. They retained the traditional broadside layout of armament, with a full rig of masts and sails. Although widely believed to be named after Sir Walter Raleigh, the ship was in fact named for George of Raleigh.
Raleigh displaced 5,200 tons and was 298 feet (91 m) long between perpendiculars by 49 feet (15 m) wide, and drew 24 feet 7 inches (7.49 m). She was designed as a sailing vessel with an auxiliary steam engine. Under favourable sailing conditions she could make 13 knots (24 km/h; 15 mph). With nine boilers operating at 30 pounds per square inch (210 kPa), her 1-shaft horizontal single expansion engine developed 5,639 horsepower (4,205 kW) and moved her along at 16.2 knots (30.0 km/h; 18.6 mph), an unprecedented speed at the time.
Two 9-inch muzzle-loading rifle (MLR) guns and fourteen 7-inch 90 cwt MLR guns formed the main armament, supplemented by six 64-pounder MLRs. The 9-inch guns were chase weapons, mounted at front and back. The fourteen 7-inch guns were the main deck broadside battery.
These ships were constructed in response to the fast, wooden American Wampanoag-class frigates, and their iron hulls were clad from keel to bulwarks with a double layer of 3-inch timber. Raleigh was copper bottomed. All three had a great range and were designed for use in far seas.
Raleigh had a normal crew of 530 men. In 1884, she was partially rearmed, retaining eight 7-inch MLR guns on broadside, but gaining eight more modern 6-inch breech-loading rifled (BLR) guns and eight 5-inch BLR guns. Four modern light guns were added as well as 12 machine guns and two torpedo carriages.
On 13 January 1874 Raleigh was commissioned at Chatham by Captain George Tryon, Commander Arthur Knyvet Wilson second in command. Under Tryon, Raleigh served as part of the 1875 Detached Squadron from Autumn 1874 until she left at Bombay in February 1876. The squadron was commanded by Rear Admiral Sir George Granville Randolph until 31 May 1875, and then by Rear Admiral Rowley Lambert.
The Detached Squadron travelled to Gibraltar (October 1874) - Madeira (21 October) - Saint Vincent - Montevideo - Falkland Islands (30 January 1875) - Cape of Good Hope (3 April; Raleigh transported Sir Garnet Wolseley and his staff to Natal and then rejoined the others at Saint Helena) - Saint Helena (14 April) - Ascension - Saint Vincent (23 May) - Gibraltar (20 June – 15 July) - Cape of Good Hope - Bombay (22 October; escorting visit to India by the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII) - Colombo - Trincomalee - Calcutta - Bombay (14 February 1876), where Raleigh left the squadron. The squadron returned to Plymouth on 11 May 1877. Meanwhile Raleigh served in the Mediterranean.
Speed trials between the ships demonstrated that Raleigh was the fastest steaming, but was also the second fastest under sail, after Immortalité. At Montevideo a number of sailors deserted from all the ships of the squadron, but a number were recaptured after searching British merchant ships. Raleigh had already lost 30 men to desertion before leaving England. On the second journey to the Cape of Good Hope a man fell overboard in a high sea. Tryon took the risk of launching a boat to rescue him, which was risky because the high sea might swamp the boat and lose the rescue crew too. However, all went well and Tryon commissioned a painting of the event, with photos of the painting given to every officer.
On 11 May 1877 Captain Charles Trelawney Jago took command. Raleigh continued to serve as part of the Mediterranean Fleet, and participated in Hornby's forcing of the Dardanelles to discourage Russian occupation of Constantinople, and the subsequent occupation of Cyprus, acquired from Turkey. On 15 February 1878. Raleigh ran aground at the entrance to the Dardanelles off the Rabbit Islands, Ottoman Empire. She was refloated three or four days later, probably with assistance from HMS Devastation and HMS Hotspur. Raleigh was repaired at Malta
From 6 March 1885 to 1886 Raleigh was commanded by Captain Arthur Knyvet Wilson, and was flagship of Rear-Admiral Walter James Hunt-Grubbe, on the Cape of Good Hope and West Africa Station. Raleigh continued as flagship of Rear-Admiral Hunt-Grubbe until 29 March 1888. Roger Keyes served aboard her as a young midshipman from 1887 to 1890.
In March 1888 the Raleigh became the flagship of Rear-Admiral Richard Wells, on the same station, and in May 1888 Captain Wilmot Fawkes took command; the ship was recommissioned at Simonstown Dockyard near Cape Town in June 1888.
From September 1890 Raleigh was commanded by Captain Arthur Barrow, as flagship of Rear-Admiral Henry Frederick Nicholson, again on the Cape of Good Hope and West Africa station from 1890 to 1893.
HMS Magpie, Raleigh and Widgeon under command of Rear-Admiral Frederick Bedford provided men for an incursion against slavery into the Gambia. The party were split into two columns, one consisting of two hundred and twenty-five bluejackets (naval personnel) from all three ships, was led by Captain Edward Harpur Gamble of the Raleigh. This main column was ambushed at Madini Creek on 23 February 1894. Eighteen men were killed, including two officers from the Raleigh, First Lieutenant William Arnold RN and Lieutenant Francis Hervey of the Marines. Forty-six officers and men were wounded (including Gamble). Shortly afterward British forces succeeded in bringing slavery to an end in the region.
Raleigh was sold on 11 July 1905 to Messrs Thos. W. Ward of Morecambe to be broken up.
Grenadinas of Grenada 2019; 4$.
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