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Ships Bearing the Name 'Windsor Castle'


HMS Windsor Castle
Launched in September 1852

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The History Zone Index

Royal Windsor Home Page

HMS Windsor Castle

At the time of her launch, HMS Windsor Castle was the largest ship afloat in the whole world. [Source ILN September 18th 1852]

H.M.S. Windsor Castle

A story from The Illustrated London News of September 18th 1852

The Government, anxious to augment our naval forces, some time since issued instructions to the officers of the Royal Dockyard, Pembroke, to launch this leviathan line-of-battle ship, with screw propeller, 140 guns, with all possible despatch. Accordingly,the utmost exertion was made to complete this vessel by Tuesday, the 14th instant, the day officially fixed for the ceremony of the launching. The interest taken in the matter was very great. On Monday week the admissions to the Royal Dockyard numbered 500: carriage, horse, and foot passengers thronged the establishment throughout the day, with great interruption to the public service.
  The novelty of the build of the Windsor Castle, having originally been constructed for 120 guns, then cut in two by a remarkable and unheard-of process, and lengthened in midships some 23 feet, and the application of the screw-propeller for the first time to so stupendous a war-vessel, have tended to render her an object of peculiar interest. Her midships lengthening was for the purpose of giving the necessary increase of displacement for the engines, boilers, coals, etc., and that abaft for the accommodation of the srew-propeller. The midship lengthening was performed by cutting the ship asunder at " dead flat ' or the midship section, and launching the after half, weighing about 2000 tons, the distance of 23 feet. This was done on the 3rd of February last, and occupied about an hour and a half. The breadth and depth of the ship remain unaltered.
 The dimensions of the ship have been furnished us from authority. They are accurately as follow:

Length from fore part of the figure head to aft part of taffrail, 278 ft. 6 in.
Ditto between the perpendiculars, 240 ft. 6 in.
Ditto of keel for tonnage, 201 ft. 11 1-3 in.
Extreme breadth, 60 ft.
Breadth for tonnage, 59 ft. 2 in.
Ditto, moulded, 58 ft. 4 in.
Depth in hold, 24 ft. 8 in.
Power of engines, 800 horse.
Burthen in tons, 3759 4.94.
Estimated weight of hull, 2732 tons.
Ditto, when fully equipped for sea, 5571.
Number of guns 140.

The Windsor Castle will be the largest ship afloat in the whole world, and with the addition of her screw propeller, will form a floating battery of immense power.

HMS Windsor Castle figurehead

Her figurehead is a noble piece of carving, containing upwards of 70 cubic feet of timber. It was brought to Pembroke Dockyard by the Widgeon, which vessel has superseded Prospero, a steam-tug, tender to Saturn guard ship. HM steam-frigate Simoom has also arrived at Milford, with masts and rigging for the Windsor Castle.

Additional Information

HMS Windsor Castle was launched on the day The Iron Duke, the Duke of Wellington, died at Walmer. HMS Windsor Castle was renamed in his honour on 1st October 1852. She went on to serve as flagship in the Baltic during the Russian War but was later relegated to harbour service in 1863 and used as a 'depot ship' for berthing the men of the Portsmouth Dockyard Reserve. She was broken up in 1909.


Launched 14th September 1852.
Renamed 1st October 1852: HMS Duke of Wellington
Wooden hull. Screw propeller.
Type: 1st rate.
Burthen (Builders measure) 3771 tons.
Displacement 5829 tons.
Guns: 131.
Taken out of service in 1909.
Ships book in Public Records Office, London: 142.

Midshipmen going on board HMS Duke of Wellington

Now renamed 'The Duke of Wellington', The llustrated London News published the engraving above of the former 'HMS Windsor Castle' in their issue dated October 20th 1855, fifty years after the famous defeat of the French Navy by Nelson at Trafalgar. The ILN's caption, Midshipmen going on board HMS Duke of Wellington, is accompanied by a note in the text explaining that the engraving portrays the magnificent flag-ship, with the lively incident of Midshipmen going on board the vessel 'to copy the the orders of Admiral Dundas'.

RMS Windsor Castle

Built at John Brown, Clydebank and launched March 9th 1921 by the Prince of Wales. Converted in 1937 to two funnels and a reshaped bow and used as a troop ship. Sunk May 1943. This website has several remarkable photos including her sinking.

The last liner to bear the name was launched on 23rd June 1959 by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. This website has a number of excellent photographs, including her breaking up in India in 2005.

To be extended as pictures come available.


SS Windsor Castle

Side-wheel steamship rigged for sail
2 masts, 1 funnel, 2 wheels


The Wreck of the Windsor Castle Steamer
As reported in The Illustrated London News
Oct 12th 1844 page 229

Windsor Castle on the rocks

In our late edition of last week's journal, we briefly recorded this appalling accident. We now proceed to detail the circumstances, illustrated with a sketch of the vessel by our artist, Mr. Landells, who was a passenger for the purpose of sketching the closing incidents of the Royal Visit to Scotland.
  It appears that the Windsor Castle sailed from Granton to Dundee on Tuesday morning, with a great number of passengers, to witness the embarkation of the Queen. The passage to Dundee was performed both safely and with expedition, and about four o'clock in the afternoon the Windsor Castle left the west protection wall of Dundee with passengers to the number of nearly 250, on her return home. The vessel steered directly out to the royal squadron, which had not yet got under way, and sailed five or six times round the 'Albert and Victoria', in order to gratify the passengers with a view of Her Majesty and her royal consort, both of whom appeared on the deck, and graciously acknowledged the enthusiastic and oft repeated cheers of those on board the Windsor Castle.
  The royal yacht left the roadstead at half past four o'clock, followed by the other steam vessels, and by the Windsor Castle. When off the town of St. Andrew's the Victoria and Albert, followed by the Black Eagle, the Princess Alice, the Stromboli, and the Eclair, were seen far ahead, rapidly fading from the sight. It was now half past seven o'clock; the vessel had reached the East Neuk of Fife, and all things were apparently going on safely and speedily (a party were dancing to music on deck), when suddenly a loud cry was heard from those in the forecastle to stop and back the engine, which was scarcely done the the vessel, still under the impulse of its former velocity, came with a tremendous crash against the beacon on the North Carr Rock.
  Instantaneously the air was rent with shrieks from the women and children, the men rushing backwards and forwards in great confusion. Some passengers clung to each other, appalled at the prospect of immediate destruction; others, with great presence of mind, began to lay hold of carpet-stools, pieces of wood, and other lumber lying on the decks, by which they might support themselves in the event of the vessel sinking, while several gentlemen divested themselves of nearly all their clothes, so that they might with more chance of success be able to sustain themselves on the ocean. At the moment the vessel struck, a large party were below at dinner. When the sea-water had attained a considerable depth in the engine room and the main cabin, the vessel lurched to one side; upon observing which, the passengers rushed to the high side of the vessel, which was thus swung over to the same side, causing the passengers to betake themselves again to the opposite side; and thus the vessel was kept rolling from side to side, the sea water being by the motion lashed up on either side of the vessel's hold. In this awful and helpless condition, the helm was put hard a-port; and after a lapse of nearly twenty minutes, passed in gloomy suspense, the Windsor Castle grounded, most providentially, as was afterwards found, between two large rocks, a little to the east of Kilminning, and about two miles from Crail. The only boat belonging to the steamer was then lowered, by which the female passengers were conveyed ashore in six voyages. Boats and other aid were then obtained from Crail, and the remainder of the passengers were providentially landed in safety. Up to this time the weather had continued favourable; but it now began to blow a violent gale, which continued all night, causing a heavy sea to beat against the vessel; consequently, the steamer, on the return of the tide, shifted from its first position, and was driven violently on a ledge of rocks close by, against which it continued to grate till it was broken in the back, and became a total wreck. It is stated that had the vessel struck the North Carr Rock stem on, she would immediately have split in two. As it was, she made a sliding stroke over the rock, some of the iron staunchions of the beacon, by the concussion opened up the joining of two plates immediately under the bulkhead, through which the water rushed into the vessel.
  The Windsor Castle is stated have been built on the Clyde, and to have been one of the strongest iron vessels of her size afloat.
  Mr Landells, at the moment the vessel struck, was in the after-cabin, in conversation with the steward; and before they got on deck she went right over on her beam-ends. Mr. Landells adds:-" My first thought was to fill my life-preserving coat, which I did directly; and, on looking round, saw the beacon against which we had struck, which I at first took for the funnel of another steamer, which I supposed we had run foul of. The captain immediately ordered her head to be put in shore, and we made all speed towards it. By this time I had mounted to the top of the paddler box, where I remained till we came in sight of land, when all fear left me. I cannot give you any idea of the scene on deck: all were looking with eager eyes towards the shore, except a group of perhaps twenty or thirty persons, that seemed to have given way to complete despair, yelling, shouting, and ringing their hands. In the fore part of the ship, I saw twelve persons holding on by a plank. They had lifted one end off the deck, and placed it on the gunwale of the ship: thus they patiently waited the result. On the vessel being stopped, the screams were again as loud and terrific as when we first struck; the ship gave one or two rolls, and then settled very quietly upon the rock.
  Three large fishing boats from Crail came very quickly towards us, having the wind and tide in their favour. When they left, there were yet about ten or twelve of us remaining on deck. The boatmen promised to return as soon as they could; they had got about two miles to go before they could land and we had no hope of getting off till they returned. As the tide had fallen, so that neither the small boat nor the large one could land near the wreck, I now went forward with some friends on board to see what sort of a place we were in. The moon got out, and we were delighted to see the vessel was quite dry at the bows. I then got down from the bows by rope and landed safely; several people came towards us with torches. I got my bag and coat thrown down to me, and while my friends were getting out, I made the sketch which you will have in the ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS this week. It was a romantic scene: the huge black looking ship, the moon lighting the sea, the black rocks, and the people with torches, altogether made a fine effect. To get to the shore was yet a difficult task, as the rocks were so very rough; but we succeeded and got to our inn. I went down to the wreck next morning, and was surprised to find it covered with water.
  I waited till the tide went down a little, and got a boat, and went on board to see if I could save my box. The vessel had broken in two, and every thing was floating about in the greatest confusion; she had a pretty cabin, and it was quite painful to see the beautiful furniture and fittings floating about at the mercy of the sea. We We saved a few passengers' luggage, but I could not find my box, and returned to shore, thinking it had washed away. On my landing, one of the Coastguard men told me there were two boxes at a cottage a little way off, and, to my joy, one of them was mine. I put it on my shoulder, and had to carry it about three miles along a coast, the like of which I never saw before, or wish to see again."
  This catastrophe presents another instance of the inefficient manner in which steam vessels are provided with the means of escape in case of accidents. "In this case, it is truly awful to think that, had the vessel gone down immediately, there was no apparent means by which, in any human probability, one of 260 individuals on board could have been saved. There was only one boat, and that so small as to be incapable of holding more than half a dozen persons, which, in the frenzy of the moment would have been, undoubtedly, swamped by the eager multitudes rushing into it. Does not such a state of matters call upon the Government to devise some means of compelling every sea-going steam vessel to carry at least two or three good boats? The paddle box boats of Captain Smith have been found in several instances of invaluable service, and every steam-vessel should be provided with them, or with other efficient means of preserving life in cases of danger. The Windsor Castle had also no apparatus for making signals, neither gun nor rocket was on board, and vain was the attempt of the despairing multitude, by uniting their voices, to bring help from the nearest land, which, at least, was four miles distant from them."

See also

The History Zone Index

Royal Windsor Home Page

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