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HMS Inconstant (1868)

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Title: HMS Inconstant (1868)  
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Subject: Lillie Langtry, Prince Louis of Battenberg, List of frigate classes of the Royal Navy, Hugh Evan-Thomas, HMS Shah (1873), HMS Inconstant, George Tryon, HMS Shannon (1875), HMS Raleigh (1873), Lord Walter Kerr
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HMS Inconstant (1868)

HMS Inconstant about 1885
Career (United Kingdom)
Name: HMS Inconstant
Builder: Pembroke Dockyard
Laid down: 27 November 1866
Launched: 12 November 1868
Commissioned: 14 August 1869
Renamed: Impregnable II in June 1906
Defiance IV in January 1922
Defiance II in December 1930
Reclassified: harbour service in 1898
Training ship in HMNB Devonport in June 1906
Torpedo training ship in January 1922
Fate: Broken up in Belgium in 1956
General characteristics
Type: Unarmored screw frigate
Tonnage: 4,066 bm
Displacement: 5,782 long tons (5,875 t)
Length: 337 ft 4 in (102.8 m) (p/p)
Beam: 50 ft 4 in (15.3 m)
Draught: 24 ft 7 in (7.5 m)
Installed power: 7,360 ihp (5,490 kW)
Propulsion: 1 shaft
1 × 2-cylinder compound expansion steam engine
6 cylindrical boilers
Sail plan: Ship rig
Speed: 16 knots (30 km/h; 18 mph)
Range: 2,780 nmi (5,150 km; 3,200 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 600

10 x 9 inch rifled muzzle-loading guns

6 x 7 inch 6½ ton rifled muzzle-loading guns
For other ships of the same name, see HMS Inconstant.

HMS Inconstant was an iron screw frigate of the Royal Navy. She was launched on 12 November 1868 and became a training ship in 1906, renamed Impregnable II. She became the Navy's torpedo school ship in January 1922 and was renamed Defiance IV, and Defiance II in December 1930, before being finally scrapped in 1956. She was the first of three steam-assisted but fully masted frigates with iron hulls, sheathed with a double layer of wood, that were built for the Royal Navy.

The Inconstant was designed by Sir Edward Reed; she had a displacement of 5,782 tons, a length of 337 ft 4 in (between perpendiculars), a beam of 50 ft 4 in (15.34 m), and a draught of 25 ft 6 in (7.77 m) On her trials, her 2-cylinder horizontal single expansion trunk engine produced 7,360 ihp (5,490 kW), producing a speed of 16.2 knots (30.0 km/h). She carried a complement of 600 officers and men.

Building Programme

The following table gives the build details and purchase cost of the Inconstant and the other two iron frigates of the Royal Navy: Raleigh and Shah. Standard British practice at that time was for these costs to exclude armament and stores. (Note that costs quoted by J.W. King were in US dollars.)

Ship Builder Maker
Laid Down Launch Completion Cost according to
BNA 1887[1] King[2]
Hull Machinery Total
Inconstant Pembroke Dockyard John Penn & Son 27 Nov 1866 12 Nov 1868 14 Aug 1869 * £138,585 £74,739 £213,324 $1,036,756
Raleigh Chatham Dockyard Humphrys, Tennant & Co 8 Feb 1871 1 Mar 1873 13 Jan 1874 * £147,248 £46,138 £193,386 $939,586
Shah Portsmouth Dockyard Ravenhill 7 Mar 1870 10 Sep 1873 14 Aug 1876 £177,912 £57,333 £235,245 $1,119,861

*Date first commissioned.[3][4]


The following information on Inconstant's career is fragmentary.

Inconstant was first commissioned at Portsmouth on 12 August 1869 by Captain Elphinstone D'Oyly D'Auvergne Aplin, who commanded her until September 1870. During this time Inconstant served in the Channel Squadron.[3]

Inconstant's next captain was Charles Waddilove. She served in the 1871 Detached Squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Frederick Beauchamp Paget Seymour, which she joined at Gibraltar and then travelled to Portland (13 Aug) - Copenhagen (23 - 27 Aug) - Carlscrone (1 - 4 Sep) - Christiania (9 - 14 Sep) - Trontheim - Bergen (25 - 27 Sep) - Kirkwall - Firth of Forth (4 - 7 Oct), finally arriving at Spithead on 11 October 1871. The vessels in the squadron were as follows:[5]

  • HMS Narcissus (flag), William Codrington
  • HMS Immortalité, Francis William Sullivan
  • HMS Cadmus, William Henry Whyte
  • HMS Volage, Michael Culme-Seymour
  • HMS Inconstant (joined at Gibraltar), Charles Waddilove
  • HMS Topaze (joined at Gibraltar, left at Portland), Radulphus Bryce Oldfield

From 5 February to 11 March 1880, Inconstant was commanded by Captain Lord Walter Talbot Kerr, and served as the flagship of Vice-Admiral Frederick Beauchamp Paget Seymour, in the Mediterranean Fleet.[3]

From August 1880 to 1882 Inconstant was again in the Detached Squadron, this time as flagship first of Rear Admiral Richard James, 4th Earl of Clanwilliam until he was invalided out at Hong Hong,[6] and then from 6 December 1881 to 17 October 1882 of Rear Admiral Sir Francis Sullivan.[7]Inconstant's captain at this time was Charles Cooper Penrose Fitzgerald. The Detached Squadron left Spithead on 17 October 1880 travelling to: Vigo (24 - 31 Oct) - Madeira (6 - 10 Nov) - St Vincent (20 Nov) - Montevideo (22 Dec - 9 Jan 1881) - Falkland Islands (24 - 25 Jan) - Cape of Good Hope (16 Feb - 9 Apr; 1st Boer war) - Melbourne (22 May) - Adelaide (9 Jul) - Sydney (14 Jul - 9 Aug) - Brisbane (16 - 20 Aug) - Fiji (3 - 10 Sep) - Yokohama (21 Oct - 1 Nov) - Kobe (4-12 Nov) - Shimonoseki (14 - 16 Nov) - Shanghai (23 Nov ) - Amoy (15 Dec) - Hong Kong (20 Dec - 11 Feb 1882) - Singapore (2 Mar) - Anjer, Java (6 - 8 Mar) - Cape Town (16 May) - St Vincent (20 - 22 June) -Spithead (10 Oct 1882).[5] It is claimed that on 11 July 1881, Prince George of Wales (later King George V of England) sighted a phantom ship whilst travelling on the Inconstant between Melbourne and Sydney. Two other ships, travelling with the Inconstant, HMS Tourmaline and HMS Cleopatra, also reported seeing the phantom ship.[8] The Detached Squadron consisted of:[5]

  • HMS Inconstant (flag), Charles Cooper Penrose-Fitzgerald
  • HMS Cleopatra (left at Hong Kong), Francis Durrant
  • HMS Carysfort, Henry Frederick Stephenson
  • HMS Bacchante (joined at Ferrol, left at Hong Kong), Lord Charles Montagu Douglas Scott
  • HMS Tourmaline (joined at Ferrol), Robert Peel Dennistoun

In 1898 Inconstant was reduced to harbour service. She was renamed Impregnable III in 1907, then Defiance IV in 1922, and Defiance II in 1930. She was scrapped in 1956.[3]



External links

  • Battleships and Cruisers
  • The Flying Squadron
  • Richard Charles Francis Meade on-line biography
  • Frederick Beauchamp Paget Seymour on-line biography
  • Sir Francis Sullivan on-line biography
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