HMS Wivern (1863)

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For other ships of the same name, see HMS Wivern.
HMS Wivern in 1865
Career (UK)
Name: HMS Wivern
Namesake: Variant spelling of wyvern
Ordered: 1862
Builder: John Laird Sons & Company, Birkenhead
Laid down: April 1862
Launched: 29 August 1863
Completed: 10 October 1865
Fate: Sold for scrap 1922
General characteristics
Displacement: 2,751 tons
Length: 224 ft 6 in (68.43 m) p/p
Beam: 42 ft 4 in (12.90 m)
Draught: 15 ft 6 in (4.72 m) light, 17 ft (5.2 m) deep load
Propulsion: Lairds horizontal direct action; 1,450 ihp
Sail plan: Ship-rigged
Speed: 10.5 knots
Complement: 153
Armament: Four 9-inch muzzle-loading rifles
Armour: Belt 4.5 inches, 3 inches at bow, 2 inches at stern
Turret faces 10 inches
Sides 5 inches

The first HMS Wivern was an ironclad turret ship built at Birkenhead, England, one of two sister ships secretly ordered from the John Laird Sons & Company shipyard by the Confederate States of America in 1862. Her true ownership was concealed by the fiction that she was being constructed as the Egyptian warship El Monassir. She was to have been named Mississippi upon delivery to the Confederates.

British service[edit]

The British government seized the pair of ironclads in October 1863, before they could be completed. In early 1864, the Admiralty purchased both for the Royal Navy.

Completed in October 1865, Wivern was assigned to the Channel Fleet until 1868. After a refit that reduced her sailing rig from a barque to a schooner, the Wivern served briefly as a guard ship at Hull and then went into reserve. In 1880 Wivern was dispatched to Hong Kong.

The naval architect Edward James Reed wrote: "the turret-ship 'Wivern', belonging to the Royal Navy, has a low free-board (about 4 feet), and is very lightly armoured, while her armament is also very light. Yet on one occasion her behaviour at sea was so bad that she had to be brought head to wind in order to prevent her shipping large, and, of course, dangerous, quantities of water, the extreme angle of roll rising to 27 degrees each way."[1]


Wivern remained in Hong Kong until sold for scrap in 1922, having been reduced to harbor duties from 1904.

Post script[edit]

One of her commanding officers was Captain Hugh Talbot Burgoyne, VC who was later appointed the commanding officer of HMS Captain.


  1. ^ Pages 138-9 Reed, Edward J Our Ironclad Ships, their Qualities, Performance and Cost, published John Murray, 1869.