Spanish Wooden Cruisers

By Nick Mitiuckov


General:

The new classification system of the Spanish Navy, instituted in 1895, cancelled all frigates, corvettes,  etc. However, the Spaniards had some of these vessels remaining. Formally they were listed as "First-class cruisers," but, as the Fates would have it, of these wooden first-class cruisers, more were sinking than floating! Most of these "cruisers" were motionless and simply used as school-training-ships. However, four of these vessels still had some (very poor) combat capabilities These were: CASTILLA, ARAGON, NAVARRA and TORNADO. These four are the subjects of this article.



ARAGON
 
Displacement
 Dimensions
Horsepower
Speed
Range
Bunker capacity
Shafts
3342 tons
75.03m x 14.03m x 7.19m
4400
14 knots
1660 miles
460 tons
1

The ARAGON, named for an historic province in Spain, was ordered in January, 1869, laid down on May 2, 1869 at Cartagena, and launched  on July 31, 1879. She was completed in 1880. Her armament consisted on six 162mm/25 cal breechloading Hontoria guns, two 87mm/24 cal beechloading Hontoria guns, four 75mm/26 cal breechloading Krupp guns, two machine guns, and two torpedo tubes. She had a crew complement of 389 men.

Though Laid down as ironclad-corvette with four 230mm Armstrong muzzleloading rifles in a central battery and about 500 mm of armor at the waterline (total weight of armor 890 tons), it was decided to change the plan and finish the vessel as an ordinary wooden corvette in 1870. Her machinery was produced by the John Penn Company of Greenwich.

Information about her career is sparse. In the 1890's she was part of the Cadiz Naval Group. Aragon went out of active services in the mid-1890's. A floating hulk by 1896, she was sold for scrap in 1900.



CASTILLA (click here for more information)
 
Displacement
 Dimensions
Horsepower
Speed
Range
Bunker capacity
Shafts
3246 tons
72.05m x 12.99m x 7.17m
4400
10 knots
1770 miles
460 tons
1

The CASTILLA, an ARAGON-Class cruiser named for an historic province of Spain was ordered in January of 1869, laid down at Cadiz in May of 1869 and launched in August of 1881. She was completed in 1882. She was armed with four 150mm/25 cal. breechloading Armstrong guns, two 120mm/25 cal. breechloading Armstrong guns, two 87mm/24cal Breechloading Hontoria guns, four 75mm/26cal breechloading Krupp guns, eight 37mm/20cal rapid-fire Hotchkiss guns, two machine guns and two torpedo tubes. Her crew compl ement was 392 men.

Though Laid down as ironclad-corvette with four 230mm Armstrong muzzleloading rifles in a central battery and about 500 mm of armor at the waterline (total weight of armor 890 tons), it was decided to change the plan and finish the vessel as an ordinary wooden corvette in 1870. Her machinery was produced at Ferrol, modeled after that produced by the John Penn Company of Greenwich.

The vessel was transferred to Philippines, leaving active service in the middle of the 1890's. By 1896, she was little more than a hulk. At the beginning Spanish-American War, as part of Montojo's squadron. CASTILLA, under the command of Alonso Morgado, went to Subig bay. The vessel was not watertight. When this was corrected, the repairs made her unable to move under her own power. She was towed back to Manila bay and used as floating battery during the Battle of Manila Bay/Cavite.
CASTILLA was not repainted in wartime colors and her white sides and yellow funnels made a good target for American gunners. She was partially  protected by sand bags.

During the battle, CASTILLA's anchor lines were cut by American fire and the cruiser turned her unprotected side to the enemy. Her wooden construction was greatly damaged by the fire of the American guns. The fatal hits were three 203 mm shell hits  that initiated the large fire. Morgado ordered the vessel abandoned.

During battle CASTILLA was hit about 50 times including 5 hits  from 203-150-mm rounds and 12 hits from 127-mm rounds. Twenty-three of her men were killed and about 80 more were wounded.



NAVARRA
 
Displacement
 Dimensions
Horsepower
Speed
Range
Bunker capacity
Shafts
3450 tons
70.99m x 12.99m x 7.19m
4400
13.6 knots
2180 miles
450 tons
1

NAVARRA, an ARAGON class cruiser named for an historic Spanish province, was ordered in January of 1869, laid down at Ferrol in May of 1869, and launched in August of 1881. She was completed in 1882. She was armed with four 150mm/25 cal breechloading Amstrong guns, two 120mm/25 cal Armstrong breechloading gun, two 87mm/24 cal Hontoria breechloading guns, four 75mm/26 cal Krupp breechloading guns, two machine guns, and two torpedo tubes. She had a crew complement of 389 men.

Though Laid down as ironclad-corvette with four 230mm Armstrong muzzleloading rifles in a central battery and about 500 mm of armor at the waterline (total weight of armor 890 tons), it was decided to change the plan and finish the vessel as an ordinary wooden corvette in 1870. Her machinery was produced at Ferrol, modeled after that produced by the John Penn Company of Greenwich.

Little is known about her career. In the 1890's, NAVARRA was part of the Cadiz Naval Group. She went out of active service in the middle of 1890's. A floating hulk by 1896, she was sold for scrap in 1899.



TORNADO
 
Displacement
 Dimensions
Horsepower
Speed
Range
Bunker capacity
Shafts
2100 tons
67.20m x 10.10m x 6.00m
3300
13 knots
1700 miles
350 tons
1

 


TORNADO, was apparently launched at Clydebank in 1863. The vessel has a protective 4" armor belt surrounding her engines and boilers. She was armed with one 220mm (7.8") muzzleloading Parrott guns, two 160,,/15 cal. muzzleloading guns, two 120 mm bronze muzzleloading guns, and two 87 mm/24 cal. Hontoria breechloading guns. She had a crew complement of 202 men.

The TORNADO has been built as the  commerce-raider CSS TEXAS. Seized by British Government 1863, and acquired in 1865,  she was purchased by Chile for 75,000 Pounds through Isaac Campbell & Co.in January or February of 1866. The vessel was renamed PAMPERO. Captured off Madeira by the Spanish frigate GERONA on August 22,.1866, during the 1864-66 war (Guerra del Pacifico), she was renamed TORNADO.

Commissioned in Spanish Navy, she was rated as screw corvette (1870). Serving in Cuban waters during First Cuban Insurrection, she captured insurgent blockade runner VIRGINIUS on October 31, 1873 . This action led to the "Virginius Affair" and to the Spanish-American Crisis of 1873 (Click here to read about her involvement in the VIRGINIUS AFFAIR). She was converted to a torpedo-training vessel in 1886. Her hulk was sunk in Barcelona by Nationalist air raid during Spanish Civil War. She was finally broken up after 1939.



Bibliography:

St Hubert Ch. The Early Spanish Steam Warships 1834-1870 // Warship International
1983. - # 4. - P.338-367; 1984. - #1. - P. 21-44.

Conway's All the World Fighting Ships 1860-1905. - London: Conway Maritime Press,
1979. - 422 p.

Ellicott, John M., Lt., U.S.N.; "Effect of Gun-Fire, Battle of Manila Bay, May 1, 1898," Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute, Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, Vol. #90, No.2, 1899.


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