1867-04-24 THE RUSSIAN SQUADRON OFF PORTSMOUTH

London Times, 24 April 1867, p. 12: THE RUSSIAN SQUADRON OFF PORTSMOUTH.

            The Imperial Russian squadron, under the command of Rear-Admiral Kern, recently returned to Europe from the North Pacific, and now anchored at the Motherbank, off Ryde, consisting of the new screw frigate Askold (flag), 17 guns, Captain Polozoff; the screw corvette Variag, 17 guns, Captain Lundh; and the screw despatch vessel Izoumroud, 5 guns, Captain Brilkin, are waiting orders from St. Petersburg which are expected for Cronstadt on the clearing of the ice. The Izoumroud, in the meanwhile, will sail from the Motherbank to-morrow for Havre, with Admiral Kern and a number of his officers on board, to enable them to pay a visit to the great Paris Exhibition. She will leave Havre again to rejoin the Askold and Variag at the Motherbank on the following Monday. The Izoumroud is a somewhat remarkable ship, and, as representing the swiftest class of unarmoured ships in the Russian navy, deserves more than the passing notice given to her two consorts. In the spring of 1864 two Russian corvettes, the Pearl and the Diamond, constructed on the same principles as the Izoumroud -- a great preponderance of length to beam -- put into the Thames, on their way from Cronstadt to the North Pacific, and while lying there were freely and somewhat unfavourably criticized. So strongly, indeed, were opinions expressed that, from the disproportion of their length to beam and the lowness of their hulls on the water, they were utterly unsafe for long ocean voyages, that they were suddenly recalled to Cronstadt, although it was understood at the time that their designer was no less a person than the Lord High Admiral of the Russian Navy, the Grand Duke Constantine. However this may have been the case, the Grand Duke himself evidently did not share in the unfavourable opinions expressed upon the seagoing qualities of the two ships recalled to Cronstadt from the Thames, for within a very short time afterwards the Izoumroud was placed under the command of her present captain, and despatched on a voyage round the world, in order to thoroughly test her qualities and the principle she represented. The voyage out was made by the Cape of Good Hope, and the return round Cape Horn; and on all occasions, in weather varying in such a long course, as would necessarily be the case, from a pleasant summer breeze to a heavy wintry gale, and including a tremendous cyclone off Cape Horn, Captain Brilkin and his officers report the Izoumroud to have behaved admirably, and without loss of spars or sails or springing of the slightest leak throughout any part of her hull. Her speed is also stated to be very great in all weathers, under both sails and under steam. Her average sea rate of speed under steam in moderate weather is given as over 14 knots. Some little allowance must always be made for the enthusiasm of a naval officer when speaking of the ship in which he may be at the time serving, and the captain of the Izoumroud and his officers may in this respect have shared to some extent in the amiable fault which is the common lot of their confrères in all parts of the world, but the Izoumroud is undoubtedly a fast ship, a seaworthy ship, and well deserving, from appearances, the admiration and praises of all on board of her. She is 250 English feet in length between perpendiculars, but only 29½ft. in breadth; her midship breadth of hull (she is timber built) is carried down as low as possible in the water, with the ends tapered off as fine as those of a river steamer, -- the hull above the water-line being somewhat different in outline to the ideas followed in the English and French navies in having an exceedingly bold sheer, especially forward, where her rise of the bow lines assimilate greatly to those generally seen in an American merchant clipper. Her height between decks is above the average of our latest frigates, and ample space is given to officers, to crew, and to stores of all kinds. The lower deck, as is the rule in the Russian navy, possesses no mess tables for the crew, nor is any of the comfort for them, nor the generally smart arrangements and appearance which are such marked characteristics of the crew's mess deck in an English ship anywhere existing. The men are, however, well treated, even from an English point of view, in other respects, and perhaps the Russian seaman does not care for the many little personal matters on the mess deck of his ship that are so much, and, it must be said, so justly prized by the English seaman. The Russian seaman is well fed, so well, indeed, that he can leave portions of his food undrawn from the purser's stores, and for this he is always paid at the current rate of the port at which the ship may be stopping at the time such payment becomes due. With regard to crime and punishments, the Russian sailor's nature in the former appears to crop up much the same as our own, the chief crime being stated to be a fondness for "too much rum." It is somewhat extraordinary to find, however, Russian officers asserting that their men are treated with greater justice in any consideration of a charge brought against them than are the seamen of our navy, and yet the rules of government in the Russian navy are based upon, or rather copied from, those existing in the English navy. As a proof of this, seamen in both navies are divided into "first" and "second" classes, according to their character. In the Russian service no man can be reduced from the first to the second class, and also submitted to corporal punishment for one crime -- that is to say, a crime of ordinary character. In the English service men have been reduced from the first to the second class and punished for one crime. The difference in the administration of punishment must lie not in the meaning of the laws framed, but rather in the manner in which they are interpreted. There is a third class of men in the Russian navy who may be called of a third class, or kind of ever-in-trouble fellows. There may be such men in our own navy, but they have not that distinct official classification which is given them in the Russian navy. These few brief remarks on the comparative comforts and government of seamen in the Russian and British Royal navies may be supplemented by observing that in the former, as in the latter, the men have perfect freedom from any control over any convictions of feelings they possess in matters of religion.

            The machinery of the ship was manufactured for them in the Cronstadt Royal Steam Factory and Foundery from designs by Messrs. Humphreys and Tennant, of London. They are of 350-horse power, nominal, and are spoken of by the engineers in charge, and the officers of the ship very highly indeed. The rig of the ship is three masted, with square yards on the fore and main masts. The lower masts are short and snug, but carry very square yards on the American principle. The armament of the ship only now remains to be noticed. This at present only consists of two heavy 8-inch smooth bores, mounted on pivots amidships, and three smaller rifled guns on the broadside and the bow rifled on the French cannon Raye principle. These guns are to be replaced on the ship's arrival at Cronstadt by four heavy rifled guns of late construction, two of which are to be rifled Parrott's. 


Possibly the Izoumroud will not have her counterpart at any time in the British Navy. We do not believe now in investing large sums of money in the production of unarmoured wooden built ships. The Izoumroud is, however, as already observed, a remarkable vessel, and there are many points about her well worthy of observation.

Provided by Stephen McLaughlin

 

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