|On February 24, 1874 the HMS Inflexible was laid down at Portsmouth. She was launched on April 27, 1876 and completed on October 18, 1881. She was 344-feet overall (OA) in length 320-feet between perpendicular bulkheads (PP), 75-feet beam,
and a draught of 26-feet 5-inches with a displacement of 11,880-tons. The armament was four 16-inch (80-ton) MLR firing a projectile of 1,684 pounds and six 20pdr guns with two 14-inch submerged torpedo tubes, which were fitted for the first
time. Also carried were two carriages to launch torpedoes over the side or from chutes at the bow or stern, a scheme not ripe for success. Rate of fire was one round every two and a half to four minutes and the shell could penetrate 23-inches of
wrought iron at 1,000-yards. Since they were muzzle loaders, the gun muzzles were depressed below an angled armored deck, which sheltered an ammunition lift and hydraulic ram. The armor scheme set a new record, which has never been broken.
The waterline of the citadel, which was 110-feet by 75-feet, had a full two feet (24-inches) of wrought iron in two 12-inch plates with 11-inches of teak between the plates. The upper citadel was 20-inches in thickness while the forward bulkhead 22-
inches and the aft bulkhead 18-inches. The turrets had 17-inch compound armor, which was used for the first time. The below waterline armored deck was 3-inches thick, while the conning tower received 12-inches. The unarmored hull was still one
inch thick. The power plant consisted of twelve boilers operating with 60 psi fed steam to two sets of 3 cylinder inverted compound engines manufactured by Elder & Co. Producing 8,407 horsepower for the two shafts with two bladed propellers.
Maximum speed was 14.75-knots light. Inflexible did have sails for the two mast brig rig but it was limited to pose no danger to stability under sail. Captain John Fisher, Inflexible’s first commander, said of the sailing rig that it, “had as much effect
upon her in a gale of wind as a fly would have on a hippopotamus,” She carried two 60-foot torpedo-boats for local use. Other firsts for Inflexible were electric lighting and anti-rolling tanks, which proved to be ineffective. The Inflexible was very
stubby and had a length to width ratio of 4:1.
The unarmored portion of the hull used cork filled cofferdams to add stability to the ship’s ends. At first the press was wildly excited by the Inflexible and her staggering statistics but then former Chief Contractor and current member of Parliament,
Edward Reed, became Inflexible’s turd in the punch bowl. Reed had visited the Italian yard building the Duilio. He returned to London and immediately criticized the Inflexible design. He claimed that it was unsafe because it was based on the same
principles used for the Italian battleships, which he also declared unsafe in stability. Although Reed had no responsibility in the loss of HMS Captain, he was probably still reacting to the consequences he endured because of her loss. He claimed that the
cork would wash out with battle damage and stability lost. His claims were based on all cork cofferdams being compromised and all of the cork washed into the sea. Barnaby said, “We must look upon the ship as a powerful armoured floating castle
with two indestructible unarmoured raft ships attached to its two ends. In this combination each of the separate parts could float safely if it were cut off from the others from keel to gunwale and were intact.” (British Battleships of the Victorian
Era by Norman Friedman, Seaforth Publishing 2018, at pages 156-157) A committee was appointed to examine the stability of Inflexible and in their report of December 4, 1877 upheld Barnaby’s position that his design was stable with battle damage to
the unarmed ends of the ship. This ruckus, along with the Committee on Inflexible, significantly delayed the completion of the battleships. Reed apparently had some ambivalent views on Inflexible because on January 1, 1877 Edward Reed wrote a letter
to the Times. In it he described the Inflexible, “...a huge weapon of war, animated and put into activity in every part by steam and steam alone. The main propelling engines are worked by steam, a separate steam engine starts and stops them;
steam ventilates the monster, steam weighs the anchors, steam steers her, steam pumps her out if she leaks, steam loads the gun, steam trains it, steam elevates or depresses it. The ship is a steam being...” (Warrior to Dreadnought by D.K.
Brown, Chatham Publishing 1997, at page 55)