A very large Victorian or Edwardian steam yacht would rarely be something for just a weekend. These early “superyachts” were true ocean thoroughbreds, and had consequent tales to tell.
The G.L. Watson designed Warrior was no exception, and one of the last of his designs to be launched during his lifetime – for railroad financier Frederick W. Vanderbilt. She saw service in both World Wars as HMS Warrior and HMS Warrior II, and during the Spanish Civil War as the Red Cross refugee vessel Goizeko Izarra (Basque for Morning Star).
These late 1930s clips of yachting life aboard Warrior add rare colour to our usually exclusively monochrome perception of these very elegant expressions of conspicuous consumption. Enquiring into the life of her then owner Rex Morley Hoyes reveals colour of a different hue: he became one of the Second World War’s fascinating/ shady establishment characters – depending on how you want to look at it – and may even not have been her real owner…
That she survived to be filmed in the late ’30s is testimony to her quality of design and build, and to good fortune. In the years between commissioning on the Clyde in 1904/05 and First World War service for the British Royal Navy, she was almost wrecked twice in fog: near the mouth of the Magdalena River, Colombia, January 1914, under original ownership; and very publicly on Fishers Island, Long Island Sound in 1916 when owned by the “richest bachelor in New York”, Alexander Cochrane – perhaps better known yachting historically as the owner of the America’s Cup defender candidate Vanitie, and the peerless Herreshoff schooner, Westward.
In both cases Warrior lived to be repaired, but she eventually met a violent death at the hands of Luftwaffe dive bombers in 1940 off Portland, English Channel, whilst engaged in submarine escort duties.
The 1266 Thames tons, 284.3ft (86.7m) overall, steam yacht Warrior was G.L. Watson & Co. design number 424 of 1903. She was launched by Ailsa Shipbuilding of Troon, Ayrshire, in February 1904. Her twin 4 cylinder triple expansion engines by A. & J. Inglis, of Pointhouse, Glasgow, would have offered an especially smooth ride to guests enjoying her Louis XIV and Louis XVI accommodations.
Glasgow based yacht designer to the world, G.L. Watson, witnessed hundreds of his designs being launched at Clyde and other yards during his all too short career from 1873 to 1904. Martin Black’s profusely illustrated biography, G.L. Watson – The Art and Science of Yacht Design details them all. Buy online here.
~ Iain McAllister ~