The Weekend Watson – Warrior

SY Warrior hove-to off Gourock on the Firth of Clyde c.1905 Library of Congress

SY Warrior hove-to off Gourock on the Firth of Clyde.
Library of Congress

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.

Warrior buying property on Fishers Island, Long Island Sound, NY, July 1916.Courtesy of Henry L. Ferguson Museum, Fishers Island, NY

Warrior “buying property” on Fishers Island, Long Island Sound, NY, July 1916.
Courtesy of Henry L. Ferguson Museum, Fishers Island, NY

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 ~

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About Peggy Bawn Press

496pg biography of Scottish yacht designer, George Lennox Watson (1851-1904). Significant book on the history of yacht design & the development of modern yachting. Beautifully illustrated. Many photographs previously unpublished.
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2 Responses to The Weekend Watson – Warrior

  1. Dr John Malin says:

    A superb and evocative clip of the Warrior. The people on it are most interesting. One of the naval-suited gentlemen at the beginning, who turns towards the camera, is almost certainly Sir Hugo Cunliffe-Owen, chairman of British American Tobacco and owner of Cunliffe-Owen Aircraft Ltd, which he set up at Eastleigh in 1938/9. Later in the clip is a group by the handrail, the one on the left in a white shirt gesticulating somewhat impatiently to the tender (one assumes) looks suspiciously like Rex Hoyes, who Sir Hugo appointed MD of COA and who he sacked in 1944, after a celebrated court case, at the request of Sir Stafford Cripps, Minister of Aircraft Production (see Guy Liddell’s diaries). There lies a fascinating story of sabotage of aircraft in the factory during the Battle of Britain, alleged fraud and bribery to secure a government contract to build Seafires and management incompetence. However, despite this the firm successfully built 500 and by pure coincidence the only surving Seafire XV in flying condition, owned by Dr Wes Stricker of Missouri, was with RCN 803 squadron in 1946 on HMCS Warrior ! Many thanks to Sue Forsey for making this rare film available.

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