Devonport Naval Heritage Centre Newsletter September 2015


1st 1867 – Launch of CERBERUS, 1st RN ship to have fore & aft guns but no sails.

1875 – IRON DUKE rammed & sank VANGUARD in thick fog, the 1st RN battleship lost in collision & an example of the power of the ram bow.

1958 – 1st of 3 Cod Wars began with Iceland, when they extended their fishing zone by 12 miles. EASTBOURNE was the 1st RN ship involved, trying to protect British fishing vessels.

2nd 1917 – SS OLIVE BRANCH torpedoed by U28, gunfire from which exploded ammunition in OLIVE BRANCH, blowing her up as well as wrecking & sinking U28.

1918 – VC-CPO G.PROWSE DSM RNVR, DRAKE Battalion RN Detachment France, for gallantry in attacking the Hindenberg Line. In 1914 eight Naval Battalions had been formed, from Naval reservists not needed afloat, to fight in 2 Brigades as lightly equipped infantry alongside the Army, losses being replaced by recruits but retaining Naval ranks & way of life.

1942 – Arctic Convoy PQ18 sailed from Loch Ewe, with a large escort force, one of the more successful convoys to Russia.

1946 – CHILDERS & CHIVALROUS apprehended FEDE (4 FREEDOMS) off Tel Aviv, the 1st ship, with illegal Jewish immigrants from Europe to Palestine, resisting arrest.

3rd 1912 – Ldg.Sea. O’CONNOR became the 1st RN rating to qualify as an aircraft pilot.

1939 – War declared against Germany. Liner SS ATHENA sunk by U30 in Western Approaches. AJAX sank German OLINDA in the Plata Ares, South Atlantic. SOMALI captured German blockade runner HANNAH BOGE in North Atlantic, 1st capture of the war.

4th 1861 – VC awarded to Midshipman E.St.J. DANIEL 1854, forfeited due to disgraceful conduct & desertion.

1915 – E7 caught in nets & depth charged in the Dardanelles, scuttled by her crew.

5th 1914 – PATHFINDER sunk by U21, the 1st U-boat success against a warship in WW1 & probably the 1st warship sunk by torpedo.

1940 – USA transferred 50 destroyers & 10 escorts to RN, in return for lease of West Indian bases.

1941 – 1st German acoustic/magnetic mine recovered.

6th 1776 – TURTLE, 1st American submarine, attacked EAGLE, Admiral HOWE’s flagship in New York Harbour, perhaps the 1st submarine attack.

1864 – VC-Midshipman D.G.BOYES RN, T.PRIDE Captain of the Afterguard & Ord. Seaman W.H.H. SEELEY (all EURYALUS) for great intelligence & daring while leading the advance of a Naval Brigade & carrying its Colour under very heavy fire, in an attack on stockade Barracks, Shimonosecki.

1898 – VC-Surgeon W.J.MAILARD (HAZARD) for attempts to rescue wounded men under heavy Fire, during landing at Candia, Crete.

1945 – Japanese forces in New Guinea, New Britain & Solomons surrendered to GLORY.

7th – 1870 – CAPTAIN, 1st & last ship to have both turret guns & to use full sailing rig, capsized & sank when ordered to remain under sail as a gale approached.

8th 1943 – Italy surrendered, although German forces there continued fighting. Those ships of the Italian Fleet that could do so eventually steamed into Alexandria harbour, Egypt.

9th 1943 – Amphibious assault landings on Salerno, Sicily, started – Operation Avalanche. UNSHAKEN took Italian Sub. CIVO MENOTTI in Strait of Otranto & led her into Malta. Surrendering Italian battleship ROMA sunk by German aircraft with new guided armour-piercing bomb, off Sardinia.

10th 1759 – The Squadron of Vice Admiral G.POCOCK (YARMOUTH) fought the French Squadron of Commodore Comte d’ACHE off Porto Novo. The French withdrew but the British were unable to pursue, after heavy losses on both sides. It was, however, the end of French sea power in Indian waters.

1840 – Start of operations against MEHMET ALI. Bombardment of Beirut & landing of troops. A Force under Admiral the Hon.Sir R. STOPFORD (PRINCESS CHARLOTTE) drove Egyptian invaders from Syria, after taking Acre on behalf of the Turks.

1855 – In searching for Admiral Sir J.FRANKLIN’s expedition in search of the North West Passage, RESOLUTE was abandoned, being discovered in 1856, having drifted 1,000 miles, then being presented by the US Navy to Queen Victoria & laid up at Chatham.

11th 1886 – RATTLESNAKE, 1st RN Torpedo Gunboat launched.

1896 – ZAFIR, in the White Nile supporting General Kitchener’s forces, burst her boiler, much to KITCHENER’s chagrin, but in action again by 23rd, after repairs.

1939 – ADVENTURE & PLOVER, with requisitioned train ferries SHEPPERTON & HAMPTON, started laying over 6,000 mines in the Dover area of the Channel, preventing U-boats from passing through.

1943 – The surrendered Italian battle fleet arrived at Malta.

1944 – Midget sub X24 laid 2 charges under the floating dock at Bergen, Norway, breaking it in two.

12th 1846 – Work begun on building Keyham Steam Yard, Plymouth.

1861 – MINOTAUR launched, an armoured ironclad frigate & the largest single-screw warship, but with 5 masts, fully rigged for sail.

13th 1759 – Capture of Quebec by forces commanded by Major-General J.WOLFE & a Fleet commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir C.SAUNDERS (NEPTUNE). The French thought the tortuous channel leading to Quebec, far up the St.Lawrence river, was impassable to any ship bigger than a frigate & therefore safe from attack by river. Aided by the brilliant pilotage of James COOK, then Master in PEMBROKE, the Fleet dominated the river, preventing supplies reaching the defences, landing 17,000 assault troops, whilst seamen landed guns & hauled them up the Heights of Abraham, to fire on the enemy.

1782 – Repulse of the Spanish attack on Gibraltar, all ten Spanish battering ships being destroyed, seamen from BRILLIANT reinforcing the Garrison.

1882 – British forces tried to restore order after discontented Egyptian Army officers led their troops in revolt against the Khedive (ruler), whose Govt. had been content to let Britain & France control the Suez Canal. The British then fought the Egyptian Army, finally defeating them at the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir, in which 2 battalions of Royal Marines from the Fleet took part.

14th 1917 – Albert Medal (AM) – Ord.Sea.G.F.P.ABBOTT, R.J.KNOWLTON & GOLD RNR, for rescuing pilot of a crashed seaplane at Hornsea Island, Hants. By the time the AM was exchanged for the George Cross (GC) in 1971, GOLD had died.

1918 – ARGUS commissioned, the 1st flush deck aircraft carrier.

1942 – Convoy ON127, of 32 merchant ships, attacked by a wolf pack of 13 U-boats, the 1st time each boat in a wolf pack was able to make an attack.12 merchant ships & 1 destroyer were sunk.

1942 – GC (exAM)-Chief Officer J.A.REEVES Merchant Navy, for saving life at sea.

15th 1744 – Navy Board proposed RN Hospitals at Portsmouth, Plymouth & Chatham.

1782 – Off the Delaware, N.America, VESTAL & BONETTA captured the French AIGLE, in which was the American Minister to Holland, who threw his papers overboard, but they were caught by a sailor diving into the sea & found to contain a draft treaty.

1899 – ALEXANDRA, EUROPA & JUNO fitted with the 1st operational wireless in the RN.

1931 – Pay cuts promulgated, which led to mutiny in some ships of the Atlantic Fleet at Invergordon.

1943-Battleships WARSPITE & VALIANT started bombarding enemy positions ashore, near Salerno, helping restore the Allied offensive. Of 62 rounds of 15in shells, 35 fell on target. On 16th WARSPITE was hit by a radio-controlled aerial bomb & damaged by another, having to be towed to Malta & then to Gibraltar for repairs.

1966 – RESOLUTION launched, the 1st RN Polaris ballistic missile submarine.

16th 1795 – The Cape of Good Hope captured by troops, including Marines & a Naval Brigade from a Fleet commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir G.ELPHINSTONE (MONARCH).

1918 – AM(later GC)-Sub Lt.D.H.EVANS RN (GLUTTON)-saving life when ship caught fire.

1940 – 1st German parachute mines dropped on London.

17th 1939 – Carrier COURAGEOUS sunk by U29 in Western Approaches whilst patrolling without good intelligence in waters of known U-boat activity.

18th 1855 – VC-Lt.G.F.DAY (RECRUIT) for a reconnaissance in the Sea of Azov.

1955 – 2 RM cliff climb leaders landed from VIDAL on Rockall & annexed it for Great Britain.

19th 1944 – TERPSICHORE, TROUBRIDGE & GARLAND sank U407 off Crete, the last enemy submarine to be sunk in the Mediterranean during WW2. GC-Temp.Lt.L.V.GOLSWORTHY DSC,GM,RANVR, for mine disposal.

20th 1941 – Gibraltar harbour attacked by Italian sub.SCIRE & chariots (men riding/driving torpedoes).

21st 1813 – The Duke of WELLINGTON remarked “If anyone wishes to know the history of this war, I will tell them that it is our maritime superiority that gives me the power of maintaining my army while the enemy are unable to do the same.

22nd 1796 – AMPHION, having just stored & munitioned at anchor off Devonport Ordnance Yard, now with families &friends onboard to say farewell before a voyage, blew up, only the Captain, Israel PELLEW & 10 men survived, out of 312 who had been onboard.

1914 – ABOUKIR, CRESSY & HOGUE sunk by U9 off the Maas, the last 2 having stopped to pick up survivors.

1943 – VC-Lt.B.C.G.PLACE RN (X7) & Lt.D.CAMERON RNR (X6), for attack by midget subs. on Battleship TIRPITZ in Altenfjord.

1989 – 10 members of the RM Staff Band killed by a terrorist bomb, RM School of Music, Deal.

23rd 1779 – SERAPIS (Captain R.PRESTON) & COUNTESS OF SCARBOROUGH, escorting a Baltic Convoy, taken by American BONHOMME RICHARD (Captain John Paul JONES) off Flamborough Head. The convoy escaped & the American ship was sunk 2 days later.

1846 – AJAX completed at Blackwall, having been converted during building & undocked as the RN’s 1st screw battleship.


24th 1850 – Rum ration halved by withdrawal of evening issue.

1911 – MAYFLY, unfortunately named British airship, wrecked outside her shed, never flying again, badly affecting British attempts to counter the Zeppelins.

1916 – In destruction of Zeppelin L32, the new German naval signal book was obtained.

1940 – Training Ship CORNWALL, ex WELLESLEY, sunk by bombing in the Thames, the last wooden battleship to be sunk by enemy action.

25th 1925 – X1 commissioned, the largest RN sub. before the 1st nuclear powered ones.

1939 – 1st wartime use of air warning radar, in RODNEY & SHEFFIELD, during air raid.

26th 1580 – Return of Francis DRAKE (GOLDEN HIND ex PELICAN) from circumnavigating the world. His 1st question “Is the Queen still alive?”

1827 – King George IV granted to the Royal Marines the globe for their cap badge & his cypher for their colours.

1939 – 1st German aircraft shot down in WW2, by Lt.B.S.McEWEN RN, in a Skua of 803 Sqdn. Fleet Air Arm.

1940- Rendering Mines Safe section established, the only operational unit based in the Admiralty.

27th 1858 – VC-Actg.2nd Master G.B.CHICKEN, whilst serving as a volunteer with Indian Cavalry against Indian mutineers at Suhejni.

1940 – AM(laterGC)-2nd Hand J.R.MITCHELL RNR, for saving life at sea.

28th1915 – VC-Lt.Cdr.E.C.COOKSON RN (COMET). In an attempt to relieve the siege of Kut-al’Amara, when the river was blocked by dhows, he took his ship to the centre one & chopped with an axe at her cables, until shot dead.

1941 – Operation Halberd. The 3rd convoy this year to Malta, of 9 merchant ships, carrying 81,000 tons of stores & 2,600 troops, reached there with only one ship sunk, from which all troops had been transferred to other ships.

29th 1941 – PQ1 sailed, the 1st convoy to Russia.

30th 1890 – Abolition of the blue shirt for ratings, with its attached collar, which had made the word “bluejacket” accepted as meaning an RN seaman.

1909 – Launch of NEPTUNE, the 1st RN ship to have superimposed gun turrets, i.e. one turret mounted to fire over the top of another turret. She was also the 1st Dreadnought ship to be able to fire all her armament in broadside.

1913 – AURORA, the 1st oil-fired light armoured cruiser, laid down at Devonport. In 1920 she was commissioned into the Canadian Navy.


In 1945 DUKE OF YORK was lying alongside Parlatorio Wharf, Grand Harbour, Malta, repairing damage from an electrical fire. The work took longer than expected, to the consternation of all onboard who wanted to press on to the Far East, to join in the last part of the war against Japan. When the ship finally left Malta, she signalled the Admiral Superintendent there:










At the outbreak of World War One, CHURCHILL, then 1st Lord of the Admiralty, ordered the formation of a Naval Division, equipped as infantry, to help man & guard Belgian & French ports needed by the British Army for transportation of troops & stores to & from Britain. The Division was to be manned by RN & RM reservists & volunteers not needed for service at sea, in 3 Brigades. The 1st Brigade (4 Naval Battalions-DRAKE, HAWKE, BENBOW & COLLINGWOOD), the 2nd Brigade (4 Naval Battalions –NELSON, HOWE, HOOD & ANSON) & the 3rd Brigade (4 RM Battalions-Portsmouth, Plymouth, Chatham & Deal).

On 28 August 1914 the 3rd (RM) Brigade landed in OSTEND, when it was thought the Germans intended to attack the port, but the threat came to nothing, so the Brigade returned to England &Training in Kent. On 21 September 1914 the 3rd Brigade were again deployed, to defend Calais, this time with an Army Regt., Cdr.SAMSON’s Naval aircraft, some armoured cars & some Royal Engineers. On 4th October 1914 the 3rd Brigade were sent to defend Antwerp, where they were joined by the 1st & 2nd (RN) Brigades, but 4 days later all 3 Brigades were ordered to retire from the city & in the confusion of doing this most of HAWKE, BENBOW & COLLINGWOOD Battalions inadvertently crossed the Dutch frontier & had to be interned, the remainder of the Division returning to England & more training, with recruitment to replace the 3 RN Battalions interned.

In early 1915 the whole Division, except the newly recruited RN Battalions, was sent to the Mediterranean, to help prepare for the Gallipoli landings & to join in the landings, being joined by the 3 newly trained RN Battalions in time for the June battles, suffering heavy casualties & being some of the last troops to withdraw. After return to England, the RN Division was re-organised & put under Army control, as the 63rd (RN) Division, of 3 Brigades, one all Navy, another half Navy half RM, the third being all Army, by this time Army casualties being so numerous that there was a desperate need for as many infantry as possible in the front line, which is where the Division fought until the Armistice, not disbanding until a final assembly on Horse Guards parade in June 1919. A Battalion is normally of 300-800 soldiers, a Brigade 2,000-4,000 & a Division 10,000-15,000.

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