Devonport Naval Heritage Centre Newsletter October 2015


1st 1748 – Rear-Admiral C.KNOWLES’ (CORNWALL) Squadron fought Vice-Admiral Don Andres REGGIO’s (AFRICA) Spanish Squadron off Havana, but KNOWLES failed to benefit from intelligence brought to him & engaged with only 4 of his ships, which were severely damaged; although he took one ship & AFRICA was burnt by her own people, KNOWLES was court martialled & reprimanded.

1841 – Seamen & Marines from ships under Rear-Admiral Sir W.PARKER joined in the capture of Ting-Hai, Chusan, 1st Opium War.

1858 – Naval Brigade from PEARL with Indian Army in the 4th action against rebels in the Indian Mutiny, at Amorha.

1900 – Electrical Departments instituted in RN Dockyards.

1917 – 1st flight from a platform on a gun turret. Sqdn.Cdr.RUTLAND, Sopwith Pup, B turret, REPULSE.

1919 – WW1 Women’s Royal Naval Service disbanded

2nd 1836 – BEAGLE arrived Falmouth on return from a 5 year circumnavigation of the world, carrying DARWIN.

1866 – GRIFFON sunk in nocturnal collision with PANDORA, Bight of Benin; failure of night signalling system.

1900 – The Naval Brigade left Simonstown, at the end of their actions in the Boer War.

1901 – RN’s 1st submarine boat, designed by Irish-American J.P.HOLLAND, launched at Barrow-in-Furness, with neither name nor number, later becoming HM S/M No.1 & then HOLLAND 1.

1942 – CURACAO sunk in collision with RMS QUEEN MARY, N.W.Approaches, in a Convoy.

3rd 1857 – 1st party of SHANNON’s Naval Brigade arrived at Allahabad, Indian Mutiny.

1890 – TEMERAIRE (Captain Sir G.NOEL RN), 11,000 ton brig, the last RN rated ship to enter harbour under sail, took 3 hours & 14 tacks to sail up Souda Bay.

1914 – 1st units of RM Brigade, RN Division, arrived to defend Antwerp.

1952 – PLYM, one of several ships expended in atomic weapon tests, Monte Bello.

1943 – Battle of TERMOLI, Italian Adriatic Coast. 40 Cdo.RM, with 3 Cdo.(Army) & other elements of 2nd Special Service Bde, landed behind German lines, under cover of darkness, surprised German paratroopers in the town, then after reinforcement by Allied troops, held off repeated counter attacks until the Germans withdrew on 6th October.

4th 1744 – VICTORY, 1st of that name, wrecked on the Casquets. Admiral Sir J.BALCHEN & 1,100 men drowned. Inaccurate clocks prevented accurate determination of longitude, to give ship’s position.

1912 – Sub B.2 run down & sunk by SS AMERIKA off Dover.15 lost, only 1 saved. The 1st RN sub lost & never salvaged, leaving the bodies of her crew to remain undisturbed.

1941 – Trawler LADY SHIRLEY, on patrol off Canary Islands, having sighted on the surface an object, which disappeared, gained ASDIC contact & dropped depth charges. Sub U111 surfaced & tried to fire their gun at the trawler, but the tampion had not been removed from the barrel, the gun exploded & the trawler fired her 4” gun, hitting the Sub nine times & sinking her. The trawler’s crew of 30 took onboard 45 survivors as prisoners & took them to Gibraltar, 4 days steaming away.

5th 1944 – AURORA & CATTERICK bombarded Levitha Island, in the Dodacanese, then landed a party to whom the island surrendered.

6th 1719 – Capitulation of Vigo to a combined force under Vice Admiral J.MIGHELLS (IPSWICH) & Colonel Viscount COBHAM.

1762 – Capture of Manila by a combined force under Rear-Admiral S.CORNISH (NORFOLK) & Colonel W.DRAPER.

7th 1769 – Captain James COOK discovered New Zealand.

1775 – Captain SHULDAM urged the Admiralty Board to install “coppers” for the distillation of fresh water from salt water & a fresh water sweetener, based on aeration.

1980 – ARMILLA patrol instituted. When war broke out between Iran & Iraq in 1980, the RN started a patrol in the Persian Gulf, usually with a frigate or destroyer, to protect British shipping & interests in the area. COVENTRY was the 1st ship deployed.

8th 1806 – 1st RN rocket bombardment, on Boulogne.

1884 – RODNEY launched, the last RN battleship with a figurehead.

1914 – 1st destruction of a Zeppelin, in her shed at Dusseldorf, by an RN Air Service Sopwith Tabloid.

1990 – WRNS personnel joined RN ships as part of ships’ companies, for the 1st time.

9th 1799 – LUTINE wrecked off Holland; her bell was recovered & is now in use at Lloyd’s.

1805 – Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson wrote the Trafalgar memorandum, now in the British Museum – ‘no captain can do wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy’.

1852 – Capture of Prome, India, by an RN & Army combined force, including ships’ boats.

1862 – VC-Able Seaman G.HINCKLEY (SPHINX) whilst under fire rescuing wounded men from British & French ships’ landing parties, repulsing Taiping rebels & capturing the city of Fung Wha.

10th 1748 – A mutiny in CHESTERFIELD at Cape Coast, led by the 1st Lt. & the Lt. of Marines, whilst the Captain was ashore, was dealt with by the Gunner & Bosun.

1917 – George Cross(GC)(exAlbert Medal AM)-A.W.NEWMAN Mate, disposing burning ammunition.

11th 1766 – 1st Battle of Lake Champlain, the British Lake Flotilla fighting the American Lake Flotilla.

1780 – During a bad day, in a hurricane, one of a succession of West Indies storms, AMAZON was almost sunk, THUNDERER disappeared, STIRLING CASTLE ran aground & 8 other vessels were lost.

1782 – Relief of the siege of Gibraltar by Lord HOWE, using the signalling system transformed by Rear-Admiral KEMPENFELT, to great effect.

1797 – Battle of Camperdown. A British Fleet under Admiral A.DUNCAN (VENERABLE) defeated a Dutch Fleet under Vice-Admiral JAN DE WINTER (VRIJHEID). After the battle DUNCAN declined to receive a surrendered sword, saying he would rather shake a brave man’s hand.

1855 – VC-Cdr.J.E.COMMERELL RN & Quartermaster W.T.RICKARD (WESER) in a landing party destroying Russian stores up the Salgir River, Sea of Azov, Crimean War.

12th 1702 – English & Dutch Fleets, under Admiral Sir G.ROOKE (SOMERSET) & Vice-Admiral G.CALLENBURGH (HOLLANDIA) fought the French Fleet & treasure ships under Vice-Admiral CONTE DE CHATEAURENAULT in Vigo Bay. All 17 French warships & 17 Spanish treasure ships were taken or sunk.

1798 – RN ships under Commodore Sir J.B.WARREN (CANADA) defeated French ships under Commodore J.BOMPARD off Donegal Bay, thus reducing the threat of French aid to Irish rebellion, also taking 4 ships as prizes.

1897 – CANOPUS launched, the1st battleship with water tube boilers & fitted with Krupp armour plating. Grounded as a coastal defence ship at Port Stanley, Falklands, by 1914, she had loaded a gun in secret preparation for a competitive gun drill, but was able to open fire as Admiral VON SPEE’s Squadron approached, scoring the 1st hit on them, with a ricochet from solid shot.

1940 – AJAX, the 1st radar-equipped cruiser in the Med. Fleet, sank Italian torpedo boats AIRONE & ARIEL in a night action, also damaging destroyer ARRIGLIERE, the Italian Navy not being trained for night fighting.

13th 1776 – British Lake Flotilla’s defeat of the American Lake Flotilla, Lake Champlain, the American possession of which had held up army operations, contributing to the defeat of British forces under General Burgoyne & the intervention of France on America’s side, American War of Independence.

1841 – Occupation of Ningpo by a combined Naval & Army force, led by Rear-Admiral Sir W.PARKER (MODESTE) & Lt.General Sir H.GOUGH, Seamen & Marines landing from ships.

1914 – Code books captured from German cruiser MAGDEBOURG by the Russians 20th August 1914, reached the Admiralty & are now considered to have been as valuable to Intelligence as was the capture of a German Enigma coding machine by Poland in 1939.

1939 – GC(exExceptional Gallantry Medal-EGM)-Radio Officer J.G.M.TURNER Merchant Navy(SS MINOTAUR).

14th 1747 – When ships under Rear-Admiral E.HAWKE (DEVONSHIRE) met French ships under Commodore the MARQUIS DE L’ETANDUERE (TONNANT) escorting a large convoy, HAWKE wasted no time forming a line of battle, as was the custom, but signalled for “General Chase”, allowing each of his ships independently to attack the enemy.

1939 – ROYAL OAK torpedoed & sunk in Scapa Flow, with the loss of 786 men, by U.47, which had found a way through inadequate defence barriers between the islands of the Flow. Tragically the long-awaited block ships arrived the next day.

15th 1918 – Sub J.6, the only one lost of 7 J class boats, was sunk off Blyth in error by Q-ship CYMRIC, J boats having unusual silhouettes, leading to confused identification. The resulting Board of Enquiry attributed the sinking to the Hazards of War, after which the survivors paid the CO of CYMRIC the compliment of rising & saluting his acquittal.

16th 1759 – Eddystone light 1st lit.

1815 – BONAPARTE landed in exile on St.Helena.

1939 – GC(exEGM) posthumous. Cdr.R.F.JOLLY (MOHAWK).

17th 1804 – CRUIZER captured French Privateer CONTRE-AMIRAL MAGON in a chase of 97 miles, starting with action off Ostend the previous day. Prize money awarded was £40,000 for the Captain, down to £182 for a Seaman.

1854 – 1st bombardment of Sevastopol by the Allied British & French Fleet, under Vice-Admiral DUNDAS, in which the 1st RN screw (engine & propeller) ship of the line, a 91-gun 3 decker, AGAMEMNON, proved her worth, being one of 2 ships there able to bombard effectively, because of their ability to manoeuvre regardless of the wind.

1940 – GC-Sub Lt.J.M.C.EASTON RNVR & Ord.Seaman B.SOUTHWELL, the latter posthumously, for bomb & mine disposal.

1948 – GC(exAM)-Boy A.R.LOWE, for saving the life of another liberty boat crew member, capsizing in a gale at Portland.

18th 1652 – 1st recorded Naval dockyard strike, when no pay was available.

1799 – Having helped bring a convoy from Lisbon & impatient to reach Spithead, the Master of the allegedly IMPREGNABLE, 98-guns, stranded her on the Chichester Shoals; during the night she moved 2 miles over them, being bilged & the wreck having to be sold, the Master being dismissed his ship.

1854 – VC-Captain W.PEEL & Midshipman E.St.J.DANIEL (DIAMOND) for action in storming the Batteries before Sevastopol. In 1861 DANIEL forfeited his award, having deserted, after being accused of a disgraceful offence.

19th 1781 – General Lord CORNWALLIS surrendered the British forces at Yorktown; having been cornered by General WASHINGTON & blockaded by Vice-Admiral COMTE DE GRASSE because Rear-Admiral GRAVES failed to defeat the French Fleet on 5th Sept., due to his adherence to forming line of battle, his rear division never coming into action.

1818 – An experiment to defeat the weevils eating ships’ biscuits, by adding caraway seeds to the biscuits, proved unsuccessful; the weevils simply ate everything except the seeds.

20th 1827 – Battle of Navarino Bay, the last sea fight of the Royal Navy under sail. The Fleet of Vice-Admiral Sir E.CODRINGTON (ASIA), a veteran of Trafalgar, destroyed The Turko-Egyptian Fleet & hence the Turkish leadership over Greece.

1914 – GLITRA torpedoed by U.17, the 1st British merchant ship sunk by a German sub.

1927 – Sub L.4 rescued SS IRENE from pirates off Hong Kong.

1939 – 1st German magnetic mine exploded by a magnetic mine sweep off Swansea.

1944 – Battle of Leyte Gulf, ending 27th October, in which US 3rd & 7th Fleets, with Australian ships, defeated a Japanese Battle Fleet.

1988 – FAWN, whilst surveying in Gulf of Honduras, fired on by Guatemalan gunboats.

21st 1805 – Battle of Trafalgar. Fleet under Vice-Admiral Viscount NELSON (VICTORY) defeated Franco-Spanish Fleet of 33 ships of the line under Vice-Admiral P. VILLENEUVE (BUCENTAURE) & Admiral DON FEDERICO GRAVINA (PRINCIPE DE ASTURIAS), of which 15 escaped, 1 blew up, 2 were burnt, 2 were scuttled, 1 sank, 1 was wrecked ashore & 9 taken to Gibraltar as Prizes. NELSON was hit by a bullet fired from REDOUTABLE an hour after battle began & died about 3 hours later, having had victory reported to him.

1912 – QUEEN ELIZABETH keel laid down, 1st oil-fuelled capital RN ship, 1st armed with 15in. Guns & 1st to exceed 24 knots.

1918 – Last British merchant ship (ST BARCHAN) sunk in WW2, by a German sub.

1960 – DREADNOUGHT launched, RN’s 1st nuclear-powered submarine & 1st true Submarine as opposed to submersible.

22nd 1707 – ASSOCIATION wrecked on Scilly Isles, with great loss of life, including Admiral Sir CLOUDISLEY SHOVELL, reputedly killed by looters.

1821 – RISING STAR built for Chilean Navy, the 1st British built steam warship to cross the Atlantic.

1904 – On its way to fight the Japanese Navy at Tsushima, the Russian Baltic Fleet off the Dogger Bank, North Sea, fired on British fishing trawlers, said to have been mistaken for attacking small craft.

1946 – The Corfu Incident. Destroyers SAUMAREZ & VOLAGE struck mines in the Channel between Corfu & Albania. Full details below.

23rd 1753 – RN Hospital Haslar (Portsmouth), the oldest Naval hospital in the modern sense of the word, admitted its 1st patients, aiming to nurse sick sailors back to health, there being a desperate shortage of trained naval manpower & sickness causing more losses than action in battle.

1943 – In an action with German torpedo boats between the Channel Islands & France CHARYBDIS & LIMBOURNE were sunk, but TALYBONT & ROCKET sank 2 of the T-boats. Dead washed ashore on the Channel Islands, being buried by the islanders, despite the German occupation.

24th 1877 – LIGHTNING, the RN’s 1st Torpedo Boat commissioned, carrying a torpedo tube mounted on the bow.

25th 1979 – RECLAIM, Deep Diving & Minesweeper support ship, paid off after 30 years in commission, the only RN ship present at both the 1953 Coronation & 1977 Jubilee Fleet Reviews.

26th 1854 – VC-Acting Mate W.N.W.HEWLETT (BEAGLE) for heroic action manning a gun before Sevastopol.

1916 – German destroyer raid in night of 26/27th in Dover Strait, sinking 11 ships.

27th 1651 – Parliament ships under ‘General at Sea’ BLAKE defeated Royalist ships under Prince Rupert.

1890 – In a punitive expedition under Rear-Admiral FREMANTLE against the Sultan, a Naval Brigade captured Witu, East Africa.

1916 – FLIRT & NUBIAN torpedoed. Later salvaged halves of NUBIAN & a previously torpedoed ZULU were combined to make ZUBIAN.

1927 – WILD SWAN repulsed a Chinese attack on a Mission hospital at Swatow.

28th 1664 – The birth of the Royal Marine Corps. King Charles II sanctioned the formation of The Duke of York & Albany’s Maritime Regiment of Foot, the 1st Regiment to be formed specially for service afloat, mainly recruited from the Trained Bands of the City of London.

1937 – SEAGULL launched at Devonport, the 1st RN all-welded ship, originally a mine-sweeper, becoming a surveying ship 1946-1954.

1940 – A German mine recovered in River Ogmore by Lt.S.BAKER & Sub Lt. P.A.CUMMINS RNVR, identified 3rd November as the 1st acoustic mine found.

1944 – 2 British “chariot” manned torpedoes, carried limpet mines, which were attached to the hulls of 2 merchant ships in Phuket harbour, sinking one & damaging the other.

29th 1813 – RN siege batteries were landed to help in making French forces at Trieste capitulate.

30th 1899 – POWERFUL’s Naval Brigade & guns fought in the siege of Ladysmith.

1940 – 1st Italian midget sub attack at Gibraltar.

1942 – GC-Lt.F.A.B.FASSON RN & Able Sea.C.GRAZIER (PETARD), both posthumous, for recovering code books from U.559, surfaced but sinking, but then losing their lives trying to recover the coding machines as the sub sank.

31st 1914 – HERMES, employed as a seaplane carrier, sunk by U.27 in Dover Strait.


A year after WW2 in Europe ended, the RN Mediterranean Fleet were cruising, “showing the flag”, round the Greek islands, to include Corfu. Cruisers MAURITIUS & LEANDER, with destroyers SAUMAREZ & VOLAGE, were detached to go ahead of the Fleet, through the channel between Corfu & Albania, an area where 6 months before cruisers ORION & SUPERB had been fired on, from the Albanian shore. On passage through the channel SAUMAREZ struck a mine, which badly damaged her & killed 36 of her company. The 2 cruisers left the channel immediately, leaving VOLAGE to tow SAUMAREZ clear of the area to Corfu. One & a half hours later VOLAGE struck a mine, which killed 8 of her company, but

she was able to continue the tow, even though her bows had been blown off, by steaming astern. SAUMAREZ had to be scrapped because of her damage.

The International Court of Justice decided that the mines had been laid after WW2’s end in Europe, awarding Great Britain £1,000,000 in compensation, but this has never been paid by Albania.


Lt.F.Hoffman, 3rd TONNANT, 80 gun 3rd rate 2 decker, which had been captured from the French in 1798, wrote about her battle with ALGECIRAS, a 3rd rate 2 decker:

“A French ship of 80 guns [actually 74] with an Admiral’s flag came up & poured a raking broadside into our stern, which killed or wounded 40 petty officers & men, nearly cutting the rudder in two, and shattered the stern, with the quarter galleries. She then, in a most gallant manner, locked her bowsprit in our starboard main shrouds and attempted to board us…she had riflemen in the tops who did great execution. Our poop was soon cleared [of men] and our gallant Captain shot through the left thigh, and obliged to be carried below…[We] turned the forecastle guns, loaded with grape [shot] on the gentlemen who wished to give us so fraternal a hug. The [our] marines kept up a warm destructive fire on the boarders. Only one man made good his footing on the [our] quarterdeck, when he was pinned through the calf of his right leg by one of the crew with his half-pike, whilst another was going to cut him down, which I prevented and desired him to be taken to the cockpit [where all the wounded were being treated]”.

There is a story that, shortly after the battle, a special Thanksgiving service was being celebrated in a church in Plymouth, attended by 2 former seamen from TEMERAIRE. The clergyman kept on mentioning ‘victory’; after the 3rd time one of the seamen said to the other one "Damn my eyes, Jack, if we stop here any longer–that fellow has mentioned VICTORY three times and never mentioned the TEMERAIRE, that was in the hottest part of the engagement and took three ships" -whereupon they left the church immediately.


During General Drill exercise, to a ship from Commander-in-Chief, who was Admiral Joe KELLY:

Send band to flagship to play popular tune. Has anyone seen Kelly is not repeat not considered a popular tune.

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