SETTLEMENT The change in ship design that led to the speedy clippers and powerful windjammers of the 19th century began some four hundred years earlier during the 15th century and this gave form to the wonderful vessels that took us to the end of the tall ship era. One wonders at the seamanship of those intrepid sailors of two or three thousand years ago and of their courage in facing the unknown. We can ponder what type of ship was used by the Phoenician seamen when the Pharaoh Necho of Egypt, sent these hardy explorers to circumnavigate Africa circa 700 bc, we also wonder if these vessels reached the shores of Indonesia and perhaps even Australia while following the spice trail. Evidence is slowly building up in support of the idea that the equatorial nations achieved a trading system long before we had imagined.
From the 12th century onward, only one or two masts were still being used in coastal sailing vessels but by the 15th century, three and four masts became the fashion, as larger ships were required to protect the trade routes.
The battles for Supremacy.
As ships ventured further from their own shores, they needed protection from prize takers and piracy. Warships were sent to establish trade and to protect the trading vessels, allowing trading ships to become larger and faster.
The warships also evolved quickly and were soon equipped with archers, javelin throwers and fighting men who fought from all parts of a ship; some were stationed at the top of each mast in a box known as the ‘Fighting Top’. It was from here that they threw heavy objects down into enemy vessels once they had pulled alongside. Grapples were used to hold a vessel in place while the fighting went on. Heavy stones and lumps of metal, then iron balls or blocks were hurled down into the bottom of the enemy boats by the marines in an effort to sink or badly damage the boat or its occupants. Defensive works were built, as the ships grew larger and the first item used in defence was the decking, this was used to protect the bottom of the boat. Protection for the men who did the fighting quickly followed and all types of breastwork were built onto the vessels. Miniature castles were erected at each end of a ship where archers and javelin throwers were stationed; this caused the builders to enlarge the hull design to make more room for the defenses.
James IV of Scotland.
In 1511, James the 4th of Scotland launched the ‘Great Michael’ which was a wood ship of approximately 1200 Tons. Her length was 200 ft and she was 36 ft in breadth. Her sides were protected with 5-ft thick timbers along her waterline in the form of a belt. She carried 300 seamen, 120 gunners and 1000 men at arms.
When James the fourth was killed in 1513, the ‘Great Michael’ was sold to the French. The building of this mighty ship is said to have taken all the timber left in Fifeshire.
Henry VIII of England.
Henry the 8th of England built his ship, ‘Grace a Dieu’ in 1514; she was a wood ship of 1000 Tons. The figurehead seems to have been of the Mother and Child. [This is based on a very hazy view of the ship's beak shown in her portrait]. She was nicknamed ‘Great Harry’ after King Henry and was the first British built four-mast ship to be launched in England. Her masts were named, Fore, Main, Mizzen and Bonaventure. Her fore and main masts were square rigged and her mizzen and bonaventure were rigged with lateen sails. She had topsails on all four masts with topgallant sails on the first three masts. She went for a refit in 1540 and at that time, she had her guns set in two tiers, which fired through ports cut into her side. She thereby became the forerunner of the battle frigates, which were to rule the seas until the late 19th century. [The ship, ‘Mary Rose’ may have been the first ship to have been given gunports but she did not stay afloat long enough to prove their worth] The ‘Grace a Dieu’ is shown in her portrait at some time between 1540 and 1553 before she was totally destroyed by fire at Woolwich .She had been a favorite ship of the King, as he used her to travel abroad on official business.
Defense and Attack.
Another invention which proved to be of benefit to seamen, the detachable top mast, Captain John Hawkins had the topmasts of his ship set into a cap which was supported by trestle trees which were set fore and aft of the mast to support the cross trees. This in turn supported the spread of the sails in the upper mast areas.
The‘Fighting Top’ was a square or rounded box in which men could stand and that was situated at the top of the main section of each mast. This was the area from which men could throw, fire or ‘put’ missiles onto or into enemy craft.
On a more personal level, the Poop deck got its name from the toilet facilities, which were built out from and around the stern usually below the level of the captain’s cabin. Seats with holes were set out from the hull and these too, evolved to offer more privacy as time went by.
Sails and gunnery;
At first, single sails were used on vessels up to and including the time of the Viking longships. Eventually, the need for faster ships gave rise to more sails on more masts. A second, third and then, a fourth mast were added to the ships of the 16th century. The early masts carried a single sail followed by topsail; royals and etc followed these in turn.
By the 17th century, the spritsail had been introduced to the area beneath the bowsprit and this enabled the Mizzenmast to be set further aft, then a small mast was added to the front end of the bowsprit and a topsail spritsail was rigged in place. Through trial and error, three masts came to be preferred and it remained so, with few exceptions until the 19th century.
During the 16th century, new and more powerful ships were built by British ship builders for the East India trade, most were well armed and although really merchantmen, would have been quite a handful for some of the secondary ships of the European naval countries. They were at times, called upon to help the British navy when pirate or other ships intruded into English waters or were harassing coastal towns or vessels.
These events regularly occurred in English waters and the frigate built ships came to resemble naval ships of the line. Soon, the armament lessened considerably as fewer ships challenged them. The outcome was a passenger ship that was painted and arranged to look like a man-o-war but really carried only one or two guns for protection and even these were phased out in a few short years.
Naval armament. The British navy had the honour of being the first to have Muzzle loading cannon aboard their ships. King Henry VII of England was the first Monarch to create a naval fleet and he armed them as well as could be done for the time.
Gunports were at first initiated in the waist section of the vessels but soon they were set along the full broadside [Henry VIII] giving rise to the true multigun warship. The Stern was then rounded so that even the quarters could be protected with cannon. As more armament was added to each vessel, so too, were each ship's defense increased in strength. Some naval battles had ships fighting for many hours, cannonball after cannonball slowly chipping away at the thick protective timbers while new forms of shot were fired at the rigging in the hope of the opponent being desailed or even dismasted.
The early type vessel went from an armament of five short barreled cannon, which operated only at very close range, with an iron cannonball… that weighed about 50 pounds. They also carried the smaller demicannon, which fired a 32-pound ball. Finally there was the ‘Culverin’ which had a long barrel and fired a smaller shot over a longer range though not anywhere like later armaments. The even smaller ‘Demiculverin’, the ‘Saker’, supported them in turn [which was a quarter culverin]. The Falcon gun [which was a half saker], Falconett and Robinett with each bird name, descending with the shot size until shot weighed as little as two or three ounces. These, were the ship destroyers and coastal protectors of the early 16th century Although the number of guns on each of the fighting ships could be as many as 180, most of these were only small weapons and did not operate from gun ports. By the 17th century, ships and their weapons had become more sophisticated. The sum total of 16th century knowledge came with the launching of the ‘Prince Royal’, which was built in 1610.
Then, during the 1630’s the first ever 100 gun Battle Frigate, ‘Sovereign Of the Seas’ arrived on the scene. Both the ‘Prince Royal’ and the ‘Sovereign of the Seas’, had broadside guns on each side of them and on all three decks. The ‘Sovereign of the Seas’ was considered ‘the most formidable fighting ship of her time’. In fact she was one of the largest vessels ever seen and it was said that six men could stand upright in her stern lantern. She weighed in at 1500 Tons and did away with the Bonaventure mizzen, which from that time was to disappear and she now carried the standard three masts. The three masts remained until the demise of sail in warships and acted as the standard rig for British warships
Gun decks too, were changing and the calibre of cannon with them, by the end of the century the larger men-o-war were carrying 32 pounder cannon on their upper decks and 42 pounders on the lowest deck. This was by no means the standard for all three deckers of the time, though it became more popular as time went by.
Rating a naval ship.
When James the first came to the English throne, he arranged his ships into four different ratings and by the middle of the 17th century, six ratings were the accepted idea. The number of guns were the determining factor with a 100 gun ship being a 1st rater and an 18 gun ship being classified a 6th rater. This, applied only to naval vessels, [ratings for frigates, passenger and cargo ships were rated under a different system]. Improvements came with guns being standardized on each deck, rather than having mixed gun sizes as with the ‘Sovereign of the Seas’.
In the 18th century, ships became known by the number of guns they were rated to carry, the great ship, HMS‘Victory’ was rated a 108 gun ship. The great naval battles that took place between the English and the major sea powers of Europe helped to maintain the widely improving naval systems and with the advent of true steam power, naval shipping continued on to the modern fighting ships of the 20th century. The ships shown below, are more an extract from a very long line of naval vessels than a precise list. I have also included some of the heroic deeds [which no historian can disregard] that these noble ships performed.
Why Port and Starboard?
For the researcher who may need to know which end of a ship is which, the front of a vessel is known as the bow or for’ard end and the rear is known as the stern or aft [after] end.
The Port [or lee] side of a vessel got its name from exactly that, the Port or left hand side of the ship [which was the opposite to the steering side or starboard side]. Port side was also known as the Larboard [or loading] side. The starboard side got its name not from the stars but from the large manned ‘Steering board’ or rudder that was to the right hand or seaward side of a ship. The first stern rudder appears to have been British built about 1200 AD and was manned to suit the size of each ship.
The Naval Register
HMS ‘REVENGE’ Built c1577. Wood ship of 500 Tons. Length; approx. 165 ft. Breadth; 32 ft. Depth; approx. 21 ft. She was the flagship of Admiral Drake when his fleet defeated the massive Spanish Armada. She was designed and built by Phineas Pett and Matthew Baker and carried 34 guns and 22 demi-cannon, cannon-perriers, culverins and demi-culverins and twelve sakers. She also had small arms made up of Arquebuses and Hackbuts along with many archers with longbows and arrows. Her cannon fired 32 pound shot down to 9 pound shot. She carried 150 seamen and 24 gunners along with 76 soldiers. This vessel is perhaps the same vessel as the ‘Revenge’ of 1591 as it was only three years after the Armada had been harassed almost out of existence and Drakes flagship [‘Revenge’] was certainly not injured by the Spanish fleet. The fact that Sir Richard Grenville had command of the vessel in 1591, does not in any way, diminish the likelihood of her being the same vessel.
HMS ‘REVENGE’ Built 1577. Wood ship of 500 Tons. Length of keel: 92 ft. Breadth: 32 ft Depth: approximately 27 ft. [probably the same vessel that was Drakes Flagship during the Spanish Armada of 1588]. She was part of a fifteen vessel fleet in the year 1591, that while under the command of Admiral Lord Thomas Howard and Vice-Admiral, Sir Richard Grenville, was sent to intercept a treasure fleet returning from South America. The English had been suffering for sickness was rife among the crews. Many men were down with fever and dysentery and most of the ships had discharged their crews, onto a nearby island to let the men regain their health. It was at this moment that the Spanish fleet was sighted and there was a rush to get the men back aboard their ships.
The British were extremely surprised to find that a force of about 54 Spanish ships had been sent to escort the treasure fleet. On the evening of September 9th, 1591, the two fleets came together at Flores Island in the Azores group. The ships involved on the British side were, HMS ‘Defiance’ [Lord Howard] which was Admiral. HMS ‘Revenge’ [Sir Richard Grenville] Vice-Admiral, then the frigate HMS ‘Bonaventure’ [Captain Crosse] HMS ‘Lion’ [Captain George Fenner] HMS ‘Forsight’ [Captain M. Thomas Vavisour] HMS ‘Crane’ [Captain Duffield] and HMS ‘Raleigh’ a wood bark commanded by Captain Thin. The rest of the English fleet was made up of vessels too small to be of consequence.
The English ships had been taking on ballast when the Spaniards were first seen and it was with difficulty that most of the fleet got underway. The Spanish had two squadrons of ships and this made them a formidable opponent, even if the English had been underway with room to move.
It was soon realised though, that the English were at a great disadvantage, as they had ‘scarce time to weigh their anchors’. So close were the fleets that the escaping English ships sailed across the bows of the oncoming Spaniards. The ‘Revenge’ was found to be in so great a predicament that the officers entreated Sir Richard Grenville to cut his mainsail and cast about, hoping that this would placate a far superior foe. Of course, it was beneath the honour of Sir Richard Grenville to shirk a fight and he ordered his men to arms.
Grenville decided that the best way to fight the Spanish was to drive straight through the centre of the two Squadrons. He had two main reasons for this course of action, the first being that all enemy fire would be directed at the ‘Revenge’ giving the rest of the fleet time to escape. The second being due to the time it had taken to bring those of his men who were ashore, back to the ship. It could be seen that the ‘Revenge’ would have no hope of escape and that she would survive only if she struck her colours. Sir Richard Grenville took the foremost course in an English naval commander’s mind and decided on attack.
The first Spanish vessel to make contact with ‘Revenge’ was the ‘San Philip’ of the Seville squadron. This 1500-Ton ship took the air out of the sails of ‘Revenge’ and she could make no way nor even feel the helm. The ‘San Philip’ was a three decked ship, which carried 11 guns of different ordinance on each deck. She went in to board the ‘Revenge’ at the same time as the ‘Admiral of the Biscaynes’, commanded by Admiral Brittan Dona.
Three more Spanish ships then got alongside the ‘Revenge’ and the fighting intensified. The ‘San Philip’ took a broadside from ‘Revenge’ that shook the Spaniard. Then after she brought down the sails on the ‘Revenge’, the ‘San Philip’ made haste to get off the side of the English vessel. She had received heavy punishment and did not wish to risk more. The Spaniards then decided to continue the attack from all quarters giving ‘Revenge’ no respite.
The Spaniards had many soldiers aboard their ships. After spending much time trying to board the ‘Revenge’ unsuccessfully, they elected to use sniper fire to do as much damage as possible. Sir Richard was wounded while on deck and then was again wounded while his surgeon was attending to him and finally, he was shot in the head with what proved to be a mortal wound. The surgeon was also killed by gunfire at about 11 p.m. The battle raged on all around them and the ‘Revenge’ repulsed one Spanish Galleon after another. When one retired from her side, another took its place.
The battle had begun at three in the afternoon and slowly the ‘Revenge’ was being shot to pieces. Of her 100 fit men and 90 sick that were aboard when the fighting began, forty men of the ‘Revenge’ were dead and little remained of that ships superstructure. Her masts were gone and her sides were shot full of holes. An English brig, the ‘Pilgrim’ under Captain Jacob Whiddon, sat off nearby and watched the fighting until she also came under threat as the new day dawned. Captain Whiddon could scarce believe the extraordinary battle that was taking place but now it was time to run. The little English Brig was fast and she happily escaped the Spaniards, being able to report the events of the battle up until she had to leave.
It was estimated that ‘Revenge’ had received over 800 shot into her tough wooden hull, this did not include small arms fire and by the morning, she had run out of powder. Her supplies were all gone by this time and. Sir Richard Grenville had ordered his Master at arms to fire a shot through the bottom of ‘Revenge’ and sink her when she was done so that the Spaniards might not have any part of her as souvenir.
She had endured 15 hours of continuous light and heavy bombardment and was still not put down while her gallant commander lay dreadfully wounded but still lucid enough to give some orders. Finally, a flag was struck to enable a truce to be negotiated. A few of the officers were sent aboard the Spanish ship, ‘Generale Don Alphonso Bassan’ to negotiate at the behest of the officers of the ‘Revenge’, who deemed that Sir Richard was too badly done to keep the fight going.
The Spaniards accepted the terms and the fighting ceased. They could only marvel at the carnage aboard the ‘Revenge’ and they could not believe that one ship could so gallantly attack so many of her enemy, especially all on her own and with such arrogance. The fight had caused the loss of over 2000 Spanish seamen and soldiers.
Two large Spanish warships, the ‘Admiral Of The Hulks’ and the ‘Ascension’ of Seville were both sunk alongside the ‘Revenge’. One other ship went down as it made it to the road of St Michael and another ran herself ashore so as not to sink, thereby saving her sailors. Sir Richard Grenville, who was born on June 15th 1542, died of his wounds a few days after the surrender. He was presumably buried at sea, on or about September 13th 1591. His ship and crew had enabled the English fleet, time to escape from a large and well-armed enemy. Theirs was a sacrifice that surprised even the most hardened fighters in the Spanish Navy.
‘PRINCE ROYAL’ Built 1610. Wood ship of approx. 1400 Tons. Length: approx. 230 ft. Breadth: 44 ft. Depth: approx. 22 ft. She was the largest ship of her time and was the first English three decked ship to be part of the Royal Navy. She carried 56 guns and was beautifully decorated and carried the Royal Plumes of the Prince of Wales, she was designed by Phineas Pett who also designed the ship ‘Sovereign of the Seas’ which was launched almost 30 years later. ‘Prince Royal’ is also said by some, to have been a two decked ship, but a painting by the Dutch marine artist, Henrik Cornelius Vroom shows her to be a three-deck ship with four masts.
HMS ‘SOVEREIGN OF THE SEAS’ also known as ‘Royal Sovereign’. Built 1637 for King Charles I. She was a wood ship of 1500 Tons. Length: approx. 232 ft. Breadth: 46.5 ft. Draught: 22.2 ft. She was used in the battles against the Dutch during the time in which that nation proclaimed itself ruler of the seas. This though, was during a period when England had its own civil wars, thus leaving the seas more or less open to any claimant. Phineas Pett and his son Peter designed this vessel for King Charles the 1st. Her keel was laid down in the presence of the king on the 16th of January 1636 at Woolwich. Gerard Christmas the master-carver ornamented her, from drawings done by Van Dyck and her figurehead, was of Edward the Peaceful astride a horse trampling seven conquered kings.
‘SAMSON’. Built c 1585. Wood ship owned by George Clifford, the third Earl of Cumberland. He was ordered by his Queen, ‘not to lay any Spanish vessel aboard her Royal ships lest they be consumed by fire. The Earl was annoyed at this and proceeded to hire ships for use against the rich Spanish galleons. He hired the ‘Tiger’ of 600 Tons and along with the ‘Golden Noble’ and a few smaller vessels, he set out to plunder a few of the ships coming from the East Indies. His first conquest was the Portuguese ship ’Santa Cruz’ and hearing from her captured crew that more of these rich East Indiamen were coming. Clifford was met by one of Sir Walter Raleigh’s ships, HMS ‘Roebuck’, which aided in the capture of the ‘Santa Cruz’. They conveyed the good news that more of Raleigh’s ships were arriving on the scene and that one of the Queens ships, ‘HMS ‘Forsight’ under Sir Robert Cross had also arrived.
Five days later, the ‘Madre de Dios came up and a battle began with one of Sir John Hawkins ships under Captain Thompson making the big royal Portuguese ship slow down until the other ships could get into position. The Queens ship with an over zealous Sir Robert Cross charged into the fray only to lose way by getting too near the Portuguese and the ‘Forsight’ was quickly lashed to the ‘Madre de Dios’ by her shrouds and the larger vessel sailed off with her alongside. It took a few hours before the English could come up to the two trussed ships and while one boarded the Portuguese on one side the ‘Tiger’ boarded through the ‘Foresight’ in the ensuing fight, the ‘Forsight’ managed to free herself.
The 'Madre de Dios’ was captured and it was one of the largest ships that the English had ever seen. Her Captain, Don Fernando de Mendoza was perhaps one very unlucky gentleman, he had been twice before captured by the Moors and held to ransom by their king. His ship was a rich prize and was of an unusual dimension, so much so that a Mr. Robert Murray who was a ‘Geometrical Observer’ was given the task of getting the exact size of the big ship.
The ‘Madre de Dios’ turned out to be 165 ft long, her breadth was 46 ft 10 inches and she drew 31 ft of water when laden and she carried a height of seven stories. One main orlop, three close decks, one Forecastle, a spar deck of two floors apiece. Her keel was 100 ft and her mainmast was 121ft. Her mainyard was 106 ft long and was so large that the English felt that she would be too unwieldy to work so they took her to Dartmouth for use as a Hulk. The events took place in 1592.
HMS ‘TRIUMPH’ Wood ship of app 900 Tons. Admiral Blake commanded her when the Dutch fleet was challenged near the Shetland Islands in 1652. The weather turned foul and the English watched as the Dutch fleet was decimated by gale force winds. Admiral Blake and the Dutch Admiral Van Tromp, were to have running battles up and down channel for some time until Blake finally got he upper hand with victories over the Dutch during the period 1652 through 1655. The great ship ‘Sovereign Of The Seas’, which was built by King Charles I of England, also fought during the action.
HMS ‘RESOLUTION’ Wood Ship that was laid down at Harwich. Sir George Ascue who was a member of Admiral Robert Blake’s fleet commanded her. They fought the Dutch over numerous petty items. Although the most likely reason for fighting the Dutch was that they, [the Dutch] felt that they were the true sea power and they had the Admirals to prove it, should England like a fight.
‘BONHOMME RICHARD’ Wood ship that was commanded by the American war of independence hero, Captain John Paul Jones. In an insignificant battle between two American and two English warships, the Americans pulled off a victory when Captain Jones left his sinking vessel and transferred to the British ship ‘Serapis’ which he was able to cause to surrender even though his own vessel was sinking. The losses were heavy, with the American flagship losing over 300 men killed and wounded with British losses thought to be similar. The American boarding parties won the fight. Although the Americans give this battle as one of the great naval battles of history, in reality, it was decided by, as usual, greater fire power which the Americans on this occasion possessed.
The ‘Bon Homme Richard’ was accompanied by the American Frigate ‘Alliance’ and three smaller French ships when they came into contact with a British merchant fleet led by the ‘Serapis’ and the ‘Countess of Scarborough’ both of which were smaller than the two 44 gun vessels commanded by the Americans.
Captain John Paul Jones [originally Captain John Paul] was a Scottish sea captain [born July 6th 1747 at Kirkbean, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland.] who had fallen foul of British justice when he murdered one of his crew in cold blood during an attempted mutiny. He changed his name to avoid detection and when the Americans opted for independence, he became a captain in the new American navy.
Although he fought for his adopted country, he did not remain there long as he seemed to prefer Europe as his home after 1787. He accepted a role, as Rear Admiral in the Russian Navy in 1788 and this period of his life was not one of his best. He returned to Paris in 1790 and died there in 1792. The Americans shipped his remains back to Annapolis, Md. over a century later and created a national shine for their hero. This vessel is included here due to its historic importance and in regard to its effect upon the British transportation policies. The American war of Independence gave rise to a much faster settlement of the great South land and its island neighbors. England could not afford to lose its supremacy on the high seas.
HMS ‘VICTORY’ Built 1765 at Chatham. Wood three-deck 108-gun ship of 2162 Tons. Length: 186 ft. Breadth: 44 ft Depth: approx. 29 ft. This ship was laid down in 1759, on the 23rd of July. She was given her name on the 28th of October 1760. She became the flagship of Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson during the battle of Trafalgar. Her launch was on the 7th of July 1765. In his victory at the well documented battle, Admiral Nelson received a mortal wound when he was shot by musket fire from the rigging of the French ship ‘Redoubtable’ which vessel Captain Hardy had selected from among the French fleet as the target of the ‘Victory’. Sea battles of this type sometimes lasted for hours as the vessels sat along side each other [on board] and proceeded to blast the timbers off their opponent. In their fight, four vessels actually sat aboard one another, ‘Victory’, ‘Redoubtable’, ‘Temeraire’ and an un-named French vessel that sat ‘on board’ the ‘Temeraire’.
The ‘Redoubtable’ only fired one salvo from her heavy or ‘great’ guns before closing the ports for fear of being boarded through them. Then the ‘Victory’ ran ‘on board’ the French ship and commenced her firing. The French ship ‘Bucentaure’ and the big Spanish ship, ‘Santissima Trinidad’ began their attack on the ‘Victory’ from the other side and the English flagship began to fire incessantly from both sides as she drummed shot into all three vessels.
The English ship ‘Temeraire’ [Captain Harvey] fell on board the ‘Redoubtable’ from the other side and in quick time, another French vessel had fallen on board the ‘Temeraire’ so that all four ships lay side by side and all facing the same way as they poured shot into one another. The gunnery master on the ‘Victory’ had to depress the charges in his guns on the middle and lower decks to avoid the possibility of shot hitting the ‘Temeraire’.
And so the battle raged, the Admiral’s secretary was having converse with Captain Hardy, when a cannonball, killed him [the secretary] instantly. He was one of the first to fall in the battle and shortly afterward, a party of marines who were gathered on the poop deck, were struck by a double-headed [chained] shot which cut down and killed eight of them in an instant.
To gain insight to what type of commander Admiral Nelson was, can be shown in his effort to have all his men act as one. He made them feel proud to be Englishmen fighting for their country. When having Baron Cuthbert Collingwood aboard the day before the battle at Trafalgar, Nelson was surprised to see that the captain of his second in command's ship was not with Collingwood. When he heard that Collingwood and Captain Rotherham were not on good terms, Nelson sent for the captain immediately and when he arrived he met Rotherham and took him to where Baron Collinwood was looking out over the French fleet. ‘Look, yonder at the enemy’ then he bade them, ‘now shake hands with an Englishman’.
Admiral Nelson did not like to put snipers in the rigging and neglected to do so at Trafalgar feeling that even though it might get a commander or two, it would not decide the battle. It did cost him his life though. Had he also placed snipers they would have been able to keep the enemy pinned down and Nelson would not have been shot from above. The bullet that struck him hit his shoulder epaulet and drove down into his back breaking his spine and dropping him onto his face. Even though this injury should have been enough, he still gave orders for some minutes being held up by three of his men.
Nelson was shot at approximately 1.20pm on the 31st of October 1805. A young man, [Midshipman Pollard] who had seen the Frenchman who fired the fatal shot went after the sniper and managed to bring him down at 1.30pm. For this service, he was rewarded with a silver watch given by Lady Emma Hamilton and Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy. The watch is presently held [among other relics of the battle] by the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, England.
The ‘Victory’ was taken back to England and repaired after the battle was won. Many years after the epic battle, a cannon ball was taken out of her timbers. The ball having been found buried deep from the force of the shot. She was brought out on special occasions to be paraded as one would expect her to be, dressed in her finest war paint which included a black hull with yellow strakes [strips along the side where her gun ports were situated].
Her stern was painted mauve or violet according to the old artists who portrayed her after the battle. In the early days of naval warfare, it was considered the done thing to have your vessel as gaily painted as possible. The French and the Spanish were masters at doing just that. Soon, shipbuilding came to a peak, with more powerful cannon and stronger hulls that could stand the terrible battering from cannonballs for hours on end.
The ‘Victory’ has shown just how strongly built these vessels were and even 50 years after the great battle she was still capable of sailing. She is now part of English history forever and will remain in dock for as long as she can be kept into the future. For as the glory of the British Empire fades and each colonies rises to even greater futures, the ‘Victory’ will commemorate the strength of a nation that has become a mother and grandmother of nations.
USS ‘CONSTITUTION’ Built 1797. Wood ship of the United States Navy. Rated as a 44 gun Frigate, she displaced 2200 Tons. Length: 204 ft. Breadth: approx. 42ft. Depth: approx. 31 ft. She was nicknamed ‘Old Ironsides’ because of the thickness of her hull. This ship was perhaps the best known of all the vessels of the American colonies.
‘SHENANDOAH’ ex ‘Sea King’. Built c1860. British ship that was captured by the Confederate States of America during the civil war. She had her named changed to ‘Shenandoah’ and went on to cause much distress to Union shipping. She was sold to North African interests [To the Sultan of Zanzibar, for use as his royal yacht] and she disappears from that time onward.
HMS ‘WARRIOR’ Built 1860. Iron ship of 9500 Tons. Length: 420 ft [overall] 380 ft 2 inches [between perpendiculars] .She was the first iron hulled naval ship ever built and although she never had to go into battle, she was used very well as a deterrent. She had two telescopic funnels and for two thirds of her length, wrought iron plates protected her 4½ inches thick and these were bolted onto her 18-inch thick teak backing. She had a gunnery officer named Jacky Fisher whose wry comment on the new vessel was ‘it is not appreciated that this, the first armour clad ship of war, would cause a change in what has been the way for over a thousand years’. This ship ended her days as an oil pontoon in South Wales until rescued and made a museum ship.
HMS ‘BOUNTY’ Wood ship of 220 Tons. Length: 94 ft. Breadth: app 18 ft. Depth: app 14 ft. She carried a crew of 44 men and a botanist under the command of Captain Bligh. She left England on the 23rd of December 1787 from Spithead, Hampshire, bound for Tahiti. The voyage was not meant to be a hurried one, she had been sent to transport Breadfruit plants to the West Indies as a source of food supply.
On the 28th of April 1789, the crew under the master's mate, Fletcher Christian, decided to mutiny. It is thought that after many months enjoying the savories of Tahiti that the men did not wish to leave their women behind and so the mutiny took place. Captain Bligh had certainly allowed the men plenty of good time at Tahiti and every English sailor knew where his duty lay but mutiny the men did.
Bligh was put into a longboat with those who wished to remain with him. The mutineers took the ‘Bounty’ back to Tahiti, secured their women and a few helpers and left for the most distant and safest hideout they could find. This turned out to be Pitcairn Island in the Far Eastern Pacific Ocean. The ‘Bounty’ was unloaded and burned and the group of mutineers settled down to an idyllic lifestyle.
HMS ‘TERRIBLE’ Built c1845. Wood paddle steamer of the British navy. She was one of the first steam-driven naval ships of the British navy and helped signal the decline of the true naval sailing ship
ISLAND AND COAST PROTECTORS OF
THE SOUTH PACIFIC.
HMS ‘SIRIUS’ Wood ship that was used as the flagship of the first convict fleet to Australia in 1788. [See First Fleet Register]
HMS ‘HYAENA’ Wood Frigate that was used as escort to the First Fleet while the eleven vessels were on the run down channel. She broke away and left the Fleet to its own devices once they had cleared land.
HMS ‘NELSON’ Built 1814. Wood battle frigate that was designated 120 guns and was a first rate ship of the line. She was larger and carried twelve more guns than HMS ‘Victory’, the flagship of the Admiral after whom the ‘Nelson’ was named. The ‘Nelson’ was transferred to the Victorian Navy about 1868 and was known as the HMVNS ‘Nelson’ She was then cut down from a three deck ship to a two-decker and she also had her gun numbers reduced. She spent many years in the role of coastal protector and even made visits to New Guinea and some of the South Pacific islands. She was finally broken up in Hobart, Tasmania in 1929.
HMS ‘BASILISK’ Wood Frigate of the English navy that was used as a coastal protector and as a deterrent to the Blackbirder trades. It was this naval vessel that found the drifting 25 Ton schooner ‘Peri’ that had been recruiting natives at Malaita in the Solomons when an uprising by the natives ended the lives of all the white crew while the vessel was at sea. This left the natives with one big problem; no one knew how to navigate the little vessel.
Although it was ‘Taboo’ to eat humans in many of the Solomon islands, the natives aboard the ‘Peri’ were forced through hunger to do just that, they began by killing the women and devouring them one by one until all of them were gone. They then proceeded to kill young and the weaker men while they drifted around the Pacific. After two months, they arrived off the coast of Queensland near Townsville at which point, HMS ‘Basilisk’ found them. Only thirteen of the original eighty persons, who were aboard when they left Malaita, were still alive when they were found on the 5th of February 1872.
HMS ‘CONFLICT’ Wood 120 Ton Sloop of the English navy that was used in keeping the Blackbirder trade under control. She was called to the scene of the murder of an Englishman named William Easterbrook at Tanna Island in 1877. Two other warships arrived, the HMS ‘Beagle’ and HMS ‘Renard’, they called on the Tannese to surrender the murderer which they accepted would happen on the following day. The killer was a man named Yumanga and he did not wish to be hanged for killing the white man so he decided to resist. The British sailors were sent to arrest him and after some running battles in which eight Tannese were killed; they were only able to return with the murderer's brother. As this man had also been on the scene when the murder took place, he was duly tried and hanged from the yard arm and as everyone was now satisfied, the little gunboats left the area. A footnote to this story is that Yumanga was soon after, recruited to Queensland and never did get tried for killing the trader.
HMS ‘FORTITUDE’ Wood ship of approx. 600 Tons. She brought settlers to Brisbane; Queensland in 1849.So close was the association of this ship with Brisbane that the suburb of Fortitude Valley was named after her.
HMS ‘ROYALIST’ Wood ship of the English navy that was used in the South Pacific during the late 1800’s. She was a very good looking and well-presented ship.
HMS’ CONWAY’ ex HMS ‘NILE’ Wood ship of the English navy. She paid a visit to Australian waters during the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.She was used extensively as a training ship.
‘S.S.’ALERT’ Steel twin screw Oiler of 941 Tons. Length; 196.7 ft, Breadth; 31.4 ft, Depth; 20.1 ft. Built by Swan, Hunter and Wigham Richardson at Newcastle Northumberland for the Post Master General. She was a clipper bowed ship that was well used during the Second World War. She was lost with all hands in 1945. Reg. England as a Cable Vessel. G.R.V.B Engine; 106 Nhp. [General government carrier and Cable layer]
HMS ‘FANTOME’ British warship that was transferred to the Australian squadron to serve in the South Pacific in the 1860’s. She was a 1070-Ton wood sloop and was paid off in the 1920’s in New Zealand. [Coastal Protector]
HMS ‘BEAGLE’ Wood brig of 242 Tons. Length: 100 ft. Breadth: approx. 25 ft. Depth: approx. 17 ft. She was famous for her voyage with Charles Darwin on which, she took him to the Galapagos Islands
HMS ‘BEAGLE’ Wood 120 Ton Sloop that was built between 1873 and 1877 along with four others, the ‘Alacrity’ the Conflict’, the ‘Renard’ and the ‘Sandfly’. They were built in Sydney for the Admiralty and were all fast little schooners with plenty of fire and manpower. They carried a Lieutenant, a Sub-lieutenant and thirty sailors. These vessel were designated the Anti-kidnapping squadron but even they were unable to maintain the law in the region for money speaks louder than any other language.
HMS ‘CORMORANT’ Wood ship of the British navy. Maser: Captain Bruce. She was ordered to Mandoliana Island in the Florida group where the 50 Ton Schooner HMS ‘Sandfly’ had lost her Lieutenant and three of her sailors to Head hunters. Lieutenant Bowers and four of his men had gone ashore to bathe and were enjoying themselves when they were surprised by a war party. Three of the bathers were killed in the first attack and both Bowers and a seaman escaped separately into the Jungle. The Lieutenant hid in the hollow trunk of a tree but was found dragged out and had his head taken.
Captain Bruce aimed to get the matter resolved quickly and sent out a proclamation: ‘In consequence of an English officer and boat crew being murdered by Florida men. The Queen of England declares war on all the tribes of the Florida’s, unless the actual murderers are given up within fourteen days’. The missionaries convinced the tribes to hand over four of the five guilty killers. Only the son of the chief, who had been out to get his first head to make his father proud, was not given up. The others were hung and the matter was considered resolved.
HMS ‘CURACAO’ Wood Steam Frigate that was commanded by Commodore Sir William Wiseman who was commander of the Australian Station in 1865. Captain Jenkin Jones later commanded her.
HMVS ‘CERBERUS’ Built 1870. Iron ship of 2107 Tons. Length: 225 ft. Breadth: 45 ft. Depth: 16 ft 6. Engines: Dual Maulsday, Son and Field horizontal 2 cylinder double action steam engines. Bore 43 inches. Boilers: Four. Twin screws 250 Nhp.
Guns: 4 muzzle loading 10 inch Armstrong guns. Range: Four miles. Charge; 60 Lbs. Shot: 400 Lbs. Gun weight: 18 Tons.
Secondary Armament: 4 Nordenfeld 1-inch machine guns.
2 six pounder cannon.
She was to enjoy a 53-year career before being scuttled at Black Rock, Victoria on the 2nd of September 1926.
HMS ‘DART’ Wood ship that was sent to Malaita island in 1883, to take revenge on the villages of the east coast of Malaita for an attack on the vessel ‘Janet Stewart’. The reprisals were extremely severe and many villages were burned.
HMS ‘FALCON’ Wood ship that was sent to the New Hebrides during her period of service in the South Pacific. Master: Captain William Blake.
HMS ‘MIRANDA’ Wood ship that was sent to the South Pacific on a tour of duty. She went to Oba Island when a feud between the natives and resident traders broke out. The ‘Miranda’ sent a party of seamen overland to burn villages in retribution for the killing of nine men from the blackbirder, ‘May Queen’.
HMS ‘OPAL’ Wood vessel that was also involved as a protector of native interests and upholder of the peace in the South Pacific in 1884.
HMS ‘PEGASUS’ Wood ship of the British navy that went in a combined operation against the Malkulan islanders in 1905. The Malekulans decided to rid themselves of all white men and proceeded to kill and eat the whites that had made their home on Malekula. For this the British sent ‘Pegasus’ with he French ship ‘Meurthe’. The operation was a failure and the natives taunted the seamen who were unable to catch them.
HMS ‘RATTLESNAKE’ Wood vessel of app 200 Tons that was used in survey and exploration of the northern waters of Australia and New Guinea. Captain Owen Stanley who was at sea for over 20 years commanded her. He took ill on his last voyage in her in 1849 when her men brought Barbara Crawford Thompson aboard at Cape York. She had been trapped on Prince of Wales Island for almost five years.
Owen Stanley suffered a stroke at the beginning of the return journey to Sydney and this was sufficient to lay him low until ‘Rattlesnake’ was almost into Sydney Harbour. Captain Owen Stanley raised himself from his sick bed and managed to bring his ship through the heads. Stanley died at 8am on Wednesday the 13th of March 1850. He had been already informed of the death of his brother on the 13th of August 1849 and of the death of his father, the Reverend Sir John Thomas Stanley who died on the 6th of September 1849. All three died within months of each other.
HMS ‘RENARD’ Wood sloop of 120 Tons. She was built in Sydney for the British Navy. The Admiralty arranged for five small Schooners to be built so that they would have a fast and efficient fleet that could negotiate the reefs and islets much faster than the larger frigates. She carried a crew of 30.
HMS ‘SANDFLY’ Wood sloop of 120 Tons. She was one of the fleet of schooners that were built in Sydney for the Admiralty. She carried a crew of 30 men with a Lieutenant commanding.
HMS ‘SWINGER’ Wood ship that was used during the blackbirding years. She was active around New Guinea during the middle 1880’s
HMS ‘WOLVERINE’ Wood ship that was in the Australian Squadron 1873-76. Commodore John Wilson commanded her. She was sent to investigate the murder of John Renton and some of his crew from the ‘Mystery’. The capture of the killer brought reprisals from the local natives on Oba Island and many whites were killed before the feud was settled.
HMS ‘ALECTO’ Wood paddle steamer that was used in an experiment to decide the better between paddlewheel and screw operated steamers. The HMS ‘Rattler was fitted with screw propulsion and the two vessels were pitted against one another in an even duel over three races. The screw propulsion won the day easily but supporters of the paddlewheeler stated that the screw driven vessel would not be able to tow as well as the paddlewheeler. This prompted a new situation in which the two vessels were harnessed together and pulled away in opposite directions. No one vessel seemed to be winning until eventually the screw steamer again won the day by towing the paddlewheeler backward over a marked distance. [British naval vessel]
‘HMVNS ‘VICTORIA’ Wood ship that was brought into the Victorian [state] navy in 1873. She was previously of the British navy. [Coastal Protector]
HMS ‘SUPPLY’ Built c1760. Wood Brig or Snow of 170 Tons. Length; approx. 80 ft. Breadth; approx. 24 ft. Depth; approx. 14 ft. [see First Fleet Register]
HMS ‘TORTOISE’ Wood Frigate of approximately 700 Tons. [See Convict Ships Register]
HMS ‘COROMANDEL’ Wood Frigate of approximately 500 Tons. [See Convict Ships Register]
HMS ‘ANSON’ Wood Frigate of approximately 800 Tons. [See Convict Ships Register]
HMS ‘BUFFALO’ Wood Frigate of approximately 450 Tons. Master: John Hindmarsh. She was used in varied occupations during her life and was constructive in delivering the first settlers to South Australia. [See also; Convict Ships Register]
‘GAYUNDAH’ Built c1870. Iron gunboat of app 150 Tons. Length; app 120 ft. Breadth; app 18 ft. Depth; app 12 ft. Queensland's naval gunboat of the latter quarter of the 19th century. Sister ship to the ‘Paluma’. She was to see many changes in her time and was involved in a ruckus when her first captain decided that he did not like the Queensland Government telling him what to do. He threatened to blow the roof off Parliament house if he could not have his unlimited expenses to fund his high life and carousing. This was something that he must have felt befitted his rank. For a while, things were tense as he positioned the ‘Gayundah’ near Parliament house. After some hasty negotiations, the captain [in a frustrated mood] sailed ‘Gayundah’ to Sydney where he was promptly decommissioned and his ship returned to its primary duties in Queensland. [Coastal Protector]
SS ‘PALUMA’ Built c1875. Iron Gunboat and sistership to the ‘Gayundah’, she was almost lost during the 1893 flooding of the Brisbane River when she was washed ashore with several other vessels. [Coastal Protector]
‘SS ‘CHILDERS’ Built 1883. Steam driven torpedo boat that was rigged as a tall ship for its maiden voyage to Australia. She proved very hard to handle and deemed unsafe by the time she got to Gibraltar. She was towed from Gibraltar to Australia to begin her career. [Torpedo Boat]
HMAS ‘SYDNEY’1914. This ship fought a famous battle with the German raider ‘Emden’ in 1914. The Australian vessel forced the master of ‘Emden’ to run his ship ashore after terrible damage was sustained. The German marines that had been sent ashore to take the wireless station on the Cocos Islands made an incredible escape back to Germany when they commandeered the vessel ‘Ayesha’ from the Clunies-Ross family. They sailed to Sumatra where they waited for seven months before boarding a Chinese steamer on which vessel, [The ‘Choising’] they made it back to Germany.
‘EMDEN’ German raider that was really a well armed light cruiser that disguised itself as a merchant ship. She captured and sank many cargo vessels before biting off more than she could chew when she went in to battle with HMAS ‘Sydney’ in 1914.
HMAS ‘SYDNEY’ 1941. Battle cruiser that became involved in a fight with the German raider ‘Kormorant’ during the early days of World War Two. The German vessel was destroyed but the ‘Sydney’ sustained mortal wounds and sailed off into mystery. She disappeared with all hands after the fight and it is believed that a massive explosion in her magazines blew her to pieces. She has been re-discovered off the West Australian coast c2009.
‘KORMORANT’ German raider of the Second World War, like her sister, ‘Emden’, She went into battle with the Australian warship, HMAS ‘Sydney’. This was a new and faster HMAS ‘Sydney’ and the two vessels were evenly matched in armament. The Australian vessel was destroyed along with the ‘Kormorant’. Kormorant has also been discovered lying not far from her nemesis
AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND
Charting the Nations.
It is well known that European sailors had already visited Australia and New Zealand long before Captain James Cook arrived on the scene. Many maps had already been drawn showing the existence of a great southern continent.
When Captain Cook and other European ships made inroads toward finding the great continent, they did so, using maps that already gave them a very good idea of the size and scope of Australia. In fact the early mapmakers believed fervently, that the great southern continent rivaled Europe in size.
Cartographers had already mapped the Northern Hemisphere by the time Marco Polo began his voyages to Cathay via the Straits of Malachi. His descriptions of the southern islands seem to be more relevant to Indonesia than to anything further south for he talks of elephants and of people speaking a Persian language.
His description seemed to be based more on hearsay than on fact, as he did not venture southward from the China Seas. When Magellan visited the Pacific Ocean in 1520, he invariably opened the way for voyages of discovery by many of the seafaring nations of Europe; all were seeking financial reward and strategic prominence in the Southern Hemisphere.
Captain Alvaro de Mendana de Niera [Captain Mendana] of Spain discovered the Solomon islands in 1568 and then the Santa Cruz group almost thirty years later in 1595. His pilot for that voyage was a young man named Pedro Fernandez de Quiros and he discovered the New Hebrides in 1606. He thought that he had found the great southern continent that was much talked about at the time and he named that part of the New Hebrides, Austrialia del Espiritu Santo after his Austrian king who ruled Spain. This he believed, was the outer section of the Southland, in fact, part of the name stuck and Australia had its identity.
Quiros had Torres as his pilot for that voyage and a few months later, Torres himself discovered the straits above Australia. If the Spanish king had kept his seamen at work in the south, Australia surely would have been Spanish owned.
The Dutch too, were almost owners of the vast expanse of land that lay quietly waiting. They mapped the West Coast, part of the south coast and even some of western side of Cape York in the northeast. They discovered Tasmania and even touched on Staten Land, which eventually became New Zealand. For some reason, the Dutch did not want the southern continent and it was left to the British to secure and chart the last unknown part of the Australian coast, the east.
Only the French were to give England any competition in the race for the great Southland. The French captain Bougainville, arrived at the Great Barrier Reef in 1768 but did not try to get past it to the mainland which he probably saw and recognized as a continent.
The English Admiralty gave Captain James Cook a mission in 1768, he was told to arrange a voyage to the South Pacific to observe the transit of the planet Venus. They also gave him instructions to discover and chart the eastern side of the southern continent. Cook took with him, the Astronomer Green, Naturalist Solander and the Botanist Joseph Banks along with a ships complement of over ninety men.
From that point onward, the British held sway in the South Pacific and Cook, Matthew Flinders, George Bass and others made great discoveries. The settlement of the southern lands now became the only problem the British had to face and in only twenty years, the first settlement would be laid out at Sydney Cove.