On HMS Trincomalee

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Colombo, November 21: HMS Trincomalee:  Built in 1817 shortly after the end of the Napoleonic Wars.  and the oldest Royal Navy ship afloat (HMS Victory although 52 years older is in a dry dock). 

 She is now restored at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Hartlepool UK. 

Restored in the 90’s and early 00’s to her original configuration.  Trincomalee is one of two surviving British frigates of her era—her near-sister HMS Unicorn (of the modified Leda class) is now a museum ship in Dundee. After being ordered on 30 October 1812, Trincomalee was built in Bombay, India, by the Wadia family of shipwrights in teak, due to oak shortages in Britain as a result of shipbuilding drives for the Napoleonic Wars. The ship was named Trincomalee after the 1782 Battle of Trincomalee off the Ceylon (Sri Lanka) port of that name.   ( The Battle of Trincomalee was fought between a British fleet under Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hughes and a French fleet under the Bailli de Suffren off the coast of Trincomalee, then Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka), on 3 September 1782. It was the fourth in a series of battles fought between the two fleets off the coast of the Indian subcontinent during the American Revolutionary War.   On 21 August 1782, Ilustre and Saint-Michel arrived there, making their junction with Suffren’s squadron. They were escorting 8 transports and preceded by the corvette Fortune, under Lusignan.  The next day, after ammunition and supplies were distributed among Suffren’s ships, they sailed for Trincomalee, where they anchored the same evening.    On 25 August, after studying the defenses, Suffren landed 2,400 men east of the main fortifications. Gun batteries were set up the next day, which then bombarded the fort for three days, until the wall was breached. Captain MacDowall, the British commander, was summoned to surrender on 30 August. After negotiations, the fort’s garrison surrendered on condition that the French transport it to Madras and allow it to continue service in the war.  Suffren sailed from Trincomalee on 30 September, arriving at Cuddalore on 4 October. Eleven days later, he sailed for winter quarters in Achin, where he arrived on 7 November.

Hughes, who did not want to remain in the exposed anchorage of Madras during the monsoon season, sailed for Bombay. His whole fleet suffered through the early days of the monsoon, and some ships took two months to arrive there.

French troops entered Trincomalee on 1 September. The next day, Hughes’s fleet was spotted approaching the port.

Work on the Trincomalee began in May 1816. Ceremonially an engraved silver nail was hammered into the ship’s keel by the master shipbuilder Jamsetjee Bomanjee Wadia, this being considered vital for the ship’s well-being, according to Parsi Zoroastrian tradition.

With a construction cost of £23,000 (approximately £2,015,000 in 2020), Trincomalee was launched on 12 October 1817. Commander Philip Henry Bridges sailed her to Portsmouth Dockyard, where she arrived on 30 April 1819, with a journey costing £6,600. During the maiden voyage the ship arrived at Saint Helena on 24 January 1819, where she stayed for 6 days, leaving with an additional passenger, a surgeon who had attended Napoleon at Longwood House on the island, Mr John Stokoe.

After being fitted out at a further cost of £2,400, Trincomalee was placed in reserve until 1845, when she was re-armed with fewer guns giving greater firepower, had her stern reshaped and was reclassified as a sixth-rate spar-decked corvette. Trincomalee departed from Portsmouth in 1847 and remained in service for ten years, serving on the North American and West Indies station. During her time, she was to help quell riots in Haiti and stop a threatened invasion of Cuba, and serve on anti-slavery patrol. In 1849, she was despatched to Newfoundland and Labrador before being recalled to Britain in 1850. In 1852 she sailed to join the Pacific Squadron on the west coast of America – Trincomalee finished her Royal Navy service as a training ship, but was placed in reserve again in 1895 and sold for scrap two years later on 19 May 1897. She was then purchased by entrepreneur George Wheatley Cobb, restored, and renamed Foudroyant in honour of HMS Foudroyant, his earlier ship that had been wrecked in 1897.

She was used in conjunction with HMS Implacable as an accommodation ship, a training ship, and a holiday ship based in Falmouth then Portsmouth. She remained in service until 1986, after which she was again restored and renamed back to Trincomalee in 1992.

Now listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, following her recent restoration Trincomalee has become the centrepiece of the National Museum of the Royal Navy based in Hartlepool.

Trincomalee holds the distinction of being the oldest British warship still afloat as HMS Victory, although 52 years her senior, is in dry dock. Reference from Royal Navy Museum


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Source: NewsAsia