Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 20 October ……….

1778  Jupiter and Medea fought the French Triton off Cape Vilano, Spain.

1779  Charon, Lowestoft, Pomona, Porcupine, Racehorse, with the Loyal Irish Volunteers, captured San Fernando de Omoa and two Spanish privateers.

1779  Proserpine captured the French Alcmene 80 miles E. of Martinique.

1782  Adm Viscount Howe (Victory) fought the Franco-Spanish Fleet 45 miles W. by S. of Cape Spartel. Ships: (van) Goliath, Ganges, Royal William, Britannia, Atlas, Ruby, Panther, Foudroyant, Edgar, Polyphemus, Suffolk, Vigilant: (centre) Courageux, Crown, Alexander, Sampson, Princess Royal, Victory, Blenheim, Asia, Egmont, Queen, Bellona; (rear) Raisonnable, Fortitude, Princess Amelia, Berwick, Bienfaisant, Dublin, Cambridge, Ocean, Union, Buffalo, Vengeance.

1793  Crescent captured the French Réunion 4 miles E. by N. of Cherbourg. Capt James Saumarez knighted.

1798  Fisgard captured the French Immortalité. 60 miles W. by N. of Ushant.

1806  Athenienne (64), ex-French L’Athenienne, wrecked on Esqueriques (‘Skerki’) Banks off Cape Bon. Capt Robert Raynsford and 396 men lost.

1827  The battle of Navarino, the last fleet action under sail. Vice-Adm Sir Edward Codrington, a Trafalgar veteran, commanding a combined fleet of British, French and Russian ships, destroyed a Turco-Egyptian Fleet in Navarino Bay which was intent on restoring Turkish hegemony over Greece. Ships: Asia (flag), Albion, Genoa, Brisk, Cambrian, Dartmouth, Glasgow, Mosquito, Philomel, Rose, Talbot, Hind.

The battle was referred to in the King’s Speech at the Opening of Parliament on 29 January 1828 as ‘this untoward event’. Codrington had won a ‘diplomatically inexpedient victory’ (Woodhouse), which led to his being recalled. He handed over to Sir Pulteney Malcolm on 22 August at Malta.


The battle of Navarino, 1827. (RNM 1984/499)

1849  Columbine, Fury, Phlegethon (Ben. Mar.), with a pary from Hastings, destroyed fifty-eight pirate junks in the Kua Kam, Indo-China.

857  Second party of Shannon’s Naval Brigade arrived at Allahabad.

1914  Glitra, first British merchant ship to be sunk by a German submarine, torpedoed by U-17 14 miles W.S.W. of Skudenaes. Until then the submarine had been regarded as an anti-warship weapon.

1918  Belgian coast completely recaptured by Allied forces. Coastal monitor M 21 sunk by mine off Ostend.

1927  Submarine L 4 rescued SS Irene  from pirates off Honk Kong.

1939  AMC Transylvania captured the German Bianca in Denmark Strait (67-29N, 22-15W).

1940  Three Force H destroyers, Hotspur, Gallant and Griffin, attacked the Italian submarine Lafole E. of Gibraltar. After a long and persistent hunt she was rammed and sunk by Hotspur, Cdr H.F.H. Layman: bar to DSO. Ship’s company enjoyed extended run ashore in Gibraltar while ship’s bows repaired.

Cdr Layman’s first DSO was for Narvik. His son, Kit (later rear-admiral0, commanded Argonaut in Falklands War: DSO.

1941  Light cruisers Ajax, Galatea and Hobart (RAN) bombarded batteries E. of Tobruk.

1942  Liberator H/224 sank U-216 in Bay of Biscay 948-21N, 19-25W). Aircraft crashed on landing due to damage incurred by explosion of depth charges.

1943  Light cruiser Aurora and Miaoulis (Greek) bombarded Rhodes.

1988  Fawn fired on by Guatemalan gunboats while surveying in Gulf of Honduras.

1997  HMY Britannia sailed from Portsmouth on her last cruise, a clockwise circumnavigation visiting seven UK ports.

Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 19 October ……….

1739  Great Britain declared war on Spain – the War of Jenkins’ Ear. The three principal naval actions, all official battle honours, were Porto Bello 22 November 1739, Finisterre 3 May 1747 and Ushant 14 October 1747.

1781  Gen Lord Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, cornered by Washington and blockaded by de Grasse who had evaded Graves.

1797  Anson and Boadicea captured the French privateer Zephyr 45 miles S.W. by W. of Belle Ile.

1799  Stag captured the French letter of marque Heureux 130 miles W. by S. of Cordouan lighthouse.

1799  Cerberus fought five Spanish frigates and two brigs, escorting a large convoy, 40 miles N.N.E. of Cape Penas.

1818  Unsuccessful experiments to defeat the weevil by adding caraway seed to biscuit: the weevils simply ignored the seeds.

1831  Gold-laced trousers restored for all officers.

1903  First drill night in London Division RNVR.

1917  AMC Orama sunk by U-62 S. of Ireland.

1918  Zeebrugge and Bruges retaken by Allied forces.

1918  Plumpton mined off Ostend.

1939  AMC Scotstoun captured the German tanker Biscaya off Reykjavik (66-03N, 23-00W).

1939  Supply of Dentures to Serving Ratings. ‘An initial supply of dentures at the public expense is allowable to serving ratings of all branches, including recruits and Royal Marine ranks, provided

1a. The supply is essential to render the man dentally fit for general service . . .

1b. The need for the supply had not arisen through the man’s imprudence or fault.’ AFO 3074/39.

1940  Venetia sunk by mine off the East Knob in Thames estuary (51-33N, 01-10E).

1941  Corvette Mallow and sloop Rochester sank U-204 in Strait of Gibraltar.

1942  P 37 (Unbending) sank the Italian destroyer Giovanni da Verazzano S. of Pantelleria (35-52N, 12-02E).

1944  Termagant and Tuscan drove ashore and destroyed the German TA-18 (ex-Italian TB Solferino) off Skiathos 937-45N, 26-59E).


HMS Termagant, a T-class destroyer, 1946. (RNM W&L 795A)

1944  Continuation of attacks on Nicobar and on Nancowry.

Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 18 October ……….

1652  First recorded dockyard strike when no pay was available on pay day.

1746  Severn, escorting a convoy, taken by the French Terrible 450 miles W.S.W. of Ushant. The convoy, with Woolwich, escaped.

1760  Boreas captured the French SireneLively captured Valeur, Hampshire drove ashore Prince Edouard and Fleur-de-Lys (burned by own crews) off Tortuga.

1798  Anson (44) and Kangaroo (18) captured the French Loire (44) S.W. of Ireland.

1799  An exuberant master, having helped bring a convoy from Lisbon and impatient to get into Spithead, put the allegedly Impregnable (98) on to the Chichester Shoals. During the night she moved nearly 2 miles over them, and bilged; the master disissed and the wreck sold.

1806  Caroline captured the Dutch Zeerob between Middleburg and Amsterdam Islands, and Maria Reygersbergen in Batavia Roads. The Dutch Phoenix, three corvettes and eight merchant vessels ran themselves ashore.

1812  Brig sloop Frolic (18), damaged in a gale off US east coast while escorting a convoy, boarded and taken by the also-gale-damaged American ship sloop Wasp (18), after a desperate gunnery duel. Within hours the RN two-decker Poictiers (74) arrived and took both sloops.

1854  Boats of Spartan recaptured the cargo of the wrecked barque Caldera to the southward of Macao. Also destroyed twenty junks, three villages and a battery at Sam Hoi Chuk.

1854  VC: Capt William Peel and Mid Edward St John Daniel (Diamond). Batteries before Sevastopol.

1909  Warrant rank opened to writers, cooks and stewards.

1914  First bombardment of Ostend, which continued until the 21st. Ships: Attentive, Foresight, Humber, Mersey, Severn, Amazon, Mohawk, Nubian.

1914  E-3 sunk by U-27 off the Ems (first RN submarine sunk in action).

1921  US Congress signed a separate peace treaty with Germany, formally ending American hostilities in the First World War. Having refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles, the USA had continued to be legally at war with Germany two years longer than Britain, France, Italy and Japan.

1924  Adm Sir Percy Scott died.


Capt Percy Scott (1853-1924). (RNM)

1940  Seven U-boats attacked convoy SC 7 and sank seventeen of thirty-four ships. Six attacked convoy HX 79 and sank fourteen of forty-nine.

1940  Submarine H 49 sunk by UJ-116 and UJ-118 off the Texel.

1940  Destroyers Firedrake, Wrestler and London flying-boats of 202 Sqn sank the Italian S/M Durbo E. of Gibraltar.

1941  Broadwater, ex-US destroyer Mason, sunk by U-101 in N. Atlantic (57-01N, 19-08W) escorting convoy SC 48. Memorial to four officers and forty en lost is in St Mary’s Church, Broadwater, West Sussex. They include Lt John Stanley Parker, RNVR, of Boston, Massachusetts, one of the first of his countrymen to become a sea officer in the Royal Navy.

1944  Geelong (RAN) sunk in collision with the US tanker York off New Guinea (06-04S, 147-50E).

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Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 17 October ……….

1781  Admiral of the Fleet Lord Hawke died. ‘Lord Hawke is dead and does not seem to have bequeathed his mantle to anybody’ – Horace Walpole.

1782  London and Torbay fought the French Scipion and Sibylle in Samana Bay, San Domingo. Scipion wrecked. Badger in company though not engaged.

1798  Mermaid fought the French Loire off the south-east coast of Ireland.

1799  Alcmene, Naiad, Ethalion and Triton captured the Spanish Brigida and Thetis in the entrance to Muros Bay.

1804  Cruizer captured the French privateer Contre-Amiral Magon after a chase of 97 miles that had started with their engagement off Ostend on the previous day. Prize money varied from £40,000 for the Captain to £182 for a seaman.

1854  First bombardment of Sevastopol by the Allied Fleet under Vice-Adm Dundas. Ships: Terrible, Albion, Arethusa, Sampson, London, Sans Pareil, Agamemnon, Sphinx, Tribune, Lynx, Queen, Bellerophon, Rodney, Vengeance, Trafalgar, Britannia. Towing or lashed alongside larger vessels: Firebrand, Niger, Triton, Vesuvius, Furious, Retribution, Highflyer, Spitfire, Spiteful, Cyclops. French: Napoléon, Henri Quatre, Valmy, Ville de Paris, Jupiter, Friedland, Marengo, Montebello, Suffren, Jean Bart, Charlemagne. Turkish: Mahmudich.

1855  Bombardment and reduction of the Kinburn forts by British and French fleets. Ships: Royal Albert, Algiers, Agamemnon, Princess Royal, St Jean D’Acre, Curacao, Tribune, Sphinx, Hannibal, Dauntless, Terrible, Odin, Spitfire, Valorous, Furious,Sidon, Leopard, Gladiator, Firebrand, Stromboli, Spiteful. Mortar vessels: Raven, Magnet, Camel, Hardy, Flamer, Firm. Gun vessels: Lynx, Arrow, Viper, Snake, Wrangler, Beagle. Gunboats: Boxer, Clicker, Cracker, Fancy, Grinder. French: Montebello, Asmodée, Cacique, Sane. Floating batteries: Devastation, Lave, Tonnante (first armoured ships in action).


The wooden paddle frigate Terrible, heavily armed, principally with 56- and 68-pounders, 1854. (RNM 1968/49)

The Screw

The superiority of the screw over the paddle was proved in May 1845 when the steam sloop Rattler, screw-driven, competed with the paddle-sloop Alecto of similar power and size. Rattler won the race easily, and when the two vessels were connected stern to stern and attempted to out-tow each other Rattler after some time was able to pull the Alecto astern at 2.5 knots. Despite this demonstration the early steam warships with screw propulsion remained essentially sailing sips with auxiliary engines. Funnels were telescoped and propellers hoisted up out of the water when under sail. In 1848, the RN commissioned its first screw ship of the line was launched in 1850, a 91-gun three-decker, the Agamemnon. She proved her worth, being one of two vessels able to bombard Sevastopol effectively, because of their ability to manoeuvre regardless of the wind.

1884  Sick Berth Branch formed by Order in Council.

1914  Undaunted, Lance, Lennox, Legion and Loyal sank the German destroyers T-119, T-115, T-117 and T-118 in the Broad Fourteens, 40 miles S.W. of the Texel.

1917  Strongbow and Mary Rose, escorting a Scandavian convoy, sunk by the German light cruisers Bremse and Brummer in Norwegian Sea (60-06N, 01-06E).

1918  Ostend retaken by Allied forces.

1939  Old battleship Iron Duke bombed in Scapa Flow. Grounded but remained in commission.

1940  GC: Sub-Lt Jack Maynard Cholmondeley Easton, RNVR, and OS Bennett Southwell, for bomb and mine disposal (the latter posthumously).

1943  Liberators D/59 and H/120 sank U-540 in N. Atlantic (58-38N, 31-56W). Convoy ON 206.

1943  Destroyers Jervis and Penn sank UJ-2109 (ex-minesweeper HMS Widnes) in Kalymnos harbour.

1943  Frigate Byard sank U-841 in N. Atlantic, off Cape Farewell. Convoy ONS 20.

1944  Bombardment and air-strike by Force 63 on Nicobar. Operation Millet. Ships: Renown (Vice-Adm Sir Arthur Power), Indomitable (Rear-Adm H.T.C. Walker, CS 5), Cumberland, Phoebe, Suffolk, nine destroyers, including Norman and Van Galen (Neth). FAA Sqns: Barracuda: 815, 817: Hellcat: 1839, 1844: Corsair: 1834, 1836.

1948  GC (ex-AM): A.R. Lowe, Boy, for saving another member of crew of liberty boat capsized in gale at Portland.

1998  Osprey, RNAS Portland, closed.

Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 16 October ……….

1759  Eddystone Light first lit.

1778  Capture of Pondicherry by Maj-Gen Hector Munro after a close blockade by Cdre Sir Edward Vernon (Ripon). Ships: Ripon, Coventry, Seahorse, Cormorant, Valentine (Hon. East India Company).

1798  Kangaroo (18) fought the French Loire (44) off Blacksod Bay, Ireland.

1815  Bonaparte landed on St Helena.

1913  Queen Elizabeth launched at Portsmouth. With Barham (John Browns 1914), Malaya (Armstrongs 1915), Valiant (Fairfield 1914) and Warspite (Devonport 1913), the first British battleships to mount 15in guns and the first big ships to be completely oil-fired.


HMS Queen Elizabeth (1913) with observation balloon. (RNM)

1918  Submarine L 12 torpedoed and sank UB-90 in Skagerrak.

1939  GC (ex-EGM): Cdr Richard Frank Jolly (Mohawk). Posthumous.

1940  Dundalk mined off Harwich (51-57N, 01-27E). Sank in tow of Sutton next day.

1940  Monitor Erebus, with three destroyers, bombarded Dunkirk.

1940  Eleven Swordfish and three Skua aircraft of 816 and 801 Sqns (Furious) bombed the oil tanks and seaplane base at Tromso. Operation Dhu.

1941  Gladiolus torpedoed and sunk, probably by U-588, in 57N, 25W while escorting convoy SC 48 in W. Approaches.

1942  Destroyer Fame sank U-353 in W. Approaches (53-54N, 29-30W). Convoy SC 104. Submarine boarded but she sank too fast for any intelligence-gathering.

1943  Liberators S/59 and L/86 sank U-844. Liberators C/59, E/120 and Z/120 sank U-470 and Sunflower sank U-631 in N. Atlantic. Convoy ON 206.

1943  Liberator Y/86 sank U-964 in N. Atlantic. Convoy ONS 20.

1943  Bisley aircraft E and H/244 sank U-533 in Gulf of Oman.

1944  Frigate Annan (RCN) sank U-1006 off the Faroes.

1970  Central Drafting Depot transferred from Haslemere to Grange Road, Gosport, commissioned as Centurion.

1998  Statue of Capt Frederick John Walker, RN, unveiled at Liverpool Pier Head by HRH the Duke of Edinburgh. It was dedicated to Walker’s memory and that of the men of the 36th Escort Group and 2nd Support Group, and all who fought in the battle of the Atlantic. Admiral of the Fleet Lord Lewin had accepted a suggestion by a local Reservist and saw to its execution by Vice-Adm Michael Gretton, son of another distinguished escort group commander, Vice-Adm Sir Peter Gretton.

Royal Navy ………… On This Day …………15 October ……….

1711  Edgar (70) blew up at Spithead, killing most of her people.

1795  Pomone captured the French Eveille off Ile d’Yeu.

1799  Ethalion (38) captured the Spanish Thetis (34) off Cape Finisterre.

1799  Boats of Echo cut out a Spanish brig in the forenoon and a French one in the afternoon in Aguadilla Bay, Puerto Rico.

1805  Fulton’s experiment with Dorothea at Walmer.

1864  Royal Alfred launched at Portsmouth Dockyard. The last timber-hulled capital ship built at Portsmouth.

1909  Admiralty’s part of Dover harbour opened by the Prince of Wales.

1914  Cruiser Hawke sunk by U-9 60 miles E. of Kinniard Head, Aberdeen.

1918  J 6 accidentally sunk by Cymric Q-ship off Blyth. Only seven J-class submarines were built and all operated from Blyth on th Northumbrian coast. J 6 was their only loss. Their unusual silhouettes, and the unfortunate similarity of ‘J’ to ‘U’, led to confused identification, fatal in this case. It was attributed to the hazards of war by a Board of Inquiry next day, at the end of which the survivors paid the Captain of Cymric the compliment of rising and saluting on his acquittal.

1940  Submarine Triad, patrolling on the surface at night in the Gulf of Taranto, sunk after a furious gun and torpedo action with the Italian submarine Enrico Toti. Triad was the only British submarine to be sunk by an Italian submarine, the only one known to have been sunk by another in a surface action and the first of 13 T-class boats lost in the Mediterranean. The Captain of Triad was Lt-Cdr George Salt, father of Rear-Adm J.F.T.G. ‘Sam’ Salt, also a submariner, who commanded the destroyer Sheffield in the Falklands War in 1982.

1941  Submarine Torbay bombarded Apollonia.

1942  Viscount depth-charged, fired at and rammed U-661, sinking her in 53-42N, 33-36W on her first patrol, S.S.E. of Cape Farewell. Convoy SC 104.

1943  Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham succeeded Admiral of the Fleet Sir Dudley Pound as First Sea Lord. Churchill had offered the post to Adm Sir Bruce Fraser, C-in-C Home Fleet, who declined. ‘I believe I have the confidence of my own fleet,’ he said. ‘Cunningham has that of the whole Navy.’

1944  Reoccupation of Athens by force under Rear-Adm J.M. Mansfield (15th CS). Operation Manna. Ships: Ajax, Aurora, Black Prince, Orion, Sirius, LSI(M): Prince David, Prince Henry. LST: Bryuser, Thruster.

1958  Eagle, Sheffield, Albion and Bulwark in emergency operations off Lebanon and Jordan.


HMS Eagle in the early 1950s with the Attacker, Skyraider AEW and Firefly aircraft ranged on the flight deck. (RNM)

1965  Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Oliver died, aged 101. He had apologised to Adm Sir David Luce, the First Sea Lord, who had called to offer the Board’s congratulations on his centenary, for not receiving him in uniform.

1993  Commandant Anne Spencer, the last Director, Women’s Royal Naval Service, retired and the post abolished. She was succeeded by Capt Julia Simpson, with the title of Chief Naval Officer for Women in the Royal Naval Service. DCI(RN) 259/93.

Royal Navy ………… On This Day ………… 14 October ……….

1726  Charles Middleton born at Leith. Created (Adm) Lord Barham on taking office as First Lord of the Admiralty in 1805 before the Trafalgar Campaign. He was a first-class administrator but was not popular in the Navy.

1747  Rear-Adm Edward Hawke (Devonshire) defeated Cdre the Marquis de L’Etanduére (Tonnant), escorting a large convoy (Ushant, E. by N. 200 miles). Ships: Defiance, Devonshire, Eagle, Edinburgh, Gloucester, Kent, Lion, Monmouth, Nottingham, Portland, Princess Louisa, Tilbury, Windsor, Yarmouth, Weazle. French ships captured: Fougueux, Monarque, Neptune, Severne, Terrible, Trident. The convoy and two French warships escaped. Hawke wasted no time forming a line of battle, but hoisted ‘general chase’.

1795  Mermaid captured the French Réublicaine 25 miles W. of Grenada.

1798  Melampus captured the French Résolve in Donegal Bay.

1810  Briseis captured the French privateer Sans-Souci 50 miles W. by S. of Horns Reef.

1859  Eight officers of Assaye (Indian Navy) and Lynx assisted in the defeat of a rebel force at Zanzibar.

1935  Naval Radio Direction Finding development started at HM Signal School, Portsmouth.

1939  Royal Oak sunk by U-47 in Scapa Flow (185DEG 1.7 miles from Scapa Pier light)). Loss of 786 men demonstrated the inadequacy of the defences of the Fleet anchorage. Ironically, the long-awaited blockships arrived next day.


HMS Royal Oak (1914) with main armament trained to starboard. (RNM)

1939  Icarus, Inglefield, Intrepid and Ivanhoe sank U-45 S.W. of Ireland.

1941  Fleur-de-Lys, flower-class corvette, sunk by U-206 in Gibraltar Strait (36-00N, 06-30W) and broke in half leaving three survivors.

1942  MTB 236 sank the German disguised raider Komet (Schiff 45) off Cap de la Hague. An escorting R-boat was also sunk, and two other escorts set on fire. Operation Bowery. Ships: Albrighton, Brocklesby, Cottesmore, Eskdale, Fernie, Glaisdale, Krakowiak (Poland), Quorn, Tynesdale. MTBs: 49, 52, 55, 56, 84, 95, 229, 236.

1944  Frigate Magog (RCN) torpedoed by U1223 in the mouth of the St Lawrence River: CTL.

1965  801 Sqn FAA received the first Blackburn NA39 Buccaneers at RNAS Lossiemouth.

1997  Frigate Monmouth and RFA Orangeleaf, with FNS Surcouf, stood by off Pointe Noire until 30 October to evacuate nationals during unrest in the Congo. Operation Kingfisher.

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