Royal Navy On This Day 30 May …..

1757  Eagle and Medway captured the French privateer Duc d’Aquitaine 100 miles S.W. of Ushant.

1781  Flora (34) captured the Dutch Castor (36). Crescent (28), Lt. John Bligh (act.), taken by Gloire (40) and Friponne (36). Both actions 100 miles W. of Cape Spartel, Morocco.

1798  Hydra (38), Cptn. Sir Francis Laforey, and consorts, drove ashore the French Confiante (36) near Beuzeville, Normandy. Confiante abandoned and burned by Hydra‘s boats next day. Vesuvius and Trial drove ashore the French Vésuve near the mouth of the Dives River. The French vessel was refloated and escaped.

1814  US Navy gunboats capture three British boats from HMS Montreal and HMS Niagara on Lake Ontario near Sandy Creek, NY

1815  The East Indiaman Arniston is wrecked during a storm at Waenhuiskrans, near Cape Agulhas, South Africa. She had been requisitioned as a troopship and was on a journey from Ceylon to England  to repatriate wounded soldiers from the Kandyan Wars when the tragedy happened. 372 lives were lost, with ust 6 survivors.

Controversially, the ship did not have a marine chronometer on board – a comparatively new and expensive navigational instrument that would have enabled her to determine her longitude accurately. Instead, she was forced to navigate through the heavy storm and strong currents using older, less reliable navigational aids and dead reckoning.[3] Navigational difficulties and a lack of headway led to an incorrect assumption that Cape Agulhas was Cape Point. Consequently, the ship was wrecked when the captain headed north for St Helena with the incorrect belief the ship had already passed Cape Point.

After spending several days stranded on a nearby beach, the six survivors of the sinking were eventually discovered by a local farmer´s son.

Wikipedia –

The Story of HMS Arniston –

1832  The Rideau Canal (aka the Rideau Waterway) is officially opened to traffic, connecting the city of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on the Ottawa River to the city of Kingston, Ontario, on Lake Ontario.
The canal remains in use today (primarily for pleasure boating) and is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. In 2007 it was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1841  Boats of Dolphin captured the Brazilian slaver Firme a few miles off Whydah, Dahomey.

1859  Chaplain to the Fleet became Chaplain of the Fleet, to rank as a rear-admiral.

1862  Landing party of Centaur at the defence a Sungkiang, near Shanghai.

1887  Two boats of Turquoise captured a slave dhow off Pemba, East Africa.

1900  Royal Marines moved in to defend the Legations at Peking.


Locations of foreign diplomatic legations and front lines in Beijing during the siege.

1906  Battleship HMS Montagu wrecked on Lundy Island. Broken up there.


HMS Montagu aground on Lundy Island in 1906.

1914  Under the command of Captain W.T. Turner, the new, and then the largest, Cunard ocean liner RMS Aquitania, 45,647 tons, sets sails on her maiden voyage from Liverpool, England, to New York City. Unfortunately, the event is overshadowed by the tragic news of the sinking of the Canadian Pacific liner Empress of Ireland in Quebec the previous day with over a thousand drowned.


A crowd stands on Liverpool Princes Landing Stage as the Cunard Liner Aquitania leaves Liverpool on her maiden voyage

1915  Dummy Tiger sunk SM UB-8 off Strati Island in Aegean.



1942  Battleship Ramillies damaged and British Loyalty (tanker) sunk by Japanese midget submarine at Diego Suarez.

1943  Submarine Untamed sunk by accident (flooded through log tube) in the Campbeltown Exercise Area. Salvaged 5 July and renamed Vitality.



HMS Vitality moving away from the quayside with some of the crew on deck.

In the clear early light of the morning of Sunday 30th May 1943, HM Submarine Untamed (a group II U-Class submarine, pennant number P58) slipped clear of her supply ship HMS Forth, in Holy Loch on the River Clyde and set out to rendez-vous with Armed Surface (A/S) vessel HMS Shemara for a day’s routine training.

The young Commanding Officer, Lt Gordon Noll had been given his orders on board the supply ship. Untamed was to head out to Kilbrannan Sound, a stretch of water between the Campbeltown peninsula and the mainland. There, having met Shemara, he was to take the submarine down to a depth of ninety feet. Fisherman’s buffs had been attached to Untamed’s conning tower so that Shemara could see on the surface Untamed’s position. Shemara was then to use Untamed to practise firing dummy ‘hedgehog’ projectiles. There were to be two exercises during the day; the first to run from 0950 hours until 1300 and the second from 1348 to 1648 hours.

To simulate real patrol conditions, there was to be no wireless or telegraph contact whatsoever. Pre-determined courses, speeds and surfacing times had been set.

The exercise would train Shemara’s crew to destroy enemy submarines, and give Untamed’s crew practice in the refined balances that had to be struck in surfacing and submerging their vessel. Beneath Lt Noll, as he descended the conning tower en route to the rendez-vous, his thirty-five man crew was busying itself in preparation for the exercises. By now, having been based at Holy Loch (also known as Sandbank) for around two months, they knew the routine. They referred to this sort of exercise as ‘playing clockwork mouse.’

The crew was the usual incongruous blend of men from all backgrounds who found themselves thrown together by war in a space just 196’ x 16’.

the crew

Several of the key ratings including Chief Engine Room Artificer ‘Chaff’ Challenor, Leading Signalman John Gilliland, Second Coxswain Wilf Tippet, Stoker Petty Officer ‘Spo’ Ball and the submarine’s Electrician with the unenviable wartime name of LTO Dennis ‘Gerry’ German, had trained together on an H class submarine in Ireland (photographed above at Londonderry). They had then joined Untamed during the final weeks of her construction at the Vickers Armstrong High Walker yard on the Tyne. Under Lt Noll, they had then sailed her round the north of Scotland to the Clyde, stopping at HMS Elfin at Blyth to collect the officers’ luggage. This was made more entertaining by the insistence of American Third Officer Lt ‘Hank’ Hunter on bringing his motorcycle with him on board. It wouldn’t fit through the torpedo hatch (the largest entry point in the vessel) in one piece, so he gave the job of dismantling the motorbike to one of the Engine Room Artificers, who quietly tossed various parts over the side in silent protest.

On arrival at Holy Loch, they had met the rest of Untamed’s crew. This later attachment included John Arkwright. Despite Arkwright’s officer background as the Eton and Oxford-educated son of Hereford’s former MP Sir John Stanhope Arkwright, John came to Untamed as a rating. In this he was not alone. One of Untamed’s stokers was Fred Cannon, also educated at Eton and trained at Dartmouth. He had loathed the protocol, however, and had run away and lived rough before joining the Navy as a stoker.

Able Seaman Arkwright had been trained to operate the Asdic set – a role known as ‘ping bosun’. At thirty-six years old, Arkwright was a good deal older than most of the rest of the crew, his senior officers included. ‘Gerry’ German, who had joined the Navy aged fifteen, having been orphaned, and was now twenty-three, described Arkwright as very nonchalant, laid-back and taking nothing very seriously – ‘a bit like having David Niven on board.’ German recalled how, one day when Arkwright was due to have been training on the ‘Attack Teacher’ on the depot ship, a facility in great demand and for which there was a tight roster, Lt Peter Duncan challenged him.

“Shouldn’t you be up in the Attack Teacher?”

In his languid manner, Arkwright replied

“I don’t know, should I?”

When not at sea, Arkwright was responsible for keeping the submarine’s control room clean and German remembered him ‘wafting about with a duster and a tin of ‘Bluebird’ polish.’

During their stay on Holy Loch, the submarine and her crew had played a less conventional role in the Ministry of Information’s 75 minute film Close Quarters, showing the routine patrol of a submarine. John Arkwright appears in the film in a control room scene. Reviews said that ‘the real life crew are very well directed by Jack Lee and brilliantly photographed by our old chum Jonah Jones. The film Close Quarters in many ways gives a better idea of what it must be like to dive and live under water than does its studio counterpart,’ the much better-known We Dive at Dawn, which came out at almost the same time.

Despite their differences, the crew all rubbed along together pretty well. The previous day, Lt Noll had reported to Commander Thomas Corfield Jenks, the Commanding Officer at Campbeltown that he was ‘well satisfied generally with his crew and his submarine.’ On 30th May, the crew had some changes; John Gilliland was on sick leave having his tonsils removed, and German was recovering after a hernia operation. Noll had promised German that he would keep his place in the crew.

In Kilbrannan Sound, Lt Noll took a last look from the conning tower before going below to the control room. The conning tower hatch was secured. Noll gave orders for Untamed to dive, and took her down to ninety feet as planned. The exercise began. At the Asdic set, Arkwright listened for Shemara’s propellers overhead and tried to identify the sounds of the projectiles as they approached. For’ard of the control room and mess quarters, Petty Officer Welford checked over the four torpedoes in their tubes and the other four in stowage. Aft’ of the Control Room, German’s replacement worked around the two vast electrical batteries of 224 cells in all which powered the submarine’s equipment. From the Engine Room beyond them, Chaff Challenor was summoned to the control room by Lt Noll to inspect a minor leak by the periscope.

At 1300 hours, Untamed resurfaced on schedule and made contact with Shemara. Lt Noll reported the leak on the periscope, but otherwise, all had gone to plan. At 1348, Untamed dived again for the next three-hour exercise. This began at 1358 and was due to end at 1648. The first two sets of projectiles were fired at 1400 and 1412 as planned. Then, at 1418, a white smoke candle – usually an answer signal to a charge from the Armed Surface (A/S) vessel – was seen. Shemara tapped her hulls to see if Untamed wanted to surface, but there was no response, and the practice continued.

By 1436 the buffs had disappeared and Shemara fired a small charge meaning ‘indicate your position’. Ten minutes later, a yellow candle was spotted 1000 yards astern, with a swirl of water, as if Untamed was blowing her ballast tanks. Shemara fired another three charges to indicate ‘exercise complete, surface at your discretion’, but no response came. At 1510, a hydrophone effect, as of propellers turning, was heard, and again at 1526. At 1615, Shemara again let off the ‘indicate position’ charges and at 1619 reported a problem to Campbeltown.

There, immediate action was taken. HMS Wolfe, Forth’s sister supply ship, HMS Boarhound with a Medical Officer, submarines Thrasher and Usurper (the latter identical to Untamed and as such a useful comparison), specialist diving vessel HMS Tedworth with her deep divers and experience of the 1939 Thetis submarine disaster, and Liverpool & Glasgow Salvage Association ships were all mobilised.

Shemara, on a flat calm sea, with good visibility continued to hear Untamed’s hydrophone and whistle effects like those of blowing her ballast tanks, until 1745. From that time, both sounds ceased. Shemara had, though, by now confirmed that Untamed was on the bottom at a depth of 150’, within sight of the foreshore at Campbeltown.

Beneath the water, the crew had had a problem with the Ottway log, a solid looking brass sleeve about three inches in diameter which had a little impeller that stuck out through the bottom of the ship. The impeller, turned by the current, measured distance and so the speed of the ship through the water. The log could be inspected by raising the instrument for repair through an outer sluice valve that was closed behind it so that an internal hatch could then be opened to look at the log. However, on this occasion, Petty Office Welford failed to lift the log completely clear of the sluice valve before unclipping the hatch. Therefore, when the inspection hatch was unclipped, the submarine was, effectively open to the sea.

Water poured in at a pressure of at least 35lbs per square inch, at a rate of about 2 tons per minute. Unable to stem the water, PO Walford and Sub Lt Acworth, with him, withdrew behind what should have been a watertight door. In fact, the door was distorted, allowing the whole of the forward part of the submarine up to the watertight door of the control room itself, to fill with water. The submarine nosedived.

For Untamed to have been saved, the main ballast tanks should have been blown at once. It appears, though, that the seriousness of the situation was not immediately grasped. All too quickly, Untamed came to rest on the seabed. Once there, the crew tried for too long to lighten the submarine and move her off the bottom – the hydrophonic sounds, whistling and swirling water that Shemara detected on the surface. Untamed bottomed soon after 1418, but it was not until after1800 that, with four hours already lost, the decision was taken to abandon ship. No sounds were heard from Untamed by Shemara after about 1830, but bubbles were seen rising from her.

Escape through the conning tower was considered but rejected and Lt Noll led the remaining crew of 34 into the small engine-room beneath the aft’ escape hatch. The control room compartment was sealed behind them, and the lighting cut, leaving only the equivalent of a miner’s lamp in which to work. Davis Escape Apparatus (DSEA) breathing sets were donned. The crew were familiar with these as training with them was the first that was received on joining up – partly to ensure that the men were temperamentally suited for their role in a claustrophobic submarine. Now, though, it became clear that some sets had not been brought from the control room, leaving ten men to go without. Also, counter-intuitively, the valve on the DSEA sets had to be switched to ‘off’ to make oxygen available, a fact that might easily be forgotten in an emergency, and indeed was by several of the confused crew.

Next, an air lock had to be created beneath the hatch, by dropping a canvas twill trunk from above and lashing it to the plates (floor). The engine room was sealed for flooding up to equalise the pressure inside and outside the submarine to enable the hatch to be opened. The flooding lever was thrown. However, no water entered the compartment as required for escape. In the cramped conditions, the dark and confusion, it could not be understood that the lever had been incorrectly reassembled, probably after cleaning, and was 90 degrees out of phase. Even now, a variety of other methods was used to try to flood the engine room, but to no avail.

In a final, desperate attempt to secure escape, the Chief Stoker, “Chaff” Challenor (one of those whose DSEA wasn’t switched on correctly) climbed up to the escape hatch and unclipped it, but, given the pressure of the sea above him, failed to throw it open. His fellow crew members were unable, through their poisoned stupor, to help him. They were now entirely dependent on salvage from above.

On the surface, divers arrived soon after midnight and tried to go down to Untamed at 0100. The tidal stream of up to 4 knots only afforded an opportunity of doing so for about 5 hours in every twenty-four. They tried again at 0600 and 1100 on 31st May, but were again forced back. The weather then deteriorated. They finally reached Untamed at 1128 on Tuesday 1st June and found her lying on an even keel. There was, though, no response to tapping her hull. The weather prevented further exploration until 5th June when a diver went the full length of her and reported that the aft’ escape hatch was not secured. Challenor’s body was recovered beneath it and he was buried at Campbeltown.

By 15th June, the lifting wires were all in place around Untamed and by 26th June, four weeks after she sank, she was safely inside the boom of Campbeltown. From there she was relocated to Dunoon. Lt AJW Pitt, the CO of HMS Taku currently refitting, was brought to the scene to record her precise condition, from which the chronology of the tragedy could be reconstructed. The foundering of HMS Untamed caused alarm, particularly coming, as it did, after a sister submarine, HMS Vandal, had sunk irretrievably in the Clyde on 24th February 1943, just three months before Untamed. Untamed’s crew had heard of her ‘disappearance without trace in those waters, while on independent exercises’ on their arrival at Holy Loch, and had been, Dennis German recalled, ‘somewhat discomforted’. HMS Untiring, also a Vickers-built submarine had suffered a battery explosion, and HMS Unswerving had fallen off her blocks during building. Admiral CB Berry raised the question of sabotage.

The Prime Minister himself asked questions on hearing of the loss of Untamed. On 16th July, after reading the Preliminary Report, Churchill memo’d

“To complete this tragic picture, let me know

a) the depth at which the submarine bottomed and

b) time between first accident and probable death of crew.


The official reply estimated that ‘the crew probably died at about 0800 on May 31st, that is about 18 hours later.’

The official enquiry concentrated on the faulty internal door that resulted in so much of Untamed flooding, and on the fault with the engine room’s flooding valve lever that had foiled the crew’s escape. Personnel failings were also pointed out, but in defence of the crew, the Admiral reminded the board that these were “partially attributable to the comparatively short time which can now be devoted to training and the consequent inexperience of a proportion of submarine crews.”

Untamed had been a new submarine and, having been raised, was refitted and renamed (apparently with no hint of irony) HMS Vitality twelve months later. Like Untamed, she was berthed off HMS Forth on the Clyde. She made her first War Patrol in the North Sea, via Lerwick, Shetland, from 12th to 29th October 1944. The patrol report reveals a routine trip, surfacing during the days for 5 minutes at a time “for sights” and then, at night, at about 1930 for some time. In a chilling reminder of Lt Noll’s last message from Untamed, Lt KS Renshaw reported a major defect on the periscope, because of “excessive leaking past the hull gland” which was put right at sea.

Renshaw’s crew was of course aware of Vitality’s previous history. On his return, Renshaw noted that, although disappointed to see nothing of the enemy, “the patrol had considerable value as a ‘shakedown’ for the crew, many of whom had never previously been to sea in an operational submarine… The whole crew have shown a remarkable keenness to do operational work in the submarine.” Informally, other tales survived: the crew was spooked by hearing heavy boots overhead. On another occasion, the salvage clips on the outside of the escape hatch, which should evidently be unscrewed before any dive, were found, on surfacing, to be screwed down. Vitality survived the war and was sold in February 1946. She was broken up in Troon in a month later.

Most of the wartime population of Britain was completely unaware of the loss of Untamed. Even Gerry German, who had been with Untamed since she was still being finished at the shipyard, but who had to leave her for a month to undergo a hernia operation at an RN Auxiliary Hospital between Holy Loch and Glasgow, was oblivious. He returned to Holy Loch in the days after she sank, arriving at 4pm, just in time to meet the liberty men going ashore on leave. On passing him one said ‘your boat’s gone’. Confused, he handed his papers to the duty officer who commented ‘It’ll be a long time before you see Untamed again.’

The newspapers of the day maintained complete silence. The Daily Sketch of 3rd June boasted that May had been the best month yet in U-boat sinkings. The Daily Mail the following day had a cartoon of a U-boat sinking to the bottom of the sea, releasing bubbles and saying ‘This U-boat is invincible, and the Atlantic life-line will be cut, the Allies will be starved out, we now command the seas.’ The only detectable clue to the tragedy unfolding in the Clyde appeared in the Dunoon Herald and Cowal Advertizer on 25th June, when the salvage operation was underway. Announcing Wings for Victory Week it was added that “It would have been more appropriate had the campaign been for submarines this week rather than planes.”

In July 1943, John RS Arkwright was buried in a war grave alongside his fellow ratings in Dunoon cemetery. Gerry German attended the ceremony for his crewmates and recalled meeting Arkwright’s mother, Stephanie, Lady Arkwright. Arkwright’s headstone, following the form for all war graves, bears the naval badge, his rank, name, submarine name, date of death, and his age – 36 years. His parents chose a verse from Psalm 18 to inscribe both on the gravestone and beneath his commemorative window at All Saints’ Church, Kinsham,


The commemorative stone beneath John Arkwright’s window at All Saints’ Church, Kinsham, Herefordshire. The window depicts St Nicholas, patron saint of sailors, cradling a ship.

HMS Untamed - 2

Interred in the Dunoon Cemetery, Argyll & Bute, Scotland
The following 35 Royal Navy personnel of the total 36-man complement lost their lives in the tragic accident that befell the newly commissioned Submarine HMS UNTAMED in the Firth of Clyde on 30th of May 1943 whilst she was undertaking a training exercise with the 8th Escort Group.  They are interred in the Dunoon Cemetery.  The 36th member of the crew, Chief E.R.A., T. G. Challoner is interred in Campbeltown’s Kilkerran Cemetery.Acworth –

Peter Carr Glynn                         20 years               Sub-Lieutenant                                Hampshire

Acworth – Peter Carr Glynn               20 years               Sub-Lieutenant                                Hampshire
Arkwright – John Richard Stephen     36 years               Able Seaman                     Radnorshire
Ball – George Herbert                        29 years               Petty Officer Stoker           Chatham
Bates – Jack                                       21 years               Able Seaman                     Birmingham
Beard – Robert Leonard Archibald     25 years               Leading Seaman               Brighton
Bothams – Peter                                 20 years               Able Seaman                     Great Yarmouth
Bowyer – Hugh L.                                unknown              Able Seaman                     Glasgow
Clayton – Peter Lambert                     20 years              Sub-Lieutenant                   Lancashire
Cole – Herbert Ernest Douglas           20 years               Stoker 1st Class                 unknown
Cooper – Joseph Frederick                 22 years               Able Seaman                     County Durham
Danks – George Victor                        unknown              E.R.A. 4th Class                 Birmingham
Dow – James                                       24 years               Telegraphist                      Stirlingshire
Duncan – John Priestly                        23 years               Lieutenant                         Sussex
Flinn – Alfred Charles                          23 years               Able Seaman                     Coventry
Floyd – Gordon Douglas                     20 years               Able Seaman                     unknown
Gates – Norman Thomas                     21 years               Leading Seaman               Hampshire
Gibson – John Joseph Frederick         24 years               Able Seaman                     Leicester
Green – Henry A. W.                           25 years               Able Seaman                     Essex
Hickson – William                                 26 years               Able Seaman                     Manchester
Higgins – Geoffrey Thomas Charles    21 years               Sub-Lieutenant                  Hertfordshire
Male – Peter                                        20 years               Ordinary Seaman              Staffordshire
Miles – Frederick Arthur                       26 years               Leading Stoker                  County Durham
Mitchell – Leslie Clarence                     20 years               Telegraphist                      Surrey
Nichol – Henry                                       28 years               E.R.A. 4th Class                Yorkshire
Noll – Gordon Maurice (Commander)   25 years               Lieutenant                          Devon
Pendleton – Roy George                      20 years               Stoker 1st Class                 unknown
Playfair – Peter                                     unknown              Leading Telegraphist          unknown
Read – Arthur George                          unknown             Leading Signalman              unknown
Smith – Leslie George                          24 years               P. O. Telegraphist              Hampshire
Spencer – Albert                                   32 years               Stoker 1st Class                unknown
Tippett – Wilfred                                   22 years               Petty Officer                       Cornwall
Walker – Walker                                   29 years               Stoker 1st Class                 Berwickshire
Wellfoot – Welfoot                                32 years               Petty Officer                       unknown
Wheeler – Ronald                                22 years               Able Seaman                      Middlesex
Wishart – Robert William                      23 years               Leading Stoker                  Campbeltown

Interred at Kilkerran Cemetery, Campbeltown

Challoner – Thomas G. G.                   unknown             Chief E.R.A.                        unknown

 © Catherine Beale 2009

1944  Destroyer HMS Milne (G14) sank U-289 off Norway (73-32N, 00-28E).


HMS Milne (G14) on completion, 1942.


Conning tower emblem U-289.

1951  Admiral of the Fleet Sir Reginald Tyrwhitt died. Commanded Harwich forces in the First World War. C-in-C China Station, 1927-9; C-in-C The Nore, 1930-3.

1959  The Auckland Harbour Bridge, crossing the Waitemata Harbour in Auckland, New Zealand, is officially opened by Governor-General, His Excellency Lord Cobham, whose car made the first crossing that day. The ceremony was held on the Toll Plaza, at Sulphur Beach, with about 1000 guests in attendance.
The Bridge Superintendent, Mr DG MacPherson made the first entry in the daily log book on opening day: “11.10 Bridge open. Good luck to you and God bless. May it never close”.


Present-day Auckland Harbour Bridge – Note: If you look closely near the top of the left-hand concrete support, there is a small blue & white boat suspended just below the steelwork…

1982  Maj-Gen J.J. Moore, RM, arrived San Carlos in Fearless as Commander Land Forces. Operation Corporate.


Maj-Gen J.J. Moore, RM, KCB, OBE, MC & Bar

1990  Israeli soldiers thwart a terror attack on Nitzanim beach, near Tel Aviv, by a group of PLF guerrillas using speedboats armed with a variety of assault weapons. Israeli ships and aircraft intercepted the raiders, killing four of the militants and capturing twelve.
A captured speed boat is later put on display at the Clandestine Immigration and Naval Museum, Haifa, Israel.


A modified speedboat used in an attempted attack against Israeli targets, on 30th May 1990.

1997  Hydrographic (H) and Meteorology and Oceanography (METOC) specialisations amalgamated to form a new X (HM) specialisation, reflecting the need to present unified environmental advice to the Command, embracing the atmosphere to the seabed. DCI(RN) 81/97. – On This Day –

Royal Navy On This Day 29 May …..

1453  The ‘Fall of Constantinople‘ was the capture of Constantinople (the Byzantine capital), after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of 21-year-old Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos.
The siege lasted from Friday, 6th April 1453 until Tuesday, 29th May 1453 (according to the Julian calendar), when the city was conquered by the Ottomans armies, and ended the last remnant of the Roman Empire – an imperial state which had lasted for nearly 1,500 years.


The last siege of Constantinople, contemporary 15th century French miniature.


Sultan Mehmed II in 1479. Portrait by Italian painter Gentile Bellini.


A popular depiction of Constantine XI Palaiologos.

1652  On 29th May (19th May in the Julian Calendar then used in England), The Battle of Goodwin Sands (aka the Battle of Dover) became the first engagement of the First Anglo-Dutch War, due to an unfortunate encounter which occurred in the English Channel near Dover, between a Dutch convoy escorted by 40 ships under Lieutenant-Admiral Maarten Tromp and an English fleet of 25 ships under General-at-Sea Robert Blake.

Maarten_Harpertszoon_Tromp (2)

An engraving of Maarten Tromp by Jan Lievens.

Robert_Blake (2)

Robert Blake, General at Sea, 1598–1657 by Henry Perronet Briggs, painted 1829

An ordinance of Oliver Cromwell required all foreign fleets in the North Sea or the Channel to dip their flag in salute (reviving an ancient right the English had long insisted on), but when Tromp was tardy to comply, Blake fired three warning shots. When the third shot hit his ship, wounding some sailors, Tromp replied with a warning broadside from his flagship Brederode. Blake then fired a broadside in anger, and the five-hour Battle of Goodwin Sands ensued. Tromp lost two ships but escorted his convoy to safety.


Brederode off Hellevoetsluis by Simon de Vlieger.

1692  The related naval battles of Barfleur and La Hogue took place between 29th May and 4th June 1692 (19th -24th May in the Old Style/OS Julian calendar then in use in England).


The Battle of Barfleur, 29 May 1692 by Richard Paton, painted 18th century.

The first action took place near Barfleur when a French fleet of 44 ships of the line (carrying a Franco-Irish invasion force), under Comte Anne Hilarion de Tourville, boldly engaged an Anglo-Dutch fleet of 82 ships of the line, under Admiral Edward Russell.
Tourville-musee-marine (1)

Admiral Anne-Hilarion de Costentin, comte de Tourville, Musée de la Marine.

Gibson,_Edward_Russell (1)

Admiral Edward Russell, 1st Earl of Orford by Thomas Gibson, painted c. 1715

After a fierce but indecisive clash of many hours, which left many ships on both sides damaged (albeit none lost), Tourville was able to disengage. He slipped off into light fog, and for several days tried to escape the pursuing superior forces. Scattered and in disaray, some of the French fleet managed to reach the safety of home ports, but not all of them.

On 3rd June, three French ships were lost to Dutch at Cherbourg, and on the following day, a dozen ships thought to be safe at La Hougue (under the protection of the assembled land forces and a battery), were attacked the Dutch and English using long boats.
By this time the French crews were exhausted and disheartened. The allies successfully deployed shore parties and fire ships which burned all twelve French ships of the line which had sought shelter there. This last action became celebrated in England as the Battle of La Hogue.

1719  HMS Blandford (20), Cptn. Erasmus Phillips, foundered in the Bay of Biscay with the loss of all on board.

1758  Dorsetshire (70), and HMS Achilles (60), Cptn. Hon. Samuel Barrington, took the Raisonnable (64) off the French coast. [bh]

1781  Colonial frigate Alliance (36), Cptn. John Barry, captures HMS Atalanta (14), Cdr. Sampson Edwards, and HMS Trepassy (14), Cdr. James Smyth (Killed in Action), off Nova Scotia.

1792  George Vancouver‘s expedition, aboard HMS Discovery (accomanied by HMS Chatham), enters the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Vancouver Island and the Washington state mainland.


A portrait from the late 18th century by an unknown artist believed to depict George Vancouver

His orders included a survey of every inlet and outlet on the west coast of the mainland, all the way north to Alaska. Most of this work would be done in small craft propelled by both sail and oar as manoeuvering larger sail-powered vessels in uncharted waters was generally impractical and dangerous.


Resolution and Discovery by Samuel Adkin

1794  Adm Earl Howe’s second action with the French fleet under Rear-Adm Villaret-Joyeuse, 400 miles W. by S. of Ushant. Castor (32), taken 10 May, retaken by Carysfort (28), Cptn. Francis Laforey,

See 1 June 1794.

1797  Boats of Lively (20) and HMS Minerve (38), Cptn. George Cockburn, cut out the French Mutine (14) at Santa Cruz, Tenerife. A few of the 11th Regiment were in the boats. [m. bh]

1807  HMS Jackall Gun-boat (14), Lt. Charles Stewart, captured by the French after going ashore near Calais.

1822  Half-module iron water tanks introduced for gunboats and small vessels.

1831  Philip Colomb, future vice-admiral and naval thinker born.

See 13 October 1899, 27 May 1909.


Vice-Admiral Philip Howard Colomb.

About 1862, British Army Major Francis John Bolton and Royal Navy Lieutenant Philip Colomb devised the idea of sending morse code by signal lamp flashes. Development was persued with both land and ship-to-ship communication. Colomb lectured on this scheme the next year and later perfected the system. He used burning lime and a shutter to create signals. Dubbed a “Colomb light”, his system used limelight, as had been used in theaters for years, though without any shutter.

1855  VC: Lt Cecil William Buckley (Miranda), Lt Hugh Talbot Burgoyne (Swallow), Gunner John Roberts (Ardent). Destruction of seventy-three Russian vessels and food stores at Genitchi (Genichesk), Sea of Azov. Ships: Ardent, Arrow, Beagle, Lynx, Medina, Miranda, Recruit, Snake, Stromboli, Swallow, Vesuvius, Viper, Wrangler.


Captain Cecil William Buckley VC RN


Captain Hugh Talbot Burgoyne, VC RN

1873  Starshell for rifled guns introduced.

1877  Shah and Amethyst (Rear-Adm de Horsey) fought the Peruvian rebel Huascar off Ho, Peru. Shah fired first British torpedo used in action. Also demonstrated poor shooting with her 9in gun, and inadequacy of its ammunition.

1914  The ocean liner RMS Empress of Ireland, which operated on the North Atlantic route between Quebec and Liverpool in England, sank in the Saint Lawrence River after being struck amidships by the Norwegian collier, SS Storstad, in foggy conditions during the early hours of 29th May 1914.
The Empress had just begun her 96th sailing when she sank, claiming the lives of 1,012 (840 passengers, 172 crew) of the 1,477 persons on board. The number of deaths is the largest of any Canadian maritime accident in peacetime.


RMS Empress of Ireland, c.1908.

1917  First air/sea rescue (by flying boat).

1940  The first flight of the Chance-Vought XF4U-1 ‘Corsair’ prototype (BuNo 1443) is made, with Lyman A. Bullard, Jr. at the controls. The maiden flight proceeded normally until a hurried landing was made when the elevator trim tabs failed because of flutter.


The XF4U-1 ‘Corsair’ prototype in flight. The cockpit would be relocated further aft on the production version.

1940  Destroyer Wakeful torpedoed by the German MTB S-30 close to the Kwint Whistle Buoy off Dunkirk and finally sunk by petrol vessel Sheldrake. Destroyer HMS Grafton (H89) sunk by U-62 close to wreck of Wakeful. Destroyer HMS Grenade (H86) and paddle AA ship Crested Eagle sunk by German aircraft at Dunkirk. Operation Dynamo.



HMS Wakeful (H88)



HMS Grafton (H89)

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HMS Grenade (H86)


HMS Crested Eagle


Conning tower emblems U-62

1941  HMS Hereward (H93) sunk by German aircraft 5 miles S. of Crete (35-20N, 25-30E) and HMS Imperial (D09) sunk by HMS Hotspur (H01) (35-25N, 25-20E), after breakdown of steering gear. Decoy, Dido, Ajax and Orion damaged during the same operations, withdrawing troops from Heraklion. Orion reached Alexandria with 10 tons of fuel oil and two rounds of 6in ammunition.



HMS Hereward (H93)


HMS Imperial (D09) in September 1937, wearing the three black bands of the 3rd Destroyer Flotilla on her aft funnel.

1942  Submarine HMS Turbulent (N98) sank the Italian destroyer Emanuele Pessagno 78 miles N.W. of Benghazi, in less than a minute.

TURBULENT_badge-1- (1)

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HMS Turbulent (N98) on the outboard side, moored up

1950  Having already become the first vessel to negotiate the Northwest Passage in both directions, the St Roch, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police schooner, becomes the first ship to circumnavigate North America (via the Panama Canal), when she arrives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The St Roch is now on display at the Vancouver Maritime Museum in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.


St Roch -A 1:72 scale display model by Billing Boats.


St Roch at Vancouver maritime museum.

Happy 72nd Birthday to Mayhem member ‘trawlerman’, aka Rod – Born on this day in 1943.

1982  3 Cdo Bde (2 Para) recaptured Darwin and, reinforced by a company of 42 Cdo, took Goose Green the next day.

VC: Lt-Col Herbert Jones, 2 Para, Posthumous.


Lieutenant-Colonel Herbert Jones, VC, OBE

1992  Malta Siege Bell Memorial dedicated in the presence of HM The Queen at Valetta, to the memory of the seven thousand who died. 10 June 1940 to 13 May 1943.


Siege Bell Memorial, Valletta Harbour, Malta.


YouTube Midday sounding – Siege Bell Memorial, Valletta Harbour, Malta.

The monument was designed by Michael Sandle, a prolific and important sculptor worldwide and assembled on the initiative of the George Cross Island Association to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the presentation of this award to Malta. The Valletta Rehabilitation Project, under the headship of its chief executive officer and coordinator Ray Bondin, was responsible for its construction.

The surrounding landscape is part of the Castille bastion underlying the Lower Barakka Gardens. The site was specifically chosen because it marks the furthermost point of Valletta within the Grand Harbour and is secluded to complement the meditating nature of the scope of the monument while the bell tolls solemnly in commemoration of the fallen heroes.

The design of the structure consists of a belfry in the form of an elliptical neo classical temple supported by 10, square-faced columns. The collonaded belfry contains a huge bourdon bell which is the largest bell in Malta.

The columns rise from a high base designed on the plan inspired from the form of the George Cross. Further from the belfry a bronze catafalque symbolising the burial of the corpse of the unknown soldier at sea, overhangs the bastion parapet. The inspiration of the monument is based on the Maria Gloriosa mediaeval bourdon bell of Erfurt Cathedral in Germany. The tolling bourdon bell was intended to build up a drone, its tone solemnly lamenting the demise of the bellic heroes across the waves of Grand Harbour.

The bell was cast on February 10, 1992 by the world’s largest bellfounders John Taylor & Co Founders of Loughborough England. A Latin inscription adorns the mulley groove of the bell stating a verse in latin from Psalm 140 Obumbrasti Super Caput Meum In Die Belli MCMXL – MCMXLIII which translates to “You cast thy shadow upon my head during the time of war 1940-1943”.

Mepa scheduled the Siege Bell memorial as a Grade 2 national monument as per Government Notice number 522/12 in the Government Gazette dated May 8. – On This Day –

Royal Navy On This Day 28 May …..

1588  The Spanish Armada set sail from Lisbon (Portugal) and headed for the English Channel. The fleet was composed of 151 ships, 8,000 sailors and 18,000 soldiers, and bore 1,500 brass guns and 1,000 iron guns. The full body of the fleet took two days to leave port. It contained 28 purpose-built warships: twenty galleons, four galleys and four (Neapolitan) galleasses. The remainder of the heavy vessels were mostly armed carracks and hulks; there were also 34 light ships.


The Invincible Spanish Armada sails from Lisbon, 28th May 1588.


Elizabeth I and the Spanish Armada; the Apothecaries painting, sometimes attributed to Nicholas Hilliard. A stylised depiction of key elements of the Armada story: the alarm beacons, Queen Elizabeth at Tilbury, and the sea battle at Gravelines.

1672  Battle of Solebay. A Dutch fleet of 75 ships, under Lt.-Admirals Michiel de Ruyter, Adriaen Banckert and Willem Joseph van Ghent, surprised an Anglo-French fleet of 93 ships, under The Duke of York and Vice-Admiral Comte Jean II d’Estrées, at anchor in Solebay. HMS Royal James (102) was destroyed by a fireship and the Earl of Sandwich was drowned. HMS Royal Katherine (84), Cptn. John Chichely, struck but was recaptured. The Dutch Jozua was destroyed, Stavoren was captured, and a third ship blew up.

1673  First action off Schooneveld and second battle of the third Dutch war. Seventy-nine ships of Prince Rupert (Royal Charles) and Vice-Adm Comte Jean II d’Estrées (Reine) fought Adm Michiel de Ruyter (Zeven Provincien) with fifty-two ships. [bh]

Tromp told his sister that he had quite enjoyed the day: ‘We went into the dance and God be praised we are sound and have enjoyed ourselves like Kings’ – a curious sentiment for a republican. Rupert was poorly supported by the French, and de Ruyter made brilliant tactical use of inferior force.


The first, very primitive naval cannon were used at the battle of L’Espanols in 1350 (29 August), but cannon did not become the main weapon at sea until well into the sixteenth century. The basic design of the guns – muzzle-loading smooth-bores firing a solid shot – remained constant throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the only important changes were in methods of casting which enabled safer and heavier guns to be manufactured. Although they had an extreme range of over a mile, such guns were most effective when fired with a flat trajectory at close range, and since over such a short distance hitting was assured for both sides, speed of loading rather than accuracy became the crucial factors that won battles.

Throughout the nineteenth century, guns increased in size and the introductions  of explosive shells led to the development of armour plating. This in turn led to bigger guns with greater powers of penetration, and above all with greater ranges so that projectiles could be made to plunge onto the target from a great height and therefore with greater energy. Other refinements, such as rifting, breech-loading and high explosion also date from this period. Unfortunately, the implications were not widely realised so that naval manoeuvres still tended to take the form of close-quarter actions on the Nelsonian model, and target practice was conducted at ranges that were measrured in hundreds rather than thousands of yards.


Machine gun instruction at HMS Excellent gunnery school, Whale Island, Portsmouth, about 1895

      Eventually, by the turn of the century, a new generation of senior officers was emerging led by ‘Jacky’ Fisher, Arthur Wilson and Percy Scott, who insisted on a more scientific approach to gunnery. Practice shoots were conducted at realistic long ranges and human error minimised by the introduction of accurate range-finding instruments together with remote control of the guns from a director placed high above the smoke and noise of the battle. These developments, when linked with the specialised training provided at Excellent, the gunnery school on Whale Island, revolutionised naval gunnery and led to a tradition of ingenuity and innovation which served the Royal Navy well in two world wars.

1708  British squadron, under Charles Wager, of HMS Expedition (70), Cptn. Henry Long, HMS Kingston (60), Cptn. Simon Timothy Bridges, HMS Portland (50), Cptn. Edward Windsor, and HMS Vulture fireship (8), Cdr. Caesar Brooks, engaged Spanish treasure fleet, under José Fernández de Santillán , of eleven merchant ships (some armed), and seven escorting warships San José (64), Cptn. Santillán, San Joaquín (64), Cptn. Villanueva, Santa Cruz (44), Cptn. de la Rosa, Concepción (40), Cptn Francis, Carmen (24), Cptn Araoz, French Le Mieta (34) and French Saint Sprit (32) off Cartagena. San José blew up, Santa Cruz was taken and Concepción beached itself on Baru Island where the crew set the ship alight. The rest escaped.


Charles Wager

1781  Atalanta and Trepassey taken by the American Alliance about 120 miles S.E. of Halifax. All three captains killed and Atalanta retaken.

1794  Adm Earl Howe‘s first action with Rear-Adm Villaret-Joyeuse, 400 miles W. by S. of Ushant. Classic confusion. Howe was searching for Montagu, who was seeking Nielly.

See 1 June 1794.


Adm Earl Howe, painted by John Singleton Copley. 1794


Portrait of Villaret-Joyeuse, by Antoine Maurin

1798  First Sick Bay introduced by Lord St Vincent in the Mediterranean Fleet.

St Vincent’s skills as an administrator and logistician came into play and he issued orders regarding the health and well being of the fleet. St Vincent wrote to Earl Spencer, commenting “I have ever considered the care of the sick and wounded as one of the first duties of a Commander-in-chief, by sea or land,”


Lord St Vincent as a young Captain. John Jervis by Francis Cotes courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery

1803  HMS Minotaur (74), Cptn. C. J. M. Mansfield, HMS Thunderer (74), Cptn. William Redford, and HMS Albion (74), Cptn. John Ferrier, captured French frigate Franchise (34), Capt. Jurien, near Brest.

1803  Albion captured the French Franchise 70 miles W. by S. of Ushant.

1803  Victory captured the French Embuscade 140 miles N.E. by N. of Cape Ortegal.

1808  Boats of HMS Fawn (18), Hon. George Alfred Crofton, cut out a large Spanish privateer schooner and three merchant ships at Porto Rico.

1812  HMS Menelaus (38), Cptn. Peter Parker, engaged French frigate Pauline and brig Ecureuil off Toulon.

1813  USS Essex (36), Cptn. David Porter, and prize capture five British whalers.

1833  Voyage of HMS Beagle (1831-36): The Adventure was heaved onshore at Maldonado on 28th May and was prepared to receive a new copper hull. The Beagle stayed at Maldonado with the Adventure during all of June, probably because most of the crew was needed for the refit. About a week later Capt. FitzRoy heard that a packet ship was due at Montevideo, and on 8th July he sailed there to await the ship which arrived on the 18th of July.

1855  Anglo-French squadron bombarded Arabat, Sea of Azov. British ships: Ardent, Arrow, Beagle, Lynx, Medina, Miranda, Recruit, Snake, Stromboli, Vesuvius, Viper. French ships: Brandon, Fulton, Lucifer, Mégére.

1855  Swallow and Wrangler captured or destroyed several Russian vessels off Genitchi (Genichesk), Sea of Azov.

1891  Hearty sailed from Kinsale for her first fishery protection patrol. First RN ship dedicated to fishery protection work. Her blue and yellow pennant had been authorised for signatories to the 1883 North Europe Maritime Powers Sea Fisheries convention.

1905  The two-day Battle of Tsushima, in the Tsushima Strait between Korea and southern Japan, comes to an end after two-thirds of the Russian Baltic Fleet is destroyed by the Imperial Japanese fleet under Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō.
This was naval history’s only decisive sea battle fought by modern steel battleship fleets, the first naval battle in which wireless telegraphy played a critically important role, and has been characterised as the “dying echo of the old era – for the last time in the history of naval warfare ships of the line of a beaten fleet surrendered on the high seas.”


Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō


Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō’s Battleship Mikasa, c.1905.

1915  Adm Sir Henry Jackson succeeded Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher as First Sea Lord, following Fisher’s resignation over Dardanelles debacle.


Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Jackson

1941  Destroyer Mashona sunk by German aircraft in S.W. Approaches (52-58N, 11-36W), returning from Bismarck action.

1941  Landing party from submarine Upright blew up the railway south-west of Punto Stilo light, southern Italy.


HMS UPRIGHT, 2nd from left, with other submarines of the Flotilla alongside the parent ship in Holy Loch. P 43 and possibly P 23 also visible.

1942  Destroyers Eridge, Hero and Hurworth sank U-568 off Sollum (32-42N, 24-53E).


Conning tower emblem U-568


Crew U-568


The sinking of U-568

1943  Liberator E/120 sank U-304 in N. Atlantic (54-50N, 37-20W). Convoy HX 240.

1943  Hudson M/608  sank U-755 N.E. of Valencia (39-58N, 01-41E). First sinking of a U-boat by the RAF with rockets.


No. 608 Squadron RAF


Conning tower emblems U-755



Photo taken by the crew of Hudson Mk.V AM725 “M” of 608 Sqn RAF which sank U-755 on 28 May 1943

1944  MTB 732 inadvertently sunk by La Combattante (Free French) off Selsey Bill.

1964  Fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the Royal Naval Air Service. Opening of the Fleet Air Arm Museum at RNAS Yeovilton. Inspecting officer was HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.


Personnel of No 1 Squadron RNAS in late 1914.


Duke of Edinburgh opens Fleet Air Arm Museum.

1967  Francis Chichester arrived back in Plymouth, England, aboard his yacht, Gipsy Moth IV, to become the first person to sail single-handed around the world by the clipper route – with one port of call at Sydney, Australia. He also became the fastest circumnavigator, crossing the finishing line at 20:58 hrs, nine months and one day after setting off from the historic port.
In July 1967, Francis Chichester was dubbed with Sir Francis Drake’s sword by the Queen at Greenwich.


Francis Chichester arriving back in Portsmouth, May 28th 1967.

2001  Divers recovered what they believe to be the body of Donald Campbell from the bottom of Coniston Water in the Lake District. Thirty four years after his water speed record attempt ended in disaster, remains were found in blue nylon overalls near where his boat Bluebird CN7 had been discovered.
There was no skull among the remains, which were taken to a hospital for a post-mortem and police DNA tests to be carried out.


The world land and water speed-record breaker Donald Campbell. The photo shows Campbell in his racing overalls alongside Bluebird CN7. It’s likely, although unconfirmed, that it was taken at the promotional event at Goodwood racetrack in 1960.

2007  Following a campaign in 2003 by Paul Gelder, editor of Yachting Monthly magazine, to sail Gipsy Moth IV around the world a second time in observance of the 40th anniversary of Sir Francis Chichester’s epic voyage, funds were raised to rebuild the seriously neglected yacht. In September 2005, Gipsy Moth IV began a  21-month educational journey around-the-world with the Blue Water Round the World Rally.

On this day in 2007, accompanied by a flotilla of boats, Gipsy Moth IV sailed into Plymouth again docking at West Hoe Pier, as she had done exactly 40 years earlier, to complete her second voyage around the world.

The yacht’s restoration and the second circumnavigation are described in Paul Gelder’s 2007 book, “Gipsy Moth IV: A Legend Sails Again”.


Restored Gipsy Moth IV completed her second global circumnavigation, 28th May 2007.

“What I would like after four months of my own cooking is the best dinner from the best chef in the best surroundings and in the best company” – Francis Chichester, May 1967. – On This Day –

Royal Navy On This Day 27 May …..

927  Battle of the Bosnian Highlands: Simeon I of Bulgaria is defeated by King Tomislav of Croatia.


Croatia and Bulgaria c. 925

1120  Richard III of Capua is anointed as prince two weeks before his untimely death.

1153  Malcolm IV becomes King of Scotland.


Malcolm IV – King of Scots.

1199  John is crowned King of England.


Tomb effigy of King John, Worcester Cathedral

1281  Flemish Earl Gwijde Dampierre takes financial responsibility of Brugge.


Guy of Dampierre riding a horse. His surcoat bears the arms of the county of Flanders.

1328  French King Philip VI Valois crowned.

1529  30 Jews of Posing, Hungary, charged with blood ritual, burned at stake.

1644  Manchu regent Dorgon defeats rebel leader Li Zicheng of the Shun dynasty at the Battle of Shanhai Pass, allowing the Manchus to enter and conquer the capital city of Beijing.


Dorgon (Manchu: ; simplified Chinese: 多尔衮; traditional Chinese: 多爾袞; pinyin: Duō’ěrgǔn) (17 November 1612 – 31 December 1650), also known as Hošoi Mergen Cin Wang, the Prince Rui, was Nurhaci‘s 14th son and a prince of the Qing Dynasty.

1660  Edward Montagu invested as KG by KIng Charles II, who had returned to his kingdom in the former’s flagship. Patron of Samuel Pepys, Montagu became Earl of Sandwich, and broke the Dutch line off Lowestoft on 3 June 1665 in the first battle of the second Dutch war.


Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, Portrait of Edward Montagu by Peter Lely, ca. 1660-65.

1660  Denmark & Sweden sign ceasefire.

1672  De Ruyter surprised the Anglo-French fleet at anchor in Sole Bay. Start of third Dutch war, and death of Sandwich. Duke of York’s Regiment of Foot first mentioned as Marines – a letter from Capt Taylor reported that ‘those marines, of whom I have soe often wrote to you behaved themselves stoutly’.


Michiel de Ruyter painted by Ferdinand Bol in 1667

1679  Habeaus Corpus Act (strengthening person’s right to challenge unlawful arrest & imprisonment) passes in England.

1774  Francis Beaufort born.

See 17 December 1857.

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Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, KCB, FRS, FRGS, MRIA

1793  Venus fought the French Sémillante 370 miles N.W. by W. of Cape Finisterre and would have taken her had Cleopatra not arrived.

1796  Suffisante captured the French privateer Revanche at the entrance to the Chenal du Four, near Ushant.

1811  Boats of Sabine cut out three French privateers at Chipiona, near Cadiz. Papillon and Sabine sank a French privateer and recaptured her prize.

1821  During the Greek War of Independence (also known as the Greek Revolution), the Greeks use a fire ship under Dimitrios Papanikolis against an Ottoman frigate, which is successfully destroyed in the Gulf of Eressos near the Greek island of Lesvos.


The attack on the Turkish flagship by a fire ship commanded by Dimitrios Papanikolis.

1849  The Great Hall of Euston station in London is opened.



The former Great Hall of Euston Station.

1852  Agamemnon launched at Woolwich. First screw battleship to be designed as such.


Launch of HMS Agamemnon, 90 Guns, at Woolwich Dockyard

The ship-rigged steam battleship Agamemnon was the first warship to be built with screw propulsion, though other sailing vessels had been fitted with engines after commissioning. The Agamemnon‘s success was such that she remained the basic model for the first decade of Britain’s steam battlefleet. During the Crimean War she took part in the bombardment of Sebastopol on 17 October 1854 and the shelling of Fort Kinburn, at the mouth of the Dnieper, one year later. In 1857 the government fitted her out to carry 1,250 tons of telegraphic cable for the Atlantic Telegraph Company’s first attempt to lay a transatlantic telegraph cable. Although this was unsuccessful, the following year the project was resumed. The Agamemnon and her American counterpart USS Niagara spliced their cable ends in midatlantic on 29 July 1858 and then sailed for their respective continents. On 16 August Queen Victoria sent a ninety-nine-word message to President Buchanan, a process that took more than sixteen hours. Three weeks later the cable failed and service was interrupted for several years until the Great Eastern successfully laid a new cable. After service on the Caribbean and North American stations, the Agamemnon was paid off in 1862 and sold in 1870.

1855  Landing parties from Allied light squadron destroyed Russian stores and the rest of the shipping at Berdyansk, Sea of Azov.

See 26 May 1855.

1857  Boats of Fury, Inflexible, Raleigh, Sybille and Tribune destroyed thirteen war junks at Tungkun, Canton River.

1860  Giuseppe Garibaldi begins his attack on Palermo, Sicily, as part of the Italian Unification.

1865  Lord Warden, ironclad battleship, launched at Chatham. With sister ship Lord Clyde, launched Pembroke 13 October 1864, the last true broadside ironclads.


HMS Lord Warden (1865)

1883  Alexander III is crowned Tsar of Russia.

1905  The naval Battle of Tsushima, (aka the ‘Sea of Japan Naval Battle’ and the ‘Battle of Tsushima Strait’ ) begins in the Tsushima Strait between the Japanese fleet under Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō and the Russian fleet, under Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky, which had traveled over 18,000 nautical miles to reach the Far East.


Admiral Tōgō on the bridge of Mikasa, at the beginning of the Battle of Tsushima in 1905. The signal flag being hoisted is the letter Z, which was a special instruction to the Fleet.

1909  Sir John Colomb died. ‘He produced the first rational explanation of the naval place in national or even imperial defence thinking in the new era of iron ships and steam propulsion’ – Schurman.

See 1 May 1838, 11 October 1899.

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Sir John Charles Ready Colomb, KCMG

“The Rule of the Road at Sea”. Caricature by Ape published in Vanity Fair in 1887.

1911  Submarine D 4 launched, the first British submarine to carry a deck gun.



1915  Battleship Majestic sank in seven minutes, torpedoed by SM U-21 outside the Dardanelles (off Cape Helles).


HMS Majestic sinking at the Dardanelles, 27 May 1915

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SM U-21 (right-hand end of first row)

1916  President Wilson addresses the League to Enforce Peace, founded in 1915, and gives public support to the idea of a league of nations.

1916  UC-3 sunk by British mine off Zeebrugge (52-42N, 02-24E).

1916  Trawlers Kimberley, Oku, Rodino and Searanger sank UB-74 in North Sea (57-10N, 01-20E).

UB_148_at_sea_2 (4)

UB-148 at sea, a U-boat similar to UB-74.

1918  Battle of Aisne.

1921  After 84 years of British control, Afghanistan achieves sovereignty.

1930  Richard Drew invents masking tape.

1931  Piccard & Knipfer make 1st flight into stratosphere, by balloon.

1936  Benjamin Bathurst, English admiral, born.


Admiral of the Fleet Sir Benjamin Bathurst at RAF St Athan with the De Havilland Hornet Moth in which his father flew.

1936  RMS Queen Mary leaves Southampton for NY on maiden voyage.


1940  World War II: In the Le Paradis massacre, 97 soldiers from a Royal Norfolk Regiment unit are shot after surrendering to German troops.

1941  Allied troops begin evacuating Crete.

1941  First deployment of a Catapult Aircraft Merchantman (CAM) ship, the Michael-E, which continued to fly the Red Ensign. She was torpedoed and sunk three days later.

1941  Forces under Adm Sir John Tovey (King George V) sank the German battleship Bismarck in the Atlantic (48-09N, 16-07w), after a chase lasting four days. Ships: Ark Royal*, Aurora, Dorsetshire, Edinburgh, Galatea, Hermione, Hood^, Kenya, King George V, Neptune, Norfolk, Prince of Wales, Renown*, Repulse, Rodney, Sheffield*, Suffolk, Victorious. Destroyers: Achates, Active, Antelope, Anthony, Cossack, Echo, Electra, Icarus, Inglefield, Intrepid, Maori, Mashona^, Nestor, Punjabi, Sikh, Somali, Tartar, Zulu. Polish: Piorun. FAA Sqns: Fulmar: 800Z (Victorious), 808 (Ark Royal). Swordfish: 810, 818, 820, 825, (Ark Royal, Victorious). RAF Sqns: 10, 201, 206, 209, 210, 221, 240, 269. [bh]

*Sunk, ^Force H.


Bismarck down by the stern, moments befores sinking (As seen from HMS Dorsetshire).

Sinking of the Bismarck

The Home Fleet was joined by other units in the search for the German battleship Bismarck, heading for St Nazaire after being damaged by Prince of Wales. A Catalina aircraft sighted her on 26 May, when she was within twenty-four hours’ steaming of German air cover. The Home Fleet was 130 miles away. Aircraft from the Ark Royal, part of Force H diverted from Gibraltar as a ‘long stop’, took off in atrocious weather, as her flight deck was rising and falling through 56ft, only to attack the cruiser Sheffield by mistake. From this, however, it was discovered that the torpedoes were ineffective, and different firing pistols were fitted for the next attack, in which damaged her steering. Soon afterwards Capt Vian arrived on the scene with five destroyers and kept Bismarck busy through the night until the main fleet arrived. King George V and Rodney engaged at 8 miles and within fifteen minutes Bismarck was heavily hit, and within 1.5 hours reduced to a burning shambles. The cruiser Dorsetshire put three torpedoes into her, and Bismarck sank at 1036, her flag still flying. Most experts agree that the battle damage would have caused her to sink eventually, and the scuttling only accelerated the inevitable. Out of a crew of over 2,200 men, aboard ‘Bismarck’, there were just 114 survivors.

After the sinking of the Bismarck, the Dorsetshire was ordered to pick up survivors. The heavy cruiser slowly sailed into the mass of humanity in the water where the Bismarck went down. Ropes were thrown over the side for the survivors to climb up, with the assistance of the British seamen. The Dorsetshire had taken on board 86 German sailors, and the destroyer Maori had picked up another 25 sailors when suddenly there was a submarine alert.

The Dorsetshire immediately got underway followed by the Maori, leaving hundreds of survivors behind, some still clinging to the ropes along her side before they dropped off.

The reasonableness of leaving the area depends most likely on the eyes that sees it, but the abrupt departure of the British ships sounded the death knell for nearly all of the several hundred German survivors left behind in the water.


Survivors from the Bismarck struggled to reach the safety of the Dorsetshire. Most of the survivors didn’t make it as the Dorsetshire suddenly left the area because of a possible U-boat sighting.

Later the German submarine U-74 rescued three more sailors. The next day, the German weather ship Sachsenwald rescued two more. Out of her total complement of more than 2200 men, there were 115 survivors (originally 116 were saved but Gerhard Lüttich died due to his wounds on board Dorsetshire on 28 May 1941).

On 30 May 1941, the Dorsetshire landed her Bismarck survivors at Newcastle and the Maori landed hers at a base on the river Clyde. From there, the survivors went to London for interrogation, and they were then sent to sit out the war in prisoner of war camps in Canada.

1942  Minesweeper Fitzroy (Cdr. Auberon Charles Alan Campbell Duckworth, RN) sunk by mine about 40 nautical miles east of Great Yarmouth (52º39’N, 02º46’E). Ordered as Portreath, name changed to Pinner in 1918, renamed Fitzroy in March 1919 and completed as a Survey Ship 1939 converted back into a minesweeper.


1942  Hitler orders 10,000 Czechs murdered.

1942  Italian army begin siege of French western Fort Bir Hachim.

1942  Reinhard Heydrich, Nazi “Deputy Reich Protector of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia” is shot & mortally wounded in Prague he dies of his injuries eight days later. Operation Anthropoid.

1944  Allies land on Biak, Indonesia. Operation Horlicks.

1944  Japanese advance in Hangkhou, China.

1944  Liberator S/59 sank U-292 off south-west Norway (62-37N, 00-57E).

See 25 May 1943 for an anniversary just missed.

1945  General Officer Commanding Royal Marines (GOCRM) became their Commandant-General (CGRM).

1948  Arabs blow up Jewish synagogue Hurvat Rabbi Yehudah he-Hasid.

1952  European Defense Community forms.

1955  Anthony Eden’s Conservatives win the general election with a clear majority, ending a five-year political stalemate.

1956  US performs nuclear test at Enwetak (atmospheric tests).

1958  Originally developed for the U.S. Navy by McDonnell Aircraft, the F-4 Phantom II makes its maiden flight with Robert C. Little at the controls. A hydraulic problem precluded retraction of the landing gear but subsequent flights went more smoothly.
Early testing resulted in redesign of the air intakes, including the distinctive addition of 12,500 holes to ‘bleed off’ the slow-moving boundary layer air from the surface of each intake ramp.


Robert C. Little with McDonnell YF4H-1 Phantom II, Bu. No. 142259. (McDonnell Douglas Corporation)

1960  Military coup overthrows democratic government of Turkey.

1964  Jawaharlal Nehru, the founder of modern India and its current prime minister, dies suddenly at the age of 74.

1965  American warships begin the first bombardment of National Liberation Front targets within South Vietnam.

1967  The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CVA-67) is launched by Jacqueline Kennedy and her daughter Caroline, two days short of what would have been Kennedy’s 50th birthday.
The carrier was the only ship of her class, a subclass of the Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier, and the last conventionally powered carrier built for the United States Navy.


Jacqueline Kennedy and John F. Kennedy, Jr. watch Caroline Kennedy break a bottle of champagne against the hull of the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier named after her father in May 1967.


‘Big John': The USS John F Kennedy was decommissioned after almost 40 years of service in 2007. Plans are for the vessel to become a museum

1968  Admiral of the Fleet Sir Philip Vian died – twenty-seven years after the Bismarck action, at which he had been present as Captain(D) in Cossack.

See 15 June 1894, 16 February 1940.


Admiral of the Fleet Sir Philip Louis Vian GCB, KBE, DSO & Two Bars

1976  Post of QHM Scapa Flow abolished.

1982  RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 arrived off Grytviken with 5 Infantry Brigade, cross-decked next day to Canberra and Norland who sailed for the Falklands on the 29th.


The Royal Marine detachment at Grytviken, South Georgia, released by the National Archives under the 30-year rule.

1985  Britain agrees to return Hong Kong to China in 1997.

1986  The ferry, MV Shamia capsized and sank during a storm on the Meghna River in southern Barisa, Bangladesh. An estimated 600 people died.

1986  France performs nuclear test at Muruora Island.

1986  President Reagan ordered 2 Poseidon-class submarines be dismantled.

1997  Russian President Boris Yeltsin signs a historic treaty with NATO.

1999  The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands indicts Slobodan Milošević and four others for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo.

2001  Arriving in two boats, members of an Islamist separatist group seize twenty hostages from an affluent resort in Honda Bay to the north of Puerto Princesa City on the island of Palawan in the Philippines – the hostage crisis would not be resolved until June 2002. – On This Day –

Royal Navy On This Day 26 May …..

1500  After encountering a storm in the South Atlantic on 23rd or 24th May, four ships of Pedro Alvares Cabral’s fleet are lost, whilst the remaining seven ships, hindered by rough weather and damaged rigging, became separated.
One of those ships, commanded by Diogo Dias, wandered onward alone, although the other six ships were able to regroup, sailing east, past the Cape of Good Hope. Fixing their position and sighting land, they turned north and eventually landed somewhere in the Primeiras and Segundas Archipelago, off East Africa and north of Sofala, where they stayed for several days to make repairs.


Ship of Diogo Dias, detail from the Memória das Armadas

1573  A naval engagement known as the Battle of Haarlemmermeer was a  fought during the Dutch War of Independence on the waters of the Haarlemmermeer – a large lake which at the time was a prominent feature of north Holland (it would be drained in the 19th Century).
A Spanish fleet, commanded by the count of Bossu, fought a Dutch fleet of rebellious Sea Beggars, commanded by Marinus Brandt, who were trying to break the Siege of Haarlem. After battle continued for several hours until the Sea Beggars were forced to retreat.


Battle of Haarlemmermeer 26 May 1573. Sailing before the wind from the right are the Spanish ships, identified by the flags with a red cross. Approaching from the left are the ships of the Sea Beggars. circa 1621 by Hendrick Cornelisz Vroom, oil on canvas. Rijksmuseum.

1585  Primrose merchantman repulsed a Spanish attack at Bilbao.

1660  George Monck invested as KG at Canterbury by King Charles II whose restoration he had helped bring about, who also made him Duke of Albemarle and whom he served as an Admiral, though he had been a Cromwellian General at Sea.


General Monck as engraved by David Loggan, 1661, National Portrait Gallery, London

Life of George Monck by Charles Harding Firth, ©1894 –

1703  Samuel Pepys‘ FRS, MP, JP, aged 70 years, died at his home in Clapham (Now part of Gtr. London, at the time, Clapham was in the countryside).
Remembered now more for the diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man, Pepys was an English naval administrator and Member of Parliament. Although Pepys had no maritime experience, he rose by patronage, hard work and his talent for administration, to be the first Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and subsequently King James II.
His influence and reforms at the Admiralty were important in the early professionalisation of the Royal Navy.
The detailed private diary Pepys kept from 1660 until 1669 was first published in the 19th century, and is one of the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period. It provides a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts of great events, such as the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War and the Great Fire of London.


Samuel Pepys (23rd February 1633 – 26th May 1703). Portrait painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller in 1689.

1758  HMS Dolphin (24), Captain Benjamin Marlow, and HMS Solebay (20), Captain Robert Craig, engage Maréchal de Belleisle (44), François Thurot, off Montrose.

They were some distance apart, and Thurot at first thought they were merchant vessels, so he went to engage the Dolphin. As the Belle-Isle easily outgunned the British vessel, he continued the attack even after discovering the true nature of his opponent, and action commenced about 8 a.m. Dolphin fought alone for about an hour and a half, suffering considerable damage; and when Solebay arrived, Marlow was no longer able to offer much help. Casualties aboard Solebay were heavier than aboard Dolphin– including a serious wound to Captain Craig’s throat. In the end, though, Thurot could not force either of the Royal Navy vessels to surrender, so the battle ended about noon with both sides limping away. Nineteen men were dead, and thirty-four wounded aboard the Belle-Isle, while Dolphin and Solebay reported six killed and twenty-eight wounded between them. Captain Craig’s wound did not heal well, and he retired on 25 January 1759; Captain Marlow went on to a successful career, and became an admiral in 1779-80.

1787  A collier named Bethia, a relatively small sailing ship built in 1784 at the Blaydes shipyard in Hull, is bought by the Royal Navy for £2,600 on 26th May 1787 (Some sources suggest 23rd May). The ship had been purchased for a single mission in support of an experiment. The Royal Navy wanted a ship to travel to Tahiti, pick up breadfruit plants, and transport them to the West Indies in hopes that they would grow well there and become a cheap source of food for slaves. To enable her to accomodate this role, Bethia would be refitted, and renamed HMS Bounty.

1811  Boats of the HMS Sabine sloop (18), George Price, captured privateers Guardia De ViaCanari and Madina in the roadstead at Chipiona.

On the evening of May 26th 1811, the Sabine, 16, Commander George Price, detached her five boats, under Lieutenants William Usherwood and Patrick Finugane, to attempt to cut out five 2-gun French privateers from the harbour of Sabiona, on the Cadiz station. Although the enemy lay under a battery, each boat boarded and carried a prize without loss; but, during a subsequent successful effort on the part of the French to drag two of the vessels ashore, a Marine was wounded. The three other privateers were brought off. Though Lieutenant Usherwood received high praise for this exploit, he was not made a Commander until July 22nd, 1830.

HMS Pilot (18), John Toup Nicholas, destroyed and captured a number of vessels at Stongoli.


Captain John Toup Nicolas. C.B. K.C. St.F and S.

HMS Alacrity (18), Nisbet Palmer, captured by French corvette Abeille (20), Ange René Armand-Mackau off Bastia, Corsica.


Capture of Alacrity by Abeille, under Armand-Mackau, on 26 May 1811. Engraving by Antoine Léon Morel-Fatio.

On May 26th, off Corsica, the Alacrity, 18, Commander Nesbit Palmer, chased the Abeille, 20, Lieutenant A. E. A. de Mackau. The British brig mounted sixteen 32-pr. carronades and two long 6-prs.; the French, twenty 24-pr. carronades. The Alacrity had on board 100, and the Abeille 130, men and boys; so that the forces were almost equally matched. The Frenchman shortened sail and awaited the attack; and, after about three quarters of an hour’s hot action, the Alacrity struck, having lost 5 killed, including Lieutenant Thomas Gwynne Rees, and 13 wounded. The Abeille, which lost 7 killed and 12 wounded, seems to have been much more ably handled than her antagonist; but that by no means wholly explains the result. Palmer, early in the fight, received a wound, not in itself serious, in the hand, and went below, leaving the command to Rees, who fought the ship most gallantly until he was severely wounded, and who, even then, sat on a carronade slide, and encouraged his men until he was killed. There was no other Lieutenant on board; and when the Master, and the Master’s Mate had been wounded, the command was assumed by Boatswain James Flaxman, who, though himself wounded, “did his best, until Palmer sent up word from below that the colours were to be struck. No sooner, however, had he done this than, apparently repenting, he rushed on deck, and, pistol in hand, threatened to blow out the brains of any man who should attempt to execute the order. A little later, nevertheless, the colours were struck by the Gunner, while Flaxman’s attention was otherwise engaged. Fortunately, perhaps, for himself, Commander Nesbit Palmer’s slight wound induced lockjaw, from which he died ere any inquiry could be held concerning the manner in which he had lost his sloop.

1811  Astraea, Phoebe and Racehorse captured the French Neréide and also recaptured Tamatave. [m, bh]

1840  Adm Sir Sidney Smith died.

Admiral_Sir_Sidney_Smith_(1764-1840)_-_Louis-Marie_Autissier (3)

Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith, KCB, GCTE, FRS. Miniature portrait by Louis-Marie Autissier, watercolour on ivory, 1823.

1845  Boats of brig Pantaloon captured the pirate Borboleta 100 miles S.S.W. of Lagos, west coast of Africa.


HMS Pantaloon Entering Portsmouth Harbour.


Capture of the slave brig Borboleta, 4 guns, 12 prs and forty men, by the boats of HMS Pantaloon, with thirty men, under the command of Lieut. Lewis de Flessier Prevost off Lagos W. Coast of Africa, May 26th 1845.

HMS Pantaloon, ten-gun sloop, Commander Wilson had been for two days in chase of a large slave-ship, and succeeded in coming up with her becalmed, about two miles off Lagos, on the 26th May 1845. The cutter and two whale boats were sent under the command of the first lieutenant, Mr. Lewis D.T.Prevost, with the master, Mr. J.T.Crout, and the boatswain, Mr. Pasco, some marines and seamen, amounting to about thirty altogether to make a more intimate acquaintance with the stranger. The pirate gave the boats an intimation of what they were to expect as they neared, by opening on them a heavy fire round of shot, grape, and canister, in spirited a style, that after returning the compliment by a volley of musketry, the boats prepared for hard work. Animated by the show of resistance, each boat now emulated the other in reaching the enemy, the pirate continuing a sharp fire as they steadily advanced, the marines as briskly using their muskets. In half a hour from the discharge of the first gun from the slaver, the boats of thePantaloon were alongside;  Lieutenant Prevost and Mr. Pasco on the starboard, and Mr. Crout, in the cutter, on the port side. The pirate crew, sheltering themselves as much as possible, nevertheless continued to fire the guns, loading them with all sorts of missiles, bullets, nails, lead, etc.; and, amidst a shower of these, our brave sailors and marines dashed on board. Lieutenant Prevost and his party, in the two boats, were soon on the deck of the prize. The master boarded on the port bow, and, despite the formidable resistance and danger, followed by one of his boat’s crew, actually attempted to enter the port as they were firing the gun from it. He succeeded in getting through, but his seconder was knocked overboard by the discharge. The gallant fellow, however, nothing daunted was in an instant up the side again, taking part with the master, who was engaged in a single encounter with one or two of the slaver’s crew. Having gained the deck after a most determined resistance, they now encountered the pirates hand to hand, when the cutlass and bayonet did the remainder of the work. Lieutenant Prevost finally succeeded in capturing the vessel, but the pirates fought desperately; and it was not until seven of their numver lay dead on the deck, and seven or eight more were severely wounded, that they ran below and yielded. In the encounter, two British seamen were killed; the master, the boatswain, and five others were severely wounded. Lieutenant Prevost received immediate promotion.

1855  Boats of Allied light squadron destroyed the Russian shipping at Berdyansk, Sea of Azov. Ships: Arrow, Beagle, Curlew, Lynx, Medina, Miranda, Recruit, Snake, Stromboli, Swallow, Vesuvius, Viper, Wrangler, French: Brandon, Fulton, Lucifer, Megére.

1918  Lorna, auxiliary patrol yacht, a venerable vessel built in 1904 and taken up in both world wars, sank UB-74 in Lyme Bay (50-32N, 02-32W). Wikipedia – SM UB-74 –


1940  The evacuation of British and French forces from Dunkirk begins (Operation Dynamo), with around 700 privately owned vessels (which became known as the ‘Little Ships’) sailing from Ramsgate to rescue Allied troops trapped on the beach at Dunkirk, France. As the beach at Dunkirk was a long shallow slope, the ‘Little Ships’ were necessary to ferry troops from the shallow approach of beach to larger boats waiting in deeper water off shore. By the end of the operation on the 4th June, 338,226 Allied troops were brought back to the United Kingdom.


An image taken during the evacuation of Dunkirk, May/June 1940.

1940  Cruiser Curlew sunk by German aircraft off Skudesnes, northern Norway (67-32N, 16-37E.)


HMS Curlew (D42) – Wikipedia –

1941  Fleet carrier Formidable (Rear-Adm D.W. Boyd) attacked Scarpanto airfield (Karpathos Island). Formidable and destroyer Nubian damaged by German aircraft (32-55N, 26-25E). FAA Sqns: 826, 829, 803, 806 (Albacore, Fulmar).

Wikipedia – HMS Formidable (67) –


Admiral Sir Denis William Boyd KCB, CBE, DSC,

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By 0300 on May 26 the fleet had made its way to about 100 miles south-south-west of Scarpanto. A force of 12 aircraft was ranged on deck for the strike.

Things did not go well. Seven Albacores were prepared for the dawn attack. Each carried a load of 4x 250lb GP bombs and 12x 40lb bomblets. Six Fulmars were to join the strike as escort and to strafe the airfield.
Admiral Cunningham’s report states:

“Of  four other aircraft intended to take, part in the attack, two could not be flown off and two returned to the carrier owing to unserviceability.”


One of the Albacores failed to start after it had been hauled up to the deck. But the remaining six flew off at 0330.

One returned 30 minutes later to make an emergency landing with engine trouble. Its wingman subsequently lost touch with the main formation and, after a fruitless effort trying to find it, also returned to the carrier at 0509.

The Albacore strike was reduced to just four machines.

Six Fulmars had been ranged for take-off at 0430 after the Albacores had departed. Their mission was to make strafing runs as the Albacores attacked.

But their launch was delayed by the Albacore’s emergency landing. Once the deck had been cleared and reorganised by 0500, only four Fulmars departed  – 30 minutes late. Two had developed faulty engines while warming-up and had been struck below.

The four remaining Albacores attacked Scarpanto between 0505 and 0515, dropping their bombs in the dark. A few RAF Wellingtons had timed their arrival to participate in the attack.

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The Fulmars made their strafing runs at 0545 and reported seeing at least two destroyed aircraft on the ground. Observers counted 15 Ju87s and 15 CR42s arrayed in lines on the field.

The four Albacores and four Fulmars that participated in the attack all returned safely to Formidable – the TSRs at 0625 and the fighters at 0655.

Force A then withdrew to the south.

Admiral Cunningham’s narrative states that Formidable had only eight remaining serviceable aircraft at this point. These would sortie 24 times during the forenoon, engaging in 20 combats, he wrote.

Such was the dire condition of the FAA as all available resources were being diverted to the RAF.

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While the strike Albacores and Fulmars were over Scarpanto, HMS Formidable’s radar had been tracking a considerable number of air movements in the area. Some were believed to have been the Wellingtons that had attacked Scarpanto. But others were unidentified.

As the radar contacts continued to appear after dawn, a fighter section from 806 squadron was launched at 0535 as a precautionary air patrol.

At this time Force A was about 100 miles south-west of Scarpanto, south of the Kaso Strait.

Grey Section was ordered to attempt an interception at 0640 when an unidentified echo was detected at 45 miles. This could have proven difficult: the Fulmars from the Scarpanto raid were beginning to land on the carrier. Grey Section was recalled when the contact was lost.

A second detection was made at 0700, with an echo coming from the north at 55 miles. The fighters encountered a Ju88, but the bomber’s speed was too great for an effective engagement. Captain Bisset’s “Report of Proceedings” says Grey Leader’s aircraft was received slight bullet damage in this encounter.

Also at 0700, Force A’s defences were augmented by the arrival of the cruisers HMS Ajax and Dido, along with the fleet destroyers HMS Napier, Kelvin and Jackal.



A relief patrol, White Section, was launched at 0733 and almost immediately directed towards a new contact. This Ju88 was engaged and shot down about 30 miles north of the fleet at 0750.

A third fighter patrol was launched at 0810. Designated Back Section, it was later ordered to intercept a contact 10 miles north of the fleet. They engaged at 0840. Black 2 (piloted by Jackie Sewell of 806 Squadron) claimed to have shot the He111K down. It was Sewell’s 13th victory.

As Black Section was returning it was redirected towards a new echo. At 0855 they engaged and drove off a Ju88. It was seen flying low and slow with its starboard engine stopped before it ditched.

The engagement came at a price: Black Leader, flown by 806’s Squadron Leader Garnett, was hit in the engine cooling system and was forced to ditch near the fleet.

HMS Hereward came to the rescue of both crew members at 0940. Black 2 landed on Formidable five minutes later.

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Brown Section had been launched as replacement air patrol at 0903. They were directed to a contact 40 miles from the fleet which they engaged at 0944. Piloted by Lt Bob MacDonald-Hall and Sub Lt Graham Hogg, the pair of Fulmars intercepted a two Ju88s. Attacking in unison, one Ju88 was set on fire. Following it down, the Fulmars observed the bomber striking the sea.

This action made Sub Lt Hogg an ace.

Yellow Section was launched on air patrol at 0948. For a time, the feet had four Fulmars in the air.

At 1008 Yellow and Brown Sections were sent to a contact to the south-east. Both flights failed to intercept and the enemy aircraft sighted the fleet about 1015 before passing out of range to the north-west at 1030.

Another failed interception occurred after an echo was located 70 miles from the fleet at 1050. Yellow Section was directed to intercept, but failed to gain visual contact with the enemy. The aircraft circled the fleet from 1110 at a distance of 15 miles.



Grey Section had taken of at 1100. Fighter controllers directed the Fulmars into a favourable position by 1120. The Ju88 sighted the approaching fighters and turned to flee. The chase lasted some 10 minutes, but the Fulmars were not able to get any closer than 600 yards.

Grey Section aborted the chase at 1135, and the Ju88 turned back shortly afterwards.

Grey 2, which had become detached during the initial interception, was sent after the bomber at 1200. Once again, the Ju88 proved too fast for an effective attack.

Force A altered course once again. This time it turned west to provide distant cover for a convoy – a convoy the Germans determined to attack.

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Red Section’s Fulmars took to the air at 1212. By 1220 the fighters had gained enough height to join in the patrol. They were directed towards the same elusive Ju88, which was sighted at 1225.

This time the Fulmars were in a favourable position and were able to make a good attack run. The Ju88, apparently not significantly damaged, retired to the north-west.

All four of these Fulmars landed on HMS Formidable at 1310.



After sweeping along the coast towards Alexandria in a hunt for convoys or fast supply ships, the Stukas of II/StG 2 were at the edge of their range and preparing to turn back.

This is when Oberleutnant Bernhard Hamester spotted Force A and the ultimate target in the war for the Mediterranean: a British carrier.

He did not hesitate. He immediately led his staffel in for the attack. The other formations followed suit.


Puffs of smoke linger about Formidable as she opens fire with her 4.5in mounts.


The last remaining available Fulmars, Brown Section, were flown off at the same time the Grey and Red Sections came in to land.

It was directed towards a contact that the radar office had been tracking since 1240 at a distance of 87 miles. By 1253 the signal was shown to be closing with the fleet, and by all indications it was a large group.
Force A was logged at 1300 as being some 90 miles north-east of Bardia.  At 1310, the Battle Squadron was recorded as being 150 miles from Kaso Strait. By the time HMS Formidable launched Brown Section at 1310, the Fighter Controllers had reported the raid appeared to of several formations ranging from 30 to 39 miles in distance.

Another set of contacts had been made to the west: these were 47 miles, 58 miles and 61 miles away respectively.

Brown Section, which had not had enough time to gain effective operational height, was directed towards the enemy’s position at 1318. The hostile aircraft were quickly sighted some 5000ft above the Fulmars.
Brown Section’s Observers reported seeing 17 Ju87s, 11 Ju88s and a number of supporting Me110, Me109 and He114s.

They were good in their count.

German records reveal the attacking force was made up of 17 Ju87Bs from II/StG2 which had flown out of North Africa. They had been joined by 11 Ju88s of LG1.

It was common for British pilots to believe Stukas firing at them with their fixed forward machine-guns were in fact fighters, and misidentify them as such. There appear to be no records of German fighters taking part in the action.


The fleet’s high-angle anti-aircraft armament opened fire at 1321. But the large number of different strike groups approaching from different directions soon threw the defence into confusion.

The Germans believed HMS Formidable had been caught flat-footed. They thought she was in the process of recovering aircraft and therefore not in a position to launch fresh fighters to defend herself.

According to German accounts, the first Stuka formation was from II/StG2 led by Major Walter Enneccerus. This group had previously taken part in the attack on HMS Illustrious. Oberleutnant Bernhard Hamester leading 5 Staffel spotted Formidable and took advantage of the opportunity by attacking at once.

Staffel 4, led by Oberleutnant Eberhard Jakob, and Staffel 6, led by Oberleutnant Fritz Eyer, immediately followed suit.

Brown Section had been unable to attack the higher German aircraft before they commenced their bombing runs. But the Ju87s were low enough after their strikes for the Fulmars to engage.

The dive-bombers plunged through the flak to strike HMS Formidable. There are conflicting reports as to whether they were carrying 500kg (1100lb) or 1000kg (2200lb) bombs. But the War Damage Report compiled by the DNO after the carrier had been repaired in Norfolk, United States, reports them to have likely been 1000kg (2200lb) weapons..

Formidable’s two Fulmars gave chase to the departing Stukas. Each claimed a Stuka destroyed.
Brown Section was then forced to break away after being attacked by four Me110s. The Fulmars sought refuge within the fleet’s destroyer screen.

Brown 2’s Observer had been wounded four times in the leg.

In the confused swarm of attacking Ju87 and Ju88s, HMS Formidible’s command staff identified at least eight aircraft making attack runs on the carrier.

She was hit twice in a short space of time. Neither struck the armoured-box hangar.


The Fulmars, low on ammunition and damaged, landed on the carrier at 1340 – shortly after the smoke and flames had been doused.
Whether through fatigue, damage to the machine or to the ship, Brown Leader’s Fulmar went into the crash barrier.


About 1352 another group closed to within gun range.
This formation also turned away without dropping bombs.


At 1400 a fresh group of enemy aircraft was detected at 55 miles distance. It was estimated to contain 12 aircraft.

At 1425 the formation carried out a high-level bombing attack. Their weapons fell around HMS Nubian and Jervis, at that time positioned in the outer screen some 5 miles from the main body of the fleet.

HMS Nubian had been hit aft and had her stern blown off.  But the damage was mostly above the waterline, and she was able to continue at 20 knots.

Letter from Rear Admiral, Mediterranean Aircraft Carriers to Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean 
[ADM 199/ 810]   
 13 June 1941

HMS Formidable’s operations, 25– 27 May 1941

Forwarded, concurring in the remarks of the Commanding Officer, HMS Formidable.

2. The ship was handled admirably during the attack and the defence put up by the gun armament was spirited. The attack was successful because conditions favoured dive-bombing and without one man control the Pom-Poms are slow and inaccurate. Aircraft were very difficult to see against a misty blue background.

3. The behaviour of the fighter aircraft was as usual beyond praise and the direction of them by Commander Yorke was admirable.


By 1542 HMS Formidable had recovered enough from her damage to fly off Fulmars.

Green Section, made up of two Fulmars from 803 Squadron, took off to provide air cover.

A single Fulmar of Yellow Section, also 803 Squadron, flew off as relief at 1805.

A variety of RAF aircraft had appeared over the fleet from 1532 onward, but communications and identification proved difficult. HMS Ajax opened fire on two Blenheim heavy fighters before the error was realised. Several flights of Hurricanes also made appearances over the fleet.

The final Fulmar was landed on HMS Formidable at 2015.

Shortly after, the carrier was detached with HMAS Voyager, Vendetta and HMS Hereward for the refuge of Alexandria. HMS Decoy, which had just rendezvoused with Force A, was also assigned to the carrier’s escort.

The night passage was uneventful.

Shortly before dawn, at 0500, the TSRs were flown off to the FAA support base at Dekheila. What Fulmars remained airworthy were flown off to Aboukir at 0545.

Formidable entered Alexandria harbour at 0715. In all, nine ratings were killed and eight wounded in the attacks. Two of the wounded later died.


Tail-end Charlie … HMS Nubian in Alexandria Harbour after losing her stern to a bomb while on the screen for HMS Formidable. Another “N”-class destroyer is passing in the background.


The consequences of losing HMS Formidable were immediate: On May 27 Convoy AN31 for Suda Bay was ordered to turn back in the face of overwhelming air opposition. The remains of Force A was attacked by 15 Ju88s and He111s. Barham was hit on “Y” turret, starting a serious fire which took two hours to contain. Two of her bulges were flooded by near-misses. Two bombers were claimed shot down and one observed to be damaged.

Admiral Cunningham ordered Force A to return to Alexandria. He had no answer for the relentless air attacks. The cruisers and destroyers, however, continued their courageous efforts to evacuate trapped Commonwealth troops until June 1.

The damage to Formidable was serious. The lack of available dockyards meant the carrier had to withdraw to the United States via the Suez Canal for repair at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.  She was not available again until December 1941.

While in the United States, Formidable took delivery of a squadron of Grumman Martlet Mk II fighters – one of the first real steps to address the weaknesses of the stoic Fulmar.

The “experience” demanded by the Admiralty in its dispatches to Admiral Cunningham was well and truly learned – at least by those at sea.

Germany’s complete air control allowed an invasion to take place even though they had not established control of the seas.

Britain’s sea superiority could not be long maintained under intense air attack.

Another major lesson was that a single armoured carrier was unable to maintain the level of operation necessary to provide adequate air cover.

Rear Admiral Boyd commented on the defence of Formidable:

“The behaviour of fighter aircraft was as usual beyond praise and the direction of them by Commander Yorke was admirable”.

But Captain Bissett would write in his report on the operation:

“From daylight onwards on Monday 26th May, there were frequent calls for fighters to drive off enemy reconnaissance aircraft. Three of these were shot down.
The small number of fighters available on board made it impossible to answer the above calls and maintain an adequate number in reserve to deal with bombing attacks. As a result, when the main attack developed on the Fleet, only two fighters were in the air and no more were available until the attack was over.”

In another assessment, Formidable’s Fighter Direction Staff ruled that Fulmars in the face of shore-based aircraft were simply not given enough time to reach interception heights by the detection range of the Type 279 radar. This made a standing fighter patrol essential, they advised.

Admiral Cunningham had always been impressed by the capability of even single carriers in his fleets:

“Whenever an armoured carrier was in company, we had command of the air over the fleet … and also gave us vastly increased freedom of movement.”

But, three months after the attack on Formidable, Admiral Cunningham wrote that he believed two carriers carrying five fighter squadrons were the necessary minimum to maintain adequate fighter coverage for the fleet. He felt there needed to be up to 18 aircraft in the air when the risk was most acute.

His request for two carriers was denied on the grounds of a lack of available ships.


Naval Operations in the Battle of Crete 20th May – 1st June 1941


Clearly HMS Formidable had below optimal numbers of operational aircraft when pressed into the desperate action to protect retreating Commonwealth troops and tired and harried warships operating under enemy air superiority.

Whether this was through the true belief that her patched-up air group was up to the task or simply a bloody-minded attempt to sate the demands of an ignorant Admiralty will never truly be known.

Was the sacrifice of HMS Formidable, and all the other Commonwealth Naval vessels sunk or damaged during the Crete campaign worth it?

Out of the 32,000 Commonwealth troops deployed to Greece and Crete, 18,600 were evacuated.

One New Zealand solider wrote:

“With a torch we flashed an  S.O.S. and, to our tremendous relief, we received an answer. It was the Navy on the job – the Navy for which we had been hoping and praying all along the route”.

These words add weight to Admiral Cunningham’s declaration that it takes three years to build a ship, but 300 years to build a tradition.



Message from Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean to Admiralty
[PREM 3/ 171/ 4]   0930, 20 August 1941

971. Request that consideration may be given to stationing 2 aircraft carriers in Eastern Mediterranean during next winter.

2. Primary role of their aircraft would be fighter protection to fleet thus giving full scope for surface forces to attack shipping route, for bombardment, minelaying etc. Offensive operations by torpedo spotter reconnaissance aircraft would also be continued as in the past.

3. No operations by surface forces can be conducted in Eastern Mediterranean without air protection. The protection that can be given by shore based fighters is limited by range of aircraft to that required for defensive operations only, and there are in any case insufficient fighters available for requirements of all services.

4. Given adequate fighter protection fleet can move anywhere and scope for useful operations is very great. This ability to attack anywhere must involve enemy devoting considerable air strength for protection of important points with consequent reduction in forces available elsewhere. It may also involve him in desperate measures which we would be well prepared to meet.

5. Requirements for strong fighter protection while still allowing carriers to embark an adequate striking force, can just be met by 2 carriers, with one spare fighter squadron and one spare torpedo spotter reconnaissance squadron available ashore.

6. Basis of calculation of fighters required. Assuming an operation lasts about one week, as is normal for extended operation in Ionian [Sea], the following fighter patrols will be required:

  • (i) Continuous patrols by 4 aircraft will be required during approximately 12 hours of daylight daily throughout period.
  • (ii) Patrols will have to be increased to not less than 6 Fighters during period when there is some risk of air attack, i.e. for period of about 8 hours for 5 days.
  • (iii) Patrols will have to be increased to 18 Aircraft during period when there is great risk of air attack, i.e. for about 6 hours on 4 days.
  • (vii) Total number of flying hours required for above – not allowing for overlaps or landing times – is 704 hours.
  • (viii) Fatigue will not allow each pilot doing more than 1 ½ operational flights per day for 7 days continuously. Assuming each flight is 2 hours, each pilot will be capable of doing 21 hours. Total number of crew/ aircraft required will be 35. Allowing 33 ½ per cent margin for losses by accident or in action or aircraft unserviceable for various reasons, total number of fighters required is 47.
  • (ix) It is considered a spare squadron should be available to provide for period of rest and training.
  • (x) Eastern Mediterranean is excellent operating area for carriers in winter when weather conditions are bad at home. If Mediterranean campaign goes well during winter they could be transferred to other areas in the Spring by which time they will have reached a high standard of efficiency.
  • (xi) Assuming 2 carriers will comprise HMS INDOMITABLE and one HMS ILLUSTRIOUS class, Squadrons required are 4 Torpedo Spotter reconnaissance aircraft and 5 Fighters of which 2 Torpedo spotter reconnaissance and 3 Fighter squadrons are now on station.
  • (xii) Type Fighters. It is considered 3 of Fighter Squadron should be single seaters i.e. Martlet 2 or Sea Hurricane.
  • (xiii) Facilities in Egypt. It is expected Naval resources in Eastern Mediterranean should be adequate by Mid October to Service 9 1st line Squadrons.
  • (xiv) Supply aircraft. If supply of Albacore is also maintained at the rate of about 20 per month, reserves should be adequate to maintain 4 Squadrons…
  • (xv) Though 2 Carriers have been damaged in Eastern Mediterranean it is considered if 5 fighter Squadrons are available they should be able to meet a high proportion of whole German Air Force with confidence.

16. In view of strength of German Air Force in Mediterranean at time of these attacks it will be appreciated number of fighters proposed should provide very satisfactory degree of protection.

17. It is considered this Fighter Squadron, together with fire of Fleet, should provide such formidable target to attack, that it must result in destruction of many enemy aircraft, or alternatively a sense of frustration, and hence loss of morale, at difficulty of task …

Minute from First Lord of Admiralty to First Sea Lord
[PREM 3/ 171/ 4]  21 August 1941
Request for aircraft carriers in Eastern Mediterranean 

I have read the telegram timed 0930/ 20th August, from Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, and I must say that I feel considerable doubt as to whether it will be possible to meet his request.


Bomb Damage Report HMS Formidable


1941  The German battleship Bismarck is sighted by Ensign Leonard B. Smith of the United States Navy, approximately 550 miles west of Lands End. Although the United States is not yet at war with Germany, Ensign Smith is flying as a member of the crew of a Consolidated Catalina of No.209 Squadron piloted by Pilot Officer D.A. Briggs. Fairey Swordfish aircraft from the carrier HMS Ark Royal later cripple the Bismarck in a torpedo attack. FAA Sqns: 810, 818, 820.

Schlachtschiff Bismarck

Bismarck in 1940. Wikipedia –


British aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal with a flight of Fairey ‘Swordfish’ overhead, c.1939.

1943  Corvette Hyderabad and frigate Test sank U-436 in N. Atlantic (43-49N, 15-56W). Convoy KX 10.


HMS Hyderabad (K212)


HMS Test (K212)


Conning tower emblem U-436 (Coat of Arms of Posen).

Wikipedia –

1951  Rededication of Royal Naval Division memorial at Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

See 25 April 1925, 31 May 1981, 13 November 2003.

Royal Naval Division Memorial – Wikipedia –

The Royal Naval Division (RND) was an odd hybrid unit, seamen serving as and alongside footsoldiers. It was both a category of naval personnel and a fighting unit of the British Army, although the two were not for long the same thing. The history and the make-up of the Division told well elsewhere, but a brief summary is that Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, formed the Division from surplus naval troops (mainly reservists) as the Germans rapidly invaded Belgium in 1914. The Division first saw action in the (unsuccessful) defence of Antwerp in October – many of the RND escaped over the border to the neutral Netherlands and were interned there.


Recruiting poster for the RND

Reconstituted, and following further training, the Division was sent to Egypt in 1915 and landed on the Gallipoli peninsula on 25 April in the first landing of British troops there. They served throughout the campaign there before being sent back to the Western Front in 1916, where the Division served out the rest of the war, fighting in most of the major battles.

During this time, though, the battalions that made up the Division were – as in other Divisions of the British Expeditionary Force – moved around and the RND as a fighting unit became less naval in its make-up (the memorial remembers those from the army units that served in the RND as well as the naval personnel). Its original battalions bore names evocative of British naval history: Nelson, Hawke, Drake, Collingwood, Benbow, Hood, Howe and Anson.

The memorial was constructed at the corner of Horse Guards Parade, at the back of the Admiralty building. Its inscription lists the places that the RND served and bears the words of a sonnet by Rupert Brooke – the Division’s most famous casualty.


The Royal Naval Division memorial has had an odd history since 1925.  It was removed from Horse Guards Parade in 1939, when the Admiralty Citadel was built between Horse Guards Parade and the Mall, and only re-erected in Greenwich in 1951. Forty years later it was moved back to Westminster and restored to its original location – albeit dwarfed by the citadel.


RND Memorial back in its original position today. The view to Pall Mall now blocked by the Admiralty Citadel.

In 1925, a decade after the landing at Gallipoli, Winston Churchill unveiled a memorial to the officers and men of the Division who died during the war, alongside him was Sir Ian Hamilton – the commander of the Gallipoli campaign.

1969  The Apollo 10 astronauts return to Earth after a successful eight-day test of all the components needed for the forthcoming first manned moon landing. The Command Module, “Charlie Brown”, splashed-down at 16:52:23 UTC, about 400 miles east of American Samoa in the South Pacific, just over a couple of miles from her predicted landing point and the primary recovery ship, helicopter-carrier USS Princetown (LPH-5).
The astronauts were picked up by a U.S. Navy ‘Sea King’ helicopter with assistance from U.S. Navy underwater demolition team swimmers, who also attached a flotation collar to the spacecraft.


Logo Apollo 10 Emblem of the Apollo 10 lunar orbit mission. The prime crew of Apollo 10 is astronauts Thomas P. Stafford, commander; John W. Young, command module pilot; and Eugene A. Cernan, lunar module pilot.

Wikipedia – Apollo 10 lunar orbit mission –


USS Princeton at sea during the operation to recover the Apollo 10 spacecraft. The rounded structure on the forward part of the flight deck is for use in housing the space capsule. Wikipedia –


John Young, Tom Stafford, and Gene Cernan aboard their recovery ship the USS Princeton.

apollo_10_recovery_uss_princeton_flask apollo-princeton-recovery-2

Apollo 10 Space Mission – Wikipedia –

1993  Royal Fleet Review in a Force 9 gale off Moelfre, Anglesey, by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by His Majesty The King of Norway, embarked in HMY Britannia, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the battle of the Atlantic.

Cornwall (flag of Rear-Adm Michael Boyce, Flag Officer Surface Flotilla), Liverpool, Chiddingfold, Middleton, Humber, RFA Olmeda and warships from fourteen nations.


Royal Fleet Review : 50th Anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic 1993 – Oil on panel 1993.

2002  The I-40 bridge disaster occurred at 07:45hrs on 26th May southeast of Webbers Falls, Oklahoma, when the captain of the towboat Robert Y. Love, Joe Dedmon, experienced a blackout and loses control of the tow. This, in turn, causes the barges he was controlling to collide with a bridge pier. The result was a 580-foot section of the Interstate 40 bridge plunging into Robert S. Kerr Reservoir on the Arkansas River. Fourteen people died and eleven others were injured when several automobiles and tractor trailers fell from the bridge.

Rescue efforts were complicated when William James Clark, impersonating a U.S. Army Captain, was able to take command of the disaster scene for two days. Clark’s efforts included directing FBI agents and appropriating vehicles and equipment for the rescue effort, before fleeing the scene. Clark, already a two time felon, was later apprehended in Canada.


The collapsed section of the Interstate 40 bridge, Webber Falls, Oklahoma, on 31st May 2002.

Wikipedia – – On This Day –

Royal Navy On This Day 25 May …..

1420  Henry the Navigator (aka Infante Henry, Duke of Viseu) is appointed governor of the very rich Order of Christ, the Portuguese successor to the Knights Templar, which had its headquarters at Tomar. Henry would hold this position for the remainder of his life, and the order was an important source of funds for Henry’s ambitious plans, especially his persistent attempts to conquer the Canary Islands, which the Portuguese had claimed to have discovered before the year 1346.


Infante Henrique; St. Vincent Panels. Wikipeidia –


Order of Christ (Ordem Militar de Cristo) Emblem of the Order. Wikipedia –

1496  First dry dock in England completed at Portsmouth at a cost of £193 0s 6 1/2d. First used by Sovereign. Dock infilled in 1623.

1555  Gemma Frisius (born Jemme Reinerszoon), aged 46, died in Leuven, Belgium. He was a physician, mathematician, cartographer, philosopher, and instrument maker. He created important globes, improved the mathematical instruments of his day and applied mathematics in new ways to surveying and navigation. Most notably, he described for the first time the method of triangulation still used today in surveying and was the first to describe how an accurate clock could be used to determine longitude.
The lunar crater ‘Gemma Frisius’, is named after him.


Gemma Frisius, (Maarten van Heemskerck, c. 1540-1545). Wikipedia –


Gemma Frisius’s 1533 diagram introducing the idea of triangulation into the science of surveying. Having established a baseline, e.g. the cities of Brussels and Antwerp, the location of other cities, e.g. Middelburg, Ghent etc., can be found by taking a compass direction from each end of the baseline, and plotting where the two directions cross. This was only a theoretical presentation of the concept — due to topographical restrictions, it is impossible to see Middelburg from either Brussels or Antwerp. Nevertheless, the figure soon became well known all across Europe.

1660  Charles II landed at Dover: restoration of the monarchy.

The King arrived in Dover Roads from Holland with twenty sail of His Majesty’s great ships and frigates, the Right Hon. Edward Lord Montague being General, and landed the same day being attended by His Excellency the Lord General Monck who first met His Majesty upon the bridge let into the sea for His Majesty’s more safe and convenient landing, and at His Majesty’s coming from the bridge, the Mayor of this Town, Thomas Broome, Esq., made a speech to His Majesty upon his knees, and Mr. John Reading, Minister of the Gospel, presented His Majesty with the Holy Bible as a gift from this town, and Mr. Reading thereupon made a speech likewise to His Majesty and His Gracious Majesty laying his hand upon his breast , told Mr. Mayor nothing would be more dear to him than the Bible. His Excellency the Lord General was accompanied with the Earl of Winchelsea and a great number of nobility and gentry of England and his life guard all most richly accoutred.”


King Charles the 2nd landing on the Beach at Dover Line engraving by William Sharp, etched by William Woollett from a painting by Benjamin West.


Charles sailed from his exile in the Netherlands to his restoration in England in May 1660. Painting by Lieve Verschuier.

Wikipedia – Restoration of Charles II –

1696  Assistance, escorting a convoy, twice repulsed eight French privateers 40 miles S.E. by E. of Southwold.


HMS Assistance (center) anchored at Spithead in 1718. Wikipedia –

StGeorgeSquadron.Com – HMS Assistance – – The Diary of Henry Teonge (Chaplain onboard HMS Assistance) –

1768  James Cook promoted to Lieutenant. The acquaintance he made with the future Admiral Sir Hugh Palliser, then governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, the publication of his Newfoundland charts and his observation of a solar eclipse brought him to the attention of the Royal Society and the Admiralty. Although the society recommended Alexander Dalrymple as leader of the expedition to the South Seas to observe the transit of Venus, the Admiralty chose Cook, promoted him from master to lieutenant and gave him command of the Endeavour Bark, 368 tons.

1794  Adm Earl Howe’s fleet burned the French Inconnu and Républicaine to the westward of Ushant.

by Henry Singleton,painting,circa 1795

Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe, as painted by Henry Singleton, ca. 1795.

Wikipedia –,_1st_Earl_Howe

1795  Thorn, Cdr. Robert Otway, captured the French privateer Courrier National 80 miles N.W. of St Thomas, West Indies.


Admiral Robert Waller Otway (1770-1846). Wikipedia –

1801  Boats of Mercury (28), Captain T Rogers, re-took and cut out the French Bulldog at Ancona, east coast of Italy, but had to abandon her.


HMS Mercury (1779) cutting out the French gunboat Leda from Rovigno, 1 April 1809. Wikipedia – 7 July 1801 –

1801  Publication of first dated Admiralty charts of Alexandria and the Egyptian coast. The first charts, of Quiberon Bay, had appeared, vexingly undated, in 1800.

1811  Tamatave and French frigate Nereide surrendered to HMS Astrea (36), Captain Charles Marsh Schomberg.


Battle of Tamatave – Wikipedia –

1812  HMS Hyacinth (26), Captain Thomas Ussher, HMS Termagant (18), Captain Gawen William Hamilton, and HMS Basilisk (14), Lt. George French, silenced the fortress and destroyed a small privateer at Almuñécar and attacked the castle, which was armed with two brass 24-pounders, six iron 18-pounders, and a howitzer, and defended by 300 French troops. In less than an hour fire from the castle was silenced. However by 7 a.m. the next morning the French re-opened fire, having brought up a howitzer, but by 10 a.m. the castle was again silenced, and the French were driven into the town, taking up positions in the church and houses. At 2 p.m., after having destroyed a privateer of two guns and 30 or 40 men, Ussher ran down to Nerja, to confer with his allies. There he embarked 200 Spanish infantry, and set sail for Almuñécar, while a body of cavalry headed there overland. While Ussher was delayed by a calm, the French learned of the approaching attack and abandoned the town. Wikipedia – HMS Hyacinth (1806) –

1814  Boats of HMS Elizabeth (74), Captain Leveson Gower, took Aigle off Corfu.

Wikipedia –

1841  Capture of the forts immediately guarding Canton. (Operations concluded on the 30th.) Ships: Algerine, Alligator, Blenheim, Blonde, Calliope, Columbine, Conway, Cruizer, Herald, Hyacinth, Modeste, Nimrod, Pylades, Starling, Sulphur, and seamen and Royal Marines of Wellesley (from Wantong). Steamers: Atalanta (IN), Nemesis (Ben. Mar.), A Naval Brigade was landed. Troops: Royal Artillery, 18th, 26th and 49th Regiments, Madras Artillery, Madras Sappers and Miners, 37th Madras Native Infantry, Bengal Volunteer Regiment.

1841  Boats of Wellesley frustrated a fire-raft attack in the Boca Tigris.

1857  Gunboats and boats of squadron destroyed twenty-seven snake boats in Escape Creek, Canton River. Gunboats and tenders: Bustard, Hong Kong, Sir Charles Forbes, Starling, Staunch. Boats of: Fury, Hornet, Inflexible, Raleigh, Sybille, Tribune.

1859  Warrior laid down by Thames Iron Works at Blackwall, engineered by Penn of Deptford.


The stern of HMS Warrior under construction at the Thames Ironworks.

Portsmouth and Chatham Royal Dockyards were not equipped to build iron hulls, so the contract went out to tender and was won by the Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Company based at Blackwall, London.


Warships being built at the eastern site in or slightly before 1902. Wikipedia –

The plan was to complete the ship in nine months, but delays added 10 months. The Thames Iron Works had to be rescued from bankruptcy by the Admiralty during construction and work was made even more difficult by the coldest winter for 50 years.

When C. J. Mare was made bankrupt in 1856, his father-in-law Peter Holt took over the engineering & shipbuilding firm and reformed it as  TheThames Ironworks.

I often wondered how I mustered sufficient courage to undertake its construction”.Mr Peter Rolt, Chairman, Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Company.

Peter Holt. March 1898. Copy of illustration in the Thames Iron Works Gazette 1898 to 1902.

Peter Rolt c1808, August – Wikipedia –


Silvertown and neighbourhood, A Retrospect by Archer Philip Crouch –

1878  Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera HMS Pinafore (aka, The Lass That Loved a Sailor) opens at the Opera Comique in London. The production (in two acts) ran for 571 performances, which was the second-longest run of any musical theatre piece up to that time. HMS Pinafore was Gilbert and Sullivan’s fourth operatic collaboration and their first international sensation.
The opera’s  popularity has led to it’s continued widespread and diverse reference in books, films and TV, including (but not limited to); Jerome K. Jerome’s ‘Three men in a Boat’ and  ‘I, Robot’ by Isaac Asimov; ‘Chariots of Fire’ (1981); Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992); ‘Wyatt Earp’ (1994); Star Trek: Insurrection (1998), ‘House'; ‘The Simpsons’…


A theatre poster and playbill for the original production of HMS Pinafore at the Opera Comique, London, in 1878.

Wikipedia – HMS Pinafore –

1893  Britannia (royal sailing yacht) won her first race.


HMY Britannia in her first season. 1893. Wikipedia –

1915  Battleship Triumph sunk by U-23 outside the Dardanelles (off Gaba Tepe).


HMS Triumph (1903) – Wikipedia –


German submarines at Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein, on 17 February 1914. Identifiable are: U 22, U 20, U 19, and U 21 (first row, left-right); U 14, U 15, U 12, U 16,U 18, U-17, and U 13 (second row, left-right); U-11, U-9, U-6, U-7, U-8, and U-5 (third row, left-right). As U 22 (the newest boat) was commissioned in November 1913, the photo was taken in 1914. Caption says: “Our submarine boats in the harbour” (in German). Wikipedia –

1917  AMC Hilary sunk by U-88 60 miles W. of the Shetland Islands.


Scene in the operations room of HMS Hilary (1908) – Wikipedia –


HMS Hilary (1908).


SM U-88 – Wikipedia –

1921  Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur Wilson, VC, died.

See 29 February 1884.


Admiral of the Fleet Sir Arthur Wilson 3rd Baronet VC, GCB, OM, GCVO – Wikipedia –

Sir Arthur Wilson was infamous within the Royal Navy for being an admiral with a tetchy temper. His nickname – Old ’Ard ’Art – was a bad joke about his uncaring nature.

Yet a verbal broadside he delivered in 1901 was to spawn one of the Submarine Service’s most loved and deeply ingrained traditions – the flying of the Jolly Roger flag to mark the victorious return from a successful patrol.

Wilson, later a hugely unpopular First Sea Lord, is said to have blasted the innovation of submarines, dubbing the covert way they operated as “underhand, unfair and damned un-English”.

He even went so far as to say: “They’ll never be any use in war and I’ll tell you why. I’m going to get the First Lord to announce that we intend to treat all submarines as pirate vessels in wartime and that we’ll hang all the crews.”

Britain’s fledgling submariners, enduring a perilous existence on board their basic early boats as they developed underwater warfare, ground their teeth at the snub. And they never forgot it.

One hundred years ago this week, shortly after the start of the Great War, British submarine HMS E9 despatched two torpedoes at close range at Germany’s SMS Hela in a skirmish off Heligoland.

Its commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Max Horton, had to dive immediately to avoid return fire, so he did not see the cruiser sink.

But the 13-year-old Silent Service had notched up its very first kill, confirming the deadly effectiveness of sneaking around in the deep then launching a surprise attack on an enemy.

Horton, recalling Admiral Wilson’s words, told his signaller to sew a piratical Jolly Roger flag, which flew proudly from his boat’s periscope as she sailed into Harwich, Essex.

A naval tradition was born, as the skull and crossbones went on to be the Royal Navy Submarine Service’s official emblem. Top brass, however, were not amused.

George Malcolmson, archivist at the RN Submarine Museum in Gosport, Hants, said: “The Admiralty certainly took a disliking to the flag. At the time it was keen to distance our ‘good’ submarines from German ones, which were ‘bad’.”

But any efforts to stamp out the practice failed, with a cluster of other Great War captains following Horton’s example.

And in World War Two the Jolly Roger tradition was resurrected by the Royal Navy with gusto. Submariners hoisted the flag just as they passed the boom outside a home port, lowering it at sunset.

Sarah Fletcher, ex-editor of magazine Navy News, said: “Submariners’ lives were harsh then and about a third of them died. But veterans say their hearts always soared when they ran up a Jolly Roger.”

At first crews simply chalked up the number of ships they had sunk – but soon they were stitching in other white emblems against the black backdrop.

A dagger indicated a covert operation, such as landing special forces in enemy territory, while a lifebelt was added if the submarine had rescued crew from a sinking ship. A sheep’s head was used to show that another boat had been rammed – and a diving helmet if the submarine had gone below her official limit, often to dodge depth charges.

Resourceful sailors, with plenty of time to kill during long hours underwater, also used one-off emblems. One submariner sewed on a Scarlet Pimpernel symbol after the vessel secretly carried a female French secret service agent to safety.

Another added a stork when the captain became a father while at sea. Second World War submarine HMS Sickle successfully sank an enemy vessel off Cape Ferrat in the South of France in May 1943.

Jolly Rodger (1)

HMS Sickle‘s Jolly Roger flag.

But one of the four torpedoes she fired hit a cliff in Monte Carlo, blowing out the windows of the casino on top. As her Jolly Roger fluttered in the wind, those watching from the shore with binoculars could see it featured an ace of spades. Her captain, Lt James Drummond, became known as “the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo”.

Sadly the joke was short-lived. Drummond, HMS Sickle and all her crew were lost around June 16 1944, after she is thought to have struck a mine.

She was the last British submarine sunk in the Mediterranean during that war. HMS Sickle was paid for by the people of Epping and Harlow in Essex, who raised the £175,000 required. Borough residents have always remembered their submarine and this summer Epping council flew a Jolly Roger above its buildings to mark the 70th anniversary of her sinking.

Historically significant Jolly Rogers can be valuable today. The one sewn by the crew of HMS Seraph, which took part in the top-secret Operation Mincemeat and helped change the course of the war, was sold at auction last year for £14,000.

Mincemeat was a successful disinformation plan to convince Germany that the Allies would attempt a landing in Greece and Sardinia, not Sicily as they intended.

Seraph deposited a corpse – in Royal Marines uniform and carrying special secret documents about the fake plan – so it would wash up on a Spanish beach.

The last submarine to hoist a flag after firing her torpedoes was HMS Conqueror, when she returned to Faslane on the Clyde after sinking the Argentine light cruiser ARA General Belgrano.

More recently HMS Splendid and HMS Turbulent’s Jolly Roger flags featured tomahawks after they launched cruise missile attacks during the Iraq War.

And all 130 members of HMS Triumph’s crew added stitches to record how her missiles wiped out Colonel Gaddafi’s anti-aircraft systems, enabling RAF Tornados to fly missions over Libya in 2011.

Then-captain Cdr Rob Dunn said: “It’s the only public recognition we get as a submarine. It goes to the very core of what we do.” If achievements are too covert even to be hinted at, such as landing the Special Boat Service on a foreign shore, a flag is still sewn but not flown from the bridge.

A century on from the birth of the tradition, the Admiralty has yet to warm truly to the practice and politicians have made various bids to ban it. One ex-submariner said: “We never actually got a direct order not to fly one of the flags – so we did.”

This week HMS Astute, on a classified deployment, marked the centenary by making a skull and crossbones cake – using up all the chefs’ black food colouring.

Able seaman Ben Coy, 25, from Lincolnshire, said: “The Jolly Roger is always created on board and is unique to every submarine. It’s vital to us that the traditions of the service are kept alive.” Coxswain Alan Wakefield, 45, of Clackmannanshire, said: “The Jolly Roger is our way of showing everyone what we’ve done. They become pockets of history which we keep on board. We do our best – but to be honest I’m not sure some of the sewing is that good.”

HMS Astute’s Commander Gareth Jenkins explained the real significance of Jolly Rogers to submarine crews for the last 100 years, saying: “The technology was so new and the work so secret that our submarines’ achievements must have been largely misunderstood a century ago.

“Our fearsome reputation was earned by forebears like Max Horton, who showed incredible courage in conducting special operations with an extremely basic submarine by today’s standards.

“Today’s Silent Service has the same piratical spirit and reputation for its ability to conduct covert missions. All you’ll see in recognition of this is, perhaps, the brief flying of a flag. But for us it’s enough.”

1939  Sir Frank Watson Dyson, KBE, FRS, aged 71, died while travelling from Australia to England in 1939 and was buried at sea.
He was an English astronomer and Astronomer Royal (and director of the Royal Greenwich Observatory) from 1910 to 1933. In 1928, he introduced in the Observatory a new free-pendulum clock, the most accurate clock available at that time and organised the regular wireless transmission from the GPO wireless station at Rugby of Greenwich Mean Time. He is remembered today largely for introducing time signals (“six pips”) from Greenwich (via the BBC), and for the role he played in testing Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
He was for several years President of the British Horological Institute and was awarded their Gold Medal in 1928.

The crater Dyson on the Moon is named after him, as is the asteroid 1241 Dysona.


Sir Frank Watson Dyson KBE, FRS (8th January 1868 – 25th May 1939). Wikipedia –

1940  Illustrious (fourth of the name) commissioned. First heavily armoured aircraft carrier.

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HMS Illustrious in her original 1940 overall grey guise. Wikipedia –

1940  Destroyer Wessex, Lt.Cdr. William Archibald RoseberyCartwright, RN sunk by air attack off Calais. The wreck lies in 35 meters of water (51º00’54″N, 01º45’50″E).

Despatched from Dover on the 24th to bombard enemy troop formations advancing on Calais with HM Destroyers Vimiera, Wolfhound and Polish ORP Burza. Came under sustained dive bombing attack by Stuka aircraft soon after start of bombardment. Hit by three bombs and sank quickly. Survivors were rescued by HMS Vimiera which sustained serious damage and had to withdraw.

hms wessex  - 1939 christmas card

HMS Wessex (D43) Christmas card 1940. Wikipedia –

1941  Sloop Grimsby sunk by German aircraft 40 miles N. of Tobruk.


HMS Grimsby (U16) – Wikipedia –

1943  Liberator S/59 sank U-990 off south-west Norway, in North Sea west of Bodö (65-05N, 07-28E). 20 dead and 33 survivors. Wikipedia – U-990 –


Conning tower emblem U-990.


Kapitänleutnant Hubert Nordheimer.

Kriegstagebuch (War day book) U-990 4th War Patrol 22 – 25.5.1944 (4 days). –

1943  VC: Cdr John Wallace ‘Tubby’, Linton RN, Turbulent, Posthumous. Boat posted missing in Mediterranean. His son, William, was lost eight years later in Affray. (Loss of HMS Affray Wikipedia –

See 17 April 1951, 12 March 1943.


Commander John Wallace Linton VC, DSO, DSC – Wikipedia –


Royal Life Saving Society swimming medal, bronze, the reverse officially inscribed, ‘J. W. Linton, July 1921’; a length of V.C. riband with miniature riband fitment.

The citation in the London Gazette of 21st May, 1943, gives the following details: From the outbreak of war until H.M.S. Turbulent’s last patrol, Commander Linton was constantly in command of submarines, and during that time inflicted great damage on the enemy. He sank one cruiser, one destroyer, one U-boat, twenty-eight supply ships, some 100,000 tons in all, and destroyed three trains by gunfire. In this last year he spent two hundred and fifty-four days at sea, submerged for nearly half the time, and his ship was hunted thirteen times and had two hundred and fifty depth charges aimed at her. His many and brilliant successes were due to his constant activity and skill, and the daring which never failed him when there was an enemy to be attacked.

The London Gazette Friday, 11 September, 1942 – TheLondonGazetteFri11Sept42 (PDF)



HMS Turbulent (N98) on the outboard side, moored up. Wikipedia –

1962  The Old Bay Line, the last overnight steamboat service in the United States, goes out of business after the stockholders of the Baltimore Steam Packet Company vote to liquidate the 122-year-old corporation. Thus, ending forever the melodious whistles of Old Bay Line steamboats on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.


The Baltimore Steam Packet Company’s ‘City of Richmond’ steamboat. c.1949. Wikipedia –


Old Bay Line 1950s timetable.

1973  At midday, whilst participating in a NATO exercise between Italy and Sardinia, 85 nautical miles (SW of Rome), Captain Nikolaos Pappas and the officers of HNS Velos (D-16), learned by radio that fellow naval officers had been arrested and tortured in Greece. In order to protest against the dictatorship in Greece, Captain Pappos left the NATO formation and sailed for Rome. Refusing to return to Greece, they anchored at Fiumicino, Italy from where they contacted the international press to motivate global public opinion.


Destroyer Velos D16 (formerly USS Charrette), now a museum ship in the Gulf of Faliron in Athens.

Wikipedia – USS Charrette (DD-581) –

1982  Destroyer Coventry sunk and frigate Broadsword damaged N. of Falkland Sound by air attacks by Argentine Air Force A-4 Skyhawks. Atlantic Conveyor, carrying important helicopter reinforcements, damaged by two air-launched Exocets while in company with carrier battle group 85 miles N.E. of Cape Pembroke, and sank later. There was no sign of the eponymous carrier (25 De Mayo, originally HMS Venerable and the Dutch Karel Doorman). Operation Corporate.


Argentine Air Force A-4C, May 1982. Wikipedia –


Argentine Air Force A-4 Skyhawks attacking HMS Broadsword depicting Captain Pablo Carballo (on the left plane) and Lieutenant Carlos Rinke (right, barely visible below the horizon).

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unknown acquisition method; (c) Herbert Art Gallery & Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

HMS Broadsword assisting with rescue efforts for HMS Coventry.


MV Atlantic Conveyor – Wikipedia –

The subsequent damage was so severe that within 20 minutes of being hit, Coventry was abandoned and had completely capsized – she sank shortly after.
Nineteen of her crew were lost and a further thirty injured.
After the ship was struck, her crew, waiting to be rescued were reportedly singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

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British destroyer HMS Coventry (D118) underway. In the background is the USS Bagley (FF-1069).

Wikipedia –

1989  Adm Sir William Doveton Minet Staveley promoted Admiral of the Fleet at the end of his appointment as First Sea Lord. Dartmouth 1942, 1952-4 Flag Lt to Adm Sir George Creasy, C-in-C Home Fleet; SO 104th (later 6th) Minesweeping Flotilla in Far East. Last Captain of Albion 1972-3; DN Plans and DN Future Policies; rear-admiral January 1977; FOF2, FOCAS, COS C-in-C Fleet, 1980-2 VCNS then C-in-C Fleet. He was the grandson of Vice-Adm Sir Doveton Sturdee who defeated the German Vice-Adm Graf Spee at the Battle of the Falklands in 1914. Adm Stavely died on 13 October 1997.


Admiral of the Fleet Sir William Doveton Minet Staveley  GCB DL Wikipedia –

The Independent, A B Sainsbury, Thursday 16 October 1997. Obituary for Admiral of the Fleet Sir William Doveton Minet Staveley  GCB DL. . . .

With such ancestry, William Staveley’s career seemed inevitable in both pattern and achievement. It had a singularly promising start – an early appointment as Flag Lieutenant to the Commander-in-Chief Home Fleet, a tour of duty in the Royal Yacht and then two years as an officer at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, by whose standards even the young Staveley was outstanding. In all those appointments he impressed his seniors and his juniors, albeit in different ways, by his unflagging zeal, dedication to duty and determined purpose, growing more and more into the manner born.

He was promoted early to Commander at the age 32, and saw active service in command of a mine-sweeping squadron deployed as coastal patrol craft off Brunei in 1982 and Malaysia in 1983. His appointers did him well and he returned their compliments. A shore appointment at the Portland Training Base in Dorset, as Commander Sea Training, kept his hand and eye in, and then after command of the frigate Zulu he was promoted Captain in 1967, after barely seven years as Commander.

His next job was in the Naval Plans division, the first of several in Whitehall, but he was given two more seagoing appointments, commanding Intrepid, one of the two assault ships, and Albion, the commando carrier, before a second planning post, this time as Director of Naval Plans, led with apparent inevitability to the Flag List in 1977. His peers continued to observe his rather solitary path to further promotion – his efficiency seemed fantastic to some and almost depressing to others, but it sustained him, unabated, throughout his career.

He flew his flag as Rear- Admiral Carriers and Amphibious Ships, by then the Navy’s major conventional warships, which was his first experience of a coterminous Nato appointment, as Commander Carrier Strike Force Two. Then appointment as Chief of Staff to Commander-in-Chief Fleet introduced him to the headquarters at Northwood.

Meanwhile he was promoted Vice-Admiral in 1980 and appointed Vice-Chief of the Naval Staff under Sir Henry Leach as Chief of the Naval Staff and First Sea Lord. Staveley was not to see service afloat again, though his service ashore was no less turbulent. Those were the days of John Nott’s lamentable defence review and of Command 8288, that fantastical White Paper. Staveley did well to help retrieve the situation, and the Falklands campaign was a fortunate opportunity for the Navy to demonstrate the need for a more realistic balance of capabilities than Nott had envisaged. His heart must have leapt at the possibility of one more command afloat, but the task force needed only one flag officer at sea, and that a Rear- Admiral. Staveley was denied the opportunity to emulate Sturdee.

He was perhaps consoled in 1981 by being appointed KCB, though again many reflected that unlike some, he did not have to shed a nickname or an affectionate diminutive to return to the formal given name that was required. He was always thought of as William by most people. But he returned to Northwood, as an Admiral, Commander-in-Chief and Allied Commander-in-Chief Channel and Eastern Atlantic. With customary honesty, and irrespective of political popularity, he urged on the Government his appreciation of the Allies’ serious deficiency in the number of small craft needed because of the Soviet threat.

He succeeded Sir Henry Leach, with whom he had much in common, as First Sea Lord in 1985. No single or particular event characterised his time in office, and the culmination of his naval career may thus seem less memorable than others. But he fought forcefully and fruitfully in defence of the Navy’s case for the resources it needed for its national and international tasks.

He had more to do with the integration of the WRNS and the employment of women at sea than is generally realised. Partly because of a perceived manpower shortage but partly because of the notion of political correctness which was beginning to influence policies, the Navy had to go further and faster than Staveley thought right. He envisaged women serving afloat in due course, but thought it wiser that they should first serve in, perhaps, the Royal Fleet Auxiliaries or the surveying ships, so that lessons might be studied before they embarked in other warships.

He retired from the naval staff in 1989 in the rank of Admiral of the Fleet. He was no less energetic or dedicated and did much good work on many fronts. He was prominent in the NHS and particularly successful as Chairman of the Chatham Dockyard Historical Trust where his role may in time be seen as equal in importance to that of Sturdee, in the preservation of HMS Victory. But the Royal Horticultural Society, Trinity House, English Heritage and the council of the University of Kent at Canterbury, the Kent Lieutenancy, his local Hunt and the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights all benefited from his energetic support, and his last years were as useful and as satisfying as those he had devoted to the Navy.

In retrospect, it is sad that he was one of the less approachable admirals and that as a more junior officer he did not relax enough to reveal more of the man and less of the officer. He never courted popularity and his chosen style did not attract it. But he might have earned more, especially if he had been able to unbutton what sense of humour he had. He was however a remarkably dedicated man who will be remembered with very great respect if, alas, with somewhat less affection. – On This Day –

Royal Navy On This Day 24 May …..

1218  The Fifth Crusade leaves Acre, bound for Egypt. The immediate objective would be Damietta, a town in the Nile delta that guarded the main route up river to Cairo, the ultimate objective. Wikipedia –

PDF – The Fifth Crusade – The_Fifth_Crusade_1217


Frisian crusaders confront the Tower of Damietta, Egypt.

1543  Nicolaus Copernicus, aged 70 years, died in Frombork, Royal Prussia, Kingdom of Poland. He is remembered as the Renaissance mathematician and astronomer who formulated a heliocentric model of the universe which placed the Sun, rather than the Earth, at the centre.


1580 portrait (artist unknown) in the Old Town City Hall, Toruń. Wikipedia –

The publication of Copernicus’ book, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), just before his death, is considered a major event in the history of science.
It began the Copernican Revolution and contributed importantly to the rise of the ensuing Scientific Revolution.

 Cardinal Bellarmine’s Certificate (26 May 1616)    We, Robert Cardinal Bellarmine, have heard that Mr. Galileo Galilei is being slandered or alleged to have abjured in our hands and also to have been given salutary penances for this. Having been sought about the truth of the matter, we say that the above-mentioned Galileo has not abjured in our hands, or in the hands of others here in Rome, or anywhere else that we know, any opinion or doctrine of his; nor has he received any penances, salutary or otherwise.  On the contrary, he has only been notified of the declaration made by the Holy Father and published by the Sacred Congregation of the Index, whose content is that the doctrine attributed to Copernicus (that the earth moves around the sun and the sun stands at the center of the world without moving from east to west) is contrary to Holy Scripture and therefore cannot be defended or held.  In witness whereof we have written and signed this with our own hands, on this 26th day of May 1616.

The same mentioned above,

                              Robert Cardinal Bellarmine.


Saint Robert Bellarmine, Jesuit and Doctor of the Church Born 4 October, 1542, Montepulciano, Italy Died 17 September, 1621, Rome, Italy Venerated in Catholicism Beatified 13 May 1923 by Pope Pius XI Canonized 29 June 1930 by Pope Pius XI

Wikipedia –

1692  Vice-Adm George Rooke (Eagle) with fireships and boats of fleet, burned the French Bourbon, Fier, Fort, St Louis, Terrible and Tonnant at La Hogue.

See 23 May 1692.


Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Rooke by Michael Dahl, painted c. 1705.

Wikipedia –

1743  Adm Sir Charles Wager died.


Sir Charles Wager – WIkipedia –

1779  Black Prince, owned by Irish and French smugglers, is commissioned as an American privateer through the efforts of Benjamin Franklin.


USS Alfred (1775-1778) Painting in oils by W. Nowland Van Powell, depicting Lieutenant John Paul Jones raising the “Grand Union” flag as Alfred was placed in commission at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 3 December 1775. Commanded by Captain Dudley Saltonstall, Alfred was flagship of Commodore Esek Hopkins’ Continental Navy flotilla during the remainder of 1775 and the first four months of 1776. Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C. Donation of the Memphis Council, U.S. Navy League, 1776[sic]. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Wikipedia –

1792  George Brydges Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney, KB, aged 74 years, died at Hanover Square, London. He is best known for his commands in the American War of Independence, particularly his victory over the French at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782. It is often claimed that he was the commander to have pioneered the tactic of “breaking the line”.

See 12 April 1782.


Admiral Lord George Rodney, 1st Baron Rodney, (1719-1792). Portrait by Jean-Laurent Mosnierc, painted c.1791.

Wikipedia –,_1st_Baron_Rodney

1795  Mosquito captured the French privateer National Razor off Cape Maze (Maysi), Cuba. [m]

1796  Capture of St Lucia by Lt-Gen Sir Ralph Abercromby and Rear-Adm Sir Hugh Cloberry Christian (Thunderer) after an attack which had begun on 27 April. A Naval Brigade was landed. Ships: Alfred, Ganges, Madras, Thunderer, Vengeance. Frigates, etc.: Arethusa, Astraea, Beaulieu, Bulldog, Fury, Hebe, Pelican, Victorieuse, Woolwich, [bh]

640px-Sir_Ralph_Abercromby_by_John_Hoppner (1)

Sir Ralph Abercromby, by John Hoppner. Wikipedia –


Sir Hugh Cloberry Christian, KB, Rear Admiral of the White Squadron. Wikipedia –

1808  HMS Swan (10), Lt. Mark Robinson Lucas, destroyed Danish cutter (8) at Bornhohn.


Slideshare King’s Cutters & Smugglers 1700-1855 by E. Keble Chatterton – PDF – kings_cutters_and_smugglers_1700-1855

Wikipedia – Hired armed cutter Swan –

Swan had been carrying despatches when she had spotted the Danish vessel and lured her out. After a chase of about two hours, Swan was in a position to open fire. Twenty minutes into the engagement the Danish cutter exploded. Swan suffered no casualties despite coming under fire both from the Danish vessel and the batteries on Bornholm. The fire from the batteries and the sighting of Danish boats approaching forced Wallace to withdraw without being able to make efforts to rescue survivors. The Danish cutter appeared to be of about 120 tons, to have mounted eight or ten guns, and apparently was full of men. The Danish cutter turned out to be the privateer Habet.

The London Gazette –

HMS Astræa (32), Captain Edmund Heywood, wrecked on a reef off Anegada in the Virgin Islands.

The Astraea escorted the mail packet ship Prince Earnest past the danger of Caribbean privateers. Heywood, thinking that Anegada was Puerto Rico, wrecked upon the deadly horseshoe reef. All but four of her crew survived, either by making it to the island or to Virgin Gorda (Two were killed when a gun burst while firing a distress signal and two drowned. Later, one seaman was hanged for mutinous conduct). Two days after the wrecking, the 22-gun sloop and former French privateer St Christopher (also known as the St Kitt‍ ‘ s) arrived and rescued the crew. The two 32-gun frigates Jason and Galatea, and the sloop Fawn arrived later, and engaged in salvage attempts. The British abandoned the wreck on 24 June. Many of the crew went on to serve aboard Favourite.

As was usual, Captain Heywood, his officers and crew, were subject to a court martial* for the loss of his ship. This took place on 11 June 1808 on Ramillies in Carlisle Bay, Barbados. The court held that the ship foundered due to an “extraordinary weather current,” and exonerated Heywood.

*The court martial held:”… having heard the narrative thereof by Captain Edmund Heywood, together with explanations given by himself and also by Mr. Allan McLean, the master of the said ship, and having fully completed the inquiry, and maturely and deliberately weighed and considered the whole thereof, the court is of opinion that the loss was occasioned by an extraordinary weather current having set the ship nearly two degrees to the eastwards of the reckoning of all the officers on board … and that no blame is attributable to Captain Heywood, his officers, and ship’s company.”

1810  HMS Fleche Sloop (16), George Hewson, wrecked on the Shaarhorn Sand, off Newark, Elbe.

HMS Racer (12), Lt. Daniel Miller, wrecked on the coast of France.

1814  Boats of Elizabeth cut out the French L’Aigle from under the guns of Vido Island, Corfu. [m]

1819  Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent is born. Just over eighteen years later, she would replace her uncle as monarch, and become Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.


Wikipedia –

Victoria was born at Kensington Palace, London. She was the only daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent, fourth son of George III. Her father died shortly after her birth and she became heir to the throne because the three uncles who were ahead of her in succession – George IV, Frederick Duke of York, and William IV – had no legitimate children who survived.

Warmhearted and lively, Victoria had a gift for drawing and painting; educated by a governess at home, she was a natural diarist and kept a regular journal throughout her life. On William IV’s death in 1837, she became Queen at the age of 18.

1841  Capture of the British Factory and the remaining river forts and batteries in the eastern approaches to Canton. Operations ended on the 26th. Ships: Algerine, Columbine, Cruizer, Hyacinth, Modeste, Nimrod, Pylades. Steamer: Atalanta (Indian Navy), Troops: 26th Regiment, Madras Artillery.

1844  Samuel Morse sends the message “What hath God wrought” (a biblical quotation, Numbers 23:23) from the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the United States Capitol to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore, Maryland to inaugurate the first telegraph line.


Self-portrait of Morse in 1812 (National Portrait Gallery). Wikipedia –

1854  HSH Prince Louis of Battenberg born at Graz, Austria. First Sea Lord 8 December 1912 – 29 October 1914. Admiral of the Fleet as Marquess of Milford Haven 4 August 1921, the seventh anniversary of the outbreak of war with his native Germany, which had led to his resignation as First Sea Lord, and a month before his death. Father of Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten of Burma.

See 28 October 1914, 11 September 1921.


Admiral of the Fleet The Most Honourable The Marquess of Milford Haven GCB, GCVO, KCMG, PC.

Wikipedia –

1855  Allied troops landed in Kamish-Burunski Bay, and the fleet obtained possession of the Kerch-Yenikale Strait, at the entrance to the Sea of Azov. Snake engaged the batteries and several Russian war vessels, sinking two of them. British fleet of thirty-three ships under Rear-Adm Sir Edmund Lyons (Royal Albert), French (of nearly equal force) under Vice-Adm Bruat (Montebello).

1876  Challenger, steam corvette, returned to Spithead after a 3.5-year oceanographic voyage, having sailed 68,890 miles and crossed the Equator eight times.

See 21 December 1872.


Painting of Challenger by William Frederick Mitchell. Wikipedia –


Track of HMS Challenger Dec.r 1872 to May 1876 showing the dredging an trawling stations / engraved by Malby & Sons Scale ca. 1:65.000.000 26 x 68 cm

1881  One of Canada’s worst marine disasters occurred on the Thames River, London, Ontario, as people celebrated Queen Victoria day, in recognition of Queen Victoria’s (62nd) birthday.
The (aptly-named) Victoria, a small, double-decked stern-wheeler commanded by Captain Donald Rankin, was conducting holiday excursion trips between London and Springbank Park.


Victoria ferry disaster – Maritime history of the Great Lakes –

On a return trip to London the boat was dangerously overcrowded with more than 600 passengers. Oblivious of the danger, the crowd repeatedly shifted from side to side, resulting in flooding and a precarious rocking motion of the boat. It finally heeled over and the boiler crashed through the bulwarks, bringing the upper-deck and large awning down upon the struggling crowd. The Victoria sank immediately and at least 182 people, the majority from London, lost their lives.

1882  Ninety-eight days after sailing from New Zealand, the first cargo of frozen meat arrives in London aboard the refrigerated clipper Dunedin. She sailed with 4331 mutton, 598 lamb and 22 pig carcasses, 250 kegs of butter, as well as hare, pheasant, turkey, chicken and 2226 sheep tongues.
The produce was found to be in excellent condition, selling at the Smithfield market over the next two weeks (with just a single carcass being condemned). The event would lead to the establishment of  New Zealand as an international exporter of meat and dairy produce, and as a permanent supplier to the UK.

A second shipment soon followed in the New Zealand Shipping Co.’s Mataura. Within a year a number of other sailing ships were fitted with refrigerators and steamers were chartered or built to meet the growing demand for space for shipping frozen meat.



Photograph of the Dunedin, loading at Port Chalmers, New Zealand, in 1882.

Wikipedia –

1898  Occupation of Wei-Hai-Wei.



Location of the Weihaiwei leased territory in 1921 (in blue). Wikipedia – Weihaiwei under British rule –

1916  E 18 sunk by German submarine-trap (Q-ship) ‘K’ off Bornholm in Baltic.

Wikipedia – SMS ship K – (translates from German to English)


E18 shortly after passing through the Øresund in September 1915. Note the camouflage paintwork to prevent detection by shore observers. Wikipedia –

HMS E18 Sub’s wartime grave discovered BBC NEWS | UK – (includes video).


Left to Right, Front Row:  Harris,  Percy,  Ruaux,  Bass,  Phillips AP,  Duffield.

Second Row:  Powell,  Robinson,  Phillips AC,  White,  Guest,  Maddox.

Third Row:  Clack,  Ashmore,  Landale,  Halahan,  Colson.

Fourth Row:  Godward,  Fuller,  Holland,  Spencer,  Bagg,  Galloway,  Ryan.

Back Row:  Edwards,  Sheppard,  Welsh,  Nye,  Hall,  Hunt.


Head on view of bow E18.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

HMS E18 – – website

1917  Experimental convoy sailed from Newport News to the United Kingdom, under escort of armoured cruiser Roxburgh.

HMS Roxburgh (1904) – Wikipedia –

1917  Third division of American destroyers arrived at Queenstown, making a total of eighteen, within eight weeks of the United States entering First World War.

Commander D.C. Hanrahan USN new division comprised Cushing (D.C. Hanrahan), Benham (J.B. Gay), O’Brien (C.A. Blakely), and Sampson (B.C. Allen). George Neal commands the Cummings and Byron Long the Nicholson.


USS Cushing during trials in 1915.


USS Benham departing from Brest in October 1918.


USS O’Brien during trials in 1915.


USS Sampson (DD-63).


USS Cummings (DD-44) –


USS Nicholson during trials in 1915.

1939  Control of Fleet Air Arm restored from Air Ministry to Board of Admiralty by the Inskip award. Rear-Adm R. Bell-Davies, VC, appointed Rear-Admiral Naval Air Stations.


Richard Bell-Davies during World War I.

1941  Hood sunk and Prince of Wales damaged by the German battleship Bismarck in Denmark Strait. Swordfish aircraft (Victorious) torpedoed Bismarck. FAA Sqn: 825.


Eyewitness sketch of the explosion of HMS Hood by the Captain of the HMS Prince of Wales.


Last photograph of Hood, seen from Prince of Wales.


HMS Hood, 17 March 1924 –


HMS Prince of Wales (53) –

Schlachtschiff Bismarck

Bismarck in 1940.

The German battleship Bismarck (42,500 tons) and cruiser Prinz Eugen sailed for commerce raiding in the Atlantic, in May 1941. The Admiralty was aware that German heavy units were at sea, and sailed the Home Fleet from Scapa Flow. The cruiser Suffolk sighted the Bismarck, and shadowed her in the mist using radar until the battlecruiser Hood and the newly completed battleship Prince of Wales were able to close. The British capital ships sighted the German force at 0535 on 24 May, and engaged at 13 miles at 0553. The German ships concentrated their fire on the Hood, while the British ships could use only their forward turrets because of the angle of their approach. Bismarck‘s second and third salvoes hit Hood, and at 06.00, she blew up, leaving three survivors from her complement of 95 officers and 1,324 men. The Germans shifted their fire to the Prince of Wales, which was hit within minutes by four 15in and three 8in shells. She broke off the engagement. Bismarck however, had been hit by two of her 14in shells, one of which caused an oil leak. As a result Bismarck decided to head for St Nazaire.

1941  VC: Lt-Cdr Malcolm David Wanklyn for services in command of submarine Upholder.

David_Wanklyn_VC_IWM_A_7293 (1)

Lieutenant Commander Malcolm David Wanklyn VC, DSO & Two Bars (left) with his First Lieutenant and senior engineer J. R. D Drummond (right) 13 January 1942.

UPHOLDER_badge1-1- (1)

HMS_Upholder (1)

HMS Upholder (P37) –

When, on August 22, 1942, the Admiralty announced the loss of HMS Upholder, the communiqué carried with it an unusual tribute to Wanklyn and his men:
“It is seldom proper the Their Lordships to draw distinction between different services rendered in the course of naval duty, but they take this opportunity of singling out those of HMS Upholder, under the command of Lt.Cdr. David Wanklyn, for special mention. She was long employed against enemy communications in the Central Mediterranean, and she became noted for the uniformly high quality of her services in that arduous and dangerous duty. Such was the standard of skill and daring set by Lt.Cdr. Wanklyn and the officers and men under him that they and shier ship became an inspiration not only to their own flotilla, but to the Fleet of which it was a part and to Malta, where for so long HMS Upholder was based. The ship and her company are gone, but the example and inspiration remain.”
In all, Upholder was credited with having sunk 97,000 tons of enemy shipping, in addition to three U-boats and one destroyer.

1943  Dönitz ordered German U-boats to withdraw from N. Atlantic convoy routes after twenty-four submarines had been lost so far that month.


Großadmiral Karl Dönitz, later Reichspräsident of Germany.

May 1943 was the turning point in the battle of the Atlantic. The last straw for Adm Dönitz came with the eastward passage of convoy SC 130 from Halifax which did not lose a single ship, although five U-boats were sunk attacking it. In May only fifty merchantmen were sunk for the loss of forty-one U-boats, thirty-eight of them in the Atlantic. The fitting of centimetric radar in ships and aircraft obliged U-boats to dive during battery-charging surface runs and made surface attack dangerous. In spite of the development of the schnorkel, which enabled submarines to charge batteries under the surface, the U-boat menace never again reached the proportions of 1942, when nearly 8 million tons of merchant shipping had been sunk, over 70% by U-boats.


‘The retreat of the Atlantic U-boats . . . was a smashing victory for the Allies, as important a strategic victory as Midway in the west and Stalingrad in the east’ – Winton, Convoy, p. 282. ‘The victory here recounted marked one of the decisive stages of the war; for the enemy then made his greatest effort against our Atlantic life-line – and he failed. After forty-five months of unceasing battle, of a more exacting and arduous nature than posterity may easily realise, our convoy escorts and aircraft had won the triumph that they so richly deserved’ – Roskill, War at Sea, vol. 2, p. 377.

1944  Catalina V/210 sank U-476 off Norway (65-08N, 04-53E) and Sunderland R/4 OTU sank U-675 off southern Norway (62-27N, 03-04E).


U-476 Crew at Kiel 28-5-1943.

North-west of Trondheim at 07:16 Hrs, a 210 SQN Catalina of 18 Grp CC RAF (Capt F W L Maxwell SAAF) sighted a surfaced U-Boat. As they closed for attack, U-476 put up a strong flak defence, yet Maxwell dropped 6 D/Cs. The U-Boat circled around and slowly went down by the stern, lingering in a bows up attitude. U-990 and U-276 came to the rescue, between them they saved 21 crew including the commander. U-990 sent a torpedo into U-476 to finish her off.
Meanwhile U-276 suffered 3 casualties during an air attack while rescuing crew of U-476.


Conning tower emblem U-675.

u675HIT U675Sinkingsternfirst

U-675 Hit and sinking stern first.

1962  A targeting mishap during reentry results in Mercury spacecraft ‘Aurora 7′, piloted by astronaut Scott Carpenter, splashing down several hundred miles from USS Intrepid – the primary recovery vessel.
Minutes after he was located by land-based search aircraft, two helicopters from Intrepid, carrying NASA officials, medical experts, Navy frogmen, and photographers, were airborne and headed to the rescue. One of the choppers picked him up over an hour later and flew him to the carrier which safely returned him to the United States.


A U.S. Navy Sikorsky HSS-2 ‘Sea King’ recovers astronaut Scott Carpenter from the ‘Aurora 7′ capsule.

1967  Leander-class frigate Andromeda launched, last ship built in Portsmouth Dockyard.

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HMS Andromeda F-57 seen after her 1981 conversion, not the forward 4.5″ (114mm) gun has been replaced with a 6 cell Seawolf GWS-25 missile launcher. Wikipedia –

1968  Soviet Submarine ‘K-27′, the only Project 645 submarine, equipped with a liquid metal cooled reactor, was irreparably damaged by a reactor accident (control rod failure) on May 24th, 1968. 9 were killed in the reactor accident. After shutting down the reactor and sealing the compartment, the Soviet Navy scuttled her in shallow water (108 ft) of the Kara Sea on September 6th, 1982, contrary to the recommendation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


Soviet nuclear sub reactors sunk in Arctic.

1971  First promotions to acting fleet chief petty officer. Warrants confirming the appointments, signed by Lord Carrington as Secretary of State for Defence, were date 1 July 1972.

1982  Landing ships Sir Galahad and Sir Lancelot hit in San Carlos Water by bombs that failed to explode and were removed by Fleet Clearance Diving Teams.

2000  Royal Marines of 42 Cdo landed in Sierra Leone from Ocean to relieve 2 Para in supporting Government forces and evacuating UK nationals, QGM: Maj Phil Ashby RM, UN Military Observer. Operation Palliser.

See 1 May 2000.

2002  The Falkirk Wheel (below), a rotating boat lift in Scotland connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal, is officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations.
The structure, which was built as part of a scheme to regenerate central Scotland’s canals, is located sits near the Rough Castle Fort, near the village of Tamfourhil, and the nearby town of Falkirk. The site also includes a visitors’ centre containing a shop, café, and exhibition centre. Wikipedia –


Panoramic view of the wheel and aqueduct.


Animation showing how the wheel turns. The direction of rotation changes every five cycles. – On This Day –

Royal Navy On This Day 23 May …..

1500  On 23rd or 24th May, the eleven ship fleet of Pedro Alvares Cabral encountered a severe storm in the South Atlantic’s high-pressure zone as they were sailing from Brazil to the Cape of Good Hope, en route to India. Three naus and a caravel, commanded by Bartolomeu Dias – the first European to reach the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 – foundered, and 380 men were lost. The exact location of the disaster (and associated incidents) is unknown. Hindered by the rough weather and damaged rigging, the remaining seven ships became separated.


A drawing from Memória das Armadas (Memorandum of the fleets) (c.1568), shows many of Cabral’s fleet as either lost or damaged. – Catholic Encyclopedia (1913), Volume 4 – Bartolomeu Dias –

Wikipedia – Bartolomeu Dias –

1692  Vice-Adm George Rooke (Eagle) with fireships and boats of fleet, burned the French Ambitieux, Galliard, Glorieux, Magnifique, Marveilleux and St Phillippe at La Hogue.


Sir George Rooke by Michael Dahl. Wikipedia –

1701  After being convicted of piracy and the murder of William Moore, Scottish sailor Captain William Kidd is hanged on 23rd May 1701, at ‘Execution Dock’, Wapping, in London. During the execution, the hangman’s rope broke and Kidd was hanged on the second attempt. His body was gibbeted over the River Thames at Tilbury Point for three years, as a warning to future would-be pirates.


William Kidd – Wikipedia –


Captain Kidd hanging in chains.

1790  Jules Sébastien César Dumont d’Urville is born at Condé-sur-Noireau. He would go on to become a French naval officer, and explorer of the south and western Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica.


Jules-Sébastien-César Dumont d’Urville – Wikipedia –

1794  Occupation of Bastia. Calvi besieged by Gen Stuart with squadron under Capt Nelson. Taken 10 August.

1798  HMS De Braak Sloop (14) foundered in Delaware Bay. Wikipedia – – HMS De Braak –


HMS De Braak was originally a Dutch Navy 1-masted cutter, that was declared a war prize by the Royal Navy, while at anchor at Falmouth in March 1796.

A Dutch ship seized by the British, De Braak sailed during the European wars between England, France and their allies in the late 18th century. De Braak rounded Cape Henlopen on May 25, 1798, and Captain James Drew told the pilot, “I’ve had good luck.” Drew’s luck ran out, however. In a fierce wind, the ship tipped like a toy boat. De Braak sank with 47 men, including Drew, who is now buried in the graveyard at St. Peter’s Church in Lewes. Three Spanish prisoners reportedly floated ashore on the captain’s sea chest. They flashed valuable coins in Lewes, which sparked tales of treasure. As time passed, more than 30 salvage attempts met with much publicity and great failure. Rumours surfaced of a witch who protected the ship with foul weather. When sonar located the wreck in 1984, it became the focus of a two-year salvage effort that produced 20,000 artifacts. The state, which purchased the items for $300,000, keeps most in storage due to a lack of exhibit space. Some say the treasure is still down there. Others say it was already retrieved. And stories about Drew’s ghost, which rises at night to look for his crew, and the Bad Weather Witch, linger on.

On the evening of August 11, 1986, the battered carcass of an ancient warship, believed by many to be laden with as much as $500 million in Spanish treasure, was wrested from the waters of Delaware Bay. The recovery of the remains of the Royal Navy man-of -war De Braak and nearly 26,000 artefacts, dating from the heroic age of Nelson and Bonaparte, had been conducted as a national media event, and brought to an end a remarkable century-long search for a treasure that never existed.

As the hulk was pulled from the sea, the reality behind the myth was uncovered – and one of the worst archaeological debacles in American history was launched. The locations and conditions of artefacts from the De Braak  wreckage – so necessary for historical analysis – were inadequately recorded, or not recorded at all. Many small artefacts were lost forever because the outflow from the airlift system used to dredge up the remains of the ship was not screened. Although the Delaware required that all activities be properly monitored and that artefacts be properly inventoried and analysed for function and placement, the salvors seemed concerned only with the treasure for which they blindly lusted – for naught.

1799  HMS Deux Amis Sloop wrecked in Great Chine, Isle of Wight. Wikipedia –

1809  Melpomene beat off twenty Danish gunboats, under Lt. Cdr Ulrich A. Schønheyder, at Omö Island, Storebælt (Great Belt), and was favoured by a wind getting up, without which she would have been taken.

1811  Sir Francis Drake (32), Captain George Harris, and her boats captured fourteen French gunboats and two merchant prahus 10 miles N.E. of Rembang, Java. A few of the 14th Regiment were in the boats.

HMS Amazon (38), Captain Parker, captured the French privateer brig Cupidon(14)

1822  Comet launched at Deptford.

Oliver Lang, the master shipwright of Deptford, built for the navy a small tug or tender, which, strange to say, their Lordships named the “Comet”, as another mysterious visitor had crossed the heavens since the one from which Bell named his little pioneer ten years before.


‘Their Lordships feel it their bounden duty to discourage to the utmost of their ability the employment of steam vessels, as they consider that the introduction of steam is calculated to strike a fatal blow at the naval supremacy of the empire.’ Obiter of Lord Melville, First Lord in 1828. The first paddle-steamer built for the RN was the Comet of 238 tons, launched in 1822, but not armed until 1830. The first real British steam warship was the Gorgon, a sloop launched in 1837 and armed with a single cannon at bow and stern. A larger ship, classed as a steam frigate, was the Firebrand, launched in 1842, and originally named Belzebub.

1834  Voyage of HMS Beagle (1831-36): The Adventure joined up with the Beagle and assisted in the survey of the Strait of Magellan.

1850  America sends USS Advance and USS Rescue to attempt rescue of Sir John Franklin’s British expedition, lost in Arctic.

1918  Submarine H 4 sank the German UB-52 in Adriatic (41-46N, 18-35E).


HMS H4 – Wikipedia –

UB_148_at_sea_2 (3)

UB-148 at sea, a U-boat similar to UB-52. Wikipedia –

1918  AMC Moldavia torpedoed and sunk by UB-67 off Brighton.


RMS Moldavia – Wikipedia –

UB_148_at_sea_2 (3)

UB-148 at sea, a U-boat similar to UB-67. Wikipedia –

1928  GC (ex-AM): Lt R.W. Armytage and LS R. Oliver (Warspite) for rescuing a trapped stoker.

1934  First performance of Green’s setting of ‘Sunset’, an evening hymn, by RM band at Malta.

1939  The U.S. Navy submarine USS Squalus sinks off the coast of New Hampshire during a test dive, causing the death of 24 sailors and two civilian technicians. The remaining 32 sailors and one civilian naval architect are rescued the following day. Wikipedia –


Squalus crewmembers huddle around a lamp in the forward torpedo room awaiting rescue in cold conditions which resulted in some survivors suffering from exposure. However, no permanent adverse health effects were noted in survivors after the rescue.


Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Oliver F. Naquin (center, hatless, wearing khaki pants), with other survivors on board the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane, bound for the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine, following their rescue, 25 May 1939.


Raising the sub Squalus (SS-192) after accident.


SS-192 in drydock after salvage.


Post salvage USS Squalus renamed USS Sailfish (SS-192), off the Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA., 13 April 1943

1940  Naval demolition parties landed at Calais and Dunkirk, and with Royal Marines at Boulogne.

On the evening of 23 May, five V&W-class destroyers met off Boulogne to evacuate the troops trapped onshore by the advancing German forces. The Whitshed and Vimiera went alongside first, and took off detachments of the Welsh and Irish Guards and Royal Marines. Each ship then withdrew while Wild Swan, Venomous and Venetia entered harbour. During the embarkation, the shore batteries engaged the ships – the French had not had time to spike them – and tanks were firing along the streets at the destroyers, while they replied over open sights at 100yd range. A total of 4,360 men were saved by this action. Ships: Wild Swan, Whitshed, Vimiera, Verity, Venomous took troops over. Evacuation by them, negative Verity, but reinforced by Keith, Vimy, Venetia and WindsorVimiera made three runs, lifting 1,400 men in all. On one run, she carried 555 men and could not accept more than 5DEG of wheel.

Adm Sir Bertram Ramsay, FO Commanding Dover, on 8 June promulgated to the commanding officers of all his destroyers a letter he had received from the Colonel. 2nd Bn Scots Guards, which had been extracted from Boulogne: ‘I am writing to you on behalf of the Battalion to thank you and your destroyers for all you did for us at Boulogne. As you well know, the situation was really far more difficult and critical than it had been at the Hook. We are all of us who saw the actions fought by the destroyers while we were waiting to embark, and while we were actually embarking at Boulogne, are very unlikely ever to see anything more inspiring, gallant or magnificent. We all felt that the destroyers would have been completely justified in leaving harbour and refrning for us after dark. Had they done so we should not have had the very smallest complaint for we should have understood and appreciated the position they were in. However, never for one second did there appear to be thought of such a move, and the ships continued to embark the wounded and unwounded and to continue their fight with the shore batteries as if the whole affair was perfectly normal and hum-drum. I cannot tell you the depth of the impression which has been made upon us all, but I can assure you that there is no doubt of it. The whole of the Battalion is filled with an affection and admiration for the sailors who have on two occasions done so much for them. I wish you could sense the feeling that exists here. I believe it would make you more proud than ever of the men and the ships you command. Would it be possible to let the Captains and crews know how clearly we realise the dangers they ran for us and how clearly we realise too that it is due to their courage and conduct that we are here now.’

1941  Destroyers Kashmir and Kelly sunk by German aircraft 13 miles S. of Gavdo (34-41N, 24-15E), during the battle of Crete.

HMS Kipling which had become detached earlier rescued survivors from both ships including 159 from this destroyer.


HMS Kashmir (F12/G12) Wikipedia –


HMS Kelly (F01) – Wikipedia –


During the early part of the Second World War Mountbatten was in command of HMS Kelly and the 5th Destroyer Flotilla. He gained a reputation for a great offensive spirit. His ship was sunk under him during the fighting off Crete in May 1941. Churchill appointed him Chief of Combined Operations and as such he was responsible for the highly successful raid on St Nazaire in March 1942. He also planned the raid on Dieppe which, although it did not achieve many of its objectives, proved a vital training ground for both men and equipment in the great amphibious operations later in the war. As Supreme Allied Commander of South East Asia Command, he was one of the war’s most prominent Allied commanders. One of his most notable peacetime appointments was to be the last Viceroy of India, although he later became First Sea Lord, and the first Chief of the Defence Staff. He was murdered on holiday in Ireland in August 1979.


Admiral of the Fleet The Right Honourable The Earl Mountbatten of Burma KG GCB OM GCSI GCIE GCVO DSO PC FRS

Wikipedia –,_1st_Earl_Mountbatten_of_Burma

1943  Destroyer Active and frigate Ness sank the Italian S/M Leonardo Da Vinci N.E. of the Azores (42-18N, 15-53W). Convoys WS 30/KMF 15.


HMS Active (H14) in 1944 – Wikipedia –


HMS Ness (K219)


RM Da Vinci in 1940. Wikipedia –

1943  Swordfish B/819 (Archer) sank U-752 in N. Atlantic (51-40N, 29-49W). Convoy HX 239. First operational success of air-to-sea rocket projectiles.


Conning tower emblem U-752 (Coat of Arms of Reutlingen).


The Sinking of U-752, 23rd May 1943
A German U-boat in rough seas being fired on by a Fairey Swordfish aircraft with rocket projectiles.

U-752 – Wikipedia –


It was Swordfish aircraft from the escort carrier HMS Archer that had been responsible for successful U-boat attacks when defending convoy HX 239.

1967  Egypt announced that the Straits of Tiran had been closed and warned Israeli shipping that it would be fired upon if it attempted to break the blockade. The next day, Egypt announced that the Straits had been mined.

1972  First PWO course began at Dryad.

See 14 May 2004.

1980  Submarine Refit Complex at Devonport Dockyard opened by the Prince of Wales.

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Submarine Refit Complex Devonport.

1982  Frigate Antelope damaged in San Carlos Water by Argentine aircraft which left two unexploded bombs. Blew up next day while efforts were made to render them safe.



HMS Antelope after being bombed on 23 May 1982, showing the mast bent in half.

Wikipedia –

2010  The sad news starts to spread throughout the modelling world that the designer of the much-loved Veron range of model kits, Mr Phil Smith, had passed away during the early hours of 23rd May. – On This Day –

Royal Navy On This Day 22 May …..

A Memorable Date observed by the Commando Logistic Regiment, Royal Marines – Ajax Bay

853  The Sack of Damietta in 853 was a major success for the Byzantine Empire. On 22nd May, the Byzantine navy attacked the port city of Damietta on the Nile Delta, whose garrison was absent at the time. The city was sacked and plundered, yielding not only many captives but also large quantities of weapons and supplies intended for the Emirate of Crete.


Map of the Arab–Byzantine naval conflict in the Mediterranean, 7th–11th centuries.

Wikipedia – Sack of Damietta (853) –

1660  Pepys recorded that Naseby had been renamed Royal Charles.


Royal Charles off Hellevoetsluis, captured by the Dutch after the Raid on the Medway, June 1667. Jeronymus van Diest.

Wikipedia – HMS Naseby/Royal Charles –

1681  Kingfisher fought seven Algerine men-of-war off Sardinia, and was twice on fire.


Painting signed by Peter Monamy, and dated 1734, which was probably intended to depict Kingfisher’s fight with seven Algerines. Wikipedia –

1692  Vice-Adm Sir Ralph Delaval (St Albans), with Ruby and two fireships, burned the French Admirable, Conquerant, Soleil-Royal and Triomphant at Cherbourg.

See 19 May 1692.


Admiral Sir Ralph Delaval (right), together with Thomas Phillips (left) and Admiral John Benbow (center).

Wikipedia –

1798  USS Ganges (24), Captain Richard Dale, is the first US warship to set sail since independence.

1801  Nelson was created Viscount Nelson of the Nile and Burnham Thorpe with a special remainder, failing heirs male of his own body lawfully begotten, and failing them to the heirs male of the bodies of (a) his sister Mrs Bolton and (b) his other sister Mrs Matcham.

1803  Doris captured the French Affronteur 20 miles S.W. by W. of Ushant.

1809  Rear-Adm Eliab Harvey court-martialled for imputing disrespect to Adm Lord Gambier, his C-in-C; dismissed the service but reinstated next year, promoted and knighted.

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Sir Eliab Harvey – Wikipedia –


Lord Gambier, by William Beechey. Wikipedia –,_1st_Baron_Gambier

1810  Boats of HMS Alceste (38), Captain Murray Maxwell, captured four feluccas, drove two on the rocks at Agaye.

1812  Northumberland (74) Captain Henry Hotham, and Growler (12) Lt. Hugh Anderson, drove ashore and destroyed the French frigates Andromaque (44), Ariane (44) and brig Mameluk inshore off Ile de Croix, Port Louis. [m]

1819  Built as a sailing ship, then modified to incorprate paddle-wheels, the SS Savannah leaves port at Savannah, Georgia, United States, on a voyage to become the first ‘steamship’ to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The American-built hybrid arrived at Liverpool, England on June 20th – having made most of the crossing using sail power.


SS Savannah – Hybrid sailing-ship/side-wheel paddlesteamer, 1819.

Wikipedia –

1826  HMS Beagle embarks on first voyage, setting sail from Plymouth under the command of Captain Pringle Stokes. The mission was to accompany the larger ship HMS Adventure (380 tons) on a hydrographic survey of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, under the overall command of the Australian Captain Phillip Parker King, Commander and Surveyor.

Wikipedia – HMS Beagle First Voyage –

1838  Brunel’s paddle-steamer Great Western completes her first eastbound transatlantic crossing at an average speed of 9.14 knots, arriving in Avonmouth less than 15 days after she left New York.


Brunel’s paddle-steamer Great Western completes her first eastbound transatlantic crossing at an average speed of 9.14 knots, arriving in Avonmouth less than 15 days after she left New York.


SS Great Western’s maiden voyage from Bristol in 1838. Wikipedia –

1841  Boats of advanced squadron destroyed many junks and fire rafts in the approaches to Canton. Ships: Algerine, Alligator, Calliope, Columbine, Conway, Cruizer, Herald, Hyacinth, Louisa, Modeste, Nimrod, Pylades, Sulphur. Steamers: Atalanta (IN), Nemesis (Ben. Mar.). Boats of Blenheim.

1849  Abraham Lincoln is issued with a patent for his invention of a device to lift boats over shoals and obstructions in a river. It is believed to be the only United States patent ever registered to a President of the United States. Lincoln conceived the idea for his invention when, on two different occasions, the boat on which he traveled got hung up on obstructions. Documentation of this patent was discovered in 1997. (Patent filed on 10th March 1849; Issued 22nd May 1849)


Patent model of Abraham Lincoln’s boat lifting mechanism.

Wikipedia –

1863  The Siege of Port Hudson begins when Union Army troops assault and then surround the Mississippi River town of Port Hudson, Louisiana, during the American Civil War. In cooperation with Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s offensive against Vicksburg, Mississippi, Union Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks’s army moved against the Confederate stronghold at Port Hudson. On 27th May, after their frontal assaults were repulsed, the Federals settled into a siege that would last for 48 days.


Confederate batteries fire down onto Union gunboats on the Mississippi.

Wikipedia – Siege of Port Hudson –

1897  The Blackwall Tunnel under the River Thames is officially opened by the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) on 22nd May 1897.
The tunnel was built between 1892 and 1897, using tunnelling shield and compressed air techniques; the shield pioneer James Henry Greathead was a consultant. Sir Joseph Bazalgette, the architect of the London sewerage system, was also involved in the original planning of the project. To clear the site in Greenwich, more than 600 houses had to be demolished, including one reputedly once owned by Sir Walter Raleigh. Wikipedia –


The Opening of Blackwall Tunnel, 22 May,1897.


A framing section of the Blackwall Tunnel being constructed at the Thames Ironworks around 1895.

1902  The White Star liner, SS Ionic is launched at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast. The steam-powered ocean liner was the second White Star Liner to be named Ionic and would serve on the United Kingdom-New Zealand route. Her sister ships were the SS Athenic and the SS Corinthic.



White Star ocean-liner SS Ionic, launched 22nd May 1902. Wikipedia –

1915  Submarine E 11 sank Turkish Pelenk-i-Deria off Seraglio Point, Constantinople.


HMS E11 off the Dardanelles in 1915. Wikipedia –


HMS Grampas cheering the British submarine E11 after a successful raid on Turkish defences at Gallipoli 1915.


The crew of H.M. submarine E.11.

1917  Mediterranean convoys began as local experiment.

1941  A Martin Maryland photographic reconnaissance aircraft of No.877 Squadron Fleet Air Arm confirms that the Bismarck and Prinz Eugen have left Bergen.

1941  Sunk by German aircraft during the battle of Crete:

Fiji                34-35N, 23-10E

Gloucester   35-50N, 23-00E

Greyhound   36-00N, 23-10E

York             blown up in Suda Bay

While in the Kithera Channel, HMS Gloucester, forming part of a naval force acting against German military transports to Crete, was attacked by German Ju.87 ‘Stuka’ dive bombers. She sank about 14 miles north of Crete having sustained (at least) four heavy bomb hits and three near-misses. Crew members who were able to escape the sinking ship were then heavily machine-gunned in the water. Of the 807 men aboard at the time of her sinking, only 85 survived. The loss HMS Gloucester is considered to be one of Britain’s worst wartime naval disasters.

HMS Gloucester 1941 by Jack Croasdaile

A watercolour of the attack on HMS Gloucester. Painted by Jack Croasdaile from a magazine photo, whilst being held in the same POW camp as Lt. Cdr. Roger Heap, a survivor of the sinking.

1941  AM: Revd Christopher Champain Tanner, RNVR, Chaplain, light cruiser Fiji. Posthumous. Mr Tanner was one of the last officers to leave Fiji when she was attacked and sunk by air attack during the evacuation from Crete. Tanner, a rugby international, remained in the water helping injured survivors into life rafts, making thirty round trips. The effort exhausted him and he collapsed and died soon after he was taken from the sea. (London Gazette, 24 April 1942).


Kit Tanner in Gloucester’s famaous Cherry and WHite hoops. Image courtesy of Gloucester Rugby Heritage.

Wikipedia –

London Gazette article 24 April 1942 – data.pdf

1958  On National Maritime Day (U.S.A.), a ceremony is held in Yard 529 of the ‘New York Shipbuilding Corporation’ at Camden, to mark the laying the first keel plate of the NS Savannah, the first nuclear-powered cargo-passenger ship, and demonstration project for the potential use of nuclear energy.




Keel plate laying ceremony for NS Savannah, 22nd May 1958.

Wikipedia –

NS Savannah website –

1968  Scorpion (SSN-589), a Skipjack-class nuclear-powered submarine, sank with 99 men on board, on 22nd May, 460 miles southwest of the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean, apparently due to implosion upon reaching its crush depth. What caused the Scorpion to descend to its crush depth is unknown at the present time.
Scorpion is one of two nuclear submarines the U.S. Navy has lost, the other being USS Thresher (SSN-593).
In November 2012, the U.S. Submarine Veterans, an organization with over 13,800 members (all former submariners) asked the U.S. Navy to reopen the investigation on the sinking of USS Scorpion.



USS Scorpion 22 August 1960 off New London, Connecticut. Wikipedia –


Skipjack class submarine drawing:
1. Sonar arrays
2. Torpedo room
3. Operations compartment
4. Reactor compartment
5. Auxiliary machinery space
6. Engine room

1982  Landings at Ajax Bay, Falkland Islands. Cdo Logistic Regt RM landed and provided support for the three-week-long campaign. Argentine patrol boat Rio Iguazu beached after attack from Sea Harriers in Choiseul Sound. Operation Corporate.


Rio Iguazu beached after attack from Sea Harriers in Choiseul Sound.

Operation Sutton – Wikipedia –

Attack on Rio Iguazu – –

2003  WO2 Dave Pearce, RM, a member of a joint RN/RM expedition, became the first member of the naval service to climb Mount Everest.


Dave Pearce – Dave & Jane Pearce Peak Aspirations – – On This Day –

Royal Navy On This Day 21 May …..

A Memorable Date observed by 3 Cdo Brigade Royal Marines and by RM Operational Landing Craft Squadrons – San Carlos

1502  The island of Saint Helena is discovered by the Portuguese explorer João da Nova, and named after Saint Helena of Constantinople. Uninhabited when discovered, and one of the most isolated islands in the world, it was for centuries an important stopover for ships sailing to Europe from Asia and South Africa.


Joáo da Nova – Wikipedia –

1542  Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto, aged 45 or 46 years, (believed to be the first person to cross the Mississippi River) died of a semi-tropical fever on May 21st, (possibly) in the native village of Guachoya on the western banks of the Mississippi (near present-day McArthur, Desha County, Arkansas).
Since de Soto had encouraged the local natives to believe that he was an immortal sun god (a not wholly convincing ploy to gain their submission without conflict), his men had to conceal his death.
According to one source, de Soto’s men hid his corpse in blankets weighted with sand and sank it in the middle of the Mississippi River during the night, whilst another possible location for his corpse is within Lake Chicot near present-day Lake Village, Arkansas.


Engraving of Hernando De Soto – Wikipedia –


Depiction of the burial of Hernando de Soto.

1692  Continuation of the chase after the battle of Barfleur. The French Soleil Royal went aground near Cherbourg, Tourville having already disembarked. Tourville took refuge in the Bay of La Hogue with the majority of his fleet. Sir Ralph Delavall’s initial attempt to destroy the Soleil Royal and the two large ships with her, the Admirable and the Triomphant, was repulsed

See 19 May 1692.

1762  HMS Active (28), Captain Herbert Sawyer, and HMS Favorite, Captain Pownall, took Spanish Hermione off Cape St. Vincent.


Admiral Sir Herbert Sawyer KCB – Wikipedia –

E0702J REYNOLDS 1493

Philemon Pownoll, portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Wikipedia –

1794  Capture of Bastia, Corsica, after a siege of thirty-seven days, by troops under Lt-Col William Villettes (69th Regiment) and seamen under Capt Horatio Nelson (Agamemnon). Ships: Agamemnon, Fortitude, Princess Royal, St George, Victory, Windsor Castle. Frigates, etc.: Imperieuse, Mulette, Proselyte. Troops: Royal Artillery, Royal Sappers and Miners, 11th, 25th, 30th, 69th Foot. Wikipedia – Siege of Bastia –


Bastia depicted during the Revolution.

The Royal Navy began to flex her muscles. In a coordinated effort with the Corsican leader Pasquale Paoli, who was neither Revolutionary, nor French – he was an independence leader, the British moved quickly throughout the island. Paoli, for his part, was promised a new kingdom on the island apart from France. Oddly enough, the Buonapartes, Napoleon’s family, and he himself, would have been for this before 1789, as they were avid France hating, Corsican loving dissidents. Napoleon, however, found his calling after he was sent to France to study artillery in the Ecole Militaire. How history plays tricks! Now, France was fighting to save the island, but how? The French could not even muster an attempt to run the British blockade. Hood and Nelson locked the island down, but victory would not be obtained that easily, as the British army began moving too slowly for the Navy’s, that is Hood’s, liking. Sir David Dundas was the man in question. It was he who had secured Saint-Florent, but it was also he who was too timid to move the eight miles necessary to reach Bastia. Hood wanted swift maneuvering, because English intelligence reports stated that the French were creating an invasion force of their own at Nice, just north of the island. According to Hood’s plan, Corsica would become a major lynch-pin for future British incursion throughout the region. It’s speedy pacification was vital, but Dundas thought otherwise, and what should have been a quick siege became a six-week affair.


Pasquale Paoli, portrait by Richard Cosway.
“My eye fell upon the portrait of Pasquale Paoli, which was just as I had imagined him to be. His brow was arched and open, and his hair long and flowing ; his eyebrows thick, and bent down on the eyes, as if frequently drawn together in anger or thought. His eyes were blue, large, and lucid with intellectual light; mildness, dignity and humanity, were forcibly expressed in his beardless, frank and prepossessing countenance. ” – Ferdinand Gregorovius

Wikipedia – Pasquale Paoli –

France had maintained a relatively small force of 5,000 on the island since capturing it in 1768. The British brought 1,200 men only, but were supported by the Royal Navy, which could pin down the French rather easily from their close distance. Paoli added a further 2,000 partisans to the cause, which should have made taking Bastia simple, other than Dundas’ involvement. Horatio Nelson moved his ships within striking distance before April 4. French inhabitants prepared to leave in the face of battle, and surrender the town without a battle. Dundas’ indolence, however, convinced the Bastian’s that no such skirmish would occur. The Bastian’s then remained at home, and began to strengthen their fortifications for a future battle, yet undetermined. Dundas fear had cost him a simple victory. All he had to do was show up, but he missed his chance. Hood was outraged to say the least. Dundas’ next refused to plan a future attack until he received 2,000 promised troops from London. Hood was beside himself. The Admiral called a conference to discuss action, the Navy agreed to attack, the Army agreed to wait. The impasse became too stressful for Dundas’, who left the scene in March 11. Dundas’ successor, Abraham D’Aubant assumed command, but he too championed Dundas’ cause, and refused to march, thus forcing Hood and Nelson to go it alone with no army support.


General Dundas, who’s indolence slowed the British. Wikipedia –

On April 4, the Royal Navy landed 1,500 troops under Admiral Nelson’s command, just north of Bastia. Nelson and his men created artillery batteries against Bastia, which were completed after a week’s work. Those guns opened fire on April 11, and the siege was under way. Nelson offered terms of surrender, which Lacombe St. Michel, the French commander at Bastia refused. He remained stern in his defense, and returned fire, attempting to knock the British battery out of commission. He would not be successful; however, because the Corsican rebels harried the French positions adequately enough. Hood and Nelson believed Bastia would fall quickly, but after two weeks of continuous shelling and severe destruction, the Bastian’s remained resolute. Nelson called upon D’Aubant and the Army to lead an assault against the city, but D’Aubant still refused, leaving the Navy with no alternative other than opening more artillery batteries, which Nelson did in the coming days. Extra pounding from new British batteries began to take their toll on the French morale. St. Michel planned and executed a daring escape to the mainland on April 25 in an attempt to raise support, at least that was part of his story. It seems somewhat suspect that France’s commander would flee the scene during the more strenuous circumstances of the siege. Indeed, St. Michel would later claim that he was actually trying to dissuade French reinforcements, because Bastia was so close to capitulation.


Modern Bastia, with the old Citadel still evident.

The siege lengthened into May, as tension reached a breaking point between the Army and Navy. D’Aubant fled the post on May 15, before his successor, Charles Stuart could properly relieve him of his command. Stuart arrived when Bastia was at her lowest. The Blockade had worked, and the citizens were now starving. Four days later, the British accepted the French surrender. Hood and Nelson worked a gentlemen’s agreement, and sent the Bastian defenders back to France, rather than hold them as prisoners, which would have been an extra burden for the Royal Navy that it would rather not endure. This caused a new rift, with Pasquale Paoli and the Corsican rebels. No matter, the British obtained their objective, and Bastia was theirs. Relations remained intact long enough, however, to gain the entire island by August 1794 after another coordinated siege at Calvi, in Corsica’s southlands. Nelson and Hood were hailed as heroes, who championed the naval cause, which could only illustrate the state of the British army’s inadequacy at the time. That would change, but only decades later. For now, it was the Royal Navy’s day, and France could do nothing about it.

1800  Boats of blockading squadron under Vice-Adm Lord Keith (Minotaur (74) Captain Thomas Lewis) cut out the Genoese galley La Prima, Captian Patrizio Galleano, at Genoa.


George Elphinstone, 1st Viscount Keith. Wikipedia –,_1st_Viscount_Keith

Miniature, MNT0008

Thomas Louis – Wikipedia –

1809  HMS Black Joke lugger engaged French Corvette Mouche.

1858  Adm Sir Michael Seymour (Coromandel) occupied Tientsin.


Vice Admiral Michael Seymour. Engraving by F Holl after an original by A. de Salome.

Wikipedia –

1878  Glenn Hammond Curtiss is born in Hammondsport, New York to Frank Richmond Curtiss and Lua Andrews.
Curtiss would become an aviation pioneer, particularly notable for his experiments with seaplanes, which would lead to significant advances in naval aviation.



Glenn Hammond Curtiss (May 21, 1878 – July 23, 1930). Wikipedia –

1879  The Battle of Iquique occurs off the then-Peruvian port of Iquique during the naval stage of the War of the Pacific (a conflict between Chile and Peru and Bolivia), when two Chilean ships blocking the harbour are confronted by two Peruvian vessels. After four hours of combat, the Peruvian ironclad Huáscar, commanded by Miguel Grau Seminario, sank the Esmeralda, a Chilean wooden corvette captained by Arturo Prat Chacón. Wikipedia – Battle of Iquique –


Esmeralda (1855) – Wikipedia –


Huáscar when with the Peruvian Navy. Wikipedia –


Peruvian Admiral during the War of the Pacific. Wikipedia –



The sinking of Esmerelda at the Battle of Iquique, by Thomas Somerscales.

1894  The Manchester Ship Canal in England is officially opened by Queen Victoria from her position on the deck of the royal yacht Enchantress.
During the ceremony she knighted the Mayor of Salford, William Henry Bailey, and the Lord Mayor of Manchester, Anthony Marshall. Not long after the official opening, the canal’s designer, Edward Leader Williams was also knighted in recognition of his devotion to the project.
An earlier opening had taken place on New Year’s Day of the same year, in which a procession of vessels had sailed the length of the Canal. Wikipedia – Manchester Ship Canal –


Queen Victoria knights the Mayors at the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal. Manchester archives –


Plan of Manchester ship canal –

1941  Destroyer Juno sunk in less than two minutes by German aircraft in 34-55N, 26-34E, during the battle of Crete.


HMS Juno (F46) – Wikipedia –

1941  Destroyer Ilex, Jervis (D 14) and Nizam bombarded Scarpanto airfield.

1941  Despite a pair of Bf 109 fighters circling overhead to protect Bismarck from British air attacks, Flying Officer Michael Suckling sights the German battleship in a Fjord near Bergen in Norway and flies his RAF photographic reconnaissance Supermarine Spitfire directly over the German flotilla at a height of 26,000 ft to snap several photos of Bismarck and her consorts.


Aerial reconnaissance photograph of Bismarck in Norway, 21st May 1941.

1941  ‘Rarely can the flexibility of maritime power have been more convincingly demonstrated than by Ark Royal‘s accomplishment in flying Hurricanes to Malta from a position well inside the Mediterranean on 21 May and crippling the Bismarck with her torpedo bombers 500 miles to the west of Brest six days later’ – Roskill, The Navy at War, p. 162.


Hurricane reinforcements being ferried to Malta, 1941.



Stephen Roskill The Navy at War 1939-1945 – –

1941  Around 700 miles off the west coast of Africa, the U.S.-flagged steamship Robin Moor was stopped by German submarine U-69 (before the U.S. had entered World War II).
After allowing the passengers and crew to disembark, the U-boat sank the ship with a stern torpedo and 30 rounds from the deck gun. The Germans provided the survivors with some rations and reportedly promised to radio their position. The U-boat then left the area.


SS Robin Moor – Wikipedia –

u-69 (1)

Conning tower emblems U-69 – Wikipedia –


The survivors of three of the lifeboats were eventually picked up on 2nd June by a British merchant ship and landed at Capetown. The eleven occupants of the fourth lifeboat were picked up on 8th June by the Ozório and landed at Recife, Brazil.
This sinking of a neutral nation’s ship in an area considered until then to be relatively safe from U-boats, and the plight of her crew and passengers, caused a political incident in the United States.

1943  Submarine Sickle sank U-303 while the German boat was on trials off Toulon (42-50N, 06-00E). (First attacked on the 19th.)

SICKLE_badge-1- (1)

HMS_Sickle (1)

HMS Sickle (P224) – Wikipedia –

1982  The battle of Falkland Sound. 3 Cdo Bde began the landings at San Carlos Bay. Men of 40 and 45 Cdos RM and 2 and 3 Para were put ashore by landing craft from Fearless and Intrepid. The logistic and transport shipping within San Carlos Water was protected by the thin grey line of escort vessels in adjoining Falkland Sound: destroyer Antrim, frigates Argonaut, Broadsword, Brilliant, Plymouth, Yarmouth and Ardent, supported by FAA Sea Harriers of 800 NAS and 801 NAS. Sustained fighter-bomber attacks by over forty enemy aircraft brought a day of intense naval warfare. Ten aircraft destroyed by Sea Harriers and by Sea Wolf and Seacat SAMs and many more damaged. Ardent hit by several bombs and fought to a standstill. Her blazing wreck finally abandoned and she blew up early on 22 May. Argonaut, seriously damaged, remained at anchor for the next eight days as a static AA Platform. A UXB in flooded magazine was defused and removed by an officer of exceptional gallantry, Lt-Cdr Brian Dutton, DSO, QGM, RN. First DSC to a fleet chief petty officer, FCPO M.G. Fellowes, for defusing UXB in Antrim. Most other warships damaged and all their captains decorated. By nightfall, 42 Cdo and supporting artillery and logistics were ashore without loss to themselves and a secure bridgehead established. This was the aim of the operation: a splendid achievement. Wikipedia –


3 Cdo Bde – Wikipedia –

40 Commando – Wikipedia –

42 Commando – Wikipedia –


2 Para – Wikipedia –,_Parachute_Regiment

3 Para – Wikipedia –,_Parachute_Regiment

1996  The overloaded MV Bukoba, a Lake Victoria ferry that carried passengers and cargo between the Tanzanian ports of Bukoba and Mwanza, sank 30 nautical miles off Mwanza in 14 fathoms of water on 21st May 1996.
While the ship’s manifest showed 443 aboard in her first and second class cabins,
her cheaper third class accommodation had no manifest. It is estimated that around 800 people died in the sinking, including Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri, who was then second in command of Al Qaeda. MV Bukoba – Wikipedia –

1998  Destroyer York, with RM FSRT embarked, detached from Operation Bolton in Gulf area to stand by for possible Australian-led national evacuation operation in Indonesia. Released 20 July. Operation Garrick. Another instance of the flexibility of sea power.

See 14 November 1997.

2001  The movie ‘Pearl Harbor’ is released and premiered at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, several days before it’s U.S. release on 25th May 2001.
Described as a ‘Waste of Film'; ‘A two-hour movie, crammed into three-hours'; and ‘A gross mis-telling of the story of Pearl Harbor and the Doolittle Raid’, the $140 million film manages to justify it’s ‘re-imagining’ of the events of 7th December 1941 when it returns $450 million in worldwide box office receipts. Thus proving the Hollywood adage, that it isn’t necessary to let the truth spoil a good story.


Theatrical Poster for ‘Pearl Harbor’ (2001). – On This Day –

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