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.

download (10)


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 –

Royal Navy On This Day 20 May …..

1212  King John ordered Portsmouth Dock, built in 1194, to be strengthened.

Geoffrey de Lucy disposed of 13 ships captured by his galleys between 25 April and 8 September. The ships carried 666 tons of wine, 936 quarters of corn, 2,640 quarters of salt and 860 salted hog carcasses. Most of ships and stores sent to aid
King John in his campaign against the Welsh except that 2 old ships and 98 putrescent carcasses were left at Portsmouth.
20th May. In this year King John founded the Royal Dockyard by ordered dated 20th May:
“The King to the Sheriff of Southampton. We order you, without delay, by the view of lawful men, to cause our Docks at Portsmouth to be enclosed with a Good and Strong Wall in such a manner as our beloved and faithful William,
Archdeacon of Taunton will tell you, for the preservation of our Ships and Galleys: and Likewise to cause penthouses to be made to the same walls, as the same Archdeacon will also tell you, in which all our ships tackle may be safely kept, and use as much dispatch as you can in order that the same may be completed this summer, lest in the ensuing winter our ships and Galleys, and their Rigging, should incur any damage by your default; and when we know the cost it shall be accounted to you.” By implication some sort of facility already existed before William Wrotham, keeper of the Kings ships and Archdeacon of Taunton started to build his walls and the lean to sheds to store ships tackle and rigging. Part of which is the accounts of William or Wrotham. The same Archdeacon that was ordered to put the wall around the “Doc” at Portsmouth:
To the wages of seamen and workmen guarding the ships and galleys and Bringing them from Winchelsea to Portsmouth by the King‟s order: £122.1s. 2d.
To repair and equipment for the King‟s ships and galleys at Portsmouth, and the Wages of seamen in eight ships of the Cinque Ports……………………..£64. 4s.0d.
To guard the wall made at Portsmouth for the protection of the galleys: £55. 9s. 11d.
Clearly by now it was an active establishment in the King‟s service.
Portsmouth dockyard 1914.

1497  Venetian navigator John Cabot sets sail from Bristol on the ship Matthew (principally owned by Richard Amerike, a wealthy English merchant, royal customs officer and sheriff, of Welsh descent), to begin his second voyage of discovery (to the west) under the commission of Henry VII of England. (Some sources give 2nd May as the departure date).


A full-size replica of John Cabot’s ship, Matthew.

Wikipedia – John Cabot –

1498  Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama discovers the direct sea route from Europe to India, landing in Calicut on 20th May 1498.
The discovery paved the way for the Portuguese to establish a long lasting colonial empire in Asia. The route meant that the Portuguese wouldn’t need to cross the highly disputed Mediterranean nor the dangerous Arabia, and that the whole voyage would be made by sea.


Vasco da Gama lands at Calicut, 20 May 1498. Wikipedia –

1506  Italian explorer and navigator, Christopher Columbus, aged probably 54, died in Valladolid, Crown of Castile, in present-day Spain.
Columbus’s remains were first interred at Valladolid, then at the monastery of La Cartuja in Seville (southern Spain) by the will of his son Diego, who had been governor of Hispaniola. In 1542 the remains were transferred to Colonial Santo Domingo, in the present-day Dominican Republic. In 1795, when France took over the entire island of Hispaniola, Columbus’s remains were moved to Havana, Cuba. After Cuba became independent following the Spanish-American War in 1898, the remains were moved back to Spain, to the Cathedral of Seville, where they were placed on an elaborate catafalque. Wikipedia –


The tomb of Christopher Columbus, Seville cathedral, Spain.

1545  Henry VIII granted charter to the ‘Guild of the Holy and Undivided Trinity and St Clement Deptford Strand for the Reformation of the Navy much decayed by the admission of young men without experience, and of Scots Flemings and Frenchmen as landsmen [pilots]’.

1570  Gilles Coppens de Diest at Antwerp publishes 53 maps, created by Cartographer Abraham Ortelius, under the title ‘Theatrum Orbis Terrarum’ (“Theatre of the World”). It consisted of a collection of uniform map sheets and sustaining text (bound to form a book) for which copper printing plates were specifically engraved. The Ortelius atlas is considered the first true modern atlas and is sometimes referred to as the summary of sixteenth-century cartography.


The world map from Ortelius’ ‘Theatrum Orbis Terrarum’, 1570.

Wikipedia – Theatrum Orbis Terrarum –

1625  The Worshipful Company of Barbers & Surgeons fitted out Surgeons’ chests and took control of Naval Surgeons.


Achievement of arms of the Worshipful Company of Barber-Surgeons. Gouache on cloth. Iconographic Collections.

Wikipedia – Worshipful Company of Barbers –


Henry VIII presents the Barber-Surgeons’ Company Charter to the first Master, Thomas Vicary. Hans Holbein the Younger.

1665  An English convoy of nine sail and their escort, a 34-gun ship, taken by Adm Jacob van Wassenaer, Heer van Opdam, on the Dogger Bank.


Baron Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam. Wikipedia –

1747  ‘On the 20th of May 1747, I selected twelve patients in the scurvy, on board the Salisbury at sea’ – Dr James Lind in his A Treatise on Scurvy, published in 1753, the first clinical trial of any kind. Dr Lind gave six pairs of men in the Salisbury (50) different additions to their normal diet. Those given citrus fruit made a remarkable recovery. The Treatise, dedicated to Lord Anson, First Lord of the Admiralty, probably led to Lind’s appointment as Physician to the Naval Hospital at Haslar in 1758. Forty years passed, however, before the Admiralty ordered the regular issue of lemon juice, after which scurvy virtually disappeared from ships and naval hospitals.


A portrait of Scottish doctor James Lind (1716–1794). Wikipedia –


A Treatise on Scurvy by Dr James Lind – –

1756  Adm the Hon. John Byng (Ramillies) fought a French fleet of equal force under Adm the Marquis de La Galissonniére (Foudroyant) 30 miles S.S.E. of Port Mahon, Minorca. Ships: Defiance, Portland, Lancaster, Buckingham, Captain, Intrepid, Revenge, Princess Louisa, Trident, Ramillies, Culloden, Deptford, Kingston. Frigates, etc.: Chesterfield, Dolphin, Experiment, Fortune, Phoenix.

See 14 March 1757.


John Byng – Wikipedia –


La Galissonière – Wikipedia –

Shortly after Great Britain declared war on the House of Bourbon, their squadrons met off the Mediterranean island of Minorca. The ensuing ‘Battle of Minorca’ between French and British fleets was the opening sea battle of the Seven Years’ War in the European theatre. The fight resulted in a French victory. The subsequent decision by the British to withdraw to Gibraltar also handed France a strategic victory and led directly to the Fall of Minorca.
The British failure to save Minorca led to the controversial court-martial and execution of the British commander, Admiral John Byng, for “failure to do his utmost” to relieve the siege of the British garrison on Minorca.

Wikipedia – Battle of Minorca (1756) –

1797  HMS Oiseau (36), Captain Charles Brisbane, engaged one of two Spanish frigate off the mouth of the Rio de la Plata.


Sir Charles Brisbane KCB – Wikipedia –

HMS Oiseau  – Wikipedia –

1799  Siege of Acre raised, after a brilliant defence by Capt Sir Sidney Smith (Tigre), with Theseus and Alliance. [m, bh]

Admiral_Sir_Sidney_Smith_(1764-1840)_-_Louis-Marie_Autissier (2)

Miniature portrait by Louis-Marie Autissier, watercolour on ivory, 1823.

Wikipedia –


Sidney Smith’s description of the Siege of Acre, The Times, Aug 02, 1799.

Wikipedia – Siege of Acre (1799) –

1800  HMS Cormorant Sloop (24), Captain Hon. Courtenay Boyle, wrecked on a shoal near Rosetta, coast of Egypt due to faulty navigational charts. Contrary to the usages of war, Captain Boyle was kept in close confinement for nearly three months. Having recovered his liberty, he was acquitted for the loss of his ship.


Admiral Courtenay Boyle, 1813, engraving by Joyce Gold. Wikipedia –

HMS Cormorant (1797) –

1801  Four US warships sent to Mediterranean to protect American commerce under Commodore Richard Dale.


Commodore Dale – Wikipedia –

First Barbary War – Wikipedia –

1811  Astraea  Galatea (36) Captain Woodley Losack, Phoebe (36), and Racehorse (18) James De Rippe, engaged the French Clorinde, Néréide and Renommée, capturing the Renommée off Tamatave, Madagascar. [m, bh]

1813  HMS Algerine Schooner (10), Lt. Daniel Carpenter, wrecked Galapagos Roads, West Indies.

1815  Commodore Stephen Decatur, USS Guerriere,  sails with 10 ships to suppress Mediterranean pirates’ raids on U.S. shipping

1844  USS Constitution sails from New York on round the world cruise.

1854  Arrogant and Hecla engaged the Russian batteries and captured the merchant ship Augusta at Ekenas, Finland.

1855  Cdre Elliot (Sybille) with Bittern and Hornet discovered the Russian Dvina and Aurora in Castries Bay. An inconclusive pursuit, ending Crimean War operations in Far East.

1858  Anglo-French squadron under Rear-Adms Sir Michael Seymour (Calcutta) and Rigault de Genouilly (Nemesis) captured the Taku forts. Ships: Calcutta, Furious, Fury, Pique, Coromandel (tender), Hesper (storeship). Gunboats: Bustard, Cormorant, Firm, Leven, Nimrod, Opossum, Slaney (flag for attack), Staunch, Surprise. French ship: Nemesis. French gunboats: Avalanche, Dragoone, Fusée, Mitraille, Phlegeton.

1862  British and French forces took Tsiolin (Cholin).

See 17 May 1862.

1903  Formation of RN Band Service.

1905  Africa, the first battleship launched at Chatham, the first ship built on No. 8 Slip and the heaviest ship built at this dockyard; 15,630 tons.

1917  Lady Patricia (Paxton, Q 25) sunk by U-46 S.W. of Ireland.

1917  Flying-boat 8663 sank UC-36 in North Sea – first submarine sunk by RNAS.

1921  RN College Osborne closed. Two future kings of the United Kingdom, a royal duke and four future admirals of the fleet were among the 3,967 cadets who passed through, mostly going on to Dartmouth, since it wa opened in 1903.

1931  Rank of Mate discontinued; all men promoted from lower deck to be appointed sub-lieutenants.

See 19 July 1912.

1937  HM King George VI reviewed Fleet at Spithead. The first time a fleet review had been illuminated at night and the BBC commentator, who had clearly been well entertained, describing the scene as the lights were switched on simultaneouslhy, told the nation ‘The Fleet’s all lit up – we’re all lit up.’ The recording is occasionally replayed, to the BBC’s credit. C-in-C Home Fleet, Adm Sir Roger Backhouse, in Nelson; C-in-C Mediterranean Fleet, Adm Sir Dudley Pound, in Queen Elizabeth; 145 British and Empire ships present, with 18 foreign vessels including Admiral Graf Spee.


King George VI inspects the Fleet at Spithead 20 May 1937.


‘The Fleet’s all lit up – we’re all lit up.’

1940  The sinking of The Maid of Kent. She was a Southern Railways Cross Channel Ferry, about 2,600 tons, could carry about 1,400 Passengers. At the outbreak of War she was converted to a Hospital Ship, Nr 21,she was painted white with prominate red crosses on her sides and funnel and a wide green band around her hull, at night she was illuminated with green lights to signify a non-combatant in addition the crew had rigged a white awning with a large red cross over the Upper decks, The area along side the dock was cleared of grass and covered with chalk and a massive red cross painted on it. She was sent to Dieppe on the 20th May, 1940.  Shortly after arrival she was attacked but received no damage. The following morning she was due to load injured soldiers and sail for England at 9.30 AM. The harbour was attacked by 2 waves of German Bombers, the Hospital train was hit and began to burn then the second wave attacked the ship, one bomb went down the funnel and exploded in the engine room followed by another thru the engine room gratings and 2 more thru the decks and exploded in the wards where the wounded were.Within minutes the ship was ablaze from end to end, but the aircraft continued to attack with machine gun fire. 17 Crew died in this attack, the rest fled, some helping to rescue, survivors on deck, all below deck died, including many nursing and medical staff. The remainer made their way to Le Havre, where they got a Fishing boat to take them to Dover and home. The survivors received 6 pounds “Shipwreck” payment and 7 days leave.


HMHS Maid of Kent in her hospital ship livery.


The wrecked HMHS Maid of Kent in Dieppe harbour, beside a burned out hospital train, on the morning following the air-raids.

1941  Battle of Crete. (Ended 1 June.) Codenamed ‘Operation Merkur’ (Mercury), the German invasion of the island of Crete begins with an airborne assault by the Luftwaffe’s 7th Parachute Division. Although Allied ground units on Crete, and naval vessels in the surrounding waters, fight tenaciously, the defenders are forced to withdraw from the island during the period 28th May to 1st June.


Major-General Freyberg (right), Allied Commander at the Battle of Crete.

Wikipedia –

1941  The German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen pass through the Kattegat en route for the North Atlantic convoy routes.

1941  Minesweeper Widnes (ex-Withernsea) sunk by German aircraft in Suda Bay. Salvaged and commissioned as Uj-2109. Sunk 17 October 1943 in Kalymnos harbour by gunfire of destroyers Jervis and Penn.

1943  Liberator P/120 sank U-258 in Atlantic (55-18N, 27-49W). Convoy SC 130.

1973  Britain sends three Royal Navy frigates – Cleopatra, Plymouth and Lincoln – to protect trawlers in the disputed Icelandic 50-mile zone as the so-called “cod war” escalates.
The skippers of the British trawlers (fishing in box formation), had said they would not return to the seas without naval protection against Icelandic gunboats which had been cruising the area since Iceland extended its no-fishing limit from three to 50 miles, eight months earlier.


HMS Plymouth with the trawler Othello during fishery protection duties off Iceland, 1973.

2000  Wildfire, RNR unit at Northwood, commissioned.

See 3 April 1959.


HMS Wildfire – Wikipedia –


Reservists from HMS Wildfire Celebrate Jubilee River Pageant Spectacular.

Royal_Navy_Reserves_logo – On This Day –

Royal Navy On This Day 19 May …..

1535  French explorer Jacques Cartier sets sail on his second voyage to North America with three ships, 110 men, and the Iroquoian natives* that Cartier had taken back to France during his first voyage.
*Sources conflict regarding the identities and method of ‘removing’ the natives to France. Some say they went willingly, whilst other say they were kidnapped.

Jacques_Cartier_by_Hamel (2)

Portrait of Jacques Cartier by Théophile Hamel, ca. 1844. No contemporary portraits of Cartier are known.

Wikipedia –

1652  First battle of the Dutch Wars started when Blake demanded that Tromp salute the British flag. Adm Robert Blake (James) fought Adm Maarten Tromp (Brederode), with forty-two ships, off Dover. Ships and vessels: Garland, James, Martin, Mermaid, Portsmouth, Reuben, Ruby, Sapphire, Speaker, Star, Victory, Adventure, Andrew, Assurance, Centurion, Happy Entrance, Fairfax, Greyhound, Seven Brothers, Triumph, Worcester. [bh]

Robert_Blake (1)

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

Wikipedia –

Maarten_Harpertszoon_Tromp (1)

An engraving of Tromp by Jan Lievens. Wikipedia –

1692  Battle of Barfleur, Adm Edward Russell (Britannia) with the Anglo-Dutch fleet of William III (ninety-nine ships) defeated the French fleet of forty-four sail under Vice-Adm Comte de Tourville (Soleil Royal). [bh]


Locations of the battles in northern France. Wikipedia –

Ships: Red Sqn: Britannia, Chester, Eagle, Elizabeth, Grafton, Greenwich, London, Restoration, Rupert, St Andrew, Mary Galley, Portsmouth. Fireships: Flame, Roebuck, Spy, Vulture (Russell), Bonaventure, Burford, Captain, Centurion, Lenox, Royal Katherine, Greyhound, Sovereign, St Michael, Dragon, Falcon. Fireships: Extravagant*, Hound~, Vulcan, Wolf~ (Delaval), Cambridge, Hampton Court, Kent, Oxford, Royal William, Ruby, St Albans, Sandwich, Swiftsure. Fireships: Fox*, Hopewell*, Phaeton*, Strombolo (Shovell).


Admiral Edward Russell, 1st Earl of Orford, 1653–1727 by Thomas Gibson, painted c. 1715.

Wikipedia –,_1st_Earl_of_Orford

Blue Sqn: Adventure, Berwick, Defiance, Duchess, Edgar, Monmouth, Montagu, Vanguard, Victory, Warspite. Fireships: Aetna, Blaze~, Griffin, Speedwell (Ashby), Advice, Albemarle, Expedition, Lion, Monck, Neptune, Northumberland, Resolution, Windsor Castle. Fireships: Cadiz Merchant*, Half-Moon>, Lightning, Owner’s Love (Rooke), Charles Galley, Crown, Deptford, Dreadnought, Duke, Essex, Hope, Ossory, Stirling Castle, Suffolk, Tiger, Woolwich. Fireships: Hawke, Hunter, Thomas and Elizabeth>, Victorious (Carter).

White Sqn: Adm van Almonde with thirty-nine Dutch of the line and nine fireships.

*Expended at Barfleur. ~Expended at Cherbourg. >Expended at La Hogue.


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

Wikipedia –

In 1692 James II, aided by Louis XIV of France, assembled a large army at La Hogue, and a French fleet in the Channel under the command of the Comte de Tourville. The English fleet drove de Tourville’s ships into La Hogue.

On 23 May 200 boats from the English fleet attacked the ships at anchor. When they left, La Hogue was on fire and six French three-deckers had been destroyed. Six other French ships, anchored under the Fort of St Vast, were attacked on the 24th. In spite of assistance from French cavalry, the French ships were boarded and the ships and the fort destroyed. The horsemen, sent into shallow water to aid their compatriots, were unhorsed by seamen with boathooks.

1745  Mermaid and Superb captured the French Vigilant off Louisburg, Cape Breton Island.

1759  George Rodney promoted Rear-Admiral.


Portrait of Rodney by Joshua Reynolds showing him after his appointment as a Rear Admiral in 1759.

Wikipedia –,_1st_Baron_Rodney

1765  Gosport victualling yard established.


Main Entrance to Royal Clarence Victualling Yard From Outside.

In the 18th century, the fleet was provisioned from scattered facilities in the town of Portsmouth and from the Weevil Yard in Gosport, which had a cooperage and a brewery.  From 1828 to 1832, the Weevil Yard was expanded and renamed the Royal Clarence Victualling Yard after the Duke of Clarence.  The yard was damaged during World War II and is now developed.


Developer’s Model Looking West.

1777  Beaver captured the American privateer Oliver Cromwell 2 miles S.W. of the Sugar Loaf (Gros Piton), St Lucia.

1780  Second inconclusive action between Rodney and de Guichen, 120 miles to the eastward of Martinique.

See 15 May 1780.

1794  Cdre John Ford (Europa) and Brig-Gen John Whyte captured Port au Prince, Haiti. Ships: Belliqueux, Europa, Hermione, Fly, Iphigenia, Swan, Irresistible, Marie Antoinette, Penelope, Sceptre. Troops: Royal Artillery, 22nd, 23rd, 41st Regts and Colonial.

1797  First recorded ‘splicing of the main brace’ as reward for Arduous Exertion: Cumberland (Capt Rowley).

splice the mainbrace flags


Photo from a Royal Navy event at RAF Marham 16/10/2013. Navy, RAF and Army personnel all took part in 'splicing the main brace' event traditional held by the Royal Navy. The event took oplace in the Junior ranks mess and was in honour of the birth of Prince George and the Anniversary of King George II birthday.


Last call! The modern day rum ration, as seen here in 1956, was finally abolished in July of 1970. It was a dark day for British sailors.

Splice the Mainbrace (the origin and meaning) Navy News August 1977 p.18 –

1808  Virginie (38), Captain Edward Brace captured the Dutch Guelderland (36), Colonel de mer Pool, 240 miles N.W. of Cape Finisterre. [m]

1813  Rattler captured the American privateer Alexander which had run ashore on Wells Beach 5 miles S. of Kennebunkport, Maine. Bream, which was in company, helped to refloat the prize.


HMS Rattler (1783) – Wikipedia –

1814  HMS Halcyon Sloop (18), John Marshall, wrecked on reef of rocks in Annatto Bay, Jamaica.


Commander John Houlton Marshall. HMS Halcyon (1813) – Wikipedia –

While reentering the bay to retrieve her boat, Halcyon hit a reef off Free Point. Despite efforts to free her, by the early hours of the next morning she had filled with water and capsized to port. All her crew were saved by boats that were by then standing by.

1821  Boats of Revolutionnaire captured two Greek pirate gunboats off Chiarenza Point (Cape Clarentza), west coast of Greece.

1835  HMS Challenger (28) wrecked on coast of Moquilla, Conception, Chile.

Recovery of the crew of HMS Challenger. (August 1835).

HMS Blonde under Captain Fitzroy and the severely damaged schooner Carmen were anchored in the
Bay of Conception.
At Talcahuano a fearful stench of dead fish and animals and of decaying seaweed filled the air. Darwin and Fitzroy rode on to Conception to find not a house was left standing; instead the streets were merely lines of ruins. Many of the inhabitants were living in reed huts which had withstood the shock and which the poor were now renting to the rich at excessive prices.

The earthquake, the worst people could remember had run for 400 miles along the coast and had been accompanied by a series of the simultaneous eruption of a line of volcanoes. The devastation had been compounded by three succeeding tidal waves with ensuing death and destruction on a awesome scale.
Word came that Challenger had been wrecked in a storm at Arauco nearly a hundred miles away. The ship’s captain, Michael Seymour, was an old friend of Fitzroy who was determined to embark on the hazardous trip over land. FitzRoy left Talcahuano Harbor on June 21st with five horses and provisions. Mr. Usborne, Mr. Bennett and a few other crew members went too. There was the problem of finding the right tracks, there were rivers with deceptive currents, there was little food, and always the danger of attack from Indians. The horses grew tired, and Fitzroy was constantly obliged to sell the ones he had and buy fresh ones at exorbitant prices. One day they met a party of Chileans who gave alarming news that three thousand Indians had assembled and were expected to make an attack on the Chilean frontier; they had heard of the wreck and were actually on their way to to plunder the crew when by accident they came up against a friendly tribe of Indians, who drove them back. When the party finally reached the shipwrecked crew they found that all but two were alive. Many were sick and their provisions low. They had built themselves a fortified encampment some miles from the wreck, but a plague of mice had fallen on the tents and hundreds had to be killed every hour. The men were getting mutinous. At dawn the next day Fitzroy set off back to Conception to get help. Finally the men were got back to Coquimbo where a vessel was waiting to ship them back to England.
Post Script: Alexander retired in 1867 with the rank of Captain. Fitzroy, Seymour, Sulivan and Wickham all became Admirals.  Fitzroy became Governor General of New Zealand before cutting his own throat.

1838  The paddle-steamer Sirius sets the record for the highest average speed of a passenger liner during a west-to-east transatlantic crossing when she arrives at Falmouth, England from New York. Previously, she set the fastest ‘east-to-west’ record, holding it for less than a day, before it was broken by PS Great Western in April 1838.


A static model of the Paddle-steamer Sirius (1837).

1845  On the morning of 19th May, Captain Sir John Franklin and his ill-fated Arctic expedition, departed from Greenhithe, England,  with a crew of 24 officers and 110 men on board the ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus. The ships stopped briefly in Stromness Harbour in the Orkney Islands in northern Scotland, and from there they sailed to Greenland with HMS Rattler and a transport ship, Barretto Junior.


HMS Erebus and HMS Terror sail from Greenhithe, 1845.

1847  Gunboat tender of Calliope, with a detachment of the 58th Regiment, repulsed a Maori attack on Wanganui. Last naval commitment in first New Zealand war. [bh ‘New Zealand 1845-7′]

1852  Capture of Bassein by Maj-Gen Henry Godwin and Cdre George Lambert (Fox). Ships: Moozuffer and Sesostris (Indian Navy); Pluto and Tenasserim (Bengal Marine); Royal Marines and a field gun’s crew of Fox. Troops:: 51st Regiment, Bengal Artillery, Madras Sappers and Miners, 9th Madras Native Infantry.

1916  36 hours after setting out from “Peggotty Camp” (i.e. the upturned lifeboat James Caird), and travelling continuously, Shackleton, Worsley and Crean, reached their destination at Stromness. They were, in Worsley’s words, “a terrible trio of scarecrows”, their haggard faces dark with exposure, wind, frostbite and accumulated blubber soot.

Later that evening, a motor-vessel was despatched to King Haakon Bay to pick up McCarthy, McNish, Vincent, and the James Caird. Worsley wrote that the Norwegian seamen at Stromness all “claimed the honour of helping to haul her up to the wharf”, a gesture which was “quite affecting”.

Owing to the advent of the southern winter and the prevailing ice conditions, it was more than three months before Shackleton was able to achieve the relief of the men at Elephant Island but eventually, with the aid of the steam-tug ‘Yelcho’, the entire party was brought to safety, reaching Punta Arenas, Chile, in September 1916.


Crean, Shackleton, and Worsley, twenty-four hours after arriving in Stromness.

1919  SS Bandırma, an Ottoman mixed-freight ship, becomes famous for her historical role in taking Mustafa Kemal Pasha (Atatürk), accompanied with 22 officers, 25 soldiers and 8 administrative staff, from Constantinople (present day Istanbul) on the 16th May, to Samsun on the Anatolian Black Sea coast. Upon landing, on 19th May, Mustafa Kemal Pasha started the Turkish national movement – contrary to the orders given to him by the Ottoman government -resulting in the declaration of Republic of Turkey after the Turkish War of Independence almost four years later.

1931  Deutschland, the lead ship of her class of heavy cruisers (often termed a pocket battleship), was launched at the Deutsche Werke shipyard in Kiel. Christened by German Chancellor Heinrich Brüning, the ship accidentally started sliding down the slipway while Brüning was giving his christening speech.
After the completion of fitting out work and sea trials, the ship was commissioned into the Reichsmarine on 1st April 1933.
In 1940, she was renamed Lützow, after the Admiral Hipper class heavy cruiser Lützow was handed over to the Soviet Union.


Deutschland at her launch, 19th May 1931.

1940  Destroyer Whitley beached off Nieuport, after attack by German aircraft, and destroyed by Keith.

1943  Frigate Jed and Sennen (ex-USCG Culler) sank U-954 in N. Atlantic (54-54N, 34-19W), destroyer Duncan and corvette Snowflake sank U-381 (54-41N, 34-45W). Hudson M/269 sank U-273 (59-25N, 24-33W). Convoy SC 130.

1944  Wellingtons M/36 and U/36, Ventura V/500, Ludlow and USS Niblack sank U-960 in W. Mediterranean (37-35N, 01-39E).


Conning tower emblem U-960



U-960 Conning tower crew with MG15 & 34s


1945  Submarine Terrapin reduced to CTL by depth-charging in Pacific.



HMS Terrapin (P323) – Wikipedia –

1973  Second Cod War, or fishing dispute with Iceland, began when she unilaterally extended her fishing exclusion zone from 12 to 50 miles. Frigates Plymouth and Cleopatra first on scene.



Sea areas in international rights. Wikipedia – Cod Wars –

2000  Tireless, SSN, arrived at Gibraltar with reactor coolant defects. Repairs took almost one year.

See 7 May 2001.



HMS Tireless (S88) at South mole Gibraltar – Wikipedia –

2003  In view of the important historical role in the birth of the Republic of Turkey, the governor and the mayor of Samsun Province initiated the building of a replica of SS Bandırma.
Taşkınlar Shipbuilding Co. started construction of the vessel in May 2000, which was completed by mid-April 2001. The new Bandırma was opened as a museum ship on 19th May 2003 at Doğu Park (East Park) in Samsun. Wax figures of Mustafa Kemal Pasha and his followers on the ship are on display along with historical items in the museum ship today.


Full-size replica of SS Bandırma at Doğu Park in Samsun. Opened 19th May 2003. – On This Day –

Royal Navy On This Day 18 May …..

1499  Commissioned by the Catholic Monarchs to sail for America, Alonso de Ojeda sets sail from Cadiz with three caravels, on his voyage to what is now Venezuela. He travelled with the pilot and cartographer Juan de la Cosa and the Italian navigator Amerigo Vespucci. This was the first of a series of what have become known as the “minor journeys” or “Andalusian journeys” that were made to the New World.


Alonso de Ojeda – Wikipedia –


Juan de la Cosa – Wikipedia –

81a.World Map by Juan de la Cosa 1500 kopia

World Map by Juan de la Cosa, 1500. Wikipedia –


Amerigo Vespucci – Wikipedia –

1565  The Siege of Malta begins as the Ottoman Empire invade the island, then held by the Knights Hospitaller (also known as the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, Knights of Malta, Knights of Rhodes, and Chevaliers of Malta).
The Turkish armada, which had set sail from Istanbul at the end of March, was by all accounts one of the largest assembled since antiquity. According to one of the earliest and most complete histories of the siege, the fleet consisted of 193 vessels, which included 131 galleys, seven galliots (small galleys) and four galleasses (large galleys), the remainder being transport vessels, etc.


The siege of Malta – ‘Arrival of the Turkish fleet’ by Matteo Perez d’ Aleccio.

Wikipedia – Great Siege of Malta –


The Siege of Malta (novel) by Walter Scott (Published posthumously) – Wikipedia –

1709  Falmouth, escorting a convoy, fought a French 60-gun ship 70 miles to the westward of the Scilly Isles. The French cut away her shrouds and chased the convoy but Capt Riddell made such rapid repairs that he was able to retrieve the situation and bring his convoy safely home.

Wikipedia – HMS Falmouth (1708) –

1756  Nearly two years after the first fighting of the Seven Years’ War had broken out in the Ohio Country (North America), Great Britain formally declares war on France on 18th May.
The Seven Years’ War  was a world war that took place between 1754 and 1763 with the main conflict being in the seven year period 1756-1763. It involved most of the great powers of the time and affected Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines.

Wikipedia – Seven Years’ War –

1759  Thames and Venus captured the French Arethusa in Audierne Bay.

Wikipedia – HMS Thames (1758) –

Wikipedia – HMS Venus (1758) –

Wikipedia – HMS Arethusa (1759) (ex-L’Arethusé) –

1775  Benedict Arnold captures British sloop George at St. Johns, Quebec, and renames her Enterprise, first of many famous ships with that name.


Engraving of Arnold, by H.B. Hall, after John Trumbull. Wikipedia –

1777  HMS Beaver (14), Cptn. Jones, took American privateer Oliver Cromwell (24), Cptn. Harman, off St. Lucia.

Cromwell Hahn

A modern impression of the opening of the Oliver Cromwell-Beaver fight. From Hahn.

1780  Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Hardy died at Spithead. The son of a vice admiral, Charles Hardy was born at Portsmouth, ca.1714. He joined the Royal Navy as a volunteer in 1731, becoming a captain in August 1741.
During his career, in which he was be involved in several notable naval engagements, he also served as governor and commander-in-chief of the British colony of Newfoundland; governor of the Colony of New York; the Member of Parliament for Rochester; and governor of Greenwich Hospital from 1771 to 1780. In 1779 he became Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet remaining in that post until his death in May 1780.


Admiral of the Fleet Sir Charles Hardy (ca. 1714 – 18 May 1780). Painted by George Romney, in 1780.

Wikipedia –

1803  HMS Doris (36), Cptn. R. H. Pearson, captured French lugger Affronteur (14), Lt. Marce Dutoya, off Ushant.

HMS Doris (1795) – WIkipedia – – HMS Doris –

French lugger Affronteur (1795) –

1803  British declared war on France, marking end of the Peace of Amiens and the start of the Napoleonic Wars, and hoisted flag in Victory. Nelson appointed C-in-C Mediterranean.

Britain gave its official reasons for resuming hostilities as ‘France’s imperialist policies in the West Indies, Italy and Switzerland’.

See 25 March 1802.

1807  HMS Cassandra (10), Lt. George Le Blanc, foundered off Bordeaux.

HMS Cassandra (1806) – Wikipedia –

1808  HMS Rapid (12) ,Lt. Henry Baugh, sunk by batteries in the River Tagus while attempting to cut out two merchantmen.

1809  HMS Standard (74), Cptn. Askew Hollis, and HMS Owen Glendower (36) captured the island of Anholt.

1809  Occupation of Anholt, Kattegat. Ships: Standard, Owen Glendower, Avenger, Ranger, Rose and Snipe and 120 Royal Marines under Lt Nicholls.

1842  Capture of Chapu by Vice-Adm Sir William Parker (Cornwallis) and Lt-Gen Sir Hugh Gough. Ships and vessels: Algerine, Bentinck, Blonde, Columbine, Cornwallis, Modeste, Starling, Jupiter. Transport: Sesosris (Indian Navy), Nemesis, Phlegethon, Queen (Bengal Marine). Troops: Royal Artillery, 18th, 26th, 49th and 55th Regiments, Madras Artillery, Madras Sappers and Miners, 36th Madras Native Infantry.


Admiral of the Fleet Sir William Parker Bt. Wikipedia –,_1st_Baronet,_of_Shenstone


Daguerreotype of Gough wearing the Army Gold Cross, 1850. Wikipedia –,_1st_Viscount_Gough


Naval fighting off Zhapu (1842).


Joss House, Chapoo. Death of Col. Tomlinson.

Battle of Chapoo – Wikipedia –

1916  Early on the 18th May, Shackleton, Worsley and Crean – the three members of the island-crossing party – set out from the shelter provided by the up-turned James Caird, to make what would be the first-ever confirmed land crossing of the South Georgia interior. Aiming for the inhabited station at Stromness, their journey was far from straightforward, since they lacked any map and had to improvise a route which involved traversing mountain ranges and glaciers.

1940  Whilst supporting the Narvik campaign, Revenge-class battleship HMS Resolution is hit, but not sunk, by a 1,000 kilo bomb from a Junkers Ju.88 at Tjeldsundet.



HMS Resolution, between the wars. Wikipedia –

1940  Cruiser Effingham, carrying 2nd Bn South Wales Borderers from Ankenes to Bodo in Norway, stranded on a pinnacle 12 miles off Harstad. Sunk by gunfire 21 May (67-17N, 13-58E). ‘Caused by a soft pencil and precise navigation – the line drawn on the chart to show HMS Effingham‘s course obscured an isolated, shallow pinnacle and the ship was exactly on track’ – David Brown, Head of the Naval Historical Branch. First of twenty-three cruisers lost in Second World War. Sister ship Raleigh also wrecked off Labrador, 8 August 1922.

See 8 June 1921, 7 July 2002, 21 August 1910, 8 August 1922.


HMS Echo approaching HMS Effingham.

HMS Echo rescued some 1000 embarked troops of the South Wales Borders and 600 members of the ship’s company from HMS Effingham, an accompanying cruiser which had struck a submerged rock in a narrow Fjord. The dangerous manoeuvre of coming alongsideEffingham had to be completed twice to get everyone off, but superb seamanship ensured that the operation was accomplished without casualties. Spurgeon then destroyed the already badly damaged cruiser with two well-placed torpedoes.

1941  VC: PO Alfred Edward Sephton (Coventry) for gallantry in an air attack on cruiser Coventry south of Crete by German aircraft which had been attacking the hospital ship Aba.


PO Alfred Edward Sephton VC – Wikipedia –


A fine example of a Petty Officer directing anti-craft guns in the face of an enemy air attack. Sephton refused to leave his post despite being mortally wounded and controlled his pom-pom battery until the enemy attack was over.

1944  Catalina S/210 sank U-241 off south-west Norway (63-36N, 01-42E).


No. 210 Squadron RAF Based at Sullom Voe, Shetland. Wikipedia –


Conning tower emblem U-241. Wikipedia –


U-241 Kapitan (Oberleutnant) Arno Werr.

1972  Anti-terrorist quartet including two Royal Marines parachuted into Atlantic alongside RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 to search for a reported bomb.

Responding to a bomb threat received by the Captain of QE2, a specialist bomb disposal unit is flown from Britain to rendezvous with the liner in the mid-Atlantic. On arrival, and in far from ideal conditions, the unit parachutes into the sea close to the ship, for recovery by the ship’s launch. No bomb was found and the incident eventually turned out to be a hoax (the FBI succeed in arresting the culprit).
The bomb disposal team were awarded the Queen’s Commendation for Brave Conduct.


Two members of the combined SAS/SBS unit, parachuting into the Atlantic near the QE2.

The SAS provided an Ammunition Technical Officer, who was not parachute trained and had to be given instruction en route. The four-man team jumped into a rough sea and were picked up by the liner’s lifeboat. The SBS men had not been told that the ship involved was the QE2 until they were airborne. The ATO and Lieutenant Clifford, leading the SBS team, went to the ship’s captain. The baggage was mustered and the two suitcases that could not be identified were dealt with by the ATO. The ransom money was delivered but not collected.

Although the threat was later proved a hoax, the exercise provided valuable experience in inter-service cooperation as an RAF Nimrod provided secure and instant communications between the team and its British base.

After this operation, some ATOS were parachute-trained and the SBS kept a team on standby for future operations of this type.


Captain Robin Woodall (Junior First Officer QE2 at time of bomb scare). – – Bomb Scare article – – On This Day –

Royal Navy On This Day 17 May …..

1655  Capture of Jamaica by Adm William Penn (Swiftsure) and troops under Gen Robert Venables.

640px-Lely,_William_Penn (1)

Admiral Sir William Penn, 1621–1670 by Sir Peter Lely, painted 1665–1666, part of the Flagmen of Lowestoft series.

Wikipedia –


Robert Venables – Wikipedia –

1667  Princess (52) attacked by two Danish 40-gun men-of-war, off the coast of Norway, between the Sean and Malshond. Capt Dawes was killed after an hour, saying ‘For God’s sake don’t surrender the ship to those fellows'; then the Lieutenant and then the gunner. However, the gun crews got her to The Nore by the 23rd.

1673  Louis Joliet, a French-Canadian explorer and Father Jacques Marquette, with two canoes and five voyageurs of French-Indian ancestry (now recognized as the ethnic group Métis), begin exploring the Mississippi River. Their journey would demonstrate that the Mississippi ran to the Gulf of Mexico.


Jacques Marquette – Wikipedia –


Louis Jolliet – Wikipedia –


Ca. 1681 map of Marquette and Jolliet’s 1673 expedition.

PDF The Mississippi Voyage of Jolliet & Marquette 1673 – The_Mississippi_Voyage_of_Jolliet_and_Marquette_1673

1795  Two Royal Navy frigates, HMS Thetis (38-gun fifth-rate), and HMS Hussar (28-gun Enterprise-class sixth-rate), engaged five French supply ships (Normand, Trajan, Prévoyante, Hernoux, and Raison) off Cape Henry, Chesapeake Bay. Raison and Prévoyante struck their colours and were taken. Prévoyante was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Prévoyante.


Capture of La Prévoyante and La Raison by Thetis and Hussar, by Thomas Whitcombe.

1805  Surgeons and Physicians given dress and undress uniforms of their own instead of that worn by warrant officers.

1862  Capture of Najaor by Brig-Gen Charles Staveley, with British and Indian troops, and British and French Naval Brigades. Naval Brigades repulsed a rebel Chinese attack near Tsiolin (or Cholin). Naval Brigade of Imperieuse, Pearl, Vulcan, Flamer and Coromandel. Troops: Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, 31st, 67th and 99th Regiments, 5th Bombay Native Light Infantry, 22nd Bengal Native Infantry.


General Sir Charles Staveley GCB – Wikipedia –

1888  The Jeune Hortense was swept on to the beach when she came into Mount´s Bay to land the body of a Fowey man who had died in France. The Penzance lifeboat Dora, was pulled on to the beach by a horse-drawn carriage and was rowed out to the grounded brigantine. Once the 3 crewmen and a boy were safely aboard ‘Dora’, the rider and horse drew the lifeboat ashore to safety.
Conflicting sources state the Jeune Hortense was refloated and returned to France, whilst others say she was broken up on the beach – the latter suggestion is supported by a wooden keel which still remains in the general location of the grounded ship.


Jeune Hortense in 1888, and present-day image of her keel in the sand of Longrock Beach?

1915  Admiral of the Fleet Lord Fisher of Kilverstone, First Sea Lord, then aged 74, walked out of the Admiralty after differences with Winston Churchill, First Lord, and was found in the Charing Cross Hotel. ‘The Prime Minister was justified in telling the King that it “indicated signs of mental aberration”‘ – Roskill, Churchill and the Admirals, p. 50.


Portrait of John Arbuthnot Fisher by Hubert von Herkomer, 1911. Wikipedia –,_1st_Baron_Fisher


Kindle edition Churchill and the Admirals by Stephen Roskill.

1917  Admiralty convoy committee set up.

1917  Second division of US destroyers arrived at Queenstown.


Wadsworth (second ship from the right) and other destroyers moored next to destroyer tender Melville in Queenstown in 1917.

PDF – The Queenstown Patrol 1917 by Cdr Joseph Knefler Taussig USN – Taussig_thequeenstownpatrol1917

1917  Second experimental use of Sea Lions for detecting submarines. Sea lions, greasepaint and the U-boat threat

Sea lions, greasepaint and the U-boat threat. Royal Soceity Publishing article.

1917  Destroyer Setter lost in collision with sister ship Sylph off Harwich.

1917  Glen, auxiliary schooner (decoy ship), sank UB-39 off Cherbourg (50-05N, 01-25w).

1941  Gnat, river gunboat, bombarded Gazala airfield.

1942  HMS Eagle launched 17 Spitfire and 6 Albacore aircraft for Malta. The Spitfire fighters successfully reached Malta, but the Albacore torpedo bombers returned due to engine trouble. Later in the day, 6 Italian SM.79 torpedo bombers attacked her, but all torpedoes missed.


HMS Eagle and HMS Malaya, from HMS Argus serving with Force H in the Mediterranean, 7 March 1942.

Wikipedia –

1943  The last of the nine surviving Avro Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron, which attacked the German dams during the night, put its wheels on the ground at Scampton At 06:15hrs.
The raids had breached Möhne and Eder Dams, causing catastrophic flooding of the Ruhr valley, with the Sorpe dam sustaining only minor damage. Two hydroelectric powerplants were destroyed and several more were damaged. Factories and mines were also either damaged or destroyed. An estimated 1,600 people were drowned, whilst 53 of the 133 aircrew were also killed.

617sqn-600 (1)


A Tornado of 617 Squadron with commemorative ‘Dambusters’ 70th Anniversary Tail-art, 2013.

Wikipedia – No. 617 Squadron RAF –

1943  Frigate Swale sank U-657 S.E. of Cape Farewell (58-54N, 42-33W) with hedgehog and depth charges. Convoy ONS 7.


HMS Swale (K217) with ‘dazzle’ paintwork. Wikipedia –



Conning tower emblems U-657. Wikipedia –

1943  Hudson J/269 sank U-646 off Iceland (62-10N, 14-30W).


Wikipedia – No. 269 Squadron RAF –

Wikipedia – Lockheed Hudson –

1943  Italian submarine Enrico Tazzoli sunk by air attack N.N.W. of Cape Ortegal.


Enrico Tazzoli – Wikipedia –

1944  Wellingtons A/36, H/36 and X/36 and US ships sank U-616 in W. Mediterranean (36-46N, 00-52E). First attacked on the 14th.


Capt. Koitschka (center with white hat) CO U-616. Scuttled after surface fight with US Destroyers. 55 members
of the crew were picked up by the US Destroyers. Picture provided by Klaus Zaepfel, whose late
father Franz Zaepfel served aboard the sub.



1944  Allied air attack on Japanese naval base at Sourabaya. Operation Transom. Force 66: Carriers: Illustrious (Rear-Adm C. Moody) and Saratoga (US), with 27 Avengers, 18 Dauntless, 24 Hellcats and 16 Corsairs. Ships: Renown (Vice-Adm Sir Arthur Power), Kenya (Rear-Adm A.D. Read – CS4), London, Suffolk and Tromp (Neth), Napier (Cdre D), Quidrant, Quality, Quiberon; Cummings, Dunlop and Fanning (US); Van Galen (Neth), Force 65: Queen Elizabeth (Adm Sir James Somerville), Valiant, Richelieu (Fr), Ceylon, Gambia (RNZN), Nepal, Queensborough (RAN), Quickmatch (RAN), Quilliam, Racehorse, Rotherham. FAA Sqns: Avenger; 832, 851; Corsair: 1830, 1833.


Strike photo taken during the attack by carrier planes. Operation Transom –

1970  Thor Heyerdahl’s expedition sets sail from Safi in Morocco aboard a papyrus reed boat Ra II, bound for Barbados on the opposite side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Heyerdahl had used wall paintings of papyrus vessels from ancient Egyptian burial sites and reliefs in Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley and Central and South America as his starting points for the construction of his first reed boat, Ra (which failed during a similar attempt the previous year), but was determined to prove that reed boats could have carried people over wide expanses of ocean in ancient times.

ThorHeyerdahl (1)

Thor Heyerdahl – Wikipedia –


Thor Heyerdahl’s Ra II, named after the Egyptian Sun God.

1981  The last Navy Minister, Keith Speed, dismissed by Prime Minister Thatcher for his outspoken opposition to proposed cuts to RN.

See 25 June 1981.

1987  Sailing off the Saudi Arabian coast near the Iran-Iraq War exclusion boundary, the Perry class guided missile frigate, USS Stark (FFG-31) was struck by two 1,500 pound Exocet anti-ship missiles fired from an Iraqi Dassault Mirage F1 plane, just after the plane was given a routine radio warning by the Stark. The frigate did not detect the missiles with radar, which were spotted by the lookout only moments before they struck. Both missiles hit the ship, and one exploded in crew quarters, killing 37 sailors and wounding 21.


Guided-missile frigate USS Stark listing to port after being struck by Iraqi-launched Exocet missiles.

USS Stark Incident – wikipedia –

1993  White Ensign hauled down at Tamar, Hong Kong Central, and RN base moved to Stonecutters’ Island.

2000  Cpl Alan Chambers RM and Mne Charlie Patton completed the first unsupported journey to the North Pole.

2003  The Sovereign’s Colour for the Royal Navy presented to the Royal Naval Reserve by the Prince of Wales on Horse Guards Parade. The centenary of the establishment of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in 1903.

See 17 July 1959.


2006  After 25 years of service to the Navy in operations in Korea, Vietnam and the Mediterranean, the decommissioned aircraft carrier USS Oriskany is sunk as an artificial reef. A U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal team from Panama City, FL detonated C-4 explosive charges of approximately 500 lb net explosive weight, strategically placed on 22 sea connection pipes in various machinery spaces. The 888-foot ship took about 37 minutes to sink below the surface, coming to rest  (upright, as intended) in 210 ft of water in the Gulf of Mexico.


Detonations aboard the USS Oriskany, now popularly known as the ‘Great Carrier Reef’. – On This Day –

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