Tag Archives: British Navy

Can anyone cast light on this rowing gig, currently being restored at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

David Griffiths who is leading a team of volunteers working the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard’s Boathouse No 4 to restore what they believe to be an old Royal Navy rowing gig.

However, David and his co-workers know little that is certain about her and he hopes an Intheboatshed.net reader might be able to help with the history and perhaps some construction details. If anyone can help, please either add a comment using the link below or email me at gmatkin@gmail.com, and will direct your message to David.

Here’s what David has to say:

‘The boat is 15ft 5in stem to stern, with a beam of 4ft. She has no construction plate or details on her, other than that her transom is marked with an engraved ‘204/17’.

‘She has two thwarts for one man each, two oars each, and would have had a coxswain’s seat with backrest. Thus, in rowing terms she was a coxed, double sculling skiff.

‘She also had a small thwart toward the bow, but whether this was intended to carry another person is not clear. It may have been structural only, or perhaps supported a towing post.

‘We have no records on her. She is commonly and affectionately known as the Dartmouth gig, and the rumor is that she was built by (or for) the navy for use by cadets at Britannia Royal Naval College.

‘I understand that there was a time when the navy believed that every man should know how to pull (row), and that boats of this kind were built in quite large numbers.

‘We believe that after her life in Dartmouth she was brought up to Whale Island, here in Portsmouth, where she sat as surplus for some years before being obtained, maybe some twenty-five years ago, by the Naval Base Property Trust.

‘Sadly she has been greatly neglected over the years, and even subjected to deliberate sabotage, but now, with perseverance, my team is bringing her back, plank by plank.

‘I believe she is built in white pine on oak: a visitor came in one day and said this was the case, adding that he was a historian with expertise in wood construction.

‘It certainly has some of the feel and appearance of being old, and but her knees, stem and stern post are all laminated.

‘I have managed to locate some photographs of a boat that appears to be identical to ours, and which was for sale on-line some years ago. Named Bluie, it apparently had a plate indicating that she was built by shipwright apprentices in Devonport, but it had no date. I’m hoping this might be a clue…

‘Our boat is currently replanked up to number ten on each side, so we are at the point of fitting new sheer strakes then framing her out. From that point though, we are lacking the details which will allow us to fulfill an authentic restoration.

‘If anyone out there among your readership can cast any light on our delightful little boat, I would be most grateful.

‘Best wishes, David Griffiths’

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A history of the naval toast

A willing foe and searoom

This is well worth reading, and something of a window into the non-politically correct, not to say disgraceful minds of young naval officers of years gone by. Here’s a short sample:

‘It was common that the Loyal Toast be followed at mess dinners by several toasts that had to be formalized and used on a rotating basis, a separate naval toast for each day of the week:

‘On Sunday “To Absent Friends!”, on Monday “To Our Ships at Sea!”,
‘On Tuesday “To Our Men!”, and on Wednesday “To Ourselves!”
‘On Thursday “To A Bloody War or A Sickly Season!”
‘On Friday “To A Willing Foe and Sea Room!”
‘And on Saturday “To Sweethearts and Wives!”‘

They reveal a surprising – to me – interest in having a fight, partly because the British Navy generally expected to win and partly because a good battle could lead to deaths and sickness, which would in turn lead to promotions for some of the younger officers and crew.

And I gather that the toast ‘To Sweethearts and Wives!’ traditionally prompted the scurrilous response ‘May they never meet!’.

PS – I’ve just noticed we’ve just passed 4m hits. Here’s to the next million…

The sad end of HMS Implacable

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The sad end of the Implacable Trafalgar battleship

This clip shows the story of how the British Navy allowed a Trafalgar fighting ship to rot and then, just 60 years ago, blew her up. The officers and men entrusted with the job appear to be nearly in tears.

My thanks go to Chris Partridge of Rowing for Pleasure for pointing out the link.

If you can’t follow the link above to the BBC story about the destruction of the Implacable, try this Pathé newsreel piece from the time (my thanks to Claire Goodwin for spotting and sharing this link).

Afterwards, the World Ship Trust adopted the motto: ‘Never again!’ referring to the sad and unnecessary loss of the Implacable.