This film of the destruction of HMS Implacable is extraordinary. Almost unbelievably, this vessel was originally a French naval ship that fought at the battle of Trafalgar, and was later captured at the battle of Cape Ortegal.
According to the Wikipedia account, in British service she was involved in capturing the Imperial Russian Navy 74-gun ship Vsevolod in 1808 during the Anglo-Russian War.
Later, Implacable became a training ship and for a time was the second oldest ship in the Royal Navy after Lord Nelson’s flagship at Trafalgar, HMS Victory. It seems unthinkable that a ship in today’s Navy could stay in service for so long.
As the film shows, she flew both the French tricolour as well as the White Duster on the day she was scuttled by the Navy.
It’s the bowsprit that hits you between the eyes. Clock the size of it: with something like that you could sail her into port and knock the back wall out of a dockside crimper’s best bedroom…
The 73ft schooner HMS Pickle is a replica of the 1799-built original HMS Pickle, which had the honour of bringing the news of the battle of Trafalgar back to Britain. It was a big, bittersweet moment: one one hand it was victory in the war with the French, but on the other hand the commander of the British fleet, Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronté, had been shot and killed.
The excuse for publishing these striking photos is that from mid-September the superyachts at Gibraltar’s Ocean Village Marina will have HMS Pickle for a neighbour. Gibraltar’s gain is the UK’s loss, but there’s something appropriate about the move.
HMS Pickle’s is to sail from the UK to her new home in Gibraltar via Cape Trafalgar – a route that the original Pickle would have followed many times.
The ship’s operator, Robin James said ‘The connection she has with Gibraltar and the part they both played in British Naval history is a great story to share and I am sure her arrival will be a real boost to tourism… We have received fantastic support from the government of Gibraltar and Ocean Village and can’t wait to get there.’
Robin comes from a family of mariners, and in 2004 took time off work to set off around Europe and America in search of a tall ship of his own – and then found Pickle in Gloucester where she had recently arrived from Russia.
‘Pickle had real appeal because of the original’s rich history and adventures in the Caribbean and Europe. The first Pickle was wrecked and sunk off southern Spain in 1808 but this 1996-built replica is uncannily similar and gives us a great insight into the methods and technologies of the time.’
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.