Saturday 13 April 2024

HMS Marlborough (1855 - 1924)

I was captivated when I first saw this photograph of HMS Marlborough at Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta. The two Victorian-era warships  dominate the image set against the grandeur of the appropriately named harbour. HMS Marlborough lies at anchor and displays to us her full broadside. The photograph was take in the early 1860s and is incredibly clear for such an early photograph depicting the days of the sailing navy.  She was a First Rate battleship carrying 131 guns on three gun decks. Certainly a ship that projected power and one not to be messsed with! She was flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet

HMS Marlborough at Malta c. 1862 (Wikipedia)

Take a closer look and we noice a funnel. There's a sort of end of an era feel about this hybrid. She had a propellor, boiler and coal-fired steam engine as well as full masts and rigging. She was predominantly wooden. It was a time when sail and steam co-existed but the future was metal and steam.  One is minded of that Turner painting of the aged HMS Temeraire, a veteran of Trafalgar, being towed by a steam tug to the breakers yard in 1838. The fighting Temeraire was a 98-gun ship of the line. 

Marlbough was launched in July 1855. She was ordered as a sailing ship in 1850 but in 1852 was ordered to be converted into a steam and sail warship. Under steam she could sail at a speed of nearly twelve knots irrespective of wind direction. She was the flagship of the Mediterranean Fleet from 1858 to 1864.  She was replaced by HMS Victoria and sailed to Portsmouth where she acted as a training ship and later a receiving ship. In 1904 she became an accommodation hulk with HMS Ariadne and HMS Acteon for the Torpedo Training School know as HMS Vernon at Portsmouth.  In 1923 HMS Vernon became a shore establishment and the former HMS Marlborough which had been renamed Vernon II was sold for scrapping in 1924. While being towed to the breakers yard she capsized in heave seas and sunk with the loss of four lives. 

The photograph below shows the old Marlborough then known as Vernon II hulked and used as an accommodation ship. Not as imposing as she was when serving with the Medierranean fleet and lying at anchor at Valletta but even as a hulk stripped of her mast and rigging and with the cluttered add-ons to her main deck - she still looks impressive. She still carries her head high and she avoided that final igmony of being broken up and instead found her own resting place in the English Channel. 

Former HMS Marlborough (Vernon II) www.vernon link

Accommodation hulks: the former HMS Marlborough, Warrior and Donegal (Photo wwwVernon Link)