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May 06, 2003

The names of British warships

The names of British warships were more inspired in the first half of the 20th-century writes Mike Campbell:

HMS Dreadnought; the QE class battleships HMS Warspite and HMS Valiant; the Revenge class battleships HMS Revenge and HMS Resolution; the Bellephoron class battleship HMS Superb; the Orion class battleships HMS Conqueror, HMS Monarch and HMS Thunderer; the KGV class battleship HMS Audacious; the Royal Sovereign "R" Class battleships HMS Repulse (and Revenge and Resolution); the Majestic class battleships HMS Magnificent, HMS Majestic, and HMS Victorious; HMS Renown; HMS Venerable; HMS Formidable, HMS Irresistable, and HMS Implacable; HMS Triumph.

Other British Royal Navy ship names: Active, Adamant, Ardent, Blazer, Brilliant, Defiance, Discovery, Excellent, Indefatigable, Invincible, Success, Terror, Venerable, and, of course, Victory.

I dunno ~ I think if I was the captain of an enemy ship and I heard the HMS Revenge or the HMS Terror was heading my way, there might have been some psychological warfare going on there.

The Flea's favourite: HMS Spanker.

Mike's post links to John Keegan's article which argues the British government must meet its commitment to build two large carriers. My family's relationship with the British Navy and my research with the prospective builders of the new carriers means my opinion on this subject is as biased as anything I will ever write in this blog. That said, this military planning decision is one of the most important for the future of world peace and order being made by any government. Britain must build these carriers. Keegan writes:

If Douglas Hurd's phrase about "punching above our weight" applies anywhere, it applies particularly to the jump-jet carriers. The ships are now, however, coming to the end of their operational lives. Their dedicated aircraft, the Sea Harriers, have exceeded it, since they are being withdrawn from service, to be replaced by ground-attack Harriers, which lack the ability to defend the mother ships in a fighter role.

The Government is committed to replacing the small carriers with two new large fleet carriers of 50,000 tons, each embarking at least 40 fixed-wing supersonic aircraft. Once delivered and in service, 10 years hence, the new carriers will restore to the Navy a power it has not possessed since the 1970s, when the last generation of large carriers reached the end of their lives.

It is, for sailors, an alluring prospect, promising the Royal Navy the status of the second most important sea force in the world - and likely to remain so for several decades.

And then... Here is an image of HMS Conqueror.


Original photos of her are for sale here (they are near the bottom of the page).

Update: This list of Royal Navy ship names should help looking to remember the name or double-check the spelling of the name of a particular ship.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at May 6, 2003 10:57 PM



I am trying to find the real name of a British ship dubbed "Hellafloat?" I am also trying to find out the name of the war and type of ship described by this name. I am wondering whether a specific print source (dictionary?) or internet site would have this information.

Can you help?

Posted by: Susan at March 30, 2004 01:30 PM

The British prison ship HMS Jersey was nicknamed "Hell Afloat" by American prisoners during the Revolutionary War.

This link might prove useful:


Posted by: Flea at March 30, 2004 02:07 PM

I'm looking for a web site that can give me info on the HMS Lowenstauf (spelling may be incorrect). Please email.

Posted by: john at May 6, 2004 01:20 AM

You may be after the HMS Lowestoft. There have apparently been nine ships of the Royal Navy by that name:


Posted by: Nicholas Packwood at May 6, 2004 02:00 AM

i have a tiepin from the HMS ILLUSTRIOUS would like some infor on the ship please if any one can help thank you

Posted by: robert (bob) at May 7, 2004 06:55 AM

Does the tiepin look like this crest?


If so, you have found the RN website for HMS Illustrious! There have, however, been five Royal Navy ships by that name. I expect we can we can rule out an 18th century tiepin...


Posted by: Flea at May 7, 2004 09:33 AM

I am searching for anything on HMS Conqueror launched in 1855 and wrecked 1861 off Eleuthera Island. My great grandfather was on HMS Conqueror about 1856-1861 and went to China. He was born 1843 near Plymouth, England (Upton Pynes, near Exeter in Devon).

Can anyone help me find out about this ship??? I think HMS Conqueror "5" was his ship - but I understand there were "2" Conqueror's about this same time.

Does anyone have a picture of HMS Conqueror "5".

My great grandfather's name was George Perkins born July 27, 1843. He sailed to China on this ship. How can I find out anything about him in the Royal Navy? Thank you. Jeanne Linley

Posted by: Jeanne Linley at June 3, 2004 07:58 AM

A Bahamas tour company offers dives to the wreck of the Conqueror, the Royal Navy's first propellor driven warship. Their image hosting appears to be having trouble but I imagine they could sent you a copy.


Here is a thumbnail image from Google cache that might be right...

(Oops. Comments do not like images, apparently. I will add it to the body of the post.)

As taken EXACTLY from The Illustrated London News - Feb. 8, 1862.


A BRIEF announcement was made last week of the loss of her Majesty's ship Conqueror on Rum Cayo, Bahamas, on the 13th of December last. Happily, no lives were lost. The Bahama or Lucayo Islands are a group of 500 isles and islets-the latter called Cayos, or Keys - in the Atlantic, comprised in the West Indies, and belonging to Great Britain. They stretch in a north-westerly direction from the north side of San Domingo to the coast of East Florida.

Further particulars of the loss of the Conqueror are given in the following letter which has been received from one of her crew by a resident in Dover: -

Rum Cayo Islands, in the Bahamas, Jan. 1.

One of the finest screw line-of-battle ships in her Majesty's service - the Conqueror, 101 guns-three days ago in the highest state of discipline and preparation for war, with nearly 1400 persons on board, is now a useless wreck. Luckily, the weather is tolerably fine, or we should have fared badly, the current having sent us twenty miles out of our reckoning. We ran ashore on a coral reef, and, in spite of all out exertions, there she lies - the water up to the lower-deck, her sides bilged in, and her back broken. We have sent a boat to Nassau, and another (in which this is to be sent) sails to-morrow morning at daybreak for Jamaica, in time, I hope, to save this mail. We are all ashore now, with the exception of the Commander, one midshipman, and ten men. We have all been working hard to get the provisions ashore, and shall be able to save al out gear (private I mean), with the exception of our ale and wine, all of which the Captain saw hove overboard, himself lending a hand. The spirits in the spirit-room, wine, and c., were next broached and started over, and all hands set work clearing the ship. I have no time at present to say much, as it is very late, and this is the third night that I have passed without sleep-the first two of which were passed in the open air, on deck. All hands are saved. EDWARD P. WILLIAMS

Our Engraving of the Conqueror and group of Portraits of her officers, are from photographs by Groom and Co., of Plymouth and Exeter.

Posted by: Flea at June 3, 2004 10:58 AM


The only settlement is Port Nelson, a picturesque village on the south coast. The wreck of the 101-gun man-of-war H.M.S. Conqueror, built in Devon in 1855 and which served in the Crimean War, lies in 30 feet of water off Rum Cay where it sank in 1861.

Posted by: Flea at June 3, 2004 01:05 PM


Posted by: ADEJOBI ADEMOLA at July 6, 2004 03:01 PM

Are you sure you are looking for a destroyer and not a frigate? I cannot see any ship matching your description at the Royal Navy fleet site:


Posted by: Flea at July 6, 2004 05:30 PM

Where be the "Dauntless" & "Interceptor" Arrrrrr!

Posted by: Mair at July 10, 2004 10:40 AM

I am trying to find info about a British ship "HMS HERALD". I am almost certain that it passed thru Fiji, possibly early 1800s. Can anybody help, please ?????

Posted by: Carol Vosailagi at July 31, 2004 12:42 AM

You might try this book: "Voyage of HMS Herald: To Australia and the South-West Pacific 1852-1861 under the Command of Captain Henry Mangles Denham" by Andrew David (Melbourne University Publishing) ISBN: 0-522-84390-5 / 0522843905

A review of the book can be found here.


Posted by: Flea at July 31, 2004 01:10 AM

HMS Herald also turns up on a couple Australian genealogy websites in connection with shiplists of 1839. Some further information that may be useful:

HMS Herald 1839
fmrly HMS Termagant gun sloop
Master Captain Nias
From India and King George's Sound
on June 16, 1839
No passengers reported
Source: The South Australian Register,
Saturday June 22 1839

Posted by: Flea at July 31, 2004 01:21 AM

An image of HMS Herald when she was still HMS Termagant may be found at the bottom of this page.

Posted by: Flea at July 31, 2004 01:41 AM

I am searching for info on why early British ships had French names.All the help is appreciated.

Posted by: Willie at August 27, 2004 05:36 PM

I have a victualing form for Lowestoft dated around 1790 from Clarence yard in Gosport. If I rember correctly its a small crew 90?

Posted by: Jon at October 15, 2004 03:21 PM

I am looking for any information on the
Warship Kridner that was leased or sold to the
British by the Russian Navy in the early 1700's.

Posted by: John at November 21, 2004 12:05 AM

Trying to find a photo of H.M.S.Magpie at the time Prince Philip was on board and the time Princess Anne's Christening cake was distributed amongst the crew, my husband Ted was a Stoker, there was a shop in Portsmouth that sold framed pictures of the Magpie but we cannot locate him. Any help would be gratefully accepted, Kind regards, Margaret & Ted.

Posted by: Ted Southcoat at November 27, 2004 12:27 PM

I am interested in finding info on
HMS Howe, my gradfathers ship. Also
any deatils there may be on the men
who sailed on her

Posted by: Angela Barnett at November 30, 2004 04:52 AM

Congratulations on having a great site.
I'm looking for info on my late fathers ww-2 minesweeper. She was I believe the Star of Pentlance or somthing close. These were wooden ships, converted fishing trawlwers used to sweep for magnetic mines. One of the sister ships was used by Jaque Costeau in his adventures.Any assistance in locating records or sites will be greatly apreciated.
Stephen Dalley,Courtenay BC Canada.

Posted by: Stephen Dalley at December 31, 2004 11:48 AM

Thank you for your comment to Ghost of a flea (www.ghostofaflea.com). Might the ship you refer to be the minesweeper HMS Penzance (rather than "Pentlance")? A Royal Navy website regarding the ship currently graced by this name may be found at http://www.royal-navy.mod.uk/static/pages/1626.html.

"The first two ships were small frigates commissioned in 1665 and 1747 respectively. The third was a Bridgewater class sloop launched at Devonport in 1930. Employed on convoy duties, Penzance left Cape Breton, Nova Scotia on 15 August 1940 as the sole escort to a convoy bound for Great Britain. Nine days later intercepted by U37, Penzance was torpedoed and sunk with the loss of her captain and 89 men. Penzance and her crew are commemorated on memorials at Chatham Cathedral and the Cathedral in Trinidad's Port of Spain."

More details on the fate of the third HMS Penzance may be found here:


And this eBay seller appears to have had a postcard image of the ship available for sale:


If, however, the ship on which your father sailed was indeed a twin of Cousteau's Calypso it was a British Yard Minesweeper. My brief internet search suggests these vessels were assigned numbers rather than names. If so, the name you remember may have been one used informally by the crew and will make further research slightly trickier. If you can remember other possible names or any other detail I may have better luck in a more detailed search.

Posted by: Flea at January 2, 2005 10:53 PM

I wonder if you can help. In doing family history research I have come across a relation who was said at the time of his marraige in 1873 to be a signalman on HMS Baca. I can find no mention of a Britsh ship ever having that name so what might it be?

Posted by: colin [TypeKey Profile Page] at August 9, 2005 09:07 AM

Response to Jeanne Linley (3/6/04):
If you're still there Jeanne, I'm trying to establish the HMS Conqueror of 78 guns of the mid-19th century. I have two drawings of this ship, done by a crew member. Apparantly my great-great grandfather (or great uncle, not sure which) was also a crew member.

The drawings are very specific. But there is a 'date' problem. My personally-drawn pictures are labelled "HMS Conqueror, 78 guns, in a typhoon from Sept. 3rd to Sept 5th 1865 off Formosa, China Sea. I have compared this with the wikipedia drawing of the HMS Conqueror which sank in the Bahamas in 1861 - and it looks like the same vessel (because of masts and unusual smokestack). But the drawing is of an event some 4 yrs after the (information from wikipedia on the) sinking in the Bahamas.

I have only today started researching this, and wonder if you can shed any more light in view of the above.

Posted by: darrylware [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 27, 2006 06:15 PM

After serving on HM Submarine Valiant in the early 90`s I was looking for pictures of this submarine any pics would be greatly received,any help or pointers in the right direction would be good too!

Posted by: kevsiegert [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 17, 2007 10:19 PM

I have a marine chronometer which is labeled:
Ship: Atlantic Splendeur
Serviced by: N.V. Observator of Rotterdam 1965.

Any information about this ship would be welcome.

Thanks, Dodd Holt

Posted by: Dodd Holt [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 28, 2007 09:56 AM

I am seeking a photo of HMS Idefatigable the 1790 version as My ggggrandfather Richard letton was on this ship at that time. I would also like to know where I could get his service record

Posted by: David [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 1, 2009 04:44 PM

How can I get a list of the survivors of Conqueror at Rum Cay. My ggfther Edmund Lane appears on board for the 1861 census at Hamoaze.

Posted by: geoff Sully [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 15, 2010 12:00 AM