Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Royal Naval Coracle Service?

When I told non-Welsh audiences that I was researching and then writing a naval history of Wales, I often got one of two reactions: either ‘there wasn’t any, so that’ll be a really short book’, or else I got plenty of jokes about coracles. So I was particularly pleased when I found that I could legitimately include a reference to the coracle playing a part (albeit a very minor part) in naval warfare, and not just in the section about the Roman conquest. During the Seven Years War (1756-63), two warships were built on the Milford Haven waterway: the larger became the navy’s first Prince of Wales, while the other was a frigate named Milford. Some of the timber for the latter was purchased from the Golden Grove estate near Llandeilo in Carmarthenshire, a property of the Campbells of Cawdor and Stackpole, the family that later became the Barons and then Earls Cawdor. 6,620 trees from Golden Grove were cut down for the construction of the Milford, and the timber was floated down the River Tywi, guided by the local coracle men, before being stacked on Carmarthen Quay for onward shipment. The Milford went on to have a successful career, capturing five French or Spanish privateers in 1761-2 and four American ones in 1776-7, so perhaps a small part of that success should be attributed to the Tywi coracles!