Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Last Voyages to Wales of HMS Colossus [1908] and Cornwall [2013]

HMS Cornwall laid up at Portsmouth, 5 September 2013

HMS Cornwall laid up at Portsmouth, 5 September 2013

With the imminent arrival of the Type 22 frigate HMS Cornwall in Swansea, where she will be broken up, naval shipbreaking resumes in Wales after a gap of some thirty years. This newspaper account, from the Cardiff Times of 28 November 1908, recounts the fate of one of the earliest warships to be scrapped in the Principality, namely HMS Colossus, which had served as the port guardship at Holyhead from 1893 to 1901. A second-class battleship, rather than a cruiser as stated in the report, her design was innovative in some ways but seriously flawed in others. She was the sister ship of HMS Edinburgh, launched at Pembroke Dock in 1882 by the Duchess of Edinburgh, daughter-in-law of Queen Victoria and sister of Tsar Alexander III of Russia.

HMS Edinburgh completing at Hobbs Point, Pembroke Dock [photo credit – Tenby Museum]


The cruiser Colossus, built over 20 years ago, and sold by the Admiralty recently to Mr Ward, of Briton Ferry, to be broken up, has been towed to Barry, where she arrived yesterday. The vessel was stationed off Holyhead for many years, guarding the Welsh port and cruising about the Irish Sea. Twice previously the Colossus formed one of the Metiterranean squadron, and was considered of good fighting strength before the days of the Dreadnoughts. A turret cruiser with a single funnel and guns fore and aft, the vessel looked well in Barry Roads on Sunday, where she rode for some time waiting a favourable wind to dock, a strong westerly gale blowing throughout the morning. The two tugs towing the vessel experienced great difficulty in manoeuvring her. It was impossible for the cruiser to have entered any other port in the Bristol Channel, owing to the fact that she has a draught of 25ft. 6in, In charge of Mr S. Davies, one of the leading Barry pilots, the warship was brought in at the height of the tide in a manner that was highly creditable, considering that almost a gale was blowing and that the cruiser had awkward projections above the deck level. With a beam of 70ft. she could not enter the Lady Windsor lock, and was taken in through the gates leading to the basin. The Colossus has a displacement of 10,000 tons, and after being lightened to the draught of 20ft, by the removal of guns and other materials, she will be towed to Briton Ferry. About 60 men will be employed in the task of breaking up the vessel.

HMS Colossus [1882]

HMS Colossus [1882]


HMS Monmouth Exercises her Freedom of the Town

Members of the crew of the Type 23 frigate HMS Monmouth have renewed the ship’s links with its namesake town by marching through the streets – full story here. Monmouth is one of the oldest ‘Welsh’ warship names, dating back to 1666-7, and originally bestowed in honour of Charles II’s eldest illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth. As recounted in Britannia’s Dragon, the loss of the previous Monmouth, a cruiser, during the Battle of Coronel in 1914, made a powerful impact on the town: the west doors of the priory church, installed just after World War I, serve as a permanent memorial to her sinking, and a book of remembrance for the crew is on display just inside the church.

The Ninth HMS Milford and One of Her Captains

One of the ‘Welsh-named’ warships that I managed to omit from Britannia’s Dragon was the navy’s ninth and last HMS Milford, a Falmouthclass sloop built by Devonport Dockyard and Yarrow of Scotstoun. She was launched on 11 June 1932, and in 1938 claimed Gough Island in the South Atlantic for Britain. On 8 November 1940 she was torpedoed by the Vichy French submarine Poncelet off Port Gentil in west Africa, but the torpedo did not explode. Milford retaliated by depth charging and sinking the enemy vessel. The Milford served through the war and was eventually scrapped at Hayle, Cornwall, in 1949; a very detailed account of her operational career can be found here. Some excellent photographs of her can be found online, for example here and here.

One of Milford‘s wartime captains, commanding her for two years from February 1941, was Cdr (retired) Valentine Maurice Wyndham-Quin, born in 1890. He was the second son of the fifth Earl of Dunraven, of Dunraven Castle, Glamorgan, who was an active figure in south Glamorgan society. Wyndham-Quin became a sub-lieutenant in 1910 and a lieutenant-commander in 1920 before retiring in 1933, but he returned to the colours when World War II began. After the war, he served as naval attache in Argentina and Uruguay before retiring to Chieveley House, Berkshire. He died in 1983; one of his daughters married the sixth Marquess of Salisbury. His family home, Dunraven Castle, was demolished in 1962, and the family title became extinct on the death of his nephew, the seventh Earl, in 2011.