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The Royal Naval Reserve

Permanently berthed in Aberdeen Harbour was HMS Clyde a Naval Training Ship. HMS Clyde was a Man o' War with 38 guns and 1081 tons. The ship was for a long time moored in the Upper Dock where it served as a training ship. Connected to the quay by a floating gangway, the ship was open to visitors on Sunday mornings. After being shifted to Victoria Dock it was towed away to be scrapped

H.M.S. "Clyde," 5th Rate, 8 Guns, 1,447 Tons. Drill Ship for the Royal Naval Reserve, moored in Victoria basin.
Commander, Ian R. Horn
Fleet Surgeon. William Edward Rennet
Fleet Paymaster, Samuel Lark

The Captains Cabin looks on to the stern Buoy mooring with the gun ports clearly defined below the enclosed training deck.  Given the imprecise construction methods employed on Leda-class ships, not to mention the RN's rostering system, their exact dimensions and complements, while similar, fluctuated to a degree. On average, each ship was as follows:

Modified Leda Class 46-gun 1820-30
Type - Fifth Rate Frigate
Length - lower deck 150 ft; keel 125 ft

Breadth - 40 ft
Weight - 1053 tons
Crew - 284

The whole South side of the Upper Dock in Aberdeen Harbour was once occupied by shipbuilding yards. At the south-east corner of this Dock was moored HMS Winchester, for the training of the Royal Naval Reserve. She was approached by a floating gangway which ran westward from Regent Bridge. When a launch took place the Winchester had sometimes to be moved to make way for it.

1859. The school was established on a small frigate, the Conway, moored in the Mersey at Rock Ferry, Birkenhead.
1861. Replaced by larger frigate Winchester which was renamed Conway, while the original Conway was renamed Winchester and use as an RNR drill ship at Aberdeen.
1875 the 2nd Conway was too small and was replaced by the Nile built in 1839 as a 92 gun Ship of the Line. She was renamed Conway, while the second Conway, which had been Winchester, was renamed Mount Edgecombe and went to the Devonport and Cornwall Industrial Training Ship Committee at Plymouth.

H.M.S. Clyde
A 38 gun training ship was a familiar sight in the harbour far many years. A display of cannons and cutlasses was a tourist attraction.  A Fifth Rate Frigate, the Clyde, was built about 1820 and served in Aberdeen from September 1870 until June I904.

The 1st HMS Clyde was a 38-gun frigate of the ‘Artois/Apollo’ Class, built at Chatham Dockyard, and launched in March 1796. She carried a complement of 270 officers, ratings and Marines. Although her career was short (she was broken up in 1805), it was very eventful and she saw action on several occasions. When mutiny broke out at the Nore in the Thames Estuary in 1797, the Clyde’s Captain was able to persuade his crew to return to their duty – one of only 2 ships to break the mutineers’ blockade and escape into the Medway.  The 2nd HMS Clyde is the only example since the 1740s of a ‘Rebuild’, a new ship built to the same design (and name) as one recently scrapped, whilst the 3rd was a ‘LedaClass 38-gun frigate, the largest class of sailing frigates ever built, and was launched at Woolwich Dockyard in October 1828.

HMS Clyde in Aberdeen Harbour. She was a training vessel for the Royal Naval Reserve and was moored in both the Upper Dock & Victoria Dock Aberdeen Harbour with HMS Clyde in the foreground. HMS Clyde was a man o' war with 38/46 guns and 1081 tons. The ship was for a long time moored in the Upper Dock where it served as a training ship. Connected to the quay by a floating gangway, the ship was open to visitors on Sunday mornings. After being shifted to Albert Quay it was towed away to be scrapped.

HMS UNICORN was designed as one of the last of the successful Leda Class Frigates, 150 feet long in the hull and principally armed with a combination of 18 pounder long guns and 32 pounder carronades. Their lines were based on a French frigate, the HEBE, captured in 1782, and the whole class was one of the best of the age. It included such fine ships as the famous SHANNON, which captured the American CHESAPEAKE, and HMS TRINCOMALEE which was recently extensively reconstructed at Hartlepool, and which is the only ship afloat in Britain older than UNICORN. The class was originally rated 38 guns, but under the new establishment of 1817 they were all re-rated as 46 gun frigates, to reflect the importance of their carronade armament.

The Trincomalee belonged to a large class of 38-gun Fifth Rates that have a strong claim to being the Royal Navy’s standard frigate type for the whole of the Napoleonic Wars. Following the success of the Shannon against the Chesapeake in 1813, the class was chosen as the post-war mass-production design. Intended to replace large numbers of worn-out war-built frigates, this programme emphasised quality of construction for longevity, and included a number built of teak at Bombay in India. One of these was Trincomalee, launched in 1817. This appraisal reflects the multiple significance of the ship – its place in the development of the frigate, the importance of the teak building programme in India, its role in the changing world of the 19th-century Royal Navy, and even its last contribution as a training vessel for young seamen. Because the teak hull was considered resistant to extremes of climate, most of the ship’s active life was spent on American stations – the West Indies, Newfoundland, and later the north Pacific and Arctic – combining imperial policing duties with oceanography and exploration. The resilience of teak was further proved by a long period of harbour service, and even after a century of relative neglect the hull was found worthy of an immensely costly restoration. The work carried out on the ship must be one of the most thorough, historically accurate, and painstaking projects of its kind, and is an exemplary lesson to wooden ship preservation movements throughout the world. Individual chapters cover each aspect of this varied career, concluding with a look at the way the ship is now being used to bring alive the details of naval life in the age of sail.

Presently berthed in Jackson Dock, Maritime Avenue, HARTLEPOOL, TS24 0XZ 

The Gun Deck, with its 18 pounder cannons, was the key to a frigate's fighting ability. Moving into loading and firing positions by muscle alone, each gun had a crew of several men to perform these backbreaking tasks. In the heat of battle, the gunners would endure thick smoke and intense heat from their own cannons, as well as the threat of enemy fire. The Gun Deck was also the location of the Captain's Great Cabin - a relatively enormous amount of space given the cramped conditions the rest of the crew resided in. The Galley Stove is found on this deck too.

To ask the First Lord of the Admiralty, in connection with the inquiry which has been asked for, and the consideration by the Admiralty Volunteer Committee into the creation of a new division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve at Aberdeen, if he will consider the advisability of holding a public inquiry there, with due notice, so that a local committee might be formed amongst those most likely to be of help in the matter; and if he will keep in view the advantages which would accrue from the retention of H.M.S. "Clyde" as a drill-hall and head-quarters of the proposed new division of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. (Answered by Mr. McKenna.) As was stated on the 13th instant, the matter referred to by my hon. friend is receiving consideration in case any extension of the existing numbers of the Naval Volunteers should be required. The matter has not yet reached a stage at which a public inquiry at Aberdeen would be of advantage. The old system of training the Royal Naval Reserve on Board stationary drill ships is being terminated, and in consequence H.M.S. "Clyde" will be paid off on or before 31st March, 1911.

Royal Naval training ship 'HMS Clyde' was towed from its moorings at Victoria Dock to Clydeside in October 17th 1911.

The drill ship housing enclosed hulk of the Royal Navy Training ship 'HMS Clyde' floating high in the water under tow by steam tug in the tidal harbour.  Its just approaching Pontoon No 3 off the adjacent shipyards, a bucket dredger 'Kantarah' stands clear and just in the frame left  is the north east corner of Matthews Quay - the Berth for the north islands ferries.  Its on is way aptly to the River Clyde for breaking up for timber salvage.

Aye - Knocket Doon instead of being faithfully restored with all the sea fairing and naval architecture skills already resident in port.



In 1904 the composite screw sloop HMS Wild Swan became the 4th HMS Clyde in her role as the Aberdeen Royal Naval Reserve’s 2nd drill ship. The above image reflects this statement with a composite wood and iron ship of finer lines and similar deck housings for drill purposes.  Photograph taken from the Regents Bridge works and before the the 2 storey storage shed was built on Regents Quay.  HMS Wild Swan was an Osprey Class Sloop built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1870s. She was launched in 1877 and became a base ship in 1904, being renamed Clyde. She was renamed Columbine in 1913 and was sold for breaking to the Forth Shipbreaking Company in 1920.

The Forth Shipbreaking Company 1904-1920 at Bo’ness, (Borrowstounness) West Lothian,
Shipbreaking at Bridgeness. Mr Turnbull established a shipbreaking yard at Bridgeness in 1898. The 1st ship broken was the "Barracouta", but without Oxy-acetalene (which was introduced in 1903) each ship was taken apart plate by plate. At the end of the WWI a flotilla of German submarines  was broken at Bridgeness. Other cargo ships and P&O liners such as the "Oriana and the "Orvieto" were also dismantled at Bridgeness. In 1904 the yard was taken over and renamed The Forth Shipbreaking Company; it was absorbed into the P. & W. McLellan's Group in 1921 - 1970.

Obsolete men-of-war always contribute a large proportion of the material that comes on to the scrapping market. The progress of warship design is so steady, and the competition so keen, that the older ships are always going to the shipbreakers in a steady stream. Even when international agreement periodically postpones the bigger ships being cleared off the list by giving them longer agreed lives, the smaller vessels go to the yards in undiminished numbers. The scrapping of men-of-war is always worth while, so that there is the keenest competition to get hold of them. Before the war of l914-18 they were collected in batches in one or other of the anchorages popularly known as "Rotten Row" and periodically offered for sale by public auction. The bidding was supposed to be strictly controlled, certain ships being reserved for national buyers only, whereas others, of smaller importance, could be bought by anybody.

The pioneer of wooden shipbreaking and the re-cycling of material and parts was Henry Castle’s of  Baltic Wharf, Millbank, on the River Thames in 1838, and later at Charlton and Woolwich. Turner’s famous painting “The Fighting Temeraire” shows her being towed to Castle’s yard.  They specialised in wooden warships, and for example, Liberty’s of London, the famous shop, was rebuilt in 1922 using oak from Training ships Impregnable and Hindostan that were broken up on the Thames. Castle’s also kept the figureheads, which were later restored by the Admiralty and displayed at dockyards and shore establishments.  For many years Castle's took the greatest care of the figureheads of the ships which they broke up. When, after a long period of neglect, the Admiralty suddenly realized that such trophies were of great value to the morale of the Service, it was enabled to make the famous dockyard collections principally through the co-operation of the scrappers. A number of figureheads are still to be seen at Millbank, and others have gone to museums all over the country. The late King George V was particularly interested in relics made from the material of old ships. On the breaking-up in 1910 of the cruiser Melampus, which he had commanded when he was Duke of York, he had a garden chair made from her teak for his own use and a suite of garden furniture for Queen Alexandra. Even today there is a big sale for articles, large and small, made from man-o-war teak; but in modern ships this material is virtually confined to the teak decks.

This is at least the 2nd case of scrapyard "dealers" doing a great service for British Heritage that I am aware of. The other was Dai Woodham of Barry, South Wales who held on to over 200 steam locomotives instead of scrapping them.


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Last modified: 01/09/2013