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Wooden walls: the ship of the line

Catalogue number 117075

Victory scale model, Jubilee Review 1935

The scale model, which started out as a bet between two officers, was a major attraction at the 1935 Jubilee Review.

Verso: "The "Victory" reduced. Half length" in black ink

5.5cm x 8.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 121032

Scale model H.M.S. Kent

This is another view of the model (see below), the scale of which can be estimated from the size of the people on board. Right background is the seaplane carrier H.M.S. Ark Royal (renamed H.M.S. Pagasus in 1934).

Verso: Message from a mother to her daughter, probably a navy man as she write "I have just seen Daddy all in his working clothes" in black ink, franked 1925 and posted in Rochester near the navy base of Chatham.

Credit: Medway Studios, Chatham

12.5cm x 7.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 124121

Half-scale model of the Golden Hind

Under the sponsorship of Queen Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Drake caused havoc amongth the Spanish treasure galleons in the 16th century. Here are three photographs of the half-scale model built for the 1935 Navy Week in Portsmouth. Note the man on the quarter deck.

Credit: Abrahams

11.3cm x 7.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 124085

Comparison of size

The model is tiny when shown up against the recenty launched destroyer H.M.S. Fame (H78)

Recto: "The Golden Hind" - Plymouth Navy Week 1936

13.4cm x 8.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 119029

Golden Hind firing a salute

There is not much information available about the scale model of the Golden Hind but from this photograph, we can see that it had several (five?) working cannons on each side.

Credit: Lewis

8.3cm x 12cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 82004

The anchorage, Brest 1

This photograph and the following show several three-deckers and other ships in the anchorage at Brest. The Borda may be amongst them.

15.6cm x 10cm Photograph


Catalogue number 88 F6

The anchorage, Brest 2

Although the photograph is centered on the screw frigate La Flore (used here as a training ship for sailors) we can see two three-deckers to the extreme left and right in this view of the Brest naval anchorage. What a sight it must have been ! Many thanks to Alban Lannéhoa for the definitive identification of La Flore.

28.5cm x 19.5cm Photograph


Catalogue number 87 F4

The Borda

The three-decker Borda is often the subject of old photographs of Brest. Named Intrépide (cf below), construction began at Rochefort in 1853 of this Algésiras class mixed fast warship but construction took so long that the ship was obsolete when launched. After a brief period of active service, the ship was attached to the Ecole Navale, first in Toulon then renamed as Borda at Brest in 1890.

27cm x 21.5cm Photograph


Catalogue number 38127

Intrépide, Toulon 1881, recto

The Intrépide was attached to the French naval college in 1887 then went into reserve at Toulon. The ship is shown here alongside at Missiessy in the port of Toulon and acting as an accommodation ship.

Recto: “”Intrépide” (10 Avril - 18 Octobre 1881)

13.7cm x 10.1cm Photograph


Catalogue number 38127, verso

Etat Major, Intrépide, Toulon 1881

The name and rank of each member of the Etat Major is given. Prosper Delassaux had commanded the Galissonnière in 1879.

13.7cm x 10.1cm Photograph


Catalogue number 13020

Borda, 1905

As a training ship, the Borda is still an impressive sight.

Recto: “27/1/05” and franked Brest 28 1 05

14.1cm x 8cm Printed image


Catalogue number 108120

A stern view of Borda

Borda is shown here moored off buoys.

12.2cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 99003

The Borda tied up below the pont tournant, Brest 191

Borda became an accommodation ship for sailors and then the 2nd Fleet depot.

Recto: Franked Brest 1910

Verso: Text of a letter in French to a friend in Geneva with the comment “I send you an example of my first attempts at photography” in French

13.1cm x 8.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 32023

The burnt-out Algérsiras, 1906

Commissioned 1856 as a 90-gun ship, decommissioned and used as transport from 1865 then to a torpedo training ship in 1889, later an accommodation ship for torpedo apprentices, the Algésiras was destroyed by fire on 25th November 1906.

Verso: “Epave de l’algesiras” in light pencil

Credit: Bougault

27.4 cm x 21.4 cm Photograph


Catalogue number 64072

Le Bretagne, Brest

The Bretagne was launched as the Fontenoy, a mixed 80-gun two-decker at Toulon in 1858. She took part in the war against Mexico in 1862. In this image, it is washing day.

Verso: Franked Brest 1914

13.6cm x 8.4cm Printed image


Catalogue number 41250

Le Bretagne

A close-up view of the cabins on Bretagne.

14.1cm x 9cm Printed image


Catalogue number 33181

The Bretagne moored by the chateau

The Bretagne has been moved further down the quayside to below the chateau. With its engine removed, the Bretagne became a sailing transport ship before being decommissioned in 1892 and renamed Bretagne III in 1894. She became a training school for sailors until being broken up in 1911.

13.2cm x 8.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 15023

Bretagne anchored in the harbour, Brest 1905

In this view, the Bretagne is still active as a training ship with numerous cutters on the davits or afloat. From the discrepancy in the franking mark, this postcard seems to have been used twice, once in 1904 and again in 1905.

Recto: Franked Grande Armée 10 04

Verso: text in French with an address in London to an address in Weymouth, franked London. W, Sep 1905

13.9cm x 8cm Printed image


Catalogue number 108092

Unidentified frigate, Brest

The next two photographs are of an unidentified frigate moored just downstream of the pont tournant at Brest.

15cm x 9.7cm Photograph


Catalogue number 82004

Sailing warships converted to other fuctions

There are several wooden sailing ships in this view of the naval port in Brest probably at the turn of the last century. The unidentified frigate is seen bow on just after the bridge. The warship front center has a distinctive figurehead.

15.6cm x 10cm Photograph


Catalogue number 108085

Unknown accommodation ship, Brest

As was the fate of many "wooden walls", they were disarmed and became accommodation ships or depot ships as naval technology moved on and they were no longer needed. The next four photographs show what looks like a two-decker man-of-war or transport ship which is yet to be identified. In this photograph we can also see the Tonnere.

Verso: “L’arsenal Brest” in light pencil

10.4cm x 7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 82004

Old ladies tied up in Brest

Down from the bridge in the naval port of Brest are several old “wooden walls” which have been turned over to accommodation ships. The far-most vessel appears in the three following photographs. This photograph comes from an album of eleven photographs published by Nogue, Brest under the title “Souvenir de Brest”.

15.6cm x 10cm Photograph


Catalogue number 111091

Retired "wooden walls" in Brest

This is another view of the old ladies, this time looking down towards the chateau.

16.9cm x 10.3cm photograph


Catalogue number 30011

Manoeuvers, Brest 1881

In these two photographs, we can see a man-of-war manoeurvring into the naval port of Brest. There are several old warships in the port and a paddle tug waits to tow the man-of-war to its berth.

13.8cm x 9cm Printed image


Catalogue number 28023

Berthing a transport ship, Brest

Several "Wooden walls" were converted to troop transports when their role as warships was no longer adapted. Note the unidentified frigate with its sails out.

Recto: "Brest. A transport ship moving in the military port" in French

14.8cm x 9.5cm Photograph


Catalogue number 35073

Ships moving about the port

More warships in the port of Brest, one of which is leaving the port under tow by a tug. Note the line ashore from the starboard bow to the quayside and the sloping yards to assist getting through the open bridge. Once again we have a good view of the unidentified frigate.

13.5cm x 8.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 110026

Ships in reserve and under demolition

In a backwater of the naval port in Brest, several wooden-hulled warships are in reserve or being broken up. In the right foreground is a dry dock.

9.1cm x 5.5cm Photograph


Catalogue number 94102

The French frigate Clorinde, Lorient

This frigate is the Clorinde in the port of Lorient when acting as a training ship for marines, note the nets at the base of each mast should anyone fall from the rigging. Clorinde carried 40 to 46 guns and was launched in 1845. Later, she was transformed to a steam sail frigate and had a long but apparently uneventful career before being decommissioned in 1888 to become a training ship for marines. In 1911 she was renamed Tibre and was broken up in 1921.

13.9cm x 9cm Printed image


Catalogue number 17023

The Ville de Paris

This 114-gun warship had several names during its career, beginning with Marengo at its launch and ending as the Ville de Paris. Under this name, she became a transport ship then an accommodation ship for 500 men of the marine infantry in Toulon before being broken up in 1898.

17.5cm x 22.6cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 17023

The Ville de Paris

This view shows the massive stern and we can appreciate the solidity of the "wooden walls". The Ville de Paris was part of the Anglo-French fleet during the Crimean War.

17.8cm x 23.8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 104036

A corvette, Fabert, under construction, 1868

The Fabert was a corvette of the Sané and Seignelay class built in Rochefort in 1868. This photograph shows how the hull ribs are placed very close together and once the hull is clad, will form a solid structure capable of resisting the projectiles available at the time. Fabert had eight 14-cm guns and six to eight 1-pounders, she went out to India and then was guard ship in the West Indies and subsequently on the Pacific station.

Verso: "fabert corvette FABERT Rochefort 1868" in light pencil

21.6cm x 10cm Photograph


Catalogue number 104038

The French frigate Pandore during conversion

Pandore was laid down as a sail frigate in 1846 then was converted to a mixed frigate in 1856 at Rochefort when this photograph was taken. Pandore is riding high as there is no ballast nor guns on board. When armed, she had twenty-two 30cm guns and various smaller caliber guns. She was on the Levant station in 1850 and joined the Anglo-French fleet during manoeuvers off Naples. Once converted, she was on station in several countries - Brazil, Iceland, Naples and Greece. She even spent some time as a transport ship for horses!

Verso: "Pandore 5th May 18." in light pencil

21.8cm x 11.4cm Photograph


Catalogue number 55094

H.M.S. Victory

H.M.S. Victory is probably one of the most well-known "wooden walls" and is shown here moored in Portsmouth harbour. With Victory gradually rotting away at her mooring, on several occasions the Admiralty proposed to break up the ship but public outcry prevented the destruction. She is shown here some time prior to 1918.

7.7cm x 5.2cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 117025

Victory in dry dock

What with being in danger of sinking due to leaks and after being hit by H.M.S. Nepture, it was decided in 1922 to move H.M.S. Victory to a dry dock for restoration and finally dry dock N°2 in Portsmouth became her permanent home.

Verso: "Année 1950" in black ink

7.8cm x 13.1cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 47068

British warships at Malta

This is a late 1800s view of the harbour at Malta and we can see, from left to right, two frigates, a two-decker and right background, a three-decker. There looks to be a steel-hulled warship far left background.

Verso: "Ile de Malte"

14cm x 9.5cm Stereo-photograph


Catalogue number 117024

H.M.S. Royal Albert

The Royal Albert was a first-rate three-decker launched in 1854 and armed with 121 guns. She had a varied career and was part of the Channel Fleet which was in anchor in the Firth of Forth until their departure on the 23rd June 1860.

Verso: “H.M.S. “Royal Albert” in the Firth of Forth N° 224 C”

Credit: George W. Wilson

14cm x 7.3cm stereo-photograph


Catalogue number 45240

H.M.S. Royal Albert, probably 1860

Photograph of the starboard side of H.M.S. Royal Albert in the Firth of Forth, Scotland. She is surrounded by smaller boats including a steam boat. H.M.S. Royal Albert was a screw steamer vessel, launched in 1854. She was probably commanded by Captain Henry James Lacon around the time that this photograph was taken. George Washington Wilson (1823-93) took the photograph from the deck of H.M.S. Trafalgar and it can be considered as one of the earliest photographs taken on board a ship whilst at sea. There is a copy in the Royal Collection Trust dated circa 1880 after a June 1860 original but there is no mention the original as being a stereo-photograph (reference

Verso: “H.M.S. “Royal Albert” N° 224.B” in black ink

14cm x 7.3cm Stereo-photograph


Catalogue number 35048

H.M.S. Conqueror (left) and H.M.S. Centurion (right)

Conqueror was a 1st rate two-decker with 101 guns and she was converted to a mixed ship in 1855. She joined the Channel fleet and must have spent some time in the Firth of Forth - where this stereo-photograph was taken - then moved to Sheerness. Centurion was a 2nd rate two-decker launched eleven years after Conqueror but converted to a mixed sail and steam ship before Conqueror. She was part of the Mediterranean fleet before joining the Channel fleet at anchorage in the Firth of Forth.

Verso: "H.M.S.S. "Conqueror,"101 Guns, 800 Horse-power; "Centurion," 80 Guns, 400 Horse-power,- Channel Fleet. G.W. Wilson, Photographer, Aberdeen"

14.8cm x 7.6cm Stereo-photograph


Catalogue number 111023

The 52-gun H.M.S. Southampton

H.M.S. Southampton was built by the Deptford dockyard and was completed in 1821 as a fourth-rate, 52-gun ship. She travelled far and wide - India, Ceylon, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo and Cape Town. She became a Coastguard vessel in 1857 and then a training ship in 1867 to be broken up finally in 1912. Here she is shown moored in the river Humber at Sammy's Point off Hull acting as a training ship for destitute boys.

13.4 cm x 8.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 114004

H.M.S. Formidable

Launched in 1825 at Chatham dockyard, Formidable was an 84-gun second rate ship and although she had guns on the upper, main and lower decks, she was classed as a two-decker. She is shown here as a training ship to the National Nautical School at Portishead on the Severn estuary. Polly was the tender to H.M.S. Formidable.

13.9cm x 8cm Printed image


Catalogue number 82002

H.M.S. Wellesley as the training ship Cornwall

HMS Wellesley was a 74-gun third-rate Vengeur-class ship of the line built for the Royal Navy in the 1810s. She saw active service in the Far East and was converted into a reformatory and a school ship in her later years after she was razeed to a 50-gun fourth rate ship in 1830. In 1859 she was loaned to the London Association for use as a juvenile reformatory school and was named Cornwall. Seen here in the Medway river at Chatham around 1910. This photograph comes from an album of eleven photographs showing different aspects of life on Cornwall. It was published by the London and Country Photographic Company.

20.1cm x 15cm Photograph


Catalogue number 110042

H.M.S. Impregnable and H.M.S. Inconstant, Devonport around 1907

H.M.S. Howe was renamed HMS Impregnable from 1885 to 1911, and then HMS Impregnable I between 1911 and 1919. H.M.S. Howe was built as a 121-gun screw first-rate ship of the line and she and her sister H.M.S. Victoria were the first and only British three-decker ships of the line to be designed from the hull up for screw propulsion. However, the Howe never saw sea service (and never served under her original name). Evolution of warship design was moving fast and during the 1860s, the introduction of ironclad battleships made wooden hulled men-of-war obsolete. She only ever carried 12 guns and she finally entered service as the training ship Bulwark in 1885. H.M.S. Inconstant (1868) was an iron-hulled screw frigate launched in 1868. She was used for harbour service from 1898, was renamed H.M.S. Impregnable II in 1906.

Verso: Postcard franked Portsmouth 1907

13.2cm x 8.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 30016

H.M.S. Windsor Castle

The training ship Cambridge was laid down in 1844 as H.M.S. Victoria but after a halt in work, she became the triple-decker H.M.S. Windsor Castle, a 102-gun first rate ship. Converted to a mixed ship whilst on the stocks, she became H.M.S. Cambridge in 1869 and acted as a gunnery training ship at Devonport. Despite the cost of construction and then her conversion to steam, H.M.S. Windsor Castle went straight into the reserve. In 1908 she was broken up at Falmouth.

Recto : "Falmouth" in black ink

Verso : New Year wishes to a friend in France. Franked Falmouth 1st January 1923

13cm x 7.8cm Matt gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 112065

H.M.S. Trincomalee, one of the oldest exisiting "wooden wall"

H.M.S. Trincomalee was built in Bombay in 1817 using teak, there was a shortage of oak in Britain because of massive ship building programmes in the face of the Napoleonic Wars. Her hull was thus extremely resistant to wear and decay so allowing her to still exist today as a museum ship in Hartlepool, England. As a 38-gun frigate, Trincomalee was sailed back to Portsmouth and was placed in reserve. She resumed service on the North American and West Indies station for ten years from 1847 during which time she help to settle riots in Haiti, halt an invasion of Cuba and serve on patrol against slave ships. After a period on the Pacific station, she returned to Britain in 1856 and was decommissioned.

13.1cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 114044

Boscawen, Portland post-1904

The Royal Navy kept the same name for each training ship even when the acting ship changed. This makes identification of the original name of the training ship difficult. H.M.S. Boscawen is an example and the ship shown here is probably H.M.S. Trafalgar, a 110-gun first rate ship launched in 1841. She spent her early life in the Channel squadron and then was part of the Coast Guard until she was renamed Boscawen and became a Royal Navy boy's training ship moored off Portland.

Verso: "At Portland HMS BOSCAWEN. 1841. TS At Portland" in ink

12.6cm x 7.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 29004

H.M.S. Boscawen, Portland post 1904/pre-1910

It's washing day on Boscawen! Just beneath the bows of H.M.S. Boscawen is Boscawen II, ex-H.M.S. Minotaur, an old broadside ironclad warship. In the previous photograph, we can see the stern of Boscawen III, ex-H.M.S. Agincourt, another ironclad. These two other ships were brought into service as training ships when more and more boy's were being recruited into the navy. The ex-H.M.S. Agincourt became a coal hulk in 1910 and the ex-H.M.S. Minotaur had been renamed H.M.S. Ganges since 1906 then became the training ship Ganges II in 1908.

Verso: Message to a friend in the U.S.A. "Nov '15". Franked Weymouth 1904

11.3cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 45333

The third-rater H.M.S. Implacable with U.S.S. New York, 1937

This ship had a long and interesting life. She was launched in 1800 as the French 74-gun Duguay Trouin but in 1805, she was captured by the British having previously escaped at the Battle of Trafalgar. As H.M.S. Implacable, she was active in the Baltic during the Anglo-Russian war and much later took part in the capture of the city of Acre. Like many other "wooden walls", Implacable ended up as a training ship for boys and was eventually scuttled on an Admiralty order in 1949.

Verso: “Naval Review May 1937 Training ship Implacable & New York” in light pencil

7.8cm x5.3cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 1100027

H.M.S. Frederick William

H.M.S. Frederick William was a 86-gun screw propelled first rate ship of the line. Renamed Worcester in 1876, she became a training ship for the Thames Nautical Training College.

7.9cm x 5.4cm Gelation silver print


Catalogue number 82003

The training ship Worcester

H.M.S. Frederick William served as the training ship Worcester from 1876 to 1948. This photograph came from the photograph album of a boy who, just after the First World War, went through the training course to become an officer in the Merchant Navy. As an 86-gun two-decker, Frederick William was a guard ship off several British ports.

Recto: “H.M.S. Worcester”

7.8cm x 6.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 112080

A sailing scale model of H.M.S. Victory, 1935

The scale model is said to have been built in Gosport 1935 (but see date of postcard) as a wager between two naval officers as to the sailing qualities - which the model proved to be exceptional - of H.M.S. Victory. She was manned by 15 crew with the helmsman on the poop deck. The model was afloat in Portsmouth dockyard in an abandoned state and was broken up around 1944.

Verso: Message, dated "13.vii.34", written in German and sent from London to a person in Berlin. Franked Paddington, 1934

14cm x 8.9cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 115001

Scale model of H.M.S. Victoria with H.M.S. Rodney, pre-1936

When navigating, the men would hide in the hull and the impression of a real sailing man-of-was was great until the men sprang out and manned the sails.

14cm x 8.9cm Printed image


Catalogue number 114007

H.M.S. Kent as a scale model, 1929

H.M.S. Kent was 74-gun third rate ship launched in 1762 and was a guard ship in Plymouth. The model is shown here sailing by the seaplane carrier H.M.S. Ark Royal (renamed H.M.S. Pagasus in 1934), note the steam cranes port and starboard and the man halfway up the mainmast. No information seems to be available as to why this model was built.

Verso: Message to a person in Guernsey, franked Rochester, 1929

Credit: Medway Studios

12.5cm x 7.5cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 114032

The model H.M.S. Kent at Navy week, 1932

Another view of the model under sail. She caused quite a sensation at Navy week in 1932.

Credit: Medway Studios

7.9cm x 13cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 54087

Commander Somerville's sailing model Ajax

Somerville dreamt to build one day a model square-rigged ship of sufficient size to be sailed by himself. In 1920, whilst Commander of H.M.S. Ajax, he “acquired” an old seaplane float and, with the help of the Chief Bosun’s Mate had it rigged up as a square-rigger, Ajax I. However, she did not sail well and was put to one side. A second model was put in hand when Somerville “acquired” a 16-foot skiff during a refit in Malta. Ajax II was a success, with deadeyes, mahogany blocks with brass sheaves and 68 brass belaying pins. Eight brass cannon on wooden truck mounts completed the model and she was a familiar sight in the Mediterranean ports. She capsized and sank in a squall when being sailed from Portsmouth over to the Isle of Wight.

7.8cm x 13.2cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number

Somerville sailing Ajax II

Text extracted from

"One day I was sitting on the gunroom, surrounded by manuals when a messenger arrived to say that the Commander wanted volunteers to sail a square rigged ship. This seemed a God sent chance to put my books away so I went along and knocked on the Commander's cabin door. Then started a delightful period. Commander Somerville was planning to build a replica of the Ajax of 1840 on the hull of a skiff and when I was signed on, building and rigging had only just commenced so I was able to take some small part in her construction. She was complete soon after I got my first ring as an acting Sub and from then on I became the Commander's assistant dog's body. I spent a great deal of time in Ajax II either acting as crew for the commander or sailing her with a very fine seaman Petty Officer Roberts crewing for me."

Credit: Colin Robinson Collection