We’ve seen ships like Romney before . . .

October 22, 2012

. . . and we should be forewarned.

Seriously.  There once was a great battleship named HMS Romney.  What did it do?

HMS Romney was a 50-gun fourth rate of the Royal Navy. She served during the American War of Independence, and the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars in a career that spanned forty years.

“Fourth rate” means “good” in this case  — more guns, but still a ship-of-the-line.

Did it help Americans out?  No.

Launched in 1762, the Romney spent most of her early career in North American waters, serving on the Newfoundland station, often as the flagship of the commander-in-chief. The ship was involved in the tensions leading up to the American Revolution when she was sent to support the Boston commissioners enforcing the Townshend Acts in 1768. Her actions involved impressing local sailors, confiscating a vessel belonging to John Hancock and providing a refuge for the unpopular commissioners when rioting broke out. She remained in American waters for part of the ensuing war, but towards the end operated in European waters after the French entry to the conflict.

After heckling American patriots, the Romney had a checkered career for another 20+ years.

[After the American Revolution] The Romney was laid up in ordinary or under repair for most of the subsequent years of peace, but returned to active service on the outbreak of war with Revolutionary France. She was in the Mediterranean supporting Lord Hood’s occupation of Toulon in 1793, and remained there for several years. During this time she captured the 44-gun French Sibylle. The Romney briefly returned to North America and then served in the Red Sea. Assigned to blockade the Dutch coast, the Romney ran aground in November 1804 while sailing to join the fleet off Den Helder. She broke up after attempts to float her off failed.

Ran aground?  Sounds rather like the end of the administration of George W. Bush, doesn’t it?  Oh, more than you might suspect.  Capt. John Colville tried to save the ship as it broke up, losing a few men. Eventually the Dutch rescued the British sailors, and in an act of kindness, allowed them to return to their country:

As was standard practice, Colvill was subsequently tried by court martial aboard the Africaine on 31 December for the loss of his ship. The court acquitted him, his officers and his men of all blame.[15] The court found the cause of the accident to be the thick fog and the ignorance of the pilots. The court required the pilots to forfeit their pay, barred them from piloting any of His Majesty’s Ships, and imprisoned them for a time in the Marshalsea.[16]

The total loss of life in the wreck was between nine and eleven men.[2][14]

“Thick fog and ignorance of the pilots.”  But no one in command was found to blame.  Ship lost, a handful of men lost (bad accounting kept the total from being clear?), but the muck-a-mucks escaped liability.

I don’t like that story one bit.

The loss of the Romney, Man-o-war, October 5, 1805; painting by Richard Corbould in the National Maritime Museum (Britain)

The loss of the Romney, Man-o-war, November 1804; painting by Richard Corbould, 1805, in the National Maritime Museum (Britain)


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