back to HMS London Commission 1929-1931

Our "London's" Ancestors

(Note: The following notes have been collected from various sources, notably Mr. Edward Fraser's "The Londons', of the British Fleet" and the preface to the notes on the pictures presented to this ship by Lord and Lady Ebbisham, to which books the reader is invited to refer for further details. ED.)

The name "London" has been connected with sailing ships for many years. The first known "London" was a merchantman who, in 1620, entered Saldanha Bay (Cape of Good Hope) and took possession of the neighbouring country in the name of King James the First.

1st "London" (40 guns)

The first Man of War "London" was originally a merchantman, but was attached to the Fleet in 1636 as a part of the City of "London's" contribution to King Charles the First's "Ship Money Fleet" - similar to the Armed Merchant Ships which played so large a part in the Great War. The ship was present at the Battle of Kentish Knock (September, 1652) while commanded by Captain John Stevens, at the Battle off Lowestoft in June, 1653, (under Captain Arthur Brown) and at the Battle of Camperdown in July, 1653. She probably returned to merchant service at the end of the war.

2nd "London" (64 gun ship)

The second "London" was launched at Chatham in July, 1656. She was a Second Rate of 1050 tons, 123 feet in length and 41 feet in the beam. Under the command of Captain John Cuttle she formed part of the squadron which brought over King Charles II at the Restoration (May, 1660). The ship later became flagship of James, Duke of York (the King's brother) and so wore the flag of the Lord High Admiral of England. On the 16th March, 1665, while proceeding up the Thames, the "London" blew up and some three hundred men were killed.

3rd "London" (96 gun, 1st rate)

The third "London" was originally named "Loyall London" owing to the fact that £16,272 of her cost of £18,355 was raised by subscription in the City of London, the offer of the money being made by the Lord Mayor, with in a week of the disaster to the second "London". Incidentally, the balance of two thousand odd pounds was not paid off until eight years after the ship herself had ceased to exist. The "Loyall London" was launched at Deptford on 10th June, 1665, with much pomp and ceremony; she joined the Fleet at the Nore on 11th July, 1666, after having considerable trouble with her guns, and with the raising of sufficient men (470) to man her. At her time, the "Loyall London" was considered almost the finest warship in the world, though her life under that name was tragically short. She flew the flag of Admiral Sir Jeremy Smith at the "St. James' Day Fight" (25th July, 1666); she was present at "Sir Robert Holmes' Bonfire" in August, 1666, and in another bonfire in the following year, for in June, 1667, when Admiral De Ruyter sailed up the Medway, he burnt the "Loyall London" to the water's edge. On the approach of the Dutch fleet, the ship had been scuttled, but owing to the water being shallow at that point, far the greater part of the ship still lay above water.

The ship was subsequently raised and rebuilt, but the adjective "Loyall" was cut from the ship's name when the King heard that the City did not feel equal to footing the bill a second time. The rebuilt "London" took part in several battles against the Dutch, notably Solebay (28th May, 1672), Schooneveld and Texel (Summer, 1673) and Barfleur (19-23 May, 1692), the latter while flying the flag of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel. She underwent large refits in 1705 and 1722, and passed the end of her days as Guardship at the Nore. The following extract from her log is of interest -

"Thursday, May 1st, 1707 ... At 1 p.m. fired 21 guns beeing ye Day appointed for ye Cellebration of ye Union between England and Scotland, we having all our fflags and Coulors and pendants fflying."

We also read of the "London" being "turned into a chapel on Sundays, there being but one church"; this was at Chatham in 1756. In October, 1757, she was was at broken up at Chatham at the ripe old age of ninety two years.

4th "London"

The fourth man-of-war to bear the name of "London" was, like the first, an ex-merchantman. In November 1756, she was purchased under the name of "Holden" and renamed "London". The ship was a "Buss" of 80 tons, carrying six carronades, four pounders and ten swivel-guns; her complement was only 45 men all told. For all her puny size, she sailed out to western Africa, where she. Took part in the capture of Senegal. in April, 1758, being unfortunately wrecked on the bar there during the operation.

5th "London" (98 guns)

The fifth "London" was launched at Chatham, on 24th May, 1766. She was a Second-Rate of 1894 tons, 178 feet long 50 feet broad: her complement was 738 Officers and men. She was present in the action off Cape Henry in March, 1781 after lying off Rhode Island since the previous July. She flew the flag of Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Graves during the action off the Chesapeake in September, 1781, and on 9th October of the following year (1782), under the command of Captain James Kempthorne, she assisted in the destruction of the French 74-gun ship "Scipion". She was the flagship of Vice-Admiral Colpoys in the action with the French off Belleisle in July, 1795, and in May, 1797, achieved notoriety by being one of the ships whose men mutinied, Admiral Colpoys himself being made a prisoner by the mutineers. It was from this "London" (flagship of the Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Sir Hyde Parker) that the signal was made ordering the retire at the battle of Copenhagen on 2nd April, 1801. This was the signal which Lord Nelson, in the "Elephant", refused to see. On 13th March, 1806, the "London", under the command of Captain Sir H.B. Neale captured the French "Marengo" of 80 guns, and also a frigate which was returning from the East. "London" was employed in the blockade of the Tagus in 1807, and escorted the King and Queen of Portugal to Brazil. She was broken up in April, 1811, at Chatham.

6th "London" (72 guns)

The sixth "London" was launched at Chatham in October, 1840. She was a Second Rate of 2687 tons, 215 feet long and 54 broad. In July 1851, Captain George R. Mundy assumed command; the following extract from his "Order Book" (the original of which has been presented to the ship) may be of interest.

H.M.S. London at Sheerness.
14th September, 1852.


In the event of Lieut. Hore returning on board during the time that I am at the trial of anchors at the Nore or out of the ship on other duty, he is to be placed under arrest, and he is to be informed that he is suspended from duty in consequence of his having absented himself from the ship three days without leave.

Lieut. Hore will be allowed to take exercise on the Main Deck but is not to go on the Upper Deck.

Mr. Day (Mate) is to have charge of Lieut. Hore's watch.
(Sd) G.R. MUNDY,

To Commander Hancock
Commanding Officer

This "London's" first important action was the bombardment of Sevastopol on 17th October, 1854. Four years later, she was converted at Devonport into a Screw Ship of 500 horse power. She then went out to Africa, where she served for ten years as depot ship at Zanzibar. She was sold and broken up at Zanzibar in 1884.

7th "London" (1st Class Battleship)

The seventh "London" was launched at Portsmouth on 21st September, 1899, as a first class Battleship of 15,000 tons and 15,000 horse power. She was 430 feet long and 75 feet broad. Her armament consisted of four 12 inch guns in turrets, twelve 6 inch, sixteen 12 pounder Q.F. guns, 3 pounders, maxims, and four 18 inch torpedo tubes. She cost just over a million pounds to build, and her annual upkeep was estimated at £163,000. The ship was completed in 1902, and made her 'debut' as the Fleet Flagship at King Edward VII's review of the fleet off Spithead in July, 1902. She served for some time in the Mediterranean, then proceeding to join the Channel fleet. Her name on the Cape Helles memorial records the "London's" participation in the Dardanelles operations in the Great War. She formed part of the covering force for the landing of the Australians at Anzac Cove on 25th April, 1915, and in May, 1915, was one of the squadron who went to Taranto. In 1920 she was sold and broken up.

The following Officers served in the seventh H.M.S. "LONDON" during her first commission, 1929-1931.

London's Trophy Case

The following gifts, presented to the previous "London", were placed on board the seventh "London" on commissioning:

The following gifts were made to this ship:

The following Cups were placed on board "London" as Flagship of 1st Cruiser Squadron:

The following trophies have been won by LONDON during the 1929-1931 commission:

Written by Alfred Morgan.

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