Sheer vandalism - Trafalgar veteran blown to pieces | Nostalgia

In this pre-1949 photograph we see the former French 74-gun frigate Dougan Trouin renamed Implacable after capture by the Royal Navy after Trafalgar.

Thursday, 18th March 2021, 6:14 pm
A survivor from the Battle of Trafalgar, the Duguay Trouin, left, renamed Implacable, alongside Foudroyant at Portchester Trot.
A survivor from the Battle of Trafalgar, the Duguay Trouin, left, renamed Implacable, alongside Foudroyant at Portchester Trot.

On the right is Foudroyant since given her original name Trincomalee and now preserved in Hartlepool.

In 1949, Implacable was towed out to a point east of the Isle of Wight and 16 miles south of Selsey Bill and scuttled. It was considered an act of complete vandalism. Imagine destroying such a ship today?

But such were the times just after the Second World War when there was still rationing and the £150,000 cost of saving the ship, not to mention the cost of her upkeep, was just too much to bear.

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A laborious job from the past: Members of HMS Sussex's company on paint shop duties, probably in the 1930s. Picture: Andrew August collection.

Built at Rochefort in 1797 the Duguay-Trouin was named after Louis XIV’s most daring admiral. She fought at Trafalgar as part of a squadron commanded by Admiral Dumanoir. Seeing the battle lost Dumanoir sailed away from the action only to be captured by the British a fortnight later.

Brought back to England and renamed Implacable she fought against her own country in the 1809 Baltic campaign. Morethan 20 years later she again saw action against the Egyptian French-trained fleet off the Syrian coast.

She paid off a couple of years later becoming a training ship and in 1904 was put up for sale.

Coal magnate Geoffrey Cobb saved her from the breakers but even with his unlimited riches it was too much. The Admiralty refused to sell it to Cobb and hung on to the wreck while her structure slowly decayed.

The northern end of Commercial Road, Portsmouth, decorated for the 1977 Silver Jubilee. Picture: The News archive.

With the escalating cost and wood unavailable after the war she was towed out of the dockyard, passing her namesake, the aircraft carrier HMS Implacable, to be sunk.

As she was basically a floating hunk of wood the explosives placed to sink her did not do the immediate job and she took three hours to sink beneath the waves, or so it was thought. In fact, the main deck became displaced from the body of the ship and floated across the Channel to be washed up on a beach in France 152 years after she had left the country of her birth.

Before she was towed away her figurehead and stern gallery were removed and are now on display in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

In 1961 a Charlemagne Honvault, of Wissant, on France’s Channel coast had been chopping up a 33ft length of timber which revealed its origins. There was an inscription bearing the name Duguay-Trouin. It was part of the ships’ main mast.

n A laborious job, ‘paint ship duties’ was a regular duty for ships’ companies. On the right can be seen a sailor sitting on a bosun’s chair while painting the funnel of HMS Sussex some time in the 1930s. Does anyone remember doing this?