HMS Dolphin revealed to be mystery hulk – Nostalgia

Cropped from the original photograph here we see the original HMS Dolphin when alongside Fort Blockhouse, Gosport
Cropped from the original photograph here we see the original HMS Dolphin when alongside Fort Blockhouse, Gosport
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I published a photograph of this hulk alongside Fort Blockhouse and wondered what she was. As ever there is always someone with an answer. 

Andy August and Peter Thurgill sent me the following information. 

The ship at Fort Blockhouse is HMS Dolphin, a screw sloop built in 1882 used as a depot ship for the second and then the sixth submarine flotilla during the First World War.

She gave her name to the submarine base.

Dolphin was a sail training ship in 1899 and at the end of her seagoing career in 1907 she became an accommodation hulk for submarines at Gosport.

In 1912 she became a submarine depot ship at Gosport. She was sold in March 1925 with a view to turning her into a nautical museum based in the West Dock in Leith, next to HMS Claverhouse but she was caught in bad weather while under tow from Portsmouth to Leith.

When approaching the Firth of Forth on April 19, 1925 she foundered but was raised and beached at Fisherrow where she lay for eight months.

After repairs she moved to the West Old Dock, Leith in 1928 where she remained until moved to her last berth in the Inner Dock at Leith in 1969. 

On July 4, 1977 the TS Dolphin was beached on a spring tide at nearby Bo’ness and burned out where she lay to salvage the precious copper cladding that had kept her so safe for almost 100 years. The remains were broken up.

The photograph from last Saturday showing the letters SPQR on the wall above Fuller’s in Commercial Road certainly brought in some replies. I didn’t know there were so many readers of Latin in Portsmouth.

Thanks to Cliff Blake, John Boxall and Edwin Amey who all agreed the sign stood for Senatus Populusque Romanus, The Roman Senate and People.

Although a simple phrase, the acronym became a symbol for civic pride. It was carved on buildings and monuments, displayed on banners, and used as a military badge. 

So well-known, it was later adopted, or adapted by many other towns, thus although it refers to Rome, its display on Fuller’s implies civic pride in Portsmouth.

I was sad to read lyricist arranger Les Reed died a fortnight ago. Two of his most famous pop hits were The Last Waltz by Engelbert Humperdinck and Delilah sung by Tom Jones which were written in partnership with Barry Mason.

In all, Reed had more than 60 hit records to his name.

I wonder how many of Les’s many records were part of everyone’s day to day life throughout the 1960s and 70s.

He died on April 15 aged 83.

Johnny Hutchinson also died this month, though he was never as famous as Les.

John was the drummer with the Big Three, another of Liverpool’s best beat groups.

He was asked by Brian Epstein to take over from Pete Best (the original Beatles drummer) when he was sacked. 

As Best was a good mate of Hutchinson he declined. He also thought the Beatles were a bunch of posers. He told Epstein to get Ringo Starr from Johnny and the Hurricanes.

The rest as they say, is history. John died aged 78.

The photograph of HMS Emperor of India with a swastika in her shield brought back a memory for Henry Yelf.

He tells me: ‘Your picture of the Indian Navy good luck swastika reminded me of travelling to the Isle of Wight from Portsmouth on a British Railways car ferry in the 1950s.

‘I noticed a swastika symbol moulded into the ship’s anchor. It struck me it was a belt and braces gesture, adding good luck to anchor and hope.’

Ian Tungatt has asked me to tell you about his book, Portsmouth’s Living Legend . 

It is about the hard times of living in Portsmouth in the 1950s and 60s and is now available on Amazon. Dan from Tricorn Books also has copies.

If you knew Portsea at the time Ian did then you will be delighted with the book.

It is a worthy read and nothing is held back about the times Ian lived in. Some of his escapades will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand out.

Last weekend I put in a photograph of the laughing sailor now on display at the Swanwick Brickworks Museum.  One of these electrical puppets once had pride of place on Clarence Pier.

Graham Mellers says: ‘I was attending a function at the Queen’s Hotel in Southsea either last year or the year before, and as you went down the stairs from the reception to the gents, it was on the first landing. 

‘Whether it is still there I do not know.’

Perhaps someone from the hotel can let me know?