HMS Trincomalee Book Review


HMS Trincomalee: Frigate 1817

Seaforth Historic Ships Series

By Wyn Davies, Photography by Max Mudie

Softcover, 128 pages, bibliography, fully illustrated in color

Published by Seaforth 2015

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-84832-221-6

ISBN-13: 978-1-84832-221-9

Dimensions:  6.9 x 0.4 x 9.6 inches

HMS Trincomalee is a Leda-class sailing frigate.  Forty-seven ships of the Leda-class were built for the Royal Navy between 1805 and 1832, of which two survive today as museum ships, Trincomalee and her sister HMS Unicorn.  Due to worsening shortages of oak suitable for shipbuilding in Great Britain, she was built of teak in Bombay, India.  The preservative qualities of the oils in teak have contributed to her preservation and survival today.

Trincomalee was built too late to serve in the Napoleonic Wars, and was laid up in reserve.  She was recommissioned from 1847 through 1857, serving on both coasts of North America for the majority of her commission.  She then served as a training ship until 1895, when she was sold.  In England there were several boarding schools which trained boys in seamanship and naval tradition, which not only provided England with sailors for her Navy and merchant fleet, but provided educations and trade skills for disadvantaged youths who might have otherwise been unemployed.  George Wheatley Cobb purchased Trincomalee and used her as a school ship, renaming her Foudroyant.  She served as a training ship until the 1980’s, when she was taken in hand for restoration and display as a museum ship.  She is currently at the Hartlepool, where she can be seen today.

The introduction of this book, divided into five parts, describes the development of frigates as a type and the general state of wooden ship construction in England at the time which led to Trincomalee being constructed in India.  The narrative then follows her service history, use as a training ship in various capacities, and eventual preservation and restoration as a museum ship.  The bulk of the book consists of fine full-color photographs, well presented and captioned in detail.  These are presented in a walk-around format and explain every detail of her construction, both inside and out.

For any reader seeking to understand the details of sailing frigates, this book is a gold mine.  The nautical terminology is uniquely foreign but well explained and illustrated, if you don’t know the difference between a binnacle and a mouse this book will make things clear.  If sailing ships or naval history interest you at all I can recommend this book, and the series as well.