HMS Nelson in WW1

May 10, 2010

Hi there,

What a wonderful website dedicated to so many we owe so much too............thank you for you hard work in
putting this together.

I am interested in knowing something about the HMS Nelson that my Grandfather served on in WW1 - can you
help me in any way

By the way my Father was on the design team at Fairmile Cobham designing the MTB's for the Admiralty.

Best wishes


Thank you for you for your nice comments about AHOY, a joint affair with my web master Terry Kearns in Atlanta Georgia, he keeps the  site purring along from my research and writing.

Here is a history of HMS Nelson who finished up in Australia.

All the Australian States prior to Federation on January 1 1901 had their own Colonial Navies, my State of Victoria had by far the biggest Navy of all the States, at Federation the Commonwealth of Australia took over all
the State Navies to become the Commonwealth Naval Force, it was not until July 10 in 1911 that King George V
granted us the prefix Royal so the CNF became the Royal Australian Navy, our 100th. birthday next year.

Nelson joined the Victorian Navy to become the Training ship for Victoria.

Here is her history:

THIS THREE-DECKER BATTLESHIP was laid down in December
1809 and launched on 4th July 1814. Nelson was the first
three-decker to be launched in England after the victory
at Trafalgar and for this reason was named after the naval
hero. She was launched at Woolwich in the presence of the
Emperor Alexander of Russia, the King of Prussia and
Marshal Blucher, who was to gain renown at the Battle of
Waterloo in the following year.
Nelson was one of four ships of the class, the others
being Caledonia, Howe and St. Vincent

Particulars of the Nelson from contemporary sources are
given below:

  a.. Tonnage:.2617 tons burden
  b.. Deep Displacement:.5500 tons (approx.)
  c.. Length on Gun Deck:.205 ft. 1 in.
  d.. Beam (extreme):. 53 ft 8 in.
  e.. Depth of Hold:. 24 ft. 0 in.
  f.. Armament:.
    a.. As completed, this comprised thirty-two
32-pounders on the lower gun deck, thirty-four
24-pounders on the middle gun deck, thirty-four
18-pounders on the main deck, six 12-pounders plus ten
23- pounder carronades on the quarter deck, and two
12-pounders plus two 32-pounder carronades on the
    b.. On reduction to two-decker (1859-60), forty-six
guns, the largest being two 7-inch 68 pounders, and
the others including twenty 64- pounder rifled
    c.. On reduction to single-decker (1878-81), two
7-inch 68 pounders and several 64 rifled
muzzle-loaders; two 4.7-inch, two 12½ pounders, two 10
pounders, two 9 pounders and two 6 pounders, all the
smaller guns being breech-loaders.
However, even before she was completed, Nelson represented
a type of man-of-war whose days as fighting ships were
drawing to a close with the advent of the age of iron and

In 1854 Nelson was chosen among several ships of similar
type for conversion to an auxiliary steam vessel. She was
cut down to a two- decker, lengthened and fitted with a
steam engine driving a single screw. At the same time the
main armament was reduced to forty-six guns. Conversion
was completed in 1859-60.

In the late 1860s the Government of Victoria submitted a
request for a vessel in which to train its local naval
volunteers, and the British Admiralty made Nelson
available for the purpose. Accordingly the ship was fitted
out at Portsmouth, the cost, £42,000, being met by the
Victorian Government. Nelson was not presented as a
straight-out gift, but was transferred on a 'permanent
loan' basis, and was to be used only as a training ship
within the confines of Port Phillip Bay. Ownership was
reserved to the Admiralty on behalf of the Crown.

HMVS Nelson was commissioned on 22 July 1867 under
Commander C. B. Payne, RN, and on 20 October, fifty-three
years after her launching, she sailed for Australia. The
crew consisted mostly of supernumeraries shipped for the
delivery voyage to Melbourne. Sailing via the Cape, she
reached Hobson's Bay on 4 February 1868. She was employed
at first as a reformatory vessel, but later became
training ship for the Victorian Naval Brigade.

As the White Ensign was reserved entirely for the use of
the Royal Navy, the Admiral decided to approve of a new
ensign for the Victorian Navy and this was flown for the
first time from Nelson on 9th March 1870. The new ensign
was very similar to the present day national flag and
incorporated the Union flag with five white stars on a
blue field.

The first hoisting of the new ensign was an occasion of
great ceremony and festivity. Nelson's band played and the
ship's company dressed ship as the vessel left harbour.
Every other ship was dressed overall with bunting, but
Nelson flew only the Blue Ensign at the gaff. Between
Williamstown and Port Melbourne, Nelson carried out the
inaugural ceremony with the ship dressed overall with
bunting. As the new Victorian ensign was broken out at the
main, Nelson fired a twentyone gun salute, which was
repeated by another ship. Nelson then steamed down Port
Phillip and the guests enjoyed the feasting and dancing.

On 2nd March 1874 the Nelson was the first ship to enter
the new Alfred Graving Dock, now incorporated in HMA Naval
Dockyard, Williamstown.

Following upon a series of 'Russian scares' in the 1870s,
Nelson presumably by permission of the Admiralty, was
converted into a fighting ship for the Victorian Navy; she
was cut down to a single- decker, the fore and mizzen
masts were removed, and the armament modified by the
landing of several of the old muzzle-loaders and the
addition of a number of new breech-loading guns. This
conversion was carried out in the new drydock in 1881.

In the 1880s the Colony of Victoria experienced a
succession of financial crises which led to a curtailment
of government expenditure. Naval activity was drastically
restricted. Nelson, one of the first ships to go, paid off
in 1891 and was laid up at Williamstown. Her boilers were
removed in 1893, and on 28th April 1898 she was sold at
auction to Mr. Bernard Einerson of Sydney for the sum of
£2,400. A few weeks later she was towed to Port Jackson
(minus her guns, which were not included in the sale), and
moored in Kerosene Bay. The upper section was dismantled
and used to build a lighter, the Oceanic. The lower
portion, still called Nelson, after some ten years'
service as a coal lighter, was purchased by the Union
Steamship Co. of New Zealand, and in July 1908 she was
towed from Sydney to Beauty Point on the Tamar River,
Tasmania, for use as a coal storage vessel.

In 1915 the old Nelson was towed to Hobart where she
served a further five years as a coal hulk, after which
she was sold for breaking up. In August 1920 the hulk was
towed up river to Shag Bay, where it was finally
dismantled, the last remains being fired to facilitate the
recovery of a quantity of bronze fastenings.

Main wheel of Nelson.

Due to generosity of the National Trust we now have the
main wheel from HMVS Nelson on loan. Due to the generosity
of the Geelong Maritime Museum we also have somewhere to
display the wheel.

Just four years short of its 200th birthday the wheel was
fitted to the then HMS Nelson during the Napoleonic Wars.
Pierced for 126 guns, Nelson was later fitted with a steam
engine, had a gun deck removed, had 'modern' guns fitted
and was then lent to the Victorian Government. Although
obsolete when acquired, Nelson, most likely because of her
natural light and ventilation, remained the flagship of
the Victorian Navy for over twenty years. It appears that
the officers far preferred to live on board Nelson as
Cerberus had no ventilation unless the boilers were lit.

Best wishes,

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