Royal Naval Museum




HMS Foudroyant and HMS Trincomalee


HMS Foudroyant

The name is French for “thunder and lightning” and came from a captured French battleship in a single-ship action in 1758 by HMS Monmouth. She remained in the RN’s possession until broken up in 1787.

The second HMS Foudroyant was launched in Plymouth in 1798, as a second rate line of battle ship with 80 guns (variable throughout her career). Designed by Sir John Henslow (Surveyor of the Navy) using the old French ships design. Measurements were 2062 tons, 184’x 51’. Usual armament included 30 32pdrs, 32 24pdrs, 14 12pdrs and 12 carronades.


In her first commission, she took part in Warren’s action off Donegal on 12 October 1798. She became Nelson’s flagship in the Mediterranean in 1799-1800, and took part in the recapture of Naples from the French, the recapture of Malta and the taking of several French vessels. In 1801, after a refit, she was Admiral Lord Keith’s flagship in the Egyptian campaign. In 1803, she joined the Channel fleet after an extensive refit at Plymouth. In 1808 she was Admiral Sir Sydney Smith’s flagship for his expedition to South America. She was finally paid off in Plymouth on November 30th 1812 and remained in harbour service.


In 1862, she was converted to a training ship and served the Plymouth gunnery school, HMS Cambridge. In 1892, she was sold for breaking up to a German firm. Because of her association with Nelson, there was a public outcry including a Punch cartoon by Linley Sambourne. She was purchased by George Wheatley Cobb for twenty thousand pounds (his own expense) with a view for display at various ports and a sail training ship. She was wrecked at Blackpool in a gale on 16 June 1897. The salvage terms were that the company involved received two thousand pounds only if they re-floated her. If they failed, they could buy the wreck for ten pounds. The ship was unsalvageable and the company recovered some of their expenses by making souvenirs from the timber and copper and selling them. Hundreds of different varieties were sold, including medallions, coins, items of furniture and walking sticks.

HMS Trincomalee

HMS Trincomalee was a 38 gun frigate built at Bombay for the British navy. The designer was a Jamsetjee Bomanjee. She was laid down in 1816 and launched in October 1817. Her dimensions were 180’x 40’ and of 1447 tons. She arrived in Britain after the cessation of the Napoleonic war and was immediately placed in ordinary until 1845.

She was then refitted and commissioned into service in 1847 for ten years. She served on the North American and West Indies station, helping to quell riots in Haiti and stop a threatened invasion of Cuba. Her main duties involved being on anti-slavery patrol. In 1849, she was despatched to Newfoundland and Labrador and recalled to Britain in 1850. In 1852 she sailed to join the Pacific Squadron on the west coast of America. On one journey to Alaska she was dressed overall to commemorate the crowning of Tsar Nicholas I. In October 1856, she was ordered home and her active service ceased.

In 1861, she was towed to Sunderland as tender for HMS Castor, a training ship, and was moved to West Hartlepool in 1862. In 1877, she was moved to Southampton as a drill ship. In 1895, she was reduced to reserve and used as a depot ship. She was sold in 1897 for breaking up. With the loss of HMS Foudroyant, she was saved by Mr Wheatley Cobb who purchased the ship as a replacement to the lost vessel. She was renamed Foudroyant to commemorate the lost ship and became a youth training vessel at Falmouth. On his death, the ship was presented to the Society for Nautical Research and towed to Portsmouth as accommodation for HMS Implacable. After World War Two, in which she was used as a store ship, she was demobilised to continue youth training under the auspices of the Foudroyant Trust. In 1986, she was closed as a training ship and the Trust decided to restore her to her original condition and return to her former name of HMS Trincomalee. She was taken to Hartlepool, where the HMS Warrior 1860 had been restored. The restoration has recently been completed and she is now on display in Jackson Dock, Hartlepool as HMS Trincomalee. She is the oldest floating British frigate and the second oldest floating ship in the world.

For more information see the HMS Trincomalee website

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© Royal Naval Museum Library, 2000

The information contained in this information sheet is correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the library for a bibliography of further reading materials, if available