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HMS Colossus

There have been four ships to bear the name Colossus from the days of sail to the days of aviation.

Table of contents
1 HMS Colossus (1787-1797)
2 HMS Colossus (1882-1908)
3 HMS Colossus (1910-1928)
4 HMS Colossus (1943-1946)
5 External Links

HMS Colossus (1787-1797)

The first HMS Colossus was a 74-gun Leviathan Class frigate, launched at Gravesend in 1787. On 6th June 1793, in the Bay of Biscay, Colossus captured Vanneau, a tiny ship with an armament of just 6 guns. The same year, she was part of a large fleet of 51 warships of numerous types, including a Spanish squadron, but commanded overall by the legendary Vice-Admiral Lord Hood, a name immortalised by the ill-fated HMS Hood. The Fleet arrived off Toulon on 26th August, with Lord Hood in the warship HMS Victory. The objective was to simply keep the French Fleet in check. In Toulon's port, were 58 French warships, and Lord Hood was determined not to allow such a potent and dangerous fleet to be taken over by the French revolutionary forces. The Bourbons, the Royalists, had managed to retain control of Toulon, a vital Mediterranean port and they duly surrendered the town and ships to Hood's Fleet. Hood then proceded to land sailors and Royal Marines at Toulon, with the objective of taking possession of the key forts, in which they succeeded in doing so. The French Republican forces quickly mobilised, and began the siege of Toulon on 7th September. By 15th December the British and Spanish withdrew, taking with them 15,000 Royalists, as well as destroying the dockyards and a large number of French warships.

In 1795 Colossus was once again part of a large fleet, this time of 25 ships commanded by Admiral Lord Bridport on his flagship of Royal George. A French Fleet, comprising 23 warships under the command of Rear-Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse were his opponents. The battle was immense and chaotic, it raged across a vast area, yet it came to an indecisive end when Lord Bridport ordered his Fleet to cease fighting at 7.15am, just four hours after the initial fighting had started. This decision, allowed nine important French warships to escape from what seemed like inevitable destruction. Colossus, recieved damage that culminated in 3 of her crew being killed and 30 being wounded. In total, British losses were 31 killed and 113 wounded. French losses are not known, though it is estimated over 670 French sailors were killed or wounded, during skirmishes that resulted in the capture of three French warships alone. Though Colossus was involved in much bitter fighting during the battle, her Captain, John Monkton a proud Scotsman, ordered his piper, adorned in the obligatory kilt, to proceed to the maintop mast staysail netting, and in which he played the pipes throughout the battle, no doubt to the bemusement of the French sailors that witnessed it.

In 1797 she was involved in yet another large scale clash of fleets, this time joining a 21 ship strong fleet (including 7 smaller craft) under the command of Admiral Sir John Jervis in his his flagship HMS Victory, against a large Spanish Fleet of 27 ships, commanded by Lieutenant-General Don Jose de Cordova, that would become known as the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. During the battle, Colossus sustained damage, with her sails being virtually shot away. It looked inevitable that she would be raked by Spanish warships, untill HMS Orion bravely headed for Colossus and covered the warship, until the danger that she faced had dissipated. The battle was a major victory for the Royal Navy, despite the RN being outnumbered, and in which four Spanish ships were captured and seven crippled, including the largest warship afloat at that time - the Santissima Trinidada. Britain lost approximately 300 killed or wounded, with the Spanish losing 1,092 killed or wounded, as well as 2,300 taken prisoner.

The following year, Colossus was part of a squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Lord Nelson in his flagship of HMS Vanguard. They took part in the blockade of Malta, at that time under French occupation and in the capture of Gozo, a small island in close proximity to Malta. The same year, HMS Colossus was wrecked off the Scilly Isles, but thankfully no lives were lost in this cruel incident.

The wreck of Colossus was found at a depth of nine metres in 1974, and some artifacts were recovered.

HMS Colossus (1882-1908)

The second ship to bear the name Colossus had a far more particularly mundane life. She was a Colossus second-class battleship, launched in 1882 and commissioned in 1886. She had a displacement of 9,520 tons, and an armament of 4 x 12.5-inch breechloaders, 5 x 6-inch guns and had a respectable speed of 15.5 knots. She served in the Mediterranean Fleet, from her commission in 1886 to 1893 when she then became a Coastguard ship. In 1901 she was placed in Reserve, before becoming a tender to HMS Excellent in 1904. Colossus was put up for sale in 1906, finally being broken up in 1908. Her sister-ship HMS Edinburgh was broken up in 1910.

HMS Colossus (1910-1928)

The third HMS Colossus'\' was launched in
1910 and commissioned in 1911. She was a Colossus Class dreadnought, though very similar to HMS Neptune, she was not part of the latters class, due to Colossus and her sister-ship, HMS Hercules having greater armour. She joined the 2nd Battle Squadron of the Home Fleet, and in August 1914, on the outbreak of war, became the flagship of the 1st Battle Squadron. She fought with distinction at the Battle of Jutland and was the flagship of Rear-Admiral E.F.A. Gaunt and was commanded by Captain A.D.P.R Pound. During the battle, Colossus took 2 hits causing minor damaged, but still caused five casualties. When WW1 came to a close, Colossus became a training ship until 1920, when due to the Washington Treaty, was stricken and eventually broken up in 1928. Her sister-ship Hercules'' was scrapped in 1921.

Colossus Class Statistics

HMS Colossus (1943-1946)

The fourth and last Colossus (15) had a relatively brief time with the
Royal Navy. She was the name-ship of the Colossus-class Light Fleet carriers, and were basically smaller derivatives of the Illustrious Class. She was launched in 1943 and commissioned in 1944. She served with the British Pacific Fleet from 1945-46, prior to being loaned to France, where she was named FS Arromanches in 1946. While in French service, she participated in the Indo-China conflict in 1948 for three months. She returned to France in 1949 and purchased by them in 1951. The following year, she returned once again to Indo-China, this time as a fully fledged French warship. Between 1958-59 she was reconstructed with a 4 degree angled flight deck.

In 1968 she was converted to an Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Carrier, operating up to 24 helicopters. She decommissioned in 1974 after a long and faithful career with the French Navy. She was broken up at Toulon in 1978, a place that had been present to the first Colossus in 1793 and the last in 1978.

Colossus Class Statistics

External Links

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