The sinking of HMS Implacable

First, you have to credit the Royal Navy. They knew how to name ships.

Second, they knew a good deal when they saw one. In the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy ruled the waves, but arguably, the French built the better ship. And the RN, being practical seamen, when they captured a French ship, simply put it into service.

Laid down in 1797, launched in 1800 and entering service with the French Navy as the Duguay-Trouin, she would be one of four French ships of the line to escape capture at Nelson’s epic victory, Trafalgar. But she would not long escape the clutches of the RN. Two weeks later, at the Battle of Cape Ortegal, she would be captured.

Repaired and placed into RN service under the new name HMS Implacable, she would fight with distinction throughout the rest of the Napoleonic Wars. She would fight again at Acre and Syria in 1840. But by 1842, she was unfit for further frontline service. Like many wooden ships of the line, she w0uld continue to serve in various training ship roles, and eventually end her days as a hulk.

By the mid-twentieth century, she was the second oldest ship of the Royal Navy, behind the mighty flagship, HMS Victory. But post World War II austerity in Britain meant there were no funds for restoration or refurbishment. In 1949, she was towed to sea, and scuttled. As a fitting gesture, an escort of the French Navy was present to render honors, and she slipped beneath the waves flying the French Flag alongside the White Ensign.


H/T to the Aubrey-Maturin Appreciation Society for spotting the film.

5 thoughts on “The sinking of HMS Implacable”

  1. Great story, thanks for sharing that.

    Sad to see the old girl go down that way, but what a long and honorable career.

  2. I like the story of the HMS Ville de Paris. The British captured it, but it sank in a hurricane. So the British promptly built another ship of the line and named it after the French one that sank.

  3. But I had no idea that a Napoleonic-era battleship other than the Victory lasted into the 20th century! Shame they sank it…

  4. Should have broken it up and found the heirs of the plank-owners.

    John Ruskin understood the value of that ancient tradition:

    Perhaps, where the low gate opens to some cottage garden, the tired traveller may ask, idly, why the moss grows so green on its rugged wood, and even the sailor’s child may not answer nor know that the night dew lies deep in the war rents of the wood of the old Temeraire.”

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