Britain’s oldest warship named HMS Trincomalee

The HMS Trincomalee which was constructed in 1817 in Mumbai stands as the Royal Navy’s last ship built in India, boasting over two centuries of history.

According to the National Museum of the Royal Navy, prior to its current mooring in Hartlepool, this illustrious ship sailed more than 100,000 miles worldwide. Remarkably, HMS Trincomalee never engaged in battle but holds a rich narrative of service, ranging from patrol and protection to exploration.

Now anchored in Hartlepool, HMS Trincomalee represents one of the two Leda-Class Frigates commissioned by the Royal Navy in 1812. Its name commemorates the 1782 Battle of Trincomalee off the coast of the Indian subcontinent, the historic clash between British and French fleets during the Anglo-French War (1778-1783).

The choice to build in India was influenced by a scarcity of oak in England, exacerbated by the ongoing Napoleonic Wars, and the strategic location of Bombay.

The ship’s arrival in England, 18 months post-construction, coincided with the end of the wars, making the HMS Trincomalee surplus to the fleet requirement.

Its journey was further delayed when plans aboard the HMS Java were lost after its sinking by the USS Constitution, the oldest still-afloat ship. Consequently, HMS Trincomalee spent 28 years in reserve before being refitted as a 26-gun corvette for patrolling duties in the Atlantic and beyond, including participation in the Crimean War and operations in the Pacific. From 1860, it served as a stationary training and accommodation vessel, continuing in various capacities into the 20th century.

Distinguished from its counterparts by its teak construction, known for durability and resistance to decay, HMS Trincomalee has preserved much of its original framework. Among its notable early passengers was Eliza Bunt, a British resident in India, whose documenting of her journey to London provides invaluable insights into the ship’s history.