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Devonshire a brief History

The First “Devonshire
Built by William Wyatt at Burlesdon on Southampton Water.
Launched 6th May 1692.
A Third-rater of 1,220 tons: 80 guns.
Length 127 ft. Breadth 41 ft. : Depth 17 ft.
Complement varied from 410—490 men : and after the 1704 refit was 700.

Cape Barfleur was the scene of the “Devonshire’s” first action. The French had assembled a large army at La Hogue, a small town on the east side of the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy, with which they planned to restore ex-King James II to the throne.

 Their fleet was being prepared to cover the invasion when on the 18th May 1692. the “Devonshire,” within a fortnight of completion, formed part of the Anglo-Dutch fleet which left Spithead, under Admiral of the Fleet, Edward Russell, to seek it out and destroy it.

The following day action was joined at 1000. The “Devonshire” was in the Red Squadron which bore the brunt of the fighting, and it was not until the evening that the battle was brought to a conclusion by a thick fog, under cover of which the French Admiral, Tourville. tried to escape.

The Allied Fleet continued to chase for two days but the wind was so light that neither fleet could move faster than the ebb-tide would carry it : every flood tide obliging both to anchor. On the 21st May, however, the French ships became scattered. Three of them, including Tourville’s flag-ship the “ Soleil Royal,” sheltered in Cherbourg Bay, where they were set on fire and destroyed.

 Twenty escaped by way of the Race of Alderney to St. Malo, while twelve took refuge in the Bay of La Hogue. These latter were completely destroyed by the small boats and fire ships of the fleet, King James witnessing the, to him, sorry sight from the shore.

With their destruction perished his own hopes of a restoration while, for the time being, our shores were free from the fear of a French invasion.

Five years later, while on detached duty in the Channel with the “Torbay” and “Restoration,” eighty gun ships also, and two smaller vessels, the “Devonshire” had a brush with ten French men-of-war returning from the West Indies.

They were under the command of Rear Admiral de Pointis and although a numerically superior force, after an indecisive engagement of three hours, they set their topgallant sails to a fresh gale of wind and left their pursuers far behind.

In 1704 “Devonshire” was virtually rebuilt by Mr. R. Lee at Woolwich and was commissioned by the Right Honourable James Lord Dursley, afterwards the Earl of Berkeley and First Lord of the Admiralty. But it was John Watkins who was in command on her ill-fated final action.

Her last duty was to be part of a force of five ships escorting a convoy of 130 sail bound for Lisbon with merchandise, warlike stores and horses. The French had information of the convoy and their Admirals Duguay-Trouin and Count Forbin, with their united squadrons of fourteen men-of-war, were ordered to sea to look for it.

 They fell in with the Convoy off the Lizard on the 10th October 1707 and met a stubborn resistance, the “Devonshire” and others throwing themelves into the battle to enable the merchantmen to escape. While nearly all of them reached Lisbon, the “Royal Oak” was the only Royal ship to escape.

The “Devonshire,” after putting up a running fight for five hours, during which time the other ships in the force had been captured, suddenly blew up with a blinding flash and all her crew, with the exception of two, perished.

The Second “Devonshire”
Built at Woolwich.
Launched 12th December 1710.
A Third-rater of 1,304 tons 80 guns.
Length 156 ft. Breadth 44 ft. Depth 16 ft.
Complement 550 men.
The life of the second “Devonshire” was uneventful. A year after commissioning she was sent as part of a formidable force under Rear Admiral Sir Hovenden-Walker to attack Quebec and other French possessions in America. The St. Lawrence had not been adequately charted and the “Devonshire “on proving to be too large to navigate its waters, was sent home.

 She remained inactive until the country became alarmed at Jacobite activities. The discovery that the Swedish Minister in London was involved in a Jacobite plot was enough, after the Fifteen, to make the country break off trade relations with Sweden and to despatch a fleet of twenty ships of the line to the Baltic to see that the prohibition was enforced.

 From March till November 1717 the “ Devonshire” was part of that fleet, but she saw no action as the Swedes did not venture outside their ports.
In 1740 she was converted into a hulk for duty at Woolwich.
In 1760 she was sold out of the Service for £285.

The Third “Devonshire”:
Built at Woolwich.
Launched 19th July 1745.
A Third-rater of 1,471 tons 80 guns—reduced to 66.
Length 161 ft.; Breadth 44 ft.: Depth 18 ft.
Complement 520 men.

It was this ship which won for us most of what we call our Battle Honours.
Finisterre 1747. When Vice-Admiral George Anson flying his flag in the “Prince George.” with Rear Admiral Peter Warren, his second in command, in the “Devonshire.” put to sea on 9th April 1747, with seventeen ships, they were looking for two French Squadrons intent on the recovery of Cape Breton and other American possessions. The French, under Admiral de Ia Jonquière, with fourteen men-of-war and a convoy of twenty-four merchantmen were sighted on the 3rd May about seventy miles from Cape Finisterre.

 Both fleets ordered line of battle, but Anson, on Warren’s suggestion, altered his to a general chase. At the end of a three- hour running battle all the French ships which had remained in the line had struck their colours, and most of the merchantmen had been captured.

 The “Devonshire” distinguished herself by capturing the Sixty gun ship, the “Serieux,” which was flying Jonquière’s flag. £300,000 of booty was taken from the prizes and the captured ships added to the Navy. Anson was given a peerage.

Ushant 1747. The French on this occasion were setting out for the West Indies. There was a convoy of 252 merchantmen escorted by ten men-of-war under Admiral de l’Etenduère, with his flag in the “Tonnant.”

They were sighted by Rear Admiral (later Lord) Hawke, who had hoisted his flag in the “Devonshire,” and sailed with fourteen ships from Plymouth on the 9th August The battle was joined off Ushant, de l’Etenduère detaching two of his ships to look after the convoy, and fighting courageously with the rest.

 They were over-powered but not before they had mauled our ships too roughly for them to be able to pursue the merchant- men. “Devonshire” greatly distinguished herself by compelling two ships to strike their colours, and then bearing down and capturing a third, the “Terrible.” One verse of contemporary doggerel records

“Of their “Trident” our “Devonshire” came alongside
And souse! in her guts such a dose did she hide
That the rummaging pills almost work’d her to death
For she soon, like the “Severn,” lay gasping for breath.
Then bounce ! came their “Terrible “—foul as a Tartar
But she too sung small, till she cry’d out for quarter.”

Quebec 1759. It was not until the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War that the “Devonshire” again saw action. She was one of the expedition of forty-nine ships which on the 17th February 1759 set sail from Spithead carrying the troops of General Wolfe.

 She might have been destroyed on arrival by the French fire ships, but prompt action by a number of our picket boats averted that fate, and she lived to see the great day when the soldiery scaled the precipitious Heights of Abraham.

 The surrender of Quebec virtually meant that the conquest of Canada was complete and the “Devonshire” with the “Vanguard” and the “Somerset” were free to be sent home. Quiberon Bay might very easily have been added to the Honours.

 News was received that the French Brest fleet was at sea and despite the condition of the ship, course was altered for France. Before contact could be made, however, Hawke had won his great victory of the 20th November, and the “Devonshire” had to be content to steer for home.

Havana 1762. The “Devonshire” was in the West Indies in 1762 coming down from the St. Lawrence where she had again been operating since 1760 assisting in the capture of Montreal. Here she was a unit in a fleet of forty ships which, under Rodney, invested the French island of Martinique. Many of her guns were landed and a Naval Brigade manhandled them over six miles of most difficult country to Fort Royal.

 With the surrender of Martinique came the selection of “ Devonshire’s” Captain, Captain Darby, to take the good news to England. He was succeeded by Captain Marshall, under whom the ship assisted in the capture of the Spanish island of Havana.

 While a feint was made elsewhere troops were put ashore under cover of the guns of the Fleet and although the Spaniards made a gallant defence Havana fell on the 14th August. “Devonshire” was one of the escort for the Spanish prizes which sailed in November for England.

About 600 miles west of Land’s End the squadron was dispersed by a violent gale, the “Devonshire “ only saving herself by throwing overboard many of her guns. She reached Spithead after suffering many privations only on the 13th January. 1763.

She remained in reserve for the rest of her life and was broken up at Portsmouth in 1772.

The Fourth ‘Devonshire”: was a small merchant vessel which was bought by the Admiralty for use as a fireship in 1804. She was set adrift on the night of 23rd October in Boulogne harbour when Napoleon was assembling a large flotilla of barges and small craft for the invasion of England. After passing through the French lines she exploded but only wounded two men.

The Fifth “Devonshire”
Built by Messrs. Barnard & Co. at Diptford.
Launched 23rd September 1812.
A Third-rater of 1,742 tons : 74 guns.
Complement of 590 men.

Completed almost at the end of the Napoleonic war, the fifth “Devonshire”
lived through the long years of peace which lasted till the outbreak of the Crimean War in 1854, by which time she was too old for active operations.
She remained out of commission at Chatham till 1849, when she temporarily
replaced the “Dreadnought” as a hospital ship for merchant seamen.

On 13th July 1854 she was commissioned for service as a prison ship at Sheerness for Russian prisoners of war. From 1857 till 1868 she acted as a school shipfor the Steam Reserve. In 1869 she was broken up.

The Sixth “Devonshire”:
Built by Chatham Dockyard.
Designed by Sir William White.
First keel plate laid by the Prince of Wales, 25-3-1902.
Launched 30-4-1904.
10,850 tons; Length 450 ft.: Breadth 68 ft.: Depth 25 ft.: Speed 222 knots.
Armament: 4 x 7.5 inch; 6 x 6 inch 2 x 12 pounder; 22 x 3 pounder:
2 x 18 inch submerged torpedo tubes.

Commissioned on the 24th October 1905 the “Devonshire” served with the 1st Cruiser Squadron in the Channel Fleet. Almost at once she served as escort to the “ Victoria and Albert “ on the occasion of the visit of the King of Greece, and in August of the following year again, when King Edward paid a visit to the German Emperor.

 After being transferred to the 2nd Cruiser Squadron in the Atlantic Fleet, she was detached to form, with three other ships. a Special Service Squadron to visit South Africa in connection with the meeting of the Convention for the Federation of the South African Colonies 1908.

“Devonshire” served in the 3rd Division of the Home Fleet at Devonport
until her refit at Gibraltar in 1912, after which she was transferred to the 3rd CruiserSquadron in the First Fleet.

On the 18th July 1914 “Devonshire” was at Spithead following a general mobilisation of the Home Fleets, which replaced the usual manouvres that year. Instead of demobilisation on the 26th of July as intended, the ships did not disperse, but, three days later the “ Devonshire “ in the First Fleet, henceforth known as the Grand Fleet, sailed for Scapa.

For the next two years the” Devonshire” served with the 3rd Cruiser Squadron, Grand Fleet ; based on Rosyth. On the 16th December 1914 she took part in the counter actions to the enemy raid on the Yorkshire coast and she was in the Dogger Bank action of the January of the following year.

From the 1st November 1916 until the end of hostilities the “Devonshire” was in the North American and West Indies Squadron when her task, which involved a great deal of sea time with little to show, was to patrol the chief northern trade routes, searching for commerce raiders.

After being paid off on 21st May 1919 for the last time she was sold, two
years later, to Messrs. T. W. Ward Ltd., of Sheffield, by whom she was broken up.

The “Seventh” Devonshire , also, was a cruiser, one of those handsome vessels with three distinctive tunnels and eight 8 inch guns known as the County class.

By now the Navy had forgotten that the name Devonshire originally commemorated an individual rather than an area of country. Built at the Devonport yard, she was completed in 1929. Her machinery was constructed by Vickers Armstrongs. Prior ‘to World War 11, in which she served with distinction, this seventh Devonshire acted partly as a cadet training ship. She joined the Home Fleet from the Mediterranean at the end of 1939 and took part in the Norwegian campaign, evacuating troops from Namsos and, later, King Haakon VII from Tromso.

During 1941 she operated in the South Atlantic where, on 22nd November, she intercepted and sank the disguised German raider Atlantis which had sunk or captured 22 Allied ships in as many months. In the following year Devonshire transferred to the Indian Ocean and took part in the amphibious operations against Madagascar. Later in the war she rejoined the Home Fleet and appropriately formed part of the escort which brought the exiled Norwegian government back to Oslo in May 1945.

HMS Devonshire and HMS Sussex had their X-turret removed towards the end of WWII to allow increases in their AA battery.

Displacement: 9,750 tons standard; 13,220 tons full load
Dimensions: 595 pp, 633 oa x 66 x 17 feet
Propulsion: 4 shaft Parsons geared turbines, 8 Admiralty3-drum boilers, 80,000 shp. = 32.25 knots
Range: 2,930 miles at 31 knots, 12,500 miles at 12 knots; 3,210 tons fuel oil
Complement: 700
Armament: 4 dual 8-inch / 50 Mk 8; 4 single 4-inch / 45QF Mk 5 HA (4 further 4-inch added, 4 dual Mk 16 in HMS London); 2 quad and 4 single 2 pdr; 2 quad 0.5-inch AA (added 1936-1939); 2 quad 21-inch TT.; 1 seaplane (later 3)
Armour: 1 to 4 inch magazine box protection; 1.375 inch deck; 1 inch side-plating, turrets and bulkheads (4.5 inch narrow belt and 3.5 inch internal boiler room sides added 1938-1941)

The seventh Devonshire became a Training ship 1947-1953. She was finally broken up by Cashmore, Newport, Wales in 1954.

The” Eighth” Devonshire. By then the name had been carried in the Royal Navy by seven ships over a period of more than 250 years. In 1962 an eighth Devonshire was completed. The first of a new class of guided missile destroyers, eight of these County class destroyers were built with Devonshire as the lead ship. Their main armament is the Seaslug anti aircraft missile which was the Navy’s first medium range system.

The prime role of the latest Devonshire is to provide the air defence of the Fleet In addition, the Wessex helicopter is a very potent weapon against all types of submarine.
Because of their facilities and communications outfit, the County class are often used as Command ships by Admirals.

In the eighteen years since Devonshire was launched she has been to most parts of the world and the list reflects Britain’s interests in the sixties and seventies.

As well as the usual deployments to the Far East, Australia, America, Mediterranean, Africa and Europe, Devonshire has twice visited Russia.

The eighth Devonshire has seen an era of peace and no further battle honours have been added.

Devonshire was decommissioned under defence cuts in 1978. Laid up in Portsmouth harbour for six years, the ship was sunk by the submarine, HMS Splendid as a target on 17 July 1984 in the North Atlantic, whilst testing the Mark 24-Mod-2 Tigerfish. At the same time used as a  target by aircraft.

awaiting final blow from a torpedo

Torpedo hit

2 Responses to Devonshire a brief History

  1. Dan Jenkins

    August 13, 2015 at 21:02

    A picture that brings tears to my eyes.

  2. Dan Jenkins

    August 13, 2015 at 21:04

    I remember sitting on the stern on leaving Melbourne during Devonshire’s Second Commission.
    A cruel picture.

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