The Continuing Chronicles of HMS Pickle

Following HMS Pickle’s involvement in Open Bridges as together we split the city of Hull in two for the first time in its history, HMS Pickle is set to embark on the next chapter in its incredible story by once again joining forces with its illustrious sister ‘ship of the line’ Admiral Lord Nelson’s HMS Victory in Portsmouth.

22.09.2017 HMS Pickle and the 13th flare by Opher Goodwin
HMS Pickle firing the 13th flare at Open Bridges – Autumn Equinox 2017

Sailors go 200 years back in time to crew sailing vessel which brought news of Trafalgar

Sailors will step back in time more than two centuries when they crew a replica of the ship which brought news of victory at Trafalgar next month. Twelve volunteers from Portsmouth Naval Base will take it in turns to sail the schooner HMS Pickle from Hull to the Solent so that the ship will be in harbour for the event which celebrates its achievements.

Back in 1805, the schooner Pickle was dispatched to Britain to report both the crushing defeat of the Franco-Spanish Fleet at Trafalgar and the death of the man who led the Royal Navy to victory, Admiral Lord Nelson.

It took ten days for the 73ft sailing vessel to reach Falmouth – then another 37 hours for her captain Lieutenant John Lapenotiere to reach the Admiralty in London, breathlessly announcing: “Sir, we have gained a great victory but we have lost Lord Nelson.”

The accomplishments of Lapenotiere and his small boat are celebrated each November 4 – the anniversary of Pickle’s arrival in Falmouth – with Pickle Night, an evening for naval ratings to remember the heroes of 1805 and generally let their hair down, often dressed in the uniform of the day. HMS Victory hosts a special Pickle Night event on the great ship’s lower gun deck with 104 specially-nominated ratings dining with Second Sea Lord Vice Admiral Jonathan Woodcock. WO1 Dickie Henderson, the Executive Officer of HMS Victory, along with some senior ratings serving aboard Nelson’s flagship thought this year the presence of a replica (the original Pickle was wrecked more than two centuries ago) berthed next to Victory, would give proceedings extra authenticity and poignancy.

HMS Pickle
Photograph of HMS Pickle courtesy of the Royal Navy

The replica – built 20 years ago in the Baltic and subsequently converted to look like Pickle to mark the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar – does feature some mod cons, such as communications, engine and galley. But on deck, crew will toil as Nelson’s sailors toiled to run the ship as it hops from its home in Hull down the east coast and into the Channel in four legs between October 25-30; calling at Harwich, Dover and Eastbourne before entering Portsmouth on the 30th Oct.

Thanks to support from long-time Navy supporter Sir Donald Gosling and his foundation, and the RN RM Charity, up to six sailors, at a time, from HMS Victory and Portsmouth Flotilla will be able to crew the Pickle on each leg (the longest is 36 hours)…and there has been no shortage of volunteers.

WO1 Dickie Henderson said “this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for some Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines to get a ‘hands on’ experience of what it would have been like to sail a ‘ship of the line’ that took part in the famous battle of Trafalgar”.  He went on to say “our sailor and Marines today are always busy, be they are assisting in the aftermath of hurricanes, protecting our shores via fisher protection or deployed further afield looking after out Nations interests.  To be able to arrange a voyage such as this, with the kind permission of the second sea lord, is a brilliant way to give a little payback to a small number of the naval services serving troops”.

There is also the opportunity to crew the ship on her return journey too, between November 8 and 15, with Pickle pausing on November 11 to remember Britain’s war dead.

Article written by Dickie Henderson, WO1 B Henderson MSc, Dip.RSA, MCGI, RN. Executive Officer | HMS VICTORY

We’re looking forward to the next chapter in the fascinating story of HMS Pickle.

Rich and Lou Duffy-Howard

Open Bridges #OpenBridgesHull