HMS Caledonia

1891 - 1906

1937 - 1939

Complement 1500

The Caledonia began her career as a training ship in Devonport as HMSImpregnable. In 1888 her name, Impregnable, was given to HMS Bulwark (the former HMS Howe) and then three years later she was towed to Queensferry in the Firth of Forth and renamed HMS Caledonia on 22 September 1891. She remained there until she was sold for breaking up in 1906.

The Second HMS Caledonia came to the Firth of Forth 30 years later. She was commissioned on 23 April 1937, with a capacity of 1500 boys. However how she got there was a bit more complicated.

She was launched in June of 1914 as the Bismark for the German line Albert Ballin, and at the time she was the largest liner in the world. In 1922 she was given to the White Star Line in reparations for their ships that had been sunk during the First World War. The White Star Line operated her from 1922 to 1935 as the RMS Majestic. She was still the largest liner in the world. At her peak in the 1920s she was also the most popular, but in 1935 White Star decided to get rid of her. At the time the Royal Navy were on the look out for a ship to turn into another training ship, but there was a snag. The White Star Line had been given her as a prize of war, and a clause in that agreement stipulated that they could not sell her to the Admiralty. So they cheated. White Star sold RMS Majestic to TW Ward for scrap, and then the Navy swapped 24 outmoded destroyers for her so that she was officially gifted to them rather than sold.

Having finally got their hands on the ship the Navy could begin to convert her, a job that was given On August 27th 1936 to Messrs. J. I. Thornycroft & Co., Ltd. Having gone to so much trouble to get hold of her the Navy wanted her up and running as soon as possible giving Thornycroft a deadline of the end of February 1937. They wanted the job done fast and cheap, but like all government projects the costs soon started to spiral so that a convertion was initially estimated to cost £150,000 rose to £472,058. This included £2,450 to shorten her chimneys so that she would be able to get under the Forth Bridge and up to her final mooring place at Rosyth. Over 2,000 men worked from 7 oíclock in the morning until 8 oíclock at night, every day of the week, but still she wasn't delivered to the February deadline, leaving Southampton on April 8th 1937. She was officially commissioned as HMS Caledonia on St Georgeís Day, April 23rd 1937.

After conversion she had accomodation for 100 Officers, 180 Chief and Petty Officers, plus a Shipís Company of 300. It could take 1500 Boys and 500 Artificer Apprentices under training on board. It had a well equiped sick berth with an x-ray machine and even an operating theatre. The first class lounge had been converted into a small gymnasium where church services are held on Sundays. The first class palm court serves as a general recreation room with a canteen, ping-pong tables, and a radio. The Magestic's swimming baths were kept and used to teach swimming to those that did not know how. Caledonia also had use of several playing fields ashore for sport, which was played daily in the afternoon. Each boy was issued with a pair of white shorts and a white jersey for the English or a blue one for the Scottish. Daily orders listed the type of game, who was in which team and which strip to be worn. Whether they actually knew the knew the laws of any particular game wasn't considered, so if they didn't they had to learn quickly.

On 29 September 1939, Caledonia caught fire and burnt out, sinking at her moorings. The wreck was sold in March 1940 to Thomas W. Ward for scrap, but it was not until 17 July 1943, that the remains of Caledonia were raised and towed to the scrapyard.

A typical day on HMS Caledonia




Call the Hands.


Lash up and stow hammocks, wash, dress, and a snack of cocoa and a ship's biscuit.


Scrub decks (barefoot), Holy stone (on hands and knees), Squee-gee dry. Polish all brass.


Breakfast. Clean into dress of the day.


Divisions, prayers and colours. This was followed by three sessions of instruction, school, seamanship, gunnery, etc. "Stand easy" was within this period and consisted of a cup of tea and a doughnut.


Hands to dinner, usually a three course meal of soup, main course, and a sweet.


Games and sport on the playing fields of Rosyth.


Tea. Bread with jam, marmalade or syrup. Change into night clothing, which included a pair of comfortable, brown canvas shoes with leather toe-caps.


Evening quarters and evening instruction.


Supper followed by recreation time. During this time, boys had to take a shower and change into pyjamas for "short arm" inspection before turning in.


Lights out and pipedown.


HMSCaledonia (last edited 2012-06-19 22:28:21 by chrisbunker)