Marie Carter is an experienced Senior Consultant at Recognition. Here, she tells us about her Saturday on the high seas taking part in a media trip with a difference.
HMS Trincomalee has certainly earned her esteemed position as the premier attraction at Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience. She is the world’s oldest warship still afloat and her mast can be seen majestically poking out above the modern rooftops on the approach to Jackson Dock. It is a crisply cold but sunny day that I am hugely thankful for given the recent ‘Weather Bombs’. The journalists I had invited on the Trincomalee press trip would be experiencing gun drill and mast climbing later and I wanted a clear day for both activities.
Although the day would revolve around HMS Trincomalee as our client, I had also organised a tour of Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience which is situated on the quay next to the ship. In addition, I had prepared a visit to the Heugh Battery Museum, which commemorates the Headland’s Bombardment in WW1 by the Imperial German Army. The day would be finished off with a relaxing trip to Wynyard Hall; sadly I wouldn’t be accompanying other members of the party.
One can only hope to get the slightest feeling of what life was really like on board Trincomalee two hundred years ago by walking its decks. Our tour of the Maritime Experience provided insight into the travails of life at sea and the treatment metered out to transgressors and of those unlucky enough to be injured and requiring of amputations. However, only a vivid imagination could hope to tell the full story of the harshness of life on board ship.
Sailors would be ‘pressganged’ or hired to come on board by identifying them through their stoops. I’m a woman of average height and had to hunch to walk around the ship. The average male height then was 5, 7” tall and one noted captain was a towering 6, 2”. Life on board was dirty and difficult with sailors crammed into hammocks like sardines and the often rancid food was lashed with a ration of eight pints of beer a day supplemented by rum.
Richard was our main guide for the day and he dressed in period costume as a Post- Captain, a now obsolete term for the rank of Captain in the Royal Navy. Richard ably guided us through gun drill showing us how to load a canon and talking us through the types of munitions on board. It was easy to imagine the sailors packing the canons and the deck as a hot and noisy hive of activity. The quay provided ample space for a canon and musket display, which was both thrilling and very loud. As well as developing stoops due to crouching one could imagine that ear drums could easily be damaged under fire.
Two members of our party bravely decided to climb to the platform situated three quarters up the mast. The day was bright and breezy but cold, so I decided to stay firmly on the deck. Well done to everyone who took part, it was a real achievement to climb albeit kitted out in full safety harness. Today, we have many safety precautions that could only have been dreamed about in the days of Trincomalee.
Our visit to the Headland’s Heugh Gun Battery was another highlight. In a bloody fight, the Battery returned fire in what was the only battle to be fought on British soil during the First World War. One of the Battery’s soldiers, Theo Jones of the Durham Light Infantry, became the first British soldier to be killed by enemy action on home ground in the war.
A fantastic day was had by all, including me. I am certainly looking forward to
organising another one of these trips later in the year. Here’s hoping for a lovely summer’s day.
HMS Trincomalee, the last of the commissioned frigates of the Nelson era, is the second oldest warship afloat in the world. The ship is berthed afloat at Jackson Dock within Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience (Maritime Avenue, Hartlepool, TS24 0XZ.) For tickets, contact HMS Trincomalee on 01429 223 193 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit:
PHOTO CAPTION: Trincomalee Press Trip: Canon and musket display next to HMS Trincomalee.