Friday, 24 August 2012

Arethusa: The Waterer

Seems there have been a few ships named the Arethusa, all connected with Kent...

The first ship was a wooden three-mast frigate, donated by the Navy to a charity established by Lord Shaftesbury that promoted the idea of a naval training ship for homeless boys in London.  She had originally been built in 1849, had seen action in Crimea and was the last British ship to go into battle under sail. She took up position at Greenhithe and was officially opened on 3rd August, 1874, by the Earl of Shaftesbury and Baroness Burdett-Coutts as a naval training vessel for children.

She remained at Greenhithe for many years.   However by the late 1920s, the Arethusa was in a poor state and was given notice to quit her anchorage by the Port of London Authority. Eventually, in 1932, a German-built vessel, the steel-hulled Peking, was purchased for £6250 to replace the old Arethusa. She was towed to Greenhithe where she was renamed Arethusa II and preparations were made to convert her for use as a training ship at a cost of about £15,000. The new Arethusa was moored at Upnor near Rochester and was officially opened by HRH Prince George on 25th July, 1933.

A year later, however, in 1934, another ship named 'HMS Arethusa' was launched at Chatham Dockyard.  This ship was a 'modern' warship, light cruiser class, that was used to intercept German ships heading for Norway during the Second World War.  In 1942, she was hit by a German airial torpedo and suffered heavy damages, resulting in the loss of 156 lives on-board.  She was finally decommissioned and scrapped in 1950.

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