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hms tamar anchor

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hms tamar anchor

at museum of coastal defence

Date picture taken (may be approximate): 
Friday, January 1, 2010


After the handover, the HMS Tamar anchor was stored at Lyemun Barracks prior to the building of the Museum of Coastal Defence.

1998 HMS Tamar Anchor

Here is an interesting question. What is the basis of supposing this is an anchor from the HMS Tamar that was the nominal depot ship 1897-1941 (in HK 1895-1941)? That it came from the stone frigate HMS Tamar when the RN packed up and left is not in doubt. But that is not the same as it having come from the original ship. There are three reasons for supposing it may not have done.

The first and most telling is that the anchor looks too small - more like something one would have found on a 660 ton Yarrow class destroyer like the Usk or a Bramble class gunboat like the Thistle than on a 4650 ton displacement trooper, I haven't actually measured it, but my recollection is of a shank at most about 2m long. (Stockless anchors (e.g. Wasteney-Smith pattern) don't become that common in warships until well into the Dreadnought era in the early 20th century)

If one looks at one of the best known, pre-scuttling photographs of the Tamar, taken in 1934 when her colours were half-masted for President Raymond Poincaré's death, the length of shank of the port main anchor hanging free from the cathead seems rather more - it runs the height of roughly two full decks.

The second reason has to do with the scuttling and the likely survival of the anchor either from the period of the Occupation - it would have been easy to remove and the Japanese needed iron. Or from the wreck removal exercise 1946-48 - the civilian outfit (probably the precursor of UDL) that the wreck was sold to would have wanted to get maximum returns from the scrap value - it was how they made their money.

The third reason has to do with the history of the development of the stone frigate. The first post-war Tamar was a ship, the ex-HMS Aire, which was around until late 1946. It had its own anchors. The next move was the acquisition of the ex-Army Wellington Barracks and presumably somewhere, if the anchor came from the old Tamar, there would be a picture and a story about the placing of this interesting memento. (As a toddler who lived in the barracks (1947-50), I have a very clear mental picture of the main gate, but there's no anchor.) I've never run across any such and, in the immediate post-war atmosphere, I'm not sure that using the anchor of the scuttled ship would have been seen as entirely a good idea.

My hunch is that when the old Naval Dockyard was closed and demolished, what's called the HMS Tamar anchor was found hanging around and someone (rightly) thought of the bright idea of turning it into the main gate ornament for the new stone frigate in its new location on Edinburgh Place. I's have thought the RN might have a record of this event that could be chased down.

Any thoughts?


Stephen, thanks for this. I'm not expert enough to add anything, but your arguments sound reasonable. Do you have any contacts at the RN who might know? Another suggestion would be to ask the Museum of Coastal Defence what they know about its history.

Regards, David

PS On another Tamar matter, any chance you know what happened to its bell? See:

On the anchor I did ask the LCSD folk and, of course, their answer was that it was because, like many, to them HMS Tamar is HMS Tamar is HMS Tamar and so any anchor that came from HMS Tamar is HMS Tamar's anchor.


This is interesting stuff, and it answers a question I've long had about HMS Tamar.  As I note elsewhere on Gwulo, piecese of Tamar have turned up all over Hong Kong (anchor, timbers, mast, bell, etc.) and I always wondered how a ship that had been so violently scuttled and then salvaged with even more violence could contribute so many intact pieces to various locales in the city.  In retrospect, as Stephen D convincingly explains above, the answer is obvious: the pieces likely came from the "stone frigate" HMS Tamar, not the actual troopship itself.  Of course, I suspect not many folks would care about the distinction!


I've enlarged and highlighted the anchor in this 1930 view of HMS Tamar. From top to bottom, the anchor spanned about two decks of the ship.

HMS Tamar's anchor

Thanks David - that tallies with the estimate from the bow-on shot of what may be a rather earlier design anchor in Solomon Bard's book about old HK. The 'two decks' is a tad misleading because what we're looking at here is the built up ship, which has an extra two decks above the original sheerline and, from the look of them, probably with more headroom than the original (which allowed 6' in the trooping spaces) - I'd guess with the additional decks more like 6.5' (1.98m) and, allowing for room for ventilation trunking and so on, perhaps more. That makes the shank (crown to ring) anything up to 5m, which I think is a lot bigger than the jobbie at HKMCD. That would have been normal for ships of Tamar's size - anchors for ships of the size in the late 19th century had shanks 13'-13.5' (4.1m) long and weighed 54cwt (2.74 tonnes). The gravity band is also different, I suspect. 

Seasoned mariners know that large ships do not rely on the holding power of the older types of anchor (as opposed to modern burying types) to keep them in place. The anchor locates the spot you want to hang around in, the chain that is veered, plus the weight of the anchor, is what in principle does the work. It follows that anchors had to be big and heavy to do their work. That's especially true in this case since the Tamar's anchors were for the emergency situation when she broke free of her permanent mooring in a strong wind.

But expecting the LCSD mob either to understand that or much care is another matter.


From SCMP in 2016:

Fact or fiction?

The Tamar’s anchor is at the Museum of Coastal Defence, in Shau Kei Wan
Not true. It is the wrong type and too small. It is a relic from the old naval dockyard and was used as a decoration at the Tamar complex during the 1970s.

While on the topic of HMS Tamar, I am curious (and confused about) how many generations of the ship or stone frigate existed. I thought the 1863 one is the fourth, but Wikipedia stated there is one in 1795 and another in 1796 with overlapping years of service that does not make sense.

It gets more confusing in the post-war years. Naval history expert Prof. Yau Woon MA wrote that records suggest HMS Tamar was used on an ex-Japanese naval vessel briefly. This page ( gives multiple successive locations: Wellington Barracks, HMS Aire renamed (14th March to 20th Nov. 1946), Medium Speed Picket Boat 44315 21st Nov. 1946 to 1957), MSPB 44313 (1957 to 1962), land base built on the site of Wellington Barracks and the filled-up dry dock (1962 to Mar. 1979), Prince of Wales Building (Mar. 1979 to May 1993) and Stonecutters Island (May 1993 to 11th Apr. 1997).

It is of course misleading to think of HMS Tamar (the ship) as having a single anchor. She would have had port and starboard bower anchors, a spare, usually heavier than either of the two in regular use and one or two lighter anchors that could be used as kedges. The one on display might well be a kedge from Tamar, but once she became the static base ship, she would have had no use for it. When moored out in the stream, she would have been shackled to buoys rather than anchored anyway, so what anchors she did have would be for energency use only. The picture of her alongside with an anchor suspended is interesting, but it may be there as decoration rather than ready for use.


Naval regulations dictate that the commissioning pendant for a "stone frigate" must be flown afloat, which would account for the Medium Speed picket boat. She will be flying the pendant for the renamed HMS Aire.

Prof Ma, who is an engineer, does not to my knowledge of him, call himself a history expert, leave alone one on naval history. He has quite certainly in his retirement become a historian of HK and has done good work on the dockyards, though with many lacunae since the records are scattered and partial (W.S. Bailey & Co. springs to mind).

I doubt that the sole survivor of the 4 HK built Bangor class minesweepers captured on the stocks at the surrender on 25.12.1941 that survived its time in the IJN, which served with the RN for c. 18 months in the post-war international mine clearance exercise and then was scrapped, was ever called Tamar. I shall check what it was called, if it had anything other than a number (which trace memory suggests), but I am sure it was not Tamar and I am equally sure that the RN, whatever its idiosyncrasies, would never have called an ex-Japanese vessel Tamar, however it had started its life. There is stuff that simply isn't done.

In any event, I think my father (the Tamar's first post-war chaplain) would have mentioned something about it over the years when we talked about the Tamar...and he never did. The Aire was properly commissioned HMS Tamar on 3rd March 1946 and served through until decommissioned in November (I think 27, but I'd have to check (I'm at home)) when the stone frigate commissioned, initially in Wellington Barracks (which had been ceded by the RE - why they had to decamp to the premises on Victoria Rd abobve Jubilee Battery).

Where a stone frigate is located physically is irrelevant to its status as Tamar (or Whatever) the nth. Its nthness is solely a function of it being in commission and the stone frigate was the 6th (or 7th if we count the ex-Aire, as we should) Tamar and was in continuous commission as such from late 1947 through until the flag came down in 1997, so that the base became larger, smaller, had its centre of gravity moved or whatever is an irrelevancy. The continuity of the commission is what counts.

The 18th century overlap is more apparent than real. The 2nd Tamar was on the books 1795-1798 as a store lighter - so run by the Commissioner for Victualling, not by any command. More important it seems to have ceased active working by 1796. The 3rd Tamar was commissioned in April 1796 but not completed until June, so probably not worked up and in service until the autumn or, depending on how working up went, even early 1797. In any case, the name thing only began to become fetishized in the later 19th century when communications between various squadrons became sufficiently swift for dual names to be likely to cause significant confusion. Of course doubling up was generally avoided as common sense suggests; it was not, however, proscribed. One needs bureaucratic mediocrities for pettifogging rules, and for much of the 18th century the working RN was spared the daily embuggerance factor that is their natural product.

Correct that until 1969 (with hangovers for a short period thereafter) a stone frigate had to have a vessel afloat as its nominal flag wearer - hence the MSMBs that were in service until c.1972 (i.e. when the last one wore out, that's when the nominal flag wearer ceased work). Hence why their numbers are given. They were not Tamar, they were tenders to Tamar wearing Tamar's flag afloat for it and borne as such on Tamar's books (there are squillions of examples of such tenders all over the RN's scattered commands over the decades, some with names (i.e. the Victor Emmanuel's Tweed that surveyed Tai Tam), some without). (The reason for their having to be a vessel afloat is the wording of the Naval Discipline Act 1865 - only ratings serving on commissioned ships afloat were subject to the act, which was an unfortunate loophole that caused a couple of legal embarrassments in the late 1860s and was closed by the half-witted decision to have something afloat rather than changing the wording of the act!)

The anchor. Tamar was alongside the west wall of the tidal basin from 1914-1941. By 1941 she showed NO ANCHORS AT ALL at the hawse. The anchors she showed when on a buoy 1897-1914 were NOT the ones one can see on her in photographs of her during her service, nor are they the ones one can see her still keeping ready to let go during her first five years on the wall. In any case all were far larger than the one at HKMCD and of quite different types.

I'll say it again. The one at HKMCD is a dead ringer for the anchors one can see on the smaller gunboats and TBDs in service c.1890 through 1914. It is also the correct size (there are tables and tables with precise specifications for this stuff over the years.) The likelihood of any Tamar anchor having been left around in HK or on the remains of the wreck (which we know from post war statements was comprehensively pillaged by the Japanese and further damaged with the deliberate intent to ensure it could never be refloated) is zero. The Japanese hoovered any usable metal to take to Japan for melting down for war use (where all the Statue Square statues went). There is no way anchors would have survived. That even makes it vanishingly unlikely that the anchor at HKMCD was physically in HK in late August 1945 and eeven more unlikely that there were any anchors on the Tamar.

My own hunch (no proof) is that it would have been one of many being carried around by the RN salvage teams in the immediate post-war period for use with salvage barges and in salvage work for buoys, etc., as well as for the salvage side's dual role in boom defence and the need to moor booms. There would have been a fair old number of such anchors around RN dockyards resulting from the huge post-WW1 wind down and modernization of the fleet and they'd have been drafted into useful service by the salvage and boom defence side of the RN as that wound up to its impressive size (with its concomitant need for anchors, warps and so forth) as the war drums grew louder, and its vastness once war was under way. 

Once all the salvage was done, the anchor at the HKMCD probably ended up in the naval dockyard with other, similar spares that could, if needed, have one fluke removed or bent back to make an anchor for a mooring span when laying moorings for the naval destroyer trots. Pusser doesn't like wasting money except on Admiral's tableware.

So when the dockyard was closed and the premises of HMS Tamar shifted to the new buildings with their new gate location (the gates moved from the old naval yard entrance) a suitable anchor was found sculling around the dockyard and drafted into service, titivated and put in place to welcome visitors with something fittingly nautical. It thus became HMS Tamar's anchor, though it almost certainly was never anything to do with the 1863-1941 ship.

Phew...though I'll probably have to type that all out again in a year or so.



Hi dorbel, thank you for pointing out that a stone frigate needed a vessel afloat to fly its pendant. In the previous post, I was confused and tried to marry two concepts together and not understanding the distinction on the Royal Navy Research Archive page.

Hi stephenD, I am grateful to you for providing a very detailed reply and explanation. The reason for having a boat to fly the pendant of a stone frigate is surely a peculiar one! Perhaps MSPB 44313 flew the pendant beyond 1962. I think you are talking about another Prof. Ma -- Koon Yiu MA who wrote about past engineering projects in Hong Kong. Prof. Yau Woon MA taught at the Lingnan University in Hong Kong and wrote many articles on Chinese naval history in the 2000s. His 2009 book 靖海澄疆 quoted the 7th Sep. 1945 entry of Rear Admiral Cecil Harcourt's war diary as saying, 'An ex-Japanese submarine chaser was commissioned as H.M.S. Tamar, Base Ship, Hong Kong. ' Prof. Ma could find no other reference about this, but suspected that a possible candidate was the Japanese submarine chaser No. 235. I was quite taken aback when I first read this page (Pg. 530, link). As you said, it is not something the Royal Navy would do, and there was no lack of vessels in the fleet.

Hi Con Sun,

Thank you. Indeed my mistake over Prof Mas, my apologies.

That certainly is extraordinary (the link takes me to a 'can't be viewed' page so I am none the wiser).

The War Diary: I shall order a copy from TNA, since as we both agree, what Prof Ma reports is quite extraordinary. I am unsure that Admiral Harcourt had the authority to give a ship a commission. Certainly 18th and early 19th century Admirals could do so and did so, but the commission had to be endorsed by the Admiralty for it to become 'real', as it were...and I think it unlikely that authority would have been forthcoming to 'commission' the ship. That most especially since within 6 months the ex-Aire was commissioned in the role.

 I wonder if there may be a muddle here (which reading the original may solve).

Let me explain. When HK was reoccupied, the naval administration would have needed accommodation close to or in the dockyard from which to oversee the re-establishment of a naval shore base. We know an accommodation ship was brought in (HMS Aorangi) which spun off a shore base that shared the name - the Wanchai Sailors' Home and Seamen's Institute. It is not at all out of the bounds of possibility that in addition temporary office accommodation was also needed and that an ex-IJN S/M Chaser was drafted into that role.

The puzzle is whether she was "commissioned as HMS Tamar" - a pretty startling step - or "used to serve the old role fulfilled by the (scuttled and unsalvageable) HMS Tamar". That second understanding could have appeared in a war diary in words something like "an ex-Japanese submarine chaser was (used to act) as H.M.S. Tamar, Base Ship, Hong Kong." So a very great deal depends on how one translates the Chinese translation of the original English in Admiral Harcourt's war diary (which was most unlikely to have been written by Admiral Harcourt himself (war diaries aren't - I once as a junior flunkey helped keep one myself. War diaries are official documents; private diaries are not - so how the two are created and worded tend to be very different).

'Commissioned' is a very significant legal step implying that the Admiralty had designated a vessel, had appointed personnel to her ship's company and, much the most important of all, had appointed a captain (in HK the Commodore) in command. For the commissioning requires, for it to take effect, that the officially appointed commander "reads his commission" to the assembled ship's company at the ship's commissioning ceremony. Until that latter happens, the ship is not "in commission". It follows that the necessary supplementary evidence is the date of appointment of the first post-war Commodore HK and what vessel he was appointed to command (I'll check that out and report back) 

So all is going to hang on what the diary says. It takes 24 days to get a copy from TNA (bureaucrats are bureaucrats are bureaucrats), so I shall report back when I've seen what the original says. It will be very interesting indeed if it proves that there was an ex-IJN ship that was formally commissioned, harking back to the days of commissioned French vessels taken as prize. (Technically, I believe even in 1945, the ex-IJN vessel would have had to have been formally adjudicated a prize of war by a court before she could have been commissioned - something else to check out.)


Stephen D

...sorry. I have had extensive correspondence with the Royal Naval Library on the subject of the MSMBs, the role of nominal vessels to wear stone frigates' ensigns and when the last hauled down its flag. The formal ending of the policy was 1969. Several vessels in good shape served on a few years after that moment. MSMB 44313 kept going until 1972 and was not replaced. The last hauled down its flag within a couple of years - chapter and verse in my workplace, but the basic data given here is inside a small ballpark.


Hi Stephen,

Thanks again for the detailed explanation about how commissioning should take place, and the fate of MSMB 44313!  Prof. Y. W. Ma wrote the quote in question in English, so it is not a case of 'lost in translation'.  I have e-mailed someone who left a comment on the HMS Tamar page of the Royal Navy Research Archive. He was with Naval Party 2501 and may be able to shine some light.  Hopefully he will reply.

Best regards,


P.S. Where is the name 'Con Sun' from?  :)

thanks C - with a blank page but ahead and astern in Chinese I evidently made a wrong inference. Sorry again.

i’ll get the chapter and verse from TNA so the statement is in context. That way what would otherwise seem anomalous may begin to make sense and, perhaps, the absence of any other mention also. 


Hi Stephen, I am happy to report that I got in touch with Mr. Gordon Hughes of Chemainus, Canada earlier this month. He is an eye witness of events in 1945 in Hong Kong, and posted about HMS Tamar on the Royal Navy Research Archive web site. He said that he is not aware of a Japanese ship becoming HMS Tamar in 1945. Hope to see you at the Gwulo drinks on the 27th!

Sorry for the very long silence. Otherwise occupied, but now at other home in France trying to finish the book on Tamar (ch.9 now...three more or so to go).

Thanks for the info on the recollections of the member of the NP2501 (sorry - forgot to note the name) and that he had no recollection of any Japanese vessel standing in as Tamar.

I have not yet managed to get round to getting hold of Harcourt's diary (in train) but have been pondering and fossicking.

First, there appears to have been a Commodore-in-Charge, HK, officially the senior naval officer of the HK naval base and thus, the captain of HMS Tamar (as before WW2), as of c.20th September 1945 (the announcement was made by SEATO command from Delhi on 24th Sept.). So by that date something of which Commodore D.H. Everett RN could be the Commodore must have existed, although the Aire did not arrive until 23 Feb 1946 and wasn't commissioned as Tamar until 14th March.

The RN Research Archive (which one has to note does get quite a few details wrong) says that HMS Tamar was "recommissioned on September 7, five days after the formal surrender was signed in Tokyo Bay, re-established in the old Wellington Barracks on Hong Kong Island."

I'm dubious and would be very interested to see the evidence - I'm presuming either Harland or Melsom and so secondary rather than primary sources.

There are trace newspaper and other sources that suggest that by some time in October 1945 Wellington Barracks (or part thereof) was in use by the RN as part of its shore element. It turns out, from a story in January 1946, that 'for some months', in addition to some sort of toehold in Wellington Barracks, the Tamar had also been based in the St Francis Hotel in Wanchai, from which it finally moved out on 26th January, 1947.

However, we also know from similar sources that the Wellington Barracks were still being cleared and prepared for use on 5th Sept 1945 and that initially the cleared barracks served as HQ Land Forces. From newpaper advertisements and stories, it was still partly being used as HQ Land Forces as late as mid-November 1945 (I have the references), though by 24th October HQ Land Forces address is principally being given as Victoria Barracks. 

That leads me back (again!) to the cavalier bandying about of the word 'commission' and its cognates.

So second, it occurred to me that just because a ship is sunk, that does not formally entail she is decommissioned. Formally she must be struck from the list of active ships - in effect ceasing to be - which then opens the lists for a replacement. I do not know whether the Tamar was or was not struck from the list in December 1941. I can say that in The Navy Lists of 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945 there are officers listed as being in HMS Tamar, which is suggestive if not conclusive.

There would have been reasons (ideological, morale, etc.) NOT to have struck the scuttled Tamar from the list pending, perhaps, evaluation of the wreck post-war. As important, even once the Tamar had been scuttled, there were still many members of her ship's company who had survived and would still be borne on her books until, formally, they were signed off and moved onto other ships' books. Perhaps some (for example those in Far East POW camps and those serving with BAAG, etc.) were kept on Tamar's notional roll. Her skipper, A.C. Collinson, was in POW camp and had not resigned his commission. (I don't know the answer to that, it's just a thought.)

That led me to a curious SCMP story of 16th November 1945, which recorded that a pre-war Jardine, Matheson employee (I think probably an officer with the Indo-China SN Co.), A.E. Bates, a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Reserve (previously an HKVDC member and then, until posted away in 1941, an HK RNVR member), had been appointed to HK to be Lieutenant in Charge of HMS Tamar - the wreck - and its land element in Wellington Barracks - notice, he is a Lieutenant in charge, not Captain. Roughly at the same time (5th November), a Signalman T.P. Hitchin arrived from Leyte posted for duty on HMS Tamar - so by November there was a Tamar and my hunch is that it was actually the same one as in December 1941.

As a kind of proxy for when the new Tamar, as it were, began gaining critical mass, the first reference I can find to any member of the Tamar's ship's company playing in one of the Royal Navy's football teams is 9th December, 1945. Whatever else one might conclude, it would appear that what constituted Tamar personnel-wise in late 1945 was not big enough to field a team (as was, for example, the ship's company of HMS Nabcatcher - the RN's other 'stone frigate' of the day in HK).

So the 'floating' element of the RN naval base in HK between the British arrival in late August and the commissioning of the Aire in March 1946 would appear possibly to have been the wreck with a - sorry - skeleton crew! With the arrival of the Aire, the old Tamar could have been formally struck from the lists, St Francis Hotel given back to its owner and the Tamar's previous commission (which had lasted from 1.10.1897) brought to an end making it possible to commission the Aire as HMS Tamar.

Indicative here, maybe, is that the tender for clearing the wreck of the old Tamar was not issued until April 1947.

So what about Admiral Harcourt's effort with the ex-Japanese submarine chaser? My hunch would be that it may have been an idea that did not get official approval, which isn't to say that between Harcourt having the idea and (presumably London but possibly India) nixing it, there may not have been a few days to a week or so during which some sort of RN presence on and use of an ex-IJN vessel may have happened - probably beginning to clear it and prepare it for use. If so, no official or unofficial record seems to have survived.

In summary, the actual history of HK's naval base depot ship from 12.12.1941 through to the commissioning of the Aire on 14th March 1946 is very uncertain. The balance of the very bitty and inconclusive evidence suggests - no more than that - that the original HMS Tamar may not have been struck from the list of active units of the RN but have remained at least formally in commission (interestingly the RN Emergency Chart of November 1945, which had the wreck on it, labels the wreck "HMS Tamar", not ex-Tamar or anything like that). If so, then the wreck served as the 'ship' element of the RN naval base in Hong Kong from the moment of re-occupation until the commissioning as Tamar of the ex-Aire. The Aire then became a 'real' HMS Tamar and served as such until it decommissioned and reverted to Aire on 20th November that year, the role of nominal depot ship passing, on 21st November, to M.S.P.B. 44315 and, one assumes, Wellington Barracks moving from semi-temporary accommodation to something more full-fledged. What seems to be missing is any record of a commissioning ceremony in late November 1946 and what it included.

We do know that when Commodore Everett was replaced by Commodore C.L. Robertson on 8th August 1947, "The new Commodore's broad pennant...was transferred with ceremony to HMS Tamar (Wellington Barracks)..." Somehow one supposes that in November 1946 something similar may have happened for Commodore Everett, though perhaps not before that date.

What's missing is a record of the formal takeover of all of Wellington Barracks by the RN and the moving out of HQ Land Forces. Evidence shows that by 24th October 1945 HQ Land Forces had mostly moved to Victoria Barracks. But when Wellington Barracks stopped being HQ Land Forces, it seems to have become HQ Combined Services, which role it may still have been playing, if a court case is to be believed, in December 1948. 

It seems it wasn't until late 1945 or early 1946 that the barracks were mainly in RN hands but may even then not formally have been HMS Tamar (because of the impending Aire). So my hunch is that the RN had a small foothold until the Army moved out to Victoria Barracks in late October 1946. Thereafter Wellington Barracks became the main land element of HMS Tamar but not, until late 1946 and the departure of the Aire, actually HMS Tamar+M.S.P.B. 44315.

Post Army HQ Combined Services still occupied some part of Wellington Barracks, though for how long is unclear. That eventually the Prince of Wales Building ended up in the Tamar compound may suggest that the combined services stayed being hosted by the RN right the way until 1994. 

Sorry for going on so long. Getting stuff as right as one can seems, to this old buffer, important.


Hi StephenD,

Thank you for the very detailed information.  I think it is plausible that the 'HMS Tamar' name was attached to the sunk ship during the occpuation of Hong Kong by the Japanese forces, but with the abundance of ships in the British Pacific Fleet, it would not be difficult to find one ship -- any ship -- to be named HMS Tamar after the re-occupation of Hong Kong.

Are there records in the archives of the Royal Navy about the identity of the stone frigate + vessel combinations of successive HMS Tamar?  When HMS Tamar was on Stonecutters' Island, which vessel was flying its pendant?

I look forward to your new book.  Will it include the newest HMS Tamar?

What we need is the killer app in the form of our resident photo wizard, David B.

If my hunch has mileage (it may be bunkum), and depending on what construction to place on Lt Bates' appointment, there is a POSSIBILITY - no more than that - that at least initially HMS Tamar-the-Wreck was kept in being and that, accordingly, each day a colour party would have gone out to the wreck in a small boat and hoisted the ensign. I would guess that would have been on the mizzen mast (I doubt the ensign staff survived the war or if it did would have had enough hoist clear of the water for an ensign), lowering it again at sunset. Equally, her commissioning pennant or the Commodore, Hong Kong's broad pennant would have been returned to the foremast. That could have been part of what Lt Bates being in charge was all about.

IF any of that happened (and will only have done from c.30.8.1945-14.3.1946 when the Aire took the load), then there would presumably be photographic evidence IF anyone happened to take a snap in those months that included the wreck and did so between whenever morning and sunset colours were during WW2 (the first probably 0800). By the time Hedda Morrison took her excellent photos, the window during which Tamar-the-Wreck may have been in commission had long closed.

In 1962 (I think - maybe 1969) the RN stopped being fussed about having a floating anything for stone frigates, so the commissioning pennant (or the flag officer's flag), would have been flown from the mast head of the flagstaff, usually on or near the parade ground (you can see the Tamar's commissioning pennant being struck, with her ensign, at the paying off ceremony before the handover here: Sometimes a ship's boats flew a commissioning pennant when scooting the Captain around, but otherwise didn't (as Mid-of-the-Boats once I can recall driving the skipper and sporting a pennant, but otherwise we flew nothing unless we were guard boat or somesuch).

The book is really about the 1863-1941 ship and that will be 80-90% of the text. It's as much a study of maritime imperialism as it is of the ship - the Tamar is the lens, if you like. There will be an epilogue that takes the story up to the launch of the River Class OPV (Tamar VII, VIII or IX depending on who is counting what), but the main focus will be on the discovery of the remains of the old troopship-become-base-depot-ship in 2014.


Hi Stephen,

Sorry for the slow reply, just catching up after a summer break.

Do you know if Tamar's masts remained visible after it was sunk, or do we need to find photos confirming that first?

If they were visible, please can you tell us which part of the harbour we should be keeping an eye on if we see any photos of the harbour in 1945.

Regards, David

Yes, all three very visible. They can be seen clearly in 8 of Hedda Morrison's photos, which sadly all date from early 1947, not long before the demolition contract was let and about a year after I would think the RN might have stuck flags up. None of them has made it onto the internet yet, but I have copies of all.

The location is about 25m immediately north of the outer end of the OLD Wanchai ferry pier within around 25m of 22 16.9N, 114 10.5E.



I don't see we have any photos of the masts apart from a Hedda Morrison copy, but I've made a page to gather any more photos ( and will keep an eye out.

I find it difficult to imagine that the Navy went out every day to hoist flags on the masts of a scuttled ship, but then perhaps I lack imagination! I would love to see evidence of that.

Part of HMS Tamar's history can be viewed at

where six years of her logbooks (1913 to 1919) have been published with a précis of each day's entry.

I also plan at some point to have available a diary of HK harbour, 1914 -1924 inc., which I am compiling from the logbooks of other RN ships on the China station during that period. If this would be of interest to, I would be very pleased to submit it for publication.



Of course an outside, outside possibility, but good history comes from open-minded thinking which might lead one to sources that one would otherwise overlook. At least, that's how I try to encourage my graduate students to think, though to what avail is another issue.

It is hard to get one's mind into the frame that MAY have been operating in HK in 1945 (were my Uncle George still alive, I'd ask him), but I should imagine the minds of many would have been pregnant with the awareness of what some would have seen as the shame of 1941/42 (HK, then Singapore). Some, at least, would also have been aware that the Tamar had never been decommissioned (I don't think anyone knows whether her commissioning pennant was hauled down when she was taken to No.10 mooring on 11th Dec 1941) and, as I have noted, Navy Lists in the 1941-44 period still attribute officers to the ship.

The idea of someone trogging out for daily colours on a wreck is certainly errant, but the idea of signalling continuity by using the Tamar's very visible masts MIGHT have occurred to someone. If one doesn't ask the question, one is unlikely to find out the answer, whether yea or nay.

The log book project sounds splendid. I stopped reading the logs in 1901 (after reading 31 (interestingly, one is missing for Aug 1886-Feb 1887), I was knackered and post 1901 wasn't really germane to the main thrust of the history I'm writing about, and the post 1896 logbooks are very, very slight and data light). Some of the ones that I shall be going back for will be the set between c.1905 and 1911 during which period I know the Tamar was fitted with radio (i.e. while she was still on a harbour buoy). Exactly when the log book MAY tie down - an interesting snippet in the epilogue - though what stands out in the logbooks is how much they DON'T mention that one has to find elsewhere - the first hint of Tamar's radio was a 1911 photograph. The Tamar was not the earliest of the China Station ships to be radio equipped (there were 18 so fitted by 1901), but I suspect may have been in the second main batch on the station. The RN ran the colonial office radio station set up at Cape D'Aguilar in 1905 (post 1904 Russo-Japanese War's wake-up call about the importance of seaborne radio) - it was run by specialist RN signalmen, effectively the first trained by what would become in time HMS Collingwood.

Best, Stephen D

Yes please, that sounds like a very valuable addition to the site.

You're welcome to post it online in stages rather than waiting for the whole document to be completed. When you're ready to start, please drop me an email ( and we'll work out the best way to fit it into the site.