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Her Majesty's Colonial Steam Sloop Victoria,
dressed for the visit of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh in 1867

Launched: 30 June 1855  
Acquired: 31 May 1856, Homeport: Melbourne, Victoria
Decommissioned: 1880, Sold into civilian service
Type: Sloop-of-war, Propulsion: Combined steam/sail
Armament: (1860) 8 x 32-pounder guns
Armament: (1877) 1 x 10-inch gun, 2 x 13-pounder guns, 2 x 3-pounder guns

Sydney marine artist Dean Claflin's plan of H.M.c.s.s. Victoria.
Image from: Defending Victoria website.

The HMS Victoria was also referred to as HMVS (Her Majesty's Victorian Ship) or HMcss (Her Majesty's Colonial Steam Sloop). She was a 580-ton combined steam/sail sloop-of-war built in England in the 1850s for the colony of Victoria. She was the second warship to be built for an Australian colonial navy, the first British-built ship to be given to a colony of the British Empire, and the first Australian warship to be deployed overseas.

Construction and acquisition.
Victoria was the first warship to be built in England for one of the British colonies. She was the second ship ordered for an Australian colonial navy, after the Australian-built gunboat Spitfire for the New South Wales colony. She was designed by the British naval architect Oliver Lang and launched in London on 30 June 1855 by Lady Constance Talbot. Commander William Henry Norman sailed the Victoria from Plymouth to Hobsons Bay, arriving on 31 May 1856. The ship was equipped with eight 32-pounder guns.

Operational history.
Victoria's main duties were to protect the colony of Victoria, conduct hydrological surveys, recover passengers and crew from stricken ships, and serve as a lighthouse tender. During her career the sloop delivered the first trout eggs to the colony of Tasmania.

New Zealand Wars deployment, 1860.
In 1860, the colonial government of Victoria decided to send the sloop to New Zealand, to support British colonists fighting in the First Taranaki War. On 19 April 1860, Victoria sailed to Hobart, embarked 134 troops from the 40th Regiment of Foot, and transported them to New Zealand. Prior to her departure, the colonial government passed an Act giving the ship legal status, but this law was overturned by Britain as an attempt to create a naval force independent of the Royal Navy. After delivering the solders to Auckland, Victoria performed shore bombardments and coastal patrols, while maintaining supply routes between Auckland and New Plymouth. In July, she sailed to Sydney to transport General Thomas Pratt and his staff to New Zealand. Victoria was used to evacuate women and children from the town of New Plymouth, following Maori attacks on the town's fortifications. In October, the ship underwent refit in Wellington, and resumed duties by delivering British reinforcements to the combat areas. As the Victorian colonial government required the ship for urgent survey work, her return was requested at the end of the year, with Victoria arriving in Melbourne in March 1861. The New Zealand Wars deployment was the first time an Australian warship had been deployed to assist in a foreign war. The legal hazards of having a colonial warship operating outside her territorial limits was rectified by declaring that all Australian warships in international or foreign waters had to be commissioned into the Royal Navy.

The launch of the Victoria in London, 1855. (Illustrated London News)
Image from: Defending Victoria website.

Search for Burke and Wills, 1861-2.
When news reached Melbourne in July 1861 that the explorers Burke and Wills were missing somewhere between Cooper Creek and the Gulf of Carpentaria the Royal Society of Victoria decided to send a number of search parties to search for them. Commander William Henry Norman sailed from Hobson's Bay in the Victoria on the 4 August 1861 for Brisbane, where William Landsborough and the Queensland Relief Expedition boarded. The Victoria arrived at the Albert River in the Gulf of Carpentaria at the end of September 1861. After finding traces of the explorers, they returned to Melbourne on 31 March 1862.

1862 onwards.
In 1867, Victoria was present for the visit of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh—the first member of the British Royal Family to visit Australia. By 1877, Victoria's armament had been altered to include one 10-inch gun, two 13-pounders, and two 3-pounders.

Sydney marine artist Dean Claflin's plan of H.M.c.s.s. Victoria.
Image from: State Library of Victoria

H.M.c.s.s. Victoria crew awarded the Maori War Medal, 1860-1861:
Information from: Defending Victoria website.


Ashwell, Edward Trimmer
Brett, George Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Bonfield, Patrick Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Collingwood, Joseph Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Cromarty, Jason Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Dunn, A Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Dudley, Thomas Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Davis, Mark Trimmer
Edmonds, R Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Ford, Harry Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Graham, Cuthbert Drummer
Horn, William Mate
Horsley, William Boy 1st Class
Hoad, Peter, Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Hawkins, James Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Hay, John Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Jones, Williamm Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Jones, William Cook's Mate
Kensington, Ambrose Captain Fore Top
Luther, Moses Gunners mate
Long, Samuel 2nd Master
Linton, Robert 2nd Master
Locke, E J Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Lawson, Alexander Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Marey [Morey], George Stoker
McIntyre, Thomas Trimmer
McMyrm, John Trimmer
Norman, William Henry Commander
Ovendon, James Captain Fore top
Parkes, Robert Trimmer
Rees, Benj Stoker
Schrader, John Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Smith, David Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Steward, James Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Sibbon, William Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Stroud, A Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Smith, Samuel Boy 2nd
Wods, George Austin Lieutenant
White, John Able Bodied Seaman (A.B.)
Taylor, John Leading Seaman

H.M.c.s.s. Victoria crew 1861-2 during the search for Burke and Wills:
Captain Commander William Henry Norman (1812-1869)
Lieutenant George Austin Woods (1825-1905)
Mate Mr Hanfield  
2nd Lieutenant Charles Cecil Gascoyne (Gascoine)  
Midshipman Mr Laws  
Boatswain Mr Rowe  
Quarter Master Samuel Long (1828-1898)
Chief Petty Officer James Joseph Ovenden (1835-1886)
  (Captain of the Foretop)
Gunner Mr Frost (1833-31 December 1861)
  (accidentally shot and killed at the Albert River)
Surgeon Dr Patterson  
Chief Engineer Richard Griffiths (?-2 May 1872)
Botanist Diedrich Henne (1834-21 January 1913)
  (appointed by Ferdinand Mueller)
? G Gaskett
  (See SLV MS 10657: Certificate of appreciation, 18 June 1862.)
Boy, 2nd class Samuel Smith [?]
  & others...

Mr W Allison of Landsborough's party and Mr John Horsfeldt of Walker's party returned from the Albert River to Melbourne on the Victoria.

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© 2020, Dave Phoenix