Moored at Temple Pier on Victoria Embankment, London just downstream of Waterloo Bridge and not far from the Savoy Hotel, is a white ship from another era. Sporting the name WELLINGTON, the historic ship has been moored on the Thames since 1948.
WELLINGTON is the last survivor of the Grimsby Class of sloops which served in World War Two. The 1256 ton HMS WELLINGTON was built for Britian’s Royal Navy at Devonport Dockyard in 1934. She was one of thirteen such warships built for service in the Commonwealth and Dependencies. HMS WELLINGTON patrolled the Pacific region around New Zealand (hence the name) from 1936 until recalled to UK waters in 1939.
After war broke out in 1939 the ship began a six-year patrol as convoy escort in the Atlantic. She was fitted with two 4.7 inch and one three inch guns. Additionally, anti-aircraft guns were fitted for self defense. Depth charges for use against submarines were also carried. One of the smallest ships engaged in this risky operation, HMS WELLINGTON steamed over 240,000 miles and rescued over 450 Merchant Navy seamen, evacuated troops at Dunkirk, participated in the North African landings and shared the credit for sinking a U Boat.
By 1946 HMS WELLINGTON was laid up with other surplus warships at Pembroke Dock in South West Wales. In 1947 she was bought by the Honourable Company of Master Mariners to serve as their Livery Hall and Headquarters. The Company aids nautical schools and promotes nautical research. WELLINGTON was converted to Head Quarters Ship Wellington at Chatham Dockyard. The cost was met by an appeal to which Lloyd’s, Shipping Companies, Livery Companies and many other benefactors generously contributed
(The Honourable Company of Master Mariners was formed in 1926; it was made a Livery Company by the City of London in 1932, making it the first new Livery Company to be formed in over a century. While the other Livery Companies are entitled to the style Worshipful, the Master Mariners are styled Honourable, King George V having granted them that honour in 1928. A livery company is most basically described as a trade association)
HQS WELLINGTON’s engine and boiler rooms were transformed into a rooms for meetings, conferences, dining and receptions. Office space for the management of the company, its charitable trusts and its huge library were included along with public spaces to display an impressive collection of marine paintings, ship models, silver and other artefacts of maritime significance.
In 2005 the ownership of the vessel transferred to the Wellington Trust – a charitable trust established to ensure the preservation of the historic ship.
Since 2009 the ship has been running an educational program for local primary schools, sessions consist of a facilitated exploration of life onboard ship – followed by a discovery trail encompassing a visit to the bridge and other parts of the ship.
WELLINGTON has always been a well loved ship with during her Royal Navy service was known with great affection as “The Welly”.
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.