The loss of HMS Trinculo in 1870
The loss of HMS Trinculo in 1870

Royal NavyLosses
Royal NavyLosses

On 5 September 1870 the steam gunboat HMS Trinculo was run down by the Spanish merchant steamer Moratin while en route from Gibraltar to Malaga.

Extracts from the Times newspaper
Fr 2 September 1870Our Malta correspondent, writes under date of Valetta, August 26:—
"By the arrival of the Peninsular and Oriental Company's packet Nyanza on the 21st inst, intelligence has been received of the Mediterranean Squadron under the command of Admiral Sir Alexander Milne, K.C.B., to the 17th inst. The squadron, consisting of the Lord Warden, Caledonia, Royal Oak, Prince Consort, Bellerophon, and Columbine, arrived at Gibraltar on the 12th inst., and completed with coal on the same day. The Lord Warden and Caledonia, being finished coaling, put off from the Mole and moored in the inner anchorage. On coming to an anchor off the New Mole a slight collision occurred between the Prince Consort and Bellerophon. The former touched the quarter of the latter, caring away the quarter davits of the Bellerophon and snapping off her own jibboom. Early on the morning of Monday, the 15th inst., the Channel squadron was sighted from the Gibraltar signal-staff, and soon afterwards made its appearances coming round the point under sail; then furling sails it steamed into the anchorage off the New Mole. The squadron consisted of the Minotaur, bearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Hastings Yelverton, K.C.B.; Agincourt, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Henry Chads; Northumberland, Monarch, Hercules, Inconstant, Captain, and Warrior. By noon on the 17th all the ships had completed coaling, and were ready for sea. The combined Mediterranean and Channel Squadrons, under the supreme command of Admiral Sir Alexander Milne, were expected to put to sea on the 19th for the long talked-of cruise. There were at Gibraltar besides the above-mentioned ships, the Bristol, training vessel, Captain T.W. Wilson; the Trinculo and Porcupine Staff Captain Calver. The latter vessel proceeded into the Mediterranean on the 16th inst. to prosecute a survey of the sea-bottom, in the interests of science. She may soon be expected at Malta. The Bristol was to join the combined squadrons during the cruise. When the Mediterranean squadron was off Algiers on the 8th inst., the Psyche proceeded into that port, rejoining the Flag the same night. She went on to Gibraltar on the following day, and again met the Commander-in-Chief on the 11th inst., with the mails. His Excellency the Governor of Gibraltar has been pleased to allow the gates of the fortress to he opened, when required during the night, for the use of officers of the various ships — a privilege hitherto not conceded, but one which is fully appreciated by the whole squadron. The following is a list of the appointments and charges made since my last letter … [omitted] … Her Majesty’s ironclad ship Defence, 16, Capt. Nowel Salmon, V.C., was unexpectedly ordered off by telegraph on the 20th inst. Her destination was kept secret, but is variously rumoured to be Tunis, Palermo, and Gibraltar. I think that it is not impossible she has gone to Civita Vecchia, for the protection of British residents at Rome, and to offer a refuge to His Holiness the Pope end his Ministers, should the course of events render such protection desirable or necessary. Her Majesty's despatch vessel, Antelope, 3, Lieut.-Commander J. Buchanan, arrived here on the 25th inst. from Constantinople, seven days. The surveying schooner Azov, Lieut.-Commander Moore, which had gone out on hydrographic science, has returned into port."
Tu 6 September 1870 The [merchant ship] Hecla passed the combined Mediterranean and Channel squadrons at daybreak on the 20th inst., off Cape St. Maria, the western extremity of the Gulf of Cadiz. These squadrons, in two divisions, had left Gibraltar on the preceding day. The port division consisted of the Minotaur, Northumberland, Monarch, Hercules, Agincourt, Inconstant, and Warrior; the starboard, of the Lord Warden, Royal Oak, Captain, Bellerophon, Caledonia, Prince Consort, and Bristol. The Columbine and Trinculo also accompanied the squadrons on the extreme right.
Th 8 September 1870A telegram from Gibraltar states that Her Majesty's ship Trinculo, 60-horse power, screw steam gunboat, commanded by Lieut. the Hon. Francis G. Crofton, has been sunk in deep water while proceeding to Malaga, having been run into by a Spanish merchant steamer, with a loss, we regret to add, of two seamen, named Baillie and Joy. The Trinculo was built at Devonport in 1860, and was for many years attached to the Channel Squadron. She last left England on May 2, 1867, and while en route for Malta put into Algiers for shelter, and while there broke from her moorings and was with difficulty saved from getting ashore. She arrived at Malta June 27, and, after making good a few trilling defects, proceeded to Patras, and afterwards successively visited Malta, Crete, Candia, Jaffa, Beyrout, Alexandria, Corfu, Athens, Dragomestre, &c. In February last she underwent repair at Malta dockyard, and on the 28th of that month was inspected by Capt. Brandreth, and reported to be in a satisfactory and creditable state, and shortly afterwards left for Gibraltar. The Navy List for September, 1870, describes this vessel as follows: "Trinculo, 60-horse power, Mediterranean. Lieut.-Com., Hon. F.G. Crofton; navigating sub-lieut., G.S. Keigwin; assist.-surg., William Yarde, M.D.; engineers, W.C. Brewer and W.H. Gulliver; gunner, 2d class, Thomas Murray; assist.-engineer, 2d class, William Shaw (act.)." Lieut. Crofton, who was only appointed to the command of the Trinculo on the 7th of April last, obtained the rank of lieutenant on the 14th of June, 1859, and from the 1st of July following until paid off on the 4th of December, 1862, was employed in the Amphion, 36, at Portsmouth, Queenstown, and in the Mediterranean. On the 21st of March, 1866, he was appointed to the Trafalgar, 72, coastguard ship at Queensferry, and on the 16th of June, 1867, removed into the Duncan, 81, also at Queensferry, and remained in her until April, I869. Navigating Sub-Lieut. Keigwin was appointed to the Trinculo on the 19th of May last. He was navigating sub-lieut. in the Princess Charlotte in China from the 24th of March, 1867, until the 30th of May following, and from that date until May, 1869, was employed in the Janus, gunboat, also in China.
Fr 9 September 1870The gunboat Pigeon, tender to the Cambridge, at Devonport, is to be commissioned forthwith, to take the place of the Trinculo, which was lately run down and sunk on her passage from Gibraltar for Malaga.
Fr 16 September 1870The Gibraltar Chronicle supplies the subjoined particuars of the loss on the night of the 5th inst., off Estepona, of Her Majesty's gunboat Trinculo, Lieutenant-Commander the Hon. Francis Crofton:-
"While on her passage from Gibraltar to Malaga, about 10 o'clock, the Trinculo was run into by the Spanish steamer Moratin, bound from Malaga for Cadiz. This steamer was sighted by the Trinculo on her port bow, and the latter immediately ported her helm, and would have passed clear had not the Moratin, from some unaccountable reason, put her helm to starboard, thereby running into the Trinculo abreast of the foremast, cutting her in two; and causing her to fill immediately and sink. The crew had barely time to escape in the boats, which were promptly lowered, four minutes only having elapsed between the collision and the sinking of the Trinunlo. Some of the crew of the gunboat who climlbed over the bows of the Moratin allege that there was no one on deck, and that her engines were not stopped until the vessel was hailed by them. This, as well as other matters in connection with the unfortunate occurrence, will be investigated by the proper tribunal. The conduct of the officers and crew of the Trinculo was gallant in the extreme, but we are sorry to say that two of the latter were drowned.
Ma 10 October 1870The court-martial held on board the Royal Oak to investigate the circumstances connected with the loss of the gunboat Trinculo terminated in the honourable acquittal of her commander, Lieutenant the Hon. F.G. Crofton, and the officers and crew of the ship. The Court was composed of Captain Hillyar, C.B., Her Majesty's ship Royal Oak, president; Captain Phillimore, senior naval officer at Gibraltar; Captain Armytage, Her Majesty's ship Prince Consort; Commander Duff, Her Majesty's ship Cruiser; and Commander F.L. Wood, Her Majesty's ship Rapid. The finding of the Court was as follows:- "The Court is of opinion that the loss of Her Majesty's late gunboat Trinculo was cased by the bad lookout kept on board the Spanish steamer Moratin, and by her putting her helm to starboard instead of to port. The Court is of opinion that no blame attaches to Lieutenant the Hon. Francis George Crofton or any of the surviving officers or crew of the late gunboat Trinculo for their conduct on the occasion of the loss, as it appears to the satisfaction of the Court that Lieutenant the Hon. Francis George Crofton and his officers and crew did everything in their power to save the lives of the ship's company, who appear to have been in the highest state of discipline, and behaved in a most creditable manner; the only men not saved were, in the opinion of the Court, killed on the spot in the collision; and the Court doth, in consequence thereof adjudge the said Lieutenant the Hon. Francis George Crofton and the remaining officers and ship's company of Her Majesty's late gunboat Trinculo to be fully acquitted, and the said Lieutenant the Hon. Francis George Crofton, officers, and ship's company are hereby severally and respectively fully acquitted accordingly." The President, in returning his sword to Lieutenant Crofton, complimented him upon the high state of discipline which prevailed on board the Trinculo, as evidenced by the entire absence of confusion after the catastrophe. Every man who could be rescued was brought safe to shore. The President also told the officers and ship's company that under Gods providence, through their own cool conduct and high state of discipline, and their good captain, their lives were saved.
Fr 28 October 1870The gunboat Pigeon, Lieutenant-Commander Turton, 17 days from Plymouth, arrived [at Gibraltar] on the 17th, to take the place of the late Trinculo.
Tu 15 November 1870The Fox, steam storeship, Staff-Commander Allard, arrived at Devonport on Saturday, from Gibraltar, with stores, and bringing also Lieut. the Hon. F.G. Crofton and the officers and crew of the late gunboat Trinculo.


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