HMS Himalaya (1854)

HMS Himalaya was built for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company as SS Himalaya, a 3,438 gross register ton iron steam screw passenger ship. She was purchased by the Royal Navy in 1854 for use as a troopship until 1894 and was then moored in the Hamoaze, Devonport to serve as a Navy coal hulk until 1920, when sold off. She was sunk during a German air attack on Portland Harbour in 1940.

HMS Himalaya.jpg
HMS Himalaya carrying Armstrong Guns to the Second Opium War, 1860, from the Illustrated London News
United Kingdom
NamesakeThe Himalayas
OwnerPeninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, London
BuilderC. J. Mare & Co., Leamouth, London
Laid downNovember 1851[1]
Launched24 May 1853[1]
Completed9 January 1854
Out of service14 July 1854 sold to British Government
United Kingdom
NameHMS Himalaya
Acquired14 July 1854
Out of serviceSold 28 September 1920
RenamedC60 in December 1895
ReclassifiedCoal hulk, December 1895
FateSunk by Junkers 87 dive bombers of the German Luftwaffe 12 June 1940
General characteristics
Tonnage3,438 GRT, 2,327 NRT
Displacement4,690 tons
Length339 ft (103 m)[2]
Beam46 ft (14 m)[2]
PropulsionSingle expansion steam, single screw
Sail planFull-rigged ship
  • 14 knots under steam
  • 16.5 knots with sails assisting
Capacity3000 troops[3]
Complement213 crew[3]

Design and constructionEdit

Himalaya was ordered by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O) and laid down at the yard of C. J. Mare & Co., Leamouth, London in November 1851 as an iron paddle steamer, half as large again as any of P&O's previous vessels.[4][5] With rising coal prices, paddle propulsion was too inefficient and she was altered to a screw vessel while still on the stocks.[4] She was fitted with a two-cylinder simple expansion horizontal trunk engine made by John Penn and Sons at Greenwich of 700 nhp or 2,050 ihp, with a single two-bladed propeller of 18 feet diameter driving her at a speed of 13 knots.[4][5][6] The ship had a length of 372.9 ft (113.7 m), a beam of 46.2 ft (14.1 m), and a depth of 34.9 ft (10.6 m) and measured 3,438 GRT and 2,327 NRT.[2][5] She was also fitted with sails on three masts for use when the wind was favourable. She was launched on 24 May 1853 by Lady Matheson, wife of the P&O chairman, Sir James Matheson, but did not carry out trials until 9 January 1854.[6][5] Himalaya had cabin accommodation for 200 first and second class passengers, requiring a crew of 213, and could accommodate 2000 troops or emigrants.[3][7] She was said at the time to be the biggest ship ever built.[2][4]

P&O serviceEdit

The new ship left the Thames on 12 January 1854 for Southampton, arriving the following day, and then on 21 January sailed on her maiden voyage to Alexandria, via Gibraltar and Malta, with passengers, mail and specie for onward carriage to India and China.[7][8] By the time she returned to Southampton on 16 February, Himalaya had been chartered to carry troops to Constantinople.[9][10] In early March she sailed from Southampton and Plymouth for the Mediterranean with 1452 troops and equipment.[11]

P&O had concluded that Himalaya was a larger vessel than the passenger traffic demanded and, with coal becoming more expensive with the advent of war in the Crimea, would not be economic. In July 1854, after another trooping voyage, to Scutari, the company was able to persuade the British Government to buy her to use as a troopship for £133,000, a little above her cost price of £130,000.[2][3][4][12]

Naval careerEdit

After purchase, Himalaya was converted to carry up to 3000 soldiers and subsequently served as a troopship for four decades.[12][2] The purchase was initially viewed with suspicion by some naval experts; in the light of high losses of iron-hulled transports taken up from trade, General Howard Douglas concluded that ships such as Himalaya would prove unsatisfactory, particularly due to their vulnerability to gunfire.[13] Nevertheless, Himalaya served as a troopship for four decades.[12] During this time she supported operations during the Second Opium War, and carried troops to India, South Africa, the Gold Coast, and North America.[citation needed] In July 1857, she ran aground in the Strait of Banca. She was refloated on 8 July with assistance from the British merchant ship Gauntlet.[14][15] On 8 October 1859, Himalaya discovered the British barque Norma in a sinking condition, having been struck by a gale two days before. Norma was taken in tow, the pair reaching Bermuda on 12 October.[16][17] In 1863 the troopship was re-engined at the Keyham Steam Yard with a new two-cylinder horizontal single expansion engine, of 2,609 ihp.[18] In January 1870, Himalaya rescued the crew of the British ship Yarrow, which had been abandoned in the Mediterranean Sea.[19] On 18 October 1870, she collided with the Danish brig Ane Catherine, which was severely damaged. HMS Himalaya towed her in to Gibraltar.[20] On 30 November 1880, she was briefly aground at Queenstown, County Cork, floating off in half an hour and resuming her departure undamaged.[21][22]

She retired from trooping service and was decommissioned on 28 September 1894.[23] Retained to become a coal hulk in the Hamoaze, Devonport, in December 1895, and with the new name C60, she was sent to Hull for conversion by Earle's Shipbuilding Co to a vessel able to store 4,500 tons of coal.[12][18] She returned to Devonport at the end of June 1896.[24]

C60 was sold out of the navy on 28 September 1920 to a private owner, E. W. Payne, and towed to Portland Harbour as Himalaya, to continue as a coal hulk.[18][25] She remained in this role until the Second World War. She was sunk by air attack, by Junkers 87 dive bombers of the German Luftwaffe, on 12 June 1940.[18]


Himalaya's figurehead of an Indian warrior is preserved in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.[26]


  1. ^ a b "Himalaya (5610069)". Miramar Ship Index. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering on the Thames in the Victorian Era: No. XIV" (PDF). The Engineer. Vol. 85. 18 April 1898. pp. 253–254. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 December 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d Callaghan, George (December 2002). "Cornelius Cronin: Stoker, Royal Navy". Medal Society of Ireland. Archived from the original on 27 October 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e Howarth, David; Howarth, Stephen (1986). The Story of P&O. London: Weidenfeld & Nisolson. pp. 88-93. ISBN 0-297-78965-1.
  5. ^ a b c d Rabson, Stephen; O'Donoghue, Kevin (1988). P&O: A Fleet History. Kendal: World Ship Society. p. 48. ISBN 0-905617-45-2.
  6. ^ a b "Launch of the Himalaya, 3,550 tons". The Standard. No. 8984. London: British Newspaper Archive. 25 May 1853. p. 3. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  7. ^ a b "The Largest Ship in the World". Liverpool Mercury. No. 2572. British Newspaper Archive (subscription). 17 January 1854. p. 6. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  8. ^ "Departure of the Himalaya". Bell's Weekly Messenger. No. 2980. London: British Newspaper Archive (subscription). 23 January 1854. p. 5. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  9. ^ "Embarkation of Troops for the East". The Express. No. 2333. London: British Newspaper Archive (subscription). 11 February 1854. p. 3. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  10. ^ "Arrival of the Himalaya". The Sun. No. 19157. London: British Newspaper Archive (subscription). 17 February 1854. p. 7. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  11. ^ "Embarkation of Troops". Leeds Times. No. 1094. British Newspaper Archive (subscription). 4 March 1854. p. 7. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  12. ^ a b c d "Navy Notes". Army and Navy Gazette. No. 1898. British Newspaper Archive (subscription). 6 June 1896. p. 466. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  13. ^ Douglas, General Sir Howard (1861). A Postscript to the Section on Iron Defences contained in the Fifth Edition of "Naval Gunnery" (2nd ed.). London: John Murray. pp. 85-92. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  14. ^ "Loss of the Transit". The Morning Chronicle. No. 28296. London. 31 August 1857.
  15. ^ "Admiralty Court, Nov. 3". The Times. No. 23455. London. 4 November 1859. col C, p. 9.
  16. ^ "Disasters at Sea". The Morning Post. No. 26792. London. 1 November 1859. p. 6.
  17. ^ "Shipping Intelligence". Liverpool Mercury etc. No. 3656. Liverpool. 2 November 1859.
  18. ^ a b c d Lyon, David; Winfield, Rif (2004). The Sail & Steam Navy list: all the ships of the Royal Navy, 1815-1889. London: Chatham Publishing. pp. 243–244. ISBN 1-86176-032-9.
  19. ^ "Ship News". The Times. No. 26654. London. 22 January 1870. col F, p. 10.
  20. ^ "Latest Shipping Intelligence". The Times. No. 29704. London. 21 October 1879. col F, p. 9.
  21. ^ "Grounding of a Troopship". Glasgow Herald. No. 288. Glasgow. 1 December 1880. p. 4. Retrieved 14 July 2022 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  22. ^ "Military and Naval". The Express. No. 9180. Dublin. 1 December 1880. p. 3. Retrieved 15 July 2022 – via British Newspaper Archive.
  23. ^ "Naval and Military". Bath Chronicle. No. 7080. British Newspaper Archive (subscription). 4 October 1894. p. 6. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  24. ^ "Maritime Notes". Shields Daily Gazette. No. 12496. British Newspaper Archive (subscription). 30 June 1896. p. 4. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  25. ^ "An Interesting Vessel". Army and Navy Gazette. No. 3169. British Newspaper Archive (subscription). 16 October 1920. p. 582. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  26. ^ "Figurehead of the HMS Himalaya". Figureheads. Royal Museums Greenwich. Retrieved 24 November 2019.

External linksEdit