Nemesis (1839)


Nemesis (1839)
HEIC Nemesis.jpg
An engraving of the Nemesis (published 1844)
Career Flag of the British East India Company (1801).svg
Name: Nemesis
Owner: East India Company
Builder: Birkenhead Iron Works
Launched: 1839
Commissioned: March 1840[1]
General characteristics
Class and type: Paddle frigate[2]
Tons burthen: 660 bm
Length: 184 ft (56 m)
Beam: 29 ft (8.8 m)
Draught: 6 ft (1.8 m)
Propulsion: 120 horsepower steam engine[3]

Nemesis was the first British ocean-going iron warship. Launched in 1839 for the East India Company, the British used her to great effect in the First Anglo-Chinese War under William Hutcheon Hall. The Chinese referred to her as the "devil ship".[2]

Contents

Construction

The Nemesis was built by British shipbuilding company Birkenhead Iron Works in three months.[4] She had a length of 184 feet (56 m), a beam of 29 feet (8.8 m), a draught of 6 feet (1.8 m), and a burthen of 660 tons.[1][2] She was powered by two sixty horsepower Forrester engines.[5] She was armed with two pivot-mounted 32 pounder and four 6 pounder guns, and a rocket launcher. The steam- and sail-powered ship was particularly effective in China because her shallow draught (5–6 feet) allowed her to travel into rivers to pursue and engage other vessels and targets.

Her watertight bulkheads were the first to be used in a warship. They enabled her to survive the hull damage she sustained during sea trials, and en route to China in 1840.[6] That year, the Nemesis became the first iron ship to sail around the Cape of Good Hope, aided by techniques to adjust a compass for the effect of an iron hull developed the year before by Sir George Airy, the Astronomer Royal.

China

The Illustrated London News print of the Nemesis during the First Opium War
The Nemesis and other British ships engaging Chinese junks in the Second Battle of Chuenpee, 7 January 1841

The Nemesis arrived off the coast of China in late 1840.[3] A British officer wrote that the outbreak of the First Opium War "was considered an extremely favourable opportunity for testing the advantages or otherwise of iron steam-vessels."[7] She first saw action in the Second Battle of Chuenpee on 7 January 1841 against the Chinese fleet near the forts at the Bocca Tigris. In a later battle, the Nemesis sank the Cambridge, an American merchantman that had been purchased by the Chinese. She accompanied the British fleet up river and due to her shallow draught was able to move through shallow water to aid the capture of Canton.

Later career

After the First Opium War, the Nemesis was tasked with the suppression of pirates in Indonesia and the Philippines.

In fiction

James Clavell's novel Tai-Pan refers to a groundbreaking iron ship called the Nemesis taking part in the First Opium War. However, the fictionalized vessel is a Royal Navy ship that arrived to assist in the shallow Chinese rivers that would be traversed to gain access to inland China.

References

  1. ^ a b "Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence". Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Accessed 26 January 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Paine, Lincoln P. (2000). Warships of the World to 1900. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 115. ISBN 0395984149.
  3. ^ a b Marks, Robert B. (2007). The Origins of the Modern World: A Global and Ecological Narrative from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-first Century (2nd ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. p. 116. ISBN 0742554198.
  4. ^ Hall, William Hutcheon; Bernard, William Dallas (1845). Narrative of the Voyages and Services of the Nemesis from 1840 to 1843 (2nd ed.). Henry Colburn. p. 3.
  5. ^ Headrick, Daniel R. (1981). The Tools of Empire: Technology and European Imperialism in the Nineteenth Century. Oxford University Press, New York. p. 47. ISBN 0195028325.
  6. ^ Headrick 1981, pp. 48–49
  7. ^ Hall & Bernard 1845, p. 1

External links


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