HMS Jersey

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HMS Jersey


Mrs 'Babs' Coutanche, wife of Jersey's Bailiff Mr Alexander Coutanche, launches Destroyer HMS Jersey in 1938

Eight ships of the Royal Navy have been named HMS Jersey, seven after the island and one after the State of New Jersey:

HMS Jersey (1654), a frigate commissioned in 1654 HMS Jersey (1694), a sixth-rate commissioned in 1694 HMS Jersey (1698), a frigate commissioned in 1698 HMS Jersey (1736), a frigate commissioned in 1736 and used as a prison ship in the American Revolutionary War HMS Jersey (1776), a sloop commissioned in 1776, but named in honour of the State of New Jersey, not the island of Jersey HMS Jersey (1860), a cutter commissioned in 1860 HMS Jersey (1938), a J-class destroyer commissioned in 1939 and sunk in 1941. HMS Jersey (P295), an Island-class patrol ship commissioned in 1976 and sold to Bangladesh in 1994 as BNS Shaheed Ruhul Amin.

HMS Jersey (1654)

The first HMS Jersey was a 40-gun fourth rate frigate of the English Navy, originally built for the navy of the Commonwealth of England at Maldon, and launched in 1654. By 1677 her armament had been increased to 48 guns.

In 1669, the diarist Samuel Pepys, while a member of the Navy Board, was temporarily named captain of Jersey as a legal manoeuvre to make him eligible to sit on a court-martial.

The ship was captured by the French in 1691 and was destroyed three years later.

HMS Jersey (1698)

The third HMS Jersey was a 50-gun fourth rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and launched on 24 November 1698.

She was converted to serve as a hulk in 1731 and was sunk in 1763.

The prison hulk
Inside the 'hell' ship

HMS Jersey (1736)

The fourth HMS Jersey, launched on 14 June 1736, was a 60-gun fourth rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy. She is perhaps most noted for her service as a prison ship during the American Revolutionary War. This article is an abridged version of one in Wikipedia - see full article

Early career

Jersey was built during a time of peace in Britain. She was 44 metres in length and carried a crew of 400. She had 24 24 pdr cannons; 26 9 pdr, and ten 6 pdr. Her first battle was in Admiral Edward Vernon's defeated attack on the Spanish port of Cartagena, Colombia, around the beginning of the War of Jenkins' Ear in October 1739. She was badly damaged in battle in June 1745, with her captain's log recording the loss of all sails and:

'The braces, bowlines shot away several times, also the staysail halyards. The running rigging very much shattered. The main topsail yard shot ... the foremast shot through about the collar of the mainstay, and another wound in the after part of the mast ... the mainmast shot about two thirds up from the deck and divided to the starboard. Ship making 11 inches of water an hour occasioned by two shots in the counter, under the water line.

Jersey next saw action in the Seven Years' War and also took part in the Battle of Lagos under Admiral Edward Boscawen in August 1759.

American Revolutionary War

In March 1771, the ageing vessel was converted to a hospital ship. In the winter of 1779-1780, she was hulked and converted to a prison ship in Wallabout Bay, New York, which would later become the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

One of the most gruesome chapters in the story of America's struggle for independence from Britain occurred in these waters. Some 11,000 prisoners died aboard the prison ships over the course of the war, many from disease or malnutrition. Many of these were inmates of HMS Jersey, which earned the nickname "Hell" for its inhumane conditions and the obscenely high death rate of its prisoners. As many 8,000 prisoners were registered on the ship over the course of the war. As many as 1,100 were imprisoned at a time in a ship designed for 400 sailors, crammed below decks where there was no natural light or fresh air and few provisions for the sick and hungry. Brutal mistreatment by the British guards becoming fairly common. As many as eight corpses a day were buried from the Jersey alone before the British surrendered at Yorktown on 19 October 1781.


During October 1902 as the keel of the ship USS Connecticut was under construction at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that HMS Jersey had been found. While pile driving a new dock, the wood from the ship was encountered, precisely where the burned hulk was reported to lay after the British abandoned the ship and she was set on fire.

HMS Jersey (1776)

The new destroyer visits Jersey in 1939

HMS Jersey (1938)

The seventh and largest HMS Jersey was launched by Mrs 'Babs' Coutanche, wife of the Bailiff of Jersey, in 1938. On 25 March 1937 the Admiralty placed orders for the eight destroyers of the J class, including Jersey to be built by J Samuel White and Company at Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Jersey was laid down on 20 September 1937 and launched on 26 September 1938. She was commissioned on 28 April 1939, and visited the island after which she was named later that year.


Following commissioning, HMS Jersey operated out of Portland and on 12 August 1939 she joined the Seventh Destroyer Flotilla of the Home Fleet, based at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands.


On 7 December 1939 Jersey was torpedoed off Haisborough Sands by the German destroyer Z12 Erich Giese, which was returning unseen from laying a minefield. Ten of the ship's company were killed and extensive damage caused. Jersey was towed to the Humber for repairs and did not return to her flotilla until 28 October 1940.


On 2 May 1941 Jersey struck an Italian aircraft-dropped mine off Malta's Grand Harbour and sank next to the Grand Harbour breakwater. 35 crew members were killed. The ship blocked the entrance to Malta's Grand Harbour, meaning movements in and out were impossible for several days. The destroyers Kelly, Kelvin and Jackal were left marooned in the harbour until the wreck was cleared. Some of the ships that rescued the surviving crew had to take passage to Gibraltar.

On 5 May the wreck broke into two sections. It was only after the war that the aft section was cleared from the entrance, in a series of controlled demolitions carried out between 1946 and 1949. Further salvage and clearance work was done in 1968 to make the harbour safe for large vessels.

Admiralty orders issued to the ship in June 1744
HMS Jersey astern of HMS Kashmir in the North Sea in 1940

HMS Jersey (1976)

The eighth and most recent HMS Jersey was an Island-class patrol vessel of the Royal Navy. She was built at Aberdeen, launched in 1976 by Princess Anne, and subsequently commissioned into the Navy later that year. She was the first ship of the class to be commissioned; six more would follow her.

As part of the Fishery Protection Squadron, Jersey patrolled the waters around the UK (sometimes also Gibraltar) providing protection for Britain's fishing grounds, as well as providing oil and gas platform protection. She was involved in the 'Cherbourg incident', when she captured the French trawler La Calypso in Channel Islands waters on 2 April 1993.

She was decommissioned and subsequently sold to Bangladesh in 1994, entering its navy as the training ship BNS Shaheed Ruhul Amin, accompanied by all but one of its sister ships.

HMS Jersey on duty in the North Sea, providing protection for oil platforms
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