Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: August 11, 2018
Webpage updated: May 25, 2019

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HMS "Defiance", the Royal Naval Torpedo School, was pleasantly situated
off Cornwall near Saltash.
From a postcard.

The ninth ship named HMS "Defiance" was launched at Pembroke Dock in south Wales on March 27th 1861.  She was immediately declared as obsolete following the introduction of ironclad ships and was towed to Plymouth, where she was placed in the reserve fleet.

HMS "Defiance" even had its own Halt on the main railway line between Plymouth
 and Penzance, accessed by the pontoon seen in this picture.
Note Wearde Signal Box in the foreground.
From a postcard.

Over twenty years later, on April 22nd 1883, orders were given for her to be stripped of her machinery and on December 13th 1884 she was commissioned as the new Royal Naval Torpedo School at Devonport.  She was moored in the Hamoaze off Wearde Quay by the entrance to the river Lynher, just below Saltash.   This river was very useful as part of the curriculum in this school was the firing of live explosive submarine mines and Whitehead Torpedoes and this was done up the river.

In the middle of 1886 the sloop "Perseus" (built in 1861) was moored just ahead of the "Defiance", to which she was connected by a bridge.  She was used almost entirely for mining work, the mines being kept on board.   Early in 1904 she was renamed "Defiance II".  She appears to have been replaced in 1921 by the "Spartan", as noted below.

In 1905 the School was expanded by the addition of the corvette "Cleopatra" (1879), which became an overflow ship.  She was named "Defiance III" in January 1922 and survived until July 1931, when she was sold.

A view of the Royal naval Torpedo School from the Hamoaze.
Froma postcard by Abrahams of Devonport.

Then in 1907 the obsolete 2nd class cruiser "Spartan" was added as a tender.  She was renamed "Defiance II" in August 1921 and served until she was sold on June 26th 1931. 

From October 1920 the frigate "Inconstant" (1868), which had been a part of the "Impregnable since 1906, became an extra accommodation hulk and took the name "Defiance IV" in January 1922.  She in turn became "Defiance II" in December 1930.

The original "Defiance" was withdrawn at the end of 1930 and sold on June 26th 1931 to Messrs Castles for breaking up.  Surprisingly, it appears that she was not broken up until August 14th 1956.  It is not clear if this is the date the work started or was completed but is probably the latter.  She was replaced from January 20th 1931 by the former cruiser "HMS Andromeda" (1897), which between 1919 and 1930 had been a part of "HMS Impregnable", the Naval Training establishment based at Devonport.

Finally, the ex submarine depot ship "HMS Vulcan" was renamed "Defiance III" on February 17th 1931.

HMS "Defiance III", the former HMS "Vulcan", being towed away for scrap in December 1955.
  Western Morning News Company Limited.

The Torpedo School under its commanding officer, Captain F R Main, closed at Easter 1954 and moved to Portsmouth.  "Defiance III" (ex-Vulcan) was towed away in December 1955 and scrapped in Belgium.  "Defiance II" (ex-Inconstant) was sold for scrap on April 4th 1956, followed by the "Defiance" itself (ex-Andromeda) on August 14th 1956.

It should be mentioned that in 1896 the commander of the School, one Captain Henry Jackson, made a series of pioneering radio transmissions from the ship which made him the first Briton to use the radio for practical communication.

Many years later, on February 15th 1972, RFA "Forth" (1938) was commissioned as the new HMS "Defiance" but as a Depot Ship not a Torpedo Training School.  She was paid off on April 21st 1978 and from March 12th 1981, the Fleet Maintenance Base at Devonport was commissioned as HMS "Defiance".