HMS Worcester

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HMS Worcester is a 74-gun ship of the third rate. Jack Aubrey is posted to her in The Ionian Mission. In several ways she is an unlucky ship for him, partly because of her faults of design and structure (see quotation below) and partly because he is hampered by restrictive orders, and he welcomes Admiral Thornton's orders to transfer to his old command, HMS Surprise, whose captain has died under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Worcester is severely damaged during a chase in brisk weather and is left at Malta for refitting.

Although Worcester is an imaginary ship (the real Worcester of the period was an ancient 64 which had not been fit for seagoing duty since 1788), she belongs to a historically authentic class. In 1806 the Admiralty began to order 74-gun ships based on the lines of HMS Courageux, a ship captured from the French in 1761; with a gundeck length of 172 feet (52.4 metres), these ships were some four feet longer than the standard English 74. In some later examples the gundeck length was further increased to 176 feet (53.6m), and Bruce Trinque (see References) reckons Worcester as one of these. The whole group was semi-officially known as the 'Surveyors of the Navy' class, but a more popular nickname was 'The Forty Thieves', partly from their final number and partly from a general perception (perhaps not entirely justified) of their poor quality. O'Brian gives Worcester's tonnage as 1842 (1875 tonnes). Her date of construction cannot be determined; there is no implication in Tom Pullings's remarks that she was an old ship, since the faults he lists would have been inherent in her materials and construction standards from the moment she was launched.

In the Canon

'I do not like to sound discontented neither', said Pullings, 'nor to crab any ship I belong to; but between you and me, Doctor, between you and me, she is more what we call a floating coffin than a ship. And as for the damp, what do you expect? She was built in Sankey's yard, one of the Forty Thieves: twenty-year-old wood and green stuff with the sap in it all clapped together promiscuous and fastened with copper - precious little copper - and then overmasted to please the landsmen's fancy . . . ' (The Ionian Mission, chap. 1)


Trinque (Bruce) 'The Ships of Jack Aubrey', website ( [1] )

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