HMS Calypso, Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve

HMS Calypso,

Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve

Carl Leschied, a resident of Lewisporte, Newfoundland, took my brother Dale and I out in the harbour at Lewisport, Newfoundland to the remains of an old ship that was being salvaged for scrap.  We went on board and what stuck me was the size of the steel gun turrets, the kind you find on pre-First World War warships - and that is what she was.  I salvaged anold boat from her as a souvenir, and decided to find out who and what she was.  This is the story of His Majesty's Ship (HMS) Calypso

HMS Calypso was a corvette (designated as a third-class cruiser from 1887) of the Royal Navy (RN) and the name ship of its namesake class.  Built for distant cruising in the heyday of the British Empire, the vessel served as a warship and training vessel until 1922, when it was sold.

Originally classified as a screw corvette, HMS Calypso was also one of the Royal Navy’s last sailing corvettes but supplemented an extensive sail rig with a powerful engine.  Among the first of the smaller cruisers to be given steel hulls instead of iron, the hull nevertheless was cased with timber and coppered below the water line, as were wooden ships.

HMS Calypso had a quiet career, consisting mainly of training cruises in the Atlantic Ocean.  In 1902 the warship was sent to the colony of Newfoundland, where she served as a training ship for the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve before and during the First World War.  In 1922 HMS Calypso was declared surplus and sold, then used as a storage hulk.  Her hull still exists, awash in the Bay of Exploits off the coast of Newfoundland.

(RN Photo)

HMS Calypso running with the wind under full sail, with studding sails flying on fore and mainmasts, 1898.

In 1952 the hulk was moved to Lewisport harbour.  Some thought was given to preservation, but in 1968 it was towed to a coastal bay near Embree, and burned to the waterline.  The hull still is there, awash in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  The cruiser's anchor sits outside a local inn, and other artifacts are in museums.

A 12-lb deck guns was removed in 1965 and taken to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #12 in Grand Falls, Newfoundland and was positioned on the front of the Legion building.  A 12-lb shell that was removed from that same gun in 1965 as well as a 5" shell from Calypso was turned over to the RCMP for disposal as it has been suspected to still be live.  Those two shells from HMS Calypso sat on a shelf in the Branch 12 Military Museum for over 35 years in plain view and accessible to everyone. (From the Historical Committee, Royal Canadian Legion, Grand Falls Branch #12, NL)

These remnants are not the sole remaining legacy.  HMS Calypso, created as a ship of war, has given its name another training institution, but one with peaceful purposes.  Inspired by the traditions of the ship where Newfoundlanders once trained to be competent and able seamen for the Royal Navy, the Calypso Foundation of Lewisporte trains developmentally disabled individuals to become productive workers and live independently.  This charitable foundation carries on the name of HMS Calypso.

(RN Photo)

HMS Calypso in full sail.

(RN Photo)

HMS Calypso at anchor.

(The Rooms Provincial Archivees Photo)

HMS Calypso at anchor.

(USN Photo, NH 61329)

HMS Calypso at anchor, c1890-1899.

(RN Photo)

HMS Calypso at anchor.

(RN Photo)

HMS Calypso at anchor.

(Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador Photo)

HMS Calypso behind members of the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve, wharfside in St. John's harbour, Newfoundland, ca. 1902–14.  Shown are the port and aft boat davits and the sponson for the port aft 6-inch gun.  The windowed, shed-like structure atop the gunwale, is a drill hall erected in 1902. Although the vessel was afloat it was no longer capable of going to sea, as the masts and funnel had been removed.

(Maritime Picture Library Photo)

HMS Calypso, at dock in St. Johns, Newfoundland.  A family friend, Carl Leischeid, took my brother Dale and I out in the harbour of Twillingate to explore the remains of HMS Calypso c 1970.  Before she was cut up for scrap she looked like this.  I've kept a bolt from her as a souvenir.

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