The Long History of HMS Algerine

by John MacFarlane 2016

Algerine Mast

The Mast of HMS Algerine in Bastion Square, Victoria BC. (Photograph from John MacFarlane collection.)

On the harbour side of Bastion Square in Victoria BC, almost lost in the clutter of structures, there is a relic of the presence of the Royal Navy on the coast of British Columbia. It is the mast from HMCS Algerine, a relic preserved by the Maritime museum of British columbia and presented to the City of Victoria. It goes mostly unnoticed by the thousands of visitors to the square, but the ship that carried it had a colourful history.

HMS Algerine was provided with a three–cylinder vertical triple–expansion steam engine developing 1,400 indicated horsepower (1,000 kW) and driving twin screws. The machinery was provided by Devonport Dockyard Her armament consisted primarily of six 4–inch quick–firing guns weighing a ton each and each firing a 25 pounds (11 kg) shell. In addition she was fitted with four 3–pound guns and three machine guns.

HMS Algerine was 185’ x 32.5’ x 11.25’ She displaced 1.050 tons and was powered by a 1,200hp steam engine and twin screws. She was launched in 1895 at Devonport UK, the sixth ship to bear the name. She had a steel hull and a distinctive clipper bow. She was rigged as a barque and later re–rigged as a barquentine.

Her first commission was in 1897 for service on the China Station under Commander Robert Hathorn Johnston Stewart RN. In 1900 HMS Algerine was part of the Allied Squadron at the Peiho River in China. In June 1900 HMS Algerine was involved in an attack on the Taku Forts by an international naval force, including contributing to a multi–national landing party, and had 6 men wounded. She also landed a 4–inch gun, and this was used in the capture of Tientsin. In the action there against the forts she lost her funnel and her ventilator was badly damaged by gunfire from shore batteries. In 1900 she was re–commissioned at Hong Kong. She was commissioned again in 1903 and in 1908 was commissioned under command of Commander Edwin Harold Edwards RN for the Bering Sea Sealing Patrol.

In those days the pattern was to patrol in the Arctic and in winter to cruise to Mexico and Panama. In 1910 she re–commissioned again this time under Robert Gwynne Corbett RN (who also served as Senior Naval Officer West Coast of America).

In early winter 1903 she broke a tail shaft while off Cape Flattery. After a survey in Esquimalt she was sent to Seattle for repairs by Moran Shipbuilding Company. In early 1914 she served as part of an International Squadron at Mazatlan Mexico under Rear-Admiral Thomas B. Howard USN (in the USS California) to protect foreign interests during the Mexican Revolution. On the declaration of war she proceeded north to Esquimalt and met HMCS Rainbow off San Francisco and was escorted back. The crew was landed and travelled back to Halifax by train. She served as a HMCS Algerine (a depot ship) throughout the First World War.


HMS Algerine on the China Station in 1904. (Photo from the MMBC collection. )

HMS Algerine served on the Pacific Station at Esquimalt and on the West Coast of the United States. In 1914 her crew was sent to man HMCS Niobe, and while she lay unused at Esquimalt for most of the First World War.

Algerine and Tees

The Algerine (now a salvage tug) and the Tees on the waterfront of Victoria harbour. (Photograph from Nauticapedia collection.)

In 1919 she was sold out of service to the Pacific Salvage Company who had her substantially rebuilt. Major F.V. Longstaff wrote that "The forward part of her waist was covered over by extending the forecastle aft and large wheel house was built forward. This made extra stowage space for lumber and salvage gear. Towing bitts were built on the poop, and a thick stump mainmast was shipped and fitted with derricks."

In late afternoon, on October 13th, 1923 (while going to the aid of the Kennecott) she went ashore on Brodie Rock in Principe Channel (inside Banks Island). On the 14th she was refloated and towed to Victoria by the tug Nanoose. After a survey in drydock she was put up for sale in 1924 for scrapping. She was replaced in her function by the Salvage King which arrived on the coast in 1925.

To quote from this article please cite:

MacFarlane, John M. (2016) The Long History of HMS Algerine. 2016.

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