H.M.S. Nelson - An Atlantic Fleet Prize Oar
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Length: 5.5in (14cm)
Silver. Miniature Atlantic Fleet pulling regatta presentation oar. The blade inscribed ‘H.M.S. NELSON / 1931.’ Maker’s mark of Henry Matthews of Birmingham. Hallmarked 1931.
Pulling races at Fleet Regattas in the 1920s and 30s were eagerly anticipated events and were held periodically in the Royal Navy’s principal fleets. For weeks beforehand, every opportunity was taken to train the crews entered by each ship. A ship’s gig might be crewed by officers, midshipmen or ratings under the urging of a coxswain, who was often a petty officer. Though a heavy boat by comparison, a gig with a good crew could be made to move though the water at surprising speed.
H.M.S. Nelson was a Royal Navy battleship built to meet the limitations of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. In 1931 members of her crew of took part in the Invergordon Mutiny resulting from proposed pay cuts. During the early stages of World War II, she hunted German commerce raiders and was badly damaged by a mine in 1939 before undertaking convoy escort duties in the North Atlantic. In mid 1941Nelson escorted several Malta convoys before being torpedoed in September. After repairs she supported the Allied invasions of French Algeria (Operation Torch); Sicily (Operation Husky) and Italy (Operation Avalanche). During the Normandy landings in June 1944, Nelson provided naval gunfire support but struck a mine. She ended the war with the Far Eastern Fleet and returned home a few months after the Japanese surrender in September 1945 to serve as the flagship of the Home Fleet.
Sailors sitting on one of Nelson's 16-inch gun barrels during the Second World War