The Highflyer History

The first Highflyer? The US privateer, Highflyer, which fought in the second Anglo-US war of 1812 – 1815 was an 8 gun schooner and was captured by HMS Poictiers on 9th January 1813. The schooner was then used by the British, still under her original name. She was recaptured by the Americans in September of the same year, off Nantucket Sound.

HMS Highflyer (2) Launched 11 June 1822. A 2 gun tender built at Woolwich. Nothing very remarkable is known about her and she was sold on 7th August 1833 to Ledger of Rotherhithe for breaking up.

HMS Highflyer (3) Built by Mare of Blackwall, the third Highflyer was launched on 13 August 1851. This ship was a wooden screw frigate and had a displacement of 1153 tons. She had a complement of 240 and saw active service in the Crimea, including a bombardment of Sevastapol. Highflyer was also involved in action on the China station and in June 1859 made an unsuccesful attempt to force a passage up the Pei Ho.She finally ended her days in Portsmouth and was broken up in May 1871

HMS Highflyer (4) Built by Fairfield of Glasgow, she was launched on 4th June 1898 and was a second class cruiser of 5.600 tons. Highflyer’s sister ships were Hermes and Hyacinth. Her amament consisted of 11 x 6″ guns and 9 x 12 pounders. After her boiler and acceptance trials she was sent out to the East Indies as Flagship of the East Indies Fleet in 1900 until 1904. She then served two years in the West Indies as a cadet training ship. From 1906 to 1908 she was back out to the East Indies, but not this time as flagship. She was a reserve ship at Devonport from 1908 to 1910. In 1911 until 1913 HMS Highflyer was once again the East Indies Fleet flagship and in 1914 she joined the 9th Cruiser Squadron at Devonport. On the 2nd August 1914 HMS Highflyer sailed from Plymouth. Two days later the signal was received to commence hostilities with Germany and a day later she captured a German liner, the Trabantia, which was carrying bullion. Trabantia was escorted into Plymouth. At this time thirty British warships were searching for the armed German liner Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, which was attacking British merchant ships. Acting upon intelligence received, Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was sighted off the coast of Spanish North Africa and was called upon to surrender. The German ship refused and was attacked and sank. Only 35 of the German ship’s crew survived and were later picked up by the British armed liner Edinburgh Castle. This action was believed to be the first surface action by a British warship during WW1. After the war HMS Highflyer again took up her duties as Flagship of the East Indies Fleet and was finally taken out of service and broken up in Bombay in 1921.

HMS Highflyer (Shore Establishments) The Royal Naval Base at Trincomalee was commissioned on 1 July 1943, as HMS Highflyer and served as the main naval depot and signal base. The RN Base was paid off on 30th September 1958, and HMS Highflyer was re-commissioned at Welisara and Kotugoda on 1st October 1958. The two stations were known collectively as Ceylon West, being the transmitting station at Kotugoda and the wireless receiving station at Welisara. These stations were part of the Royal Navy’s world-wide communication network and had direct links to the Admiralty in London, ionospheric conditions permitting! As well as dealing with naval signal traffic, they also provided a relay station for merchant ships’ signal traffic. HMS Highflyer was finally decommissioned on 1st March 1962 after HMS Mauritius, (another shore station on the island of Mauritius), formally took over the responibility for providing the communication links with the UK.

Acknowledgements The information above was kindly provided by the Royal Naval Museum, HM Dockyard, Portsmouth and by Mr Dennis Betty of Bristol, a Naval enthusiast and historian whose father served in HMS Highflyer during the action with Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. The editor gratefully acknowledges their help in providing this information

5 Responses to The Highflyer History

  1. Rif Winfield says:

    The Highflyer was first commissioned in early 1852, and sailed for the Black Sea under the command of Capt. John Moore. She was at the bombardment of Sebastopol on 11 October 1854 and remained off the Crimea in 1855; she was finally paid off from this first commission on 7 June 1856 at Portsmouth.
    Best wishes

  2. Cameron Selwood says:

    Just wondering if you can help with a bit of information. My Great, Great Grandfather came to Aust aboard the “Highflyer” in 1878 (leaving London 2nd Aug arriving Maryborough 2nd Dec). The Captain was a Hawkins, and it had about 100 passengers, it was about 1101 tonnes (this is all well documented, I have newspaper articles and the passenger list) – however in the above list of Highflyers, one was broken up in 1871, the next did not get launched until 1898, so this is in between these two known “Highflyers”.
    Do you know, or have you come across the Highflyer that may have brought my GGGrandfather over? In 1878 would it have been a Steamship (it doesn’t say SS Highflyer..), or were they still using Wooden Tall ships at this time?
    I’ve found some photos that state “Highflyer 1870″, but this could well be the one mentioned above that was broken up a year later?
    Any assistance as to this ship would be appreciated.
    Thanks!

    • Wally says:

      Hi Cameron,
      The one broken up in 1870 did go to Australia, and left there in 1867, could this be a connection?

      HMS Highflyer Service history She served in the Mediterranean Station between 1854 until 1856 and was in the Black Sea during the Crimean War. She was part of the East Indies Station between 1856 until 1863, where she participated in Second Opium War at Canton. Afterwards she went to the Australia Station, where she participated in the attack on Gate Pā during the Tauranga Campaign in New Zealand. Her commanding officer Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton was killed in the attack. She left the Australia Station on 2 July 1867.

      Arriving back in Britain in 1867, she was paid off in 1868 and was broken up in 1870 at Portsmouth.[3]

      but see http://members.iinet.net.au/~perthdps/shipping/mig-nz2.htm#nz2

      Which lists
      migrant passenger ships arriving in Australian Ports

      HIGHFLYER Arrived 02 12 1878 Maryborough
      Ledt London 02 08 1878 SRC PL FilmM1698

  3. Patricia Przibilla says:

    I am Australian and the first ancestor of the family to arrive in Australia was my great-great-grandfather, Arthur Edward Elbourn (also spelt Elborn, Elborne, Ellbourn, Ellbourne). Family history suggests before he made his way to Australia, he sailed aboard the ship HMS Highflyer (3) in the Crimean War. Do you have any information or suggestions of how to verify by means of crew records if this is accurate. It was wonderful just to find this site to confirm there was actually a ship by the name the family had passed down over time. He was born in Dorset 19th July 1835 so would have been around 18 or 19 years of age at the time of Crimean War. He was one of the first pioneer colonists who settled in the state of South Australia. He married twice after arriving in Australia and fathered 19 children so there are many, many descendants now. Any help would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

    • Wally says:

      HMS Highflyer Service history She served in the Mediterranean Station between 1854 until 1856 and was in the Black Sea during the Crimean War. She was part of the East Indies Station between 1856 until 1863, where she participated in Second Opium War at Canton. Afterwards she went to the Australia Station, where she participated in the attack on Gate Pā during the Tauranga Campaign in New Zealand. Her commanding officer Captain John Fane Charles Hamilton was killed in the attack. She left the Australia Station on 2 July 1867.

      Arriving back in Britain in 1867, she was paid off in 1868 and was broken up in 1870 at Portsmouth.[3]

      but see

      http://members.iinet.net.au/~perthdps/shipping/mig-nz2.htm#nz2

      Which lists
      migrant passenger ships arriving in Australian Ports

      HIGHFLYER Arrived 02 12 1878 Maryborough
      Ledt London 02 08 1878 SRC PL FilmM1698

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