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Life begins at forty
MS ARCHER doesn’t like to do things by half – she’s
fi rst of class for the eponymous division of P2000s,
she’s the northernmost warship in the Royal Navy with
her home base in Aberdeen, and her home unit, the Aberdeen
Universities Royal Naval Unit, is the longest-running URNU in
the Navy, celebrating its fortieth year.
As an URNU ship, HMS Archer the Naval service – 14 within the
plays host to a selection of stu- Inshore Training Squadron, and
dents from Aberdeen and Robert another two stationed in Cyprus
Gordon universities, bringing as patrol boats.
them up to speed about life in the This ship is the seventh HMS
RN and on the water. Archer within the Naval service,
The permanent crew of five a name that began just over two
on board the miniature warship centuries ago with a gun-brig 12
is bolstered by up to 12 students built in John Perry’s Blackwall
from the 51 undergraduate mid- shipyard in 1801.
shipmen on the unit’s books. The next Archer was a wood-
The little ship is readying her- screw sloop that was built in
self for her summer deployment, Deptford in 1849 and sold on to
along with sister ships HMS be broken up in 1866.
Baltic .......................1854-55
Example and Explorer, when the Next in series was a 1,770-
Heligoland .................... 1914
three P2000s will journey from ton torpedo cruiser that served
Atlantic ....................1943-44
Scotland down the east coast to between 1885 and 1905.
Biscay .......................... 1943
Battle Honours
the south of England and over to The World War 1 destroyer was
France, Belgium and Holland. built in Yarrow in 1911, and took
This follows on from a success- part in the first Naval battle of
Class: Archer-class P2000 Patrol
ful three-week Easter deployment the war in the First Destroyer
where she travelled down the east Flotilla.
Pennant Number: P264
coast as far as Whitby. The Archer of World War 2 Builder: Watercraft
Under normal term-time rou- was an escort carrier, original-
In service: 1985
tine, HMS Archer takes her stu- ly laid down in June 1939 as
Unit: Aberdeen Universities’
dent crew on training trips on the Mormacland in Chester,
Royal Naval Unit – Aberdeen and
Wednesday afternoons and for a Pennsylvania.
Robert Gordon universities
Displacement: 45 tonnes
weekend away every three weeks. She was a Long Island class
Length: 19.5 metres
Training focuses on practical escort aircraft carrier, built by the Beam: 5.8 metres
sea skills, whether navigation or US and operated by the Royal Draught: 1.9 metres
man-overboard exercises, engine Navy – the first of 38 that the US
Speed: 16 knots
breakdown or winching exercises converted for British use during
Complement: 5 (plus 12
with the nearby Bristows helicop- World War 2.
students/one training officer)
ters at Aberdeen Airport. She was commissioned into the
Propulsion: Two Perkins (Rolls
Royce) CV 12 diesels, twin
As a P2000, Archer enjoys a Royal Navy in November 1941
shallower draught than many of and spent the first two years of ● Aberdeen universities’ own ship, P2000 HMS Archer
Picture: LA(Phot) Des Wade
Facts and figur
Her Majesty’s warships, allowing her active life on Atlantic convoy
her to visit the smaller ports that escort duty.
U752 in May 1942 using rockets. entrenched to be repaired, and under the name Empire Lagan. She collided with the tanker
do not usually enjoy Naval visits. During this time she made his-
However Archer spent these decommissioned she became a She was returned to the US Berean in 1961 with the loss of 12
Archer is the first of the Archer tory as one of her Swordfish was
years with recurrent engine prob- stores hulk in the Gareloch, and Navy in January 1946 and sold and was grounded off Houston,
P2000 class of fast patrol boat and the first aeroplane to land on
lems that eventually took her into subsequently an accommodation into merchant service where she Texas, to prevent sinking.
prides herself with the title ‘origi- Ascension Island. extensive refit in August that year. ship in Loch Alsh. A refit in Belfast became in succession the Swedish The penultimate Archer was
nal and best’. A Swordfish of 819 Squadron The unfortunate conclusion fitted her out as an aircraft ferry Anna Saelen, Greek Tasmania, and actually a patrol boat of the Royal
She is one of 16 P2000s in also sank the German submarine was that the problems were too for the Ministry of War Transport the Taiwanese Union Reliance. Australian Navy of 1967.
Mate Charles Davis Lucas VC
ONE HUNDRED and fifty years ago the man Lucas’ abilities were not contained within just
whose act of bravery won the first Victoria Cross this one moment of valour; he more than proved
received his award from the Queen herself in a his worth as he rose up through the ranks,
grand ceremony in London’s Hyde Park. attaining the title of Rear Admiral on the retired
The incident that merited the first award of list in 1885.
the VC took place three years earlier on June 21 The admiration of his commanding officer
1854 in the early stages of the Crimean War. obviously extended beyond this act of bravery
Sputtering and sizzling on the upper deck of as in 1879, Lucas married Frances Russell Hall,
HMS Hecla, a live shell fired from the Russian the daughter of his former captain – a wed-
fortress at Bomarsund promised an abrupt end ding urged by the now
to the ship’s bombardment. Admiral Sir William Hall
Hecla, in company with HM ships Odin and on his death bed.
Valorous, was bombarding the fort on the Åland
island off Finland in an ultimately futile attempt
to damage the Russian hold on the Gulf of
The granite walls of the fortress were almost
impervious to the three ships’ onslaught, and
the Russian guns far outnumbered the 38 on the
three Naval ships.
As the Russian shell lay on the deck of Hecla,
the order was cried out for the men to throw
themselves flat as the explosive fuse burnt
down to its deadly cargo.
These shells were filled with gun-powder and
provided with improvised fuses cut to length
according to the best guess of the men who
primed them.
Charles Davis Lucas, in a moment of “great
coolness and presence of mind” according to
his Commanding Officer Capt William Hall, ran
forward and picked up the smoking shell.
The Acting Mate on board the 6-gun steam
paddle sloop was gambling his life that there
were still seconds to spare in the fuse’s length.
Lucas – a gunner himself so he knew the risk
– hurled the shell over the rail and before it hit
the water it exploded into its brief, vibrant
Due to Lucas’ swift action, rather than
countless dead and wounded and a
shattered gun-deck, the hull was slight-
ly damaged and two men suffered
minor injuries.
Although he had to wait three
years for his Victoria Cross a more
prompt recompense for the bravery
of the 20-year-old Irishman came
in instant promotion to Acting Lieutenant.
But Lucas was not, in fact, the first man
to be gazetted for the Victoria Cross, or
the first man to wear it – those hon-
ours fell to others due to alphabetic
or officer status, but his was the first
act to be recognised with this gallantry
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