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Land of the Free - British Warship was Launched

by Nov 17, 2019

June 19th in 1810, a British warship was launched, “floated in the stream at high water” from a new shipbuilding dockyard in Bombay.

This was a singular event, reported the Bombay Courier, “This being the first and only British ship of the line built out of limits of the Mother Country” and, “for the skill of its architects, for the superiority of its timber, and for the excellence of its docks, Bombay may now claim a distinguished place among naval arsenals.”

The dockyard at Bombay was the work of Lovji Nusserwanjee Wadia and his brother Sorabji, shipbuilders from Surat. They were Parsi, ethnic Persians, whose family had lived for centuries in that coastal Indian seaport.

The British East India Company, along with other European trading companies, first established their offices in Surat and quickly recognized the Wadia shipbuilders for their high standards of construction and shipbuilding workmanship.

In 1736 the British East India Company contracted the Wadia’s to build shipbuilding and repair docks in Bombay.

The Wadia family received their first shipbuilding order in July 1801. that first ship was the HMS Minden, a 74-gun Ganges-class, ship of the line - and it was built of teak.

A year after completion of her maiden voyage, the HMS Minden was in Chesapeake Bay off the cost of Maryland when a Georgetown Lawyer, Francis S. Key, accompanying John S. Skinner, a Colonel, came aboard the ship to negotiate the release of prisoners. While aboard, overhearing British plans for attacking Baltimore and Fort McHenry, they were retained aboard as the attack on the Fort commenced on the evening of September 13, 1814.

Unable to do anything but observe, the Lawyer, an amateur poet, described what he observed and what he felt as he watched the bombardment of Fort McHenry, later translated to our National Anthem.

During the War of 1812: “A view of the bombardment of Fort McHenry, near Baltimore, by the British fleet, taken from the Observatory under the Command of Admirals Cochrane & Cockburn on the morning of the 13th of Sept 1814, which lasted 24 hours & thrown from 1500 to 1800 shells in the Night attempted to land by forcing a passage up the ferry branch but were repulsed with great loss."