HMS Sirius 1786 - Flag Ship of the First Fleet

HMS Sirius 1786 - Flag Ship of the First Fleet
September 4, 2018

Modellers Shipyard will announced the release of their new version of the HMS Sirius Flag Ship of the First Fleet in their monthly newsletter.

The release of Modellers Shipyard’s wooden model ship kit of the HMS Sirius will be announced in Modelers Central monthly eNewsletter. All Modellers Shipyards kits come with highly detailed English written building instructions with supporting color photos.

HMS Sirius - Flag Ship of the First Fleet

The HMS Sirius had a relative short career, playing a minor role in Britain’s withdrawal from America following the Revolutionary War and a major role in British expansion into the Pacific. Originally a Baltic trading ship named the Berwick, she made several voyages to North America carrying British troops before being recommissioned as the 20 - gun HMS Sirius, to escort the First Fleet to Australia in 1787-88. The role accomplished the Sirius assumed the mantle of protector and provider to the infant colony until her loss on 19 March 1790, at Norfolk Island.

The Berwick was built in 1780-1781, at London’s Rotherhithe, then a shipbuilding village on the Thames. Originally built for the Baltic trade, the Berwick was purchased by the Royal Navy prior to completion and fitted out as an armed storeship. After purchase by the Royal Navy the Berwick was taken to Deptford on 1 December for work to commence on her refit. In the month of January 1782 her hull was coppered plated. The armed storeship Berwick sailed on 25 April 1782. These few years were a time of stress for the British government, facing defeat against her American colonies.

The Berwick was initially stationed at the Nore, off Sheerness at the mouth of the Thames. In 1782-1783 she twice visited Halifax harbour, Nova Scotia and New York before returning to Deptford for a refit on 25 October 1783. After her refit the Berwick sailed again on the 7 May 1784, firstly being sent to America and then onto the West Indies. The Berwick returned to Deptford on 5 February 1785, where she lay idle, effectively out of commission for much of the next twenty months.

On the 23 August 1786 orders arrived from the Admiralty to the Navy Board to prepare the Berwick to be employed on ‘foreign service’. Work began on the 6th September, commencing a comprehensive refitting of the Berwick.On the 12 October 1786 Admiral Howe wrote to the Navy Board requesting His Majesty’s storeship the Berwick, be registered on the list of the Royal Navy as a 6th Rate by the name of Sirius.

The Sirius, captained by John Hunter, led the First Fleet on their journey departing Great Britain on 13 May 1787. The First Fleet was made up of eleven vessels, two navy ships HMS Sirius and HMS Supply and nine privately owned, contracted transports, all under the command of Captain Arthur Phillip.

The First Fleet reached Tenerife in the Canary Islands on the 3 June, before moving onto a month long stopover in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the end of August. They arrived at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa on October 13. They departed for the final leg of their journey on November 11 with the entire First Fleet reaching Botany Bay between 18-20 January 1788 and Port Jackson on January 26. It took 184 days to complete the voyage at sea having travelled 15,063 miles.

With most of the settlement's concentration on the establishment of the colony the Sirius remained idle until September when Phillip made the decision to send her to Cape Town, South Africa for much needed supplies. Captain John Hunter set off east with the wind towards Cape Horn, seeking to travel through the dangerous passage of ice and storms through the roaring forties. They arrived safely at Cape Town leaving port for the return voyage in February 1789. It was towards the end of the return voyage the HMS Sirius was almost lost off the east coast of Tasmania, facing terrific storms which battered the vessels, it was so violent the Berwick figurehead was lost, with further damaged sustained. The Sirius limped into Port Jackson on 9 May 1789, with vital supplies for the colony.

After some much needed repairs the Sirius was once again prepared for sea. In February 1790 the shortage of supplies in the settlement had reached a critical stage. In an attempt to relieve pressure on the Port Jackson settlement, Governor Phillip determined on decisive action. He would send both the Sirius and the Supply to Norfolk Island to transport a number of convicts and marines to the Island. The Sirius would later proceed to China to buy supplies.

After a stormy passage the Sirius made Norfolk Island the morning of 13 March, moving around to Cascade Bay on the North east side of the Island where marines and convicts were landed. With the onset of bad weather the Sirius and Supply were driven out of sight of the Island. On the 19 March the gale moderated and the Sirius moved close to Sydney Bay on the other side of the island and the main landing place.

There the Supply was found already at anchor. Unfortunately the Sirius ran aground on the reef, with waves pushing her further onto the reef. There was little chance to refloat her. The hull of the Sirius withstood the powerful surf for a full two years before breaking up completely.

The HMS Sirius wooden model ship kit’s release will be announced in Modelers Central monthly newsletter.

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