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Warship Wednesday – HMS Salamis

06 June 2023

HMS Salamis was a steam powered Wood Paddle Dispatch Vessel constructed at Chatham Dockyard and launched on 19th May 1863.

Salamis was 220ft in length and displaced 985 tons, armed with 2 x 20-pounder guns. Powered by a Miller 2-cylinder Oscillating steam engine of 1440 indicated horse power. Speed on trials was 13.5 knots.

Salamis was stationed in China in the 1860’s and later took part in a show of force to prevent Russia occupying Constantinople, spending much of her time in Malta.

A dispatch vessel was usually a small vessel, but could be a larger ship, tasked to carry military dispatches (official messages) from ship to ship, or ship to shore or in some cases from shore to shore. The role of the dispatch vessel become redundant in the early 20th century with the advent of undersea telegraphic cables and shipboard radio.


Salamis figurehead in position above the entrance to the Gunnery School at Pembroke Barracks

The role was reprised by the RN in 1982 during the Falkland Island crisis, the BT cable laying ship C S Iris was taken up from trade for service with the RN. C S Iris carried supplies and dispatches (including mail for service personnel) between elements of the RN task force, and between Accension Island and the Falkland Islands.

Salamis figurehead on display in the Lead and Paint Mill, c. late 1980s/early 1990s

Salamis was broken up at Sheerness Dockyard in 1883. The figurehead was saved and placed on display in the Gunnery School in the Royal Naval Barracks, HMS Pembroke. The figurehead has been on display on our site in various locations, including the Lead and Paint Mill in the early days of the Historic Dockyard as a visitor attraction and these days it is usually on display at the entrance to our Reading Room in the Fitted Rigging House but can currently be seen in the local ‘Monsters of the Medway’ section of our Monsters of the Deep exhibition until November.

Salamis figurehead currently on display in the ‘Medway Monsters’ section of our Monsters of the Deep exhibition


In March 1979, Salamis featured in David Hunter’s ‘Chatham Glory Ships’ article about smaller vessels built at Chatham, published in the in-house Dockyard newspaper, Periscope.

In Greek mythology, Salamis was the daughter of the river-god Asopus and the river-nymph Metope. However, the figurehead represents a scaled sea serpent with wings and fiery red mouth.

With thanks to Collections volunteer Tony Peacock and Digital & Public Engagement Officer, Vikkie Mulford for this months Warship Wednesday

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