Lieutenant Robert Strickland Thomas R.N. (1787-1853)

H.M.S. Britannia being towed out of Portsmouth Harbour
oil on board
signed and indistinctly dated `R.S.Thomas 18**` (lower right)
9 x 12 in. (22.8 x 30.5 cm.)


Strickland Thomas entered the Royal Navy in 1805 just prior to Nelson's great victory at Trafalgar. He was probably steered towards painting by Captain George Tobin, who promoted him to midshipman aboard his ship, Queen Charlotte. When commissioned as a Lieutenant, Strickland Thomas contracted a disease off the coast of Africa that left him deaf, making him unfit for service. In order to augment his half-pay he took up painting as a profession, concentrating mainly on Royal Navy subjects especially of Portsmouth and sometimes British harbours in the Mediterranean such as Valetta in Malta.

H.M.S. Britannia, a three-decker of 120-guns, was laid down in 1813 and launched in October 1820. She measured approximately 2,616 tons and carried a crew of 594 officers and men, 66 boys and 160 marines. She began her career as a guardship in Plymouth and after serving in the Mediterranean became a flagship at Portsmouth in 1836. Following further commissions in the Mediterranean she returned to Portsmouth in 1850 to become Guardship-of-the-Ordinary. At the outbreak of the Crimean War, she was sent to the Black Sea as flagship to Vice-Admiral Dundas and led the Anglo-French fleet in to bombard Sebastopol on 17th October 1854. Following the war she returned to Portsmouth and in 1859 became the first training ship for naval cadets. This proved a huge success and after spending her final training years in Dartmouth, she was broken up in 1869 and replaced by the much newer Prince of Wales of 1860. However such was the nostalgia for Britannia that the Prince of Wales was soon renamed after her predecessor in order to maintain the already famous training tradition.

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