HMS CONWAY

Victim of the tide

Menai Strait, 14th April 1953

HMS Conway, originally launched in 1839 as HMS Nile, was one of three Rodney class 92 gun ships built in reply to the American 74s. In 1876 she arrived on the Mersey, on loan from the Admiralty to the Mercantile Marine Service Association, to become an RNR school Cadet Ship for the next 77 years. In 1941, to escape the WW11 Liverpool bombing, she was moved from the Mersey to Bangor in the Menai Strait. After the war, with the increased demand for seagoing staff to replace wartime losses the already overcrowded ship was turning away many promising new entrants, so a lease was negotiated with the Marques of Anglesey for the major part of his ancestral home, Plas Newydd and its estate, which lay five miles further down the Strait, and which had remained vacant since it was last occupied during the war by the United States Intelligent Service. But getting the ship there meant traversing the short section between the two bridges, known as The Swellies, which abounds with rocks and islets, and swift running tides with numerous eddies with very little slack water, and where no ship remotely resembling the 21' 10" draft of HMS Conway had ever gone through before. However the transit was accomplished successfully on the highest Spring tide of 1949.

But at 8.21am on Wed 14th April 1953 HMS Conway again slipped her mooring off Plas Newydd and was taken under tow for the passage back through the Swellies, being the first stage of her return to Birkenhead dry dock for another refit. A little over two hours later, under the horified gaze of the crowds who had gathered to watch her struggle against an unusually strong tide, she was suddenly driven onto rocks by an overpowering eddy, and as the tide fell it reduced Britain's last commissioned, massively built wooden walled Ship-of-the-Line to a total constructive loss.

Built entirely of West African hardwoods and the subject of several major refits, Conway was quite as good as Victory, and by 1953 she had already outlived both her sisters, Rodney and London, by more than 70 years. Today her rightful place should have been the cosseted centrepiece of the Mersey Maritime Museum, back alongside the river where she had spent over half her long working life, iconic of the best of our world leading maritime tradition.

This site is an in depth analysis of the tides and other factors which resulted in what forever will remain the irreplaceable loss of a priceless national legacy to posterity , leaving only the burned out remains of a shattered hull, a noble memory, and a proud tradition.