In “Ships of the River Hamble” Pip Leach presents the maritime history of the River from circa 800 to the present day. The story is told in two parts: first the warships of the Hamble, and second merchant, fishing and recreation vessels.
The River Hamble has had a long association with Britain’s naval military history – from early settlement by the Romans, through incursions by the Danes and later the French, ship building during the Napoleonic wars, up to early seaplanes and the craft of World War 2. The Hamble has been host to some famous vessels. Henry VI’s warship the “Grace Dieu” was laid up in the River until her eventual demise after a fire. The ship’s remains are still the subject of archaeological study today. During the Napoleonic period numerous warships were constructed on the Hamble, including the 32 gun “HMS Blanche” (see cover illustration) built in Warsash.
More recently the Hamble has played host to early seaplane trials, based at Hamble Point. In World War II the River had a vital role in the build up for D Day. Less obvious to the local inhabitants would have been the construction of the X Boat midget submarines, which famously made an attack on the German Battleship “Tirpitz”.
The Hamble’s non-military history has been equally distinguished. The River has long been used for trade and as a base for fishing. The village of Hook was once a significant port, and a much easier destination for traders than the longer journey to Southampton. During breaks in the construction of military ships the Hamble was used to construct merchant vessels, and eventually this gave way to pleasure craft.
The booklet is filled with illustrations, many in colour, and runs to over thirty pages. It tells a remarkable and varied tale of a river that we perhaps, these days, take for granted but which has had a long and noteworthy history.
Cover picture: action between HMS Blanche, built on the Hamble, and the Pique, 5 January 1795. John Thomas Baines, National Maritime Museum