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HMS Implacable, ex- 'Duguay-Trouin'

FHD0085
Figureheads

Object connections:

Collection Figureheads
Gallery locationNeptune Court (Floor plans)
VesselsImplacable 1805 (HMS)
Publication(s)Treasures of the National Maritime Museum
Gloria Clifton and Nigel Rigby
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Object details:

Object ID FHD0085
Description Black-and-white painted and gilded bust-length figurehead of HMS 'Implacable' , ex- 'Duguay-Trouin' , representing the gorgon Medusa, with snakes for hair. This 74-gun third-rate was built at Rochefort in 1800 and was one of four such French vessels that escaped from the Battle of Trafalgar, 21 October 1805, only to be captured in November, in the Bay of Biscay, by a squadron under Sir Richard Strachan. 'Duguay-Trouin' was taken into the Navy and renamed 'Implacable', when it has generally been assumed that the present figurehead replaced an unknown French one. Clear proof of such a change is lacking, however, and the presence of a French fleur-de-lys immediately below the figure on the centreline has not been satisfactorily explained. Despite the ship being named after a celebrated French 17th-century corsair commander, it is possible that the figurehead is the original one. 'Implacable' became a training ship in 1855 and in 1912 was lent to Geoffrey Wheatly-Cobb to become the 'Foudroyant' boys' training vessel at Portsmouth. In the late 1920s and 1930s work began, supported by the NMM's founding benefactor Sir James Caird, to try and preserve her alongside the 'Victory', both as the last French ship from Trafalgar and the last '74'. The outbreak of the Second World War stopped this and after 1945 the ship was judged past repair in the post-war economic situation of both Britain and France (to whom it was offered). In 1949 Caird paid £300 to have the figurehead and gingerbread work of the transom removed and shipped to the Museum and, with English and French colours flying side-by-side, the vessel was ceremoniously towed into the Channel and sunk with explosives. The figurehead has usually been on display in the Museum (though now restored after some years outside near the restaurant): the carved work of the transom remained crated-up in store for half a century until reassembled beside it on the south wall of the new Neptune Court in 1998-99.
Date made circa 1805

Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials lead paint; wood
Measurements Overall: 2337 mm x 965 mm x 1473 mm
Parts
  • HMS Implacable, ex- 'Duguay-Trouin' (FHD0085)
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