Thursday, June 5, 2014

Thursday in History: Pickles

Off the coast of Cuba on this day in history in 1829, the HMS Pickle achieved its abolitionist objective when it captured the Voladora, a heavily defended slave ship.
But this was not the first of His Majesty’s Ships to be called the Pickle (nor the last!). The first famous HMS Pickle carried its captain home from the Battle of Trafalgar to report the death of one of the most celebrated men in English naval history: Lord Nelson.
When something (a ship or a person) becomes famous, its name becomes famous, too. And the English figure: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (For example, my middle name is the same as a very famous queen of England.) In all, there were eight HMS Pickles.
A 2005 replica of the first HMS Pickle
photo by wikipedia user Ballista
But they didn’t all start out that way. In fact, the first Pickle was called the Sting (how much cooler would that have been?!). The second Pickle was a captured French ship originally named Eclair. The third Pickle, perhaps the first true Pickle, was the one that so heroically freed slaves in the Caribbean. The fourth Pickle had been a slave ship itself before it was taken and given its new name. The fifth through seventh Pickles passed their lives quietly and without any name-changing or capturing. The eighth and final Pickle was renamed in 1959 when it was given to the navy of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) when they declared their independence from the British Empire.
So why isn’t there an HMS Pickle around today? Ships in action these days are all named fancy things like the HMS Victory and the HMS Enterprise and the HMS Illustrious. There’s no room there for anything cute like the Pickle (oh, except for that patrol boat named after one of Santa’s reindeer). Perhaps the time of the Pickle has ended. But I, for one, hope that someday its time will come again.

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