Official Number
Yard Number: 233

1884-85: Master C. Taylor
1898-99: Master L. Jewett

16 August 1883, launched. Named for Joseph Fleetwood Churchill, a Natal businessman with strong political connections to the Natal Port Harbour Board
Aug 1883, completed, registered at London.
2 November 1883, sailed from Plymouth.
19 December 1883, arrived Natal.
16 January 1899, left Durban for Beira. Sold to Portuguese owners at Beira. Renamed OPHIR and used for survey work on the Mozambique coast.
1910-11, owners Cia de Mocambique, Beira.
1914-15, not listed in Lloyds' Register.

The Times August 17, 1883:
'THE COLONIAL NAVY. A remarkable vessel was launched yesterday from the shipbuilding yard of Messrs. Hall, Russell, and Co., Aberdeen.
She is named the Churchill, and is of unique design. In view of the attention lately given to the question of colonial defence it may be mentioned that the maritime affairs of the colony of Natal are managed by the Natal Harbour Board, and under the auspices of this body the harbour of Port Natal, which forms the naval outlet not only to the colony of Natal, but also to the rich and important districts of the Transvaal and part of the Orange 'Free State, is being enlarged and deepened at great ex- pense. The entrance to the harbour is obstructed by a bar of shifting sand, and the sea at the outer anchorage during an easterly gale is extremely heavy.

The completion of the harbour works and consequent removal of the bar is expected to neutralize this source of danger by allowing vessels of deep draught to enter the harbour. In the meantime, however, the Harbour Board decided to build a steam vessel suitable to the service of the port in its present state. Mr. Walker Pearce, their agent in this country, was instructed to obtain advice on the question, and on the recommendation of the Board of Trade and Sir E. J. Reed, M.P., the design was entrusted to Mr. J. F. Flannery, C.E.

The conditions were that the vessel should tow ships into and out of the harbour over the bar in all weathers; should be capable of acting as a very powerful fire-engine ; of carrying large supplies of fresh water for the use of ships or troops: of landing troops from transports too large to enter the harbour; of succouring vessels in distress in the open sea ; of recovering the large number of derelict anchors and cables of which it is estimated that three hundred of the largest size lie along the coast, and lastly, of acting in times of need as a torpedo or coast defence vessel.

In the vessel launched yesterday these conditions are believed to be fully met, one of the most novel features of the vessel being a large Martin anchor carried upon an overhanging platform at the stern, to which is attached a heavy cable. The loose end of this will be passed by a rocket or other apparatus to ships in danger of drifting ashore, and the Churchill will steam seawards to drop the anchor as far as possible from the shore.'

Launched 16th August 1883. Named after Joseph Fleetwood Churchill, a prominent Natal businessman, with strong political connections with the Natal Port Harbour Board.
Arrived at Port Natal on the 19th December 1883 after sailing from Plymouth 2nd November.

Reports of a sea-monster sighted by the crew of the Churchill, 31st August 1884, off the coast at Port Natal;

'huge beast suddenly appeared level with the bulwarks presenting the most terrific appearance. It seemed covered in large sea shells and to have a big, hairy head; twice it appeared, and as suddenly plunged down again. The second time the whole of its body passed under the ship, and in doing so all aboard assert positively that its head could be seen some distance at one side while its tail was still visible many yards away at the other. It’s length was estimated at 60 feet.'
[extract from Bernard Heuvelmans' book 'In the Wake of the Sea-Serpents' 1968]

January of 1895 the Churchill was involved in a collision with the Castle Line coaster, Venice.
1886 steam steering gear was fitted, and engine room was enlarged.

The Churchill had a relatively short life in Durban, proving to be too low powered, she was sold to a Portuguese owner for use in Beira, on the Pungwe River in Mozambique. She left Durban in January 1899 after just 16 years service.
Natal Harbour Board, Durban
Hall, Russell & Company, Limited
length 115 3/12' x breadth 22 1/12' x depth 10 5/6'
Gross Tonnage: 194 ton

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