Calliope: the Unsinkable Ship

04.09.12

It may not actually be based on board a boat (it’s in a concrete building), but HMS Calliope is still a ship under Royal Navy terms: a self-contained unit with a commanding officer.

The Tyneside ‘stone frigate’ beside the Gateshead Millennium Bridge in Newcastle has been the home of the principal Royal Navy reserve unit for the north-east of England since 1968, when the 1905 commissioned unit’s last floating base (HMS Calliope, formerly HMS Falmouth1) reached the end of her serviceable life.

The unit is the home base for around 100 naval reservists when they are not performing their day-to-day occupations, and up to 400 people use it altogether including students from university naval units, and other Royal Naval personnel from around the UK.

RPS was contracted by the North of England Reserve Forces and Cadets Association to work as part of the Design and Project Management team to remodel and refurbish the unit’s base to accommodate the Newcastle office for the Armed Forces Careers Organisation (AFCO) who were relocating from the city centre. It was necessary for a number of changes to be made to not only meet the AFCO’s specific requirements, but to also replicate facilities for the existing Royal Navy personnel using the building.

The time constraints of the project were very tight, but close team work with the Design Team, where RPS designed and oversaw a variety of M & E works including heating, ventilation, lighting and emergency lighting, small power, ICT installation, fire alarm systems and a PA system; ensured that the project was delivered successfully, and in a cost-effective way with minimum disruption to the everyday operations of the unit.

 

1The original drill ship for the unit was the former Calypso class third class cruiser HMS Calliope from 1907 until 1951. She was built in Portsmouth, and launched in 1884. The 1932-built Falmouth class sloop HMS Falmouth replaced her as the unit’s drill ship in 1952 when she was renamed HMS Calliope.

The 1884-built HMS Calliope gained some fame as an "unsinkable" ship after she was the only ship (of thirteen) in the harbour at Apia, Samoa during the 14 March 1889 cyclone to survive - which was accomplished by her crew managing to steer the ship onto the open sea, in the face of the storm, returning to UK waters in 1890.