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Herbaceous borders

From The Great War 1914-1918

Herbaceous Borders: A popular name in the Navy for a class of single-screw sloops, ordered in 1915, and named after flowers. For convenience, and as a ready means of identifying certain types and classes of special-service and auxiliary vessels designed for special duties in the War, a novel system of nomenclature was adopted by the Admiralty for the various groups. Sloops were all given flower names H.M.S. Aster, Begonia, Candytuft, Carnation, Geranium, Lobelia, Lupin, Penstemon, Foxglove, etc. Paddle-wheel mine-sweepers were named after Race Courses: H.M.S. Epsom, Ascot, Sandown, Plumpton, Newbury, Goodwood, etc. Twin-screw minesweepers were named: some after Hunts (the Hunt Class), H.M.S. Beloit, Bicester, Cottesmore, Pytchley, Quorn, etc.; some after Public Schools, H.M.S. Harrow, Winchester, Sherborne, etc.; some after Dances, (the Dance Class), H.M.S. Cotillion, Gavotte, Minnet, Quadrille, Sir Roger de Coverley etc.

The Herbaceous Border Class had their names chosen by the Acting-Librarian at the Admiralty, on being asked to do so. He selected them one morning on his way to town by walking up and down his front garden and jotting down what took his fancy. The ship names of the Navy indeed, and the origins of many of them would make an entertaining book. Queen Elizabeth named, for instance, the first Victory, Dreadnought and Revenge in connection with political events; Cromwell named Commonwealth ships after victories in the Civil War (Naseby, Marston Moor, Dunbar, etc.); Charles’s II named men-of-War after some of his illegitimate children; a First Lord of the Admiralty in William III’s reign named ships after towns which returned M.P.’s of his own way of thinking; another First Lord filled half the Navy List with mythological and classical names picked out of Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary; another fox-hunting First Lord named ships after hounds in his kennels; another went in for Shakespearian names, and another names such as Beelzebub, Phlegethon, Infernal, etc., scandalising a colonial bishop who once had to go to his oversea diocese on board one of the diabolically-names ships. And so on to the present time.[1]

References / notes

  1. Edward Fraser and John Gibbons (1925). Soldier and Sailor Words and Phrases. Routledge, London p.118.
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