In another thread I made mention of the sinking of the Royal George and thought I would go and pull this out since I think it dserves a thread of its own.
First a little history. The Royal George was launched 1756 and at 2047 tons was one of the largest ships or her time. At the end of the Seven Years war she was laid up in "ordinary" for 16 years where her upkeep was subject to the corrupt dockworkers. In 1768 she received a major re-build, but when put back into active service 10 years later she was still in terriable shape. In Oct of 1780 her rudder just dropped off while she was in the channel. Admiral Milbank said: "When the Royal George docked at Plymouth ... I saw her opened up and asked many questions. I found her condition so bad that I can't remember seeing one sound plank through the opening".
On Aug 29 the Royal George was being heeled over to make repairs to a water release valve below the water line. There was not sufficiant time to take her to dry dock, so the decission was made to heel her over. Instead of heeling her over by tying lines to another ship the decission was made to alter her center of gravity by shifting guns. I'm not sure whether it was to starboard or larboard that she was heeled, but the guns on the downhill side were ran out and the other the guns on the other side shifted toward the centerline.
A couple of hours after the work was started a carpenter felt that was something was amiss, but his pleas were ignored by the officer of the watch. He than went to the captain and the captain immediantly ordered the guns shifted back to their orginal position, but by this time it was to late.
Different opinions have been put forth about the sequeance of events. Some say that a large crack was heard and others say that a stiff breeze blew up at an inopurtune moment. The angle of heel was great and water began pouring in and within minutes the ship rolled on to her side and sank. Was the loud crack a cannon breaking loss, or perhaps it was knees breaking under the weight. Maybe it was a combination of it all, poor dockyard maintance, water coming through open gunports, guns breaking loose and knees breaking compounded with a stiff breeze.
Whatever happened 1400 lives were lost including Rear-Admiral Richard Kempenfelt. The loss of the Royal George was a main reason for the corruption of the dockyards to come under investigation. Richard Woodman gives his fictional version of the event in his book "Ebb Tide" where his hero Nathinal Drinkwater was on board the George at the time awaiting his commision for Lt.
<center><font color = blue>Toll for the brave
The Brave that are no more,
All sunk beneath the wave,
Fast by their native shore.
Eight hundred of the brave,
Whose courage was well tried,
Had made the vessel heel,
And laid her on her side.
A land breeze shook the shroud,
And she was overset,
Down went the Royal George,
With all her crew complete.</font color></center>