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Thomas Buttersworth, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Ships of Tarshish.

The spiritual significance of ships in the history of Great Britain. There are seven parts to this series. Scroll down for more videos


Britannia Rules the Waves. Nicolai Habbe, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Prophetically speaking Great Britain is Tarshish. There is a separate web page on this. On this page I want to examine the ships of Tarshish. In the bible there is a day of reckoning for the ships of Tarshish because they represent pride and arrogance


[Isa 2:12, 16 KJV] 12 For the day of the LORD of hosts [shall be] upon every [one that is] proud and lofty, and upon every [one that is] lifted up; and he shall be brought low: ... 16 And upon all the ships of Tarshish, and upon all pleasant pictures.


However there is another aspect to the ships of Tarshish because at the time of the glorified Zion, the millennium, they will lead the ships bringing tribute to the Holy One of Israel, Jesus.


[Isa 60:9 KJV] 9 Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring thy sons from far, their silver and their gold with them, unto the name of the LORD thy God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because he hath glorified thee.


Arrival of the fleet for the coronation review in 1911. Alma Burlton Cull, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Great Britain has been known for its pride and arrogance but also for spreading the bible around the world, fighting in good causes and upholding the rule of law. Like the ships of Tarshish its record has been a bit mixed.


Great Britain has been known for its ships. The list of famous British ships goes on and on: The Mary Rose, the Golden Hind, the Bounty, the Beagle, the Cutty Sark, the Mayflower, the Endeavour, the Titanic, the mighty Hood, HMS Dreadnought, HMS Warrior, HMS Victory, the SS Great Britain and so on and so on.


I want to look at the spiritual significance of some of these ships and how they reflect the spiritual condition of the nation.

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The history of ships in Britain goes back a long way. Alfred the Great, in the ninth century, is often regarded as the father of the navy as he built up a fleet to oppose Danish marauders who harassed the coast. From that time England always had a fleet of ships of some sort to repel invaders, However it was not until the reign of Henry VIII that a standing Royal Navy was established. This coincided with the Reformation in England and the break with Rome. This brings us to the first ship I want to look at, The Mary Rose

Henry VIII. Follower of Hans Holbein the Younger, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The Mary rose by Geoff Hunt

Prophetically speaking the Mary Rose was a symbol of the Reformation in England. Henry VIII ordered its construction when he became king in 1509. It was launched in 1511. Some regard her as the first true purpose built English warship.


For more than thirty years the Mary Rose was one of the largest ships in the navy and took part in various engagements against the French. In the period from 1532 to 1534 England rejected papal authority and Henry was declared head of the church.


The response to this was a series of armadas that sailed against England, on and off, for the rest of the century as the French and the Spanish attempted to invade the renegade nation that had broken with Rome. None of these armadas was successful.


The sinking of the Mary Rose. Geoff Hunt

In 1545 a large French armada, larger than the Spanish armada of 1588, sailed up the Solent and attacked the Isle of Wight with the intention of invading England. 


The Mary Rose sailed from Portsmouth to attack the armada and for reasons that are still disputed, capsized and sank drowning almost all of her crew of about 500.


She may have left her lower gunports open which then flooded when she turned. She may have been unstable because of the addition of heavier guns and extra crew. Up until this time she had proved a seaworthy vessel.


Prophetically she represents the good and bad of the reformation in England. She represents the pride and arrogance of Henry VIII who was cruel and tyrannical and only wanted the break with Rome for his own purposes.

However, there was another side to the reformation. It was a reaction to the excesses of the Roman Catholic church and also a result of a genuine hunger by people in England to know the Word of God for themselves. People wanted to read the bible in English and as the bible became more available, so some of the non biblical teachings of the Catholic church were questioned. In particular the infallibility of pope, the worship of the virgin Mary, purgatory and the selling of indulgences. The reformation in England was really about the supremacy of the bible over church teachings.


The Mary Rose was faulty but she was still part of the Royal Navy which successfully defended the nation from invasion and she fought bravely throughout her career for the freedom of England from foreign control.


The Cowdray engraving of the fleet gathered at Portsmouth in 1545 prepared to repel the French invasion force. James Basire, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The remains of the Mary Rose in a specially designed building at the Historic Dockyard Portsmouth. Mary Rose Trust, via Wikimedia Commons

The Mary Rose is now famous because her wreck was discovered in the Solent in the 1970s and was raised to the surface in 1982. She is now stored in the Mary Rose museum in Portsmouth along with many artefacts that were found with her.


Prophetically she represents the good and the bad of the reformation. The genuine desire for religious freedom along with the bloodshed and violence that went along with it. Her wreck preserves, in microcosm, every aspect of Tudor society from the time of her sinking. Her wreck survives to remind us of a time when England first charted a new course away from Catholicism and European control.


She was one of the first purpose built sailing warships and one of the first to make use of gunports. She represents the power of the king against the power of the papacy but ultimately she does reflect the problems that came with the reformation in England. The new spiritual awakening in the country was used by the crown for political purposes which caused many problems for the country over the years.

Part 1. Introduction and Mary Rose Video

Ships of Tarshish Overview

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The Mary Rose. Photo by Gerry Bye. Original by Anthony Anthony., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The bible says to “remember the days of old”.


[Deu 32:7 KJV] 7 Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.


If we don’t remember how we got to where we are we have no understanding of our situation. The Mary Rose is preserved as a reminder of the battles of the past fought by imperfect people to get us the religious freedom we have now. This is something that is constantly under attack and which will be lost if we don’t humble ourselves and ask the Lord to save us from all the forces that are trying to rob us of our liberty.

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The Golden Hinde. Part 2 of "The Ships of Tarshish" Series

The Golden Hinde Video

The Golden Hind. George Robinson, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Plymouth in the 16th Century. Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Golden Hind, originally named the Pelican, was a ship that will always be associated with one man, Sir Francis Drake. It was commissioned by Drake to take him on a voyage beyond South America, through the strait of Magellan, to the mostly unknown coast beyond. The keel was laid and registered in Plymouth in 1575 The voyage was secretly authorised by Queen Elizabeth who wanted to break the Spanish hegemony of the Pacific coast of America. One aim of the expedition was to find potential areas for English settlement. There was tacit agreement that Drake could attack and plunder any Spanish ships or settlements that he came across.


The queen herself gave 1,000 crowns towards the expedition. Several prominent members of her court also invested in Drake’s voyage.


In 1577 Drake set up a fleet of five ships to take part in the voyage. The largest and most powerful was the Pelican, weighing about 160 tons, with 18 guns.


Sir Francis Drake. Jodocus Hondius, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Francis Drake was born in Tavistock, Devon. England. His date of birth is uncertain. Probably around 1541. His parents were protestants and he grew up in a time of religious turmoil when England was struggling with the intense emotions engendered by the Reformation. 


In 1549 the Prayer Book rebellion took place in Devon and Cornwall where pro- Catholic forces took up arms against the introduction of the English language Book of Common Prayer and its reformation theology. This uprising resulted in a number of pitched battles before it was put down. It serves as an example of the strength of religious sentiment at the time. It seems that at some point during this period the Drake family, who were protestant, had to flee from Devon and moved to Kent.


The details of Drake’s early life are not clear but he was a product of the protestant reformation and his name is synonymous with the England’s fight against the forces of Roman Catholicism.


Francis drake in the Straits of Magellan. Thomas Somerscales, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Drake became famous as a privateer who made several daring raids on Spanish ships and settlements. As a result of these successes he was given the aforementioned commission to lead the voyage  to the Pacific. 


The five ships, led by the Pelican, set off on 15th December 1577. As a result of storms and disease only the Pelican successfully managed to pass through the straits of Magellan. The other ships either being wrecked or returned home. Drake renamed his ship “the Golden Hinde” prior to entering the Straits in order honour his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton, whose family crest was a golden hind (female red deer).


The rest of the voyage was a spectacular adventure story involving the first circumnavigation of the globe by an English ship. Along the way Drake raided Spanish settlements, captured Spanish treasure ships but failed to find a shortcut home through the fabled Northwest Passage. 

Unable to find a shortcut and being pursued by the Spanish Drake headed West across the Pacific. In the South West Pacific he reached the Spice Islands and was able to trade some of his goods for a huge haul of exotic spices, mainly cloves. He then continued westwards, crossing the Indian ocean, rounding the Cape of Good Hope on 15th June 1580. He sailed north and arrived back in Plymouth on 26th September 1580


Drake’s Circumnavigation of the globe, via Wikimedia Commons


This is just an outline of the voyage of the Golden Hinde. The value of the treasure on board was phenomenal. Half of it, £160,000, went to Queen Elizabeth. This was sufficient to pay off her entire government debt and have £40,000 left over. Drake was allowed £24,000 for himself and his crew. He became vastly wealthy as a result.

As with the Mary Rose, the story of the Golden Hinde illustrates the good and the bad side of the Protestant Reformation in England. Firstly we will look at the negatives.

Drake viewing his treasure. Unknown author, via Wikimedia Commons

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The English at war with the Spanish. Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons

The voyage of the Golden Hinde was driven by a desire for wealth and expansion. There was little compunction about attacking Spanish settlements and native peoples. Drake was always alert to the main chance. To the English he was a hero but to the Spanish he was a pirate. Drake himself had started his seagoing career as a humble seaman on the Medway but became involved in trading and slaving voyages with the Hawkins family. During these voyages he became involved with battles with the Spanish and his life was marked by two main things. Firstly his desire for personal and financial gain. Secondly hostility towards the Spanish. These two things were also prominent features of the Protestant Reformation in England


However there were many positives that came out of the voyage that left their mark on the development of the English nation


Ultimadesigns at English Wikibooks, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The voyage marked a new era of freedom for Protestant England. Below are four ways in which the voyage engendered a new sense of freedom.


Freedom to explore the world. Up until this point the world had been divided into Spanish and Portuguese zones by the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494). This treaty had been signed by Pope Alexander VI but with the rejection of papal authority came the freedom to expand into these previously prohibited areas.


Freedom from papal control. The voyage marked a new era where protestant adventurers roamed the sea with the bible as their guide. The reformation rejected the idea of having to communicate with God through priests but instead men and women had a personal faith in God through the bible and prayer. Catholicism was seen as idolatry and a form of religious control over free people. 


Philip II of Spain’s realms in 1598.  Trasamundo,  via Wikimedia Commons

Freedom from fear of larger nations. England’s main enemies in the 16th century were France and Spain. Both nations were immensely larger and more powerful than England. By way of illustration the population of the Spanish empire in 1600 was nearly thirty million. The Kingdom of France was about eighteen and a half million. The population of England and its possessions was about five and a half million. 


From this time up until the battle of Trafalgar England was fighting nations larger and stronger than itself. Unsurprisingly the prayer book of 1662 Prayer Book contained a prayer to be said “before a fight at sea against the enemy”. This prayer contained the line  “for thou givest not alway the battle to the strong, but canst save by many or by few”.

Freedom for the common man. Drake was a common man and spent his early years as an ordinary sailor. The voyage of the Golden Hinde included gentlemen adventurers among its complement as well as ordinary seamen. Drake insisted that all should do their share of the work and because of this inspired devotion among his crew. He shared his spoils with his crew and so the voyage marked the dawn of a new era where an ordinary man could make his fortune by his own efforts. 


This was a feature of the Protestant Reformation. The belief among ordinary people that with the help of their God and their bible they could escape the shackles of serfdom and religious control and make a better life for themselves.


Replicas of the Golden Hinde exist in London and Brixham, Devon to remind us of this amazing story.

Replica of the Golden Hinde in London. Peter Trimming / The Golden Hinde


The Mayflower. Part 3 of "The Ships of Tarshish" Series.

The Mayflower Video

Replica of the Mayflower in  Plymouth, Massachusetts,


The story of the Mayflower is the story of a group of Puritans who were not happy with the reforms of the Reformation made by the Church of England. They wanted to go further and “purify” the church from all taint of the old Catholic religion and base their faith purely on the bible.


In practice what this meant was that there was an emphasis on each individual’s relationship with God, rather than an emphasis on church hierarchy. 


These Puritans, known as Pilgrims, came to regard England as akin to Egypt in the old testament and they looked for a new “promised land”. A group of about 400 moved to Leiden in Holland where they were allowed to exercise their faith free from restrictions. However the group noticed that despite this move they were still having personal issues among themselves and were also concerned that the liberal, tolerant atmosphere in Holland might have a corrupting influence on their children.

Detail from Augustus Saint-Gaudens's sculpture The Puritan Springfield MA, via Wikimedia Commons.


Protestant pilgrims are shown on the deck of the ship Speedwell before their departure for the New World from Delft Haven, Holland, on July 22, 1620. William Brewster, holding the Bible, and pastor John Robinson leading Governor Carver, William Bradford, Miles Standish, and their families in prayer. Robert W. Weir (photograph courtesy Architect of the Capitol), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

There were also increasing political pressures from James I in England who regarded the Puritans as a threat to his status as head of the Church of England. He was putting pressure on the Dutch authorities to imprison the Leiden Puritans because of the influence they were exerting, through their pamphlets, on people in England.


As a result of these pressures some of the Leiden Puritans decided they needed to leave Holland and find a new home in the New World. In 1620 The congregation voted on this issue and about half of them decided to leave. The Puritans were marked by this democratic motivation and many of their big decisions were made through a vote taken by members of their congregation.


Led by William Bradford they purchased a ship, The Speedwell to take them from Holland to England, and then to North America. 


The Mayflower in Plymouth Harbour. William Halsall, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Their plan was to meet up with other believers in England but initially these plans were thwarted by storms and also by the fact that the Speedwell did not prove seaworthy. Despite these problems the plan was to rendezvous with other believers in England. These people had hired The Mayflower which was larger than The Speedwell. The rendezvous eventually took place in Southampton and the two ships set sail for America in August 1620. Sadly, the Speedwell sprang a leak so they had to return to port in Dartmouth and try again but once again the Speedwell leaked. 


Eventually the Mayflower sailed alone from Plymouth on September 16th 1620. There were about 130 people on board. About 100 pilgrims and about 30 crew. The Pilgrims referred to themselves as “Saints” and to the crew as “Strangers”. 


The voyage was difficult, conditions were cramped and there were continual storms on the second half of the trip. Their destination was the British colony of Virginia but strong adverse winds stopped them from reaching the colony and eventually they anchored in Cape Cod in what is now Massachusetts.


At this point  supplies were running low and a decision had to be made as to whether they should stay and set up a colony in this unfamiliar region. To resolve this problem a compact was made among the pilgrims and crew and was signed by 41 male members of the group affirming their decision to stay and settle.


The Compact was another example of a form of democracy where important decisions were discussed and agreed upon by the community. The next slide shows a modern version of the text.

Bradford's transcription of the Mayflower Compact. William Bradford (1590-1657), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Picture of the signing of The Mayflower Compact. Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Modern version of The Mayflower Compact

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.


The Compact was a unique document, borne out of the faith of the Pilgrims. At the time it was made, it was not written out of any desire to rebel against the authorities of the day. It came from a sense of each individual's responsibility before God. It laid a foundation for liberty based upon law and order. In effect it was a contract which gave people liberty if they were obedient to the law. It allowed ordinary people to participate in government.


In a sense it was a forerunner to the much more developed Declaration of Independence. Freedom for the individual was seen as a spiritual as well as political right by the Pilgrims and this was their legacy to The United States of America.


The Mayflower at Sea. Unknown author Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pilgrims suffered many hardships but they established their colony, which in many ways established the foundations for the United States of America.


Spiritually, The Mayflower represented another step towards liberty for the individual. This was a flame which had started to burn with the Reformation. In this series on “The Ships of Tarshish” we have seen how the Mary Rose represented freedom from religious and foreign domination for England. The Golden Hinde represented freedom to expand and explore. The Mayflower went a step further, It represented hope for a better future based on faith. It represented the union of the spiritual standing of freeborn people with their political standing.


What many people will find hard to accept is that constitutional democracy and Christian faith go hand in hand with each other. This is the real spiritual lesson of the Mayflower.


His Majesty’s Bark The Endeavour. Part 4 of “The Ships of Tarshish” series

The Endeavour Video

HMS Endeavour. Archives New Zealand from New Zealand, via Wikimedia Commons


The Earl of Pembroke in Whitby Harbour. Thomas Luny, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Endeavour was originally a merchant collier vessel hauling coal from the port of Whitby. In the mid eighteenth century the world of exploration was opening up and the Admiralty wanted to explore the unknown South Pacific region. At the same time The Royal Society, an organisation founded to promote scientific knowledge, petitioned George III to finance an expedition to the South Pacific to study the 1769 transit of Venus across the sun. Such observations were important because they gave valuable information on the size of our solar system and the relative distances of planetary objects from each other.


The Endeavour, then known as Earl of Pembroke, was purchased in 1768 because of her sturdy construction. She also had a flat bottom which meant that on long voyages she could be beached and turned on her side for repairs. This is something that could not be done with regular Royal Navy vessels. She was refitted and upgraded at Deptford on the River Thames. Her hull was caulked to protect against shipworm and then sheathed in copper. She was given new cabins and armed with cannon. More money was spent on the refit than on the original purchase of the ship.


A naval officer, James Cook was chosen to command the vessel. The Royal Society wanted one of their people in charge but the Admiralty weren’t having it. Cook had proved his mastery of surveying during the Seven Years War with France when he surveyed much of the coast of Canada and the St Lawrence river. He was an Anglican and had a high set of morals, not allowing swearing or profanity on his ships. 


He was also a very rational man with a good understanding of mathematics and science. This scientific background and his record as a Naval officer made him acceptable to both the Royal Society and to the Admiralty. He was promoted to lieutenant and given command of the expedition. When the refit of The Earl of Pembroke was completed her name was changed to His Majesty’s Bark the Endeavour. This was to distinguish her from another ship in the Royal Navy called HMS Endeavour.

Captain James Cook. Nathaniel Dance-Holland, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The story of The Endeavour has been told elsewhere. She departed from Plymouth on 26th August 1768. On board were naturalist Joseph Banks and his assistants. Also on board was astronomer Charles Green. There were also artists who made nearly 800 illustrations  of Australian flora. The Endeavour successfully navigated to Tahiti in the Pacific. The transit of Venus across the Sun occurred on 3 June, and was observed and recorded by astronomer Charles Green from Endeavour's deck. She then continued on to New Zealand and Cook mapped the coastline. The Endeavour then proceeded westward to the unknown region of Australia. Cook sailed north and mapped the Eastern coastline of Australia. Overcoming many difficulties, including a shipwreck, they returned to the port of Dover in England on 12th July 1771.


An 1893 chart showing Endeavour’s course. James Cook (1728-1779) and W.J.L. Wharton, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

After the voyage The Endeavour was mostly used as a naval transport and was eventually sunk off Newport Rhode Island to block the harbour, in 1778, during the American War of Independence.


Spiritually she represents the age of scientific discovery. She was one of the first ships to be sent on an expedition for purely scientific reasons. She started life as a humble collier ship, became famous for her discoveries in the Pacific and finally came to rest in America. In a sense this is a picture of the results of the Reformation. Ever increasing freedom to expand and explore and greater understanding of the world around us. However Great Britain’s long period of growth and success eventually hit the buffers with the American War of Independence where the desire for freedom by the Americans defeated Britain’s plans for imperial glory. However The Endeavour is still remembered in Australia and New Zealand and a replica of her exists at the Australian National Maritime museum


HM bark Endeavour Replica. Sydney. Hpeterswald, via Wikimedia Commons


Death of Captain Cook. Johann Zoffany, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Captain Cook with his amazing skills as a cartographer had a profound influence on the history of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. He made many other discoveries in his career and it has been said of him that when he died in Hawaii in 1779, there was nothing left to discover! The Endeavour herself has her final resting place in the United States and so the story encapsulates the development of the English speaking world. This story was a direct result of the Reformation. Wherever the British went the bible went with them as did some basic freedoms such as freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. 


Wherever there was spiritual freedom in the world, political and civil freedom went along with it. This meant freedom for individuals to direct the course of their own lives rather than have their lives directed for them.

HMS Victory. Part 5 of “The Ships of Tarshish Series”.

HMS Victory Video

HMS Victory at The Battle of Trafalgar. J. M. W. Turner, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


HMS Victory at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent. Thomas Luny, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons 

HMS Victory was ordered by the British government in 1758 as part of an order for 12 First Rate Ships of the LIne. These were the largest ships in the Navy, carrying at least 100 guns. Ever since the Reformation, Britain had been involved in a seemingly endless series of engagements with the Spanish and the French and the country had been under permanent threat of invasion. The Royal Navy was the country’s first and most effective line of defence. The Victory’s keel was laid in 1758 but due to delays she was not completed until 1765. Her sea trials were completed in 1769.


The Victory represented the resolve of the nation to defend itself. The size and reputation of the Royal Navy had been steadily growing and had reached a point where there was no fear of confrontation with the enemy. After being placed on active service the Victory took part in several engagements, including the defeat of the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent in 1797. However she will always be remembered for the Trafalgar campaign.


Napoleon planned to invade England and needed control of the sea in order to do this. The combined fleets of France and Spain were brought together with the intention of taking control of the English Channel.


The British assembled a fleet under Admiral Nelson to counter this threat. On 21st October 1805 the two fleets engaged one another off Cape Trafalgar, South West Spain. Despite commanding a smaller fleet, Nelson won an overwhelming victory but died in the process.


Spiritually the Victory represented what its name suggested. Complete victory over the enemies of Great Britain. The Royal Navy was never again seriously challenged by the French fleet. In fact the Royal Navy was not again challenged in a large scale engagement for over a hundred years. 

Horatio Nelson. Lemuel Francis Abbott, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square, London. Sean Glossop, via Wikimedia Commons

The Reformation had sprung from a movement among ordinary people to know God’s Word for themselves. This had led to a desire to be free from religious control which led to a desire to be completely free from Papal control and European domination. With HMS Victory and the Battle of Trafalgar we get the fulfilment of that desire. The centuries long fear of invasion was broken. However, with this triumph came arrogance and pride and the belief that Britain had won its battles by its own efforts rather than by God’s grace.


Admiral Nelson became something of an idol and a 169 foot column was erected in central London to commemorate him. The column commemorates Nelson’s naval victories but does not give any glory to God. Nelson himself, as a vicar’s son, would have known that the Book of Common Prayer attributed victory at sea to God.


Restoring HMS Victory in the 1920s. William Lionel Wyllie, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

HMS Victory herself, was heavily damaged at Trafalgar and never really recovered from it. Her condition remained poor but her historical significance meant that she couldn’t be scrapped.


Over the next 100 hundred years she became increasingly decrepit, floating at anchorage in Portsmouth harbour. In 1921 a public “Save the Victory” campaign was started. She was relocated to dry dock in Portsmouth and underwent major restoration between 1922 and 1929. She has remained in that location ever since. Currently she is the flagship of the First Sea Lord, Britain’s most senior admiral, and is the world’s oldest naval ship still in commission.


HMS Victory has never been decommissioned.  Britain rose to power as a result of spiritual strength and this has had a lasting impact on the nation. However now we have largely forgotten the source of our strength, the bible. 


In World War 2 the Germans recognised the symbolic significance of HMS Victory and actually bombed it. They claimed on their propaganda radio broadcasts that they had destroyed her. No enemy has managed to destroy the Victory but she requires constant maintenance to prevent her rotting away. That’s how it is with the benefits we have received from the Word of God. If we neglect the truth of the bible we will deteriorate and lose all the good things we have received. 


Great Britain has been an amazingly secure nation over the centuries but that security can’t be taken for granted. 

HMS Victory. Bow view. Jamie Campbell from Emsworth (nr Portsmouth), via Wikimedia Commons

The Titanic. Part 6 of “The Ships of Tarshish” series.

The Titanic Video

The Titanic. Anonymous Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons


The Titanic at Dry Dock in Belfast. February 1912. Via Wikimedia Commons.

The Titanic was the largest ship in the world when she was launched in 1912. She represented the latest in human achievement at the time. Great Britain had grown strong and powerful since the Reformation but she had used her power and influence to aggrandise herself and in particular Britain was marked by the love of money. The spiritual freedom that the Reformation brought had not translated into freedom and spiritual growth for ordinary people. The class system still meant that people’s lives were hidebound by the social class they were born into.


The Titanic was built in Belfast, Ireland. Belfast became synonymous with religious sectarianism. The Reformation should have meant freedom of religious conscience for everybody but instead, in many areas of the country, it had resulted in hatred and mistrust between Catholics and Protestants. The Titanic prophetically marked the end of the British Empire.   


Captain Edward Smith. New York Times, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The faults with the Titanic are now well known but it is interesting to note how the faults with the ship mirrored the spiritual failings of the nation: -


  • Many people at the time were blinded by their faith in shipbuilding technology, including the captain, Edward Smith, and the chairman of White Star Line, Bruce Ismay. This reflected a transference of faith in the nation from the bible to human achievement.


  • The steel from the Titanic was about 10 times more brittle than modern steel when tested at freezing temperature. This reflected the brittleness of people’s faith in God at the time.


  • The Titanic did not have enough lifeboats. This reflected the lack of concern for saving souls in the church.


  • The lookouts at the time of the collision, Frederick Fleet and Reginald Lee, maintained during the inquiries that they were informed they were to have no binoculars during the voyage. This reflected the lack of prophetic watchmen in the church.


A postcard of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. postcard White Star Line Co. made in 1912., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

As we all know, the Titanic sank on her maiden voyage from Southampton, striking an iceberg on 15th April 1912. About 2,224 passengers and crew were on board. More than 1,500 died.


She had been warned, by radio, of the pack ice in the area by several ships including the SS Californian. The Titanic not only ignored the warnings but chief wireless officer, Jack Phillips, sent the Californian a rebuke for warning her. Similarly Great Britain had received many warnings about her spiritual state from such preachers as Charles Spurgeon. However she not only ignored the warnings but pilloried the preachers.


The Californian stopped for the night because of the ice but the Titanic ploughed on at 22 knots and met her doom.


Photo of a lifeboat carrying Titanic survivors. National Archives and Records Administration, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

One interesting piece of research on the families of the Titanic passengers showed a difference between the British and American families. The descendants of the American passengers were able to improve their social status and become upwardly mobile. The descendants of the British passengers tended to stay in the same social class over the generations.


This is where the fruits of the Reformation succeeded in America but failed in Britain. Americans were able to pursue their dreams and destiny whereas the British families found it harder to do so.


The dream of the Reformers was for individuals to pursue their own destiny with God. This dream struggled in Great Britain and in some ways the mantle passed to the United States. 

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HMS Hood via Wikimedia Commons

HMS Hood. Part 7 of “The Ships of Tarshish” series.

HMS Hood Video


The Capture of the slaver Gabriel by HMS Acorn, 6 July 1841. Nicholas Matthews Condy, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

At the outbreak of World War 2 the Royal Navy was the largest navy in the World. Britain also had a huge merchant navy, one third of the world’s total. The Royal navy had a huge presence in the daily life of Great Britain and was the pride of the nation. It also had a glorious history, In particular its involvement in the abolition of the Slave Trade. In 1807 the Slave Trade Act was passed by parliament, after a long campaign. This Act made the slave trade illegal throughout the British Empire. The Royal Navy was given the task of blockading Africa and intercepting ships suspected of carrying slaves. 


The Royal Navy took on an aura of invincibility in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. This was only partially dented during the First World War. However, as we have seen in previous videos, Britain’s spiritual strength was waning as it turned away from the bible. The story of HMS Hood is the story of the end of the Royal Navy’s dominance.


HMS Hood in Sydney Harbour. Not stated, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Hood was laid down in 1916 and commissioned in 1920. For the next twenty years she was the largest warship in the world. She seemed magnificent but she had some serious flaws. Additional armour was added to her original design but this meant additional weight. This increased her draught by about four foot thus reducing her freeboard and causing her decks to be awash in heavy seas.


Despite this extra armour, her armour protection, particularly her deck armour, was never more than adequate. However because of her size and fifteen inch guns she was known as “The Mighty Hood”.


Hood set out on a world cruise in November 1923, visiting The United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa well as some smaller dependencies. The aim was to gather support for British sea power in terms of bases, facilities and financial backing. This cruise marked the height of the Empire in terms of its geographical extent.


Painting by J.C. Schmitz-Westerholt, depicting Hood's loss during her engagement with the German battleship Bismarck on 24 May 1941. HMS Prince of Wales is in the foreground. J.C. Schmitz-Westerholt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

HMS Hood took part in Operation Catapult in July 1940 which was an operation to disable the French fleet in port at Mers-el-Kebir in order to stop it falling into German hands. After that she had some more deployments and eventually returned to port for a refit. Unfortunately there was not time for the major overhaul she needed and she was still in poor condition when she left Scapa Flow in May 1941 to intercept the German Bismarck battleship.


The story of her pursuit of the Bismarck and ultimate sinking is well known. On 24th May 1941 A salvo from the Bismarck hit the Hood. Her magazine exploded and her entire crew of 1,418 drowned with the exception of three seamen.


This loss had a massive impact on the whole nation because the Hood was so famous. It marked the end of the era of dominance by the Royal Navy. The Navy went through a humbling period in the early stages of the war when it suffered huge losses. 


HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. Petty Officer Photographer Jay Allen, via Wikimedia Commons  

Despite performing amazingly well during World War 2 the writing was on the wall for the Royal Navy at the end of the war. The United States Navy had grown massively and took over from the Royal Navy as the largest in the world.

In a way the US Navy took on many of the characteristics of the Royal Navy. In particular its finest moments came when it was facing superior odds. For example at the Battle of Midway and the Battle off Samar. These were both engagements which showed that ultimately it is God who gives the victory, not superior strength.


After the war the Royal Navy faced seventy years of decline, reflecting the spiritual decline of the nation.This decline was only reversed with the introduction of two new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales. Fitting out of the first of these was completed in 2015. This seventy year period of decline is in line with scripture:


[Isa 23:14-15 KJV] 14 Howl, ye ships of Tarshish: for your strength is laid waste. 15 And it shall come to pass in that day, that Tyre shall be forgotten seventy years, according to the days of one king: after the end of seventy years shall Tyre sing as an harlot.

This table illustrates the 70 year decline of the Royal Navy since the end of World War 2.


Prophetically, in the bible, Tyre became Tarshish which is Britain. You can see more about this on the website page “Great Britain is Tarshish”. Tyre is portrayed as a harlot and we see in Isaiah 23:17 that after seventy years she returns to her old trade. However, like the harlots who met Jesus in the New Testament she will return to the Lord and her wares shall be given to the King of Kings.


[Isa 23:18 KJV] 18 And her merchandise and her hire shall be holiness to the LORD: it shall not be treasured nor laid up; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the LORD, to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.


We can expect to see Great Britain returning to her old money loving ways, and a revival in her Navy. However eventually the nation and all its wealth will be submitted to God. Ships such as HMS Hood are significant prophetic markers in the spiritual life of the nation.

Harlot. William Hogarth, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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