Origin and History of the name HMS Daedalus

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Daedalus and Icarus in Greek mythology

HMS Daedalus at Lee in the Solent is the latest in a long line of famous warships and proudly boasts a series of Battle Honours, the name having originated from Greek Mythology.
Origins of the name Daedalus in Greek Mythology

The Greek Mythical Daedalus built the labyrinth for King Minos, but afterward lost the favour of the king, and was shut up in a tower. He contrived to make his escape from his prison, but could not leave the island by sea, as the king kept strict watch on all the vessels and permitted none to sail without being carefully searched.

"Minos may control the land and sea," said Daedalus, "but not the regions of the air. I will try that way."  So he set to work to fabricate wings for himself and his young son Icarus.  When at last the work was done, the artist, waving his wings, found himself buoyed upward and hung suspended, poising himself on the beaten air. He next equipped his son in the same manner and taught him how to fly, as a bird tempts her young ones from the lofty nest into the air.

When all was prepared for flight he said, "Icarus, my son, I charge you to keep at a moderate height, for if you fly too low the damp will clog your wings, and if too high the heat will melt them. Keep near me and you will be safe." .

When the boy, exulting in his career, began to leave the guidance of his companion and soar upward as if to reach heaven. The nearness of the blazing sun softened the wax which held the feathers together, and they came off. He fluttered with his arms, but no feathers remained to hold the air. While his mouth uttered cries to his father it was submerged in the blue waters of the sea, which was thenceforth called by his name. His father cried, "Icarus, Icarus, where are you?" At last he saw the feathers floating on the water, and bitterly lamenting his own arts, he buried the body and called the land Icaria in memory of his child. Daedalus arrived safe in Sicily, where he built a temple to Apollo and hung up his wings, an offering to the god.

Origins of the name Daedalus in the Royal Navy

Origins of the name Daedalus in Greek Mythology

During the first world war, the Admiralty needed to establish a series of air stations around the south and east coasts to supplement the coastguard system and to alert our shore defences against sea and air invasion. In 1915 the Royal Naval Air Service sought to establish a single unit at which officers and ratings could be trained to fly aeroplanes, observer kite balloons and airships.  The Royal Naval Air Service Central Training Establishment Cranwell was commissioned on 1 April 1916.

Cranwell later became known as HMS Daedalus. This was not strictly correct but arose because the RN officers and ratings of the Central Training Establishment at Cranwell were borne on the books of HMS Daedalus which was a hulk in the Medway and the nominal depot ship for all RNAS personnel serving on other stations. HMS Daedalus was the third in a long pedigree, having originally been built in 1828.

With the amalgamation of the RNAS and the Royal Flying Corps on 1 April 1918, ownership of Cranwell was placed in the hands of the Royal Air Force. The former Naval base title was replaced by the designation Royal Air Force Station Cranwell and the Air Station at Lee-on-Solent commissioned as HMS Daedalus in 1939.
Lineage of HM ships named Daedalus

A number of Royal Navy ships have been named HMS Daedalus down through history. (ref Ships of the Old Navy: A history of the sailing ships of the Royal Navy by Michael Phillips)

The ship in the foreground is HMS Discovery.  Chatham and Daedalus are the other two.

Daedalus I (1780-1810)

(1780 Liverpool. BU 1811) 1791 Capt.Sir Charles Henry KNOWLES.
On 8 January 1797 off Ushant, Daedalus in company with Majestic and Incendiary, captured the French transport Suffrein which had previously been taken by Jason, recaptured by Tortu, and was now on her way to Brest. She was loaded with ordnance stores for the Irish invasion but she was sunk so as not to weaken Daedalus by putting a prize crew on board. On 3 August 1809 Daedalus was dismasted in a hurricane of Porto Rico. Her timbers were found to be quite decayed and she was paid off at Sheerness in September 1810.

HMS Daedalus was involved in Capt Vancouver's visit to Santa Barbara November 1793. HMS Discovery.  Chatham and Daedalus (Now A rear lobby in the New York headquarters of the Explorer's Club features transverse beams from the HMS Daedalus in the ceiling).

Daedalus II (1811-1813)

Daedalus,38. (The Venetian CORONA taken off Lissa by Capt. HOSTE's squadron, AMPHION, ACTIVE, CERBERUS and VOLAGE, in March 1811.Wrecked 1813) 1812 out of commission at Deptford.
On 1 July Daedalus and her convoy made the Point de Galle, at the southern tip of Ceylon, and were only four day's sail from their destination, Madras. The following morning, while she was going fast through the water, the ship touched bottom and grounded on a shoal. sank 1813.

Daedalus III (1826/28-1853)

Daedalus,46. (1826 Sheerness. 20 guns 1843. drill ship 1862). 1826- out of commission at Sheerness. 1844 Capt. Peter M'Quhae, 1844, East Indies. 1849 Capt. George Wellesley, 1849, East Indies. 1853 Devonport. This ship was built in 1828 at Sheerness, England. She was on the Pacific Station in Canada  in 1850 and 1851.

Sighting of sea serpent in 1848 from HMs Daedalus

Daedalus Passage, BC, Canada, was originally named to HMS Daedalus in 1850. But in 1848, a sighting by several officers in the British navy shook the foundations of British and European scepticism. On August 6th, HMS Daedalus was cutting through the South Atlantic waters near the Cape of Good Hope, at the southern tip of Africa, when a midshipman spotted something advancing rapidly toward the vessel. He immediately informed the ship's officers, and a total of seven men, including Captain Peter M'Quhae, got a good view of what they all described as a gigantic sea serpent

HMS Daedalus was a hulk in the Medway in the early 1900s and the nominal depot ship for all RNAS personnel serving on other stations...during the first World War, from which ultimately HMS Daedalus, Lee-on-Solent took the name.


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