A British cruiser, HMS Calypso arrived in St. John’s on October 12, 1902 and was moored at the western end of the harbour in what was then the Reid Newfoundland Company’s dock, close to the Railway Station at Riverhead. Calypso had a crew of 28 British Royal Navy instructors and could accommodate 300 trainees.
Launched in June 1883, Calypso was 71.6 m (235 ft) long with a beam (width) of 13.6 m (44.5 ft). She had three masts and a brig sail along with an engine and single screw prop. A corvette, designated as a cruiser, she was commissioned by the Royal Navy in 1885 and became part of the squadron which conducted surveys well above the Arctic Circle and used as a training ship.
The Newfoundland Government footed the bill to renovate and convert the ship for the men of the Royal Newfoundland Naval Reserve. Her masts and funnel were removed, and a house-like structure was constructed on top of her to allow for onboard accommodations and a drill hall for the Reservists in training for service in the Royal Navy.
That first winter after the British Royal Navy sent HMS Calypso to Newfoundland, 375 men volunteered. Their 28 days of annual training could be at their choosing, so most picked the winter months to travel to St. John’s, a period when they weren’t fishing and the seal hunt had not yet begun for the season. The Government paid their way to get to St. John’s for training.
The reservists came from almost every bay and district in Newfoundland, but with many from St. George’s - Bay of Islands, Bonavista and Trinity Bays as well as the capital. They quickly fell into the naval training daily route of inspection, physical drill, drill instruction, gunnery, rifle, fire station. Many took advantage of reading and writing classes offered after supper. By 1914, over 1,400 Newfoundlanders had trained on board and were ready to serve on naval ships if called upon.
The Calypso was renamed HMS Briton on February 15, 1916, as a new C-Class cruiser being built for the Royal Navy was to carry that name. The new Calypso’s keel was laid down on February 17, 1916 and she went on to sail in both World Wars.
The British Admiralty decided there was no longer a need for a training ship, and HMS Briton was sold to private interests in 1922. Used for bulk storage of salt in St. John’s harbour, she made her final journey
in 1968 to a bay near Embree, north of Lewisporte, where she was burned to her hull and is still visible. Her anchor is installed in front of the Lewisporte Town Hall and her wheel can be seen in the Murray Premises in downtown St. John’s.