Just outside the Round Tower is a boulder mounted on a pedestal. I thought it a little odd, so went to investigate. Screwed into the stone was a small metal plaque which read as follows:
“During the Russian War (1854) a landing party from H.M.S. Hecla was attacked by a large body of Cossacks and many would have fallen had it not been for the courage of two sailors who taking cover behind this stone kept the enemy at bay until the safety of the whole party was assured. Captain Hall had the boulder carried to his ship and transported to Portsmouth“.
Realising the defensive significance of this boulder, Ben took cover behind it to ensure nobody tried to steal his ice cream.
It seems nobody knows much more about this boulder, nor indeed about the two sailors who saved the party. Even Portsmouth’s official Memorials and Monuments website states “We have no further information concerning this memorial”. Perhaps this is because HMS Hecla is far better known for another notable event during the same year. It was the Crimean War and HMS Hecla was off the coast of Finland, bombarding the coastal fort of Bomarsund, where the Russians were sheltering. The fort returned fire and during the height of the bombardment a live shell landed on the Hecla’s upper deck, its fuse still hissing. All hands were ordered throw themselves down flat on the deck but a Mate (the equivalent of a Midshipman today), Charles Davis Lucas, seized the shell and flung it overboard. It exploded before it hit the water. Some small damage to the ship was caused and two sailors suffered minor injuries, however, Lucas had undoubtedly saved many lives.
The first list of recipients for the Victoria Cross was gazetted three years later, in February 1857. Lucas’s name appeared on that list; his act of bravery that day was the earliest act of bravery to win a Victoria Cross.
Perhaps, therefore, the story of the stone has been overshadowed by other events and its details lost in time. The stone is remembered for one more thing, though. In 1965 a new ship was launched and named HMS Hecla. It’s captain was Captain Hall, the same name as the captain of the HMS Hecla in 1854. The Navy therefore suggested it would be fitting to move the stone to the quarterdeck of the new HMS Hecla for permanent display. Strangely, Portsmouth’s Council had no objection to this proposal. The Ministry of Defence, however, realised that the boulder was rather pointless and at the same time rather a heavy thing to carry around, so decided to proceed no further with the idea.
Thus it is that the boulder remains outside the Round Tower in Old Portsmouth, offering protection to boys with ice creams to this very day.
Points on this part of the walk (copy and paste the co-ordinates into Google Earth):
- HMS Hecla Stone on Pedestal: N 50°47.429 W 001°06.515
Walk #65 Statistics (of which this post forms the eleventh part):
- Date of Walk: 2 February 2014
- Walk #65 total distance covered (not including ferry ride): 8.53 miles
- Coast of Britain Walk Total Distance Covered: 538.76 miles
- CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO INTERACTIVE MAP!!!