India : Unsung Maritime History Part III

The rise of Bombay Dockyard was a result of its strategic natural harbour which was naturally isolated from land-attacks. The English realized this potential in the early 1600’s and began its campaigns to acquire it. But it was only in 1735 that the East India Company (The English Empire had leased Bombay to the East India Company soon after they acquired Bombay in 1665 from the Portuguese) could establish a fully functional marine yard, The Bombay Dockyard in Bombay.

The construction of the first dry dock at Bombay Dock Yard enabled the East India Company to build 50-guns ships (also known as 4th rate ships) which had two decks.

The requirement of quality ships surged as the British Empire was expanding its reach. Soon the need for 2nd dry dock was felt. Even before the yard could have been completed in 1752 the need for 3rd dry dock was felt. These docks increased the rate at which ships be refit, repaired and commissioned. Around 275 ships were built between 1761 and 1860 at the Bombay Dockyard.

Length (in Ft) Breadth (in Ft) Depth (in Ft)
1st Dry Dock 209 47 15
2nd Dry Dock 183 51 20
3rd Dry Dock 256 51 20

Bombay Dockyard played a profound role in the clashes between the English naval forces and the French during 1782 to 1783. Both sides suffered extensive battle damages but Bombay being nearby the English could recoup much faster than the French who had to go all the way to Mauritius.

Today’s modern India is heavily investing in expansions of its naval forces a lesson is to be learnt from history, for any military strategy from waging war to enforcing peace at sea an efficient support from a well established and professional dockyard nearby is of vital importance. One who doesn’t learn from his past soon becomes the past himself.

Bombay Dock Yard built The Marquis Cornwallis in the year 1800 A.D. for the East India Company. It was the largest ship till then built by the Bombay dock for the East India Company. She was a 4th rate ship carrying 50 guns. On her 1st visit to England, she received such admiration and praise that the Admiralty purchased her and commissioned her in the royal navy. Since then the Admiralty decided to place orders directly on Bombay dockyard and with the commencement of Naval contracts began the golden era of Bombay Dock Yard.


The Marquis Cornwallis
The Marquis Cornwallis


Over the years the Bombay dockyard kept raising the bar for itself. From the humble sail ships of displacement 200 (Schooner, 1763 A.D.) tons to gigantic ships of displacement 2591 tons (Meaane / HMS Madras, 1848 A.D.)  were constructed at the Bombay dockyard. From sail ships to steamships were also constructed.

In the next post, we shall uncover the most celebrated ship ever built by the Bombay Dockyard…



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