The first warship to bear the name of our island was HHS Jersey - HHS not HMS, for England was then a Republic, and Oliver Cromwell was Protector; so she was His Highness's, not His Majesty's, ship.
A History of Maldon by F H Laws, recently published, gives particulars of her building. In 1654, when Cromwell's ship-building programme became known, the shipwrights of Maldon in Essex petitioned the Navy Commissioners that one of the new frigates might be built in their yards. The State Papers show that their petition was granted.
- 1654 May 30. From James Perrott, Maldon. The hoy with rigging for the new ship has arrived, but there is no place to store it, nor any person to take care of it, or to discharge the Master for what he delivers. Desires someone may be sent down at once; also an order to engage a carpenter.
- June 19. From Jas Jarvis, Maldon. Will get the frigate out this tide, if the builder gets a good hoy and a couple of lighters. There are 30 men on board - wages and more are expected. Having passed his word for their weekly pay, desires money may be sent, or they must appoint some other man. When the frigate is where she can have her masts set, they will be four miles from Maldon, and there will be great neglect of business, if no provisions are all board.
- July 8. From Captain Jas Terry, Maldon. Having got the Jersey down half a mile, will set her masts. Desires a lieutenant and a chaplain may be appointed.
- Aug 21. From Captain Jas Terry, Harwich. Left Maldon River the 18th, and on arriving at Harwich requested survey, as much builders' work is needed. Wants a chaplain.
- Sept 18. From Major Bourne, Harwich. The Jersey has been tallowed and is taking in her guns and five months' provisions.
She was a three-masted frigate of 560 tons with a gun-deck of approximately 132 feet and an armament of 48 guns. She carried in peacetime 150 officers and men, and more than 200 in war. Her name was given to commemorate the recapture of Jersey by the Parliamentary forces in 1651. Most of her early years were spent in chasing Algerian pirates in the Mediterranean.
At the Restoration in 1660 the names of many of the Commonwealth's ships were changed, but the King retained the name of the Jersey in memory of his stay in the island. In 1663 she formed part of the fleet sent to protect the trading stations of the English South African Company from the Dutch. In 1667 her commander was James Carteret, the ne'er-do-well son of Sir George, and she took part in the disastrous expedition to the West Indies to try to recover St Kitts from the French.
In 1669 she is mentioned in Pepys' Diary:
- "March 13. That which put me in good humour both at noon and night is the fancy that I am this day made a Captain of one of the King's ships, Mr Wren, having this day sent me the Duke of York's commission to be Captain of the Jerzy in order to my being on a Court-Martiall for examining the loss of the Defyance and other things, which do give me occasion for much mirth, and may be of some use to me; at least I shall get a little money by it for the time I have it, it being designed that I must really be a Captain to be able to sit in their Court.
- "March 16. I away down by water to Woolwich and here I saw, but did not go on board, my ship, the Jerzy, she lying at the wharf under repair".
She continued in commission till 1691, when she was captured by the French in the West Indies and used as a privateer. Three years later she was attacked by a squadron of British ships, driven ashore, and burnt.