'H. M. Ship Raleigh' entering Portsmouth Harbour signed 'R.S.Thomas' and dated 1850 (lower right), inscribed on reverse oil on canvas 31.7 x 46.4cm. (12 1/2 x 18 1/4in.)
H.M.S. Raleigh was a large 50-gun frigate built at Chatham Dockyard and measured at 1,943 tons. Laid down in August 1842 and launched on 8th May 1845, she was 180 feet in length with a 50 foot beam and mounted a main armament of 28-32pounder guns on her upper deck. Latterly serving on the China Station, she was wrecked on the subsequently-named Raleigh Rock, off Macao, on 14th April 1857 whilst en route to join the naval operations at the start of the Second Opium War (1857-60).
Striking the uncharted rock just after noon, Captain (later Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry) Keppel decided to try and beach his ship in order to save her. After three hours of strenuous effort, Raleigh eventually grounded on Koko Island and began firing her guns to summon assistance. These quickly attracted the attention of the French frigate Virginie but as soon as Keppel realised she was the flagship of the French C. in C. in the area, he ordered an Admirals salute to be fired despite Raleighs sinking condition. In the event, Virginie took off Raleighs entire crew without loss but the ship herself was beyond salvage and her wreck was later sold for breaking.