Dotted around the colonial ceremony in Happy Valley, Hong Kong, are numerous massive military memorials. These stone monuments date from the earliest years of British rule, and commemorate army units and naval vessels that served in Hong Kong, or elsewhere in China waters, throughout the 19th century. The size and elaborateness of the monuments vary; much depended on the funds that could be raised, by private subscription, to build them. Military officers of that era were usually of independent financial means, which ensured many were able to donate generously to regimental charities and other associated causes. Among the largest memorials found in Happy Valley is one that commemorates the officers and men of HMS Calcutta. This vessel came to Far Eastern waters at the time of the second opium war , also known as the second Anglo-Chinese war, fought between 1856 and 1860, and took part in various skirmishes on the China coast during that conflict as the flagship of Admiral Sir Michael Seymour, though the vessel was actually commanded by Captain William King-Hall (Seymour’s brief time in Hong Kong is commemorated by a road name in Mid-Levels). The cemetery monument records the names of those members of the ship’s company who died during that period, and were buried either in Hong Kong or at sea. In 1858, on a voyage to Japan, HMS Calcutta became the first Royal Navy vessel of its size to enter the country, at Nagasaki. After Napoleon’s defeat in 1815, the world entered what became the British century. In long periods of relative peace, as other empires from the Romans to the Americans discovered, being a self-declared global policeman rendered defence costs that were higher, in the long term, than those of conflict itself. Control of strategic materials became vital, and if it was impossible to purchase these commodities, then simply taking them from those not in a position to resist was the preferred alternative. Throughout the 1820s, Britain’s naval expenditure rose, and with it, a significant shipbuilding programme. A key reason for the British annexation of parts of lower Burma in 1826 was to guarantee a supply of teak for naval construction. Teak sourced from Burma was transported to India, where most vessels were built. HMS Calcutta was not built in the Bengal city that bears its name, but in Bombay, on the other side of the subcontinent. The keel was laid down at the Bombay Dockyard in 1828, and it was launched in 1831. After fitting out, the ship carried 84 guns and a crew of 720. Kept in reserve through the 1840s, HMS Calcutta was mobilised after the Crimean war broke out in 1853, but was soon sent back to England as – even by then – it was unsuitable for naval warfare. By the late 1850s, the advent of steam power, and the development of iron-clad vessels, had rendered these enormous, relatively slow-moving sailing ships obsolete within a few years of their completion. Many were sold off – at an enormous financial loss to the Admiralty – and broken up for their valuable timber. Others were de-masted, and anchored in various harbours, often as administrative offices or floating accommodation blocks. Along with HMS Cambridge, HMS Calcutta was permanently moored at Devonport, in southern England, from 1865 onwards. Sold in 1908, and broken up for scrap, the teak it was built from was sold for building materials; some no doubt still exists as floorboards or stair treads. HMS Calcutta’s Bengali-inspired figurehead was acquired by Admiral John Fisher when the ship was sold, and ended up in the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Hartlepool, in northeast England, where it can be seen today. The memorial at Happy Valley is the ship’s only other tangible reminder.