Author Topic: HMS Royal George (1756 - 1782)  (Read 154 times)

Offline stuartwaters

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Re: HMS Royal George (1756 - 1782)
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2021, 10:25:58 PM »
Mr Holinbery would have been at his station on the Quarterdeck as officer of the watch. The captains quarters were also on the Quarterdeck beneath the poop. The rest of the off-duty officers would have been in the wardroom, located on the middle gundeck while Rear-Admiral Kempenfelt's quarters were on the upper gundeck.
"I did not say the French would not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Admiral Sir John Jervis, 1st Earl St Vincent.

Offline MartinR

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Re: HMS Royal George (1756 - 1782)
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2021, 04:48:07 PM »
Not trying to make any political points, but the officers were more likely to survive, they would be on the poop deck and not down in the bowels of the ship.

Offline stuartwaters

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Re: HMS Royal George (1756 - 1782)
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2021, 01:39:35 PM »
There was indeed a Court Martial as there always was when a vessel was lost for any reason. The Court Martial Board found that the ship's loss was due to the age and state of decay of her timbers. This was understandable to a degree, HMS Royal George was almost thirty years old at the time of her loss. Many suspect a cover-up though . The ship should have been given a thorough survey before she was fitted for sea and this should have revealed any rot which was so bad as to cause the ship to sink at her mooring inside a harbour. Given the scale of the tragedy, the Royal Navy was also keen to avoid the finger of blame and any allegations of incompetence being behind the sinking.


Mr Holinbery, the Third Lieutenant, was amongst the survivors, but was exonerated by the Court Martial. Captain Waghorn also survived, as did the the Carpenter. Most of the survivors were taken to HMS Victory which was moored nearby, but the Carpenter died a few days later.


Dozens of people were crushed when the guns broke free and crushed them against the port side of the ship, where they had fallen as the ship capsized.
"I did not say the French would not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Admiral Sir John Jervis, 1st Earl St Vincent.

Offline Dave Smith

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Re: HMS Royal George (1756 - 1782)
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2021, 09:20:16 AM »
And thanks from me too Stuart.- phew, some read! Would they have had a court of enquiry in those days? Holinbery's name would have come up in looking for an explanation, but he was probably lost with all those other poor souls?

Offline Lutonman

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Re: HMS Royal George (1756 - 1782)
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2021, 08:38:12 PM »
A really interesting read Stuart

Online grandarog

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Re: HMS Royal George (1756 - 1782)
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2021, 09:41:28 AM »
That's some read Stuart ,Very interesting ,Thanks. :)

Offline MartinR

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Re: HMS Royal George (1756 - 1782)
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2021, 06:56:19 AM »
Do we have any idea why Holinbery refused the carpenter's request and warning?

Offline stuartwaters

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HMS Royal George (1756 - 1782)
« Reply #1 on: July 05, 2021, 10:14:57 PM »

HMS Royal George was a 100-gun, First Rate ship of the line of the 1745 Establishment, built at the Woolwich Royal Dockyard. She was one of a pair of such ships, the other being HMS Britannia which was ordered five years later and was built at the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard. The ship was to become infamous as a result of her loss in the deadliest accident ever to have occurred within the confines of a British port.


An Establishment was a set of detailed specifications for a warship, within which the Master Shipwright at the building yard was expected to design and build the ship. The 1745 Establishment was intended to fully replace the 1719 Establishment, which itself had been amended in 1733 and 1741. The ships produced under these Establishments had never been entirely satisfactory, despite the Amendments and the 1745 Establishment was intended to rectify these shortcomings. Unfortunately, the 1745 Establishment was also not entirely successful and amendments were made fairly soon after it was issued. The problem was that the Navy Board had seen to it that Amendments to the Establishments could only be issued with permission from the Privvy Council and this led to political disputes between the Admiralty, which controlled the deployments of the fleet and the appointment of Naval Officers and the Navy Board, which amongst other things, controlled the design and construction of new ships and the Dockyards which built and maintained them.


In 1751, Admiral George, Lord Anson became First Lord of the Admiralty. As a very successful and senior naval commander, he not only had first-hand experience of working with and fighting the Establishment ships, he also had the ears of senior politicians, and the King. He eventually saw to it that Sir Jacob Ackworth, the last of the Surveyors of the old school in the Navy Board, was replaced with more forward-looking men, Thomas Slade and William Bately. He initiated reforms of the Navy Board which resulted in the Admiralty gaining control of it and designs for new ships being produced centrally by the Surveyors, finally ending the era of the Establishments. HMS Royal George and HMS Britannia were to be the only First Rate ships built to the 1745 Establishment and the first First Rate ship to be ordered after they fell out of use was designed by Thomas Slade at the Navy Board's offices in London and was built at the Chatham Royal Dockyard. That ship was HMS Victory.


The First Rate ship of the line, carrying 100 or more guns, was the equivalent in 18th and early 19th century navies of a modern nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. They were so expensive to build and operate that only the navies of the superpowers of the day could afford them, those of Britain, France and Spain. Their huge operating and maintenance costs meant that whenever a war ended, they were amongst the first ships to be decommissioned and laid up in the fleet reserve or Ordinary. In time of war however, the First Rate ship's sheer size, physical presence and devastating firepower meant that in any naval engagement, they were worth their weight in gold. Despite the fact that at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar, the Royal Navy was larger than the rest of the worlds navies put together, the British still only had seven First Rate ships in service and that figure included two ships which had been captured from the Spanish, HMS Salvador del Mundo and HMS San Josef, both of 112 guns.


HMS Royal George was ordered from the Woolwich Royal Dockyard on the 29th August 1746 and was designed by Thomas Fellowes, the Master Shipwright in the Dockyard at the time. The ship was originally intended to be called HMS Royal Anne, after the First Rate ship she was intended to replace. On the 8th January 1747, orders were received from the Navy Board that the new ship was to be named in honour of the reigning monarch, King George II. Over the course of her almost ten year build, the project was overseen by Thomas Slade for a month between May and June of 1752, Adam Hayes between June of 1752 and March of 1753, Edward Allin from then until December of 1755. Finally, Mr Israel Pownall oversaw her completion and launch.


The War of Austrian Succession (1740 - 1748) was a war fought mostly ashore in Europe and Britain's involvement in it was marginal. It encompassed a number of other wars including the War of Jenkins Ear, fought over competing British and Spanish territorial claims in the Americas and the Caribbean and what naval actions did occur were fought with smaller ships. None of the Royal Navy's First Rate ships at the time were prepared for sea and for this reason, two of them became decayed and were broken up, including the previous HMS Royal Anne. The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was signed on the 8th October 1748, ending the war, but a number of the issues fought over in the war were left unresolved and all involved in it knew that another war was just a matter of time. Because the nation had entered a period of peace, construction of the new First Rate ship at Woolwich became less urgent.


After fighting broke out between British and French colonists in North America during 1754 in what is now known as the French and Indian War, the construction project at Woolwich suddenly became a lot more urgent and on the 18th February 1756, the massive new ship was launched with all due ceremony into the River Thames. And massive she certainly was. At the time of her launch, HMS Royal George was the largest ship in the world and was the first British ship to exceed 2,000 tons burthen. At the time, neither the French or the Spanish possessed any such ships, preferring instead to build greater numbers of smaller, two-decked, 80-gun ships which could throw a broadside of similar weight and power to that of a British 90 or 98-gun Second Rate ship of the line.


On the 17th May 1756 with the conflict in North America escalating, Britain declared war on France, starting the Seven Years War. Later that month, HMS Royal George commissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain Richard Dorril as flagship of the Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Sir Edward Hawke.


On completion, HMS Royal George was a ship of 2,046 tons. She was 178ft long on her upper gundeck, 143ft 5.5in along the keel and 51ft 9.5in wide across her beams. She drew 14ft 8in of water at her bows and 16ft 1in at the rudder. She was armed with 28 x 42pdr long guns on her lower gundeck, 28 x 24pdr long guns on her middle gundeck, 28 x 12pdr long guns on her upper gundeck, 12 x 6pdr long guns on her quarterdeck with four more on her forecastle. In addition to her main guns, she carried a dozen or so half-pounder anti-personnel swivel guns fitted to her quarterdeck and forecastle handrails and bulwarks and in her fighting tops.


HMS Royal George Plans


Orlop Plan





Lower Gundeck Plan





Middle Gundeck Plan





Upper Gundeck Plan





Quarterdeck Plan





Forecastle Plan





Poop Deck Plan





Inboard Profile and Plan





Sheer Plan and Lines





A Painting by Joseph Marshall of the Navy Board model of HMS Royal George





In this painting by John Clevely the Elder, HMS Royal George is the vessel in the right foreground. The subject of the painting is the launch of HMS Cambridge, a Third Rate, three-decked ship of the line of 80 guns at Woolwich Royal Dockyard. At the time this painting was actually made, HMS Royal George was yet to be launched.





At the time that HMS Royal George was being prepared for sea, Press Warrants had been issued by the Admiralty in preparation for the coming war. This meant that the Press Gangs were busy rounding up sailors in all the ports for service in the fleet. A First Rate ship like HMS Royal George needed a crew of 850 Officers, Seamen and boys plus Marines. An appointment to a First Rate ship of the line was one of the most prestigious in the fleet and were only given to the best connected or skilled men in their fields. To reflect the prestige of an appointment to a First Rate ship, all the officers and Warrant Officers were the highest paid men in their fields. The ship's eight Lieutenants were appointed by the Admiralty and were ranked in order of seniority, First Lieutenant, Second Lieutenant etc. Of these, the First Lieutenant was the most important as he was not only the second-in-command, but also controlled the day-to-day organisation and running of the ship and her crew. First Rate ships normally operated as flagships and depending on how the flag-officer wanted his flagship to be organised, HMS Royal George may have had two Captains aboard. The Flag-Captain was the Admiral's Chief of Staff and although nominally in command, he actually took little part in the management of HMS Royal George and her crew. The Second Captain was effectively in day to day command of the ship.


The rest of the ship's officers were Warrant Officers, appointed by the Navy Board and these men were effectively the heads of department, the ship's core craftsmen. Amongst these men were the Standing Officers, those men would stay with the ship whether she was in commission or not.


The Standing Officers in a First Rate ship of the line were:


The Boatswain or Bosun. He was a man who had worked his way up through the ranks of seamen, with a great many years of experience of the sea. He was answerable to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the operation, repair and maintenance of the ship's boats as well as her masts and rigging. When the ship was in commission, he was assisted by four Boatswains Mates. Amongst the duties of the Boatswains Mates was the administering of any floggings ordered by the Captain.


The Gunner. He was another man who had worked his way up through the ranks of seamen. He was responsible to the First Lieutenant for the maintenance, operation and repair of the ships main guns, the training of gun crews and training of Midshipmen in Ordinary in the art of gunnery. In action, his station was in the magazine, filling gunpowder cartridges to be taken to the gun captains by the powder monkeys. When the ship was in commission, he was assisted by four Gunners Mates and 25 Quarter Gunners, each of whom was a Petty Officer in charge of four gun crews.


The Carpenter. He was a fully qualified Shipwright who was answerable to the First Lieutenant for the repair and maintenance of the ships hull, frames and decks. When the ship was in commission, he was assisted two Carpenters Mates and had a dedicated crew of twelve men.


The Purser. He was answerable directly to the Captain and was responsible for the purchase and distribution of all the ship's stores and provisions. While the ship was in the Ordinary, he was allowed to live ashore within a reasonable distance of the Dockyard.


The Cook. He was responsible to the First Lieutenant for the distribution and preparation of the ships provisions. He was also in charge of the ship's complement of servants.


The rest of the ships Warrant Officers were only appointed when the ship was in commission. They were:


The Sailing Master. A qualified ship's master, he was certified by Trinity House to command a vessel in the Merchant Service when not employed by the Royal Navy. He reported directly to the Captain and was responsible for the day to day sailing and navigation of the ship. In addition to this, he was also responsible for the stowage of the stores in the hold to ensure the ship had the optimum trim for sailing and manoeuvring. He was assisted by a less senior but equally qualified Sailing Master known as the Second Master and six Masters Mates. Each of the Masters Mates was a fully qualified Mate, able to serve in the Merchant Service as a Mate when not employed by the Royal Navy. The Masters Mates were the lowest ranking officers in the ship who could be appointed in temporary command of any prizes. The Sailing Master was also assisted by eight Quartermasters and six Quartermasters Mates, all responsible for the ships steering. The Sailing Master was also responsible for training Midshipmen in Ordinary in the arts of sailing and navigation and assessing their capabilities in this field, although these tasks were usually delegated to the Masters Mates.


The Surgeon. Although not a qualified doctor as such, the Surgeon had had to complete a seven-year apprenticeship overseen by the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons before he would have been allowed to practice his trade unsupervised. He reported directly to the Captain and was assisted by three Assistant Surgeons, each of whom was a part-qualified Surgeon. He was responsible for the health of the whole ships company including the Captain. While the ship was serving as a flagship for a senior flag-officer, the flag-officer would come aboard with his own staff, which might have included a personal physician. Different flag-officers had different approaches to this. Nelson did not have a personal physician while Rodney did.


Other, less senior Warrant Officers had to apply to the First Lieutenant and present their credentials before they were appointed by the Captain. They included:


The Armourer - He was responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ships stocks of bladed weapons. As a fully qualified Blacksmith, he could manufacture new bladed weapons as needed and would also be engaged in the maintenance and repair of the ships iron fixtures and fittings. He was assisted by two Armourers Mates and answered to the Gunner.


The Gunsmith. He was responsible for the repair and maintenance of the ships stocks of small arms. From the early 1780s, with the introduction of the flintlock firing mechanism for the ships main guns, it fell to the Gunsmith to maintain these as well. He answered to the Gunner. Only First and Second Rate ships carried a Gunsmith; on smaller ships, this role fell to the Armourer.


The Clerk. He answered to the Purser and was responsible for keeping the ships records.


The Caulker. He answered to the Carpenter and was responsible for keeping the hull and decks watertight. In a First Rate ship, he was assisted by a single Caulkers Mate and seamen as required.


The Sailmaker. He answered to the Boatswain and was responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ships sails, the storage and preparation of spare sails as required as well as the ships stocks of flags and colours. He was assisted by a single Sailmakers Mate and had a dedicated crew of two men.


The Schoolmaster. He answered to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for teaching the Midshipmen in Ordinary in the mathematics behind navigation. He would have had to take an examination and receive a certificate from Trinity House before he would be eligable to serve in this position.


The Chaplain. An ordained Church of England priest, he was responsible for the spiritual well-being of the ships company and answered to the Captain. In action, his role was to assist the Surgeons Crew with the care of wounded men.


The Ropemaker. He answered to the Boatswain and was responsible for the storage, maintenance and repair of the ships stocks of cordage. He could also manufacture new cordage as required.


A First Rate ship of the line had a complement of 24 Midshipmen. These men and boys were in effect, commanders in training and their role was to assist the ship's Lieutenants in their day to day duties until such a time that they could be put forward for their Lieutenant's Examination. The most senior of them was in charge of the ship's signals although when the ship was serving as a flagship, signals would be the responsibility of the Admiral's Flag Lieutenant. They were appointed into the ship by the local Commander-in-Chief wherever the ship commissioned or could be appointed by the Flag-officer flying his flag in the ship. In addition to the Midshipmen, the ship carried Midshipmen in Ordinary. Appointed by the Captain, these young men at the beginnings of their careers as officers in the Royal Navy, were the sons of friends of the Captain, people the Captain either owed a favour to or was doing a favour for, or were related to the Captain. They were on the ships books as Captains Servants and were paid at the same rate as an Able Seaman. The Captain of a First Rate ship of the line was entitled to have up to 32 servants or four per rounded hundred of her Company. Unless he was extraordinariy extravagant, the Captain wouldn't require anything like this number of servants and in any case, usually came aboard with his own staff which included Stewards. The spare positions were taken up with the Midshipmen in Ordinary. They wore the uniform and performed the role of a Midshipman and they lived in the Midshipmen's quarters.


In addition to the complement of seamen, a ship would carry a complement of Marines. In a First Rate ship of the line, this would consist of a Captain of Marines in command, assisted by two Marine Lieutenants, four Sergeants, four Corporals, two Drummers and 100 Marine Privates. The Marine Captain reported directly to the Captain. These men would come aboard as a pre-existing unit. When the ship was acting as a Fleet Flagship, a further Marine officer with the rank of Major or Lieutenant-Colonel was appointed to command all the fleet's Marines. That officer would report directly to the Admiral.


The opening battles of the Seven Years War had gone badly for the British. The island of Minorca with the vital naval base at Port Mahon had been lost in June 1756. It had also gone badly ashore in America after the French managed to persuade many Native American Nations to fight alongside them and in Europe, the main British ally Austria had allied herself with the French. Things weren't helped by political instability at home. This changed in June of 1757 when a coalition was formed between two former political opponents, the Duke of Newcastle and William Pitt the Elder. Once a division of political responsibilities had been agreed between the two men, the Government was able to set a strategic policy which had been lacking before. In 1758, Pitt decided on a strategy to distract the enemy by attacking them in their overseas possessions and launching large scale raids or "Descents" on their own coast. This approach had a number of advantages. Firstly, it would divide the enemy forces by making them send troops and ships to defend their colonies and trading posts and secondly it would deprive the French of trade and therefore money. A series of amphibious assaults were launched on the French coast, their trading posts on the west coast of Africa and in the Caribbean were attacked and taken and plans were laid to take Quebec.


In early 1759, the British became aware of French plans for an invasion of Britain. This was to involve the transport of 100,000 French troops in a huge fleet of barges and flat-bottomed boats across the English Channel. The invasion fleet was to be built in Le Havre, Brest, Morlaix, Lorient and Nantes. Initially, the plans were to involve a Jacobite uprising in Scotland under Charles Stewart, the so-called Bonnie Prince Charlie and grandson of the last Stewart King, James II. This part of the plan was cancelled after Charles turned up to a meeting with the French military High Command late and drunk. Nevertheless, plans for the invasion continued to evolve such that by the summer of 1759, it had been decided that the invasion would be launched from Le Havre alone and that the hundreds of invasion craft should gather there to await favourable winds to carry them to the Portsmouth area where they were to land. The British laid their own plans to counter the invasion threat. Admiral Sir Edward Hawke, now commanding the Royal Navy's Channel Fleet from HMS Royal George was to mount a close blockade of the main French naval base at Brest to prevent them from being able to escort the invasion force across the English Channel, while troops were stationed on the Isle of Wight and shore batteries thrown up near likely landing sites. In the early summer, intelligence reached London that the French intended to try to send the fleet unescorted.


In late June 1759, Rear-Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney was ordered by Admiral Hawke to take a squadron of five ships of the line, five frigates, a sloop of war and six Bomb Vessels to Le Havre and destroy the invasion fleet. The subsequent Bombardment of Le Havre led to the French calling off plans to send the invasion fleet unescorted. An alternative plan was hatched to launch the invasion with the remaining invasion craft from Brest, to be escorted across the English Channel by the combined French Brest and Toulon Fleets and land at Maldon in Essex and in Scotland to support a planned Jacobite uprising, dividing the defending British. The Toulon Fleet was caught and scattered by the British Mediterranean Fleet under Admiral Boscawen at the Battle of Lagos in August 1759.


In the first week of November 1759, Hawke's fleet was forced leave their blockade stations to run into Torbay to escape a fierce storm. The French, under the Marshal the Compte de Conflans took the opportunity to put to sea. The French force was under orders to rendezvous with and escort a fleet of troopships waiting in the Golfe de Morbihan to Scotland and mount the invasion there. On 14th November 1759, Conflans and his fleet left Brest and were spotted by the frigate HMS Actaeon that day. On the 15th November, Hawke ordered the fleet to weigh anchor from Torbay and the following day was informed by Captain William McCleverty of HMS Gibraltar (20) that the French Brest Fleet had sailed and had been seen 24 leagues (72 miles) to the north-west of Belle Isle. Hawke immediately ordered the fleet to head for Quiberon Bay under all possible sail, guessing that the French fleet would head that way in order to break the blockade and free the transport ships trapped there.


At this stage, Hawke's Channel Fleet comrised the following ships of the line:


HMS Royal George (100), HMS Namur, HMS Union and HMS Duke (all Second Rate ships with 90 guns), HMS Mars, HMS Hercules, HMS Torbay, the ex-French HMS Magnanime, HMS Resolution and HMS Hero (all of 74 guns), HMS Swiftsure, HMS Dorsetshire, HMS Burford, HMS Chichester and HMS Temple (all of 70 guns), HMS Revenge and HMS Essex (both of 64 guns), HMS Kingston, HMS Intrepid, HMS Montagu, HMS Dunkirk and HMS Defiance (all of 60 guns), HMS Portland, HMS Falkland, HMS Chatham and HMS Rochester (all of 50 guns).


The four 50-gun ships had been left behind to blockade the French transport ships and had been placed under the command of Commodore Robert Duff.


The frigates accompanying the fleet were:


HMS Venus (12pdr, 36), HMS Minerva and HMS Sapphire (both 12pdr, 32), HMS Vengeance, HMS Maidstone and HMS Coventry (all 9pdr, 28).


With his ships beating into the teeth of a south-easterly gale, Hawke and his fleet were delayed in their arrival at the Bay. On the 19th, the wind eased and Hawke ordered the frigates HMS Maidstone and HMS Coventry to sail ahead and scout for the enemy. Early the next morning, Hawke also ordered HMS Magnamime to sail ahead of the fleet to support the two frigates


On the night of the 19th November, Conflans ordered his fleet to reduce sail in order to arrive at Quiberon Bay the following morning, rather than in the middle of the night. Early the following morning, the French force spotted sails which turned out to be those of Commodore Duff's squadron. Realising that the strange sails belonged to a small squadron rather than a full fleet, Conflans ordered his fleet to give chase. Duff split his force into two, north and south, pursued by the French vanguard and centre. The rear of the French fleet peeled off to investigate strange sails appearing to the West. These turned out to be the British Fleet with 24 ships of the line, led by Admiral Hawke in HMS Royal George. The French broke off their pursuit of Duff's squadron and retreated back into the Bay. This enabled Commodore Duff's squadron to rejoin the main body of the fleet.


At 08:30 on the 20th November 1759, HMS Maidstone signalled Sir Edward Hawke aboard HMS Royal George that she had sighted a fleet. At 09:45, HMS Magnanime signalled the flagship that she had the enemy in sight. Hawke immediately ordered the fleet to form a line abreast. This was followed shortly afterwards by a signal ordering the seven ships nearest the enemy to give chase and attempt to hold them up for long enough for the main body of the fleet to come up and force a general engagement.


Realising the British were upon them, the French fell into confusion, but soon recovered and began to form a line of battle to meet the oncoming British fleet. While the French were attempting to form their line of battle, Conflans realised that Hawke's fleet would be all over them before the manoeuvres were complete. He figured that since he knew the Bay with it's labyrinth of sandbanks, rocks and treacherous currents, while the British were in unfamiliar waters in deteriorating weather, he had the advantage. His priority became keeping his fleet together and ordered the French fleet to head for the land, twelve miles away, hoping to tempt Hawke to follow. With the wind from the North-West or North-North-West and increasing in strength, both fleets crowded on sail, the French to escape and the British to catch them. At 14:00, the French rear opened fire on the British vanguard and half an hour later, Hawke gave the order to engage the enemy.


A short while later, HMS Resolution, HMS Magnanime, HMS Revenge, HMS Torbay, HMS Montagu, HMS Swiftsure and HMS Defiance got stuck into the French rear. The flagship of the French Rear Division, the 80-gun ship Le Formidable was engaged in passing by these ships until HMS Resolution came alongside and engaged her at point blank range. With the French Rear-Admiral and over 200 of her men dead and battered to a floating wreck, Le Formidable surrendered. The French Seventy-Four Thesee was engaged first by HMS Magnanime and then by HMS Torbay. Her commander refused to order his lower gundeck gunports to be closed in his determination to fight off the British attacks and as a result, while engaged against HMS Torbay in the heavy seas, the Thesee foundered, taking all but 20 of her 800-man crew with her. The French ship Superbe of 70 guns received a full broadside at point blank range from HMS Royal George and capsized. Captain Lord Howe of HMS Magnanime then saw the French Seventy-Four L'Heros laying crippled downwind of him, brought his ship alongside and forced them to surrender. In the heavy seas, Lord Howe was unable to send a boat across to accept the Frenchman's surrender.


By this time, it was getting dark. The British had no pilots and unreliable charts, so Hawke ordered the fleet to anchor where they were and await daybreak. He knew he had the upper hand in the battle. Unfortunately, the signal to anchor for the night was in the form of two guns fired in rapid succession from the flagship, but with several of the British ships still engaged against the enemy  and with a full gale howling through the rigging, the signal wasn't heard by everybody. With the coming of darkness, some of the British ships anchored, some headed back out to the safety of the open sea.


On the morning of the 21st November, Sir Edward Hawke found that HMS Resolution had gone aground on the Four Bank in the night and that the French flagship, Le Soleil Royal of 80 guns had anchored in the middle of his fleet. Realising her situation, Conflans ordered that his flagship cut her anchor cable and get away, but the ship ended up going aground off the town of Croisic. L'Heros had also tried to get away in the night but had also gone aground on the Four Bank. Seeing the French flagship getting under way, Hawke ordered HMS Essex to give chase, but before long, that ship too joined the others on the Four Bank.


The rest of the French fleet managed to get away in the night. On the 22nd, the French set their flagship on fire and men sent by Hawke burned L'Heros.


Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hawke and his men had won a stunning victory. The British had lost two ships of the line wrecked and suffered 400 casualties across the fleet. The French on the other hand had lost six ships of the line wrecked, sunk and captured with many others battered to floating ruins. Over 2,000 French sailors had died in the Battle. Despite the victory, Admiral Hawke was disappointed with the result. He was later to state that if he had had two more hours of daylight, he might have taken the whole enemy fleet.


The tracks of the fleets in the lead-up to the Battle of Quiberon Bay:





The Battle of Quiberon Bay, painted by Nicholas Pocock in 1812.





The loss of the French 74-gun ship Thesee during her duel with HMS Torbay (74)





The aftermath of the battle - HMS Resolution (74) lies on her side on the Four Shoal while the French ships Le Soleil Royal and L'Heros lie aground in flames behind her:





The scale of Admiral Hawke's victory had consequences for the rest of the war. The power of the French fleet was broken and did not recover until after the war. The French were unable to resupply their army in Canada and this in turn led to the eventual British victory there. In addition, the French Government suffered a credit crunch as financiers realised that the Royal Navy could now strike French possessions anywhere in the world at will and refused to lend the French Government any more money. The French Government was forced to default on it's existing debts in order to continue the war.


After the battle, the Channel Fleet blockaded the remnants of the French Atlantic Fleet in it's bases. In the meantime, plans had been laid to seize the French island of Belle Isle, off the Brittany Coast. This island was strategically important as it offers command of the Bay of Biscay and of the approaches to the French naval base at Lorient. The administration of William Pitt the Elder considered that the island could be used as the stepping stone to more amphibious assaults on the Biscay Coast of France itself as well as to prevent the French from using the naval base. The Government had already proposed an invasion of Belle Isle the previous year, but it had been opposed by King George II on the grounds that the army would be better off concentrating its resources on the ongoing campaign in modern-day Germany. The King had died on October 27th 1760 and had been succeeded by his grandson, King George III. The young new king was keen to see the war brought to a rapid end and on 25th March 1761 had given his approval for the planned invasion to go ahead and had signed secret orders to that effect. Commodore the Honourable Sir Augustus Keppel was to command the naval force and Major-General Studholm Hodgson was to command an army of about 10,000 men. The fleet was to comprise eleven ships of the line, eight frigates, three sloops-of-war, three bomb vessels and two fireships. While Commodore Keppel and his force conducted a successful invasion of Belle Isle, HMS Royal George and the other ships of the Channel Fleet kept up the blockade, which prevented the French from interfering.


HMS Royal George was to remain on blockade duty for the rest of the war, which was ended by the Treaty of Paris, signed on 10th February 1763. On the 18th December 1762 with peace talks underway to end the war, the ship was paid off and decommissioned at Plymouth and entered the Plymouth Ordinary. As part of being fitted for the Ordinary, the ship was stripped of all her stores, sails, yards and running rigging. She was manned by a skeleton crew comprised of her Standing Officers, their servants and 32 Able Seamen. Any work beyond the capabilities of these men would be carried out by gangs of labourers sent by the Master Attendant at the Dockyard.


For the British, Pitt's strategy of amphibious assaults on key strategic points on the French coast and of capturing both French and Spanish overseas possessions had effectively won the war. France, unable to trade and generate the money needed to conduct the war, had suffered a credit crunch as financiers refused to loan the French government of King Louis XVI the money needed. This had left them unable to defend their overseas colonies and had led to a vicious circle where defeat had followed defeat. The British had taken French and Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, North America, India and as far away as the Philippines, where the jewel in the crown of Spanish possessions in the far east, Manila, had been taken. Florida and Havana in Cuba had also been lost. The Treaty had forced the French to cede all of French Canada and all the territory in North America between the Appalacian Mountains and the Missisippi River.


Between May of 1765 and March of 1768, HMS Royal George underwent a Large Repair at the Plymouth Royal Dockyard and on completion of the work, re-entered the Plymouth Ordinary, manned by a skeleton crew as before.


Outside this little world, 1765 saw the start of the sequence of events which was to lead to the next war. Struggling under the huge debts run up during what was the first real world war in the true sense of the phrase, the British government began to directly levy taxes on the American colonies. The colonists, although happy to pay taxes intended for the running of local Governments and duties intended for the regulation of trade, objected to the imposition of taxes from London, over which they had no say at all. Political debate grew into protests, not just over the taxes themselves, but also over the draconian and increasingly heavy-handed methods used to enforce them. Protests grew into riots and from 1775, armed rebellion. In 1776, after the American rebels had driven the British from their stronghold at Boston and the part-time soldiers of the colonial militias had won two victories over the regular troops of the British Army at Saratoga, the French began to supply them with arms and money. With the war in America going badly for the British, the French saw an opportunity to regain the possessions and prestige they had lost in the Seven Years War. King Louis XVI calculated that with the British bogged down in a seemingly never-ending war of attrition in North America, they would be unable to prevent the French expanding the scope of the war should they become openly involved in it. This was a move the British feared and attempted to head off by appointing a commission to negotiate an end to the war with the Americans by offering major concessions. The French, fearing this, offered the Americans unlimited military assistance and financial aid in return for a commitment to seek nothing less than full and complete independence. On February 6th 1778, the American Rebels and the French signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and a month later, Britain declared war against France.


Following the declaration of war, HMS Royal George was recommissioned under Captain Thomas Hallum on the 13th July 1778 and was fitted for sea. In November 1778, she became flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Harland, commander of the Vanguard Division of the Channel Fleet. At the same time, Captain Hallum was appointed to command the 12pdr-armed, 32 gun ex-French frigate HMS Convert. His replacement was Captain John Colpoys.


By December of 1779, HMS Royal George was flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir John Lockhart and was under the command of Captain John Bourmaster. Since the beginning of the war, the Spanish Government had also been supplying the Americans with arms and military support and they had signed a Treaty with the French promising to give all assistance needed in the fight against the British, the Treaty of Aranjuez, concluded on April 12 1779. Spain's main motivation for entering the war was to regain Gibraltar, ceded to the British in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1714. As soon as hostilities commenced, the Spanish had laid seige to Gibraltar and thrown everything they had into their attempt to take the Rock from the British. French and Spanish fleets blockaded Gibraltar while ashore, an enormous Spanish army constructed forts, redoubts and batteries from which to attack. The Spanish had expected that with the British bogged down in North America, taking Gibraltar would be straightforward. They had underestimated the British determination to hang onto it. As the winter of 1779 began to bite, the 5,300 strong garrison began to suffer the effects of being under seige and food began to be severely rationed.


Sir George Rodney, now a Vice-Admiral, had been ordered to raise his flag in the 90-gun Second Rate ship of the line HMS Sandwich, take up the post of Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands Station and take a squadron of four ships of the line to the West Indies to reinforce the fleet already there. Before he proceeded to the Caribbean, Rodney had been ordered to take a fleet, break the Franco-Spanish blockade of Gibraltar and deliver much needed supplies and reinforcements. HMS Royal George was one of a number of ships placed under Rodney's command for the operation. When Rodney's fleet finally put to sea after being delayed by the weather, on the 29th December 1779, the fleet consisted of the following ships:


HMS Sandwich (90, fleet flagship), HMS Prince George (98), HMS Royal George (100), HMS Alcide, HMS Ajax, HMS Bedford, HMS Cullodden, HMS Cumberland, HMS Edgar, HMS Montagu, HMS Monarch, HMS Shrewsbury, HMS Terrible, HMS Resolution, HMS Invincible, HMS Defence, HMS Marlborough and HMS Dublin (all of 74 guns), HMS America and HMS Bienfaisant (both of 64 guns), the frigates HMS Convert and HMS Pearl (both 12pdr armed ships with 32 guns) with the Post-Ships HMS Triton, HMS Pegasus, HMS Porcupine and HMS Hyaena (all 9pdr-armed ships of 24 guns).


Also amongst the fleet were the 74-gun ship HMS Hector, the 44-gun two-decker HMS Phoenix, and the 9pdr-armed 28-gun frigates HMS Andromeda and HMS Greyhound. These ships formed the escort for the outward bound West Indies convoy which departed Spithead at the same time as the fleet for the relief of Gibraltar. These ships, together with the West Indies convoy parted company with Rodney's fleet on the 4th January 1780.


The following day, the fleets lookouts spotted over 20 sail, heading in the direction of Cadiz. Quickly identifying them to be Spanish, Rodney ordered the fleet to close the range. The strangers were identified as being 15 merchant vessels and seven warships belonging to the Spanish Royal Caracas Company. The whole convoy bar one vessel was captured in what is now known as the Attack on the Caracas Convoy. Rodney quickly ordered that any vessels carrying cargoes useful to Gibraltar should stay with the fleet and the rest of the ships were sent with prize crews to the UK accompanied by HMS America and HMS Pearl.


The largest of the escorting Company warships, the 64-gun ship Guipuzcoano was taken into the Royal Navy and renamed HMS Prince William in honour of the thirteen-year-old Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence, third son of King George III and future King William IV, who was serving in the fleet as a Midshipman in Ordinary aboard HMS Prince George.


By now, the Spanish were aware of Rodney's fleet and their mission and a fleet of 11 Spanish ships of the line under Admiral Juan de Langara was sent to intercept Rodney's force. In addition, the Spanish Cadiz fleet under Admiral Luis de Cordova was also sent to intercept. Cordova, when he learned of the size and strength of the British fleet, returned to Cadiz. At 13:00 on 16th January 1780, the British and Spanish fleets spotted each other off Cape St Vincent. Rodney, who at the time was suffering with severe gout and arthritis, had retired sick to his cabin aboard HMS Sandwich and when the Spanish fleet was sighted, his Flag Captain, Walter Young, urged him to give orders to engage the enemy. Rodney instead merely gave orders for his fleet to form a line abreast. The Spanish formed a line of battle, but when he saw the size of Rodney's force, Langara ordered that his fleet make all sail and head for Cadiz. Captain Young kept Rodney updated with events as they happened and at 14:00, Rodney was confident that the force they had sighted was not the vanguard for a larger force and ordered a general chase and for his ships to engage the Spanish as they came up on them. Because of the squally conditions, Rodney ordered that his ships allow the Spaniards to have the wind-gage, that is to sail downwind of them. This went against normal British practice which was to sail upwind of their opponents but in the weather conditions, Rodney felt that the Spaniards were unlikely to be able to open their lower gundeck gunports, giving the British the advantage in weight of fire. It also put Rodney's ships between the Spaniards and the safety of Cadiz. Rodney's ships also benefitted from the fact that the Royal Navy had recently begun to copper their ship's bottoms, which kept them clean and gave them the advantage of superior speed. The British quickly outpaced the Spanish and within a couple of hours of the chase beginning, the rear-most Spanish ship, the 74 gun Santo Domingo was engaged first by HMS Edgar, then by HMS Marlborough and then HMS Ajax, before blowing up with the loss of all but one of her crew. The chase continued and at 18:00, it began to get dark. At 19:30, HMS Defence (74) engaged the Spanish flagship, the 80 gun two-decker Fenix and the two ships became engaged in a firefight which went on for over an hour before Langara's flagship surrendered. During the fight, the Fenix was engaged in passing by HMS Prince George and HMS Montagu. HMS Bedford became engaged with the Spanish ship Princesa of 70 guns at about 04:30. The fight went on for an hour or so until the Princessa was forced to surrender. By dawn, it was all over. Of Langara's 11 ships of the line, his flagship Fenix (80), the 74 gun ships Diligente, Monarca, and San Egenio had been taken, along with the Princesa and the 64 gun ship San Julian. The Santo Domingo (74) had been utterly destroyed when she blew up and the San Agustin, San Lorenzo, San Jenaro and San Justo (all of 74 guns) and the frigates Santa Cecilia and Santa Rosalia (both of 34 guns), managed to escape into Cadiz.


The First Battle of Cape St Vincent was unusual in that it was mostly fought at night and is for that reason, alternatively known as the Moonlight Battle.


The First Battle of Cape St Vincent by Francis Holman. The Santo Domingo can be seen blowing up in the background and the three-decked ship in the foreground is Rodney's flagship, the 90 gun HMS Sandwich:





The Aftermath of the Battle by Dominic Serres. In this painting, the British fleet have surrounded their Spanish prizes and are in the process of putting prize crews aboard:





After the battle, HMS Royal George, together with the rest of the Channel Fleet's reinforcements for Rodney sailed for Portsmouth, while Rodney took the rest of his squadron to the West Indies. On the way back to the UK, HMS Royal George and the fleet came upon a French convoy of fifteen supply ships escorted by a pair of sixty-fours bound for Ile de France (modern day Mauritius). One of the warships, La Protee and three of the supply ships were taken.


In April 1780, HMS Royal George was taken into the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard to have her lower hull sheathed in copper for the first time.


HMS Royal George would remain on blockade duty, apart from a period in April 1781 when she participated in a second relief of Gibraltar under Vice-Admiral George Darby.


On the 11th March 1782, HMS Royal George received a new flag-officer, Rear Admiral Sir Richard Kempenfelt and six weeks later, a new commander, Captain Martin Waghorn. By this time, the Channel Fleet had come under the command of Lord Howe, now a Vice-Admiral, flying his command flag in HMS Victory. Kempenfelt had become famous as a result of his victory against the French in the Second Battle of Ushant. In this battle, Kempenfelt had taken a detatchment of the Channel Fleet to intercept a large French convoy of troopships and stores ships, escorted by ships of the line and frigates intended to reinforce a fleet under the Compte de Grasse. De Grasse, fresh from his successes in North America had been tasked with driving the British out of the Caribbean. The French had set sail at the height of the Atlantic storm season, hoping to be able to slip past the British. In a storm, the powerful force of French warships had become separated from their convoy and Kempenfelt's fleet had fallen on the helpless cargo ships.


By this time, the fighting was all but over ashore in North America. De Grasse had outmanoeuvred a British fleet in the Battle of Chesapeake Bay in September of 1781, preventing the British from relieving the seige of Yorktown. After a successful campaign, a British army under General Lord Cornwallis had moved into the town of Yorktown in Virginia in order to establish a deep water port because their overland supply routes had become over-extended. Whilst there, they had become beseiged and trapped in Yorktown and with the Royal Navy unable to control the approaches to Yorktown in Chesapeake Bay, Cornwallis had been forced to surrender, along with the bulk of the British army in North America. After this success, De Grasse had turned his attention to the Caribbean. Despite Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood's victory over De Grasse in the Battle of Frigate Bay in January of 1782, the British-controlled islands of St Kitts and Nevis had fallen to the French and the enemy had set their sights on taking Jamaica, the jewel in the crown of British possessions in the West Indies. If Jamaica fell, the British could forget about defending their remaining possessions in the West Indies.


The war was unpopular at home and in March of 1782, the Tory government of Lord North fell and was replaced by a Whig-led coalition led by the Marquess of Rockingham. The Whig party had been against the war in North America in the first place and as soon as they assumed power, peace negotiations were opened with the French, Spanish and Americans. At this stage, the French were in a position of strength. They were about to attack Jamaica and the Compte de Grasse had shown that the British Royal Navy was not as invincible as they thought they were. Gibraltar was still under seige by the Spanish, supported by their French allies and the enemy were in the final stages of planning what they thought would be the final, massive assault on the Rock. Gibraltar was in dire need of a further relief and Lord Howe had been ordered to force a huge convoy through the Franco-Spanish blockade, come what may, with the bulk of his Channel Fleet. Rear-Admiral Kempenfelt had been ordered to take command of a division of the Channel Fleet under Lord Howe, flying his command flag in HMS Royal George.


On the 29th August 1782, HMS Royal George was laying at anchor at Spithead, making preparations for the forthcoming mission to relieve Gibraltar. In addition to her normal crew of 850 men, there were about 250 civilians aboard, families of the married men and officers, plus over 100 of what is best politely described as "Ladies of the Point, seeking neither husbands nor fathers", plus merchants and traders selling their wares to the sailors. It is estimated that there were about 1,200 people aboard the ship. She needed a minor repair to her hull planking at about the waterline on the starboard or right hand side. The Captain had approved a plan to move the fourteen 42pdr long guns on the starboard side lower gundeck, each weighing in the order of three tons, to the centre of the deck in order to heel the ship over. At 07:00, the work began. At the same time, a barge was alongside on the port side and was loading casks of rum through the amidships lower gundeck gunports. Because of the weight of casks on the port side of the lower gundeck added the new missing counterbalance of the heavy guns on the starboard side, the ship heeled too far and water began pouring in through the open gunports. Realising the seriousness of the situation, the ship's Carpenter asked the officer of the watch, Mr Monin Holinbery to order the gun crews to move the starboard side lower gundeck guns back to their ports. Mr Holinbery refused. As more water poured into the lower gundeck, the ship's heel became more severe and the Carpenter begged the officer to change his mind and again he refused. Quickly, the ship passed her centre of gravity, rolled onto her side and sank. Of the 1,200 people, including 300 or so women and over 60 children aboard HMS Royal George at the time, only 255 were saved including one child and eleven women. The rest, including Rear-Admiral Kempenfelt, perished. HMS Royal George settled on the bottom of Portsmouth Harbour with the tops of her masts showing above the water.


The Loss of HMS Royal George by John Christian Schetky:





For weeks after the disaster, bodies were being washed ashore in Southsea, Gosport and Ryde on the Isle of Wight.


Lying where she was, in 65 feet of water in the middle of a major naval base, the wreck was a hazard to navigation and several attempts were made to raise the ship. The Admiralty received 117 responses to a request for proposals to raise the ship. The eventually settled on a proposal made by a Portsea Shipbroker called William Tracey. His proposal involved running ropes and slings around the wreck and securing them to a raft made from barrels. The ropes and slings would be made taut at low water and when the tide came in, the ship would lift from the seabed and could then be moved to shallower water. This did succeed in moving the wreck some 30 ft along the seabed, but the attempt was abandoned due to poor weather.


In 1834, John and Charles Dean, using the first pumped air diving helmets (which they had invented), recovered guns from the wreck. While these operations were ongoing, they were asked by local fishermen to investigate an object on the seabed about half a mile away which they were continuously snagging their nets on. Thus was the wreck of the Mary Rose discovered.


In 1839, Major-General Charles Pasley, then Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Engineers, began to work on the wreck. His work set a number of diving milestones, including the first recorded use of the 'buddy' system when he ordered that the divers work in pairs and the first medically recorded instance of 'diver squeeze'. Between 1839 and 1842, Pasley's men had recovered 30 guns, plus timbers, surgical instruments, clothing and many other items. In 1840, the bulk of the wreck was blown up in an explosion which shattered windows in Portsmouth and Gosport.


The Corinthian capital near the top of Nelson's Column was cast from bronze guns salvaged from the wreck of HMS Royal George.


"I did not say the French would not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Admiral Sir John Jervis, 1st Earl St Vincent.