Author Topic: HMS Minerva/HMS Pallas (1780 - 1803)  (Read 724 times)

Offline stuartwaters

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HMS Minerva/HMS Pallas (1780 - 1803)
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2021, 04:49:53 PM »
HMS Minerva was a Fifth Rate, 38-gun, 18pdr-armed Frigate built at the Royal Dockyard in Woolwich, which at the time was in the County of Kent. She was the lead ship of a group of four large Frigates designed by Mr Edward Hunt, Co-Surveyor of the Navy and was the only one of the class to be built in a Kent shipyard.

The other ships of the Minerva Class were HMS Arethusa, built under contract in Bristol, HMS Phaeton built under contract in Liverpool and HMS Thetis, built under contract further up the Thames in Rotherhithe, at the time in the County of Surrey.

The Minerva Class was the first attempt by the British to build an 18pdr-armed Frigate. She was ordered as a result of a realisation on the part of the Admiralty and the Navy Board that the bulk of the Royal Navy's Frigate fleet, comprised at the time of 12pdr-armed ships with 32 and 36 guns and 9pdr-armed ships with 28 guns, was being forced into obsolescence in the face of larger and more powerfully armed French Frigates. At the time the ship was ordered, the French had recently joined the war on the American side in the American War of Independence. The French Navy at the time possessed a significant number of larger 18pdr-armed 36 and 40-gun Frigates which could throw a broadside of almost twice the power of the British ships. Large scale production of 18pdr-armed Frigates slowed once the American War of Independence ended in 1784 because the smaller and less powerfully-armed Frigates were prefectly adequate to meet the needs of a peacetime Royal Navy. Because of this, when the French Revolutionary War started in 1793, the bulk of the Royal Navy's Frigate fleet was still comprised of the smaller ships and a large construction programme was started. The new ships however, would take a few years to enter service in numbers, so the smaller ships would have to suffice for now. Despite their smaller size, relatively lighter armament and advanced age in some cases, the smaller 12- and 9pdr-armed Frigates gave good service into the first decade of the 19th century.

HMS Minerva was ordered from the Woolwich Royal Dockyard on the 6th November 1778 and her first keel section was laid later the same month. At the time the construction project started, what had started as a colonial brushfire in North America was in the process of escalating into an all-out war between the superpowers of the day. The Seven Years War fought between 1756 and 1763 had left the British Government under a pile of debt and the French Government bankrupt. The 1763 Treaty of Paris which ended the war saw the French being forced to cede much of their territory in Continental America and all of Canada to the British. From 1765, the British, in an attempt to raise money needed to pay the debts had attempted to impose taxes on their American colonies which had led to protests, rioting and eventually armed rebellion. With the rebels fighting on their own turf and winning, the French had seen an opportunity to get one over on the old enemy across the Channel and regain the territory and prestige they had lost in the Seven Years War. They had begun to supply the Americans with arms and money and had concluded treaties with the Americans which recognised the United States of America as a sovereign nation for the first time and in return for the Americans seeking nothing less than total independence from their former colonial masters in the UK, had promised to supply the Americans with unlimited amounts of arms and money and to help with military and naval force. In July 1778, when diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute with the Americans failed, the British declared war on France.

Construction proceeded rapidly, supervised initially by Mr George White, the Master Shipwright in the Dockyard. In April 1779, Mr White was appointed Master Shipwright in the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard and was replaced at Woolwich by Mr John Jenner and it was Mr Jenner who oversaw the completion and launch of HMS Minerva. On the 13th April 1780, a good six weeks before the ship was even launched, Captain Charles Fielding was appointed to command the ship. She was launched into the great River Thames with all due ceremony on the 3rd June 1780 and immediately began fitting out while moored to a buoy off the Dockyard.

Captain Fielding was an experienced and senior commander whose first command had been the snow-rigged Sloop of War HMS Swallow, which he had held in the position of Master and Commander between April and August of 1760. Posted or promoted to Captain on the 27th August 1760, his appointment prior to HMS Minerva had been in the 90-gun, Second Rate ship of the line HMS Namur. During his term in command of that ship, he had been appointed as Commodore of a squadron of the Channel Fleet and had detained and fired upon a convoy of ships and their escort belonging to then-neutral Holland in the Affair of Fielding and Bylandt. This had caused a major diplomatic incident and had been one the triggers behind the Dutch breaking their long-standing alliance with the British and joining the American War of Independence on the side of the Americans and the French. Out of interest, a Snow is a vessel very similar in appearance to a Brig. The difference is that the Snow has a small mast located immediately aft (within a foot or two) of the main mast, running up to and connected to the Main Top, on which the Driver sail is fitted.

By the time the ship was declared complete, she had cost £24,698.4s.10d. On completion, HMS Minerva was a ship of 938 tons. She was 141ft long at the gundeck and 117ft long at the keel. She was 38ft 10in wide across her beams. She was armed with 28 x 18pdr long guns on her gundeck, 8 x 9pdr long guns and 6 x 18pdr carronades on her quarterdeck with 2 x 9pdr long guns and 4 x 18pdr carronades on her forecastle. In addition to her main guns, she carried in common with most British warships, a dozen or so half-pounder anti-personnel swivel guns attached to her forecastle and quarterdeck handrails and bulwarks and in her fighting tops.

Captain Fielding would have been assisted in commissioning and preparing HMS Minerva for sea by the three Lieutenants appointed by the Admiralty and the Warrant Officers including the Standing Officers appointed by the Navy Board. The Lieutenants were ranked in order of seniority, based on the dates on which they had passed their Examinations. The Standing Officers were the men who would remain with the ship whether or not she was in commission and who were the ship's main artificers. They were:

The Carpenter - He was a fully qualified shipwright, usually appointed from amongst the men who had built the ship. He answered to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the repair and maintenance of the hull, frames and decks. In a
38-gun Fifth Rate Frigate, he would be assisted by a single Carpenters Mate and would have a dedicated Carpenters Crew of five men.

The Boatswain - He was an experienced seaman who had worked his way up through the ranks. He also answered to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the maintenance, operation and repair of the ship's boats as well as her masts and rigging. He was assisted in this when the ship was in commission by a single Boatswains Mate. Amongst the duties of the Boatswains Mate 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 also answered to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the repair, maintenance and operation of the ship's main guns. Also amongst his responsibilities was the training of gun crews and training Midshipmen-in-Ordinary in the arts of gunnery. In action, he was responsible for the distribution of gunpowder and shot and would be stationed in the magazine. He was assisted when the ship was in commission by a single Gunners Mate and eight Quarter-Gunners, each of whom was a Petty Officer responsible for four gun crews.

The Purser - He reported directly to the Captain and was thus entitled to a berth in the Wardroom with the commissioned officers. He was responsible for the purchase and distribution of the ship's provisions and stores.

The Cook - The least senior of the Standing Officers, he was usually a disabled former seaman. His job title is self-explanatory. He was also in overall charge of the ship's complement of servants.

In addition to the Standing Officers, the other Senior Warrant Officers appointed by the Navy Board, who would only be in the ship when she was in commission were:

The Sailing Master - He was responsible for the day-to-day sailing and navigation of the ship. If not employed by the Royal Navy, he was qualified to command a merchant vessel. He answered directly to the Captain and in addition to directing the sailing and navigation of the ship, he was also responsible for training Midshipmen-in-Ordinary in the arts of sailing and navigation and the stowage of the stores in the hold to ensure the ship had the optimum trim. As a Senior Warrant Officer, qualified to command in his own right and reporting directly to the Captain, he was entitled to a berth in the Wardroom with the commissioned sea-officers. In a 38-gun Fifth Rate Frigate like HMS Minerva, he was assisted by two Masters Mates, each of whom was qualified to serve as a Mate in the Merchant Service when not employed by the Royal Navy. In addition to the Masters Mates, there were also three Quartermasters with three Quartermasters Mates responsible for the actual steering of the ship.

The Surgeon - Another man who reported directly to the Captain and entitled to a berth in the Wardroom, he was responsible for the day to day healthcare of the whole crew from the Captain downwards. Although not a doctor as such, a ship's surgeon had to serve and pass a seven-year apprenticeship which was overseen by the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians before he would be allowed to practice unsupervised. He was assisted by an Assistant Surgeon, who was himself a part-qualified Surgeon.

The rest of the Warrant Officers and senior Petty Officers were appointed by the Captain on the recommendation of the First Lieutenant having first applied for the posts and presented their credentials. Included amongst these were:

The Master at Arms - Responsible to the First Lieutenant, he was in effect, the ship's policeman, responsible for the day-to-day enforcement of discipline amongst the crew. In a 38-gun Fifth Rate Frigate like HMS Minerva, he was assisted by two Ship's Corporals.

The Armourer - Answerable to the Gunner, he was a fully qualified blacksmith and was responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ships stocks of small arms and bladed weapons. He could also manufacture new bladed weapons as required. On a 38-gun Fifth Rate frigate, he was assisted by a single Armourers Mate.

The Sailmaker - Answerable to the Boatswain, he was responsible for the repair and maintenance of the ships sails, the storage of spare sails as well as the ships stocks of flags. He was assisted by a single Sailmakers Mate with a dedicated crew of one man.

The Caulker - Answerable to the Carpenter he was responsible for making sure the ship's hull and decks remained watertight. He was assisted by seamen as directed by the First Lieutenant.

The Chaplain - An ordained Church of England priest, he was responsible for the spiritual well-being of the crew. He was answerable to the Captain. In action, the Chaplain would assist the Surgeons crew with the care of wounded men. In deference to his ordained status, he was entitled to a berth in the Wardroom with the Commissioned Officers.

The Schoolmaster - Answerable to the First Lieutenant, he was responsible for teaching the Midshipmen in Ordinary the theory and mathematics behind navigation. With the Captains agreement, he also taught the ship's Boys the basic '3rs'. Before he would be able to serve in this position, the Schoolmaster would have had to sit and pass an Examination at Trinity House.

The Clerk - Answerable to the Purser, he was responsible for all the record keeping aboard the ship and making sure that the ships books were sent to the Admiralty.

The ship had a complement of six Midshipmen. These young men were in effect, commanders in training and their job was to assist the ships Lieutenants in their day to day duties. Only the most senior of the ship's Midshipmen had a specific job, in charge of signals. The Midshipmen were appointed into the ship by the local Commander-in-Chief when she commissioned. In addition to the Midshipmen, there were Midshipmen-in-Ordinary, also known as Quarterdeck Boys. These young men, at the beginning of their careers as officers in the Royal Navy, were officers in training and they wore the uniform and performed the role of a Midshipman. They were usually related to the Captain, one of his friends or somebody the Captain either owed a favour to or was doing a favour for. They were on the ship's books as Captains Servants and were paid at the same rate as an Able Seaman. In a ship like HMS Minerva with a crew of 280, the Captain would be entitled to have up to eight servants or four per rounded hundred of her Company. Unless the Captain was particularly extravagant, he wouldn't require anything like this number of servants, so the remaining positions on the ship's books were taken up with the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary.
In any case, the Captain would come aboard with his own staff of his Clerk or secretary, his Steward and his Coxswain. The Captains Coxswain was a Petty Officer and his role was to act as the Captain's personal bodyguard and to act as his eyes and ears on the Lower Deck. The Coxswain would usually choose a Coxswains Mate from amongst the Able Seamen in the ship. These men would follow the Captain from appointment to appointment.

In addition to these men, HMS Minerva's crew would have been made up of Petty Officers in charge of specific areas of the ship or specific tasks to be carried out by the seamen. The seamen themselves would have been rated according to their experience at sea, Able Seamen with years of sea-going experience and able to carry out any task without supervision, Ordinary Seamen with some experience and who would require a degree of supervision and Landsmen with none. Landsmen were the unskilled labourers in the ship and were regarded by everyone else as being the lowest form of life aboard, until they had proved themselves. The ship's complement of boys would be rated in the same way and were employed in a number of roles. They were usually to be found as servants, for the Wardroom and for those Warrant Officers entitled to have servants. In action, they would be employed as Powder Monkeys, carrying gunpowder cartridges from the magazine to the Gun Captains. When weighing anchor, they worked in the Cable Tier, securing the great anchor cable to the bridle wrapped around the capstan with small pieces of rope known as  'Nips', in order that the Capstan Crew could haul in many tons and many fathoms of heavy, waterlogged anchor cable. This is the origin of the term used to describe a small child - a 'Nipper'.

In addition to the seamen, HMS Minerva carried a complement of Marines. In a 38-gun Fifth Rate frigate, there was a Lieutenant of Marines in command, assisted by a Sergeant, a Corporal, a Drummer and 30 Marine Privates. These men would have come aboard as a pre-existing unit and were accommodated in a screened-off portion of the lower deck known as the Marine Barracks. The sole commissioned Marine officer was entitled to a berth in the Wardroom, while the Non-Commissioned Officers held the same status amongst the Ship's Company as Petty Officers.

Minerva Class Plans

Lower or Berth Deck Plans:

Main or Gundeck Plans:

Quarterdeck and Forecastle Plans:

Sheer Plan and Lines:

Model of HMS Minerva - Starboard Broadside view:

Port Quarter view:

Starboard Bow view:


This model was commissioned by Mr Evan Nepean, Secretary to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty in about 1800 and was made by Mr G W French of Chatham. It is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum.

Captain Fielding and his new ship were immediately thrown into the work of patrolling and attacking the enemy's merchant shipping. On the 24th, 26th and 27th December 1780, she took the Thomas en Jank, Jonge Fraane Teglaar and Zeepost respectively, for which prize money was paid aboard on Thursday 6th December 1781 and then on demand at The French Horn at Crutched Friars in London on the first Thursday in every month for three years afterward.

On 16th June 1779, Spain had entered the war on the side of the French and the Americans, but given their losses in the Seven Years War, they restricted their primary objective in the war to the recapture of Gibraltar and threw almost everything they had into laying seige to the Rock as well as implementing a naval blockade in conjunction with their French allies. The British were equally determined to hold on to it. In December of 1779, a British fleet under Vice-Admiral Sir George Rodney had conducted a successful breach of the Franco-Spanish blockade of Gibraltar and delivered vital supplies and reinforcements to the beseiged garrison.

By early 1781, Vice-Admiral Sir George Darby was Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet. When the war had started in 1778, the famous Admiral the Honourable Sir Augustus Keppel had been in command, but he had resigned in disgust over his treatment by the Tory Government of Lord North after the indecisive Battle of Ushant, the first major naval engagement of the war. Keppel had been succeeded by Vice-Admiral Charles Hardy who had died in-post in May of 1780. He in turn had been replaced by Vice-Admiral Sir Francis Geary who had resigned his command due to ill-health three months after his appointment. Darby was a Tory supporter and was the most senior Tory-supporting naval officer at the time. The First Lord of the Admiralty at the time, John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich was a prominent member of the Government and after almost coming unstuck in the Court Martial of the Whig-supporting Admiral Keppel and it's aftermath, wanted to ensure that there were no political rivals in senior positions in the Royal Navy.

By the spring of 1781, Gibraltar was in dire need of relief again and Vice-Admiral Darby had been ordered to repeat Rodney's feat in taking the bulk of the Channel Fleet to breach the Franco-Spanish blockade of the Rock again. On the 13th March 1781, Vice-Admiral Darby left the fleet anchorage off St Helens, Isle of Wight with the following ships of the line:

HMS Royal George and HMS Britannia (both First Rate ships of 100 guns), HMS Prince George and HMS Formidable (both Second Rate ships of 98 guns), HMS Namur, HMS Duke, HMS Queen, HMS Union and HMS Ocean (all Second Rate ships of 90 guns), HMS Foudroyant (Third Rate two-decker of 80 guns), HMS Fortitude, HMS Defence, HMS Canada, HMS Marlborough, HMS Alexander, HMS Bellona, HMS Cumberland, HMS Edgar, HMS Valiant, HMS Courageux and HMS Dublin (all Third Rate ships of 74 guns), HMS Nonsuch, HMS Lion, HMS St.Albans, HMS Repulse, HMS Bienfaisant and HMS Inflexible (all Third Rate ships of 64 guns) and HMS Medway (Fourth Rate ship of 60 guns).

With the fleet were the following Frigates, Sloops of War and other vessels:

HMS Minerva and HMS Flora (both 18pdr-armed Fifth Rate Frigates of 38 guns), the ex-French HMS Prudente (Fifth Rate Frigate, 12pdr-armed, 38 guns), the ex-French HMS Monsieur (Fifth Rate, 12pdr-armed, 36 guns), HMS Emerald, HMS Ambuscade (both Fifth Rate, 12pdr-armed Frigates of 32 guns), HMS Vestal, HMS Crescent (both Sixth Rate 9pdr-armed Frigates of 28 guns), HMS Harpy (6pdr-armed ship-sloop, 18 guns), HMS Firebrand (6pdr-armed, ship-sloop, 16 guns), HMS Lightning (6pdr-armed ship-sloop, 14 guns), HMS Furnace (fireship, 4pdr-armed, 8 guns), HMS Kite (cutter, 4pdr-armed, 10 guns) and HMS Pheasant (cutter, 3pdr-armed, 10 guns).

The fleet passed Cork and picked up more cargo ships bound for Gibraltar. The Spanish fleet at Cadiz made no attempt to intercept the convoy and on the 11th April they sighted Cape Spartel, on the coast of modern-day Morocco. The following day at noon, the whole convoy and the escorting fleet anchored in the Bay of Gibraltar. That night, thirteen of the transport vessels escorted by HMS Flora and HMS Crescent left Gibraltar bound for Minorca. The beseiging enemy opened a tremendous bombardment of the ships, which was completely ineffective and did nothing to slow or prevent the British from unloading the ships. The only damage they did was to the mizzen mast of HMS Nonsuch.

On the 19th April, the fleet left Gibraltar and arrived back at Spithead on the 22nd May. The following is an extract of the letter from Vice-Admiral Darby to the Admiralty describing events:

"You will be pleased to acquaint my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, that early on the Morning of the 11th Instant, we saw Three Sail at a Distance from each other; I sent the Alexander, Foudroyant, and Minerva, to chase. Captain
Fielding, who came up the nearest to them, said they were Three Frigates, which made into Cadiz, where he counted Thirty-three Sail of large Ships; Six of them had Flags and distinguishing Pendants, with a Number of small Ships and Craft of all
Kinds. That Evening we brought-to off Cape Spartel, when I dispatched the Kite Cutter with a Letter to General Elliot. The next Day about Noon, the Convoy, with Four Ships of the Line and some Frigates to protect them, anchored in and about Rosier Bay, in Gibraltar, I kept under Sail with the Rest of the Squadron. At Dusk the Flora and Crescent parted Company with Thirteen Sail for Minorca.

As soon as the Ships were secured, they began unloading the Victuallers. The Morning of the 14th, finding the Wind likely to continue Westerly, and being desirous of giving the Garrison all the Assistance in my Power during our Stay,
by facilitating the unloading the Victuallers, and protecting them from the Enemy's Gun-Boats, I directed Sir John Ross (who hoisted his Flag on Board the Alexander) to anchor, with the other Two-decked Ships of his Division, in the Road.
The 19th I anchored with some of the Ships to the Eastward of Europa Point, in order to set up the Rigging, and get off some fresh Water. The next Morning, the 20th, the Wind sprung up to the Eastward, which being willing to avail myself
of as soon as possible, Sir John Ross having unmoored the Ships in the Road, I at Nine made the Signal to weigh, notwithstanding which it was Five o'Clock in the Evening before I could make Sail, owing to the usual Delays on those Occasions.

Sir John Ross has been indefatigable in his Attention to all Points of this Duty and the Captains, both of the Line of Battle Ships and Frigates, have greatly exerted themselves in their Attacks upon the Gun-Boats. The Minerva and
Monsieur have had some Men badly wounded, and the Nonsuch's Misen-Mast so much hurt that it was shifted.

Yesterday Morning I made the Signal for the Foudroyant to stand towards Cadiz but the Wind would not permit her to fetch it, but Captain Jervis is certain nothing was off the Port. The Kite Cutter carries these Dispatches Captain Trollope will be able to inform their Lordships of such Things as have not come under my Notice, he having been constantly employed actively in the Bay Night and Day; for which Service I leave him to their Lordships Consideration".

"Captain" Trollope was actually in the post of Lieutenant in Command in HMS Kite, but as the commander of a vessel, regardless of his actual rank, was entitled to be addressed as "Captain".

Vice-Admiral Sir George Darby, painted by George Romney in 1784 against a backgound of his relief of Gibraltar:

On the 9th October 1781, HMS Minerva in company with HMS Monsieur, HMS Flora and the post-ship HMS Crocodile (24) captured the American privateer Hercules and on the following day, in company with HMS Monsieur, HMS Minerva captured the American privateer Jason.

On the 9th November 1781, Captain Fielding was replaced in command of HMS Minerva by Captain the Honourable Thomas Packenham. Captain Packenham's previous appointment had been in HMS Crescent. Captain Fielding was without a command until the 16th March 1782 when he was appointed in command of HMS Ganges (74). During the Battle of Cape Spartel on the 20th October 1782, which followed Vice-Admiral Lord Howe's successful third relief of Gibraltar, he was badly wounded and died from his wounds on the 11th January 1783.

On the 31st December 1781, HMS Minerva and her crew received a share of prize money for enemy vessels taken by the fleet on the return journey from Gibraltar to Portsmouth, the Spanish Frigate Leocadia (actually taken by HMS Canada), the French brig Trois Amis and the French privateer brig Duc de Chartres of 24 guns.

In September 1781, the British war effort ashore in North America came to a sudden and catastrophic end when General Charles, Lord Cornwallis, had been forced to surrender at the Seige of Yorktown by the Americans and their French allies. The fall of Yorktown and the surrender of the bulk of the British Army in North America triggered a vote of no confidence in the British Parliament which Lord North's Government lost, so on the 20th March 1782, Lord North resigned as Prime Minister and the Government fell. It was replaced by a weak Whig-led coalition under the Marquess of Rockingham. The Whig Party had been against the war in the first place and wanted it ended as soon as possible. The British attempted to open peace talks, but since they had the upper hand in the war thus far, neither the French or the Spanish were particularly interested in talking. They were awaiting the results of a campaign in the West Indies under Vice-Admiral the Compte de Grasse, whose ultimate objective was to take the island of Jamaica from the British. This in turn was ended when De Grasse was defeated by Vice-Admiral Sir George Rodney in the Battle of the Saintes, fought on the 12th April 1782. Now, with their plans to expel the British from the West Indies in ruins, the French and Spanish wanted to talk. The Treaty of Paris was signed on the 3rd September 1783, to be effective from 12th May 1784. By the time the ink was dry, the fighting was all but over anyway, apart from in India where the struggle for control of that great empire was to continue until the Treaty deadline.

On the 20th March 1783, Captain Packenham paid HMS Minerva off into the Portsmouth Ordinary and the ship was stripped of her sails, yards, stores and running rigging. She was left secured to a mooring bouy with a skeleton crew comprised of her Standing Officers, their servants and ten Able Seamen and with her gunports and most of her hatches sealed shut. The exception to this was the Purser. Because his was not a sea-going trade as such, he was allowed to live ashore within a reasonable distance of the Dockyard. The ship became the responsibiity of the Master Attendant at the Dockyard. Any tasks or repairs beyond the capacity of her crew would be carried out by gangs of labourers sent to the ship by the Master Attendant.

In February of 1786, General Lord Cornwallis had been appointed as Governor-General in India. The British Honourable East India Company had previously been involved in two wars against the Kingdom of Mysore in Southern India. India itself did not yet exist as the nation we know today, it was instead a loose empire, ruled by the Muslim Mughal Emperors based in Delhi. The rulers of the various kingdoms and principalities which made up the empire were allowed to do their own thing as long as they swore ultimate loyalty to the Mughal Emperor. At the time, the British were gaining influence and control in India, by playing the kingdoms off against each other, offering military protection, assistance and diplomacy in exchange for exclusive trading rights. The French were also playing the same game and the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, was allied to and supported by the French. Despite the French Revolution in 1789 and the chaos that unleashed in Europe, business between Tipu Sultan and his French allies had continued as usual. The Second Mysore War, fought at the same time as the American War of Independence between France and Great Britain and their respective Indian allies between 1780 and 1784, had been ended by the Treaty of Mangalore, but neither side was particularly happy with it. Tipu Sultan in particular had an almost irrational hatred of the British and declared that despite the Treaty, he would use every opportunity he found to cause trouble for the British and their Indian allies.

At the end of December 1788, Captain the Honourable Sir William Cornwallis, Lord Cornwallis' younger brother and himself an experienced and successful naval commander, had been appointed as Commodore of a small squadron and Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Navy's East Indies Station, to be based in Bombay. Sir William Cornwallis was a popular commander and was known amongst the men of the Royal Navy as 'Billy Blue'. Commodore Cornwallis flew his command Broad Pennant in the 64-gun Third Rate ship of the line HMS Crown and departed for India in company with the Frigates HMS Perseverance (18pdr, 36 guns) under Captain Isaac Smith, HMS Perseverance's sister-ship HMS Phoenix under Captain Richard Strachan, with the Sloops of War HMS Swan (ship rigged, 6pdr-armed, 16 guns) and HMS Atalanta (ship rigged, 6pdr-armed, 14 guns).

In July 1789, HMS Minerva was taken into the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth and began a refit followed by the ship being fitted for sea. She was commissioned for the East Indies Station under Captain Robert Manners Sutton on the 10th May 1790. It took a full six months to recruit and train her new crew, but on 27th December 1790, the ship finally sailed for India. The journey to India would have been an odyssey in itself and would have taken about four months with good weather. On departing Portsmouth, HMS Minerva sailed down the English Channel and turned south to sail across the Bay of Biscay, past Gibraltar and would have stopped for water and supplies in the Azores. Leaving there, she would have followed the west coast of Africa and stopped again at the Dutch colony at Cape Town before heading out across the Indian Ocean bound for the Honourable East India Company's base in Bombay.

Amongst the ships officers in the new crew were Mr Midshipman Francis Austen, the brother of the famous author Jane and Mr Midshipman (later Lieutenant) Richard King. Both would become famous commanders in their own right in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. King in particular would go on to command HMS Achille (74) at the Battle of Trafalgar and became Commander in Chief at The Nore as a Vice-Admiral. He died of Cholera at Sheerness in 1834 and is buried in Eastchurch.

While the ship was in the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard, thousands of miles away, Tipu Sultan had declared war on the East India Company in December of 1789 and the Third Anglo-Mysore War began.

The French at the time, maintained a pair of Frigates, Cybele (12pdr, 40 guns) and Resolue (12pdr, 36 guns) under Commodore Armand de Saint Felix at Mahe. Once the war had begun, the French, despite the Revolution, kept Tipu Sultan's army supplied through the port of Mangalore, located along the coast from the French base at Mahe. Commodore Cornwallis had been ordered to put a stop to this trade and on the 9th November of 1791, moved his command broad pennant to HMS Minerva and also took personal command of the ship. Captain Sutton took command of HMS Crown.

Commodore Cornwallis ordered that his three frigates station themselves off the Mysorean port of Tellicherry, roughly halfway between Mahe and Mangalore, with the intention of stopping and searching any French shipping going into Mangalore. On learning about Cornwallis' intentions, Commodore Saint-Felix wrote to the British Commodore informing him that France was neutral, that their ships would not submit to British demands that they stop and be searched and that any attempts by the British to do so by force would be met in kind. Cornwallis replied that he and his ships would enforce the blockade of Mangalore come what may.

On the 18th November 1791, the French sent a small convoy of two cargo ships escorted by the Resolue from Mahe bound to Mangalore. Seeing the French vessels coming towards Tellicherry, Commodore Cornwallis sent HMS Perseverence to stop the cargo ships and HMS Phoenix to prevent the Resolue from interfering. HMS Phoenix ran alongside the French Frigate and Captain Strachan informed the Frenchman of his intentions. The Resolue responded by opening fire on HMS Phoenix from a range of about 30 feet, to which the British Frigate responded in kind. There then followed a fierce firefight which went on for about 20 minutes, after which the Resolue struck her colours in surrender. In what is now known as the Battle of Tellicherry, the French Frigate had been damaged in her hull, masts and rigging and had suffered casualties of 25 dead and 40 wounded. HMS Phoenix lost six dead with 11 wounded. The cargo ships were then duly searched and with no war materiel being found, were sent on their way. The captain of the Resolue had other ideas. He insisted that the rules of war be followed and that as far as he was concerned, his ship was now a British prize. Commodore Cornwallis was having none of this and ordered that the Resolue be towed to Mahe and left there. Commodore St. Felix's report reached France later in 1792, but the new revolutionary Government had enough on it's plate trying to control the growing anarchy in France which had followed the Revolution and didn't take any action.

Shortly after the battle, Commodore St. Felix arrived at Mahe in the Cybele and heated correspondence was then exchanged with Commodore Cornwallis, with more threats of French resistance should the British continue with the blockade of Mangalore. The French left Mahe for a cruise and were followed by HMS Minerva and HMS Phoenix leaving HMS Perseverence to continue the blockade. The British stopped and searched a number of French vessels bound for Mangalore without further interference from the French. The four ships cruised together for some days until Commodore St Felix sent the Resolue away on an errand, at which point Commodore Cornwallis sent HMS Phoenix away and continued to follow the Cybele in HMS Minerva.

In February 1792, British and allied Indian forces were closing on Seringatapam, the capital city of the Kingdom of Mysore and were preparing to lay seige to the city. Tipu Sultan, realising that he was about to lose the war he had started and probably lose his kingdom as well, opened peace negotiations. These resulted in the Treaty of Seringatapam, signed on the 18th March 1792 which ended the war.

A map showing the locations of Mahe, Mangalore and the Kingdom of Mysore:

In April of 1793, Commodore Cornwallis received the latest dispatches and orders from the Admiralty, which contained good and bad news. The good news was that with effect from 1st February, he was promoted to Rear-Admiral. The bad news was that France had declared war on Great Britain, with effect from the same date and that the French were now the enemy and were to be treated as such. His promotion meant that he needed to appoint a captain for HMS Minerva and he did so on the 20th April 1793 when he appointed Mr John Whitby as Acting Captain in HMS Minerva. John Whitby had passed his Examination for Lieutenant in 1791 and within months, Cornwallis had appointed him Master and Commander in the small brig-sloop HMS Dispatch, which had been purchased from the East India Company to support Cornwallis' squadron, on the 28 December 1792. John Whitby was only 18 years of age when Cornwallis appointed him into HMS Minerva.

On the outbreak of war, the French in India were defenceless and when the British demanded that the French possessions at Mahe, Chandanagore and Carical surrender, they did so without resistance, as did Tellicherry and Mangalore. The French governor at Pondicherry, Colonel Prosper de Claremont however, refused. Rear-Admiral Cornwallis blockaded the port in HMS Minerva, together with three vessels loaned by the East India Company, the Warley, Triton and Royal Charlotte from the beginning of July 1793. Pondicherry came under a bombardment on the 22nd August and the following day, the Colonel surrendered to the beseiging East India Company troops. In the meantime, the Cybele with a number of other smaller vessels attempted to break Cornwallis' blockade of Pondicherry but were driven off by the British ships.

Later in 1793, Rear-Admiral Cornwallis received orders to return to the UK in HMS Minerva. Returning to the UK in a square-rigged sailing vessel from India is not a simple undertaking. Sailing vessels are required to follow the Trade Winds which blow from west to east. HMS Minerva would therefore have had to depart Bombay, sail eastwards through the Indian Ocean, the South China Sea, into and across the Great Pacific Ocean, before rounding Cape Horn on the southern tip of South America and sail diagonally across the Atlantic Ocean into the English Channel. The ship would have made a number of stops along the way to replenish her stocks of provisions and water. This journey would normally take a square-rigged sailing ship of the late 18th Century between six and eight months, longer if bad weather was encountered on the way. On the 26th May 1794, HMS Minerva paid off at Portsmouth and at the same time, Rear-Admiral Cornwallis and Captain Whitby left the ship. Cornwallis was promoted to Vice-Admiral and hoisted his command flag in HMS Excellent (74) and Captain Whitby followed him to take command of the new flagship.

In May of 1795, HMS Minerva was taken into the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard for a long-overdue refit and in July, Captain Thomas Peyton was appointed to command with orders to oversee the completion of the work, recruit a new crew and to commission the ship for the Channel Fleet.

Captain Thomas Peyton was an experienced commander who had passed his examination for Lieutenant on the 19th September 1777. He had first held a command when he had been appointed Master and Commander in the 16-gun ship-rigged Sloop of War HMS Bulldog twelve years later. He had been appointed by his father, Rear-Admiral Joseph Peyton, who had been Commander in Chief in the Mediterranean at the time. Posted, or promoted to Captain on the 11th November 1790, his appointment prior to HMS Minerva had been in the 12pdr-armed 32-gun Frigate HMS Ceres. 

The refit was completed in September 1795 at a cost of £9666 and the ship joined a squadron commanded by the now Commodore Sir Richard Strachan.

By September the following year, HMS Minerva had been assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet, at the time under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir John Jervis. On the 27th September 1796 in company with the hired armed cutter Lady Jane, HMS Minerva captured the Spanish vessels Nostra Senora de la Misercordia and Santa Francisco Xavier.

Soon after that, HMS Minerva was reassigned to the Channel fleet and on the 14th November 1796, Captain Graham Moore of HMS Melampus wrote to Sir Evan Nepean, Secretary to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty as follows:

"His Majestys Ship Melampus
Off the Isle of Wight
November 14, 1796


I have to acquaint you for the information of their Lordships, that yesterday morning at day-light, His Majestys Ships Melampus and Minerva drove a French National Corvette on shore in the entrance of Barfleur Harbour. The wind being directly on shore and the tide falling, it was impossible for His Majestys ships to get near enough to destroy her; but I have no doubt she must be totally lost, it being near half-ebb when she struck.

Captain Peyton having ordered me to work up towards Havre with the Melampus and the Childers, weparted from the Minerva in the evening and at 8 AM this morning, with the Childers being in company, we discovered a ship, to which we gave chace. At 4PM, we began to fire our bow guns at her, which she returned with what guns she could bring to bear. At half past five, being within half musket-shot and going to give her a broadside, she discharged her guns in the air and struck her colours. She proves to be L'Etna of 18 twelve-pounders and 137 men commanded by Citizen Joseph La Coudrais, a National Corvette bound from Havre to Brest, laden for the Republic with naval and military stores and various other articles. The prisoners informme that the other corvette ashore at Barfleur had sailed the night before L'Etna did from the Bason of Havre is called L'Etonnant, mounting 18 eighteen-pounders, bound for Brest and laden with naval and military stores. They are both quite new, very complete ships and on their first cruize".

L'Etonnant had been driven ashore by HMS Minerva. HMS Childers was a brig-rigged 4pdr-armed sloop of war with ten guns.

On the 19th April 1797, in company with the Frigate HMS Diamond (18pdr, 38 guns), the post ship HMS Camilla (9pdr, 24 guns), the sloop of war HMS Cynthia (6pdr, 16 guns) and the hired armed tender Grand Falconer captured the American ship Favorite.

On the 27th April 1797, HMS Minerva in company with HMS Diamond (18pdr, 38 guns) and the Grand Falconer captured the Spanish vessel Magdalena for which prize money was paid aboard and at No.12 Castle Barnard, Upper Thames Street, London on Saturday 29th June 1799 and at the same place on the first Thursday every month for three years afterward.

On the 29th April 1797, both HMS Minerva and HMS Diamond ran aground near Cape Barfleur and were both damaged to the extent that they needed to return to Portsmouth to be dry-docked and repaired.

HMS Diamond was repaired and quickly put back into service, but HMS Minerva was a different matter. The ship had been in continuous service for almost twenty years. On the 31st July 1797, HMS Minerva was paid off and entered the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard to begin conversion into an "en-flute" armed Troopship. The term "en-flute" when applied to a warship meant that she was converted into a non-combatant role with some of her armament removed to make room for cargo. In the case of HMS Minerva, when her conversion was completed, the ship was armed with 16 x 9pdr long guns on her gundeck, with a pair of 6pdr long guns each on her quarterdeck and forecastle. The ship was formally established as a 20-gun, unrated Troopship and was commissioned as such with Mr John MacKellar appointed as Master and Commander in her on the 28th February 1798. At the same time, the ship was renamed HMS Pallas.

By the spring of 1798, intelligence had reached the British that a large number of transport schyuts had been prepared at Flushing in order to mount the long-threatened French invasion of Britain. These vessels were to be transported down the Bruges Canal to Ostende and thence to Dunkerque. To prevent this, the Admiralty ordered a large-scale raid to be carried out on Ostende, which was to be led by Major-General Eyre Coote. The Naval element was to be commanded by Commodore Home Riggs Popham in the former 44 gun two-decker, now converted to a troopship, HMS Expedition. Popham's force was assembling in the Margate Roads, off Margate in Kent. In addition to HMS Expedition, the force also comprised the brig-sloops HMS Harpy and HMS Kite of 18 guns and HMS Wolverine of 14 guns, the gun-brigs HMS Acute, HMS Biter, HMS Blazer, HMS Cracker, all of 14 guns, the gun-brigs HMS Asp and HMS Furnace of 12 guns each, the bomb vessels HMS Hecla and HMS Tartarus and the hired armed cutter Dart of 8 guns. The landing force was to comprise of four light infantry companies of the Grenadier Guards aboard HMS Pallas under Lieutenant-Colonel Ward, with the remainder of the troops under the Major-General, comprising two light infantry companies of the Coldstream Guards, two light infantry companies of the 11th foot regiment, a company each from the 23rd and 49th foot regiments, together with a small party of miners. The total landing force consisted of 1140 men and had six field guns. The fleet departed the Margate Road on 14th May but because of adverse winds, did not arrive off Ostende until about 01:00 on 19th. By this time, the wind had shifted and had kicked up a heavy surf at their intended landing point. Receiving intelligence from a merchant vessel unfortunate enough to encounter Commodore Popham's force that their target was only lightly defended, it was decided to land the force there and then and hope that the weather would have improved by the time they needed to re-embark. By 03:00, the landings were completed without opposition. At about 04:15, shore batteries opened fire on the nearest British vessels, HMS Wolverine, HMS Asp and HMS Biter. A heavy exchange of fire lasting about four hours then followed in which HMS Wolverine and HMS Asp in particular were badly damaged. While this was going on, the Bomb Vessels were launching their shells into the town and basin at Ostende, doing considerable damage to the town and vessels in the basin. Seeing the damage being sustained by HMS Wolverine and HMS Asp, Commodore Popham ordered them to withdraw and their places be taken by HMS Dart, HMS Kite and HMS Harpy, which continued the bombardment of the shore batteries. Because of the low state of the tide and the fact that the replacement vessels were somewhat bigger, they were obliged to anchor further offshore and as a result, their fire was less effective than before.

At 10:20, the landing force blew up the locks and sluice gates of the Bruges Canal, with the explosions so large they could be seen and heard from the ships waiting off the shore. By noon, they were ready to re-embark, but such was the weather, this was not possible. The troops then took up defensive positions in the sand dunes and waited for the weather to calm down. They waited for the rest of the day and all the following night, but daybreak on 20th May saw them attacked by a French force of considerable strength. In the action which followed, the landing force took casualties of 65 men killed and wounded before they were forced to negotiate terms of surrender with the French. Amongst those who had surrendered was Commander MacKellar, who had gone ashore to report his arrival to General Coote and had been prevented by the weather from returning to his ship.

Commander MacKellar's replacement in HMS Pallas was Commander Joseph Edmunds and by May of 1800, HMS Pallas had been assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet under Vice-Admiral Lord Keith. At that time, Lord Keith and the fleet were engaged in operations off Genoa. The following is a letter from Lord Keith to Sir Evan Nepean, Secretary to the Lords Commssioners of the Admiralty in which he describes the action off Genoa:

"Dated on board the Minotaur, off Genoa, May 21, 1800,


I Have the Honor of reporting to you, for the Information of their Lordships, that, by private Intelligence from Genoa I understood the French had resolved on boarding our Flotilla in any future Attempt to bombard the Town, and Yesterday about
Twelve o'Clock a very large Galley, a Cutter, Three Armed Settees, and several Gun Boats appeared in Array off the Molehead, and in the Course of the Afternoon exchanged distant Shot with some of the Ships as they passed them. At Sunset they took a Position under the Guns of the Moles and the City Bastions, which were covered with Men, manifesting a determined Resistance; I nevertheless arranged every Thing for a Fourth Bombardment, as formerly, under the Direction of Captain Philip Beaver, of the Aurora, who left the Minotaur at Nine P. M. attended by the Gun and Mortar Vessels and the Armed Boats of the Ships. About One o'Clock, being arrived at a proper Distance for commencing his Fire, a brisk Cannonade was opened upon the Town , which was returned from various Points; and Captain Beaver having discovered by the Flashes of some Guns that they were directed from something nearly level with the Water, judiciously concluded that they proceeded from some of the Enemy's Armed Vessels ; calling a Detachment of the Ship's Boats to his Assistance, he made directly to the Spot, and in a most gallant and spirited Manner, under a smart Fire of Cannon and Musketry from the Moles and Enemy's Armed Vessels, attacked, boarded, carried, and brought off their largest Galley La Prima of Fifty Oars and Two Hundred and Fifty-seven men, armed, besides Muskets, Pistols, Cutlasses, &c. with Two Brass Guns of Thirty-six Pounds, having about Thirty Brass Swivels in her Hold, and commanded by Captain Patrizio Galleano. The Bombardment suffered no material Interruption, but was continued till Daylight this Morning, when the Prima was safely brought off; her extreme Length is One Hundred and Fifty-nine Feet, and her Breadth Twenty-three Feet Six Inches.

On our Part Four Seamen only have been wounded; One belonging to this Ship, in the Boat with Captain Beaver ; One belonging to the Pallas ; and the other Two to the Haarlem.

The Enemy's Loss is not exactly known, but One Man was found dead on board, and fifteen wounded.

The Satisfaction which I derive from considering the Zeal, Activity and Gallantry with which this Service has been performed, is greatly augmented by the flattering Testimony borne by Captain Beaver to the good Conduct of the Officers and
Seamen who acted with him on this Occasion.

I have the Honor to be, &c. Sec. &c.


On the 30th May, HMS Pallas recaptured the Minorcan tartane Rosario, which was sailing in ballast from Leghorn to Minorca. Two days later HMS Pallas captured a Ragusan ship sailing from Leghorn to Barcelona with a cargo of sundries. On 7 June HMS Pallas captured the Ardita off the coast of Italy. Amongst other cargo she was carrying statuary.

Between August and September 1801, HMS Pallas was involved in the transport of troops to take part in the Seige of Alexandria. Since the Battle of the Nile in 1797, a French army had been stranded in the Middle East and in March of 1801, the British had landed an Army in Egypt to engage and destroy the French force. The eventual British victory in the seige of Alexandria finally put an end to French intentions to march overland to India from Egypt.

On the 27th March 1802, the Treaty of Amiens was signed, ending the French Revolutionary War. The following May, HMS Pallas was paid off into the Chatham Ordinary and in March of the following year, the old ship was taken into the Royal Dockyard and was broken up.
"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.