Author Topic: HMS Bedford (1775 - 1817)  (Read 104 times)

Offline stuartwaters

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Re: HMS Bedford (1775 - 1817)
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2020, 09:37:25 PM »
"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 stuartwaters

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HMS Bedford (1775 - 1817)
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2019, 11:25:11 PM »

HMS Bedford was a Royal Oak Class, 74 gun third rate ship of the line of the Common Type, built at the Woolwich Royal Dockyard, at the time in the County of Kent.

The 74 gun third rate ship of the line was by far the most numerous ship of the line in the world between the mid 1750s and the 1840s. Of those, as it's name suggests, the Common Type was the most numerous in the Royal Navy until it began to be superceded by the bigger and more powerful Middling Type in the 1790's. The 74 gun ship was the smallest ship able to carry a full battery of 28 or 30 32pdr long guns and offered the best compromise between speed and agility on one hand and strength and firepower on the other. In British hands at least, 74 gun ships could and did go toe-to-toe against much larger and more powerful French and Spanish first rate ships.

The Royal Oak Class was a group of seven Common Type 74 gun ships, of which three were built in Kent shipyards. In addition to HMS Bedford, the other Kent-built ships of the class were HMS Hector, built under contract by Adams at Deptford and HMS Montagu, built at the Chatham Royal Dockyard. The other ships of the class were HMS Royal Oak and HMS Conqueror, both built at Plymouth, HMS Sultan, built at Harwich, and HMS Vengeance, built by Randalls at Rotherhithe. They were designed by Sir John Williams, Co-Surveyor of the Navy. Surveyors usually worked in pairs and Williams' partner was Sir Thomas Slade, more famous now for having designed HMS Victory. Since 1771 however, Williams was working alone as Slade had died in 1771 and his successor, Mr Edward Hunt, wasn't appointed until 1774.

On 12th October 1768, Mr William Gray, Master Shipwright in the Kings Dock Yard at Woolwich received a package from the Navy Board which contained a letter from the Comptroller instructing him to cause to be set up at Woolwich a ship according to the enclosed drafts and specifications. Mr Gray had first been appointed Master Shipwright at Sheerness on 10th JUly 1765, but had been promoted to the position at Woolwich on 7th July 1767. He remained at Woolwich until he was promoted, this time to the position of Master Shipwright at Chatham on 10th March 1773. Mr Gray oversaw the laying of the first keel section of HMS Bedford at Woolwich in October 1769 and then handed the project over to his successor at Woolwich, Mr Nicholas Phillips. Mr Phillips had also been promoted to the position at Woolwich from Sheerness and it was he who oversaw the completion and launch of HMS Bedford into the River Thames on 27th October 1775. After her launch, she was fitted with guns, masts and rigging at Woolwich.

On completion, HMS Bedford was a ship of 1,622 tons. She was 168ft 7in long on her upper gundeck and 138ft 1in long at the keel. She was 47ft wide across the beams and her hold was 20ft deep. She was armed with 28 32pdr long guns on the lower gundeck, 28 18pdr long guns on the upper gundeck, 4 9pdr long guns on the forecastle with 14 more on the quarterdeck. She also carried a dozen half-pounder swivel guns on her quarterdeck and forecastle handrails and in her fighting tops. The ship drew 21ft 3in of water at the bow and 22ft 5in at the rudder. She was manned by a crew of 600 officers, men, boys and Royal Marines. The ship was declared complete on 12th November 1776 and construction had cost £33,011.11s.1d. Fitting the ship out had cost a further £5,891.13s.3d.

Royal Oak Class Plans:

Orlop Plan:

Lower Gundeck Plan:

Upper Gundeck Plan:

Forecastle and Quarterdeck Plans:

Framing Plan:

Inboard Profile and Plan:

Sheer Plan and Lines:

A starboard quarter view of the Navy Board model of HMS Royal Oak. HMS Bedford was identical:

The same model, starboard bow view:

HMS Bedford was declared complete on Tuesday 12th November 1776 and commissioned as Woolwich Guardship under Captain Western Varlo. In her role of guardship, although fitted with guns, masts and rigging, she only carried about half her crew complement. Her crew would have been tasked with providing security for the Dockyard at Woolwich and Royal Navy vessels moored in the Thames off the dockyard. Up to this point, her construction had cost £33,011.11s.1d and fitting her out had cost a further £5,891.13s.3d.

In 1778, Captain Edmund Affleck assumed command of HMS Bedford. Captain Affleck was an experienced and distinguished commander and he was under orders to prepare the ship for sea and to take her to join the fleet under Rear-Admiral the Honourable John Byron. By now, what had started as unrest in Britains American Colonies over the issue of what the colonists saw as unfair and illegal taxation had escalated into a full-scale armed rebellion. Following rebel victories at Saratoga in 1776, the French had been quietly providing the colonists with arms and money. The French became alarmed at reports that the British were about to make major concessions in order to end the rebellion and to head this off, they concluded a Treaty of Alliance which recognised the United States of America as a sovereign nation. In return for the rebels seeking nothing less than complete independence from Britain, the French offered unlimited military assistance. The British attempted to resolve the situation diplomatically but when this failed, war was declared against the French on July 17th 1778.

On 9th June 1778, HMS Bedford left Woolwich to join Byrons force in the Caribbean. Captain Affleck was forced to return to the UK in HMS Bedford shortly after arrival as the ship urgently required repairs. In April 1779, HMS Bedford entered the Royal Dockyard at Plymouth for coppering and refitting. The following month, the work was completed having cost a total of £9,207.13s.10d. In his book, 'The Ship of the Line Vol 1', Brian Lavery gives some fascinating details about HMS Bedford. In terms of the weapons carried, her main armament has been given above, but in addition to the mounted guns, HMS Bedford carried:

230 muskets
70 pairs of pistols
230 swords
60 poleaxes
100 half-pikes

Ammunition carried comprised of:

400 barrels of gunpowder
2,240 rounds of 32lb round shot
116 rounds of 32lb grapeshot
84 rounds of 32lb double-headed shot (also known as chainshot)
2,800 rounds of 18lb round shot
166 rounds of 18lb grapeshot
84 rounds of 18lb double-headed shot
115 rounds of 18lb langridge shot
173 rounds of 18lb canister shot
1,800 rounds of 9lb round shot
99 rounds of 9lb grapeshot
54 rounds of 9lb double-headed shot
74 rounds of 9lb langridge shot
131 rounds of 9lb canister shot
720 rounds of half-pound round shot
144 rounds of half-pound grapeshot
24,900 rounds of musket shot
9,880 rounds of pistol shot.

Stores carried included 50,400 lbs of bread, 3,600 4lb pieces of salt beef, 7,200 2lb pieces of salt pork, 14,400 lbs of flour, 225 bushells of peas, 336 bushells of oatmeal, 5,400 lbs of butter, 3,150 gallons of spirits (brandy for the officers, rum for the men), 75 tons of beer and 170 tons of water.

The Spanish Government had also been supplying the Americans with arms and military support since 1776 and they concluded their own Treaty with the Americans, 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 1703. As soon as hostilities commenced, the Spanish laid seige to Gibraltar. French and Spanish fleets blockaded Gibraltar while ashore, an enormous Spanish army constructed forts, redoubts and batteries from which to attack. 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.

In the UK, Vice-Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney had been ordered to gather a fleet, go to the West Indies and take up the position of Commander-in-Chief. He was tasked with repeating the success of the naval operations of the Seven Year War - that was to disrupt the French strategy for the war by forcing them on the defensive in their overseas possessions. On the way there, he was ordered to force a convoy through the Franco-Spanish blockade and relieve Gibraltar.

On Christmas Day 1779, HMS Bedford was part of Rodney's fleet which left Portsmouth headed for the Leeward Islands. Rodney's fleet was impressive enough. It comprised the enormous first rate ship HMS Royal George with 100 guns, the second rate ships HMS Sandwich (90) and HMS Prince George (98). HMS Bedford was one of no less than fifteen 74 gun ships in the fleet and in addition to that, there were two 64 gun ships, five frigates and two post-ships. The fleet left in company with the West Indies convoy and on 4th January 1780, the convoy parted company with the fleet, escorted by HMS Hector (74), the 44 gun two-decker HMS Phoenix and the 9pdr armed 28 gun frigates HMS Andromeda and HMS Greyhound.

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 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 (64) and the 12pdr armed 32 gun frigate HMS Pearl.

The largest of the escorting Company warships, the 64 gun ship Guipuzcoano was renamed in honour of Lieutenant the Prince William Henry, HMS Prince William, who was serving in one of Rodney's ships. Much later in life of course, Prince William Henry would become King William IV.

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, whose health had never been that robust, 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 now convinced 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 (74), then by HMS Marlborough (74) and then HMS Ajax (74), 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 (74). 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 Captain Affleck and his men. 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 San 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. In this battle, HMS Bedford suffered casualties of three dead and nine wounded. The Princesa was taken into the Royal Navy as the 70 gun third rate ship HMS Princesa, but was converted into a sheer hulk in 1784. The ship was broken up in 1809.

The Moonlight Battle or 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:

Rodney's fleet arrived in Gibraltar on 19th January after having driven off the blockading enemy. Rodney himself did not arrive until a couple of days later, having stopped off at Tangiers to drop off the Prisoners of War, including the wounded Spanish Admiral Langara. After breaking the Spanish blockade of Minorca, also under seige by the Spanish and dropping off supplies for the garrison there, Rodney took his fleet to the West Indies. Whilst en-route to the West Indies, the fleet encountered the French 64 gun ship of the line La Protee. After a brief action, La Protee surrendered to HMS Bedford, HMS Resolution (74) and HMS Marlborough (74). The ship was taken into the Royal Navy and became the 64 gun third rate ship of the line HMS Prothee. She served in the Royal Navy and served until August 1783 when she paid off into the Portsmouth Ordinary. The ship was later converted to a prison hulk in 1796 and served as such until she was broken up in 1801. Rodney and his fleet arrived at St Lucia in March 1780.

In the meantime, the French, keen to avoid a repeat of the series of overseas disasters which overtook them in the Seven years War had sent a strong fleet of 23 ships of the line carrying 3,000 troops under the Compte de Guichen to protect their Caribbean possessions and this fleet arrived at Martinique at about the same time as Rodney.

The Compte de Guichen was one of France's best naval commanders and he arrived in the Caribbean intending to go on the attack without delay. De Guichen knew that the British ships were designed to spend long periods at sea, or at least away from their bases while French ones were not. Whatever he intended to do, de Guichen knew he had to get on with it, so on 13th April 1780, he sailed with his fleet towards St Lucia. His plan was to draw Rodney out, use his ship's superior sailing qualities to evade the Bristish commander and then attack either St Lucia or Barbados. On receiving the news that de Guichen and his fleet were at sea, Rodney ordered his fleet to sea to intercept. Rodney's plan was quite simple, catch de Guichen at sea, engage and destroy his fleet and then he would be able to strike French possessions in the Caribbean at will. On 16th April, near Martinique, British lookouts spotted the French fleet and Rodney immediately gave orders for a chase. Unable to close to within range that day, the British kept contact with the French overnight and spent the following morning trying to manoeuvre upwind to gain the weather gage. By 08:45, Rodneys force had completed their manoeuvres and were in a position to be able to begint o attack the French rear. The Compte de Guichen however was no fool and had seen the danger. He ordered his ships to wear ship in succession (that is to chage tack by passing the stern of the ship through the eye of the wind). This had the effect of stringing out his line of battle but it also forced Rodney to order another set of manoeuvres to regain his position. By late morning, the British had managed to regain their attack position and Rodney hoped to be able to engage the rear and centre of the now extended French line of battle and damage it before the French vanguard could recover, turn themselves around and support their collegues. Unfortunately, it was at this point that Captain Robert Carkett of HMS Stirling Castle (74) misunderstood Rodney's signals and instead of engaging the enemy as ordered, sailed his ship up the French line of battle and engaged their vanguard. This led to the rest of Rodneys force following him and the fleets ended up engaging ship to ship in an inconclusive action which ended at sunset.

The Battle of Martinique, 17th April 1780 by Auguste Louis de Rossell de Cercy:

The two fleets engaged each other again in inconclusive actions on 15th May 1780 and on 19th May 1780. In all three actions, HMS Bedford did not engage the enemy and suffered neither damage nor casualties.

Because the hurricane season was imminent, Rodney took his fleet to New York and the Compte de Guichen called off the planned attacks on both St Lucia and Jamaica and returned to France with his fleet.

By 10th December, Rodney had returned to St Lucia and on that date he wrote to his wife:

"I sailed from New York on 16th November and arrived at Barbados on the 5th of this month. You may easily concieve my surprise, concern and astonishment when I saw the dreadful situation of this island and the destructive effects of this hurricane. The whole face of the country appears an entire ruin and the most beautiful island in the world has the appearance of a country laid waste by fire and sword and appears to the imagination to be more dreadful than it is possible for me to find words to express".

Only two houses on the entire island were left standing and according to meteorologists, this level of damage could only have occurred if average wind speed was greater than 200mph. In recorded history since, only Hurricane Mitch in 1998 came close to the Great Hurricane of 1780 in terms of the numbers killed. French possessions fared no better and 9,000 people were killed on Martinique alone.

By the end of 1780, the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War had broken out. This was was brought about by the refusal of the Dutch Republic, Britain's main ally at the time, to stop trading with both France and the rebel Americans. Once the American War of Independence had broken out, the Royal Navy began to blockade those American ports not under British control. This naturally made it difficult for goods destined for the rebels to be shipped directly across the Atlantic. The Dutch controlled island of St Eustatius, already an entrepot, or distribution hub for goods coming across the Atlantic from Europe assumed a greater importance and thus became a critical source of supplies for the rebels. It's harbour was full of American merchant ships. Rodney had reported his anger at the fact that goods destined for the rebels had been brought across the Atlantic in convoys protected by British warships. The government agreed and issued orders that St Eustacius be seized almost as soon as the war with the Dutch broke out in December 1780. Rodney was ordered to seize the island in conjuction with an Army force led by General John Vaughan with some 3,000 men. The invasion force including HMS Bedford left St Lucia on 30th January 1781 and arrived at St Eustatius on 3rd February.

Rodney quickly ordered his ships into position to neutralise the defences but instead of opening fire and launching the assault, he wrote to the Dutch governor and suggested that he surrender to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. Fortunately, Johannes de Graaf, the Dutch governor, agreed and the island surrendered. What happened following the capture of the island was controversial. Some people accused Rodney (who at the time had a reputation for an obsession with prize-money and nepotism) of plundering the island. Even Rodney's second-in-command, Sir Samuel Hood, stated that he felt Rodney should have spent less time sorting through and valuing the confiscated property and should have gone after the French admiral the Compte de Grasse, who had returned to the Caribbean with a fleet.

By March 1781, HMS Bedford had returned to the American east coast and had joined a fleet under Vice-Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot in HMS Royal Oak and Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Graves, flying his command flag in the 90 gun second rate ship HMS London. Arbuthnot was a product of the corruption and maladministration rampant in the Royal Navy at the time. He had advanced to his position by seniority alone, had no idea of naval tactics and was widely regarded as being a foul-mouthed bully. He had already fallen out with Rodney.

In December 1780, Brigadier-General Benedict Arnold was operating in Virginia under orders from the army Commander-in-Chief General Clinton to conduct raiding operations and to enter and fortify Portsmouth in modern-day New Hampshire with about 1,700 troops. The American commander General George Washington sent the French general the Marquis de Lafayette. Washington was hoping to be able to trap Arnold's force between Lafayette's force and a naval detachment commanded by the French admiral Charles Rene Dominique Sochet, the Chevalier Destouches. This was a mission which the French admiral was reluctant to accept; he was acutely aware of the bigger British force. In early February 1781, Arbuthnot's fleet had been hit by a storm which had damaged some of his ships and this prompted Destouches to send a small squadron of three ships of the line which succeeded in capturing the British 44 gun two-decker HMS Romulus before they headed back to their base at Newport, Rhode Island. This success together with pressure from Washington pursuaded Destouches to send a full-scale force to the Chesapeake Bay. Arbuthnot learned about the French departure on 10th March and set off in pursuit and reached Cape Henry at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay just ahead of the French. At 6am on 16th March, the two fleets spotted each other and formed lines of battle. The two fleets manoeuvred for advantage until about 13:00 when Destouches steered his line of battle across the path of the advancing British. This meant that he could engage the British from downwind, technically a disadvantage but in reality it meant that in the rough weather, his ships could open their lower gundeck gunports, something the British were unable to do for fear of sinking their ships. Arbuthnot attempted to counter this by turning his fleet to follow the French but it had the effect of exposing his ships to the full force of the French broadsides. The British were taking severe damage, but Destouches pulled his fleet off to the east before he had been able to fully exploit his advantage. Arbuthnot entered Chesapeake Bay and prevented Destouches from achieving his objective. The French returned to Newport, while Arbuthnot returned to New York.

In the Battle of Cape Henry, HMS Bedford suffered no serious damage or sustained any casualties, though that was the exception rather than the rule. In July 1781, realising he was out of his depth, resigned and returned to the UK. The Battle of Cape Henry taught the French a valuable lesson. If you control the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, it is impossible for the enemy to dislodge you. This was to have catastrophic consequences for the British war effort later in the year.

The tracks of the fleets at the Battle of Cape Henry, 16th March 1781:

After the Battle of Cape Henry, Captain Affleck was promoted to Commodore and although he remained aboard HMS Bedford, his place in command of the ship was taken by Captain Thomas Graves. He was the cousin, once removed, of Rear-Admiral Graves.

In the meantime, Rodney had fallen ill again and this time, had returned to the UK to recover in his flagship HMS Sandwich (90). His place was taken by Rear-Admiral Graves, who had taken command following Arbuthnot's resignation. During the early months of 1781, a British army under the command of General Charles, the Lord Cornwallis, had been successfully campaigning in Virginia, driving the rebels, led by General George Washington and their French allies, led by General the Compte de Rochambeau, south. Considering that the main British bases were in Philadelpia and New York, this had left Cornwallis' supply lines too stretched, so he had received orders from the Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Henry Clinton, to establish a deep water port on the Virginia coast. Following his orders, Cornwallis moved into the town of Yorktown, at the head of Chesapeake Bay and his soldiers began to fortify the town. Both sides in the war realised that with the British fortifying Yorktown, control of Chesapeake Bay was vital. The British were aware by now that the Compte de Grasse, France's finest naval commander, was loose in the area with a fleet and were concerned that he would try to secure the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. Sir Samuel Hood was detached with a squadron of 14 ships of the line to search for de Grasse. Hood arrived at Chesapeake Bay on 25th August 1781 and found nothing there, so decided to sail on to New York. On arrival at New York, he found Graves and the rest of the fleet there having failed to intercept a large convoy known to be bound for America from France full of supplies and hard currency for the rebels.

On 27th August, a French fleet comprising of 8 ships of the line, 4 frigates and 18 transport ships carrying seige equipment, troops and heavy field guns left Newport bound for the Chesapeake Bay. News of this reached Graves in New York on 31st and he immediately sailed to intercept the French force. Graves had correctly guessed that the French were on their way to Chesapeake Bay. The two fleets sighted each other at 9.30 am on 5th September 1781. The French had got there first.

Graves realised his only chance of success was to force his way into the Bay, past the French who were coming out to meet him and destroy the transport ships unloading near Cape Henry. Due to the way the various squadrons of the British fleet had manoeuvred into position prior to the battle, the Vanguard division found itself bringing up the rear of the British fleet as the lines of battle came into contact with each other. Many of the British ships were in poor condition, not having been near a dockyard in years. In addition, Graves caused confusion in his own fleet by sending conflicting signals. The result was that as the British captains and divisional commanders attempted to follow Graves' signals, the front and centre of the British fleet was heavily engaged and suffered severe damage against the superior French force while the rear division, did not engage at all. The Battle of Chesapeake Bay itself started at about 16:00, the delay was caused by Graves' insistence on his fleet getting into their proper formation before engaging. At sunset, the fighting ceased. Neither fleet had gained an advantage, other than the fact that the French were in the Bay and controlled it, whereas the British were not. On the night of the 6th September, Graves had a conference aboard his flagship with his divisional commanders, Hood and Drake. Hood and Graves, by all accounts, had a sharp exchange of words over the issue of the conflicting signals and Hood proposed that the fleet just sail past the French, straight into the bay. Graves rejected this plan and the British fleet continued to sail aimlessly to the eastward, away from Yorktown. On 11th September, Graves ordered that HMS Terrible (74) be scuttled as she was too badly damaged to continue. On 13th September, Graves learned that the French fleet was back in Chesapeake Bay and decided to give up attempting to force his way into the bay. On 20th September, the battered British fleet arrived back in New York. Although the Battle of Chesapeake Bay was indecisive in itself, the British failure to eject the French from Chesapeake Bay was to have profound and disastrous effects on the rest of the war. Yorktown had been encircled by the Americans and their French allies. With the Royal Navy unable to resupply him from the sea, Lord Cornwallis was faced with a stark choice - starve, along with his army and the inhabitants of Yorktown or surrender. On 17th September, Cornwallis wrote to General Clinton "if you cannot relieve me very soon, you must be prepared to hear the worst".

On 19th October, Graves left New York again with a fleet of 25 ships of the line and a fleet of transports carrying 7,000 soldiers. On arrival off Chesapeake Bay, he found to his horror that he was two days too late. Cornwallis had surrendered to George Washington and the Compte de Rochambeau on the day he had left New York.

In the Battle of Chesapeake Bay, HMS Bedford was part of the British Centre division, commanded by Graves himself in HMS London. Once again, her luck held and the ship suffered no significant damage or any casualties.

The Battle of Chesapeake Bay:

Positions of the fleets at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay:

The surrender of Cornwallis and his army at Yorktown left the British position untenable. With insufficient troops left to defend New York and Philadelphia, they were forced to abandon those cities and the loyalist communities in them to their fate.

After the battle and the victory at Yorktown, de Grasse returned with his fleet to Martinique as he had other plans to fulfil. Graves returned to the UK in HMS London and command of the fleet was temporarily assigned to Hood who was flying his command flag in HMS Barfleur (98). Hood followed the enemy to the Caribbean.

In January 1782, de Grasse attacked the British held islands of St Kitts and Nevis. The French had landed 6000 soldiers and had laid seige to the fortress on Brimstone Hill on St Kitts. Hood, having learned of this, immediately sailed to St Kitts, with 22 ships of the line. At daybreak on 25th January 1782, the British sighted the French fleet, consisting of 26 ships of the line including de Grasse's flagship, the enormous Ville de Paris of 110 guns. Hood ordered his ships to steer as if to engage the French, but this was in fact, a feint. No sooner had the French fleet formed their lines of battle than Hood ordered a change of course, straight into the Bay, where his ships anchored in a defensive 'L' formation across the mouth of Frigate Bay. The Compte de Grasse, realising that Hood had outmanoeuvred him, made three attempts to force an entrance to Frigate Bay over the course of 26th January, all of which were successfully repulsed by Hood's force. The British ships were relatively undamaged, whereas the French force suffered damage and casualties with each attempt. Hood's force stayed in place for two weeks, but their success in keeping the French out of Frigate Bay was not enough to prevent the fortress on Brimstone Hill falling to the French on 12th February. Hood ordered his force to set sail from Frigate Bay on 14th. At the Battle of Frigate Bay, HMS Bedford was flagship of the Rear Division and suffered casualties of two dead and 15 wounded.

The Battle of Frigate Bay by Dominic Serres:

In February 1782, Rodney returned to his command in HMS Formidable (98), having recovered his health and used his political connections to successfully defend himself in a Parlimentary enquiry over the events at St Eustacius.

Fresh from their success at St Kitts, the French returned to their base at Martinique and began to lay plans to seize Jamaica from the British. Rodney, now back in command sent his frigates to scour the Caribbean to discover de Grasse's intentions and it wasn't long before these became clear. If the British were expelled from Jamaica, they would find it very difficult to defend the rest of their possessions in the Caribbean and would probably, over time, be driven from the area altogether. On 7th April 1782, de Grasse set out from Martinique with 35 ships of the line with a convoy of 100 transport ships with the intention of meeting up with a Spanish squadron of 12 more ships of the line and 15,000 soldiers and launching the operation against Jamaica.

News of the French departure reached Rodney the following day and the entire British fleet left St Lucia in search of the French. After only a day, the French were sighted. Surprised at the sheer speed of the British fleet, the Compte de Grasse ordered the convoy to head to Guadeloupe while he covered them with his fleet. Hood decided to attack as soon as he could. Commanding the vanguard of Rodney's fleet, Hood and his force of 12 ships of the line fought an inconclusive action against the French in which both sides suffered damage. This encounter saw Captain William Bayne of HMS Alfred (74) killed in action and HMS Royal Oak and HMS Montagu both damaged.

The next two days saw the British follow parallel to the French, but with both sides keeping their distance as they made repairs. On 12th April, Hood's vanguard force was still making its repairs, so Rodney ordered Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Samuel Drake and his rearguard force to take the lead. The undamaged ships of Hood's Vanguard Division were used to create a new rear division. Hood was assigned to assist Rodney with command of the Centre Division while Commodore Affleck in HMS Bedford was given command of the Rear Division again. The two fleets were passing through the passage between the Iles des Saintes and the northern end of Dominica. By 07:40, HMS Marlborough of Drake's original rearguard was leading the fleet and was approaching the centre of the French line. It looked as though the action was going to be a typical fleet action of the time, with both fleets in lines of battle, sailing in opposite directions along each others lines. At about 8am however, as HMS Formidable was engaging the French flagship, the enormous Ville de Paris of 104 guns, the wind changed. This enabled Rodney's fleet, starting with HMS Formidable to sail through the French line of battle, raking enemy ships through their bows and sterns and inflicting terrible damage and casualties. By 13:30, HMS Barfleur had come up and had begun a gunnery duel with the French flagship. This went on until about 16:00 when the Ville de Paris, having suffered horrific casualties, struck her colours and surrendered to HMS Barfleur. The French admiral was the only unhurt officer aboard the Ville de Paris. The French flagship had had over 400 of her crew killed. In fact, the casualty figures for the Ville de Paris alone were more than those for the entire British fleet. It is estimated that French casualties in the Battle of the Saintes came to more than 3,000 killed or wounded and more than 5,000 captured. The British suffered 243 killed and 816 wounded across the fleet. The bill for HMS Bedford came to 14 men wounded. The British had not lost any ships and had captured four French ships of the line and another, the Cesar of 74 guns had blown up after having caught fire.

The fleets at the Battle of the Saintes:

The French flagship, Ville de Paris (104) - far right, surrenders to HMS Barfleur (98), centre right.

The remaining French ships withdrew towards Guadeloupe. On 17th, Rodney sent Hood in the Vanguard squadron after the remaining French ships and Hood's force, which included HMS Montagu, caught up with them in the Mona Passage, between Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. Rodney had sent Hood after Hood criticised Rodney for not having pursued the retreating French after the Battle of the Saintes and completing his rout of the enemy. The only members of Hood's force to actually engage the enemy at the Battle of Mona Passage were the large type 74 gun ship HMS Valiant, which vastly outgunned and captured the French 64 gun ships Caton and Jason, while the common type 74 gun ship HMS Magnificent captured the French frigate Aimable of 32 guns.

In May 1782, Captain Graves was appointed to command the ex-French 12pdr armed 32 gun frigate HMS Magicienne and was replaced in HMS Bedford by Captain William Scott.

While the British and French fleets were tearing pieces out of each other during April 1782, peace talks had started in Paris. Now that the American colonies had been lost and French ambitions to drive the British out of the Carribean had been thwarted, and the British were successfully driving the French from their possessions in India, the naval element of the American War of Independence began to wind down. In July 1783, HMS Bedford paid off at Portsmouth. The war was eventually ended by the Treaty of Paris, signed in September 1783 and effective from 12th April 1784.

In Decemnber 1784, HMS Bedford entered the Royal ockyard at Portsmouth for a 'Middling' repair. This work was completed the following October at a cost of £22,494.6s. She remained at Portsmouth, fitted for sea but de-commissioned until June 1787 when the ship recommissioned under Captain Robert Mann. Captain Mann remained in command until HMS Beford paid off again in August of 1791. After being paid off, the ship recommissioned almost immediately as guardship at Portsmouth.

In the meantime, in July 1789, as a result of years of severe hardship in France, the French people rose up and overthrew the Absolute Monarchy which had ruled France for centuries. It was replaced by a Constitutional Monarchy, along the lines of our own, where the power of the King was limited by an elected assembly, in this case, the National COnvention. The King, Louis XVI did not accept that the absolute power of the French monarchy had ended and a power struggle developed which over the years following the Revolution became increasingly bitter and violent.

In 1790, Britain and the old enemy Spain were drifting towards war in what is known as the Spanish Armaments Crisis. This occurred when the British established a trading settlement at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island off the western coast of what is now Canada. This was in defiance of a Spanish territorial claim over the western coastline of both American continents. The Spanish approached the new Revolutionary government in France and tried to invoke the 'Pacte de Familie' and ask for French help in any future war with the British. It was called the Pacte de Familie because both the French and Spanish Royal Families were from the same Great House, the House of Bourbon. By now, the power struggle between King and National Convention had escalated to civil war in the Vendee region, along the Biscay coast. The National Convention decided that it had enough on it's plate without getting involved in what would likely be a protracted and very expensive war with Britain and declined the Spanish request for assistance. This left the Spanish with no alternative to negotiation and the Spanish Armaments Crisis was resolved peacefully after the two sides came to an agreement where the British would be allowed their settlement as long as they recognised overall Spanish sovereignty.

Across the Channel, things were going from bad to worse. The Royalist uprising in the Vendee Region was beginning to spread and the National COnvention was coming under the control of the republican Jacobin movement. The French by now had gone to war with pretty much all their neighbours and in December 1792, the French monarchy was abolished altogether and the country became a republic. The British up to now had been quietly supporting the Royalist uprising, something which had not gone unnoticed by the National Convention. In January 1793, the King and Queen were tried for treason and were executed. In response, the British expelled the French ambassador and on 1st February 1793, France declared war.

In January 1793, Captain Mann had returned to HMS Bedford and resumed command. The ship was sent to the Mediterranean to join the fleet commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir Samuel, the Lord Hood, who was flying his command flag in the 100 gun first rate ship of the line HMS Victory.

The main task of the Mediterranean Fleet at the time was to blockade the French fleet at Toulon. Starting in June 1793, a series of Royalist insurrections occurred in the French cities of Lyons, Avignon, Marseilles and Nimes. In these, French Royalist forces took control of those cities. In Toulon, the main French arsenal and naval base on the Mediterranean coast, the Royalists under Baron d'Imbert took control of the city. When news reached Toulon that revolutionary forces had retaken Marseilles and of the savage reprisals there, Baron d'Imbert appealed for help from the British and Spanish fleets blockading the port. In August 1793, Lord Hood and his Spanish counterpart, Admiral Juan de Langara committed a total of 13,000 British, Spanish, Neopolitan and Piedmontese troops to the French Royalist cause. On 18th September, an enormous armada of 37 British, 32 Spanish and 5 Neopolitan ships of the line, including HMS Romney entered the harbour at Toulon and took possession of the city. On 1st October, Baron d'Imbert proclaimed the 8-year old Prince Louis-Charles, son of the dead king, to be King Louis XVII and raised the Royalist flag over the city.

Allied forces land in Toulon:

This was a disaster for the Revolutionary Government. Not only had they lost the means to control the Mediterranean Sea, but a significant Counter-Revolution had started in Toulon and if allowed to spread, could well mean the end of the Revolution and the end of the Republic.

British ally Austria had also promised troops to assist with the occupation and defence of Toulon, but these could only be transported there by sea. It had been arranged that the troops would embark in Genoa, which was at the time the capital of the Republic of Genoa. Genoa was officially neutral, but was torn by political upheaval. A significant proportion of the Genoese government supported the French cause and despite British demands that it should stop, the Genoese were regularly sending supplies to the French military. Those French naval ships which had been at sea when Toulon had been occupied had taken shelter in neutral Italian ports which included Genoa and other ports under the Republic's control. Lord Hood decided to confront this problem head on and sent Rear-Admiral John Gell in the 98 gun second rate ship HMS St George. HMS Bedford was part of this force which also included the 74 gun third rate ship of the line HMS Captain, the French Royalist 74 gun ship Scipion, the 12pdr armed 32 gun frigate HMS Mermaid, the 9pdr armed 28 gun frigate HMS Tartar, the 6pdr armed 14 gun French Royalist brig-sloop Alerte, the 6pdr armed 18 gun ship-sloop HMS Eclair, the 18pdr carronade armed 14 gun fireships HMS Vulcan and HMS Conflagration and the 4pdr armed 14 gun brig-sloop HMS Speedy. The British were aware that the French 12pdr armed 32 gun frigate Modeste was in the harbour at Genoa and that this ship would need to be eliminated before the Austrian troops could be embarked.

Rear-Admiral Gell's squadron arrived off Genoa on 5th October 1793 and the Modeste was clearly visible, moored near the mole and accompanied by a pair of armed tartans, each carrying four guns and about 70 men. The Rear-Admiral held a captains conference aboard HMS St George and the commanders decided that since diplomacy had already failed and that the Genoese were clearly biased towards the French, force was the most appropriate solution. HMS Bedford was towed into the harbour by her boats which brought her alongside the Modeste. Her arrival was greeted with jeers of derision by the French sailors who were laughing on the other side of their faces when armed British sailors began to board their ship. Derision soon turned to resistance which ended when HMS Bedford's Royal Marines fired into the crowd of French sailors on the Modeste's deck, killing one and wounding several others. The rest of the French sailors either surrendered or jumped overboard, only to be picked up by boats from HMS Captain which had come alongside. In the meantime, HMS Speedy's boats attacked the Tartans, one of which surrendered immediately, the other after a short fight. In the raid on Genoa, the British force suffered no casualties. On 12th October, HMS Captain's boats captured another French frigate, this time, the 18pdr armed 36 gun frigate Imperieuse, from within the harbour at Leghorn. The Modeste was taken into the Royal Navy under her French name and the Imperieuse was renamed HMS Unite.

Although the raids were a success, they were to have disastrous consequences. Although he was acting under Lord Hood's orders, Rear-Admiral Gell had deliberately violated Genoese neutrality, however one-sided it may have been. This gave the Genoese the excuse to break off diplomatic relations with the British and the 5,000 or so Austrian troops were forced to return home. Without the crack Austrian troops, the British and their allies occupying Toulon found it increasingly difficult to hold the fortifictions surrounding the city. What the British didn't know was that the French artillery was being organised by a brilliant young captain of Artillery hailing from Corsica who had friends in high places in the Revolutionary Government. His name was Napoleon Bonaparte. Bonaparte came up with a plan to attack a weak point in the defences and isolate the harbour from the city. After reducing the defenses between September and 16th December, the French Republican forces entered the city, forcing the British and their allies to evacuate or face capture. Any French warships not ready for sea were burned. When the Republican forces entered the city on 19th December, they massacred many of the remaining defenders, shooting or bayonetting up to 2,000 prisoners-of-war on the Champ de Mars. For his role in the retaking of Toulon, Bonaparte was promoted to Brigadier-General by a grateful National Convention.

The evacuation of Toulon:

The Republicans now in control of Toulon set to work taking over the remaining ships of the Toulon Fleet, after the British had taken the ships in best condition with them as they withdrew. By 5th June 1794, most of the French ships were ready for sea and on that day, a force of seven ships of the line and four or five frigates broke out and headed into the Mediterranean Sea. Lord Hood at the time was off Bastia in North-East Corsica with a force of 13 ships of the line which included HMS Bedford. As soon as he heard the news of the French breakout, Lord Hood immediately ordered his fleet to head towards Toulon in hopes of intercepting the enemy. The enemy force consisted of the Dauphin Royale, now renamed to Sans Culotte (120), Couronne, now renamed to Bonnet Rouge (80), Tonnant (80), Censeur, Duquesne, Genereux and Heureux (all of 74 guns). Lord Hood's force, in addition to his flagship HMS Victory (100) and HMS Bedford, also comprised HMS Britannia (100), HMS St George (98), HMS Princess Royal (98), HMS Windsor Castle (98) and the 74 gun ships HMS Alcide, HMS Terrible, HMS Egmont, HMS Captain, HMS Fortitude, HMS Illustrious, HMS Berwick and the 64 gun ship HMS Agamemnon. Hood also had the frigates HMS Romulus (36), HMS Juno (32), HMS Meleager (32) and HMS Dido (28).

On 10th June 1794, the two fleets sighted each other and Hood immediately ordered his fleet to set all sail in pursuit of the enemy. At daybreak on the following day, the British had closed the range to about nine miles and were gaining. Outnumbered and outgunned, the French Admiral, Pierre Martin, decided to try to head for the anchorage Gourjean Bay near Toulon, which he knew to be heavily defended with shore batteries. The vanguard of the French fleet reached the bay at about 2pm. HMS Dido was the only ship able to get to within range and had a brief exchange of fire with the rearmost French ships and with two of the forts guarding the entrance to the Bay. Lord Hood's original plan was to follow Martin's force into the Bay and get stuck into them. He was confident of being able to capture or destroy the whole force. His plan as given in his written orders earlier were that HMS Victory and HMS Princess Royal were to attack the Bonnet Rouge, HMS Britannia and HMS St George were to attack the Sans Culottes, HMS Windsor Castle and HMS Alcide were to attack the Genereux, HMS Bedford and HMS Egmont the Duquesne, HMS Fortitude and HMS Captain the Tonnant. HMS Terrible was to draw the fire of the battery on the east point of the bay and HMS Berwick that of the battery on the west point. HMS Illustrious and the frigates were to attack the French frigates. The wind however, had decided that the attack was to be abandoned. Not only had it dropped away to an almost complete calm, but the French had landed guns from their ships to reinforce the bay's defences. An alternative plan was devised whereby fireships would be deployed, but this was also given up as on approach, they found that the French were so well prepared, the fireships would have also been destroyed by the shore batteries before they got anywhere near any of the enemy's ships.

On abandoning the attack on the French fleet in Gourjean Bay, Hood headed back to Corsica to resume operations there in his flagship in company with HMS Princess Royal and two of the 74 gun ships, leaving Vice-Admiral William Hotham in command with HMS Britannia and the rest of the fleet, blockading the enemy in the bay. Shortly afterwards, the weather deteriorated and in the gale, the French were able to escape from the bay and return to Toulon.

In early November 1794, Lord Hood returned to the UK in HMS Victory, and was replaced as Commander-in-Chief by Vice-Admiral Hotham in HMS Britannia. In December 1794, Captain Mann was promoted to Rear-Admiral and was replaced in HMS Bedford by Captain Davidge Gould.

Apart from a mutiny in HMS Windsor Castle, which was resolved peacefully, things were quiet in the Mediterranean until January 1795, when the fleet was still at anchor in San Fiorenzo Bay. HMS Berwick was undergoing a refit and her topmasts had all been removed and the lower masts had all been stripped of their rigging. A recent gale had left a heavy swell running into the bay, which on 5th January, caused HMS Berwick's lower masts to fall over the side of the ship. Immediately afterward, that ship's Captain, First Lieutenant and Sailing Master all faced a Court Martial where they were found to be at fault for not ensuring that the masts were properly secured. All three men were dismissed their ship and sent home to the UK. Vice-Admiral Hotham ordered Captain Adam Littlejohn to take command of HMS Berwick and get her ready for sea under a jury rig as soon as possible while he took the rest of the fleet to Leghorn (Livorno in modern day Italy). Captain Littlejohn was to follow the fleet to Leghorn as soon as he was able to.

As soon as the news of the British move had reached the French, they decided to retake Corsica and Rear-Admiral Martin broke out of Toulon with 15 ships of the line, six frigates, two brig-corvettes and 5,000 troops to achieve exactly that. On 7th March, the French reached Corsica and discovered HMS Berwick struggling to make her way out of San Fiorenzo Bay under a jury rig. Surrounded and outgunned by the French and after putting up a fierce resistance in which Captain Littlejohn was decapitated by a bar-shot, HMS Berwick was taken by the French.

Intelligence about the French fleet and it's likely destination reached Vice-Admiral Hotham on 8th March. The following day, the British headed off to intercept. The brig HMS Tarleton was sent to inform HMS Berwick of what was going on and on the 10th, returned to the fleet with the news of HMS Berwick's capture. Also on the 10th March, the scouting frigates spotted the French fleet and the following day, they were spotted by the rest of the fleet at a range of about 5 miles. The British shadowed the French and on seeing that the French didn't seem interested in a fight, Vice-Admiral Hotham made the signal for a general chase and the fleet formed a line of battle. Seeing the British forming a line of battle, the French bore away. Things continued in this way, with the British in full pursuit of the French until the night of the 12th March, when the weather deteriorated. In the poor weather, the French 74 gun ship Mercure lost her main-topmast and received permission to break from the rest of the fleet, accompanied by a frigate. The Mercure eventually made it back to Toulon after meeting up with the ex-HMS Berwick in Gourjean Bay. In the morning of the 13th, the French 80 gun ship Ca-Ira collided with another French 80 gun ship, the Victoire. As a result of the collision, the Ca-Ira lost her fore and main-topmasts. In the confusion, the British 18pdr armed 36 gun frigate HMS Inconstant attacked. HMS Inconstant, under Captain Thomas Fremantle came up on the Ca-Ira'a port-side quarter and opened fire. The French frigate Vestale came up in support of the crippled Ca-Ira and opened fire on HMS Inconstant. Fremantle's ship then went about and sailed downwind of Ca-Ira, firing in a full broadside as she passed. The French ship's crew had by now cleared away the wreckage of their topmasts and returned fire on the British frigate, damaging her. While Fremantle's ship fell away from the wind, Captain Horatio Nelson in HMS Agamemnon (64) got stuck into the Ca-Ira, as did HMS Captain. The action now developed into a general melee, as more ships from both fleets arrived on the scene and began to engage each other. The action ended with the coming of nightfall. Ca-Ira had been severely damaged by HMS Agamemnon and HMS Captain and had suffered heavy casualties. HMS Egmont (74) and HMS Bedford had exchanged fire with the Sans Culottes and the Timoleon (74), damaging both enemy ships. By daylight the next day, the Sans Culottes had lost contact with the rest of the fleet and took no further part in the action. The Ca-Ira had been taken in tow by the Censeur (74) and both these ships had fallen some way behind the rest of the fleet. The action resumed at daylight when a squadron of the French fleet became involved in a heavy exchange of fire with HMS Courageux (74) and HMS Illustrious. HMS Illustrious lost her fore-topmast, her main and mizzen masts and was badly damaged before a change in the wind allowed the French to escape. As soon as they saw the rest of their fleet sailing away, the Ca-Ira and the Censeur both surrendered. Vice-Admiral Hotham concluded that his vanguard was too badly damaged and was in no condition to continue the pursuit and besides that, his fleet had captured two very fine French ships of the line. The first fleet action between the British and the French in the Mediterranean Sea in the French Revolutionary War had seen Hotham and his fleet emerge victorious. In what is now known as the Battle of Genoa, HMS Bedford sustained casualties of seven men killed and 17 men wounded. Both the Ca-Ira and the Censeur were taken into the Royal Navy. Censeur was recaptured by the French whilst en-route to the UK to be repaired and refitted for British use while the Ca-Ira was damaged beyond repair and was used as a hospital ship at St. Florent on Corsica until she was destroyed in an accidental fire on 11th April 1796.

During the night of the 17th March, a strong gale bew up and badly damaged HMS Illustrious' jury rig. Her situation became worse when a gun went off by accident and blew off one of her lower gundeck gunports, causing the ship to begin to sink in the heavy seas. HMS Illustrious was run ashore to prevent her from sinking, but in the heavy surf, the ship quickly became a total loss. Once the weather calmed down, her guns and stores were removed and the ship was burned.

After the battle, the French returned to Toulon while the British returned to Leghorn, where they stayed until 8th May 1795, when they departed for a cruise around the Balearic Islands.

On 7th June 1795, the French Toulon fleet under Vice-Admiral Martin put to sea with 17 ships of the line and on 14th June, Hotham's fleet was reinforced by the return of HMS Victory, flying the command flag of HMS Bedford's former captain, now Rear-Admiral Robert Mann. The fleet continued it's cruise until 29th June, when they anchored in San Fiorenzo Bay.

On 4th July, Hotham dispatched Nelson in HMS Agamemnon in company with the 12pdr armed 32 gun frigate HMS Meleager, the 24 gun ex-French post-ship HMS Moselle, the 20 gun post-ship HMS Ariadne and the 14 gun cutter HMS Mutine. They were ordered to patrol off Genoa. Three days later, Nelson's small force ran into the French Toulon fleet, which immediately gave chase. The following day, HMS Agamemnon was closing once more with San Fiorenzo Bay and the rest of the British fleet. At 07:20, HMS Agamemnon began firing signal guns to alert the fleet and two hours later, the French, having spotted 22 British ships of the line and several frigates in the bay, broke off the chase and headed off to the West.

For Hotham, this was too good an opportunity to miss. The entire French Toulon fleet at sea, there for the taking, if he could get his ships to sea and bring them to action. The problem was that most of his ships were refitting or taking on water. but despite this, by 9pm the ships were under way. By noon on the 8th July, the fleet was heading west under all sail and on 12th, received intelligence concerning the whereabouts of the enemy, seen off the Iles de Hyeres off south-eastern France. That night, the fleet was battered by a storm which damaged the sails of several of the British ships. At daybreak the following day, the enemy were spotted. At 08:00, Admiral Hotham made the signal for a general chase and for his ships to take stations for mutual support and to engage the enemy on bearing up with them in succession. Very quickly, the British ships were sailing under every scrap of canvas they could use and by noon, the leading British ships (HMS Victory, despite her size and her age, being 30 years old, was still one of the fastest ships in the Royal Navy, HMS Cumberland 74 and HMS Culloden 74) were only three quarters of a mile from the rear of the enemy fleet. Such was the disorganised state of the British fleet following the previous nights storm that the rear-most of Hotham's ships were still 8 miles away. At 12:30, a change in the wind allowed the three rear-most French ships to bring their guns to bear on the three leading British ships and a furious exchange of fire quickly followed. In less than an hour, the rear-most French ship, the Alcide, was seriously damaged and at 13:30, HMS Culloden's main-topmast was shot away. At 14:00, the Alcide was forced to surrender by HMS Cumberland, which then moved on to the next ship in the French line. The French frigates Alceste and Justice were sent to take the Alcide in tow, but were driven off by fire from HMS Victory. By now, more British ships were arriving on the scene and becoming engaged. At 14:42, Admiral Hotham made the signal to discontinue the action. His reasons were that his fleet was too greatly scattered and that the French would overwhelm his vanguard before the rest of the fleet could catch up and support them.

HMS Bedford did not get to engage the enemy at the Battle of Hyeres. In a tragic post-script to the battle, some 15 minutes after her surrender, the Alcide caught fire and within half an hour was ablaze from stem to stern. The boats of the nearest British ships managed to get about half her crew of 615 men off before the ship was destroyed by a huge explosion which occurred about 90 minutes after the fire broke out and which killed the all the men still aboard.

In August 1795, Captain Gould was replaced in command of HMS Bedford by Captain Alexander Montgomerie.

On 14th September 1795, a force under the French Rear-Admiral Richery broke out of Toulon. Richery's force comprised the 80 gun ship Le Victoire, the 74 gun ships Barras, Jupiter, Resolution, Duquesne and the ex-HMS Berwick, together with three large frigates. This force was intended to sail to Newfoundland and attack the British fishing trade on the Grand Banks. On 22nd September, news reached Hotham of the French move and on 5th October, Rear-Admiral Mann, who had by now transferred his command flag from HMS Victory to HMS Windsor Castle with the rest of his squadron comprising HMS Cumberland, HMS Defence (74), HMS Terrible (74), HMS Audacious (74), HMS Saturn (74) plus the 18pdr armed 38 gun frigate HMS Blonde and the 12pdr armed 32 gun frigate HMS Castor were sent in pursuit. In the meantime, HMS Bedford had been assigned to escort a convoy to the UK. In addition to HMS Bedford, the convoy escort comprised HMS Fortitude, the 44 gun two-decker HMS Argo, the 12pdr armed 32 gun frigates HMS Juno and the ex-French HMS Lutine and the 14 gun, 18pdr carronade armed fireship HMS Tisiphone. Amongst the ships in the convoy was the now HMS Censeur, which had had most of her guns removed in order to lighten the ship. On arrival at Gibraltar, HMS Argo and HMS Juno separated from the force with 32 ships of the convoy, leaving HMS Tisiphone with the rest of the warships and 30 merchant ships. On 7th October, they were sighted by Richery's squadron, which immediately sailed to the attack. On sighting the enemy, the British ships of the line formed a defensive line, but under the additional strain, Censeur's jury-rigged fore-topmast collapsed and the ship was forced to lag behind. HMS Fortitude and HMS Bedford hung back and despite being outnumbered three to one, resisted the French attack for an hour. During the fight, Censeur had her remaining topmasts shot away and she ran out of ammunition. The remaining British ships had no choice but to withdraw in order to avoid being swamped by the vastly superior French force. HMS Censeur had no choice but to surrender. All bar one of the merchantmen, having been ordered to disperse, were rounded up and captured by the French frigates.

HMS Bedford arrived at Portsmouth in November 1795 and paid off. In September 1796, the ship entered the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth for a refit. The work was completed in March 1797 and the ship recommissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain Sir Thomas Byard. By the time it was finished, the work on HMS Bedford had cost £23,622.

By the beginning of 1797, disaffection with their lot had spread amongst the sailors of the Channel Fleet and during routine movements of men between ships, plans had been laid to do something about it. A petition was raised and was sent to Lord Howe, whom the men greatly trusted and respected. Howe, in turn, asked Rear-Admiral Lord Seymour to investigate whether or not the men were really that unhappy and Seymour reported back that this was not the case. Howe came to regard the petition as being the work of troublemakers and decided to ignore it, but sent a copy of it to Lord Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty anyway. The men, on receiving no response from Lord Howe decided to put their plan into action and the men of the fleet flagship, HMS Royal George (100) were to begin what became known as the Great Mutiny at Spithead. On 15th April, Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Hood, the Viscount Bridport gave the order for the Channel Fleet to put to sea. Instead of weighing the anchors, the men of HMS Royal George ran into the rigging and gave three cheers. This was the signal for the mutiny to begin and as one, the men of every ship in the Channel Fleet refused to weigh anchor as ordered. The captains and officers of the Channel Fleet were astonished at this unified act of disobedience and regardless of what was threatened, the men stood firm. On 16th April, the ships companies of the fleet each elected two delegates and agreed that meetings should take place in the Admirals quarters on HMS Queen Charlotte (100). The following day, all the men of the fleet were sworn to support the cause and ropes were hung from the yards of the ships as a signal that the men meant business. Officers regarded as being overly oppressive were ordered ashore. On the same day, two petitions were drawn up, one for the Admiralty and one for Parliament. The petitions contained the men's demands, which were:

1) that the 'pursers pound' (14 ounces instead of 16) be abolished and that their provisions be increased to the full 16 ounce pound.
2) that their wages be increased (up to this point, the sailors of the Royal Navy had not had a pay rise for over a century)
3) that vegetables instead of flour be served with beef
4) that the sick be better attended to and that their necessities not be embezzled
5) that the men, on returning from sea, be given a short period of shore leave to visit their families.
6) that certain named officers be withdrawn from sea service on account of their cruelty and/or incompetence.
7) that an Act of Indemnity be passed by the Parliament
8) that they would not weigh anchor unless either the French were directly threatening the UK or until their demands were met.

The Great Mutiny is so-called because the sailors refused to obey orders to put to sea. The ringleaders of the Mutiny were clearly intelligent men with an eye on the public perception of their acts. They decided that only the Channel Fleet's ships of the line would be affected. Frigates and smaller vessels were still needed to escort convoys past the dangers presented by French naval units and privateers, so their crews continued with their duties as normal. In addition, the mutineers announced that although they were refusing to put to sea, they would return to duty if the French appeared off the coast. All other aspects of naval discipline were maintained. 'Mutiny' is defined as a deliberate refusal to obey orders and in that sense, the Great Mutiny meets the narrowest definition of the word. In it's effects however, the Great Mutiny was actually more akin to a strike over pay and conditions. The mutineers were what would today be called 'media savvy' in that they did not give the Government anything which could be used to turn public opinion against them.

The men were vary careful to avoid any conflict with their officers to spill over into violence. There was an incident during the Mutiny which did descend to violence, but it was nothing to do with HMS Bedford or her crew. After the incident aboard HMS London when Vice-Admiral Colpoys attempted to force the crew of his flagship back to duty and which resulted in one of the ships delegates being killed, all the officers were put ashore.

Eventually, Lord Howe came out of retirement. He was hugely respected by the Government, the Admiralty and the men. If anyone could settle the dispute, he could. Discussions went back and forth for a month until Lord Howe returned from London on 14th May bringing with him the requested Act of Parliament and having been granted the authority to settle the dispute. In addition, Lord Howe brought with him a Royal Proclamation of a pardon for all involved in the Mutiny. The Act of Parliament basically granted all the men's requests. At 10:00 on 16th May, the Great Mutiny at Spithead finally ended when the ships of the Channel Fleet at Spithead put to sea.

On 12th May 1797, the Great Mutiny at the Nore broke out. Initially confined to the ships at the Nore, by the end of the month it had spread to the rest of the North Sea Fleet, then under the command of Admiral Sir Adam Duncan. When Duncan attempted to take the North Sea Fleet to sea to blockade the Dutch naval base at Texel, only four of his ships of the line followed him. While Duncan managed to keep the Dutch blockaded in Texel by a mixture of subterfuge and luck, the Admiralty decided to send Duncan reinforcements from the Channel Fleet. On 4th June 1797, HMS Bedford was part of a squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Roger Curtis which also comprised HMS Prince (98), HMS Formidable (98), HMS Caesar (80) and HMS Ganges (74).

By this time, ships began to desert the Mutiny. Their crews were alarmed by the increasingly militant nature of it and over the course of June 1797, the mutiny slowly imploded. By 15th June it was all over.

In the meantime, while the mutiny at the Nore was underway, the Dutch fleet was making preparations to break out and join the French fleet at Brest. During that time, Duncan was keeping them bottled up by subterfuge. Despite being hugely outnumbered, Duncan's small group of ships made sure they were seen by the enemy signalling to an imaginary fleet over the horizon. As he was joined by more ships, Duncan was able to swap ships between his Inshore Squadron and the main body of the fleet at Yarmouth. In October 1797, news reached the Admiralty that the Dutch had called off their plans to break out and the fleet was recalled to Yarmouth to refit and resupply. In accordance with his orders, Captain Byard took his ship into Yarmouth to resupply.

On 8th October however, the Dutch fleet under Admiral de Winter did indeed break out. They were followed by ships Duncan had left behind to watch them. This squadron was commanded by Captain Henry Trollope in HMS Russell (74) and also comprised HMS Adamant (50), the large 18pdr armed frigate HMS Beaulieu (40), the small, 9pdr armed 28 gun frigate HMS Circe and the 16 gun ship-sloop HMS Martin, together with the hired armed cutter Black Joke. When the Dutch fleet, consisting of four 74 gun ships, seven 64 gun ships, four 50 gun ships and four frigates, one of 44 guns, one of 40 guns and two of 32 guns, was seen putting to sea, the Black Joke was dispatched at once to Yarmouth to summon Admiral Duncan and the fleet. When the Black Joke was seen off Yarmouth in the early morning of 9th October flying the signal, all hell broke loose in Yarmouth as ships prepared to put to sea immediately.

By noon, Admiral Duncan was at sea with 11 ships of the line, HMS Venerable (74), HMS Monarch (74), HMS Montagu, HMS Triumph (74), HMS Bedford, HMS Ardent (64), HMS Belliqueux (64), HMS Lancaster (64), HMS Monmouth (64), HMS Veteran (64) and HMS Director (64). Later that day, the fleet was joined by HMS Powerful (74), HMS Agincourt (64) and HMS Isis (50). On the afternoon of the 10th October, the fleet was in sight of Texel and sighted 22 ships, mostly merchantmen. At 7am on 11th October, Duncan's fleet sighted Captain Trollope's squadron who were flying a signal 'Enemy in Sight to leeward'. At 08.30, the Dutch fleet was sighted.

Because of the widely differing sailing qualities of the British ships, Duncan's force was in a very loose order when the enemy was sighted. In order for his ships to take their alloted stations, Duncan's first signal was for his vanguard, or leading ships, to shorten sail. This was followed, at about 11:10, by signals ordering each ship to engage their opposite number on the enemy's line of battle and then for the British vanguard to attack the rear of the enemy fleet. De Winter, the Dutch commander for his part, on sighting the British, ordered his ships to go about and head closer to the shore, where his smaller, flatter bottomed ships would have the advantage in shallower waters than their larger round-bilged British opponents. Seeing the Dutch heading into shallower waters where he knew they would have the advantage, Duncan gave up trying to get his fleet into their proper order and instead issued signals to the effect that his fleet was to form into two rough divisions and sail towards the enemy line as best they could and engage the enemy in close action. The fleet formed into two uneven divisions with Duncan leading the Starboard division in his flagship HMS Venerable (74) and his Second-in-Command, Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Onslow leading the other division in his flagship, HMS Monarch (74). HMS Bedford was in Duncan's Leeward Division, in 4th position, behind HMS Venerable, HMS Triumph and HMS Ardent.

Relative positions of the fleets at the start of the Battle of Camperdown, 11th October 1797.

The battle started with Onslow's division getting stuck into the enemy first, when HMS Monarch cut the Dutch line between the Jupiter and the Haarlem, raking and seriously damaging both ships as she crossed between them. HMS Ardent found herself alongside the enemy flagship the Vrijheid (74) with HMS Venerable engaging the Dutch ship on the other side. Seeing their commander in trouble, other Dutch ships quickly came to De Winter's assistance and very quickly, HMS Venerable and HMS Ardent found themselves locked in combat with, in addition to the enemy flagship, the Dutch ships Brutus (74), Leijden (68) and Mars (44). Surrounded, outnumbered and outgunned, the crew of HMS Ardent fought like demons. The Dutch, unlike their Spanish and French allies, followed the British practice of firing into the hulls of enemy ships at close range. The French and Spanish ships tended to have significantly larger crews. Their tactic was to fire into the enemy's rigging and cripple the ship, then close the range and use their superior weight of numbers to board and overwhelm the enemy crew. The British and Dutch, having smaller crews, fired into the hull of their enemy, maximising damage and casualties and boarding the enemy ship before they could recover from the carnage below decks.

HMS Venerable was so badly damaged in the action that she was forced to withdraw, leaving HMS Ardent to face the enemy alone. On seeing the flagship in trouble and HMS Ardent taking on three enemy ships single-handed, both HMS Triumph and HMS Bedford surged forward to the attack. HMS Bedford took on the Admiral Tjerk De Vries (68) and Hercules (64)

Eventually, only the Dutch flagship, the Vriejheid was left fighting alone and she was eventually forced to surrender by HMS Director under Captain William Bligh (of Bounty fame). The British had won a spectacular victory. They had defeated a Dutch fleet within sight of their own coastline. This had come at a huge cost. In the Battle of Camperdown, HMS Bedford was severely damaged in her hull and rigging. She suffered casualties of 30 dead and 41 wounded. Only HMS Monarch and HMS Ardent had higher casualty figures.

The Battle of Camperdown by Derek Gardner:

After the Battle of Camperdown, HMS Bedford returned to the Channel Fleet. Between July and September 1799, the ship was fitted out as a prison hulk at the Royal Dockyard at Plymouth. It seemed as though HMS Bedford's career was over.

By 1805, a full-blown invasion scare was under way. The French and Spanish fleets were at sea under the command of the French admiral Villeneuve. The French Army was camped en-masse around the French channel ports. Although Nelson, by now flying his flag in Victory was in hot pursuit, the Royal Navy was desperately short of ships and every available ship, even old ones like HMS Bedford were being dragged back into service. In September 1805, HMS Bedford was taken into the Royal Dockyard at Plymouth and was given a 'Large Repair'. This amounted to a virtual rebuild and the work took more than two years. Eventually, HMs Bedford emerged in an 'as new' condition after having had some £52,317 spent on her. This was pretty much what a brand new seventy-four would cost by the early 1800's. HMS Bedford recommissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain Sir James Walker in October 1807. In the autumn of 1806, Napoleon Bonaparte, by now Emperor of France, had threatened to invade British ally Portugal. The Portugese had conceded to Bonaparte's demands and in retaliation, the British sent a force under Rear-Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith. Smith was flying his command flag in the gigantic British 120 gun first rate ship HMS Hibernia. His force, in addition to HMS Hibernia and HMS Bedford, comprised HMS London, HMS Elizabeth (74), HMS Foudroyant (80), HMS Conqueror (74), HMS Marlborough, HMS Plantagenet (74) and HMS Monarch. This force was tasked with mounting a blockade of the Portugese naval base in the mouth of the river Tagus. British diplomacy finally pursuaded the Portugese to change their position. It was agreed that Portugal would come under British protection. In addition, the entire Portugese Royal Family would de-camp to Rio de Janiero, from where they would govern their extensive empire. They would take the entire Portugese navy with them and the British would run affairs in Portugal until the French threat was either defeated or receded on its own. On 29th November 1807, the Portugese Royal Family put to sea in the Princip Reale (84), Conde Henrique (74), Medusa (74), Principe de Brazil (74), Rainha de Portugal (74), Alfonso D'Albequerque (64), Don Juan de Castro (64), Martino De Freitas (64), Minerva (44), Golfino (36), Urania (32), three 20 gun brig-corvettes and a 12 gun schooner. To assist the Portugese, Rear-Admiral Smith also sent HMS London, HMS Marlborough and HMS Bedford. 

They left just in time. On 30th November, the French entered Lisbon. The Anglo-Portugese fleet arrived at Rio de Janiero on 19th January 1808.

By September 1810, HMS Bedford had returned from South America and entered the Plymouth Royal Dockyard for a short refit. The next year or so was spent on the blockade of Flushing. In July 1812, war broke out with the United States. The year of 1813 saw HMS Bedford escorting convoys across the Atlantic to Newfoundland and the Caribbean.

By 1814, the war in Europe was over and the British were turning their attentions to forcing the Americans to sue for peace. As a part of this, they had started to conduct large scale raids on major American cities and ports. In December 1814, the British were preparing to attack New Orleans. In order to do this, they needed to gain control of Lake Borgne. HMS Bedford contributed boats to the attack, which succeeded in gain control of the Lake in the Battle of Lake Borgne. This in turn opened the way to the attack on New Orleans, which the Americans successfully repelled. The Battle of New Orleans was the last battle of the 1812 War. It was fought between the 8th and 18th January 1815. The Treaty of Ghent which ended the war had been signed on 24th December 1814, but the US Congress didn't ratify it until February 1815.

HMS Bedford returned to the UK in May 1815 and landed troops from the New Orleans campaign at Deal on 30th.

By now, HMS Bedford was 40 years old. After the end of the Wars in 1815, HMS Bedford was laid up at Portsmouth and during October 1817, 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.