Author Topic: HMS Clyde (1796 - 1814)  (Read 27 times)

Offline stuartwaters

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HMS Clyde (1796 - 1814)
« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2020, 11:04:07 PM »

HMS Clyde was a fir-built, 18pdr armed, 38 gun, fifth-rate frigate of the Artois Class, built at the Chatham Royal Dockyard.


The Artois Class was a group of nine large sailing frigates designed by Sir John Henslow, Co-Surveyor of the Navy, of which four were built in Kent shipyards. Their design was optimised for rapid construction and this was evidenced by their quick building-times. They were not designed for longevity and they all had relatively short service careers. HMS Clyde was one of two ships of the class to be built from fir at the Chatham Royal Dockyard, the other was HMS Tamar, ordered and built at the same time. The other two ships of the Artois Class built in Kent shipyards were HMS Diamond, built under Navy Board contract by Wiliam Barnard at Deptford and HMS Jason, built under Navy Board contract by John Dudman, also at Deptford. HMS Clyde and HMS Tamar were ordered to be built from fir in order to try to reduce construction time further. The reason for this was because at the time the ship was ordered, the Royal Navy was desperately short of modern frigates. The bulk of the Royal Navy's frigate fleet was comprised at the time of smaller, 9- and 12pdr armed frigates of 28 and 32 guns respectively. These ships, although they continued to give good service, were obsolete in the face of larger and more powerful French and Spanish frigates.


HMS Clyde was ordered by the Navy Board on 4th February 1795. On receipt of the package containing the plans and specifications, Mr Edward Sison, Master Shipwright in the Chatham Royal Dockyard set his men to work in the Mould Loft expanding the 1/48 scale drawings into full size on the floor. The drawings were then used to build moulds from thin fir strips, nailed together to be used by the sawyers and shipwrights as templates for marking out the ful-sized timbers to be used in the construction of the ship.


Four months later, the first elm keel section was laid at Chatham. Because they were working with a lighter, softer wood, contruction proceeded rapidly and the new ship was launched into the River Medway on the 26th March 1796.


On completion, HMS Clyde was a ship of 1002 tons. She was 146ft long on her gundeck and 121ft 6in long at the keel. She was 39ft 3in wide across her beams and her hold, between the orlop and the bottom of the ship was 13ft 9in deep. The ship drew 10ft 7in of water at the bow and 15ft 8in at her rudder.


HMS Clyde was armed with 28 x 18pdr long guns on her gundeck, with 2 x 9pdr long guns and 12 x 32pdr carronades on her quarterdeck and 2 x 9pdr long guns and 2 x 32pdr carronades on her forecastle. In addition to these, she carried a dozen half-pounder swivel guns attached to her upper deck handrails and in her fighting tops. Although officially rated as 38-gun ships, Artois Class frigates like HMS Clyde actually carried 46 guns. She was manned by a crew of 270 officers, men, Royal Marines and boys.


Artois Class Plans


Orlop Plan:





Berth or Lower Deck Plan:





Upper or Gundeck Plan:





Quarterdeck and Forecastle Plan:





Framing Plan:





Inboard Profile and Plan:





Sheer Plan and Lines:





Plan of the midships sections of HMS Clyde and HMS Tamar, showing the method of attaching the beams to the frames using the softer fir timber, to give the frame more strength:





Navy Board model of an Artois Class frigate:





A model of HMS Diana, another Artois Class frigate. HMS Clyde was identical:





In April 1796, HMS Clyde commissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain Charles Cunningham, who oversaw the final stages of her fitting out and the recruitment of her officers and crew.


Captain Charles Cunningham was a native of Eye in Suffolk. Born in 1755, he had run away to sea in the Merchant Service after having read Robinson Crusoe. When the American War of Independence broke out in 1755, the experience he had gained at sea enabled him to enter the Royal Navy as a Midshipman in the 12pdr-armed frigate HMS Aeolus of 32 guns. When HMS Aeolus arrived in the West Indies in 1776, his abilities and experience led to his being transferred to the 50-gun, Fourth Rate ship of the line HMS Bristol, serving at the time as flagship of Sir Peter Parker, gaining the Rear-Admiral's patronage. This led to Cunningham's being appointed into the 14-gun Sloop of War HMS Ostrich. When that ship engaged a larger French privateer and both his superior officers were wounded, Cunningham led the ship and her crew to victory over the privateer. Charles Cunningham passed his examination for Lieutenant on 6th November 1782, by which time he was already serving as Acting Lieutenant in the role of First Lieutenant in the 9pdr-armed, 28 gun frigate HMS Hinchinbrooke under Captain Horatio Nelson. Immediately on being confirmed as Lieutenant, he was appointed Master and Commander in the 14-gun hired armed brig Barrington. He was laid off on half pay when the Barrington was returned to her owners at the end of the war in 1784, but was recalled to service in 1788 as First Lieutenant in HMS Crown (64), serving as flagship of the Commander in Chief in the East Indies, Rear-Admiral the Honourable Sir William Cornwallis. In 1790, Cornwallis appointed him Master and Commander in the Sloop of War HMS Ariel and on his return to the UK on the outbreak of the French Revolutionary War, he was appointed to command the 14-gun brig-sloop HMS Speedy and was sent to the Mediterranean. While his vessel was in company with HMS Captain (74) in the Gulf of Spezia, they cornered the French frigate Imperieuse, whose crew attempted to scuttle their ship. L'Imperieuse was salvaged by HMS Speedy's crew, taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Imperieuse (38) and Charles Cunningham was Posted or promoted to Captain on 12th October 1793 and appointed to command his prize. By the time he was appointed to commission and command HMS Clyde, Captain Charles Cunningham was already an accomplished and experienced frigate commander who was popular with his men.


Captain Cunningham and his ship were engaged in enforcing the blockade of the French Atlantic ports, running down enemy merchant vessels, privateers and if possible, naval units.


In the early summer of 1797, HMS Clyde was laying in the great anchorage at the Nore, in the Thames Estuary. The 15th May 1797 saw the Great Mutiny at Spithead end peacefully after Admiral Lord Howe successfully negotiated a settlement which saw most of the men's demands met with full Royal Pardons granted to all those who took part. Communications between the mutineers at Spithead and the men at the Nore had probably taken place at some stage after 21st April with the intention on the Spithead Mutineers part of having the Mutiny spread to as many ships in home waters as possible, in order to increase the pressure on the Government to negotiate a settlement. Secondary Mutinies had broken out at Plymouth and Yarmouth on 26th and 30th April respectively. The Plymouth Mutineers sent delegates to the rest of the striking Channel Fleet and took an active part in the Mutiny and returned to duty with the rest of the Fleet on 15th May. The Mutiny at the Nore was a different matter.


It started on 12th May in HMS Sandwich (90) at 9:30am and quickly spread to the other ships in the anchorage. HMS Sandwich was at the time serving as Receiving Ship and flagship of the Commander in Chief at the Nore, Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Buckner. Shortly afterward, the ships in the Inner Nore anchorage were moved to the Outer Nore, out of range of the guns in the shore battery at Garrison Point. Delegates were quickly appointed and they drew up the following rules to be obeyed by all the men participating in the Mutiny:


1) Unanimity is the is the only means of gaining the end in view.
2) Strict discipline to be maintained. No private licquor allowed.
3) Respect to senior officers. Duty to be carried out as before
4) An early communication with all delegates to bring about a speedy remedy.
5) No master or pilot to go ashore.
6) All unsuitable officers to be sent ashore as at Spithead.



At the end of this list appeared the following statement:


Any regulation which may occur among yourselves for the preservation of good order, you may add them to the above.


The delegates quickly elected Mr Richard Parker to be President of the Delegates, unlike the situation with the Great Mutiny at Spithead, where there had been no overall leader. The Exeter-born Parker had apprenticed into the Merchant Navy and had qualified as a Mate, meaning that he was a trained navigator and was able to take charge of Watches and assist the Master of the vessel in its day-to-day sailing and navigation. He had found his way to the Royal Navy in 1782, where his qualifications as a Mate entitled him to serve in the Royal Navy as a Masters Mate. A Masters mate in the Royal Navy was a middle-ranking Warrant Officer and was the lowest-ranked man to be entitled to command. Masters Mates often found themselves in command of prize-crews and could be promoted to Acting Lieutenant in a warship if there were no midshipmen qualified to fill a vacancy if it arose. Parker had served as an Acting Lieutenant in the 50-gun Fourth Rate Ship of the Line HMS Assurance but when a permanent Lieutenant arrived on the ship, he was appointed Midshipman in order to be able to sit his examination for Lieutenant and take the rank permanently. In December 1793, he had refused an order to clear away his hammock on the grounds that as a Midshipman, he shouldn't have to. He faced a Court Martial for disobeying orders and convicted, was stripped of his rank and ordered to serve 'before the mast' as an Able Seaman. Discharged from the Royal Navy in November of 1794, he had avoided the press-gangs and had returned home to his wife in Exeter. In 1797, he was imprisoned for debt. In 1795, the Government of William Pitt the Younger had introduced the Quota Act. Under this, local authorities were required to provide a given number of men to serve in the Royal Navy, but many unscrupulous authorities merely used this as an excuse to empty their jails of debtors and petty criminals and so it was that Richard Parker found himself on a Tender on the way to Sheerness to be re-enlisted in the Royal Navy. Such was his state of mind that he twice attempted to commit suicide by jumping overboard during the voyage to Sheerness. He was a already a bitter and angry man when he arrived aboard HMS Sandwich and was confronted by the unsanitary ond overcrowded conditions he found aboard a Receiving Ship in a time of war.


Having peacefully settled the Great Mutiny at Spithead, the Admiralty now turned it's attention to the unrest at the Nore. The Mutineers were holding out for more concessions from the Government and had refused to return to duty despite being offered the same deal as that accepted by the men at Spithead. Vice-Admiral Buckner was ordered to negotiate with the delegates and press on them the same concessions, while making it clear that there was nothing else on the table. Things went wrong from the outset as Buckner was rudely received on his flagship and the men of HMS Inflexible (64) threatened to open fire if the delegates accepted the terms. Instead, the delegates gave Buckner a document containing eight demands:





1) That every indulgence granted to the fleet at Portsmouth be granted to his Majesty’s subjects serving in the Fleet at the Nore, and on places adjacent.


2) That every man, upon a ship’s coming into harbour shall have liberty (a certain number at a time, so as not to injure the ship’s duty) to go and see their friends and families; a convenient time to be allowed to each man.


3) That all ships before they go to sea, shall be paid all arrears of wages down to six months, according to the old rules.


4) That no officer that has been turned out of any of his Majesty’s ships shall be employed in the same ship again, without the consent of the ship’s company.


5) That when any of his Majesty’s ships shall be paid that may have been some time in commission, if there are any pressed men on board that may not be in the regular course of payment, they shall receive two months advance to furnish them with necessities.


6) That an indemnification be made any men who run, and may now be in his Majesty’s naval service, and that they shall not be liable to be taken up as deserters.


7) That a more equal distribution be made of prize money to the crews of his Majesty’s ships and vessels of war.


8) That the articles of war, as now enforced, require farious alteration, several of which to be expunged therefrom, and if more moderate ones were held forth to seamen in general, it would be the means of taking off that terror and prejudice against his Majesty’s service, on that account too frequently imbibed by seamen, from entering voluntarily into the service.



Captain Cunningham was not one of those officers ordered ashore. He was a popular commander amongst his crew and they refused to have anything to do with those organising the Mutiny.


The Admiralty was outraged at the mutineers demands. They ordered Buckner to refuse all but the first demand. Parker attempted to defuse the situation by asking that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty come to the Nore and negotiate face to face rather than do it by letter. At this point, relations between the men, the delegates and the people of Sheerness were cordial. The delegates were holding their meetings in Sheerness taverns and the men were free to roam around Sheerness at will. Difficulties began to arise on 26th May when the Lord Chancellor informed Lord Spencer, the First Lord of the Admiralty, that the Royal Pardon given to the men at Spithead only covered the men at the Nore for offences committed before it was issued. Acts of mutiny committed afterward would require a new Pardon to be issued. Lord Spencer began to prepare a new pardon for Royal approval and was ordered by the Government to go to Sheerness and negotiate with the mutineers. On 28th May, Lord Spencer and the other members of the Admiralty arrived in Sheerness. On receiving word of their arrival, seven ships at the Nore hauled down the red flag of Mutiny and hoisted the Union Flag. The members of the Admiralty took this as a sign of dissent amongst the fleet and this encouraged them to negotiate more forcefully. All the meeting achieved was the offer of a Royal Pardon if the men agreed to return to duty immediately. After they departed, the delegates discussed the offer and decided to reject it.


By now, however, Lord Spencer held the view that the Mutineers at the Nore were disunited and that under pressure, the Mutiny would fall apart. He had received intelligence that at least ten ships were ready to desert the Mutiny. Spencer had also come to view the Mutiny not as a strike over pay and conditions like the one at Spithead, but rather as a rebellion. He began to make his moves to increase the pressure on the Mutineers. A message was sent to Admiral Sir Adam Duncan, Commander-in-Chief of the North Sea Fleet, asking him if he would consider using the North Sea Fleet to crush the Mutiny if necessary. Sir Charles, the Earl Grey, commanding the garrison at Sheerness ordered that the barracks, the parade ground, the foreshore and the town of Sheerness be placed off-limits to the sailors and that anyone caught there would be detained. He also inspected the fortifications at Sheerness and found to his horror that they were in an appalling state and that in several places, the mortar holding the walls together had rotted away completely and that they were only held up by their own weight.


Realising that events were taking a turn for the worst and that the Government would not be prepared to allow things to continue going in the direction they were, Captain Cunningham decided, with the support of his officers and crew, that the time had come to leave. On the night of the 29th May, HMS Clyde weighed anchor and left the Outer Nore anchorage and made sail away from the fleet. As she did so, she came under fire from mutineer controlled ships. The ship arrived at the Inner Nore off Sheerness the following morning.


HMS Clyde leaves the fleet under fire. The large, three-decked ship immediately astern and to the left of HMS Clyde in this painting by William Joy is HMS Sandwich:





HMS Clyde arrives at the Inner Nore off Sheerness in the morning of 30th May 1797:





By 31st May, the quarantine of the ships at the Nore was beginning to have an impact. They were cut off from the shore, provisions were beginning to run low and the people of the area had turned against them. The delegates decided to raise the stakes. In the evening of 31st May, Parker turned up at the home of the Resident Commissioner at Sheerness and announced that London was under blockade. At first, this threat was thought to be empty but on June 2nd, the ship-sloop HMS Swan (16) began to stop merchant ships making their way into the Thames Estuary and when the job became too big for a single ship to carry out, HMS Standard, the 9pdr armed 28 gun frigate HMS Brilliant and the 16 gun ship sloop HMS Inspector also began to do the same.


On June 1st, Parliament had passed an Act making it a capital offence to incite military personnel to mutiny and the following day a further act was passed making it an offence to trade with the mutineers. Reports and rumours began to circulate that the mutineers were in fact in league with French revolutionaries and Parker was frequently required issue statements denying that this was the case. In the first week of June, many of the ships were beginning to run out of drinking water and the situation was getting desperate. The mutineers had begun to realise that things were not going to end well and that the time had come to end the Mutiny, peacefully if possible. On 6th June, the commander of HMS Monmouth (64), Captain William Carnegie, the 7th Earl Northesk received a note from Parker. Parker knew that Lord Northesk was a man who was a passionate advocate of the sailors rights and who supported the aims of the Mutiny if not the methods. He also knew that Lord Carnegie was a man with friends in high places in the Government. The note read:

To the Rt. Hon. The Earl of Northesk


My Lord,


I am commanded by the Delegates of the Fleet to inform your Lordship that you are requested to repair on board the Sandwich to receive your instructions. A barge will attend your Lordship, and every mark of respect paid your Lordship could wish for.



The Earl of Northesk, wishing to bring the Mutiny to a rapid and peaceful end, did as he was asked. On arrival aboard HMS Sandwich, he was presented with a petition from the delegates which they wished him to lay before the King. The petition laid out the men's objections to being referred to as traitors and outlaws, but threatened to take the ships to the Franco-Dutch naval base at Texel. They gave the King 54 hours from 20:00 on June 7th to respond. Again, Lord Northesk did as he was asked and took the petition to London and argued the men's case before the King, but it was to no avail. He refused to take the total refusal of the Government back to the men and resigned from the Royal Navy on the spot. It fell to the commander of HMS Montagu (74), Captain John Knight, to carry the letter from the Government refusing the demands back to HMS Sandwich. By this time, the Government was more concerned about the threats to take the ships and give them to the enemy than about anything else and on June 8th, Trinity House announced that all the navigational markers, bouys and beacons marking the safe channels in the Thames Estuary were to be removed. By June 9th, this task was complete, except for the Nore Lightship, which was moored under the guns of HMS Sandwich. From the moment when Captain Knight delivered the King's refusal, the mutiny really began to disintegrate. Parker went around the fleet to try to drum up support and was jeered at most of the ships he arrived at. On June 10th, Captain Knight was asked by the delegates to deliver another petition to the King, this time demanding only a pardon for the mutineers and that the worst officers be dismissed from their ships. As he was departing HMS Montagu, his crew gave him a petition of their own, which merely asked that the King consider those requests. There was no response and by June 15th it was all over. On the 14th of June, HMS Sandwich had weighed anchor and returned to the Inner Nore, where she was boarded and Parker was arrested. On 15th June, three boatloads of mutineers from HMS Inflexible (64) seized the small merchant ship Good Intent and sailed to France. Some of the men from HMS Montagu stole a fishing boat and sailed to Holland while the President of the Delegates in HMS Standard (64) shot himself and many others fled.


Parker faced a Court Martial charged with Mutiny and Treason held aboard the brand new 98-gun Second Rate Ship of the Line HMS Neptune on 22nd June. Found guilty and sentenced to death, he was hanged from the fore-yard of HMS Sandwich on 30th June 1797.


On 13th December 1797, HMS Clyde in company with the ex-Spanish frigate HMS San Fiorenzo under Captain Sir Harry Neale captured the French privateer brig Le Succes of 8 guns. This vessel had been out for fifteen days from Bayonne and had captured an American vessel. Two days later, the French privateer ship La Dorade surrendered to HMS Clyde. This ship was pierced for 18 guns but was carrying 12 guns and 93 men. She was out of Bordeaux and had been out for 50 days, cruising off the Azores and Madeira but had not made any captures before she encountered HMS Clyde. Captain Cunningham had appointed one of the ship's Masters Mates to command the prize. Unfortunately, in the opinion of Captain Cunningham, the young man was showing off when he ordered too much sail to be set and La Dorade capsized with the loss of the Masters Mate concerned, a Midshipman and seventeen seamen drowned.


On 22nd March 1798, HMS Clyde and her crew captured the Dutch ship Vrow Classina and two days later, the French ship Marie Perotte was taken and the British ship Sea Nymphe was recaptured.


On 4th January 1799, HMS Clyde recaptured the British ship Hiram


On 10th January 1799, the French privateer schooner L'Air, bound from Brest to San Domingo was taken. This was followed tree days later by the French privateer brig Le Bon Ordre of sixteen guns and 65 men. Le Bon Ordre had sailed from Granville on the 20th December and had taken a brig outbound from Newfoundland on 6th January.


On 20th August 1799, HMS Clyde was patrolling off Rochefort when she sighted the French frigate La Vestale of 32 guns, in company with the corvette La Sagesse of 20 guns. On being sighted, the two French vessels seperated and HMS Clyde set off in pursuit of La Vestale. In Captain Cunningham's own words in a letter to Evan Nepean Esq., Secretary to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty:


Clyde,
Plymouth-Sound,
August 28, 1799.


MY LORD,


I Have the Honor to inform you, that on the 20th Instant, at Half past Eight A.M. Cordovan Light-House bearing E . by S. Six or Seven Leagues, I discovered Two Sail in the S. W . to which I gave Chace, and soon perceived that they were standing
toward us, which they continued to do until His Majesty's Ship under my Command was within Two Miles of them, when they both bore up and made Sail, going large on different Tacks. I continued to chase the largest, and soon brought her to Action, which was maintained with great Gallantry on the Part of the Enemy, until his Ship was wholly dismantled, and had received several Shot between Wind and Water; when La Vestale, a French Frigate of Thirty-fix Guns, Twelve-Pounders, and
Two Hundred and Thirty-five Men, commanded by Monsieur T. M. Gaspard, struck to His Majesty's Ship Clyde.


Her Consort, the Sagesse, of Thirty Guns, availing herself of the Vicinity of the Garrone, had got so much the Start of us that any Pursuit of her would have been unavailing. The Clyde's Officers and Men conducted themselves much to my Satisfaction; and I received that Support from Mr. Kerr the First Lieutenant, which I was prepared to expect by his animated Conduct in former critical and more trying Situations. He has lost an Eye in a former Action.


The Vestale is from St. Domingo; I find by her Role d'Equipage, that she brought from thence many Passengers, whom she landed at Passage; from which Place she had sailed Two Days on her Way to Rochefort, in Company with the Sagesse, who
had lately arrived from Guadaloupe.


Inclosed is a List of the Killed and Wounded.


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


CHARLES CUNNINGHAM .


List of Killed and Wounded.


Clyde. W. Gatt, Quarter-Master, and John Hurne, Private Marine, killed.
John Tucker, S. Collins, and John Gardiner, Seamen, wounded.


La Vestale. Ten Seamen and Marines, killed.
Two Officers and Twenty Stamen and Marines, wounded.
One Officer and several Seamen since dead of their Wounds.


CHARLES CUNNINGHAM



HMS Clyde had caught up with La Vestale at 13:30 and the two ships engaged broadside to broadside. The British ship weaved around the stern of La Vestale and raked her through it several time until about 15:20, when La Vestale struck her colours in surrender. On boarding their prize, HMS Clyde's men found that during her time in the West Indies, the French ship had lost some 40 of her crew to Yellow Fever and that many of them were still sick with the disease.


HMS Clyde vs La Vestale by Thomas Whitcombe:





On the 25th November 1799, HMS Clyde in company with the ex-French frigate HMS Fisgard (18pdr, 38), HMS Sirius (18pdr, 36), the brig-sloop HMS Sylph (16) and the hired armed cutters Fowey (14) and Dolly (8) captured a French sloop (name unknown) and on the 28th, a brig.


On 10th August 1800, HMS Clyde captured the Spanish brig El Belos and on the 20th September, the French schooner La Rose. On 6th October in company with HMS Fisgard, the French schooner La Magicienne was taken and on 16th, the British slave ship Dick was recaptured. Captain Cunningham's letter to Evan Nepean tells more about the recapture of the Dick:


SIR ,
I Beg you will be pleased to acquaint my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty of the Arrival bf His Majesty's Ship Clyde under my Command, having towed in the Dick Guineaman, which was made quite a Wreck in a very gallant Resistance against a French Privateer before she was captured. I enclose, for their Lordships' further Information, a Copy of the Letter addressed to the Earl of St. Vincent, upon my Arrival.


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


C. CUNNINGHAM .



The letter to Admiral Lord St Vincent, Commander in Chief, Channel Fleet read:


Clyde,
Plymouth-Sound,October 22, 1800.


MY LORD,


I Have the Honor to transmit, for your Lordship's Information, a List of Vessels destroyed, captured, and recaptured during the late Cruize of His Majesty's Ship under my Command:


Deux Amis - Spanish Letter of Marque, Four Guns and Twentyseven Men, from Vera Cruz to St Andero, burnt in the Harbour of St. Vincent;


captured El Beloz - Spanish Packet, Four Guns and Thirty Men from the Havannah to Corunna
La Rose - French Schooner, from Bourdeaux to Guadaloupe  and
La Magicienne French Schooner, from Senegal to Bourdeaux.
recaptured the Dick Guineaman,
slave ship of Liverpool, taken by the Grand Decide Privateer,
at this Time the Fifgard was in Sight, who, I apprehend, captured the latter about Two Hours after.


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



Things continued in this vein for HMS Clyde and her crew until the 27th March 1802, when the Treaty of Amiens was signed ending the war. In June of 1802, Captain Cunningham was replaced in command of HMS Clyde by Captain John Larmour. Captain Cunningham was laid off on half pay until he was appointed Commodore in HMS Leopard (50) on the resumption of war later in 1803. He was also appointed to the Victualling Board and in 1806, became Resident Commissioner, overseeing operations at the Royal Dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford. He retired in 1834 as Resident Commissioner at the Chatham Royal Dockyard and died in 1834.


Captain John Larmour's previous appointment had been in command of the 24pdr-armed 40-gun Heavy Frigate HMS Endymion. HMS Clyde was assigned to the North Sea and remained there until she paid off at the Woolwich Royal Dockyard in 1804.


HMS Clyde was a large, fir-built ship which was not designed for a long service life. In the eight years since the ship had been launched, she had been at sea in the Bay of Biscay and English Channel for virtually all that time and the ship's hul and frames were worn out. Despite this, the Royal Navy was still desperately short of modern frigates and ships like HMS Clyde were worth their weight in gold. On the 10th February 1805, HMS Clyde was hauled up a slipway at Woolwich and was carefully taken to pieces. Every piece of timber was inspected and if any defects were found, the timbers were replaced with new. On 20th February 1806, after being completely rebuilt, HMS Clyde was re-launched from her slipway into the River Thames. The ship recommissioned for the North Sea under Captain Edward William Campbell Rich-Owen.


By 1808, the British were aware that the French were intending to use the great port of Antwerp at the mouth of the River Scheldt as a naval base. The French had occupied what is now The Netherlands and Belgium and the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had installed his younger brother Louis as King of Holland. He had forced Louis to cede to France the port of Flushing as the harbour at Antwerp was not deep enough to accomodate a fully loaded French 80-gun Ship of the Line. This gave the French mastery of the entire mouth of the Scheldt and the natural harbour this provides could hold a fleet of 20 ships of the line in perfect safety. By 1809, the French had already stationed a fleet of ten 74-gun ships in the Scheldt. In addition to this, the various shipyards at Antwerp had a total of 19 slipways, all of which were being used for the construction of ships for the French navy. Of particular concern for the British was the fact that six 80-gun ships, each of which had the equivalent firepower to a British 98-gun Second Rate ship and three 74-gun ships were at various stages of construction at Antwerp. Since 1805, the French had been turning the port of Antwep into a naval depot and had spent some 66 million francs on extending the fortifications, basin, dockyard and arsenal there.




In the spring of 1809, the British had decided to do something about this new threat and had begun to prepare a massive amphibious expedition to destroy the arsenal, dockyard, fortifications and enemy ships at Antwerp, Flushing and Terneuse. If possible, they were also to render the Scheldt impassable for large ships. In order to achieve this, the British planned to occupy the islands of Cadzand, Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland. They spent the early summer of 1809 gathering an immense invasion fleet at the Downs, the great fleet anchorage between Deal and the Goodwin Sands. The fleet comprised no less than 39 ships of the line, three 44-gun two-decked ships, 23 frigates including HMS Clyde, a post-ship, 31 sloops-of-war, five bomb-vessels, 23 gun-brigs and 120 hired armed cutters, revenue cutters, tenders and gun-boats. In addition to 245 warships of various sizes, there were 400 transport vessels carrying 44,000 soldiers including some 3,000 cavalry troops, 15,000 horses, two complete seige trains with heavy artillery and mortars as well as lighter field artillery.


The naval force was to be commanded by the Commander-in-Chief in the North Sea, Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan. He was a popular and famous officer, affectionately known to the seamen as 'Mad Dick' on account of his uncontrollable temper and violent cursing when things went wrong. Sir Richard Strachan was the 6th Baronet Strachan and was the last Chief of the ancient Scottish Clan Strachan. The army was to be commanded by General Sir John Pitt, the 2nd Earl of Chatham and eldest son of William Pitt the Elder, the First Earl and former Prime Minister and he was also the older brother of William Pitt the Younger, himself a Prime Minister.


On the 28th July 1809, this mighty armada left the Downs and headed for the Scheldt Estuary. The Commander-in-Chief in HMS Venerable (74) anchored in West-Kapelle Road in the evening of July 28th, and there found the frigate HMS Fisgard. HMS Fisgard and her crew had already stationed small craft as marks on some of the neighbouring sandbanks. In the course of the night, the Eoompot channel, between Noordland and Walcheren, was sounded, and marks were placed to show its entrance. On the 29th, a large flotilla of transports, having on board General Sir John Hope's division of troops, anchored between Noord Beveland and Schouwen, opposite Zierikzee and a few hours later, the transports with General Sir Eyre Coote's division, 17,000 strong, also arrived, in charge of Rear-Admiral William Albany Otway. Coote's troops were destined exclusively for operations against Walcheren, and should have been landed straight away, but bad weather prevented any landing being attempted until 16:30. On the 30th, under covering fire from the hired armed cutter Idas (10) and under direction of Captains Lord Amelius Beauclerk of HMS Royal Oak and George Cockburn, of HMS Belle Isle (both of 74 guns) Coote's division after very light opposition, established itself on the northern extremity of Walcheren. In the evening, some bombs and gunboats entered the Veere Gat, or creek, and on the 31st, opened fire on the fortified town of Veere, one of the chief places in the island but towards nightfall, after three gunboats had been sunk by Dutch shot, the flotilla had to withdraw without having suffered any casualties. Middelburg, the capital of the island had in the meantime, peacefully surrendered and Veere had been captured. In addition a naval brigade, landed on the 30th, under Captain Charles Richardson of HMS Caesar (80) and Commander George William Blarney of the brig-sloop HMS Harpy (32pdr carronade-armed, 18) had bombarded the town of Veere with guns and Congreve rockets. During the night the Dutch commandant offered to surrender, so on August 1st Veere surrendered. The army then advanced. Fort Eammekens fell on August 3rd, and immediately afterwards, the British laid seige to Flushing. Sir John Hope's division, under the conduct of Sir Richard Goodwin Keats, had been already landed without opposition on Zuid Beveland, and had occupied some posts there, including Fort Bath, at the eastern end of the island.


On July 29th, as soon as he had been apprised of the approach of the British fleet, the French Rear-Admiral Missiessy, whose force had been lying at anchor off the Calot Sand, had weighed anchor and proceeded up the Scheldt. By the evening of the 30th, six of his ten ships of the line were above a boom which had been thrown across the river at Lillo. The other four remained below Fort Bath until a few hours before the British occupied it, and so obtained control, to some extent, both of the East and of the West Scheldt. So far, one division of the British army had landed on Walcheren, and another on Zuid Beveland. A third should, according to the original plans, have been almost simultaneously landed at Cadzand, where the French General Rousseau commanded a small force. Owing to a miscommunication, the transport vessels which ought to have put their troops ashore at Cadzand moved round to the Veere Gat. This error enabled Rousseau, on August 1st and 2nd, to send over about 1600 men in schuyts to reinforce the threatened garrison of Flushing. But on the 3rd, his efforts to send more were frustrated by the brave actions of the brig-sloop HMS Raven (24pdr carronade-armed, 16) HMS Raven, under the orders of Captain Rich-Owen stood in to cover some boats which under Lieutenant Charles Burrough Strong had been ordered to mark the channel between Flushing and Breskens. She quickly became exposed to heavy fire from the batteries of both places but, instead of withdrawing, she returned fire, and assisted by some gunboats, drove back to the Cadzand side a flotilla of enemy's boats which had been in the act of crossing. As she returned down the river, she passed through a hail of shells, grapeshot and red-hot shot from the batteries on both shores, and lost her main and fore topmasts, besides receiving other serious damage, having two of her guns dismounted, and drifting on to the Elboog sand, whence she could not be moved until the following morning. In this action, HMS Raven suffered eight wounded including her commander. Sadly, their bravery was to no avail, on August 4th, the French reopened communications between Cadzand and Flushing and between that day and the evening of the 6th, General Rousseau succeeded in sending across about 1500 more men, a reinforcement which brought up the strength of the Flushing garrison to about seven thousand.


Possession of Fort Rammekens allowed the British to use the Sloe channel, which is one of the connections between the East and the West Scheldt and facilitated the passage into West Scheldt of the flotilla which had been operating against Veere. Part of this was destined to watch the river opposite Flushing, and to prevent further communications between Cadzand and Ter Neuze; and part to proceed up the West Scheldt, and to co-operate in a naval advance in the direction of Lillo but owing to the bad weather and the difficulties of navigating the River, Flushing was not effectively blockaded until the 6th. It wasn't until the 9th that a division of ships under Sir Home Riggs Popham was able to push up the West Scheldt in order to sound and buoy the Baerlandt Channel in preparation for the passage of the larger ships. On the afternoon of August 11th, with a light westerly breeze that a squadron of ten frigates under Lord William Stuart, weighed anchor from below Flushing and in a line of battle, forced the channel between the batteries of Flushing and Cadzand. The frigates were:


HMS Lavinia, HMS Statira, the ex-Danish ships HMS Rota and HMS Perlen (all 18pdr, 38), HMS Amethyst, HMS Aigle, HMS Euryalus, HMS Dryad and the ex-Danish HMS Nymphen (all 18pdr, 36) and HMS Heroine (12pdr, 36).


As a result of the light wind and strong opposing current, the frigates were under fire for about two hours, but only suffered casualties of two killed and nine wounded and except for HMS Aigle, they reached the upper part of the river without having suffered any material damage. HMS Aigle had had her stern frame shattered by a shell. In the meantime an attack on Fort Bath by Missiessy's small craft had been repulsed and Sir Richard Goodwin Keats, who was in command below Lillo had forced the French to move the rest of their ships of theline to a point above the boom which spanned the river at that spot.


It had been arranged that when the siege batteries of the army opened fire on Flushing, a squadron of ships of the line would move up the river and support them. The bombardment began at 13:30 on August 13th and the army gunners were supported by two divisions of bomb vessels and gunboats under the command of Captain George Cockburn, of HMS Belle Isle (74), who commanded the operation from the 6pdr-armed ship-sloop HMS Plover of 18 guns. On that day the light winds prevented the ships of the line from moving to the attack, but at 10:00 on the 14th, the following ships, all of 74 guns, weighed anchor from off Dijkshoek and stood in:


HMS San Domingo, HMS Blake, HMS Repulse, HMS Victorious, the ex-Danish HMS Danmark, HMS Audacious and HMS Venerable.


Soon after approaching near enough to open fire, HMS San Domingo and then HMS Blake, which had attempted to pass inside of her, grounded on the Dog-sand. At this point, the other ships were signalled to haul off and anchor. The two ships got off after about three hours under fire and anchored with the rest having suffered casualties of two killed and eighteen wounded. The remaining ships of the line including HMS Repulse had nobody hurt. At 16:00, the garrison of Flushing ceased returning the British fire and at 14:00 on the 15th, the French commandant, General Mounet, offered to surrender.


A contemporary engraving of The Bombardment of Flushing:





Apart from the loss sustained by the ships of the line and the frigate squadron, the naval force suffered further casualties of 7 killed and 22 wounded aboard the bomb vessels and gunboats with 7 wounded in the naval brigade which served ashore under Captain Charles Richardson. The army, in the various operations on the island of Walcheren up to the surrender of Flushing, had 103 killed and 443 wounded. On the day of the surrender, HMS Imperieuse (18pdr, 38) exposed herself to the fire of the fort at Ter Neuze and returned fire with shrapnel shells from her carronades. One of these blew up the magazine of the battery and caused the deaths of 75 of the enemy. What losses the French sustained in Walcheren is unknown, but they were probably severe. On August 17th, the islands of Schouwen and Duijveland, northward of the East Scheldt, surrendered peacefully to Sir Richard Goodwin Keats and Lieutenant-General the Earl of Rosslyn.




From that point, the campaign collapsed. The Earl of Chatham, who moved his headquarters from Middelburg to Veere on the 21st, transferred them from there on the 23rd to Goes, on Zuid Beveland. He left 10,000 men in Walcheren to defend against the ever-increasing force of the enemy at Cadzand and he therefore had 29,000 men nominally available for the remaining objectives of the expedition, which were the taking of the strong forts at Lillo and Liefkenshoek and of the great fortress of Antwerp. At those places, and in Bergen-op-Zoom, there were discovered to be at least 35,000 French soldiers while from the 19th onwards, more and more British troops were falling ill with what was known as the 'Walcheren Fever', a form of Malaria. The Earl of Chatham was growing increasingly concerned by reports which reached him about the defences of Antwerp, which he had previously believed could be easily taken and of the seeming impossibility of destroying the docks and arsenal there without having first taken the citadel. He also learned that there was nothing to prevent the French ships of the line from moving with everything aboard, to Ruppelmonde, five miles beyond Antwerp or without their guns and stores, to Dendermonde, some 15 miles further up the river Scheldt. Realising the likelyhood of failure, he held a council of war on the 26th. This council declared in favour of abandoning the whole enterprise rather than of running any risk of utter failure. To this end, Zuid Beveland was evacuated immediately, and Walcheren in December of 1809, after the basin, arsenal, and sea-defences at Flushing had been blown up. Two small vessels on the stocks there were also destroyed but a 74-gun ship which was in frames was taken to pieces and the timbers later reassembled at Woolwich Royal Dockyard and completed as HMS Chatham (74). The only complete vessel taken was a new frigate, the Fidele, which was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Laurel (18pdr, 38).


The last of the British troops leave Walcheren:





History now judges the whole expedition as having been mismanaged, ill-planned and ill-timed. Of the huge army landed on the islands in the mouth of the River Scheldt, particularly Walcheren, over 4,000 died from the so-called Walcheren Fever while another 6,000 were left suffering the long-term effects of Malaria. Only about 160 British soldiers were actually killed in the fighting. The Earl of Chatham saw to it that Sir Richard Strachan carried the blame for the failure of this, the largest British amphibious operation of the war and the Rear-Admiral received no more active service appointments as a result. The Earl of Chatham also had no further active service appointments and only went on to serve in purely ceremonial positions. A poem mocking him for the lack of communication between his headquarters and the Royal Navy forces there to support him became popular:


"The Earl of Chatham, with his sword drawn,
Stood waiting for Sir Richard Strachan;
Sir Richard, longing to be at 'em,
Stood waiting for the Earl of Chatham."


Despite being married, Sir John Pitt, the 2nd Earl of Chatham died without an heir on the 24th September 1835 and the Earldom of Chatham died with him. Sir Richard Strachan also died without an heir on 3rd February 1828 although he and his wife had three daughters. His Baronetcy became extinct upon his death.


On 6th February 1810, HMS Clyde captured the French privateer Le Transit of 14 guns in the North Sea. Ten months later, HMS Cyde was paid off into the Portsmouth Ordinary and in August of 1814 the ship was sold at Portsmouth for £2,300.

"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.