Author Topic: HMS Courageux (1800 - 1832)  (Read 87 times)

Offline Signals99

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Re: HMS Courageux (1800 - 1832)
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2021, 07:34:09 AM »
Just spent an hour or two reading Stuart's blog ,fascinating ,thanks for that sir,my father ,crossed the bar many moons ago now,served in the RN 1912/1945 alas my atemped to follow him was doomed to failure (faild the entry exam)Dads claim to fame was he Wes one of the invergorden mutineers .

Offline stuartwaters

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HMS Courageux (1800 - 1832)
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2021, 07:13:01 PM »

HMS Courageux was a 74-gun, third-rate ship of the line of the Large Type, built at the Royal Dockyard at Deptford. Designed by Sir John Henslow, Co-Surveyor of the Navy, HMS Courageux was a one-off, the only ship built to that design. She was named after the ex-French 74-gun ship of the same name, originally captured by HMS Bellona (74) back in 1761 and which went on to have a distinguished career in the Royal Navy before being wrecked with heavy loss of life off Morocco in 1796.


The 74-gun third-rate ship of the line was by far the most numerous of the Royal Navy's ships of the line for almost a century from the mid 1750s. Once they had entered general service from about the beginning of the Seven Years War (1756 - 1763), by the time of the Battle of Trafalgar fifty years later, there were more 74-gun ships than all the other types of ship of the line put together. There were three distinct types of 74-gun ship, Common, Middling and Large. Despite it's name, the Large Type was not necessarily the largest type of 74-gun ship. Large and Middling types were actually about the same size, typically about 180 feet long on the upper gundeck and of about 1,800 tons. The difference between the two was that the Middling Type, in common with the smaller Common Type, carried a battery of 18pdr long guns on her upper gundeck, whereas the Large Type carried 24pdr long guns on that deck. The Middling Type began to supercede the Common Type from about 1790.


The ship was designed and built as a result of the debate which was ongoing amongst naval architects both back then and which continues amongst some historians to this day about whether or not French ships were superior to British ones. It is certainly true that French ships were bigger, more powerfully armed, faster and more manoeuvrable than their British counterparts, but British ships were stronger, more seaworthy and could stay at sea for much longer because they had larger holds able to hold more provisions. In the latter part of the 18th Century and in the early 19th century, the French ships were let down by poor build quality, despite their apparently superior design. Captured French ships,of which there were many, required a lot of work in the Royal Dockyards to prepare them for British use. The most obvious case of this was the Commerce de Marseilles. This outwardly magnificent, almost brand-new, 120-gun First Rate ship of the line was handed over to the British by French Royalists during Lord Hood's Toulon Campaign in 1793. The officers tasked with bringing the ship back to the UK wrote reports which were positively fizzing with excitement about the ship's sailing qualities. Her speed, manoeuvrability, ease of steering and response to the rudder were far better than the ship's equivalent in the Royal Navy. When the ship got to Portsmouth, she was dry-docked and surveyed in preparation for the refit to convert her for British service and the results of that survey told a significantly different story. The shipwrights who surveyed her reported that the ship was structurally weak and badly built, to such an extent that they felt she would break up and founder in the first serious storm she encountered. The Navy Board decided that the extensive repairs and modifications the ship would need were not worth the cost, so the now HMS Commerce de Marseilles was instead commissioned as a 50-gun storeship. Before she was sent to sea however, they changed their minds and she was converted instead into a hulk and was eventually broken up in 1801 having never gone to sea again under British colours.


The evolution of British warship design and that of ships of the line in particular had been hamstrung by conservatism and when advances did occur, they only happened when they absolutely had to. Once those conservative elements in the Navy Board had been replaced, a huge leap forward occurred with the introduction of the 74-gun ship in the mid-1750's and from then, progress was a case of small steps and many of the designs produced were heavily influenced by French thinking. A great number of British ships of the line were either influenced by French designs or were copied directly from them. The design of HMS Courageux was produced after an intervention from Gabriel Snodgrass, a hugely influential naval architect who was at the time the Surveyor (or chief designer) of the Honourable East India Company. This immense organisation built and maintained its own fleet of large, heavily armed cargo ships. Such was his influence in the world of naval architecture that when he spoke, the Navy Board listened. He realised that the main advantage the French ships had was their size. In the early 1790s, Snodgrass wrote:


"I am of the opinion that all the ships of the present Navy are too short, from ten to thirty feet according to their rates. If ships in future were to be built so much longer as to admit of an additional timber between every port, and if the foremost and aftermost gunports were placed a greater distance from the extremities, they would be stronger and safer, and have more room for fighting their guns".



The Navy Board it seems, were listening, because in 1794, Sir William Rule and Sir John Henslow, the Surveyors of the Navy, were each ordered to produce designs incorporating Snodgrass' ideas about the length of the ship. HMS Plantagenet was Sir William Rule's design and was ordered from the Woolwich Royal Dockyard, while HMS Courageux was Sir John Henslow's and was ordered from the Royal Dockyard at Deptford. The new designs were both to be 186 feet long on the upper gundeck, or about the length of a First Rate ship, but only 47 feet wide, or about the width of a typical 74-gun ship. In 1796, before construction of the new ships began, the designs were altered to make them about five feet shorter, but they still had a length to breadth ratio of 3.85:1 rather than the normal 3.6:1.


The order for what was to become HMS Courageux was placed with the Deptford Royal Dockyard on the 6th November 1794, but her first keel section wasn't laid until October of 1797. HMS Courageux was a very large ship, as long as a Second Rate ship of the line and for that reason, it was to be the 26th March 1800 when the ship was launched into the River Thames. Up to the time that the hull was declared complete and was launched, the ship had cost £60,701. Fitting the ship with her guns, masts and rigging added a further £3,543 to the bill. In April 1800, the ship commissioned under Captain Samuel Hood, the much younger cousin of the more famous Admiral Samuel, Lord Hood. The ship was declared complete on 30th May 1800.


Captain Hood was an experienced and successful veteran commander who had first passed his examination for Lieutenant on the 10th August 1781. His first command appointment had come almost five months later when he had been appointed as Master and Commander in the ex-French 18-gun brig-sloop HMS Reynard. Posted, or promoted to Captain on the 24th May 1788, his previous appointment had been in another 74-gun ship HMS Zealous, where he had served under Nelson at the Battles of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the Nile.


On completion, HMS Courageux was a very powerfully armed ship. 181ft long on her upper gundeck, 150ft 9in long at the keel and 47ft 1in wide, she was a ship of 1,780 tons. She carried 28 x 32pdr long guns on her lower gundeck, 28 x 24pdr long guns on her upper gudeck, 2 x 18pdr long guns and 2 x 32pdr carronades on her forecastle, 2 x 18pdr long guns and 12 x 32pdr carronades on her quarterdeck, with 6 x 18pdr carronades on her poop deck. In addition to her main guns, she also carried a dozen half-pounder swivel guns attached to her forecastle and quarterdeck bulwarks and in her fighting tops. She was manned by a crew of 650 officers, seamen, boys and Marines.


HMS Courageux Plans


Orlop Plan:





Lower Gundeck Plan:





Upper Gundeck Plan:





Quarterdeck and Forecastle Plans:





Plan of the Magazine:





Inboard Profile and Plan:





Sheer Plan and Lines:





A pencil sketch of HMS Courageux made in 1805 by Nicholas Pocock:





Captain Hood's first task once he had been appointed into this brand new ship was to recruit a crew for her. He didn't have to do this alone. In a time of war, the Impressment Service was busy rounding up sailors in all the port towns across the UK using the dreaded Press Gangs. Men, once taken by the Press Gang, would be taken to a Rendezvous, usually a local tavern or inn and from there, they would be taken to the Receiving Ship, where they would await their fate. In addition to this, there were men taken into the Royal Navy under what was known as the Quota. Under the Manning of the Navy Acts, Parish and County Councils were required to supply a given number of men for the fleet per year. Many unscrupulous local authorities merely used this as an excuse to empty their jails of debtors and petty criminals. Many local Assize Courts were giving petty criminals a choice of sentence, service in the fleet or jail. Many chose the former.


The ship's six Lieutenants, ranked in order of seniority, 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc were appointed by the Admiralty. The most important of these was the First Lieutenant, not just because he was the second-in-command but because he controlled the day-to-day running of the ship. Regardless of their seniority, each of the Lieutenants was a commander in waiting, gaining experience and seeking the patronage they would need to be promoted and get a command of their own.


The senior Warrant Officers were appointed into the ship by the Navy Board, including the Standing Officers, those men who would remain with the ship whether or not she was in commission. The Standing Officers in a Large Type 74-gun ship were:


The Boatswain or Bosun, answerable to the First Lieutenant and responsible for the operation, repair and maintenance of the masts and all the rigging as well as the ships boats. The Boatswain was an experienced sailor who had worked his way up through the ranks of seamen. While the ship was in commission, he was assisted by two Boatswains Mates. Amongst the duties of the Boatswains Mates was the administering of any floggings ordered by the Captain.


The Carpenter. He was a qualified shipwright and was answerable to the First Lieutenant for the repair and maintenance of the ships hull, frames and decks. While the ship was in commission, he was assisted by a single Carpenters Mate and had a dedicated crew of 8 men.


The Gunner. He was answerable to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the repair and maintenance of the ships main guns, the storage and distibution in action of the ships stocks of gunpowder and shot, training the gun-crews and training the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary in the arts of gunnery. He was another man who had worked his way up through the ranks of seamen. While the ship was in commission, he was assisted by two Gunners Mates and 20 Quarter Gunners. Each of the Quarter Gunners was a Petty Officer, in charge of four gun crews.


The Cook. Usually a disabled ex-seaman, the Cook was answerable to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the distribution and preparation of the ships provisions as well as being in charge of the ship's complement of servants. He was the lowest-ranking of the Standing Officers.


The Purser. He was answerable to the Captain and so entitled to live in the wardroom with the commissioned officers and was responsible for the purchase and distribution of all the ships stores.


The other senior Warrant Officers would only serve in the ship while she was in commission. They were also appointed by the Navy Board and were:


The Sailing Master. He was the highest-ranking of all the ships Warrant Officers, was answerable to the Captain and so was entitled to live in the wardroom with the commissioned officers. Of all the wardroom officers, he had the second-largest cabin, second only to that of the First Lieutenant. He was a qualified ship's Master and if not employed by the Royal Navy, was qualified to command a vessel in the merchant service. In a ship like HMS Courageux, he was assisted by a more junior Sailing Master, known as the Second Master and three Masters Mates. He was responsible for the day-to-day sailing and navigation of the ship, training the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary in the arts of navigation and seamanship and the storage of supplies and stores in the hold to ensure the optimum trim of the ship. In addition to the Second Master and the Masters Mates, he was also assisted by six Quartermasters, each responsible for the ship's steering and each assisted by their own Mate.


The Surgeon. Also answerable directly to the Captain and so entitled to live in the wardroom with the commissioned officers. Although not a qualified Doctor as such, the Surgeon had had to complete a seven-year apprenticeship which had been overseen by the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians. He was responsible for the day-to-day healthcare of the whole ship's Company from the Captain downwards and was assisted in this by two Assistant Surgeons.


The lesser Warrant Officers were appointed by the Captain on the recommendation of the First Lieutenant after having applied for the posts and presenting their credentials. These were:


The Armourer. He was responsible for the storage, maintenance and repair of the ships stocks of small-arms and bladed weapons. A qualified Blacksmith, he would also manufacture new bladed weapons as and where necessary. He was answerable to the Gunner and was assisted by two Armourers Mates.


The Sailmaker. Answerable to the Boatswain and responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ships sails and flags as well as their storage. He was assisted by a single Sailmakers Mate and had a dedicated crew of two men.


The Ropemaker. Also answerable to the Boatswain, he was responsible for the storage, maintenance and repair of the ship's supplies of cordage and the manufacture where necessary of new cordage.


The Caulker. He was answerable to the Carpenter and was responsible for ensuring that the ship's hull and decks remained watertight. He was assisted by a single Caulkers Mate and seamen as and when required.


The Chaplain. An ordained priest, he was answerable to the First Lieutenant. In deference to his status as an ordained priest, the Chaplain was entitled to live in the wardroom with the commissioned officers. In action, his role was to assist the Surgeon's crew with the care of wounded men. In the absence of a Chaplain, the Captain would carry out his pastoral duties.


The Schoolmaster. Answerable to the First Lieutenant, he was responsible for training the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary in the theory of navigation and the associated branches of arithmetic. Where possible and appropriate, he would also teach the rest of the ships boys the basic three Rs.


The Cooper. Answerable to the Purser, he was responsible for the maintenance and repair of all the barrels stored in the hold. He was responsible for cleaning the barrels after their contents had been used, especially barrels used to store the ship's water supply and would be assisted by seamen as and where required.


The Clerk. Answerable to the Purser, he was responsible for all the record-keeping and administration aboard the ship and ensuring that the appropriate books were sent to the Admiralty for checking.


The Master-At-Arms. In effect, he was the ship's policeman and was answerable to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the day-to-day enforcement of discipline on the ship. He was assisted by two Corporals (not related to the military rank of the same name) who themselves had the status of Petty Officers. He would investigate misbehaving seamen and would report them to the First Lieutenant who would in turn report them to the Captain who would decide their punishment. In cases where the Captain decided that the offender should be flogged, the flogging itself would be carried out by the Boatswains Mates. In cases where the alleged offence required a Court Martial, the offender would be kept in irons until a Court Martial could be arranged and the Master-at-Arms would then be responsible for their safety and security.


A Large Type 74-gun ship would have 16 Midshipmen, appointed by the Port Admiral or local commander-in-chief on behalf of the Admiralty. Commanders in training, their job was to assist the Lieutenants in their day-to-day duties.


In addition to the Midshipmen, there would be Midshipmen-in-Ordinary. Also known as Quarterdeck Boys, these young men were in effect officers in training. They would usually be the sons of friends of the Captain, or had a family connection to the Captain, or be sons of people the Captain was either doing a favour for or owed a favour to. They would be on the ships books as Captains Servants, rated and paid as Able Seamen but wore the uniform and performed the duties of a Midshipman. A ship with a crew of almost 600 would entitle the Captain to have as many as 24 servants or four per hundred of her Company, but unless he was extraordinarily extravagant, the Captain  would only actually require a fraction of this number, so the remaining posts were taken up with the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary. The Quarterdeck Boys would have to put in two years of sea-service before they could be appointed as Midshipmen proper and would have to serve at least six years in the post of Midshipman before they would be considered for their Lieutenants Examination.


In any case, the Captain would come aboard with his own staff who would move between appointments with him, consisting of his own Clerk or secretary, his Steward, who would have a Stewards Mate to assist him and his Coxswain. The Captains Coxswain was a Petty Officer who was expected to act as the Captain's eyes and ears on the Lower Deck. The Coxswain himself would appoint a Coxswain's Mate from amongst the Able Seamen.


The rest of the ships crew would be made up with Petty Officers, those men with experience in those roles, such as Captains and Yeomen of Parts of the ship such as the Forecastle, the Waist, Tops, Gun Captains etc. Able Seamen; those men with plenty of sea-going experience who could perform any task asked of them without supervision, Ordinary Seamen; those men with some sea-going experience and Landsmen, those with none. Landsmen were the unskilled labourers in a ship and were generally regarded by everyone else as being the lowest form of life until they had proved themselves. Boys were graded in much the same way, 1st class - those with Able Seaman levels of skills and experience, 2nd class, those with Ordinary Seaman level skills and 3rd class. The Boys 3rd Class were employed as cabin servants for the wardroom and for those senior Warrant Officers entitled to have servants, such as the Standing Officers. In action, the ship's boys would be employed in carrying gunpowder cartridges from the magazine to the Gun Captains, a role known as a "Powder Monkey".


HMS Courageux's contingent of Marines would come aboard as a pre-existing unit and would consist of a Captain of Marines in charge, assisted by three Marine Lieutenants ranked in order of seniority, three Sergeants, three Corporals, two Drummers and 98 Marine Privates. The commissioned Marine officers were entitled to live in the wardroom with the commissioned sea-officers. The Marines themselves would live in a screened-off part of the Lower Deck, known as the Marine Barracks, while the non-commissioned officers would have the same status aboard the ship as the Petty Officers.


This huge and diverse host of people would have to be moulded by Captain Hood and his officers into an efficient, deadly fighting machine who could operate together under any circumstances and who could handle the ship in any weather. Certainly in the early weeks and months of her commission, this could and would be done by brute force as failure was not an option.


Captain Hood was ordered to take his ship and join a squadron under the command of the famous Rear-Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren off the Spanish coast. Rear-Admiral Warren, who was flying his command flag in another Large Type 74-gun ship, HMS Renown, had been ordered to launch an attack on the Spanish naval base at Ferrol and HMS Courageux was one of a number of reinforcements sent to him. By the time that all the reinforcements had arrived, the Rear-Admiral's squadron comprised:


HMS Renown (Flagship, 74 guns), HMS London (98), HMS Courageux, the ex-French HMS Impetieux (74), HMS Captain (74), the 24pdr-armed Razee Heavy Frigate HMS Indefatigable (44), HMS Amelia (18pdr, 38), HMS Amethyst (18pdr, 36), HMS Stag (18pdr, 32), HMS Brilliant (9pdr, 28), the ship-sloop HMS Cynthia (6pdr, 18) and the hired armed cutter Saint Vincent of 14 guns. The squadron also had some of the Royal Navy's most famous and successful commanders in it's ships, namely Captain Sir Edward Pellew in HMS Impetieux, Captain Sir Richard Strachan in HMS Captain in addition to Captain Hood and the Rear-Admiral himself.


In addition to the warships, there was a fleet of transport ships carrying troops under Lieutenant-General Sir James Pulteney. Bottled up inside the naval base at Ferrol were the Spanish ships Real Carlos and San Hermenegildo (both large First Rate ships of 112 guns), San Fernando of 96 guns, Argonauta of 80 guns and San Antonio and San Augustin (both of 74 guns). The plan was to seize the naval base and the ships in it.


On 25th August, the force arrived in the bay of Playa de Dominos and after the fort overlooking the bay had been silenced by gunfire from HMS Impetueux, HMS Cynthia, HMS Brilliant and the Saint Vincent, the troops, along with sixteen field guns were landed. Attacked on the beach by Spanish troops, the British soldiers with the assistance of seamen from the ships in the fleet, drove off their attackers. The following day, the British forced their way to the heights overlooking the city and harbour, but on gaining the heights, Pulteney saw that the port was too strongly defended and decided to withdraw back to the ships.


After the withdrawal from Ferrol, Rear-Admiral Warren's squadron in company with the transport ships was making its way along the Spanish coast when a large French privateer was seen to run into Vigo and anchor at a spot near the Narrows at Redondela. Captain Hood put a suggestion to the Rear-Admiral that the vessel could be taken in a cutting out raid. Warren agreed and an audacious plan was drawn up. The letters of the officers commanding the mission tell the story:


Letter from Admiral Sir John Jervis, the Earl St. Vincent, Commander-in-Chief Channel Fleet to Sir Evan Nepean, Secretary to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty:



"Dated on board the Royal George
Off Ushant
September 7, 1800


Sir,
I enclose letters from Rear-Admiral Sir John Warren, this moment received by the Brilliant.


I am &c


ST VINCENT"



Letter from Rear-Admiral Warren to Lord St. Vincent:

"Renown
Vigo Bay
2d September 1800


My Lord,


I beg leave to inform you that, on having ordered Captain Hood of the Courageux to lead into this bay, I received a letter from him on the same evening and immediately ordered two boats from this ship, the Impetieux, and London and refer your Lordship to a letter which accompanies this, for the account of a gallant action, performed by the boats of Captain Hood's detachment, under Lieutenant Burke's orders, whose merit on this, as well as former occasions, will I trust, induce your Lordship to recommend him to the favour of their Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, more especially as he has been severely wounded in the Service.


I have the honor &c &c &c


JOHN WARREN"



Letter from Captain Hood to Rear-Admiral Warren

"His Majesty's Ship Courageux
Vigo bay
30th August 1800


Sir,


Percieving yesterday afternoon the French privateer in the Harbour had removed for security near the Narrows of Redondella, close to the batteries, where I thought there was a probability of her being attacked with success, I ordered two boats from each ship named in the margin
(HMS Amethyst, HMS Stag, HMS Amelia, HMS Brilliant and HMS Cynthia) with those of the Renown, Impetueux and London you sent me and four from the Courageux, commanded by Lieutenants volunteering their services, to be ready at Nine O'Clock, and placed them under the direction of Lieutenant Burke, of the Renown, whose gallant conduct has so often merited your commendation. About forty minutes past twelve they attacked her with the greatest bravery, meeting with desperate resistance, her commander having laid the hatches over to prevent her people from giving way and cheered as the boats advanced, but notwithstanding this determined opposition, she was carried in fifteen minutes.


I am sorry to add Lieutenant Burke has received a severe wound, but I hope not dangerous. Our loss has been as per enclosed list, the greater part occasioned by the desperate conduct of her commander, who was mortally wounded. Too much praise cannot be given to those deserving officers and men who so gallantly supported Lieutenant Burke, and towed her out with much coolness through the fire of the enemy's batteries. I need not, Sir, comment on the ability and courage of the commanding Lieutenant, his former services having gained your esteem, and I have no doubt the sufferings of his wound will be alleviated by that well-known attention shewn to officers who have so gallantly distinguished themselves, for which I beg leave to offer my strongest recommendation.


The privateer is a very fine ship, named La Guipe, of Bordeaux, with a flush deck, three hundred tons, pierced for twenty-two guns, carrying eighteen nine-pounders, and one hundred and sixty-one men, commanded by Citoyenne Dupan, stored and provisioned in the completest manner for four months. She had twenty-five killed and forty wounded.


I have the honor to be &c &c &c


SAMUEL HOOD


A report of the killed, wounded and missing in the boats employed in the taking of the French privateer La Guipe in Vigo Bay, in the evening of 29th August 1800:


Lieutenant Henry Burke of the Renown, Wounded
Lieutenant John Henry Holmes and Joseph Nourse of the Courageux, slightly wounded
Three seamen and one Marine, killed
Three officers, twelve seamen and five marines, wounded
One seaman, missing."



In the meantime, Rear-Admiral Warren received orders to take his squadron including HMS Courageux with the transport ships and meet with Vice-Admiral Lord Keith's Mediterranean Fleet at Gibraltar. On 2nd October 1800, Lord Keith, with 22 ships of the line, 37 frigates, sloops and other warships with 80 transport ships carrying 18,000 troops under General Sir Ralph Abercromby sailed from Gibraltar and on the 4th, this armada anchored in the Bay of Cadiz with a view to attacking and capturing this, the largest and most heavily fortified Spanish port and naval base. Lord Keith sent a summons to the Spanish Governor of Cadiz, Don Thomas de Morla inviting him to surrender the city, the naval base and all the ships in it. Don Thomas' reply that the city of Cadiz and the surrounding area was in the grip of an outbreak of plague was enough to make Lord Keith and General Abercromby call off the operation and the entire force to returned to Gibraltar immediately.


Throughout 1797, the First Consul of France and head of the Army, Napoleon Bonaparte had laid plans to invade Egypt as part of a grand plan to eventually expel the British from India. In May of 1798, a French army under Napoleon had been transported across the Mediterranean Sea and had landed in Aboukir Bay, one of the mouths of the great River Nile. The French fleet had subsequently been destroyed by a British fleet under Nelson in the Battle of the Nile the following August. The British had subsequently mounted a close blockade, preventing the French from supplying and reinforcing their now stranded army. In early 1801, both the British and the French decided to do something about the French army stranded in the Levant; the British to destroy it and the French to resupply and reinforce it. Napoleon knew that the French Toulon Fleet was in no condition to take on Lord Keith's powerful British Mediterranean Fleet and that most of the best ships of the French Navy were in the Atlantic Fleet, based in Brest. He decided to send the best ships from the Atlantic Fleet under his best commander, Rear-Admiral Honore Ganteaume to the Mediterranean with 5,000 troops while announcing that the force was destined for San Domingo in the Caribbean. On the 7th January 1801, Ganteaume took advantage of a storm forcing the British blockading fleet out to sea to break out of Brest with the following ships:


L'Indivisible (80), L'Indomptable (80), Formidable (80), Desaix (74), Dix Aout (74), Constitution (74), Jean Bart (74) with the large frigates Creole (40), Bravoure (40) and the lugger Vautour of 12 guns. It should be borne in mind that each of the French 80-gun ships carried equivalent firepower to a British 98-gun Second Rate ship of the line, so this force posed a very serious threat.


Any British ships which got in his way were run down, taken and scuttled. This included the 18pdr carronade-armed fireship HMS Incendiary (16), the 12pdr-armed frigate HMS Success (32), the 3pdr-armed cutter HMS Sprightly (12) while the 12pdr-armed ex-French frigate HMS Corcorde (36) had a close shave when she fought off an attack by the Bravoure at a cost of four dead and nineteen wounded. These unusually aggressive French actions caused alarm for the British, especially when HMS Concorde reached Plymouth and passed on her intelligence about Ganteaume's force and the belief that they were headed to the Caribbean. The British ordered Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Calder to detach his squadron from the Channel Fleet and sail for the West Indies in pursuit of Ganteaume's force and HMS Courageux was ordered to join Calder's squadron as reinforcement. Before the ship joined Sir Robert Calder's squadron, Captain Hood was appointed to command HMS Venerable (74) and was replaced in command of HMS Courageux by Captain George Duff.


Captain Duff had been fascinated with ships and the sea all his life and had first gone to sea after having stowed away on a merchant ship while still a very young boy. He had joined the Royal Navy at the age of 13 in 1777 and had been only 16 when he had passed his examination for Lieutenant. A proud and tough Scotsman, George Duff was a strict but scrupulously fair disciplinarian who was highly regarded by his peers as well as his superiors and subordinates. Up until taking command of HMS Courageux, he had been a very successful commander and was known by reputation throughout the fleet.


Calder's squadron then comprised:


HMS Prince of Wales (flagship, 98 guns), the ex French ships HMS Juste and HMS Pompee(both of 80 guns), with HMS Courageux, HMS Cumberland, HMS Montagu and HMS Spencer (all of 74 guns), the frigates HMS Magicienne (ex-French, 12pdr-armed, 32 guns) and HMS Thames (12pdr, 32).


This force composition was questioned by many at the time; the act of teaming up some of the fastest Third Rate ships in the fleet with a notoriously slow Second Rate ship defied logic. Nevertheless, Sir Robert Calder's force including HMS Courageux enjoyed a leisurely cruise to the Caribbean and returned having failed to find the powerful French force. As things turned out, the British prisoners taken with HMS Success informed the French that Lord Keith's Mediterranean Fleet was probably waiting for them off the Egyptian coast and that Sir John Warren's squadron probably wasn't far behind them. This intelligence pursuaded Rear-Admiral Honore Ganteaume to call off the operation for now and to put into Toulon to await further orders.


On the ship's return to the UK in May of 1801, Captain Duff was appointed to command HMS Vengeance (74) and eventually found his way to HMS Mars (74) in which ship he was killed in action during the Battle of Trafalgar. His replacement in HMS Courageux was Captain Thomas Sotherby, whose previous command had been HMS Marlborough (74). His term in command of that ship had ended badly when, while maintaining a close blockade of the French coast, the ship ran aground on rocks near Ile Giouat. Despite being floated off after throwing her guns overboard and cutting down the masts, HMS Marlborough was so badly damaged that she later sank. Captain Sotherby had faced a Court Martial for her loss and after hearing statements from all involved, Captain Sotherby, his officers and crew were cleared of any wrongdoing and Sotherby was appointed to command HMS Courageux soon afterwards.


On taking comand of HMS Courageux, Captain Sotherby was ordered to take his ship and join a squadron under the orders of Commodore Sir Edward Pellew, commanding a squadron maintaining a close blockade of the French Biscay coast. During her time with Pellew's squadron, HMS Courageux captured the following vessels:


23rd July 1801 - Bien Amie.
8th August 1801 - Adeleide and a brig (name unknown).
19th August 1801 - Le Theodore.
11th September - La Sally.
19th September 1801 - A Brig marked 'F'.
20th September 1801 - A Brig and a Sloop (names unknown).


Captain Thomas Sotherby remained in command of HMS Courageux for the rest of the war, which was ended by the Treaty of Amiens, signed on the 27th March 1802. With the end of the war, Captain Sotherby was ordered to pay off HMS Courageux and her crew at Plymouth. Captain Sotherby was himself laid off on half pay along with thousands of other sailors of all ranks in April of 1802. He wasn't given another sea-going comand appointment and was promoted to Rear-Admiral on the 9th March 1805.


The next commander of HMS Courageux was Captain Robert Plampin, appointed to replace Captain Sotherby in April 1802 and with orders to prepare the ship, recruit a new crew and proceed to the Leeward Islands Station. With the war over, this would be very difficult as they didn't have the press gangs or the Quotas to rely on to find men. The process of recruiting volunteers was all about advertising, as it is now. Handbills would have been printed and posted at inns and taverns where former sailors looking to escape their civilian lives for whatever reason gathered. Parties of seamen and marines led by an officer would tramp around the surrounding villages also visiting inns, taverns, fairs and markets looking for volunteers. The Merchant Navy was also a good source of volunteers to take the Kings Shilling. Service in the Royal Navy in peacetime was preferable to the merchant service. In the merchant service, there were no safety standards as there are today. Greedy ship-owners often sent men to sea in overloaded, leaky ships and seamen were generally only taken on for a single voyage and often found themselves out of work when a ship entered port. In the Royal Navy they found that if they could put up with the harsh, rigid discipline, they would receive regular pay, better conditions and free healthcare.


On the 25th May 1802, Captain Plampin was replaced in HMS Courageux by Captain John Oakes Hardy.


On the 10th November 1802, HMS Courageux became flagship of the Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Vessels at Plymouth, Rear-Admiral James Dacres, although she was still well short of her complement. The Rear-Admiral had moved his flag from another large 74-gun ship, HMS Centaur because that ship was assigned as flagship of the new squadron HMS Courageux had been ordered to join in the West Indies. The Admiralty was impatient for HMS Centaur to depart for the Caribbean, so on the 11th November, most of the men recruited so far into HMS Courageux and another 74-gun ship, HMS Belle Isle, were transferred into HMS Centaur and that ship left on the 18th November.


Finally, on the 18th May 1803, HMS Courageux was fully manned, provisioned and ready for sea. It was a good job too, on that day, the Treaty of Amiens collapsed and Britain declared war on France.


On arrival in the West Indies, HMS Centaur had become flagship of Commodore Samuel Hood and when HMS Courageux arrived some weeks later, Commodore Hood who was already aware of the outbreak of war, had planned to take the island of St. Lucia from the French as part of a strategy of reducing French possessions in the area. At 11:00 on 21st June 1803, HMS Centaur in company with HMS Courageux and other smaller vessels carrying a detachment of troops under Lieutenant-General Grinfield arrived at Choc Bay, St Lucia. Under the supervision of Captain Hardy of HMS Courageux, the troops were successfully landed and by 17:30, they had captured the town of Castries. The French Brigadier-General Nogues, commanding the fortress at Morne-Fortunee was summoned to surrender but on his refusal, the fortress was stormed at 04:00 on the 22nd and within half an hour, the fortress had fallen to the British who suffered 20 dead and 110 wounded.


The following is from the journal of Nathan Lucas, a member of the Linnean Society of London, in which he describes a voyage from Barbados to Bristol in a convoy escorted by HMS Courageux. As you will read, it seems that nobody had a particularly high opinion of Captain Hardy. The voyage was undertaken in the merchant ship Ash, under Mr James Reed, from July 21st 1803 to the 28th September. Mr Lucas appears to have been a scientist:


The convoy being appointed to sail on the 20th, I got all my stores on board; but Capt J O Hardy of His MS Courageux being our convoy, he did not think proper to sail till 21st of July, Thursday; at noon on that day I went on board, & was soon joined by my fellow passengers; & at 3 pm we made sail out of Carlisle Bay, after having once more taken leave of my good friends whom I was to leave behind me!


July 24th Sunday, at 9 am saw land, taken at first for Marygalante; but found ourselves mistaken; & after much anxiety found it to be the North side of Antigua. The Commodore in the Courageux shortened sail, & sent for some of the masters – Brenan among others – they told him his situation. No single vessel, much less a fleet, ever ventures along the North side; being too dangerous to be approached on account of rocks &c. On shore we learnt, that the whole fleet was momently expected to be lost - & so did we! The Commodore knew not his situation; & indeed he does not appear to be a crack officer.


July 28th Thursday, moderate & clear weather– at daylight the Courageux made the signal for sailing; & at 8 am we got under weigh from St John’s Road – soon cleared Sandy Island and reef, & saw Monserrat on our larboard side – the Sandy Reef is planted with coconuts, & will be a good guide into St John’s. Thirty three square rigged vessels joined us here. We lay too till 11 pm & the Antigua ships had not all got out then; they deserve to be left behind. Saw Redanda; then Nevis & St Kitts – in the mid-channel saw them all, as well as Antigua, at the same time. At ½ past 9 pm passed about twelve ships at anchor in Nevis Road; at ½ past 10 anchored in Bassetere Road, St Kitts. We found no ships there but those belonging to the island, the others having all fallen to leeward to Tortola. It was very ill judged in the Commodore to bring a fleet to anchor here so late at night; & fortunately only one ship was injured, one of the island ships; & she had her bowsprit carried away.


July 31st Sunday very moderate breezes & very hot weather. Running down to Tortola, to join the remainder of the fleet. At 9 pm anchored abreast of Salt Island, in thirteen fathom water.


August 1st Monday - Tortola Roads. The Venus frigate, which we imagine will convoy us to Europe, & the ships from Tortola are very far astern.


August 2nd Tuesday, thick hazey weather. Not more than forty sail with the Courageux; the fleet completely scattered, & many far to windward. Seized by signals to tack – then countermanded &c. There is great confusion, & it is impossible to know Capt Hardy’s wishes – indeed, I suspect he does not himself know them. The fleet 176 sail – ten missing. Lat by account 19:27 Long 64:56.


August 3rd Wednesday, moderate & fair weather – lay too nearly the whole day! for the fleet to get instructions from the Venus Capt. Matson, who is to be our Commodore to England.


August 4th Thursday, moderate & nearly a calm. Lat 21:38 - Long 65:5. Two very large French Prizes in the fleet, brought in by the Venus, taken out of Courland Bay Tobago – one a Brig, Le trios annés De Dunquerque – the other the Phonix, a very large ship, formerly an English East Indiaman.


August 5th Friday, moderate & clear weather. The Courageux bore up for some hours to the West! Entirely out of our course. Why? We know not. Lat 22:45 – Long 64:58.


August 6th Saturday, moderate & clear weather. The Courageux bore up again to the West; & we cannot understand the reason of so doing. Lat 24:10 – Long 65:1.


August 10th Wednesday, moderate & nearly calm – still keeping away to the Westward. The cause of this we know not, unless the Commodore fears cruisers from Cape Francoise to the East of Bermuda. Lat 28:12 – Long 64:45.


August 11th Thursday, moderate & clear weather – still keeping away westward. Some of the masters of the ships wish to prevail upon the Commodore in the Courageux to proceed on to England with the fleet, the convoy being very insufficient indeed, almost incapable of any defence. He has no objection to grant their request, provided a sufficient number will fill up the petition. Lat 29:17 - Long 64:35.


August 12th Friday, moderate & clear weather. Surely signals were never less attended to than by the present fleet; & never did I see so little order & discipline in a fleet – the fleet frequently goes ahead of the Commodore! This is common with us. Lat 30:10 – Long 65:19. Thermometer 82 – but the weather feels cold.


August 15th Monday, moderate & very calm. Passing to the west of Bermuda. Lat 32:18 Long 65:44 – Therm 84.


August 16th Tuesday, moderate & fair weather, & a fair wind at south. A strange sail to windward, & the Stanley has made the signal for an enemy; & bore up immediately for the Venus. The Courageux is still with us. Lat 32:51 – Long 65:39.


August 24th Wednesday, very thick weather with rain. Wind NW. Signal guns occasionally from the Commodore. Lat by account 39:15 – Long 55. Therm 73. At 4pm wind NW Therm 70,


August 27th Saturday, very fresh breezes with squalls and rain. Much lightning last night. At eleven this forenoon the Courageux spoke an American ship, but never sent a boat on board to examine her, How times have altered! At 4pm the Courageux brought an American ship too, & sent a boat on board. Lat 40:32 – Long 51:28 – Therm 78.


August 28th Sunday, moderate & cloudy weather. A continued flood of rain fell very heavily indeed all night. Only 145 sail in sight. The Courageux in chase of a strange sail & so is the Brig. At ten the Courageux carried away her main top sail yard in the slings & gave over the chase; it was not till one pm that she got another across! Hardy never will be a Nelson. At 12 the Venus brought an American schooner too, & we afterwards spoke her. She proved to be the Mayflower of Providence, 20 days from Corunna, and bound to Rhode Island – her Longitude 49:40 very near to ours. We now learn with certainty that we passed Westward of Bermuda, for the Courageux saw it on the morning of the bearing ESE. Lat by account 41:3 Long 49:50 Therm 76.


August 30th Tuesday, peak gale all night, & pretty heavy all day. At 4pm the Stanley a large St Kitts’ ship close alongside us, made a signal of distress; we found she was very leaky, the men stript & at the pumps. She spoke the Courageux; who sent a boat load of men on board her – at six we again made sail. Three years ago this ship when sailing in a Convoy was about to be sunk on account of her leaks, but was got into port. She is very old, & not seaworthy; & it was shameful to send her to sea. Heavy gale & much sea. Wind S – Lat 42: 25 – Long 45:14 – Therm 72.


1st September, Thursday – very heavy gale, with floods of rain, much sea, fog &c. We learn the Stanley went down last night at nine, the people saved; at 3 she had five feet of water in the hold, & going fast under her. No sight of the Courageux, & a great part of the fleet. At noon the Venus altered her course a point to South, without signal. This looks like a determined resolution in Capt Matson to get rid of the Courageux, by parting company by design. But what have we to do with his Disputes, jealousies & disappointments? I never saw such proceedings before. Lat 43:30 – Long 39:30 – Therm 74.


September 2nd Friday, much rain and wind &c all night & this morning – real floods – wind WSW. In the night the Courageux and many of the missing ships came into the fleet. Lat by account 45: 29 – Long 37:51 – Therm 71 – wind SSW.


September 10th Saturday, fair & calm weather – we were becalmed all last night. The Courageux we see has lent her Cable; of course her reckoning is much ahead of ours. Lat 48:58 – Long 22:37 – Therm 68 – 41 miles in 48 hours!


September 11th Sunday, very calm till near noon. By our reckoning we are more to the West than most of the vessels – the Courageux was in 15 yesterday - & the Venus in 19, by a Lunar Observation. Lat 49:19 – Long 22:10 – Therm 68.


September 14th Wednesday, at 2pm a two-decked man of war without a Poop, a 44 gun ship, with blue colours – perhaps a cruiser from Lord Gardner at Cork, or Adm. Cornwallis at Brest. Small land birds about the ship. The 44 has a smart commander on board, & seems to know his business much better than those we have been sailing with so long a time. He has already made the ships astern make more sail, and driven them into the fleet much faster than has been done since we left port. He knows what to do with his shot. At midnight the Venus tacked, without any signal gun; & by God’s mercy there being but very little wind afterwards we still kept company till morning. He seems impatient of the control of the Courageux, but surely we ought not to be sacrificed to his private resentment. Great deal of rain in the night, & very calm weather. Lat 49:15 – Long 20:19 – Therm 64.


September 15th Thursday, very calm, & then moderate breezes from the West. The 44 seems to have prisoners on board. Lat 49:8 – Long 20:1 – Therm 63.


September 16th Friday, peak breezes, but not very fair, & we cannot lay our course – an American Schooner & two ships passed through the fleet. They are a brutish, vulgar, uncivil set of fellows; for after being brought too by the Venus they would not permit a single vessel to speak to them, & they always do so. Three or four of the ships are very leaky, & speaking to the Venus. Fresh breezes all night, but not fair. Lat 49:9 – Long 19:6 – Therm 64.


September 17th Saturday, very moderate & fair weather. We learn from the Argo, Capt. Hallowell (a man of the Nile), the 44 gun Man of War that joined us some days ago, that we are almost three degrees to the westward of our reckoning, & of course we are near Soundings. Whether because we wish it, I cannot say, but the water appears to be changed in colour. She captured a French Privateer of 16 guns the day before we joined company, & we saw the prisoners on board. She was fifteen days from Portsmouth. Lat 48:32 – Long 17: 28 – Therm 62.


September 19th Monday, fine day, & a fair wind from the West since two this morning; before that, quite calm. At 5pm the Courageux & Venus lay too; it became squally & very thick, & at dark they had not made sail, at seven they could be seen with our night glasses under sail, without any signal! Blowing very strong. How injudicious is such conduct. We have been carried to the Southward , & sailed in the Latitude of Brest, for them to pick up homeward bound vessels we suppose. The fair winds have not been made the most of now it is NE & we cannot enter the Bristol Channel. We have been all along sacrificed to their private resentment & views; & I hope never again to honor them with my company. But what is a fleet of Merchantmen, when we recollect they have before now sacrificed a fleet of Men of War to party. I never saw a British Man of War navigated as badly as the Courageux; there cannot be any discipline on board; & God! Forbid any skill should be required before our arrivals. Lat 48: 42 – Long 14:50 – Therm 63.


September 20th Tuesday, very fresh gales from NE & heavy sea. We shall hardly weather Scilly in the course we are steering; & we are in an awkward predicament, from the neglect of the Men of War. Wind NE. We must be in Soundings; & the water is of a dirty bottle-green colour. At 11am the Courageux made the signal for vessels bound up St George’s Channel to follow the Venus, & we parted from the London ships. We are sixty three in number. Two days ago, the fleet exclusive of the Convoy were 137 in number. An American ship passed us, probably from France. About half of each fleet, I understand always go up St George’s Channel. Lat 49:4 – Long 12:13 – Therm 58.


September 22nd Thursday, fair & quite calm – sounded in 65 – yellow with black specks, coarse sand. at 3pm a Sloop of War with blue colours, certainly a channel cruiser, came into the fleet, made the private signal & stood to the Venus – she proved to be the Plover. Many vessels leaving the Convoy, under a press of sail. Abreast of Scilly by the Argo’s reckoning at 6pm.


September 24th Saturday, fine day & moderate weather – very smooth water. At daylight saw St Gowan’s Head in Wales (or we supposed) & the entrance to Milford Haven. Fourteen sail in sight, much scattered. A strange Frigate is convoying us. Lat 51:27 – Long 7:15 – Therm 62.


September 25th Sunday, moderate & clear weather. At daylight we were very much surprised not to see any land! When we had expected to be at the Holms! And we too soon found to our great sorrow & disappointment, that we had mistaken the land yesterday; which must have been the Poor Head off Cork harbour, instead of St Gowan’s, & of following the reckoning of the Argo we have fallen into this error; for at eleven am we saw Lundy ahead, & makes our reckoning accurate to ten miles – which is wonderful! At daylight saw a Pilot’s Skiff , & at 8 o’clock took the younger Dickins aboard. What will become of the Liverpool ships? For they are as much deceived as ourselves; & they run a great risk of being taken or wrecked in beating round Cape Clear. We are the first vessel of the convoy, ahead of the others. We have been expected by the Pilot sixteen days ago. At one pm saw the coast of Devonshire, about Hartland Point; & the wind dying away, we were totally becalmed at 4pm, in spite of all the Pilot’s whistling. We saw many large & beautiful blubbers like flowers - & some very like to large Poppies. At 6 the boat of the Plover, Capt Hancock, with Lieut Hall in it, came on board to fuss the men.



Shortly after their arrival in the UK, Captain Hardy was appointed to command HMS Zealous (74) and was replaced in HMS Courageux by Captain Thomas Bertie. Before he left the ship however, Captain Hardy had reported his First Lieutenant, Mr Molyneux on charges of Contempt and Disrespect. The Court Martial Board found the charges to be unsubstantiated and acquitted Mr Molyneux. Captain Hardy faced a Court Martial of his won in September of 1806 on charges of drunkenness, tyranny and oppression, brought by his Second Lieutenant in HMS Zealous, Mr William Stewart. Found guilty, he was dismissed from the Royal Navy. Although reinstated a year later, he was never offered another command appointment. Captain Bertie was born Thomas Hoar and in an unusual move, took his wife's surname after his marriage in 1788 to Catherine Dorothy Bertie, a distant relative of the Earls of Abingdon. Taking his wife's surname was a condition of her father giving his permission for the marriage.  Captain Bertie was an experienced combat commander whose previous command had been the old 74-gun ship HMS Bellona. He had been appointed into that ship in replacement of Captain Thomas Boulden Thompson who had lost a leg while commanding HMS Bellona at the Battle of Copenhagen in April of 1801.


On the 26th November 1803, Rear-Admiral James Richard Dacres was ordered to raise his command flag in HMS Courageux in order to take up a post as Commander in Chief in Jamaica, replacing Rear-Admiral Sir John Thomas Duckworth. HMS Courageux was due to leave Portsmouth with the West Indies Convoy. On 2nd January 1804, HMS Courageux left Spithead in company with the 12pdr carronade-armed schooner HMS Renard of 12 guns and a convoy of 140 merchant vessels bound for Jamaica. Shortly after departure, the convoy ran into a severe storm in the Western Approaches and HMS Courageux was severely damaged, forcing the ship to return to the Plymouth Royal Dockyard for repairs.


In March of 1804, Captain Bertie was forced to resign his command of HMS Courageux due to a family crisis and was replaced by Captain Charles Boyles. Whatever the crisis was, he was unable to return to duty until December of 1805, when he was appointed in command of the 98-gun Second Rate ship of the line HMS St. George. He was promoted to Rear-Admiral on the 28th April 1808, was knighted on the 24th June 1813, made a Vice-Admiral on the 4th December that year and was promoted to Admiral on the 27th May 1825. He died six weeks later, on the 13th June 1825.


Captain Charles Boyles was one of a whole generation of naval officers who had cut his teeth during the American War of Independence. He had passed his examination for Lieutenant on the 10th October 1777 and was first made Master and Commander on the 11th April 1783 when he was appointed in command of the stores ship HMS Dauphine of four guns. He had been Posted, or promoted to Captain with effect from the 22nd November 1790, but had had to wait until the outbreak of the French Revolutionary War when he was asked to commission the 9pdr-armed 28-gun Sixth Rate Frigate HMS Pegasus. All of his subsequent appointments had been in ships of the line and his appointment prior to HMS Courageux had been in the 74-gun ship HMS Captain which he had paid off in July of 1802 after the end of the French Revolutionary War.


Her repairs complete, HMS Courageux arrived at the great fleet anchorage off Spithead on 6th May 1804 and two days later, departed in company with the East India convoy, to escort them past the dangers presented by enemy privateers and naval units. On the 12th December 1804, HMS Courageux was reported as being amongst a number of heavy units of the Channel Fleet anchored off Brixham, Devon, in Torbay. Also present there were the First Rate ships of the line HMS Ville de Paris (110), HMS Britannia (100), the Second Rate ships of the line HMS Princess Royal, HMS Windsor Castle, HMS Prince George and HMS Temeraire (all of 98 guns), together with the Third Rate ships HMS Atlas, HMS Thunderer, HMS Dragon, HMS Plantagenet, HMS Defiance and HMS Warrior (all of 74 guns).


By October of 1805, HMS Courageux was part of a squadron of the Channel Fleet under Captain Sir Richard Strachan, flying a Commodore's Broad Pennant in the 80-gun two-decker HMS Caesar. Also in the squadron were HMS Bellona, HMS Namur and HMS Hero (all of 74 guns) with the Frigates HMS Phoenix, the ex-French ships HMS Pique and HMS Revolutionnaire, the ex-Spanish HMS Santa Margarita (all 18pdr-armed Frigates of 36 guns) and HMS Aeolus (18pdr, 32). These ships were at sea looking for the Rochefort Squadron of five ships of the line, three Frigates and two Brig-corvettes under Rear-Admiral Zacharie Allemand, which had evaded the blockade in July and were causing havoc amongst British shipping in the Bay of Biscay and Western Approaches. On the 21st October, a British fleet under Vice-Admiral Viscount Nelson had won an overwhelming victory over a combined Franco-Spanish fleet under the command of Vice-Admiral Pierre-Charles Villenueve in the Battle of Trafalgar. During the battle, a squadron of four French ships of the line, part of the Vanguard Division of the Combined Fleet which had been cut off when Nelson's ships had cut the enemy's line of battle, had escaped from the carnage off Cape Trafalgar relatively unscathed and had last been seen by the British making off towards the south under all sail. This French squadron, under Rear-Admiral Pierre Dumanoir, comprised of Le Formidable (80), Le Duguay Trouin, Mont Blanc and Le Scipion (all of 74 guns). Rear-Admiral Dumanoir originally intended to head back to his base at Toulon, but received intelligence that a British squadron under Rear-Admiral Thomas Louis with four or five ships of the line was patrolling the Straits of Gibraltar. Dumanoir now had no alternative but to try to head for one of the French naval bases on the Biscay coast, so he had his squadron steer westward until they had cleared Cape St.Vincent. On the 29th October, they altered course to the northward, intending to head for the Aix Roads.


At the end of October 1805, Captain Thomas Baker in HMS Phoenix was patrolling to the west of the Isles of Scilly in search of the Rochefort Squadron when he received intelligence that the enemy he was seeking had been seen in the Bay of Biscay and he ordered that his ship head that way under all sail. At 11:00 on the 2nd November 1805 in the same latitude as Cape Finisterre, HMS Phoenix spotted and chased four large ships to her west-north-west, assuming that the strangers were the Rochefort Squadron. The ships altered course and began to chase the British Frigate, which headed south towards Ferrol, where Captain Baker knew that Sir Richard Strachan and the rest of the squadron were cruising. At 15:00, HMS Phoenix sighted four more large ships to her south and fifteen minutes later, the four large ships chasing her altered course away from the new group of ships. Captain Baker assumed that the four new ships were Sir Richard Strachan's squadron and headed towards them, making signals and firing guns to attract their attention. At about the same time that they were sighted by HMS Phoenix, the French squadron was also sighted and chased by HMS Boadicea (18pdr, 38) and HMS Dryad (18pdr, 36). At 08:45 the following day, HMS Phoenix sighted the other two frigates but as they were between her and the pursuing French ships, HMS Phoenix continued towards what Captain Baker assumed to be Sir Richard Strachan's squadron. At about 22:30, HMS Dryad and HMS Boudicea altered course away from both groups of ships and were soon out of sight. At 23:00, HMS Phoenix passed under the stern of HMS Caesar and Captain Baker was able to speak with Commodore Strachan and tell him about what he assumed to be the Rochefort Squadron. Commodore Strachan informed Captain Baker that his squadron was scattered and ordered him to find the rest of the ships and round them up. HMS Caesar then bore away under all sail, followed at a distance by HMS Hero, HMS Courageux and HMS Aeolus.


Shortly after HMS Phoenix and HMS Caesar parted company, HMS Caesar's lookouts sighted the French squadron bearing away from them under all sail. HMS Caesar and the other three ships pursued the French until about 01:30 on the 3rd November, when in the darkness following the setting of the moon, they lost sight of them and shortened sail to await the rest of the squadron. At daybreak, HMS Santa Margarita came into view and at 07:30, Cape Ortugal was sighted. At 09:00, the French squadron was sighted again and at 09:00, HMS Namur, HMS Phoenix and HMS Revolutionnaire were sighted catching up. By 15:00, HMS Santa Margarita had overtaken the rest of the British ships and was moving into a position to attack and harrass the enemy's rear. Commodore Strachan ordered HMS Phoenix to assist. By this time, HMS Bellona had lost sight of the squadron and was desperately searching for them. By daybreak on the 4th, scarcely six miles separated the French from the British and at 05:45, HMS Santa Margarita had closed the range enough to be able to open fire on the rear-most of the French ships of the line, Le Scipion. After about 15 minutes, the French ship of the line's crew had managed to move two of her 36pdr long guns to the stern chase gunports and returned the British Frigate's fire, killing her Boatswain and damaging her hull. At 09:30, HMS Phoenix was close enough to open fire into Le Scipion's starboard quarter. The two British Frigate's captains used every trick in their books to avoid exposing their ships to the French seventy-four's devastating broadsides while maintaining a harrassing fire on the enemy ship of the line. Meanwhile, HMS Caesar, HMS Hero and HMS Courageux had formed a line and were catching up with the action. At 11:45, Rear-Admiral Dumanoir bowed to the inevitable and ordered his ships to form a line of battle and await whatever hell the British were about to unleash. The line of battle was Duguay Trouin, Formidable, Mont Blanc with Scipion bringing up the rear.


At about 12:15, HMS Caesar opened fire on Le Formidable, followed by HMS Hero on Mont Blanc and HMS Courageux on Le Scipion. HMS Namur was at this time, about ten miles astern of the action and catching up as fast as her aged frames would allow her to. At 12:50, Commodore Strachan ordered that the signal for Close Action be hoisted and at 12:55, the Duguay Trouin attempted to luff up (that is to steer directly into the wind, stopping the ship dead in the water) in order to rake HMS Caesar through her bows. HMS Caesar did the same and avoided a potentially devastating broadside from the French seventy four. Duguay Trouin then found her self in stays (that is, stuck in the eye of the wind, unable to manoeuvre) and was bombarded in passing by both HMS Caesar and HMS Hero.


Battle of Cape Ortegal, situation at 12:55:





By 13:30, HMS Caesar was beginning to struggle as a result of damage to her rigging and began to fall behind in the chase. HMS Namur had by this time, caught up and at 13:40, Sir Richard Strachan ordered her to engage the head of the enemy line. At a little before 14:00, HMS Hero fired at Le Scipion, felling the Frenchman's main topmast causing her to drop astern, where she was engaged to windward by HMS Courageux and from downwind by HMS Phoenix and HMS Revolutionnaire. In the meantime, HMS Hero was overtaking Le Formidable and gained a position on the French 80's port bow, pouring in a withering fire. At 14:45, HMS Namur joined HMS Hero in her fight with Le Formidable. HMS Hero then made sail to move up and engage the Mont Blanc and the Duguay Trouin. At 15:05, with her mizzen topmast shot away, fore topmast and main mast tottering, Le Formidable struck her colours and surrendered to HMS Namur. At 15:10, Le Scipion under the combined fire of HMS Courageux, HMS Phoenix and HMS Revolutionnaire, surrendered to the two Frigates with just the stump of her fore mast still standing. Seeing the surrender of Le Scipion and Le Formidable, Duguay Trouin and Mont Blanc attempted to escape, but were caught by HMS Hero and HMS Caesar, which by now had repaired her rigging, and were subjected to an intense and heavy bombardment for about 20 minutes. At 15:30, having been reduced to defenceless and shattered ruins and on seeing HMS Courageux coming up to join in the fight, the remaining two French ships also hauled down their colours in surrender.


Battle of Cape Ortegal, situation at 15:35:





In the Battle of Cape Ortegal, also known as Strachans Action, HMS Courageux suffered casualties of one man killed, Mr Robert Clephane, First Lieutenant, Masters Mate Mr Thomas Daws, her Gunner, Mr John Austin, Mr Midshipman John Gibbs Bird and nine seamen wounded. The total casualty figure across the squadron was 24 killed with 111 wounded. The French on the other hand, suffered terribly with 730 killed and wounded across their squadron. The Battle of Cape Ortegal was unusual in that the British Frigates took a full part in the action rather than just standing by and repeating signals which was the usual role of a Frigate in a major naval action.


The Battle of Cape Ortegal by Thomas Whitcombe:





The end of the Battle by Nicholas Pocock:





Of the captured French ships, Le Formidable was taken into the Royal Navy and was commissioned as HMS Brave. She never went to sea under British colours and was converted into a prison hulk. Le Scipion was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Scipion and served until the end of the war. Mont Blanc was taken into the Royal Navy under her French name and was converted into a powder hulk. Duguay Trouin was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Implacable and served as a front line warship until 1840. In 1855, she was fitted as a training ship and in 1912 was loaned to the Wheatley Cobb school in Falmouth. In 1943, she was renamed Foudroyant and in 1947, with the school having gone out of business during the Second World War, was returned to the Royal Navy. A scheme to preserve the ship in the Greenwich dry dock now occupied by the Cutty Sark fell through in 1949 and with funds not available to preserve the vessel, the last French survivor of the Battle of Trafalgar and the last remaining 74-gun ship in the world, she was towed out into the English Channel on 2nd December 1949 and scuttled.


The former Duguay Trouin and HMS Implacable laying in Falmouth:





By 1809, Captain Plampin had returned to command of HMS Courageux. By this time, 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 including HMS Courageux, three 44-gun two-decked ships, 23 frigates, 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, the now-Rear-Admiral Sir Richard 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 (18pdr, 38). 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 Edward William Campbell Rich Owen of HMS Clyde (18pdr, 38) 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 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.


HMS Courageux spent the rest of the Napoleonic War operating in spells between the Baltic, the North Sea, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean as well as the English Channel. In December of 1813, HMS Courageux paid off at Chatham for repairs. HS Courageux was probably afflicted with a problem common amongst two-decked ships longer than about 175 feet on the upper gundeck, that of hogging. The reason was that the frames of two-decked ships of this kind of length were not strong enough to support the weight of guns carried at the extreme ends of the decks, so they tended to droop at the ends, a process known as hogging. This had a profound effect on the ship's sailing qualities and wasn't really addressed until Sir Robert Seppings invented a system of diagonal bracing between the ribs of the ship giving the frame much greater strength and allowing two-decked ships of much greater length carrying up to 90 guns to be built.


In February of 1814, HMS Courageux was converted to a Lazaretto Hulk at Chatham. to be used for the airing of cargoes of cotton coming from the Levant or the Eastern Mediterranean.


This plan is of HMS Triumph, an older Large Type 74-gun ship converted to a Lazaretto Hulk. Although not identical, HMS Courageux would have looked very similar after her conversion at Chatham.





The main quarantine station for cargoes coming into England was at Stangate Creek, off the River Medway and HMS Courageux was moored there. She remained there until October of 1832 when she 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.