Waterbodies & Maritime => Vessels => Topic started by: Bilgerat on November 27, 2012, 23:07:43

Title: HMS Director (1784 - 1801)
Post by: Bilgerat on November 27, 2012, 23:07:43
HMS Director was a 3rd rate, 64 gun ship of the line of the St Albans class, built under contract by William Cleverley at his shipyard in Gravesend.

At the time of her construction, the 64 gun ship was the smaller, faster and more agile of two main types of third rate ship, the other being the larger and more powerful 74 gun ship.

HMS Director was the third ship of the class, the other two, HMS St Albans and HMS Augusta had been built almost 20 years earlier. The ships were designed by Sir Thomas Slade (the man who designed HMS Victory) and their lines were based on another of his designs, the 74 gun ship HMS Bellona.

HMS Director was ordered from the private shipyard of William Cleverley at Gravesend on 2nd August 1780, as the American War of Independence was at it's height. The ship was laid down in November 1782 and she was launched into the Thames on 9th march 1784. She was then towed to the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich for fitting out. 27, 278, 17s, 6d was spent on the ship at Cleverley's shipyard and a further 7,420 was spent on fitting her out.

Plans of HMS Director

Inboard Profile and plan


Orlop deck plan


Lower Gundeck plan


Upper Gundeck plan


Forecastle and Quarterdeck Plans


Sheer Plan and Lines


A model of HMS Augusta. HMS Director was identical.


The ship was completed on 23rd July 1784. On completion, HMS Director was a ship of 1,387 tons at full load, was 159' long on her upper gun deck, and was 44' 6" wide across the beam. She was armed with 26 24pdr long guns on her lower gundeck, 26 18pdr long guns on her upper gundeck with 10 9pdr long guns on the quarterdeck and 2 9pdr long guns on her forecastle. She was manned by a crew of 500 men, officers and marines.

By the time the ship was completed, the American War of Independence for which she was built was over. It's unclear what HMS Director was used for in the first five years of her career. There are no records of the ship being placed in the Ordinary. The ship had been fitted with masts, guns and rigging, but there don't appear to be any records of any commanders or officers being assigned to her, so it may be that the ship was held in reserve. What is clear is that in February 1789, she was taken to Chatham and fitted out to serve as Guardship there. This means that she was armed and rigged, but only had about half her normal crew complement aboard and would have come under the nominal command of the Captain Superintendent of the Royal Dockyard at Chatham, Captain Thomas West. It appears as though the Royal Navy regarded the ship as something of a white elephant because in March 1790, HMS Director was taken to Sheerness and converted into a Hospital Ship. This was despite the fact that the country was on the brink of war with Spain in the Spanish Armament Crisis of that year. The ship remained in that role despite the outbreak of war with France in February 1793.

By 1795, Britain was standing alone against the combined might of France, Spain and Holland and the decision was made to fit HMS Director for sea. In March 1795, HMS Director was moved back to Chatham and was refitted. Her refit cost more that it had cost to build the ship in the first place, at 40, 775 so she must have been in a pretty poor state. During her refit, she was equipped with carronades in addition to her already substantial armament of long guns. 2 24pdr carronades were fitted to her forecastle and 6 18pdr carronades were fitted to her poop deck.

The ship commissioned in January 1796 under Captain William Bligh. Captain William Bligh was already famous (or infamous) because it was the then Lieutenant Bligh who had been in command of the Armed Transport Ship Bounty when that ship had suffered her famous mutiny in 1789. Bligh was an accomplished navigator who had served as Sailing Master in HMS Resolution during Captain Cook's third and final voyage of discovery in the Pacific Ocean. After being cast adrift from Bounty, Bligh had navigated 3,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean in an open boat. He has been unfairly cast as the villain of the piece in the story of the Mutiny on the Bounty. There were many reasons why the mutiny occurred not least of all because HMS Bounty's crew had been exposed to the hedonistic lifestyle of the natives of Tahiti, with hot and cold running native girls on tap and didn't want to return to the strictly ordered life of Royal Navy seamen at sea. This, however, is not the time or place to discuss the Bounty Mutiny.

Bligh was to be HMS Director's only commander in her short but eventful active service career. Also among the officers of HMS Director when she commissioned was Peter de Blaquiere. When he retired from the Navy, he settled in Southampton before emigrating to Canada, where he served as a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Oxford Militia during the Upper Canada Rebellion. In 1850, he became the first Chancellor of the University of Toronto.

HMS Director commissioned into the North Sea Fleet and was stationed at the Nore. Between 16th April and 15th May 1797, the sailors of the Channel Fleet at Spithead went on strike. In what became known as the Great Mutiny at Spithead, the sailors took control of their ships. The leaders of the Mutiny ensured that strict discipline was upheld and promised to put to sea and fight if the French were spotted heading towards British waters. Admiral Lord Howe intervened personally and negotiated a peaceful end to the dispute which saw most of the sailors demands met. On 12th May, inspired by events at Spithead, the sailors at the Nore also mutinied and seized control of their ships. HMS Director was one of those ships whose crew seized control, so for the second time in his career, Captain Bligh found himself dealing with a mutiny aboard his ship, which was not of his making. Demands were formulated which expanded into the beginnings of a Revolution, since they included the dissolution of Parliament and the negotiation of an immediate peace with France. The Mutiny at the Nore was much more militant in it's nature and to prove their point, the mutineers   began to blockade the Port of London. The  Admiralty's response was to offer the same concessions made at Spithead and pardons for all involved in return for an immediate return to duty. The militant nature of the mutiny began to alienate many of the sailors involved and ships began to escape from the Nore. This provoked a violent response from the leadership of the mutiny. HMS Director was one of those who fired on HMS Leopard (50) and HMS Repulse (64) when they escaped. The Admiralty was not prepared to make further concessions and the mutiny began to lose support until it collapsed. The ringleaders were then rounded up, Court-martialled and hanged.

While the mutiny at the Nore was underway, the Dutch fleet was making preparations to break out and join the French fleet at Brest. Admiral Duncan was ordered to immediately blockade them and ordered his ships to set sail for the coast of Holland. All but two of his ships disobeyed the order and joined the mutiny.  Nevertheless, Duncan set to his task with the handful of ships available to him and by a mixture of subterfuge and luck, kept the Dutch bottled up in Texel. While Duncan was at sea, the mutiny at the Nore fell apart and he was joined by more ships, including, in August 1797, HMS Director.

In October 1797, news reached the Admiralty that the Dutch had called off their plans to break out and the fleet was recalled to Yarmouth to refit and resupply. On 8th October however, the Dutch fleet under Admiral de Winter did indeed break out. They were followed by ships Duncan had left behind to watch them. On receiving the news, Duncan immediately ordered his ships to sea and by mid-day on 9th October, Duncan was at sea with 11 ships of the line, heading to intercept the Dutch as they headed south down the North Sea. More ships put to sea at they became ready, so that by 11th October, Duncan had 18 ships of the line available to him.

Map showing Duncan's fleet disposition


Duncan's plan was to follow that of Lord Howe at the Glorious First of June, that was to break through the enemy's line of battle, with each ship passing between two enemy vessels and raking them through their bows and sterns before turning and each ship then engaging a single enemy ship. The Dutch had turned and were heading towards the land, hoping to lure the bigger British ships into shallow water where the smaller Dutch ships would have the advantage. Duncan guessed that this was what they were up to and ordered his ships to engage the enemy as best they could. This led to the British fleet splitting up into two uneven divisions as per the map above. HMS Director was in the Leeward division under Vice-Admiral Richard Onslow, in HMS Monarch.

At 12:05, the Dutch fired the opening shots in the Battle of Camperdown, with the Dutch ship Jupiter engaging HMS Monarch. HMS Director passed up the Dutch line, engaging each ship in turn before coming alongside the Haarlem, already battered after being raked by HMS Monarch (74) and HMS Powerful (74).  Onslow's force managed to isolate the Dutch rearguard and by 13:45, Jupiter, Haarlem, Alkmaar and Delft had all surrendered. Things were more evenly matched in the northern part of the Dutch fleet with all Duncan's ship's engaged in single-ship actions against their Dutch opponents. With the rearguard mopped up, Onslow ordered his ships to head north and assist Duncan's force. HMS Director was quickest to respond, along with HMS Powerful (74). By 15:00, all but the Dutch flagship, the Vrijheid had either fled or surrendered. Bligh stationed HMS Director off he Vrijheid's stern and repeatedly raked the enemy ship, to the point where the only uninjured officer aboard was the Dutch Admiral himself.

HMS Director dismasts the Dutch flagship


Despite the fact that his flagship was a total wreck, de Winter refused to surrender. In an attempt to avoid more bloodshed, Bligh brought his ship to within 20 yards of the enemy vessel and using a speaking trumpet, demanded to know if the Dutchman intended to surrender. de Winter then attempted to personally hoist a signal demanding reinforcements and on finding that the signal halliards were shot away, instructed that his barge be launched so that he could transfer his flag to another ship. When HMS Director's crew boarded the Vrijheid, they found the Dutch admiral attempting to repair his barge.

HMS Director suffered 7 dead with 7 wounded in the Battle of Camperdown. She got off lightly compared to some ships. The Dutch followed the British practice of firing into the hulls of enemy ships in order to kill or wound as many of their crew as possible before closing and boarding. The French and Spanish on the other hand, tended to fire into the rigging to try to disable the enemy ship. The British victory at Camperdown was overwhelming. The Dutch fleet had been convincingly defeated within sight of their own shoreline. The next time the British and Dutch fleets confronted each other, in the 1799 Vlieter Incident, the Dutch sailors refused to fight and surrendered en masse.

That was the last time HMS Director saw action. In July 1800, she paid off and Captain Bligh went on to command HMS Glatton, a 50 gun 4th rate ship whose long guns were entirely replaced by carronades as an experiment.

In January 1801, HMS Director was taken into the Royal Dockyard at Chatham and was broken up.

Title: Re: HMS Director (1784 - 1801)
Post by: smiler on November 28, 2012, 07:57:59
Thank you for another one Bilgerat, appreciated.
Title: Re: HMS Director (1784 - 1801)
Post by: petermilly on November 28, 2012, 08:55:15
Thank you once again, very interesting.  :)
Title: Re: HMS Director (1784 - 1801)
Post by: helcion on November 28, 2012, 09:53:02
Excellent.     Thank you.
Title: Re: HMS Director (1784 - 1801)
Post by: Bilgerat on November 28, 2012, 22:25:22
As an afterthought, the crew of HMS Director who participated in the Great Mutiny at the Nore, along with the crews of the other ships which participated who also took part in the Battle of Camperdown were personally ordered to be pardoned by the King himself in grateful thanks for the victory.

During the mutiny, Captain Bligh learned that his nickname in the fleet was 'The Bounty Bastard'. After commanding HMS Glatton as mentioned, he also commanded HMS Irresistible (74) and HMS Warrior (74) before attaining flag rank. During his time in command of HMS Irresistible, he participated in the First Battle of Copenhagen under Nelson in 1801. He rose to the rank of Vice Admiral and died in Bond Street, London on 6th December 1817 at the age of 64.
Title: Re: HMS Director (1784 - 1801)
Post by: Bilgerat on June 17, 2014, 14:04:30
HMS Director was the last ship involved in the Great Mutiny at the Nore to surrender, on 15th June 1797.
Title: Re: HMS Director (1784 - 1801)
Post by: Bilgerat on June 24, 2015, 23:01:43
In the Courts Martial which followed the collapse of the Nore Mutiny, 12 of HMS Director's men were tried. They were all acquitted.