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Author Topic: HMS Pearl (1762 - 1838)  (Read 6489 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Pearl (1762 - 1838)
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2012, 20:57:56 »
HMS Pearl was a 12pdr armed 32 gun 5th rate frigate of the Niger Class, built at the Royal Dockyard, Chatham. The Niger class were a group of 10 sailing frigates built in the early part of the Seven Years War, of which 7 were built in Kent shipyards, including the lead ship of the class which was built at the Sheerness Royal Dockyard. HMS Pearl was the first of two ships of the class built at Chatham. They were designed by Sir Thomas Slade, Co-Surveyor of the Navy, whose most famous design, the 100 gun first rate ship of the line HMS Victory is preserved at Portsmouth.

The 12pdr armed 32 gun frigate was, along with the smaller, 9pdr armed 28 gun 6th rate frigate, the main type of frigate in service with the Royal Navy until the early 1790s, when they began to be superseded by much larger frigates mounting 18pdr guns. Despite their advancing age and obsolescence in the face of new larger and more powerful frigates, some of the older frigates went on to have very long active service careers and this included HMS Pearl.

The ship was ordered from the Royal Dockyard at Chatham at the height of the Seven Years War on 24th March 1761. She was laid down on 6th May 1761 and was launched into the River Medway on 27th March 1762. On completion, she was a ship of 683 tons and was 125 ft long on the gundeck and 35' 3" wide across the beam. She was armed with 26 12pdr long guns on the gundeck, 4 6pdr long guns on the quarterdeck and 2 6pdr long guns on the forecastle. In addition to those, she carried 12 half-pounder swivel guns dotted around her upper decks. She was manned by a crew of 220 men, officers and marines. By her completion, she had cost 16,573, 5s, 4d.

The final stages of her construction and fitting out at Chatham between February 1762 and March 1763 was supervised by Captain Joseph Deane before command was handed over to Captain Sir Charles Saxton upon her commissioning. By the time the ship was ready for sea, the war was over.

Niger Class Plans

Orlop, Lower or Berth Deck and Upper or Gundeck Plans:

Quartereck and Forecastle Plans:

Inboard profile and Plan:

Sheer Plan and Lines:

A Model of HMS Winchelsea. This model is remarkably well documented. In the collection of the National Maritime Museum, it was made by Mr Thomas Boroughs at the Woolwich Royal Dockyard in 1764 to a commission by Lord Sandwich, the First Lord of the Admiralty. It is of the highest quality, because Lord Sandwich intended to display it to King George III and the Prince of Wales in order to spark their interest in the Royal Navy. Also a Niger Class frigate, HMS Pearl would have been identical.

Port side view showing the frames:

Starboard side view, showing the details of the hull and deck fittings:

Bow View:

Stern view:

Between commissioning in 1763 and 1776, the ship was engaged in the typical peacetime duties of a frigate of the time, those of policing, anti-piracy patrols and generally 'showing the flag', including three voyages to Newfoundland and back. Between December 1772 and July 1773 she was undergoing maintenance and repairs at Portsmouth. By 1775, unrest in the American Colonies over what they saw as unfair taxation and the heavy-handed methods of enforcing them had escalated into open war. The Royal Navy was mobilising the fleet for that war and between December 1775 and February 1776, HMS Pearl was refitted, again at Portsmouth. The ship left Portsmouth to join the war in America on 8th April 1776.

On 20th December 1776, HMS Pearl captured the American privateer brigantine-sloop Lexington of 14 guns. Unfortunately, the prize crew put aboard the Lexington was overwhelmed by their American prisoners who took their ship back on Christmas Day and sailed it into Baltimore. On 7th July 1777, HMS Pearl captured the American armed schooner Mosquito of 4 guns.

During February 1777, the Americans had signed a treaty of alliance with the French, allowing the French to openly intervene in the war against the British. A French fleet of 12 ships of the line and 4 frigates under the command of Vice-Admiral the Compte D'Estaing had departed Toulon and sailed for America. Contact had been made between D'Estaing and the Americans who were awaiting his assistance to take Rhode Island. The French arrived off Sandy Hook and found Howe's fleet in the anchorage there. Confronted by a British force, D'Estaing contented himself with a short-lived blockade before moving off. HMS Pearl was one of the ships engaged in ensuring the French did not attempt to sneak into the harbour, along with HMS Phoenix (44) under Captain Hyde Parker (who later went on to become Nelson's superior officer at the First Battle of Copenhagen in 1800. Also present were HMS Roebuck (44), HMS Maidstone (28), HMS Vigilant (22) and the Bomb Ketch HMS Thunder (8) under Master and Commander James Gambier (who went on to command the victorious British fleet at the Second Battle of Copenhagen in 1807). Now known as The Encounter off Sandy Hook, this was the first contact between the Royal Navy and their French opponents off the American Coast in the War of Independence and occurred on 22nd July 1778.

Vice-Admiral Howe, now aware that the French had intervened in the war, set off in pursuit of D'Estaing and caught up with the French fleet, who were bound for Newport. A storm blew up and scattered all the ships and D'Estaing lost his opportunity to engage and destroy the British fleet in what became known as Howe's Encounter with D'Estaing on 11th August.

In early 1779, HMS Pearl was recalled to Plymouth and paid off there for refit in March. Between May and July 1779, HMS Pearl refitted at Plymouth, the work included having her bottom coppered.

HMS Pearl recommissioned into the Channel Fleet in July 1779 and on 14th September, fought and captured the Spanish frigate Santa Monica of 26 guns.

HMS Pearl crossing the stern of Santa Monica and raking her on 14th September 1779.

On 8th January 1780, HMS Pearl was a part of the British Channel fleet under Vice-Admiral George Rodney, flying his flag in the 90 gun 2nd rate ship HMS Sandwich, which attacked and seized a Spanish convoy in it's entirety in what is known as The Attack on the Caracas Convoy. This attack is also mentioned here:

After that success, HMS Pearl returned to the waters off America, departing Plymouth on 22nd March 1780. Once there, she returned to the normal duties of a frigate, patrolling and carrying out reconnaisance for the fleet. On 30th September, she engaged, defeated and captured the French frigate L'Esperance (32).

On 16th March 1781, HMS Pearl was one of five frigates attached to a squadron of 8 ships of the line led by Vice Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot flying his flag in the 90 gun 2nd rate ship HMS London. A similarly sized French squadron under the command of Admiral Charles Sochet, Chevalier Destouches had been ordered to enter Chesapeake Bay to support Franco-American operations against the British around Yorktown. Arbuthnot, taking advantage of his ships' superior speed (achieved as a result of their coppered hulls) overhauled the French and drove them off in the Battle of Cape Henry. Also on that day, HMS Pearl captured the American privateer Senegal of 8 guns.

On 10th July 1781, HMS Pearl captured the French privateer Le Singe. By 1782, the war on the American mainland had been lost with the surrender of General Lord Cornwallis and his army at Yorktown and HMS Pearl was badly in need of major repairs. The ship was recalled to the UK and paid off in July 1782. The war was to grind on until early 1783 when it was finally ended by the Treaty of Paris. The British had spent 8 years fighting the Americans, the French and the Spanish and had effectively lost the war. It was only a desperate victory by Vice Admiral George Rodney at the Battle of the Saintes in April 1782 which had prevented them from being driven from the Caribbean as well as the American mainland.

The ship underwent major repairs at Rotherhithe between January 1783 and July 1784. She was further refitted at the Deptford Royal Dockyard between July and December 1786. She sailed for the Mediterranean on 22nd March 1787.

HMS Pearl spend the years between the end of the American War of Independence in 1783 and the outbreak of the French Revolutionary War in 1793 engaged in the peacetime duties of a frigate, those of patrolling and 'showing the flag'.

Once war broke out again, HMS Pearl continued as she had during peacetime. On 16th April 1797, HMS Pearl captured the French privateer L'Incroyable of 24 guns, in company with the 36 gun frigate HMS Flora.

She sailed to West Africa then on to the Leeward Islands in the West Indies in 1798 and on 14th October, captured the 10 gun French privateer Le Scoevola. Two months later, she captured another French privateer, L'Independance of 12 guns.

HMS Pearl remained in the Caribbean for another year before departing for the Mediterranean on 22nd October 1799. On 9th February 1800, she destroyed an un-named 14 gun Genoese Polacca. On 1st July 1801, she captured a small privateer. On 3rd August 1801, HMS Pearl, in company with HMS Pomone (44) and HMS Phoenix (36), cornered, defeated and captured the French 38 gun frigate La Carerre.

By now, HMS Pearl was 40 years old and her age and years of use in all weathers was taking it's toll on the old ship. Also by now, 12 pdr armed 32 gun frigates like HMS Pearl were becoming obsolete and were being progressively replaced by much larger and more effective 18pdr armed 38 gun frigates.

Between April and July 1803, HMS pearl was converted at Portsmouth into a Slop Ship. A Slop Ship was a floating storehouse, used to store uniforms for the huge number of sailors then being pressed into the Royal Navy. She remained in this role until 1812 when she was put into the Ordinary at Portsmouth. Between April and May 1814, she was converted into a Receiving Ship at Portsmouth and was used to accommodate new entrants to the Royal Navy until they could be allocated to a sea-going ship.

In 1825, the ship was renamed HMS Prothee and continued as a receiving ship until she was sold for breaking up in 1838.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent


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