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Author Topic: HMS Panther (1758 - 1813)  (Read 3981 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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Re: HMS Panther (1758 - 1813)
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2015, 19:36:12 »
In the original article, I wrote that HMS Panther went into Chatham Royal Dockyard for a 'Great Repair'. This post is intended to expand on this a little, based on stuff which came to light while researching a forthcoming article.

Usually, a 'Great Repair' amounted to a virtual rebuild of the ship, where any rotten or worn out timbers were replaced with new. This work however would normally take around two years for a ship of this size in peacetime. The work on HMS Panther, however took nearer six years and there is a reason for that.

When she entered the Dockyard at Chatham in August 1765, the 'Yard was in a state of serious disrepair. Although the building facilities had been kept in an adequate state, the repair and maintenance facilities had deteriorated in the years since 1688 to the point where, in 1765, they were pretty much derelict. HMS Panther was taken into the No.1 Dry-dock and while the ship was in there, the dock was surveyed and found to be dangerously decayed to the point where work had to stop on HMS Panther. In 1770, Britain was on the brink of war with Spain over a Spanish occupation of the Falkland Islands. As part of Britain's response to this, in September 1770, the Dockyard received instructions to fit nine ships for sea, including HMS Panther. By this time, the work on the ship should have long since finished, but it was to be December 1770 before the Royal Dockyard at Chatham was in a fit state to be able to begin work preparing ships for sea, by which time, the crisis had been resolved peacefully.

HMS Panther eventually recommissioned in January 1771, after having been in the 'Yard for almost six years undergoing work which should have been completed in two, three at the very most.

Four years later, the situation was to be repeated on the outbreak of the American War of Independence in 1775.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline Bilgerat

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Re: HMS Panther (1758 - 1813)
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2015, 07:00:09 »
A good question. First of all, the high shots are due to the inaccuracy of the guns. Don't forget that the levels of precision in making gun barrels was nowhere near what it was even by the 1860's. The heaviest guns in the Royal Navy at the time, the 32pdr long gun and the 42pdr long gun both had a range of about three miles, but even at ranges of a few hundred yards, accuracy couldn't be guaranteed. British and Dutch gunners were trained to aim between wind and water, ie at the enemy`s hull where splinters and flying debris would cause carnage on the enemy`s gundecks. French and Spanish gunners were trained to fire into the enemy's rigging in order to cripple the enemy ship and then use their superior numbers to overwhelm the enemy on boarding.

The swivel gun was a close-range anti-personnel weapon and usually fired either normal round shot at the enemy ships bulwarks where the resulting storm of splinters would cause carnage around the impact site, or what was known as Langridge Shot. This was basically iron and glass fragments and using this, the weapon had an effect similar to a large shotgun.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline Dave Smith

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Re: HMS Panther (1758 - 1813)
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2015, 20:42:38 »
Bilgerat. Most interesting history of "fighting ships", thanks. You can probably answer my query that on most battle scenes there are always a lot of holes in the sails high up. I can't think these occured from the batteries of heavy cannon but notice on HMS Panther there are "a dozen swivel guns on upper deck handrail & fighting tops".Altho' only 1/2 pounders, I assume they could fire upwards trying to damage the masts at high level?

Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Panther (1758 - 1813)
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2015, 21:15:43 »
HMS Panther was a 60 gun, 4th rate ship of the line of the Edgar Class, built under contract for the Royal Navy by John Henniker at his Chatham shipyard.

The 60 gun 4th rate ship of the line was the direct ancestor to the 64 gun third rate ship, which was the smaller of two types of third rate ship of the line in the Royal Navy in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

The Edgar class was a group of three 60 gun 4th rate ships designed by Sir Thomas Slade, Co-Surveyor of the Navy, of which HMS Panther was the only one built in a Kent shipyard. Of the other ships, HMS Edgar was built by Randall's at Rotherhithe, then in the County of Surrey and HMS Firm was built at Perrys at Blackwall. The Edgar Class were the last 60 gun ships ordered before the type was superseded by the bigger and more powerful 64 gun third rate ship of the line.

HMS Panther was ordered on 25th May 1756. By this time, what had started as a territorial dispute between rival French and British colonists in North America had escalated into the first proper world war. War between Britain and France was formally declared on 18th May 1756 and the British had decided from the outset that they would fight the war by taking it to France's overseas possessions and a massive expansion of the Royal Navy would require a shipbuilding programme on a scale never before seen. HMS Panther was ordered as part of that programme. After the 1/48 scale draft had been received by Admiralty Courier and had been expanded into full size on the Mould Loft floor, moulds were built as templates to be used by Henniker's men to mark out and cut the full sized timbers. HMS Panther's first keel section was laid on the slipway during June of 1756 and her completed hull was launched into the River Medway on Thursday 22nd June 1758. Her construction had been overseen by Mr William Martin, Master Shipwright at Henniker's yard. Her construction cost 19,506.13s.7d. After her launch, the ship was taken the half-mile downstream to the Royal Dockyard at Chatham, where she was secured to a mooring bouy and her masts were lifted into the hull by a sheer hulk. Her spars, rigging and sails were then installed, as were her guns and she was loaded with the many tons of stores needed by a man-of-war.

Fitting the ship out at Chatham added a further 6,359.15s.9d to the bill and HMS Panther commissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain Molyneaux Shuldham on 3rd September 1758. On completion, HMS Panther was a ship of 1,285 tons. She was 154ft long on her upper gundeck and 127ft long at the keel. She was 43ft 7in wide across her beam and her hold between the orlop and her bottom was 18ft 4in deep. HMS Panther was armed with 24 24pdr long guns on her lower gundeck, 26 12pdr long guns on her upper gundeck, 8 6pdr long guns on her quarterdeck and 2 6pdr long guns on her forecastle. In addition to these, she carried a dozen half-pounder swivel guns attached to her upper deck handrails and in her fighting tops. HMS Panther was manned by a crew of 600 officers, men, boys and Royal Marines.

Plans of HMS Panther

Orlop Plan:

Lower Gundeck Plan:

Upper Gundeck Plan:

Quarterdeck and Forecastle Plan:

Inboard Profile and Plan:

Sheer Plan and Lines:

On 13th November 1758, HMS Panther departed Portsmouth for the West Indies, with a convoy of 60 transport ships, seven other ships of the line, a frigate and four bomb vessels . The reason for this was that as part of the British strategy of taking the war to the enemy in their overseas possessions was that an amphibious assault was imminent against the French-held island of Martinique. The transport ships were carrying 6 regiments of foot (3rd Regiment of Foot - The Buffs, 4th Regiment of Foot - The Kings Own, 61st Regiment of Foot - Elliots, 63rd Regiment of Foot - Watsons, 64th Regiment of Foot - Barringtons, 65th Regiment of Foot - Armigers), plus a regiment of Artillery from Woolwich and 800 Royal Marines. The whole force was under the command of Major-General Peregrine Hopson, with Colonel Barringon, Commander of the 65th as his second in command. The convoy escort came under the overall command of Captain Robert Hughes in HMS Norfolk of 74 guns.

On 3rd January 1759, the convoy reached Carlisle Bay Barbados, where they joined forces with Commodore John Moore, flying his command Broad Pennant in the 80 gun third rate three-decker HMS Cambridge. Also joining the force was the 44 gun ship HMS Ludlow Castle, which had carried the 42nd Regiment of Foot - The Royal Highland Regiment of Foot from Scotland.

This force departed Carlisle Bay on January 13th and arrived at Fort Royal Bay, Martinique on 15th. On approaching the bay, they were fired on by a shore battery located on a small islet in the entrance to the Bay. The Commodore ordered his ships to anchor out of range while Major-General Hopson considered his options. In the meantime, the French Governor of the island, Francois de Beauharnais put his garrison on full alert. On 16th January, HMS Bristol (50) and HMS Rippon (60) bombarded and soldiers landed by them captured the fort on Morne aux Negres, while HMS Winchester (50), HMS Woolwich (44) and HMS Roebuck (44) bombarded the shore batteries in Cas de Navires Bay. Troops then landed from HMS Panther, HMS Burford (68) and HMS HMS Cambridge in a small bay next to Morne aux Negres. By the morning of 17th January, some 4,000 troops had been landed. At dawn on 17th, British outposts reported that French troops were advancing on their encampment and were in the process of fortifying a large house nearby. British troops were sent forward to dislodge them and a short, sharp skirmish resulted in the French retreating into the jungle. Hopson ordered more soldiers to pursue them, but the jungle was so dense that the French soon escaped. It was impossible to haul their heavy artillery through such terrain, so General Hopson ordered that the troops re-embark into the transport ships.

On January 18th, the fleet proceeded to St.Pierre, the second-largest town on the island. On the morning of 19th January, Commodore Moore ordered that 2 of the bomb vessels bombard the town while HMS Rippon was sent to bombard a shore battery a little over a mile north of the town. At 14:00, HMS Rippon opened fire and silenced the battery but on opening fire, was surprised when four more batteries opened fire on her and by 16:30, her commander Captain Edward Jekyll ordered her anchor cable to be cut and the ship be towed away out of range by her boats. It was to be 18:00 before HMS Rippon was safely out of range of the French guns. This incident and the likelihood that the rest of his ships would take severe damage from the French shore batteries convinced the expedition's leadership that further attempts to take the island would not be worth the cost.

At the time, the French-held island of Guadeloupe was a far richer prize than Martinique. It's sugar-cane fields yielded vast harvests of what was then a very valuable commodity, sugar and it's associated by-products, such as Molasses and Rum. Guadeloupe is not, in fact, one island, but two, separated by a very narrow channel called the Salt River. The main town, Basseterre and it's harbour were very well fortified and the fort of Basseterre was widely considered to be impregnable from attack by the sea alone.

The fleet departed Martinique in the morning of January 20th and arrived off Basseterre at around noon on 22nd. On January 23rd, Commodore Moore deployed his ships. HMS St. George, HMS Cambridge and HMS Norfolk were to bombard the main fortress at Basseterre, which mounted 47 guns. HMS Lyon (60) was ordered to attack a 9 gun shore battery, HMS Panther and HMS Burford were to attack a 12 gun battery, HMS Berwick (68) was to attack a 7 gun battery and finally, HMS Rippon to attack a 6 gun battery at Morne Rouge. The shore batteries were all manned by a mixture of experienced naval gunners, artillery-men and local militia. At 09:00, the attack started and very quickly, HMS Burford and HMS Berwick were forced to retire, while HMS Rippon ran aground and had to be rescued by HMS Bristol and HMS Roebuck (44). Eventually however, the batteries were silenced and Commodore Moore ordered the bomb vessels to move in and begin to bombard the town. The warehouse in the port and in the town were packed with sugar and rum from the previous years harvest and very quickly, the whole town was ablaze. The following day, the troops were landed and began to occupy the town and drive the French inland. The most fertile part of Guadeloupe is not the main island itself, but the neighbouring island across the Salt River, known as Grande Terre. By the beginning of February, disease was taking it's toll on the British soldiers to the point where fully a quarter of the men, 1,500 of them were sick. Unfortunately, this also included General Hopson. Fortunately, Commodore Moore's orders allowed him to act independently of the Army, so on February 6th, he sent HMS Roebuck, HMS Winchester (50), HMS Berwick, HMS Panther, HMS Woolwich and the 9pdr armed ex-French 30 gun sixth rate frigate HMS Renown to attack the town of Pointe Pitre and Fort Louis on the heights overlooking it. This force was commanded by Captain Harman of HMS Berwick. On 13th February, he launched his attack and after a six-hour bombardment, he landed his troops, the 42nd Foot and the Marines, which quickly drove the French from their positions.

The campaign was to continue until April 19th, when Guadeloupe eventually surrendered to Major-General Barrington and his men. By the end of the year, disease was to claim the lives of 800 British soldiers, including General Hopson, which is why Colonel Barrington had received a field promotion.

HMS Panther returned to the UK in December 1759 and entered the dockyard at Portsmouth to have her lower hull coppered. The work complete, HMS Panther recommissioned at the end of December with Captain Phillip Affleck in command and on 6th January 1760, the ship left Portsmouth bound for the East Indies. HMS Panther was to join a fleet commanded by Rear-Admiral Samuel Cornish, flying his command flag in HMS Norfolk. The British were to attack another of France's overseas possessions, the French trading post at Pondicherry, part of a larger campaign against the French on the Coromandel Coast on the South-Eastern coast of India. The seige of Pondicherry lasted from 4th September 1760 until the French under the Compte de Lally-Tollendal surrendered on 15th January 1761. During this period, on the 1st January 1761, HMS Panther was dismasted in a cyclone off Pondicherry.

After the fall of Pondicherry, the British troops in India and Rear-Admiral Cornish's fleet were inactive. This changed after Britain declared war on Spain on 4th January 1762. Once news of the declaration of war had been received, the British had a force readily available to take the war to the Spanish in their Asian and Pacific possessions. Intelligence reached the British that the defences in the Spanish possession of Manila in the Phillipines had fallen into disrepair, the Spanish there relying on their remoteness for defence. Manila was the jewel in the crown of Spanish possessions in the Indies and the British soon laid plans to take it from the Spanish. On August 1st 1762, Rear-Admiral Cornish and his fleet left Pondicherry bound for Manila. In addition to the flagship and HMS Panther, the fleet consisted of HMS Lenox (74), HMS Grafton (68), HMS Elizabeth (64), HMS Weymouth (60), HMS America (60), the 9pdr armed 6th rate 28 gun frigate HMS Argo, the 9pdr armed post-ships HMS Seahorse (24) and HMS Seaford (22) and the storeship Southsea Castle, which belonged to the Honourable East India Company. The force was carrying 1,000 European troops, plus a further 2,000 Sepoys. Between August 19th and August 27th, the fleet stopped at Malacca for water and supplies.

The fleet arrived in Manila Bay on 24th September 1762 and he following day, the troops were landed through a heavy surf. From 30th September, the British were prevented from landing further troops and supplies by poor weather, but by 4th October, a shore battery built by the British and the ships opened fire on the defences on Manila. 4 hours later, the defences of Manila were silent. Ten days later, the city surrendered. News reached Rear-Admiral Cornish that a Spanish treasure ship, the Santissima Trinidad had left Cavite on 1st August bound for Acapulco with 2 million silver dollars aboard. Cornish immediately sent HMS Panther, now under the command of Captain Hyde Parker and HMS Argo, under Captain Richard King to intercept.

The Santissima Trinidad was the largest of the so-called Manila Galleons. These ships, built from teak in Manila, were purpose-built treasure ships, were virtual floating fortresses and the Santissima Trinidad carried no fewer than 60 guns. Although she had left Cavite on 1st August, she had been delayed by adverse winds in the San Bernadino Strait until the end of September. On the night of 2nd/3rd October 1762, the Santissima Trinidad was caught by the tail end of a typhoon which brought down her foremast and mainmast. Her captain decided to return to the port of Cavite under a jury rig and make repairs. He was unaware that Britain and Spain were at war and that the British had just taken Manila and Cavite. As she passed back through the Strait, she was sighted by the two British warships, which immediately closed in for the attack. Both British ships concentrated their fire on the Santissima Trinidad's rigging. Captain Hyde Parker was amazed to see 24lb shot bounce off the Spaniards stout teak hull. Before too long however, the Santissima Trinidad was dismasted and helpless. Despite this, she put up a determined defence for over two hours and only when her captain realised that further fighting was futile, did he surrender his ship. The value of her cargo was such, that Captain King and Captain Parker's share of the prize money alone was worth 30,000 each - an enormous sum of money in the early 1760's and this alone made both men very wealthy.

The Seven Years War was ended by the Treaty of Paris in 1763. With the end of the war, HMS Panther returned home to Chatham and paid off in July 1765. The ship had not been in a dockyard in 5 years and had spent most of her career so far in tropical waters, so was due a major overhaul. In August 1765, HMS Panther entered the Royal Dockyard at Chatham and began a Great Repair.

The work was eventually completed at a cost of 24,296.18s.11d and the ship recommissioned in January 1771 under Captain George Gayton. On 14th June 1771, HMS Panther sailed for Newfoundland, to take up a role as flagship to the Commander-in-Chief of that Station. From her recommissioning, she flew the command Broad Pennant of Commodore John Byron, until February 1772, when he was replaced as Commander-in-Chief, Newfoundland by HMS Panther's old commander, now Commodore Molyneaux Shuldham. In December 1774, Shuldham returned to the UK in HMS Panther and she paid off into the Ordinary at Portsmouth.

In June 1777, HMS Panther was taken into the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth and underwent repairs, which were completed in December at a cost of 13,304.2s. The ship recommissioned under Captain John Harvey and departed for the Mediterranean on 29th December 1777. By this time, the American War of Independence had broken out. By the time she returned from the Mediterranean in August 1780, the French and the Spanish had both joined in the war and it had escalated from an armed rebellion into a full-scale world war. On her return, HMS Panther entered the Dockyard at Portsmouth for some minor repairs and to have her lower hull re-coppered. This work was completed in October and on 30th November 1780, the ship sailed for the Caribbean to join the fleet under Vice-Admiral Sir George Rodney.

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

On arrival at St. Eustacius, the Dutch 74 gun ship Mars was found to be guarding the harbour and HMS Monarch (74) and HMS Panther immediately engaged her.

HMS Panther and HMS Monarch engage the Mars at Saint Eustacius:

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

Shortly after this, HMS Panther returned to the UK, where she was assigned to the Channel Fleet. In July 1782, she was part of the blockading force in the Bay of Biscay where on 23rd July, she recaptured the 14 gun armed cutter HMS Pygmy, which had been taken by the French on 27th December 1781.

On 11th September 1782, HMS Panther became part of the fleet under Vice-Admiral Lord Howe for the Relief of Gibraltar. In this, she was commanded by Captain Henry Hervey and was flagship of the Second Division of the Vanguard under Vice-Admiral Sir Francis William Drake. The fleet was ordered to force a convoy of 100 merchant ships through the Franco-Spanish blockade of Gibraltar. By a stroke of luck, a storm scattered the enemy fleet into the Mediterranean and the convoy made it into Gibraltar without a shot being fired. The same storm however, also forced the British fleet into the Mediterranean and the two fleets came into contact off Cape Spartel, in modern day Morocco. Howe was under orders to avoid a major action against the enemy once the convoy was safely in Gibraltar, but the enemy stood between him and the open Atlantic. The Franco-Spanish fleet had the advantage of having more larger ships in that no less than seven of their ships mounted 100 or more guns. This included the gigantic Spanish ship Santissima Trinidad, mounting 140 guns on 4 gundecks; the largest and most powerful ship in the world at the time. Howe, on the other hand, only had two ships mounting 100 guns, HMS Victory and HMS Britannia. The British ships had the advantage of having their bottoms coppered and this gave them a huge advantage in speed. At 17:45 on 20th October 1782, the enemy opened fire and the British returned fire. The two fleets didn't really get to grips with each other, with the British, in line with their orders, able to overhaul and overtake the Franco-Spanish fleet. There were casualties however and HMS Panther suffered 3 dead with 15 wounded in the Battle of Cape Spartel.

The American War of Independence was ended by the 1783 Treaty of Paris, signed in September and effective from March 1784. In 1783, HMS Panther paid off into the Ordinary at Plymouth. On 29th August 1788, HMS Panther was re-classed as a hulk. In 1791, the ship was converted into a hospital ship and remained in that role until she was broken up at Plymouth in 1813.
"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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