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Author Topic: HMS Lapwing (1785 - 1828)  (Read 3235 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Lapwing (1785 - 1828)
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2015, 18:58:45 »
HMS Lapwing was an Enterprise Class, 9pdr armed 28 gun, 6th rate frigate built under contract for the Royal Navy by Thomas King at his shipyard on Beach Street in Dover.

The Enterprise class were a group of 27 small sailing frigates designed by John Williams, Surveyor of the Navy, 14 of which were built in Kent shipyards. The 28 gun 6th rate frigate was the smallest vessel which met the Royal Navy's definition of a frigate and they were one of the two main types of frigate in British service in the Seven Years War and the American War of Independence, the other being the 5th rate, 12pdr armed 32 gun frigate. By the time the French Revolutionary War broke out in 1793, the type was becoming obsolete in the face of new bigger, more powerfully armed 18pdr and even 24pdr armed frigates. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the type had virtually disappeared from the fleet.

HMS Lapwing was ordered from Thomas King on 22nd October 1782. By the time the Admiralty courier delivered the letter which enclosed the 1/48 scale drawings and specifications, the British had lost the war on land in America. They had thwarted French plans to expel them from their lucrative possessions in the Caribbean by defeating the French at the battles of The Saintes and Mona Passage in the previous April and peace negotiations were underway. Apart from the struggle to contain and overcome the French in India, the war was beginning to wind down. Thomas King's shipwrights expanded the drawings to full size in chalk on the mould loft floor and used those drawings to make moulds used to mark out and cut the full sized timbers. HMS Lapwing's first keel section was laid during February of 1783. The stem and stern-posts were attached to the ends of the keel and secured in place with timber trenails and reinforced by deadwoods. The whole assembly was guyed in place while the frames were then assembled and attached to the keel and the deck beams and knees were trenailed into place between the frames. The whole thing was secured into place by the keelson which sat on top of the frames and was secured through the frames into the keel. The hull planking  was then steamed and bent into shape and secured to the frames with more trenails as was the deck planking. Once this process was complete, the hull was caulked, with oakum driven between the planks and topped with red lead putty while the deck caulking was topped with pitch. Fixtures and fittings were then put into place and the lower hull was sheathed with the best Welsh copper. Finally, the ship was painted, the hull buff with black boot topping down to the copper with the upper parts of the bulwarks painted blue. The inside of the hull was painted bright red.

Plans of an Enterprise Class frigate. HMS Lapwing would have been identical.

Orlop Plan:



Lower or Berth Deck Plan:



Upper or Gundeck Plan:



Quarterdeck and Forecastle Plan:



Inboard Profile and Plan:



Sheer Plan and Lines:



Painting of the bow view of the shipwrights model of HMS Enterprise. HMS Lapwing would have been identical:



Painting of the stern view of the shipwrights model of HMS Enterprise. HMS Lapwing would have been identical:



A model of HMS Enterprise. Again, HMS Lapwing would have been identical:



At last, on Wednesday 21st September 1785, His Majesty's Ship Lapwing was launched with all due ceremony into Dover Harbour. Unfortunately, by the time the fine new frigate was launched, the war for which she had been built was over. After her launch, the ship was taken to the great Royal Dockyard at Deptford, where she was fitted for the Ordinary. Her gunports and hatches were sealed shut and the ship was left moored in the River Thames. While the ship was in the Ordinary, she came under the supervision of the Master Attendant at Deptford and was manned by a skeleton crew of senior warrant officers comprising a Boatswain, a Gunner, a Carpenter, a Cook, their respective servants plus ten seamen. Should any work beyond these men be required, a team of labourers would be sent from the Dockyard to assist. A further warrant officer was assigned to the ship in the form of a Purser, but he was allowed to live ashore within a prescribed distance from the Dockyard, ready to be called on.

While HMS Lapwing was languishing at her mooring in the River Thames off Deptford, the world became a more dangerous place. France had been left bankrupt at the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 and the French King, Louis XVI, had taken a huge gamble in getting his country involved in the American struggle for independence. He had gambled on military success in both India and the Caribbean. The gamble had not paid off and France was left in an even worse state come the end of the American war in 1784. By 1789, more than half the revenue of the French government was being spent on servicing it's debts so that when the country suffered a series of poor harvests and people were starving to death in the streets of Paris, the finger of blame was pointed firmly at the King and his ministers. In July 1789, the absolute power the King of France had was ended by the Revolution. The Absolute Monarchy was replaced by a Constitutional Monarchy similar to our own, where the power of the King was limited by an elected assembly, the National Convention. The King of France was not going to take this laying down and a power struggle developed between the King and the National Convention which grew increasingly bitter and violent.

In 1790, Britain and Spain drifted towards war in what is now known as the Spanish Armaments Crisis. This occurred when Britain established a settlement at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island in defiance of a Spanish territorial claim over the western coastlines of both American continents. The British began to mobilise the fleet in preparation for the seemingly inevitable war and as part of this mobilistation, HMS Lapwing was taken into the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich in August of 1790 and was fitted for sea. When HMS Lapwing was finally fully completed, she was a ship of 597 tons. She was 120ft 6in long on her gundeck and 99ft 4.5in long at her keel. She was 33ft 8in wide across her beams and her hold was 11ft deep. HMS Lapwing was armed with 24 9pdr long guns on her gundeck, 4 6pdr long guns and 4 18pdr carronades on her quarterdeck with a further 2 18pdr carronades on her forecastle. In addition to these guns, she carried a dozen half-pounder swivel guns attached to her quarterdeck and forecastle handrails and in her fighting tops. She was manned by a crew of 200 officers, men, Royal Marines and boys. In October 1790, Captain Paget Bayly was appointed to be her commander. On 19th May 1791, HMS Lapwing was ready for sea.

HMS Lapwing was Captain Bayly's first appointment after being posted, or promoted to Captain. His previous appointment had been as Master and Commander in the 6pdr armed 16 gun ship-sloop HMS Scorpion. By the time HMS Lapwing was ready for sea, the crisis had been settled peacefully. The Spanish had approached the French and asked for assistance in any future war with the British. The new Government in France had decided that, with the country in a state of near-anarchy, now was not the time to get involved in what was certain to be another long and expensive war against the old enemy across the Channel. This forced the Spanish to the negotiating table and the two sides hammered out a deal where the British would be allowed to continue to develop their settlement at Nootka as long as they recognised overall Spanish sovereignty.

Nevertheless, the ship was now ready for sea, so the Navy might as well use her. In April 1791, Captain Bayly was replaced in command by Captain Henry Curzon. Captain Bayly was without an appointment until he was given command of the 12pdr armed 32 gun frigate HMS Greyhound. HMS Lapwing was Captain Curzon's first appointment after being posted. His previous appointment had been as Master and Commander in the 14 gun fireship HMS Tisiphone.

See here for HMS Tisiphone's story:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=16287

On 12th July 1791, HMS Lapwing left Deptford bound for the Mediterranean where she was tasked with protecting British trade against barbary corsairs and the like. While in the Mediterranean, Captain Curzon and his ship were ordered to go to Villefranche-sur-Mer on what is now the Franco-Italian border. At the time, the city was part of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which which France was at war. Britain at this time was still neutral and Captain Curzon's orders were to protect British property and interests in the city. In February 1793, war broke out between Britain and France and HMS Lapwing's mission ended. The ship returned to Gibraltar and escorted a convoy back from there to the UK and on arrival at Portsmouth, became part of the Channel Fleet.

Once the declaration of war had been made, the French began to assemble their Atlantic Fleet in Quiberon Bay, so that by the end of August 1793, they had 21 ships of the line and 4 frigates. Of the ships of the line, one was a ship of 120 guns, two were of 110 guns each, three more were ships of 80 guns and the remaining 15 ships were of 74 guns each. The British were not idle either. Immediately upon the declaration of war, Admiral the Lord Howe had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet and had hoisted his command flag in the new 100 gun first rate ship HMS Queen Charlotte. In addition to HMS Queen Charlotte, Howe also had at his disposal a further two 100 gun first rate ships (HMS Royal George and HMS Royal Sovereign), a 98 gun second rate ship (HMS London), nine third rate ships of 74 guns each plus a further four third rate ships with 64 guns. HMS Lapwing was one of nine frigates in the Channel Fleet. The time up to the 14th June 1793 was spent assembling the Channel Fleet in the anchorage off St Helens, Isle of Wight and on 14th, the fleet sailed from the anchorage and by 18th, were conducting manoeuvres off the Isles of Scilly.

On 23rd July, the fleet anchored in Torbay. On 25th, Lord Howe received intelligence from an American merchantman who claimed to have sailed through a French fleet believed to be comprised of 17 ships of the line, about 30 miles west of Belle-Isle. Lord Howe immediately ordered the fleet to sea again and later that day, the fleet fell in with the 24 gun sixth rate post-ship HMS Eurydice, whose commander, Captain Francis Cole reported that he had received similar intelligence from a British privateer and that the French had stationed themselves off Belle-Isle in order to protect a convoy from the Caribbean which was expected at any time. Lord Howe then ordered his fleet to head for Belle-Isle, which they reached on 31st. At 14:00, the island was sighted and almost immediately thereafter, so was the enemy. HMS Lapwing, like all the fleet's frigates, would have been sent ahead to scout for the fleet. Later that day, the ships of the line were ordered by Lord Howe to form a line of battle and to stand in towards the island. On 1st August, the French were again sighted and the British changed course to close the range, so that by noon, the enemy were so close that their hulls could be seen from the decks of the British ships. In the early afternoon, the wind died away to a dead calm. In the evening, a light breeze sprang up, which the British exploited to head directly at the enemy, but the coming of nightfall prevented the fleets from getting to grips with each other. Dawn on the 2nd August came and the French were nowhere to be seen. Over the next few days, the weather deteriorated significantly, to the point where Lord Howe and the fleet was forced to return to the shelter of Torbay.

On 23rd August, the Channel Fleet again left Torbay, this time to escort the Newfoundland-bound convoy past any danger presented by the French and to await the arrival of the convoy from the West Indies. Having achieved both objectives and having spent another ten or twelve days on manoeuvres around the Isles of Scilly, the Channel Fleet again anchored in Torbay on 4th September 1793. They left Torbay again on 27th October, this time to cruise in the Bay of Biscay, looking for a fight with the French. At 09:00 on 18th November, the 18pdr armed 38 gun frigate HMS Latona sighted a strange squadron upwind of her, which proved to be five French ships of the line, two frigates, a brig-corvette and a schooner. The French force continued to close with Lord Howe's fleet until, once more, they were clearly visible from the decks of the British ships. It would appear that the French squadron had mistaken the full force of the British Channel Fleet for a merchant convoy and had closed to intercept. On realising the full horror of their mistake, they very quickly turned tail and fled the scene. Lord Howe ordered his leading ships of the line, HMS Russel, HMS Bellerophon, HMS Defence, HMS Audacious and HMS Ganges (all of 74 guns), plus the frigates, to set all sail and chase the enemy. In gale-force winds and high seas, the British ships strained every inch of rigging in their determination to catch the enemy force and bring them to action, but very soon, the strain began to tell. HMS Russel sprang her fore-topmast and at 11:00, the fore and main-topmasts on HMS Defence collapsed and crashed down to the deck. Seeing that his ships of the line were struggling in the bad weather, Lord Howe changed his mind and instead ordered his frigates including HMS Lapwing to continue the chase and keep the enemy in sight and lead the fleet. At a little after noon, the wind shifted a little and allowed the leading British frigate, the 18pdr armed 38 gun ship HMS Latona, to close the range and engage the two rear-most French frigates. By 4pm, HMS Latona was in a position to be able to cut off one of the enemy frigates and take her, but the French commander, Commodore Vanstabel in the Tigre of 74 guns bore down and stopped it. The Tigre and another French 74 gun ship passed close enough to HMS Latona to be able to fire full broadsides at the British frigate. Captain Thornborough of HMS Latona was having none of this and luffed up (that is, steered his ship directly into the wind, stopping the ship dead in the water) and returned the French fire, cutting away the fore stay and main tack line of the Tigre as well as damaging her in her hull. None of the other British ships were able to get near and more ships suffered damage to their masts and rigging in the severe weather. HMS Vanguard (74) and HMS Montagu (74) both lost their main-topmasts. This convinced Lord Howe to call off the chase. After this skirmish, Lord Howe kept his fleet at sea until mid-December, when the Channel Fleet returned to Spithead.

HMS Lapwing was paid off at Woolwich in February 1794. After paying off HMS Lapwing at Woolwich, Captain Curzon was appointed to command the 18pdr armed 32 gun frigate HMS Pallas.

In May 1794, HMS Lapwing entered the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich for a brief refit which was completed in November. The ship recommissioned under Captain Robert Barton, but remained in home waters until October 1795, when she sailed for the Leeward Islands. Once in the Caribbean, HMS Lapwing and her crew settled into their new role of protecting British shipping against attacks by enemy naval units and privateers while at the same time preventing enemy shipping from moving.

November 25th 1796 saw HMS Lapwing lying at St Kitts when news was received from the island of Anguilla of an attack there by the French. The French force apparently consisted of two warships plus smaller vessels and a body of troops numbering about 300. Captain Barton immediately ordered that his ship weigh anchor and head to Anguilla as quickly as possible. The ship reached the island the following evening, too late to prevent the enemy raiders from setting fire to all the houses. The appearance of the British frigate caused the enemy to rapidly withdraw back to their ships. These were the large 20 gun ship-corvette Decius with 18 6pdr long guns, two 8pdr long guns and 6 ex-British 18pdr carronades. The other vessel was the brig-corvette Vaillante with two 24pdr long guns and four 36pdr carronades. The two enemy vessels stood out to sea and were chased by HMS Lapwing. At about 22:00, Captain Barton and his men brought both enemy vessels to action. After a firefight lasting about an hour, the Vaillante broke off the action and bore away and half an hour after that, the Decius struck her colours and surrendered. After disarming the French sailors, securing them below and putting a prize crew aboard, Captain Barton turned his attention to the Vaillante, but while HMS Lapwing's men were securing their prize, the French brig had been run ashore by her crew on the nearby island of St. Martin. HMS Lapwing destroyed the Vaillante with gunfire. In the action, HMS Lapwing had suffered casualties of one dead and six wounded. The Decius suffered 80 dead and 40 wounded out of a total including troops of 336 aboard. The London Gazette does not give details of what damage was suffered by any of the vessels in the action or what the casualty figures aboard the Vaillante were. It is known that there were 135 men aboard the brig when she was run ashore. What was remarkable about this action was the controlled agression of Captain Barton's attack on the French vessels. He would have been very careful not to allow the French vessels to come into contact with his ship for fear of being overwhelmed by their sheer numbers.

HMS Lapwing in action against the Decius, 26th November 1796 by Antoine Roux:



Sadly, the following day, 27th November 1796, HMS Lapwing was on her way back to St Kitts with the Decius in tow when they were chased by a pair of large French frigates, the Thetis and the Pensee. In order to escape, Captain Barton was forced to order the prize to be evacuated and burned. Without the damaged enemy vessel in tow, HMS Lapwing was able to escape safely to St Kitts.

HMS Lapwing spent the next couple of years in the Caribbean and Captain Barton and his men became very adept at hunting down and capturing enemy privateers, of which there were a huge number operating in the profitable waters of the Caribbean Sea. By the time Captain Barton was appointed to command the 12pdr armed ex-French 36 gun frigate HMS Concord in August 1798, they had captured no less than 13. Captain Barton's replacement in HMS Lapwing was Captain Sir Thomas Harvey and the ship was his first appointment after being posted. His previous appointment had been as Master and Commander in the 32pdr carronade armed, 18 gun brig-sloop HMS Pelican. Captain Harvey had distinguished himself whilst in command of HMS Pelican when in his little brig-sloop, he had taken on, defeated and captured the French 12pdr armed 36 gun frigate La Medee.

The successes against French privateers continued apace under Captain Harvey. In the month of September of 1798 alone, HMS Lapwing and her crew accounted for four.

On 11th August 1799, HMS Lapwing was part of a force commanded by Vice-Admiral Lord Seymour, flying his command flag in the 98 gun second rate ship of the line HMS Prince of Wales. The rest of the force in addition to HMS Lapwing and HMS Prince of Wales, comprised HMS Invincible (74), HMS Tamar (18pdr 38), HMS Unite (12pdr 32), HMS Syren (12pdr 32),  HMS Amphitrite (9pdr 28), the 9pdr armed post-ship HMS Daphne (20) and the gun-brig HMS Requin (10). This force arrived off the Dutch colony of Surinam  and Lord Seymour entered into negotiations with the Dutch Governor. On 20th, the Dutch agreed to surrender and the garrison at Fort Amsterdam were allowed to march out with colours and arms before ceremoniously laying down both colours and arms before the British troops assembled.

On 27th August 1800, Captain Harvey was appointed to command HMS Unite and his place in HMS Lapwing was taken by Captain Edward Rotherham. Captain Rotherham's orders were to take the ship back to the UK and rejoin the Channel Fleet. HMS Lapwing was Rotherham's first appointment after being posted. His previous appointment had been as Master and Commander in the 6pdr armed 16 gun ship-sloop HMS Hawk.

On 25th March 1802, the warring sides signed the Treaty of Amiens, ending the war. With the war over, HMS Lapwing paid off at Sheerness in November of that year. Captain Rotherham was by all accounts a difficult man to get on with. In October 1805, he was in command of the 100 gun first rate ship of the line HMS Royal Sovereign, flagship to Vice-Admiral Sir Cuthbert Collingwood at the Battle of Trafalgar. Collingwood remarked of Rotherham in a letter to his brother that "He is a man of no talent as a sea-officer and of little assistance to me". In the lead-up to the battle, Nelson was aware of the clash of personalities between his second-in-command and the captain of his flagship and attempted to get them to reconcile their differences. The attempt seems to have been at least partly successful as Rotherham and Collingwood worked well together during the battle.

After being paid off, HMS Lapwing went into the Royal Dockyard at Sheerness for a long-overdue refit and recommissioned in February 1803 under Captain Alexander Skene. The ship was sent to the Irish Station, based at Cork. The Peace of Amiens collapsed in May 1803 and in November, Captain Skene was appointed to command the ex-French 50 gun fourth rate two-decker HMS Leander. His replacement in HMS Lapwing was Captain Francis William Fane, who remained in command until December 1804, when he was appointed to command the 9pdr armed 28 gun frigate HMS Hind. His replacement in HMS Lapwing, her last commander, was Captain Clotworthy Upton. HMS Lapwing was his first appointment after being posted. His previous appointment had been as Master and Commander in the 4pdr armed 14 gun brig-sloop HMS Zephyr. Captain Upton paid the ship off at Plymouth in 1806 before being appointed to command the ex-French 12pdr armed 32 gun frigate HMS Aimable.

By this time, the 9pdr armed 28 gun frigate was obsolete. Too big to be used in the role of a sloop-of-war and too small to match the new bigger and much more powerfully armed frigates carrying 18pdr or 24pdr guns then entering service, 9pdr armed small frigates like HMS Lapwing were being withdrawn from front line service. After being paid off, HMS Lapwing was fitted for the Ordinary at Plymouth and there she sat secured to a mooring buoy with guns, running rigging, sails and yards removed and her hatches and gunports sealed shut until she was converted to a receiving ship between January and March 1810.

After service as a receiving ship at Plymouth and at Milford Haven, HMS Lapwing was broken up in Pembroke in May 1828.
"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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