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Author Topic: HMS Aeolus (1758 - 1801)  (Read 9005 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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Re: HMS Aeolus (1758 - 1801)
« Reply #6 on: July 23, 2017, 21:49:56 »
Bumping this one up because apart from re-pointing the pictures to a new host, I've added some pics to the original essay of a model of the ship with some history of its own..
"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 Aeolus (1758 - 1801)
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2015, 18:09:18 »
Found this while looking for something else. This painting by Derek Gardner shows Commodore Thurot's last fight off Belfast Lough. HMS Aeolus is the British frigate in the foreground.

"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline mikeb

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Re: HMS Aeolus (1758 - 1801)
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2013, 13:39:14 »
Ditto the above Bilgerat, many thanks once again.


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Re: HMS Aeolus (1758 - 1801)
« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2013, 23:02:21 »
Yes, thank you once again Bilgerat, very interesting.

Offline StuarttheGrant

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Re: HMS Aeolus (1758 - 1801)
« Reply #2 on: June 17, 2013, 22:59:00 »
Another fascinating chapter of our islands Naval history. A beautiful model of the frames of HMS Winchelsea. All said a great story Bilgerat.

Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Aeolus (1758 - 1801)
« Reply #1 on: June 17, 2013, 19:47:01 »
HMS Aeolus was a 12pdr armed 32 gun 5th rate frigate of the Niger Class, built under contract for the Royal Navy by Thomas West at his Deptford shipyard.

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. 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.

HMS Aeolus was ordered from Thomas West on Monday 19th September 1757. Her keel was laid down the same month and the ship was launched into the Thames on Wednesday 29th November the following year.

After her launch, HMS Aeolus was fitted out at the Royal Dockyard at Deptford, where her guns, masts and rigging were fitted. On completion, HMS Aeolus was a ship of 703 tons. She was 125'5" long on her gundeck and 35'5" wide across her beam. She was armed with 26 12pdr long guns on her gundeck, 4 6pdr long guns on her quarterdeck with 2 more on her forecastle. In addition to these, she was also fitted with 12 half-pounder swivel guns dotted around her upper decks. She was manned by a crew of 220 officers, men and boys. Her construction at Deptford cost 7,136,19s,8d, while fitting her out added another 4,333,10s,3d to the bill. The ship commissioned into the Channel Fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir Edward Hawke, in November 1758 under Captain John Elliot.

Niger Class Plans

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

Forecastle and Quarterdeck 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 Aeolus would have been identical.

Port Side, showing the frames:

Starboard Side:

Stern details:

Bow details:

It didn't take long for HMS Aeolus to get into the action in the Seven Years War. On Monday 19th March 1759, the ship was patrolling off the Ile d'Yeu in the Bay of Biscay in company with the ex-French 4th rate ship HMS Isis (50). HMS Isis was originally the French ship Diamant, built in 1733 and captured by the Royal Navy during the War of Jenkins Ear, in May 1747. Together, they encountered a force of what appeared to be four French frigates escorting a convoy. The two British ships did not hesitate to engage the enemy and a fight ensued between HMS Isis, HMS Aeolus and the French frigate Blonde (32) and what turned out to be the corvette Migonne (16). Blonde managed to escape, but the Migonne was captured after having suffered terrible casualties. Of her crew of 150 men, 55 were killed or wounded.

By late 1759, the Channel Fleet under Hawke was maintaining a close blockade of the French coast around Brest.

In the first week of November 1759, Hawke's fleet was forced to run into Torbay to escape a fierce gale. The French, under the Marshal de Conflans took the opportunity to put to sea. The French force was under orders to rendezvous with and escort a fleet of troopships waiting in the Golfe de Morbihan to Scotland and mount an invasion there. On 14th November 1759, Conflans and his fleet left Brest and were spotted by the frigate HMS Actaeon that day. Actaeon was unable to meet Hawke's fleet which by now was on it's way back to it's blockade stations. The following day, the French were sighted by the British victualling ship Love and Unity, which met with Hawke's returning fleet. Love and Unity's master reported that he had sighted the French 70 miles west of Belle Ile, heading towards Quiberon Bay. Hawke ordered his fleet to sail for Quiberon Bay as hard as they could into the teeth of a South-south-easterly gale.

On the night of the 19th November, Conflans ordered his fleet to reduce sail in order to arrive at Quiberon Bay the following morning, rather than in the middle of the night. Early the following morning, the French force spotted sails which turned out to be those of a small squadron of 4 50 gun ships and 4 frigates, commanded by Captain Robert Duff. These had stayed behind to watch the transport ships while Hawke and the main fleet had sought shelter in Torbay. Realising that the strange sails belonged to a small squadron rather than a full fleet, COnflans ordered his fleet to give chase. Duff split his force into two, north and south, pursued by the French vanguard and centre. The rear of the French fleet peeled off to investigate strange sails appearing to the West. These turned out to be the British Fleet with 24 ships of the line, led by Admiral Hawke, flying his command flag in the giant first rate ship HMS Royal George of 100 guns. The French broke off their pursuit of Duff's squadron (which incidentally had 50 guns ships called HMS Chatham and HMS Rochester).

It was HMS Magnanime (74) which spotted the French first, at 08:30 and on receiving signals to that effect, Hawke ordered his fleet to form a line abreast. Conflans on the other hand was forced to make a tough decision. Stand and fight where he was in the teeth of a violent gale or head into the Bay with it's shoals and rocks and try to entice Hawke to follow him. At 09:00, Hawke gave the signal for a general chase and for the seven ships closest to the French to form a line of battle and despite the dangers, make all sail and get stuck into the French. By 14:30, the British were beginning to overtake the French and what is now known as the Battle of Quiberon Bay began in earnest.

By sunset, it was all over. The power of the French Atlantic Fleet had been smashed. Hawke had scored an overwhelming victory against the French, who had lost six of their 21 ships of the line wrecked or sunk with another being captured by the British. In all, some 2,500 French sailors had perished. The British on the other hand, had lost two ships of the line wrecked on the shoals and rocks in the bay and had suffered 400 fatalities.

HMS Aeolus took no active part in the Battle of Quiberon Bay. She was detached from the main frigate force to escort a small force of specialist vessels comprising the Fireships HMS Pluto (8), HMS Proserpine (8) and the Bomb Ketch HMS Thunder. Frigates like HMS Aeolus usually took little if any part in set-piece battles between ships of the line, except to pick up survivors and those who have gone overboard during combat and to tow any damaged ships out of the action should they need to. It was usually fairly safe for frigates to enter areas where large ships of the line were tearing pieces out of each other because of the unwritten rule that ships of the line do not fire on frigates except if fired upon. The reason was that frigates were much more lightly built than ships of the line and would usually be destroyed if they received a broadside from a ship of the line.

The tracks of the fleets in the lead-up to the battle.

The Battle of Quiberon Bay

The aftermath of the battle.

The scale of the British victory had consequences for the rest of the war. The power of the French fleet was broken and did not recover until after the war. The French were unable to resupply their army in Canada and this in turn led to the eventual British victory there. In addition, the French Government suffered a credit crunch as financiers realised that the Royal Navy could now strike French possessions at will and refused to lend the French Government any more money. The French Government was forced to default on it's debts in order to continue the war.

In the meantime, the war continued. On 21st February 1760, a force of 600 French soldiers landed at Carrickfergus (now in Northern Ireland but at that time was in the Kingdom of Ireland). The force was led by the privateer Francois Thurot. The French quickly overwhelmed the small garrison and captured Carrickfergus Castle. When news of this reached the British headquarters in Dublin, the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, John Russell, the 4th Duke of Bedford ordered a small force of dragoons under Colonel John Jennings to Carrickfergus. The Duke of Bedford feared that Thurot's landing was a feint to draw large numbers of British soldiers to Carrickfergus and away from perhaps another landing site at Dublin or Cork. As things turned out, his fears were unfounded. The French held the town for 5 days and aside from provoking fears of an attack on nearby Belfast, they demanded a ransom and supplies, but withdrew after the appearance of a large force of local militia, which surrounded the town.

Meanwhile, in Dublin, Captain Elliot had been appointed to command a small squadron comprised of HMS Pallas (36) and HMS Brilliant (36) in addition to his own ship. On 26th February, Captain Elliot was ordered to take his force to Carrickfergus. On 28th, they sighted the French force as they came around Copeland Island in Belfast Lough. The French force comprised Marechal de Belle Isle (46), Blonde (32) and Terpsichore (28). Blonde and Terpsichore struck their colours and surrendered to the British almost as soon as they were engaged. Marechal de Belle Isle was a different matter. She was engaged by Captain Elliot in HMS Aeolus and the two ships fought for an hour and a half before the French ship also struck her colours and surrendered. Thurot was killed in the action along with 90 of his men. A further 135 were wounded. HMS Aeolus suffered 4 killed and 15 wounded. Commodore Thurot was held in high regard by his British enemies and Captain Elliot wrote in his report to the Duke of Bedford that "The gallant Thurot, who fell on this occasion, was an opponent who, in his method of carrying on the war, had never shut his eyes to the principles of honour, generosity, and humanity, and who was scarcely less lamented by his British foes than by his own countrymen." The three British Captains, Elliot, Michael Clements of HMS Pallas and James Logie of HMS Brilliant were each voted the thanks of the Irish House of Commons. After the battle, the British took their prizes back to the Isle of Man. Marechal de Belle Isle was very badly damaged and the British prize crew together with their French prisoners had to struggle every mile of the way to prevent the ship from sinking. It is unclear what happened to the Marechal de Belle Isle, but both Terpsichore and Blonde were taken into the Royal Navy.

After their success in the Action of 28th February 1760, HMS Aeolus and her crew settled into a routine of patrolling the Western Approaches hunting French privateers and naval vessels which in turn, where looking to harrass British merchant shipping. As things turned out, this was something they were very good at. On 27th May 1760, they captured the French privateer La Minette.

In October 1760, HMS Aeolus received a new commander, Captain William Hotham. Captain Elliot had been transferred to HMS Coventry (28). Captain Hotham's previous appointment had been in command of the ex-French frigate Melampe (36). That ship had been captured by the Royal Navy in November 1759.

Despite the change of commander, HMS Aeolus and her crew continued as they had before. On 23rd March 1761 they captured the French privateer Carnival. On 6th December, they captured the French privateer Perriere. On 3rd February 1762, the French privateer l'Esperance of 6 guns was captured. This was followed on 7th April by the capture of the French privateer Le Malouin of six guns. Three days later, Le Curieux also of 6 guns was captured by HMS Aeolus. Twelve days after that, Le Mignon of 8 guns was taken and on 20th August, Le Formidable, privateer of 6 guns was taken. Le Formidable proved to be the last enemy privateer taken by HMS Aeolus during the Seven Years War.

The Seven Years War was ended by the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763. In November of that year, HMS Aeolus paid off at Portsmouth. In January 1764, she entered the Dockyard at Portsmouth for a refit and repair. This lasted until August 1765 and by the time it was complete, had cost 4,650,6s,5d. HMS Aeolus recommissioned in January 1766 under Captain John Gower.

On 10th March 1766, HMS Aeolus departed for the Mediterranean. The ship spent the next six years engaged in the peacetime duties of a frigate of the Royal Navy; those of anti-piracy patrols, policing shipping lanes and generally 'showing the flag'. In 1767, Captain Gower was replaced by Captain William Bennett. Captain Gower was 'beached' until he took command of HMS Pearl (32) in January 1769. Captain Bennett's previous appointment had been in command of the 4th rate ship of the line HMS Rippon (60). Captain Bennett stayed with the ship until she paid off at Deptford in February 1772.

In 1775, simmering unrest in the American colonies over what they saw as unfair taxation and the illegal denial of the rights of the colonists as British subjects to representation in Parliament erupted into open war. In May 1775, HMS Aeolus was taken into the Royal Dockyard at Deptford for a major refit and repair. This would have involved the replacement of any worn-out or rotten parts of the ship and she emerged from this in December 1776 in an 'as new' condition. While the work was nearing completion, in October 1776, the ship recommissioned under Captain Christopher Atkins. His previous appointment had been in command of HMS Actaeon (28) and before that he had commanded HMS Aeolus' sister ship HMS Montreal. On 27th February 1777, HMS Aeolus sailed for Jamaica. By 1777, the old enemies France and Spain were covertly assisting the rebel colonists with supplies of arms, what would today be called 'military advisors' and warships operating as privateers under rebel colours.

On 12th September 1777, HMS Aeolus scored her first success in the new war when she captured the American privateer sloop Swallow. Swallow was part of the Rhode Island State Navy and in August 1777 had sailed from Massachusetts bound for Cap Francois with a cargo of fish oil and lumber.

On February 6th 1778, France officially recognised the United States of America with the signing of the Treaty of Alliance. This, understandably, did not go down well with the British, who declared war on France on March 17th. This enabled all pretence to end and French troops and warships became openly involved in the war.

On 2nd June 1779, HMS Aeolus was patrolling in the Bay of Gonave off the western coast of Haiti in company with HMS Ruby (64) and HMS Jamaica (18), when they sighted the French frigate La Prudente (36). HMS Ruby as the ship with the senior commander gave chase. During the chase, HMS Ruby received very accurate fire from La Prudente's stern chasers (main guns, moved to fire through gunports in the stern). This fire killed HMS Ruby's commander, Captain Michael Everitt. Eventually though, HMS Ruby's much superior armament won the day and la Prudente was forced to surrender. La Prudente was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Prudente.

Between December 1779 and March 1780, HMS Aeolus was refitted and her hull was coppered.

On 24th June 1780, HMS Aeolus captured the French privateer Eulalie of 26 guns. In October 1780, HMS Aeolus received a new commander, Captain George Keppel. Under Captain Keppel, HMS Aeolus captured the American privateer Lyon, whilst operating in company with HMS Portland (50) and HMS Vestal (28) on 14th August 1781. On 2nd September, the same trio captured the American privateer Distain (16). Exactly two weeks later, the trio took the American privateer brig Captain, joined by HMS Oiseau (32). In February 1782, the ship received a new commander, Captain Henry Collins. On 18th April 1782, HMS Aeolus captured the French privateer l'Aglae.

By this time, the war on the mainland had been lost when the surrender of General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown made the British military position ashore untenable and the British were forced to abandon their remaining possessions in the former colonies. In April 1782, peace negotiations between the warring parties got underway and combat operations, at least in the Americas and the Carribean, began to wind down. In April 1783, HMS Aeolus received her last commander, Captain George Robertson. In September 1783, the peace negotiations came to fruition and all sides signed the Treaty of Paris, ending the war. In January 1784, HMS Aeolus paid off into the Ordinary at Chatham. There, the ship was to remain, guns, yards, sails, rigging and stores removed and gunports and hatches sealed shut, moored in the River Medway, until March 1796. By this time, the French Revolution had occurred and within 4 years, Britain and France were at war again.

Between March and May 1796, HMS Aeolus was refitted for harbour service. Her hull, worn out and probably rotten, was no longer fit for sea service.

On 7th May 1800, HMS Aeolus was renamed to HMS Guernsey. The reason for this was that the Royal Navy had captured a French frigate called Pallas. There was already a frigate called HMS Pallas, so the French ship had to be renamed and the Admiralty decided to use the name 'Aeolus'. That ship was renamed again to HMS Pique in January 1801. This was because a new frigate, an 18pdr armed 32 gun Amphion class ship built under contract by Barnards at Deptford was to bear the name Aeolus. The new HMS Aeolus was launched in February 1801.

Meanwhile, the original ship, now HMS Guernsey, was taken to Sheerness in April 1801 and broken up.
"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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