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Offline Bilgerat

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Re: HMS Prince (1788 - 1837)
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2015, 12:00:35 »
Part One - Introduction to the ship, initial skirmish of the French Revolutionary War, the Battle of Ile Groix.

HMS Prince was a London Class, 98 gun, second rate ship of the line, built at the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich, then in the county of Kent and launched in 1788.

The London Class was a group of four 98 gun ships, all of which were built in Kent shipyards. The first ship of the class, HMS London had originally been designed by Sir Thomas Slade (more famous now for having designed HMS Victory) and had been launched at the Royal Dockyard, Chatham way back in 1766. HMS London had been ordered during the Seven Years War (1756 - 1763) and was originally built as a 90 gun second rate ship, but was delivered too late to see service in that war. It was the practice of the Royal Navy at the time that second rate ships carried no guns on their quarterdeck to save topweight and upgrading the design to a 98 gun ship was merely a matter of adding four gun ports to each side on the quarterdeck. The second batch of three London Class ships were amongst four Second Rate ships of the line ordered during the American War of Independence and were built from the outset as 98 gun ships while HMS London was fitted with the extra gun ports when she recommissioned for the Spanish Armaments Crisis in 1790. The other ships in the second batch of London Class ships were HMS Windsor Castle, built at Deptford Royal Dockyard and launched in 1790 and HMS Impregnable, also built at Deptford Royal Dockyard and launched in 1786.

See here for the story of HMS Windsor Castle:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=18212

See here for the story of HMS Impregnable:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=16471

HMS Prince was ordered from the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich on 9th December 1779. By this time, Britain was embroiled in the American War of Independence. This had occurred when a dispute over taxation Britain's American colonies had escalated firstly into an armed rebellion, then into a full scale war. By the time HMS Prince was ordered, France and Spain had joined the war on the American side and the war had grown into a full-scale global conflict and the Royal Navy was being hugely expanded. HMS Prince was to be a massive ship and required an enormous amount of timber for her construction. In addition, all the Royal Dockyards were running flat out with the construction of new ships and the repair and maintenance of older ships and those badly damaged in action. For this reason, it was to be over two years before the Master Shipwright at Woolwich, Mr John Jenner, was able to oversee the laying of the first keel section, on 1st January 1782. By the time construction started however, the war on the American mainland had been lost. In September 1781, General Lord Cornwallis had been forced to surrender with his army to Generals the Compte de Rochambeau and George Washington after the Royal Navy had failed to secure the entrance to Chesapeake Bay, allowing the Americans and their French allies to beseige him in the town of Yorktown. As a result of Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown, the British position in mainland North America had become untenable and they had been forced to evacuate their principal possessions in New York and Philadelphia, leaving the loyalist communities in the former colonies to their fate.

The American War of Independence was ended by the 1783 Treaty of Paris, so large-scale construction projects such as HMS Prince assumed a lower priority so it was to be another 6 years before the ship was launched into the River Thames, on 4th July 1788. In the meantime, there had been a change in personnel at Woolwich Dockyard and it was Mr John Nelson who oversaw the final stages of construction and launch of HMS Prince. On completion, HMS Prince was indeed a large and very powerful warship. She was a ship of 1,824 tons and was 177ft 6in long on her upper gundeck and 146ft 6in long at her keel. She was 49ft wide across the beams and her hold, between the bottom and the lowest deck, the orlop, was 21ft deep. HMS Prince was armed with 28 32pdr long guns on the lower gun deck, 30 18pdr long guns on the middle gun deck, 30 12pdr long guns on her upper gun deck, with 8 more 12pdr long guns on her quarterdeck and 2 on the forecastle. In addition, she carried 6 12pdr carronades on her poop deck and 2 more on the forecastle. There would also have been a dozen half-pounder swivel guns on her upper deck handrails and in her fighting tops. The ship was manned by a crew of 750 officers, men, boys and Royal Marines.

Plans of HMS Prince as built

Orlop Plan:



Lower Gundeck Plan:



Middle Gundeck Plan:



Upper Gundeck Plan:



Quarterdeck and Forecastle Plan:



Inboard Profile and Plan:



Sheer Plan and Lines:



A nice view of HMS Prince laying at anchor at Spithead. Not sure of the date of the image:



About a year after the ship was launched, the Revolution occurred in France, where the King was removed from the position of absolute power held by the Kings of France for centuries. The Absolute Monarchy of the House of Bourbon was replaced with a Constitutional Monarchy along the lines of our own, where the power of the King was limited by an elected assembly, the National Convention. King Louis XVI was not going to take this lying down and a power struggle developed between the King and the National Assembly which caused a total breakdown of Government in France and had left the country teetering on the brink of civil war.

In the meantime, the British had become embroiled in a territorial dispute with Spain in what is now known as the Spanish Armaments Crisis. British traders had established a settlement at Nootka, on what is now Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada. This was in defiance of a Spanish territorial claim over the entire western coastline of both American continents. As the two sides drifted towards war, Spain asked France for assistance, invoking the 'Pact de Familie'. The National Convention considered the request and decided that it had enough on it's plate already without getting involved in what would likely be a long and very expensive war with the British and declined. This forced Spain to the negotiating table and the dispute was settled peacefully.

In July 1790, HMS Prince was commissioned under Captain Josiah Rogers and left Woolwich for Plymouth, where she became flagship to Rear-Admiral Sir John Jervis. This was as part of the build-up for the Spanish Armaments Crisis. Once that was settled peacefully, the ship paid off at Plymouth, in December 1790.

In December 1792, the French Monarchy was abolished and the country became a republic. Up until then, the British broadly supported the Revolution and the Constitutional Monarchy it had created, though they were giving material support to French Monarchists in the increasingly bitter and violent power struggle erupting in France, particularly in the Vendee region on the Biscay coast, where civil war had broken out. In January 1793, the King and Queen were tried and executed and in response, the French Ambassador was expelled. On 1st February, France declared war on Britain, starting the French Revolutionary War.

The British had begun to prepare for this when the French Monarchy had been abolished and as part of the military build-up, HMS Prince was recommissioned into the Channel Fleet later in February 1793, under Captain Cuthbert Collingwood and became flagship to Rear-Admiral George Bowyer. The Channel Fleet at the time was under the overall command of Admiral the Lord Howe, flying his command flag in the 100 gun first rate ship of the line HMS Queen Charlotte.

On 27th October 1793 Lord Howe took the Channel Fleet to sea in its entirety, intending to cruise in the Bay of Biscay looking for a fight with the French Brest Fleet. 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 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 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, 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 Edward 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 including HMS Prince at sea until mid-December, when the Channel Fleet returned to Spithead.

In January 1794, HMS Prince was paid off. Captain Collingwood was appointed to command the 74 gun third rate ship HMS Hector and Rear-Admiral Bowyer took up an appointment ashore.

HMS Prince recommissioned in October 1794 under Captain Francis Parry, as a private ship, that is, carrying no flag-officer. This was unusual for a second rate ship.

On 14th February 1795, Lord Howe once again took the Channel Fleet to sea, this time to see various convoys bound for the East and West Indies out of the Channel. Having received intelligence that the French Atlantic Fleet was safely tucked up in Brest, he returned with the fleet to Spithead.

Captain Parry remained in command until he was promoted to Rear-Admiral in June 1795 and his place in HMS Prince was taken by Captain Charles Powell Hamilton. By this time, Lord Howe had retired and his place as Commander-in-Chief Channel Fleet had been taken by Admiral Sir Alexander Hood, the Viscount Bridport, flying his command flag in the 100 gun first rate ship of the line HMS Royal George.

On 12th June 1795, Lord Bridport led the Channel Fleet including HMS Prince out of Spithead to escort a convoy of troopships intended to land a French Royalist army at Quiberon Bay in order to launch a counter-revolution in France. What Bridport didn't know was that a British squadron of 5 ships of the line under Vice-Admiral The Honourable Sir William Cornwallis had encountered a French squadron of three ships of the line and had forced them to seek shelter under the guns of the highly fortified French island of Belle Isle back in May. Cornwallis had withdrawn to escort his prizes back to UK waters before returning with the intention of destroying the French squadron. In the meantime, the French Atlantic Fleet had learned of the situation of their colleagues and had sailed in full force to rescue them. When Cornwallis returned, he had encountered the full force of the French fleet and had been forced to beat a hasty retreat. After abandoning the pursuit of Cornwallis' squadron, the French had sought shelter from deteriorating weather in the anchorage at Belle Isle. In the meantime, Bridport sent the troopships ahead under the command of Commodore Borlase Warren while he stood his fleet offshore, anticipating the arrival of the French attempting to prevent the landings. One of Warren's frigates, HMS Arethusa (40) spotted the French as they were departing Belle Isle on their way back to Brest. On 20th June, Warren's force again met up with the Fleet and informed Viscount Bridport of their discovery. Bridport immediately manoeuvred the fleet to stand between Warren's landing force and the French Fleet. At 03:30 on 22nd June, lookouts on HMS Nymphe (28) spotted the French. On spotting the British, the French turned back towards the land. On seeing that the French did not intend to fight, Viscount Bridport ordered his fastest ships to give chase, so at 06:30, HMS Sans Pareil (80), HMS Orion (74), HMS Valiant (74), HMS Colossus (74), HMS Irresistible (74) and HMS Russell (74) broke formation to start the chase. The rest of the Channel Fleet followed as fast as they could. The British fleet also consisted of no less than 7 98 gun 2nd rate ships. Surprisingly given her enormous size, HMS Queen Charlotte caught up with the smaller ships and engaged the enemy at 06:00 the following day off the rocky island of Groix. In the melee that followed, the French lost three ships of the line and suffered 670 casualties. The British lost no ships and suffered 31 dead and 113 wounded. The French, caught between the rocky coastline and the seemingly invincible British, regrouped and fled into Brest. Viscount Bridport, concerned for his ships' safety so close to the rocks signalled a withdrawal. Thus ended the Battle of Ile Groix. Viscount Bridport remained off the Brittany coast until the expedition became a complete disaster and he left the area in HMS Royal George with most of the fleet on 20th September leaving Rear-Admiral Harvey in command of a small squadron, keeping an eye on the French at Brest and Lorient.

HMS Prince did not become engaged in the Battle of Ile Groix, so suffered no casualties or damage.

The Battle of Ile Groix:



Captain Hamilton remained in command until 2nd June 1796, when he was promoted to Rear-Admiral. Also on 2nd June 1796, HMS Prince was paid off again. This time, the ship had been paid off to have some major surgery. The London Class had always had a reputation for being poor sailers, slow and cumbersome. In order to improve her sailing qualities, HMS Prince was to be lengthened by 17 feet. The work was completed in November 1796. The new section of hull also included extra gunports, but these were not intended to increase the armament of the ship. Instead, the gunports were used to allow guns to be taken from further forward, to better balance the ship.

Sheer plan and lines showing the new section of hull inserted:



The ship recommissioned under Captain Thomas Larcom and became flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir Roger Curtis. It quickly became apparent that the modifications to the ship had been a great success. A previous captain had reported that the ship sailed "like a haystack", but following her lengthening, it was reported that "she went well with any of the other ships" and that "her other qualities were greatly improved" and that "she was a good sailing ship". The experiment was so successful that another 98 gun second rate ship, HMS Ocean was similarly modified.

"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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HMS Prince (1788 - 1837)
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2015, 11:58:40 »
Part Two - Blockade Duty, the Battle of Trafalgar and fate.

On 25th December 1796, Lord Bridport ordered the Channel Fleet to sea in response to intelligence that the French Brest Fleet had escaped. The fleet was delayed by a series of accidents. HMS Prince missed her stays (that is that she attempted to go about - changing tack by passing the bow through the eye of the wind and not having enough momentum to complete the manoeuvre) and, out of control, collided with HMS Sans Pareil (80), damaging both ships. HMS Formidable (98) collided with HMS Ville de Paris (110), again damaging both ships and HMS Atlas (98) ran aground. HMS Prince was damaged to the extent that she had to stay behind and be dry-docked for the damage to be repaired.

In June 1797, Rear-Admiral Curtis was ordered to take his squadron and reinforce the North Sea Fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir Adam Duncan, so on 4th June, HMS Prince departed Portsmouth in company with HMS Formidable, HMS Caesar (80), HMS Ganges (74) and HMS Bedford (74). On 7th June, the squadron passed the Goodwin Sands and was joined by HMS Glatton (54), an East Indiaman purchased on the stocks and fitted entirely with carronades.

By April 1798, the squadron had rejoined the Channel Fleet and on 9th April, Curtis was ordered to take the squadron to sea and patrol off Ireland.

For the next few years, HMS Prince remained in the Channel Fleet and was engaged in the blockade of French Channel and Atlantic ports. This period was largely quiet and the ship did not take part in any actions against the enemy. There were incidents however. On 21st June 1800, Captain Thomas Totty of HMS Saturn (74) faced a Court Martial held aboard HMS Gladiator (44) in Portsmouth Harbour. He was charged with dereliction of duty for allowing his ship to collide with HMS Prince. The Court Martial Board ruled that "That the two ships being on board each other was caused by the extreme darkness of the night, and other circumstances, in which no blame was imputable to the said Captain Thomas Totty ; but that his conduct was that of a diligent, careful, and good officer, and did adjudge him to be acquitted.".

On 7th April 1800 aboard HMS Gladiator, Corporal William Howell of the Royal Marines in HMS Prince was charged for having quit his station on 9th March and having taken with him Private Bernard Ward of the Royal Marines who at the time was supposed to be on duty at the Dockyard Gates. Corporal Howell was found guilty and was ordered to receive 100 lashes alongside or aboard whichever of His Majesty's ships that the Commander-in-Chief at Spithead should direct.

On 18th May 1800, HMS Prince with several other ships came into Torbay after having encountered a severe storm whilst off Brest. During the storm, while laying to under storm staysails, the wind had changed and a number of ships were blown onto their sides, but righted themselves before they foundered. HMS Prince received damage to her main topmast in the storm.

The years went by and HMS Prince remained with the Channel Fleet, maintaining the blockade of the French Channel Ports. All the major naval battles of the French Revolutionary War passed her by. The Peace of Amiens came and went. In April 1803, Captain Richard Grindall became her commander and on 7th May 1804, she became flagship to her former commander, now Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood. In December 1804, the ship was engaged on the blockade of Brest.

In January 1805, Collingwood was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet. The reason was that the previous Commander-in-Chief, Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson had taken the bulk of the Mediterranean Fleet off to the Caribbean in pursuit of the French Toulon Fleet inder Vice-Admiral Villeneuve. On 26th June 1805, Collingwood left HMS Prince and transferred his command flag to the 98 gun second rate ship HMS Dreadnought, where he remained until he transferred it again, this time to the 100 gun first rate ship HMS Royal Sovereign. HMS Prince and the rest of the fleet was engaged in the blockade of Cadiz, where Villeneuve and the combined French and Spanish fleets had ended up after their defeat at the hands of Sir Robert Calder in the Third Battle of Cape Finisterre. On 28th September 1805, Nelson once more took up his position of Commander-in-Chief, flying his command flag in the rebuilt and now 104 gun first rate ship HMS Victory.

Villeneuve for his part, was definitely not flavour of the month with Napoleon. The failure of the Grand Plan to invade England was laid squarely at his door by the Emperor. He had failed to achieve anything of any use in the Caribbean, he had allowed himself to be defeated by an inferior force at the Battle of Finisterre, he had allowed the British to capture two Spanish ships of the line, something the Spanish were less than happy about. He had disobeyed orders in going to Cadiz instead of Brest. He had known that a squadron under Rear-Admiral Allemand was sailing to Vigo for orders, but had left Ferrol for Cadiz without giving Allemand any orders. Napoleon ordered his Minster of Marine to get Villeneuve to take the French element out of Cadiz, proceed to Naples, disembark all his troops on the Neopolitan coast, then capture HMS Excellent (74), together with the Russian frigate she was in company with. He was then to do all possible damage to British operations in the vicinity and destroy General Sir James Craig's expedition before going back to Toulon to repair and re-provision his ships. In a footnote to the orders, Napoleon made clear his dissatisfaction with Villeneuve's performance and ordered that Vice-Admiral Rosily was to go to Cadiz to replace Villeneuve and that Villeneuve was to return to France and explain himself.

By 10th October, the Combined Fleet had re-embarked the troops and had moved to the entrance to the harbour at Cadiz. Between the 10th and 17th October, the Combined Fleet was stranded there by adverse winds. On the 18th, the wind had changed and Villenueve informed his Spanish counterpart, Gravina, that he intended to leave the following day. On the evening of the 18th, a strong force of Spanish gunboats secured the mouth of the harbour and on the 19th, at 07:00, the Combined Fleet began to put to sea. Their departure was delayed by fickle winds, but by daybreak on the 20th October, they were all at sea. The enemy fleet comprised 33 ships of the line. The Spanish element of the fleet comprised of four ships of 100 guns or more, including the gigantic Santissima Trinidad, which mounted 140 guns on four gundecks, the largest and most powerful ship in the world. In addition to this, there were two ships of 80 guns, eight ships of 74 guns and one of 64 guns. The French element of the fleet comprised four ships of 80 guns and 14 ships of 74 guns. The fleet also had four frigates and two brig-corvettes.

Every move of the Combined Fleet was being watched and reported by the two British frigates, so Nelson knew exactly what the enemy were up to.

At 6:40am on the 21st October, Nelson ordered his fleet to adopt their formation in two columns, a windward column led by himself in HMS Victory and a lee column, led by Collingwood in HMS Royal Sovereign. HMS Prince found herself in Nelson's windward column, towards the middle of the column, having been overtaken by the rest. In captains conferences beforehand, his captains had expressed a concern that HMS Victory, in addition to being the lead ship of a column, was also the fleet flagship and as such was a particular target and would be exposed to the full force of the enemy's fire in the long approach to the enemy's line of battle. It fell to Captain the Honourable Henry Blackwood of HMS Euryalus to broach the sensitive subject and suggest to Lord Nelson that he might want to command the overall action from his ship, as being a frigate, she would not be a target for the enemy. This was because of the unwritten rule that ships of the line did not fire on frigates unless first fired upon. The reason for this was that a frigate, being of much lighter construction than a ship of the line, would likely be destroyed if exposed to the full broadside of a ship of the line. Lord Nelson refused. The captains tried again, suggesting that Nelson allow HMS Temeraire to lead the column. On hearing this, Nelson turned to HMS Victory's captain, Thomas Masterman Hardy and smiled, saying "Oh yes, let her go ahead". On his way back to his ship, Captain Blackwood boarded HMS Temeraire and advised her captain, Eliab Harvey, that it was Nelson's wish for his ship to lead the column.  Captain Harvey attempted to overtake the flagship in HMS Temeraire, but by the time she drew level with HMS Victory, Nelson had changed his mind and Harvey was ordered to take station astern of the flagship.

The relative positions of the fleets at the start of the Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805:



HMS Prince played a minor role in the Battle of Trafalgar. She was stationed towards the rear of Nelson's windward column. By the time she reached the scene of the fighting, the battle was all but over. She exchanged fire with the Spanish flagship, the Principe de Asturias (112) but received no damage or casualties in return. Principe de Asturias had already fought a gunnery duel against HMS Dreadnought and had exchanged fire with HMS Revenge (74) and HMS Defiance (74) and had been damaged, though all her masts were still standing but in a damaged state. HMS Prince then moved on to engage the French 74 gun ship Achille (not to be confused with a British 74 gun ship of the same name). Achille had been successively engaged by HMS Achille (74), HMS Belle Isle (74), HMS Swiftsure (74) and HMS Polyphemus (64). The French ship had lost her mizzen mast, main topmast and fore yard and for reasons which are unclear, her fore top had caught fire. Unable to put out the fire due to her pumps having been destroyed, her crew were preparing to cut away her foremast at about 16:30 when HMS Prince moved up and unleashed her massive broadside. This cut her foremast in two at about the centre and the flaming part of the mast fell onto the ships boats and set fire to them and also to the upper gundeck below. Realising that the French ship was on fire, Captain Grindall ordered that HMS Prince cease firing, heave to and launch her boats to rescue as many men from the water as possible. HMS Swiftsure did the same and they were soon joined in this by men from the armed schooner HMS Pickle and the cutter HMS Entreprenante. This was dangerous work; the heat of the fire was causing the Achille's guns to go off and three of HMS Swifture's men were killed when their boat was hit by such fire. At 17:45, the Achille blew up, taking with her all the officers and men remaining aboard. In her fight with the Achille, HMS Prince was slightly damaged in her masts and rigging but there were no casualties. HMS Prince's next task was to take possession of the giant Spanish ship Santissima Trinidad. This ship, the largest in the world carrying 140 guns on four gundecks had been reduced to a floating ruin by a gunnery duel with HMS Neptune (98), HMS Leviathan (74) and HMS Conqueror (74). Neither HMS Neptune or any of the other two ships were in any condition to take possession of the ship, so it was left to HMS Prince to do the job.

By 6pm it was all over. The Royal Navy had achieved a stunning victory. Of the 33 enemy ships of the line, 18 had been captured and as previously mentioned, the French Achille of 74 guns had caught fire and exploded with the loss of most of her crew. The British had not lost a single ship. The news was tempered by the death of Lord Nelson. He had been shot and had died of his wound some three hours later.

The Battle of Trafalgar had begun in conditions of very light winds and consequently, Nelson had made clear his intention of having the fleet anchor in the shallow waters off Cape Trafalgar, in order to secure the prizes and make repairs. Nelson and Collingwood had disagreed on this, Collingwood's view was that they should proceed to the safety of Gibraltar. Nelson and Collingwood had been the best of friends, but in tactical matters, Collingwood often disagreed with Nelson, but due to his being the superior officer, Nelson's view usually prevailed. On Nelson's death, Collingwood took command of the fleet and at 6.15pm, transferred his command flag to the undamaged frigate HMS Euryalus. Although the winds had been very light during the battle, immediately afterwards it had begun to rise. Of the 27 ships in the British fleet, 14 had received some hull damage, but the majority of the ships had been so badly damaged in their masts and rigging that they were unable to set any sails. Of the 17 captured enemy ships, eight of them were completely dismasted and the remainder had lost at least one mast. In addition to this, very few of the ships of both sides were actually able to anchor, having lost their anchors due to battle damage. Four of the dismasted prizes were able to anchor and did so off Cape Trafalgar. The rest of the ships, including HMS Prince drifted out to sea. By the 22nd October, the rest of the prizes were under tow. By the afternoon of the 22nd, the rising gale was beginning to take it's toll on the shattered, former enemy ships. At 5pm, the Redoutable, being towed by HMS Swiftsure, hoisted a distress signal and HMS Swiftsure launched her boats and began the process of evacuating the French ship. Swiftsure's boats immediately took off part of the British prize crew and about 120 French sailors. At 10.30pm, the Redoutable's stern was entirely submerged and HMS Swiftsure cut the tow line. At 3.30am, those aboard HMS Swiftsure heard cries from the direction of the Redoutable and on turning around and heading for the French ship's position discovered three rafts made from lashed together spars and men in the water. The French ship had sunk and HMS Swiftsure recovered some 50 survivors.

Because HMS Prince was a very large and relatively undamaged ship, the main service she performed in the immediate aftermath of the battle was to take on board survivors from those enemy ships which had foundered in the storm which followed the battle.

Because of the atrocious weather conditions and the need to look after their own ships first, the British had decided to destroy those prizes which were closest to the Spanish coast and this included the Santissima Trinidad. Accordingly, men from HMS Prince and HMS Neptune set about clearing the ship of survivors and scuttled the ship.

Captain Grindall remained in command of HMS Prince until he was promoted to Rear-Admiral on 9th November 1805. He eventually reached the rank of Vice-Admiral and was knighted on 2nd January 1815. He was replaced by Captain William Lechmere, whose previous appointment had been in command of the 74 gun third rate ship of the line HMS Thunderer. The ship then returned to the Channel Fleet and the never-ending monotony of blockade duty off the French Atlantic coast.

The Battle of Trafalgar pretty much marked the end of the threat posed by the battle fleets of France and Spain and large three-decked ships of the line like HMS Prince were no longer needed in such numbers. HMS Prince was paid off at Plymouth in October 1806. She was briefly recommissioned between December 1806 and March 1807 and in 1808, she was stripped of her guns, sails, yards and rigging, her hatches and gunports were sealed shut and she went into the Ordinary at Portsmouth.

In October 1813, HMS Prince became guardship at Spithead. In that role, she would have been kept rigged and armed but would have carried about half her normal crew. The ships men would be engaged in providing security for the great Fleet Anchorage at Spithead in addition to sending parties of men ashore to make sure sailors ashore behaved themselves.

The Napoleonic War was ended by the Treaty of Fontainebleu, signed by the parties on 11th April 1814. In April 1816, the ship was refitted again, this time to act as the Victualling Vesel for the fleet base at Spithead and as accommodation for Dockyard officials and visitors. HMS Prince remained in this role until she was broken up at Portsmouth in November 1837.
"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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