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Author Topic: HMS Osprey (1797 - 1813)  (Read 3333 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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Re: HMS Osprey (1797 - 1813)
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2018, 18:54:36 »
Please see my PM. Don't want to take the thread off-topic or we'll get told off :)
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline Speedwell

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Re: HMS Osprey (1797 - 1813)
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2018, 21:45:51 »
Would you happen to know if a James Lesingham (born 1779) served as Second Lieutenant on HMS Osprey? 

He is my seven times great grandfather, and family history notes accompanying a miniature portrait of James Lesingham (engraved with the date 1802) state that he served in the Battle of the Nile with Nelson, was a Second Lieutenant on HMS Osprey, later achieved the rank of Admiral, migrated to Barbados in the West Indies, owned "Bath Estate" plantation in Barbados, his children and their descendants were born in Barbados, and he was said to have died from drowning while boating.

Offline StuarttheGrant

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  • Poynter House a long way from Dover.
Re: HMS Osprey (1797 - 1813)
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2015, 21:59:22 »
My word Bilgerat what a cracking tale.
 "The two vessels fought it out at point blank range for an hour and 20 minutes until L'Egyptienne broke off the action and made off", this statement alone tells us what superb men were in the Royal Navy.
Great story.


Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Osprey (1797 - 1813)
« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2015, 23:36:12 »
HMS Osprey was an 18 gun ship-sloop built under contract for the Royal Navy by Thomas Pitcher at his shipyard in Northfleet on the south bank of the River Thames. Designed by Sir William Rule, Co-Surveyor of the Navy, HMS Osprey was a one-off; the only vessel built to that design.

The term 'Sloop' was short for 'sloop of war' and was used to describe an ocean-going warship carrying less than the 20 guns required for her to be included in the Royal Navy's rating system. Because they were unrated, sloops were usually commanded by an officer with a substantive rank of Lieutenant, appointed to the post of Master and Commander in her. This position was abbreviated to 'Commander', although the rank of Commander did not yet exist as it does today. The position of Master and Commander combined the roles of Sailing Master and Commanding Officer and an officer in such a position in a sloop was paid substantially more than a Lieutenant's wages, in addition to receiving the lions share of any Prize or Head Money. If he was successful, a Commander would be 'Posted', or promoted to Captain and given command of a rated vessel, or, would be promoted to Captain while still in command of the sloop. If a war should end and he was laid off before he was posted, a Commander would revert to his substantive rank of Lieutenant and receive half-pay accordingly. For this reason, sloops tended to be commanded by ambitious young men anxious to prove themselves.

A ship-sloop was so called because she was ship-rigged, that is that she had three masts with square sails fitted on all three masts. HMS Osprey was unusual for a ship sloop in that she was flush-decked. Ship sloops usually had gundecks partly enclosed by a quarterdeck aft and a forecastle forward, but HMS Osprey carried her main guns on her upper deck, out in the open. The vessel was originally designed as a brig-sloop, with two masts, but before her construction began, the design was changed to give her a ship rig with three.

HMS Osprey was ordered from Thomas Pitcher on 15th March 1797 and her first keel section was laid sometime in May of that year. The ship was launched, her hull fully complete on 7th October 1797 and after her launch, she was taken from Northfleet to the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich where she was fitted with her guns, masts and rigging. Construction at Northfleet cost £4,772 and fitting her out at Woolwich added £4,690 to the bill for the ship. HMS Osprey was declared complete on 18th December 1797 and she commissioned at Woolwich with Mr John Watts appointed as Master and Commander in her.

Plans of HMS Osprey:

Berth and Main Deck plans:

Inboard profile and plan:

Framing Plan:

Sheer Plan and Lines. This plan shows the alterations in her rig. The original positions of her masts when brig-rigged are in black. The alteration to a ship-rigged vessel are in red:

If you look carefully at the plan above, you will see a small square port between each of her gunports. This port is for a sweep, or a large oar. The sweeps were used as a last resort when manoeuvring the vessel in windless conditions. Also, if you look at the astern view, you will see that there are a pair of empty gunports over the stern. These could be filled with either one of her 32pdr carronades or one of her 6pdr long guns.

On completion, HMS Osprey was a ship of 385 tons. She was 102ft long on her main deck and 80ft 5in long at her keel.She was 29ft 11in wide across her beam. Her hold between her orlop and her bottom was 12ft 9in deep. She drew 7ft of water at the bow and 10ft 5in at the rudder. She was armed with 16 32pdr carronades on her main deck and 2 6pdr long guns in her bow. In addition to these, she also carried around a dozen half-pounder swivel guns attached to her main deck bulwarks and in her fighting tops. Her armament of carronades actually gave her a ferocious short-range broadside, heavier in fact than the nominal armament of an 18pdr armed 36 gun frigate. All that firepower was delivered on a hull a third of the size of that of the frigate and manned by only half the crew. She was manned by a crew of 121 officers, men and boys.

John Watts was the uncle of the painter John Constable, had sailed with Captain Cook on his third voyage of exploration in HMS Resolution as a Midshipman and had been promoted to Lieutenant at the end of 1781. At the end of the American War of Independence in 1784, Watts had been laid off on half pay and in 1787, sailed to Australia as a passenger in the convict ship Lady Penrhyn as part of the so-called 'First Fleet'. This was so-called because it carried the first load of convicts to the then new colony at Botany Bay. After dropping off the convicts, the Lady Penrhyn sailed on to Tahiti before returning to the UK via Macao. Watts was re-employed by the Royal Navy at the outbreak of the French Revolutionary War in 1793 and was first appointed Master and Commander in the storeship HMS Prince Frederick in 1797. This vessel was formerly the Dutch 64 gun ship of the line Prinz Frederik, but after her capture in 1796, was found to be unsuitable for front line service in the Royal Navy. His appointment before HMS Osprey was the 14 gun brig-sloop HMS Hope. He was old for his rank and was aged 42 when he took command of HMS Osprey.

Commander John Watts:

For the first few years of her career, HMS Osprey was mainly employed on convoy escort duty and in that role, she escorted convoys of merchant vessels to places as far away as the Cape of Good Hope. She had a quiet time until March 1801, when Commander Watts died aboard the ship from natural causes. He was replaced in June 1801 by Commander George Irwin, who's previous appointment had been in the 16 gun ship-sloop HMS Stork. He remained in command for about a year until he was replaced by Commander George Younghusband. Commander Younghusband's previous appointment had been in the 14 gun brig-sloop HMS Drake. Once Commander Younghusband had been appointed, the ship was sent to the Caribbean.

On 21st June 1803, HMS Osprey was part of a fleet commanded by Commodore Samuel Hood, the younger cousin of the much more famous Samuel, Lord Hood, flying his command Broad Pendant in the 74 gun ship of the line HMS Centaur. At about 11am, the fleet arrived in Choc Bay, St Lucia and began to land troops under the command of Lt.General Grinfield. By 22nd June, the island had fallen and the force moved on to Tobago, departing on 25th and arriving on 31st. The enemy garrison holding Tobago surrendered the following day. By the end of September 1803, the Dutch colonies of Demerera, Essequibo and Berbice were also captured by Commodore Hood and his force, including the little HMS Osprey.

On 26th October 1803, HMS Osprey was patrolling off Trinidad when she sighted and began to chase a strange sail towards the land. On closing the range, the wind died off completely and the strange vessel ran out sweeps and began to be pulled away under oars. Commander Younghusband concluded that the strange vessel was an enemy privateer and sent a boarding party in the ship's boats after the enemy. The raid was to be commanded by HMS Osprey's First Lieutenant, Mr Robert Henderson. Lieutenant Henderson placed himself in the fastest of HMS Osprey's boats, her 25ft cutter and very quickly this boat began to pull ahead of the others. Mr Henderson became concerned that if he waited for the others to catch up, their target would escape, so he resolved to carry out the attack with just his boat and the 17 men in it. Under a heavy fire from the enemy, by now identified as the privateer schooner Le Resource, Lieutenant Henderson and his men charged to the attack and captured the enemy vessel, killing two and wounding 12 of Le Resource's 43 man crew. Mr Henderson and four of his men were wounded in the attack. The following day, the French privateer Mima was also captured in a boat action by HMS Osprey's men.

On 23rd March 1804, HMS Osprey was patrolling off the Windward Islands, when she sighted and chased a vessel which turned out to be the frigate-built French privateer L'Egyptienne of 36 guns. Undeterred by the difference in size, Commander Younghusband had no doubts at all about his ship or his men and knew that, at close range at least, his small ship could outgun the much larger French vessel. The Egyptienne had three merchant vessels in company. The French commander, Captain Placiard waited until HMS Osprey was within hailing distance before he opened fire. Unfortunately, he had not reckoned with HMS Osprey's massive broadside of 32pdr carronades and as soon as the Frenchman opened fire, Commander Youghusband unleashed his own broadside. The two vessels fought it out at point blank range for an hour and 20 minutes until L'Egyptienne broke off the action and made off. It soon became clear that the Frenchman had the edge in performance and HMS Osprey's officers and men had no choice but to watch their pretty much beaten opponent make off into the night. What was remarkable about this action was that the French ship was almost three times the size of HMS Osprey and carried more than twice as many men. Although HMS Osprey was much cut up in her sails and rigging, she only sustained casualties of one dead and 16 wounded. The Frenchman however suffered eight dead and 19 wounded and had been badly damaged in her hull, masts, sails and rigging. This episode clearly demonstrates the attitude prevalent in the Royal Navy at the time. Here was an organisation at the peak of it's effectiveness, where it's commanders and crews were unafraid to take on opponents which on paper at least, they should stay well away from. Two days later, the Egyptienne fell in with the ex-Dutch 16 gun ship-sloop HMS Hippomenes and after a chase lasting 54 hours and a three-hour long running fight, surrendered to the British ship. On being taken, the Egyptienne was found to be formerly the French naval frigate Railleur, which had been sold on to Bordeaux merchants who had decided to use the ship for privateering. She was found to be rotten and over 30 years old. L'Egyptienne was renamed HMS Antigua and was used as a prison hulk at English Harbour in Antigua.

On 6th September 1804, Commander Younghusband was posted and appointed to command the ex-French, 22 gun post-ship HMS Heureux. He was replaced in HMS Osprey by Commander William Henry Byam. She was his first command appointment. On 17th May 1805, Commander Byam had his first success in command when HMS Osprey captured the French privateer schooner Le Teazer of seven guns off the Leeward Islands.

In June 1805, Commander Byam swapped vessels with Commander Timothy Clinch of the 16 gun brig-sloop HMS Busy. On 27th June, HMS Osprey was operating in company with the 18 gun ship-sloop HMS Kingfisher, when the two ships found themselves being chased by two much larger and much more powerful French frigates. Despite making all sail, the two sloops were unable to get away, so they began to make signals to non-existent ships, apparently over the horizon, out of sight of the French ships. This had the desired effect, the two Frenchmen thought the British sloops were signalling to a fleet out of their own sight and gave up the chase. This enabled the two British sloops to fall upon a convoy of 15 enemy merchant ships carrying cargoes of rum, sugar and coffee. By the time HMS Kingfisher and HMS Osprey left the scene, all 15 ships were burning. See here for the story of HMS Kingfisher:

By 1811, HMS Osprey had returned to the UK and was operating in the North Sea. By this time, Clinch had been posted, but remained in command of HMS Osprey. Captain Clinch and his ship were operating in company with the gun-brigs HMS Britomart and HMS Leverit, each of ten guns. On 16th July 1812, Captain Clinch sent a boarding party after a French privateer lugger seen about 27 miles north-east of Heligoland. The boarding party were to use one boat from each of the vessels. After a chase of about two hours, the boats came alongside the Frenchman under fire and after 10 minutes struggling to board the enemy vessel under fire, the raiding party managed to get aboard. After further fighting on the enemy vessel's deck, the French eventually surrendered. The lugger turned out to be L'Eole, out of Dunkerque, pierced for 14 guns but only carrying six and a crew of 31 officers and men. The British suffered two seamen killed and Lieutenant Dixon of HMS Osprey and eleven men wounded.

That was to be the last time HMS Osprey saw any action. The ship was decommissioned in 1813 and was 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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