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Author Topic: HMS Mars (1794 - 1823)  (Read 10548 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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Re: HMS Mars (1794 - 1823)
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2016, 20:08:04 »
Found this gem while looking for something else. HMS Mars at the Battle of Trafalgar by Geoff Hunt.

HMS Mars is the British ship in the centre. Fougueux (74) is the French ship ahead of her while Pluton (74) and Algeciras (74) are the French and Spanish ships to the left. In the background is HMS Tonnant (80) coming up to support.
"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 Mars (1794 - 1823)
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2015, 19:48:46 »
In order to get around the 30,000 character limit on posts, I've had to post this in four parts. This is part one and deals with the design, construction and launch of HMS Mars and her part in the action known as Cornwallis' Retreat

HMS Mars was a large type, 74 gun third rate ship of the line built at the Royal Dockyard at Deptford, then in the County of Kent, on the south bank of the River Thames. She was the lead ship of a class of two. The other ship in the class, HMS Centaur, was built at the Woolwich Royal Dockyard. HMS Mars was to go on to have an action-packed career, which was to see not one, but two of her captains killed in action.

The 74 gun, third rate ship of the line was by far the most numerous of the worlds ships of the line. At the time the ship was built, the Royal Navy was larger than the rest of the worlds navies combined and there were more 74 gun ships in the Royal Navy than all the other kinds of ship of the line put together. The 74 gun third rate ship was the smallest ship able to carry a full battery of 28 or 30 32pdr long guns. It offered the best compromise between speed and agility on one hand and sheer strength and firepower on the other. The Large Type were not so-called because of their size, although some were almost the same size as a first rate ship, but because they carried a battery of 24pdr long guns on their upper gundecks rather than the 18pdrs carried by the slightly smaller and less powerful Common and Middling types.

Designed by Sir John Henslow, then Co-Surveyor of the Navy, HMS Mars' design was based on the earlier and highly successful Elizabeth Class of 74 gun third rate ships. Designed by Sir Thomas Slade, the Elizabeth Class themselves were based on one of Slade's earlier designs, the Bellona Class. The lead ship of the Bellona Class was the prototype of the Common Type of 74 gun ship and had been built at the Royal Dockyard, Chatham almost thirty years before.

See here for the story of HMS Bellona:

HMS Mars was to gain a well-deserved reputation as being one of the fastest and most agile of all the Royal Navy's third rate ships, with an performance in all weather conditions which would put many of the supposedly faster and more agile frigates to shame.

On 17th January 1788, Mr Martin Ware, Master Shipwright in the Kings Dockyard at Deptford received a package by courier from the offices of the Navy Board in London. The package contained a letter signed by the Comptroller of the Navy Board instructing him to cause to be set up on a slipway in the Kings Dock Yard at Deptford, a ship of the line of 74 guns according to the enclosed drafts and specifications. The drawings in 1/48 scale or an inch to four feet, were passed to the shipwrights in the Mould Loft who would expand them to full size in chalk on the floor. The full sized drawings were used to build moulds or templates from thin cheap wood to be taken to the saw pits and used to mark out and cut the timbers to be used in the construction of the ship.

The end of the American War of Independence in 1784 had seen large scale job losses in all the Royal Dockyards except Chatham, which was undergoing a process of rebuilding following a century of neglect. Shipwrights, even in wartime, were particularly difficult to recruit into the Royal Dockyards because commercial shipyards offered better pay. In peacetime Deptford Royal Dockyard was not alone in suffering with a chronic shortage of shipwrights. For this reason, it was to be October before the first keel section was to be laid on a slipway at Deptford. On 23rd October 1788, instructions were received from the Admiralty that the new ship was to be named 'Mars'.

The following summer saw the French Revolution and the sequence of events which led to the declaration of war and the starting of the French Revolutionary War on 1st February 1793. Up till then, construction had proceeded slowly. The bulk of the fleet, including many ships of the line, was laid up. The Spanish Armaments Crisis in 1790 had caused the fleet to be mobilised, but HMS Mars was still in the early stages of her construction at that time. Her frames were all in place, but the ship had been covered in scaffolding and tarpaulins to enable the frames to settle and the hull and deck planking was not yet installed.

The declaration of war saw the project accelerated and the ship was launched with all due ceremony into the River Thames on Saturday 24th October 1794. After her launch, HMS Mars was fitted with guns, masts and rigging at Deptford, where she also took aboard the many tons of stores and her crew.

On completion, HMS Mars was a ship of 1,852 tons. She was 176ft long on her upper gundeck and 144ft 1in long along her keel. She was 49ft 2in wide across the beams and her hold was 20ft deep. Fully loaded, the ship drew 12ft 7in of water at the bow and 17ft 5in at the rudder. She was armed with 28 32pdr long guns on her lower gundeck, 30 24pdr long guns on her upper gundeck, 12 9pdr long guns on her quarterdeck and 4 9pdr long guns on her forecastle. The ship was also fitted with a pair of 32pdr carronades each on the forecastle and quarterdeck, together with 6 24pdr carronades on the poop deck. In addition to these, she carried a dozen half-pounder swivel guns attached to her quarterdeck and forecastle handrails and in her fighting tops. This means that although officially established as a third rate ship of the line of 74 guns, she actually carried 84. She was manned by a crew of 640 officers, men, boys and Royal Marines. Her construction and fitting out had cost 50,270.

Plans of HMS Mars

Orlop Plan:

Lower Gundeck Plan:

Upper Gundeck Plan:

Quarterdeck and Forecastle Plan:

Inboard Profile and Plan:

Sheer Plan and Lines:

HMS Mars Model, Port Quarter View:

HMS Mars Model, Starboard Bow View:

HMS Mars Model, Broadside View:

The same model, showing details of the figurehead:

In November 1794, the ship commissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain Charles Cotton. The Channel Fleet was at the time under the command of the highly respected and experienced Admiral Richard, the Lord Howe. Captain Cotton was an experienced combat veteran and like many of his contemporaries, had cut his teeth during the American War of Independence and had been laid off on half pay at the end of that war. Recalled to service after the French declaration of war in 1793, he had commanded the 74 gun ship HMS Majestic at the Battle of the Glorious First of June where he had been one of those snubbed by Lord Howe after his ship had failed to engage the enemy until right at the end of the battle. He had slightly redeemed himself at the end of the battle when his ship had captured the magnificent French 80 gun two-decker Sans Pareil.

See here for the story of HMS Majestic:

At the beginning of 1795, Lord Howe retired from his postion of Commander-in-Chief Channel Fleet and was replaced by his second-in-command, Vice-Admiral Sir Alexander Hood, the Lord Bridport. Lord Bridport flew his command flag in the 100 gun first rate ship of the line HMS Royal George.

See here for the story of HMS Royal George:

On 30th May 1795, HMS Mars sailed from Spithead as part of the squadron commanded by Vice-Admiral the Honourable Sir William Cornwallis, who was flying his command flag in the 100 gun first rate ship of the line HMS Royal Sovereign. In addition to HMS Royal Sovereign and HMS Mars, the squadron also comprised the 74 gun ships HMS Triumph, HMS Bellerophon and HMS Brunswick, together with the 18pdr armed 38 gun frigate HMS Phaeton, the 12pdr armed 32 gun frigate HMS Pallas and the 18 gun brig-sloop HMS Kingfisher. At 10am on 8th June, the squadron sighted the Penmarcks and half an hour later, HMS Triumph signaled the flagship that she had spotted six sails. It was quickly established that the strange vessels were a French convoy. At noon, the French, having realised that the oncoming ships were British, made towards Belle Isle and the protection of the powerful shore batteries overlooking the harbour there. At 2pm, HMS Triumph, HMS Phaeton and HMS Kingfisher had closed the range sufficiently to open fire on the enemy. The three ships, acting without the support of the rest of the squadron, were unable to prevent the French from getting into the harbour at Belle Isle, but at 4pm, sighted and chased two French frigates, one of which was towing a large, captured British merchant ship. After the tow was cast off, the two French ships were chased all the way into the harbour by HMS Triumph and her two smaller consorts, the British ships exchanging fire with the shore batteries as they got within range. HMS Triumph and HMS Phaeton broke off the chase due to the dangerously shallow water and rejoined the squadron. The squadron departed Belle Isle to escort what prizes they had captured back to Torbay.

News reached Vice-Admiral Villaret de Joyeuse, commanding the French Atlantic Fleet that a number of his ships were trapped at Belle Isle and were being blockaded by Cornwallis and his ships. M. Villaret set out with his entire fleet in order to break the blockade and rescue his ships. On 12th June, Villaret and his fleet, comprising nine ships of the line, including the massive 120 gun ship Peuple, departed for Belle Isle and on 15th, met up with the ships which had been stuck in Belle Isle. The French officer commanding those ships, Rear-Admiral Vence, had concluded that he was not being blockaded and left Belle Isle without waiting for the rest of the fleet to come and relieve him. Villaret's fleet now comprised eleven 74 gun ships in addition to the 120 gun Peuple. At 10:30 am on 16th June near the Penmarcks on their way back to Brest, the French discovered Cornwallis' squadron, by now making their way back to Belle Isle. At 11am, realising that he was outnumbered by the French, Cornwallis turned away from the enemy and ordered his ships to make all sail. The British squadron formed a line of battle in the following order:

HMS Brunswick, HMS Royal Sovereign, HMS Bellerophon, HMS Triumph and HMS Mars.

See here for the story of HMS Triumph:

At 9am the following morning, the British discovered that not only had the French caught up with them in the night, but they had formed into three divisions in order to envelop and surround them.

At 9am, the leading French ship, the Zele, opened fire on HMS Mars from astern. HMS Mars which was briging up the rear of the squadron's line. HMS Mars also found herself being engaged from astern by one of the large French frigates. Captain Cotton ordered that his gunners return fire, which meant moving four of the heavy 32pdr lower gundeck long guns from their normal broadside gunports to the stern chase gunports, in the stern of the ship. This was no mean feat as these guns, with their carriages, weighed in the order of three tons each.  At 13:00, the Zele had had her main topgallant mast shot away and other damage forced her to back off and her place was taken by the next ship in the French line. By this time, HMS Mars had suffered severe damage in her rigging and her sails were in shreds. She was in danger of beign surrounded and overwhelmed by the enemy. Cornwallis signalled Captain Cotton to alter course to starboard and away from the enemy while Cornwallis brought HMS Royal Sovereign and HMS Triumph in support. The manoeuvre was skillfully executed by all concerned and between them, HMS Triumph and HMS Royal Sovereign drove off the French force which was about to overwhelm and capture HMS Mars.

The tracks of the ships during the action now known as Cornwallis' Retreat, taken from The Naval Chronicle:

In the action, HMS Mars had been the most heavily damaged of the British ships. Her main mast and her main and fore topsail yards had been damaged as had all of her standing rigging. HMS Mars' crew had not sustained any fatalities, but 12 men had been wounded. AT about 18:10, the French fleet ceased firing and bore away. They had been in a position to overwhelm Cornwallis' squadron, which they outnumbered three to one. Cornwallis had been lucky in that the French had fallen for a trick. He had sent HMS Phaeton ahead at the beginning of the action and at a distance of some miles, Captain Robert Stopford of HMS Phaeton followed his orders and hoisted a number of signals, one after the other, indicating that she had sighted the main body of Lord Bridport's fleet. Knowing that the frigate's signals could be understood by the French, Captain Stopford then hoisted a signal, as if to the imginary fleet out of sight of the French ships; "Enemy in Sight". This convinced Villaret that he was about to have a full-on confrontation with the British Channel Fleet.

Cornwallis' Retreat by Thomas Luny shows HMS Royal Sovereign in action. HMS Mars is one of the ships in the background:

After the action, Cornwallis took his squadron back to Plymouth. By a sheer coincidence, Lord Bridport had taken the Channel Fleet to sea and they and the French fleet met in the inconclusive Battle of Ile Groix on 23rd June.

On 20th February, Captain Cotton was promoted to Rear-Admiral and left the ship. His place in HMS Mars was taken by Captain Sir Alexander Hood. Captain Hood was the namesake and younger cousin of the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Bridport. His previous appointment had been in command of the first rate ship of the line HMS Ville de Paris of 110 guns.

See here for the story of HMS Ville de Paris:
"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 Mars (1794 - 1823)
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2015, 19:46:42 »
Part Two - The Great Mutiny at Spithead and the capture of L'Hercule

By the beginning of 1797, disaffection with their lot had spread amongst the sailors of the Channel Fleet and during routine movements of men between ships, plans had been laid to do something about it. A petition was raised and was sent to Lord Howe, whom the men greatly trusted and respected. Howe, in turn, asked Rear-Admiral Lord Seymour to investigate whether or not the men were really that unhappy and Seymour reported back that this was not the case. Howe came to regard the petition as being the work of troublemakers and decided to ignore it, but sent a copy of it to Lord Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty anyway. The men, on receiving no response from Lord Howe decided to put their plan into action and the men of HMS Royal George were to begin what became known as the Great Mutiny at Spithead. On 15th April, Viscount Bridport gave the order for the Channel Fleet to put to sea. Instead of weighing the anchors, the men of HMS Royal George (100) ran into the rigging and gave three cheers. This was the signal for the mutiny to begin and as one, the men of every ship in the Channel Fleet refused to weigh anchor as ordered. The captains and officers of the Channel Fleet were astonished at this unified act of disobedience and regardless of what was threatened, the men stood firm. On 16th April, the ships companies of the fleet each elected two delegates and agreed that meetings should take place in the Admirals quarters on HMS Queen Charlotte. The following day, all the men of the fleet were sworn to support the cause and ropes were hung from the yards of the ships as a signal that the men meant business. Officers regarded as being overly oppressive were ordered ashore. On the same day, two petitions were drawn up, one for the Admiralty and one for Parliament. The petitions contained the men's demands, which were:

1) that the 'pursers pound' (14 ounces instead of 16) be abolished and that their provisions be increased to the full 16 ounce pound.
2) that their wages be increased (up to this point, the sailors of the Royal Navy had not had a pay rise for over a century)
3) that vegetables instead of flour be served with beef
4) that the sick be better attended to and that their necessities not be embezzled
5) that the men, on returning from sea, be given a short period of shore leave to visit their families.
6) that certain named officers be withdrawn from sea service on account of their cruelty and/or incompetence.
7) that an Act of Indemnity be passed by the Parliament
8) that they would not weigh anchor unless either the French were directly threatening the UK or until their demands were met.

The Great Mutiny is so-called because the sailors refused to obey orders to put to sea. The ringleaders of the Mutiny were clearly intelligent men with an eye on the public perception of their acts. They decided that only the Channel Fleet's ships of the line would be affected. Frigates and smaller vessels were still needed to escort convoys past the dangers presented by French naval units and privateers, so their crews continued with their duties as normal. In addition, the mutineers announced that although they were refusing to put to sea, they would return to duty if the French appeared off the coast. All other aspects of naval discipline were maintained. 'Mutiny' is defined as a deliberate refusal to obey orders and in that sense, the Great Mutiny meets the narrowest definition of the word. In it's effects however, the Great Mutiny was actually more akin to a strike over pay and conditions. The mutineers were what would today be called 'media savvy' in that they did not give the Government anything which could be used to turn public opinion against them.

The delegates elected by HMS Mars' men were Thomas Allen and James Blythe, both experienced Able Seamen with no history of excessive punishments and who had no axe to grind. The men were vary careful to avoid any conflict with their officers to spill over into violence. There was an incident during the Mutiny which did descend to violence, but it was nothing to do with HMS Mars or her crew. In fact, Captain Hood sympathised with his men and although he did not agree with their actions, he did support their aims. After the incident aboard HMS London when Vice-Admiral Colpoys attempted to force the crew of his flagship back to duty and which resulted in one of the ships delegates being killed, all the officers were put ashore.

Eventually, Lord Howe came out of retirement. He was hugely respected by the Government, the Admiralty and the men. If anyone could settle the dispute, he could. Discussions went back and forth for a month until Lord Howe returned from London on 14th May bringing with him the requested Act of Parliament and having been granted the authority to settle the dispute. In addition, Lord Howe brought with him a Royal Proclamation of a pardon for all involved in the Mutiny. The Act of Parliament basically granted all the men's requests. At 10:00 on 16th May, the Great Mutiny at Spithead finally ended when the ships of the Channel Fleet at Spithead put to sea.

On 20th June 1797, Captain Hood ordered that 172 Landsmen aboard the ship be promoted to Ordinary Seaman. For the men involved, this was a huge step. Landsman was the lowest rank aboard the ship and those men were regarded as being unskilled labourers. The promotions ordered by Captain Hood were a recognition that those men had proved themselves since they had been in the ship and their actions at Spithead served to reinforce the view that they were all of one company and that they could all be counted on when it mattered. In addition to this, Hood appointed James Blyth as a Midshipman. This was extraordinary. Blythe had been one of the two delegates and had been seen as one of the ringleaders of the Mutiny in HMS Mars. By bringing Mr Blythe under his patronage and therefore into the Hood 'family' with all the benefits which came with it, the captain was demonstrating that he did not hold a grudge and the promotion served to establish a bond between commander and crew.

Things were not however all good. On 25th June, Ordinary Seaman William Price with three others attempted to start a new mutiny over the issue of prize money. They wanted a more equal distribution of any money earned by the ship when they captured or destroyed enemy ships. The rest of the crew were having none of this. Hood's earlier actions had ensured his men's absolute loyalty and Price's attempt to start a new mutiny ended abruptly when other crew members reported him. The four men were arrested and sent ashore to await Court Martial. In response to this, the crew of HMS Mars wrote a letter to Captain Hood apologising for the actions of their shipmates. Those who could sign it did and those who couldn't made their mark. The remarkable thing about this is that the entire crew of the ship signed the letter.

The issue of shore leave was not addressed by the Admiralty themselves, they delegated the decision of whether or not to allow shore leave to individual captains and Hood was one of those who decided to allow it. In every walk of life there are those who push their luck and the crew of HMS Mars was no different. Undoubtedly after several warnings, in early 1798 Captain Hood began to order that men who overstayed their shore leave be flogged.

At the beginning of 1798 Lord Bridport decided to split the Channel Fleet into a number of detachments to cruise in areas he considered the French were likely to be found. On 25th January, 12 ships of the line and three frigates under Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Thompson in the second rate ship HMS Formidable (98) were sent on a cruise in the Bay of Biscay. On 9th April a further detachment of six ships of the line and three frigates under Rear-Admiral Sir Roger Curtis in the second rate ship HMS Prince (98) were sent to cruise in the Western Approaches off Ireland.

See here for the story of HMS Prince:

On 12th April, Lord Bridport himself put to sea with the rest of the fleet including HMS Mars, for a cruise off Brest. At about 11:00 on 21st April while the fleet was standing across the Iroise Passage, HMS Mars was in company with HMS Ramillies (74) and two frigates when they sighted two strange sails about 12 miles away. The ships immediately gave chase and at about 14:00 the strangers were ascertained to be enemy ships. At that point, a third, much larger vessel was seen about 15 miles away, working along the shore towards Brest. The British decided that this new stranger was a preferable target, so at about 17:45 HMS Mars, HMS Ramillies together with the 18pdr armed 38 gun frigate HMS Jason gave chase under all sail. At 18:20, the fore-topmast on HMS Ramillies collapsed under the strain and that ship was forced to drop out. By this time, the main body of the fleet was about 10 miles away. HMS Mars managed to overtake HMS Jason and gain on the stranger, now identified as a French ship of the line. At about 19:30, the enemy ship made an attempt to escape through the Passage du Raz and HMS Mars altered course to follow. At 20:30, the enemy vessel, now identified as L'Hercule of 74 guns found herself due south of the Bec du Raz and was unable to make headway against the strong current. Her captain, M. Louis L'Heritier decided that he would be unable to escape and that he would stand and fight where he was. He ordered that his ship anchor. He was still about 20 miles from safety. He used anchor cables fore and aft to work his ship into the best position to be able to fight off the fast-approaching British Seventy-four. At 20:45, HMS Mars, by now almost out of sight of HMS Jason shortened sail and at 21:15, the Frenchman opened fire. HMS Mars immediately returned fire and Captain Hood realised that he would not be able to fight L'Hercule while his ship was still under way due to the strong current. He decided to allow his ship to run ahead of the enemy, anchor and then allow the current to drive him onto the French ship. As she dropped back, the anchor on HMS Mars' port side became entangled with the anchor on L'Hercule's starboard bow and with the ships literally rubbing together, the two ships engaged each other. So close was the range that a number of HMS Mars' gunport lids were torn off and the gunners were unable to run out the guns, firing them through the gunports with the guns still inside the ship. Because the range was so close, neither ship suffered any damage to masts, spars or rigging. Early on in the action, Captain Hood was shot in the thigh, the bullet severing the femoral artery. Under protest, Captain Hood was carried below and command devolved to the First Lieutenant, Mr William Butterfield. L'Hercule had had two attempts at boarding repulsed with heavy loss of life, so that by 22:30, they indicated their surrender. L'Hercule's starboard side was a total mess. Her side was riddled with shot-holes from one end to the other and in many parts, the planking between the gunports had been totally stoved in. Of her crew of 680 men, L'Hercule had sustained casualties of 290 killed or wounded. Tragically, Captain Sir Alexander Hood died from his wound, but not before he had received the sword of the surrendering French captain. In addition to Captain Hood, Captain Joseph White of the Royal Marines, fifteen seamen and four Royal Marines were killed. Amongst the dead was also the Midshipman who Captain Hood had promoted from the lower deck, Mr James Blythe. In addition to the dead, a further four seamen and five Royal Marines were missing. In addition to the dead, Mr George Argles (third lieutenant), Mr George Arnold Ford (fifth lieutenant), Mr Midshipman Thomas Southey, thirty-six seamen, both Royal Marine sergeants, and one Royal Marine drummer were wounded.

HMS Mars vs L'Hercule, by Nicholas Pocock:

Another view of the same action:

L'Hercule was subsequently taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Hercule. She had been on her maiden voyage when she had encountered HMS Mars and despite being brand new, required refitting and repairs costing 12,500 before she could put to sea under British colours. Lieutenant Butterfield was appointed Master and Commander in the ship-sloop HMS Hazard of 16 guns as a reward for his actions. Until 26th April however, he remained temporarily in command of HMS Mars until he was replaced in command by Captain George James Shirley.

See here for the story of HMS Hazard:

Captain Shirley was only in command for three months until he was replaced by Captain John Manley in July 1798.

On 11th February 1799, the 18pdr armed 38 gun frigate HMS Naiad broke free from her mooring in Cawsand Bay off Plymouth during a gale and ended up running aground on the West Mud in the Hamoaze. Although the ship was floated off undamaged later on, whilst adrift and out of control, she had collided with HMS Mars. For that reason, Admiral Sir Richard King, the port admiral at Plymouth issued orders that frigates were in future only to anchor in Plymouth Sound and that only ships of the line were to anchor in Cawsand Bay.

April 1799 saw the ship taking part in the blockade of Brest as flagship of Rear-Admiral the Honourable George Cranfield Berkeley. On 16th April, the squadron chased a French convoy into Brest and on the following day, Berkeley's squadron was relieved on station by the arrival of Lord Bridport in HMS Royal George with five or six other ships of the line. On 25th, Lord Bridport looked into Brest before heading towards Brest with the fleet. That evening, the French Vice-Admiral Bruix put to sea with a fleet of four first rate ships, two ships each of 80 guns and nineteen ships of 74 guns. Lord Bridport learned of this and returned to Brest with the fleet to discover that the reports were true. The French had put to sea in numbers and he had no idea where they were. The British eventually figured out that the French were bound to the Mediterranean and on 1st June, Lord Bridport sent Rear-Admiral Sir Alan Gardner with 16 ships of the line to the Mediterranean to reinforce the Mediterranean Fleet then under Sir John Jervis, the Earl St Vincent. News had also reached Lord Bridport of a Spanish squadron having put into the French port of Rochefort. Lord Bridport decided that he would make sure they stayed there, so with his remaining ten ships of the line including HMS Mars, headed for the Basque Road, off Rochefort. On 4th June, Lord Bridport's force arrived, but on 8th, Lord Bridport returned to the UK in HMS Royal George, accompanied by HMS Atlas (98), HMS Achille (74) and HMS Agincourt (64).

See here for the story of HMS Achille:

This left the blockading force off Rochefort as HMS Mars (flagship) together with HMS Venerable, HMS Renown, HMS Ajax, HMS Ramillies and HMS Robust (all of 74 guns). A few days later, the force was joined by the ex-French HMS Sans Pareil (80) and on 1st July, HMS Royal George returned as flagship of Vice-Admiral Charles Pole along with the bomb vessels HMS Sulphur, HMS Explosion and HMS Volcano. It was considered that the operation only needed one flag-officer, so Rear-Admiral Berkeley returned to the UK in HMS Mars in company with Ramillies.

On 12th July 1799, HMS Mars arrived back in Plymouth and the following day, Captain Manley left the ship to take up a new appointment in command of the 98 gun second rate ship HMS Windsor Castle.

See here for the story of HMS Windsor Castle:

Captain Manley's replacement in HMS Mars was Captain John Monkton, whose previous appointment had been in the 98 gun second rate ship of the line HMS Formidable.

HMS Mars' career was uneventful for the next few years. In January 1801 both Rear-Admiral Berkeley and Captain Monkton left the ship. HMS Mars became flagship of Rear-Admiral Edward Thornborough and she came under the command of Captain Robert Lloyd.

March of 1802 saw the signing of the Treaty of Amiens, which ended the French Revolutionary War. Six months later, HMS Mars paid off and entered the Royal Dockyard at Plymouth for a refit. This work was completed in April 1803. The work saw the ship spruced up, but the main impact of it was a reorganisation of her quarterdeck and forecastle armaments, which were considerably increased. Her quarterdeck 9pdr long guns were replaced by 12 32pdr carronades and 2 24pdr long guns. The forecastle saw it's armament changed to a pair each of 32pdr carronades and 24pdr long guns. The 24pdr carronades on her poop deck remained unchanged. When the work was finished, HMS Mars was one of the most powerful seventy-fours in the fleet. In March 1803, the ship recommissioned under Captain John Sutton. The following May saw the Peace of Amiens break down and the start of the Napoleonic War. Captain Sutton remained in command until he was promoted to Rear-Admiral and left the ship on 23rd April 1804.

"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 Mars (1794 - 1823)
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2015, 19:32:25 »
Part Three - The lead-up to the Battle of Trafalgar, HMS Mars' part in it and it's aftermath

The next officer to assume command of HMS Mars was Captain George Duff. Captain Duff had been fascinated with ships and the sea all his life. He had first gone to sea after having stowed away on a merchant ship while still a very young boy. He had joined the Royal Navy at the age of 13 in 1777 and had been only 16 when he had passed his examination for Lieutenant. A proud and tough scotsman, George Duff was a strict but scrupulously fair disciplinarian who was highly regarded by his peers as well as his superiors and subordinates. Up until taking command of HMS Mars, he had been a very successful commander and was known by reputation throughout the fleet.

In early 1805, a French fleet under Vice-Admiral Pierre Villeneuve had escaped from Toulon and had led the British Mediterranean Fleet then under Vice-Admiral Sir Horatio, Viscount Nelson on a chase across the Atlantic, around the Caribbean and back. This fleet had encountered a detachment of the Royal Navy's Channel Fleet under Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Calder and had been defeated in the Third Battle of Cape Finisterre and had fled into Ferrol. Escaping from Ferrol, they had headed for the Spanish naval base of Cadiz from where they chased off the blockading force comprising the 98 gun second rate ship HMS Dreadnought flying the command flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Cuthbert Collingwood, and the 74 gun ships HMS Achille and HMS Colossus on 20th August. At midnight, HMS Mars joined COllingwood's squadron and the following day, Collingwood's small force resumed its blockade station off Cadiz. Inside the harbour were 35 French and Spanish ships of the line.

On 22nd August, Collingwood's force was reinforced by four more ships of the line under Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Bickerton. Bickerton was ill, so he shifted his command flag from HMS Queen (98) to the frigate HMS Decade (36) and returned to England to recover his health. On 30th August, Collingwood's force was further reinforced by the arrival of Sir Robert Calder with a force of 18 ships of the line. On 15th September, Nelson left Portsmouth aboard HMS Victory to take command of the fleet and bring the Combined Fleet to action. In company with HMS Victory was the 18pdr armed 36 gun frigate HMS Euryalus and they were joined off Plymouth by HMS Temeraire (98), HMS Ajax (74) and HMS Thunderer (74). The five ships made their way to join Collingwood's fleet off Cadiz and arrived on 28th. Nelson had previously sent HMS Euryalus ahead with orders for Collingwood, appraising Collingwood of his imminent arrival and that no salutes be made or colours hoisted in case the enemy should find out.

The fleet now commanded by Nelson comprised 27 ships of the line. Nelson now hoped to tempt Villeneuve to put to sea. He did this by stationing the frigates HMS Euryalus and HMS Hydra (38) close inshore, supported by a squadron of ships of the line under Rear-Admiral Thomas Louis, flying his command flag in HMS Canopus (80). Also in Louis' squadron were HMS Queen, HMS Spencer (74), HMS Zealous (74) and HMS Tigre (74). Nelson, aware of Captain Duff's reputation, asked him to command the inshore squadron. Duff's place in command of HMS Mars was temporarily taken by Captain Samuel Pym. The rest of Nelson's fleet were kept about 15 miles offshore. By 2nd October, Villeneuve still hadn't taken the bait, Nelson reduced the inshore force further by ordering Rear-Admiral Louis' squadron to go to Gibraltar to take on provisions, leaving Captain Duff's force without heavy support. Later the same day, Rear-Admiral Louis' force fell in with a Swedish merchant ship, out of Cadiz bound for Alicante. The Swedish master informed him that the Combined Fleet intended to sail on the first easterly wind, so he returned to Nelson's fleet on 3rd October with the news. Nelson felt this was a ruse, intended to draw his fleet closer to Cadiz, so the enemy could gain intelligence as to his strength. He ordered Rear-Admiral Louis to proceed to Gibraltar as ordered.

On two occasions on the 4th October, Captain Duff's force was attacked by Spanish gunboats out of Cadiz, but drove off both attacks without damage or casualties. On 7th October, HMS Defiance (74) joined the fleet from England and on the following day, HMS Leviathan rejoined Nelson's fleet. Between 9th and 15th October, Nelson's fleet was joined by HMS Royal Sovereign (100), HMS Belle Isle (74), HMS Africa (64) and HMS Agamemnon (64). Nelson's fleet now comprised 29 ships of the line. On 14th October, Nelson was ordered to send Sir Robert Calder to England to face a Court Martial for his lack of aggression in his action against Villeneuve in the Battle of Cape Finisterre. Calder departed in his flagship, HMS Prince of Wales (98). On 17th October, he was forced to send HMS Donegal (74) to Gibraltar as that ship was running low on provisions. This left his force with 27 ships of the line. This was comprised of three first rate ships of 100 guns or more, four second rate ships, all of 98 guns and 20 third rate ships of which one was of 80 guns, 16 were of 74 guns including HMS Mars and three were of 64 guns. In addition to the ships of the line, his force also had the frigates HMS Euryalus (36), HMS Phoebe (36), HMS Naiad (38) and HMS Sirius (36), the armed schooner HMS Pickle (12) and the cutter HMS Entreprenante (10).

Nelson was expecting his force to be reinforced by still more ships. In fact, he drew up his battle plan based on having some 40 ships of the line available to him. He was fully expecting the enemy to be reinforced by ships from Cartagena, Rochefort and Brest to the extent that they might have as many as 54 or 55 ships available to them. On 10th of October, his battleplan and orders were presented to his captains including Captain Duff of HMS Mars. They were quite simple:

"Thinking it almost impossible to form a fleet of 40 sail of the line into a line of battle, in variable winds, thick weather, and other circumstances which must occur, without such a loss of time, that the opportunity would probably be lost, of bringing the enemy to battle in such a manner as to make the business decisive ; I have therefore made up my mind to keep the fleet in that position of sailing (with the exception of the first and second in command), that the order of sailing is to be the order of battle placing the fleet in two lines of 16 ships each, with an advanced squadron of eight of the fastest sailing two-decked ships : which will always make, if wanted,a line of 24 sail, on whichever line the commander-in-chief may direct. The second in command will, after my intentions are made known to him, have the entire direction of his line, to make the attack upon the enemy, and to follow up the blow until they are captured or destroyed. If the enemy's fleet should be seen to windward in line of battle, and that the two lines and the advanced squadron could fetch them, they will probably be so extended that their van could not succour their rear. I should therefore probably make the second in command's signal, to lead through about the twelfth ship from their rear, or wherever he could fetch, if not able to get so far advanced. My line would lead through about their centre ; and the advanced squadron, to cut through three, or four ships ahead of their centre ; so as to ensure getting at their commander-in-chief, whom every effort must be made to capture. The whole impression of the British fleet must be, to overpower two or three ships ahead of their commander-in-chief (supposed to be in the centre) to the rear of their fleet. I will suppose 20 sail of the enemy's line to be untouched : it must be some time before they could perform a manoeuvre to bring their force compact to attack any part of the British fleet engaged, or to succour their own ships ; which indeed would be impossible without mixing with the ships engaged. The enemy's fleet is supposed to consist of 46 sail of the line : British 40 ; if either is less, only a proportionate number of enemy's ships are to be cut off. British to be one fourth superior to the enemy cut off. Something must be left to chance. Nothing is sure in a sea fight, beyond all others : shot will carry away the masts and yards of friends as well as of foes ; but I look with confidence to a victory before the van of the enemy could succour their rear ; and then that the British fleet would, most of them, be ready to receive their 20 sail of the line, or to pursue them should they endeavour to make off. If the van of the enemy tack, the captured ships must run to leeward of the British fleet ; if the enemy wear, the British must place themselves between the enemy and the captured, and disabled British, ships; and should the enemy close, I have no fear for the result.

The second in command will, in all possible things, direct the movements of his line, by keeping them as compact as the nature of the circumstances will admit. Captains are to look to their particular line, as their rallying point ; but, in case signals cannot be seen or clearly understood, no captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy.

Of the intended attack from to-windward, the enemy in the line of battle ready to receive an attack: The divisions of the British fleet will be brought nearly within gun-shot of the enemy's centre. The signal will most probably then be made, for the three lines to bear up together ; to set all their sails, even their studding-sails, in order to get as quickly as possible to the enemy's line, and to cut through, beginning at the twelfth ship from the enemy's rear. Some ships may not get through their exact place, but they will always be at hand to assist their friends. If any are thrown round the rear of the enemy, they will effectually complete the business of 12 sail of the enemy. Should the enemy wear together, or bear up and sail large, still the 12 ships, composing, in the first position, the enemy's rear, are to be the object of attack of the lee line, unless otherwise directed by the commander-in-chief : which is scarcely to be expected ; as the entire management of the lee line, after the intentions of the commander-in-chief are signified, is intended to be left to the judgment of the admiral commanding that line. The remainder of the enemy's fleet, 34 sail of the line, are to be left to the management of the commander-in-chief ; who will endeavour to take care that the movements of the second in command are as little interrupted as possible."

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. On receiving the report that the enemy were at sea, Nelson recalled Captain Duff to his appointment in HMS Mars.

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 Mars found herself in Collingwood's leeward column, in third place behind the flagship and HMS Belle Isle (74), ahead of HMS Tonnant (80).

At 11:40 am, HMS Mars' senior Midshipman, in charge of signals, reported to Captain Duff the now celebrated signal flying from the fleet flagship - "England expects that every man will do his duty". During the long drawn out approach to the enemy line, Captain Duff had time to write a few lines to his wife:

"Dearest Sophia, I have just time to tell you we are going into Action with the Combined Fleet. I hope and trust in God that we shall all behave as becomes us, and that I may yet have the happiness of taking my beloved wife and children in my arms. Norwich is quite well and happy. I have, however, ordered him off the quarter-deck.
Yours ever, and most truly,


Captain Duff entrusted the letter to his thirteen year-old son, Mr Midshipman Norwich Duff for safekeeping, then ordered the boy to his station on the lower gundeck.

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

Thanks to having been recently refitted and re-coppered, HMS Royal Sovereign surged ahead of the rest of her column and broke through the enemy line of battle astern of the giant Spanish three-decker Santa Ana of 112 guns. The British first rate ship poured a broadside through the Spaniard's open and unprotected stern which felled the ships mizzen and main masts and left the Spanish giant a broken ruin with half her crew dead and wounded. She was followed by HMS Belle Isle, which quickly found herself surrounded by the enemy. As she passed the now crippled HMS Belle Isle, HMS Mars found herself being raked from ahead by fire from the San Juan Nepomuceno (74), Pluton (74), Monarca (74) and Algeciras (74). Captain Duff ordered a course to break the enemy line between the San Juan Nepomuceno and Pluton. The Pluton's commander on guessing Captain Duff's intention, made more sail and pulled ahead, so Captain Duff ordered an alteration, to pass ahead of the San Juan Nepomuceno. As she did so, HMS Mars was followed by the Pluton. By now, HMS Mars' rigging and sails had been cut to pieces, the ship was barely manageable and Captain Duff was forced to order the ship to come head to wind in order to avoid a collision with the giant Santa Ana. This left HMS Mars' stern exposed to the fire of the Algeciras and the Monarca. At this point, HMS Tonnant came up and engaged both the Algeciras and the Monarca. By now, HMS Mars was completely unmanageable and came under a heavy fire from the Fougueux (74). While HMS Mars was engaged against the Fougueux, the Pluton worked her way across her stern and raked the ship from stern to bows. Captain Duff who was leaning over the side of the ship at the break of the quarterdeck shouting encouragement to his lower gundeck gunners was struck at the base of the neck by a round shot from the Pluton which decapitated him and threw his headless body onto the gangway. Two seamen who were standing close behind him were also killed by the same shot. Thankfully, the Fougueux made off towards where HMS Temeraire (98) was supporting HMS Victory and the Pluton made off to support the Spanish Admiral Gravina.

On the death of Captain Duff, command devolved to the first lieutenant, Mr William Hennah.

The tracks of HMS Mars and HMS Tonnant at Trafalgar, taken from The Naval Chronicle:

HMS Mars spent the rest of the battle firing carefully aimed shots into the Algeciras, which by now was entangled with HMS Tonnant.

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 one, the French Achille of 74 guns (not to be confused with the British 74 gun ship of the same name), 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, they often disagreed, but with Nelson being the superior officer, his 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 18 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 Mars 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.

In the rising storm, it became clear that many of the captured ships would would have to be cut adrift, so Collingwood ordered that the leeward-most of the enemy ships, those closest to the Spanish coast be destroyed, to prevent them from being recaptured by the enemy.

In addition to her captain, HMS Mars also suffered Mr Alexander Duff (Masters Mate), Mr Midshipmen Edward Corbyn and Henry Morgan, 17 seamen and 8 Royal Marines killed, with Lieutenants Edward Garrett and James Black, Mr Thomas Cook (Sailing Master), Mr Thomas Norman (Captain of Royal Marines), Mr Midshipman John Young, George Guiren, William John Cook, John Jenkins and Alfred Luckraft, 44 seamen and 16 Royal Marines wounded. In terms of damages, HMS Mars had her spanker boom shot away, all three lower masts, the fore topmast, the fore yard and the main yard badly damaged. The lower fore mast was so badly damaged that later that day, it fell over the side. In addition to this, the main part of her rudder was badly damaged, the stern was badly damaged, much of her poop deck had been destroyed, some of her lower gundeck guns had been knocked over and she had several shot holes in her lower hull.

In accordance with his wishes, Captain Duff was buried at sea along with his dead sailors. A memorial was erected in his honour by a grateful nation in the crypt of St Pauls Cathedral, London, next to the tombs of Nelson and Collingwood.

The memorial to Captain George Duff in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral, London.

On 27th October, Mr Hennah wrote a letter to Captain Duff's widow, Sofia. It read:


I believe that a more unpleasant task, than what is now imposed upon me, can scarcely fall to the lot of a person, whose feelings are not more immediately connected by the nearer ties of kindred, but from a sense of duty, (as first Lieutenant of the Mars,) as being myself the husband of a beloved partner, and the father of children; out of the pure respect and esteem to the memory of our late gallant Captain, I should consider myself guilty of a base neglect, should you only be informed of the melancholy circumstances attending the late glorious, though unfortunate victory to many, by a public gazette. The consequences of such an event, while it may occasion the rejoicings of the nation, will in every instance be attended with the deepest regrets of a few.

Alas! Madam, how unfortunate shall I think myself, should this be the first intimation you may have of the irreparable loss you have met with! what apology can I make for entering on a subject so tender and so fraught with sorrow, but to recommend an humble reliance on this great truth, that the ways of Providence, although sometimes inscrutable, are always for the best.

By this, Madam, you are in all probability acquainted with the purport of my letter. Amongst the number of heroes who fell on that ever-memorable 21st inst. in defence of their King and Country; after gloriously discharging his duty to both; our meritorious and much respected Commander, Captain George Duff, is honourably classed; his fate was instantaneous; and he resigned his soul into the hands of the Almighty without a moment's pain.

Poor Norwich is very well. Captain Blackwood has taken him on board the Euryalas, with the other young gentlemen that came with him, and their schoolmaster.

The whole of the Captain's papers and effects are sealed up, and will be kept in a place of security until proper persons are appointed to examine them. Meanwhile, Madam, I beg leave to assure you of my readiness to give you any information, or render you any service in my power.

And am, Madam, with the greatest respect,
Your most obedient and most humble servant,

Mr Hennah remained in command until the ship returned to Portsmouth in triumph, in December 1805. As a reward for his actions in the Battle of Trafalgar, he was promoted to Captain, though he never went to sea again. William Hennah lived out the rest of his life as a country gentleman in his native Cornwall. He was knighted in 1815 and died in 1832 at home.

The Lloyds Patriotic Fund awarded Sophia Duff a pension for the rest of her life. She died in 1827. Norwich Duff remained in the Royal Navy and went on to have a long and distinguished career of his own. He died a Vice-Admiral in 1862, four months short of his 90th birthday.
"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 Mars (1794 - 1823)
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2015, 19:27:13 »
Part Four - Capture of the Rhin, the Action off Rochefort 25th September 1806, Second Battle of Copenhagen and Service in the Baltic

On the return to Portsmouth, Lieutenant Hennah handed command of HMS Mars to Captain Robert Dudley Oliver. His previous appointment had been in the ex-French 18pdr armed 38 gun frigate HMS Melpomene. The ship then rejoined the Channel Fleet and became part of a squadron commanded by Commodore Richard Goodwin Keats, flying his command broad pendant in the 74 gun third rate ship of the line HMS Superb.

See here for the story of HMS Superb:

Amongst the French survivors of the Battle of Trafalgar which made it to Cadiz after the battle were all the frigates of the Combined Fleet. In February 1806 a force of four French frigates escaped from Cadiz and proceeded first to Senegal, then to Cayenne. From there, they cruised around Barbados for a few weeks then headed to Puerto Rico where they resupplied before heading back to France. The four enemy ships were Hortense, Hermione and Rhin, all of 40 guns and the Themis of 36 guns.

On 18th July 1806, HMS Mars was the leading ship of the squadron when she sighted the four French frigates and relayed her discovery by signal back to the Commodore via HMS Africa (64), which was far astern of her. Crowding on all sail, she gave chase immediately. The French force, sighting the large British vessel coming for them also made all sail. Soon after dark, HMS Mars outran all the squadron and by 23:00, had also lost sight of HMS Africa. Setting a course to intercept, HMS Mars re-sighted the French force the following morning on the same bearing as before. The ship had managed to gain on one of the French frigates, the Rhin. Seeing that the big British ship of the line was actually gaining on one of his frigates, the French commander, Commodore La Marre-la-Mellerie ordered his force to join with the Rhin and form a line of battle. On seeing that HMS Mars was determined to bring them all to action, the French Commodore's courage deserted him and the other three frigates turned about and fled the scene, leaving the Rhin to her fate. At about 18:00, in the middle of a heavy squall of rain, HMS Mars had obtained a position on the Rhin's downwind quarter and fired a warning shot with one of her bow guns. Immediately after that, all HMS Mars' port side gunports opened as one and the guns were run out. At that point, the Rhin hauled down her colours and surrendered.

This incident clearly demonstrates the difference between the Royal Navy and the French Navy at the time. If the situation had been reversed and it had been a force of four British heavy frigates against a single French ship of the the line, the British frigates would not have hesitated in taking on the enemy and given their superiority in numbers, would probably have taken the enemy ship. Even a single British heavy frigate would likely have gone toe to toe against a single enemy ship of the line and would have used her superior agility and given the French ship of the line a mauling before making off. As it was, Captain Oliver and his men had taken a fine French frigate. Owing to the bad weather and the proximity of the rocky French coast, he decided that it may be pushing his luck too far if he continued the pursuit of the rest of the enemy ships. HMS Mars had run so far ahead of the rest of the squadron during the 24 hour chase that it took until the morning of 31st August before the ship was able to rejoin the squadron. The Rhin was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Rhin and served until 1820. In 1838, she was converted to a Lazaretto hulk at Chatham and served as such on the Stangate Creek Quarantine Station until 1871, when she was lent to the Sub-commitee for the Inspection of Shipping on the Thames as a smallpox hospital ship. She continued in this role until she was sold for breaking up in 1884.

Shortly after this action, Captain Oliver handed command of HMS Mars to Captain William Lukin.

By September 1806, HMS Mars was part of a squadron engaged on the blockade of Rochefort. The squadron was commanded by Commodore Sir Samuel Hood. Commodore Hood was the elder brother of HMS Mars' previous commander and flew his command broad pendant in HMS Mars' sister-ship HMS Centaur. Also in the squadron were the 98 gun second rate ship of the line HMS Windsor Castle and the 74 gun third rate ships HMS Achille, HMS Monarch, HMS Revenge and the 16 gun brig-sloop HMS Atalante.

See here for the story of HMS Monarch:

At about 01:00 on 25th September 1806, the squadron was about 20 miles from the Chasseron lighthouse and were heading toward it when HMS Monarch made the signal for enemy in sight. At this time, HMS Mars was in a position off HMS Monarch's starboard bow. Expecting the strangers to be ships of the line, Commodore Hood made ordered the squadron to form a line of battle, but on receiving news that the enemy ships were in fact frigates, this signal was substituted for one ordering a general chase. The enemy ships were in fact a squadron which had escaped the previous evening from Rochefort bound for the Caribbean and consisted of the 40 gun heavy frigates Gloire, Indefatigable, Armide and Minerve, the Themis which had previously escaped HMS Mars and the brig-corvettes Lynx and Sylphe.

As soon as they realised they had been seen, the French force made all sail and headed away. The British force altered course after them. This manoeuvre cause HMS Revenge to fall behind. At about 04:00, HMS Monarch had got to within range of the rearmost of the French frigates, the Armide and began firing with her bow-chasers. This fire was returned by the Armide's stern-chasers. At 06:00, the Indefatigable altered course to the north and was pursued by HMS Mars. The Themis and the brigs headed south and escaped. The Gloire, Armide and Minerve then took positions for mutual support and at about 10:00, all three were engaged by HMS Monarch. In the heavy weather, HMS Monarch was unable to open her lower gundeck gunports and was being outgunned by the three large enemy frigates, to the point where by 10:20, she had been badly damaged and was becoming unmanageable. At 11:00, HMS Centaur had caught up and was able to relieve the pressure on HMS Monarch by engaging the Gloire and the Armide, leaving HMS Monarch to batter the Minerve into surrender. At 11:45, the Armide surrendered to HMS Centaur, while shortly afterwards, the Minerve struck her colours to HMS Monarch. By this time, HMS Mars had caught up with the Indefatigable and had forced that ship to surrender. Facing a force of powerful enemy ships of the line, the Gloire set all sail and fled westward, pursued by HMS Centaur. HMS Mars joined the chase at 14:30 and quickly caught the fleeing enemy frigate, which surrendered at 15:00.

HMS Mars suffered some slight damage to her sails and rigging and was hit eight or ten times in her hull during the Action off Rochefort, but sustained no casualties. Commodore Hood was among the wounded on HMS Centaur. He had been hit in the arm by musket-fire and the arm was so badly shattered that it could not be saved and was amputated. All four frigates were very fine ships indeed and all were taken into the Royal Navy. On examining the ships, it was found that they were each carrying about 400 troops in addition to their normal ships companies plus a huge amount of arms, ammunition and stores. This accounts for why they were unable to outrun a force of British ships of the line.

In the summer of 1807, HMS Mars was part of the fleet sent to the Baltic under Admiral Sir James Gambier. Despite their defeat at the hands of Nelson at the First Battle of Copenhagen in 1800, the Danes still had a powerful navy. Denmark and Norway were, at the time, a unified kingdom and their navy was more than capable of closing the Kattegat and blocking access to the Baltic Sea. In Britain, the demand for timber for the construction and repair of both warships and merchant ships had outstripped supply by an order of magnitude, so the British were dependant on timber being imported from the Baltic region. After December 1806 when Britains ally Prussia had been defeated by the French, Denmark was looking increasingly vulnerable to attack and invasion by the French. The British government had no wish to go to war with Denmark, so they tried to pursuade the Danes to enter into a secret alliance with both Britain and Sweden. Denmark was determined to preserve it's neutrality, so refused the offer. On 14th July 1807, the King gave his permission to send a naval force of 22 ships of the line to the Kattegat to keep a close watch on the Danish fleet and be ready to act swiftly if necessary. On 18th July, the British sent a representative to Denmark to try to pursuade the Danes to hand over their fleet. On the same day, the Admiralty ordered that a force of 50 transport ships and warships including HMS Mars to be gathered and to sail to the Kattegat. The force was to be commanded by Admiral Sir James Gambier.

Admiral Sir James Gambier was an evangelical christian who actively disapproved of the hard-drinking, hard-living lifestyle of many of the sailors of the Royal Navy. As a result, his nickname amongst the fleet was 'Dismal Jimmy'.

On the night of the 21st/22nd July, intelligence reached the British that Napoleon had tried to pursuade Tsar Alexander I of Russia to enter into an alliance with Denmark against the British. In response, the British made an offer to the Danes. In return for a Treaty of Alliance, the British would offer the Danes the protection of the 21 ships in the Kattegat and a subsidy towards the upkeep of a standing army. The British promised to return the Danish ships once the war was over. On 31st July 1807, Napoleon ordered his Foreign Minister, Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord to tell the Danish to prepare for war against Britain or face invasion. Despite all this, Denmark still refused to give up their neutrality. On 15th August, the British gave up trying to pursuade the Danes to hand over their fleet. The die was cast. On 12th August, the Danish frigate Fredriksvaern sailed from the Danish naval base at Elsinor bound for Norway. Admiral Gambier sent HMS Defence (74) and HMS Comus (22) after her and on the 15th, HMS Comus engaged and captured the Danish ship. On 16th August, the British army landed at Vedbaek near Copenhagen and began an artillery bombardment of the city. The British force was commanded by General Sir Arthur wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington). The Danish army was sent to attack the British force. On 29th August, Wellesley defeated the Danes at the Battle of Koge.

The British then issued a Proclamation demanding the handover of the Danish fleet, which was refused. By 2nd September, Copenhagen was encirled by Wellesley's force.

On 22nd and 31st August the Danes attempted to drive off the force of gun brigs and bomb vessels assembling off Copenhagen, but both attacks were repelled. On 1st September, the Danish Commander-in-Chief, Major-General Peiman was summoned to see Admiral Gambier and General the Lord Cathcart to surrender the Danish fleet. In return, the two British Commanders-in-Chief promised to return both the Danish ships and any other captured Danish property after the war. This was met with a firm 'No'.

On 2nd September at 7:30pm, the British opened fire on Copenhagen with everything they had.

The Bombardment of Copenhagen:

The bombardment continued from 2nd September to the 5th and destroyed some 30% of the city, killing some 2000 civilians. On 5th September, the Danes had had enough and offered to surrender. The surrender document was signed by all parties on 7th September. In the surrender agreement, Denmark agreed to hand to the British their entire navy, consisting of 18 ships of the line, 11 frigates, 2 ship-sloops, 7 brig-sloops, 2 gun-brigs, an armed schooner and 26 gunboats. The British army occupied Copehagen and destroyed three 74 gun ships of the line then under construction. For their part British agreed to occupy Copenhagen for no more than six weeks. On 21st October 1807, the last British troops left Copenhagen and the fleet returned to the UK. Despite this, Britain and Denmark remained at war until 1814.

The Bombardment of Copenhagen, also known as the Second Battle of Copenhagen was controversial at the time. The British, after all, had attacked a neutral country without provocation, causing many civilian casualties. The British government's view was that the attack was a necessary evil and was carried out in order to defend British interests in preventing the Danes, for whatever reason, from interfering with British trade in the Baltic Sea.

In 1807, the French concluded the Treaty of Tilset with the former British ally Russia. Tsar Alexander I of Russia did not announce the treaty until October 31st and the news did not reach London until 3rd December. on 18th December, the British made a counter-declaration which ordered reprisals against all Russian ships and goods. Because of the time of year, there was little of any real use which could be done.

By the summer of 1808, the British fleet in the Baltic Sea was commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir James Saumarez, flying his command flag in HMS Victory. As well as a fleet of 11 ships of the line which included HMS Mars, Saumarez was also overall commander of operations involving the Swedish Navy with a further ten ships of the line. On 26th August, HMS Centaur and HMS Implacable had succeeded in destroying a Russian ship of the line outside the Russian port of Rogerswick, now known as Paldiski in modern day Estonia. On 30th August, the Anglo-Swedish force blockading the port was oined by Saumarez in HMS Victory accompanied by HMS Mars, HMS Goliath (74) and HMS Africa.

HMS Mars remained in the Baltic until 1810. On 2nd October, she was reported passing Yarmouth in company with HMS Hero (74) on her way to the Thames with a fleet of 600 ships from the Baltic.

HMS Mars remained in front-line service until December 1812, when she paid off at Portsmouth. By this time, the war at sea had wound down. The fleets of all Britain's enemies, France, Spain, Holland, Denmark and others had all been destroyed. The only fly in the ointment was the war against the USA which had started in July 1812. This war however, with few exceptions, was a war of frigates and smaller vessels. The United States did not have any ships of the line and whatever ships of the line the British sent were intended to protect the frigates against attacks by the vastly bigger and more powerful American heavy frigates, of which there were only four.

The Napoleonic War was ended by the Treaty of Fontainebleu, signed in April 1814. The war against the Americans was ended by the Treaty of Ghent, ratified by the US Congress in February 1815.

During October of 1823, HMS Mars was broken up at Portsmouth.
"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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