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Author Topic: HMS Cambridge (1755 - 1808)  (Read 3458 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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Re: HMS Cambridge (1755 - 1808)
« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2016, 22:36:47 »
To get around the 30,000 character limit, this is in two parts. This is Part One, introduces the ship and covers the start of the Seven Years War and the Invasion of Guadaloupe

HMS Cambridge was a Third Rate ship of the line of 80 guns, built to the 1745 Establishment and was built at the Royal Dockyard at Deptford, at the time in the County of Kent.

An 'Establishment' was a set of standardised specifications, which detailed everything about a new ship, within which a Master Shipwright would be expected to design a ship. This meant that although ships were built to the same specifications, there were always slight differences between ships, meaning that experienced sailors could tell individual ships by sight. The 1745 Establishment called for two types of Third rate ship of the line, one of 70 guns, the other of 80. The specification for the 80 gun ship called for a ship which carried her guns on three gundecks. The design was not a success and in the end, only two were ever built, HMS Cambridge was one and HMS Princess Amelia was the other. As such, the 80 gun ship was the smallest of the Royal Navy's ships of the line to carry her guns on three gundecks. Experience soon found them to be too short and too high. They were slow, cumbersome and were no match for the 74 gun two-decked ships which the French had been building since the 1730's. The other type of Third rate ship specied by the 1745 Establishment, the 70-gun two-decker wasn't a success either, she carried her lower deck guns too close to the water line and they were unable to open their lower gundeck gunports in anything other than a flat calm for fear of sinking the ship. Although an Amendment to the 1745 Establishment 70-gunner was issued in 1752, the coming of more enlightened men such as Sir Thomas Slade brought an end to the Establishments and the Surveyors of the Navy Board began to produce the designs centrally, rather than leaving it to the Master Shipwrights and saw the Admiralty adopt the Class system the French had been using for years, where ships were built in different shipyards to identical designs. The end of the Establishments also saw the end of attempts by the Navy Board to dictate to the Royal Navy what ships they should use. Instead, the Surveyors read the reports written by commanders and designed the ships that the Royal Navy needed.

See here for the story of HMS Princess Amelia

http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=15170.msg124208#msg124208

HMS Cambridge was ordered by the Navy Board on 29th August 1750 and her first keel section was laid at Deptford on 29th August. The country at the time was at peace. The War of Austrian Succession had ended in 1748, although the issues fought over had not been settled by the treaty which ended the war and the governments of both Britain and France both knew that another war was inevitable. Tensions began to increase between Britain and France almost as soon as the ink on the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle was dry, with both sides looking to expand their trade and colonies in both America and India.

In the years after the war, British and French colonists were expanding into what was then known as the Ohio Territory, in what is now western Pennsylvania. In 1753, French colonists had begun to build a series of forts in the area as part of their efforts to expel British colonists from the area. In response, British colonists had begun to build a fort in the location of modern day Pittsburgh and the French sent troops to drive them off. In response to this, the British sent a small number of troops of the Virginia Colonial Militia and native Americans under Lieutenant-Colonel George Washington to protect the construction workers and this force ambushed a force of about 35 French troops in what is now known as the Battle of Jumonville Glen on 29th May 1754. This was the spark which lit the fuse and things continued to escalate from there. On 8th June 1755, a British force of three ships of the line fired on a similarly sized French force off Cape Ray, Newfoundland in the Action of 8th June 1755. Incidentally, one of the commanders in the British force was a Captain Richard Howe, who went on to become one of the giants of British naval history.

Finally, two years after fighting in North America had already broken out, Britain formally declared war on France on 17th May 1756, starting what is now known as the Seven Years War.

In the meantime, on 15th January 1756, HMS Cambridge was declared complete at Deptford Royal Dockyard and commissioned under Captain Sir Percy Brett. Brett was an experienced and well-connected officer. He had served under Commodore George Anson during his circumnavigation of the globe between 1740 and 1744 during the War of Austrian Succession and his appointment before HMS Cambridge was as superintending Captain of all the Royal Yachts. At the time of his appointment to command HMS Cambridge, he was also sitting in the House of Commons as MP for Queenborough.

HMS Cambridge - Sheer Plan and Lines as built:



The launch of HMS Cambridge by John Clevely the Elder. The large three-decked ship on the right of the picture is HMS Royal George, which wasn't actually there at the time:



On completion, HMS Cambridge was a ship of 1,636 tons. She was 166ft long on the upper gundeck and 139ft 3in at the keel. She was 47ft wide across the beams and drew 12ft 8in of water at the bow and 16ft 9in at the rudder. The hold below the orlop was 20ft deep. She was armed with 26 32pdr long guns on the lower gundeck, 26 18pdr long guns on the middle gundeck and 22 9pdr long guns on the upper gundeck. The quarterdeck was unarmed while her forecastle was fitted with 4 6pdr long guns. She was manned by a crew of 520 officers, men, boys and Royal Marines. Up to this point, the ship had cost 43974.10.3d.

Captain Brett was ordered to take the new ship to join the Fleet at Portsmouth, where she was to join the Western Squadron, responsible for operations in the Atlantic Ocean and the coastal waters off North America. During her voyages in the Atlantic, the shortcomings of her design were amply demonstrated. Her hull-form was proportionally too short and her metacentric height was too high, resulting in a ship which was slow and with the wind coming from the side, leaned over too much. This meant that after putting on more sail to try to make her go faster, she just leaned over more with no increase in speed.

In November 1756, Captain Brett was replaced in command by Captain William Gordon who remained in command until the following April, when he was replaced by Captain Thomas Burnet and became flagship to Commodore Sir John Moore, who had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands Station in the Caribbean.

The opening battles of the Seven Years War had gone badly for the British. The island of Minorca with the vital naval base at Port Mahon had been lost in 1756, it had gone badly ashore in America after the French managed to persuade many Native American tribes to fight alongside them and in Europe, the main British ally Austria had allied herself with the French. Things weren't helped by political instability at home. This changed in June 1757 when a coalition was formed between two former political opponents, the Duke of Newcastle and William Pitt the Elder. Once a division of political responsibilities had been agreed between the two men, the Government was able to set a strategic policy which had been lacking before. In 1758, Pitt decided on a strategy to distract the French by attacking them in their overseas possessions. This approach had a number of advantages. Firstly, it would divide the French forces by making them send troops and ships to defend their colonies and trading posts and secondly it would deprive the French of trade and therefore money. A series of so-called 'Descents' or amphibious assaults were launched on the French coast, their trading posts on the west coast of Africa were attacked and taken and plans were laid to take Quebec. The war was expanded to India, where the Honourable East India Company, with it's own army, began to drive the French from their possessions there too. The Government decided that 1759 would be spent driving the French from their lucrative possessions in the West Indies.

As a part of this strategy, Commodore Moore's force was reinforced by the arrival from the UK of a number of ships of the line, plus troopships carrying soldiers under the command of Major-General Peregrine Hopson. The ships arrived at Carlisle Bay, Barbados on 3rd January 1759 and comprised of the Second Rate ship of the line HMS St. George of 90 guns, the Third Rate ships of the line HMS Norfolk of 74 guns, HMS Burford, HMS Buckingham and HMS Berwick (all of 68 guns), the Fourth Rate ships of the line HMS Panther, HMS Ripon and HMS Lion (all of 60 guns), HMS Bristol and HMS Winchester (both of 50 guns). In addition to the ships of the line were the 44 gun two deckers HMS Woolwich, HMS Roebuck and HMS Ludlow Castle with the frigates HMS Amazon of 22 guns, the ex-French 9pdr-armed HMS Renown of 30 guns and HMS Rye of 24 guns, plus bomb-vessels, sloops of war and 60 transport ships.

See here for the stories of HMS Panther:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=18467.msg162333#msg162333

and HMS Burford:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=16134.msg135356#msg135356

The transport ships were carrying 6 regiments of foot (3rd Regiment of Foot - The Buffs, 4th Regiment of Foot - The Kings Own, 61st Regiment of Foot - Elliots, 63rd Regiment of Foot - Watsons, 64th Regiment of Foot - Barringtons, 65th Regiment of Foot - Armigers), plus a regiment of Artillery from Woolwich and 800 Royal Marines. HMS Ludlow Castle had sailed directly from Scotland carrying the 42nd Regiment of Foot - The Royal Highland Regiment of Foot from Scotland.

Hopson had brought orders that the force under Commodore Moore was to attack the French colony at Martinique and the fleet left Carlisle Bay on January 13th and arrived at Fort Royal Bay, Martinique on 15th. On approaching the bay, they were fired on by a shore battery located on a small islet in the entrance to the Bay. The Commodore ordered his ships to anchor out of range while Major-General Hopson considered his options. In the meantime, the French Governor of the island, Francois de Beauharnais put his garrison on full alert. On 16th January, HMS Bristol and HMS Rippon bombarded and soldiers landed by them captured the fort on Morne aux Negres, while HMS Winchester, HMS Woolwich and HMS Roebuck bombarded the shore batteries in Cas de Navires Bay. Troops then landed from HMS Panther, HMS Burford and HMS Cambridge in a small bay next to Morne aux Negres. By the morning of 17th January, some 4,000 troops had been landed. At dawn on 17th, British outposts reported that French troops were advancing on their encampment and were in the process of fortifying a large house nearby. British troops were sent forward to dislodge them and a short, sharp skirmish resulted in the French retreating into the jungle. Hopson ordered more soldiers to pursue them, but the jungle was so dense that the French soon escaped. It was impossible to haul their heavy artillery through such terrain, so General Hopson ordered that the troops re-embark into the transport ships.

On January 18th, the fleet proceeded to St.Pierre, the second-largest town on the island. On the morning of 19th January, Commodore Moore ordered that 2 of the bomb vessels bombard the town while HMS Rippon was sent to bombard a shore battery a little over a mile north of the town. At 14:00, HMS Rippon opened fire and silenced the battery but on opening fire, was surprised when four more batteries opened fire on her and by 16:30, her commander Captain Edward Jekyll ordered her anchor cable to be cut and the ship be towed away out of range by her boats. It was to be 18:00 before HMS Rippon was safely out of range of the French guns. This incident and the likelihood that the rest of his ships would take severe damage from the French shore batteries convinced the expedition's leadership that further attempts to take the island would not be worth the cost and that acting within the scope of his orders, the Major-General decided that the force would move on to Guadeloupe.

At the time, the French-held island of Guadeloupe was a far richer prize than Martinique. It's sugar-cane fields yielded vast harvests of what was then a very valuable commodity, sugar and it's associated by-products, such as Molasses and Rum. Guadeloupe is not, in fact, one island, but two, separated by a very narrow channel called the Salt River. The main town, Basseterre and it's harbour were very well fortified and the fort of Basseterre was widely considered to be impregnable from attack by the sea alone.

The fleet departed Martinique in the morning of January 20th and arrived off Basseterre at around noon on 22nd. On January 23rd, Commodore Moore deployed his ships. HMS St. George, HMS Cambridge and HMS Norfolk were to bombard the main fortress at Basseterre, which mounted 47 guns. HMS Lion was ordered to attack a 9 gun shore battery, HMS Panther and HMS Burford were to attack a 12 gun battery, HMS Berwick was to attack a 7 gun battery and finally, HMS Rippon to attack a 6 gun battery at Morne Rouge. The shore batteries were all manned by a mixture of experienced naval gunners, artillery-men and local militia. At 09:00, the attack started and very quickly, HMS Burford and HMS Berwick were forced to retire, while HMS Rippon ran aground and had to be rescued by HMS Bristol and HMS Roebuck. Eventually however, the batteries were silenced and Commodore Moore ordered the bomb vessels to move in and begin to bombard the town. The warehouse in the port and in the town were packed with sugar and rum from the previous years harvest and very quickly, the whole town was ablaze. The following day, the troops were landed and began to occupy the town and drive the French inland. The most fertile part of Guadeloupe is not the main island itself, but the neighbouring island across the Salt River, known as Grande Terre. By the beginning of February, disease was taking it's toll on the British soldiers to the point where fully a quarter of the men, 1,500 of them were sick. Unfortunately, this also included General Hopson. Fortunately, Commodore Moore's orders allowed him to act independently of the Army, so on February 6th, he sent HMS Roebuck, HMS Winchester, HMS Berwick, HMS Panther, HMS Woolwich and HMS Renown to attack the town of Pointe Pitre and Fort Louis on the heights overlooking it. This force was commanded by Captain Harman of HMS Berwick. On 13th February, he launched his attack and after a six-hour bombardment, he landed his troops, the 42nd Foot and the Marines, which quickly drove the French from their positions. With the Major-General now dead, his second-in-command, Colonel Samuel Barrington received a field promotion and continued with the campaign, which was to continue until April 19th, when Guadeloupe eventually surrendered to Major-General Barrington and his men.

The successful invasion of Guadeloupe was just one of a series of stunning victories won by the British in 1759, effectively turning the whole war in their favour. On mainland North America, the British and their allies captured the strategically vital French stronghold at Fort Ticonderoga, drove the French from the Ohio Country and had captured the French colony at Quebec City. In addition, they had driven off a French attempt to seize the colony at Madras and the Royal Navy had won major victories against the French at the Battles of Lagos and Quiberon Bay. The year 1759 is known as the Annus Mirabilis and was the year that the Navy Board ordered a new 100 gun First Rate ship to be built at Chatham. Horace Walpole, the former Prime Minster remarked that "Our bells are worn threadbare for ringing with victories". It is because of the Annus Mirabilis that the new ship was given the name Victory.

After the conquest of Guadeloupe and the neighbouring Isles de Saintes, HMS Cambridge sailed to Jamaica and in 1760, Commodore Moore was replaced as Commander-in-Chief by Rear-Admiral Charles Holmes, who chose the ship for his flagship. At the same time, Captain Burnet was replaced in command by Captain William Goostrey.
"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 Cambridge (1755 - 1808)
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2016, 22:33:34 »
Part Two - The Battle of Havana, Peace, War again, The Battle of Cape Spartel, Peace, Another War, Harbour Service and fate

Up until the end of 1761, Spain had remained neutral in the war, but the accession of King Charles III in August 1759 had brought about a change. The new King was nervous about the string of British successes that year and considered that Spain's own possessions would be targeted by the rampant British. Spain began to give assistance to the French; something which didn't go unnoticed in London. It seemed as though war with Spain was becoming unavoidable. William Pitt suggested a pre-emptive attack on the Spanish treasure ships bringing gold from South America but the Government refused and Pitt resigned in protest. Nevertheless, Britain declared war on Spain on 4th January 1762.

The Spanish for their part, had anticipated the British declaration of war and in June 1761, a force of seven ships of the line and 1,100 troops had arrived in Cuba to reinforce the defences of Havana, the most important Spanish possession in the region. The city of Havana possessed an anchorage capable of holding up to 100 ships of the line and shipyards capable of building First Rate ships. The reinforcements increased the Spanish garrison in Havana to about 2,400 men and once reinforced, the harbour was base to a force of 12 ships of the line with over 5,000 sailors and 700 Spanish Marines. The harbour at Havana was accessed via a narrow channel about 200 yards wide, guarded on one side by the Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro (known in English as Morro Castle) mounting 64 heavy guns and manned by 700 men. The other side was guarded by the slightly smaller Castillo de San Salvador de la Puntal (known in English as Fort Puntal). The city itself stood on the south side of the channel and was protected by walls extending about three miles around the whole city. The entrance to the harbour had been defended by a stout boom extending across the channel between the two castles.

The Capture of Havana - Morro Castle and the Boom Defence before the attack by Dominic Serres:



Almost as soon as war had been declared, the Government decided that Havana would be taken from the Spanish and to this end, the troops already in the Caribbean would be reinforced from the UK. Lieutenant-General George Keppel, the Third Earl of Albemarle would be in command of the operation. Vice-Admiral Sir George Pocock would be in command of the supporting naval forces with Commodore Sir Augustus Keppel as his second. In February 1762, five regiments of infantry embarked aboard transport ships at Spithead and sailed on March 5th, escorted by seven ships of the line. After meeting up with British forces already in the area, the British arrived off San Domingo and began preparations for the siege. It was a veritable armada. Pocock had the following ships under his command:

HMS Namur (90 guns, fleet flagship), HMS Cambridge, HMS Valiant (Keppel's flagship), HMS Culloden, HMS Dublin, the ex-French HMS Temeraire, HMS Dragon, HMS Devonshire (all of 74 guns), HMS Orford, HMS Hampton Court, HMS Stirling Castle, HMS Temple (all of 70 guns), HMS Marlborough (68), HMS Belle Isle (64), HMS Edgar, HMS Pembroke, HMS Ripon, HMS Nottingham, HMS Defiance, HMS Centurion and HMS Depford (all of 60 guns), HMS Hampshire (50), HMS Penzance, HMS Dover and HMS Enterprise (all 44 guns), HMS Richmond and HMS Alarm (both of 32 guns), HMS Trent and HMS Boreas (both of 28 guns), HMS Rose, HMS Port Mahon and HMS Fowey (all of 24 guns), HMS Glasgow and HMS Mercury (both of 20 guns), HMS Cygnet of 18 guns, HMS Barbados, HMS Port Royal, HMS Ferret and the cutter HMS Lurcher (all of 14 guns), HMS Viper and HMS Merlin (10 guns) plus the bomb vessels HMS Thunder, HMS Basilisk and HMS Grenado. All told, the land forces committed to the attack comprised over 12,000 men, with 14,000 seamen and Marines. The foot regiments committed were:

1st (Royal), 4th (Kings Own), 9th (Whitmore's), 15th, 17th, 22nd, 27th (Inniskilling), 28th (Townshends), 34th, 35th (Otways), 40th (Armigers), 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 42nd (Royal Highland), 43rd (Talbots), 48th (Dunbars), 56th, 60th (Royal American), 66th (Cholmondleys), 72nd (Richmonds), 77th (Montgomerys) and the 90th (Morgans). There were also 377 men from the Royal Regiment of Artillery.

The Capture of Havana - Landing the guns and stores, by Dominic Serres:



The Spanish on their part did not seriously believe that the British would attack such a well-defended position and when the sails of the British fleet were sighted from the top of Morro Castle in the morning of 6th June, they assumed it was the British Jamaica Convoy on it's way to the UK. The alarm finally broke out when messengers from Morro Castle reported that the fleet had large numbers of flat-bottomed boats in tow. The British immediately blockaded Havana and began to land troops and guns the following day. By 12th June, the landings were complete and the British had taken the high ground overlooking Morro Castle. Their first priority was to take the castle and by 22nd June, had completed the construction of seige batteries comprising 12 heavy guns and 38 mortars, which commenced firing that day. On July 1st, the British launched a combined sea and land assault on Morro Castle. HMS Cambridge, HMS Dragon, HMS Marlborough and HMS Stirling Castle moved into position within a musket-shot of the castle and opened fire, along with the batteries constructed ashore. Sadly, the ships were too close to the castle walls and their fire was ineffective, while the Spanish guns on the walls inflicted damage and casualties on the ships below. HMS Cambridge suffered casualties of 24 dead and 95 wounded; amongst the dead was Captain Goostrey, killed by a musket-shot from the castle. HMS Dragon had casualties of 16 dead with 37 wounded while those aboard HMS Marlborough were 2 killed and 8 wounded. Captain Goostrey's place in HMS Cambridge was taken by Captain John Lindsay, formerly of HMS Trent, who was pulled out to his new command in the middle of the bombardment. The artillery duel lasted until 14:00 and although the fire from the ships had been largely ineffective, that from the batteries ashore had not and by the time the exchange of artillery fire ended, only three of Morro Castle's guns facing the siege batteries was still in action.

The bombardment of Morro Castle by Phillip Paton. In this painting, Captain John Lindsay is being taken out to HMS Cambridge after the death of Captain Goostrey. HMS Cambridge is the three-decked ship of the line right of centre:



Things at Morro Castle contained in this vein throught the rest of June into July 1762. By mid-July, disease and enemy action had taken a serious toll on the British. 5,000 troops and some 3,000 sailors were either dead or sick with Yellow Fever. Siege works were continuing, with a mine being dug under the walls of the castle. Things looked up for the British when on July 27th, reinforcements of some 3,000 men arrived from America. Finally, at 13:00 on 30th July, the mine was ready and was detonated. After a desperate pitched battle amongst the rubble and debris, Morro Castle finally fell to the besieging British later that day.

The British now turned their attentions to the city of Havana and the fort on the other side of the channel. The next two weeks were spent preparing the batteries on Morro Castle to fire on Fort Puntal and the city and further batteries were built on the high ground overlooking both. On August 5th, more reinforcements arrived from America, of about 1,500 men and on August 10th, the Earl of Albemarle sent a summons to surrender to General Juan de Prado, the Spanish commander-in-chief. The summons was refused, so at dawn on the 11th August 1762, the British opened fire on the city. The British had 47 guns, 15 32pdr guns and 32 24pdr guns taken from the ships with 10 mortars and 5 howitzers and by 10:00, Fort Puntal was silenced and there were only a handful of guns on the city walls still firing. In the early after noon, the Spanish sent a flag of truce and negotiations for the Spanish surrender began. The negotiations went on for the rest of the day and all the next day before the surrender was agreed on August 13th. On August 14th 1762, the British entered the city of Havana. The jewel in the crown of Spanish possessions in the Americas had fallen, the British had captured the finest harbour and port in the entire Caribbean and not only that, but had seized military equipment and merchandise valued at almost 3 million Spanish Pesos and no less than nine Spanish ships of the line, three frigates and nine smaller vessels. In addition, two Spanish ships of the line under construction in the shipyard were burned.

The Capture of Havana - Taking the town by Dominic Serres:



After the Battle of Havana, HMS Cambridge returned to Plymouth for a much-needed refit, which began in October of 1762. The work proceeded at a leisurely rate, more than likely because the war was ended by the Treaty of Paris, signed between the warring parties on 10th February 1763. The war had been a disaster for the French and Spanish. Under the Treaty France was forced to hand over Canada, the eastern half of French Louisiana, from the Mississippi to the Appalachian Mountains, Dominica, Grenada, Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In return, the British handed Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Lucia and Gore back to France. Spain was forced to hand Florida to the British in exchange for the return of Manila in the Philippines and Havana. France had been left bankrupt by the costs of the war and had defaulted on it's debts. Britain had also been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by the cost of the war, which had been fought on an unprecedented scale and indeed, the Seven Years War is known as being the first real world war in the true sense of the phrase.

The work on HMS Cambridge was finally completed in September of 1765 and the ship was placed in the Plymouth Ordinary, under the care of a skeleton crew. There, the ship sat at a mooring off the Royal Dockyard, with her guns, yards, running rigging, sails and stores all removed until June of 1778. By this time, discontent in the American Colonies over taxes imposed from London without the consent of the colonists, which they felt to be unfair and illegal, had erupted into a full-scale armed rebellion and from there had escalated into another all-out world war with France. In June 1778, as part of of the mobilisation for war, HMS Cambridge was taken into the Royal Dockyard and was fitted to serve as Guardship at Plymouth. This involved replacing all her guns, sails, rigging etc, but the ship would only take on about half her normal crew complement and would be used to provide security for the Royal Dockyard and for the ships moored off Plymouth.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world moved on. The Royal Navy had taken delivery of a large number of new ships of the line following the end of the Seven Years War and had no immediate need for a slow, cumbersome vessel like HMS Cambridge and could do without her, for now. The war was going badly for the British. It seemed as though defeat followed defeat and the war soon became unpopular at home. The crisis came in September 1781 when the British Army under Lord Cornwallis had been forced to surrender at Yorktown following the Royal Navy's failure to secure the mouth of Chesapeake Bay in the battle of the same name. This had rendered the British position ashore in their American colonies untenable and they had been forced to fall back on their strongholds at Philadelphia and New York. The political landscape in the UK changed after the fall of Lord North's Tory government and it's replacement with a weak Whig-led coalition under the Marquess of Rockingham in March of 1782. Vice-Admiral Sir George Rodney's victory over the Compte de Grasse at the Battle of the Saintes on 12th April had thwarted French ambitions to expel the British from the Caribbean. Later that month, peace negotiations had started.

In the meantime, every available ship of the line was being prepared for sea and this included HMS Cambridge. In June 1781, the ship was taken into the Royal Dockyard at Plymouth and was prepared for sea, commissioning into the Channel Fleet under Captain Broderick Hartwell. The ship was then assigned to patrol the English Channel, enforcing the blockade of the French Atlantic and Channel Ports. On 23rd December 1781, the ship was in company with the the 60-gun 4th rate ship of the line HMS Dunkirk, the 9pdr-armed 20 gun post-ship HMS Squirrel and the 14-gun brig-sloop HMS Antigua when between them, they managed to capture the Dutch merchant ship De Vrow Esther.

At the beginning of 1782, the ship returned to the Plymouth Royal Dockyard to be refitted. The ship was in poor condition and her poor sailing qualities made it unwise to pit her against faster, more agile and powerful French and Spanish ships of the line. To try to make the ship less top-heavy, the poop deck and the captains quarters underneath it were removed completely and the quarterdeck was modified. The former flag-officers quarters on the upper gundeck became the new commanding officer's quarters, while the quarterdeck bulwarks were modified with gunports to accept 6 18pdr carronades. At the same time, two of her forecastle 6pdr long guns were replaced with 32pdr carronades. The work was completed in March of 1782 and the ship recommissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain The Honourable Keith Stewart. Captain Stewart was only in command until June of 1782, when he was replaced in command by Captain John Holloway.

Plans of HMS Cambridge related to her refit of 1782. Detail of the modified stern and upper part of the upper gundeck:



Hull plan showing where repairs to her hull planking were required. This plan also shows the changes to the stern and quarterdeck following the removal of the poop deck:



Out of interest, these plans are drawn in the hand of John Henslow, at the time, the Master Shipwright at Plymouth Royal Dockyard. He would go on to be a Surveyor of the Navy and would produce the designs for some of the finest warships of the late 18th century.

The change of government also led to a change of faces at the top of the Royal Navy. The First Lord of the Admiralty, the ardent Tory Lord Sandwich was replaced by Admiral Sir Augustus Keppel and one of his first acts was to appoint Vice-Admiral Richard Howe as Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet. After the end of the war ashore in America, things continued as before at sea. Britain was standing alone against the combined might of France, Spain and Holland and trade. British possessions in the Caribbean and India had to be protected, as well as her trade routes into the Baltic and the Mediterranean, not to mention the need to protect the UK itself. Howe was promoted to full Admiral shortly after taking up his new appointment on 8th April 1782 and on 20th, was elevated to the peerage, being made a Viscount. Among the many problems facing the new Commander-in-Chief was the relief of Gibraltar. The Spanish had entered the war in 1779, but were more interested in regaining Gibraltar than in anything else and had laid sage to the Rock almost the instant the war against the British had started. Thus far, Gibraltar had held out in what is now known as the Great Siege but by September 1782, was in dire need of relief. Gibraltar had already been relieved twice before during the war, firstly by Vice-Admiral Sir George Rodney in the spring of 1780 and again by Vice-Admiral Sir George Darby in April 1781. Beginning on 13th September 1782, the garrison in Gibraltar had succeeded in repulsing a massive assault by a Franco-Spanish force, with heavy loss of life to the Spanish.

In the UK, a fleet of transports had been assembled at Spithead, which was to be escorted to Gibraltar by the bulk of Lord Howe's Channel Fleet, comprised at the time of no less than 35 ships of the line. Howe was to force the convoy through the Franco-Spanish blockade, come what may. On 11th September, the fleet departed Spithead, arriving off Gibraltar on 11th October. At this point, the British had an amazing stroke of luck. A storm had scattered the enemy fleet on the 10th October and Howe was able to get the convoy into Gibraltar without opposition. The same storm also swept Howe's fleet eastwards, into the Mediterranean and Howe knew that he would have to get through the massive enemy fleet, of 49 ships of the line, fighting his way through them if necessary, to get the bulk of the Royal Navy's battlefleet home.

HMS Cambridge had been assigned to the First Division of the Rearguard, led by Vice-Admiral Mark Millbanke, flying his command flag in the 98 gun Second Rate ship of the line HMS Ocean, while Howe himself was commanding the fleet from the 100 gun First Rate ship HMS Victory. On 19th October, the enemy was sighted to the east of Gibraltar, so Howe ordered the fleet to weigh anchor and head west. Howe did not want to engage the superior Franco-Spanish force, which had the advantage of having more larger ships in that no less than seven of their ships mounted 100 or more guns. This included the gigantic Spanish ship Santissima Trinidad, mounting 140 guns on 4 gundecks; the largest and most powerful ship in the world at the time. Howe, on the other hand, only had two ships mounting 100 guns, HMS Victory and HMS Britannia. The British ships had the advantage of having their bottoms coppered and this gave them a huge advantage in speed.

Howe wanted to give the Spanish the impression he wanted to fight, so that they would shorten sail and prepare for battle and to this end, he ordered his fleet to reduce sail and to tighten the line of battle. Early in the morning 20th October, the Spanish Admiral, Louis de Cordova signalled a general chase, intending to fall on the British line of battle and annihilate them with weight of numbers and superior firepower. At about 13:00, the British further reduced sail, allowing the Spanish to close within about two miles and at 17:45, the Spanish vanguard opened fire, to which the British replied in kind. Howe then ordered his fleet to make all sail and use their advantage of superior speed and get away from the Spanish. By dawn the following day, the fleets were about 12 miles apart, with the British pulling away. The Spanish gave up their attempts at bringing Howe's fleet to action and resumed their blockade of Gibraltar. Gibraltar was saved and was able to hold out for the rest of the war. The Great Siege of Gibraltar, from 1779 to 1783 remains the longest sage ever endured by British forces.

Howe's Relief of Gibraltar by Richard Paton:



In what is now known as the Battle of Cape Spartel, HMS Cambridge had come under fire from the enemy, resulting in four dead and six wounded.

With nothing left to fight over, the new government in the UK wanted the war ended as soon as possible, so in April 1782, had opened talks with the other combatant nations. France, already pretty much bankrupt when the war had started in 1778, was only too happy to negotiate and it was clear to the Spanish that their primary aim of retaking Gibraltar was not going to happen any time soon, so they were also happy to begin peace talks. The Royal Navy's ability to relieve any siege which might be laid against the Rock strengthened Britain's hand in the negotiations and they refused to consider anything offered by the Spanish in exchange for it. The negotiations resulted in the Treaty of Paris, signed in September of 1783, to be effective from the following March, but by then, the war was all but over anyway. HMS Cambridge paid off into the Plymouth Ordinary in May of 1783. Over the course of the following month, all her running rigging, sails, yards, guns and stores were removed and the ship was secured to a buoy in Plymouth Harbour under the care of a skeleton crew and became the responsibility of the Master Attendant at the Plymouth Royal Dockyard.

Whilst in the Plymouth Ordinary, the ship was manned by a skeleton crew comprising of senior Warrant Officers, the Boatswain, the Gunner, the Carpenter and the Cook. The first three men were entitled to have two servants each, with the Cook being entitled to one. The ship also had a Purser appointed, but he was allowed to live ashore within a reasonable distance of the Dockyard, but was not entitled to have any servants. Any servants he did have had to be paid from his own pocket. In addition to these men, the ship also had a crew of 32 seamen, all rated at Able Seaman. All these men were allowed to have their families live aboard with them. Any work beyond the capabilities of these men was carried out by gangs of labourers sent from the Dockyard by the Master Attendant.

With the ship laid up, the country entered a period of peace and stability, but the same cannot be said of Britain's neighbours. The victories won and the territories gained had enabled the country to shrug off the loss of the American colonies and indeed, trade with the newly independent United States of America thrived. On the continent, revolution was in the air and the first country to fall under it's spell was Holland. In 1787, a near revolution occurred in Holland which led to a brief civil war. Although the civil war in Holland had ended with the republicans being defeated, it was a portent of things to come. In July 1789, after years of hardship following a war from which France had gained nothing and a famine which saw people starving to death on the streets of Paris, the King of France, King Louis XVI was removed from the position of absolute power the French kings had enjoyed for centuries in the French Revolution. Chaos in France followed. Initially, the British supported the Revolution, hoping that it would bring an end to the willingness of the French to go to war on the whim of the King. France would instead be governed by a constitutional monarchy like our own, where the power of the king was limited by an elected assembly, the National Convention.

In 1790, there were two crises which brought Britain to the brink of war. Firstly, the Spanish Armaments Crisis, which had seen Britain and Spain drift towards war in a territorial dispute over a settlement on Vancouver Island which had been established by British traders in defiance of a Spanish territorial claim over the entire western coastline of both American continents. As part of the mobilisation of the fleet in response to the Spanish Armaments Crisis, HMS Cambridge was taken into the Royal Dockyard and was fitted out as a Receiving Ship to house the men volunteering for service in the Royal Navy and those taken by the press-gangs until they could be found a ship. The Spanish Armaments Crisis was settled peacefully after the French declined to come to their ally's assistance should war with the UK actually break out and the Spanish were forced to negotiate. Later in 1790, a new crisis erupted. The Russian Armaments Crisis occurred when an ongoing war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire threatened to spill over into Europe, but the British declined to come to their Prussian ally's assistance and this too, ended peacefully for the British.

Meanwhile, in France, things continued to go from bad to worse. The Revolution had sparked a power struggle between the King who wanted a return to the previous Absolute Monarchy style of government and the National Convention, which was increasingly coming under the control of the republican Jacobin movement. Tensions continued to grow, with rioting between groups of rival supporters breaking out in many French cities and the country began the slide towards civil war. The British, alarmed at the state of affairs in the rival superpower on their doorstep, began to quietly intervene and started to supply arms and money to Royalist groups, particularly on the French Biscay coast. Things came to a head in December 1792, when the King attempted to flee Paris and join up with Royalist forces and was caught and imprisoned. The King and Queen Marie Antoinette were tried and convicted for treason and were executed in the Place de la Revolution on 21st January 1793. In protest, the British expelled the French Ambassador and in response, France declared war on 1st February, starting what is now know as the French Revolutionary War.

With the declaration of war, HMS Cambridge assumed a new role, that of flagship of the Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's vessels at Plymouth. The ship remained in that role, secured to a mooring bouy off Plymouth Royal Dockyard, until she was paid off into the Plymouth Ordinary on 31st May 1802. In July 1808, the ship was taken into the Royal Dockyard 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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