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Author Topic: HMS Repulse (1803 - 1820)  (Read 432 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Repulse (1803 - 1820)
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2018, 20:12:05 »
HMS Repulse was a Middling Type, 74-gun, Third Rate Ship of the Line, built under Navy Board contract at the shipyard of Mrs Frances Barnard at Deptford, then in the county of Kent. She was the lead ship of a group of 11 Third Rate, 74-gun ships of which five were built in Kent shipyards. They were designed by Sir William Rule, Co-Surveyor of the Navy.

At the time that the contract to build HMS Repulse was entered into, Mrs Barnard ran a large shipyard at Deptford with four slipways and three dry-docks, one of which was a double-dock, capable of holding two ships simultaneously. As well as building vessels for the Royal Navy, Mrs Barnard's shipyard was also busy with the construction and repair of large cargo ships for the Honourable East India Company as well as other commercial ship-owners.

The 74-gun, Third Rate Ship of the Line was the largest type of vessel to be built under Navy Board contract in commercial shipyards. They were by far the most numerous ship of the line in the world and at the time of the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, the Royal Navy alone had more of them than the rest of the world's ships of the line put together. Representing the best compromise between speed and agility on one hand and strength and firepower on the other, the 74-gun ship was the smallest vessel able to carry a battery of 28 or 30 x 32pdr long guns.

The eleven ships of the Repulse Class were built in three batches. The first two batches were all built under contract in private shipyards, with the third batch of ships mostly being built in Royal Dockyards. HMS Repulse, being the lead ship of the class, was ordered along with HMS Sceptre, also built at Deptford at the shipyard of John Dudman and HMS Eagle built at a shipyard owned by Thomas Pitcher at Northam in Devon. The second batch of five ships were all ordered in January of 1805 and comprised HMS Magnificent, HMS Valiant and HMS Elizabeth, all built by John Perry in what was at the time the largest shipyard in the world at Blackwall on the River Thames, with HMS Cumberland and HMS Venerable being built at Thomas Pitcher's other shipyard at Northfleet. The third batch comprised HMS Belle Isle, ordered from the Pembroke Royal Dockyard in December 1812, HMS Talavera ordered from the Woolwich Royal Dockyard in January 1814 and HMS Malabar, built under contract by the Honourable East India Company at their Bombay shipyard and ordered in March 1815.

The contracts for the first batch of ships were all signed on the 4th of February 1800 and the first keel section of what was to become HMS Repulse was laid at Mrs Barnard's shipyard in September that year. Over the course of the next two years and ten months, the ship slowly took shape at Depford and she was launched with all due ceremony into the River Thames on the 21st July 1803. The ship was taken to the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich where she was fitted with guns, masts and rigging. During fitting-out, HMS Repulse commissioned into the North Sea Fleet under Captain Arthur Kaye Legge. Finally, on the 5th October 1803, HMS Repulse was declared complete.

On completion, HMS Repulse was a ship of 1,727 tons. She was 174ft long on her upper gundeck, 142ft 11in long at the keel and 47ft 98in wide across the beam. The ship drew 13ft 3in of water at the bow and 17ft 6in at the rudder. She was armed with 28x32pdr long guns on the lower gundeck, 28x18pdr long guns on the upper gundeck, 2x18pdr long guns and 12x32pdr carronades on the quarterdeck, 2x18pdr long guns and 2x32pdr carronades on the forecastle and 6x18pdr carronades on the poop deck. This means that although rated as a 74-gun ship, HMS Repulse actually carried 80 main guns. She also had about a dozen half-pounder swivel guns attached to her quarterdeck and forecastle handrails and in her fighting tops. The ship was manned by a crew of 590 officers, men, boys and Marines.

Repulse Class plans

Orlop Plan:



Lower Gundeck Plan:



Upper Gundeck Plan:



Forecastle and Quarterdeck Plans:



Sheer Plan and Lines:



Captain Arthur Kaye Legge was an experienced and well-connected officer. Born in 1766, he was the sixth son of the Second Earl of Dartmouth and had first entered the Royal Navy as a Midshipman-in-Ordinary at the age of 13. His first ship was the 98-gun, Second Rate Ship of the Line HMS Prince George which he joined on the same day as the similarly-aged Prince William Henry, Duke of Clarence, third son of King George III and the two boys formed a close, lifelong friendship. This friendship saw the young man rubbing shoulders with royalty when he was ashore on leave and he often joined the Royal Family on their holidays at Weymouth. His first command appointment was the 16-gun ship-sloop HMS Shark of 16 guns and he was first promoted to Captain or Posted into the old 12pdr-armed 32-gun frigate HMS Niger in which he took part in the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794. His appointment prior to HMS Repulse was HMS Centaur, of also 74 guns.

See here for the stories of HMS Prince George:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=19406.msg171142#msg171142

HMS Niger:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=18266.msg159047#msg159047

and HMS Centaur:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=19519.msg172605#msg172605

On 31st October 1803, HMS Repulse was laying in Long Reach on the River Medway (off the current site of Kingsnorth Power Station) in company with the 44-gun two-decker HMS Severn and the 24pdr carronade-armed 16-gun ship-sloops HMS Hermes and HMS Speedy. The ships had completed loading their gunpowder and were awaiting fair winds to enable them to proceed to the Nore. They arrived on the 12th of November and completed manning from the receiving ship. Also in November 1803, while the ship was at the Nore, she became flagship to Rear-Admiral Thomas MacNamara Russell. Once manning was completed, HMS Repulse joined the main body of the North Sea Fleet off Great Yarmouth.

On the 20th November 1803, the 9pdr-armed 28-gun frigate HMS Circe struck the Lemman Bank in the North Sea while chasing a French privateer and began to take on water. The following day, her crew abandoned ship and were picked up by three fishing vessels from Yarmouth, who put the men onto HMS Repulse when they returned. HMS Repulse and her squadron were engaged on the blockade of the Dutch naval base at Texel. The ship remained on this station until June of 1804, when she was reassigned to the Channel Fleet. In company with HMS Hero (74), HMS Repulse arrived at Spithead to take up her new station on 10th June 1804. Once in the Channel Fleet, HMS Repulse was engaged on the ongoing blockade of the French and Spanish  Atlantic ports.

In February 1805, HMS Repulse was a part of the squadron blockading the Spanish naval base at Ferrol under Rear-Admiral Alexander Cochrane. On the 24th February, the Rear-Admiral had taken five ships of the line and a frigate in pursuit of the French Rochefort squadron, which had broken the blockade and headed for the West Indies. Earlier, Vice-Admiral Sir Horatio, the Viscount Nelson had taken the British Mediterranean Fleet to the West Indies to pursue the French Toulon fleet under Vice-Admiral Pierre-Charles Villeneuve. On his departure from off Ferrol, the Rear-Admiral had left Captain Legge in charge of the remaining five ships of the line and they were joined on the 1st of March by a further squadron commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Calder, flying his command flag in the 98-gun Second Rate Ship of the Line HMS Prince of Wales. The combined force remained off Ferrol, keeping 10 French and Spanish Ships of the Line under a close blockade. On the 15th July, Sir Robert Calder's force was joined by another squadron under Rear-Admiral Charles Stirling, flying his command flag in another Second Rate Ship of the Line, HMS Glory of 98 guns. This gave Sir Robert Calder the following force:
HMS Prince of Wales (Flagship, 98 guns), HMS Glory, HMS Windsor Castle and HMS Barfleur (also all of 98 guns), the ex-French HMS Malta of 80 guns, HMS Thunderer, HMS Hero, HMS Repulse, HMS Defiance, HMS Ajax, HMS Warrior, HMS Dragon and HMS Triumph (all of 74 guns), HMS Raisonnable and HMS Agamemnon (both of 64 guns), with the frigates HMS Sirius (18pdr, 36) and the ex-French 24pdr-armed Heavy Frigate HMS Egyptienne of 40 guns with the hired armed lugger Nile of 14 guns and the hired armed cutter Frisk of eight guns. Rear-Admiral Stirling brought orders that Vice-Admiral Calder was to lift the blockades of Ferrol and Rochefort and head to a position about 90 miles to the west of Cape Finisterre and attempt to intercept the combined Franco-Spanish force being pursued across the Atlantic from the West Indies by Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson. This left Ferrol unguarded and despite the fact that the ships in the port were ready for sea, they stayed put as they received no sailing orders.

On the 19th of July, Vice-Admiral Calder received a copy of Nelson's despatch dated the 15th of June that the enemy fleet had passed Antigua on the 8th of June and that they were probably on their way to Europe and that it consisted of some 20 ships of the line, seven frigates and two brig-corvettes.

At about 11:00 on the 22nd July 1805, HMS Defiance sighted Villeneuve's fleet and made a signal to the flagship to that effect. At noon, Calder made the signal to prepare for battle and a few moments later, to form into two columns and to form lines of battle. At 13:15, the order was given to close formation. HMS Repulse was 9th in the British line, behind the flagship HMS Prince of Wales and ahead of HMS Raisonnable. The enemy fleet also formed a line of battle. In poor visibility, the two fleets manoeuvred for advantage until about 17:15, when the action began in earnest. With poor visibility caused by fog and gun-smoke, the action quickly became a confused melee in which several individual ships on both sides found themselves surrounded and outgunned by the enemy. HMS Malta was the most heavily engaged of the British ships and at one point in the battle, she was engaged against no less than five enemy ships, of which she forced two, the San Rafael (80) and the Firme (74) to surrender. In the Third Battle of Cape Finisterre, HMS Repulse suffered casualties of four men wounded with her bowsprit badly damaged and her sails and rigging much cut up. At 20:25, with the light failing, Vice-Admiral Calder made the signal to discontinue the action. In the fog, clouds of drifting gun-smoke and failing light, many of the British ships did not see the signal and firing did not cease until 21:30, when the British fleet lay to for the night making repairs, ready to recommence the action at first light.

The Third Battle of Cape Finisterre. In this painting by William Anderson, the three-decked ship in the foreground is Vice-Admiral Sir Robert Calder's flagship HMS Prince of Wales. The ship immediately to her right in this picture is HMS Repulse:



Daybreak on the 23rd saw the two fleets about seventeen miles apart, both fleets laying to. They both attempted to close with each other to recommence the action, but a change in the wind prevented them from doing so and the following day, Vice-Admiral Calder made the decision to escort the prizes back to a British port. The two fleets were out of sight of each other by 18:00 on the 24th.

By March of 1806, HMS repulse was part of a squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, flying his command flag in the 80-gun two decker HMS Foudroyant. In addition to HMS Foudroyant and HMS Repulse, the squadron also comprised HMS London (98), HMS Ramillies (74) and the 18pdr armed 38 gun frigate HMS Amazon. In view of her slow sailing, HMS London had been stationed upwind of the other ships in the squadron and at 03:00 on the 13th March, HMS London's lookouts sighted two sails a short distance away. Assuming the strangers were a convoy, HMS London altered course to investigate, signalling her intentions to the Rear-Admiral. A short while later, the strangers were identified as being the French 74 gun ship of the line Marengo and the French 40 gun frigate La Belle Poule. As soon as his ship was with in range, Captain Harry Neale of HMS London gave the order to open fire. At 05:30, HMS London drew up alongside the Marengo and the two ships began to pound each other at point blank range. At 06:00, the Marengo's captain had had enough of this and attempted to make off, closely pursued by HMS London. At 06:30, La Belle Poule passed ahead of HMS London and fired a broadside into her lee bow and received fire in return before making off. At 07:00, HMS Amazon overtook HMS London in pursuit of the Belle Poule, caught and engaged her at about 08:30. HMS London in the meantime kept up a running fight against the Marengo which continued until 10:25, when on sighting HMS Foudroyant coming up to join the fight, the Marengo struck her colours in surrender to HMS London. At about the same time, the Belle Poule surrendered to HMS Amazon. HMS Repulse was an onlooker to the Action of the 13th march 1806, so suffered no damage or casualties.

By the end of 1806, the French were working to drive a wedge between British ally Russia and their neighbours Turkey, with the intention of closing the Dardanelles, thus closing the trade route into the Black Sea. France had threatened to declare war on Turkey if they did not comply with French demands to close the Dardanelles. On 22nd October, the Admiralty ordered the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, Vice-Admiral Sir Cuthbert, the Lord Collingwood, to send a force to carry out a reconnaisance of the Turkish forts along the Dardanelles should an attack on them be required at some later date. Collingwood detached Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Louis in his flagship, the ex-French 80 gun third rate ship of the line HMS Canopus, in addition to the 74 gun ship HMS Thunderer and the 64 gun ship HMS Standard, the 24pdr-armed 40 gun Heavy Frigate HMS Endymion and the 18 gun ship-sloop HMS Nautilus. Sir Thomas Louis' force detached from the main body of the fleet off Toulon on 5th December 1806. The squadron called in at Malta and resupplied, leaving the harbour at Valetta on 15th December and arrived at the island of Tenedos, situated some 14 miles to the south of the entrance to the Dardanelles on 21st December. After waiting for pilots and for favourable winds, the squadron left Tenedos in the early hours of 27th December and anchored in Azire Bay at the entrance to the Dardanelles later that day.

In the meantime, Britain had opened negotiations with the Turks in an attempt to prevent them from caving in to French pressure to close the Dardanelles. After all, the British had enough on their plates already. Britain by this time was at war with France, Spain and Holland and trouble was brewing with Denmark as well. The last thing they wanted was a war with the Ottoman Empire, which would surely be triggered if the British kept the Dardanelles open by force.

On 4th January 1806, the Russian Ambassador came aboard the 18 pdr armed 38 gun frigate HMS Active and the ship carried he and his staff to Malta. On 31st January, HMS Enydmion rejoined the squadron in Azire Bay after having evacuated the British Ambassador in Constantinople and the whole of the British merchant community from that city. The ship had left the city in a hurry, having cut her anchor cable and set sail in the middle of the night on the 28th. The reason for the hurry was that news had reached the British Ambassador that the Turkish plan for preventing British aggression over the closure of the Dardanelles involved abducting the Ambassador, all his staff and the entire British community in Constantinople and holding them hostage. Should the British attack Turkish fortifications along the Dardanelles the Turks threatened, all the hostages would be tortured to death. In addition, intelligence had reached the Ambassador that the Turks were planning to seize HMS Endymion, which was in the port at the time, with Rear-Admiral Louis aboard. Such was the value that the British placed on this intelligence that the Rear-Admiral ordered the ship to leave immediately. Having rejoined the squadron and shifted his command flag back to HMS Canopus, Rear-Admiral Louis ordered that the squadron withdraw back to Tenedos on 1st February.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of the failure of negotiations with the Turks, the Admiralty ordered Lord Collingwood to detach a further force of ships of the line to be commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir John Thomas Duckworth, flying his command flag in the 100 gun First Rate Ship of the Line HMS Royal George, who was to join with Louis, now promoted to Vice-Admiral and take command of operations in the Dardanelles. Duckworth's orders were that in the event of the failure of the negotiations with the Turks, that he was to demand that the Turks hand over their entire fleet, comprising 12 ships of the line and nine frigates to the British. If they refused, Duckworth's force was to bombard Constantinople until the Turks complied. In addition Vice-Admiral Louis' squadron, Duckworth's force was also to consist of his flagship plus HMS Windsor Castle, the 74 gun Third Rate Ships of the Line HMS Repulse, HMS Ajax, the ex-French HMS Pompee and the bomb vessels HMS Lucifer and HMS Meteor. On 30th January 1806, Duckworth's force arrived in Malta and he dispatched HMS Active to carry his orders for Vice-Admiral Louis off Tenedos. Duckworth's force joined that of Louis at Tenedos on 10th February. After receiving Louis' report on the state of the Turkish defences along the Dardanelles, Duckworth was relieved to learn that his task of forcing his way through to Constantinople didn't appear to be as difficult as he had feared. The majority of the forts were delapidated and the bulk of the Turkish fleet at Constantinople was laid up in the Ordinary, but preparing for sea. The exception to this was one Turkish 64 gun ship and four frigates, which were already ready for sea. Duckworth also learned that the Turkish forts were in the process of being upgraded and restored by French engineers, so he realised that it was only a matter of time before his mission became unrealistic.

On the night of 14th February, disaster struck Duckworth's force when a serious fire broke out aboard HMS Ajax. In the darkness and thick smoke, her crew were unable to launch the boats or fight the fire effectively. At 5am on 15th, the ship blew up. Out of the 633 people aboard, 250 died. The boats of HMS Repulse were involved in the attempt to rescue HMS Ajax's crew.

At 7am on 19th February, Duckworth's force including HMS Repulse weighed anchor and headed for the Dardanelles. At 8am, the lead British ship, HMS Canopus drew abreast of the first of the Turkish forts which opened fire. The British did not return fire, with the exception of the two bomb vessels, which fired their mortars into the forts. At 9:30 am, the leading British ships drew abreast of the next set of fortifications, which opened fire at pistol-shot range, about 30 yards. This time, the British did return fire. The British now came up to those Turkish ships which were ready for sea, a 64 gun ship of the line, a frigate of 40 guns, two frigates of 36 guns each and one of 32 guns. In addition to these ships, there were four corvettes, one of 22 guns, one of 18 guns and two of ten guns each as well as two armed brigs and two gunboats. One of the brigs immediately set sail and headed towards Constantinople. As soon as the British squadron drew up, the Turkish ships opened fire, which was returned by the British. After returning fire, the lead British ships, HMS Royal George, HMS Windsor castle, HMS Canopus and HMS Repulse sailed on to an anchorage three miles further up, while HMS Pompee, HMS Thunderer and HMS Standard with the frigates  ran in and anchored within a musket shot of the Turkish ships and commenced a heavy fire on them. The Turkish ships cut their anchor cables in an attempt to escape, but all the ships, with the exception of one of the frigates, a corvette and a gun-boat, ran aground. The corvette and the gunboat were captured but the frigate evaded the British and stood out for the European side of the channel. HMS Active was ordered to give chase and weighed anchor and set off after the Turkish frigate, which was deliberately run aground by her crew and then burned by the British. In the engagement against the Turkish shore batteries, HMS Repulse had a Petty Officer and two seamen wounded.

Once the destruction of the Turkish squadron was complete, the men of the ships set to driving off the defenders of the fortifications ashore and destroying the gun emplacements. HMS Active was left with the two prizes and a division of men from HMS Pompee, who completed the destruction of the batteries ashore while the rest of the ships followed the squadron up the Dardanelles, past Gallipoli into the Sea of Marmora towards Constantinople. On 20th February, the rest of the squadron arrived off Constantinople. Everyone in the squadron assumed that their task would then be to wait at anchor until they heard word about the outcome of the negotiations. In fact, Duckworth already knew that with the British community evacuated from Constantinople, thus depriving the Turks of all their aces, and with combat already having taken place between his ships and the Turks, the outcome of the negotiations was irrelevant and that he was now free to do as he pleased. In fact, Sir John Duckworth had decided to err on the side of caution and preferred to consult with the British Ambassador, Sir John Arbuthnot. On the other hand, the Turks were continuing their preparations for war, something which had not gone un-noticed by Duckworth. On 22nd, Arbuthnot fell ill and his health deteriorated rapidly, leaving the whole responsibility for the negotiations and command of the naval operation on Sir John Duckworth's shoulders. Duckworth did not want to be the one to start the war, so on 28th March he decided that his ships would weigh anchor and cruise off Constantinople and try to provoke the Turks into attacking him. When they failed to do he decided to head with his ships back down the Dardanelles to Tenedos. The British ships were fired upon by the Turkish batteries as they passed down the channel, with HMS Canopus leading. All of the British ships received damage and took casualties. HMS Repulse was struck by an 800lb stone shot which hit the ship between the poop deck and the quarterdeck, destroying her steering wheel and killing two quartermasters, five seamen and three Marines as well as wounding a Lieutenant of Marines, two Marine Corporals and three Marine Privates in addition to two Quartermasters and a Boatswains Mate. The ship's mizzen mast was also damaged. The expedition to Constantinople was regarded as a failure, but Sir John Duckworth's reputation was saved by the fact that several of his ships were hit by the same huge sized shot which had struck HMS Repulse and that in the light of the fact that the Turks clearly had guns which would fire shot that size, any attempt to force the Dardanelles was bound to end in failure.

Sir John Duckworth's fleet forcing the Dardanelles:



By the summer of 1809, HMS Repulse was back in the Channel Fleet. At the time, the British were aware that the French were intending to use the great port of Antwerp at the mouth of the River Scheldt as a naval base. The French had occupied what is now The Netherlands and Belgium and the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had installed his younger brother Louis as King of Holland. He had forced Louis to cede to France the port of Flushing as the harbour at Antwerp was not deep enough to accomodate a fully loaded French 80-gun Ship of the Line. This gave the French mastery of the entire mouth of the Scheldt and the natural harbour this provides could hold a fleet of 20 ships of the line in perfect safety. By 1809, the French had already stationed a fleet of ten 74-gun ships in the Scheldt. In addition to this, the various shipyards at Antwerp had a total of 19 slipways, all of which were being used for the construction of ships for the French navy. Of particular concern for the British was the fact that six 80-gun ships, each of which had the equivalent firepower to a British 98-gun Second Rate ship and three 74-gun ships were at various stages of construction at Antwerp. Since 1805, the French had been turning the port of Antwep into a naval depot and had spent some 66 million francs on extending the fortifications, basin, dockyard and arsenal there.

In the spring of 1809, the British had decided to do something about this new threat and had begun to prepare a massive amphibious expedition to destroy the arsenal, dockyard, fortifications and enemy ships at Antwerp, Flushing and Terneuse. If possible, they were also to render the Scheldt impassable for large ships. In order to achieve this, the British planned to occupy the islands of Cadzand, Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland. They spent the early summer of 1809 gathering an immense invasion fleet at the Downs, the great fleet anchorage between Deal and the Goodwin Sands. The fleet comprised no less than 39 ships of the line, three 44-gun two-decked ships, 23 frigates, a post-ship, 31 sloops-of-war, five bomb-vessels, 23 gun-brigs and 120 hired armed cutters, revenue cutters, tenders and gun-boats. In addition to 245 warships of various sizes, there were 400 transport vessels carrying 44,000 soldiers including some 3,000 cavalry troops, 15,000 horses, two complete seige trains with heavy artillery and mortars as well as lighter field artillery.

The naval force was to be commanded by the Commander-in-Chief in the North Sea, Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan. He was a popular and famous officer, affectionately known to the seamen as 'Mad Dick' on account of his uncontrollable temper and violent cursing when things went wrong. Sir Richard Strachan was the 6th Baronet Strachan and was the last Chief of the ancient Scottish Clan Strachan. The army was to be commanded by General Sir John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham and eldest son of William Pitt the Elder, the former Prime Minister and also the older brother of William Pitt the Younger, himself a Prime Minister.

On the 28th July 1809, this mighty armada left the Downs and headed for the Scheldt Estuary. The Commander-in-Chief in HMS Venerable (74) anchored in West-Kapelle Road in the evening of July 28th, and there found the frigate HMS Fisgard (18pdr, 38). HMS Fisgard and her crew had already stationed small craft as marks on some of the neighbouring sandbanks. In the course of the night, the Eoompot channel, between Noordland and Walcheren, was sounded, and marks were placed to show its entrance. On the 29th, a large flotilla of transports, having on board General Sir John Hope's division of troops, anchored between Noord Beveland and Schouwen, opposite Zierikzee and a few hours later, the transports with General Sir Eyre Coote's division, 17,000 strong, also arrived, in charge of Rear-Admiral William Albany Otway. Coote's troops were destined exclusively for operations against Walcheren, and should have been landed straight away, but bad weather prevented any landing being attempted until 16:30. On the 30th, under covering fire from the hired armed cutter Idas (10) and under direction of Captains Lord Amelius Beauclerk of HMS Royal Oak and George Cockburn, of HMS Belle Isle (both of 74 guns) Coote's division after very light opposition, established itself on the northern extremity of Walcheren. In the evening, some bombs and gunboats entered the Veere Gat, or creek, and on the 31st, opened fire on the fortified town of Veere, one of the chief places in the island but towards nightfall, after three gunboats had been sunk by Dutch shot, the flotilla had to withdraw without having suffered any casualties. Middelburg, the capital of the island had in the meantime, peacefully surrendered and Veere had been captured. In addition a naval brigade, landed on the 30th, under Captain Charles Richardson of HMS Caesar (80) and Commander George William Blarney of the brig-sloop HMS Harpy (32pdr carronade-armed, 18) had bombarded the town of Veere with guns and Congreve rockets. During the night the Dutch commandant offered to surrender, so on August 1st Veere surrendered. The army then advanced. Fort Eammekens fell on August 3rd, and immediately afterwards, the British laid seige to Flushing. Sir John Hope's division, under the conduct of Sir Richard Goodwin Keats, had been already landed without opposition on Zuid Beveland, and had occupied some posts there, including Fort Bath, at the eastern end of the island.

On July 29th, as soon as he had been apprised of the approach of the British fleet, the French Rear-Admiral Missiessy, whose force had been lying at anchor off the Calot Sand, had weighed anchor and proceeded up the Scheldt. By the evening of the 30th, six of his ten ships of the line were above a boom which had been thrown across the river at Lillo. The other four remained below Fort Bath until a few hours before the British occupied it, and so obtained control, to some extent, both of the East and of the West Scheldt. So far, one division of the British army had landed on Walcheren, and another on Zuid Beveland. A third should, according to the original plans, have been almost simultaneously landed at Cadzand, where the French General Rousseau commanded a small force. Owing to a miscommunication, the transport vessels which ought to have put their troops ashore at Cadzand moved round to the Veere Gat. This error enabled Rousseau, on August 1st and 2nd, to send over about 1600 men in schuyts to reinforce the threatened garrison of Flushing. But on the 3rd, his efforts to send more were frustrated by the brave actions of the brig-sloop HMS Raven (24pdr carronade-armed, 16) HMS Raven, under the orders of Captain Edward William Campbell Rich Owen of HMS Clyde (18pdr, 38) stood in to cover some boats which under Lieutenant Charles Burrough Strong had been ordered to mark the channel between Flushing and Breskens. She quickly became exposed to heavy fire from the batteries of both places but, instead of withdrawing, she returned fire, and assisted by some gunboats, drove back to the Cadzand side a flotilla of enemy's boats which had been in the act of crossing. As she returned down the river, she passed through a hail of shells, grapeshot and red-hot shot from the batteries on both shores, and lost her main and fore topmasts, besides receiving other serious damage, having two of her guns dismounted, and drifting on to the Elboog sand, whence she could not be moved until the following morning. In this action, HMS Raven suffered eight wounded including her commander. Sadly, their bravery was to no avail, on August 4th, the French reopened communications between Cadzand and Flushing and between that day and the evening of the 6th, General Rousseau succeeded in sending across about 1500 more men, a reinforcement which brought up the strength of the Flushing garrison to about seven thousand.

Possession of Fort Rammekens allowed the British to use the Sloe channel, which is one of the connections between the East and the West Scheldt and facilitated the passage into West Scheldt of the flotilla which had been operating against Veere. Part of this was destined to watch the river opposite Flushing, and to prevent further communications between Cadzand and Ter Neuze; and part to proceed up the West Scheldt, and to co-operate in a naval advance in the direction of Lillo but owing to the bad weather and the difficulties of navigating the River, Flushing was not effectively blockaded until the 6th. It wasn't until the 9th that a division of ships under Sir Home Riggs Popham was able to push up the West Scheldt in order to sound and buoy the Baerlandt Channel in preparation for the passage of the larger ships. On the afternoon of August 11th, with a light westerly breeze that a squadron of ten frigates under Lord William Stuart, weighed anchor from below Flushing and in a line of battle, forced the channel between the batteries of Flushing and Cadzand. The frigates were:

HMS Lavinia, HMS Statira, the ex-Danish ships HMS Rota and HMS Perlen (all 18pdr, 38), HMS Amethyst, HMS Aigle, HMS Euryalus, HMS Dryad and the ex-Danish HMS Nymphen (all 18pdr, 36) and HMS Heroine (12pdr, 36).

As a result of the light wind and strong opposing current, the frigates were under fire for about two hours, but only suffered casualties of two killed and nine wounded and except for HMS Aigle, they reached the upper part of the river without having suffered any material damage. HMS Aigle had had her stern frame shattered by a shell. In the meantime an attack on Fort Bath by Missiessy's small craft had been repulsed and Sir Richard Goodwin Keats, who was in command below Lillo had forced the French to move the rest of their ships of theline to a point above the boom which spanned the river at that spot.

It had been arranged that when the siege batteries of the army opened fire on Flushing, a squadron of ships of the line would move up the river and support them. The bombardment began at 13:30 on August 13th and the army gunners were supported by two divisions of bomb vessels and gunboats under the command of Captain George Cockburn, of HMS Belle Isle (74), who commanded the operation from the 6pdr-armed ship-sloop HMS Plover of 18 guns. On that day the light winds prevented the ships of the line from moving to the attack, but at 10:00 on the 14th, the following ships, all of 74 guns, weighed anchor from off Dijkshoek and stood in:

HMS San Domingo, HMS Blake, HMS Repulse, HMS Victorious, the ex-Danish HMS Danmark, HMS Audacious and HMS Venerable.

Soon after approaching near enough to open fire, HMS San Domingo and then HMS Blake, which had attempted to pass inside of her, grounded on the Dog-sand. At this point, the other ships were signalled to haul off and anchor. The two ships got off after about three hours under fire and anchored with the rest having suffered casualties of two killed and eighteen wounded. The remaining ships of the line including HMS Repulse had nobody hurt. At 16:00, the garrison of Flushing ceased returning the British fire and at 14:00 on the 15th, the French commandant, General Mounet, offered to surrender.

A contemporary engraving of The Bombardment of Flushing:



Apart from the loss sustained by the ships of the line and the frigate squadron, the naval force suffered further casualties of 7 killed and 22 wounded aboard the bomb vessels and gunboats with 7 wounded in the naval brigade which served ashore under Captain Charles Richardson. The army, in the various operations on the island of Walcheren up to the surrender of Flushing, had 103 killed and 443 wounded. On the day of the surrender, HMS Imperieuse (18pdr, 38) exposed herself to the fire of the fort at Ter Neuze and returned fire with shrapnel shells from her carronades. One of these blew up the magazine of the battery and caused the deaths of 75 of the enemy. What losses the French sustained in Walcheren is unknown, but they were probably severe. On August 17th, the islands of Schouwen and Duijveland, northward of the East Scheldt, surrendered peacefully to Sir Richard Goodwin Keats and Lieutenant-General the Earl of Rosslyn.

From that point, the campaign collapsed. The Earl of Chatham, who moved his headquarters from Middelburg to Veere on the 21st, transferred them from there on the 23rd to Goes, on Zuid Beveland. He left 10,000 men in Walcheren to defend against the ever-increasing force of the enemy at Cadzand and he therefore had 29,000 men nominally available for the remaining objectives of the expedition, which were the taking of the strong forts at Lillo and Liefkenshoek, and of the great fortress of Antwerp. At those places, and in Bergen-op-Zoom, there were discovered to be at least 35,000 French soldiers while from the 19th onwards, more and more British troops were falling ill with what was known as the 'Walcheren Fever', a form of Malaria. The Earl of Chatham was growing increasingly concerned by reports which reached him about the defences of Antwerp, which he had previously believed to be easily taken and of the seeming impossibility of destroying the docks and arsenal there without having first taken the citadel. He also learned that there was nothing to prevent the French ships of the line from moving with everything aboard, to Ruppelmonde, five miles beyond Antwerp or without their guns and stores, to Dendermonde, some 15 miles further up the river Scheldt. Realising the likelyhood of failure, he held a council of war on the 26th. This council declared in favour of abandoning the whole enterprise rather than of running any risk of utter failure. To this end, Zuid Beveland was evacuated immediately, and Walcheren in December of 1809, after the basin, arsenal, and sea-defences at Flushing had been blown up. Two small vessels on the stocks there were also destroyed but a 74-gun ship which was in frames was taken to pieces and the timbers later reassembled at Woolwich Royal Dockyard and completed as HMS Chatham (74). The only complete vessel taken was a new frigate, the Fidele, which was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Laurel (18pdr, 38).

The last of the British troops leave Walcheren:



History now judges the whole expedition as having been mismanaged, ill-planned and ill-timed. Of the huge army landed on the islands in the mouth of the River Scheldt, particularly Walcheren, over 4,000 died from the so-called Walcheren Fever while another 6,000 were left suffering the long-term effects of Malaria. Only about 160 British soldiers were actually killed in the fighting. The Earl of Chatham saw to it that Sir Richard Strachan carried the blame for the failure of this, the largest British amphibious operation of the war and the Rear-Admiral received no more active service appointments as a result. The Earl of Chatham also had no further active service appointments and only went on to serve in purely ceremonial positions. A poem mocking him for the lack of communication between his headquarters and the Royal Navy forces there to support him became popular:

"The Earl of Chatham, with his sword drawn,
Stood waiting for Sir Richard Strachan;
Sir Richard, longing to be at 'em,
Stood waiting for the Earl of Chatham."


Despite being married, Sir John Pitt, the 2nd Earl of Chatham died without an heir on the 24th September 1835 and the Earldom of Chatham died with him. Sir Richard Strachan also died without an heir on 3rd February 1828 although he and his wife had three daughters. His Baronetcy became extinct upon his death.

After the military disaster at Walcheren, Captain Legge was promoted to Rear-Admiral and finally left the ship in November of 1809 after having been in command for six years. On his promotion, he was appointed to command naval operations at Cadiz, where the British were supporting Spanish forces resisting the French seige of the city. After the seige was lifted in 1812, he returned to the UK and was appointed as Commander-in-Chief at the Nore. He never married and when he died in 1835, he left his substantial fortune divided up amongst his personal staff at his estate, near what was the village of Lewisham, now a London suburb.

Sir Arthur Kaye Legge was replaced in command of HMS Repulse by Captain John Halliday. His previous appointments included the 18pdr-armed, 36-gun frigate HMS Doris. By the summer of 1810, HMS Repulse was once more in the Mediterranean, engaged on the blockade of the French Toulon fleet.

In the early part of August of 1810, three large French store-ships, bound for Toulon, were chased into the harbour at Porqueroles, in the Iles de Hyeres off Toulon by the inshore squadron of the blockading British fleet. The 32pdr carronade-armed, 18-gun brig-sloop HMS Philomel was assigned to keep an eye on them and at daybreak on the 26th August, the three heavily-armed enemy ships pushed out of the harbour at Porqueroles and made a dash for the Toulon Road. One of the store-ships, covered by a division of the Toulon Fleet made it, the other two were forced to return and anchor again. On the 30th of August, the remaining store-ships were seen preparing to make another attempt and at daybreak on the 31st, the French Toulon Fleet was seen to be on the move. By 08:30, the two French store-ships were under way and at 09:30, they were sighted by HMS Philomel, who changed course to intercept them, despite the oncoming French fleet commanded by Rear-Admiral Baudin in the mighty 120-gun ship of the line Majesteux. At 10:30, HMS Philomel opened fire with her bow 6pdr long guns to which the French store-ships replied in kind. At 10:40, HMS Repulse which was laying-to some distance from HMS Philomel, exchanged fire with the frigates leading the French fleet out of the Toulon Road. In the meantime, the two store-ships with the wind behind them and protected by the French fleet made it into Toulon. Flushed with success, Rear-Admiral Baudin then decided that his force would capture the British sloop-of-war, so his fleet continued wotking their way out of the Toulon Road in pursuit of HMS Philomel. Mr Henry Guion, Master and Commander in HMS Philomel realised his peril and ordered that his vessels 6pdr bow long guns be moved to the stern gunports in addition to making all sail in an attempt to get away from the leading French frigates which were now gaining on him. At noon, two of the French frigates opened fire on HMS Philomel, who returned fire through the stern gunports. By 12:25, Captain Halliday had ordered that two of HMS Repulse's lower gundeck 32pdr long guns be moved to the ship's stern gunports and open fire on the leading French frigates. At 12:30, seeing that the enemy fire was passing over HMS Philomel, Captain Halliday ordered that his ship stand between the British sloop-of-war and the enemy, present her broadside and let the French have it. The three French frigates, the Pomone, Penelope and Adrienne received such a heavy and well-aimed fire from HMS Repulse that they turned and fled back to the main body of the French fleet, who were continuing to advance. HMS Repulse kept up such a heavy and concentrated fire on the oncoming French ships that Rear-Admiral Baudin decided that the capture of a British brig-sloop was not worth the price that HMS Repulse would make him pay and by 17:00, his whole force was safely at anchor back in the Toulon Road.

HMS Repulse (foreground right) stands behind HMS Philomel (centre) and sends the French fleet fleeing back into Toulon. After a painting by Nicholas Pocock:



Commander Guion ordered that a signal be made to HMS Repulse:
"You REPULSED the enemy and nobly saved us. Grant me permission to return thanks"

In May of 1811, Captain Halliday swapped ships wth Captain Richard Hussey Moubray of HMS Montagu. Captain Moubray's previous command appointments had included the 18pdr-armed 38-gun frigate HMS Active and the 12pdr-armed 32-gun, fir-built frigate HMS Maidstone.

See here for the stories of HMS Active:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=17704.msg153767#msg153767

HMS Maidstone:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=19567.msg173552#msg173552

and HMS Montagu:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=18626.msg162565#msg162565

In March and April of 1813, the 18pdr-armed 38-gun frigates HMS Undaunted and the ex-French HMS Volontaire and the 32pdr carronade-armed 18-gun brig-sloop HMS Redwing had been carrying out cutting-out raids on the south coast of France between Toulon and Marseilles. On the 2nd of May, these vessels were joined by HMS Repulse and Captain Moubray sent 100 of her Marines on a raid, together with those from HMS Undaunted and HMS Volontaire. Their objective was a newly constructed shore battery near the port of Morgion. At the same time, the boats of all the ships were to launch a cutting-out raid on the port. The launches (the largest boats) were to be fitted with 18pdr carronades taken from HMS Repulse's poop deck in order to provide covering fire with HMS Redwing. The Marines were landed and drove back the French troops and held them in the hills overlooking the town while the seamen captured several small, heavily laden vessels in the harbour as well as destroying the batteries including nine guns and a 13-inch mortar. The whole raid was successfully completed at a cost of two seamen killed and three men and the officer commanding the seamen, Mr Isaac Shaw, First Lieutenant in HMS Volontaire were wounded.

That was the last time that HMS Repulse and her men saw action. On the 11th of April 1814, the Napoleonic War was ended by the Treaty of Fontainebleu and by May, HMS Repulse was in Plymouth Royal Dockyard being fitted for the Ordinary.

HMS Repulse remained in the Plymouth Ordinary under the care of a skeleton crew until September of 1820, when she 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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