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Author Topic: HMS Fortune (1778 - 1789)  (Read 150 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Fortune (1778 - 1789)
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2018, 23:29:21 »
HMS Fortune was an unrated, 6pdr-armed, quarterdeck-built, ship-rigged sloop of war of sixteen guns of the Swan Class, built at the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich, at the time in the County of Kent.

The Swan Class was a group of 25 ship-sloops designed by John Williams, Co-Surveyor of the Navy, of which 11 were built in Kent shipyards. HMS Fortune was the only ship of the class to be built at the Woolwich Royal Dockyard.

The Swan Class were noted for the lavish scale of their decorations and were the last sloops built for the Royal Navy with decorations on such a scale. Orders were made by the Admiralty that decorations on smaller vessels be far less lavish and future vessels were almost puritan by comparison.

Quarterdeck-built means that the ships had their gundecks partially enclosed by a quarterdeck aft and a forecastle forward. The entire crew lived on the Berth deck, below the Gundeck, except the commanding officer, whose quarters were aft on the gundeck, below the quarterdeck. The term 'Sloop of War' was a term used to describe an ocean-going warship which carried less than the minimum 20 guns required for the vessel to be rated under the Royal Navy's rating system. 'Ship-rigged' meant that she had three masts, all carrying square sails. Sloops tended to have a 'Master and Commander', abbreviated to 'Commander', appointed in command rather than an officer with the rank of captain. At the time, the rank of 'Commander' did not exist as it does today. It was a position rather than a formal rank and an officer commanding a sloop had a substantive rank of Lieutenant and was appointed as her Master and Commander. An officer in the post of Master and Commander would be paid substantially more than a Lieutenant's wages and would also receive the lions share of any prize or head money earned by the ship and her crew. The appointment combined the positions of Commanding Officer and Sailing Master. If a war ended and a sloop's commanding officer was laid off, he would receive half-pay based on his substantive rank of Lieutenant. If he was successful, he would usually be promoted to Captain or 'Posted' either while still in command of the sloop, or would be promoted and appointed as a Captain on another, rated ship. Sloops therefore tended to be commanded by ambitious young men anxious to prove themselves.

HMS Fortune was ordered by the Navy Board on the 16th October 1775 and her first keel section was laid at Woolwich on the 19th of April 1777. Her completed hull was launched with all due ceremony into the River Thames on the 28th of July 1778 having cost 7,971.7s. Imediately after her launch, the ship began the process of being fitted with guns, masts and rigging at Woolwich and the ship was declared complete on the 19th of September.

On completion, HMS Fortune was a ship of 300 tons. She was 96ft 7in long on her gundeck and 78ft 11in long at her keel. She was 26ft 10in wide across her beams. Her hold, the space between her lowest deck, the Orlop and her bottom was 12ft 10in deep. The ship was armed with 16 6pdr long guns on her gundeck with 8 half-pound swivel-guns on her quarterdeck with four more such guns on her forecastle. She was manned by a crew of 125 officers, men and boys. The ship had commissioned into the Channel Fleet with Mr Charles Powell Hamilton appointed as her Master and Commander on the 11th of June 1778, while she was still on the slipway at Woolwich.

Swan Class Plans

Framing Plan:

Orlop and Berth Deck Plans:

Gundeck, Forecastle and Quarterdeck Plans:

Sheer Plan, Lines and details of the decorations:

Broadside view of a model of HMS Fly. Also a Swan Class ship, HMS Fortune was identical:

A model of HMS Fortune's sister-ship HMS Pegasus:

Once the ship was commissioned, Mr Powell set about recruiting his crew. In the case of the commissioned ans senior warrant officers, this was done for him. In the case of a ship with a crew of 125 men, the Admiralty would appoint two Lieutenants into the ship. As commissioned officers, these men drew their authority from their Commissions, issued by the Admiralty on behalf of the King.

In addition to those men, the Navy Board would appoint the Standing Officers, those Warrant Officers who would stay with the ship whether or not she was in commission. The Carpenter, responsible for the maintenance and repair of the hull, decks and frames would be appointed from amongst the shipwrights who built her. The Gunner, in charge of the maintenance and repair of her main guns, together with all the associated equipment as well as the storage of her stocks of gunpowder and shot and the training of her gunners. The Boatswain or Bosun, responsible for the maintenance and repair of the masts, sails and rigging. The last of the Standing Officers was the Cook. He was usually a disabled seaman. Although a Warrant Officer and one of the Standing Officers, the Cook actually had a somewhat lowly status, only drawing the pay of an Able Seaman. There were also other warrant officers, the Surgeon, responsible for the daily healthcare of the crew. Although the Commander filled the official role of Sailing Master, one would be appointed to the ship anyway. The last of the senior Warrant Officers was the Purser, responsible for the ships supply of provisions. All these men would be appointed into the ship by the Navy Board. These men drew their authority from their Warrants, issued by the Navy Board. A ship like HMS Fortune would also have two Midshipmen, appointed by the Admiralty and in addition to those, the Captain would appoint Midshipmen-in-Ordinary, on the ships books as Commander's Servants and rated at Able Seaman. These boys would be aboard in this capacity in order to built the sea-time required before they could be appointed as Midshipmen proper. A commanding officer was allowed four servants per hundred men of his ship's company, but clearly didn't actually need this number, so Commander Hamilton probably took on two or three Midshipmen-in-Ordinary in addition to the two Midshipmen appointed to HMS Fortune. The Midshipman-in-Ordinary wore the uniform and performed the role of a Midshipman.

The Commander would set about appointing the lesser Warrant Officers himself. A ship like HMS Fortune would have a single Masters Mate appointed to assist the Sailing Master in his duties, those of managing the day-to-day sailing and navigation of the ship, the stowage of her stores in the hold to ensure the optimum trim and training the midshipmen in the art of navigation. There would also be a single Assistant Surgeon or Surgeon's Mate. Other artificers included the Caulker, the Ropemaker, the Sailmaker, a single Carpenter's Mate, a single Boatswains Mate, a single Gunners Mate, an Armourer, to look after the ship's small-arms and bladed weapons, A Quartermaster to oversee the steering of the ship. There were a host of Petty Officers to be appointed, Captains of Parts of the ship such as Captain of the Maintop, captain of the Foretop, captain of the Forecastle etc. In addition, the First Lieutenant would be responsible for rating the men brought aboard from the Recieving Ship after having been taken by the press gang into those with two or more years of sea-going experience, Able Seamen, those with some, but less than two years as Ordinary Seamen, those with no experience at all as Landsmen and those aged under 18 as Boys. The Boys also had to be rated by experience, Boy 3rd class with none, Boy 2nd Class with some and Boy 1st Class with two or more years.

All these men would have to be shaped, under Commander Powell's supervision, into an efficient fighting unit, by brute force if necessary. He must have been successful because before too long, HMS Fortune got her first taste of action in the American War of Independence, which by now was in full swing. Towards the end of April 1779, a flotilla of French fishing boats carrying 1,500 men and escorted by a force of warships consisting of the Danae and the Diane (both of 26 guns), the Ecleuse of 8 guns and the Valeur and Guepe (both of 6 guns) set out from St. Malo with the intention of carrying out an invasion of Jersey. Bad weather force the French force to retire back to St Malo and preveted them from trying again until May 1st, when they appeared in St Ouens Bay, Jersey. The enemy force attempted a landing in the Bay and were met by a force of British soldiers of the Seaforth Highland Regiment who forced them to return to their vessels. A fast vessel was immediately sent to Portsmouth for help and met with a convoy under Vice-Admiral Sir Marriot Arbuthnot who sent a considerable force to assist. Commanded by Captain Sir James Wallace in the 4th rate Ship of the Line HMS Experiment of 50 guns, the force headed for Jersey immediately. After their failure to invade Jersey, the French force returned to St. Malo, but left again on the 10th of May and anchored off Contances, on the Normandy coast. On the 13th of May, Captain Wallace decided to cut this force off, surround and destroy them. With HMS Experiment, together with HMS Pallas (12pdr, 36), HMS Unicorn (9pdr, 20), HMS Fortune and the brig-sloop HMS cabot of 14 guns, Captain Wallace sailed around the west coast of Jersey while HMS Richmond (12pdr, 32) and seven other ships sailed straight towards the enemy. Caught between the two British flotillas, the French headed into Cancale Bay and the protection of the shore battery there. This did not stop Wallace and his ships, who sailed into the Bay, bombarded and silenced the shore battery, boarded the enemy vessels and burned the Valeur, Ecluse and Guepe and captured the Danae. The rest of the enemy vessels were driven ashore by their crews with the exception of the Diane, which escaped.

On the 18th of May 1779, Commander Powell was Posted, or promoted to Captain and appointed to command the 9pdr-armed 24-gun post-ship HMS Champion and was replaced in HMS Fortune by Mr Mathew Squire. He remained in command until he was replaced by Mr Lewis Robertson on the 6th of November 1779. On the 19th of January 1780, HMS Fortune sailed for the West Indies.

On the 26th April 1780, HMS Fortune was patrolling off Barbuda when she encountered the French frigates L'Iphegenie and Gentille (both 12pdr-armed, 32 guns). Outsailed and outgunned, Mr Robertson had no option but to surrender HMS Fortune to the enemy. After his repatriation in a prisoner exchange and acquittal at Court Martial for the loss of his ship, Mr Robertson was appointed to command the 14-gun brig-sloop HMS Bonetta and was Posted on the 30th November 1782. He was killed in action on the 2nd of July 1794 while commanding the 64-gun Ship of the Line HMS Veteran.

HMS Fortune was taken into the French navy under her British name and served as La Fortune until October of 1783, when she became a Packet Ship, carrying the mail from Lorient to New York. The ship was renamed Courrier de Lorient. In January of 1787, she was transferred to the Regie des Paquebots and ran the mail from Le Havre to New York. In January of 1789, she was sold into merchant service and disappears from records.
"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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