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Author Topic: HMS Hydra (1797 - 1820)  (Read 1270 times)

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Offline Dave Smith

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Re: HMS Hydra (1797 - 1820)
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2018, 20:14:29 »
bilgerat. Whew! Another most interesting story, many thanks. I was interested to see that the Surgeon was a Warrant Officer, altho' allowed to dine in the Ward Room with the officers.

Offline smiffy

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Re: HMS Hydra (1797 - 1820)
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2018, 12:56:45 »
What constantly amazes me about many of these ships is how short, but eventful, their histories were.

Offline mikeb

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Re: HMS Hydra (1797 - 1820)
« Reply #2 on: April 08, 2018, 20:51:05 »
Another excellent read Bilgerat...thank you. The stuff of KHF.

Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Hydra (1797 - 1820)
« Reply #1 on: April 08, 2018, 18:57:29 »
HMS Hydra was a Fifth Rate, 18pdr-armed, 38-gun frigate built under Navy Board contract by William Cleverley at his shipyard at Gravesend. Her design was a direct copy of the ex-French HMS Melpomene, originally built in Toulon and launched on the 6th August 1789. HMS Melpomene was captured by the Royal Navy on the 10th August 1794 and was commissioned under her French name. HMS Hydra was the only British ship built to this design.

The contract for the construction of HMS Hydra was signed on the 30th April 1795 and the first elm keel section of the ship was laid at Cleverley's Yard the following November. Over the course of the next fourteen months, the ship took shape and she was launched with all due ceremony into the River Thames on the 13th of March 1797. After her launch, the ship was taken to the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich, where she was fitted with her guns, masts and rigging. In April 1797, HMS Hydra commissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain Sir Francis Laforey, the 2nd Baronet Laforey of Whitby.

On completion, HMS Hydra was a ship of 1,016 tons. She was 148ft 2in long on her gundeck, 123 ft 7in long along her keel and 39ft 4in wide across the beams. She was armed with 28 x 18pdr long guns on her gundeck, 12 x 32pdr carronades on her quarterdeck with 2 x 12pdr long guns and 2 x 32pdr carronades on her forecastle. In addition to her main guns, the ship also carried about a dozen half-pounder swivel guns fitted to her forecastle and quarterdeck handrails and in her fighting tops. By the time the ship was declared complete at Woolwich, she had cost 23,012.

Captain Francis Laforey was the son of Sir John Laforey, 1st Baronet, who was himself a distinguished and successful if controversial officer. He was born in the Viginia Colony and was raised in Antigua while his father carved out his own naval career. His father's influence certainly helped the young Francis up the ranks of the Royal Navy and he had been aged 24 when he received his first command appointment, the 6pdr-armed 16-gun sloop of war HMS Fairy in the years just before the French Revolutionary War broke out. He had been appointed to command the 9pdr-armed 6th rate, 28-gun frigate HMS Carysfort on the outbreak of war and was still aged only 29 when he was appointed in command of HMS Hydra. Captain Laforey was himself no stranger to controversy. During his time in command of HMS Carysfort, he had recaptured the ex-HMS Castor from the French. Because that ship had yet to be refitted for French service, the Admiralty had refused to pay Captain Laforey and his men prize money for the ship, claiming that all he and his men were entitled to was a much smaller payment in respect of salvage. Captain Laforey and his officers were having none of this and sued the Admiralty. The Court ruled in their favour and ordered the Admiralty to pay Captain Laforey and his men what was due. The incident seems to have done Captain Laforey's career in the Royal Navy no harm, otherwise he wouldn't have received another command appointment when his term in command of HMS Carysfort ended.

See here for the story of HMS Carysfort:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=18737.msg163631#msg163631

and HMS Fairy:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=18792.msg164226#msg164226

Once he was appointed to command the ship, Captain Laforey set about recruiting his crew. His three Lieutenants, ranked in order of seniority, 1st, 2nd and 3rd, were appointed into the ship by the Admiralty. The appointment of the First Lieutenant was of particular importance as he was the Captain's right hand man, responsible for the day-to-day running of the ship and the captain certainly had a degree of say in who was appointed to his ship. The senior Warrant Officers were appointed by the Navy Board, and would include the Standing Officers, those men who would remain with the ship whether she was in commission or not. The Standing Officers were as follows:

The Boatswain - Answerable to the First Lieutenant and responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ship's masts, sails and rigging as well as the ships boats. On a ship like HMS Hydra, he would be assisted by one Boatswains Mate.

The Carpenter - an apprenticed and qualified shipwright, answerable to the First Lieutenant and responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ship's frames, hull and decks. He was assisted by one Carpenters Mate and had his own crew of five Able Seamen. He was usually appointed from amongst the shipwrights who built the ship, thereby staking his own life on the quality of the workmanship.

The Gunner - Answerable to the First Lieutenant and responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ship's main guns and associated equipment, training the gunners, the storage and distribution in action of the ship's supplies of gunpowder and shot and the maintenance and repair of the ships's iron fixtures and fittings. He was assisted by a Gunners Mate and in addition to the Gunners Mate, there were nine Quarter-Gunners, each responsible for four gun crews.

The Cook - Answerable to the Purser and responsible for the preparation and distribution of the ships victuals.

The Purser - Answerable to the Captain and so entitled to live in the wardroom with the commissioned officers, he was responsible for the purchase and distribution of all the ships provisions and stores.

In addition to the Standing Officers, the Navy Board appointed further senior Warrant Officers into the ship, as follows:

The Surgeon - Answerable to the captain and so entitled to live in the wardroom with the commissioned officers, he was responsible for the day-to-day healthcare of the ship's crew. He was assisted by one Assistant Surgeon.

The Sailing Master - Answerable to the captain and so entitled to live in the wardroom with the commissioned officers, he was the highest ranking of the non-commissioned officers and was responsible for the day-to-day sailing and navigation of the ship, training the midshipmen in the arts of navigation and ship-handling and was also responsible for the storage of supplies in the hold, to ensure the optimum trim for the ship. He was assisted by a Masters Mate. Also reporting to the Sailing Master were three Quartermasters, who were each responsible for the ship's steering and each with their own Mate.

As well as these core Warrant Officers, other lower ranking Warrant Officers were appointed:

The Armourer, a qualified and apprenticed blacksmith, he was answerable to the Gunner and was responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ship's supply of small-arms and bladed weapons. He was assisted by an Armourers Mate.

The Caulker, answerable to the Carpenter and responsible for ensuring the hull and decks remained watertight. The Caulker had no crew as such, but Able Seamen would be ordered to assist him as and when required.

The Sailmaker - answerable to the Boatswain and responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ship's sails and the storage of spare sails and flags. He didn't have a crew as such, but was entitled to have Able Seamen nominated to assist him as and when required.

The Ropemaker - answerable to the Boatswain and responsible for the ship's supplies of cordage as well as the manufacture of new cordage as and when needed.

The Clerk - answerable to the Purser and responsible for all the record-keeping and administration aboard the ship.

The Schoolmaster - answerable to the First Lieutenant and responsible for the education and welfare of the ship's boys.

The Chaplain - answerable to the Captain, he would be an ordained priest. In the absence of a Chaplain, the Captain would carry out his duties.

In addition to these core craftsmen and Warrant Officers, numerous Petty Officers would be picked out from amongst the men brought aboard from the Receiving Ship and those taken by any press-gangs sent out by the Captain, as well as men volunteering for service. The First Lieutenant would be responsible for sorting men and boys by their experience and assigning them to stations in the ship. These would be Petty Officers, those men with previous experience in those roles, Able Seamen who could turn their hand to anything and with at least two years of sea-going experience, Ordinary Seamen; those with previous sea-going experience and Landsmen with no previous sea-going experience. Landsmen were the unskilled labourers aboard the ship. In addition, those aged 18 or under would be rated as Boys; 1st Class with Able Seaman levels of experience and skills, 2nd Class with Ordinary Seaman-level experience and skills and 3rd Class with no previous sea-going experience.

A frigate like HMS Hydra would also have an embarked contingent of Marines, who joined the ship as a pre-existing unit. A 38-gun ship would have a unit headed by a Lieutenant of Marines, assisted by a Sergeant and a Corporal, with a Drummer and 36 Privates. The role of the ship's Marines would be several-fold. In addition to providing the ship with a core land-forces element, the Marines would be mostly employed in pouring small-arms fire onto an enemy vessel in action, including the posting of sharp-shooters in the fighting tops to take down officers and gunners on an enemy ship's upper decks and posted on hatchways to prevent terrifed seamen from fleeing below. They would play a leading role in repelling enemy boarders if necessary and also provided security for HMS Hydra's own officers. They would provide sentries at strategic points around the ship when she was at anchor as well as a ceremonial guard when the ship entered or left port and received a VIP. The officer commanding the ship's contingent of Marines was entitled to live in the wardroom.

Finally, there were the Midshipmen. Officers in training, a ship like HMS Hydra would have six Midshipmen appointed by the Port Admiral or local Commander-in-Chief on behalf of the Admiralty. There were also Midshipmen-in-Ordinary. The number of those aboard depended on the Captain. On the ship's books as Captains Servants and rated as Able Seamen, these were usually the sons of people the Captain either owed a favour to or was doing a favour for. They wore the uniform and performed the duties of a Midshipman and lived in the Midshipmen's quarters and would serve in this position until they had gained the two years sea-going experience required before they could be appointed as Midshipmen proper. The Captain of a ship with a crew of 284 would be entitled to have as many as twelve servants or four per hundred of her Company. A captain would never require this many servants unless he was extraordinarily extravagant, so the spare positions would be used for the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary.

Captain Laforey would be responsible for moulding all these men into an efficient and deadly fighting unit who could operate their ship in every possible situation and certainly in the early weeks and months of her commission, this would be done by brute force.

Plans of HMS Hydra

Orlop Plan:



Lower or Berth Deck Plan:



Upper, Main or Gundeck Plan:



Forecastle and Quarterdeck Plans:



Inboard Profile and Plan:



Framing Plan:



Sheer Plan and Lines:



It didn't take Captain Laforey and his new ship long to get into the action. On 7th April 1797, HMS Hydra, in company with the 18pdr armed 38 gun frigate HMS Diamond, was patrolling near the St Marcouf Islands off the Normandy coast when they sighted a force of 33 flat-bottomed gunboats and a number of heavily armed gun-brigs, which had been sent from Le Havre to capture the islands. At 16:00, the French force anchored in a line off the islands and at 17:30, the two British frigates opened fire on them. While attempting to wear ship (to change tack by passing the ship's stern through the eye of the wind), HMS Diamond ran aground on a sand-bank. Despite being stuck fast, the ship continued firing until 20:30, when darkness forced her to cease fire. The enemy also stopped firing and soon after midnight HMS Diamond's crew, assisted by men from HMS Hydra succeeded in getting the ship off the sand-bank. At 06:00, the French weighed anchor and headed west, anchoring again off the town of Bernie. The two British frigates followed out of range, observing the enemy and were joined by the 50 gun ship of the line HMS Adamant under Captain William Hotham. Observing the powerful two-decker joining the two British frigates, the French commander headed east back towards the Caen River pursued by the three British ships and exchanging broadside fire on the way. The French anchored again under the shore batteries protecting Le Havre, at which point all three British ships broke off the action and headed out to sea. The French were to make another two attempts to take the St Marcouf Islands, all of which were driven off.

See here for the story of HMS Diamond:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=18577.msg161775#msg161775

On the 30th of May, HMS Hydra was off Le Havre in company with the bomb vessel HMS Vesuvius and the cutter HMS Trial when they sighted three vessels heading away from Le Havre, headed in the direction of Cherbourg. The enemy vessels were quickly identified as being the French 36-gun frigate Confiante, the 20-gun ship-corvette Vesuve and a cutter. The enemy vessels approached the British force until they realised who they were, then headed off under all sail, back towards Le Havre. The three British vessels immediately set off after them in chase. HMS Hydra, well ahead and upwind of the other British vessels followed the enemy closely and on getting near the shore, the Confiante and Vesuve tacked and the Vesuve opened fire on HMS Hydra, which was returned in kind. By 06:00, HMS Hydra was passing between the two French vessels and the Confiante opened fire, which was ineffective. HMS Hydra fired at the Vesuve and her fire was so effective that the enemy corvette crowded on all sail and headed towards the shore. At 06:30, Captain Laforey decided to leave the corvette to HMS Vesuvius and HMS Trial and headed after the Confiante, which by now had changed course and was fleeing towards Le Havre. Quickly catching up with the French frigate, HMS Hydra opened fire and the two ships had a running fight until about 07:15, when the Confiante ran aground on a sandbank off the village of Beuzeval. Captain Laforey then ordered that his ship's sails be laid aback (back-to-front, stopping the ship) and continued to bombard the enemy frigate from a range of about 100 yards. After the enemy's mizzen topmast was shot away, the falling tide forced HMS Hydra to draw further away. By this time HMS Vesuvius and HMS Trial had forced the Vesuve to run ashore, so Captain Laforey ordered them to close with his position. He ordered HMS Trial to close with the enemy frigate. By the time HMS Trial reached their position, the Confiante's crew had hauled her further ashore and troops had assembled on the beach to try to protect the French frigate. After receiving the report from Lieutenant Henry Garret, Lieutenant-in-command in HMS Trial, Captain Laforey decided on a boat attack. At 10:00 on the 31st of May, on seeing that most of the Confiante's crew had abandoned her, Captain Laforey decided to launch the attack, to be commanded by Lieutenants George Acklom and William J Simonds with Marine Lieutenant Blanch with orders to haul down the enemy's colours and burn the ship. Under the cover of the guns of HMS Trial, the raiding party boarded the Confiante at 12:45 and by 13:30, the French frigate was on fire and by the time the boats returned to HMS Hydra at 14:30 she was completely destroyed. In the whole action, the British suffered no casualties at all and in her fight against the Confiante, HMS Hydra sustained some slight damage to her main mast and rigging. On boarding the Confiante, the British could only ascertain that the French had suffered severe casualties from the amount of blood and body parts strewn over her decks. When they abandoned ship, the French had taken their dead and wounded with them. In the meantime, while the British were occupied with the destruction of the Confiante, the crew of the Vesuve managed to get their ship to the small port of Salanelle, near Le Havre, where they joined the gunboats previously employed in the attempt to seize the St. Marcouf Islands.

On the 1st of June, the squadron was joined by HMS Diamond under Captain Sir Richard Strachan and given the extra guns and men now available to protect the Vesuve from further British attack, Captain Strachan as the senior officer present decided that nothing more could be done and the British departed.

In this painting by Thomas Whitcombe, HMS Hydra, with her sails aback, pummels the grounded Confiante.



On the 1st of January 1799, Captain Laforey received orders for the West Indies and on the 3rd, the ship sailed with the West India convoy in company with HMS Penelope (18pdr, 36) and the 32pdr carronade-armed ship-sloop HMS Echo of 18 guns. HMS Hydra remained in the West Indies until the 11th of November 1800, when the packet vessel Lady Hobart arrived at Martinique where HMS Hydra was laying with orders for the ship to escort the West India convoy to the Downs, off Deal. On the 16th of November, the convoy was struck by a storm and the merchantman Traveller foundered, with her master Mr William Davis and her crew being rescued by HMS Hydra. On the 16th of January 1801, the ship and convoy arrived off Deal and on the 21st, the ship departed the Downs bound for Sheerness, where she arrived on the 23rd. In April, while the ship was laying at the Nore, Captain Laforey was appointed to command HMS Powerful (74). Captain Sir Francis Laforey later became famous as a result of his command of the ex-French HMS Spartiate (74) at the Battle of Trafalgar, after which he was the flag-bearer at Nelson's funeral. He was promoted to Rear-Admiral in 1810 and became Commander-in-Chief in the West Indies in 1811. He retired to Brighton at the end of the Napoleonic War in 1814 where he lived until his death in 1835, by which time he had attained the rank of Admiral. He never married and had no heirs, so his baronetcy became extinct upon his death.

Captain Sir Francis Laforey was replaced in command of HMS Hydra by Captain the Honourable Charles Paget. Captain Paget was the eighth of twelve children and fifth son of Henry Bayly Paget, the 1st Earl of Uxbridge whose influence assisted his rapid promotion up the officer ranks of the Royal Navy. He passed his examination for Lieutenant on the 12th of December 1796 aged 18 and within six months had been appointed as Master and Commander in the 6pdr-armed 16-gun ship-sloop HMS Martin and had participated in the Battle of Camperdown where his ship had served to repeat signals. He was still aged only 23 when he was appointed in command of HMS Hydra.

The Honourable Charles Paget, portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence:



On the 20th of May 1801, HMS Hydra departed from off Sheerness bound for Weymouth, where she was to take up the role of Guardship, attending King George III who spent his summers in the town with the Royal Family. The ship returned to Spithead on the 20th of August and on the 26th, departed with a convoy bound to Lisbon, Minorca, Malta and Egypt in company with HMS Solebay (12pdr, 32), HMS Triumph (74) and the ex-French en-flute storeship HMS Prevoyante. HMS Hydra was to remain at Lison and was there when the French Revolutionary War was ended by the Treaty of Amiens, signed on the 25th of March 1802. HMS Hydra returned to Spithead on the 4th of October 1802 and was paid off on the 8th.

With the ship being paid off at the end of the war and with the Impressment Service being stood down, her comissioned and warrant officers were sent to other appointments or laid off on half pay, her seamen and petty officers were free to go, but the Standing Officers, their servants and ten of her Able Seamen (who were chosen from amongst volunteers) stayed aboard.

Captain Paget was laid off on half pay, but on the outbreak of the Napoleonic War in May of 1803, was appointed to command the 24pdr-armed Heavy Frigate HMS Endymion of 40 guns. Eventually promoted to Rear-Admiral on the 9th of April 1823, he was appointed as Commander-in-Chief on the Cork Station in March of 1828. Promoted to Vice-Admiral on the 10th of January 1837 and appointed as Commander-in-Chief in North America and the West Indies, he died of Yellow Fever on the 27th of January 1839 off Bermuda. He is buried in St Bartholomews Church in Rogate, West Sussex.

See here for the story of HMS Triumph:

http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=18402.msg160257#msg160257

In the meantime, HMS Hydra remained off Spithead and amidst deteriorating relations with France, was recommissioned on the 14th of November 1802 having never been fitted for the Ordinary at Portsmouth. Her new commander was Captain George Mundy and was a son of Edward Miller Mundy, the High Sheriff and Tory MP for Derbyshire. Captain Mundy had passed his examination for Lieutenant on the 11th of March 1796 and had been appointed Master and Commander in the ex-French HMS Transfer in March of 1799. That vessel had formerly been the French polacca-rigged privateer Les Quatre Freres and had been renamed on being taken into the Royal Navy. Posted, or promoted to Captain on the 10th of February 1801, by coincidence, his first rated command had also been HMS Carysfort, the same ship as Captain Laforey. He was a graduate of the Royal Naval Academy. Captain Mundy's first task was to recruit a new crew, which was made more difficult as unlike Captain Laforey before him, he didn't have the Impressment Service to find men for him as Press Warrants hadn't yet been issued by the Admiralty. With the declaration of war on the 18th of May 1803, if Captain Mundy hadn't completed manning his ship, his task was made easier by the issue of Press Warrants and the reactivation of the Portsmouth Impressment Service.

Remaining in the Channel Fleet, on the 25th of June 1803, HMS Hydra captured the French privateer Phoebe of four guns, two swivels and 33 men off Cherbourg in company with the hired armed cutter Rose. On the 21st of July in company with the ex-French HMS Immortalite (18pdr, 40), the 18pdr carronade-armed gun brig HMS Bloodhound of 12 guns and the bomb-vessel HMS Sulphur, HMS Hydra closed with Le Havre and with HMS Bloodhound, bombarded gun-boats in the harbour while HMS Sulphur lobbed shells into the town. The squadron also took the Danish ship De Lebre, loaded with wine from Le Havre. On the 1st of August, a French armed lugger, the Favori of four guns was prevented from entering the port by HMS Hydra and anchored close to the beach two miles to the west of the river Touque. Captain Mundy ordered a boat attack to be commanded by Lieutenant Francis McMahon Tracy, assisted by Midshipmen John Barclay and George French. This trio were under orders to bring off or destroy the French vessel. On seeing the British boats drawing near, the crew of the Favori abandoned their vessel and with a party of soldiers, took up positions in the sand dunes near their vessel and kept up an incessant musket fire on the British, which was returned in kind by the British party's contingent of Marines. Lieutenant Tracy and his men succeeded in bringing off the Favori with the loss of one man killed.

On the 23rd of January 1804, HMS Hydra arrived off Spithead to make repairs after losing her main yard in a storm off Cherbourg. Repairs complete, the ship left Spithead two days later in company with HMS Orpheus (12pr, 32). At about noon on the 31st, the two British frigates sighted a straggling French convoy close to the shore and separated and captured two brigs and a lugger from it. In early June 1804, HMS Hydra, in company with HMS Tribune (18pdr, 36), the ex-French HMS Decade (12pdr, 36) and the bomb-vessel HMS Prospero drove a 35-strong force of French gunboats under the guns of the shore batteries on Cape Barfleur but were unable to press home their attack due to the heavy fire from the shore batteries. On the 9th of June, HMS Hydra arrived back at Spithead and on the 16th, went into the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth to repair the damage sustained during the attack on the French gunboats. Repairs complete, on the 4th of August, the ship returned to the anchorage off Spithead to await a convoy bound to the Mediterranean. It was to be the 25th of August before the convoy was ready to depart and the ship sailed to the Mediterranean to join the fleet under Vice-Admiral Sir Horatio, the Lord Nelson. The ship remained in the Mediterranean while Nelson took the fleet to the West Indies in pursuit of the French Toulon Fleet. She rejoined Nelson's fleet on their return off Cadiz, where the combined Franco-Spanish fleet had fled after their defeat by a detachment of the Channel Fleet under Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Calder in the Third Battle of Cape Finisterre.

By the end of September 1805, the fleet off Cadiz commanded by Nelson comprised 27 ships of the line. Nelson hoped to tempt the enemy to put to sea and he did this by stationing HMS Hydra and HMS Euryalus (18pdr, 36) close inshore, supported by a squadron of ships of the line under Rear-Admiral Thomas Louis, flying his command flag in the ex-French HMS Canopus (80). Also in Louis' squadron were HMS Queen (98), HMS Spencer, HMS Zealous, and the ex-French HMS Tigre (all of 74 guns). The two frigates were placed under the overall command of Captain George Duff of HMS Mars (74). The rest of Nelson's fleet were kept about 15 miles offshore. By 2nd October, the enemy still hadn't taken the bait, so Nelson reduced the inshore force further by ordering Rear-Admiral Louis' squadron to go to Gibraltar to take on provisions, leaving Captain Duff's force without heavy support. Later the same day, Rear-Admiral Louis' force fell in with a Swedish merchant ship, out of Cadiz bound for Alicante. The Swedish master informed him that the Combined Fleet intended to sail on the first easterly wind, so he returned to Nelson's fleet on 3rd October with the news. Nelson felt this was a ruse, intended to draw his fleet closer to Cadiz, so the enemy could gain intelligence as to his strength and ordered Rear-Admiral Louis to proceed to Gibraltar as ordered. On two occasions on the 4th October, Captain Duff's force was attacked by Spanish gunboats out of Cadiz, but drove off both attacks without damage or casualties.

See here for the stories of HMS Queen:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=18461.msg160699#msg160699

and HMS Mars:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=18912.msg166060#msg166060

With the port of Cadiz under a close British blockade, the enemy were finding it difficult to keep their fleet resupplied, so the Emperor Napoleon had ordered that shipments bound for the fleet be landed elsewhere and shipped overland to Cadiz. HMS Hydra was one of a number of frigates sent to intercept these shipments before they could be landed, so she missed the Battle of Trafalgar. With the death of Nelson, command of the Mediterranean Fleet devolved to Vice-Admiral Sir Cuthbert Collingwood and he was aware that the enemy survivors of that battle were still holed up in Cadiz where they had fled afterwards. He was aware that despite the trauma of such a catastrophic defeat, the enemy fleet sheltering in Cadiz continued to pose a threat, so he and his fleet maintained a close blockade, for the time being at least.

In early February 1806, Lord Collingwood received news that four of the French frigates which had fled into Cadiz after the Battle of Trafalgar were ready for sea and that they intended to leave as soon as possible. Collingwood withdrew his ships to a distance of about 30 miles in the hope of enticing the French out, leaving HMS Hydra and the 32pdr carronade-armed, 18-gun brig-sloop HMS Moselle close inshore to keep an eye on the French. On the 23rd of February, a strong easterly gale blew up, which by the 26th, had blown the British ships to the west as far as Cape Santa Maria. The officer commanding the French frigate squadron at Cadiz was informed about this by telegraph and put to sea immediately. The French vessels, the frigates Rhin, Hermione, Hortense (all 18pdr, 40), Themis (12pdr, 40) with the brig-corvette Furet (8pdr, 18) were sighted by the pair of British vessels at 21:15 as they were about three miles to the west of the Cadiz lighthouse. Captain Mundy immediately ordered a chase, intending to steer a parallel course and follow them. At about 23:00, observing that the French were not altering their course, Captain Mundy ordered HMS Moselle to go and find the commander-in-chief and pass on the news that the French frigates, with a brig-corvette, were out. At 02:30 on the 27th, the French altered their course slightly to the westward, which brought them nearer to HMS Hydra's position. The Furet by this time, was beginning to fall behind the rest of the French force, so Captain Mundy decided to cut her off and take her. After a further chase lasting about two hours, HMS Hydra was in aposition to engage the Furet, which fired a single broadside at the vastly more powerful British frigate and hauled down her colours in surrender. The four frigates continued on their way, leaving the Furet and her crew to their fate.

The French brig-corvette Furet (background) fires on HMS Hydra (foreground) before surrendering by George Chambers Sr:



Late in the evening on the 6th of August 1807, HMS Hydra chased a trio of armed polaccas, one ship-rigged, the other two brig-rigged into the harbour at Begur on the Catalonian coast. The following morning, HMS Hydra closed with the port to take a look and found that the vessels and the port were very well defended, laying in a narrow harbour with a tower and a battery to one side and rocks and bushes on the other. Nevertheless, Captain Mundy had enough faith in his officers and crew to order a boat attack to bring out the three Spanish vessels. At 12:50, HMS Hydra came to anchor at the harbour entrance and began a bombardment of the shore batery and the vessels, which was returned in kind. This continued for about an hour until the enemy's rate of fire began to slow, at which point Captain Mundy sent in the boats. The British attack force was under the command of the ship's Second Lieutenant, Mr Edward O'Brien Drury, assisted by Marine Lieutenants John Hayes and Edward Pengelly, Mr John Finlayson and the ship's Clerk, Mr Robert Henry Goddard who volunteered for the mission, with 50 seamen and Marines. The raiding party was under orders to attack the shore battery and drive the enemy from it. The Marines and seamen climbed the cliff below the battery and stormed it while coming under intense fire from musketry and langridge shot from the vessels moored in the harbour below. This enabled HMS Hydra to concentrate her fire on the vessels in the harbour. Mr Drury left Lieutenant Hayes in charge of the battery with the marines while he took the seamen and cleared the town, upon which the crews of the enemy vessels abandoned them, taking up positions amongst the rocks and bushes and opened fire with small-arms as they took possession of the vessels and warped them out of the harbour. On seeing that the enemy were continuing to harrass his men with musketry, Captain Munday sent the ships's Third Lieutenant Mr James Little with the rest of the ship's boats to assist. By 16:00, the operation was successfully completed with a loss to the British of one seaman killed and two wounded aboard HMS Hydra with Mr Goddard and three seamen wounded from amongst the raiding party. The ship herself suffered some slight damage to the hull and masts. The captured vessels were the ship-rigged polacca Prince Eugene of 16 guns and 130 men, the brig-rigged polacca Belle Caroline of 12 guns and 40 men, both out of Marseilles and the brig-rigged polacca Carmen de Rosario of four guns and 40 men. Mr Drury was recognised for his bravery and initiative in the raid and was appointed as a Master and Commander later in the year.

The Action at Begur by George Chambers Sr:



After the success at Begur, Captain Mundy received orders to take the ship back to the UK with a convoy and on arrival at Portsmouth, the ship had a short refit before returning to the Catalonian coast, where she was employed in assisting irregular Spanish forces resisting the French occupation of their country in the Peninsular War. She was to remain off Barcelona until 1810 when Captain Mundy was appointed to command the 18pdr-armed 38-gun frigate HMS Leonidas. The ship returned to Portsmouth where she was paid off into the Ordinary, to be manned by a skeleton crew as before.

See here for the story of HMS Leonidas:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=16169.msg135802#msg135802

Captain George Mundy was knighted in 1815, promoted to Rear-Admiral in 1830, Vice-Admiral in 1841 and Admiral in 1849. He died at his home in Grosvenor Street, London in 1861 at the age of 83.

HMS Hydra remained in the Portsmouth Ordinary until May of 1813, when she was taken into the Royal Dockyard and converted into a troopship. She continued in this role, carrying troops to fight in the war against the Americans and subsequently to and from the West Indies until she was laid up again at Portsmouth in 1817. She was sold to Mr Job Cockshot for 2,410 on the 13th of January 1820 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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