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Author Topic: HMS Harrier (1804 - 1809)  (Read 1143 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Harrier (1804 - 1809)
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2018, 00:25:36 »
HMS Harrier was an unrated, 32pdr carronade-armed, 18-gun brig rigged sloop of war of the Cruizer Class, built under Navy Board contract at the shipyard of Mrs Frances Barnard at Deptford.

Designed by William Rule, the Cruizer class was the most numerous class of warship built by the Royal Navy during the period of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with 106 vessels being built in eight batches between 1797 and 1815. They were also the second-most numerous class of sailing warship built by any navy at any time after the slightly smaller Cherokee Class brig-sloops, also built for the Royal Navy. The Cruizer class brig-sloops featured a narrower than normal (for the time) hull, which, combined with their fine, almost clipper-like bows, gave them a good turn of speed. They were very seaworthy vessels for their time and despite their small size, were true ocean-going warships. Their brig-rig (with two, rather than three masts) and carronade armament meant that they only required small crews, which was a god-send for the Royal Navy which at the time was desperately short of men despite the efforts of the Impressment Service. Their armament of carronades gave them a ferocious short-range broadside, which suited the Royal Navy's preferred tactic of engaging the enemy at close range. In fact, the weight of broadside they could fire was slightly heavier than that of the nominal armament of an 18 pdr armed 36 gun frigate. All that firepower was delivered on a hull half the size of the frigate and manned only a third of the crew. The downside to this was that their brig rig only having two masts, made them more vulnerable to being crippled by damage to masts, spars and rigging. In addition, the short range of their carronades made them vulnerable to being picked off at range by the long guns fitted to enemy frigates. The Cruizer Class Brig-Sloops were flush-decked, that is they carried their guns on the main deck, out in the open, rather than on an enclosed gun-deck. Their main deck was a continuous deck between the bow and the stern and the whole crew, including the officers and warrant-officers lived on the lower deck, below the main deck.

The term 'sloop-of-war' itself was used to classify an ocean-going warship which carried less than the 20 guns required for the vessel to be rated under the Royal Navy's rating system. The first batch of Cruizer class vessels was to have comprised of four vessels of which only one was to have been built in a Kent shipyard, by Thomas Pitcher at his Northfleet shipyard. The order for that vessel was cancelled before construction began. Of the intended four vessels, two were to be ship-rigged, with three masts and the other two, including the one to have been built in Northfleet, were to be brig-rigged with two masts. This was so that the Royal Navy could assess the performance of the two types. In the end, the two ship-rigged vessels became known as the Snake class, which apart from their different arrangement of masts, rigging and sails, were identical to their cousins of the Cruizer class. The different rigs were interchangeable, with vessels able to be fitted with either rig with only slight modifications required to deck fttings.

Sloops-of-war like HMS Harrier tended to be commanded by an officer in the position of 'Master and Commander', abbreviated to 'Commander'. It originally combined the positions of Commanding Officer and Sailing Master, but towards the end of the 18th Century, the Navy Board appointed Sailing Masters into unrated vessels, leaving the Commander free to concentrate on commanding the vessel. 'Commander' wasn't a formal rank as it is today and an officer in such a position held a substantive rank of Lieutenant. That stated, the Master and Commander would receive a substantially higher salary than a Lieutenant and would also receive the lions share of any prize and head money earned by his vessel and crew. If he was successful, he would be 'Posted', or promoted to Captain and would either remain in command of the sloop or would be appointed to a rated vessel. If a war ended and the vessel was paid off, unless he was lucky and well-connected enough to receive another command appointment, the commander would revert to his substantive rank of Lieutenant and receive half-pay accordingly. Sloops-of-war therefore were generally commanded by ambitious, well-connected young men anxious to prove themselves.

HMS Harrier was a member of the six-strong third batch, ordered by what is known as Melville's First Board, so-called because Henry Dundas, the First Viscount Melville was First Lord of the Admiralty at the time she was ordered. All the vessels of the third batch were fir-built rather than oak-built. Fir-built vessels were much quicker and cheaper to build and were, in effect, disposable and were not intended to have long service lives. HMS Harrier was one of a pair of such vessels contracted from Mrs Barnard, with the contract to build both vessels being signed on 23rd May 1804. The were the only Kent-built vessels of the third batch of Cruizer Class brig-sloops, with the other vessel being called HMS Elk. The first keel section of HMS Harrier was laid at Deptford during June of 1804 and the vessel was launched with all due ceremony into the River Thames two months later, on 22nd August, her hull complete. After her launch, HMS Harrier was taken to the Royal Dockyard at Deptford where she was fitted with her masts, guns and rigging and was declared complete on the 22nd October 1804.

On completion, HMS Harrier was a vessel of 383 tons. She was 100ft long at the main deck, 77ft 3in long at the keel and was 30ft 6in wide across the beams. She was armed with 16 x 32pdr carronades on her broadside and 2 x 6pdr long guns in her bows. In addition to her main guns, she also carried a dozen half-pounder swivel guns attached to her main deck bulwarks and in her fighting tops. She was manned by a crew of 121 officers, seamen and boys.

Cruizer Class Plans

Framing Plan:

Berth Deck and Main Deck Plans:

Sheer Plan and Lines:

A model of HMS Teazer. Also a Cruizer Class vessel, HMS Harrier was would have been identical, apart from her figurehead:

In November of 1804, Mr William Wooldridge was appointed as her Master and Commander and his first task was to recruit her crew. HMS Harrier's two lieutenants were appointed by the Admiralty while her most senior Warrant Officers, including the Standing Officers, those men who would remain in the ship whether or not she was in commission, were appointed by the Navy Board. The First Lieutenant was the most important of these appointments because he was not only second-in-command and the Commander's right hand man, but he was also responsible for the day-to-day organisation and running of the vessel. The Standing Officers in an 18-gun sloop of war were:

The Boatswain or Bosun. When the vessel was in commission, he would be assisted by a single Boatswains Mate. He was responsible to the First Lieutenant for the maintenance and repair of the vessels masts, sails, rigging and boats.

The Carpenter. He was assisted when the vessel was in commission by a single Carpenters Mate. A qualified and time-served shipwright, he was answerable to the First Lieutenant for the maintenance and repair of the vessels hull, decks and frames. Aboard an 18-gun sloop of war, he had no assigned crew and would be assisted by seamen as and when required.

The Gunner. He was answerable to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the maintenance and repairs of the vessels main guns, training the gun grews, the storage and distribution in action of the ships stocks of gunpowder and shot. He was also responsible for training the Midshipmen in the arts of gunnery. While the vessel was in commission, he was assisted by a single Gunners Mate.

The Cook. The lowest-ranking of the Standing Officers, he was answerable to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the preparation and distribution of the vessel's victuals.

The Purser. He was responsible to the Commander for the purchase and distribution of all the vessels stores.

The other Warrant Officers appointed into HMS Harrier by the Navy Board were:

The Sailing Master. The highest ranking of all the Warrant Officers, he was answerable to the Commander for the day-to-day sailing and navigation of the vessel, training the Midshipmen in navigation and the storage of supplies in the hold to ensure the vessel had the optimum trim. He was assisted by a single Masters Mate, with a single Quartermaster with his own Mate responsible for the vessel's steering.

The Surgeon. He was answerable to the Commander and was responsible for the day-to-day healthcare of every man aboard. He was assisted by two Assistant Surgeons.

Other, less senior Warrant Officers would be appointed by the Commander having first applied for the posts and having presented their credentials to the First Lieutenant.

The Clerk. Answerable to the First Lieutenant, he was responsible for all the record-keeping and administration.

The Armourer. He was answerable to the Gunner and was responsible for the maintenance, repair and storage of the vessel's stocks of small-arms and bladed weapons. A qualified Blacksmith, the Armourer would also manufacture new bladed weapons as and when needed.

The Master at Arms. Answerable to the First Lieutenant, he was responsible for the day-to-day eforcement of discipline in the vessel and was assisted by a single Corporal (not related to the military rank of the same name).

The Caulker. Answerable to the Carpenter, he was responsible for ensuring that the hull and decks remained watertight. He was assisted by a single Caulkers Mate and seamen as and when required.

The Sailmaker. Answerable to the Boatswain, he was responsible for the maintenance, repair and storage of the sails, colours and flags. Unlike larger vessels, the Sailmaker had no assigned crew, but was assisted by seamen as and when required.

The Ropemaker. Answerable to the Boatswain and responsible for the storage and manufacture when needed of new cordage.

In addition to the commissioned and warrant officers, an 18-gun sloop f war like HMS Harrier would have two Midshipmen, appointed on behalf of the Admiralty by the local Port Admiral or Commander-in-Chief. In addition to these officers in training, the Commander of a vessel with a crew of about 120 men could appoint up to four Midshipmen-in-Ordinary. These young men, at the start of their naval careers, would be the sons of friends or aquaintances of the Commander, or those of men he either owed a favour to or was doing a favour for. Wearing the uniform and performing the duties of a Midshipman, they were rated and paid as Able Seamen and were on the vessel's books as Commander's Servants. This was because the Commander of such a vessel would be allowed up to four servants per hundred of her company.

The rest of the crew would be comprised of Petty Officers, those men with previous experience in such roles, Able Seamen with plenty of sea-going experience, Ordinary Seamen with some and Landsmen with none. Those aged under 19 would be rated as Boys 1st, 2nd or 3rd Class, depending on their experience.

Once he had completed manning and storing his vessel, Commander Wooldridge received orders for Spithead and HMS Harrier sailed from Deptford and arrived at the great fleet anchorage off Portsmouth Harbour on 28th November 1804 and awaited further orders. On the 15th December 1804, Commander Wooldridge received orders for the East Indies and HMS Harrier departed Spithead on Christmas Eve.

By the summer of 1805, Commander Wooldridge had been replaced by Commander Edward Ratsey and on the 2nd August, HMS Harrier, in company with the 18pdr-armed, 38-gun frigate HMS Phaeton entered the San Bernadino Staits in the Phillipines. They sighted a strange frigate at anchor in the Road of St. Jacinta. The stranger was the French 12pdr-armed 32-gun frigate Semillante, on a mission to deliver a cargo of specie, or coin, to Manila from Mexico. The Frenchman had left Manila for the long journey back to France when her commander, Captain Leonard-Bernard Motard had received intelligence about a pair of British warships in the area. He had anchored his ship in the St Jacinta Road because he knew there were powerful shore batteries there which should protect him against an attack by the British. On seeing the approaching British, Captain Motard ordered that his ship be towed closer to the shore, between the shore battery at St Jacinta and a reef. When the French frigate was in position, she began firing stern chasers at HMS Harrier, the closer of the two British vessels. Despite this and the shore battery opening fire also, HMS Harrier continued to close and opened fire with her starboard broadside at about 14:40. Finding the water becoming shallow as she closed with the shore, Commander Ratsey ordered his vessel to heave-to and continue the bombardment and was joined a little after 15:00 by HMS Phaeton. At 16:00, HMS Harrier wore ship (that is to change tack by passing the stern through the eye of the wind) and opened fire with her port side broadside. At 16:30, HMS Harrier caught fire amidships, caused by the impact of heated shot from the shore battery, although the fire was quickly put out. At 17:00, with the wind having fallen almost completely away, Captain John Wood of HMS Phaeton as the senior officer ordered a withdrawal. It was too dangerous to approach any closer as heated shot from the shore batery had already caused a fire aboard HMS Harrier and the British vessels would not be able to be towed by their boats close enough to the Semillante to board without being cut to pieces. As the closest and most heavily engaged of the two British warships, HMS Harrier bore the brunt of the enemy's fire. In addition to some slight damage from the fire, her rigging and sails were much cut up and her main mast was barely standing in addition to all her boats having been damaged. She had casualties of two men wounded. HMS Harrier and HMS Phaeton both stood off for the night making repairs and the next morning with the wind having risen, they both stood inshore to have a look at the French frigate. They found that overnight, the Semillante had been warped closer inshore and that the enemy had installed a further shore battery, so they stood off and returned the next day to find the situation the same. On the 4th August, HMS Harrier and HMS Phaeton sailed through the San Bernadino Strait and left the French to it. The damage sustained by the Semillante was unknown, but reports circulating in Calcutta some time later indicated that she had suffered 13 dead and 36 wounded and that the damage she received prevented her return to France via Mexico.

On 5th September 1805, Mr Ratsey was Posted, or promoted to Captain and left HMS Harrier, to be replaced by Mr Edward Thomas Troubridge, the son of Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Troubridge, Commander-in-Chief of the East Indies Station, who flew his command flag in the 74-gun ship of the line HMS Blenheim.

On the 4th July 1806, HMS Harrier was patrolling in the Java Sea in company with the 12pdr-armed, 32-gun frigate HMS Greyhound, when they sighted, attacked and destroyed the Dutch East India Company brig Christian Elizabeth of eight guns and eighty men under the guns of the fort at Manado. On the 6th July, the two vessels crossed the Molacca Strait to the island of Tidon, where they engaged and captured another Dutch East India vessel, the Belgica of 12 guns and 32 men.

In the evening of 25th July 1806, HMS Harrier and HMS Greyhound, sighted four ships passing through the Straits of Salayer. They immediately gave chase and at 21:00, the strangers hove to, allowing the British vessels to approach. One of the vessels was seen to be a frigate and another a ship-corvette, but a third vessel appeared to look like a ship of the line, so the two British vessels paused and waited for daylight, so they could see the strangers more clearly. When the sun rose the next day, the vessels were identified as being the Dutch 36-gun frigate Pallas, the 14-gun ship-corvette William and the Dutch East India Company ships Vittoria and Batavia, both large, heavily armed merchant vessels and on sighting the pair of British vessels, the Dutch formed a line of battle. At just after 05:00, HMS Greyhound approached the Pallas under French colours, until she was within hailing distance when she hoisted her British colours and opened fire. HMS Harrier, following close behind HMS Greyhound, passed between the stern of the Pallas and the bows of the Batavia, opening a fierce fire with small-arms on the Batavia and firing her port side carronades through the stern of the Pallas. In the meantime, HMS Greyhound backed her sails once she was across the bows of the pallas, effectively stopping the ship dead in the water. With HMS Greyhound pounding his ship from ahead and HMS Harrier pouring heavy carronade fire into his starboard quarter, Captain N. S. Aalbers of the Pallas had no choice but to surrender, which he did at about 05:30. Once the Pallas had surrendered, HMS Harrier moved against the Vittoria, firing several broadsides into her before that ship also surrendered. After sending one of his officers to take possession of the Vittoria, Commander Troubridge headed for the Batavia and at the same time, HMS Greyhound was heading up fast to give assistance. Facing these odds, at 06:40, the Master of the Batavia also deided to surrender. In the meantime, the William, seeing the fates of the other ships, made off and neither HMS Harrier or HMS Greyhound were in any condition to pursue. In this action, HMS Harrier had three men wounded, but was much cut up in her sails and rigging. The Pallas was initially taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Macassa but was renamed HMS Celebes within a year of her capture. Following a survey at Calcutta on 23rd September 1807, the Royal Navy decided not to formally purchase the vessel and she was subsequently sold. Commander Troubridge's share of the prize money for the Batavia and the Vittoria alone came to some £26,000; a huge sum of money.

In the meantime, in August of 1806, Commander Troubridge was appointed to command HMS Macassar and was replaced in command of HMS Harrier firstly by Mr William Wilbraham who was in command for a month and then by Mr George Pigot. Mr Pigot was Posted and appointed to command the ex-Dutch 32-gun frigate HMS Java. HMS Harrier's next commander was Mr Justice Finley.

In 1807, Rear-Admiral Troubridge was replaced in command of the East Indies Station by Rear-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew and was next appointed in command of the Cape of Good Hope Station. Before departure however, his flagship HMS Blenheim was surveyed and as a result of that survey the ship was condemned. HMS Blenheim had originally been launched in 1761 as a 90-gun second rate ship of the line of the Sandwich Class and had been cut down to a 74-gun ship in 1801. The survey found that the ship had hogged, or sagged at the ends and as a result, her hull was leaky to the point where the pumps needed to be kept going all the time, even when the ship was at anchor. Nevertheless, Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Troubridge overrode the concerns of HMS Blenheim's commander Captain Austin Bissel and in company with HMS Java and HMS Harrier, set sail for Cape Town on the 12th January 1807. Less than three weeks later, the squadron ran into a powerful typhoon off Madagasgar. The following entries from HMS Harrier's log detail the fury of the typhoon and it's tragic results:

1 Feb 1807 02:00 Course SW Wind NE. AM Threatening weather; in third reef of fore-topsail, heavy rain and wind increasing; sent the topgallant yards down; in third reef of main topsail; hauled the mainsail up and bent the storm-staysails and trysail.

04:00 Strong gales with heavy squalls and rain

06:00 Ditto weather; struck the fore topgallant mast; the wind still increasing, found it dangerous to attempt striking the main topgallant mast; the wind blowing so strong, sent all the small sails from aloft.

08:00 Strong gales, with heavy rain; Admiral and Java in company.

10:00 Strong gales, with rain; handed the mainsail; close-reefed the mainsail; close-reefed the fore topsail; people employed in clearing the ship and lashing the booms.

12:00 Noon. Heavy gales. Admiral and Java in company. Course S 50° W, distance 225 miles. Lat 21°4'S, long 65°11'E, Rodrigues N 80°W, 180 miles.

13:00 PM. Strong gales; in fourth reef main topsail; the gale increasing with a very heavy sea.

14:00 Signal No 331 sent by Blenheim to Java. "The ship is overpressed with sail and cannot keep her station on that account".

14:30 hauled up the foresail and reefed it; carried away the fore-topmast backstay, repeated then knotted and spliced ditto. Blenheim and Java in company.

15:00 Signal No 80 sent by Blenheim to general "Steer SW".

17:00 Signal No 80 sent by Blenheim to general "Steer SW by S". Blenheim made another signal which we could not make out. This was the last signal made by the Blenheim. The main topsail yard carried away in the slings, owing to the lift and brace giving way; endeavoured to furl the sail from the yard.

17:20 Lost sight of the Admiral in a very heavy squall, bearing NW by N distant half a mile ; and the Java, bearing NE by E distant a quarter of a mile ; at this time we were shipping a great quantity of water.

17:30 The foretopsail blew away from the fourth-reefed band ; the gale still continued to increase, with the most violent squalls of wind and rain, the vessel labouring very much and the sea striking her in all directions very heavily; stove several half-ports in and much water going below; kept the pumps continually going.

19:50 The main royal mast blew away; the gale increased to a hurricane and shifting around in tremendous squalls to the eastward, obliged us to keep before the sea.

2 Feb 1807 Course W Wind E 01:00 AM At this time we shipped a great quantity of water, which washed a great quantity of the shot-boxes to pieces.

02:10 The wind flew round fromEast to SOuth in a most tremendous squall; kept right before it; a great quantity of water in the waist, so as to effect the vessel's steerage very much; most of the starboard ports either stove in or washed out, as also many of the larboard ones; the squall still coming on with great violence and a most enormous sea.

04:00 At 3, the fore staysail blew away. 03:49 shipped two seas, which filled the waist and waterlogged the brig for some minutes, which caused her to broach to; endeavoured to get the foresheet aft but the foresail blew away fromn the yard leaving the reef; she went off but did not rise to the sea, the waist being full of water, a great quantity going forward she settled dow by the head; sounding the well, found it increased from 12 to 30 inches in two minutes; hove the four foremost guns overboard which relieved her much; hove overboard all the round and canister shot on deck; a great quantity of water having lodged in the wings between decks, got up all the old rope and some shot and threw it overboard; the water in the waist flew with such violence from side to side as to wash overboard the studding sails and hammock cloths, which were lashed under the booms, about the deck and in consequence went overboard; washed overboard the starboard binnacle and compass.

08:00 At daylight blowing most violently, employed in clearing the deck and splicing the rigging that was chafed through and cut in the night.

12:00 Noon Strong gale Course S 67°W distance 114 miles. Lat observed 19°29'S Long 64°26'E Rodrigues N 84°W 64 miles.

14:00 PM Strong gales and cloudy; carpenters employed in stopping up the ports; got the old maintopsail yard on deck and the remains of the old foresail and bent the new one.

16:00 Ditto weather 16:40 reefed the foresail.

17:00 strong gales with squalls; sent the main topgallant mast down on deck.

19:00 More moderate; the vessel labouring very much and shipping great quantities of water. Strong gales and cloudy weather.

HMS Harrier and her crew endured the storm for another two days before finally making it to Cape Town. HMS Blenheim and HMS Java were never seen again and despite HMS Greyhound being ordered to search for them by Rear-Admiral Pellew, no trace of the two ships was ever found.

The loss of HMS Blenheim by Thomas Buttersworth. In this painting, HMS Blenheim is the ship in the foreground:

Another view of the loss of HMS Blenheim by the same artist. In this painting, HMS Harrier is the vessel in the foreground having lowered her main topmast while HMS Java to the left is losing her main topmast and HMS Blenheim is in the background, almost dismasted:

After arriving at Cape Town, HMS Harrier's crew compelted repairing the damage caused by the typhoon and then set about the business of patrolling the south Atlantic, East African Coast and the western part of the Indian Ocean. On the 7th August 1807, HMS harrier captured the ship Helena and took her into Cape Town.

In October 1808, Commander Finley was replaced in command of HMS Harrier by Commander John James Ridge. On the 21st February 1809, HMS Harrier departed Cape Town inc omany with her sister-brig HMS Racehorse and the 12pdr-armed 36-gun frigate HMS Nereide for a patrol off Mauritius. On the 14th March 1809, HMS Harrier was reported in the logs of both HMS Nereide and HMS Racehorse as falling behind the rest of the force and was never seen again. It is thought that she foundered in a storm which hit the area soon afterwards.
"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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