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Author Topic: HMS Plantagenet (1801 - 1817)  (Read 1199 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Plantagenet (1801 - 1817)
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2018, 22:07:14 »
HMS Plantagenet was a 74-gun, third-rate ship of the line of the Large Type, built at the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich. Designed by Sir William Rule, Co-Surveyor of the Navy, HMS Plantagenet was a one-off, the only ship built to that design.

The ship was designed and built as a result of the debate which was raging amongst naval architects both back then and which continues to this day about whether or not French ships were superior to British ones. It is certainly true that French ships were bigger, more powerfully armed, faster and more manoeuvrable than their British counterparts, but British ships were stronger, more seaworthy and could stay at sea for much longer because they had larger holds able to hold more provisions. In the latter part of the 18th Century and in the early 19th century, the French ships were let down by poor build quality, despite their apparently superior design. The most obvious case of this was the Commerce de Marseilles. This outwardly magnificent, almost brand-new, 120-gun first rate ship of the line was handed over to the British by French Royalists during Lord Hood's Toulon Campaign in 1793. The officers tasked with bringing the ship back to the UK wrote reports which were positively fizzing with excitement about the ship's sailing qualities. Her speed, manoeuvrability, ease of steering and response to the rudder were far better than the ship's equivalent in the Royal Navy. When the ship got to Portsmouth, she was dry-docked and surveyed in preparation for the refit to convert her for British service and the results of that survey told a significantly different story. The shipwrights who surveyed her reported that the ship was structurally weak and badly built, to such an extent that they felt she would break up and founder in the first serious storm she encountered. The Navy Board decided that the extensive repairs and modifications the ship would need were not worth the cost, so the now HMS Commerce de Marseilles was instead commissioned as a 50-gun storeship. Before she was sent to sea however, they changed their minds and she was converted instead into a hulk and was eventually broken up in 1801 having never gone to sea again under British colours.

The evolution of British warship design and that of ships of the line in particular had been hamstrung by conservatism and when advances did occur, they only happened when they absolutely had to. Once those conservative elements in the Navy Board had been replaced, a huge leap forward occurred with the introduction of the 74-gun ship in the mid-1750's and from then, progress was a case of small steps and many of the designs produced were heavily influenced by French thinking. A great number of British ships of the line were either based on French designs or were copied directly from them. The design of HMS Plantagenet was produced after an intervention from Gabriel Snodgrass, a hugely influential naval architect who was at the time the Surveyor (or chief designer) of the Honourable East India Company. Such was his influence in the world of naval architecture that when he spoke, the Navy listened. He realised that the main advantage the French ships had was their size. In the early 1790's, Snodgrass wrote: "I am of the opinion that all the ships of the present Navy are too short, from ten to thirty feet according to their rates. If ships in future were to be built so much longer as to admit of an additional timber between every port, and if the foremost and aftermost gunports were placed a greater distance from the extremities, they would be stronger and safer, and have more room for fighting their guns".

The Navy Board it seems, were listening, because in 1794, Sir William Rule and Sir John Henslow, the Surveyors of the Navy, were each ordered to produce designs incorporating Snodgrass' ideas about the length of the ship. HMS Plantagenet was Sir William Rule's design and was ordered from the Woolwich Royal Dockyard, while HMS Courageux was Sir John Henslow's and was ordered from the Royal Dockyard at Deptford. The new designs were both to be 186 feet long on the upper gundeck, or about the length of a first rate ship, but only 47 feet wide, or about the width of a typical 74-gun ship. In 1796, before construction of the new ships began, the designs were altered to make them shorter, but they still had a length to breadth ratio of 3.85:1 rather than the normal 3.6:1.

The first elm keel section of HMS Plantagenet was eventually laid at Woolwich during November 1798. Her construction was overseen by Mr Edward Sison, Master Shipwright in the Woolwich Royal Dockyard and the ship was launched with all due ceremony into the River Thames on the 23rd October 1801.

In the meantime, events had overtaken the construction project. On the 16th February 1801, the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger had resigned over the issue of the King's refusal to allow Catholic Emancipation in Ireland, which had been absorbed into the United Kingdom in the Acts of Union in 1800. His place had been taken by Henry Addington, who was more inclined to accept peace overtures from France. Just after the ship had been launched at Woolwich, Charles, the Marquess Cornwallis had been sent to negotiate a peace treaty with the French. Nevertheless, once the ship was in the water, she continued with fitting out at Woolwich although, unusually, she was not commissioned. On completion, HMS Plantagenet was a ship of 1,777 tons, she was 181 ft long on her upper gundeck, 151ft 3in long along the keel, 47ft wide across her beams and drew 13ft 4in of water at the bows and 16ft 11in at the rudder. HMS Planagenet was armed with 28 x 32pdr long guns on her lower gundeck, 28 x 24pdr long guns on her upper gundeck with 2 x 9pdr long guns and 12 x 32pdr carronades on her quarterdeck and 2 x 9pdr long guns and 2 x 32pdr carronades on her forecastle. In addition, the ship was armed with 6 x 24pdr carronades on her poop deck and a dozen half-pounder swivel guns attached to her forecastle and quarterdeck bulwarks and handrails and in her fighting tops. The ship was intended to be manned by a crew of 590 officers, seamen, boys and Marines.

Plans of HMS Plantagenet

Orlop Plan:

Lower Gundeck Plan:

Upper Gundeck Plan:

Forecastle and Quarterdeck Plan:

Framing Plan:

Inboard Profile and Plan:

Sheer Plan and Lines:

Notice on the sheer plan (bottom left image above) that the amidships section has a much more square profile than was normal for a warship. square cross sections like this were typical of a cargo ship and the ship was built like this to make the hull stronger given her extra length in profile. A vessel with a squarer bilge cross section like this would have been slower

On the 8th January 1802, the gun-brigs HMS Constant, HMS Manly, HMS Conflict, HMS Pouncer and HMS Haughty were ordered to proceed from the Nore to Woolwich so that their crews could be used to man HMS Plantagenet in order to bring the ship to the Nore. From the Nore, the ship was ordered to Plymouth, where she was to be laid up in the Ordinary in anticipation of the apparently coming peace, for which the Preliminary Articles had been signed on the 2nd October 1801. The main treaty, the Treaty of Amiens was signed on the 25th March 1802, but for now, the French Revolutionary War continued, on paper at least.

On the 17th February 1802, HMS Plantagenet arived at Plymouth and her crew was discharged into the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief of His Majesty's Vessels at Plymouth, the old three-decked 80-gun ship HMS Cambridge on the 18th.

HMS Plantagenet wasn't in the Plymouth Ordinary for very long. On 5th March 1802, orders were received at Plymouth from the Admiralty that the ship was to be fitted for sea. and on the 1st April, she was hauled against the North Jetty Head in order to go into a dry-dock as soon as the 74-gun ship HMS Conqueror was refloated.

It was to be the 25th February 1803 before HMS Plantagenet was warped alongside the sheer hulk HMS Yarmouth to have her masts and rigging refitted. The reason for the delay was because on the journey from the Nore to Plymouth, she had shown herself to be a poor sailer, top-heavy on account of her longer than normal hull and it had been decided to remove the ship's poop deck and the carronades on it to try to reduce her top-weight.

On the 27th February, Captain Graham Eden Hammond was appointed to command HMS Plantagenet and he oversaw the completion of the ship's preparations for sea and the recruitment of her crew. Captain Graham Hammond was the only son of Captain Sir Andrew Snape Hammond and had entered the Royal Navy at the age of 15 in September 1785 as Midshipman-in-Ordinary in the 74-gun ship HMS Irresistible, commanded at the time by his father. He was on the ship's books as a Captains Servant, rated and paid as an Able Seaman but wearing the uniform and performing the duties of a Midshipman. Appointed as a Midshipman proper in 1790, he was serving in that role aboard the First Rate ship of the line HMS Queen Charlotte (100) when he participated in the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794. He passed his examination for Lieutenant on the 19th October 1795 and first held a command when he was appointed as Master and Commander in the 18-gun ship-sloop HMS Echo exactly two years later. He was Posted, or promoted to Captain on the 30th November 1798 and his appointment prior to HMS Plantagenet was the 18pdr-armed frigate HMS Blanche of 36 guns and in his time in command of that ship, he participated in the First Battle of Copenhagen.

See here for the stories of:

HMS Cambridge

HMS Queen Charlotte

and HMS Blanche

On the 10th April 1803, the ship finally anchored in Cawsand Bay. On the 26th, she departed Cawsand Bay bound for the great fleet anchorage at Torbay. Shortly after that, on the 18th May 1803, the much-heralded Peace of Amiens collapsed and the country found itself at war with France again. This time, the war was to be a fight to the finish.

On the 27th June 1803, the ship's company was paid two months wages in advance and the ship left to join the Channel Fleet under Admiral The Honourable Sir William Cornwallis, flying his command flag in the 110-gun First rate ship of the line HMS Ville de Paris, blockading the French Atlantic Fleet in their base at Brest.

See here for the story of HMS Ville de Paris:

It didn't take HMS Plantagenet and her crew long to get into the action. On the 24th July 1803, they captured the French privateer brig Le Courier de Terre Neuve of four guns and fifty men, four days out of St. Malo having not made any captures. The news of the capture was reported by Captain Hammond to Admiral Cornwallis by letter, forwarded by the Admiral to Sir Evan Nepean, Secretary to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty and read thus:


Having directed Captain Hamond of the Plantagenet, to cruize ten days to the westward for the protection of the trade, I have the honour to inclose, for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, copies of two letters from him, giving an account of the capture of two french privateers by that ship.

I have the honour to be &c


The first letter concerns the capture of Le Courier de Terre Neuve:

His Majesty's Ship Plantagenet
At sea,
25th July 1803.


A French brig privateer, Le Courier de Terre Neuve, of four guns and fifty men, belonging to St. Marloes, was yesterday captured by His Majesty's Ship under my command in Lat 49 deg. Long. 14 de. 30 min. West. She sailed some days ago from Abreverack and has not taken any thing.

I have &c

Graham E Hamond.

The second letter concerned the capture of another French privateer a few days later:

At Sea
July 30th, 1803


At noon on the 17th instant, I fell in with His Majesty's sloop Rosario
(Ex-French 24pdr carronade-armed, 18-gun ship-sloop, at the time under Commander William Mounsey) in chace of an enemy vessel. The Rosario, by 4 o'clock, had gained on the chace so as to be within gun-shot, when her fore top mast being carried away by the great press of sail upon it, she dropt astern. By 8 o'clock, the Plantagenet had got close alongside the chace, when she struck her colours. I found her to be the French ship-privateer L'Atalante, of Bourdeaux, commanded by M. Armand Martin, with a complement of one hundred and twenty men and pierced for twenty-two guns, but only having fourteen six-pounders mounted, the remainder having been thrown overboard during the chace.

L'Atalante is an exceedingly handsome vessel and sails remarkably fast, having run us nearly ninety miles in eight hours. She was out six days from Bourdeaux and had taken nothing.

I have the honour &c.

Graham E Hamond.

Also in sight of the capture of L'Atalante was the 24pdr-armed Heavy Frigate HMS Endymion of 40 guns and all three ships shared the prize money for the capture by agreement amongst the commanders. On searching the French ship, HMS Plantagenet's men found four British deserters, who it appears had run from HMS Ville de Paris. On 31st July, L'Atalante arrived in Falmouth with a prize crew. On their way to Falmouth, the French crew, assisted by the four British deserters had attempted to take their ship back, but after one man was shot dead and the Lieutenant in command of the prize threatening to shoot the rest of them unless they stayed below, the ship made it to Falmouth with an understandably exhausted prize crew. L'Atalante was taken into the Royal Navy as the 24pdr carronade-armed 18-gun ship-sloop HMS Hawk and served until December of 1804 when she was lost with all hands in the English Channel.

Captain Hammond was replaced in command of HMS Plantagenet in August of 1803 by Captain The Honourable Michael de Courcy. Captain de Courcy was an experienced commander who had first entered the Royal Navy before the outbreak of the American War of Independence and had passed his examination for Lieutenant on the 20th November 1776. As for Captain Hammond, his next appointment was to be in command of the 18pdr-armed frigate HMS Lively of 38 guns. He was promoted to Rear-Admiral on 27th May 1825 and died at home at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight on the 20th December 1862.

HMS Plantagenet remained on blockade duty in addition to spells of convoy escort duty. The winter of 1804 into 1805 was particularly bad and HMS Plantagenet was required to go into Plymouth on a number of occasions to repair damage caused by storms.

By March of 1805, HMS Plantagenet was under the command of Captain William Bradley. Captain Bradley was another veteran of the American War of Independence, who had passed his examination for Lieutenant on the 25th October 1778. Appointed Master and Commander in the 18pdr carronade-armed 14-gun fireship HMS Comet in July 1793, he and his ship had served to repeat signals in the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794. On the 29th August 1807, HMS Plantagenet captured the French privateer L'Incomparable of two guns and 27 men, one day out of St. Malo and having not captured anything.

In the autumn of 1806, Napoleon had threatened to invade Portugal if she continued to be allied with the British and this caused the British to send Admiral Sir John Jervis, the Lord St. Vincent to Lisbon with a fleet and the promise of financial and military assistance should the French actually invade. The Admiral was also authorised to offer to evacuate the Portugese Royal Family to Brazil should the situation require it. A declaration of war against France by Russia and Prussia distracted Napoleon's attentions away from Portugal for a while but once he had neutralised the threats from those two nations, he once again began to threaten Portugal. Napoleon's main demand was that the Portugese closed their ports to the British, to which the Portugese, fearing an imminent invasion, complied. The news of this reached the British Government in November of 1807 and in response, Rear-Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith, flying his command flag in the 120-gun First Rate ship of the line HMS Hibernia, was ordered to take a squadron and blockade Lisbon and the River Tagus. HMS Plantagenet was ordered to join this squadron, which in addition to HMS Hibernia and HMS Plantagenet also comprised HMS London (98), HMS Foudroyant (80), HMS Elizabeth, HMS Conqueror, HMS Monarch, HMS Bedford and HMS Marlborough (all of 74 guns). After conferring with Rear-Admiral Smith, Lord Strangford, the British Ambassador to Portugal presented the Portugese with the British proposals to resove the situation. Portugal could either hand their Navy over to the British, or use it to escort the Royal Family to Brazil, while the British took the country under their protection and dealt with the French. British diplomacy finally pursuaded the Portugese to change their position. It was agreed that Portugal would come under British protection and in addition, the entire Portugese Royal Family would be evacuated to Rio de Janiero, from where they would govern their extensive empire. They would take the entire Portugese Navy with them and the British would run affairs in Portugal until the French threat was either defeated or receded on its own. On 29th November 1807, the Portugese Royal Family put to sea in the Princip Reale (84), Conde Henrique (74), Medusa (74), Principe de Brazil (74), Rainha de Portugal (74), Alfonso D'Albequerque (64), Don Juan de Castro (64), Martino De Freitas (64), Minerva (44), Golfino (36), Urania (32), three 20 gun brig-corvettes and a 12 gun schooner. To assist the Portugese, Rear-Admiral Smith also sent HMS London, HMS Marlborough and HMS Bedford. 

In the meantime, the Russians had allied themselves with the French and a squadron of nine Russian ships of the line had entered the River Tagus. Rear-Admiral Smith kept those ships blockaded and was reinforced by the arrival of a further squadron under the command of Commodore Peter Halkett, flying his command broad pendant in HMS Ganges (74) also having HMS Defence, HMS Alfred (both also of 74 guns) with HMS Ruby and HMS Agamemnon (both of 64 guns). Rear-Admiral Smith and his ships kept the Russians trapped in the Tagus until the end of the year.

HMS Plantagenet remained in the Channel Fleet, escorting convoys and blockading the French Biscay ports until 1813. In the meantime, increasing tensions between the UK and the United States of America eventually led to the Americans declaring war on the 18th June 1812. The British immediately initiated a blockade of the American coastline and on the 6th April 1813 HMS Plantagenet departed Cadiz with a convoy of troop transports bound for Halifax Nova Scotia from whence she was to join the North America Station under Vice-Admiral Sir JOhn Borlase Warren. The ship was assigned to the blockade, something her officers and crew got to be very good at.

On the 29th December 1813, HMS Plantagenet was off Bermuda and her commander, Captain Robert Lloyd wrote to his Admiral with a list of his successes so far. It was very long:

Sloop Jolly Robin of 4 men and 50 tons, from Boston bound to Charleston, captured September 8 1813.
Schooner Torpedo of 40 tons from New York bound to New Orleans, captured September 11 1813.
Sloop Olive Branch of 50 tons captured same date.
Schooner Delight of 50 tons captured September 15 1813.
Schooner name unknown captured same date.
Schooner Jacks Delight of one gun from New Orleans bound to New York captured October 12 1813.
Schooner Sparrow of 1 gun and 100 tons from New Orleans bound to New York captured November 3 1813.
Sloop Elizabeth of 30 tons captured November 5 1813.
Sloop James Madison of 1 man and 25 tons from New Orleans bound to New York captured November 7 1813.
Sloop Active of 5 men and 57 tons from New York bound to Savannah captured November 12 1813
Sloop Lady Washington of 15 men and 70 tons from Savannah bound to New York captured November 15 1813.
Schooner Betsy of 5 men and 60 tons from Savannah bound to New York, captured November 21 1813.
Schooner Margaret and Mary of 5 men and 37 tons from Philadelphia boudn to New York captured  November 27 1813.
Sloop Anna Maria of 7 men and 60 tons from Philadelphia bound to New York captured same date.
Schooner John and Mary of 60 tons from New Orleans bound to New York captured November 29 1813.
Sloop Five Sisters of 5 men and 60 tons from New York bound to Philadelphia captured December 2 1813.
Sloop New Jersey of 42 tons from Barnygatebound to New York captured same date.
Sloop Two Peters of 3 men and 38 tons from Little Egg bound to New York captured same date.
Schooner Batsch of 3 men and 61 tons from New York bound to Little Eggcaptured December 4 1813.
Schooner Unicorn of 6 men and 30 tons from Savannah bound to New York captured December 5 1813.
Schooner Margaret of 2 men and 36 tons from New York bound to Barnygate captured December 8 1813
Sloop Victory of 60 tons from Savannah bound to New York captured December 10 1813.
Schooner Little Mary of 3 men and 26 tons from New York bound to Charleston captured December 12 1813.
Schooner Rapid of 21 men, 1 gun and 115 tons from Havannah bound to New York captured December 16 1813.
Schooner Mary of 4 men and 34 tons from Philadelphia bound to Salem captured December 17 1813.

The capture of the schooner Rapid by men from HMS Plantagenet:

On the 11th April 1814, the Napoleonic War was ended by the Treaty of Fontainebleu, but the war against the Americans continued. On the 26th September 1814, HMS Plantagenet was patrolling off the Azores in company with the ex-Danish 18pdr-armed 38-gun frigate HMS Rota and the 32pdr carronade-armed 18-gun brig-sloop HMS Carnation when the American privateer schooner General Armstrong of seven guns including a long 24 or 32pdr gun on a traversing mounting was sighted in the Fayal Roads. Captain Lloyd sent Lieutenant Robert Faussett in the pinnace to ascertain the American's strength. As the boat approached the American vessel, she weighed anchor and as a result of the fast current, drifted stern first towards the boat. The American hailed the boat and told them to keep away, but owing to the speed with which the General Armstrong was drifting, this was not possible, so the American privateer opened fire, killing two and wounding seven of Lieutenant Faussetts men.

Captain Lloyd as the senior officer present decided that this was a blatant violation of the neutrality of the Azores and ordered that the American schooner be taken in a cutting-out raid. In the meantime, the General Armstrong had anchored again, so the three British vessels anchored off the port and at 20:00, the raiding party set out in seven boats, four from HMS Plantagenet and three from HMS Rota carrying 180 men. The raid was to be commanded by Mr William Matterface, First Lieutenant in HMS Rota. HMS Carnation was to close with the enemy and cover the boat's approach. Owing to the strong currents, HMS Carnation was unable to close with the American and at midnight, as they came within hailing distance, the raiding party came under a withering fire from cannon and musketry both from the privateer and from guns the Americans had put ashore. within half an hour, two of the boats had been sunk and about two thirds of the men in them killed or wounded. At 02:00 on the 27th, the remaining boats returned to HMS Rota. The raid had been an expensive disaster. Mr Matterface and Mr Charles Norman, Third Lieutenant in HMS Rota, one Midshipman, 31 seamen and Marines had been killed while Mr Richard Rawle, Second Lieutenant in HMS Rota, Lieutenant of marines Mr Thomas Park, Mr William Basden, Purser, two Midshipmen, 81 seamen and Marines had been wounded. The Americans had been firing Langridge Shot consisting of nails, brass buttons and knife blades causing horrific wounds to the British casualties. Soon after daybreak, HMS Carnation moved into the Fayal Road with the intention of destroying the General Armstrong, but the Americans set fire to their vessel themselves, saving them the trouble.

The Attack on the General Armstrong:

On December 24th 1814, the Americans and the British concluded the Treaty of Ghent which the British Parliament ratified the following day. The American Congress did not ratify the treaty until February 17th 1815.

In the meantime, in December 1814, HMS Plantagenet paid off at Portsmouth and entered the Portsmouth Ordinary. During May of 1817, the ship was broken up at Portsmouth.

"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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