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Author Topic: HMS Dido (1784 - 1817)  (Read 1209 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Dido (1784 - 1817)
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2018, 22:04:51 »
HMS Dido was a sixth-rate, 9pdr-armed, 28-gun frigate of the Enterprise Class, built under Navy Board Contract at the shipyard of Hall Stewart at Sandgate, on the south Kent coast a couple of miles west of Folkestone.

The Enterprise Class was a group of 27 small sailing frigates designed by Sir John Williams, co-Surveyor of the Navy, of which 12 were built in Kent shipyards. HMS Dido was one of a pair of such ships built by Hall Stewart at Sandgate, the other being HMS Rose. Of the rest of the Kent-built ships of the class, HMS Thisbe and HMS Lapwing were built under Navy Board contract by Thomas King at his shipyard on Beach Street in Dover , HMS Circe was built under contract by Henry Ladd at his Dover shipyard, also on Beach Street, HMS Siren (or Syren) was built under Navy Board contract by John Henniker at his Chatham shipyard, HMS Hussar was built under Navy Board contract by Francis Wilson, HMS Alligator was built under Navy Board contract by Philemon Jacobs, both yards which were also at Sandgate, while HMS Enterprise and HMS Pegasus were built at the Deptford Royal Dockyard, HMS Acteon and HMS Surprise were built by the Woolwich Royal Dockyard.

See here for the stories of HMS Enterprise:
HMS Lapwing:

HMS Hussar:

As a general point, at the time the ship was built, 9pdr-armed 28-gun sixth-rate frigate was one of two main types of frigate in service with the Royal Navy, the other being the fifth-rate, 12pdr-armed, 32-gun ship. From the early 1780's however, both types began to fall into obsolescence in the face of larger and more heavily-armed French frigates. The Royal Navy had also begun to build 18pdr-armed frigates at about the same time, but production of these ships was slow to get started so that when the French Revolutionary War broke out in 1793, many of the older 9- and 12pdr-armed frigates were recommissioned. These ships gave good service despite their advancing age and obsolescence until they were replaced from the late 1790's by larger 18pdr-armed frigates mounting 32, 36, 38 or 40 guns.

The contract for the construction of HMS Dido was signed on the 5th June 1782 and her first keel section was laid at Sandgate during September of the same year. At the time the ship was ordered, the American War of Independence was all but over. The war ashore in North America had already effectively been lost with the surrender of General Charles, the Marquess Cornwallis and his army at Yorktown in September of 1781. This had left the British position in the colonies untenable and they had been forced to fall back to their strongholds in Philadelphia and New York. At sea, the Royal Navy had been more successful. Once the Franco-American allied forces ashore had gained victory at Yorktown, the French concentrated their efforts on expelling the British from their lucrative possessions in the Caribbean and these had been thwarted by Vice-Admiral Sir George Rodney in decisive naval battles at The Saintes and Mona Passage in April of 1782. By the time that the ship's keel had been laid and the construction project had started, peace talks to end the war were already under way. These had resulted in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, signed on the 3rd September and effective from the 12th May 1784. This meant that when HMS Dido was launched with all due ceremony into the English Channel on the 27th November 1784, the war for which she had been built was over.

Enterprise Class Plans

Orlop Plan:

Lower or berth deck Plan:

Upper, Main or Gundeck Plan:

Quarterdeck and Forecastle Plans:

Inboard Profile and Plan:

Sheer Plan and Lines:

The Navy Board model of HMS Enterprise, starboard bow view.

Starboard Quarter view:

A model of HMS Enterprise. Apart from the figurehead, HMS Dido was identical:

By the 29th November 1784, HMS Dido was fitted with a jury rig in order to sail from Sandgate to the Deptford Royal Dockyard, where she was to be fitted for the Ordinary there. After the ship was fitted with cabins for her Standing Officers, the Boatswain, carpenter, Gunner and Cook and quarters for their servants plus ten Able Seamen, her gunports and hatches sealed shut, the ship was left secured to a mooring buoy in the River Thames.

In November 1786, HMS Dido was taken into the Royal DOckyard and her lower hull was sheathed in copper, the work being completed on the 17th February 1787. Once more, the ship was fitted with a jury rig and this time, was sailed under the jury rig from Deptford to Portsmouth where she was to be fitted for sea.

In September 1787, HMS Dido commissioned for the North America Station under Captain Charles Sandys and was fitted with her full rig and guns. When this was completed in October 1787, HMS Dido was a ship of 595 tons, she was 120ft 5in long on her gundeck, 99ft 3in long at the keel and 33ft 7in wide across her beams. The ship was armed with 24 x 9pdr long guns on her gundeck with 4 x 6pdr long guns and 4 x 18pdr carronades on her quartedeck with two more 18pdr carronades on her forecastle. In addition to her main guns, the ship also carried a dozen half-pounder swivel guns fitted to her quarterdeck and forecastle handrails and in her fighting tops. On 5th April 1788, HMS Dido left Portsmouth bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia where she was to take up the typical duties of a small frigate on that station in peacetime, that of patrolling and protecting the fisheries and whaling trade, as well as maintaining diplomatic relations with Native Americans in the area. Captain Charles Sandys' previous appointment had been as Master and Commander in the 18pdr-armed frigate HMS Latona of 38 guns. His first command appointment had been when he was appointed Master and Commander in the fireship HMS Tisiphone of 14 guns.

See here for the story of HMS Tisiphone:

Captain sandys remained in command of HMS Dido until he was replaced by Captain Edward Buller on the 19th July 1790. Captain Buller was in command until he paid the ship off at the Woolwich Royal Dockyard in December of that year. HMS Dido was placed in the Woolwich Ordinary, manned by a skeleton crew as before and remained there despite the Spanish Armaments and Russian Armaments Crises of 1790 into 1791.

On the 1st February 1793, the French Revolutionary War broke out and the ship was fitted for sea and recommissioned again for the North Sea Fleet under Captain Charles Hamilton.

On the 9th August 1793, HMS Dido was patrolling off Stavanger, Norway when she sighted the French privateer brig Vrai Patriote of 16 guns and 56 men out of Dunkerque. Captain Hamilton ordered a chase and the crew of the Vrai Patriote headed inshore and ran their vessel ashore, abandoned her and attempted to set her on fire. Lieutenant Edward hamilton was sent in a boat with eight men to take possession of the prize and on boarding the French brig, put the fire out. Mr Hamilton was aware that the ship would not be able to claim prize money if they failed to capture the vessel AND at least part of her crew, so he and his men went ashore, pursued the enemy sailors and captured 13 of them. Refloating the vessel, Mr Hamilton headed back towards HMS Dido's position, but on the way out, were challenged by the 18pdr carronade-armed cutter HMS Nimble of 10 guns. HMS Nimble had been searching for the privateer and not knowing that the vessel had been captured by HMS Dido's men, attacked and attempted to take the prize. Despite Mr Hamilton ordering the British ensign to be hoisted from the gaff over the French tricolour, indicating that the vessel was a British prize, HMS Nimble's commander was not convinced and continued with his attack. It was only when Mr Hamilton himself used a speaking trumpet to no doubt use some colourful language that HMS Nimble was convinced that the Vrai Patriote was now a British prize. The Vrai Patriote eventually found HMS Dido without further incident.

See here for the story of HMS Nimble:

On 21st November 1793, Captain Hamilton received orders to join Admiral Lord Hood's Mediterranean Fleet off Bastia in North-East Corsica. Lord Hood was supporting Corsican irregulars fighting the French occupation of their island after the failure of his campaign supporting French Royalists who had taken control of the naval base and arsenal at Toulon.

On the 13th April 1794, HMS Dido stood by with HMS Aigle (18pdr, 36), HMS Imperieuse (18pdr, 38) while HMS Lowestoffe (12pdr, 32) captured the French vessel L'Etoile du Nord.

On 23rd May 1974, HMS Dido in company with HMS Lowestoffe captured the French ship-corvette La Moselle of 24 guns.

On the 24th May 1794, HMS Dido, in company with HMS Aigle, HMS Imperieuse, HMS Lowestoffe and the brig-sloop HMS Scout (4pdr, 14) captured the French brigs Namina Sophia and Jacobin.

In the meantime, the Republicans now in control of Toulon had set to work taking over the remaining ships of the Toulon Fleet after the British and their then Spanish allies had taken the ships in best condition with them as they withdrew. By 5th June 1794, most of the French ships were ready for sea and on that day, a force of seven ships of the line and four or five frigates broke out and headed into the Mediterranean Sea. As soon as he heard the news of the French breakout, Lord Hood immediately ordered his fleet to head towards Toulon in hopes of intercepting the enemy. The enemy force consisted of the Dauphin Royale, now renamed to Sans Culotte (120), Couronne, now renamed to Bonnet Rouge (80), Tonnant (80), Censeur, Duquesne, Genereux and Heureux (all of 74 guns). Lord Hood's force, in addition to his flagship HMS Victory (100) and HMS Dido also comprised HMS Britannia (100), HMS St George, HMS Princess Royal and HMS Windsor Castle (all of 98 guns), HMS Alcide, HMS Terrible, HMS Egmont, HMS Bedford, HMS Captain, HMS Fortitude, HMS Illustrious and HMS Berwick (all of 74 guns). Hood also had the frigates HMS Romulus (18pdr, 36), HMS Juno and HMS Meleager (both 12pdr-armed ships of 32 guns).

See here for the stories of HMS Windsor Castle:

and HMS Bedford:

On 10th June 1794, the two fleets sighted each other and Hood immediately ordered his fleet to set all sail in pursuit of the enemy. At daybreak on the following day, the British had closed the range to about nine miles and were gaining. Outnumbered and outgunned, the French Admiral, Pierre Martin, decided to try to head for the anchorage Gourjean Bay near Toulon, which he knew to be heavily defended with shore batteries. The vanguard of the French fleet reached the bay at about 2pm. HMS Dido was the only ship able to get to within range and had a brief exchange of fire with the rearmost French ships and with two of the forts guarding the entrance to the Bay. Lord Hood's original plan was to follow Martin's force into the Bay and get stuck into them. He was confident of being able to capture or destroy the whole force. His plan as given in his written orders earlier were that HMS Victory and HMS Princess Royal were to attack the Bonnet Rouge, HMS Britannia and HMS St George were to attack the Sans Culottes, HMS Windsor Castle and HMS Alcide were to attack the Genereux, HMS Bedford and HMS Egmont the Duquesne, HMS Fortitude and HMS Captain the Tonnant. HMS Terrible was to draw the fire of the battery on the east point of the bay and HMS Berwick that of the battery on the west point. HMS Illustrious and the frigates were to attack the French frigates. The wind however, had decided that the attack was to be abandoned. Not only had it dropped away to an almost complete calm, but the French had landed guns from their ships to reinforce the bay's defences. An alternative plan was devised whereby fireships would be deployed, but this was also given up as on approach, they found that the French were so well prepared, the fireships would have also been destroyed by the shore batteries before they got anywhere near any of the enemy's ships.

On abandoning the attack on the French fleet in Gourjean Bay, Hood headed back to Corsica to resume operations there in his flagship in company with HMS Princess Royal and two of the 74 gun ships, leaving Vice-Admiral Sir William Hotham in command with HMS Britannia and the rest of the fleet, blockading the enemy in the bay. Shortly afterwards, the weather deteriorated and in the gale, the French were able to escape from the bay and return to Toulon.

In July 1794, Captain Hamilton was appointed to command the ex-French 18pdr-armed 36-gun frigate HMS San Fiorenzo and was replaced in command of HMS Dido by Captain George Henry Towry. HMS Dido was Captain Towry's first command appointment after being Posted, or promoted to Captain. His previous appointment had been as Master and Commander in the ex-French, 6pdr-armed ship sloop HMS Eclair. On 14th March 1795, HMS Dido captured the French privateer Xebec Temeraire of 2 12pdr, 2 8pdr and 2 4pdr guns.

By June of 1795, command of the Mediterranean Fleet had passed to Vice-Admiral Hotham, Lord Hood having retired. The fleet was at the time, off Minorca and Vice-Admiral Hotham received intelligence that the French Toulon fleet had put to sea. The Vice-Admiral sent HMS Dido and HMS Lowestoffe to look into the Toulon Road to see if the reports were true. By coincidence, the French had received intelligence of the whereabouts of the British and had sent the frigates La Minerve (18pdr, 40) and L'Artemise (18pdr, 36) to take a look. At 04:00 on the 24th June, the two pairs of frigates sighted each other and the French altered course away from the British. Captain Towry, as the senior commander, ordered a chase, but by 07:00, it was becoming clear that the French frigates were outsailing HMS Dido and HMS Lowestoffe and were getting away. At 08:00 however, the French must have realised that they outgunned the pair of British frigates by a significant margin and decided to stand and fight. At 08:30, La Minerve, the leading ship opened fire on the much smaller HMS Dido and at 08:45, HMS Dido began to return the French fire in a well-directed cannonade. After about five minutes, La Minerve suddenly changed course towards the smaller British frigate, her intention clearly being to ram HMS Dido and sink her. In the instant before the collision occurred, Captain Towry ordered a hard turn to starboard and the two ships rubbed up hard against each other. La Minerve's jib-boom (the end part of the bowsprit) caught in HMS Dido's main mast rigging and snapped off and the remaining part of it became caught in HMS Dido's mizzen mast rigging. The French crew attempted to swarm aboard HMS Dido using their ship's bowsprit, but were driven off by British sailors bearing boarding pikes. In the high swell, the two ships were striking each other very hard, and the shock of this was sending more French sailors into the sea. Such was the swell that HMS Dido was literally hanging by her mizzen mast rigging on La Minerve's bowsprit, which also eventually broke in half taking with it more French sailors as well as HMS Dido's already damaged mizzen mast. So that the French did not think that HMS Dido had surrendered, her colours having fallen into the sea with the mizzen mast, Able Seaman Henry Barling nailed a Union Flag to the stump of the mizzen mast. Now freed, La Minerve rubbed along HMS Dido's side, both ships firing into each other at point-blank range until La Minerve was able to work clear of the now badly damaged HMS Dido. At this point, HMS Lowestoffe now joined in the fight against La Minerve, positioned herself across the larger French frigate's port bow and opened fire at about 09:00. After six to eight minutes of intense bombardment from HMS Lowestoffe, the French frigate's fore mast fell, followed quickly by her main and mizzen topmasts. The other french frigate, L'Artimese, fired ineffective broadsides into both British frigates before making off. By 09:15, it was clear that La Minerve was going nowhere, so Captain Towry ordered that the signal for HMS Lowestoffe to go after L'Artemise was hung over his ship's stern. HMS Lowestoffe ceased firing, set all sail and went off in pursuit of L'Artemise. Both ships exchanged fire with their chase guns while HMS Diso set her only serviceable sail and moved away from La Minerve to make urgent repairs. In the chase, HMS Lowestoffe unfortunately received a shot through her mizzen mast, so had to take in all her mizzen sails to prevent it from falling. At 10:30, Captain Towry saw that L'Artemise was getting away from HMS Lowestoffe, so recalled her. At 11:30, HMS Lowestoffe positioned herself off La Minerve's starboard quarted and opened a withering fire. In the meantime, HMS Dido's men had hoisted new main and fore topsails and the ship had also closed with La Minerve and opened fire.. At 11:45, La Minerve's mizzen mast fell and she hailed HMS Lowestoffe to indicate her surrender.

In the Action of the 24th June 1795, out of her 193-man crew, HMS Dido had casualties of Mr Cuthbert Douglas, Boatswain and five seamen killed, Mr Richard Buckoll, First Lieutenant, Mr Richard Willan, Clerk and thirteen seamen wounded. Out of her 212-man crew, HMS Lowestoffe had none killed and three wounded. La Minerve had 20 killed and wounded, not including those who had fallen off the bowsprit, out of her 318-strong crew. From any point of view, this was an extraordinary action. La Minerve along outgunned both British frigates together. After making running repairs, all three ships made it into Port Mahon, Minorca.

La Minerve was repaired, refitted and taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Minerve and Captain Towry was appointed as her first British commander. Mr Buckoll, once he had recovered from his wound, was made a Master and Commander, as was Mr Joshua Sydney Horton, First Lieutenant in HMS Lowestoffe.

The Capture of La Minerve by Thomas Whitcombe:

Another view of the same event:

Captain Towry's replacement in HMS Dido was Captain Henry Hotham, the nephew of the Commander-in-Chief. He remained in command for two years until he was replaced in command by Captain Edward Marsh. By now, the sixth-rate, 28-gun frigate was obsolete and was being withdrawn from front line service in the Royal Navy. By 1st January 1799, HMS Dido was in the Portsmouth Ordinary.

In February 1800, HMS Dido was taken into the Royal Dockyard and was refitted as a troopship. On 16th October 1800, HMS Dido departed Portsmouth with troops bound for operations in Egypt. Since Nelson's victory over the French in the Battle of the Nile in August of 1798, a French army had been stranded in the Egyptian desert. The British had decided to send an army under General Ralph Abercromby to destroy the French army. On the 8th March 1801, the British conducted an opposed landing in the teeth of French fire near Alexandria and went on to defeat the French in the Battle of Alexandria on the 21st March 1801. On the 7th April 1802, HMS Dido returned to the Portsmouth Ordinary and in October of 1804, was converted into a Receiving Ship for Army personnel and moored off Cowes, Isle of Wight. In December of 1814, HMS Dido was shown in the Navy List as being an Army provisions depot ship.

On the 11th April 1814, the Napoleonic War was ended by the Treaty of Fontainebleu and on the 3rd April 1817, HMS Dido was sold for breaking up to Josiah Holmes at Portsmouth for £1,320.
"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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