News: “Over the graves of the Druids and under the wreck of Rome,
Rudely but surely they bedded the plinth of the days to come.
Behind the feet of the Legions and before the Norseman’s ire
Rudely but greatly begat they the framing of State and Shire
Rudely but deeply they laboured, and their labour stand till now.
If we trace on ancient headlands the twist of their eight-ox plough.”

-Rudyard Kipling
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Author Topic: HMS Edgar (1779 - 1835)  (Read 1682 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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Re: HMS Edgar (1779 - 1835)
« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2018, 17:59:05 »
I found these while researching a forthcoming essay. These pictures are of a commercially available model of HMS Vanguard, Nelson's flagship at the Battle of the Nile. Also an Arrogant Class ship, HMS Edgar would have been identical, apart from decorations and her figurehead.

Elevated view from the starboard broadside, looking forward with details of the quarterdeck, waist and boat booms and the forecastle:

Port bow view, showing the masts and the maze of rigging:

Closeup of the bow showing the bumpkins (the two booms sticking out at 45 degrees), the bowsprit rigging and the bulkhead at the forward end of the upper gundeck. Also visible are the seamen's heads or toilets:

Detail of the after end of the ship, showing the main studding sail boom on that side, also used to secure the boats when the ship was at anchor, the poop deck with it's 18pdr carronades and the skylight over the captain's day cabin. The steering wheel is also here, under the break of the poop between the two ladders leading up to it:

"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline mikeb

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Re: HMS Edgar (1779 - 1835)
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2018, 10:30:44 »
Thanks again Bilgerat, another excellent tale, read while taking morning coffee & toast!!

Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Edgar (1779 - 1835)
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2018, 20:30:31 »
HMS Edgar was a Common Type, 74-gun, Third rate ship of the line of the Arrogant Class built at the Woolwich Royal Dockyard.

The Arrogant Class, as their name suggests, were copies of the design of HMS Arrogant, originally launched at Harwich in 1761 and designed by Sir Thomas Slade. They were essentially copies of Slade's earlier Bellona Class, the first of the Common Type, but are not included in that class because the the shape of their bows was different. Internally though, they were identical to the Bellona Class, which is why I've used those deck plans and the inboard profile. HMS Edgar was one of ten ships built to the design of HMS Arrogant of which four, including HMS Edgar, were built in Kent shipyards. The other ships were all built at Deptford, which were HMS Goliath and HMS Vanguard, both built at the Royal Dockyard and HMS Zealous, built under contract by William Barnard.

HMS Edgar was ordered on the 16th July 1774 and her first elm keel section was laid at Woolwich on the 28th August 1776. In the time between being ordered and the laying of the first keel section, unrest in the American Colonies had escalated into a full scale, armed rebellion in which the rebels had gained the upper hand.

On the 30th June 1779, HMS Edgar was launched with all due ceremony into the River Thames. Prior ro her launch, she had commissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain John Elliot. The reason for the hurry was that the colonial brushfire in America had escalated into a major war between Britain and France as a result of the French intervention in the war on the side of the rebels. On the 6th September 1779, HMS Edgar was declared complete at Woolwich at a total cost of £42,362.0s.11d.

On completion, HMS Edgar was a ship of 1,609 tons, she was 168ft long along the upper gundeck and 138ft long along the keel. The ship was 46ft 10in wide across her beams, drew 12ft 4in of water at the bows and 17ft 9in at the rudder. She was armed with 28 x 32pdr long guns on the lower gundeck, 28 x 18pdr long guns on the upper gundeck, 4 x 9pdr long guns on her forecastle with 14 more on her quarterdeck. In addition to the main guns, HMS Edgar was also fitted with a dozen half-pounder swivel guns attached to her forecastle and quarterdeck bulwarks and in her fighting tops. The ship was manned by a crew of 600 officers, seamen, boys and Marines.

Once he had been appointed into the ship, Captain Elliot set about recruiting his crew, in conjunction with the Impressment Service. His five Lieutenants, ranked in order of seniority, 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc were appointed by the Admiralty. Of these, the First Lieutenant was the most important because as well as being second in command and the captains right hand man, he controlled the day-to-day organisation of the ship and her crew.

The senior Warrant Officers were appointed into the ship by the Navy Board, including the Standing Officers, those men who would remain with the ship whether or not she was in commission. The Standing Officers in a Common Type 74-gun ship were:

The Boatswain or Bosun, answerable to the First Lieutenant and responsible for the repair and maintenance of the sails, masts and all the rigging as well as the ships boats. While the ship was in commission, he was assisted by two Boatswains Mates.

The Carpenter. He was a qualified shipwright and was answerable to the First Lieutenant for the repair and maintenance of the ships hull, frames and decks. While the ship was in commission, he was assisted by a single Carpenters Mate and a crew of 8 Able Seamen.

The Gunner. He was answerable to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the repair and maintenance of the ships main guns, the storage and distribution in action of the ships stocks of gunpowder and shot, training the gun-crews and training the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary in the arts of gunnery. While the ship was in commission, he was assisted by two Gunners Mates and 18 Quarter Gunners. Each of the Quarter Gunners was a Petty Officer, in charge of four gun crews.

The Cook. Usually a disabled ex-seaman, the Cook was answerable to the First Lieutenant and was responsible for the distribution and preparation of the ships provisions. He was the lowest-ranking of the Standing Officers.

The Purser. He was answerable to the Captain and so entitled to live in the wardroom with the commissioned officers and was responsible for the purchase and distribution of all the ships stores.

The other senior Warrant Officers appointed by the Navy Board were:

The Sailing Master. He was the highest-ranking of all the ships Warrant Officers, was answerable to the Captain and so was entitled to live in the wardroom with the commissioned officers. Of all the wardroom officers, he had the second-largest cabin, second only to that of the First Lieutenant. In a ship like HMS Edgar, he was assisted by a more junior Sailing Master, known as the Second Master and three Masters Mates. He was responsible for the day-to-day sailing and navigation of the ship, training the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary in the arts of navigation and seamanship and the storage of supplies and stores in the hold to ensure the optimum trim of the ship. In addition to the Second Master and the Masters Mates, he was also assisted by six Quartermasters, each responsible for the ship's steering and each assisted by their own Mate.

The Surgeon. Also answerable directly 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 and was assisted in this by two Assistant Surgeons.

The lesser Warrant Officers were appointed by the Captain on the recommendation of the First Lieutenant after having applied for the posts and presenting their credentials. These were:

The Armourer. He was responsible for the storage, maintenance and repair of the ships stocks of small-arms and bladed weapons. He would also manufacture new bladed weapons as and where necessary. He was answerable to the Gunner and was assisted by two Armourers Mates and was a qualified blacksmith.

The Sailmaker. Answerable to the Boatswain and responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ships sails and flags as well as their storage. He was assisted by a single Sailmakers Mate and had a crew of two Able Seamen.

The Ropemaker. Also answerable to the Boatswain, he was responsible for the storage, maintenance and repair of the ship's supplies of cordage and the manufacture where necessary of new cordage.

The Caulker. He was answerable to the Carpenter and was responsible for ensuring that the ship's hull and decks remained watertight. He was assisted by a single Caulkers Mate and Able Seamen as and when required.

The Chaplain. An ordained priest, he was answerable to the First Lieutenant. In deference to his status as an ordained priest, the Chaplain was entitled to live in the wardroom with the commissioned officers. In action, his role was to assist the Surgeon with the care of wounded men. In the absence of a Chaplain, the Captain would carry out his pastoral duties.

The Schoolmaster. Answerable to the First Lieutenant, he was responsible for training the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary in the theory of navigation and the associated branches of arithmetic. Where possible and appropriate, he would also teach the rest of the ships boys the basic three Rs.

The Cooper. Answerable to the Purser, he was responsible for the maintenance and repair of all the barrels stored in the hold. He was responsible for cleaning the barrels after their contents had been used, especially barrels used to store the ship's water supply and would be assisted by Able Seamen as and where required.

The Clerk. Answerable to the Purser, he was responsible for all the record-keeping and administration aboard the ship and ensuring that the appropriate books were sent to the Admiralty for checking.

The Master-At-Arms. Answerable to the First Lieutenant and responsible for the day-to-day enforcement of discipline on the ship. He was assisted by two Corporals (not related to the military rank of the same name) who themselves had the status of Petty Officers. He would investigate misbehaving seamen and would report them to the First Lieutenant who would in turn report them to the Captain who would decide their punishment. In cases where the Captain decided that the offender should be flogged, the flogging itself would be carried out by the Boatswains Mates. In cases where the alleged offence required a Court Martial, the offender would be kept in irons until a Court Martial could be arranged and the Master-at-Arms would then be responsible for their safety and security.

A Common Type 74-gun ship would have 16 Midshipmen, appointed by the Port Admiral or local commander-in-chief on behalf of the Admiralty. Officers in training, their job was to assist the Lieutenants in their day-to-day duties. In addition to the Midshipmen, there would be Midshipmen-in-Ordinary. These boys would usually be the sons of friends of the Captain, or who had a family connection to the Captain, or be sons of people the Captain was either doing a favour for or owed a favour to. They would be on the ships books as Captains Servants, rated and paid as Able Seamen but wore the uniform and performed the duties of a Midshipman. A ship with a crew of 600 would entitle the Captain to have as many as 24 servants or four per hundred of her Company, but unless he was extraordinarily extravagant, the Captain  would only actually require a fraction of this number, so the remaining posts were taken up with the Midshipmen-in-Ordinary, also known as Quarterdeck Boys. The Quarterdeck Boys would have to put in two years of sea-service before they could be appointed as Midshipmen proper and would have to serve six years in the post of Midshipman before they would be considered for their Lieutenants Examination.

In any case, the Captain would come aboard with his own staff who would move between appointments with him, consisting of his own Clerk or secretary, his Steward, who would have a Stewards Mate to assist him and his Coxswain. The Captains Coxswain was a Petty Officer who was expected to act as the Captain's eyes and ears on the Lower Deck. The Coxswain himself would appoint a Coxswain's Mate from amongst the Able Seamen.

The rest of the ships crew would be made up with Petty Officers, those men with experience in those roles, such as Captains and Yeomen of Parts of the ship such as the Forecastle, the Waist, Tops, Gun Captains etc. Able Seamen; those men with plenty of sea-going experience who could perform any task asked of them without supervision, Ordinary Seamen; those men with some sea-going experience and Landsmen, those with none. Landsmen were the unskilled labourers in a ship and were generally regarded by everyone else as being the lowest form of life until they had proved themselves. Boys were graded in much the same way, 1st class - those with Able Seaman levels of skills and experience, 2nd class, those with Ordinary Seaman level skills and 3rd class. The Boys 3rd Class were employed as cabin servants for the wardroom and for those senior Warrant Officers entitled to have servants, such as the Standing Officers.

HMS Edgar's contingent of Marines would come aboard as a pre-existing unit and would consist of a Captain of Marines in charge, assisted by two Marine Lieutenants ranked in order of seniority, two Sergeants, three Corporals, a Drummer and 70 Marine Privates. The commissioned Marine officers were entitled to live in the wardroom with the commissioned sea-officers. The Marines themselves would live in a screened-off part of the Lower Deck, known as the Marine Barracks, while the non-commissioned officers would have the same status aboard the ship as the Petty Officers.

This huge and diverse host of men would have to be moulded by Captain Elliot and his officers into an efficient, deadly fighting machine who could operate together under any circumstances and who could handle the ship in any weather. Certainly in the early weeks and months of her commission, this could and would be done by brute force as failure was not an option.

Arrogant Class Plans

Orlop Plan:

Lower Gundeck Plan:

Upper Gundeck Plan:

Quarterdeck and Forecastle Plans:

Inboard Profile and Plan:

Sheer Plan and Lines:

This plan shows the layout of the iron ballast and the lower tier of casks in the hold:

A painting by Benjamin Toddy of HMS Edgar off the Eddystone Lighthouse. Benjamin Toddy was a disabled ex-seaman who as a result of his disability, held his paintbrushes with his toes:

Captain Elliot received orders to place his ship under the command of Vice-Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney, who had been ordered to escort a convoy to Gibraltar, break the Franco-Spanish blockade and relieve the siege which had been ongoing since Spain joined the war earlier in 1779. The Spanish Government had been supplying the Americans with arms and military support since 1776 and they concluded their own Treaty with the Americans, the Treaty of Aranjuez, concluded on April 12 1779. Spain's main motivation for entering the war was to regain Gibraltar, ceded to the British in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1703. As soon as hostilities commenced, the Spanish laid siege to Gibraltar. French and Spanish fleets blockaded Gibraltar while ashore, an enormous Spanish army constructed forts, redoubts and batteries from which to attack. As the winter of 1779 began to bite, the 5,300 strong garrison began to suffer the effects of being under siege and food began to be severely rationed. After relieving the siege, Rodney was to take a squadron to the West Indies and take up the post of Commander-in-Chief while the rest of the fleet for the relief of Gibraltar, including HMS Edgar, was to return to the UK.

On Christmas Day 1779, HMS Edgar was part of Rodney's fleet which left Portsmouth headed for Gibraltar. Rodney's fleet was impressive enough. It comprised the enormous first rate ship HMS Royal George with 100 guns, the second rate ships HMS Sandwich (90, Rodney's flagship) and HMS Prince George (98). HMS Edgar was one of no less than fifteen 74 gun ships in the fleet and in addition to that, there were two 64 gun ships, five frigates and two post-ships. The fleet left in company with the West Indies convoy and on 4th January 1780, the convoy parted company with the fleet, escorted by HMS Hector (74), the 44 gun two-decker HMS Phoenix and the 9pdr armed 28 gun frigates HMS Andromeda and HMS Greyhound.

The following day, the fleets lookouts spotted over 20 sail, heading in the direction of Cadiz. Quickly identifying them to be Spanish, Rodney ordered the fleet to close the range. The strangers were identified as 15 merchant vessels and seven warships belonging to the Spanish Royal Caracas Company. The whole convoy bar one vessel was captured in what is now known as the Attack on the Caracas Convoy. Rodney quickly ordered that any vessels carrying cargoes useful to Gibraltar should stay with the fleet and the rest of the ships were sent with prize crews to the UK accompanied by HMS America (64) and the 12pdr armed 32 gun frigate HMS Pearl.

See here for the stories of HMS Royal George:,

HMS Prince George:

HMS Sandwich:

and HMS Pearl:

By now, the Spanish were aware of Rodney's fleet and their mission and a fleet of 11 Spanish ships of the line under Admiral Juan de Langara was sent to intercept Rodney's force. In addition, the Spanish Cadiz fleet under Admiral Luis de Cordova was also sent to intercept. Cordova, when he learned of the size and strength of the British fleet, returned to Cadiz. At 13:00 on 16th January 1780, the British and Spanish fleets spotted each other off Cape St Vincent. Rodney, who was suffering with severe gout, had retired sick to his cabin aboard HMS Sandwich and when the Spanish fleet was sighted, Captain Walter Young urged him to give orders to engage the enemy. Rodney instead merely gave orders for his fleet to form a line abreast. The Spanish formed a line of battle, but when he saw the size of Rodney's force, Langara ordered that his fleet make all sail and head for Cadiz. Captain Young kept Rodney updated with events as they happened and at 14:00, Rodney was now convinced that the force they had sighted was not the vanguard for a larger force and ordered a general chase and for his ships to engage the Spanish as they came up on them. Because of the squally conditions, Rodney ordered that his ships allow the Spaniards to have the wind-gage, that is to sail downwind of them. This went against normal British practice which was to sail upwind of their opponents but in the weather conditions, Rodney felt that the Spaniards were unlikely to be able to open their lower gundeck gunports, giving the British the advantage in weight of fire. It also put Rodney's ships between the Spaniards and the safety of Cadiz. Rodney's ships also benefitted from the fact that the Royal Navy had recently begun to copper their ship's bottoms, which kept them clean and gave them the advantage of superior speed. The British quickly outpaced the Spanish and within a couple of hours of the chase beginning, the rear-most Spanish ship, the 74 gun Santo Domingo was engaged first by HMS Edgar, then by HMS Marlborough (74) and then HMS Ajax (74), before blowing up with the loss of all but one of her crew. The chase continued and at 18:00, it began to get dark. At 19:30, HMS Defence (74) engaged the Spanish flagship, the 80 gun two-decker Fenix and the two ships became engaged in a firefight which went on for over an hour before Langara's flagship surrendered. During the fight, the Fenix was engaged in passing by HMS Prince George and HMS Montagu (74). HMS Bedford (74) became engaged with the Spanish ship Princesa of 70 guns at about 04:30. The fight went on for an hour or so until the Princessa was forced to surrender. By dawn, it was all over. Of Langara's 11 ships of the line, his flagship Fenix (80), the 74 gun ships Diligente, Monarca, and San Egenio had been taken, along with the Princesa and the 64 gun ship San Julian. The San Domingo (74) had been utterly destroyed when she blew up and the San Agustin, San Lorenzo, San Jenaro and San Justo (all of 74 guns) and the frigates Santa Cecilia and Santa Rosalia (both of 34 guns), managed to escape into Cadiz.

See here for the story of HMS Montagu:

And HMS Bedford:

The First Battle of Cape St Vincent was unusual in that it was mostly fought at night and is for that reason, alternatively known as the Moonlight Battle. In the battle, HMS Edgar suffered casualties of 6 dead and 20 wounded.

The First Battle of Cape St Vincent by Francis Holman. The Santo Domingo can be seen blowing up in the background and the three-decked ship in the foreground is HMS Sandwich. The St. George's Cross flying on her main mast indicates that she is the fleet flagship and the red flag on her foremast indicates the ship to be the flagship of a Vice-Admiral:

The Aftermath of the Battle by Dominic Serres. In this painting, the British fleet have surrounded their Spanish prizes and are in the process of putting prize crews aboard:

Rodney's fleet arrived in Gibraltar on 19th January after having driven off the blockading enemy. Rodney himself did not arrive until a couple of days later, having stopped off at Tangiers to drop off the Prisoners of War, including the wounded Spanish Admiral Langara. After breaking the Spanish blockade of Minorca, also under seige by the Spanish and dropping off supplies for the garrison there, Rodney took his squadron to the West Indies and HMS Edgar returned to the UK.

On April 13th 1781, HMS Edgar was part of a fleet commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir George Darby, which mounted a further relief Gibraltar after evading the Franco-Spanish fleet blockading the Rock.

On the 19th July, Captain Elliot was appointed Commodore and remaining in HMS Edgar, took command of a small detachment of the Channel Fleet. His place in command of the ship was taken by Captain Thomas Boston.

In late 1781, the British received intelligence that the French were about to send a convoy of transport ships with troops and military stores together with a fleet of 19 ships of the line to reinforce their possessions in both the East and West Indies, both of which were under attack by the British. Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Kempenfelt was ordered to hoist his command flag in the first rate ship of the line HMS Victory (100), take a fleet and intercept the convoy before it dispersed to it's destinations. As well as HMS Edgar and HMS Victory, the Rear-Admiral also had HMS Britannia (100), HMS Duke, HMS Queen, HMS Union and HMS Ocean (all of 90 guns), HMS Alexander, HMS Valiant and the ex-French HMS Courageux (all of 74 guns), HMS Agamemnon of 64 guns, HMS Medway of 60 guns and HMS Renown of 50 guns under his command. Also under his command, Kempenfelt had the frigates HMS Arethusa (18pdr, 38), the ex-French frigates HMS Prudente (12pdr, 38), HMS Monsieur (12pdr, 36), the 9pdr-armed Post Ship HMS Tartar of 24 guns and the 18pdr carronade-armed fireship HMS Tisiphone of 14 guns. It was HMS Tisiphone which spotted the enemy first, reporting to the Rear-Admiral that the powerful escort had fallen downwind of the cargo ships. Kempenfelt decided on an immediate attack and his fleet fell upon the helpless transport ships before their escort could turn around and intervene, capturing 15 of them. Kempenfelt wisely decided not to attack the French escort, outnumbered 15 to 19 as he was.

See here for the stories of HMS Queen:

HMS Valiant:

and HMS Tisiphone:

The French had taken a risk in setting sail during the Atlantic storm season. The remaining French ships were scattered by a storm which blew up shortly after the battle and only two of the French ships of the line made it to the Caribbean in time to participate in the crushing defeat inflicted by Vice-Admiral Rodney at the Battle of the Saintes in April 1782.

The outcome of the Second Battle of Ushant had political consequences. In France, claims for compensation from the owners of the cargo ships captured by the British brought the French government of King Louis XVI to near-bankruptcy and in the UK, with the war already unpopular, the Whig opposition to the Tory government of Lord North forced an official inquiry as to why the force sent to intercept the French convoy was so small. This political defeat was the first in a series of challenges to the Government which would eventually lead to it's fall later in 1782.

In April 1782, Captain Boston was replaced in command of HMS Edgar by Captain John Moutray and Commodore Elliot left the squadron, being replaced by Commodore William Hotham.

By September of 1782, Gibraltar was in need of further relief. In the UK, a fleet of transports had been assembled at Spithead, which was to be escorted to Gibraltar by the bulk of the Channel Fleet, now under the command of Vice-Admiral Richard, the Earl Howe, comprised at the time of no less than 35 ships of the line including HMS Edgar. Howe was ordered to force the convoy through the Franco-Spanish blockade, come what may. On 11th September, the fleet departed Spithead, arriving off Gibraltar on 11th October. At this point, the British had an amazing stroke of luck. A storm had scattered the enemy fleet on the 10th October and Howe was able to get the convoy into Gibraltar without opposition. The same storm also swept Howe's fleet eastwards, into the Mediterranean and Howe knew that he would have to get through the massive enemy fleet, of 49 ships of the line, fighting his way through them if necessary, to get the bulk of the Royal Navy's battlefleet home.

HMS Edgar had been assigned as flagship of the second squadron of the Vanguard Division of the Channel Fleet. Also under Commodore Hotham's command were the 80-gun two-decker HMS Foudroyant under Captain John Jervis, later to become Admiral Sir John Jervis, the Earl St. Vincent, HMS Suffolk (74), HMS Vigilant and HMS Polyphemus (both of 64 guns) and HMS Panther of 60 guns. Lord Howe himself was commanding the fleet from HMS Victory. On 19th October, the enemy was sighted to the east of Gibraltar, so Howe ordered the fleet to weigh anchor and head west. Howe did not want to engage the superior Franco-Spanish force, which had the advantage of having more larger ships in that no less than seven of their ships mounted 100 or more guns. This included the gigantic Spanish ship Santissima Trinidad, mounting 140 guns on 4 gundecks; the largest and most powerful ship in the world at the time. Howe, on the other hand, only had two ships mounting 100 guns, HMS Victory and HMS Britannia. The British ships had the advantage of having had their lower hulls sheathed in copper and this gave them a huge advantage in speed.

Howe wanted to give the Spanish the impression he wanted to fight, so that they would shorten sail and prepare for battle and to this end, he ordered his fleet to reduce sail and to tighten the line of battle. Early in the morning 20th October, the Spanish Admiral, Louis de Cordova signalled a general chase, intending to fall on the British line of battle and annihilate them with weight of numbers and superior firepower. At about 13:00, the British further reduced sail, allowing the Spanish to close within about two miles and at 17:45, the Spanish vanguard opened fire, to which the British replied in kind. Howe then ordered his fleet to make all sail and use their advantage of superior speed and get away from the Spanish. By dawn the following day, the fleets were about 12 miles apart, with the British pulling away. The Spanish gave up their attempts at bringing Howe's fleet to action and resumed their blockade of Gibraltar. Gibraltar was saved and was able to hold out for the rest of the war. The Great Siege of Gibraltar, from 1779 to 1783 remains the longest seige ever endured by British forces. In what is now called the Battle of Cape Spartel, HMS Edgar suffered casualties of six men wounded.

See here for the stories of HMS Panther:

and HMS Polyphemus:

Howe's Relief of Gibraltar by Richard Paton:

In the meantime, back in March of 1782, the government of Lord North had fallen and had been replaced by a Whig-led coalition lead by the Marquess of Rockingham. The Whig party had been against the war in the first place and wanted it ended as soon as possible. The destruction of the French fleet at the Battle of the Saintes in April had ended French ambitions in the Caribbean and the British military disaster at Yorktown the previous September meant that there was nothing left to fight over. In April 1782, peace talks had opened with the other combatant nations. France, already pretty much bankrupt when the war had started in 1778, was only too happy to negotiate and it was clear to the Spanish that their primary aim of retaking Gibraltar was not going to happen any time soon, so they were also happy to begin peace talks. The Royal Navy's ability to relieve any siege which might be laid against the Rock strengthened Britain's hand in the negotiations and they refused to consider anything offered by the Spanish in exchange for it. The negotiations resulted in the Treaty of Paris, signed in September of 1783, to be effective from the following March, but by then, the war was all but over anyway.

In April of 1783, HMS Edgar paid off at Portsmouth and was recommissioned as Guardship there under Captain Adam Duncan. In her role as Portsmouth Guardship, HMS Edgar's role was to provide security for the ships of the Portsmouth Ordinary, the naval base and to police seamen ashore. The ship remained rigged and armed, but only carried about half her normal crew complement. Captain Duncan remained in command until August of 1786 when he was replaced by Captain Charles Thompson. He was replaced in command when the ship fitted for sea during the Spanish Armaments Crisis by Captain Anthony James Pye Molloy. He remained in command through the Spanish and Russian Armaments Crises of 1790 into 1791 and was replaced in August of 1791 by Captain Albermarle Bertie.

On the 1st February 1793, France declared war on the UK, starting the French Revolutionary War. In April 1793, HMS Edgar was at sea as part of a small squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral John Gell, flying his command flag in the 98-gun second rate ship of the line HMS St. George. The squadron had been ordered to the Mediterranean to join the fleet under Admiral Sir Samuel, the Lord Hood. Also in the squadron was HMS Ganges and HMS gmont (both also of 74 guns) and the 18pdr-armed frigate HMS Phaeton of 38 guns. On the 14th April off Portugal, the squadron sighted two sail to the north west and gave chase. HMS Phaeton quickly overtook one, a large Spanish ship under Fernch colours, identified as the San Iago. Leaving the San Iago to be taken by HMS Ganges, following rapidly behind, HMS Phaeton captured the other vessel, the French privateer General Dumourier of 22 guns. The privateer had captured the Spanish vessel eleven days before and was taking her to a French port. The San Iago had left Lima bound for Spain and had been carrying over £900,000 (in 1793 money) worth of silver dollars. Both vessels were safely in Plymouth by the end of the month and an Admiralty Court awarded the value of both vessels in prize money to the squadron. Although this was perfectly legal under British law, the news caused outrage in Madrid and was one of the triggers behind the Spanish decision to change sides in the war and ally themselves with the French.

Once the declaration of war had been made, the French had begun to assemble their Atlantic Fleet in Quiberon Bay, so that by the end of August 1793, they had 21 ships of the line and 4 frigates. Of the ships of the line, one was a ship of 120 guns, two were of 110 guns each, three more were ships of 80 guns and the remaining 15 ships were of 74 guns each. The British were not idle either. Immediately upon the declaration of war, Admiral the Lord Howe had been re-appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Channel Fleet and had hoisted his command flag in the new 100 gun first rate ship HMS Queen Charlotte. In addition to HMS Queen Charlotte, Howe also had at his disposal a further two 100 gun first rate ships (HMS Royal George and HMS Royal Sovereign), a 98 gun second rate ship (HMS London), nine third rate ships of 74 guns each including HMS Edgar plus a further four third rate ships with 64 guns. There were also nine frigates in the Channel Fleet. The time up to the 14th June 1793 was spent assembling the Channel Fleet in the anchorage off St Helens, Isle of Wight and on 14th, the fleet sailed from the anchorage and by 18th, were conducting manoeuvres off the Isles of Scilly.

On 23rd July, the fleet anchored in Torbay. On 25th, Lord Howe received intelligence from an American merchantman who claimed to have sailed through a French fleet believed to be comprised of 17 ships of the line, about 30 miles west of Belle-Isle. Lord Howe immediately ordered the fleet to sea again and later that day, the fleet fell in with the 24 gun sixth rate post-ship HMS Eurydice, whose commander, Captain Francis Cole reported that he had received similar intelligence from a British privateer and that the French had stationed themselves off Belle-Isle in order to protect a convoy from the Caribbean which was expected at any time. Lord Howe then ordered his fleet to head for Belle-Isle, which they reached on 31st. At 14:00, the island was sighted and almost immediately thereafter, so was the enemy. Later that day, the ships of the line were ordered by Lord Howe to form a line of battle and to stand in towards the island. On 1st August, the French were again sighted and the British changed course to close the range, so that by noon, the enemy were so close that their hulls could be seen from the decks of the British ships. In the early afternoon, the wind died away to a dead calm. In the evening, a light breeze sprang up, which the British exploited to head directly at the enemy, but the coming of nightfall prevented the fleets from getting to grips with each other. Dawn on the 2nd August came and the French were nowhere to be seen. Over the next few days, the weather deteriorated significantly, to the point where Lord Howe and the fleet was forced to return to the shelter of Torbay.

On 23rd August, the Channel Fleet again left Torbay, this time to escort the Newfoundland-bound convoy past any danger presented by the French and to await the arrival of the convoy from the West Indies. Having achieved both objectives and having spent another ten or twelve days on manoeuvres around the Isles of Scilly, the Channel Fleet again anchored in Torbay on 4th September 1793. They left Torbay again on 27th October, this time to cruise in the Bay of Biscay, looking for a fight with the French. At 09:00 on 18th November, the 18pdr armed 38 gun frigate HMS Latona sighted a strange squadron upwind of her, which proved to be five French ships of the line, two frigates, a brig-corvette and a schooner. The French force continued to close with Lord Howe's fleet until, once more, they were clearly visible from the decks of the British ships. It would appear that the French squadron had mistaken the full force of the British Channel Fleet for a merchant convoy and had closed to intercept. On realising the full horror of their mistake, they very quickly turned tail and fled the scene. Lord Howe ordered his leading ships of the line, HMS Russel, HMS Bellerophon, HMS Defence, HMS Audacious and HMS Ganges (all of 74 guns), plus the frigates, to set all sail and chase the enemy. In gale-force winds and high seas, the British ships strained every inch of rigging in their determination to catch the enemy force and bring them to action, but very soon, the strain began to tell. HMS Russel sprang her fore-topmast and at 11:00, the fore and main-topmasts on HMS Defence collapsed and crashed down to the deck. Seeing that his ships of the line were struggling in the bad weather, Lord Howe changed his mind and instead ordered his frigates to continue the chase and keep the enemy in sight and lead the fleet. At a little after noon, the wind shifted a little and allowed HMS Latona, to close the range and engage the two rear-most French frigates. By 4pm, HMS Latona was in a position to be able to cut off one of the enemy frigates and take her, but the French commander, Commodore Vanstabel in the Tigre of 74 guns bore down and stopped it. The Tigre and another French 74 gun ship passed close enough to HMS Latona to be able to fire full broadsides at the British frigate. Captain Edward Thornborough of HMS Latona was having none of this and luffed up (that is, steered his ship directly into the wind, stopping the ship dead in the water) and returned the French fire, cutting away the fore stay and main tack line of the Tigre as well as damaging her in her hull. None of the other British ships were able to get near and more ships suffered damage to their masts and rigging in the severe weather. HMS Vanguard (74) and HMS Montagu (74) both lost their main-topmasts. This convinced Lord Howe to call off the chase. After this skirmish, Lord Howe kept his fleet at sea until mid-December, when the Channel Fleet returned to Spithead.

The rest of the French Revolutionary War was spent on blockade duty, either with the Channel Fleet or in the Mediterranean. On the 20th May 1799, HMS Edgar was returning to Minorca with the fleet when she ran aground to the south-east of Hospital Island. After offloading all her guns to transport ships, the ship was refloated at midnight on the 21st and joined the rest of the fleet at anchor in Port Mahon.

After service in the Mediterranean, it was back to home waters for HMS Edgar and her crew, for blockade duty off the French Channel and Biscay ports.

In time of war, the British had always insisted on the right to stop and search neutral ships at sea for contraband and war materials. The Dutch Navy had ceased to be an effective force after the Battle of Camperdown and the Vlieter Incident. As a result of this, Britain's erstwhile ally Russia had joined together with other, neutral northern nations to try to force the British to give up this right. On 25th July 1800, a small British squadron which included the 20 gun ship-sloop HMS Arrow and the 28 gun frigate HMS Nemesis encountered the large 40 gun Danish frigate Freya, which was escorting a convoy of six vessels through the English Channel, near the Goodwin Sands. In accordance with the age-old British tradition of stopping and searching neutral vessels, Captain Thomas Baker of HMS Nemesis hailed the Freya and informed the Danes of his intention to send a boat around each vessel in turn and conduct a brief search. The Danish captain, Captain Krabbe responded to the effect that the Freya would fire on the British boat if they attempted to board any of the vessels under his protection. The British duly put their boat into the water and the Danes duly carried out their threat. In the action which followed, the Freya was forced to surrender after having suffered 2 men killed and five wounded. The Danish convoy was escorted to the Downs and anchored there. In an attempt to diffuse the situation, the Commander-in-Chief at the Downs, Vice-Admiral Sir Skeffington Lutwidge ordered that the Danish vessels be allowed to continue flying their own colours. This incident and another similar incident in the Mediterranean had threatened to open a major rift between Britain and Denmark. It was vitally important for Britain to maintain good relations with neutral denmark, since Denmark controlled the Kattegat, that narrow passage from the North Sea into the Baltic.

In order to pacify the Danes and to intimidate them in case Plan A, diplomacy, failed, the British sent Lord Whitworth, previously Ambassador to the Imperial Court in Russia and Britains leading diplomat to Copenhagen to negotiate a settlement to the growing dispute before it erupted into an armed conflict. In order to reinforce Lord Whitworth's position, the British sent a squadron comprising four ships of the line, HMS Monarch (74), HMS Polyphemus, HMS Veteran and HMS Ardent (all of 64 guns), three 50 gun ships of the line, HMS Glatton, HMS Isis and HMS Romney plus the ex-Dutch 50 gun ships HMS Waakzamheid and HMS Martin, the bomb vessels HMS Sulphur, HMS Volcano, HMS Hecla and HMS Zebra and the 18pdr carronade-armed gun-brigs HMS Swinger, HMS Boxer, HMS Furious, HMS Griper and HMS Haughty (all of 12 guns). The force was commanded by Vice-Admiral Archibald Dickson, who flew his command flag in HMS Monarch. On 29th August and agreement was reached whereby the British would pay for repairs to the Freya and the other Danish ships, that the right of the British to stop and search neutral vessels at sea would be discussed at another time and that Danish vessels would only sail in convoy in the Mediterranean for protection against Algerine corsairs. With the signing of the agreement, Dickson returned to Yarmouth with his force. That would have been the end of the matter had the pro-British Tzarina of Russia, Catherine II, not fallen ill and died. She was succeeded by her son Paul, who was a fan of Napoleon Bonaparte and was itching to find an excuse to start a war against the British. Tzar Paul took offence at the attack on the Freya and at the presence of a British squadron in the Baltic Sea. He ordered his army and navy to be mobilised for war and ordered that all British property in his dominions be seized. About 3 weeks afterward however, he changed his mind and on 22nd Septemeber, ordered that all seized British property be returned to its owners.

In the meantime, news reached Tzar Paul that the British had refused to hand Malta back to the Knights of St John after having driven the French from the islands back in 1797. This enraged the Tzar who had been promised control of the islands by the French. On 5th November, his order to seize all British shipping in Russian ports was reinstated. In the December, the Tzar proposed a confederation of Armed Neutrality which was to comprise Russia, Sweden and Denmark. If allowed to take form, this would mean the British could potentially face an additional opponent possessing a total of over 100 ships of the line as well as the combined fleets of Spain and France.

The British decided to meet this new menace in kind and a fleet began to be assembled at Yarmouth, to be led by Vice-Admiral Sir Hyde Parker with no less an officer than Vice-Admiral Sir Horatio, Viscount Nelson of the Nile as his second-in-command. With Parker flying his command flag in the 98 gun 2nd rate ship HMS London and Nelson flying his in the 98 gun 2nd rate ship HMS St. George and accompanied by 18 ships of the line including HMS Edgar, with 4 frigates plus sloops, bomb vessels and gun-brigs, the fleet departed Yarmouth on 12th March 1801. Parker had orders to neutralise the fortifications at Copenhagen and the Danish fleet should last minute negotiations fail. The plan was that Nelson would lead the attack squadron, comprising of the shallower-draughted and smaller ships of the line, while Parker held back with the bigger ships. Nelson shifted his command flag to the 74 gun ship HMS Elephant.

In the hope that Denmark would rather negotiate than fight, top British diplomat the Honourable Nicholas Vansittart left England a week before Hyde-Parker's fleet in HMS Blanche (18pdr, 36) bound for Copenhagen. On 23rd March 1801, HMS Blanche returned to the fleet with Vansittart and Mr Drummond, the British Charge D'Affairs at Copenhagen. The Danes were not interested in diplomacy.

In the morning of 2nd April, Nelson's strike force made it's way slowly up the Skaw, but suffered losses when first, the 64 gun ship HMS Agamemnon, then HMS Bellona and HMS Russel ran aground. Battle was joined at 10:05 when the Danish shore batteries opened fire. For the first half an hour, the leading British ships, HMS Ardent (64), HMS Polyphemus, HMS Edgar, HMS Isis (50) and HMS Monarch bore the brunt of the fire from the Danish batteries both ashore and afloat. HMS Isis was the most severely damaged and had to be rescued by HMS Polyphemus.

Map of the Battle of Copenhagen. HMS Edgar can be seen on the left hand side of the Middle Ground, directly above the grounded HMS Bellona:

The height of the battle:

After about 11:30, the rest of Nelson's force, HMS Glatton (50), HMS Elephant (74), HMS Ganges (74), HMS Defiance (74) and the frigates joined in the action relieving the pressure. At 16:00, a ceasefire was negotiated. The Danes had suffered heavy losses. The Danish flagship had blown up, killing 250 men. In all, it is estimated that Danish losses were about 1800 men killed, captured or wounded. The British losses came to about 250 men. The Danish fleet had been beaten into submission and the day after the battle, the Danes surrendered.

See here for the stories of HMS Ardent:

HMS Monarch:

HMS Isis:

After the Battle of Copenhagen, HMS Edgar remained part of the fleet in the Baltic under Sir James Saumarez, flying his command flag in HMS Victory. The ship returned to Spithead on the 10th August 1801 and found herself back on blockade duty.

On the 27th Jue 1802, HMS Edgar arrived at the Nore on her way to Chatham to be paid off into the Ordinary. In March 1802, the Treaty of Amiens had been signed, ending the French Revolutionary War and in anticipation of the coming peace, the Royal Navy was drawing down the fleet.

In May of 1803, the Napoleonic War broke out. With the resumption of war, the Royal Navy faced a major problem in that ships of the lie were being taken out of service due to age and decay faster than they were being replaced with new ships. This was because there had been no large-scale program of building ships of the line during the French Revolutionary War. Furthermore, the Navy Board had been bogged down in disputes over pricing with existing commercial ship-builders and the Royal Dockyards were all running flat out with the repair and maintenance of the increasingly aged fleet. This wasn't helped by the fact that the now Admiral Sir John Jervis, the Lord St. Vincent, during his term as First Lord of the Admiralty between 1801 and 1804 had alienated many in the Royal Dockyards with his attempts at stamping out corruption. When Henry Dundas, the First Viscount Melville took over as First Lord in 1804, the situation was getting desperate. There were not enough ships at sea to meet the threats from France and her allies and radical measures were needed to rectify it. Lord Melville had to fix the problems with low morale in the Royal Dockyards and in the Navy Board and repair relations with the commercial shipbuilders. His main priority though was to get ships repaired and back at sea. The problem was that the traditional method of repairing old ships was to replace rotten or worn out timbers with new and this was time-consuming, inefficient and expensive. The solution came from the Honourable East India Company. This huge organisation maintained its own fleet of heavily-armed, very large vessels and their Surveyor, Gabriel Snodgrass had invented a system of extending the lives of old and worn out ships which could be done very quickly and very cheaply. Instead of the traditional method, the East India Company had merely built a new lower hull over the old one (a process called 'Doubling') and had strengthened the frame by using iron straps to reinforce the knees, where the beams meet the frames, bolted through. In addition, internal diagonal bracing from the keel to the ribs at about the waterline was fitted to reinforce the whole frame. Using this method, a ship could be repaired in weeks rather than months. Lord Melville knew that he would face significant resistance from the Royal Dockyards, so sent Sir Andrew Snape Hammond, the Comptroller of the Navy Board and Sir William Rule, the Surveyor, to Portsmouth and Plymouth, with instructions that Portsmouth as to repair eleven ships and Plymouth nine - in a year. The iron straps themselves were to be fabricated at the Woolwich Royal Dockyard and taken by sea to the Dockyards.

HMS Edgar was one of the ships ordered to be doubled and braced according to the Snodgrass method and was taken into the Royal Dockyard at Chatham in April of 1805. In addition to the doubling and bracing, her armament was changed. Of her fourteen quarterdeck guns, ten were to be replaced with 32pdr carronades, while two of her forecastle guns were similarly changed. In addition, she was fitted with six 18pdr carronades on her poop deck. The ship recommissioned into the Channel Fleet in July of 1805 under Captain John Clarke Searle and in August, the work was complete after having cost £19,605.

In 1808, following the Bombardment of Copenhagen, Britain was now at war with Denmark. The French had invaded Spain and as a result, British forces had been ordered to cease all hostile actions against the Spanish and to render whatever assistance was required. Before the invasion of Spain, Napoleon had stationed some 10,000 Spanish troops in Denmark, supposedly to assist the Danes should the British attack again. On learning of the French invasion of their country, the Spanish troops to a man swore loyalty to their country. By coincidence, a small British squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Keats and comprised of his flagship HMS Superb, HMS Brunswick (both of 74 guns) with HMS Edgar were operating close by. The Rear-Admiral parleyed with General the Marquis de Romana, Commander-in-Chief of Spanish forces in Denmark and the two agreed that the British would evacuate the Spanish troops back to Spain. The two men agreed a plan where the Spanish would take and occupy the fortress and town of Nyborg in the island of Funen. The Rear-Admiral wrote to the governor of Nyborg and informed him that as long as the Danes and the French offered no hostility to the Spanish, then the British would leave them alone. Rear-Admiral Keats warned that if the French and Danes attempted to disrupt the embarkation of the Spanish troops, then the British would destroy the town. The Danish agreed to the terms, but on the 9th August, the Danish brig-sloop Fama of 18 guns and the cutter Saloman of 12 guns moored themselves across the harbour and their commanders rejected all attempts to get them to agree with the terms accepted by the Governor of Nyborg. The Spanish general was more concerned with getting his men back to Spain and wasn't willing to take any hostile actions towards the Danes, but the two Danish vessels had to be dealt with. A raiding party was sent from the ships and captured the two Danish vessels. With the weather preventing the ships of the line from approaching the harbour, Rear-Admiral Keats shifted his command flag from HMS Superb to the bomb vessel HMS Hound. On the night of the 10th August, the entire Spanish baggage train was embarked in some 57 vessels requisitioned by the British and taken to theport of Slypsharn, some four miles away, where the troops were to be embarked. By the morning of the 11th August 1808, an entire Spanish army of some 10,000 men were safely embarked in the British ships and were subsequently returned to Spain, where they fought with British, irregular Spanish forces and Portugese troops in the Peninsular War.

See here for the story of HMS Achille:

and HMS Brunswick:

After that, it was back to blockade and convoy duty until the winter of 1813, when HMS Edgar was paid off for the last time. Old and worn out, her fighting days were over and in December 1813, HMS Edgar was converted at Chatham into a prison hulk.

On the 9th August 1814, HMS Edgar was renamed to HMS Retribution and was moored off Sheerness to house prisoners awaiting transportation to Australia. She remained there until she was taken to the Royal Dockyard at Depford and broken up in February of 1835.
"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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