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Author Topic: HMS Aboukir (1807 - 1838)  (Read 1446 times)

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Offline MartinR

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Re: HMS Aboukir (1807 - 1838)
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2018, 11:07:27 »
Thanks Bigerat.  I followed your link to HMS Bedford where you list:

400 barrels of gunpowder
2,240 rounds of 32lb round shot
116 rounds of 32lb grapeshot
84 rounds of 32lb double-headed shot (also known as chainshot)
2,800 rounds of 18lb round shot
166 rounds of 18lb grapeshot
84 rounds of 18lb double-headed shot
115 rounds of 18lb langridge shot
173 rounds of 18lb canister shot
1,800 rounds of 9lb round shot
99 rounds of 9lb grapeshot
54 rounds of 9lb double-headed shot
74 rounds of 9lb langridge shot
131 rounds of 9lb canister shot
720 rounds of half-pound round shot
144 rounds of half-pound grapeshot
24,900 rounds of musket shot
9,880 rounds of pistol shot.

Now making an awful lot of assumptions:

Taking a barrel of gunpowder as 100 lbs + the weight of the barrel itself, say another 100 lbs, so 400 * 200 = 80,000 lb or around 40 tons.
There are 2,440 rounds of 32 lb shot = 78,080 lb or nearly another 40 tons.
Add 3338 rounds of 18 lb shot: 60,000 lb or 30 tons.
The 9lb shot totals 19,422 lb, say 10 tons.
The half-pound shot is only about 1/4 ton, so ignore it.
Around 32,000 musket balls weighed a ton, so allow a ton for the combined musket and pistol balls.

Total in the order of 120 tons which for a ship of 1,700 tons is a significant load.

Offline Bilgerat

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Re: HMS Aboukir (1807 - 1838)
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2018, 22:41:31 »
Thanks for your kind coments. In answer to your point about the weights of guns and shot etc...

1) A 32pdr long gun with it's truck weighed in the order of three tons. Ships like HMS Aboukir carried 28 of them on their lower gundecks. Add that to the weight of the 28 or 30 x 18pdr guns on the upper gundeck, plus the quarterdeck and forecastle guns and the carronades on the poop deck, a ship like HMS Aboukir would carry a couple of hundred tons of guns alone.

2) I found some interesting information about the stores carried by a typical 74-gun ship and incorporated it into my article about HMS Bedford here:

3) There is a good article on Wikipedia about the different kinds of shot available for a cannon here: The only real inaccuracy in it is that canister-shot was a metal can or cage full of musket balls which disintegrated on impact, scattering the balls in all directions. When a ship was about to cross the stern of an enemy, to maximise the devastation and casualties amongst the enemy crew, the guns were usually double-shotted, that is two cannon balls were loaded, and a grapeshot was also added.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline conan

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Re: HMS Aboukir (1807 - 1838)
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2018, 22:16:48 »
Another great bit of unknown (to me) history. I'm intrigued by the ordnance they were using, the tonnage of cannonballs, gunpowder and so on must have been enormous and added greatly to the weight of a vessel and the mention of shrapnel shells I find very interesting as I live about 3/4 of a mile from Midway manor the home of Henry  Shrapnell the inventor of said shell

And a photo of Midway manor gatepost with ornamental shrapnell shells on the top of the pillar


To remain ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain a child......Cicero

Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Aboukir (1807 - 1838)
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2018, 21:29:36 »
HMS Aboukir was a Middling Type, 74-gun, third rate ship of the line of the Courageux Class, built under Navy Board contract by Thomas and Josiah Brindley at the Quarry House shipyard in Frindsbury.

The Quarry House shipyard on the banks of the river Medway, on the current site of the Canal Tavern was the largest privately owned shipyard on the Medway and at the time they won the contract to build the ship, she was the largest ship they had built. The shipyard's previous owners, Greaves had built HMS Bellerophon (74) and launched her in 1786.

The Courageux Class was a group of six ships, all of which were built in Kent shipyards. Their design was a direct copy of the ex-French HMS Courageux, which had originally been built in Brest as far back as 1753 and was captured during the Seven Years War in 1761, in a remarkable single-ship action by HMS Bellona (74). She served the Royal Navy through the American War of Independence and into the French Revolutionary War before being wrecked with heavy loss of life on the coast of Morocco in December of 1796. Significantly larger than the 74-gun ships the British were building at the time she was captured, her performance and excellent sailing during the American War of Independence convinced the British to copy the design. The first four ships were ordered during the war, but none were ready before it ended. The first ship, HMS Carnatic, was built at Deptford Royal Dockyard and was launched in January of 1783 and for that reason, the class is also known as the Carnatic Class. Of the other ships, HMS Colossus was built under contract by William Cleverley at Gravesend and was launched in 1787, HMS Leviathan was built at the Chatham Royal Dockyard and was launched in 1790, HMS Minotaur was built at the Woolwich Royal Dockyard and was launched in 1793. HMS Aboukir and HMS Bombay were ordered some twenty years after the first four ships, with HMS Bombay being built at the Deptford Royal Dockyard. The design was further refined for the forty ships of the Vengeur Class, which were slightly larger and more heavily armed.

See here for the story of HMS Leviathan:

The contract for the construction of HMS Aboukir was signed on the 16th August 1800, but it was to be June of 1804 before her first keel section was laid. The ship was launched with all due ceremony into the River Medway on the 18th November 1807 and she was taken to the Royal Dockyard at Chatham to be fitted out with guns, masts and rigging. She commissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain George Cockburn in March of 1808, but he only remained in command for a month and he was replaced firstly by Captain Percy Frazer in April and then by Captain George Parker in May. On the 7th July 1808, HMS Aboukir was declared complete at Chatham.  On completion, HMS Aboukir was a ship of 1,703 tons, she was 172ft 5in long on her upper gundeck and 140ft 2in along the keel. She was 47ft 9in wide across the beams, drew 13ft 11in of water at the bows and 18ft at the rudder. The ship was armed with 28 x 32pdr long guns on her lower gundeck, 28 x 18pdr long guns on the upper gundeck, 2 x 9pdr long guns and 2 x 32pdr carronades on her forecastle with 2 x 9pdr long guns and 12 x 32pdr carronades on her quarterdeck and 6 x 18pdr carronades on her poop deck. She was manned by a crew of 640 officers, seamen, boys and Marines.

Courageux Class Plans

Orlop Plan:

Lower Gundeck Plan:

Upper Gundeck Plan:

Quarterdeck and forecastle plans:

Inboard Profile and plan:

Sheer Plan and lines:

A CGI model of HMS Colossus, also a Courageux class ship, HMS Aboukir was identical. The small white figure beneath the bowsprit gives an idea of the size of the ship.

The same ship, seen from the stern:

By 1809, the British were aware that the French were intending to use the great port of Antwerp at the mouth of the River Scheldt as a naval base. The French had occupied what is now The Netherlands and Belgium and the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte had installed his younger brother Louis as King of Holland. He had forced Louis to cede to France the port of Flushing as the harbour at Antwerp was not deep enough to accomodate a fully loaded French 80-gun Ship of the Line. This gave the French mastery of the entire mouth of the Scheldt and the natural harbour this provides could hold a fleet of 20 ships of the line in perfect safety. By 1809, the French had already stationed a fleet of ten 74-gun ships in the Scheldt. In addition to this, the various shipyards at Antwerp had a total of 19 slipways, all of which were being used for the construction of ships for the French navy. Of particular concern for the British was the fact that six 80-gun ships, each of which had the equivalent firepower to a British 98-gun Second Rate ship and three 74-gun ships were at various stages of construction at Antwerp. Since 1805, the French had been turning the port of Antwerp into a naval depot and had spent some 66 million francs on extending the fortifications, basin, dockyard and arsenal there.

In the spring of 1809, the British had decided to do something about this new threat and had begun to prepare a massive amphibious expedition to destroy the arsenal, dockyard, fortifications and enemy ships at Antwerp, Flushing and Terneuse. If possible, they were also to render the Scheldt impassable for large ships. In order to achieve this, the British planned to occupy the islands of Cadzand, Walcheren and Zuid-Beveland. They spent the early summer of 1809 gathering an immense invasion fleet at the Downs, the great fleet anchorage between Deal and the Goodwin Sands. The fleet comprised no less than 39 ships of the line including HMS Aboukir, three 44-gun two-decked ships, 23 frigates, a post-ship, 31 sloops-of-war, five bomb-vessels, 23 gun-brigs and 120 hired armed cutters, revenue cutters, tenders and gun-boats. In addition to 245 warships of various sizes, there were 400 transport vessels carrying 44,000 soldiers including some 3,000 cavalry troops, 15,000 horses, two complete seige trains with heavy artillery and mortars as well as lighter field artillery.

The naval force was to be commanded by the Commander-in-Chief in the North Sea, Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Strachan. He was a popular and famous officer, affectionately known to the seamen as 'Mad Dick' on account of his uncontrollable temper and violent cursing when things went wrong. Sir Richard Strachan was the 6th Baronet Strachan and was the last Chief of the ancient Scottish Clan Strachan. The army was to be commanded by General Sir John Pitt, the 2nd Earl of Chatham and eldest son of William Pitt the Elder, the First Earl and former Prime Minister and he was also the older brother of William Pitt the Younger, himself a Prime Minister.

On the 28th July 1809, this mighty armada left the Downs and headed for the Scheldt Estuary. The Commander-in-Chief in HMS Venerable (74) anchored in West-Kapelle Road in the evening of July 28th, and there found the frigate HMS Fisgard (18pdr, 38). HMS Fisgard and her crew had already stationed small craft as marks on some of the neighbouring sandbanks. In the course of the night, the Eoompot channel, between Noordland and Walcheren, was sounded, and marks were placed to show its entrance. On the 29th, a large flotilla of transports, having on board General Sir John Hope's division of troops, anchored between Noord Beveland and Schouwen, opposite Zierikzee and a few hours later, the transports with General Sir Eyre Coote's division, 17,000 strong, also arrived, in charge of Rear-Admiral William Albany Otway. Coote's troops were destined exclusively for operations against Walcheren, and should have been landed straight away, but bad weather prevented any landing being attempted until 16:30. On the 30th, under covering fire from the hired armed cutter Idas (10) and under direction of Captains Lord Amelius Beauclerk of HMS Royal Oak and George Cockburn, now of HMS Belle Isle (both of 74 guns) Coote's division after very light opposition, established itself on the northern extremity of Walcheren. In the evening, some bombs and gunboats entered the Veere Gat, or creek, and on the 31st, opened fire on the fortified town of Veere, one of the chief places in the island but towards nightfall, after three gunboats had been sunk by Dutch shot, the flotilla had to withdraw without having suffered any casualties. Middelburg, the capital of the island had in the meantime, peacefully surrendered and Veere had been captured. In addition a naval brigade, landed on the 30th, under Captain Charles Richardson of HMS Caesar (80) and Commander George William Blarney of the brig-sloop HMS Harpy (32pdr carronade-armed, 18) had bombarded the town of Veere with guns and Congreve rockets. During the night the Dutch commandant offered to surrender, so on August 1st Veere surrendered. The army then advanced. Fort Eammekens fell on August 3rd, and immediately afterwards, the British laid seige to Flushing. Sir John Hope's division, under the conduct of Sir Richard Goodwin Keats, had been already landed without opposition on Zuid Beveland, and had occupied some posts there, including Fort Bath, at the eastern end of the island.

On July 29th, as soon as he had been apprised of the approach of the British fleet, the French Rear-Admiral Missiessy, whose force had been lying at anchor off the Calot Sand, had weighed anchor and proceeded up the Scheldt. By the evening of the 30th, six of his ten ships of the line were above a boom which had been thrown across the river at Lillo. The other four remained below Fort Bath until a few hours before the British occupied it, and so obtained control, to some extent, both of the East and of the West Scheldt. So far, one division of the British army had landed on Walcheren, and another on Zuid Beveland. A third should, according to the original plans, have been almost simultaneously landed at Cadzand, where the French General Rousseau commanded a small force. Owing to a miscommunication, the transport vessels which ought to have put their troops ashore at Cadzand moved round to the Veere Gat. This error enabled Rousseau, on August 1st and 2nd, to send over about 1600 men in schuyts to reinforce the threatened garrison of Flushing. But on the 3rd, his efforts to send more were frustrated by the brave actions of the brig-sloop HMS Raven (24pdr carronade-armed, 16) HMS Raven, under the orders of Captain Edward William Campbell Rich Owen of HMS Clyde (18pdr, 38) stood in to cover some boats which under Lieutenant Charles Burrough Strong had been ordered to mark the channel between Flushing and Breskens. She quickly became exposed to heavy fire from the batteries of both places but, instead of withdrawing, she returned fire, and assisted by some gunboats, drove back to the Cadzand side a flotilla of enemy's boats which had been in the act of crossing. As she returned down the river, she passed through a hail of shells, grapeshot and red-hot shot from the batteries on both shores, and lost her main and fore topmasts, besides receiving other serious damage, having two of her guns dismounted, and drifting on to the Elboog sand, whence she could not be moved until the following morning. In this action, HMS Raven suffered eight wounded including her commander. Sadly, their bravery was to no avail, on August 4th, the French reopened communications between Cadzand and Flushing and between that day and the evening of the 6th, General Rousseau succeeded in sending across about 1500 more men, a reinforcement which brought up the strength of the Flushing garrison to about seven thousand.

Possession of Fort Rammekens allowed the British to use the Sloe channel, which is one of the connections between the East and the West Scheldt and facilitated the passage into West Scheldt of the flotilla which had been operating against Veere. Part of this was destined to watch the river opposite Flushing, and to prevent further communications between Cadzand and Ter Neuze; and part to proceed up the West Scheldt, and to co-operate in a naval advance in the direction of Lillo but owing to the bad weather and the difficulties of navigating the River, Flushing was not effectively blockaded until the 6th. It wasn't until the 9th that a division of ships under Sir Home Riggs Popham was able to push up the West Scheldt in order to sound and buoy the Baerlandt Channel in preparation for the passage of the larger ships. On the afternoon of August 11th, with a light westerly breeze that a squadron of ten frigates under Lord William Stuart, weighed anchor from below Flushing and in a line of battle, forced the channel between the batteries of Flushing and Cadzand. The frigates were:

HMS Lavinia, HMS Statira, the ex-Danish ships HMS Rota and HMS Perlen (all 18pdr, 38), HMS Amethyst, HMS Aigle, HMS Euryalus, HMS Dryad and the ex-Danish HMS Nymphen (all 18pdr, 36) and HMS Heroine (12pdr, 36).

As a result of the light wind and strong opposing current, the frigates were under fire for about two hours, but only suffered casualties of two killed and nine wounded and except for HMS Aigle, they reached the upper part of the river without having suffered any material damage. HMS Aigle had had her stern frame shattered by a shell. In the meantime an attack on Fort Bath by Missiessy's small craft had been repulsed and Sir Richard Goodwin Keats, who was in command below Lillo had forced the French to move the rest of their ships of theline to a point above the boom which spanned the river at that spot.

It had been arranged that when the siege batteries of the army opened fire on Flushing, a squadron of ships of the line would move up the river and support them. The bombardment began at 13:30 on August 13th and the army gunners were supported by two divisions of bomb vessels and gunboats under the command of Captain Cockburn, who commanded the operation from the 6pdr-armed ship-sloop HMS Plover of 18 guns. On that day the light winds prevented the ships of the line from moving to the attack, but at 10:00 on the 14th, the following ships, all of 74 guns, weighed anchor from off Dijkshoek and stood in:

HMS San Domingo, HMS Blake, HMS Repulse, HMS Victorious, the ex-Danish HMS Danmark, HMS Audacious and HMS Venerable.

See here for the story of HMS Repulse:

Soon after approaching near enough to open fire, HMS San Domingo and then HMS Blake, which had attempted to pass inside of her, grounded on the Dog-sand. At this point, the other ships were signalled to haul off and anchor. The two ships got off after about three hours under fire and anchored with the rest having suffered casualties of two killed and eighteen wounded. The remaining ships of the line had nobody hurt. At 16:00, the garrison of Flushing ceased returning the British fire and at 14:00 on the 15th, the French commandant, General Mounet, offered to surrender.

A contemporary engraving of The Bombardment of Flushing:

Apart from the losses sustained by the ships of the line and the frigate squadron, the naval force suffered further casualties of 7 killed and 22 wounded aboard the bomb vessels and gunboats with 7 wounded in the naval brigade which served ashore under Captain Charles Richardson. The army, in the various operations on the island of Walcheren up to the surrender of Flushing, had 103 killed and 443 wounded. On the day of the surrender, HMS Imperieuse (18pdr, 38) exposed herself to the fire of the fort at Ter Neuze and returned fire with shrapnel shells from her carronades. One of these blew up the magazine of the battery and caused the deaths of 75 of the enemy. What losses the French sustained in Walcheren is unknown, but they were probably severe. On August 17th, the islands of Schouwen and Duijveland, northward of the East Scheldt, surrendered peacefully to Sir Richard Goodwin Keats and Lieutenant-General the Earl of Rosslyn.

From that point, the campaign collapsed. The Earl of Chatham, who moved his headquarters from Middelburg to Veere on the 21st, transferred them from there on the 23rd to Goes, on Zuid Beveland. He left 10,000 men in Walcheren to defend against the ever-increasing force of the enemy at Cadzand and he therefore had 29,000 men nominally available for the remaining objectives of the expedition, which were the taking of the strong forts at Lillo and Liefkenshoek and of the great fortress of Antwerp. At those places, and in Bergen-op-Zoom, there were discovered to be at least 35,000 French soldiers while from the 19th onwards, more and more British troops were falling ill with what was known as the 'Walcheren Fever', a form of Malaria. The Earl of Chatham was growing increasingly concerned by reports which reached him about the defences of Antwerp, which he had previously believed could be easily taken and of the seeming impossibility of destroying the docks and arsenal there without having first taken the citadel. He also learned that there was nothing to prevent the French ships of the line from moving with everything aboard, to Ruppelmonde, five miles beyond Antwerp or without their guns and stores, to Dendermonde, some 15 miles further up the river Scheldt. Realising the likelyhood of failure, he held a council of war on the 26th. This council declared in favour of abandoning the whole enterprise rather than of running any risk of utter failure. To this end, Zuid Beveland was evacuated immediately, and Walcheren in December of 1809, after the basin, arsenal, and sea-defences at Flushing had been blown up. Two small vessels on the stocks there were also destroyed but a 74-gun ship which was in frames was taken to pieces and the timbers later reassembled at Woolwich Royal Dockyard and was completed as HMS Chatham (74). The only complete vessel taken was a new frigate, the Fidele, which was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Laurel (18pdr, 38).

The last of the British troops leave Walcheren:

History now judges the whole expedition as having been mismanaged, ill-planned and ill-timed. Of the huge army landed on the islands in the mouth of the River Scheldt, particularly Walcheren, over 4,000 died from the so-called Walcheren Fever while another 6,000 were left suffering the long-term effects of Malaria. Only about 160 British soldiers were actually killed in the fighting. The Earl of Chatham saw to it that Sir Richard Strachan carried the blame for the failure of this, the largest British amphibious operation of the war and the Rear-Admiral received no more active service appointments as a result. The Earl of Chatham also had no further active service appointments and only went on to serve in purely ceremonial positions. A poem mocking him for the lack of communication between his headquarters and the Royal Navy forces there to support him became popular:

"The Earl of Chatham, with his sword drawn,
Stood waiting for Sir Richard Strachan;
Sir Richard, longing to be at 'em,
Stood waiting for the Earl of Chatham."

Despite being married, Sir John Pitt, the 2nd Earl of Chatham died without an heir on the 24th September 1835 and the Earldom of Chatham died with him. Sir Richard Strachan also died without an heir on 3rd February 1828 although he and his wife had three daughters. His Baronetcy became extinct upon his death.

After the Scheldt Campaign, HMS Aboukir remained in the North Sea and the Baltic until the 19th January 1812, when she was assigned to the Mediterranean, where the commander-in-chief was the famous Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Pellew. On the 12th February 1814, a French squadron of three ships of the line and three frigates set sail from Toulon to meet a newly built 74-gun ship expected any day from Genoa. In the early morning of the 13th, the French were discovered by the British fleet, consisting at the time of the following ships:

HMS Caledonia and HMS Hibernia (both of 120 guns), the ex-Spanish HMS San Josef (112), HMS Royal George (100), HMS Boyne, HMS Ocean, HMS Prince of Wales, HMS Union and HMS Barfleur (all of 98 guns), HMS Duncan, HMS Indus, HMS Berwick, HMS Swiftsure, HMS Armada and HMS Aboukir (all of 74 guns).

See here for the stories of HMS Barfleur:

and HMS Royal George:

Pellew ordered the fleet to head for the Toulon Road in order to cut off the enemy squadron and at 12:30, HMS Boyne, the leading British ship opened fire on the second ship from the French rear, thought to be the frigate Adrienne. HMS Boyne positioned herself alongside the rear-most of the French ships of the line, the Romulus of 74 guns and continued to engage the French ship, following her under the guns of the powerful shore batteries on Cape Brun and Cape Sepet. Despite the damage from the pounding she received, the French 74 kept going. Vice-Admiral Pellew, seeing that HMS Boyne was also being badly damaged and was standing into extreme danger, ordered her to sheer off and despte receiving a broadside from HMS Caledonia as well, the French squadron returned safely to Toulon. HMS Aboukir was a spectator to the Action of the 13th February 1814.

The Action of the 13th February 1814. This painting by Thomas Luny shows HMS Caledonia (centre-right) engaging the Romulus (centre left) while HMS Boyne (right) breaks off her action and heads out to sea:

The Napoleonic War was ended by the Treaty of Fontainebleu and by 1817, HMS Aboukir was laying in the Chatham Ordinary. Between July 1823 and June 1824, the ship was converted to a Hospital Hulk for the Marine Division at Woolwich. She stayed there until June of 1831, when she was moved from Woolwich back to Chatham, to serve as the hospital for the prison hulks moored in the Medway. On the 16th August 1838, HMS Aboukir was sold to Mr J Lachlan for 4,240 and was broken up.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent


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