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Author Topic: HMS Bellona (1760 - 1814)  (Read 4986 times)

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Offline Bilgerat

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Re: HMS Bellona (1760 - 1814)
« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2017, 22:57:59 »
I completely re-wrote this one, but still couldn't get it all into one post, so I had to split it. This is part one

HMS Bellona was a 74 gun, Third Rate ship of the line, built at the Chatham Royal Dockyard. She was the lead ship of a group of five, all bar one of which were built in Kent shipyards.

What was significant about these ships was not the long list of major naval battles they fought in, but the political process which led to their being designed and built and what they came to represent in the overall evolution of the British Ship of the Line.

From the 1730's, the French began to introduce to service a new type of ship of the line, one carrying 74 guns on two gundecks. The British soon found that the new French ships were bigger, faster, more manoeuvrable and more heavily armed than their own. The British, on the other hand, were struggling with their own problems, political rather than tactical or technological. The Royal Navy was at the time under the control of two separate and distinct organisations. On one hand was the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, responsible for the organisation and deployment of the fleet. On the other hand was the Navy Board, responsible for the budget, the organisation and day-to-day running of the Royal Dockyards and the design and construction of new ships. The Navy Board was in favour of the standardisation and centralisation of ship designs and for that purpose, produced a series of 'Establishments'. An establishment was a set of detailed specifications, within which the Master Shipwrights in the Royal Dockyards and private shipbuilders were expected to design a new ship. An Establishment was produced in 1745 which called for two types of third-rate ship of the line, then as later, forming the backbone of the Fleet. One was a ship of 70 guns on two gundecks and the other was a ship of 80 guns on three gundecks. The War of Austrian Succession being fought at the time soon gave the Royal Navy the opportunity to try out the new designs and the result was not altogether good. The Royal Navy found that the new 70 gun ships, although tougher and able to spend much longer at sea, were still markedly inferior to those of the French in terms of firepower, speed and manoeuvrability. The British ships had more efficient rigging than the French, meaning they needed smaller crews. On the plus side, this meant that the ships were easier and cheaper to operate, but in action, ran the risk of being overwhelmed by the enemy's superior numbers. This was offset by the British tactic of firing into the enemy's hull at close range, maximising damage and casualties, cancelling out the French numerical superiority. The British ships however, had a fundamental and perhaps fatal flaw. Their lower gundecks were too close to the waterline. This meant that in ideal sailing conditions, they were unable to open their lower gundeck gunports for fear of sinking the ship. The 80 gun ships were found to be too short, too high, sailed badly and were completely outclassed by the French 74 gun ships. For these reasons, only two were ever built, HMS Cambridge and HMS Princess Amelia.

See here for the story of HMS Cambridge:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=19565.msg173459#msg173459

and HMS Princess Amelia:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=15170.msg124208#msg124208

On 14th May 1747, at the First Battle of Cape Finisterre, a British fleet commanded by Vice-Admiral George Anson captured one of the finest of the French 74 gun ships, L'Invincible. On being taken into British service, the now HMS Invincible was found to be capable of up to 16 knots in ideal sailing conditions; a good three knots faster than the best of her British counterparts. It was also found that in ideal sailing conditions, she could open her lower gundeck gunports with plenty of room to spare. The Admiralty began to pressure the Navy Board to do something about it, ideally, to produce a British 74 gun ship along the lines of the French ones. Instead, the 1745 Establishment 70 gunner was reduced to 68 guns in order to lighten the ship, in an attempt to increase the height of the lower gundeck above the waterline. The amended Establishment, the so-called 1754 Amendment had a negligable effect.

In June 1751, Anson, by now a full Admiral and the First Baron Anson became First Lord of the Admiralty and began to implement a series of wide-ranging reforms. Eventually, on 4th September 1755, Lord Anson forced the last of the old guard at the Navy Board, Sir Joseph Allin into retirement and appointed two new Surveyors of the Navy, Thomas Slade and William Bately and abolished the Establishment system. The Surveyors were now required to produce designs centrally, allowing ships of identical design to be built by different shipyards and adopting the Class system the French had been using for decades. Thomas Slade produced a new design, the Dublin Class, a ship based on the 1754 Amendment but enlarged and pierced for 74 guns. Although they were a step in the right direction, being based on the 1754 Amendement specifications, they had the same problems and so were also not entirely satisfactory.

On the 17th May 1756, the Seven Years War had broken out and the British began a massive program of warship building as the war escalated into what is regarded as being the first real world war in the true sense of the phrase.

On 21st May 1757, the design of HMS Invincible was ordered to be copied for two new ships, HMS Valiant to be built at the Chatham Royal Dockyard and HMS Triumph to be built by the Royal Dockyard at Woolwich. These two ships were significantly larger than previous Third Rate ships and therefore much more expensive and time-consuming to build. What was needed was something smaller, cheaper and quicker to build, but having the same advantages as the larger ships.

See here for the story of HMS Valiant:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=15006.msg122729#msg122729

and HMS Triumph:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=18402.msg160257#msg160257

Finally, on 28th December 1757, orders were placed with two Royal Dockyards for three new ships designed once more by Thomas Slade, HMS Bellona from Chatham and HMS Dragon and HMS Superb from Deptford. A year later, two more ships were ordered, HMS Defence from Plymouth and HMS Kent from Deptford. The new ships were a totally new design, based on that of HMS Invincible, although slightly smaller and were intended from the start to carry 74 guns. The design of HMS Bellona and her sisters was to form the basis of what became known as the 'Common' Type of 74 gun ship and within ten years, the design had evolved and became the dominant type of Ship of the Line in the Royal Navy. Over the course of the next 60 years, the Common Type of 74 gun Third Rate Ship of the Line effectively won the wars against the French and their allies and secured the foundations upon which the British Empire was built and it had started with HMS Bellona.

On 10th May 1758, the first keel section of what was to become HMS Bellona was laid in the Old Single Dock at Chatham, on the site of the current No.2 Dry Dock and over the course of the next two years, the ship slowly took shape. HMS Bellona was floated out of the Old Single Dock into the River Medway, was secured to a mooring buoy and was fitted with her guns, masts and rigging.

On 28th February 1760, HMS Bellona commissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain Peter Dennis. On 6th April, the ship was declared complete at Chatham having cost £43,391.11s.4d. On completion, HMS Bellona was a ship of 1,615 tons, she was 168ft long on her upper gundeck, 138ft long at the keel, 46ft 11in wide across the beams, drew 12ft 6in of water at the bow and 18ft 2in at the rudder. The ship was armed with 28 32pdr long guns on the lower gundeck, 28 18pdr long guns on the upper gundeck, 4 9pdr long guns on her forecastle and 14 9pdr long guns on the quarterdeck. In addition to her main guns, she also carried a dozen half-pounder swivel guns attached to her quarterdeck and forecastle handrails and in her fighting tops. HMS Bellona was manned by a crew of 550 officers, seamen, boys and Royal Marines.

Bellona Class Plans

Orlop Plan:



Lower Gundeck Plan:



Upper Gundeck Plan:



Quarterdeck and Forecastle Plan:



Inboard Profile and Plan:



Sheer Plan and Lines:



Rigging Plan:



The Navy Board model of HMS Bellona. This model was used by John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich and First Lord of the Admiralty between 1771 and 1782 to demonstrate the principle of coppering a ships lower hull to King George III and the Prince of Wales. It is in the collection of the National Maritime Museum.

Port Bow view:



Port Broadside view:



Stern view, showing the decorations:



Another model of HMS Bellona, this time of the ships frames:



Captain Peter Denis was the UK-born son of Huguenot, or French Protestant refugees who had settled in Chester after fleeing their native France because of persecution. He had carved out a career as a successful and distinguished naval officer who had commanded HMS Dorsetshire (68) in the decisive Battle of Quiberon Bay in 1759. He was also well connected and had had the patronage of Lord Anson since he had served as a midshipman in Anson's flagship HMS Centurion (50) during his circumnavigation of the world during the War of Austrian Succession. He had settled in the village of Blackmanstone on the Romney Marsh in Kent. Captain Denis was only in command of HMS Bellona for a month until he was asked by Lord Anson to command the Royal Yacht Caroline, in which the seventeen year-old German princess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was to embark in order to travel to the UK for her forthcoming marriage to the newly-crowned King George III.

Captain Denis went on to be promoted to Rear-Admiral and in 1767 was made First Baronet of St. Marys in the County of Kent. In 1771 he was appointed Commander-in-Chief at the Nore and was a Vice-Admiral when he died in June of 1778. Since he had no heir, the Baronetcy became extinct upon his death.

Captain Denis' replacement in command of HMS Bellona was Captain Robert Faulknor, another senior and distinguished naval officer who came from a long line of famous naval officers. His father, Captain Samuel Faulknor had been in command of the First Rate ship of the line HMS Victory when that ship was lost with all hands near the Channel Islands in 1744.

On 14th August 1761, HMS Bellona was in company with the 12pdr-armed 36 gun frigate HMS Brilliant about 30 miles from Cape Finisterre when they spotted three sails in the distance at about 15:00. The other vessels put on all sail when they realised that they had been seen and this convinced Captain Faulknor that the strangers were the enemy and he ordered a chase. Over the course of the next fourteen hours, the two British ships slowly closed on the enemy, which were identifed as being the 74 gun ship of the line Le Courageux and the frigates Malicieuse and Hermione, both of 32 guns. At 06:25 the following morning, HMS Brilliant was able to engage the two frigates, while HMS Bellona got stuck into Le Courageux. Fifty-five minutes later, it was all over, Le Courageux had been beaten into submission. Of her 684 strong crew, 240 were dead with many more wounded including her captain, who died of his wounds later. HMS Bellona's losses came to six dead and 28 wounded. Both the ships of the line had lost their mizzen masts. On seeing Le Courageux surrender, the two French frigates broke off their action with HMS Brilliant and made off.

HMS Bellona (right) engages Le Courageux. HMS Brilliant takes on the Hermione and La Malicieuse in the background:



After making repairs in the River Tagus near Lisbon, HMS Bellona, Le Courageux and HMS Brilliant returned to Portsmouth, arriving in early September.

Le Courageux (centre) arrives off Southsea Castle with HMS Bellona (left) and HMS Brilliant (right) in this painting by Geoff Hunt.



Le Courageux was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Courageux, but her repairs and refit weren't completed until after the war ended. When she did recommission for the American War of Independence, the Royal Navy were so impressed with her performance that her design was ordered to be copied in the form of the first of the next generation of Common Type 74 gun ships, the Courageux Class. The design was further refined for the 40 ships of the Vengeur Class built more than forty years after her capture.

In April 1762, Captain Faulknor was appointed to command HMS Bellona's sister-ship HMS Kent and was replaced in command by Captain Charles Ellys. Captain Faulknor remained in command of HMS Kent until the ship was paid off at the end of the war. Shortly after he had paid off HMS Kent, he fell from a horse while hunting and never fully recovered from his injuries. He retired to Bath and then moved to Dijon in France, where he died in 1769.

Captain Ellys remained in command of HMS Bellona until the ship paid off at Portsmouth in February of 1763. On the 10th February 1763, the warring parties had signed the Treaty of Paris, ending the war. With the end of the war, the Royal Navy began to draw down the fleet. For France and her allies, the war had been a complete disaster. From 1757, the British had embarked on a strategy of attacking the enemy in their overseas possessions, denying the enemy trade and therefore money. The French had been driven from lucrative possessions in the Caribbean, Canada and all territory between the Appalacian Mountains and the Mississippi River had been lost to the British, as had their rich colony at Pondicherry in India. The Spanish had also been driven from possessions in the Caribbean and a particularly painful defeat had been inflicted when Havana had fallen to the British. The British had even managed to seize Manila in the Phillipines. France had been left bankrupt by the war and had been forced to seek peace after financiers had refused to extend the credit needed to continue it.

With the end of the war and with most of the fleet being laid up, HMS Bellona was recommissioned as Guardship at Portsmouth in June of 1763 under Captain John Elliot. In this role, the ship remained armed and fully rigged, but only carried about half her normal crew complement. Their role was to provide security for the ships moored at Portsmouth, including prison hulks and ships in the Portsmouth Ordinary. The ship remained in this role until May of 1771, when she was paid off into the Portsmouth Ordinary herself and was stripped of her guns, yards, sails, running rigging and stores. The ship then became the responsibility of the Master Attendant in the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard and was manned by a skeleton crew comprised of her Boatswain, Gunner, Carpenter and Cook. As senior Warrant Officers, these men were allowed servants, two each for the Boatswain, Carpenter and Gunner, with the Cook being entitled to have one. In addition, a Purser was appointed into the ship, but he was allowed to live ashore within a reasonable distance of the Dockyard. As well as these men, a 74 gun ship like HMS Bellona had a crew of 26 men, all rated at Able Seaman. Should any work beyond the abilities of these men be required, the Master Attendant would send a gang of labourers from the Dockyard.

While the ship sat on her mooring in Portsmouth Harbour, the rest of the world moved on. The British Government, left with a mountain of debt after the Seven Years war, had attempted to raise taxes in the American Colonies. The colonists felt that these were unfair and illegal and what had started out as protests and rioting in the American cities had escalated to the point where an armed rebellion broke out in 1775. In 1776, the part-time soldiers of the colonial militias had defeated the regular troops of the British army in battles at Saratoga and had driven the British from their stronghold in Boston and following this, the French had begun to secretly supply the rebels with arms and money. They grew concerned at reports the British were going to make major concessions to the rebels in an attempt to end the war, because up to this point the rebels were winning. The French were right to be concerned. There had been change of Government in London and the war was deeply unpopular at home. The new Government set up a commission which was to negotiate directly with the rebels and which was empowered to give them anything they wanted. In return for a cessation of hostilities, the British offered to repeal all the Acts which the Americans found objectionable, they promised never to impose new laws and taxes on the American Colonies without their consent and to stop sending more troops to America. In addition, full royal pardons were offered to everyone involved in the rebellion. The French entered into negotiations with the rebels and on 6th February 1778, the Treaty of Alliance between the American Rebels and France was signed. This treaty committed the rebels to seeking nothing less than full independence from the UK in return for unlimited funding and unlimited amounts of military assistance from France. The treaty is particularly important because it recognised the United States of America as a sovereign nation for the first time. The rebels for their part, told the commission that the only things which would end the war were for the British to remove all their troops from America and for Britain to give them full independence. They were not at all interested in a colonial future. Their advances to the Americans rejected, on June 17th 1778, Britain formally declared war on France. The war took on a whole new dimension once the French were openly involved in it and rapidly spread as the French attempted to regain possessions they had lost in the Seven Years War. Fighting spread to the Caribbean and as far afield as India.

In October of 1778, HMS Bellona was surveyed as a prelude to fitting the ship for sea as part of the build-up of the fleet following the declaration of war. This found the ship to be in need of repairs, so she was taken into the Royal Dockyard and began a major refit. The refit included some reconfiguration of the ships armament, where her poop deck handrails were replaced with barricades behind which were fitted 6 18pdr carronades and a pair of her forecastle 9pdr long guns were replaced by 32pdr carronades. In addition to this, her lower hull was sheathed in copper for the first time. The work was completed in April of 1780 at a cost of £30,823.2s.3d. Meanwhile, in February of 1780, HMS Bellona recommissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain Richard Onslow. He was an experienced and senior commander who had held his first command appointment in 1761 in the post of Master and Commander in the 14-gun ship-sloop HMS Martin. Unlike many officers of his time, his services had been retained by the Royal Navy in the period after the Seven Years War. His appointment before HMS Bellona had been in command of the 64 gun Third Rate ship of the line HMS St. Albans.

In December of 1780, the Fourth Anglo-Dutch war had broken out, caused by the Dutch continuing to trade with Britains enemies and on 30th December, HMS Bellona was part of a squadron also comprised of the 74 gun Third rate ship HMS Marlborough, the stores ship Dromedary and the armed cutter HMS Sultana of 12 guns fell in with and captured the Dutch 44-gun two-decked ship Princes Caroline.

HMS Bellona intercepts the Princes Caroline in the Downs by Benjamin Toddy:



On April 13th 1781, HMS Bellona was part of a fleet commanded by Vice-Admiral Sir George Darby, which entered the harbour at Gibraltar after evading a Franco-Spanish fleet mounting a blockade as part of the Great Seige of Gibraltar which had been ongoing since Spain joined in the war in 1779. Darby's Relief of Gibraltar had been the second of what turned out to be three reliefs of the Rock. By September, 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 Lord Howe's Channel Fleet, comprised at the time of no less than 35 ships of the line including HMS Bellona. Howe was 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 Bellona had been assigned to the Second Division of the Centre, led by Rear-Admiral Alexander Hood, flying his command flag in the 98 gun Second Rate ship of the line HMS Queen, while Howe himself was commanding the fleet from the 100 gun First Rate ship 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 their bottoms coppered 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 sage ever endured by British forces. In what is now called the Battle of Cape Spartel, HMS Bellona suffered neither casualties or damage.

Howe's Relief of Gibraltar by Richard Paton:



After that success, HMS Bellona was ordered to the West Indies, arriving off the Leeward Islands in January 1783. By this time, the American War of Independence was winding down in the Caribbean. The war ashore in North America had been lost with the surrender General Lord Cornwallis and his army at Yorktown. The French had ceased to be a major threat in the area after the destruction of their fleet by Vice-Admiral Sir George Rodney at the Battle of the Saintes in April of 1782. The peace talks which resulted in the 1783 Treaty of Paris which officially ended the war were ongoing. HMS Bellona wasn't in the Caribbean for long. After arriving in January, she returned to Portsmouth on 25th May and was decommissioned and entered the Portsmouth Ordinary again on 7th June. Captain Richard Onslow went on to become famous when as a Vice-Admiral, he was Second-in-Command to Admiral Sir Adam Duncan at the bloody Battle of Camperdown in 1797.

With the ship laid up, the country entered a period of peace and stability, but the same cannot be said of Britain's neighbours. The victories won and the territories gained had enabled the country to shrug off the loss of the American colonies and indeed, trade with the newly independent United States of America thrived. On the continent, revolution was in the air and the first country to fall under it's spell was Holland. In 1787, a near revolution occurred in Holland which led to a brief civil war. Although the civil war in Holland had ended with the republicans being defeated, it was a portent of things to come. Between October and December 1787, HMS Bellona recommissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain George Bowyer as part of the UK's response to the civil war in Holland.

In February 1789, HMS Bellona recommissioned once more to serve as Guardship at Portsmouth. In July 1789, after years of hardship following a war from which France had gained nothing and a famine which saw people starving to death on the streets of Paris, the King of France, King Louis XVI was removed from the position of absolute power the French kings had enjoyed for centuries in the French Revolution. Chaos in France followed. Initially, the British supported the Revolution, hoping that it would bring an end to the willingness of the French to go to war on the whim of the King. France would instead be governed by a constitutional monarchy like our own, where the power of the king was limited by an elected assembly, the National Convention. In 1790, there were two crises which brought Britain to the brink of war. Firstly, the Spanish Armaments Crisis, which had seen Britain and Spain drift towards war in a territorial dispute over a settlement on Vancouver Island which had been established by British traders in defiance of a Spanish territorial claim over the entire western coastline of both American continents. The Spanish Armaments Crisis was settled peacefully after the French declined to come to their ally's assistance should war with the UK actually break out and the Spanish were forced to negotiate. Later in 1790, a new crisis erupted. The Russian Armaments Crisis occurred when an ongoing war between Russia and the Ottoman Empire threatened to spill over into Europe, but the British declined to come to their Prussian ally's assistance when they tried to intervene in the Russia-Turkish warand this too, ended peacefully for the British. As part of the preparations for the possible war against the Russians, HMS Bellona was surveyed prior to being fitted for sea and was found to be in need of repairs again. In December 1791, HMS Bellona was paid off and entered the Dockyard at Portsmouth for the repairs, which were completed in September 1793 at a cost of £27,836.

In the meantime in France, things had continued to go from bad to worse. The Revolution had sparked a power struggle between the King, who wanted a return to the previous Absolute Monarchy style of government, and the National Convention which was increasingly coming under the control of the republican Jacobin movement. Tensions continued to grow, with rioting between groups of rival supporters breaking out in many French cities and the country began the slide towards civil war. The British, alarmed at the state of affairs in the rival superpower on their doorstep, had begun to quietly intervene and had started to supply arms and money to Royalist groups, particularly on the French Biscay coast. Things came to a head in December 1792, when the King attempted to flee Paris and join up with Royalist forces and was caught and imprisoned. The King and Queen Marie Antoinette were tried and convicted for treason and were executed in the Place de la Revolution on 21st January 1793. In protest, the British expelled the French Ambassador and in response, France had declared war on 1st February, starting what is now known as the French Revolutionary War.

In March of 1793, while the repairs had been ongoing, HMS Bellona had recommissioned into the Channel Fleet under Captain George Wilson. Captain George Wilson was another experienced combat veteran who like many officers of his generation, had seen action during the American War of Independence. He had first been Posted, or promoted to Captain in February of 1780 and had been in command of the 9pdr-armed 24-gun Post-Ship HMS Eurydice during the Battles of Frigate Bay and The Saintes.

In October 1793, HMS Bellona left Portsmouth to join the Channel Fleet under Admiral Lord Howe, then at Torbay taking a break from manoeuvres off the Isles of Scilly. On 27th October 1793 Lord Howe took the Channel Fleet to sea in its entirety, intending to cruise in the Bay of Biscay looking for a fight with the French Brest Fleet. 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 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 the leading British frigate, 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 including HMS Bellona at sea until mid-December, when the Channel Fleet returned to Spithead.

1793 soon turned to 1794 and by the spring, France was in trouble. The harvest the previous year had failed and the country was facing widespread famine. The fact that France was at war with all her neighbours precluded overland shipments, so the Revolutionary Government had looked to their colonies and to the United States for assistance. By March, they had arranged for a huge shipment of grain from the Americans. In order to minimise the risk of interception of this vital cargo by the British, it was arranged between France and the USA that it should be shipped across the Atlantic in one go. A massive convoy of over 100 merchant ships assembled in Hampton Roads in Chesapeake Bay. This contained enough food to feed the whole of France for a year. From the French point of view, failure was not an option. The convoy was expected to take up to two months to cross the Atlantic and departed American waters on 2nd April 1794.

The British were aware of the convoy and it's importance to France and had made preparations for it's interception and destruction. It was hoped that if Lord Howe and his Channel Fleet could succeed in destroying the convoy, this would bring the war to an early end.

On 2nd May 1794, Lord Howe, flying his command flag in another Chatham-built ship, the giant first rate ship HMS Queen Charlotte (100), led the Channel Fleet out of the anchorage off St Helens, Isle of Wight in order to begin the search for the French convoy.

HMS Bellona was part of a squadron of seven ships of the line and a frigate led by Rear-Admiral George Montagu, flying his command flag in the 74 gun ship HMS Hector. In addition to HMS Hector and HMS Bellona, the squadron also comprised of HMS Alexander, HMS Ganges, HMS Theseus and HMS Arrogant (all of 74 guns), HMS Ruby (64) plus the frigate HMS Venus (12pdr 36). This force was detached from the main body of the Channel Fleet to escort the East India convoy past dangers presented by French privateers and naval units and then cruise off Cape Ortugal until 20th May. Howe's plan was to cruise in mid-Atlantic in search of the French convoy and should they fail to find them, rendezvous with Montagu's squadron and intercept the convoy as it closed with the French coast. In any case, Montagu's orders were to intercept the convoy if it was sighted as Lord Howe and the Admiralty knew that the convoy itself only had two French ships of the line as close escort, the Tigre and Jean Bart (both of 74 guns). While waiting, Montagu's force recaptured some British merchant vessels taken by the French and learned from them that the entire French Atlantic Fleet was at sea, searching for Lord Howe in order to prevent him from intercepting the convoy. What Montagu didn't know was that Lord Howe was already in pursuit of it far to the west of Ushant, so he sent HMS Venus in search of Lord Howe to inform him that the French Fleet was at sea and then return. Montagu waited in vain for several more days after the 20th May for the return of HMS Venus and having sighted neither the convoy or the French Fleet, complied with his orders and returned to Plymouth, arriving on 30th May.

News of Montagu's return to Plymouth reached the Admiralty on 2nd June. The Admiralty were of the view that the interception and destruction of the convoy was the absolute, number one priority and that all available resources were to be dedicated to that end. Orders were sent at once to Plymouth for Rear-Admiral Montagu to take his squadron and wait off Ushant for either intelligence from Lord Howe or in the event of Howe having already engaged the French Atlantic Fleet, to protect any disabled British ships, capture any disabled French ships or if any intelligence should reach him concerning the whereabouts of the convoy, he was to find and destroy it. On the 3rd June, HMS Audacious (74) arrived in Plymouth with news of Howe's skirmish against the French Atlantic Fleet on 28th May and of Howe's expectation that a decisive engagement against the French was about to occur.

On 4th June, Montagu's squadron including HMS Bellona set sail from Plymouth as ordered, reinforced by the ships of the line HMS Colossus and HMS Minotaur (both of 74 guns) and the frigates HMS Pallas (18pdr, 38) and HMS Concorde (12pdr, 32). At this stage, Rear-Admiral Montagu was not aware that Lord Howe and his fleet had already engaged and defeated the French Atlantic Fleet in the Battle of the Glorious First of June, taking six French ships of the line as prizes and sinking a further one. The squadron reached Ushant in the morning of the 8th of June and at 15:30, sighted and chased 12 sail to their east-south-east. At 16:00, after discovering that eight of the strangers were in fact French ships of the line, Montagu ordered his ships to form a line of battle and stand on to meet the enemy. At 18:00, the enemy, by now identifed as being the Majestueux of 110 guns, the Aquilon, Jupiter, Marat, Nestor, Redoubtable, Revolution (all of 74 guns), plus two frigates, a corvette and a cutter, steered away from the British squadron and made all sail towards the bay of Bertheaume. Rear-Admiral Montagu's squadron, led by HMS Concorde, chased the French into the bay, where the enemy joined two more ships of the line already laying there. Rear-Admiral Montagu didn't want to fight the enemy in confined waters, close to the shore in the failing light, so at 20:00, ordered his ships to shorten sail and cruise off the bay, waiting for the next day.

At 07:00 on the 9th of June, the British sighted a strange fleet to their west and two hours later, the strangers were identifed as being no less than nineteen French ships of the line, three frigates and two smaller vessels. What Rear-Admiral Montagu's men had sighted was actually the remnants of the French Atlantic Fleet, heading for land, then at a distance of 17 leagues or about 50 miles from their position. At 09:30, Montagu ordered his ships to form a line of battle and on seeing this, the French did the same. It was Montagu's intention to remain upwind of the enemy. The French formed a very tight line; they had to. Of the nineteen French ships of the line, five of them were totally dismasted and were being towed by other ships and of the ships under tow, two were enormous three-deckers, Republicain of 120 guns, damaged and dismasted in the Action of the 28th May and Terrible of 110, the others were ships of 74 guns, including the Mucius and the Jemmappes, all severely damaged and dismasted in the main battle on the 1st of June. Rear-Admiral Montagu now faced a serious problem. He had an enemy force equal to his own on his landward side and a force more than twice his own bearing down on him from his seaward side. In addition, two of his ships, HMS Ganges and HMS Alexander, were sailing particularly badly and were struggling to keep up with the rest and were unlikely to be able to outsail the French if it came to a chase. He headed south, followed by those French ships which were able to do so. The French were gaining rapidly, despite HMS Ganges and HMS Alexander setting every stitch they could carry. Despite being over 30 years old, HMS Bellona was still one of the fastest and most manoeuvrable ships in the Royal Navy and was forced to shorten sail to avoid leaving the rest of the squadron behind. At 17:00, despite the fact that his leading ships were less than four miles behind the British, Villaret de Joyeuse, the French Admiral ordered his ships to bear up and head back to port. He was concerned about being drawn away by the British. Seeing the French bear up, apart from breathing a huge sigh of relief, Montagu ordered his ships to head back towards Ushant. On 10th June, having failed to sight either Lord Howe's fleet or the convoy, Montagu ordered his force to head back into the English Channel and on the 12th, his ships anchored in Cawsand Bay off Plymouth, where they were joined the same day, by nine of Lord Howe's ships.

On 13th of June, the rest of Lord Howe's battered but victorious fleet arrived at the great fleet anchorage at Spithead and the celebrations in the UK were ecstatic. Meanwhile, the war ground on and on 13th October 1794, HMS Bellona sailed to the West Indies to join the Leeward Islands Station under Vice-Admiral Benjamin Caldwell. Caldwell was out of favour after having been snubbed by Lord Howe after the Battle of the Glorious First of June. He was replaced as Commander-in-Chief of the Leeward Islands Station in the summer of 1795 by Admiral Sir John Laforey, something he took as a further insult and on returning to the UK, retired and refused any further involvement with the Royal Navy.
"I did not say that the French will not come, I said they will not come by sea" - Lord St Vincent

Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Bellona (1760 - 1814)
« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2017, 22:56:04 »
Part Two

After the French had successfully repulsed a British invasion of Guadeloupe at the end of 1794, the French sent reinforcements which left France on 17th November aboard the 50-gun razee Heavy Frigate Hercule, the 12pdr-armed 32 gun frigate Astree, plus ten transport ships. This convoy was spotted by HMS Bellona, patrolling in company with the 12pdr-armed 32 gun frigate HMS Alarm at 08:00 on 5th January 1795. After a chase, HMS Bellona captured the French East Indiaman Duras, armed with 20 6pdr long guns and carrying 400 troops and 70 seamen.

On 11th May, HMS Bellona captured the French privateer schooner La Bellone. Further success evaded the ship and her crew until 7th January 1797, when they captured the French privateer La Legere off Descada. Three days later, operating in company with the ex-French 20-gun post ship HMS Babet, a French privateer, name unknown, was driven ashore on Descada.

When the war had broken out in 1793, Spain had been allied with the UK, but following the Spanish defeat by the French in the War of the Pyranees, Spain had been forced to sign the Treaty of Basel and had been allied with the French against the British since 1796. This made Spanish possessions fair game and since the British were already taken French and Dutch colonies in the region, it made sense to Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Abercrombie that Spanish possessions be included in the list of targets. Accordingly, on 12th February 1797, HMS Bellona was part of a squadron of four ships of the line, two sloops of war and a bomb vessel, commanded by Rear-Admiral Henry Harvey in the 98 gun Second Rate ship of the line HMS Prince of Wales. This squadron departed from Port Royal on Martinique and arrived at a rendezvous off the island of Carinacou where they were joined by another ship of the line, two more frigates and three more sloops of war, plus the transport ships carrying the troops required for the invasion. Harvey's force now comprised of HMS Prince of Wales (98, flagship), HMS Invincible, HMS Vengeance and HMS Bellona (all of 74 guns), HMS Scipio of 64 guns, the frigates HMS Arethusa (18pdr, 38), HMS Alarm (12pdr, 32), the sloops of war HMS Favourite (ship-sloop, 16 guns, 6pdr-armed), HMS Zebra (ship-sloop, 16 guns, 6pdr-armed), HMS Zephyr (brig-sloop, 14 guns, 6pdr-armed), ex-French HMS Thorn (ship-sloop, 16 guns, 6pdr-armed) and the ex-French HMS Victorieuse (brig-sloop, 16 guns, 24pdr carronade-armed), plus the bomb vessel HMS Terror. The whole force arrived off Trinidad in the morning of the 16th and headed for the Gulf of Paria. As the force passed through the Boca Channel, they sighted a squadron of Spanish ships of the line and a frigate anchored in the Chaguaramus Bay. The Spanish force comprised the 80-gun ship San Vincente, the Arrogante, Gallardo and San Damaso, all of 74 guns, plus the frigate Santa Cecilia of 34 guns. The Spanish ships all appeared to be ready for sea, so Rear-Admiral Harvey decided to take no further action that day. He sent the transport ships with HMS Arethusa, HMS Zebra and HMS Thorn further into the Gulf, to a distance about five miles from Port of Spain, out of harms way, while HMS Victorieuse, HMS Alarm and HMS Favourite were to patrol between the transport ships and Port of Spain in order to prevent any vessels escaping from the port. The ships of the line, with HMS Terror anchored within range of the enemy ships of the line and the powerful shore battery on Gaspergrande Island, should the enemy squadron attempt to escape during the night. Lookouts on the British ships were instructed to keep a sharp lookout, but at about 02:00 on the 17th February, were shocked to see one of the Spanish ships burst into flame, followed quickly by three more. All four more ships burned fiercely all night until daybreak.

The Spanish ships burn off Port of Spain by Nicholas Pocock:



The following morning, on finding that the San Damaso had escaped the flames, men from the squadron went in boats and took the ship without a fight and brought her out. When the British soldiers, Marines and seamen landed, they found that the Spanish had already abandoned the shore batteries and later that day, the Spanish surrendered without a fight. The San Damaso was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS San Damaso and was fitted out as a prison hulk at Portsmouth and was used in that role until 1816, when she was broken up there. Trinidad became a British possession and remained so until the island became part of the Crown Colony of Trinidad and Tobago in 1882 and gained independence from the UK in 1962.

Abercrombie then set his sights on the Spanish posession of Puerto Rico and after making the necessary arrangements for the security of Trinidad, the squadron set sail  on the 8th April. After stopping off at St. Kitts to pick up pilots and guides plus the ship-sloops HMS Fury (6pdr-armed, 16 guns) and HMS Beaver (6pdr-armed, 14 guns), the squadron and the transport ships arrived off Congrejos Point on the 17th and the following day, the troops were landed. After laying seige to the main town and port, San Juan, they found it to be too heavily defended and too well fotified. After a bombardment of several days, General Abercrombie decided that it was not worth the potential cost and on 30th April, gave orders that the force was to be evacuated. The abortive attack on Puerto Rico had cost the British a total of 225 men killed, wounded or taken prisoner by the Spanish.

After the attack on Puerto Rico, HMS Bellona returned to home waters. On her return, Captain Wilson left the ship. He had been promoted to Rear-Admiral effective from 14th February and his replacement was the Barham, Kent-born Captain Sir Thomas Boulden Thompson. HMS Bellona was his first command appointment following his repatriation to the UK and subsequent aquittal at Court Martial for the capture of his previous command, the 50-gun, fourth rate ship of the line HMS Leander by the French. Thompson was one of Nelson's so-called Band of Brothers and had commanded HMS Leander through Nelson's defeat at the Battle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and his stunning victory at the Battle of the Nile.

See here for the story of HMS Leander:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=19175.msg169437#msg169437

On 1st May 1799, an inquest was held in Plymouth for Mr Monday, Surgeons Mate in HMS Bellona. He had been admitted to the naval hospital after having cut his own throat in a fit of despondency. Despite receiving all possible assistance, Mr Monday had died on 30th April. The inquest returned a verdict of Lunacy. Five days later, on 6th May, HMS Bellona sailed for the Mediterranean with a squadron also comprising the First Rate ship of the line HMS Queen Charlotte (100), HMS Captain and HMS Defiance (both of 74 guns) and HMS Repulse of 64 guns. The squadron joined the fleet, under Vice-Admiral Sir John Jervis, the Earl St. Vincent off Port Mahon at 18:00 on the 30th May. Thus reinforced, Lord St. Vincent's fleet now comprised 21 ships of the line and having received intelligence that the Spanish fleet had left Cartagena, he decided that he would patrol the stretch of coastline between San Sebastian and Toulon in case the Spanish fleet were intending to meet with the French fleet. By 1st June, Lord St.Vincent concluded that if the Spanish were following the coast towards Toulon, the British would have caught them by that time, so at about noon, decided to take a more direct route and head out to sea, towards the north-east. By this time, Lord St. Vincent was ill and on 2nd June, decided he was to ill to continue with command of the Mediterranean Fleet and to return to the British base at Minorca to recover his health. In a move which was heavily criticised at the time, he decided to go to Minorca in his flagship HMS Ville de Paris of 110 guns, depriving the fleet of its most powerful warship. Operational command of the Mediterranean Fleet thus devolved to Vice-Admiral Sir George Elphinstone, the Lord Keith. Lord Keith was flying his command flag in the 98 gun Second Rate ship of the line HMS Barfleur.

See here for the story of HMS Ville de Paris
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=17732.msg154009#msg154009

HMS Queen Charlotte:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=16455.msg138688#msg138688

HMS Barfleur:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=18465.msg160737#msg160737

Lord Keith formed an advance squadron, comprised of his fastest ships of the line HMS Centaur (74), HMS Bellona and HMS Captain together with the 18pdr-armed 36 gun frigate HMS Emerald and the ex-Spanish 12pdr-armed 32 gun frigate HMS Santa Teresa.

See here for the story of HMS Centaur:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=19519.msg172618#msg172618

HMS Emerald:
http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=19962.msg177913#msg177913

On the 19th June, after a 28-hour chase, this force successfully caught, overwhelmed and captured a force of French vessels out of Jaffa bound for Toulon. The French vessels were the 18pdr-armed 36 gun frigate Junon, taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Princess Charlotte, the 12pdr-armed 32 gun frigate Alceste, taken into the Royal Navy under her French name and the 12pdr-armed 32 gun frigate Courageuse, again, taken into the Royal Navy under her French name. In addition to the frigates, there were the 14 gun brig-corvettes Alerte and Salamine, taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Alerte and HMS Minorca respectively. HMS Bellona and HMS Santa Teresa were credited with the capture of the Junon and the Alceste. The French force had been under the command of Rear-Admiral Jean Baptiste Emmanuel Perree and after this force was taken, Lord Keith took the fleet to Toulon, where they cruised off the port, expecting the French to return at any time. A few days later, when it became clear that the French fleet was not going to return any time soon, Lord Keith took the fleet back to Minorca.

After service in the Mediterranean, it was back to home waters for HMS Bellona 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 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 gun-brigs HMS Swinger, HMS Boxer, HMS Furious, HMS Griper and HMS Haughty. 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 Ardent, 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 Russell 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 (64), HMS Edgar (74), HMS Isis (50) and HMS Monarch (74) 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 Bellona can be seen aground on the left hadn side of the Middle Ground:





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 including HMS Blanche 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. In the Battle of Copenhagen, HMS Bellona had run aground in full view of the moored Danish fleet and shore batteries at a range of about 450 yards. She was heavily bombarded by the during the battle and suffered relatively heavy casualties. Her losses came to nine seamen and two Royal Marines killed, while Captain Thompson lost a leg and Lieutenant Thomas Southey and Thomas Wilkes, Masters Mate Mr James Emmerton, Midshipmen John Anderson, Edward Daubenny, William Sitford and William Figg, Captain of Marines Alexander Sharp, 48 seamen and ten Royal Marines were wounded. Most of the wounded were injured when two of her lower gundeck guns exploded due to their being over charged. The ship got herself off the sandbank after the battle. With Captain Thompson incapacitated, Mr George McKinley, Master and Commander in the small, 4pdr-armed brig-sloop HMS Otter was appointed Acting Captain until he was replaced by Captain Thomas Bertie on the 30th April 1801. On 19th June 1801, HMS Bellona arrived at Yarmouth from the Baltic with orders to rejoin the Channel Fleet in the blockade of Brest.

Captain Sir Thomas Boulden Thompson was appointed to command the yacht Mary, but never went to sea on combat service again. In November 1806, he became Comptroller of the Navy, heading up the department of the Admiralty responsible for the purchase of stores and supplies for the Royal Navy. In December 1806, he was made a Baronet and in 1807, he became MP for Rochester. On 25th October 1809, he was promoted to Rear-Admiral and Vice-Admiral on 4th June 1814. He gave up the post as Comptroller of the Navy in 1816 and was appointed as Treasurer of the Royal Naval Hospital at Greenwich. He relinquished his Parliamentary Seat in June 1818 and died in 1826. He is buried in the grounds of what is now the National Maritime Museum.

By 1802, HMS Bellona was in the Caribbean again, but her hull and frames were rotten and worn out. Captain Bertie reported the ship as being 'Old and crazy'. On 23rd March 1802, the Treaty of Amiens was signed, ending the war and on the 13th May, HMS Bellona left Jamaica for England, arriving off Portsmouth on 24th June. On 8th JUly 1802, HMS Bellona was decommissioned and placed in the Portsmouth Ordinary, with her guns, stores, yards, sails and running rigging all removed, hatches and gunports sealed shut and manned by a skeleton crew as before. It seemed like the old warhorse's fighting days were over. She was after all, over 40 years old.

The Peace of Amiens proved to be somewhat tense, with the French under Napoleon Bonaparte taking the opportunity to send a fleet to the Americas to put down a slave rebellion in their Louisiana colony and in the Caribbean as well as continuing the expansion of their empire. The British press had long lampooned the Emperor and this led to French demands for censorship; something the British refused to do. In addition, a dispute arose whereby the Treaty placed the British under an obligation to withdraw from Malta, which they were not prepared to do. It seemed as though both sides had made promises they had no intention of keeping and in response to French threats and one-sided arguments, the British declared war on France on 18th May 1803, starting what is now known as the Napoleonic War.

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 Admiral 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 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 Portsmouth and Plymouth.

HMS Bellona was one of the ships ordered to be doubled and braced according to the Snodgrass method and was taken into the Royal Dockyard at Portsmouth in April of 1805. In addition to the doubling and bracing, her armament was again changed. Of her fourteen quarterdeck guns, six were to be replaced with 32pdr carronades, while the rest were replaced by larger 12pdr long guns. Her forecastle 9pdr guns were also replaced with a pair of 12pdr long guns in addition to the pair of 32pdr carronades she carried before. The ship recommissioned into the Channel Fleet in July of 1805 under Captain Charles Dudley Pater and in August, the work was complete after having cost £27,613.

In October 1805, after having missed the main event at Trafalgar, she was assigned to a squadron of five ships of the line under Captain Sir Richard Strachan. Unfortunately, she became separated from his force and missed the Battle of Cape Ortegal on 4th November 1805 when Strachan's force found and captured a group of French survivors of the Battle of Trafalgar.

She later returned to Plymouth and departed there on 19th May 1806 bound for Barbados. On 14th September 1806, whilst in company with HMS Belle Isle (74) and HMS Melampus (18pdr, 36 guns) off Cape Henry, Virginia, she sighted the French 74 gun ship Impétueux, sailing under a jury rig after having been dismasted in a hurricane. The French ship was desperately searching for an American port to put into. Rather then face an unequal fight against the British, the French commander chose to run his ship ashore. Despite the fact that the French ship was now aground on American soil, HMS Melampus opened fire anyway. This was followed up by a boat attack with boats from both HMS Bellona and HMS Belle Isle carrying men ashore to capture the French vessel. Impétueux was later ordered to be burned.

By 1807, the French were attempting to provoke the United States into joining them in the war against Great Britain and as part of an attempt to intimidate the USA into deciding otherwise, HMS Bellona was sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia to join British forces patrolling the eastern coast of the USA. In the spring of 1807, the Royal Navy had received information that a significant number of British deserters were hiding amongst the crew of the large American frigate USS Chesapeake. Seamen on the run from the Royal Navy had discovered that they would be offered asylum on American ships and be given a chance to earn US Citizenship. On 1st June 1807, Commander-in-Chief Halifax Station issued orders to the effect that the USS Chesapeake was to be stopped and searched if intercepted outside American territorial waters. On 21st June 1807, HMS Bellona, in company with the 50 gun 4th rate ship of the line HMS Leopard and HMS Melampus anchored off Cape Henry, Virginia and lay in wait for the USS Chesapeake. They were joined the following day by the large 74 gun 3rd rate ship HMS Triumph.

On 22nd June, USS Chesapeake was spotted and HMS Leopard was ordered to intercept the American ship. Captain Salusbury Humphreys of HMS Leopard hailed the American to heave-to. Commodore James Barron, in command of the USS Chesapeake saw no problem with this and complied with the British request. Lieutenant John Meade was despatched from HMS Leopard and presented Commodore Barron with a search warrant. The American was having none of it and sent Mr Meade back to HMS Leopard. Captain Humphreys then ordered the USS Chesapeake to comply and HMS Leopard fired a shot across the American's bow. When the American further refused to comply, HMS Leopard responded by firing three full broadsides into the American ship. USS Chesapeake was totally unprepared for the attack and only managed to fire a single gun in response. With three men dead and 18 wounded, including Commodore Barron himself, Barron ordered his colours to be struck and his ship surrendered. The British captain refused the surrender and sent a boarding party across to the USS Chesapeake.

The boarding party proceeded to search the American ship and found four suspected deserters. These were Daniel Martin, John Strachan and William Ware. These three men had run from HMS Melampus. The fourth man, Jenkin Ratford had run from HMS Halifax. The four men were arrested, taken aboard HMS Leopard and taken to Halifax, where they stood trial at Court Martial. Of the four men, Martin, Strachan and Ware were able to prove their American citizenship. They had previously served in the Royal Navy but were not British Citizens. Two of the three men were African-Americans. They were each sentenced to 500 lashes, but this was commuted. Ratford was not so lucky. He was a British citizen, had deserted from the Royal Navy and was sentenced to death. He was hanged from the fore-yard of HMS Halifax. USS Chesapeake had been allowed to go on her way after the men were seized.

The incident, known now as the 'Leopard-Chesapeake Affair' caused a storm of outrage in the United States and led the two countries to the brink of war. Relations between the United States and Great Britain remained tense for the next few years and this incident, British assistance to rebelling Native Americans, together with constant French provocation and further incidents involving British warships stopping American ships and seizing men thought to be deserters eventually led to the United States declaring war on Britain on 18th June 1812. The unfortunate USS Chesapeake went on to be captured by the 18pdr-armed 38 gun frigate HMS Shannon in 1813.

HMS Leopard opens fire on USS Chesapeake.



By this stage in the war, the Royal Navy had gained absolute control of the Atlantic Ocean and could strike at the French where and when they liked. In the winter of 1808, the French learned that the British were preparing to invade the French-controlled island of Martinique, where their main naval base in the Caribbean and the Americas was located. If the British could seize Martinique, then the French could forget about defending their other Caribbean possessions and their trade in the Americas, such as it was. Napoleon ordered the Commander-in-Chief of the French Atlantic Fleet, Admiral Jean-Baptiste Willaumez to take the fleet from Brest, meet up with outlying squadrons in Lorient and Rochefort and go to Martinique to reinforce the island and prevent a British invasion. Since the French breakouts of 1806, one of which had resulted in their defeat in the Battle of San Domingo, the British had maintained a very close blockade of the French Biscay ports and Willaumez was forced to wait until winter storms forced the British to move further out into the Atlantic Ocean in February of 1809 before he felt able to take the Brest Fleet to sea. The British blockading fleet was by this time commanded by Admiral James, the Lord Gambier, a devout and strict Methodist known amongst the men as 'Dismal Jimmy'. When Gambier had taken the fleet to the safety of the open ocean, he had left a single ship of the line, HMS Revenge of 74 guns, to keep an eye on the French at Brest. On 22nd February, Willaumez put to sea with eight ships of the line and two frigates. HMS Revenge followed the French fleet towards Lorient and signalled Commodore John Poer Beresford, commanding the blockading squadron with three ships of the line, warning him of the approach of the enemy fleet. Beresford ordered his force to get out of the way of the approaching French fleet, allowing them to anchor near Ile Groix. Once Willaumez had been joined by the Lorient squadron, he headed south again, this time to Rochefort, which was being blockaded by Rear-Admiral Robert Stopford with three ships of the line plus the 18pdr-armed 36 gun frigate HMS Amethyst. Once he had received the signal from HMS Amethyst warning him of the approach of the French fleet, Stopford initially closed with the enemy, but backed off when he realised how strong they were and allowed the enemy to enter the Basque Roads, off Rochefort where they anchored. The French fleet now consisted of eleven ships of the line, one of 120 guns, two of 80 guns, eight of 74 guns, with the ex-HMS Calcutta, a former Fourth Rate Ship of the Line with 50 guns and four frigates, all of 40 guns. With the weather calming down, Willaumez guessed that it would only be a matter of time before he was attacked in the wide and open Basque Roads, so ordered his fleet to move into the much more confined and narrow Aix Roads, where they would be protected by powerful shore batteies on the Ile D'Aix. The Aix Roads are narrow, littered with rocks and shoals and with powerful currents and are dabgerous to navigate in large, square-rigged sailing ships. On the plus side, any enemy fleet attempting to attack would have to come through the Basque Roads before entering the Aix Road, where they would be forced to navigate close to the shore, under the guns of the batteries on Ile'D'Aix. As if to demonstrate the dangers of navigating in the Aix Roads, one of the French ships of the line, the Jean Bart of 74 guns ran aground and was wrecked on the Palles Shoal on the 26th February. Willaumez had his surviving ships anchor across the Aix Roads, facing downstream so that any approaching ships would be caught in a crossfire between his fleet and the shore batteries on the Ile D'Aix.

On 17th March 1809, Gambier arrived in the Basque Roads with a fleet, which coincidentally also consisted of eleven ships of the line, HMS Caledonia of 120 guns, HMS Caesar and HMS Gibraltar, both of 80 guns and HMS Hero, HMS Donegal, HMS Resolution, HMS Illustrious, HMS Valiant, HMS Bellona, HMS Theseus and HMS Revenge, all of 74 guns. In addition to the ships of the line, Gambier also had the 24pdr-armed Razee Heavy Frigate HMS Indefatigable of 44 guns, the 18pdr-armed frigates HMS Imperieuse (38), HMS Aigle (36), HMS Emerald, HMS Unicorn (32) and the 12pdr-armed frigate HMS Pallas of 32 guns.

With the arrival of Gambier and his fleet, the situation in the Basque Roads became stalemated. Willaumez was unwilling to risk his fleet by attacking Gambier, who in turn was unwilling to risk his ships amongst the rocks in the Aix Roads.

HMS Bellona was to take no active part in the Battle of the Basque Roads, which was to unfold over the course of the next two weeks or so, in which the British under Lord Gambier failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity to utterly destroy the French Atlantic Fleet once and for all.

In July 1809, she took part in the unsuccessful Walcheren Campaign and on 18th December 1810, the ship took part in the capture of the French privateer L'Heros du Nord.

1811 and 1812 and most of 1813 saw HMS Bellona employed in blockading Dutch ports, apart from a trip to St Helena in the Atlantic Ocean in May 1813. In September 1813, she returned to the Basque Roads but was back on blockade duty off Cherbourg by October.

By 1814, the naval element of the Napoleonic War was over and the Royal Navy was again looking to draw down the fleet. HMS Bellona paid off into the Chatham Ordinary on 4th February 1814. The Napoleonic War was ended by the Treaty of Fontainebleu, signed on the 11th April 1814 and 19th July 1814, Bellona was dry-docked at Chatham for the last time. She was broken up in dock during September 1814. The ship had served her country for fify-four years.
"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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