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Author Topic: HMS Antelope (1802 - 1845)  (Read 5676 times)

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Offline Desbrow

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Re: HMS Antelope (1802 - 1845)
« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2015, 23:57:32 »
That's a wonderful find Bilgerat; it's not often one sees Sheerness bathed in such a golden glow.
Is it possible that the Clyde Street in Sheerness is named after the vessel pictured here?

Offline Bilgerat

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Re: HMS Antelope (1802 - 1845)
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2015, 11:26:49 »
This painting by William Joy is of interest to the story of HMS Antelope. Set early in the morning of 30th May 1797, the painting is of the frigate HMS Clyde (background, left) returning to Sheerness after having escaped the Great Mutiny at the Nore. From the date, the two-decked ship under construction in the right background could only be HMS Antelope. In the foreground, is a hoy (left) and a sheer hulk (right).

"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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Re: HMS Antelope (1802 - 1845)
« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2013, 19:27:51 »
Looks like another brilliant article, thank you Bilgerat - I shall read it in depth tomorrow!


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Re: HMS Antelope (1802 - 1845)
« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2013, 18:49:16 »
Thank you Bilgerat, once again very interesting.

Offline Bilgerat

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HMS Antelope (1802 - 1845)
« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2013, 16:39:35 »
HMS Antelope was a 50 gun, 4th rate ship of the line built by the Royal Dockyard at Sheerness and was the only ship built to that design..

Until the mid-1750's the 50 gun ship of the line was the smallest ship of the line in the Royal Navy. Experience during the Austrian War of Succession and the War of Jenkins Ear showed that the 50 gun two-decker was too small and weak to stand in the line of battle against larger and more powerfully armed French and Spanish ships of the line. They continued to be of use in the shallower waters off North America and in the North Sea until the early 19th century and for that reason, the Royal Navy continued to build and operate small numbers of them. By the early 19th century however, ship design and construction had advanced and larger and more powerfully armed frigates began to enter service. These frigates both outsailed and outgunned the 50 gun ship of the line and by the end of the Napoleonic War in 1814 and the 1812 American War in 1815, they had been withdrawn from front-line service.

Designed by Sir John Henslow, Co-Surveyor of the Navy, HMS Antelope was ordered from the Royal Dockyard at Sheerness on Monday 15th February 1790. Her keel was laid during June of 1790. At the time, Britain was on the brink of war with Spain in what is now known as the Spanish Armaments Crisis. This occurred with the British established a trading settlement at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island off the west coast of what is now Canada. This was in defiance of a Spanish territorial claim over the entire western coastline of both American continents. When the Revolutionary Government in France declined to get involved, the Spanish were forced to negotiate and a peaceful settlement to the dispute was reached, where the British were allowed to continue to develop the settlement at Nootka Sound in return for accepting Spain's sovereignty over the area.

War broke out with France in February 1793, but the construction of HMS Antelope continued to have a low priority. This was because priority was given to the construction of larger ships of the line, frigates and for the repair of ships damaged in action. In addition, the Royal Dockyard at Sheerness was also the main centre for fitting out smaller vessels built at private shipyards on the south coast of Kent.

HMS Antelope's contruction was overseen my Mr Nicolas Diddams, Master Shipwright at Sheerness and she was finally launched into the Swale on Wednesday 18th November 1802. Her construction had taken 12 years. In contrast, HMS Isis, a very similar ship, had been built at John Henniker's shipyard in Chatham in just two years.

When finally completed, HMS Antelope was a ship of 1,107 tons. She was 150ft long on her upper gundeck and 41ft 1in wide across her beam. She was armed with 22 24pdr long guns on her lower gundeck, 22 12pdr long guns on her upper gundeck, 4 6pdr long guns and 2 24pdr carronades on her quarterdeck, 2 6pdr long guns and 2 24pdr carronades on her forecastle and 6 12pdr carronades on her poop deck. In addition, she mounted 12 half-pounder swivel guns dotted around her upper decks and in her fighting tops. This means that although officially rated as a 50 gun 4th rate ship, she actually carried 60 main guns, plus swivel guns. She was manned by a crew of 350 officers, men, boys and marines.

Plans of HMS Antelope (1802)

Orlop plan and hold plan:

Lower Gundeck plan:

Upper gundeck plan:

Quarterdeck and Forecastle plan:

Inboard profile and plan:

Hull planking plan:

Sheer plan, lines and stern details:

After her launch, HMS Antelope was fitted with her guns, masts and rigging at Sheerness and commissioned under Captain John Melhuish in November 1802. By the time she was launched and commissioned, the French Revolutionary War had ended and Europe was enjoying the brief interlude known as the Peace of Amiens, after the Treaty of Amiens, signed the previous March. Under the Treaty, the British had agreed to hand the Islands of Malta back to the Knights of St. John. In reality, the British had no intention of fulfilling this obligation. Another stumbling block was the British refusal to withdraw it's forces from Egypt. Although they had agreed to do this, concerns grew that if they did so, it would only be a matter of time before France moved in and occupied the country. In February 1803, Lord Whitworth, Britains Ambassador to France had in interview with Napoleon Bonaparte. In that interview, Bonaparte threatened war if Britain continued to refuse to leave Malta and stated that France could easily retake Egypt if they wanted to. Whitworth left the interview with the feeling that he had been given an ultimatum. Tensions continued to increase throughout the spring of 1803. The British Prime Minister, Lord Addington refused to fully demobilise the Royal Navy and the Army. Napoleon's demands grew more extreme. He demanded that the British Government censor the press, to prevent them making anti-French statements, in addition to expelling French expatriates from British soil. The relaxation of the British blockade of France allowed the French to send a naval expedition to Haiti to put down a slave rebellion there and to re-occupy French Louisiana, a territory in Continental North America which covered the entire centre part of what is now the United States. Other invasions of territory in Europe by the French led the British to believe that Bonaparte was continuing to threaten them. The British offered to evacuate Malta if France gave up her expansionist policy. On 10th May 1803, Lord Whitworth was ordered by the British Government to leave Paris if France did not accede to their demands within 36 hours. On 13th May, Lord Whitworth left Paris and Britain declared war on France on the 18th. What is now called the Napoleonic War began. On 17th May, the British seized all French merchant ships in British ports or in British territorial waters. In retaliation, Napoleon ordered all British males in France aged between 18 and 60 to be arrested and held hostage.

The French now began preparations for an invasion of Britain and massed an army of 83,000 men around Boulogne.

Meanwhile, HMS Antelope commissioned into the North Sea Fleet and became flagship of the Inshore Squadron under Commodore William Sidney Smith. In addition to his flagship, Commodore Smith's force comprised the 18 pdr armed 36 gun frigate HMS Penelope, the 12 pdr armed ex-French frigate HMS Aimable, the 18 gun brig-sloop HMS Cruizer, the 16 gun ship sloops HMS Rattler, HMS Galgo and HMS Inspector, the 12 gun gun-brig HMS Minx and the 6 gun hired armed topsail cutter Stag. The force was engaged in a blockade of Flushing, Helvoet and Ostend. Commodore Smith organised his force with the sloops under Captain John Hancock in HMS Cruizer operating close inshore off Ostend in company with HMS Rattler, while Lieutenant Patrick Manderson in HMS Minx was the lead vessel of a group of four other gun-brigs providing a line of communication between Smith's force and a further force blockading Calais. The other vessels were stationed off the other ports. Smith himself in HMS Antelope stationed himself off the Schoneveldt Estuary at a mid-point between Flushing and Ostend in order to be able to dash down and support either group as and when required, in company with the two frigates.

On the evening of the 15th May 1804, an enemy force of 22 one masted vessels and a schooner were seen to be coming out of the harbour at Ostend and anchor to the west of the lighthouse. Captain Hancock ordered the Stag under Lieutenant William Patfull to proceed with all dispatch to HMS Antelope and inform Commodore Smith of the situation. At nightfall, he took his two sloops closer inshore and anchored off the pier within range of the shore batteries. At about 9.30am the next day, HMS Rattler, which was laying a little further offshore than HMS Cruizer, made a signal that they had sighted five sail coming up from the east-south-east. A little later, she made a signal that an enemy fleet had been sighted. This turned out to be a division of the Franco-Dutch Flushing flotilla, inbound to Ostend. The enemy force consisted of two large ship-rigged (three masts with square sails on all three masts) prams (a kind of large, flat-bottomed barge), each carrying 12 24pdr long guns, 19 schooners and 47 schuyts (a smaller, single-masted flat-bottomed barge, powered by either sails or oars). All in all, the enemy force consisted of 68 vessels carrying a total of more than 100 long guns, 36, 24 and 18 pounders. Between them, they were carrying between 4,000 and 6,000 troops. The enemy force was commanded by the Dutch Rear-Admiral Ver-Huell, flying his command flag in the Ville d'Anvers, one of the prams. The other pram was called the Ville d'Aix.

At about 10am, Captain Hancock ordered that the rwo sloops weigh anchor and make towards the enemy. At 11am, the wind shifted in favour of the British vessels. This forced the Dutch admiral to turn his force around and head back towards Flushing. At about noon, Commodore Smith came within sight of the two sloops in HMS Antelope in company with his two frigates. At about 1.30pm, HMS Cruizer bore up to one of the shuyts and opened fire with her carronades. This forced the enemy vessel to strike her colours and surrender. The enemy vessel was found to be carrying a single 36pdr long gun and was manned by five Dutch seamen and 25 French troops. Signalling HMS Rattler to take possession of the enemy vessel, HMS Cruizer continued on, Captain Hancock hoping to engage one of the large prams. The Dutch admiral, feeling annoyed at seeing one of his vessels defeated by such a comparatively insignificant British sloop, took advantage of another change in the wind and headed his force back towards Ostend. The action really intensified from this point. The Ville d'Anvers fired a shot at HMS Cruizer, which passed over her and fell near HMS Rattler. At this point, the wind shifted again, forcing the two British vessels to alter course. The change of course brought them on a parallel to that of the enemy fleet. The Ville d'Anvers then opened fire on both British vessels, as did several of the schuyts and schooners. A furious fight now ensued, with both HMS Cruizer and HMS Rattler getting stuck into the middle of the enemy fleet, by now putting on all sail and heading towards the shelter of Ostend, engaging on both sides. The British vessels were also taking fire from the shore battery at Blankenberghe. Despite this, HMS Cruizer and HMS Rattler managed to drive the Ville d'Anvers and four of the schooners ashore. At about 3.45, HMS Aimable drew up and opened fire on the enemy fleet. At 4.30pm, HMS Antelope and HMS Penelope also drew within range and opened a heavy fire on the enemy and drove ashore more of the schooners and schuyts. On the now aground Ville d'Anvers, her crew having fled, soldiers from the shore battery manned the guns and at 7 pm, HMS Aimable was damaged by their fire, having drawn within range. At 7:45pm, Commodore Smith ordered his force to disengage and withdraw. The tide had gone out, leaving his vessels operating in dangerously shallow water. What was left of the Franco-Dutch force limped into the harbour at Ostend, covered by a force of French gunboats and the shore battery on the pier-head. In what is now known as the Attack on Ver Huell's Squadron, HMS Cruizer had suffered one seaman killed, Mr George Ellis, Captains Clerk, and three seamen wounded. HMS Rattler had suffered two seamen killed and three wounded. HMS Aimable had come off the worst in Commodore Smith's force, with Mr Christie, Masters Mate, Mr Midshipman Johnson, four seamen and one boy killed and Lieutenant William Mather, Mr William Shadwell, purser, Mr Midshipman Conner and eleven seamen wounded. HMS Antelope had suffered no casualties in the action.

Controversy arose after the action, when in his dispatches to the Admiralty, Commodore Smith claimed that his flagship and the frigates were involved in the action from the beginning. Fortunately, the Dutch admiral's personal log and the logs of both HMS Cruizer and HMS Rattler gave a true account of the action. Perhaps Smith was trying to mitigate the delay in HMS Antelope coming to the smaller vessels assistance after they engaged a far superior enemy force without support. Unfortunately, Smith's account of the action was accepted as the truth before the end of the war, then the enemy's account of things came to light and supported Captain Hancock's version of events.

In June 1804, Captain Melhuish was replaced in command by Captain William Stuart. His previous appointment had been in command of the 36 gun frigate HMS Crescent. He was only to remain in command until October of that year, when he was replaced by Captain Home Riggs Popham. His previous command had been of another 50 gun ship, HMS Romney. In June 1804, Commodore Smith moved his command pennant ashore. HMS Antelope then became flagship of Rear-Admiral William Domett.

In the evening of the 8th December 1804, HMS Antelope was involved in an attempt to destroy Fort Rouge, a pile-battery at the entrance to the harbour at Calais. In this, an 'explosion vessel' the Susannah and two catamarans or 'carcasses' were to be attached to the legs of the battery and blown up, hopefully taking the battery with them. Fortune was not smiling on the British this time. One of the catamarans couldn't be fixed to the battery's piles and the other one and the Susannah failed to detonate.

After this, HMS Antelope had a relatively quiet war. The reason for this was that the French were introducing into service larger more powerfully armed frigates which could both outsail and outgun her and ships like her. Unable to outsail or outgun the new enemy frigates and too small and weak to take on a ship of the line, HMS Antelope was really only suitable for duties such as convoy escort work. Between 1805 and the end of the war, this was exactly what she did and was engaged in escorting convoys across the Atlantic, to the Mediterranean and to the East Indies. On 11th October 1813, HMS Antelope took the Danish privateer Kera Venner. On the 24th, she took another Danish privateer, the Eleonara. On 14th August 1814, HMS Antelope captured the American privateer Ida of 20 guns and 70 men. On 14th October 1814, HMS Antelope left Quebec with a convoy. The voyage was not without incident. At some point along the way, HMS Antelope struck an iceberg and suffered hull damage. On 15th November, HMS Antelope arrived safely at Portsmouth. She was dry-docked on the 19th November for the damage to be repaired and refloated on the 20th December.

Between January and February 1817, Mr William Seaman, purser of HMS Antelope was tried by Court Martial aboard HMS Tigris at Barbados. He had been accused by Lieutenant Henry Boeteler of HMS Antelope of defrauding the ships company out of a considerable part of their provisions. On being found guilty by the Court Martial, Mr Seaman was ordered to be dismissed from His Majesty's Service. By order of the Court Martial, he was also prevented from ever again taking up any civil service or military employment.

In 1818, HMS Antelope was converted to a troopship. This involved the removal of her lower gundeck guns, with the gunports being permanently sealed. In April 1819, HMS Antelope was paid off at Chatham and laid up in the Ordinary. In August 1823, HMS Antelope was taken into the Royal Dockyard at Chatham and was converted into a convict ship. The work was completed in November 1823 and the ship sailed to Bermuda in January 1824. On arrival at Bermuda, she was placed on harbour service as a prison hulk and remained there until she was broken up in 1845.
"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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