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HMS Blenheim (1761)

Career (UK)
Name: HMS Blenheim
Ordered: 12 November 1755
Builder: Woolwich Dockyard
Launched: 5 July 1761
Honours and
awards:

Participated in:

Fate: Wrecked, 1807
General characteristics [1]
Class & type: Sandwich-class ship of the line
Tons burthen: 1,827 bm
Length: 176 ft 1 in (53.67 m) (gundeck)
142 ft 7 in (43.46 m) (keel)
Beam: 49 ft 1 in (14.96 m)
Depth of hold: 21 ft (6.4 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Armament:

originally 90 guns:

  • Gundeck: 28 × 32-pounders
  • Middle gundeck: 30 × 18-pounders
  • Upper gundeck: 30 × 12-pounders
  • Forecastle: 2 × 9-pounders

reduced to a 74-gun Third Rate in 1801

HMS Blenheim was a 90-gun second rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 5 July 1761 at Woolwich.[1]

Service

The Blenheim was originally commissioned in August 1761, for the final year of the Seven Years' War, but paid off in June 1762. She was recommissioned in March 1777 under Captain Broderick Hartwell, but decommissioned again in September 1784.

She was recommissioned for her third war in August 1794 under Captain Charles Calmady. Under the command of John Bazely from December 1794, she took part in the Battle of Hyères Islands in 1795. Blenheim then fought at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797. By 1801, this by now 40-year old ship had become so badly hogged as to be unsafe for sea. However, she was razeed to a 74-gun Third Rate in 1801–1802, and set sail for Barbados under the command of Captain Peter Bover at the end of the year, carrying Captain Samuel Hood and other commissioners to Trinidad. Captain Loftus Bland sailed her back to Portsmouth in 1804.

In 1805, Blenheim sailed for Madras under the command of Captain Austin Bissell, as the flagship of Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Troubridge, Bt. By the time Troubridge received orders to take command at the Cape of Good Hope, at the beginning of 1807, Blenheim was in alarming condition, and required constant pumping to keep her afloat. Despite the request of the Commander-in-Chief, East Indies, Edward Pellew, that he transfer his flag to another ship, Troubridge determined to take her to the Cape. Bissell also warned Troubridge of Blenheim's condition, but received in return the taunt that he might go ashore if he liked. Unable to shake Troubridge's confidence, Bissell composed a last letter to his wife before sailing, convinced the ship would founder.[2]

Loss

Blenheim left Madras on 12 January 1807, in the company of the sloop HMS Harrier (Capt. Justice Finley) and the frigate HMS Java (Capt. George Pigot), the latter recently captured from the Dutch. The two parted company from Harrier in a gale on 5 February 1807.[2] She last saw them at Lat 22° 44'S., Long 66° 11'E., flying signals of distress.[3]

The French frigate Sémillante later reported having seen Blenheim off Rodrigues in a gale on 18 February.[4] Another frigate later reported in Calcutta that ships answering to the descriptions of Blenheim and Java had been seen in distress off Réunion after the gale, had put in for repairs at Île Sainte-Marie in February 1807 and had sailed again.[4]

No further trace of the ships was ever found, despite an extensive search by Troubridge's son Captain Edward Troubridge in Greyhound and the co-operation of the French. Blenheim and Java are presumed to have foundered somewhere off Madagascar.[2] A painting depicting their loss was created by Thomas Buttersworth. There is speculation that Java was lost while trying to rescue crew from the sinking Blenheim[5]

About 280 men were lost aboard Java and 590 aboard Blenheim.[3] Those lost aboard Blenheim included Troubridge, Bissell, Captain Charles Elphinstone (nephew of Admiral the Lord Keith), the midshipmen George, Lord Rosehill (eldest son and heir of Rear-Admiral the Earl of Northesk) and William Henry Courtenay (illegitimate son of Admiral the Duke of Clarence). Also lost was former HMS Bounty mutineer James Morrison.

Notes

  1. ^ a b Lavery, Ships of the Line, vol. 1, p. 175.
  2. ^ a b c Grocott (1998)
  3. ^ a b Gossett (1986), p. 58.
  4. ^ a b "Unpublished Letters of Lord Nelson to Sir Thomas Troubridge". The Century (The Century Co.) 37 (1): 21. November 1888. Retrieved 2008-10-17. 
  5. ^ "HMS Blenheim (+1807)". Wreck Site. Retrieved 12 October 2013. 

References

  • Gossett, William Patrick (1986). The lost ships of the Royal Navy, 1793-1900. Mansell. ISBN . 
  • Grocott, Terence (1998) Shipwrecks of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Eras. Stackpole Books. ISBN 0-8117-1533-7
  • Lavery, Brian (2003) The Ship of the Line - Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650-1850. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.
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