HMS Cynthia (1796)

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Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Cynthia
Ordered: 16 September 1795
Builder: Wells & Co., Rotherhithe, London
Laid down: October 1795
Launched: 23 February 1796
Commissioned: March 1796
Fate: Broken up in October 1809
General characteristics
Class and type: 16-gun sliding-keel sloop-of-war
Tons burthen: 407.7 tons
Length: 113 ft (34 m) (gundeck)
94 ft 4.375 in (28.76233 m) (keel)
Beam: 28 ft 6 in (8.69 m)
Depth of hold: 12 ft (3.7 m)
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Complement: 121
  • Sixteen 6-pdr guns
  • Fourteen half-pound swivels

HMS Cynthia was a ship sloop built by Wells & Co. of Rotherhithe, and launched in 1796. She was built to an unusual design having a shallow draught and three daggerboards (John Schank's sliding keels) for stability. She was rated for 18 guns but during construction her rating was reduced to sixteen 6-pounder guns; she also carried fourteen half-pound swivels, although the latter were probably replaced by carronades during her career. She was broken up in 1809.

Service during the French Revolutionary Wars

The Cynthia was commissioned in March 1796 under Commander Micajah Malbon[1]

The Cynthia, in company with Diamond, Minerva, Camilla, and the hired cutter Grand Falconer captured the American ship Favourite on 19 April 1797.[2]

On 4 June 1800, the 32-gun frigate Thames, Captain William Lukin, Cynthia, and some small-craft, attacked the south-west end of Quiberon, and silenced the forts. Troops under Major Ramsey then landed and destroyed the forts. The attack resulted in the British taking several vessels, and others were scuttled.[3] The only casualties were in Cynthia, which lost two men killed and one wounded. On 25 August Cynthia, now under Commander John Dick, participated in another attack on a fort, together with the 74-gun Impétueux, the 28-gun frigate Brilliant, and the 14-gun hired cutter St Vincent. The vessels silenced the battery, which was armed with eight 24-pounders. Then seamen from the ships landed to assist a large force of army troops to haul the guns up to the heights.[3] The army withdrew the same day after a skirmish with Spanish troops.

On 5 December Cynthia and the gunvessel Urchin were in company with the 36-gun frigate Florentina when Florentina captured the French polacre Union, bound from Alexandria to France with a cargo of rice and coffee.[2] Two days later, the same three vessels captured the French brig Bon Pasteur Retrouve on the same route with rice, coffee and sugar. Six days after that, the same three vessels captured the French brig Heureuse Clairon and her cargo of rice and coffee.[2]

In 1801 Cynthia participated in the Egyptian operations. After the Battle of Alexandria and the subsequent siege, Captain Alexander Cochrane in the 74-gun Ajax, with the sixth-rate Bonne Citoyenne, Cynthia, the brig-sloops Port Mahon and Victorieuse, and three Turkish corvettes, were the first vessels to enter the harbour.[3]

In 1801 or 1802, Lord Elgin requested that Cynthia help transport some cases of the so-called Elgin marbles, but her captain, Commander Wright, declined.[4] One of Cynthia's last tasks was to transport ten Army mutineers from Gibraltar on 12 January 1803 to Portsmouth, where seven were transferred to Calcutta on 21 April for transport to Australia.[5]


In February 1803 Cynthia was laid up in Chatham,[2] and then broken up in 1809.[2]


  1. "HMS Cynthia at Michael Phillips' ships of the old Navy". Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 "HMS Cynthia at Naval Database". Retrieved 2009-08-30. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 William James , The Naval History of Great Britain from the declaration of war by France in February 1793 to the accession of George IV in January 1820 : with an account of the origin and progressive increase of the British Navy (New edition in Six volumes), Volume III, R Bentley, London, 1837.
  4. St. Clair, p.114
  5. Tipping, p.34
  • Colledge, J.J. Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of All Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy From the Fifteenth Century to the Present. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1987. ISBN 0-87021-652-X.
  • Tipping, Marjorie. (1988) Convicts Unbound: The story of the Calcutta Convicts and their Settlement in Australia. (Ringwood, Victoria: Penguin Books). ISBN 0 670 90068 0
  • St. Clair, William (1983) Lord Elgin and the Marbles. (Oxford: Oxford University).
  • Winfield, Rif. British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793-1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth Publishing, 2nd edition, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84415-717-4.