HMS Foudroyant (1798)

From SpottingWorld, the Hub for the SpottingWorld network...
File:Guillaume Tell PU5634.jpg
Capture of the William Tell, by Robert Dodd. Foudroyant is seen in the background.
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Foudroyant
Ordered: 17 January 1788
Builder: Plymouth Dockyard
Laid down: May 1789
Launched: 31 March 1798
Fate: Sold out of the Service, 1890. Foundered on Blackpool Sands, 16 June 1897.
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: 80-gun third rate
Tons burthen: 2054.7 bm[2]

184 ft (56 m) (gundeck)

151 ft 5⅝ in (46.2 m) (keel)[2]
Beam: 50 ft 6 in (15.39 m)
Draught: 23 ft (7.0 m)
Depth of hold: 22 ft 6 in (6.86 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Complement: 650 officers and men

80 guns:[3]

  • Gundeck: 30 × 32 pdrs
  • Upper gundeck: 32 × 24 pdrs
  • Quarterdeck: 14 × 12 pdrs
  • Forecastle: 4 × 12 pdrs; 2 × 32 pdr carronades
  • Poop deck: 6 × 18 pdr carronades

HMS Foudroyant was an 80-gun Third Rate of the Royal Navy. She was built in Plymouth-Dock (renamed Devonport 1824), and launched on 31 March 1798.[Note 1] Her designer was Sir John Henslow, and she was the only ship built to her draught.[1] She was named for the 80-gun Foudroyant which, Swiftsure, Monmouth (both 70-gun ships) and Hampton Court (64 guns), captured from the French on 28 February 1758. Foudroyant was a one-off design, differing from the British norm. She followed French practise by mounting the 80 guns on two decks rather than the three typical of the British Third Rate. Foudroyant served Nelson as his flagship from 6 June 1799 until the end of June 1801.

Foudroyant had a long and successful career, and although she was not involved in any major fleet action, she did provide invaluable service to numerous admirals throughout her 17 years on active service. In her last years she helped train boys in the ways of the sea.

French Revolutionary War

Foudroyant was first commissioned on 25 May 1798, under the command of Captain Thomas Byard. His command of the ship lasted only until 31 October when, after bringing the ship back to Plymouth, he died. Captain William Butterfield took temporary command of the ship until he transferred to Hazard just twelve days later.

Captain John Elphinstone took up command of the ship on 26 November 1798, in Cawsand Bay. Lord Keith hoisted his flag in Fodroyant on 28 November, and she departed to join the Mediterranean Squadron on 5 December. After arriving at Gibraltar, Keith shifted his flag to Barfleur on 31 December, and Captain Elphinstone left the ship the following day. His replacement was Captain James Richard Dacres. Dacres' command lasted for four months, before Captain William Brown replaced him on 22 March 1799. Foudroyant sailed from Gibraltar on 11 May, calling at Port Mahon before arriving at Palermo on 7 June. At this time, Brown transferred to Vanguard, and Captain Thomas Hardy took over the command. The following day, Lord Nelson hoisted his flag in Foudroyant.

Over the following months, Foudroyant was involved in the efforts to return the Neapolitan royal family to Naples. Nelson's fleet arrived in Naples[4], without the royal family at this time, on 24 June, and landed 500 marines in support of the Neapolitans. A series of reprisals against known insurgents followed, during which time more than one court martial was held at the invitation of the Neapolitan officers, resulting in hangings in some cases. Whilst Foudroyant was in Naples harbour, Nelson began his affair with Emma, Lady Hamilton. Foudroyant departed Naples on 6 August, in company with the frigate Syren, and the Portuguese ship Principe Real. Foudroyant also transported the Sardinian royal family to Leghorn on 22 September.

On 13 October, Foudroyant entered Port Mahon harbour, and Captain Hardy was succeeded in command by Captain Sir Edward Berry. 22 October found Foudroyant back at Palermo. Nelson remained ashore when the ship departed for Gozo on 29 October, with Minotaur. In November, after weathering a storm in Palermo harbour, Foudroyant departed once more, this time with Culloden, and ran aground in the Straits of Messina. With Culloden's assistance, it was possible to haul the ship off and into deep water. On 6 December a large part of the 89th regiment embarked on Foudroyant.[5]. The soldiers landed at St. Paul's Bay, on Malta on the 10th. She was back at Palermo on 15 January 1800, when Lord Nelson hoisted his flag in her once again, and she sailed on to Livorno, arriving on the 21st. There Foudroyant received salutes from Danish and Neapolitan frigates, and two Russian ships of the line.

Sicilian soldiers embarked on 11 February, and Foudroyant sailed the next day for Malta, in company with Alexander, Northumberland (both 74s), and Success (32). On 18 February, the squadron began a chase of a squadron of three French ships — Le Généreux (74), Badine (28), and Fauvette (20). Alexander forced one of the frigates to surrender, whilst Success engaged Le Généreux, and the two ships exchanged a couple of broadsides before Foudroyant came up and fired into the French ship of the line. Le Généreux struck her colours.[6] It turned out that Rear-Admiral Jean-Baptiste Perrée, the commander-in-chief of the French navy in the Mediterranean, had been aboard Le Généreux and had been killed at the start of the action. His ships had been carrying troops intended to relieve Malta. Their failure to arrive significantly harmed the French hold on Malta and was a testament to the success of the British blockade of the island.

At the beginning of March, Nelson remained at Palermo due to illness when on 25 March Foudroyant sailed for Malta once more with Rear-Admiral Decres on board. On 29 March, she encountered the sloop Bonne Citoyenne, and from her Berry learned that French ships were expected to leave Valetta that evening. Guillaume Tell put to sea on the evening of the 30th, and fell in with Lion and Penelope.

As day broke and the scene became apparent, Foudroyant manoeuvred to pistol range of the French ship — the last French survivor of Aboukir, Le Généreux being the only other — and joined the battle. Foudroyant's log for the Action of 31 March 1800 notes that at one point during the battle the French had nailed their colours to the stump of Guillaume Tell's mizzen mast. Still, Guillaume Tell eventually struck, but not before Foudroyant had lost her fore topmast and main topsail yard. Later in the day, Foudroyant's mizzen mast fell, having been damaged during the battle. Lion took Foudroyant in tow for a time, whilst a jury rig was set up. She entered Syracuse on 3 April.

On 3 June, the Neapolitan king and queen boarded the ship, as well as Sir William Hamilton and his wife Emma. The royal family departed the ship after their arrival in Livorno on 15 June, and just two weeks later Nelson hauled down his flag, and began the journey home to England overland, with the Hamiltons. Lord Keith raised his flag in Foudroyant for the second time on 15 August, returning the ship to Gibraltar on 13 September. Captain Berry transferred out of the ship on 2 November for the 38-gun frigate Princess Charlotte.

Captain Philip Beaver took over the command on 17 November, and sailed into the Eastern Mediterranean with a fleet of 51 vessels, many armed en flûte and carrying the 16,150 men of General Sir Ralph Abercromby's force, which was intended to drive the French out of Egypt. Keith used his ships to reduce the castle at the entrance of Abukir Bay, which eventually fell to the British on the 18 March 1801. A French counter-attack on 21 March by some 14,000 men, although ending in defeat, caused General Abercromby a severe injury, and he died aboard Foudroyant a week after the battle. Foudroyant lay off Alexandria until June, and on 17 June Captain Beaver was transferred to Determinée, being replaced by Captain John Clarke Searle. When the Treaty of Amiens was signed, bringing the war to an end in 1802, Searle paid the ship off at Plymouth on 26 July.

Napoleonic Wars

In January 1803, Foudroyant was docked in Plymouth for a somewhat major repair. The ship was recommissioned under the command of Captain Peter Spicer on 11 June. Her former captain, now Rear Admiral Sir James Richard Dacres, hoisted his flag on the same day, and remained aboard until 28 October. Two days later, Rear Admiral of the White, Sir Thomas Graves hoisted his flag. Captain Peter Puget took over the command on 27 February 1804; however, owing to a serious injury while Foudroyant served with the Channel Fleet, he was returned to England (leaving Christopher Nesham in acting command) and officially left the ship on 31 May 1805. Foudroyant returned to dock on 26 March 1804 for repairs.

24 February 1805 saw Captain Edward Kendall take over the command, and in June Foudroyant was flagship of Grave's fleet, consisting of Barfleur, Raisonnable, Repulse, Triumph, Warrior, Windsor Castle, and Egyptienne blockading the French port of Rochefort.

Command of the ship passed to Captain John Douglas on 9 December temporarily, before Captain John Chambers White assumed command on the 13th. On 13 March 1806, Foudroyant was involved in an action between some ships of the fleet and two French vessels - Marengo of 80 guns, and Belle Poule of 40. Both ships were captured and taken into the navy. On 24 November Captain Richard Peacock took command of the ship, and Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren hoisted his flag in Foudroyant on 19 December.

Rear Admiral Sir Albemarle Bertie raised his flag in Foudroyant on 20 May 1807, and remained in the ship until 17 November. Peacock's command passed to Captain Thompson on 31 May. Foudroyant joined with Admiral Sir Sidney Smith's squadron blockading Lisbon.[7] Smith hoisted his flag in Foudroyant on 24 January 1808. Captain Charles Marsh Schomberg took command of the ship on 6 June.[8] On 12 March Foudroyant parted company for South America, arriving in Río de Janeiro in August. Captain John Davie took command on 25 January 1809, and then Captain Richard Hancock on 17 May. Smith transferred his flag to Diana on the same day. From 25 May, Foudroyant was in company with Agamemnon, Elizabeth, Bedford, Mutine, Mistletoe and Brilliant, escorting a convoy. On 8 June they entered Moldonado Bay at the mouth of the Río de la Plata, and Agamemnon struck rocks, and was wrecked. Foudroyant assisted in taking off men and stores from the stricken ship, and no lives were lost.

Foudroyant remained in the Río area until August 1812, when she returned to England, entering Cawsand Bay on 21 October, and entering Plymouth on 6 November. Hancock departed the ship on 30 November, and then Foudroyant lay at her anchor until 26 January 1815, when she was taken into dock for a large repair that lasted 4 years.


File:HMS Foudroyant wreck.jpg
The wreck of HMS Foudroyant

When Foudroyant came out of dock in 1819, she took up her role as guard ship in Plymouth until about 1860. Throughout this period she was in and out of dock on several occasions for repairs. In 1862 she was converted into a gunnery training vessel, a role she fulfilled until 1884. She was thereafter stationed at Devonport on dockyard duties, and was attached as to tender to the gunnery schoolship HMS Cambridge.

She was finally placed on the Sales List in 1891 and sold out of the service the following January for £2,350. Bought by J. Read of Portsmouth, she was promptly resold to German shipbreakers. This prompted a storm of public protest. Wheatley Cobb then bought her and used the ship as a boy's training vessel. To offset the restoration cost of £20,000, it was then decided to exhibit her at various seaside resorts.


In June 1897 she was towed to Blackpool. On 16 June 1897 during a violent storm, she parted a cable and dragging the remaining anchor, went ashore on Blackpool Sands, damaging Blackpool North Pier in the process.[9][10] The Blackpool lifeboat was able to rescue all 27 of her crew.[11]

After vain attempts to refloat her, her guns were removed and she was sold for ₤200. She finally broke up in the December gales.[9] Craftmen used flotsam from the wreck to make furniture[12] and, between 1929 and 2003, the wall panelling of the boardroom of Blackpool F.C.'s Bloomfield Road ground.[11] The ship's bell now resides in Blackpool Town Hall.

As a replacement, Cobb purchased the 38-gun frigate Trincomalee, and renamed her Foudroyant in the previous ship's honour. This Foudroyant remained in service until 1991, when she was taken to Hartlepool and renamed back to Trincomalee.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Lavery, Ships of the Line vol.1, p183.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Goodwin. Lavery gives 2062 tons and 151 ft 5 in (46.2 m) for the keel length.
  3. As given by Goodwin. Lavery quotes similarly, though the carronades are absent.
  4. Goodwin, p182. The fleet consisted of a total of 18 ships of the line, 1 frigate and 2 fire ships. Mutine, a brig-sloop of 16 guns should also be included in this tally. Ships known to have comprised this fleet are: Alexander, Bellerophon, Bellona, Goliath, Leviathan, Majestic, Northumberland, Powerful, Swiftsure, Vanguard, Zealous (ships of the line); Syren (frigate); Mutine (brig-sloop)
  5. Goodwin, p184. The majority of the 89th regiment came aboard at 0900 on 6 December, together with their women and children — 523 people in total.
  6. The victory was of particular significance to Berry, for in 1798, after the Battle of the Nile, returning to England in command of Leander, a courageous battle with Le Généreux had resulted in Berry surrendering.
  7. Goodwin, p189. Sidney Smith's squadron was composed of Hibernia, London, Conqueror, Elizabeth, Marlborough, Monarch, and Plantagenet.
  8. Goodwin, p189. The ship's records indicate that Captain Thompson left the ship on 3 February. The gap between him leaving the ship and Schomberg joining is not explained.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Gossett (1986), p.125.
  10. [1]
  11. 11.0 11.1 Gillatt, Peter (30 November 2009). Blackpool FC on This Day: History, Facts and Figures from Every Day of the Year. Pitch Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1905411502. 
  12. AC200607 Lot:120-149


External links

  • Gallery of pictures, and history of HMS Foudroyant.

fr:HMS Foudroyant (1798)
Cite error: <ref> tags exist for a group named "Note", but no corresponding <references group="Note"/> tag was found, or a closing </ref> is missing