HMS Indefatigable (1784)
Fight of the Droits de l'Homme and the Indefatigable, as depicted by Léopold le Guen (1853)
|Ordered:||3 August 1780|
|Builder:||Henry Adams, Bucklers Hard|
|Laid down:||May 1781|
Naval General Service Medal with clasps:
|Fate:||Broken up at Chatham, March 1816|
|Notes:||Razeed to 38 guns between September 1794 and February 1795|
|General characteristics |
|Class and type:||Ardent-class ship of the line|
|Tons burthen:||1384 3/94 tons (1406.2 tonnes)|
160 ft 1¼ in (48.8 m) (gundeck);
|Beam:||44 ft 5 in (13.5 m)|
|Depth of hold:||19 ft (5.8 m) (as frigate, 13 ft 3 in (4.0 m))|
|Sail plan:||Full rigged ship|
|Complement:||310 officers and men (as frigate)|
HMS Indefatigable was one of the Ardent class 64-gun Third Rate ships designed by Sir Thomas Slade in 1761 for the Royal Navy. She had a long career under several distinguished commanders, serving throughout the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. She took, alone or in company, some 27 prizes and in 1847 the Admiralty authorized the issue of four clasps to the Naval General Service Medal to any still surviving members of her crews from the respective actions. She was broken up in 1816.
Indefatigable was ordered on 3 August 1780 (long after Slade's death), and her keel was laid down in May 1781 at the Bucklers Hard shipyard in Hampshire owned by Henry Adams. She was launched in early July 1784 and completed from 11 July to 13 September of that year at Portsmouth Dockyard as a 64-gun two-decked Third Rate for the Royal Navy. She had cost £25,210.4s.5d to build; her total initial cost including fitting out and coppering was £36,154.18s.7d. At that time, she was already nearly obsolete for role of a ship of the line, and was never brought into commission in that role.
French Revolutionary Wars
In 1794, she was razéed: her upper gun deck was cut away to convert her into a large and heavily armed (nomially) 38-gun frigate with 38 long guns and six carronades, which were not taken into account for her rating. She was fitted at Portsmouth (for £8,764) from September 1794 to February 1795.
The Indefatigable was first commissioned in December 1794 under Captain Sir Edward Pellew, for cruising and he commanded her until 1798. She took the French 44-gun frigate Virginie off the Lizard on 22 April 1796. In 1847 the Admiralty authorized the issue of the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "INDEFATIGABLE 20 APL. 1796".
Action of 13 January 1797
Her most famous battle was the engagement off the Penmarcks in the Action of 13 January 1797, in company with the frigate Amazon, against the French Droits de l'Homme, a 74-gun ship of the line. The battle ended with Droits de l'Homme being driven onto shore in a gale. Amazon also was run ashore; still, the majority of the crew survived and were captured. Despite being embayed and having damaged masts and rigging, Indefatigable was able to repair the damage and beat off the lee shore, showing excellent seamanship. This action won for any still surviving crew the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "INDEFATIGABLE 13 JANY. 1797".
Subsequently Indefatigable took more privateers, primarily in the Channel, and alone or in the company of other vessels:
- 11 May 1797 - 16-gun Nouvelle Eugénie
- 14 October 1797 - retook the 24-gun privateer Hyène (ex HMS Hyaena), off Teneriffe
- 4 January 1798 - the 12-gun Vengeur
- 16 January 1798 - the 8-gun Inconcevable
- 28 January 1798 - 22-gun Heureuse Nouvelle
- 30 April 1798 – the 8-gun Basque
- 5 August 1798 - 16-gun Heureux, off Bayonne
- 7 August 1798 - the 20-gun Vaillante, off the Île de Ré and which the British took into service as Danaë
- 31 December 1798 - the 16-gun Minerve, off Ushant
From March 1799 she was under Captain Henry Curzon (until the end of 1800). Under his command, she took two 14-gun privateers - Vénus on 31 May 1799 and Vengeur in June 1800. [Note 1]
Indefatible then was with Sir John Borlase Warren's squadron at Ferrol on 26 August 1800. Here on 28 October she took (with Fisgard) the French 28-gun corvette Vénus off the Portuguese coast. In January 1801 she was under Captain Matthew Scott until she paid off later that year.
Following the resumption of hostilities, the Indefatigable was fitted for sea in July to September 1803. She was recommissioned under Captain Graham Moore, younger brother of Sir John Moore of Rifle Brigade and Corunna fame.
Action of 5 October 1804
On 5 October 1804, with three other frigates (Medusa, Lively and Amphion and with Moore as Commodore, she intercepted a Spanish treasure fleet of four frigates off Cadiz - Medea, Clara, Fama and Mercedes - carrying bullion from South America to Spain. Spain was at the time a neutral country, but was showing strong signs of declaring an alliance with Napoleonic France. Acting on Admiralty orders Moore required the Spaniards to change their course and sail for England. The senior Spanish officer refused and a short fight ensued, during which the Mercedes blew up. The remainder surrendered and were escorted to Plymouth. The value of the treasure was very large, and if it had been treated as Prize of War then Moore and his brother captains would have been set for life several times over. As it was the money (and ships) were declared to be "Droits of Admiralty" on the grounds that war had not been declared, and they got a relatively small ex gratia payment.
In October 1805 the Indefatigable was now under Captain John Tremayne Rodd (-1809), for the blockade of Brest. Her boats (with her squadron's) took the French 36-gun frigate César in the Gironde on 15 July 1806. This cutting out expedition resulted in the participants qualifying for the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "16 JULY BOAT SERVICE 1806".
Thereafter she again took numerous prizes:
- 31 July 1808 – the 14-gun French privateer La Diane, off the Gironde
- 1 and 9 September 1808 - the American ships Sally and Peggy
- 14 January 1809 - the 3-gun La Clarisse, in the Channel
- 24 March 1809 - the Danish ship Neptunus
- 28 March 1809 - French ship La Nymphe.
In April 1809 she participated in the Battle of the Basque Roads, which earned her crew another clasp to the Naval General Service Medal: "BASQUE ROADS 1809".
In October 1809 she was under Captain Henry E. R. Baker. Captain John Broughton succeeded him in December 1809 and remained in command until 1812. On 20 October 1810 she re-captured the Portuguese brig Intrigua. Then in June 1812, under Captain John Fyffe on the South American station, she visited the Galapagos islands. During this cruise she gave the second largest island, now known as Santa Cruz island, its English name Indefatigable.
- C. S. Forester chose Indefatigable under Pellew as the ship on which his (fictional) hero Horatio Hornblower spent most of his time as a midshipman in the novel Mr. Midshipman Hornblower.
- The Spanish flotilla incident is the one Forester refers to in the novel Hornblower and the Hotspur, although it would be expected for much more to have been made of the matter bearing in mind Hornblower's early career with the ship.
- Patrick O'Brian fictionalizes this incident in Post Captain, the second of his Aubrey–Maturin series of novels. In this novel, Captain Aubrey is in temporary command of HMS Lively. Lastly, Alexander Kent mentions the incident in a novel.
- Lavery, Ships of the Line, vol. 1, p. 181.
- Winfield (2008), pp.95-6.
- Ommanney and Druce, Prize Agents, Notice of prize money published in the London Gazette 6 January 1810", http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/16331/pages/46, accessed 2nd November, 2009
- Ommanney and Druce, Prize Agents, Notice of prize money published in the London Gazette, 17 April 1810", http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/16362/pages/584, accessed 2nd November, 2009
- Wilson and Wilkinson, Prize Agents, Notice of prize money published in the London Gazette, 30 March 1811", http://www.london-gazette.co.uk/issues/16470/pages/604, accessed 2nd November, 2009
- Robert Gardiner, Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars, Chatham Publishing, London 2000.
- 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.
- Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1861762461.
pl:HMS Indefatigable (1794)
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