HMS Indefatigable (1784)

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Fight of the Droits de l'Homme and the Indefatigable, as depicted by Léopold le Guen (1853)
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Indefatigable
Ordered: 3 August 1780
Builder: Henry Adams, Bucklers Hard
Laid down: May 1781
Launched: July 1784
Commissioned: December 1794
Honours and

Naval General Service Medal with clasps:

  • "INDEFATIGABLE 20 APL. 1796"
  • "16 JULY BOAT SERVICE 1806"
  • "BASQUE ROADS 1809"
Fate: Broken up at Chatham, March 1816
Notes: Razeed to 38 guns between September 1794 and February 1795
General characteristics [1]
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);

131 ft 10¾ in (40.2 m) (keel)
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))
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Complement: 310 officers and men (as frigate)

As built:

  • Gundeck: 26 × 24-pounder guns
  • Uppergun deck: 26 × 18-pounder guns
  • Quarterdeck: 10 × 4-pounder guns
  • Forecastle: 2 × 9-pounder guns

As frigate:

  • Upper gundeck: 26 × 24-pounder guns
  • Quarterdeck: 8 × 12-pounder guns + 4 × 42-pounder carronades
  • Forecastle: 2 × 12-pounder guns + 2 × 42-pounder carronades

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[1] 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.[2] She was fitted at Portsmouth (for £8,764) from September 1794 to February 1795.

File:Fregate Virginie.jpg
Virginie fighting HMS Indefatigable

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.[2] In 1847 the Admiralty authorized the issue of the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "INDEFATIGABLE 20 APL. 1796".

She then took (with her squadron) two French brigs - the 10-gun Trois Couleurs and 16-gun Blonde - off Ushant.[2] On 2 October she took 12-gun privateer schooner Revanche off Brest.[2]

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.[2] 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[2]
  • 14 October 1797 - retook the 24-gun privateer Hyène (ex HMS Hyaena), off Teneriffe[2]
  • 4 January 1798 - the 12-gun Vengeur[2]
  • 16 January 1798 - the 8-gun Inconcevable[2]
  • 28 January 1798 - 22-gun Heureuse Nouvelle[2]
  • 30 April 1798 – the 8-gun Basque[2]
  • 5 August 1798 - 16-gun Heureux, off Bayonne[2]
  • 7 August 1798 - the 20-gun Vaillante,[2] off the Île de Ré and which the British took into service as Danaë
  • 31 December 1798 - the 16-gun Minerve, off Ushant[2]

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.[2] In January 1801 she was under Captain Matthew Scott until she paid off later that year.

Indefatigable was fitted for Ordinary at Plymouth in March to April 1802, and laid up in reserve at Plymouth as a result of the peace of October 1801.

Napoleonic Wars

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.[2] 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[2]
  • 1 and 9 September 1808 - the American ships Sally and Peggy[3]
  • 14 January 1809 - the 3-gun La Clarisse, in the Channel[2]
  • 24 March 1809 - the Danish ship Neptunus
  • 28 March 1809 - French ship La Nymphe.[4]

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.[2] Captain John Broughton succeeded him in December 1809 and remained in command until 1812.[2] On 20 October 1810 she re-captured the Portuguese brig Intrigua.[5] 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.


In 1815 Indefatigable was finally paid off.[citation needed] She was broken up at Sheerness in August 1816.[1]

In fiction

See also

Anson and Magnanime of the similar Intrepid class, both 64-gun ships, were also razeed around the same time as Indefatigable, but neither had as distinguished a career.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lavery, Ships of the Line, vol. 1, p. 181.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 Winfield (2008), pp.95-6.
  3. Ommanney and Druce, Prize Agents, Notice of prize money published in the London Gazette 6 January 1810",, accessed 2nd November, 2009
  4. Ommanney and Druce, Prize Agents, Notice of prize money published in the London Gazette, 17 April 1810",, accessed 2nd November, 2009
  5. Wilson and Wilkinson, Prize Agents, Notice of prize money published in the London Gazette, 30 March 1811",, 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. 

ja:インディファティガブル (帆走フリゲート) pl:HMS Indefatigable (1794)
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