HMS Sirius (1797)
The Sirius stranded on a coral shoal. Lithograph by A. Meyer (National Maritime Museum, London)
|Ordered:||30 April 1795|
|Laid down:||September 1795|
|Launched:||12 April 1797|
|Fate:||Destroyed by fire (scuttled), 25 August 1810|
|Length:||148 ft 10 in (45.36 m) (gundeck)|
|Beam:||39 ft 7 in (12.07 m)|
|Range:||No fuel, so limited only by provisions|
|Complement:||247 officers and men|
Gundeck: 26 × 18pdrs|
Quarter deck: 6 × 12 pdrs
Forecastle: 2 × 9pdrs
HMS Sirius was a 36-gun fifth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy. The Admiralty ordered her construction on 30 April 1795, and the keel was laid at the Dudman's yard at Deptford Wharf in September of that year. She was launched on 12 April 1797. The Sirius Class (1795) was established following the taking of the San Fiorenzo from the Spanish in 1794, upon whose lines this frigate was based.
Between 1797 and 1805, the Sirius was engaged in maintaining the blockade of Napoleonic Europe. Under the command of Captain Richard King, she took two Dutch ships, the Furie and the Waakzaamheid, in her first action in 1798, and in 1801 captured a French frigate, the Oiseau, in the North Sea.
On October 21, 1805, the Sirius joined the British fleet under Vice Admiral Lord Nelson KB at Trafalgar. Entering battle to the North of the Weather Column, her station placed her only a few cable lengths from HMS Victory.
The summer of 1810 saw a campaign against the French Indian Ocean possessions; The Île de Bourbon (Réunion) was captured in July. In August, attention was turned to Mauritius, where the British attempted to land troops to destroy coastal batteries and signals around Grand Port; the attempt turned sour, however, when two French forty-gun frigates, the Bellone and the Minerve, the 18-gun corvette Victor, and two East Indiaman prizes entered the harbour, and took up defensive positions at the head of the main entrance channel, and moved the channel markers to confuse the approach of the enemy.
On the 23 August 1810 the British squadron entered the channel. The Sirius was the first to run aground followed by the Magicienne and the Néréide. The Iphigenia prudently anchored in the channel some distance from the action. The French vessels concentrated all their gunfire against the Néréide and then towards the Magicienne.
The battle continued without interruption all night and on the 24 August the French boarded the defenceless Néréide. Once the French flag was hoisted on what was left of the foremast of the Néréide, the Magicienne and the Sirius began an intense cross fire against their enemies. But in the evening, the Magicienne had to be abandoned and was sacrificed by setting her on fire.
Every effort to kedge the Sirius off failed. Firmly aground, making water, and unable to be freed, Captain Samuel Pym ordered stores and provisions to be transferred to the Iphigenia, and on completion, the men were removed. The last of the crew left on the morning of 25 August 1810, setting the frigate on fire as they did so; she exploded at about eleven o'clock, her hull briefly drifting off the reef before sinking.
The Battle of Grand Port was an important victory for the French. With two English frigates taken (the Iphigenia and the Néréide), and two others destroyed (the Sirius and the Magicienne), as well as 1,600 prisoners taken against 150 French dead or wounded, this battle marks the only French naval victory of the Napoleonic Wars.
Today the Sirius lies in some 20-25 metres of water, and although the wreck has been broken up, as much by salvors as by her unfortunate scuttling, the site is of great archaeological interest, with many of the cannon lying exposed.