HMS St Fiorenzo (1794)
HMS St Fiorenzo and Piémontaise
|Laid down:||January 1782|
|Launched:||31 July 1782|
|Completed:||By October 1782|
Sunk on 18 February 1794|
Salvaged on 19 February 1794 by the Royal Navy
|Name:||HMS St Fiorenzo|
|Acquired:||19 February 1794|
Naval General Service Medal clasps
|Fate:||Broken up in September 1837|
|Class and type:||38-gun fifth rate|
|Tons burthen:||1,031 86/94 bm|
148 ft 8 in (45.3 m) (overall)|
124 ft 8 in (38.0 m) (keel)
|Beam:||39 ft 6 in (12.0 m)|
|Depth of hold:||13 ft 3 in (4.04 m)|
|Sail plan:||Full rigged ship|
HMS St Fiorenzo (also San Fiorenzo) was a 38-gun fifth rate of the Royal Navy. She had previously served with the French Navy as the Minerve, before the British captured her during the French Revolutionary Wars. She went on to serve under a number of the most distinguished naval commanders of her age, in theatres ranging from the English Channel to the East Indies. During this time she was active against enemy privateers, and on several occasions she engaged ships larger than herself, being rewarded with victory on each occasion. She captured the 40-gun Résistance and the 22-gun Constance in 1797, the 36-gun Psyché in 1805, and the 40-gun Piémontaise in 1808. (These actions would earn the crewmembers involved clasps to the Naval General Service Medal.) Conversion into a number of roles then followed. She initially became a troopship, then a receiving ship, and lastly, a lazarette. She was finally broken up in 1837 after a long period in the latter role.
The French built Minerve at Toulon, laying her down on 10 February 1782 and launching her on 21 July 1782. She was the lead ship of her class. Minerve began her career in the Mediterranean, in particular operating in the Levant campaign from 1790 to 1791. In March 1793 she and Melpomène escorted from Toulon to Algiers two xebecs that the French had outfitted for the Dey. On Minerve’s return to Toulon her commander was arrested following an insurrection on board. On 18 February 1794, her commander scuttled her after the British under Sir David Dundas captured the town of San Fiorenzo (San Fiurenzu) in the Gulf of St. Florent in Corsica. (Other accounts suggest that gunfire from British shore batteries sank her.) The British found Minerve on 19 February 1794, and were able to refloat her. They then took her into service as a 38-gun frigate under the name St Fiorenzo. 
Service in the Channel
She was initially under the command of Captain Charles Tyler, but passed under Captain Sir Charles Hamilton in July 1794. Hamilton sailed her back to Chatham, where she arrived on 22 November and was registered as a Royal Navy ship on 30 May 1795. She was then commissioned in June that year under Captain Sir Harry Neale. Neale was to command her for the next five years.
Capture of Résistance and Constance
On 9 March 1797 St Fiorenzo was sailing in company with Captain John Cooke's HMS Nymphe, when they sighted two sails heading for Brest. These turned out to be the 40-gun French frigate Résistance and the 22-gun corvette Constance, returning from the short-lived, quixotic and unsuccessful French raid on Fishguard in Wales. Cooke and Neale chased after them, and engaged them for half an hour, after which both French ships surrendered. There were no casualties or damage on either of the British ships, while the two French ships had lost 18 killed and 15 wounded between them. Both were taken into the Royal Navy. Résistance became HMS Fisgard, while Constance retained her name. In 1847 the Admiralty awarded the Naval General service Medal with clasp "SAN FIORENZO 8 MARCH 1797" to any surviving claimants from the action.[Note 1]
St Fiorenzo was one of the ships caught up in the mutiny at the Nore, but was one of the few ships to remain loyal to her commander. She subsequently escaped to Harwich after enduring musket and grapeshot fire from the mutinous ships that left four of the crew wounded. Further successes followed later that year. She captured the 14-gun privateer Unité off Owers on 3 June, and then the 14-gun privateer Castor off the Scilly Isles on 1 July. In December 1798 she and HMS Triton captured the 14-gun privateer Rosée in the English Channel, and also took a Spanish 6-gun privateer later that month.
Mediterranean and East Indies
On 9 April 1799, after reconnoitering two French frigates in L'Orient, St Fiorenzo and HMS Amelia stood towards Belle Île in very hazy weather. Here three French frigates and a large gun vessel hiding under the land surprised them. At that instant a sudden squall carried away Amelia's main-top-mast and fore and mizzen top-gallant masts; the fall of the former tearing much of the mainsail from the yard. Captain Neale of the St Fiorenzo shortened sail and ordered Amelia to bear up with him to maintain the weather gage and prepare for battle. The enemy showed no inclination for close-quarter action and, although the British ships came under fire from shore batteries, they had to bear down on the French three times to engage them. After nearly two hours the French wore ship and stood away to take refuge in the Loire. Amelia lost two killed and 17 wounded. That evening St Fiorenzo captured a French brig and learned that the French frigates were the Vengeance, Sémillante and Cornélie. They further learned that Cornélie had lost some 100 men dead and wounded, one of the wounded being her commodore. Later reports mentioned that Captain Caro of Vengenance had been mortally wounded and that Sémillante had 15 dead.
Later, St Fiorenzo took part in an attack on a Spanish squadron anchored in the Aix Roads on 2 July 1799. On 13 November 1800 St Fiorenzo recaptured the merchantman Hebe, which the 18-gun French privateer Grande Decide had captured about a week earlier.
Captain Charles Paterson took over command in January 1801, serving in the Mediterranean. He was succeeded in May 1802 by Captain Joseph Bingham, who was St Fiorenzo's commander until 1804. Bingham sailed to the Cape of Good Hope, and spent the next couple of years operating in the Indian Ocean. On 14 January 1804, St Fiorenzo gave chase to the French 2-gun chasse-marée Passe-Partout off Mount Dilly on the Malabar Coast. When the land wind began to fail, Bingham sent three of his boats after the quarry. Once alongside, in two minutes the British had captured the French vessel, which had two dead and five seriously wounded. Despite fire from two six-pounder guns and swivels on the Passe-Portout, the British suffered only one man slightly wounded. Bingam discovered that the French had landed three officers on the coast to incite the Mahratta states to attack the British. Bingham passed on the intelligence with the result the British at Poona were able to capture the Frenchmen.
Bingham's successor was Captain Walter Bathurst, who commanded St Fiorenzoin 1805, before he was replaced in an acting capacity by Captain Henry Lambert. On 13 February 1805, St Fiorenzo found the French frigate Psyché and her two prizes, Pigeon and Thetis, off Vishakhapatnam. On the evening of the 14th, St Fiorenzo captured Thetis, which the French had abandoned. He then engaged the other two vessels. After a fierce battle, Captain Bergeret, the French commander of Psyché, sent a boat to announce that she had struck her colours; she had 67 killed and 68 wounded. St Fiorenzo had 12 killed and 36 wounded. The Pigeon, which the French had converted to a privateer of four guns under the name of Equivoque, escaped. Lambert was promoted to another command, while Captain Patrick Campbell took over between 1806 and 1807. In 1847 the Admiralty awarded the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "SAN FIORENZO 14 FEBY. 1805" to any surviving claimants from the action.
Capture of the Piémontaise
St Fiorenzo's next commander was Captain George Nicholas Hardinge, who on 4 March 1808 encountered the 40-gun French frigate Piémontaise, which had been raiding British shipping off the Indian coast. Piémontaise was under the command of Captain Jacques Epron and had sailed from Île de France on 30 December with a crew of 266 Frenchmen, together with 200 lascars to work the sails.
Hardinge was at the time escorting three East Indiamen, and leaving them to flee, he turned to confront the Frenchman, who attempted to escape. St Fiorenzo chased the Piémontaise for the next several days, with intermittent fighting as the French turned to engage their pursuer, before sailing away again. They were finally brought to a decisive battle on 8 March, where after an hour and twenty minutes of fierce fighting, they surrendered. French losses amounted to 48 dead and 112 wounded, while the British lost 13 dead and 25 wounded. Captain Hardinge was among the dead, killed by grapeshot shortly before the Piémontaise surrendered. Lieutenant William Dawson took command and brought both vessels back to Ceylon, even though Piémontaise's three masts fell over her side early in the morning of the 9th. In 1847 the Admiralty awarded the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "SAN FIORENZO 8 MARCH 1808" to any surviving claimants from the action.
Hardinge's successor was Captain John Bastard, who commanded St Fiorenzo until she was paid off later in 1808.
St Fiorenzo was then fitted out at Woolwich for service in the Baltic, under the command of Henry Matson. She took part in the Walcheren Campaign in 1809, after which she was refitted as a 22-gun troopship and sent to Lisbon under Commander Edmund Knox. She was further fitted in 1812, this time to serve as a receiving ship at Woolwich, before being laid up in ordinary at Chatham. Her final service was as a lazarette at Sheerness, where she remained between 1818 and 1837. She was broken up at Deptford in September 1837, after 43 years with the Royal Navy.
- Winfield. British Warships of the Age of Sail. p. 148.
- Colledge. Ships of the Royal Navy. p. 305.
- James. James' Naval History. pp. 95–6.
- Guttridge. Mutiny. p. 67.
- William James. 1837. The Naval History of Great Britain from the Declaration of War by France in 1793 to the Accession of George IV. (London: Richard Bentley), vol. II, pp.334-6.
- Winfield. British Warships of the Age of Sail. p. 149.
- Naval history of Great Britain
- James. The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 5. p. 30.
- James. The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 5. p. 32.
- Tracy. Who's who in Nelson's Navy. p. 171.
- Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) . Ships of the Royal Navy: the complete record of all fighting ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham. ISBN 9781861762818. OCLC 67375475.
- Guttridge, Leonard F. (2005). Mutiny: A History of Naval Insurrection. Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1591143489.
- James, William. James' Naval History. Epitomised in one volume by Robert O'Byrne. Adamant Media Corporation. ISBN 1402181337.
- James, William (2002 ). The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 5, 1808–1811. Conway Martime Press. ISBN 0851779093.
- Tracy, Nicholas (2006). Who's who in Nelson's Navy: 200 Naval Heroes. London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 1-86176-244-5.
- Winfield, Rif (2007). British Warships of the Age of Sail 1794–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1861762461.
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