HMS Amazon (1795)

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Amazon (right) and Indefatigable (left) fighting the Droits de l'Homme (centre), by Léopold Le Guen (1853)
Amazon (right) and Indefatigable (left) fighting the Droits de l'Homme (centre), by Léopold Le Guen (1853)
Career Royal Navy Ensign (1707-1801)
Name: HMS Amazon
Ordered: 24 May 1794
Builder: Wells & Co., Rotherhithe
Laid down: June 1794
Launched: 4 July 1795
Completed: 25 September 1795 at Deptford Dockyard
Commissioned: July 1795
Fate: Wrecked, 14 January 1797
General characteristics
Type: Fifth-rate frigate
Tons burthen: 933 67/94 bm
Length: 143 ft 2.5 in (gundeck)
119 ft 5.5 in (keel)
Beam: 38 ft 4 in
Depth of hold: 13 ft 6 in
Propulsion: Sails
Complement: 264
Armament: 36 guns

HMS Amazon, was a 36-gun frigate, built at Rotherhithe by (John and William) Wells & Co. in 1795 to a design by Sir William Rule. She was the first of a class of four frigates.

In 1795, while under the command of Captain Robert Carthew Reynolds, she was part of the Inshore Squadron under Sir Edward Pellew watching the French port of Brest to report any attempt by the French fleet to leave port. On 20 April 1796 she participated in the chase of the 40-gun Virginie, which the 44-gun frigate HMS Indefatigable eventually took. Then on 13 June, Amazon contributed to the capture of the 14-gun Les Trois Couleurs off Brest

On 11 December 1796, Amazon was despatched with news that seven French ships of the line had arrived in Brest. This was part of the preparation for an invasion of Ireland. The French fleet left harbour and evaded the main British blockade fleet and sailed for Bantry Bay. However, storms scattered them and most returned to France having accomplished very little.

In the Action of 13 January 1797, Amazon, in company with Pellew's ship Indefatigable, encountered the French ship Droits de l'Homme, a 74-gun ship of the line. Normally, frigates would not engage a ship of the line as they would be severely out-gunned. However, there was a heavy sea and the French ship could not open her lower deck gunports for fear of flooding. This reduced her broadside considerably.

Pellew was seven miles ahead of Amazon when he first attacked the Droits de l'Homme. An hour and a half later Amazon came up and poured a broadside into the Frenchman's quarter. The two frigates attacked her from either side yawing to rake her while avoiding much of her return fire. At 4.20 am on 14 January land was suddenly sighted ahead and the frigates broke off the attack and headed in opposite directions. Amazon, going north, and more severely damaged, was unable to wear and ran aground at Audierne Bay, Isle Bas. Three crew had been killed during the battle and six more drowned, but the rest were able to reach shore. There the French captured them. The heavy seas pounding her on the beach destroyed Amazon; the Droits de l'Homme, badly damaged in the battle, was also wrecked, with heavy casualties.

The court martial on 29 September 1797, routinely held by the Navy after the loss of any vessel, honourably acquitted Captain Reynolds and his officers of negligence in the loss of the ship.


  • Winfield, Rif (2008) British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793-1817: design, construction, careers and fates; 2nd ed. Seaforth Publishing ISBN 978-1-84415-717-4

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