HMS Dryad (1795)

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File:HMS Dryad vs Proserpine-cropped.jpg
HMS Dryad taking the French frigate Proserpine as a prize, 13 June 1796, by Thomas Whitcombe
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Dryad
Ordered: 24 May 1794
Builder: William Barnard, Deptford
Laid down: June 1794
Launched: 4 June 1795
Decommissioned: 13 September 1832
Out of service: 1814 - 1827
Honours and
Naval General Service Medal with clasp "DRYAD 13 JUNE 1796"

Harbour Receiving Ship 1832 - 1859

Broken up 1859
General characteristics
Class and type: Fifth Rate
Tons burthen: 924 tons
Length: 142 ft (43 m)
Beam: 38 ft (12 m)
Sail plan: Ship rigged
Complement: 270

Rated as "36 guns"

HMS Dryad was a 36-gun fifth rate of the Royal Navy that served for 64 years, at first during the Napoleonic Wars and then in the suppression of slavery. She was broken up at Portsmouth on 9 February 1860.[1]


Launch and the loss of Captain Forbes (1795)

Launched on 4 June 1795, Dryad was commissioned under Captain the Hon. Robert Allaster Cam Forbes (2nd son of Lord Forbes),[1] who had previously been the captain of HMS Southampton at the Glorious First of June. The brand new frigate may have been a reward for his services, but he did not live long to enjoy it; The Edinburgh Magazine records his obituary as "Oct 7, off the coast of Norway, the Honourable Capt. Robert Forbes, commander of his Majesty's ship Dryad".[2][3]

The capture of Proserpine (1796)

His successor, Captain Lord Amelius Beauclerk, 3rd son of the Duke of St Albans, took command in December 1795.[1] He was stationed off the coast of Ireland and had considerable success against French privateers. The first capture, though, occurred on 2 May 1796, while Dryad under acting Commander John Pullin. Dryad captured the 14-gun cutter Abeille off The Lizard.[1]

On 13 June Dryad captured the French frigate Proserpine after a 45 minute action. William James wrote in his Naval History of Great Britain:

On the 13th of June, at 1 a.m., Cape Clear bearing west by north distant 12 leagues, the British 18-pounder 36-gun frigate Dryad, Captain Lord Amelius Beauclerk, standing close hauled on the starboard tack, with the wind a fresh breeze from northwest by west, discovered a sail in the south-west by west, or right ahead, standing towards her; but which, on nearing the Dryad, hauled her wind, and then tacked. This was the French frigate Proserpine, in search of her consorts, and who, now that she had discovered the ship approaching to be an enemy, was endeavouring to effect her escape.

Chase was immediately given by the Dryad, both ships on a wind upon the starboard tack. At 8 p.m. the Proserpine hoisted her colours; and immediately afterwards the Dryad did the same. The Proserpine then fired her stern-chasers, several of the shot from which went through the Dryad's sails and cut away her rigging. At 9 p.m., having reached her opponent's lee or larboard quarter, the Dryad commenced a close action, and maintained it with so much spirit and effect that, at 9 h. 45 m. p.m., the Proserpine hauled down the French ensign ... Were it not for the slight preponderance occasioned by the Dryad's carronades, the British frigate would have been inferior in guns, as well as in crew and size, to the French frigate. But, as what little the latter wanted in broadside weight of metal was amply made up to her in number of men, the action of the Dryad and Proserpine may be pronounced at least an equal match. Captain Pevrieux appears to have thought otherwise. Hence, the Proserpine fled, and by flying, not only sustained a very serious loss, but was unable to bring guns enough to bear upon her antagonist, to do any more injury to her than a single shot has often inflicted.

Had the French captain, instead of trying to escape, brought his frigate to, he might have manoeuvred her to some advantage, and even, if eventually compelled to yield, would have surrendered without discredit. As it was, after capturing the Proserpine, the Dryad, owing solely to her opponent's forbearance, was able to fight another frigate of the same force; and, could he have secured his prisoners without diminishing his crew, the Dryad's captain would no doubt have rejoiced at such an opportunity. Lord Amelius, in his official letter, speaks highly of his first lieutenant, Mr. Edward Durnford King, and the latter, most deservedly, was promoted to the rank of commander.[4]

Of the 348 men on board the Proserpine, 30 were killed and 45 wounded, while Dryad lost 2 killed and 7 wounded. The Royal Navy already had a Proserpine, and accordingly the Admiralty renamed the French vessel HMS Amelia on her being bought into the Service. In 1847 the Admiralty issued the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "DRYAD 13 JUNE 1796" to any still surviving claimants from her crew who had participated in the action.

Dryad and Beauclerk followed this with the capture or destruction of five more French privateers. On 16 October she captured the 9-gun privateer Vantour.[1] The next year, on 19 August, Dryad captured the 14-gun Eclair.[1] On 9 September she sank the 12-gun privateer Cornélie. Because of the state of the seas, Dryad was only able to save some 17 men of the privateer's crew of some 90 men. Cornelie was some 16 days out of Nantz and had only captured one ship, a Dane. On 10 October Dryad and Doris captured the 16-gun Brune.[1] Lastly, on 4 February 1798 she captured the 16-gun Mars off Cape Clear.[1]

The Irish Station and Captain Mansfield (1799 - 1801)

File:Charles John Moore Mansfield.jpg
Captain John Mansfield, Commanding Officer of HMS Dryad from December 1798 to June 1802

In December of 1798 Captain Charles John Moore Mansfield was appointed in command. According to the memoirs of one of his midshipmen, Mansfield's wife and two unruly children were living onboard Dryad at Portsmouth, his wife dressing in her own version of a naval officer's uniform. She was apparently well liked, despite her eccentric dress, since she did not interfere with the ship's business.[5]

Dryad sailed for Cork, escorting a convoy, and on 19 September 1799, she captured the Ceres, a French merchant ship en route from Bordeaux to the Caribbean. The Times reported on 6 January 1800 that

The Dryad frigate, Captain MANSFIELD, sailed from Cork on the 4th of December, with the following transports ... it is supposed that these troops are destined to replace the garrison of Minorca, the principle part of which are employed in the reduction of MALTA.

Dryad was based at Cork for several months during 1800, in Admiral Lord Gardner's fleet; Gardner's son Valentine commenced his naval career in Dryad under Mansfield. At the beginning of April 1800, Dryad spent several days assisting the 44-gun frigate HMS Revolutionnaire which had lost her rudder in a hurricane in the Atlantic. Dryad had lost her fore-yard and the two ships assisted each other towards Cork but an off-shore gale forced them to head for Plymouth. However, another change in the wind meant that they could neither weather the Scilly Isles nor return to Cork and they drifted up the St George's Channel. On 16 April Dryad tried to tow Revolutionnaire off the Waterford rocks, but the cable broke. Fortunately another change of wind enabled Revolutionnaire to avoid the rocks and both ships finally arrived at Milford Haven on 19 April. On 3 May The Sun newspaper reported that Dryad arrived in Milford Haven "in a very distressed condition".

Capture of Premier Consul and Ulla Ferson (1801)

West of Ireland on 5 March 1801 Dryad captured the French privateer Premier Consul (14 nine-pound guns) of St Malo after a 3-hour chase.[1] Only a few days before Premier Consul had captured a Portuguese schooner bound to Ireland.

The Portsmouth Telegraph reported on 16 March 1801:

By a private letter received from Cork, we learn, that the Dryad frigate, Captain Mansfield, has captured and sent into that port, a Swedish frigate, after an action of ten minutes, in which the Swede had 7 killed and 14 wounded.

The Swedish frigate was the light frigate Ulla Ferson (18 guns). Dryad returned from the Irish Station to Portsmouth on 18 March with both Ulla Ferson and Premier Consul as prizes.

The Peace of Amiens (1802 - 1803)

After the Treaty of Amiens was signed with the French Republic in March 1802, Mansfield arrived back in Portsmouth on 9 June in Dryad carrying Admiral Lord Gardner and bearing his flag. Captain Robert Williams was appointed to Dryad, joining her almost immediately. He was employed off Portland in the suppression of smuggling, and in February 1803 left to become captain of the Third Rate 74 HMS Russell. War with France broke out again in May 1803.

Return to the Irish Station (1804-1808)

Dryad had the honour of returning Admiral Lord Gardner to his command at Cork in 1804, this voyage being under her new captain, John Giffard. She remained on the Irish Station, but at the end of the year Captain Giffard left the ship due to ill health. His replacement, in January 1805, was Captain (later Admiral Sir) Adam Drummond.[1] On 2 November 1805 Dryad, in company with HMS Boadicea, fell in with four French ships-of-the-line off Ferrol which had escaped from the Battle of Trafalgar under Rear-Admiral Pierre Dumanoir le Pelley. The two ships tried to lead the enemy into the path of a Royal Navy squadron by firing rockets but lost them a short time after their signals had been seen by a squadron commanded by Sir Richard Strachan. Neither Boadicea nor Dryad therefore shared in the Battle of Cape Ortegal, in which the British captured Formidable, Scipion, Duguay-Trouin and Mont Blanc.

In July 1807 Captain William Price Cumby took pro tempore command of Dryad, and during a three-month cruise on the Irish Station took several valuable prizes. Captain Drummond returned to the ship, and on 22 March 1808 he captured the French privateer Rennair (13 guns), with a crew of 95 men.[1]

The Walcheren Expedition (1809)

Captain Edward Galwey took command in 1809, and remained her captain until the end of the Napoleonic Wars. On 28 July Dryad sailed with a large fleet from the Downs. This fleet, and the troops they carried, formed part of the Walcheren Expedition, the aim of which was to demolish the dockyards and arsenals at Antwerp, Terneuzen, and Flushing. On 11 August Dryad formed part of a squadron of frigates directed to sound and buoy the Sloe Strait in preparation for the attack on Flushing, which fell on 15 August. The expedition ended in failure, mostly due to malarial sickness, and the force was withdrawn by September.

The Home Station (1809 - 1814)

Between 1809 and 1814 Dryad served on the Home Station, including the north coast of Spain under the orders of Commodore Sir Robert Mends. The year of 1811 was clearly busy; the list of prizes includes the American ship Matilda (28 January), the French schooner La Balam (22 March) and an unnamed French brig (9 October). She docked down in Plymouth during October, and by January 1812 was again sending prizes in; a ship named Spy from New York was sent in on 30 January. She was employed on less glamorous tasks as well - during August 1812 she conveyed bullocks to the Channel Fleet, a filthy and unpleasant mission. On 23 December 1812 Captain Galway wrecked a nameless French brig of 22 guns by driving her ashore on the Île d'Yeu.[1] Dryad was struck in the hull several times by shots from the shore and her foremast was hit, but she suffered no casualties. Soon afterward she captured the American schooner Rosa from Baltimore, which arrived in Plymouth on 17 January 1813.

Capture of Clorinde (1814)

File:Eurotas and Clorinde.jpg
Capture of La Clorinde, by Thomas Whitcombe, 1 Mar 1817, in the collection of the National Maritime Museum.

While returning from Newfoundland in company with the 16-gun brig-sloop HMS Achates, on 26 February Dryad came across the damaged French frigate Clorinde (40 guns), which had attempted to escape HMS Eurotas after a hard-fought battle the previous day. Captain John Phillimore of Eurotas observed that Dryad's approach was "to the great mortification of every one on board",[6] since Eurotas had spent all night setting up a jury-rig, and the Prize Rules meant that all ships in sight shared in the prize money. After a single cannon shot, Clorinde surrendered to Dryad, which towed her into Portsmouth. The prize was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Aurora.

Out of Commission (1814 - 1825)

Dryad was decommissioned on her return with Clorinde, and although in 1816 she was fitted for a voyage to Jamaica, the plan was cancelled. She remained out of commission at Sheerness until 1825.

The Mediterranean (1825-1830)

Dryad was recommissioned in August 1825 under Captain Hon. Robert Rodney (4th son of George Rodney, 2nd Baron Rodney)[7] at Sheerness for service in the Mediterranean. Less than a year later, on 20 July 1826, Rodney died while in command of the frigate. His successor was Captain The Hon. George Crofton (son of Sir Edward Crofton, 2nd Baronet).[8] The ship visited Gibraltar, Valletta and Aegina between July 1827 and June 1828.

The Preventative Squadron (1830-1832)

By November 1829 Dryad was recommissioning in Plymouth for foreign service. Captain John Hayes joined her in May 1830 and she sailed for the coast of Africa on 29 September 1830, with Captain Hayes serving as Commodore on that station. HMS Fair Rosamond and HMS Black Joke, both captured ex-slave ships, were tenders to Dryad, and between November 1830 and March 1832, they accounted for 11 out of 13 slavers taken by the squadron. On a station with a well-deserved reputation for killing sailors by disease, the West Africa Squadron carried out a determined effort to stop the slave trade. Increasing international co-operation made the efforts of the Royal Navy gradually more effective.

Visits to Ascension Island brought welcome relief from the torrid climate of West Africa, as well as a chance to give the crew access to fresh provisions and allow them ashore for recreation; and to water, refit and paint ship. Dryad carried out hydrography, too. The Nautical Magazine For 1832 records one such occasion:

On the authority of Commodore Hayes, and Mr. A. Weir, the master of H.M.S. Dryad, we can no longer give credit to the statement of Mr. Fraser, of the ship St. George, in 1830, relating to the existence of a dangerous rock to N.E. of Ascension. By the following it will be seen, that the Dryad and her tender went in search of it ; and from the care taken in the observations, as well as the common occurrence of shoals of fish being frequently seen in those latitudes, and the great probability that it would have been discovered before, had such a rock existed, we must conclude that there is no such danger.[9]"

Her voyage home started in the Gambia on 31 May 1832, and after a short stop in the Azores at the beginning of July, she arrived in Portsmouth on 25 July. On 11 August she sailed for Cork, Ireland, and returned to Portsmouth on 29 August.


She was taken out of commission for the last time on 13 September 1832 and became a Receiving Ship at Portsmouth.[1] She was broken up in 1862.

Commanding Officers

From To Captain
June 1795 7 October 1795 Captain Hon. Robert Forbes, drowned off Norway in command on 7 October 1795
December 1795 December 1798 Captain Lord Amelius Beauclerk
February 1799 June 1802 Captain Charles John Moore Mansfield
May 1803 February 1803 Captain Robert Williams
1804 1804 Captain John Giffard
1804 1809 Captain Adam Drummond
July 1807 1808 Captain William Price Cumby, pro tempore command
1809 1814 Captain Edward Galway
1814 1825 Out of commission
August 1825 20 July 1826 Captain The Hon. Robert Rodney, died in command on 20 July 1826
24 July 1826 1830 Captain The Hon. George Alfred Crofton
May 1830 13 September 1832 Captain John Hayes


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Winfield (2008), p.146.
  2. The Edinburgh magazine, or Literary miscellany, Vol VI, published 1795, p.480
  3. The Naval and Military Magazine - 1827, p.179
  4. William James , Naval History of Great Britain, Volume I, 1796, Light Squadrons and Single Ships, pp331-333 (R. Bentley, London, 1837)
  5. "HMS Minotaur (built 1793), Her History, Her Officers, and Her Crew". Retrieved 2008-02-19. 
  6. William James , Naval History of Great Britain, Volume VI, 1814, Light Squadrons and Single Ships, p270 (R. Bentley, London, 1837)
  7. A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, by John Burke, published by H Colburn and R Bentley, London, 1832 p360
  8. A General and Heraldic Dictionary of the Peerage and Baronetage of the British Empire, by John Burke, published by H Colburn and R Bentley, London, 1832 p305
  9. Nautical Magazine For 1832, p.501