HMS Fly (1776)

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Name: HMS Fly
Ordered: 1775
Builder: Williams
Laid down: January 1776
Launched: 14 September 1776
In service: 1776-1802
Fate: Foundered off Newfoundland, 1802
General characteristics
Class and type: [{Swan class sloop
Complement: 125
Armament: 14 guns

HMS Fly was the fifth vessel built of the Swan class of ship-rigged sloops, of which twenty five of the class were built for the Royal Navy from 1766 to 1780.

Fly, as with the entire Swan class, was designed by Williams and her construction was ordered by the Admiralty on 1 August 1775 to be built at Sheerness Dockyard. The keel was laid in January, 1776, and launched on 14 September 1776.

The Swan class sloops were unusually attractive for the class of vessel, with not only very sleek hull lines but also an unusual amount of decoration for the size of vessel. They were built just before the Admiralty issued orders that all vessels (especially lesser rates and unrated vessels) were to have minimal decoration and carvings to save on costs, due to the seemingly ever-continuing war with France and other nations.

The Swan class measured 97' 7" on the gun deck and displaced 300 tons. They carried 125 officers and men and initially carried 14 cannons (later 16), and 16 swivel guns.


Fly was commissioned mainly for convoy escort duty and dispatch duty.

In June 1794 she came under the command of Richard Hussey Moubray. Five days after the capture of Port-au-Prince he was ordered to convey Captain Rowley and Lieutenant Colonel Whitelocke, the bearers of the dispatches, to England. In December 1794 Fly escorted the Duke of York from Helvoetsluys to Harwich. Later, she took part in the seizure of Dutch ships in Plymouth Sound: two line-of-battle ships, one frigate, two sloops-of-war,nine East Indiamen and about sixty other vessels. Afterwards, Fly convoyed trade in the Channel and to and from Gibraltar.

On 22 August 1796 Fly captured the French privateer Furet, of five swivels and 27 men, off Portland.

January 1796 Commander H. S. Butt took command, followed in May 1797 by Commander Cumberland, and in November 1798 by Commander Zachary Mudge. On 4 February 1799 Fly captured the French privateer Gleneur, of six guns and 32 men, off Portland after a long chase. On her previous cruise Gleneur had successfully cut out of Torbay the Anna of Hull, the Hopwell and the Lucy of Whitehaven. Hopewell was later recaptured.

On 21 May 1800 Fly returned to Portsmouth, having crossed from Halifax in 21 days with dispatches from the Duke of Kent. She had a narrow escape on the edge of the Newfoundland Banks when, at dusk in a thick fog, a vast iceberg was seen one cable's length right ahead. The sloop was running before the wind doing about 9 knots but by putting the helm down she just shot clear.

Fly sailed for a cruise off Cherbourg on the 28 June 1800 and returned to Portsmouth on 26 July after heavy gales from the N. E. to N. N.W. compelled her to leave her station to take shelter in Guernsey Roads. She had great difficulty in clearing La Hogue but captured a French privateer cutter, Trompeur, there.

In November 1800 Fly came under the command of Commander Thomas Duvall. She sailed from Portsmouth on 7 January 1801 with a convoy for the coast of Africa and returned on 20 August. A court martial was held on board Gladiator in Portsmouth Harbour on the 25 August 1801 to try Mr William McLeod, Fly's purser. The court martial board ordered him dismissed his Majesty's service for not supplying his ship with stores and for drunkenness and neglect of duty.


Fly continued convoy duties until she foundered and was lost with all hands off Cape Flattery, Newfoundland in 1802.[1]


The original plans of the Fly still exist. Victory Models, Euromodels and Amati all offer 1:64 scale historically accurate wooden model kits based upon the plans.


  1. Gossett (1986), p.36.
  • Gossett, William Patrick (1986). The lost ships of the Royal Navy, 1793-1900. Mansell. ISBN 0-7201-1816-6. 
  • Phillips, Michael - Ships of the Old Navy: [1]
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1861762461.