HMS Galatea (1794)

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HMS Galatea, by Thomas Whitcombe
HMS Galatea, by Thomas Whitcombe
Career Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Galatea
Builder: George Parsons, Bursledon
Launched: 1794
Fate: Broken up, May 1809
General characteristics
Type: Fifth-rate frigate
Tons burthen: 808 long tons (821 t) BOM
Length: 135 ft (41 m)
Beam: 36 ft 6 in (11.13 m)
Propulsion: Sail
Armament: 32 × 18-pounder guns

HMS Galatea was a fifth-rate 32-gun sailing frigate of the British Royal Navy, built by George Parsons at Bursledon, and launched in 1794.[1] Before she was broken up she captured numerous prizes and participated in a number of actions, first in the Channel and off Ireland (1794-1803), and then in the Caribbean (1802-1809).

Service history

Channel Fleet, 1794–1803

Under the command of Capt. Richard Goodwin Keats the ship formed part of the Channel Squadrons under Sir Edward Pellew and Sir John Borlase Warren. She took part in the capture or destruction of a number of French warships. She took the frigate La Revolutionnaire on 21 October 1794.

On 26 February 1795, Pomone, under Captain Sir John Borlase Warren, captured a 12-gun schooner off the Île de Groix, near Lorient. She was the conventional, American-built Coureuse and she was escorting a convoy of three brigs and two luggers from Brest to Lorient. The frigates Artois and Galatea, and the hired lugger Duke of York assisted Pomone in the capture. The British scuttled two of the brigs that were of little value, but took the other four vessels as prizes, with Coureuse being taken into service briefly as a dispatch vessel in the Mediterranean.[2]

Then Galatea and Artois took the corvette Jean Bart (26) and former British packet Expedition (16) on 15 and 16 April 1795. Galatea, Artois, Anson and Pomone captured L'Etoile (30), on 20 March 1796. Galatea drove the frigate L'Andromaque (48, but mounting only 40 guns) ashore at Arcasson where the brig Sylph destroyed her on 23 August 1796.[3]

30 June 1797, while under the command of Capt. George Byng, Galatea captured the privateer lugger Argonaute off Cape Clear. A month and a half or so later she, together with the 22-gun Doris, took the 22-gun privateer Duguay Trouin. Then on 6 November she captured the 14-gun Venturier, the former Ranger. The Royal Navy took her back into service as HMS Venturer.[4]

In 1799, Galatea was stationed off Southern Ireland. In January 1800 she escorted a valuable Cork convoy through the Channel to the Downs. Then during the winter of 1800 a boat of hers captured the Spanish letter of marque Pensee. During a dark, tempestuous night, Lieut. Donald Campbell and six men took a boat and after an hour they got alongside the Spanish vessel and took possession of her. As they boarded Pensee their boat was stove in and for the next ten days, in continuing bad weather, they had to navigate the prize and control 20 prisoners before they were able to remake contact with Galatea. For this feat Lieut. Campbell received promotion to the position of senior lieutenant of Carysfort.[3]

In April 1801 Galatea recaptured the Kenyon, en route from Jamaica to Liverpool with a cargo worth £40,000, which the 44-gun Braave had taken. Galatea searched for Kenyon and her three other prizes but was unable to find them.[3]

From May to September Galatea cruised in the Atlantic and off the western islands. Then during October and November she encountered fifteen severe gales during a 28-day cruise in the Bay of Biscay. On 1 and 2 November she nearly foundered when her mizzen mast and the main and foretop masts carried away. One seaman was lost overboard and several were injured. Galatea finally limped back to Plymouth under jury rig for a refit before returning to Cork. She was paid off on 28 April 1802.[3]

Recommissioned under Capt. George Wolfe, at the beginning of August 1802 Galatea took discharged Dutch troops from the Isle of Wight to Holland, returning to Plymouth from Den Helder in a gale on 3 September. She then sailed on a cruise against smugglers. She continued on anti-smuggling patrol during the peace of Amiens.[3] In 1803 under Capt. Henry Heathcote, she fitted out at Portsmouth, and on 8 July sailed to take up position as guardship off The Needles.

Caribbean, 1804–1809

In February 1804 she escorted a fleet of merchantmen to the West Indies, and on 14 August made an unsuccessful attempt to cut out the French privateer General Ernouf (formerly the British purchased sloop-of-war Lilly) lying at the Saintes near Guadeloupe.[3] In 1805 Galatea was under the command of Capt. Murray Maxwell at Jamaica.

On 18 August 1806 Lieut. M'Culloch, in the ship's barge, pursued a schooner for some miles up a river on the Spanish Main near Porto Cavallo (Venezuela), before capturing her. She proved to be a Spanish privateer with three long 6 and 4-pounders. The lieutenant blew her up and brought away the prisoners.[3] Three days later Galatea's boats captured a small Spanish privateer and then cut out several vessels from Barcelona (Colombia) between 9 and 11 October.[5]

Off Guadeloupe on the morning of 12 November 1806, under Capt. George Sayer, Galatea chased and took the 10-gun schooner Reunion, bound for Martinique from La Guaira with cargo and dispatches for the French General from the Spanish government at Caracas.[3]

On the morning of 21 January 1807 Galatea was off the coast of Venezuela when she sighted a sail steering for La Guaira. She closed, identified the vessel as a man-of-war, and forced her to change course for Barcelona, some 160 miles to the east. By noon Galatea was becalmed while the enemy had the benefit of a slight breeze and two hours later her top-gallant sails were scarcely above the horizon. Galatea's launched her boats under first Lieut. William Coombe, with Lieuts. Harry Walker and Robert Gibson, Master's Mates John Green and Barry Sarsfield, 50 seamen and 20 marines. After rowing about 35 miles in eight hours, the boats caught up with the man-of-war. Twice they tried to board on both quarters, but fire from her guns repelled them. The boats fell back and poured musket and small arms fire through the stern and quarter ports, clearing the deck of many of the enemy, including the captain and most of his officers. A subsequent third attack was successful.

Lt. Coombe and his men soon found themselves in possession of the French corvette Lynx, of fourteen 24-pounder carronades, two long 9-pounder guns and a crew of 161. The French had lost 14 men killed and 20 wounded. The British loss was 9 killed, including Lieut. Walker. Coombe and Master's Mates Sarsfield and Green were among the 22 wounded. Coombe's wound was in the thigh above his previous amputation. Lynx was taken into the Royal Navy as Heureux under the command of Lieut. Coombe, who received a promotion to Commander.[3] In 1849 the Navy awarded the survivors a clasp to the Naval General Service Medal.


Galatea returned to England in the spring of 1809 where she was paid off. Her condition was so bad that she was broken up at Woolwich in April.[3] In November, Captain Sayer took command of Leda.


  1. "HMS Galatea". Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  2. Chapelle, Howard Irving (1967) The search for speed under sail, 1700-1855 (New York: Norton), 154. Note: Chapelle reports that Coureuse only had eight guns, and 2-pounders at that.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 "GALATEA (32), 1794". Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  4. Winfield (2008), p.145.
  5. Winfield (2008), p. 145.