HMS Leda (1800)

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Career (UK) RN Ensign
Name: HMS Leda
Operator:  Royal Navy
Ordered: 27 April 1796
Builder: Chatham Dockyard
Laid down: 1 May 1799
Launched: 18 November 1800
Completed: 19 December 1800
Commissioned: November 1800
Fate: Wrecked 31 January 1808 off Milford Haven
General characteristics
Class and type: Leda-class frigate
Tons burthen: 1071 bm
Length: 150 ft 2 in (45.77 m) (gundeck)
125 ft 4 in (38.20 m) (gundeck)
Beam: 40 ft 1 in (12.22 m)
Depth of hold: 12 ft 9 in (3.89 m)
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Complement: 284 (later 300);
Armament: Upper deck: Twenty-eight 18-pounder guns
Forecastle: Two 9-pounder guns and two 32-pounder carronades
Quarter deck: Eight 9-pounder guns and six 32-pounder carronades

HMS Leda, launched in 1800, was the lead ship of a successful class of forty-seven British Royal Navy 38-gun sailing frigates. Leda's design was based on the French frigate Hébé, which the British had captured in 1782. (Hébé herself was the name vessel for the French Hébé-class frigates. Hébé, therefore, has the rare distinction of being the model for both a French and a British frigate class.) Leda was wrecked at the mouth of Milford Haven in 1808.


Captain George Johnstone Hope commissioned Leda and sailed her in the Channel and to the coast of Egypt.

In March 1801, Leda recaptured the Bolton, Captain Watson, a 22-gun letter of marque that had sailed from Demerara to Liverpool some 6 weeks previously with the Union and Dart. These two vessels were also letters of marque, carrying valuable cargoes of sugar, coffee, indigo and cotton, but the French privateer Gironde of Bordeaux had taken Bolton in a fight that killed two passengers and wounded Watson and five men.

In 1803 Leda was in the Channel under Captain Robert Honeyman. On the renewal of the war with France, Honeyman received command of a small squadron of gun-brigs off Boulogne. On 29 September he attacked a division of enemy gun boats and drove two on shore. A shell hit Leda and exploded in the hold but did little damage and caused no casualties.

At the end of July 1804, Leda's boats under Lieutenant M'Lean boarded a French gunvessel in Boulogne Roads but because of the strong tide were unable to bring her out. Casualties were heavy in the cutting out party M'Lean was among the dead. In all only 14 men returned to Leda.

About 6 o'clock on the morning of 24 April 1805 twenty-six French vessels were sighted rounding Cap Gris Nez. Honeyman immediately ordered Fury, Harpy, Railleur, Bruiser, Gallant, Archer, Locust, Tickler, Watchful, Monkey, Firm and Starling to weigh. After a fight of about two hours, Starling and Locust had captured seven schuyts in an action within pistol-shot of the enemy batteries on Cap Gris Nez.[1] The schuyts were carrying 117 soldiers and 43 seamen under the command of officers from the 51st. Infantry regiment. They each were armed with one 24-pounder and two smaller guns or two 18-pounders. The next day Archer brought in two more. The French convoy had been bound for Ambleteuse from Dunkirk. On 25 April 1805 Railleur towed eight of the French schuyts into the Downs. Starling, which had been much damaged, followed Railleur in.

In January 1806 Leda was with Sir Home Popham's squadron at the reduction of the Cape of Good Hope and accompanied him across the Atlantic for his expedition to the River Plate. On 9 September 1806 she chased a brigantine and drove her ashore whilst she was running for Montevideo. Leda sent her boats to bring off or destroy her. Heavy seas made it impossible to bring the brigantine off or set her on fire, so the boat crews set her adrift among the breakers. During the operation small arms fire from the shore wounded four men.

Leda remained in South America until the final British evacuation in about September 1807. She then returned to Sheerness and served in the Channel. At eight o'clock on the morning of 4 December, some 12 miles off the Cap de Caux, Leda sighted a privateer lugger making for the French coast with a brig that appeared to be her prize. The brig ran for Havre de Grace but the lugger stood East by South with Leda in pursuit. After six hours Leda succeeded in capturing the lugger, which turned out to be the brand new vessel Adolphe, commanded by Nicholas Famenter. Adolphe was well-armed, carrying ten 18-pound carronades, four long 4-pounders, two 2-pounders and two swivels. She had only 25 men on board, the other 45 being away in prizes.


On 31 January 1808, Leda was wrecked at the mouth of Milford Haven. A court martial held on board the HMS Salvador del Mundo in the Hamoaze acquitted Honeyman and his crew of all blame.

Notes and References

  1. A schuyt was a Dutch flat-bottomed sailboat, broad in the beam, with square stern; usually equipped with leeboards to serve for a keel.