HMS Pomone (1805)

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HMS Pomone, from a color lithograph by T. G. Dalton, after a painting by G.F. St.John
Career (Great Britain) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Pomone
Ordered: 25 November 1802
Builder: Josiah & Brindley, Frindsbury
Laid down: December 1803
Launched: 17 January 1805
Completed: 29 March 1805 at Chatham Dockyard
Commissioned: February 1805
Fate: Wrecked 14 October 1811
General characteristics
Class and type: 38-gun Leda-class frigate
Tons burthen: 1,076 tons
Length: 150 ft 1.5 in (45.758 m) (gundeck)
125 ft 4.875 in (38.22383 m) (keel)
Beam: 39 ft 11 in (12.17 m)
Depth of hold: 12 ft 9 in (3.89 m)
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Complement: 284, later 300, then 330

38 guns

  • UD: 28 x 18 pdr guns
  • QD: 8 x 9-pounder guns + 14 x 32-pounder carronades
  • Fc: 2 x 9-pounder guns + 2 x 32-pounder carronades

HMS Pomone was a 38-gun Leda-class fifth rate of the Royal Navy, built by Josiah and Thomas Brindley at Frindsbury and launched in 1805. She saw action during the Napoleonic Wars, primarily in the Mediterranean while under the command of Capt. Robert Barrie. She was wrecked off The Needles, part of the Isle of Wight, in 1811.


Pomone was commissioned in February 1805 under Captain William Lobb for Channel Service.[1] Under his command she took two privateers. On 5 November 1805, Pomone captured the Spanish privateer Golondrina, a lugger of 4 guns and with a crew of 29 men, on the coast of Spain. On 25 January 1806, Pomone's boats captured the Spanish privateer lugger Bengador, off Lisbon. She had one gun and a crew of 28 men. She was six weeks out of Bayonne, having taken one prize, the Maid of the Mill, William Dearing (master), which had been on a voyage from Newfoundland to Lisbon. Pomone destroyed the lugger and retook her prize.

File:SIr Robert Barrie.jpg
Robert Barrie, c.1825

Captain Sir Robert Barrie took command in May 1806.[1]

In 1807, Pomone operated in the Channel where between 21 April and 7 June, she captured or destroyed 21 French vessels. In particular, on 7 May, boats from Pomone and Hazard cut out four luggers from the Île de Ré. Although enemy fire after the capture sank the one laden with canvas, the three laden with wine and brandy fortunately remained in British hands. Then on 5 June, Pomone saw three armed brigs escorting a convoy near the Île d'Yeu.[1] Although the British squadron was out of reach, Barrie decided to try to prevent the convoy from reaching the Les Sables-d'Olonne. In all, Pomone destroyed the armed brigs and her boats succeeded in taking 14 vessels - seven brigs, five sloops, a dogger and a chasse-maree laden with wheat, flour and provisions - and driving one on shore. The convoy had sailed from Nantes, heading for Rochefort, but the prize crews took the vessels into Plymouth.

On 27 July 1808 Barrie sailed Pomone for the Mediterranean.[1] On 13 June 1809, off Cape Bon, she took the 3-gun Neapolitan privateer bombard Lucien Charles after a short chase.[1]

Then on 21 October, Pomone and Alceste were watching Toulon and spotted the French fleet putting to sea. Barrie immediately sailed to Cape St. Sebastian on the Catalonian coast to notify Admiral Lord Collingwood in Ville de Paris that three French ships-of-the-line, two frigates and two smaller ships had separated from a convoy of about 20 sail. On the 23rd, Barrie, and Captain Charles Bullen in Volontaire were able to signal the French squadron's position. That afternoon Pomone was able to burn two brigs, two bombards and a ketch belonging to the convoy before losing the enemy in the darkness. Rear Admiral George Martin, with eight vessels, chased the French squadron under Rear Admiral Francois Andre Baudin with the result that two French ships of the line, the Lion and the Robuste grounded near Frontignan, where their crews burnt them.[2]

On the last day of March 1810, Pomone captured the 10-gun French privateer Fortunee. On 11 May, Pomone captured the French 8-gun privateer Jupiter.[1]

On 18 January 1811, Pomone captured the French privateer brig Dubourdieu, out of Toulon, with a crew of 93 men and armed with fourteen 12-pounders. At daybreak on 13 March, Pomone was about 25 miles west of the Maddalena Archipelago between Corsica and Sardinia, when she sighted a brig to the east. Barrie gave chase but the winds were weak and by the following morning saw that during the night the enemy vessel had pulled much farther away. He continued the chase until about midday when the vessel entered a small cove on the north side of Montecristo, which is about 30 miles south of Elba. When Pomone finally closed the island at about 4 o'clock, the brig's crew set her on fire; she blew up about an hour later. She turned out to have been the French man-of war Etourdie, of two bow chasers and sixteen carronades.

File:Genoise tower in corsica.jpg
A Genoese tower in Corsica

On 30 April, Pomone reached the Bay of Sagone in Corsica, in company with the 40-gun frigate Unite, Capt. Chamberlayne, having received intelligence that a French convoy was massing there. The next morning the 18-gun Cruizer class brig-sloop Scout, Capt. Sharpe, joined them. There were three vessels in the bay: the 26-gun Giraffe, the 14-gun Nourrice, and an armed merchant vessel. A battery of four guns covered the vessels, and there were also regular troops with field pieces on site. There being no wind, the three British captains had their boats tow their ships into range of the French vessels. After an hour and a half, the guns on shore were silent and all three French vessels were on fire. The British withdrew to avoid being damaged when the two French warships blew up. The French vessels had been laden with timber and their destruction retarded ship building in Toulon until the next year. Also, the fires resulted in the destruction of a Genoese coastal tower (perhaps the Torra di Sagone), and the battery's ammunition store. Pomone lost two men killed and 19 wounded; Unite and Scout had six wounded between them.

While still in the Mediterranean, Pomone captured a vessel carrying Lucien Bonaparte, his family, retainers and plunder. Barrie took the party, some forty persons in all, to Malta, arriving on 23 August 1810. Barrie held that Bonaparte's ill-gotten gains were private property and relinquished all claims.

The wreck

Pomone wrecking, from the Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology

Returning from the Mediterranean with Sir Harford Jones, the British Ambassador to Persia, on board, as well as some Arab stallions that the Shah of Persia had sent as a present to King George III, Pomone struck on The Needles at seven o'clock on Monday, 14 October 1811. Unfortunately, the master mistook the light at The Needles for the light at Hurst Castle.

Pomone struck a sunken rock about two cables' length to the southwest of Needles point.[3] She forced over the rock but immediately filled with water. Before the crew could execute any manoeuvre the waves forced her onto Needle Point. The crew cut away her masts but could not get her off.[3]

Fortunately there was no wind. As a result, boats from the guardship Tisiphone and pilot boats from Yarmouth were able to get alongside in an hour and take off the crew. The gunbrig Escort took Sir Hartford to Portsmouth. Over the next three days Pomone's cannon, masts, cargo and valuables were all salvaged, with the Shah's horses being manhandled out through the gun ports. She had 55,000 dollars on board, which were saved except for 4,000 dollars that some of the salvors stole. A Marine stove in spirit casks and drank himself senseless, and a seaman was sentenced to 50 lashes for getting drunk after the vessel was wrecked.[3]

A court martial on 25 October absolved Barrie and his officers of blame but reprimanded the master for his failure to take accurate bearings of Hurst Castle. Barrie was appointed to the 74-gun third rate, Dragon. In response to the wrecking the Admiralty ordered that its ships should not attempt the Needle Passage at night.[3]

Wreck site

The shipwreck site identified at The Needles contains the remains of two wrecks, thought to be HMS Assurance and the stern part of the Pomone. The wreck site was designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act on 4 April 1974. The majority of finds recovered from this double wreck site are thought to be from the Pomone.

It is possible that another wreck site identified in Alum Bay could be the bow end of the Pomone.

The wreck site was identified by an Isle of Wight resident, Derek Williams, who became the first licensee.

The Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology operates the Underwater Archaeology Centre, which is housed in five former casemates of Fort Victoria (Isle of Wight). The museum houses several exhibitions, including one about the wreck of Pomone.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Winffield (2008), p. 165.
  2. Clowes, et. al. (1996-7), pp.278-80.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Gosset (1986), p. 80.