HMS Proselyte (1796)

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HMS Proselyte was a 32-gun Royal Navy fifth-rate frigate. She was the former Dutch frigate Jason, built in 1789-91 at Amsterdam, the Netherlands, as a 36-gun frigate. However, due to political disagreement and bad treatment aboard, some of her crew mutinied, locked up the captain and his followers below deck, and sailed into Greenock, Scotland on 8 June 1796. Captain Pulling of the 18-gun brig-sloop Pelican took possession of her.

British service

She was commissioned as a 32-gun frigate under Captain John Loring in September 1796. She carried 26 12-pounder guns and six 6-pounders. She sailed for Jamaica on 20 February 1797. On 4 June Proselyte captured the French 6-gun privateer Liberté on the West Indies station.

George Fowke was promoted to Post-captain on 9 July 1798 and in December took command of Proselyte. He sailed for the Leeward Islands in February 1801.

In March 1801 Proselyte participated in Rear Admiral Duckworth's successful attack on the islands of St. Bartholomew and St. Martin. Proselyte, Hornet and Drake stayed at St. Martin to secure the island and to embark the garrison on 26 March, while the rest of Duckworth's force went on to St Thomas.

While under the temporary command of Lieutenant Henry Whitby, Fowke not being on board, she was wrecked on 4 September 1801. She was on her way from St. Kitts to St. Martin when she struck the "Man of War Shoal" in view of Philipsburg. All the crew were saved. A court martial on aboard HMS Magnanime at Fort Royal, Martinique, on November 7 1801 found Whitby guilty of negligence for not heeding the warning about the danger of the reef; the court sentenced him to a reduction in rank.

Wreck site

Proselyte is now a popular dive site for visitors to St. Martin. She lies on her starboard side in approximately 50 feet of water, just beyond the mouth of Great Bay at Philipsburg. Numerous cannon, ballast bars, barrel hoops and anchors are scattered around the wreck on the ocean floor, all heavily encrusted with coral, which has made the "Proselyte Reef" a popular dive site. The Sint Maarten Museum has put many artifacts retrieved from Proselyte on display.

  • Winfield, Rif (2007). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1861762461.