HMS Pylades (1781)

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Career (Great Britain) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Pylades
Builder: Amsterdam
Launched: 1781
Acquired: 3 December 1781
Renamed: Launched as the Dutch Hercules
Fate: Broken up by 23 March 1790
General characteristics
Class and type: 18-gun brig-sloop
Tons burthen: 399 12/94 bm
Length: 90 ft 2 in (27.5 m) (overall)
81 ft 8 in (24.9 m) (keel)
Beam: 30 ft 4 in (9.2 m)
Depth of hold: 12 ft (3.66 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: brig-sloop
Complement: 125
  • 18 x short 9pdrs
  • 12 x ½pdr swivels

HMS Pylades was an 18-gun Dutch-built brig-sloop of the Royal Navy. She was originally built as the privateer Hercules, and was captured by the British in 1781. She went on to serve during the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War and the subsequent years of peace.

The privateer was one of two captured in the North Sea in November 1781, both of which were taken into the Navy. Pylades went on to serve under several commanders, spending most of her career sailing in the English Channel. She did not survive to see service in the French Revolutionary Wars, having been sold for breaking up in March 1790.

Dutch service

Hercules was built at Amsterdam in 1781, to prey on British shipping during the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War.[1] On 30 November she sailed from the Texel with another large privateer, the Mars.[2] The vessels were commanded by a father and son team, by the name of Hogenboome, the father had been active as a privateer operating out of Flushing during the Seven Years' War under the alias John Hardapple.[3] The two vessels were estimated to have cost upwards of 20,000 l.[3] Their career as privateers was short-lived, and they managed to capture only a single British fishing smack before they were sighted off Flamborough Head at 10 o'clock in the morning on 3 December by the 40-gun frigate HMS Artois, under the command of Captain John MacBride.[2]


The two Dutch vessels initially approached Artois, apparently appearing 'confident'.[3] The action began at 2pm, with one privateer standing off Artois's bow, while the other attacked her quarter. MacBride concentrated his fire on the ship on his quarter, forcing her to break away, while he turned his attention to the ship off his bow.[3] After thirty minutes this ship surrendered, while the other attempted to escape. MacBride wore around and chased her down, at which she struck her colours.[3] MacBride wrote in his report that the two ships mounted '24 nine-pounders and ten cohorns each.'[3] He described them as 'perfectly new, and alike; sail as fast as the Artois, and are the completest privateers I ever saw.'[3] Hercules was described as carrying 164 men, of whom thirteen were killed and twenty were wounded.[2][4] Artois had one man killed and six wounded in the whole engagement.[2] Impressed by MacBride's report, the Admiralty approved their purchase for service with the Royal Navy, and she was registered as the sloop HMS Pylades on 16 February 1782.[1][5] MacBride's report, though it convinced the Admiralty to acquire the two ships, was apparently greeted with 'much mirth, on account of the singular manner in which it was worded'.[6]

Royal Navy service

Pylades was fitted out at Deptford between February and 16 October 1782, with her armament consisting of 18 short nine-pounders and ten ½-pounder swivel guns.[1] The cost for her to be fitted and coppered came to £3,719.5.7p.[1] Pylades was commissioned in August 1782 under her first captain, Lieutenant John Osborn. Osborn was promoted to the rank of master and commander in January 1783, and remained in command until 1786.[1] During this time Pylades was paid off in May 1783 but recommissioned that same month under Osborn with orders to patrol in the Western Approaches.[1] Osborn left Pylades in 1786, and she recommissioned in November that year under her new captain, Commander Davidge Gould, who was stationed off the Start.[1]

Commander John Stevens Hall became Pylades's new captain in or around March 1789, and served as such until the sloop was paid off in December that year.[1] Pylades was then sold for £27.12.6d and was broken up at Plymouth by 23 March 1790.[1][5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Winfield. British Warships of the Age of Sail. p. 328. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Charnock. Biographia Navalis. p. 561. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 The Naval Chronicle. p. 270. 
  4. Campbell. Naval History of Great Britain. p. 279. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 ColledgeP. Ships of the Royal Navy. p. 281. 
  6. Charnock. Biographia Navalis. p. 560. 


  • Campbell, John (1818). Naval History of Great Britain: Including the History and Lives of the British Admirals. 7. Baldwyn and Co.. 
  • Charnock, John (1798). Biographia Navalis; or, Impartial Memoirs of the Lives ... of Officers of the Navy of Great Britain from ... 1660. 6. London: R. Fauldner. 
  • Clowes, William Laird (1997 [1900]). The Royal Navy, A History from the Earliest Times to 1900, Volume IV. Chatham Publishing. ISBN 1-86176-013-2. 
  • Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) [1969]. Ships of the Royal Navy: the complete record of all fighting ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham. ISBN 9781861762818. OCLC 67375475. 
  • The Naval Chronicle. 19. London: J. Gold. 1808. 
  • Winfield, Rif (2007). British Warships of the Age of Sail 1714–1792: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1-86176-295-X.