HMS Raisonnable (1768)

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Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Raisonnable
Ordered: 11 January 1763
Builder: Chatham Dockyard
Laid down: 25 November 1765
Launched: 10 December 1768
Honours and

Participated in:

Fate: Broken up, 1815
Notes: Receiving ship from 1810
General characteristics [1]
Class and type: Ardent class ship of the line
Tons burthen: 1386 tons (1408.2 tonnes)
Length: 160 ft (49 m) (gundeck)
Beam: 44 ft 4 in (13.51 m)
Depth of hold: 19 ft (5.8 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Complement: 500 officers and men

64 guns:

  • Gundeck: 26 × 24 pdrs
  • Upper gundeck: 26 × 18 pdrs
  • Quarterdeck: 10 × 4 pdrs
  • Forecastle: 2 × 9 pdrs

HMS Raisonnable (sometimes spelt Raisonable)[2] was a 64-gun third rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, named after the ship of the same name captured from the French in 1758. She was built at Chatham Dockyard, launched on 10 December 1768[1] and commissioned on 17 November 1770 under the command of Captain Maurice Suckling, Horatio Nelson's uncle. Raisonnable was built to the same lines as HMS Ardent, and was one of the seven ships forming the Ardent-class of 1761. Raisonnable was the first ship in which Nelson served.

Service History

At the request of Nelson's father, Suckling entered the young Horatio Nelson as midshipman into the ship's books, though Nelson did not embark until a couple of months after this (it was not uncommon practise to rate sons of relatives or friends several months before they entered the ship, though Admiralty orders expressly forbade this), on 15 March 1771. Raisonnable had been in the process of commissioning at this time, in response to an expected conflict with Spain. However, the war never developed, and Raisonnable remained in the Medway as a guard ship. At this time, Suckling took command of the 74-gun HMS Triumph, and took Nelson with him.

The ship re-commissioned on 25 May 1771 under Captain Henry St. John, a mere 10 days since paying off as a guard ship, and joined the Channel Fleet. St John was succeeded by Captain Thomas Greaves on 23 January 1773, and Raisonnable paid off at Plymouth on 23 September 1775.

American Revolutionary War

She was again re-commissioned on 25 February 1776 under Captain Thomas Fitzherbert, and despatched to the North American Station. In July 1778, Raisonnable formed part of Lord Howe's squadron, which was lying off Sandy Point. The French Admiral d'Estaing was nearby with a large fleet, and the two opposing sides were only prevented from engaging in battle by the weather and sea conditions, which forced the two fleets to disperse.

Captain Henry Evans took command of Raisonnable on 5 December 1778, and in May of the following year, took part in an assault on Hampton Roads, as part of Commodore Sir George Collier's squadron. On 1 June Raisonnable was in action on the Hudson River, during which two forts were captured. In August, with Collier embarked, Raisonnable sailed to Penobscot, where British forces were under heavy siege. Immediately after arriving, Collier's squadron of 7 ships engaged a rebel fleet of 41 vessels, of which 2 were captured, and the rest were either sunk or destroyed to prevent capture.

In January 1780, Raisonnable was part of Vice Admiral Mariot Arbuthnot's squadron which took part in the siege of Charleston, South Carolina, although Raisonnable, along with the 5 other third rates in the squadron, was sent back to New York before the siege began. Captain Evans left the ship on 14 May 1780.

Captain Sir Digby Dent assumed the command on 30 August, and returned the ship to England. Dent transferred to Repulse on 16 December, and Raisonnable paid off in January the following year. On 11 May 1781 she went into dock, during which time she had her bottom coppered. She was re-launched on 14 January 1782 and placed under the command of Captain Smith Childs on 15 May, until 29 August when he shifted to HMS Europa. She was commissioned again on 8 January 1782 under Captain Lord Harvey, who paid the ship off at Chatham in August. The American war at this stage was coming to an end, and Raisonnable was no longer required by the Navy, and so was laid up in ordinary - a state in which she remained for some ten years.

French Revolutionary War

When war with France broke out in 1793, Raisonnable, along with many other vessels, was brought out of ordinary, and made ready for service once more. On 31 January she was re-commissioned under Captain James, Lord Cranstoun. She joined with the Channel Fleet in April, but was back in dock, in Portsmouth this time, on 14 January 1794. She put to sea again in March, but returned to dock in Portsmouth in September so as her copper might be replaced. She once more re-joined the Channel Fleet on 1 November, and remained on active service until 14 October 1796, when she was docked at Plymouth for re-coppering. She returned to duty in January 1797, and during 1799, Captain Charles Boyles took over the command, and left the ship again, when Raisonnable returned to Chatham on 21 January 1800, for HMS Saturn. She was dry docked on 2 April for re-coppering and other repairs, and sailed again on 19 August.

Captain John Dilkes became Raisonnable's commanding officer on 21 January 1801, and the ship joined the North Sea Squadron. 1801 saw the creation of an alliance between Denmark, Norway, Prussia and Russia, which cut Britain off from the supplies relied upon from the Baltic. Raisonnable joined Admiral Sir Hyde Parker's fleet sent to attack the Danes at Copenhagen. On 2 April, she took part in the Battle of Copenhagen. After the battle, she was attached to a squadron under Captain George Murray in the Edgar, which included one of Raisonnable's sister ships, HMS Agamemnon, to watch the Swedish Navy at Karlskrona. Once the situation in the Baltic was resolved, Raisonnable returned to the North Sea, before paying off.

When the Treaty of Amiens was signed in March 1802, Raisonnable was docked at Chatham in July and her copper repaired. She was on station at Sheerness once again by the end of December.

Napoleonic Wars

War broke out again with France in March 1803, and Raisonnable was by this time under the command of Captain William Hotham. She joined Admiral William Cornwallis and the Channel Fleet, and participated in the blockade of Brest. In September 1804 Hotham was replaced by Captain Robert Barton, who was himself replaced in April 1805 by Captain Josias Rowley.

In July 1805, she was with Admiral Sir Robert Calder's squadron off Ferrol, when they fell in with the combined Franco-Spanish fleet under Admiral Villeneuve, and took part in the ensuing Battle of Cape Finisterre.

Raisonnable remained on blockade duty until sailing from Cork in late 1805 with Commodore Sir Home Riggs Popham's squadron, consisting of 9 vessels, including another of Raisonnable's sister ships, Belliqueux, for the Cape of Good Hope. The following campaign saw British troops drive the Dutch out of Cape Town, and the subsequent peace terms handed the Cape dependencies to the British crown. In April 1806, after receiving news that the people of Buenos Aires were unhappy with Spanish rule, and would welcome the British, Popham sailed with his squadron to the Río de la Plata. Popham was replaced by Rear Admiral Murray, and following a disastrous second attempt to take Buenos Aires, Raisonnable returned to the Cape.

In 1809, Captain Rowley commanded a squadron that blockaded Mauritius (the Isle of France) and Réunion (the Isle of Bourbon). On 20 September, Rowley, commanding the squadron from HMS Nereide, succeeded in taking the town of Saint-Paul, the batteries, a 40-gun frigate Caroline, a 16-gun brig, and 2 merchantmen, as well as rescuing 2 ships of the Honourable East India Company (Streatham and Europe). Captain Rowley transferred to HMS Boadicea during March 1810, and Captain John Hatley took over the command, paying the ship off in Chatham at the end of July.

In November 1810, Raisonnable was hulked and converted into a receiving ship, and towed to Sheerness. In March 1815, she was finally broken up.[1][2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Lavery, Ships of the Line vol.1, p178.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ships of the Old Navy, Raisonable.


  • Michael Phillips. Raisonable (64) (1768). Michael Phillips' Ships of the Old Navy. Retrieved 1 September 2008.
  • Goodwin, Peter (2002) Nelson's Ships - A History of the Vessels in which he Served, 1771-1805. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 978-0-85177-742-9
  • Lavery, Brian (2003) The Ship of the Line - Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650-1850. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.

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