HMS Tartar (1801)

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Tartar fighting gunboats at Alvøen
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Tartar
Builder: Brindley, Frindsbury
Launched: 27 June 1801
Commissioned: July 1801
Out of service: 2 February 1811
Fate: Wrecked in the Baltic
General characteristics
Class and type: Fifth rate
Tons burthen: 885 bm
Length: 142 ft 0 in (43.28 m)
Beam: 37 ft 5 in (11.40 m)
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship

32 guns

  • 26 x 18 pounders
  • 6 x 9 pounders

HMS Tartar was a 32-gun fifth rate of the Royal Navy. This frigate was built at Frindsbury and launched in 1801. She captured privateers on the Jamaica station and fought in the Gunboat War and elsewhere in the Baltics before being lost to grounding off Estonia in 1811.

Jamaica station

Captain James Walker commissioned Tartar in July 1801 and sailed for Jamaica in October. In June 1802 Captain Charles Inglis took command and in 1803 Captain John Perkins succeeded him. Between 20 November and 4 December 1803 Tartar was in company with Captain Loring's squadron when the squadron captured the French ships of war Le Decouverte, Clorinde, Surveillante, Vertu, and Cerf.[1] Surveillante and Clorinde were bought into British service. Surveillante had on board at her surrender General Rochambeau the commander of the French forces on Saint-Domingue. Tartar was in Captain John Loring's squadron at Vanguard's capture of the 74-gun Duquesne and the 16-gun Oiseau and another unnamed 16-gun brig off Saint-Domingue on 25 July. Tartar outsailed her larger companions and kept the Duquesne and her consorts engaged until the larger British ships came up and the French squadron surrendered.[2][3] A seaman's share of the prize money aboard the Tartar for the capture was 6 shillings and 8 pence.[4]

In 1803 and 1804 Perkins escorted Edward Corbet to Haiti. Corbet had been appointed to liaise with Jean-Jacques Dessalines, the new governor general and later first Emperor of Haiti. These missions were often less than successful[5].

In 1804 Tartar was on the Jamaica Station under Capt. Keith Maxwell, who was posted on 1 May. On 31 July, she was in the narrow and intricate channel between the island of Saona and San Domingo when she sighted a schooner using her sweeps in attempt to escape. Maxwell suspected the schooner was a privateer and gave chase until neither vessel could go any farther through the channel. He then sent three boats after the vessel, which hoisted French colours and opened fire with grape from her guns and musketry from 50 men lining her side. The British captured her for the loss of two men wounded. The French lost nine killed and six wounded, who were sent to San Domingo under flag of truce. The privateer was the Hirondelle, Capt. La Place, armed with ten 4-pounders.

At the end of 1804, Captain Edward Hawker removed from Theseus to Tartar and sailed her from Jamaica to the Halifax station. On 9 January 1805 Tartar accompanied by Surveillante captured the Spanish ship El Batidor.[6] On 9 June 1806, Tartar and the 10-gun sloop Bachus captured the French brig Observateur, Capt. Crozier, of 18 guns and 104 men. Observateur had sailed from Cayenne on 13 May with the brig-of-war Argus, victualled for a cruise of 4 months. Later in the year Capt. Hawker exchanged with Capt. Stephen Poyntz of Melampus and Tartar returned to England under reduced masts to repair damage received in a hurricane.

Gunboat War

In October, Capt. G.E.B. Bettesworth took command while Tartar was fitting out at Deptford for service in the Baltic. This was early in the Gunboat War between Britain and Denmark-Norway.

On 15 May 1807, in what became known as the Battle of Alvøen, Tartar approached Bergen under Dutch colours to attack the Dutch frigate Guelderland, which had been undergoing repairs there. Unfortunately the Guelderland had already sailed, so during the night Bettesworth sent in boats in an attempt to attack other shipping in the harbour. When the boats came under heavy fire, Tartar came in to cover them, only to come under attack by the schooner Odin and five gunboats. Bettesworth and another seaman were killed and twelve men were wounded before Tartar was able to make her escape.

On 3 November 1808, under Capt. Joseph Baker, Tartar was escorting a convoy off the Naze of Norway. She sighted a sloop and after a chase of three hours, Tartar captured the sloop, which turned out to be the Danish privateer Naargske Gutten, of seven 6 and 4-pounders and 36 men. She was quite new and only one day out from Christiansand.

On 15 May 1809, Baker and Tartar chased a Danish privateer sloop on shore near Felixberg on the coast of Courland. The sloop was armed with two 12-pounders and two long 4-pounders and carried a crew of 24. The crew, armed with muskets, took up positions behind the sandhills, where some local civilians joined them. Baker sent in his boats. The British cutting out party boarded the privateer, without loss, and turned the privateer's guns on the beach. During this exchange, one of the prize crew fortunately discovered a lighted candle set in a powder cartridge in the magazine and extinguished it when it had only a half an inch to burn. The privateer's magazine contained about a hundredweight of powder; had it exploded it would have killed the boarding party.[Note 1] The prize crew then brought the sloop off.

Battle of Anholt

At the beginning of March 1811 Vice Admiral Sir James Saumarez received information that the Danes would attack the island of Anholt, on which there was a garrison of British forces under Capt. Maurice of the Royal Navy. Tartar sailed from Yarmouth on the 20th and anchored off the north end of the island on the 26th. On the 27 March the garrison sighted the enemy off the south side of the island. Maurice marched to meet them with a battery of howitzers and 200 infantry, and signaled Tartar and Sheldrake. The two vessels immediately weighed and, under a heavy press of sail made every endeavour to beat south but the shoals forced them to stand so far out that it took them many hours.

The Danes, who had eighteen heavy gunboats for support, landed some 1000 troops in the darkness and fog and attempted to outflank the British positions. Their attack was uncoordinated and poorly equipped. However the batteries at Fort Yorke (the British base) and Massareenes stopped the assault. Gunfire from Tartar and Sheldrake forced the gunboats to move off westwards. The gunboats made their escape over the reefs while the ships had to beat round the outside. Tartar chased three gunboats towards Læsø but found herself in shoal water as night approached and gave up the chase. On the way back Tartar captured two Danish transports that it had passed while chasing the gunboats; one of them had 22 soldiers on board, with a considerable quantity of ammunition, shells and the like, while the other contained provisions.

Sheldrake managed to capture two gunboats. The Danes on the western side managed to embark on board fourteen gunboats and make their escape. The Battle of Anholt cost the British only two killed and 30 wounded. The Danes lost their commander, three other officers, and 50 men killed. The British took, besides the wounded, five captains, nine lieutenants, and 504 rank and file as prisoners, as well as three pieces of artillery, 500 muskets, and 6,000 rounds of ammunition. In addition, Sheldrake's two captured gunboats resulted in another two Lieutenants of the Danish Navy, and 119 men falling prisoner. In 1847 the Admiralty authorized the issuance of the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "ANHOLT 27 MARCH 1811" to the remaining British survivors of the battle.


Tartar grounded on 18 August 1811 on Dagö Island off the coast of Estonia and sprang a leak. Her crew was able to refloat her but she continued to fill with water. Baker then ran her ashore on 21 August at Kahar Islet, midway between Dagö Island and the Isle of Worms; she was later burned to prevent her capture. Ethalion rescued all her crew, who then were re-assigned to other ships on the Baltic station. A court martial on 23 October honorably acquitted Captain Baker, his officers and crew.[7]


  1. London Gazette Issue 15935 published on the 8 July 1806
  2. Naval History of Great Britain Vol. 3, James, p. 186
  3. National Archives, Kew: ADM 51/1447 Captains' logs Tartar 16 Apr 1802 – 30 Apr 1804
  4. London Gazette Issue 15889 published on the 11 February 1806
  5. Lady Nugent's Journal of Her Residence in Jamaica from 1801 to 1805, Shepherd, p. 311-2.
  6. Stephen Minot, Prize Agent, Notice of Prize Money published in the London Gazette, 9 May 1809",, accessed 2nd November, 2009
  7. Grocott (1997), 318.


  • Colledge, J.J. Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of All Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy From the Fifteenth Century to the Present. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1987. ISBN 0-87021-652-X.
  • Grocott, Terence (1997) Shipwrecks of the revolutionary & Napoleonic eras. (Mechanicsburg: Stackpole). ISBN 1861760302
  • Winfield, Rif. British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793-1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth Publishing, 2nd edition, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84415-717-4.
  • Shepherd. Ed. Lady Nugent's Journal of Her Residence in Jamaica from 1801 to 1805 University of the West Indies Press ISBN: 9766401284

External links

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