HMS Rattler

Naval Database

| Previous Page | Next Page | Index

Rattler, 1843
Type: Sloop ; Armament 11 varied but at one time included 1 68pdr, 65 cwt. ; 4 32pdr. 25 cwt.
Laid down : April 1842 ; Launched : April 1843
Disposal date or year : 1856
BM: 888 tons ; Displacement: 1112 tons
Dimensions : 195' x 176' 6" x 32' 8" Propulsion: Screw
Machinery notes: 200 ; Speed ; 9 knots ;

Mar 1841 it is reported that the Rattler has been ordered to be built at Sheerness.

13 Apr 1841 Sheerness, preparations are being made for laying down the Rattler.

12 Apr 1843, Sheerness, launched as the first screw vessel in the RN.

??? 1845 (Cdr GW Smith) arrived back from the Orkney Isles having towed Erebus and Terror to Cape Wrath and thence to Barra and Rona, where the vessels left for their journey of exploration for the icy regions to the north west.

1846 The Experimental Squadron Portsmouth, Thursday. April 23 Rattler, steamer. Commander Smith (screw), Sir W. Symonds constructor, 5 guns, 838 tons 200 horse power.

July 1846 The Squadron of Evolution at Cove. Summer Cruise. With respect to the movements of the squadron we are informed, that they are under orders to proceed again to sea after a delay of three days to water - that they will cruise towards Bantry, and anchor for some time in that splendid bay, where, as we are informed, it is intended that the crews and marines shall be landed and exercised in warlike tactics, landing at night, and such like evolutions, the object of the present trials being to exercise the crews and manoeuvre them in naval operations. See St. Vincent for the full extract from the Cork Southern Reporter.

14 July, 1846. Evolutions for the Squadron of Evolutions See St. Vincent for the full extract from the Cork Cork Examiner

1846 Screw v. Paddle - see below for US Gazette report.

22 Aug 1846, carried out sailing exercises off Lisbon with squadron, including the Hibernia (flag), St Vincent, Queen, Vanguard, Canopus, Rodney, Albion, Rattler, Polyphemus, Raleigh, Eurydice, Spartan, and Constance.

9 Sep 1846, further sailing trials were carried out by the squadron between Lisbon and Cape St. Vincent.

17 Sep 1846, departed Cadiz with Squadron, the St. Vincent and Queen, being detached to England that evening.

18-19 Sep 1846, further trials carried out by the squadron, including by the steamers, with their floats unshipped.

20 Sep 1846, off Cape Spartel.

20 Dec 1848 Steam sloop, Portsmouth.

5 Jul 1849 detained and burned, in lat. 6 0' N., long. 3 50' E., the Brazilian slave vessel Andorinha.

11 Oct 1849 detained in lat. 4 44' N. Long. 3 20' E., the Brazilian slave brig Conquistador, with 317 slaves on board.

2 Jul 1850 detained off the River Congo, the slave brigantine Volusia.

7 Jul 1850 detained in lat. 5 28' S. Long. 10 31' E., the Brazilian slave brigantine Esmeralda.

27 Sep 1850 detained in Lat. 12 03' S. Long. 12 46' E., en route to Loanda, after a long chase during which every effort had been made to escape, the Brazilian slave brig Echo, Manoel Joaquim dos Reis, master, which was sent for adjudication to the Vice-Admiralty Court at St. Helena, and on 6 Feb 1851 sentenced to be condemned.

20 Jan 1851 Left Benguela

30 Jan 1851 Called at St Helena

10 Feb 1851 Called at Ascencion

24-25 Feb 1851 Sierra Leone

1-8 Mar 1851 River Gambia

2 Apr 1851 arrived from the coast of Africa bringing mail, despatches, and invalids and reports a considerable diminution in the slave trade ; the coast was, generally speaking, "healthy."

2 Apr 1851 The Rattler also reports she has been in commission 2 years and 2 months and has taken 8 prizes and liberated 877 slaves during this period

5 April 1851 departed to Woolwich to be paid off

20 Apr 1851 Woolwich. Cdr Arthur Cumming. The Rattler was taken into dock on Saturday, to have her bottom examined. A fine monkey - a chimpanzee - which had been brought home in the sloop, died onboard on Friday, from the effects of the cold easterly winds which have been blowing ever since the vessel arrived in this country.

14 May 1851 Bounty money on the tonnage of the prize Andorinha will be paid on 27 inst.

14 May 1851 An account of the Bounty money on the tonnage and on slaves captured in the Conquistador will be desposited at the High Court of the Admiralty on or before 13 June.

30 Aug 1851 Coast of Africa

1 Apr 1852 anchored off the mouth of the Rangoon river, with the Fox, Hermes, Salamander, Serpent, and a gunboat, in addition to a number of vessels of the Indian marine - see p. 374-> at

5 Apr 1852 involved in the capture of Martaban and subsequently returned to Rangoon continue operations - see p. 374-5 at

5 Apr 20 Dec 1852, ship's company involved in 2nd Burma War, and annexation of Pegu (now known as Bago, Myanmar), for which they were due prize money for capture of booty.

5-11 May 1853 operating out of Amoy - anti-piracy patrols - see p. 385-6 at

27 May 1855 Hong Kong.

29 May 1855 Off Mios Bay having carried our operations against pirates. See below for report - see also p. 389 at

4 Aug 1855 Further report of 6th re actions against pirates, along with a list of casualties per the London Gazette - see also p. 389 at

8 Dec 1855 departed Hong Kong for England

23 Apr 1856, Present at Fleet Review, Spithead ; Commander Fellowes

Screw v. Paddle.- The next week commenced with a trial of speed between the Rattler and the Polyphemus, or screw v. paddle wheel. On this occasion Sir William Parker invited the captains of the different ships to assemble to witness the trial.; but refused permission to several officers who wished to be present. The steam vessels, in order to test the relative amount of. their propelling power, were, by the Admiral's order, secure stern to stern by: two stout hawsers, which left them; when the hawsers were at full stretch; about fifteen or twenty yards apart. By the time the experiment commenced, it had fallen quite calm, consequently there could not have been a better opportunity for testing. their rival powers. If. anything, the advantage was on the side of the Polyphemus, as .the Rattler had a slight westerly swell to overcome. The engines of both vessels are of the same nominal power ; viz., 200 horse, but in tons, the Rattler exceeds the Polyphemus by 80.

This of course gave the former a greater body to propel ; but a must also be remembered that the Rattler has greater length, and con-sequently a better form of body for speed. The Polyphemus, with her head to the east-ward, struggled hard for the mastery ; her paddles lashed the water into foam, and afforded a vivid contrast in appearance to the quiet, but dogged strength of the Rattler. For a long time the victory remained in abeyance. The burr of the sub-marine propeller afforded evidence to the ear that there was a powerful agent assisting the Rattler; while the .loud dash of the paddle gave outward. sign that the steam of her antagonist was doing its work: At length the waste safety-valve of the Polyphemus began to emit steam in greater volumes than it had previously, and the revolutions of the wheels to diminish in number, while, on the other hand, the Rattler's waste steam wholly disappeared, and now and then a bright flash from under her quarter, evinced increased activity beneath, and the ripples under the stern of. the Polyphemus began to show themselves plainly. The Rattler had won the day, and the luckless Polyphemus was dragged astern at the rate of a knot or a knot and a half. an hour, an unwilling spectacle of her rival's greater strength. It was a great day for Archimedes; but the Admiral decided that another test should be tried, and their resistive power, when reversed, be proved. The hawsers were accordingly carried forward, and. the vessels were secured, with their bows nearly touching each other, but the result was the same. The screw was in the ascendancy, even at .its :.worst. point;. and it therefore only remains to remedy certain working difficulties in order to render this invention still more important.. After the conclusion of this highly interesting trial, the two ships were ordered to try their rate of steaming for eighteen miles to, the eastward, and in this trial the screw had again an advantage, the Rattler beating her competitor 3,660 yards in little more than two hours.-United Services Gazette.

Admiralty, January 11, 1856.
Despatches, with enclosures, of which the following copies, have been received from Rear-Admiral Sir James Stirling, Commander in Chief of her Majesty's ships and vessels on the East India and China station,

Reporting Successes Against Pirates by the Rattler:

Winchester, at Sea, lat. 25 17' N., long. 120 10' E.
October 23, 1855.
Sir,- On the 28th of May I have the honour to report that Commander Fellowes, of her Majesty's steam sloop Rattler, has made a successful attack on a piratical horde, near Hong Kong, and I have now the satisfaction to forward herewith reports from that zealous and attentive officer, of further and more important successes.

To the last of the operations therein reported, I venture to solicit the particular attention of their lordships ; for I feel assured that, while they will deeply regret that so many brave men should have fallen and suffered in the execution of the services described, they will appreciate highly the gallantry and resolution exhibited, equally by the officers and seamen, and marines of the United States frigate Powhatton, as well as by the officers, seamen, and marines of her Majesty's ships who were engaged, and will perceive that the success obtained reflects great credit on Commander William Abdy Fellowes, who planned and directed the attack.

Every attention shall be given to promote the recovery and provide for the comfort of the wounded men, and to afford such of them as may desire it an early return to their native country.-
I have, &c.,
J. Stirling, Rear- Admiral and Commander. in Chief.
The Secretary of the Admiralty.

Her Majesty's steam sloop Rattler, off Mios Bay, May 29
Sir,- I have the honour to inform you that I started from Hong Kong on Sunday afternoon, the 27th, and proceeded to the harbour of Samchow, where we arrived at daylight on Monday, the 28th, and with the assistance of some neighbouring fishermen and our own boats away sounding, we were enabled to get up near to where the captured lorchas were lying. Immediately we hove in sight they all weighed and ran up to what to us appeared a river, but was a continuation of the harbour, forming an island. The boats here sent away fully armed, under the command of Lieutenant Wrey, and after a good deal of firing the junks were run ashore and deserted, I ordered them by signal to be all burnt ; but besides the re-captured lorchas three lorchas were claimed by the Chinese we took with us ; so there were burnt in all, six; brought off, five. We took four prisoners, one of whom was recognized as the second chief, and one other was wounded by a musket-ball in the knee. No casualties occurred on our side. Owing to the lateness of the hour before we could secure the prizes, I was obliged to remain for the night, and got out this morning with a very slight touch on the ground.

I need scarcely inform your Excellency that, from first to last, a most gallant spirit was shown by every individual engaged, and as the whole affair was seen by myself, I can attest the good behaviour of every one ; indeed, the boat attack on the five large junks on shore, which were firing heavy guns till the boats got near, when they were deserted, was gallant in the extreme ; at the same time proper caution was used in approaching.

The boats destroyed were as follows, averaging from fifty to sixty men each :
One large junk, 14 heavy guns ; 24, 18, and 12 pounders.
One large junk, 12 guns; two 24 pounders and ten smaller guns.
Two junks from 8 to 10 guns ; 6, 8, and 12 pounders.
Two large fishing-boats ; no big guns.

From 28 to 30 of their men were either killed or wounded.

The lorchas, which were also heavily armed, fired on the boats, but were soon deserted when they found our two smaller boats coming up in their rear.
I have, &c.,
(Signed) W. A. Fellowes, Commander,
His Excellency Rear-Admiral. Sir J. Stirling, Kt.

Her Majesty's steam sloop Rattler,
Hong Kong, June 28.
Sir,- Since my last letter, dated May 29th, in which I informed you of a successful expedition against the pirates at Samchow, I have had information supplied of two more robberies having been committed ; the first they could not make out any English ownership, or that the plundered vessel belonged at all to Hong Kong, so I let them alone ; as to the second, on the 4th June Mr. Caldwell came off to say an English lorcha had been captured near St. John's, with a very valuable cargo on board, and the informants said they had no doubt the pirates were still there. I got up steam instantly, and proceeded so as to arrive there at daylight, which was done, and the boats sent into the harbour, where we unfortunately found only one small piratical boat, which was burnt. I then, from information received from a boat, went as far as Nampang, which we went completely round without seeing anything. I then stood back and managed, by lying to during the night, to fetch into Tyloo very early is the morning of the 6th, and cruised round, as far as the shallow water would allow, without seeing anything. I then steered for the Ladrone Islands, and as we neared them observed two large piratical boats come round a point, and when they saw us, they ran in shore and deserted their boats, the crews running away in all directions, carrying large bundles. The boats were sent in, and the vessels brought out. I then landed the boats' crews under the command of Messrs, Wrey and Greer, to search for some of the property we thought we had seen them secrete. Nothing of any importance was found on shore, but on board we found piratical flags - mandarins and rebel. Mr. Caldwell concurring with myself that there was no doubt as to their character, they were towed out to sea, the guns thrown overboard, and the vessels burnt. I then went and looked into some more small harbours among these islands, and it getting dark, I thought it better to return to Hong Kong, where I have remained up to this date without any more reports I could act on.
I have, &c., (Signed) R. A Fellowes, Commander.
His Excellency Rear-Admiral Sir J. Stirling, Commander-in Chief.

Her Majesty's steam sloop Rattler, Hong Kong,
August 6, 1855.
Sir,- My last letter apprised your excellency of pirates being once more abroad committing depredations. Now I have the honour to inform you that I started from Hong Kong on the 30th ultimo after these plunderers, touching at Macao for information which led me on the 31st to look into all the bays for some distance to the southward of Macao ; but seeing nothing, I crossed over to the Ladrones, taking a turn round all the islands in the neighbourhood, with the like want of success. Not despairing, however, of finding their haunt I retraced my steps back to Macao, where, with the assistance of Mr. Caldwell, late government interpreter, I obtained some Chinaman, who stated they know their whereabouts. Standing again to the southward as far as Tyloo, I came up with part of the junks, the pirates had captured ; but the pirate chief, with several armed junks, keeping in shore, where the water if shallow, prevented the ship reaching him or our shot and shell doing him or his vessels any harm. Suspecting the pirates would remain in their fancied security, I hastened back to Hong Kong, landing the Chinaman at Macao on my way, called on his Excellency Sir John Bowring on the 2nd, and with his concurrence had an interview with Captain McCluney, of the United States steam frigate Powhatton, who, on my personal application, placed a volunteer force at my disposal, consisting of two paddle-box boats and a cutter, fitted each with a 12-pounder howitzer, and manned with 66 seamen and 28 marines, under the command of Lieut. Pegram. With this additional strength and the Eaglet, a small steamer drawing seven feet of water, lent by Mr, Caldwell for the occasion, I quitted Hong Kong once more on the 3rd inst., with the steamer and boats in tow of the Rattler, and anchored the same night as near the point on the north side of Kulan as practicable. At daylight on the 4th all the boats of the Rattler and the Powhatton, manned and armed, were taken in tow of the Eaglet, the depth of water not permitting Rattler to proceed farther, and stood at once for Kulan, which was found to be empty ; but looking round, a creek, apparently on the main land, was discovered, where the mastheads of several junks could to distinctly seen, and about the same time a lorcha was observed to leave the creek with the evident intention of escaping ; but, to prevent her doing so, I despatched the Rattler's pinnace in charge of Lieutenant Wrey, and Powhatton's cutter to endeavour to cut her off. The boats on coming up with her found she was in possession of the usual sailing letter, and the master stated by had that morning effected his escape, after being plundered of everything of value. The Eaglet soon towed the boats abreast of the creeks, the pirates as we neared firing several ineffectual guns, by way I suppose of defiance. We returned to exchange five 24 pounder rockets that I had procured before starting. These, fired from the steamer, alarmed the pirate, numbering in all 34 junks, crowded with guns and men, as they immediately hoisted their sails, and made for the head of the creek. Perceiving this, the boats pushed off in chase. On reaching a small island at the head of the creek the larger junks made a stand, with their broadsides towards us, firing with much rapidity and in an excellent direction, but the boats returning their fire with shell and grape, and closing, rapidly amidst a shower of shot, made a dash and the junks were ours, the crews taking to the water. Leaving a small party of men in charge, the boats pursued the others, who had, with a light air, gained the middle of a large bay or rather lagoon which opened out of the creek, and succeeded in taking many of them.

Nine war junks, mounting 130 guns of all sizes, and nine small junks (traders) the pirates had detained were captured.

We felt ourselves obliged to burn and destroy the war junks, as also two of the trading junks ; night approaching, and being a great distance from the steamer, compelling us to do this, to prevent them falling into improper hands.

This success, obtained from a regularly organised pirate fleet, was, I am sorry to say, attended with the loss of two men killed and eleven officers and men wounded on the part of the Americans, and three men killed and seven men wounded belonging to this ship ; while the loss of the of the pirate, must have been immense, for taking the number of men in the junks, at the time of our opening fire, to be 1,000, their killed, wounded, and drowned could not have been less than 500 men ; the shell and grape from the boats, guns, and musketry of the marines must have told upon them severely, as they stood fighting at their guns with unusual firmness.

Five of the junks are deserving more than ordinary mention, being built of very substantial materials, large, and roomy, evidently built for war purposes, as they differed in many respects from trading junks ; their armament, besides the usual complement of spears, muskets, stinkpots, &c., comprised many large guns, there was a 68-pounder and a large 18-pounder, not weighing less then 50 cwt., 32, 24, 12, and 6 pounders ; one junk had 21 guns mounted.

It is impossible to speak too highly of the American co-operating party engaged ; they were with the Rattlers emulating each other in the thickest of the attack. It was in capturing a junk which blew up, killing two and wounding eleven of the Americans, and capsizing my gig, that I witnessed the cool bravery of Lieutenant Rolando, U.S.N., to whose timely rescue I am indebted for my life ; but my warmest thanks in particular are due to Lieutenant Pegram, the American senior officer ; his encouragement of the men, and coolness under a heavy fire, and determined bravery when surrounded by a persevering and revengeful foe, was conspicuous to all ; indeed, every officer and man belonging to that frigate acquitted themselves much to my satisfaction.

While bestowing all due credit on our American friends, I cannot pass over the conduct of Mr. R. Brownsdon, paymaster, in charge of the first cutter, whose boat, in an attack on a junk, had three men killed and seven men wounded by stinkpots and spears ; nor that of Mr. John James, the boatswain, who gallantly attacked a junk in a five oared gig with musketry, till Lieutenant Pegram generously came to his aid and enabled him to take possession. Lieutenants Wrey and Greer, and Mr. Lomax, mate, in the pinnace, returned from their chase of the lorcha, in time to burn all the junks we had captured, when I was obliged to retire with the wounded. I regret for their sakes they were not in the action, as they have always, when the opportunity offered, greatly distinguished themselves.

In conclusion, I must express to your excellency my entire satisfaction with the conduct of every one employed under me ; indeed, all exhibited on this occasion the same gallantry and coolness under fire that they did on the three former occasions, when I had the honour of commanding them.

I have, &c., (Signed) W. A. Fellowes, Commander.

P.S. - I placed the use of the hospital at the disposal of Captain M'Cluney for the treatment of his wounded, who at once accepted my offer
(Signed) W. A. F.
His Excellency Rear-Admiral Sir J. Stirling,
Commander-in- Chief.

List of the Names of Men belonging to Her Majesty's steam sloop Rattler, Killed and Wounded, &c., in the engagement of the 4th August, 1855, with the Piratical Fleet near Kulan.

John Massey, gunner, R. M. Artillery
George Mitchell, A. B. ;
James Silvers, carpenter's crew.

John Lindsay, gunner, R. M. Artillery burnt severely
David Lloyd, gunner, R. M. Artillery, burnt severely
Richard Clark, stoker, slightly wounded and burnt
James Poulter, A.B., burnt severely
John Eade, A.B., burnt severely
James Paull, boy, 1st class, burnt badly
William Robinson, gunner, R. M. Artillery, contused head.

William Oliff, private R. M., supposed to be drowned.

(Signed) W. A. Fellowes, Commander F. B. Pritchard, Surgeon.
Her Majesty's steam sloop Rattler,
Hong Kong, 6th August, 1855.

List of Killed and Wounded in the Engagement with Pirates at Kulan, on the 4th August, 1855. United States Boat Division.

Joseph A. Halsey, landsman
Isaac Coe, landsman.

Lieutenant Pegram, contusion of hand
Lieutenant Rolando, burn of hand
John Pepper, seaman, mortally (dead)
B. Adamson, marine, gun shot, dangerously (dead)
J. Pendergast, landsman, fracture of left clavicle and burns
Samuel Mullard, marine, burn, very severely (dead)
Frederick Hommell, marine, burn, very severely
P. Walderschmidt, marine, burn, very severely
Joshua Lewis, seaman, burn, very severely
William Taylor, captain aft. guard, burn, very severely
Charles Tingwell, seaman, cutlass wound.
(Signed) Albert Schriver
Assistant Surgeon U.S.N.
U.S. steam frigate Powhatan.
(Copy). (Signed) W. A. Fellowes, Commander H.M.S. Rattler.