1800 - Milbrook and Bellone


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1800 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 56

gratified us to be able to state, that the officer, who as the conductor of the enterprise had so gallantly and effectively co-operated, as well as so seriously suffered, in capturing the vessel, an officer " in whom," says Captain Morris, " I have ever found a most capable and zealous assistant," had been appointed to command her. But Vice-admiral Lord Keith, the Mediterranean commander-in-chief, chose to appoint to the Calpé; an officer who, whatever may have been his merit in other respects, was both junior to Lieutenant Beaufort, and an utter stranger to the transaction at Fuengirola.

Among the few vessels in the British navy to which the non-recoil principle of mounting the carronade had been extended, was the Milbrook, a schooner of 148 tons, whose sixteen 18-pounders were so fitted, and whose commander, Lieutenant Matthew Smith, put such confidence in the plan, that he ventured, as we shall presently show, to attack a ship mounting double his number of guns. The carronades of the Arrow and Dart sloops were also fitted upon the non-recoil principle ; and it is related of the latter of these vessels, that, when the British troops landed in Holland, in August, 1779 1797, she fired one of her forecastle 32-pounders 68 times without breaking the breeching, or injuring the carriage, or even the paint that covered, or the pitch in the seams of it. The Eling schooner, armed with 18-pounders, is represented to have fired, on the same occasion, 400 round shot from her aftermost carronade, without doing the slightest injury on board, or even breaking a single pane of glass in the cabin skylight.

All this, if true (and the statement is officially founded), would appear to refute most of the objections made to non-recoil guns : that they destroy the upperworks, break the breechings, dismount themselves, and expose the men, who are obliged to load outside the bulwarks, to the enemy's fire. The last is certainly a very serious objection, and one, we believe, which yet keeps its ground. But we must not, in digressing, forget Lieutenant Smith and his exploit.

On the 13th of November, early in the morning, the Milbrook, then lying. becalmed off the bar of Oporto, descried a French ship, wearing a pendant, and, to all appearance, a frigate of 36 guns. Having under his protection two brigs of a Newfoundland convoy, and observing several other vessels in the offing, which, if as he conjectured English merchantmen, were equally an object of desire to the Frenchmen, Lieutenant Smith got out his sweeps, and pulled towards the enemy. At 8 A.M. the schooner received a broadside from the ship, which was the celebrated French privateer Bellone, of Bordeaux. Before the Bellone could bring her second broadside to bear, the Milbrook had fired three broadsides, and by the time the former had fired her third, the schooner had discharged eleven broadsides. Such was the rapidity of firing where no time was lost by running out the guns.

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