1803 - Boat of Sheerness in Brest bay


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1803 Boat of Sheerness in Brest Bay 197

in that with the Seagull, the Indiaman had received considerable damage in hull, masts, and rigging : her loss by the brig's fire has not been recorded. The loss sustained by the Seagull amounted to two seamen killed, and seven seamen and one marine wounded.

On the 9th of September, at daylight, the British hired cutter Sheerness, of eight 4-pounders and 30 men and boys, commanded by Lieutenant Henry Rowed, having the look-out on the French fleet in Brest harbour, observed, close in-shore, two chasse-marées stealing towards the port. Sending a boat, with seven men and the mate, to cut off one, the Sheerness herself proceeded in chase of the other, then nearly five miles distant, and close under a battery about nine miles to the eastward of Bec du Raz. At 10 a.m. it fell calm, and the only mode of pursuing the enemy was by a small boat suspended at the stern of the Sheerness, and which with difficulty would contain five men. Lieutenant Rowed acquainted the crew with his determination to proceed in this boat, and called for four volunteers to accompany him. Immediately John Marks the boatswain and three others, came forward ; and the boat with her five put off from the cutter, in chase of the chasse-marée, the about four miles off, and, by the aid of her sweeps, nearing the shore very fast.

After the boat had pulled for two hours, the chasse-marée was seen to run on shore under the above-mentioned battery, which stood within a stone's throw of the beach. Notwithstanding this, and that there were 30 French soldiers drawn up on the beach to protect the vessel, Lieutenant Rowed continued his pursuit ; and, as he and his four followers laid the French chasse-marée on board on one side, her crew deserted her from the other. It was then that the soldiers opened a heavy fire of musketry upon the British, who had just commenced cutting the cable, and were using other means to get the vessel afloat. In order that the French soldiers might not see how to point their pieces, the British seamen, although there was not a breath of wind, hoisted the foresail ; but of which the halliards, almost at the same moment, were shot away. Fortunately for the enterprising crew now on board the chasse-marée, the tide was flowing and aided their exertions : the vessel got off, and the boat commenced towing her from the shore. Fortunately, also, not a man of the five was hurt, although, as afterwards counted, 40 musket-balls, intended for them, had lodged in the side and the two masts of the chasse-marée.

Scarcely had the prize been towed a third of a mile, when a French boat, containing an officer and nine men, armed with muskets, and who had pulled up in the wake of the vessel unobserved by the boat ahead of her, suddenly made her appearance alongside. In an instant, and without waiting for any orders, John Marks, the boatswain, dropping his oar, and

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