1804 - Cruiser and Rattler off Boulogne


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Invasion Flotilla 223

communication of intelligence. One vessel took her station within view of distant signals (flags as large as ensigns, expressing their import, not by colour, but by number and position) from the commodore's ship ; and the vessel or vessels close off the enemy's port, on having any thing important to communicate, stretched out to the offing until their signals were seen and answered by the intermediate cruiser, and then resumed their station or otherwise, as circumstances might require.

On the 15th of May the British force stationed close off the port of Ostende consisted of the 18-gun brig-sloop Cruiser, Captain John Hancock, and 16-gun ship-sloop Rattler, Captain Francis Mason ; who kept up a communication with the squadron cruising off Calais, by means of three or four gun-brigs, under the orders of Lieutenant Patrick Manderston, of the Minx. On the evening of this day 22 one-masted gun-vessels and one schooner were seen to haul out of the harbour of Ostende, and to take up an anchorage to the westward of the lighthouse, within the sand. Captain Hancock immediately made the signal of recal to the four gun-brigs, then standing to the westward, and despatched the hired armed cutter Stag, Lieutenant William Patfull, with the intelligence to the commodore. Having done this, Captain Hancock, as soon as it grew dark, got under way with his two sloops; and, the better to prevent the escape of the division of gun-boats outside, which were commanded by Capitaine de frégate Bernard-Isidore Lambour, reanchored within long range of the batteries at the pier-head.

On the 16th, at daybreak, the four British gun-brigs, being still in sight, were again recalled ; but, as on the preceding evening, they did not see or understand the signal. At 9 h. 30 m. a.m. the Rattler, who lay a little to the eastward of the Cruiser, made the signal, first for five sail, and then for a fleet, in the east-south-east. This was a strong division of the Gallo-Batavian or Flushing flotilla, which had sailed from its anchorage in the Inner Wieling at daybreak on that morning, under the command of Rear-admiral Ver-Huell, bound to Ostende, and consisted of the two ship-rigged prames (12 long 24-pounders each) Ville-d'Anvers, bearing the admiral's flag, Lieutenant André Dutaillis, and Ville-d'Aix, Captain François-Jacques Meynne, 19 schooners, and 47 schuyts, in all 68 sail ; mounting between them upwards of 100 long 36, 24, and 18 pounders, besides lighter pieces on the side, brass carronades, and mortars, and carrying a body of between 4000 and 5000 troops.

At l0 a.m. which was as early as the tide served, the two sloops got under way and began working towards the enemy. At about 11 a.m. the wind shifted to the south-west ; which, while it favoured the two sloops, headed the flotilla, then nearly abreast of Blanckenberghe, and induced the Dutch admiral to bear up and put back towards Flushing. At about noon Sir

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