1804 - Capture of the Blonde, Centurion with Marengo and Consorts


 
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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1804 Light Squadrons and Single Ships 276

present, but which kept rather aloof during the boarding-attempt, and suffered the loss of half its crew ere it got clear. " Trois furent coulées, une quatrième prise, et le cinquième canot, qui avait un peu tenu le large, échappa avec la moitié de son monde hors de combat. " *

Whatever were the faults of this enterprise, they existed in the plan, not in the execution. The heavy loss sustained by the boats prove, that the British had effected as much as flesh and blood could effect : they had lost, in killed, wounded, and prisoners, more than two thirds of their number ; and yet the remainder would not yield, but bravely fought their way back to their ship. Much do we regret our inability to give a fuller account of the various difficulties which Lieutenant Hayman and his party had to contend with, in order that we may do justice to the memories of the dead, and cheer the feelings of the living, among those who, although unsuccessful in their object, so nobly maintained the character of British seamen.

On the 17th of August, in latitude 49 30' north, longitude 12 20' west, the British 38-gun frigate Loire, Captain Frederick Lewis Maitland, fell in with the French ship privateer Blonde, of Bordeaux, mounting 30 guns, 8-pounders on the main deck, with a crew of 240 men ; the same ship that, about five months previous, captured the Wolverine. After a 20 hours' chase, including a running fight of a quarter of an hour, during which the Loire had one midshipman (Ross Connor) and five men wounded, and the Blonde two men killed and five wounded, the latter hauled down her colours.

On the 15th of September, at 6 A, M., the British 50-gun ship Centurion, commanded by Lieutenant James Robert Phillips, in the absence of Captain James Lind upon service on shore (and who was also acting in the absence of the ship's proper commanding officer, Captain John Sprat Rainier, dangerously ill), while at anchor in Vizagapatam road, waiting until two Indiamen were loaded and ready to return with her to Madras, perceived under the land in the south-west, at a distance of about 12 miles, three ships coming down before the wind, with all sail set. At 9 h. 30 m. A.M. the strangers were made out to be a line-of-battle ship and two frigates, the former with a flag at her mizen topgallantmast-head. At 9 h. 45 m. the French ships steered directly in for the road, two without any colours, and the third, the outermost frigate, with a St.-George's ensign. The Centurion immediately opened a fire at the headmost frigate, to induce her to show her colours. Soon afterwards the 74 made signals, which were answered by the frigates. This at once pointed out that the ships were enemies and a signal to that effect was made by the Centurion to the two Indiamen in company, followed by another, directing them to put into a port in view. The Barnaby

* Moniteur, March 2, 1805.

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