1805 - State of the British Navy


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Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
1805 British and French Fleets 296

THE most remarkable feature, in the abstract * for the commencement of the present year, is the number of vessels that appear in the two " Built " columns. At no former or subsequent period have 87 British ships of war been launched within the year. All these ships, except the five principal ones, had been ordered to be built since the commencement of the war, and upwards of 50 of them since the commencement of the year in which they first took the water. Nothing can better demonstrate the exertions made by the new lord of the admiralty (the late Lord Melville) to recover the British navy from the low state into which it had previously fallen. Of 87 vessels so launched in the year 1804, 80 had been built in the merchants' yards, a number amounting to nearly two thirds of all that had been similarly built during the whole nine years of the preceding war.

Of the 88 new vessels ordered in 1804, 48 were gun-brigs, and 10 belonged to the N, or middling class of 74. The utility of the latter cannot be disputed ; but the former would probably have better answered the intended purpose of their construction had they been differently armed. Their light draught of water enabled them, certainly, to approach very near to an enemy's coast; but what effective opposition could 18-pounder carronades offer to the heavy long guns mounted by the French batteries and gun-boats ? The new gun-brigs were of a size (180 tons) to carry with ease four 32-pounder carronades, fitted to throw shells, and two long 18-pounders on traversing carriages, one at the bow, the other at the stern. With this reduction in their nominal, but increase in their real strength, these brigs would have been better able to cope with the description of force, which they were likely to encounter in the waters that were to be the scene of their services.

* See Appendix, Annual Abstract No. 13.

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