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Depictions of the ships behind the SoG-miniatures

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HMS Fairy (1778 - 1811)









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HMS Fairy was a 14 gun ship-sloop of the Swan Class and was built at the Royal Dockyard, Sheerness.

The Swan Class was a group of 25 ship-sloops designed by John Williams, Surveyor of the Navy, of which 11 were built in Kent shipyards. HMS Fairy was the last of three ships of the class to be built at Sheerness. The Swan Class were noted for the lavish scale of their decorations and were the last sloops built for the Royal Navy with decorations on such a scale. Orders were made by the Admiralty that decorations on smaller vessels be far less lavish and future vessels were almost puritan by comparison.

HMS Fairy was ordered by the Navy Board from the Royal Dockyard at Sheerness on 8th January 1777. At the time she was ordered, what had started as protests over taxation in the American Colonies and the heavy-handed methods of enforcing them had escalated into an armed rebellion and the Royal Navy was enforcing a blockade of rebel-held ports. Her keel was laid on 9th June 1777 and the ship was launched into the Swale on 24th October 1778. Her construction had been overseen by Mr John Jenner, Master Shipwright at Sheerness Royal Dockyard and was to be the only project he oversaw there before his death in 1779. After being fitted with guns, masts and rigging at Sheerness, the ship commissioned on 19th December, with Mr Thomas Lennox Frederick appointed as her Master and Commander. Her construction and fitting out at Sheerness had cost a total of 8,754.17s.4d.

On completion, HMS Fairy was a ship of 302 tons. She was 96ft 7in long on her gundeck and 78ft 11in long at her keel. She was 26ft 10in wide across her beams. Her hold, the space between her lowest deck, the Orlop and her bottom was 12ft 10in deep. The ship was armed with 14 6pdr long guns on her gundeck with 8 half-pound swivel-guns on her quarterdeck with four more such guns on her forecastle. She was manned by a crew of 125 officers, men and boys.

On 19th December 1778, HMS Fairy was declared complete at Sheerness at a total cost of 8,754.17s.4d. Commander Ferderick had had two previous commands, both in sister-ships to HMS Fairy, HMS Spy between October 1776 and June 1778 and HMS Swift from June 1778 to the point at which he took command of HMS Fairy. He had been 28 years of age when he took command of HMS Fairy. The ship was assigned to the North Sea, where she was engaged in protecting British shipping against attacks by French privateers. By this time, the war had escalated into a full-scale global war between the superpowers of the day with the entry of France and Spain into the war on the side of the American rebels. On 24th May 1779, HMS Fairy was operating in company with the 9pdr armed 24 gun post-ship HMS Amphitrite and the armed cutters HMS Sprightly, HMS Griffin, HMS Flying Fish and HMS Wells when they captured the French privateer La Dunkerquoise and three weeks later on 19th June, captured another French privateer, Le Maraudeur.

In August 1779, Commander Frederick was posted and took command of the 20 gun sixth rate post-ship HMS Unicorn. Captain Frederick was to spend some time as a prisoner of war after HMS Unicorn was cornered and captured by a French frigate and two ships of the line. He only ordered his colours struck after putting up a fierce resistance against overwhelming odds. Cleared by a subsequent Court Martial of any blame, he went on to command the 98 gun second-rate ship of the line HMS Blenheim in Sir John Jervis' overwhelming victory against the Spanish at the Second Battle of Cape St Vincent in 1797 before promotion to Rear-Admiral. He died in 1799.

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HMS Fairy's next commander was Sir Henry Edwyn Stanhope. She was his first appointment as Master and Commander, his previous appointment had been as a Lieutenant, but in command of HM Galley Pigot. During his tenure in command, HMS Fairy captured the American privateer brig Phoenix and the packet-boat Mercury. In April 1780, Commander Stanhope received orders to take his ship to Newfoundland, where he was to hand her over to her next commander and take up the appointment of appointed Master and Commander the 14 gun brig-sloop HMS Trepassey. His replacement in HMS Fairy was Mr George Cranfield Berkeley, whose previous appointment had been as Master and Commander in the 8 gun fireship HMS Firebrand. On 11th June 1780, HMS Fairy captured the American privateer brig Wilkes of 14 guns and ten days later, the American privateer brigantine Griffin. He was only in command until 15th September, when he was posted and appointed as captain in the 9pdr armed 28 gun frigate HMS Vestal.

On 15th September 1780, Mr Joseph Brown was appointed Master and Commander in HMS Fairy. Between then and 13th January 1781, HMS Fairy was reassigned back to the English Channel. On 13th January, HMS Fairy was captured by the large frigate-built French privateer La Madame of 40 guns off the Isles of Scilly. Later that day however, with Mr Brown and his men prisoners of war aboard La Madame and with his ship under a French prize-crew, the two ships ran into the large British 74 gun third rate ship of the line HMS Valiant

Both ships surrendered to the massively powerful British ship without firing a shot and Commander Brown and his men were restored to their ship. Mr Brown remained in command until the following month when he was replaced by Mr William Yeo, previously Master and Commander in HMS Fairy's sister-ship, HMS Swan.

Mr Yeo remained in command until May 1783 when he was replaced by Mr William Thomas. Mr Thomas' previous appointment had been as Master and Commander in the 4pdr armed small ship-sloop HMS Hope of 14 guns. That ship had previously been the American privateer Lady Washington which had been taken by the British 44 gun ship HMS Roebuck and the ten gun ship-sloop HMS Alderney. Mr Thomas had been a lieutenant in HMS Roebuck and had ordered to take the prize to New York, where she had been purchased into the Royal Navy and renamed. He was appointed to be her Master and Commander on her being taken into the Royal Navy. Mr Thomas was to remain in command after the war's end in 1784.

With the end of the American War of Independence in 1784, HMS Fairy settled into the peacetime role of a sloop-of-war in peacetime, which was to protect British shipping against piracy and generally 'showing the flag'. In May 1786, Commander Thomas was replaced in command by Captain John Manley. He remained in command of the ship until June of 1788, when the ship paid off at Woolwich Royal Dockyard for a brief refit. Two months later, the work was completed after having cost 2,793 and the ship recommissioned under Captain Sir Thomas Spry. HMS Fairy remained under Captain Spry until he paid her off in 1790. At some point during 1790, along with other ships of her class, HMS Fairy was fitted with 6 12pdr carronades, two on her forecastle and four on the quarterdeck. In June 1791, HMS Fairy recommissioned under Mr Francis Laforey. She was his first appointment in command and two months later, the ship sailed for the West Indies.

By this time, the French Revolution had occurred and the Absolute Monarchy which had previously ruled France had been replaced by a Constitutional Monarchy along the lines of our own. This was broadly supported by the British, especially after the new Government in France had refused to become involved in the Spanish Armaments Crisis, forcing the Spanish to negotiate a settlement with the British.

By the end of 1792, things in France had deteriorated to the point where the country was on the point of civil war. This was as a result of a power struggle between the King, Louis XVI and the National Convention. The National Convention was coming under the control of the arch-republican Jacobin movement led by Maximilien Robespierre. In late 1792 the Jacobins had gained control of the National Convention and in December, the French Monarchy was abolished. In January 1793, King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were executed on the guillotine in Paris and the following month, France declared war on Britain.

Shortly after the declaration of war, Commander Laforey received orders to return to the UK with dispatches and on 22nd April, HMS Fairy left Great Courland Bay, Tobago bound for England. In August 1793, Commander Laforey was posted and took command of the 9pdr armed 28 gun frigate HMS Carysfort.


His replacement in HMS Fairy was Mr Richard Bridges. Although HMS Fairy was his first appointment as Master and Commander, he had had three years previous command experience in the armed cutter HMS Greyhound of 12 guns. With Bridges in command, HMS Fairy was assigned to the Channel Fleet and was engaged in enforcing the blockade of French Atlantic ports. For a sloop-of-war like HMS Fairy this was dangerous work as she would frequently be required to close with the enemy shore and keep a close eye on what was going on in French naval bases such as Brest and L'Orient.

Commander Bridges remained in command until 12th March 1795, when Mr John Irwin was appointed as her Master and Commander. HMS Fairy was his first command appointment. On 22nd May, HMS Fairy captured the French privateer Le Hazard in the English Channel in company with the 18 gun ship-sloop HMS Racoon and the hired armed cutter Resolution. This success was followed on 19th July when in company with HMS Racoon, the Resolution, the hired armed cutters Flora and Venus, the enemy merchant vessel Aurora. Later that day, they also captured the Dutch blockade runner Vriendschaft.

In July 1797, Mr Joshua Sydney Horton assumed command of HMS Fairy. She was his first command appointment. On 5th October that year, HMS Fairy sank a French privateer in the English Channel, off Boulogne.

The night of the 12th November 1797 saw HMS Fairy laying at anchor off Calais in company with hired armed cutter Fox. Early the following morning, the two vessels weighed anchor and set off on a patrol westward along the French coast. Fox was running about seven miles ahead of HMS Fairy and at daybreak was seen to be flying the signal for enemy in sight. When the early morning haze cleared, HMS Fairy's lookouts spotted a French lugger about three miles ahead of the Fox. Commander Horton decided on a boat action and ordered that HMS Fairy's boats be launched. They were to proceed under sail along with the Fox and chase down the enemy vessel. As the chase unfolded, HMS Fairy's launch, her largest boat, under the command of Mr James Middleton, the ship's Purser, veered off in chase of a second lugger which they had spotted. Realizing that they were not going to catch the lugger they were originally chasing, Commander Horton ordered the rest of the boats together with the Fox to follow the launch and assist in capturing the second lugger. They were too late. By the time they got to the second lugger's location, they found that Mr Middleton and his seven men had already taken the enemy vessel, which turned out to be L'Epervier, with 2 guns, 2pdrs plus swivel guns and small arms with 25 men. The vessel was commanded by an Irishman, Mr George Hammond, who had escaped together with three of his men. Mr Middleton was the only member of the party wounded, he was grazed across the stomach by grapeshot. In his report to his superior, Rear-Admiral Joseph Peyton, Commander Horton gave full credit for the capture to Mr Middleton, writing "His gallantry on this occasion speaks for itself, nor is it the first time I have witnessed it. I beg leave to recommend him strongly to your attention.".

On 11th January 1799, HMS Fairy captured the Spanish privateer Nostra Senora del Pont St Bonaventa of 8 guns and 55 men in the English Channel. HMS Fairy spend the rest of the year in patrolling the English Channel and escorting convoys. On 22nd November, she arrived in Plymouth Sound and lay alongside the large ex-French 18pdr armed 36 gun frigate HMS San Fiorenzo, where they exchanged dispatches and relayed signals for ships leaving Plymouth to join the Gibraltar, Lisbon and West India convoy then assembling in the Sound. Later that day, the convoy departed under the escort of the giant 100 gun first rate ship of the line HMS Queen Charlotte, the 80 gun ex-French third rate ship of the line HMS Sans Pareil and the 14 gun fireship HMS Tisiphone.



In the early morning of 5th February 1800, HMS fairy was laying at anchor in St Aubyn's Bay, Jersey in company with the 32pdr carronade armed 18 gun brig-sloop HMS Harpy. The previous day, the 16-gun 4pdr armed topsail cutter HMS Seaflower had been chased by a French frigate, identified as the 18pdr armed 38 gun frigate Pallas. After breaking off the chase, the Pallas was seen to put into St Malo. At about 6am, the two British sloops weighed anchor and headed to St Malo, their intentions being to see if the Pallas was still there. At about 11:30, the two British sloops sighted a large ship running along the shore towards Brest, which was quickly identified as being their target. Commander Horton as the senior officer decided to bring the Pallas to action, calculating that between them and especially with HMS Harpy's 32pdr carronades, they should be able to get the better of the large and powerful French frigate. At about 12:20, seeing that there was no chance of bringing the Pallas to action all the time she was so close to the shore, Commander Horton decided to back off and open the range, hoping to entice the Pallas to give chase. The Frenchman took the bait and began to give chase immediately. At 13:00, the fight started, with both British sloops engaging the big French frigate at pistol-shot range, or about 30 yards. HMS Harpy took up a position astern of the Pallas and raked her through the stern a number of times. At about 15:00, the Frenchman broke off the action headed off under all sail to the north-east. After quickly making running repairs to their damaged rigging, HMS Fairy and HMS Harpy gave chase. At about 15:15, the Pallas sighted two ships dead ahead of her. The ships were soon afterwards sighted by the two British vessels. On sighting the strangers, Commander Horton signalled HMS Harpy to try to take up a position upwind of the French frigate. Having guessed that the strangers were friendly, Commander Horton ordered the signal 'Enemy in Sight' to be hoisted, repeated by HMS Harpy and both sloops began firing signal guns to draw attention to it. The approaching vessels were soon identified as being the ex-French 18pdr armed 38 gun frigate HMS Loire, the ex-French 32pdr carronade armed 20 gun post-ship HMS Danae and the small ex-French 12pdr carronade-armed 14 gun ship-sloop HMS Railleur. These vessels had been sent from Plymouth on 27th and 28th January with the express purpose of bringing the Pallas to action and capturing her. Realizing he was horribly outgunned, Captain Jacques Epron of the Pallas decided to try to run for Brest, pursued by no less than five enemy vessels. By 22:30, HMS Loire had caught up with the Pallas, which had managed to close with the shore and the cover of a shore battery. Undeterred, HMS Loire began a gunnery duel with the Pallas, despite coming under fire from the shore as well. By 23:00, the sloops had caught up. At about 01:30, HMS Harpy assumed a position under the Pallas' stern and fired in a full broadside. The French had had enough and surrendered. In the Capture of the Pallas, HMS Fairy suffered casualties of four seamen killed, Commander Horton and Mr Hughes, the purser, plus six seamen wounded. The Pallas turned out to be a fine and powerful frigate of 1,029 tons and was purchased into the Royal Navy as HMS Pique.


The Chase and Capture of the Pallas by John Bentham-Dinsale:


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On 9th February 1800, HMS Fairy arrived in Plymouth and on arrival, as a reward for his actions in the Capture of the Pallas, Commander Horton was posted, or promoted to Captain and left to take up an appointment ashore. He was replaced by Mr Richard Curry, whose previous appointment had been as Master and Commander in the 16 gun ship-sloop HMS Fury.
On 28th February 1800, Mr William Dimock Smith, Boatswain in HMS Fairy faced a Court Martial held aboard HMS Gladiator (44) in Portsmouth Harbour, charged with Drunkenness, Neglect of Duty and behaving in a contemptuous manner towards his Captain. These charges are surprising considering that, as the ships Boatswain, Mr Smith was the highest ranking Warrant Officer on a sloop-of-war like HMS Fairy. Mr Smith was found guilty and was stripped of his rank. As a further punishment and to send a signal to any other senior warrant officers that such behavior was unacceptable, he was ordered to serve 'Before the Mast', ie. as a seaman, on any ship that the Commander-in-Chief at Portsmouth should direct.

On 18th July 1800, another of HMS Fairy's men faced a Court Martial aboard HMS Gladiator. This time, it was Mr Joseph Brown, Able Seaman in HMS Fairy, charged with desertion. This normally carried a death sentence, but Brown had greatly distinguished himself during the wreck of the 98 gun second rate ship of the line HMS Impregnable off Chichester the previous year. In recognition of his bravery in that event, Brown was sentenced to have all his pay deducted instead.
In September 1805, HMS Fairy was paid off and laid up at Plymouth. Old and worn out, the ship was beyond economical repair. She remained at Plymouth until July 1811, when she was broken up.

Rob.

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