HMS Vanguard (1787)

The fifth HMS Vanguard, 74, was a third-rate built in 1787 at Deptford for the Royal Navy. (See HMS Vanguard for other Royal Navy ships named Vanguard.)

In December 1795, Captain Edward Berry was appointed flag captain, flying Rear Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson's flag.

In 1798 Nelson was detached into the Mediterranean Sea by Earl St. Vincent with Orion, Alexander, Emerald, Terpsichore, and Bonne Citoyenne. They sailed from Gibraltar on May 9 and on May 12 were struck by a violent gale in the Gulf of Lyons that carried away Vanguard's topmasts and foremast. The squadron bore up for Sardinia, Alexander taking Vanguard in tow.

On May 19, while Nelson was off station repairing his storm damage, Napoleon Bonaparte sailed from Toulon with a force of 72 warships and 400 transports to strike at Egypt with the intention of eventually invading India. Early in June he occupied Malta and, on June 19, continued the passage to Egypt arriving off Alexandria on July 1. On May 31, Nelson returned to Toulon to find that the French had left 13 days earlier. Searching for the enemy he reached Naples on June 17 and Messina on June 20. Here he learnt of the fall of Malta and the probable destination of the French. He sailed for Alexandria but overtook the French and arrived two days before them. Finding no enemy he returned to Sicily via Asia Minor. Convinced that the French were going to Egypt he set sail once more for Alexandria.

On the evening of August 1, 1798, half an hour before sunset, the Battle of the Nile began when Nelson attacked the French fleet which was moored in a strong line of battle in Aboukir Bay with gunboats, four frigates, and batteries on Aboukir Island to protect their flanks. Goliath was the leading ship and, followed by four others, she broke through the French line to anchor and fight from the shoreward side. Vanguard remained on the seaward side and soon the French van and centre were being overwhelmed by six ships on either side of their line. The French lost 11 ships of the line and two frigates. Their dead numbered 1700 and the wounded 1500. The British lost 218 killed and 678 wounded.

Vanguard lost three officers killed, Thomas Seymour and John Taylor, midshipmen, and Captain Taddy of the marines. Lieutenants N. Vassal and J. Ayde, J. Campbell, the Admiral's secretary, M. Austin, the boatswain, and J. Weatherspoon and George Antrim, midshipmen, were wounded. Twenty seamen and seven marines were killed and sixty seamen and eight marines were wounded. Nelson was also wounded. On August 3 the captains of the squadron met on board Orion and agreed to present Nelson with a sword.

Vanguard sailed for Naples on August 19 and arrived on September 22. She was in need of new masts and a bowsprit but Nelson defered getting them until he knew the situation of Culloden which was to be careened at Naples after grounding during the battle. The King of Naples came out to meet her.

In September, Captain T.M. Hardy took command, still under Nelson's flag. Two months later a formidable French army had invaded Naples and on December 16 Vanguard was shifted out of gunshot of the ports. On December 20 Nelson, in order to evacuate the royal family and other important people, ordered the small barge of Vanguard, covered by three barges and the small cutter of Alcmene, armed with cutlasses only, to be at the Victoria wharf. All the other boats of Vanguard and Alcmene, and the launches and carronades, were ordered to assemble on board Vanguard under the direction of Captain Hardy and row halfway to the Mola Figlio.

By December 21 the Sicilian Royal Family, the British Ambassador and his family, several Neapolitan nobles and most of the English gentlemen and merchants had been embarked, numbering in all about 600 persons in the ships of the squadron. Vanguard sailed on December 23 and arrived, after a stormy passage, in Palermo on the December 26.

Nelson shifted his flag from Vanguard to Foudroyant on June 6, 1799, taking with him Captain Hardy and a number of other officers, leaving Captain W. Brown in command. In 1800, Vanguard was taken out of commission at Portsmouth.

In 1801, under the command of Captain Sir Thomas Williams. Vanguard sailed from Portsmouth on April 20 to join the Baltic fleet. The fleet, under Vice Admiral Pole, returned on August 10. Vanguard, St. George, Spencer, Powerful, Dreadnought, Ramillies, and Zealous sailed again on August 19 to cruise off Cadiz. The first four were victualled and stored for five months at Gibraltar and sailed for Jamaica in December. Warrior followed them as soon as she had watered at Tetuan.

In 1803, under the command of Captain James Walker, Vanguard was operating out of Jamaica. On July 24, two French 74s, Duquesne and Duguay Trouin, and the frigate Guerriere put to sea from Cape François in San Domingo during a squall in an effort to evade Bellerophon, Elephant, Theseus, and Vanguard, which were blockading the port. The French ships separated during the night but Duquesne was overtaken the following day and captured after a short exchange of fire with Vanguard which lost one man killed and one wounded. The prize was broken up on arrival in England after being damaged running on to the Morant Keys.

In September the French troops in northwest Sant Domingue were being closely pressed by the rebel slaves under General Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Captain Walker, off the Mole St. Nicholas, persuaded the General not to put the garrison of Sant Marc to death but to march them round to the Mole in safety where Vanguard would take possession of the shipping in the bay. The 850 men of the garrison, all very emaciated, were successfully evacuated, and the corvette Papillon, pierced for 12 guns but only mounting 6, the brig Trois Amis, transport, and the schooner Mary Sally with 40 or 50 barrels of powder were brought out.

The American schooner Independence was captured by Vanguard on November 16, and the two French schooners Rosalle, laden with saltpeter and lignum vitae, and St. Rosario, in ballast, were taken on December 22.

Vanguard was paid off by the end of 1805. In 1807 she was repaired at Plymouth, and became the flagship of Rear Admiral Thomas Bertie in 1808. In 1812 she was made a prison ship at Plymouth and in 1814 she became a powder hulk. Vanguard was broken up in 1821.

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 1609 tons

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