HMS Alceste (1806)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For other ships of the same name, see HMS Alceste and French ship Minerve.
La Pomone contre les fregates Alceste et Active.jpg
La Pomone contre les frégates HMS Alceste et Active
Pierre Julien Gilbert
Career (France) French Navy Ensign
Name: Minerve
Namesake: Minerva
Builder: Rochefort
Laid down: May 1804
Launched: 9 September 1805
Completed: November 1805
Captured: By the British on 25 September 1806
Career (UK) Royal Navy Ensign
Name: HMS Alceste
Acquired: Captured on 25 September 1806
Reclassified: Troopship in 1814
Fate: Wrecked on 18 February 1817,
wreck then burnt on 22 February
General characteristics
Class & type: Armide class
Tons burthen: 1,097 bm
Length: 152 ft 5 in (46.46 m) (overall)
128 ft 8 in (39.22 m) (keel)
Beam: 40 ft (12.2 m)
Draught: 12 ft 8 in (3.86 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Sail plan: Full rigged ship
Complement: 284 (later 315)

38 guns (re-rated as 46 guns in 1817)

  • Upper deck: 28 × 18-pounder guns
  • Quarter deck: 14 × 32-pounder carronades
  • Forecastle: 2 × 9-pounder guns and 2 × 32-pounderr carronades

The Minerve was a 38-gun Armide class frigate of the French Navy, captured by the British in 1806 and brought into Royal Navy service as HMS Alceste. She was wrecked in 1817.

French service[edit]

Alceste was built for the French Navy as the Minerve, an Armide Class 18-pounder/40-gun frigate to a design by Pierre Rolland. She was built at Rochefort and launched in 1805.

On 25 September 1806, she and Armide, Gloire and Infatigable were captured by a four-ship squadron under Samuel Hood.

War service[edit]

The captured Minerve arrived at Plymouth on 26 October 1806, and after languishing there for some months, was taken into service as HMS Alceste, and commissioned in March 1807 under Captain Murray Maxwell. She was refitted at Plymouth for British naval service from April to August 1807. Maxwell took the Alceste into the Mediterranean to prey upon enemy shipping, and carry out raids along the Spanish, French and Italian coastlines.

In the Action of 4 April 1808 Alceste, in company with HMS Mercury and HMS Grasshopper attacked a Spanish convoy of Rota, destroying two of the escorts and driving many of the merchants ashore. Seven were subsequently captured and sailed back out to sea by marines and sailors of the British ships.[1] Further raids were carried out that year on Frejus and Corsica and in 1810 two of her officers were imprisoned under a flag of truce while raiding off the Tiber.

On 21 June 1810, the boats of Alceste and Topaze captured two vessels in the bay of Martino in Corsica.[Note 1] A landing party captured a battery of three guns that protected the entrance to the bay. They were able to capture and render the guns unserviceable, and kill or wound a number of the garrison. The British lost one man killed and two wounded in the action.[2]

In 1811, Alceste entered the Adriatic. On 4–5 May, she participated with Belle Poule in a raid at Parenza (Istria) that destroyed a French man-of-war brig.[3] They chased a French 18-gun brig into the harbour but couldn't get the ships close enough to bombard her. Instead, the two vessels landed 200 seamen and all their marines on an island nearby and brought on to it two 9-pounders and two howitzers, which they placed in one battery, and a field piece that they placed further away. Eventually, they and the French in Parenza engaged in five hours of mutual bombardment, during which the British were able to sink the brig.[3] They then returned men and cannons to their ships. In the action Belle Poule had one man killed and three wounded and Alceste had two men killed; all casualties occurred onshore.[3]

Alceste raided Ragusa, and at the Action of 29 November 1811, Alceste led the British frigate squadron that outran and defeated a French military convoy carrying cannon. Two French ships were taken.

War of 1812[edit]

In late 1812, Alceste was decommissioned and placed in ordinary at Deptford. Between February and July 1814 she was converted at Deptford into a troopship; in this role, she recommissioned in May 1814 under Commander Faniel Lawrence, and sailed with troops to North America. Alceste left Pensacola on 8 December 1814, in tandem with the 50 other vessels in Admiral Alexander Cochrane's convoy.[4] Boats from Alceste participated in the Battle of Lake Borgne, and several crew members were to receive Naval General Service Medal with clasps for this action.


In 1816 Alceste was recommissioned under Captain Maxwell again, whose previous ship HMS Daedalus had been wrecked in 1813. Maxwell was ordered to the Pacific, sailing for China on 9 February 1816 with Lord Amherst aboard, and passing through the Sunda Strait. Alceste made numerous voyages of exploration in the region, and also operated against a Chinese mandarin who tried to prevent their landing at Canton.


On 18 February 1817, Alceste was wrecked on a rock in the Java Sea. The crew came ashore but Malay Dyaks burnt the wreck before they could return. Forced into a stockade by the threatening behaviour of the Dyaks, the survivors were eventually picked up by an East India Company ship.


John MacLeod, surgeon on board the Alceste, published in 1818 a book entitled "A narrative of a Voyage to the Yellow Sea", based on his experiences during the ship's last voyage. It is known for containing the first known use of the term "parting shot".


  1. ^ This may be San-Martino-di-Lota, near Bastia.


External links[edit]