HMS Bellerophon was a 74-gun third-rateship of the line of the Royal Navy. Launched in 1786, she served mostly on blockades or convoy escort duties. Known to sailors as the "Billy Ruffian", she entered service on the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars, and took part in the Glorious First of June fleet action in 1793. Bellerophon narrowly escaped being captured by the French in 1795, saved only by the bold actions of the squadron's commander, Vice-Admiral Cornwallis. Detached to reinforce Rear-Admiral Nelson's fleet in 1798 under Admiral Jervis, she took part in the decisive defeat of a French fleet at the Battle of the Nile. At the Battle of Trafalgar Bellerophon fought a bitter engagement against Spanish and French ships, sustaining heavy casualties including the death of her captain, John Cooke. In July 1815, when Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo and found escape to America barred by the blockading Bellerophon, he came aboard "the ship that had dogged his steps for twenty years" to finally surrender to the British, ending 22 years of nearly continuous war with France. The ship's long and distinguished career has been recorded in literature and folk songs. (Full article...)
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