Cuckoo-class schooner

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HMS Haddock (1805) body plan.jpg
A plan showing body plan with stern board outline, sheer lines with inboard detail, and longitudinal half-breadth of HMS Haddock, as taken off in October 1805 and modified on her refit. This plan was used for the subsequent Cuckoo-class schooners. National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
Class overview
Name: Cuckoo (or Bird) class
Operators:  Royal Navy
Preceded by: Ballahoo (or Fish) class
Planned: 12
Completed: 12
Lost: 9
Retired: 3
General characteristics [1]
Displacement: 75194 tonnes (design)
Length:
  • 56 ft 2 in (17.12 m) (gundeck);
  • 42 ft 4 18 in (12.906 m) (keel)
Beam: 18 ft 3 in (5.56 m)
Depth of hold: 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m)
Sail plan: Schooner
Complement: 20
Armament: 4 × 12-pounder carronades (pierced for 10)
Plan of HMS Haddock, c. October 1805

The Cuckoo class was a class of twelve 4-gun schooners of the Royal Navy, built by contract in English shipyards during the Napoleonic War. They followed the design of the Bermuda-designed and built Ballahoo-class schooners, and more particularly, that of Haddock. The Admiralty ordered all twelve vessels on 11 December 1805. A number of different builders in different yards built them, with all launching in 1806.

Operational lives[edit]

Nine of the twelve vessels were lost or disposed of during the war, the survivors being sold in 1816. Enemy forces took four, of which the British were able to retake two. Seven wrecked or foundered with a loss of about 22 crew members in all.

William James wrote scathingly of the Cuckoo- and Ballahoo-class schooners, pointing out the high rate of loss, primarily to wrecking or foundering, but also to enemy action.[2] He reports that they were "sent to 'take, burn, and destroy' the vessels of war and merchantmen of the enemy". The record suggests that none seem to have done so successfully. In the only two (arguably three) cases when they did engage enemy vessels, in each case the enemy force was much stronger and the Cuckoo-class vessels were overwhelmed.

James also remarks that:

Their very appearance as "men of war" raised a laugh at the expense of the projector. Many officers refused to take the command of them. Others gave a decided preference to some vessels built at the same yard, to be employed as water-tanks at Jamaica. Moreover, when sent forth to cruise against the enemies of England...these "king's schooners" were found to sail wretchedly, and proved so crank and unseaworthy, that almost every one of them that escaped capture went to the bottom with the unfortunate men on board.[3]

Ships[edit]

Name Builder Begun Launched Completed Fate
Cuckoo James Lovewell, Gt. Yarmouth January 1806 12 April 1806 21 August 1806 at Chatham Dockyard Wrecked on the Haak Sands at the mouth of the Texel on 4 April 1810 with the loss of two crew members.
Magpie William Rowe, Newcastle January 1806 17 May 1806 12 August 1806 at Chatham Dockyard Taken on 18 February 1807 by French troops after grounding in a storm off Perros, Brittany. As Colombe she served with the French Navy until possibly as late as 1828.[4]
Jackdaw William Rowe, Newcastle January 1806 19 May 1806 8 July 1806 at Chatham Dockyard Taken and retaken 1807; Sold at Plymouth on 1 November 1816 for £210.
Landrail Thomas Sutton, Ringmore January 1806 18 June 1806 16 July 1806 at Plymouth Dockyard Taken and retaken 1814; paid off October 1816 and sold c. 1818.
Woodcock Crane & Holmes, Gt. Yarmouth February 1806 11 April 1806 23 July 1806 at Chatham Dockyard Wrecked 13 February 1807 at Vila Franca do Campo, São Miguel in the Azores
Wagtail James Lovewell, Gt. Yarmouth February 1806 12 April 1806 126 July 1806 at Chatham Dockyard Wrecked 13 February 1807 at Vila Franca do Campo, São Miguel in the Azores, three hours after Woodcock; one crew member drowned.
Crane Custance & Stone, Gt. Yarmouth February 1806 26 April 1806 8 July 1806 at Chatham Dockyard Wrecked off Plymouth Hoe on 26 October 1808.
Quail Custance & Stone, Gt. Yarmouth February 1806 26 April 1806 3 July 1806 at Chatham Dockyard Sold at Plymouth on 11 January 1816 for £260 after what was apparently a completely uneventful career.
Pigeon Custance & Stone, Gt. Yarmouth February 1806 26 April 1806 8 July 1806 at Chatham Dockyard Wrecked off Margate on 15 January 1809; two crew members died of exposure.
Rook Thomas Sutton, Ringmore February 1806 21 May 1806 28 June 1806 at Plymouth Dockyard Captured and burnt by two French privateers off Cape St. Nicholas (San Domingo) on 18 August 1808; three crew members killed (including her captain), and 11 wounded.
Widgeon William Wheaton, Brixham March 1806 19 June 1806 24 May 1807 at Plymouth Dockyard Wrecked off Banff on 20 April 1808.
Sealark William Wheaton, Brixham March 1806 1 August 1806 25 May 1807 at Plymouth Dockyard Foundered in the North Sea on 18 June 1809; only one crew member survived.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Winfield (2008), p.361.
  2. ^ James (1837) Vol. V, pp. 45–46. Page 45, p. 45, at Google Books
  3. ^ James (1837) Vol. III, p. 376. Appendix, note "i" to Abstract No. 13. Page 376, p. 376, at Google Books
  4. ^ Roche (2005), pp.292-3.

References[edit]

  • James, William (1837). The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France in 1793, to the Accession of George IV. R. Bentley. 
  • Roche, Jean-Michel (2005) Dictionnaire des Bâtiments de la Flotte de Guerre Française de Colbert à nos Jours. (Group Retozel-Maury Millau).
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1-86176-246-1.