HMS Amazon (1795)

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Amazon (right) and Indefatigable (left) fighting the Droits de l'Homme (centre), by Léopold Le Guen (1853)
Royal Navy Ensign (1707-1801)
Name: HMS Amazon
Ordered: 24 May 1794
Builder: Wells & Co., Rotherhithe
Laid down: June 1794
Launched: 4 July 1795
Completed: 25 September 1795 at Deptford Dockyard
Commissioned: July 1795
Fate: Wrecked, 14 January 1797
General characteristics
Type: Fifth-rate frigate
Tons burthen: 933 67/94 bm
  • 143 ft 2.5 in (43.650 m) (gundeck)
  • 119 ft 5.5 in (36.411 m) (keel)
Beam: 38 ft 4 in (11.68 m)
Depth of hold: 13 ft 6 in (4.11 m)
Propulsion: Sails
Complement: 264
Armament: 36 guns

HMS Amazon, was a 36-gun frigate, built at Rotherhithe by (John and William) Wells & Co. in 1795 to a design by Sir William Rule. Carrying a main battery of 18-pounder long guns, she was the first of a class of four frigates. She spent her entire career in The Channel, part of the Inshore Squadron under Sir Edward Pellew. She was wrecked in Audierne Bay in 1797, following an engagement with the French ship-of-the-line, Droits de l'Homme.

Armament and construction[edit]

Amazon was one of four 36-gun, 18-pound, Amazon-class frigates built to a design by William Rule. She and her sister ship, HMS Emerald, were ordered on 24 May 1794. Built to the same dimensions, they were: 143 feet 2 12 inches (43.6 m) along the gun deck with a beam of 38 feet 4 inches (11.7 m) and a depth in the hold of 13 feet 6 inches (4.1 m). They were 933 6794 tons burthen a piece.[1]

Work began in June at Rotherhithe by Wells & Co, when the 119 feet 5 12 inches (36.4 m) keel was laid down. Launched on 4 July 1795 Amazon was taken to Deptford where she was completed from 3 - 25 September. Including fitting, her construction had cost £24,681.[1]

Amazon was built to carry a main battery of twenty-six 18 pounders (8.2 kilograms) on her upper gun deck, eight 9 pdr (4.1 kg) on the quarter deck and two on the forecastle. She additionally carried ten 32 pdr (15 kg) carronades, six on the quarter deck and two on the forecastle. When fully manned, she had a complement of 264.[1]


In 1795, while under the command of Captain Robert Carthew Reynolds, she was part of the Inshore Squadron under Sir Edward Pellew watching the French port of Brest to report any attempt by the French fleet to leave port. Pellew's force comprised the 44-gun ships Indefatigable and Argo, the 38-gun frigate Révolutionnaire, Amazon, and a second 36-gun frigate, Concorde. Cruising off Ushant, late in the afternoon of 13 April 1796, a ship was seen to windward. Pellew, ordered Révolutionnaire to sail an intercepting course while the rest of the squadron gave chase. Révolutionnaire eventually cut off the quarry, which turned out to be the French frigate, Unité, and after a brief exchange of fire, forced her to surrender.[2] A week later, on 20 April, Amazon was again in pursuit of an enemy frigate. With Argo in Plymouth and Révolutionnaire on her way home with her prize, the three remaining British frigates were lying-to off The Lizard, when 40-gun Virginie was spotted.[3] Indefatigable, being the best sailer, was first to engage, after a 168-mile (270 km) chase, lasting 15 hours. When Amazon and Concorde caught up, the French ship surrendered.[4] Then on 13 June, Amazon contributed to the capture of the 16-gun Betsy and the 14-gun Les Trois Couleurs off Brest.[1]

On 11 December 1796, Amazon was despatched with news that seven French ships of the line had arrived in Brest. This was part of the preparation for an invasion of Ireland.[5] The French fleet left harbour and evaded the main British blockade fleet and sailed for Bantry Bay. However, storms scattered them and most returned to France having accomplished very little.[6]

In the Action of 13 January 1797, Amazon, in company with Pellew's ship Indefatigable, encountered the French ship Droits de l'Homme, a 74-gun ship of the line.[7] Normally, frigates would not engage a ship of the line as they would be severely outgunned. However, there was a heavy sea and the French ship could not open her lower deck gunports for fear of flooding. This reduced her broadside considerably.[8]

Pellew was seven miles ahead of Amazon when he first attacked the Droits de l'Homme. An hour and a half later Amazon came up and poured a broadside into the Frenchman's quarter.[8] The two frigates attacked her from either side yawing to rake her while avoiding much of her return fire.[9] At 4.20 am on 14 January land was suddenly sighted ahead and the frigates broke off the attack and headed in opposite directions. Amazon, going north, and more severely damaged, was unable to wear and ran aground at Audierne Bay, Isle Bas.[10] Three crew had been killed during the battle and six more drowned, but the rest were able to reach shore. There the French captured them.[11] The heavy seas pounding her on the beach destroyed Amazon; the Droits de l'Homme, badly damaged in the battle, was also wrecked, with heavy casualties.[12]

The court martial on 29 September 1797, routinely held by the Navy after the loss of any vessel, honourably acquitted Captain Reynolds and his officers of negligence in the loss of the ship.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d Winfield p.148
  2. ^ James (Vol.I) p.321
  3. ^ James (Vol.I) pp.324-325
  4. ^ James (Vol.I) p.325
  5. ^ James (Vol.II) p.6
  6. ^ James (Vol.II) pp.7-8
  7. ^ James (Vol.II) p.11
  8. ^ a b James (Vol.II) p.12
  9. ^ James (Vol.II) p.13
  10. ^ James (Vol.II) p.16
  11. ^ James (Vol.II) pp. 14 & 16
  12. ^ James (Vol.II) pp.17-19
  13. ^ James (Vol.II) p.17


  • James, William (1837) [1827]. The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume I, 1793–1796. London: Richard Bentley. OCLC 634321885.
  • James, William (2002) [1827]. The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume II, 1797–1799. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-906-9.
  • Winfield, Rif (2008) British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793-1817: design, construction, careers and fates; 2nd ed. Seaforth Publishing ISBN 978-1-84415-717-4

External links[edit]