HMS Fox (1773)

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For other ships with the same name, see HMS Fox.
Combat de la frégate française la Junon contre la frégate anglaise Fox en septembre 1778.jpg
The capture of HMS Fox by the French frigate Junon
Royal Navy Ensign (1707-1801)Great Britain
Name: HMS Fox
Ordered: 25 December 1770
Builder: Thomas Raymond, Northam, Southampton
Laid down: May 1771
Launched: 2 September 1773
Completed: 12 February 1776 at Portsmouth Dockyard
Commissioned: October 1775
Fate: Captured by French frigate off Brest, 11 September 1778
United States of America
Name: Fox
Acquired: 7 June 1777 by capture
Captured: 8 July 1777
Royal Navy Ensign (1707-1801)Great Britain
Name: HMS Fox
Launched: 8 July 1777 by capture
Captured: 11 September 1778
Royal French EnsignFrance
Acquired: 11 September 1778 by capture
Fate: Grounded March 1779 and could not be refloated
General characteristics
Class and type: 28-gun Enterprise-class sixth-rate frigate
Tons burthen: 599 8394 (bm)
  • 120 ft 6 in (36.73 m) (overall)
  • 99 ft 6 in (30.33 m) (keel)
Beam: 33 ft 8 in (10.3 m)
Depth of hold: 11 ft 0 in (3.35 m)
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Complement: 200 officers and men
  • Upper deck: 24 × 9-pounder guns
  • QD: 4 x 6-pounder guns
  • Fc: nil
  • Also: 12 x swivel guns

HMS Fox was a 28-gun Enterprise-class sixth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy. Fox was first commissioned in October 1775 under the command of Captain Patrick Fotheringham. The Americans captured her in June 1777, only to have the British recapture her about a month later. The French then captured her a little less than a year after that, only to lose her to grounding in 1779, some six months later.


USS Hancock and USS Boston overtake HMS Fox.

On 7 June 1777 Fox was cruising off the Newfoundland banks when she sighted a strange vessel. Fox sailed towards the stranger until she sighted yet another strange vessel. Suspecting that these were both American frigates, Fox attempted to escape. However, Hancock, the first of the two, caught up with Fox and an engagement started that lasted for about a half-hour before Boston was able to join the combat. Fox again attempted to sail away, but Hancock caught up and opened fire. After Boston came up too and was able to shoot away Fox's mainmast and wheel, Fotheringham struck. Fox had lost four men killed and eight wounded.[1]


One month later, on 7-8 July, Hancock, Boston, and Fox were in company when they encountered HMS Rainbow, under the command of Captain Sir George Collier, and HMS Victor. Rainbow had left Halifax in the morning of 6 July and in the afternoon sighted three sail. She gave chase, during which HMS Flora came up independently and proceeded to engage one of the unknown vessels. The next day Rainbow and Flora exchanged quarry, with Rainbow pursuing the largest enemy vessel, accepting that one of the three American vessels would necessarily escape. The brig Victor was a poor sailer and essentially played no role in the engagement.[2] Ultimately, Rainbow captured Hancock after a 39-hour chase,[2] but Boston escaped to the Sheepscot River on the Maine coast. (Captain McNeill, of Boston, was court-martialed in June 1779 for his failure to support Hancock and was dismissed from the U.S. Navy.)

Collier's after-action letter made no mention of any casualties on either side, even though the vessels had exchanged some fire. Hancock normally had a complement of 290 men, but only 229 on board when Rainbow captured her; the remainder were a prize crew on Fox. Fotheringham and 40 of his men were prisoners on Hancock. The other officers and some of the men were aboard Boston, and Captain John Manley of Hancock had put most into a fishing vessel and sent them to Newfoundland. Because of the number of American prisoners involved, Rainbow took Hancock into Halifax. When Collier arrived at Halifax he was delighted to see that Flora had captured Fox and that they had arrived there before him.[2]

And capture again

The French frigate Junon captured Fox on 11 September 1778. Fox, now under the command of Captain the Honourable Thomas Windsor, was off Brest when she sighted a ship and sloop. Fox gave chase, but the weather made visibility poor and obscured Junon's approach. When Fox finally sighted Junon, Fox prepared to engage. The two vessels maneuvered against each other until finally they gave up and simply exchanged broadsides. Junon, unusually for a French vessel, fired at Fox's hull rather than her rigging, with the result that Junon's heavier guns were able to inflict heavy casualties on Fox, and shoot away her three masts. Windsor was forced to strike, having lost 14 men killed and 32 wounded.[3]


Fox ran aground in March 1779 on Pointe St Jacques on the Rhuys Peninsula and could not be refloated.[4]


  1. ^ Hepper (1994), p. 50.
  2. ^ a b c The London Gazette: no. 11798. pp. 2–3. 19 August 1777.
  3. ^ Hepper (1994), p. 53.
  4. ^ Demerliac (1996), p.69, #426.