HMS Penelope (1798)
Capture of the William Tell, by Robert Dodd. The Penelope is seen raking the William Tell as the two ships of the line close in
|Naval General Service Medal with clasp "Egypt"|
|Fate:||Wrecked in 1815|
|Class and type:||36-gun fifth rate|
Under Sir Henry Blackwood, she took part in the battle of 30 March 1800 against the Guillaume Tell, off the coast of Valletta, Malta. The British squadron off Malta comprised the 80-gun Foudroyant, the elderly 74-gun Alexander and 64-gun Lion and the 36-gun Penelope. The squadron wa supported by the big Minorca.
The Guillaume Tell had put to sea in the evening of 30 March under the command of French Admiral Denis Decrès. She was sighted by crew aboard Penelope slightly before midnight, heading northeast. Blackwood ordered an immediate pursuit and sent word via Minorca to the rest of the fleet. A first broadside was fired at about 1am, but Guillaume Tell continued on her course without returning fire. By dawn, Penelope had again drawn within range of the larger French vessel, and Blackwood ordered a continued raking fire which brought down Guillaume Tell's main and mizzen topmasts.
Penelope's sister ships Lion and Foudroyant hove into view shortly afterward, and engaged Guillaume Tell at close range, disabling her rigging and causing damage to her hull. Both British ships were badly damaged by the time Guillaume Tell struck her colours, and it was Penelope that took the French ship in tow and led her as a prize to Syracuse. Penelope lost two killed and two wounded in the battle. Blackwood was later commended for his gallantry and perseverance in initially engaging the French ship despite her larger size and firepower.
Because Penelope served in the navy's Egyptian campaign (2 March to 8 September 1801), her officers and crew qualified for the clasp "Egypt" to the Naval General Service Medal that the Admiralty authorised in 1850 for all surviving claimants.[Note 1]
On 30 April 1815, Penelope, under James Galloway, ran aground near the Cap des Rosiers, British North America. In the night, she broke into three pieces, killing 40 of her crew. Many survivors subsequently froze to death. In all, 216 men drowned or froze to death. Sixty-six men and two women reached Douglastown two days later. The subsequent courtmartial placed the master at the bottom of the list of seniority for failing to pay attention to the situation of the ship. Galloway and his First Lieutenant were reprimanded for the breakdown of discipline on board and on shore during the disaster;neither was employed again. One seaman received 500 lashes for insubordination, desertion, and being drunk. Some 48 men took the opportunity to desert
Notes, citations, and references
- A first-class share of the prize money awarded in April 1823 was worth £34 2s 4d; a fifth-class share, that of a seaman, was worth 3s 11½d. The amount was small as the total had to be shared between 79 vessels and the entire army contingent.
- A seaman's share of a £1700 advance on the prize money was 16s 2½d.
- Chatterton, E. Keble (1967). Old Ship Prints. London: Spring Books. OCLC 248152337.
- Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) . Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8. OCLC 67375475.
- Hepper, David J. (1994). British Warship Losses in the Age of Sail, 1650-1859. Rotherfield: Jean Boudriot. ISBN 0-948864-30-3.