HMS Porpoise (1804)

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United Kingdom
Name: Lord Melville
Builder: South Shields
Launched: 1804
Royal Navy EnsignUnited Kingdom
Name: HMS Porpoise
Acquired: By purchase c. September 1804
Fate: Sold 1816
General characteristics [1]
Type: Brig
Tons burthen: 399 (bm)
  • 100 ft 1 in (30.5 m) (overall)
  • 78 ft 1 in (23.8 m) (keel)
Beam: 30 ft 10 in (9.4 m)
Depth of hold: 13 ft 0 in (4.0 m)
Complement: 70

HMS Porpoise was the former quarter-decked sloop, the mercantile Lord Melville, which the Royal Navy purchased in 1804 to use as a storeship. Her early career was much bound up with William Bligh and Australia's history. She was sold in 1816.


Porpoise was fitted at Deptford between March and July 1805 for service as a storeship. She was commissioned in April 1805 under Commander Joseph Short as a flagship for Commodore William Bligh.[1] Bligh was formally appointed captain of Porpoise on 13 November 1805.[2]

On 28 January 1806 she left Portsmouth for the colony of New South Wales, escorting the transports Lady Madeleine Sinclair, Fortune, Alexander, Elizabeth, and Justina. Lady Madeleine Sinclair was also carrying Bligh, who was sailing to the colony to assume the governorship. Unfortunately, the Admiralty's orders were ambiguous as to whether Bligh or Short was in command of the convoy. At one point Bligh ignored a signal from Short to return Lady Madeleine Sinclair to her course, after Bligh had ordered a change in direction. Short responded by ordering his first lieutenant, John Putland, to fire one shot across her bows, and then a second across her stern, Bligh ignoring both. Short considered, but did not order Putland to fire a third shot into her. This was fortunate as Bligh was Putland's father-in-law, and Putland's wife Mary was accompanying her father on Lady Madeleine Sinclair.[3]

The convoy passed Madeira on 25 February and were reported all well on 5 March.[4] On the way Porpoise detained and sent into the Cape of Good Hope the Danish packet ship Three Sisters.[5] This was the detention of the Trende Sostre on 14 May by Porpoise, the storeship Woolwich, and the brig Rolla.[6]

Porpoise arrived in Sydney Harbour on 6 August. Bligh assumed the governorship of the colony and retained Porpoise to act as its principal naval unit. In January 1807 Short returned to Britain on HMS Buffalo. In his absence Bligh appointed Putland to command Porpoise. Putland died of tuberculosis on 4 January 1808.[3]

Porpoise then came under the command of Lieutenant James S.G. Symons (acting). In April 1808 Lieutenant William George Carlyle Kent (acting), replaced Symons,[1] who had discharged himself (that is, deserted) from the vessel and returned to Britain. Later, Bligh pressed charges against Kent for Kent's actions during the Rum Rebellion during which Bligh was under arrest. The court martial exonerated Kent, saying that he had tried to carry out his duty for "the good of His Majesty's service" under "extreme and extraordinary difficulties".[7]

In 1808 Lieutenant John Porteous, formerly captain of the royal yacht, was appointed to the rank of Commander and sent out to New South Wales to assume command of Porpoise.[8] He took command in January 1809.[1]

On 29 February 1809 Bligh boarded Porpoise after being held under house arrest for over a year following a revolt by the New South Wales Corps. For a little while he blockaded the port with the idea of capturing the convict transport Admiral Gambier, but changed his mind and sailed for Hobart.

Colonel Lachlan Macquarie of the 73rd Regiment of Foot arrived in Sydney with HMS Hindostan and HMS Dromedary on 28 December 1809 and assumed the governorship. Porpoise and Bligh returned to Sydney on 17 January 1810. Then in May Porpoise, Hindostan, and Dromedary sailed for Britain.

After returning to Britain Porpoise was fitted at Woolwich between May and August 1811. Between 1811 and 1812 she was under the command of T. Stokes, master.[1] She made voyages to the West Indies, the Cape of Good Hope, and North America.

Captain Peter Rye commanded Porpoise from April 1813 until October 1814.[9] Between December 1813 and February 1814 she was at Deptford fitting out to serve as a receiving ship at Woolwich. She then served as a 16-gun guardship at Sheerness.[1]


Porpoise was laid up in ordinary in 1815.[1] The Commissioners of the Royal Navy offered Porpoise for sale in November 1815.[10] She sold on 16 January 1816 for £1600.[1]

Citations and references[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Winfield (2008), p.263.
  2. ^ Bladen 1979, p. 730
  3. ^ a b Mary Bligh O'Connell.[1] - accessed 8 February 2014.
  4. ^ Lloyd's List, no. 4064,[2] - accessed 7 February 2014.
  5. ^ Lloyd's List, no. 4078,[3] - accessed 7 February 2014.
  6. ^ "No. 16905". The London Gazette. 4 June 1814. p. 1159. 
  7. ^ Marshall (1833), Vol. 4, Part 1, pp.161-195.
  8. ^ Naval Chronicle, Vol. 19, p. 261.
  9. ^ The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol. 189-190, p.553.
  10. ^ "No. 17079". The London Gazette. 14 November 1815. p. 2277. 


  • Bladen, F. M., ed. (1979). Historical records of New South Wales. Vol. 5, King, 1803, 1804, 1805. Lansdown Slattery & Co. ISBN 9780868330006. 
  • Marshall, John (1833). Royal naval biography, or, Memoirs of the services of all the flag-officers, superannuated rear-admirals, retired-captains, post-captains, and commanders, whose names appeared on the Admiralty list of sea officers at the commencement of the present year 1823, or who have since been promoted ... Volume 4, Part 1. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown. OL 24402927M. 
  • Winfield, Rif (2008). British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth. ISBN 1861762461.