HMS Dreadnought (1801)

HMS Dreadnought (1801)

HMS "Dreadnought" was a 98-gun second-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched at Portsmouth at midday on Saturday, 13 June 1801, after 13 years on the stocks. She was the first man-of-war launched since the Act of Union 1800 created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and at her head displayed a lion couchant on a scroll bearing the Royal arms as emblazoned on the Standard.

The launching was a spectacle; it was reported that at least 10,000 people witnessed Commissioner Sir Charles Saxton break a bottle of wine over her stem, and that after the launch Sir Charles gave a most sumptuous cold collation to the nobility and officers of distinction.

After the launch, "Dreadnought" was brought into dock for coppering, and a great number of people went on board to view her. The following day, due to the exertions of Mr Peake, the builder, and the artificers of the dockyard, she was completely coppered in six hours and on Monday morning she went out of dock for rigging and fitting.

Her first commander was Captain James Vashon. After cruising for some time in the Channel he proceeded off Cádiz and Minorca where he continued until the summer of 1802.

Her first master was Mr. Banks followed by Joseph Foss Dessiou (17691853), who was paid off on 15 July 1802.

In 1803, Captain Edward Brace briefly took command as Flag-Captain to William Cornwallis, until he was relieved that same year by Captain John Child Purvis.

Purvis served under the orders of Admiral Cornwallis until he was promoted to Rear Admiral in April 1804. The next commander until August was Robert Carthen Reynolds. He was superseded that month by George Reynolds, who, in turn, was replaced in December that year by Edward Rotheram, who stayed as flag captain to Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood until just before Trafalgar. The winter gale weather off the French coast badly damaged five of the major warships maintaining the blockade. "Dreadnought" lost most of her powder when water poured into the magazine.

In the spring of 1805, Admiral Cornwallis was replaced by an ailing Lord Gardner who allowed the close blockade to be slackened. On 30 March the French fleet escaped from Toulon and reached Cádiz on 9 April. The French and Spanish squadrons sailed separately from there and joined forces in Martinique on 26 May. On 15 May Collingwood and his squadron of seven ships received orders from the Admiralty to sail for Barbados. Before they could depart; however, Horatio Nelson arrived from the Mediterranean Sea in pursuit of the French, and "Dreadnought" proceeded to Cádiz for Collingwood to command a close blockade there. Early in October 1805 Captain John Conn assumed command of "Dreadnought", after having brought "Royal Sovereign" out from England for Vice Admiral Collingwood. Collingwood and Rotheram then moved to the newly recoppered first rate on the 10 October 1805, leaving Conn in command of the now sluggish "Dreadnought", with her barnacled hull badly in need of careening, but nevertheless with a well exercised ship's company, who for months having been under Collingwoods watchful eye, now contained the most efficient gun crews in the fleet.

At the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805, "Dreadnought" was the eighth ship in the lee division to enter the action. She started firing on "San Juan Nepomuceno" at two o'clock and fifteen minutes later ran her on board and forced her to surrender after her valiant Spanish commander Commodore Cosme Damian de Churruca y Elorza had been killed in action. She then attempted to engage "Principe de Asturias" but the Spanish ship hauled off. During the battle "Dreadnought" lost seven killed and 26 wounded.

"Dreadnought" continued to patrol the Channel and the Baltic for another seven years, until 1812, when she was taken out of commission at Portsmouth. In 1827, she became a lazaretto (quarantine ship) at Milford on Sea and became the second of the ships used by the Seamen's Hospital Society, between 1831 to 1857, as a hospital ship for ex-members of the Merchant navy or fishing fleet, and their dependants. HMS "Dreadnought" was broken up in 1857 with the infirmary transferring to the HMS|Caledonia|1808|2, which was renamed "Dreadnought". In 1870 the infirmary transferred onto land as the Seamen's Dreadnought Hospital at the Royal Greenwich Hospital, and since 1986 as the 'Dreadnought Unit' at St Thomas's Hospital. In addition, the Seamen's Dreadnought Hospital provided in 1919 the foundation for the UK's dedicated Hospital for Tropical Diseases.


*Lavery, Brian (2003) The Ship of the Line - Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650-1850. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.

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