HMS Indefatigable (1784)

HMS "Indefatigable" was one of the "Ardent" class of 64-gun ships of third rates designed by Sir Thomas Slade in 1761 for the Royal Navy. She was ordered on 3 August 1780 (long after Slade's death), and her keel was laid down in May 1781 at the Bucklers Hard shipyard in Hampshire owned by Henry Adams. She was launched in early July 1784 and completed from 11 July to 13 September of that year at Portsmouth Dockyard as a 64-gun two-decked third-rate ship of the line for the Royal Navy. She had cost £25,210.4s.5d to build (her total initial cost including fitting out and coppering was £36,154.18s.7d). At that time, she was already nearly obsolete for the main battle line, and was never brought into commission in that role. In 1794, she was razéed: the upper gun deck was cut away to convert her into a razee, a large and heavily armed frigate of (nominally) 44 guns and fitted at Portsmouth (for £8,764) from September 1794 to February 1795.

The "Indefatigable" was first commissioned in December 1794 under Captain Sir Edward Pellew, for cruising; he commanded her until 1798. She took the French 44-gun frigate "Virginie" off the Lizard 22 April 1796; took (with her squadron) two French brigs 10-gun "Trois Couleurs" and 16-gun "Blonde" off Ushant 11 June 1796; and took 12-gun privateer schooner "Revanche" off Brest 2 October 1796.

Her most famous battle was the engagement off the Penmarcks on 13 January 1797, in company with the frigate "Amazon", against the French "Droits de l'Homme", a 74-gun ship of the line. The battle ended with "Droits de l'Homme" being driven onto shore in a gale. "Amazon" also was run ashore, and the majority of the crew survived and were captured. Despite being embayed and having damaged masts and rigging, "Indefatigable" was able to repair the damage and beat off the lee shore, showing excellent seamanship.

Subsequently she took more privateers in the Channel – the 8-gun "Basque" 30 April 1798 and 16-gun "Nouvelle Eugénie" 11 May 1797; retook the 24-gun privateer "Hyène" (ex HMS "Hyaena") off Teneriffe 14 October 1797; took (with others, in the Channel) more privateers – the 12-gun "Vengeur" 4 January 1798, the 8-gun "Inconcevable" 16 January 1798, and the 22-gun "Heureuse Nouvelle" 28 January 1798; took the 16-gun privateer "Heureux" off Bayonne 5 August 1798, the 20-gun "Vaillante" 7 August 1798 and the 16-gun "Minerve" off Ushant 31 December 1798. From March 1799 she was under Captain Henry Curzon (until the end of 1800); under his command, she took two 14-gun privateers - "Vénus" 31 May 1799 and "Vengeur" June 1799; served with Warren's squadron at Ferrol 26 August 1800; took (with "Fisgard") the French 28-gun frigate "Vénus" off the Portuguese coast 28 October 1800. In January 1801 she was under Captain Matthew Scott until she paid off later that year.

"Indefatigable" was fitted for Ordinary at Plymouth in March to April 1802, and laid up in reserve at Plymouth as a result of the peace of October 1801. Following the resumption of hostilities, the "Indefatigable" was fitted for sea in July to September 1803, and recommissioned under Captain Graham Moore, younger brother of Sir John Moore of Rifle Brigade and Corunna fame.

On 5 October 1804, with three other frigates ("Medusa", "Lively" and "Amphion" and with Moore as Commodore, she intercepted a Spanish treasure fleet of four frigates off Cadiz - "Medea", "Clara", "Fama" and "Mercedes" - carrying bullion from South America to Spain. Spain was at the time a neutral country, but was showing strong signs of declaring an alliance with Napoleonic France. Acting on Admiralty orders Moore required the Spaniards to change their course and sail for England. The senior Spanish officer refused and a short fight ensued, during which the "Mercedes" blew up. The remainder surrendered and were escorted to Plymouth. The value of the treasure was very large, and if it had been treated as Prize of War then Moore and his brother captains would have been set for life several times over. As it was the money (and ships) were declared to be "Droits of Admiralty" on the grounds that war had not been declared, and they got a relatively small "ex gratia" payment.

In October 1805 the "Indefatigable" was now under Captain John Rodd (-1809), for the blockade of Brest; her boats (with her squadron's) took the French 36-gun frigate "César" in the Gironde on 15 July 1806; was in the operations in the Basque Roads 12/13 April 1807; took French privateers – the 14-gun "La Diane" off the Gironde 31 July 1808, and the 3-gun "La Clarisse" in the Channel 14 January 1809. In October 1809 she was under Captain Henry E. R. Baker, then in December 1809 under Captain John Broughton (until 1812), then in June 1812 Captain John Fyffe, on South American station until she finally paid off in 1815. The "Indefatigable" was taken to pieces at Sheerness in August 1816.

In fiction

* "Indefatigable" under Pellew was selected by C. S. Forester as the ship on which his (fictional) hero Horatio Hornblower spent most of his time as a midshipman in the novel "Mr. Midshipman Hornblower".
* The Spanish flotilla incident is the one referred to by Forester in the novel "Hornblower and the Hotspur", although it would be expected for much more to have been made of the matter bearing in mind Hornblower's early career with the ship. This incident is also fictionalised in "Post Captain", the second of the Aubrey–Maturin series of novels by Patrick O'Brian, in which Captain Aubrey is in temporary command of HMS "Lively". It is also mentioned in a novel by Alexander Kent.

ee also

HMS|Anson|1781|2 and HMS|Magnanime|1780|2 of the similar "Intrepid" class, both 64-gun ships, were also razeed around the same time as "Indefatigable", but neither had as distinguished a career.


*Robert Gardiner, "Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars", Chatham Publishing, London 2000.
*Rif Winfield, "British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793 to 1817", Chatham Publishing, London 2005. ISBN 1-86176-246-1.
*Brian Lavery, "The Ship of the Line - Volume 1: The development of the battlefleet 1650-1850." Conway Maritime Press, 2003. ISBN 0-85177-252-8.

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