HMS Cerberus (1794)

HMS Cerberus (1794)

HMS "Cerberus" was a 32-gun fifth rate frigate of the Royal Navy.

Early career

"Cerberus" was launched in September 1794 by Adams, of Bucklers Hard. Her first commander was Captain J. Drew, who took command of her in January 1795. He was succeeded by Captain J. M'Namara in January 1798 while she was moored at Plymouth. On 28 September 1799 she captured the French letter of marque "Echange". The "Echange" carried 10 guns and 40 men, and was six days out of Bordeaux bound for San Domingo with a cargo of bale goods and wine. "Cerberus" was in the West Indies in 1801, but by 1802 she was back at Chatham Dockyard fitting out. She was briefly commanded by Captain W. Selby at this stage of her career.

Attacking a convoy

"Cerberus" was assigned to operate of the English and French coasts by 1804 and sailed from the Guernsey Roads on the afternoon of
25 January 1804. She passed through the Little Russel and headed towards Cape la Hogue to reach and reconnoitre Cherbourg before nightfall. As she neared the cape, a convoy of four armed vessels was sighted sailing eastwards. They then anchored, with the strong tides preventing "Cerberus" from closing them. Captain M'Namara sailed slightly to the south until darkness fell. The enemy force was then sighted sailing around the cape, close in shore. "Cerberus" shadowed them until a squall drove them off the land and allowed "Cerberus" to engage them. The British were able to capture one, the gunvessel "Chameau", and drove another onto the rocks. The "Chameau" was a new 300-ton ship, armed with four long 6-pounders and two swivels. She had been under the command of Ensign Francis Gabiare, and carried a crew of 37, defended by 21 armed troops.

Action against privateers

"Cerberus" was later involved in another engagement, this time on 2 April 1805. A strange sail was spotted at daylight and "Cerberus" gave chase, eventually overhauling and capturing her. She was discovered to be the privateer brig "Bonheur". She was armed with 14 guns and had sailed 13 days earlier from Cherbourg under Francis Folliott, with a crew of 36 men. During her cruise she had only managed to make a single capture.

"Cerberus" continued to serve in the Atlantic, also escorting convoys to the West Indies. Whilst covering one such convoy on 15 May 1806, dawn revealed a suspicious vessel near the fleet. M'Namara gave chase and after a pursuit lasting six hours overhauled and captured her. She was found to be the "Aimable Theresa", armed with two brass howitzers and 18 men. She was carrying a cargo of wine and merchandise, and had left Santiago de Cuba three days previously.

In the West Indies

By December 1806 "Cerberus" was in the West Indies, and in company with HMS "Circe" was reconnoitring the ports of Guadeloupe and Îles des Saintes. They found little of interest, except a 16-gun brig at Îles des Saintes. M'Namara left "Circe", under Captain Pigot to watch her, whilst he took "Cerberus" on a cruise. On 2 January, as the "Cerberus" was sailing between Martinique and Dominique a privateer schooner, with a schooner and a sloop standing nearby were sighted, heading for St. Pierre. "Cerberus" gave chase, cutting the ships off from the port and forcing them to anchor close to shore, under cover of a battery near the Pearl Rock. A volunteer force, under Lieutenants Coote and Bligh was formed, including Mr Hall, master's mate, Mr Sayer, Mr Carlwis and Mr Selby, midshipmen, Mr Collins, boatswain and Messers Horopka and Ratcove, two Russian gentlemen acting as midshipmen. They took the "Cerberus"’s boats in, under heavy fire from cannon and musketry, boarded the schooner and sloop, and brought them out. The privateer schooner escaped in the darkness, using her sweeps. Though the attack was successful, it was at heavy cost. Lieutenant Coote was blinded and George Sayer was hit in the leg by a musket ball. Two men, William Torbuct, ordinary seaman, and William Townsend, marine, were killed, and eight more were wounded. One of the wounded, ordinary seaman Peter Pipon, died later.

"Cerberus" remained with the British force in the West Indies through 1807 and into 1808. By now, Captain Selby, the commander of the blockading squadron covering Point a Petre, Guadeloupe, had realised that the French privateers were using the batteries on Marie-Galante to shelter themselves and their prizes. He ordered Captain Pigot to take 200 seamen and marines from "Cerberus", "Circe" and "Camilla" and capture the island. Pigot duly landed his force early on 2 March 1808 some two miles from Grand Bourg and the garrison duly capitulated. "Cerberus" remained in the area, and on 29 March and in company with HMS "Lily", HMS "Pelican", HMS "Express", HMS "Swinger" and HMS "Mosambique" sailed from Marie-Galante to attack the island of Deseada. They arrived on 30 March and landed seamen and marines under the command of Captain Sherriff. As the squadron approached they exchanged fire on a battery of 9-pounders covering the entrance to the harbour. They silenced the battery and the French surrendered.

The Baltic

"Cerberus" then returned to England and was paid off at Deptford later in 1808. Captain Selby took command of HMS "Owen Glendower" in February 1809 and died aboard her whilst at the Cape of Good Hope on 28 March 1811."Cerberus" was recommissioned in 1809 under the command of Captain Henry Whitby, and she sailed to the Baltic in March that year. On 25 July boats from the British squadron, consisting of "Cerberus", HMS "Princess Carolina", HMS "Minotaur" and HMS "Prometheus" attacked a flotilla of four enemy gunboats and a brig off Aspo. The boats were commanded by Captain Forrest of "Prometheus" and succeeded in capturing three of the gunboats and the brig. Lieutenant Simpson commanded the "Cerberus"’s boats, which had five seamen and two marines wounded in the operation. "Cerberus" then moved to the Mediterranean in 1810.

The Mediterranean

Whilst cruising in the Mediterranean a convoy from Trieste was intercepted on 28 June 1810 by HMS "Amphion" and chased into Grao. "Amphion" and "Cerberus" sent a number of boats into the harbour and after a brief struggle, captured the town, taking a number of French soldiers prisoner and discovering 25 vessels in the harbour. The shore parties were then reinforced by boats from HMS "Active", where they fought off a counter attack by more French troops. The prizes, and a number of prisoners were sailed out of the harbour on the evening of 29 June.

Further prize warfare was carried out the following year, when Captain Whitby discovered four vessels anchored at Pestichi on 4 February. He dispatched a number of barges from "Cerberus" and "Active" to capture them. Three trabaccolos were taken and sent off to Lissa, whilst another was burnt. On 12 February a number of vessels were spotted moored at Ortano, and boats from "Cerberus" were sent to secure them. As they attempted this, they came under heavy fire from shore positions, so more troops were landed from "Active" to secure the shore while the operation was carried out. "Cerberus", along with "Active", "Volage" and "Amphion" engaged an enemy force consisting of five frigates, a corvette, a brig, two schooners and a xebec north of Lissa, in what became the Battle of Lissa. The result was a British victory, two of the French ships were captured and another was burnt. "Cerberus" had 13 killed and 44 wounded.

"Cerberus" came under the command of Captain Robert Clephane later in 1811, before passing to Captain Thomas Garth in 1812. In 1813 boats from "Cerberus" captured an armed trabaccolo with a cargo of corn and flour, bound for Corfu. In March that year men and boats from "Cerberus" captured another vessel, destroyed a number of others, and destroyed a number of enemy fortifications. On 11 April, boats from "Cerberus" and HMS "Apollo" captured Devil's Island off Corfu, going on to capture two grain ships. Several other ships were also captured that month. On 30 May, again with "Apollo"’s boats, "Cerberus"’s boats attacked a heavily defended convoy off Fano, capturing two gunboats and four of the convoy. "Cerberus" spent 1814 in the Gulf of Venice.

She was then sold on 29 September 1814.


* [ History of HMS "Cerberus"]

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