HMS Polyphemus (1782)

HMS Polyphemus (1782)

HMS "Polyphemus", a 64-gun third-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, launched on 27 April 1782 at Sheerness. She was the first ship of the Royal Navy named for Polyphemus the Cyclops.

She was laid down at Sheerness in 1782 and was commissioned in 1799 under the command of Captain G. Lumsdaine. She sailed from Yarmouth on 9 August 1800 with a squadron under Vice Admiral Dickson in "Monarch" bound for Denmark. Because of lack of wind the faster sailing vessels had to tow the slower ones and it was 15 August before they reached the Skaw. The next day the whole squadron advanced as far as the mouth of the Sound where the Danes had anchored three 74-gun ships, later increased to four, between Cronberg Castle and the Swedish shore. Because of gales the Admiral sheltered his squadron in Elsinor Roads then went in "Romney" as far as Sophienburg to talk with Lord Whitworth who was negotiating with the Danish ministers. When matters were resolved the squadron returned to Yarmouth in September.

In 1801, under the command of Captain John Lawford, "Polyphemus" was with the fleet which bombarded Copenhagen on 2 April. "Polyphemus" lost Mr. James Bell the midshipman, four seamen and one marine. Mr. Edward Burr the boatswain, twenty seamen and four marines wounded were wounded. The division of the North Sea fleet commanded by Admiral Graves in "Polyphemus" returned to Yarmouth from the Baltic Sea on 13 July and then sailed to join Admiral Dickson's squadron blockading the Dutch fleet in the Texel. (It included
" Espiegle".)

In 1805, Captain Robert Redmill took command of "Polyphemus" off Cadiz. Later that year, she took part in the Battle of Trafalgar.

In July 1806 she was with Lord St. Vincent's squadron off Ushant and on 14 July her boats, together with others of the squadron, were taken by the "Iris" to Sir Samuel Hood in "Indefatigable" off Rochefort to attack two French corvettes and a convoy at the entrance to the Garonne. The weather on 15 July appeared suitable for the attempt but after the boats left a strong wind blew up and although they managed to capture the 18-gun brig "Caesar" they could not prevent the convoy escaping up river. The greater part of the boats were either shot through or so badly stove in that they were swamped, and had to be cut adrift from the brig as she was brought out under fire from the batteries and ex-British "Teaser" brig. The casualties from "Polyphemus" were William Anderson, Quarter Master's Mate, who was cut across the hand, and W. Fleming, Coxswain, who was cut across the eyebrow.

In 1807 "Polyphemus", under the command of Captain Peter Heywood, became the flagship of Rear Admiral Sir George Murray, South America.

In 1808, under the command of Captain W. Price Cumby (another Trafalgar veteran), she became the flagship of Vice Admiral B.S. Rowley. In July she sailed for Jamaica, convoying a large fleet of merchantmen, for the Vice Admiral to take up his appointment. Since he resided on shore with his flag in "Shark", "Polyphemus" was able to undertake cruises against the enemy. On the morning of 14 November he detached his boats under Lieutenant Joseph Daly in the barge to chase a schooner attempting to enter the harbour at San Domingo. An hour later she was boarded and carried under a hail of grape and musketry in which marine Samuel Crompton was killed and proved to be the French national schooner "Colibry" of three carriage guns commanded by Lieutenant Deyrisse with 63 men.

In June 1809 Captain Cumby was appointed to command a squadron consisting of "Polyphemus",
" Pike".They sailed from Port Royal on 7 June with troops under Major General Carmichael to assist the Spanish forces besieging the French in the city of San Domingo. On 1 July "Polyphemus" anchored at Caleta and loaded eight of her lower deck guns into the "Sparrow" sloop to be landed at Palenqui for the use of the batteries to the westward of the town. Two of the guns were then transported by Captain Burt of "Sparrow" from Andre Bay to the east battery, nearly 30 miles across almost impassable country. The French garrison surrendered on 6 July.

Captain Cumby was appointed to "Hyperion" in March 1811 and was succeeded by Captain T. Graves then Captain Douglas. "Polyphemus" paid off at Chatham in November 1812. In 1813 She was converted to serve as a powder hulk, and she was eventually broken up in 1827.


*This article includes material from "Ships of the Old Navy; a History of the Sailing Ships of the Royal Navy" by Michael Phillips. Used with permission of the author.
*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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