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'Arethusa' British 38-gun Minerva Class Frigate (With Plans)

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Ship that survived 3 wars and captured multiple ships before she was proudly retired in 1815.

Enjoy this interesting history stop. 


Try and Forge your legend only in Naval Action. 




HMS Arethusa (1781): American Revolutionary War


In February 1782, Arethusa captured the French ship Tartare, of fourteen 6-pounder guns. Tartarte was the former British privateer Tartar, which the French ships Aimable and Diligente had captured in September 1780. The Royal Navy took Tartare into service as True Briton.


On 20 August 1782, Arethusa recaptured the former British warship Thorn. She was armed with 18 guns and carrying a crew of 71 men. She was also carrying a cargo of 10,000 pounds of indigo and eight hogsheads of tobacco.


HMS Arethusa (1781): French Revolutionary Wars


Arethusa was assigned to the British Western Frigate Squadron under Commodore John Borlase Warren. The squadron consisted of Flora, Captain Sir John Warren, Arethusa, Captain Sir Edward Pellew, Melampus, Captain Thomas Wells, Concorde, Sir Richard Strachan, and Nymphe, Captain George Murray. These were all 36-gun ships, apart from Nymphe and Arethusa with 38.


The Western Frigate Squadron engaged a French squadron off the Île de Batz on 23 April 1794. The squadron had sighted four strange sail which, upon closure, were identified as three French frigates and a corvette. The French squadron included the new French Frigate Pomone which, at 44 guns, was the most powerful ship in action that day. Flora and Arethusa were the first to close with Pomone and Babet, the corvette of 20 guns. The opening shots were fired just before 6 a.m. For about forty-five minutes, the four ships maneuvered against one another without any severe damage being done. Then Flora lost her mainmast and was forced to drop astern. With Flora out of action, Pellew ordered Arethusa to close with the corvette. Arethusa’s carronades quickly destroyed her resistance. Leaving Babet to be finished by Melampus, Arethusa then engaged Pomone, coming to within pistol range at 8.30 a.m. and raking her repeatedly. Within twenty-five minutes one of the finest new French frigates was a ruin, her main and mizzen masts shot away and a fire burning on her aft deck. Just after 9 a.m., Pomone struck her colors.


Melampus and Arethusa captured Babet. The action had cost Babet some 30 to 40 of her crew killed and wounded. Arethusa also captured Pomone which had between eighty and a hundred dead or wounded out of her 350-man complement. Arethusa had three men killed and five wounded, a tribute to her superior gunnery. The captured vessels were brought her into Portsmouth, arriving on 30 April. The Royal Navy took Babet and Pomone into service under their existing names. Additionally Concorde captured Engageante in this action. Engageante suffered 30 to 40 men killed and wounded. Concorde lost one man killed and 12 wounded. Heavy mast damage to both vessels delayed their return to Portsmouth. Engageante was taken into British service as a hospital ship.


Some four months later, on 23 August, Arethusa and Flora sent their boats into Audierne Bay. There they attacked two French corvettes, Alerte and Espion, driving them ashore. The British took 52 prisoners.


On 21 October, the British frigate Artois captured Révolutionnaire at the Action of 21 October 1794. Artois shared the prize money with the other frigates in her squadron, Arethusa, Diamond, and Galatea.


In 1795, Arethusa, under the command of Captain Mark Robinson, was one of the Royal Navy vessels, under Borlase Warren's command, that participated in the unsuccessful Quiberon Expedition.


Arethusa was part of a fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Sir Henry Harvey, commander-in-chief for the Navy in the Leeward Islands, aboard Prince of Wales, that in February 1797 captured the Spanish-held Caribbean island of Trinidad. The flotilla sailed from Carriacou on 15 February and arrived off Port of Spain the next day. At Port of Spain they found a Spanish squadron consisting of four ships of the line and a frigate, all under the command of Rear-Admiral Don Sebastian Ruiz de Apodaca. Harvey sent Favourite and some of the other smaller ships to protect the transports and anchored his own ships of the line opposite the Spanish squadron. At 2am on 17 February the British discovered that four of the five Spanish vessels were on fire; they were able to capture the 74-gun San Domaso but the others were destroyed. Later that morning General Sir Ralph Abercrombie landed the troops. Captain Wolley of Arethusa superintended the landing. The Governor of Trinidad, José Maria Chacón, surrendered the next day. The flotilla shared in the allocation of £40,000 for the proceeds of the ships taken at Trinidad and of the property found on the island.


On 17 April, Arethusa, along with 60 other warships and transports, appeared off the Spanish colonial port city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The fleet landed a 7,000-man invasion force of Royal Marines, German mercenaries, and black militia troops from the island of Tobago, commanded by General Sir Ralph Abercromby. However, the resolute Spanish defense forced the British to withdraw after two weeks.


At daybreak on 10 August, Arethusa, commanded by Captain Thomas Wolley, was in the Atlantic Ocean at 30°49′N 55°50′W / 30.817°N 55.833°W / 30.817; -55.833 when she sighted three ships to windward. At 7:30 a.m. one of the ships bore down to within half gunshot, and opened fire. She proved to be the French 514-ton corvette Gaieté, commanded by Enseigne de vaisseau Jean-François Guignier. Having taken on a ship almost twice her size, mounting forty-four 18-pounder guns, there could only be one outcome, and the French ship was captured within half an hour, having sustained considerable damage to her sails and rigging, and lost two seamen killed and eight wounded. Arethusa lost one seaman killed, and the captain's clerk and two seamen wounded. The Royal Navy took Gaieté into service as Gaiete.


On 22nd August 1798 a force of 1,100 French Soldiers landed in County Mayo to support a major rebellion in Ireland and the Militias across the whole of the South of England were mobilized. On the 30th August the Arethusa arrived at Portsmouth from the coast of France and immediately sailed for Southampton River to embark the Dorset and Devon Militias


In May 1799 Arethusa came upon seven enemy vessels which made to engage her, but then turned away when she sailed towards them in "a spirited style". Arethusa captured one, an armed ship, which was carrying sundries from Saint-Domingue. Spitfire took the prize into Plymouth on the 23rd while Arethusa sailed off in search of the other six.


HMS Arethusa (1781): Napoleonic Wars


On 12 December 1805, Arethusa, Boadicea and Wasp left Cork, escorting a convoy of 23 merchant vessels. Four days later the convoy encountered a French squadron consisting of five ships of the line and four sailing frigates, as well as nine other vessels that were too far away for assessment. A letter writer to the Naval Chronicle, describing the encounter, surmised that the distant vessels were the Africa squadron that had been escorted by Lark and that they had captured. On this occasion, the British warships and six merchant vessels went one way and the rest went another way. The French chased the warships and the six for a day, ignored the 17, and eventually gave up their pursuit. Boadicea then shadowed the French while Wasp went back to French and Spanish coasts to alert the British warships there. Arethusa and her six charges encountered the French squadron again the next day, but after a desultory pursuit the French sailed off.


During the Action of 23 August 1806, Arethusa and Anson captured the Spanish frigate Pomona, as well as destroying a shore battery and defeating a fleet of gunboats. The captured frigate was taken into the Royal Navy as HMS Cuba.


On 1 January 1807 Arethusa, Latona, Anson, Fisgard, and Morne Fortunee captured Curaçao. The Dutch resisted and Arethusa lost two men killed and five wounded; in all, the British lost three killed and 14 wounded. On the ships alone, the Dutch lost six men killed, including Commandant Cornelius J. Evertz, who commanded the Dutch naval force in Curaçao and seven wounded, of whom one died later. With the colony, the British captured the frigate Kenau Hasselar, the sloop Suriname, and two naval schooners. In 1847 the Admiralty authorized the issue of the Naval General Service Medal with clasp “Curacoa 1 Jany. 1807” to any surviving claimants from the action; 65 medals were issued.


Niémen was built by Chantier Courau Frères at Bordeaux to a design by Pierre Rolland, carrying 40 guns. She was launched in 1808 but spent only months in French service. She was commissioned at Bordeaux on 22 November 1808, but not completed until January 1809. On 4 April 1809 she sailed under the command of Commandant Jean Dupotet for Fort-de-France with stores and a substantial crew of 319.


On 4 April 1809, HMS Amethyst, HMS Emerald, and Arethusa, Captain Robert Mends, encountered the newly built French frigate Niémen. Amethyst and Emerald gave chase, with Emerald falling behind. Amethyst caught up the next day and Niémen engaged each other in a bitter battle. Arethusa arrived on the scene that evening, firing a couple of broadsides at the badly damaged French ship. Either at this point, or the next morning, Niémen surrendered. The Royal Navy took the French frigate into service as Niemen.


a boat, under the command of Lieutenant Joseph William Bazalgette of HMS Resistance, captured her on 27 February 1809 off the north coast of Spain. In the action, the lieutenant de vaiseau commanding Mouche No.4 was killed. The prize money notice credited Resistance and HMS Arethusa with the capture.


Between 26 and 27 February 1809, Arethusa and Resistance captured four vessels, the 1-gun Mouche No. 4, the Etienneite, Charsier, master, Nancy, Subibelle, master, and a chasse-maree of unkown name.


HMS Arethusa (1781): Fate

Arethusa was broken up in 1815.


Ship Plans






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  • 4 years later...

Good afternoon. I am wondering the source of your photograph of the HMS Arethusa. I am writing a book which includes a chapter on the Gibraltar Lighthouse in Toronto and there is a reference to one of the keepers traveling aboard this boat from Portsmouth to Halifax in the summer of 1799. Is this photograph in the public domain anywhere that I could obtain a high resolution version?

Thank you for your time.


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