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Another report of the same encounter can be found in the London Gazette of 16 June 1744.



During the last long-protracted war, the Sunderland colliers often defied and beat off the enemy's privateers.

The following instance of heroism, related in the Percy Anecdotes, is scarcely to be paralleled in the annals of British daring :

The Isabella, of Sunderland, captain Hornsby, while steering for the Hague, fell in with the Marquis of Brancas, a French privateer, with a crew of 75 men, ten guns, and eight swivels, besides 300 small arms. The Isabella's crew consisted of five men and two boys : she carried four guns and two swivels.

Upon observing the privateer, captain Hornsby asked his men to stand by him ; they promised to stand by him to the last. He then hoisted the British colours ; returned the fire of the enemy's chase with his two swivels. The Frenchman called upon him to strike. He coolly returned an answer of defiance.

Upon this the privateer poured such showers of bullets into the Isabella, that her crew retreated to close quarters. Twice the enemy attempted to board on the larboard quarter ; Hornsby by a turn of the helm, frustrated their attempts. The Frenchman still kept firing upon him. The action had now lasted an hour, when the privateer running furiously upon his larboard bow, entangled his bowsprit among the shrouds.

The captain of the privateer bawled out - "Strike you English dog." - Hornsby challenged him to come on board and strike his colours if he durst.

The Frenchman then threw twenty men on board ; but a general discharge of blunderbusses from the Isabella's crew soon caused them to retreat. The ships now got disentangled, and the privateer tried to board on the starboard side ; when Hornsby and his mate shot each his man as they were lashing the ships together.

The Frenchmen again commanded him to strike ; upon his refusal, twenty fresh men were ordered to attack the crew in their quarters with hatchets and pole axes ; but Hornsby and his crew, from their close quarters, kept up a constant fire, and a second time the Frenchmen retreated, hauling their dead after them with hooks. The ships being still lashed together, the enemy kept up a constant fire upon their close quarters; Hornsby returned the fire with spirit and effect.

Observing them crowded together behind their mainmast for shelter, he aimed a blunderbuss, which happened to be doubly loaded, through a mistake, with twice twelve balls, which burst and threw him down ; but in an instant he started up, though much bruised. The blunderbuss made terrible havoc among the Frenchmen; they disentangled the ships, leaving their pistols, pole-axes, and graplings behind them.

Hornsby then fired his two starboard guns into the enemy's stern. The ships engaged each other for two hours, yard-arm to yard-arm. The Isabella's hull, masts, yards, sails, and rigging, were shot through and through, and her ensign dismantled. A shot striking the Brancas between wind and water, she sheered off. Hornsby, erected his shattered ensign, and gave the Frenchman three cheers. The Frenchman returning, fired a dreadful volley into the stern of the Isabella.

Captain Hornsby was wounded in the temple, which bled profusely. He called to his men to stand to their arms ; and taking close quarters, they sus tained the shock of three most tremendous broadsides, returning the fire, and the privateer again sheered off. They cheered and set up again their ensign. The Frenchman returned, and fired two broad sides, summoning a surrender — a final defiance was hurled at him. The captain of the privateer ran his ship alongside — his crew refused to board. He then cut the lashings and sheered off. Hornsby fired a gun ; upon which the magazine blew up, and the privateer went to the bottom.

Out of 75 men, 36 were killed or wounded ; all the rest perished in the deep except three.


In September 1744 George II awarded Hornsby a gold medal and chain worth £100 for his bravery, at a ceremony at Kensington Palace.

The medal was engraved in italics and read

"His Majesty’s Reward to Richd. Hornby [sic] of the Wrightson and Isabell for Bravely defending her with five men & three boys against a French privateer of 70 men and blowing up the privateer June 2 1744"

His men each received a bounty of £5, whilst the boys received a mere 40 shillings.

The original gold medal was the Royal Family medal of 1732 and depicts King George II and Queen Caroline on the obverse. The reverse contains the busts of seven royal children. The medal was struck by John Croker from dies prepared by John Sigismund Tanner and is only found struck in gold, silver and copper. The medal was produced by order of the King for distribution to foreign Princes and to other persons, whom His Majesty was pleased to honour. ( in The Hornsby Medal, by Sim Comfort https://www.medalcollectors.org/Archives/MCA Advisory April-May 2011.pdf )


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