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Hethwill

Resolute convoy escort - unequal contest

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Early in the morning on the 13th of November,

the Milbrooke schooner, of 16 guns, and 45 men, commanded by Lieutenant Matthew Smith,

being off Oporto with two brigs of the Newfoundland convoy under his protection, fell in with a French privateer ship, of 36 guns;

Lieutenant Smith at this time observed several other vessels in the offing, which he had reason to suppose was a part also of the above convoy. The vast superiority of the enemy's force did not operate on the gallant spirit of Lieutenant Smith, whose principal object was the preservation of his convoy;

he therefore came to the resolution of giving the enemy battle, and in order to give his convoy a more favourable opportunity to escape, he made sail to close with her.

It being nearly calm, it was eight or nine o'clock before the Milbrooke arrived within gun-shot of her antagonist, when a spirited action commenced, and was maintained with great bravery until near ten o'clock, when the enemy's colours appeared to be struck: but the Milbrooke at this time having ten of her guns disabled, the masts, yards, sails, and rigging, much wounded and cut to pieces, Lieutenant Smith could not prevent the enemy from taking advantage of a breeze springing up, and with the assistance of his sweeps to get off.

In this unequal contest the Milbrooke had only ten wounded; amongst them were Mr. Thomas Fletcher, the master, and Mr. J. Parston, surgeon's mate.

The enemy's vessel, which proved to be La Bellone, of 36 guns and 320 men, put into Vigo, with the loss, it was said, of 20 men killed, the first and second captains, and 45 wounded. 

 

( literal source. The British Trident Vol. IV )

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also the same episode as registered in Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III / 1800 /  Light Squadrons and Single Ships p.56/57

Milbrook / Millbrook, 1797 
Type: Experimental Schooner ; Armament 16 x 18-pdrs carronades 
Launched : 1797
BM: 148 tons

On the 13th of November, early in the morning, the Milbrook, then lying becalmed off the bar of Oporto, descried a French ship, wearing a pendant, and, to all appearance, a frigate of 36 guns. Having under his protection two brigs of a Newfoundland convoy, and observing several other vessels in the offing, which, if as he conjectured English merchantmen, were equally an object of desire to the Frenchmen, Lieutenant Smith got out his sweeps, and pulled towards the enemy.

At 8 A.M. the schooner received a broadside from the ship, which was the celebrated French privateer Bellone, of Bordeaux.

Before the Bellone could bring her second broadside to bear, the Milbrook had fired three broadsides, and by the time the former had fired her third, the schooner had discharged eleven broadsides. Such was the rapidity of firing where no time was lost by running out the guns.

The carronades of the Milbrook were seemingly fired with as much precision as quickness; for the Bellone, from broadsides fell to single guns, and showed, by her sails and rigging, how much she had been cut up by the schooner's shot.

At about 10 A.M. the ship's colours came down; and Lieutenant Smith used immediate endeavours to take possession of her.

Not having a rope left wherewith to hoist out a boat, he launched one over the gunwale; but, having been pierced with shot in various directions, the boat soon filled with water. At this time the Milbrook, having had 10 of her guns disabled, her masts, yards, sails, and rigging wounded and shot through, and all her sweeps cut to pieces, lay quite unmanageable, with her broadside to the Bellone's stern. In a little while a light breeze sprang up, and the Bellone, hoisting all the canvass she could set, sought safety in flight.

Out of the 47 men of her crew, the Milbrook had eight seamen and one marine severely, and her master (Thomas Fletcher, but who would not quit the deck), surgeon's mate (I. Parster), and one seaman, slightly wounded.

The loss sustained by the Bellone, as rumoured at Vigo, into which port she was compelled to put, amounted, out of a crew probably of 250 or 260 men, to 20 killed, her first and second captains and 45 men wounded.

The guns of the Bellone, as already has been stated, consisted of 24 long French 8-pounders and six or eight brass 36-pounder carronades. The ship, therefore, was almost quadruple superior to the Milbrook ; and Lieutenant Smith, by his gallantry and seamanlike conduct, not only preserved from capture a valuable convoy, but added, in no slight degree, to the naval renown of his country.

This became appreciated in the proper quarter, and Lieutenant Smith was promoted to the rank of commander. Also the English factory at Oporto, to evince their sense of the service performed by the Milbrook, voted Lieutenant Smith their thanks, accompanied by a piece of plate of 50£ value.

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