HMS Arab (1798)
The front page of HMS Arab's logbook, held at The National Archives, Kew
|Career (Great Britain)|
|Renamed:||Launched as the French privateer Brave|
|Captured:||24 April 1798 by HMS Phoenix|
|Fate:||Sold on 20 September 1810|
|General characteristics 1|
|Class & type:||22-gun sixth rate post ship|
|Tons burthen:||50548⁄94 (bm)|
|Length:||109 ft 11 in (33.5 m) (overall)
88 ft 10 in (27.1 m) (keel)
|Beam:||32 ft 8 1⁄2 in (9.970 m)|
|Depth of hold:||14 ft 3 in (4.34 m)|
|Sail plan:||Full-rigged ship|
|Armament:||20 x 9-pounder guns + 2 x 32-pounder carronades|
HMS Arab was a 22-gun post ship of the Royal Navy. She was formerly the 18-gun French privateer Brave, which the British captured in 1798. She served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars until she was sold in 1810.2
During her 12-year career she served on three separate stations, and was involved in two international incidents. The first incident occurred under Captain John Perkins and involved the Danes.3 The second incident occurred under Captain Lord Cochrane and involved the Americans.4 She participated in the capture of Sint Eustatius and Saba. Under Captains Perkins and Maxwell she also took a considerable number of prizes.56
Brave was built in Nantes around 1797. On 24 April 1798 the 36-gun Phoenix, under the command of Captain Lawrence William Halsted, captured Brave off Cape Clear. She was pierced for 22 guns and was carrying eighteen, mixed 12 and 18-pounders. Unusually for a privateer, Brave resisted capture, suffering several men killed and 14 wounded before she surrendered. Phoenix had no casualties and suffered trifling damage to her sails and rigging. Brave had a crew of 160 men and also some 50 English prisoners on board, none of whom were injured. Halsted described Brave as being "a very fine ship, of 600 Tons, is coppered, and sails exceedingly fast."7
After Phoenix captured Brave, the British brought her to Plymouth, where she arrived on 12 May. She was named and registered on 24 July 1798 and fitted out between November 1798 and April 1799. During this period a lower deck, quarterdeck and a forecastle were added. She was commissioned as HMS Arab in December 1798 under Commander Peter Spicer.1Note 1
On 5 January 1799 Captain Thomas Bladen Capel took command; he sailed Arab for Jamaica 23 April.1 On 23 August, Quebec shared with Arab the capture of the American brig Porcupine.8 Porcupine, of 113 tons and with a crew of eight men, was sailing from New York to Havana with a cargo wine, oil, soap and sundries. Porcupine was condemned but Quebec appealed.9 During this period Arab detained, on suspicion, the Spanish brig Esperansa, which was sailing from Carthagena with a cargo of cotton, hides, and so forth.9
Captain John Perkins (Jack Punch) took command in January 1801.10 In March 1801 Arab, in company with the 18-gun British privateer Experiment, caught and challenged two Danish vessels, the brig Lougen, under the command of Captain C.W. Jessen, and the schooner Den Aarvaagne.3 Arab approached the two Danish vessels and, according to Danish accounts, without warning, fired several broadsides at Lougen before the Danish ship was able to return fire. Lougen, which had escaped serious damage, began to return fire steadily. Experiment initially attempted to capture Aarvaagne, but Aarvaagne obeyed orders to stay out of the fight and instead escaped south to Christiansted on St. Croix with its intelligence on British actions. Experiment then joined Arab in the attack on Lougen, with the two British ships sandwiching the Danish ship. During the engagement, which lasted for over an hour, one of Lougen's shots struck the Arab's cathead and loosed the bower anchor. (Perkin's reported that it was the first shot from Lougen that loosed the bower anchor.) Arab's crew was unable to cut the anchor free, leaving Arab unable to manoeuvre effectively. This allowed Jessen to steer a course that brought him under the protection of the shore batteries and then into St Thomas.
The Danish government awarded Jessen a presentation sword made of gold, a medal and 400 rixdollars (the equivalent of a whole year’s salary) for his actions in escaping from a numerically superior force.11 Still, Perkins, after having repaired his battle damage, cruised outside the harbour and in a two-week period captured more than a dozen Danish and other foreign vessels.
On 13 April Arab captured the Spanish armed schooner Duenda.12 Perkins then used her and Arab to transport Colonel Blunt and 100 men of the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) to the wealthy islands of Sint Eustatius and Saba.13 On 16 April Perkins and Blunt captured the islands, together with their French garrisons, forty-seven cannon and 338 barrels of gunpowder.1415
Command of Arab passed to Captain Robert Fanshawe in 1802.1 Fanshawe took her back to Plymouth, where she spent between August and December being repaired and refitted. After a brief period spent laid up she was brought back into service with the resumption of war with France.
Arab was recommissioned in October 1803 under Captain Lord Cochrane,1 who had been assigned to Arab by Earl St Vincent. In his autobiography, Cochrane compared the Arab to a collier, and his first thoughts on seeing her being repaired at Plymouth were that she would "sail like a haystack".16 Under Cochrane's command Arab twice collided with Royal Navy ships, first with the 12-gun HMS Bloodhound, and then with the storeship HMS Abundance.
Despite his misgivings, Cochrane still managed to intercept and board an American merchant ship, the Chatham,4 thereby creating an international incident that led to the consignment of Arab and her commander to fishing fleet protection duties beyond Orkney in the North Sea, an assignment that Cochrane bitterly complained about.17 Cochrane would later refer to his time in the Arab in the North Sea and the Downs as "naval exile in a dreary tub".18
Captain Keith Maxwell replaced Cochrane in 1805, and sailed Arab to serve with the squadron off Boulogne. On 18 July the British spotted the French Boulogne flotilla sailing along the shore. Captain Edward Owen of HMS Immortalite sent Calypso, Fleche, Arab and the brigs HMS Watchful, HMS Sparkler, and HMS Pincher in pursuit of 22 large schooners flying the Dutch flag. As Maxwell came close to shore he found the water barely deep enough to keep Arab from running aground. Still, the British managed to force three of the schooners to ground on the Banc de Laine near Cap Gris Nez; their crews ran two others ashore.19 The British also drove six French gun-vessels on shore. However, the bank off Cape Grinez, and the shot and shells from the right face of its powerful battery, soon compelled the British to move back from the shore. Arab suffered seven wounded and a great deal of damage. Fleche was the closest inshore owing to her light draft of water; she had five men severely wounded and damage to her rigging.20
At some point a shell from a shore battery hit Arab's main-mast-head and then fell to the gun deck. At first a seaman named Clorento tried to defuse the shell. While he was doing this master's mate Edward Mansell and two more seamen came up. Together they got the shell into the sea, where it exploded. The next day Arab buried her dead at sea, after which the men on Immortalite cheered Arab.21 Maxwell wrote to the Patriotic Fund at Lloyd's, drawing its attention to the heroism of the four men. Thereafter, the Fund voted Mansell £50 and the three other seamen £20 each. The fund gave an additional £125 for Maxwell to divide between eight other crewmen in graduated amounts.22
In December 1805, Arab was off the west coast of Africa, together with Favourite. Subsequently Arab returned to the West Indies. During her time there Lieutenant Edward Dix, as acting captain, temporarily replaced Maxwell for a period of five weeks in 1806. Two days after Dix joined Arab, yellow fever broke out which the crew of Arab, except Dix and eight others, contracted; 33 men died.23 Maxwell resumed command and returned to Spithead in 1807 where Arab's remaining crew were paid off.
- Winfield (2008), p.234.
- Ships of the Royal Navy, Colledge, p.18
- Battle of West Kay 1801
- The Keith Papers, NRS, Vol. 2; Marsden to Hammond, 3 March 1804, National Archives, Kew, ADM 2/639
- National Archives, Kew: ADM 51/1406 Captain's Log HMS Arab 13 September 1800 – 17 May 1801
- National Archives, Kew: ADM 51/2110 Captain's Log HMS Arab 2 December 1804 – 20 September 1807
- The London Gazette: . 5 May 1798.
- The London Gazette: . 26 September 1812.
- The London Gazette: . 29 April 1800.
- National Archives, Kew: ADM 36/14778 Admiralty: Royal Navy Ships' Musters (Series I) Ship: ARAB 1800 Aug – 1801 Oct
- Danish Naval History - The Battle at West Kay 1801
- The London Gazette: . 9 May 1807.
- The London Gazette: . 30 May 1801.
- Clowes, p. 471
- Naval History of Great Britain James, (1837), Vol. 3, p.150.
- Cochrane Britannia's Sea Wolf, Thomas, p.82
- Autobiography of a Seaman, Cochrane, p. 90
- The Audacious Admiral Cochrane, Vale, p. 37
- Marshall (1824), Vol. 2, p.131-2.
- James (1837) Vol. III, pp.311-2.
- Marshall (1824), Vol. 2, Part 2, p.888.
- Naval Chronicle, Vol. 25, pp.390-3.
- Gentleman's magazine and historical chronicle, Vol. 8, pp.427-8.
- The London Gazette: . 4 September 1810.
- Colledge, J. J.; Warlow, Ben (2006) . Ships of the Royal Navy: The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy (Rev. ed.). London: Chatham Publishing. ISBN 978-1-86176-281-8. OCLC 67375475.
- Clowes, W. Laird, et al. (1897-1903) The royal navy: a history from the earliest times to the present. (Boston: Little, Brown and Co. ; London : S. Low, Marston and Co.), Vol. 3.
- James, William (1837), The Naval History of Great Britain, from the Declaration of War by France in 1793, to the Accession of George IV., R. Bentley
- Marshall, John (1823–35) Royal naval biography; or, Memoirs of the services of all the flag-officers, superannuated rear-admirals, retired-captains, post-captains, and commanders, whose names appeared on the Admiralty list of sea officers at the commencement of the present year or who have since been promoted. (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown).
- Winfield, Rif. British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1793-1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. Seaforth Publishing, 2nd edition, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84415-717-4.
- Vale, Brian. The Audacious Admiral Cochrane: The True Life of a Naval Legend.
- Earl of Dundonald, Thomas. The Autobiography of a Seaman.
- Thomas, Donald. Cochrane: Britannia's Sea Wolf.