Tuesday, 8 September 2020

All at Sea - On the Stocks in JJ's Dockyard, Spanish Builds Part Eight

The Spanish Mahonesas class frigate Ninfa was built in Port Mahon sometime in 1794 and launched the following year.

At launch she was one of the 34-gun 12-pounder frigates that formed the core of the Spanish frigate force in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars with a main armament consisting of 26 x 12-pounder long guns on her main deck, 8 x 6-pdr guns and 6 x 32-pdr carronades on her quaterdeck and 2 x 6-pdr guns and 2 x 32-pdr carronades on her forecastle.

Not much seems to be recorded about her early career, up until her capture by the British on the 26th April 1797 when she in company with Santa Elena, another 34-gun frigate, were intercepted off Cadiz carrying treasure back from Havana in Cuba.

The two Spanish ships, attempting to enter the Spanish naval base, were spotted by the outlying ships of Admiral Jervis's, now Earl St Vincent's, British blockading fleet, after his recent victory over the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Cape St Vincent in February of that year and their retreat into Cadiz following it.

However the two Spanish frigates had been fortunate to have met with local fishing boats who warned them of the danger and took the treasure off them to land it unbeknown to the British force before they were attacked.

Captain Sir George Martin commanded the Irresistible and Amazon during the capture of the Ninfa, shown here in later life as an admiral 

After being spotted the two frigates were pursued by HMS Irresistible 74-guns and HMS Emerald 36-guns (Captain Velters Cornwall Berkeley) under the command of the captain of the Irresistible, Sir George Martin, and they took shelter anchoring amid the rocky approaches to Conil Bay hoping the rocky shore would deter the pursuit but preparing to resist them should that fail.

Conil Bay, just along the coast from Cadiz, where the Ninfa was captured, 26th April 1797 

Successfully negotiating the large rocky outcrop at the head of the bay known as the Laja de Cape Rocha the British ships engaged broadside to broadside as the outgunned Spanish frigates fought a ninety minute action but were forced to strike at 4 pm with Spanish casualties recorded as eighteen killed and thirty wounded.

As the British attempted to take possession of their prizes, the crew of the Santa Elena cut their cable and their ship drifted onto the rocks, where all the remaining able-bodied crew escaped ashore, leaving their ship to be towed off the rocks by the British, but sinking later from the damage.

Model of the Spanish frigate Diana, another Mahonesas frigate and sister ship to the Ninfa as featured in my previous post.

The Ninfa however was captured and was purchased for the Royal Navy, being renamed HMS Hamadryad of 36 guns under Captain Thomas Elphinstone, operating out of Gibraltar and taking two Spanish privateers in her short career before sinking in a storm in Algiers Bay on 25th December 1797

Sources referred to:
History of the Royal Navy - William Laird Clowes

That concludes the build of the principle ships in the Spanish fleet box, which will also see the completion of some Spanish brigs in time, but next up I have my Spanish and French corvettes and work is ongoing with the Third Rates of Renown, British, French and Spanish, before I move on to do some more scratch builds.


  1. Stunning work, a great looking ship! :)

    1. Thank you Mark, glad you like my latest addition. I'm looking forward to being able to get her out on the table and rolling some bones.

  2. Great work. A litte clarification. The term Mahonesas class frigates is misleading. Several frigates were built on Mahon but not of the same design. The Mahonesa was a Soledad class frigate and the Diana was an altogether new design; Ninfa was built along the lines of the Diana, so a Diana class frigate.
    The best reference on spanish frigates is: https://es.slideshare.net/egtorralba/las-fragatas-de-vela-de-la-armada-espanola-1650-1853-su-evolucin-tcnica

    1. Hi Larraspuru,

      Great, thank you, and thank you for your helpful reference and further information. Details on Spanish ships in general, but particularly the frigate force is limited in English sources as my references reveal and so more information is really useful especially when trying to decide the likely fit out in guns carried at any particular time.