Saturday, 10 April 2021

All at Sea - The Small Ships at Trafalgar

HMS Pickle - Anthony Cowland
https://www.argc-art.com/sail-and-tall-ships

This last post looking at the models built for the Trafalgar collection focusses on the small ships that completed the respective fleets in action at the battle on the 21st October 1805.

I suppose it is not surprising that as wargamers depicting this famous battle, it is tempting to ignore these small ships, being of little consequence in the fighting and just unnecessary models cluttering up the table and needing to be moved out of the way.

However, if you take the view that our table-top is creating a vista or three dimensional picture of the battle as we play, it has always struck me that leaving these small ships out of the picture short changes the viewer and steps back from the historical recreation and more towards just another game using model ships.

One of the Trafalgar 'Small-Ships'', the French brig Furet depicted far left, at Trafalgar, also the schooner Pickle is depicted behind the lead British frigate alongside Nelson's weather column that has just penetrated the Allied line - Nicholas Pocock (National Maritime Museum)

So my intention in building the collection was always to faithfully portray all the ships that took part and to have them be available to perform the roles they were required of by their respective commanders on the day, who obviously would have been rather put out, if some wargamer had told them that they're really not that necessary and shall we just get on with it!

My renditions of HM Schooner Pickle and Cutter Entreprenante  flying red colours, not strictly accurate for Trafalgar, but part of my policy to have all my Royal Navy light vessels flying the red, more appropriate for other scenarios.

Vice Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour 1799 - John Hoppner
(National Maritime Museum)

HMS Pickle was a Bermudan topsail schooner, built in 1799 and originally built as the six-gun civilian vessel Sting, until she was formerly purchased for the navy in December 1800 for £2,500 by Vice Admiral Lord Hugh Seymour commanding the Jamaica Station and who up to that time had been hiring the vessel to act as a tender for £10 a day.

Making his decision to purchase the Sting, was in direct disobedience of the Admiralty, but faced with a fait accompli they finally consented and renamed the vessel Pickle in February 1801. It would seem however that not everyone in naval circles was keen on the new name and her commander Lieutenant Thomas Thrush was reprimanded for persisting in referring to her as 'Sting', a much more warlike sounding nom de plume.

My picture of the model of HMS Pickle as displayed at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and referred to in my post covering our visit in April 2016
http://jjwargames.blogspot.com/2016/04/portsmouth-historic-dockyard.html

The year 1801 saw the Pickle continue her duties in the Caribbean, escorting convoys and taking on French, Dutch and Spanish privateers and on the 25th September 1801 was involved in a particularly gruelling action with a Spanish privateer, flying British colours, who hoisted Spanish ones when the Pickle closed to pistol range and began a one and a quarter hour action that saw her commander Lieutenant Greenshields killed with a musket shot to the body and the wounding of Midshipman Pearce, her master, Thomas Hayer and seven of her thirty-five man crew, with three of them already laid low through sickness.

The Spaniard then attempted to board the Pickle, which having been repulsed saw her pull away leading to the Pickle commencing an hour and a half chase, that ended with the privateer getting away.

In his report of the action, Hayer described the privateer as being armed with two 12-pounder and two nine-pounder guns and a crew of about seventy men, with this sharp little fight appealing to be recreated using 'To Covet Glory' as used during my game Scourge vs Sans Culottes.

http://jjwargames.blogspot.com/2021/01/all-at-sea-scourge-vs-le-sans-culottes.html

In the summer of 1801, Admiral Seymour fell ill with Yellow Fever and despite going to sea for respite care aboard HMS Terpsichore, died from the illness on the 11th September 1801 at the age of 41 and his body was repatriated to Britain aboard the Pickle which after her arrival saw her appointed a new commander on the 24th March 1802, Lieutenant John Richard Lapenotiere; and with the resumption of war with France was attached to the inshore squadron in the blockade of Brest under Admiral William Cornwallis.

Portrait of John Richard Lapenotiere, captain of the Pickle at Trafalgar, seen as a Post Captain in 1815, also from our visit to Portsmouth in 2016

Throughout 1803 and the following year, Pickle cruised off the French base and into the Channel taking on French and American blockade runners, with Pickle cutting out two Chasse Marees loaded with supplies, bound for Brest, on the 25th September 1803, after she had chased them close to shore, later bringing both French vessels into Plymouth.

By July 1805, Pickle was working with British frigates off Gibraltar and Tangier, taking on American brigs and Spanish gunboats and in October joined Sir Henry Blackwood's frigate squadron of observation off Cadiz, leading to her participation at Trafalgar.

Survivors from the French 74-gun Achille which blew up at the end of the battle being rescued by British boats

On the approach to battle, the Pickle joined Blackwood's frigate line north-west of Nelson's weather column and kept well out of the way of battle, later joining with Entreprenante to rescue survivors, including two women from the French third-rate Achille which blew up at the close of battle.

Example of a Lloyds Patriotic Sword awarded to exemplary commanders, this one seen at Portsmouth and awarded to Captain William Prowse who commanded the 36-gun frigate Sirius at Trafalgar

With command of the British fleet devolving to Admiral Collingwood, he dispatched Lieutenant Lapenotiere and Pickle, together with three times her number of French prisoners home to deliver news of the victory to the Admiralty, which despite a plot by the prisoners to take the ship into Cadiz, she achieved, with Lapenotiere rewarded for the honour of delivering the news by promotion to Commander and the award of a Lloyds Patriotic Award sword together with one-hundred guineas.

The Pickle returned to service in the Channel and off the French and Spanish Atlantic coast ending her days on the 26th July 1808 on rocks close to Cadiz after a navigation error left her grounded and her bottom ripped out, but with her crew managing to get off in her boat.

HMS Pickle had a compliment of forty men and was armed with eight 12-pounder carronades.


The smallest ship at Trafalgar was HM Cutter Entreprenante, captured from the French in 1798 and commissioned into the Royal Navy in 1799, and is thought to have been built in 1797 in the French-Basque port of Socoa, modern day Ciboure, near Saint Jean de Luz on the Franco-Spanish Pyrenean border originally as a privateer under the command of Ensign Dominique Delouart from Bayonne.

The early years of her career in British service, during the years 1801 to 1802, was spent operating in the Mediterranean, carrying despatches and intercepting enemy supply merchantmen off Genoa , then under siege by the Austrians with support from the British navy.

On the 2nd March 1801 she was part of the fleet supporting the British landing at Aboukir Bay in Egypt for which surviving members of her crew were awarded the Naval General Service Medal with clasp 'Egypt' in 1850.

A Royal Navy cutter sails past the stern of a frigate at anchor in choppy seas off the Devon coast - Thomas Luny (National Maritime Museum)

With the end of the French Revolutionary War in 1802, Entreprenante returned to Britain to be refitted in Portsmouth ready to return to war in December 1803 under her new commander Lieutenant James Brown who would relinquish command to Lieutenant Robert Benjamin Young on the 12th April 1804.

Young would be in command of Entreprenante at Trafalgar and attached to Collingwood's Lee Column, but as with Pickle, staying well away from the action and later taking part in the rescue of the survivors from the Achille sinking.



Following picking up the survivors of the Achille, Young discovered that the prize crew aboard the captured Spanish 74-gun Bahama had been overpowered and the Spanish were attempting to get the ship into Cadiz which was thwarted once Young had reported the situation to Collingwood, who later sent him with his dispatches to Faro in Portugal, announcing the victory but condemning Young to miss out on the opportunity accorded to Lapenotiere to carry the news home and the rewards that that entailed. 

HM Cutter Entreprenante, shadows the remnants of the Combined Fleet into Cadiz whilst battling the common enemy, the sea - Thomas Butterworth

The repercussions of this decision were huge for Young, who having no influence within the service was doomed to continue as a lieutenant for nineteen years, finally made a Commander in 1810, but following a severe sickness in 1807 overlooked for seagoing commands, dying impoverished and broken in 1847 in Exeter.

Sadly even his last resting place in Exeter was destroyed in a bombing attack on the city by the Germans in 1942.


As for Entreprenante, she continued to see service off the Spanish coast around Gibraltar and Cadiz during the early years of the Peninsular War taking part in her final action on the 25th April 1811, destroying a six-gun French privateer, by driving her aground and recapturing her Spanish prize insight of the French garrison in Malaga watched by a hundred onlookers in an action that lasted just over fifteen minutes and without the British cutter losing a single man.

On the 22nd March 1812, Entreprenante arrived in Plymouth with dispatches from the Mediterranean squadron and was paid off in April, to be broken up the following June after a distinguished service record.

At Trafalgar Entreprenante had a compliment of forty men and was armed with ten 12-pounder carronades

French brig Furet in action with the British frigate Hydra, 27th February 1806 off Cadiz - George Chambers senior (National Maritime Museum)

The French navy provided all the light ships that accompanied the Combined Fleet at Trafalgar and the two smallest vessels were the 16-gun Furet and the 14-gun Argus both brigs and both armed with 8-pounder long guns.

The Furet was an Abielle class brig of 350 (French) tons launched in Toulon on the 24th December 1801, which made a nice Xmas present for someone.

Launched in time for the start of the Napoleonic War, Furet came under the command of lieutenant de vaisseau Demay and under whose command she would be when she sailed with Admiral Villeneuve on the 29th March 1804, bound for Martinique, participating in the Battle of Cape Finistere on the 22nd July 1805 and at Trafalgar in October.


At Trafalgar she was attached to the 1st (centre) squadron under Villeneuve's direct command along with the 40-gun frigate Hortense and was to the rear of that ship on station leeward of the Allied line when the British attack commenced just before midday.

Keeping out of the action with the frigates, Furet headed back to Cadiz, but later joined the sortie under French Commodore Cosmao and Spanish Commodore MacDonell as the Pluton, Heros, Neptune, San Francisco de Asis and the Rayo attempted to take back some of the the British prizes, but losing over a thousand men in the attempt due mainly to ships being wrecked in the storm that followed the battle.

Furet returned to Cadiz to find herself blockaded along with the other survivors until the 23rd February 1806 when a storm forced the blockaders off station allowing the frigates Cornelie, Rhin, Hortense and Hermione, together with the Furet to breakout; not before being later spotted on the 26th February by the British frigate, Hydra and the brig-sloop Moselle, with Moselle detached to Collingwood's main fleet to call for support as Hydra gave chase.

The two hour chase saw the Hydra cut Furet off from her consorts, with the French frigates making no effort to come to her support and after an obligatory broadside from her guns, she hauled down her colours and was captured.

 
The other brig, Argus was a Vigilant class vessel launched in Le Havre on 20th July 1800 and I can find no references as to her activities prior to Trafalgar, being under the command of lieutenant Yves-Francois Taillard and together with the 40-gun frigate Themis attached to the 1st Squadron of Observation under Admiral Gravina, taking her place ahead of that frigate and behind the frigate Rhin in the frigate line to leeward.

Like her sister brig Furet she made her way back to Cadiz and participated in the sortie but her exploits after this event are again unclear, all that seems to be known is that she was absent from Cadiz when other French ships fell into Spanish hands in 1808 at the start of the Peninsular War, with the next report of the Argus being in action off Cayenne (modern day French Guiana) on 27th January 1807 in company with the former British 16-gun sloop Favourite, renamed Favorite in French service, after being intercepted by the British 32-gun frigate Jason, with the Favorite battling the British ship for an hour to allow the Argus to escape.


However the luck of the Argus was short lived as she is next reported as being broken up in Cayenne in April 1807.


A cutter heading into my home town, Exmouth, and the Exe estuary, probably depicted from the Dawlish shore of the river with Exmouth ahead on the centre right of the picture - Thomas Luny

This post concludes the focus on specific models for the Trafalgar collection and I will now put together a presentation of the complete collection, prior to putting some games together and adding other models to enable other actions.


Sources consulted;
The Trafalgar Companion - Mark Adkin

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

All at Sea - Completing the Heavy Weight Punch, Three British Three-Deckers added to the Trafalgar Collection


The last three models to complete the collection of British ships of the line and indeed for the collection as a whole are these three British generic three-deckers, designed in this case to bring the British line up to include seven of these types including the Victory and Royal Sovereign.


As a little twist in the work to complete this collection these last three models were not constructed without some little issues to overcome, with new anchors needed from my spares box because of missing flukes and the odd weakly cast bowsprit that broke off on fitting and needed some brass rod to pin it back securely, finally firmed up under the secure hold of the standing rigging.


As with my look at the Spanish first-rate last week designed to represent the Rayo in my final line ups, these three models have been kept completely generic and will suffice the need to represent other British first and second rates in other actions and scenarios I plan to play going forward.

The distribution of British three-deckers among the two British columns

Also as discussed in my March post looking at the other recently built British generic three-decker, these models positioned throughout the two British attack columns really deliver a punch/counter-punch option for the British player, for breaking in among the ships of  the Combined Fleet and fending of any attempts to aid the centre and rear from Dumanoir's van squadron.

All at Sea - British Generic First/Second Rate


With the collection of models now built I have turned my attention more fully to producing a game with them taking into account the size of the scenario and the models to be used, with the rules of play pretty much sorted together with the additions needed to capture the feel of a Trafalgar game and so this Easter Weekend has allowed me time to pull together various ideas around additional rules, ship records, signal books, table plans and general game markers and ship number labels.

Ship base numbers, colour coded and designed to go discreetly 
under the stern quarters (British, French & Spanish)

I plan to maintain the minimalist look of the ship bases, thus hopefully not distracting the eye away from the models on the table by too many over powering labels and tokens, so in the end have settled for just a small colour coded ship number to fix to the base that is easily removed, should I choose.

My experience playing Carnage & Glory revealed the ease of play, numbered bases allows when there are lots of units on the table and colour provides another quick reference to help players identify their own side.

A quick glance at part of the C-in-C's master record sheet below shows the ship numbers for each model and their respective commander, his flag-ship and his identifying signal pennant for addressing specific signals to his command, rather than the fleet as a whole, with signals addressed to individual ships enabled with their number.

Part of the British Fleet's Order of Battle record sheet for recording damage to the fleet as a whole 

In many ways, this aspect of game planning is as much fun as constructing the models in that it is another part of creating the game you are hoping to produce and as with the look of the table and models, the play aids and rules add to help put the players in the cabins of the commanders and an aspect of the hobby I really enjoy.


After lots of thought and consideration, I feel happy I now have the rules, 'Kiss Me Hardy'  sorted out to run the game and have pulled together various additions to them from over the years, published in the Lardy Specials, to produce a more 'joined up' presentation of them, for us to use in our games, including a few additions from other sets that I hope will tweak them for the better without changing them too far and losing the game play that characterises them, with play-testing allowing that to be judged and to keep what works and ditch what doesn't. 


Why KMH you may ask, particularly if these are not a set you would tend to use? Well I and the chaps at club are very familiar with them, they have been used to play Trafalgar for the Lardy 2005 Commemorative game which has helped enormously in planning my own take on it, and the chit mechanic of activation is an aspect of Lardy rules that have become a part of the way I like to see a game run with the unpredictability it produces and potential challenges it can throw at players trying to manage them.

Strike Test and Struck Ship Game Markers

Trafalgar Activation Chit Labels

The other key aspect is that they produce a game that contains the granularity of detail between the various ships and commanders whilst also allowing reasonably fast play that, if the 2005 game is anything to go by, will allow a game to play through over six to eight hours, thus filling a full day's gaming and giving that all to important level of detail that captures the story of the battle we are trying to recreate.

Finally the scale of Kiss Me Hardy is ideal for playing the game with 1:700th models in that they are scaled at 1:900th thus the one inch to 25-yards is perfect for models built around one to 20-yards and the difference being negligible means the rules can work to their centimetre set up and give game turns equivalent to two minutes of real time action. 

My playthrough of the Leeward Line Scenario earlier this year gave a cameo look at how a larger game could look, playing the full battle

Ok, so at this scale you will need a lot of ocean to play Trafalgar but then the intention here was always to play in the 'Grand Manner' with the size of table designed to complement the models and capture the grandeur of the scene of battle as observed at midday on the 21st October 1805.

The other aspect of going large in naval that really appeals is that a large table helps to offset the 'helicopter-view' of the respective commanders by making the battle spread out and somewhat localising each commanders observations as to what is happening in the overall battle and help provide a little more of that fog-of-war experienced by Nelson and Villeneuve reliant on regular reports from subordinates to know what was going on along the line of battle at any particular time.


If as I hope we can build a method of play around a big battle such as Trafalgar that makes for a great player experience then it might be fun to run these kind of games on a regular schedule opening it up to others who might like to spend some time in glorious Devon playing naval wargames and making a much needed contribution to an appropriate charity whilst having a fun day wargaming.


Anyway that is all down the line and first things first are much more mundane with the next jobs on the 'To-Do List' that include budgeting for extra table cloths to cover the expanse of table space needed to play the game and create the look of this titanic naval clash together with pulling together ideas around storage boxes and trays to be able to transport the models securely as required. 

In the meantime I will also start to make additions to this collection going forward which will enable other interesting large actions from this era to be played, with Cape St Vincent, Camperdown and Copenhagen being others that appeal with a few additions of some at anchor options to facilitate some of the smaller squadron clashes, such as First Algeciras and The Nile - what fun!


So this post concludes the completion of the large fighting ships at Trafalgar. In the final post looking at the models built for this collection I will feature the small ships at Trafalgar, that had a key role to play, namely the British schooner Pickle, cutter Entreprenante and the French brigs Argus and Furet.

Also coming up, Steve and I have been battling away in the Second Punic War and our first game is coming to a conclusion, so I will put together a summary post of our play and first impressions of this vintage card-driven-game.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Far Distant Ships, New Fast Play Tactical Rules for Fleet Actions in the Age of Sail - David Manley

 

Those of us interested in Age of Sail naval wargaming have no doubt been aware of an impending new set of fleet action rules from David Manley who has authored a few sets in his time, most notably for this theme, 'Form Line of Battle which deals with the subject at a detailed squadron, individual ship level.

His new set of rules 'Far Distant Ships' shifts the focus upwards very much towards the Admiral/Commodore level with the rules directed towards the issues of higher command in a larger action and are described in the introduction thus;

'The aim of these rules has been to develop a quick play set for recreating fleet actions in the Age of Sail. with big battles resolved in 2-3 hours or less. Players take the role of fleet admirals such as Nelson, de Grasse and Gravina. As such the focus of the rules is on command and control rather than the minutiae of ship design, although the system does allow for a good degree of differentiation between ships within a particular ship type or rate. Command is exercised at Squadron level, with the players issuing orders to each squadron in their command, which must be obeyed unless new orders are transmitted by signal – not a perfect process and so the players must be aware of their own abilities, those of their subordinates as well as the environment when attempting to execute their battle plans, as a missed signal may cause confusion and disaster, or let a defeated enemy slip through one’s fingers.'

With my own current project now moving into working up suitable rules to produce my Trafalgar game a lot of the ideas David has included in this set around fleet management are very much part of my own considerations and from a first read through of the set I purchased from Wargames Vault this morning will likely influence those games.


The rules are designed primarily around 1:2400 scale models but can be adapted for the large models simply by changing the game scale from centimetres to inches and incorporate systems to facilitate signalling, formations and command and control for really big battles involving large numbers of ships. 

If these are the kind of games you are interested in playing then you might want to check these rules out available through Wargames Vault for just £7.50/$10.37

Wargame Vault - Far Distant Ships

Friday, 2 April 2021

All at Sea - Spanish 100-gun Rayo (The Lightning)

 The Lightning - Carlos Parrilla Penagos

This Friday, probably appropriately on 'April Fool's Day' 2021, the Trafalgar collection was finished and the last six models added to the collection.

The last Spanish ship needed to complete the forty ships of the Franco-Spanish Combined fleet was a three decker designed to fill the requirement of the Spanish 100-gun Rayo or 'Lightning' which began her career as an 80-gun 3rd rate ship in 1749, making her, with her fifty-six years of service, the oldest ship to take part in the Battle of Trafalgar, but also with her later refit in 1803 to having a third upper deck built, allowing her to carry 100 guns but leaving her, with her original two gallery stern quarters, as a bit of an anomaly and not your usual looking Spanish first rate.
 
The Rayo as she looked on completion as an 80-gun Spanish third-rate

This explains why I left the building of the model to represent the Rayo to last as my options were to work with the generic Warlord Spanish first-rate model or to modify the Spanish 80-gun scratch-build I worked on last year, by adding a similar upper deck but retaining the two galleried stern quarters.

In the end I decided to operate to the principal I established at the start of the project, namely to produce a collection of models that would together achieve an overall look to the table-top battle I was looking to model and not necessarily have an exact representation of every ship that took part.

This principal also works well with plans to add to the collection to do other large battles of the era and so looking to, at some stage, recreate the forces at Cape St Vincent in 1797, I will only require another nine Spanish 3rd rates and four more first rates to produce the Spanish fleet and this model will work very well as one of those Spanish first rates that took part.

The fortieth model to be added to the Combined Fleet part of the collection will stand in very well for the Rayo as well as a typical Spanish 112-gun option for other actions

The Rayo or as she was originally named, the San Pedro, was designed by Juan Jorge and built by Pedro de Torres, being laid down in Havana in 1748 and like many of the fine Spanish ships built there was completed in the finest tropical hard-woods, launching on the 28th June 1749.

Her original armament as an 80-gun ship consisted of 30 x 24-pounder long guns on her lower deck, 32 x 18-pdrs on her upper deck and 18 x 18 pounders arrayed on her quarter deck and forecastle.

The plan of the Rayo after her 1803 refit to a Spanish first-rate

As with most of the large ships built in Havana she was destined to set sail for home soon after completion, but due to several unforeseen delays she didn't make the passage to Cadiz until 1752 arriving in Cadiz on the 30th April that year.

The ship would continue her service career operating out of Cadiz, receiving a set of taller masts in 1757, operating from Cartagena from 1765, and then to El Ferrol from 1774 before being placed in ordinary in Cadiz in 1777 having received three full careening's in the previous six years indicating her time at see fouling her bottom. 


In 1779 she was back in service operating with Admiral Cordova's fleet in the Atlantic and English Channel approaches as Spain allied with France against Britain during the American War of Independence, taking part in the destruction of the British convoy of fifty-one ships bound for India and the West Indies on 9th August 1780, later taking part in the assault and siege of Gibraltar in September 1782 and seeing action in the running engagement off Cape Spartel in October of that year as Cordova failed to prevent British Admiral Howe from running the Spanish blockade with his newly coppered ships and relieving the beleaguered garrison.


Following the end of the American War, Rayo was in action in 1784 taking part in the punitive action of the second bombardment of Algiers between 12th and 21st July leading eventually to the Dey of Algiers negotiating with Spain and agreeing to cease further acts of piracy in the area.

The Capture of British Captain Colnett, July 1789 of the Argonaut, by the Spanish who were seeking to impose sovereignty over trading rights along the whole western seaboard of the Americas

By April 1785 the Rayo was back in ordinary in Cadiz, only to be refitted and prepared for service in 1790 as tensions rose between Britain and Spain over the Nootka Sound crisis as the two nations raised naval forces that put to sea and threatened naval action in response to the impasse, however by December, following a climb down by the Spanish she was back in ordinary 


On the 12th May 1804, with hostilities between Spain and Britain recommenced, the Rayo was refitted for the coming struggle with a third deck added and a new copper bottom carried out under the instruction of marine engineer Honorato de Bouyon.

Honorato de Bouyon and Serze - Naval Museum, Madrid
Naval Engineer

However despite the best efforts of the Spanish naval command in Cadiz, the minutes of the Combined Fleet Council of War, held on the Bucentaure, reported on the 8th October 1805 that the Rayo was one of three ships described as 

'fitted out in haste and barely out of the dockyard, can in extreme necessity put to sea with the Fleet but that they are by no means in a state to render the service in action of which they will be capable when they are completely organised.'

The new 100-gun Rayo could at least boast a much heavier armament that in her original incarnation and at Trafalgar she would carry 30 x 36 pounder long guns on her lower deck, 32 x 24-pdrs on her middle deck, 30 x 8-pdrs on her upper deck and an array of 4 x 4-pdr howitzers and 4 x 28-pdr carronades on her upper works.


At Trafalgar Rayo would be under the command of Commodore Don Enrique Macdonell, an Irishman who left his country to fight against the British at the age of eighteen, initially joining the Spanish Army, and the Regimento de Hibernia, with which he served at the siege of Gibraltar before transferring to the navy.

Commodore Enrique Macdonell
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mac_Don.jpg

Having spent time serving with the Swedish navy, Macdonell was, at the request of Admiral Gravina pulled out of retirement to command the Rayo at Trafalgar, making him, with his eight previous active commands one of the most experienced Spanish captains in the battle.


However, as the only first rate in Admiral Dumanoir's van squadron, she spent the first two hours of the battle sailing away from the action until turning with the van at about 2.00pm to go to the assistance of the centre.

It would seem though that the Rayo, along with several other ships, then turned away to the east without any serious engagement with the enemy, only too well illustrated by her staggeringly light casualties of four killed and fourteen wounded, with some sources alleging that she was the only ship at Trafalgar not to fire a single shot.


Some redemption for the honour of the ship was garnered after the battle when she joined the sortie by ships under the command of Commodore Cosmao in the Pluton to set out in the middle of the gale on the 23rd October to recover some of the captured ships, although this was thwarted by ten British ships in close attendance and saw the Rayo narrowly avoid wrecking herself as she dropped all her anchors and rolled her masts over the side to avoid destruction on a lee shore.

The Gale after Trafalgar - Thomas Butterworth (National Maritime Museum)
Likely depicting the sortie by Franco-Spanish ships seen here trying to secure British prizes off Cadiz during the gale that followed on the 23rd October 1805 in which the Rayo participated

Her respite was however short-lived as the next day Macdonell was forced to surrender his ship to the British 74-gun Donnegal, which missing Trafalgar was on the way to Gibraltar for water, and then two days later the Rayo was finally driven ashore with her British prize crew taken prisoner but with the ship burnt on Admiral Collingwood's orders.

Sources referred to in this post:
The Trafalgar Companion - Mark Adkin

Next up in the final showcase reviews for this project I will take a look at the 'Wooden Walls of England' as the last three British three-deckers are completed and the small ships of Trafalgar, including HMS Pickle and Entreprenante, and Steve M and I have been battling away in the Second Punic War playing Hannibal on Vassal, update to follow.