Forcing the Dardanelles

19th February 1807 - 20th February 1807
Fought at : The Dardanelles - Aegean Sea
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Action of 1806-12-17 17.12.1806
Next action : Passage of the Dardanelles 1.3.1807 - 3.3.1807


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

British Fleet, John Thomas Duckworth (1748-1817)
Ship NameCommanderNotes
Canopus (80) Thomas George Shortland (1771-1827)Squadron Flagship Flag of Sir Thomas Louis
Repulse (74) The Hon. Arthur Kaye Legge (1766-1835)
Royal George (100) Richard Dalling Dunn (d.1813)Fleet Flagship Flag of Sir John Duckworth
Windsor Castle (98) Charles Boyles
Standard (64) Thomas Harvey (1775-1841)
Meteor (8) Joseph James (d.1837)
Pompee (80) Richard Dacres (1761-1837)Squadron Flagship Flag of Sir Sydney Smith
Thunderer (74) John Talbot (1769-1851)
Lucifer (8) Robert Elliott
Endymion (44) Thomas Bladen Capel (1776-1853)
Active (38) Richard Hussey Moubray (1776-?)

Ottoman Empire

Turkish Fleet, Seydi Ali

English-language sources give the strength of the Turkish fleet as 1 ship of 64 guns, 1 frigate of 40 guns, 2 frigates of 36 guns, 1 frigate of 32 guns, 1 corvette of 22 guns, 1 corvette of 18 guns, 2 corvettes of 10 guns, 2 brigs and 2 gunboats. Names of the four largest of these can be identified from Turkish sources. English-language sources state the Turkish vessels were destroyed except for a brig that sailed to Constantinople with news of the British approach and a corvette and a gunboat that were captured. It appears from Turkish records, however, at least two large ships survived.

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Asar-i Nusret (74)   Damaged
Mesken-i Gazi (50)  Fleet Flagship Damaged Flag of Seydi Ali
Ayet-i Hayr (40)   Exploded
Nesim-i Fütuh (40)   Exploded

Notes on Action


The wind having shifted to S.S.W., the Vice-Admiral weighed at 7 A.M. on the 19th, with his [Duckworth] fleet formed in the following line of battle: Canopus, Repulse, Royal George, Windsor Castle, Standard (towing the Meteor), Pompee, Thunderer (towing the Lucifer), Endymion, and Active. He had previously directed Sir William Sidney Smith, with the Pompee, Thunderer, Standard, and Active, to specially devote himself to the Turkish squadron under Point Pesquies, in case that force should show a hostile demeanour. At about 8 A.M., as the Canopus drew abreast of the outer castles or forts, she was fired on by both of them. They also fired on the ships astern of her as they arrived in succession within range of their guns; but the bomb-vessels alone made any reply, and even they threw only a few shells. Mr. Arbuthnot, the British ambassador, who was on board the Royal George, dissuaded the Vice-Admiral from ordering any more general return; but Duckworth seems to have been ill-advised in holding his hand, for, as he had written to Collingwood, the works were being steadily improved and they had to be repassed; and, had they been vigorously replied to at once, their ability to obstruct the return passage would have been proportionably lessened. The inner pair of castles, which were passed at 9.30 A.M., also fired; but their fire was returned by all the ships, and there is reason to believe that the reply caused a considerable amount of damage. On neither side, however, were the losses in these preliminary encounters very serious. The ships suffered little harm aloft, and they had but six killed and fifty-one wounded all in the Canopus, Repulse, Royal George, and Windsor Castle. The Meteor, unfortunately, burst her 13-inch mortar.

Above the inner castles, and below Point Pesquies, or Nagara Burun (Abydos), on the Asiatic side, lay the Turkish squadron already mentioned. It consisted of a 64-gun ship bearing a rear-admiral's flag, one 40-gun frigate bearing the flag of the Kapudan Pasha, two 36-gun frigates, one 32-gun frigate, one 22-gun corvette, one 18-gun corvette, two 10-gun corvettes, two brigs, and three gunboats, anchored under the protection of an unfinished 31-gun redoubt on the Point. As the British approached, one of the brigs cut her cables, and made sail unpursued for Constantinople. The other Turkish ships gallantly opened fire on the British van. The main body of the squadron stood on, delivering its reply as it went, and anchored about three miles higher up. Sir William Sidney Smith, with his division, " closed into the midst," 1 and, anchoring within musket-shot of the enemy's vessels and redoubt at about 10 A.M., opened so heavy a cannonade that in half an hour all the Turkish craft, except a corvette and a gunboat, which struck and were taken possession of, ran ashore. One of the frigates, endeavouring to make off, was driven ashore by the Active, and then boarded by her boats under Lieutenants George Wickens Willes and Walter Croker. When her people had been removed, she was set on fire. The three other frigates were boarded and burnt by boats of the Thunderer and Standard under Lieutenants John Carter, John Waller, and Thomas Colby; and the line-of-battle ship was destroyed by the Repulse, aided by the boats of the Pompee. In the meantime the redoubt on Point Pesquies, having continued its fire after the Turkish ships had run ashore, had been shelled until the enemy evacuated it, and had been entered by seamen and Royal Marines under Lieutenant Lestock Francis Boileau, and Lieutenants Edward Nicolls and William Finmore, R.M., who partially destroyed it, and spiked the guns. The destruction was subsequently completed, under the direction of Captain Moubray, by Lieutenants William Fairbrother Carroll and Septimus Arabin, of the Pompee, and Lieutenant William Lawrie, R.M. Among other officers who were employed in the operations on shore were Lieutenants Mark Gates and David Holt, E.M., Master's Mate David Sinclair, and Midshipmen George Parkyns, Thomas Smith, Norfolk King, and Edmund Lyons. The Active was instructed to remain in the Dardanelles, pending the receipt of further orders. The whole British loss in this affair was only four killed and twenty-six wounded.

At 5 P.M., Sir Sidney's division, except the Active, weighed and passed up to rejoin the main body, which also weighed, and, pursuing its course with a fair wind, but with little sail, anchored off Prince's Isles, about eight miles from Constantinople, at 8 P.M. on February 20th. This anchorage might have been reached many hours earlier, had the Vice- Admiral taken all possible advantage of the breeze, which at first was brisk, but which afterwards became light. At dawn on the following morning, when there was a moderate S.E. wind, Duckworth, instead of pressing on and putting the city within range of his guns, began a series of consultations with Mr. Arbuthnot, and presently sent the Endymion, with dispatches and a flag of truce, to approach as closely as possible to Constantinople. At 11.30 A.M., Captain Capell, unable to get nearer, anchored four miles from the place, and endeavoured to send on shore the ambassador's somewhat weakly worded declaration, to which a reply, not in half an hour, but by sunset on the following day, was required. It was accompanied, however, by Duckworth's demand for the surrender of the fleet and of stores for its equipment, and for a reply within half an hour of the translation of his note. The Vice- Admiral did not expressly say what he would do in case of refusal, but he darkly hinted that, "having it in his power to destroy the capital and all the Turkish vessels, the plan of operation which his duty prescribed to him was, in consequence, very clearly marked out." The Turks declined to allow the flag of truce to land. Later in the day, Mr. Arbuthnot addressed to the Porte a letter saying that " the answer to the Admiral's note must be delivered in half an hour "; and at midnight, Duckworth followed this up with a declaration that, "As it has been discovered by our glasses that the time granted the Sublime Porte to take its decision is employed in warping the ships of war into places more susceptible of defence, and in constructing batteries along the coast, it is the duty of the Vice-Admiral to lose no time." This feeble language was being held twelve hours after the expiration of the time-limit originally specified; and, if the letter was ever received by the Porte, it is not astonishing that it encouraged the Turks in their obduracy.

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