Capture of the Ceylon

17th September 1810 - 18th September 1810
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Capture of the Africaine 12.9.1810
Next action : Action of 1810-09-27 27.9.1810


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Boadicea (38) John HatleyFleet Flagship 2 wounded
Ceylon (32) Charles Gordon, Alexandre Louis du Crest de Villeneuve (1777-1852)10 killed, 31 wounded Captured
Otter (16) James Tomkinson
Staunch (12) Benjamin Street

Empire Français

Ship NameCommanderNotes
La Vénus (40)   Captured
Le Revenant (18)  

Notes on Action


Looking in at Port Louis on September 17th, she saw what appeared to be a considerable French force in the harbour, and, bearing up, made all sail for Reunion. Commodore Hamelin, with the Venus and Victor, promptly put to sea in chase of her. The Ceylon descried her enemies at 2 P.M., and, at a few minutes past midnight, observing that the Venus was far ahead of her consort, shortened sail to begin action. Nominally a 32-gun frigate, she actually carried twenty-four long 18-prs., two long 9-prs., and fourteen 24-pr. carronades, or forty guns in all, while the Venus mounted twenty-eight long 18-prs., four long 8-prs., and twelve 36-pr. carronades, or forty-four guns in all, so that the broadside weight of metal of the British ship was only 343 Ibs. against the Venus's 484 Ibs. Moreover, the Ceylon had on board but about 295 people, including 100 men of the 69th and 86th Regiments, and the Frenchman probably nearly her full complement of 380. In spite of the disparity of force, Gordon maintained a hot fight for an hour, at the expiration of which time the Venus dropped astern, and gave him an opportunity of repairing damages, and of endeavouring to escape, ere the Victor should get up. But at 12.15 A.M., the Venus again overtook him, and the battle was renewed, until both frigates became unmanageable. At 4.30 the Victor arrived, and, placing herself athwart the Ceylon's bows, prepared to rake her, whereupon Gordon struck. At 5.10 his ship was taken possession of. She had lost 10 killed, and 31, including Gordon himself, and Master William Oliver, wounded. The losses of the Venus cannot be specified, but were no doubt severe. Had the Ceylon realised in time that the Victor, though a three-masted vessel of imposing appearance, was only a mere shell of a craft, less formidable than the ordinary 18-gun brig, she might have sunk her with a broadside, and, perhaps, have kept her flag flying for a few hours, when, as will be seen, she would have been relieved.

At 7.30 A.M. on the 18th, Rowley, who was then at anchor in St. Paul's Bay, saw the French ships and their prize at a distance of about nine miles from the shore. The Boadicea, reinforced with 50 volunteers from the Africaine, at once got under way with the Otter and Staunch, and made sail in chase. The Victor took the Ceylon in tow, and the three endeavoured to make the best of their way to Mauritius; but they were delayed, first by the tow-rope breaking, and then by the disproportion in size between the Ceylon and the Victor. At 3.30 P.M., therefore, the prize was cast off, the Venus lay by to protect her, and the Victor, in accordance with orders, stood away to the eastward. Scarcely was the corvette out of range ere the Ceylon rehoisted her colours, Lieutenant Philip Gibbon having temporarily taken command of her, in the absence of his seniors, who had been removed to the Venus. At 4.40 P.M. the Boadicea ran alongside the Venus, and, in ten minutes, obliged her to strike, with a loss of 9 killed and 15 wounded. The Boadicea had only 2 wounded. Rowley then put back to St. Paul's Bay. The Venus was a fine frigate of 1105 tons, and, to commemorate Willoughby's splendid defence at Grand Port, she was added to the Navy as the Nereide

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