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Action off Lorient

22nd May 1812
Part of : The Napoleonic Wars (1803 - 1815)
Previous action : Action of 1812-05-14 14.5.1812 - 12.5.1812
Next action : Action of 1812-06-15 15.6.1812 - 16.6.1812


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Northumberland (74) 1798-1850
British 74 Gun
3rd Rate Ship of the Line
Henry HothamBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1794-1834
5 killed, 28 wounded
Growler (12) 1804-1815
British 12 Gun
Unrated Gun-brig
John WeeksBritish
Naval Sailor
Service 1798-1824
no casualties

Empire Français

Ship NameCommanderNotes
L'Ariane (44) 1811-1812
French 44 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
L'Andromaque (44) 1811-1812
French 44 Gun
5th Rate Frigate
Le Mamelouck (16) 1812-1812
French 16 Gun
Unrated Brig

Notes on Action

On January 9th 1812, the French 40-gun frigates, Ariane and Andromaque, with the brig Mamelouck, 16, under Commodore Martin Le Foretier, sailed from Nantes on a cruise in the Atlantic. On the 15th, they were in vain chased by the Endymion, 40, Captain Sir William Bolton, and by the Leopard, 50, Captain William Henry Dillon. The enemy then began a series of semi-piratical depredations upon commerce; and the Admiralty, receiving news of this, directed that a force should be detached from the squadron off Brest, to intercept the French on their return. In pursuance of instructions, therefore, Rear-Admiral Sir Harry Burrard Neale ordered the Northumberland, 74, Captain the Hon. Henry Hotham, to part company from off Ushant on May 19th. Hotham was so fortunate as to discover his quarry on the 22nd, the enemy then crowding sail for Lorient, and he having the Growler, 12, Lieutenant John Weeks, within signalling distance. By smart manoeuvring he was able to fetch to windward of Lorient ere the French could reach it. He continued working into the Basse des Bretons, occasionally exposed to the fire of the batteries on each side. Foretier tried to push in between the Northumberland and Pointe Talieu, but failed, owing to the magnificent way in which the line-of-battle ship was handled. Indeed, her Master, Mr. Hugh Stewart, betrayed greater familiarity with the charts than the French themselves, and, in spite of the smoke and the risky navigation, so manoeuvred the vessel that he forced all his opponents upon the rocks between Le Graul and the mainland. As soon as he saw them thus fast, Hotham hauled off to repair his own damages; and the falling tide soon left the French on their beam ends, with their masts towards the shore. In the meantime, the Growler annoyed the unfortunate frigates. At 5.28 P.M., the Northumberland, having refitted, anchored in a convenient position, and deliberately set to work to blow the bottoms out of the enemy's ships. When it was evident that they had been deserted by their crews, and when the headmost frigate was in flames, Hotham, who had been much interfered with by a strong battery, weighed, but left the Growler under sail near the foe to prevent the people from returning to their vessels. At about 8 P.M., the burning frigate, the Andromaque, blew up. Two hours later the second frigate was seen to be on fire, and at 11 she was clearly doomed. The Northumberland and Growler then stood to sea. Ere they were out of sight, the second frigate, and also the Mamelouck, blew up. The Northumberland gained this most creditable success at the cost of only 5 killed, and 28, including Lieutenant William Fletcher, wounded. The Growler had no one hurt. There can be little doubt that, had the French made a fight for it, and tried to board the 74, one at least of them, aided by the numerous batteries, might have got into port. For this service Lieutenant John Weeks, of the Growler, and Lieutenant John Banks, first of the Northumberland, were promoted.

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