Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Nelson's First Ship: The Raisonnable

HMS Raisonnable was a 64-gun 3rd rate ship-of-the-line.  Launched in 1768, she was commissioned in 1770 under Captain Maurice Suckling because it was thought a war with Spain was imminent.  

Captain Suckling just happened to be Horatio Nelson's uncle.  At the tender age of 12, Nelson begged his uncle to take him on board his ship.  An amused Suckling wondered, 

"What has poor Horace done, who is so weak, that he, above the rest, should be sent to rough it out at sea?" 

but nonetheless took the young Nelson on board as a midshipman in April 1771.

Nothing much happened while Nelson was with her, however, and he was long gone to another ship by the time the Raisonnable joined the North American station during the American Revolutionary War, from 1776 - 1780.

On the 2nd April 1801 Nelson, all grown-up, led his own division in the Battle of Copenhagen.  His first ship, Raisonnable (captained by John Dilkes), though present at the battle, did not take part because she was in Admiral Hyde Parker's division which, approaching the action slowly against the wind, didn't reach the fighting in time before Hyde Parker decided they ought to withdraw (a signal which Nelson famously ignored by putting the telescope to his blind right eye and declaring "I really do not see the signal!", and, "I have only one eye, I have a right to be blind sometimes.").

In 1803, while Nelson was Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean, the Raisonnable was in the Channel Fleet commanded by Admiral Cornwallis, blockading the French fleet in Brest.  In 1805, captained by Josias Rowley, she fought in the Battle of Cape Finisterre against the French fleet under Admiral Villeneuve, which had been running from Nelson from the Med to the West Indies and back again to northern Spain. They had been intercepted by Admiral Robert Calder's fleet, including the Raisonnable, but the result was indecisive as Calder failed to push the action, and the French escaped to Cadiz.

And in 1805, the Raisonnable was with Comm. Sir Home Riggs Popham's squadron during the campaign to take Cape Town from the Dutch, and remained in the area until 1810.  Then, in November that year, she was hulked in Chatham and became a receiving ship (used to house new recruits in a harbour before they were assigned to a ship).  She was eventually broken up in 1815.

Nelson's uncle and captain of the Raisonnable, Maurice Suckling.

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