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296 "H.M.S. REVENGE", 1808
by R. S. Thomas R.N. (1787-1853)

There is much history available about the Revenge, her adventures and her crews, that little here will do justice to this beautiful picture. So to help make this more enlightening, I will relate just a few episodes which happened during the height of the Battle of Trafalgar.

"Revenge lay in the thick of battle, her men fighting like demons", Captain Moorsom's log sparsely reports. " 4.40 men firing with all expectation and spirit having upon us four French ships and a Spanish three decker." An anonymous seaman's account however was more voluble..... " A Spanish three decker ran her bowsprit over our poop with a number of her crew on it and in her fore rigging. Two or three hundred men were ready to follow, but they caught a Tartar; for..... our marines with their small arms, and the carronades on the poop leaded with cannister shot, swept them off so fast that they were glad to sheer off. While this was going on,.... we were engaged with a two decker French ship on our starboard side, and on our larboard (port) bow another, so that many of their shots must have struck their own ships and done severe execution."

"As one enemy vessel after another came within range Revenge fought them all. But in the midst of agonising death and the howling hell of the gundecks there were moments of humanity".....
Christopher Scott Wilson.

"Prince, the English 74 gunner, drew Achille away from Revenge and toppled her masts before an explosion set her ablaze. Working below in the magazine was a French woman called Jeanette who stowed away to be near her husband, a main topman."

Captain Moorsom tells her story in a letter to his father dated Dec. 4th 1805; "When the Achille was burning, she (Jeanette) got out of the gunroom port and sat on the rudder chains till some melted lead ran down upon her and forced her to strip and leap off".

"She swam to a spar where several men were, but one of them bit and kicked her till she was obliged to quit and get to another which supported her til she was taken by The Pickle (an English schooner) and sent on board the Revenge. Amongst the men she was lucky enough to find her husband. We were not wanting in civility to the lady. I ordered her two Purser's shirts to make a petticoat; and other of the officers found something to clothe her; in a few hours, Jeanette was perfectly happy.....".

Later in heavy weather the crippled English fleet limped into the Mediterranean. Revenge anchored at Gibraltar on 28th October 1805, arriving back in England on Dec 5th in the company of the battered H.M.S Victory (Carrying Nelson's body)". Moorsom carried Nelson's Great Banner at his funeral. The success of the battle of Trafalgar had essentially achieved England's objective at sea.

On 2nd January 1815, having previously been promoted to Vice Admiral of the Blue, Robert Moorsom was made Knight Commander of The Bath. Sir Robert was later in 1824 posted to Chatham and Medway as Commander in Chief.

Here the Revenge is seen leaving Portsmouth in 1808 with a salute from cannon. Officers and marines for this stand on parade for this official departure.

Richard Strickland Thomas RN was a marine painter who specialised in ships, naval actions and historical events. He exhibited at the RA (1839-42), including "Trafalgar after the close of the action", and "The Battle of Navarino". Some of his work appears at the Greenwich Maritime Museum.

© Copyright
Stephen Selby 2001
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