French frigate Cléopâtre (1781)
Cléopâtre was a 32-gun Vénus class frigate of the French Navy. She was designed by Jacques-Noël Sané, and had a coppered hull. She was launched in 1781, and the British captured her in 1793. She then served the Royal Navy as HMS Oiseau until she was broken up in 1816.
|Launched:||19 August 1781|
|Fate:||Captured by the Royal Navy|
|Acquired:||19 June 1793 by capture|
|Fate:||Broken up 1816|
|Class and type:||Vénus-class frigate|
|Displacement:||1,082 tons (French)|
|Tons burthen:||913 16⁄94 (bm)|
|Length:||145 ft 7 3⁄4 in (44.393 m) (overall);120 ft 8 7⁄8 in (36.801 m) (keel)|
|Beam:||37 ft 8 1⁄2 in (11.494 m)|
|Depth of hold:||11 ft 11 3⁄4 in (3.651 m)|
|Complement:||254 (British service)|
French career and captureEdit
Cléopâtre took part in the taking of Cuddalore in 1782.
On 19 June 1793, as she sailed off Guernsey under Lieutenant de vaisseau Mullon, she encountered HMS Nymphe, under Captain Edward Pellew. During the short but sharp action, Cléopâtre lost her mizzenmast and wheel, and the ship, being unmanageable, fell foul of Nymphe. The British then boarded and captured her in a fierce rush. Mullon, mortally wounded, died while trying to swallow his commission, which, in his dying agony, he had mistaken for the vessel's secret signals. Pellew then sent the signals to the Admiralty.
In the battle Nymphe had 23 men killed and 27 wounded. Pellew estimated the number of French casualties at about 60.
Cléopâtre was the first French frigate taken in the war. In 1847 the Admiralty awarded the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "Nymphe 18 June 1793" to the four surviving claimants from the action.
The Royal Navy commissioned her as HMS Oiseau in September 1793 under Captain Robert Murray. On 18 May 1794 he sailed her from Plymouth to Halifax in a squadron commanded by Rear-Admiral George Murray. Between 1793 and 1795, the Russian naval officer Yuri Lisyanski sailed aboard Oiseaux as a volunteer. Between 1803 and 1806 he would captain the Russian-American Company's sloop Neva on the first Russian circumnavigation of the world.
In June 1794 Oiseau and Argonaut seized fourteen French vessels of a convoy of 25, all loaded with flour, naval stores, beef, and pork. The vessels were American-owned and had sailed from Hampton Roads with two sets of papers, one set showing the cargo going to England and the other giving their destination as France. The British sent the vessels into Halifax.
On 8 January 1795, Argonaut captured the French Republican warship Esperance on the North America Station. Esperance was armed with 22 guns (4 and 6-pounders), and had a crew of 130 men. She was under the command of lieutenant de vaisseau de St. Laurent and had been out 56 days from Rochfort, bound for the Chesapeake. Argonaut shared the prize money with Oiseaux. Because she was captured in good order and sailed well, Rear Admiral Murray put a British crew aboard and sent Esperance out on patrol with Lyn on 31 January.
In 1798, Oiseau served in the Indian Ocean, where she captured the French Réunion on 1 September. On 21 April 1799 her boats went into Saint Denis on the Íle de Bourbon and cut out two merchant vessels, Denree, which had a cargo of bale goods and coffee, and Augustine, which had a cargo of rum and arrack. Augustine was lost in St. Augustine's Bay.
On Monday, 26 January 1801, at 8.00 a.m., at Samuel Hood Linzee fell in with and chased Dédaigneuse, which was bound from Cayenne to Rochefort with despatches. By noon the following day, with Cape Finisterre in sight, Captain Linzee signaled to Sirius and Amethyst, which were in sight, to join the pursuit. Dédaigneuse maintained her lead until 2.00 a.m. on the 28th when came within small arms range. Dédaigneuse opened fire from her stern-chasers, and the two British ships returned fire. After a running fight of 45 minutes, two miles off shore near Cape Bellem, fire primarily from Sirius had cut Dédaigneuse's running rigging and sails ). She had also suffered casualties with several men having been killed,and 17 wounded, including her Captain and fifth Lieutenant. She then struck her colours. Unfavourable winds kept Amethyst, from getting up before Dédaigneuse had struck. Sirius was the only British ship to sustain any damage (rigging, sails, main-yard and bowsprit) in the encounter and there were no fatalities on the English side. Captain Linzee declared the encounter a long and anxious chase of 42 hours and acknowledged a gallant resistance on the part of Dédaigneuse. At the time of the encounter she was armed with twenty-eight 12-pounder guns. Linzee described her as "a perfect new Frigate, Copper fastened and sails well...". He sent her into Plymouth with a prize crew under the command of his first lieutenant, H. Lloyd. The Admiralty took Dédaigneuse into the Royal Navy under the same name HMS Dedaigneuse., Oiseux, under Captain
On 16 September 1800, Oiseau, Wolverine and the cutter Fly captured the Neptunus when she was going into Havre de Grace. The next day Wolverine brought Neptunus into Portsmouth, together with her cargo of naval stores that Wight had captured 
In June 1806 Oiseau was commissioned under Lieutenant Walter Kennedy as a prison hulk at Portsmouth. In 1812 Lieutenant William Needham succeeded Kennedy. She was laid up in December, but then lent to the Transport Board.
In 1814 she was under the command of Lieutenant John Bayby Harrison. She was then put in ordinary in 1815. Oiseau was advertised for sale on 2 September 1816, and sold for breaking up to a Mr. Rundle for £1500 on 18 September.
Citations and referencesEdit
- "No. 13539". The London Gazette. 18 June 1793. pp. 517–518.
- "No. 20939". The London Gazette. 26 January 1849. p. 238.
- Winfield (2008), p.204.
- Gwyn (2003), pp.90-1.
- "No. 15513". The London Gazette. 7 September 1802. p. 961.
- "No. 13799". The London Gazette. 25 July 1795. p. 780.
- "No. 15086". The London Gazette. 4 December 1798. p. 1173.
- "No. 15335". The London Gazette. 7 February 1801. pp. 162–163.
- Naval Chronicle, Vol. 4, p.252.
- "No. 16692". The London Gazette. 12 January 1813. p. 113.
- "No. 17169". The London Gazette. 3 September 1816. pp. 1707–1798.
- HMS Oiseau Naval Database