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Psyché was a 36-gun vessel built between February 1798 and 1799 at Basse-Indre (Nantes) as a privateer.[2] As a privateer she had an inconclusive but bloody encounter with HMS Wilhelmina of the Royal Navy, commanded by Commander Henry Lambert, off the Indian coast in April 1804.[3] The French then brought her into service in June 1804 as the frigate Psyché. In February 1805 she encountered San Fiorenzo, under the command of the same Henry Lambert, now an acting captain. After a sanguinary engagement of over three hours, Psyché surrendered.[3] The British took her into service as HMS Psyche. In British service she captured several prizes and took part in the capture of Mauritius and in an operation in Java. She was broken up at Ferrol in 1812.

French Navy EnsignFrance
Name: Psyché
Namesake: Psyche
Builder: Louis and Antoine Crucy, Basse-Indre yard, near Nantes
Laid down: February 1798
Launched: 1798
In service: February 1804
Captured: 14 February 1805
Royal Navy EnsignGreat Britain
Name: Psyche
Acquired: 14 February 1805 by capture
Honours and
Naval General Service Medal with the clasp "Java"[1]
Fate: Broken up in 1812
General characteristics [2]
Tons burthen: 846 2294 (bm)
  • 138 ft 6 in (42.2 m) (gundeck)
  • 117 ft 0 in (35.7 m) (keel)
Beam: 36 ft 10 18 in (11.2 m)
Sail plan: Full-rigged ship
Complement: 339 (French service)
  • In British service:
  • Upper deck: 24 × 12-pounder long guns
  • QD: 8 × 18-pounder carronades
  • Fc: 2 × 6-pounder long guns (bow chasers) + 2 × 18-pounder carronades



In 1802, Psyché sailed the Indian Ocean as a merchantman under Captain Jacques Bergeret.[4]


On 1 January 1804 Psyché captured the East Indiaman Admiral Aplin, of 558 tons (bm), near Mauritius.

On 9 April 1804, while under the command of Captain Trogoff, she encountered HMS Wilhelmina, which was escorting the country ship William Petrie to Trincomalee. The Psyché outgunned the Wilhelmina, which was armed en flûte.[5] She had only 21 guns: eighteen 9-pounder and two 6-pounder cannon, and one 12-pounder carronade.[3] Psyché carried 36 cannon, a broadside that was more than double that of Wilhelmina: twenty-four 12-pounder guns, two 6-pounders and ten 18-pounder carronades. Psyché also had a crew of 250 men, compared with Wilhelmina's 124.[3] Nevertheless, Captain Henry Lambert of Wilhelmina sailed towards Psyché to give the William Petrie a chance to escape.

Light winds meant that the engagement did not begin until 11 April, when both ships opened fire, exchanging broadsides and attempting to tack around to rake their opponent.[6] After several hours fighting, Psyché broke off and fled. Both ships had sustained heavy damage, the Wilhelmina to her masts and rigging, while Psyché was reduced to a near-sinking condition.[6] Wilhelmina had nine of her crew wounded, three mortally and six slightly, while Psyché lost ten killed and 32 wounded, 13 of them mortally.[7] Wilhelmina put into port, while the William Petrie also arrived safely at her destination.[8]

French naval serviceEdit

In June 1804 Decaen purchased Psyché for the French Navy at Réunion. On 10 January 1805, under Captain Jacques Bergeret, she captured the country ship Elisa. However, an East Indiaman, the "Iudus", recaptured the Eliza, Waters, master; she then went into Madras[9]

On 14 February, Psyché captured the country ships Pigeon and Thetis. Bergeret armed Pigeon with 4 guns and gave her a crew of 34 men under the command of Lieutenant Ollivier.[10]

On 14 February, Psyché, Pigeon, and Thetis encountered HMS San Fiorenzo, now under the command of Captain Henry Lambert (acting), off the Malabar Coast of India.[11] The French abandoned Thetis as San Fiorenzo approached and Lambert put a prize crew aboard her under the command of a midshipman, and continued his pursuit.

At ten minutes past eight, San Fiorenzo and Psyché started to exchange broadsides at about a cable length (720 ft (219 m)) from each other. After one hour, San Fiorenzo could hardly govern; Bergeret seized the opportunity to manoeuver and rake her, but as Psyché had lost all her carronades and several guns, her fire was ineffective.[12] After San Fiorenzo managed to train her guns on Psyché again, the superiority of San Fiorenzo's fire led Bergeret to attempt a boarding. At 9:45, the two frigates sailed side by side and for twenty minutes French boarding parties attempted to storm San Fiorenzo, but British small arms fire repelled them.[12] A fire breaking out in the orlop deck of Psyché further distracted her crew from the fight.[12]

At this point, Pigeon fired four to five shots to distract San Fiorenzo, before escaping into the night.[11][12] Around 11:00[12] or 11:30,[11] the two frigates parted, both unmanageable, and Psyché with only two guns still operable. Both crews attempted to repair their ships and around midnight, San Fiorenzo had effected her repairs and came to re-engage the hapless and ungovernable Psyché.[12]

Seeing the hopelessness of his position, Bergeret sent ensign Hugon on a boat to negotiate a capitulation, offering to surrender Psyché in exchange for the British permitting his crew to keep their personal weapons and effects and to stay aboard overnight to attend to the wounded. Lambert accepted the terms and Bergeret struck his colours at midnight.[12]

Psyché had 57 killed and 70 wounded out of her crew of 240 men; San Fiorenzo had 12 killed and 36 wounded.[11] In 1847 the Admiralty awarded the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "San Fiorenzo 14 Feby. 1805" to any still surviving claimants from the action.[13]

British naval serviceEdit

Psyché entered British service as HMS Psyche, being commissioned under Commander William Woolridge in about August 1805.[2] Under Woolridge Psyche took a number of small prizes in 1806:[14]

  • 26 March – French sloop packet ship Alexandriane, taken at sea while sailing from Île Bourbon;
  • 20 May – French schooner Célestine, taken at sea while carrying a cargo of plank, corn, and cloves;
  • 26 May – A French brig, (Name unknown), which Psyche ran on shore where she wrecked under the batteries of St. Gilles;
  • 26 May – French lugger Uranie, taken at sea with a cargo of rice;
  • 26 May – French lugger Sophie, taken at sea and burnt after her cargo of rice was removed;
  • 1 June – Brig Paque Bot, taken at sea with a cargo of gum and rice;
  • 2 June – French schooner Étoile, taken at sea and scuttled after her cargo of rice had been removed;
  • 10 June – French brig Coquette, taken at sea with a cargo of rice;
  • 10 June – French lugger Grange, taken at sea and scuttled.

Captain Fleetwood Pellew took command in 1807. His father, Rear Admiral Sir Edward Pellew, "Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Ships and Vessels in the East Indies", sent Psyche and Caroline to reconnoitre the port of Surabaya.[15] On 30 August they captured a ship from Batavia and from her learned the disposition of the Dutch military ships in the area. Psyche proceeded to Samarang while Caroline pursued another vessel.[15] Psyche arrived at Samarang at midnight and next morning her boats captured and brought out from under the fire of shore batteries an armed 8-gun schooner and a large merchant brig. However, Psyche had seen three more Dutch vessels, one of them a warship, and so Pellew destroyed the two captured vessels and at mid-day set out after the three other vessels.[15]

By 3:30 on 1 September Psyche had caught up with the Dutch vessels and run them ashore.[15] She went as close as the water depth would allow, anchored and exchanged fire with them. All three surrendered quickly. One that she captured was the 24-gun corvette Scipio, which had a crew of 150 men. Scipio was badly shot up and her commander, Captain-Lieutenant Jan Hendrik Correga, had been mortally wounded. The largest armed merchant ship was the Resolutie, of 700 tons. She had a valuable cargo and as passengers the colours and staff of the Dutch 23rd European Battalion.[15] The third vessel was the brig Ceres, of 12 guns and 70 men.[15] Pellew had too few men to be able to deal with the prisoners so he paroled the officers to the governor of Samarang and gave up the all the other men against a receipt.[15] The British took Scipio into service under her existing name, but then renamed her Samarang.

Captain John Edgcumbe assumed command at Bombay in 1808.[16] He then sailed Psyche to the Persian Gulf with Brigadier-General John Malcolm and his staff on an embassy to the Persian Empire. There, during the four hottest months of the year, Psyche provided protection for the British embassy at Abusheer. At the beginning of 1809, a detachment of troops from the 56th Regiment of Foot came on board Psyche to serve as marines.[17]

Psyche returned to Bombay and then convoyed troops to Pointe de Galle. From there she went to Columbo to embark troops for Travancore to suppress a mutiny among the native troops in 1809. Psyche silenced some batteries and her boats destroyed several vessels, suffering one man wounded in the process. Later, Psyche captured two vessels transporting elephants to the mutineers.[16]

Next, Psyche accompanied Doris to Manila in search of two French frigates, and to induce the government of the Philippines to side with Spain against France. After they returned to Prince of Wales Island, Psyche escorted their Dutch prize to Bombay.

Psyche and Doris captured in the China Sea an American ship named Rebecca. They brought her into Bombay where the new Vice admiralty court condemned her. Her cargo of 4,000 bags of Batavian sugar and 13,710 pieces of sapan-wood were auctioned on 7 March 1810. Then on 10 March Rebecca, of 600 tons burthen, teak-built at Pegu, too was auctioned off.[18]

Later in 1810 Psyche transported Brigadier-General Malcolm on a second embassy to Persia.[16] She then sailed to the Cape of Good Hope before sailing to Rodrigues where the British were assembling a fleet to attack Isle de France (now Mauritius). On 29 November the force landed at Grand Baie; the island surrendered on 3 December.[19][Note 1]

Between May and August 1811 Psyche participated in an expedition to Java under Rear Admiral Sir Robert Stopford. While there, Edgcumbe succumbed to hepatitis and had to be invalided back to Britain.[16] Captain Robert Worgan George Festing, who had been serving on shore with the Army, received promotion to Post-captain on 9 October 1811 and assumed command of Psyche.[22] In 1847 the Admiralty authorized the award of the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "Java" to any surviving participants that claimed it.


In 1812 Festing sailed Psyche to Europe. That same year she was sold at Ferrol to be broken up.[2] M. Santos, the purchaser, took possession on 6 August. Her crew was repatriated to Britain on the transport Bideford.[23]


  1. ^ A first-class share was worth £278 19sd; a sixth-class share, that of an ordinary seaman, was worth £3 7s 6¼d.[20] A fourth and final payment was made in July 1828. A first-class share was worth £29 19s 5¼d; a sixth-class share was worth 8s 2½d.[21]


  1. ^ "No. 20939". The London Gazette. 26 January 1849. p. 244.
  2. ^ a b c d Winfield (2008), pp. 214–5.
  3. ^ a b c d Marshall (1831), Vol. 3 Part 1, pp. 256–8.
  4. ^ Quintin, p. 58
  5. ^ James. The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 3. p. 383.
  6. ^ a b James. The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 3. p. 384.
  7. ^ James. The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 3. pp. 385–6.
  8. ^ James. The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 3. p. 386.
  9. ^ Lloyd's List, n°4253, accessed 1 October 2015.
  10. ^ Troude, p. 413
  11. ^ a b c d "No. 15834". The London Gazette. 13 August 1805. p. 1031.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g Troude, p. 414
  13. ^ "No. 20939". The London Gazette. 26 January 1849. p. 240.
  14. ^ "No. 16014". The London Gazette. 28 March 1807. p. 395.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g "No. 16137". The London Gazette. 16 April 1808. pp. 536–537.
  16. ^ a b c d Marshall (1827), Supplement, Part 1, pp. 209–10.
  17. ^ Cannon, pp. 34–35
  18. ^ Robert Houghton: A Peoples' History 1793 – 1844 from the newspapers: Prize-taking. Accessed 16 October 2016.
  19. ^ "NMM, vessel ID 373968" (PDF). Warship Histories, vol iii. National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 20 August 2019.
  20. ^ "No. 16938". The London Gazette. 24 September 1814. p. 1923.
  21. ^ "No. 18487". The London Gazette. 15 July 1828. pp. 1376–1377.
  22. ^ Marshall (1828) Supplement, Part 2, pp. 446–7.
  23. ^ "Michael Phillips' Ships of the Old Navy: Psyche (36)". 2007. Retrieved 22 November 2010.


  • James, William (2002) [1827]. The Naval History of Great Britain, Volume 3, 1800–1805. Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-907-7.
  • Roche, Jean-Michel (2005). Dictionnaire des bâtiments de la flotte de guerre française de Colbert à nos jours 1 1671 - 1870. p. 367. ISBN 978-2-9525917-0-6. OCLC 165892922.
  • Winfield, Rif (2008) British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793–1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates. (Seaforth Publishing), 2nd. edition. ISBN 978-1-84415-717-4.
  • Verhandelingen en Berigten Betrekkelijk het Zeewegen, Zeevaartkunde, de Hydrographie, de Koloniën, (1852), Vol. 12.
  • Quintin, Danielle et Bernard (2003). Dictionnaire des capitaines de Vaisseau de Napoléon. S.P.M. ISBN 2-901952-42-9.
  • Troude, Onésime-Joachim (1867). Batailles navales de la France [Naval Battles of France]. Challamel ainé.

External linksEdit

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