Francis Douglas was rewarded for his role in suppressing a violent
mutiny among sailors at the Nore,
a Royal Navy anchorage in the Thames Estuary near the entrance to
the river Medway and the Sheerness naval base, in 1797. According to
an account by an eyewitness, published in The Sheerness Guardian 70
years later, the ship, Repulse, made a 'miraculous' escape from the
mutineers reaching shore despite receiving 'as was calculated two
hundred shot'.(see below)
Commander Francis Douglas
commissioned HMS Peruvian in May 1808 for the Downs.
Peruvian was an 18-gun Cruizer-class brig-sloop launched in 1808 at
Parson's Yard, Warsash, England. She was the first naval vessel
built at that yard.
On 19 February 1809, Peruvian was in
company with the sloop Osprey when Osprey captured the Vrouw Gesina.
Then on, 14 January 1810, she sailed for the Leeward Islands. Three
days later Peruvian was in sight, and so entitled to share, together
with a number of other vessels, in the prize money arising from the
recapture of the Toms by Hyperion. In November 1810 Commander
Francis Dickinson took command, but he died on 23 April 1812.
Peruvian captured two American privateers and participated in an
expedition up the Penobscot River during the War of 1812. Then she
claimed Ascension Island for Great Britain in 1815. She was broken
up in 1830.
Mutiny at the Nore
In 1797 in April there was a mutiny in the navy at Spithead. It was
conducted peacefully and the men’s demands for better conditions and
a rise in pay were met and a Royal pardon issued. The pay of 28
shillings a month had not changed in over 100 years and inflation
was rising quickly. During the crisis William Pitt, the Prime
Minister, when calling on his friend William Wilberforce for advice
got little help from him as Wilberforce had just met Miss Spooner
and was totally pre occupied with love. In May 1797 a further mutiny
took place at the Nore. This time the Government was not prepared to
give way because it had already in its own eyes been generous to the
sailors during the Spithead mutiny, and because now the atmosphere
was more acrimonious. This time the demands were more political it
is claimed. Demands were made that the war against France be
abandoned, and that the King dissolve Parliament. A blockade of the
Thames was proposed. That the fleet sail to Holland was amongst the
ideas being circulated. These ships were hotbeds of dissatisfaction.
Conditions were poor and there were now many pressed men aboard. The
numbers of men in a fleet were in the 1000’s and such large scale
gatherings of labour were not familiar to the government who sensed
a very dangerous situation developing. The coast was virtually
unprotected against a French invasion. On this occasion the
mutineers did not have the fleet in a harbour to control them as at
Spithead, and some ships slipped away not wishing to be involved.
Some were even fired on while doing so by their fellow shipmates.
The American War of Independence was in recent memory as well as
the French Revolution and now revolutionary thoughts hung heavily in
the air and the Government suspected that secret agents and
societies were financing the mutiny and feeding seditious
literature, some of which was found on the Repulse:
Landmen wander tho’ control’d And boast the rites of Freemen
view the Tenders loathsome hole Where droops your injured seamen
Drag’d by Oppressions Savage Graspes From every dear Connection
Midst putrid Air oh see them Gasp Oh mark their Deep dejection
Blush then Oh Blush Ye pension host who wallow
In profusion, for our foul Cell proves all you boast
To be but
if Liberty be ours O say why are not all protected
Why is the hand of Ruffian sway ‘Gainst Seamen thus Directed
Is this your proof of British rites Is this rewarding bravery
shame to boast Your Tars Exploits
then doom those Tars to
When just returned from Noxcious skies
Ill Winters raging Ocean
To Land the Sun burnt seaman flies
Impelled by strong immotion
His much lov’d Kate his Children
Dear Around him cling delighted
But low the impressing fiends
appear and every day is Blighted
Thus from each
soft indearment torn behold the seaman languish
His wife and
children left forlorn the prey of bitter anguish
Reeft of those
Arms whose vigorous strength their shield from want defended
They droop and all their woes at length are in a workhouse ended
Hark then Ye minions of a court who prate at
Whom every hell born war support and vindicate
A time will come when things like you mear Baubles of
No More will make man kind persue the Work of
Ballad recording the mutiny at
the Nore 1797 found on HMS Repulse. [National Archives
The mutineers met and plotted at a public
house called the Royal Arch. whilst the Admiral called a meeting of
captains and both sides had their informers. The Repulse, on
returning from North Sea patrol and being initially at one with the
mutineers, got caught at the Nore and was fired on whilst attempting
to escape on the 10th June. She went aground on the Medway. The
mutiny finally collapsed and Parker, leader of the mutineers, was
hung from the yard arm of HMS Sandwich. Over twenty others suffered
a similar fate. Some were flogged or imprisoned. This event is still
marked by some radicals, in civilian life, as a red letter day of
when the working man stood up to the Government en masse. Cunningham
wrote an official report of the affair, and his stance at the time
enhanced his reputation with the Admiralty. The well known Capt.
Bligh commanding HMS Director was involved in the mutiny at the Nore.
Trouble followed him. His famous ship the Bounty of mutiny fame had
started life as the Bethia, a collier, built in Hull in 1784 by
Blaydes’ shipyard, on the river Hull near North Bridge. He was also
involved with mutiny whilst Governor of New South Wales in 1805.
sword is inscribed: ‘PRESENTED by the Committee of Merchants &c OF
LONDON to LIEUT.T FRANCIS DOUGLAS for his Spirited and active
conduct on board His Majesty’s Ship the REPULSE. Ja.s Alms Esq.r
Commander during the MUTINY at the NORE in 1797. Marine Society
Office, May 10 1798 } Hugh Inglis Esq.r Chairman’
James Morisset, one of London’s most celebrated makers of enamelled
gold dress-swords and boxes, was commissioned to produce this sword.
Small sword and sheath, the hilt
silver-gilt, set with transluscent medallions, with maker's mark of
James Morisset and London hallmarks for 1798-99 and supplied by
Green and Ward.
Leather scabbard with steel mounts [scabbard]
The silver gilt hilt enriched with transluscent enamels, London
hallmarks for 1798-9 and maker's mark of James Morisset of London
Extracted from Royal naval biography; or, Memoirs of the services of
all the flag-officers ... By John Marshall
Eldest son of the late Francis Douglas, Esq., many years a
Purser R. N.
This officer was born at Portsmouth, June 9, 1772;
and he entered the navy as a midshipman, on board the Trimmer brig,
Captain (now Sir Charles) Tyler, in Oct. 1786. We subsequently find
him serving in the Adamant 50, and Akide 74 j the latter ship
commanded by his father's first cousin, Sir Andrew Snape Douglas, of
whom mention is made at p. 54, of Vol. II,- Part I. While belonging
to the Adamant, Mr. Douglas was lent, with 20 of her crew, to the
Alert schooner, Lieutenant (now Captain) John Crispo; in which
vessel he had the misfortune to be wrecked on St. John's, now Prince
Edward's Islandj when returning from Quebec to Halifax, 179L
Douglas next joined the Lizard of 28 guns, and afterwards the
Inconstant 36; from which latter frigate he removed to the Victory,
a first rate, bearing the flag of Lord Hood, by whom he was made a
Lieutenant, and appointed to command the St. Croix schooner, on the
Mediterranean station, April Sy 1794.
In that vessel, Mr. Douglas
assisted at the reduction of Bastia; and the Swallow lugger, to
which he was then removed, bore a part in the subsequent operations
against Calvi *. He afterwards commanded the Sincerity cutter, and
served as second Lieutenant of the Bedford 74, Captain (now Sir
Davidge) Gould, at the capture of the Ca Ira and Censeur, French
line-of-battle ships, near Genoa, March 14, 1795 f. On this
occasion, the Bedford had 7 men killed, and 18, including her first
Lieutenant (Thomas Miles) wounded. All her rigging and sails were
much cut, and her bowsprit, fore-mast, fore-yard,
main-top-sail-yard, and mizen-top-mast, shot away.
being promoted in consequence of the above action, Lieutenant
Douglas became first of the Bedford, previous to Vice-Admiral
Hotham's skirmish with the Toulon fleet, off the Hieres islands,
July 13, 1795; and he continued as such until her return to England,
under the command of Captain Augustus Montgomery, in Oct. 1796. An
account of her rencontre with a French squadron off Cape St.
Vincent, is given at p. 610 of Vol. I, Part II.
Douglas's next appointment was to the Repulse of 64 guns. The manner
in which that ship effected her escape from the mutinous fleet at
the Nore, is thus related by a contemporary:—
"The Leopard of 60
guns, under the command of Lieutenant Robb, (the Captain having been
sent on shore), had the distinguished honor of being the first to
abandon the cause, after the infamous proposal of going over to the
enemy was made known. This ship had been one of the most violent
"The example of the Leopard was soon followed by the
Repulse of 64 guns ; but this ship lay too far to the westward, to
weather the Nore sand, and gain the river Thames ; she was therefore
obliged to run for Sheerness harbour. Unfortunately, the tide at
that moment did not serve,—it was about three o'clock, and there was
not sufficient water to carry her over the shoal,—this the pilot in
vain represented to the seamen, who, in this ship were nearly all in
favour of the government ; and flying suddenly from one extreme to
the other, insisted upon the cables being cut and sail made: this
was done ; but as the pilot had foretold, the ship grounded very
• See Vol. I, Part I, p. 251, et seq. f See id. note at p.
after, and lay exposed to the fire of the whole fleet, for
the space of one hour and twenty minutes; those ships whose guns
could not otherwise be brought to bear, got springs on their cables,
with a degree of celerity, that would have gained them immortal
honour in a better cause: among these were (.teas) the Director of
sixty-four guns, commanded by Captain William Bligh* if he could be
said to command her under such circumstances. The officers of the
Repulse now saw, that every energy was required on their part to
save the ship's company, who had thus rashly committed themselves;
the latter seemed also determined, by their coolness and good
conduct, to atone for their past misdeeds.
"The water in the hold
was started, the casks stove, and a strong party sent to the pumps.
In this manner the ship was lightened; and, as the tide rose, she
floated off, and ran into the harbour, having received no other
damage than the destruction of her lower and running rigging, some
shot in her - hull and masts, and only one person wounded,
Lieutenant George Augustus Delano, who lost his leg. From this time
the cause of mutiny rapidly declined; the ships deserted, one after
the other, in quick succession f."
Lieutenant Douglas's conduct
during the mutiny was so very exemplary that Admiral Duncan
immediately afterwards took him into his own flag-ship, the
Venerable 74. The merchants of London presented him with a sword
value 100/.; and the Admiralty ordered a Commander's commission to
be made out for him, but cancelled it in consequence of not knowing
how to draw a line, and in order to avoid establishing a precedent!
On the ever memorable 11th Oct. 1797 t, tne Venerable sustained a
loss of 15 killed and 62 wounded: among the latter was Lieutenant
Douglas, severely in the head and hand.
From that ship, the
subject of this sketch followed Lord Duncan into the Kent 74,
Captain (now Sir William) Hope, under whom he continued to serve
until his promotion to the rank of Commander, June 2, 1800.
Jan. 1805, Captain Douglas was appointed to the Cyclops frigate,
armed en flute, and stationed as a guard-ship off Lymington. His
post commission bears date Oct. 21, 1810; at which period he
commanded the Peruvian brig, of 18 guns.
f Bounty Bligk, see Vol.
II, Part II, pp. 747—786.
t Brenton's Nav. His. Vol, I, p. 436,
X See Nav. Biog. Vol. I. Part I. note at pp. 150—151.
Captain Douglas has enjoyed a pension of 250/. per annum for the
severe wounds he received off Camperdown. His brother, William Henry
Douglas, is a Commander of 1813.
Agent.—Sir F. M. Ommanney.
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