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Commander Francis Douglas





Lt Francis Douglas was born Portsmouth on 9th June 1772, the eldest son of Francis Douglas, Esq., many years a Purser R. N.  Hhe entered the navy as a midshipman, on board the Trimmer brig, Captain (later Sir Charles) Tyler, in Oct. 1786.



Lt 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.

HMS 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:

Whilst Landmen wander tho’ control’d And boast the rites of Freemen
In 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 mean Delusion
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
Oh shame to boast Your Tars Exploits
then doom those Tars to Slavery.


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 freedoms blessing
Whom every hell born war support and vindicate impressing
A time will come when things like you mear Baubles of Creation
No More will make man kind persue the Work of Devastation


Ballad recording the mutiny at the Nore 1797 found on HMS Repulse. [National Archives [ADM1/727/C37Oa]

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 awarded to Lt Francis Douglas
Inscription on sword
This 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.

Physical description

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 [small sword]





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

Mr. 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.

Mr. Miles 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.

Lieutenant 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 soon
• See Vol. I, Part I, p. 251, et seq. f See id. note at p. 340.

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.

In 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.

Since 1815, 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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