- Bassett, R.J., Commander, RAN (Rtd)
- Biographies and personal histories
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1978 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
In a more mature hand in a note written years later, we learn that the ships were L’Braave a privateer of 36 guns, and the other two West India ships taken by her as prizes. It is also interesting that L’Braave of 38 guns was shown as one of HM Ships of the Cape Squadron in August 1801.
If Penguin had been operating in the Pacific in the campaign against Japan in 1945 she would have replenished from the Fleet Train, but I can find no mention in Bradshaw’s Journal of taking in any ammunition to replace that used in her action, even during her visits to the Cape.
She did, however, run into La Praya Bay in the Island of St. Jago (one of the Cape Verde Islands) on 2nd March, and watered and provisioned. Before she sailed on 4th March a call had been made on the Governor, the ship had been painted, six sailors had deserted, and they embarked four oxen.
This visit has important political and historical implications because the Cape Verdes were Portuguese. At this date the only European allies Great Britain had were Portugal, the Kingdom of Two Sicilies and Turkey.
Then from 4th March to 15th May she was at sea between Cape Verde and Simonstown, staying in Simons Bay until 23rd July. On 23rd July she sailed with a convoy; but had to escort the Fanny, a Merchant Brig who had run aground near Cape Agulhas on 25th July, back to the Cape.
On 28th July she took the Fanny in tow, but in a gale on 30th July she went aground herself 15 miles NNE of Cape Agulhas. Her first indication of danger was the sighting of breakers.
On 31st July she lost sight of the Fanny, who was never sighted again, and returned to Simonstown, where she arrived on 5th August.
There is no mention of a Court Martial on Robert Mansel who by this time was a Post Captain, and as he was serving still in 1813 he must have had a good excuse for stranding his ship.
Some other features of the Journal which are significant are:-
- In a day when the lash was the only punishment in the Navy, only on ten occasions in a year did a flogging take place. There was one Court Martial on Charles Hardy, Bosun, for embezzlement. ‘He was found guilty and broke, Mulcted of all his pay, and confined for 2 years in the Marshalsea.’
- On 1st January 1801 ‘Hoisted the new Imperial Ensign in Token of the Union between Great Britain and Ireland,’
- The extreme inaccuracy of the navigation and the number of times they grounded.
- 19th April 1801 ‘At 4 Boarded and examined a Portuguese Schooner from Angola to Rio de Janeiro laden with slaves,’ No comment at all about the inhuman conditions under which the slaves were kept. (Although the first Act Abolishing the Slave Trade (47 GEO 111. C.36) was passed in 1807, the Trade between Angola and Brazil was not suppressed until 1861.)
So our hero carries on with his journal of HMS Penguin until 24th August 1801 when he received his discharge into HMS Tremendous in Simons Bay.
HMS Tremendous was a 74 Gun Ship of the line and James Bradshaw served in her until 4th March 1804. His next Journals were kept as a Lieutenant in HM Ships Grampus and Trident and covered service in the East Indies under Vice Admiral Sir Edward Pellew until Trident paid off at Chatham on 2nd October 1805, the eve of Trafalgar.
Some of his letters written during the period when he was a Post Captain in command of the Frigate Eurydice may be of interest.
In those days the Navy was run by the Admiralty, the Navy Board, the Ordnance Board and the Victualling Board. The distinction between Admiralty and Navy Board was basically that the Navy Board built, manned and maintained the fleet, whilst the Admiralty operated it.
The Navy Board of those days was a very civilised set of gentlemen by all accounts, for we find a letter, typical of many:-
‘Navy Office 11th September 1806.
We have received your letter of the 8th inst., respecting wages due to several men belonging to Columbine for the Arab, and Favorite Schooner, and desire you will let us know the names of the men alluded to.
We are Sir, your affectionate friends.
A diligent search of all my letters from the Australian Naval Board does not reveal any written with such exquisite courtesy.
Finally the very last letter in his book may have cut short the affectionate friendship because on 4th December 1811 he writes from Eurydice at Chatham:-‘
I think it necessary to enclose to you two books of letters from your board addressed to me, for each of which I had to pay three pence postage, notwithstanding their being marked in the corner ‘Navy Office – Post Paid’, yet it appears by the post office mark they were not paid for. A few days since I had eighteen pence to pay for a letter from your Board, and a frequent repetition of such postage would become very expensive, as well as uncommon; and for which I am allowed no remuneration. I hope my future letters from your board will always come free of expense, when on His Majesty’s Service.
I am Gentlemen, Your humble servant,
To The Principal Officers and Commissioners of HM Navy.’
I wonder if the fact that Bradshaw was not employed again had anything to do with this rather sharp reproof to his Lords and Masters.