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HMS Seine (1798)

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Name  Seine
Completed  By March 1794
Acquired  30 June 1798
Launched  19 December 1793
Laid down  May 1793
Name  HMS Seine
Construction started  May 1793
Builder  Le Havre
HMS Seine (1798)
Captured  30 June 1798, by the Royal Navy

Seine was a 38-gun French Seine-class frigate that the Royal Navy captured in 1798 and commissioned as the fifth rate HMS Seine. On 20 August 1800, Seine captured the French ship Vengeance in a single ship action that would win for her crew the Naval General Service Medal. Seine's career ended in 1803 when she hit a sandbank near the Texel.

Contents

French career

Seine was a 40-gun frigate built between May 1793 and March 1794 at Le Havre, having been launched on 19 December 1793. Seine's career with the French Navy lasted less than five years.

On 14 July 1794 she and Galathée captured the 16-gun sloop-of-war HMS Hound in the Atlantic. In late 1794, L'Hermitte's squadron sailed for Norway. It comprised the frigates Seine, under L'Hermitte, Galathée, under Labutte, and Républicaine, under Le Bozec.

The squadron found itself blocked by cold and damage in a Norwegian harbour during the entire winter of 1794-95, sustaining over 250 dead from illness out of a total complement of 880. In spring, Seine and Galathée returned to France, leaving Républicaine to care for the untransportable sick. They eventually were rescued by the corvette Subtile.

Seine then sailed for Île de France, where she joined the squadron under Sercey. She took part in the Action of 8 September 1796. In March 1798, she sailed from Île de France and was on her way to Lorient when she encountered a British frigate squadron in the Breton Passage on 30 June 1798.

HMS Jason and HMS Pique chased her down and captured her at the Action of 30 June 1798. Seine was commanded by Capitaine Bigot and was armed with forty-two 18 and 9-pounder guns. She had a crew of 610 men, including troops.

In the engagement Seine lost 170 men killed and some 100 men wounded, many mortally. Jason had seven men killed and 12 wounded. Pique lost one man killed, six wounded, and one man missing. In the fight Jason, Pique and Seine grounded; Pique was lost, but San Fiorenzo, which had arrived on the scene, was able to get Seine off. Although the casualties aboard Seine had been high she was not badly damaged and Captain David Milne, who had been captain of Pique, and his crew transferred to her. Her captors sailed her into Portsmouth, arriving there on 18 July; Milne commanded Seine for the rest of her career.

British career

Seine was taken into service with the British under an Admiralty order dated 14 September 1798. She then spent several months fitting out at Portsmouth for the sum of £14,755. She was re-rated as a 38-gun frigate and commissioned in November that year under the command of Milne.

On 13 February 1799 Seine captured Graff Bernstoff. Roughly a month later, on 18 March, Seine and Sea Gull recaptured Industry. That same day, in a probably related encounter, Seine was in sight when the hired armed brig Telegraph captured the French privateer Hirondelle in a notable action.

In 1800 Seine was at West Africa before she sailed for Jamaica in July. On 20 August 1800 Seine attacked the French ship, Vengeance, which had just finished refitting at Curaçao. The vessels broke off action and Seine was not able to resume the engagement until 25 August. Then, after an hour and a half of hard fighting, Seine captured the French frigate. Both ships had sustained heavy casualties; 13 crew were killed aboard the Seine, 29 were wounded, and the ship was cut up. However, Vengeance sustained worse; almost cut to pieces, many considered her beyond repair. Nevertheless Vengeance was repaired in Jamaica and taken into British service under her existing name. In 1847 the Admiralty authorized the issue of the Naval General Service Medal with clasp "Seine 20 Augt. 1800" to all surviving claimants from this action.

The naval historian William James subsequently exaggerated Vengeance's earlier engagement with the Constellation in favour of the French. He declared that as Seine had done what Constellation could not, British naval forces were "more potent than American thunder". That said, Vengeance had been heavily armed with twenty-eight 18-pounder guns (main deck), sixteen 12-pounder guns and eight 42-pounder carronades (QD and Fc), brass swivel guns on the gunwales, with shifting guns on the main and quarter decks.

By March 1801 Seine was at Jamaica, as part of the fleet under Lord Hugh Seymour. She was then paid off in 1802.

Fate

Seine underwent a refit at Chatham Dockyard between June and July 1803, with Milne recommissioning her in May for the North Sea. However, shortly after her return to service she grounded on a sandbank to the northward of Terschelling on 21 July 1803. That evening Milne had ordered the pilots to keep her out of shallow water and they had assured him that she was safe; forty minutes later she struck. The crew labored all night and well into the morning, with the assistance of two passing merchant vessels to pull her off and to lighten her, but to no avail. At about 11:30am the crew abandoned Seine; they set fire to her as they left to prevent the French recapturing her.

A court martial on 4 August 1803 honourably acquitted Captain Milne, his officers and crew for the loss of the vessel. However, it found the pilots guilty of ignorance. The court martial sentenced them to be mulcted of all their wages for two years and to be imprisoned in the Marshalsea for two years.

References

HMS Seine (1798) Wikipedia


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